Monday, December 26, 2011

The Latest Developments of Integral Theory - Video of Nick's Presentation

I recently attended a talk by my friend Nick Hedlund-de Witt (video below) at the PCC forum (a student group at the California Institute of Integral Studies) in San Francisco.

UPDATE 01/07/12: The video permissions have changed and it is not publicly available anymore. I'll try to find out why.
UPDATE 01/09/12: It turns out the folks at the PCC Forum are waiting for Nick's authorization to re-publish it and he's on vacation at the moment. Stay put!
UPDATE 05/07/12: Well well... it seems that Nick doesn't want to keep that video up - shame on him. He said he might do another one, a better one. Hah! Be sure I will share it when it comes along.

I'm hungry for such presentations for two reasons:
  1. First, Nick is an Integral scholar deeply immersed in Integral Theory (IT), in other words he knows his stuff, so whether we like or agree with what he says, we can trust him to tell us when he is describing IT and when he's building upon it.
  2. Most importantly, he is distinguishing between the different phases of Integral Theory (IT) and presenting its latest development. Finally an in-depth presentation of IT and of its place in the overall philosophical discourse.
Nick's target audience are the philosophy students of CIIS, so even though he's trying to keep it simple, you got to like the topic! But if like me you've been looking for a middle ground between the Pop-Integral culture and academic articles, this video might be just what you need.

Oh did I mention it's 2 hours long? Here are some time cues:
You can skip Nick's presentation  ->  jump to 0:03:00.
'Internal' critiques of Integral Theory -> jump to 1:01:55.
'External' critiques of Integral Theory -> jump to 1:11:10.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lean Startup & Holacracy: How Do They Fit Together?

I just finished a book: The Lean Startup. It's a model for building successful new products/startups extremely efficiently, developed by startup entrepreneur Eric Reis. No genius needed, just a method. I have to say I'm impressed: the theory and the case studies are very convincing.

Fairly quickly into the book, I started to draw mental connections with another lean model: Holacracy. No surprise here, both share a similar Agile inspiration. They both emphasize a "dynamic steering" management style based on direct feedback from reality, as opposed to grand strategies based on assumptions. 

How about putting Lean Startup and Holacracy side by side to see how they compare? That's the fun exercise this post is about.
  1. Let's start with a quick and dirty overview of each model, 
  2. Then I'll suggest a way Holacracy and Lean Startup fit together
  3. Then I'll give a table comparing characteristics of each model

Lean Startup: Learn What the Market Want

Fig 1. The Lean Startup "Build-Measure-Learn" Feedback Loop

The starting assumption of the Lean Startup is that nowadays, with products being more and more informational and immaterial, the key question is not "Can we make it?" but "Will people buy it?" For Reis, most startups fail because they build something that nobody wants.

So the goal of the Lean Startup is to learn as fast as possible, with the least resources possible, what product we need to build to sustain a thriving business. How to do that? By carefully testing our assumptions, as shows the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop depicted above (Fig. 1).

The process goes as follow:
  1. You get ideas for a new product. Identify the most risky assumptions that you're making about the market.
  2. Build the "minimum viable product" that will allow you to test your assumptions, and release it.
  3. Measure how users interact with your product to learn how valid are your assumptions.
  4. Based on real data, come up with new ideas to improve or change the product, and run them through the same process. And so on...
The Lean Startup builds new products incrementally, each iteration fine-tuning the product according to real feedback from the market (or changing strategy — "pivot" — if necessary). Overall, The Lean Startup brings together Agile development and Customer development methods in one model.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Power of Theories

I was recently reminded of how much anti-intellectualism is present around me (how naive of me). Some find it cool to reject models and theories as mere mental masturbation. Abstractions would make unnecessarily complex what is otherwise straight-forward. I believe Eric Reis, who recently published the book The Lean Startup (2011), must have encountered a similar resistance when preaching for his product development and innovation model. Here is an excerpt of his book:
"Knowing Lean Startup principles makes me feel like I have superpowers. Even though I'm just a junior employee, when I meet with corporate VP's and GMs in my large company, I ask them simple questions and very quickly help them see how their projects are based on fundamental hypotheses that are testable. In minutes, I can lay out a plan they could follow to scientifically validate their plans before it's too late. They consistently respond with 'Wow, you are brilliant. We've never thought to apply that level of rigor to our thinking about new products before.'" 
As a result of these interactions, [this junior employee] has developed a reputation within his large company as a brilliant employee. This had been good for his career but very frustrating for him personally. Why? Because although he is quite brilliant, his insights into flawed product plans are due not to his special intelligence but to having a theory that allows him to predict what will happen and propose alternatives. He is frustrated because the managers he is pitching his ideas to do not see the system. They wrongly conclude that the key to success is finding brilliant people like him to put on their teams. They are failing to see the opportunity he is really presenting them: to achieve better results systematically by changing their beliefs about how innovation happens. (p. 276) (bold emphasis mine)
The key question is not whether you adopt a belief system or not, it is whether you consciously choose one or stay subject to the one you've been inculcated.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Intro sur la Théorie Intégrale de Ken Wilber (en français !)

Ça faisait un petit moment que je pensais à faire une vidéo en français pour expliquer la théorie intégrale. Pour un ensemble de raisons pas très claires, elle est très peu connue en France contrairement à chez nos voisins Européens — Allemagne, Pays-Bas, Espagne, Italie. Même s'il y a des facteurs culturels rendant la France peu réceptive à ce genre d'approche, je me suis finalement lancé, et voilà la première vidéo d'une série sur la théorie intégrale "AQAL" en français !

Le potentiel de la théorie intégrale pour révolutionner notre vision du monde est insoupconné. C'est l'équivalent théorique de cet instrument dans Orange Mécanique qui force à garder les yeux ouverts : elle nous force à regarder la réalité telle qu'elle est, dans toute sa complexité, sa richesse et son mystère. On lui attribue, à raison,  un effet "psycho-actif" : pour celle ou celui qui l'a étudiée, il devient difficile de se retrancher dans les croyances étroites auquelles la société nous a habituée.

C'est aussi un moyen pour moi de finalement expliquer à mes proches et amis ce que je suis venu faire en Californie. J'ai choisi un format simple qui j'espère vous plaira. L'audience première de ces vidéos est intéressée par les sciences et la quête de la connaissance en générale. C'est l'étudiante, le chercheur, qui ont soif d'un modèle leur permettant de voir au delà des clotures de leur champ d'étude.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Is there an Integral community?

A few weeks ago I left my volunteer role at Bay Area Integral (BAI). As I was reflecting on this choice, it was clear that I had been on the fence for a while, if not from the beginning. I joined BAI but never wholeheartedly, and yet I staid for a year. So I wondered: how come?

I joined BAI to be more involved with the "Integral community", but I realized we all have different views of what these words mean. I think it's core to why we haven't seen a community develop around Integral Theory.

Integral theory has this particularity to be a meta-theory, a theory about theories. It doesn't have a real-life, concrete object of study. We are interested in Integral Theory (ITH), sure, but we're mostly interested in applying it to a specific field - e.g., "Integral Psychology", "Integral Ethics", "Integral Spirituality", etc.

In a nutshell, the problem is that Integral Theory (ITH) is not about a thing, it's about a perspective on things. Biologists are all into how the body works, Architects can contemplate buildings together, but unless your passion is Research itself, you're not likely to chat about ITH for hours on a Sunday potluck. And it makes sense. We are attracted to ITH because it's a new way of looking at our favorite thing. But ultimately, we're really interested in theorizing about our thing, more than ITH itself. Sharing an interest for an approach is not enough to create kinship.

Now, it's true, the Integral model is psychoactive - it brings your attention to the lens you're using to look at the world. That's one thing all Integral fans share: an interest in psycho-spirituality. No wonder it's the topic attracting the most people, it's inherent to the model itself.

Doesn't rallying around what's our most common denominator translate our need for community? ITH can talk about many other things than spirituality. And it will have to, if it wants to be taken seriously outside of the spiritual seekers of the Bay Area.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tech mix...

For memorial day weekend, before it becomes old news.
  • Google Tasks API is released, finally! After all this time without any improvement, I wasn't hoping anymore to see GTasks become a useful Task management tool. Initially designed to be as simple as a piece of paper, it was definitely simple - too simple. Although it's still lacking key features, at least with an API, other developers can build on it.
  • A few weeks ago at an event on Silicon Valley Trends, I briefly chatted with Yvan Castilloux from People Power, a startup creating a cool product to monitor the individual energy consumption of each electrical appliance in your office/home. It works by placing a chip in each appliance, which then sends the data to the clouds, where you access it via a website. It's more oriented B2B than B2C for now, but they want to reach end customers soon. I thought about it again when I read about "Android@Home, a framework that allows Android devices to communicate with home appliances and other devices," which was presented at Google I/O 2011. I don't know you, but I'd love to be able to monitor my energy consumption.
  • Programming only when it's too ineffective to do it manually: a 23 min video of Manuel Rosso, CEO of Food on the Table, at Startup Lessons Learned 2010.
  • I just discovered Storify, a really cool web app to make a story out of social media feeds. Or, put pieces of news together to make actual news.
  • Verify: A web app to quickly test your design and interface with real users. goes further by having users experience an interactive interface, as opposed to Verify which just shows images.
  • It's everywhere in the tech news, Google releases the Chromebook in June, a netbook with Chrome OS: Google's very simple and fast OS entirely dedicated to web surfing. Don't want to buy a netbook to try out Chrome OS? No worries, you can geek around and install Chromium OS, its open-source version, on any notebook. Google develops an OS for PCs (Chrome OS) and an OS for mobiles (Android), yet the difference between the two industries is fading - when will Google unify the two?
  • LetsLunch for networking during lunch. Ah, even lunch time is being productive now :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hackers' developmental "action-logic"

When Vivek Haldar writes that hackers love "closed worlds", I can't help thinking of adult developmental psychology. Although I'm not familiar with the "early lips systems" and "SmallTalk" he refers to, his description of experiencing such systems reminds me of my teenage years and my dreams of becoming a real hacker. Since I've started studying developmental psychology, I have often looked back at these years as an illustration of the Expert action-logic (p.15) (pdf). And I think it's true of many (pseudo-) hackers. In fact, closed-world-loving hackers are another good illustration of the Expert action-logic. Why is that?

Web comics from the excellent

Experts have grown out of the Diplomat action-logic, they have an increased capacity for 3rd person abstraction and for seeing multiple alternative solutions to a problem. What better capacities can you expect from a tech guy? Whereas Diplomats are more likely to sugar-coat reality, Experts can more easily accept an imperfect present - and be cynical about it. This is in part because they can better see what could be in addition to what should be, and they identify with an ideal self and an ideal world that seem reachable. So why stick around with the crowd if they can strive for individual improvement, mastery, or even perfection?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Monday, May 9, 2011

Those noisy newsletters!

How often do you read email newsletters? If you're like me, it has become a habit to unsubscribe from as many as you can, except maybe for one or two. Most of the time, newsletters are a pain. I sometime find useful information in one of them, but please, please, if you have to send me one, send me something interesting, simple, easy-to-read, and to the point.

Sadly, most newsletters I see are terrible. They are so inexpensive to send that many organizations don't invest much resources in designing good newsletters. Newsletter senders, please get inspired by these few principles below, or run the risk to be an annoyance to your reader. Please STOP WASTING MY TIME.

Purpose: Beyond the click-through rate

The way newsletters are made has not evolved much in the last years. However the way people interact with online information has, emails included. The amount of information we read online, in particular, has increased drastically (14% of all information hours Americans receive come from the Internet (p. 18)). Users are learning to be more selective with the information they grant their attention to. With the amount of emails we receive everyday, consider your newsletter as a potential annoyance for the recipient, and a sign of trust on their part when they open it. This trust is precious, hard to earn and easy to lose. Sending a newsletter just to send a newsletter is the easiest way to lose it. For many people, your email is the visible face of your organization. If you think it's only one more email, you're missing out the context. Your email is a statement about who you are and how you view your relationship with the reader.

You can't design your email with in mind the click-through rate as ultimate goal and measurement of success. It's a valuable metrics, but more important is that your reader keeps trusting you enough to open your next newsletter. If he or she doesn't, you lost them. How to do then? Focus on pleasing your reader - just like you would if you sent an informative email to a friend. Don't try to trick them with deceiving offers, don't try to get their attention if your content is not worth it. Respect their time!

Good little content

I'm sure you want to tell me all about your business, but don't try to force feed it to me in an email: it is not the right medium! That's what websites are for. It may seem radical, but in newsletters good content is little content. Give me one or two content items, no more. If you have no way to prioritize between four news items, it's likely that none of them are worth sending a newsletter about. Maybe you should consider blogging instead - readers can consult your blog whenever they like, they can even subscribe to a RSS feed. Send an email only if you have something important to share, and in that case, share only that, all the rest is noise. Nothing stops you from linking to your blog, why not even with the titles of the last three posts published.

Just consider how you read your emails; do you often spend more than 7 seconds reading an email not personally sent to you? Me neither. So if you take my time with an email, make sure you have top A content for me, not B not C. It's okay to share B quality content on a blog, it is not okay to waste my time with it in my inbox.

Empty space is soothing

The good thing with little content is that there is more space for nothing. AAAH what a waste? No, empty space is a rare commodity on the web, everyone trying to fill each pixel with value-creating content. There is great value to nothing. First, in the noisy web, it is resting, and users appreciate this comfort (look at the success of Google's homepage when competitors were filling their pages with news, ads and fluff). Second, space contrasts with content, so it emphasizes it without having to use noisy tricks like bold, italic, colors... And third, empty space loads pretty damn fast with every connection :-)  In short, empty space is not nothing! Designer Mark Boulton has written a good article on the use of whitespace.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


3 years, 5 months, 12 days after my last post, I decide to blog again. Needless to say, I'm a completely different person, and good news: my English has improved!

Did I mention the web is a passion of mine? oh, well. Let's start with a"Mishmash" post.