Monday, January 30, 2012

C. 3000 Posts on: The Impermanence and Irrelevance of Authoritative Narratives

The Blogger thing tells me that this is the 3000th post - which, with a profile post written probably means it's the 2,999th post.  I'm not sure why that's particularly relevant, but quite a few bloggers do post such kind of milestones.  Very few celebrate their 567th blog post. But with millions of blogs out there, you can't rule it out entirely.

As I surveyed the info-sphere this morning to jog my memory into what I was going to write about, I came across a few articles, as I often do.  Two articles of the "authoritative business genre" really spoke to me this morning (here, and here).  Actually they didn't; they didn't speak to me metaphorically; neither did they speak to me literally.  In fact, they whelmed with with their evident irrelevance.  Woe is us - which I think is the right way to say it, but I'm not entirely sure.

One of the articles deals with the "Yin-Yang of Corporate Innovation" or something like that.  The other deals with Wired UK's "smart list" of "people who will change the world."  Let me present additional data to make your day.

Ever hear of the "magazine cover indicator?"  It's what investment market players call a "contrary indicator." That is, in a mainstream (not specialized) business publication, there's a concept well understood by "those in the know" that's being propagated to a mass market of information consumers, that's made people money. Like the famous cab-driver that gave the millionaire stock tips on the eve of the Crash of '29, that's an indicator to cash out, because the "last buyers" in the market are being told of what the Big Play is, and after the last buyers, there are no more buyers.  As you can see from that last link, sometimes the cover's pretty uncanny in its ability to predict the future by reversing the "plaintext narrative" of the cover.

Now considering the Wired UK's article...did you ever notice that the very name of Wired is a magazine cover indicator? I did, a bit more than 12 years ago. The name of the magazine first arose in connection with the wired internet. And if you regularly read this blog you can well understand why I view that as a contrary indicator come true, but even if you don't, the term "Dot Com Bubble" should remind you.  I do read Wired from time to time; it does tell me of things and people I might not normally be aware of.  But whether it's an issue of Wired or Fast Company (is that still around?) or the various industry fora I attend from time to time, my first instinct is to deconstruct the main narrative because that's exactly what the smarter minds than that possessed by me in the industry tend to do.   I've also had the benefit of knowing people who swore by those stories in mainstream publications, only to be found woefully overtaken by events.

Regarding the Times article on the "innovation" while the author of the article throws around a lot of buzzwords ("Open innovation" is a recent current favorite, now fading), the author - and his sources, in particular, it seems, John Kao - fail to express what that might actually mean in today's world, because it sure doesn't mean what's stated in the "plaintext meaning" of the article.

Many companies these days are thinking how to challenge Google or Apple.  And some of them are asking the wrong questions, because in part they don't "get" what how these companies got where they are and they don't at all see how to actually succeed in their endeavors despite what these companies are doing now.  Rather instead they - like the authors of that Times article - are taking away models of innovation from them as though somehow they were fixed narratives.  Well you heard it here first: Google and Apple will each stumble big, and in different ways.    And so will you and I if we continue a cookie-cutter prescription for the way things will be.

There's that exchange from the movie The Matrix whose "capping phrase" has entered our discourse:

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

There are no hard and fast formulas to the way one lives one's life, carries out one's endeavors and enterprises, etc. There's only what we can do with ourselves.  You can get a good view of this through a mindfulness practice - after a while you realize that your preconceived notions are just in your head, and sooner or later, what you thought was "impossible" is in fact possible.

I'll (almost)  finish this post with something I did yesterday - a 書道 of "cloud."   I started doing this a while back with no talent, no knowledge of innate ability and no experience, like everyone who starts anything for the first time.  This one is not my worst ...hopefully I'll get better.   But if I had clung to the thought that I'd never be able to do this at all, I wouldn't have been able to do even this at all.  So there it is...

Now let me finish this post with a final thought for you: Does the narrative of "there is no narrative" apply to this blog post or not?

The degree that it does or does not I don't think can be known at this time.


Petteri Sulonen said...

That one's not half bad, actually.

It's interesting to follow your progress.

Mumon said...

Why thanks! :-)