From July 6th to 9th, Fing hosted in Marseille an excellent Lift conference (feel the atmosphere here) with a terrific name : “Be radical !”. As one young entrepreneur put it on a funny slide, “radical” comes from Latin radis – which means root. In a forum full of techies, it was pretty interesting to see how innovation could relate to roots. Two main insights for me :
- Problems are the same everywhere
- Technology does not change our desire of authentic relationships
Problems are the same everywhere
On Friday morning, I took part to a workshop led by the brilliant entrepreneur of Buzzcar, Robin Chase. Other participants were urbanists, architects, designers, social workers, … and the workshop was about designing the city. Though I have no knowledge whatsoever in this particular field, I’ve been amazed by what these professional were describing : exactly the same kind of problems that large companies meet ! Here are a few examples :
- Perverse effects of the dependance of architects on contests = perverse effect on metrics in management
- Fragmentation of stakeholders (“programmeurs” > architects > builders > people who would actually live in the communities) = silos, bureaucracy and complicated processes in large organizations
- Very weak (or impossible) participation of basic citizens in decision processes = nobody is really advocating for the customer, people’s voice at the bottom of hierarchies is seldom heard, even if they have relevant knowledge to solve complex issues
- Each and every space has to be filled (in city planning), there’s no room for people to create, invent, own where they live = standardization of processes (thank you ERP of all kinds !) and difficulty for people to just stop, think and talk (as if the large organization was afraid of silence or emptiness – UNbusiness… ?)
- Need and trend to go towards flexible / mobile structures (Lego® type) = need that organizations treat more or less through projects, networks, communities of practice, but with a difficulty for traditional managers to operate in different organizational modes
- Need for experimentation and tolerance for errors = again, we see that need also in organizations (design thinking, intrapreneurship,…) but with high cultural resistance
This conversation reinforced in me the belief that what we are living is a transition happening in all realms of life (cities, business, politics, education, sciences,…). It is probably bigger than our understanding of it, but it has a direction – and it is meeting everywhere strong attachment to old ways of thinking and acting.
Technology does not change our desire of authentic relationships
The second main insight came from a very interesting presentation made during the “pitching” session where 7 promising start-up exposed their idea. The NEEN project (Non-verbal Emotional Experience Notification) showed a simple iPhone App able to deliver message to a beloved one in a more personalized way (not through email, but as if you were passing an envelope under a door). This presentation made me think about how much we are looking for ways to have technology more adapted to us, human beings; a technology more subtle, allowing us to express emotions, feelings, in a soft, simple way. As if the ultimate goal of technology is its own disappearance. In that sense, television – for instance – has been a wonderful technology: when you watch a great movie or football game, you forget the TV itself. I think that Moore’s law will end up in a world where much of IT hassles will disappear. In May, during my trip to California, I took part in a wonderful demo of future videoconferencing technologies. Much more “presence” than with Skype, of course – but still far from what we are likely to see in 10 or 20 years from now. In fact, technology acceptance – as Bertrand Gille noted many years ago – has a lot to do with social needs of a particular time. And I sense that our time is in desperate need of authentic relationships. Technologies that allow these kind of relationships will make the difference.
Talking about this need, I cannot end this post without a comment on the presentation made by my friend Ville Keränen from Monkey Business and Team Academy*. Looking at all the Twitter comments on #lift2011 about his presentation, he raised an enormous wave of sympathy and enthusiasm. Isn’t it because he shared his views with such a vulnerable attitude mixed with sharp relevance and simple sense of humour ?
Coming back to my introduction, this is probably the most interesting lesson for me in this LIFT 2011 : roots are our relations to our soil, to what feeds us. 21st Century soil is different in many ways, because of both the crises AND the possibilities it contains. But at the same time it remains a soil where humans (individuals as well as societies) have to grow. It is great to discover this in a high-tech conference. Thank you Lift and thank you Fing !
* (by the way, one of my teamster at Team Academy Angers told me that I never mentioned Team in my posts… this is done)