Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

The challenge of knowing what to focus on and plan around, and either strategically or tactically 9

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on May 9, 2021

This posting is the 9th installment in a series on better developing and organizing planning in a business, and at both a more here-and-now tactical level and at a more wide-ranging and long-term strategic level. See the first ten supplemental postings that I added to the end of Section IX, of Reexamining the Fundamentals 2 for Parts 1-8 of this series, as well as links to two earlier postings that it builds from.

And I have been discussing the issues raised in a set of topics points in this series that I continue addressing here, and that I repeat as a complete set for smoother continuity of narrative:

1. The extremes of fully top-down organizational systems and more fully egalitarian ones, and their respective limitations in this type of context.
2. Consideration of those organizational and management models should not be just about who carries out what tactical or strategic planning as that might be determined by titles held in a business, or by positions on a table of organization. This should also be about who has what tactical and/or strategic insight and the specific information and points of judgment that they would require, and both in general in a business’ systems, and on a more case-by-case and situation-by-situation basis.
3. And, after at least touching upon middle ground approaches as might arise in the context of the first of these bullet points, and questions of who should make what decisions as based upon skills and knowledge held in general and on immediately relevant here-and-now knowledge and understanding, I will step outside of that paradigmatic understanding to discuss an honest broker approach to resolving tactical and strategic decision making ownership and coordination challenges.

And to bring this initial orienting note up to date for what will follow here in this posting as it connects into this overall narrative, I have been focusing on the first of those three points up to now. And I have more recently in this series, been discussing management style and approach issues in that context, focusing on the problematical in that as sources of potential insight for managing better. To be more specific, I have been discussing the extremes of micromanagement and of overly hands-off management as they arise and play out, focusing up to here (in Part 8, on the micromanagement side to this challenge. I added at the end of that posting that I would:

• Turn to the seeming opposite of this problematical phenomenon: overly hands-off management as a supervisory style.

And I added that I would also discuss how and something of why, a same manager might fall into both of these traps, whipsawing between them.

I began addressing these issues in Part 8, leaving the questions of what good and best are in this context as simply assumed for their qualities and implementations; I left those questions and their answers to you the reader as you would set your own acceptable boundaries for where stepping over a line into micromanagement would happen.

• When should a manager step in and more actively participate, and when should they step back and leave decision making and hands-on execution opportunity in the hands of the people who report to them?

There are many ways to answer this, but all of them have one feature in common if they are to veer towards the good. Good and effective depend on the needs and preferences of both supervisor and their supervisees: the members of their team who report to them – and on the level and scope of hands-on and hands-off that a manager seeks to reach and maintain, that works best for them and for their team, improving work performance and team morale and minimizing friction there, as their collective and particular individual best.

Micromanagement, as discussed in Part 8, represents a systematic violation of this precept and so does the overly hands off management that I would discuss here. And I begin addressing that management style challenge by posing what I would suggest as a working definition of good management per se:

• Good management sets goals and priorities, and organizes and coordinates their fulfillment as a team effort.

And that begs a question. What do the members of such a team need, for that effort to succeed for them, and both individually and as they would coordinately work together?

• Some team members, and certainly more experienced ones who really know their jobs and the business that they work for, are all but certain to be able to work more autonomously there, and certainly on their own parts of any larger tasks that they enter into and participate in, and with they’re only requiring input on how and where and when to coordinate their work with that of others there. In their case the one real exception to this would be if they were to run into a resource availability barrier or other challenge, where they might need help in gaining access to what they need in order to do their work, and when they need it.
• Some team members on the other hand, and particularly newer hired with less hands-on experience – or more established employees who are working on developing and using new skills, might need more active support. But from a longer-term perspective, if not always from a more immediately here-and-now one, growing professionally calls for room to grow into. And that means offering more direct supervisory assistance as an option but only as that, and with these employees given room to work in too, and with as much autonomy as they can effectively achieve within. There, the question is one of whether or not they can and are completing their tasks correctly and effectively and on time. And a failure to do so, or a request for help to prevent such failures would trigger more direct hands-on managerial participation.
• Most employee team members fall in between these two situational categories. But the same basic principles of support and of guidance or of autonomy allowance that I have raised in the above two bullet points, applies to them too.
• And with this in place, I ask the question: what is problematical hands-off management? It is a failure to engage on the part of a manager, where that would actually be called for and where a lack of such connection and involvement leads to the very same problems that I write of here that effective management would limit if not prevent.

Managers can fall into the trap of alternating between micromanagement and overtly disconnected hands-off management as an ongoing act of overcompensation as they drift into problems in one direction, just to shift directions and drift into problems in the other too, as they seek to course correct. This arises as a direct result of failures to effectively communicate, where that calls for really actively listening and seeing, as well as talking and acting. And in this,

• Effective management is all about effective two way communication and it arises as a decision and action consequence of that,
• And with all of this sustained as ongoing interactively connected processes and with all of the feedback – and in both directions that this would call for.

I am going to turn to and at least begin addressing the second main topics point of this series, as repeated above, in the next installment to this series:

2. Consideration of those organizational and management models should not be just about who carries out what tactical or strategic planning as that might be determined by titles held in a business, or by positions on a table of organization. This should also be about who has what tactical and/or strategic insight and the specific information and points of judgment that they would require, and both in general in a business’ systems, and on a more case-by-case and situation-by-situation basis.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory and its Page 2 continuation, as topics Sections VI and IX there, and with this posting and its series specifically included as supplemental additions to Section IX there.

China, the United States and the world, and the challenge of an emerging global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – 143

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on May 8, 2021

This is my 164th posting to specifically address the COVID-19 pandemic that we now face and that by now has found its way into essentially every nation on Earth, and into every facet of our lives. And it is also the 143rd installment to this specific series on that.

As usual, I begin this installment with newer updates to a set of basic epidemiological findings, sharing more recent globally sourced data as offered by the World Health Organization as to the current overall state of this pandemic:

• May 06 at 01:58 GMT: 155,817,168 reported cases with 19,347,232 currently active, 136,469,936 now closed, and with 110,298 active in serious or critical condition (0.6 %), and 3,255,162 closed cases reported as deaths (2 %)
• May 07 at 01:22 GMT: 156,677,623 reported cases with 19,368,356 currently active, 137,309,267 now closed, and with 109,343 active in serious or critical condition (0.6 %), and 3,269,220 closed cases reported as deaths (2 %)
• May 08 at 01:41 GMT: 157,530,729 reported cases with 19,292,074 currently active, 138,238,655 now closed, and with 108,598 active in serious or critical condition (0.6 %), and 3,283,708 closed cases reported as deaths (2 %)

I have been at least situationally discussing and even focusing on economic and related issues in this series from early on in this. Then as a more extended effort in that direction, I began to delve into its issues and the contexts in which they take shape, and directly so, in Part 142.

My goal here is to continue and expand upon my Part 142 start there, by at least offering a few thoughts on what is probably the central challenge faced when making business and economic closing and reopening decisions, and when deciding their pace and timing and their scope when they are decided upon in principle. To bring this initial orienting note up to date, I expressed this complex of issues at the end of that posting as “the conundrum of knowing when a reopening and of what scale or scope would be too early or timely.” And I add overly delayed to that as well.

I added in that context that there are no easy or clear cut answers to the questions that any of this raises. And I begin addressing all of this by offering a point of readily visible observation that would perhaps seem more trite than informative, at least when considered in the abstract and devoid of the complexities of specific application:

• All such decisions would be best made on the basis of actual, verifiable, empirical data as it is developed and vetted, and as it shows constancy or change over time.

The question that that statement compels is one of whose data and findings would be turned to here, and particularly when we all seem to be living in epistemic bubbles and when so many of us are predisposed to only accept as valid, their own truths as reflected back to them within our own bubble. When conversation – actual two way conversation with both talking and listening become impossible across our dividing barriers, fact and truth die. Certainly any possibility of mutually, widely agreed-to fact and truth, and a shared agreement as to what is real die.

I offer this as background challenge to the issues that I would address here, noting that we face more uncertainty and disagreement now, in this time of pandemic crisis than we have in generations, and both within the United States and in other large, heavily pandemic-afflicted nations and globally. And this shapes the economic challenges that I would write of here, along with everything else that we currently face.

And with that, I turn to consider those economic issues themselves. And I begin by perhaps arbitrarily dividing the macroeconomic as considered here, into two domains: community and state or comparable intranational in reach, and national and global in reach.

I have primarily focused on the first, more localized of those two scales of consideration in my earlier economics-directed discussion here. And I continued pursuing that level of understanding in Part 142 when citing the historical record coming from the 1918 influenza pandemic, noting that we have repeated the same discriminatory patterns in our here-and-now that we followed then – and unsurprisingly with the same results.

I will add in that context, that while epistemic bubbles as such are mostly thought of in internet and online social media terms, they spill over quite effectively in real world, non-cyber contexts too. Just consider the political rallies that a now former president Trump held, and the bubble reinforcing editorializing as news of Fox news and related televised fact and opinion channels. I offer that in terms of the United States and its recent (and still ongoing) election results and COVID-19 denying context. But the same basic principles apply in India and Brazil and beyond as well, and in way too many nations.

And none of this is new either.

• A fun(?) trivia fact: Why did people begin calling the 1918 flu pandemic the Spanish flu when it did not in any way start there?
• The Spanish government was essentially the only major government in the West that permitted open press coverage of that unfolding disaster. President Wilson pushed through and enforced his Sedition Act to quash any press coverage or any open news or opinion sharing that he and his courts might see as questioning let alone repudiating the United States government or its actions or decisions in a time of war. And news coverage of that pandemic was seen by Wilson and his supporters as treason for how it undercut his proclamations of national strength and resolve.
• US Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. is known for among other reasons, for having declared that shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre to see the response was not protected speech under the First Amendment (in his majority opinion as offered in the resolution of the United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919.) This was not a case about theatres or fires; it was a case in which a US citizen publically questioned and challenged US draft laws and their implementation, and it was a case about the use of the Sedition Act to silence such questioning.
• Most all of Europe’s nations followed suit and certainly for suppressing news of the influenza pandemic that was ravaging them – and on both sides of the trenches, with Allied and Axis nations taking essentially identical courses of action there.
• Only the Spanish allowed open coverage and reporting on this, so their free press was the only source of news at all on that pandemic.

Fake news and real news, disallowed and reported news: none of this is new. None of this was new in 1918 either. And the same basic epistemic bubble challenge that we face now with such force has been a potential threat at the very least for a long time now.

Look to the local community city and state-scaled disparities that I have written about in a 1918 context and that I write of now. What drives them? It is not the overt of people waking up in the morning to ask “what can I do today to make members of the __ fill in the blank __ minority miserable and threaten their lives? That is not the main factor there, at any rate. It is in how the members of wealthier, more enabled communities have lived in their own bubbles and have never really seen or heard the realities of the left-out communities that surround theirs and whose minority members in so many cases provide essential services to them … just to go home at the end of their work days, still unseen and unheard.

• Which is worse, discrimination as caused by directly willful decision and action as for example when Ku Klux Klansmen go and burn a church?
• Or the more default discrimination of those who are deaf and blind to the realities of others, and particularly to those others who are different from themselves?
The first of those events is dramatic and in a way that reaches widespread visibility. People do notice and react in outrage. But the second of them is larger and more impactful of scale. But it is largely invisible and soundless. And it is of such ongoing duration that a word like condition would be more appropriate than event could ever be.

Why do we see such a consistent and complete repeat of the discriminatory challenges of 1918 and their consequences, today in this 21st century new world? The same bubbles that made this possible and even inevitable a century ago persist. It is not that epistemic bubbles are an internet and online social media invention; it is that we are now seeing a new technology based update to an information and insight barrier challenge that we have had with us all along. And these barriers have divided us all along.

Failures to communicate in any meaningful way across our divides are a crucially important part of the overall challenge that I write of here. But they are only part of what goes into making this our current reality. Two other elements to this that closely connect to our inability to communicate and connect, are:

• Our all too-common a denial of others as we seek to advance our own liberties and even at their expense – as if community and society were zero-sum, winner take all and loser lose all games, and
• Our deep-set distrusts, and certainly where we see ourselves as having been victimized and left out.

I am going to add discussion of these interconnected issues to this developing narrative in the next installment to this series. And as part of this pandemic and economics discussion as a whole, I will also consider the economics of this pandemic as can be found at a larger national and global level – as briefly acknowledged above, here in this posting. And my goal in all of this is to at least attempt to shed some light on the overarching goal that I began this posting with, when noting the challenge of:

• Deciding the right pace, timing and scope when planning and carrying out business and economic closing and reopening decisions.
• Where they have to create win-win outcomes if they to be for the societal good and sustainably so.

Meanwhile, you can find this and my earlier COVID-19 related postings to this series at Macroeconomics and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, as postings 365 and following.

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 40

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 7, 2021

This is my 40th posting to a series on tactical and strategic planning under real world constraints, and executing in the face of real world challenges that are caused by business systems friction and the systems turbulence that it creates (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-39.)

I have been discussing planning and its execution as a developing process here in this series, with much of that framed in terms of two case studies:

• Alpha Hardware Inc.: A hardware store that went through a more fundamental transitional change as it came to outgrow its original single storefront and its space restrictions there, to become a two storefront business with a more specialized Alpha Hardware and an Alpha Home Goods, and
• The e-Maverick Group: A cutting edge technology offering, business-to-business oriented software development company that also faces business transition challenges.

And as part of that, I have been focusing on resource allocation and on funding support allocation in particular, as that would enter into prioritization decisions here, and particularly in Part 38 and Part 39.

I have taken a primarily within-house perspective there, even if I did touch upon issues of market impact and on how within-business considerations for this can and do affect customers and potential customers and in ways that can and do reflect back onto and affect businesses themselves. Then at the end of Part 39 I explicitly raised the issues of markets and explicit marketing here, and proactive efforts to create and shape public facing messages from that.

• In a traditional broadcast-model, one directional communications context, this would only mean messages coming from a business itself (overlooking the fact that even there, customers have always found ways to share their opinions and particularly negative ones, of businesses that they do business with.)
• In a two way, interactive online context that is driven by social media and online reviews and opinion sharing of all sorts, and from seemingly everyone to everyone else, that parenthetical exception becomes the norm. Or to be more precise, it becomes an ongoing presumable part of a larger, interactively communicated influence creating and shaping norm.
• But even then, a business’ own messaging as its contribution to this flow and even flood of judgments and opinions shared, is vitally important and both to share positive news and to address apparent false impressions or even overtly wrong information.

And it is in this context that I continue Part 39’s line of discussion. And I begin doing so by more explicitly considering the market demographics that a business such as the e-Maverick Group, or an Alpha Hardware Inc. would face and seek to sell to.

I have written of this, at least up to here in this discussion, in general terms; at this point it is necessary that I delve at least somewhat into the specifics there. And that will bring me directly back to the more financial and cash flow issues that I have been addressing in this context. So let’s begin with those targeted market demographics and for the two case study businesses under consideration here, and develop this narrative line from there:

• A business that follows a basic plan and business model that are more consistent with that of the e-Maverick Group, would face at least two separate markets that they might very well have to approach and market to separately and differently, and with different wording and in support of different sets of customer and potential customer needs and concerns.
• This would definitely include a market demographic of pioneer and earliest adaptors, where marketing would be phrased and imaged with them in mind, using words and images that would explicitly appeal there. This would emphasize new and cutting edge as a hallmark of better, and of creating innovation-driven opportunity – for all who buy into this. But at the same time, as has been discussed in postings such as this series’ Part 39, they still have to market to a perhaps more cautious market clientele too, and both to show their continued support of their current customers, and to bring in new ones who would want assurances of active ongoing support for what they buy – and certainly where that means expensive, high-end new software with learning curve requirements and its potential for new emergent beta test issues that would need patching.
• A business that would take a more Alpha Hardware Inc. approach would be more likely to present itself as offering all things of value to all people. I cited shower curtains and dish towels (from the Alpha Home Goods side of that business) in Part 39 though I could as easily have chosen basic garden tools or spackle for painting prep work, or bags of potting soil as might be found in their hardware oriented storefront. Pioneer and early adaptors buy and use those products, as do late and last adaptors of new – and they all use them in basically the same way and for the same reasons.
• So that business would look for a common-ground marketing image and message. They would look to develop and offer a very positive, big tent community appealing message and even a neighborly one.

And this brings me to the questions of where they would market, and what they would market in each of their selected marketing venues and channels. I am going to continue this line of discussion in the next installment to this series with that set of issues. And it is in that context that I will discuss viral marketing and efforts to enlist marketing support from the community, and marketing finances as that would enter into this too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

Which shapes which: businesses or their management tools? Part 9

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 6, 2021

This is the 9th installment that I am offering in a brief thought piece series on the tools that we use in our businesses:

• And on how they and their use, as well as their specific outputs, shape our businesses.
• And on how we in turn in effect shape those tools themselves – at least in our implementations of them.

See Business Strategy and Operations – 5, postings 951 and loosely following for earlier installments to this series, as they offer discussion of these basic issues.

My overall goal for this series is to directly address and analytically discuss those two points. And in preparation for doing so, I have been addressing a set of three collateral topics points, that I repeat here as a set for smoother continuity of narrative:

1. Business analytical tool usage at a basic here-and-now operational and tactical level, and the types of assumptions that can and do arise there and their consequences.
2. And consideration of how that set of issues plays out at a deeper business model and overall strategy level there.
3. And issues of simplicity and complexity as they arise in the contexts of the above two topic points (where I began addressing this complex set of issues in its own right in Part 2.)

I have offered at least preliminary organized responses to the first two of these points in installments leading up to here, completing that in Part 8 . And my goal here is to complete this more preliminary line of discussion with an at least selective consideration of the above Point 3 as well. And I begin doing so from the perspective of the brief comments that I have already offered on this, as can be found in Part 2, where I cited Occam’s razor and its toxic extreme: Occam’s Procrustean bed, and how understandings of simplicity and complexity are as much grounded in a priori assumptions held, as they are in more here-and-now and anticipated specific contextual details.

I begin addressing these issues as just preliminarily acknowledged there, with those often unconsidered but nevertheless vitally important, all but axiomatic assumptions. And in this case this means all of the underlying rationales that would go into how involved stakeholders set their own more locally facing goals and priorities and in how they see them fitting into the needs and priorities of the business as a whole, where differences there between stakeholders, and unexamined ones in particular, are certain to lead to disconnects and at least initial disagreements.

• Everyone sees value in simplicity in these contexts. The question is one of what constitutes core essentials and what would best qualify as side-issue complexities.
• The challenge there is in coming to agreement as to what constitutes valid simplification and with an agreed to simplest understanding of business context faced and of most direct ways to address that.
• Failure to achieve this is likely to lead at least some of the involved stakeholders feeling like they have spent a night on Procrustes’ fabled iron guest bed.

Let’s apply this to the first two points, to move my discussion of them past a bare bones preliminary for that and to address the above Point 3 in their context. And from an underlying assumptions perspective this means addressing the issue of how openly interconnected a business is in its planning and operations and in its underlying corporate culture, and how partitioned and even siloed it is for these parametric factors.

• Put simplistically, the more partitioned a business is, the more likely it is going to be that stakeholders coming from different partitioned areas of it are going to focus upon their own goals and priorities and on their own needs and challenges,
• And the more likely it is going to be that they would see anything like competition for limited resources as limiting them in what might even seem to be a zero-sum contest.
• I phrase this as an extreme, simply noting that even just understanding, let alone resolving disagreements here, can mean moving further from that position and more towards an open and interconnected one on the part of involved stakeholders, where win-win possibilities might be arrived at. And that applies no matter where they start in this process.

What I am writing about here is the potential for disagreement as to what would be simple and germane, and how those differences can and at times do lead to collisions. And that means negotiating A’s and B’s needs for where they overlap and align and for where agreement is more readily possible, and building from there to address areas where they do not – at least initially. And yes, this means that simple and complex really can be in the eye of the beholder – and even when all concerned accept Occam’s razor and its operationalization as a desired given.

And with this in place, I turn to the tools that would be used to both identify and manage planning and its execution here, as encompassed in the two main topics points of this series as I have repeated them at the start of this posting, and in successive installments to this series as a whole. I will begin discussing them in terms of my Points 1-3 discussion as concluded here, in the next installment to this series.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

China, the United States and the world, and the challenge of an emerging global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – 142

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on May 5, 2021

This is my 163rd posting to specifically address the COVID-19 pandemic that we now face and that by now has found its way into essentially every nation on Earth, and into every facet of our lives. And it is also the 142nd installment to this specific series on that.

As usual, I begin this installment with newer updates to a set of basic epidemiological findings, sharing more recent globally sourced data as offered by the World Health Organization as to the current overall state of this pandemic:

• May 03 at 01:25 GMT: 153,481,613 reported cases with 19,473,935 currently active, 134,007,678 now closed, and with 111,780 active in serious or critical condition (0.6 %), and 3,216,214 closed cases reported as deaths (2 %)
• May 04 at 01:15 GMT: 154,174,359 reported cases with 19,383,481 currently active, 134,790,878 now closed, and with 111,455 active in serious or critical condition (0.6 %), and 3,226,726 closed cases reported as deaths (2 %)
• May 05 at 01:49 GMT: 154,973,048 reported cases with 19,304,738 currently active, 135,668,310 now closed, and with 111,075 active in serious or critical condition (0.6 %), and 3,241,024 closed cases reported as deaths (2 %)

I said at the end of Part 141 that I would turn here to more explicitly discuss the economics of this pandemic. And begin doing so by offering a point of observation that I share from today’s perspective, and a set of three references that I repeat from an installment to this series that first went live just over a year ago, on April 13, 2020 (see Part 13):

• First, that point of observation: I somewhat arbitrarily began putting this series into my Macroeconomics directory when I first began writing to it. But at the same time, I saw that as being a reasonable place to include this developing narrative in my directory pages because epidemics and their still larger relatives: pandemics, are of necessity as impactful on economic and related societal systems as they are on public health. And in all of this, we see nothing new coming from our current COVID-19 pandemic that we cannot see vivid record of from past pandemics. And that certainly holds true when we look back to the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 through … to today as we still face annual influenza outbreaks as an ongoing endemic disease consequence of that. We never have reached herd immunity anywhere for the flu, so that outbreak as a whole has never actually ended, even if its initial pandemic phase did.
• And second, those reference links: The Effect of Public Health Measures on the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in U.S. Cities,
The Macroeconomic Costs of a Global Influenza Pandemic, and
National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.

I begin this posting’s discussion by stating that neither the United States nor any other nation, let alone any organized group of them have ever had and actually followed, a unified consistent strategy for addressing any epidemic or pandemic, anywhere or ever. And looking at the global epidemics and pandemics of 1918 and following, and of today as dysfunctional non-working examples there, this failure is as visibly palpably proven true in a business and economics context as it is in any other that we face.

On a public health and on a more individual health consequences level, we see this in our collective failures to widely and consistently take even just the most basic self-protective measures to limit the spread of lethal contagious diseases – as just one factor there. And I cite the infamous Anti-Mask League of the United States, of the 1918 flu pandemic, and mask and social distancing denial of today in that regard.

On an economics level, I cite the lessons never learned from how communities that opened up again too quickly from shut-downs meant to slow disease spread, saw outbreak recurrences and increased losses of lives as a result in the pandemic years of 1918 though 1920 – and beyond in the developing world. And this forced renewed shutdowns and prolonged business and overall economic losses, delaying recovery when that could finally happen.

We can see that in the record of the 1918 influenza pandemic and in the years that followed. And we can see in that record, how underserved communities never really recovered in the aftermath of that pandemic and certainly when benchmark compared to the recoveries of wealthier communities.

Today, we see forced reclosings in places like the United States, and particularly in its politically conservative and ultra-conservative leaning red states, and with renewed spikes in case numbers and in death totals from this pandemic too. And all too often our political leaders continue to pursue the same mistakes of the past today as I write this. And I say mistakes there, because they are following the same path and making essentially the same decisions and pursuing the same courses of actions as proven wrong in the past, and when facing similar cause and effect contexts when doing so … and they still expect to get different, rosy scenario outcomes from that. Making mistakes? Substitute the words behaving as if crazy there.

• For a specific case in point example of this, literally pulled from today’s headlines as I write this, see (n.b. Florida’s Governor) DeSantis Suspends All Local COVID Orders, Signs Bill Handcuffing Cities, Counties on Future Restrictions.
• What price will Florida pay for this ideologically extremist, partisan political hubris – this behaving as if crazy? When people from Florida who become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus there and then travel out of state and particularly to states that are more in COVID denial, what will the costs be from that? This applies to people who are residents of Florida and who claim it as their home, and to those who travel there and now run an increased risk of bringing COVID-19 back home with them as an unexpected souvenir.
• And remember: Florida is not a state that has gained fame for effectively bringing this pandemic under control within its borders. No one can claim that this pandemic is now fully under control there, governor DeSantis included.

In 1918 and the years that immediately followed, places that took and adhered to disease spread restriction measures such as the imposition of business closings and restrictions on large public gatherings, suffered economically on a short-term basis. But they recovered economically, and both more quickly and more robustly than their less cautious counterparts did. And to emphasize that point, I used the non-descriptive term “places” there for a reason. This point of observation can be verified from data comparing entire nations, or when comparing actions and outcomes between large intranational regions within single nations, or even when comparing single cities in those nations. This point of observation is robust enough for its empirically determinable validity, for it to be scale-independent for where you look.

• And with a century and more of validating evidence, and with evidence of this already visible in our current pandemic context to support that point of observation too.
• We still never seem to learn!

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will discuss China’s economic recovery, among other relevant emerging national experiences. And I will at least begin to discuss the more global consequences of this. And that will mean addressing both here-and-now, and longer-term and post-COVID-19 pandemic issues and their consequences.

And as part of that narrative to come, I will at least address the conundrum of knowing when a reopening and of what scale or scope would be too early or timely. I will simply add here in that context, that there are no easy or clear cut answers to the questions that this raises.

Meanwhile, you can find this and my earlier COVID-19 related postings to this series at Macroeconomics and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, as postings 365 and following.

Rethinking exit and entrance strategies 43: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 33

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 4, 2021

This is my 43rd installment to a series that offers a general discussion of business transitions, where an organization exits one developmental stage or period of relative strategic and operational stability, to enter a fundamentally different next one (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 559 and loosely following for Parts 1-42.)

This is a series about change, and about more fundamental change in particular. And I have been discussing these issues in the abstract here and in terms of basic principles, and in terms of two specific case study examples, that I have been progressively elaborating upon as this series long narrative has unfolded:

• ClarkBuilt Inc. is a business that has reached a point in its development, as previously discussed here, where its owning founders have to make some fundamental decisions as to what type of business they have now, and what type they will have moving forward: as a manufacturer and just that, or as a design shop that monetizes and gains profits as such from its brand and name recognition, or as some combination of those two options.
• And Palabraum Inc. is a business that has reached a point in its development where its owners and executive managers have come to see a need to bring New back into what they do, and into what they offer to a marketplace that has come to see their product lines as staid at worst, and as retro at best.

As noted in Part 42, both of these businesses have arrived at points in their histories where their owner leaders realize that they do in fact have to make changes and significant ones. So whether they would pursue this strictly in-house or with the help of outside consultants – who might be able to approach these issues more dispassionately, they do see need for what might arguably be called change management resolutions. But do they need to bring their businesses through true phase changing business transitions too?

I discussed those two change understandings and approaches: change management and its drivers and application, and true business transitions in Part 42, with this question in mind. And my goal here is to at least begin to answer it. Or rather, my goal here is to at least begin to outline how the people responsible for those businesses, who make determinative overall decisions there, might better answer that for their respective businesses. And at the risk of being overly repetitive here, I begin with the fundamentals, couching what is to follow as a set of due diligence and risk management questions with appended comments added for clarification.

• Where are these businesses now, as far as specific sources of risk and loss: likely and already realized, are concerned? And setting aside any more detailed questions of symptoms and underlying problematical causes for the moment, and even just of which is which for them, where do these issues collectively show as emerging and even overtly significant pain points, now?
• And with that, I turn to a next step question that directly addresses the distinctions between change and responding to it per se, and true business transitions as I use that term in its more transformative sense. Are the issues that drive a need for change structural, and representative of an essentially irreversible trend, or are they more transient in nature where a return to some form of status quo ante might be possible, and where that might make sense?
• I said in Part 42 that while I have not said explicitly, whether either of these businesses absolutely need to enter into true business transitions now, I have at least broadly hinted as to how I see them best proceeding there. And a big part of that, has in fact arisen from how I have made it clear that neither ClarkBuilt nor Palabraum can simply streamline and optimize and return to an older business as usual pattern. Palabraum, to cite my possible return example for this, as offered in Part 42, cannot resolve its issues by streamlining its online order fulfillment systems, and using those savings to shore up its core as a business.
• That would at least strongly point towards they’re facing and entering into what can only be considered true business transitions – but if they do pursue that approach, what would their entrance strategy goals be for when they emerge from their transition periods?
• I have more than just hinted at answers to that question and for both of these businesses. ClarkBuilt would essentially of necessity enter and carry through upon a true business transition and I add an at least somewhat disruptive one if it changed its fundamental business model to becoming a design shop for other manufacturers – that would in effect build for them. And that would hold if they still produced their higher end, more specialized production technique products too. Shifting any significant portion of their overall business to that new, would be disruptive and even business redefining for them.
• Any answer to that transition or not question would be a lot less certain for a company such as Palabraum. There, bringing out new designs and bringing in new product designers to help make that possible could arguably be seen as returning to their roots and to restoring a status quo ante that in fact defined them as a business at its founding. But even there, if renewing and revitalizing their product offerings meant making fundamental changes throughout their systems with new production techniques and new assembly lines that would work with new materials and more – this might mean they’re entering into a true business transition too, as they attempt to carry out that “return.”
• So I circle back to the first question of this bullet pointed set with: where is the business now as far as specific sources of risk and loss: likely and already realized, are concerned? And I stress in this re-asking, a key word that might have been overlooked for its significance in a first reading of that question at the start of this list: “specific.”

And this brings me back to the fact that this is a due diligence, and more specifically a risk management oriented, set of issues and questions that I am posing here. And I begin reframing the above questions and issues in those terms by posting a few more specific questions:

• If the owner/leaders of these businesses decide to address their particular challenges as change issues, or even as more overt and significant change management issues, but as ones that would not call for a true transformative business transition change, what would that mean?
• To take this question out of the abstract, would, “retro” or rather “timeless” be good for Palabraum, as in “timeless quality” and “timeless excellence”? Could that business make a retro turned timeless into a positive and a desirable for them, and could they streamline their systems and reframe their marketing to make that their positive good?
• And if the owner/leaders of these businesses decide to address their particular challenges by embracing more fundamental chance and by actively entering into more fundamental business transitions, what would that mean in its details for them, and what would they have to go through to get to their now desired and intended new post-transition entrances?

These and similar questions that would or at least should come up here, all revolve around issues of contingency planning and of knowing as much as possible up-front as to what the possibilities are there. And they all revolve around the issues of risk acceptance – where that means their coming to an understanding of where risk can be found in their various contingency options and in how they would carry through on reaching them.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in the next installment to this series where I will more fully explore this second set of questions and their issues. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

Xi Jinping, China, and dreams of a new world order 2

Posted in book recommendations, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on May 3, 2021

This is my second installment to a series on Xi Jinping and his China, that focuses upon, and that seeks to shed at least some light on what can only be considered an historic transition period as it unfolds. And we are now at a fundamental tipping point in that, that is simultaneously being shaped by pandemic and climate change threats, the ongoing development of and increasingly all-connecting reach of the interactive internet with all of its emerging issues, global power realignments and more. See Macroeconomics and Business 3, posting 511 for its Part 1.

My goal for this series is to at least selectively consider this seemingly open ended array of issues and challenges from a China perspective. And I focused with that in mind, in Part 1, on the context that Xi would decide and act within as he leads thatnation: his nation, and particularly as his options have been shaped by a now former president Trump’s xenophobic isolationism and by a globally impacting COVID-19 pandemic – where both of those factors and more have led to retrenching and pulling back and on multiple fronts and in ways that have created power and influence vacuums that Xi could move into.

And with that, I begin this next installment to this series by turning from that contextual perspective to consider Xi himself in all of this. And I begin doing so by explicitly acknowledging that I do not and cannot claim any special wisdom or foresight here. I simply seek to report on and discuss recurringly validated points of observation that others have noted too, and consider likely next step developments as they might arise.

Xi sees himself as the true successor to the greatest historical leaders of China’s long imperial past. He sees himself as if an updated recapitulation of the most powerful and commanding of his nation’s earlier emperors who fundamentally shaped the greatness of China as he sees it. Look to his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦): his China Dream there, as it serves as both his roadmap for moving forward and his justification for doing so too, and certainly for how he seeks to reshape China. I keep writing of Xi’s China here; that is for a reason. Xi Jinping sees himself as fundamentally owning China and its history, and its future too and certainly insofar as he can use his control there in reshaping his nation. Xi sees himself as the only power and the only voice who can or should represent his nation. “His” is literal there.

National leaders and others in positions of power and influence in countries that Xi reaches out to, as he seeks to expand his China’s reach, who focus entirely on their here-and-now and transactionally so when dealing with him and his government, do so at their own peril. But right now, immediate challenges and immediate threats-faced are pushing most if not all longer-term concerns and considerations aside for them, as they seek immediate aid in dealing with COVID-19, increased trade opportunities, and a release of pressure where for example, China is making more directly threatening moves (as for example in the East China Sea and the South China Sea and towards nations flanking those waters.) Both sides to that carrot and stick approach mean nations and their governments and all over the world, making concessions.

This becomes a question of scale and degree. When and where would it make more sense to see accommodations and concessions as gestures that would enable mutually beneficial developments to come? And at what point do they reach the immediate and perhaps more importantly, the cumulative long-term impact on these nations that China deals with, where that type of balance can no longer be presumed? When do these agreements become so lopsided and even inevitably so in favor of China and its interests, that they can come to infringe at least situationally on national autonomy itself for countries that enter into them?

Xi looks back to a Golden Age China that was kowtowed to by legions of emissaries from vassal states. For a reference on this, I suggest:

• Mühlhahn, K. (2019) Making China Modern: from the Great Qing to Xi Jinping. The Belknap Press.

and particularly for its brief but still enlightening discussion of China’s greatest reach of imperial expansion and influence of the Qing dynasty. But Xi’s role models there go back all the way to China’s first emperor: Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇– literally, “First Emperor of Qin”).

What do his most compellingly important role models from China’s history hold in common? They were all powerful and charismatically compelling in their leadership. They were all expansionists who could and did unify and consolidate while increasing China’s within-nation imperial, and outwardly extending hegemonic reach. And they all attained as close to absolute power and authority over China, and as revered leaders there, as has ever been possible anywhere in history for any rulers.

Mao Zedong sought similar greatness, and a similar absolute and uncontested hold over all of China. He sought to be, and in a fundamental sense succeeded in becoming his nation’s first true Communist era emperor of China. Then after his death and in a now post-Mao Zedong world, his lesser successors in power sought to prevent anything like an emergence of a next such Communist emperor.

They saw Mao’s excesses and their costs to China. And the leadership of that nation’s government and more importantly, of its controlling Communist Party that now had to deal with the consequences of all of that, instituted changes designed to limit the authority and control that any one person might hold there, ever again. Xi has essentially undone all of that. His counterpart to Mao’s Little Red Book has literally been incorporated into China’s constitution. He can continue in office as long as he desires, as leader of China’s military, its government and its one Party. And sometimes belittling but also just humanizing nicknames aside, he is also at least close to being revered and certainly publically and through much of China.

For Xi nicknames, consider Pooh as in Winnie the Pooh and my favorite: baozi (包子– steamed bun). He gained (earned?) that in 2013 when he dined on them in public in a little restaurant named Qingfeng while on a man of the people campaign. Yes, these nicknames are technically illegal when applied to him; yes people still refer to him by them at least in private. (Apparently some people think he looks something like a Winnie the Pooh and some think he looks more like a steamed bun.) I cite this as an indication of the limits to power that even an Era of Greatness, 21st century Chinese Communist Emperor can achieve and even in his own de facto kingdom.

Xi is complex; he and his personal story mix strengths and capabilities, and vulnerabilities and limitations – even as he seeks to push past them in his striving for a greatness that would match the best that he sees from all of his nation’s long historical and even mythic past.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next installment where I will begin to offer specific China and empire building and rebuilding initiatives that he has been pursuing and certainly in the last few years and leading up to now, as global challenges have created Chinese opportunity.

Meanwhile, you can find this related material at Macroeconomics and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, with this series included in that directory Page 3. And you can also find related material at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

China, the United States and the world, and the challenge of an emerging global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – 141

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on May 2, 2021

This is my 162nd posting to specifically address the COVID-19 pandemic that we now face and that by now has found its way into essentially every nation on Earth, and into every facet of our lives. And it is also the 141st installment to this specific series on that.

As usual, I begin this installment with newer updates to a set of basic epidemiological findings, sharing more recent globally sourced data as offered by the World Health Organization as to the current overall state of this pandemic:

• April 30 at 01:32 GMT: 151,117,679 reported cases with 19,427,762 currently active, 131,689,917 now closed, and with 111,735 active in serious or critical condition (0.6 %), and 3,179,187 closed cases reported as deaths (2 %)
• May 01 at 01:31 GMT: 152,002,365 reported cases with 19,537,676 currently active, 132,464,689 now closed, and with 111,365 active in serious or critical condition (0.6 %), and 3,193,642 closed cases reported as deaths (2 %)
• May 02 at 01:10 GMT: 152,788,755 reported cases with 19,513,840 currently active, 133,274,915 now closed, and with 111,927 active in serious or critical condition (0.6 %), and 3,205,786 closed cases reported as deaths (2 %)

I said at the end of Part 140 that I would focus on vaccinations here, continuing an already ongoing discussion of that important set of issues. And I begin doing so by repeating a pair of sentences from there that I saw as carrying a measure of irony in them, even as I first wrote them:

• When will this be “over” as a pandemic for the more developed, privileged nations of this Earth? We all hope for the arrival of herd immunity for that to happen, and as a seemingly quite realistic goal – there in those select nations.

The irony there, comes from multiple directions. And I just begin unraveling their toxic complexities here by noting the fact that the largest and most vocal challenges to accepting COVID-19 vaccines or any other vaccines for that matter, come from the most privileged nations for having access to them, and from the United States in particular. And given the levels of and the intransigence of this resistance and the denial that it is based upon, it is unlikely that the United States can achieve herd immunity from COVID-19 and certainly from vaccination campaigns alone and certainly in large red state dominated areas of the country. So do we all hope for the arrival of herd immunity in the United States? The answer to that for many and even for most Americans is yes. But there are still significant numbers of ultraconservatives and their like minded who do not even acknowledge that COVID-19 is even real. Or they accept that it exists but only while adding that it is not actually any worse than an annual flu or even just a bad cold: that it is fake news when called a devastating pandemic and a partisan political attack upon their own freedom and dignity.

The United States does not by any means, hold a monopoly on this type of public health denying divisiveness. But Americans do this more loudly and more stridently than most. And for the extremes of this type of demographic cohort, a proclamation of herd immunity reached would simply represent the political left giving up on trying to force their way on others – at least for this non-issue.

What of the developing world in all of this? Look there and you see people who do not have access to ready, reliable doses of any of the approved COVID-19 vaccines and from anywhere, and certainly at any levels that would even begin to address public need. They do not have access to reliable healthcare of any sort and they see that as a greatest possible should-be achievable good.

How would a vaccine denier from the United States, with its vast supplies of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses, explain their resistance to accepting a vaccination against this deadly disease, to the people of a county such as India or Brazil now, or the people of any other hard-hit nation that lacks healthcare infrastructure and with that meaning they’re lacking anything like adequate stocks of essential equipment, oxygen supplies, medicines, hospital beds and even trained personnel – and that also lack COVID-19 vaccines?

And irony of ironies, that lacking applies with full force to India, and even when its Serum Institute of India is one of the largest and most active vaccine manufacturers in the world and when it is supposedly producing COVID-19 vaccine doses at a rate of over one billion per year.

I have euphemistically used the word irony here in this discussion but a better word for all of this might be madness. Or consider the phrase self-inflicted madness if you prefer, as so much of it should be avoidable.

We are facing a perfect storm for that now, or at least all of the key ingredients of one. Consider those contributing ingredients themselves, or at least a few of the more significant of them:

• The first that I would cite here is one that has been solidly in place and deeply entrenched from well before COVID-19. That is the anti-vaxxer movement that has denied any and all vaccinations as dangerous and evil and for years now. Anti-vaxxer parents refuse to let their children be vaccinated against any of the once-scourge diseases that injured and even killed so many of our young in earlier generations. And we have seen outbreaks of some of those debilitating diseases among unvaccinated children as a result.
• This movement really took off when COVID-19 first became a pandemic, and public health professionals and others began talking of rapidly developing vaccines to combat that disease and its spread. Anti-vaxxers started to proclaim that these vaccines would be dangerous even before any of them even existed.
• Now we have a variety of thoroughly tested, approved COVID-19 vaccines but those details do not fit the anti-vaxxer agenda so they are overlooked in their statements. They still say that these vaccines were developed too fast, so they could not possibly be safe.
• That, of course, only covers part of their ever-metastasizing message. They pick up on any and every rare occurrence side effect to proclaim these vaccines too dangerous to use. And when they see need to go farther than that in their justifications, they make up reasons as complete fabrications. For a more recent manifestation of that, consider the new and spreading myth of “vaccine shedding.”
• For a reference on that, see: The Latest Anti-Vax Myth: ‘Vaccine Shedding’, which I quote from with:
• “Essentially, they (n.b. anti-vaxxers) believe that people who’ve had the vaccine can somehow shed the spike protein, which in turn can cause menstrual cycle irregularities, miscarriages, and sterility in other women just by being in close proximity.”
• This report went on to quote a physician who tracks the anti-vaxxer movement, who said “This is a new low, from the delusional wing of the anti-vaxx cult, …”

But the challenge that I write of here is not all about scientifically and medically illiterate crazies, and even if they do contribute to it with the loudest and the more reported upon voices. At least some public health officials and government leaders have contributed to this too, and even more impactfully. And I refer here, to the on again, off again, back and forth for approval of use of the AstraZenica COVID-19 vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well.

Let’s set aside the hand wringing and the self-protective posturing that can be found in too much of that and consider the actual numbers. And let’s consider one well understood and validated example there, as one of these vaccines has been challenged.

• At worst, fewer than one person in a million who receives the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be expected to develop a blood clotting problem that might be a side effect of it and its administration. Particularly now that this is a known if very low probability potential complication, and now that it is known precisely what to do to treat them, very few of these people should have long-term complications; most all should fully recover with standard and well established treatment and most all do.
• Now let’s consider the numbers for the unvaccinated. To put this in a worst light, while still accepting the underreporting parameters implicit to the global World Health Organization numbers that I keep quoting here, if one million people become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and as confirmed cases, and the mortality rate for this is 2%, then we should expect to see some 20,000 deaths resulting from that. But even if we adjust that by presuming that only 10% of the public is at direct and significant risk of becoming so infected, which I do not see as being realistic, this would still mean some 2,000 deaths for a randomly selected refusal-to-vaccinate, anti-vaxxer cohort. Where is the real danger? Is it these and similar very low probability but potentially very serious complications, plus rumored risk of vaccine shedding and the like? Or is it from taking the risk of not being vaccinated, and particularly for those who deny the reality of this disease and who refuse to wear masks or social distance, increasing their chances of contracting it from that?

Public officials who have stopped and started, stopped and started what could have been smoothly ongoing vaccination campaigns have in effect found the greater risk in that fraction of one in a million, than in the much more likely thousands of lives lost from not getting vaccinated. And their contortions in how they explain and seek to justify their decisions, have to have added fuel to the anti-vaxxer movement and both for COVID-19 vaccines and for vaccines in general.

Personal reputation and related risk aversion on the parts of these should-be public health leaders, and their unwillingness to risk taking as a move that might somehow reflect badly on them politically, have given anti-vaxxers and I add the vaccine hesitant as well, their strongest weapon against widespread vaccination success: “See! I told you so. Even they don’t really trust these shots!”

There is a lot more to this story, and I will add to what I offer here on it in installments to come. But I am going to turn in my next installment to this posting, in a few days, to address something of the economics of COVID-19, its impact, and how we have variously responded to all of that set of emerging issues.

Meanwhile, you can find this and my earlier COVID-19 related postings to this series at Macroeconomics and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, as postings 365 and following.

Management and strategy by prototype – 6: bringing this into a business process context 3

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 1, 2021

This is the 6th installment to a series that I began writing and offering here, early in this blog. And it is one that I have returned to more recently, to more fully develop. See Business Strategy and Operations, postings 124 and 126 for Parts 1 and 2, and Business Strategy and Operations – 5, posting 938 and loosely following for Parts 3-5.

I outlined a set of topics points in Part 4 that I have been addressing here since then, starting in Part 5. And I have in that, been addressing this starter topic point and both in general as a matter of managing business change, and then in an explicit prototyping context:

• “With a goal of discussing business process prototype development and testing, and with a next step goal beyond that of addressing how it can fit into and help to support business change, and certainly when a need for that has become compelling.”

I focused on the first half of that in Part 5, and more specifically on its first eleven words. And I turn here to consider and address the issues that arise from the second half of that topics point where I focus on making this work, and productively and supportively so for a business.

As a start to that, I noted at the end of Part 5 that effective prototype development operationalizes the overall process of identifying and understanding problematical symptoms faced and their underlying causes, and on planning for resolving them and carrying those plans out, in a very focused, goals and priorities oriented manner and in a way that maps specific change in what is done, with the specific details of the underlying problems and/or the symptoms that are being addressed. “Focus” is in fact a key word there, where prototyped solutions are in many respects minimalist in nature, focusing upon and test changing minimal subsystems and even just minimal change-requiring elements of them.

• What areas at minimum in a business’ systems in place actually have key problems that need to be addressed, and that can be so addressed and cost-effectively enough to make that effort worthwhile, when balancing the consequences of leaving them as-is, against the direct and indirect costs of any disruption and other challenges that would come from fixing or replacing them?
• When those problems themselves cannot be so remediated, how and where would their resulting symptoms have to be addressed, and either by resolving them through remediative change at the points of problematical impact where they show, or by limiting them for their severity of impact there, depending on which is more cost-effectively realistic and even possible?
• Note, the first of those two possibilities might very well mean turning a still ongoing problem that is being symptomatically expressed into a now-silent potential single point of failure that could symptomatically erupt out at any time. So remediation at a symptoms level always leads to at least some ongoing, sustained added risk. But focusing here on what effective prototyping can accomplish when well considered and applied …
• Prototyping allows you to do that for all of its possible complexities, with a minimal footprint of impact, and regardless of whether you seek to address symptoms or underlying problems, and in a context where you can see and directly compare what amount to the before and after possibilities for what you are doing. Prototyping allows you to test case roll-out and try, where your already ongoing is still going to be available if this does not work out and for whatever reason – including where that might mean you’re finding out about unexpected ripple effect problems when and as you test a possible new there.
• Note, when I write of cost effectiveness in this type of context, that of necessity includes a set of special case but crucially important points of consideration. So for example, while prototyping carries direct expenses here, that have to be taken into account in a business’ overall finances and in its cash flow calculations, these are essentially always one-off and time limited expenses and not ongoing structural expenses. So “supporting the business”, as part of “supporting a business as it changes”, as included in the above topics point, needs to include this type of consideration too. Problems and their symptoms are almost always long-term and structural in nature for their costs and their financial risks and liabilities, whenever they arise to a sufficient level of impact so as to call for direct remediative effort; developing effective resolutions to them is, in general not.

I am going to continue this discussion of the more financial sides of these business challenges and of prototype based remediation efforts that would address them, in the next installment to this series. And in this context, turning back to the to-address list of topics points of Part 4, I will discuss the issues of who is impacted upon by what here, and the issues of who can have a voice in what is to be done and how and with what priorities in planning and execution of any remediation that is carried out here – and with resulting expenses taken out of whose budgets and funding lines.

In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, all of those issues depend upon reaching agreement and upon achieving mutual buy-in if any of this is to work. So I will orient what I offer in the next installment here, in those more-success oriented terms, rather than simply addressing this all as abstracted possibilities.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

Finding and validating truth in an online and potentially face to face world – one hopeful conversation at a time

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on April 30, 2021

I have now written over 3,100 postings: over 3,100 short essays to this blog, and on a diversity of topics and issues. Some of them stand out for me, at least as I would evaluate all of this for its possible significance. A few of these offerings appear at least to me, as addressing crucially important issues that would hold such significance long term, and even way beyond my nominal timeframe presumptions for this blog as a whole. And the issues that I would address here might be the most important of them all.

• If we, collectively, cannot even arrive at a shared understanding of what is real empirically valid truth, how can we work towards or even just hope to achieve any of our more important larger goals, and certainly where doing so would require reaching out beyond ourselves to others?

I have been writing of epistemic bubbles, and the barriers that we have built around ourselves and self-selected groups of identically minded others, going back at least as far as late April and early May, 2016 when I actually wrote Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs. And I am currently discussing at least some of the toxic fruits of the challenges raised there, and in a variety of series here. Two of them that come immediately to mind to me in that regard are:

• My main ongoing series on the COVID-19 pandemic that we all face: China, the United States and the World, and the Challenge of an Emerging Global COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business 2 its Page 3 continuation, and
• Knowledge, Ignorance and the Challenges of Ubiquitously Sourced Information, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 3

I began systematically writing and posting on these issues with my above-cited 2016 opening note on them, in a political context. And I began writing of this complex of issues there with a more focused goal of discussing how the barriers to understanding that we have built around ourselves, have poisoned the very democratic principles that we at least still claim to value and honor. Way too many of us refuse to listen to anyone who would disagree with us, concluding that all others: all outsiders to ourselves must be both factually wrong and also morally corrupt for their presumed differences.

I have written in my pandemic series of how the toxic politicization of even just basic measures for slowing the spread of its disease, has become a self- and mutually destructive litmus test of political rightness and purity. And I have written in that context of the vast numbers of lives that we have all seen lost and avoidably so, as a direct result of the divisions that we have created within our communities and between and amongst ourselves as a result.

I began stepping back from these specifics, even as I acknowledge their crucial importance, and both now and moving forward in my above cited knowledge and ignorance series. But that said, I have mostly just focused on the problems in all of that, and on their immediate cause and effect consequences. My intention here is to offer a few thoughts that are more solution and resolution oriented, and that go beyond simply admonishing of a need to be more thoughtful, discerning and selective in what we all believe. And I write here of “we” as in all of us in this, as there are epistemic bubbles out there to meet the needs and pleasures of any and all and regardless of their – of our particular beliefs and preferences.

And I used the word “beliefs” there quite intentionally; ultimately, when the epistemic bubbles that we seem to actively seek out and join, deny any possibility of conflicting observation or fact, any judgments or conclusions arrived at within them become matters of faith: belief without and even contrary to anything like validatable evidence – as is found at the core of any religion.

Ultimately, our epistemic bubbles, protecting us from the threat of disagreement or challenge, are religious, if not the foundations for de facto religions – and even if they are generally phrased in more overtly secular terms.

As long as we understand the views and information blocking chasms that divide us in strictly secular terms, and the epistemic bubbles that define our safe spaces in all of that accordingly, we find ourselves facing an impenetrable challenge. Those barriers to active, real discourse and to actually communicating ideas as a shared and at least potentially mutually reconcilable resource become truly impenetrable. And we can only lose as we attempt to open them up and certainly as they encapsulate others.

There is a reason why different is so often equated with evil and morally wrong when we speak out against the occupants of differing bubbles. We speak from our seemingly sectarian pulpits and in the same basic terms that we would use in a religiously grounded sectarian conflict. And yes, to cite a still recent and almost certainly to-continue example here, Donald Trump’s white evangelical Christian followers in their bubble of confirmed fact and judgment, are acting out a religious belief when they stridently accuse all who differ from them of being wrong and evil in that. But their equally orthodox opponents on the left follow a parallel game plan there and reach parallel, if oppositely directed conclusions. And neither side really even tries to actually listen to their opponents in this.

Who started this? Who starts it anywhere when anything like this type or level of divisiveness takes hold? What we see looks secular and even contrary to religion, and certainly insofar as extremists on all bubble encased sides find it so easy to dispense with what they would call their own faith based moral teachings and standards … for this fight. It does not matter who started this. It only matters who is going to be willing to end it, or at least genuinely attempt to. And that will call for what is literally best thought of as religious tolerance – and yes a willingness to actually listen to and consider what others from outside of our bubbles: our faiths have to say. Even significantly differing religions can be found to have a lot in common, and certainly in their core moral and ethical principles and in their understandings of the good and of how we should strive to realize it.

Here is a wistfully proposed hands-on exercise for starting that. Look into a differing bubble from your own and find one point of detail there, however small where you see good. Let me offer an example. I have written pretty negatively about Donald Trump, and I admit that I see a significant amount of evidence that his decisions and actions lead to his exacerbating the COVID-19 crisis that we faced during his presidency. But he did allow and even support Operation Warp Speed: the public sector/private sector collaboration in the United States that led to such a rapid development of effective COVID-19 vaccines there. So did Trump make mistakes and even do a significant amount of wrong as president? Yes. But he did at least this one good thing and it was good and we are still benefiting from it – all of us and regardless of our politics.

Now find someone who you know, or who you can come to know, who lives in a more pro-Trump bubble if you live in a differing one from that, and talk with them about the positives, using those issues and details as connecting, bringing-together opportunities. Look for and seek to find one such issue: just one such mutually agreeable good that can be found in each of your more routinely comfortable bubble and theirs, that can serve as a bridge between them. We have way too many wedge issues and their confrontations to drive us apart; set them aside at least for this here-and-now.

If the person who you attempt this with can find it in themselves to seek out a matching good from outside of their bubble too, that you might agree with, you have a conversation started.

How can we break down our bubble walls and heal our divides? Ultimately, that is going to require us and our participation, and with us individually being willing to enter into this effort, one hopeful conversation at a time.

I offer this as a stand-alone essay that can find it at Social Networking and Business 3. And you can find related material both there and at that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

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