The rise in network thinking

Social_Network_Analysis_VisualizationA nice article here in the Scientific American, on ‘How Networks Are Revolutionizing Scientific (and Maybe Human) Thought’.

“Modern research in sociology, psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology is showing that… what we are like as individuals critically depends on how we are linked socially and emotionally with others, in relational networks reaching far and wide.”

For example, we have historically tended to think of people as being part of races, nationalities, ethnic groups, societies, or cultures. But then network thinking shows us that we are connected to anyone else in the world by only six degrees of separation.

This way of thinking collapses the world immeasurably, and creates many more possibilities than the old worldview.

For example, it influences the way ideas spread. The networks we are part of are partly driven by ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on, but everybody is linked to everybody else within six degrees of freedom.

This makes complete sense using The Escher Cycle. Continue Reading >

Tenth anniversary ebook edition, now available

cover-hi-resWe are pleased and proud to announce that the celebratory tenth anniversary edition of The Escher Cycle is now available as an ebook on Amazon, so you can easily carry it with you at all times.

This second edition of the 2004 hardcover original has a few minor edits, all of the original 80+ figures and tables, and a new preface.

Copies are available through all Amazon sites, but here are links to the relevant UK and US pages (which will display a link to your local site if you need one):

Amazon uk, opens in new window, opens in new window

The book is in kindle format. If you do not have a kindle you can download a free reader app for your device (PC, apple, android, iphone) from the Amazon web page.

I am not a thing, a noun, I am a verb, a process

On googleplus today I found this rather nice quote from Buckminster Fuller:

“I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing – a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe.”
~ R. Buckminster Fuller ~

It was accompanied by this rather charming graphic, illustrating the evolution of life on Earth (so far):


The Escher Cycle tells us that “there are no such things as things or resources — only processes. What we call a resource is actually the output of one process, waiting to become the input to another.”

A business is a process. A customer’s experience is a process. A country is a collection of processes.

And you and I are also processes, as are fish, lizards, and monkeys. We are all processes as we live our lives and grow older together. Continue Reading >

Preface to the Tenth Anniversary Edition

cover-hi-resAs publication of the second edition of The Escher Cycle approaches, I thought it would be good to share the new preface to this edition.

It explores some of the changes that have happened during the ten years since initial publication, and asks whether any of the predictions made by the book’s thinking came true.

No one ever steps in the same river twice,
for it is not the same river
and they are not the same person.
— Heraclitus, c. 535-475BC

In the ten years since I wrote The Escher Cycle the world has changed. A billion more people now live on the planet. And what were once the “emerging economies” of the BRICs nations have now grown to account for nearly a quarter of global GDP. They have emerged.

At the same time, some business models that were strong a decade ago have all but disappeared. DVD rental stores and makers of CD players hang on here and there, but the Internet has replaced most of them. Businesses such as Instagram and Whatsapp, meanwhile, have grown from zero to multi-billion dollar valuations in just a few short months.

This ever-changing economy is the ever-changing river that Heraclitus talked about over two and a half thousand years ago. And the rate of change is getting faster.

But some things do not change. Continue Reading >

The Escher Cycle and GM genes

Click to read Guardian article

This article from the Guardian in May 2000 states:

“A leading zoologist has found evidence that genes used to modify crops can jump the species barrier and cause bacteria to mutate.”

This will come as no surprise to anyone who has read The Escher Cycle.

We are brought up to believe that species evolve. But Gregory Bateson showed us that it is ecosystems that are the unit of evolution, not individual species. The whole ecosystem evolves together.

One mechanism by which this happens is mechanistic: faster cheetah cause faster antelope, and faster antelope cause faster cheetah. Insects that prosper later in the year lead to birds that have their chicks later in the year, and so on.

And another mechanism of evolution is the jumping of genes between organisms. After all, Continue Reading >

The Purpose of a Business is to Create a Customer

20120813-cxcytw45yqp1iedb5sfkt5ygg4So said the ‘Father of Management Theory’, Peter Drucker.

The Escher Cycle agrees.

Chapter 2 opens with the words, “Different people want different things, and the foundation stone of any business is the set of customer needs that it aims to satisfy. If it serves a lot of people with strong needs then there is potential to build a large and thriving business. The fewer or weaker the needs, or the more short-lived they are, the smaller, weaker and more short-lived will be any business that tries to fulfil them.”

Drucker says that the only two basic functions of any business enterprise are marketing and innovation.

The Escher Cycle agrees that these are two themes that run through the core of the book:

— Chapter 2, Satisfying Customer Needs deals with marketing, and the innovation required to keep up with changing customer needs over time.

— Chapter 3, Using Resources, deals with how to deliver the services that the marketing has defined or identified, and the innovation of that delivery over time. Continue Reading >

The Teflon Effect: Your most difficult customers are your greatest opportunity


Good to see that Bill Gates agrees with the Teflon Effect of Chapter 8 of the Escher Cycle: that your most difficult and demanding customers are your greatest opportunity — “to find new ways to bring them value, and improve the return on that investment by re-using those innovations in services for less-differentiated customers.”

Guardian Strategy, III — Culture and the “ecology of news provision”

David Pemsel, deputy chief executive of Guardian News & Media, recently gave a short speech about the organisation’s strategy.

[You can watch the speech below (or read highlights here):]

As Pemsel says, what they are doing goes against all conventional wisdom. But readership and revenues are growing, and previous posts (on readers and advertisers) have shown how this makes complete sense when considered through the lens of The Escher Cycle.

This third and final post looks at the big picture: what David calls “the ecology of news provision”.

It examines The Guardian’s role within that space, by applying the thinking of chapter 7 of The Escher Cycle. Continue Reading >

Feadship, luxury yacht builders

Screen shot 2014-05-18 at 09.11.54Once you’ve read The Escher Cycle, examples of where it is applicable start popping up in the most unexpected places.

For example, in this month’s SuperYachtWorld (the global magazine for superyacht owners) there is an article about boatbuilders Feadship.

In 1978 they built the yacht Al Riyadh for the Saudi royal family. At 65m it remained for decades the world’s largest motoryacht. And when Steve Jobs wanted a superyacht, he selected Feadship to build it for him.

Does The Escher Cycle help to account for their success?

Continue Reading >

Guardian strategy, II — Advertisers

David Pemsel, Deputy chief executive of Guardian News & Media, recently gave a short speech about the organisation’s strategy.
You can listen to that speech here (highlights below):

As he says, what they are doing seems at first glance to be crazy. Giving content away for free goes against all traditional wisdom about what it takes to run a successful newspaper.

But the facts are that The Guardian has gone from being the seventh largest newspaper to the third biggest news website in the world. They now have online conversations with over a million people a monthrevenues are growing, and they are developing strong new relationships with advertisers.

Seen through the eyes of received industry thinking their strategy doesn’t make sense.

But seen through the lens of The Escher Cycle it is very easy to understand what they are doing and why.

Our previous post looked at how giving content away for free is part of their strategy to ‘grow, deepen and retain’ relationships with readers/members. This is about applying The Escher Cycle’s ‘Customer Chain’ thinking (chapter 2).

This post looks at the changing relationships with advertisers, using the ‘Audio cycle’ thinking of Chapter 6 and the ‘fractal economy’ thinking of Chapter 7.

A third post looks at the implications for the company’s future deep strategy and the evolution of human culture. Continue Reading >