Marx and Seven Generations of Innovation Diffusion

All of my readers probably know this graph:

Source: Wikipedia: Diffusion of innovations

Diffusion of Innovations was first presented in a book with same title by Everett Rogers in 1962. Later his idea of innovations spreading through channels of social system have been adopted by a wide range of human activities, perhaps Crossing the Chasm, a marketing book by Geoffrey A. Moore, is the most well known one.

For people, who know their materialistic dialectics (idea coined by Karl Marx) should immediately notice that Diffusion of Innovation is actually just another representation of an old idea:

  1. A quantity of experiences lead to a qualitatively different idea (pain).
  2. This idea first emerges as an opposition to the status quo (escapism).
  3. The opposition is faced with mental violence caused by change resistance, which forces the subject to compromise (growth).
  4. The idea returns to status quo with a concrete example, but causes a negation of a negation (integration).
  5. The idea merges to the existing status quo, creating a new one (safety).

And it is true. Most innovations are born from the pain of frustration felt by people, whose intellectual capacity exceeds the current demands. Many times such people start to invest their time with this intellectual curiosity towards the source of frustration, then test the idea within their social circles and eventually look for finance, which enables the out growth from the old ways of doing things.

Orwellian Legacy of the Mankind

One of the most facinating fields of software research are the machine learning applications, which utilize unsupervised and reinforcement learning methods jointly (deep learning networks). The beauty of such systems lies in the lack of human defined vocabulary; the computer invents new concepts from data, which were previously unperceivable by humans. Netflix recommender system creates successful movie recommendation categories out of thin air and humans label them afterwards.

There is another theory about human behavior, which can be combined to the combination of Marxist materialistic dialectics and the Diffusion of Innovations. The theory of seven generation change.

Most of the 20th century philosophy revolved around the social side of human experience and certain philosophers, like Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russel, discovered that most of our intellectual discourses require such usage of language, which can reach a mutual understanding (Note: There are some better fitting philosophers, but I have lost my notes about the topic and can not find them; perhaps generative logic or something…).

It is said, that the distance of seven generations of human beings are so different, that their vocabularies of commodity words (Bitcoin, blockchain, fiat-money, social media, spiritualism, terrorism) and their meanings are so different, that they wouldn’t be able to exchange abstract intellectual ideas.

Besides Diffusion of Innovations through the process of materialistic dialectics, we need to change the vocabulary for initiation and conclusion.

Seven Generations of Capitalism and Socialism

It is said that the span of a generation in Western World is somewhere between 25–30 years. It also seems that the span of generation grows longer as the average life expectation grows. As the theory goes, if I would be part of the seventh generation, I would have a very hard time of talking about the seven generation change. For this reason I will choose a change, which started six generations ago, the unfortunate birth of class war.

In 1867 Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital, which created a vocabulary for a phenomena in which labour class made contracts with the nobles for money. Labour class needed food from the markets and in exchange for their time at factories, the capitalistic nobles offered them money in exchange for their time spent operating the machines.

The next generation starts approximately from 1892. Labour unions and socialism had become less marginal by the efforts of Lenin and his kin. Marx’s idea about capitalist machine owners as oppressors was an intriguing idea for political activists within the war torn eastern Europe. Scapegoats for poverty has always been the curse of democracy and less tyranic forms of monarchy.

Third generation starts approximately after the First World War 1917. The early adopters of Marx’s idea of labour unions through crowd force eventually had led to the birth of Soviet Union through Russian Revolution. During this era, national socialism became wildly popular in Brittain and rest of the Europe and of course in the war torn Germany by Adolf Hitler.

Fourth generation of the class war between capitalism and labour class starts from 1942. During this era many of the capitalistic countries implemented wide range of social security programs to protect the poor; part of this transition was the disbelief in religious guidance due to the vicious consequences of national socialism in Germany, which found it’s scapegoat for povery through antisemitism.

Fifth generation begins from the 1967, the highest peaks of the Cold War. While the worst waves of violence were already behind, there were still several serious problems. The nuclear armament race and usage of fiat-money as a competitive edge against Soviet Union were politically chanllenging, while Space Race made the mankind more united than ever before.

Year 1992 begins the sixth generation and the last phase of adaptation to change caused by the class war. We have Internet, which creates national and labour class identities obsolete. We have a new generation of rich philantrophes taking over the capital world (Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk). We have European Union, globalization and automation making the national socialism issues quickly obsolete in Europe. We have a new generation, for whom the boundaries between being an employee or an employer are very vague at best.

The seventh generation starts from 2017. By 2042 they have created vocabulary around modern world, which has entirely forgotten the issues around means of production, labour power, capital and the machine powered industrial revolution. You have to go to library to study these issues from books, which have translated the issues to a meaningful language for the millenial offspring.

It is highly likely, that by the year 2102 national identities will be forgotten in Europe, we will be just the European community of the global Earth.

A Successful Recipe for Change

While the above example is not the most scientific description of history and political reality, it still adds two important phases to the Diffusion of Innovation theory: the vocabulary for change and the vocabulary of ending an era.

These two critical aspects of change management have been greatly ignored in the modern literature about implementation and management of change.

Without creation of new linguistic capabilities, the organization might not be able to change. Also, if the old language doesn’t die away, the change is not final.

Changes are seven generation projects. However, not all changes need the scope of mankind and their generation do not have to span 25 years. Small changes can have a generation span of one week. If you want to move from hierarchical team organizations towards lean self-organizing teams, adding these two steps to your vocabulary about Diffusion of Change is essential.

When we combine this new theory of change to the three assets of human capital, the financial, the intellectual and the social, we get a following change management process:

  1. Introduce new concepts and ideas through passive communication channels, such as information radiators (from eXtreme Programming)
  2. Test the team members of the change team by using the vocabulary. Those who fluently utilize it’s terminology possess sufficient intellectual capital assets (learning history, education, aspirations) to be part of the change. Utilize these people to start conversations about the change.
  3. Introduce the need for change at a public and official channel. Those who do not resist the change possess positive social capital towards the team members. They can be taken aboard the change without official intervention (meetings and practices).
  4. Make it official. Reserve the time and place to initiate the change (which you already have prepared under the radar). This is the correct time to invest financial capital for the implementation of the change; before this point you have not wasted official accountable resources for implementing the change.
  5. Give authority for the intellectual to start using the new ideology with their work.
  6. Start quality assurance for the change and make sure that the change has been properly understood through out the team. Give the non-change resistant part of the team authority tools to guide the change resistant part of the team.
  7. Stop financial support for the change and make sure that the obsolete parts of the team vocabulary do not prevail. Encourage language Nazism.

If you want to implement changes for self-organizing teams, you have to follow the principles of Agile Manifesto; do not decide how the change will go before-hand, instead implement it step by step, always focusing on value for everyone. You can’t force people for changes, that is the big story from the diffusion of seven materialistic generations of innovation dialects.

Let’s call it dismagenolects until I come up with a more descriptive and sane word for it. Feel free to comment! This post is a request for comments after all.

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