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Last week, I was attending my third Techonomy conference.

Techonomy explores “the role of technology in business and social progress.”

I love the word “progress.”

It has that gentle flavor of positivism; in the direction of better. I am more and more convinced that we don’t need innovation; we need progress.

How is progress reflected in a modern company? What does a 21st century company look like? Or maybe we should start thinking about what a 22nd century company would look like. (22nd century indeed: somebody born in 2012 will only be 88 years old in 2100. If Ray Kurzweil’s predictions are realized, it will be a piece of cake by then.)

People might grow older, but companies will die younger.

John Hagel proves with the Shift Index that the firm performance (based on Return on Assets) has declined systemically over the last 50 years.

Most companies don’t last longer than 40 years. Most of today’s companies will not exist in 2100.

The question is: What are the characteristics of sustainable companies?

Here is a list of some memes I’ve come across in recent months: the Adaptable Company, the Decentralized Company, the Sharing Company, the Participating Company, the Collaborative Company, the Connected Company, the Connecting Company, the Coherent Enterprise, the Elastic Company, the Human Company, the Learning Company, the Living Company. I could go on.

I propose that there are at least seven characteristics that will be typical in the 22ndcentury company:

1. Peer-to-Peer Networks

Decentralized organizations with peer-to-peer networks of highly skilled knowledge workers will best create and sustain knowledge flows and enable employees to self-organize. The jury is still out on whether knowledge workers will most often be hyper-specialists or hyper-generalists, but the successful company of the future will behave as a living organism where peers organize themselves in “cells.”

In The Connected Company (Amazon Associates Link) Dave Gray calls such organizations “pods”: Hyper-connected cells building relations with other cells based on a common principles, a common set of values, a common pattern language.

2. Architects of Serendipity

Being an architect of serendipity is about creating connections and providing opportunities for collisions between nodes in a network that learn from the collisions and continually adapt. The collisions are not random. Instead, this is designed serendipity, which might sound like an oxymoron.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, the shoe company acquired by Amazon last year, is setting the scene for architected serendipity with his Downtownproject.

Instead of venturing in yet another luxury corporate campus with everything on-site from shops, restaurants, doctors, and central idea-incubation, Hsieh sees the value in integrating the Las Vegas fabric to catalyze collisions. He is investing about $350 million in local startups, small businesses, education, arts, culture, and residential and commercial real estate.

 

This campus of the future

starts to look more and more

like a complex living organism

 

Forget the old alliteration, the 4 P’s and 5 C’s of Kottler and Drucker. The C’s of this new era are those of hyper-connected learning organizations: Curated content, Community, Culture of openness, Collaboration, Creativity and optimism, Co-Learning, Co-Working, Co-Creation, Collisions, Connections. 

3. Empowered Radicals Instigating a Corporate Spring

Some call them Corporate Catalysts, Catalyst Peers, or Corporate Rebels. Steve Johnson described these instigators in his excellent new book Future Perfect: The Case For Progress in the Networked Age (Amazon Associates Link):

 

 

the most striking thing about these new activists and entrepreneurs was the personal chord that reverberated in me when I listened to them talk about their projects and collaborations—and their vision of the progress that would come from all that work.”

In September, I wrote a blog post called Companies Are Movements of Greatness. Catalyst peers in our organizations instigate these movements, whether these organizations are hierarchies or peer-to-peer networks.

The point is we have to unleash the energy of these “positive deviants.” I joined with a group of enthusiasts around the globe to put together a Corporate Rebels Manifesto. It’s all about a common set of principles, a pattern language for helping our companies succeed in the Hyper-Connected economy. It’s about creating a new global practice for value creation. It’s about progress.

4. Empowered Platforms

Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook are celebrated for their platform approach, exposing their core functionality through application program interfaces (APIs) so that other players in their networks–customers, partners, developers–can create new value on top of their platform.

We are only at the beginning of this trend, which will encompass all trade and commerce supply chains. In the end, I believe a wide variety of entities, including people, businesses, devices, and programs will have their own clouds and APIs.

What should come next in this evolution is an interoperability among clouds, a layer of services, protocols, and standards that let a Cambrian Explosion of Everything share data in real time, securely and with the appropriate governance and trust.

 

 

Every company may have to carve out

a role as a platform player

 

5. Empowered and participative customers

Doc Searls has written extensively about The Intention Economy (Amazon Associated Link) and customers taking back control of their data. Many organizations have implemented Open Innovation techniques, calling upon the intelligence in their networks to discover and develop new ideas.

The motto “We know more than me” applies the principles of Crowdsourcing. Barclays Bank recently launched BarclayCardRing, a crowdsourced credit card that empowers customers with highly transparent services and shares the program’s profits and losses and monthly financial statistics. In simple language, the data explain how the program is performing. Customers become producers, in partnership with the companies that serve them. 

6. Deeply Digital and Human

It’s been almost 20 years since Techonomist Nicholas Negroponte wrote Being Digital.

We now swim in a sea of data and the sea level, so to speak, is rising rapidly. Billions of connected people, far more billions of sensors, and trillions of transactions now add up to create unimaginable amounts of information. This new environment will require extraordinary adaptability: It is as if we are a species from dry land that has to learn to live in the ocean.

The digital age environment requires a new design for companies, which presents both threats and opportunities. Companies will be disintermediated, will see the erosion of their market share as new entrants muscle in, and technology companies will threaten the position of incumbents in more and more industries, threatening profitability.

But there are also opportunities: sources of rich information are multiplying, and more information is being digitized all the time. Every business is becoming a digital business.

However, the potential benefits of the explosion in number of nodes and the volume of data is being squandered due to low levels of trust, concerns about security, and barriers to monetization. That’s why my employer, SWIFT, has launched a project called the “Digital Asset Grid.” The Grid is a research initiated by Innotribe, SWIFT’s Innovation initiative for collaborative innovation.

With the Grid, Innotribe proposesa new infrastructure for banks to provide a platform for secure peer-to-peer data sharing between trusted people, business, and devices.

7. Diverse Contribution and Leadingship in the Social Era

My initial post on Techonomy only included six ways organizations can survive. Nilofer Merchant kindly drew my attention to the diversity aspect. What follows is an edited version of an e-mail she sent me:

We are all talking about thriving, being more deeply connected in community and thus allowing our organizations to be more adaptive. And my question is… is this system of change more about the same or about something fundamentally shifted in who is allowed to contribute.

I hope our future economy is also about including the people who are unseen today. Those who are right in front of us, creating value but then ignored when it comes to be included as leaders, or thinkers to shape the future. No one does this out of bad intent, but out of blindness. Few people will realize that while Hagel and Kelly and Gray etc are mentioned, many well-respected best-selling women management thinkers were not. Our thriving systems HAVE to be open enough to include those that are currently blocked out.

And we will be surprised by what we create. I remember the story of Fold It. The original inventors of that “game” imagined Phd students more like them than not would be the ones creating value. But in the end, it was a woman who was an admin during the day and the best protein folder at night. If the system had first vetted, she would have been screened out, but when all the rules are evened out… she contributed valuable stuff because she could. (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/04/just_how_powerful_are_you.html).

Blindness shifts when we start to be more conscious. In stead of perpetuating talking about the change, we have to embodying the change. 

Nilofer stroke a cord.

Her new book “11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra” (Amazon Associates link) indeed offers new rules for creating value, leading, and innovating in our rapidly changing world. These social era rules are both provocative and grounded in reality—they cover thorny challenges like forsaking hierarchy and control for collaboration; getting the most out of all talent; allowing your customers to become co-creators in your organization; inspiring employees through purpose in a world where money alone no longer wields power; and soliciting community investment in an idea so that it can take hold and grow.

 

 

The Industrial Era and the Information Age are over

and their governing rule are passé

 

Leading in the Social Era requires a rethink and re-imagination of what can be.

During the same period, I discovered Rune Kvist Olsen in the following YouTube video (1 hour video, you need to be present to fully appreciate the message from Rune)

There is also the excellent article “Leading-Ship: reshaping relationships at work” His thinking blew me away in rethinking leadership into “leadingship”. It cuts deep in what motivates people. There is also an associated slide deck here http://goo.gl/Ds1Qd . Rune   challenges big time all our preconceptions about leaders and followers. I feel deeply inspired by it.

I really enjoyed the 2012 edition of Techonomy. The conference convenes discussions among leaders focusing on the implications of technology change. Kevin Kelly put technology “in charge” in his seminal work What Technology Wants (Amazon Associates Link) challenging the notion that humans control the direction of technology. I look at it more and more as a form of symbiosis.

It happens that I met Kevin Kelly face-to-face later that week at Defrag 2012, where he delivered an awesome talk on “The Emerging Technological Superorganism” but that is the subject for a future blog.

The Internet – with it’s built-in peer-to-peer network architecture – made new forms of peer-to-peer collaboration possible. The creative energy unleashed by the edges of our network represent a transformative change and challenge in how we organize our intelligences in a mix of peer-to-peer intensities, supplemented with some structured “companies” that orchestrate some of the overarching memes in our society.

The rules have changed. To quote Robert Safian (Editor-in-Chief, Fast Company) in his Oct 15 blog post “The Secrets of Generation Flux”:

“Business today is nothing if not as paradoxical. We require efficiency and openness, thrift and mind-blowing ambition, nimbleness and a workplace that fosters creativity. Organizational systems based on the Newtonian model are not equipped for these dualities.”

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This blog post shares some more details about the Digital Asset Grid session. The session Digital Asset Grid will take place on Wednesday 31 Oct 2012 from 16:00 till 17:30 in the Conference Room-3. It is part of the Main Conference sessions of Sibos. The overall Innotribe Program at Sibos here, and I try to keep that post up-to-date with the very latest speaker and program announcements.

I have written extensively about the Digital Asset Grid in previous blog posts. Most recently in Banks-as-a-Platform and the Cambrian Explosion of Everything, all reflections on what it means to live in a hyper-connected world, to be immersed in the digital age.

We swim in a sea of data and the sea level is rising rapidly. Tens of millions of connected people, billions of sensors, trillions of transactions now work to create unimaginable amounts of information. A new environment requiring a lot of adaptability. We are species from the land that have to learn to live in the ocean. Like camels that used to live in the desert, that now have to survive in the ocean.

A new environment requires a new design.

The digital age and making the new design presents both threats and opportunities for Banks:

  • Dis-intermediation and erosion of market share by new entrants, telco’s and dominant technology companies threaten the position of Banks – and are increasing in velocity – reducing margins and profitability.
  • But there are also opportunities: new sources of rich information are multiplying, and the information that is available is being digitised.

Every business is becoming a digital business,

also banks and financial institutions

However, the potential benefits of the explosion in number of nodes and the data volume explosion are being squandered due to low levels of trust, concerns about security, and barriers to monetisation. The Digital Asset Grid has the ambition to tackle these challenges.

The Digital Asset Grid is a research project by Innotribe, SWIFT’s Innovation initiative for enabling collaborative innovation.

The Digital Asset Grid is probably one of the most forward-looking incubation projects of Innotribe.

The project proposes a new infrastructure

for banks to provide a platform

for secure peer-to-peer data sharing

between trusted people, businesses, and devices

The Digital Asset Grid does for data what SWIFT has already done for payments: providing a new scalable global network that supports “digital data banking”, a trusted peer to peer sharing of any digital asset between two or more nodes on the network. Banks existing qualities in management of de-materialized assets (today this is money but tomorrow this will be data), trust, regulatory compliance, market coverage and risk management puts them in a unique position to assume this role.

Indeed, with the Digital Asset Grid, we believe we are setting the direction for creating an internet-scale digital platform for information logistics.

The Digital Asset Grid acts as a digital map which describes:

  • The location of the data,
  • The trust framework governing access,
  • The digital identities who have access to that data, and
  • The usage rights these identities have under trust frameworks.

It overcomes the “data frictions” such as lack of security and trust and enables data to flow, leading to the creation of a low cost eco-system of revenue generating apps & services.

In addition, the Digital Asset Grid leverages SWIFT’s core skills and competences regarding governance, identity, security and operational excellence, establishing thus a global data-sharing platform as ubiquitous and reliable as today’s global banking network.

As part of the research, we wanted to go beyond mere PowerPoint presentation of a concept. What we have done is building an end-to-end prototype, with working applications and a working back-end infrastructure, together with a solid business story that is the result of a consultation with several banks of our community. In addition we produced a “foresight”-video of possible use cases.

Innotribe and its collaboration partners will present this prototype at Sibos on Wednesday 31 October 2012 from 4pm – 5:30pm in Conference Room 3. The session is part of the Main Conference Sessions of Sibos.

What we will show-case is:

  • A very strong opening with a strategy story by Antonio Benjamin – Global Chief Technology Officer & MD Citi GTS/ICG
  • A exciting intro into the changes in the digital data landscape
  • A brand new HD video – in the style of “Flowers for Grandma” and “Fly me to the Moon”, taking you into a not so far future 2013-2014, and showing in life environment of what is possible with current technology and the apps that we have built as part of the prototype.
  • A working prototype of the Digital Asset Grid server, server code and APIs
  • 4 applications illustrating the power of the Digital Asset Grid; some apps are relevant for the retail space, others are more relevant in a B2B context.
  • A compelling Business Story, where the opportunities are categories in three groups:
    • Creating new revenue streams through monetization of existing and new data assets
    • Doing the same better
    • Delivering New Services

But it would not be Innotribe if we added some elements of performance and interactivity. I can’t reveal everything in this blog post, but the staging of this session will include a motorcycle and smoking server.

Also, we will have facilitated breakout sessions to create an immersive learning experience for the audience. In these breakouts you will have the opportunity to get into person-to-person conversation with the developers of the applications and the back-end infrastructure, and the partners who have built the Business Story.

And at the end, Yobie and senior representatives from two other major banks will wrap-up the sessions with some suggestions on the way forward. And we’ll have some other surprises and some very cool announcements, which of course I cannot share now, if not you would not come to the session ;-)

The Digital Asset Grid offers Banks the opportunity to transform their industry, making them and their customers more efficient, generating new value and enabling Banks to launch a range of new services – it is a game changer.

The financial industry has a unique chance to seize this opportunity and position themselves in a very compelling competitive position in a future of real-time information logistics.

I cannot enough emphasise the importance of the Banks-as-a-Platform meme: it means that the value creation moves from the centre to the nodes. The market used to think in monopolistic, silo-ed service providers, that put themselves in the middle of the nodes-universe, leading to non-interoperable silos of data and value creation. By moving from a central to distributed architecture at internet-scale, banks suddenly have the opportunity to be themselves the platform, with SWIFT as a shared beacon of governance and trust.

I believe this is a “good” project. Good for our industry. It comes at the right time and at a tipping point where we see an evolution towards a peer-to-peer economy between trusted nodes in the grid.

It is fantastic that SWIFT – through the Innotribe Incubation Fund – makes this sort of research and experimentation projects possible.

Incubation is in my opinion indeed about “catalysing ideas”: it is about setting waves of thinking into motion, planting seeds in the brain, and getting the chance to develop those ideas in full so that they become foresight scenarios that become in their turn reference points for decision making.

Only when you have some strong foresight scenario/reference in your brain, you can spot and recognise the disruptive change signals from the market and make relevant and inspired decisions on “what would I do if this scenario happens?”

The Digital Asset Grid is one of those foresight scenarios of a catalysed idea, a strong testimony that innovation beyond adjacencies can happen in more traditional environments.

The team has done a great job in depicting the “foresight reference model” of a not-so-far-out possible future. The test for our community will be to validate whether we can rally ourselves to take the foresight model out of its incubation sandbox and move it to the next phase of acceleration and do it for real.

I am very excited to be able to share soon with a wider audience the results of the last couple of months of hard work, and I am very curious to see how and when our industry will seize this opportunity. I feel privileged to witness this turning point, and I am deeply grateful to the team, the customers, and SWIFT who made all this happen.

See you all in Osaka! Wednesday 31 Oct 2012, at 16:00 in Conference Room-3.

By @petervan from the Innotribe team

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The last couple of weeks I have been aroused with many ideas and reflections on Personal Digital Assets and on Digital Assets in general.

The journey started some weeks ago with my prezi talk at TEDxNewWallStreet and included my participation to the WEF “tiger team” on Personal Data, where a group of 30 experts are looking at what is needed to make realize the vision of Personal data as a new economic “asset class”. Personal data created by and about people, touching all aspects of society. That group is stitching the pieces together for a framework of business, technical and legal elements that are needed to underpin this vision.

However, the following video from Kynetx was the big aha-moment during my 4-weeks tour on the subject.

I never thought of a Personal Data Store as a “Personal Event Network”.

This changes everything ™

indeed as Phil Windley (@windley), CTO of Kynetx says.

One years ago, there was this beautiful video animation by David Siegel (@pullnews), a great vision of distributed nodes of personal data content talking to each other through API’s.

In the meantime, there is a rich ecosystem of start-ups that are building something very similar as we speak.

Maybe not yet to its fullest grand vision, but definitely going way beyond the traditional concept of a “personal data store”.

Check out leading start-ups such as Personal.com. Btw I dream of one day seeing an integration of Personal.com with an on-line bank. Anybody needing a brokering service here ? ;-)

What Kynetx is adding to the mix are three important things:

  • the “event” based thinking
  • the prototol for the data-web
  • Cloud Operating System

Event based thinking:

He really nailed it down for me last time I met him:

  • In the past we had RPC (Remote Procedure Calls), in essence fire and forget
  • Then came request/response: you ask for something, and you get it
  • Now there is the “event-signal”. It does not ask for something, it just says “something’s happened”, and any entity in the network can subscribe to the event and decide itself to do something with it.

Protocol for the data-web:

The other aha-moment was when Phil was doing his talk at the New Digital Economies conference on 27 March 2012.

For those who remember, in the past we had silo-d email systems. AOL, Compuserve, etc. They did not interoperate. We got rid of those silos when there was a standard protocol, allowing competing commercial and open source servers to talk to each other in SMTP.

We now see the same with data, personal data, social graphs. We have data-silos (Facebook, Google, Bank systems, Health systems, Government systems, etc). What we need is a “Data-Server” and a “Protocol” that allows these data servers to be interoperable.

Cloud Operating Systems:

Phil has explained all this beautifully in a series of blogs on www.windley.com and I get very inspired when he makes a call for thinking about personal clouds as “cloud operating systems”

All this, Phil calls “The Live Web” (Amazon Associates link). He is so excited about this that he has written a book about it.

In other words, start thinking about your “Personal Data Locker” become a “Personal Event Cloud”: your personal data-server in the cloud that can talk and do things on your behalf, can make decisions, interpret rules, etc…

And it can talk to any entity, any node in the web (or at least nodes in any discoverable namespace). In real-time. In multiplexing mode (meaning the node can be both a server and a client).

It suddenly dawned to me that over the last years we have been hyping “The Programmable WEB”, and that if we are serious about customer centric identity or “customer centric” or “personal” whatever, we may wish to start with the “me”.

Suddenly it was flashing in my brain: “The  Programmable Me”

“Me” is becoming a node in the grid. We are all nodes in the grid, sending and receiving signals. Like neurons passing an electrical or chemical signal to another cell. And start thinking “synapses” when you talk about the API’s of your Programmable Me.

From Wikipedia:

Synapses are essential to neuronal function: neurons are cells that are specialized to pass signals to individual target cells, and synapses are the means by which they do so”

The APIs of your “Programmable Me”, of your Personal Event Cloud are indeed the means to make all these nodes interoperable.

Add to this the graph-thinking of Drummond Reed (@drummondreed), Co-Chair of the XDI/XRI Technical Committee of OASIS. Check-out http://wiki.oasis-open.org/xdi/XdiGraphModel and more specifically some of the Powerpoints out there:

Each circle in this drawing represents a node in the grid. I really encourage you to look at this as a graph – this ensemble of inter-connected nodes – as something 3-dimensional, possibly multi-dimensional.

We have all been trained to think hierarchical. Flat files with a root, that sort of thing.

We have to learn to think in graph-models.

You can start anywhere in the galaxy. Every point can be the center of the universe. There is no root. At least, not in absolute terms. Yes, in relative terms with respect to the other nodes in the universe…

A grand vision starts to develop when you realize that the nodes can be any type of entities:

  • Humans (or their agents)
  • Circles (like Google Circles) of humans (entities without legal form)
  • Corporations, non-profits, governmental or educational institution (aka organizational constructs of humans with specific legal form)
  • We should also include less traditional forms of organizational constructs such as co-operatives, P2P communities, Commons,…
  • Programs (yes, software code), that perform tasks on behalf of the entities above or that operates as fully independent entities.

Each of these nodes/entities can participate in transactions – or better, “value dances”. “Dance” because the protocol is multiplexing, not one-way request-response.

Of course all these entities will require identity, in the broadest sense, not only URI or ID number, but in the sense of a spectrum, a graph that can be shared in context with other nodes/entities.

Sharing the spectrum becomes the essence of trade

What we are witnessing is a 180° turn in the power balance between client and server, slave and master, buyer and supplier, consumer and merchant.

All entities are equal.

We are all equal

Doc Searls (@dsearls) has written a book about it. The Intention Economy. (Amazon Associates Link)

But look at the subtitle: “When Customers Take Charge”.

I like Doc a lot, but his subtitle may suggest that somebody else is in charge: the empowered customer. I am afraid that we may end-up with another un-balance, where the pendulum has swung the other side: where the customer has an unfair data-advantage versus the merchant. But let their be no doubt that today the merchant has the unfair data-advantage, and I read Doc’s book more like a plea for getting the balance right rather than a socialist rant against establishment represented by the “big boys”, the vendors, the merchants, the silos like Facebook and Google.

In all the discussions about the Empowered Customers, we see classic commerce use cases like buying a book, buying flowers for grandma, etc

But I would like to make the jump to truly balanced financial transactions and what “dances between equals” would mean in that space. I invite you to think about your bank as the merchant, the merchant of financial services, and the consumer as the retail or wholesale customer of the bank.

In such scenario, the fundamental shift in thinking already happens at the Point of Sale (POS). We even have the question the term “Point of Sale”. It stems from an old thinking where the merchant “owns” the customer.

YOU are the point of sale

YOU are the point of data integration!

In the past the POS was the master,

now it will be YOU who is in charge,

or your agent,

the “Programmable Me”.

What if we start thinking about banking where YOU are the point of data-integration? What if your bank would offer you a service that enables you to manage your Personal Event Cloud?

I don’t know how it would look like, but it probably would be something triggered from your mobile phone. It probably would look like one of the Next-Gen banks (Simple, Movenbank, Fidor) with a Personal Event Network out-of-the-box.

Some of these Next-Gen banks are already accepting the CRED of your Social Graph as a much richer (in all senses of the word) basis for “Know you Customer”. Although we probably also have to inverse that: from the captive notion of “know your customer” to the user-centric meaning of “know your bank”. Then we may come back to the “primitive” of the meaning of “bank”: a bench where two people meet to build a relationship of value.

So, the discussion is NOT about the next coolest thing for doing a copy-cat of existing money-transactions through the latest greatest gadget like NFC or Bump, or whatever.

Some of all this already permeates in a recent Techcrunch article suggesting the “NFC is already out-moded”

“The thing to keep in mind here” says Crone, “is that NFC was developed more than 20 years ago. It was first deployed 10 years ago. 10 years ago, we didn’t have ubiquitous access to data plans. We didn’t have more smartphones in circulation than feature phones and we had to depend on an ‘offline’ connection for processing payments. But now, there are 124 million households that have more than one device connected to the internet. Typically, that’s a smartphone, but very quickly it’s becoming a tablet.”

Also Christopher Carfi (@ccarfi) starts thinking in this direction in his recent post “Musings in Small Data”.  In there, he refers to a video of Jerry Michalski (@jerrymichalski) of the REXpedition doing a demo his “Personal Brain”. (Disclosure: I am member of the REXpedition). The video is titled “Gardening My Brain” and the talk was given at Personal Digital Archiving on February 22, 2012 in San Francisco.

It’s a pity that this talk is in the context of a personal digital archiving conference. Because, in my opinion, we have dramatically evolved from archiving to sharing.

Sharing of information and digital assets is becoming the new normal in this world of Abundance of information.

Christopher Carfi nails it when he says:

As these issues become more widely understood, more individuals will be tracking their own information. Perhaps it won’t be to the level that Jerry has done it in the video above, but it will be happening. This means that we, while wearing our business hats, will need to be developing real relationships with our customers. We need to listen to what they are saying, what they are asking for, and working collaboratively with them in order to help them fulfill their needs. In the best cases, we’ll have built up levels of trust with our customers and will have been given the explicit permission to access our customers’ personal data stores. In doing so, we’ll be able to actually take the guesswork out of the equation that was noted so clearly above in the Facebook example and will, instead, be able to connect directly with our customers’ intentions and deliver value on their terms.

Creating an economy based on the principles of relations is of course at the heart of the REXpedition. It is probably the next territory for competitive advantage beyond the mundane money transaction.

All this is about creating “Relationship Channels”, channels the vendor can tune into of the user has opened the channel.

All the above are of course very much related to our Innotribe incubation project “Digital Asset Grid” (DAG), which is about the sharing of any digital asset with any party.

All of the above is also very relevant to Mark Pesce’s (@mpesce) thinking about “hypereconomics”, described in one of my previous posts “The future rarely arrives when planned”.

The real question is then: “Where will value be created when all the connections between nodes have become frictionless?” Mark has some ideas on this, and he describes them as “irreducibles

No matter how ‘smooth’ and frictionless hyperconnected commerce becomes, certain frictions in the business world will persist.  These represent both speed humps and opportunities.  The businesses of the 21st century will find leverage and differentiation by identifying and exploiting them.”

What those “irreducibles” are, you will be able to discover at our upcoming Innotribe event in Bangkok on 26-27 April 2012, where together with Mark Pesce we will have some great interactive learning experiences. Be there, or read the report that we will make on this post-conference.

If you really want to take a meta-view on all this, I believe all the examples above illustrate our species being in search for a deeper meaning, a thicker value in everything we experience:

  • We are in search for a higher level of consciousness, a further evolution in Spiral Dynamics, in search for a richer value system, much richer than the pure transaction world that is the narrow lens of today
  • We start looking at companies being nodes in the grid, in fair-trade constellations of equals, trying to maximize the commons and contribution and giving back to society
  • We want to go beyond the “advertising” thinking of “let’s hit the target with an ad”. We are in search for a better world with more Thick value and less Thin value
  • We are starting to see the emergence of “The universe as a Computer” as wonderfully described by Nova Spivack (@novaspivack) in one of his milestone posts last month.

All the above is about defining, articulating, and living lives of greater meaning. With the “M” of meaning. Umair Hague (@umairh) already in 2009 called this “Generation-M”, which in essence is anchored in “constructive capitalism”

Generation M is more about what you do and who you are than when you were born. So the question is this: do you still belong to the 20th century - or the 21st?

I would like to close with a reference to The Wellbeing Revolution (Amazon Associates Link) by James McWhinney (@JamesMcWhinney).

What I liked about this book is that it encourages you to look at where you are in your life, and to look at it through the “M” lens. The lens of meaning.

I then discover that what I am writing today, what job I am doing, who I am married to, was probably all meant to be this way. Not “meant” in a deterministic way. No, “meant” as everything I have done, the decisions I have made, my architecture studies, my infection by the identity virus, my journey in Leading By Being, etc… all these things have made me who I am.

What if I could capture all this richness about me, and have a tool and an infrastructure to share that on my terms and conditions, in context, and with the parties or nodes in the grid that I choose to? What if I could share my meaning in a programmable way?

I would end up with something called “the programmable me”

By @petervan from the SWIFT Innotribe team.

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The title for this blog post comes from a 2010 talk by Mark Pesce. He adds to it:

it rarely arrives in the form that we expect

it is too hard to grasp, a bridge too far

the seeds of the future are always with us in the present

I have referred many times already to Mark Pesce in my previous posts:

He keeps inspiring me, by the challenging content and his oratory skills. And yes, I am trying very hard to get Mark to one or more of our main Innotribe events as core anchor/igniter of some of our conversations.

I also recommend my readers to have a look at some of his recent work, especially about “hypereconomics”, Flexible Futures, and last but not least his upcoming book “The Next Billion Seconds”. The chapters of the books are being released now on an almost weekly basis, and here are some of the catchy titles with associated content:

  • Initiation
  • Introduction
  • Articulation
  • Replication
  • Duration
  • Revelation
  • Revolution
  • Origin

It reads like an “Origin of Species”, looking back and projecting us in the future of the Next Billion Seconds, aka the next several ten thousand of years. A fascinating read indeed.

But I wanted to use his 2010 talk as guidance to some of the work our Innotribe team is doing in our incubation project called the “Digital Asset Grid” (DAG)

In this talk, Mark Pesce talks to  a group of Human Service folks and Health officials. Although it is about health, I encourage you to listen with holistic ears, as everything he says is applicable for any vertical.

The talk is titled “When I am 64” and is looking forward 17 years from 2010. The “64” is a wordplay on the famous Beatles song.

Here is the link to the first part of the talk. The talk was split into 3 separate videos.

I will avoid the temptation to do an ad-verbatim transcript, and will just use a couple of quotes to illustrate my own points.

Highlights first video

Somewhere half-way, Mark Pesce mentions how his team went open source with their 3D Mark Up language and how surprised they were with the amazing ideas people came up with on what they could do with it.

  • He mentions and Austrian project that made a 3D encyclopedia, like a tree of knowledge, and
  • a 3D visualization of NYSE stock data.

The latter one makes it possible to see 5,000 times more information than on could see with the standard flatlanders’ Bloomberg terminal. Mind you, this was in 1997, that now 15 years ago.

My lessons learned for DAG:

  • The DAG story is a story of value propositions. That is what the prototype we are building will focus on. It is NOT a technology showcase.
  • We play with the idea of an open source DAG server. There is some hesitation. We should not hesitate. We should look at it like IBM looked at Apache Server at the time. Our core competence is to operate a high-available, secure and resilient infrastructure. Probably less in building server software. We know more than me.
  • There is so much innovation in the ecosystem. Our current thinking is to bring the APIs of the infrastructure in a controlled open. So that Banks and other 3rd parties can be on the bleeding edge of innovation.
  • On the longer term, this whole concept of stream-servers makes me think a lot about the Metacurrency.org software project of Art Brock and Eric Harris-Braun. The idea is to build a basic communication later to be able to deal with stream-scapes.

I can assure you that “streams” and “scapes” will be commongood in some years time. Another very cool initiative in this space is Nova Spivack’s latest start-up BottleNose.

Highlights second video

It really gets interesting when Mark Pesce starts unfolding how the power of our communities shape our behavior. Somewhere at minute 09:10, Mark develops an extremely interesting banking scenario:

  • Imagine someone steals your identity, walks into bank, and takes a loan in your name (if they are able to present the proper documentation)
  • The problem is that once you present stolen proof documents at the entry of the process, the process usually kicks off perfectly and delivers the programmed results
  • Better would be to be proofed by others, by your community. “An identity that is confined and constrained by those you are connected to”, by your on-line context
  • At minute 10:35, Mark suggest

that you should be able to handing the bank your social graph!

You really would expect your bank to be able to write some piece of software which could confirm your identity

Bank validating your identity strength based on who vouched for you !!!

This really comes very-very close to some of the use cases we have in mind for DAG.

This would result in a system with greater resilience, much harder to fool, because:

  • Identity is a function of community
  • And not just identity > even TALENT is a function of and a recognized value of a community
  • The social graph is the foundation of identity

In my opinion, all this is leading towards “interest based connections”.

The relationship economy, the reason why REXpedition is so important, is the next battlefield of competition; after most organizations squeezed all the juice out of SixSigma, Lean, and similar programs for increasing productivity and efficiency.

  • The focus of these programs was on doing better what we already did (sometimes doing bad things better)
  • Now its’ about doing new things, the right things. And those right things have all to do with better managing our trustful relationships

Therefore, Mark’s thesis that “a group of well connected highly empowered individuals is a force to be reckoned with” is one of the biggest forces in place. It has always been, but now returning in force thanks to our hyper-connectivity and information abundance.

Highlights third video

This part, entitled “Senior Concessions” really got my attention when Mark Pesce starts talking about “Personal Broadcasting”, networks of trust and sharing of social graphs.

Sharing of social graphs will enable us to identify who brings real value, who brings insight, who bring wisdom. And also those who seek to confuse, who are confused, or who are self-seeking.

This smells very much like reputation and influence like:

  • the reputation score in eBay
  • the thinking of Andreas Weigend’s from the Stanford Social Data Lab
  • Doc Searls VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) thinking
  • Drummond Reed’s Social Vouching start-up connect.me with its underlying Respect Trust Framework.

Mark continues how boundaries of expertise are becoming more and more fuzzy. The patient now often knows more than the specialist. The student knows more than the teacher. It reminded me to one of the first books I read about fuzzy logic by Bart Kosko in 1994. “The new science of fuzzy logic

Reading that book so very early in my career was probably meant to be part of my life and my purpose.

Anyway, Pesce puts the patient in the center, like Doc Searls put the user in the center of his user-centric intention economy.

In my opinion, banks have a similar huge opportunity to put the customer back in the center and offer unprecedented high-quality data services.

And Mark Pesce goes on:

  • This is about user centric “social” graph
  • Knowledge will pass from one user to another (similar to John Hagel’s knowledge flows)
  • As knowledge is passed on to the community, the community empowers itself
  • Person as agency of his own data, deciding who gets access
  • Privacy of medical data is about making these data freely available to those who need it in context, but make them secret to those who do not need those data
  • Only if person has agency for his data and authorizing access to his (medical) records, and tools to track that access (and give/release access)
  • Without those tools we will loose track of who owns what etc and becomes easier for those who shouldn’t to have a look in
  • As our medical records spread through our networks of medical expertise, we will feel less fear, and more to surrender our privacy
  • There is power in releasing our privacy because we gain connections

It’s almost going back to Doc Searls (and others’) 1999 ClueTrain Manifesto where the authors declare in one of their 95 thesis that “Markets are Conversations”.

It’s also going back to Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, where the each element is weak, but where the combined structure is stable.

As a matter of fact, the 3D space of the geodesic dome perfectly illustrates what the DAG is all about. Look at it as a certified map of where the data are located with their associated usage rights. Sharing as utility. P2P sharing with certified pointing infrastructure. It’s moving us from a Flatlanders 2D thinking of the physical world to a 3D thinking of the graph. That is what the DAG is really all about.

I put this blog together during one of my weeks off, weeks that are completely un-planned and un-structured. For me these are weeks where I refresh my brain, new ideas pop-up during moments of organized boredom. You could call it my Boredom Weeks.

It can therefore not be a co-incidence that Mark Pesce ends with a referral to Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow and director of the Interaction and Experience Research Group within the Intel Labs. Just on that same day, I received a tweet from one of my followers referring to Genevieve Bell’s TEDxSydney 2011 talk on boredom.

The video basically illustrates that ideas come in moments you don’t expect, when you are not focused, when you have this blissful moments of boredom. Its back to the start and title of this blog post: “The future rarely arrives when planned and it rarely arrives in the form that we expect”

I can already see now how DAG will take off from and into un-expected directions. And we are just at the start of the prototype phase. Exciting times

@petervan from the #innotribe team

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Yesterday, i had the pleasure to be interviewed by Dan Marovitz, the founder of Buzzumi, a knowledge monetization platform, and a board member of rbidr, and the Professional Diversity Network. He is currently on sabbatical from Deutsche Bank where he was, until June of this year, Head of Product Management for Deutsche Bank’s Global Transaction Banking business.

The subject was digital identity, and the chat covered several subjects from privacy, KYC, user centric identity, and of course our latest incubation project the Digital Asset Grid.

The chat is available online here.

We could have gone on for hours, as the subject is so rich. Buzzumi is a new kid in town for doing online webinars, a bit like WebEx or Skype, with the big difference you don’t have to install any client. The session yesterday was more or less flowless, with some small audio hick-ups (minor). But they are still in beta. I like the idea of “one click and on”.

It also learned me that i am in beta myself for this sort of on-line interviews. I have done some media interviews in the past, and we got here at SWIFT a proper media training, but this is different. You have to watch several inputs at the same time, the chat box is also a source of streaming info. The most important thing is that i need to be better prepared. Really walk through in advance the questions with the interviewer, prepare my key messages i want to convey, prepare content blobs (just keyword is enough) around certain themes that i can tap into at will as the conversation flows.

“Messaging” is fundamentally changing in nature. Video will be an integral component of it, and i can’t wait to see the first blending of this with Twitter and semantic video searching. On good track, Dan !

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This was my second Defrag.

I attended Defrag for the first time last year in 2010, and it helped me spot 6 excellent speakers for Innotribe at Sibos: Jeff Jonas, Mark Dowds, Laura Merling, Dion Hinchcliffe, Doc Searls, and Stowe Boyd.  I contacted more Defrag speakers, but or they couldn’t make it, or I just couldn’t fit them in the already packed Innotribe agenda.

It’s a dream for me in my role as content curator for Innotribe events. But it is also one of the conferences that really helps me identifying trends in tech industry.

I tweeted the one-liner “once Defrag always Defrag”. Life permitting, I want to go every year.

Defrag is not a conference like any other. It’s a 2-day encounter of tech enthusiasts in Broomfield, close to Boulder, Colorado. It’s capped in number of participants: 325 max. The quality of the speakers, content and participants is excellent. Always a place to have great conversations.

It’s perfectly organized by Eric Norlin and his spouse Kim, and tuned for a modern tech audience: super quality video projection, awesome sound system (the organizers love playing lots of hard rock and metal music), power plugs on all tables, and a Wi-Fi system that is tuned to deal with 3 devices per participant. How good how good was Defrag’s Wi-Fi? Well, they had people downloading the new iPhone/iPAD iOS *in* the keynote room, and we did not notice any drop in quality! And everybody got a goodies bag so big that you have to buy a separate suitcase to get it all home. Eric’s super curation skills, his no-frills introductions of the speakers and his humble no-hero attitude completed the pack.

As usual, I will not make a chronological report of my impressions, but zoom into some of the highlights of this year’s conference.

  • For a very detailed twitter stream, check-out the tweet tsunami with hashtag #defragcon:  https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23defragcon
  • or even better, Matt Groeninger (@mgroeninger) compiled tweets for hashtag #defragcon during Defrag 2011 (11-3 to 11-11), cleaned it up for double entries, time-zone adjusted them and posted the whole lot as an *.CSV file here: http://bit.ly/u8Xppi . Thx, Matt! It helped me writing this blog!

Like last year, the conference opened with an awesome energizing video trailer. This year – the 5th edition – was no different.

Defrag Video: http://vimeo.com/31903004

That was great as a kick-start. Eric and team had decided not to have a specific overall theme for the conference, and I believe that’s a good change. However, after the 2 days, I saw some themes lurking behind all the great content: big data, APIs, the race against the machine, and inspiring new ways of work were recurring.

Opening by nobody less than Tim Bray from Google with a talk on “Mysteries of the Internet”

He was one of the speakers who did live coding as part of his talk, and it was the second time in 3 weeks that I heard the message that nobody really understands the Internet (first time was at Compass11 from Danny Hills from Applied Minds). “Don’t try to predict the future from the past” and “I want to be an explorer (of unknown territories)” were typical one-liners of this talk.

I have organized this blog under following themes:

  • Check your assumptions
  • Machines in charge
  • When presentations become art
  • How to run your company like a start-up
  • Philanthropy
  • Great conversations
  • Big Data
  • Pitch Alert

Check your assumptions

Sam Arbesman from The Kauffman Foundation pointed out that most facts change over time. There are few absolute truths. He introduced the notion of “mesofacts”, warning that “your reality is out of date” and that “whatever period we are born in we view as the state of affairs”. Facts (averages of facts) obey (mathematical) rules: half of scientific data changes in about two generations. Many of our decisions are based on outdated facts. “Are your facts up-to-date?” was the appropriate call for action for this talk.

Duncan Watts, author of “Everything is obvious, once you know the answer” explained that common sense is hat we rely on to navigate concrete, everyday situations. Unfortunately, we try to apply common sense or gut feeling for complex longer-term situations. In complex systems history never really repeats, history doesn’t repeat deterministically, so generalizations based on the past have limited utility. “Is the Internet to sociology what the telescope was to physics?” is a good summary.

Aneesh Chopra, CTO to the White House gave a passionate talk. The assumption that he challenged was that government officials are boring and non-inspirational. Oh boy, I was impressed by his in-depth knowledge on a broad set of technology matters, and the contagious energy he was spreading. Governments need more people like @aneeshchopra in public service. Do, don’t talk, innovate, don’t legislate, open government using big data, API’s, and crowd sourcing to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship. Cool stuff.

Machines in charge

Robert Stephens was founder and CEO of Geek Squad until Best Buy bought it. Robert is now CTO Best Buy. “Every company should have a Robert Scoble” and “where is the AppStore for home automation?” were some good openers. He made clear that there is a whole market out there for repairing/supporting robotics, home automation, fitness, the Internet of things. On social media, his dream is to have NO social media response team, that every employee is connected and empowered. He also showed some “wireless hygiene stats”: how much noise devices cause in a Best -Buy shop. Towards the end, he made a shutout for #singly > VRM and locker project, and defended that bringing your own device to work (BYOD) works better than giving an employee their own corporate device.

Brad Felds (managing director at Foundry Group) opened his talk with an awesome scary app on Facebook http://www.takethislollipop.com/ > try it and make sure your Facebook locations are “on”.

For Brad, the machines have already taken over: they are very patient, come in many disguises. Machines don’t have to kill us; they are patient and can wait till we die. Still, he is an optimist and thinks that machines will like us and will help us. He urged us to change our mindset about who is controlling whom. Regarding the singularity, he does not care anymore when it happens, it’s happening already, and very fast. To my question “what values to we have to give our children to prepare for the age of the machines?” he answered to my surprise “nothing”. Kids younger than 15 years have grown up symbiotically with being connected, and will solve it themselves. Therefore, Brad remains optimistic.

When presentations become art

Lili Cheng from Microsoft Research surprised everybody with a beautiful presentation inspired by architecture, going back to her education roots: why did I like this talk so much? ;-). She was using the architecture metaphors to refer to the ideal structure of a city, and how that is inspirational to build social software that is flexible and creative enough to optimize big data. “Dance like no 1′s watching. Sing like no 1′s listening. Tweet like no algorithm is coldly deciding your social worth” or a modern implementation of “Why do we loose our child’s innocence along the journey of life ?” was a fantastic quote to make the transition to a great demo of Montage, a document editing package based on search and mixing all kinds of content: pretty cool. It is the first demo in many years that I see from Microsoft where they prove they are finally getting the web.

Already last year, Paul Kedrosky seduced me with his talk on “Ladders”, a great presentation on big data correlations. With Kedrosky, you never know where he is leading you till 10 min in the talk. This year was no different. He started by live coding in game ZORK, trying to get into the White House through the backdoor. At a certain moment in the game, he hits a location that is labeled “this page is intentionally left blank”, btw also the title of his presentation. You must be brave to drop the word “vacansopapurosophobia” (fear of a blank page) into an early-afternoon keynote ;-) In essence, his talk was about transparency and about vulnerability in being open: “I want to play a game but I don’t want to be gamed”. The blank page is a way to reassure us we are missing out something.

How to run your company like a start-up

There were some really cool presentations on new methods of work.

Jay Simmons, President of Atlassian had a talk on “Hack your company”. Some salient approaches included scoring based on performance and stretch, come up with an idea and ship it in 24 hours (yes, 24 hours!) and iPads at the entrance of work to survey employee satisfaction, instead of boring long surveys.

T.A. McCann, Founder and CEO of GIST charmed everybody with “A startup Start to Finish”. In his opinion great people, aligned passions, and complementary skills are the secret sauce for startups. The HOW is as important as what: he suggested to operate your start-up like clockwork: 18 month horizon, 6 month goals, 3 month plan, 1 month themes, 2 week sprints.

Adrian Cockcroft, Cloud Architect from Netflix blew everybody away. In essence this was a great talk on innovation and on Netflix’s corporate culture. He made clear that the one R&D or Innovation center does not work, is not taken serious by the rest of the company and how incredible hard it is to change corporate culture in a big organization: he implied it’s impossible. I loved his quote “For innovation to happen, you have to get out of its way”. His list of corporate culture attributes was mind-blowing: they only hire senior people, have no coding standards (peer pressure works fine). They don’t have a CIO and their IT staff only supports employees. They push out code, as needed, several times a day, and not “the old way”, the 2-week train like at eBay. One and the same persons now do project manager, line manager, and architect. Prima donna’s are expelled by group pressure. There are no bonuses, just flat and very competitive salaries. And they have monthly stock options at the current price with instant vesting. Fascinating. With his grand-finale “we only hire rockstars: do you want to be in the audience on part of the band on stage?”, any professional should be attracted to check out the open positions at Netflix ;-) Post event @matthixson posted a link to a slideshare about the Netflix culture. It’s great and I recommend it to all, especially if your company is reviewing motivation, appraisals, etc.

I was trying to invite Adrian to Innotribe at Sibos 2012, but could not yet convince him. A couple of days after Defrag, I had a call with Kaliya Hamlin @identitywomen on an unrelated subject, and she asked me how Defrag went. She said that the people who know Innotribe should make a invitation blurb to help us convincing folks who do not immediately see what’s in for them to talk to senior banking executives: Innotribe is different, cool, engaging, and no better ambassadors then those who experienced. Great idea, Kaliya! Thx!

Laura Merling from Alcatel-Lucent was brilliantly comparing the aspects of a business to 5″” stilettos and making a plea for women in business and tech: “it’s not about whether you’re male or female, it’s about whether you’re the right person for the job” almost got a standing ovation. “Build a culture, create a business tribe” sounded as music in my Innotribe-ears. Her presentation used a strong metaphor of boots/shoes, and it was not just a gimmick: the boots have a sole/soul, and mentioned innotribe as a role model. Slides here. http://www.slideshare.net/llm007/five-inches-of-fabulous-defrag2011

Sam Ramji was great during one of the API break-outs: “I am a mercenary, not a missionary” on question whether API intermediaries should refuse non-standard OAuth.

And Dion Hinchcliffe joined JP Rangaswami @jobsworth when he stated “design for change, design for loss of control”

Philantrophy

Matt Galligan showed how even start-ups can contribute to a better world via philanthropy.

His initiative “1% of nothing” lets start-ups engage with 1% of their equity. It is called “1% of nothing” where nothing is equity of a startup that us not (yet) worth anything

Great conversations

I had some great conversations with Sam Ramji and Anant Jhingran from Apigee. I have invited them to do a brown-bag session for all staff, next time Sam is over in Europe. This setting is btw possible for any company that has something innovative to offer that falls within our strategic objectives.

I also had some in-depth chats with digital identity folks Ian Glazer (Gartner Research), John Fontana (Ping Identity), and Drummond Reed (Connect.me). The day after, I was already invited to the Cloud Identity Summit in July 2012 to talk about our Digital Asset Grid (DAG).

And it is always fun to brainstorm with Laura Merling and Mike Maney from Alcatel Lucent. We believe there is some fertile ground to join forces, and to do something around a crazy idea of “Rebels United”. More about that for sure in one of my subsequent posts

Big Data

Last but not least, almost all talks had “big data” in them somewhere. It became almost annoying at some moment in time, especially when there was a presentation specifically trying to prove that this was the latest buzzword, and becoming as generic and meaningless as “social media”.

Pitch Alert

On a very few occasions, there was “pitch alert”. And one of the sessions on policy really could not inspire me. The last talk was – at least in my appreciation – a bit “thin” in content (speaker was ok), and I would have preferred to end on a real high, like the conference started.

Post conference, I had some great chats with Eric Norlin. Maybe I’ll get a chance myself as a Defrag speaker next year: I am working on a brand new prez on “the soul of innovation” based on the attributes of DJ’s, Painters, Pirates and Corporate Rebels”. It’s work in progress, and I am experimenting with sound, video and image landscapes as part of that presentation. Would be nice having a European flavor into the Defrag conference ;-)

Two days after the conference, I saw a tweet from Eric Norlin: “had a break-thru moment last night about how to improve the defrag agenda/structure in a discussion w/ kim. can’t wait for 2012.”

Same here. Can’t wait for 2012. Already note down the dates for next year’s edition: 14-15 November 2012. If you go, you will not be disappointed. See you there!

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This post is a fifth in a series on personal digital identity. Part-1 “The unpolished diamond was published here in August 2010 and Part-2 ‘The Digital Identity Tuner” was published here in September 2010. Part-3 “Personal Data Something” was published here in December 2010. And part-4 “Austin-Munich-Toronto” was published in February 2011 here.

Drawing by Hugh MacLeod (@gapingvoid) during the Innotribe Deep Dive on Digital Identity, Sibos Toronto, September 2011.

That was February 2011. Since then a lot happened. I had so many rich discussions, met so many new fascinating people, and have been aroused by a deluge of new ideas on digital identity.  And my employer SWIFT gave the go-ahead for an incubation project on Digital Identity that is now called the “Digital Asset Grid”.

As I mentioned in my Innotribe Sibos report, the Digital Asset Grid (DAG) is important because:

  • We are moving from money bank to digital (asset) bank
  • The DAG is an infrastructure play for SWIFT to offer a certified pointer system pointing at the location of digital assets and the associated usage rights
  • It’s and economic imperative for SWIFT to expose its core competence via API’s
  • The DAG is a huge opportunity for SWIFT to be a key infrastructure player in offering an end to end hardened infrastructure and end-point to enable the seamless exchange of any sort of digital asset between any number of entities
  • This is also a huge opportunity for financial institutions to plug-in to this infrastructure for offering a new set of services in the data leverage space in un-regulated data market places

For me Digital Identity is so much more than your log-in, or our account-number that is backed by a Know-Your-Customer (KYC) process, or another userid/password or a security token.

I look at it a spectrum. Like you have a spectrum analysis for a star that uniquely identifies it, you can imagine a spectrum for the digital identity of persons:

Digital Identity Spectrum is everything from PKI, account#, Log-In to address, attributes, history, preferences, biometrics, reputation, risk profile, intentions, signals, etc and all this in transaction and time context.

It’s no co-incidence that Facebook recently announced “TimeLine”. Identity in time-context leads to your identity spectrum that is unique at one given time. And yes, you will be able to play it backwards like a movie, but also forward to do trend analysis and forecasting.

VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) is about sharing specific parts of my spectrum with specific vendor(s) in specific transaction context(s). In the Digital Asset Grid project we asked ourselves:

“What if we could apply the VRM principles not only to personal data but to any content, to any piece of information, to ANY digital asset?”

You could then start thinking about sharing specific parts of any digital assets with specific vendor(s) in specific transaction context(s).

In essence, what we are doing, is “weaving” digital contents with associated digital rights and who has the rights to that content.

It’s a map of digital weavings

of digital fabrics

This is how the Digital Asset Grid was born.

Is this not too consumer oriented for an organization like SWIFT? I believe this is the wrong question. The discussion “consumer vs. enterprise” has kept us blind. Same by all sorts of other customer segmentations like “small-medium-large”. In the identity ubiquity game, all this is segmentation is irrelevant.

We have to start thinking in terms of different sorts of entities that participate to the identity-dance. Those entities can be:

  • Person (humans)
  • Loose group of persons (for ex Google Circles), that have no legal construct
  • Commercial companies
  • Non-Profit companies
  • Governments
  • Educational institutions
  • Programs (code)

The last one – programs – is quite fundamental. We are witnessing the blurring between humans and computers. It smells like early singularity. And in this debate we should not only be concerned on how programs augment humans, but also how humans augment programs. But that is another more philosophical discussion, and some good reading on this can be found in the book “The Most Human Human” by Brian Christian. (Amazon Affiliate link)

Back to our Digital Asset Grid…

The vision of the Digital Asset Grid

is to move the SWIFT network and SWIFT services

from a closed, single-purpose, and messaging-based system

to an open, general-purpose, API-based system

It’s a natural evolution. That’s it. No disruption. No—“the next big thing.”

Just apply out-of-band our core competency to the modern age of connectivity. Instead of destabilizing the market by disruptive innovations, provide the basic infrastructure missing for a global transaction-based platform on the Internet.

Of course, its vision is grand, with plenty of innovative elements and thinking. Here are some examples how we move from the traditional identity “space” to the new “Digital Identity Grid”

I would like to zoom-in on one of the bullet points above: from one way request-response to full duplex dance.

The web – a collection of pages – is based on some simple request-response mechanisms. I request a page and the server responds and gives me the page. End of that transaction.

With the dataweb – a collection of Digital Assets with associated usage rights – we will need something where exchanging entities can perform a dance around and with the Digital Assets. And we want to be sure that they are who they say they are, and that they have the right usage rights to the digital assets. So we move from a two dimensional view of the world (in computer terms a “table”) to a multi-dimensional view (in computer terms a “graph”)

The Digital Asset Data Web is the next phase in the evolution of important internet stuff. It’s probably what comes next in the following series:

To continue the dance metaphor, the SWIFT infrastructure is the Dance Hall where entities meet to perform certain specific dances.

One of the many use cases for the Digital Asset Grid would be to solve compliance, In stead of moving messages from A to B, we keep the data where they are and “point” to them with SWIFT certified pointers to where the data are located and the associated usage rights.

The dance protocol (full duplex) for this use case, from opening of the dance with (a “webhook” in technical terms), to the actual picking-up of the content, and closing the dance and everything in-between, could look like something like this:

  • PartyA: “hey, I am sending a signal that I wanna dance the tango (slang for payment instructions) with any party in the Swift dance hall at 9pm”
  • PartyB: “yep, I wanna dance with you, let’s meet in the SWIFT dance hall at the bar”
  • PartyA: “ok, here we are, cool place ;-)”
  • PartyA: “Let’s get to business”
  • PartyA: “I just gave you following rights my payment instructions at this XRI: you have XDI pick-up rights”
  • PartyB: “ok, gotja. Will pick it up right away”
  • PartyB: “knock knock, I am coming to fetch those payment instructions”
  • PartyA: “let’s check if you have the usage rights….”
  • PartyA: “everything looks fine, go ahead”
  • PartyB: “loading, loading, loading…”
  • PartyB: “Ok I am done”
  • PartyA: “So am I”
  • PartyB: “tomorrow, same place same time to dance ?”
  • PartyA: “would love to ;-) 9pm again ?”
  • PartyB: “sure, bye bye”
  • PartyA: “bye bye”

And, what’s really cool about it, it’s fully auditable, end-to-end.

When telling this story to one of my colleagues, I got the following reaction: “Hey, but you are changing the basic messaging paradigm of SWIFT… I am not sure that I want to support an innovation like this… one that is cutting off the branch from the tree I am sitting on…”

Here is something essential for innovation. Any innovation team in any company should not only look at some nitty-gritty small incremental innovations, but

daring to be great and to re-think

the cash cows of our companies

Like Guy Kawasaki used to say: “the best way to innovate is to set-up a company that is trying to kill your cash-cow”

All the above is about the infrastructure story that SWIFT could play in and in that sense is a bit navel staring. But the biggest opportunity however in all this is probably for banks, financial institutions, and new upcoming innovative financial service providers.

This is a HUGE opportunity to offer new digital services in non-regulated markets

Many examples and use-cases here :

  • Personal Data Lockers, Digital Asset Lockers, Digital Asset Services aka Digital Bank, « Who-touched-my-data » services, Personal Data Trading Platforms, Digital Asset Trading Platforms, Corporate and Bank Klout Services, Audit services, Tracking services, Big Data and Analytics services, EBAM, Corporate Actions, etc.
  • Also e-Wallets of all kinds. Not only « wallets » for money but wallets for all sorts of Digital Assets. An e-Wallet is nothing else than a browser on a personal money store. What if we start thinking a browser for a personal data (asset) store?
  • And I spoke recently to one of our managers in Securities Business : also there plenty of examples, even in looking at trading assets.

So far, the Digital Asset Grid was just the result of a research project at SWIFT. Today, I am very pleased to announce that the SWIFT Incubation Team just gave the green light to move this project in prototype stage.

It means that during Q1 2012, we’ll have a working prototype targeted at a specific use case, but we will expose the API’s of the infrastructure and give them in the hands of developers and challenge them to come up with some cools apps that can be built on top of this infrastructure.

A lot of the thinking in this blog is the condensation of a lot of teamwork of many many people who participated to this Digital Asset Grid project. With the risk of missing out somebody, I’d like to send out a digital invitation signal to those people for a thank-you dance in the SWIFT Dance Hall: Mary Hodder, Kaliya Hamlin, Doc Searls, Drummond Reed, Craig Burton, Andreas Weigend, Gary Thompson, Tony Fish, and also lurking-in Don Thibeau, Scott David, and Peter Hinssen.

I would like to say Thank you! Maybe with David Bowie’s 1983 hit “Let’s Dance”? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4d7Wp9kKjA

Let’s dance put on your red shoes and dance the blues
Let’s dance to the song they’re playin’ on the radio

Let’s sway while colour lights up your face
Let’s sway sway through the crowd to an empty space

If you say run, I’ll run with you
If you say hide, we’ll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower

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