I got an email over the weekend from a colleague asking if we could include Metaphors as a theme for 2013 under our organizational change management initiatives. And what do I find in my twitter time line on Monday morning? An article from MIT Sloan that talks about the research findings on the use of analogies and metaphors in innovation adoption & change management! Increasing your social surface area definitely increases serendipity. 🙂
Analogies and metaphors help people understand newer concepts and ideas by relating them to something familiar. This helps in adoption of innovations, in change. In fact, how close a new technology is to the old one is an important factor determining the speed of adoption. On the face of disruptive innovations like SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud), which are very different from traditional enterprise systems, analogies and metaphors are pretty powerful.
The MIT Sloan article talks about how the Insurance Industry introduced various analogies at different stages of change (Assimilation, Analysis, Adaptation) to drive adoption of computers – as tabulation machines (data entry terminals) initially, then as brains (data storage as memory & data process as information management).
And this made me think what could be the analogies for the SMAC stack. A good friend of mine, Esteban Kolsky, once suggested that to make people understand Social, Mobile, Big Data and Cloud replace these terms with Channels, Devices, Analytics and Data Center and the understanding becomes a lot easier. Yes, that was very helpful to me initially. But the more I started analysing them and looked at adapting them to business needs this analogy failed me. It started limiting me.
And then today I got a ping on Facebook chat from someone whom I had friended long ago via twitter and then only interacted via Facebook news feeds. I was surprised to see him on my FB chat and out of the blue at that. He asked me to weigh in on a concept he is developing called the mind colonies. And he uses this metaphor to explain it:
“Imagine you are looking at Planet Earth from the Moon. Imagine nerves running all over spherical Earth. Notice human minds like dots pulsating and sending signals between them. Some nerve connections are bold , some are dotted. Some minds are emitting a lot, some nothing, some in-between. Some nerves have lots of noise/resistance/signal loss, some are flowing smoothly and rapidly like cholesterol-free arteries, some in-between.“
He then defines mind colonies thus: “Mind colonies are trust and spirit-rich, self-sustaining, blended-media networked mind exchanges for shared-ethos groups. Energetic full-time hosts catalyse minds in a mind grid to learn, work, play and complement each other. The catalysing currency is a colony equivalent of Diners Card (alternative currency).”
My initial fire-from-the-hip reaction was to exclaim that this can be helpful in the concept of co-creation. There’s more detail in this page if you are interested, but for me, the image of mind colonies is now strong & indelible. That I believe is what SMAC can be. And that is what Howard Rheingold talks about in his great Kindle Single – “Mind Amplifier: Can Our Digital Tools Make Us Smarter?” – which I recommend to all of you.
Serendipity must definitely be thick around me – Kumar’s suggestion to include metaphors under OCM, closely followed by the MIT article and now this request to apply my mind to the concept of ‘mind colonies’. If I were SRK, I could definitely claim that the universe is conspiring for me. 😉