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A Place of Gathering

Ben Franklin and The Junto

Ben Franklin got a lot done

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in his time, and much of it was done through community collaboration. One of the ways that he was able to develop so many local programs, like the library system that he invented, was through the mechanism of a Philadelphia club he established in 1727 called the “Junto”.

“I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year, I had formed most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the Junto; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positive opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.” - Ben Franklin, Autobiography - Chapter 7, Establishment of a Political and Philosophical Club

The Junto consisted of businessmen, craftsmen and landowners who were active in the local community and who gathered under the auspices of “mutual improvement”. Everyone shared their specialties, tips on bettering their businesses, daily experiences; basically the group grew together and helped develop the community from the inside out. It was from this core group that the revered American Philosophical Society grew.

Dave Carroll ( @aquarius ), Assistant Professor of Media Design at The New School, Venessa Miemis ( @vanessamiemis ), New School associate and author at the blog Emergent By Design, and Bernd Nurnberger ( @cocreatr ), are a few of the folks putting together a platform that brings a digital spin to this idea. Aptly named Junto, the platform they are developing allows creatives, academics and business leaders to engage each other online through voice, video, text and file sharing, under the same notion of “mutual improvement” that Franklin had in 1727.

Junto as a platform supports global collaboration, and through the very process of development it shows the power collaboration to bring ideas forward. With more focus on what we can accomplish together, and less focus on ideas of competition that keep us apart, we can move the world into a more sustainable age. Franklin’s effect on the global stage was significant when all he had was pen, paper, and the good sense to share information and collaboration with his peers, imagine what is possible when this is aided by advanced communications.

What kind of collaboration is possible within your own community?

Are you missing out on potential partnerships that would bring new life to your town?

Posted on August 17th, 2010 by David Metcalfe
Posted in Suburban Business | No Comments »

Cross Pollination

A well rounded education provides the groundwork for a successful business. Looking past our square and stunted notions we find

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a wealth of resources in places we’d normally overlook.

In 1998 Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski and John Garstka took lessons from WalMart and began applying them to what they termed “Network-Centric Warfare”. By looking at changes in the economy from a business perspective they were able to rethink effective strategies for the Department of Defense. As demonstrated by the popularity of Sun Tzu’s Art of War this odd exchange of information isn’t just one way.

“Nations make war the same way they make wealth.”

Vice Admiral Cebrowski points out the world of the military and the world of business often mirror each other. The social web makes it difficult to employ rigorously staged campaign strategies, and it turns out the same thing is happening in warfare. “Irregular” or “asymmetric” strategies, used to combat terrorist organizations and guerilla forces, provide insight into techniques that work within the 21st century social web as well as they work on the 21st century battlefield.

Col. John R. Boyd’s essay “Destruction & Creation” is another example of profound cross over. His understanding of decentralized command structures predates the work of Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom (Starfish & the Spider) and their analysis of successful ‘leaderless’ organizations.


The fencing master Lord Yagyu Munenori, who was trained by the Zen priest Takuan Soho, provides the most effective military solution for today’s business issues. Munenori says that at the height of understanding a swordsman can defeat their enemy without drawing their sword.

This “No-Sword” technique is the perfect martial strategy for today’s digital environment. With consumers ever savvy to corporate sleight of hand, the successful business is the one who has no tricks up their sleeve. At the height of understanding their business shouldn’t an entrepreneur reach the same effortless peak?

Can you sell without selling?

Posted on August 13th, 2010 by David Metcalfe
Posted in Entrepreneurship, Online Marketing, Professional Development, Suburban Business | No Comments »

Getting Acquainted With Your Neighbors - Twitter Best Practices 3/3

Because social media operates based on connecting via common interests, every re-tweet, mention and direct message becomes insight into your audience. Developing new content based on prior re-tweets, mentions and direct messages helps develop relationships with the people you want to talk to by targeting posts specifically to their interests.

When you re-post a person’s content with added commentary, not only do you promote their ideas, interests, organizations, and brand, but you also give them the opportunity to engage you in relation to ideas they are already comfortable with, ie. their own.

When you help people promote their brand information, original content, and support their personal goals, you also promote loyalty. You never know who is going to be your most vocal supporter. A CEO may spurn you, but being on close terms with their digital neighbor can be an easier way in the door.

Common Courtesy

Engagement requires a certain level of etiquette. Remembering to reply in a timely manner is important if you want to keep the momentum of your engagement opportunities going. It’s also important to remember never to identify your emotions with your digital persona.

If you identify yourself with your digital persona you might find yourself in situations, conversations and exchanges that can quickly lead to arguments. Always keep yourself a bit distant from your digital alter ego. Never start, continue or support arguments. When a conversation takes a negative turn, find a way to reach agreement as soon as possible and move on. Everything you say, post and promote is recorded in the digital environment; keep in mind you’re leaving a trail that will define you for years to come.

What You Put in the Pie

Your content should promote relationship development. The purpose of digital media is to engage others, not to promote your brand. Success in digital media relies on allowing the other person to choose engagement leading to successful interactions. In sales, marketing, networking, developing contacts, whatever your end goal, providing an opportunity for the other person to engage you is more effective than trying to force the issue. When the other person makes the choice to engage there is always a greater level of success.

Define your content approach ahead of time. Focus on general themes so that you allow for spontaneity and can approach a wider audience. Post “around” your topic to create a sense of depth. This means covering every aspect of your topic. For instance a graphic designer would not only post on current industry trends, but also theoretical pieces, historical information, kitsch phenomenon and all the attendant areas affected by graphic design.

On Twitter most of your content will be based on comments directing people towards links. It is best if you have a blog or dynamic website that you can direct people to that continues the themes developed by your Twitter posts. When posting a link to your blog or website write unique tag lines that further develop your brand.

Rather than just posting the article title or a flat explanation, try being creative. Avoid generic statements like “New blog post” . Your Twitter feed should become more than just a link dump.

Focus on:

  • Surprising juxtapositions
  • Unique word play
  • Kean cultural observations
  • Novel insights
  • Attention to detail
  • Direct contact/engagement
  • Interesting questions
  • Knowing your digital neighbors

Keep personal posts to your Twitter account on topic and infrequent; it’s more important to add value for your audience through additional comments to the posts you re-tweet from them. This develops your persona, while simultaneously developing relationships with key members of your audience.

Define your posts through commentary. Commentary develops the atmosphere of your persona. Use the kernel of information provided by the person you are re-tweeting, and when possible, add original content around the specific link or idea; to give the original source credit while adding new material use “via @originatorstwitterhandle” after the post.

Color and Tone

In all of your digital interactions keep your tone personal, but professional. When replying to a mention, RT or direct message be friendly, positive, and personal. Remember

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that formal language can sound stilted. The days of strict, formal interaction are fading fast. There is a time and a place for formality, but in most of your digital interactions you’ll find greater success erring on the side of the personal.

There are no hard rules when it comes to tone and it’s best to remain agile in your approach; reply based on the tone of the message received. Remember that your personality is going to be gauged on the tone of your posts. Your audience will get to know you, and to form a sense of intimacy, based on your digital persona, not your flesh and blood person.

Use humor rather than sarcasm unless you are working with a sarcastic brand. Sarcasm has a way of falling flat in digital communications. If your audience is not expecting to be met with sarcasm it can end up being offensive. Humility, honesty and integrity are better engagement tools than vicious satire, and with the stress of contemporary living, good-natured humor is often more effective than sarcasm.

Remember too, a good neighbor is one who is relevant to the community. If you’re not bringing value to the table, your taking someone’s time that could better be spent elsewhere.

Posted on August 9th, 2010 by David Metcalfe
Posted in Entrepreneurship, Online Marketing, Professional Development, Suburban Business | No Comments »

Entrepreneur, are you a polymath?

Edward Tufte, appointee on the Obama administration’s Recovery Independent Advisory Panel, is a very diverse persona. Starting out as a Yale statistician he went on to self publish a book that changed the way businesses look at design. After becoming one of the leading thinkers in infographics he transitioned into the role of an accomplished installation artist and now sits on a presidential advisory panel.

With the wealth of technology, techniques and information out there can you think of a valid excuse not to be as multifaceted in your own career?

Deadly Myopia

For the corporate professional specialization is a key to success, working within a large organization each individual plays a specialized role. For an entrepreneur this kind of narrow focus becomes deadly myopia. The amount of networking,

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wrangling and on the spot decision making necessary to run your own business requires that you look beyond specialized job skills and become a bit of an uber mensch.

In his short essay Destruction and Creation, Col. John R. Boyd lays out a primary basis for human existence:

“Studies of human behavior reveal that the actions we undertake as individuals are closely related to survival, more importantly, survival on our own terms. Naturally, such a notion implies that we should be able to act relatively free or independent of any debilitating external influences—otherwise that very survival might be in jeopardy. In viewing the instinct for survival in this manner we imply that a basic aim or goal, as individuals, is to improve our capacity for independent action.”

This is easily adapted to better understand the economic and professional position of the entrepreneur or small business owner. Without the large investment capital of a corporation we need to constantly keep in mind ways to “improve our capacity for independent action.”

On a Desert Island

If you knew that you were going to be stranded without any outside help you’d probably want to spend some time gaining the skill set necessary for survival. Although our businesses exist within a complex economic environment we often find ourselves going it alone. Do you have time to hire all the help that you need? Or the money? Can you always turn to your local network for advice or assistance?

Becoming mutli-faceted allows you to be agile and self sufficient. This doesn’t mean building a mote around your business, it means being able to help yourself and others when resources are scarce and challenges present themselves. This makes us valuable to our communities, to our peers in business world, and in the end it will help us better serve our clients.

Entrepreneur…are you a polymath?

Posted on May 12th, 2010 by David Metcalfe
Posted in Entrepreneurship, Professional Development, Suburban Business | No Comments »
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