Plan Bee is my approach to evangelizing Smarter Planet beyond IBM, and in my new role as a social media communications expert in IBM’s consulting practice, Global Business Services.
As the title suggests, Plan Bee is about cross-pollinating ideas and knowledge through a mixture of old-fashioned conversation and storytelling and a share them through a variety of Web 2.0 vectors such as this blog, its companion version on Tumblr and the #smarterplanet "stream" on Twitter.
The idea is to work like a bee: listen and learn from a variety of experts inside and outside IBM, let some of my own knowledge about smarter planet rub off on them, and carry new insights on to others. Rinse and repeat. (And see Postscript below for how you can participate.)
The plan jumpstarted itself this week when I sat down with Robert Goldberg (right), co-founder of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, to compare notes on how the smarter agenda might impact healthcare. Bob and I had both been blogging about "ehealth" — healthcare IT, electronic medical records, genomics, bioinformatics and personalized medicine — for several years (he through DrugWonks and myself via Healthnex). We also happened to live in adjacent NJ suburbs.
While I hadn’t intended to apply the Plan Bee approach, our discussions naturally followed that course. Bob showed me several examples of ways that healthcare and medicine are becoming smarter. One service, iGuard, is a kind of social network for people to share their experiences with various medications, get alerts, check interactions and securely share their meds with healthcare professionals.
(I’d also heard about healthcare social networking or computing services such as PatientsLikeMe that
enable groups of people with particular ailments to share their information with each other and their scientific data with researchers. This idea of MySpace meets Mayo Clinic is, I think, a great model of smarter healthcare.)
Bob also showed me MediCompass Connect, from a company called iMetrikus that is focused on remote healthcare monitoring systems. As the Website explains, the MediCompass enables patients to:
“seamlessly upload biometric data from over 45 personal health monitoring devices … including glucose monitors, insulin pumps, blood pressure monitors, digital spirometers, pedometers, and weight scales”
and then send their data via device connected to a standard phone line or networked PC.
Like a good worker Bee, I pointed Bob to services such as FitBit, which makes a small wireless device that can monitor your daily health activity such as calories burned or steps taken, as well as the quality of one’s sleep. The data flows to the Web where it can help people become more cognizant of their
health and automate some of the tracking of activity level that can help all of us become smarter about our bodies and more in charge of our health.
Both of us agreed that this trend toward “patient-centric” healthcare – where individuals are both more empowered to manage their health as well as more responsible for it, economically and otherwise – is where the world should be moving.
The Psychology of Smarter Planet
We also talked about trends and books, and Goldberg was kind enough to lend me The Watercooler Effect, by psychologist Nicholas DiFonzo on the power of rumors.
In the first chapter DiFonzo described two fundamentals of human nature or behavior that deeply inform how smarter planet is about much more than technology and data. In addition to our social nature and need to communicate with each other, DiFonzo note that “humans have a deeply rooted motivation to make sense of the world.”
Eureka. DiFonzo had put his finger directly on the human impulse that was the real driving force behind IBM’s ambition to help the world’s infrastructure become more sentient. Smarter Planet isn’t really about cars that could drive themselves, sensors and computing embedded in everything or artificially intelligent grids that would shuttle power around like bits. It is about human mastery of the world we need to live more sustainably in. It is about being able to understand and coexist with the physical world. It is about making sense of the complex social, economic and informational systems and networks that we are part of.
“We are sensemaking beings,” DiFonzo continued. "To make sense is to give meaning to our sensations, to put context around them so that they gain significance and fit into an understanding that coheres … To make sense is to put our experiences into perspective so that they can be understood, known about, navigated, and predicted.”
DiFonzo also tied human social and cognitive propensities together as shared sensemaking. That, for my money, is the real story of Smarter Planet: our creative and collaborative desire to build the kind of world we want, and need.
Lastly, The Watercooler Effect mainly investigates the under-appreciated aspects of rumor, and in that spirit, I’ll end by taking on two questions about Smarter Planet that if not rumors, are two speculations or misconceptions that I’d like to address.
The first is the skeptical notion that Smarter Planet is not much more than a marketing or publicity campaign. I think the simple answer is if it is, then it will fail. I don’t think IBM would be staking so much of its reputation and its strategic focus on something it didn’t believe in, both in terms of its business objectives and corporate values. That doesn’t mean a smarter planet is going to emerge miraculously overnight to save us from the hydra-headed challenges of energy, climate, financial malaise and healthcare costs. Nor can IBM be a solitary white knight in this endeavor. It takes a planet to build a smarter planet.
The other hesitation I’ve heard is that there’s nothing really new about the smarter planet meme. I think that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the changes in the world around us. We are on the cusp of an order of magnitude change in the nature of realtime, massive data gathering, processing and
application to human life. The one thing smarter planet isn’t about is just “the Internet, only more.”
In fact, what’s taking shape is a three-dimensional shift in the order of magnitude of the information around us, what I call Data 3V: a sea change in the volume, variety and velocity of data processing. I’ll pick up on that topic in my next post.
Postscript: Does this Plan Bee approach to Smarter Planet get your brain buzzing? If so I’d like to talk to you and share our stories. Please include Plan Bee in the subject of your email.
Your Smart Planeteer,
IBM Global Business Services