Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 4

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 1, 2017

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

I initially made note in Part 2 of this series, of two specific business scenarios:

• A new, young, small startup that seeks to leverage its liquidity and other assets available as creatively and effectively as possible, and from its day one when it is just starting to develop the basic template that it would scale up from,
• And a larger, established business that has become at least somewhat complacent and somewhat sclerotic in the process, and with holdover systems and organizational process flows that might not reflect current actual needs or opportunities faced.

And I focused, and certainly in Part 3, on the second, larger and more established business type, under consideration here.

The first of these business scenarios is relatively obvious and intuitively so by comparison. New, small businesses have very little in the way of liquidity and either for reserves or for more immediate day-to-day operations, marketing included. So anything that they could do, that would favorably extend their marketing reach and their overall name and brand recognition would be for the good. Bringing marketplace participants into this effort, with their personal name recognition in their circles of friends and acquaintances, and as supporters and endorsers of a new business would be all but invaluable to that enterprise in helping it gain traction, and market share and more quickly than they could ever achieve on their own. So gorilla and viral marketing, as supported by the always connected, anywhere to anywhere of online social media, are obvious and increasingly essential resources – disintermediating the marketing process by eliminating third party publishing gatekeepers and directly connecting with and collaborating with the marketplace itself.

That is simple and straightforward. So I focused in Part 3 on the second scenario, which is much less so, where I offered an intentionally planned out digression into how these businesses are structured and into how they function per se. Why did I do that? My goal for this posting is to at least briefly explain that, and to complete this background foundation-building note, if for no other reason.

Let’s begin with that first, simple startup and early stage business example, as a point of comparison for what is to follow here. I just noted that they have little liquidity available, and either for reserves and for dealing with possible set-backs, or for maintaining their ongoing day-to-day activities with the expenses involved there. This is true, and essentially by definition for such enterprises and even if they do have outside investor backers as that type of funding can get burned through very quickly if it is not carefully managed and if its use is not stringently limited. But for purposes of this discussion, it is more important to note that with very small headcounts and with more direct communications throughout the organization, organizational systems are simple and direct and the effective table of organization, as actually followed operationally can be relatively flat and even entirely so for a variety of business functions and purposes.

Gorilla and viral marketing approaches can be viewed as simply following this same basic approach, and both as a necessity and as a source of opportunity, while limiting expenses in direct cash and in timing-delay forms. A larger and more established business might have greater reserves and larger and more reliably established cash flows that could be used in support of ongoing business activity. But more importantly here, they are also essentially certain to have much more complicated organizational structures with many, many more organizational layers and a much more complex and settled system of distinct supervisory and management led teams – and with all of the partitions that this creates, and barriers to smooth and friction-free communications and decision making. And I stress here that the boundaries separating these partitioned off table of organization layers, and the presence of all of those separate groups within the organization all offer opportunity for business friction with reduced and slowed down communications, and with all of the adverse consequences that this can create and certainly where a business seeks to be agile and resilient in the face of possible change. This impacts upon both internal, within-business communications, and on externally facing and connecting marketing and related communications efforts too.

One of the foundation-building observations that I made in this series and early on in it, which I repeated at the start of this installment, is that “my focus here may be marketing-oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards.” Here is where that becomes explicitly important:

• It cannot make a positive, value creating or enhancing difference to disintermediate and simplify operational processes and the communications that enable them in one area of a business (e.g. in marketing), if that more streamlined subsystem fits into and works within a larger overall business that is overly complex and bogged down with business systems friction and related inefficiency-producing barriers that undo any possible benefit so gained.

Small businesses such as startups and early stage businesses can find it a lot easier to make options and approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing work for them, because they do not attenuate and lose any potential value advantage so gained in a veritable swamp of overall inefficiency and delay, which can arise and certainly as a worst-case situation.

• And with that type of change management requiring example in mind, I note that simply adding in or attempting to add in new and exciting innovations such as gorilla and viral marketing, and without reviewing and correcting the inefficiencies and disconnects that this would have to work through, cannot help.

In a more normative context, with fewer and much less severe slow-downs and their inefficiencies, any advantage from directly connecting into the marketplace and with real participants there, can still easily be attenuated away and lost to the business – with that leaving dissatisfied members of those marketplace communities, when and as their efforts to positively communicate with the business seem to drift off into the twilight zone.

And with this offered as background material for thinking through these two business types, I return to the types of issues that I raised towards the top of this posting regarding how and why they would turn to approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing. And I pose two questions that I will at least begin to address in my next series installment, which I raise here in anticipation of what is to come:

• How best can an established business that is set in its more traditional ways, break that perhaps long-established pattern to bring in innovative new approaches such as disintermediated marketing?
• And how can such a business make this work for them, and in ways that do not simply leave any value potential created, lost in the complexities of the rest of the business?

In anticipation of this, and addressing these questions, I add in one more, as a point of orienting focus:

• Can an established and even at least somewhat sclerotic business use the introduction of new and different, such as gorilla or viral marketing as a starting point for reinvigorating and updating the business as a whole, and if so, how?

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. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

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Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 4

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on September 25, 2017

This is my fourth installment to a new series on cyber risk and cyber conflict in a still emerging 21st century interactive online context, and in a ubiquitously social media connected context and when faced with a rapidly interconnecting internet of things among other disruptively new online innovations (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2, postings 354 and loosely following for Parts 1-3.)

I have been discussing the more malicious weaponization of new and emerging cyber-technology in this series. And I have at the same time been discussing the continued vulnerabilities that we still face and seemingly without end, from already known threat vectors that arise from more established technologies too. That second thread to this discussion is one that I have recurringly returned to in the course of writing this blog and unfortunately, it remains as relevant a topic of discussion as ever when considering cyber-security and either locally and within single organizations, or nationally and even globally.

But at the same time that I have been delving into this combined, new and old technical side to cyber-attack and to the risk and threat of it, I have been delving into the more human side to this challenge too, and the risks of careless online behavior, and the challenge of social engineering attacks that would exploit it. Cyber-risk and cyber-security inextricably include both technology and human behavior aspects and each shapes and in fact can help to even create the other.

And with this noted, I add the issues of clarity and transparency into this discussion too, and I do so by way of a seemingly unrelated case in point example that I would argue serves as a metaphor for the security issues and vulnerabilities that I write of here:

• I went to see a physician recently for an appointment at her office. And when I go there, I saw only one person working behind the receptionist counter instead of the usual two that I had come to expect. The now-vacant part of the counter that patients would go to when arriving, had a tablet computer in place instead, with basic appointment sign-in now automated and for any scheduled return patients to use. That was not a problem, in and of itself. The problem that I found in this, was that this now automated system was much more involved than any verbal sign-in had ever been, with requirements that every patient sign multiple screens, each involving an authorization approval decision on a separate issue or set of them. Most of these screens in fact represented lengthy legal documents, ranging into the many hundreds and even thousands of words. And at least one of them meant my agreeing to or declining to participate in what turned out to be patient records sharing programs that I had never heard of and that had never come up in my dealings with that physician or with the hospital that she is affiliated with. I objected that this did not give me opportunity to make informed consent decisions, with patients waiting to sign in after me and with my scheduled appointment start time fast approaching. And the receptionist there rolled her eyes and said something to the effect that she was “used to being yelled at” by dissatisfied and impatient people. She briefly tried explaining what those two programs were on that one very lengthy screen but it was clear that she did not know the answer to that herself. So I signed as best I could, unsure of what some of my sign-in decisions actually meant, and then I went to my appointment.

When an online computer user clicks to a link, they might or might not realize that they are in effect signing an information access agreement too, and often one where they do not know that they are doing this and usually one where they do not understand the possible range and scope of such agreements. And this information sharing goes both ways and that fact is often overlooked. Supposedly legitimate online businesses can and at times do insert cookies and related web browser tracking software onto their link-clicking site visitors’ computers, and some even use link clicks to their servers to push software back onto a visitor’s computer to turn off or disable ad blocking software. And they do this without explicit warning and certainly not on the screens that users would routinely click to on their sites: hiding any such disclosures on separate and less easily found “terms of usage” web pages. And I am writing of “legitimate” businesses there. Even they take active and proactive actions that can change the software on a visitor’s computer and without their explicit knowledge or consent.

When you add in the intentionally malicious, and even just the site owners who would “push the boundaries” of legality, that can have the effect of opening Pandora’s box. And my above cited example of businesses that seek to surreptitiously turn off ad blocker apps is just one of the more benign(?) of the “boundary pusher” examples that I could cite here.

The Russian hackers of my 2016 US elections example as discussed in this series, and their overtly criminal cousins just form an extreme end point to a continuum of outside sourced interactivity that we all face when we go online. And this ranges from sites that offer you a link to “remember” your account login on their web site so you do not have to reenter it every time you go there on your computer, to sites that would try downloading keystroke logger software on your computer so their owners can steal those login names and passwords and wherever you go online from then on.

• Transparency and informed decision making and its follow-through, and restrictions to them that might or might not be apparent when they would count the most, are crucially important in both my more metaphorical office sign-in example, and in the cyber-involvement examples that I went on to discuss in light of it.

I have written of user training here in this series, as I have in earlier postings and series to this blog. Most of the time, the people who need this training the most tend to tune it out because they do not see themselves as being particularly computer savvy, at least for the technical details. And they are not interested in or concerned about the technical details that underlie their online experiences and activities. But the most important training here is not technical at all and is not about computers per se. It is about the possibilities and the methods of behavioral manipulation and of being conned. It is about recognizing the warning signs of social engineering attempts in progress and it is about knowing how to more effectively and protectively respond to them – and both individually and as a member of a larger group or organization that might be under threat too.

I am going to turn back to discussion of threats and attacks themselves in the next installment to this series. And in anticipation of that and as a foretaste of what is to come here, I will discuss trolling behavior and other coercive online approaches, and ransomware. After that I will at least briefly address how automation and artificial intelligence are being leveraged in a still emerging 21st century cyber-threat environment. I have already at least briefly mentioned this source of toxic synergies before in this series, but will examine it in at least some more detail next.

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 this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 4

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 21, 2017

This is my fourth installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-3.)

I have been discussing business and organizational stakeholders, and both as they arise within a business (see Part 2) and outside of it (see Part 3.) And I concluded Part 3 of this series, stating what I would continue that narrative thread here, by specifically discussing the fifth and last outside stakeholder group that I listed in Part 3, and with at least a start to a discussion of communications in this series’ context, and:

• Within specific stakeholder groups,
• Between separate stakeholders per se,
• And more specifically, between stakeholders: internal or external to the organization, and the business and its leadership and senior management as a whole.

I begin this with the last stakeholder group in my Part 3 list: outside regulatory agencies and organizations. And I begin addressing that by offering some general thoughts on what types of organized stakeholders I am specifically referring to here, as there is a lot of diversity that has to be included here, as well as a set of critically important unifying considerations.

• The outside regulatory systems that I refer to here, can be organized, adjudicated and enforced through dedicated organizations or agencies that primarily or exclusively focus on oversight, or they can be so managed and run by more wide-ranging agencies or organizations that also have other responsibilities and areas of action too.
• These entities might be set up and mandated according to specific legal statute and with their activities defined and prescribed according to specific law. And as such, they might be governmental in nature and structure, or at least governmentally regulated.
• Or they might be more private-sector in origin and nature, as for example when leading businesses in an industry seek to step out in front of possible outside governmental oversight by preemptively setting their own standards, for product or business decision issues that carry risk of conflict with consumer or marketplace needs and desires.
• A failure on the more private sector-managed option there and the hue and cry that this can lead to, might in effect force legislative response that would push such oversight into a more officially, governmentally managed position. And that can take a great deal of the oversight and the decision making choice that participating businesses would want to keep control over, out of their hands. So even more loosely defined and enforced, industry self-regulated efforts at organized oversight can be compelling for individual businesses to follow and they can be designed and enforced with legal statute in mind.

Let me take this out of the abstract with two specific examples:

• Truth in marketing and advertizing are in large part regulated through the enforcement of consumer protection and related law and this is in large part carried out officially and in accordance with underlying relevant law, and by legally mandated agencies: the offices of attorneys general definitely included in the United States.
• In the United States, consistent supply chain systems communications between retailers, wholesalers (for replacement parts) and original manufacturers in the automotive industry, are primarily carried out under the aegis of a private sector collaborative system call Standards in Technology for Automotive Retail (STAR), that has an organizational membership that cuts across wide ranges of competing brands and their owning businesses. This organization, as a private sector venture has to operate within agreed to boundaries and restrictions that are set by legally mandated governmental agencies, and in accordance with anti-monopoly laws and the case law that has arisen from their enforcement.

This last stakeholder category, as a case in point example, brings me directly to the issues of communications and their best practices. I will at least begin discussing these more general issues in terms of this example, and then expand this narrative from there to consider stakeholder involvement and participation in general. But let’s start all of that with the fundamentals:

• Communications only work when there are messages that sender and recipient would see as holding sufficient importance so as to justify the effort to organize and share them.
• A sufficient channel has to be available for this, with both adequate accessibility and bandwidth, and with adequate security as required too.
• And potential participants have to be able to use this resource at times that would work for them and with sufficient timeliness for the messages that they would have to share. Messages that can only arrive too late to matter, cannot matter or hold any real value and for anyone involved.
• And with the second, outside regulatory half of my STAR example in mind, communications have to be framed in accordance with the requirements of all involved and potentially involved stakeholders, which in this case includes their being framed in accordance with exceptions to anti-monopoly law that are carved out to allow for and support, permitted exception communications.
• In-house information management security systems can and do create their own filters and restrictions and their own systems for exception handling and the creation of special-case communications allowance too. And this has to be allowed for and specifically planned for too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider communications within businesses, and both along and across the table of organization. I will also delve into the issues of publically traded companies communicating with shareholders, where traditional annual reports and legal document formatted stockholder reports and updates are only one approach that can be pursued – and particularly in an increasingly ubiquitous interactive online, social media driven context. Too many businesses still communicate at their stockholders as if they still lived in a pre-internet world and in too many ways and with too many limiting presumptions. That can be improved upon and it has to be for 21st century businesses.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. And also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 5

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on September 11, 2017

This is my fifth installment to a brief series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and in carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2), postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-4.)

I began to more systematically discuss business communications in general in Part 4, doing so in terms of the types of business processes that those communications efforts would support, and as communications would connect those parts of the business into the organization as a whole. And I posited an organizing model that different types of business processes would fit into, at appropriate-to-them points along a continuum, that has two explicitly stated and defined endpoint extremes which I repeat identifying here:

• Type 1 business processes that are essentially rote-standardized and for what is done and how and by whom, and with what expected inputs and outputs, and
• Type 2 business processes that have to explicitly accommodate change and even explicit uncertainty – and that can even be in place and use in order to help the business to flexibly accommodate change.

From a communications perspective I added that:

• Type 1 processes can become rigid and resistant to change and certainly for business activities that have become so consistently standardized that they become taken for granted and all but invisible.
• At the same time, communications patterns and processes in them can become both automatic and minimal and with sparse messaging-only required, and certainly as long as usual and expected continue to hold true.
• Type 2 processes are built around change, and the people who take part in them or who depend upon their being effectively carried out as outside stakeholders for them, have to expect that.
• At the same time, communications become both less routine and more critically important. And the level and range of types of information that would have to be shared and effectively so in them becomes significantly greater too, and certainly when compared to the opposite end of the spectrum, of Type 1.

Types 1 and 2 here, represent opposite ends of a spectrum and when they are the only points along that spectrum that are considered, that creates what should at least be avoidable gaps in any analyses and planning that would take place. So I offered at the end of Part 4, to step back from these two extreme point considerations to consider business processes and systems of them in general. And in anticipation of that, I added that I will consider both within-business and external to the business factors that can effect and shape business efficiency and resiliency there too.

I will begin all of this with two key words that I have cited numerous times in this blog, in a business systems context: efficiency and resiliency.

• Business resiliency and agility: another term that I repeatedly use in this blog, both require rapid and timely, and accurate and error-free communications, and certainly when the people involved there and the processes that they carry out, face the novel and unexpected and where that is consequential. And when this means rapidly and effectively addressing the unpredictability of the disruptively new, that means having an ability to create new and perhaps unexpected communications channels on the fly, when and as needed, and bringing new participants into these conversations as needed.
• Business efficiency per se, however, is largely about optimization. And when this of necessity has to include secure information management, as is more common than not for increasingly data-driven businesses, this means following vetted information channels with known participants exchanging and sharing information through them.

Ultimately, the only way to reconcile “resiliency and agility” and in the face of the consequential unexpected, with “efficiency” as an overriding, defining goal, is to build flexibility into areas where conflicts of the type that I address here, could arise. That definitely includes the information access and control systems in place, but also includes how information security is viewed and a number of other basic parameters of operation. And one of the places where any such conflicts will arise, if and when they do is in communications and joint information development and sharing contexts.

• What other possible collision points are there in place in businesses, and both generically and in general, and in specific businesses as special case issues for them?
• And how would they best be identified, characterized and understood, and acted upon?

When a business seeks to accomplish this type of reconciliation, better connecting together its information management systems and communications systems, and all other functional areas that would potentially collide here, that creates a measure of robustness in the overall operational system created. And when such a system is designed and organized and tuned and corrected so as to arrive at an overall work process flow that is as simple and as free of exceptions and complexities as possible, that organization is pursuing a lean and agile approach.

These perspectives apply whether the areas of business activity and functionality under specific consideration are carried out entirely in-house, and remain effectively invisible to any outside contexts or viewers, or whether they involve processes that serve as explicit connection points to the outside: in a business’ markets and marketplace, or in how it connects into and participates in supply chain or other value chain collaborations.

I have written this posting in largely abstract terms, and with a goal of defining and reframing some basic terms that go into analyzing businesses at a higher, broader brush stroke level. I am going to return to these issues in a next series installment where I will at least begin to take this posting’s discussion out of the abstract, by way of more concrete examples. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I offer that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 3

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 20, 2017

This is my third posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing-oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I focused in Part 2 on a complex of issues that enter into making a business a success, or at least for making it more successful, focusing for the most part on two specific types of business scenarios:

• A new, young, small startup that seeks to leverage its liquidity and other assets available as creatively and effectively as possible, and from its day one when it is just starting to develop the basic template that it would scale up from,
• And a larger, established business that has become at least somewhat complacent and somewhat sclerotic in the process, and with holdover systems and organizational process flows that might not reflect current actual needs or opportunities faced.

And I expanded the second of these basic scenarios to consider larger and more established businesses in general too, and certainly as they seek to develop and evolve so as to avoid the challenges specifically noted there.

• In the course of that developing narrative, I at least briefly discussed business acquisitions as a route that larger and established businesses can pursue as they seek to bring new and innovative into their systems in order to avoid the complacency and sclerosis of the second bullet point.
• And I wrote in that context of the need for an acquiring business to integrate its business acquisitions into its strategic and operational systems with care, so as to preserve their strengths and capabilities that made them good acquisition choices in the first place.
• I have seen acquiring businesses in effect strangle and kill off the sources of value that they had just paid for, and dearly for the amounts of liquid capital expended in doing so,
• By forcing their corporate culture and their operational systems on this new part of their overall system.
• Too tight a grip can create both risk and loss. But at the same time, too loose a grip and too little real integration can carry risks too and certainly where a key, essential acquisition that has been brought in, fails to fit for what it does, into an overall overarching strategic vision and plan. The goal in this is to find an effective middle ground that can create and sustain value and both for the acquisitions brought in so they can perform effectively, and for the acquiring business as a now larger whole.

At the end of Part 2 and in anticipation of this next installment to this series, I stated that I would examine some of the business model assumptions that I have been building this line of argument around. And in the course of doing so, I said that I would consider:

• Tightly and loosely organized businesses, and what in their looser forms can become what amounts to in-house value chain-like business assemblages – with a blurring of the lines between large and small businesses per se.

I added in that context that I will consider what might be called clearinghouse corporate models, which I offer as a logical conclusion endpoint for developing loosely organized businesses. And I will tie this line of discussion back to the questions of how a business is structured and how that might or might not be simplified through disintermediation. I will go on from there to consider the issues of marketing and how a business presents itself to the world around it, and how. And in anticipation of that, I note that the issues of tightly organized and loosely organized, add whole new complexities to the concepts of in-house and outside, and of marketing and marketplace per se.

I begin this with tightly organized businesses and loosely organized ones and precisely what those terms mean:

• A tightly organized business model is one that has and assiduously holds to a single strictly enforced strategic and operational system and vision, throughout its entire organization: any business acquisitions included. Such an enterprise generally maintains a single, consistent overall corporate culture as well.
• A loosely organized business model, on the other hand is one that allows for a much larger amount of diversity in its overall systems: structurally allowed for and explicitly planned for diversity. Businesses that follow this approach tend to hold a single overall strategic vision and approach. But they are much more complexly varied in how this is carried out and certainly when working with separately located offices and facilities that might have to function within different legal and cultural frameworks for foreign-based facilities. And they can take a more hands-off approach when dealing with and supporting high value business acquisitions, that have arrived with their own approaches to doing business, and with their own corporate cultures and their own locally best-fit operational systems in place that have helped them become sources of value worth acquiring.

Both approaches can work and very successfully – provided that they are not just blindly applied and without any awareness of their impact in the specific instance. I have written on a number of occasions in this blog about how too strict and unseeing an adherence to a tightly organized approach can strangle the value out of a once-valuable acquisition. An ill-considered loosely organized approach can cause an acquiring business to in effect unravel, and particularly at points where overall consistency would be most needed.

The tightly organized model is well known to essentially anyone who has worked in the standard, basic corporate world. Strategic and operational patterns arise from and are promulgated down from above on the table of organization, and through the flow of management decisions that take place in what can amount to a conveyor belt-like process from the executive suite outward. This can and often does work, and effectively so. Though too strict an adherence to it can create problems too, including the possibilities of the “larger, established business” scenario that I began this posting with, with all of its sclerotically set-in-its-ways local inefficiencies and fragilities. The operational terms there are “overly rigid inflexibility” and the “inability to adaptively adjust and change.”

So I focus here on what might be viewed as a polar opposite to that, and certainly when dealing with serial business acquisitions, and a business model built around assembling overall strength and competitive capability through an ongoing acquisitions process and through assiduous maintenance of overall flexibility there. And I refer to that approach as the clearinghouse business model.

I have at least briefly and selectively written about business acquisitions and mergers in this blog on a number of occasions. And I have noted in this series how larger corporations can develop a practice of serially acquiring successions of smaller specialty businesses that each individually holds essentially unique sources of innovative value that could be added as if puzzle pieces to what the acquiring business already holds. Most of the time, such an acquiring business starts out this process by adding its first such acquisition to a very substantial, competitively strong foundation that it has developed on its own, in-house. And the weight and momentum of the organization begins in and fundamentally remains in that originally in-house developed and maintained core as this business begins filling gaps in what it does and how, from the outside.

The clearinghouse business model, as an at least somewhat theoretical construct, posits a core organizing business that starts out with a goal of building an at least eventually large and comprehensively competitive business, out of outside-sourced smaller business entities, that when centrally organized can collectively create more value than these smaller enterprises could possibly develop on their own. This is a business model based on collective synergy, and with a goal of offering all participants greater strength in collective and coordinated action, then any of them could arrive at on their own, and with the central organizing business serving as a central organizational point for making that happen. For a structurally more simplified biological example of such an organizing principle, consider colonial organisms such as the ant or bee colonies with their diverse specializations within their overall social systems. There, individual participants are in fact born into these larger systems; here they would be brought in from the outside and would be both more complex and more individually unique within the systems that they join.

I offer this perhaps cartoonish business model approach as a tool for thinking through organization structure and its implications and consequences and both as layers and structures are developed and elaborated in it, and as they are reduced and simplified through disintermediation processes. As a matter of principle, I assume here that arriving at the right balance there is essential for a business if it is to optimize for competitive strength and flexibility in its industry and business sector and when seeking to competitively address the needs of its marketplace.

I have written this posting with a goal of developing and offering a conceptual structure that I can use in addressing a set of basic questions and issues that I raise in this series. And I will begin doing so in my next installment to it, where to repeat my to-address next notes from earlier here, I will at least begin to:

• Tie this line of discussion back to the questions of how a business is structured and how that might or might not be simplified through disintermediation.
• I will go on from there to consider the issues of marketing and how a business presents itself to the world around it, and how.
• And in anticipation of that, I note that the issues of tightly organized and loosely organized, add whole new complexities to the concepts of in-house and outside, and of marketing and marketplace per se.

And I will delve more deeply into the clearinghouse business model as a loosely organized business approach, and how it would be set up and run, and with comparisons to tightly organized business models as needed. I will discuss the above bullet-pointed issues in terms of that foundational 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. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 3

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on August 16, 2017

This is my third installment to a new series on cyber risk and cyber conflict in a still emerging 21st century interactive online context, and in a ubiquitously social media connected context and when faced with a rapidly interconnecting internet of things among other disruptively new online innovations (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I concluded Part 2 of this narrative by proffering a briefly outlined solution to a problem, and in a way that could be seen as highlighting a fundamental conundrum faced. More specifically, I wrote in Parts 1 and 2 of how new and emerging value-creating technological innovations such as online social media and cloud computing create new opportunity for more malevolent use too, even as they create whole new worlds of positive opportunity. And to pick up on just one of the many facets to the positive side of this transformation, that make its advancement inevitable:

• Consider how essentially anywhere to anywhere and at any time, ubiquitous connectivity through small, simple smart phones and tablets has changed the world, reducing friction and barriers and bring people together and even globally,
• And particularly when cloud computing and for both data storage and for processing power, have in effect put always-connected supercomputer, super-communications devices into everyone’s hands. Think of this as ubiquitous connectivity and communications with what can amount to arbitrarily wide computational bandwidth, and equally wide ranging data storage, retrieval and sharing capabilities supporting it.

Now consider how this capability can be exploited by both individual black hat hackers, and by large organizations: governments included, that seek to exploit newly emerging cyber-weaknesses that arise from these new technologies in pursuing their own plans and policies. I wrote in Part 2, at least in brief and selective outline, of how Russia, China and North Korea have done this, as case in point examples. And in the course of that, I noted and at least began to discuss how the vulnerabilities exploited there, always have two faces: technological and human, and how the human side to that can be the more difficult to effectively address.

That led me to the quickly outlined “cyber security solution” that I made note of above and that I first offered at the end of Part 2, where I wrote of cyber-defense and security in general as calling for:

• Better computer and network user training,
• Better, more up to date and capable automated systems,
• And usage options channeling systems that reinforce good practices and discourage or even actively prevent bad, risk-creating ones.

Then, after offering that, I added that “technology fixes are always going to be important and necessary in this, but increasingly the biggest vulnerabilities faced come from human users, and particularly ones who are trusted and who have access permissions, to critically important systems.”

I begin addressing that ending point to Part 2 of this series and starting point to this Part 3 by picking up on one of the Russian government sponsored and led examples made note of in Part 2, where the Russian government explicitly sought to influence and even suborn the 2016 elections in the United States, including their presidential election. One of the key attack vectors used was a phishing attack campaign that gave them access to the Democratic Party email server system, used for within-Party confidential communications. This attack helped Russian operatives and private sector participants working for them, to insert malware into those server computers that gave them direct access to them for copying files stored on them, as well as capability for damaging or deleting files stored there. And this gave them the ability to edit as desired, and selectively leak emails so covertly captured too. And this was done and according to a timing schedule that would cause the greatest harm to a Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party presidential campaign while significantly helping Donald Trump to win the White House. This attack required concerted application of weaponized technology, but that in and of itself could never have accomplished anything without help from trusted insiders in the United States Democratic Party leadership, who had legitimate and trusted access to those computer servers, and who clicked to open what should have been suspicious links in emails that they received from what turned out to actually be malevolent Russian sources.

With this noted, let’s reconsider the three “to-do”, or at least “to-attempt” bullet points that I just repeated here from Part 2, as a first-take “cyber security solution”:

• Training only works if people who receive it actually follow through and do what they have been taught.
• “Better, more up to date and capable automated systems” as an operational goal, is always going to constitute a moving target, as both new positive capabilities and the new vulnerabilities that they bring with them arise and become commonplace.
• And the ongoing emergence of this new and different, and particularly of an ongoing flow of disruptively new and different, can make good practice shaping and requiring systems, obsolete almost before they are really implemented – and particularly given the challenges of the first of these three bullet points.

How did the Russians hack into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) confidential email servers that they specifically targeted here? Setting aside the technical side of this question and only considering the social engineering side to it, all that took was one person who was trusted enough to be given access to this email system, who would click to open what probably should have been seen to be suspicious links in an email that they had opened with their standard email software. Then when they went to the DNC secure server with it, they delivered the malware that they had just infected their computer with from this, and the rest was history.

• This is very important. It did not matter if a thousand others had deleted the malware-carrying emails that this one user opened and clicked into, if just that one trusted systems user did open at least one of them and click at least one link in it.

There is a saying to the effect that a chain can be no stronger than its weakest link. Reframing “link” in human terms rather than hyperlink, cyber terms, all it takes is one weak human link in this type of system, among its community of trusted and vetted users to compromise the entire system. And they only have to set aside their judgment and training once, at an inopportune moment to become that crucially weak link.

Let me add one more innovative element to the positive value created/negative vulnerability created from it, paradigm that I have been developing and pursuing this series around: automation and the artificial intelligence based cyber systems that enable it. These smart systems can be and increasingly are being developed and implemented to create automatic nuanced flexibility into complex information and communications systems. They can be and increasingly are being used to promote what many if not most would consider more malevolent purposes too, such as attempting to throw national elections. Automated systems of the type that I write of here are consistent and always follow their algorithmic protocols and processes in place, and they are becoming more and more subtle and capable in doing this, every day. They do not tire or become distracted and they do not make out-of-pattern mistakes. And here, they are pitted against individual human users of these systems, who all at least occasionally do.

Let’s reconsider the three to-do recommendation points that I initially repeated here towards the top of this posting:

• Training only works if people who receive it actually follow through and do what they have been taught.
• “Better, more up to date and capable automated systems” as an operational goal, is always going to constitute a moving target, as both new positive capabilities and the new vulnerabilities that they bring with them arise and become commonplace.
• And the ongoing emergence of this new and different, and particularly of an ongoing flow of disruptively new and different, can make good practice shaping and requiring systems, obsolete almost before they are really implemented – and particularly given the challenges of the first of these three bullet points.

And I match them with the issues and challenges of this posting in mind, with a brief set of matching questions:

• How best can these technology/human user systems be kept up to date and effective from a security perspective, while still keeping them essentially intuitively usable for legitimate human users?

The faster the technologies change that these systems have to address, and the more profoundly they do so when they do, the greater the training requirements that will be required at least by default and according to most current practices in place, and the less likely it becomes that “potentially weaker links” will learn all of this New and incorporate it into their actual online and computer-connected behavior, and fast enough. So the more important it becomes that systems be made intuitively obvious and that learning curve requirements be prevented, to limit if not entirely avoid that losing race towards cyber-security safety. And yes, I intentionally conflate use per se and “safe, security-aware” use in this, as they need to be one and the same in practice.

• Moving targets such as “better, more up to date and capable automated systems” of the type cited in the second above-repeated point, tend to become harder to justify, at least for the added effort and expense of keeping them secure in the face of new possible challenges. That certainly holds true when these information technology and communications systems keep working for their current iterations, and when updates to them, up to now have seemed to work and securely so too. How do you maintain the financial and other support for this type of ongoing change when it succeeds, and continues to – in the face of pressures to hold down costs?

Unfortunately, it is all too common that ongoing success from using technologies, breeds reduced awareness of the importance of maintaining equally updated ongoing (generally expensive) protective, preemptive capabilities in them too. And it becomes harder and harder to keep these systems updated and with support for doing so, as the most recent negative consequence actually once faced, slips farther into the past. And to put this point of observation into perspective, I suggest you’re reviewing Parts 1 and 2 of this series, where I write of how easy it is to put off responding to already known and still open vulnerabilities that have struck elsewhere, but not here at least yet.

And for Point 3 of that list, I add what is probably the most intractable of these questions:

• In principle, non-technology organizations that do not have strength in depth in cyber issues and on how best to respond to them, can be safe in the face of already known threats and vulnerabilities, if that is they partner for their cyber-security with reliable businesses that do have such strengths and that really stay as up to date as possible on known threat vectors and how they can be and are being exploited. But what of zero-day vulnerabilities and the disruptively new? How can they be at least better managed?

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, starting with these questions. And I will take that next step to this narrative out of the abstract by at least briefly discussing some specific new, and old-but-rebuilt sources of information systems risk. 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 this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

Donald Trump and the stress testing of the American system of government 20

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on August 15, 2017

This is my 25th installment to what has become an ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections (see Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.) And this is also my 20th installment here since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

I distinctly remember watching one of president Trump’s official spokespersons in a televised White House press briefing, respond to a reporter’s accusation of chaos in the Trump administration, by proclaiming that “Trump thrives on chaos.” That was several official White House press secretaries and other senior spokespersons ago, and it dates to before Trump realized that cameras and open questions from reporters were not always all that good for him at those events. Still, this presented a form of candor that is shocking for its clarity, and certainly in light of the rest of president Trump’s ongoing message.

And like any door opening revelation, this one has led us to new questions that we would not have even known to ask. By now we all know what the word “chaos” means in that context: the 45th president’s “business as usual.” He has been burning through and replacing what should be the stably-in-place senior members of his staff at a rate that, to use one of his favorite words, is genuinely “tremendous.” And that includes replacing his White House communications directors with the most recent one before now: Anthony Scaramucci only lasting ten days in that job. Trump has yet to get even just one major piece of legislation passed through Congress and in spite of a great deal of effort to break that impasse. And the largest single feat that he has actually accomplished from all of his effort at getting legislation passed has been to shatter the Republican Party solidarity that in principle might have meant his being able to get his agenda passed into law, and even easily. His Republican Party hold in Congress has been effectively thrown into chaos and in both the House and Senate, with enough by now reliable dissenters from among “his own” Party’s ranks, consistently breaking ranks to insure that this pattern of failure will mostly continue.

Let me take that assertion out of the abstract with a specific example. Trump has actively sought to block investigation into possible Russian government-led interference in the 2016 US elections, as discussed in earlier postings to this series. And he has also actively tried to thwart sanctions against Russia, from Congressional action, while doing that. Then the:

House passed a massive Russia sanctions bill, and overwhelming so, on July 25,2017 and almost immediately thereafter the Senate followed suit and passed it too.

It is important to note that at the same time this bill placed punitive sanctions on the Russian government and on businesses and organizations in that country with links to their government, it also specifically moved to prevent president Trump from undoing or bypassing those sanctions on his own. This bill placed sanctions on Trump too. And it passed in the House, 419 for and only 3 against. And it then passed in the Senate, 98 to 2. Trump was forced to sign this or else face the humiliation of seeing his own Republican party overwhelmingly overturn his veto, making him look that much weaker.

I have discussed his failures at getting his vision of healthcare reform passed into law in a number of earlier installments to this series. And his failures there have just continued on. Prospects look dim for his bringing Congress to pass his tax reform agenda into law, or his immigration policy or any other major initiative either. And resistance from his own Party’s elected leaders goes way beyond Congress too, with Republican governors breaking ranks with him on immigration and environmental protection and a wide range of other issues too. In fact the only area where president Trump has been able to advance his agenda has been where he can do so by executive order and either himself or through his senior appointees. At least selective aspects to what Donald Trump would call regulatory reform come to mind there, as do his more draconian interpretations of how Homeland Security and its agencies should enforce immigration policies already in place.

“Trump thrives on chaos.” What does a word like “thrive” mean in a Trump presidency context? What does he see as success, beyond his keeping the support of his true believer base? And when president Trump, with his win-lose approach to the world, sees himself and his administration as winning in all of this, what does that say about his relationship with his own political party that he nominally leads? What does this say about Trump as a leader of the United States as a diverse nation, or of the free world?

And this brings me to the issue that has prompted me to write this series installment at all. I very actively added to this ongoing narrative and at a rapid pace when I was discussing and analyzing the earliest days of the Trump presidency and the question of his basic competency, during his first 100 days in office. And a great deal of that was an attempt to put president Trump and his issues in perspective and both historically and in terms of constitutional law. But The Donald mostly seems to repeat himself, primarily carrying out new variations on the same problematical decision making and follow through. If he is the embodiment of chaos in the White House, that in his case means relatively narrowly constrained and highly repetitive chaos, with his making essentially the same mistakes in judgment and action again and again and again and ….

Why am I adding this installment to this series now? On one level I could cite how Trump’s chaos has empowered Xi Jinping and his Chinese government, from the power vacuum that Trump has left in his wake. And I could cite the chaos and confusion he has sown for our national allies and globally. I could cite what politely would be called his pissing match with the psychotic leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un. I could cite his complete, and I add completely inept inability to disavow the words and actions of hate driven extremists such as David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, and white supremacist extremists. They claim to be key supporters in his political base and Donald Trump is incapable of disavowing anything that his supporters would say or do, least he somehow diminish his supporting base! I could delve into any combination of these issues here, and more that I did not bother to add to this already lengthy and depressing list. But instead of that, I would step back to consider a larger, overarching issue that enters into and informs all of these more specific friction and pain point issues:

• Donald Trump does not learn, ever. And by all appearance he is incapable of learning too.

Trump got a ghostwriter: Tony Schwartz to actually write “his” book, The Art of the Deal. (See Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All , as published by The New Yorker.) How could someone with Donald Trump’s attention span, his lack of basic factual knowledge and his limited intellect successfully pass a business degree program, or an undergraduate college degree program for that matter, without “help?” No, I do not have any evidence that would show he did not successfully complete these academic programs on his own. I just find that assertion as incredible as Trump’s claims about the live audience size in front of him when he was sworn into office as the 45th president.

Investigations proceed and on several fronts now into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, and on possible Trump campaign collusion in that. And it is apparent that this effort has gone on to look into possible direct involvement of both his family in this and of his own. And investigations are proceeding just as actively into possible conflict of interest violations of US federal statutes too. And president Trump is also at least potentially facing obstruction of justice charges too: the type of charges that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency. What will happen next? The only detail to the answer to that question, that I can reliably offer here, and with real confidence is that president Trump will back into it from a failure to learn anything from what has happened or from what is happening now or from what will happen in the coming days, weeks and months. And he will proclaim his outrage and declare himself to have been victimized by all of his detractors, and on the basis of “fake news” and even in the face of photos of him with the proverbial smoking gun in his hand.

People sometimes confuse “ignorance” with simple lack of knowledge and the limit of what a given individual can and does know. If that were valid, then we would all be ignorant as no one can learn and know more than just a tiny fraction of all that there is to know. Ignorance is very different than that; it is a presumption of already knowing all that is worth knowing and of holding complete truth in understanding. Ignorance is like a vaccination against learning: a hermetically sealed barrier to learning, where even one’s most off the cuff and unconsidered opinion is automatically deemed to be better than any expertly conceived, fact-based judgment of anyone else. Donald Trump does not learn and cannot learn and he is incapable of “growing” into the job of president. His string of business failures and bankruptcies were predictive harbingers of this, and his performance as president to date, simply reinforces the message that that track record offers.

I will add more to this series, when and as events unfold that would warrant that. With a Trump administration and its chaos, I am not going to try to guess when that will be, and certainly not at this time. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 3

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 12, 2017

This is my third installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I began addressing disruptively novel change in an organization and in what it brings to market, and what it has to be able to bring to market if it is to remain competitive there, in Part 2. And I focused in that installment on that array of issues, from a within-business perspective and in terms of its internal systems and their needs and capabilities. My goal here is to flip orientations from that, to consider the business’ outside contexts and how they impact upon and help to shape and prioritize the decisions and actions that I addressed in Part 2, within the organization. And I begin this by at least briefly categorically listing a few of the key players that would enter into any analysis of, or discussion of a market-facing business and its more meaningful outside world. In anticipation of this posting, I cited four of these stakeholder types at the end of Part 2 and I re-list them here with a fifth such entry added in too. Note that while the order that I offer these stakeholder categories in, might seem arbitrary, I chose it with a specific narrative flow in mind for using it. And I add that their order is probably unimportant in general, as any of them can hold greater or lesser importance for their level of direct impact, depending on the business in question and its circumstance:

1. Any business equity holding outside shareholders where this category applies,
2. Change and its pressures as arise in their general customer base and marketplace,
3. And from a business’ individually dominant clients as a special case where an enterprise has them, and both from when a single major client accounts for a large percentage of the work activity and the incoming revenue generated, and from when a significant number of a business’ perhaps individually smaller clients all start demanding change, and when they speak with a single voice and as if one on that.
4. And from among a business’ competition,
5. And from outside regulatory organizations.

Let me begin here by at least briefly clarifying Point 1 of this list. Equity holding outside shareholders can mean stockholders for a publically traded company, and certainly in this context if that company is failing to make changes that a significant percentage of their shareholders would see as necessary, and who are dissatisfied with the business for its financial or other (e.g. environmental impact) performance because of that. I have seen stockholder revolts and they do need to be taken seriously and even if major shareholders from within the business can quash any proposed action from outsiders in shareholder meetings and proxy votes. And this can also mean dissatisfaction and even pressures to influence and even control, coming from major outside investors such as venture capitalists, or from funds managers who individually manage and make ownership decisions that involve large numbers of that business’ outstanding shares as a percentage of shares traded. Think of this as the influence of many smaller voices speaking out as one, and that of individual very large voices as they speak out, respectively. Both can mean significant pressure on a business and its planning and execution, and certainly for what have come to be contentious actions or positions taken.

Now let’s consider Point 2 and Point 3:

• Point 2’s market participants individually make their decisions as to what to purchase if anything, and when and where, as individuals and for the most part as individual product end users. This need not involve concerted organized action in any particular way, though fad purchasing can lead to what amounts to that, as can viral marketing and its capacity to at least transiently enlist what can become large numbers of same-minded purchase decision making participants who are otherwise unrelated.
• Point 3 addresses larger single voices and decision makers, and does represent concerted, longer-term organized voices.
• Think of Point 2 and Point 3 here as marketplace counterparts to the two categorical equity holder types noted here regarding Point 1 stakeholders.

Point 3 stakeholders include, among others, single dominating client businesses in business-to-business arenas. And it just as significantly includes major wholesalers that might take on a large percentage of what a business offers in more of a business-to-consumer context. And it includes in that vein, single large retails that might do the same, or even buy out all of what some business produces. Let me take that out of the abstract by citing two examples. Globally, Walmart sells more than one million US dollars worth of toilet paper every single day for overall gross sales. And that number is old now by several years. Their gross annual sales for this one product type is probably at or above half a billion dollars per year now. That type of purchasing power influences suppliers and original manufacturers of all types. And to turn to a smaller but still significantly sized second retail business, for a second such example, consider Trader Joe’s: the supermarket chain. Their approach where possible and realistic, is to only sell products branded to their own name. And they go to small producers and buy out everything they produce for some product type, to exclusively sell in this way, as carrying their brand and as having been vetted for meeting their quality standards. This can, for example, mean buying out an entire vintage year from a small wine producer, or entire production runs and essentially everything that a small pasta or similar manufacturer makes for sale over a contractually agreed to period of time.

Switching categories again in my above-cited categorical list of stakeholders, large numbers of irate stockholders and the news stories their anger and frustration can and do create, can have a very significant collective impact on a business, as can single larger voices for Point 1 and its participants. The collective impact of smaller individual marketplace participants, as by analogy addressed in Point 2, or of single larger ones as per Point 3 can have massive impact too. And for the former, consider the marketing disaster of a business facing a consumer boycott that is heralded and followed as an unfolding news story in the press and on television and online. That can kill a business if it cannot effectively respond and resolve matters. And the loss or threat of loss of some single balance sheet shaping, major purchasing customer can have an equally significant impact too.

I have already at least begun tying this posting’s line of discussion, to this series and its main topic in the above paragraph where I cite the crucial importance of communications here, and of open and as necessary, transparent communications and certainly with all involved parties included there. And that leads me back to the above list of five stakeholder categories and the two groups I have skipped over up to here: Point 4 (a business’ competition) and Point 5 (outside regulatory organizations.)

Let’s start with Point 4. Few people start out thinking of a business’ competitors as holding a stakeholder position to them, but that in fact can be a valid way to view them insofar as a business and its primary competitors in particular, as so strongly influenced by each other. Businesses have a stake in how their competitors do, even in more zero-sum game theory contexts where they thrive to the extent that their competition does not. But in the real world, competitive relationships are not always so simple and do not always take on a strictly win-lose position. As a case in point, a larger, market dominating business might absolutely need the cover of having viable competitors in order to avoid the costly and even all but devastating challenge of antitrust action. Remember, courts have been known to go so far as to force the break-up of companies deemed to be monopolistic and irretrievably so as currently organized. A business that was facing that type of possible action, after for example being warned of it through prior court action, would probably see it as disastrous for them if one of their larger and more presentable competitors looked like it might go under!

Businesses, and certainly in countries such as the United States, are legally barred from colluding with each other as that can be seen as violating antitrust and antimonopoly laws for constituting market manipulation of one form or other. But there are in fact a relatively wide range of contexts where selective and allowed collaborations, and their game strategies that go beyond simple win-lose, would offer greater value and safety and for all businesses concerned.

And this brings me to the above list’s Point 5 and outside regulatory organizations. I am going to address that stakeholder category in my next series installment and will continue from there to more fully discuss all of these categorical stakeholder types in terms of communications and in terms of simplified, disintermediated communications. In anticipation of that, and as a simple example, many legal systems have strong and strongly enforced antimonopoly laws in place that directly impact upon and limit how competing businesses can communicate with each other. But even then, there are carved out exceptions and complexities, as apply for example where businesses that create and sell competing antivirus and anti-malware software products are allowed to work together for example, for sharing updates on new and emerging threat vectors. And a great deal of regulatory law that essentially all businesses have to work within, involves sensitive personally identifiable information and how that can and cannot be communicated and between whom and under what conditions.

There is an old saying to the effect that the devil is in the details. That certainly applies when the issues of this series are considered in more specific contexts. I will at least begin delving into the communications details of all of this in my next installment, having focused on who would do this communicating here.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. And also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 4

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on August 2, 2017

This is my fourth installment to a brief series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and in carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2), postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-3.)

I began this series (in Part 1 and Part 2) with a brief orienting outline of some general principles regarding business communications best practices. And with that in place as a working foundation for what is to follow it in this series, I briefly offered project management as a source of working examples, in Part 2 and in Part 3. And in that, I at least briefly touched upon two distinct but nevertheless vitally important faces to project work:

• The one-off nature of projects and certainly of individual projects as they address non-standard workplace demands and seek to find novel and new solutions for resolving them,
• And the more standardized system of recurringly setting up and running, and reviewing and evaluating projects per se as an ongoing and even regularly resorted to approach.

Individual projects might have one-off and even essentially unique qualities and certainly for what they each individually seek to accomplish, but project support and management systems need to be standardized, and both to set up and run projects more effectively and more cost-effectively as specific endeavors and to more effectively coordinate project work per se with the rest of the business. I have recurringly written about projects and project work in this blog; here I focused on how to more effectively communicate in this type of context.

Then at the end of Part 3, I stated that I would continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will look beyond the more limited context of projects and project management systems, to consider the business as a whole. And I begin that, by making a basic categorical distinction, just as I did when discussing projects as a special case. And the point of distinction that I make here is between:

1. Business processes that are essentially rote-standardized and for what is done and how and by whom, and with what expected inputs and outputs, and
2. Business processes that have to explicitly accommodate change and even explicit uncertainty – and that can even be in place and use in order to help the business to flexibly accommodate change.

Note that I am explicitly and intentionally positing two ends of what in reality is a continuum here, where a flexible and resilient business would have to be widely capable of responding to and resolving at least some change and even unexpected change that arrives without any real warning. And in principle at least, that type of change can arise essentially anywhere in a business and its systems; disruptive change as a special categorical case in point can and does arise where it would be least expected and that is part of what makes it disruptive. But I focus on the extremes at least here and for now, in building an organizing conceptual framework for what could be a wider and more far-reaching discussion. And for purposes of this posting at least, I will refer to these end-point categories as Type 1 and Type 2 business processes.

• Type 1 processes can become rigid and resistant to change and certainly for business activities that have become so consistently standardized that they become taken for granted and all but invisible.
• At the same time, communications patterns and processes in them can become both automatic and minimal and with sparse messaging-only required, and certainly as long as usual and expected continue to hold true.
• Type 2 processes are built around change, and the people who take part in them or who depend upon their being effectively carried out as outside stakeholders for them, have to expect that.
• At the same time, communications become both less routine and more critically important. And the level and range of types of information that would have to be shared and effectively so in them becomes significantly greater too, and certainly when compared to the opposite end of the spectrum, of Type 1.

So if disruptive change happens and either as a one-off event or as the start to what might become a new ongoing reality, it is the Type 1 and closely related processes that are going to fail, and with much higher likelihood and with much greater impact and severity, than you would in most cases find for Type 2 processes.

This represents a crucially important risk management issue, or rather set of them:

• The importance of knowing what is taken for granted and overlooked because it has become so rote and routine and reliable and so taken for granted,
• And the importance of really knowing how those areas of the business are managed and maintained through standardized, if sparse communications patterns and networks in place.

When a critically important Type 1 process or set of them breaks down, the whole business can find itself in trouble – and without having effective communications channels prepared for remediating this, or even for fully characterizing it. And at least in my experience, and perhaps I have been unlucky for this, these breakdowns always seem to happen when a business would be least prepared to respond effectively in general, where for example a key usually stable and reliable computer networking resource that has to be up 24/7 breaks down when only a skeleton staff is on duty in the middle of the night. Type 1 systems never seem to break down at opportune times. But arguably, a real Type 1 systems breakdown can make any time inopportune, and certainly if not at least thought through in advance of that.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will step back from these two extreme point considerations to consider business processes and systems of them in general. And in anticipation of that, I add that I will consider both within-business and external to the business factors that can effect and shape business efficiency and resiliency there. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I offer that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

Topologically (contrived opportunistically) connected social networks: rethinking epistemic bubbles and their possible breaking 2

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on July 15, 2017

This is my second posting to a short series on the potential enabling roles that change and non-systematic encounters can play in effective social networking in general, and business-oriented social networking in particular (see Part 1.)

I begin this discussion with a brief outline of where this series comes from, as offering a proposed social networking counterpart to a higher level functional-organizational process that is observed in complex genetic systems: topologically associated domains, or TADs. My social networking counterpart to this phenomenon is termed here, topologically (or contrived opportunistically) connected social networking, and I loosely defined it in Part 1 as:

• Networking in an opportunistically arising context where people come together for perhaps transiently shared reasons and for perhaps transiently shared purpose.
• The important point here, in keeping with the basic organizing paradigm of the genetic systems TAD, is that this takes place in recurring contexts and even in readily predictably recurring ones, that would not fit the more usual predictable goals-oriented patterns that planned and intentional networking is usually carried out in, where many and even most participants come together in order to pursue specific types of networking and related activity. But the contexts that this form of networking take place in are recurring, as are the widened range of demographics that become involved.

I suggested in Part 1 that this represents a form of networking opportunity that is most open and available to open networkers, and particularly to those who look for opportunity from novel and unexpected directions, and who are willing to reach out to and network outside of their usual circles. Topological networking is not for the faint of heart, or the shy and uncertain. It is for the more extroverted and for those who are willing to take the risk of speaking with strangers and even continuing the conversations so started.

And this brings me to the points that I would add to this brief narrative in this second installment posting:

• When you limit your networking to the known and familiar, you are unlikely to find the disruptively new and novel, and either for insight or opportunity. You are more likely to just hear and see and learn of the already known and the at-most marginally new and different.
• People you know might occasionally share the completely unexpected, but even there this is most likely to only happen if they have connected outside of their usual circles – unless it is to share word with you of an event or development that you would learn of any way through the news or other more generally available channels.
• You are more likely to learn of the new and unexpected from people outside of your usual circle, where the same news and information tends to circle around. And this definitely holds true for new and unexpected that you would not, in effect automatically learn of anyway.

Topological, or contrived opportunistically connecting networking opportunity – coupled with a willingness to actually pursue such opportunity, can open doors and create functional, useful connections that would otherwise be invisible, and as such go untapped. And this brings me to the tag line title for this posting: “rethinking epistemic bubbles and their possible breaking.”

Last year, I wrote a brief posting to this blog on the basis of a talk that I had just given, about how we have come to speak past each other at closest, rather than with each other and certainly in our politics. See Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs. That became a first installment to a series that I have been adding to in recent months, about politics in America leading up to and since the 2016 United States elections (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 244 and loosely following.) And I first began using the term epistemic in this type of missed and blocked communications context in Part 4 of that series.

In a fundamental sense, what I am doing here in this brief series is to offer with a perhaps too erudite sounding label, a possible way out of the impasse that is inherent to the epistemic barriers and epistemic bubbles of that series; I have been writing this series in terms of business networking but I have been writing it with wider ranging networking and communicating and information and perspective sharing context in mind, than would be included in business oriented networking alone.

Active, contrived opportunistically connected social networking means, or at least should mean intentionally reaching out beyond the usual and familiar and even in potentially uncomfortable directions, where you might hear and see perspectives that are contrary to your current beliefs and opinions – as that can be the only way to see beyond them, or see your own automatic assumptions in them. And it can be the only way to break through the epistemic bubble walls that you are in, and make contact with anyone on the other side.

I began this two posting series in a business context but with this larger context in mind and end it there, at least for now.

You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

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