Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

IDF Spokesperson's Unit

Israel has set up a YouTube channel as part of an effort to get their story out and do a better job on the information warfare part of their campaign than they did in 06. So we'll see how it works out. Anti-Israel propaganda activities are so vast that it just may not be possible for Israel's own efforts at shaping perceptions and influencing the narrative to be effective. But at least they are adapting.

Via Silicon Alley Insider

Monday, December 29, 2008

Decentralized Campaigning

This sounds like a fantastic idea:

You don't need a multi-milion dollar campaign to be able to make and distribute an effective ad to a target audience.  You can do it yourself.  You don't even need the permission of the campaign or a central seller to do it.  You can run your own campaign, becoming a part of what Pete Snyder called an "army of spokespeople". 
Decentralized campaigning would provide a whip mechanism against this unresponsive Republican political structure.   The Right has been sinking millions of dollars into Battleships (e.g., Freedom's Watch), when we ought to be building pirate ships and guerilla fighters to conduct information activism at the grassroots level. 

Sunday, December 28, 2008

All the FBI's men

George Friedman's essay on Deep Throat at Stratfor is a must read that looks at the journalism narrative now that we know who Deep Throat was (also read comments by Belmont Club and Cannoneer). This is a perfect example of how a narrative can arise and influence our interpretation of history and inspire people to act. Woodward/Bernstein became the archetype of the modern journalist. The noble investigative journalists pursuing the truth and bringing down a corrupt president. How many people became journalists to live out their "All The President's Men" fantasy? How many times have we heard journalists lecture us on how important they are because they are holding public officials accountable and speaking truth to power? Journalists have used Watergate as a justification for publishing leaks, including classified information while keeping sources secret from the public. Knowing that Mark Felt was Deep Throat reveals the Woodward and Bernstein legend to be a lie. Contrary to what we have believed for several decades, this was a story about how Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee knowingly participated in a black ops mission to bring down a president. Woodward and Bernstein owe their fame and careers to the fact they they were chosen by the secret policeman to play a role in his operation. For decades they protected his identity not as some noble act to protect a vulnerable whistle blower from those with power. Rather it turns out that it was Mark Felt who had and abused power. When is some journalist going to confront Woodward and Bernstein and demand answers about their knowing participation in such an operation? Be sure to read Friedman's essay in full. Here's an excerpt:

And now we come to the major point. For Felt to have been able to guide and control the young reporters’ investigation, he needed to know a great deal of what the White House had done, going back quite far. He could not possibly have known all this simply through his personal investigations. His knowledge covered too many people, too many operations, and too much money in too many places simply to have been the product of one of his side hobbies. The only way Felt could have the knowledge he did was if the FBI had been systematically spying on the White House, on the Committee to Re-elect the President and on all of the other elements involved in Watergate. Felt was not simply feeding information to Woodward and Bernstein; he was using the intelligence product emanating from a section of the FBI to shape The Washington Post’s coverage.
Instead of passing what he knew to professional prosecutors at the Justice Department — or if he did not trust them, to the House Judiciary Committee charged with investigating presidential wrongdoing — Felt chose to leak the information to The Washington Post. He bet, or knew, that Post editor Ben Bradlee would allow Woodward and Bernstein to play the role Felt had selected for them. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee all knew who Deep Throat was. They worked with the operational head of the FBI to destroy Nixon, and then protected Felt and the FBI until Felt came forward.
This was enormously important news. The Washington Post decided not to report it. The story of Deep Throat was well-known, but what lurked behind the identity of Deep Throat was not. This was not a lone whistle-blower being protected by a courageous news organization; rather, it was a news organization being used by the FBI against the president, and a news organization that knew perfectly well that it was being used against the president. Protecting Deep Throat concealed not only an individual, but also the story of the FBI’s role in destroying Nixon.
Until Felt came forward in 2005, not only were these things unknown, but The Washington Post was protecting them. Admittedly, the Post was in a difficult position. Without Felt’s help, it would not have gotten the story. But the terms Felt set required that a huge piece of the story not be told. The Washington Post created a morality play about an out-of-control government brought to heel by two young, enterprising journalists and a courageous newspaper. That simply wasn’t what happened. Instead, it was about the FBI using The Washington Post to leak information to destroy the president, and The Washington Post willingly serving as the conduit for that information while withholding an essential dimension of the story by concealing Deep Throat’s identity.
Journalists have celebrated the Post’s role in bringing down the president for a generation. Even after the revelation of Deep Throat’s identity in 2005, there was no serious soul-searching on the omission from the historical record.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The diffusion of Santa Claus

TigerHawk posts a couple of Santa Claus photos, one a sand sculpture from India and the other an ice sculpture from China, that offer a lot to think about about regarding the spread of ideas, symbols, and narratives. TigerHawk concludes:

that Santa Claus is the most commercially significant and internationally appealing non-religious legend in the history of the world.

This is a good example of the kind of voluntary cultural diffusion that Claudio Veliz describes in The New World of the Gothic Fox, which has several chapters looking at how the Hellenistic, British and American cultures were unique in the prolific generation of cultural products, practices, traits, images and symbols that appealed not only to members of their own culture but proved to be very attractive to people of other cultures and thus were disseminated through voluntary adoption. The legend of Santa Claus is so appealing that it inspires people to produce these sand and ice sculptures which are themselves appealing to the imagination so that they serve as a vehicle for the further diffusion of the image and legend of Santa Claus. We need to apply this to our public diplomacy/strategic communication efforts as well as private-sector narrative-diffusion projects.

Friday, December 26, 2008

"Is this a crisis or an opportunity"

Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Tim Draper :

The AlwaysOn summary:
Draper's message is that we must never forget that entrepreneurs are great heroes. They create new jobs, they build value from nothing, they make our lives better, and they rebuild the economy.
He reminds us that for every financial downturn, from the Vienna stock exchange crash in 1873 through the Great Depression of the 30s, the Cold War of the 50s, and the dotcom collapse of the early 2000, great entrepreneurs have embraced change and driven innovation and the economy to new successes.

This time is no different, he says, and asks a pivotal question: "Is this a crisis or an opportunity." While some people panic and spread fear and worry (and perhaps those are the people who have been writing our headlines recently), others say "let's not waste this crisis."

One thing has not changed, innovation is relentless and continues unabated. It is growing exponentially and globally. The innovations and changes that occur in the next 10 to 15 years will change our lives as much as all the innovation that's happened in the last 50 to 100 years.

"The information war, fought through images and language, is over narrative"

A three-part series from the World Politics Review:

Sri Lanka's Information War, Part 1

Sri Lanka's Information War, Part 2

Sri Lanka's Information War, Part 3

"Stories are a technology, not a high technology, but a biological technology, for remembering cause-and-effect relationships. Our brains are sponges for stories, and it's very hard to undo a well-told story."


Well I got scrooged this Christmas. A couple of weeks ago I was only paid half of what I was owed. I was expecting that to be rectified on this week's paycheck only to receive it on Christmas Eve and find that not only was I not paid the balance of what I was owed from the last pay period, but that they again paid me about half of what I had coming from the current period. I don't know whether this is the result of incompetence or design. This is the worst-managed business I've ever worked for.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A couple of scenario planning papers

Dare to Dream: Visions for Tomorrow (PDF) by Peter Schwartz of the Global Business Network
UPDATE: I've fixed the Dare to Dream link above. The old link was no longer active.

As a genre, science fiction has always stepped up to this challenge. from Jules Verne
and Frank Herbert to Star Trek and The Lord of The Rings, science fiction literature,
television and film have informed, influenced and inspired generations with dreams of
bright and exciting futures. today, SCI FI Channel hopes to build upon this legacy of
science fiction with our “Visions for tomorrow” campaign. through “Visions,” our aim
is to champion an optimistic outlook of the future, empowering individuals to meet the
challenges ahead and inspiring unique solutions to global dilemmas and challenges.

To achieve these objectives, SCI FI assembled an advisory board of 19 of the world’s
most relevant visionaries and innovators in business, government, science, technology,
design, journalism, film, television, and future studies.

For this report, SCI FI has called upon each advisory board member to share his or
her unique perspective on the future: hopes, fears, dreams, and uncertainties. this
report, created by advisory board member Peter Schwartz, Chairman, Global Business
Network, draws upon their distinct and visionary reflections and captures the common
themes, beginning with one scenario of how these themes may play out in a positive

Dave Howe
SCI FI Channel

Plotting Your Scenarios by Jay Olgivy and Peter Schwartz

This essay offers an approach to developing alternative scenarios with engrossing plots. Part One describes two different methods for answering a fundamental challenge: how to whittle the virtually infinite number of possible futures that could be described down to a finitely manageable three or four plots that will shed the most light on a specific organization’s future. Part Two then addresses the inverse question: Once you have determined the skeletal premises of just three or four scenarios, how do you put flesh on the skeletons? How do you elaborate the basic logics of skeletal scenarios into compelling stories? If Part One is about whittling an infinite number of possible futures down to a finite number of skeletal scenarios, Part Two is then about beefing up those skeletal outlines to discover the insights managers need. Part Three then adds 10 tips based on our 20 years of experience developing and using scenarios.

Borders on the art of persuasion

Max Borders has an ongoing series of posts on the art of persuasion at Next Right:

No. 1: Emotional Wedges

No. 2: Metaphors & Models

No. 3: Value Typology

No. 4: Image, Symbol, & Icon

No. 5: visual Data are Powerful & Ambiguous

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Kauffman to fund pro-innovation legal scholarship

Updating classical liberalism for the 21st century so that we can develop an entrepreneurial liberalism will have to include practical thinking about how to institutionalize our ideas. It's not enough to have a lot of theory that never gets applied. We need to build a legal and political framework that can support and foster entrepreneurship and innovation. The Kauffman Foundation is taking the initiative to build that kind of legal framework:

Kauffman Foundation Invests $10 Million to Cultivate Innovation-Friendly Law, Policy and Legal Scholarship

Continued economic growth spurred by innovation is essential to improve living standards. Growth, in turn, does not just happen—it must be supported by legal institutions and policies that reward entrepreneurial risk-taking and innovation.

Toward this end, the Kauffman Foundation has launched a $10 million, five-year program to support research by leading legal and economic scholars on how best to shape the U.S. legal system so that it promotes innovation and growth. The program builds on several decades of "law and economics" scholarship.  

"We want our nation's top legal scholars to devote their talents, experience and energy to furthering our understanding of how the legal system can best foster innovation and growth, both to aid policymakers and judges, and to help educate the next generation of lawyers," said Robert E. Litan, vice president of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation.

Via Marginal Revolution

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Entrepreneurial Inclinations

Modern liberal democracies are complex adaptive systems. As such social, economic, political, cultural change is an ongoing phenomena. From time to time there are "perfect storms" of change in which there is a great deal of disruption as societies go through massive phase transitions. As individual agents how we respond to these changes is important. Our attitudes, interpretations, ideologies, and actions all determine the nature of our response to the transition period and its outcome. There is a right way and a wrong way to respond to these periods. Stephen DeAngelis offers a good example of the right way:

One of the reasons I started Enterra Solutions was because I could see that potentially profitable companies were becoming "hopelessly unadapted" because they were trying to solve information age challenges using industrial age solutions. As the pace of globalization speeds up, such companies find themselves with an increasingly unmanageable complexity gap.

I like this. I like the ability to recognize the transformation that is taking place and then the motivation and imagination to create an entrepreneurial venture to contribute to that transformation. As Anne-Marie Slaughter says "You really have to embrace the complexity."

I really enjoy reading Jeff Jarvis because he is someone who has embraced the complexity and is whole-heartedly engaged in the kind of creative thinking that our time requires (and that drives some people nuts, which I find highly entertaining). He teaches a class in entrepreneurial journalism which fosters in the students the kind of creative and entrepreneurial thinking that is necessary to imagine and build the next generation of journalistic institutions.

I love teaching this class. The students’ ideas change, sometimes radically, as the course goes on and as they learn more about business and challenge themselves (as guests and fellow students do) - they act like good entrepreneurs. They understand the importance of learning the business, not something I learned in J-school. They look at the world in new ways and see new opportunities.
In the spring, I’m going to teach a truncated version of the course at the Sorbonne with Eric Scherer of the AFP. Dan Gillmor also teaches journalistic entrepreneurship at Arizona as does Rich Gordon at Northwestern. The more, the better. Journalism is not going to preserve itself into the next era; it must innovate its growth. That’s what this course really teaches - not just business and journalism but invention and change.

You have to have the right attitude: an optimistic attitude that sees in the change opportunities to be creatively explored; the right interpretation: clearly seeing that this is indeed an era of transformation that requires innovative ways of thinking; the right ideology: ideologies are not permanent and unchanging, they are products of their time and need to change when the times change; and the right action: attempting to resist change is the road to failure, becoming entrepreneurial and inventing the new era's institutions and practices is the road to success.
There is no better example of being "hopelessly unadapted" than the US auto industry and the political class's response. Tom Friedman:

...America's bailout of Detroit will be remembered as the equivalent of pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the mail-order-catalogue business on the eve of the birth of eBay. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into the CD music business on the eve of the birth of the iPod and iTunes. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into a book-store chain on the eve of the birth of and the Kindle. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into improving typewriters on the eve of the birth of the PC and the Internet.

Of course it will be our politics that will be the last to change with the "there's nothing wrong with our ideology" conservatives and the progressives with their orgasmic enthusiasm for a new New Deal leading the parade of the "hopelessly unadapted". That's why we need to get cracking and start following the path of DeAngelis and Jarvis in politics (and every field of endeavor).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Innovation Economics"

Will innovation economics provide the theoretical foundation for a 21st century entrepreneurial liberalism?

While the U.S. economy has been transformed by the forces of technology, globalization, and entrepreneurship, the doctrines guiding economic policymakers have not kept pace and continue to be informed by 20th century conceptualizations, models and theories. Without an economic theory and doctrine that matches the new realities, it will be harder for policymakers to take the steps that will most effectively foster growth.

Fortunately within the last decade a new theory and narrative of economic growth grounded in innovation has emerged. Known by a range of terms – “new institutional economics,” “new growth economics,” “evolutionary economics,” “neo-Schumpertarian economics,” or just plain “innovation economics”: – collectively, this new economics reformulates the traditional economic growth model so that knowledge, technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation and are now positioned at the center, rather than seen as forces that operate independently.

* * *
This new doctrine of "innovation economics" reformulates the traditional model of economic growth so that knowledge, technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation are positioned at the center of the model, rather than seen as independent forces that are largely unaffected by policy.

Innovation economics is based on two fundamental tenets. First, innovation economists believe that what drives growth is not capital accumulation, as neo-classicists claim, but innovation. They argue that the major changes in the U.S. economy of the last 15 years have occurred not because the economy accumulated more capital to invest in even bigger steel mills or car factories, but because of innovation: the creation and adoption of new products, services, and business models. The economy developed and deployed a wide array of new technologies, particularly information technologies. Although capital was needed for these technologies, capital was not the driver. And it’s clear from the current financial crises, in which capital was chasing bad deals, that capital was not a commodity in short supply. Thus, the primary goal of economic policy should be to spur higher productivity and greater innovation.

Second, markets relying on price signals alone will always be less effective than smart public-private partnerships in spurring higher productivity and greater innovation. That’s because innovation and productivity growth take place in the context of institutions. In turn it is the "social technologies" of institutions, culture, norms, laws, and networks that are so central to growth. Innovation economists view innovation as an evolutionary process, where organizations act on imperfect information and where what economists call "market failures" are in fact actually the norm. But these are precisely the sorts of social systems that are so difficult for conventional economics to model or study.

As a result, innovation economics holds that the critical issue of the proper role of the state and market should not be understood, as it is currently by policymakers and others in Washington, as the state versus the market. Rather, as Beinhocker suggests, the issue should be seen as "how to combine states and markets to create an effective evolutionary system." And this is largely an empirical and practical problem–to which neo-classical economics, with its focus on prices and mathematical models, is particularly unsuited.

Over 70 years ago, as policymakers struggled to escape the grasp of outmoded economic doctrines that hindered them from effectively responding to the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes famously stated, "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." Today, the challenge is for Washington’s practical men (and women) to stop being slaves of defunct economists–including Keynes–and start being followers of the kind of innovation economics that Beinhocker, Heller, and others so compellingly articulate.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"We’ll be lucky to wind up with a cameo in the national narrative"

It's good to see Mark Steyn making the same point I was trying to make in the previous post:

That’s the problem, and pulling the lever for a guy with an R after his name every other November isn’t going to fix it. If the default mode of a society’s institutions is liberal, electing GOP legislators eventually accomplishes little more than letting a Republican driver take a turn steering the liberal bus. If Hollywood’s liberal, if the newspapers are liberal, if the pop stars are liberal, if the grade schools are liberal, if the very language is liberal to the point where all the nice words have been co-opted as a painless liberal sedative, a Republican legislature isn’t going to be a shining city on a hill so much as one of those atolls in the Maldives being incrementally swallowed by Al Gore’s rising sea levels.

However the election had gone, conservatism’s fractious precriminations – David Frum vs Tony Blankley, Mark Levin vs Peggy Noonan – would be set to continue. But the lesson of the last grim year is that it’s not merely about candidates or policy or electoral strategy. We have to get back in the game in all the arenas we’ve ceded to liberalism – from kindergarten to blockbuster movies. Otherwise, as in Daniel Craig’s improvised casting call, we’ll be lucky to wind up with a cameo in the national narrative.

I think Steyn is spot on here. Where I differ is that I don't believe that conservatism is capable of successfully changing this situation. The conservative movement has had 50 years to achieve this and they didn't do it. That's more than enough time to determine the viability of a political movement. And so it's time to move on and devote our energies and resources to creating a movement that will be more likely to be successful. If we don't want to end up with a "cameo in the national narrative" then we have to write our own script and produce our own movie.