Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Innovation, disruptive innovation and market volatility 49: innovative business development and the tools that drive it 19

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on October 21, 2019

This is my 49th 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 and its Page 2 continuation, postings 173 and loosely following for its Parts 1-48.)

I have been discussing the questions and issues of technology transfer in this series, since Part 43, initially doing so in terms of a specific business model, to business model interaction, with:

• University research labs and the university-as-business systems that they function in, as original sources of new innovation,
• And invention acquiring, for-profit businesses that would buy access to these new and emerging opportunities for development and sale.

Then I began to generalize this line of discussion in Part 48 and with a goal of more fully including business participants of all types that might find incentive or even outright need for entering into technology transfer agreements and transactions. And I focused there on four basic due diligence questions that together constitute a basic analytical planning tool for this, that I will continue addressing here too:

• What value would the initially owning business gain, or retain if it were simply to maintain tightly controlled, access limited hold over the innovation or innovations in question here?
• What value could it develop and secure from divesting at least contractually specified control over the use or ownership of this innovative potential?
• And from the acquiring business’ perspective, what costs, or loss of positive value creating potential would it face, if it did not gain access to this innovation and on terms that would meet its needs?
• And what positive value would it gain if it did gain access to this, and with sufficient ownership control and exclusivity of use so as to meet its needs?

I began addressing these questions in Part 48, at the level of the individual innovation or invention, and in terms of its costs and risks, and its financial returns and other benefits as a possible technology transfer offering. Then at the end of that posting I changed direction and began addressing wider contexts here. More specifically, I said at the end of Part 48 that I would turn here to:

• Add in the complexities of scale, and for both the divesting, or licensing business and for the acquiring one.
• And I will also discuss the issues of direct and indirect competition, and how carefully planned and executed transfer transactions here, can in fact create or enhance business-to-business collaboration opportunities too,
• Where that may or may not create monopoly law risks in the process.

My goal here is to at least begin to more systematically address those issues, and with that including my explaining them where it is easy to read limiting assumptions into them. And that last possibility holds as true for business managers and owners who seek to run businesses as it does for people who simply seek to better understand them. And I begin all of this with the first of those three points, and with what can be an assumptions-laden word: scale.

• Scale of what? There are at least two possible answers to that question, both f which significantly apply here. The first is the scale of overall technology transfer activity that businesses might enter into, and on both the offering and acquiring sides of these agreements. And the second is the overall scale and I have to add the overall complexity and diversity of the businesses involved.
• And in both types of contexts, scale here is all about significance and impact, and for cash flow and profitability potential, for competitive impact, and for market appeal and market share.

Let’s start addressing the first of the above-offered topics points by more fully considering scale from the first of those perspectives, and with innovation itself. And I begin addressing that by offering a point of observation that in fact does conflate the two understandings of that word, but that does indicate something as to how larger contexts can shape the significance of any given single innovation in this type of context:

• While there are possible exceptions to this presumption, it does make sense that a single, at least potentially profitable innovation and rights to developing it, is going to hold a greater individual significance to a smaller business that would buy or sell rights to it,
• Than a same potential value innovation would if it were bundled into a large assortment of such offerings for sale of rights to interested parties, and particularly for larger businesses.

According to this, a larger business that was buying or selling off what might, in fact be a large number of to-them unneeded patents, is less likely to be particularly concerned about or even interested in any given single innovation in that collection, than a smaller business would be that was buy or selling rights to a single innovation. To start with, if that smaller business was the innovator in this, with much more limited reserves and cash flows, it is likely that developing this innovation expended a much larger proportion of their then-available liquid resources than a large and diverse business would, when developing one of many innovations and on an ongoing basis.

There is of course a fundamental assumption in that, that merits explicit consideration, that I would enter into here by introducing three terms:

Linchpin innovations are innovations that offer value from how they enable other innovations and make them possible.

So for example, a new photolithography technology that would make it possible to produce very significantly, physically larger integrated circuit chips with the same or higher circuit element density and with the same or higher quality control scores, and at lower costs, would be a linchpin innovation when considered in terms of any and all collateral innovations that could be developed from it in realizing the maximum amount of achievable value from it.

Endpoint innovations are innovations that offer explicit value, but they are either more stand-alone in nature, fitting into otherwise more stable application contexts, or they are collateral innovations as noted above here, that are not absolutely required for other innovations too.

Here, true linchpin innovations that are readily identifiable as such from the perspective of an involved business and its direct competition, are innovations that are essentially by definition, disruptive in nature. They are innovations that open up new ranges of opportunities, including opportunities for developing new emergent and new next-step truly linchpin innovations. Collateral innovations might significantly stem from specific readily identifiable linchpin innovations or they might simply arise as next step developments in already established technological or other arenas. And they might be specifically supportive of other innovations, but they are not likely to be essential, obligatorily required foundational elements for developing or implementing them. And endpoint innovations are collateral but without specifically being required for any other innovations to work or to be utilized. If you organize these three categorical types of innovation in a tree pattern according to how they functionally relate to each other and according to how they do or do not depend upon each other, linchpin innovations form the base of the tree, endpoint innovations comprise the tips of the smaller branches and twigs, and collateral innovations fall in-between and merge into and can meaningfully include those tips too, and certainly as the branches involved grow and next step innovations elaborate on what were those endpoint tips.

This conceptual model discusses the issues of functional utility and value. And from a business development or acquisition perspective, this addresses the relative value that one of these innovation types would carry as a perhaps-marketable offering. Linchpin innovations hold fundamental value that can only increase as more and more elaborations arising from it are conceived and developed as endpoint and then collateral innovations from it. Even an overtly endpoint innovation might be developed into a source of new innovations, emergent to it. But statistically, they are more likely to hold value for some period of time and then fade away in significance as they become outdated and replaced by new innovative alternatives.

• As a general pattern, already identified linchpin innovations hold the greatest value
• And simple evolutionary development derived endpoint innovations hold the least, and they are likely to remain that way for the value they offer until they age out for being innovations at all. They offer the least value and are in most cases the most ephemeral even for that.
• And already-identifiable mid-range collateral innovations fall in-between those two extremes for this.

Now let’s at least briefly consider business scale as an explicitly defining parameter as it fits into this pattern. I have already touched upon this factor here in this posting, but to more systematically include it here in this overall discussion thread, I note that:

• A smaller business is not likely to invest the time, effort and expense needed to develop an innovative idea into a more actively productive reality unless it fits into and supports at least one key aspect of their basic underlying business model and business plan.
• Larger and more diverse businesses can and do innovate more widely. And while they also tend to focus on innovative potential that would in some way support their business, they do not necessarily limit their involvement and participation there, to innovations that would be central to what they do. Innovation and its development call for proportionately smaller fractions of their overall resource bases so they are proportionately smaller investments for them. And they are proportionately less risk-involving investments, if an innovation development effort falls through and becomes a source of financial loss from that.
• On the acquisition side, smaller businesses correspondingly focus their attention and their activity on their core essentials and on optimizing their competitive strengths and their market reach and penetration. So if they acquire an innovation from another business through a technology transfer transaction, it is all but certain that their core due diligence decision making process there, will center on how this acquisition would support the fundamentals that define the business for what it is and that make it work. And they would compare that with analyses of the consequences they would face if they chose not to acquire this, and simply continue on as is.
• Larger, more diverse businesses can and do acquire innovation and controlling rights to it to competitively fill gaps in what they can and do offer, and how. Technology transfer acquisitions impact on parts of their organization and their market-facing productive puzzle.
• For smaller businesses, these acquisitions impact on their organization as a whole and on their market-facing productive puzzle as a whole too.

I am going to continue this discussion in my next installment to this series where I will turn to consider the second and third innovation context topic points:

• The issues of direct and indirect competition, and how carefully planned and executed technology transfer transactions here, can in fact create or enhance business-to-business collaboration opportunities too,
• Where that may or may not create monopoly law risks in the process.

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 – 45: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 25

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 18, 2019

This is my 45th 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 1-44.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I have been discussing three specific possible early stage growth scenarios that a new business’ founders might pursue for their venture, in recent installments to this series, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue addressing them:

1. A new venture that has at least preliminarily proven itself as viable and as a source of profitability can go public through an initial public offering (IPO) and the sale of stock shares. (See Part 33 and Part 34.)
2. A new venture can transition from pursuing what at least begins as if following an organic growth and development model (as would most likely at least initially be followed in exit strategy 1, above too) 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. (See Part 35.)
3. And 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. (See Part 36 through Part 39.)

And after offering more generally considered, basic-outline analyses of these three business development models, I began a process of discussing them for how businesses following them, might more normatively be expected to address a series of issues that would variously, but reliably arise for essentially any business and regardless of its precise business model. I have focused here on how these issues would arise and play out for businesses pursuing one or another of the above-repeated early development scenarios. And as part of that process, I began discussing those business development approaches and their predictably expected consequences as they would shape how these types of businesses would address three specific questions (see Part 44):

• What constituencies and potential constituencies would ventures following each of the above-repeated business development approaches need to effectively reach out to and connect with?
• What basic messages would they have to convincingly and even compellingly share with those audiences, to create value for themselves from their marketing efforts?
• And where and how would they best accomplish this?

More specifically, I have responded to the first of those questions in Part 44, there focusing entirely on the first of the three scenarios: the IPO-oriented business development scenario that I have been discussing here. And my goal moving forward from here is to offer a response to that same question as it would arise in a second scenario: a venture capital seeking business development attempt. And after that, I will turn to and consider the same question again, but from the perspective of a prospective or early-stage franchise system business. And underlying all of this, are three fundamental business performance issues that I keep referring back to:

A. Fine tuning their products and/or services offered,
B. Their business operations and how they are prioritized and carried out, and certainly in the context of that Point A and its issues, and
C. Their branding and how it would be both centrally defined and locally expressed through all of this.

And with all of that stated, I turn to the venture capital funds-seeking scenario and the basic Who question that I would explicitly address here.

I divided my response to that question so as to separately discuss two generally stated stakeholder categories in an IPO-facing context, when considering the external stakeholders and gatekeepers who the founders and owners of such a business, would have to work with:

• Potentially business and business model-supportive stakeholders, and
• Outwardly-connected and response-connecting marketplace participants.

And I will follow that same pattern here in the context of this business development scenario too, once again starting with stakeholders and potential stakeholders who would be approached, directly or indirectly for supporting a new business, and through provision of capital funding investments.

Who would belong there, at least as reasonable audiences that the founders and owners of a business might market their venture to, in hopes of gaining such support?

• Individual venture capitalists and venture capital firms are obvious target audiences here, but simply noting that does not add much if anything to this line of discussion. The real question is one of precisely which such investors to approach and how. And that means the owners of a business doing their homework, and their reaching out to potential investors who have a track record for having already invested in their particular industry, or who have a focused specialization that prominently involves supporting businesses that would make significant use of the same core technologies that their new business does and will use, and as central to what they would do as competitive ventures. Venture capitalists tend to specialize in where they invest their funds, depending on what they themselves have particular hands-on and managerial expertise in. So from a Who perspective here, this means finding and reaching out to potential investors who would see what a new venture is doing and seeking to do, as comfortably familiar ground – and even when they also want to see sources of novelty in that, that would make a potential investment business stand out for its competitive strength potential.
• This all obviously involves addressing the issues of my above-repeated Points A, B and C. Marketing to the right investors here, for example, of necessity means marketing what this business can and will do and how, and marketing for what it will produce or offer as services, and to whom. That is all about branding and marketing, and both as that would be directed towards potential customers and clients, and as it would be directed towards potential investors and backers too.
• And this brings me to the issues and questions of how to identify and reach the right people, besides simply doing Google or similar online searches. LinkedIn and similar business and professional-oriented online social networking sites can be very important there, and both for finding who has turned to what venture capital funding sources for what, and with what success, and for reaching out to these investors more directly too. And there are also businesses that explicitly function as matchmakers, bringing venture capital, and I add angel investors, together with entrepreneurs seeking such funding support. (A Google search for “entrepreneur forum” can offer value here, as one of many possible relevant search queries.)

And with that offered, I turn to consider the marketplace and potential customers and their demographics.

• Obviously, consumers and at least potential repeat customers are important here. Predictively specifying possible and likely market reach and market penetration of a proposed new business and its offerings, is one of the core foundational elements of any effective business plan. And that document with its reasoned analysis of possible target markets and consumer demographics, is crucially important when seeking outside business development funding, and particularly where larger investments are sought out from professionals in that arena, such as venture capitalists.
• Critically reviewing and analyzing business plans and efforts to fact check and reality check them, are among the most important due diligence and risk management exercises that these investors carry out as they make their basic investment decisions and as they decide what they would require that an investment business’ owners do, in order to qualify for such supportive help.
• And the analysis offered there in this business plan, of what a new venture would offer, and to whom, and with what likelihood of success for its target markets is crucial for all of that.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to and consider my third business development scenario: the would-be franchise system business. And I will follow the same organizing pattern there, that I have followed in Part 44 and again here in Part 45: addressing the issues raised in the first of the above three questions:

• What constituencies and potential constituencies would ventures following each of the above-repeated business development approaches need to effectively reach out to and connect with?

Then I will continue on from there to analyze the three business model approaches that I have been discussing here, in terms raised by the remaining two of those questions. 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.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 20.5: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 9

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on October 17, 2019

This is my 21st installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership, as they have both turned to authoritarianism and its tools in their efforts to succeed there, with this posting offered as a fractional installment number update to this narrative flow, added in here in order to address emerging news events. And it is my 9th installment in that, to specifically address their legacy-building visions, ambitions and actions.

I have primarily focused on Xi Jinping and his goals and ambitions in this, since Part 4 of this legacy-oriented progression of postings, as included here in this larger overall discussion of how he and Trump approach leadership per se. And I freely admit that I was at least initially planning on continuing my discussion of Xi and his China for several more installments here, before explicitly focusing on Donald Trump again, and his presidency and his legacy building ambitions and actions. But recent events have forced me to reconsider that, and offer at least one Trump-oriented series installment here and now. And in anticipation of that, I begin by noting that the two perhaps largest and most significant individual news stories to date in the Trump presidency, that have come to dominate coverage of his administration in recent days and weeks, only provide part of the impetus for my writing of him here and now:

• The still actively unfolding scandal of how Donald Trump, and both directly and through his personal emissaries, has sought to extort the new president of the Ukraine to influence the upcoming 2020 presidential election in the United States, by damaging one of his strongest competing candidates for election in a smear campaign.
• And Trump’s abandonment of America’s Kurdish allies in Syria: soldiers and civilians who have risked all to help American forces there and to help them succeed in their fight against terrorism in that part of the world.

And chaos has come out of both of these transgressions against reason and against moral duty and responsibility, and for at least the first of them, against the US constitution and the law too. So both have served to erode at least some of the support that Trump has managed to maintain over his core supporters, at least at their edges and for swing state and swing district Republicans in elected office who see continued blind support of him as a real threat to their staying in office. And Trump’s foray in foreign-supported dirty politics here in the United States has led to impeachment hearings in the US House of Representatives.

If these issues are not enough to prompt me to write about Trump and his decisions and actions, and their impact upon any legacy building ambitions that he might have, what is? My answer to that is simple:

• The basic mindset that has made both of those news stories possible, and that has really propelled the first of them in a direction that makes impeachment in the House and a trial in the US Senate seem all but inevitable now.

Donald Trump, as a rational person would have seen sufficient warning in the firestorm of rebuke and the calls for impeachment coming out of his contacts with the Ukraine’s president, to want to distance himself from all of that. His quid pro quo phone call with president Volodymyr Zelensky, trading the release of military aid funds already authorized by Congress in exchange for personal “favors” is now openly known, with as full a transcript as was taken of that now publically available and known. And the roles played in all of this by both president Trump’s Attorney general, William Barr, and by his own personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, and by at least two staff attorneys in Giuliani’s law firm: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, among others, is known too. And those two Giuliani associates are now facing criminal charges after being arrested at the Dulles International Airport while trying to flee the country on one way plane tickets out.

But Trump doubled down on this to use a term that he might have learned from his failed attempt at running a gambling casino, and openly admitted that he tried to get a foreign power to collude with him in digging up, or manufacturing if need be, dirt against at least one of his political opponents in order to influence the upcoming 2020 presidential election. And he then went on to publically ask China and their government to do the same for him too.

Basically, what he has done there is to eliminate any possible discussion, or need for it as to whether he actually did what he has been accused of doing, as impeachment papers are being drawn up, just leaving the question of whether his actions in doing so rise to the level of impeachable offenses. And his has done all of this while actively threatening some of his key supporters in the US Congress, where any congressional Republican vote lost, and even just in the House has to be considered a key loss.

The more Republicans vote to impeach in the now Democratic Party controlled House, the freer any Republican senators would find themselves, to challenge Trump and his hold on their political party and vote to convict too. And this brings me to some fundamental questions that I have found myself mulling over and that I would address here, at least to the level of offering them and a few orienting thoughts about them.

• What does legacy even mean in a Trump context and in a Trump world view?

My answer to that type of question is relatively simple and straight forward in a Xi Jinping context, or in the context of most any other leader who seeks to be remembered for enduring works achieved, authoritarian or not. And I have been at least relatively systematically addressing that and certainly from a Xi perspective for months now in this blog – and every time that I have raised the issues of Xi’s China Dream and how he understands it and seeks to realize it. Legacy in that sense is ordered and directed and long-term oriented and even when, as in Xi’s case he is now consistently taking actions and making decisions that undermine his own overall ambitions there, from how he is mismanaging the crisis that he has in effect created in Hong Kong as that is still actively unfolding. But long-term does not and cannot extend beyond the span of an unconsidered twitter posting or off-the-cuff spontaneous remark made in front of an open microphone, in Donald Trump’s world.

And once Trump says or posts something, he can never take it back and regardless of how self-damaging it proves to be. Retraction would require his admitting that he had made a mistake and if he did that on anything, however seemingly trivial, his entire presidential administration and in fact his entire adult life and personhood might unravel as more and more possible errors and mistake well up to the surface, demanding their own recognition too! That, at any rate seems to be how he views that ego challenging existential threat possibility. (For trivial there, remember his insistence, in the face of direct photographic evidence to the contrary, that his in-person inaugural crowd at his presidential swearing in, in 2016 was huge, was tremendous, was the biggest ever.) So Donald Trump: the actual person has created Donald Trump: the image, and Donald Trump the image of a president, has emerged as a fragile, unstable presence that could shatter if successfully challenged on anything. And this means that Trump cannot learn, and by that I mean anything.

You cannot learn unless and until you can admit, even to yourself that you do not know everything already, and that you might be wrong on at least some of what you assume.

• How does this impact on the basic question that I am addressing here, regarding the nature of legacy building, at least where such efforts might have at least something of a chance at succeeding?

Successful legacy building is of necessity a team sport where others with their varying expertise are brought in, and in ways that would bring them to want to support the overall vision of that effort. This means bringing in people who know things, and who can do things that the legacy builder at the center of all of this does not know and cannot do themselves. And successful legacy building has to be a learning curve activity as an intended is shaped into a possible and achievable, and from there into a realized and in the face of any and all set-backs and challenges faced.

That is an area where Xi Jinping has not been very successful either, and certainly in the context of Hong Kong. History will show how successful Trump is at that, though his prospects there do not look good for him right now.

That noted, I would conclude this posting by citing one more quality that any long-term sustainable legacy building effort would require and on all levels, from determining what should go into it and with what priorities, to enlisting support in developing it from key potential stakeholders, to enlisting general support for it as an ongoing symbol and presence. Xi is certainly trying to achieve that, as I have been arguing in recent installments to this series. Donald Trump has at least seemingly come to see his long-term legacy in terms of simply getting reelected for a second term – which is a big part of why he has tried enlisting foreign support for this reelection efforts; he is trying to recreate the type of then-Russian interference on his behalf that got him elected to office in 2016 in the first place. And now, and with his current scandals and worse coming to haunt him, he legacy building effort seems to have shrunk down to simply serving out the fullness of the term of office as United States president that he is going through now – and with his getting reelected if he can make it successfully through the emerging Congressional scrutiny that he is currently facing.

Thinking back over what is rapidly approaching three full years since he was first elected president, I remember mulling over and in fact citing what can only be considered a legacy oriented poem for Trump’s type of vision, as written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in late 1810 or early January 1811, titled Ozymandias.

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

What is Donald Trump’s lasting legacy likely to be?

• He and his supportive Republican led Senate have pushed a large number of ultra-conservative jurists into lifetime tenure positions in federal courts, including the US Supreme Court. And he may very well add at least one more like-minded jurist there too, who’s only defining litmus test qualification required by him is likely to be found in their politics.
• He has done much to unravel all of the positive international treaties and all of the alliance forming nation-to-nation support systems that generations of his predecessors in office have worked so hard to build for the United States: Democratic and Republican presidents alike. And in fact Trump has done more of that in his purblind xenophobic strivings than any of America’s enemies have ever been able to achieve. (As a side note on this, Xi Jinping has actively, and surprisingly successfully cut off and isolated Taiwan by bringing nation after nation to withdraw their ambassadorial and consular recognition of that island nation; he has wielded this same basic isolationist approach against Taiwan and its peoples that Trump seems to be attempting with regard to the United States. And yes, Trump has by all appearance been attempting to do this to the United States, at least actively alienating all of our key allies, even if they do keep their embassies here, and without the aid of a foreign leader such as Xi Jinping to help move that along.)
• And to cite a third leg to this statuesque edifice, Trump has actively fought against any efforts to address or even acknowledge the legitimacy of climate change and global warming and certainly as consequences of human activity. And he has done so both within the United Stated and internationally and even as progressively more and more dire evidence emerges to refute him on this. He calls all of that, “fake news,” the same way he does anything he sees as challenging him or his understanding of the world around him.

And the impact of these efforts on his part and of others like them will endure for generations after he is gone from office and even as …

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

I am going to return to my intended narrative as noted towards the start of this posting, in my next, more regularly planned out installment to this series. Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

Building a business for resilience 37 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 29

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 15, 2019

This is my 37th 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 1-36.)

I began working my way through a brief, higher level to-address topics list in Part 32 of this series that all relate to information management and to follow-through based upon it (and see that installment for the complete list of them.) And I have been discussing the third item and its issues from that list since Part 35, which I repeat here as I continue 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.

To be more specific here, I concluded Part 36 by offering a set of more detail-specific discussion points that directly relate to that set of issues, that I stated I would at least begin to discuss in detail here (there offered as a bullet point list, and here as a numbered list for greater clarity of discussion):

1. It might be fairly obvious that a detailed table of organization and an in-house phone and email directory would belong on a sharable intranet-accessible data base, fitting into a data and knowledge context that would fairly perfectly fit a technology-driven solution as touched upon above (nota bene, in Part 36 and its line of discussion.)
2. And it might be fairly obvious that the types of character and personality and performance-related discussions that would arise in the context of my above cited Part 35 example, and my also-briefly sketched out examples from above (n.b. in Part 36), would not. It might be obvious that those briefly sketched scenario examples raise sensitive questions, and that any answers that would be shared in response to them would probably best be communicated in a more individualized case-by-case, business social networking context.
3. But not all business sourced or related information clearly fits into one or the other of those admittedly vaguely defined categorical groupings, as being best suited to a more entirely technology implementation or as calling for significant interpersonal interaction and private conversation. And even when a specific case in point example seems to best fit one of those paradigmatic approaches in principle, it might not in practice just fit there. So for example, data and knowledge that fits into and would be offered in an automated database system, might still need more experienced explanation when it is to be used in practice, and certainly if it does not fit a usual or expected pattern for the type of work it would be applied to. And even more strictly social networking-based information management and sharing can be facilitated by online social networking and other standardized intranet-based tools, and for finding the right people to reach out to if nothing else.
4. How would gray area data and knowledge for this be identified and how would it best be managed?
5. And how and when would hybrid solutions and approaches for managing them, best be developed and pursued here?

The first two of those now-numbered points provide connecting background that would serve to bring the following three into clearer focus. So my intention for this posting is to begin with the third of them and its issues. And I in fact at least start to do so by pointing out two salient, and even determinative issues here. And the first involves issues of confidentiality and privacy.

• Even when access to specific information resources that are provided through a business intranet are actively and tightly access-controlled, and certainly for anything included there that might be considered sensitive in nature, you always have to think of that type of shared resource as being open and public. And I have to add in this context, that you have to assume that any content screening that is carried out when determining who should be granted access to what, is going to be more categorically general in nature, then it is precisely specific for details offered, and when any access restriction policies are set or followed.

Such access is based for the most part on job titles and areas of responsibility, on the who side of this, and on a determination of the generally expected range of genuine need that a given body of raw data or processed information might carry with it. And it is unlikely that personal opinions that might be included there are going to fit into any of the more routinely conducted access control decisions that would be made. No one, for example, is going to sift through the mountains of information involved in any general, categorical access determination decision, looking for what A does or does not think about B and their capabilities to do task C, at least when working with D – and regardless of what A, B, D or anyone else would think of that.

You have to assume that at least with time, any information, more individualized judgment or opinion included, that is entered into a network-accessible database system, will become public and because it is at least eventually all but certain to be inadvertently leaked by someone if for no other reason. (Consider that a conservative risk management assumption that would inform the planning and preparation that would be made proactively, in anticipation of possible information access, security breaches.)

• Private exchanges of judgment and opinion that are shared as such between involved individuals, can at least in principle remain private and confidential – assuming of course that anyone seeking or offering such advice in confidence, shows good judgment in who they would trust for this.
• But judgment and opinions that are uploaded on an in-principle more publicly visible and accessible platform, and one that is access controlled by uninvolved third parties, cannot be assumed to remain private and confidential, and certainly long-term.

The second salient, and even determinative issue that I would raise here, is at least in principle, a lot easier to state, even as its details become more complex when it is taken out of the abstract in real world situations:

• All five of the here-numbered topics points that I have repeated above and that I am addressing now, are risk management issues.

Let me at least begin to explain that here, by way of a specific, real world consequential issue that my personal opinion and judgment examples raise. Negative opinions and judgments concerning specific coworkers, or subordinates on a table of organization are almost certain to create tensions, resentments and all of the problems that you would expect to see arise from them if they become more generally shared and known, and certainly if the people involved there have to be able to work together and even if just occasionally and on specific issues. But if any of that opinion-based commentary were to be uploaded to a company-wide intranet and made available from there, and to anyone beyond the individual who started that, then the company would own it. If that information was in any way formally signed off upon and approved for upload to the intranet, and even just as a small entry hidden away in a larger block of information that the approving agent did not know of, the company would own it and have to take responsibility for its being there. And an outraged and aggrieved employee who has been publically, negatively judged and even shamed in this way would most likely find that they have substantial grounds to sue.

But that only addresses these issues in general and when considering events and possibilities such as the perhaps extreme case scenarios offered in Parts 35 and 36, as referred to above. The real complexities that I would address here, arise when determining a fuller range of what can be at least semi-officially shared in a business in general, and how and through what channels; the real complexities, and I have to add the real risk potentials arise when you have to take gray area information sharing scenarios into account too. I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will continue to focus on the issues and challenges raised by Points 3-5 as offered here in my more detail-specific list. And completing my discussion of those topics points will complete my discussion of the more basic and fundamental topics point that I repeated at the top of this posting: the third higher level topics point from my initial perspective topics list of Part 32.

Then after completing that, with further consideration of the five topics points that I raised as elaborations of it, I will return to consider the remaining higher level points from my Part 32 list:

4. 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 of that sort, to assemble a more comprehensively valuable and applicable knowledge base.
5. And more than just that, this has to be about bringing the fruits of that effort to work for the business as a whole and for its employees, by making its essential details 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 38 – the jobs and careers context 37

This is my 38th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-37.)

I have been discussing a succession of workplace challenges in this series, since Part 25, that all explicitly call for effective communications and negotiating skills and that all involve jobs and careers issues and how best to manage them. The first five of those challenges were scope-limited, and in ways that limited the range of issues that would have to be dealt with in finding ways to resolve them. And the sixth and last of that list was and is a more general and all-encompassing challenge, for the range of issues and considerations that it can and does involve:

• Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that type of circumstance (see Part 32 through Part 37.)

Over the course of those five installments I have discussed what downsizings are, when considered beyond their end results, with employee-impacting layoffs and even massive ones. For purposes of this series and for purposes of hands-on and managerial employees who would seek to negotiate better terms for themselves in the face of these events, this means discussing and at least briefly analyzing the Why of downsizings, as considered from their particular employer’s perspective. And understanding that set of issues as it would apply to them, is vitally important for anyone facing such an event. I have also discussed Who is going to be at risk and at greatest risk of being caught up in these downsizings, where understanding that and being able to individually plan accordingly, calls for an understanding of precisely why their business might pursue this path too. And then after discussing the Who of this from the perspective of employees who might be at risk, I briefly discussed the issues of Who would be involved from the business side of this too; you cannot negotiate in a vacuum, and knowing who you might meet with and who they would have to speak for and answer to is important. Then finally, in Part 37, I began discussing negotiations and the negotiating process itself, as that might be made possible and as it would play out in this challenging context.

My goal here is to continue that line of discussion. So for smoother continuity of narrative, I repeat a basic guiding principle that I have held up as fundamental for effectively negotiating about essentially anything of importance as an employee, where mutual agreement would have to be reached. And that guiding principle offers a basic perspective that holds particular importance in the types of situations that I raise and address here:

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about. You need to know your own goals and priorities and what you would explicitly seek to avoid too, and why and under what conditions.
• And knowing what you have to, and in fact can negotiate about, calls for understanding the context and circumstance that you would do that in, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table for this.
• And as a crucial part of that, this also includes knowing as fully and clearly as possible, what options and possibilities they might and might not even be able to negotiate upon. This, among other points of consideration, means you’re knowing when the person who you are meeting with can only say “no”, because they do not have the authority to say anything else. The first and perhaps most essential step to your actually being able to negotiate can be you’re actually finding and meeting with at least one of the right people for this who can say “yes”.

You need to know and understand what you seek to achieve, and your priorities there. You need to know and understand what your supervisor: your direct boss there seeks and why, and what the people who they have to answer to want. And you need to know that as thoroughly as you know your own needs, preferences and priorities. And you need to understand what the people who you meet with can even begin to negotiate about, and what is more likely not even going to be on the table for such discussion.

• Negotiating is a process; think of this as taking place in steps and with a possibility that new stakeholders might become involved as a negotiating process proceeds.

Once again, this is all context-driven and I keep stressing this for a very simple reason. Most of the time, even the people who are most at risk of being laid off in a downsizing simply seem to drift into it and without planning and without proactive preparation for making an effort to protect their own best interests. And all too often we do not even really think through what those best interests would even be, and even just in the immediate here-and-now that we are facing.

I began discussing negotiating in this context, in general terms that would apply in essentially any impending or early stage downsizing, as there are some general issues and principles that would essentially always arise in them and regardless of the specifics of why a particular downsizing might take place. And one of my goals for this posting is to continue and complete that background-level line of discussion. Then, and with the points raised there in mind, my goal is to turn to and at least begin to consider the specific downsizing scenarios that I raised earlier in this posting progression: the specific Whys that would lead a business to pursue this type of course. And my goal there is to at least shed some light on the types of issues and the types of approaches for addressing them, that would come out for those specific why-based scenarios – so you, the reader can focus in upon the right issues, where you might be able to more effectively argue your case, and with a focus and orientation on your negotiating that would connect with the overall plans of the people who you meet with – and in ways that would help them to address their concerns and help them to meet their needs too.

I strongly recommend that you review at least the second half of Part 37 as explicit preparation for what is to follow here, as my general comments on negotiating here, are grounded in what I offered there. And with that noted, I continue my Part 37 analysis of how you might better negotiate for better terms in a downsizing environment as follows:

• When you negotiate or try to do so, in a workplace context such as a downsizing, you do so when facing what is most likely the most pressingly, immediately significant power asymmetry that you could ever encounter at a job. So while it can be possible to negotiate under these conditions, it is vitally important to take a nuanced approach when considering your own goals and priorities. This is not the time or place for simple binary, all or nothing planning or execution on your part.
• I have been writing of goals and priorities here, but it can be easy to lose track of what is and what really isn’t important, and both in your immediate here-and-now and when looking forward and longer-term, and particularly when facing challenging and impactful conversations that might not start out all that collegial.
• As noted before, your goal is to turn that around: that perhaps more-confrontational start, by finding effective ways to meaningfully, realistically, accurately present your case as one of aligning your needs and goals with those of your employer – and with those of the specific managers and others who you might meet with. (I focus on the people who can in fact say “yes” there, but even a perhaps earlier business-side representative who can only say “no” on their own, might be able to play a role in helping you to reach out to and connect with someone who can say “yes”.)
• That last detail is vitally important; it means you’re cultivating whatever support that you can achieve with anyone you who are meeting with on this, and even if they can only say “no” on their own. They still might be able to play an effective gatekeeper role, and they might be able to help you reach out to those who can say “yes”. So frame your side of any conversation with them, in ways that would lead them to want to escalate their conversation with you up to a higher, or at least different level if that is the one positive response that they can offer.
• And this is where Plan B considerations enter this discussion and the process flow that I write of here. I will have more to offer on this set of issues in discussion to come, and simply note here that Plan B approaches, like negotiations approaches in general, should never be seen as being simple A or B, binary in nature. Effective Plan B jobs and careers preparation, and Plan B execution if that becomes necessary, is not just about you’re getting everything that you want, or nothing of that, and with only those two extreme case possibilities coming out of that.

With this all noted, and at least as a more generally grounded starting point for considering the particulars, I turn to the specific downsizing scenarios that I first offered here in Part 32 and that I repeat here with re-phrasings as needed. I will begin to delve into them individually staring in my next installment to this series.

1. Payroll and benefits expenses can and often do rise in scale and significance to become among the largest ongoing cost centers that most businesses face. So if a business has a set-back in its incoming revenue and they have to cut back on their expenses and significantly so in order to remain viable through a crisis period, staff and directly staff-related expenses are usually one of the first possible places considered when cutbacks are on the table.
2. Downsizings, while more usually driven by revenue and expense imbalances as per the above Scenario 1, can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for a current or emerging business model in place. Think of staff reductions there, as they can arise when a business decides to outsource a functional area and its work, making it unnecessary to keep the people who have done that in-house as ongoing employees.
3. And a key driver there can be an intended and even vitally needed attempt to move beyond legacy and out of date, and both in what a business brings to market and in how it does that, where this would involve in-house redevelopment too.
4. All of this noted, in reality downsizings, or at least a determination of who would be let go in them, are not always just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. They can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever reasons that the managers they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. Downsizings can be and are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.
5. And to cite another scenario that can be more Who oriented, and certainly from the perspective of who is bringing it about, a new, more senior manager who wants to do some personal empire building within their new employer’s systems can use a downsizing and reorganization in their area of oversight responsibility to put their name on how things are done there. Consider this a confrontational career enhancement tactic on their part.
6. And as a final area of consideration here, consider the last-in, first-out approach as it can by default impact on younger employees and more recent hires and regardless of what they do and can do that might be needed by the business. Businesses with a strong union presence often follow that approach though they are not the only ones that do. But this type of retain or let-go determination can also be skills-based, or location based if for example it is decided to close a more peripheral office that might not have been as much of a profit center as desired or expected. So even there, it might be possible to argue a case for being retained at a job.

As just noted, I will begin successively addressing these six scenarios as specific real-world examples of how these negotiations might be pursued, starting in my next installment to this series. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Reconsidering the varying faces of infrastructure and their sometimes competing imperatives 9: the New Deal and infrastructure development as recovery 3

This is my 10th installment to a series on infrastructure as work on it, and as possible work on it are variously prioritized and carried through upon, or set aside for future consideration (see United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID), postings 46 and following for Parts 1-8 with its supplemental posting Part 4.5.)

I have, up to here, made note of and selectively analyzed a succession of large scale infrastructure development and redevelopment initiatives in this series, with a goal of distilling out of them, a set of guiding principles that might offer planning and execution value when moving forward on other such programs. And as a part of that and as a fifth such case study example, I have been discussing an historically defining progression of events and responses to them from American history:

• The Great Depression and US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and related efforts that he envisioned, argued for and led, in order to help bring his country out of that seemingly existential crisis.

I began this line of discussion in Part 7 and Part 8, focusing there on what the Great Depression was, and with a focus on how it arose and took place in the United States. And my goal here is to at least begin to discuss what Roosevelt did and sought to do and how, in response to all of that turmoil and challenge. And I begin doing so by offering a background reference that I would argue holds significant relevance for better understanding the context and issues that I would focus upon here:

• Goodwin, D.K. (2018) Leadership in Turbulent Times. Simon & Schuster. (And see in particular, this book’s Chapter 11 for purposes of further clarifying the issues raised here.)

As already noted in the two preceding installments to this series, the Great Depression arguably began in late 1929 with an “official” starting date usually set for that as October 29 of that year: Black Tuesday when the US stock market completed an initial crash that had started the previous Thursday. But realistically it really began as a true depression and as the Great Depression on March 13, 1930 when the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act was first put into effect. And Herbert Hoover was president of the United States as the nation as a whole and much of the world around it, spiraled down into chaos.

There are those who revile Hoover for his failure to effectively deal with or even fully understand and acknowledge the challenges that the United States and American citizens and businesses faced during his administration, and certainly after his initial pre-depression honeymoon period in office. And there are those who exalt him and particularly from the more extreme right politically as they speak out against the New Deal – and even for how its programs helped to pull the country back from its fall. All of that, while interesting and even important, is irrelevant here for purposes of this discussion. The important point of note coming out of that is that unemployment was rampant, a great many American citizens had individually lost all of whatever life savings they had been able to accumulate prior to this, and seemingly endless numbers of business, banks and other basic organizational structures that helped form the American society were now unstable and at extreme risk of failure, or already gone. And the level of morale in the United States, and of public confidence in both public and private sector institutions was one of all but despair and for many. And that was the reality in the United States, and in fact in much of the world as a whole that Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced as he took his first oath of office as the 32nd president of the United States on March 4, 1933.

Roosevelt knew that if he was to succeed in any real way in addressing and remediating any of these challenges faced, he had to begin and act immediately. And he began laying out his approach to doing that, and he began following forward on that in his first inaugural address, where he declared war on the depression and where he uttered one of his most oft-remembered statements: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Roosevelt did not wait until March 5th to begin acting on the promise of action that he made to the nation in that inaugural address. He immediately began reaching out to key members of the US Congress and to members of both political parties there to begin a collaborative effort that became known as the 100 Days Congress, for the wide ranging legislation that was drafted, refined, voted upon, passed and signed into law during that brief span of time (see First 100 Days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency.) This ongoing flow of activity came to include passage of 15 major pieces of legislation that collectively reshaped the country, setting it on a path that led to an ultimate recovery from this depression. And that body of legislation formed the core of Roosevelt’s New Deal as he was able to bring it into effect.

• What did Roosevelt push for and get passed in this way, starting during those first 100 days?
• I would reframe that question in terms of immediate societal needs. What were the key areas that Roosevelt had to address and at least begin to resolve through legislative action, if he and his new presidential administration were to begin to effectively meet the challenge of this depression and as quickly as possible?

Rephrased in those terms, his first 100 days and their legislative push sought to grab public attention and support by simultaneously addressing a complex of what had seemed to be intractable challenges that included:

• Reassuring the public that their needs and their fears were understood and that they were being addressed,
• And building safeguards into the economy and into the business sector that drives it, to ensure their long-term viability and stability.
• Put simply, Roosevelt sought to create a new sense of public confidence, and put people back to work and with real full time jobs at long-term viable businesses.

Those basic goals were and I add still are all fundamentally interconnected. And to highlight that in an explicitly Great Depression context, I turn back to a source of challenge that I raised and at least briefly discussed in Part 8 of this series: banks and the banking system, to focus on their role in all of this.

• The public at large had lost any trust that they had had in banks and in their reliability, and with good reason given the number of them that had gone under in the months and first years immediately following the start of the Great Depression. And when those banks failed, all of the people and their families and all of the businesses that had money tied up in accounts with them, lost everything of that.
• So regulatory law was passed to prevent banks and financial institutions in general, from following a wide range of what had proven to be high-risk business practices that made them vulnerable to failure.
• And the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was created to safeguard customer savings in the event that a bank were to fail anyway, among other consumer-facing and supporting measures passed.

The goal there was to both stabilize banks and make them sounder, safer and more reliable as financial institutions, while simultaneously reassuring the private sector and its participants: individuals and businesses alike, that it was now safe to put their money back into those banks again. And rebuilding the banking system as a viable and used resource would make monies available through them for loans again, and that would help to get the overall economy moving and recovering again.

• Banks and the banking system in general, can in a fundamental sense be seen as constituting the heart of an economy, and for any national economy that is grounded in the marketplace and its participants, and that is not simply mandated from above, politically and governmentally as a command economy. Bank loans and the liquidity reserves and cash flows that they create, drive growth and make all else possible, and for both businesses, large and small and for their employees and for consumers of all sorts.
• So banks and banking systems constitute a key facet of a nation’s overall critical infrastructure, and one that was badly broken by the Great Depression and that needed to be fixed for any real recovery from it.

This is a series about infrastructure, and the banking system of a nation is one of the most important and vital structural component of its overall infrastructure system, and for how banks collectively create vast pools of liquid funds from monies saved in them, that can be turned back to their communities and for such a wide range of personal and business uses if nothing else. But the overall plan put forth and enacted into law in the 100 Days Congress (which adjourned on June 16, 1933) went way beyond simply reinforcing and rebuilding as needed, banks and other behind the scenes elements of the overall American infrastructure. It went on to address rebuilding and expansion needs for more readily visible aspects of the overall infrastructure in place too, and for systems that essentially anyone would automatically see as national infrastructure such as dams and highways. Roosevelt’s New Deal impacted upon and even fundamentally reshaped virtually every aspect of the basic large-scale infrastructure that had existed in the United States. And to highlight a more general principle here that I will return to in subsequent installments to this series, all of this effort had at least one key point of detail in common;

• It was all organized according to an overarching pattern rather than simply arising ad hoc, piece by piece as predominantly happened before the Great Depression.
• Ultimately any large scale infrastructure development or redevelopment effort has to be organized and realized as a coherent whole, even if that means developing it as an evolving effort, if coherent and gap-free results are to be realized and with a minimum of unexpected complications.

That noted, what did the New Deal, and the fruits of Roosevelt’s efforts and the 100 Days Congress actually achieve? I noted above that this included passage of 15 major pieces of legislation and add here that this included enactment of such programs as:

• The Civilian Conservation Corps as a jobs creating program that brought many back into the productive workforce in the United States,
• The Tennessee Valley Authority – a key regional development effort that made it possible to spread the overall national electric power grid into a large unserved part of the country while creating new jobs there in the process,
• The Emergency Banking Act, that sought to stop the ongoing cascade of bank failures that was plaguing the country,
• The Farm Credit Act that sought to provide relief to family farms and help restore American agriculture,
• The Agricultural Adjustment Act, that was developed coordinately with that, and that also helped to stabilize and revitalize American agriculture,
• The National Industrial Recovery Act,
• The Public Works Administration, which focused on creating jobs through construction of water systems, power plants and hospitals among other societally important resources,
• The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as cited above, and
• The Glass Steagall Act – legislation designed to limit if not block high risk, institutional failure creating practices in banks and financial institutions in general.

Five of the New Deal agencies that were created in response to the Great Depression and that contributed to ending it, still exist today, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Social Security Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority. And while subsequent partisan political efforts have eroded some of the key features of the Glass Steagall Act, much of that is still in effect today too.

And with that noted, I conclude this posting by highlighting what might in fact be the most important two points that I could make here:

• I wrote above, of the importance of having a single, more unified vision when mapping out and carrying out a large scale infrastructure program, and that is valid. But flexibility in the face of the unexpected and in achieving the doable is vital there too. And so is a willingness to experiment and simply try things out and certainly when faced with novel and unprecedented challenges that you cannot address by anything like tried-and-true methods. A willingness to experiment and try possible solutions out and a willingness to step back from them and try something new if they do not work, is vital there.
• And seeking out and achieving buy-in is essential if any of that is going to be possible. This meant reaching out to politicians and public officials, as Roosevelt did when he organized and led his New Deal efforts. But more importantly, this meant his reaching out very directly to the American public and right in their living rooms, through his radio broadcast fireside chats, with his first of them taking place soon after he was first sworn into office as president. (He was sworn into office on March 4 and he gave his first fireside chat of what would become an ongoing series of 30, eight days later on March 12.)
• Franklin Delano Roosevelt most definitely did not invent the radio. But he was the first politician and the first government leader who figured out how to effectively use that means of communication and connections building, to promote and advance his policies and his goals. He was the first to use this new tool in ways that would lead to the type and level of overall public support that would compel even his political opponents to seek out ways to work with and compromise with him, on the issues that were important to him. So I add to my second bullet point here, the imperative of reaching out as widely and effectively as possible when developing that buy-in, and through as wide and effective a span of possible communications channels and venues as possible.

I am going to step back in my next installment to this series, from the now five case-in-point examples that I have been exploring in it up to here. And I will offer an at least first draft of the more general principles that I would develop out of all of this, as a basis for making actionable proposals as to how future infrastructure development projects might be carried out. And in anticipation of what is to follow here, I write all of this with the future, and the near-future and already emerging challenges of global warming in mind as a source of infrastructure development and redevelopment imperatives. Then after offering that first draft note, I am going to return to my initial plans for how I would further develop this series, as outlined in Part 6 of this series, and discuss infrastructure development as envisioned by and carried out the Communist Party of China and the government of the People’s Republic of China. And as part of that I will also discuss Russian, and particularly Soviet Union era, Russian infrastructure and its drivers. And my intention for now, as I think forward about this is that after completing those two case study example discussion, I will offer a second draft-refined update to the first draft version of that, that I will offer as a Part 10 here.

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. I also include this in Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And I include this in my United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID) directory too for its relevance there.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 46 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 13

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 6, 2019

This is my 46th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-45.)

And this series is about people and enabling them in a workplace, and to the benefit of both the businesses that they work for and the benefit of those hands-on and managerial employees too. But a great deal of what I have been writing of and addressing here, has focused on what these people do and how, and as viewed from due diligence and risk remediation and management perspectives. And as part of that ongoing narrative I have been discussing two specific topics points, since Part 44, so far primarily focusing on the first of them:

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

More specifically, I began discussing the first of those points in at least some detail in Part 44, then digressed from my initially planned, more abstractly framed line of discussion of them to develop and begin to consider a more specific case study-oriented example of how the issues that I would raise here would play out. And developing that for subsequent use is what I primarily focused upon in Part 45, where I briefly outlined a business software development process as might take place within an organization for its own use, and with specific low, medium and high-risk scenarios offered as possible elaborations to it, all based on how this basic development process might be followed – or short circuited in the case of my more fully high-risk scenario.

My goal for this posting is to complete my discussion of the above Point 1, bringing that more out of the abstract by considering how its issues take shape in the type of real-world contexts that I raise with my software development example. And after that I will continue on to specifically address Point 2 and its issues as well.

I began addressing the issues of Point 1 in Part 44, by focusing on how risk is in fact determined on a potential-event by potential-event basis. And as part of that, I briefly outlined how risk management assessments can be made for known unknown possible events: adverse event types that are understood in principle and that are even statistically predicable for their likelihood of occurring, through application of an actuarial process, but that are unknown in detail and in advance of when they would occur. And I went beyond that to at least note the impact on risk management systems and their actionable implementation, by considering unknown unknowns too: here, adverse events that would arise as disruptively novel so it would be unlikely that anyone facing them could predict their likelihood of occurrence even if they do think that they know at least a minimal level of impact that they would have, if they were to occur.

• In simplest form at least, known unknown event risk calculations would be arrived at on an event-type by event-type basis, as a mathematical product of the probability of an adverse occurrence actually happening, and the level of adverse impact that would arise if it did. So for example, if a specific adverse event might have a 5% likelihood of occurring in the course of ten years of business operations, and it could be expected to cost the business a net amount of $100,000 per occurrence if it did, minimum, then its risk assessed cost (as would be added into an overall risk assessment model) would be at least $2,500 per business quarter and with that calculation entering into a determination of the minimum liquid reserves that should be maintained in the event of problems arising. (Note that to simplify this, I assume binary occurrence possibilities with an event type either happening once and just once, or not at all. Real world calculations would be more complex, allowing for a variety of deviations from that and other simplified assumptions that I make here.)
• And realistically, given an inevitable lack of complete knowledge, both of those measures: event likelihood and cost of occurring, would be calculated as range values, or as minimum ones and with that alternative offering a specific minimum risk per event type calculation that could then be used in planning and in business development and execution.
• Unknown unknown adverse events serve as true wild cards in this as it is impossible to calculate the actuarial table requiring, mathematical products that a more a priori knowable risk assessment of the type just discussed here, would require in its known unknown setting.

My abstract discussion goal for this posting is to expand upon and discuss a point of detail that I just added to this narrative in the above explanatory bullet points: “… with that calculation entering into a determination of the minimum liquid reserves that should be maintained in the event of problems arising” – where overall determination of the level of funds to be held in such reserves, and decisions reached as related business-wide decisions would be based on the coordinate determination and evaluation of suites of possible events that might arise: positive, negative and mixed in value there, as their risk and benefits implications are considered.

Yes, there are definitely circumstances where individual event types need to be separately considered and evaluated, as for example when their apparent likelihood of happening or their likely outcome if they do happen, appear to be changing. And these changes can visibly arise for any of a wide number of reasons. A need to make individual event type evaluations can also arise if a once assuredly known unknown suddenly starts to look more disruptively unexpected, or if a previously disruptive possibility as discussed here, has become more predictably familiar. But ultimately risk management looks at larger contexts and at overall risk and opportunity assessments, and at how different event and outcome types can and do interact and even fundamentally shape each other. And it is in the context of this very abstractly stated risk management understanding that I finally turn to consider my software development example.

Think of my Part 44 discussion as expanded upon here, as laying a foundation for more fully considering the above Point 1 by outlining, at least for purposes of this series discussion, what “risk” actually means there. And my continuation of that here, at least briefly scales up this set of issues to “business size” and the consideration of what at least ideally would be relatively comprehensive suites of potential risks faced and certainly for the more predictable among them. Now I would at least briefly and selectively set out to apply all of that in a specific case-in-point example setting. And for that, I turn back to Part 45 and to the low, medium and high risk scenario examples that I explicitly raised there. (I recommend that you at least briefly review that posting and those case in point example scenarios as I will refer to them here in what follows without repeating what would amount to a significant portion of that posting.)

First of all, as a matter of overall comment on the four scenarios offered there, all of them hinge for their significance on the use or potential use of personally identifiable customer data as would be provided to a business as it carries out sales and related transactions.

• For my low-risk example scenario, this means customer data-like information: fake customer data that is not based on the information provided by any specific real people, that would not and could not compromise anyone as an individual if it were to be more publically released. And my higher risk scenarios all involve access to, and use of real customer data.
• Such data is explicitly legally protected with specific regulatory guidelines as to how this information should be safeguarded, at least as far as specifying minimally required information security outcomes for it. And this in-detail overall framework and the correspondingly specified set of publically visible legal consequences for allowing breaches to this mandated information security, make collecting, processing, storing, accessing and using this data a source of definitively known unknown risks as I use that term here.
• In principle then, it should be possible to risk manage this type of event, and the types of business activities that might lead to such a breach as I have been discussing this set of issues here, and certainly for known unknowns. But specific real-world examples always add caveats and unexpecteds to any in-principle, abstractly stated considerations. And this example and source of them is no exception there.
• To illustrate that point of observation, and in a way that historic records can only serve to verify, one of the most important sources of hacking risk that businesses face and certainly large ones with large employee headcounts, comes from data misdirection and even outright data theft from the inside. This can mean intentional, malicious theft of and use of confidential information as for example when a disgruntled employee seeks to take and sell it. But exactly as impactfully and certainly on an incident by incident basis this can mean loss of control over such information, where for example an employee who has even large amounts of sensitive information on their work laptop computer – that they probably have been told not to keep there, takes this computer off-site and looses it. And this type of unintentional breach can happen entirely in-house in a business too, if an employee who has legitimate access to such data, shares it with others who do not.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will explicitly consider the four example scenarios themselves from Part 45, as the issues that I have just raised here would apply to them. Then, as promised above, I will continue on to discuss the above repeated topics Point 2. And after completing that, at least for purposes of this series, I will tie this back to the basic issues of information access and its more open and its more restrictive imperatives, as arise in a general business context, and in an innovative business context.

In anticipation of discussion to come, I will at least briefly discuss risk sharing and the role of insurance and third party indemnification there, and the impact of ripple effects in all of this, where for example hiring policy, employee benefits and corporate culture as it impacts upon and shapes the employee experience can significantly shape information security risk.

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

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 17

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 3, 2019

This is my 17th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

I have been discussing gorilla and viral marketing in more general terms in this series, laying a foundation for more detailed analysis as to their reach and effectiveness, and for even knowing how well they are performing for your business –if that is, they are at all. So for example, I explicitly if briefly discussed the issues of outside-shaping control in any genuinely viral marketing campaign, where “viral” in that context ultimately means “coming from members of the consumer community and marketplace” and where publically visible messaging contributions offered from there, might or might not be legitimately grounded and as either false-flag negative, trolling efforts or as equally false-flag positive messages. And even more genuine viral sourced messaging might or might not have real impact potential depending on a variety of factors too, many of the more important of which might be predictively understood.

Then I ended Part 16 by offering the following four point tool set of basic issues for consideration when thinking about, developing, reviewing and refining a gorilla marketing campaign per se:

• If you want gorilla marketing to work effectively for your business, as a generally developed creative ongoing effort, you need to know the market that you would reach out to and connect with, from your business’ side of the conversations that you seek to develop there.
• And you need to know that market and the people who comprise its defining demographics, as its actively involved participants at the very least, help co-create this marketing reach with you from their feedback and reviews. And I stress that collaborative “with” here as their individual and collective voices are crucially important to all of this.
• And you need to know this, your market as well as you would know your own Marketing and Communications staff, and the guidelines that they work under in a more traditional, business-centric orienting marketing campaign.
• And the urgency of these points of observation doubles, at the very least in a genuine viral marketing context, as does the degree of challenge in helping to make this type of marketing campaign work, and reliably and effectively so.

I offered this checklist of value determining, question-raising issues: this analytical tool set if you will, in Part 16, in the context of having just reconsidered one of the early tools that was used in attempts at determining the effectiveness of online marketing and sales, and commercial web design and development per se for that matter and certainly as they would support online marketing and sales success: eyeball counts. And I began addressing that earlier analytical approach by stating that no one knew how to develop actionable value out of the data that they were accumulating from this. No one knew how or when simply viewing online content translated into action and ultimately into successful sales transactions – even as online marketers and web developers touted the overall eyeball count numbers that their clients achieved through their web site and related development efforts.

• No one really knew and certainly at first, when or how to best determine when page views and eyeball counts actually meant anything.
• That meant they did not know how to develop an online presence and design it in detail so as to improve the numbers of consumers who would do more than just look, increasing their conversion rates: the rate at which those page and content viewers actually entered into a sales transaction from this experience, and completed it.

More is known now, of course, as to what those numbers mean and most of that insight comes from developing more nuanced understanding as to what a site visitor and viewer is actually doing, with that including an understanding of metrics such as:

• Where they clicked from to reach a page that is being page view-count tracked,
• What links if any on that page they click to when leaving,
• And where they in fact leave to.

There is a lot more to this, of course, but the basic idea offered there should be fairly clear. Eyeball counts, in and of themselves offer very little real marketing analysis value; it is the context that those views arise in that tells everything. And I offered that perspective there, and briefly recapitulate it here because a very similar set of underlying principles applies in the context of the later generation marketing, and marketing analysis demanding approaches that I have been discussing here: viral and gorilla marketing and their more effective use.

• Context and contextual understanding and the accumulation of data that can support that type and level of understanding is everything here, and exactly as proved necessary in an earlier, simpler eyeball count measured, central broadcasting model online marketing world.

The primary difference here, in fact is that when interactive supplants central broadcasting, and two-way and multi-direction communications and information sharing supplants a simpler one-way information flow model, the level and diversity of detail needed in that contextual data increases by orders of magnitude if any effectiveness at all is to be achieved. And the forces of competition for market share that have continued on and continued growing, and from way before the advent of internet and from the earliest marketplaces, simply make the scale of this data required now, essentially open-ended – and certainly as that imperative might be argued for by market analysts and by the data providing businesses that service their needs. And with this noted, I turn to consider the role of and the limitations of big data in this still rapidly evolving business and marketplace context.

• Eyeball counts and the demand for progressively more complex and comprehensive contextual data that would make it possible to derive meaningful, actionable insight from its numbers, have come to include and even fundamentally require the accumulation of progressively more and more complex data sets, that only began with the three basic metrics that I just listed above here.
• Big data as a business enabler began there, and certainly as online became critically important to business success and for more and more businesses and business types.
• Modern online marketing with its newer gorilla and viral marketing manifestations: forms that can explicitly take advantage of the interactive internet, have made big data a business survival essential, and certainly where a business seeks to do better than simply get by.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider a basic conundrum that this dynamic has built into it:

• I have been writing here of the need for more and more data, with more and more variable types to fill their database fields. And I add here a corresponding need for all of this data to me more and more accurate and more and more real-time up to date too.
• And augmenting the number of such variables (and the data accuracy for what populates their database fields) does in principle mean an increased and improved capability to analytically study a consumer and potential consumer base in finer and finer detail, parsing it into progressively more refined demographics and sub-demographics and in ways that would lead to more effective business decisions and of all types.
• But the more data types that would be called upon and used in any given such analysis or set of them: the more variables that would have to be coordinately analyzed in making use of this data, the larger the numbers of consumers that data would have to come from, in order to achieve sufficient data set sizes so as to make the requisite statistical tests that would be used, even just mathematically valid.

My goal for the next installment to this series is to begin with an orienting discussion of these points, and how they arise as valid sources of concern. And then I will discuss data evaluation at the trade-off levels of knowing what of a set of possible information held, holds the most value and would offer the most actionable insight in a given situation: in the course of developing, running and evaluating the outcomes of specific marketing campaigns. And I will also discuss how this opens doors for third party data providers to enter this narrative and very profitably for themselves.

And as already noted at the end of Part 16, I will also at least briefly outline how and why I would cite big data’s use here as holding potential for creating both business systems-positive and societally-negative impact, depending on how it is done and on how it is regulated.

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

Xi Jinping and his China, and their conflicted relationship with Hong Kong – an unfolding Part 2 event: 7

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on October 2, 2019

This is the seventh posting that I have offered here since June 19, 2019, to address significant and still expanding conflicts taking place in Hong Kong, arising as a response to actions taken by China’s government and by their hand-picked executive leadership in Hong Kong, that would fundamentally limit the legal rights of citizens there (see Macroeconomics and Business 2, postings 343 and following for Parts 1-6 of this.) And I add that the basic wording that I use in this introductory paragraph, and that I have used in starting earlier installments to this series, still applies: “… significant and still expanding conflicts” and all.

I find myself writing this news analysis piece after learning of how a Hong Kong police officer shot a protestor with live ammunition: not with a “non-lethal” alternative such as rubber bullets on October 1 as a next step escalation in force used in China’s efforts to quell and subdue this unrest. (Here, Carrie Lam, the Xi Jinping appointed senior executive of Hong Kong is a servant of Xi’s government and rule, and her police force works for her as her enforcement arm in that arrangement, and certainly in this context. So this escalation in force applied is China’s and Xi’s.)

When I wrote Part 6 of this, with that installment going live to this blog on September 5, 2019, I had a fairly simple and direct plan for how I would continue here, even given my expectation of seeing need to add discussion of breaking news events into an intended narrative, that could not be predicted and certainly in detail as of early September. My plan, such as it was, was to focus in Parts 7-9 of this series: this posting and the next two beyond it, on:

7. The People’s Republic of China and truth, and the manipulation and control of message, and in news reporting, in schools and in what can be taught in them, and more – and in fact in and through all publically available and societally connecting channels where possible.
8. Hong Kong and Taiwan as challenges to the People’s Republic of China and its Communist party, and with relevant Taiwanese history added to this narrative, and with a here-and-now focus. There, I would cite Taiwan as a comparative example of how Xi’s and his government’s goals, plans and actions are playing out, and I would discuss how the simultaneous occurrence of these sources of pushback and challenge synergistically complicate matters for China and for Xi’s China Dream.
9. And I would explicitly discuss Hong Kong as it has become what should be an entirely avoidable existential threat to Xi’s China Dream, for how it is likely to shape both Xi Jinping’s and his administration’s futures.

And in this course of this narrative flow I would of necessity also discuss US president Trump’s trade war with China as a further stressor in all of this, and at least something of the internal challenges that mainland China faces – many if not most of their own doing. I definitely include China’s government implemented and Communist Party led campaign to repress their Uyghur population, noting that they as a people and China’s approach towards them only represent a perhaps more visibly known example of how a much more widely spread policy is being followed. See Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the Contrasts of Leadership in the 21st century – 20 for further details on that.

I will in fact pursue the line of discussion noted in the above-offered Point 7, at least touching upon all of the main issues raised there. But before I do so, I want to step back from consideration of Hong Kong and that city’s here-and-now issues, to focus on the other end of the lever that is tearing away any real semblance of stability as it had prevailed there, and for China as a whole too; I step back from that to more specifically consider Xi Jinping himself and his decisions and actions, as they would inform and perhaps even somewhat explain what is happening in Hong Kong today. And I begin that by citing a quote from Boris Yeltsin as he looked back at the crumbling ruin of a then still just recently collapsed Soviet Union and as he looked forward to what might come next:

• “You can build a throne out of bayonets, but you can’t sit on it for long.”

Control by force, and control by and through the threat of force can have real impact, but not long-term stable impact, at least in and of themselves.

The same principle offered here in the words of a Russian, looking back at the fall of Soviet Communism, holds relevance for other contexts too. And it holds such relevance for what amount to the cyber- bayonets of information control, as much as it does for more conventional metal ones, as alternative voices are certain with time to leak through: alternative voices that would compete with and come to repudiate any attempted centrally controlled message. In this, bayonets are bayonets and coercive top-down mandated control by force is still just coercive top-down mandated force. And the mandate of authority that it can lead to has limitations that history has repeatedly validated for their overriding significance, but that next generation leaders and would-be leaders all too often seem to forget – and even when they turn to history as a source of justification for their own decisions and actions.

I in fact first read a sentiment of the type expressed in Yeltsin’s 20th century quote, a number of years earlier, in reference to instabilities that arose during China’s warring states period. The only real difference between Yeltsin’s quoted line and this earlier possible reference was in the choice of bladed weapons involved.

• I have been writing here, of a fundamental conflict between opposing visions, and it is a conflict in which neither side is likely to be able to back down as each sees any alternative to their striving for their goals as being tantamount to a death knell for all that they value.
• Xi Jinping cannot abandon his China Dream in Hong Kong’s harbor and he sees any giving in on his part in how he deals with the people of that city as a giving in that would lead to the unraveling of everything he values: the (re)creation of a truly Golden Age China in which the wrongs of the past that were imposed on his nation are undone and the humiliations ended, and with him leading this return to greatness as his legacy.
• And the people of Hong Kong cannot back down either, least they lose all that they have come to value too: their freedom and their right to self-determination.

I said that I would address a series of next-step discussion points in this and the next two postings and I will do so, expanding those discussion threads out further if need be. But as a crucially important foundation point for thinking about all of those issues, I note that they all arise out of a fundamental conflict between irreconcilable differences and under circumstances where both sides would see any real, significant compromise towards the other as being tantamount to agreeing to the death of their dream. Xi has his dream and the people of Hong Kong have theirs too in this. And with that, I turn to consider the first of the three basic topics points that I made note of above, and the cyber-bayonets of Xi Jinping’s attempt at absolute political and governmental control through the control of news and opinion and of information availability in general.

I have been writing about China’s Golden Shield Project: its Great Firewall of China for essentially as long as I have written about anything explicitly China-related here, with my first postings on that topic area appearing in the first of what are now three pages to my Ubiquitous computing and communications – everywhere all the time directory, and with the earliest of them going live on this blog in 2010. Xi Jinping did not create this information access limiting and controlling system, and he did not take anything like a leading role in mandating its creation or design either; he inherited it. But this program has been fundamentally transformed and updated under his leadership as a core element of his overall effort at societal control through information control policy. So in a fundamental sense, he and his Communist Party and government leadership team have taken ownership of it. And one of their core goals in that expansive effort, has been to fully integrate this already vast enterprise into a single far larger system. That larger effort has increasingly included weaponized use of social media, and both through the activities of armies of online trolls, and through automated robo-posters and fake social media posting accounts.

That point of observation opens up what could potentially be a discussion of essentially all of China’s cyber policy and its implementation, but for purpose of this series and its narrative I would focus here on how this has played out in Hong Kong and as a response to the activities of that city. And I begin that by citing an initiative in the People’s Republic of China that goes back to the beginning of public internet access there: the so called 50 Cent Party, or 50 Cent Army of government and Party supportive “commentators” who were centrally managed as they in turn sought to shape the online message.

This is important; the types of control have changed and evolved there and both for the specific details of their implementation and for their reach. But the basic troll driven approach goes back to the beginning of the internet as it has been developed in China. And so does the government and Party mentality as it faces the internet, and the fear that shapes its basic policy and actions in all of this.

China’s government and Communist Party have actively sought to control the message that is collectively conveyed online concerning Hong Kong and its unrest, and globally. And this has included what amount to massive cyber-attack disinformation campaigns conducted globally, through outside social media companies and their online channels. And to back up that assertion, I would offer a few links to news stories that support it, and in a specifically Hong Kong protest context, that come from a diversity of sources:

Facebook and Twitter uncover Chinese trolls spreading doubts about Hong Kong protests ,
Facebook and Twitter Say China Is Spreading Disinformation in Hong Kong,
How China Unleashed Twitter Trolls to Discredit Hong Kong’s Protesters,
China’s information war is trying to turn its citizens against Hong Kong protesters and
The ‘spammy network’ of Chinese Twitter accounts meant to ‘sow discord in Hong Kong’.

And stepping back from the specifics of Hong Kong to consider my above stated cyber-control assertion as a whole, I add that leaks happen and that in time the truth: the actual, factual truth does eventually come out. And this news piece only points towards one small step in that revelation to come:

Massive Database Leak Exposes China’s “Digital Surveillance State”.

This externally directed effort is of course matched and exceeded by China’s officially mandated, supported and controlled effort to shape all that their own people can see, hear or know about Hong Kong and current events there, and through essentially all publically available channels in China itself.

I finish this posting by returning to a detail that I briefly touched upon more towards its beginning when I mentioned schools and school curricula, and I have to add text books and other teaching materials. The Beijing government of Xi Jinping has both directly attacked how social studies and related topics are taught in Hong Kong schools, and indirectly attacked those sources of perceived threat through their spokesperson, Carrie Lam. And this assault has been directed towards schools at all levels from grade school on up to university classrooms. And this has simply added fuel to the fire of protest for people in this education system, as protest against Chinese intervention in Hong Kong has become what amounts to that city’s new normal. And with that I cite a blog posting from a colleague and friend who teaches and who trains teachers:

Hong Kong’s Students Come Ready for Education.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will, as promised above, discuss Taiwan and I add other challenges too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related China and Xi Jinping-oriented material at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation.

Addendum Note of October 4, 2019:
I wrote this posting with an awareness of how the people of Hong Kong see China’s cyber policy and practices as a source of existential threat to themselves and to all that they value. And with that in mind, I update what I have offered here with a link to a news piece that came out this morning, that holds particular relevance here:

Hong Kong Takes Symbolic Stand Against China’s High-Tech Controls.

And to highlight why I would include that here, I share a quote from this news story that brings why I would cite it into sharp focus:

• “This invisible but stark technological wall has loomed as Hong Kong’s protests smolder into their fourth month. The semiautonomous city’s proximity to a society that is increasingly closed off and controlled by technology has informed protesters’ concerns about Hong Kong’s future. For many, one fear is the city will fall into a shadow world of surveillance, censorship and digital controls that many have had firsthand experience with during regular travels to China.”

And that is one of the core reasons why the protestors of Hong Kong cannot back down. And the hopes and fears that drive China’s government and Party to pursue this type and level of control in the first place, makes it impossible for them to back down either. And with that, I turn back to a point that I made at the very beginning of this October 2 posting: the shooting of an unarmed young student by a police officer. I had not seen confirming evidence when first writing of that, but I now know as confirmed that this police officer shot a young man in the chest with a hollow-point bullet: a bullet designed to all but explosively expand out in a body, causing maximal possible damage. Hollow-points are explicitly designed to kill – not injure or subdue. And it was only chance and good timing in getting this shooting victim to the right surgeon, expert in dealing with “ballistic injuries” that allowed him to survive this. My point is that when that officer and their peers loaded their guns with that type of ammunition, that made a dramatic, and a dramatically dangerous escalation of the tensions in Hong Kong inevitable. And they would not have been able to do that without explicit approval and explicit orders to do so.

I have written here of accidental escalation in tensions that could push all of this to places of conflict that no one would want. But accidents of that type are built on foolish, unconsidered decisions too. And that, I suspect is what happened here. So officially at least the shooting victim is blamed for what happened, but no one in the general Hong Kong population is likely to really believe that. And we see all of this continuing to drift that much closer to the edge of a cliff, from which there can be no return. See:

Hong Kong Police, Seen as ‘Hounds After Rabbits,’ Face Rising Rage .

Pure research, applied research and development, and business models 20

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 30, 2019

This is my 20th installment to a series in which I discuss contexts and circumstances – and business models and their execution, where it would be cost-effective and prudent for a business to actively participate in applied and even pure research as a means of creating its own next-step future (see Business Strategy and Operations – 4 and its Page 5 continuation, postings 664 and loosely following for Parts 1-19.)

I have been discussing a specific business model here, and in detail since Part 15 that specifically seeks to realize the types of goals that this series addresses: businesses that would offer research and its findings as marketable, value creating offerings in a business-to-business context and marketplace. And as a part of that narrative, I have been addressing the issues raised in two due diligence oriented questions that I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative:

1. What specifically are the work process systems that define this enterprise as a research-as-product enterprise?
2. And what resources: specialized skills personnel definitely included, would be needed to carry this out with whatever necessary levels of what might at times be resource over-capacity allowed for, in order to accommodate at least more readily predictable fluctuations in resource requirement levels needed?

I have, to bring this background note up to date, offered an at least initial draft response to the above Question 1, and my goal for this posting is to continue on from there to offer a corresponding response to Question 2 as well, that I will develop here in terms of the issues raised when considering Question 1. In anticipation of what is to come, that will definitely include consideration of agility and of cost effectiveness. And that will of necessity mean my further discussing the significance of building for New and the disruptively New, and both within the organization, and as a source of marketable product that a business like this would develop and offer. And any realistic consideration of these issues and certainly as they coordinately arise, calls for an explicit analysis of the role of and impact of friction, with its information developing and sharing challenges, in the business systems that are developed and executed upon here.

If you think of that as a preview note as to the plot and action of a theatrical performance, consider it a list of its cast of characters. My goal here, as least as expressed in those terms, is to offer a brief synopsis of that performance itself. And with that noted, I begin with a set of fundamentals of a type that I have turned to many times in this blog, beginning with the business and its intended purpose and goals as a whole:

• What precisely does this type of business seek to achieve as a business model and a business plan defined goal? (Note: This is a detail-demanding question as offered here and not just a “big picture,” overall perspective one.)
• And how stably and reliably effective can that effort become when this type of business is effectively organized and run, given the nature of a research as product business, where any such enterprise is going to face rapidly changing production assignment shifts, and corresponding resource requirement shifts as it addresses a succession of new research and development challenges, each with their own unique features and requirements as well as more commonly shared ones?

I would begin to explore and at least selectively elaborate on the issues raised in those two questions by dividing the resources that would be involved there into three general categories, which I will examine in more detail for their significance here. And the first of those categories is one of rivalrous goods. And I begin outlining what would go into this bucket by noting routinely required material goods and equipment, where that would include:

• Larger, higher priced equipment that can even merge into the category of more major capital expenditure-funded resources,
• Recurringly required disposable supplies that would be needed for carrying out essentially any assignment that this business takes on, and that are inexpensive for the most part, at least individually,
• And all that would fall in-between those extremes but that would still be recurringly needed and on a more predictably recurring basis for stock replenishment and equipment replacement costs due.

This category would also include more specialized goods: equipment and disposable supplies included, that might only occasionally be called for and that might in fact only be needed for carrying out single, not to be repeated for type, research assignments.

• Low to mid-range cost supplies and equipment that might be required for just-occasional or rarely performed types of work done there, and one-off assignment requiring specialty disposables and small equipment would belong here.
• But I perhaps somewhat arbitrarily assume that this would not generally include investment in anything like a major expense or capital development equipment purchase here, unless this business was planning to shift to more routinely carrying out research projects that would now call for this type of resource and on an ongoing and even standardized basis. (The only real exception that I can imagine here to that, where this type of expenditure might make sense on a cost and returns basis, would be if a hiring company saw it as so important that this particular research-providing business carry out a more unique project for them, that they would cover the expenses for the acquisition of even big ticket equipment just for that, and even if that equipment would collect dust after this project was completed – a possibility but not a more commonly expectable one.)

The next category that I would address here consists of non-rivalrous goods, and of specialized information in particular:

• A research as product business would be expected to accumulate large bodies of raw data and processed information, including both sensitive and confidential, and proprietary knowledge and both as developed in-house and as acquired from its clients and other outside sources. Any business can and should be expected to do this and particularly as information has become such an essential business success asset.
• But there are costs associated with the gathering, processing, storage, accessing and use of this resource base and its contents, and even when specific data or more processed knowledge does not explicitly have to be purchased and for-fee.

Think of information here as a basic ongoing expense as well as a basic ongoing source of positive value, and with an overall positive net value realized here at least when all of this is effectively planned out and managed. And the planning and management included in that, and the operational execution that information management requires here, of necessity has to take into account a wide range of specific at least potential cost point issues, including at least anticipatable in-house process and work flow expenses, personnel costs for the paid time that employees would more specifically expend on these information management responsibilities, and supportive equipment and related expenses.

This also means tracking, understanding and where possible proactively planning for and budging for hardware level infrastructure – and regardless of how the costs side of that might be limited by use of vetted third party cloud storage and related options to limit, in this case a need for server farm capabilities as part of a more extensive Information Technology Department physical infrastructure.

• Think of this overall combined human resources and activities, plus specialized equipment resource base, as an ongoing if ever-expanding capability and both for what it offers to the business and for what it costs too.

This point of observation becomes relatively self-evident and for both sides of that as ripple effect issues are added into the costs versus returns-on-investment calculations that this type of analysis would call for. Consider, as a case in point example there, the time, effort and expense of monitoring and validating ongoing information security reliability as due diligence would call for, when a business parks its most sensitive and valuable information in an outside, third party provided and maintained cloud storage service. Yes, those businesses have and carry out their own risk management and risk reduction processes and systems of them, but their clients need to stay on top of these issues too, and particularly given the ongoing occurrences of successful hacker attacks on businesses with the data thefts that they have led to.

And this brings me to the third basic resource category of the tripartite model that I have been developing here, and the category that I explicitly noted when initially posing my two above-repeated due diligence questions: personnel as resources. And I focus here on people with advanced and specialized knowledge and experience in the hands-on and managerial areas of work that would specifically be called for in a research-as-product business setting, or even just in an advanced research lab per se.

• While it is true that there are basic skill and experience sets that would be called for in essentially any research project context that a research as product business might enter into, every project is going to have its own particular, specialized skills and experience needs too. And this is particularly true when genuinely New and different are considered.
• Learning curve efforts that would bring current research and related personnel up to speed on the intricacies of a novel new project and its requirements can help here, but client timeline pressures can limit the feasibility of simply relying on that, so a business like this is also going to have to continuously keep looking for new people with new skills too.
• Effectively managing and running this type of business, or I have to add any business with similarly fluctuating personnel needs for that matter, always calls for explicit effort to develop and maintain stable, reliable work forces, and particularly for more skilled positions where experienced people would be difficult to replace and where the business has made perhaps very large individual investments in their best people there.

I offer this set of three bullet points as a collective basic underlying axiomatic assumption for what is to follow here. And any real effort to achieve the goals implicit in it, and both when determining the types of employees to keep on staff according to their particular areas of expertise, and the numbers of them to so retain, is of necessity going to impact upon the business plan actually in place. And that dynamic is going to take form in particular, as a matter of what types and ranges of research project the business would agree to take on for fee in the first place, that their overall resource base could actually support.

• The wider the range of project types taken on, the wider the range of specialized employee knowledge and hands-on skills are likely to be needed at any given time, and the larger the basic built-in expanse base this business would have to be able cover before any possible profits might be realized,
• … and the more likely it would become that at least some fraction of that specialized workforce be effectively underutilized at any given time because the business is not working on “their” particular types of project at any one time, and certainly not in ways that would derive anything like a more fully effective return on investment for what they could do. (There, keeping employees busy and even productively so is very different than really effectively utilizing the fuller range of their actual skills and experience held.)

There are two possible ways to address this here-offered challenge. The first might be to look for, hire and retain specialist generalists, who can delve into the skills-requiring details and do the necessary work there, quickly and efficiently, for a very wide range of skills set requirements – and simply accept the fact that many of these people could do other productively valuable things too. And the second would be to rely on specialist consultants and other outsourced professionals and simply hope that the people needed will be available when needed.

The specialist generalists who I just cited are going to be among the most widely skilled and experienced people out there, and both within the pool of potential new hires who are looking for new jobs, and in the overall professional community as a whole, where hiring them would mean hiring them away from a current employer.

• A research as product business that would seek to cost-effectively carry out a wide range of types of client-facing research, is going to have to be correspondingly large so as to make that realistically possible for them.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will address issues of both economies and flexibility of scale. Then after delving into those and some related issues, completing my discussion of the two above here-repeated questions that I have been working on in recent installments to this series, I will turn back to the to-address topics list that I initially offered in Part 17, to delve into the issues that I made note of there, that I have not already sufficiently covered since then.

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

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