Chairman Ed

Connecting people, ideas and processes

24X7 Global Zoom Conversations?

Jamien of has been doing 24 hour Zoom conversations on Fridays for several months to discuss environmental and food issues.

A comment he made in an email yesterday made me wonder.

Will 24X7 global Zoom conversations be how CNN evolves?

Could 24X7 conversations about solving global problems replace 24X7 announcements of global problems?

The Stranger in Me

Who is this person who celebrates? Who sings with joy? Who laughs with ease? Who is this child? In this aging body?

What is the name of this child? What do I call this soon to be 4-year-old? Born on a hospital gurney, shocked into life, after being impregnated by the hands of a pretty blonde nurse, who kept the aging body alive by energizing, my heart, by her vigorous touch, until the child, was ready to emerge.

The child emerges back into consciousness without memory of the touch, and forever grateful for the love infused into my heart.

Checkout our wiki is where we are accumulating knowledge about environmental technologies that need to be moved “out of the lab and into the world” so they can benefit humanity.

Also check out our blog, for news items about our progress to create a virtual global business accelerator for environmental technology.

I Feel Pain

I have to keep moving
I need to get back home
I feel real pain
It makes it hard to keep moving toward home
I see the trees
I know they can keep growing because of the sun and the earth
Can I keep growing?
How do I tap the sun and the Earth?

I have to keep moving
Even through all the pain
I need to get home
To the reassurances of bricks and mortar
And steel and wood and a sense of predictability and stability

I feel the pain
I feel others pain
I have to keep moving
Home is getting closer
Will I be able to make it
I feel the pain

Home is in sight
It’s still the same as I remember it
Will it remember me?
Through all this pain
Will I be able to find comfort at home?

I feel the pain in my body
How do I relieve it?
Is it only about money and food?
Security and discomfort?
Ego and rage?

Is the pain in my body, or my mind?
How would I know the difference?
Will being home be the same?
Or will it forever be different?


For more than a decade my work has been to ask questions of CEOs. Now I have new questions for them and for you.

If you hear a weather prediction, and you don’t like the forecast, can your actions have any impact on the weather that day?

If you hear a forecast about the Corona virus, can your actions impact the accuracy of that forecast?

Do you have the power by your actions, or lack of actions, to make the forecast come true, to be worse than forecast, or to be better than forecast?

Do you care enough about yourself, your family, your neighbors, your community, your country, our Earth, to use your power and take action?

Do you know enough about what actions to take to achieve the result you want? Do you want to make it better? Or, do you want to make it worse?

Do you want to argue about it? Do you want to learn what the impact of your actions can be? Do you know how to learn?

Do you really think you can make a difference? Do you have the confidence in what you learn, and how you learn, to act based on what you learn?

Do you have teachers and advisors, who will help you learn? Do you want to learn? Or, would you prefer to stick with your beliefs, even if the facts don’t support your beliefs?

Do you prefer to stay in denial of the facts? Do the facts make you angry? Do you think you can negotiate the facts?

Can you trust your teachers and advisors? Or, are they more interested in themselves and advancing their own interest, than caring about you?

Who cares about you? Who do you turn to when you need help and you’re afraid?

Are you afraid now? Can you admit that you’re afraid? Can you still feel strong and brave, if you admit you’re afraid?

Do you have any idea what you’re feeling? Are you in touch with your feelings? Can you put names to your feelings, and bring them into the daylight?

How long a list of feeling names can you make? How many of them would apply to this current chaotic situation?

Who do you trust to challenge your feelings and your beliefs? Do you trust what you read? Do you trust what you see on television? Do you trust anyone?

Will you let anyone challenge your feelings and beliefs? If you don’t, how will you be able to grow and adjust to rapidly changing circumstances?

If you can’t adapt, evolve and adjust to a new normal, how will you survive? How have other human beings adapted, evolved and survived through major catastrophes of all sorts?

Can you adapt from “either or” thinking? Could you evolve to “yes and” thinking? Can you credit other’s ideas and not just your own? Can you add their ideas to your ideas and collaborate? Cooperate?

Would the world be better if you did? Would the world be better if we all did?

Could the “yes and” meme spread around the world? Could it go viral?

Could we all become infected? Could we all begin cooperating and collaborating?

Could we change the consciousness of the whole world? Could we have better lives because we learned something from a virus?

Personal regards, Ed

Ed Yarrish

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

Telepresence Tourist

Telepresence robot

I have become fascinated by the possibilities of telepresence robots. There are a bevy of new companies that are making these machines.

You might imagine one as a Segway scooter with an iPad on top, except in this case instead of riding the scooter you are driving it from 100 or thousand miles away over the Internet. And, the iPad projects your image, or presence, in addition to bringing you sight and sound.

Actually there are a number of configurations of these devices that range in price from about $3000-$15,000 each. You can see some examples here.

A number of years ago I had the experience while talking with someone over a Skype video connection of having them carry their portable computer around and introducing me to people and showing me the convention facility where the person was working. Some years afterward I remember visually remembering this experience and feeling a certain amount of confusion, because I knew I had never been in that place with this person. Yet, in my visual memory it felt as if I had actually been there until I recognized it was this person acting as my telepresence robot and moving through this space to show me things.

I realized from this experience that when I eventually use one of these telepresence robots I’m going to have to create a new set of mental file folders for visual experiences at a distance. And, I also realized how interesting those experiences might be.

I’ve been to Paris, but I’ve never toured the Louvre Museum. I wonder what it would be like to tour it as a telepresence tourist? Could I wander down the halls with my remotely controlled presence and stop and enjoy artworks of particular interest? How would others react to my presence? How comfortable would the museum authorities be knowing that the person controlling this device was well beyond their physical, or perhaps even legal, reach?

Are there business opportunities for telepresence tourist agencies? Could the museum itself organize a fleet of these 21st century avatars and offer special tours at times when the museum might otherwise be closed, but that would be prime time for tourist many time zones away? With a globally aging population that might have strength or agility limitations, might these folks represent a new, untapped market for the museum? People could tour from the safety of their lounge chair, yet have much to talk about with others over dinner in the evening.

So, keep your eye out for telepresence robots. They may let us expand our world in new ways.

Where do you think the opportunities will emerge? What issues and concerns can you envision?

Network Organization Concepts and Tools

I am continuously looking for information that gives some indication of the development of tools and concepts related to new organizational forms, particularly network organizations.

I recently came across the TED video of a presentation by John Maeda, the president of Rhode Island School of Design. Although the video makes a number of interesting points about art, creativity and technology, two particular items related to network organization stood out for me.

His two column list from the video, shown below, contrasts two styles of leadership, Authoritative and Creative. For me, the list also reflects two styles of organization, hierarchical and network. This list is about the person and a similar list I produced in this earlier entry of mine contrasts characteristics of the organizational form.

Authoritative Leader Creative Leader
Symbol of Authority
More Sticks
Linear Path
Plan and Execute: Launching with 1.0
Sustaining Order
Yes or No (clear)
Literal in Tone
Concerned with Being Right
Think like a General or Conductor
Delegates Actions
Closed System
Close the Ranks
Follows the Manual
Loves to Avoid Mistakes
Orchestra Model
Community in Harmony
Wants to be Right
Open to Limited Feedback
Your Opinion Matters
Symbol of Inspiration
More Carrots
Nonlinear Path
Iterate and Do: Living in Beta
Taking Risks
Maybe (comfort with ambiguity)
Metaphorical in Tone
Concerned with Being Real
Think like an Artist or Designer
Hands-On Driven
Open System
Improvises when Appropriate
Loves to Learn from Mistakes
Jazz Ensemble
Community in Conversation
Hopes to be Right
Open to Unlimited Critique
What are You Really Thinking?

In the TED video at about 12 minutes, John Maeda demonstrates a software tool that provides ways to make the network of relationships within an organization apparent. It appears to be an interesting combination of network organization diagram and functions and skills that can be hidden or made visible based on the view you desire.

He seems to be realizing that organizational authority is changing, and he is experimenting with ways to put these realizations into practice. But, he is still trapped by the restrictions of the hierarchical organization he heads and all of the behaviors that are expected of him in his traditional role. He is advancing the cause of this new way of working, and organizational form, and he is also making it obvious that there is a long way to go before we understand the tools and behaviors necessary to fully benefit from network organizations.

Have you seen any similar information that illustrates concepts or tools related to network organizations?

Evolution of US Democracy

Are we stuck? Structurally stuck? Sometimes I feel that we are. Our democratic processes feel like they are stuck and not evolving.

We have evolved in the past. We changed the way senators were chosen. We removed structural barriers to voting based on gender, race and age. Now I wonder how we evolve in an age when information and communication tools potentially provide new options.

I wonder about senators. Does a compromise that was made several hundred years ago fit the reality of today’s world? How do we justify two senators in states like Rhode Island, Delaware and Wyoming, or others with smaller populations, when a large state like California also only has two senators? For that matter, do state boundaries themselves reflect the realities of how people live and work today?

I have a very difficult time imagining the process that would change either of those two conditions. It is hard to imagine the amount of sustained energy, perseverance and determination, let alone what interests could be brought together to cause it to happen, that could facilitate such change.

We want government to be stable and predictable. An unstable government is not a pretty thing, as we can see from headlines around the world. We created bureaucracy because it helps create stability and continuity across elections. Yet, when does that stability become hardening of the arteries?

Perhaps the more important question is how do we make sure our democracy keeps evolving so that we can avoid the violent transitions when governments cling to the past and do not evolve?

Two words that float in a growing word cloud of change vocabulary might give some hints about seeds of evolution – “engagement” and “collaboration”. The Internet has allowed us to move from silent consumers of information to engaged contributors. I do not believe it has done as well in giving us tools for collaboration, or, at least, they are not used as broadly as they might be.

I am more familiar with local government because I spent several years as chief administrative officer of a city, so let me suggest a local scenario that might nurture those two seeds.

A prominent, and well tested, model for orchestrating change at the local level is the blue ribbon panel. This is a group of local citizens who are willing and interested in helping their community and represent different constituencies in the area. Typically these groups are limited in size to the number of people a large conference room can accommodate. I participated in many of these groups.

I began to make several observations about the limits of this method. First, it does not fit the growing engagement model because a relatively small group of people make the decisions and then look to get “buy-in” from the rest of the community. Buy-in is a selling process not an engagement one. Also, as the problems got more complex the blue ribbon panel lacked the depth and breath to address the issues. And, often the members of the multiple panels that existed at any one time, addressing different community issues, overlapped because their jobs allow them the flexibility to participate in meetings during the normal business day.

Today’s online tools provide the possibility of greatly expanding the number of people who can be involved, and have engagement in the process, while still maintaining a sense of order. Let me briefly suggest a scenario just to illustrate how such a process might work.

The area where I live, like many areas in the country, is de-industrializing its river. The river connects three small cities in the region and also flows through some suburban municipalities. The question of how to plan for development of the river in the future is one that crosses many municipal boundaries, and reasonably should have coordination among these different governmental units.

Suppose instead of a blue ribbon panel we had a much larger group of interested and knowledgeable community members each of whom could make a small contribution of their time and knowledge. We might have people from universities who have charted the river or who do survey research. We could have different interests from each municipality represented. We could have engineers and hydrologists. Suppose instead of 30 or 40 people, we had 500 or 600 people involved and engaged.

We could potentially create the plan for future use of the river in greater detail by tapping the expertise within this broad group. We might use a tool like a wiki as a place for collaborative writing of the group’s report. At the end, we would also have a large group of people who have invested their time and energy in the project and who can collaborate to help move the recommendations through the political process.

Could such an approach work in your community? Could you personally be more involved in such a process if it provided the flexibility of online involvement and contribution?


Depressed Robots and Workers?

At a Ben Franklin Technology Partners events last year I heard futurist Jack Uldrich explain how the field of robotics will grow 1000-fold in the coming decade. Hearing this presentation made me start to ponder the implications of this type of change and pay more attention to articles that related to the growth of robotics.

Several months later a flurry of news articles occurred when Foxconn, the company that does the actual manufacturing for companies like Apple Computer and produces its iPhone and iPad products, announced that it would be deploying 1 million robots by 2013. This article gave some reality to Uldrich’s prediction.

As I recall Uldrich did not offer any particular definition of a robot. My own imagination tends to think of a robot as something that has physical form and mechanical motion involved. I began to stretch the definition when the IBM Watson computer competed on the Jeopardy television program and successfully outperformed the two previous most successful contestants on that show. As I might imagine a mechanical robot having implications on the manufacturing floor, I began to imagine Watson’s successors having potential impact in the office.

Watson’s success helped it (and IBM) get a new job in the healthcare field. It is now in training to become a very powerful assistant to oncology doctors at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. A health insurance company, WellPoint, is the client for the project.

Although Watson sounds like a person, it does not have a physical and mechanical form like a robot. It is simply a voice that we hear from an invisible and distant computer system. It is generally placed in the category of artificial intelligence or AI.

In that same category Apple introduced for its newest iPhone the AI assistant Siri. While Siri is not in the same league as Watson in terms of the questions that it can answer, I find it interesting because it introduces this type of tool to a broad consumer audience and stirs the competitive pot for other major companies like Google and Microsoft.

In a previous post I mentioned the Stanford University AI course that was offered for free and that attracted something like 160,000 online students. This certainly shows the level of interest in AI and now there are a substantial number of people who know more about it from two of the top people in the field.

Related to that course two business entities, Udacity and Coursera, have been formed, and Cousera has received $16 million in venture funding. In addition, MIT and Harvard have formed an entity, perhaps in response, to similarly offer online courses. All of this means there is a lot more learning possible on a global basis.

“Everything will be automated, and all we will have to do is learn and learn how to take care of each other.” My one friend says this to me frequently. Although we are a long way from that, the blips on the radar screen that I mentioned above all seem to point in that direction.

But how will we handle all of this as individuals, and as a society. One of my clients in its manufacturing facility has three or four robots and several hundred employees. What will that facility look like in 10 years if the number of robots increases by a factor of 1000? This is a company that values its employees highly and did not have any layoffs during the recent great recession. How will it accommodate competitive pressures if others in its industry, without the same value system, use robots extensively to their advantage?

If we are all going to have to learn – new skills – new opportunities for learning certainly are emerging rapidly with a very different cost structure, but still the requirement of a lot of effort on the learner’s part. Will we be able to provide the government, business and social support necessary for people to move through these transitions and feel optimistic about their lives and the future? Or, will we, as the workers, feel as bad as Marvin the robots does in the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” movie?

Demonstration, Not Certification

In my last posting I talked about “designing a seed” and here I would like to add some first strand of DNA to that seed.

The seed I am talking about is the conceptual design of a learning model for adults that can take advantage of the new infrastructure of the Internet and help spread knowledge around the globe. It is a seed in the sense that it must contain the essentials that will let it grow into something much larger.

The definition of andragogy (more focused on adults) versus pedagogy (more focused on children) emphasizes that adults want to learn things that they can put to use in their life. Children are often learning things that will have potential future value, but may not immediately be put to use. Andragogy is also more about self-directed learning and learning that draws from sharing adult life experiences. So, the design of this seed will draw on the concepts of andragogy. You can find definitions here and here.

Most traditional educational institutions provide some type of certification in the form of a high school diploma or college degree or a professional certification. These certifications are part of the function of the institutions that provide the courses or training and they are part of the financial structure for those institutions. My sense is that to address global learning needs certification may be more a barrier than an enabler. For this reason, I suggest exploring the idea “demonstration, not certification” as part of the DNA of the seed.

By making demonstration a part of the process it reinforces the idea of learning that can be put to use. A demonstration can show how the learning is, or can be, used. With the increasing availability of video a demonstration of new knowledge can also be documented.

The idea that part of the process is sharing adult life experiences means there needs to be a group of adults as part of the effort. Since the learning is self directed, each adult in the group may be looking to learn something different versus the structure of a traditional course where everyone is looking to be taught the same thing. The group in this case acts as supporters, enablers and documenters.

The idea of individualized learning, not only in style but also in content, is a challenge that many people in education are considering today. Individualization is a major design criteria for this seed.

There is certainly a huge amount of content on the Internet and a growing amount of that content is intended to help people learn versus selling services or products. The challenge is finding the appropriate content, or putting it together in a way that can be most helpful for someone who is interested in using it for learning. Sometimes I think of this as someone putting together a playlist, like grouping a series of musical recordings around a theme. In this case linking instructional, or informational items, that someone can use as part of an individualized, group supported learning program. I have begun to think of the person who puts this playlist together as a “curator”, like someone who organizes an art exhibition for others to enjoy and learn from.

So, here are some of the design criteria that I think need to be part of this seed that might grow into a harvest of newly educated people:

1. Individualized learning for adults;
2. Self-directed learning that the individual finds of value and use;
3. Supported by a group of individuals similarly engaged in learning;
4. Curated playlists of Internet content as learning modules; and,
5. Demonstration, not certification, of the knowledge and skills that have been learned.