Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Reconsidering Information Systems Infrastructure 2

Posted in business and convergent technologies, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on February 22, 2018

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

Think of those two background postings as offering a perspective on a bigger picture understanding of the issues that I would address in this brief series, that can be built from here. And with their evolving perspective on that level of understanding of this overall conceptual problem noted, I began looking at and considering some of the more specific implementation level details of it in Part 1 to this series, where I began discussing artificial intelligent agents and to be more specific here, ones that are capable of learning and self-improving: ones that are capable of self-directed automated evolution in what they are and in how, and how well they perform their tasks.

There are a number of ways to parse artificial intelligent systems and the intelligent agents that comprise them. But one that is particularly pertinent here arises from distinguishing between artificial specialized or single task intelligence, and artificial general intelligence: a capability that if realized would indicate an artificial agent that is capable of general abstract reasoning coupled with a general wide ranging capability for carrying out a diversity of different types of tasks, including new ones that it has never encountered.

As of now and for the foreseeable future, artificial general intelligence is a distant goal, and one that seems to recede into the future by one more year with every passing year. But the development of progressively more and more capable single task specific artificial intelligence has proceeded at a very rapid pace. And some of the more advanced of those systems, have even at times come to be seen as if showing at least glimmers of more general intelligence, even if that is more mirage than anything else – yet.

I find myself thinking back as I write that last sentence, to how IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat the then world’s leading human chess champion: Garry Kasparov in the first of a series of six chess games in 1997 (see alsoDeep Blue versus Garry Kasparov .) This marked the first time that an artificial agent: a computer running an algorithm, was able to beat the top rated human chess player of the time, and as such was seen as a watershed moment in the development of artificial intelligence per se. Until then, highest level chess play was widely considered a human-only capability, and by many.

And looking back at those games and how this automated system played them, this international grandmaster in chess saw what he understood to be at least glimmers of real intelligence and creativity in his machine opponent. But I set that perception aside and assume here that at least as of now, the only artificial intelligence-based agents that need to be considered here are essentially entirely one task-only in capability and range. For purposes of this series, or at least this part of it, the possibility of artificial general intelligence does not matter. The implications and the emerging consequences of even just highly limited and specialized one task-type agents have already proven to be profound. And we have only seen the beginning of what that will come to mean and for its impact on all of us and on all that we do. So I at least begin this series with a focus on that arena of development and action.

I began Part 1 of this series by picking up on a very simple example of a self-learning and evolving algorithm-based agent, that becomes more and more adept at carrying out its task as it works at performing it. Its task itself is very simple at least from a human performance perspective, consisting of placing each of a set of objects into the right containers, and regardless of the presence of alternative containers that it could put them into and regardless of how all of these containers are positioned relative to each other. Think of this as a simple case in point, proof of principle example of how a self-adjusting and self-learning/self-changing algorithm can in fact evolve under its own action towards greater and greater efficiency and accuracy in carrying out its task.

Then I began discussing as a perhaps “modest proposal,” a next step self-learning enabled artificial intelligence based project: a much more ambitious task goal, that in fact addresses a holy grail problem for the pharmaceutical industry and for new drug development, that I only partly tongue in cheek referred to as a more complex and demanding variation on the same basic target container identification and object placement task of the above already-achieved example:

• Identifying possible drugs that would selectively bind to the correct types of chemical reaction sites on the right target molecules that are specifically associated with specific diseases or other pathological states, that would have to be acted upon to achieve therapeutic benefit.
• Note that this can mean blocking biologically significant activity there, activating or enhancing it, or otherwise modulating or modifying it in ways that would likely lead to the achievement of therapeutic value.

The goal of this task is simply to put the right objects: the right prospective drug molecules, in the right containers: the right chemical binding sites on the right target molecules, to express this in terms of the above cited proof of principle agent and its example.

I offered this challenge in Part 1, in what is referred to as a rational drug design context, based upon a detailed and effectively usable understanding of the disease processes in question and of their normal biological counterparts, at a deep molecular level. And I freely admit that while I did note how this type of task would be solved through an algorithmic self-learning process, starting with simpler systems, I did sketch out the basic problem itself in what can only be considered a dauntingly intimidating manner. I actually did that for a reason and quite intentionally; my goal there was to posit a problem to be solved from the perspective of square one in doing so, when you know basically what you seek to achieve overall, but when you do not know any of the intermediate steps yet that you will face as you have yet to really start addressing any of this.

My goal here is to at least briefly discuss a development process for managing and resolving such complex tasks, using this one as a working example. And I begin doing that, by drawing a distinction that parallels and complements the more standard and common one of parsing artificial intelligence into specific-task-only, and general forms. That type of distinction applies to and at least categorically describes what does task work: what categorical type of agent is involved. The distinction I would offer here is one of categorically parsing the overall pool of tasks to be carried out, into:

Simple tasks that can essentially by definition be encompassed in a single progressively more efficient and compact algorithm, and
General tasks that can and do become more open ended, and both for the range of possible actions that could be taken, that an effective task performance would have to be selected from, and that cannot simply be encompassed in a single algorithm that could be optimized with time in the manner of a simple task, as defined here.

The object placement task of Part 1 of this series, and of my second background posting as noted above, is clearly a simple task as that term is offered here. And it can demonstrably be carried out by one single task agent, acting on its own. The potential drug development task as touched upon in Part 1 and here in this posting, is a general task. But that does not mean it can only be carried out to effective completion by a general intelligence: human or artificial. What that means is that it is a task that can in principle be carried out at a specialist-only single task intelligence agent level, and more specifically by a coordinated team of such agents, if the overall problem to be resolved can be broken down into a series of specific-task, algorithm organized components: simple tasks. Note that carrying out this now-suite of subtasks requires partitioning an overall complex task into a set of simpler tasks that individual single task agents could perform. And it requires the development and implementation of command and control organizing, single task agents whose single task would be to coordinate the functioning of other (lower level) agents, feeding output from some lower level agents to others as their input, and with feedback and collectively enabled learning built into this system to help evolve and improve all agent level elements of these systems.

• That means assembling artificial intelligence agents into at least two organizational levels, both (all) of which would in fact consist of simpler single task agents but that collectively can accomplish overall tasks that no such simple agent could perform on its own; this is where emergent properties and emergent capabilities enter this narrative.

I will discuss the issues of artificial general intelligence in light of this conceptual model in a later posting to this series, but I set that aside for now, simply noting it as a possibility worth keeping in mind.

With that offered, let’s reconsider the poster child example of a successful rational drug development initiative that I made brief note of in Part 1: the development of a new drug by researchers at Novartis International AG, for treating chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). And I begin addressing that by pointing out a crucial detail from Part 1 that I have simply noted in passing, but that I have not discussed yet for its crucial relevance to this series and its discussion. Rational drug development as a new drug discovery and development approach is based upon a tremendously detailed understanding of the underlying biology of the disease processes under consideration. And in this case that means these researchers started out knowing that CML, and I add a group of other, otherwise seemingly unrelated types of cancer, have a very specific molecular level Achilles’ heel. CML, to focus on the specific cancer type that they did their initial research on here, consists of pathologically transformed cells that come to require an active supply of functional tyrosine kinase molecules that can bind phosphate groups to specific types of protein that they specifically produce and need, in order to activate them and give them functionality. Normal cells that these transformed cells arise from do not require this type of tyrosine kinase activity in the same way.

So these researchers knew a precise chemical target to try to bind to with their test drug possibilities, for stopping these cancer cells. And they had access to and extensive literature on, and research findings on kinases and on tyrosine kinases in particular, and that told them precisely what parts of those molecules their test drugs would have to bind to, in this case to block their functioning. CML cancer cells require active functioning tyrosine kinase to even survive. A drug that would effectively remove their tyrosine kinase from them would be expected to stop those cancer cells cold. And that is precisely what their test drug Imatinib (Gleevec) did and does.

I wrote the goals specifications of this type of drug discovery approach in Part 1, as an activity that might be carried out by artificially intelligence-based agents, assuming that the researchers that set these agents loose on a problem, do so starting out with a much more modest foundational understanding of the underlying disease in question itself, and certainly at a molecular level. Here, in the case of CML they started out with a clear road map and with a great deal of relevant information that could go into shaping the initial starting form for any search algorithm that might be pursued. This tremendously limited the search range that would have to be considered in finding possible drugs for testing.

Think of this as a Type 1 drug discovery and development problem. Now consider a disease that is known and understood for its symptoms and severity and for its mortality and morbidity demographics. And assume that along with knowing its overt overall symptoms, physicians also know a significant amount about the laboratory test findings that would be associated with it, such as blood chemistry abnormalities that might consequentially arise from it. But little if anything is known of its underlying biology and certainly at a chemical and a molecular level, beyond what might be inferred from higher organizational level tests and observations – for its impact on specific organs and organ systems and on the complete person. This is where much or even all of the research and discovery requirements listed in Part 1 for addressing this challenge in its most general terms, enters this narrative and as a matter of necessity. And I refer to these drug discovery problems as Type 2 challenges.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will delve into at least some of the conceptual and organizational details of addressing Type 1 and Type 2 problems here. And in anticipation of that, I note that I will delve into the issues of a priori knowledge based expert systems, versus more entirely self-learning and self-discovery based ones. And as briefly touched upon in Part 1, I will also discuss stepwise development of these agents from simple-problem systems exposure and mastery to more complex and perhaps real world problem exposure and mastery. And I will do so in terms of specific and general tasks as identified above and in terms of how groups of individually single task agents can be coordinately applied to address larger and more complex tasks. And yes, after developing a conceptual system and approach from these examples in order to develop a tool set for further use, I will turn to consider information systems and their architectures per se, using them in that process.

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


Building a startup for what you want it to become 30: moving past the initial startup phase 16

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on February 20, 2018

This is my 30th 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 1-29.)

I focused in Part 28 and again in Part 29 of this, on the increasing importance of big data and of its effective use, and for what is rapidly come to be essentially all businesses: large and small. And one of the core threads running through that narrative was an at least briefly stated rationale as to why this point of conclusion is increasingly valid already, in our still just emerging 21st century context.

That two part discussion, in fact addressed the first of a list of topics points that I offered in Part 28, as material to be delved into in subsequent series installments from there. The second of those points as initially offered for future consideration was:

• In-house generated, and outside-sourced business intelligence as marketable commodities, and for how they would be used in business planning and for how this type of resource might be selectively commoditized and sold.

And my goal for this posting is to at least begin to discuss and analyze that point. I note in anticipation of doing so that the range of issues that this briefly stated bullet point brings up is vast and complex. And many of the details of that are going to prove pivotally crucial to both individual businesses and to networked groups of them such as supply chain systems, and to the markets and the consumers that these businesses serve too.

I begin this posting and its core line of discussion with a single two word expression as drawn from that bullet pointed topics note: “marketable commodities.” And I begin addressing that by citing the obvious. As soon as I began writing of businesses acquiring outside sourced business intelligence, I at least implicitly began addressing the issues of information commoditization, and its marketability and sale.

The devil, as they say is in the details for that, and in ways that only begin with the challenges of information security in the face of confidentiality concerns, where the most valuable information in this can and often does carry security and confidentiality issues and challenges with it; information not so encumbered tends to be freely and even widely available anyway, and as such has at best just minimal marketable value as such.

And with that noted, I raise the first real issue that of necessity arises here, assuming only that a given body of raw data, processed knowledge developed from it, or some combination thereof, can be organized in such as way as to meet security concerns and requirements:

• What is this information worth, and how would that be determined?

I have in fact been addressing that challenge for quite a while now in this blog, so to keep from repeating earlier lines of discussion and analysis, I begin re-addressing this set of issues here, by offering links to my earlier discussions of this:

Business Intelligence as a Qualitative Distinction – a requirement for effective rules of monetization,
• My series: Business Intelligence as a Quantitative Distinction, as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business as postings 21 and following for its Parts 1-9, and
Depreciation of Value in Non-Rivalrous Goods and the Business Intelligence Life Cycle and its Part 2 continuation.

These postings all go back to 2010 for their writing, so the issues that I would address here have been on my mind for a while now. And the newsworthy events that prompted me to write them then, which still hold topical value now, involve blind spots in how businesses are reviewed and analyzed for their overall market values, as for example in merger and acquisition contexts.

It is easy to determine a replicable and reliable valuation for the rivalrous assets that a business holds, and according to largely consistently determined accounting-based amortization revaluations as those items age. This means everything from physical space and building structures owned, to the furniture and other physical assets held and used within them, and more. It is much more difficult to arrive at a consistent and reliable valuation of business intelligence held by a business, and certainly where that means trade secret or other proprietary data or processed knowledge. So in practice, its valuation often becomes one of seeking to establish a more fluid “what the market would bear” as to viable price offered, if it were to be put on the market for sale.

• But these less tangible assets clearly hold value, and particularly now and for essentially any type of business intelligence that might be held, in an increasingly big data-driven, competitive business context.
• So as we more and more fully enter into a true information-based economy, it becomes more and more important that we be able to set consistently based valuations as to what crucial business intelligence that is held, is actually worth.

Consider the scenario of buying and selling a business with its information assets included, as an example context that happens to bring these issues to a head and in ways that cannot be evaded or overlooked, but these issues are at least as important when a business would buy and sell specific, select information resources too, as part of its ongoing business activities.

I began reconsidering the issues of information valuation here, by mentioning information security in passing. But I have to acknowledge that business risk is in fact a crucially important source of business cost here, and one that can generally be at least probabilistically determined, where overall cost of a possible event or circumstance arising that would have to be taken into account at least nominally, can be determined as the product of its likely cost if it does arise in fact, and the likelihood of that happening as a proportion. So for example, and to keep this simple, if an adverse event would either fully occur or not occur at all (with no partial or limited occurrences possible), and with a maximum penalty due from that or none at all, and its happening would cost $10,000 and it has a .01 likelihood of happening (1%), then its nominal cost that has to be calculated in, would be (0.01 X $10,000) = $100.

This type of nominal cost determination makes the most sense when a business has to arrive at overall ongoing costs accrued over longer periods of time, for a wide range of possible simultaneous risk factors and possible incidents. And when the array of them, each with its own probability of occurring and each with its own predictable costs if it does, becomes complex enough so as to collectively constitute a statistical universe, overall cost determinations as arrived at over time can become on average, quite reliable and predictable. This model as described here is in fact part of the basic foundation of the core business model pursued by insurance companies. But the basic principles outlined here apply to any business that would buy or sell business intelligence and particularly where they seek out or sell information of significant marketable value, where such disclosure might carry risk as well as possible profitable value.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will at least briefly delve into the issues of how information would be selected and organized for use, and for sale as marketable commodities. In anticipation of that, I note here that anonymizing data and aggregating individually sourced data into general demographic form are important here, but they only address part of this story. I will discuss that basic approach but go beyond it too. Yes, this is in part a matter of managing information security risk, but it is also a matter of establishing the types of information-based value that would be offered in a marketplace, and sold to other businesses, where that at least potentially includes competitors – and particularly if that data is sold to and then resold by a third party business that pursues an information aggregator and clearinghouse business model. After completing that phase of this overall discussion, I will continue on to address the remaining issues as listed at the end of Part 28 for inclusion here.

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

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 2 – the jobs and careers context 1

This is my second 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 Part 1.)

I wrote Part 1 of this series in large part as a briefly stated, orienting outline for what is to follow in it. And I begin addressing its topics points in this posting with its first one as listed there:

• A job search leading up to your applying to specific positions at businesses that you would definitely want to work with, and with the conversations and negotiations that that process entails.

And I begin addressing this point with the essential fundamentals and by noting a point that might seem obvious: preliminary job search steps do not at first glance, generally look like a context where negotiations or negotiating skills would be of much use or importance. But as I will argue here, that all too easy a presumption is far from the truth.

What you do or fail to do, leading up to a specific focused job search and an effort to gain a specific position with a specific employer, and the first steps of that preparatory process, can set you up for more likely success or failure in achieving your goals there. And negotiating skills enter into many aspects of that anticipatory preparation work. Let me explain that by way of a specific career development-oriented narrative to take this out of the abstract:

• Assume for the moment that you have a job now but that it is one that does not hold promise for offering any career advancement opportunities. And assume in that, that this is a job that you do not in any way find rewarding, and that working at it does not fit into your desired career path or enable your pursuing it to a next more desired step forward. So you see need for change in what you do and where you would do that professionally.
• Or alternatively, assume here that you are simply looking for a new job where as in the above bullet point situation, you would need to make at least something of a career change and a change in the types of work and job that you would hold. Here, you might currently be out of work and looking, but under circumstances where you have come to realize that simply looking for a repeat of what you have been doing professionally, is not going to work for you.
• So you find yourself in a position where you need to do a perhaps significant amount of work in order to know what you are more widely prepared to do now professionally. This means knowing what you have the skills and experience to do now, that might differ from and go beyond any current or recent job descriptions that you have worked under. But it also means knowing, or coming to know how to more effectively present your already-held skills and experience for their transferable value, and knowing more effectively how to market what you can do to new types of hiring managers for new-to-you types of work positions.
• And at the same time, you should be reaching out to learn what you need to prioritize and focus upon, in expanding your current skills and experience: building upon them to make you a better job candidate moving forward and certainly if you are to succeed in securing the type of next step job that you would find fulfilling and rewarding.
• And then you need to more effectively network out to the right people who could help you pursue your professional development and job search goals. For an orienting discussion of that job search process flow, see: Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search Isn’t Working (as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 56 and following for its Parts 1-17.)

Where do negotiations enter into that? Everywhere! And to clarify that observation, consider the likely results that a would-be, next career step job seeker would achieve if they were to simply demand value for themselves out of any conversations that they enter into, with for example professionals already working in the types of jobs that they might want to apply for, or when meeting with professionals who might be willing to help them network to such people. Any of these people are certain to be busy already, and with very full schedules. No one likes feeling used.

• So if one or more of these professionals are willing to take the time and effort to meet with you on top of all of the rest of their busy schedules, to help you in your next job search, and you do not show even a basic awareness of how this is an act of kindness on their part: if you do not or cannot at least attempt to offer value or at least appreciation in return for this value given, all you will do is burn bridges moving forward.

This means thinking through what you might be able to offer them in return, and thinking through their needs and priorities. Simply being appreciative and showing a willingness to accommodate their schedules is an essential there, but what else can you do?

That need not be anything big and it should not be offered as if it were, but being respectful of the value offered from such professionals and of their time can make all of the difference. So for example, if in the course of your own study and research, in preparation for this job search and career path change, you come across a news piece from an unexpected direction that might be of interest to the people you would meet with, share it with them. At the very least, that would show that you have been doing your homework, and that you are making a real effort to become more fully qualified for the type of work that you are seeking out.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will approach this posting’s narrative in terms of negotiations per se, and for finding and developing bridges and for strengthening them in gaining the information and the insight that you would need in order to achieve the goals of the above-repeated topic Point 1. Then after completing that discussion thread, at least for purposes of this series and this part of it, I will continue on to consider Point 2 of Part 1’s to-address list and building from this start in applying for specific next jobs.

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.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 21: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 13

This is my 21st 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 1-20.)

I began Part 20 of this by offering a set of four case in point examples as to how someone might be hired into a business, outside of the more standard framework of processes and understandings that Human Resources would develop as its basic default candidate selection, vetting and onboarding system. Then, and with an initial discussion of the first of those four alternative scenarios in mind, I briefly touched upon a set of more general principles that would help to conceptually organize and explain how business systems function as networks of interacting individuals and as networks of more closely aligned groups of them, and in contexts of the type raised by those scenarios among others.

I plan on reversing the order pursued there in this installment, and will begin with further discussion of more general principles. And then I will delve into the specifics again, as outlined at the end of Part 20 as an anticipatory closing note. And I will complete my discussion of that first scenario as my specific application of theory, half of this posting. But for smoother continuity of narrative, I begin this posting’s narrative by repeating those four scenarios as a group, as I will develop and present my more general organizing comments of this series installment, with all of them in mind:

1. More routine hire, hands-on non-managerial employees, and I add more routine and entry level and middle managers – versus – the most senior managers and executives when they are brought in, and certainly from the outside.
2. More routine positions, managerial or not – versus – special skills and experience new hires and employees, hands-on or managerial.
3. Job candidates and new hires and employees who reached out to the business, applying as discussed up to here in this narrative on their own initiative – versus – those who the business has reached out to, to at least attempt to bring them in-house as special hires and as special for all that would follow.
4. And to round out this list, I will add one more entry here, doing so by citing one specific and specifically freighted word: nepotism. Its more normative alternative should be obvious.

With that list noted as a source of specific case in point contexts that any overarching theory would have to accommodate and account for, I built my more general discussion portion of Part 20 around a conceptual model of how businesses are functionally organized:

• A business can, among other things, be viewed as a dynamic system of overlapping and interconnected stakeholder networks, some assembled on the spot for specific purposes just to dissolve as their sources of impetus for forming are resolved, and some enduring long term.
• And long-term ones, can even become effectively enshrined in the business model and in strategic and operational systems, where membership can become title and position based to allow for smoother member turnover as people come and go in a business’ workforce, and as people there change jobs within the organization. Much of this is in fact laid out at least for likelihood of arising in the table of organization itself, but even stable and seemingly permanent functional networks of this type can systematically cut across the table of organization too, and even intentionally so.
• Ultimately and according to this understanding, business systems and their functioning can be viewed as representing complex and evolving networks of interpersonal interactions, and interpersonal commitments. Think of the Scenario 1 hiring process and new employee onboarding process example that I have been focusing on here, as a case in point example of this much more widespread general set of phenomena.

My goal here is to at least begin to reconsider this model in more explicitly game theory terms, and with a focus there on how stable networks that are assembled from these interpersonal relationships, arise. And I begin that by noting that historical track records mean everything there. Stability in this is based on trust, and that is based on the at least presumably reliable foundation of prior and currently ongoing experience, and both with specific individuals and with the organizations that they work for.

• Let’s begin with the familiar. You know a particular individual and how well they do or do not carry out their work tasks, and how promptly or not they do this. You know how reliable or not, any collateral and supporting information would be, that they would have to provide as part of a task completion on their part – and also from past experience with them and from their track record from working with your own direct colleagues. And in this, I could be writing about a direct member of the work team that you yourself work for who reports to the same supervisor as you, or I could be referring to a more distant colleague who works in a different part of the same business as you, but who works there at least situationally as a fellow stakeholder with you in some larger overall task or work process. Or I could be writing of a professional who works for a completely different organization, who you find yourself dealing with through, for example, supply chain transactions.
• In any of these cases you might directly, individually know these people who you would work with. Or you might only know them to start with at least, by reputation and from knowledge of who they work for and from what you know of the reliability of their hiring and retention and employee training systems. Yes, that applies to new members of your own same-supervisor work team, as much as it does to the context of working with more distant task participants and stakeholders. Then, and focusing for the moment on new hires to your work team, your basis for initial trust is based on your sense of the reliability and thoroughness of the vetting and screening that new prospective hires go through there, to make sure that the right people are hired, and both for their professional skills and experience and for their qualities as people who others can readily work with.
• Think of this set of bullet points as having described individually based trust that is grounded in your own direct experience, and institutionally based trust that is based on your trust in organized vetting systems in place.
• New hires, arriving from outside of the organization as a whole, bring with them more and I add more fundamental unknowns in this, barring direct prior knowledge of them from earlier experience or from knowing them from outside of the hiring workplace. Then the questions of reliability and trust and of genuineness in what they claim, for example in their resumes and covering letters, can come to depend on how reliable their references might be viewed. I add a third category to this list with that: surrogate-based trust, where individually based trust as grounded in face to face meetings and interviews, and knowledge of the businesses that a job candidate has worked for and their hiring and retention practices, would be supplemented by insight from third party references who might themselves be largely unknown. Think of this as an example of trust in the presence of information limited friction.
• To complicate matters and certainly for that and when hiring from the outside, businesses that a prospective new hire has worked for in the past are often reluctant to discuss or even admit that a now former employee of theirs might have left under a cloud if they did, and with problematical entries or worse in their personnel files there. Such disclosures can and often are seen as creating legal liability in the event that a job candidate who is not hired by a prospective new employer, might file suit of defamation of character from a former employer.

And this brings me directly to the issues of hiring from completely outside of a business, as opposed to promoting from within a business and from within the same local line of a table of organization at that, or hiring from a different functionally and perhaps geographically distinct part of a same, generally larger and more geographically dispersed company.

All three of these possibilities carry both positives and negatives. Outsiders can for example bring new ideas and insights and approaches, where insiders might start out with sets of career-based blinders in the form of same-as-everyone-else assumptions and presumptions. I mentioned in Part 20, how managers and executives in nonprofits tend to advance in their careers to higher level positions by moving between organizations, rather than by moving upward along a table of organization within some single employer. Partly that is because these organizations tend to keep their headcounts to a minimum so it is unlikely that an appropriate next step upward would even be available in-house where a career advancer is now. And that is the point that I raised there, in this context. But it is also true that nonprofits often explicitly seek out fresh blood and fresh, new ideas, and the greater breadth of experience of having worked, and successfully so at one or more other nonprofits already.

But this reaching outside also brings an increased measure of risk too – which among reasons is why essentially all hiring businesses have an at least informal probationary period for new hires, as a means of validating that they actually work out before more fully committing to having them there as full time in-house members of the team.

Let me bring that back to Scenario 1 to conclude this posting, and to the issues of bringing in senior executives in particular. I write this thinking of a nonprofit that I worked for, that brought in an experienced Chief Strategy Officer from the outside as a means of bringing in new ideas and approaches for making more fundamental overall changes in the organization as a whole: strategic and operational changes that a significant amount of organizational growth had now made necessary as they had significantly ramped up the number of local chapter offices that they had to support nationally, and as they had instituted larger regional offices to help national run their overall operations in this, as a new intermediate organizational and supervisory layer. But they brought this individual in-house this way for a second reason too; their Chief Executive Officer of long-standing was beginning to prepare to step down and retire. And they wanted to bring in new blood there too, but at least as importantly they wanted and needed to find someone who really knew their systems and their corporate culture too, and who they could rely upon to be a good fit for both and from day one at that job. They brought in their new Chief Strategy Officer and kept them at that position for something over a full year, to groom them, and yes to validate them too, as a good fit next CEO. He worked out and was advanced to be their replacement CEO and has worked there in that capacity for a number of years now since then. Think of this as representing a hybrid strategy as far as balancing risks and benefits is concerned.

I am going to turn to Scenario 2 in my next series installment: special skills and experience, new hires and employees who might work hands-on or in a more managerial capacity. And I will also continue my discussion of more general principles there – applying this posting’s more general discussion to an explicitly game theory context. 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 39: innovative business development and the tools that drive it 9

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on February 14, 2018

This is my 39th 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 6-38.)

I have been addressing a set of five interconnected topics points in this series since its Part 32 that I repeat here in full in order to put this posting in perspective (with the postings where I delved into the first four of them, parenthetically noted):

1. Innovation and its realization are information and knowledge driven (Part 32).
2. And the availability and effective use of raw information and of more processed knowledge developed from it, coupled with an ability to look beyond the usual blinders of how that information and knowledge would be more routinely viewed and understood, to see wider possibilities inherent in it (Part 33),
3. Make innovation and its practical realization possible and actively drive them (Part 34, Part 35 and Part 36).
4. Information availability serves as an innovation driver, and business systems friction and the resistance to enabling and using available business intelligence that that creates, significantly set the boundaries that would distinguish between innovation per se and disruptively novel innovation as it would be perceived and understood (37 and 38),
5. And in both the likelihood and opportunity for achieving the later, and for determining the likelihood of a true disruptive innovation being developed and refined to value creating fruition if one is attempted.

And this brings me to the final to-address point on that list, which I will address in terms of my responses to the issues raised in the first four of them as offered up to here, and particularly with Point 4 of that set. I developed a foundational explanation of the first half of that in Part 37. So I focused entirely on the second half it that in Part 38, which I rephrase in simplified form here as: resistance to enabling and using available business intelligence significantly sets the boundaries that would distinguish between innovation per se and disruptively novel innovation as it would be perceived and understood – and acted upon.

I began in fact, to address the last three words, and Point 5 of this list in the process, in Part 38 towards its end. I pick up on that narrative thread here, beginning with a briefly restated set of fundamental points that I have already discussed and developed in this blog, and in this series itself there, but that would serve as an orienting reference point for what follows here:

• When a business, or an individual for that matter confronts new and different or an opportunity to create that, they do not necessarily know up-front where this will lead and either for how disruptively new and novel it could become, or for how consequential it could become and for either cost required or for value creation that might be enabled from it. Perception of change or for opportunity for creating or enabling it, often begins with a single visible possible step of action or of reaction, depending on where motivation for this change is coming from. But it rarely begins with a clearly illuminated path forward beyond that starting point, that could be developed and followed unchanged and as initially perceived from it.

I have been writing extensively about friction as a function of communications challenges and of information limitations in this blog, doing so in terms of overall economic friction as that term is more generally used, and in terms of business systems friction as its basic concepts are reframed into the individual business context and into that of more localized business-to-business interactions (such as supply chain systems for contexts that would facilitate more win-win strategies for all concerned. Think of this as friction in a more mesoeconomic context and see Reexamining Business School Fundamentals – macroeconomics, microeconomics and the gap between for an at least brief orienting note on what that entails.)

Disruptive innovation carries with it the greatest uncertainty of all, and certainly when considered in comparison to other change possibilities that arise along a continuum ranging from simple cosmetic adjustments to established products, towards change into more fully new and unexplored product development territory. And disruptive innovation and the effort to identify and develop it into realized value creating products, is also the most vulnerable of all possible directed change, to the negative impact of friction. Both a free flow of reliable and timely information per se, and a flow of such quality information across novel channels become essential there, and in ways not generally required for simpler and more predictable change, and certainly when simple cosmetic change is considered by way of comparison.

All of this up to here has been well established and discussed and argued for its validity in this blog and in this series itself. And that flow of discussion, analysis and argument also directly addressed Point 5 of my above list, and answers the questions implicit in it.

• The more faulty and limited the flow of crucially relevant information, and the more limited the capacity to bring together the necessary knowledge and perspective, and from whatever diversity of sources that would be required for that, the less likely it is that the right starting innovator even realize an initial insight that a disruptive innovation might be created out of.
• And the more faulty and limited this information sharing, and in fact the more faulty and limited this collaborative information and knowledge creation is: the more friction there is in these business systems and operations, the less likely it is that an initial innovative spark might thrive and develop to any realized fruition.

I find myself thinking back to an analogous point of observation and understanding that I offered as metaphor in another series to this blog in Don’t Invest in Ideas, Invest in People with Ideas 35, regarding sound and noise. If a noise that is never perceived can never be considered to have become a sound as explained there, a glimmer of an idea with potential to become a true innovation that never goes beyond the level of a thought in the mind of an individual, can never become an innovation from that, and of either more standard or more disruptive form or significance.

Think of this posting to this series as representing a point of intersection between this series as a whole and my just-cited and concurrently appearing, Don’t Invest in Ideas, Invest in People series. People innovate, and realizing anything positive from that is communications driven and collaborative information dependent.

And with this noted, I turn to the next set of issues that I would address in this series: issues of research financing, as will be approached in large part from a more accounting and bookkeeping perspective. I will at least begin addressing that in my next series installment.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 35: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 15

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 12, 2018

This is my 35th 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 continuation, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-34.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I began discussing three exit strategies in Part 33, that all hinge on how a new business would enter into and pursue its first real growth phase after establishing itself as consistently profitable enough to perform at least better than break even in balancing its income and expenses, and on an ongoing basis. I have in fact been addressing this subject and these types of next-step development scenarios for a while now in this blog – and with some of that coming out quite recently. So my goal here in this posting is to take a fresh approach to one of those possibilities: one of those scenarios. And I begin doing so by briefly recapping what the three are, in order to put this discussion to come into perspective:

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 an organic growth and development model (as in exit strategy 1, above) but 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.

I have basically finished my discussion of Scenario 1 here, at least for purposes of this series, in Part 34. And I turn from that, in this next series installment to consider Scenario 2 and venture capital funding in more detail. And I begin that by specifically acknowledging that this is the one scenario of these three that I have already delved into the most in this blog, and by far and certainly when compared to my option 3, franchise system development scenario.

What would I add here that would fundamentally add to what I have already offered on this topic? My goal here is to more fully consider how the founders of a new venture, and one or more venture capitalists might come together to discuss the possibilities of working together, and how those new business founders might best present themselves and their new business in this, in order to both secure venture funding and to do so under the most favorable terms, from their perspective. Ultimately, if a new venture’s founders cannot achieve that, Scenario 2 as listed above can at best only offer them a limited share of what could be its value creating potential.

I begin addressing this set of issues by explicitly noting that finding the right possible outside investors, or being found by them, and coming to a mutually beneficial agreement with them depends on who you know or can come to know, and how effectively you can organize and present your business development pitch. And online social media and the interactive online have made this coming together of at least potentially involved collaborating partners in this, a lot easier.

Let me at least start fleshing the how of that out, with the fundamentals, and by noting that most all of what will follow here, applies to securing angel investment funding too (which I will parenthetically make note of as appropriate):

• Venture capital investors tend to specialize in industries and business sectors that they have hands-on expertise in, as a due diligence measure that increases their chances of backing the right ventures that are more likely to succeed and bring them a return on their investments in them. (And angel investors tend to specialize too, though they are more likely to focus on business models and more specifically on the mission and vision statements and intentions that underlie them, than venture capitalists would.)
• So business founders need to both identify and successfully reach out to these investors, and to the right ones for what they seek to do, and in ways and with messages that would prompt them to want see and hear more from them.
• This means a new business’ founders doing their homework and for determining the levels and types of funding that they would need, and the levels and types of constraints that they would accept as trade-offs for that funding. And crucially importantly, this means their doing their homework to identify what possible funding sources might be interested at least generically in their type of business, categorically.
• Both more traditional broadcast published online resources such as web sites, and more interactive resources such as social media enter in there, with an initial focus for this step in this process, one of finding out before reaching out. See my earlier series: Using Social Media as Crucial Business Analysis Resources (as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2 as postings 217 and loosely following for its Parts 1-7.)
• Know who you seek to work with in this and who is most likely to be most interested in investing in the type of business venture that you are developing and building. Know something of where they have invested in the past, and their terms of agreement and their due diligence requirements as expressed there: the demands that they have made on other business founders for what they would do and how and when, as well as what they offer in return. Is it possible to identify other businesses and their executives and owners who have worked with the investors who you are considering here? Can you contact them and gain insight from them as to their own experience in this, that would help flesh out your own due diligence here?
• And then reach out to the possibilities that you see as holding the greatest promise to you and your business.
• At the same time, selectively develop and offer pitch-oriented information about yourself and about your new venture online too, and with multiple explicit audiences in mind:
• Potential markets and their consumer members, with a goal of developing a basis for viral marketing as well as purchasing-oriented interest, and
• Potential investors included. Post online and interact with others online in this, with a goal of increasing visibility and creating at least a measure of buzz.
• And as part of your basic background research and of your outreach, identify appropriate face to face forums where entrepreneurs meet and pitch to potential investors, and with a goal of gaining insight in how to refine your message as well as with a goal of actually securing funding. If you do seek out an audience of this type, and opportunities to present at this type of forum, practice at what might more likely be a second choice one first. And then take the lessons learned from that to your efforts to present and win over investors at more of a first choice venue of this type. And remember: participation in forums of this type only opens conversations. The real work of marketing and negotiating follows. (These forums often bring multiple types of investors under one roof, with at least some venture capital participation possible but with angel and other investors definitely also included. Know who participates on the other side of the table, and the levels and types of investments that they make, coming out of these events, when they decide to invest from that at all.)
• Note that larger and more established venture capital firms are a lot less likely to appear at these forums unless one or more of their principals have a direct, personal professional relationship with a forum organizer. If you really seek support from one of them, you might consider participation in these forums as valuable practice runs for refining your pitch for when you do reach out to them. But even if this is your up-front goal, keep an open mind to the possibility that a perhaps overall smaller investor might be both interested, and willing to offer you a better deal.
• And very importantly there, remember that a good deal in this does not just mean how much investment funding would be offered, or better terms of investment as far as what these funding sources would demand in return, or how soon. Know what they can and will offer in the way of mentoring and advice, and yes: through board participation in your new venture and through other more direct forms of participation too. Who would they bring with them to the table – to your business’ table, who could help increase your chances of success, too?

I am going to continue on in my next series installment to consider the third scenario from the list that I repeated here towards the top of this posting:

• 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.

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

Leadership is about more than just ego: an open letter to President Trump

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 11, 2018

Dear Mr. President,

I find myself writing this brief note while thinking of your still recent first State of the Union Address, as delivered in person to a joint session of the United States Congress, but as delivered in fact to the world. More specifically, I write this thinking back to your angry and I have to add petty reaction, when members of Congress who have found themselves appalled by your disconnected and divisive policies and pronouncements chose not to applaud as your more ardent supporters did. You called them traitors for not joining in, and for not proclaiming your many self-professed virtues. But you are the President of the United States and that responsibility held is not, or at least should not entirely be about you.

I just took a quick count of postings on this blog that contain the word leadership in their titles, restricting myself to my (as of now) four directory pages that fall under a Business Strategy and Operations rubric. And I found a total of 69 of them; I have written on the topic of leadership and what goes into it elsewhere in this overall endeavor too, but that accounting should be sufficient to indicate that I have thought a great deal about what does and does not make leaders effective and leadership work.

As noted in that mix, I have written this succession of thought pieces on the basis of experience: my own direct experience and my own learning curve in this, and from having witnessed others as they sought to lead others more effectively too. And some of those leaders and would-be leaders have inspired me for how well they have assumed leadership responsibilities. And some have taught me valuable lessons from how they have limited and even thwarted themselves in this, and generally for what is essentially some single underlying specific reason and in some specific way, that can be learned from by others for its consequences.

I offer this here as an open letter to you, knowing full well that you will never see it. And even if by chance you did, you would skim it briefly and dismiss it out of hand as being politically partisan and representative of “fake news.” But I add this to my collection of short essay perspectives on leadership and on what that means, because your approach to this has so wide ranging and damaging an impact when carried out by someone in your position of authority, and for so many. What is the basic question: the basic issue that I would address here as representing one more take on my part, on what good leadership is?

• Leadership is about organizing and collectively enabling others, and even a diversity of others who might otherwise disagree, in achieving shared goals. It is and cannot be about self and ego.

When you make yourself the defining source of value, and you make your needs: short-term only included, the goal, you diminish yourself, and the office of the presidency and this nation as a whole. I know this is going to sound harsh but maybe, just maybe you should read a little and not just from alt-right sources with an eye towards self-vindication. Start, for purposes of this brief discussion, with the United States Constitution and with its Bill of Rights in particular. Start in fact with that brief little note in it about freedom of speech. That, of necessity includes applause as a form of speech, and silence in that as a message shared too.

• You are not and cannot be a leader, regardless of title or position of responsibility held, if your ego and your self-identified needs and preferences are the only litmus test of what should and should not be done, and by you and by all others.

This perhaps just-fleeting incident that I address here, is emblematic of your professional life and of your political life too. So I do not see you as capable of change. Prove me wrong! I would love to find myself in a position of having to write a retraction here, acknowledging that you can, and that you have in some real sense begun to grow into the job you now hold. But you simply seem to be shifting around in it, in uncomfortable disorder as if you were seeking to walk in shoes many times too large for your feet. Make your being President, more about others: all others in this nation, and about serving their needs and less – a lot less about yourself and your all too vein prerogatives. And allow for others to remain silent when you speak, just as you allow and even extol the virtues of your partisan supporters for doing so as your political opponents speak out. If you could do that, those shoes might start to fit better.

Sincerely, and with hopeful intent,

Timothy Platt, Ph.D.

Building a business for resilience 27 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 19

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 10, 2018

This is my 27th 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 continuation, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-26.)

Businesses live or die off on the basis of information, and on what they gather in and develop and hold, and in how they do or do not safe keep it as a foundational basis of their value and their capacity to create marketable value. I have been successively discussing a set of six topics points in this series since its Part 20, which I repeat here as I continue analyzing and discussing its issues:

1. Thinking through a business’ own proprietary information and all else that it has to keep secure that it holds.
2. While reducing avoidable friction where there can be trade-offs between work performance efficiency, and due diligence and risk remediation requirements from how information access is managed. This, in anticipation of discussion to come, means consideration of both short-term and long-term value created and received, as well as short-term and long-term costs. (As a point of reminder here, risk represents a source of cost here so it of necessity has to be included here in this type of analysis.)
3. And this means thinking through the issues of who gathers and organizes what of this information flow, who accesses it and who uses it – and in ways that might explicitly go beyond their specific work tasks at hand.
4. What processes are this information legitimately used in, and who does that work? With the immediately preceding point in mind, what other, larger picture considerations have to be taken into account here too?
5. And who legitimately sees and uses the results of this information as it is processed and used and with what safeguards for the sensitive raw data and the sensitive processed knowledge that are involved, where different groups of people might have legitimate need to see different sets of this overall information pool?
6. Think in terms of business process cycles here, and of who does and does not enter into them.

And in the course of writing Parts 20 through 26 of this, I have addressed the first four of those points and have at least significantly begun addressing Point 5 as well. Then at the end of Part 26, I stated that I would continue and conclude my discussion of Points 4 and 5 here, at least for purposes of this series. And I added that I would turn to and address Point 6 of that list next after that.

I begin offering my for-here concluding remarks in response to the question of Point 4 of this series, by briefly turning to a second series that I have been developing and offering concurrently with this one: Don’t Invest in Ideas, Invest in People with Ideas, as can be found at HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following. This blog really does all fit together as a single overarching narrative and this point of intersection between these two series highlights a working example of that.

I have been addressing communications patterns as they arise and are followed in a business, in that second series, dividing them into two broadly stated categories:

• Structured and even formally structured communications channels, that collectively represent the basic system of who can communicate specific types of sensitive or confidential information with whom in a business, and according to their titles and positions there, and on the basis of specific need to know determinations.
• And unstructured communications, as tools for arriving at unexpected insight and types of it, that by their very nature cut across the patterns of communications that more structured systems would formally allow and expect.

And that approach to modeling and understanding information development and flow in an organization, applies to the context of this series and to all of the above-repeated to-address points too.

I raise this point of distinction in that series as a tool for more fully understanding how innovation and disruptive innovation can arise and thrive in an organization, or fail to when necessary communications there are disallowed and thwarted. The issues raised there, apply here too but with a somewhat different orientation and particularly when more routine and even obligatorily standardized work processes and work flows are considered. If innovation and disruptive innovation in particular require at least a carefully understood measure of purposefully organized unstructured communications, this context calls for much more stringently defined and enforced structured communications. And that becomes particularly important when regulatory oversight or similar frameworks apply and when deviation into unstructured communications and more impromptu information sharing can create very real and direct risk.

Point 4, in this context, deals with the issues of what has to be done, that would require that specific employees have access to what information, and particularly where that means their having access to select portions of the more sensitive and confidential information that a business holds. And that sets the outer boundaries of what of necessity, should remain within the bounds of more formally organized structured communications systems, and what might be allowed into less structured ones. I pose this in explicitly task-oriented risk management terms.

Point 5, in this context, deals with the questions of who would be involved in what of this and certainly for the information access involved there, and as stated above with what safeguards for the sensitive raw data and the sensitive processed knowledge that are involved in that. I begin here by posing some basic questions that would have to be addressed on a context and situation, by context and situation basis in addressing these challenges:

• Who does what work, involving at least select portions of this information and
• Who supervises them for that work, and what do they individually need to see and use of this sensitive information themselves, and directly? I note here that these supervisors as such, might only need to see that this work has verifiably been done and correctly so, and without their having to see significant amounts of the specific business intelligence that went into it being done.
• Who audits this work, besides those direct supervisors of the hands-on employees who directly carry it out? These people probably have even less need to see the specific sensitive information that those hands-on workers require access to, in order to carry out their oversight responsibilities.
• And what other stakeholders might enter into this? That will most likely include people who’s functional areas own this information. And a big part of what they will want and need out of this is verification of continuity of confidentiality and information security here.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will turn to the above-repeated Point 6 and the issues of business process cycles, and of who does and does not enter into them. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

Human Resources and the challenge of divided loyalties: some thoughts on remediating a fundamental imbalance

Posted in HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on February 8, 2018

There is a biblical admonition against seeking to serve two masters that I find myself thinking of as I set out to write this posting. And it begins:

• No man can serve two masters for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. (See Matthew 6:24.)

I cite this here, because Human Resources and its professionals are in effect required to do that and serve two masters, and as part of their basic job descriptions, and certainly if they are to behave fairly and ethically towards both their employers and to the employees who they work with.

This does not become an issue and in fact it does not become overtly apparent either, in the course of day-to-day routines or when carrying out normal business processes. But this does become both very apparent and very real as a challenge of conflict when any of a wide range of possible disruptive problems arises. Workplace discrimination and harassment come immediately to mind there. And I add that I write this note at a point in time when the #MeToo movement has very justifiably really taken off, with large numbers of women speaking out about the sexual harassment that they have faced on the job, and with threats of retaliation thrown at them if they say anything of that to anyone. But as big and painful a problem as that is, #MeToo and its issues only touch upon part of a still larger problem with racial, ethnic, religiously based, age based, gender and gender identity based and other forms of discrimination and harassment all still occurring too, and still way too prevalent and with all of that still so under-reported.

Some managers and bosses are ineffectual and bumbling and that can and does create stress and friction in the workplace. But the general professional incompetence that leads to that behavior is not usually directed towards anyone in particular – usually, if that is all that is happening. The deeper and more pressing problem that I write of here is that some managers and bosses are sadists, and some are bigots and some are viciously discriminatory, and very manipulative in that … and yes that some are sexual predators who see those working for them and under their authority as fair game. And this leads me to the issues of Human Resources and the challenge of those two masters.

The senior manager or boss who is reported to Human Resources by an employee seeking help, is probably in a strong position, at the very least to control the continued employment of the HR personnel who are reached out to. But at the same time, those same HR personnel have a moral and an ethical, and in many cases even a legal responsibility to protect employees from abuse at the place of employment that they all work at and regardless of who might be acting abusively there.

This, and certainly in the United States, means a legally mandated right that all employees hold, to be offered access to an employee rights advocate who would be provided to them through Personnel or Human Resources and at no cost to themselves. But I have seen a same HR executive give a new employee orientation presentation that covers this right, along with other “must know” issues, then turn around and adamantly argue against an actual individual employee having any such a right when the matter stops being hypothetical and when an actual and even ongoing harassment has been brought to their attention.

• A harassed or abused or threatened employee needs protection and the right to exercise their rights there. Just notifying them of those rights as part of a generic employee orientation talk cannot suffice if they cannot actually be available and freely so and without challenge or impediment.
• But just as importantly, Human Resources employees, and from entry level on through service chiefs and department heads, need protections too so any threat or challenge faced out of a claim would not simply move to their shoulders if they seek to do their jobs there.

I write this note to add to my blog, as I read of and hear of new allegations of sexual harassment, and seemingly every single day now as the dam has burst on that issue and with so many stepping forth now, seeking redress for harm faced and pain endured. I also write this, thinking back to my own career and to the good and bad that I have seen transpire at a wide range of places of work. And I wonder how many of those who I have worked with, were carrying even the pain and shame of having been sexually harassed too, and I did not know of that because part of the harm inflicted on these victims is in fact a sense of shame – however undeserved on their part. And part of it is the enforced silence that threats of retribution impose too.

It is not enough to go after and prosecute specific offenders and even particularly egregious ones, or to have a process in place for doing so – if that is only there in principle. A more robust and stable system has to be in place for both reporting abuse and for protecting its victims and its potential victims and preferably proactively and before such harm can be done to them. But none of this can work for these direct employee victims if it does not work for the people in their places of employment who they would have to report these offenses to, and without that creating fear based ambivalence on the part of those gatekeepers in services such as Human Resources who could at least potentially facilitate or block a positive resolution to this type of problem.

And as a basic part of their training, everyone working in Human Resources, or in Personnel if this service goes by that name, should be taught in detail that they do work for and serve two masters. And both of them need to be cared for and held to, to at least paraphrase the wording of Mathew 6:24. HR personnel may work for their employers who pay them, and they may owe them a measure of loyalty in what they do there. But they work for the employees there too and owe them matching loyalty too. And ultimately, they cannot serve the needs of their employers if they do not serve both masters there too. And if that message is not deeply instilled in these professionals as part of their basic sense and understanding of their jobs and what they should do in fulfilling them, when everything is routine and normal and trouble free: if this only comes up when real problems and challenges arise, that is too late to make a real difference and for the employees under duress, for the business they work at as a whole, or for Human Resources and its professionals there as they find themselves caught in a bind, in the middle.

I am going to conclude this note here by explicitly stating that I am not just writing about full time employees of significant tenure on the job here. When I write of employees here and of harassment and abuse, I of necessity also include new hires who are still in their probationary period, and part time and temporary workers and contract workers. I add that I include unpaid interns here too. If someone is working at a business they need to be covered there for these issues. And for any reader who might question that, consider the following scenario:

• Assume that you are the HR director in a business and you get a phone call from a reporter from the largest newspaper or the most widely watched television news program in your area. And they are calling to ask for a response from you about harassment or abuse allegations that they are just about to go public on with a prominent news piece. And they are planning on citing you by name in that piece as well as the name of your business that you work for. If the employee, or employees who are claiming this mistreatment are not working there full time as fully vetted in-house members of your company’s staff: if they fall into one of those “less protected” categories of being new hires or temporary hires or the like, would that give you a sense of relief?

I have at least touched upon this topic in at least some earlier postings to this blog. See, for example my series: Confronting Workplace Discrimination, as can be found at HR and Personnel as postings 57-60. And unfortunately I am certain to return to it in future postings too, as the issues that I write of here will not simply go away. No single #MeToo effort at achieving visibility and redress for these issues, can resolve their challenge long term and for all possible victims. So I will return to this topic and make note of it on an ongoing, recurring basis.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 1 – building a framework for creative and openly engaging collaboration and trust

Two of the recurring topics of this blog are communications and negotiating. And I have been addressing both of them, and on an ongoing recurring basis here from this blog’s beginning. I decided early on to explicitly discuss the issues and at times challenges of communications in this by now extended overall narrative, and in a detailed and structured manner. So along with touching upon more specialized issues related to that skills set, I have also developed and offered more comprehensive discussions of it too. See for example, my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set (as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 342-348.) I initially offered that in a more explicitly jobs and careers development context, as shows in its series title. But I have also cited that progression of postings in a wider range of contexts too as communications practices: effective and otherwise, shape businesses as a whole and drive their success and failings. With that noted, I have to add that I have addressed the issues and challenges of communication’s cousin: negotiating, very differently.

I have in fact touched upon the issues of that skill set a great many times in the course of assembling this blog up to here. But I made an early editorial decision in doing so, not to offer a more comprehensive how-to discussion of negotiations or negotiating as a whole here, as I have with communications, as for example in my above-cited series on that topic. Quite simply, there are a significant number of excellent “how-to” books on negotiating and I had a couple of them in front of me on my desk as I started addressing that set of issues at all, in my blog. But I saw a paucity of professionally oriented literature on communications out there, at least as I saw need to address its set of issues in the overall flow of my business and technology narrative here. So I set out to write my own on that.

I come back here to the issues of negotiating in this series, and with a goal of at least selectively offering a more comprehensive and organized discussion of this vital topic too: one that is more like my above-cited business-oriented communications series. But that point noted, I begin by reoffering my basic how-to references on this, as already cited in this blog:

• Ury, William. (1991) Getting to Yes: negotiating agreement without giving in. Penguin Books.
• Ury, William. (1993) Getting Past No: negotiating in difficult situations. Bantam Books.
• Ury, William. (1997) The Power of Positive No: how to say no and still get to yes. Random House.

No, these are not the newest works out there on this topic. But I still recommend them for their practical wisdom and insight and for their direct hands-on advice.

And this orienting background note brings me to the key question that I would raise and at least begin to answer in this, the first installment to a new series on negotiating. What will I at minimum discuss here in this series? And I begin offering my answer to that by making note of a basic orienting principle that underlies all that will follow here:

• When you have to deal with others, that always means entering into conversation with them, whether verbally or in writing or by some other means. And when this flow of interaction means communications that last any significant period of time, that means you’re having to enter into at least some negotiations with those others too, and on at least some of the issues and questions that arise.

Assume this point as a given, and even as an essentially axiomatic truth as it is all but certain to prove valid and on an ongoing basis for you. Negotiations may be low-key and relaxed in nature and even most of the time for you, but they do happen and even if they are. Think of this series as a selective guide to help you carry out these negotiations more smoothly and effectively – and for both simpler negotiations and for their more complex and emotionally laden counterparts too.

And as this is a series in a jobs and careers oriented directory in a business and technology oriented blog, I will focus at least to begin on a progression of contexts related to that general subject area. Then I will address more specifically business process contexts per se. And I will, of course discuss at least a few negotiations contexts that arise in both of these arenas: at the more individual and at the more overall organizational levels. With that noted, I proceed to outline something of what I will be more specifically addressing in this series, starting at the level of individual job and career planning and execution:

1. A job search leading up to your applying to specific positions at businesses that you would definitely want to work with, and with the conversations and negotiations that that process entails.
2. Job search as it plays out when reaching out to and applying for specific work opportunities of real interest to you, with this process continuing on through terms of hire and employment negotiations.
3. Negotiations as take place during the initial probationary period as a new hire.
4. Ongoing negotiations as you navigate your way through the workplace as an established employee there, and as you seek to create opportunity for best possible next career steps for you. This mean more effectively working with peers who also work as members of the functional team that you are a member of, you’re working more effectively with your own supervisor there, and you’re working more effectively with wider ranges of other stakeholders too.
5. Negotiating with subordinates who report to you, and both for the how and the why of this.
6. Problems such as misunderstandings and disagreements and related challenges enter into here too, and in anticipation of discussion to come this means addressing issues and not personalities, and it means not making the discussions that arise here into anything like personal attacks. (I will come back to this set of issues later in this series when I consider the challenges of negotiating with difficult people.)
7. Negotiating change in your job and in your terms of employment comes next. And preparing for and negotiating a possible promotion enters in here too, though my goal for this to-address point is to consider more wide-ranging possibilities than just that, here.
8. And at least for now, in assembling this list of to-address points, I conclude my jobs and careers portion of this anticipatory note by including grievances and yes, negotiating terms of severance if they become necessary. Note: I did say above, that I would address more challenging and emotion freighted negotiations contexts here too.

After completing this list of to-address points and any others that I would add to it, I will turn to consider negotiations as they enter into the strategic and operational context in a business, and when dealing with external stakeholder to it.

I will begin addressing all of this in my next installment to this series, starting with Point 1 from the above numbered list. 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.

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