Martin’s Musings: Emergence

eccentric interests!

Writing on Leadership

I am trying to pull together a book on leadership. I would like it to essentially be a compendium of writings on what might be termed ‘collaborative leadership’. I think most of what I talk about on sysval.org falls under this heading. I think that I have a publisher potentially interested in such a book. What I envision is a book that is academically strong but practically informed. Books like Wiley puts out. Practical examples and case studies would be quite welcome.

A working title is: “The Essence of Collaborative Leadership: Foundation, Focus and Vision”

I envision something like 10- 15 chapters. I would be looking to fill approximately 250 pages. I will the writer/editor of the work, but I may add a co-editor as this project comes together.

What I am asking for here is a few things:
Interest — is this a project that you would like to work on.
Time — Do you have time to put out a chapter in about a 2-3 month period (after commitment from publisher)
Focus — what would you be interested in writing on — do you have a specific idea, or are you open to suggestions.

The exact components of this will come together as I see all the people that are interested. But what I am thinking about at this point is:
Foundation — What is Collaborative Leadership? Where does it come from? And how does it differ from the management-centric leadership work that permeates the business world and society in general.
Focus — How is applied? What are examples? This would include looking at such issues as diversity, multi-culturalism, etc. How does one develop their capabilities in this area. The systems thinking and values implications of this type of leadership.
Vision — What are the challenges/opportunities for collaborative leadership? How to build meaningful organizations, groups, institutions using collaborative leadership? Leadership and Sustainability

If you can send me a short note on your interest in this project, that would be good for me to get myself organized here.

January 31, 2005 Posted by | Commentary | Leave a comment

DNA, P2P, and Privacy

DNA, P2P, and Privacy
bLOGical: “DNA, P2P, and Privacy First published on the ‘Networks, Economics, and Culture’ mailing list For decades, the privacy debate has centered on questions about databases and database interoperability: How much information about you exists in the world’ databases? How easily is it retrieved? How easily is it compared or combined with other information?

Databases have two key weaknesses that affect this debate. The first is that they deal badly with ambiguity, and generally have to issue a unique number, sometimes called a primary key, to every entity they store information on. The US Social Security number is a primary key that points to you, the 6-letter Passenger Name Record is a primary key that points to a particular airline booking, and so on.

This leads to the second weakness: since each database maintains its own set of primary keys, creating interoperability between different databases is difficult and expensive, and generally requires significant advance coordination. Privacy advocates have relied on these weaknesses in creating legal encumbrances to issuing and sharing primary keys. They believe, rightly, that widely shared primary keys pose a danger to privacy. (The recent case of Princeton using its high school applicants’ Social Security numbers to log in to the Yale admittance database highlights these dangers.)

The current worst-case scenario is a single universal database in which all records — federal, state, and local, public and private — would be unified with a single set of primary keys. New technology brings new challenges however, and in the database world the new challenge is not a single unified database, but rather decentralized interoperability, interoperability brought about by a single universally used ID. The ID is DNA. The interoperability comes from the curious and unique advantages DNA has as a primary key. And the effect will put privacy advocates in a position analogous to that of the RIAA, forcing them to switch from fighting the creation of a single central database to fighting a decentralized and interoperable system of peer-to-peer information storage. DNA Markers.

While much of the privacy debate around DNA focuses on the ethics of predicting mental and physical fitness for job categories and insurance premiums, this is too narrow and too long-range a view. We don’t even know yet how many genes there are in the human genome, so our ability to make really sophisticated medical predictions based on a person’s genome is still some way off. However, long before that day arrives, DNA will provide a cheap way to link a database record with a particular person, in a way that is much harder to change or forge than anything we’ve ever seen.

Everyone has a biological primary key embedded in every cell of their body in the form of DNA, and everyone has characteristic zones of DNA that can be easily read and compared. These zones serve as markers, and they differ enough from individual to individual that with fewer than a dozen of them, a person can be positively identified out of the entire world’s population. DNA-as-marker, in other words, is a nearly perfect primary key, as close as we can get to being unambiguous and unforgeable. If every person has a primary key that points to their physical being, then the debate about who gets to issue such a key are over, because the keys are issued every time someone is born, and re-issued every time a new cell is created. And if the keys already exist, then the technological argument is not about creating new keys, but about reading existing ones. The race is on among several biotech firms to be able to sequence a person’s entire genome for $1000. The $1 DNA ID will be a side effect of this price drop, and it’s coming soon. When the price of reading DNA markers drops below a dollar, it will be almost impossible to control who has access to reading a person’s DNA.

There are few if any legal precedents that would prevent collection of this data, at least in the US. There are several large populations that do not enjoy constitutional protections of privacy, such as the armed services, prisoners, and children. Furthermore, most of the controls on private databases rely on the silo approach, where an organization can collect an almost unlimited amount of information about you, provided they abide by the relatively lax rules that govern sharing that information. Even these weak protections have been enough, however, to prevent the creation of a unified database, because the contents of two databases cannot be easily merged without some shared primary key, and shared primary keys require advance coordination. And it is here, in the area of interoperability, that DNA markers will have the greatest effect on privacy.

You’re the Same You Everywhere Right now, things like alternate name spellings or alternate addresses make positive matching difficult across databases. Its hard to tell if Eric with the Wyoming driver’s license and Shawn with the Florida arrest record are the same person, unless there is other information to tie them together. If two rows of two different databases are tied to the same DNA ID, however, they point to the same person, no matter what other material is contained in the databases, and no matter how it is organized or labeled. No more trying to figure out if Mr. Shuler and Mr. Schuller are the same person, no more wondering if two John Smiths are different people, no more trying to guess the gender of J. Lee. Identity collapses to the body, in a way that is far more effective than fingerprints, and far more easily compared across multiple databases than more heuristic measures like retinal scans.

In this model, the single universal database never gets created, not because privacy advocates prevent it, but because it is no longer needed. If primary keys are issued by nature, rather than by each database acting alone, then there is no more need for central databases or advance coordination, because the contents of any two DNA-holding databases can be merged on demand in something close to real time. Unlike the creation of a vast central database, even a virtual one, the change here can come about piecemeal, with only a few DNA-holding databases. A car dealer, say, could simply submit a DNA marker to a person’s bank asking for a simple yes-or-no match before issuing a title. In the same way the mid-90s ID requirements for US domestic travel benefited the airlines because it kept people from transferring unused tickets to friends of family, we can expect businesses to like the way DNA ties transactions to a single customer identity.

The privacy debate tends to be conducted as a religious one, with the absolutists making the most noise. However, for a large number of people, privacy is a relative rather than an absolute good. The use of DNA as an ID will spread in part because people want it to, in the form of credit cards that cannot be used in other hands or cars that cannot be driven by other drivers. Likewise, demands that DNA IDs be derived from populations who do not enjoy constitutional protections, whether felons or children, will be hard to deflect as the cost of reading an individual’s DNA falls dramatically, and as the public sees the effective use of DNA in things like rape and paternity cases. Peer-to-Peer Collation of Data In the same way Kazaa has obviated the need for central storage or coordination for the world’s music, the use of DNA as an ID technology makes radically decentralized data integration possible. With the primary key problem solved, interoperability will arise as a side effect, neither mandated nor coordinated centrally. Fighting this will require different tactics, not least because it is a rear-guard action. The keys and the readers both exist, and the price and general availability of the technology all point to ubiquity and vanishingly low cost within a decade. This is a different kind of fight over privacy.

As the RIAA has discovered, fighting the growth of a decentralized and latent capability is much harder than fighting organizations that rely on central planning and significant resources, because there is no longer any one place to focus the efforts, and no longer any small list of organizations who can be targeted for preventive action. In a world where database interoperability moves from a difficult and costly goal to one that arises as a byproduct of the system, the important question for privacy advocates is how they will handle the change.”

January 31, 2005 Posted by | Values | Leave a comment

Darwin, DNA, Chaos and Meaning

This and other thoughts from Martin Hall

We hear about values in values in many contexts and we will go into some historical contexts in the next chapter. However, we hear about values: family values, organizational values, societal values, religious, moral values, etc. But many times they are hard to understand because the context is not understood. Values are personal and but they also need to be accessible. They need to be meaningful. The challenge is create meaning for the individual while also providing meaning for others to understand and interact.

The closer that we can come to discussing personal values in a universal context the more effective it can be. Looking at values from the perspective of the pursuit of science can be effective at looking at values in a more universal, more accessible context. The more we can agree on what something means (even if we disagree on its importance) the better possibility that we will have better communication, better relationships and more meaningful organizations.

If we begin to understand values, and at least agree on the definitions of values, then we can measure. Measure values! Can you really do that! Well, in the proper context you can. We will go more into the idea of measurement later, but the idea of identifying something and being able to see if it changes is very important in the pursuit of science. While there are some areas such as axiology (Hartman, etc.) which are trying to turn values into a science, we are going to explore the strong contexts in a more metaphorical context. As you will see these contexts are very powerful in creating a language for the effectiveness of values in organizations.

While we will talk about Aristotle and others in a historical context later, it can be good in setting a context of how a Darwinian view of values is important to getting the proper context of how values play an ongoing and changing role in our lives and the organizations within which we work and interact. Aristotle may have had the first attempt to vocalize values concepts. He saw leaders as needing about half a dozen attributes for excellence. In many ways he was one of the first leadership development mentors. He was an advisor for Alexander the Great. His context was leadership development, but there were obviously other things that drove peoples’ decisions at that time, such as simple survival. In the intervening years, there have been more values as the way in which we have interacted with the world has become more complex.

Values have evolved in a manner that might be consistent with Darwinian concepts of evolution. Think of the Cave man personal survival, family, relationships, power, etc. Moves to hunter/gatherer created need for stronger relationships. Communities came together to deal with the increasing need for specialization so that duties did not have to be duplicated and more could be provided….this is where the valuing process starts to get more diverse. As groups come together to achieve common but diverse objectives there is more needs or aspirations involved.

Aristotle voiced some of these. Likely there are things that were valued historically, that are not valued now. Or they have evolved into something that is more significant to our time. But as religion, philosophy, science, politics, exploration, economics all grew so did those things that people would value or aspire to.

We have evolved from the cave man to the six to twelve values of Aristotles day to what be considered a number well over 100 (we will cover this idea later). Not only the did the development of values frameworks develop, but there is process of evolution and survival of the fittest that comes out of how the individual and organization grow and maintain themselves.Lets look at Darwin for a moment. Before Charles Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species (1859), he took a trip on The Beagle. It was here that he discovered many things that lead to his ideas and concepts such as the process of natural selection. In the Galápagos Islands, he found that similar creatures on different islands had developed differently apparently based on different environments even though they were only miles apart.

Values both for the individual and for the organization react the same way. We may be born into similar environments but a combination of our genetics and our environment shapes in very specific ways. We will be very much like those around us but we will also have things that drive us that are unique. We all have our own unique configuration. We are attracted to living and working with people with similar likes, dislikes and gifts. However, we are still unique and have our own contributions.

Organizational culture develops in the same way. Organizations are a lot like self-regenerating evolutionary organisms that evolve to meet new challenges or die off. If they have the requisite variety (Ashby) or diversity while maintaining a core they will continue to evolve and continue to be successful.

Organizations may start from the same environment such as the same marketplace but the internal code is different. There are different people in the different organizations. And while people from different organizations may come together for similar reasons, they are all a little different. It is dependent on this code or configuration that defines the culture. The minimal values that are in common give the basis for the culture, and it is the diversity and the clarity of purpose that give the organization capability for success. They still need to have good products and be competitive, but to do this they must evolve.

January 25, 2005 Posted by | Culture, Systems Thinking, Values | Leave a comment

Chemistry as Metaphor

This core commonality is a kind of code. This code is similar to the configuration of chemicals and chemical reactions. Metaphorically speaking, chemistrys periodic table of elements is a way of looking at values systemically. All humans pull from the same table or list of values.

As human beings, we all have the potential for all values. Values could be seen as the descriptors for behavior, how we configure our values, gives us a key to understanding our own behavior and the behavior of others. People actually only operate on a subset of all values. It is our own personal configuration of these values that makes us unique and drives our behavior. And like chemical compounds, some values clusters are more compatible than with some other values clusters. But the wrong combinations of people and the results can be explosive. When the right combination of people come together the results can be exciting and effective.

Organizational alignment of values and culture is about finding the compatible compounds without making everyone the same.

January 25, 2005 Posted by | Values | Leave a comment

Values as DNA for the individual and DNA for the organization

If we are to tie the concepts of chemical reaction and evolution together, genetics can be a strong communicator. Mendel, Bateson and Watson are among those that have been instrumental in our understanding of how a genetic code has a lot to do with how our genes or cellular make up behaves.

From a values context, we inherit from our biology and from our experiences a sense of valuing what we feel is important. This configuration or code is what makes us individual.If we are to think in an organizational context, Values are the DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) that codes the genes, humans are the cells, and teams are their manifestation as organs. These all need to come together to have an effective human being. If the DNA has defects it can disrupt the whole being, if the organs have problems it can threaten the viability of the organism. If the whole being is not held together and healthy it will not be able to meet the challenges that it has put before it. And while there may be similarities with other beings (organizations), there still is a sense of self that is different for all others. This is the same for the organization as it is for the individual.

Our relationships are the glue to this DNA. Relationships build human beings, teams, organizations, and marketplaces.

January 25, 2005 Posted by | Culture, Values | 1 Comment

Big Picture, Personal Focus, Meaningful Environment

The Duality is probably best discussed as understanding the Big Picture but maintaining a connection to the personal focus. What Think Globally, Act Locally means to the ecological and peace movements, Big Picture, Personal Focus, Meaningful Environment means to the Effective Organization. This idea is not new. Senge (1990) touches on it in his seminal book, The Fifth Discipline.

Big Picture

Seeing the Big Picture is about seeing the world as collections elements with interrelated parts. It is essentially seeing groups of things and the relationships between them. The more technical term is systems thinking but it comes in many forms. In a quaint way, it is the specialization of generalization. Complexity and Chaos are just a few of the ideas that come under aegis of systems thinking. Much of western education focuses on specialization, systems thinking does not want to discard that but also wants to integrate some of the Renaissance notions of seeing the connections and patterns among different things such as science and art. It is about stepping back from the incredible volume that we process every day and distilling it down to its essence. Minessence is about mining the essence of complex ideas. This is what systems thinking is about. It is essential for understanding and harnessing the power of the organization and the environment in which it operates.

Personal Focus

There is really no such thing as an organizational value. It is really the manifestation of personal values in a larger context. Personal focus is about getting the individual to understand the role that values plays in their day-to-day life. As we understand our values, we get insights into out own behavior. It is only when we get this insight into our own behavior that we can effectively interact with others, and can begin to understand their behavior. The more I understand about being what I desire and can offer the more effective I can be as a team player. The team is the holograph of the organization in that it is where values are first applied in a social context. It is where personal focus must get applied in a group context.Values are about understanding relationships the more that we make our own values explicit, the more success we can have with our relationships. Organizations are really nothing more than a complex system of relationships.

Meaningful Environment

Meaningful environment is the team, group, organizational or cultural alignment by harnessing the Big Picture and the Personal Focus.

January 25, 2005 Posted by | Culture, Leadership, Systems Thinking, Values | Leave a comment

Mining the Essence

Systems thinking maybe one of the best examples of looking at Mnessence. It is about seeing the big picture without seeing the initial complication of the component parts..You are looking at the main themes of the situation or system. It is about finding the essence. Distilling the system to the understandable patterms.

January 24, 2005 Posted by | Systems Thinking | Leave a comment