Thursday, August 25, 2016

An observant layman's view of the next step in the evolution of business practices

0 -) The transitional stage where we are (and how it is awkward). >>; Where we will go to live.

1 a) We superimpose hierarchical processes on a networked organization (and it causes gaps, disconnects and counter-productive drivers where there should be connections between lines of organization). >> We move to a flatter, more collegial organization focused on the strategic pillars, less obsessed with levels.

1 b) We superimpose hierarchical processes on a networked organization (and it obscures strategic and tactical potentialities because of the performance focus on tightly defined target "results"). >>; We learn to work collaboratively and are motivated to look for synergies based on overall goals rather than branch-specific targets.

2 a) We manage the information we need to make decisions in terms of "documents" at the filing end of business processes (and that means we don't leverage the power of the basic desktop technology at our fingertips to minimize duplication) >>; We learn to think in terms of information rather than documents and plan our information GATHERING for the most optimal re-use and cross-referencing.

2 b) We manage information we need to make decisions in terms of "documents" at the filing end of business processes (and that means we suffer unabated information overload and/or information decision fatigue ) >> Realizing that paper based models cannot scale to the speed of digital information production, we redefine what constitutes a "record" and manage information tactically at the gathering stage rather than documents at the filing stage.

3 a) Our strategies for simplification and lean production are based on material work and products (less input, more output; compartmentalizing work into "manageable elements", measuring same "manageable elements" as opposed to their contribution to the objective of the work as a whole). >> We learn that leveraging digital simplification means thinking in terms of an overabundance of meaningful cross-referencable categories at the front end and parsing at the result stage of activities so that we can immediately pull up the information we need to make decisions as we go; we are happy to work in beta mode together, rather than holding off sharing until the totally polished offering is presented. A mental transition is necessary - see that an informed redundancy is necessary for streamlining because modern streamlining must be in real time and resilient.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Human future - SWOT Analysis:

Strengths: Caring multiculturalism, innovative nerdhood, imaginative resilience, move toward local economy, sustainability, increasing environmental conscientiousness, increasing gender equality, increasing global cultural and scientific literacy

Weaknesses: GREED, XENOPHOBIA, quantophrenia, methodolatry, pursuit of means as ends, mind/nature conceptual divide,,  control of the press and government by plutocracy/oligarchy, anti-intellectualism - especially of Americans whose drivers dominate world economics/culture (for now), PATRIARCHY, geological/cosmological illiteracy, tribalism, racism, marginalization -> ghettoization of minorities.

Opportunities: Networked culture, chance to move to flatter social organization, astounding availability of vast knowledge, insight and learning, awareness of importance of women's empowerment for social health, acclimatization and accommodation of difference as a human tendency.

Threats: PLUTOCRACY, OLIGARCHY,  manipulation of the government and press by aforesaid, the blind reaction to go to caricatures of antiquated governance models based on insecurity or a false belief that the fault of modernity is that it has lost its sense of tradition (versus a genuine understanding  of hegemonic powers that drive decay), hubristic anthropocentric failure to overcome nature/mind divide, PROMETHEANISM (the idea that human techno-mechanical prowess will inevitably surmount all threats and weaknesses), economy premised on disposability/waste; idea of progress as "efficiency and economic growth" (since means mistaken for ends put us on a hamster wheel to nowhere and erase humanity from its own agenda).

So what would a sound strategic plan look like?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Massive Gap in Leveraging Digital Opportunities

I was chatting with a friend recently who is newly retired from a municipal public service position. I was sharing some ideas about an upcoming IPAC TRG event (Follow @IPACToronto on Twitter where info will be provided soon) and he provided an account of related organizational issues he witnessed when a very significant investment in a geomatics application showed no return. 

His observations:
  • The software was adopted on the all-too-common belief that in some magical way it was self-operating and its introduction would solve some informational problems without further ado
  • As a result, there was no attempt to design or deliver a work process that would leverage the software (and no one accountable for that since it wasn't even imagined that it would be necessary)
  • There was no consultation with anyone who might have to use it, and even had there been, given the fetishization of the software and the failure of accountability for a strategy to leverage it, consultation probably wouldn't have netted much value. 
It's not surprising that there was little or no interest in learning the software.
Now multiply that a few hundred thousand times and we have the modern workplace. In the meantime, it's left to the IT and admin to make whatever they can of it without full awareness of its potential value or purpose.

Onto that pile of blockage for moving into the 21st century, add 

  • The governance map naturally resists being changed and collaborative technologies and their fruits can be seen as subversive

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why hierarchy and innovation rarely mix: A Paean to Creative Nerds

There are thought leaders who can invite and harness the wealth of insight of creative and committed people. People who are creative and committed are often described as nerds. What distinguishes nerds from those reluctant to identify with nerdhood is that they are curious and creative as a matter of course, regardless of external incentives. In other words, their creativity is disinterested in the sense of being motivated to move the mental models forward and expand the frame of reference in their respective fields without reference to partisanship or entrenched tribal norms. They are the innovators who get us thinking, nudge us outside our comfort zone and drive the better side of what is called progress.

Although not inspired by extrinsic rewards, innovators are indeed hampered by disincentives, it should go without saying. Why would anyone disincentivize disinterested creativity and innovation rather than harness it? The only reason would be that it threatens the established order, that it is viewed as subversive to the order, and that the order is hegemonic.

Throughout history, great art was produced by unparalleled artists employed by the ruling class. Yet, the art is easily identified by era, indicating that style innovations were slow to accrue. Today, an exponentially expanding field of possibility is available to potential innovators, yet social structures  reproduce disincentives and thought innovation doesn't keep pace with the increase in available information and platforms to make it world changing. There is a canon that supports innovation-limiting social structures, a Canon of "objectivity" that belies its true nature.

The main value of The Canon resides in its false assurances of control:

  • We set up a list of outcomes, assuming that no better / deeper understanding will emerge in pursuing them that might change them. We set up measures that readily stand in for the outcomes, although pursuing measures as ends can yield perverse effects. 
  • We make a plan according to current knowledge, not in terms of the real world of ever-emerging possibilities.
  • We then outline contingencies, assuming that we can adumbrate the list of relevant determinants of change.
  • We execute a plan and consider deviations remarkable, requiring no end of justification and scrutiny, as if stasis were the norm. 
  • We assign people formal titles and units, and expect their talents not to leak beyond these pre-defined impersonal roles.
  • We break down challenges into discrete parts, and assign various disconnected units to tackle them and then wonder why everyone isn't on the same page. We might even measure the discrete successes of the units assuming that the sum of the parts is equal to the sum of the aggregate (not necessarily a "whole").
  • We evaluate performance against set criteria in a changing landscape, although performance evaluations have been proven not to have any performance-enhancing value except in simple, transactional or mechanical activities. 
Where in the above is room for leveraging potentials? Whence engagement? The closure is almost complete. This perverts the ideal of the enlightenment and turns it on its head.

Nevertheless, the trope of objectivity allows the powerful to maintain control of the story of what should be done, how it should be done, and how well it was done, regardless of what actually happens, which tends to depend on ever shifting natural and cultural contexts. There is little to distinguish innovation from heresy, insubordination or subversion. The status quo is reproduced ad nauseum with nothing given legitimacy to challenge it.

That is not to say all people with high position are officious innovation stiflers. Many are thought leaders. What characterizes them?

They are open to possibility, have a desire to expand thought horizons for the greater good without any extrinsic incentive to do so. They have a keen eye for viable potential and encourage it. Their comfort zone is strong and wide, not because they control, but because they inspire trust and enthusiasm. They have a collegial appreciation of talent, seeing their employees as people with expanding potentials, not as pre-defined competency sets or roles.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

On Risk Aversion (Updated)

In 2009, I wrote this post on risk aversion.

Here's where it sits on my mind today.

Is risk aversion a fear of auditors, bad press or is it a fear of losing hegemony - a denial of the natural transformation that is occurring now towards models of complexity and resilience

It seems we prefer the illusion of control, governed by models that are 
- analytical
- artificial 
- categorical 
- linear 
- hierarchical
- authoritarian
- siloed
- mechanical, and
- simplistic. 

To be able to achieve manageable simplicity, we would have to be able to identify and control the context, the boundaries, the parameters in which we operate. This is not possible, if it ever was. 

But how do we change that the easier way?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fundamental Instincts

Our overarching instinct is to preserve that narrative that preserves our place in the (now technologically defined) economic landscape; i.e., the economy (now global, not place-based). 

Cultural memes (anchors of the narrative) dislodge from terra firma - soccer, religion, politics - anything really - and stand in for our homestead/place. Dangerous because unbounded. That's why we're in the grip of so many "fundamentalisms".

The power of the "divine right of kings" didn't come from the kings but from this overarching instinct. 

(Hobbes articulated it without understanding.) Without place there is singularity.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Doables, deliverables and results - change habitual mental models for more sustainable results

When the Bloor Viaduct in Toronto was being designed, the designer apparently had the prescience to include enough in the design to allow for future subway trains, even though at the time no such trains existed in Toronto.

In today's world of narrow targets and measurable deliverables, we obscure the broader horizon of potential, making us less resilient.The impulse to make things manageable by analyzing them into discrete components, picking two or three to "do" and finding easy "measures" for them means we lose context and enjoy the illusory sense of safety provided by a narrowed horizon. We may be able to check things off the list, but are they meaningful contributions? Planning that engenders tidy, comfortable conceptual grids is not the path to resiliency but of "a foolish consistency." Today, our planning models render us more machine-like than organic and responsive to real needs. Therefore they break more easily, littering and cluttering our mindscape. That's why we're so grey and tired at the end of the day.

So the question for all us is:  How we can insert possibility and breadth into our mindspace and workspaces?