2010 Ideas Festival, Nov 24-26, 2010

I will be attending the 2010 Ideas Festival in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick November 24th to 26th. I’ve been asked by the folks at Public Policy Forum to present a 5 minute talk on what keeps me up at night. I want to talk about the problem of bridging the industrial to the network age, which may be too much to chew in 5 minutes, but we’ll see what I can do to drop a couple of idea bombs into the mix.

More on the Ideas Festival:

Our communities and region are changing.  Our population is aging, the economy is slowly recovering, innovation is the main driver of economic growth, the war for talent intensifies, values are evolving and technology rapidly shifts.  The convergence of these effects demands knowledge, innovation and leadership that enables our organizations and communities to thrive in the 21st Century.

The 21inc Ideas Festival is the premier opportunity for business and government leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, artists and change-makers in Atlantic Canada and across the country to engage with the people and ideas shaping our world.

Interested in joining us? Register here: http://www.ppforum.ca/events/ideas-festival

UPDATE: My speaking notes for my brief “Reframe” talk is below the jump.

What keeps me up at night & what gives me hope?

When first asked this question, I had to think about it. When I can’t get to sleep it’s usually because I’m really excited about starting something new I’m creating. Sometimes, it’s because I’m anxious or even fearful for the future.

So I’ll reframe the question slightly: What do you hope and fear for the future?

For me the answer is one and the same: our transformation from an Industrial Society to a Networked Society. Hope – from many experiments that show how amazing new collective capabilities found in networks can be directed to solving really tough problems. Fear – from many increasing points of conflict and tension between emerging technology-enabled human networks and industrial age institutions.

Example of Hope: innovations like Kiva.org, an online platform where individuals in the developed world provide micro-loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world; lifting people out of poverty in a way that traditional IOs can’t compete with.

Example of Fear: non-state actors use the same cheap and ubiquitous technologies to engage in asymmetric warfare against nation-states. We call this terrorism, or organized crime or sometimes freedom-fighting, and the phenomenon is a very real threat to the security and legitimacy of states.

Our institutions are slow to adapt. And there’s a scary part of transformation where we need to let go of something old in order for something new to grow.

When I say institutions, I don’t just mean the bricks and mortar kind filled with technocrats in Ottawa. I mean institutions as in our structures for maintaining our sense of a legitimate social order that can survive the test of time.

In my work I have been looking for signals of a possible hopeful future coming through and out of this transformation to a Networked Society.

For people who have been raised on the web, a number of new social norms have emerged that are built on top of the values of we the people who live, work and build the web.

Three areas of norms I think are important to society in general are related to:

  1. how we communicate and interact across distance and time
  2. how and why we gather together face to face
  3. how we share what we’re working on and how we collaborate

ChangeCamps, which I helped launch in Canada, are examples of the kind of experiments in creating spaces that have these new norms built-in as underlying principles and values.

It begins because so many people are joining a variety of online networks, often meeting each other first in the digital space by connecting around a shared interest or passion.

People who meet online tend to have loose ties at first, but many are compelled to get together in meatspace. We still feel that face to face interaction is the ultimate social technology – and anyone who claims that we are just giving up the physical for the virtual hasn’t observed digital natives very closely.

But when we gather, it’s different. At Camps or Unconferences as they’re called, people are often first gathered into a large circle using a method called Open Space.

The circle is an ancient form, and contrasts with the pyramid of the hierarchy – or the relationship between a speaker at podium and audience facing that podium.

In a circle of people, leadership can come from anywhere. At an open space or unconference gathering, the attendees co-create the agenda.  The goal is dialogue and knowledge sharing, but also simply to create meaningful connections. The human relationships are as important as the content of the agenda.

When we get together, we collaborate in realtime – both face to face and online – simultaneously. We also share – a lot!  My content/information/data is mostly free for you to use. We pool together our tools and our raw materials to make a stone soup – something we couldn’t create alone.

First we met online. Then we gathered face to face. Next, we stay connected online, but now with more knowledge, more context, more trust. We deepen our relationships.

This process is priming the pump of a proliferation of new networks of capability in communities large and small and across the globe.

We in this room all come from different organizations, communities, backgrounds.

How could we use the norms of networked society to gather, create meaningful relationships, engage in real dialogue, deepen our relationships over time, pool our resources including our information and then co-creatively direct our networks towards solving difficult problems?

Problems like: aging, healthcare, economic transformation, community sustainability and perhaps most important of all transforming our organizations and our institutions for the future that’s coming.

This my hope.

The thing only that can derail this hope is our fear.

Fear about letting go of old organizational models and old institutions. Fear of the unfamiliar. Fear of complexity and of threats to the traditional centres of power – threats to my own power.

We have a choice: we can embrace the emerging Networked Society and infuse it with our values and our hopes.

Or we can try to resist this irresistible force and be left with nothing but our fears.

I choose hope.

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