28 July 2004

Part 2. The Conscious Brand: The Physics of Branding

If we are dealing with human beings, then most importantly, what are the emotional codes, the signatures of the feelings and moods, the emotional trends? In branding and business, these issues go largely ignored. Well, the Dynamics of Emotions could be a very interesting key ingredient and play a role in understanding how brand organizations behave and evolve.


Design of the system
Social behavior

The scientific path is supposedly unbiased - but in physics, the observer becomes part of the experiment. The conscious brand might already have a bias. What if the scientific exploration of branding
-- is mapped out according to a certain set of expectations
-- follows a methodology of organizing and measuring the nature of something, and
-- lays a mathematical framework onto the natural world?


But...the science of branding gets more complicated when you add the social dimensions. For example, "pecking orders" work by exclusion. We�re talking about politics now.

The social, political pyramid is a maze of obstacles in the way of human progress and brand progress.

Survival vs. Fulfillment
Continuity of a hierarchical model vs. An evolutionary model (sustainability)

Here is where we look at the economics for brands and organizations, and explore integrating humanity into the economic equation. By addressing individual agendas, we bring clarity to the collective dream.


This needs particular attention. We need to revolutionize in an integral and harmonizing fashion - in other words, evolve - not in the abstract, but in scenarios of human behavior.

Otherwise, we end up in the Brand Drama and not the Brand Script.

This requires exercises and platforms designed to create environments where participants actualize elemental energies of their organization, rather than intellectualize them. In these environments, difficulties and barriers to value creation will emerge, participants will create other paths and innovate new ways.

People have a schitzophrenic relationship with the brand. They are individuals working on teams or in business units, and are also part of a greater organization, where they are - or not - aware of their impact on the value network.

Individuals are their own centers of organization. This is a one-person view of reality. How can we help them use this natural behavior to build value for the full business concept and fulfill the brand ideals for the organization and its customers? This is the multi-person integrated view of reality.

The ramification of this "buy-in" behavior impacts the brand throughout its network.

How do we deal with this? What is the nature of human co-existence and contribution when there is a collective agreement with rewards to build value?
-- We perceive and compare ourselves in relationship to others (not things or concepts).
-- We influence things or concepts.

We need to take this kernel of thought and develop it into our organizational systems so that is available, accessible and usable to the average person.

Our task becomes how to express the concept in everday language and symbols so that everyone can interpret it and engage with it. Only then will ideas get grounded, take root and grow.


-- Social and psychological evolution
-- focus on knowledge sharing and communications as main issues
-- use solid objects and tools
-- make everything comfortable and practical
-- provide pleasurable employment
-- grow a stable base

Floating high above the planet somewhere in the ether hangs the beginning logic for Brand Enterprise Dynamics (BED). This new way of working will capture the value at the individual level and use it to build value for the organization. Network behavior will help organizations evolve into integral sustainable environments.

Thank you for letting me share with you. Now, back to the physics project because we are getting closer to understanding the dynamic fields for emotions. Did you know that true emotions (not feelings, our lesser interpretation of emotions) may be what powers thought and projects it? Well, that is another conversation.

20 July 2004

The Conscious Brand: The Physics of Branding

More wanderings through streams of consciousness. After multitudes of discussions and a mini-brain drain, I have tried to carefully land some of my own thinking once again to simplify the role that physics plays in its application to branding and business.

Even when you consider other scientific disciplines, they are still grounded in the atomic structures and dynamic fields of physics. Whether things interact on a biological, botanical, or chemical level, they follow a set of laws determined by physics - the natural basic relationship of everything. Of course, each discipline adds its own extraordinary dimension or spin to a particular domain.

Physics is about the KEY INGREDIENTS to life and HOW they behave.
It�s about HOW LIFE ACTUALLY WORKS - a unique method of inter-relationships.

That�s the natural physical world. Now, add human behavior.

Physical world + human behavior = a collectively conscious world
Science + consciousness

Now you�re dealing with content and context and the MEANING OF IT ALL (and with the implications of its full intention).

So, given this new understanding, what is the physics of brands? It could be the simulation of the symbology of how someone experiences the brand.

If so, then we must look at:
-- physics - the way things organize
-- behavior - the human way of being and
-- semiotics - the symbology

But, there are two things that always work as limiters, things that impede how other people really grasp what we are trying to do.
-- Vision - what we see - the actual
-- Perception - how we see it - the wonder

If we are going to truly demonstrate a Unified Brand Theory, then we need to make sure that we develop the right key ingredients:
-- a unique methodology and process
-- the most interesting toys of the game
-- the perfect symbols of engagement
-- a clear and understandable language of our way of being and doing

Next time, we will consider the symbolic language of the soul of a brand.

18 July 2004

6 Features of Highly Innovative Companies

I am a regular reader of Dave Polard's Save the World blog. Today, he touched on something relevant to the work I do with companies and I thought you might enjoy opening this discussion in your organization.


processThe Conference Board of Canada recently conducted a survey that revealed six common features of "highly innovative" firms (those that get more than 20% of their revenues from new products).. The six features:
  • Draw on customers as the primary source of new ideas and an integral part of the decision-making process.
  • Collaborate extensively with universities and colleges on research and to access expertise.
  • Operate a defined R&D process.
  • Have formal processes for generating, testing and commercializing new ideas, including incentives for participating employees.
  • Use both evaluative processes and intuition in deciding on innovation projects and investments.
  • Have an appointed internal "innovation champion" and at least one "pathfinder" customer to collaborate on innovation projects.
These aren't rocket science, or particular surprising findings, but from my personal observation some or all of these six features are not only often absent from large organizations, but have often been abandoned by such organizations as part of the past few years of cost-cutting and 'rationalization'. I have been astonished to hear senior executives of large organizations essentially say they can no longer 'afford' innovation -- that is has become a luxury that does not engender enough short term return on investment to warrant any expenditure. This is classical large corporate myopia, of course -- since you're rewarded only for what is measured in the latest fiscal quarter, you're overwhelmingly tempted to outsource, offshore, slash staff, eliminate training and otherwise cut costs that will increase short-term profits at the expense of longer-term viability. Any investment in infrastructure -- new technology, knowledge, fundamental research, education, support processes that improve front-line worker productivity -- is frowned upon. It's insanely dysfunctional behaviour, but increasingly commonplace in corporations driven by tyrannical demands of shareholders for constant double-digit profit growth to justify wildly inflated stock prices. And just like the parent who tells his child that he has to go out to work at 18, rather than investing in a university education, this short-sightedness will have profound and lasting long-term negative consequences. When will the overpaid clods in the corner offices learn that you can't cut your way to greatness? "

What have you noticed in your organization?


What's next? Having spent most of my life in advertising, I am all for new ideas and channels - as long as they do not impose on people's privacy. I ran across this article on the Mobile Technology Weblog and thought about my own experience in London when I had forgotten to turn off bluetooth on my mobile.

  • July 16, 2004

" The Economist Bluejacks

According to Campaign (no link as it's old media) The Economist has been bluejacking in Asia

The opportunity to bluejack ( sending messages via Bluetooth technology to relevant mobile phones ) saw The Economist brand first approach people at the Asia Businessman Readership Survey in Singapore with the message "caffeine-free stimulant" as the delegates tucked into breakfast .

Similar tailored messages from the brand greeted mobile phone users at Media's advertising awards ceremony this year, as well as sports fans attending the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

While I think it's pretty cool as a novelty, using Bluetooth as an advertising channel like this is still irresponsible marketing - it's Bluespam, when all is said and done.

I'm sure no one was especially offended by this campaign, as it's new and the brand is "respectable". But if you take this to its logical conclusion, hundreds of advertisements could be sent daily to every phone with Bluetooth switched on. How uncool would that be?

Furthermore, once you've bought the basic equipment (a few hundred dollars), it's free to send messages, so it's a spammer's delight.

So, the channel will either be banned or consumers will switch Bluetooth off altogether, ruining a very promising communication channel for all kinds of things, other than just spamming.

I never thought we'd see The Economist tarnish itself with spamming. What will we see next "Ho.t L!ve Fore.cast.ing" or "Wanna BI.G 0ne? Gro.w bigg3r id.eas wiv The 'Conomist" subject lines in our emails?

Can anyone think of anymore? "

17 July 2004

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine
That a world once spun
In a direction far above
Sparking war and confusion
Clashing of cultures
Gods counted the tears
Man and machine
Became one in their fears

Longing for unity
Identity turned heaven into space
Consciousness collected

14 July 2004

Authentic Happiness

VIA Classification of Character Strengths

These are the 24 strengths that are measured by the VIA Signature Strengths Survey. The names and descriptions of the strengths are taken from Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification by Christopher Peterson and Martin E. P. Seligman, Oxford University Press, 2004. The earlier versions used in Authentic Happiness and on this site are provided in italics.

Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge

* Creativity [originality, ingenuity]
Thinking of novel and productive ways to do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it
Creativity, ingenuity, and originality - Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.

* Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]
Taking an interest in all of ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating; exploring and discovering
Curiosity and interest in the world - You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.

* Open-mindedness [judgment, critical thinking]
Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one's mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly
Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness - Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.

* Love of Learning
Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one's own or formally; obviously related to the strength of curiosity but goes beyond it to describe the tendency to add systematically to what one knows
Love of learning - You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.

* Perspective [wisdom]
Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people
Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself.

Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal

* Bravery [valor]
Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right even if there is opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it
You are a courageous person who does not shrink from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain. You speak up for what is right even if there is opposition. You act on your convictions.

* Persistence [perseverance, industriousness]
Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; "getting it out out the door"; taking pleasure in completing tasks
Industry, diligence, and perseverance - You work hard to finish what you start. No matter the project, you "get it out the door" in timely fashion. You do not get distracted when you work, and you take satisfaction in completing tasks.

* Integrity [authenticity, honesty]
Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one's feelings and actions
You are an honest person, not only by speaking the truth but by living your life in a genuine and authentic way. You are down to earth and without pretense; you are a "real" person.

* Vitality [zest, enthusiasm, vigor, energy]
Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated
Regardless of what you do, you approach it with excitement and energy. You never do anything halfway or halfheartedly. For you, life is an adventure.

Interpersonal strengths that involve "tending" and "befriending" others

* Love
Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated; being close to people
Capacity to love and be loved - You value close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated. The people to whom you feel most close are the same people who feel most close to you.

* Kindness [generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, "niceness"]
Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them
Kindness and generosity - You are kind and generous to others, and you are never too busy to do a favor. You enjoy doing good deeds for others, even if you do not know them well.

* Social Intelligence [emotional intelligence, personal intelligence]
Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself; knowing what to do to fit in to different social situations; knowing what makes other people tick
You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.

Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life

* Citizenship [social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork]
Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one's share
Citizenship, teamwork, and loyalty - You excel as a member of a group. You are a loyal and dedicated teammate, you always do your share, and you work hard for the success of your group.

* Fairness
Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance
Fairness, equity, and justice - Treating all people fairly is one of your abiding principles. You do not let your personal feelings bias your decisions about other people. You give everyone a chance.

* Leadership
Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the same time maintain good relations within the group; organizing group activities and seeing that they happen
You excel at the tasks of leadership: encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen.

Strengths that protect against excess

* Forgiveness and mercy
Forgiving those who have done wrong; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful
You forgive those who have done you wrong. You always give people a second chance. Your guiding principle is mercy and not revenge.

* Humility/Modesty
Letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves; not seeking the spotlight; not regarding one's self as more special than one is
You do not seek the spotlight, preferring to let your accomplishments speak for themselves. You do not regard yourself as special, and others recognize and value your modesty.

* Prudence [prudence, discretion]
Being careful about one's choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted
You are a careful person, and your choices are consistently prudent ones. You do not say or do things that you might later regret.

* Self-regulation [self-control]
Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one's appetites and emotions
You self-consciously regulate what you feel and what you do. You are a disciplined person. You are in control of your appetites and your emotions, not vice versa.

Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning

* Appreciation of beauty and excellence [awe, wonder, elevation]
Noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience
You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.

* Gratitude
Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks
You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks.

* Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]
Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about
You expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control.

* Humor [playfulness]
Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes
You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations.

* Spirituality [religiousness, faith, purpose]
Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort
You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.

10 July 2004

Listen to Saturn's space dust hitting spaceship Cassini

You must listen to this. Who could have imagined that we could listen to this?

This just amazed me - listen to the SOUND of space dust hitting the spaceship Cassini.

Can you imagine that we can listen to this? - something thousands of light years away, in between the rings of Saturn!

From NASA:
" When Cassini reached Saturn On June 30th, it dashed through a gap in Saturn's rings, twice.

One of onboard science instruments recorded a flurry of ring-dust harmlessly striking the spacecraft. Read the FULL STORY and listen to these sounds -- like "hail hitting a tin roof." "

Doesn't this just give you goosebumps?

Future Paradigm: Evolutionary value-based relationships

Value-based relationships and the communities they create are becoming the evolutionary communication paradigm for the future.

People are better informed, expect more, have more choices. And, more importantly, they are now affordably technology-enabled to interact and network in a much more organic way.
Organizations are slowly beginning to listen and conform to their customer and employee needs as well as their behavior.

Whose responsibility is it?
More and more, organizations realize that they have to deliver on their brand promise or that they will have to face the eventualities and consequences of the gap between their promise and their delivery to customers.
The business of evolving into a real customer-facing organization is coming to the forefront as businesses wake up to the call of the collective voice from their employees and customers.

By adapting organiztional behavior to benefit from the collective intelligence of their employees and customers - and this means system wide - organizations gradually evolve into using a different communication paradigm. This new communication paradigm feeds the individual, communities, the processes, the channels and the whole network.
Businesses will focus on network development as an expertise.

By segmenting the business according to platforms of interest or communities of practice, a company can consistently deliver customer value in those segments while building network value dynamically.
This builds a new logic - a dynamic customer-integrated network logic.
"We do it because it works for the customer and the community" replaces "We do it because it works for us".

How will this happen? What will support this?
Organizational behavior needs to follow the lead of the evolutionary edge of human interaction and communication practices. The content of these platforms and the context of the individual and community as media create dynamic environments for value-based relationships.
These value-based relationships are dynamic and only measurable through more algorithmic accounting practices that are capable of capturing their true value. This requires changing from antiquated accounting practices - that only account for the past financial transactions - into innovating new systems that harness the present or the existing potential for future value.

The identifiable process
-- Dynamic technology for networking and tracking behavior and performance of individuals, channels, concepts, and everything else defined as key to value creation.
-- New script for organization to behave in a way to deliver on its brand promise
-- Building brand through true identity from inside out
-- New communication strategy and briefs - internally and externally
-- New design & relationship strategies - tied to organizational behavior and involved in brand equity value
-- New relationship value measurement strategy as foundation for new and dynamic accounting practices
-- Temporary by-pass to bring on-line non-invasively
-- Key network developments for future growth
-- Being organic is the endgame

Industry impact
Value based relationships are the new currency and require new definition. The knowledge of how we identify them, codify them, validate them and measure them will immediately redefine how companies organize themselves and communicate. This process will put organizational learning at the core of the business, moving finance into a full support role in partnership with creativity and knowledge ecology. The power of the brand will be in how it can continually finely tune its organization - building, developing and sustaining these value-based relationships, internally and externally.

The knowledge ecology of how to identify and organize value-based relationships will carry more weight than just simply knowing how to carry out a traditional merger and acquisition. Knowing how to design a value based relationship network will extend from direct customers and channel customers through to employee relationships, partnerships and investor relationships - and acceptance that brand communities may exist outside the organization.

In the past decade, companies have brought knowledge management into the organization, but much of it lies in the hands of people without a sense or understanding of network behavior on a human interaction and communication level. Currently, management relegates creativity to suppliers and agencies outside their organization and outside the core strategic matrix. The next step is to bring the management of creativity back into the organization and use the powerful combination of knowledge ecology, creativity and new financial practices to fuel organizational learning in order to deliver value-based relationships and network thinking. One day very soon, a Chief Creative Officer and a Chief Knowledge Officer will sit alongside the Chief Financial Officer on the Board of major corporations. They will be responsible for maintaining corporate value based on relationships and the communities they build - and this new field of expertise will require understanding network development.

How are you participating in technology-enabled evolutionary human interaction and communication practices?

8 July 2004


Deep within
the hunger gnaws away.
The hole it creates
cannot be ignored or abandoned
and grows greater
with every passing moment.
The body is quickly sated,
the mind is easily entertained,
but the soul...
it waits patiently
for divine satisfaction.
The path to the soul
is not a path at all
but an entrance.

What�s the ticket
for entrance to the unknown
when everything you�ve ever wanted
lies within?

6 July 2004

Evolving genetic algorithms

Found this intriguing gem yesterday about �genetic algorithms�-
Evolution could speed net downloads
- and began to wonder how the organizational gurus would soon begin to apply this thinking to human behavior and social networks and life-caching.

� Internet download speeds could be improved dramatically by mimicking Darwin's evolution to "breed" the best networking strategies, say computer scientists.

Transferring popular data across the internet repeatedly can be inefficient and costly, so networking companies have developed ways of temporarily storing, or "caching", data at different locations to reduce costs and increase download speeds.

But figuring out where to store data and for how long is a complex problem. One solution might be to have caches "talk" to each other repeatedly, but this is inefficient as it takes up a lot of bandwidth.

To tackle the challenge, Pablo Funes of US company Icosystem and J�rgen Branke and Frederik Theil of the University of Karlsruhe in Germany used "genetic algorithms", which mimic Darwinian evolution, to develop strategies for internet servers to use when caching data. Using a simulation they were able to improve download speeds over existing caching schemes.

The researchers evolved algorithms for specific types of network, for example networks with a bottleneck. But they also developed algorithms that worked well on various types of network.

Major intersection

Funes told New Scientist the scheme could eventually be used to allow caches to automatically "evolve" their configuration. "Further development could involve different rules suited to each individual host or subnet involved in the internet," says Funes. "One can even imagine each host evolving its own optimal rule."

The team used a network simulator to test out different caching strategies. They created a simulation of a branch of internet network where data could be copied and stored at every major intersection. They used this simulation to test algorithms used to configure the caches.

The algorithms take known variables, such as the number of times a piece of data is requested, the number of points it has to pass through and its overall size, and work out whether it should be stored and for how long.

The key to finding an efficient algorithm was "evolving" it from a population of randomly generated ones. The starting population of algorithms was tested on the simulator using randomly generated requests.

Algorithm breeding

The algorithms that reduced network traffic and improved download speeds best were then used to "breed" a new population of algorithms. Breeding involves combining different pieces of an algorithm and introducing some random mutations. The process can be repeated again and again to improve efficiency.

When tested on a simulated network of 300 intersections, or "nodes", the algorithms they developed were twice as fast as the best existing strategy.

"It is quite neat," says Jon Crowcroft, at the UK's Cambridge University. "The novelty lies in the rather 'inelegant' algorithm that they evolve."

But Funes admits there are limitations. An important consideration is what incentives there are for caching information for other users. He suggests networks might in the future be designed to work out who deserves the most help for themselves. "Sophisticated network behaviours might implement rules for reciprocity and trust," he says. "And conversely, for not cooperating with other others who try to abuse our resources."

5 July 2004

Advertising and RSS

I've been following BlogOn 2004: the Business of Social Media, which will take place on July 23rd in Berkeley, California. They have their own blog, which is full of gems about what's currently the hot discussion. Here's a bit on advertising and RSS:

"Doc Searls points out that RSS incorrectly comes across as a push technology, when in fact it's a pull. People who subscribe decide and not the other way around. Doc notes that it's a persistent misconception of the Net as an instrument of supply rather than an environment of demand.

Though that's easy to do seeing as there is so much digital content and people use the metaphor around the content where we drown in information but we use google to search through it. But RSS and the blogosphere together as an information model for users are more about discovery of things you wouldn't know to search for unless you knew about them to begin with. So messaging from supplier to users of the traditional sort is dead, and Doc suggests we quit wishing it back. Instead, putting the information out on RSS, where users configure it via RSS subscription, through the filter of the blogosphere is the model, with pull, mixed with authenticity, and community filter (sans spin).

Dave Winer has an aside to his thoughts on advertising and RSS:

BTW, two excellent feeds for watching for products as they are being invented are Gizmodo and Engadget. For a long time Gizmodo was the only act in town, and didn't have an RSS feed for many of the reasons Jeff Jarvis lists here. Then along comes Engadget, and supplies a feed, so all of a sudden Gizmodo does too. Guess what, now they both get links from my blog and many others when they run something that fits into our respective world views. In the old days a PR person would call you up, or you'd have to drag your ass to a press conference. Today, my aggregator does the drudge work, and I get to have all the fun.

To which, Doc replies:

How about equipping market demand by using RSS to notify suppliers of a customer's transient demand? For example, I'm in the market for a minidisc transcribing machine: a cross between the Sony MZ-N707 I use to record interviews and conference sessions, and the Panasonic RR-830 pedal-operated transcribing machine I use to play the sessions back after dubbing them from digital minidisc to audio cassette (a pretty clunky "solution" to a problem that's been around for a long time). I'm in the market for lots of other stuff too. So are all of us. What can we do to communicate that demand, actively but selectively? I believe RSS is a necessary but insufficient answer to that question. And that there's money to be made in making up the difference.

But discovery is not about broadcast messaging, the old metaphor before RSS+blogosphere. Discovery on the supplier end is about finding users for conversing, finding user needs and thoughts, using this feedback well, and returning useful products and services. Discovery on the end of the user is about filtering to get to products and opportunities that better match those user needs, including a user's community who may use some product that only has value or excitement to a network of users (read: community of interest). However, RSS+blogosphere are not enough, only one step on the road to figuring this out, and the conference discussion is an attempt to iterate to the next level of what we need to move forward."

Posted by Mary Hodder at 07:38 AM on July 03, 2004

1 July 2004

The Science of Dunbar's Number

This is from a blog on social software, collaboration, trust, security, privacy, and internet tools, by Christopher Allen The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes. Chris has taken a very clear look at network ecosystems and assessed effective group participation. Definitely worth a deeper read and think!

"Lately I've been noticing the spread of a meme regarding "Dunbar's Number" of 150 that I believe is misunderstanding of his ideas.

The Science of Dunbar's Number

Dunbar is an anthropologist at the University College of London, who wrote a paper on Co-Evolution Of Neocortex Size, Group Size And Language In Humans where he hypothesizes:

... there is a cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships, that this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size ... the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.

Dunbar supports this hypothesis through studies by a number of field anthropologists. These studies measure the group size of a variety of different primates; Dunbar then correlate those group sizes to the brain sizes of the primates to produce a mathematical formula for how the two correspond. Using his formula, which is based on 36 primates, he predicts that 147.8 is the "mean group size" for humans, which matches census data on various village and tribe sizes in many cultures.

Dunbar's work itself suggests that a community size of 150 will not be a mean for a community unless it is highly incentivized to remain together. We can see hints of this in Dunbar's description of the number and what it means:

The group size predicted for modern humans by equation (1) would require as much as 42% of the total time budget to be devoted to social grooming.
My suggestion, then, is that language evolved as a "cheap" form of social grooming, so enabling the ancestral humans to maintain the cohesion of the unusually large groups demanded by the particular conditions they faced at the time.

Dunbar's theory is that this 42% number would be true for humans if humans had not invented language, a "cheap" form of social grooming. However, it does show that for a group to sustain itself at the size of 150, significantly more effort must be spent on the core socialization which is necessary to keep the group functioning. Some organizations will have sufficient incentive to maintain this high level of required socialization. In fact, the traditional villages and historical military troop sizes that Dunbar analyzed are probably the best examples of such an incentive, since they were built upon the raw need for survival. However, this is a tremendous amount of effort for a group if it's trying not just to maintain cohesion, but also to get something done."

It is worth your while to read the rest of his blog because he addresses group satisfaction and the best group numbers for successful teams. You can also post your comments on his blog.

Footprints in the Wind # 488

Food for thought today.

Change leads to conflict.
Conflict arises merely because of increased interaction.
Conflict comes because we resist the death -- death of our old notions, our old ways, our old selves.
Yet death is the twin sister of creativity.
No wonder then that new ideas meet violent resistance -- one must die!
So conflict is to be sought, for therein lies our future, only therein.
Know you not the grave is in your path?

By Douglas D. Germann, Sr. c Copyright 2004, Learning Works, Inc. All rights reserved. Easy reprint permissions: Doug@FootprintsintheWind.com or 574/291-0022 or P. O. Box 2796, South Bend, IN 46680-2796. Archived at Footprints in the Wind