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Networks & synergies: a kind of magical humanism

After the keynote at Reboot 9.0 I headed straight for Adam Arvidsson's Humanism 101, a 45 minute compression of thinking around the topic. Arvidsson who teaches media studies at the University of Copentagen) delighted the audience with a no-nonsense briefing on all aspects of this subject from the rennaissance through Kant to Second Life.

A key concept for me came at the end, when Arvidsson introduced idea of magical humanism. He said that we only partly understand the power of synergies of knowledge and of human social networks. We don't completely understand what they do and in a specific situation we don't know what the precise effects of engaging with them will be, but we invoke these "immanent forces" anyway with a kind of faith in their benign effect.

It resonated with me deeply. I thought about how we network, we engage in networks, we embark on projects to bring about synergies between areas of knowledge, individuals' knowledge and skills more on instinct than in certainty about what the outcome will be.

It also speaks to my experience in bringing the fields of corporate / brand communications and search engine marketing together at Spannerworks. Over a year ago, neither myself nor my future colleagues knew precisely what would come of our collaboration, but we judged that there was great promise in just seeing what woudld happen. And so far we have, I believe, surpassed our own expectations about what we have been able to achieve conceptually and practically (and we've just got started).

Similarly when we add a person to our network or ourselves to theirs we do in the faith that this will bring about positive outcomes. Again and again we are proved right.  


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I wish more people thought like you, Antony. I feel so sad for those who are, for whatever reason, unable to let go of attachment to outcomes which they essentially command from every situation, professional or otherwise. Most of us DO struggle with this in one area or another - being open to the possibilities and not trying to steer things to what we believe is the best possible outcome...which often just steers us away from what would have been even better. The term I have always used for this with clients is "emergent benefits," which are, without fail, always greater than the hoped-for outcomes the customer had going in to whatever it is we've done.

The title of your blog strikes me as quite appropriate right now.

Thanks, Jackie - great comment and much appreciated.

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