Different diseases spread differently. A simple observation, but with a level of complexity behind it that is worth understanding. It is not solely the infectiousness of a disease that affects its spread; the type of network the infection is dropped into plays a crucial role.

For many years, epidemiologists assumed a “mass action model” where the rate of infectiousness of a disease was a fixed number (basic reproduction number or R0), representing the expected number of secondary cases produced by a typical infected individual, early in an epidemic. For the flu, for example, it is roughly 2. Meaning one infection leads to two secondary infections, on average. Comparatively, for measles, it is 18.

In practice, the actual rate of spread is significantly impacted (and R0 effectively modified) by the host network: by both the density and the structure of that network.

At our recent network design symposium with the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), Lauren Ancel Meyers (Professor of Integrative Biology- University of Texas; Faculty- SFI) shared three simple network maps to illustrate how network structures influence the spread of epidemics. Although there are sophisticated mathematical descriptors of network structure, some simple explanations can easily demonstrate the range of impacts possible.

At the front of this article is a picture of three networks with the same number of nodes, but interconnected differently. The degree distribution (number of links each node has) varies across them, from only 2 on the left, to a range of 1 to 6 on the right. Two simple questions for you: 1) Which network will be the most susceptible to an epidemic? and 2) Which is likely to sustain the largest epidemic?

Are the answers obvious?

Networks with the greatest “degree distribution” (like the network to the right) are the most vulnerable to an epidemic. Variability implies vulnerability. But when an infection occurs, homogeneous networks (to the left) fare the worst.

Think of it this way: variability (or diversity) provides the greatest openness to the introduction of something new (whether virus or message), while homogeneity presents the greatest risk (or opportunity) for spread once established in the network. Beyond epidemiology, Meyers’ research has huge implications for the spread of ideas and information.

Take a Random Walk to Find “Super-Connectors”

Another network task in epidemiology is a desire to find so-called “super-connectors” because the likelihood of spread of a disease rises exponentially if “hubs” like these are infected in an outbreak (think of the highly connected nodes in the far right diagram above). It turns out super-connectors are not that hard to find. Randomly polling individuals in the network offers broad situational awareness and then asking to speak to one of their colleagues inexorably leads researchers towards super-connectors. Thus a random beginning can quickly lead to highly connected nodes. So, in any new network you enter, simple inquiries can uncover important understanding. And just as all rivers lead to the sea (or as Josh Baer joked, all tech in Austin leads to the Capital Factory), one can inevitably find “super-connectors.”

The infectious nature of an idea: Does it engage head and heart?

If you take Howard Gardner’s perspective, a cognitive leadership model recognizes that effective leaders “speak to narratives already present in their audiences’ minds.” For both organizational leaders and marketers alike, we not only need to understand the infectious nature of an idea and map the network, we also need to map the narratives already in existence in the network. In a future post, we’ll explore more on mapping narratives and the current state of a network’s mindset.

Thus, the capacity for an idea to spread depends on several factors: the content (infectiousness) of the idea itself (R0), the narratives already present in peoples’ minds, and the structure of the network in which the idea is released. This makes mapping networks and narratives key to orchestrating the spread of ideas, and yet, so few firms practice systematic network or narrative mapping. So, whether it’s epidemiology or the spreading of ideas, understanding the relevant network is crucial. Stopping the spread and accelerating the spread are simply two sides to the same network coin.

Stay tuned for more insights, and join us in conversation online using the hashtag #NetworksInAction

“Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun, but Mama that’s where the fun is.”

This line, from Bruce Springsteen – perhaps made famous by Manfred Mann – could well have been said by Toby Shannan, Shopify’s SVP of Support Operations.

You see, Shopify made its way from startup to a $5.2B valuation in 9 years by solving problems in the interstitial spaces between small business and e-commerce solutions, and between companies that don’t solve customer problems in “a hands on” way and those that do. The market has rewarded Shopify with hyper-growth for solving small business e-commerce headaches. That is the joy of integration – at least for Shopify.

The sorrow? All of Toby’s tech support issues are at the interface between different vendor solutions.  This is the burden of integration.

At Dialog’s recent network design symposium with Santa Fe Institute, Toby opened his seminar by quoting SFI’s Will Tracy as saying, “The edges are where the action is in a network.” By ‘edges’ he meant the links of a network. (That is one reason why networks are best thought of in terms of “flow” or the connections between. As It turns out that in all fields, connectivity is the main source of innovation. According to the recombinant DNA theory of innovation, the only way you can create something new is to bring together two previously uncombined elements.

In an open plug-and-play ecosystem, you can create virtually anything when compared to a closed ecosystem. However, this places a greater need on the role of integrator, whether that is the end user or a professional intermediary. In a closed ecosystem, the ecosystem sponsor takes on more of the task and decisions of integration. (Think Apple vs. Microsoft or Android).

All ecosystems, especially open ecosystems, require Integrators. Bridge builders. Translators. Renaissance men and women. That’s what we need more of as we race forward, ever-faster, pulled by our technology and self-reinforcing momentum, into deeper and more sprawling amounts of knowledge.

Specialization and exchange has created our world, but it will take renaissance men and women to keep it whole.

We need a unified worldview, right now. We can no longer afford brokenness. We can no longer afford to look at or manage problems in silos.

All silos are constructs. Organizational insiders can always tell you the informal network by which work really gets done. What is really there is a network, a series of nested ecosystems both formal and informal.

Toby manages his support and sales operations as one seamless function. In doing so, he avoids the usual escalated customer service issues that arise in the cracks between sales, customer service and tech support. People usually think of “product integration,” but “service integration” may be the secret of Shopify’s success.

In solving interstitial problems, Shopify’s team has found the same joy that Tim Cook found coming to Apple and working at the interstices of hardware, software and communications. In Tim Cook’s words, that’s where the magic is, at the boundaries.

There’s increasing business opportunity in connecting the network to itself.  With that in mind, the next time you see an integration problem, you just might see it as an opportunity.

And if you are lucky, like Shopify, it could offer you a 10 figure valuation.

Stay tuned for more insights, and join us in conversation online using the hashtag #NetworksInAction

Back in May of 2016, we wrote a perspective on how effective the Lyft and Uber campaigns were in getting people to the polls in Austin to vote on Prop 1, a referendum to roll back rules passed by our city council that would have required Uber and Lyft drivers to undergo fingerprint-based background checks.

After a contentious campaign, Prop 1 failed and Uber and Lyft made a very public exit. Recriminations followed, with both sides being accused of bullying and political tricks. After they left, Austin felt it. Ridesharing had become a way of life for many locals. But the void was soon filled by local ridesharing startups, including Ride Austin, Fare, Fasten, InstaRyde, among others.

After Uber and Lyft left in a heat of passion, life went on. But, they’re back! On Monday, May 29, 2017, Texas Governor Abbot signed into law a measure creating a statewide regulatory framework for ride-hailing companies, overriding the local measures Austinites endorsed last year. Uber and Lyft were conveniently waiting in the wings to immediately spring into operation as soon as House Bill 100 was signed.


Taking a Deeper Look at Community Sentiment


At Dialog, we won’t take a position on why or how this happened, but we can’t help but wonder, what do people of the city of Austin think about all of this? They were sort of confused when the hoopla, almost a year ago now, started. Have they become more informed? Are they excited? Do they care? Are they mad, are they sad, are they merely over it? As an Austin-based company, we were curious to find out, so we put our analytical expertise and tools into action.

Leveraging Conversation Science technologies, we analyzed recent local and public conversation online from May 26 – 31, 2017. May 26th was chosen because that is when Uber posted an apology to Austin from their newsroom, ahead of HB 100’s signing. Most of the conversation we saw took place on Twitter, with some Instagram mentions and no shortage of opinions. At the highest level, here is a narrative map of conversation themes, organized by similarly-expressed language.

Curious about how to read this map in more detail? Send us a note at ConversationScience@DialogGroup.com, and we’ll send you a brief.

Many of these themes have stand-alone titles, but let me define all of them for you from smallest percentage of conversation volume to the greatest. If you want to jump ahead to the top ten largest themes, click here.

NOTE: The sentiment summary listed next to each theme is based on the positive or negative impact that discussion/content/media coverage has on Uber or Lyft’s overall business or brand.


21. Other Ridesharing Perspectives/Voices on the Return of Uber & Lyft (1%) (Negative)

It’s interesting because, thus far, we haven’t heard a ton online from other local ridesharing services, apart from a small conversation that has developed around an AustinInno email interview with Marisa Goldenberg, the COO of Ride Austin.

In the article, Goldenberg expressed a deeply communal view, citing, “RideAustin believes laws that affect local citizens are best set by the local citizens. While we respect the authority of the State, we find it unfortunate that the 36 lobbyists deployed by the Silicon Valley giants were effective in convincing the State Legislature that there was a need to overrule the Austin voters.”

This sentiment is something we are seeing deeply penetrate the conversation landscape online around Uber and Lyft’s return among locals.


20. Uber Put Gender Discrimination into the Law (1%) (Negative)

I didn’t realize this until knee deep in the analysis, but the legislative battle over HB 100 at one point devolved into an argument about antidiscrimination language in the bill. Particularly, the issue was around “sex” and clarifying what that really meant. At one point, state representatives wanted to amend the bill to controversially define “sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female.” This amendment was removed, but in the midst of Texas bathroom bills and other LGBTQ policy battles around the world, some Austinites were not very happy.


19. In Defense of Uber and Lyft (1%) (Positive)

Some people vied heavily in support of Uber and Lyft, and specifically, defended their actions as a smart move to safeguard their business models. They also took the stance that Lyft and Uber responded to the situation in Austin admirably, standing up for themselves in the right way.


18. Cab Drivers Protest the Return of Uber and Lyft (1%) (Neutral)

A small percentage of the conversation focused on Austin cab drivers and a quickie demonstration that was held downtown to protest the return of Uber and Lyft. We even heard all the cabbies honking from our office. Locals snapped photos and video footage of tons of taxi cabs congregating along the streets and shared the news with people online.


17. Mayor Adler Is Incentivized By/Has Ties to Finger Printing Company (2%) (Neutral)

Here’s one I hadn’t heard before — two percent of people online were talking about Mayor Adler and his alleged ties to a fingerprinting company that was never mentioned by name in the online conversation.

We looked into it, and in 2016, Adler was the leader of a program called Thumbs Up! Austin. In his original vision, a nonprofit or a for-profit company could build what he called a “third-party, cross-platform badge validator.” Essentially, it would be a digital badge, that would elevate ride-hailing services that utilize fingerprint background checks.

Back then, the intent was to revise the law so that backgrounds weren’t necessary, and then local Austinites could decide for themselves which service to take. A badge like this would serve as an incentive. While the Thumbs Up! Website features a notification at the top indicating the idea was passed by city council 7-4, that ruling happened in January 2016. The site says its next steps are to form a non-profit. It does not appear that the site is actively being maintained so it seems doubtful things are going anywhere on the Thumbs Up! front. These sentiments that were being shared online seemed unsubstantiated. Oftentimes, when you see these types of misinformed rumors spread online, a little bit of education goes a long way.


16. Uber Offers Apology to Austin (2%) (Positive)

Uber shared their Austin apology newsroom release to Twitter and several people shared the tweet. The release came before the HB 100 was officially signed, so there were a few people who were skeptical and doubted the sincerity of the apology. There have been several more shares of the tweet in the following days, but for the most part it’s a relatively small part of the current conversation landscape.


15. Local Ridesharing Alternatives Are Better (2%) (Negative)

This is one of the more opinionated themes in the conversation. Two percent of commentators are basically saying, “no thanks” to Uber and Lyft’s return to the city citing they have found more reliable, safer services that treat their employees more fairly and even pay them better. These sentiments are highly bitter, with a hint of emotional breakup at work. However, they paint local ride-hailing alternatives in a super positive light, and local companies should seize the opportunity to leverage these evangelists.


14. Uber/Lyft Paid for the New State Legislation (2%) (Negative)

This is another very opinionated theme. Two percent of people believe Uber/Lyft paid off state officials, particularly Gov. Abbott, to pass legislation that would allow the companies to return to the city and operate. Needless to say, these mentions are highly negative.


13. Uber/Lyft Drivers and Riders Transacting (3%) (Positive)

A relatively boring theme at work. Now that Uber and Lyft are operating, new drivers are attempting to leverage social media to get customers to use their service. They are mostly emphasizing the importance of safe driving alternatives if drinking, and sometimes even piggybacking off Tiger Wood’s recent DUI for emphasis. People are also sharing codes and discounts for new services.


12. The Economic Impact / Fare Costs (3%) (Neutral)

Candidly, I thought the online conversation would devolve quickly into a debate about costs, especially since we are historically a college town, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. While, 3% of people are discussing the economic consequences of Uber and Lyft’s return, and the impact that return will have for local wallets, money isn’t that strong of a driver for local Austinites. When looking at the overall conversation landscape, pride appears to be much more important. Here is a peek into some of the cost discussion:


11. Uber/Lyft App Activity (3%) (Neutral)

This theme is more technical and focused on the Uber and Lyft technology platforms themselves. People are discussing when the apps are formally launching. Some people are disappointed and expressing frustration that the app launches didn’t coincide with public announcement. There are instances where people tried to use the app when they heard Uber and Lyft were back in operation, but the app wouldn’t display drivers in the city.


10. Austin Voters Overridden — Uber/Lyft Circumventing the Law (4%) (Negative)

Here’s an important one — Austinites are really upset that their voices are being ignored/stifled by the state, and they view Uber and Lyft as the primary enablers. At a time when one in five US adults cite dissatisfaction with government and political leadership as the most important problem in the country, it’s really no surprise that locals are taking this so badly. There is a significant number of people who feel Uber and Lyft are violating city-wide beliefs by returning, thumbing their nose at the will of the people.


9. Questioning and Posing Questions (4%) (Neutral)

This theme kind of designates the grey area. Four percent of people online are genuinely unsure of what to do or how to feel and are looking to their network for answers. Should they ride Uber and Lyft? Are others riding Uber and Lyft? Organizations and local business are also posing the questions, trying to get a pulse on the community’s sentiment.


8. I’ll Still Use Local Rideshare (4%) (Negative)

This theme is better known as “Bye Felicia!”. It’s distinct from the “Local Ridesharing Alternatives Are Better” (2%) bucket because these people are not explicitly weighing benefits and then making a decision about their ride options. Instead, they are taking a principled and emotional stance that they will not ride Uber and Lyft but instead will point their wallets locally.



7. Sharing Uber’s Return Announcement (5%) (Positive)

In Uber’s Newsroom for Austin, they wrote an announcement that appeared to come from a local Austin team. This post was less apologetic and more focused on the platform changes that have been in the works since Uber’s absence. It was more forward looking.

  • Part 1 of this content is this new initiative called Project Jumpstart which “supports local causes that are closest to Austin drivers’ hearts, and empowers them to spark change in the community.”
  • Part 2 are improvements in routes, where drivers can now take short cuts which obviously benefits the customer.
  • Part 3 is that they said they updated their community guidelines, though they don’t highlight any of the big changes.

As of June 1, 2017, the below tweet of this newsroom content has been shared 440 times and liked 1,253 times, and at the time of our analysis it was about 5% of the overall conversation online about Uber and Lyft’s return. Even though this content is very disconnected from other content on the narrative map above — meaning people are not actually discussing the substance of the content so much as they are just passing it along — Uber announcements are garnering awareness in the local community.


6. Driving Partners Needed / Jobs Wanted (6%) (Positive)

I don’t think this theme comes as any surprise. Now that Uber and Lyft are operating in the city again, they need to recruit drivers to run their business and be advocates for their brands. Job post sharing and people asking questions about where to apply or how to start the application process are about six percent of the overall conversation.


5. People Sharing Uber’s Tweet About Looking Forward to Returning to Austin (10%) (Positive)

This announcement is the most shared Uber communication of the bunch. As of June 1, 2017, the tweet received 3,268 likes and 1,712 retweets. In the local Austin conversation landscape, this specific piece of content is about 10% of the overall narrative. When we compare this to opinionated content, it’s a pretty big chunk.


4. General Announcement/News of Uber and Lyft’s Return (10%) (Positive)

The news of Uber and Lyft’s return was a big deal! Many people in the community were unaware of the passing and signing of House Bill 100, but lots of people heard Uber and Lyft were back. People are sharing news stories of their return and many are just making general comments letting other people in their network know about the fact that they are back in the community.


3. News About HB100 Being Signed (11%) (Neutral)

There was a lot of news that was being shared around the signing of HB100, or the “ride-hailing bill” as many news outlets labeled it. Many of these tweets occurred in real-time with the signing of the bill. It’s interesting that news of the legislature’s activity garnered more attention and engagement online than general news of Uber’s/Lyft’s return or Uber’s communications locally.

I think this speaks volumes about Austin’s willingness to participate in and prioritize local government above personal entertainment. However, this might merely speak to the fact that Austin is the capital of Texas, and consequently, we have more politically attuned community members.


2. General Happiness Toward Uber/Lyft’s Return (12%) (Positive)

Now the fun starts. The top two themes in the narrative around Uber and Lyft’s return to the city of Austin are general sentiment buckets, meaning they are general expressions of a feeling or emotion. Many people were very happy to see Uber and Lyft return.

In the positive conversation, people were looking forward to smoother ridesharing experiences, welcoming back innovative companies to the city, and were just happier that there would be a higher volume of professional ride-hailing companies to service the demand. Here’s a snapshot of some of the more entertaining ones:


1. General Negativity About Uber and Lyft Coming Back (13%) (Negative)

And finally, the No. 1 theme in the conversation online is general negativity and F-bombs about Uber and Lyft returning to Austin. This bucket doesn’t include as many specific reasons or substantiations for the negativity as the positive bucket did — I think negativity in general lacks the patience for it.

You have been warned. The below examples, while fun, contain MANY expletives. It’s always good to end on a positive note, but perhaps in this case, it’s better to end on a negative one instead, since that is the current mood of our city.


Don’t Screw with Austin, Y’all

This has been a long year for ridesharing in Austin, but the community remains energized and opinionated. In conclusion? I think Susanne Stafford @Susanneuna summarizes the conversation landscape nicely:


Conversation Science: Deeper Insights and Actionable Answers

We do these narrative analyses for our clients all the time. Conversation Science helps us better understand customer sentiment, the market’s view, and the existing perceptions that can shape and inform better marketing. Interested in learning more? Email us at ConversationScience@DialogGroup.com and ask for a walkthrough of some of our case studies.


Are you a reporter looking to cover our analysis? Send us an email at LetsChat@DialogGroup.com for more information.


Last week was big, and we believe it’s just the start of something even bigger.

Dialog, in collaboration with the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), hosted an all-day network design symposium titled “Influence and Complexity: New Views for Business, Politics, Innovation, and Growth,” at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Texas. SFI is the first and premier complex systems institute that includes five Nobel Laureates, and Rolling Stone has called them “a sort of Justice League of renegade geeks, where teams of scientists from disparate fields study the Big Questions.” The symposium married SFI’s scientific research of how complex systems work with Dialog’s approach and application to solving real-world, complex system business problems.

Speakers and attendees included world-renowned scientists, senior executives from companies, such as Boeing, VMware and Under Armour, as well as leaders from organizations such as Savory Global, the U.S. War College and the New York Stock Exchange.

From first session through closing happy hour, it was an insightful day of conversation and exploration that we will be exploring in greater detail in the future. For now, we want to send heartfelt gratitude to program participants and attendees.

We have received many requests for takeaways from the event. There were many and we will be sharing them over the coming weeks. To start, here are just a few of our favorite highlights from the panel discussion:

The panel on innovation and networks included Ross Buhrdorf (SFI, former CTO of HomeAway), Bryon Jacob (CTO of data.world), William Klehm (CEO of Fallbrook Technologies), Jeff DeCoux (CEO of Hangar Technology), and Josh Baer (CEO of Capital Factory). As these successful entrepreneurs chatted, representing emerging industries spanning drones and next gen NuVinci Sphere-based CVP transmissions, to big data and the semantic web, it was striking the alignment they had on the importance of networks to them and their business.

The conversation quickly centered not on technology but rather the people in their networks – internal and external.

  • It is so easy to forget in our age of technology and constant change that human emotions don’t change, neither does the desire for human connection, nor the desire to be part of something greater than ourselves. It’s in our DNA.
  • So Connect! “As a species our greatest adaptation is the ability of humans to work together. We built HomeAway with a weekly “kitchen table” meeting that persisted as we scaled from startup to global leader”, as Bryon and Ross recounted.
  • It’s almost trite, but entreprenuers have to be conscious of their network and put effort into building it.
  • What does change, says Josh Baer, is the scalability of it. Today’s tools let us be massive network builders on a scale previously only available to big organizations. He perpetually pays it forward thanks to a DIY app that lets him match needs, talents, and interest as he orchestrates the Austin Startup network.
  • Another common thread was how much diversity really matters, especially women in leadership and technology roles. Not just to perception, as Buhrdorf noted, but the real deal bottom line – studies prove 30% female leadership nets 6% profit improvement on average.

Luckily, a diverse audience brought much needed perspective to the discussion. NYSE Public Board Member and author of Women Make Great Leaders, Jill Griffin offered advice for women looking for opportunities to maximize their chances of success. Her insights included: 1) look for diversity at the top, 2) insist on objective measurement, and 3) find male champions.

A special thanks to Casey Cox and Will Tracy from the Santa Fe Institute for making this event possible. The event demonstrated the power of a network in action and we look forward to sharing more insights over the coming weeks about using network design to solve problems and unlock opportunity.

Stay tuned for more insights and also join us in conversation online using the hashtag #NetworksInAction


I am unreasonably saddened by David Bowie’s passing. To understand why, it is helpful to know a little bit of network theory and understand the implications of neuroplasticity.

On the network theory front, the “Rule of 150” states people can easily keep track of about 150 people in their lives. This is by some reckoning the size of traditional hunter-gatherer bands. In our modern lives, celebrities fill in some of the 150 for many people. David Bowie was one of my 150. He was the Kevin Bacon of my musical universe. One degree to Brian Eno, Talking Heads, Arcade Fire, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bing Crosby, Annie Lennox, Luther Van Dross, Pat Metheny, Secret Machines, LCD Sound System, TV on the Radio… And two degrees to anybody you choose.* He was, as Sylvester Stallone said of Rocky Balboa at this year’s Golden Globes, “The best imaginary friend I ever had.”

In one concert I saw, Bowie described himself as having been in his “Nietzsche phase” when he wrote a particular song. He said, “You remember your Nietzsche phase, when you carried your pocket Nietzsche in your trench coat?” Was he talking to me? Yes, I had a pocket Nietzsche! I seriously doubt there was anyone else in the audience that night who had a Nietzsche phase.

I only saw him live three times over the years: on the Serious Moonlight Tour in ’83, on the Glass Spider Tour in the late 80s, and for 2004’s Reality — which came on the heels of Heathen (one of Bowie’s most listenable records – start to finish). The last tour showcased a man who had found his groove. He laughed. He was comfortable. And he was entertaining. He was at the height of his success as a person. He was a happy father and spouse. But throughout his career, I felt his evolutions and realized deep truths about what creates happiness and about ongoing innovation.

In the documentary David Bowie: Five Years in the Making of an Icon, they point out Bowie was uncanny in his selection of collaborators (a few are even listed above). And as Josh Groban tweeted about his death, “He bent genres, genders and our minds.” This is why I was attracted to David Bowie — for his purported ability to bend minds. How did he do it? He was a network designer par excellence. He deliberately designed his network to create novelty.

Identity stood at the heart of Bowie’s career. As The Atlantic said on his passing, if you are going to invent as many characters as David Bowie, you have to give consideration to their death. As they note, identity and dissolution is essential to so many human relationships. And it is this that stands at the heart of the pain I feel. As one critic said on Bowie’s passing, quoting Gorky on Tolstoy, I cannot be ‘an orphan on the earth, so long as this man lives on it.’

To understand the neuroscience of this, consider the following simple hand tapping experiment: Tap a table and tap a subject’s hand under the table simultaneously. After a few minutes, you can smack the table and a galvanic skin response shows the subject responds as if they have been struck. Why? Because, as neuropsychologist Donald Hebb coined, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” Put yourself in the subject’s shoes. You aren’t hurt when the table is struck. Yet you think you are because neurons that fire together wire together. It is this that allows us to play the game of life. But it is also this that causes us suffering. We aren’t actually in the picture. We don’t actually get hurt. Our body doesn’t sustain blows when the table gets smacked. But we react as though we did because we are, in cyborg–like fashion, wired into these stimuli. We have inadvertently begun to identify with the table. And neuroscientists tell us there is an especially acute pain when our mirror neurons activate — when we experience a sense of “I/me/mine.”

We have all sorts of things we are attached to inside, but one of the most basic or largest is our identity. David Bowie became a part of mine — for 38 years. That is longer than many friendships. And I know we shared a Nietzsche phase. That is why I am so sad … because as Bowie sang in “This is Not America” — “a little piece of me, a little piece of you… has died.”

* Yet, strangely in a perfect illustration of being trapped in our past preferences by the internet, the David Bowie Station on Pandora on the afternoon of his death repetitively plays the Kinks (Lola six times), the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Talking Heads. It is like some kind of transitional 70s music ghetto. I don’t discover anything new.

Thinking Beyond Innovation and Solving for Success in a World of Rapid Change.

Thinking Beyond Innovation

From technology to organizations, a system is only as fast as its slowest component. Innovation today won’t naturally, on its own, always lead to transformation tomorrow. This puts businesses in a tough spot: how can they create productivity gains that have an immediate impact today?

This is not just a symptom of today’s rapidly evolving business and technology landscape. When electricity first replaced steam inside factories in the early 20th century, engineers bought the largest generator they could afford and replaced the turbine, in place, on the factory floor, and not much changed.

Why? Because despite introducing a powerful new resource to the manufacturing process, factory managers didn’t make substantial changes to how factories or workers operated. Buildings were still designed around the need to link machines to a central turbine that no longer existed, and workflows were still optimized for old habits.

Ultimately, it took the retirement of an entire generation of managers to make way for real transformation. New managers brought with them faster workflows, more efficient use of space, and finally the huge gains in productivity everybody was expecting from the start. All it took was a focus on removing constraints with a new principle: relying on the natural flow of materials.

That same tension persists today, as businesses look to generate meaningful innovation and efficiency by rebuilding their technology and corporate infrastructures. Through our work with business leaders of all shapes and sizes, Dialog has helped organizations realign and rebuild in order to meet the demands of the 21st century and beyond.

Real Results Can’t Wait

We’re not the only ones who know this is possible – McKinsey believes that managers can do better than the 2-3% improvement most businesses target, unleashing a massive 50% increase in productivity when all constraints are identified and removed. This requires businesses ensure that their software – culture, processes, and priorities, keeps pace with their hardware – their lines of business and the rest of their corporate infrastructure.

Aligning strategy, purpose, and execution is what Dialog does. We’ve built our business helping our clients – blue chips, upstarts, and pioneers – unlock their true potential in reach and revenue, building a business that’s ready to survive and thrive in a world where change is the only constant. Dialog brings top-notch technology and marketing expertise, combined with a unique cross-disciplinary view of the world, to our clients’ challenges, delivering solutions that are focused on generating results that create substantial transformation to how your business creates and sustains growth.

Dialog can help you accelerate your business to its full potential, leaving no constraint in place, no bottleneck unsolved. We can’t wait to learn more about your business and how we can help it achieve breakthrough growth – we know you can’t wait an entire generation to realize the gains of all the hard work you do today.

Every Three Seconds

Poverty is not simply an absence of material wealth. To mistake poverty for a small bank account or the lack of a diverse 401K portfolio is mental myopia. Rather, the impact of poverty is far-reaching and eventually the death of all things—most of all, the soul. According to a recent OxFam study, just eighty individuals on the planet now have as much wealth as 50% of the rest of our population combined. Of these, 90% are male, and 30% are American. And there’s evidence they’ve been running the show for a long, long time. Around the world, the gap between the rich and poor is spiraling out of control. Extreme inequality is neither accidental nor inevitable—it’s the result of deliberate policy choices by those in power. This ever-widening wealth inequality hinders growth and only promises to get worse.

One morning as the sunlight streamed over my back porch, I sat talking with my dear friend in New York, Perch Ducote, on the phone. Perch explained that he wanted to make a movie about world peace. He felt that it was the culmination of his life dedicated to ending suffering and that a movie was exactly what was needed to bring wide spread awareness to the possibility. As a result of this simple yet profound conversation, we began changing lives. Shortly after, Perch connected with Dan Karslake, director of “For the Bible Tells Me So,” one of USA Today’s top picks for movies that changed the world. Dan and Perch agreed that the topic of world hunger was the ideal subject of the film as it was one of the critical gates we had to pass through in order to solve for world peace.

And the documentary “Every Three Seconds” was to become a reality. Our passion was to expose the exponential ramifications of poverty and hunger, and explore human potential if this poverty were removed.

Understanding the correlations between poverty, hunger, war, and climate change are integral to the film. But the consistent and essential thread woven through all these elements—the one that reveals itself is a complete feeling of isolation and sense that one cannot be effective. This cynicism is what stops action and thwarts productive problem-solving. Yet, those who make an impact are not “20 feet tall”—they are ordinary people who demonstrate the shared need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Make no mistake—hunger is a winnable war. We’ve cut the proportion of hunger by half since 1969, and smaller numbers and smaller percentages of people are dying of hunger, despite our growing global population.

“Every Three Seconds” also explores the elements that capture the human heart and translate to giving to a cause. If we truly are moving from an age of scarcity to an age of abundance, savvy marketing should not be needed to generate charity. Whether direct or indirect, people are searching for ways to integrate purpose in their lives. The film demonstrates that people are ready to give and participate in the “relentless positive storm.” If one person can change the world, we must ask: is this a question of awareness, mindset, or both?

Be sure to watch “Every Three Seconds” on Netflix and answer this question for yourself—participate in this vital revolution today.

A note of thanks: We are indelibly grateful to the many talented individuals and artists who collaborated on and supported this project, including Perch Ducote and Dan Karslake, as well as Katie Perry—who provided an acoustic version of “Fireworks”—and Téa Leoni. Thank you all for your unending support and vision.

Breakthrough Collaboration, Brought to You by Dialog

As America prepares for another divisive presidential contest, two political dynasties are charting a different course. Sponsored by the libraries of former presidents Bush (I and II), Clinton, and LBJ, the Presidential Leadership Scholars program gives leaders the new skills and perspectives needed to solve the pressing challenges of today and tomorrow.

Inaugural Class Now Underway

Based on intense course of case-study analysis, guest speakers, and collaboration, the program builds innovative new connections across a diverse mix of a leaders and priorities – 25% from business, 25% military, 25% non-profit, and 25% from the public sector.

While many are lingering on the post-partisan spectacle of Bush/Clinton cooperation, planners are focused on empowering leaders to more effectively collaborate. As Clinton advisor Bruce Lindsey said: “… we hope this will be a network of people who can rely on each other, so they become a peer group for each other.”

The expertise of four former presidents, combined with insight gained from a half-century of confronting national and global challenges, creates breakthrough opportunities for learning. Early on in planning, however, the question remained: who was the ideal Presidential Library Scholar?

Leadership Redefined: The Dialog Difference

The program came to The Dialog Group with one very simple, important request: define the ideal PLS candidate. This profile would not only serve as a benchmark used for evaluating candidates, it would also help shape the very nature of the program itself.

Dialog’s approach was part research, part reflection. By studying leadership models from the public and private sectors, could we identify core shared attributes, even across diverse domains and geographies? Dialog identified a basic framework:

Adaptability, collaboration, system-wide thinking
Demonstrated achievement, proven influencer, poised for hyper-growth
Committed to public service, strong belief in the possibility of change

While the strategy was reductive, Dialog was looking for more than a formula: we were looking for fire.

What Drives Our Best

As Dialog evaluated accomplishment and aptitude we realized another energy, much harder to quantify, was at work: passion. Our most transformative ideas and opportunities sit lifeless without the inspiration required to move them forward. If there’s a metric at work here – what does it look like?

As Dialog discovered, it’s actually quite easy to see passion in action. Where inspiration coexists with intelligence and aptitude—things happen—new frontiers are reached and old limits exceeded. The Presidential Leadership Scholars program focuses on finding already-accomplished leaders intent on becoming agents of real transformation.

Congratulations to the First Class of Presidential Library Scholars

While not all of Dialog’s work demands us we reshape the future of tomorrow, we tackle all of our work with the same intensity. While many of us follow political discord and intrigue (both real and Netflix-born) with interest and the occasional popcorn, we’re also very proud to be part of a program working past politics towards real, sustainable results that matter.

USA Today Article

Presidential Program