Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 25 – the jobs and careers context 24

This is my 25th 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 1-24.)

I actively began addressing the issues that I would consider in this series, after an initial orienting Part 1, with a focus on finding and landing a new job and on the initial new hire probationary period that would follow that. Then I turned in Part 24 to consider more general contexts and issues that call for negotiating and related supportive skills, and of types that can and do arise throughout an employment tenure with a particular business or other organization. And I offered an at least initial starter list of scenarios that can and with time will arise and for many if not most employees and regardless of their level or type of responsibility there: hands-on non-managerial, or senior executive or somewhere in between. One of the key issues that that starter list touched upon and explicitly so, was job change and both through promotion and vertical shift up the table of organization, and more lateral shift – which might or might not serve as prelude to promotion too.

To clarify what I am doing here, and with some specific feedback in mind that I have received from earlier postings to this series as I do so, my focus in this is on jobs and work opportunities that you would want and that you would actively seek out, and both for working with a particular employer and for advancing through the ranks there, according to your abilities and your desires insofar as you can shape what transpires there from your actions and from how effectively you can communicate them. To be more specific, I offered a separate series in this blog and in its Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development that does in fact address the issues and challenges of difficult and problematical work places and working environments, where an emphasis might be more on staying or leaving, but with open eyes and a deeper awareness and understanding of the possibilities that you might face. For that, see: Should I Stay or Should I Go? as can be found at Page 3 of that Guide, as its postings 416-458. And see in particular, in that context, that series’ Parts 2-11. Subsequent series installments as offered there, focus more on “should stay” possibilities, successively examining a progression of differing workplace possibilities that you might seek employment at, as starter resources for considering how they might be good fits for you. Parts 2-11 explicitly raise and address the at least perhaps “should go” side to all of that.

This noted, I turn to and repeat my Part 24 starter topics list for moving forward in this portion of this series:

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 – see my Should I stay or Go series, among other resources already in place here (as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3),
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.

And I explicitly turn to consider the above-repeated Scenario 1 that I began that list with, and scope shift if not always explicit expansive scope creep in what you are required to do as core responsibilities in your job, and how resources allowed for that might or might not change accordingly too. And let’s begin considering this from the perspective of what you would do, and then consider resources that you could turn to for that, in this type of shifting context.

At least as a starting point, it does not matter for purposes of this discussion what specifically leads to the types of work requirement changes that I raise here.

• Businesses evolve and change in what they do in fulfilling their basic business model, and change and evolve as a result of that in both the technology and the business processes that they have to have carried out. As a result of that, they have to be able to adapt to and build new ways and new priorities into themselves for what they do and how, operationally, and both to meet internal business needs and in response to marketplace change with its shifts in what their customers and potential customers demand. This leads to changes in what employees there have to do and in what they have to be able to do as far as their hands-on skills and experience are concerned.
• Overall workloads can shift, with that usually meaning “expand” and certainly as a business grows.
• And headcount does not always keep up with the changes that either of those two bullet points cover, meaning a same employee base already in place having to do new things and increased levels of already-held task responsibilities as well.
• People leave and are not always replaced – once again meaning employees in place having to do more, and at times with their doing what is at least new to them there too as a part of that.
• Project work can lead to ongoing new standard practice tasks and responsibilities, as can taking on new types of clients as the business shifts and evolves what it does and what it offers to market.
• And I have only touched upon a few of the possibilities here for how work responsibility scope creep and shift can happen, leaving for last, at least for now the consequences of a well known adage: “no good deed goes unpunished.” The best employees in a team, who perform the most effectively and consistently so can find themselves facing new work requirements – and precisely because those new requirements are considered important and of high priority and because they are very good at their jobs.
• But the Why of this does not really matter here, at least for now in this discussion – just the What of it, and for purposes of this series, the How best to respond to and manage this change so as to keep it manageable and effectively so for you.
• One of my early postings in this blog comes forcefully to mind for me as I write this: A Critique of the Peter Principle – career as a series of growth and transition phases. I had issues and possibilities of the type that I raise and address here in this series in mind as one source of the problems that employees can come to face, when writing that posting. I strongly recommend you’re reading that as supplemental to this discussion.

So let’s approach this from the Why perspective, by simply noting that the tasks that you are expected to carry out and required to do, are all viewed as important to your own direct immediate supervisor there. And the more significant of them from that perspective might very well be of real importance in the thinking of their supervisor too, and even higher up on the table of organization as well – at least as general considerations that your particular work responsibilities would actively support and enable.

Together and only considering the issues raised in this discussion up to here, this all means adding more to your to-do list and quite possibly with no accommodations made to make that more possible for you, let alone easier. And that is where negotiations enter this narrative:

• And for what you might set aside from your current work responsibilities as you take on new,
• 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 will turn to this complex of issues in my next installment to this series, building from this posting’s foundational start to that, there.

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.

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 17

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 17, 2019

This is my 17th installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape the product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 342 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

I have been discussing the issues and the interactive dynamics of global flattening and opening up, and of resistance to that and its concomitant at-least-local wrinkling in this series, since Part 14. And I have pursued that complex of issues here, with a specific goal of shedding light on innovation and its acceptance, or failure to achieve that as the case may be, and in a business cycle context. Ultimately, businesses function in larger contexts then themselves and certainly where the comparative pressures of innovative competition play out, so consideration of both within-house and externally faced contexts, is necessary there.

That narrative thread as begun, developed and presented up to here, has led me to a more innovation-oriented list of to-address points that I raised at the end of Part 16, and that I will begin discussing here, noting that I expect to add at least a few additional details to it as I proceed:

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

I begin addressing the issues raised in that list with consideration of Point 1 and its question, and by offering a basic perhaps simplest case definition of what innovation is and of what that word means. Innovation is change. And to be more specific but still as open-endedly inclusive as possible here as to overall meaning:

• Innovation is change that at least someone might realistically be expected to see as creating at least some new source or level of value, however small, at least by their standards and criteria.

And that can in its broadest sense mean anything from minor cosmetic change with whatever ephemeral bump in perceived marketable value that might entail, through to include game changing disruptive New that might in time come to be worth billions of dollars and more.

Simple cosmetic change: what might be called in-name-only innovation for it paucity of value-added scale, does not challenge the perception or the understanding of a viewer, and certainly if they do not start out resistant to change at all. It might not prompt them to run out and buy, but it does not necessarily repel and engender resistance to change or to New either. It does not as such, in this simplest form, challenge or even call for a conscious consideration of one’s world view or one’s beliefs and on anything.

Truly disruptive innovative change, on the other hand, does by its very nature force a viewer to look at their underlying assumptions and presumptions, at least for whatever arenas of experience that accepting and using this New would impact upon for them. And the more disruptive a change, the wider the range of a viewer’s underlying implicit assumptions that this New would force to their attention – and with any such forced attention always carrying with it an at-least implicit challenge to that currently held belief system and to how they currently act in its regard.

I put this in starkly extreme terms for a reason, which I will make explicit use of in what follows, as I shift for the moment from considering Point 1 of the above list, to consider its Point 2. What I just did and very intentionally so, was to conflate:

• The resistance to, to acceptance of process that different demographics and their members would go through when confronted by the innovative new, as would be expected when considering a standard innovation diffusion and acceptance curve and its participants,
• And the resistance versus acceptance dynamics that would play out in a global wrinkling versus global flattening context as I have discussed here in the last several installments to this series.

Why? Because people do not clearly, analytically parse out all of the individually shaped and formed weighing factors that collectively come together to determine their level or pace of acceptance of New, as they face and have to deal with change in their lives. Ultimately, what we directly see is the cumulative outcome of analyses that tend to take place at a subconscious or at least less than fully conscious level, where more analytically framed explanations of decisions made and actions taken, tend to be after the fact rationalizations, and certainly in detail.

Given that, at least conceptually how would one distinguish between the types of acceptance and resistance patterns that arise and are contained in simple innovation diffusion curves, and the types of acceptance and resistance that would arise and be contained in a global flattening and its discontents form of context?

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will address that question and its issues, with an at least first cut answer as to how it might be addressed, and ideally at least in operational terms from a business cycle perspective. In the course of doing that, I will step back to reconsider Points 1 and 2 from the above list again. In anticipation of that discussion to come, this will mean, at least in part, a reconsideration of demographic groups and their members, and how they are behaviorally defined: from within or by outside shaping pressures or both. Then after completing that narrative line, at least for purposes of this series and this stage in it, I will continue on to consider the above Point 3 and following.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations.

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 15

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on February 14, 2019

This is my 15th installment to a series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and on carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2), postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-14.)

I have been discussing a set of issues related to information access and accessibility, and information systems security in this since Part 12, beginning with the in-principle simplest case context of the individual business and its in-house processes, practices and systems. And in the course of developing that discussion I have also very specifically, if selectively considered simple systems business-to-business contexts too, with organizationally small supply chain systems cited and examined as a source of working examples. Once again, my focus there was on information development, access and use, and its risk management based security, and with this rescaling of the contexts under consideration serving as a continuation of a single overall discussion that I had just begun in a single, within-business context.

And then at the end of Part 14, I turned to consider outside-sourced constraints on all of this, as arise in regulatory law and its rules-based implementing regulations. To bring that into focus, my goal here is not to discuss regulatory law or its implementation processes per se. It is to at least briefly and selectively touch on how businesses reshape their processes and practices when seeking to effectively function in the face of such at least potentially impactful outside influences. And once again, my focus of attention in this is on information and communications, and particularly for sensitive and confidential information where faulty practices and control failures can and do create very genuine risk.

I began addressing that complex of issues in Part 14. And I continue doing so here in what follows in this posting too, starting with an orienting set of bullet points that starts with and builds upon material included in two of the last paragraphs of that posting:

• Outside regulatory law serves to limit and shape information management, and its risk management and related due diligence oversight within individual businesses, and in any larger business-to-business collaborations that they enter into and certainly where sensitive information might be shared between them within supply chain or similar organized systems.
• While there are exceptions to this point, new regulatory controls are almost never instituted and enforced except as responses to failure on the part of businesses to effectively manage and safeguard the confidential and sensitive information of others (e.g. individually identifying customer information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers in the United States and so on that can be used for identity theft or direct financial loss.) This means regulatory law and its administratively developed regulatory rules are essentially always reactive in nature. And this means they arise for the most part, at the very least, in response to what have become publically visible, egregious failures on the part of real working businesses, as their practices impact upon real citizens, and at a level that would compel legislative response. They tend to be remediative too.
• Strictly ideologically-driven regulatory change as might arise independently from or even in defiance of such business and marketplace failure or its possibility, generally involves rolling back regulatory control and oversight as being too burdensome and as being unnecessary – at least as currently written. There is an active dynamic in place there, between pressures to add and to adhere to regulatory oversight, and pressures to limit and streamline that and let businesses oversee and manage themselves for this.
• And this dynamic serves as at least one of the underlying forces that would lead me to make a statement that I included in Part 14, that I repeat here in this posting’s emerging context. “Regulatory law is not simple and clear-cut. It is generally both complex and convoluted and in ways that can very legitimately lead to at least the appearance of possible conflicting interpretations of what is required, and even in what can best be seen as their key provisions.” I offered that point of thought in the context of distinguishing between law as developed by and passed by legislators, and the regulatory rules that seek to operationalize it. But the complexities that I noted in that here-quoted line, come from multiple sources, and from multiple sources that are often at odds with each other. (I in fact at least briefly noted a few other sources of friction and even collision in all of this, in Part 14, as for example when noting the impact of businesses having to accommodate the requirements and mandates of differing legal systems and legal jurisdictions as faced across their overall business operations, or when facing the potential for court-mandated reinterpretation of regulatory law in place in at least one of those legal systems.)
• And I finished that narrative as offered in Part 14 by noting that “…the more such constraining complexities are added in, the greater the pressure that all involved businesses will face for enacting and following pre-planned standardized operational processes here.”
• I have at least selectively discussed in this blog, both the positive value and the limiting challenges that single rules-based standards can create for a business, and certainly when dealing with the non-standard and the unplanned for and unexpected. So one way of viewing this progression of points is to see it and legitimately so, as setting up a dynamic where individual businesses (and collaborating groups of them) can become caught between competing pressures and competing requirements: one side to that calling for simple essentially one size fits all information management rules, and the other, opposing side forcing businesses to develop more complex, nuanced and flexible systems there.

And this leads me directly to the issues of developing and following a more nuanced approach to information risk management, at least as a readily turned to alternative to what might be a standard and even regimented single basic rule in place approach, as would be followed in more normative contexts. And as I noted at the very end of Part 14, this means my focusing on simplifying the table or organization and operational systems in place in the businesses involved in all of this, that this type of information management would play out in, as a due diligence necessity.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next installment, as I have just opened up a very large and a very impactfully significant area of discussion, and of controversy here. And to bring what follows into clearer focus, I will at least begin my next posting to this with a brief discussion of the what and why of developing a more complex and options-rich rules book for managing critical information sharing and communications. Then I will offer some thoughts on the how of actually developing and implementing, and managing such a system. And in the course of that, I will discuss the critical role that systems streamlining and yes: simplification can play in this, with the right participants involved in directly shaping and participating in there-allowed information sharing, and for specific information types – but no one else so allowed in, at least as direct participants.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 9.5: some thoughts concerning the nature of cults of personality

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on February 13, 2019

I have written on numerous occasions now, about Donald Trump and his rise to power in the United States and about Xi Jinping and his rise to power in China. And as a part of that I have recently offered postings on Donald Trump’s cult of personality and Xi Jinping’s.

My initial intent was to discuss cults of personality as a more general phenomenon, when more comprehensively discussing what I refer to as the authoritarian playbook in at least one still to come installment to this longer narrative. But then I received some feedback that suggested I should not wait to do that. I originally offered a more detailed note on this complex topic as a reply to a reader comment, as showed at the end of my above-cited Xi posting, but I almost immediately realized that it would more likely get lost there. So I took it out of my comments section at the end of that posting, to add it in as an addendum posting here. So I offer this as a Part 9.5 addendum installment, as originally offered as a comment reply, for more ready accessibility and to more smoothly fit it into this ongoing narrative. And here it is:

You raise an important point for when thinking about and seeking to understand people who would seek to develop cults of personality around themselves. The term “cult of personality” is more of a misnomer than anything else, as such an individual’s effort in this direction neither reflects their actual personality, nor their actual character for that matter. It certainly does not seek to depict or present an accurate image of their actual life story.

Cult of personality is all about image. A cult of personality can best be considered a carefully constructed stereotype that at closest only represents a distorted reflection of an individual’s own actual self, and their hopes, dreams and fears.

This holds as true for those who would seek authoritarian and even overtly dictatorial power, as it does for anyone who would pursue this type of mask-like self-representation. And cultivation of a true cult of personality is in fact one of the key tools in the authoritarian playbook, as it forms the front that a would-be authoritarian builds as their organizing face to such an endeavor. A cult of personality is at heart a façade and a hollow shell as such and a mask.

Crucially importantly here, you can only find one half of such a façade when you turn to and examine the individual that a cult of personality is centered around. The other, larger half of all of this can only be found when considering the people who this image reaches out to and connects with. A true cult of personality resonates with a crowd, and generally with a large one, at least as considered from the perspective of the overall community that such a would-be leader seeks to hold sway over, and its scale. So a cult of personality is a mask, a stereotypic fiction. But it is also a construct that thrives and grows and functions because it resonates with the hopes and dreams and fears, and yes the stereotypic self-images of its followers and even of vast numbers of them.

So you comment does in fact point in a valid and I have to add important direction. But it is not that these people do not have personalities; it is that they have personalities and perhaps more importantly, personal self-images that they would find challenging and self-limiting to publically share as representing their true selves. And the alternative realities that they propose and project through their cults of personality, resonate with others, at least seeming to support their particular self-identified needs too.

I have been intimating at least some of this in my recent postings to this series, and should have discussed this set of issues in more explicit detail here by now. My intent moving forward in this series is to more fully apply what I am offering here, when considering the authoritarian playbook itself in all of this, and how that approach has been followed by Xi and Trump, and others too by way of principle-clarifying example.

Thanks for your comment and for pointing out an important area of consideration here that I would add to this overall narrative, Tim

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.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 9: some thoughts concerning Xi Jinping’s cult of personality

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on February 12, 2019

I have written on numerous occasions now, about Donald Trump and his rise to power in the United States and about Xi Jinping and his rise to power in China. This is also my 9th installment to a compare-and-contrast subseries that fits into both of those ongoing narratives. I focused on Trump in Part 8 of this, on how he has sought to develop and maintain a supportive cult of personality around himself through the cultivation and development of a core group of all but fanatical supporters: his base. My goal here is to match that with a corresponding narrative as to how Xi has addressed those same basic needs and issues too, and with what are at least generically the same overall goals for himself in that too. And I begin this by stepping back, in Xi’s case, to at least briefly put this line of discussion to come, into at least something of a Why context.

Xi Jinping is a product of Mao Zedong’s excesses, and particularly of his Cultural Revolution with its spasms of political orthodoxy driven violence. He was not one of Mao’s ardent followers in this, waving his copy of the Little Red Book over his head as he charged forward. He and his family were victims of this, publically repudiated and reviled, torn from their home and thrust into the gulag of Mao’s political reeducation system.

Most who endured that, most who survived it, learned the lessons of silence and of acquiescence, and of simply going along with whatever they were told to say, do and even just think. And that pattern marked many if not most of young Xi’s entire generation. But Xi himself took another, different route, turning to the Chinese Communist Party itself and its received wisdom orthodoxies as his own best possible path forward, and upward. For him the surest and truest path to both survival and to success: to his achieving dominating success in his life, lay in his rising through the ranks of that Party system, that at its heart had created and carried out the Cultural Revolution that had humiliated and brought down his father, and that had thwarted him and his own ambitions too.

Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun, had real stature and position in the Party before his downfall in that period of ideologically driven chaos, starting with his role in Mao’s revolution as a comrade in arms who had served and fought side by side him. He was one of Mao’s early leading supporters in China’s communist revolution and a fellow survivor of the Long March with him. And that gave him and others like him, a special status and stature in the emerging Party hierarchy.

And one of the immediate consequences of this was that his son, Jinping, was born and raised at least through his early childhood as a member of China’s de facto hereditary elite and as a true Communist Party Princeling. His future as such should have been clear and bright in that system. And Jinping started out with reason to see himself as an heir apparent to future power and favored stature too, and both in the Party and in Chinese society as a whole. And young Jinping – still really just starting to grow into becoming a young man as this all happened, had ambitions and a determination to realize them. And then he was swept up in this politically driven chaos too.

I would argue that two experiential imperatives that I write of here for Xi Jinping, have together played a leading role in his becoming the man he is now, and in shaping his goals, his ambitions and his approach for realizing them that we see today:

• The expectations that he was born into and that were ripped out of his hands, and out of the hands of his father and those of his immediate family as a whole too,
• And his earliest decision to use the very same power structure that had done all of this, to both realize and exceed all that his life would have become, absent Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

So Xi assiduously sought to build a system of supportive influence and of the power that could come of that in this Party system, and from early on. He began this campaign as a still-child, just becoming a young man, when he was first pushed into what would become his new largely illiterate and technologically more primitive rural reality, as part of the political reeducation that he would experience.

A large part of his effort there, both to succeed and to excel in the midst of all of that challenge, grew from his efforts to cultivate and grow a base of networking contacts who he could turn to become his active supporters, that with time he has sought to further expand and transform into a more widely based support system and even a true cult of personality. The trials and tribulations that Xi and his father, and his family as a whole faced, and the humiliations he endured from all of this drove him, initiating and shaping all of this effort. And he has used those trials and tribulations and his life experience in rural China as a transformative narrative in reimagining himself as a true man of the people.

That is crucially important to understanding the issues that I address here. Xi presents himself as a man of the people with roots in the peasantry, and not as a member of an aloof elite: not as a Princeling, from his enforced time living in rural China and from his years of rising through the Party ranks and from the bottom rung up that ladder as he began that process there.

But what did he actually build there, starting at a local village level and moving on to what would become a larger regional, and eventually a national level? What did he actually build there that with time became his nationally expansive, nationally shared cult of personality? He learned the lessons of the same Cultural Revolution that started him on this path, and became a leading publically visible voice of challenge to anything that he could arguably present as corruption. The Cultural Revolution was a rabidly politically orthodox movement that sought out even the slightest possible deviation from political purity, as Mao viewed the Communist system that he so forcefully had brought into being in China. The Cultural Revolution was at heart a fight against corruption, real and imagined. Xi, taking a page from that playbook, sought out and still seeks out and repudiates “corruption” and both where that means misuse of Party or government office, or financial malfeasance, or politically oriented corrupt activity – and particularly where that might in some way challenge him and his position.

Xi is a man of the people, and he makes a real effort to present himself as such, and as an uncle, a grandfather figure, a respected and even venerated elder of the family as well as a leader and ruler. He has actively worked to become a beloved elder figure, worthy of and due respect in the image of the teachings of Confucius (K’ung Fu-tzu) with their society shaping relationships of power and authority and respect, and of obedience and fealty.

Xi is very specifically not a man leading the charge of a mob in any of this. His efforts are and have been organized, and organizing. A mob can take down a leader or would-be leader: any leader or would-be leader, and just as easily and just as quickly as it can elevate them. Organization and structure are needed for long term power and authority to hold. Then public support and even fanatical public support can arise and bring a power seeker to prominence and to success as a leader, and to stably secure prominence and success at that. If Xi has sought to accomplish anything in his rise to power in China it is on stability and the growth in authority that that can bring. And all of his cult of personality building and all of this more publically facing efforts and initiatives have been directed towards that purpose – and even when he is just eating dumplings at a local shop and meeting and greeting members of the public in a publicized outing.

I finish this posting’s narrative by returning back to a perhaps seemingly minor detail that I noted in passing, as I touched upon a young and impressionable Xi’s direct, jolting experience of the Cultural Revolution. I mentioned Mao’s Little Red Book: the selection of his sayings that became a veritable bible for Chinese Communism and that became a visible badge of fidelity to that vision of truth. The one thing that visibly bound together all of the shock troops: mostly of peasant birth, who actually carried out the dictates of the Cultural Revolution, was their copies of that orthodoxy-proclaiming symbol, which they did wave over their heads and certainly when attending rallies or other public demonstrations of their shared faith.

Mao wrote his Little Red Book, and essentially everyone else who has sought in some way to follow him as leader of the Communist Party in China has assembled corresponding collections of their says for public sharing too. The efforts of his successors in power in this direction, have for the most part largely gone unnoticed though and even for when they have had their moments of power and authority in China. Xi has of course had compiled a corresponding selection of his sayings too: his Little Yellow Book. And his efforts in this direction have literally been added into the People’s Republic of China’s legal code and at a constitutional level. I would argue that the contrast between his early experience of the Little Red Book, in the hands of peasant agents of the Cultural Revolution, and his development of his Little Yellow Book and incorporation of it in the very fabric of Chinese society is both telling and important. And it reflects how his early experiences have shaped and continue to shape him as the man he is now and as the leader he still seeks to become.

I will further add to this narrative in my next series installment to come. And I will also further address some of the key issues raised in Part 8 with its narrative concerning Donald Trump and his story, when I begin considering how both of these national leaders have sought to follow what I would refer to as the authoritarian playbook. And in anticipation of that, I will discuss from a Xi Jinping perspective, how he has to simultaneously reach out to both a traditional base that still holds most all of the levers of power in China and certainly at a local (village, and city) and regional (county and provincial) level and day-to-day, and also reach out to an emerging and increasingly strong entrepreneurial middle class. And from a Donald Trump perspective, I will address how he is and is not seeking to reconcile the demands and expectations of his directly supportive base, with the imperatives of office that he also connect more effectively with the larger American society as a whole too, with all of its diversity. These considerations form the basic starting point that both Xi and Trump have to build from as they would each in their own ways, seek to lead their nations.

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.

Reconsidering Information Systems Infrastructure 8

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on February 11, 2019

This is the 8th posting to a series that I am developing here, with a goal of analyzing and discussing how artificial intelligence, and the emergence of artificial intelligent agents will transform the electronic and online-enabled information management systems that we have and use. See Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 374 and loosely following for Parts 1-7. And also see two benchmark postings that I initially wrote just over six years apart but that together provided much of the specific impetus for my writing this series: Assumption 6 – The fallacy of the Singularity and the Fallacy of Simple Linear Progression – finding a middle ground and a late 2017 follow-up to that posting.

I have been developing and offering a foundational discussion for thinking about neural networks and their use, through most of this series up to here, and more rigorously so since Part 4 when I began discussing and at least semi-mathematically defining and characterizing emergent properties. And I continue that narrative here, with a goal of more cogently and meaningfully discussing the neural network approach to artificial intelligence per se.

I have been pursuing what amounts to a dual track discussion in that, as I have simultaneously been discussing both the emergence of new capabilities in functionally evolving systems, and the all too often seemingly open-ended explosive growth of perceived functional building block needs, that might arguably have to be included in any system that would effectively carry out more complex intelligence-based activities (e.g. realistic and human-like speech and in a two-way conversational context: natural speech and conversation as first discussed here in Part 6.)

Let’s proceed from that point in this overall narrative, to consider a point of significant difference between those new emergent capabilities that putative artificial intelligence agents develop within themselves as a more generally stated mechanism for expanding their functional reach, and the new presumed-required functional properties and capabilities that keep being added through scope creep in systems design if nothing else for overall tasks such as meaningfully open ended two way, natural conversation.

• When new task requirements are added to the design and development specifications of a human-directed and managed artificial intelligence agent and its evolution, for carrying out such tasks, they are added in there in a directed and overall goal-oriented manner and both for their selection and for their individual component by component design.
• But when a system develops and uses new internally-developed emergent property capabilities on its own, that development is not necessarily end-goal directed and oriented and in anything like the same way. (The biological systems-framed term exaptation (which has effectively replaced an older presumed loaded term: pre-adaptation, comes immediately to mind in this context, though here I would argue that the serendipitous and unplanned for of pre-adaptation might make that a better term in this context.)

Let me take that out of the abstract by citing and discussing a recent news story, that I will return to in other contexts in future writings too, that I cite here with three closely related references:

One Giant Step for a Chess-Playing Machine,
A General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm that Masters Chess, Shogi, and Go Through Self-Play and
Chess, a Drosophila of Reasoning (where the title of this Science article refers to how Drosophila genetics and its study have opened up our understanding of higher organism genetics, and its realistic prediction that chess will serve a similar role in artificial intelligence systems and their development too.)

The artificial intelligence in question here is named AlphaZero. And to quote from the third of those reference articles:

• “Based on a generic game-playing algorithm, AlphaZero incorporates deep learning and other AI techniques like Monte Carlo tree search to play against itself to generate its own chess knowledge. Unlike top traditional programs like Stockfish and Fritz, which employ many preset evaluation functions as well as massive libraries of opening and endgame moves, AlphaZero starts out knowing only the rules of chess, with no embedded human strategies. In just a few hours, it plays more games against itself than have been recorded in human chess history. It teaches itself the best way to play, reevaluating such fundamental concepts as the relative values of the pieces. It quickly becomes strong enough to defeat the best chess-playing entities in the world, winning 28, drawing 72, and losing none in a victory over Stockfish.” (N.B until it met AlphaZero, Stockfish was the most powerful chess player, human or machine on Earth.)

Some of the details of this innovative advance as noted there, are of fundamental game-changing significance. And to cite an obvious example there, AlphaZero taught itself and in a matter of just a few hours of self-development time to become by far the most powerful chess player in the world. And it did this without “benefit” of any expert systems database support, as would be based in this case on human chess grandmaster sourced knowledge. I put “benefit” in quotes there because all prior best in class computer-based, artificial intelligence agent chess players have been built around such pre-developed database resources, and even when they have been built with self-learning capabilities built in that would take them beyond that type of starting point.

I will cite this Science article in an upcoming series installment here, when I turn to address issues such as system opacity and the growing degradation and loss of human computer programmer understanding as to what emerging, self-learning artificial intelligence systems do, and how. My goal here is to pick up on the one human-sourced information resource that AlphaZero did start its learning curve from: a full set of the basic rules of chess and of what is allowed as a move and by what types of chess pieces, and of what constitutes a win and a draw as a game proceeds. Think of that as a counterpart to a higher level but nevertheless effectively explanatory functional description of what meaningful conversation is, as a well defined functional endpoint that such a system would be directed to achieve, to phrase this in terms of my here-working example.

Note that AlphaZero is defined by the company that owns it: Alphabet, Inc., strictly as software and as software that should be considered platform-independent as long as the hardware that it is run on has sufficient memory and storage and computational power to support it, and its requisite supportive operating system and related add-on software.

But for purposes of this discussion, let’s focus on the closed and inclusive starting point that a well defined and conclusive set of rules of the game hold for chess (or for Shogi or Go for AlphaZero), and the open-ended and ultimately functionally less informative situation that would-be natural conversation-capable artificial intelligence agents face now.

This is where my above-made point regarding self learning systems really enters this narrative:

• … when a system develops and uses new internally-developed emergent property capabilities on its own, that development is not necessarily end-goal directed and oriented and in the same way.

That type of self-learning can work and tremendously effectively so and even with today’s human-designed and coded starting-point self-learning algorithms and with a priori knowledge bases in place for them – if an overall goal that this self-learning would develop towards: a clear counterpart to the rules of chess here, is clearly laid out for it, and when such an agent can both learn new and question the general validity of what it has built into it already as an established knowledge base. When that is not possible, and particularly when a clear specification is not offered as to the ultimate functional goal desired and what that entails … I find myself citing an old adage as being indicative of what follows:

• “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.”

And with that offered, I will turn in my next series installment to offer some initial thoughts on neural network computing in an artificial intelligence context, and where that means self-learning and ontological level self evolution. And yes, with that noted I will also return to consider more foundational issues here too, as well as longer-term considerations as all of this will come to impact upon and shape the human experience.

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

Building a startup for what you want it to become 36: moving past the initial startup phase 22

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on February 8, 2019

This is my 36th installment to a series on building a business that can become an effective and even a leading participant in its industry and its business sector, and for its targeted marketplaces (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses and its Page 2 continuation, postings 186 and loosely following for Parts 1-35.)

I have been successively discussing a brief but important set of issues in this since Part 31 that deal with business intelligence, and particularly where that is originally sourced from individual people (e.g. individual customers) and from other businesses, and where that increasingly includes more and more types and quantities of sensitive and confidential information. And in the course of that I have at least selectively touched on the issues of how this information is gathered, organized, processed and used, and both in-house by an original aggregator business and as a marketable commodity that such a business would sell as a product or service, and primarily on a business-to-business basis.

And that has led me to the final complex of issues that I would address here in the context of this series, at least as far as this understanding of raw and processed information is concerned, in a business intelligence context. One of the key tools used in safeguarding the security and confidentiality of initial sources of all of this data and certainly as raw data, is to anonymize it, stripping it of personally identifiable markers that could be used to link it to any particular individual source. And according to that approach, most such data would be pooled demographically for use, with a much smaller amount of this excerpted out as anonymously sourced case in point examples.

That noted as background for what is to follow here, my last to-address point from the above-cited topics list that I have been working my way through here, is:

• “And that will mean addressing the sometimes mirage of data anonymization, where the more comprehensive the range and scale of such data collected, and the more effectively it is organized for practical use, the more likely it becomes that it can be linked to individual sources that it ultimately came from, from the patterns that arise within it.”

The bigger that big data becomes and the more effectively it can be and is organized into actionable knowledge, the more likely it becomes that any effort to so mask and anonymize its individual sources becomes problematical at best. And that failure of effectiveness in what has become a basic standard for managing personal privacy and for limiting individual source exposure – and for limiting the liability that can result from loss of effectiveness there, is going to become compelling overtly obvious in the coming years.

Simple data anonymization as achieved by algorithmically stripping out overtly personally identifying and similar problematical data fields, while preserving and aggregating the rest for use, can no longer be presumed to work as hoped for and with that leading to a loss of privacy and a loss of positive control over most any attempted anonymizing process currently in use and with an increased risk created from that for the businesses that would develop and market, or acquire and use such information resources.

• And this calls for new understandings of data anonymization that would actively promote the development of demographic and other data resources that can remain effectively anonymized,
• And new information management processes and technologies that would work more effectively in a big data context and regardless of how that scales up.

This is important. Traditionally, hacking with its overt theft and use of data from information storage systems, has been considered the one real threat to the anonymity of ultimate data sources. Loss of control of accumulated and maintained stores of credit card account and related personally identifiable account holder information immediately comes to mind for many in that context, and reasonably so.

But anonymization per se as it is currently more routinely carried out, in the risk management-mandated processing of increasingly comprehensive flows and accumulations of individually sourced data, is at least as big a source of threat now.

Let me take that out of the abstract with a simplistic but nevertheless realistic example. Consider a demographics level database resource that includes in it individually anonymized records, that is offered on a business-to-business basis to other enterprises. And in this example, those records include those individuals’ zip codes and the honorific that they use: Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss and Dr. If a zip code included there covers a large population as would for example apply in most any large densely populated urban setting, this would likely afford significant anonymity for any individual whose data is included there. But consider a small town and its unique identifier zip code, with one physician living and working there. And she is the only one there who actually uses the title Doctor, and its Dr. abbreviation. In that case, any records associated with “Dr.” as an “anonymous” designator could readily and quickly be linked to that one individual.

Big data, by its very nature, allows for and supports finer detail mapping and understanding of whatever overall data universe and its source that is under consideration. That finer granularity in effect turns even the largest and most densely populated community into readily distinguished and identified small towns and villages, to keep with the terminology of my above-offered example. And that, increasingly puts all of us that much closer to being in the more readily identified position of that small town doctor, and regardless of the fact that our individual names and home addresses, etc are redacted from it as directly offered.

• The bigger and more comprehensive the big data in question and the more carefully and thoroughly it is organized and analyzed, with the accumulation of processed knowledge that comes from that, the smaller the small towns of this become. And in this regard, I offer reference here to a series that I wrote to this blog a few years ago: Big Data (as can be found at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time as postings 177 and following for its Parts 1-7. And I make particular note here to one particular installment in that: Big Data 1: the emergence of the demographic of one. I primarily focused there on the more positive side of this, and turn here to address the negative potential in ever-growing big data too. Both sides to that are very real and both will become increasing so in the coming years.

To round out this posting and its line of discussion, at least for here and now, I conclude it by offering three news and analysis links from the open online literature:

Once Again With Feeling: ‘Anonymized’ Data Isn’t Really Anonymous: a tech podcast reference.
Your Anonymous Data isn’t as Nameless as Companies Would Have You Believe, Researchers Say: from the news and current affairs division of the Global Television Network in Canada.
• And Anonymous Browsing Data Isn’t As Anonymous As You Think: from Forbes Magazine, Feb 17, 2017.

Big data and its impact have become essential parts in our day-to-day lives and certainly as they have come to be shaped by our online experience, but also in our more directly real world experiences too. I write here in this series of businesses and their acquisition and use of market-sourced and I add marketable data. But I write just as specifically and directly here, about all of us as individual consumers and citizens too, as the ultimate sources of so much of that data.

Anonymized data has become a basic tool for both safeguarding our individual privacy and confidentiality in all of that, while supporting our having progressively more personalized experiences with the businesses and other organizations around us that also enter into and shape our overall communities. I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least offer some thoughts on how to move beyond this current and growing impasse where this tool has so significantly begun to fail us. Then after addressing that, as at least an initial first step response, I will reconsider the impact that all of this has on:

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

And I will also circle back in this overall discussion to consider opt-in and opt-out options and systems, and the stealthy collection of more and more data and from more and more sources where neither of those choice possibilities are meaningfully possible.

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

Moore’s law, software design lock-in, and the constraints faced when evolving artificial intelligence 5

This is my 5th posting to a short series on the growth potential and constraints inherent in innovation, as realized as a practical matter (see Reexamining the Fundamentals 2, Section VIII for Parts 1-4.)

I began discussing the basic, core issues of this series in its first four installments, in terms of two working examples: one drawn from human-developed technology and its development and evolution, and the other drawn from biological evolution with its vastly longer timeframes. Then at the end of Part 4 I finally turned to the issues of artificial intelligence systems, and to the still illusive but compelling goal of defining and developing a true artificial general intelligence – from where we are now in that ongoing process where no one has even effectively, functionally defined what general intelligence per se is.

I would in fact take what might be considered a contrarian approach to thinking about and understanding that challenge, turning back to my human technology example of the preceding installments of this series, as a much simpler comparative example, as a starting point for what is to follow here.

• Current, as of this writing artificial intelligence systems designers and programmers are steadily learning more and more about simpler, artificial single function intelligence systems, and how to develop and improve on them and their defining algorithms and supportive database subsystems.
• And much of what is learned there from that effort, will likely prove of use when developing actual, working artificial general intelligence systems and capabilities, much as human brains with their (arguably) general intelligence capabilities are functionally and structurally comprised of large and even vast numbers of simpler, single specialty-function components – biologically evolved counterparts in principle at least, to what we are developing and using now in our simpler single algorithm-based artificial intelligence systems.
• The fact that we know that we do not know yet, how to take that next step big leap to artificial general intelligence systems, and that we see and understand how limited our current simpler artificial intelligence systems are, even as we improve them, keeps us from prematurely locking in the wrong development decisions in a premature artificial general intelligence initiative, with their certain-to-emerge consequences that could become baked into any further development effort that might be made, in implementing a “prematurely understood” general intelligence paradigm.
• In my simpler technology example, digital musical note encoding has become fixed in place with MIDI as a defining protocol in place and for large areas of digital music as a whole. And the computer programmers and protocol designers who developed this coding protocol and who promoted it into become first A, and then The digital music standard, did not know the limits to what they knew when they did that. In particular, they did not fully enough know or understand world music: music from non-Western sources and heritages that cannot be parsed into the same notes as organized along the same scales, that would for example be found in the more traditional Western European and American music that they did know.
• At least as setting a largely fixed industry-wide standard is concerned, MIDI’s developers and promoters did act prematurely.
• At least up to now, artificial intelligence systems developers have remained more open minded, and certainly as far as achieving and implementing artificial general intelligence is concerned and as such have not built in the at least categorically similar type of presumptions that have led to the MIDI that we have today.

I wrote in Part 3 of adaptive peak models as are used to represent the evolutionarily competitive relative fitness of differing biologically evolved or technologically developed options. Think of MIDI, as discussed here as a highest point possibility at the peak of a less than highest possible “mountain” in a potentially larger adaptive landscape. Premature decision making and lock-in led to that. So far artificial intelligence systems development, or at least the race to develop true artificial general intelligence has not fallen into that trap.

This does not mean that real, sustained effort should not be made to functionally, operationally define and understand artificial general intelligence, or to attempt to build actual hardware and software-based systems that would implement that. It does mean that real effort should be made to avoid locking in as if axiomatically so, premature technology development assumptions or the short-term solutions that they would lead to, as if they held long-term in value and even permanently so.

I continue this narrative with that as of now benevolent openness and uncertainty in mind, and as a still as-of-now positive virtue. And I do so starting with a set of distinctions as to how smart and connected technology can be divided into four categories for how they connect to the human experience for their input and output functionalities and for their use of big data, as developed by David Rose and as offered in:

• Rose, D. (2014) Enchanted Objects: design, human desire and the internet of things. Scribner.

Rose parses out such technological possibilities into four possible futures as he envisions them, with each predicated on the assumption that one of four basic approaches would be built into the standard implementations of these artifactual capabilities moving forward, which he identifies as:

1. Terminal world, in which most or even essentially all human/artificial intelligence agent interactions take place through the “glass slabs and painted pixels” of smart phone and other device interfaces.
2. Prosthetics, in which a major thrust of this technology development is predicated upon human improvement.
3. Animism, and the emergence of artificial intelligence ubiquity through the development and distribution of seemingly endless numbers of smart robotic nodes.
4. And Enchanted Objects, in which the once routine and mundane of our everyday life becomes imbued with amazing new capabilities.

I see tremendous opportunity for positive development in all of these perhaps individually more stereotypic forms, and expect that all would have their roles, and even in a world that pushes the internet of things to its logical conclusion of connected everywhere animism. To be more specific there, even smart terminals that take the form of highly advanced and evolved smart phones would probably play a role there, as personalized connectivity organizers if nothing else – though they would probably not be awkwardly limiting handheld devices of the type we use today when serving in that expanded capacity for us, on the human side of this still just emerging world.

And this brings me back to the challenges of lock-in. What is eventually, and I add inevitably going to become locked in for the what and how of artificial intelligence and artificial general intelligence, will determine which of the above four, and other possibilities might actually arise and take hold – or rather what combinations of them will and in what ways and in what contexts.

• The points that I raise here are going to prove to be fundamentally important as we proceed into the 21st century, and certainly as genuinely widely capable artificial general intelligence is developed and brought into being,
• And even just as our already actively emerging artificial specialized intelligence agents proliferate and evolve.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, with further discussion of Rose’s alternative futures and how they might arise and contribute to the future that we actually come to experience. And in anticipation of that narrative to come, I will at least begin a discussion of the likely roles that single function artificial specialized intelligence and artificial general intelligence might come to take and particularly as an emerging internet of things comes to redefine both the online world and our computational and communications systems that support it.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3 and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And I also include this in my Reexamining the Fundamentals 2 directory as topics Section VIII. And also see its Page 1.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 8: some thoughts concerning Donald Trump’s cult of personality

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on February 4, 2019

I have written on numerous occasions now, about Donald Trump and his rise to power in the United States and about Xi Jinping and his rise to power in China. This is also my 8th installment to a compare-and-contrast subseries that fits into both of those ongoing narratives. And more specifically, this posting serves as a relatively direct continuation of my most recent installment in this leading up to now as can be found at Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century – 7.

I focused in that Part 7 installment on how Xi is outmaneuvering Trump on so many crucially important issues: a point that I could make regarding virtually all of Donald Trump’s dealings with other national leaders too. And I ended that by noting that I would turn next, to consider the cults of personality that Donald Trump and Xi Jinping have assembled around themselves, as they variously attempt to secure and hold authoritarian control over their respective nations: the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

Both Trump and Xi have made mistakes and publically visible ones. And both seek to dominate and lead societies that have come to be defined in the minds of many, by both their sources of real strength and by their profound weaknesses and challenges too. Mistakes, misjudgments, set-backs and all aside, both of these leaders have developed implacably devoted, large groups of core followers and in genuinely significant numbers, and regardless of even the most at-least potentially damning of those self-created problems that they have made for themselves – and even at times seemingly because of them where a “them versus us” mentality protectively arises for both, from their core supporter bases.

My original intention for this posting was to offer a discussion of both of these leaders in a single, compare-and-contrast format and as a single posting. I have reconsidered that for the complexity of issues involved and have decided to split that would-be single posting into two separate ones: two separate but perhaps parallel narratives that would discuss these two historic figures more individually through that. Trump and Xi do, after all behave in the ways that they do, in very large part for reasons and in ways that do not involve or connect with each other and certainly as a central point of concern for them. Both in fact seek to develop and promote their own particular cults of personality, among their other driving goals, for reasons that center on how they relate to and seek to relate to their own nation’s citizenries: the people of their own countries, and with more international spill-over from that taking on a more incidental role in their thinking, much of the time.

So I begin here with Donald Trump and his endeavors to achieve at least publically perceived greatness, and certainly as that view might be held by his core followers who he sees as having put him in office as president and as keeping him there. And I begin addressing that by citing a recent news story that has simply piled itself onto the Trump administration’s already massive accumulation of scandal and challenge, with the Mueller investigation that might lead to impeachment hearings against him serving as only one part of that larger story. The news story that I would begin this with, is that of the still just recently concluded partial US federal government shutdown that president Trump brought about and boastfully claimed ownership of, in his effort to force Congress to provide funding for his boarder wall to further separate Mexico from the United States.

This ill conceived coercive effort on Trump’s part to gain his way in fulfilling a promise to his base ultimately failed, leaving him forced to accept defeat on all of the points that he has claimed to be important in him there. And that was after this effort on his part had the effect of furloughing some 800,000 government employees without pay for more than a month: many if not most of whom were forced to work without pay during that period, as well as challenging and stressing the public as a whole as even some essential government services that his base relies upon were forced to shut down for the duration. See, for a brief and selective accounting of this:

Trump Storms Out of White House Meeting With Democrats on Shutdown. President Trump does not know how to negotiate except when confronted by absolute and complete surrender to whatever he seeks to do; so when challenged with refusals to bend let alone give in to him on his key demand here, he got up and left the room, unable to handle that type of challenge.
Trump Pulls Back From Declaring a National Emergency to Fund a Wall. Then in follow-up to that, president Trump threatened to bypass Congress by funding his boarder wall to keep Mexico out, by declaring a national emergency and by issuing an executive order to that effect. (As an aside here, it is likely that any effort on his part to actually do this would be blocked by the courts and with that going all the way up to his losing a Supreme Court decision. Conservative judges, after all, tend to support the enforcement separation of powers as set out in the United States constitution when they see that core principle challenged this way.)
Trump Signs Bill Reopening Government for 3 Weeks in Surprise Retreat From Wall. Trump finally gave in and capitulated after this government shutdown had lasted 35 days, and with nothing to show for it in the way of his having achieved any of his goals in the negotiations that did finally take place, or in his having any real say for how the government would be restarted again.
For a President Consumed with Winning, a Stinging Defeat. And turning back to reconsider this presidents mistakes and missteps and the impact they have on his base and on his support from that core group, I cite this newspaper opinion piece too, and both for what it says and for what it assumes, and particularly with regard to his base.

This shutdown, I stress here, specifically served to break several of the key promises that Trump has made to his core supporters, and certainly with regard to his Mexicans as enemies promises to stop immigration from the South and into the United States by building a wall. That is a point of detail that would be hard to deny. But what has this done to his popularity and particularly as far as his base is concerned? What have any of his actions in fact done, to affect his approval rating numbers there, or his numbers in general when Americans as a whole are polled on the Trump presidency and on how he is doing in office?

This shutdown proceeded on and on and seemingly with no end in sight to it for most of its duration, breaking into entirely new territory as the longest lasting government shutdown in US history. And widely followed news pundits and commentators and from both the left and the right began saying that this time he had gone too far, declaring that this time even his core supporters would start deserting him. Some of them, looking at the shifts in those numbers around the edges, even began to proclaim that this was already starting to happen. But any realistic response to that would have to be a resounding No!

If you look to a polling aggregator site such as fivethirtyeight.com, that draws data from as wide a range of primary sources as possible, and from all across the political spectrum for the organizations that gather in such data, it immediately becomes clear that Donald Trump settled into a roughly 40% positive approval rating nation-wide, early in his administration – very, early in it. And setting aside the up to 2 point shifts up and down that we keep seeing in his numbers, that would best qualify as sampling errors and related background noise in this type of analysis if anything, that roughly 40% rating has held essentially rock steady and for over two years now as of this writing. Donald Trump once famously (infamously) said in public, on-camera and knowingly so that he could walk out on 5th Avenue in the heart of New York City and shoot someone – presumably anyone, and that would not do anything to weaken or reduce his support from his base. Subsequent events have shown that this is one thing that Donald Trump has said and certainly since his first running for political office, that has proven to be absolutely true. His government shutdown, to stress that point here, did essentially nothing to move the needle for his approvals ratings in any statistically significant way, and even when his actions there did create very real and specific problems for a significant proportion of his base and when he was forced to concede defeat from it, without being able to claim success in gaining anything of what he wanted from it. His core supporter base was still not affected for how fervently they support him, or for their numbers in doing so.

What drives this support and what sustains it? Where does it come from? I write here of Trump cultivating and in fact actively building a cult of personality around himself in this posting, and that is very genuinely a reflection of real skills and abilities that he has. But what does that mean and what are its implications for the United States as a whole, and certainly when that undeniable reality is coupled with what charitably might be deemed his bungling, narcissistic incompetence in office when actually attempting to serve as president?

Let’s begin addressing those issues by looking back to before The Donald first looked towards politics as a forum for advancing his own personal cause: himself, and his own personal wealth.

• Donald Trump, like his father before him (Fred Trump) has always sought to market himself as a brilliantly capable self-made man, who has successfully maneuvered from one huge success to another, and throughout his life.
• Realistically, his has built a succession of business failures with six bankruptcies to his name and even when his family has bankrolled those ventures and otherwise sought to offer him positive support.
• And as a child he was given an “allowance” of several hundred thousand dollars a year – starting when he was a toddler!
• His father gave him in total, several hundred million dollars to help jumpstart and support his business empire.
• His Art of the Deal: the book that he claimed as his, as proof of his qualifications as a businessman and negotiator and certainly when seeking public office, was actually ghost written by a professional writer named Tony Schwartz and was not written by him.
• And one of his most powerful tools for presenting himself as a capable leader in the eyes of his base supporters was his reality television show: The Apprentice, in which he showed his leadership skills by giving apprentice candidates often-silly challenges to meet, coupled with bombastic commentary – before telling the losers on his show “you’re fired!”
• But he has effectively marketed himself as a great businessman, a genius, a true conservative, a patriot and a self-made man of the people, and regardless of all of the above seemingly contradictory facts and more, with accusations of his sexually predatory behavior as made against him by several women constituting just one more element of that contending story.

The above bullet-pointed summary of a few of the more-negative details to the Trump story that I could cite here, coupled with my point as to how he is viewed by his base, highlights what should at least appear to be an irreconcilable contradiction and a source of cognitive dissonance, for anyone who would seek to accept Donald Trump for what he claims to be while even just considering the possible validity of details publically known about his actual life story. But his core supporters: his base remain fiercely loyal to him and its members become more so when challenged by any narrative that would seem to contradict their faith in him.

I began what rapidly became an ongoing succession of Trump-related postings to this blog during the race for the nomination as the Republican Party’s anointed presidential candidate, leading up to the 2016 US presidential elections. And my first posting of that still-ongoing succession of installments addressed one part of the seeming conundrum that I write of here, with: Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs. My focus there was on epistemic bubbles: the echo chamber bubbles that so much of our political “dialog” now takes place in where we only hear from those who start out echoing and validating our pre-established assumptions, presumptions and fears, and where no dissenting opinion or evidence thereof can be allowed in. I still contend that that is one of the key driving forces for both creating and maintaining the stark polarization that we see in the United States today, and beyond and on a lot more than just political issues. But this can only be considered one piece to a larger puzzle that has to be understood as a whole if we are to understand the how and why of president Trump’s core supporter base, even if it is an important one.

Donald Trump: our Twitter president with his ongoing torrent of short, easy to read, understand and share base-oriented messages, and his larger public rallies for his supporters, benefits from his particular epistemic bubbles. And he in fact contributes a great deal of the momentum as well as a significant share of the content to those echo chambers and their take on reality as that reflects back and forth within them until it becomes his core base’s received wisdom. But this phenomenon represents only one side: one aspect to his base-supported cult of personality success.

At least as significantly as that for him, Trump effectively reaches out to and connects with the disaffected, the left-out and the angry who in fact delight in Trump’s breaking things and particularly where they see that as causing harm to those who they see as having gained greatly at their expense. This is why Trump, and first as a candidate and would-be candidate, and now as president, has so assiduously spoken out in support of now-obsolete technologies and industries, and the people and communities who used to succeed and even thrive in them – when they were still economically viable and relevant. Consider the coal mining industry as it used to be and as it is now in rural West Virginia, as a steady and reliable source of examples for that. And that example is virtually perfect for purposes of this discussion, for how it raises a key question that could be asked regarding any of Trump’s significant outreach and connect efforts with the members of his base, and certainly when that effort on his part is not largely driven by shared mutually recognized and appreciated bias and prejudice. Why hasn’t president Trump put his effort into supporting and promoting retraining and other efforts that would help to create new opportunities for these people and others like them, and for their communities?

I began this posting with questions and end it with new questions and in fact more of them than I started with. So I am going to follow this posting with a next installment that I expect to have go live just over a week from now, focusing there on Xi Jinping and his story. Then I will continue my discussion of both of these men, for how they have come to follow what might perhaps best be considered the authoritarian playbook. My goal in that will be to expand on what I offer here and on what I will offer in parallel to this concerning Xi, as they seek to gain, redefine and hold onto power.

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.

As a final thought here, returning back to consider the Donald Trump that I began this posting with, and the government shutdown that I have highlighted here, I cite one more news story coming out of it:

Trump, in Interview, Calls Wall Talks ‘Waste of Time’ and Dismisses Investigations.

And this is from the self-proclaimed greatest of all negotiators, when bluster and threat cannot work for him on their own and when he would have to actually reach a bargained agreement on something that he has boxed himself into have to see as important, for his image and reputation and for his agenda. I add this updating detail here to highlight the conundrum nature of what I have been writing of here.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 24 – the jobs and careers context 23

This is my 24th 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 1-23.)

I effectively began this series in its Part 2, focusing on the issues of negotiating and the overall negotiations process as they would apply in a job search, and when seeking out and landing a desired next step career move and employment opportunity. And I then switched from that, to consider the new hire probationary period that you would face once you achieve that first-step goal and actually begin working at this new job. I discussed a set of negotiations issues that arise as crucially important for this step in your tenure with a new employer, starting with Part 14 and continuing on through Part 23. And I concluded that installment, with a brief anticipatory note as to what will follow here, which I repeat with minor editing as a starting point for this next step in this narrative progression:

• And with that, I am going to turn to consider negotiating in general as a jobs and careers tool set. That means looking way beyond any initial new hire probationary period to consider entire tenures as an employee with a given business, where promotions and more lateral moves, and possible career set-backs and recoveries from them and job description evolution in general can bring you to a position and to holding work responsibilities with an employer that could not have been imagined when you were first brought on-board.

I went on from there to state that actually addressing the issues raised there, calls for focused effective negotiations and all of the preparatory work that you would carry out leading up to them, and all of the post-meeting follow-through that those negotiations would lead to if their expected and desired results are to be effectively carried out. And crucially importantly, and for all that will follow here:

• Negotiations of this type essentially always take place and hold meaning in the context of change, and its at least potential challenges and opportunities.

That point of observation certainly applies to the topic points and issues that I have been raising and discussing in this series up to here. And it will continue to hold merit, and even defining merit in what is to come here too.

I offer this posting as a transition point discussion in this overall narrative. And my goal for it is to organize and lay out in general terms, what is to follow in more detailed discussion through the next upcoming installments. That noted, what are some of the issues: some of the workplace events and occurrences, predictably expected and otherwise that would explicitly call for negotiations, and specific planning and preparation (where possible) for it? A few obvious example situations come readily to mind, including but not limited to:

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 – see my Should I stay or Go series, among other resources already in place here (as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3),
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.

Change can be desired and positive, or negative and in ways that would best be addressed by reframing how they would arise and play out for you if nothing else. And change is always taking place and at least as a slow, more evolutionary process – with episodic bursts of sudden, more disruptive change added in too. So this posting and those to follow, are ultimately all about looking for change – desired or not, understanding it and its dynamics, and accommodating and influencing it where possible and appropriate. And I add the issues of more proactively addressing change to that more reactive vision of it and response to it, too.

And as a final thought for this installment, I explicitly make note of a crucially important point that I raised in my above restated anticipatory note for this posting, that will arise anew for every case in point context and event example that I would or could discuss in this narrative thread.

Negotiations, or at least effective ones that would continue to work for you longer term, are never once-and-done activities. Effective negotiations call for groundwork and preparation, and that is one of the key areas of an overall job experience where effective communications and networking become vital.

Negotiations do not generally end with a handshake and a permanently settled initial agreement, and certainly not for issues of any real complexity, or for ones that would extend out over time. New problems can and do arise, and older problems can mutate and evolve and with that including growth in their scope and impact. And all of that change and all of that potential for it can create pressing need for further negotiations, with fine tuning as to what was agreed to, if not more complete renegotiations on at least some critical issues that might have seemed settled. This, I have to add here, is also where gaps in what was initially negotiated can emerge too and with emerging need to address them too.

And misunderstandings and communications failures can arise in any step in that, and this means a need for further at-least clarifying engagement here, and to limit if not forestall the above noted problem types where that might be more proactively possible. So I will write in what follows, of negotiations as an ongoing process, and I will address the specific events and circumstances of my above list from that perspective.

I will start working my way through the above-offered to-address list in my next installment to this series, with its Scenario 1: changes in tasks assigned and in the requirements and resources offered to carry them out. (Note that change of the type raised here can mean you having to carry out what should have been a short-term task, long-term and with “carrying out” supplanting any possible “completing.” A lot of possibilities are included in that topics point, some of which will be more fully considered when addressing the above list’s Scenario 3.)

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.

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