Schön, dass DU da warst!

(English text at the bottom)

Es war eine Reise über nahezu ein Jahrzehnt, die in der vergangenen Woche ein plötzliches Ende nahm. Peter Kruse ist tot. Mit ihm ist mein wichtigster Gesprächspartner in Sachen Internet und Netzwerke gegangen. Und ich habe meinen Mentor verloren – einen inspirierenden Menschen mit einer unglaublichen Fähigkeit, Dinge auf den Punkt zu bringen und sie wunderbar in Worte zu fassen. Was ich am meisten an ihm schätzte, war, dass er wirklich “Walk your Talk” lebte. Er stand für das was er sagte, und sagte nie etwas für das er nicht stand. Verbiegen wollte, ja konnte er sich nicht. Ich schätze mich sehr glücklich, dass er mich mit auf seine Reise durch die Netzwerke und das Internet genommen hat und das wir in vielen Meilensteine über die Jahre immer einen Schritt weiter kamen … auch wenn wir nie angekommen sind. Aber das macht nichts. Denn es lag in der Natur unseres Themas, nicht anzukommen. Er wird mir sehr fehlen auf meinem weiteren Weg. Peter hat mir sehr viel Orientierung gegeben. Orientierung in der Form, dass er durch seine Analysen und Aussagen Sicherheit in mein eigenes Tun und Handeln brachte.

picture_Kruse_Peter_Prof_Dr_nextpractice

Bereist haben wir Netzwerke. Manchmal haben wir es Internet genannt. Manchmal offene Systeme. Manchmal “we”. Gereist sind wir meist alleine – aber mit einer starken mentalen Verbindung. Mit gemeinsamen Werten. Ganz weit weg und doch nah dran. Wie es in Netzwerken eben der Fall ist. Peter hat mich einmal als “eine passionierte Grenzgängerin” bezeichnet. Ich habe dies als großes Kompliment aufgefasst, weil Leidenschaft und das Überschreiten von Beschränkungen und Grenzen jeglicher Art genau die Eigenschaften waren, die Peter von vielen anderen unterschied. Und das hat er wohl auch in mir gesehen.

Mein erstes Treffen mit ihm werde ich nie vergessen. Lutz Berger, ein Kollege aus Heidelberg, hatte mich gefragt, ob ich nicht Peter interviewen möchte. Ich kannte ihn bis dahin nicht. Was ich dann über mehr als zwei Stunden in Bremen erlebte, war eine Tour de Force. Ich habe dieses erste Interview in wahrsten Sinne des Wortes erlitten. Ich habe nur Bruchstücke von dem verstanden und mitbekommen, was Peter in seine Antwortsätze packte. Er sprach so schnell, seine Antworten waren so Inhaltgeladen und seine Ausdrucksweise war so wissenschaftlich – ich hätte eigentlich ein Lexikon gebraucht, um alles unmittelbar verstehen zu können. Ich konnte kaum folgen. Aber irgendwie habe ich mich “durchgewurschtelt”. Lutz hinter der Kamera hat es geschafft, mich dennoch gut aussehen zu lassen und wir haben das Interview fertig gestellt und in kleinen Einheiten (eine Frage/eine Antwort) auf youtube hoch geladen. Es ging um Kreativität, Netzwerke und in ersten Ansätzen um die Potentiale des Internets. Die Videos gingen viral und wurden bis heute mehr als eine Million mal angeschaut. Es war der Beginn einer ausserordentlichen und ungewöhnlichen Zusammenarbeit, die sich über die Jahre zur einer schönen Freundschaft ausweitete.

Nach diesem Interview haben wir mit diversen interaktiven Veranstaltungsformaten experimentiert. Peter liebte vor allem Livestreams, in denen er unvorbereitet auf die Fragen der Zuschauer antwortete. Es waren immer sehr spannende Events. Für alle Beteiligten. Je besser ich Peters Marktforschungstools und Analysen verstand, desto deutlicher wurden für mich ihre Parallelen zum Netz. Peters Verständnis und Annäherung an das Internet, was zu Beginn eher zögerlich war, kam von einer ganz anderen Ecke. Das war spannend. Als Systemtheoretiker und Netzwerkforscher haben ihn die Potentiale dieser neuen Infrastruktur doch sehr schnell begeistert. Wie kein anderer in Deutschland – und nach meinem Empfinden kann ich das auf die ganze Welt ausweiten – hat er das Internet “erklärt” und begreiflich gemacht. Er hat den plötzlich auftretenden und bis dato unbekannten Aufschaukelungseffekten einen theoretischen Rahmen verpasst. Und die Internetgemeinde hat ihn spätestens nach seinem spektakulären Vortrag auf der re-publica2010 dafür geliebt. Sie hatte eine Leitfigur. Doch Peter ist nie in diese Rolle geschlüpft, in der man ihn gerne gesehen hätte. Er blieb bis zu seinem Tod ein kritischer Mahner doch das Internet als das zu nutzen was es ist: ein offenes System mit Dynamiken und Unvorhersehbarkeiten in einem bis dato unbekanntem Ausmass. Sein Plädoyer, das Internet als ein neues System zu begreifen, das nicht versucht, das Alte besser zu machen oder auf dem Alten neu aufzusetzen, sollte nachklingen. Das Netzwerk als Möglichkeit komplexe Probleme zu erkennen, zu verstehen und kollektiv zu lösen – dieses Potenzial sah er weitgehend als ungenutzt. Und ich würde mir wünschen, das Peters zahlreiche Anhänger und begeisterte Zuhörer vermehrt beginnen, dies umzusetzen. So kann Peter durch uns weiter dabei sein.

Ich weiss nicht wie viele Stunden Video ich mit ihm produziert habe, an wie vielen Textvorlagen ich mich versucht und nach wie vielen richtigen Worten ich in Übersetzungen gemeinsam mit Paul Morland gesucht habe. Worte waren wichtig für Peter. Sie wurden vom ihm nicht nur “genutzt” – sie hatten einen festen Sinn und waren immer wohl gewählt. So war auch jeder Tweet von ihm ein kleines literarisches Meisterwerk – mal mahnend, mal ermutigend. Nie die eigene Sache propagierend. Immer Inhaltgeladen. Er hatte keinen schluderhaften Umgang mit Sprache. Für ihn war das gegenseitige Verstehen, der Austausch, die Grundvoraussetzung für gemeinsames Handeln. Deshalb hat er sich auch damals auch an DNA digital – dem Austausch zwischen Digital Natives und Managern – beteiligt. Er hat es als ein Licht an Ende des HR-Tunnels bezeichnet. Es war der Austauschprozess, der DNA digital zugrunde lag, der ihn reizte.

Unsere Reise hatte viel Highlights. Jeder davon brachte uns einen Schritt weiter im Verstehen was das Netz eigentlich ausmacht und wie wir es für Problemlösungen nutzen können. Es brachte uns auch weiter in unserem gegenseitigen Verstehen. Vom ersten, aus meiner Perspektive erlittenen Interview angefangen, in dem ich wirklich kaum folgen konnte, hat sich über die SCOPE, DNA digital, einer zweistündigen Aufzeichnung eines Skypecalls zur “Kernschmelze von Unternehmenswerten”, das erste Google-Buch “Think Quarterly”, Peters Auftritt bei der Enquete-Kommission des Deutschen Bundestages bis hin zu unserem Workshop bei der NATO zur Vorbereitung des NATO Summits in Chicago 2013 und schliesslich im vergangenen Jahr das Forum Gute Führung – ein gegenseitiges Verständnis und Verstehen entwickelt, so dass ich heute kein Lexikon mehr benötige, um Peter zu verstehen. Ich kann seinen Äusserungen und Gedanken deutlich einfacher folgen.

Was uns am längsten beschäftigt hat, war Peters Idee und sein Wunsch ein Institut aufzubauen. Ein Institut, das ein besseres Verständnis für das komplexe Miteinander in unserer Gesellschaft schafft und Diskursprozesse für eine lebenswertere Welt initiiert. Er war sehr besorgt über die zunehmenden gesellschaftlichen Spaltungen, die sich in vielen seiner Befragungen als ernstzunehmende Befürchtungen in der Bevölkerung herauskristallisierten. Mein erstes Interview dazu habe ich mit ihm vor drei, vier Jahren gemacht. Die Dringlichkeit mit der Peter jedoch die Idee im letzten Jahr vorantrieb, hatte sich sehr gesteigert. Seine gestiegene Besorgnis wurde auch sehr deutlich in meinem letzten Interview mit ihm – es ist gerade mal vier Wochen her, dass wir an seinem Teich in Barnstorf zusammen sassen und gesprochen haben. Ich kam eigens dafür aus Indien angereist. Es ging eigentlich um etwas ganz anderes – um den fünften online Geburtstag von OUBEY, einem eigenwilligen interaktiven Kunstprojekt, das Peter von Beginn an beobachtete und begleitete. In der Provokation – wie er es nannte – mit der das Projekt mit dem etablierten Kunstbetrieb umgeht, fand er spannende Ansatzpunkte für ein neues System “Kunstmarkt”, in dem der Kunst wieder eine bedeutende Kraft für das Entstehen von kulturellen Werten zukommt und sie nicht zu einem Anlageobjekt in der Welt des Finanzkapitalismus verkommt. Er nahm das Gespräch zum Anlass, uns alle aufzufordern, ganz grundlegend über Fragen wie “In welcher Gesellschaft wollen wir leben?, “Müssen wir nicht den Begriff des Kapitals neu definieren?” “Was passiert mit einem System, wenn ihm das Feindbild abhanden kommt?” “Brauchen wir Räume, die frei von kommerziellen Marktmechanismen sind?” nachzudenken … Die Fragestellungen seines geplanten Instituts. Mich werden diese Fragen weit über seinen Tod hinaus beschäftigen und ich werde weiter in seinem Sinne das Netzwerk und die darin liegende kollektive Intelligenz als Problemlöser nutzen.

Nun bin ich wieder auf der Reise von Indien nach Bremen. Die letzten Zeilen dieses Textes habe ich im Nachtzug von Khajuraho nach Delhi geschrieben. Heute abend geht es dann weiter nach Deutschland. Es ist eine sehr traurige Abschiedsreise. Und das in sehr stürmischen Zeiten. Die Zukunft des Internets ist sehr ungewiss – die scheinbar so schnell entstandenen demokratischen Freiräume sehen sich aktuell grossen Einschnitten gegenüber. Ich kann Peters Tod noch gar nicht richtig begreifen, aber eines ist mir klar; mir wird Peter sehr fehlen auf diesem weiteren Weg – irgendwie ist auch Etwas von mir gegangen.

—————-

Thank you for being there!

Ours was a journey spanning some ten years that came to an abrupt end last week. Peter Kruse is dead. With him I have lost my key sparring partner in issues of the internet and networks. And I have lost my mentor – an inspirational man with an incredible ability to get right to the point and express his thoughts in marvelous language. What I admired about him most was that here was a man who really did “Walk his Talk”. He stood for everything he said and never said a word that he couldn’t back up. Bending, compromise, was not part of his nature. I consider myself highly privileged that he took me with him on his journey through the world of networks and the internet and that over the years and over many milestones we gradually moved forward – even though we never finally arrived. But that doesn’t matter because never arriving at some final point was part and parcel of the quest we were on. I will miss his companionship badly. Peter gave me orientation. Orientation that in the shape of his analyses and pronouncements provided me the reassurance I needed to continue to forge my own way.

David-Weinberger-im-Gespräch-mit-Peter-Kruse

David Weinberger in conversation with Peter Kruse, Petersberg 2011

Our travels were in the realm of networks. Sometimes we called them internet. Sometimes open systems. Sometimes we. We mainly travelled alone at different ends of the globe – but the mental bond connecting us was always immediate and strong. A mental bond composed of shared values we both held dear. Physically separated yet very close. Just as happens so often in networks. Peter once called me an “impassioned maverick” and I took this as a huge compliment because passion and a disregard for all kinds of restrictions and marker boundaries were exactly the qualities that distinguished him from so many others. And I recognized that he saw something similar in me.

I will never forget that first meeting of ours. Lutz Berger, a colleague of mine from Heidelberg, asked me to do an interview with him. I’d never even heard his name. But in that first interview in Bremen I was at the receiving end of a true intellectual tour de force. When I finally emerged from those two hours I was literally shattered. I’d only managed to grasp a few bits of what he was saying in answer to my questions. He spoke so quickly and his arguments were so compressed and precise and couched in such academic language that I’d have needed a dictionary to decipher it. I struggled vainly to keep up. But somehow I muddled through and Lutz behind the camera managed to show me in not too bad a light. We produced the video and published it on YouTube in little one question one answer excerpts. It was about creativity, networks and in a tentative kind of way about the potential packed by the internet. The videos went viral and have now been viewed over one million times. It was the beginning of an extraordinary and unusual partnership which over the years grew into a beautiful friendship.

Following from this interview we launched into experiments with various interactive event formats. Peter was especially fond of livestreaming where without any kind of preparation he could grapple with the questions viewers posed. These events were always excitement-packed high octane occasions. For everyone involved. As I began to understand the market research tools Peter used and his analyses, I began to get a much clearer idea of the parallels between them and networks. Peter‘s way of approaching and understanding the internet, hesitant at first, came from a completely different background to my own which made it fascinating to watch. Yet as a system theorist and network analyst he soon became enthusiastic about the possibilities inherent in this new infrastructure. Like no one else in Germany – and I could also say like no one else in the entire world – Peter explained the internet and made it understandable. He supplied the theoretical framework to those suddenly eruptive resonance effects, a new phenomenon at the time. And the internet community embraced him and loved him for this, especially after his spectacular lecture at re-publica2010. They had found a new leader, a new guru. Yet these were mantels Peter resisted putting on however much people might urge him to do so. Right up to his death he remained a critical admonitory figure tirelessly advocating use of the internet for what it is – an open system with its own unprecedented level of dynamics and unpredictability. His writings in favor of an understanding of the internet as a new system in its own right, not one that improves on what was already there or adds new elements to it should live on after him. Seeing the network as a possibility for understanding complex problems and moving collectively to solve them is a huge – and as he saw it – largely untapped potential. And what I would love to see is that Peter‘s numerous followers and all those people he enthused with his talks would begin to realize this potential. And, by doing so we could keep Peter among us.

I’ve lost count of the many hours of video I spent producing with him, of all the draft texts I’ve worked through and of the many hours spent puzzling over the right word with Paul Morland, his English translator. Words were important for Peter. They weren’t just “used” by him –they always had a definite meaning and were always well chosen. Each of his tweets was a minor literary masterpiece – now cautionary, now encouraging. Never basely self-serving. Always with something vital to say. He was always precise and meticulous in his dealings with language. For him mutual understanding, debate and discussion were the bedrock on which collective action was based. This is why among things he also joined DNA digital – the dialog between digital natives and managers – which he saw as a light at the end of the HR tunnel. It was the process of dialog built on DNA digital that fascinated him.

Our common way had many high points. Each of them brought us a little nearer to understanding the unique qualities of the Net and how we could exploit them for tackling problems. And they also brought us forward in our own mutual understanding. From that first – and in my view horrendous – interview where I was completely at sea, a succession of stages like SCOPE, DNA digital, a two hour recording of a Skype call on “The Meltdown of Corporate Values”, “Think Quarterly” the first Google book, Peter‘s participation in the German Bundestag’s enquiry commission, our NATO workshop in the run-up to the NATO Summit in Chicago 2013 and finally last year the Forum on Good Leadership have nurtured a ready mutual understanding such that I no longer need to reach for the dictionary to grasp what Peter intends to say. I have a much clearer appreciation of his statements and thoughts.

The most enduring of our concerns was Peter’s idea and desire to found an institute for inculcating a better understanding of the complex processes that underpin our co-existence in society and for promoting dialog to make the world we live in a better place. He was extremely worried about the increasing number of rifts and gulfs opening up in our society which, as the number of surveys he conducted made only too clear, large sections of the population now perceive as serious threats. My first interview with him on this issue took place three or four years ago. Yet the pressing sense of urgency with which Peter drove this idea only increased in the meantime. This unprecedented sense of unease was also very apparent in the last interview I made with him – just four weeks and a whole world ago when we were sitting beside the pond in the garden of his house in Barnstorf. I had flown in from India specially to make it. The interview was actually about something quite different – about the fifth anniversary of the OUBEY MINDKISS online project, a highly unconventional interactive art project that Peter had watched and supported from its inception. In the way that this project willfully ignores and circumvents the established art business – in its “provocative stance” as he called it – he saw the exciting beginnings of a new art market system in which art would once more be a major force for the creation of cultural values and stop being debased as an investment asset in the world of financial capitalism. He took this conversation as an opportunity to call on each of us to rethink such fundamental questions as “What kind of a society do we want to live in?”, “Don’t we need to redefine the concept of capital?”, “What happens to a system when it loses its favorite bogeyman?”, “Don’t we need spaces free of commercial market mechanisms?” It was precisely questions of this kind that his cherished institute would have addressed. And these are the questions I shall continue to devote myself to after his death and, as he would have wished, use the network and its inherent collective intelligence as a means for supplying answers.

Now once more I am travelling from India to Bremen. The last lines of this text were written in the night train from Khajuraho to Delhi. Then comes the evening flight to Germany. An acutely painful last journey. In a time of great tumult. The future of the internet hangs in the balance as great inroads are now being made into the democratic free spaces that seemed to spring up so effortlessly. I still can’t fully comprehend Peter’s death but one thing is certain – I will miss him dreadfully on my further journey – somehow something in me has gone as well.

The Inner Circle

I first heard the expression a few weeks ago. It stands for a group of a few 100.000 people who rule and control India: politicians, entrepreneurs, writers, journalists and members of “old” families. Mostly “old” or at least elder people. Living very comfortable in the world they’ve set up for themselves. This is most likely true for any country. What a small group of these people is capable of doing we can currently witness in the US where members of the Tea Party caused the government shutdown.

Within these inner circles you often hear about change.
But change hardly ever comes out of these circles.
The most we usually experience is gradual change.
That might be a very natural things.
Because firstly why would these people drive change if they live so comfortably without it?
And secondly if you really aim for change then you have to change behavior – and this takes time.
Even if you remain within the same culture it takes time.

It is not that these circles don’t understand that change is needed.
And that the people they rule and control are yearning for change – massive change.
In so many areas.
Some of the members of the inner circle come up with the most detailed analyses and often offer great solutions.
But for what so ever reasons these solutions never become executed.
They got stuck.
Or on their way to realization they went through a huge number of “adjustments”.
Or the solution simply no longer suits the needs when it’s finally realized.

I for myself draw the conclusion that you can’t change such powerful systems from the inside.
You have to build new systems which either make the old obsolete or at least challenge it in a way that it has to change.

And we are starting to see this.
There are huge transformation processes on their way.
And they speed up the more we become connected and the more we cooperate.
Connectedness and cooperation are turbo charger for network structures.
And these structures are no longer linear as the old systems were.
The new ones are non-linear. They hardly show any hierarchies.
They tend to be much more complex and much more dynamic than the old ones.
And therefore much more capable in solving complex problems (Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety).

We see these transformation processes in governments. In enterprises. In education. In communities.
And sometimes they are real battles.
Just look at the unrests in the Middle east, the occupy movement or the NSA issue which isn’t only about surveillance but also about journalism.
But we can also see much more peaceful transformations.
Just look at the government in Finland how they have transformed the education system.
Or how Iceland is including its citizens in governance.
Or the entire open government data movement which allows individuals and enterprises to make use of public data.
Or the open source movement, not only in the software industry but also in the hardware industry.
We’ve started to produce products in an open source way.
We co-create with competitors and customers.
Or think about the way Apple has transformed the music and mobile industry with its new business models and the combination of hard- and software.
It made old rigid value creation chains obsolete.
Look at companies such as Cisco and Unilever. Cisco’s CEO John Chambers has turned the company’s management structure from a board of 12 members to a management team of more than 500 – all of them capable of succeeding him as CEO. Unilever has caught up with P&G in many so-called developing markets or even is ahead of P&G because of their innovation strategies which are network-based.
On a smaller level we see more and more schools and new ways of learning become successful which stand in contrast to the existing government education system. And we see this worldwide.

All these examples take time as well, but the process which underlies all of them, is open, transparent and participatory.
And this itself is a fundamental game changer.

So these “inner circles” are challenged.
By new systems.
And by the complexity and dynamics of the environment they are embedded in.
If they remain as rigid and as closed as they are, their time is limited.

Private Note

After a 5 week Christmas and New Years break I am back in India. And I have to admit, I love it. Even though the last year had many surprises to offer – spider bites, motorbike accident, physical attack by Rajiv Gautam, the eldest son of the family we wanted to build we_school with (we have a trial going on on this) – India became really home for me.

Why? – many of my friends ask.

I embrace India’s diversity. In times in which globalization bans diversity – one should cherish it! I love especially the rural areas. Their wilderness, the beauty of nature – I feel a strong connectedness with the earth here. The rural people and their way of living – it’s charming for me to see the priorities which really count in life. It’s very much going back to the roots. Asking myself what does really count in life? And how do you add value – for yourself and for the others? What makes really a difference?

More than anywhere else in the world I trust my instinct here – and I deeply enjoy it.

We live right next to Panna National Park, at Ken River Lodge where we rent a cottage.


Living room inside the cottage


Fynn and Lenny on the terrace of the cottage

In the morning we very often go down to the river for a swim – after checking that the crocodiles are gone;-)

Sometimes we go on safari inside Panna Park

For me this cottage became THE perfect spot to work and to think.
And above all I really meet some interesting people here …