Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Executive MBA MIS 2007

The Executive MBA MIS class starts on January 12th. It will be tracked by Disruption City 2007. Please amend your bookmarks.


Manchester, Seattle and Shanghai

Manchester was the birthplace of the industrial revolution. It was the herald of the globalised, capitalist society that we know today. No other city better deserves the title "Disruption City." Disruption has been our business. We have lived it for good and ill. We are living it still.

And so it is that Manchester has an incredible track-record of achievement and influence. It can claim the invention of modern computing (see 'The Baby', 'The Manchester Mark 1' and Alan Turing), the railway, atomic theory, splitting the atom, the birth of the women's movement, the social theories of Marx and Engels and the co-operative movement. We might also cite Rolls-Royce, Marks and Spencer and The Guardian. Then again, we could talk about Manchester United (and City, Bolton, Wigan, Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale, Bury and Macclesfield), A Clockwork Orange, the Halle Orchestra, Coronation Street, and a track-record in modern youth culture (from the Bee Gees to The Smiths and Oasis). Open the lens a little more broadly and the North-West of England offers up The Beatles, Liverpool FC, Stan Laurel, William Wordsworth, ....

Manchester Business School (MBS) has its part in this history, with the work of Stafford Beer and Enid Mumford associated with the school. It is also the school where we learn through doing (see Manchester Method and also Reg Revans).

Today, we introduce new thinking about the new age we live in. This blog is used as part of the MBA MIS course here in MBS. Of course, today, we live in a global, networked economy. To understand where new technology is taking us, we have to look to places like Seattle, Shanghai, Bangalore, Palo Alto and Walldorf. It is a new age, still just beginning, and it promises to leave old ideas redundant and new ideas ascendant.

The course starts with the ideas of Clayton Christensen, Ronald Coase & Larry Downes and Chunka Mui. Along the way, we will encounter many more like Geoffrey Moore, James Surowiecki, Raymond Kurzweil and Stafford Beer.

Perhaps there is no better promontory from which to study the global village in its information age than that provided by Manchester. Welcome!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Coming Soon

Coming soon: Disruption City 2007.

More on information systems, the information age, business, entrepreneurship, viability, futures, Web 2.0, social computing, knowledge management ... the age of asymmetry, the end of hierarchies, & all the creativity that comes from the chaos of disruption.

"One man's earthquake is another man's new town."

The new site should be ready in a few days.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Last Post Is Always The Most Important

For those that haven't seen the proof that Santa exists, here it is.

Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Macclesfield Station 0709: the last Friday before Christmas

Heathrow is fogbound, so I am at Macclesfield station with a ticket to West Drayton and back. It is dark. The station and train are almost deserted. Only the madmen are left.

Happy new year, electronic communication. Happy new year to video and telephone, to mobile and email, instant messaging and txt. There has to be another way.

Next year, please, I travel with my girls to sunny destinations. There is no hour so ungodly that it cannot be punctured by the chatter of small girls. Next year, please, I will no longer be the lonely sod in the dark… ("a solitary mister")


Happy new year, all. This e-stuff is marvellous. This fossil-stuff, fossil-travel, is killing us.

Happy new year, and a toast to the Information Age!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"the light sings eternal/ a pale flare over marshes"

"Through networking, blogging, downloading, internet calls, gaming and God knows what else in 2007, new digital technology defines ever larger parts of our lives. It is, to anybody over 18, bewildering. But it works and consumes little energy. If we all spent our lives on the net and talking on mobiles instead of driving and flying, global warming would cease to be a problem. But, also, to be honest, I like this stuff. It makes me oddly happy, even though I am too old to grasp even 10% of what is going on. Much more is to come. I think this is good news. So there you go, an upbeat ending. The new year burns bright on the horizon. Have a good one. But, hey, let’s be careful out there."

This is Bryan Appleyard writing in the Sunday Times.

I like Bryan Appleyard, the writer. I always seek out his articles in the only print paper I buy (yes, Murdoch's tome). I don't mean my liking for Appleyard to be taken in a childish way i.e. to mean that I follow him, or even less that I always agree, or even always admire. I don't. But he always interests me. He's always a good bet. He writes loosely, sometimes. Sometimes he is tight.

He is, in the vernacular, class.

One day, maybe we will get him to Manchester and I will find out what he likes to drink. Consider yourself invited, Bryan.

There is so much in the cited article that resonates with the bigger themes of our course. Please read: agree, disagree, like, dislike ... but this is a great siren for the year that is ending. This year in our age of asymmetry.

The title and photo are Ezra Pound. A little light is enough, sometimes.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The New Normal

Kendrick Strikes Again.

Ian writes....

Hi all

In answer to Peter’s provocation about change…..

It's all about the new normal.

It’s the Beer talking. Well sort of. Stafford made an argument (in the early 70’s - now there’s prescience for you) that the exponential rate of change is/will be caused by our species’ progress in technology. He plots a graph, (can’t remember which book, Brain, Heart or Platform – will check it out when I return home on Wednesday), showing our developments over the centuries. He discounts the theory that “change has been ever thus”, showing that the increments get ever larger and closer together, hence an exponential curve. I will dig out the reference.

But that is not my argument. I am sure mine is not original but here goes.

As a species we have always been compelled to connect people and things together and that has been, and continues to be, a prime mover in our (technological) development. From ancient forms of writing, Marathon man, printing press, Morse code/telegraph, radio, television, computer, internet we have strived to connect one to one, one to many and many to one. We are now at the point where one to one is instantaneous around the planet with free voice and video (I use it all the time, in my youth it was only in Thunderbirds that such things happened, indeed many of the ideas that were scifi in my youth are now not only reality, but better than the scifi items and happened earlier than predicted. There is a principle with technology that what is predicted comes late and does not really deliver. Then it comes back, much bigger and more powerful than predicted. As the Zen Koan says "first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is" Chasmic or what? Moore uses the Koan as his intro to Chasm, it's not that I am an aging hippy. Well not completely that anyway...), same thing for many to one and one to many. Further, we can now connect to more abstract representations of ourselves: organisation to organisation, blogs, web sites, web services; without actually being present at either end: web crawlers, search engines that can sus sentiment, aggregators, DIGG and so on.

This level of connectivity drives complexity in our interactions. I am using the definition of complexity as “being the number of possible states of a system”. As complexity increases, so does unpredictability because things get connected in unknown ways and emergence (a hot topic in the systems and complexity community) happens. The one thing that we all agree on is that emergence is, at best, very difficult to predict, potentially impossible. The meteoric rise of Google, eBay and the like show this, underpinned by our old friends Moore, Metcalfe and Coase. Few could/would have predicted the rate of growth and eventual (current?) size of Google/eBay. Increasing complexity driving increasing unpredictability driving increasing and ever more unpredictable change. Can’t see it stopping for a while.

If I may paraphrase Don Tapscott/Dave Ticoll (digital 4-sight) "people keep asking me, after 911, the tsunami, Katrina, google, eBay and the like, when will it get back to normal. I tell them the answer is that it already has. This is the new normal. Get used to it". What is needed are tools that help us cope and maybe even survive and thrive in this new apparently chaotic world, our new normal. Ashby is key here and all that cascades out of his Law of Requisite Variety. "Only Variety Can Absorb Variety" is a far better answer to the Ultimate Question Of Life The Universe And Everything than "42". I even suspect that Douglas Adams might concur. That the words seem innocuous and at first glance meaningless should not deter us. Investigation of them will get repaid a thousand fold. Any tools that we use must, IMHO obey this Law. Stafford's works are based on it. Moore and Christensen conform as does Blue Ocean.

We have not seen, in my opinion, the big changes yet. My view is that we will see “phase changes” going on before long. Connectivity with communication will drive it. As the folks in Funky Business http://www.funkybusiness.com say at the beginning of their book, “Marx was right”. But not with the manual workers, only when economies and power start to be driven by knowledge workers. Which is about now. As Nordström and RidderstrÃ¥le point out “The revolutionary reality is that 1.3 kilograms of brain holds the key to all our futures”. Oh, and they quote and use Ashby’s Law.

Provocative? Me? Oh behave!

Cheers and happy midwinter and new year.


PS – on a sadder note Amanga The Dog passed today after 14 and a half years of giving only unconditional love and acceptance from her moment of birth until her death. Would that we could all do the same in all of our relationships. We will miss her.