Tuesday, 29 September 2009

We all make policy happen

I've just read the NZ Institute's report (PDF) on this country's competitiveness, based on World Economic Forum data.

Some good recommendations, as far as I can tell. Key areas for improvement are innovation, and we as a nation need to enable this.

However, the language of the report, particularly the all-important last slide (Policy implications for New Zealand) is just not accessible.

Perhaps the argument is that policymakers are used to dealing with dry, abstract language. That may be so. But...

Isn't it better, if you're painting a goal, to paint that goal and vision in as vivid terms as possible? When you're making recommendations, if you show me what the outcomes of those recommendations are, and why those recommendations are needed?

I also suggest this because policy ultimately needs us all to deliver it. Government may propose, but the people dispose. Public servants, local governments, business people and ordinary citizens all make policy happen. Let's embrace that.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Language and Relationships

(This is a long post, my apologies. If I'd had more time, I would've made it shorter)

At the Art of Hosting workshop I realised that relationships are infrastructure. They're the roads, the power lines and the plumbing that allow things to happen.

And they're more important now than they ever were.

In the 20th century and the industrial age, everything was about automation and efficiency. Even as we turned the corner into the Knowledge Era and the 21st century, our focus was still on automation. And automation can do us a lot of good, but it needs to be balanced with relationships. Real relationships.

Why are relationships important? Because together, we face concepts we have never come across before. We're all discovering them from different directions and background, and that affects the words we use to name these new things.

Take the phrase social media. To me, with my freelance journalist background, social media suggests that the media is not just the companies I write for, it's an opportunity for me to make my own media. For anyone to make their own media. Media to me means getting your word out there.

Joseph Jaffe doesn't like the term social media, he prefers conversational marketing. Why doesn't he like "social media"? Because he comes from an advertising background, where media is a property you buy in order to put your message on it. And to him, you can't buy social media (he's right!).

A closer example, The Pond announced New Zealand's "first social media and network creative consultants". This kicked up a stink among NZ's social media consultants, but Leighton from the Pond was quick to point out to me the "creative" part of the description - a phrase that makes sense if you're in the ad industry. They come up with creative ideas (as designers and copywriters do) specifically for social media.

The problem in both cases? Same words with different meanings. Sometimes there's no short way to explain something. You have to talk it through with people so they understand. Then you can start using jargon, but use it with care, knowing that people are prone to interpret things differently from you.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Does fear motivate or paralyse you?

I've never been fond of fear. So much bad stuff happens because of fear, but recently I've heard - from three different places - about the good side of fear.

I'm not superstitious, but the same message, said different ways, three times in a row tends to get my attention.

It started with Inside the Mind of the Turtles, an excellent book I recommend to anyone dealing with uncertainty on a daily basis. (So that's, like, everyone).

It has 7 principles for dealing with uncertainty. Number one is overcome your fear. So far, so good.

But as I read on, I realised that's just the beginning. There's some very healthy fear that happens when you stick your neck out and take a risk. You need to overcome fear's paralysing effect, face reality, and respond to it quickly. The right kind of adrenaline rush.

Next stop was Joseph Jaffe's interview with (well, monologue interrupted by) Jeremiah Owyang, where Joseph shared that his first boss, founder of Nandos Chicken, was motivated to great lengths (and successes) by a fear of getting it wrong. That was mind-blowing, most people who are afraid of getting it wrong don't do anything.

And today I heard a great interview with Phil McKinney and Geoffrey Moore (author of Crossing the Chasm) where they pretty much said the same thing. Fear motivates. That's why Apollo 11 happened ... because Sputnik was in the sky overhead, menacing, glowering. The moon had very little to do with it ... but thank God they did eventually go "in peace, for all mankind".

As I look back over my own career I see growth spurts that came about through negative situations. Bad motivations, that eventually forced me to find good motivations.

It's a mystery of life. Very bad stuff often produces very good stuff.

How do you harness fear in your life today?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Warrior thing (nothing to do with league)

I just had a really annoying incident, but for some weird reason, I really enjoyed it.

One of my sites got hacked. It's happened before, and although it got resolved, we never did figure out how it happened.

So it happened again, and I was tearing my hair out, trying to stop it happening. And then I changed tack.

I looked at what this pathetic little monster had defaced my site with... I read his semi-literate message. And it had a username and an email address.

This was not a malicious hack... I mean, I didn't lose access to my files, nor was my site being used to propogate a virus. It was just a severe annoyance and a loss of an afternoon I didn't have to lose in the first place.

So what was it, if not outright malicious?

I Googled the username, and found a site called Zone H, which lists the exploits (literally!) of hackers around the world. The news part is very interesting, it gives an insight into the motivation... from the site: "defacement is a media" ... really? Yes. It's often a form of protest or activism... hacktivism, they call it.

Okay, so now it was personal. This attacker had left enough personal information about himself on the site to make it a mini-vendetta for me.

And I beat the sucker. I found out - painfully, through trial and error - where I'd let him slip in, and I beat the bastard.

Strangely satisfying. A bit like Kirk beating the tar out of Finnegan.

Reminds me of the workshop I was on on the weekend. Very much about peace and love, but at the same time we were told - especially the men among us - about being a warrior.

And I guess this was a great example.