Irrationality required. No substitutions.

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Art and engineering. Intuition and intelligence. Heart and mind. It’s at the intersections that our future manifests.

Lately in entrepreneurship, design, and social innovation there’s a definite leaning toward the rational side of this balance. A big part of that is the availability of measurable data. Because if we can measure, we can test. We can optimize. We can iterate. We can improve.

This is good.

The ‘irrational’ side of things on the other hand taps into another set of data. The data from the fullness of human experience… the data from each individual’s life full of experiences. It’s the data that informs our intuition for where to head and our instinct for what to do.

This too, is good.

Good however, is not great. On their own, the rational is doomed to incrementalism just as the irrational is doomed to irrelevance. Perhaps that’s why, in the face of the rational movement I’m beginning to hear more about ‘getting rid of the experts‘.

Without the irrational, we’ll never find ourselves doing anything great and without the rational, we’ll never make much of our greatest opportunities. They go hand-in-hand. No substitutions allowed.

Humanity is conversation.

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Markets are conversations”.

While on a long run yesterday along the Thames (yes we have one here too) I got thinking about the Cluetrain and that core thesis.

Yes, and… “Humanity is conversation”.

Conversation is a human thing. We can’t help but have it, with others, and with ourselves. Whether we have it or not it keeps happening all around us.

If flows like water, sometimes fast sometimes slow. Sometimes it eddies and looks like there’s no place to go. It can’t be stopped, for long, and it can’t be forced, for long. It just flows, whether we’re part of it or not.

Conversation is what ‘separates’ us from other living organisms. At least, our own technology of conversation does. It started with language, and after the awkward evolution of mass media, has blossomed with the adoption of the web.

But really, if we look a little deeper we can see conversation is what life is all about. Our bodies are bundles of conversation among physical processes. Our environment is an extraordinarily rich and dynamic web of conversations. Everything is conversation.

And so, in a way, I am really a set of conversations, a participant in many more, and an observer of ‘others’. But really, it’s all just conversation flowing.

Sometimes it’s nice to sit on the shore and watch it go. Sometimes it’s nice to get naked and dive in. Whatever I do, and however it happens, it’s nice to know it’s all a part of this great conversation we we call humanity.

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Your Activity is Your Currency

Standard Catalog of World Coins
Image via Wikipedia

At Epic we’re introducing Epicredits as a currency to help you reward and accomplish what matters to you. You can signup now to start collecting and get notified when it’s live later this year.

For those who want to learn more, read on…

Epic is based on the realization that more and more of what we do produces a signal in the cloud. Whether it’s a tweet, a document update, a blog post or a bookmark there’s a record of it somewhere. In fact, when someone is trying to get your attention, even if it’s a simple as clicking a link, it’s a share of your activity that they want.

Of course, not all activity is of equal value. We believe it’s most valuable when it helps accomplish something that matters or when it leads to more activity in the future. In other words, it’s most valuable when it helps build a better future, sooner.

Epicredits wrap those two threads into a single currency, like this: 1) As you do your work on the web, you’ll collect Epicredits for your activity; 2) You’ll earn more for activity that’s related to something that matters or leads to more activity in the future; and 3) You’ll get to use your Epicredits to reward and encourage others to accomplish what matters to you.

While we’re still in development, if you are interested, you can get a headstart building your currency at http://makeitepic.com. We’ll also notify you when the currency goes live later this year.

Our activity is our currency. Let’s invest it in building a better future sooner. Let’s make it epic!

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Summit on the Future

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The future of organization has arrived. Like with sustainable coffee, cleantech, and the social trifecta (entrepreneurship/finance/innovation) before,  I’ve noticed the shift in conversation from “no that will never happen/it must be stopped at all costs” to, “it’s happening or inevitable/how can I play”. It’s the shift from an avoidable future to an inevitable reality.

Historically for me, this is a time to shift fully from thinking to doing. And yet, I know it is the time when the opportunity for understanding really begins. So, as I sit here in the wee hours of the morning wondering why I am writing this post, I realize that I’m hoping for someone to hold the space for this thinking to shift to the next level to. While I’m not sure exactly what that is, Jean Russell seems to capture the direction in her post on integration.

Whether it’s a conversation, a summit, a series or something other… here’s a few people I’d love to see carrying it on, together.

While I know it’s not me to hold this space, I hope someone sees the opportunity in making it happen. We’re at the front of generation of opportunity with an opportunity that will shape our civilization into the future.

Epic.io in Context

Epic.io is the latest in a series of research and experiments at inspiring a better future sooner. It is designed as a product at the intersection between the evolutionary change in how we, as humans, come together and the pains of collaboration overload we experience from that change.

The root discoveries of this journey over the last 4 years boil down to the fact that purpose is what motivates us to step up to something greater, and progress is what fuels us to keep going. There are no two more powerful ingredients in making great things happen.

It is around these two principles that Epic.io is designed. If we are able to connect the progress people make with their purpose for making it, we can’t help but think that people will feel good and focus more on what matters. On Epic, we’re already seeing it happen with projects, strategies, and even the personal missions in life people are trying to fulfil.

Personally, it has quickly become the place I turn to focus on what matters, check-in on the latest progress and reflect where best to spend my time. It’s also becoming the best reminder of the progress I am making, as opposed to the tasks I have yet to accomplish. And that feels pretty good.

We’ve got a long way to go, but it feels like we’re on the right path. A path that leads to making purpose a platform. A platform where people connect by making progress on what matters. And that, to me, is the best thing I can think of to inspire progress towards a better future, sooner.

If it matters, make it epic.

Collaboration Overload

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The rise of the mobile, social web is wonderful. More than that, it is providing a foundational base for an evolution in civilization. While the long-run potential of that is great, there are a lot of transitional tremors along the way. Those tremors are shaking nations, industries, and even our lives. On the personal level, I’m calling that tremor collaboration overload.

Tools like Google Docs, Basecamp, Twitter, and my new fav – Talker, are a response to the reality that an increasing number of our collaborations are outside the conventional boundaries of geography or firewall. Blurring these boundaries makes it easier for more collaborations to happen across another set of boundaries: work, life, community etc.  Finally, as applications get easier to make, there are shiny new solutions to the smallest of problems every day, and yes if they are good either I try them out or my collaborators ask me to for this next great collaboration. Either way, the result is the same. A flood of notifications and destinations constantly calling on my attention, and all of them, arguably related to something I’ve signed up to help make happen. They are not just bits of information I can ignore. They are things that relate to what matters, to me… if I could just remember what that was.

The primary problem here for me is that these calls for attention are disconnected from the reason I used the tool in that instance. Why is this google doc important? Why should I care about this project? How does it relate to what want to make happen? Only once I remember the purpose can I meaningfully prioritize where my attention is best spent… not just from a rational efficiency point, but more importantly, from a life fulfilment point.

And that seems to be the root of how to address collaboration overload. It’s not just a matter of efficiency and analytic relevance. It’s a matter of reconnecting to meaning. To purpose and passion. And so, as I welcome the next best tool to help me and my collaborators make progress, I also now know to look at how they keep focused on what matters to me. Now that sounds productive.

You are a…

I recently tweeted the question: “What term to you prefer. ‘user’, ‘person’, something else.”

I received some pretty polarized responses:

I’m torn myself. Not entirely comfortable with ‘user’ but I haven’t come across any options I like better. ‘Participant’ is interesting, but somehow still undervaluing.

What do you think? Any better suggestions or examples?

Making it Epic (alpha edition)

“If you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long.” ~ Matt Mullenweg

On Tuesday evening, James, Alan, and I linked arms, cringed a bit, and hit send. The first batch of invites to the Epic.io private alpha were out.

Already we’re learning a lot. As ’embarrassing’ as some of the things we see are, what we’re gaining from real-world usage is worth it. Feedback has been real and is helping us prioritize what needs attention most.

At the same time, the gulf between what we are tackling and what we are showing is huge. The messaging of Epic.io is, well, pretty epic. It’s big and bold and ambitious. It’s risky too. Is it setting the expectations too high? Does it create too much dissonance between the promise and the user experience? Maybe.

But I’d rather be bold and be out there. Vulnerable in our ambition. Inviting in our mission.

Purpose is at the heart of all initiative, organization, and systems. If we succeed in making purpose the platform we  succeed in making that reality actionable and useful to people every day. And that should bring less noise, more meaning, and ultimately, fulfilment of what matters to each of us in our work and in our lives.

Life is too short for bullshit. We don’t know where this will go, but we do know why we’re doing it. So if that resonates why not signup, see what it means for you, and tell us how it can make purpose the platform.

Let’s make it epic!

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More pirate!

Reading The Pirate’s Dilemma thanks to a chance encounter with the most excellent pirate Matt Mason himself got me thinking. What jumped out was a rawness – not in an aggressive way – but in natural, passionate sense. It’s the very rawness that we try and institutionalize out of our society. The very rawness that actually creates the conditions for our greatest leaps… leapfrogging incrementalism… right into a different future.

What seems common among the pirate stories is the inclination to reject convention, hack their way forward, and an irresistible compulsion to do so.

Matt paints that picture beautifully in advertising (graffiti), music (DJ’s and P2P), and software (open source). When I look at microfinance, citizen journalism, crisis mapping, renewable energy, activism, I see the same roots.

I also wonder what happens if we turn those same conventions inward. What is it to pirate oneself? Enlightenment? Were the Bhudda, Jesus or whatever enlightened being of your choice pirates too? I don’t know.

But I do know at a time when our civilization is set to pivot, organization is evolving, and people are pursuing purpose… we could all use a little more pirate.

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RealVote – my simple promise to democracy

Another election has come and gone and while voter turnout increased, the substance of the debate hit new lows. So, while my passion is at its peak, here’s my simple commitment to revive real democracy in my community for the next election.

  1. I will create a platform for people in my district to ask questions, and invite all candidates for that district to respond.
  2. I will campaign door to door to make people aware, gather questions, and share the answers for what’s been answered.
  3. The next election in my area is October 6, 2011 (Ontario)
  4. My district is London West

This is the best way I can think to fight partisanship in favour of real dialogue and engagement. We all deserve more. It’s time I took responsibility. It’s time I did something to make it happen.

This is my promise. Join me if you wish. Democracy matters.

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