No Straight Lines by Alan Moore

The author sub-scripts the title of the book with the phrase “making sense of our non-linear world” which piqued my personal interest as I too am aware of the need for a new way of thinking about our World – politically, socially, personally, commercially and collectively. I like the phrase “thinking round corners” and so No Straight Lines represented an obvious opportunity to develop my own thoughts. This it very definitely succeeded in doing.

Despite the essence of the book being the creation of new systems of thinking and operating, he walks us through a fairly “straight line” approach to the subject, a method that he confesses to be aware of, from the breakdown and “upgrade” of our current systems – our systems of thought, society, commerce and institutions – to how to create new, participatory network systems and methods. He introduces his concept with the equation I + We = why?, His argument is based on his belief that we all have our unique code, DNA, but also so do companies, groups, regions and countries arguing along the way that we have lost “meaning”. Loss of meaning he says is inherently responsible for “humanity {that} ekes its existence under the industrial tyrannical twins of obsession with numbers and measurement of efficiency . . . “. This rings another personal bell – I tried to introduce “meaning” and value into corporate world 10 years ago and met with significant opposition from the “numbers and measurement” gang! He supports his position with real examples within some of our current institutions including the much-maligned UK health service and media.

Thankfully, for me in particular as I have no “systems thinking” experience, he walks us through the solution. He refers to how we have lost the personal contact and interaction with our local community but that we can develop this “loss”, and in fact need to do so, by using the latest “digital” communication technologies. We can, in fact, create a “blended world” where we combine on and offline activities into a more meaningful, participatory world. “We can all consume, but . . we all have the possibility . .to contribute”. The web, it would seem, is our saviour; providing we change socially and economically to reap the benefits – system change at the personal and global level. Essentially, networked not linear thinking; networked not linear business and leadership, networked not linear innovation. This is a key message, in network arrangements, we ALL have the possibility to contribute and gain meaning. No individual “node” being either more or less significant than any other and none greater than the network itself.

Using the example of how Guttenburg influenced almost the entire political, spiritual and social framework of his day, so too will mobile devices lead us to our next systems change and thankfully the author offers us “The Six Immutable Laws of Mobile Business, his guide into the new networked world. Hurrah! But maybe I have to learn how to use it properly now!

Throughout the entire book there are two obvious elements; the author’s past experience in the marketing/media world and the high level of research completed. He introduces us to “hackers” and creative experience and even as inexperienced “systems” thinker as I am now feel that I have direction for my next enquiries. Also, the author is keen to support his discourse with real life examples – companies and individuals that have broken away from the old world of linear thinking and embraced with vigour AND success, a “no straight lines” approach. He introduces (to me anyway) the importance of ritual and collective (participatory) activity and it’s importance to our “well being” and more significantly, he bring into this world, the value and meaning of the “craftsman”. This, he argues, is the way forward; to introduce work and working practices that are based on the concept of trust, holistic solutions, legacy, skills and innovation. This part I particularly enjoyed as it gave me hope that I too can be a craftsman. In fact, we all can (re: earlier note on “unique code”).

To round up his approach, the author is, once again, generous with his information (to allow us to turn it into applied knowledge, or experience/wisdom). He leaves us with his “Designing the World for the ““me:we””, 6 principles to guide us in creating a better World” or How to get from here to there;

  • Participatory culture – embed sociability into everything
  • The craftsman – truly engaged work
  • Adaptiveness – outside the comfort zone
  • Ambiguity – accepting uncertainty and self improvement
  • Openness – because sharing stimulates us
  • Epic wins – (a bit of a systems-thinking phrase for creating major positive transformation

In summary, I loved the book. It is accessible and yet profound. I am of course, a little biased as many of the concepts and issues resonate strongly with my own work, but nonetheless, it is well researched, littered with example, flowing and pragmatic. I would recommend that anyone interested in how to transform their thinking, living and working orders a copy today.


About Alan Moore
ALAN MOORE is described as someone who has a firm grasp of the significant and disruptive trends which are currently reshaping our world. Through his most recent project No Straight Lines: making sense of our non-linear world Alan looks at organisations that have created transformational change or transformational businesses that also serve the collective good, and which demonstrate new organisational, economic and innovative capability designed around the needs of humanity.

With his unique insight, Alan enables organisations and companies to address the challenges we now face to develop transformational and winning ways for ‘what next’ practically looks like.

He is the founder of the innovation consultancy firm SMLXL and co-author of “Communities Dominate Brands”: in which he coined the phrase ‘engagement marketing’ and explored the significant implications for business and organisations of living in a wired-up, networked, socially orientated world.

He sits on the “board of inspiration” at the Dutch Think Tank Freedom Lab. He acts as “Head of Vision” for the Grow Venture Community, and is as a special advisor to a number of innovative companies and organisations including NGO’s, publishing, mobile, the theatre and finance.

1 Comment on No Straight Lines by Alan Moore

  1. Philip A Birch // September 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm // Reply

    I am not a qualified “systems thinker” but I thoroughly enjoyed this because it is very accessible, inspirational and practical. I look forward to discussing and developing Alan’s ideas and work. Excellent.

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