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August 31, 2003

Beyond chatting on the net to doing 

Here's an extract of conversation currently going on among Gaian Democracy networkers who I have previously referred to in this UK thread on what Knowledge Management*** can do.

Despite best communal intent, this discussion seems to lead back to the more abstract world of consciousness and spirituality with little in the way of the trials and tribulations of those of us who are actually trying to DO something on the 'material plane'.
These are universal problems of the internet. 1) They promote discussion not DOING. and 2) The discussions wander all over the world, particularly as new members join in.

'A Coalition for Self-Learning' solved this problem by 1)drafting a clear mission statement say that our goal was Doing Something. 2) It was " to create learning communities", 3) that any one could join, 4) that everything would be decided by consensus (any one member could "block" any proposed action, but 5) a "Core Group," (the 12 founding members) would act as a supreme court and could override and "block" by a 100% vote.

This works well.

*** This thread is part of an European Union sponsored experiment where every country's opinion leading KM people take communal responsibility to question what's contextually the hottest questions in management in their country (as well as helping guide foreigners to expert sources of inquiry). Your open invitation to play at inter-national knowledge correspondent
starts here.
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August 30, 2003

whom to corporate partner? 

This should be recognised by everyone as one of the 2 greatest change-practice questions of the networking age. By change-practice, I mean systemically review and make sure the way your organisation does this in the future is altogether different from the way you used to in pre-networking times. (The other greatest question being: who to individually partner now that virtual life gives us stereo access to who we co-habit our mental and behavioural journeys on earth with)

You would think that large organisations would be the first to 'get it' with their global impacts on human quality of life. Yet NASA's integration of what it outsourced and what its inside nervously thought might be cut next surely could not have been further away from a 'culture' celebrating safety as the oil of every partnership. I have talked to dozens of risk professionals - they opine how very few big organisations (corporate, gov, or NGO) truly 'get it'- the network impact that multiplies deep inside their culture and what they compound quarter after quarter if they get into bed with more careless partners than themselves.

I am in the midst of an ongoing survey of how to filter out long term corporate partners that could damage your whole organisation's health, and wealth!. Here are some of the most popular filters to date; email click me if you need more eveidence on any particular number. chris macrae

1 Don't partner large corporations incorporated in Delaware of headquartered offshore

2 Don't partner organisations whose ownership structure is likely to impair relentlessly-consistent decisions on big human change issues due to politics or 'slow to react' structures (eg organisations owned as a joint venture between 2 huge organsiations or currently controlled by a venture capitalist are often either reactive or unclear of their whole purpose)

3 Don't partner an organisation whose CEO's reputation and bio-history shows no evidence of caring about human beings on any issue of depth.

4 Don't partner an organisation which has never listened nor learnt from one of its most relevant social constituencies (this filter applies increasingly the bigger an organsiation or core worldwide partner network is)

5 Don't partner an organisation that only looks for risk advice from the Big 4 auditors or other consultancies blinded with organisiation by numbers. Risk embeds itself as the most systemic of flows, not something you should want to navigate with precisely wrong bit-wise metrics. As one UK Chairman of a leading publiuc company says, you cannot avoid risk this side of heaven. Let's suspend fancy searches for leadership excellence, until this most basic system quality is respected by everyone who dares lead.

6 Don't rush into partners that are far away from anything your industry has ever done before however small the extra you intend them to bring to your service.
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Medinge Moments 

Just back from another extraordinary gathering at Medinge, where the community that has produced Beyond Branding meets each summer.

What impresses me about this group is the willingness of people to share ideas in a common cause, creating a spirit that I think any business would envy. No tiresome insularity here; new members of the group welcomed with open arms - and adding greatly to the debate. Opinions tested and challenged - with passion but without rancour. High levels of trust and creativity and a good time had by all. This is a group that understands the difference between seriousness and solemnity.
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From seeming to being... 

Back now from Medinge and its towering skies, calm waters, late nights, raucous songs and turbulent, extrovert debates.

The Medinge Group, has now been baptised in schnaps (thankyou Thomas, I think!), and we are of one faith:

"Businesses must become more human - and more humane, or they will fail."

Together, The Medinge Group will explore alternative business models to the present tidal wave of objectivisation and dehumanisation. We will break taboos, and work actively to avert what Francis Fukuyama calls 'Our posthuman future'.

We will do our best to practice what we preach: the rehumanisation of business.

We will nurture businesses, sub-divisions, processes, policies - any human protocols - in which people exchange value with one another, simply, cleanly and openly.

So no more messaging and no more talk of brand perception. Be human. Get real.

Rather than creating idea viruses which will vanish in the ether, find some doing viruses. Find some 'being' viruses. Honesty. Feedback. Acknowledgement.

Forget memes - find yourself some 'bemes' and start spreading that human decency virus. Do what you feel. The rest is silence. #;¬}.
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August 29, 2003

Prisoners of Debt 

I have been reading Samir Rihani's book 'Complex Systems Theory & Development Practice" - not an easy read so forgive me if I over-simplify its main headlines - indeed my purpose is to suggest we should all find the most authentic bookmarks linking these headlines until we've made the whole story of investment in the Developing World transparent.

1) After the second world war, most of the mega-aid associations and corresponding economic agencies UN, World Bank and IMF were set up under some impression that appealed particularly to commanding mid 20th century Americans and Brits- that there should be one ideal pathway for nations to develop from under-developed to developing to advanced, and that all nations requiring aid should be ordered to follow their step on that path. The 60 years of development that we can now look back on have been in most cases an extravagant failure, and usually the poorest have had to pick up the tab. One reason that uniformity of development never could have worked is that nations need to play to unique differences not all be me-toos of at some stage of development.

A far more scary reason (which I'd really like to get more feedback on) is those with the greatest wealth have profited from putting countries in debt almost irrespective of whether the debt incurred had any likelihood of supporting development. This has many vicious subcircles- for those providing the money a banana republic with a corrupt dictator who syphons off the loans can be an ideal target to make loans to with the country still having to pick up the debt long after the dictator has gone. Here are a few lines quoted from pp126-129 of the book.

In Angola, 6.3% of GDP is spent on health and education, 33 per cent on servicing debt. According to UNICEF 1999, the whole of sub-saharan Africa spends more on servicing its 200 billion dollar debt than on the health and eductaion of its 306 million children.A baby starts life with a debt of $997, 1213, 1872 in Mauritania, Nicaragua, Congo respectively. The burden is shaped by factors that are mainly outside the control of the debtors. They may run fast, but the arithmetic means that they stand a good chnqace of going backwards. (eg Sub-sahara's debt has gone up to 200 billion from 80 billion twenty years ago)

The impact of debt on domestic policies is devastating. Subsistence agriculture, for example, would not do; cash crops that have a market abroad have to be cultivated at any cost, up to and including malnutrition.The tragic consequence is instead of unihibited productive interactions between local members of the population adapting to their needs, indebtedness delivers compliant client states and above all else the opportunities for corruption presented by easy foreign money are liable to compound all the way up the system.

Once you're read this book on how the rich profited from the world's poorest (with all the vicious chains of debt that spin viciously over time) you also start to ask different questions in parallel contexts. Previously, I have always been naive enough to feel primarily that every war is an enormous human tragedy. In future, my first question will be who lurks behind this war and intends to profit from it? May the net make this terrifying first question transparent from now on...
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London Power Loss - the wider disasters of professionals blind to network sustainability 

With London appearing to celebrate similar power losses to New York region of a fortnight earlier, it is time to ask how many other accounting follies will people be savaged by of the type where the sustaining capability of the network is more important than that of separate organisations but the accountant has systemised the exact opposite

This is a fundamental issue of democracy in an networking age because currently accountants and allied professions have a monopoly of measurement which prioritises measuring individual organsiations or units within them never the whole system. This compounds great conflicts at system levels- other london examples have been railtrack and london's own transport, and this is just the most visible infrastructures- when you mess with intangible and human community decisions that needed network rather than just individual focus you breed apartheids and then terror in a locally and intimately connected world
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August 26, 2003

Meeting in Medinge 

Tomorrow, the community that produced Beyond Branding meets for its annual retreat at Medinge, outside Stockholm.

Last summer, at the end of the meeting we had the idea of putting our ideas together in a book. Now, one year on, the book is about to go to press, this blog is running and our network has extended itself.

So Beyond Branding is now, ironically, a brand itself. One that has arisen from the shared ideas of individuals from different parts of the world, who connected with each other mostly online, and have only met face-to-face on a few occasions - and never as a whole group.

It's what our co-author Alan Mitchell might classify as a Passion Brand. It hasn't been created with the aim of making money, but as a way of expressing some shared frustrations, hopes and ideas. In that sense, despite the virtual nature of our collaboration, it is a very human endeavour.

When we have met, as we did last summer, and in Amsterdam in January, these have been great meetings. Not like your average overpriced business conference where the audience sits numbed by Powerpoints; but lively debates where people are sharing their ideas and enthusiasms, the things the excite, annoy and generally impassion them.

This week there'll be some new faces at the event as well as some familiar ones from past encounters. I wonder what new ideas will emerge?
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August 23, 2003


Two ads last night some time for cars extolling the virtues of the General Motors family. Then another selling me some cleaning agent from SC Johnson - a family company.

Make me feel all warm and snuggly to think of little ol' Daewoo (can't remember if it was Daewoo), nestled deep in the bosom of a £200bn company whose core competence is decentralising carbon monoxide production.

As for Johnson wax, if they're a family, I'm sure they'll understand just how dirty floors can get with three children under 5. Good to feel your empathy Johnsons.

Sure, family is a good word. We all love a family. Values of love and mutual trust and the passing on of wisdom and stability. But is it helpful here, or is this fakery just widening the trust gap for these brands?

The reality is families look after themselves first and others second. Families keep secrets. I'd rather know that i was part of the Johnson family. At least I'd be $100m richer.

In contrast to japanese corporate keiretsu, which exist in a genuine co-dependency, western families merely offer me overtones of exclusion, and privilege...

Think again GM. What's the mutual benefit? What are you doing to put your family status into collaborative action? Explain how exactly your family helps me?
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Hard Times for the Numbers Fixated 

Paul Goodison has blogged some kind words about us. He also recalls:

Today I've sat through another presentation from my erstwhile MD. He was a bit more contemplative than the last presentation I went to, but what struck me again today was how much store he sets by numbers. Every piece of information is quantifiable, to the extent that when challenged by a fairly reasonable question, he attacked the questioner on what 'proof' did he have for his point of view? What were the numbers?

For Paul's boss, and for all those others out there who insist on reducing the mysteries of human interaction to a set of metrics, may I recommend reading Charles Dickens' Hard Times. There you'll find the tragic tale of Thomas Gradgrind, who runs his life on the basis only of hard facts, before meeting the all-too human consequences of his madness.

Or go to one of my favourite pages on the web, Literal Answers to Rhetorical Questions, wherein the ghost of Thomas Gradgrind offers such insights as:

Would you like to swing on a star?

Even supposing that I were to wish to do such a thing, it would be quite impossible. Swinging requires that the force of gravity be exerted in the direction opposite to the pivot of the pendulum, whereas if one were somehow to succeed in attaching a pendulum to even so small a star as a white dwarf the predominant pull of gravity toward the star would convert any such attempt into a rapid vertical plunge toward its surface and almost immediate death by evaporation.

Gradgrind also offers his statistically robust, highly measurable responses to questions like: Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Where Have all the Flowers Gone? and How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paris?.

I think this provides a vital pushback to those who reduce humanity to numbers in the name of good management.
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August 21, 2003

A new disease... 

Slow and faltering speech.
Pale complexion
Agitation and trembling
Short-temperedness and and excessive impatience with queuing or waiting.
Volatile energy highs and lows
Sudden bursts of enthusiasm and irrational despair

I have been exhibiting these symptoms for around two months now, and they
are getting worse.

However, I have finally got to the bottom of the problem.

I have blogitis.

However, I have also, finally found a foolproof cure. I now seek out daily therapy by finding others who share these same symptoms and sharing my opinions.

If you too need help, I recommend the following. Travel to Central London, simply hold out an arm and an emergency therapist will arrive in a black car with a yellow light.

The support is available at any time of day or night and is very reasonably priced.
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Deleting brand noise 

Michael Taht writes to us highlighting his own personal campaign against brand noise in his blog. Exhausted by the omnipresence of brands all over his kitchen, he resorts to sticking post-it notes over the offending logos to give himself a little peace.

Of course, this is just one version of the many ways in which people are finding ways to ignore the Blandishments of Brands. Another - which Michael highlights in his email - is to counter attack with word of mouth. Here lies at least part of the explanation for the underperformance of several would-be blockbuster movies this year. ("Texting blamed for summer movie flops").

If human conversations (a la Cluetrain) are gaining power, what can organisations do? Well, they're not going to be able to rely so much on the half-hearted adherence of staff to their corporate mantras. One of my favourite interventions in marketing meetings these days is to interrupt the regular obsession with questions like "will the customers believe this?" with the simple question: "Never mind the customer, do you believe this?" Often, the really significant response is not the word "no" but the preceding, barely-disguised shock at actually being asked to give a personal opinion at all.

But if out there in what we laughingly call the real world, real conversations are taking place where real feelings are expressed, then businesses are going to have to let their people do the same thing. Which will present a challenge for those brands whose internal conversational repertoire rarely goes beyond "Does my bum look big in this?"
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August 19, 2003

Semi-permeable membranes... what have they got to do with branding? 

I hated biology at school. Mostly because the biology lab smelt so funny... although at the time I thought the teachers stank too.

As a result, my understanding of the subject is very fragmented. But I do recall the phrase "semi-permeable membrane" and lately is has come out of some dark filing cabinet of my brain. Because I think it has something to tell us about one of the challenges for organisations in the strange world we live in (as Tim blogs today).

Consultants used to talk of brands as nice solid things, and great energy would go into fiddling with the details of their presentation... as if they could be defined with clear edges. Trademarks would be used to police rigidly what was the brand and who could use it.

Of course, all that is old hat in these interconnected days. Brands are struggling with the reality that their edges are not hard, that their internal workings are increasingly transparent, and their efforts to protect their slogans through the courts look increasingly risible if not obnoxious.

At the same time, we do presumably need organisations of people to do things; there are some things that groups do far better than individuals. It's just that the groups can't be so tightly defined.

They need to have a semi-permeable membrane. In fact, as living things, they need to know when to open and share, and when to close and nurture. Somewhere in the biology lab there may have been some wisdom after all. As well as the funny pong.
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Flashers...corporate hippies? 

Last week, the Daily Mail - bastion of reactionary conservatism - organised a very concerted flash mob attempt, using 'underground' techniques to persuade 120 people to arrive with umbrellas at the London Eye, peel a banana and chant for a minute before disappearing.

This was, in some microscopic and atavistic way, a 'happening'.

The mechanism of flash mobs - using texting, on-line advertising and community-based networking to bring together groups of people for brief encounters - is tedious. It intrigues me far less than the motivation behind it.

What flash mobs indicate today seems to me to be a latent experimentalism, but also a leadership vacuum. They evince a desire to play with ideas, a need to be 'on the edge', and a dislike or avoidance of authority.

On the surface, this is reminiscent of the ethos of the late 1960s. Mass affluence. Ethical confusion. Amoral war. Political dilution. Eroding trust.

Not so different now, you say.

But in the 1960s these Weatherman-style occurences would have arisen from discontent, from agressive apathy, or from socialist political motivations - or at the very least from some collective purpose and common will.

The Daily Mail's motivation, by contrast sales.

Nonetheless, I wonder how many Daily Mail 'flashers' felt betrayed when they discovered who was behind the event. Probably very, very, few......

And thereby lies the conundrum of the new Millennium. Although many people reject corporate incursion into their lives, it has become pervasive to the extent of invisibility. We have embraced corporatism, whether we like it or not.

What we are witnessing here is a new unreality in which corporate and personal promotional techniques and mind-sets have simply fused. The internet was a personal communications vehicle; became corporate, then commercial; and was then briefly reclaimed by the people, when the VCs ran out of road.

Now, in the last 2 years, the powers that 'be' (by which I mean merely 'act') have attempted to reclaim the medium by appropriating the very notion of community. Even our tools of communications are shared with the corporates. or put another way, coprorate marketing tools as available to all. We all share the same brand imagination. We are all marketers now.

This amounts to more that simply becoming spin-savvy or marketing savvy. We are now exposed to the minutiae of the very mechanisms of marketing. We are not juts savvy. We are experts.

In the UK, the Hutton enquiry is laying bare the process by which governement press releases and reports are prepared. Are we surprised? No. But does it make us more cynical? Yes.

Trust? ... Trussed!

This pervasive and uncontrollable transparency invites a form of daily democracy in which ideas and people and power and motivations can no longer be interpreted, let alone separated.

Without reliable brands, we are drowning. Without reliable government...

When government becomes this transparent, you'd better keep an eye on it. It may just disappear entirely....
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August 18, 2003

More on authenticity 

I'm continuing to enjoy David Boyle's excellent book, Authenticity. (See earlier blog here).

What Boyle is consistently good at is showing how elusive a quality authenticity is. This is not an easy, idealistic rant but a thoughtful exploration of the challenge of achieving authenticity when business often seeks to find it and exploit it.

"The recognition by business that we need to lead authentic lives at work is in start contrast to the 'mind control' tendency in business training - reducing processes to numbers, reducing creativity to formulae and best practice. Or worse still 'internal branding'... helping people to be authentic can turn into brain-washing extremely fast."

Boyle also wrote The Tyranny of Numbers so it's easy to understand - and resonate with - his suspicions of how fanatical measurement drives out human sensibility in business.
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August 17, 2003

From inexplicable mobs... to explicable mobs 

A few days ago I blogged on the subject of flash mobs or inexplicable mobs. Gatherings of humans apparently for the sheer joy of connection. Now I've spent a little time exloring Meetup, a website that allows people all over the world to identify common interests with other web users, and then arrange to meet in person. Explicable mobs, if you will.

Several of the Beyond Branding authors have talked for some time about brands of the future being more like hosts than conventional badged producers of stuff. MeetUp may be just such a phenomenon. A quick tour of their site sees the myriad of miniature communities forming worldwide. This National Public Radio broadcast starts by focussing on a gathering of Pug owners, but you'll find bookcrossing, political groups, language groups, yoga groups... all of human life seems catered for.

What are also emerging are user groups. For instance, I'm interested in Movable Type as an advanced participative weblog package (sorry Blogger, but I like to keep options open). I've found a meeting of London-based users next month. Probably the ideal place to go with my questions.

What Meetup does is to combine the high tech of the web with the high touch of face-to-face meetings.

This is just another example of how customers can now form their own communities, and share their learning, completely independently of brands. Once again, the admass model is challenged and the pressure mounts on organisations to reorganise themselves as more open communities than fixed, packaged, manicured brands.
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August 16, 2003

New York Power 

Links since original posting:
"The societal machine has been finely honed to be very efficient but as a result it is now becoming very brittle."

When oh when is society going to demand that organisations which it depends on for their performance as a network are systemised compatibly rather than to take the most revenue out as individual empires? New York Power depended on dozens of organisations, all selfishly organised, totally sub-optimal as a network compounding less and less ability to perform as a network. In the words of one expert, we are a superpower with a 3rd world power supply infrastructure

I think it would be entirely correct for society to demand a special tax equivalent to all the profits made by these organisations this year with the possibility of getting some money back for investemnt proposals made to optimalise the network. This tax should operate any year when an outage of the kind that impacted New York and other cities in recent days. If this means that all shareholders take a hit as organisations are devalued to account for the risk that they have profit-suspended years, then excellent. Society gives organisations a licence of power that no other entities have. In the case of organisations whose prime value to society is to perform as a network, this suggestion is the minimum that should be enacted against organisations that are not yet motivated to deliver service as a whole network. As the outcomes for the global environment and needy local people of more and more enterprises are felt in their network impact more than individually, the taxing of those who do not take responsibility as a network should become a worldwide principle that makes businesses learn their cooperation responsibilities fast.
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August 15, 2003

Beyond Global Logo 

Hopefully, you are already convinced that Beyond is the essence of a great humanitarian idea, tapping into the yet untold human potential of a networking world of diversity, where human spirit can experiment with the best we can get at every local culture and cooperate in nature's grand living system design

As every marketer knows, timing the execution of a great idea can be personal make or break; be too far ahead and you invite commercial ruin. So our big question must be: has Beyond's time come for branding practice in global corporations? I have some heartening evidence that I will chronicle periodically on return from 2 weeks holiday. But here let me recap the history of a cynic

Back in 1989 I though it would be a good idea if the talk of world brands (some already budgeting a billion dollars of voice time each) matched the company's visionary walk. But my first book didnt realise how impractical that was at that time. Ever since then I have learnt more and more reasons why companies are dysfunctional between their promises and the way they measure/value trust (keeping promises). So yes timing is the big gutsy variable marketers must look into their corporate souls with and enable every co-worker to reflect with including every board member.

Let us however quickly adjudicate on Klein of No Logo and The Economist of Pro Logo. Klein scores by a knockout on soul - she reports how the most depressing local happenings track back to blind ignorance of people sitting in global hqs especially in global utilities -the beneficiaries of privitization of the wrong kind. The Economist has only two discernible points in Pro Logo that are so old as to be risible. yes back in 1988 when I contributed to Their Year of the Brand, I said theoretically the brand is our most democratic mechanism, walk with your wallet. But that doesnt mean that consumers individually can change whole suystems like global mass media budgeting control of companies' communications competences; out of the pan into the fire isnt a choice. Bill Emmott's other argument is that economically we're better off with globalisation. I have no contest with that - the net is here to stay and worldwide is our future - but the potentials of globalisation could multiply sustainably to hugely expand the human race or destructively if we leave the poorest with no hope. Oddly enough sitting at The Economist's editorial desk in 1984, my father wrote up that exact opposite scenarios : which way will the netwoking of globalisation systems spin to 2024 :
-to something that is far more terrifying then even Orwell's Big Brother

or to a world of win-win equity where we care for the basic rights of every human being in the way we promote the organisational identities we most look up to globally and because of that enjoy far greater economic success than Emmott's way ahead.

We are at a democratic crosswords of what networking corporations, governments and grassroots deep causes becomes systemically woven as. To be or not to be, that is the question every netizen must find their clued ways of conversing into every virtual and open space.
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Real or "fake real"? 

Prompted by Tim's earlier blog entry, I have been reading David Boyle's new book Authenticity, Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life. This arrived just as the final proof of my chapter for Beyond Branding, also on Authenticity, went back to the publisher.

I'm about half way through and rarely have I enjoyed a non fiction book so much. It's been funny and touching, a skilful drawing together of many strands around the theme. I particularly like Boyle's distinction between real and fake real. Boyle's examples of fake real include... Big Brother, the Spice Girls, Centreparcs and NHS Direct.

For me, this calls to mind Woody Allen's ironically stated ambition to “forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. And then see if I can get them mass-produced in plastic.” .

Certainly the marketing industry is constantly trying to grab hold of authenticity on behalf of its clients and peddle it back to us. And as Boyle points out,

"The more slick marketing becomes to persuade us that some products are somehow more authentic than others, the more unreal the whole thing looks. And however much the new marketeers use the language of authenticity, it still seems somehow to slip through their fingers."

This is because you can't create authenticity from the top and push it on people; authenticity rises from the individual. Marketing must move away from the production-led foisting of stuff on us towards towards a more buyer-centric model.

Personally, I doubt the resolve and ability of many businesses to make this shift... but I don't doubt the ability of individuals collaborating to get it for themselves.
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August 14, 2003

Feeling beyond the logic of conflict 

2) The world's 1000 biggest organisations should be required to openly testify that they are not profiting by compounding conflicts

Below, an extract from an article of a friend whom you can read more about here. Myself, having discovered that corporations and governments currently account for themselves using numbers that are mathematically perfect for compounding conflict outside their self-defined borders, I am interested in seeing if we can reverse the global systemisation of conflicts in time. Tell me if you have an angle to popularise on this debate.



Detachment, conflict, and the rationalistic abstraction of the ‘individual self ‘ - Yvonne

For centuries, rationalistic thinkers have insisted on the abstraction of content from context, such that the ‘baby is retained whilst the bath water is discarded’. In order to be studied ‘scientifically’, the subject must be isolated from all variables other than the ones that the experimenter desires to observe. This is the essence of the experimental method. But the enthronement of abstract Reason goes far beyond the scientific realm, extending into popular discourse, for example, in the ways in which we justify our actions to ourselves.

Descartes famously uttered the rationalist dictum, Cogito ergo sum, and insisted on the separation of mind and body now referred to as the Cartesian split. This detachment of self from self, and consequently self from other, leads inevitably to conflict. Conflict between self and other, reason and emotion, rational and irrational.

The body becomes an object for the mind to control, and other people become objects in empty space – objects we can manipulate and control. The extreme form of this view was expressed with tragic consequences in nineteenth-century imperialism, and it can still be heard in the rhetoric used to justify modern imperialistic adventures.

Another consequence of the rationalist view is the notion of reductionism – that everything can be reduced to its smallest indivisible unit, the monad or atom. The problem with this procedure is that you may be able to extrapolate from the workings of a complex system to predict the behaviour of one of its constituents, but you cannot deduce the behaviour of a complex system from the behaviour of its isolated elements.

In order to maintain an illusion of control, rationalists ignore the obvious conclusions that can be derived from Relativity, and continue to regard the individual as a monad, unconnected with its context. The notion of the individual as an entity-in-its-own-right, a Ding-an-sich, leads us to quantify the rights and responsibilities of each individual, assessing them “rationally” and to weigh them against each other. This quantitative approach, where the will of the majority always outweighs the needs of the minority, inevitably leads to conflict.

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How Beyond are You? -a Beyond IQ test... 

I was wondering whether I could ask my fellow bloggers , as they contribute to add a possible atribute tracking one aspect of beyond - imagine it on a 5 point scale - how relevant is this aspect of Beyond to the next 5 years of your life from 1 no relevance to 5 very relevant

If we could get a diverse assortment of say 20 scales scoping Beyond we could also start surveying organisations as well as people or agent matches between peers with similar profiles.

1) The concept of business impoverishes everyone it relates to when its purpose is governed solely by making money

Whilst on-blog, I enjoyed this

My prediction is that the post-Information Age will be called the Transformation Age, not because it will be the dawning of an idyllic utopia but because an increasing amount of economic value exchange will shift to concerns of growth, human potential, spiritual practice, and life-enriching experiences. Much of our language for the transformation economy currently revolves around "healing," a loaded word that connotes a pathology that must be removed to restore "normality." Transformation, however, includes healing, but goes beyond it into the highest expressions of our human nature, which is ultimately interconnected with our divine nature. Transformation involves creative expression as well as powerful experiences. It deals in the currency of the heart and often speaks the language of insight, intuition, adventure, and energy. Already we see signs of this post-Information Age culture emerging with energy medicine, growth seminars, hands-on healing, extreme sports, adventure travel, meditation practice, martial arts senseis, therapists, bodyworkers, retreat centers, and the movement towards voluntary simplicity.
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August 13, 2003

The most exciting time to be alive 

I was reading this extract from the Ross Dawson book "Living Networks":
When I was a child, a long international telephone call could easily cost 100$, so it hardly created fluid connections between people. Today networks connect close to a billion people and businesses comprise a global community that can exchange information and ideas in almost any form, easily, cheaply and instantaneously. New emerging technologies such as peer to peer and web services are now building on the fundamental transformational power of the internet to unleash the true power of connectivity. The networks are literally coming to life demonstrating all of the complexity and unpredictable behaviours of a living system. This is the most exciting time in the history of humanity to be alive, as we witness and participate in the birth of a higher order lifeform.

It reminds me of 1984 when my father at The Economist made a similar prediction in his 40 year future history of network economics and networking societies. Exciting yes but dangerous too because this is a revolution of personal freedoms of a scale that has never previously been warped by civilisation without wars. In our 2024 history, man survived to enjoy the value of diversity that such a transport revolution multiplied through great human empathy for each other, but only because we all confronted the next change challenge which we timelined as happening 2005: the gap in income and expectations between rich and poor nations became recognised as man's most dangerous problems...
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Gaining power by losing control? 

I've been following David Weinberger's blogs (eg here and here) about the US Presidential campaign of Howard Dean. So I spent some time looking at the Dean campaign weblog , a pretty extraordinary example of its kind.

As Weinberger suggests, Dean seems to get the net and how to use it. Look at his site; loads and loads of outbound links, often to communities over which he can exert no control. For example, he includes links to unofficial groups like Hack for Dean, Geeks for Dean and the perhaps inevitable Rock for Dean It's a web of content from people all over the country.

Some criticise him for not putting many messages in himself... but perhaps that's the point, it's a site for his supporters. He's taking the risk that some of these people are going to say things he won't agree with and maybe embarass him - in return for building a different quality of engagement and support. Has he perhaps figured out that giving up control in favour or making connection can be very powerful?

He's also using Meet Up technology so people can meet face-to-face with other supporters. Even here in London I've uncovered two Dean meetings in the coming weeks. So when people join this campaign, they get a chance to meet for real, not just virtually.

I don't pay close attention to US politics and I haven't compared other campaign sites, but something tells me this is a pretty significant change... I wonder where this leaves the ideas of Spin Doctors that got the UK government elected? Their recent shortcomings call to mind Norman Lamont's jibes about John Major being in power but not in authority. Or I would say it's a choice between different kinds of power - egotistical control freak or the power of the conductor.

And it makes you wonder about the internationalisation of democracy, since anyone in the world can engage with this campaign if they like. As indeed I just have.

This sort of thing will leave the tired world of image-led branding gasping for air (hot air of course). Out the door go conventional pretences of closely "managing" public understanding. Instead we get a far more engaging series of passionate engagements where human beings themselves get to do what they like - meet, talk, argue, enthuse - with the brand acting as a super-host for the conversation.

No telling what will happen to Howard Dean's campaign. But here's a sign of a big change in the way of the world.
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August 12, 2003

valuing organisations according to their health as human relationship infrastructures 

what?- I hear you say? this idea of organisations as living systems sounds beyond academic...

yet finding a way to simplify this most naturally human idea is what we need to do to if the public is to find the will to change the bossy global systems (the 100 or 1000 economic superpowers (mostly corporate but also spinning big governments in mutually tragic ways ) ruling the world

let's try this line of inquiry

suppose you buy some shares in a company which you think is full of smart knowledge workers ready to make the most of networking value, and then a friend provides you with proof that nobody inside the company trusts each other enough to share knowhow, how much would you devalue your estimate of your holding

add in another emotion- suppose nobody has any courage to pass bad news up to the top or to take a stand on what they thought the company's human purpose was (would you devalue your shares a bit more?)

and nobody feels they have time to learn to practice what they most deeply wanted to be? (by now you might get out of the company)

in fact one can go through a few more emotional flows, and the big news is when you multiply them together systematically, they explain the large part of whether a company's valuation will be heading up or down

This topic known to some in such capital language as (emotional, intellectual, human and social) and to others as the crisis of missing governance of intangibles (though I still feel attached to the older metaphor that the whole of a people system is always compounding either goodwill or badwill)

Some hot references to how small pockets of Europe are leading the knowhow of how to implement shared governance of the old tangible transactions and the new intangible trust-flow: 1...2...3

Ask me for our sample chapter from my next co-authored book on intangibles governance and mapping trustflow
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Connecting with people: exhortation or inspiration? 

Yesterday I had an enjoyable meeting with Tim Stockil of Arts & Business in London and he told me a great story of an event he attended.

Tim got the opportunity to conduct a choir, something he had never done before. He did it without instruction, just doing his best to wave his arms in what he took to be a conductor-like fashion. Although this was great fun, he yearned to lead the choir to a rapturous crescendo and gesticulated wildly with his arms to convey this. Mysteriously, the effect on the volume of the singers was negligible. They seemed confused.

At this point, the facilitator intervened to ask Tim what he was trying to achieve. Tim explained his desire for building to a crescendo. The facilitator said: just stop for a moment and think about where in your own body you would look to develop a sense of your full power, a place from where you yourself could build a big crescendo.

Tim realised that to feel his own power he would need to create it deep within his belly.

At this point in telling me the story, Tim stands to his full height and shakes his body down, giving me the visual sense of a man getting well-grounded. From here, he finds a simple but full-bodied gesture to suggest the building of power from his gut; hard to capture in words, it’s a sort of combination of a Frenchman’s shrug and an Italian godfather’s gesture of acceptance. He extends his arms downwards, with his legs more rooted to the ground and his back and torso becoming more solid. Then Tim makes, a long, deliberate and slow movement of his arms upwards from the level of the hips. It’s a striking and powerful moment.

Returning to the story… Tim turns to his choir and effects this simple, subtle movement. So much more effective than the wild exhortations, he now hooks the human choir as one into a powerful chorus, the embodiment of a group of people connected to a deep sense of their communal voice and spirit.

Tim seems deeply touched just recalling the experience and just sitting here at my PC writing this story I feel a tingle down my spine.

I was at this meeting with Sue Glasser whose life’s work as a dancer is now also directed to helping people in organisations embody physical change in themselves. Her observation in response to Tim’s story was to echo her own experience of working with individuals and teams: that often the deepest change can be found in paying attention to the power of our physicality - how we hold ourselves when we engage with others.

And I think it’s a powerful metaphor for the difference between ineffective but noisy interventions in organisations, and subtle but powerful ones. It’s about looking within for power, finding inspiration and exuding it – instead of simply exhorting others to do things.
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August 11, 2003

Who's your greatest hero? 

I'd choose someone who has united more of the world's diversity in respect and valuing each other's human energies so that hopes could multiply productively - perhaps Mandela

Now that was the preliminary question. Compare your personal hero , with the most heroic brand you can think of. How miniscule is it in comparison. I suggest this shows how terribly poor organisations - and the people they trap - are at communicating around a core gravity. They have so much more resources than any one person and all they can muster on your hero rating (well mine anyway vis a vis mandela) seems ineffectual at best, even untrustworthy according to 2003 surveys conducting for that ultimate of big leaders forums: The World Economic Forum.

I would be interested in any lateral ideas on how to rectify this tragedy of the workplace. One might be to make sure we as people know how to make the most out of our personal network IQ's and desire to make a difference.
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Beyond Trust... 

We have all lamented the lack of trust in society, but I wonder.... Is it actually preventable? And is it even, really, such a bad thing?

Just look at what happens when ‘they’ try to tackle the effects of this lack of trust.

‘They’, increase regulation… ‘We’ practise avoidance
‘They’ increase measurement … ‘We’ engage in deception
‘They’ try to regain control… ‘We’ demand freedom
‘They’ make bolder and grander promises… ‘We’ berate them for inevitable failure
‘They’ become more transparent… ‘We’ become confused, and cynical

And all the while, this game of social chess continues, the trust gap between ‘them’ and ‘us’ continues to widen. So, in response to this lack of community, what happens? Again, ‘they’ try to tackle the effect.

‘They’ humanise authority figures…’We’ laugh at their frailties
‘They’ focus on delivery… ‘We’ lambast them for incompetence
‘They’ campaign their values… ‘We’ distrust them more
‘They’ want to be understood… ‘We’ don’t see the point

And what has been created through these cycles of mislearning? Trust-free communities. Communities of self-interest.

So here’s a radical and uplifting thought. Maybe trust is an inevitable casualty of democracy. A natural symptom of mass-affluence.

Here's an even more radical thought. Maybe we should just learn to live without trust…and find something more meaningful instead...'self-respect'.

After all, trust is not about our relationship with the outside world. It's about our relationship with ourselves. 'They' are actually 'We'. Trust matters, but you can't solve it from the outside.
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Flash mobs - spontaneity, spirit and what brands can learn 

I've been watching the flash mob phenomenon for a few weeks and now it has struck London.

Although some dismiss this as a craze, every time I hear about it I just want to laugh. It's the same kind of laughter I get when I see great Improv. My friend Robert Poynton of On Your Feet put it this way... people laugh at Improv not because the lines are good (often if you look at what's said it's not that good) but because what is happening before them is deeply, humanly satisfying.

When flash mobs meet, they're just having fun in the moment. There isn't much sense of control. Instead there's a weird kind of collective bonding.

And no-one's standing by with a calculator assessing the profitability of the exercise. They don't need to, cos this kind of fun doesn't cost anything.

How different is this from many of the contrived efforts of brands to say "buy this and have fun"?

Thinking of Jack's post about spirituality... many people think of spirituality as being all incense, mantras and big saffron robes. In fact, being spirited is something humans crave... and this is a huge pool of energy which organisations can either ignore.. or work with.

Brands of the future will need to be more comfortable with spontaneity and aware that control has its uses but can be taken too far. Southwest Airlines understands this... flying with them isn't quite as exciting as being in a flash mob, but their staff exude humour and an ability to bend rules in order to create some human connection in the cabin... a world away from the standard faux servility of many airlines.
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Merging Brand & Knowledge Management 

If only these 2 worlds of human relationship understanding could unite, they would pull apart the fringe media topics of advertising and IT platforms

Make no mistake the latter are fringe topics to human beings identifying deep enough purpose (brand/communal identity) to want to work a lifetime at making a specific difference and "learning how to action" (KM) great service, innovation connections or consistent human care. In union Brand & KM make the promise of living systems wholly trustworthy rather than some meaningless numbers game spreadsheeted by MBA kids with little contextual care nor experience of the world's most desperate localities

Late 20th century organisations made a terrifying mistake putting their budgets on brand and KM at the human fringe, aided and abetted by the people-rotting maths of global accountants. Next time you see a global accountant, look them in the eye. Ask how did their witchcraft preach that organisations should not invest in people (always costs), whilst writing up ads and technology as investments?

More on witchcraft- see the OD Salem Meeting
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The spirit in branding 

How right you are, Tim: Business 1·0 brands are failing and become worthless. The amount of advertising required to sustain them in a consumer's mind is growing almost exponentially. Without doing something authentic—even spiritual—they will continue to sink.
   It's why I advocate analysing spirituality: what is the soul of the organization? That could have more stickiness when it engages both internal teams and external audiences. It's bringing brand control to the level of the individual—the next step in the market orientation path that Narver and Slater set us on in the late 1980s.
   How else can CSR and other lofty concepts be communicated and become part of the organization? Without individual participation, involving consumers just as greatly, then all the trendy concepts are just words that a lot of these Business 1·0 folks will exploit.
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August 09, 2003

The New Economics Foundation says 


David Boyle, an associate of the New Economics Foundation and the author of Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life, highlights the apparent backlash against the world's biggest brands in favour of local, more "authentic" brands.

He notes that for the second successive year, an Interbrand survey has shown that more than 40 of the top 75 world brands lost value during 2002.

Boyle suggests that the quest for "authenticity" is evidenced partly by the 12m Europeans who have "downshifted" by cutting their salary or hours as well as by "the rise of farmers' markets, real ale, reading groups, organic vegetables, poetry recitals, complementary medicine, unmixed music and unbranded vintage fashions . . . a growing demand for human-scale, face-to-face institutions."

He concludes that while we have been told that "the future is global and virtual . . . we have not grasped that there is an opposite trend emerging, which may be just as powerful and which values what is local and what is real." (FINANCIAL TIMES, p. 19;
online here )
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Names with ideas on... 

I've argued here, there and everywhere, that brands are just ideas with names on.

It's the economical packaging of these great ideas that enables them to propagate so well.

'Christianity'. 'Nike'. 'Outsourcing'. 'Coke'. 'Communism'. 'America'.
These were great first generation brands.

But that same elegant slipperiness from one brain to the next is also what makes these ideas so vulnerable in this new democratised generation. Because you can't really get hold of them, you can't change them or mould them. They are closed to their stakeholders. We can't make them relevant. They are, by definition unsustainable brands. They cannot learn.

So what does beyond branding imply for brands? That they invert!

Instead of being ideas with names guessed it...they must become names with ideas on.

Spiky, engaging, uncomfortable, confrontational. BB superbrands will wear their knickers on the outside.

We are seeking nominations for some potential BB superbrands - brands with high learning opportunities?

The Internet
The Co-op...

All that remains is for these brands to turn potential into reality...
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youth & create the world 

Conflict Hypothesis 1: old people have always wanted to manage the world and youth to create it. Right now we need both of these energies to win-win in changing all the apartheids that the industrial age accidentally systemised. Jack Yan's Fashion for Good, India, August 9 provides one inspirational example. An extension of the idea that youth anyway leads global fashions is for young people to demand reality making as well as image making from global icon brands. A billion dollar a year ad-image without a real cause is a global insult to a networked age of learning. Why for example shouldnt the youthful cheers for Coca-Cola also stand for collaborative leadership between all organisations and people with water-knowledge to open source how to ensure that the 2 billion poor without freshwater today have by 2010? Perhaps we need some 21st C seekers to make a comeback pop song: I'd like to teach the world to water...
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Beyond complaining... collaboration 

I've always enjoyed discovering websites where customers gather to dish the dirt on the failings of companies. (I've listed a few here). They are often much more spirited and engaging than the sites of the businesses themselves.

But lately I've been thinking about our collective descent into a complaining culture. Just the other night I sat with three friends and realised we spent the first hour telling competing stories of the incompetence of service organisations. Although this was done with apparent glee, in the end I just felt depressed.

Of course, the persistent failure of business to deliver on promises of excellence is worthy of complaint. On the other hand, maybe we should take a step back and look at a system of complaint. Person A works for Company X and suffers regular complaints from clients. He apologises or defends - either way probably feels quite bad at the end of the day - and then goes home. Where at least he can vent his frustration on Person B from Company Y, who rings to discuss some aspect of Y's service.

Person B, of course, has spent her day also dealing with complaining A's and can't wait to get to her home so she can play her part in the great game of complaining.

Effective organisations can, and sometimes do, break out of this cycle by having more level, collaborative relationships with customers. They don't treat customers as kings but as human equals. Problems can be dealt with in a spirit of collaboration instead of conflict.

People say that trust is in decline... but perhaps trust is simply moving... towards the relationships that are more human, where we are not constantly engaged in a cycle of over-promise and complaint. Towards organisations that don't blandly - and falsely - define themselves simply as customer sycophants. Instead they look within for their ideas of themselves... they have attitude and they show customer care by engaging in more authentic dialogues about things they actually care about. Businesses that spring to mind in this category are Howies and Innocent Drinks

Look at these operations and you soon realise you're dealing with human beings not machines, and (for me) there is an immediate, felt response. I feel more friendly and I start to want them to succeed. These sorts of organisations can start to drive out the blands so that we can actually engage in decent relationships with the companies that work with us.

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Beyond What? 

Beyond Branding is the first dipping of a toe in the waters of corporate, organisational and governmental mismanagement. The key word is beyond. The key thoughts are what might lie beyond the present and the important actions are for us as individuals to go beyond.

So, beyond what? For me its about being beyond the current beliefs and behaviours, the current values of organisations that limit human potential, stifle or minimise communication, remove the incentives for alignment of my self with the corporate purpose, and the lack of true transparency in what they do, how they do it and who they are doing it for.

As people who are working with the concepts and techniques of branding that is the focus of our initial concern.

Given the relationship and importance of brand to the other major concerns and practices of organisations we are are looking beyond many of the dimensions and characteristics of the way in which organisations operate. We want to create a debate that will inspire and motivate others to similarly question the circumstances they work in and the practices of the organisations which employ them.

We want you to ask serious questions of yourselves, of your colleagues and your employers. If you believe that you and they need to get beyond your current reality and need to talk about what could be your desired future reality then you need to go beyond your current inactivity or limited thinking and recognise that you need to take personal responsibility for going beyond and need to commence your own journey.

Never underestimate the power of a single human being to begin to change their own reality and that of those in the world around them. And be aware that in going beyond you may never arrive as your sights will become set on a shifting set of places that you will pass through in your quest to find improvement, satisfaction, belief and understanding.
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August 08, 2003
Welcome to the new blog for Beyond Branding. We're going to use this space to post our thoughts on themes and debates arising from our book.
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