Three Great Jobs in the Fourth Xerox Revolution

In the history of innovation, Xerox (where I work) has starred in three stories so far: Xerography, personal computing and production digital printing. The first created the modern workplace, the second destroyed and recreated it. The third, probably the least familiar to end-consumers, since it is an industrial technology, might end up topping the first two — the technology is on the verge of dethroning the venerable Gutenberg press. But that’s all old hat. Let’s talk about how Xerox is poised to launch a FOURTH history-making disruption (*gasp*, most companies have trouble doing it once): making social media grow up from its chicken-throwing infancy (sorry Facebook widget coders; couldn’t resist that dig!), and turning the world of services-work upside down. And how, if you have the right skills, you can join my buddies and me in the eye of the perfect storm. Call this a Job Posting 2.0, or a Kool-Aid infomercial — I am helping recruit for 3 seriously exciting positions in the lab I work in. The kind for which you should ditch your startup idea.
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Outsider Innovation 101

This article is an introduction to an idea — outsider innovation — whose time has come. I’ll present the idea, and along the way include short reviews of three fun books about innovation (Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko, Make us More Innovative by Jeffery Phillips, and Awake at the Wheel by Mitch Ditkoff) that belong at what I would call the 101 level. These are books that treat the subject at extremely basic levels, compared to the advanced end of the literature that full-time researchers like me try to keep up with (and which I review more often here). I almost decided not to review them, until I suddenly realized, while taking a walk, why such books are extremely important today in enabling an economy based on true ‘innovation everywhere’ principles. Or as I prefer to call it at its current stage of evolution, ‘outsider innovation,’ by analogy to outsider art. If you are an ‘insider’ this article should help you prepare for the coming ‘outsider’ fueled models. If you are an outsider eagerly awaiting the democratization of innovation, and itching to one-up us smug PhDs, this should help you get started.

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Information Overload and the FOOD IS THOUGHT Metaphor

If you’ve ever used phrases like, “that’s serious food for thought” or “I need to digest that” or “there’s no meat on that argument,” you’ve used the FOOD IS THOUGHT (FIT) conceptual metaphor. In this piece, I hope to convince you that there is no such thing as information overload — it is an imaginary problem that goes away once you learn to think about information with the FIT metaphor. It takes some time, practice and acceptance of a different approach to getting value out of information. Let me explain.

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The Evolution of Work-Life

Most people think of only one notion relating work and life: the work-life balance notion. You and I of course, are smarter, and we know that the relationship has been evolving over time. Here’s a picture of this evolution. I’ll leave it for you to figure out how to correlate this to generational attitudes and important technological enabling events.


(Feel free to use the graphic for your own purposes. Linkbacks appreciated).

Megacommunities and Macrotrends

Big and complex problems sometimes do require require big and complex solutions. This thought was hammered home for me powerfully last week by way of a triple-punch: a conference I was attending, a book I was reading, and the earthquake in China. The conference was the IRI Annual Meeting, where I was part of a panel of speakers on the theme of “Networked World.” The theme of the conference was “Macrotrends Creating Opportunities.” On the flight out and back, I was reading Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today’s Global Challenges Together by Mark Gerencser, Reginald Van Lee, Fernando Napolitano and Christopher Kelly, all consultants with Booz Allen Hamilton. The book is among the most original, thoughtful and necessary books I have read in a long time. Reading it at this particular conference underlined its importance even more. As for the earthquake, the deep connections between global and local today also hit home, since a Chinese colleague at work was directly affected. I actually happened to mention earthquakes in my talk to make a particular point, before I caught up with the developing news.

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What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

I am not much of a video game fan, but I’ve noticed that skills you learn that enable you to kill the aliens at Level 1 often become liabilities at Level 2. Everyday life in a corporation, unfortunately, is not quite as explicit as your favorite video game in signaling level changes. Wouldn’t it be nice if one fine day, when you boot up in the morning, you get a big message saying, “You are now in Level 2” instead of the Windows welcome screen? Wishful thinking aside, Marshall Goldsmith’s “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” is as good a guide as you could hope for, for navigating Level changes in the career game. The book is interesting whether you are an obsessed careerist who wants to “Get There,” or merely curious about workplace psychology and sociology (I put myself in the latter bucket; being “There” seems like a lot of work, though I don’t mind occasional tourist visits).

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Art for Thought

Conversations about ‘what is art?’ bore me. Conversations about ‘what is art for?’ on the other hand, I find arresting. I have a simple answer that works for me: in the ‘food for thought’ metaphor, art is the vitamin A. It is what enables your mind to see. This is not an original take on art — there is a beautiful little book by John Berger called Ways of Seeing that explores this attitude. Let me develop this theme by way of an extended riff on three pieces from the art of Amy Lin (all images used with permission. You can see more of Amy’s art at her Website).

Amy Lin Affinity Space Unknown

Left to right: `Affinity 4.1′, `Space’ and `Unknown’

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Jump Point by Tom Hayes

Tom HayesJump Point, a recent addition to the emerging World 2.0 canon presents an argument that evokes a foggy sort of deja vu. If you’ve been keeping up with the literature, you’ll probably frown a bit and think, “wait, this is familiar, somebody’s said this before.” But as you process the argument, you’ll realize that though it is fairly straightforward, and something others have flirted with (The World is Flat and Wikinomics being the prominent ones), nobody has said it quite this way before. The argument is this — we won’t feel the full-scale impact of the Internet until penetration levels are near complete. At that point, we’ll see a massive structural impact on the world that will make what we’ve seen so far pale in comparison. For Hayes, the critical moment is the moment when the 3 billionth human gets connected to the Internet (which current projections suggest will happen around 2011). The number 3 billion isn’t arbitrary — it is roughly the size of the global workforce. So Hayes’ argument is that something dramatic will happen when the world’s workforce gets completely wired. What and Why are the subjects of the book.

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The Sage of Ribbonfarm #3

Sage 3

Have a gag to suggest? Send it in with a quick description of the visual, along with your punchline.

Ronald Coase and Salvation from Anthropological Economics

Economics as a subject has never enjoyed healthier times — a universe of Freakonomics clones is appearing and the subject is galloping along in popularity as an undergraduate major. Yet, these are also the most worrisome times ever for the subject, because it is in danger of losing sight of the big mission — building conceptual models of the economy at large — that makes it so valuable to the rest of us. I’ll explain why it is a problem, and how the coming of The Chosen One, a descendant of Ronald Coase, can get economics back on track addressing the important problems of our century. Let’s start with a little family tree.

Economists Social Network

(portraits by Yurij Alexander)

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