Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

The fallacy of the singularity and the fallacy of simple linear progression, reconsidered

I have recently found myself thinking back to a posting that I first added to this blog in February, 2010 – just a few months after starting it:

Assumption 6 – The fallacy of the Singularity and the Fallacy of Simple Linear Progression – finding a middle ground.

I offered that posting in my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals, as an installment in a series of brief notes in which I posed questions and suggested reconsideration of a succession of issues that we can find ourselves taking for granted.

My basic argument in the sixth installment to that series, as cited here, was that aside from astronomical events such as the emergence of black holes from massive supernova explosions, true singularities do not arise and certainly not on Earth or in our range of direct and immediate ongoing experience. And if they do not actually arise in our direct experience, neither does simple, same evolutionary path forward linear progression, except as it might arise in a very time-limited manner. Long-term and certainly unending linear developmental progression as I write of it here, is just as much a simplification of more complex phenomena and just as much of a mirage as are putative singularities in any directly human or human societal contexts.

I specifically cited the book:

• Kurtzweil, Ray. (2005) The Singularity is Near: when humans transcend biology. Penguin Books.

in that earlier posting, for how Kurtzweil predicted an acceleration in the pace of innovation and change, until a true singularity for it would be reached. For purposes of this posting and its narrative, let’s construe singularity there to mean the pace of change and of disruptively novel change accelerating to a point where essentially no one can keep up and no matter how much of a pioneer and earliest, fastest adaptor they would be when positioned on an innovation diffusion theory-based, adaptation curve.

In 2010, we lived in a context where that type of singularity event was all but certain to never arise, and certainly when innovation was being developed and advanced entirely from direct human initiative and by essentially the same people and types of people who would ultimately have to accept and adapt to any given step in this process of change, and buy into it as a part of that. Think there, in terms of businesses that would bring next step innovations to market, having to be financially successful enough from earlier efforts at that, and from their success in the marketplace from that, to be able to afford to design, prototype test and manufacture a next step innovation too. Innovation developers who function as such in a business or enterprise, have to have the resources and the opportunity to develop their next step innovation and the next after it. And this requires that the business that pays for this, be able to afford it and still keep their doors open. That, and certainly according to the logic of my earlier Assumption 6 posting, of necessity breaks down if innovation arrives so quickly to the marketplace that it cannot achieve buy-in for it, and if it is impossible to achieve the necessary consumer support that would drive this innovation cycle.

But even as I wrote that earlier posting, there was at least in principle, a possible way around that anthropocentric, from human to human restraint mechanism on the maximum possible sustainable pace of change. And we might be on the verge of seeing the emergence of the first simple test case proof of principle examples of how that might happen. And with that noted and as a starting point for reconsidering the line of reasoning offered in my 2010 posting, as repeated and expanded upon here, I cite a brief news story that recently appeared in the New York Times:

Building A.I. that Can Build A.I..

This is a news story about artificially intelligent machines that can build other artificially intelligent machines, and it focuses on a more blue-sky research and development project that is taking place at Google, that they call AutoML (where ML stands for machine learning.) See this Google Research Blog posting:

Using Machine Learning to Explore Neural Network Architecture

The goal of this project is to develop machine learning algorithms that can design and build next generation improved machine learning algorithms, using a neural networks approach as that is so effectively oriented towards supporting iterative step-by-step, experience based development and improvement.

The proximal goal of AutoML is to make it possible for less experienced and less expert artificial intelligence (AI) programmers to make significant advances in developing and refining their own AI software, that can tap into the specific task-level knowledge and insight that they and the organizations that they work for, have particular expertise in. And in fact, the most highly skilled and experienced AI programmers who are out there making necessary advances in their field now, are and will continue to be in very limited supply even as need and demand for them continues to rise. There are way more areas of specialized need for the skills that they have, than there are expert professionals to do all of this possible work. But as this takes off and initiatives such as AutoML really begin to succeed, that goal will be superseded by the larger and more widespread goal of greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the innovative effort.

Where is AutoML now in its development? It still represents what will come to be seen as a more embryonic, proof of principle stage for what is to come. As of this writing, the only working examples coming out of this initiative that have come to light, revolve around more effectively solving tasks such as very simple visual pattern recognition tests so a machine can, for example drop a ball into a blue bowl when it is randomly positioned in a grouping of bowls of other colors.

But … the principles involved there have potentially open ended application and for essentially any tasks that could conceivably be captured in an algorithm, fuzzy logic based as well as more deterministic as is being explored up to now.

I find myself writing this posting at a point in time of fundamental, pivotal change. And I write it with an eye towards where the fruits of projects such as AutoML will develop – not “might” but “will.” And when machine learning can effectively supplant the need for human-based expertise and experience in the design and development of AI systems, that will effectively remove one half of the system of breaks that I first wrote of here in my above cited 2010 posting.

That would not make innovation singularities possible as a matter of reaching an infinitely fast pace of development, but it will force a reconsideration of what singularity means as I have tentatively defined it here, earlier on in this posting. And that has the potential at least, for significantly impacting on how people who would variously fit along an innovation adaptation curve approach the change taking place around them, and certainly for those who would naturally find themselves to be later, slower adaptors to change.

I initially planned on offering this as a single, one-off posting but writing it has prompted me to want to write a second, at least somewhat related other new posting too. I am at least tentatively considering as a working title for that: “Reconsidering Information Systems Infrastructure,” and my goal for that is to expand out the scope that is usually included there, beyond information storage and transmission systems per se, to include information and knowledge processing as well, and certainly as that has moved into the cloud and into the information systems backbone per se. The issues that I touch upon here, become important there too.

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

Advertisements

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 19: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 11

This is my 19th 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 1-18.)

The basic approach that I take to business theory at least begins at a more reductionistic, individual participant and interpersonal interaction level, and expands out from there with allowance for emergent properties as higher levels of organization are considered. And in keeping with that approach, I have in recent installments to this series, been at least somewhat systematically discussing the individual employee, who might or might not have managerial responsibilities as well as directly hands-on ones.

So I focused in at least significant measure in Part 17 and again in Part 18, on the new hire and on how hiring managers and the businesses that they work for as a general rule screen out possible job candidates more on the basis of why they would not work out, and with a goal of eliminating most of them from consideration, than they do from the perspective of looking for how these potential new hires would work out and why they should be hired and brought in. And I at least noted in that context, that when and as a winning candidate is selected and hired, that dynamic becomes reversed. Now the dynamic is more one of looking for reasons to keep an already hired employee on, barring overriding considerations such as complete incompetence or downsizing pressures to reduce the workforce in general in at least their area of the business.

That pre-hire side to this has become more and more pressingly necessary and particularly over the past dozen years or so, and particularly as businesses have come to routinely post job opportunities online and in effect at least, globally, and as candidates have come to routinely blanket submit e-file copies of their largely generic resumes to any and every potential employer that is offering an at least vaguely appropriate job opening for them to apply to. Businesses look to weed out and discard any at least partly inappropriate applicants from consideration first and usually by essentially automated means, and do so as a survival mechanism so their hiring process does not become entirely broken down from the flood of extraneous resume submissions, that their much fewer good candidates at least start out, lost in.

The post-hire side to this makes sense at least as compellingly as the hiring manager who agreed to a particular job candidate brings them in, putting at least part of their own reputation and standing on the line there too. But neither of these process and decision-driven relationships can be meaningfully captured as binary, two person interactions. Wider ranges of stakeholders are always involved and on both pre and post sides of any hiring decision too.

This obviously holds true in the post-hiring context that I just cited for a first hiring and now supervising manager who sees a downside to themselves if they become seen as making faulty decisions here. But other stakeholders are almost always brought into the interviewing process for top candidates, and this can include co-workers who a new hire would work with on an ongoing basis, in-house client stakeholders who a new hire would do work for and who would depend on that being done effectively and on time if they are to meet their own goals and schedules, and others. These stakeholder groups can all come from a single localized area of the overall table of organization, that a new hire would work for but they can and at times do come from more wide ranging parts of the business too. And the more wide-ranging the commitment and buy-in when hiring, the more widespread a sense of buy-in is going to be in place to justify a hiring decision and to help see that it does work out successfully.

This example, as I have been addressing here is important in and of itself. But I would put it in a wider, more comprehensive perspective here by noting that:

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

With that larger framework perspective noted, I return to that specific case in point example and to a simplifying detail that I offered (again) in this posting when briefly and selectively discussing it:

• The basic issues that I have raised here regarding candidate hiring and employee retention dynamics as they arise, are essentially the same for most all businesses
• And regardless of whether an individual under consideration as a new hire-turned-employee, would or would not have managerial authority and position.

The principles regarding individual and interpersonal behavior that I have addressed up to here in this discussion, apply in general across businesses organizations as a whole, and for most all businesses. But that said and returning to my new hire to in-house employee example, the type of position that a new arrival would hold in a business, is important here too.

Consider my discussion of this up to here as setting a foundational baseline for what is to follow. And I begin this next phase of this narrative by expanding out a list of criteria that would enter into shaping how different types of employees can face very different situations in their hiring to onboarding to retention or dismissal experience, by offering for consideration:

• More routine hire hands-on non-managerial employees, and I add more routine and entry level managers – versus – more senior managers and executives when they are brought in, and certainly from the outside.
• More routine positions, managerial or not – versus – special skills and experience new hires and employees, hands-on or managerial.
• 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.
• And to round out this list, I will add one more entry here, doing so by citing one specific and specifically freighted word: nepotism.

I am going to at least begin addressing this list of variations on the baseline model as outlined here in my next series installment. Then, as promised in Part 18 at its end, I will explicitly discuss promotions, and both as carried out strictly in-house and as arise de facto from strategically moving on to work for a new employer where suitable job openings are not and cannot be available where an employee works now. In anticipation of that, I add here that I will frame this flow of discussion, at least in significant part in terms of two behavioral dynamics:

• A focus on the potential negatives of change and of the unknown, and a focus on the positive possibilities of change and an embrace of the new and at least in-part unknown, as job and career strategy-shaping presumptions arise and are followed through upon, and
• The potential for alignment and for discord when different stakeholder participants in a business interaction pursue different game theory strategies as they each attempt to reach their own goals.

One of my goals for this posting has been to widen the perspective that this would all be thought in terms of, where for example my discussion here of businesses as overlapping and dynamically changing systems of stakeholder networks, affects how those two bullet points would be considered. I will expand upon this more general understanding in discussion to come too.

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.

Technology as the tide that raises all boats 12 – but often unevenly 9

This is my 12th installment to a discussion that I initially began as a single stand-alone posting in April, 2012, but that needs reconsidering. I focused in that posting, on a key issue that enters into a determination of how and when change rises to a level of significance so as to qualify as true innovation (see Outsourcing and Globalization, postings 25 and loosely following for Parts 1-11, and Part 1 of that in particular as the foundational urtext for this narrative.)

I began discussing economic friction as a basic approach to understanding economic systems, and its more micro-level expression: business systems friction in Part 11, as tools for more fully understanding a global playing field perspective that innovation arises in and spreads through, when and as it does. And I focused there on two specific aspects of this phenomenon, as it plays out in the marketplace:

• How friction can limit the flow of information that would be required in order to make best possible business and economic decisions, by impacting upon and shaping how market participants perceive and respond to, in this case innovation, and
• How the levels and sources of friction vary for market participants depending on where they would position themselves along a standard innovation acceptance curve, running from pioneer and early adaptors on through late and last adaptors.

My goal for this posting is to continue that narrative, here addressing the issues of “cultural and socioeconomic impact, as innovative change and the opportunity for it advances all around us.” And I focus in that on the dichotomy of open and closed societies, and on how they variously allow or limit the acceptance of change and innovation, and the flow of information that would be needed for that to be possible. The forces that arise there, can ultimately override the impact of the aspects to this topic that I have addressed up to here in this series and certainly as addressed in Part 11.

I have at least briefly discussed the issues of open and closed societies per se in this blog, for the impact that more generally closed societies and what might be deemed more “selectively open” ones can have in creating wrinkles and barriers in the global flattening that Thomas Friedman writes of in his books. (See, for example:

• Friedman, T.L. (2007 edition) The World Is Flat. Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (The first edition of this initially came out in 2005 but I cite here its revised and updated edition.)
• Friedman, T.L. (2008) Hot, Flat and Crowded: why we need a green revolution – and how it can renew America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (Available through this link as a free full text PDF download.)
• Friedman, T.L. (2016) Thank You for Being Late: an optimist’s guide to thriving in the age of accelerations. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York.)

I address this complex of issues in this posting from the perspective of communications and information sharing across traditional boundaries and the friction that barriers to this can create, reinforcing those boundaries. But perhaps more importantly, I address this set of issues here from a more finely grained perspective than that of entire societies, at least as more traditionally envisioned too. Ultimately, to pursue the message implicit in the first half of the title to this posting, technology can only serve as a tide that can raise all boats, if all boats are floating, and all are equally unencumbered in being able to respond change and innovation and to its potential. And ultimately, that calls for a free and open exchange of information: wide-ranging fact and opinion and all that fits between them as holding elements of both of them.

Where are we now for this, as of this writing, as individuals and collectively? Where are we societally and as members of networking and otherwise connected groups? Is the world currently more actively opening up and both for information sharing from us, and for our open receipt of information that is at least potentially open to us? Right now, and certainly for the foreseeable future as I write this, I would have to answer these questions with more negative answers. And I this regard, I cite a posting that I have offered here in this blog that I based on a talk that I gave during the candidate nominations race in the United States leading up to the 2016 presidential elections:

Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs.

I wrote there of how we have come to speak past each other, and less with each other and most certainly in political arenas and across differences of opinion. I did not explicitly write of epistemic bubbles there as a within-group and outsider to that defining understanding of this phenomenon: echo chamber barriers that we increasingly enter into, within which we only hear what we are already inclined to believe, and opinion and information: true or not that would support it. But I have used that term and I have discussed its issues for their sociopolitical and societal impact in subsequent postings to a series that I have developed from that posting. My point here is that we increasingly live in a world of communities that are splintered by the communications barriers that divide us. And this impacts on politics and trade and everything else. And ultimately, our reliance on those bubbles for our news and opinion sourcing and for our networking and direct communicating, and our increasing existence essentially entirely within them leads to a reduced ability to respond to and live in a wider world. Think of this as an emerging new source of wrinkles and of overt barriers too, in any participation in the larger communities that ubiquitous online connectivity and communications resources should be making possible and for all of us. This series is about innovation and change and this partitioning affects what we see of that too, and how we see the specific changes that do come to our attention.

We are currently living in a decidedly and I have to add increasingly “but often unevenly” world, to cite the second half of the title of this posting. And ironically, this phenomenon is most pronounced in at least some of the most online connected nations on this planet, and certainly in nations like the United States, as those who would battle for openness and connectedness in them confront those who would turn away from all that might differ from them and threaten their beliefs and opinions by offering alternatives to them.

I am going to end writing to this series at least for now, with that note, though I might very well return to it again and certainly as the era of the Trump presidency ends and his vision and his “nationalistic” closing off excesses come into wider and more dispassionate review and analysis.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. I also include this in Outsourcing and Globalization – and see that directory for related material. And I include a link to this posting as a supplemental addition to Section VII: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals (reconsidered), of Reexamining the Fundamentals too.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 18: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 10

This is my 18th 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 1-17.)

I began addressing one side to a commonly encountered workplace dynamic in Part 17, which I restate here for purposes of narrative continuity:

• Beginning, with the individual job seeker and career developer, and the hiring and promotion-directed strategies that they follow when seeking out a new job opportunity,
• And ending with the approaches that those same individuals follow when actually working at a business after achieving their next step goals in this.
• And as part of that, I will also consider the strategies and the tactics of others who work with them or who otherwise become stakeholders to these transaction flows (games.) This obviously has to include the hiring manager who would act as gatekeeper in bringing or not bringing them into this business as a new hire, and I will at least start discussing their role here when addressing the issues of the would-be employee themselves, but it of necessity also has to include a wide range of other stakeholders as well. And I will address them and their issues here too, in this series.

I said that I would address this list of issues, starting at the top, from the perspectives of both the would-be hire, and then ongoing in-house employee, and from that of the hiring manager who in most cases becomes their workplace supervisor once they are brought in and onboarded as an employee. I would treat in-house promotions in this sense as in-house hirings, and certainly when those seeking promotion do so in competition with would-be hires from the outside. But setting that specific case scenario aside for the moment, I said that I would address all of this from both the new hands-on non-managerial employee perspective, and the new-hire manager perspective as well. And as just repeated, I said that I would at least begin to discuss all of this from the perspective of a wider range of stakeholders who would be affected here too and from the interviewing process on.

I began all of this in Part 17, focusing on the pre-hire job candidate and the hiring manager who eventually selects them and offers them a job. And I finished that installment at the point of hire, stating that I would continue from there in this posting from day one as a new in-house employee, and how perspectives change and for both the new hire and for their manager and for other stakeholders involved there.

• When a would-be employee, seeking a new job applies for work, they essentially always arrive as largely unknown commodities for consideration, and for all details as to who they are and what they are like to work with and regarding how well they work, that cannot be captured in a resume or cover letter, or in brief and highly choreographed interviews. And given the dynamics of the hiring process and certainly as they are shaped by the flood of often largely irrelevant resume submissions sent out en mass to all hiring businesses, the basic goal from the hiring side in this is largely one of weeding out and eliminating wrong candidates, and not on finding reasons to hire what might be good ones (see Part 17 for a more detailed discussion of background issues relevant to this assertion,)
• There are exceptions to that more general approach of course, and certainly when a business specifically seeks out a particular possible new hire, who they might even court to try to entice them away from a current employer. But this is the basic pattern for all who send their resumes in on their own initiative, in response for example to online jobs postings.
• When a business does hire: when a hiring manager agrees to hire a particular job candidate, making that commitment on behalf of their employer and on behalf of the team they supervise that this new hire would join, the dynamics of this shift, and certainly as that new hire successfully completes their (usually at least approximately) 90 day probationary period, during which time they could be dismissed without a need for well argued justifying cause. Now the basic default is not to find justification not to have this person on payroll as an employee: it is to justify keeping them on and certainly if they do not behave in a manner that would make that explicitly untenable.
• A less than fully successful employee might never get a promotion, or a raise that goes beyond any required cost of living or related pay increases. And they might be among the first out of the door in the event of a downsizing, where dismissal would take place absent any onus of poor performance. But absent more special circumstance processes such as downsizings, an employee who at least meets their basic performance goals in their ongoing performance reviews is likely to stay on there, unless they choose to leave – or unless their job requirements and those of all others in their job category are changed in ways that they cannot even minimally successfully perform at.

All of these are business decisions that at least formally, ostensibly come from the business as an organizational whole and in accordance with its policies and practices as generally understood and carried out. But all of these decisions and actions are made and carried out by individuals who are balancing their own needs and their own agendas and their own workplace contexts in shaping them, as well as attempting to meet overall business needs as they individually perceive and understand them. And this includes addressing the needs and the desires and intentions of the people they report to and those of other stakeholders as well, and certainly where they wield power and influence in the business hierarchy and its networks of alliances that are in place.

Note that “business hierarchy” as used above, need not follow a simple linear, top-down command and control pattern, and many businesses disperse such authority and influence through more complex networks in actual practice, and even when the basic systems in place are presented as being top-down organized and run (e.g. as would be found in a military command structure as a perhaps extreme case in point example.) There, to pick up on that example, young Lieutenants would be foolish at the very least to not listen to their more experienced noncoms as sources of long-term experience and insight. Even good senior officers know when to listen to highly experienced, high ranking noncommissioned officers who in official practice report to them.

What I am doing here in this posting, is to at least briefly and selectively discuss the dynamics of agreement and of conflict, and connect and disconnect between the individual participant in these systems, and the overall organization and its needs and intent, as are variously understood throughout the business. And in that, and to repeat a point already made in this series, at least in passing, all of those individuals who work in that business, do so and see and understand “their” business from the perspectives of their own jobs and responsibilities there, and their day-to-day functional and organizational positions there.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will continue to flesh out the new hire to in-house employee transition scenario and start to more fully address the issues that a wider range of stakeholders bring to this transitional process. And I will explicitly discuss how all of this plays out (think game theory there) for non-managerial and for managerial level employees, executives included. And I will also, over the course of the next several installments, explicitly discuss promotions and both as carried out strictly in-house and as arise de facto from strategically moving on to work for a new employer where suitable job openings are not and cannot be available where an employee works now. In anticipation of that, I add here that I will frame this flow of discussion, at least in significant part in terms of two behavioral dynamics:

• Fear of the potential negatives of change and of the unknown, and focus on the positive possibilities of change and an embrace of the new and at least in-part unknown, as those job and career strategy-shaping presumptions arise and are followed and
• The potential for alignment and for discord when different stakeholder participants in a business interaction pursue different game theory strategies as they each attempt to reach their own goals.

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.

Technology as the tide that raises all boats 11 – but often unevenly 8

Posted in outsourcing and globalization, reexamining the fundamentals, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 7, 2017

This is my 11th installment to a discussion that I initially began as a single stand-alone posting in April, 2012, but that needs reconsidering. I focused in that posting, on a key issue that enters into a determination of how and when change rises to a level of significance so as to qualify as true innovation (see Outsourcing and Globalization, postings 25 and loosely following for Parts 1-10, and Part 1 of that in particular as the foundational urtext for this narrative.)

The at-times conflicting dynamics of innovation’s entry into, and acceptance in the marketplace are crucially important to the narrative that I have been developing here in this series. So I explicitly addressed two of the more overtly significant aspects of that in Part 9 and Part 10:

• Availability and accessibility of New in the marketplace (at all, and at an affordable cost there),
• And consumers’ levels of comfort with, and willingness to adapt New and how soon after it first appears as a marketplace possibility.

My goal for this installment is to address something of the underlying mechanisms of these dynamics, and certainly in an increasingly ubiquitously connected context, with a focus here on friction in these systems. And in the course of discussing and analyzing that, I will explicitly consider how both cultural and socioeconomic forces impact upon and help to shape innovative change and the opportunity for it as it advances forward all around us.

I begin addressing all of that by posting a basic and even fundamental question, that I have in fact answered at least in part, a number of times in the course of developing and writing postings and series to this blog:

• What is friction in this context?
• I start with a well established approach to answering that: with friction as that term is used in economic theory and as a general organizing principle there. Economic friction is resistance to systems efficiency as that arises from a lack of essential information, clearly stated and available when and as needed. Friction is the consequence of having to make economic and financial decisions absent even crucially necessary information at the time of decision making, that would be required in order to knowingly make a best decision then. Think of this as sand thrown in the gear box of Adam Smith’s invisible hand, where marketplace and economic system participants cannot make what would be the best decisions for themselves or for others (who for example, they might hold fiduciary responsibility toward), as they lack the information and insight that would be required for that. Economic friction is a measure of the consequence of faulty and limited information and its communication and it shapes the overall systems that it arises in, and the outcomes and consequences of decisions made in them.
• I adapt that basic term and its definition to the organizational level of the individual business with a matching term: business systems friction. And I apply that term at the level of the overall business or organization as a whole, and at the level of functional and other supposedly tightly connected functional subsystems that arise within the complete organization (e.g. as separate and distinct lines on a table of organization under single lines of leadership there, or as separate and distinct offices or facilities that formally belong within the business but that also function at least somewhat autonomously within it.) Looking outward and in the other direction for organizational scale, I also apply this term in the context of supply chain and related value chain systems, with the functionally interconnected and interacting businesses that enter into them, all collectively brought under direct consideration here.
• And here and in this context, I continue expanding the range of organizational levels that I would apply the basic term “friction” to, to consider individuals and social network and marketplace connected groups of them. Yes, the basic issues that I would encapsulate in what I will say here and in this context, have their counterparts within businesses and in groups of employees, and I would tend to include that context within the general rubric of business systems friction too. Here, I will focus on what I will categorically carve out as a more consumer and marketplace manifestation of friction. (Yes, this could reasonably be folded into the general economic friction definition, but I separate it out to consider this set of phenomena from an explicitly more micro-level.)

Consumers and marketplace participants in general, make their decisions to purchase or not to purchase on the basis of limited information, and in the face of faulty and at times even significantly limited and even contradictory communications. This is obvious when considering rapidly changing industries and their products, where consumers do not for example necessarily know when a newer and better next technology updated product will come out as they make their next purchasing decisions now. It also applies to the questions of quality and reliability, ease of use, and value of the features offered, in what they have to consider for purchase and even when they know that a new purchasing option is available to them. That is why crowd sourced and other (presumably) consumer product reviews are considered to be so valuable as an increasing common due diligence resource, and for so many. But even then, how can you tell if a negative review is the legitimate expression of opinion of a real product user, or just a troll attack fraud and perhaps one posted in subversive support for a competitor? How can you tell if a glowingly positive review is legitimate, or a fraud too, and even one directly posted by the product manufacturer or provider, or posted for-fee on their behalf? Information is always going to be incomplete and imperfect. And it can be difficult and even impossible to know precisely what to make of the marketplace information and perceived knowledge that is visible and available, that could be applied to purchasing decisions.

But this tells only one half of the story that I would make note of here. For purposes of this narrative, the second half might be even more important: the asymmetry in both the information available to, and the levels and types of information accessed by individuals in the overall marketplace, depending on where they most comfortably fit into a relevant innovation acceptance diffusion curve.

I admit that I am offering a more stereotyped assessment here, but add in its defense that in this case that simply means accepting the basic functional definitions of terms like pioneer and early adaptor on one end of the scale, and late and last adaptors on the other.

• When a new product, and particularly a disruptively novel one first arrives in the marketplace, the first people to see it are often published new product reviewers who tend themselves to be early and even pioneer adaptors. And they focus on all of the new details and their strengths and weaknesses, but from a New accepting and even New-embracing perspective. Pioneer and early adaptors who are drawn to the New and Different, tend to be drawn to these reviews and to make their own reviews and assessments of the product details offered too, through online social media. So their decisions to buy in or not, tend to be granular and detailed and on a specific New product level. And they tend to be shared through like-minded communities.
• Late and last adaptors do not generally read these types of reviews – ever. And they do not in general post or share their specific reviews or opinions either, and certainly not online in the manner that early adaptors do. They start out with a presumptive, more categorical bias against New and Different per se, at least until value has been proven in others’ hands as safe and reliable enough to meet their due diligence requirements and on a “once new” by “once new” basis. So their approach here is essentially by definition anything but fine grained and granular in nature and it does not enter into widely shared review and evaluation conversations. Outside sourced information that they would seek out and accept in this, is in large part evaluated in terms of how it does or does not support their basic a priori conclusion-based due diligence approach which is more risk aversive than benefit accepting in nature.
• And mid-stage adaptors fit in the middle there, looking both outward for details of the specific products that have come out to see how they might work for them, and both outward and inward for threat assessment driven risk management decision making. They also want to see at least some prior user experience as necessary input for their risk and benefits evaluation, but they are not entirely driven by that in their purchasing and usage decisions.
• That raises an important point. Both early and earliest, and late and last adaptors carry out risk and benefits assessments (and so do middle ground adaptors.) It is just that early end of the spectrum adaptors tend to weigh possible benefits more heavily than they do risks and late and last adaptors tend to reverse that. For a very real world, clarifying example there, consider government agencies such as the United States FBI and particularly when they seek to upgrade their computer network and file and data management systems. They do in fact look into the technical details and in more detail than essentially any early adaptors would or could. It is just that by the time they have finished their multi-stage vetting process for that, what began as new and cutting edge can have become old and even obsolete. This is not a fictionalized example; I am in fact briefly recalling a specific failed attempt at a massive, information systems upgrade in the FBI that collapsed around the time I first began writing to this blog. Possible risk was viewed as so outweighing possible benefit that nothing positive was, or could be achieved from that upgrade attempt, that ended up costing the US government well over a third of a billion dollars and with nothing to show from it in the way of new technology in place and in actual use.

There are a number of salient conclusions that could be drawn from this comparison between early end and late end adaptors as considered from an innovation diffusion and acceptance curve perspective. One that I would point to here is that most late adaptors seek out much less outside information and much less new product-specific information than do early adaptors ( my FBI example notwithstanding, as a perhaps rule-clarifying exception.) And this difference in the levels and range of sources of information sought out, and of the range of conversation flows entered into, means fundamental differences in the types and sources of friction faced when making these purchasing decisions, and when determining the timing of those decisions, for those two groups.

I said towards the top of this posting that I will consider “both cultural and socioeconomic impact as innovative change and the opportunity for it advances all around us.” I will more explicitly delve into those issues and into the issues of early and late adapting communities in my next series installment. I simply add here and in anticipation of that, that this set of issues becomes definingly important in a ubiquitously connected, social media driven context that we now live in. (I will question that assertion in my next installment too, as part of its discussion.)

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. I also include this in Outsourcing and Globalization – and see that directory for related material. And I include a link to this posting as a supplemental addition to Section VII: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals (reconsidered), of Reexamining the Fundamentals too.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 17: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 9

This is my 17th 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 1-16.)

I began this series with a discussion of general theories and what they consist of, as a matter of general organizing principle (see Parts 1-8.) And after laying a foundation in that, for focusing in on a general theory of business as a special case, I began addressing the more specific intended topic of this series as laid out in its title. And I have focused essentially entirely since then on the organizational level of the business as a whole. I then switched orientation, and level of organization in Part 16, to consider business theory from the perspective of the individual participant in these systems. I offered Part 16 as a whole, as an orienting start to that discussion thread, and in the course of that offered two basic approaches that can be and that frequently are pursued:

• That of the entrepreneur who takes a more consultant approach to their work and to dealing with their employer,
• And that of an employee who in effect leaves their own longer-term jobs and career planning to their employer and in the hands of the people who they report to there.

I at least briefly argued a case for pursuing the first of these approaches but acknowledged both, and a need for a general theory of business to accommodate and include both as well. And with that stated, I offered a brief to-address list of points in Part 16 that categorically list how different types of stakeholders would participate in business systems. And I added that I will at least begin to address those topic points here, which I repeat for purposes of continuity, considering businesses:

1. From the perspective of the individual employee, whether hands-on and non-managerial or managerial, or executive or owner, and with consideration of a still wider range of stakeholder types as well.
2. From the perspective of how each of these groups of stakeholders see themselves and other stakeholder types, and in both risk and benefits, risk management terms and in game theory terms,
3. And according to how the members of these groups see themselves as strictly in-house employees with their leaving their longer-term planning in the hands of their employers, or as more independent entrepreneurs and consultants who take direct ownership over and responsibility for their own work and career planning and its execution.

And I said that I would begin doing so by way of offering an orienting scenario, which I framed in general terms that “begins with the individual career developer and the hiring and promotion-directed strategies that they follow, and ends with the approaches that those same individuals follow when actually working at a business. And as part of that, I will also consider the strategies and the tactics of others who work with them or who otherwise become stakeholders to these transaction flows (games.)” And I said that I will approach this from both the individual and the business perspective. I begin that here.

When you are looking for a new job and you put at least a measure of thought and effort into that proposition, you seek to find an organization to work at in which you can gain value for yourself in meeting your own needs, while offering value in return that would make you an attractive hire and a valued employee. This means you’re having and effectively presenting skills and experience that you would want to use and build upon in a next job and as you pursue further development of your overall career. And it means presenting them to potential employers who would find value to themselves and to their enterprises, in what you can demonstrably do.

This is not a friction-free system and particularly in an age and an employment context where so many would-be job seekers send out hundreds and even thousands of copies of the same generic resumes electronically, at no cost or additional effort on their part to essentially every business that might be hiring that fits within what might be a very vaguely defined target audience. The result is that essentially all hiring businesses these days, push all resumes received into digitalized database systems and effectively filter out and discard all that do not meet the initial screening criteria of automated search queries. No human ever reads the vast majority of the flood of what is essentially spam and background static that goes into those systems, and all of the submissions that are received that do not make any first cuts, is generally mass-deleted after some set period of time in limbo in them, never to be considered there again.

I would argue, in a more explicitly jobs and career best practices context that this means we should all be more focused in what we submit and where, and that we need to know and use the same wording that the businesses that we would apply to, use in their posted job descriptions that we would apply to, and both for the skills and experience that we offer and for precisely how we phrase them. From a business theory perspective, I focus here on how the hiring process takes place in the context of what communications theory would refer to as noisy channels that are filled with background static, and in a context that I refer to (in more economics theory terms) as being limited by business systems friction.

This flood of often and even usually non sequitur resumes would overwhelm the hiring process if it were not for automated, database screening filters. That work-around can and does add entirely new forms of constraint on those who seek to find work and certainly for any position that is not entry-level or otherwise highly standardized. I write here of the emerging 21st (and undoubtedly beyond) context that hiring now takes place in and increasing as a universally applicable source of constraints and for any job offering that would draw in wide ranging interest and response of any type.

If as a job seeker, you send out enough copies of your e-resume to enough businesses you will probably, eventually get something of a response – but the level of chance in where that comes from and in what you might achieve as a next job out of that will be very limited, and certainly insofar as you would seek to strategically pursue a longer-term career and advance in what you do. So I will presume in what follows that you take more of a planned approach, as I discuss in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development in its postings and series (see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 listings.) And I presume that any hiring manager and other stakeholders who screen and select applicants, and who help determine who a final selection hire will be, are equally systematic in their hiring processes and decision making too.

• Basic underlying assumptions made are important. And I assume here, as an at least for-now axiomatic assumption that the people on both sides of a potential hiring process are following something of an at least relatively consistent and rigorous logic in what they do and how, and that they act accordingly.

This is very important. I will delve into the issues of reductionism and of emergent properties and processes as they arise at higher levels of organization, later on in this series and in some detail for that. But hiring new employees and I add the management of ongoing employees at a business is always carried out by individual people, and even if and when they do follow detailed strategically organized approved business-wide operational processes and procedures.

There is a dynamic balance in that. Most hiring managers in general, do seek to pursue courses that would benefit the businesses that they work for. But at the same time, they also seek to take actions that would facilitate their own personal success in their jobs too, and ones that would help them to advance their own careers, and to maximize their own job security and their own compensation received for what they do in the process. And they interpret what is best for their employer at least in part in terms of that.

The people on both sides of a hiring process participate in it as individuals, and even when they are also serving as agents for the hiring business when on the hiring side of that table. And this enters into their thinking and into their decision making, and both as they perceive and evaluate possible risk and possible benefit as they make their hiring decisions. And this shapes any emergent, higher level organizational factors (e.g. the overall business side to hiring here) that they might enter into.

Turning back to consider the employee side of this again, this addresses the emerging situation for employee participation in a business up to the point when they are first hired. Now let’s assume for purposes of continuity of discussion, that they prove themselves as a best candidate, are offered the job and accept it for the terms of employment and of compensation offered. I am going to switch directions in my next series installment here, and consider this narrative from their day one as a new hire, and how perspectives change, and for both the new hire and for their manager and other stakeholders involved. In the course of that, I will begin to more explicitly discuss the issues raised in the three numbered to-address points listed at the top of this posting.

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.

Technology as the tide that raises all boats 10 – but often unevenly 7

Posted in outsourcing and globalization, reexamining the fundamentals, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 28, 2017

This is my 10th installment to a discussion that I initially began as a single stand-alone posting in April, 2012, but that needs reconsidering. I focused in that posting, on a key issue that enters into a determination of how and when change rises to a level of significance so as to qualify as true innovation (see Outsourcing and Globalization, postings 25 and loosely following for Parts 1-9, and Part 1 of that in particular as the foundational urtext for this narrative.)

I focused in Part 9 of this, on the impact of globalization on innovation, as inexpensive and readily available ubiquitously connecting anywhere-to-anywhere communications and information sharing have broken down so many of the barriers between what were once separate marketplaces and buyer communities.

And in the course of discussing that perspective, I at least briefly made note of how this has contributed to a speeding up of innovation and its emergence in the marketplace as new product and service offerings arise and can find viable niche markets. And I added in that context that a speeding up of the pace of innovation and of what is now becoming available, is pressuring everyone to shift towards more rapid acceptance of change, foreshortening the innovation acceptance diffusion curve and challenging and even threatening those who would normally fit towards the late and last adaptor end of the curve. Quite simply, late and last adaptor now means falling further behind the more median acceptance rate norm than it used to, and even much further behind for the extreme late end of the new technology diffusion acceptance curve.

As a point of perspective, even if an imperfect one, I would compare this emerging trend to the still-wide digital divide that separates new and emerging technology have and have-not communities. But the divide that I write of here, is not one where new and next are access-restricted and regardless of desire to actively participate in and use new and emerging technologies with the empowerment that they could bring. This divide is one where new and next are increasingly, seemingly forced on everyone and whether they are prepared for it or not.

I cite the digital divide here, as usually depicted in an international, have and have-not nation context, for a reason. In practice, have-not communities and left-behind ones can be found in even the more technologically advanced have-oriented, developed nations and certainly when you consider communities that were built up around what have become obsolete technologies and that have suffered economically as a result. Consider the so called rust belt communities of the United States and the old coal mining communities in states such as West Virginia. The two divides that I write of here, can and do go hand in hand in many places, where a combination of lack of access, and fear of further change can create a truly toxic synergy.

To put that more general observation, in the specific perspective of a still in-the-news context that is playing out in the United States as I write this:

• How much of the “conservative” and “ultra-conservative” versus “liberal” and “progressive” debate, and even conflict that we now see, actually reflects a division in how different demographics can or cannot readily accommodate change, and a steady barrage of it and from seemingly all directions, all the time? Remember how one of the clarion calls of disaffection of Donald Trump’s followers is their yearning to return to simpler times and to the way things used to be – when the world was more familiar and less disruptively changing.

I wrote in Part 9 of the pressures of rapid innovative change in what is offered in the marketplace, and the pressures that this places on consumers to accept and adapt and to change too, and both as individuals and as members of communities. I counter that here with a matching discussion of pushback and even overt resistance to that demand for change, that can be in part shaped by availability of New but that is even more driven by resistance to being changed, and certainly where that would be viewed as being coerced.

I wrote Part 9 in terms of balances between competing forces and drives, and I continue that same basic narrative approach here. The marketplace and its participants always face competing pressures and demands, and competing needs. This means they are always facing dynamic balances of competing forces and both around them and within them as they make their purchasing and usage decisions. And this brings me to a fundamental point that underlies much if not all of this series and its progression of discussion and analysis: the phenomenon of friction in all of this, as it shapes both the rate and direction in which these dynamic balances of forces play out.

I will discuss friction as I use that term here, in my next series installment, where I will consider both cultural and socioeconomic impact as innovative change and the opportunity for it advances all around us. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. I also include this in Outsourcing and Globalization – and see that directory for related material. And I include a link to this posting as a supplemental addition to Section VII: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals (reconsidered), of Reexamining the Fundamentals too.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 16: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 8

This is my 16th 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 1-15.)

I began this series with a discussion of general theories and what they consist of, as a matter of general organizing principle (see Parts 1-8.) And after laying a foundation in that, for focusing in on a general theory of business as a special case, I began addressing the more specific intended topic of this series as laid out in its title. And I have focused essentially entirely since then on the organizational level of the business as a whole, first treating these entities as if they were essentially monolithic in nature, and then opening the box a little to consider their functional and organizational structure too – at least at the level of granularity that would appear on a standard table of organization. But even there, my focus was on how they fit together and functioned together in collectively comprising the business organization as a whole.

As a matter of organizing this series and its narrative if nothing else, I have chosen to address this fundamentally single business level of conceptual organization as a baseline that I would organize the series as a whole around. And then in the course of writing Part 15, I stated that I would turn from that to:

1. Consider the basic issues raised and considered in this series, from the perspective of the individual business stakeholders.
2. And then I will expand the scale of consideration outward from that of the single complete business enterprise to consider supply chain and related value chain systems and I add, business and marketplace ecosystems.

I will, of course recurringly return to reconsider the baseline middle ground organizational level of the individual business organization, and both when focusing in on the individual and when telescoping out to consider the larger business and economic contexts, that businesses reside in and function in. But I offer this as a brief anticipatory outline of what is to follow.

I begin all of this with Point 1, as restated and reorganized from Part 15, above. And I begin that by at least briefly connecting what I will offer here, to a progression of series and individual postings that I have been offering in this blog as my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development (see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 listings.)

My goal for that Guide is to offer what experience and insight that I can, on finding and securing jobs and working successfully in them, and both at the individual job and career step level and in an explicit career and overall career development context. I have worked with a fairly wide range of businesses and in a variety of industries and in a fairly wide range of types of positions, and I have actively sought out opportunity to learn from others in this. As such, I probably have seen first-hand and directly experienced a wider range of job and career possibilities than most. But I am still just a single individual and offer what I can there, as filtered through the biases and assumptions of my own experience. As such, I still offer a limited perspective there, and even if a relatively comprehensive one with over 550 short essays included in it as of this writing. But there are a few fundamental points of observation and experience that underlie all of that, that I would start from here as essentially axiomatic assumptions, going into this general theory discussion:

• Even when we work for a single employer as an in-house employee and throughout our work life, we should still think of ourselves as if we were consultants, who might find ourselves having to work with a next employer and a next consulting client as developing and emerging circumstances dictate. No job or job opportunity can safely be presumed to last forever, as a tacit and unconsidered assumption.
• An employing business and its underlying assumptions and sense of self-interest are separate and distinct from those of our own. And while our employment with such an enterprise might seem long-term and even open-ended, we can never assume that as an absolute given. Business employer, and personal employee needs and interests can come to differ and diverge and change, and even disruptive change in employment options and possibilities can arise.
• So always think of yourself at least in part as an independent consultant, even if you are working in-house and long-term with one “client” employer. And always think of yourself at least in part as an independent small business, and with your own needs: short-term and immediate, and long-term firmly and clearly in mind.

This is important, and I add this is a point of observation and of conclusion that underlies how I address Point 1 of the above list. Any general theory of business that seeks to address the organizational level of the individual needs to address this type of consideration, and both for those who are entrepreneurial (i.e. who take this approach) and for those who simply see themselves as someone else’s employee.

And with this in place, I offer here, an at least preliminary to-address list of Point 1 oriented issues and perspectives that I will delve into in this series as I consider its level of organization:

• From the perspective of the individual employee, whether hands-on and non-managerial or managerial, or executive or owner, and with consideration of a still wider range of stakeholder types as well.
• From the perspective of how each of these groups of stakeholders see themselves and other stakeholder types, and in both risk and benefits, risk management terms and in game theory terms,
• And according to how the members of these groups see themselves as strictly in-house employees with their leaving their longer-term planning in the hands of their employers, or as more independent entrepreneurs and consultants who take direct ownership over and responsibility for their own work and career planning and its execution.

I am going to begin addressing these points and their issues in my next installment to this series, with a discussion grounding scenario that begins with the individual career developer and the hiring and promotion-directed strategies that they follow, and ends with the approaches that those same individuals follow when actually working at a business. And as part of that, I will also consider the strategies and the tactics of others who work with them or who otherwise become stakeholders to these transaction flows (games.) My goal there will be to ground a perhaps more abstract line of discussion in more real world jobs and careers terms, and with a more familiar experience-based foundation point that I will be able to refer back to while discussing Point 1 issues in general.

And I will discuss all of this from the perspective of:

• The individual as they work and plan and carry out their careers, and
• From the business process and execution side as individuals work to achieve goals and priorities and stretch goals and their priorities, in meeting business needs.

And as my goal here is to offer a general theory of business that would offer value in an emerging 21st century, and not just serve as a retrospective on the 20th century, I will of necessity also address:

• The issues of globalization here, where outsourcing is just one piece to that puzzle,
• And workplace automation, where a combination of artificial intelligence and robotization are reshaping what employment and even employability mean.

I am going to begin all of this in my next series installment, with the above-cited grounding scenario and will proceed from there to address in turn the rest of the issues noted here. 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.

Technology as the tide that raises all boats 9 – but often unevenly 6

This is my 9th installment to a discussion that I initially began as a single stand-alone posting in April, 2012, but that needs reconsidering. I focused in that posting, on a key issue that enters into a determination of how and when change rises to a level of significance so as to qualify as true innovation (see Outsourcing and Globalization, postings 25 and loosely following for Parts 1-8, and Part 1 of that in particular as the foundational urtext for this narrative.)

I focused in Part 8 of this, on the pace and scale of change and of innovation, considering two related but nevertheless categorically distinct arenas where innovation can take place:

1. Innovation within the business and in how it is structured and organized and in how it functions, operationally, and
2. Innovation in what that business brings to market as products and services offered.

My primary area of focus there was a continued discussion of the relative potential pace of change and of innovative change in particular and in both of these contexts. Then at the end of Part 8, I said that I would continue from it here, with explicit consideration of:

• Globalization and the scale of the marketplace, and its capacity to create and support progressively finer-scale niche markets even as it drives global conformity too, and
• The realities of the technology diffusion and acceptance curve, and of push-back pressures from the marketplace as they would serve to limit and shape the pace of accelerating innovation acceptance and of innovation occurrence as well, where technological factors alone might dictate faster and faster.

I begin this posting and its line of discussion with the first point and by acknowledging what should be obvious to essentially everyone, and everywhere now: a combination of ubiquitous, anywhere to anywhere communications and computer-supported connectivity and information sharing, has effectively limited the barriers that have traditionally divided us, and removed them entirely for many purposes.

• Since the advent of wireless telephony, and certainly since the advent of inexpensive, computationally powerful, readily available smart phones, globalization has meant all of us and everywhere at least significantly starting to come together as a single overall globally connected community.

China has its great firewall: its Golden Shield Project to try to limit and control the global conversation at least as far as it would include their own citizens. And at least some other nations actively seek to control their people, for their being able to join this conversation flow too. As an extreme case in point example of that, consider North Korea where all phone conversations are monitored, no average citizen has access to computers or the internet, and cell phones do not exist – except for a small and carefully monitored minority.

The more restricted the access to this globalization that the citizens of a country are, the more forcefully that country and its citizens are pushed into being de facto late and last adaptors to change taking place around them. The more openly connected a people are, the more visible and the more accessible the change taking place around them can be for them, and the more pressingly intrusive it can become too as new keeps rushing in to supplant current with next and with a still newer next after that. And this can serve to pressure people towards the faster adaptor end of the innovation acceptance diffusion curve.

I am going to return to that set of issues a bit later in this series. But let’s step back from it, at least for the moment to consider a key element to the first of the two topics bullet points offered above: scale in globalization. I wrote of two at least apparently conflicting drives in that bullet point that are emergent to globalization per se, and certainly in a ubiquitously connected context: its capacity to create and support progressively finer-scale niche markets and its drive to create global conformity too (as the dynamics behind the Pareto principle weed out perhaps many possible alternatives, leaving single “best” or at least most accepted alternatives predominating, and wherever change leads to possible diversity.)

When anyone and seemingly everyone who would potentially fit into and support a niche market can do so, it becomes possible to achieve a sufficient available consumer base for it, to make it feasible for businesses to produce and sell to it, in meeting its niche defined needs. And it becomes practical and feasible for businesses to actively pursue and meet the needs, and profitably so, for more finely, narrowly defined niche markets too. This in and of itself means support for diversity and for several and even many alternative product or service possibilities and all at once, each achieving real market success. But the forces behind that empirically observable diversity winnowing mechanism: the Pareto principle, keeps cutting back on at least widely available choice, at the same time with the emergence of market dominating winners too.

• Think of the balance of diversity and its supportive pressures, and of conformity in the form of Pareto principle winners,
• As representing the creative destruction dynamic, that is sometimes offered as a working definition of disruptive change per se. Old is swept away by change, and so are many and even most emerging change options too. And it is not always going to be apparent, and certainly not up-front, which particular new will thrive, or even which new possibilities will even survive as the flow of change advances.

And this brings me to the second of the above two topics bullet points, which I have in fact already begun to address when discussing and analyzing the issues of the first of them:

• The realities of the technology diffusion and acceptance curve, and the pressures of the marketplace that would limit and shape the pace of accelerating innovation acceptance and of innovation occurrence as well.

I am going to more fully discuss this and its implications in a next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. I also include this in Outsourcing and Globalization – and see that directory for related material. And I include a link to this posting as a supplemental addition to Section VII: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals (reconsidered), of Reexamining the Fundamentals too.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 15: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 7

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on June 13, 2017

This is my 15th 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 1-14.)

I began addressing business strategy and operations from a game theory perspective in Part 12 and Part 13 and continued that in Part 14, successively examining win-win, win-lose and mixed strategies and how they arise as best perceived approaches in business contexts. And my primary focus there was at the level of the complete business enterprise, as a more monolithic entity that would follow a single, if mutable strategy and game theory approach. I have at least touched on how different areas of a single business can pursue differing game theory-based approaches to meet their specific needs, and in support of a single overarching business strategy. But I have mostly focused on businesses as a whole there.

1. I am going to more explicitly consider how different areas of a single business can pursue differing game theory approaches, and even in support of a single shared business mission and vision and a single overarching strategy and business plan. And I will at least begin doing so here in this installment.
2. After that I will consider the basic issues raised and considered in this series, from the perspective of the individual employee, whether hands-on and non-managerial or managerial, or executive or owner. I add here that a still wider range of stakeholders has to be considered here so I will throw a wider net when delving into this set of issues, than would be included within the boundaries of any one organization.
3. And then I will expand the scale of consideration outward from that of the single complete business enterprise to consider supply chain and related value chain systems and I add, business and marketplace ecosystems. If Point 1 here addresses a baseline middle ground level of consideration, Point 2 focuses in to a deeper, finer grained level that underlies it and this Point 3 telescopes outward to consider the wider context that Point 2 issues take place in.

But I begin this at the organizational level of functional areas and separate offices and related facilities within a single business entity as they might pursue different mixes in an overall mixed game strategy approach.

I begin this with the fundamentals, as initially laid out in a complete business-as-single-unit context in Part 14, where I repeated how and why a business would pursue a win-win approach, and why it would preferentially find greater value and reduced risk from pursuing a win-lose approach:

• Win-win makes the most sense, offering higher overall value and reduced risk, long term when a business, or in the context of this posting, a unit or functionally distinct element of that business, faces long-term stability, and with reciprocity for value offered where it is shared. I couched this in supply chain and similar business-to-business collaborative contexts in earlier series installments as listed above, and in terms of business-to-market and business-to-customer dealings where positive value shared and offered lead to increased business and increased revenue and profits generated.
• This same basic paradigmatic model applies essentially entirely as-is, within businesses too and certainly when a functional unit or area under consideration is viewed as working with other areas of their own overall business as if in a supply chain system with them, and when they are viewed as serving the needs of a marketplace, and even if that means in-house clients and customers.
• Win-lose on the other hand, applies and both for entire businesses and for functionally separable units of them, when they enter into value creating transactional processes with other areas of a business that would only be expected to continue for a limited duration,
• Or that would be carried out under conditions of greater perceived risk and uncertainty as to how value would be exchanged (where that, for example can mean either uncertainty as to payout, or limitations to the overall pool of value that could be paid out that would not necessarily cover all value owed),
• Or for some combination of these win-lose oriented strategy-shaping constraints.

Win-win would probably seem fairly obvious as an approach within a business, and certainly when the success of any given unit or functional element in an enterprise is tightly linked to the success of the business it is part of as a whole, and to the success of all other areas of that larger entity. Where would you expect to see a more win-lose game strategy apply here? I have in fact discussed businesses and business contexts where win-lose is the only approach that would make sense within a business, on a number of occasions in assembling this blog. And I begin addressing this general area of consideration by citing a few of those relevant contexts here, at least in general terms:

• Consider the perhaps all too familiar situation in which a business has at most a limited level of some critical resource that would have to be shared by multiple employees and even by multiple here-competing teams or other units within a business (e.g. a single very expensive and costly to maintain piece of equipment that has become a functional bottleneck for the business as a whole, but that it cannot readily afford to buy more copies of.) Now consider what happens when the various business units and their managers and staffs compete for access to this one crucial resource and with all involved facing very tight completion deadlines for their work that calls for it, and with intense pressures from higher up on the table of organization for everyone to meet their performance goals and on time if not before then.
• Even if the business as a whole seeks to pursue a more purely win-win approach with other collaborating businesses, circumstances that would be difficult to fully control can bring units within it into more win-lose competition. And there, one of the goals of the leadership of such an enterprise would be to limit this, and to find a way to resolve the resource bottlenecks in place in their systems that engender it.
• As a second, in effect intentionally staged example of within-business win-lose competition, I cite an approach to business leadership that I have seen play out. Some business owners and executive leaders intentionally create competitive conflict between the people and the teams of employees and managers that work for them. And this can literally take the form of assigning the same exact goals to more than one individual or team and under terms where everyone involved knows that the winner of these races will be rewarded and the losers punished. Yes, this is toxic; some managers are toxic in how they lead and manage and through setting up win-lose conflicts that are at best only mildly damaging and certainly to morale and to achieving employee buy-in.

I offer that last example for a variety of reasons. First of all, I do so because it does in fact represent a real world within-business win-lose scenario that I have seen play out and even in businesses that by all outward appearance seem to be quite successful. And when other workplace factors are added in that would influence stay or go decision making on the part of employees caught up in these conflicts, this type of competition might not in and of itself lead to a real increase in key employee turnover either. So I am not necessarily citing this as a reason for change management becoming necessary: I am simply citing it as a challenging workplace environment where win-lose competition can become relatively commonplace and certainly on high priority projects.

Beyond that, I also cite this to note a point that should be obvious but that is often overlooked in discussion of business and management practices and processes: a truly general theory of business should address bad and questionable processes and practices and as thoroughly as good and best ones, and how they related to each other and how they would be distinguished from each other.

I am going to continue this discussion and addressing those issues in a next series installment, where I will turn to consider the second numbered point of my above repeated to-address list, and the individual employee, manager, executive or owner and their issues.

In anticipation of that and as a closing comment to my perhaps toxic seeming second win-lose competition example from above, I briefly recount an in-house competition that I have seen and participated in, in a differently run business, which for purposes of this narrative, I identify as an up and coming high tech firm: Alweron Inc.

• Alweron took on a major project as the successful bidder in a competition held by a national government agency. And the initial project proposal that they offered did in fact fit entirely within their current technology and technical solutions comfort zone, which is why they were able to bid to complete at the cost and within the timeframe that they offered.
• Then, as sometimes happens and certainly in a cutting edge technology context, the lead project manager and their team assigned to this work, ran into a roadblock, where they came to realize that a key element of their solution could not be made to work, at least with what for them was their currently available off the shelf technology.
• They got creative and in effect held an in-house stretch-goals contest, coming out of a company-wide brainstorming session that all employees and managers could participate in, as they sought to arrive at a best approach for resolving this impasse. And three teams came together, each attempting to solve this problem with a different, novel innovative solution that they had initially sketched out in principle in that brainstorming session. The winner of this contest would be rewarded with extra vacation days that year and with a cash bonus, upon delivery of their working solution, and with the first to cross this finish line with a cost-effective problem resolution declared to be the winner. Early delivery, ahead of the designated and agreed to deadline for completion, would mean a larger bonus too, as this would help the business as a whole to complete the overall project ahead of schedule and achieve an early completion bonus from the agency that was paying for this project to be done in the first place.

This was as much a win-lose scenario situation, as is presented in the above outlined more toxically presented in-house competition scenario. But rather than being set up to pit employees and teams against each other, to keep everyone a bit scared of possible failure to perform and succeed, this win-lose contest was organized and run to encourage out of the box creativity, and with bonus and longer-term career enhancement potential. The overall orientation of this was positive, rather than negative and affirming rather than threatening.

I am going to discuss business processes and practices from the perspective of the individuals involved, with a focus on assumptions made and the contexts that decisions and their follow-through are made in. Here, to note a point of difference between these two in-house competitions, both of them were set up as competitions between employees and groups of them that would see themselves as opponents to each other. But the second of them was not set up in such a way as to make this a basic workplace norm. And it was not set up with a goal of bringing employees and managers there to see each other as opponents, and even at least potentially as enemies in a drive to meet senior executive and owner expectations. A general theory of business has to include and both descriptively and predictively explain that too.

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.

%d bloggers like this: