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Who actually owns a fact?

As soon as the virtual word of mouth reaches everyone immediately, the contribution of a messenger, the conveyor of the fact or briefly the performance of the traditional media, gets lost. Agencies can’t deploy reporters everywhere at the place of the news. At the same time, there are witnesses everywhere, who can unveil and publish a message with the simplest means – with their mobile phone via Facebook or Instagram. In addition, journalists work according to a certain working standard that requires more time for research. If then the case of a local newspaper becomes known that researched an article extensively that appeared then without indication of source in a nationwide newspaper, one starts thinking. Assuming that the news was not copied word by word and that it was only the message of the actual facts, the question arises, who actually owns the message. The sources that report the circumstances? The journalist, who does the extensive research? The publication medium that publishes the news? The witnesses, who obtain, prepare and publish the content?

Facts are not personal, intellectual creations and therefore per se not worth protecting. However, one could find arguments that suggest the intellectual creation and above all the compensation for the news. For example, the following roles are affected.

  • The reporters
    There are many perspectives from which a news can be generated. This includes the effort of finding, collecting and evaluating sources in order to eventually condense and prepare the circumstances into a news. Once the message is published, it can be reused as a fact by anyone – unless you simply copy it. The costs accrued for the journalists and their investigations stick to the writer or the agency, while the copy-cats exploit the fact. Does that make reporters creators?
  • The correspondents
    A special type of reporter is the rapporteur, who is located all around the world and represents the editors. The quality of a fact is determined by its completeness, accuracy, up-to-dateness, relevance and traceability (e.g. through several independent sources). Today’s information bubbles and echo chambers amplify opinions. The correspondents integrate with a lot of effort the different reports of reporters in order to work out their own point of view. These expenditures should also be covered by appropriate revenues. Does that make the correspondents creators?
  • The editors
    Due to the flood of hard-to-verify details about a particular event, news have to go through a selection process to separate content from non-content, i.e. filter-out the details that are not reliable enough to reach the status of a fact. The content and political orientation is just as significant for the editors as the need to use the most eventful data. This can lead in the absence of reliable material to quickly using unconfirmed smartphone videos of witnesses – with the corresponding indication that no more reliable material is available. Does the editorial work turn the editors into creators?
  • The copywriters
    A news is first of all a fact that has to be prepared. This begins with the selection of the original sequences and images and continues with the formulation of the message text. The use of flag or stigma words gives EVERY message a tone that rates unnoticed the event – for example, when an assassin of a certain origin is called terrorist, while another is called mentally confused. Even if nowadays the role of the writer is usually part of one of the above roles, texts have to be written. Does that make the copywriter the creator?
  • The perpetrators
    Let’s not forget those that trigger an event. These include politicians, celebrities, organizers, judges, those responsible for accidents, lifesavers and all the others who are worth the news. In a certain sense they are the creators of the news. Without these protagonists, there wouldn’t be any news. Does that make the perpetrators the creators?

The sources, the journalists and the respective medium should on the one hand be appreciated for their contribution and on the other hand the expenses accrued should pay off. The original text is protected by copyright and may not be reused free of charge. To what extent this also applies to the actual fact, their interplay and the resulting insight is difficult to answer. For the news medium, it’s all about survival.

Bottom line: The discussion of copyright has not yet reached the so-called facts. Since the credibility of facts gets frequently questioned, the general understanding is gradually emerging that every fact also contains creative achievement – which could then also become worth protecting. If then more and more individuals open their own channels and even rally an interested fellowship, then the end of the Fourth Power, the Press, arises on the horizon. If facts are treated like goods, they also follow the rules of supply and demand. Then, at the latest, the question will arise: Who actually owns a fact?

Order blur

Whenever someone is not satisfied with the results of a measure, the abyss of order blur opens. Clients actually strive to formulate their wishes as comprehensibly as possible. Often the goals are even smartified with the participants or OKRs are worked out. The fulfillers are also ready for the job – actually, this is their business. The tasks are construed in the team and, if necessary, questions are asked in order to sharpen the request. Nevertheless, there are misunderstandings that lead to discord between the two parties.

The difficulties begin with the unspeakability of certain task elements and go to the impossibility to understand what has been said. As a result, the interpretations of an assignment do not match what was requested. If all participants were aware of the following difficulties and would stay in talk, there would be less frustration.

  • When not everything can be expressed
    In the beginning, there is the client with its ideas and feelings, which cannot be completely translated into words and certainly not into a one-hundred percent requirement. Thus, the descriptions of the task disappear behind vague terms – e.g. as always, good result, usual quality, according to the standards. Additional explanations increase the likelihood of being understood.
  • When further expectations hide behind the objectives
    Even if the objectives are increasingly smartified, i.e. results are specifically determined, measurable, adequately achievable with the available resources and relevant to the business, and progress can be tested, expectations remain in the dark – What should be done? What should be the results? What are the expected consequences? The expectations should be explicitly exchanged.
  • When the wrong language is used
    Many clients speak only in their own language and are surprised, when they are not understood. In the first step, of course, you should list your wishes in your own language. In the second step, however, the content must then be translated into the language of the project team; otherwise they CANNOT understand the assignment. It should become clear, what a mission means for the individual – for example, when globalizing, it does not affect the locals for the time being: Unless you take into account their fear of losing their jobs to foreign countries’. As soon as the effects become clear to the individual, the fears and worries and thus the resistance diminish.
  • When the order goes unheard
    The assignment is often placed through the narrow channel of the project order, when it is handed over to the project manager and the core team. As a result, the remaining participants often lack the original wording and the actual tasks go unheard. What remains is the Chinese whisper, when the project manager paraphrases, what he has heard and understood. Ensure that you can be heard personally.
  • When interest is missing
    The management style has a great influence on how motivating an assignment is formulated. More directive managers do not expect questions or objections, but immediate fulfilment of the duties. Cooperative bosses not only deliver the assignment, but also take the time to explain the task and address the team’s concerns. The order blur increases, if you ignore the employees‘ point of view. It is not only a question of the fact that the day-to-day business is already fully utilizing their capacities and therefore there is no time for additional tasks. It is about taking into account knowledge, experiences and objections, but also about personal interests, such as family, friends or the upcoming holiday, which nip any commitment in the bud. Mostly, the requirements can be adapted to the needs of the employees.
  • When everything is understood differently
    In the best case, everything is heard and the project team assumes that everything has been understood. Even then, the goals striven for by the client and the contractor can differ dramatically. Since not the actual meaning is exchanged, but words and perhaps numbers, the recipients decide on the contents of the request. According to the Sender-Receiver model and the Meta-model of Language, each job passes through a variety of filters that result in a changing task. If you talk about it regularly, both parties gradually adapt to each other and the result suits at the end both.

Without a regular exchange between the client and the contractor, the previous points lead to the fact that the deviations are only noticed at the end. For this reason, the agile approaches, which enable regular coordination at short intervals along the sprints as well as short distances for inquiries, are ideal.

Bottom line: Order blur lies in the nature of the thing – the communications. For this reason, special attention should be paid to the various stages, in which contracts are distorted and blurred. On the one hand, contracting authorities should assume that they cannot express all aspects of their project in such an exact way that they will be clearly understood and should therefore patiently take into account the inquiry of the contractors. On the other hand, contractors should not humbly accept the requirements and interpret them as they see fit, but rather ask questions and raise concerns. This mutual exchange ultimately leads to a common understanding that the order blur gets as low as possible.

Stable with rituals

Heraclitus had already explained two and a half thousand years ago that one cannot step into the same river twice. His Panta rhei (πάντα ῥεῖ) made us aware of the fact that the only constant is change. Our day is permeated by rituals. In addition to the morning coffee and evenly spread smoking breaks, there are business rituals that get you through the day, week, month and year – the morning meeting (nowadays Daily Stand-up), planning, budget, project and report meetings, as well as annual performance assessment, fireside chat, team development and so on. These rituals create stability in the hyper-accelerated VUCA world and prevent you from being torn away by the flood of data.

The following building blocks help looking at and developing rituals.

  • Easy Structure
    By the simple course of a ritual, the particular group of participants, who get together at a determined place, at repeating times and for a specific duration knows what they have to do according to their roles. Clear symbols, rules and decision paths underline the purpose and the deeper meaning – whether to steer, develop and change the area or to strengthen the sense of community.
  • Purpose and meaning
    A ritual has an official purpose that has different significances for the individual roles. On the one hand, the organizers pursue with their agenda business and political interests – primarily to convince the participants of their intentions. On the other hand, the participants have complex needs – they want to be informed, prepared, presented or state their own ideas. The ritual relaxes the dilemma between these different requests by ensuring regular exchange through its simple structure.
  • Sense of community
    A central building block is cohesion, which is strengthened by a ritual. The simple structure, the common purpose and meaning for the participants as well as the routine of the ritual will be accepted over time and provides benefits for all participants. The danger of an exclusionary self-conception can be counteracted by appropriately built-in openings – e.g. by a practiced public sphere, established tolerance and equal treatment or by a decisive condemnation of whatever-prejudice. The solidarity between the participants is underpinned by this set of values. Above all, symbols promote a sense of togetherness: logos, emblems and other trademarks.
  • Well-being
    The volatility and ambiguity of the reference points on which the members direct their actions often create uncertainty and fear. Fear is one of the greatest impediments for today’s tasks – when everyone has to adapt because they want to do less for more, or have to work with unknown people, or become harassed by pathological leaders. Contrary to fear, fun is one of the greatest accelerators. We are all charged with confidence and encouraged to perform at our best. Fun brings us into the flow that produces maximum performance. For these reasons rituals always need parts that promote well-being – e.g. meeting at eye level, respectful social interaction, demonstrated appreciation and above all the creation of opportunities to participate.

Bottom line: The group members of all kinds are constantly looking for security in nowadays VUCA world. Countless rituals offer this through a simple process, for and at definite times, and allow an individual group of participants to exchange ideas at a precise location. Clear symbols and rules create the basis for a sense of community and make it easier for those involved to have orientation and to contribute effectively. The official purpose is linked to the interests of each participant. The ritual creates well-being for the individual by overcoming fears and stimulating fun factors at work. Rituals are an integral part of our everyday life and foster stability in the flow of change.

PAM – What’s in it for me?

During evolution, our body has adapted to handle a continuous stream of sensory stimuli. The flood of information that everybody talks about seems to increase the amount of external signals. This man-made noise to which we are exposed, visually and auditorily and sometimes even olfactorily, seems to be much louder, more dazzling and stronger than the natural signals of the past. The extent to which today’s flood of data is more significant for us than the reflections of light on the water that showed the fisherman the swarm, or the rustling of the leaves that announced a storm, or the smell that warned one of wild animals, could be discussed. However, it is unlikely that in the short time since modern signals are flooding us, our sensory abilities have changed significantly. Just as the cracking of a branch directed the attention of early humans in the appropriate direction and was decisive for survival, so the news seems to be a signal for some people to pay attention to something. When selling your goods and services, you need the meaningful digestion of your messages by your target group. Customers should be encouraged to ask: What‘s in it for me?

The way in this direction requires all the following steps.

  • Perception
    The basic prerequisite for capturing a message is the sensory receipt and the passing on of corresponding stimuli – an image, a sound or noise, a special surface, a smell or a taste. Without the transmission of signals, potential customers have no way of receiving anything at all.
    This means that you have to deal with today’s channels. This applies to the Internet, but also to traditional media such as newspapers, radio, television and especially books. Reuse reduces the effort and increases the likelihood of being noticed.
  • Attention
    After you send your messages as regularly as possible, it is important to increase the stimulus in such a way that it surpasses the absolute perception threshold and thereby attracts the attention of your target group. A good example of this threshold is a room full of people, whose buzz produces a uniform noise in which nevertheless one’s own name immediately stands out. Only when the messages attract attention, the audience can deal with them.
    In the flood of Internet contents, it is not enough to spend a lavish design or a large budget, but you should offer added value, through freemium offers, valuable checklists or multimedia explanations. The difficulty lies in managing the balancing act between novelty and old-fashioned – a new buzzword is not searched for by the users and an established one is lost in the flood of search results. For this reason, it is beneficial to avoid everything that leads to habituation and thus to suppressing your messages. Stand out from the crowd with extraordinary size of your title, use unusual colors and color contrasts (e.g. purple with yellow), irritate with bizarre to senseless slogans (e.g. you pay for nothing!) or surprise outside the expectations of customers (e.g. field advertising besides airports). As a result, you get from enticing contents an organic boost in google results and you will be shared by satisfied users.
  • Meaning
    The attention is not beneficial, if the viewers cannot link the identified content with their existing mindset. The value of the message is always determined by the recipient, not by the sender. For this reason it is necessary to take care of your target groups in order to get as close as possible to their reality. This starts, for example, with the choice of language – you should certainly not speak to French people in Japanese; additionally, target groups often have a special jargon that you have to meet.
    For this reason clarify what you actually want to convey – e.g. what do we offer? Who are our competitors? Which language should we use? Which words are conducive? Which are harmful? The better you anticipate your target group, the more likely your messages will make sense to the audience and they will accept your offers.

Bottom line: Flood of information or not, you will not get around participating in the storm. The possibilities of the Internet have contributed substantially to the fact that everybody provides ever more and more noticeable contents. The efforts are of little benefit, if everyone struggles the same way, as they all improve to the same extent. This makes it all the more important to deal with the steps of perception to deliver the extra that puts you ahead of the pack.
PAM offers a simple sequence that can be used for orientation when conveying messages.
1) In order to be perceived, you must send your messages through one or more sensory channels. 2) The messages should stand out noticeably from the crowd. 3) The audience should be given a chance to connect the content with their mental models. From then on, potential customers can deal with what’s in it for them.

Digital transformation – the end of technocrats

In business, decision-makers feel free of the small influencing factors. And yet the flapping of tiny undertakings can create a huge storm. More and more computer power enables increasingly complex calculations of these micro influences, which are used as the basis for decisions. Especially indecisive top managers, who have a hard time making decisions, like to hide behind such calculations. The basis for a decision is for them not the convincing forecast or the feeling for a good business, but the result of a calculation that is based on assumptions, which results in the resulting variables. What the technocratic decision-makers oversee is the fact that this kind of decision in the context of the digital transformation will be taken over by the computers and thus announces the end of the technocrats.

The following reasons result from their world view, which, far from vision and gut feeling, lose sight of the decisive part of success.

  • Factual constraints as basic conditions
    The compelling necessities are reasons for a decision, which cannot be influenced by decision-makers. This forces them to make decisions that they do not actually want to make, but have to. The basis for this is the reporting system that uses key figures to make weak points visible. This form of externalization is typical for someone, who does not feel responsible for his actions.
  • Technical progress as a goal
    The effects of the reign of experts have so far been particularly evident in totalitarian states. The planned economy relied on strict guidelines and the allocation of resources by experts, who develop and decide the solutions on a drawing board without consulting the people concerned or to use their abilities. The selective perception and the Semmelweis reflex prevent these nerds from making a holistically justifiable selection.
  • Fairness as a blind spot
    The logic of the measurable facts overlays the view at the interaction of quantitative AND qualitative variables, which influence each other with a time delay in complex effect networks. Above all, subjective aspects, such as righteousness, are difficult to grasp and are ignored by experts, because they can hardly be incorporated into a formula. Digital transformation makes it possible to calculate more, but then the machine no longer needs technocratic decision-makers, because the algorithm can do that by itself – better, faster and more reliable.
  • Rationalization as a Reason
    Since the digital transformation began in the seventies, the image of a company has changed. While Henry Ford has done everything he could to vertically integrate the whole aspects of the value creation, today’s activities are not only distributed among different companies, but even worldwide, with the aim of achieving the lowest possible depth of production. People as actors are successively replaced by machines. The remaining tasks will be outsourced to third parties as cheap as possible. Technocrats act like sport addicts, who cannot stop becoming more powerful and fitter at the same time until breakdown. And that in spite of the fact that they are sawing off the branch, on which they are sitting
  • The human being as a statistical-technical function
    Even though the perceptions of the employees and leaders are hard to transfer into numbers, statistics provide a remedy – for example, to describe personal motivation at work: In Switzerland, in 2016 three aspects were most important to employees: a good relationship with their colleagues , an exciting job and cheap working hours. It is more convenient to deduce the measures from such calculated results than to talk to the own staff, what they think is right. Decision makers who use formulas to calculate their decisions are as anachronistic as the horse-drawn coachman more than a hundred years ago.

Bottom line: Today’s deciders are stuck in a corset of compliance, general data availability and unmanageable VUCA. They forget thereby the decisive part of success – the people. Everything happens so quickly everywhere that the well thought-out reaction is no longer possible. The comprehensive breakdown and investigation of a fact into its components cannot be accomplished with an extra effort. Digital transformation automates most routine activities – and caution! Also the technocratic decision-makers will soon no longer be needed, because in the future the employees are making the decisions, since they are closer to the customer and on site. What remains is the overall management of the company, which can no longer be delegated to a formula that makes a prepared decision. The intuitive entrepreneur, who relies on his gut feeling and is committed to ethical values, replaces that way the technocrats, who become incapable of making decisions because of their corset. The digital transformation, which is seen as the last resort for avoiding personnel costs, replaces its promoters with corresponding software and initiates the end of the technocrats.

The ONE intention behind every strategy

Business ventures should never be set up without a clear and comprehensible intention. This purpose gives all activities one direction. The most profane is to win. However, the intention does not always have to be the first, the fastest, the greatest, or the pressure to grow steadily. The direction could also be a fitter company, or better utilization of existing resources, or more satisfied employees. If people do not agree on one direction, any success can be undermined by concurrent disparate efforts by the various parties. That is why the intention considered by all parties is an important prerequisite on the way into the future.

The intention is somewhere between growth and contraction (horizontal axis) and between the gradual change of first order and the radical change of second order (vertical axis). Put simply, the following intentions arise.

  • Consolidate
    Making the current business more robust doesn’t sound very exciting. The protection of viability on the basis of the available means is a good measure to experience the future. For this purpose, existing offers can be developed, better placed or advertised. Additionally, the chosen value discipline (customer, product or process orientation) can be further applied.
    As long as the revenue has good prospects, this is a reasonable approach.
  • Activating
    Business can be made fit for the future by leveraging existing core aspects, offerings, sequences and capabilities and by mobilizing existing skills. For this purpose, the image of the company is polished up, the culture is described or the entrepreneurial awareness of the employees is refreshed.
    It is a question of making greater use of established paths with the current range of offers.
  • Expanding
    When adjacent fields of business are identified and decisively developed, new work contents, forms and fields of activity emerge. This is made possible by continuous creation, cross-functional cooperation and shifting the boundaries of end-to-end operations.
    The closer surroundings of the own field of activities are easily accessible and offer direct contacts for the add-on of the own assortment.
  • Reinventing
    When you leave the comfort zone of the previous market, completely new possibilities open up. New business can be exploited and previously unnoticed partners can be found. In the end, this changes the building blocks of the business. Everything starts with radical BPR, the invention of new portfolios and the opening of completely new customer groups.
    Such developments are driven by personalities, who have a clear idea of what they can additionally do for their customers.
  • Concentrating
    If the entrepreneurial body suffers from overweight and the incomes do no longer cover the current enterprise, a thought-out compaction of the activities is inevitable. The whole thing should not be torn into the abyss – e.g. closure of plants, losses or bankruptcy. This is made possible by abandoning tasks that no longer contribute, because they are obsolete or simply no longer in demand. Tasks that are not part of the core business are outsourced.
    Superfluous business and routines are proliferating, if you don’t notice the need for action and don’t take early care to shift capacities.
  • Closing
    When all measures have been exhausted, economic collapse will occur sooner or later. In the interest of all those involved, the orderly task or separation of individual areas or locations is the last resort, if it enables employees to make a secure transition to new tasks.
    Due to the early dissolution, external entrepreneurs may find ways to continue the business under different premises.

Bottom line: It may seem strange that the intentions can always be condensed into the six directions described. As soon as you start selecting the direction, you will quickly notice that nerve-wracking discussions are being replaced by joint plans. The distinct intention should be clear to every manager and every employee and the areas should be aligned in a common direction. It is the ONE intention behind any effectual strategy.

Mirror neurons – Auto start for change

Opposed to storing data in a computer, our learning is the accumulation of experience, which increasingly anchors through the linking of neurons in the brain in consequence of similar insights. The more we know, the easier it becomes to learn something new. The thrilling question is how the activation of the first neurons starts, as long as there are no connection points yet. Perhaps these are the mirror neurons that make the first storing possible, even if there is no activation so far.

The mirror neurons provide the reflexes that a baby has shortly after birth. If you take a baby into your arms minutes after birth and stick your tongue out, something amazing happens: the baby also sticks its tongue out. This capability could be the genetic prerequisite for our learning. What does that mean for us?

  • We can learn something completely new
    Whoever has learned a completely different language knows the effect. For people accustomed to letters, the learning of character-based calligraphy, such as Chinese or Japanese, becomes an additional hurdle – the „illegible“ signs, whose pronunciation cannot be derived from the writing, but must be learned. However, after the foundation has been created in the interconnection of the neurons through regular imitation and practice, it becomes steadily easier to expand the network of neurons with additional signs.
    The same applies to all other areas of life. As soon as we are to adopt a new way of working, it is difficult that we break away from the old patterns and accept and understand the new. Those affected have to reconnect their existing networks. In these cases, you need examples that learners can imitate. Stories or role-plays that are told that are presented help – or articles, books, podcasts, or videos. These start impulses make it easier to learn for those affected.
  • Joint learning is more productive
    The food for the mirror neurons is found in the personal environment. It needs a source to which one can orientate oneself and which one can imitate. In primary school, students used to learn how to paint by standing around the teacher and watching him paint a tree full of white flowers with opaque white. That way the mirror neurons were supplied with behavior patterns which were then further strengthened during painting yourself. In addition one had the possibility to look at further tricks from the neighbors.
    In business such learning situations are created through exercises in which the participants solve tasks in a team. This kind of dynamic learning in Business Exercises builds on the pre-existing experience of the participants and exploits the opportunity to learn from each other.
  • Prohibition on thinking is counterproductive.
    Since it is a largely subconscious activity to learn, all kinds of thought restrictions are detrimental to progress. There must be no prohibitions on thinking, criticism, evaluations or the like while learning. Quite the contrary. The participants should be encouraged to follow their intuitions, to toy around thoughts of others and to be able to contribute the unthinkable, the impossible and the absurd, because this uses the existing linkages in the brain of the participants, which are to be broadened. In this way the attendees create something bigger than they would have achieved on their own.
    All it takes are rules that allow knowledge, experience and opinions – e.g. like the rules in brainstorming or design thinking.
  • Allow spontaneity
    If the baby sticks out its tongue after birth when it sees someone sticking out its tongue, it is not a conscious activity of the baby but the appearance of a congenital reflex. As adults, we’ve gotten used to living with restrictions. This means that we are no longer spontaneous – because we have learned to avoid criticism and reprimands. If you wish to make great progress, you should allow the natural impulses of those present, which are produced by the mirror neurons.
    In everyday life, teams limit themselves by slowing down or confirming each other, by following the opinion of the majority and by holding back their ideas for fear of bad feedback. For this reason, the participants of an event should be encouraged to communicate openly. In addition, anonymous techniques, such as written statements on meta plan cards that are collected and then discussed, can lower the hurdle for participants.
  • But … watch out for cognitive biases
    Working mirror neurons are not only an advantage. They also cause automatisms to creep into our daily decisions – the so-called biases. For example, groups tend to make worse decisions, because they adapt to opinions of the group although they know better. Or the halo effect, where you derive your expectations from familiar characteristics of a person, although these inferences can be misleading. Mirror neurons work, even if it is not always advantageous.
    In practice, this requires sensitive listening into the situation. With targeted disturbances, for example by throwing an antithesis into the room, it is possible to reduce such group effects.

Bottom line: We learn best in a group. Mirror neurons help us to adapt subconsciously to people, who are in a similar situation around us. This happens in meetings, workshops and other events. It allows us to overcome the initial difficulties that arise when you are exposed to something new that you cannot relate to your experience yet. Our mirror neurons turn team learning into a highway of change. There must be no restrictions on thinking and spontaneous ideas that are not yet common property should be encouraged and valued and not suppressed with killer phrases. However, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the unwanted biases that occur. Our mirror neurons should be used for far-reaching innovations, because they enable an auto start for change.

Time of radical change

In everyday life we benefit from the facts we know and for which we have developed a repertoire of behaviors. Depending on our disposition, changes unsettle us more or less. In order not to be too surprised by upcoming events, we try to foresee the future and prepare ourselves for it. For this purpose, we consider correcting variables that we otherwise perceive rather randomly. This foresight establishes connections that consist of smallest influences. These ideas suggest accuracy due to their fine granularity. However, there are times when the changes are not only visible in the subtleties, but in the major upheavals. If then many far-reaching transformations happen at the same time, we are in a time of radical change.

We now seem to have arrived in such a time. Therefore we take a brief look at the PEST effects, wherein simultaneous changes become visible.

  • Political effects
    The virtualization of the world has made political borders disappear. The delimitation is no longer between left and right, but between extremes and normals or between different religions or between cultures. The old motto is simple: We are right, the others are wrong. From any point in the world, it takes one click into a region, where completely different rules and laws apply. The view through the window of the screen feels actually harmless, since you still seem to be in your own legal sphere. So you can order something abroad, but as soon as the delivery crosses the border, your national laws apply. As a result, certain goods are no longer allowed or additional customs duties are incurred. In addition, between countries and within regulated economic zones, other regulations are applied which can only be understood by experts. Although such rules affect everyone, they are negotiated and adopted behind closed doors, as TTIP has shown (thanks to Trump, negotiations should pause at the moment). Besides the economy, politics has far-reaching authorities, which are justified by nothing more than an election. As long as the power blocks of the world are in competition with each other, autocrats can question and terminate the agreements at any time. What is needed is a recognized, contemporary, global coordination center.
  • Economic effects
    Since the photo Earthrise that was taken by William Anders on December 24, 1968, we should be aware that we live in a finite system. Such a closed system cannot grow without supplying energy from its environment or another system. And yet today, decision-makers are still trying to exploit other countries by levying taxes, influencing exchange rates or playing all kinds of restrictions as trumps. The national pride that is abused for it, which drives the population into competition with the rest of the world, endangers peace and revives old conflicts. If economic success is based on the loss of others, decision-makers should be aware that there are no others in ONE world. This means that the monetary system gets unified, the distribution of labor and income ensures the survival of all, and that the reasons for making business are rearranged. Growth is not a real goal for a closed system, but viability.
  • Socio-cultural effects
    The world has become more comprehensible and accessible. At the same time, this proximity creates a new diversity with often contradictory perspectives. The forces that dominated world affairs for a long time have gradually shifted towards the emerging regions of Asia and Africa. A simple example is the new Silk Road, which is in the process of replacing the established routes of the economy. It enables China to globally position its well-educated people, who are held together by a value system that has been proven over thousands of years and who are equipped with a historically founded self-confidence. This upheaval, which has been visible for years, is shifting the focus from the Atlantic to the Pacific, replacing the fabric of the last seventy years. The societies that have been exploited for centuries for the benefit of the old world are breaking away from old habits and swinging the pendulum towards the south and east. We are experiencing the first socio-cultural effects with the increasing revival of the nation and the hysterical measures to seal oneself off with trade barriers to the outside. The existing rules no longer apply and the new ones will be made elsewhere. Companies, NPOs and NGOs as well as global institutions have to reorient themselves.
  • Technological effects
    Forty years after the introduction of the PC, information technology (IT) has permeated all areas. Simultaneously, a network was created that allows us to be connected to any point on earth with a single click – as long as the required electricity and access to the network are available. The current wave of digital transformation is nothing more than an additional attempt to increase the importance of IT – Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Intelligence, Automation, Robotics, 3D Printing, etc. Whereas in the past it was lamented that the workforce was forced to work under inhumane conditions, today the same groups complain that automation in the production of goods and services robs them of their livelihoods. The new designs are too concerned with the tools, instead of creating holistic solutions, which continue to provide people with opportunities to make a living. Virtualization, i.e. the representation of the material world in the computer, creates completely new possibilities for doing business. Above all, easy access to markets for everyone, wherever they are, needs a new understanding of work. Old skills are replaced by previously little-known ones – from executing an activity to monitoring; from processing knowledge to generating it; from evaluating data to interpreting it. This upheaval affects everybody. The skills and abilities need to be re-educated so that everyone can be involved in this upheaval.

Bottom line: We don’t need fine-tuned measuring points to recognize that we are in a time of upheaval that is turning everything upside down. The large upheavals are visible to the naked eye. The new division of the world no longer suits the given societies. The computer and networking make the foundations of the old economic activity obsolete. This changes the way the economy operates and the masses of workers are worried about how they will earn their money tomorrow. At the same time, politicians get stuck in the dilemma of global or national politics, which makes the right wings to lure out from behind the stove. The Every-man-for-himself will evoke the danger of international conflicts, which can even destroy the idyll of the Western world. The First World War brought weapons of mass destruction. The Second World War brought nukes. The Third World War is probably happening for a while in virtuality – who would believe that only Russia uses computers to destabilize? What else does it take to notice the upheaval? This means for ALL participants that they have to deal with these changes. Companies that currently have no answers to these radical changes and do not actively prepare for them, act irresponsibly. New approaches are needed for politics, economics, society, and the use of technology.
Now  I S  the time of radical change.

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 one thought before any strategizing

All activities need a compass to align with. The first thought of many strategists is to win. However, that does not always mean that you are the first, the fastest, the greatest, or that you have to grow constantly. The desired impact direction might be a fitter company or better utilization of existing means or happier employees. The selected alignments can be undermined by different simultaneous directions. The impact direction is therefore an important basis for the design of the future.

The common direction can be found between growth and contraction (horizontal axis) and gradual first order change and radical second order change (vertical axis). The following options arise.

  • Consolidate
    Making the current business more robust doesn’t sound very exciting. Securing viability on the basis of available means is a good preparation for the future. For this purpose, the offers can be enhanced, better placed and advertised. Or the chosen value discipline (customer, product or flow orientation) persistently pursued. As long as the turnover has good prospects, this is a reasonable approach.
  • Activating
    If the existing core aspects, the offers, flows and skills, are expanded, it favors the business. For this purpose, the corporate image is revamped, the culture is described and the entrepreneurial awareness of the employees is refreshed. It is a matter of better utilizing the current palette on the bogged down paths.
  • Expand
    If neighboring areas are identified and expanded, new work contents, forms and market areas emerge. This is made possible by continuous design, a wide variety of cross-enterprise teamwork and the shifting of the boundaries of end-to-end procedures. On closer look, additional sources of income can be found in customer touchpoints.
  • Reinvent
    When you leave the comfort zone, different options open up. New trades can be revealed and thereby common tasks shared. In the end, the building blocks of the business model change. The whole thing starts with radical redesign of the flows, the development of new product lines and the disclosure of completely new customer groups. Such developments are driven by individuals, who have a clear idea of what else is imaginable.
  • Concentrate
    If the enterprise body suffers from overweight and the incomes do not cover any longer the current expenses, a thoughtful compression of the activities is inevitable, if the whole does not want to be dragged into the deep. This is made possible by the sacrifice of certain tasks, the bundling of the core business e.g. in which regular handlings are outsourced. Needless business and routines arise, if you are not prepared to take care of them at an early stage.
  • Close
    When all fitness measures have been exhausted, sooner or later economic collapse will occur. In the interest of all involved people, the orderly surrender or separation of individual areas or locations is the last resort, if it enables employees to make a secure transition to new tasks. Early dissolution may allow external enterpriser to find ways to continue the business under different premises.

Bottom line: It may sound strange that the common alignment can be condensed for all cases into six possible directions. Once you have performed the clarification of the direction beforehand, you will quickly notice that debates on principles are replaced by joint plans. The unambiguous intention should be clear and all areas should be aligned to one direction. Before any strategizing it requires the one thought.

Mind map 2.0 multiplies your efficacy

In the past, we were prepared for our professional life by learning reading and writing, basic arithmetic and geometry, music, art and sport in ex-cathedra teaching. Group work and business exercises or computers and visualizations were rarely used. An example of an approach is the Mind map. All kinds of ideas, structures and sketches can be created: e.g. brainstorming’s, strategies, goal hierarchies, business developments, project plans, minutes, problem solutions, speeches, time management, etc. The efficacy of Mind mapping can be multiplied by using IT-based tools such as Mindmanager, XMind, iMindMap, iThoughts and others.

In addition to the tips and tricks, the internet also provides rules for mind mapping. The following suggestions are primarily intended to enable the use of IT tools.

  • Anything goes
    Actually when you create your mind map with an IT program, all the common rules are
    no longer necessary. The now realizable size exceeds the limits of a sheet of paper by far. This also applies to the number of branches and the number of detail levels as well as to the labels and other media (see below). The development of a mind map can be done on your own or in a team by using a beamer or large video screen, or even in virtual videoconferences with worldwide distributed participants. Depending on the number of participants, the effort for the coordination of the branches of the resulting map increases.
  • Use the media
    Whereas one is conventionally limited to writing, drawing and gluing images in paper-based mind maps, one can use a wide variety of multimedia objects to integrate them in a tool-based way – texts, images, videos, links, office files, etc.
  • Any contribution counts
    If one works on paper, then the rework, i.e. above all the simplification, is somewhat complicated. In an IT-based mind map, the branches can be reassigned as required, including all sub-branches attached to them. This supports the usual brainstorming approach of simply capturing each post without discussion. That way maps can be developed in separate working groups. The final incorporation creates an aligned, joined result.
  • Be aware of your gut feeling
    A practical feature is the subsequent arrangement of the branches. The graphical presentation supports thereby the intuitive editing of the content. You can move branches into others and get inspired by the new formation. Visual thinking does not simply follow conscious logic. Through the graphical structure, the subconscious mind assists in the alignment. In the interest of a skillful result you should always listen to your gut feeling, even if you cannot always understand the reasoning behind.
  • Keep on going
    Software tools live on their juncture to the world. The Mindmanager offers connectivity to Microsoft products, for example: MS-Excel, MS-Word, MS-PowerPoint and even MS-Project. This means that the captured content can continue to be used in the sequence. Thus, the activities of a project, including dates and dependencies, can be planned with the Mindmanager and then transferred to the MS-Project format.

Bottom line: Tool-supported mind mapping, like Mind map 2.0, expands the use of this approach. This allows the multi-medial creation of mind maps of any size. At the same time, open approaches for the development can be used and sub sequentially integrated to a coherent overall picture. With the graphic representation the subconscious areas of thinking are also used. Eventually, all the results can be reused in classic office tools. Thus, Mind map 2.0, i.e. the use of software-supported mind mapping, multiplies the efficacy of the mind mapping.

Agility could actually be used since a long time

When the workforce has access to all necessary data regardless of rank and reputation, anytime, anywhere, and can immediately decide on the spot, then at the latest legacy approaches will become obsolete. The enthroned decision-makers who have lost contact with the business, the chains of command, where the actual decisions are diluted and taken too late, as well as the applications for applying an application that generate unnecessary tasks and no longer fulfill their original purpose no longer fit the time. This explains the yearning for new forms of collaboration. The implementation is difficult, because the desired state is characterized by self-organization that must be allowed – which makes a large part of the tasks of the decision makers futile. This autonomy does not need new structures, but a new mindset. And as soon as these basic attitudes would be given to the managers and employees, they could also flourish in a traditional environment. Agility could actually be used since a long time.

The mindset, however, is a personal trait that is shaped primarily during the development in the direction of an opportunistically submissive command scheme. What have always prevented agility are people, the managers and the employees alike, who lacked the corresponding mindset, e.g.

  • the trust that all pull together;
  • team learning that expands the common skills;
  • the feedback that provides appreciative suggestions for improvement;
  • the culture that is based on ethical values, not on paragraphs;
  • the intrinsic commitment that keeps obligatorily the momentum of every team member.

The following traits have always undermined agility.

  • Micromanagement
    This is not a formal requirement of leadership, but the intrinsic pressure of individuals to interfere in every detail. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about wanting the best or whether the involvement in the subtleties is due to a lack of self-confidence.
  • Fault intolerance
    Everyone should be aware that everything can always be done better. For this reason, all results should be celebrated. When one can speak of a mistake, depends on the observer. Particularly disturbing for the team are those people, who deal generously with their own mistakes and who pursue perfectionism to the point of aggression with mistakes of others.
  • Blame- instead of solution-seeking
    At work, the emphasis on shortcomings and persistent reproaches indicates whether it is a question of playing the blame game or searching for a solution. Agility has an impact when solutions are achieved. In the end, the feedback from the customer determines the quality.
  • Indecisiveness
    A prerequisite for agility is the decisive setting of clear goals. The best possible clarity is achieved through the appropriate smartification of the objectives. It becomes difficult when the decision-makers cannot decide and oscillate back and forth between different goals.
  • Double Binding
    The world is not black or white, but infinite shades of grey. It is always possible to do one thing and not let the other in these grey areas. Dangerous are the double-binders, people, who wish for two variants and in the end criticize, when one solution is not as perfect as they expected, regardless of the perfection of the other variant – and of course vice versa.
  • Energy hijackers
    Agility lives from its own momentum and the acquired abilities. Energy hijackers have learned to exploit others for their own interests. That way they burden others with their own tasks by demanding support and keep getting others out of their rhythm.

In the future agility is a must, since reaction times are getting close to zero. It is no longer possible to call for guidance and help with each step. The employee wins the business at the touchpoint with the customer exactly at the moment when he is there.

Bottom line: New wine in old tubes is often regarded as something bad. In the case of agility, however, it is rather an expression of decades of inability to use the skills of the employees in a way employees would favor. The hurdles on the way are individual employees, who have reached leading positions due to the corresponding upswing. They disrupt through their micromanagement, fault intolerance, blame- instead of solution seeking, indecisiveness, double binding and limitless energy appetite. Before any structural changes happen, it is necessary to develop the required agile mindset, e.g. trust, team learning, feedback, culture and intrinsic commitment. Then agility produces its effect – even though it actually could be used since a long time.

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.