Lessons from Slime Mold [IA Summit, April 2009]
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Lessons from Slime Mold [IA Summit, April 2009]

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In April 2009, I shared my thinking about slime mold and organizational culture at the IA Summit in Memphis. For years, I’ve found creative inspiration in slime mold. The elegance of this lifeform ...

In April 2009, I shared my thinking about slime mold and organizational culture at the IA Summit in Memphis. For years, I’ve found creative inspiration in slime mold. The elegance of this lifeform is extraordinary: when times are good, it’s a colony of individuals. When times are bad, the whole colony forms a single organism and makes a getaway. I use slime mold as a metaphor and learning inspiration for how organizations behave, adapt and how they can better embrace collective work.

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Lessons from Slime Mold [IA Summit, April 2009] Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 1! Learning from Slime Mold! IA Summit, March 22, 2009! Kate Rutter | http://intelleto.com !
  • 2. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 2! Iʼm Kate.! Iʼm a designer and strategist. Making things visible and visual makes my heart sing.! I slime mold.! Adaptive Path is a User Experience strategy and design consultancy. Our mission is to help companies make products and services that deliver great experiences that improve peopleʼs lives.!
  • 3. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 3! What weʼll cover! 1 } !About Slime Mold! 2 } !A new view of organizations, structures 
 & environments! 3 } !3 big lessons (and a bunch of little ones)! 4 } !Where to go from here!
  • 4. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 4! They’re not animals and they’re not plants...
  • 5. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 5! They are both plant AND animal… it’s like they can’t make up their mind…and, you know, they think it’s them…who’ve been running the earth all this time. - David St. Hubbins Lead singer and rhythm guitarist SpinalTap “ ”
  • 6. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 6! lives here...!
  • 7. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 7! looks like....!
  • 8. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 8! sounds like...! myxomycetes! mix - oh - my! see - tees!
  • 9. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 9! sounds like...! dictyosteliomycota! dick - tea - oh - stee - lee! uh - my - coat - uh!
  • 10. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 10! Slime mold lifecycle! amoeba! aggregation! plant-like! slug! fruiting
 body! spore!stalk! animal-ish!
  • 11. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 11! Letʼs see it big as life...! (You are a part of this.)!
  • 12. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 12! These are slime mold.! +! You are the forest floor.!
  • 13. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 13! Phase 1!  Eating!  Sensing!  Signals!  Growing!
  • 14. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 14! Phase 2!  Sensing!  Signaling!  Clustering!
  • 15. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 15! Phase 3!  Slugging!  Crawling!
  • 16. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 16! Phase 4!  Settling!  Stalking!
  • 17. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 17! Phase 5!  Fruiting!
  • 18. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 18! Phase 6!  Sporing!  Dispersing!
  • 19. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 19! rinse. repeat. (as needed)!
  • 20. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 20! (they did awesome)!
  • 21. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 21! plants! animals!
  • 22. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 22! Evelyn Fox Keller! Physicist, Author, Feminist! M.I.T.! Study of complex biology “from below.”!
  • 23. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 23! Steven Johnson! Author! Interface Culture! Mind Wide Open! Everything Bad is Good for You! The Ghost Map! The Invention of Air! Study of complex systems, dynamics and emergent behaviors.!
  • 24. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 24! Slime Mold:! The patron saint of innovation!
  • 25. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 25! organism! environment! thriving! nourishing! surviving! hostile! striving! tough! fighting! fleeing! dying! eating! signaling! sensing!growing! grappling! get up & moving! clustering! stalking! crawling! fruiting!
  • 26. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 26! organism! environment! constant conversation with the environment!
  • 27. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 27! People are not slime mold.! ≠!
  • 28. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 28! so...whatʼs what?! individual! team! company! industry! market!
  • 29. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 29! B = ƒ(P,E)! Behavior is a function of a person and the environment.! - Lewinʼs equation! E = ƒ(P,B)! Environment is a function of a person and their behavior.! - Extended from the incredibly awesome Friday keynote by Michael Wesch.!
  • 30. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 30! B = E! Our behaviors are our environments.!
  • 31. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 31!
  • 32. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 32!
  • 33. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 33!
  • 34. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 34!
  • 35. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 35! •  Hierarchical! •  Static! •  Top-down! •  Every person has one specific place! •  Environment created by authority 
 & control! •  Multi-dimensional! •  Dynamic! •  Bottom-up! •  People have many associations! •  Environment created by relationships 
 & participation!
  • 36. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 36! or! Static ! Centralized Hierarchical Rigorous! Top-down Chunky ! Designed Planned ! Rational ! Linear ! Taxonomies Designed Task ! Done ! Consumer! Dynamic Distributed Networked Loose! Bottom-up Fine-grained Emergent Self-organized Irrational Interlinked Facets Adaptive Possibility Always doing Participant!
  • 37. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 37! Static ! Centralized Hierarchical Rigorous! Top-down Chunky ! Designed Planned ! Rational ! Linear ! Taxonomies Designed Task ! Done ! Consumer! Dynamic Distributed Networked Loose! Bottom-up Fine-grained Emergent Self-organized Irrational Interlinked Facets Adaptive Possibility Always doing Participant! AND! and! and! and! and! and!
  • 38. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 38! Static !! Centralized! Hierarchical! Rigorous! Top-down! Chunky !! Dynamic! Distributed! Networked! Loose! Bottom-up! Fine-grained! Emergent! Designed! Planned !! Rational !! Linear !! Taxonomies! Designed! Task !! Done !! Consumer! Self-organized! Irrational! Interlinked! Facets! Adaptive! Possibility! Always doing! Participant! Welcome to the world of AND!
  • 39. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 39! organism! environment! constant conversation with the environment!
  • 40. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 40! How can we do our best work?! 2} Understand the environment! environment! organism! 1} Understand the organism!
  • 41. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 41! exploring! get up & moving!grappling! exploring!exploring! exploring! Environment : tough! Behaviors : !~ sensing! !~ signaling! !~ clustering! get up & moving!
  • 42. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 42! limited resources! competition! lack of respect! no shared vision! ambiguity! unclear paths! barriers! power imbalances! no trust! shifting landscape! disconnect on values! disagreement of purpose!highly political! tough environments! grappling
  • 43. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 43! cAMP saves the day! grappling Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX5Yiz38fgY
  • 44. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 44! slime! mold! responds! by! clustering! grappling
  • 45. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 45! Great signals are! ~ sticky! ~ loud! ~ visual!}! tips & tactics Great signals to and from many sources increase your survival
 ability and informs the environment about whatʼs going on.! grappling
  • 46. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 46! Sticky signals! grappling S simple! U unexpected! C concrete! C credible! E emotional! S stories!
  • 47. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 47! High-volume signals!  Memorable!  Energetic!  Have a pattern!  Get reinforced! grappling
  • 48. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 48! grappling Visual signals!  Visual ideas get through faster!  Pictures communicate a more complete idea!  Images are more durable and memorable!
  • 49. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 49! You can always chose what you do next. - Scott Berkun Author and very, very smart guy “ ”
  • 50. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 50! get up & moving! exploring!exploring! Environment : hostile! Behaviors : !~ slugging! !~ crawling! !~ settling! !~ stalking! grappling!exploring!
  • 51. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 51! hostile environments! Something is
 trying to kill you.! get up & moving
  • 52. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 52! slime! mold! responds! by! clustering! get up & moving
  • 53. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 53! You need to know:
 ~ what wonʼt you give up?! ~ what can you leave behind?
 ~ how much will you participate 
 in the collective action?! cheaters! martyrs! survivors!}! Tips & Tactics What role are you going to play in ! survival tactics?! get up & moving
  • 54. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 54! cheaters! get up & moving
  • 55. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 55! People are not slime mold.! ≠!
  • 56. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 56! Interestingly, we noted that cheats only cheated in the presence of non-cheaters – when they could get away with not ʻbailing waterʼ. ! When surrounded by other cheaters, they contribute to the group effort again, ʻawareʼ that if no one does, all of them will die.! - Dr Chris Thompson, Faculty of Life Sciences
 University of Manchester! get up & moving “ ”
  • 57. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 57! get up & moving Martyrs! The Moses Paradox:! You lead people to the promised land.! But you never get ! there yourself.!
  • 58. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 58! Moses paradox people! - Works to protect people on the team! - Stands up strongly for values! - Speaks truth to power! - Holds difficult conversations with stakeholders! - Negotiates for the time & resources for action! - Held accountable for hardline outcomes, change and 
 proven impacts! - Functions in environments with severe ambiguity! get up & moving
  • 59. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 59! get up & moving
  • 60. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 60! get up & moving Survivors! Maslowʼs Hierarchy:! Know what matters, and where it is on the scale.!
  • 61. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 61! Acclimate to the! new environment! quickly get back into! explorer habits!! get up & moving
  • 62. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 62! exploring! Environment : nutrient-rich! Behaviors : !~ eating! !~ sensing! !~ signaling! !~ growing! grappling! get up & moving!exploring!
  • 63. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 63! nourishing! plentiful! purpose-driven! shared vision & purpose! expansive! open! supportive! resource-rich! high trust! unmetered! strong shared values! inviting!participatory! rich environments! exploring
  • 64. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 64! Making rich environments:
 ~ collective play! ~ simple rules of engagement! ~ shared standards
 ~ always be sensing! ~ always be signaling! TAZs! listening platforms! work out loud! happiness checklist! }! Tips & Tactics How do your actions directly enhance the environment?! exploring
  • 65. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 65! TAZ : Temporary Autonomous Zones! A socio-political tactic of creating temporary spaces that elude formal structures of control.! exploring  R&D / skunkworks projects!  Wieden+Kennedy 
 Slime Mold Award!  Google 20%!
  • 66. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 66! We’re having fun... but we’re not kidding. - Brenda Laurel California College of Art “ ”
  • 67. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 67! listening platforms! Technologies and tools that you can listen for, send, and reinforce signals. ! exploring  Twitter, RSS, Google Alerts, Facebook, etc.,!  talk to people at the seams of the company!  keep all eyes and ears open : ask for strategy 
 docs, watch the market!
  • 68. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 68! Where is the difference between being 
 self-employed and 
 un-employed?!
  • 69. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 69!
  • 70. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 70! work out loud! Post work, notes, signals and information in visible and high-traffic areas. Open the doors to participating in design work.! exploring  open design sessions!  information radiators!  walk-by contribution!
  • 71. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 71! exploring  Have satisfying work to do!  The chance to be good at something!  Connections with people we truly like!  The opportunity to be a part of something bigger! happiness checklist! Jane McGonigalsʼ list of things that we all need to be happy...!
  • 72. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 72!  Have satisfying work to do!  The chance to be good at something!  Connections with people we truly like!  The opportunity to be a part of something bigger! exploring Connect with people we truly like! happiness checklist! Jane McGonigalsʼ list of things that we all need to be happy...!
  • 73. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 73! Static !! Centralized! Hierarchical! Rigorous! Top-down! Chunky !! Dynamic! Distributed! Networked! Loose! Bottom-up! Fine-grained! Emergent! Designed! Planned !! Rational !! Linear !! Taxonomies! Designed! Task !! Done !! Consumer! Self-organized! Irrational! Interlinked! Facets! Adaptive! Possibility! Always doing! Participant! Welcome to the world of AND!
  • 74. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 74! 4 simple things! 1 } !Make places and spaces for collective play.! 2 } !Work out loud.! 3 } !Sense with intent; 
 signal back what you learn.! 4 } !Constantly tune behaviors.! Take me home
  • 75. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 75! It doesn’t get easier. You just get faster. - Alison Barrett Bicyclist, thinker and community organizer “ ”
  • 76. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 76! My cAMP is spiraling! Semantic web! Evolve or die! Social participation & meme-making! Ubiquity or bust! Frameworks, platforms & modularity! Social architectures! Namba Tok! Storytelling deconstructed! Tribe vs. Community! Device as context! The computer is using us! Care to confront and connect!
  • 77. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 77!
  • 78. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 78! Hell yes.!
  • 79. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 79! Questions!
  • 80. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 80! Image Credits | Sketches by Kate Rutter! Cover Image: SEM of the Dictyostelium Developmental Stages, Image by Larry Blanton http://www.dictybase.org/Multimedia/LarryBlanton/dev.html Copyright, M.J. Grimson & R.L. Blanton, Biological Sciences Electron Microscopy Laboratory, Texas Tech University.! http://www.flickr.com/photos/myriorama/675955701/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/myriorama/266576734/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/atypically_me/66036673/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/330642929/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/myriorama/242773714/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/cramsay23/1520892178/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/myriorama/353366072/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/myriorama/58762793/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/myriorama/2039486562/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/myriorama/2045016739/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/myriorama/559268937/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/nebarnix/158284513/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/myriorama/203367911/! http://www.flickr.com/search/?page=3&q=slime+mold&z=t&l=cc&ss=0&ct=0! http://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/2759839949/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/nez/159580421/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/bryce/56404690/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/kstoeckel/1793679806/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/epzibah/296017012/http://www.flickr.com/photos/epzibah/296017012/! http://twistedphysics.typepad.com/cocktail_party_physics/images/2008/10/05/slime.jpg! http://www.burningcutlery.com/derek/slime/images/paper2-const.gif! http://hopf.chem.brandeis.edu/yanglingfa/pattern/spiral/dd0.gif! http://metafysica.nl/dictyo1.jpg! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Haeckel_Mycetozoa.jpg! http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/03_01/mosesHeston2703_468x611.jpg! http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilyelliott/1197528160/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/double-h/348964034/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/spodzone/1095006108/! http://digitalphilosophy.files.wordpress.com/2006/12/taz.jpg! http://forums.i80s.com/uploads/1171641553/gallery_1_1_4845.jpg! http://www.flickr.com/photos/double_o_zero/3278090358/! http://www.flickr.com/photos/rorymunro/3061446796/! http://bioinfo.bact.wisc.edu/themicrobialworld/Haeckel.jpg!
  • 81. Lessons from Slime Mold | March 2009 | 81! Thanks!! Have a wonder-filled day.! Kate Rutter! Twitter: !@katerutter! Blog: ! !intelleto.com!