Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Building a startup for what you want it to become 34: moving past the initial startup phase 20

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on September 17, 2018

This is my 34th 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 1-33.)

I have been discussing some of the core issues that arise when considering where business intelligence comes from in this series, since Part 31. And I have focused in this, primarily on third party raw data and processed business intelligence providers. I initially offered a brief to-address list of topics points that I would frame this line of discussion around, and certainly for purposes of this series, that I repeat here as I continue working my way through its issues:

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

My goal for this series installment is to complete my discussion of Point 1 of the above list, and to at least begin to address Point 2 as well while doing so. To be more specific, and certainly with regard to how I will continue addressing Point 1 here, I will:

• At least briefly discuss Facebook’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica, and the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
• I will cite at least a brief and select set of in the news links related to how Facebook sells access to user data in general too, and as a matter of explicit intent on their part.
• Then I will turn to consider the third business that I have promised to discuss in this Point 1 context: Amazon and how it leverages the data that it collects through its web site as a major source of incoming revenue.

I begin all of this with the still as of this writing, raw wound that we have all come to know as the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal. First some recent background context to put that into perspective: Facebook has been facing a tremendous amount of scandal and censure for its long-standing failure to in any way limit the flood of fake news and disinformation, and of cyber-weaponized troll behavior on its site. The company has made something of an effort to rein this problem in: recently by blocking and even banning disinformation sources such as InfoWars: one of the largest and most influential sources of alt-right conspiracy creating and sustaining stories, and alt-right spun genuinely fake news that has been available online. And they have finally started to take down content from white supremacist and other overtly bigoted sources too. But at the same time, their founder and CEO, and leader: Mark Zuckerberg, has repeatedly put his foot in his mouth from how he has explained both the delays in his business making these necessary moves, and in explaining what they are doing to address those issues and why. And this has included his offering self-damaging testimony before publically open US Congressional hearings when testifying under oath, as well as in news-oriented public statements. All of this has perhaps served to push the older news story of Cambridge Analytica and its Facebook activities aside and out of public awareness. But in a real sense it was that story, and certainly when it became exposed in the news, that started all of the rest that has followed, as that scandal helped to bring all of the rest of this into raw, open public awareness.

Cambridge Analytica was a data mining and brokerage business: a third party gatherer, organizer and provider for fee, of business and related intelligence as product. And it turned out that its primary, best paying clients were political campaigns and their leading operatives, and other agencies that have sought to sway elections through use of their often illegally obtained data. And it now appears that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and agencies that sought to influence that election, were among their best, most lucrative customers in particular. Facebook became involved in this business when they allowed a researcher to collect personal data through their site from some 87 million of their service’s users without their knowing what they were providing, which he then sold to Cambridge Analytica, which they then sold to the Trump election campaign and others. Ted Cruz also purchased access to this largely illegally obtained and sold data and used it in his 2016 election campaign, and it was used to help sway the results of the Brexit referendum vote in the United Kingdom too. And it was also used in 2018 by Mexico’s dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party to help them sway their general election of that year when they found themselves facing real competition. But that is only part of this story

• Cambridge Analytica gathered all of this Facebook user data by offering a “game app” called “This Is Your Digital Life”, that they could use to vacuum up user information through, including personally identifiable, sensitive information as those users “played.”
• Alexander Nix, the CEO of that company publically bragged that his company provided surreptitiously gained personal information about millions of people to influence the outcomes of 44 political races in the United States alone, and just in 2014. And that was just a starting point for what would follow.

I am not entirely sure what of this is worse: that Facebook stood by while all of this data was being gathered after giving the provider of this app permission to place it on user pages all over their web site, or that their information management security system was (and still is) so limited and flawed that they were literally unable to see what was being done with this app as the torrent of raw personal data that it was gathering, was collected and then put into active use – and from their own website. Why …, How is it that no red flags were raised out of all of this? Ensuing Facebook scandals that have largely pushed this story into the background, have recurringly illustrated the undeniable fact that Facebook was not in fact doing any meaningful due diligence or information security management at all, on what was being posted or done on and through their web site. And that included their not even being aware of the existence of tens of millions of fake, robo-accounts that were used to post well-orchestrated disinformation (much coming from Russian sources) to help sway (throw) to the 2016 US presidential election and install Donald Trump in office, as well as influencing the outcome of numerous US congressional races that year.

I offered above, to share some links to news stories related to how Facebook in effect sells its user members as commodities to businesses and other organizations. Here are four recent news pieces of this sort that at least begin to map out what is involved here, with the fourth and most recent of them having just gone live today as I write this:

Facebook’s Data Crisis Deepens as Questions Mount (as came out on March 20, 2018),
Facebook: Your Personal Info for Sale (as came out on March 21, 2018),
Let’s Talk About Mark Zuckerberg’s Claim that Facebook ‘Doesn’t Sell Data’ (as came out on April 11, 2018), and
‘Weaponized Ad Technology’: Facebook’s Moneymaker Gets a Critical Eye (as first came out on August 16, 2018).

News stories of this type have continued to appear and both in print and through television and other electronic forums for many months now and at a steady rate, and will likely continue to do so too for quite a while to come too.

I would not even try to estimate the odds of this outcome from all of that coming true, but ultimately this unfolding public relations disaster for Facebook, might very well force Mark Zuckerberg to step down from his position as CEO there. Cambridge Analytica has fallen and so have its founders and executives. Facebook and its leadership will pay a price that has not yet fully come into focus yet, but that will come due too. (Yes, I remember that Zuckerberg founded Facebook, and that he holds vast numbers of its voting stock shares. And I remember that this company is still the largest and most powerfully positioned business in the social media sector. But when repeated publically visible failures of decision and action, and of judgment keep bringing a business into question, that eventually has to have an impact upon it and its leadership, and even for one of the largest corporations.)

And with that all noted, I turn back to considering a business that has actively sought to avoid problems and scandal in how it gathers, stores and uses, and shares data that ultimately has come from its user customers: Amazon. I began this line of discussion by citing and at least briefly discussing one responsible company: Google. Then I turned to consider a second company that is arguably out of control and rudderless for these issues and challenges: Facebook. And I complete the circle, at least for here by turning to consider a more responsible company again.

Amazon is primarily an online retail business, and an online storefront but it also generates income from a wider range of services that includes targeted ad placement and work with partner businesses that sell through its systems, tapping into the strength of its brand name and its product inventory and its purchasing user data: its vast data accumulations on what millions of individuals have ordered and purchased through its web site, that they can use to predict what they might chose to buy there next. Those third party partner businesses pay to sell their products and services online through the Amazon platform, and pay to have their ads positioned on key word defined and selected search results pages that Amazon visitors call up when shopping there.

Like Google, this primarily means offering access to anonymized and demographic level data, or rather access to sales value scoring results derived from that data, and the further sales value potential that can be developed from that. But in anticipation of further discussion to come, this is also one of the places were Point 3 of my above-repeated to-address list enters this narrative, and the problem of how individually anonymous, anonymized data really is and can be, in a big data context. So firewalling from visibility to those third party providers, anything like the raw data that would go into determining which individual customers get to see which third party business provider ads, is an important part of their business model there. That is a very important point of difference that separates how Amazon and I add Google handle and seek to develop profitable value from the consumer information that they have come to hold, from what Facebook has been doing with their site user, member data. And for Amazon, to focus on that business example again, that primarily if not exclusively means partner businesses just purchasing opportunity to link their sales efforts to Amazon customer product searches as a marketable business-to-business product, and as anonymized purchasing request data at that – at least until a customer agrees to actually make such a purchase from them.

All of this raises two crucially important questions that holds import and significance for both the businesses that provide third party sourced business intelligence, and any businesses that buy this data and processed knowledge as marketable product:

• What data can safely and effectively be offered and used, and by whom and for what purposes?
• And who in this system of information development and exchange holds what levels and types of responsibility if and when information security and confidentiality problems arise?

I am going to offer at least a broadly stated response to those questions when addressing Points 2 and 3 of my above-stated to-address points that I began this posting with, and that I repeat here:

2. The questions of where all of this business intelligence comes from, and how it would be error corrected, deduplicated, and kept up to date, as well as free from what should be avoidable risk from holding and using it.
3. And that will mean addressing the sometimes mirage of data anonymization, where the more comprehensive the range and scale of such data collected, and the more effectively it is organized for practical use, the more likely it becomes that it can be linked to individual sources that it ultimately came from, from the patterns that arise within it.

As a key part of that I will flip around the line of discussion that I have been developing here, to discuss third party data sourcing from the perspective of businesses that would buy access to it, and how that would fit into their own more internally developed business intelligence data flows. And I will discuss this from the perspective of their due diligence and risk management needs and responsibilities too.

And with all of this offered here in this posting, I briefly turn back to reconsider my first third party provider example again: Google, to at least briefly highlight how difficult it can be for a major corporation to remain clean on all of the issues I have been addressing here and on information systems management risk in general. Google’s formally noted and publically known motto is “Don’t Be Evil.” But where and how should they draw what lines that they should not cross there, and how can they best abide by the terms and limitations of such decisions? I offer three news story links from the past few months that suggest that line approaching and crossing have arisen as real problems for Google at times, and even with dissent and criticism of the company coming from within their own ranks:

‘The Business of War’: Google Employees Protest Work for the Pentagon,
Google Will Not Renew Pentagon Contract That Upset Employees, and
Google Employees Protest Secret Work on Censored Search Engine for China.

Google quite arguably, addresses line crossing problems and challenges very differently than Facebook has. But the types of challenges faced by any business that acquires and uses business intelligence, or that offers data processing tools or resources for that matter, keep disruptively emerging de novo, and morphing into new forms one they have arisen. So avoiding falling into pits from all of this has to be an ongoing strategic and operational goal.

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

Platt Perspective at nine years

Posted in blogs and marketing by Timothy Platt on September 14, 2018

This posting is, as its title indicates, a marker that makes note of what has become nine years of writing to this blog. This is also posting number 2538 in that still ongoing effort, and with no specific end to that in sight. I have, as noted in May of this year, reduced my online publication rate here to one posting every third day now (see Rethinking Platt Perspective at 2501 Postings – an update on how this enterprise is to continue from here.) And my intent is to continue posting at that rate moving forward. I have been doing so for a long enough period of time now, so I know how that is working out for me.

One of my goals for this “about the blog” update is to share that information with any interested readers. Another is to offer a retraction for a point of information that I offered one year ago in my posting: Platt Perspective at Eight Years. I stated then, that:

• “I finally feel a measure of confidence in being able to state that I have completed at least most of the foundation for what I would write of here.”

I think that I can state with confidence that the year’s worth of postings and series that I have added here since then, belies that claim. I would cite in that context, my still ongoing series: Some Thoughts Concerning a General Theory of Business (as can be found at Reexamining the Fundamentals as its Section VI), as a case in point example there. And to cite one more area of active development that I have been adding to this blog, that would fit more of a “foundation” status for what I am doing here, I cite the conceptual work that I have been offering in recent months, concerning artificial intelligence agents and the effort to develop a true artificial general intelligence agent in particular. That narrative and a parallel narrative that I have also been developing here on the emerging and anticipatable impact of AI societally, run through multiple series in this blog, and are organized and included in several of my general topics directories here. And I have only begun developing the overall narrative on that large and complex set of issues that I will eventually come to include here.

Those comments only make note of two areas where I have in fact continued to develop and offer foundational material for this blog as a whole. So I retract my earlier, September 2017 claim of having effectively completed the core foundation of what I am to offer here. And I acknowledge that I still have an at least relatively open-ended way to go before I can legitimately make that claim – offering this counter-assertion here in September, 2018.

Those more-housekeeping notes aside, I would write here about what this blog has come to mean to me over the past nine years. I began writing to this blog in the by-now seemingly distant past of 2009, as a way to market myself as an active business and technology consultant among other goals. That noted, I have to admit that I also began this endeavor because I wanted to at least make an attempt towards developing and offering a more general theory of business and the business context as a whole, as that would collectively play out across a wide sweep of organizational levels. I have in fact been offering that distant and far-reaching goal as a key reason for my writing this blog, since its beginning. And that has always been a significant element that would lead me to write here and to continue to do so. Now it is my primary goal here.

As just noted above, I have not even completed the core foundation for such a body of organizing theory here yet. But at over 2500 postings and over three million words, I think that I can at least say that I am significantly working in the direction of accomplishing that.

I am mostly retired from active consulting now, even if I still get offers and interesting ones. So this ongoing effort has moved, perhaps, from being more of a work-supportive vocational effort to being a more avocational one – and even if I still seek to write to as high a level of professional standards as I can in all that I offer here.

I still keep what I write here, firmly grounded in my own hands-on professional experience, and with a goal of keeping this blog as hands-on, practically oriented as possible – and even when I delve into more abstractly stated business theory issues. Ultimately, business theory only holds meaningful value from when and how it can be applied in real world settings, and in addressing real world issues and challenges.

I just offered a retraction for a point of detail that I shared a year earlier in 2017. I end this posting: this next step in my meta-blog notes about this ongoing effort and why I write it, by sharing another more general and far-ranging point of observation. I have come to see this blog and my ongoing effort at developing it as a part of whatever legacy that I will leave behind. I have offered this ongoing effort as a matter of paying back for help shared with me through the kindness and generosity of others. And I have written and publically shared all of this as a matter of playing it forward too, and open-endly for that and to any and all who might find value in at least something of what I can offer here. When I write here of offering this blog and its contents as legacy, I write more explicitly of offering it forward, though I will still write here with both of those bidirectionally facing goals in mind.

Next year at this time, I expect to see a tenth anniversary posting to go live here, with that much more content added to this growing construct. I expect the coming year leading up to that, to be interesting and yes: rewarding for me. Hopefully others will find some value in this too.

Timothy Platt, Ph.D.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 16 – the jobs and careers context 15

This is my 16th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-15.)

I began to more formally discuss the new hire probationary period in Part 14 and Part 15, with a context providing, two part discussion of the first day on a new job, leading up to your first formal meeting with your now-supervisor there as a new hire. And my goal for this posting, with those preceding two offered as background and supportive resources, deals with this all important meeting itself.

As I noted in Part 15:

• Your first formal meeting with your new boss and supervisor there will determine in detailed outline precisely what will constitute success for you in the new hire probationary period that you are just entering.
• But just as importantly, and going way beyond that generally 90 day period, this also sets a starting foundation for your longer term tenure there by establishing what your supervisor and the business as a whole can and will expect from you, and expect you’re being capable of doing there.
• “Expected and agreed to” for the probationary period, and the new hire impression that you make in how that is arrived at and in how you succeed at fulfilling it, will set the stage for all that will follow.

I stated in Parts 14 and 15 that this meeting, more than any other activity that you participate in on your first day at a new job, is all about negotiations and negotiating. So this posting is too. And I begin addressing this meeting with the precedents that you have to work from here, as set by what was said in your pre-hire interviews.

• This obviously includes what you and the hiring manager who you met with, said when you interviewed with them as a job candidate, and what you at least tentatively agreed to then. That manager: now your on the job supervisor, is certain to remember the details of that conversation, as filtered through their needs and their best-candidate desires and expectations.
• You are also going to have to be prepared to discuss and negotiate what you will do on this new job and with what priority and within what time frames, in light of what you discussed with any other stakeholders who the then-hiring manager had you meet with. And this in particular, means you’re having to effectively discuss and negotiate in ways that are consistent with what transpired in these meetings, where you cannot automatically know in advance precisely how these people might have filtered and edited, and interpreted and understood what was discussed, with the summaries they shared with the hiring manager, oriented towards their own particular goals and priorities as you would help address them.

Taken together, these points mean it can be more important, and I add valuable for you to listen that it would be to speak. Ask questions to help clarify precisely what your now-supervisor is thinking as they go into this meeting, where a wide range of factors might have brought them to rethink and even reprioritize what they most want you to do first on this, your new job there. Say enough, based on your earlier meeting(s) with this manager, to validate that you do remember what was discussed. But sound them out for any new details or perspectives that you will have to hands-on address moving forward, now that you actually work there.

• Negotiations are often thought of in terms of opposing participants, each sitting on their own facing side of a table, seeking to reach agreements that will best meet their own particular needs.
• There can be an element of truth to that, but if these negotiations become, or seem to become adversarial and in any way and to any degree, you are lost. Your goal here is to negotiate to a genuinely collaboratively reached agreement that all parties can comfortably agree to – you, your supervisor and any stakeholders that the two of you have to work with, and certainly where you’re meeting your task completion and work performance goals would decide that.

I wrote in Part 15 of higher priority goals and task requirements that you can more easily meet, making these easier areas in your probationary period goals and priorities list to come, for you to quickly succeed at. It can be easy, or at least a lot easier to reach the goals of the above two bullet points when discussing these work issues. I also wrote in Part 15 of task-defined goals where you would have learning curve issues or where you would potentially face resource bottleneck issues. That, to repeat a point made earlier, can mean your securing access to crucial information, or crucial bottleneck equipment or other tangible resources that you would have to in effect compete for with other colleagues. And that can and all too often does mean you’re being able to access help from key colleagues with specialized skills that would be needed to fully complete a high priority project that you would take ownership of, coming out of this meeting, but that requires a more multidisciplinary approach to successfully complete.

Let me take that out of the abstract with an example from my own professional career. I am not an expert database programmer, even if I am familiar enough with that area of specialization to know how to ask the right questions, and elicit understandable answers from fellow professionals who are. I have taken ownership of large-scale, complex projects that call for such detailed hands-on expertise and with completed results due within tight deadlines. I find myself thinking of a specific instance where I took on such a commitment as a formally agreed to goal, in the type of new hire meeting that I write of here. And it was crucial that I achieved buy-in then, for assembling a small team that would help me complete this project, with such a programmer included as a key participant in that effort.

Details of this type that are left out until after this first meeting, will come back to haunt you, and certainly if this means you’re having created avoidable disconnects between:

• What you can reasonably be expected to do in the expected and agreed to time frame allowed – provided that you have access to the resources that you would need for that
• And what you can do, absent those resources (that you did not get buy-in for being able to access, early on.)

This becomes particularly important when expert help from specific colleagues is involved, with their always competing work priorities that their working with you too, would have to accommodate. And as a final point to this discussion thread, I add that if you agree to do a specific job and complete a specific task or project as a key part of that, and you then say that you cannot do it, at least on time unless you are given additional resources (e.g. such as help from a colleague), this creates risk of calling your overall capabilities to do this job into question.

• Timing can be everything, for when and how you ask for and argue the case for you’re being offered the resources that you need – and particularly when that means supportive help from a specialist colleague.

I am going to offer a few more points of observation as to how best to navigate this first on the job meeting with your now-supervisor in the next installment to this series. And after that I will move on to discuss a series of issues that hold importance way past the end of any new hire probationary period, but that start to present themselves then. These issues include, among other possibilities:

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

I will, of course, delve into issues of corporate culture, and interpersonal relationships in the process of addressing those issues. And I will add to that starter list of to-address topics as I proceed too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 3 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1 and Page 2. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material. And for relevant background and a systematic discussion of the new hire probationary period as a whole, as organized from day one on, see : Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation, as can also be found at Page 1 of that Guide (as its postings 73-88.)

Moore’s law, software design lock-in, and the constraints faced when evolving artificial intelligence 3

This is my 3rd posting to a short series on the growth potential and constraints inherent in innovation, as realized as a practical matter (see Part 1 and Part 2.) And I begin this next installment to that progression by sharing a quotation that I find particularly relevant here:

“Nothing about computers is inevitable. But we’ve put such a massive number of bits into place that it is often too much work to remember how each brick of the edifice we live in is nothing but a peculiar obsession someone else put into place, once upon a time.”

You can find this quoted text in its original context on page 44 of:

• Lanier, Jaron. (2017) Dawn of the New Everything: encounters with reality and virtual reality. Henry Holt and Company.

But for purposes of this posting and the series long narrative that it fits into, I cite the above for two reasons. The first is to highlight how complex systems such as computers – or essentially any complex systems that are designed to serve complex far-reaching functions, evolve. And the scope and range of what they are intended to do, evolve too with new functional goals and sub-goals added and old ones shifted for their overall priorities and perceived importance, or even dropped entirely. And second, complex systems are never designed and built and tested and integrated together by single individuals, or even just single businesses or other discrete organized groups of them. That holds for computers, the internet, and every other complex far-reaching technological endeavor, and certainly when preconceived and predesigned standards and design elements have to be built in.

Individual components: individual bricks in these edifices are conceived and built separately from each other, and not always entirely with a preconceived goal of their being used in the types of systems that they end up in – and certainly not for the full range of applications and contexts that they might be brought into. I wrote in Part 2 about how a particular brick in the edifice of electronic technology for recording, storing and playing digitally formatted music has unfortunately-restricting limitations built into it, when briefly addressing the MIDI musical note encoding standard and its issues. One of the biggest challenges that enters into any really large scale software design and development project, is that of connecting all of the disparately sourced pieces that have to fit and work together, so they can and at least well enough to meet overall end user needs. The principle raised there applies to complex, multi-sourced technologies in general.

I have been writing in this series about a dynamic that arises within essentially any system of overall technological progress or in the context of evolutionary change per se for that matter, that in its most simply stated form, pits two understandings of innovation advancement against each other:

• One of these competing visions presumes that new technologies, to continue to pose this in human artifact terms, can and will develop to the outer limits of what is possible for them, given the fundamental physical constraints imposed by nature on what can be done: the fundamental limitations imposed by the laws of nature as empirical reality and its observation have shaped them. Think of innovation advancement in this context as being open to achieving what amounts to absolute perfectibility, at least within the outermost constraints of what is physically possible, and with that serving as an at least inevitable outcome, given enough time.
• Moore’s law and the still ongoing race to build progressively smaller and more compactly interconnected integrated circuit elements, and to pack more and more such elements into a single chip and without corresponding cost increases, stands out for its apparent significance precisely because it seems to fit this race to perfection pattern. For decades now, it has seemed that only the ultimate physical laws of nature and their constraints as set by the size of individual atoms and by the properties that emerge for them at a quantum mechanical level, can set any real limit to how far this scaling prediction can be pushed. But Moore’s law is an exception to the more standard pattern of innovative development, from what we actually see in most innovation contexts and certainly when looking at them in detail. And that point of conclusion is true even if this basic vision: this basic paradigm of physical laws-limited perfection is more commonly presumed to be more generally, empirically valid than it ever actually is or can be.
• The other paradigm that I would cite here offers a competing vision as to what is, and what can be developed technologically. And it is one that can be summarized by a simple statement: history has impact and what comes next depends on what came before. Next round innovation becomes constrained and shaped and limited by what has come before it in the innovation progression that it arises within and from.
• This is a vision and understanding in which what can be developed through a progression of innovations, is at least as much constrained by the historical pathway of design and implementation decisions already made along the way, as it is by any given outer limits of attainability as would ultimately be imposed by the laws of nature of the above stated Vision 1. And in fact this vision of development, when realized in practice, essentially always leads to innovation development dead ends that would fall far short of what might theoretically be possible, at least as assumed by the first of these two bullet pointed understandings.

I just recapitulated this distinction here, in terms of human artifice and the flow of human-sourced design that leads to it. One of my goals in Part 2 of this series was to argue a case as to how the additional set of constraints on what innovation can lead to, as noted in the second of the above-stated scenarios, has directly comparable counterparts in nature, and certainly in biologically evolved and evolving systems.

Returning to my biological systems examples of Part 2, I explicitly note that they can easily be divided into two basic forms, both of which have direct counterparts in a human developed technological arena too:

• Design and implementation decisions that can become grandfathered in, and that with time can become system limiting, and even as they continue to be used and as entrenched building block elements in standardized designs, and
• Design and implementation decisions that can persist and even long after they no longer functionally apply at all, and that are simply maintained and replicated into new designs just because they have always been there.

And this leads me directly to the issues that I said I would address here, at the end of Part 2:

• A point of biological evolutionary understanding that I would argue, is crucially important in understanding the development of technology in general, and of more specific capabilities such as artificial intelligence in particular: the concepts of fitness landscapes as a way to visualize systems of natural selection, and adaptive peaks as they arise in these landscapes.

Let’s begin addressing that by reframing the basic terminology of this biological systems-oriented statement into more business systems-familiar terms. And I begin with fitness and natural selection, and by making two fundamental points about them, from a biological systems perspective that translate nicely into a business and a technology innovation setting too:

• Fitness is a measure of the relative likelihood of survival of a given genetically (plus environmentally) determined trait, into the next generation as those organisms that bear that trait compete for representation in that next generation through more successful reproduction. But fitter in this sense is no guarantee of greater success there. A species might live and thrive in an ecological niche where ability to run and dodge faster can significantly improve chances for both avoiding being eaten and for eating more reliably and fully too. But a faster individual with a trait variation that should give them an advantage there, still might die before successfully reproducing and with their “less fit” counterparts succeeding anyway. So this is all probabilistic – not strictly deterministic, and even for what should in principle be larger fitness-defining differences.
• And fitness is often considered as it arises in individual traits or qualities, and particularly where that means simple single gene determination. But it is entire organisms that live to successfully reproduce and pass their genes on to a next generation, or not. So ultimately it is the overall cumulative gene plus environment package, and chance that determine who does and does not help to populate that next generation.

From a technology development perspective, this means:

• Better brick/component by brick/component design can improve the odds for a new innovation as it seeks to compete in the marketplace, and particularly where this means features and qualities that should really catch consumer attention and positively so. But better and even much better and even for critically important features, does not always absolutely guarantee long-term success. At most that can only improve the odds of success.
• And it is the entire package that does or does not succeed there, so even great design and implementation features can be drowned out by less inspiring ones, and particularly if they catch public attention. The complete innovation package makes it or not, and even if technologists focus on what they see as the top, key, defining features when they build and when the business that they work for markets and sells.

And this brings me to fitness landscapes. And my goal for the balance of this posting is to briefly introduce this concept, as a starting point for the next installment in this series to come:

Picture in your mind, a mountainous landscape with high peaks and with slopes leading up to them. And all of those mountains are surrounded by areas of more significantly depressed elevation: deep valleys and canyon-like depths in the more extreme case, but with some peaks connected by mountain passes that might dip significantly below the high peaks, but that are still fairly high in elevation and certainly when compared to the valleys and canyons of this region. The higher the elevation of any given spot in this complex terrain, the higher the fitness value for whatever traits or combinations of them are being modeled by this graphically oriented display. There, different traits and combinations of them, can be seen as being uniquely assigned their own specific latitudes and longitudes: their own specific points on this topographic map.

One trait that I have been discussing in this series, is the biological systems example of the pentose shunt: a short but crucial biochemical pathway found in a vast array of species that is of ancient evolutionary lineage. And to cite a technological example that I have also touched upon in this series, I make note again of the MIDI digital encoding format for representing musical notes. I begin addressing those specific examples, and the pentose shut in particular here by reframing my topographical model by adding in one additional detail: the mountains in this representation are surrounded by sea level water, and for purposes of this narrative an elevation of zero or lower (sea level or lower) represents zero fitness and is fatal.

The peak representing the pentose shunt and the gene systems based biochemical pathway that it forms, might not be anywhere near the highest possible elevation that could in principle be attained for carrying out the same basic functions that that current pathway carries out. But it would be impossible to reach any other, and perhaps better peak: any better alternative to the pentose shunt as we know it, and regardless of the new benefits that would be gained from that, because any attempted move away from the current peak would be lethal.

I am going to continue this narrative and its examples in the next series installment, where I will consider the issues and challenges of moving from a current MIDI standard trait to a new and presumably better alternative. And I will explore and discuss a set of cost/benefits issues in that context that serve to explain both how an early solution such as MIDI encoding can be arrived at and adapted, and how such a technical solution can become entrenched.

Looking forward in what I will include here, one of my core goals in this series is to consider the development of artificial intelligence based systems, and hoped for artificial general intelligence systems, in light of the two vision dynamic that I have been discussing here. I am leading this overall series and its narrative in that direction, and will turn to that complex of issues as soon as I have completed developing a foundation for that line of discussion.

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 and the challenges facing us from the unraveling of an American presidency

Posted in book recommendations, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on September 7, 2018

This is my 34th installment to what has become an ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections. See my first posting to what has become this overall series: Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs , and see my same-named subseries within that: Donald Trump and the Stress Testing of the American System of Government, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.

I have taken a somewhat lengthy path to reach this point in this name changing series. But I find myself, to a significant degree at least, approaching it as if I were still addressing the issues that I began all of this with, during the Republican Party’s 2016 nominations process that led to Donald Trump serving as their flag bearer and presidential candidate. I find myself thinking back to my first step posting in all of this: my above-cited Political Monologs thought piece.

Donald Trump is either famously or infamously known for having bragged in public that he could shoot and presumably kill someone –anyone and in public on Fifth Avenue in the heart of New York City, and that that would not in any way dent his popularity or his approvals ratings with his faithful. And here we are on September 7, 2018 as I write this, and his approval ratings as assembled and offered on the largest and most widely cited nonpartisan political polling site available online, still show him holding onto a seemingly unchangeable and uninfluenceable 40% positive rating and at a time when his own inner circle is beginning to publically question his fitness for office, and at a time when he has done essentially everything that might challenge his ratings except actually shoot someone.

I wrote a short email note on this to a friend the day before yesterday, and begin this update posting by noting a point that I made there. “I approach this from the ironic position of being caught between two competing and strongly, widely held publically received wisdoms:

• That it is inevitable that Trump will put himself in a position where either his own cabinet and vice president, or congress will remove him from office (through taking recourse to the 25th amendment, or by impeachment and conviction respectively) AND
• That it is impossible to actually achieve his removal from office, and by either of those measures, so Trump will just continue to be Trump … and with his hand way too near the nuclear button and with that same hand actively on all of the power levers that a president more conventionally has at their disposal for when they seek to carry out their will.
I, unfortunately, still see real validity in both of those wisdoms so I feel a bit like Schrodinger’s cat in that box, not knowing what will happen next. I am going to write about the mounting evidence in support of removal that president Trump and all of the rest of us face, and I will write about the bind that we are all in now for the impossibilities that we face in actually responding to any of that and in any meaningful, positive way. Whatever happens in the coming months, we are at a watershed moment now and I am planning on writing a bit about it as the wave? begins to crest.”

Let’s start out by considering the wave, such as it is and how it is gaining both visibility and acknowledgement and from a widening range of directions. The most obvious of the new of that, and certainly as of this writing, can be found in a real rarity: an anonymously published Op-Ed piece that apparently came from a senior member of president Trump’s inner circle, in-house administrative team:

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.

The New York Times is carefully protecting the identity of this whistleblower but they claim to have carefully verified the legitimacy of this source. And according to this news piece – and it is one, the writer of this missive is only one of a group of similarly minded and similarly acting members of the Trump team who have reached a conclusion that he is unfit for office and a danger to the republic.

Trump has lashed out calling the author of this piece a traitor, and by branding anyone who would act as they claim to in intentionally thwarting him, to be traitors too.

This is simply a new voice sharing what has already become an at least somewhat familiar message, and I cite a recent book by another insider to confirm that:

Manigault, O. (2018) Unhinged. The Gallery Publishing Group.

Omarosa Manigault Newman: a member of the Trump inner circle who served as his Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison in his presidential administration, expressed similar concerns as to Donald Trump’s intellect, mental stability and incapacity to in any way learn from anything, ever. And in the course of her longer narrative, she wrote of how actions that he orders that do not make sense, are ‘slow walked” into oblivion – or the papers related to them are simply taken from his desk so he can more easily just forget about them.

Donald Trump’s loyal core constituency: his 40% would and in fact do approve of anything he says, anything he does, and anything that he simply claims to have done, believing that if he says it, it must be true. It must be truer than true. And if that sounds like hyperbolic Orwellian doublespeak, remember that Trump’s own (current as of this writing) leading legal council: former leading prosecuting attorney and mayor of the City of New York, Rudy Giuliani publically proclaimed in his boss’ defense that “truth is relative” and “truth isn’t truth.” See:

‘Truth isn’t Truth’: Giuliani weighs risks of possible Trump interview in Russia probe.

And that 40% of the American public still follows him as his very own congregation of true believers. I initially inserted the words “cult-like” in that sentence, but why bother? His true believers still believe and no matter what. And when they lack anything like third party verifiable evidence they always have faith to guide them – faith and trust in their own bubble chamber-echoed words.

Setting aside any arguably hostile sources of newspaper and magazine articles, televised and online commentary and books that have come out recently, that fit the pattern laid out by the above-cited Op-Ed piece and Omarosa Manigault Newman’s new book, we still find ourselves confronted by a veritable deluge of new and frequently scathing allegations. I add a few more such references to this posting simply to highlight how even Republican and conservative-leaning thought leaders in what should be Trump’s own party, have also come to question.

I would begin documenting that by citing a much lesser known work than the above-noted Op-Ed piece, that was written by a Republican strategist who has had national impact in conservative circles, and in shaping their agendas and approaches:

Wilson, R. (2018) Everything Trump Touches Dies: a Republican strategist gets real about the worst president ever. Free Press – a Simon and Schuster, Inc. imprint.

And I match that by citing a new book that is on the cusp of being released to the general public that the entire world seems to be waiting to read:

Woodword, B. (2018) Fear: Trump in the White House. Simon & Schuster.

I have not been offered an advance copy of this book, so I can only go by the news and comments offered from those who have read it, and from the pre-release excerpts and details that they have shared from it. It is already clear that president Trump and his administration have already come to see this new book as representing an entirely new level of threat to their staying in office and staying in power. As such, I find myself recommending this book strictly on the basis of third party commentary and from my knowledge of the author’s prior work and both as a reporter and as a book author.

And for a CNN piece on the reaction that this new book has already engendered within the Trump administration, see Woodward Book Prompts West Wing Witch Hunt, Sources Say.

And president Trump’s supporters still think that he can walk on water and solve all problems and that he is the only one who can.

I have accumulated a lot of links in recent months, since last writing to this series: links to verified news stories and thoughtful news analysis pieces, that would normally be considered to be game changing for the level of damage that their revelations would bring to any presidency caught up in them. The fundamental problem that I face here with that, is corruption and venality overload. I mean by that, the simple fact that I have been adding news and analysis links to this series of that sort, coming from Trump election campaign and then from the Trump presidency, since before he was elected. And I have only skimmed the surface of the flood of that material that has been coming out and going public through all of those months. And by now this accumulation of what should be the damning has all come to blur together for most all of us into a single vast amorphous sense of wrong – except of course for Donald Trump’s favored and favoring 40%.

I effectively began this posting by making note of two visions of where we are and of where we are going, and as a society and nation and globally. It is crucially important to remember here that in spite of the US based pundits and their priorities, and certainly as they are being expressed leading up to the mid-term primaries in the United States, this is not about Republicans and Democrats. It is about democracy as a possibility worth striving towards, and it is about what we have gained, and what we stand to lose of what we have already achieved in that.

I began this note by writing of a wave that appears to be starting to crest, appending a question mark and the uncertainties that that punctuation mark implies to the possibility and nature of “wave” here at all. The Trump presidency has moved into realms of incompetence, venality and corruption that have no precedent, at least in United States history. We are navigating uncharted waters. And a majority of the Republican leadership in congress, and in the state houses, and yes in the Trump administration too, still support him and for reasons of their own self-interest if nothing else. The why of that does not matter there; it is only important that they do. And that magical 40% and its undying loyalty serves as a very effective cover for any and all governmentally placed support that Donald Trump receives.

Both the pro and con sides to Trump’s self-inflicted predicament as offered at the top of this piece look to offer predictive value even as they flatly contradict each other. On the one hand, the one expectation that we can reliably trust Donald Trump to come through on is that he will continue to ratchet up the crazy and the vile to new levels, and on what is essentially an ongoing daily basis. He does not take days off. But we have to assume that there is nothing that Trump could do that would dissuade his 40%, or at least a very, very close approximation of that number from continuing to follow him and as if he were their messiah. And we all have to expect his Republican Party backers, and certainly his more powerfully placed party backers to continue to do so. Any of them capable of the self-reflection and any capable of self-judgment over the consequences of their decisions and actions taken, who might be able to reconsider their support of Trump through all of this, would have already done so and left.

I hold out hope for an eventual end to this long national nightmare. And until Trump I never, ever expected to find myself facing that as a defining hope and certainly not in American politics or the American system of democratically framed governance. This is not and has never been a perfect country and by any measure. But the growing challenge to all that we have reached for and for all that we have achieved, shows its value and even for all of its flaws and gaps and for all of its room to grow and improve that we have always faced.

If, as I expect, the Democratic Party takes control of at least one of the House or Senate in the upcoming November 2018 elections, that might lead to congressional action. But I stress the word “might” there and even if the Republican Party were to lose control of both houses and by significant numbers. And if, as intimated by the anonymous Op-Ed piece that I offered a link to above, there is wider resistance to the Trump administration and from within … and if that coalesces into a 25th Amendment challenge to his remaining in office under its Section 4 provisions, that would still just create a “might”, a maybe.

Impeachment and conviction in accordance with the US Constitution’s Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 would call for a simple majority in the House to pass a bill of actionable charges: charges that would show sufficient grounds for trying the president for having committed some combination of high crimes and misdemeanors, or treason so as to call for further action. Such a bill of impeachment, if passed by the House, would serve a role similar to a grand jury indictment of charges in a court of law setting. That document would formally state that there is legitimate cause for a trial and the Senate would then have to agree with its findings and pass it by at least a two thirds vote of all sitting senators for it to succeed and for the president to be removed from office by this mechanism. The 25th amendment, Section 4 calls for what is understood to be a clear cut two thirds or higher vote to proceed from both House and Senate. So numerically, that is the more difficult of the two as a possible course of action here. It would only take a simple majority yes vote to pass a bill of impeachment in the House.

So I keep going back to the two alternatives that I began this with and that 40%. And I keep going back in my thoughts to how Donald Trump keeps spiraling further and further away from stability, reason, morality and ethics and from legality and our basic democratic norms as a key expression of that.

Where will and where can we go from here? I expect to offer a next installment to this ongoing line of discussion and will add that into the queue and post it when and as I find it necessary to update this unfolding news-based narrative and commentary.

You can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, as posting 244 and loosely following.

… and to add an addendum note to this: Who is in charge in the Whitehouse in a practical sense right now, if president Trump himself is in fact the Mayor of Crazytown and unable to actually lead anything, to cite a title that some of his team have been reported to call him?

One possible answer might be found in the reported group of insiders who apparently seek to manage Trump by distracting him and through delays in action that can become permanent as needed. But if there is one thing that we have learned about Donald Trump and his dealings with his supporters and enablers, is that he feels contempt for anyone who would bow down to him and even as he demands that much and more from them as obeisance due. People in his inner circle cannot sit comfortably in that role; they are at least as subject to derision and to dismissive action as anyone might be, and they are in fact more subject to that because he actively sees them. Trump actively sees them as competing with him for the limelight and for their visibility of authority and capability.

This would at least lessen the likelihood of members of his cabinet or other “inner-ring” insiders, taking on a role of eminence grise, and de facto shadow president, at least for long. It would certainly seem to preclude any such individuals or groups of them taking on such a role, individually or collectively on a more stable and ongoing basis. And it, among other considerations, might help explain why the writer of the Op-Ed piece cited in this posting, and their like-minded colleagues, have been acting as they do through subterfuge. But setting aside this more work-around solution to the problem of finding a more stable core in the midst of the Trump chaos, who is left to provide that? I would at least suggest a possibility here by citing another newly released book that might very well highlight a contender for that role:

• D’Antonio, M. and P Eisner. (2018) The Shadow President: the truth about Mike Pence. Thomas Dunn Books – an imprint of St. Martin’s Press.

First, Donald Trump cannot readily dismiss vice president Pence as he can with any of his appointees, and on the basis of whatever whim might be driving him at any given moment. His removing Pence from office would require action through constitutionally defined processes: the same 25th Amendment or Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 processes that he sees as being held over his own head. And second, it is very clear by now that Pence really knows how to operate Trump as if he were a puppet or marionette. Pence knows how to flatter and please him with supportive and encouraging words while following his own agenda – which can always be expected to predominate in any long-run when facing off against what is at most a moment by moment impulse driven alternative.

So I offer this appended note with an outsider to the White House view as to who is really in charge there, and with a guess as to Mike Pence’s current political calculus. And he would probably see that as offering a win-win choice of alternatives for himself. If Donald Trump were to leave office early and either through the types of constitutionally defined processes that I have touched upon here, or through his resigning from office – that would immediately elevate Pence to the presidency when he would never have been able to win that office in a national election as a competing candidate. And if Trump were to stay in office and continue on in his increasingly more dysfunctional ways, that would still leave Pence serving as a de facto president, and from his being more organized and focused if for no other reason. He would not have the title, but he might very well hold much if not most of the actual power – aside from his having to repeatedly respond to and work around the flow of chaos that he would have to “serve” within.

Will Trump leave office early, and if so how? The main body of this posting focused on that question and on the questions that it raises. The more important questions here might be more focused on who would take over as president if he does leave office early, and who is actually in day-to-day power there now, insofar as there is any real order or organization in the White House at all right now.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 25: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 17

This is my 25th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-24.)

I have been discussing a series of hiring process exceptions in this series since Part 20: personnel policy and process exceptions of types that can and do arise in businesses, and for reasons that I have at least been briefly noting as I have successively explored those exception case possibilities. And one key detail that they have had in common with each other, and with the more normative processes that they serve as exceptions to, is that they each present themselves as special case exceptions, and in ways that hold up a business’ more normative, official and expected hiring, onboarding and employee retention processes as the appropriate basic standard in place.

I turn here to consider one final hiring exception scenario, or rather category of them, that at the very least holds potential for challenging that last point of assumption: nepotism. And I include that possibility here, for how explicit rule breaking, and rule breaking that can challenge the basic legitimacy of a business’ basic processes and systems in place, can shed light on the how and why of how a business is more normatively run too.

I begin with what might be considered two of the more acceptable and business systems accommodating scenarios of this set of exceptions possibilities:

• The owners of a family run business that make no claims that they in any way seek to shift this enterprise from being family owned and run, bring in a son or daughter with a goal of training them and grooming them for eventual leadership there. But at the same time, they seek to maintain their business as a viable and even a competitively strong enterprise. So their next generation potential leader of this business is going to have to learn and grow into that position of responsibility. And I assume for purposes of this case in point example, that it is not a foregone conclusion that this heir to be will end up as CEO and Board Chair there and even if they stay with the company and long-term. That, at least in principle will depend on how their training and advancement through the ranks at this business works out. So yes, if they do succeed there, they will end up inheriting a leadership role there. But at the same time the current generation family-sourced leadership of this business is not willing to allow or support that move if it would put their family business that they have worked so hard to build, in jeopardy.
• And alternatively, the son or daughter of a long-term and valued employee or manager at a business, is offered a foot in the door as a new hire and at least to a significant degree because of their family connection to that business. But for purposes of this scenario, I only assume that meaning their being given an opportunity to prove themselves there. They still have to go through the same new hire orientation and new hire probationary period that anyone else entering that business as an employee would face. And their staying on and advancing there would depend on their performance there, exactly as it would for any other new hire or employee.

Think of these scenarios as rule bending, without necessarily being system breaking. For more extreme system challenging examples, consider the implications and the complications of breaking any of the basic constraints that I built into those two scenarios, that if adhered to would led this business back to normal, official and long-term effective, as its basic functioning norm.

I freely admit that I once took a consulting assignment, as an interim C level officer with a business that I came to learn, was owned and run by a mob family. This was in fact one of their legitimate business endeavors and a key part of an effort on their part to break away from their past and entirely into legitimate business ventures. But this business was still plagued by nepotism, and by a form of it that held family, and mob family connections as being much more important than anything else going on there. As a result, it was impossible to even acknowledge that at least one such individual in a key position, was both incompetent and venal about it from how they sought out personal advantage and prerogatives at the expense of that business and its suppliers and customers. This business was in fact riven with nepotism sourced incompetence, even if most of the people so involved there were not in a position to create the levels of challenge that that one family favored individual did.

I did not stay there very long, but I did learn a great deal about nepotism and its more toxic forms from observing that approach to hiring and retention in action there. And I include this life experience story here for the lessons that I learned from it regarding business resiliency and flexibility, and how ongoing knowing violation of both normal business practice, and trust can create challenges throughout an organization.

I have been writing in the progression of series installments that lead up to here, of business as a system of interpersonal relationships and interactions. And I in effect conclude this phase of this series as I have been developing it up to here, by stressing a key word and a key issue that underlies whether and how that business might work: trust. Nepotism always at least raises low level questions as to trust and even when it fits a less damaging pattern of the type offered in my two above-offered bullet pointed examples. Where does the first of those scenarios leave lifelong employees who have moved up through the ranks of that business, but who can never hope for advancement to a next higher position there because a family member is being groomed for that next job up – and ultimately just because they have the right family connections? That type of complication can play out through the entire multi-year process that an inheriting son or daughter goes through, as they rise through the ranks in a business, and with the possibility of their pushing others aside as they are advanced to higher positions: as their family guided advancement stymies the professional futures of others there who are at least as fully invested in that business and its success and who are worthy of advancement if considered on a merit-alone basis. I specifically note here, that the non-family employees and managers so affected in this, are essentially always going to be among the very best people there that that business should most want to retain. They are usually among the highest performing, valuable people that, that this business would, at least absent nepotism, be the most eager to retain and advance there.

I add that I have posited this scenario strictly in terms of some single heir to this business receiving special preferential attention. But it is not all that uncommon for this type of preferential treatment, and its appearance to be offered towards more than just some single next generation family member. The first nepotism scenario that I offered above can be applied to several or even many family members and certainly for a larger business, who would with time come to assume a wide range of positions there, and as much because of blood and family connections as for any other reasons.

And where does the second of the above two basic scenarios leave current employees who see someone who otherwise might not be hired at all, taking a job opening that others who might be more qualified have applied for too? For that, consider current employee stakeholders who meet with job hire candidates, including ones who they see as having tremendous value and potential. And then the person who is hired for that job, comes in as a “legacy” hire to use the family connections term used when a college or university accepts an incoming student candidate at least in part because their father or mother is a well heeled alumnus or alumna there. People talk. What impact will that have on employee morale, and certainly if this type of non-merit based hiring becomes something of a practice there? And add to that the opinions arrived at and shared in office cafeteria and break room conversations, if such a new hire finds themselves going through a more stressful and steeper learning curve than another less-connected new hire would be expected to have to deal with. And consider that in light of the ongoing impact that this family connection new hire has on everyone they now find themselves working with, who have to find ways to accommodate the consequences of those extra learning curve hurdles in their own work.

But as my above-noted more toxic nepotism example illustrates, the types of problems that can arise from its scenario, can and do get a lot worse than anything found in the first two as just discussed here.

• Ultimately, businesses, and organizations in general have to be built on a foundation of trust and of trustworthiness. And any real challenge to that can quickly become a challenge to the business as a whole and a challenge to all that that enterprise stands for and seeks to accomplish.

I am going to return to this narrative and to a discussion of business processes and business theory, in subsequent installments to this series. But as already promised, I am going to step back to reconsider and build upon the more general principles of general theories that I started this series with. And I will do that beginning in my next series installment. Then, when I have concluded that digression, I will turn back to explicitly considering theories of business per se, in light of the conceptual structures and approaches that I will develop and offer starting in the next installment. And I will begin to formally discuss emergent properties when I do that, and where and how they arise in a business as it develops in scale and complexity.

In anticipation of that, I note here that I have been discussing business theory as such in this series, since Part 9, in terms of individual to individual, interpersonal interactions and relationships. And I have cited higher organizational levels in this, primarily as context for clarifying points made there. I have noted and on a number of occasions that I have been planning on discussing emerging properties in this series too, as they arise in larger and more organizationally complex business systems and contexts. But I have not addressed that up to here.

I will offer more general theory of general theories context, at least beginning in the next installment to this series, building onto the organizing framework that I began laying out in Parts 1-8 of this series. Then I will turn to consider the lowest level of organization and structure in a business where overtly emergent behavior and its consequences begins to emerge, and essentially of necessity: at the organizational level of the intra-communicating tile, to cite the term that I have been offering and developing theory around in Building a Business for Resilience, Part 28 and following. As noted there, what I refer to as “tiles” in that discussion, holds a number of key points of similarity with “cliques” as that term is used in social networking theory, though tile has additional defining properties that hold particular importance there in that series and here too.

I will discuss feedback and peer pressure as shaping factors in within-tile dynamics, and in the interactions between separate tiles in an organization, as representing the lowest level of organization there where true emergent properties first begin to arise in overall business systems. And then going beyond that, I will discuss how headcount expansion in an organization, approaching and then surpassing Dunbar’s number in scale, leads to further next step up emergent properties too, with among other things the emergence of an absolute need for formalized business processes that would shape and determine allowed interpersonal interactions, and through them essentially all business activity.

That outlines some of what is to come in this series, moving forward from here and through the next two major transitions that this overall narrative with go through. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

Innovation, disruptive innovation and market volatility 43: innovative business development and the tools that drive it 13

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on September 2, 2018

This is my 43rd posting to a series on the economics of innovation, and on how change and innovation can be defined and analyzed in economic and related risk management terms (see Macroeconomics and Business, posting 173 and loosely following for Parts 1-5 and Macroeconomics and Business 2, posting 203 and loosely following for Parts 6-42.)

I focused in Part 42 on

• Budget prioritization, and balancing the costs of supporting innovation development and building for New,
• Against the costs of ongoing business processes and related as arise when meeting more standard, ongoing cost-center needs.
• And I discussed this all in terms of the real world budget and resource constraints that any business faces, and in terms of prioritizing what might be done on all fronts, and both in terms of direct costs faced and in terms of need and opportunity factors. Risk and benefits analyses and their conclusions arise from that.

More specifically, I focused in Part 42 for the most part, on a single innovation initiative, simplest case scenario. And I then briefly touched on the possibility of developing and maintaining a true innovation pipeline for the purpose of putting that simplest case possibility into a wider and perhaps more realistic context. My goal here is to begin again with that simplest single innovation-considered scenario – this time looking in more detail into what is actually involved there. This will mean breaking open the black box of the innovation and product development process, or rather flow of such processes, to consider the internal workings, cost and benefits analysis considerations that any business would face when having to address real innovation and either in prospect or as it is actually currently taking place. After developing this more detailed and I add more realistic analysis and discussing how it might be applied in a specific business context, I will re-add in the issues and complexities of innovation pipelines again, of the type that any innovation oriented business would have to develop and maintain.

• I begin all of this by considering an innovation effort that if successful, would lead to a significant upgrade to a product that customers already know, use and appreciate, that would draw real market interest for more effectively, and for most cost-effectively meeting consumer needs. And the product type that I would focus on here, is outdoor paint, of a type that could be applied to as wide a range of possible surfaces as possible, and that would last longer than current products do and both for waterproof surface endurance, and for resisting color fade.
• The key here is in cost-effectively developing a new chemical formulation for the base compound that colored pigments would be added to, to create the range of paint colors offered, that would bind to those pigments, and to as wide a range of paintable surface materials as possible, and stably so.
• Ideally this would include capacity to cover surfaces such as raw brick face in a single coat, that would soak up conventional house paint, leaving brick color showing through. Yes, there are undercoats that can be applied with a specific goal of sealing porous surfaces such as raw brick face. But the goal here is to make it unnecessary to paint the same surface twice; the goal here is one coat and done.
• And ideally this same paint formulation would stick firmly to surfaces such as plastic siding too, that do not absorb at all, where that can lead to paint peeling.
• And ideally this paint would last, as noted in the first of these bullet points and in any of a very wide range of climates and in the face of a very wide range of climate exposures. That would of course include tropical heat and sun exposure, and northern winter exposure and much more (e.g. coastal salt spray exposure.)
• And as a final point of detail here, any paint formulated and produced in this way should be as easy to use, and as quick and easy to clean up from as any water-based acrylic house paint already in use and it should be at least as close to being odor free as current paint offerings are when drying.

Perfection in achieving all of the above product design parameter goals and at low cost to the customer, and in a very competitively wide range of paint colors might be an impossible goal. But I assume here, an innovative new product development effort that would at the very least come very close to simultaneously reaching all of the above goals, and as close to perfectly as possible.

Now let’s consider an at least broadly stated research and development process that might lead to reaching that overall cumulative goal here, and its costs and benefits, and risk and benefits issues:

• Let’s begin in a materials science lab at a university, and with a new polymer formulation that holds potential for replacing the polymer emulsions currently in use in acrylic paint products. And let’s assume that the professor who runs this lab, teaches and does their research in a university that has an active innovation development office that works with members of their faculty, and with innovative graduate students and others there, to promote their innovations and to secure patent protection for them. This generally means that university taking a percentage of any resulting income achieved from that effort, off of the top from all monies received, with the rest parceled out according to a contractually agreed to formula-based process. But I will set that aside for purposes of this discussion and simply assume that this potential paint breakthrough has either patent, or what is more likely: patent pending protective status. And it is in some way offered on the market to any business that is willing to competitively pay for its use, and probably through an exclusive use agreement.
• This innovation represents a potentially valuable compound, and approach for generating them, that might in fact yield better, longer lasting outdoor paints. But there are still going to be more questions than answers as to how or even whether that can work out successfully in practice, and cost-effectively so. A business that agrees to purchase the rights to this patentable, currently protected idea is buying access to what amounts to a seed, that might really grow into something. Or it might not.
• I will set aside the issue of whether another company might read the same patent filing and decide to tweak the chemistry outlined in it to make a comparable new product that would match what this patent pending chemistry would seem to offer. I will simply, if admittedly naively assume at least for this phase of this narrative that the patent proposal submitted by that university office and their attorneys, is sufficiently broadly enough written so as to effectively block that type of challenge, at least in any short or near-term. And I will assume that that patent filing is also specifically enough written while meeting that goal, so that it is not likely to be overturned and thrown out as being too vague or non-specific for its key innovation offered to be genuinely patentable. For here at least, I will simply assume that attempting to patent and filing for that, and securing a patent pending status on this new innovative approach is going to be sufficient to limit its access for use to the single organization or other entity that holds the patent filings on this, or to any business that buys a right to so use it from them.

My goal here has been to set the stage for all that will follow in the type of analyses that I have outlined above, and that I presume at least one paint manufacturer would be willing to buy into. What would prospective patent rights buyers consider as they consider making a bid to buy for securing exclusive use of this innovation? How would they make their overall, concluding decisions there? And for the business that does so buy in and sign a contract to finalize that, what comes next, as this raw idea and the potential new paint chemistry that it represents, is developed into what will hopefully become a whole new, groundbreaking line of products? And how will that fit into the rights acquiring business as a whole with its ongoing financial and other pressures and considerations to contend with?

I will at least begin to explore those issues in my next installment to this series. Then after completing that single innovation effort narrative line, I will add the issues and complexities of innovation pipelines back into this overall discussion too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3 and that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 39: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 19

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 30, 2018

This is my 39th posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-38.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I began addressing three specific possible scenarios that a new business’ founders might pursue for their venture, in Part 33, that I have been successively discussing since then for how they illustrate more general issues and principles that any business has to face when transitioning from startup phase into their first real growth stage:

1. A new venture that has at least preliminarily proven itself as viable and as a source of profitability can go public and with all of the organizational change and all of the transparency and reporting requirements that this entails as they begin offering stock shares.
2. A new venture can transition from pursuing what at least begins as if pursuing an organic growth and development model (as in exit strategy 1, above) but with a goal of switching to one in which they seek out and acquire larger individually sourced outside capital investment resources, and particularly from venture capitalists.
3. A new venture, and certainly one that is built around a growth-oriented business model, might build its first bricks and mortar site, in effect as a prototype effort that it would refine with a goal of replication through, for example a franchise system. And there, licensing fees and ongoing franchise-sourced income going back to the parent company, would provide funds that could be used for further capital development, among other things, to keep a fiscal systems focus here on what I include in this list.

I have been discussing the third and last of these possibilities here since Part 37 and from both the franchise system parent company perspective, and from the perspective of the local franchise holder who buys into and invests their future in such a system. And one of the core areas of that line of discussion, as sketched out in Part 38 was that of how a balance might be arrived at, or not, between meeting the sometimes aligned and sometimes competing needs and priorities of the franchisee and the parent company that they report to and that owns the brand that they work under. And that line of analysis and discussion led me to a fundamental question that I posed at the end of that installment, and that I turn to address here:

• How can a franchise system parent company and their perhaps very widely dispersed franchisees with their local storefronts, reach and maintain a more optimized balance between what is systematically standardized across the entire system and in its overall branding and brand value, while also allowing for local diversity to address local community and related marketplace preferences and needs?

I began pointing towards at least an approach for resolving the issues raised in this type of question at the end of Part 38, where I stated that I would turn here to:

• Consider the issues of business-wide consistency, as well as storefront-level flexibility, and both in prototyping new product or service possibilities and in addressing local-to-store opportunities and challenges. What is and is not supported and even encouraged and rewarded in this?

And I add to that: how are those decisions made? And what types and sources of input are brought into that process when arriving at what would at least ideally be both locally and more generally applicable answers? And how are the results of these decision-making processes shared throughout the overall franchise company system?

I have posed these issues and questions in both franchise parent company and local franchise outlet contexts. But in reality these same issues, at least when more generally stated, can and do apply to any widely geographically dispersed business and certainly when it operates offices, manufacturing facilities, distribution or call centers or other locally staffed facilities in several or even many locals with each situated in its own distinct local cultural milieu and with each having to meet its own particular local and national legal system requirements – that can vary significantly for transnational corporations.

I am going to start to address the above-stated issues and questions with a specific case in point focus on franchise systems and on how they apply and play out there. Then I will step back to reframe those same questions and issues in a wider and more comprehensive context – and one that would apply to the first two business scenarios that I have been discussing here too. And I begin addressing the case in point example of franchise systems in this context by posing a set of thought piece questions of a type that would enter into essentially any effective due diligence review and analysis that would be entered into here:

• What are the key issues that have already risen to a level of prioritized significance for the parent company, at least some subset of their franchise license holders, or both as points of friction between them?

This is the fundamental starting point question, here posed in reactive response form. If there is discontent coming from the parent company, their franchise holders in the field or both, what are the basic issues that drive this? And the more precise and detailed the answer there, the more focused a response can be in addressing and resolving these issues, and with specific and hopefully effective longer-term solutions arrived at.

• How do the points of difference and disagreement, as identified while dealing with the above questions, impact on overall brand consistency for this business system and its key stakeholder participants?
• How do those friction points and their alternative approaches for running a business and providing products and services, impact on the quality of overall performance that these franchises or their overall parent company system can provide?
• And how would members of their collective customer base and of their potential customer base see this? What would be more likely to bring these people to these franchise outlets and bring them to make purchases there?
• And underlying all of this, how would pursuing one or the other of the divergent approaches at least initially preferred by franchise holders, and the parent company impact on the overall finances and profitability for them and on both organizational levels?

Picking up on the last of those questions at least to start here, I note that both the parent company and the local franchise holders who work with them and as participants in their system, seek to maximize their own bottom lines and their own net profits achieved. And while this dual perspective can lead to alignment and agreement, with one side benefiting if the other does too, this can also lead to conflicts and disagreement too.

I have already cited a hot button conflict issue that would lead to conflicts of interest in earlier series when I cited examples of parent companies that insist that their franchise holders only purchase their cleaning and other storefront maintenance supplies from them – and even as local franchise holders see that as avoidably adding to their expenses in order to pad the profits of the parent company. From a parent company perspective, this can mean quality control and it can be understandable, and certainly if they have a history of having had to deal with franchise holders cutting corners for this and in ways that would reflect badly on the brand itself. Still, most franchise holders do seek to maintain a high standard of cleanliness and appearance in their own local businesses. So how and where do you draw a line, as a parent company executive, in determining which franchise holders can and cannot be left to take care of details of this type for themselves? One answer would be to insist on a more centrally managed and overseen approach if onsite inspections and reviews from the parent company – or from local governmental agencies have found a problem with a local franchise. I cite the New York City Department of Health restaurant grading system as an example there. A fast food franchise operation that consistently scores A (the highest grade for quality of cleanliness) in such a system might be given a lot more autonomous leeway as to how they keep to those standards than a parent company would, or should afford to a franchise outlet that keeps being cited for at least minor health code violations and in sufficient numbers so as to recurringly have to post a B or lower grade by their front door. That affects that one franchise outlet; that also reflects badly and impacts badly upon the brand as a whole.

A more ham handed approach of forcing every franchise holder to buy these supplies centrally and to submit to ongoing supervision for basic storefront cleanliness and maintenance will, on the other hand just generate what should be completely avoidable resentment, while adding what should be avoidable costs to all participant sides in this.

Ultimately, the answers arrived at for all of the above check list questions should involve and include words such as “reasoned” and “nuanced.” And that applies where a single approach would be universally applied throughout a franchise system, as much as it does where local case in point and context-specific resolutions might make the most sense.

I could have cited the challenge of better meeting local marketplace and consumer taste here and that of prototyping new possible products in specific local markets too. The same questions that I have briefly sketched out and addressed here, and variations and elaborations to them apply to essentially any area of products or services offered, business operations and how they are prioritized and carried out, branding and how it is both centrally defined and locally expressed and more: essentially any area that would impact upon business strength and presence, or business finances. To cite one more example there, when McDonald’s opened its first storefront in Russia, in Moscow during the waning days of the Soviet Union, they insisted that all potatoes that would be used in their products sold there, had to be imported. And most if not all of them came from Poland. Yes, in principle the franchise holder of this outlet and the franchisees who ran others McDonald’s restaurants that followed, could have sourced their potatoes locally and at lower costs. But the parent company came to realize when planning and preparing for their entry into this new market, that it would have been impossible to secure locally sourced potatoes in Russia at that time, of sufficient quality, and in sufficient quantity and with sufficient supply chain reliability to meet their needs. It was a big deal when a business of this global stature did finally begin sourcing its key raw materials supplies such as the potatoes they used, from local Russian sources, as that offered a global corporate due diligence based imprimatur on Russian agricultural and food shipment systems as now meeting their standards of quality and reliability (see for example: McDonald’s in Russia to Phase Out Polish Potatoes.)

• And ultimately, as briefly noted above, comparable if more generally framed questions, and what amounts to the same reasoning as outlined above in a franchise system-specific context,
• Apply to wider business contexts too and essentially whenever a business grows into a geographically dispersed but still strongly interconnected whole, where local versus centralized perspectives can come to collide.

I am going to revisit the issues raised here in that much more general form, as promised above, in my next series installment. 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 you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory too and at its Page 2 continuation.

Building a business for resilience 31 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 23

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 27, 2018

This is my 31st installment to a series on building flexibility and resiliency into a business in its routine day-to-day decisions and follow-through, so it can more adaptively anticipate and respond to an ongoing low-level but with time, significant flow of change and its cumulative consequences, that every business faces in its normal course of operation (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-30.)

I have been discussing business organization in this series since its Part 28, with a specific emphasis on a communications flow-based alternative to the more traditional table of organization as that lays out and organizes a business for its distinct functional areas and their management and oversight. More specifically, I have been discussing here, how businesses are organized into within-group effectively communicating and information sharing tiles, where the business as a whole can be said to be “tiled over” by them and with essentially everyone participating in at least one tile as member of such an intra-communicating group.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to complete the cycle from communication to action: reactive, proactive or both. But to set the stage for that I would continue to develop and flesh out the basic communications systems-based business modeling approach that I make use of here. And I do so by noting that social networking theory already has a term in place that at least in general terms, matches what I identify here as tiles. That term is cliques, where from a strictly social networking perspective a clique is also an intra-communicating group, and with at least statistically significantly reduced levels of effective communications taking place between individual cliques and their members than would be found within them.

My reason for using a separate term here is simple. My focus in this and related discussion is on an overall property of the organization that these social networking groupings fit into, that is not explicitly or even readily fit into the clique definition per se as a lower level organizational entity. But it is one that becomes crucially important here. The higher level organizational factor that I cite in this, is that tiles of the type under consideration here are collectively space filling for the organization as a whole.

Let’s consider a biological systems example to explain that, and the concept of being space filling as that term is used here. And the example that I would cite can be found in the circulatory system as is found in any multicellular organism of sufficient scale and complexity so as to have blood vessels.

• If you look at the circulatory system of essentially any mammal, to consider a large test case sample of species, you find that they have a heart as a centrally organizing blood pumping organ, and a tremendously complex and comprehensive system of blood vessels leading from it and then back to it again. And these vessels scale down in diameter from the largest arterial blood vessel: the aorta as it emerges from the heart, down to the smallest ones: capillaries, where oxygen and nutrients that are carried in the blood are provided to all other tissues and cells in the body. And it is also the capillaries that collect and remove carbon dioxide and other waste products too, for removal to specialized organs that can ultimately release them into the environment (e.g. the lungs, kidneys, etc.) Then those capillaries come together to form a network of progressively larger blood vessels again, leading back to the heart to complete this overall cycle with a single largest vein.
• The key detail here is that every living, viably stable cell in the body of one of these organisms, has to be consistently and reliably serviced by at least one capillary and all of the time, that is in sufficient functional proximity for it to service that cell’s needs. Capillaries are the smallest functional end units in these systems, where that organism’s blood-born capacity to transport and transfer nutrients, oxygen and waste chemicals is actually realized in active function. And any cells left out of this coverage would simply die off and quickly, restoring this overall space filling coverage. And this type of coverage is referred to as being space filling.

Everyone who works at a business is going to in general, have to be able to effectively communicate with at least some others there. This can mean active and even high volume communications, or for some individuals and some positions held, this might mean very limited communications and both for frequency and for the size of the tile that they effectively belong to. And that holds even if a given individual can and does only communicate with their own immediate supervisor, as an extreme case in point example.

• Social networks in businesses are space filling. And for purposes of this discussion at least, their smallest meaningfully functional unit is the intra-communicating tile that arise within the overall organizational systems under consideration.

Overall business communications arise as effective communications take place between tiles and across larger swaths of the organization, including the organization as a whole. And much of this takes place within and along the functional and management-defined lines of the table of organization. Communications that cut across that system, and on a larger than tile basis, and farther reaching communications as carried out within lines of the table of organization, are primarily command and control oriented central broadcasting, one-way communications in nature, and are directed towards the goal of organizing consistent larger and overall efforts and with consistent messages in place as that approach would guide and organize such effort. And in practice this generally takes place in accordance with the types of standardized, officially structured communications flows that I have explicitly discussed here since Part 28 as forming the basic communications systems that connect the organizations together on a more routine and standardized basis. And all of that “higher level” communications takes place for the most part according to at least consistently recurring process-driven rules and with this wider ranging communication carried out, by-and-large by specifically expected designated participants.

This up to here describes a more formally structured overall communications system, where:

• The more widely that any given messages are shared across the system of tiles in place, the more asymmetrical those communications tend to be
• With their being more skewed towards one-way central broadcasting communications and away from more interactive two-way communications,
• And with a higher percentage of all information so shared, centrally vetted in some manner first and for branding consistency if nothing else.

This all provides the context that less structured communications flows of the types that I have also been addressing here since Part 28, take place in. I will continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will add one more piece to this puzzle, explicitly raising and discussing a set of points of discussion and insight that I first offered in this blog in an early posting here: Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy. My goal there will be to more formally discuss participants and mechanisms, as both more formally structured communications, and their less structured and more informal counterparts take place, and connect the organization together.

In anticipation of that next posting’s line of discussion to come, I will also reframe the to-address points offered at the end of Part 30 in terms of the communications-based organizational model that I am developing here. My goal in this installment has been to lay a firmer foundation for more formally discussing them, and I will at least begin to do so then. As part of that, I will discuss how the less structured and back-channel communications flows that I have been writing of here in this series in an innovation-enabling context, address disconnects as they arise and potentially arise in more standardized communications, as those systems would on their own, fail to be effectively space filling for the business they take place in. For a comparable biological example, I expect to discuss the observed phenomenon of how aggressively growing and advancing cancerous tumors tend to accumulate necrotic tissue inclusions where their circulatory system capacity cannot maintain space filling effectiveness for them. Organizations can and with time do develop disconnects in their space filling systems too. And there is wide-ranging precedent for the emergence of space filling disconnects and failures, in empirically observable systems that can be considered as being analogous to the systems under consideration here.

And to round out this anticipatory final note, I reorganize my end of Part 30 to-address list here as:

• Even the most agile and responsive and effectively including communications capabilities can only go so far. Effective communications, and with the right people involved in them have to lead to active, effectively prioritized action, and with feedback monitoring and resulting reviews included in all of that too.
• I am going to turn to that complex of issues in my next series installment, and note in anticipation of that, that I will consider both reactive and proactive approaches to change and to effectively addressing it.
• And I will at least begin to discuss corporate learning, and the development and maintenance of effectively ongoing experience bases at a business, and particularly in a large and diverse business context where this can become a real challenge.
• In anticipation of that, I note here that this is not so much about what at least someone at the business knows, as it is about pooling and combining empirically based factual details to assemble more comprehensively valuable and applicable knowledge.
• And more than just that, this has to be about bringing the necessary fruits of that effort to work by making essential details of it accessible and actively so, for those who need them and when they do.

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

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 15 – the jobs and careers context 14

This is my 15th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-14.)

I began to more formally and explicitly discuss the new hire, probationary period that we all go through when we start a new job in Part 14. And my goal there was to at least briefly outline the more standard and expected flow of activities that you would go through on your first day at that new job, besides your first formal orienting meeting with your now direct supervisor and manager there as they complete their transition from dealing with you as part of a hiring process, and as they formally begin to work with you as a member of their team.

I argued a case in Part 14 for your viewing this meeting as the most long-term consequential task that you will participate in on this, your first day at your new job. And I developed Part 14 of this series as orienting background for this posting, where I will at least begin to explicitly discuss this all important, if often less than fully appreciated meeting. And to clarify why I said that, I add in repetition to an observation shared in Part 14, that what happens and what is agreed to in this meeting will set the stage for all that follows, and for as long as you remain employed at that business.

• Your first formal meeting with your new boss and supervisor there will determine in detailed outline precisely what will constitute success for you in the new hire probationary period that you are just entering.
• But just as importantly, and going way beyond that generally 90 day period, this also sets a starting foundation for your longer term tenure there by establishing what your supervisor and the business as a whole can and will expect from you, and expect your being capable of doing there.
• “Expected and agreed to” for the probationary period, and the new hire impression that you make in how that is arrived at and in how you succeed at fulfilling it, will set the stage for all that will follow.
• The adage that first impressions last and that they can be very difficult to change to the extent that they can be at all, applies here. You made a first impression as a job candidate and in your job candidate interviews. That will carry over here. But as a now-insider at this business and an actual employee there, you make what amounts to a second first impression at this meeting, where the issues and priorities are very different than they were before you were hired and with your now-supervisor viewing you through new eyes, accordingly. Before you were hired, you were a possibility that no one at the business: your now new supervisor included, were significantly invested in. Now you are working there and your being hired has forced your supervisor to take a more committed position regarding your success. They, after all, put at least something of their reputation on the line for having selected and hired you from among the full pool of candidates who applied, if nothing else.

I did not discuss negotiations or negotiating in Part 14, though elements of them can and do enter into the largely more routine and standardized activities discussed in that series installment too. The meeting that I discuss here is all about negotiating, and it is one where forethought and preparation on your part are essential, and certainly as you proceed in your probationary period there and find yourself having to live up to and succeed at what you have agreed to in this meeting. My goal for this posting, more specifically, is to discuss the preparation that you should carry through upon as your due diligence here, leading up to this meeting.

• Start by thinking through all of the goals and priorities that your now-supervisor raised and discussed with you when you were first interviewing with them, and by reviewing what you found about this business, and the area of it that you are now working in, from your earlier job search research. This definitely should include your reviewing and thinking through the details that were raised as work responsibilities and goals for you if hired there. But you should leaven this more focused review with a wider ranging review of more contextual insight that you may have gleaned there too: a review of what you have learned about the business as it actually functions as a whole, and about its larger context. That additional wider ranging insight can help you to put the work that you would do there into a more meaningful context, and help as you and your now supervisor settle on the details for it.
• Think through your skills and experience sets and look for higher priority goals and task requirements that you can more easily meet, making these easier areas in your probationary period goals and priorities list to come, for you to quickly succeed at. Think through where you and your supervisor can come to agreement on early, easier victories that you can reach in initially establishing yourself there.
• Now just as importantly, think through and acknowledge to yourself where you have learning curve issues in the what and how of your upcoming work tasks and responsibilities, and where negotiating terms and timing can be crucial for this first meeting.
• For both of the above two bullet pointed items, remember that accessing essential resources can easily move a probable task requirement from one of those lists to the other and particularly if your supervisor and theirs, and the business as a whole will require that you effectively complete some specific goals oriented task A on a very short timeframe, where accomplishing that and certainly within that timeframe would require your securing specific help from specialized skills colleagues to complete, or access to other similarly timely bottleneck resources.

I have been developing the above bullet point list as a discussion of how you can and should prepare for this meeting, starting in your pre-hire interviews as a what-if, or if-then exercise, and leading up to this first day on your new job. And as a transition detail, I add one more such point to the above list:

• Expect change and the unexpected when you actually meet with your now-supervisor, and for how expected tasks that you were initially hired to take care of are prioritized, if nothing else.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will discuss your first formal meeting itself that this preparation would lead to: meeting in-office with your new supervisor as they formally lay out your upcoming goals and priorities, and as you come to agreement with them on those issues and their key details, and on how you will work on them and complete them. As part of that, I will also discuss the possibility of your also less formally meeting with your new supervisor as part of this process, perhaps over lunch that day. Any such secondary meeting with them should be considered part of this same job starting step too.

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

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