Thursday, October 22, 2020

Digital Sovereignty.

It has been a long time since I've posted and there is so much to discuss. The continued industrialisation of the technology stack, the automation of radicalisaton online, the impacts of physical isolation in accelerating adoption, the ethics of choice against the ethics of care or the entire question of how to balance "Me" vs "We" in a modern society? There is so much to choose from that it's difficult to know where to start. But start I will and I suppose a bugbear is as good a place as any. My bugbear for today is digital sovereignty.

I'll need to explain what digital sovereignty is and that task is about as easy as explaining what culture is, something that anthropoligist have failed to do in over one hundred years of concerted effort. To make matters worse, I'm going to have to use culture to explain digital sovereignty. I'm already starting to regret my decision to leave my self imposed exile on twitter to return to a bit of blogging.

Anyway, enough dallying. Let us begin with the culture map (see figure 1). Now, you might not have seen this before but that's ok. The map itself is simply a representation of what culture is and the details are not important. What matters is to realise that culture consists of many components including values, behaviours, memory and other concepts linked to our collective. We belong to many collectives from nation state to church to family.

Figure 1 - The Culture Map

Within the map, there can be found numerous feedback loops. These loops can be both stabilising and destabilising (see figure 2) for the collective. For example, it's the visible success of our collective in spreading its values through our behaviour that makes us feel safe with a strong sense of belonging to our collective. For example, our economic success in the West and our values of democracy are intertwinned with our fervent belonging to our collective (notions of the West is Best etc) and the sense of safety that we gain for being "right" or at least more powerful than those other collectives which we might fear. Of course, if our economic success stumbles or other collectives become seen as more successful than us (in whatever pursuit) then our sense of safety and belonging might decline.  We might put up barriers to those dangerous "others".

Figure 2 - Feedback loops












Again the mechanics of this are not important, well not for now. What matters is that the major feedback loops are connected to landscape (see figure 3). 

Figure 3 - Landscape













So, what do I mean by this? Well, we live in a context i.e. a physical landsdape that we live within. We use maps to describe this context, "our land", "our borders" and the bit that "our collective" occupies (my nation, my home, my church etc) and where we impose our values, behaviours and even have collective memory. It could be UK, it could be France (see figure 4), it doesn't matter. The collective memories include heroes and rituals, for example "Remember, Remember the 5th of November" really only has meaning within the context of Great Britain. 

Anyway, in the land that my collective rules then we have physical sovereignty. 

Figure 4 - Map

Now, we don't just live and compete in a physical landscape. There are other landscapes that we and our collectives are involved in. For the example, the competitive landscape of business. This can also be mapped. However, we need to be careful here. Most of the things that we call maps in business have one thing in common - they're not maps, they're graphs. To understand the distincton (see figure 5), in a map space has meaning i.e. if you move things it changes your representation of the space. In other words, take an altlas, shift Australia next to the UK and you've got a "different" atlas. The same is not true for most business "maps" - mind maps, business process maps, system maps - because they're "graphs".

Figure 5 - Graph vs Map


In order to create a map, you need three basic characteristics - an anchor (i.e. north), position of pieces relative to that anchor (this is north or east of that) and consistency of movement (i.e. south means south). For reference I have provided a map of an industry that has those characteristics in figure 6. The map was produced over five years ago and was a projection of the future of the automotive industry from its current state at that time to 2025. Maps are often used for anticipation of change and other areas that are beyond the scope of this discussion.

Figure 6 - A Map of Business













Well, the map has many components most of which are becoming commodity-like according to this projection. Firstly you need to know that all maps are projections. They are imperfect representations of a space (they have to be in order to be useful) and being models they're all wrong. But despite being imperfect and wrong, they happen to be useful. Secondly, maps are excellent forms of communication, challenge and learning. According to the map which was produced in UK Government around 2014 then much of the industry would start to head towards utility like models with self driving cars and little differentiation. Hence there would be pressure in the market to find new models to recreate difference and status. The possible options included digital subscription models linked to route management (see figure 7) and sure enough, four years later, BMW was talking in such terms. There are a lot of negative consequences of this path including embedding social inequality into transportation system but that's another discussion.

Figure 7 - Anticipating with Maps.














If you look closely at the map, the anchor which it is based around is the user. However, users are members of collectives (nation, family and otherwise). Those collectives have value and we embed those values in our technology systems and choices. In this case, through training data used in  AI and simulation models (see figure 8)

Figure 8 - Collectives, Automotives and Simulation













You can see this yourself by asking the Trolley Question. If the self driving car has to kill someone would it be the impoverished family of four or the wealthy industrialist? The answer will depend upon what you value in your collective and those answers will vary between collectives. Regardless of your answer, self driving cars will have values embedded in them through training data and those values may well not be our own if we don't produce the vehicles. This is already becoming clear through the Beijing AI Principles. There are many principles within that declaration that other collectives might not agree with, for example "be designed to benefit as many people as possible" might not chime well with those looking to sell exclusive products to a select few.

Digital sovereignty is all about us (as a collective) deciding which parts of this competitive space that we want to own, compete, defend, dominate and represent our values and our behaviours in. It's all about where are our borders in this space. It's no different to physical sovereignty (see figure 9)

Figure 9 - Digital Sovereignty

Unfortunately, the field (in the West) seems to be dominated by management consultants and other gurus telling stories and trying to define what "digital sovereignty" is as though the general who wins the war is the one who comes up with the best name for it. Our repsonses all seem to include a slide into protectionism with claims that we need to build our own cloud industries. We seem to have decided to forget that we don't produce all our own food and cross border trade is an important part of life. Lastly we do like a good moonshot and yes, an artillery barrage can do wonders but it's a really good idea to look at the landscape before you press fire.

China's play on the other hand remains sublime as they go from strength to strength building on the work of Deng Xiaoping in the 1970s. The remarkable feat of constantly climbing up the more industrialised components of the value chain (something that Amazon has also done) from luggage to high end technology (or books to everything) has been spectacular to watch in both in its skill and co-ordination of directed investment (see figure 10). Obviously as China's industries have succeeded and brought their values into areas once dominated by the West it has created tensions particularly as our own collective slowly start to question our success. It's hard to maintain our fervent value that "our form of democracy is the answer" when you're losing ground to others  even if we can't see the ground that we're losing. It's a bit like that moment in 2014 when IBM and others had finally started to realise what dreadful mistakes they had made in 2007 by letting Amazon run freely.

Figure 10 - China










Anyway, that's what Digital Sovereignty is all about and yes, you need a map if you want any chance of  playing in this game. 

So why a bugbear? These games take time, China has been operating its play for 40+ years but we are rushing to be seen to do stuff, powered by storytelling, cheered along by management consultants and without a map in sight. 

We're not in a good place and we're doing little to help ourselves.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Embedded in memory

From the earlier sections, I hope we have a basic grasp of concepts like values, principles, enablement systems and the general map of culture. Of course, it's quite a lot of ground to cover, so how much you understand probably depends upon how much you remember and when it comes to culture, nothing matters more than memory.

Within any collective, the values we espouse and the principles we hold are embodied in the written history and the living memory of its members (see point 1, figure 1)

Figure 1 - Memory


This is why, if you wish to change the culture of any organisation then you need to change the experience of its member and that experience means dealing with past memory. It's not enough to simply say words but instead action and the memory of action is required. Memory unfortunately is very fickle thing, it's a faulty but incredibly useful system. In the seven sins of memory Daniel Schacter highlighted known areas of failure which include :-
  • transience - forgetting with the passage of time.
  • absent-mindedness - where event details are overlooked which can lead to change-blindness (failing to see differences unfolding over time) and shallow encoding (encoding only at a superficial level).
  • blocking - where information is encoded in memory but we can't recall (i.e. someone's name)
  • misattribution - where we do remember but what we remember is wrong or even not a memory of our own but manufactured.
  • suggestibility - the tendency to incorporate misleading information from external sources into personal recollections.
  • bias - distorting influences of our present knowledge, beliefs, feelings on new experiences, or our later memories of them
  • persistence - negative memories tend to persist a lot longer than positive ones.

Those things which become perceived as negative values and principles can persist for a long time often becoming embedded in myths, legends, symbols and even rituals within an organisation.  The story of that person who "got fired for making a call home" or the "sales executive who squandered millions on lavish parties" might not be reality but it can become embedded in the collective's  faulty memory. To overcome this memory you need not only action but repeated action i.e. it has to become the "experience" of members.

The problem with memory is that it affects our sense of psychological safety within the collective (point 2, figure 1 above). A failure to allow challenge (part of our doctrine of universal useful principles) or an action to discourage challenge (i.e. a senior member of the collective dismissing without good cause a more junior members view) can become remembered and in cases impact the members ability to challenge or communicate in the future. It can also undermine our sense of belonging to the collective (point 3).

At this point, we should highlight our first culture cycle (see figure 2). You can consider this a flywheel (in its positive sense) or a doom loop when things start going wrong.

Figure 2 - The flywheel or doom loop?


For a collective to succeed it needs to diffuse its values to others (point 1). That collective however is in competition with other collectives and that competition causes values to evolve. The success at which we can diffuse values depends upon both the effectiveness of the enablement systems (i.e. mechanism of diffusion) and the effectiveness of the collective itself (i.e. the use of universally useful principles) - see point 2. Those values and principles will change over time but will also be embedded in the memory (point 3) of the organisation through stories, rituals and symbols. That remembered history will impact the psychological safety of members of the collective which will in turn impact the sense of belonging to the collective (point 4).

The flywheel is where we exploit this loop to reinforce positive memories through experience to encourage psychological safety and hence a sense of belonging within the collective allowing for not only confirmation of values but also encouraging their diffusion in a wider society. 

The doom loop is where some experience (i.e. a failure to allow challenge) embeds in the collective's memory undermining the psychological safety of the group which in turn undermines belonging to the collective. This can impact the ability of the collective to succeed, to diffuse its values and if we allow the situation to continue (i.e. failing to communicate, failing to allow challenge, failing to think big and inspire others) or even exacerbate the situation through some misguided action then the collective can fall apart over time.

But what do I mean by exploitation or misguided action? How do we achieve that? This is the point where I bring in my favourite topic - that of strategy and gameplay.


Gameplay and culture
Gameplay consists of those patterns which are not :-

Climatic - patterns which will occur in an economic systems regardless of your choice such as components evolving due to competition or more evolved components enabling higher order systems.

Doctrine - patterns which you have a choice over whether to use but are universally useful.

Gameplay patterns are hence context specific and ones you have choice over whether to use. They work in certain landscapes i.e. open source is a fabulous mechanism for industrialising a product space but it makes little difference in the genesis of components. Depending upon your experience with mapping then some of these forms of gameplay, such as "open approach" or "talent raid" will be familiar to people whilst others, such as "ambush" or "signal distortion" will be less so. What is not obvious is that some of these forms of gameplay come with a cost. In homage to the game of Dungeon and Dragons, I've personally labelled these as Lawful Good, Neutral, Lawful Evil and Chaotic Evil.

In figure 3, I've provided a list of gameplay and highlighted the more "Lawful Evil" plays from my perspective. Things like  sweating an acquired asset for revenue whilst intending to dump it or creating a confusion of choice in consumers in order to increase price or adding a little fear, uncertainty and doubt over a competitor's product line. They're not in the outright "evil" category of deliberately creating a community in order to fail and poison a market but instead they're in the more "naughty" but "nice" category. Of course, depending upon whether you perceive these as evil or not is very much wrapped in your own values.

Figure 3 - Gameplay


The problem with these forms of gameplay is whilst useful in competition with others they can end up becoming embedded in the memory of the organisation and may run counter to the values of the organisation. A bit of "misdirection", "talent raiding", "creating artificial constraints" and poison pill "insertion" into more community efforts might do wonders for you against a competitive collective but if your core values are "we believe in fair play" then the memory of your organisation is not going to quickly forget, nor is the questioning of members whether they belong or feel safe in your collective.  Keep it up and you can quickly find yourself on the doom loop despite some early success. Of course, if your collective values "A Machiavellian attitude" then you might see these forms of gameplay as positive and reinforcing. This goes back to the issue of labelling the gameplays and why I said "from my perspective". You need to think about the gameplays in terms of the collective itself which is why you need to understand what it actually values.

In figure 4 (point 1), I've highlighted the issue of gameplay (which itself is a pipeline of constantly evolving techniques) and its connection to values, memory and success.

Figure 4 - Gameplay, Values and Memory.


It is important to understand that whilst your choice of gameplay is not limited by the culture, you can always override this by executive fiat, it can certainly impact the culture and that can have long term effects which if they become embedded in the memory (i.e. the stories, rituals and symbols) of the collective can become difficult to overcome. This is not again a negative, you might wish to deliberately do this but the point of mapping is to think about how you're going to impact a space before you take action.

For this reason, when considering gameplay in a competitive space it is important to be mindful of both the landscape (i.e. gameplay is context specific) but also the culture (i.e. the values, principles, enablement systems, memory, sense of belonging, psychological safety) of the collective and any long term effects you might have. This is also another reason why sharing strategic play in mapping form is useful because it enables people to challenge the play including whether it fits with our values without the inevitable people politics of a story.

It's also why statements like "culture eats strategy for breakfast" are frankly daft. It's part of the same thing. Whilst your culture might constrain your strategic choices today, those strategic choices that you make will impact your future culture.

Gameplay, Doctrine and Landscape

Your choice of gameplay and the implementation of doctrine (universally useful principles such as "focus on user needs") is influenced by the competitive landscape you are operating in.  However, whilst doctrine is directly part of the flywheel (or doom loop) in our culture map, the gameplay is more indirect in terms of influence.  Landscape is even further removed from the loop. It should therefore be possible to provide generic advice on how to improve the culture of any organisation irrespective of the landscape it is operating within. I've marked this all up in figure 5 with the loop and doctrines impact within it (point 1), the impact of strategy and gameplay (point 2) and landscape (point 3).

Figure 5  - Landscape and culture


Of all the culture self help books that I've had the misfortune to read, one particular book stands out in terms of providing such advice. This is "The Joy of Work" by Bruce Daisley. The book is broken into three sections of recharge, sync and buzz each with a list of concrete steps that can be taken regardless of the landscape you are operating in. Many of these steps support basic concepts in our doctrine list (e.g. encouraging communication and challenge through use of pre-mortems) as well as reinforcing basic elements of belonging and psychological safety. I cannot recommend it enough. I would summarise the book here except, I want you to go and read it as it's a worthwhile investment of your time.

Summary
There are a number of basic concepts I wished to get across in the section. These include :-
  • The collective has a memory and that memory is part of culture.
  • Your choices and actions, from your use of universally useful principles to gameplay, will affect that memory.
  • Within culture there are loops, some of which are positive (flywheel) and some of which can be negative (doom loop).
  • Not all gameplay is equal, some is more "evil" than others depending upon your perspective and values.
  • Gameplay can impact culture and also can be constrained by it since it's part of the same thing.

In the next section, I will continue to look at how to distort an existing culture whether your own or someone else's

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Exploring value in the culture map

In this section, I'm going to explore a bit more into our map of culture in order to shed some light on the question of what should I do now?  As with mapping in general, there are no right answers, there is simply a way of discussing the environment to find a better path.

Values
To begin with, I'm going to re-examine that concept of pipelines when it came to values. In figure 1, I provided a very basic map of values and how they were connected from public holiday to workers' rights to abolition of slavery to the concepts of equality in front of the law. 

Figure 1 - A Map of Values


None of these values appeared fully formed but instead they evolved over time. It might surprise you but as recently as the 1750s, a group of notable laissez faire economists, for example Vincent de Gournay, that were arguing for deregulation of markets often cited the slave trade as an example of a well functioning economic market. As Blake Smith noted - "the birth of modern capitalism depended not only on the labour of enslaved people and the profits of the slave trade, but also on the example of slavery as a deregulated global enterprise" [https://aeon.co/essays/why-the-original-laissez-faire-economists-loved-slavery]

Today, whilst the trade still unfortunately exists, the general population would consider the "abolition of slavery" as an accepted value. The idea itself has evolved from concept to accepted. In figure 1 above, I've highlighted in bold several of these values because when we examine a collective of some form - an organisation, a family, a nation state - then we are usually concerned with their most visible values. We rarely see the components which underpin them especially when they are broadly accepted and taken as a norm.

In figure 2 (see below), I've provided these highlighted values in the form of a pipeline (point 1). Any collective will have a set of evolving and visible values that will distinguish it from other collectives i.e what makes one company or one political organisation different from another are the values that it holds. When examining culture for any social group, we need to note that members of that group can belong to many collectives i.e. an international company has members that hopefully subscribe to the values of the company but also to many others collectives i.e. the nation they reside within. Those values may be different and in some cases can be in conflict.

Figure 2 - Success, Competition and Values


For example, direct conflict and confrontation over issues are frowned upon within China as more value is placed upon respect, honouring the person and collective action rather than individualism.  The US on the other hand assigns greater value to notions of individualism and of confrontation on matters where individuals decide on what is the "Truth". In Norman Grubb's book "Modern Viking" and the story of Christian Leadership in the US, the values of confrontation, shocks to the system and "men who won't take no for an answer" are strongly espoused in that particular sect of Christian philosophy which are almost a direct antithesis to the ideas of Confucianism.

The first points to note are that there are many values, those values will differ between collectives, some values are more evolved than others and there can be conflict between values between different collectives. As described above, values are also not static but they evolve.  The question should be - how do they evolve? As with mapping other forms of capital, evolution requires competition between different forms.

That competition comes from the collectives themselves. The success of any collective is determined by how well its values diffuse. A company that promotes the use of green energy to reduce global climate impact will not succeed if another collective persuades everyone else that reducing global climate impact is not a value they should aspire to. For this reason, all collectives are in competition with each other to spread their values in the wider society (figure 2 above, point 2).

It is the competition to diffuse different forms of a value driven by the actions of their respective collectives that drives the evolution of that value. Like a virus, ideas and values not only diffuse in society but through multiple iterations they evolve. Competition is a necessity for evolution of those values. Without collectives such as the Knights of Labour (workers' rights) or the "Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade" then these values would neither have diffused nor evolved to become accepted in the wider society. Without this evolution, there would have been no "higher order" values created through componentisation effects and hence no modern concepts such as paid holidays which many of us now take for granted or have become embedded in law.

Within any large social system such as an international company, we can therefore expect to see a diversity of competing values from many collectives including but not limited to the company and the nation states that members belong to. One of the issues with attempting to creating a single culture within a company is it conflicts with the very diverse nature of competing values that arise from the different collectives its members belong to. Furthermore, this diversity of values whilst creating conflict within any single collective is also a necessity for such a system of values to evolve and adapt to the outside world. A single monoculture is not only nearly impossible to achieve but highly undesirable from an evolutionary viewpoint. Such an organisation would require very strict and narrowly defined values that allow for little to no diversity within its collective and hence it will be fragile to outside changes. Those that design for a greater freedom in interpretation of values and allow for diversity will tend to be more adaptive and resilient. 

These concepts are simply a reflection of C.S Holling's work on engineering and ecological resilience as shown in figure 3. The most resilient biological systems require a high level of diversity in the ecosystem (ecological resilience) combined with a broad tolerance in associated structures (engineering resilience). For example, it would be possible to design a robust nation with structures designed to cope with known impacts e.g. poor crop harvest (grain stores), economic shocks (banking system) but it would lack the diversity required to adapt to a shock outside those known boundaries e.g. a popular democratic movement in a feudal system.

Figure 3 - Diversity


Values and Principles
In the corporate world, a good example of the form of thinking required to encourage diversity of values & competition between them can be seen in Amazon's Leadership Principles. In particular, one set of values can be described as be self-critical and work to disconfirm beliefs by seeking diverse perspectives. A reflection on the need for a diversity in opinion. Obviously, the question should be - is that value itself challenged? In fact, Amazon's principles set up a state of competitive duality - be self-critical and work to disconfirm beliefs by seeking diverse perspectives whilst at the same time valuing leaders that are right a lot.  It's a constant struggle to be right but also to challenge yourself and disconfirm your own beliefs in order to be more right.

However, these principles are highly individualistic in approach i.e. disconfirm your beliefs rather than seek a collective view. Furthermore, many of the principles listed are in fact universally useful and part of doctrine - think big, understand the details, focus on the user needs, a bias towards the new. At this point, we need to clarify some differences between values and principles.

Values are the things and qualities we consider important as described by belief. We hold them as truths within the collective. They are not uniformly shared with others and those values will evolve over time.

Principles are the rules by which we operate by as described by action. They may reflect our current values or past values or some value that has become a long accepted norm in the collective and even forgotten about. 

In some cases, people describe how "focus on the user need" is a value their company holds.  However, to "focus on the user need" is not a belief but an action. Furthermore, it turns out to be a universally useful principle for all companies. It's a rule we should all operate by in order to be effective (and hence is include in my doctrine - the list of universally useful principles). 

A value that a collective might hold could be "the quality of courage" or "a belief in God" whereas its principles might be a "focus on the user need", "challenge assumptions" and "use appropriate methods". Those principles can be shared with many collectives, even those with which it directly competes. The values between them however will be different. What is remarkable about the collective should not be its use of universally useful principles but its values.  However, despite this, such universally useful principles are not widely used and hence it is understandable that many talk about rules such as "challenging assumptions" and "focusing on user needs" as some earth shattering belief that divides them amongst others. The only truly remarkable thing is that others do not follow such basic principles but then collectives are in competition and it's fine to be hopeless at the basics as long as everyone else is.

When it comes to examining any company, we need to carefully remove out the  doctrine (ie. universally useful principles) from the statement of values. This itself is a valuable exercise as examination of a company's use of the universal principles gives an indication of how adaptable and competitive it is compared to others. In figures 4 & 5, I've provided an examination of two companies on doctrine using a red (warning), amber (weak) and green (good) notation. One of the companies is a tech giant and one is a banking giant.

Figure 4 - Tech Giant

Figure 5 - Banking Giant



On the basis of universally useful principles then the tech giant simply outclasses the banking giant. However, these collectives (in this case both global companies) might not ever compete. If they did, in the same industry, assuming they have roughly the same values then the tech giant should have all the advantage of adaptability and efficiency to overpower the banking giant whose only effective line of defence would be regulation. Doctrine provides us with a moderately useful way of examining competitive effectiveness of two collectives.

Once doctrine is removed from any statement of values then what is left are any visible values plus a mix of more local principles i.e. ones which might not be universally useful or have not been identified as such. In the case of Amazon, once doctrine is broken out of the Leadership Principles then you are left with a core set of values that are highly individualistic, probably reflecting its US nation origin.  Excluding the doctrine, then these values can be summarised as :-
  • leaders are right a lot. 
  • leaders commit wholly, with conviction, tenacity and never settle.
  • leaders speak candidly and do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion.

By comparison, Facebook has a similar mix of doctrine (i.e. universally useful principles such as focus on outcome, think big, a bias towards outcome, a bias towards action) combined with one pronounced value of build social value. Whilst action orientated, the question we have to ask is "social value" for whom? Who defines it? There is a belief in the statements for creating social value but what that is has not been defined other than Facebook should be the one to build it as opposed to say some other collective such as a Nation State. This value almost certainly puts Facebook in direct competition with Nation States themselves and given Facebook's history of psychological experimentation on users, use of the service by others to interfere within national politics, its effort to create a global currency and more recently announcements of creating its own court like system to regulate free speech online then it would not be surprising if Governments start to view Facebook as a competitive threat to themselves.

By contrast, Alibaba also has a similar mix of universally useful principles such as a  focus on the user needs but within this mix is a set of different values that are highly collective in nature, probably reflecting its China origin. These values include :-
  • relying on one another
  • our employees to view themselves as owners of the business
  • Work is for now, but life is forever.

This is not to say that one set of values is more right than another, nor that my interpretation is free from bias nor that a collective approach (given our social nature) is inherently more effective than an individualistic approach.  Whether we like it or not, our success depends upon us diffusing our values which in turn impacts the wider system.  You might not wish for a future in which we "speak candidly and do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion" preferring instead a future of"relying on one another" but what the future holds depends upon the success of current day collectives and a lot of that depends upon the doctrine they use.

However, there's one other aspect we need to consider here. It's not just the collective, its values and how well it operates (doctrine) that matters. There is the act of diffusion itself and that requires enablement systems,

Enablement and Principles
Values themselves don't just diffuse, someone has to share the ideas with others. There are two aspects to be considered here, firstly that collectives are in competition with each other and that competition does partially depend upon how effective the collective is and therefore it use of universally useful principles (point 1 in figure 6).  For example, a poorly run collective is likely to struggle against a more effective collective. The second aspect, is the need for a mechanism to spread the collective's values.  The most effective collective imaginable (using all the universally useful principles) is hardly going to succeed if it has no mechanism of enabling others to discover its values. This discovery process requires systems of enablement (point 2 in figure 6). 

Figure 6 - Enablement


Those systems cover a pipeline of constantly evolving techniques, including examples such as :-
  • Word of mouth where members inform others of their values.
  • An initiation ceremony where new members are indoctrinated to the collective.
  • An oath of loyalty in which new members agree to be bound by the collective's values.
  • A democratic process where members share principles and values through some form of manifesto and others choose to support one or another. 
  • A town hall where members discuss principles and values.
  • A weekly newsletter where a collective reinforces its values to members.
  • A vision statement or constitution for the collective where values are written down for members.
  • A mechanism of propaganda where information is provided to influence a recipient audience in order to promote the collective's values.

Summary
In this section I simply wanted to point out some basics from the map. These include :-

  • Values are the things and qualities we consider important as described by belief. We hold them as truths within the collective. They are not uniformly shared with others and those values will evolve over time.
  • Values evolve through competition between collectives.
  • Different values exist between collectives.
  • Resilience of a collective depends not only upon its structures but diversity in values i.e. many pursue rigid sets of values which make adaption difficult.
  • Success of a collective is defined by its values diffusing in the wider society. The success of a collective is influenced by its use of doctrine (i.e. universally useful principles) and enablement systems i.e. being effective is not enough, it needs a mechanism by which its values can diffuse.
  • Principles are the rules by which we operate by as described by action. They may reflect our current values or past values or some value that has become a long accepted norm in the collective and even forgotten about. 
  • When collectives describes their values this is often a mix of universally useful principles (some of which might not be widely spread) along with actual values.
  • An individual may belong to many collectives.

Finally, I wish to note that all maps are wrong and imperfect representations of the space. However, the purpose of a map is it enables us to discuss the space by reference to the map rather than the story teller. So, if you disagree with this so far then tell me where the map is wrong. Otherwise, we need to explore a bit more into our map.

Monday, September 09, 2019

From values to rituals

In the previous chapter, I left you with a map of brexit. I said that I had avoided the use of values within it ... mea culpa ... I had left some in there. Two values in particular - fairness and equality (see highlighted point 1 in figure 1)

Figure 1 - Brexit Map


But what are values?  Values identify what is judged as good or evil within a culture. They are more than just the operating norms or principles of behaviour, they are beliefs and often abstract concepts of what is important, what matters, what is worthwhile. They are within and derived from a collective (see point 2)  i.e. the values I share with best friends, a family group, a squad of soldiers, a company, a political party or a nation state. An individual may have many values which come from many collectives and in some cases those values can conflict. The individual is then forced to choose.

Values are also not fixed. What society values today is not necessarily the same as five hundred years ago. What we understand by those values is open to interpretation and evolves with the value. We also build enabling systems to embed and represent our values i.e. democracy (see point 3) in nation, or a town hall in a company or a family gathering like a wedding or seasonal holiday.

When we think of values, we need to think of a pipeline of continuously appearing and evolving values within that collective. Some get rejected, some evolve to be universally accepted and understood in meaning. I've represented this in figure 2 (point 1) using a small box to represent "values" and a larger box to represent the evolving pipeline of "values".

Figure 2 - A pipeline of values.


Those values aren't simply isolated things but interwoven and connected. In the case of collective they are often in the rules, in the constitutions or in the legislation. It doesn't mean they started there however, they existed before and evolved to become accepted.

Take a group of people and a few values and simply ask them to plot them on a map and to look at the interconnections. This is exactly what I did, expanding the exercise to various polls in order to refine the positioning. Since maps are a way of de-personalising a space and talking about the issue, I deliberately picked a highly charged subject. In this case, workers' rights and slavery within the US (see figure 3)

Figure 3 - Connection of values.


At first sight, it might look confusing. What has Worker's Rights (such as the idea of a right to paid holiday given the US currently has no Federal laws requiring this) got to do with the Abolition of Slavery (a well understood idea, accepted and embedded in law though unfortunately not yet completely gone).

In "Our Forgotten Labor Revolution", Alex Gourevitch discusses the Knights of Labor, the first national labour organisation in the United States, founded in 1869 by Uriah Smith Stephens. The organisation was based on a belief in the unity of interest of all producing groups and proposed a system of worker cooperatives to replace capitalism. The emancipation of slaves had inspired a further movement to emancipate workers from the domination of the labor market.

The Knights’ expansion into the American South began in 1886 at their general assembly meeting in Richmond, Virginia. In a conspicuous show of racial solidarity, a black worker named Frank Ferrell took the stage to introduce the Knights’ leader, Terence V. Powderly, before Powderly’s opening address. To defend his controversial decision to have a black Knight introduce him, Powderly wrote “in the field of labor and American citizenship we recognize no line of race, creed, politics or color.”

After the general assembly the Knights spread throughout Southern states like South Carolina, Virginia, and Louisiana, setting up cooperatives, organizing local assemblies, and agitating for a new political order.

Such change of values and structures however are rarely welcomed from established collectives nor individuals who seek to control. For the Knights of Labour, an organisation striving for better rights for all through "co-operation" then the response was alas, very predictable.

First the Louisiana state militia showed up, sporting the same Gatling guns that had, only a few decades before, been used for the first time in the North’s fight against the South. The militia broke the strike and forced thousands of defenseless strikers and their families into the town of Thibodaux, where a state district judge promptly placed them all under martial law. A group of white citizen-vigilantes called the “Peace and Order Committee,” organized by the same judge that had declared martial law, then took over and went on their three-day killing spree. 

The modern US workers' rights and movements are decedents from these early Labor organisations which themselves are decedents from emancipation. The 1963 march for jobs and freedom showed this connection between both the civil rights and the workers rights movements. Martin Luther King described how both movements were fighting for “decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community”. They were the "two architects of democracy" as King would explain.

Even the modern idea of universal basic income is derived in part from a value that all forms of economic dependence are incompatible with free citizenship. Our legal systems reflect this evolving nature of values in the precedents and components upon which they are built. They are chains of values that have in part been codified and hence can be described. They consist of evolving components building upon one and another. 

On communication
The enabling system for our values (in this case above we have chosen democracy)  requires mechanisms of communication. This is not only needed to diffuse the values among wider groups but to enable challenge and the evolution of those values. Of course, in order for communication to happen then there also needs to be some measure of psychological safety within that collective unless your intention is not to evolve but simply to propagate. The same mechanisms seems to appear whether we're discussing a political change of values within a nation state or simply a company. If we choose the collective as a "company", use a town hall as the enabling system rather than democracy and refer not to the many and the few but workers and executives, the same map provides a useful starting point for discussion of a company. 

In one such interview the question of the purpose of the company arose. Initial reactions discussed goals and the need to economically survive though examples were given of organisations that were temporary with a fixed ending point. The idea was then refined by the phrase "The purpose of the company is to succeed in achieving its values but this also requires economic success in order to survive".

The problem with this idea is that other forms of collectives have existed long before companies and we can't simply tie the idea of a collective to economic success. Fortunately economic success is simply a measure of competition and we can tie the idea of collectives to competition with other collectives.

In figure 4, I've provided an early map used to discuss companies. A few things should be noted.

Point 1 : the many and the few have been changed to workers and executives.

Point 2 : it is recognised there are many types of collective - a pipeline of forms from well understood company structures to co-operatives. Rather than draw the box across the entire map, a simple square box was added to denote that this wasn't a single thing.

Point 3 : the term economic has been replaced with competition. A collective needs to succeed in achieving its values but it is also in competition with others. In the case of the company this is economic competition.

Point 4 : there is a pipeline of enabling systems from the moderately well understood ideas of democracy to town halls to hack days. In order to diffuse the value these enabling systems require some mechanism of communication.

Figure 4  - Communication, Company and Values.


From Rituals to Gameplay
With more discussions comes more flaws and there are many in the map above. Success in competition doesn't just require values to be diffused by some enabling system but instead many components are needed. Communication itself was just one of the many principles (universally useful practices) that we described as doctrine highlighted in Part I (repeated in table 1 below). To complicate matters more, communication itself is evolving but then so are all the other principles. Even "focusing on user needs" is not universally accepted but more of a converging principle. 

Another problem with the map is the notion of hierarchy. There are many different ways of structuring a company from the rigid concept of silo'd hierarchies to holocracy to two pizza teams to anarchy.  Even this space is not a single idea but a pipeline of evolving components.

The map above also lacks any notion of the competitive landscape it is dealing with. The principles of doctrine (see table 1) whilst universally useful need to be applied to and are derived from an understanding of the competitive landscape.

Table 1 - Doctrine.


Alas, our understanding of the space that our companies compete in is both primitive and evolving. The concept of mapping a business (for example, using a Wardley maps) is not widespread, nor is it well understood or even accepted. There are far more diverging opinions on this subject than converging.

On top of this, you have the issue of gameplay. There are 64 publicly available forms of context specific gameplay derived from Wardley Maps (see table 2) which is only part of the total known which itself is a fraction of the possible. This list is constantly changing as new forms of gameplay appear and existing methods evolve. Some of these forms of gameplay are fairly positive in nature (e.g. education) whilst others are Machiavellian (e.g. misdirection). The use of them depends upon the competition that you are facing, the landscape and your values. However, in their use they can have long term impacts. You can become known as the company that co-operates with others, creates centres of gravity around particular skillsets or you can become known as the company that raids others for talent whilst misdirecting its competitors. This history can become part of your culture through the stories will tell each other.

Table 2 - Context Specific Gameplay


However, it's more than just stories that make our history. There are echos from past gameplay, from past practices, from past values in the rituals, the symbols, the stories and the talismans we use. The insurance company example (in Part II) is one of a ritual of customising servers which echoes from a past practice which at some long forgotten point, made sense. These rituals, symbols, stories and talismans are part of an evolving pipeline that represents the collective's memory.

Let us add this all to our map. From figure 5 below:-

Point 1 : Our values, enabling systems and principles are pipelines of evolving components represented by single square boxes.

Point 2 : Our structure is an evolving pipeline of methods from anarchy to two pizzas.

Point 3 : The principles and gameplay we use are influenced by our understanding of the competitive landscape which in general remains poor today.

Point 4 :  Our gameplay is a pipeline of constantly evolving context specific techniques. In general, we have a poor understanding of these techniques, their context specific nature or even how many there are.

Point 5 : Our collective's memory echoes past value, past principles and past gameplay. This collective memory can influence how we feel about a collective and our own psychological safety within it.

Figure 5 - From Rituals to Gameplay.



Towards a map of culture.
We are now in a position to propose a map for culture. I've done so in figure 6.

Figure 6 - A Map for Culture.


Other than highlighting areas where it has gone wrong or disagreeing on the placement of components then your first reaction should probably be "I can't see culture on this?"

That is because the entire map represents culture - the pipelines of evolving principles, values, enabling systems, memory, gameplay, collectives that we belong to and interactions between them. It is all culture. It is all involved in helping us describe our "designs for living". Our extrinsic behaviours are learned from our interaction with it, our intrinsic behaviours play out on this space. 

Being a map, it's also an imperfect representation of the space of culture which itself is evolving. It does not fit into a pleasant 2x2, there are no cultures to be simply copied from other companies because both others and ourselves change with the landscape, with the collectives' memory of the past, with the evolving values and principles that are at play and with the collectives that it touches upon and people belong to.

At this point, your reaction should be "What the hell am I supposed to do with this?

For that, we will need another chapter.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Exploring Brexit


The first rule of brexit is “you’re wrong”. 

No matter what you say on brexit then someone will argue that you’re wrong and that they’re right. So let us start by concluding that whatever map I’m going to produce on the subject is wrong which is ok because all maps are wrong anyway. The purpose of a map is never about being right but instead helping to create a better map. Hence, I’m going to start by saying that I accept that the maps are wrong but I’m not interested in why they are wrong, I am only interested in a better map. So, if you want to discuss this subject then produce a better map. Everything else I will consider a waste of time wrapped up in individual political capital, stories and desires. If you want to have a shouting match over some narrative then find a mirror and knock yourself out silly. Since the map is wrong, I’m going to assume the assumptions are wrong as well. It’s all wrong but that’s ok. The question is whether it can be useful.

In discussions with a group of people who voted Leave and Remain a couple of key words and phrases resonated. On the Leave side there was the idea of an elite (the few) versus the people (the many). This concept of “the many” was also replicated in the Remain discussion but through terms such as populist, appealing to populism and even a mob. Whilst variation existed in what those terms actually meant and who those groups were, the idea of a many and a few was fairly consistent. Hence, I will start with those as my main two users - the many and the few.

On the Leave side emphasis seems to placed on two key concepts - democracy and control. Both we couched in terms of the collective rather than the individual i.e. “our democracy” and “we are taking back control”. On the Remain side emphasis seems to be placed on belonging and freedom. This was often a mix of both individual and collective as in “We are European”, “We are part of Europe” (i.e. a sense of belonging to a wider collective) and “Benefits of freedom of movement” (i.e. how I or other individuals benefit from this). To a lesser extent this also occurred with discussions over wealth, as in the Leave side tending to more grandiose discussions of a “Global Britain” invoking a more collective slant whereas the remain side tended to discuss both the economic impact to them and issues of safety to the unfortunate - “Do I need to hoard food?”

Two other interesting ideas appeared early on in the discussion which were the idea of hierarchy and responsibility. Whilst hierarchy could often be well articulated and agreed upon, its associations seems to diverge. In almost all cases it was described in relationship to ideas of control but in some cases it was associated with belonging as in “a tribe needs a leader”. I tend to avoid the use of the word tribe finding faction a far more appropriate term, hence I will use faction in this description. However, what was highlighted was a distinction between meaning i.e. does an accepted meaning exist for the term) and association (the strength or weakness of associations between meanings. Hence we can agree on what hierarchy means but can disagree on what it is connected to i.e. belonging.

In contrast, and quite unexpectedly, the notion of responsibility exhibited differences in meaning. For some, when describing ideas such as “We need to pull together” what is meant by “together” is not the same. For some, together describes more of a collection of individual responsibilities i.e. in the melting pot of the market, the overall effect caused is through a collection of individuals acting. For others together describes a collective responsibility i.e. we as a group need to achieve something.

Of all the terms raised, notions of “safety” and the term “democracy” were particularly fascinating. Safety showed not only disagreement over specifics but people exhibited a reluctance to discuss the issue in the company of others with a different view. The reactions were often either quickly defensive, closing down the conversation, talking over each other, failure to listen or simply not engaging.  These reactions are the sorts of behaviours often seen when discussing in psychologically unsafe environments.  The notion of safety also had strong resonance with the Remain parts of the group in terms of membership of the EU with the benefits of "a larger trading block", dealing with defence and outside threats. 

The idea of democracy had some peculiar divergence with general agreement on the term and ideas of fairness and equality but disagreement on what is fair with notions of the referendum being “cheated” or “stolen” or the Parliament "subverting the will of the people".

So, to begin with we have concepts of a few vs many, individual vs collective, democracy and control, belonging and freedom, wealth and safety, responsibility and hierarchy, safety and democracy. Many of the terms had disagreement over specifics or associations but convergence in terms of general meaning. From these discussions, we have enough components to create basic map using the axis of “ethical values” described in Part I. 

I’ve used the ethical values axis simply because it appears more meaningful in this context. Hence we start with concepts, emerging meanings, converging meanings and things which are universally accepted and agreed upon. Remember, the terms are simply labels for the different stages of evolving capital. Where possible, I’ve also avoided adding in any principles (e.g. communication and challenge) or concepts of values in both society and local groups. I’ve also added in the term Agency as in the power and independence to influence one’s own environment as it was an idea that was often described with few being able to give meaning to that term. Lastly, remember that we will assume the map is wrong, the sample size is far too small but that’s ok as this is only a stepping stone to a better map (see figure 1). I've highlighted weak associations as dotted lines.

Figure 1 - Brexit



Let us use this map to describe some of the narratives that appeared to be in play. Do remember, that since I was the person recording and transcribing the interviews that I will have my own perspective and bias. Fortunately, that will be exposed in the map for you to challenge.

The Few
On one side, there are the few. The few wanted control for the individual (i.e. themselves) and by this we mean both the agency (the power) to act independently and control over others (a collective) through some form of hierarchy. The purpose of this agency was economic wealth, as in it both needs it and provides it and creates safety for that group. The sense of belonging here was more a tool for controlling a collective i.e. the few were the faction leaders and the sense of belonging (to the faction) was focused on controlling the collective. This narrative I’ve shown in figure 2 as red lines and text (which I've also made bold and increased the thickness).

Figure 2 - The Few


The Many
One the other side, there are the many. The narrative tended to again discuss control but in a sense of a collective that belongs together (as a faction) which is focused on creating safety for the entire group. This was wrapped in notions of collective responsibility with the “freedom to discuss and challenge” with each other. The notion of collective responsibility was also tied to concepts of democracy through both equality (the line of “one person, one vote”) and fairness (the glib “no taxation without representation” was stated). This narrative I’ve shown in figure 3 as green lines and text (which I've also made bold and increased the thickness).

Figure 3 - The Many



Commonality
Now let us overlap these narratives - see figure 4. Whilst there maybe disagreement on the meanings and the associations between terms, common core ideas appear in both narratives - that of control, of belonging, of collective and of safety.  I've highlighted in blue and made those terms bold. There are also clear distinctions, in one narrative responsibility is to the individual and safety is strongly connected to economic wealth, in another the responsibility is to the collective and safety is more to do with engagement, being part of the faction. What we are slowly starting to visualise is the description (these are only narratives) of two distinct cultures with overlapping and common components.

Figure 4 - Overlap



Why does this matter?
If we can visualise the landscape then we can start to learn patterns and determine ways of manipulating this environment to our favour. For example, we might wish to educate to create a common understanding of some idea or we may wish to emphasis or create new associations. From the narrative of the few then a key component is economic wealth however from the narrative of the many then the focus appears to be on safety within the group. Hence I might wish to establish an association between the collective and economic wealth and I can do this through a sense of belonging i.e. “Make America Great Again” or “A Global and Prosperous Britain”. What I am emphasising is the importance of economic wealth to the collective. My intentions might be to diminish collective responsibility and emphasise individual responsibility over time hence reinforcing my advantage but I cannot start with that message (see figure 5).

Figure 5 - Focus


The point of the map is not that it is right but that we can discuss these issues, identify common components and start to learn how to change the landscape to our favour. We can start to add these components to our future map of culture, combining these elements with communication and challenge but before we do this we need to explore further including the areas of values, symbols, rituals and embedded knowledge.

Oh, and if you're looking for the answer to brexit then I'm afraid you'll have to look elsewhere. I'm much more interested in the mechanics of culture and populations.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Mapping Culture


How do we map culture? What is culture? Will mapping a culture somehow effect it?

In one interview with a global company that relied upon the use of stories, an observation was made that was quite startling to begin with but obvious in hindsight - “maps are helping us shift our culture”.  

One of the issues with using stories in decision making is that stories are often tied to an individual - the storyteller. We even teach people how to be a better storyteller as though the idea itself has more validity if only presented in the right way. This personalises decisions as it is not so much about whether we believe the story but whether we believe the story teller. Hence the conversation can quickly become political. One of the advantages of putting the idea down in a map is that we now focus on challenging the map. It depersonalises the discussion. It enables the company to have some difficult discussions about its future and to identify how its culture needs to change with less of the baggage of politics.

The company itself faced a changing market but it was also in denial over the change. Part of the company, on the engineering side, could see the change coming but one part of the business, who happened to be the strongest storytellers, disagreed. The storytellers were winning and revolt was fermenting elsewhere due to frustration over the inaction in the face of perceived doom. This tension had exploded in the boardroom into quite heated arguments whilst at the same time defensive gang-like mentalities were evolving elsewhere. The threat for the company was a web giant was about to industrialise their main product area. The storytellers dismissed this as not being important because users would like their new product features. The engineering group disagreed. Whether conscious or not, exceptionally long powerpoint presentations were used by the storytellers to communicate their vision or more aptly “to beat doubters into submission”.  In cases, this “death of thought by powerpoint” had become so bad that rules had been created to limit powerpoint presentation to no more than 2 hours and 60 slides of heavy text.

The CEO of the company was more of a steward (a peace time CEO) rather than a war time CEO as depicted by ideas of great generals or conquerors. They saw their role as building consensus and brokering conversation rather than leading a charge. Unfortunately the consensus had broken down into hostility. Groups of engineers with strong local leaders were refusing to work with the business on projects that they considered “daft”.  With revenue growth softening, any culture of safety and belonging within the organisation had been diminished by recent layoffs. Off-sites had become profanity laden blame meetings. However, despite this various groups at a low level from engineering to the business did work together in a highly collaborative fashion. Those groups were the gangs under strong local leaders.

By a set of happy coincidences, a small part of the engineering function had recently introduced the use of maps. The maps had “quite a revolutionary impact” as one interview told me. The maps had depoliticised the problem. People were talking about and arguing to the map rather than each other. This had enabled the engineering group to explain their concerns, allowing for more challenge and discussion over ideas. It enabled them to explain how the market was changing, how the competitor was playing the game and how they would need to change. The maps have spread from the shop floor to the board room building communication, challenge and trust. They were having “positive effects along the way in all but one group”. The one group that strongly resisted this new way of communicating were the storytellers. They operated in a far more hierarchical manner, with strong control of the narrative and a view that we just needed a better story.  The problem was always something else i.e.  “engineering isn’t listening” or “the story was explained right”. The maps directly threatened their control over others, they allowed people to challenge and it was no longer possible to hide behind the fog of long powerpoint presentations and well spoken narrative. 

Whilst the impacts of maps are talked about in glowing terms, the only point we should really note is that changing the means of communication can change our ability to safely challenge an idea, to express our concerns, to collaborate with and trust others. Different communication mechanisms can result in very different culture. As one commentator noted “you can't change the culture by diktat, it's a function of the experience of the people. If you want to change the culture you have to change the experience of those people. Maps enabled us to communicate with each other, we were finally discussing ideas and concerns by talking and listening rather than being presented at”.

The introduction of maps can influence your culture but that should not be a surprise as some of the first parts of doctrine are communication, challenge and situational awareness. But does that mean a map of culture will impact culture and what is culture anyway? We’re no closer to answering that question other than to say the means of communication matter.

Kroeber, A.L., & Kluckhohn, C. (1952) said that by culture “we mean all those historically created designs for living, explicit and implicit, rational, irrational, and non-rational, which exist at any given time as potential guides for the behavior of people”. The key to this phrase is in the words “designs for living” as it highlights the interactions between people and this is where communication comes into play. It might seem trivially obvious but there is no culture without people and without communication. Instead there are just fragments of some past culture. Our focus therefore has to start with the interactions of people but which people? In the example above, we have two different cultures represented by two different groups. One was a top down driven, narrative focused, hierarchical and politicised culture that resisted challenge. The other was more of a bottom up, emerging local leaders, high degrees of challenge and communication that focused on the landscape. This is not to say that one group was wrong and the other right but simply to acknowledge that difference. Whilst maps had enabled different forms of communication and challenge, it was the two competing groups that had highlighted the differences. 

Hence, we’re going to continue to explore these issues of culture on our path to creating a map.  So, we need something with different types of people, possibly highly political and with division between those groups. I can’t think of anywhere better to start than with Brexit itself.