Prior Quotes of the Week

Third Quarter, 2000

(Titles that are linked may be ordered online.)

Quote #191 (2000.09.21)

From So Simple A Beginning


What could be simpler? Four
scale-steps descend from Do.
Four such measures carry over
the course of four phases, then home.

At first mere four-ale, the theme swells
to four seasons, four compass points, four winds,
forcing forth the four corners of the world
perfect for getting lost in

or for filling, by divide and multiply.
Four secret letters, teatragrammaton,
start to speak themselves, the tune
doubling down a net of no return.

What could be simpler? Not even music
yet, but only countinng: Do, ti, la, sol.
Believing their own pulse, four tones
break into combinations, uncountable.


From language to life is just four letters.
How can that awful fecundity come
from four semaphores, shorthand and dumb,
nothing in themselves but everything?

Gene-raining cascade, proliferating green
tints, varieties senseless except for their own
runaway joy in the explosion. Fresh phloem-
pipes, palisades, leaves ripe for insect-aping.

All patterns patented: gyro, chute, receiver,
fish that track ocean back to first stream
or steer pitch black by trapped bacterial beams.
Can egg-chaos really be all the blueprint needed

to father out this garden-riot from just seed?
No end to the program exept a breaking out
in species-mad experiment, sense-shattered shout,
instruction-torrent: live, solve, copy This, repeat.

- The Perpetual Calendar, parts 1 & 2 of 4


Richard Powers , The Gold Bug Variations, pp. 7 - 8, HarperPerennial, 1991.

Quote #190 (2000.09.14)

Modules of a Planetary Mind

There are numerous technologies with which we'll soon upgrade our interconnectivity—from smart clothes and digitized pens to information-sending-and-receiving shoes and computers which divine our interests by watching the dilation of our pupils, then go out as personal servants to crawl the World Wide Web for finds to surprise us, to entertain us, and to help us through emergencies. But the web of inventions about to alter our lives will work all the better if we understand the interconnections built into our physiology. The global brain has a pulse and power grander than its constituent beings. We are modules of a planetary mind, a multiprocessor intelligence which fuses every form of living kind.

Current evolutionary theory holds that an individual is "fit" only if he or she can maximize the number of his or her offspring. Even a brilliant thinker like Richard Dawkins says that the ultimate individual is not you and me, but a gene within us driving us remorselessly, and that that gene is selfish to the nth degree. Such contemplations leave out the universal nature of networking. Less than a quarter of a second after a false vacuum burped this cosmos into being, entities like quarks and leptons precipitated, separated, and set up boundaries which gave them their identity. Yet all were laced together in spite of their autonomy. When the strong force, the weak force, and the electromagnetic force failed to hold them, there was always gravity. The cohesive forces are more intricate in social systems, but the principle is the same: you can run, but you can never get away. You can put distance between yourself and the center of your nation or your family, but inward, an army of invisible others speaks through our thoughts, twists our internet which literally shapes our brain, orders what we'll hear and see, and dictates what we'll comprehend as reality.

Howard Bloom , Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, pp, 219, John Wiley & Sons, 2000.

Quote #189 (2000.09.07)

Strategies for Reaching Unknown Markets: Planning as Discovery & Learning

Markets that do not exist cannot be analyzed: Suppliers and customers must discover them together. Not only are the market applications for disruptive technologies unknown at the time of their development, they are unknowable. The strategies and plans that managers formulate for confronting disruptive technological change, therefore, should be plans for bearing and discovery rather than plans for execution...

Most mangers learn about innovation in a sustaining technology context because most technologies developed by established companies are sustaining in character. Such innovations are, by definition, targeted at known markets in which customer needs are understood.

...The problem with with this lopsided experience base is that when the same analytical and decision-making processes learned in the school of sustaining innovation are applied to enabling or disruptive technologies, the effect on the company can be paralyzing. These processes demand crisply quantified information when none exists, accurate estimates of financial returns when neither revenues nor costs can be known, and management according to detailed plans and budgets that cannot be formulated. Applying inappropriate marketing, investment, and management processes can render good companies incapable of creating the new markets in which enabling or disruptive technologies are first used.

Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, pp, 147 - 148, Harvard Business School Press, 1997.

Quote #188 (2000.08.31)

An Overabundance of Resources in a Tightly Bound Market

The key to the Normandy advantage, what allows the fledgling enterprise to win over pragmatist customers in advance of broader market acceptance, is focusing an overabundance of support into a confined market niche. By simplifying the initial challenge, the enterprise can efficiently develop a solid base of references, collateral, and internal procedures and documentation by virtue of a restricted set of variables. The efficiency of the marketing process, at this point, is a function of the "boundlessness" of the market segment being addressed. The more tightly bound it is, the easier it is to create and introduce messages into it, and the faster these messages travel by word of mouth.

Companies just starting out, as well as any marketing program operating with scarce resources must operate in a tightly bound market to be competitive. Otherwise their "hot" marketing messages get diffused too early, the chain reaction of word-of-mouth communication dies out, and the sales force is back to selling "cold." This is a classic chasm symptom, as the enterprise leaves behind the niche represented by the early market. It is usually interpreted as a letdown in the sales force or a cooling off in demand when, in fact, it is simply the consequence of trying to expand into too loosely bounded a market..

Geoffrey A. Moore, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, pp. 66, HarperBusiness, 1991.

Quote #187 (2000.08.23)

The Ongoing Challenge of Transition Management

For business, the paradox of time is, in part, the paradox of the visionary: To succeed in the short term, you need to think long term, yet the greater your vision and the longer the time interval over which you predict results, the greater the risk you will be unable to take the steps necessary in the short term to achieve long-range ends. Discoveries about the future tend to make actions in the present irrelevant, but only if you look at them in the context of future activity. Activities in the present tend to make discoveries about the future irrelevant, but only if you judge them by the standards of short term success. By its very nature, the future destabilizes the present. By its very nature, the present resists the future. To survive, you need duality, but people and companies by their very nature tend to resist living in two tenses.

. . . Virtually every company has a duality embedded within it, an essential time tension between what it is and what it needs to be. A television network is both an entertainment provider and a cable company, but only if it can escape living solely in the present. A computer component company is an entertainment company waiting to happen if it can just see itself that way–and if it can keep the vision of itself in the future from preventing success in the present. Today's entertainment company is an embryonic player in the soon-to-be-exploding career education business, but only if it can confront the issue of what its core business must do in the present to be successful in the future. The duality between present and future is maddening, but only if you resist it. Learn to sit on both sides of the table at the time, and the duality becomes what it should be: liberating.

Watts Wacker and Jim Taylor, The Visionary's Handbook; Nine Paradoxes That Will Shape the Future of Your Business, HarperBusiness, 2000, pp. 77 - 78.

Quote #186 (2000.08.12)

The Nature of Economies

Hiram frowned and looked dismayed. "I'm afraid I haven't been clear," he said. "Economic development isn't a matter of imitating nature. Rather, economic development is a matter of using the same universal principles that the rest of nature uses. The alternative isn't to develop some other way; some other way doesn't exist.

"Thousands of years before anyone had a glimmer of evolutionary or biological development processes, people were fostering differentiated strains of grains. Thousands of years before anybody was aware of symbionts such as mitochondria or chloroplasts, people were combining materials and devices that had radically different economic lineages. Even today, when educated people are aware of symbionts in the rest of nature, inventors who combine silicon chips with typewriter keyboards–or any other devices and materials with different economic lineages–aren't imitating animal cells and mitochondria. Rather, they're using universal principles of development and co-development for the good reason that no others are available. Economic development is a version of natural development."

This is an intellectually interesting way to look at economic life," said Armbruster. "But what you've just said implies that it's academic information. People don't need to recognize the universal processes and principles to engage in using them. So is there any practical value or advantage in knowing that economic development is differentiations emerging from generalities?"

"Yes," replied Hiram. "It tells us that development isn't a collection of things but rather a process that yields things. Not knowing this, governments, their development and aid agencies, the World Bank, and much of the public put faith in fallacious "Thing Theory" of development. The Thing Theory supposes that development is the result of possessing things such as factories, dams, schools, tractors, whatever–often bunches of things subsumed under the category of infrastructure.

"However, if the development process is lacking in a town or other settlement, thngs either given or sold to in are merely products of the process along with them. To suppose that things, per se, are sufficient to produce development creates false expectations and futilities. Worse, it evades measures that might actually foster development."

Jane Jacobs , The Nature of Economies, The Modern Library, 2000, pp. 31 - 32.

Quote #185 (2000.07.26)

The Transition Manager's Dialogue

The ability to support unresolved paradoxes and to allow many different styles and interior dialogues to flourish is the mark of a truly creative scientist, artist, writer, or musician. While he may have been politically conservative, Shakespeare presented in his plays an entire universe of widely differing personae, each with his or her unique voice. For Bohm the individual is enfolded within the social and the social within the individual. People with sufficient creative energy can, by working on their own, dissolve fixed thought and provide the fertile ground to sustain a multiplicity of voices. Yet most of us normally use our energy to sustain a false sense of ourselves, which means we tend to operate from fixed and nonnegotiable but unexamined positions. Here lies the power of dialogue: to make manifest such assumptions and positions, bringing them out into the open.

F. David Peat, Infinite Potential: The Life and Times of David Bohm, A Perseus Book, 1997.

Quote of the Week #184 (2000.07.16)
What Matters

When you are asked what matters to you, how are you to answer? There are many obstacles which work to confuse the issue, and there may have been little real encouragement while you were growing up to know how to consider such question.

You may use your values, concepts, experiences, conflicts, worldview, problems, identity, concerns, beliefs, and aspirations to attempt to determine what matters to you. The mix can lead you either to great confusion and conflicts of interest or to great resolve. So many fallacies abound in our society that it can seem as if the subject is arbitrary, evasive, or even unimportant. In fact, it is greatly to your advantage to know what matters to you -- not only in theory, but in reality. There is a significant difference between the people who know what matters to them and the ones who do not.

Robert Fritz , Creating, pp. 179 - 180, A Fawcett Columbine Book, 1991.

Quote of the Week #183 (2000.07.05)

Restoring Our Inner Ecology; The Good, The Truth, and The Beautiful

Transforming the ecology of thought is done as we pay attention to the way we bring our words to life. The vehicle by which we can shift and restore the inner ecology lies in how we accommodate and integrate the three great value spheres of human experience, or what the Greeks spoke of as the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

When the Greeks wrote and spoke of these, they were reinforcing a set of ideas that were held together as different aspects of a coherent way of understanding what it meant to be human. . . .

. . . They asked, What is the good life? And do we have the courage to persue it?

To the Greeks, this question required people to think not only about humanly created structures and norms but those "according to nature," which included the whole living cosmos. Man looked to both the wider cosmos, the heavens and the earth, for direction. The assumption was that the good life entailed harmonizing one's interior experiences with the natural order of things, which included aspects of each of all three domains. The "Good" itself was symbolized by Plato as the Sun, the source of everything. He believed the challenge for any individual, particularly those who aspire to leadership, was to discover this animating source within all things, in nature and in the affairs of men.

. . . In beauty resides the aesthetic and sensuous dimensions of life. It is the domain of subjective perception, of what I think and feel, and of artistic expression. For Plato, love of beauty was a central component in coming to know oneself. Love of physical beauty, of the sensuous, Plato suggested, could lead one to an appreciation of invisible beauty, and ultimately to a love of wisdom and beauty itself. One of Plato's most famous and sensuous dialogues, the Symposium, takes place at an all-night drinking party, where its participants give long speeches on the subject of love while becoming quite drunk. To the Greeks, beauty was still closely tied to true understanding: You could not have one without the other.

Yet how many managers and leaders today consider whether the policy they are about to persue is in fact beautiful? Do they "love" the policies and ideas they persue? The questions seem largely irrelevant today, since we have come to seperate beauty from power, affect or sensuality from ethical action. The emerging worldview on which dialogue is based suggests otherwise: Far from irrelevant, "soft" concern, the beauty of aethetic of any subject is an essential component of its successful deployment and sustainability. . . .

Truth today has also been seperated from the other two domains—from beauty and from the persuit of a collective good. We understand truth as science, an inquiry into hard facts and observable data. But today's objective conceptions of truth have usurped older and richer meanings, and unnecessarily crowded out its richer implications.

Drawing upon the Greeks' understanding, truth can be understood not merely as objective scientific thruth, but as the spirit of truth. I once heard truth compared to a deer at the edge of the woods, coming to drink. The truth is coy. If you make a loud noise, it tends to flee. If there is a still place, without disturbance, the most essential truths of the moment can come forward. This story refers to the subtle dimensions of truth that we might comtemplate. Truth can refer to internal dimensions, not merely external material ones. Put another way, an inquiry into what is true in any given situation can include rigorous exploration of the interior dimensions of experience as much as it can the objective, exterior dimensions.

The ancient Greeks did not necessarily have the right answers. But I think we could say that they had some of the right questions. Today the questions that animate us have changed dramatically. In other words, we might reinvigorate our lives by learning to ask new questions. Asking large questions seeds the ground with new possibilities. While at first glance this may seem to be unstrategic work somehow not central to achieving the ambitions we set out for ourselves, I suggest that inviting the senior leaders in any setting to reflect on the deeper questions that antimate them, and that antimate their organization, is some of the most important work they can do. . .

William Isaacs , Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together: A Pioneering Approach to Communicating in Business and in Life, pp. 310 - 317, A Currency Book, 1999.

Other Prior Quotes:

Second Quarter, 2000

First Quarter, 2000

Fourth Quarter, 1999

Third Quarter, 1999

Second Quarter, 1999

First Quarter, 1999

Fourth Quarter, 1998

Third Quarter, 1998

Second Quarter, 1998

First Quarter, 1998

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