Archive for July, 2007

About Guanxi

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Guanxi is a Chinese term, generally translated as “networks” or “connections”. Although guanxi is often characterized as uniquely Chinese, similar relationships occur in other nations, especially in East Asia.

In China guanxi has become especially significant in the last fifty years because it provides individuals with a patterned, structured set of relationships that to some extent replace the social networks of family, village, and clan that are more difficult to maintain in the face of population relocations, urbanization, and Westernization.

Guanxi is a mechanism for dealing with social uncertainty in a complex social environment.

Guanxi has been a significant element in Chinese business relationships for several hundred years. Wide webs of guanxi tie Chinese businessmen and Chinese firms into a cohesive and functioning economy. The success and even survival of many businesses rests on the establishment and maintenance of guanxi.

For Western businesspeople, the idea of guanxi is a useful reminder that trust, understanding, and personal knowledge can be vital components of economic relationships.

The development of guanxi is not something that takes place instantly, and this can be one of the frustrating aspects of doing business in China for non-Asians who are accustomed to striking a deal and moving on.

Most guanxi relationships are based on individuals’ having something in common, a phenomenon called tong in Chinese. The commonalities may be the fact of having attended or graduated from the same school, having the same place of employment, working in the same industry, or coming from the same village or region. Guanxi relationships have a strong emotional element, something easily overlooked by outsiders.

The essence of guanxi is that each relationship carries with it a set of expectations and obligations for each participant. A guanxi relationship may lead a person to feel obligated to help someone. Those who meet these obligations gain face and status and expand their guanxi network. Refusing to help is a sign of inhumanity and can bring disgrace. Guanxi involves the notion of honor and respect, two core values in Chinese society.

There are a variety of customs and practices in the West that reflect concepts similar to those used to explain guanxi, concepts and rules that define the relationship between individuals and groups. For example, traditionally European etiquette required a person to be introduced by a mutual acquaintance, never simply to strike up a conversation with a stranger, even at a private event.

Nonetheless, in the West ties tend to be less strong, less structured, and less based on expectations. Old or distant relationships are also less important in the West than they are in China.

The main reason is that Western People are acting on the short term. They want to strike a deal and move on.They still have not learnt from the results that came out of a tournament that was organised to solve the so called iterated Prisoners Dilemma.

The Prisoners Dillema is a game in which two players may each “cooperate” with or “defect” (i.e. betray) the other player. If two players play the Prisoner’s dilemma more than once in succession (that is, having memory of at least one previous game), it is called iterated Prisoner’s dilemma. Robert Axelrod created popular interest in his book The Evolution of Cooperation (1984).

The best strategy was Tit for Tat, developed by Anatol Rapoport. It was the simplest of any program entered. When you use Tit for Tat the only thing you have to do is offer cooperation. If the other is not cooperating retaliate, forgive and start to cooperate all over again.

I think you understand what I want to show. If we involve the Chinese notions of honor and respect, offer cooperation, forgive and (this is very important) leave people that don’t do this out of our networks we will create a cohesive and functioning economy.

It is simple! Just as simple as the Strategy of Tit-for-Tat and just as simple like many other things in life.


About the Extended Family

About Social Cohesion

A Practical Approach to Create a Balanced Community

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

The current generation of programmers are doing what Edsger Wybe Dijkstra hoped not would happen. They are the cause of the mess we are in. They forgot to keep the balance between structure (Thinking) and meaning (Emotion).

The Managers of the Programmers are “out of tricks” and have become cynical. They don’t believe there is a way out. They are “muddling trough”, reacting on every major critical event with an impulsive re-action. It will be hard to convince them that there is a solution to their problems.

The major target are the Users within or the Customers of the companies. They feel very stressed and don’t have a clue why this is happening to them.

Their asset is that they Know How they are doing their job and they are able to Articulate What they are Doing. The only thing they don’t see is the Cycle. They are Part of a Whole without seeing it. This is normal.

When we ask the User what they are doing we give them a simple tool to paint a picture of the flow of their activities. If they have done this we generate the processes that are supporting them instantly. This will motivate them to go on.

In the next step we make a connection between Action and Meaning. We ask the user to define the meaning of the terms they are using. We could use Wiki. Wiki makes it possible to start a dialogue about the meaning.

This dialogue will create mutual understanding (Consensus) and in the end a Shared Convention, a mapping of meaning from person to person, culture (community, context) to culture (community, context). The next step is to transform Meaning into Structure.

The person that was an expert in the transformation of meaning to structure was Sjir Nijssen. He developed a method called NIAM. NIAM has generated many dialects called ORM, FORM, RIDDLE, FCO-IM and DEMO.

The basic idea of all these methods is to analyze human communication in terms of the sentences we speak and the commitments humans make to the each other.

NIAM takes out of a sentence the verbs (Action) and the nouns (Structure) and of course the numbers and creates a semantic model (the so called Universe of Discourse).

What Nijssen understood was that a computer is able to register Facts (reality we agree upon). The facts are stored in memory. If we all agree about the facts we can use them to start reasoning.

When we know what the user is doing and what he means we can move to other actors he has defined in his activity-diagram. We just perform the same process over and over again. Every time a new user (actor, role) is added we restart the dialogue about meaning.

At a certain point in this process of inquiry we will notice that the meaning in the context is stabilized. It has turned into a shared convention. What we also will notice is that a faint cycle (or a cycle in a cycle) becomes visible.

It will be full of strange loops and useless activities. Some people in the context will produce and others will just throw away what the others are producing. They don’t know because they don’t communicate on the level of their community.

This is the moment to start a new dialogue. The dialogue of Reflection (Why?). We are able to show to the actors in the community the whole. We call this tool a Monitor.

We will give them the opportunity to start a shared process of innovation (using the imagination). We can give them tools to Explore, to Design new activities and to Analyze the Facts (find patterns). We can even give them tools to Play with (games, simulator). All the time the Monitor will show them the state of their joint effort. I am certain the community will clean itself, get into balance, with joy.

In communities and organizations and of course society there are many stable invisible infrastructures. The visual activities of the users have to be connected to these layers. This has to be done by programmers. They have to define interfaces. User-Data is converted into messages that jump out of the layer when a human interference (mostly a decision) is really needed.

The consequences of this approach will be enormous. Many people will be out of work but they will be needed in the next step of Collective Innovation.

Want to read more about Dijkstra

Why Cycles Feel like Bah, Bach, Beat or Beach Boys

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007
Everybody knows the Cycle of the Seasons. The seasons are created because the Earth is cycling the Sun. In Winter we are introspective and mostly stay inside our house.
In Summer we are very active (extravert) at the outside of our house. In Autumn we become moody and in Spring we start to plan. We are structure-ring. Centers are moving around centers and everybody understands that the movement of the Sun and the Moon affects our body.

We can dig deeper and deeper and all the time new centers appear (organs, cells, molecules, atoms,….). The same applies when we move up (Galaxies, Universe, …).

Human beings share many centers but at a certain point they are also are disconnected. We are disconnected by our bodies and our cultures.

To connect we have to start a dialogue. Dialogues show themselves in many ways. The dialogue of speech is a very visible dialogue. An invisible dialogue is the exchange of signals of the body (eyes, face, movement of hands and intonation of speech).

When we move down or move up all the cycles are invisible. We don’t have the senses to sense them. Science has developed instruments (microscope, telescope, cyclotron, ..) to make them visible.

Please remember that the instruments are created by programmers and are therefore producing an illusion. The programmers have programmed scientific theory in a machine. The Galaxy the Hubble Telescope is showing is an image of the Galaxy. It is not the Galaxy itself.

A cycle moves through stages and the stages are the stages of the seasons: Imagination (Winter), Structure (Spring), Action (Summer), Center (Consciousness, Indian Summer) and Meaning (Autumn)). The stages can be found on every level of the Self-Referencing enfolding Field.

Perhaps you think that I want you to stop structure-ring. Structure-ring is creating an Illusion and if we go on we will end up in a total Illusion called Virtual Reality. Our bodies will be connected to a very advanced simulator.

We will be feeded by the System and our muscles will be trained by the System. Perhaps we will live for-ever and never die. We will be living in a world without resistance, playing very complex games and enjoy this. This is predicted in science-fiction and we are not far away from this.

The only thing we forget is that somebody has to get into action when the computer stops because of a software-failure or when the energy-system stops. Those people are not able to enjoy the Simulator.

Perhaps the experts will simply stop the System and start to enjoy life themselves (Terrorists). We have to prevent doing this and we need Security Systems and Systems to control the Security Systems and in the end we simply don’t know how to solve this problem. We have fallen in the trap of complexity.

Focusing on one aspect of the Cycle will always create a disaster. Ideas have to be implemented. There is no meaning (Emotion) without getting into Action. We can only create Harmony when we Balance all the five aspects of the Cycle.

The beautiful thing of a cycle is that we are able to map the cycle into another domain called waves. Remember sinus and co-sinus at school. A moving rotating cycle is a wave.

To balance a cycle we have to feel the harmony of the waves it is producing. Harmonic Cycles produce Harmonic Waves and Harmonic waves are called Music. So now you know why some cycles feel like Bah, Bach, Beat or Beach Boys. They resonate or don’t resonate with your musical mood.

Want to know how this can be implemented in a software-environment

Want to know how this is implemented in your body?

Things you Cannot Buy

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

To define a long term strategy, we have to predict the future. To predict the future we have to understand the past. The longer we look back, the better we can look forward.

Everything is determinated by cycles. A well know cycle is the Kondratiev. This is the cycle of Innovation. Its cycles-time is about 53 years.

Fifty years ago a new innovation in computing was emerging, the IBM 360. The 360, the All Purpose Computer, became a standard in computing.

A hundred years ago the big factories of Ford and Taylor were dominating the world. It is not difficult to see that the IBM 360 was the next step in the ideal of Taylor to produce a fully mechanized production-facility.

Funny enough the most important innovation of our time, The Internet, can be seen as an IBM 360 where the connectors between the processors (now called servers) are far away.

The capacity of the current network, transporting the standardized (XML-)messages from server to server is so enormous that is it almost possible to work real-time.

Does this mean that the next step of Innovation will be one central operating system that is controlling the Internet?

To find out what will happen we have to look at a new long term cycle, the cycle of Culture. Its periodicity is about 250 years. 250 years ago we are in the time of the French Revolution.

The bourgeoisie (the new entrepreneurs) hated the decadent Kings and the people took over the Power (Liberté, Égalité, and Fraternité). In the end the Centralized State, its centralized institutions, and finally the Centralized Companies were created. At this moment we are in a comparable situation.

The Central State en the big companies are, just like the Kings in the 18th Century, loosing their power. The People, now called customers, are looking for an alternative.

The big Companies are showing ‘decadent” behavior. They are wasting valuable resources ((tax) money) and are delivering a low quality of service. The customers (and the citizens) are highly dissatisfied. If nothing is done the possibility of a new Revolution is not zero.

In software, we see the rising of the Open-Source Movement. It is a rebellion against the power of the big software companies (especially Microsoft). We are in a time of reconstruction and it will take many years before the new stable infrastructure will arise (called Web 2.0).

Of course Google will be a certain winner. It will be one of the major worldwide Powers of IT for a long time. They are centralizing the Internet.

If we look for the short term we can use the Juglar cycle (10 years). This cycle predicts a movement from Individuality (I do it Myself) to the Collective (Let’s do it together). 

Collaboration will be a major issue the next ten years. Google is utilizing this trend by buying many companies that are offering “sharing services”.

The interesting question is Will Google win or will the Open Source Movement win?

My intuition tells it will be the last one. The Open Source Movement is much more flexible in their response. Google is rich and will become richer. The Open Source Movement is not based on money but on enthusiasm (Spirit) and E-motivation (Soul) and a very important point Craftsmanship. These are things you cannot buy.

The Comeback of the Extended Family

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Your daughter phones you. She is trained to become a nurse. She wants to practice in a hospital in South Africa. She has a Shortage of money and is not able to pay for the airplane-ticket. She asks for a loan. You give her the money because you can afford it and of course you love her.

What will happen if she goes to a bank? The Authorisator looks at her account and tells her that unfortunately a loan is not possible. When you go to the bank a nice person (your Account Manager) will tell you what products they offer when you have a Surplus of money.

The main difference between a bank and a family is that a family is based on trust. A bank is based on mis-trust. A small percentage of their clients did not pay back the loan. They don’t want to make this mistake again.

The family and the extended family (tribe) were, for a very long time, responsible for raising and educating children and created structures of moral and financial support.

In the Western Culture the extended family is replaced by the Institution, a Rule Based System, created by Programmers. The system is trying to match shortages (money, people, resources, and needs) and surpluses (money, people, resources, ideas). It has fallen into the trap of complexity.

Institutions are replaced by the most natural form of cooperation, the Extented Family (The Community).

Trust is created by showing Honesty, Understanding the Other and Keeping the Promise You Make. The Community makes the system simple and effective again because it operates on a human scale.

New innovative cooperative banks are emerging where human beings are a having a dialogue about their shortages and surpluses. Of course they use invisible Payment-Infrastructure as a stable layer to build on.

Do you want to read more about this subject

How the Programmer stopped the Dialogue

Friday, July 6th, 2007

A dialogue is a cyclic process where two humans are trying to understand what the other is meaning. The final test of their mutual understanding is activity. If this activity fails they have a reason to start a new cycle. If the activity succeeds they are in the flow.

A failure starts the process of imagination. It generates an idea. If one of them treats the failure as a mistake the collaboration stops and they are in a conflict. At that moment collaboration changes into competition if they are unable to solve the conflict. A successful chain of collaboration-cycles (mistakes) leads to innovation and to the feeling of joy.

If we program a dialogue meaning is transformed into a structure. Meaning is fluent. A structure is fixed. Water turns into ice. The warmth of the cooperation cools down. Activities are changed into procedures, rules to obey.

A long time ago people told stories and enjoyed them. They lived in a secure environment and the others were unknown. They lived far beyond the horizon. When people started to move around the world they started to write letters. Sometimes it took many months to complete a dialogue-cycle.

The cycle-time of the dialogue was shortened by invention of the postal system. The postman collected the letters and sorted the letters by destination. The letters were transported to a destination where the reverse process took place. The postman became a social person in the area he addressed. Everyday he walked the same cycle and new everything that happened in his neighborhood.

The content was secured by a small container (an envelop). The envelop was identified by the destination of the sender and the receiver. Because of the innovation of the transportation-system the cycle-time of the dialogue shortened. Horses and carriages changed into trains and planes. The shape of the container changed but the postman staid and made his roundtrip.

In the last phase the programmers started to act. Trains and planes were controlled by time-tables and more advanced tools. The role of the machinist, the trucker, the pilot and finally the postman changed from innovative collaborating human being into people that were dominated by a machine. They have to obey the procedure. They are controlled by the software-system and when the software fails they fail but they are unable to learn from their mistakes and start a new dialogue. The programmer is far away and cannot be reached.

Finally the letter is transformed into an email and people are bombarded by messages (spam, advertisement) they don’t want to receive. The dialogue has stopped.

The Email has not only stopped the dialogue. It has also destroyed the art of writing. People don’t take the time to reflect and get to the essence of the message they want to send back.

When they are stressed their return-message (an Email) is an impulsive reaction. Sometimes it generates a conflict and they really don’t know why. They also don’t have an idea how to solve the conflict and move to the level of mutual understanding again.

Do you want to know Why we need a Dialogue?

Why we think we understand and don’t know we don’t understand

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

People have to communicate to collaborate. Many people think communication is about sending and receiving a message.

What they don’t see is that to understand the message it has to be interpreted. Aldous Huxley has formulated the problem in a simple sentence: “Every man has his own universe”. We are a unique product of all the interactions in our life and a word has a different meaning to a different person.

A meaning is a unique interpretation of a message the other is sending. If we program a communication between a program and a human or a program to a program we encounter this problem all the time.

The interpretation needs a standard, a convention we agree on. This convention is learned by a human being and agreed upon when we program.

The big problem is that there are many conventions at the level of the human (called a culture) and in the programming community. Most of the time we don’t know what convention is used.

The effect is mis-understanding and this is exactly what happened between the programmer and the designer, the lady in the call centre and the software she is using and the lady in de call centre and the customer.

We think we understand but we don’t understand and the big problem is that we don’t know that we are mis-understandig. The only way to solve this problem is to start a dialogue.

Do you want to know what happens when the Dialogue is stopped?

About The Illusion of Collaboration

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

I want to focus on the “Programmer in You”. With the “Programmer in You” I mean the capability of the human being to structure, to program his life and his environment.

Usually we call this ability Thinking. I hope you agree that a human being has more capabilities like Feeling, Imagining, Sensing and Consciousness. We imagine we can program them into a machine.

I want to play in a very small domain. We call this domain a context, an environment or an ecology. To make it very simple we imagine only two human beings.

To evolve the context they have the possibility to cooperate, to dominate the other or the work alone. This is also happening in large contexts.

Companies have a choice to compete, to cooperate or to work alone. Personally I don’t think the last possibility is realistic in the current situation. To make things more simple we assume that cooperation is the best way to act.

The question I want to raise is “Is it possible to cooperate by using the ability “Thinking”? The answer is simply no. We need the other faculties also.

We have to sense the environment, be creative when something happens we don’t expect and we have to evaluate possible actions. Emotions evaluate and expectations are related to thinking about the future.

When we only have the faculty of a Programmer the only thing we can do is to program (think about) senses, emotions and action. This is a very important insight.

When we are programming we are programming everything but what we program is not what exists in reality. Programmed senses are not comparable to our real senses. They are a subset, a model of reality and a computer is a beautifull tool to implement a model and nothing more.

So if we program Collaboration we are creating something very special. We are creating a thought (the effect of thinking). We are creating the Illusion of Collaboration.

This does not mean that the Illusion of Collaboration is blocking Collaboration. To collaborate in real life we have to use our other faculties also.