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3 Strategies to Think. Consider. Mull it over. Breathe…

Do you take the time to absorb new information and let it percolate in your brain awhile before rushing to judgement, making a decision or throwing together a blog post, a tweet, an SMS or comment somewhere?

At breakfast this morning my wife, 13 year old son and I were in a conversation about television. In a poor attempt at grabbing his attention, I tried to set context for him on what is was like for me at 13 — three networks, one independent TV channel, no recorded media — and what it was like for him now.

We have DVD’s, DirecTV with hundreds of channels, game systems, books galore, two daily newspapers, and an Internet with essentially “millions” of channels. He smiled and said, “Whatever Dad” and went on with conversations about his skiing adventure this weekend! He made it clear that he LOVES all the choice and ENJOYS the constant interruptions his mobile phone, IM, Skype, XBox Live teams give him.

I submit that it is VERY hard right now to turn off the river of news, shut out the Twitter’s, the social network alerts, SMS, IM, Skype calls, emails, and all the other interruptions and make 100% certain that you have the time to think, to consider, mull stuff over and just breathe.

What I try hard to do with this blog — and life in general — is to ferret out the meaning behind a person’s incentives, company/product direction or strategic announcement before going off half-cocked to write about it and/or get involved in conversations. Connecting the dots, if you will.

I frequently turn off every possible interruption in order to buffer myself against intrusions that are accelerating and demanding ever higher levels of my attention. It’s the only way I can be assured that I’ll be able to place myself in a position of contemplation before taking action.

Here are three strategies that you can do right now to set yourself up to be more contemplative. It will pay off and I guarantee it (or your money will be cheerfully refunded):

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Molding and Shaping Perception in an Internet Age

My daughter had a college paper to do and ended up doing it on, “Old and New Media Influence on Anti-American Sentiment“.

What was fascinating was to read this report (PDF) from May, 2007 entitled, “The Communication of Anti-Americanism: Media Influence and Anti-American Sentiment” by the Department of Communications at Cornell University and see that this massive research study focused on traditional media and completely left out new media!

They examined all sorts of statistics and variables in the report: country, age, income, media habits, and much more. The problem in leaving out new media is that  most people under 30 have radically reduced their consumption of old media and instead are having their perceptions molded and shaped by exposure to all sorts of opinions and alternative new media forms.

Her argument was that negative perceptions of America were being molded and shaped by all media, not just traditional media. In an age when many globally are eschewing broadcast media for social network’s, YouTube, SMS, blogs, and shows like The Daily Show or even Al Jazeera offerings, there is no doubt that any thoughtful consideration and examination of public opinion and cross-cultural perception must include new media forms.

As I wrote this looking at that goofy picture of Ze Frank (which must frighten children and small animals), I thought about how tough it would’ve been for Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbel‘s, to have done what he did for perception-controlling had the Internet existed in the 1930’s.

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Empowered Participants in a Connected Age

Let me tell you a little story about being empowered in a connected age in order to illustrate how a participation culture is changing communications, grassroots efforts and is undoubtedly putting the fear of God into the hearts and minds of PR and marketing professionals.

For over 10 years, the section of the upscale neighborhood in which my home sits has experienced major and minor power outages. Usually two major and several minor ones per year.

What has made this issue particularly irksome is that my neighbors behind me have never been without power while I have as has the majority of our development (my 50 home-ish section is on another part of the grid). A flooded basement that cost me $6,000 in repairs, hundreds of dollars of food thrown out, and untold irritation and frustration have been just a few of the results.

Our utility, Xcel Energy, has been about as responsive as any monopolistic, regulated and bureaucratic entity is: not very. Then, after two outages within days of one another in August after Xcel implied a fix had been done — I blew a gasket. I had had just about enough and leveraged my squeaky wheel that needs to be greased ability to communicate and ratcheted up my pleas to an atypically responsive (and blogger!) Eden Prairie city manager, Scott Neal.

Neal opened doors for me and pushed to ensure that my voice in the wilderness was helicoptered out and not left in the woods to be devoured by bears. Neal’s blog post succinctly describes the issue and positive outcome.

I’ll take a little credit for being a diplomatic, nice, persistent pain-in-the-ass to everyone. It was clear I was capable of being an effective communicator and would do so in front of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (which I could), to the governor’s office (one degree of separation from Gov. Pawlenty) and all over the Web (which I’ve done). I made certain it was clear to everyone that I’d NEVER let go of this until a permanent solution was planned/budgeted for and implemented. Perhaps that attitude helped move things along.

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Smart Mobs and the 2008 Presidential Election

Dunn Brothers Coffee in Eden Prairie, MN (click for larger view)

This photo is one I *just* snapped on my iPhone and emailed to my blog (a super secret email address let’s me simply email it and it goes live immediately). It’s my favorite coffee shop in an old historic farmhouse (with fast Wifi too!).

What I’ve been thinking about is the upcoming 2008 Republican convention right here in Minneapolis and what millions of iPhones in the hands of bloggers and social nerworkers will mean to the capture and delivery of news about the convention. Moblogging (mobile blogging) with this phone is easier than any smartphone I’ve ever used previously and thus will accelerate the number of people able to do it.

Add to it instant moblogging live streaming video (e.g. uStream) and the amount of real-time perspective will be staggering — and healthy as hell for our democracy which has been under the shadow of a super secret administration for seven years.

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What if there is no equilibrium?

One result of an increasingly interconnected world — and we humans who are leveraging this network, adding ourselves as nodes to it — is that hundreds of thousands or millions of changes are occurring everywhere. Change is being accelerated because people can help people; ideas are propagated at the speed electrons can traverse the ‘net; and thoughts inform others thoughts which build upon one another quickly.

New companies are popping up all over, industries are being disrupted globally, and the fear most status quo holders have is about the disruption we will NOT see.

I’ve been observing this massive change enabled, in no small part, by the Internet-as-a-platform, Web/Enterprise 2.0 space and have slowly realized that no one, no analyst organization or set of thought leaders is going to be able to track and even identify disruption and emergence everywhere on our planet.

When I think about industries that have been disrupted by quickly emerging competitors in the past: railroads; vacuum tube companies; minicomputer makers; today’s newspaper and television providers; or even the printing industry my 94 year old father-in-law worked in for his entire career; I see now that disruption occurred but there was ample time for adaption. Companies adapted, industries figured out how to stay relevant or go away, economies discovered new revenue streams, and equilibrium was reached.

But what would happen if equilibrium is no longer within reach?

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The World is Awakening…

What happens when everyone becomes awake? I don’t mean from sleep, but rather have fully developed a level of consciousness that ensures they’re aware of human connection, ideas and possibilities in new and radical ways?

If you’re a C-level executive, strategist, marketer, in product development, sales, are a teacher or small businessperson (or frankly anyone), the accelerating shifts in consciousness will impact what you do or deliver…and probably already is whether you’re aware of it or not.

My work in Web/Enterprise 2.0, community and communications through the Internet-as-a-platform means that I am seeing and experiencing this awakening on a daily basis. Simple things like watching people come together in a collaborative space and discovering how important it is to have everyone see the same vision of a product so they’re in sync; understanding the importance of ritual in a virtual meeting (e.g., how to lead a session and ensure everyone has a voice); deepening their understanding of markets and the people within them; and the inner drive people are exhibiting to move toward a vision for humanity that they live by. Businesses ignore this at their own peril.

This article in Fast Company (a publication I’m respecting more than ever as they push against the membrane of the future with articles like this one) is kinda, sorta a mashup about new concepts in ‘green’, activist capitalism, and open source and is one of the most fascinating examples I’ve seen for some time about strategies and concepts tapping into this awakening world and an ever-expanding human consciousness.

It starts out, “Somewhere between the Oscar for Al Gore’s planetary-disaster epic, An Inconvenient Truth, and the canonization of Angelina Jolie by the United Nations (in association with People (NYSE:TWX) magazine), the message started sinking in: The cultural conversation around the environment, social change, and human rights is approaching maximum velocity. What is arguably urgent has become inarguably hip.” To me, the operative words are “cultural conversation”, “maximum velocity” and “inarguably hip” in that paragraph and it is blatantly obvious to me that the company discussed in this feature couldn’t have happened until now.

As I read I realized that all that I’ve been seeing and experiencing recently — both on and offline — is but a tip-of-the-iceberg of this global awakening.

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Fun with Video

I’m not usually trolling for videos online and am typically fairly serious about my examinations of the technology and social moves on the Internet/Web, but this one just tickled me today.

Called “Lip Dub” (and already appearing on dozens of sites and blogs with almost 1M views as of this morning), it appears that it was shot at a young company and done during a Friday afternoon beer bash where the group obviously was inspired to orchestrate lip synching to song. It’s just delightful and goes far beyond a couple of people sitting in front of a webcam doing the same thing.

Examples like this are what fill me with unbounded optimism and joy that so-called “user generated content” and the Rise of the Participation Culture is going to change everything. Take a few minutes and watch…

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Internet Innovation and Optimizing the Status Quo

Minnesota is a great place to live and raise kids. Yes, the winters are brutal but the benefits outweigh the troubles. So much so that most of my 600+ high school graduating class members still live hereafter several decades.

There are A LOT of smart people in the Land of 10,000 Lakes — both home grown and those transplanted here. Successful businesses abound like Target, Best Buy, Medtronic, General Mills, 3M, UnitedHealth Group and many, many more. World class businesses and leadership in their respective industries. But as the world of business gets increasingly mapped on to the Internet, it’s highly unlikely that these organizations will lead us to the promised land of Internet innovation. They’ll just wait and see who is successful and leverage capital to buy-in strategically. Sadly this is often a too-little-too-late move.

Frequently I complain about my conversations with leaders in Minnesota and how I first need to educate them on Web 2.0 and Internet-as-a-platform before we can have a productive conversation about the paradigm shifts and disruption occurring. The next challenge is how to work on driving forward strategically and embracing the changes. “Why aren’t you already innovating on the rapidly accelerating Internet platform?“, I’ll ask. The answers range from “Not sure what to do” to “it’s not a big deal for my business yet“. The former we can work on…the latter closes the door.

Closing the door isn’t an option in a time of accelerating change. Every client I have and every industry I analyze is being disrupted in some fashion by the Internet. Fortunately there are thought leaders guiding us.

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Free Car Wash via SMS

As I was going through the dead trees version of the Minneapolis StarTribune this morning, an article grabbed me: Kids phone in car-wash scam From cell phone to cell phone, word rippled through town: Use this number for a free car wash.

For anyone still not aware of the acceleration in network-based swarm communications behaviors, look no further than this example:

Over several weeks, cars carrying high school and college kids lined up six or seven deep outside Severson’s Food Plus convenience store in Austin, Minn., waiting for a touch-free/cash-free wash.

With the stolen maintenance code programmed in their phones or memories, they ripped off at least 1,000 washes, police and store officials said Thursday.

Though I chuckle that NO ONE managing the store noticed such a huge spike in washes over several weeks without a commensurate amount of cash showing up in the daily receipts, for any of us building online applications or other systems that could be exploited or “gamed,” this shows how even a small loophole or piece of useful information can propagate exponentially with just one person initially leaking it.

Out at Etech I was in a conversation about Twitter, swarming and the upcoming US presidential election. If you recall, the last election cycle saw protestors at the Republican and Democratic convention sites relegated to fenced in areas out-of-sight and out-of-mind effectively rendering them impotent. My premise in this conversation was that people — probably dressed in clothing that will make them appear to be innocuous or like young Republicans — will suddenly swarm and coalesce in a protest as a flash mob…then dissolve back into the crowd before police can react. Rinse and repeat.

In the same way that the Internet is designed to route around bottlenecks or damage, so will flash mobs route around controls in political protesting and friends of friends of friends who need free car washes (and who’ve discovered a loophole in an application or a system) will send it. With mobile phone’s being ubiquitous, I predict we’ll be seeing A LOT more stories like this one.