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Posted May 4, 2012 11:26 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ This week's links are about transition and change, but we begin with something that won't change—the need for real human interaction—and Ed Keller and Brad Fay's column in the USA Today on how Facebook can't replace face-to-face conversation.
It is easy to see Facebook's success as a sign of dramatic change—in technology and in human relations. But a deeper look suggests that Facebook's rise is merely Exhibit A of a much larger truth: Our modern society is not providing people with the human connections they crave, and online social networking is a rather poor substitute. [...]
Social media has helped us rediscover the power of "social." But the richest social gold mine is literally right under our noses: in the word-of-mouth conversations that happen in our kitchens and living rooms, next to the office water cooler, and on the sidelines of youth sporting events. These are the places where we actually live our lives.
Facebook is a fine way to find long-lost friends and exchange tidbits of information and recommendations. But if we want to promote real change—as in our politics, public policies and cultural behavior—it's best we do it face to face.
If you're interested in more on this topic, Keller and Fay have a wonderfully researched and well written book coming out later this month that explores and celebrates the social nature of human beings entitled The Face-To-Face Book.
➻ Pulling the lens back to view the ways in which nations interact, let's head over to the Wall Street Journal and visit with Ian Bremmer, author of Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in A G-Zero World. Hi thesis is that The Future Belongs to the Flexible.
In the years ahead, forget about much-discussed artificial groupings like the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the so-called "Next 11" (N11), a roster of potential powerhouses that includes Turkey and South Korea but also political powder kegs like Pakistan, Nigeria and Iran.
In our emerging G-Zero world, with no single power able to set the agenda, the winners and losers of the next generation will be determined not by the rubrics of the moment but by how well and often they are able to pivot.
If you do head over to the original article, you'll also find a 10 minute interview he gave to WSJ's John Bussey. Good stuff, all.
➻ As we leave the Wall Street Journal, let's turn to a fascinating piece in n+1 by Alexis Goldstein about Leaving Wall Street itself.
Wall Street is not a collection of 1 percenters maniacally laughing at the 99 percent they have crushed under their boot. No, Wall Street is far too self-absorbed to be concerned with the outside world unless it is forced to. But Wall Street is also, on the whole, a very unhappy place. While there is always the whisper that maybe you too can one day earn f***-you money, at the end of a long day, sometimes all you take with you are your misguided feelings of self-righteousness.
I am far from the only Wall Street employee ever to feel chewed up by the system, even as I worked to perpetuate it. Another ex-Wall Street employee described feeling like a “hyper-specialized pawn” who “worked all the time with little control” of her life, and “little personal satisfaction at the end of the day.” I, too, felt manipulated, and why shouldn’t I? That was the game, after all. I felt overworked, demotivated, and I was clearly doing nothing to help the world.
I was able to leave once I decided that my happiness was more valuable than money.
Goldstein is now a member of the Occupy movement.
➻ Julia Novitch had a really intriguing interview with Elihu Rubin at the Design Observatory yesterday about Public Space and the Skills of Citizenship, which brings us back again to the power of real human interaction and the continued importance of place in our increasingly digitally connected world.
We live in such a media-saturated age, especially in the devices so many of us carry around. We've lost touch with the idea that urban space is itself information technology. Urban space is media. Not just the architecture, but the sounds of the city, the smells of the city, the rhythms of the city—that's so much media. In my view, it’s a richer media than anything else that could be piped into our headsets or handsets, and I think that Occupy [Wall Street] helped people realize that again. Even though Occupy in New York was completely wired—there were people typing away in the media booth all the time—I think it also suggested a rediscovery of urban space as media and our openness to it. [...]
Social norms are being rewritten as people walk down the street sending text messages or listening to things in a headset. I think of Hemingway and others in Paris—they write, they paint, and then where do they go? They go to the public house or the cafe because that is their social media—that is their social network, and the technology for it is the café. It's a piece of information technology, and it functions in that way. Today, it's so much different. It's lovely to keep in touch with friends in these different ways—Facebook and the like—and we know from places where it's been activated politically how potent it can be. People point to Tahrir Square in Egypt as being a place where social media helped to catalyze a very physical revolution. But it really has changed forms of sociability immensely. People are choosing to use the technology of the phone handset to stay connected to a world in which they're more comfortable, as opposed to opening themselves up to encounters, experiences and visual sensations that exist in the city itself. So I send my students off on urban drift. That's taken from the 1950s French art group, the Situationists, who would roam around Paris en dérive—on drift—which is a willful, active disorientation in order to begin picking up the social material of the city. I do that because I think we gain a lot from this active disorientation. Our tolerance for getting lost and disoriented is waning. We have all the maps on our phones now. Yes, there's uneven access to this information, but it's becoming more and more pervasive across many different class groups—so that you're always getting where you want to go. You already know where you want to go, as opposed to discovering new things.
You could say the same thing of how we move around the Internet, how we consume news and other media. It's great to have so much information at our fingertips, but if it's completely reinforcing your established position, if we never leave our ideological and aesthetic homes, we run the risk of intellectual agoraphobia.
➻ The power of place and strength of cities bring us to our last link of the day, from Richard Florida and Business Insider, about how It's Up To The Cities To Bring America Back.
The real key to unleashing our creativity lies in humanity’s greatest invention—the city. Cities are veritable magnetrons for creativity. Great thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs—the Creative Class writ large—have always clustered and concentrated in cities. Deeper in our past the concentration of people in cities not only powered advances in agriculture, but led to the basic innovations in tool-making and the rudimentary arts that came to define civilization.
The past century or so was a giant step backward on this score. Once-great cities became veritable hostages of the old industrial order, which put housing and cars before people, spurred suburban sprawl, emptying many cities in the process, and then promoted faux urban renewal around white elephant sports stadiums, convention centers, Disneyfied malls, and now even casinos.
But cities are coming back, fueled by the mass migration of talent and creative people. The nerdistan model of high-tech suburbia (Silicon Valley, the Route 128 beltway) is shifting towards urban tech as young engineers, innovators, and venture capital have started flowing to places like downtown San Francisco and New York, inner city Boston, and London and Berlin. The reason is simple: real cities have real neighborhoods. They are filled with the flexible old buildings that are ideal for incubating new ideas. They are made up of mixed use, pedestrian scale neighborhoods that literally push people out into the street, cafes and other third places, encouraging the serendipitous interactions, the constant combinations and recombinations that result in new ideas, new businesses and new industries.
Some may call this a pipe dream of an out-of-this-world urban creative utopia. I assure you it is not. It is already emerging in the here and now, powered by the very logic of our rapidly evolving knowledge economy.
A revised and updated version of Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class will be releases in June by Basic Books.
➻ If we can just piece it all together and catch the light like a stained glass window.
Every Nation for Itself, An Excerpt
Posted April 30, 2012 11:01 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
One of the real stand-out successes in business books of 2010 was Ian Bremmer's The End of the Free Market. It stood out because it wasn't a typical business book—it seemed like something more likely to come out of Foreign Affairs than Portfolio—and there wasn't much precedent for a book of its type being a big commercial hit in the genre.
His previous book, The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall was a critical success, selected by The Economist as one of the best books of 2006, and got him on some of the cable talk shows, but The End of the Free Market turned into a national bestseller. I mean, here was a nuanced and wonky text by the founder of a political risk consultancy about the growing schism between free markets and state capitalism around the world, and where on that continuum states around the world fall, that forecast a potential economic showdown between the two systems—pretty heady, dense material—and it was a hit! People ate it up. To call it's success a surprise is probably an understatement—despite how well connected its author may be.
This week, Portfolio is releasing Bremmer's follow-up to that success, Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in A G-Zero World, and we're fortunate to have an excerpt for you. From the book's introduction, here is Ian Bremmer:
Not to worry, say those who herald the "rise of the rest." As established powers sink into late middle age, a new generation of emerging states will create a rising tide that lifts all boats. Increasingly dynamic China, India, Brazil, Turkey and other emerging markets will fuel the world's economic engine for many years to come. Americans and Europeans can take comfort, we're told, that other states will do a larger share of the heavy-lifting as their own economic engines rattle forward at a slower pace. Unfortunately, rising powers aren't yet ready to take them on either. For now, governments of emerging states will instead be focused on managing the next critical stages of their own economic development.
In a world where so many challenges transcend borders—from the stability of the global economy and climate change to cyber-attacks, terrorism, and the security of food and water—the need for international cooperation has never been greater. Cooperation demands leadership. Leaders have the leverage to coordinate multinational responses to transnational problems. They have the wealth and power to persuade other governments to take actions they wouldn't otherwise take. They pick up the checks that others can't afford and provide services no one else will pay for. On issue after issue, they set the international agenda. These are responsibilities that the West is now much less able to afford and that emerging powers are not ready to accept.
Nor are we likely to see leadership from global institutions. At the height of the financial crisis in November 2008, political leaders of the world's most influential established and emerging countries gathered in Washington under the banner of the G20, the expanded group of leading economic powers. The G20 helped limit the damage, but the sense of collective crisis soon lifted, cooperation quickly evaporated, and G20 summits have since produced virtually nothing of substance. Nor are institutions like the UN Security Council, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank likely to provide real leadership, because they no longer reflect the world's true balance of political and economic power.
If not the West, the rest, or the institutions where they come together, who will lead? The answer is no one. Neither the once-dominant G7 nor the unworkable G20. We have entered the G-Zero, a world in which, for the first time since the end of World War II, there is no single power or alliance of powers ready to take on the challenges of global leadership.
[Every Nation for Itself] is not about the decline of the West, because America and Europe have overcome adversity before and are well-equipped over the long run to do it again. Nor is it about the rise of China and other emerging market players, because the governments of these countries now stand on the verge of tremendous tests at home. Not all of them will continue to rise, and it will take much longer than anyone expects for those that emerge to prove their staying power. This is a book about a world in transition, one that is especially vulnerable to crises that appear suddenly and from unexpected directions. Nature still hates a vacuum, and the G-Zero won't last forever. But over the next decade and perhaps longer, a world without leaders will undermine our ability to keep the peace, to expand opportunity, to reverse the impact of climate change, and to feed growing populations. Its effects will be felt in every region of the world—and even in cyberspace.
Copyright © Ian Bremmer, 2012
All rights reserved
Reprinted by arrangement with Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright (c) Ian Bremmer, 2012.
About the Author
Ian Bremmer is a president of Eurasia Group, the world's leading global politcal risk research and consulting firm. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek and Foreign Affairs. His most recent books include The J Curve and The End of the Free Market. He lives in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Posted April 6, 2012 9:20 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ I suppose I should cover the big news in eBooks this week, but as Google Ends Their eBook Agreement with Indies and Apple Finally Meets Its Match (Hint: It's Called the DOJ), the landscape looks as unsure as ever and I really don't know what to think or write about it all. (I do wonder if Google's decision has anything to do with the Google, Asustek plan to co-brand a 7-inch tablet PC that it sounds like we'll be seeing soon.) Maybe I'll head down to Chicago to see Nicholas Carr's talk about A History of the Future of the Book and report back to you all.
➻ Or how about a video of Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about "how important it is to be sensitive to someone’s current state of mind when you are trying to teach or persuade."
Being an educator is not only getting the truth right, but there has to be an act of persuasion in there, as well. Persuasion isn't always, "Here's the facts; you're either an idiot or you're not." It's, "Here are the facts and ... a sensitivity to your [audiences'] state of mind. And it's the facts plus the sensitive, when convolved together, [that] creates impact.
He made this point as a slight rebuke to Richard Dawkins "articulately barbed" teaching methods. To counter, and to show that there are worse approaches than his, Dawkins quotes a former editor of New Scientist magazine who, when asked what the philosophy of the magazine was, replied:
Our philosophy at New Scientist is this: Science is interesting, and if you don't agree you can f*** off."
It's worth watching the video just to hear Dawkins curse.
➻ You could also listen in as Charlie Rose talks about business in China with Zhang Xin, CEO of Soho China, and two Portfolio authors—David Novak, CEO of Yum Brands and author of Taking People With You, and Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group and author of End of the Free Market and Every Nation for Itself. Brilliant people and conversation.
We stumble into things, lose our grip on other things, go to Japan or don’t go to Japan, whichever would be more indicative of life’s tendency to expel us from our dreams, and yet once in a great while we connect in such a way that there is no feeling whatsoever, the bat meeting the ball just right, no mind, big mind, and we round the bases, tracing an imperfect oval with our route, a woozy zero, our misshapen bliss. ... Breathe out. You are chained to the world.
And the Brewers are on the field as I type this, Bob Uecker telling me about it in my headphones.
➻ The birth of a book, a beautiful thing.