Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 29: a second round discussion of general theories as such, 4

Posted in blogs and marketing, book recommendations, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on June 11, 2019

This is my 29th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-25 and its Page 2 continuation, Section IX for Parts 26-28.)

I began this series in its Parts 1-8 with an initial orienting discussion of general theories per se, with an initial analysis of compendium model theories and of axiomatically grounded general theories as a conceptual starting point for what would follow. And I then turned from that, in Parts 9-25 to at least begin to outline a lower-level, more reductionistic approach to businesses and to thinking about them, that is based on interpersonal interactions. Then I began a second round, next step discussion of general theories per se in Parts 26-28 of this, building upon my initial discussion of general theories per se, this time focusing on axiomatic systems and on axioms per se and the presumptions that they are built upon.

More specifically, I have used the last three postings to that progression to at least begin a more detailed analysis of axioms as assumed and assumable statements of underlying fact, and of general bodies of theory that are grounded in them, dividing those theories categorically into two basic types:

• Entirely abstract axiomatic bodies of theory that are grounded entirely upon sets of a priori presumed and selected axioms. These theories are entirely encompassed by sets of presumed fundamental truths: sets of axiomatic assumptions, as combined with complex assemblies of theorems and related consequential statements (lemmas, etc) that can be derived from them, as based upon their own collective internal logic. Think of these as axiomatically closed bodies of theory.
• And theory specifying systems that are axiomatically grounded as above, with at least some a priori assumptions built into them, but that are also at least as significantly grounded in outside-sourced information too, such as empirically measured findings as would be brought in as observational or experimental data. Think of these as axiomatically open bodies of theory.

I focused on issues of completeness and consistency in these types of theory grounding systems in Part 28 and briefly outlined there, how the first of those two categorical types of theory cannot be proven either fully complete or fully consistent, if they can be expressed in enumerable form of a type consistent with, and as such including the axiomatic underpinnings of arithmetic: the most basic of all areas of mathematics, as formally axiomatically laid out by Whitehead and Russell in their seminal work: Principia Mathematica.

I also raised and left open the possibility that the outside validation provided in axiomatically open bodies of theory, as identified above, might afford alternative mechanisms for de facto validation of completeness, or at least consistency in them, where Kurt Gödel’s findings as briefly discussed in Part 28, would preclude such determination of completeness and consistency for any arithmetically enumerable axiomatically closed bodies of theory.

That point of conjecture began a discussion of the first of a set of three basic, and I have to add essential topics points that would have to be addressed in establishing any attempted-comprehensive bodies of theory: the dual challenges of scope and applicability of completeness and consistency per se as organizing goals, and certainly as they might be considered in the contexts of more general theories. And that has left these two here-repeated follow-up points for consideration:

• How would new axioms be added into an already developing body of theory, and how and when would old ones be reframed, generalized, limited for their expected validity and made into special case rules as a result, or be entirely discarded as organizing principles there per se.
• Then after addressing that set of issues I said that I will turn to consider issues of scope expansion for the set of axioms assumed in a given theory-based system, and with a goal of more fully analytically discussing optimization for the set of axioms presumed, and what that even means.

My goal for this series installment is to at least begin to address the first of those two points and its issues, adding to my already ongoing discussion of completeness and consistency in complex axiomatic theories while doing so. And I begin by more directly and explicitly considering the nature of outside-sourced, a priori empirically or otherwise determined observations and the data that they would generate, that would be processed into knowledge through logic-based axiomatic reasoning.

Here, and to explicitly note what might be an obvious point of observation on the part of readers, I would as a matter of consistency represent the proven lemmas and theorems of a closed body of theory such as a body of mathematical theory, as proven and validated knowledge as based on that theory. And I correspondingly represent open question still-unproven or unrefuted theoretical conjectures as they arise and are proposed in those bodies of theory, as potentially validatable knowledge in those systems. And having noted that point of assumption (presumption?), I turn to consider open systems as for example would be found in theories of science or of business, in what follows.

• Assigned values and explicitly defined parameters, as arise in closed systems such as mathematical theories with their defined variables and other constructs, can be assumed to represent absolutely accurate input data. And that, at least as a matter of meta-analysis, even applies when such data is explicitly offered and processed through axiomatic mechanisms as being approximate in nature and variable in range; approximate and variable are themselves explicitly defined, or at least definable in such systems applications, formally and specifically providing precise constraints on the data that they would organize, even then.
• But it can be taken as an essentially immutable axiomatic principle: one that cannot be violated in practice, that outside sourced data that would feed into and support an axiomatically open body of theory, is always going to be approximate for how it is measured and recorded for inclusion and use there, and even when that data can be formally defined and measured without any possible subjective influence – when it can be identified and defined and measured in as completely objective a manner as possible and free of any bias that might arise depending on who observes and measures it.

Can an axiomatically open body of theory somehow be provably complete or even just consistent for that matter, due to the balancing and validating inclusion of outside frame of reference-creating data such as experientially derived empirical observations? That question can be seen as raising an interesting at least-potential conundrum and certainly if a basic axiom of the physical sciences that I cited and made note of in Part 28 is (axiomatically) assumed true:

• Empirically grounded reality is consistent across time and space.

That at least in principle, after all, raises what amounts to an immovable object versus an unyieldable force type of challenge. But as soon as the data that is actually measured, as based on this empirically grounded reality, takes on what amounts to a built in and unavoidable error factor, I would argue that any possible outside-validated completeness or consistency becomes moot at the very least and certainly for any axiomatically open system of theory that might be contemplated or pursued here.

• This means that when I write of selecting, framing and characterizing and using axioms and potential axioms in such a system, I write of bodies of theory that are of necessity always going to be works in progress: incomplete and potentially inconsistent and certainly as new types of incoming data are discovered and brought into them, and as better and more accurate ways to measure the data that is included are used.

Let me take that point of conjecture out of the abstract by citing a specific source of examples that are literally as solidly established as our more inclusive and more fully tested general physical theories of today. And I begin this with Newtonian physics as it was developed at a time when experimental observation was limited for the range of phenomena observed and in the levels of experimental accuracy attainable for what was observed and measured, so as to make it impossible to empirically record the types of deviation from expected sightings that would call for new and more inclusive theories, with new and altered underlying axiomatic assumptions, as subsequently called for in the special theory of relativity as found and developed by Einstein and others. Newtonian physics neither calls for nor accommodates anything like the axiomatic assumptions of the special theory of relativity, holding for example that the speed of light is constant in all frames of reference. More accurate measurements as taken over wider ranges of experimental examination of observable phenomena forced change to the basic underlying axiomatic assumptions of Newton (e.g. his laws of motion.) And further expansion of the range of phenomena studied and the level of accuracy in which data is collected from all of this, might very well lead to the validation and acceptance of still more widely inclusive basic physical theories, and with any changes in what they would axiomatically presume in their foundations included there. (Discussion of alternative string theory models of reality among other possibilities, come to mind here, where experimental observational limitations of the types that I write of here, are such as to preclude any real culling and validating there, to arrive at a best possible descriptive and predictive model theory.)

At this point I would note that I tossed a very important set of issues into the above text in passing, and without further comment, leaving it hanging over all that has followed it up to here: the issues of subjectivity.

Data that is developed and tested for how it might validate or disprove proposed physical theory might be presumed to be objective, as a matter of principle. Or alternatively and as a matter of practice, it might be presumed possible to obtain such data that is arbitrarily close to being fully free from systematic bias, as based on who is observing and what they think about the meaning of the data collected. And the requirement that experimental findings be independently replicated by different researchers in different labs and with different equipment, and certainly where findings are groundbreaking and unexpected, serves to support that axiomatic assumption as being basically reliable. But it is not as easy or as conclusively presumable to assume that type of objectivity for general theories that of necessity have to include within them, individual human understand and reasoning with all of the additional and largely unstated axiomatic presumptions that this brings with it, as exemplified by a general theory of business.

That simply adds whole new layers of reason to any argument against presumable completeness or consistency in such a theory and its axiomatic foundations. And once again, this leaves us with the issues of such theories always being works in progress, subject to expansion and to change in general.

And this brings me specifically and directly to the above-stated topics point that I would address here in this brief note of a posting: the determination of which possible axioms to include and build from in these systems. And that, finally, brings me to the issues and approaches that are raised in a reference work that I have been citing in anticipation of this discussion thread for a while now in this series, and an approach to the foundation of mathematics and its metamathematical theories that this and similar works seek to clarify if not codify:

• Stillwell, J. (2018) Reverse Mathematics: proofs from the inside out. Princeton University Press.)

I am going to more fully and specifically address that reference and its basic underlying conceptual principles in a next series installment. But in anticipation of doing so, I end this posting with a basic organizing point of reference that I will build from there:

• The more traditional approach to the development and elaboration of mathematical theory, and going back at least as far as the birth of Euclidean geometry, was one of developing a set of axioms that would be presumed as if absolute truths, and then developing emergent lemmas and theories from them.
• Reverse mathematics is so named because it literally reverses that, starting with theories to be proven and then asking what are the minimal sets of axioms that would be needed in order to prove them.

My goal for the next installment to this series is to at least begin to consider both axiomatically closed and axiomatically open theory systems in light of these two alternative metatheory approaches. And in anticipation of that narrative line to come, this will mean reconsidering compendium models and how they might arise as need for new axiomatic frameworks of understanding arise, and as established ones become challenged.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory and its Page 2 continuation, as topics Sections VI and IX there.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 28: a second round discussion of general theories as such, 3

Posted in blogs and marketing, book recommendations, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on April 6, 2019

This is my 28th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-25 and its Page 2 continuation, Section IX for Parts 26 and 27.)

I began this series in its Parts 1-8 with an initial orienting discussion of general theories per se, with an initial analysis of compendium model theories and of axiomatically grounded general theories as a conceptual starting point for what would follow. And I then turned from that, in Parts 9-25 to at least begin to outline a lower-level, more reductionistic approach to businesses and to thinking about them, that is based on interpersonal interactions.

Then I began a second round, next step discussion of general theories per se in Part 26 and Part 27, to add to the foundation that I have been discussing theories of business in terms of, and as a continuation of the Parts 1-8 narrative that I began all of this with. More specifically, I used those two postings to begin a more detailed analysis of axioms per se, and of general bodies of theory that are grounded in them, dividing those theories categorically into two basic types:

• Entirely abstract axiomatic bodies of theory that are grounded entirely upon sets of a priori presumed and selected axioms. These theories are entirely comprised of their particular sets of those axiomatic assumptions as combined with complex assemblies of theorems and related consequential statements (lemmas, etc) that can be derived from them, as based upon their own collective internal logic. Think of these as axiomatically enclosed bodies of theory.
• And theory specifying systems that are axiomatically grounded as above, with at least some a priori assumptions built into them, but that are also at least as significantly grounded in outside-sourced information too, such as empirically measured findings as would be brought in as observational or experimental data. Think of these as axiomatically open bodies of theory.

Any general theory of business, like any organized body of scientific theory would fit the second of those basic patterns as discussed here and particularly in Part 27. My goal for this posting is to continue that line of discussion, and with an increasing focus on the also-empirically grounded theories of the second type as just noted, and with an ultimate goal of applying the principles that I discuss here to an explicit theory of business context. That noted, I concluded Part 27 stating that I would turn here to at least begin to examine:

• The issues of completeness and consistency, as those terms are defined and used in a purely mathematical logic context and as they would be used in any theory that is grounded in descriptive and predictive enumerable form. And I will used that more familiar starting point as a basis for more explicitly discussing these same issues as they arise in an empirically grounded body of theory too.
• How new axioms would be added into an already developing body of theory, and how old ones might be reframed, generalized, limited for their expected validity and made into special case rules as a result, or be entirely discarded as organizing principles per se.
• Then after addressing that set of issues I said that I will turn to consider issues of scope expansion for the set of axioms assumed in a given theory-based system, and with a goal of more fully analytically discussing optimization for the set of axioms presumed, and what that even means.

And I begin addressing the first of those points by citing two landmark works on the foundations of mathematics:

• Whitehead, A.N. and B. Russell. (1910) Principia Mathematica (in 3 volumes). Cambridge University Press.
• And Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems.

Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell set out to develop and offer a complete axiomatically grounded foundation for all of arithmetic, as the most basic of all branches of mathematics in their above-cited magnum opus. And this was in fact viewed as a key step realized, in fulfilling the promise of David Hilbert: a renowned early 20th century mathematician who sought to develop a comprehensive and all-inclusive single theory of mathematics as what became known as Hilbert’s Program. All of this was predicated on the validity of an essentially unchallenged metamathematical axiomatic assumption, to the effect that it is in fact possible to encompass arbitrarily large areas of mathematics, and even all of validly provable mathematics as a whole, into a single finite scaled, completely consistent and completely decidable set of specific axiomatic assumptions. Then Kurt Gödel proved that even just the arithmetical system offered by Whitehead and Russell can never be complete in this sense, from how it would of necessity carry in it an ongoing requirement for adding in more new axioms to what is supportively presumed for it, and unending and unendingly so if any real comprehensive completeness was to be pursued. And on top if that, Gödel proved that it can never be possible to prove with comprehensive certainty that such an axiomatic system can be completely and fully consistent either! And this would apply to any abstractly, enclosed axiomatic system that can in any way be represented arithmetically: as being calculably enumerable. But setting aside the issues of a body of theory facing this type of limitation simply because it can be represented in correctly formulated mathematical form, for the findings developed out of its founding assumptions (where that might easily just mean larger and more inclusive axiomatically enclosed bodies of theory that do not depend on outside non-axiomatic assumptions for their completeness or validity – e.g. empirically grounded theories), what does this mean for explicitly empirically grounded bodies of theory, such as larger and more inclusive theories of science, or for purposes of this posting, of business?

I begin addressing that question, by explicitly noting what has to be considered the single most fundamental a priori axiom that underlies all scientific theory, and certainly for all bodies of theory such as physics and chemistry that seek to comprehensively descriptively and predictively describe what in total, would include the entire observable universe, and from its big bang origins to now and into the distant future as well:

• Empirically grounded reality is consistent. Systems under consideration, as based at least in principle on specific, direct observation might undergo phase shifts where system-dominating properties take on more secondary roles and new ones gain such prominence. But that only reflects a need for more explicitly comprehensive theory that would account for, explain and explicitly describe all of this predictively describable structure and activity. But underlying that and similar at-least seeming complexity, the same basic principles and the same conceptual rules that encode them for descriptive and predictive purposes, hold true everywhere and throughout time.
• To take that out of the abstract, the same basic types of patterns of empirically observable reality that could be representationally modeled by descriptive and predictive rules such as Charles’ law, or Boyle’s law, would be expected to arise wherever such thermodynamically definable systems do. And the equations they specify would hold true and with precisely the same levels and types of accuracy wherever so applied.

So if an axiomatically closed, in-principle complete in and of itself axiomatic system, and an enclosed body of theory that would be derived from it (e.g. Whitehead’s and Russell’s theory of arithmetic) cannot be made fully complete and consistent, as noted above:

• Could grounding a body of theory that could be represented in what amounts to its form and as if a case in point application of it, in what amounts to a reality check framework of empirical observation allow for or even actively support a second possible path to establishing full completeness and consistency there? Rephrasing that, could the addition of theory framing and shaping outside sourced information evidence, or formally developed experimental or observational data, allow for what amounts to an epistemologically meaningful grounding to a body of theory through inclusion of an outside-validated framework of presumable consistency?
• Let’s stretch the point made by Gödel, or at least risk doing so where I still at least tacitly assume bodies of theory that can in some meaningful sense be mapped to a Whitehead and Russell type of formulation of arithmetic, through theory-defined and included descriptive and predictive mathematical models and the equations they contain. Would the same limiting restrictions as found in axiomatically enclosed theory systems as discussed here, also arise in open theory systems so linked to them? And if so, where, how and with what consequence?

As something of an aside perhaps, this somewhat convoluted question does raise an interesting possibility as to the meaning and interpretation of quantum theory, and of quantum indeterminacy in particular, with resolution to a single “realized” solution only arrived at when observation causes a set of alternative possibilities to collapse down to one. But setting that aside, and the issue of how this would please anyone who still adheres to the precept of number: of mathematics representing the true prima materia of the universe (as did Pythagoras and his followers), what would this do to anything like an at least strongly empirically grounded, logically elaborated and developed theory such as a general theory of business?

I begin to address that challenge by offering a counterpart to the basic and even primal axiom that I just made note of above, and certainly for the physical sciences:

• Assume that a sufficiently large and complete body of theory can be arrived at,
• That would have a manageable finite set of underlying axiomatic assumptions that would be required by and sufficient to address any given empirically testable contexts that might arise in its practical application,
• And in a manner that at least for those test case purposes would amount to that theory functioning as if it were complete and consistent as an overall conceptual system.
• And assume that this reframing process could be repeated as necessary, when for example disruptively new and unexpected types of empirical observation arise.

And according to this, new underlying axioms would be added as needed, when specifically faced and once again particularly when an observer is faced with truly novel, disruptively unexpected findings or occurrences – of a type that I have at least categorically raised and addressed throughout this blog up to here, in business systems and related contexts. And with that, I have begun addressing the second of the three to-address topics points that I listed at the top of this posting:

• How would new axioms be added into an already developing body of theory, and how and when would old ones be reframed, generalized, limited for their expected validity or discarded as axioms per se?

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment, beginning with that topics point as here-reworded. And I will turn to and address the third and last point of that list after that, turning back to issues coming from the foundations of mathematics in doing so too. (And I will finally turn to and more explicitly discuss issues raised in a book that I have been citing here, but that I have not more formally gotten to in this discussion up to here, that has been weighing on my thinking of the issues that I address here:

• Stillwell, J. (2018) Reverse Mathematics: proofs from the inside out. Princeton University Press.)

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory and its Page 2 continuation, as topics Sections VI and IX there.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 27: a second round discussion of general theories as such, 2

Posted in blogs and marketing, book recommendations, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on January 30, 2019

This is my 27th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-25 and Reexamining the Fundamentals 2, Section IX for Part 26.) I began this series in its Parts 1-8 with an initial orienting discussion of general theories per se. And I then turned from that, in Parts 9-25 to at least begin to outline a lower-level, more reductionistic approach to businesses and to thinking about them, that is based on interpersonal interactions. And then I began a second round, further discussion of general theories per se in Part 26 to add to the foundation I have been discussing theories of business in terms of, and as a continuation of the Parts 1-8 narrative that I began all of this with.

More specifically and focusing here on my Section IX continuation of this overall series, my primary focus of attention in Part 26 was on the nature of axioms and of systems of them, as would form the basis for developing a more comprehensive body of theory. And I continue that discussion thread here too, beginning by explicitly noting and discussing a point of distinction that I just made of in passing in Part 26 but that merits more explicit discussion here: the distinction between abstractly grounded theories and empirically grounded, evidence-based theories.

• Much of mathematics could arguably be offered as being abstract in its fundamental nature, and separate and distinct from any possible physical sciences or other empirically grounded applications as currently conceived, even if some fairly large areas of math that were initially viewed in that way have found their way into mathematical physics and related empirically grounded fields too.
• See Hardy, D.H. (1940) A Mathematician’s Apology for a telling discussion of how areas of mathematics that have traditionally been considered devoid of “practical” application can become anything but that. Note: the link offered here is to a full text electronic file version of the original print edition of this book, as so republished by the University of Alberta Mathematical Sciences Society.
• But I would hold up abstract mathematics as a source of axiom-based theory that is developed and elaborated free of outside constraints, at least as a matter of expectation: free for example from intrinsically having to be consistent with the patterns of behavior observed in empirically based systems of any sort, and certainly in its axiomatic assumptions.
• General theories of business, fit into a special category of general theories per se, as they would be logically developed in accordance with deductive reasoning, as abstract theories are. But such theories are also bound by empirically observable data: real-world observably validated fact and the inductive reasoning that its inclusion would bring with it too.

I posit empirically grounded bodies of theory such as general theories of business this way, for a very specific reason. And my goal in this series, here, is to elaborate on that point of observation as a next step in this developing narrative. I begin addressing that here by more fully considering empirical data per se.

• Empirically derived data of the type that would enter into and inform a body of theory such as a general theory of business, is never going to be perfect.
• There is always going to be at least some measurement error in it, even when it is entered into theory-based calculations and related analyses as-is, as for example the way a temperature reading might be entered into a thermodynamics calculation, free of any preparatory calculations as might be made upon it.
• But the term “empirical data” is also more loosely interpreted at times, to include more pre-processed findings as well, that happen to have been initially based on observation.
• And observed data per se is not all the same as far as replicability and freedom from possible bias are concerned, for how it is arrived at. If you identify data such as the above-cited temperature readings as hard data, a body of theory such as a theory of business relies upon and is grounded in significant amounts of softer data too.

But even if all data entering into a theory of business and its application could be considered hard data, as loosely noted above, actually developing and using such a theory would still always involve the dynamic interplay of two sometimes opposing approaches and visions.

• On the one hand you have the axioms and theorem-based elaborations of them that have already been established to at least a workable level of certainty of reliability for predictively describing at least aspects of the real, observable world: here business systems and aspects of them.
• And these theory-based systems would be developed according to the internal logic of their structure and content, in developing deductively derived testable predictions: hypotheses (as well as less directly testable thought experiments: Gedanken experiments (thought experiments).) This half of what amounts to a larger, dual-sided process follows the pattern of abstractly-based theories as noted above when I cited mathematical systems.
• And on the other hand, you have empirically based reality-check tests of those predictions and the inevitable likelihood that such outside-sourced data and insight will with time come to force a reconsideration, and of both what is concluded from the axioms in play and even reconsideration of those fundamental axioms themselves. Experiments set up to test those deductively derived testable predictions, do not always yield predictable results, and either in detail or even just in general form. Unexpected phenomena do arise and are found and observed and measured, that would have to be included in an already ongoing body of theory that cannot as-is, account for them.

I just made an assumption there that can also be considered axiomatic in nature, but that I would immediately challenge: my distinction between hard data that might be considered more empirically certain, consistent and reliable, and soft data that might require more rigorous validation and from several sources for it to be considered as reliable – assuming such validation is even possible.

Let’s consider two working examples of those proposed data types here:

• Temperature readings as here identified as being emblematic of hard data as a general categorical form, and
• Wealth and income data as assembled demographically, but as developed from numerous individual sources that would among other things seek to maintain confidentiality over their personal finances and any data that would reveal them, and who would follow different investment and income patterns for different individuals. This, I offer here as a soft data example.

Let’s start by considering my hard data example. When you really begin considering what goes into those temperature readings, their apparent hardness here starts to become more illusory than real. How do you measure the precise temperature of a system at one of its more directly observed and measured nodes? More specifically, what physical systems do you precisely measure those temperature values from, and how do you determine and know precisely how to calibrate your physical measuring systems for this so as to arrive at specific reliable temperature values? Where can you assume linearities in what you measure where increasing some value measured, corresponds directly with a same scale shift in actual temperature? And how would you best deal with nonlinearities in measuring equipment response too, where that becomes necessary? Let me take that out of the abstract by citing thermistors that measure temperature indirectly by measuring changes in electrical resistance in sensors, and bimetallic thermometers that measure changes in the curvature of fused bimetallic strips as a surrogate for measuring temperature per se. Or I could have cited standard tinted alcohol or mercury thermometers that actually measure changes in volume of specific sensor materials in use.

Actually calibrating this equipment and making necessary measurements from it, rests on the absolute presumption of reliability and accuracy of large amounts of underlying physical theory – and even when these measurements are going to be used in testing and validating (in my above example thermodynamic) theory that might be based on essentially the same set of underlying axiomatic assumptions. In this case, overall consistency throughout the entire conceptual system in play here, becomes the crucial defining criterion for accuracy and reliability in this “hard data” example.

Now let’s consider my soft data example, and the demographically aggregated but ultimately individually sourced financial information as would be used in testing out the predictive value of an economic measure such as the Gini coefficient. I picked this example for several reasons, one of the more important of which is that as with many grandly conclusive business systems and economic modeling endeavors, calculating this value almost always involves at least some aggregation of diversely sourced raw, original data.

• How consistently are the specific data types that are gathered, functionally defined and actually measured?
• And how best should perhaps differing value scales be reconciled, when that proves necessary?
• How current is all of this data and for each of the basic data sources that would be aggregated for overall analysis here?
• And how has this data been “cleansed” if it has been to weed out anomalies that fall too far from some mean or median value observed, raising questions as to fringe value accuracy among other issues?
• And cutting to the core of the issues that I raise here regarding the hardness/softness of this data, precisely what demographics were queried for it and how, and is the entire data set consistent for all of this too?

Note: I more fully examined some of the details that might be hidden behind the seemingly clear-cut data measurements for my second, admittedly soft data example than I did for the first, but ultimately they both share the same basic limitations. As such, I rephrase my hard and soft data distinction as being only somewhat useful, and there only when speaking and thinking in very general terms, free of specific analytical precision on any particular theory-based description or prediction.

• And with this, I suggest that while more strictly abstractly framed theories, such as for example an approach to algebraic topology that would address spaces with fractional dimensions, might only involve or require one basic within-theory type of axiomatic support,
• An empirically grounded body of theory such as a general theory of business is going to in fact rest on two categorically distinct types of axiom:
• A deductively grounded set of axioms that would describe and predict on the basic of data already in hand and the basic axioms and proven theorems that have been derived from that
• And a set of axioms that might in detail overlap with the first, that would underlie any new empirically developed data that might be brought into this – and particularly importantly where that would include divergently novel, new types of data.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will consider how new axioms would be added into an already developing body of theory, and how old ones might be reframed, generalized, limited for their validly expected or discarded as axioms per se. Then after addressing that set of issues I will turn to consider the issues of completeness and consistency, as those terms are defined and used in a mathematical logic context and as they would be used in any theory that is grounded in descriptive and predictive enumerable form. That line of discussion will be used to address issues of scope expansion for the set of axioms assumed in a given theory-based system.

I will also more fully consider issues raised in

• Stillwell, J. (2018) Reverse Mathematics: proofs from the inside out. Princeton University Press.

as initially cited in Part 26 in this series, with a goal of more fully analytically discussing optimization for the set of axioms presumed, and what that even means.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory and its Page 2 continuation, as topics Sections VI and IX there.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 26: a second round discussion of general theories as such, 1

Posted in blogs and marketing, book recommendations, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on November 19, 2018

This is my 26th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-25.) I began this series with its Parts 1-8 with an initial orienting discussion of general theories per se, and then turned from there in Parts 9-25 to at least begin to outline a lower-level interpersonal interaction approach to businesses and to thinking about them.

My goal here is to step back to reconsider general theories per se, adding to the conceptual framework initially offered in Parts 1-8 as a basis for continuing my discussion of theories of business as special cases. And I begin this with a quote that is generally attributed to Bertrand Russell:

• “Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize until you have tried to make it precise”

My goal here is to shed light on at least some of the underlying assumptions that we all tend to make when thinking about businesses and how they do and do not function, and to do so with a measure of precision in analytical characterization and understanding. That approach applies, at least as a matter of intent in how I discuss both theories of business here, and general theories as a whole too.

I repeatedly make assumptions in what I write in this blog, just to step back and highlight them for explicit consideration. And I often and even usually do that in order to challenge those usually axiomatically presumed assumptions in order to expand the applicability of what I seek to offer here (and at least hopefully while at least marginally increasing its value and utility too.) So the first set of issues that I would address in this posting and in the progression of them that I begin here, is to reconsider axiomatic assumptions per se. And I begin doing so with the perhaps tritely obvious fundamentals:

• True axioms are underlying assumptions that are simply presumed to hold true as exception-free givens.

To cite an ancient historical source of examples for that, consider Euclidean geometry and its axiomatically presumed postulates. And consider Euclid’s famous (infamous?) fifth postulate in particular: often referred to as his parallel postulate. At least when considered within the dictates of Euclid’s system of geometric reasoning, this is presumed to hold true as an absolute given, but scholars began questioning its more general validity from very early on.

• Axiomatically based systems such as Euclidean geometry can be thought of as analytically reasoned presentations of specifically stated automatically presumed assumptions and their logical consequences.

That does not mean that axioms presumed in such a systematic analysis cannot be questioned or challenged at all. It just means that they remain unchallenged within the scope of the logically framed analytical reasoning that would explore their consequences, within the systems in which they are perhaps at least somewhat arbitrarily assumed to hold axiomatic value.

• What statements, realistically, should be considered as axiomatic and serve as such as a starting point for carrying out logical analyses that would not be burdened by what could become infinite regressions in background reasoning, foreclosing any more definitive attempted analysis going forward? What should simply be assumed as a collective starting point that all relevant logical deductive reasoning would be built from, in fleshing out an axiomatic theory?
• And how many such axioms should be presumed in any given logically developed axiomatic system?

A theory of business seeks to model and descriptively and predictively represent a very particular aspect of empirically grounded reality. So the What of that as touched upon in the first of those bullet points is empirically constrained in such theory systems, in ways that it might not be in more entirely abstract non-empirical systems. More specifically, axioms or rather proposed axioms that might be presume to be true and valid but that would posit as real, potentially observable states that differ from observable reality, would of necessity fall into question if used in a general theory such as a theory of business. They would not adequately, accurately serve to model empirically observable reality as presumably would be addressed in such a body of theory. And that certainly holds true if and when the observations themselves that would test and challenge those axiomatic assertions seem to be validly accurate and reliable. But what of the second of the above two bullet points? How many axioms should be included in any given system to adequately cover it for its intended scope of generality and inclusiveness?

This leads me to William of Occam and his meta-theory postulate: his axiomatic presumption as to how axiomatic systems should be framed and in this case constrained: Occam’s razor:

• The simplest resolution to any logically framed problem: the simplest solution to it, should be presumed to be true.

And when considering axiomatic systems and their best formulations as logically framed problems, this directly leads to an injunction dictating that these theories hew to a minimum possible set of axiomatic assumptions that can adequately meet their needs in supporting arguably valid conclusions (provable theorems) while invalidating arguably false ones.

Let’s consider my purposefully challenging wording there: “an injunction dictating.” One way that Occam’s razor can be, and has been pushed for its underlying logic to a reductio ad absurdum degree can be found in what is sometimes called Occam’s Procrustean bed. First some background: Procrustes (Προκρούστης) or the stretcher if you will, was a mythological Greek character, said to have come from Attica who was less than favorably known for his hospitality. It seems that he had a guest bed of his own construction that he reserved for visiting travelers, that was made of iron. And if a guest who fell into his hands was too short to perfectly fit his bed he had them stretched until they did fit it; if they were too tall to fit he had them cut down to size until they did too. Occam’s Procrustean bed arises when the same brute force approach is taken to enforce a specific set of axioms, with no additions, subtractions or reconciliations or adjustments between them possible, and exactly as arose in the “logic” of Procrustes’ iron bed and in how his guests were “adjusted” to fit its dictates.

Geometers who questioned the empirical validity of Euclid’s fifth postulate as an absolute, universally valid given, avoided or transcended if you prefer, the restrictions of Occam’s Procrustean bed by positing a geometry that held to all of Euclid’s other, unquestioned axioms as valid, but that left out the fifth, devising what is referred to as absolute geometry, or neutral geometry as it is also called. And going beyond that, geometers who questioned that fifth postulate also created non-Euclidean geometries that held as axiomatic, alternative postulates that explicitly deviated from and violated Euclid’s fifth, and in very specific and precise ways. They developed alternative geometries that simply set aside the issues of Euclid’s fifth postulate, or that explored alternatives to it and in precise analytical detail.

And this brings me to the issues of empirically grounded theories and the models of understanding that can be developed from them, as their axiomatic starting points are selected and logically explored for their consequences. I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will consider an empirically based approach to arriving at a meaningfully valid set of axioms for a specific general theory such as a theory of business. And I will base that conceptually on a set of approaches that have come to be known as reverse mathematics. For a reference on that field of study, which I will cite in that posting, see:

• Stillwell, J. (2018) Reverse Mathematics: proofs from the inside out. Princeton University Press.

I highly recommend that book as a fascinating read. I will also at least begin a discussion of the number of axioms that would best be pursued and included in any given general theory, where the reasoning behind Occam’s razor can only provide a lower limit to that. This will mean adding consideration of completeness and consistency to this narrative, and certainly for any significantly scaled body of theory that can be enumerably represented, as applies for essentially any theory of or modeling of business systems.

I conclude this posting by pointing out the specific title to this series and a phrase in it, that appears in each of its installments: “some thoughts concerning a general theory of business.” I approach and label this at least series-long endeavor that way, precisely because I do not start out presuming a finalized, absolutely valid, completely inclusively adequate set of foundational axioms in what I offer. So what I offer here is of necessity a step in what can only be considered a larger and more ongoing work in progress that neither I nor any other individual can be expected to fully conclude. I began this series with a discussion of compendium and axiom-based theories in its Parts 1-8. Those two conceptual approaches are of necessity related, where every basic compendium model element: every specific phenomenon that would be offered in it that could be descriptively and predictively represented through a body of potentially observable findings, carries with it its own axiomatic assumptions. There, developing a more inclusive and ideally more universal single rules based theory, means arriving at a single overarching set of axiomatic starting point assumptions and understandings that would apply to all compendium approach puzzle pieces that would be included and covered within it. And with this, I explicitly link this posting and what will immediately follow it regarding general theories per se, to Parts 1-8 of this series, as a single framework for developing and exploring general theories of business as a special case.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory and its Page 2 continuation, as topics Sections VI and IX there.

Platt Perspective at nine years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timothy Platt, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My primary listing for this series is in the Reexamining the Fundamentals directory as listed above, and I offer the first 25 installments to it as what amounts to a first volume of a longer work. I will begin Volume 2 of that with Part 26, and will organize the series continuation that begins with it as a progression of postings that focus on general theories per se, followed by one on theories of business – exactly as offered in Volume 1.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 24: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 16

This is my 24th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-23.)

I have been discussing a brief set of what can be seen as hiring process exceptions that can categorically arise in businesses, and that impact upon employees and potential employees as well as upon management and the business as a whole, when they arise (see Part 20.) And my goal in that developing narrative has been to use these real-world business process-based, interpersonal interactions as grounding points for discussing more general issues that would help illuminate and develop a more general theory of business as a whole.

I began discussing two such hiring situations in Part 23 that I repeat here as I continue to address them, as renumbered here from the original, more complete list. Please note that both of these exception scenarios are offered in contrast to a more normative hiring context scenario that they would prove to be an explicit exception to, with their normative counterparts offered first:

1. More routine positions, managerial or not – versus – special skills and experience new hires, hands-on or managerial. (Here, the emphasis in this second possibility is in finding and bringing in people with rare and unusual skills and experience sets that are in high demand among competing businesses, and at levels of need that exceed any realistic pool of available candidates holding them.)
2. And job candidates and new hires and employees who reached out to the business, applying for work there as discussed up to here in this narrative, doing so on their own initiative – versus – professionals who might not even be explicitly looking for new job opportunities, who the business itself has reached out to, to at least attempt to bring them in-house as special hires and as special for all that would follow.

I started out comparing and contrasting the above repeated hiring exception scenarios in business process terms in Part 23, and then began to consider them from a participant-oriented game theory-based strategy perspective there too, building that line of discussion from the points of similarity and of difference that I had just noted for them in the first half of that overall line of discussion. To be more specific, I began to so analyze the first of those two hiring scenarios in Part 23, and my goal for this posting is to take that same approach as a tool for examining and understanding the second of those scenarios too, and with further points of comparison drawn between the two basic scenarios under consideration here as I pursue that. And I begin that by at least briefly repeating, and then expanding on a basic point that I made in Part 23 when considering the above Scenario 1, that applies to both of these exception hire context, and that in fact holds pivotal importance in any theory of business as a whole and across wide ranges of contexts as they would arise in such a theory:

• The phenomenon of competing alternative strategies, and how real world business contexts can come to require reconciling and coordinately following more than one such strategic approach at the same time – or at least finding a workable and mutually acceptable hybrid combination of them.
• It is obvious that different participants: different players, to couch this in game theory terms can and often do hold to differing and even overtly competing strategies and goals as they interact, and seek to influence the interactive processes that arise between them and the goals reached from that.
• When I raise the issues of competing strategies here, I am focusing on competing alternatives that can arise and play out within the individual participants involved there, as for example when they individually have to simultaneously find and promote negotiated approaches that would work for them on both a short term and a long-term basis, or in accordance with essentially any other dichotomous (at least) parameter that would hold importance to them, while pressing them with significantly differing alternative best paths forward.

As noted in Part 23, potential new hires who would fit into a Scenario 1 pattern as offered above, generally have specific currently must-have skills and experience sets that that hiring business feels compelled to add to their staff capabilities and as quickly and early as possible. This type of scenario is most likely going to arise for businesses that operate in very fast paced and rapidly changing, technology-driven business arenas that are continually racing to achieve an ever-changing goal: top position in a very competitive industry. As such, this scenario is usually all about businesses seeking a new and cutting edge technology advantage over their competition, and certainly while a current defining edge sought in winning this race is new and emerging skills-set driven. And that dynamic leads to both short-term and longer-term consequences, and a need for both short term and long term strategy and from both the would-be employee, and from the would-be hiring business perspective, and with game theory-defined strategic understandings to all of this, to match and for both sides of this too. These points as so generally stated, apply with equal force to the second above-repeated hiring scenario too.

A job candidate seeking out this type of hiring opportunity has to be able to leverage any possible advantage that they might be able to offer from their holding a still rare, high demand skills and experience set, while those special capabilities attributes still hold this type of defining value for them. So they need to be able to negotiate towards a hiring decision from their side of the table that would leverage their being able to achieve their goals, and help them gain the best possible terms of employment and compensation levels, commensurate with the current (but perhaps soon to fade) special value of what they have to offer now, and with a short-term strategic approach pursued in doing this. But at the same time, if they want to stay employed at that business longer term instead of only pursuing shorter-term gigs as an ongoing career path, they need to develop a relationship with this hiring manager who will be their supervisor and direct boss there, and with this business, that is not going to chaff and create resentment there too. This, of course holds for terms of employment and the details and levels agreed to in the overall compensation package.

I offer that last point with my own direct experience in mind, where I once found myself taking a consulting assignment that could in principle have lasted longer than it did – but I negotiated terms from too much of a short-term perspective and not from a longer-term one. So that business agreed to bring my in to work with them, but at a pay rate that they came to see as too out of range from what they paid others at the same level in their organization to be long-term sustainable. That realization on the part of this hiring business, I add, colored my entire work experience there, and even as I successively achieved the goals that I was initially brought in to work towards. And that brings me to the hiring manager and business side of this. They seek to meet the short term strategy requirements that they face in being able to bring in necessary and even essential skills and experience, but in ways that are going to be longer-term sustainable too – assuming that is, that they are not simply hiring short-term and intentionally so as their basic strategy.

Now let’s consider these same types of issues from an explicitly Scenario 2 perspective, where a business has decided to seek the services of some specific individual as a new hire, who they reach out to and attempt to convince to work for them, and regardless of their current work and employment status. These efforts are not generally directed towards addressing short-term needs, and the people they would bring in usually have skills and experience sets that they would want to retain longer-term. So their shorter term and here-and-now strategies and tactics for this would revolve around their seeking to catch the interest of such a potential hire, and in ways that would bring them in through their doors. Their longer-term strategy here would align with that, and function as a continuation of it, with a goal of finding a mutually agreeable overall, terms of employment and compensation package that both sides of these negotiations could live with moving forward.

• Both the potential new hire and the potentially hiring business in this, seek to reach an agreement that would best serve their particular needs and for both of these hiring scenarios. Short term, and certainly when only considering that timeframe, this would likely mean both of these two sides pursuing more of a win-lose strategy approach, that could turn out to be at least somewhat close to being diametrically opposed. So negotiations from that timeframe perspective would be oriented towards reconciling at least the make or break disagreement points that could arise.
• But both of the types of scenarios under consideration here, and the above-stated Scenario 2 in particular are essentially never short-term only and for either side of the negotiating table. So it is usually in the best interest of all parties to seek out more of an explicit win-win solution here and certainly where Scenario 2 applies with its more intrinsically long-term strategy focus built into it.

This leads me to the final crucially important point that I would address here in this posting: business systems friction and the fact that neither side to the negotiations that are under consideration here is going to know enough of the information that is held on the other side of the table to be able to make an optimally best-for-them decision when crafting the offers that they would propose. Neither side, for example, is certain to know if their counterparts on the other side of the table are negotiating with others too, and even if they do know that, they are unlikely to know the crucial details that they would have to compete with there. And neither side is going to know the outer parameters as to what the other side would deem acceptable, and either in detail for specific points or in overall balance where significant trade-offs might be possible.

How conservative in their thought and actions are the people involved in these negotiations? And how much would they seek to press the limits of what might be possible and achievable for their side, on the assumption that they could probably concede ground if needed when making adjusted offers and still keep these negotiations in play? Personalities involved, and basic business and negotiating styles pursued here can become very important, and both in shaping any dual or alternative negotiating tactics and approaches pursued, and in identifying and understanding the thinking on the other side of the table. (Look to the corporate culture in place in the hiring business, and the corporate cultures that a potential hire here, have succeeded in and even thrived in, that they might turn to for guidance as they negotiate possible next career moves that they might accept.)

• The points that I have been making here, and certainly in the last several paragraphs, while framed in terms of a hire-or-not negotiations, hold much wider importance in understanding the dynamics of business decision making and the agreements and disagreements that can arise in them, and both when dealing with outside stakeholders and when negotiating strictly in-house and across what can become highly competitive boundaries there.

I am going to more fully explore and discuss that last bullet point in my next series installment. And then I am going to turn to and consider the last hiring scenario from my original list in the next installment to this series, as first offered in Part 20 as noted above: nepotism as a specific case in point example of how hiring process exceptions can take more toxic forms. I will consider intentionally, overtly family owned and run businesses in that context, that simply seek to keep their business in their family, there. And I will also discuss more overtly problematical examples of how this type of scenario can play out too. Then after completing that line of discussion, at least for purposes of this series, I will step back from consideration of theories of business and special case contexts that they apply to, as an overall special categorical form of general theory, to delve into a set of what have become essential foundation elements for that discussion, with further consideration of general theories per se. I began this series in its Parts 1-8 by offering a start to an approach to thinking about and understanding general theories as such. I will add some further basic building blocks to that foundation after completing my business theory discussion here, up through a point where a new hire first successfully joins a business as an in-house employee, hands-on or managerial. Then I will turn back to further consider general theories of business per se, on the basis of that now-enlarged general theory discussion.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

Rethinking Platt Perspective at 2501 postings – an update on how this enterprise is to continue from here

Posted in blogs and marketing by Timothy Platt on May 29, 2018

I began writing to this blog at a rate of one posting going live every day, starting September 14, 2009. And I continued at that pace, with a few supplemental postings added in, until February 17, 2014. At that time, I made a fundamental change in my pace of writing for this overall narrative. I switched to writing and uploading new installments to go live on it, with a next posting set to appear every other day. And now it is May 29, 2018 and I have decided to slow my writing and publications pace again: this time to once every three days.

I have thought a great deal about when and how I would make this type of chance, just as I did leading up to my September, 2014 decision to start writing to this at all with the long-term commitment that I assumed with that. And at this time, I feel that I have reached a point in my efforts here, where this is the right decision for now as to how I should proceed moving forward.

That said, I will still offer at least some postings on “off-days” and particularly for series that are not amenable to longer-term scheduling, with the delays that that involves for their next installments to go live. But even then, I will have days off that allow for longer development and writing times.

As stated above, I pursued what was basically a once a day, every day publishing schedule for a number of years. My at least initial goal when switching to a once every other day schedule was to continue at that pace for about the same length of time in which I had posted daily. I did reach that mark. As of now, I expect to continue at this new pace for at least as long as that timeframe unit of measure, which would mean my following this approach until something after posting 2900 and probably closer to posting 3000 for this blog. That said, I might change my mind, in which I will share another schedule-correcting update to this. But I still view this endeavor as being open ended in duration and the total number of postings that I will eventually have written to it.

Timothy Platt

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 23: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 15

This is my 23rd installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-22.)

I have been discussing a series of what can perhaps best be considered exceptions scenarios, that would arise in the hiring process in a business, in this series since its Part 20, alternating between discussion of these specific business process issues, and more general theory of business considerations, that I have been exploring by way of these special case contexts. For smoother continuity of narrative, I repeat my four hiring scenario list, with a goal of addressing its third entry here:

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

And I begin addressing Scenario 3 by pointing out the similarities that can arise, and the overlap that can occur between this and Scenario 2. Both involve a business coming to realize that it needs to hire one or more very rare, high demand special-case new employees, at whatever level they would work at on the table of organization. This makes these hiring processes, seller’s market oriented with advantage held by any who can convincingly present themselves as fulfilling the wish list requirements of the hiring business. Both involve situations where more possible employers, quite arguably would wish to hire these types of people than there are actual job candidates – and certainly ones who are looking or willing to look for new work opportunities elsewhere. But even with all of that held in common, these are two distinct and separate special exception hiring scenarios.

• First of all, a really proactive, entrepreneurial professional who has skills and experience that are coming into high demand and need, and at levels the market cannot meet, can reach out to hiring managers and potential hiring managers at businesses that they would like to work at, and basically make sales pitches directed towards starting a conversation. Their goal in that would be to discuss the possibilities of what they could offer, that would specifically bring benefit to that business and to the people there who they get to meet with.
• A business in question, and at least one of its hiring managers have to have thought all of this out first, for a Scenario 3 as offered above to apply; a potential job candidate and new hire can reach out to inform and to provoke that type of thinking process, making an initial effort in order to explore their possibilities and see what they can develop. In Scenario 2, they can easily be the more proactive participants in this. In Scenario 3, it is the potential new hire catch, who would be reactive and the potentially hiring business that would be more proactive in setting this type of process in motion.
• And to cite one other at least potentially significantly differentiating detail here, Scenario 2 tends to apply more for finding and securing special here-and-now hires, and with a goal of keeping the business cutting edge and competitive from that in some rapidly changing, generally technical functional area. What is hot enough in the jobs market to qualify for Scenario 2’s preferential treatment today, is probably going to cool down enough and in a relatively short period of time, to fit more smoothly and realistically into that company’s routine candidate selection and new hire processes and procedures, and from the early job description preparation and initial candidate screening and filtering process onward. And this can happen very quickly, making Scenario 2 into more of a narrow window of opportunity phenomenon.
• Scenario 3 candidates on the other hand, and the people that a business would want to convince to become candidates, might fit that pattern. But this scenario is also were businesses reach out to special possible hires who would offer long-term defining value too, such as marketing or sales professionals with a well established golden touch track record, or senior executives who have proven track records of stellar excellence as visionary leaders and managers. I write here of having more persistent soft skills excellences, versus simply having a more state-of-the-art based, ephemeral technical skills edge.

With that offered as a starting point for discussing what Scenario 3 actually is, let’s consider it and I add reconsider Scenario 2 again, from a game theory perspective. And I begin addressing that, by picking up on the last sentence of the immediately preceding bullet point description, and the basic message that I seek to convey through it, and with timing considerations.

• Any specifically short-term, time limited Scenario 2 advantage that a prospective job candidate might hold in a hiring process there, would of necessity significantly shape the strategy that they would pursue, and I add that the hiring business would pursue too, when meeting and negotiating with them. This biases all that would transpire on both sides of the hiring negotiations table there, and in terms of short timeframes and in terms of strategic and game strategy considerations that would support them.
• But a Scenario 2 candidate who is hired, is in most cases going to want to continue on at that job for longer than just the perhaps brief span in which their special skills that brought them there, still retain their special edge. I am not suggesting that they would want to finish their overall career paths with this employer: only that they would want to have a say in how long they remain there, and on what they can develop and take with them from that experience, as and when they do move on. This gives them positive incentive to think and plan in terms of longer-term career strategy too, and according to a game theory approach that would promote and advance their interests along that timeframe too. And this might in fact be at odds with a strictly short-term interest and short-term planning strategy and game theory approach that they might take if only thinking in terms of getting hired in the first place.
• And a Scenario 2 hiring business, would see compelling need to pursue an at least short-term compatible hiring strategy and game theory approach at first and when negotiating to bring in such a new hire. But as an ongoing organization, they would also have to consider and take on a dual approach there too, building from day one in the hiring process for longer term viability in any hiring agreements reached.

And with this, I raise the issues of dual and competing strategies and their game theory implementations, and the need to reconcile and coordinate between them, to find what for a participant would be their best, more timeframe-independent path forward. I will continue this discussion of Scenario 3 (and of Scenario 2 as well) in my next series installment, and will then move on to Scenario 4, which I offer here in this series as one of several potentially toxic hiring scenarios. And after completing that line of discussion, at least for purposes of this series, I will step back from consideration of general theories of business as a special categorical case, to delve into a set of what have become essential foundation elements for that discussion, with further consideration of general theories per se. And looking ahead, I will then turn back to the more specific context of theories of business again, where I will begin using this newly added, more-general foundational material in its more specific context. My goal there is to follow the discussion of business hiring processes and their exceptions that I have been pursuing up to here, with one that focuses on the new hire probationary period and its dynamics. And I will use that as a source of special case examples, in order to develop and present more general theory of business considerations.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 22: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 14

This is my 22nd installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-21.)

I began addressing a set of four example scenarios as to how someone might be hired into a business, outside of the more standard framework of processes and understandings that Human Resources would develop and follow as its routine business practice, in Part 20 of this series, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative:

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

And I have addressed the first of these more novel-case scenarios, at least for purposes of this narrative, since then with that line of discussion leading me to the above repeated hiring Scenario 2. My goal for this posting is to address that. And as done in my now completed discussion of Scenario 1, I do so in the context of alternating between the specifics of the scenario at hand, and more general theory of business considerations.

Focusing here on the more general line of discussion pursued in this series up to here, I analytically characterized trust as it enters into the types of decision making processes that arise in situations such as the above four scenarios in Part 21, splitting off three categorical varieties of it that differ from each other for the most part, according to how fully and directly a process or transaction participant can know, of what they would need to know, in order to make a best-for-them, or a best for their business decision.

My goal here is to delve into at least some of the more general issues that arise when discussing Scenario 2, and use that specific business circumstance as a means for further developing my more general business theory narrative, taking an explicitly game theory approach to that here. Think of my Part 21 discussion of trust and its information based foundations, as a foundational element to that, and for what is to come here.

First, let’s consider Scenario 2 itself. And I begin by noting that this arises when a business seeks to address a specific strategically significant challenge by finding and securing the hire of one or more specific individuals, who are at least relatively uniquely capable of addressing this new or emerging need. This type of scenario is most likely to arise in the context of addressing new or expanding gaps that have been found in the skills and capabilities sets that a business can apply towards fulfilling its core business goals, at least from its current staff and management. This means making its core capabilities more effective, that directly generate its incoming revenue streams and its profitability. But this can also arise if specific individuals can be found who for their special skills and experience, could make a necessary cost center, more competitively cost-effective too, freeing up resources for more profits-center use. Either way, a Scenario 2 situation as outlined above would arise when a business has to find and bring in specialized and difficult to find and secure new hires, with an overall goal of becoming or remaining as competitively effective as possible from that.

And in either case, this means finding and securing specific people:

• Where more generically available, routinely effective job candidates would not be able to offer the types of new value required in a hire here,
• And where wider candidate selective choice considerations, and the compensation benchmarking that such hiring patterns would provide, could not be used to help define or limit what the business would have to offer in overall compensation here.
• Together the above two points throw away the possibility of meaningful, standardized marketplace norms for hiring or for compensation offered for these Scenario 2 candidates, increasing the bargaining power of the most desired job candidates here, relative to that held by a hiring business.

And as soon as the managers directly involved in these hiring decisions begin to realize that their more routine personnel policies for managing compensation levels cannot apply here, due to uniqueness of circumstance and scale of need, this second scenario becomes inevitable in one form or other.

And with my earlier discussion of Scenario 1 as noted above, and this discussion of Scenario 2 noted, I turn back to the issues of trust and how it can take different forms, depending on the availability of necessary information. And I move forward to at least begin to reframe this in more explicitly game theory terms.

I have written in this blog on several occasions, about win-win and win-lose scenarios. And as part of that, I have noted that win-lose can come to predominate as an approach taken, as a consequence of at least one of several possible factors applying to the contexts in which these games play out, as perceived and understood by the participants involved. And I begin this phase of this narrative by at least briefly and selectively listing a few of those possible strategy triggers here, that I will then explicitly consider, and certainly for Scenarios 1 and 2.

Win-lose strategies are defensive in nature, and arise when, among other possibilities:

A. One or more participants in a business transactions system see the overall pool of rewards available from participating in it, as smaller than the overall pool of value that those participants would collectively have to pay in to it, in order to participate and with a chance of gaining some share of those rewards. This is the “pie to be divided is too small” scenario, where win-lose arises as participants seek to secure what they see as their fair share (or more) and even at the expense of others not even coming close to that.
B. One or more of those participants see that while they might be in effect paid back, if with a delay if they play cooperatively, it is uncertain, or even unlikely that the business transaction system game that they are in will be sustainable long enough for that to happen. This is the “cut your losses and play for as quick a return on investment as possible and regardless of impact upon others” scenario.
C. And with my discussion of trust in its varying forms, as outlined in Part 21, I add in business systems friction and the types of communications and information availability challenges that engenders it. The more incomplete and unreliable the timely availability of necessary information when choosing and pursuing a game strategy as a strategic option here, the more attractive and the more specifically risk reducing a win-lose strategy can appear to become. Limitations in information availability for quality and/or timeliness, and the friction that creates and drives that, degrades types and levels of trust that can be sustained, and that degrades any possible cooperation and any possible win-win alternative.

And to add one more detail to this brief narrative on why people would be drawn towards pursuing a win-lose, or zero-sum strategy, I stress that the strongest driver of all that would drive participants towards pursuing win-lose strategies (at briefly touched upon above, in a Rationale A context) is a sense of inequality and of not being offered a fair chance at receiving compensation in proportion to value and commitment invested. That point of observation, in fact underlies all that I have said here regarding win-lose and its root causes. With that noted, let’s reconsider first Scenario 1 as repeated above, and then Scenario 2 with this general business theory note in mind.

Employees at businesses do not in general see themselves as directly competing with the owners of those businesses or with their more senior executives, and certainly in big business and corporate contexts. This means Rationale A of the above list is unlikely to apply with much force for Scenario 1, unless employees as a whole come to see the leadership of the business that they work for as in effect, looting them of their fair due from how they loot the business as a whole, denying for example adequate cost of living wage increases to their employees while claiming the business cannot afford them, while significantly increasing their own paychecks or other direct personal benefits out of the resulting “savings.”

But employees who see their work as being important to their employing business, and who take pride in doing their work very well, do not necessarily see this same type of categorical separation as noted in the above paragraph, as existing between themselves and others who at least nominally work at the same general levels as them on the table of organization, simply because those employees, or at least some of them happen to know and use some currently “must have” new set of technical skills that they themselves do not need or use, such as knowledge of some new specialized computer language or tool set. The Phrase “as understood and accepted by …” as a contextual qualifier, becomes crucially important here (with this paragraph addressing Rationale A and Scenario 2, as both are offered above.)

I mentioned three rationales in my above list, as to why people working at a business or with an organization might come to pursue a more win-lose, zero-sum personal strategy there. Then I focused on the first of them: the limited pie that cannot suffice to fully meet all participants’ reasonable claims. It is possible for two or more of the types of sample rationales touched upon in that list, to co-occur, and I add that different participants and participant groups can in fact see and be driven by different ones, even if all involved basically follow the same general strategy at least most of the time (e.g. win-win, or in this case win-lose.) But that makes any analysis of the type I am offering here, more complex. And this type of complexity, of necessity means all involved face at least significant levels of Rationale C from my above list of them: friction stemming from faulty and incomplete information as to why others make the decisions that they do, that would be needed for making their own decisions more effectively.

I am going to complete this line of discussion in my next series installment, and will then turn to Scenarios 3 and 4 to complete this phase of this series and its overall discussion. Then I will step back from general theories of business as a special categorical case, and delve into a set of what have become essential foundation elements for that with further consideration of general theories per se. And looking ahead, I will then turn back to the more specific context of theories of business again, where I will begin using this newly added, more-general foundational material in its more specific context.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

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