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The Hub in Zurich – Technology and meeting people with practical, big ideas.


I am passionate about many things in life.  Thinking about the future and trying to imagine the application of technology in it is one of them.  (Information Technology, much to the surprise of people who know my daily work, is NOT the only one.)  The interest to me lies in what you can DO with our current and future magical, modern technology tools.   Good technology is only really “magical” if you can do something amazing with it.

The Hub is a “new technology” for social capital and social entrepreneurship.  Like all good technology, it simply does something mysterious in a faster, better and cheaper way.

Before we get distracted by the competing priorities of “faster, better or cheaper”, let me say that Habitusnet is a creative solutions provider. Which means that although we are IT-focused, we don’t look at “Technology” as related exclusively to computers.  The creative solutions that we implement are not always software application platforms and computer systems.  The technology of meeting spaces is a big part of our world’s future.

True technology is anything and everything that is progress, in contrast to the way or how it was before.  Technology is everywhere and anytime you find a better way to do it.  And of course, change is good, though often a rocky road.

Source: Smart Draw Blog

Consulting is, in many ways, a mutual path on which knowledge exchange and trust can build great application of ideas. A client’s perception of technology affects the calibre of what can be achieved, but when trust is established, the efficiency of the solution providing and technology discovery can be epic.  Needless to say, it is still the case that the art of good consulting seems to be centered in trust, effective communication, resource management and quality of execution.

After 20 years in the business of introducing change to daily work via computer systems, we have learned that the basic reaction to change is very similar every time.   We often have clients that want computers, systems or solutions that are “silver bullets” for current process inefficiencies, but rarely do clients grasp the key concept: By the very nature of technology and change, once it is working, they will want more, they will expect more, and wonder why the change they requested can’t do more.  Sometimes this cycle of expectations can be frustrating but I can understand the perspective.  Once the technology or solution is applied and operational, it is no longer technology but simply machinery.  It should work and it should work faster.

When it is still “technology” and not just “machinery”, we are often amazed by what we can do with it.  Specifically amazing are post-PC era devices, Internet, wireless and mobile data networks.  So there is a tendency to want that magic to be applied to daily work for efficiency in an endless loop of constant improvement.  (I admit to being amazed a few times a month with clever implementations of ideas towards the faster, better, cheaper targets.)

You might be asking by now: “Where are you going with this? What about the Hub? What does it do better?”

For one, let’s look at the technology of meeting and communicating.  This has been a pretty pervasive, hot topic in computers for nearly 30 years.  However, these days, social media relating to broadcast media is inverting more than just newspapers, radio and television.  The old communication models are being challenged with blogs, cheap/disposable websites, social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Buzz.

Simply put, their efficiency of communication is unprecedented.  This is so without even considering the metrics and analytics that can be achieved with previously unmeasurable and subtle relationship insights.  But really these are just a new way to do the old things, in some manner of perspective; they are just more efficient dinner parties, bars, guilds, and coffee shops.  Those events should not of course be replaced, but the restrictions of access and location can be removed. This is simply another step in a classic technology with social capital at its heart.

But it is not just technology and efficiency alone that are the catalysts for these changes, it is the behavior of consumers of information as they become interactive content creators.

The Hub Zurich recently had a “kick-off” meeting with future members, stakeholders and interested parties. Even in this initial meeting, the dialog was structured to be participative. The meeting exposed ideas and plans on how the site should be built, what the long-term vision might be, and how to fund and activate the sustainable elements of the local movement.

The Four Amigos

However, there is something very important about the physical location (not just geo-tagging your Facebook or GoWalla check-ins).  Location, attention and physical presence serve the need for the development of trust. Establishing new relationships of trust is not as achievable with Social Media platforms.   Location facilitates off-line events and helps people discover unknowns via passive, rather than active, awareness, with ambient rules.  Not to mention it bridges diversity and randomness with common interests.

The Hub is a place for many things (for more information check the website).   In my view, The Hub could be viewed as a social capital exchange, similar to a stock exchange, except that the currency is innovation, trust and skill.

Further to my view (and this person’s too) is that the future of a company’s worth valuation (in some standard metrics) will include the social capital and social awareness of the body of behavior that makes up the group’s affect on its surroundings.  To dream a little further, maybe even a real stock exchange of social capital, though it is not likely to be built in the same way.   Just as the new technology in communication (i.e. Social Media) is a key transformation in communication, the conversion of this advancement from “technology” to “utility” may have a significant effect on the next steps of social entrepreneurship.

The Hub is a key, new technology for network development, introduction, trust exchange and the ever growing value of social capital exchange.

Just as social networks use transitive trust  to develop efficient relationship development (Person A introduces Person B to Person C, so Person C trusts Person B if trust with C between A is already established: the concepts within Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Xing apply the same dynamic with computers and Social Media at the center),  The Hub uses the classic transitive trust, as well as location and mission.  We all know that the face-to-face meetings are key to developing trust, and this is even more powerful when bonded by the “club” of a group with the sustainable movements like The Hub.

And how is this a new technology?  Simply look at current corporations and universities and their key assets with proximity and like-minded participants.  The social networks in a company are quite strong and they have every “excuse to work together for a common goal”, although they do not always do so.  Even if your office is designed in the fashion of google office space, it is rarely built for collaboration or our modern global workplace.

Now the pathway to efficiently developing trust is, at least for the social entrepreneur members, enabled via meeting spaces aligned to social networks like “The Hub“.  The key idea of The Hub is not social media, but social capital and proximity to like-minded individuals.  In some ways the principles of Habitus are there too.