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The System Dynamics of an “Intention” Economy

Here’s an attempt to capture the Doc Searls notions from “The Intention Economy” in systems dynamics language.

The way to read system dynamics diagrams is to see each item as though it were a quantity (even imagine intangible things like “Trust” as though it could be measured with some trust meter).  Then the diagram is about the relationship of one quantity to another.  For example, if one did a diagram of the system of “eggs” and “chickens” it would indicate that when the quantity of chickens goes up, the quantity of eggs go up and when the quantity of eggs goes up the quantity of chickens goes up.  This would be reinforcing loop.  Now introduce (Road Crossings) as in “Why did the chicken cross the road?”.  A loop would show that the more road crossing, the fewer chickens and the fewer chickens the fewer road crossings — a balancing loops.  In the simple charts here, all are reinforcing loops except one (marked by a letter “O” for “Opposite).

Attention Intention 2013



Animation, tension and the internet

About Doc’s and Drummond’s questions about (1) whether the  .  .  . place to lie, place to hide, place where things are not as they seem .  .  . “code” I hypothesized  is the only code and (2) how did the internet grow as it did in some many directions (including Doc’s work becoming widely known) if this is an important code.

A notion at work here is the paradoxical notion that the internet did indeed grow in so many ways and as fast and like something alive as it did because it hooked into an already existing neural construction in us of  “. . . a place to lie, place to hide, a place where things are not as they seem . . . “ — however apparently negative that may be.   It may be/seem negative, but it accessed something in us that is animating – something in the reptilian and limbic parts of us.  (Recall the shorthand:  the cortex is for thought; the limbic if for feeling, the reptilian is for movement.)  It was and is animating/energizing.  It hooked into something that was, in some sense, strangely familiar.  We could live there in the field of tension between Awful and Wonderful, between Love and Hate, between Light and Dark.  A Jungian notion is that it is this tension that is life.  Without such polar tensions, there is no life (and not even death, to push the notion a step further).

It’s why when auto makers show a new concept car to a focus group, they want to hear either “Wow, I love it” or “Wow, I hate it.” If they hear “That’s a really nice car,” they know they will certainly sell some of that car, perhaps enough to make a profit.   But it won’t catch on, be viral, be sold by word-of-mouth and by sight.  And there’s not enough marketing and advertising to make it so.

So, “. . . a place to lie, place to hide, a place where things are not as they seem . . . ” is wonderful/awful but most important, it is animating.

Were there other codes at work in the history of the internet?  I only know that this one shows up dominantly as you listen to the visceral verbs and adjectives people use to describe their internet life and look at what people do (the risks they take, the privacy invasions they allow, the acceptance of the cow/calf structure and the one-up/one-down treatment of vendors).

The more important question now is:  Are there other equally animating highways for the internet.  For example, Folgers and Starbucks found a code for coffee beyond “Wakes you up in the morning”.  They found COFFEE = HOME.  They found it via a strange kind of deeper-than-cortex focus group research, but it can make cortex sense in that our earliest connection with coffee was not when we first tasted it, but when we first smelled it, perhaps on day 5 or 10 of our life – at HOME.  So, yes, coffee = buzz, or coffee =  warmth, or coffee = wakes you up in the morning.  But COFFEE = HOME is more animating.  You don’t need to tell people COFFEE = HOME.  Just associate coffee with home.  Watch Folgers commercials and look at Starbucks stores.

The VRM Movemen…

The VRM Movement – You Gotta Know The Code

As a long time follower of the Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) arena, I’ve been thinking about some of the other-than-logical aspects (perhaps psycho-logical or even bio-logical aspects) of the challenge of VRM becoming a still-more-animated movement.  The system of thought I’m using has its roots in the intersection of the work of Paul MacLean on The Triune Brain, the notions of Carl Jung on the role of archetypes, and the marketing/communications practice of Clotaire Rapaille.

The broad notion is that we, like every other species, come into the world with already-there mental structures that serve such instinctual behaviors as aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritual displays as well serving the motivation and emotion involved in feeding, reproductive behavior, and parental behavior.  These structures are uniform across the species – what Jung saw as archetypes repeating across time and cultures.  Additional structure/pathways are added in the earliest days of our lives – the pre-verbal times of our lives as we see what people do (what people say is not so important and will be informed in our coming verbal years by what people do in these preverbal times).  These early-in-life pathways vary according to culture.[1]

This notion of pre-existing pathways is not the territory of the cortex where our ability for language, abstraction, planning, perception reside (not to mention arithmetic, computing architecture, CRM, VRM .  .  .)  , but rather it’s the territory of the reptilian and the limbic parts of our nervous systems.  It’s handy shorthand to say the cortex is for thinking, the limbic is for feeling, and the reptilian brain is for movement/animation.    And for languaging convenience (in service of that cortex), call all of this structure in the reptilian and limbic brains “the code” —  perhaps seeing it as a network of pre-existing, well-worn pathways in the “world of ends” inside of us.   

A principle that follows from this system of thought is:

If you want movement (not just thinking and feeling), you have to “know the code” – that is, get on one of those pre-existing pathways.  (And a corollary: there’s not enough marketing in the world to create new pathways.)

But the internet already has a code.  By whatever complex of early internet dynamics, the internet hooked into an unfortunate but powerful structure that was already in us.  The code for the internet became:  INTERNET = a place to lie, a place to hide, a place to spy, a place where things are not as they seem

So, that’s the notion here: Among the many possible structures that this new entity called the internet could have hooked into, it found .  .  . a place to lie, a place to hide, a place to spy, a place where things are not as they seem.   The New Yorker cartoon of the dog in front of a PC saying “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” is funny because, like much humor, it holds an uncomfortable, if exaggerated, truth.

If this code is at work in us (even those of us who see ever so many other possibilities for the internet), then our every internet activity is colored by .  .  . INTERNET = a place to lie, a place to hide, a place to spy, a place where things are not as they seem.   Perhaps this begins to explain why it seems that  — because they are an archetypal highway we instinctually are familiar with. 

So, when we create language around trust, privacy, accountability, etc., it gets heard through the code of .  .  . INTERNET = a place to lie, a place to hide, a place to spy, a place where things are not as they seem, because in the sense used here, “trust” and “distrust” are the same code.

The task is to find another code.  And part of the problem is that it doesn’t much work to use the cortex to find these highways of the reptilian and limbic brains.  Yet, it’s the best we can do until something leaks through from the reptilian and limbic brains.  One possible code that occurs to me so far is in the territory of “Respect” – the construction Drummond Reed et al. and the Respect Network are using.  There’s probably a species-level code for “Respect”:   Respect =  “Choose me to co-create the future with you”.  (And yes, it is in the same territory as “Choose me to procreate the future with.”)

If this is a promising highway, the question becomes what motif of aps and words and images  would we use to evoke this code?  I’ll let that question hang there and see what comes to us in our “thoughts-in-the-shower” or other “thinking-of-nothing” moments.

Your reactions and thoughts are welcome.

[1] An illustration is research on the marketing of cheese in France and in the U.S.  It turns out that the mental structure for cheese in France is “alive” – where cheese is bought according to smell and touch and is often left at room temperature to pursue its life cycle.  In the U.S., cheese is “dead” – we wrap it in plastic (a body bag) and keep in the refrigerator (the morgue).   Now no one remembers getting the “cheese is alive” speech or “cheese is dead” speech as children.  Rather we saw how people handled cheese and connected to archetypal constructions of “alive” and “dead”.