Become part of. Don’t control

I love Joi Ito. I’ve known him for some years now, and I’ve learnt to spend time thinking about what he shares, in person or in print. He has a habit of framing things in ways that teach me, that challenge me.

Kevin Marks is also someone who I have a lot of time for. Known him for years, enjoy working with him. [We worked together at BT, we’re working together at]. He too makes me think. Regularly. Polymaths like him are rare. @accidentallight and @parkparadigm come to mind, two others I’ve had the honour of working with.

So when Kevin recommended-via-tweet something Joi had said which had not hit my radar yet, I had to find out more.

Which led me to this submission by Joi to Steelcase 100. It’s so short I feel I can’t really quote the lot, you should follow the link instead. But the first sentence says it all for me:

One hundred years from now, the role of science and technology will be about becoming part of nature rather than trying to control it.

Becoming part of, rather than trying to control.

In essence, this is what I was trying to say in The Kernel For My Blog, way back in 2005. I was using the words “connected” and “channelled” to try, somewhat clumsily, to describe what Joi has stated so elegantly. By “connected” I meant “being part of” and by “channelled” I meant “being controlled by”. I’m so glad I now have better terms to use.

What Joi says about science and technology for the next 100 years is very meaningful for business over the next 10. Why do I say that?


To paraphrase Joi in a different, yet related context:

I think the role of  the enterprise will be about becoming part of the wider community rather than trying to control it.

So much of “business” has been about pursuing efficiency, scale and “exponential growth” at the expense of our customers. We have rewarded those who invent technologies that control our customers in some way. This is clearly not sustainable.

We must understand that we live in a complex system where everything is interrelated and interdependent and that everything we design impacts a larger system.

My dream is that 100 years from now, we will be learning from our customers, integrating with them and using science and technology to bring them into our lives to make everything we do not only zero impact but a positive impact to the natural system that we live in.

That’s what I believe Marc Benioff and the team at are trying to do. That’s what I believe the Social Enterprise is about. And that’s why I work at

We all have to learn more about becoming part of the complex system we live in, rather than trying to control aspects of it. Mastery is expressed in skill and self-control, not in dominion or domination.

My thanks to Joi and to Kevin for giving me a better frame for my thoughts and beliefs in this context.


9 thoughts on “Become part of. Don’t control”

  1. “My dream is that 100 years from now, we will be learning from our customers,”

    There will be no customers, no corporations, 100 years from now. There will be a new world, based on Oneness and spiritual development.

  2. “I think the role of the enterprise will be about becoming part of the wider community rather than trying to control it.”

    Shit JP. This just knocked me back and woke me up. It worked on so many levels. Part of work rather than trying to control it. Part of media… Part of development…

  3. This is a good chunk of what I am presenting Wednesday evening at Salesforce in SF. Getting to this point is really tough as tools need to be a bit more adative and flexible to human social traits and variance.

  4. You can see this emerging now. Community supported Agriculture – where the food buyer is part of the system of production. We have just raised $12,000 for a farmer to help him increase his pasture herd – all by pre selling to each other. Even Airbnb is a platform that works with us to give us what we need from each other. Etsy and Ravelry (2 million knitters) It’s here – this is surely the new industrial revolution?

  5. Well said JP. I wonder why these things are happening now – rather than, say, 10 years ago or in 10 years time?

  6. Hi JP – Let me have a stab at a meta history. Since we emerged from the swamps we have evolved and innovated to control more of our lives and environment largely with the aim of making sure we will be fed, housed and medicated. The first step was controlling the atoms of life – a cow, a house, a doctor. Having reached the point where we have largely solved those individual problems (obesity is now a bigger problem than hunger in the developed world) we turn to the system level problem – delivering happiness. Solving this requires the interconnectedness that you describe. To be content we need to hum with the all round efficiency of a Toyota factory, not be optimised for any one part of life. Getting there will require a change in perception about what makes us happy from getting drunk/laid/rich to something more zen like, and I think we can see evidence of the beginnings of that shift over the last ten years (or maybe I’m just getting older).

    Finally – money exists to allocate and control resources and I hope that within a hundred years we may have reached the point where technology can deliver everything that we all want and there is no longer a need for cash. As Iain M Banks likes to say in his Culture novels ‘money is a sign of poverty’.

  7. @WardCunningham profoundly believes “This is clearly not sustainable.”. Check out the Federated Wiki for sharing data for moving beyond a neutral point of view to “Sustainability” (attribution in the social enterprise – Chatter?) TEDxPDX

Let me know what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.