Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 16

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 16, 2018

This is my 16th installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape the product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 342 and loosely following for Parts 1-15.)

I have been building a foundation for more explicitly addressing this set of issues from a larger and even globally reaching perspective in this series since its Part 14. And as a significant part of that, I have been discussing the conflicting pressures of globalization and global flattening, and push-back to that with the global wrinkling that it creates.

I focused in large part in Part 15 on what those two alternatives mean, with particular attention taken in putting localization of communication and innovation diffusion, and localization of marketplace and trade in an historical perspective. I in fact delved into prehistory there too, as supportively evidenced by the archeological record, to indicate that people have reached out beyond the boundaries of their own cultures, languages and customs to others, for what are probably at least tens of thousands of years. Push-back and any drives toward isolationism that might have taken place throughout that span of time would not be as likely to leave identifiable records. And that certainly holds true given the clarity and trade-identifying value of the discovery of what had to be distantly sourced trade goods as have been found in numerous archeological sites. But it is likely that earlier versions of the globalization and global flattening, and the wrinkle building resistance to it that we see in this 21st century, both have roots that antedate any possible historical records of any sort.

So I offered in Part 15, what is probably only a locally situationally accurate cartoon alternative to the reaching out that we now think of as globalization. Or to be more precise, I offered two variations on that, the first of which is probably more widely accurate for having actually taken place:

• Very limited contact and exchange of individually high value totemic objects with no real ongoing trade and certainly with no ongoing exchange of anything like more routine commodities,
• And more complete isolation and certainly as that would arise in context where human communities were so geographically isolated so as to preclude any possible contact.

I note, with the second of those models in mind that long-term, such isolation would prove difficult if not impossible to maintain, and even for seemingly completely isolated ocean bound island communities. I cite by way of example, the totemic item exchanges and I add deeper cultural values sharing that early Pacific island communities entered into, and both among the Micronesian and the Melanesian peoples, from before their first contact with the West (see, for example: History of the Pacific Islands.)

I wrote about global flattening and its reactive counterpoint in what is largely resistance-based reaction to that: wrinkling and the erection and reinforcement of barriers to open-ended flattening and its open market approach, in Part 15. And in the course of that, I used the word “homogenization” once, as a source of justification to that resistance. I would effectively begin this posting and its intended narrative by expanding a little on what the two sides of the flattening versus wrinkling dynamic actually involve, and certainly as this further discussion might shed light on the basic issues that I have planned on addressing here, with my intended focus on innovation and its diffusion and reach, and on the business cycles that drive it and that are in turn driven by it too.

First of all, wrinkles can and do arise simply because outside, or internally arising change agents can find themselves confronted by the momentum of what has come before and of “how things have always been done here”, and with whatever understandings are in place as to what that means in a practical, consequential sense. But even there, change and the perceived perils of them engender resistance to a local order and its understanding of how everything should be, at least by default. Globalization and the open globally reaching marketplace and business reach, have met resistance and on multiple levels and for multiple overlapping and interlocking reasons, including threat of loss of control over one’s economy, threat to one’s local and national businesses being able to compete without being swept away in spite of their effort, and even threat to the cultural identities of the people who live in globalization resistance areas. Even local native languages at least in principle, come under challenge when they are only more locally spoken and all trade and commerce, and all cultural and entertainment content that would flow in as a part of this flattening, arrives in one or perhaps a few of the small number of globally dominant languages. English is of course one such dominant language and certainly as of this writing, but Mandarin Chinese and a few others also widely qualify too, and increasingly so.

So flattening versus wrinkling can be seen as a basic conflict between:

• The pressures and desires to expand out all connectivity and for all of the efficiencies of scale and all of the expansion of opportunity that can bring, where these benefits would be unequally distributed among participants as globalization is currently taking shape
• And the pressures and anxieties of possible risk and loss, where they would of necessity also be unevenly distributed and with benefits going to a primarily developed-world few and their nations, with most risk and loss accruing to a larger and less powerfully placed, largely still-developing third world and its nations.
• The key to understanding both of these visions of globalization can be found in a two word phrase that I made use of in both of the two immediately preceding bullet points: “unequally distributed.” And this inequality can perhaps best be understood as a globally reaching perception, and certainly for people in areas where resistance to globalization can most actively be found. Perceived threats to locally prevailing cultures and religions qualify there, at least for those who feel threatened by this seeming flood of change, and those perceived challenges are clearly the primary motivators for this resistance in a number of areas of the world, with push-back in the Middle East just one possible example there.

I have in fact touched upon several of the issues that I have just raise here, and in more detail in other series of this blog. I simply reiterate and reorganize some of the details of those earlier discussions here again, to flesh out some relevant context that I will refer back to as I proceed in addressing the core issues of this series. The same forces and the same desires and concerns that I have just written of here, and certainly in a more current global context, apply on smaller scales too where differing economies, but more importantly where differing peoples meet and have to arrive at sets of shared terms in which they can interact more productively. That would ultimately – at least hopefully mean the development of new sources of value that would benefit all involved parties, and in ways that all could agree upon as achieving that goal.

• As a crucially important aside, I add here that actually resolving the conflicts of global flattening and wrinkling and actually arriving at a shared sense of acceptable levels of mutual benefit and for all parties involved, is going to prove to be essential to resolving some of the most pressing problems that we face, and both locally and intra-nationally, and regionally and globally in this 21st century. Ultimately the key driver behind most of those challenges is an ongoing at least perceived sense of have versus have-not inequality. And actually reaching such a resolution is going to call for all parties, and certainly all major parties involved, understanding and respecting the needs and the concerns of others, and with this including all essential gatekeeper participants, whose decisions and actions could enable or block.
• The issues and the approaches that I offer here for addressing trade and related issues, and the resistance to openness in that arena, have impact that goes far beyond the marketplace, going to the heart of the challenge that we face from global terrorism too, where the angers and frustration that would lead to global wrinkling take on more violently confrontational forms. So while this series is about business innovation and its business and marketplace cycles, the issues that I raise here have direct implications that extend far beyond that too.

That said, I turn back to Part 15 and its end-of-posting to-address list of upcoming topics points. My first goal there was to complete developing and offering a foundation for more focused discussion of innovation and its cycles as they would play out – or not, in local and global contexts. My goal from there in further developing this series was to use that posting and this one as a starting point for further discussing innovation and its cycles. And I will at least begin addressing that complex of issues, in my next installment to this series, starting with discussion of the following topic points:

• What does and does not qualify as a true innovation, and to whom?
• And where, at least in general terms could this New be expected to engender resistance and push-back, and of a type that would not simply fit categorically into the initial resistance patterns expected from a more standard cross-demographic innovation acceptance diffusion curve and its acceptance and resistance patterns?
• How in fact would explicit push-back against globalization per se even be identified, and certainly in any real case in point detail of impact example, given the pattern of acceptance and resistance that would be expected from marketplace adherence to an innovation acceptance diffusion curve pattern? To clarify the need to address this issue here, and the complexities of actually doing so in any specific-instance case, I note here that the more genuinely disruptively new an innovation is, the larger the percentage of potential marketplace participants would be that can be expected to hold off on accepting it, with their failure to buy and use it. But that failure to buy in on the part of these involved demographics and their members does not in and of itself indicate anything as to their underlying motivation for doing this. Their marketplace activity, or rather their lack of it would qualify more as noise in this system, when anything like a real-time analysis is attempted to determine underlying causal mechanisms in the market activity and marketplace behavior in play. As such, any meaningful analysis and understanding of the dynamics of the marketplace in this can become highly reactive and after the fact, and particularly for those truly disruptive innovations that would only be expected to appeal at first to just a small percentage of early and pioneer adaptor marketplace participants.
• This leads to a core question of who drives resistance to globalization and its open markets, and how. And I will address that in social networking terms.
• And it leads to a second, equally important question here too: how would globalization resistance-based failure to buy in on innovation peak and then drop off if it were tracked along an innovation disruptiveness scale over time?

I expect to add more topics issues to this list, fleshing it out for detail and explanatory reach as I proceed, but offer this to-address list for now. 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. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations.

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 14

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on December 13, 2018

This is my 14th installment to a series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and on carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2), postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-13.)

I began actively discussing a brief to-address list of topics points in Part 12 that I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue addressing its issues. And I have at least preliminarily discussed the first two of those points in that posting and Part 13, leading up to here:

1. Bringing a business’ own house into order through improved communications and information sharing.
2. Explicitly bringing business-to-business collaborations into this narrative.
3. And then I will delve into at least some of the issues of larger contexts that businesses in general have to be able to function in: regulatory law and its implementation included.

My primary goal for this posting is to at least begin to actively discuss the issues raised by Point 3. But doing so will call for a continuation of my discussions of Points 1 and 2 here as well, just as I continued raising Point 1’s issues when considering Point 2. I will begin addressing all of this by repeating an anticipatory note that I offered at the end of Part 13 of this series, that serves to introduce if not fully clarify what I will delve into here:

• I have just made some significant, essentially axiomatic assumptions in this posting that bear further consideration. The basic, conservative risk management approach that I have offered here can prove sound in day to day practice. But it is not necessarily a best approach and it is certainly not the only one that businesses can pursue when working together, that would still meet their respective due diligence needs.
• I will at least briefly outline an alternative understanding of what I have just addressed in Part 13 and will suggest a process and an operational mechanism that would enable and enact it according to mutually agreed to due diligence understandings. This means that I will at least briefly consider some alternatives for at least one of the basic business model assumptions that can and should be (re)considered for this type of business-to-business context, and why.

Regulatory and related oversight focus in large part on how businesses interact with each other and both supportively and antagonistically (e.g. in price fixing and anti-monopoly contexts), as well as addressing more internal matters for businesses under review (e.g. when reviewing compliance with legally mandated accounting standards and certainly for publically traded businesses.) Point 1 of the above list focused on communications and information sharing as a matter of at least potential risk management concern, doing so from a single organization, within-the-business perspective. Point 2 adds in business-to-business interactions, and the information sharing that can and at times must take place between them, and certainly for businesses that enter into supply chain or related collaborations where that means carrying out joint business processes and transaction flows. These three perspectives: those of Points 1, 2 and 3, intersect and in fact help to shape each other in many ways, and certainly when sensitive or confidential information as held by at least one of the businesses involved, might in some way cross the boundaries between them and either by design and intent or as unintended spillover.

This brings me directly to the issues raised in my above-repeated anticipatory note and the question of precisely what assumptions I made in Part 13. The approach to information management offered in that posting presumes as a given, what is essentially a single strictly standardized, highly compartmentalized communications approach to managing any potentially sensitive, risk-potential creating situation that might arise involving specific data or processed knowledge that are held, and both within the single organization and when working with partner businesses. While I did at least briefly raise the possibility of exceptions and exception handling in this, and certainly on a case by case basis, I have not in any way offered anything systematic in the identification, evaluation of, or handling of such exceptions: here in this series and up to now.

I make note of that orienting perspective for what I have been writing here, in contrast to an approach that I have offered repeatedly in this blog for better supporting a more innovative workplace, and I add for when identifying, characterizing and responding more effectively and quickly to the disruptively unexpected too. Both of those exception sources call for proactive planning and preparation and both for keeping businesses involved as effectively in control of what they face and do as possible, and for supporting faster, more agile reactive responses where they would be needed.

• If a business treats its potential for innovation here as a loosely defined arena for exception handling in its information management and communications systems, with any exception handling entered into, addressed on a strictly ad hoc basis,
• It is essentially certain that it is going to be reactive, and delayed-reactive at that when faced with emerging innovative opportunity. And that will create delays and disconnects for that organization that can only serve to limit if not foreclose what could be real benefits and real sources of value for it and from avoidable delays and an increased chance of what should be avoidable missteps if nothing else.
• And the same challenges apply at least categorically and the same can be expected as consequences of them, when addressing emerging competitive pressures and certainly when that source of potential risk remains largely undefined and unplanned for and when responses there would be more ad hoc as a result, too.
• I have couched this up to here in large part in terms of the individual business, and as such in Point 1 terms, to clarify the orienting framework offered so far in this posting. But the same also applies in larger collaborative contexts too, where both businesses in a simplest case two business supply chain system have to be effectively organized for managing sensitive and confidential information, individually, and where mechanisms have to be in place for coordinating such information sharing as required between them too. (The same set of basic principles as just expressed here in simplest-case terms, applies in larger and more structurally complex business-to-business collaboration networks too.)
• Returning to the simplest two business example of above, the information management approach that I espouse here is easiest to set up and maintain when both businesses hold to single standardized information management systems, and both for what types of information would require special management and handling and for who would have access to what of that, and under what conditions. Then this becomes an at least relatively simple matter of rules of access, and participation list coordination, where the people who manage risk management in both businesses know what is being shared, who can be involved in this activity and the details of how this is carried out – and with all of the key details of that formally spelled out and mutually agreed to. (I will explicitly discuss this bullet point and its issues as I more fully address Point 3 and its issues, as a source of unifying standards and operational systems in place, for managing sensitive and confidential information, and one that can be followed by businesses and even by entire business sectors as an agreed to norm.)
• The challenge is in standardizing at least a capacity for better identifying and managing realistic exceptions to any such routine standardized rules-based systems, so exception handling does not run the risk of violating the risk management driven due diligence processes for all businesses so involved – and with increased risk of violating mandated regulatory rules in place too.

And this brings me very specifically to Point 3 as offered above, and outside regulatory systems and their rules based approaches to how sensitive information such as personally identifiable customer information would be identified as such, organized, accessed and by whom, stored and deleted, and used. I begin analyzing and discussing that with the obvious: outside regulatory law serves to limit and shape information management and its risk management and related due diligence oversight within individual businesses, and in any larger business-to-business collaborations that they enter into and certainly where sensitive information might be shared between them within supply chain or similar organized systems. But regulatory law is not simple and clear-cut. It is generally both complex and convoluted and in ways that can very legitimately lead to at least the appearance of possible conflicting interpretations of what is required, and even in what can best be seen as their key provisions. More than that, any given “regulatory law” essentially always consists of two categorically distinct components: the law itself as formally drafted and passed into law through a ratification process, and an implementation framework as is generally developed at a government agency level, by subject matter expert bureaucrats. Think of the law itself as offering a detailed outline of intent and think of the implementation rules that are developed from it as outlining the How details of that law as required to actually implement and enforce it. And on top of that, and certainly were a combination of mandating law and implementing rules-based interpretations of it might raise issues of ambiguity, or where a regulatory law might arguably conflict with other law in place, this is all subject to review and to interpretation and reinterpretation by the courts. And court rulings can and do force a re-understanding of those laws and their implementation rules, and what should be done and how.

To add one more point of complication to this, consider the implications of global supply chain and market reach, where a same business might operate in two or more nations, each with their own information management and security regulatory laws in place, and their own rules for implementing them and their own courts that might interpret them and even judge their overall legality. And with all of this in place, I turn from the more easily considered and implemented, single standardized approach to add in the greater complexities inherent to exceptions handling and its consideration. I will simply add here that the more constraining complexities are added in, the greater the pressure what all involved businesses will face for enacting and following pre-planned standardized operational processes here.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least selectively delve into some of the details of the issues raised in the two immediately preceding paragraphs. And my focus on that will be on simplifying the systems in place in the businesses involved in all of this, as a due diligence necessity. In the course of addressing Point 3 of the above list from that perspective, I will of necessity return to Points 1 and 2 again, as well. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 21 – the jobs and careers context 20

This is my 21st installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-20.)

I began discussing the new hire probationary period in this series in Part 14, and that transition period’s day two and following in Part 18. And as part of that continuing discussion, I offered a brief list of to-address topics points that any new hire should at least be aware of as they go through this period of initial employment, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of discussion. While there is a significant amount of overlap in those topic points and how they might be addressed by a new hire, I have at least offered preliminary response to the first three of them as parenthetically noted here:

1. Becoming a valued and appreciated member of a team, and fitting in (see Part 18.)
2. Business policy and business politics, and navigating them (see Part 19.)
3. Dealing with, and communicating and negotiating through the unexpected (see Part 20.)
4. Networking for success in the workplace.
5. Negotiating access to the resources that you need, as an ongoing workplace and career requirement.
6. Plan B planning and execution, and being prepared for the unexpected (and the importance of finding and addressing solutions to problems, and not assigning blame for them.)

My goal for this posting is to offer an initial best practices commentary as to how the above Point 4 can be addressed by you as a new hire, that would correspond to what I have offered up to here in Parts 18-20 as you establish yourself in your new place of work and with your new colleagues. And I begin that by repeating a point that I made in Part 20, when addressing Point 3. Your goal here is to find and open doors, and to meet and get to know and get to be known by an effectively wide range of people who you will now be working with. So I write here of proactive networking and proactive initial communications and information sharing, and with a goal of being better prepared for you’re dealing with both your expected and routine, and for you’re being better prepared to deal with what for you is the unexpected too.

Who should you reach out to connect with in this way, in these getting to know you chats? I turn to one of my earliest orienting postings to this blog’s Social Networking and Business directory: Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy, as a starting point for addressing that question.

When you are a new hire and have real need to find your way around your new place of employment, and when you have just as real a need to become a valued and appreciated, and a known member of a new workplace team and a new workplace community, you need to set aside any reservations that you might have about meeting and getting to know strangers. I wrote in my above-cited social networking taxonomy posting about passive networkers and active, openly engaged ones. Active, open networking and networking without a specific goal-oriented or a specific help-requesting agenda can open doors for you here, that taking a reticent, passive networking approach would keep you from ever even learning about.

Who should you meet and greet in this way? And what type of networkers should you at least seek to identify, and make initial conversation starting contact with? I briefly discuss three categorical types of such high priority networking targets in my above-cited taxonomy posting, that you would in most cases find in essentially any business with a larger overall headcount: hub networkers, boundary networkers, and boundaryless networkers. Identifying and meeting these people can become crucially important to your work performance effectiveness and to your overall career path development too, and at whatever job you take, and certainly if you find yourself having to reach out more widely in your business for insight or support. So I repeat here, my initially offered definitional comments as to who they are, at least categorically and by networking style:

• Hub networkers are people who are well known and connected at the hub of specific communities with their own demographics and their ongoing voice and activities.
• Boundary networkers or demographic connectors are people who may or may not be hub networkers but who are actively involved in two or more distinct such communities and who can help people connect across the boundaries separating them to effectively join new communities.
• Boundaryless networkers (sometimes called promiscuous networkers) are people who network far and wide, and without regard to community boundaries per se. These are the people who can seemingly always help you find and connect with someone who has unusual or unique skills, knowledge, experience or perspective and even on the most obscure issues and in the most arcane areas.

The communities that I write of here, are often largely functionally defined and organized according to the business’ table of organization, but they can cut across those expected boundaries in what might be unexpected ways too. Yes, they can include at least a significant share of the people working at that business who hold some particular area of expertise, and might even include most if not all of them who actively socially network with others in the business, and who might actually be willing to actively work with new networking contacts at their business, who are introduced to them by a known hub networker or other widely connected contact. Or alternatively, community here might mean shared geographic locale and cut across work functions per se, where for example a hub networker at an office or other facility located away from the home office, might know seemingly everyone else there and know what they do and are like, interpersonally when dealing with others. Community as that term is used in these special categorically defined social networking participant types, and in what follows here, can be defined in any of a wide range of other ways as well, and can form and gain definition around essentially any significant within-group defining terms that hold significance within the organization as a whole and for the people who work there.

That noted, these communities can also be defined in terms of who does and does not actively communicate with whom. And the key driver to your wanting to identify and meet the more actively engaged and connected networkers at your new place of employment, is that they are the people who would know the widest ranges of people there who you might need to be able to meet and work with, on a collaborative or supporting basis. These are the people who can introduce you to the specific colleagues who you would most need to meet and know at that business, when you need their type of network connecting help.

And remember, that the networking reach that these and other colleagues who you can connect with in this way, goes way beyond simply connecting with and more easily working with specific colleagues in your own place of employment. These special networkers can be fonts of knowledge and insight regarding supply chain partner businesses and the people who you might need to connect with in them too, and at the very least they are the ones who would know who those experts are. And they can be equally knowledgeable about corporate clients and major customers and others: wholesalers and retailers who you might come into contact with, and more too.

These are often people who know a significant amount of the history of this business too, and they are at the very least the people who would know who the real in-depth repositories of such knowledge and insight are, there. Those generally long-standing and even career-long employees are the people there who would best know the background details that you might very well need to know if you are to understand the present that you face in your new job. These repositories of history and background information and insight are the people there at your new workplace who can give you crucial background information and insight that you might very well need if you are to more effectively address any of the longer standing problems that you were in fact hired to address. To take that out of the abstract, and with very real workplace experience in mind as I do so, ask yourself this question when reviewing the core tasks and responsibilities that you were specifically hired to carry out, taking them off of the desk of your now-supervisor in the process. Which of these job description responsibilities have been attempted before by others and without sufficient success to qualify as such? What potential minefield issues do you need to know about for them, if any, that you might not have been in a position to learn about earlier? And to match that question, what resources are, or could be made available to you as you tackle these challenges that others might not have tapped into in their earlier tries?

Up to here I have been writing in this posting progression about preparatory networking and conversations, and without you’re coming across as simply asking for others’ time and effort where that might primarily offer value to you. All of this has been about proactively paving a way for you to better fit in and both as a source of value to others and so that you can have a wider range of resources available when and if you need them for yourself too. I am going to turn to Point 5 of the above list in my next series installment, and the issues of actually tapping into and benefiting from the social networking connections and resources that you need, that this groundwork has at least hopefully made more available to you.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material. And for relevant background and a systematic discussion of the new hire probationary period as a whole, as organized from day one on, see : Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation, as can also be found at Page 1 of that Guide (as its postings 73-88.)

Rethinking the impact of always on and always connected, on value and meaning

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on December 7, 2018

We increasingly live in an instantly, ubiquitously, always-on, always connected world. That means immediate ease of immediate communications and message sharing, and that can be good and even necessary when addressing the sudden and unexpected for opportunity or challenge. That can be an essential part of any effective emergency response. But at least as importantly that means an equal ease and speed for simply sharing the unconsidered and un-thought through, with all of the need for damage control that that can bring when things go wrong from it. And more importantly at least for most of us, that means a blurring and even a disappearance of the traditional boundaries that we have always assumed, separating our work lives from our private lives, and the times that we would hold to ourselves and with our families from our more publically shared lives.

I have at least touched on this set of issues, or at least on key aspects of it in earlier postings. And I have particularly done so when writing of the need for all of us to show judgment in our writing and other shared communications, and certainly where they might impact upon our professional lives and careers.

From a more strictly business and careers perspective, I write this note while thinking back to how Elon Musk has created chaotic uncertainty in recent months, and for both himself personally and for his company: Tesla through his unconsidered tweets. Lack of judgment and forethought on his part in what has he tweeted to the world, have raised questions as his capability as a business leader and even as to his mental stability. And as part of the fallout of his tweets regarding possible actions that he might take at Tesla, he has provoked potentially hostile scrutiny from federal regulatory agencies too, for possible business irregularities that he appears to have suggested pursuing in his impulsively tweeted remarks. For a few sample references to this entirely avoidable self-damaging news story and as background references to what I am writing here, see:

Tesla Board Surprised by Elon Musk’s Tweet on Taking Carmaker Private.
Elon Musk’s Tweets on Tesla Started a Tizzy. Someone Should Hit the Brakes..
Tesla Directors, in Damage Control Mode, Want Elon Musk to Stop Tweeting.
• And Tesla Is Said to Be Subpoenaed by S.E.C. Over Elon Musk Tweet .

Musk’s online activities and his efforts to pull back from his less than fully considered impulse-driven sharing through Twitter, and the consequences of his online messaging serve as cautionary note examples that others should pay attention too. And Musk is in no way unique in effectively putting his foot in his mouth this way, through the spontaneous real-time of online social media, where reasoned judgment can all too often only become involved after the fact.

The types of problems that Elon Musk created for himself and displayed from this, are not just a prerogative of high profile business executives; he simply highlighted by way of publically notable example, a type of problem that anyone can make for themselves, in their work lives and professional careers, and even in their more personal lives too.

I have, at least up to here, been addressing this complex of issues in terms of business-impacting communications and professionalism but anyone who follows the news at all, and certainly in recent years, knows that misuse of twitter and instant messaging can and does create chaos in a political context too. The key to what I am getting at here can be summarized in a simple to state equivalency:

• Spontaneous and essentially instantaneous communications (as found in Twitter postings and so many other channels these days, and increasingly so)
• Equals
• Unconsidered communications, devoid of the reasoning-based editorial oversight that our experience and training should be bringing to these messages too, and particularly when the emphasis is on speed and immediacy, and not on planning or forethought.
• And Twitter and related message sharing services are all about speed and immediacy, and spontaneity.

But focusing on jobs and careers, or even on just that set of issues plus political messaging, still only touches on one aspect of a larger and increasingly more complex and impactful reality that we all face, even if it is one that has specifically prompted me to write this posting now. I go back as I write that, to what I offered in the first paragraph of this posting, about blurring and disappearing lines and boundaries in our lives.

What does it mean for an employee to work a forty hour work week, to cite a still accepted number for that, or a thirty five hour week, or a fifty hour week, when they are always tethered to their jobs through their smart phones and other devices, and their bosses are too, and when they can become expected to “bring ‘some’ work home with them to finish there”?

And the lessons that Elon Musk’s example highlights, apply to all of us and not just to highly placed and publically visible business executives. If one part of the problem that he created was in tweeting provocatively about his business without thinking through the consequences of what he was sharing, at least as big a part of it came from when and where he did this too, and from the context that he did this in and from the condition that he was in when doing this.

Musk’s tweets and their impact offer validation to a basic approach that I have offered to others who also do too much of their thinking, seemingly only after so publically sharing:

• Take a cool off period, or a time-out period if you prefer to think of it that way, before making that bold but less than strategically considered twitter or similar announcement that you cannot then retract, and that you might find just as difficult to justify and live with.

Do you really have to send this out to the world now, and in this way and in this form, devoid of detail, explanation or nuance? If so, then share it after you have crafted a more complete message, and through channels that would help you to keep ownership of your message and how it might be understood too. Prepare the way for the dramatic announcement, if you in fact would actually share it, to keep what is heard and understood in line with what you intended. And don’t share that message if you cannot do this too.

I initially conceived of this posting as a brief note about Elon Musk and his communications gafs, and I set out to write it with a very different working title than I ended up with. My first draft working title for this was “when in doubt don’t tweet: a memo to executives who might be too eager to social media connect.” But that is too focused on the specific details of one specific unfortunate incident.

I write here instead, of one of the key emerging challenges of the 21st century, and for the workplace and for all of us as we engage in jobs and careers, and in our lives in general. The challenge is one of finding new ways to partition our lives in ways that make meaningful, value-creating sense for us, and between our work lives and our private lives and between our more publically shared and connected lives and our more personal time. And if for whatever reason we cannot or would not find ways to accomplish this, we have to understand and find ways to live meaningfully with the consequences of that. I write this with people in mind, who seemingly share photos of every meal they eat and every detail of what they do, online through Facebook and photo sharing apps and other channels – who then find themselves devoid of private lives … and at what cost?

Where can and should we draw the line, and what type of line, in personal sharing and in the voyeurism that it mirror image creates? Where do we draw the line, and what type of line should we draw in prioritizing and in establishing a sense of larger meaning and value in our lives, so that all that we do and share does not devolve down to only holding the value of a photo of a salad that we ate for lunch three weeks ago? If the value of what we do, holds meaning and in a sense that might be analogous to the value that is societally assigned to currency, then does over-sharing and with essentially everything offered as if of equal value, invoke a variation of Gresham’s law? If huge quantities of bad currency, not backed by or representing real underlying value can drive good currency out of the market, to cite that economic principle, can a flood of meaningless trivia shared with all, drive out any real meaning or value in what we share that we would at least want to consider as being of greater value?

I offer this as a brief, and hopefully at least somewhat unsettling thought piece in our emerging age of over-sharing, and of floods of what become more and more trivial, and trivialized and certainly as the volume of the flood increases. I have no real answers here. But right now it might be more important for all of us to look for the right questions that we would have to address, coming out of this.

As a final thought, returning to the Elon Musk Tesla tweets, I have not in fact changed the topic in the midst of this posting, when shifting from the how and when and where of tweeting and otherwise impulse-posting, to the trivialization of messages so shared. A big part of what Musk did was also in how he shared what should have been considered a consequential and important type of message, if shared at all, as if it were that proverbial photo of a salad eaten at lunch last week or earlier.

I am certain to return to the issues that I raise here, in future postings to this blog. Meanwhile, you can find this posting at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material. And I also include it at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

Reconsidering Information Systems Infrastructure 7

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on December 4, 2018

This is the 7th posting to a series that I am developing here, with a goal of analyzing and discussing how artificial intelligence, and the emergence of artificial intelligent agents will transform the electronic and online-enabled information management systems that we have and use. See Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 374 and loosely following for Parts 1-6. And also see two benchmark postings that I initially wrote just over six years apart but that together provided much of the specific impetus for my writing this series: Assumption 6 – The fallacy of the Singularity and the Fallacy of Simple Linear Progression – finding a middle ground and a late 2017 follow-up to that posting.

I began Part 6 of this series with a continuation of a line of discussion that I began in Part 4, on emergent properties and how they might as a concept be at least semi-mathematically defined (with a first take on that offered in Part 5.) I then continued on in Part 6 to further add to an also-ongoing discussion of structured, functionally interconnected simple artificial intelligence agents, there focusing for the most part on what might perhaps best be thought of as the functional specifications explosion that can arise when seeking to parse out complex overall task goals into simpler constituent building block parts, and particularly where the overall problems faced have not been fully thought through for their functionally implementable detail.

Quite simply, if you have not fully thought through a complex and far-reaching problem for what it actually involves, that lack of clarity and focus as to what has to be done to resolve it can make it difficult at best to even know what does and does not have to be included in any real-world solution to it. And that can lead to what can become a seemingly open-ended analytically driven inclusion of what might arguably be more finely distinguished “probably essential parts” that are also at most just partly understood from an implementation perspective, and with that open-endedness stemming from the flood of task boundary and scope uncertainties that this overall lack of clarity and focus here, brings. Simplified conceptual understanding and design, and certainly as captured in the basic model offered by Occam’s razor, can only work when you have a good idea of what you actually seek to do, and in sufficient depth and detail so as to know what “simplest” and most direct even mean for the overall problem at hand.

I chose meaningful general conversational capability in Part 6, as might be carried out by an artificial intelligence agent, or rather by an information technology system-backed array of them as a working example for that, where the goal of such a technological development effort would be to arrive at a system that could pass a traditionally framed Turing test. And I intentionally chose one of the oldest, long-standing general and only partly understood problems that we face there, going back to the dawn of what we now know as artificial intelligence research, and certainly in an electronic computer age context.

As a reminder here, the Turing test in effect seeks to define intelligence in terms of what it is not – a conversational capability that does not seem to have come from an algorithm-driven computer source and that as a result must be coming from an actual person, and from a presumed true intelligence. That leaves fuzzy and undefined gray area boundaries as to the What and How of any functional resolution to this problem, a predominant feature of artificial intelligence-based conversational capability in general. And that lack of clarity seeps into every other true artificial general intelligence validating or achieving context that has been worked upon to date too.

And with at least the core of that set of points offered in Part 6, I concluded that posting by stating that I would follow it in this series installment, by addressing:

• “Neural networks as they would enter into and arise in artificial intelligence systems, and in theory and in emerging practice – and their relationship to a disparaging term and its software design implications that I first learned in the late 1960’s when first writing code: spaghetti code. (Note: spaghetti code was also commonly referred to as GoTo code, for the opprobrium that was placed on the GoTo command for how it redirected the logical flow and execution of software that included it (e.g. in programs with lines in them such as: ‘if the output of carrying out line A in this program is X, then GoTo some perhaps distantly positioned line Z of that program next and carry that out and then proceed from there, and wherever that leads to and until the program finally stops running.’) Hint: neural network designs find ways to create lemonade out of that, while still carefully and fully preserving all of those old flaws too.”

And I further added that I would “proceed from there to pick up upon and more explicitly address at least some of the open issues that I have raised here up to now in this series, but mostly just to the level of acknowledging their significance and the fact that they fit into and belong in its narrative. And as part of that, I will reconsider the modest proposal artificial intelligence example scenario that I began this series with.”

I am in fact going to continue this narrative from here by more thoroughly discussing a few issues that I have already been addressing, as promised in the immediately preceding paragraph. And then I will discuss neural networks and other implementation level issues that would go into actualizing what I write of here in real systems. And then after more fully developing a background for further discussion of it, I will finally turn back to my initial “modest proposal” example that I effectively began this series with.

That editorial update noted and to put what follows into perspective, I offer an alternative way of thinking about intelligence, and general intelligence in particular, that seeks to capture the seemingly open-ended functional requirements that I so briefly touched upon in Part 6 by way of its automated but nevertheless realistic and natural-seeming conversational task goal:

• General intelligence can be thought of as beginning when information processing reaches a level of flexibility that cannot readily be descriptively or predictively captured in any identifiable set algorithm. Intelligence in this sense begins with emergence of the organized and goal oriented unpredictable.

I begin readdressing issues already touched upon here in this series in order to advance its discussion as a whole, by reconsidering precisely what emergent properties are. And I begin that by drawing a line of distinction between two basic forms of emergence which I refer to as structural and ontological.

Structural emergence is task performance emergence that arises when currently available hardware, software, firmware, and data resources become repurposed through the assembly of what amounts to virtual agents from them, or rather from their component elements.

Think of virtual agents as artificial intelligence constructs that can carry out new functions and that are formed out of pre-existing systems resources, and parts thereof. And think of this functionality emergence as arising in a manner analogous to that of how software emulators are created that would for example allow a computer with one type of central processing unit chip design to run an operating system designed to only run on another type of central processing unit with its differing design – but as if that software were running on the chip design that it was built to be native to. Capacity for this type of emergence would arise from the repurposing of underlying resource sets and elements in novel ways and in novel combinations, from what is already in place in the overall artificial intelligence-supportive system. And at least in retrospect the actual emergence of such a structurally arrived at capability might seem to arise essentially all at once as a capable functionality is achieved, with all that precedes that explicable as a collectively organized example of what biologists call preadaptation (or exaptation.)

Viewed from that perspective, this form of emergence can be seen as a time-independent form of new agent emergence, at least as functionally realized. To connect this with earlier discussion, the original semi-mathematical definition of emergence as offered in Part 5, can be viewed as having been framed in a conceptually simpler, time-independent manner that would be consistent with structural emergence per se. (Note: I am going to discuss this set of issues from a more practical implementation perspective in future postings to this series, when discussing neural networks and when doing so in contrast to the object oriented programming paradigm, as the issues of object encapsulation and its leakage and cross-connection alternatives are considered.)

That de novo emergence vision of an at least seemingly sudden appearance of new properties and functionalities from a set of ostensibly set preexisting resources in a system, begs the question: what of change and its role here? And that leads me to a second form of emergence that I would consider in this series and its context:

Ontological emergence: this is a form of in this case new agent formation, that would arise through the repurposing and evolution of existing underlying elements, rather than from their reuse and essentially as-is on a component-by component basis, as would be presumed in the case of structural emergence.

Let me rephrase and repeat that for greater clarity. Structural emergence occurs when what are in effect off-the-shelf resources are brought together in novel ways, creating new and unplanned for capabilities in the process. Ontological emergence can also involve bringing unexpected combinations of functionally supportive elements together, but the emphasis here is on those elements changing: evolving, to meet and serve those new needs.

This, by contrast to structural emergence, is time-dependent and as such calls for a new and updated formulation of the semi-mathematical definition of emergence that I initially offered in Part 5. First, let’s review the initial time-independent definition and its more predictably determinant, non-emergent properties and elements:

• FA({the set of all possible input values}) → {the set of all possible output values}A

where FA can be said to map specific input values that this process can identify and respond to as arise in a pre-action state A, as a one-to-one isomorphism to specific counterpart output values (outcomes) that the agent F can produce. Emergent functionalities then construed as (generally simplest model, Occam’s razor compliant) descriptors as to how unexpected, additional outcomes could have arisen too, along with more predictably expected outcomes of the above input to output mapping.

I would propose the following, refined and expanded version of the basic formula as first offered there as a starter definition of what time-dependent emergent properties are, once again starting with the non-emergent, predictable systems framework in place:

• FA({the set of all possible input values}, t0) → ({the set of all possible output values}, t1)

Where t0 and t1 represent a last significantly pre-emergent time point and a time point where a new capability has effectively, functionally first emerged respectively.

And more generally, this becomes:

• FA({the set of all possible input values}, t) → ({the set of all possible output values}, t)

where t simply represents time as a whole and as a separate dimension and not just a source of specific incident defining points along that dimension.

I begin discussing this time-dependent approach to emergence by offering a specific, in this case biological systems-based example: gene duplication, with the evolution through accumulation of mutations and through natural selection of new functions in the extra duplicated copy. See for example these two research papers from Cold Spring Harbor’s Perspectives in Biology:

Evolution of New Functions De Novo and from Preexisting Genes and
Recurrent Tandem Gene Duplication Gave Rise to Functionally Divergent Genes in Drosophila

Novel de novo functionalities arise during generation to generation reproduction, at least in large part in these biological examples. In contrast to that, I write here of emergent functionality as arising in an artificial intelligence context, doing so in a more ontological self-evolving context and within single artificial intelligence systems, as for example would arise as a neural network-design system learns, and redesigns and rebuilds itself as implementation of that process.

I am going to continue this discussion of emergent properties in their (here stated) two forms, in my next installment to this issue. Then I will return to the issue of the functional specifications explosion as initially discussed in Part 6 and as noted again here at the start of this posting. I will proceed from there to complete a foundation for explicitly discussing neural network and other possible approaches to actually developing a true artificial general intelligence.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations. And you can also find a link to this posting, appended to the end of Section I of Reexamining the Fundamentals as a supplemental entry there.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century – 7

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on December 2, 2018

I have written on numerous occasions now, about Donald Trump and his rise to power in the United States and about Xi Jinping and his rise to power in China. This is also my seventh installment to a compare-and-contrast subseries that fits into both of those ongoing narratives, that I offer in follow-up to a similarly dual-narrative: Part 6 installment, that first went live here on May 6, 2018, roughly half a year ago as of this writing.

I have added one other specifically Trump-oriented posting to this blog since then with Donald Trump and the Challenges Facing Us from the Unraveling of an American Presidency, with that going live on September 7, 2018, but have refrained from adding further to that narrative since then and until now.

That said, this is a posting that I have been thinking through and preparing to write for almost three months now and certainly since Donald Trump discovered trade wars and concluded that they are easy to win. And a lot has happened during that period that would merit an update to this still all too-unfolding of a news story. First of all, Trump did in fact discover what has become one of his favorite “break-things toys”: the trade war. And he has used it with a vengeance and both against America’s allies and against nations that might arguably take a more confrontational approach to the United States (while sparing Russia from that as much as he has been able to.)

Let’s consider something of the timeline of this still actively unfolding news story, and certainly for how the Trump administration’s trade war efforts have been directed towards China and for how that nation has responded.

• Donald Trump learned about trade wars and immediately declared that they were easy to win and a great way to deal with both adversaries and allies alike. And he began making noises in the direction of starting one (or more) of them and right away.
• And he effectively launched this, and not just on the China front with: Trump Blasts Fed, China and Europe for Putting U.S. Economy at a Disadvantage.
• But contrary to Trump’s presumptions, trade wars and in fact international trade in general cannot be understood or addressed in simple and even simplistic transactional terms. See, for example, How China’s Currency Could Help It Weather a Trade War, at a Cost. China managed (manipulated the value of its currency: the Renminbi so as to cause it to fall in value in international markets by over 7 percent between April and July, 2018 in order to position their manufactured goods more effectively in international trade in global markets. And they have continued to develop and pursue a monetary policy that is geared towards improving their trade position and their economy, and globally, in response to this threat.
• And in the beginning of August, 2018, China and their government directly retaliated against this American-led threat with trade restriction measures of their own: see China Threatens New Tariffs on $60 Billion of U.S. Goods.
• Trump fired back with: Chinese Goods May Face 25% Tariffs, Not 10%, as Trump’s Anger Grows. It should be noted that as a part of this, the Trump administration said it would consider raising proposed tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products, to a 25 percent rate from 10 percent as previously threatened, in response to China’s currency devaluation measures and in an attempt to counter them, and from its tariff threats against the United States.
• And I note in this context that while China’s government has been actively seeking to protect and support its own industries and its own consumer markets, president Trump has not even broached the topic of similarly systematically reaching out to protect American businesses or business interests or American consumers. See, for example: How China Wins the Trade War. As a result, American companies and I add American consumers are paying the price for these tariffs and this tariff war, while China protects its factories and investors and its consumers from trade war fallout.
• I am not attempting to argue a case for these trade wars only negatively impacting on the United States and its businesses and consumers: Trump’s Trade War Is Rattling China’s Leaders.
• I am, however, acknowledging that As Trade War Intensifies, China Moves to Bolster Its Economy while president Trump has taken what is essentially a diametrically opposed approach to addressing the impact of all of this in and upon the United States, and particularly in how he has challenged the automotive industry and other business sectors: high-tech definitely included, that rely on international trade for their success and even for their very survival.
Trump Hits China With Tariffs on $200 Billion in Goods, Escalating Trade War. He carried out the above-threatened ratcheting up of this avoidable conflict.
White House Tries to Tamp Down Trade War Fears as China Retaliates again.
U.S. Consumers Will Increasingly Feel Pain From Trump’s Trade War. Here’s Why.
Trump’s China Fight Puts U.S. Tech in the Cross Hairs as already noted above.
China Wants to Strike Back on Trade. Big U.S. Deals Could Suffer.
China to Pump $175 Billion Into Its Economy as Slowdown and Trade War Loom.
In New Slap at China, U.S. Expands Power to Block Foreign Investments.
Trump Opens New Front in His Battle With China: International Shipping.

And that brings this tit for tat, retaliation and counter-retaliation story at least close to up to date as of this writing, but I have intentionally left what might be the most important single piece of this particular puzzle, for last in this news update progression. And it is one that president Trump himself has ominously made more possible and certainly with his above-cited decision to attack China for its foreign investments, with that particularly including its investments in the United States:

• See The Unknowable Fallout of China’s Trade War Nuclear Option. The United States does not have any particular extreme step available that might in principle resolve this conflict in its favor and either through use or through coercive threat of use. China, on the other hand has a very definitive such option, or rather the cumulative weight of over one trillion smaller ones. China holds the paper on over one trillion dollars of US debt and has the option to demand payment on much or even all of this, and effectively right away if it were to chose to go nuclear in response to Trump administration led US challenge. And I add to that, that the wealthy of China have moved vast portions of their collective liquid wealth out of China and into the West, and with the United States a primary beneficiary of that cash influx. What would happen if Trump created a situation where these risk aversive investors decided in large numbers, that their investment funds would be safer and more productive for them elsewhere, taking on the order of a trillion and more US dollars worth of funding out of the country too?

I have up to here in this posting, mostly just focused on China as a target in Trump’s “easy to win” trade wars, even if the first news story link in the above list cited Europe, and our allies there as targets in all of this too. I complete this portion of this posting by adding Canada to that target list, noting that Canada is one of the United States’ longest standing and most faithfully reliable allies, and a nation that has never threatened the United States economically or through unfair trade practices. But Donald Trump has actively gone after that country and on numerous occasions now. See:

Trump’s Tariffs on Canadian Newsprint Are Overturned.

Reason, logic and evidence play no role in any of this, and certainly as Donald Trump has created this “easily winnable” trade war, or rather this collection of them. And yes, these wars have caused harm and distress to the nations that they have targeted. And yes they have created problems and distress in the United States too, and for American businesses and consumers, and for harming the capacity of the United States to maintain a leadership position in the community of nations. But to focus on China in all of that, again, I also have to add that their trade relationship with the United States can only be considered as one puzzle piece in Xi Jinping’s empire building considerations. Setting the trade wars themselves aside, at least as direct matters of consideration here, and focusing on the global uncertainties that Trump has created where they undercut America’s apparent reliability in other nations’ capitals, president Trump has opened an incredible range of doors of opportunity for China and for Xi Jinping in particular.

Let’s begin considering that assertion with an update to a long-standing news story that I have touched upon and updated here in this blog, on numerous times, and not just in my specifically China-oriented writings. See, for example, my series: Vietnam, Đổi Mới and the Search for Business and Economic Strength and Global Relevance, for a case in point discussion of how China offers infrastructure improvement and other economic development opportunities as a tool for gaining control over other, smaller weaker nations (in my directory: United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID) as postings 34 and following for Parts 1-10 of that.)

• China has been emboldened by the power vacuum that president Trump has created, and globally, from how he has abnegated what had been the global leadership responsibilities of the United States in creating and maintaining at least as much global order as we used to see.

China still uses infrastructure and related development enabling offers, with all of the trade and other politically shaped compliance requirements that they attach to them, as tools for achieving greater global reach. But they have vastly increased their range of ambition for where they would deploy these opportunity creating offers:

For China, a Bridge Over the Adriatic Is a Road Into Europe

China has been increasing active, and in Africa and Latin America, and all across Asia and the Western Pacific in entering into these deals, where their goal is to develop a system of international obligations and international treaties that express them, that all bring benefits back to their government and their Communist Party and their leadership. They have now begun actively moving in on Europe as a part of this globally reaching campaign too, and certainly as the Trump administration has made the United States an unreliable and even untrustworthy partner there. And also see:

How China Has Defied Expectations, in Canada and Around the Globe. Yes, Xi Jinping feels Canada’s pain from how the US president Donald Trump has created discord and uncertainty within North America.

As another update from a long succession of earlier China-related postings, and going closer to home for that country and their leadership here, China has made continued strides in its effort to establish true hegemony over the East China Sea and the South China Sea and their neighbors there (including but definitely not limited to Vietnam as discussed in the above-cited series.) See:

China’s Sea Control Is a Done Deal, ‘Short of War With the U.S.’

And to add one more troubling piece to that puzzle, and with the reluctance bordering on full-fledged resistance in mind that the Trump administration has shown as far as challenging Russian hacking of foreign elections, I add:

Specter of Meddling by Beijing Looms Over Taiwan’s Elections.
• And China Lauds Voters After Defeat of Taiwan’s Ruling Party.

China has now begun to actively and even overtly deploy the same cyber-attack strategies and approaches in their effort to manage other governments, that Russia has come to use when for example seeking to suborn the 2016 US presidential election.

Donald Trump has now decided to challenge China’s growing economic and geopolitical reach, as an at least marketing message response for the benefit of his at-home supporters:

Trump Embraces Foreign Aid to Counter China’s Global Influence.

But realistically, what can he or his administration do, when they are all in such disarray and when the only real criterion that president Trump insists on when selecting the people he works with is that they show absolute loyalty to him as a person? What can he do to win hearts and minds through foreign aid when he has set up the United States as more a source of problems and uncertainty, than of solutions to problems and trust, from all that he has been doing these past two years and more now? President Trump’s track record up to here does not engender a great deal of hope as far as his possible future successes are concerned.

I conclude this second part to this posting by repeating here essentially verbatim, a summary list of a select set of the metrics of China’s expansionist activities as sourced from the New York Times:

The world is it is being rebuilt by China:
China has created a modern-day counterpart to the Marshall Plan, the U.S. reconstruction program after World War II that laid the foundation for America’s enduring military and diplomatic alliances: except China’s strategy – building a vast global network of trade, investment and infrastructure – is far bolder, more expensive and riskier. Looking at some of its scope, by the numbers:
• 112: The number of countries where China has financed infrastructure projects.
• 203: The number of bridges, roads and railways China has built around the world, giving it new ways to move its goods.
• $94 million: The amount China gave to Zambia to build a new 50,000-seat soccer stadium.
• 99: The number of years that China will control a port in Sri Lanka that it built – and then took over after Sri Lanka couldn’t pay its debt.
• 63: The minimum number of coal-fired power plants that China has financed around the world. Collectively, they pollute more than Spain.
• These projects bring real benefits, but they also come at a cost. To staff them, China sends in its own workers, drawing complaints that they create few local jobs. Safety and environmental standards are inconsistent. And countries that turn to China for loans often plunge into a debt trap.
• At home, China is building more complex products – like computers, TVs and cars – as part of the next phase of its economic evolution.

And this leads me to a final news story link for this portion of this posting that offers many of the above quoted details and more:

How China is becoming a superpower.

I will simply note here that while much of this has happened while Xi Jinping has been leader of the government, Communist Party and military in China and with him firmly in control there, Donald Trump has in fact made much of his success in all of this possible.

And this leads me to the real conundrum that I see underlying all of this evolving news chaos, and particularly as the chaos in it is self-inflicted and coming out of the United States and its government. I have been writing repeatedly of Donald Trump’s unshakable 40% approval ratings, in the face of all that has happened and all that has been reported about him, and from when he first ran for office on, nonstop. Similarly, I have written about Xi’s cult of personality in China and about how he has advanced and developed that in order to advance his causes and himself in the process.

I have now written here of the What side of a complex news narrative. That still leaves the troubling questions of How and Why, where Trump’s and Xi’s followers and their political bases become crucial explanatory factors underpinning this posting’s What, and in fact crucial for understanding much of the context that all of this is taking place in too. I am going to follow this posting with a next installment in this subseries, where I will address the cult of personality sides to both Trump’s and Xi’s leadership.

Meanwhile, you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, and at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and Social Networking and Business 2. And you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2.

Building a startup for what you want it to become 35: moving past the initial startup phase 21

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on December 1, 2018

This is my 35th installment to a series on building a business that can become an effective and even a leading participant in its industry and its business sector, and for its targeted marketplaces (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses and its Page 2 continuation, postings 186 and loosely following for Parts 1-34.)

I have been working my way through a briefly stated to-address list of topics points in recent installments to this series, that I repeat here as I continue to discuss them (with parenthetical notes added as to where I have discussed what of this so far):

1. An at least brief discussion of businesses that gather in, aggregate and organize information for other businesses, as their marketable product and in accordance with the business models of those client enterprises. (See Part 31, Part 32 and Part 33.)
2. The questions of where all of this business intelligence comes from, and how it would be error corrected, deduplicated, and kept up to date, as well as free from what should be avoidable risk from holding and using it. (I began addressing this point in Part 34.)
3. And that will mean addressing the sometimes mirage of data anonymization, where the more comprehensive the range and scale of such data collected, and the more effectively it is organized for practical use, the more likely it becomes that it can be linked to individual sources that it ultimately came from, from the patterns that arise within it.

My goal for this posting is to complete my discussion of the above Point 2 and its issues, at least for purposes of this series and this phase of it. And I begin doing so by making note of a two part news and information series that is currently running on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television stations in the United States as I write this, as part of their Frontline series: The Facebook Dilemma. I wrote in Part 35 of this series that we have only seen the tip of an iceberg so far, that threatens Facebook to its core for how it gathers and organizes, and then sells user information, while proclaiming that it safeguards it. This televised news piece with its on-air insider interviews, and its in-depth research and reporting put a live-action face to that news story and its emerging consequences. More will come out about that unfolding news story too; it is not going to end any time soon and either for Facebook or the businesses and other organizations that have been purchasing use of its members’ personal data, or for those member users.

I begin this posting on that note to illustrate real-time as of this writing, how pressingly important the issues of Point 2 are, and for all concerned:

• Businesses that gather and sell access to user or customer data,
• Businesses that acquire access to it for their own use,
• And the people who this data is gathered in from who might be marketed and sold through this business practice, and even to their direct detriment,
• And even to the detriment of society as a whole, too.

I would argue that the issues that are included in the above Points 1-3 are going to prove to be among the most important and impactful issues that we will face societally, and certainly through the coming decades. They in fact already are, and certainly insofar as misuse of massive volumes of individually sourced data has already been weaponized to skew and even throw national elections, and as a tool for advancing ethnic conflict and international aggression.

• When big data reaches a threshold scale of comprehensive reach and of fineness of detail and granularity, its growing utility and range of utility and its cost-effectiveness in providing such value create undeniable pressures to expand it out even more.
• When big date gets big enough, its own inner dynamics and its value to those who would develop and use it, compel its becoming even bigger, and as a seemingly open-ended positive feedback response.

I have at least briefly touched on the issues of where this data would come from, and the issues of its use and misuse in this discussion up to here. And that brings me to the issues of data quality and the challenges of keeping it up to date and relevant (e.g. valuable) and at least potentially to both the organization that holds it and to the people and organizations that it seeks to describe.

• The bigger a big data store is, the more of a challenge it becomes to keep the data in it cleansed of error and up to date. And this challenge expands in both the context of increasing numbers of individually sourced records, and in the context of increasingly complex records with more and more data and types of data gathered and held in them, regarding any given individual source so captured.
• But sources of increase in the potential value inherent in bigger and bigger big data: more records describing more individual data sources and more comprehensive records where they are gathered in and stored, at least in principle should drive holders of such data resources to expend the financial and other resources needed to both expand and these systems still more, and keep them up to date and accurate for that.

I cited utility as flowing to the original source of this data accumulation just now, and after discussing big data in a Facebook context see a need to justify that presumption. Utility and positive value can run just one way, only accruing to data collectors and users. But in stable systems, value and utility can flow in many and even in all possible directions.

Consider, by way of example, a massive emergency services database that first responders would turn to when responding to emergency calls such as building fires or health crises. And more specifically, consider fire department personnel who need to be able to access up to date building plans for structures that they might have to enter, and both to save lives and to limit damage. In principle, every building in their catchment area: their geographic area of responsibility has been inspected by fire safety and other inspectors, including building inspectors, if and when any structural changes are made there. And they would make note of and report in any changes made and certainly insofar as they would affect building accessibility. And in principle all of these presumably up to date building blueprints can be, and for more up to date systems are, available through wireless online access by first responders when needed. Now what happens when first responder firemen enter a burning building, such as an apartment building to find that entrance and egress routes that show on their screens as available have been closed off through illegal and unreported construction, partitioning larger apartments into larger numbers of smaller ones? This endangers the lives of those firemen and the lives of anyone who might be trapped in these buildings.

• The same challenges would arise if this was in fact legally reported construction but the access route and related changes that were carried out, were not added into this system yet.
• My point in this example is that negative impact from faulty and out of date information in big data stores, can and does flow in all possible directions – including ones that might not always be appreciated in advance. And accurate and up to date data can create positive value that flows in all directions too.

I am going to turn to Point 3 of the above topics list in my next series installment, and the issues and challenges of how anonymous seemingly anonymized data really is, and certainly in an ever-expanding big data context where knowledge derived from raw data already in place is added into its stored records and files, and used real-time to analyze and understand both old data already held, and new data as it comes in too. Then after at least preliminarily addressing that complex of issues, I will circle back to reconsider the impact that all of this has on:

• Businesses that provide big data as a marketable commodity,
• Businesses that buy access to it (startups included), and
• The ultimate sources of all of this data, with consumers and other individuals prominently included there.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and at its Page 2 continuation.

There are no low value playing cards: some thoughts regarding Yuval Harari’s vision of our collective future

I find myself writing about hands-on non-managerial employees and what they do as an ongoing narrative thread that runs throughout this blog. And I write of the value and importance of these employees, for how they carry out so much of the actual day-to-day activity that brings a business – any business or organization to life. I write about management and managers too, and about leadership in a business, and I write about what good, effective management and leadership can mean in that vastly complex and far-ranging context. Have I simply been focusing on the workplace of the past in all of this? I write that thinking back to Plato’s Republic and how it can be viewed as a swan song reminiscence of classical Greece and its city states, from when they were still holding sway as its supreme source of, and voice of power and of order and of culture and civilization. That state of being was already slipping into an unrecoverable past, even as Plato composed his treatise on the Greek city state. (For a full text English language translation of The Republic, follow this link and you can of course, find this blog in its entirety at this WordPress link.)

I write this blog as an ongoing narrative: a single multi-threaded interconnected treatise on businesses and technology, and with a goal of addressing as full a range of scales of impact and involvement as possible in that. And my goal in all of this has been to both describe and discuss our current here and now, as of this writing, and to predictively project forward from that, for what is at least likely to come.

In one sense, my goal for this posting is that it offer at least one more point of connection that might be drawn between the two seemingly so disparate topics of labor and management that I began this note with. And I do so against a rapidly emerging backdrop of general employee marginalization, with that playing out as even basic job security vaporizes for so many and as executive suite compensation increases to levels that have no real historical parallels for the few. And I particularly note here, the so-public an ongoing awarding of hundreds of millions of dollars and more to executives as golden parachutes, and as so many receiving such largess have been found to be abusers through the revelations of the #MeToo movement, or by otherwise proving themselves to be unworthy of any severance packages at all. This so public an awarding of such excess in severance benefits even holds as senior executives who have held positions of trust and responsibility are forced out of office at those corporations for egregious malfeasance.

• I have written of this disparity in this blog in more strictly economic terms, citing the growing skew in the Gini coefficient (or Gini index as it is also called) as it is measured across national economies and their private sectors, and both in countries such as the United States that claim to hew to free market policy, and in countries such as the People’s Republic of China that are overtly state run and one Party run at that, even as they offer what are described (there) as private sector opportunities.
• And I have written of this in the context of automation and the increasingly widespread advent of at least artificial specialized intelligence agents, that are capable of taking over an increasing range of job descriptions and jobs held.
• And I have written of this in terms of job relocation, with that largely meaning the exporting of work performed to locales that offer lower salary and benefits, and I have to add lower workplace safety standards too: reducing personnel-related costs as what have traditionally been one of most business’ largest cost centers.

All three of these views of this trend and its emerging consequences, and others that I have also at least touched upon in this blog that fit into them, hinge on an at least implicit presumption that most workers and potential workers have limited and diminishing overall value in the workplace and in the overall workforce as a whole. And that brings me to Yuval Harari’s best seller books, and to two of them in particular:

• Harari, Y.N. (2015) Sapiens: a brief history of humankind. Harper Collins, and
• Harari, Y.N. (2017) Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow. Harper Collins.

And I focus in what follows here on the second of those two books, as Harari seeks to map out what he sees as possible and even likely in the years to come – in his case projecting much farther forward into the future than I do in my writings.

I begin addressing those books, and his second in particular by noting what I can only see as the irony implicit in its title. Harari writes of the death of traditionally conceived gods in Homo Deus, and of the rise of humanism as a religion, and of the rise of what he calls dataism – the observance of data and of big data in particular as if an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being. And in the same narrative progression, he writes of Homo Sapiens transcending our species’ biologically evolved and (up until now) technologically constrained limitations, to become Homo Deus: mankind as god-kind. And to complete that circle, he relegates Homo Sapiens turned Homo Deus to what amounts to the same dustbin of history that he had just consigned the gods of traditional religions to.

• What would supplant humanity and in ways that would make at least most people irrelevant?
• And how and in what sense would humans at least for the most part become irrelevant?
• And what change agents would drive this?

I have already touched upon the answers to those questions in my above-offered bullet points when mentioning automation and artificial intelligence. And I only need to add big data: the god of Harari’s dataism to that set to round out his answers to them, at least as offered in his books. There, big data is viewed as essential to meaningfully living in the world as a valued actively contributing member of society, where “big” has long-since meant “beyond mere human understanding and capability” and both for scale and volume and for the ever-shortening timing of reasoned response and action that big data and its effective use demand.

Harari writes of the marginalization of humanity and of humans – and certainly unaugmented ones, on the grounds that people will increasingly be unable to keep up with what our tools, and our smart tools in particular can do. In principle at least, people or at least the most skilled of them might be required for initially developing artificial specialized intelligence agents, and certainly up to the point where they would self-learn and self-evolve on their own from there. Development of a true artificial general intelligence might very well take people out of the loop for even just that, and even for the smartest and most skilled.

I have recently found myself writing here about artificial general intelligence and what at least categorically would go into its functional design and development. See, for example, my series: Reconsidering Information Systems Infrastructure, as can be found appended to the end of Section I in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory page. As risky as longer range predictions can be, for suggesting when specific technologies will arise and how they will mature, I do expect that humanity and its artificial specialized intelligence agents will in fact arrive at an at least meaningfully threshold level of artificial general intelligence before the end of the 21st century and quite possibly before its midpoint. Yes, computer and information science professionals have been making that type of next few decades predictions since the dawn of the electronic computer so I am keeping good (and also inaccurate) company there. But conservatively speaking and certainly given the possible consequences of that happening, prudence would dictate that humanity be prepared for it, and from a presumption that it will definitely arise soon. And that brings me to the last few pages of Homo Deus, and Harari’s statement that all that he had been offering in the preceding pages and chapters there, need not happen – if that is, people decide to actively work towards the development and emergence of a more human-included and even a more human-centric 22nd century and beyond.

• I see that as one of the great essential goals for the 21st century that people and the businesses that they form and work in and the governments that they live under, should all be working on. And we need to start working on this before, for example, we have locked in some specific understanding of what general artificial intelligence even is, with that already effectively set in stone for what has already been developed for it and to the point where it would be taken for granted.

I end this posting by citing a second series that I am also currently developing and adding to this blog: Moore’s Law, Software Design Lock-In, and the Constraints Faced when Evolving Artificial Intelligence (as can be found at Reexamining the Fundamentals 2 as its Section VIII.) And with that in mind, I make explicit note to the title of this thought piece and its beginning with its phrase: “there are no low value playing cards.”

A poker hand with a well selected set of what would generally be presumed to be low value number cards (e.g. three 2’s) can beat a set of nominally higher valued cards (e.g. a pair of kings) any day. My point here is that nominally valued and routinely expected can be misleading and they can even be very specifically wrong and certainly in the right contexts. Realistically, who offers more positive value to a business that is leading a repudiated executive officer to the exit and dismissing them for egregious behavior, that makes the entire business look bad for his having done that there? Is it this now former executive as they are walked out of that door with their golden parachute in hand, or is it the janitor who will clean out their now-former office there for further use by others?

Turning back to reconsider Harari and his message, we have to rethink, and perhaps even just think through as if for a first time, what really holds value for people and in people. I would suggest starting that with the simpler here-and-now exercise of better dealing with those golden parachutes and who gets them, and then expanding out from there to deal with the challenges raised by AI and automation and the rest, as Harari warns us to do.

I am certain to have more to add to this topic, or rather this complex set of them in future writings. Meanwhile, you can find this essay at Reexamining the Fundamentals 2 as appended to the end of its Section VIII series (and also see Page 1 of that directory. And I also include this in my Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3 directory page, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory for further related material.

Moore’s law, software design lock-in, and the constraints faced when evolving artificial intelligence 4

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on November 25, 2018

This is my 4th posting to a short series on the growth potential and constraints inherent in innovation, as realized as a practical matter (see Reexamining the Fundamentals 2, Section VIII for Parts 1-3.)

I have been discussing two case in point examples of innovation, and of innovation lock-in in this series: one human technological in nature and one drawn from biological evolution as a rich source of example-based insight. My technological example has been how musical notes and their digital encoding have become locked in for acceptable and acknowledged form, through what has become an essentially universal acceptance of and adherence to the MIDI musical note encoding standard. And my biological example is provided by the even more widely adhered to pentose shunt of biochemistry, or the pentose phosphate pathway as it is also called.

When A technological solution becomes The technological solution for a problem or task that it would address, and with no realistically competitive alternatives available to chose from for what it seeks to do, it can become an unquestioned and even an unconsidered axiomatic given: inherent limitations and all. For the MIDI sound encoding example, I cite more avant garde Western composers who add sounds and sound patterns into their works that while precisely specified in their scores, do not fit traditional musical note forms as laid out according to a traditional musical scale. And perhaps more to the point, I cite non-Western composers and musicians who perform on instruments that produce sounds that do not cleanly, accurately fit into a MIDI-defined pattern, rendering original performances into what can become more cartoon-like caricatures. Actual live performance music does tend to keep the possibilities of sound encoding alternatives a real possibility. But more persistent, repeatedly playable recordings of those original performances can and do lose some of their essence in their digital transformation when so note-by-note encoded.

It can be essentially impossible to conceive of a realistic, more highly adaptive alternative to a biologically ancient “evolved technological” solution, and certainly in precise functional detail. And that potential blind spot limitation definitely applies when the universally accepted norm in question is one like the pentose shut: where no single mutationally arrived at alternative to what is currently in place is likely to be as viable as it is and where no two-hit double mutation combination that would offer a possible alternative to it is likely to fare any better.

I wrote of topologically formatted “maps” of natural selection fitness in Part 3, and of topographically represented landscapes that range from high fitness peaks on down to low fitness and even lethally deleterious mutational valleys there. I offer that conceptual modeling approach to visualizing and thinking about adaptive fitness, as applying to both biologically evolved and human technologically developed solutions to problems faced.

Citing this model as elaborated upon in Part 3, when all alternatives to some given positively adaptive peak, lead to adaptive submergence and a loss of functional viability, it becomes hard to not take such a biological solution or technical fix as a best possible solution overall. Considering my biological example in that context, it is, however, likely that there were alternative if simpler biochemical pathways competing for primacy in competing evolutionary lines when the pentose shunt first arose and when it was initially evolving. That solution simply won out and with time became “optimized” within the scope and limitations of the particular adaptive peak that it evolved into – and regardless of the at least theoretically higher adaptive peak values that some now-unobtainable alternative might have reached.

• Are there realistic alternatives to this pathway in basic eukaryotic cell-based life that have been so thoroughly precluded as possibilities by universal adherence to this particular biochemical solution, that we cannot even know of their existence, let alone their possible details?

Turning back to the MIDI example where at least alternative functional needs are knowable and where analog recordings are also possible, I would argue that both the strengths and the weaknesses of that solution stem from a commonly shared underlying source. The people who initially devised and standardized MIDI digital encoding, did so while deeply aware of the types of music that always and only include in them, sounds and sound patterns that can be captured and with fidelity as streams of specifically formulated and defined musical notes – of the type that their system digitally encodes. But they also did this with at most a partial awareness of musical forms and patterns, and of musical sounds that do not fit the predefined note patterns that they built into MIDI. This does not mean their system cannot capture such music at all; it does mean that their digital recordings will differ from the original live performances that they seek to capture in persistent digitally replicable form.

And with that, I turn to consider artificial general intelligence. And I begin addressing that by noting that both one of the defining strengths and one of the defining weaknesses of that far-reaching development effort can be captured in a simple to express point of observation:

• We do not know what “general intelligence” actually means, beyond assuming that it is generally flexible in its functional reach and that it would probably contain within it, properties that we commonly at least categorically refer to by names as “sentience” and “sapience.”
• And we tend to think of human intelligence as a benchmark standard for “general intelligence” as a whole, and even when acknowledging in the abstract, at the very least that “general intelligence” might take forms that the human brain and mind would not and even cannot specify.

This opens up a whole range of issues and discussion points, and I will at least begin to address them in my next installment to this series. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3 and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And I also include this in my Reexamining the Fundamentals 2 directory as topics Section VIII. And also see its Page 1.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 20 – the jobs and careers context 19

This is my 20th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-19.)

I began discussing the new hire probationary period in this series in Part 14, and that transition period’s day two and following in Part 18. And as part of that, I offered a brief list of to-address topics points that any new hire should at least be aware of as they go through this period of initial employment:

1. Becoming a valued and appreciated member of a team, and fitting in.
2. Business policy and business politics, and navigating them.
3. Dealing with, and communicating and negotiating through the unexpected.
4. Networking for success in the workplace.
5. Negotiating access to the resources that you need, as an ongoing workplace and career requirement.
6. Plan B planning and execution, and being prepared for the unexpected (and the importance of finding and addressing solutions to problems, and not assigning blame for them.)

I began addressing these issues in Part 18 (for Point 1) and Part 19 (for Point 2), and will at least primarily focus on the above stated Point 3 here. That noted, the above listed points are all closely enough related and interrelated so that any real effort to address any of them in detail would of necessity at least touch on others offered there too.

And with that noted, the key words in Point 3 that set it apart from Points 1 and 2, are “the unexpected.” I have primarily discussed Points 1 and 2 in this series, at least up to here, in terms of more standard and expected work issues and challenges: simply carrying out expected duties and working toward completing planned out goals and stretch goals in the face of routine resource limitations and other predictable and expected workplace issues. My goal here is to add workplace and job performance complexities and challenges to that baseline.

I will return to the issues of the more genuinely unexpected and unpredictable when addressing Point 6 of the above list, and set the stage for that here, as well for discussing Points 4 and 5, by focusing on workplace and business communications.

I have been explicitly discussing the issues of communications in a business in a concurrently running series: Building a Business for Resilience, as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations (as directory entries 542 and loosely following.) And my ongoing focus of attention there, and certainly since that series’ Part 28, has been on finding an effective and meaningful balance between information security and confidentiality and meeting that set of needs, while simultaneously allowing for and supporting more open communications and particularly where that becomes essential in addressing the disruptively novel and unexpected.

I leave that more general line of discussion and its elaboration to that series, and focus here on the new hire as they seek to find their way around their new workplace. I have focused in Building a Business for Resilience, on explicitly developing capabilities and business-wide, for more quickly identifying, understanding and addressing emergent challenges and opportunities, and for enabling a business’ innovative potential. My focus here is on the new hire, as they seek to identify others who work with them, for their skills and experience sets. And my focus here is on efforts that they would make to at least initially connect with these colleagues. That means their being more proactively prepared for actually carrying through on their own day to day routines and as an involved member of a team they have now joined. But this also means their being more proactively prepared to address what at least for them, would be more unexpected situations: positive or negative in nature. Note: that does not necessarily mean that no one there at this business would see those at least seemingly emergent situations as novel and unexpected; it just means that no one already working there has told at least this new hire of the possibilities that they might face where some event or a possibility of one might arise, that would require special handling for an effective resolution.

Learning curves take time, as do training periods that would help fulfill them. In this, meeting learning curve requirements comes in part and even in large part from outside of new hires themselves, coming from the system they have just joined and its already-actively involved participants. That aspect of their on the job, new hire training generally calls for at least some active participation from their direct supervisors and others there, including people from Human Resources that offer general new hire-oriented talks and presentations at the very least. And this can and often does involve help in getting up to speed from more experienced members of a new hire’s immediate work team too. But even when a business has a relatively comprehensive formally framed onboarding process for that, it is still going to be up to the new hire themselves, to fill in what for them would still be remaining gaps in their in-house training.

So I write here of proactively reaching out and communicating, and I write here of being prepared for more effectively and smoothly carrying through on workplace routines, and in ways that coordinate smoothly with what others there are doing. And I write here of reaching out and communicating more widely so as to have a basic tool set in place for handling the more truly novel and unexpected too.

I am going to turn in my next series installment, to explicitly consider networking in this. My focus here in this posting has been on communications, and on the What and How of that: not on the With-Whom. So I conclude this posting, in preparation for the next to come in this series, with two crucially important points. The first can be summarized in two quick bullet points.

• As a new hire who is primarily seeking to proactively pave a way forward for their success, this initial stage networking and communicating is all about introductions, and making sure that an effectively wide range of colleagues are on your radar as at least somewhat known quantities, and that you are on theirs too and hopefully with a favorable first impression made.
• So these initial conversations are of necessity going to be more general in nature, and are not intended to bring up specific here-and-now workplace issues, and certainly not just to ask for assistance with them – usually. These are and should be “getting to know you” chats, and “this is where I work and this in general terms is what I do here” chats.

The second point that I would raise here is both more complex and more important, so I begin setting up for it with an already discussed foundational point:

• The hiring manager, now direct supervisor who brought you into this business as a new hire there, did so to take a specific job description with all of its expected work and task completion responsibilities off of their desk.
• True, most supervisors would expect and want to be brought into the conversation and early on if an unexpected problem or a new emerging opportunity were to arise. But even then, they would at least expect that their new hire would be able to bring them up to speed on this and very quickly and with at least an effectively reasonable first take on what is happening that they could report in. And if this new hire – you, can also offer at least a reasonable first take on how this might be addressed too, that would fit into the driving rationale behind the first of this set of bullet points and validate your having been a good choice for this job.
• To put this in perspective, I have worked with and observed supervisors who do not for whatever reason want to become involved, and sometimes even in crises. I find myself thinking back to an in-house employee position at a nonprofit that I held once, where a crisis arose that was literally costing that business over one hundred thousand dollars an hour and entirely avoidably so. A major live, on-air fundraiser was failing and completely so, because the online donation side to it as supported by a third party provider was down and off-line. And my supervisor refused to leave a group meeting with his own supervisor to help address that problem, as he sought to curry her favor. So I had to improvise to resolve this mess when it was this manager who had the only direct working relationship with this service provider, and by specific intention on his part. Given this and similar counter-examples to the first two points here that I could cite: there are exceptions to the above, and communicating with your supervisor and others who work with them, can help you be more prepared for the unexpected – and even when that comes in this type of form.

I write here of communications as bridge building and alliance building, and as an exercise that can productively lead to that happening. And with this noted, I will turn in my next installment to this series, to the above stated Point 4 of the to-address list that I am working my way through here. And I will explicitly consider the “With-Whom” side of this general topics area there, as well as networking etiquette and related issues. I will also more explicitly strategically consider Why issues there.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 3 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1 and Page 2. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material. And for relevant background and a systematic discussion of the new hire probationary period as a whole, as organized from day one on, see : Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation, as can also be found at Page 1 of that Guide (as its postings 73-88.)

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