thenextwave

Leadership, resilience, and ‘Lord Franklin’

Posted in history, organisational, sustainability by thenextwavefutures on 27 October, 2010

Franklin’s failed expedition to the Northwest Passage in the 1840s teaches us a lot about organisations and resilience.

I spent some time on holiday this summer learning ‘Lord Franklin’, the 19th century English song made popular in the 1960s by Martin Carthy and by Pentangle. The English love their heroic failures, and Captain John Franklin was one of the great heroic failures of the 19th century. In 1845 he took two British Navy ships, Erebus and Terror, and more than 120 officers and men, to try to navigate the Northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The ships were trapped in the ice and all of the men died.

As the song puts it,

Through cruel hardships they mainly strove
Their ships on mountains of ice was drove
Only the Eskimo in his skin canoe
Was the only one, that ever came through.

When he disappeared, the Navy sent search parties and offered a huge reward. There were searches by others as well, more than 40 in all. Later, statues of Franklin were raised in his home town of Spalding and in central London. The passage was successfully navigated by boat 60 years later by Amundsen, brought up on stories of Franklin’s doomed voyage. The contrasting stories of the success of one and the failure of the other tell us quite a lot about how organisations can use resilience to manage complex and unpredictable environments.

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Hacking the low tech future

Posted in digital, emerging issues, energy, innovation, technology, web 2.0 by thenextwavefutures on 9 October, 2010

What will happen to the technology industry in an age of expensive energy?

The technology industry has grown up in an age of cheap and abundant energy, and that has shaped, deeply and fundamentally, the way it sees the world, what it chooses to make, and how it designs what it does. You have to think only of the short lifespan of the devices, the fact that they are discarded, not upgraded, when technology moves on; or the emerging service designs based on the world of the cloud; and always on, on demand access. But the age of cheap and abundant energy is coming to a close. It is about to become scarcer and more expensive. How does the technology energy need to respond?

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Thinking about Ed

Posted in emerging issues, long waves, politics by thenextwavefutures on 3 October, 2010

Miliband’s election, and the reaction to it, tells us much about the nature of long-term social and political change.

I’m not a member of the Labour Party and didn’t have a vote in the leadership election, but I am a social democrat. There were cheers in our house when Ed Miliband won the leadership – and some perplexity since then as to why the Conservatives seem to think it’s such a good result for them. It’s probably worth explaining this, for wrapped inside both of these arguments is a larger story about the nature of long-term change.
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