Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 43 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 10

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 19, 2019

This is my 43rd installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-42.)

To put this posting in perspective for how it fits into this series as a whole, I have at least relatively systematically been preparing, since Part 39 to address two topics points and their issues, that I have held forth as organizing goals for this overall narrative, where I will:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access determination process, or rather flow of such processes, as would arise and play out in a mid-range risk level context, where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows. (Note: see that posting for an explanation of why I would focus on mid-range risks here, rather than on risk in general, or on mid-range and higher risk level possibilities.)
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how this type of system (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and their more novel potential information sharing contexts as they might arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

I began to take out of the abstract, this foundation-building background discussion that would lead up to a more detailed consideration of the above two points, in Part 42, when I began to flesh out and discuss two specific if selectively offered case study-formatted business examples, which I repeat here for their single bullet point summary descriptors, for smoother continuity of narrative:

• ClarkBuilt Inc.: a small to medium size business by head count and cash flow that was initially built to develop and pursue a new business development path as built around its founders’ jointly arrived at “bold new innovative products” ideas. The Clark brothers, Bob and Henry came up with a new way to make injection molds for plastics and similar materials that would make it cost-effective to use injection molding manufacturing processes with new types of materials, and cost-effectively so. They have in fact launched their dream business to do that, and have developed a nice little niche market for their offerings, providing specialized-materials parts to other manufacturers.
• And Kent Enterprises: a larger and more established business that in fact has at least something of a track record of supporting, or at least attempting to support innovative excellence within its ranks and on a larger, wider-ranging scale.

My goal for this posting is to continue and conclude, at least for purposes of this discussion thread, my analyses of these two businesses and certainly insofar as they would seek out innovative potential in their new employee hiring processes, and as they would seek to cultivate and retain the innovative potential that they do bring onboard. And I begin by repeating a more general business model-oriented point of intent that I addressed for each of these enterprises at least in passing, in Part 42:

• ClarkBuilt was initially conceived and founded, and has been built with a goal of realizing the fullest, most business-effective possibilities that its founders: Bob and Henry can develop out of a single initial game changing insight and innovation that they had arrived at with their new approach to injection molding in the manufacture of special materials, specialized parts. And the entire thrust of their enterprise moving forward has been to realize that goal: that shared dream that they hold to, and with any and all new innovation that would be added in, evaluated for its relevance and value to them according to how it supports this business, and its core defining innovation.
• And Kent Enterprises, has at the very least grown and developed towards a more widely, openly innovative business model approach as it seeks to remain competitively relevant in a changing industry and in the face of a change-demanding marketplace. To be clear here, Kent does not and probably never will in any way fit the type of research-as-product business model that is addressed in my concurrently running series: Pure Research, Applied Research and Development, and Business Models (as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 4 and its Page 5 continuation, as postings 664 and loosely following there.) This is not a business that would pursue pure research or even just more openly framed and considered applied research – except insofar as its leadership might be able to envision up-front of that, a likely practical application that they could cost-effectively develop and bring to market from it, in-house. But they do see and feel the pressures of change as it is taking place around them and they do see a fundamental need for them to change too, and certainly if they are to reach and stay at the forefront of their industry, among their competitive field.

Both businesses face gray area decision making requirements and challenges, for who they would look for categorically when hiring, when evaluating possible job candidates by skills and experience achieved and by observable indicators of innovative potential. And both face gray area decision making in how best to make use of the skills, experience and enthusiasm to build and create new that they do bring in-house and into their systems

And the lack of sufficiently complete knowledge that they both face and both for planning out their more immediate here-and-now and for moving forward longer-term, can serve to bring these two enterprises to arrive at what might be essentially identical personnel and hiring policies and practices. ClarkBuilt might focus on bringing in and retaining people who in some way specialize in areas that directly relate to injection molding technology or to better understanding and making use of the wider range of materials that they would process through their business defining proprietary technology that centers on it. And Kent Enterprises might at least nominally throw a wider innovation-seeking net insofar as they are not as tight bound to any one particular technology or its specific area of application. But both seek to remain applied-focused, and with that driven by and shaped by what they already do as a foundational starting point for all that they might pursue and do next.

And this brings me from the issues of job descriptions and the hiring processes that these businesses would carry out in building their professional staffs and in bringing in new lower and mid-level managers, to the issues of what they would do with the people they have, and of how they would work with and support them in what they do. And that takes me directly and specifically to the above repeated topics Points 1 and 2, that I will finally begin to explicitly address starting in my next installment to this series. And in anticipation of further discussion to come, I will pursue those topic points exactly as I have when preparing to discuss them, beginning in Part 39 and starting there with a more abstract line of discussion and then considering them in terms of my two here-still advancing case study examples.

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. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 12: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to follow an authoritarian playbook 3

Posted in book recommendations, macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on March 17, 2019

This is my third posting to explicitly discuss and analyze an approach to leadership that I have come to refer to as the authoritarian playbook. See Part 1 and Part 2 of this progression of series installments, and a set of three closely related postings that I offered immediately prior to them that focus in on one of the foundational building blocks to the authoritarian playbook approach as a whole: the cult of personality, with its Part 1 focusing on Donald Trump and his cult-building efforts, Part 2 focusing on Xi Jinping’s efforts in that direction, and Part 3 stepping back to consider cults of personality in general.

I at least briefly outlined a set of tools and approaches to using them in my second installment on the authoritarian playbook itself as just cited above, that in effect mirror how I stepped back from the specifics of Trump and Xi in my third posting on cults of personality, to put their stories into an at least hopefully clearer and fuller context. And I continue this now-six posting progression here with a goal of offering a still fuller discussion of this general approach to leadership, while also turning back to more fully consider Donald Trump and Xi Jinping themselves as at least would-be authoritarians.

I begin this posting’s discussion on that note by raising a detail that I said that I would turn to here, but that might at first appear to be at least somewhat inconsistent too, and certainly when measured up against my discussions of cults of personality and the authoritarian playbook as a largely unified and consistent vision and approach.

I have presented authoritarians and would-be authoritarians as striding forth in palpably visible self-confidence to proclaim their exceptionalism and their greatness, and to proclaim that they are the only ones who could possibly lead and save their followers: their people from the implacable, evil enemies that they face. This means these at least would-be leaders building their entire foundation for leadership on trust and on its being offered and on an ongoing basis: a leader’s trust that if they build their cults of personality effectively and if they take the right steps in the right ways in pursuing and wielding power, others: their followers, will trust and follow them. And this also arguably has to include their own trust that these, their followers will consistently remain true to them in their own beliefs too. Then I ended my second playbook-outlining posting by raising a crucial form of doubt that enters into and in fact informs all of this as it actually plays out:

• Trust, or rather the abnegation of even a possibility of holding trust in anyone or anything outside of self for a would-be authoritarian.

Ultimately, I would argue that an authoritarian’s trust in their followers, or in anyone else outside of themselves, rings as hollow as the cult of personality mask that they wear. And I turn with that in mind to at least briefly reconsider the basic tools to this leadership playbook with that in mind.

I said at the end of my second playbook installment that I would turn back to reconsider Xi and Trump as specific case in point examples here and do so starting with Xi and his story in order to take what follows out of the abstract, leaving it imbued with a real, historically knowable face. And I begin that by returning to a crucially important point that I made when discussing Xi’s cult of personality and how he has sought to build one about himself: the trauma that befell his father and through that, himself and the rest of his immediate family too.

I began writing of Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun in my discussion of the son’s effort to create a cult of personality around himself. Mao Zedong launched his Cultural Revolution out of fear that he was losing control of his revolution as other, competing voices sought to realize the promise of liberation from China’s nobility-led surf peasant society. He began this counteroffensive against what he saw as a challenge to his ultimate authority with his promise to listen and include: his let a hundred flowers bloom promise. But then he pulled back and all who did speak up, all who did offer their thoughts as to how and where the Communist revolution should go from there, were swept up as revisionists by the Cultural Revolution, declared by its zealot cadres to be enemies of the state and of the people.

Many were so caught up, with academics and members of China’s intelligentsia targeted in large numbers, as particular threats to Mao’s vision and to the revolution that he was leading through his cult of personality. And even people who had served Mao well and from early on in the revolution, form the long days of the Long March with all of its risks and uncertainties were caught up in this. Xi Zhongxun was a loyal follower of Mao and from the beginning. As such he was elevated into Chinese Communism’s new emerging proletarian nobility as Mao succeeded and took power. Xi Jinping, his son was raised as a member of China’s new Crown Prince Party and as an heir apparent to his father’s social and political stature there. And then Mao turned on them, just as he had turned on so many before them, and all fell into chaos with his father hauled up for public ridicule before screaming hoards in Cultural Revolution struggle sessions: public appearances in which the accused were beaten and ridiculed and forced to publically confess to whatever crimes they were being accused of at that moment.

Many who faced those gauntlets of ridicule and torture did not survive them and certainly when they were repeatedly subjected to these assaults. Zhongxun did survive, as he did confess and confess and confess. So he and his family, his young son Jinping included, were sent to a distant and isolated peasant community for reeducation.

One of the lessons that Jinping learned was that his survival meant his becoming more orthodox in his Communist purity than anyone else, and more actively ambitious in advancing through the Party ranks for his purity and reliability of thought and action. But a second, and more important lesson learned from all of this, and certainly for its long-term impact was that Xi learned to never trust anyone else and certainly in ways that might challenge his position and security, or his rising power and authority. I have written here in this progression of postings, of cults of personality as masks. Xi learned and both early on and well in this, to smile and to fit in and to strive to be the best and to succeed and with that expression of approval and agreement always there on his face. He learned to wear a mask, and to only trust himself. And his mask became the basis of his cult of personality as he advanced along the path of fulfilling his promise to himself and yes, to his father, and as he rose through the ranks in the Party system that had so irrevocably shaped his life and certainly starting with his father’s initial arrest.

How did this pattern arise and play out for a young Donald Trump? Turn to consider his father for his pivotal role in shaping his son too.

• What happens when only perfection is acceptable and when that is an always changing and never achievable goal, and when deception and duplicity can be the closest to achieving it that can actually be achievable?
• What happens to a young impressionable son when winning is the only acceptable outcome, ever, and when admitting weakness or defeat can only lead to dire humiliating consequences?
• Fear comes to rule all, and it is no accident that an adult Donald Trump sees fear and instilling it in others as his most powerful tool and both in his business and professional life, and apparently in his personal life too. (See:
• Woodword, B. (2018) Fear: Trump in the White House. Simon & Schuster, for a telling account of how Donald Trump uses this tool as his guiding principle when dealing with others.)
• And genuine trust in others, or trustworthiness towards others become impossible, with those who oppose The Donald on anything, considered as if existential treats and enemies, and those who support and enable him considered disposable pawns and gullible fools to be used and then discarded.

Cults of personality are masks and ultimately hollow ones for those who would pursue the autocratic playbook. And ultimately so is the promise of the autocrat and their offer of better for those who would follow them. And that is why they have to so carefully and assiduously grab and hold onto power, using the other tools of the playbook to do so.

I have focused in this posting on trust and on how it does and does not arise and flow forward towards others. Turning back to my initial comments on this, as offered here, a would-be authoritarian, a would-be tyrant or dictator calculatingly develops and promotes his cult of personality with a goal of gaining trust and support from as large and actively engaged a population of supporters as possible. So they calculatingly seek to develop and instill trust in themselves, in others. But ultimately they do not and in a fundamental sense cannot trust any of those others and certainly not as individuals. The closest they can come to achieving that is to develop a wary trust on the more amorphous face of their followers as nameless markers in larger demographics. And that, arguably just means their trusting themselves for their capability to keep those individually nameless and faceless members of the hoard in line.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will turn to consider legacies and the authoritarian’s need to build what amounts to monuments to their glory that they might never be forgotten. In anticipation of that discussion to come I will argue that while the underlying thought and motivation that would enter into this for any particular authoritarian might be complex, much if not most of that is shaped at least as a matter of general principles by two forces: fear, and a desire to build for permanence and with grandiosity driving both sides to that. And for working examples, I will discuss Trump’s southern border wall ambitions, and his more general claims to seek to rebuild the American infrastructure, and Xi’s imperially unlimited infrastructure and related ambitions too.

Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2. And 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.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 14

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 16, 2019

This is my 14th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-13.)

I began working my way through a to-address topics list in Part 11, that would apply to the analysis and planning efforts of a still resource-lean startup. And I repeat the first three entries in this list as I turn to and begin to more fully discuss its Points 2 and 3:

1. What types of change are being considered in building this new business, and with what priorities? In this context the issues of baseline, and of what would be changed from become crucially important. I assume here that change in this context means at least pressure to change on the part of business founders, from the assumptions and presumptions and business practices of their past experience: positive and negative that they might individually bring with them to this new venture, and their thoughts as to how a business should be organized and run as shaped by all of their prior workplace experience. So I will consider change as arises in how the business is planned and run, at least as much as I do when considering what would be developed there and brought to market as product or service. I will mostly just cite and discuss the later for its contextual significance in all of this.
2. Focusing on the business planning and development side to that, and more specifically on high priority, first business development and operations steps that would be arrived at and agreed to for carrying out (in light of the above bullet point considerations here), and setting aside more optional potential goals and benchmarks that would simply be nice to be able to carry through upon too,
3. Where exactly do those must-do tasks fit into the business and how can they best be planned out for cost-effective implementation (in the here and now) and for scalability (thinking forward)? Functionally that set of goals and their realization, of necessity ranges out beyond the boundaries of a Marketing or a Marketing and Communications context, applying across the business organization as a whole. But given the basic thrust of this specific series, I will begin to more fully discuss communications per se, and Marketing, or Marketing and Communications in this bullet point’s context. And I will comparatively discuss communications as a process, and as a functional area in a business there.

I focused more on the Who and How of key business decision making when addressing the above Point 1, and with the What of that considered essentially entirely in general terms. Point 2 specifically focuses on what the high priority issues are that a given startup would face, and on decision making processes and their follow-through that would lead at least ideally to their smooth and efficient resolution. And Point 2 also begs the question of how these high priority issues and needs would be identified and characterized, and both for their achievability and with what resources required for that, and for their overall needs-based priorities – setting them apart from the “more optional potential goals and benchmarks that would simply be nice to be able to carry through upon too” as noted there as well. And to further put Point 2 in perspective in this series and in this portion of it, Point 3 continues on from there, with a now-determined list of high and highest priority tasks and goals agreed to, and with their actual resolution the topic of discussion.

I continue my Part 13 discussion here with a fuller and more organized consideration of Point 2 from the above topics list, as outlined in the above paragraph, and with the question of what to do first and even right now, and what to set aside for later if at all. And I begin doing so by acknowledging that I in fact sneaked part of my answer to that challenge into the above paragraph when outlining how I would propose responding to a Point 2 challenge, when I made note of resource availability.

• Ideally, task and goals prioritization would be based entirely on here-and-now and anticipated upcoming need. But that approach can only apply, and certainly as an automatic and always-resorted to option if there are and always will be sufficient resources available and of all required types, to make it possible for a business to carry out essentially whatever it seeks to do, whenever its leadership decides that they would like to do so.
• In the real world, need and desire have to be tempered by limitations faced in what can be done, and on consideration of when the resources required for that might become possible for doing that work, and at what costs. Resource limitations and the performance bottlenecks and barriers that they create, determine the doable here.

This pair of linked points is important. And while they might seem obvious when stated as above in the abstract, it can be easy to lose track of their message in the heat of the moment and when facing immediate and impending pressures to effectively perform, in carrying out next building steps in launching a new business venture. I have certainly seen new businesses get caught up in what from a perhaps more objective perspective, might seem to be resource expending inconsequentials, and particularly when they primarily would serve to support a founder’s vision of themselves and of what they would at least ideally seek to build in their business – as an expression of that. Though ego is not the only source of challenge that can be added in, in this way here, that can skew how tasks and goals are prioritized and carried out or not.

Ultimately, the filtering and selecting of Point 2 requires dispassionate reasoning: reasoning that can both starkly illuminate and serve to evaluate the value of the assumptions and presumptions that founders can bring to the table. And as a positive measure, this winnowing and prioritization process more clearly helps to determine what would in fact be good for, and for-now best for the business as an enterprise. (As an aside, I add at this point in this narrative that this is where a founding team that is too caught up in their own agendas and their own understandings of them can find value in bringing in an outside consultant who can offer a more dispassionate outside perspective, and who will then leave when finished.)

I am going to conclude my discussion of Point 2, at least for purposes of this series, in the next installment to it where I will add consideration of benchmarks and more finalized goals to this narrative. My goal in that is to take this posting’s discussion of that topics point at least somewhat out of the abstract by addressing it as an explicit trackable path forward and not just as a more vaguely goals-oriented intention. Then, as promised above I will more explicitly turn to and address the above Point 3. And turning back to the more complete to-address list that those three points were excerpted from as initially offered in Part 11, I will then work my way through the rest of that more complete list too. And I will more explicitly tie this more business-wide narrative back to a marketing and communications context too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

Pure research, applied research and development, and business models 17

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 13, 2019

This is my 17th installment to a series in which I discuss contexts and circumstances – and business models and their execution, where it would be cost-effective and prudent for a business to actively participate in applied and even pure research, as a means of creating its own next-step future (see Business Strategy and Operations – 4 and its Page 5 continuation, postings 664 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

I have been discussing a particular type of disruptively novel business and business model in this series, that would specifically realize in day-to-day and ongoing practice, the issues raised in this series’ generic title: businesses that would offer research and its informational products as marketable, value creating offerings in a business-to-business context and marketplace. And as a part of that, I offered and briefly outlined a basic business analysis and planning tool that the leadership of such a business can employ when building out and developing their new enterprise, focusing as a case in point context on planning as it would arise and play out as such an enterprise exits its initial startup phase and enters its first real growth phase as a now-profitable venture (see Part 15.)

I turned then in Part 16, to challenge one of the simplifying assumptions of that basic planning tool, by acknowledging and addressing the role that business systems friction plays in thinking through and planning the development of businesses, and particularly when:

• They are in some way disruptively novel
• And when they do not yet have a long enough track record themselves, to serve as an effective planning baseline for their moving forward.

I focused in those two postings on mapping out and planning in terms of what can be considered the consciously “known” known, and the at least categorically predictably “known” unknown, leaving out of consideration any possible unknown unknowns as they might arise too, and seemingly out of a clear blue sky. And I begin this posting by explicitly acknowledging that the more consequentially important friction is and the more the gaps in essential business intelligence and communications that create and shape that in a business, the more likely it is that you will have to assume that completely unanticipated, and even unanticipatable problems will arise too: those unknown unknowns.

Addressing that possibility in practice, means building a business with a more conservative shift added into any tripartite planning model that might be employed, and certainly when using an essentially friction-free, baseline version of such a modeling tool as offered in Part 15. So a more normative scenario as outlined in that type of business analysis, or according to a Part 16 friction-acknowledging model for that matter, would be reframed and relabeled as constituting your more optimal problem-free scenario under consideration. And an at least somewhat more stressed scenario, at least for overall levels of added costs and delays and other challenges, would become the de facto categorically predicted normative scenario in this type of analysis too. And all of this means planning and building for larger cash reserves and for more accommodating scheduling and other flexibility where possible, to account for and to be able to operationally accommodate extra performance stressors, when and as they arise. Added friction demands greater flexibility and agility and an allowance for resource scales that can accommodate and even directly facilitate that.

From a business to customer (here other businesses) perspective, this brings to mind the old adage about the positive value of under-promising and over-delivering. Think of the approach that I offer here, from the perspective of the business as a whole and from that of its complete business process cycles, as it relates to and connects with its markets and other pertinent outside contexts.

And with this note added to flesh out and complete my line of discussion from Part 16, at least for purposes of this series, I turn to consider a couple of specific topics that I raised at the end of that installment and that I said I would at least begin to address here, with:

• Some business model-specific issues and the challenge of knowing precisely when a business development stage is ending and a next one is beginning.

I begin doing so with the first clause of the above bullet point. My Parts 15 and 16 discussions and this posting’s continuation of that narrative up to here, have been largely generic as most of what I offered in that would apply to essentially any new or young business – and certainly where that enterprise seeks to break away from its competition and potential competition by offering at least something new and novel as a product or service, or when it seeks to stand out by operating in a new and novel way in creating and offering what it does bring to market. So my initial goal here is to more specifically consider research-as-product businesses themselves: here as tripartite planning models in general might be applied specifically to them. And I begin doing so by addressing an assumptions-riddled, though commonly used paradigm for thinking through and understanding businesses in general: their division into cost and profit centers.

I have raised and considered this point of distinction a number of times in this blog, and begin doing so again here by briefly noting a few here-relevant details that I have already delved into but that merit at least repeat acknowledgment here too:

• Costs, as cited and considered here, should not be limited entirely to cash flow and direct monetary value: red ink or black, even if those considerations are of significant importance in this type of analysis and both in a more immediate here-and-now cash flow sense and in a longer-term reserves and business development sense.
• Costs here, of necessity should also include consideration of wider risk management issues.
• To take that at least somewhat out of the abstract, consider the indirect financial benefits that keeping a cash flow only, defined “cost center” in-house might bring, and certainly when it could not safely by outsourced without creating unacceptable risks from loss of direct positive control and oversight of it (e.g. for getting essential work done on-time and correctly, where third party providers might not always be sufficiently reliable and particularly at peak demand times, or where possible loss of control over confidential information might create problems or risk of them in a tight regulatory environment.)

I have at various times in developing this blog, even explicitly equated costs and risks for how they can interact and functionally overlap. I cite that potential for such alignment if not outright congruence here too. And with that in mind I note that when I refer to costs here, I refer to a more widely and inclusively considered sense of that word as acknowledged in the above three bullet points. And in a similar manner, I presume in what follows here that profits similarly include a reduction in risk, with consideration of cash flow and liquidity measures is supplemented by what might be considered an at least equivalent to actuarial table-scaled costs reduction and containment too. Both costs and profits in these wider senses, represent the overall aggregate sums of direct costs (or profits) and related measures, plus risk measures with their probabilistically stated, actuarially defined possible (and with time likely) costs or savings added in too.

With that wider understanding of cost and of profits noted, I turn to explicitly consider the two categorical forms of business systems friction as defined in Part 16, and how the point of distinction that was noted there would more specifically apply in a research-as-product business.

• I wrote there of constitutive business systems friction, which might be thought of as a business intelligence and communications-limited counterpart to entropy. That can often be limited to a at least a degree by developing and instituting better overall information management and communications systems, as vetted by a business performance-aware risk management policy in place. But that means addressing business friction, at least in this form, as a matter of following more generically effective practices.
• For purposes of this discussion, however, I will focus on the second more business process-specific form of friction of the two: focally caused business systems friction. This is where friction becomes business, and business model specific. And for purposes of this series that means my focusing on this categorical type of friction as it applies in a research-as-product business model, as that model would lay out the basic operational systems that would be followed there, where this type of friction might specifically arise.

And I begin addressing that with the fundamentals. As noted and discussed in earlier installments to this series, the more specifically applied a research and development effort is, and the more tightly focused it is on enhancing or improving some specific product or product type and particularly one with a pre-established performance record, the less risk that carrying out this work will in general, create. The more open ended this research is, as either more speculative applied research or as still more open-ended pure research, the greater the risk of loss a strictly cost-center nature that this work would carry with it, and with a progressively larger potential aggregate overall loss risked at that.

When I focus here on focally caused business systems friction, and in this specific business-type context, I of necessity set aside more generically standard functional areas of that business, such as their accounts receivable office or their personnel office, each with their basic standard functions and work processes. And I focus instead on functional areas of such a business that explicitly and directly map out and functionally contain the business-specific aspects of the enterprise that set it apart, here as a research provider. And this leads me to two basic starter planning questions that I would begin any such business model-specific analysis with:

• What specifically are the work process systems that define this enterprise as a research-as-product enterprise?
• And what resources: specialized skills personnel definitely included would be needed to carry this out, with whatever levels of what might at times be resource over-capacity allowed for in order to accommodate at least more readily, recurringly predictable fluctuations in resource requirement levels? (Think in terms of how friction can compel prudence to add risk and risk accommodations into each of a set of proposed outcomes scenarios as offered in the above cited Part 15 and Part 16 tripartite models.)

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment, where I will further develop this here-started set of basic due diligence questions, along with offering supportive commentary to explain how they would fit into an overall planning and development effort. In anticipation of that discussion to come, this is where more widely considered issues of costs and profits, and of cost and profit centers, and strategically rebalancing and improving risk load enters this business model-specific narrative. Then, and as a continuation of that line of discussion I will at least selectively discuss business transitions as they would arise for an enterprise of this type, and the challenge of knowing precisely when one business development stage is ending and a next one is beginning. And as noted at the end of Part 15 and repeated at the end of Part 16, my basic goal for this series and for where to go in it from here, is to conclude the more entirely-early business development phase of this discussion as I have been offering up to here, and then move on to offer a more long-term scalability perspective on these enterprises: one that focuses more specifically on research-oriented enterprises with their particular issues as they seek to grow into larger successful businesses.

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.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 26 – the jobs and careers context 25

This is my 26th 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 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-25.)

I began addressing the first of a list of issues in Part 25 that can and do arise throughout a work tenure with an employer, many if not most of which are all but certain to come up for you if you continue working there long enough. And for smoother continuity of narrative and to put that first topics point into a wider perspective as will be discussed here, I repeat that list in full as:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there,
2. Salary and overall compensation changes,
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable your reaching your goals there,
4. Promotions and lateral moves,
5. Dealing with difficult people,
6. And negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them. I add this example last on this list because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and execution too, as touched upon in Part 23.

To be more precise, I noted and set aside in Part 25, the issues and questions of precisely why work responsibilities change, and sometimes rapidly and very significantly so. And I began to consider and address the issues and questions of how best to manage this type of change, insofar as that can be possible, so as to make it work for you. This is where negotiating skills and processes enter this narrative and that is the core area of discussion that I will delve into here. As such, this posting is essentially entirely about balancing the work requirements that you carry with the resources and resource availability that you would require, in order to fulfill your new work responsibilities load, and effectively productively so, and on time. And it is all about you’re gaining agreed to support in securing access to those resources, when and as you need them. And I begin this line of discussion by briefly recapping a set of contingency issues that can arise when dealing with these issues, as offered at the end of Part 25 as a teaser for what would come here, with the issues and questions of:

• What you might be allowed to set aside from your current work responsibilities as you take on new responsibilities,
• What you might be allowed to shift to a lower priority in what you still have to do from your old and ongoing work, with more relaxed completion schedules allowed for that where necessary,
• And for what resources you might be allowed for doing all of this – specific colleague support included, when and as needed and with the schedule and responsibilities juggling that this would involve and the negotiations that this would involve too, included as you seek to accommodate their needs too.

I begin addressing these and related negotiations issues here, by explicitly making note of a detail that can become the critically defining source of success or failure for you in these discussions:

• The importance of knowing the goals and priorities that drive the people who you need to be able to negotiate with in this, and the pressures that would shape their decisions and their negotiating arguments,
• And thinking through and knowing where you can safely and even beneficially for you, back down and give the other side a point of victory in this, in order to gain greater leverage and credibility as a fair bargainer, when pressing for the points that you cannot comfortably give ground on, or relent on outright.

Both halves to that are crucial; you need to understand the people who you would negotiate with and as well as you know and understand your own positions and how you have arrived at them insofar as that can be possible. And you need to know what is and is not centrally important to you and what you can and might even want to give ground on, in establishing an equitable quid pro quo relationship that you can build mutual trust and agreement from. And that brings me directly to the issues of resource availability, where that can include materials, tools, information, timing allowances, specialized support from colleagues, or at times just an extra set of hands there to help manage the work flow, and more; this can include essentially anything that you would need to do your job that you do not carry in your own hands and your own skills and experience set, and that you cannot cover with your own unaided and unsupported labor on its own.

I begin addressing that complex of issues by posing some basic questions, that can easily be overlooked in the heat of the moment, when first confronted by what can come across as immediately impending and compelling need for change here.

• What new resources would you actually need?
• And for what specific tasks?
• And with what timing, and both for start time and expected duration? (Allow for a margin of extra time allowed there if possible.)
• And at what levels of need and with what relative priorities?

Start out by thinking this all through and both for possible resource availability and for task achievability, assuming here that you might not in fact be able to negotiate more favorable terms for how and when you would carry out this new work: completing it or reaching agreed to or at least required performance benchmarks for it. Start out by thinking through and knowing the consequences that you would face if you cannot in fact gain any of what you would seek to negotiate for here. Think of this as your first alternative to a negotiated agreement: not necessarily a best possible alternative there, but a starting point benchmark that you can plan and negotiate from where you at least know the consequences and the significance of not being able to bargain on any of the what, how, when or other details that you face in this.

• Now prioritize and know where you can give in on a resource request and where you really need some specific new, or new level of some specific resource that you cannot simply give on and still meet your new work requirements.
• And as a crucial additional detail here in thinking through those resources: all of the ones that I have cited by way of example, up to here in addressing topics Point 1 – all of them can be considered short-term insofar as they are all very task type and task implementation-specific, and access to them relates directly to your more effectively addressing your immediate here and now. But business supported professional training in new skills that you might need to master as you proceed in your work with this business, can be considered as a critically important new resource for you in this too, and a longer-term one. And depending on what New you face in what you would do now and moving forward in your work, this and other long-term resources can readily become among the most essential resources that you would have to be able to negotiate for and gain access to if you are to continue to succeed in your work there. Think in terms of short-term, here and now value, and longer-term value creating possibilities when considering and prioritizing and arguing a case for access to the resources that you would need.

I am going to continue this overall discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to consider the above Point 2 and its issues:

• Salary and overall compensation changes, and I add title and official recognition of the work that you would do there too, cutting ahead at least in part to at least make note of Point 4 and its issues as they relate to this.

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.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 11: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to follow an authoritarian playbook 2

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on March 8, 2019

I have been discussing Donald Trump and Xi Jinping as authoritarians in this blog over the course of four topically connected postings now, and continue that ongoing narrative here. More specifically, I have offered a thought piece on Donald Trump’s cult of personality and his efforts to build one about himself, and this follow-up posting to that on Xi Jinping’s efforts in that direction. And I have followed those postings with a more general discussion of cults of personality per se. And I have followed that three part progression with an initial orienting discussion of the authoritarian playbook per se, which I will continue addressing here in this installment. See Some Thoughts Concerning How Xi and Trump Approach and Seek to Follow an Authoritarian Playbook 1.

My goal for this posting is to at least initially step back from the specifics and the particularities of Trump and Xi as case in point examples, to at least briefly flesh out the basic operational approach that defines the authoritarian playbook itself, and how its constituent parts fit together as a tool kit for would-be authoritarians and dictators. Then after addressing that I will step back to reconsider my two case in point example leaders for how they actively seek to follow and to use this approach in fulfilling their own personal goals and ambitions.

I begin all of this with the fundamentals and by briefly reiterating and expanding upon a few key points that I have already been discussing here, in order to more clearly fit them into what is in fact a single overall, carefully constructed game plan and vision:

• A would-be authoritarian builds their leadership authority on a cult of personality foundation, in which they present themselves as realizing in the flesh, a somehow larger than life stereotypical vision. Authoritarians live and function from within these, their masks of exceptionalism and superiority.
• And as a key part of that, they set up systems of enemies – and not just of themselves, but of the people who they would lead as a whole. And they actively present themselves as the only ones who can safeguard their people: their followers from those enemies.
• These enemies: external to their nations and internal to them and drawn from their own citizenry, serve two closely aligned purposes. First of all, they serve as rallying cry points of focus that a would-be authoritarian can organize their followers against as commonly shared targets and as a collective unifying purpose to be faced and addressed. And secondly, if things do not go as planned according to the authoritarian agenda put in place by the “great leader”, that is always the fault of those evil, wicked enemies. Any initiatives that have not succeeded: any delays in achieving paradise by whatever name is used … exist entirely because of those enemies, and only because of them. (I will pick up on this point again when considering Trump and Xi in particular, but note here in anticipation of doing so, that I will at least briefly discuss Mao’s Cultural Revolution and Xi’s own redux update to it as a source of examples for how this point and its issues play out.)
• And when I referred to those enemies of the people in the immediately preceding bullet point as evil and wicked, I raised a crucially defining point for how they are identified and labeled and dealt with. Those who would be branded as enemies here are not just mistaken on matters of reasoned judgment or for how they might have reached their opinions on the basis of faulty or incomplete information. No, they are by definition evil, wicked, morally flawed, depraved and willfully so. Enemies as I use that term here and as authoritarians use it when branding their own enemies, are wrong and deeply, fundamentally so and entirely by choice. And they must be treated accordingly. (I will cite how the self-proclaimed ultra-conservatives backing Trump identify and talk and write about their enemies, and how Trump himself has done this and still does this too, as a source of examples for this point.)

With this orienting set of details offered as to underlying rationale and approach, I would flesh out some of the tool set details in play here as follows:

• Authoritarians only follow legally framed and culturally supported more normative systems in place insofar as they can use them for their own purposes. When they find their needs and agendas conflict with that: any of that, they break away from it, declaring it ineffectual, wrongheaded, and contrary to the will of or the needs of the people.
• As such, they seek to undercut and discredit any and all possible political, governmental, religious or other competition to leadership or to authority.
• They do this by garnering support from their base through repeated ongoing use of their particular versions of the big lie.
• When and as they start gaining real power, tilting the balance of authority in their favor and against what is left of any real competition to their leadership, they can and do take more direct and forceful action. This can range from discreditment and disenfranchisement to dismissal from jobs, loss of home and community and even complete marginalization and vilification. Authoritarian leaders when so empowered set up gulags and imprison their enemies, and use “reeducation” to at the very least neutralize them, and in ways that would warn others against seeking to follow their examples.
• And this leads directly to their actively pursuing complete, unchallengeable control over their nation’s military and police, and with establishment of a secret police that only answers to them personally where possible. For the emperors of the Roman Empire, that meant their Praetorian Guard: their Cohortes Praetorianae. For Hitler it was his Schutzstaffel (his “Protection Squadron” or SS). There have been others, and in time there will all but certainly be more.

I have to add here that I am not writing about these matters as an entirely abstract, academic exercise. I lived and worked for a year in Guatemala at a time that it was ruled as a military dictatorship so I have seen how this works, and I have seen the impact of this approach to governance and to leadership on societies and on the people who comprise them. As a personal aside, this is one of the reasons why I have written in so much detail about Trump and his ambitions, and about Xi’s and his as well, even as I have pursued their stories for more strictly business systems and economics related reasons too.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next installment, as promised above, with a more explicit focus on Trump and Xi and their stories. And I will turn to more fully consider Xi next, at least to start, adding one more key term to this outline discussion of the authoritarian playbook as a whole: trust, or rather the abnegation of even a possibility of holding trust in anyone or anything outside of self for a would-be authoritarian. Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2. And 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.

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 14

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on March 7, 2019

This is my 14th installment to a series on cyber risk and cyber conflict in a still emerging 21st century interactive online context, and in a ubiquitously social media connected context and when faced with a rapidly interconnecting internet of things among other disruptively new online innovations (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 354 and loosely following for Parts 1-13.)

I have been discussing a briefly stated list of topics points in this series in recent installments, that I repeat here as I continue to explore its issues:

1. I offered and then began expanding upon a basic if perhaps simplistic outline of a problem that we are all increasingly facing as new cyber technologies and new ways of using them, are turned to societally disruptive purposes, and in ways that are seemingly impossible to address proactively – leaving only more reactive, catch-up alternatives. That seeming impossibility of advancing cyber-security to a more proactive footing, has at least become an all but axiomatically assumed starting point for thought and action and for essentially all actively involved parties in this.
2. And I outlined an at least preliminary cartoon-formatted approach to addressing that challenge, which I have already indicated to be inadequate and certainly for moving past reactive responses, from how it limits consideration of the levels and types of organizational involvement that might be required.
3. And I have offered at least a brief list of working example case studies for discussion in this context. As a part of that, I have already raised and selectively discussed Stuxnet and its use in an attack against Iran’s nuclear weapons development program in Part 12. I cited and discussed that action for how it in effect redefined the acceptable, and the strategically and operationally achievable and for all possible future users of cyber-weapons and certainly as possible tools of diplomatic leverage.

Building from that cautionary note as to what is to come in all of this, I began discussing Russia and its activities in this arena of activity too, as a second case study example (see Part 13.) And my primary goal for this posting is to continue and build upon its narrative.

I offered Russia and its history, or at least a focused, selective perspective on it to illustrate a crucially important point that I will come to build the ultimate conclusions of this series around, which I restate and at least somewhat expand upon here as:

• It is inherently impossible to step ahead of unfolding events and address cyber-threats proactively if you only focus on what adversaries and potential adversaries do and have done. If you limit yourself that way, you wait until they have already at least in large part completed developing the weaponized cyber-capabilities that they might deploy against you, your allies or both. And you have also probably waited until they have at least test-used those new capabilities and in at least limited real, live-fire exercises too.
• “Proactive” here, as a matter of security due diligence and risk management, fundamentally requires an ongoing proactive effort to understand the reasoning and motivation that might lead an adversary or potential adversary to pursue cyber-weapons technologies and their use in the first place. (And I note that this applies to the development and possible use of any other weapons capabilities, and certainly any unconventional ones.)
• If you know what concerns and fears drive them, that can and will offer you insight into their likely perceived threat-response doctrines and their more likely approaches taken for fulfilling them.

I wrote in Part 13 of Russia’s centuries-long fears of external aggressors and invasions. That is an important part of their overall nationally framed and supported narrative. Understanding that is crucial to understanding much of their foreign policy, and from well before the advent of communism on through to today. It explains, for example, why and I add how they have chosen to control neighboring states as vassals and more specifically as protective buffer zones that would obey their dictates, and with at least efforts in that direction going back to well before the dawn of communism too. And in its current iteration and expression, that narrative goes far to explain Russia’s underlying reasons and rationales as to why and how they would develop and pursue cyber-weapons now, among other tools of influence and persuasion, and of deterrence too as they deem that necessary. And their awareness of this, their history explains a lot as to when and where they might consider use of such capabilities too, and at what scales of use.

But an awareness and understanding of this basic background narrative on the part of potential recipients of such action, can only serve as an orienting starting point for understanding what Russia’s government would do and seek to do, and how, in our current here and now. I turn here to at least begin to address the issues and questions of how Russia’s current leadership has come to use this historical narrative and its imperatives, in shaping their own particular policies and their execution. And ultimately, this means my bringing Vladimir Putin and his personal history into this series discussion too.

In anticipation of that discussion to come, I add a fourth bullet point to my above-offered rationale for the What and Why of cyber-weapons and their possible use, as have become tools of statecraft for the Putin government:

• Understanding the basic historical narrative that underlies the What and Why of action and activity as briefly outlined in this series in Part 13, can only be a first step in actually predictively anticipating possible future action, or even for just trying to more fully understand what has recently been done and what might be done reactively next. You need to know and understand how that narrative and its lessons learned have been shaped and organized leading up to our current here-and-now, by Russia’s current leadership. More specifically, you need to know and understand Russia’s current leader: Vladimir Putin and his thinking, and how he would use the rationale-driving narratives that he has at his disposal as he formulates and carries through on his plans, aspirations and desires and as he responds to his own fears in all of this.

In the post-Soviet Russia that has held sway there since at least 2012, this means bringing Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin into this case study example and its analysis as a source of insight into more general principles. And this means both discussing the basic historical narrative of invasion and threat of it as Putin himself has witnessed it in his own life and discussing how that has shaped his more personal thinking and his own personal goals prioritization too. And it also means my offering at least a perspective on how the alchemy of Putin’s own personal goals and ambitions have in turn shaped his understanding of his country’s ongoing larger historical narrative too, and how he would seek to proactively respond to that through his own decisions and actions.

I, for the most part, ended my Part 13 Russian history summary with World War II and Nazi Germany’s devastating attacks on the Russian motherland. And as part of that narrative, I made note of how Russia took control over Eastern Europe and its nations, coming out of World War II, turning them collectively into a single shield-like buffer zone that came to be known as the Warsaw Pact, and with Moscow gaining and retaining positive control over the governments and territories and resources of those vassal states through active presence and involvement of their military and their state security system: their Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB), as de-facto operational managers and “advisors.”

Creation of the Warsaw Pact and a confluence of fears coming from both the Soviet and Western allies’ sides of the now palpable divide between East and West in Europe, coming out of a just-ended World War II led directly to the start of a new, Cold War. And that is the world that shaped Vladimir Putin and that helped to shape all that he has done and all that he has sought to do and from his childhood on.

It is part and parcel of communist doctrine, as based upon its foundational interpretation of history and its trends, that it is the ultimate, perfect sociopolitical and economic system that could be attained, and that it is inevitable that all other forms of societal order and governance will in time be supplanted by it as societies progressively pass through and come to reject less functionally perfect, precursor evolutionary phases of possible social order. And capitalism, according to this ideological, and I add de-facto religious paradigm is simply a penultimate step that nations and their peoples would go through before arriving at what communism’s founders envisioned as their idealized state of sociopolitical perfection: a communist led and shaped workers’ paradise.

The governments of the West saw and heard this rhetoric, and they saw a post-World War II Soviet empire swallowing up Eastern Europe as their taking a giant step towards fulfilling this vision: a vision of global communist conquest and dominance. And in fact while many in Russia, including many in positions of real power and authority there, where probably more cynical about this vision than they were believers in it, and while they primarily used that ideological narrative for purposes of their own personal advancement, many in that country: including members of their national leadership, were in fact true believers in this orthodoxy.

Put cartoonishly simplistically, Russians took control of Eastern Europe as a protective barrier out of fear that the nations of the West would invade them, and certainly if their governments were to learn how weakened the Soviet Union really was coming out of World War II and Nazi Germany’s invasions of their territories. Their nation – their peoples and territories had been invaded way too many times, and largely from the West not to be compellingly driven by this fear. And the West saw the action-taken consequences of that fear and reacted from a corresponding fear of their own too – of a Russia on the move with ambitions towards hegemony over all of Europe and beyond as well. The West responded at least in part to this widely perceived threat by organizing together in response to it, through the founding and build-up of their North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which Russia immediately came to see as validating their most basic underlying fears in all of this. And the Cold War started and the only reason, in all probability that it remained a cold war and not a militarily invasive World War III was that the invention and development of nuclear weapons brought the leadership of both sides: East and West to see direct military conflict as suicidal for all.

That is the world that Vladimir Putin was born into and it is the world that he grew up in and was shaped by. And in this context I have to make specific note of how the conflict between East and West that I write of here, rapidly became global as both sides sought influence and gain in Africa and Asia and Latin America, and with the advent of a communist Cuba just 90 miles off of the United States coast just one of many sore points that arose from all of this, on the West’s side of this conflict.

• A commonly cited starting point for the eruption of the Cold War can be traced to 1946 and George F. Kennan’s so called X Article, or “Long Telegram,” as sent to Washington from his diplomatic assignment in Moscow. That document and its reasoning formed the basis for the containment policy that the United States and their allies pursued throughout the Cold War for limiting Soviet ambitions – or at least their expansionist expression of them.
• Vladimir Putin was born on October 7, 1952 at a time when the Cold War was in fact heating up. Soviet backed support for a newly emerging communist North Korea, as led by Kim Il Sung, had led to the outbreak of what in the West is referred to as the Korean War, with Chinese communist forces joining in and supporting their communist North Korean allies in this conflict in October, 1950 and with that conflict still very actively continuing until a cease fire was finally achieved for it – not a peace treaty: just a cease fire, in July 1953.
• Explicitly looking to young Putin’s childhood years and the years immediately preceding it, the Berlin blockade and the Berlin airlift, and the building of the Berlin wall as a kill zone barrier for stopping defectors from the east to the West, all had to have had an impact upon him, as did a great many other points of friction and confrontation between East and West as presented in Pravda (Правда) and other government vetted and controlled Soviet era news sources.
• And in the United States, Senator Joseph McCarthy was actively conducing his anti-communist witch hunts, using his position of power in the US Congress to create and advance his own personal political ambitions.
• And in Russia, Joseph Stalin continued to exert his undisputed leadership and a cult of personality that had brought him all but god-like stature and authority among his people.
• This is the world that a young Vladimir Putin grew up in, with implacable, remorseless foes surrounding his country and with a leader who had achieved seemingly absolute power, authority and support in leading Russia, serving as his formative role model.

I am going to continue this narrative in my next series installment where I will discuss Putin and his story, and where I will of necessity also discuss the 45th president of the United States: Donald Trump and his relationship with Russia’s leadership in general and with Putin in particular. And in anticipation of this dual narrative to come, that will mean my discussing Russia’s cyber-attacks and the 2016 US presidential election, among other events. Then, as promised above, I will turn to consider China and North Korea and their current cyber-policies and practices, and current and evolving cyber-policies and practices as they are taking shape in the United States as well, as shaped by its war on terror among other motivating considerations.

My goal in all of that is to use these case study examples to more fully explore and discuss the issues raised in topics Points 1 and 2 from the above list, and with a goal of offering at least a perspective on resolving the challenges that they offer as above-written. And I will do so both as I develop and offer my case study examples here, and as I summarize what could be considered lessons-learnable from them.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And you can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 14

Posted in book recommendations, social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 4, 2019

This is my 14th installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-13.)

I began working my way through a briefly stated to-address topics list in Part 12 that I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative, as I continue that process:

1. Reconsider the basic issues of communications and information sharing and their disintermediation in light of the trends and possibilities that I have been writing of in this series, and certainly since its Part 6 where I first started to more explicitly explore insider versus outside employee issues here.
2. Begin that with a focus on the human to human communications and information sharing context.
3. And then build from that to at least attempt to anticipate a complex of issues that I see as inevitable challenges as artificial agents develop into the gray area of capability that I made note of earlier in this series (n.b. in Part 11). More specifically, how can and should these agents be addressed and considered in an information communications and security context? In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I will at least raise the possibility there, that businesses will find themselves compelled to confront the issues of personhood and of personal responsibility and liability for gray area artificial agents, and early in that societal debate. And the issues that I raise and discuss in this series will among other factors, serve as compelling bases for their having to address that complex of issues.

I have offered an at least starting point discussion of the first of those points in Part 12, along with offering a general framework (in Part 13 for more fully considering the above Points 2 and 3. My goal here is to at least begin to more fully explore the issues and at least a few of the complexities of Points 2 and 3. And I do so beginning with the already know, if rapidly changing arena of Point 2 and the human to human context.

• People: human people are essentially always presumed at least by default to be free agents who are capable of independent reasoning and decision making. This assumption enters into determinations of legal responsibility, and of moral and ethical and interpersonal responsibility in general.
• That does not mean that all people are, or are always assumed to be living and functioning in contexts and circumstances that would afford them with a range of achievable options for what they would do, as conceived by them on the basis of such reasoning. That does not mean that they would always have achievable options or opportunities for fulfilling their preferences or even just their basic needs as they understand and conceive them. Outside circumstantial constraints can and do limit range of action and even entirely so at times. But people are in general presumed – and once again as an initial default assumption if nothing else, to be able to think, reason and understand as independently capable beings and even if they do not face realistic opportunity to carry through on their considered and preferred plans and intentions.
• Stepping back from a more constrained business context, to explore exceptions to the above presumptions in general: the classical exceptions to this as a default starting point arise when individuals have been found to be mentally ill or otherwise cognitively limited, as for example from short-term anesthesia during and immediately after surgery, or from longer term dementia or other medically defined brain injury.
• I raised the specter in Part 13, of directed and even highly focused psychopharmaceutical and related interventions as are now becoming possible as next-step threats to any such presumable independence and individuality. But I have to acknowledge here that this only represents a next stage development in an already evolved and developed coercive potential. I cite by way of admittedly extreme example, brainwashing and its long and established history, with such coercive interventions often labeled in a more bowdlerized terms with names such as re-education. These are the tools of authoritarian systems that seek to control both the dialog and all that might arise from it, by absolutely controlling any and all possible participants.
• I also cite, by way of already actively acknowledged example, the Stockholm syndrome with its perception and judgment reshaping impact.
• My point here, still approaching these issues in their more general context, is that outside influence and even coercive, options limiting and eliminating forces and influences can and do arise and occur already. And they can be crudely overt they can be or subtle and less easily defined for their scope and influence, leading to impact that can be hard to fully identify let alone specifically challenge.
• Consider as a working example there, entire communities and even large parts or more of entire nations that have very limited, single perspective news coverage, and with strict editorial control limiting what they can and cannot be exposed to as children and young adults in school, in the textbooks that they would see and learn from and in classroom discussion allowed. This challenge can even arise, and certainly in specific areas of potential thought and discussion in “advanced” nations and democracies. I cite by way of example, politically mandated and enforced restrictions against teaching about evolution and other ideology-challenging science topics in public schools, and equally stridently stated pressures against sex education in the classroom. This same stultifying, information and communications limiting approach can be and in at least some places is actively pursued in how history is presented and taught, and in the teaching of essentially any and every other topic that some in positions of authority would find offensive or challenging to their own belief systems and their own power prerogatives.
• So returning to the first bullet point of this list, my starting statement that “people are essentially always presumed at least by default to be free agents who are capable of independent reasoning and decision making” might be true, but only if those individuals are free from outside coercive pressure, and if they have free and unencumbered access to as wide a range of information and opinion as possible.
• And with that, and as an intentionally sobering note, I cite a cautionary reference that I initially offered in a more strictly political context, leading up to the 2016 US presidential elections: Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs. I wrote there of epistemic bubbles, and the barriers to exposure to differing perspective or challenging fact that they create. Our very enabling online tools that in principle would open our eyes and our minds wider possibilities and remove our decision making blinders, can become among the principle sources of those limiting blinders that we face today. And these at least in part self-imposed blinders are only going to become more and more pressingly important as we proceed into this 21st century.

What I am doing here is to reframe the above repeated Point 2 for the challenges that we all face in having effective access to the information that we need, with all of its breadth and diversity of source and perspective. And I write here of our coming to have the wherewithal to be well enough and widely enough informed to be able to communicate as effectively as possible, and with a real awareness of the background information and other limitations that we might still face in that, where we may have to look further in gathering in our own essential background information that we would require going into the decisions we reach and the actions that we would seek to pursue.

I have just offered a wide ranging and I have to add a dire outline of some of the coercive and limiting possibilities that we all potentially face, in my bullet pointed notes leading up to here. I justify that inclusiveness here, at least in part by paraphrasing a well known and variously stated sentiment: “no one can be freer than he or she who is most enslaved.”

As for addressing this wider ranging set of problems and potential problems in this more constrained and limited business communications system discussion, I have seen open and collaborative businesses and authoritarian ones that rule from above and by threat and by following through on that threat through coercive action. And history has seen significant levels of coercive pressure applied in business settings, and toxically so, as well as a great many positive and affirmative examples that would validate the fact that such coercive force need not be resorted to in order to achieve real success: success that can in fact come to accrue to all involved parties.

See:

• Freeman, J.A. (2018) Behemoth: a history of the factory and the making of the modern world. W.W. Norton & Company.

for a historically framed narrative on the history of factories and of giant factories and factory systems, as a source of specific examples of how decision making and understanding-limiting pressures and their outcomes can arise, with that reference work focusing primarily on challenges faced here. I have to add with that in mind, that while I have worked with a significant number of businesses that encourage, support and enable their hands-on staff and managers, I have also worked with at least a few businesses where I have seriously come to wonder if some of the managers and others who I have worked with there, were at least in part victims of the Stockholm syndrome or at least a milder form of it, from how they have in effect sought to justify what should be unacceptable behavior shown towards themselves and their colleagues.

I moved on quickly from such consulting assignments and certainly when I saw that I could not positively influence change in those business systems on this, but I do remember them as among the most pressingly important sources of lessons learned that I have experienced.

But setting aside overt thought control certainly, and the above cited Stockholm syndrome examples as well, as overly extreme examples for most real-world business management and business communications contexts, I will focus from here on in this narrative on the more gray area possibilities that I have also made note of in the above discussion-framing foundation note.

• As the current impasses that we all face serve to illustrate, and both in the United States and elsewhere in our being able to carry out meaningful political dialog, those limiting restrictions can and do have real impact too. And they impact upon our businesses and our work lives too, as well as every other aspect of our lives.

And with that offered I will turn in my next installment to this series, to consider a more normative if not always fully openly functional, strictly business systems and business communications context for the issues I have raised here. I will at least briefly explore that set of issues in its Point 2 human to human context in my next series installment, noting in anticipation of Point 3 discussion to come that:

• It is never going to be possible to achieve freer or more open and enabling possibilities when dealing with and accommodating the needs of genuinely artificial general intelligence agents, than we can achieve and maintain when dealing with other human people. (Here think of gray area agents as discussed in Part 11 and as noted again above, as being akin to special needs people for both their capabilities and their limitations.)
• And any limiting restrictions that we impose in that as humans acting upon other humans, will with time probably most likely come back to haunt us when and as it is those artificial general intelligence agents arise and begin to work out how best for them to deal with human intelligences and our needs.

I will address at least a few visibly-likely issues regarding openness and inclusion in decision-related dialogs and the decision making process in discussion here to come, there focusing on issues that are essentially certain to rise up for their realized importance in the coming years. And then I will address Point 3, as noted above, there focusing in on a more business-specific context, just as I will in the next installment to this series in an above Point 2 context.

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 also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 28

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 1, 2019

This is my 28th posting to a series on tactical and strategic planning under real world constraints, and executing in the face of real world challenges that are caused by business systems friction and the systems turbulence that it creates (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, Page 4 and their Page 5 continuation, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-27.)

I have been addressing a set of topics points since Part 19, that collectively raise closely related issues that become important in any business, and certainly when it is facing change and a need to effectively navigate it:

1. More systematically discuss how business operations would differ for businesses that follow one or the other of two distinctively different business models (see Part 19 through Part 21 for a selectively detailed outline and discussion of those businesses),
2. How the specific product offering decision-making processes that I have been making note of here would inform the business models pursued by both of these business types, and their overall strategies and operations and their views and understandings of change: linear and predictable, and disruptively transitional in nature (see Part 22 through Part 25.)
3. And I added that I would discuss how their market facing requirements and approaches as addressed here, would shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among involved stakeholders as to where their business is now and where it should be going, and how.

My primary goal for Part 26 was to recapitulate and summarize a perspective to my approach for addressing the above Points 1 and 2, and with a goal of addressing some real world impediments that founding teams can encounter as they seek to understand and resolve the challenges and opportunities they face in their collectively managed business. I explicitly stress “collectively managed” and its implications there, and even when a business venture has a chief executive officer leader who is always going to make any finalizing decisions. In that, I only assume here that even they would need to achieve some level of more overall buy-in when working with other stakeholders who they and their business have to be able to depend upon.

Then I built from that organizing summary, as a new starting point for this developing narrative, in Part 27, where I reformulated the above Point 3 in more explicit communications and negotiating terms and from an assumption that they would at least be achievable. My reformulated Point 3 coming out of that was:

• Point 3 (take 2): … And I added that I would discuss how a combination of stakeholder-held perspectives and understandings of the business as a whole, as shaped by their own more individual work responsibilities and perspectives there, would in turn shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among them as to where their business is now as a whole and where it should be going, and how, as those individuals arrive at mutually agreeable accommodations that would balance overall business needs and their own individual stakeholder needs.

My goal for this posting is to continue addressing that topics point, as so reformulated. And I begin doing so by citing a separate series that I have been concurrently developing alongside this one, that explicitly discusses negotiations and negotiating processes in the workplace: Dissent, Disagreement, Compromise and Consensus, as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, as postings 484 and following.

Most of what I have offered in that series and this, at least up to now, has been predicated on an assumption that people have relatively consistent views, opinions, priorities and goals in their own thoughts and plans. I updated my above Point 3 as a topic point to essentially require, for purposes of this narrative, that any conversations and any negotiations entered into here, have a significant chance for success as all involved have sufficiently open minds to allow for that possibility.

I at least begin my continuation of this Point 3 (as reformulated) discussion by raising and questioning that consistency assumption too, and by raising two principles that might both illuminate inconsistencies there, and help resolve them: “education”, and “shared insight.” But let’s start with the basic underlying issues and then consider those more-resolution oriented terms and what they would bring to this discussion, next.

I raise here and challenge one more assumption that I built into the above Point 3 and both as originally stated and as “take 2” reformulated: the question of organized consistency in the thinking and decision making of the individual stakeholders involved as they participate in developing the overall strategy followed and its overall execution. The key term that I would cite here is cognitive dissonance. And I would argue, and certainly from my own experience and from observing others, that the primary cause of the simultaneously held points of disagreement that lead to it stem from provisional thinking: incomplete thinking through of the issues involved, as points of disagreement and of prioritization still have to be fully identified and considered by the individuals involved. And when individual stakeholders involved in a decision making process here, cannot consistently, clearly make up their own minds on pertinent issues involved, this whole negotiating process as discussed here can break down, and certainly when undecideds hold gatekeeper or key decision making responsibilities (and on either a necessary What or How basis.)

• Can people hew long-term and adamantly to internal inconsistencies and even stridently so? Yes and I have had to deal with this challenge as proof of that, at least for me, and on a number of occasions. But I would simply classify this as resistance to facing unpleasant and undesired disconnects and inconsistencies and the consequences their acknowledgment would compel – and particularly when that would by ripple effect challenge fondly held beliefs or opinions.
• I assume here that the individuals involved in these negotiations are capable of and willing to reach at least a measure of agreement and consistency in their own thoughts and perspectives that they would bring to the table for any discussions that would take place.

The challenges that I write of here can and do arise in both reactive and proactive planning and particularly when involved participants need more information if they are to sort out their own internal uncertainties and differences, and when where they might feel pressed for time in that. And that noted, I add that:

• The more novel and divergent from standard and expected, a planned change or its building block decisions and actions would be,
• The less certain its execution steps and their benchmarks would be,
• And the more likely it is that people involved would focus more on intended goals and less on the how of reaching them, the more likely it becomes that this type of internal disagreement will arise. (Think of this third bullet point as representing one of the sometimes traps of “big picture” thinking, where at least some effective consideration of the underlying details is always going to prove essential.)

Together, these points and their underlying issues all make cognitive dissonance and its underlying causes, both more likely to arise and a lot less easy to characterize and address in any given specific-instance, case in point example, and with all of the potential for goals, process steps, scheduling and prioritization collisions that that can bring. (Think of this assertion as representing one of the challenges of being too close to a problem, as in being too caught up in it – and think of it as the flip side to my just stated assertion of the danger of taking too much of a “big picture” approach. This paragraph raises the possibility of getting too lost in the details too.)

I am going to continue this discussion of Point 3 issues in a next installment, where I will allow for both firmly held (but internally consistent held) points of disagreement between involved stakeholders, and the possibility that key stakeholders have not been able to consistently make up their own minds yet. And I will explicitly address this complex of possibilities in proactive and reactive terms. And yes, I will at least begin to address all of this from a remediative perspective and in terms of “education”, and “shared insight.” In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, any such positive resolution can depend entirely on developing an open and non-confrontational setting and one where the people involved can think out loud and discuss provisional possibilities, and ask and answer questions freely in doing so.

Then as promised in Part 26, I will discuss the issues that I have been raising here from the above Point 1 on, from a larger context than that of the individual business and its stakeholders, where individual businesses enter into larger supply chain and related collaborations, and as businesses seek to operate in larger contexts in general. And I will return to my initial case study examples as I complete this discussion thread to tie this developing narrative together as a more organized whole.

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.

Rethinking exit and entrance strategies 31: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 21

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 26, 2019

This is my 31st installment to a series that offers a general discussion of business transitions, where an organization exits one developmental stage or period of relative strategic and operational stability, to enter a fundamentally different next one (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 559 and loosely following for Parts 1-30.)

I have been working my way through a to-address list of topics since Part 28 that I continue discussing here, where I will primarily focus on its Points 4 and 5 (with more added regarding Point 3 as it sets the stage for all that follows it):

1. Reserves as a cost because they represent assets and in fact liquid assets that cannot be turned to and used, except in what might be more emergency situations – and the need for larger reserves as risk increases: a situation that arises when facing the novelty and the unknowns as would be found in true transitions.
2. Changes in goals and scope of action, and in the level of detail of processes under consideration that have to be monitored, and how that overall form of course correction can be intentionally proactively sought out and developed, and how it can be reactively forced upon a business and its leadership.
3. And in a more strictly project context, or at least in more strictly project-oriented terms: consider scope creep and scope expansion in general, and its opposite with scope compression and simplification where details are dropped and goals reduced …
4. With and without organized, strategically aware planning and forethought to back such decisions.
5. I added that I would discuss these issues at least in part in terms of goals and priorities collisions, where more strictly cash flow and financial considerations, and risk and benefits considerations, and overall business goals can all come into conflict and even direct collision with each other. And my goal there is to at least begin to offer some approaches for both better understanding these scenarios and their dynamics, and better addressing and resolving them. And then after addressing all of that, at least for purposes of this series, I will proceed to reconsider exit and entrance strategies per se again, this time from the perspective of this developing narrative.

I add in the context of reiterating this overall topics list, and in anticipation of what is to come in this overall narrative, that I have already at least begun laying a framework for discussing the last of those topics points in immediately preceding series installments, as all of the issues included in the list as a whole are functionally interconnected in actual business practice. And they come together in its last, fifth topics point.

Starting for now with Point 4 (as framed for its area of focused consideration in Point 3), this posting might in one sense just be seen as offering just another briefly stated thought piece that would compare systematically planned out and structured strategy and operations, to a more loosely defined and executed ad hoc management style. But my goal here is to take a somewhat different approach to addressing that general topics area than I have usually pursued in this blog. And I begin so by noting a crucially important point that I have touched upon on other occasions, and that can at times seem at variance to my more general “structured and organized is intrinsically better and certainly long-term, than ad hoc and off the cuff.”

• Structured and organized is in general intrinsically better and certainly long-term, than ad hoc and off the cuff …
• BUT it can become just as much a trap and a source of problems as unconsidered ad hoc can be, when structured and organized means rigidly inflexible and in the face of change and its demands for resiliency.

The above Point 3 sets the stage for what I would address here when delving into Point 4 and its issues. And it does so in a manner that compels my offering the above two bullet point formatted caveat for what is to follow here. Point 3 is all about change in what a business does and how, and in what it would seek to focus on as core to its needs as it seeks to fulfill its business model. And Point 4 raised the challenge of threading the needle between what might in their less considered and more extreme forms be alternative, competing failure options: finding the right blend of standardized and even rote, and flexible and adaptable.

My goal here is to take finding that balance at least somewhat out of the abstract, by way of a series of strategic planning due diligence questions, that would be reality checked by ongoing operational performance results as input, and that would in turn serve to fine tune what the business does and how, and with what step-by-step processes, and with what goals and priorities that they would point to. And this, of course, brings Point 5 into this narrative too and very directly so.

Let’s start this overall discussion from a broad brushstroke, high level perspective and with two basic questions. The first is:

• What is the overall goal of the business model in place? (Note: this is not a trivial question; answering it is not just an exercise in blowing the dust off of an old and even original business plan document from this business’ founding to repeat whatever was offered there. This is a question of what they business does now in practice and with what actual current goals and priorities.)

Think of this as both a What and a How question, with that dual focus covering both what the business would bring to market as its value creating and value defining products and/or services, and How operationally it would sustainably achieve that What goal.

And the second, and I have to add closely connected question is:

• How can the business most effectively realize that first question’s defining goals, in the face of the often competing demands and pressures of its marketplace, and the push-back and pressures of its competition?

Scope change, whether expansive or contracting in nature or both with a more complex rebalancing taking place, arises at several levels and in ways that comprehensively touch upon all of the issues that those two basic questions raise. And as recurringly discussed in this blog, all of that takes place in the absence of anything like perfect information or perfect communications capabilities and even for just making best use of what information is effectively available in any given here and now, where and as it would be most needed.

• How can a business and its leaders find a best balance for them and their needs between the more rigidly standardized of formally planned out and executed operational systems, and the types of spontaneity that the truly disruptively novel demands?

This leads me directly to the core issues raised in the above Point 5, and the challenge of both knowing and balancing competing priorities and needs, and both as they arise as near-term versus longer-term considerations and as they play out within single timeframes.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will complete, at least for purposes of this series, my discussion of Point 4 and at least begin to more directly discuss Point 5. In anticipation of that, I offered a few higher level business planning and management-oriented questions in this posting, but I have not begun to dig down from there into the more business-specific questions that they would, or at least should compel. Addressing Point 5 means delving into the details, and into more business-specific questions and particularly where it is not possible to quickly resolve them as a matter of complete and unambiguous agreement among involved stakeholders. Addressing Point 5 is also about knowing and considering underlying assumptions held, where such uniform agreement might mean everyone sees a same effective path forward on some set of issues, but where that might also mean everyone is marching in lockstep towards a cliff edge too. Perspective and width of vision, and a willingness to face and even question what might even be established tried and true, become important there.

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.

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