making sense of things with circles

May 21st, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

After a walk in the sunshine and some reflections on the conversity model and life, I came up with this sketch of what I think are the most important things in life: love, knowledge and (to some extend) money.

the "life cycle"

the "life cycle"

Surprise, surprise.

I don’t want to bore you with long explanations of this [writing my bachelor report is enough for now].

Instead, just a bit of food for though:

1. amateur comes from the Latin word amore, love. So somebody who is an amateur does it because he loves it. Thanks, Alexandros.

2. a-more is the absence of more, death (more Latin). More on that at the School for Gods.

So what are you focusing life on today?

  • Relations to yourself or others?
  • Spending or getting money?
  • Acquiring or disseminating knowledge?

better than a book

March 20th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This  |  View Comments

Stop reading right now and watch the video. When you’re done, continue below. You will not regret it.

After finishing to watch this incredibly good talk of Jesse Schnell at DICE 2010, I was pleased to learn that he also has a book about the practice of game design, exploring the different strains and approaches of his profession.

What makes this special (apart from the content), is the way it’s organized. The book contains 100 “lenses”, which each cover one specific point and ask a couple of questions to self-explore it (this block technique is also quite common in books like the “for dummies” series of book). The are spread around the regular book chapters but also available as a separate deck of cards, containing concrete actions on the specific angle (example).

Why is this so incredibly clever? Because a book with 500 pages just collects dust and does not allow you to constantly review specific parts that easy.

When doing my review of the proven models in business education, I already though about the possibility to turn the graphics and a little description of them into a nice reference card. That way you can use them in group planning sessions, for theory review or as a learning guide (just like plain old flash cards). This guys proves it’s good, and the reviewers on Amazon agree.

Here’s another example for using cards in a teaching/consulting role.

But as with everything else, even flashcards and such are becoming digital. You print them if you need, or you track and repeat progress online.

Just like visual triage, the main advantage of print-out versions of the ideas is of course the flexibility: endless space, quick rearrangement and most importantly: easy to socialize around in a team session (compare that to a laptop screen or mobile phone).

proven models, printed on paper (no description yet)

proven models, printed on paper (no description yet)

So here’s the question: Would you like to have a set of cards containing the fundamentals of business management? From SWOT to PEST to SERVQUAL? If yes, how much would you pay for it? If no, would you prefer a mobile app?

models of the obvious

March 18th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

I like models. I really do. The more visual, the better.

One recent favorite was the so called “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives” by Benjamin Bloom, a quite well-established concept for helping teachers and learners better conduct their learning. Since it’s inception during the 50s, there has been one major update in 2001, but during the time in between, other people have come up with – you guessed it – other approaches and models.

Bloom's taxonomy (original version, fancy picture)

Bloom's taxonomy (original version, fancy picture, found on Wikipedia)

From Kolb to Marzano, the list of researchers and approaches seems quite endless, especially in a field as important and large as education research. Luckily, I came across a handy review of the major approaches in learning styles and thinking models. These two reports have been put together by a team of researchers in the UK for the LSRC, followed by a book on the same subject

While the group of authors was giving an excellent overview of existing approaches in both cases, the report on thinking skills went one step further by proposing a unified framework of thinking. By taking inspiration from their colleagues and synthesizing some of the approaches (mainly revised Bloom, Pintrich’s “strategic and reflective thinking” and Halpern’s “productive” thinking).

The end result is a fairly comprehensive model with 3 main areas (information gathering, building understanding and productive thinking) and “strategic and reflective thinking” as a separate panel (compare this to figure 5 in the report). Quite nice, but from my looking at all kinds of other proven models, I was not satisfied with it, so came up with the following instead:

how to think and do

gather, understand and produce and at the same time reflect on your actions and adapt your strategy

I believe that most processes are by definition cyclical. Furthermore, I wanted to improve the overlapping function of “strategic and reflective thinking”. Due to space constraints, i also replaced the long descriptions with simpler verbs.

The result is a lot simpler, but necessarily, a lot of the depth of 50 years of research gets lost on the way.  Daniel T. Willingham in his book “Why Don’t Students like School?” called this “bubbe psychology” (grandma psychology) – the kind of stuff you could have just as well learned from your grandmother, because it’s basically common sense. Unfortunately, I don’t have any grandmothers to learn from and still enjoyed the steps that took me to this “discovery”. More gathering, more understanding and this as a product.

Reflection: I might update this picture with more onion layers to introduce more complexity (alike to the Bloom rose at the beginning of this post), but for today I’m quite satisfied with the exposure to about 10 new models of thinking and learning.

Strategy: If you find this picture as useful as me, feel free to use it. My thinking is: If you create something with just a bunch of words on it, there should be the least amount of restrictions on it as possible.

There’s quite a pile of theories spread around my floor I’m still eager to go through (like Guilford’s structure of intellect), so stay tuned for more.

competition or co-operation? both!

March 15th, 2010  |  Published in Commentary, Finnland

Ok, here in IBS we have the following class setup:

  • 7 teams of 4 to 5 students each
  • 1 team of coaches (7 regulars, some additional visitors)
  • 1 learning module with a main case study as our project and additional smaller tasks based on lectures around recurring themes

That group of people comprises the typical learning environment we find ourselves in.

The last module ended like this: each group gave a presentation ranging from about 20 to 60 minutes on the theories and findings used to analyse the case given to all groups. As mentioned earlier, there was a lot of overlap.

We are now starting in the next module, with a case about Staart, a Finnish interactive marketing agency.

So what should be different this time (from my point of view)?

All the information we dig up should be shared as much as possible. We use a private wiki as a platform, so only students and coaches can access it. No need to hold back any type of confidential info – if one group gets it, the other should, too.

Nobody should need to explain the basic theory about some model (we have references for that). Everybody can read up on it beforehand, if it seems interesting. If not, they can still learn things later.

Any type of source and material used by the groups should be linked and shared beforehand. Why not? Digging up stuff on Google is not an art form. Using the right thing, in the right context is a real skill.

Nobody is expected to know about everything. That’s what the wiki is for. If you have fun reading a whole encyclopedia, go ahead. Instead, pick your specialty. Let the other groups know about it, so you can discuss topics further. Let people know what you want to get out of the case, so others can forward stuff to you.

Nobody is a specialist anyway. Let’s be honest: Have you written books about the topic? Worked in the field for 10 years? Does it matter?  - No, because those guys are out there, writing scientific articles, blogs, books, sharing stuff on slideshare, rambling on twitter. Go out, find them. Use their stuff, link it up.

But here’s the catch: How do they know I did this?

All fine and dandy, but here’s a problem. As some students said in other conversations “I really don’t like it when that guy makes changes to my stuff.” or “What if they use my stuff?”

So why do it in the first place? Why share?

Everybody is doing it. You hand out the simple stuff to everybody for free and the special stuff is what you keep to yourself. The hard decision is this one: What do you keep? Basically, only what you (as a person or group) can add that is valuable and genuine. Good explanations, a well-though-through argument, or whatever. Anything that can only be done live and on a stage (this is how authors an musicians make money in the future, via live performance).

So just add your stuff. And if you are afraid of other people mis-using it: Copyright it. But make it simple, with Creative Commons. Now tell people about your learning goals and the license you want to use for your stuff.

That’s the personal part. On to the group thing.

So are we all one big group now?

If it’s up to me, yes. We always were, including coaches. Because in the end, everybody is as much a teacher as they are a learner. So helping each other out does no harm. Everybody benefits. But yes, in the end, still each group and individual gets evaluated separately.

As Reijo said “I really like the idea of the wiki, because suddenly groups are really competing against each other”.

Well, sort of. This is called co-opetition. That means, you share some stuff. You work together for a while, then you do your own thing. And if it makes sense, you form a group with other people. Like a task force on sales forecasting. Or a group that looks deeply into how an AdWords campaign works. Stuff like that.

Never saw this kind of thing? Well, that’s how the CD was born. Sony and Philips agreed to collaborate, so you don’t scratch your head about square shaped silver plates fitting into your new machine and everybody can sell more.

Addendum (for the interested): So how does this fit in with IBS?

  • the coaches are our customers
  • the material, information we use comes from suppliers (any source, no need to pay, I hope)
  • the other groups are sometimes competitors and sometimes complementors (you decide)

Now your group has to figure out how they add their value (in the final presentation and analysis) and what tactics they use (to work with other teams).

But to be honest, you have to do this anyway – even without this fancy theory around things. And without the wiki.

online learning – one link at a time

March 15th, 2010  |  Published in Commentary, Finnland

How do you learn?

Well, in your brain at least, most of learning works by connecting these things called neurons to one another. So you take one thing and link it up to another.

But instead of diving into the theories of that, let’s go straight into the use of this information.

In practice it means, when you see stuff, you go back to memories and compare it to previous activities. Like riding a bike. Once you learned the mechanics of it (keep pedaling, don’t shake the handlebar constantly) it’s quite simple and hard to forget.

That’s quite handy to survive in life, and is basically the process that education is supposed to be really good at encouraging: Getting you to link the stuff that’s thrown at you – inside your head. By practicing it, using it, ripping it apart and most importantly – by linking it to other stuff you already know. That’s what learning journals, group work and reading other people’s texts is all about.

So when technology (esp. the internet) comes into the picture, things are actually quite simple. Thanks to Sergey and Larry and the way Google search works, links are really important. And because everybody wants to be found through search, links are a way of discovering things everywhere.

the problem with wikipedia (XKCD)

the problem with wikipedia (XKCD)

No matter if it’s a blog, a wiki or a regular website: a link helps to jump to another concept, so you can follow your curiosity. But that’s how other people have set things up for you.

How do you use linking to improve learning for yourself?

If you want to use this concept in a more active fashion, the easiest way is to keep using it yourself. Start a blog, link your stuff like crazy and see what comes out of it.

And if you’re too lazy or not narcissistic enough for that, go to a wiki instead.

I came up with this post while I was talking to one of my classmates (Juho) from IBS about the (internal) course wiki we started.

He just finished linking up a list of 20 words in our breakout glossary for the case study, to get the crew up and running with it.

I put together the initial list of words from top of mind, he’s now digging deeper into some of them. Everybody profits. And everybody did less.

So what’s next? Getting this attitude to work in the whole team and during the whole term of our third module.

So everybody can become a synthesizer (at least a little):

Are You a Synthesizer? - by David Armano

Are You a Synthesizer? - by David Armano

The general idea: information is a commodity, the internet is a copy machine. Only how you interpret the bits and pieces (and form knowledge, understanding and wisdom) and how you then put them into action is what can provide real value to your specific context.

What have you been linking up today?

visual triage of David Armano’s visual thinking archive

March 12th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

Ok, I already had a print-out set of 60 of the gorgeous images from David’s set here, so this was the next step in my trial of visual triage.

These got printed out in a bigger size, because they are generally a bit more complex than the proven models. Again, black and white, so a lot of the richness in this step got lost.

But then again, that helps to not be distracted by minor details.

So there are the usual suspects: one-dimensionals like Conventional + Unconventional Marketing, Life Streams or Experience Distribution, centres and cycles like Influence Ripples, Digital Mindsets or the Marketing Spiral.

And finally, something new: One of the recurring themes in David’s pictures is the amount of comparisons going on. They come in 3 flavors: 1 on 1 like tipping the media scales, threesomes like post-consumer era and spectrums like the one below.

the OMG-WFT spectrum (by David Armano)

the OMG-WFT spectrum (by David Armano)

But wait, there’s one more interesting approach: “the house”

building blocks: social experience (by David Armano)

building blocks: social experience (by David Armano)

I was somewhat reminded of the way ARIS is sometimes displayed. But instead of the roof, this one takes the foundation for content.

If you want another house, try this one (warning, visual complexity [not of this type]). I’m a bit surprised not to find the “house” on the periodic table of visualization methods, though.

So here’s the big question: Why are his pictures so much more appealing? Is it his background as a design thinker, the use of better tools or the fact that he is actively engaged in talking about these experiences and not just crunching theory?

If we think about David as a teacher (let’s call him “Professor of Social Media Strategy at the School of Hard Knocks”) and not the consultant role he usually has, what can we learn?

His classroom: the internet (through blogs, twitter, etc.) , his peer group (media strategists), old school media (Harvard Business Review) and most importantly (from a monetary perspective, at least): conferences, the employer and its paying clients.

Result: flexible size of audience, independence of physical location and multiple streams of revenue. And best of all: most of the stuff is free, and an active crowd is constantly providing feedback to his work so everybody benefits. Everybody teaches everybody.

And the only thing the teacher get’s payed for is when there is one of the 8 generatives better than free at play.

Ok, I got a bit carried away, but up next will be main selection of the important models concerning my Bachelor’s report.

Stay tuned or hit the comments to provide your perspective on next-generation learning and the art of visual storytelling.

turning theories around

March 11th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This

In round 2 of my visual triage of proven models (evaluating usefulness for my thesis), I was able to narrow down the total from 70 to 34.

Of these, a couple of observations emerged:

  1. there should be a way to graph the logical relationship between the theories presented on, for example, that the seven S framework and the five star model both are based on “structure follows strategy”
  2. there should be a timeline view to make this way of connecting theories even easier.
  3. some things are even more closely connected:
AIDA, SPIN, ADAPT, SIER - models of communication

AIDA, SPIN, ADAPT, SIER - models of communication (taken from

I don’t know about you, but when I put the pictures of AIDA, SPIN, ADAPT and SIER (turned on its head) next to one another, they all say the same thing, just with different words and a different point of view. AIDA shows the overall aim of the step, SPIN and ADAPT what to focus on and SIER reminds us to listen.

Interesting, don’t you think? Well, this is certainly not a unique example, but my question is this: Do the same things happen today as well (in the days of the internet, where everybody is connected to everything)? Are the internet’s serendipity mechanisms (like twitter users or the facebook stream) good enough already to prevent this?

Do you know examples of current research, where clever academics just reword the obvious because they didn’t look hard enough? Or any project in the research sphere that explicitly encourages serendipity? Where is it in Zotero, Mendeley and the like?

Or better: Do you think this is a problem based on the effects of a scarcity-mentality, not-invented-here syndrome and limited access to research sources?

a review of proven models using visual triage

March 11th, 2010  |  Published in Picture This  |  View Comments

While attending the IBS program here in Finland, I have been exposed to models for thinking and problem solving such as 5-force-analysis, value chains, marketing mixes, etc. The regular business school material.

Always on the lookout for good references and based on my preference for visual thinking, i came across, a collection of some of the classics in model-driven management thinking.

As I just sat in a session of 7 presentations with a lot of overlap in the practices used (SWOT, gaps model of service quality, etc.) I wanted to have a broader look at the other available options.

ProvenModels offers a nicely organized collection of uniformly designed diagrams and solid reviews of each of the methods, the only problem I had from a visual thinkers perspective was navigating this wealth of information in a simple way (not by filling out one of six clever dropdowns).

So I took to the tech tools and downloaded all the used graphics, to then print them out on paper. Now I have 70 small pieces of paper which I am able to sort according to multiple dimensions.

getting a quick overview of 70 management models from

visual triage

I call this method “visual triage”, meaning getting a view of the big picture before diving in deeply.

This is the same as drawing a mind map, collecting for a mood board or looking at a list of thumbnails in your favorite photo browser.

Crazier approaches of this (in digital media) are speed dail for Firefox (copied by Chrome), Cooliris or Microsoft Labs Pivot. Pivot is most notable, as you can change the X- and Y-dimensions of your view (unlike most of the others).

all the classics - 7 Ps, 5 forces, SWOT, PEST, etc.

visual triage - closeup

My first attempt at grasping the use cases for these models was lining them up according to their visual appearance. Result: there are only 8 basic methods use, which can be narrowed down further.

  1. outliers: purely illustrative images for concepts such as cybernetics, the Hawthorne effect or z-scoring of financial investments.
  2. one-dimensionals: lists of words, sometimes top-to-bottom (Y-axis) according to time or as a hierarchy (like Maslow’s pyramid, six roles of selling, etc.) or along the vertical (X-axis), like innovation indicators, diffusion of innovation or seven lateral relationships)
  3. two-dimensionals: either a 2-by-2-matrix or a plain old x-y-coordinate system, like product-market matrix, Thompson’s technology ontology (cool name) or disruptive innovation). In some cases, a plain list meant to look like a 2-by-2, but it’s still just a list, e.g. McLuhan’s four laws of media).
  4. cycles: instead of being a linear process (e.g. over time), these things repeat like a dog chasing its tail, e.g. management by objectives, six facets of effective listening)
  5. hierarchy: things spread out from top to bottom, breaking down into smaller pieces (like bounded rationality, scientific management)
  6. circles, centers, networks: everything is quite round, mostly combining multiple factors into one major objective, like Kotler’s product levelsPorter’s diamond, strategy diamond, PEST analysis, seven S model, Hofstede and Trompenaars models of culture, etc.)

So where are the Venn diagramms, 3-dimensional models and so on?

They are out there, somewhere behind the rainbow of the internet.

Like this model of learning, based on thermodynamics.

I don’t know about you, but I think I learned something today.

If you know of other sites that have such great collections, please do let me know.

Thus far, I have found David Armano‘s visual thinking archive on flickr. But there’s got to be more.

Final tip: In case you want to start thinking visually yourself, Dan Roam‘s book “the back of the napkin” is as good as it gets. Here’s a talk he gave on the subject at Google HQ. And if you want to skip the book, the main ideas are also available as a free template download on the site.

Problems and their scale

March 11th, 2010  |  Published in Commentary  |  View Comments

When deciding what issues to focus on, a lot of measures can be taken.
As the internet leaves us with exploding amounts of information about everything, we should look for the factors that don’t follow exponential growth such as Moore’s law.
The most obvious one: how many people are involved?
Even if suddenly everybody and their dad is posting on blogs, twitter and the like, the total amount of people or groups involved in any contemporary activity remains fairly predictable in more regular cases (not talking about FarmVille or Facebook here).
Take 1: Say you want to fix the education system?
Even though teacher-to-student ratios might change a bit, there won’t be sudden explosions or everybody replaced by a robot tomorrow.
Or higher education: there are only 18 000 university-like institutions in the world. From that we can jump to the amount of students, professors, staff, alumni-output-per year. Yes, in the current economic times, more people are going to college then ever, but still the numbers should be quite easy to grasp.
So if you want to solve any issues in the sphere, go by the constants and variables.
Take 2: You want to invest your money in the stock market?
Well, turns out there are only about 45.000 companies being traded on only 56 public stock exchanges worldwide.  Wolfram tells me that there are 38 “money centre banks”, and on Wikipedia we find a couple more. Both numbers are misleading, but a nice start for individual looks. But then we notice that in the U.S. alone there are more than 9000 banks, Germany has at least 2000 and so on. But hey, there are only about 200 countries in the world so it can’t be that hard.
But as usual, Pareto’s 80-20 Rule applies, and only the fewest of them actively trade and are highly connected at the same time.
So to go further, do as any good journalist and follow the money. And the people that handle it.
A good example for this practice: how Enron’s fraud was uncovered, nicely narrated by Malcolm Gladwell in Open Secrets.
1. try to estimate and count the  number of groups and people involved in the field you are looking at.
2. if you want to profit from it, see who is spending the money, and how much of it there is.
3. remember that all people and groups are extremely well connected, so decisions should be fairly easy to predict
4. don’t get too drawn into the observations of outsiders (analysts, journalists, bloggers) as they mostly describe the obvious, but hide the not so obvious (that guy is our client, we are theirs, i own their stock, etc.)
Most of the time, thanks to the internet, your problem is probably a mystery and not so much a puzzle.
Kiss off: But how do exponential shifts happen in groups of people then?
But still, why are things like Twitter, Facebook, Mafia Wars, Fishville, Farmville and Multi-Level-Marketing scams working?
Simple answer: Metcalf’s Law:
the value of a network grows with every new participant that’s added (exponentially)
A bit more nuanced: Beckstrom’s Law:
The value of a network equals the net value of each user’s transactions conducted through that network, valued from the perspective of each user, and summed for all.
Translation: Facebook is that cool, because everybody is there, talking to you and marking your face on those party pictures. And then, everybody is commenting on it. And you reply, they like, you poke, they send out cows for adoption and so on.
So, what problem are you trying to measure up?

content creation – how to measure it

March 9th, 2010  |  Published in Ankündigungen

Note: Yes, that title sounds really boring, a bit academic, but I’m getting warmed up to writing my bachelor’s report, so what do you expect?

When creating content for digital distribution, a plethora of tools are available to the writer(s) and producer(s). In this section, we will find an overview of the primary criteria for evaluating them.

For a simpler navigation, the three main dimensions can be arranged as a triangle:

Each criterion can be viewed as a continuum between two extreme points. While some cases allow for a black- and white answer, most other measures have an important middle ground. It is important to note that all factors have only a qualitative dimension and are thus hard to quantify.

Furthermore, each factor can be seen as a subset of the continuum between the general notions of control and chaos.

people individual observed transactional synchronous
? ? ? ?
group self-paced poetic asynchronous
technology process centralized integrated
? ? ?
artifact distributed loosely coupled
content consume perfect private
? ? ?
collaborate good enough public
To understand these dimensions further, let us explore them one by one:
  • individual – group: how many people? (Blog, Google Docs, Wikipedia, World of Warcraft)
  • observed – self-paced: how much oversight is necessary, wanted? (hand-holding, individual coaching or self-directed, reflecting work with own methods)
  • transactional – poetic: tho what extend is the task creative? (straight to the point email with less than 5 sentences or complex, nuanced and well-crafted editorial work)
  • (a)synchronous: are people working on it at the same time, and over what time frame? (just-in-time meeting or letter writing)

in short: social, autonomous, creative, timely


  • process – artifact: is the tool geared towards a specific way of working (sketch, review, comment, publish) or does it put the final product center stage? (ECM(S), BPMWordPress - DIGG)
  • centralized – distributed: is the tool usable in various (physical) situations? (heavy copy machine in office corner or online-CRM with mobile access on laptop/mobile phone)
  • integrated – loosely coupled: how well can this piece be integrated with others? how high is the switching cost, friction for the end user when performing a range of tasks? (one system to rule them all, having all solutions in one place or niche- and task-specific situational applications)

in short: bendable, movable, pluggable


in short: interactivity, polish, delivery

This section was meant as a broad overview of the metrics, soon a more detailed discussion of specific examples across all factors will follow.

Until then, please provide your comments on the applicability of these measures and share your examples of a product, service or person that was too chaotic, strict, formal, complex or boring for you to continue using.