What seems to be happening with our knowledge

The book Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger is terribly intriguing. He states that our knowledge of the world has assumed the shape of a tree because that knowledge has been shackled to the physical. He repeats this notion numerous times in cataloguing information onto atoms. [putting the catalogue on index cards] With information being digitized, which allows us to go beyond the physical means, the shape of our knowledge is changing. Note he doesn’t say our knowledge is changing, just the shape of it.

There seems to be a pre-occupation with the notion of singleness [each-only-one-what] when dealing with knowledge in tree shapes. He gives us the following embedded assumptions that are so deep in our tradition of thought that they look like common sense.

  1. A well-constructed tree gives each thing a place. If too many items haven’t a place our miscellaenous category begins.
  2. Each thing gets only one place. Listing something more than once is confusing. Where should it go?
  3. No one category should be too big or small. This really points to an inadequacy in the method, not the knowledge.
  4. It should be obvious what the defning principle of each category is. Exactness, precision.

So where does that leave us? We are still trying to bridge the old model of viewing information with the attempt of trying new ways. We continue to grasp our “belief in the efficiency of rationality“. When one uses the word belief in these terms it becomes dogma and whoa to those who don’t follow that dogma. Dogmas with data are dangerous.

Some new ways – wikis, metadata, tags, facetted classification systems. We need to begin to use these new tools in our look for answers when faced with the magnitude of information we see daily. It’s hard to grasp sometimes and move away from paper and atoms. Paper has its place but when you can choose to store, sort and read it digitally vs the older way which really is the easiest?

Miscellaneous Infant Toys 3302.jpg (JPEG Image, 640x480 pixels)

The question Wesabe is asking

Wesabe has an unbelievable product available to anyone who has the facility get get at their transaction data. They have delivered what some of us have thought about for awhile now, financial data and tagging. And they have brought how to use tagging to the easiest method imaginable. Then you have their graphing function, the ability to ‘vote’ on how you think the supplier is, Firefox uploader, browser snapshots, the list goes on. Did I mentioned the social networking aspect of giving financial tips?

So the question is, as a credit union, do you build something like this, which will take time and money and probably be a poor imitation. Or do you say to your members “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Here is what we can do to get you going on a truly innovative and valuable service!” But wait, some will say, and so begins the “if we don’t build it others will and we will loose out” discussion starts or “we must build it or it will dilute our brand” discussion continues.

What really should happen is that the member’s data, their financial transactions, should be viewed as their’s, not the banks or credit union’s. They spent the money, and paid for the service, they have every right to do with it as they see fit. And if Wesabe’s service is what they want then we should respond by doing what we can to make it easy for them to do it. And we should work with Wesabe to see how collectively we can serve our members better.

Will this model work? Yes I think it will because a good idea is a good idea is a good idea and you can’t keep something like this off people’s radar screen. Is it a revenue generator? No but does everything we do have to be. It builds a relationship. It assists people in getting a handle on how they spend money. It helps them to save money. It does everything that we have been trying to do, promote common sense and money usage.

As I have said before, banks and credit unions have become something like huge castles with moats around them and the drawbridge up. Then the Wesabians come marching up asking for what is theirs to do what they wish to do with it. We can lower that drawbridge and stop this financial feudilsm that is wasting time and resources for everyone. We need to listen that some have chosen a new financial polity.

Stuff one thinks about driving to work in the morning

  • TV – This weekend while in Seattle I had the TV set on. We don’t have TV at home so I thought it would be great to see what’s on. Guess what? Nothing, nothing, nothing. More chanels of nothing. And the advertising, it has gotten worse. To top it all off CBC had the movie Troy on with commercials every 5 minutes. Sorry but the library looks even better now.
  • On leadership – “Don’t be afraid to lead, the challenges will come in any event”.
  • BarCampBankSeattle – lots of young, dynamic leaders.
  • New t-shirts – “Blog with Passion”
  • Brands need to be based on pillars and these pillars need to be placed on the ground of principles.
  • Ning.com – is this going to take off at some point?
  • Every system must enable the user.

BarCampBankSeattle (BCBS) and the need for tattoos

Near the end of the Saturday session (someone correct me if I am wrong) we got into a great debate because of Jesse’s two teller conundrum. I mentioned that every GM should have the 7 Co-operative Principles tattooed to their butts. From that point it moved into some laughable circles. But the interesting point was that most did not know about these principles. Maybe they did, or had read them, but they weren’t at the top of my mind and I couldn’t repeat them verbatim. One quick point – on the link above there is a bold comment at the end “We embrace and live by these principles”. Wow, those are tattooing words!

Today I was looking at Denis Wymore’s home page and what is there — a note about her book “Tattoos: the Ultimate Proof of a Successful Brand”. This is now getting to look very different. Successful brands have tattoos but we who consider ourselves credit unionists can’t repeat a single cooperative principle. What does that say about our brand? We talked about creating a manifesto from the weekend’s meeting. Each of these principles could be wordsmithed into an understandable, concise language that would fit what we talked about. So here is one feeble attempt at it.
Open Membership – open to everyone willing to accept the responsibilities of membership. Since when did any of us hear of a “responsibility of membership”? What is it? Maybe we have been thinking to much of “me” and not enough of “we” when decided responsibilities.

– one member, one vote. Interesting. No proxies. Someone once told me there are 4 ways to make a decision

  1. Consensus, the best way but very time consuming and we never have time for something like this right?
  2. Compromise, the politician’s way when you get something, I get something and the guy at the end of the line gets nothing.
  3. Vote, yes our democratic principle that means those that have the biggest teams, armies or mobs get to decide usually with the big group controlling the agenda and deciding who gets #4.
  4. Crucifixion – I will leave it at that.

So which even if we do vote to make decision why does everyone feel like someone got dealt #4?

Democratic member control – members who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Now there is a time bomb. Since when did any CEO and the senior VP team listen and act in direct concert with members in “setting their policies and making decisions”. We have listened to regulators, consultants, economists, politicians, bureaucrats, bankers (of course) and everyone who is NOT a member it seems, in setting policies and making decisions. Notice it says their policies. Policies of the individual and autonomous and system minded credit union.

In the next post I will pick up on a few more of these tattooable items.


Take the survey while sitting in a chair

One of the more frequent comments we hear from people who come to Mt. Lehman Credit Union is that “it really feels different here”. So you ask them how they came to that conclusion. They mention that while they were waiting they took a seat and noticed what was happening in the branch as the staff were working and the members were conducting business. They noticed how people were being served, how the conversations at the counter were taking place, how there was so much natural sunlight, and how it just felt good and friendly. This is the stuff credit unions are made of. Now how would you measure this? Again the question of how do you measure the quality of a business.

It got me thinking. How many businesses have chairs that you can park your butt down and just notice what is happening? Sure FI’s have seatting because there are always appointments. Our seats are also used if people want to sit while waiting for a teller. There is a device that alerts staff after anyone sits in the chair for longer than 47 seconds (just kidding). For some businesses it would be difficult to do this. There should be a law that any women’s shop have seatting available for husbands who will be there for awhile. But really if you as an individual were to measure if you wanted to do business with anyone, why not just be a silent sitter for 10 minutes and see what is going on. See if there truly is a unique experience there. How you view the experience is the active survey.


Not a good but a great Open Space Event in Seattle

The Open Space event in Seattle (BarCampBankSeattle) ended today. You will be reading posts now and in the following days that will attempt to bring to words the unique experiences we all shared. And it was unanimous – the event exceeded expectations.
Why was it so good? As William has pointed out, all of us have been writing about the financial industry, sharing thoughts, comments and dialogue about how we felt concerning all aspects of the banking business. This really set the stage. We were ready and willing to move this social media to the next plateau – face to face discussions. The Open Source method of meeting was the perfect type of venue to do this. Everyone contributed to the debates from the start with no need for much of personal introductions. There were no name tags, as in most instances we already “knew” the person. The passion and energy was as much as part of the experience as anything else.
The PBWiki has all the notes so take a look there to see what was discussed. Most agreed it was one of the best meetings that any of us has attended. It could not have been planned better. It was the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ in action. It was the start for some to put old dreams into action. It was just flippin’ great.

The evening before the BarCampBankSeattle

Finally arrived here after a 6 hour journey [Vancouver-Seattle]. The border wait was 2 hours, the I-5 was backed up to Everett so there was the other 4 hours. One begins to feel claustrophobic being surrounded by that many cars for that long.

Got into the hotel room and got a call from Brad Garland & Mark McSpadden from The Garland Group to go for supper at Elliot’s. Great guys. We had some interesting discussions about banking, Web 2.0, and Ruby on Rails. If this is any indication of what is in store for the next 2 days there is going to be some significant discussions around banking and technology. Great minds think alike…

BarCampBankSeattle is happening

Next week the BarCampBankSeattle is happening. Jesse Robins has put this together and there are going to be some very interesting discussions given the attendee list. It is the first BarCampBank event to be held in the United States. O’Reilly Radar, Trabian, Wesabe, Currency and the list goes on. There will be a good mix of operators and pundits, all associated with financial institutions.
One of the questions that keeps me awake at times is how will banking be able to augment their positions and strategies with the use of Web 2.0 energies and the Social Media wave? Banking has been rigid in so much of what it has done in the past. There is always the cover of privacy and secrecy when discussing financial matters with people. Will FIs create and be able to use these new key imperatives? Wesabe is the closest service that fulfills these elements. There is always the view of how the product will be balanced (social vs privacy/security) and how will the member/customer take to it.
Seattle may be the start of some new and innovative ways of how to bank. And that is long overdue.

The Assh**le book that hits the nail on the head.

I am reading a book titled “The No Asshole Rule” by Robert I. Sutton. (I apologize for anyone that is offended at this particular juncture due to the title but I think most have heard the word before). The book is subtitled – Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.
Most of us have had to deal with these kinds of people over the years. At some point our radar suddenly comes on and we realize that this co-worker, boss, supervisor is an assh**le. The radar is working but what exactly is going on here.
Sutton produces two tests for spotting a person acting like an assh**le.
Test One. After talking to the alleged assh**le, does the “target” feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled by the person? In particular, does the target feel worse about themselves?
Test Two. Does the alleged assh**le aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful rather than at those people who are more powerful?
The tests work. But then he goes on to produce THE DIRTY DOZEN – Common everyday actions that assh**les use.

  1. Personal insults
  2. Invading one’s personal territory”
  3. Uninvited personal contact
  4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and nonverbal.
  5. “Sarcastic jokes” & “teasing” used as insult delivery systems
  6. Withering e-mail flames
  7. Status slaps intended to humiliate victims
  8. Public shaming or “status degradation” rituals
  9. Rude interruptions
  10. Two-faced attacks
  11. Dirty looks
  12. Treating people as if they are invisible

He goes on to say that we all suffer from these traits at times but the typical assh**le lives day to day with these traits. They are consistent.
The book is only 186 pages. His blog expands on the book. Required reading for anyone in an office with more than 2 people.

One very interesting book

Today there isn’t a paper, magazine or news broadcast that we hear or read that does not state something about the Middle East and the conflict that is occurring. I questioned numerous times what was really going on over there. Most, if not all of my perception, was governed by these sources. When living in Denmark I attended a language school for 9 months and made friends with a number of individuals from the Middle East. Kurds, Iraqis, Iranians, they were all interesting people that had some unbelievable stories. I came to know them very well and was always taken aback by their honesty and hospitality. This personal contact confused my understanding of the situation. I wondered how could this area be in such turmoil after knowing such wonderful people?

After reading The Shia Revival by Vali Nasr much of what I understood about the people and this area has taken on a new light. This book is exceptionally well written and goes to explain in depth the Shiism and Shia-Sunni conflicts. This book provides the understanding of the political and theological struggles within Islam. You will not view the Middle East in your pre-defined terms again.