Roger von Oech

Creative Think

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Eric Herman

Ah, but Van Valen just wasn't the same once Sammy Vagar became their singer. So sorry, but I couldn't resist that! :o)

This reminds me of the idea that the only thing that never changes is that things are always changing.

My wife says she just saw a job listing from a company that boasted that they have been in business for 130 years, so they are "not going anywhere". We were amused at the unintended extra meaning of that, and also bemused at the idea that 130 years in business guarantees further longevity. My father had a travel agency that lasted 50 years, but with changes in airline policy and the coming of the internet, travel agencies became almost obsolete in a very short time.

Tony D. Clark

Dang! Eric took my Van Halen joke :)

I'm surprised how often I see it in the entrepreneurial world. By nature, entrepreneurs innovate and stay ahead of the game. But just like anything else, it's easy to get caught on the treadmill.

As the world of knowledge capital evolves, it's going to be important for us to discover new and better ways to package that knowledge and share it.

I was talking with a friend the other day who said he handed a student a book for a project, and the student said "How am I going to search this? Isn’t there a wiki version?"

The way we interact and gain knowledge is evolving, especially in those coming after us. To some it's scary. To me, it's exciting :)

Roger von Oech

Eric: Nice humor about Sammy Vagar and "not going anywhere." I guess just about every industry has been hit by the "Red Queen Effect" — especially the travel angency business.

Tony: Amusing Wiki story! Thanks for stopping by.

Tom Haskins

I watch the Red Queen effect play out at the enterprise and the personal level. When a company, or even an industry sector, falls behind the changing times, it has to play "catch-up ball". It runs in place to not fall further behind -- by trying harder, not smarter. It throws money at problems out of desperation, instead of using insight and creativity to transform their circumstances. Organisms counteract the Red Queen effect by forming mutualisms with the invaders - symbiotic relationships (win/win). Failing businesses pass up those opportunities.

Perpetrators or crimes, scandals or betrayals do the same thing. They scramble to patch up their story when it falls under scrutiny or an investigation of glaring contradictions. If they do nothing to smooth over the inconsistencies in their cover up, they will fall into the hands of their accusers. Under siege, the mind listens to fear. Situations are perceived in binary terms. Metaphors, paradoxes and breakthroughs are dismissed as dangerous. The Red Queen rules the perp's mind.

Roger von Oech

Tom: As usual, a perceptive take. I like how you apply the "Red Queen Effect" to the enterprise. Nice comparisons.

I'd be curious to hear what your — or anyone's — observations are how this applies to social media in general and blogging in particular.

David Anderson

but Roger, there is also the expression: "going to hell in a hand basket"
so getting there faster - ahead of the pack - may not be an advantage

also to consider: "new" is not always ahead....
that is to say:

unusual lies in every direction, outside the parameters of the norm of the moment

so... if one becomes relatively still, maybe the madness will rush past on its way to oblivion?


While I appreciate the passion to grow and evolve, I'm thinking along the same lines as David. My evolution is assisted by Stopping. It can be in meditation, deliberately noticing my breathing and reconnecting to myself. It may be in asking questions like, why are we running so hard? What are we chasing? Why am I here? The Red Queen also said, "All ways are the queen's ways."

When I step out of the chaos and competitive drive, I hear a still small voice that says "All is well." I hear a voice that says, "Be creative in your own way." When I listen to that voice I get direction about my next step which may be to spread my wings and fly or dive deep into a nearby pond or put aside my work and make love to my husband.

Tom Haskins

I want to live in Wendy's or David's worlds where we have a choice to step out of the lemmings' march to the sea, the mob's hysteria or the adrenal ineptitude of business competitors. Yet the biologists use the Red Queen analogy in situations where the creatures have no choice but to survive or die: predator and prey, host and parasite, established niche and invader. Biologists speak of "intense co-evolutionary pressures" which result in breakthrough innovations beyond the arms race to survive. Thus creativity is the result of massive constraints, much like Roger addressed on my blog yesterday.

In thinking how "intense co-evolutionary pressures" occur in blogging and social media, I came up empty. There are invasions of new bloggers, commentors on blogs, or friends on social networking sites. There's also many an extinction, drop out or disappearing act. None of that appears intense or even as pressure to up one's game. There are blogs that get better over time and voices that become more readable, but not from being caught in a tit-for-tat escalation of reactions to other blogs. There may be some minor arms race with the widgets or blogrolls in the sidebar of blogs. Perhaps the lack of "intense co-evolutionary pressures" is why blogging and social networking is so popular. It's an escape or respite from the dog-eat-dog world.

Roger von Oech

David: I like the way you phrase this: "unusual lies in every direction, outside the parameters of the norm of the moment." I'm a bit like you, in that I like the flip the CW on its head. You're quite good at it.

Wendy: Excellent stuff. As you point out, it's good to stop in a "Red Queen World." I especially like this part: "When I listen to that voice I get direction about my next step which may be to spread my wings and fly or dive deep into a nearby pond or put aside my work and make love to my husband." Words to live by for us all!

Tom: Interesting perspective. Thanks for taking time to think about the question of how does the "Red Queen Effect" pertain to blogging? As I was reading your answer, I thought of things like the increasing use of widgets, podcasts, and videocasts.

But perhaps the "Red Queen Effect" lies in the frequency of one's posts, and also how often one comments on other blogs. It's my gut feel that — all things being equal — a blog that is posted to 4X a week will have more readership than a 1X a week blog. Similarly, there's the social aspect of blogging. It's fun to see what others are thinking about a topic. A blog with more comments can (for some) be more appealing than one with fewer. And again that will drive readership. So, there's pressure to post often and comment often.

But the big question: is readership what blogging is all about? It's a part of it, but not the main part. But any blogger who says it plays only a very small part is either lying or rationalizing. We've all got some vanity.

Tom Haskins

I certainly agree there are pressures to post and comment like you say. I've discovered that it depends on the type of blog I'm creating -- whether the frequency of new content drives my readership. My first blog: "Clues to the College Blues" continues to get 200 page views a week. It has not had a new post this month or a comment this year. I created a very useful archive of postings to ease the pain of college students, counselors and parents. That's very different from blogs that function as conversations like my second blog, most of the blogs in your blogroll and CreativeThink itself. Observers of social media write about us bloggers competing in an Attention Economy, Gift Economy or Reputation Economy. They validate what you're saying: blogging is about readership. Kathy Sierra says her phenomenal readership stats are a function of intentionally making a difference to her readers - as if they are users of her "dinner party" - much like the social function of blogging you mention. I've blogged some about the transformational effects of blogging, the blogosphere as an ideal support system for informal learning, and the different phases of giving and getting we experience while blogging. All this says that "blogging is no picnic". There's lots of deliberate, strategic intentionality to all this casual, creative posting and commenting that occurs. There's also a lot of emergent benefits and side effects that are none of us can make happen deliberately or strategically -- only reciprocally and interdependently.

David Anderson

by now, I suspect everyone has gravitated to the new post.. but I'm going to write anyway.

You know, Roger, I had to ask my wife what "CW" stands for.... and she immediately came up with "conventional wisdom".

but that got me thinking like this:

Conventional wisdom, isn't.

"conventional" and "wisdom" are practically mutually exclusive

seems to me that there is a cycle

inspiration challenges convention but when that inspiration itself becomes the new convention, then another challenging inspiration must appear

this cycle does appear to be speeding up, in human experience

the landscape is indeed changing rapidly.. for better and worse

a perhaps terminal problem is that the inspirations aren't big enough; aren't radical enough

we most certainly are increasing computational speeds, memory.. all kind of techno gadgets & quantum views

but there is no compelling vision of a different world making it past mere speculation... a world of peaceful cooperation with necessities for all instead of the greed & power & consumption based endless repetitions of the human record to date

basically we need a new kind of human... a major program revision, downloaded


I just dropped by to see I really enjoy reading your blog and find it has some stimulating ideas to help keep me on toes with the rest of my sparky family! Thanks.

Yes, perhaps less running and a bit more stillness sometimes might come in handy to combat that red Queen.

Roger von Oech

Tom: Thanks for your comments. You do "taxonomy" well. It would be interesting to see your understanding of the various types of blogs, their communities, and their aims and uses.

David: Yes, I agree. It does appear we live in a "confetti" universe. But I hope that doesn't make me seem "old and grouchy." Many years ago, Saul Bellow had a great line in the mouth of one of his characters (Herzog, I believe): "What this country needs is a good five cent synthesis."

Pearlz: Thanks for dropping by. I also enjoyed visiting your site.

Sharon Sarmiento

Roger, thanks so much for the though provoking metaphor. I have to admit, I've been a lurker on your blog for a few weeks now, so it's about time that I chimed in!:-)

Your question about how does the Red Queen Effect apply to blogging got me thinking.

Based on your post here, I wrote up a post on this topic called "The Red Queen Effect: How many blog posts are too many?" over at

As I got into writing it, I became convinced that the Red Queen metaphor is perfect for describing what bloggers (especially the probloggers who need to pump out dozens of posts a day) experience.

In case you're interesed, here's the link:

Thanks for this thought provoking post. I love what you're doing over here, and I'm looking forward to participating on a more regular basis from now on!



Well Roger, when I get into a conundrum of this type of sorts, I go ask Alice.

And if I am understanding Wendy here, I agree.

Alice says:

Feed your head
Feed your head

Ali Anani

Your beautiful article has just triggered my mind to link The Red Queen Effect with the OODA loop. Competitors or worrieors alike Observe each other to Oreient to the emerging situations to Decide what to do and Act accordingly. Each time an OODA loop finishes and a new one starts a change of landscape is affected. I find this supportive to the Red Queen Effect.

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