Archiv der Kategorie: Communication

Communication consists of perception, thought models and communication behavior.

The button – the ideal metaphor for an interface

One of the greatest discoveries of mankind, beside the hand axe and the fire, was the needle. Sewing individual pieces of pelts to fitting clothing not only protected against the cold, but also made the personal status visible. This stable seam permanently held the separated fabric edges together – which was not always desired. For this reason, the seam became more flexible by tying the parts temporarily. Today there are different connections: Hooks connected with an eyelet and push buttons as well as the most common, the hole buttons, flat discs that are inserted through corresponding holes. Not only clothing requires flexible junctions, but also relationships between systems of all kinds – people, artifacts and software.

All connections are based on similar building blocks as the buttoning.

  • Established joint
    If you intend to join two open ends or parts of fabrics or skins, you can glue, weld, sew, staple together, weave, knot, connect, tie, plug, hook, zip, plug, entangle or, for our example, button them up. The button is a reliable approach that can be easily applied. In business, processes and IT interfaces are implemented through set transfer points, coordination rituals and contracts that can be resolved and terminated at any time. This is possible, when there are fixed handover points – places or connectors.
  • Agreed rules
    Interfaces only work when the individual components, the button and the hole, fit together. The oversized button that does not fit the buttonhole cannot create a connection. The buttonhole that is too large will not hold the button reliably. In business, the interfaces are even more sensitive. The coordination is the pre-requisite, in order to let an interface fulfill its purpose in the IT or in the processes. This is possible, when there are common rules at the interface – a particular IT protocol or a common language.
  • Common goal
    All connections have in common that two or more parts combine to form a unit in order to pursue shared goals. The clothing should protect you, the charging station should charge the electromobile, a joint venture wants to capture a market or two parties want to govern together. The units connected in this way share a common destiny with rights and duties that are only valid as long as they are associated. This is possible when everyone fulfils his or her purpose – in an economic community or in a partnership.
  • Foreseeable timeframe
    Despite the naturally inherent transience of relationships, parts can be more firmly or loosely connected with each other. If the parts are to remain together for a longer period of time, durable solutions such as gluing, welding, joining and sewing are recommended. If only temporary cohesion is desired, all types of flexible connections such as hooks, zippers and buttons are the right choice. The interfaces in the business are always connected with expenditure, which have to pay off. Pursued irrevocable mergers are to eliminate such interfaces from the outset by repositioning themselves, breaking up redundant elements and subsequently undoing the union only with a lot of disadvantages. Temporary alliances build on form-free agreements that provide the temporary working basis. This is possible, when the groups in advance become aware of the duration of the relationship – a merger can always be retransferred or a temporary relationship can exist for a very long time.

Bottom line: There are more and more opportunities to connect individual groups with each other. While in the past the interplay was designed for a long time, today we have to deal with more and more short-lived associations. The current trend of platforms is a good example of the relationship dynamics – global networks, knowledge sharing between competitors, temporary memberships. At the same time, they can dissolve at any time and merge again as needed. On the one hand, the necessary mechanisms must function reliably and, on the other hand, can be resolved at any time. A good example of such a connection point is the button that connects safely and can be released again at any time. This makes the button an ideal metaphor for an interface.

 

What can be different, is actually different

The countless parallel worlds made possible by digitalization and networking construe for themselves their own realities, which are readily accepted by the target audience. When observing, the different groups look at the same situation from different, often opposing perspectives. A photo provides a factual reflection of the reality and we believe that what we see is just like it seems. Even as it is obvious that each shot is the result of the selection of the intended image detail. Who would suspect that this woman standing alone in the portrait format is a protester? If the image detail becomes slightly expanded, a new situation unveils. The same happens when we exchange contents. What is said contains above all a plethora of unsaid. That makes everything that can be different, actually different – for every observer.

Since today everybody can access the Internet, either with a post in a discussion forum or a blog article or in the own website, all points of view find their way into the public. And the following applies: Nothing works anymore, without someone finding something negative in the acts or in the statements of others and reinterprets them accordingly.

  • Right does not exist anymore
    As soon as a national monument is in flames, it creates countless options for action that are neither necessary nor impossible. This contingency is taken up by individuals and exploited for all imaginable reasons. If you immediately take care of repairing the damage caused by the fire, the questions arise as to why you don’t take care of other burning issues. If people remain inactive, their inactivity is lamented. This particular form of double bind that leads to the fact that you are always wrong engaging in something, will eliminate the willingness to do something in the long run.
    We have to get out of these opportunistic accusations and once again learn to value the achievements of others as what they are, an impacting act.
  • Being against something always works
    In every right action there are nowadays a lot of arguments against it. If you do something, then the question comes up, why not something different or more different. If the fire damages are repaired with tax money, urgently needed tax money is wasted. If people donate their money voluntarily, then somebody gets up and makes them feel guilty, because they don’t get involved in other social projects – although we don’t necessarily know. Always insinuating the bad to others oversees the fact that we are judged according to the same rules. No matter which side we take, there will quickly be contemporaries who criticize you for this standpoint.
    The way out of this vicious circle requires independent personalities, who feel more attached to their ethical values than to any line whip.
  • Conceal insubstantiality with opposition
    Populists are specialized in making themselves heard by always criticizing the activities of their opponents. To simulate strength through import duties and to insult Europe, which is then doing the same, which leads to endangering national jobs at Harley-Davidson. There is no indication for own ideas. And it doesn’t need to be, because the pro-active supply the stuff that the freeloaders exploit for their interests.
    Somehow we have to be able to free ourselves again from the manipulations of opportunistic movements before everything gets worse and the mental walls become dangerous.
  • Attack is the best defense
    The connectivity of the expressions leads to a longer back and forth of the arguments. If you are accused of behaving undemocratically, then the best defense is to point out that you yourself are being treated undemocratically. As you can see in the fact that certain parties, who are not elected in Bundestag committees call it as undemocratic. The political discourse is degenerating. Politicians unwind their memorized messages, regardless the course of the conversation. And journalists can obviously no longer moderate a conversation.
    Whilst every public discussion is only an election campaign speech for the own target group, we should refrain from these discussions. The protagonists must again speak to each other, instead to their voters.
  • All only see, what they can see
    It is very difficult to look for reality in the news, because they are always a construction of the observer, which cannot be objectified. You can think what you like about Trump, but his press secretary Kellyanne Conway has found the right formulation – Alternative Facts. The radical constructivists have already put it in a nutshell: „The world, as we perceive it, is our own invention.“
    The task now is to find a way to put the different views back into the position to exchange ideas.

Bottom line: The general availability of data creates a new universe of possibilities, all of which are worth living for themselves or not – depending on the angle of view. What gets more and more lost is to meet on a common denominator in order to be able to persist together. If nothing can be the way it is, but is always a target for complaints, then self-reinforcing conflicts arise which become difficult to resolve. When right no longer exists, someone is always against it, insubstantiality is concealed with opposition, attack is the best defense and the last resort is doubting the truth, then all efforts for something lose their momentum. Then conversations become monologues with third parties, instead of dialogues with the counterpart. We must get out of this vicious circle that leads to an increasingly aggressive confrontation with dissenters. Active listening and an anticipatory appreciation relax the exchange of thoughts and improve the understanding of the other opinion. And the following applies: What can be different, is actually different.

The Talisman – the ideal metaphor for a metaphor

Before personal talismans and amulets evolved, like the Nazar in Turkey or the Christopher in the western world, many particularities of the physical reality were connected with a deeper meaning that went beyond and had a strong influence on the mental states of people. Even though we have no written evidence from prehistory, oral traditions point to meaningful landmarks in nature – the Uluru in Australia, the Nazca lines in Peru, or the legendary Irminsul in Germany. Over time, cult objects been created, which groups always carried with them, such as the Ark of the Covenant, the Mikoshi in Japan or the Holy Lance. The effects of these cult objects are different for each user. The same applies to metaphors which, beyond the obvious story, generate additional meanings in the minds of people. This makes the talisman the ideal metaphor for the metaphor.

Faith can move mountains. Talismans also have this power and transfer meaning and content to their carriers that go far beyond the obvious form of the artifact – just like a metaphor. To make this possible, things or metaphors must be loaded with meaning and the following conditions be there.

  • Expectation
    Amulets are connected with meaning by a place or person. As a result, users expect a certain effect – for example be it traffic safety or health or fertility or motivation. The effect is mediated by the person, who provides the artifact or story. One should not forget that the effect can be destructive or beneficial – a voodoo doll fitted with needles can lead to the death; the belief in the success of a medical measure makes the placebo work in exactly the same way as the drug being replaced.
  • Conditioning
    Expectations do arise out of nowhere. It is often not sufficient to get the explanation of the effect. But the constantly updated awareness of the consequences anchors faith deeper and deeper in the subconscious. If we touch our talisman and establish the conscious connection to the desired effect, we internalize the effect even deeper -e.g. the St. Christopher’s before starting the commute to the office. Accordingly, a metaphor works, which is used again and again as an example, if you explain a certain contexts, such as the story with the axe.
  • Examples
    Especially supportive for confidence in a particular outcome are examples, in which the effect has been clearly demonstrated. The shamans that exist in all cultures have proven countless times that they can help, what makes them better and better. The mobile representative is the amulet that you get handed from shamans – or at least can trace back to them. In the metaphor, the reference to reality happens through stories with everyday examples that charge the metaphor.
  • Origin
    Any object can act as a talisman – a stone, a piece of wood, a bottle of water, an artifact made by someone or was owned by someone. Brands transfer emotional meaning to objects – e.g. when the latest Montblanc fountain pen is called Le Petit Prince. It is in the eye of the user how this meaning comes into effect. A metaphor wins, when it was created or told by a role model – such as Aristotle’s thesis „The whole is more than the sum of its parts“.
  • Comprehensive description
    The more sophisticated and differentiated the description of mechanism of a fetish is, the more credible it becomes. Gemology, for example, explains the effect of gemstones – the ruby, which promotes passion; the tourmaline, which protects against negative energy; the tiger’s eye, which gives courage. The better a metaphor is explained, the more comprehensible it becomes – just think of the Chinese 成语 (chengyu) „塞翁失马 – Old man loses horse„.

Bottom line: Through the expectation, the repeated anchoring of the meaning, the practical examples, the origin and a comprehensive description charge amulets, talismans and metaphors with effective meaning, which makes amazing things with their followers. It should always be considered that the effect should be beneficial at all costs, otherwise damage will be caused. The belief in efficacy is the common denominator of these lucky mojos and the stimulating, meaningful stories. This makes the talisman the ideal metaphor for a metaphor.

The American Frontier – the ideal metaphor for the Internet

Freedom has always been a central topic of discourses – personal, social, political, ethical, economic, artistic, etc. Don’t we all want to casually pursue our interests without being prevented by laws, regulations, guidelines or the like. The new possibilities of the Internet to get in touch with anyone, anywhere and at any time have led overnight the meaning of publication, the possessions of creative people and the established media ad absurdum. Let’s look at the responsibility and ask yourself, why the platform providers, i.e. the operators of websites, who provide users with nothing more than public storage space for data and navigation, are held liable for the stored content. In fact, it is as if a telephone company is responsible for the phone calls that criminals use to commit fraud, or as if they are accused of having terrorists coordinate their assaults by phone. The new EU Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market has highlighted a wealth of problems and interests. The whole thing recalls strongly the days of the American Frontier, when, during the settlement, a legal vacuum created the situation that the stronger simply did whatever they wanted.

In the end, it has always been about access to valuable assets – fertile land in the American Frontier and precious data nowadays, such as texts, images, videos, formulas, etc. The difficulties arise from similar hopes of the protagonists in the American Frontier and on the Internet.

  • Economic interests
    The run to the west was driven by the prospect of a new life – initially the hunters and gatherers, the so-called trappers, then the settlers in their covered wagons, the squatters and ranchers, and finally the farmers who acquired documented property. The money was practically growing on the prairie.
    The Internet also began in 1989 with a simple idea – peer-to-peer networking on the World Wide Web, hyperlinks and standardized protocols. Parallel to the computers in each household, many software vendors conquered for the markets of browsers, email and application programs. Who remembers the time before FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google)?
    Common to the American Frontier and the Internet is the prospect of a lucrative business. The economic intentions exploit unregulated conditions of the new economic sector.
  • Assumed boundlessness
    The hope of the American settlers was fueled by the sheer boundlessness of the country. With three kilometers per hour, the treks were heading west. In the absence of deeds of ownership, the settlers occupied the land that supposedly belonged to nobody, putted up their fences and thus postulated a claim of ownership. The actual inhabitants, the Native Americans, for whom the term land tenure was unknown, were de facto expropriated and penned in reservations.
    At the beginning, the Internet was also boundless. With the possibility to store and retrieve multimedia content, new business ideas slowly evolved. The first file-sharing platforms putted the fear of God into the content providers of the film and music industry. With the viable B2C approaches (e.g. Freemium, Long Tail, Pay per Use), the corporations recaptured the market. Today, users commit themselves to providers such as Netflix and Spotify with regular, monthly payments.
    In over twenty years of the World Wide Web, the authors were completely forgotten. The creators come away empty-handed, although they create the content that the platform providers turn into money through advertising and the like.
  • Missing rules
    Our image of the American Frontier is coined by armed outlaws, who raid banks and stagecoaches and terrorize peaceful citizens. At the same time, judges speak local law and sheriffs ensure compliance as they think best. The latent lawlessness rose from the distance to the official jurisdiction. The law of the fittest was applied.
    A similar lack of rules formed in the beginning of the Internet, which is due to the new medium and greenness. This goes from free access and reuse of content to anonymous bullying on social networks. But the Internet would not have globally spread so quickly without the openness, even though with good and bad consequences for certain persons.
    Different cultures and legal systems have hindered the introduction of binding rights and obligations. Especially for the generations Y and Z, the need of rewarding content creators is hard to understand, as they obviously access content for free.
  • Ruthless exploitation
    Before the colonization of the West, millions of buffalos roamed the prairie. The bison provided the American Natives with food, clothing and the basis for making tools and tents. The hunters of that time only killed as many bison’s, as they needed per day. The buffalos were eventually almost completely exterminated for the mass production of boots and for the supply of the railway workers.
    In the dawn of the Internet, computer nerds were everywhere romping around and trying out possible applications. With networking, the geographical distances dissolve and each connected region of the world is part of the whole with just a mouse click. The digitization of books, music and films makes it possible to copy products protected by copyright without the opportunity that the authors control the use. Beneficiaries are not only the usual distributors, but also platforms that benefit from the use of data and broker commissions.
    Today, Internet providers bypass the requirements of the cultural, logistics and tourism industries – Amazon is replacing local book and record stores not as a book store but as a logistics company; Uber offers passenger transport outside the legal regulations; Airbnb arranges private overnight stays without the liability of the hotel industry.

Bottom line: The economic interests, the assumed boundlessness, the lack of rules and the ruthless exploitation of resources are similar in the development of the American Frontier and the World Wide Web. This makes the American Frontier the ideal metaphor for the Internet.

P.S.: It is important for content providers to receive their economic share and at the same time for users to retain access to information – without over-bureaucratization, i.e. without the regulatory mania that hampers actual work. The remuneration of intellectual property must be ensured, otherwise there will be no new content.

The flagpole – the ideal metaphor for the limitedness of possibilities

With an increasingly digital world of services, it is becoming ever harder to identify the limitations of the activities. These new features of our work world have no dimensions, no surfaces, no weight, and no temperature – in short; they cannot be measured with the usual instruments. What remains are properties such as duration, speed, friendliness, availability of service – e.g. the preparation of one meal incl. drink 2-3 minutes; delivery of a pizza 30 minutes; friendliness of telephone advice (number of stars); 24/7 ordering service. And how to measure the performance of the employees? Do we count the keystrokes of an engineer when he develops a new product – when thinking is a major part of the work? Or the number of slides per hour created by an employee – when often only copied? Or the number of pizzas delivered – when some travel quite far? There is a lack of general key figures which support the distribution of the tasks. With this dissolution of the material features in the virtual world, we lose our reference points and our intuition for the limitedness of possibilities.

The virtual world is also limited. We don’t have unlimited time or budget or ideas. In order to make these boundaries more tangible, the features of a flagpole make an apt metaphor for the aspects of a service.

  • The pole
    The size of the leeway is symbolized by the length of the flagpole. Here you can already find special cases – for example when it is a telescopic rod that can be extended for different lengths. Or modular rods, which can be extended with screw-on extensions.
    Similarly, services are able to set their capabilities through built-in buffers or artificial building blocks – the size of the budget or the extra time of a service.
  • The outrigger
    The purpose of the mast is to set a widely visible sign. If there is no wind, the flag could collapse. In this case, an outrigger is available to keep the flag continuously visible. A good example was placed on the moon – albeit if in the meantime the flags should be bleached white by the UV radiation.
    The use of IT allows the offer of the services even at unusual times – when the use of employees is uneconomical, because of a small number of customers, websites provide a virtual counter.
  • The cord
    To set the flag to any flight height you use a cord. Normally the flag is pulled up to the top or otherwise retracted – except: in special cases half mast is flying.
    An important advantage of the virtual world is scalability, which simply adjusts the service to the agreed SLAs – as soon as a certain response time is no longer available, the computer power is extended until the desired response times are reached.
  • The clamp
    The cord must be tied up for keeping the flag height. Rope systems have always used clamps for this purpose. These are special hooks, where the cord is knotted. The clamp often marks the lowest point of the flag.
    In the virtual world there are no physical hooks to follow. For this reason, guidelines are assigned which are determined by a set of rules or a governance.
  • The top
    The end of the rope is reached at the tip of the flagpole. Without a suitable extension piece, it does not go on. The power of the facts determines that the flag cannot be raised higher.
    If one is in the non-material world, these natural boundaries have disappeared. At the very least, the limitations are difficult to identify – when does the employees work at their limits or when can a service be done even better (whatever that means). This more-is-not-possible the employees themselves can not determine.
  • The base
    The foundation that holds the mast upright remains ignored. This is the lowest point where the clamp could be attached. The end of the flagpole has also been reached.
    The „lower“ end of the virtual world is difficult to determine due to the absence of spatial expansion – if expectations are not met, this can lead to bottomless loss of reputation, which is difficult to remedy. Therefore, the boundaries of a service must be described in a way that does not raise false hopes.

Bottom line: In contrast to the virtual world of services, the physical world provides clear limits with its materiality. The flagpole is an artifact that illustrates this – the pole as the possibility space, the outrigger as stabilizer, the cord as adjusting means, the clamp as an additional limitation, the tip as upper and the pedestal as lower limit. The services lack such reference points. They must be determined artificially and made measurable. Since the mast provides the relevant aspects, one can orient oneself by this example. This makes the flagpole an ideal metaphor for the limitedness of possibilities.

The simple formula for a text

You have decided to put your „Hello world“ in writing on the way. The finalized text already floats in front of your inner eye. However, the path from your imagination to paper or into the computer requires guard rails which keep you on track. In contrast to the content of a text, the formal composition follows a surprisingly simple formula.

The following outline provides simple hints for blog posts, articles or book chapters – also for you.

Organize your content!

You know what you want to write. You have your own personal style. You keep exchanging ideas with others. These are perfect conditions to develop your text. Now the task is to organize your train of thought. Know what you want to achieve, what messages you have, and in what order you develop your argument by making a sketch.

Track down your target group!

The focus on a specific target group is crucial for the impact of your text. Do you already have a notion of your readers? You have any idea what they are interested in? You know their jargon? With these ideas you will find suitable words, choose a text tone and encourage the readers to persevere ‘til the end of the text and eventually consider your text consciously. With PERYOU a kind of dialogue with the reader is possible that provokes new insights.

Use the signal effect of the title!

Most readers decide based on titles within one to two seconds whether to continue reading or not. This no longer applies only to the web, but also to printed matter. The headline sticks out of the flowing text and shows at a glance, what the reader can hope for. This is especially true for the headline of an article. In addition, paragraph/chapter headings provide quick access to the flow of thought. In a few words, you phrase solutions, advantages and incentives that bring new points of view to the target group.

Start with a glimpse!

Take advantage of an entry that further increases the stimulated interest. With this pretension, the introduction, you can create a frame for the reader that makes the later main part catchier. You place a comprehensible context, prepare for the main messages and provide each individual with reasons to continue to read. Anticipate the essential questions of your target group and provoke the readership with skeptical statements.

Convey the points of view!

Your actual messages and explanations unfold in the main section. This part is the most extensive and requires a suspense curve that captivates the reader. This is achieved with section titles (see above), which give the reader an overview and spurs on curiosity continuously. In addition, you should make sure that the content provides readers with explanations, options and value as well as clarifies the overall message.

End with an outlook for more!

Be careful not to abruptly leave the reader behind after your argument has been conclusively concluded. Make sure that your message still has an impact by creating a reverberation with an outlook. After the text is before the text. Summarize the new insights for the readers and create a bridge to further topics – it is advantageous if you already have the next text in mind and can refer to it.

Bottom line: You will already be dealing with the above topics. And somehow the points mentioned are clear to everyone. Nevertheless, it helps to refresh them from time to time. Of course you have your contents in front of your eyes. And you know who you’re writing for. You know the signal effect of a title. And you’ll probably use an introduction to effectively frame your messages and to look outside the box. Yet, it is always helpful to be aware of the above variables, which make up the simple formula. Not to forget the additional design elements that can further enhance the expediency of a text, such as the page layout, font sizes and formats, as well as visualizations of all kinds.

Retro – the fanciless reuse

Cultural artifacts have now become economic products and services that follow the rules of the market – literature, music as well as the performing and visual arts. Artists thus become designers of new offers. A wide variety of channels have to be continuously supplied with content – television and radio stations, concert stages, theatres and museums. A quick way to expand your own palette is the fanciless reuse of existing offers. In the absence of subject matters, interesting outgrowths occur. Television stations live from reruns; cinema blockbusters become serials and remakes; pop music lives from cover songs and cover bands; theater plays are completely alienated under well-known titles. Do the artists lack ideas or is the market forcing them to reuse work without imagination?

Previously, the rule was: form follows function. Creatives came up with content and put it into a form. Do the markets demand the endless continuation of the form and fill it always with the same content? Are there rarely enough contents? The following elements are reused thereby.

  • The plot
    The red thread that runs through a story follows a certain rhythm that ensures that the attention of the audience is continuously refreshed once in a short while. The associated actions follow a conceivable sequence that is interspersed with suspense – in a thriller, the perpetrator is uncovered at the end, during the course or at the beginning of the story; through deliberately interspersed effects such as unknown cultures, unusual role models or elements from other genres (e.g. esotericism in an adventure). Depending on the culture the actual action is always the same – in the USA the investigation team and in Germany the commissioner with his assistant.
    Retro provides target groups fanciless repeated plots.
  • The format
    Depending on the target media, e,g, print, radio, film or Internet, the plots are differently offered. A new novel is planned like the rollout of a product – after publication, the book is discussed on the radio and the television, and reviews are launched in the relevant magazines and eventually sold to the highest bidder for further exploitation. What counts is the signal effect of the original title. Good examples of this kind of marketing are Perfume by Patrick Süskind or The Little Prince by Antoine St. Exupéry, which have already completed their rounds in various formats. The actual story doesn’t change – just the format.
    Retro often provides the target group fanciless repeated formats.
  • The theme
    The Zeitgeist brings different subjects to the fore, which, if successful, will be repeated by many – the psyche at the beginning of the twentieth century, totalitarianism after the Second World War or the GDR after German reunification. Today, scientific findings in psychology are used in television series such as Lie to me or Leverage to attract viewers with insights into non-verbal communication. The attraction lies in new insights that could be used in everyday life.
    Retro often provides the target group fanciless repeated topics.
  • The protagonists
    The introduced actors are the supporting pillars of a work – e.g. religious characters in the visual arts; mythology in music; contemporary people in stories. Honoré de Balzac with his human comedy showed the French society of the 19th century. Jules Verne had his courageous researchers who broke the boundaries of the world. Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrapped the South American reality in magic. Heinrich Boell provided a picture of the FRG during the economic upswing. Today’s protagonists are the same again and again: the crazy scientist; the spiritualized commissioner; the punk investigator. Seldom new personalities emerge, as in the book The reader by Bernhard Schlink.
    Retro often provides the target group fanciless repeated protagonists.
  • The Songs
    With the spread of records, the twentieth century became the age of popularized music. Whereas in the past music required musicians, music can be reproduced and enjoyed at any time of the day or night through the canning of records and today’s Internet. In addition, the countless radio broadcasts and films require a continuous flow of new compositions. Certain styles are reused. The fate of the new musicians is to sound like Led Zeppelin or Adele. And at the same time old pieces are re-staged as covers, at best interpreted in a new way. It is possible that music has reached its limits and new harmonies are no longer possible without repeating existing melodies.
    Retro often provides the target group fanciless repeated compositions.
  • The design
    Designed packaging is in the economy an important element of marketing. The customers accept an offer, if the packaging appeals to them – the performing arts use for this purpose a special stage; the visual arts the spectacular exhibition space; music and books the book cover. Part of the design is the attractive title that triggers the first buying impulse – The secret; What everyone needs to know; Passive income for everybody. The advertising poster, the flap text and the trailer are further components of the packaging that suggest certain quality criteria with their design and sometimes promise more than they can keep. The actual content takes a back seat – the design determines the business.
    Retro often provides the target group fanciless repeated designs.

Bottom line: The countless remakes in cinema and TV, the endless repetitions of quiz formats, the new cover bands and the adoption of classical themes in computer games enable the industrial exploitation of cultural brands. The fanciless reuse of old plots, formats, themes, protagonists, pieces of music and designs flood the sales areas with a look backwards. The approach of packing old things into new vessels and selling them shifts creativity from content to form and prevents that way that new things appear. Therefore retro stands for fanciless reuse.

A medieval city – the ideal metaphor for a platform

The development, from the accumulation of some houses to a city, as an economic, social, cultural and political center, followed the traffic routes since the beginning of civilization – along coasts and waterways, e.g. from Marseille via the Rhone, Saône and Rhine to the north. Although many German cities date back to Roman times, more than two thousand years ago, most cities were appointed in the Middle Ages and the second half of the twentieth century. We identify many aspects of the medieval city in the architecture of today’s virtual platforms. This makes a medieval city to an ideal metaphor for a platform.

If we sketch the characteristics of a virtual platform, the similarities catch our eyes.

  • Access control
    The medieval city was surrounded by a wall that protected the possessions of the inhabitants. Access was only possible for authorized persons through guarded city gates. Within the city wall, the inhabitants lived in defined quarters.
    Platforms are also structured according to topic areas and stakeholders. The gate to the platform also opens only for those, who have a corresponding account, i.e. a user ID and a password.
  • Infrastructure
    In a medieval city, the residents used common facilities – from the town hall, the market square, public streets, schools, pubs, to prisons and execution sites.
    Virtuality also requires a general infrastructure – from administrative facilities, marketplaces, workflows, training areas, entertainment areas, to facilities for the punishment of extreme misconduct.
  • Cultural diversity
    The population of the city is made up of different cultures and professions. You find patricians, craftsmen, merchants, day laborers, hangmen and other trades.
    The platforms also have a large variety of members, who are divided into providers, consumers and platform operators, who meet there to do business with each other.
  • Economic hub
    In the Middle Ages, the reason for the foundation and mainstay of the city was the market place. There were goods for sale, manufactured in the city or procured from far away. In addition, guilds evolved, which mutually enriched their kindred business.
    The virtual platform also serves, above all, for the regular exchange of services between providers and consumers and to strengthen the own specialty.
  • Governance
    Due to the dense accumulation of many people, strict rules for coexistence were effective within the city walls. The craftsmen were organized into guilds, which determined regulations regarding education, tools and quality for their field of expertise. Non-members were not allowed to practice the respective craft. Taxes were collected to finance the administration of the commons.
    Virtual platforms also define rules that certify participants according to certain criteria, determine clear procedures, and ensure the outcomes of their work through best practice. The taxes of the virtual platform are the membership fees and donations.
  • Future development
    The progress of the city was the responsibility of the city lords, who were made up of members of the upper class. They decided on the expansion of the infrastructure, the influx of people and the promotion of certain trades.
    Accordingly, the operators of the platform are today primarily responsible for the continuous expansion of the functions, the administration of new and existing members, and the definition of new scope of services and standards.

Bottom line: The scope of a medieval city was determined by the physical accessibility, i.e. eventually by the wall. The same applies to a virtual platform – because you are globally only one click away from the platform and it is accessible to anyone, who has access to the Internet. The counterpart to the city gate is the access control, which protects the platform from unauthorized use. A wide variety of cultures can settle and do business within the area, as long as they comply with the regulations. Everyone benefits from the expansions, which offer constantly growing services. The aspects of a virtual platform become visible on the basis of a medieval city. This makes the medieval city the ideal metaphor for a virtual platform.

Learning is a completely personal matter

Already in the Politeia Plato formulated „what the ignorant has to suffer duly … is to learn from the knowledgeable“. Basically, it was clear from an early age that learning has to do with personal passion. Only the interested and curious have sufficient tenacity to expand their knowledge beyond the comfort zone. This becomes visible subsequently in their behavioral changes, which become possible through observations, experiences and exercises. Although this has been known for two and a half thousand years, the idea still prevails that one could instill people the desired knowledge. This ignores the fact that, at best, data is transferred. However, some people consider this data as unnecessary noise, when they have no motivation to process the received, initially incomprehensible data. Learning cannot be forced, since it is a completely personal matter.

The learning process takes place exclusively in the mind of each individual in his or her own personal way. Neither information nor knowledge or wisdom can be passed on, since they exist only in the minds of every person – even if artefacts such as books and films give the impression that there is more than just the transmission of data. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the elements of meaning that build on one another.

  • Sign
    The starting points for our contact with the environment are our sensory perceptions, which we absorb via the eyes, ears, body, nose or tongue. The flood of stimuli we are exposed at is unimaginably great. In order not to go crazy, we unconsciously suppress most signals. The remaining signals arouse our attention and become thoughts on a still unknown path that can only be described to a limited extent – except the facts that we are able to encode as data.
  • Data
    We convert this data into messages, which we pass on with our means of expression, e.g. with the help of spoken or written language or music or visualizations or our behavior. The sender encodes its thoughts as well as possible. A popular metaphor is the data processing of a computer – although our brain does not work that way. The computer works with ones and zeros (001000111). Although we measure electronic activities in the head and can assign brain areas to certain mental processes, we do not know yet exactly how our consciousness evolves as a result. The previous describes the transmission of data that can become information in the next step.
  • Information
    The receivers that are able to decode the received data convert the data stream into a number (e.g. 39). Only by linking it with other data it becomes information. As soon as the addressee realizes that the value comes from a thermometer used to measure a person’s temperature, we recognize that someone has a fever. If this is a new fact or an update of an earlier measurement, the data becomes information that requires our attention. Now, medical knowledge is required.
  • Knowledge
    Depending the state of knowledge, certain people, for example medical doctors, can order the application of calf compresses or the administration of an antipyretic based on available knowledge. Such conclusions could be drawn by a computer. The real difference in treatment arises, when wisdom is added.
  • Wisdom
    Over time more and more knowledge accumulates, which leads to wisdom in combination with already existing knowledge. Accordingly, the wise doctor not only observes the thermometer, but has a holistic look on the patient. Upon further examination he discovers an open wound and other symptoms. Based on his experience and his foresighted wisdom, he detects blood poisoning. Now the calf compresses aren’t sufficient.

The shown levels of meaning are often mixed in everyday life. With the assumption that it is information, many think that all levels are easy to transport and communicate. In fact, however, only data can be disseminated. A group of dashes can have a lot of meaning for the sender. For those who do not know the writing or symbolism of a picture, these signs remain incomprehensible – a good example is the Voynich manuscript. Even data often remains closed off – or who understands this?

· − − · · · ·  − − −  · · −  − ·  − · ·  ·  · − ·  · · ·  −  · −  − ·  − · ·  · · ·  −  · · · ·  · ·  · · ·  · · − − · · 

Only the data that the sender combines to a message can be transmitted. In the receivers’ head, the data he or she understands becomes information that is linked to other information about the context. In the interaction with existing knowledge, actions are eventually derived. The transition to wisdom is fluent, takes a lot of time and motivation to learn. The knowledge and the linking of different fields of knowledge ultimately lead to extraordinary possibilities.

Bottom line: Information exchange, knowledge transfer, knowledge management, knowledge mediation or Nuremberg funnels with which knowledge is to be disseminated are apparently pragmatic approaches, but often fail due to a lack of willingness to learn. Since only data can be transmitted, it is necessary that the individual makes an effort to convert the data into information, process it into knowledge and at some point has enough experience to speak of wisdom. In communication, the receiver decides on the meaning with its horizon of experience – each person has its own viewpoint and therefore accumulates its own personal insights. For these reasons, learning is a completely personal matter.

Waste due to form without function

In the days of the guilds, the quality of the performance was the focus of interest and the figurehead of the masters, the responsible manufacturers. In the last two hundred years specialties have evolved with the advancing division of labor. As a result, the focus has shifted – from the product to fulfilling a subtask. The actual products have receded into the background. The success of the individual areas is determined by the continuous refinement of the particular abilities:

  • The development is delivering more and more prototypes,
  • The production produces ever more at lower cost,
  • The sales department is always acquire new customer groups and
  • The marketing delivers ever new campaigns.

As a result, the business units lose sight of the actual services and act based on the look at their own value creation that always covers only partial aspects. This goes so far that start-ups market their business idea before the actual product is available, leading to major, unnecessary efforts that have no effect. And this, although it is generally known: Form follows function.

The venture depends above all on the most convenient offer for which the customer is ready to pay – be it goods or services. A description of the available features is crucial to ensure that the various tasks are performed with minimum effort. The following points are of great value to the overview of the articles and services.

  • The service core
    fulfills the wishes of the clients – an MP3 player plays music; a hotel night offers a hotel room, incl. room service and breakfast; a Swiss knife cuts, screws, drills, saws, lights, up to a total of 56 parts in one tool.
    The service core can be identified with the following questions: Which customer needs are satisfied? Which features are required? What is relevant to the clients?
  • The design
    of the products happens almost by itself due to their physicality. The material must be selected, shaped, provided with a surface and colored. Intangible services can also be designed. The dealing with customers, such as friendliness and empathy, the reliable activities, such as consulting, training, advertising, and catering or the administration of facilities consist of processes and employee behaviors, which also can be designed. Nowadays, design not only serves as a temptation to buy, but also influences the entire life cycle of a deliverable –
    for physical products: from economic production and warehousing, through ergonomics and a predetermined lifespan, durability and ease of maintenance, to disposal; for services: from planning, through development and operation, to the sun downing of an offer.
    These design aspects can be identified with the following questions: How do customers perceive the services? How does the design influence the customers – and the life cycle? What other advantages can be achieved with minimal effort?
  • The add-on services
    include further offers for the customers, which are available free of charge or for a fulfillment fee of the core tasks. This ranges from supplemental assistance in the use and maintenance of the services, through extensive accessories, to performance-related tips as well as platforms for exchanging ideas, e.g. with online communities.
    The following questions provide some ideas: What else do the customers want? Which add-ons can be offered right away with little effort? Do the supplemental services increase customer loyalty or even the sales?
  • The brand aspects
    are the unconscious forces of attraction that bind the customers of a product or service to the company. Established brands, the name or logo, the type of advertising and key images already evoke positive associations – e.g. the famous Marlboro man or the Mercedes star, the elaborate Apple trailers or the Mazda humming, all trigger in the best case positive feelings in the audience – and they become part of the brand with the purchase.
    The brand aspects can be determined with the following questions: How does the customer perceive the company? Do the products match the brand? Do we send messages that do not match our desired image? Which activities support the brand?

Bottom line: The points described the service core, the design, the add-on services and the brand aspects are essential components of the business activity. Nevertheless, these points of view are rather late or not at all formulated. They are the meat of the deliverables. These descriptions influence the perception of the customer’s and, at various points, the life cycle of the services. A lot of momentum gets lost when the developers, manufacturers, and sales people have a different understanding of the deliverables. Describe your product, because form without function wastes already scarce resources.

More than said and heard

It’s surprising that after many years of having the team on the agenda, companies are still struggling to capitalize on the additional treasures of grouping employees into working teams. The promotion of individual careers, the artificially fueled competition for credit points and the lack of informal opportunities to exchange information hamper a relationship based on cooperation. Usually the individual criteria are still used to evaluate the performances. Individuals are in the focus – although that puts a strain on trustful cooperation.

The company or rather its representatives do little to ensure that this additional advantage can arise. Even though there is an agile momentum nowadays and everyone wants the appropriate commitment from the employees, there does not exist

  • the necessary, open structures,
  • agile workplaces and meeting rooms to meet spontaneously,
  • new distribution mechanisms for resources, or
  • executives, who renounce any micro management.

It can actually not exist as long as the decision-makers themselves are only employees in a multilayered hierarchy. Perhaps it helps to realize that a group of employees is more than the sum of the individual experiences – when more can be said and heard.

  • The senders have more thoughts than they can express
    The collaboration thrives on ideas that are exchanged within the team. The difficulty is the fact that much of the thoughts that a team member thinks about, cannot be completely shared. Many aspects are lost during the transfer into language and images. Through generalizations, the use of classifications, unspoken assumptions and the use of ambiguous terms, important contents are filtered out.
    Example: All sales people follow the sales process with the conviction that anything is possible. Their credo is AIDAS. Why can’t this be improved through intensive cooperation? We need agile procedures.
    In the example, many facts remain unspoken: Sales people? Sales process? What is possible? AIDAS? What makes cooperation intensive? Agile? The sender knows more, but does not express it more comprehensive.
  • The receivers determine the content of the perceived
    The exchange of ideas requires that everybody notices the thoughts of others. Since all people perceive through different channels, sometimes the spoken and sometimes the written word and sometimes a picture or a series of numbers are worth than a thousand words – as long as you do not miss the message. In any case, the target group is responsible for interpreting the statements. The path into consciousness uses the already existing thoughts and mental patterns of the target persons to enrich the contents with useful knowledge in their mind.
    Example: Jim and John have been working in sales for a long time and use for weeks Clickfunnels to collect 1500 new contacts every day, so-called leads, which they prioritize with their software module in order to turn in just one week the most interesting contacts into interested customers, who are willing to meet with our sales people.
    The example shows that the receiver immediately adjusts the perceived to his ideas: Jim and John are salespeople; Clickfunnels seems to be related to the sales process; 1500 leads per day are possible; the rest, e.g. the agile, has disappeared. The recipient has enriched some messages while hiding others.
  • Mutual discourse expands the comprehension
    Actually, everything is works as desired. The sender communicates and the receiver understands what he can. In fact, the receiver only bears the whole thing in mind so far. In order to share the experiences, everybody in the group must become a sender and share their feedbacks. The target people perceive the contributions again and link the contents with their ranges of experience. The ideas are further processed to a more comprehensive, joint result by mutually asking questions. The more intensive the exchange of ideas, the more comprehensive becomes the overall understanding.
    Example: How do we reach Jim and John? Who should join? What exactly does Clickfunnels? How can we use the results for needs analysis? How do we increase our flexibility?
    The example is not about rhetorical questions, but about filling gaps of understanding and creating a common picture. Once the saturation level is reached, the team works together more effectively and efficiently based on this consensus.

The magic of teamwork arises when employees can exchange ideas free from conventions and constraints – when they don’t have to be afraid of disadvantages due to their active participation. In order to achieve the desired effect, they need the appropriate freedom, both psychologically and physically. Not everything works out. But there is a good example that illustrates the opportunities. Let’s remember the Post-It story. Spencer Silver had invented in the sixties a glue that did not stick permanently. It was only when Arthur Fry had in church the idea to mark his hymnbook with sticky bookmarks that the idea of Post-It was born – today 50 billion sticky notes are sold annually. On average, everyone uses at work eleven sticky notes a day.

Bottom line: Without the corporate culture of the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (now 3M), this cultural artifact would probably not exist. For decades, it has been a showcase that you must allow the development of new ideas full bent. At the same time, it shows that people can complement each other extraordinarily. All companies need to do is to provide the appropriate conditions. Employees need the space, the time and the mutual discourse to produce results that individuals simply cannot achieve. There is always more than is said and heard.

Information needs a adequate remuneration

For centuries, publications were associated with high costs for the carrier material, the production and distribution of the novelty. The most important value creators had receded into the background – the creators of the information. Authors, illustrators, composers, directors and the many other creative people who invent, record, revise and finalize the content with great dedication. With an average circulation of seventeen copies as a self-publisher and one euro of earnings, no one can really speak of an adequate remuneration for the creative work. Now that the Sharing Economy has rolled over us, content providers need ways to make a living from their contents.

The new business models offer media solutions that make content readable online or downloadable.

  • Subscription
    Subscribers have access to a protected area where all content can be used. In this case, the customer decides whether the content is worth a long-term commitment and regular payments – e.g. Soundview. The provider controls the content, prices and distribution, but potential users are excluded, no matter for what reason they do not want to subscribe.
  • Pay-per-view
    Customers obtain exactly the content they are interested in. Depending on the „value“ of the content, it can range from very small amounts for short news and reports to very large amounts for technical content – e.g. rakuten . In this case, users do not have to commit for a long term, but the prices per use are relatively high.
  • Metered Model
    A limited number of articles is available without registration as Freemium. After registration there will be more free content. When all contingents are exhausted, you have to subscribe, e.g. The New York Times. Similar to Freemium, this approach offers the opportunity to test the content over a longer period of time. Later, the users decide more sustainably for the offer based on their experiences.
  • Freemium
    Some content and brief information is available for free. The detailed articles require a subscription or payment per article – e.g. The Guardian. The quick access to the content attracts many users. Here, too, readers are more likely to subscribe, if they are satisfied with the content.
  • Donation model/ Voluntary payment
    Users decide individually when and what they want to pay or donate. Payment can be made prior to registration, when using the content or irregularly after a donation call – e.g. ProPublica. This type of payment has to prove itself for the time being. The non-binding nature of the agreement may lead to a faster switch from one platform to another – at least as far as payment is concerned.
  • Sponsoring model
    In this case, third parties, i.e. companies and/or interest groups bear the costs and thus sponsor the ongoing expenditures. The users get the content for free – e.g. Cocainenomics sponsored by Netflix. For the World Wide Web, this is the most natural variant, as the content is accessible to users free of charge. The extent to which sponsoring leads to disseminating manipulative opinions requires attentive observation by all users.

Creative people rarely earn money with the reproduction of their ideas (see top earners here). In the field of textbooks, where smaller editions are realized, publication is therefore only a means to the end to present oneself as an expert and at the same time to offer products and services that provide the required income. The products range from branded articles such as exclusive writing to kitchen tools to services, which include consulting, lectures and the platform provision. The publications are only intended to create attention in order to present the additional deliverables.

Bottom line: If in the future new contents are to be available, new ideas are required to ensure the existence of the creative content creators. The existing payment models are already used by the established media. That way the transition of the media giants from the „physical“ to the virtual world is accomplished. However, the real content creators need viable offerings that go beyond their additional product and service business. In order to still get new content tomorrow, the information itself needs to get an adequate remuneration.

The new public

The path to the public has always begun with the authors. They develop ideas and take the time to create an article. In the past, implementation was very much a division of labor. Authors wrote texts. Illustrators designed the pictures. Layout designers determined the page structure. Proofreaders corrected the texts. Censors ensured compliance. The printers sat the pages – or refused, if they did not like the content. The machine operators produced the print runs. At the end, the articles in a book, a newspaper or on a poster were distributed in various ways to the readers. Editors published the whole. With the new public, everyone, who has access to the Internet, has the opportunity to spread its ideas.

On the way to the public, everyone takes care by themselves of all the aspects mentioned – creation, correction, censorship and delivery. This, the fourth estate gets shaken. Is this already the end? The established media is facing one of the biggest disruptions since the invention of book printing. Today’s authors can master all known media on their own.

  • Internet domain
    Since it is no longer necessary to program an Internet site, because generators of all kinds bring multimedia content cost-effectively into the Internet, everybody can afford its own domain – such as http://memecon.com . Actually, what is the forerunner of an Internet domain?
  • Social networks
    Facebook, Linkedin, Xing and the many other social networks offer the possibility to create personalized pages and being that way accessible via multimedia. The forerunners of social networks were associations, clubs and other communities, do not have by far the reach of today’s platforms.
  • Video platforms
    The moving image used to be distributed by TV stations. Today, everyone can open a personal channel and broadcast videos. The offers, which go on air via YouTube and vimeo, Dailymotion or alugha, deliver ever better content. The forerunners, the television stations, are only just under 100 years old.
  • Podcast Channels
    Podcasts are evolving, which broadcast via stations such as iTunes, Stitcher, acast or others as successor of the radio. The topic-oriented „broadcasts“ lead to a new listening behavior. And this, after the predecessors, the radio stations, are only around 100 years old.
  • Print on demand
    And even the classic publication on paper can be done today by anyone – with an ISBN number you are represented in the relevant sales channels, e.g. Amazon, https://isbnsearch.org/. This means that an established medium that has been around for almost 600 years is available to everyone.

The impacts on the established channels are not yet foreseeable. However, the media are already starting to think about how to adapt their business model. The first controversies already happened between the existing media. Just think of the daily papers that are suing the app providers of news channels in Germany. Or the dispute with the search engines that display excerpts of content, which, given the current speed of use, result in the fact that former subscribers save money because the abstracts already fit their needs. All partners of the established media, i.e. the advertising industry, the traders or football clubs, are also affected. The access to their customers is shifting. And the old indicators of publicity get lost. Once consumers‘ attention has moved away from the fourth estate, it will be difficult to win them back.

Beyond that, the established media seems to regard themselves as systemically relevant, pointing out their independency, their expertise and public mandate. However, one must ask oneself whether a medium is able to live up to this claim – with coverage of an event in Syria that is done from the balcony of a hotel in Cairo, Egypt. In the end, every form of reporting is a filter – regardless of whether it withholds deliberately or unintentionally. It becomes even more difficult, if the classical relations are questioned – if for example a spectator makes an exciting Podcast of a football game; or a traveler reports from an unreachable crisis region; or the advertising industry throws itself on the influencers and creates thereby new rules in marketing.

Of course, the content of the new public lacks at this early stage established bodies that ensure the quality of the posts. That way, opinions can become facts and facts can become fake news. Due to the speed with which the Internet tsunami pours out, it is a little late to convey the necessary skills – but better late than never. However, it would be wrong to disparage or even prevent these developments. The society must take care to incorporate the appropriate media competence into school curricula – unfortunately this is being thwarted by some brain researchers, who condemn the new media.

Bottom line: To a certain extent, the media landscape has become more democratic. Everyone can participate and send their content into the world. The resulting noise fragments society. The classic block busters will disappear. The social character of jointly receiving information disappears. Every consumer gets exactly what he wants, what can differ dramatically from its neighbor. Until we have learned an appropriate ethics of news, information or publication, we will have to live with those who exploit the new freedom and bombard the world with false reports. The new public remains an unresolved challenge for the time being.

The Boulder of Sisyphus – the ideal metaphor for disruptions

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus tricked the gods and closed the portal to the Hades by captivating the god of death, Thanatos. After his liberation and other sacrilegious acts, Hermes finally sentenced him to roll up a boulder onto a mountain. Shortly before he reaches the summit, however, the boulder rolls back down into the valley again and again – and this for all times. Today one also speaks of Sisyphus work, if one has to carry out a heavy work without foreseeable end. It was Albert Camus, who gave the story a hopeful perspective – „La lutte elle-même vers les sommets suffit à remplir un cœur d’homme. Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.„1 We are happy because the task fills us. The boulder of Sisyphus is nowadays visible in many small and large disruptions – every new version of a software destroys the rehearsed routine; the cultural techniques, such as reading, writing and arithmetic, are taken over by the always available smartphone; the Internet dissolves the business models of the fourth estate. Thus, the metaphor takes on an additional meaning with the disruptive rolling down of the rock.

In the past, this issue was named after the late Latin word for rolling back and turning back – revolution. The word disruption shifts attention to what ultimately leads to the profound transformation, the destructive change. Those affected find it difficult of let go the old and get used to the new, because they eventually find their work around for their routine after the last interruption.

  • Effort
    The uncertainty that makes the target group suffer comes from the need to put the current basic assumptions into question. At the beginning, the reference points are missing, which are used to practice the new procedure. Since such changes happen repeatedly in different areas, we are regularly exposed to the associated uncertainty – and the fact that at the beginning we often do not react appropriately. With this effort in mind it creates instinctive resistance among those affected and burdens the implementation. And this despite the fact that in the course of our lives we are lucky to overcome almost all disruptions.
  • Performance
    It is not sufficient, however, to embrace the new. We also want to deliver above-average performance. The further we move uphill from the bottom of the valley, the more routinely we control the burden. Some manage to compete with and constantly outdo themselves. The practice gained in this way will foreseeably call into question the next disruption. The half-life of school knowledge is twenty years, university knowledge 10 years, technology knowledge four years and IT knowledge after two years – after 10 years without constantly learning, the IT specialist no longer stands out from the layman. This decay is caused by the many small disruptions that we do not consciously notice. And this, although we all make a destructive contribution by creating improvements here and renewals there.
  • With the summit in sight
    I don’t remember, whether Sisyphus has the summit in sight and whether he always recognizes the same path. Probably his entire concentration is in moving the superhuman load. This would correspond to the growth fanatics, who believe that a mountain has no summit – which leads to the fallacy that the rock cannot roll back, since it never really approaches its climax that lies in infinity. As soon as viability is recognized as a purpose of life, one gets closer to the perspective of Camus and perceives rolling back as a progress on the way, which requires our infinite engagement. Although we always have one goal in mind that should be achieved in our daily live, the summit, the path becomes the goal due to the myth.
  • Rolling down
    The fact that the rock rolls down fits to our experience. Actually, we know that no mountain is infinitely high. In order to make the task of the eternal rolling up comprehensible, it requires the disturbance that transports the rock again into the valley. In addition to the endless path, rolling back causes compassionate frustration. After all the effort and practice, we lose control over the rock and it destroys the apparent progress. However, if we do not see the renewed extension of the path as a step backwards, but as a major hurdle on the way up, then this disturbance only ensures our task. The path remains infinite. Nevertheless, this moment also offers a rest.
  • Forever
    The special about such circles is the fact that there is no beginning and no end. Just as the year goes on and on, the day that replaces the night and so on, Sisyphus drags himself up the slope. The certainty of rolling down again provides his purpose that he must fulfill with all his energy. Also in the dealing with today’s disruptions, we can’t help but getting involved and making an effort – from the very first moment and knowing well that the next disruption are already on the way. The end is not foreseeable.

Bottom line: What would Sisyphus do, if the rock would remain stable on the top? Wouldn’t that be worse? He has the strength to make the necessary effort. We know that he can provide the required service. And obviously he also bears the frustration just before the summit when the rock breaks away from him and rolls down again – forever.
The most important trigger for disruptions is technical progress, which is already so fast that not all of its new features become implemented. Since development time is not accelerating quite as fast, we can consider that the next disruptions are already in preparation. At best we prepare for this and we see the advantages instead of complaining about the efforts. Thus the myth of Sisyphus becomes the ideal metaphor for disruptions.

1) Albert Camus, The myth of Sisyphus
“The battle to the summits itself is enough to fill the human heart. We have to imagine Sisyphus happy.”

The Alpha and Omega of Agility

When people and their collaboration become more important and results count increasingly and customers are tighter involved and the flexible reaction to changes determines the work, then we speak of agility. Everything is about the involved parties and, above all, the working group who takes self-determined care of tasks, which can neither be extrapolated from the past into the future nor pragmatically predicted in advance. A look at the Agilemma has shown that the new conditions are pulling the nerves of the managers – although they have the key to successful actions – the alpha and omega of agility.

It’s all about activating employees. For this reason, managers in an agile environment, actually not just there, need to consider the following points.

  • Micro management
    Once the boss is the best employee, it will be difficult. Micromanagers are busy taking care of the smallest details and reworking all the results of the employees. Managers who cannot let go are a serious obstacle as soon as employees are expected to act independently.
    The autonomy of the agile teams is unimpeachable.
  • Options
    In order to obtain viable solutions, the working groups need various options for action. On the one hand, the requirements determine the choices. On the other hand, the solutions need sufficient means for implementation. The provision of resources is one of the most fundamental tasks of a manager.
    The responsibility of the team is the best regulator against extravagance.
  • Transparency
    To be effective, actors need as much information as possible about stakeholders, the environment, the capabilities of participants and the beliefs that drive all. The decision-makers do not have to provide the figures, data and facts, but do have to provide sufficient opportunities to become adequately informed.
    Borderless data flow is an important prerequisite for agile work.
  • Impetus
    The inner drive of the team members is the fuel, which keeps the zest in the iterations of the project. Everything that hinders the momentum belongs to the alpha and omega of agility. The managers have the task to do everything they can to ensure that stronger performance is achieved and that everybody deals better with failures
    Capable bosses master the art of awakening intrinsic motivation.
  • Variety
    Complex tasks can only be implemented with even more complex means. For this reason, a wide range of characters, solutions and activities is indispensable. To ensure that diversity is not disturbed, all forms of nepotism must be avoided, since this generates envy and resentment, which ultimately results in poorer performance.
    Anything that increases diversity is indispensable.
  • Aim
    In the absence of clear objectives, the rough direction and the emotionally charged target horizon are the most efficacious description of the intention of the decision makers. If the undertakings of the bosses are based on the available resources and offers the team a loose network of people, and if additionally it becomes possible to draw ideas from coincidences and mistakes, and the efforts are limited to what one is prepared to lose, than the intention has good chances to deliver results.
    The coherent aim is the fuzzy vision.
  • Team
    Internal and external interdisciplinary partnerships are essential for an effective team. Given the different origins of those involved, it is essential to create an encouraging sense of belonging. Decision-makers must ensure that appropriate team-building activities are carried out.
    Here applies – Together Everyone Achieves More
  • Individuals
    The team hopefully consists of various characters that complement each other. Each team member should have a strong self-confidence and assertiveness in order to enrich the team in its capacity. The decision makers should resist the impulse to recruit teams from their old boy network, as this only causes discomfort in the team.
    The team is more than the sum of the members.
  • Orientation
    Independent of the agile approach applied, the decision-makers must in particular ensure that there are clear target visions by which the employees recognize the direction. In the absence of reliable foresight, it is not a matter of tough specifications, but of awakening yearnings.
    The team needs the fuzzy vision in order to have orientation.
  • Need
    The advantages arise on the way to the goal, which develops only in the course of the iterations. In contrast to classic projects, which create in advance an elaborate business case that promises great benefits in order to get the budget to start, in an agile environment small steps create small increments that can only be evaluated at the end.
    Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves.

Bottom line: For a long time, „classical“ organizations with business processes and projects have given their business the finishing touches. After years, this has led today to insufficient capacities being available for the next round of transformation, the Digitization. Therefore they want to use agile work styles. For many managers, this creates the Agilemma. Besides the required mindset it is necessary to master the alpha and omega of agility – the MOTIVATION of the employees in the agile teams.

P.S .: It takes a lot of time and energy to gain the trust of the parties concerned, but only a blink of an eye to destroy everything with a disrespectful, degrading and unfair leadership style.

The inherent blur of each message

By using Wingding’s Alt-C 120 you can create eight triangles at the touch of a button that in some cultures standing for selecting and in others deselecting something. You can recognize the ten of the Latins or the symbol of the research department of Alphabet Inc. The view from above onto the pyramid simultaneously shows the sign of the Bulgarian Air Force and is also the genealogical symbol for illegitimate. All right? Most of the time not. Every message is blurred on principle, since the undisclosed context of the involved people is crucial for the interpretation.

Ideally we have three perspectives: the sender, the receiver and the neutral observers of a message. Everyone has its own standpoint concerning a message: rejection, neutrality or consent.

  • Sender
    The senders develop ideas and spread more or less and sometimes not at all digested messages. To what extent the senders are pursuing an intention, only they themselves know – if at all. Some produce statements that are consistent with their intentions. Others formulate messages that are contrary to their other opinions. It can also happen that the explanations mean nothing at all. Only the senders know what they actually mean. From the outside, we can only speculate based on further statements.
  • Receiver
    For the receivers, the message consists not only of what is said or shown, but also of the accompanying signals. They perceive the messages through their senses, e.g. visually, auditory, or kinesthetic – they see what is meant, it sounds good, and feels coherent. Eventually, they determine the content of the message. They connect the content with their experience and knowledge. For some, the contents confirm their conception of the world. Others cannot but contradict the statement. And some people don’t care. Only the recipients know what is going on in their mind. From the outside, we can see how the message works based on the reactions.
  • Observer
    The observers are not the target group of the message. They can pursue neutrally what happens between the sender and the receiver. Even if they think they are neutral, they process their observations with their mental models. Some draw benevolent conclusions and incorporate them into their affirmative view. Others unconsciously do the opposite and with their negative view they provide a critical treatment of the whole. Even the neutral observer distorts, because his disinterest is accordingly reflected in his description of the situation. Only they know what happens in their minds. From the outside, it is impossible to assess what actually happened.

From this point of view, we have to be prepared for the fact that in most cases we are dealing with alternative facts – something that professional fact makers do not want to hear. What do we expect from a message that the sender did not mean, that the recipient gets the wrong way and that the observer reports in a negative way? In this case the message creates nothing but noise in the stream of significant information. It is the act that counts in the end.

Bottom line: The only thing that counts is the inherent blurring of messages. There is no objectively tangible truth, only personal interpretations. Senders, receivers and observers cannot get out of their settings and thus deliberately or unintentionally distort the facts. Though, the cry for objective facts is nothing more than a helpless desire for truth.