Skip to content →

Category: POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY, WELLBEING & POETRY

Design by design!

Engaged design

Design . . .  should be elegant and pleasing.   It should also be functional and achieve its purpose.   Most importantly its purpose should be our purpose.

Engaged design in New Zealand

New Zealand has a strong tradition in design and a temperamental inclination  to engagement.   Well-worn jokes include the No 8. wire used to fix anything and everything on the Kiwi farm and the Kiwi dislike of large organisations.  A British general is reputed to have commented that Kiwi troops do not salute much.  His Kiwi counterpart replied, “but if you wave they will wave back.”

Tradition of design in New Zealand

Kiwis are articulate though about their design and their participation.   The Britten Instituge supports community activity and has an accessible, unpretentious,  list of design principles to bring people together.

“It is not innovation that matters, it is agreement. And we might need innovation to reach agreement.”

Design in Europe

I am very interested in reconciling the two bodies of knowledge that Western thought likes to keep apart if not regarding them as competitors.

Positive psychology promotes our engagement with life and of work with our engagement!  Yet we must make money too and the world is about to get very much more competitive for those of us in United Kingdom.  I have far more visitors to this blog to manage a small server than I do because someone wants to be happy!

What we want from design today?

Can we reconcile the holistic, engaged Britten approach to technical work?  I would like to try.

 

 

Leave a Comment

Alternative corporate tax regimes

We all know by now that the likes of Google, Amazon and Starbucks pay very little corporate tax in the UK.

  • We know that our corporate taxes tend to be low though they are not as low as Ireland’s and Sweden’s.
  • We might also have an intuition that corporate taxes are a significant part of GDP. We would miss them if we didn’t have them but .  .  . they are only about 3% of GDP. Surprised?

What is even more surprising is that though our corporate taxes are low, they are a larger part of our GDP than in Germany, say. My first thought was, ah good, we set individual corporate taxes low but gain on the aggregated. But of course earning more from corporate taxes than Germany is just a reminder that we earn less from more productive sources. So perhaps not hurrah for us.
So what are the issues surrounding corporate taxation? The issue that energises us at the moment is the crafty use of tax law and corporate structures to lower tax liabilities. Academic accountants are proposing various different ways of taxing companies and here are my notes below.

Cash-flow taxes

Instigator: Meade Report
Core idea: Tax net cash flow rather than profits.

Changes:

  • Abolish deductions for depreciation and interest payments.
  • Deduct investment expenditure when it occurs.

Spelled out:

  • Investment becomes a current cost.
  • Sales of capital costs are treated as any other cash inflow.
  • Both loans and interest payments are not subject to tax (similarly to equity injections and dividend payments)
  • Trading transactions are taxed; not financing operations

Difficulties:

  • Does not apply well to banking trading operations
  • Other countries would still be making distinctions between debt and equity

Variant: “R+F”

  • Tax borrowings as cash inflows and treat payments of principal and interest as deductibles
  • Would apply to trading operations of banks

Follow-up question:

  • VAT on financial services
  • Allowance for Corporate Equity (ACE)

 

Instigator: IFS Capital Taxes Group (1991)
Core idea: Provide explicit tax relief for the (imputed) opportunity cost of using shareholder funds to finance the operations of a company
Comparison with other methods:

  • Allows for 100% allowance for equity-financed investment not provided for in cash-flow methods
  • Equates to allowing the interest cost of debt-finance in ‘standard’ corporate taxation

Essence:

  • The normal return on equity-finance investment is removed from the corporate tax base

Mechanics:

  • Calculate the closing stock of shareholder funds at the end of the previous period
  • Opening stock + Equity issued – Equity repurchased + Retained profits
  • PV of a stream of tax payments will not depend on details of deprecation schedule
  • Opportunity cost is the risk-free (nominal) interest rate

Comparisons with personal taxation:

  • ACE compares with RRA (rate of return allowance)
  • Cash-flow proposals compare with EET treatment of savings
  • Reduce rebates and carry-forward provisions by aligning timing of tax payments with actual returns

Notes:

  • Retains much of existing tax structure
  • Taxes the excess over nominal rates of return
  • Debt and equity financing equivalent in PV terms and in relation to tax timing provided depreciation schedules are realistic
  • Taxes only become liable when returns exceed a normal rate of return
  • But if taxing rents taxes effort and risk?
  • To implement, only need to specify how the equity based evolves over time and the nominal interest rate

Comprehensive Business Income Tax (CBIT)

Essential idea: Tax the interest on debt financing in the hands of the debtor, i.e., tax corporate profits after depreciation but before interest.

Issues:

  • Raises required RoR for both debt and equity financing
  • Hugely increase tax in banking and financial services that currently deduct their interest payments
  • CBIT effectively taxing returns to debt and equity at the corporate level.

Developments:

  • Increasingly, limited interest deductibility across borders to stop subsidiaries in high tax regimes borrowing from parent companies in low tax regimes
  • Increasingly, limit deductions for financing foreign operations are exempt from local tax

Comparisons with other systems:

  • ACE and cash-flow taxes change the tax base and exclude normal returns on savings (which are taxed at a personal level)
  • Cash-flow taxes are close to the expenditure treatment of personal savings
  • ACE is similar to RoR Allowance on personal savings.
Leave a Comment

Struggling with generativity?

The brilliance of psychologists

The best skill that you will learn as a student of psychology is to “operationalise” fuzzy ideas.  In plain language, we beceome brilliant at writing questionnaires.  What is an extravert? Someone likes going to parties. And so on.

Warmth is less valued

The skill that you will not learn as a student of psychology is to “encourage” or “enthuse” others.  You might have thought when you started your studies that that is what psychologists do. Sadly, warmth and connection will be beaten out of you as sin of “measurement error”.

And what of generativity?

So you may be really struggling with the idea of “generativity”.  At least know that you are in good company.  We all have to relearn what is means to help others see possibility and goodness, connection and meaning, in their lives.

Generativity step-by-step

To help you understand the meaning of generativity, as it plays out in our lives, here is a letter that seems to have entered the web via Harvard.

And as a good psychologist, note the elements:

  • The impact of chance on our lives
  • The effect of cutting away on defining who we are
  • The constant effort to broaden-and-build, nonetheless
  • The richness of connection to others to whom we are loyal and dreams we hold sufficiently dear to work at night and day
  • The vulnerability to the disloyalty and treachery of others whom we love and causes to which we have devoted the best years of our lives

And then poetically

And then read the whole.  The poetic quality of language is important.  I was never particularly poetic.  Sadly learning to operationalise didn’t particularly help.

Read the original and then take that step of thinking generatively about your lives and the lives of those you touch.

 

Leave a Comment

Some people talk such guff about education

People talk such guff about education.

In brief, you want an organized map of the field, a reason to want to explore the map, money and time to put into the effort, and someone patient enough to guide you and respond to your reactions.

You also want to break your learning into reasonable chunks.   You need to work little and often to be able to concentrate and to think out how new information connects to what you already know and believe and your activity needs to be a judicious mix of time with your tutor, time working with others and time working alone.

Have I written any thing similar?

 

Leave a Comment

Why entrepreneurs succeed: don’t forget the third reason

Reason 1 : Obstacles may not really be obstacles

What really drives entrepreneurs?  In short, they look around and say “I can do this better!”  You and I see a constraint or barrier and see it as fixed.  An entrepreneur says:  “This can go.  I can take it away. I can ignore it. I could use it as a vaulting-horse and jump over it.”

Reason 2 :  Organize to take the profit

What makes a successful economic entrepreneur is that they also notice that they can rejig the working arrangements and take the profit themselves:  “All the better for making me better off!”

Reason 3:  Don’t forget reason 3

So, entrepreneurs are “in” the game and they see an opportunity.  Then, they notice how to rearrange the game to seize the opportunity for themselves.

But, they don’t stop there.  They do something else that is critical to their success.  They rally people to help them win.

Entrepreneurship is competitive.  Even if entrepreneurs are not about to bring their old industry or business to its knees, they are going to become more important than their former colleagues and bosses.  A certainty of entrepreneurial life is that whomever is going to lose out or become less important than them will fight back!

Make sure people are better off with them than against them

And, so it should be.  Why should others stand back and give up their right and impulse to compete! This is why rallying a team is so important to entrepreneurial success.  In essence, an entrepreneur wants to make sure people are better off with them than against them.

This is the skill that psychologists can help teach entrepreneurs.

  • We will let you spot the opportunity in the business that you are in.
  • We will let accountants help you figure out the business structure and financing.
  • What we do is help you learn that all important skill:  to build a team where people are better off with you than against you!

 ACADEMIC REFERENCE

Power as Practice: A Micro-sociological Analysis of the Dynamics of Emancipatory Entrepreneurship
David Goss, Robert Jones, Michela Betta and James Latham
Organization Studies, 2011, 32
[Downloadable from David Goss’ homepage at Surrey]

One Comment

Baffled by bankers’ bonuses? Read agency theory

I am writing this post, as is my wont, to record some notes from a paper I read:

Azevado, R.E and Akdere, M.  (2011). Examining Agency Theory in Training and Development: Understanding Self-Interest Behaviors in the Organization.  Human Resources Development Review, Volume No Not Known, 18 pages. If you want a copy, both authors are presently at the University of Minnesota.

I read the paper because agency theory is the theory behind the big bonuses that are provoking so much controversy.

The application of agency theory to Training is new and nothing to do with bonuses.  But I wanted to tidy up my own thinking about agency theory and if you do too, I’d recommend reading Azevado and Akdere’s paper.  They explain the basic precepts of that school of thinking very well.

I don’t like agency theory and I wanted to pinpoint exactly why I think it is misguided.  I’ve boiled my objections down to three essential points:  the distaste agency theorists have for self-interest, their belief in a zero-sum game, and their belief that the world is so static and unchanging that any one person knows best.

Self-interest

Adam Smith said:

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”.

Some people are sincerely concerned about self-interest, and like the far left, so are agency theorists.

Personally, I am delighted that the self-interest of the butcher, the baker and the brewer leads to a butcher, a bakery and a pub on the high street. I believe in caveat emptor (buyer beware) but I am not panicking that the butcher, the baker and the brewer might from time-to-time charge me 1p too much.

I also don’t panic that today the butcher tries to sell me something that he is trying to ‘move’.  Provided he has taken my self-interest into account and sold me something to fit my needs, we are ‘square’.

I get my needs met now. I get my needs met over the long term because his shop stays open.  And my business does better because he can buy from me!

(Funny that – the last female butcher that I met was my own grandmother.)

Generativity vs zero-sum gains

Agency theorists begin with an assumption that if I pursue my self-interest, then I am not pursuing yours.

Or at least, they believe that inherent in belonging to an organization is the need for the organization to ask me not to pursue my self-interest in some form or another.

It certainly is the case, for example in a soccer game, that I shouldn’t pass the ball to the opposition on purpose, or showing off to my mates in the crowd and not pay attention to the game.

But why should my self-interest be sacrificed as a matter of principle or practice?  If we need to sacrifice anything, let’s compromise and make sacrifices all round.  And wouldn’t it better to put our efforts into making a business environment which is rich enough for us all to pursue our self-interest?

To take a simple example, does it matter if I am miner, metallurgist, engineer, accountant or diamond cutter, provided that all of us work together to mine the diamonds safely and sell them profitably to people who want them?

I’ve found that where people stand on this point is fairly key to their choice of work and choice of organization.  Some people want quick returns. They really don’t believe an organization is more than the sum of its parts.  So be it. We’ll help them go where they need to go.

Those of us who don’t believe that life is zero sum game should stay away from organizations run in terms of agency theory. We will hate them.  And we need to put our money where our mouth is. We have to make our own organizations as good as we want them to be – and successful commercially.

‘Gap’ thinking vs positive management

Agency theory seems tremendously old school to me in the notion that there is a right way to do things and that someone somewhere knows what this right thing is.

Now there are definitely wrong ways to do things.  There have to be things we wouldn’t countenance no matter what.

Expertise is also real. And it takes time, a long time to learn.  Indeed, good organizations arrange themselves so that people can develop expertise and learn from each other.

But the idea that we know the whole answer and we can insist that people do things our way is very unrealistic.  If it was ever possible, it is not possible in today’s world where we rely on networks of experts.  We each bring our own perspective to a problem and we are richer for it.

Returning to agency theory, if no one knows what the best answer is until we have discussed, how do we evaluate whether our agents are pursuing our interests vigorously?

Worse, if we do not allow the room to work out what our interests are, haven’t we built into the organization the very thing that we fear most – that our agents withhold information that is valuable to us?

So in short, these are my three objections to agency theory.

I think self-interest is good, not bad.  We want people to think about their self-interest because we will have a healthier, sounder and more resilient organization (and economy).

I don’t see the world as a zero-sum game. I don’t see the world as a cake to be divided up.  At best I see the world as having no cake until we’ve baked it.  And there are cakes and cakes. Real wizards will make us a cake even when the ingredients for their favourite recipe are not available.

I don’t think we know upfront what our self-interest is.  Good organizations are forum where negotiations and bargaining lead to mutually prosperous ventures.

How does any of this help me understand bankers’ bonuses?  Well they are mystery, to be sure.    Agency theory is not standard organization and management theory but to turn away from thinking that captures attention with promises of large rewards, we need not only an alternative but an understanding of the thinking itself.  Do read Azevado and Akdere’s paper.  I found it helpful even though, or possibly because it was about the less emotive topic of Training.

One Comment

5 steps to understanding the global value chain

In today’s world, trading systems are global and with their global reach, they are complex.  Each of us has to find our niche, and the big question is how do we “insert” ourselves into a vibrant and rich value chain.

  • How do we access the chain?
  • How do we compete successfully?
  • How do we capture gains in a way that we can grow and become more competitive?
  • How do we take part and take part gainfully?

We aren’t interested in every value chain in the world, but for those that fascinate and attract our attention, we want tools to understand who does what and how to find our place.

  • We want to describe what we make in this value chain and how we make it.
  • We want to think geographically about where everything is.
  • We want to know how the chain cooperates within itself and how it makes sure everyone does their part well and reliably.
  • We want to know how we relate to other value chains and in particular how we honour our obligations to be good citizens in every country where we work.
  • And how is our value chain changing?

These are notes I made from Global Value Chain Analysis: A Primer.  They should be helpful when you are thinking ahead about thorny issues of developing a supply chain.  Once you have the basics, they it would be best to go back to the original source at Duke University.

 #1 What do we make in our value chain?

Our value chain includes everyone who is in it – from people who think up ideas, to people who supply raw materials, to the people who make things, move things and sell things to the people, yes, who pick up the waste and recycle what we throw out.

We map out everyone in the system, initially simply, and then in more detail showing what each person needs and use and what they get back in terms of wages, profits and new possibilities.

#2 Where does everything happen?

Value chains are global but the different parts of the value will happen in different places?  Where?  Can we show the value chain on a map?

And is there a good reason why things happen in any place?  Are the natural resources there?  Do they have a long history in making what is made?  Is the market there?  Are transport lines particularly good?  Does the government give the players special privileges?

What are the opportunities for capturing parts of the value chain and moving them elsewhere?  And who else is looking at the value chain seeing the same opportunities for themselves?

#3 Who has the power  in the network?

Sometimes it is easy to spot a big player like Walmart who dominates the entire chain?  Knowing the ‘type’ of chain that we are in also helps us learn from chains in other industries that we might think are different but are organized in the same way.

  • Price-driven Markets.  Is what we are producing so basic that our buyers do not have a say in what we produce? They buy what is there based on availability and price?  The consumer petrol (gas) market is an example.  There is no difference in buying from BP, Mobil or Shel
  • Order-modulated Businesses.  Do we deliver to customers exactly what they ordered but along the lines of simple combinations of orders as we do with a menu in a restaurant?  Do we offer our customers choice but within a fairly simple range so that cost of taking orders and conveying them to production is fairly low when spread over all our customers?  And equally, is it fairly cheap for our customers to switch to another business that offers a similar service?
  • Relationship Businesses.  Do we need to understand quite a lot about our customer’s needs?  Does it take time to listen to them and do our costs fall dramatically as we get to know them?  Equally, do customers prefer to work with someone who knows them well and work problems out rather than switch to someone else?  Do we have the same relationship with our suppliers?  Do we know what they are particularly good at making and do we prefer to work with them for their special expertise?
  • Captive Networks.  Is our value chain dominated by one buyer on whom we all depend?  Does the dominant buyer pretty much dictate terms?  Does the dominant buyer have the capacity to compensate for our dependence on them with secure contracts and other assistance such as ‘extension’ workers who will help us improve our operations?
  • Hierarchical Governance.  Is work in our value chain so complicated that it has to be completed within a single company structure run by managers experience in co-ordinating the intricate work in that sector?

Governance structures do three things: they express power differentials – who depends upon whom, they provide mechanisms to coordinate ourselves for our mutual prosperity, and they define relative profit margins within our value chain.   Our natural inclination is to manoeuvre ourselves in to a better position and we will do so whenever we can.  So as with political government, good governance is not static and rigid.  It is dynamic, it is aware of shifting sands and it is fair.  Nothing ruins a business relationship faster than the sense that the spoils are divide unfairly.

Sometimes we dismiss governance as ‘politicking’ and sometimes, it is.  But it is as important as doing the work. It is every changing and we are doing business at a time when the rise of the BRICS and the growth of IT and web technology is changing business models.  We need to pay attention and see where our value chain is going.

 #4 PEST Analysis

The relationship between our value chain and the wider world can be thought through using a standard PEST analysis.  In each place where any part of value chain operates, what are the political, economic, social and technological issues and how are these changing?

#5 Making our value chain

Everyone taking part in our value chain is there to make a living and the best living they can.  Hopefully, it is well governed and we can be competitive and innovative without destroying each other and destroying our value chain at the same time.

But the prosperity of the entire value chain does change in time and so does our position in it.

At first, obviously we know little about the value chain. But we can learn about the chain as a whole. We can park out the parts that we do know. And we can mark out who else knows what.

And we can be particularly alert to the best order of learning more and learning about the governance of the chain.

The best example of taking over a value chain was the move by Indian IT firms into software.

At first, we might be able to bid easily for repetitive work.  Then we can gradually increase our skills to handle more difficult work that commands a higher price.

Some sectors are well documented and we can even get government statistics to understand how the value chain works.  In others, we have to resort to special reports and even proxy metrics.  The important thing is to keep paying attention and to keep learning.

  • What are the entry points into this value chain?
  • What are the paths from entry points to more commanding positions?
  • When and how do people broaden their command of the value chain?
  • When and how do people specialize because it is profitable in both the short and long term (20-50 years) to do so?

There are three neat tricks to anticipating where a value chain will go.

  • Layout the present chain so that you can see what is going on
  • Do a 4×4 with the pest analysis showing the interactions of economic and social drivers and social and economic drivers, and so on.
  • And then consider the local education policies.  The labour market has very low elasticity – which means it is slow to respond. Simply, it takes a long time to train people. If the local industry is not well organized about bringing people into the work force and training them 10, 20 and even 30 years ahead, then people will not be available. Correspondingly, when they have the skills, they are motivated to drive change.

Thinking about global business and managing future prospects

So that is it in nutshell.

    • What? (from what into what)
    • Where? (from where to where)
    • Who? (who does the work and who has the dominant voice?)
    • Why? ( why are people in this business and not another – PEST)
    • What’s next? (what is changing and what will change in the next 10-20-30-40-50 years?)
Leave a Comment

3 steps of agile sense-making

This is a brief post to remind myself of ideas from “Agile Sense-Making in the Battlespace”.  So what relevance do weary soldiers have for those of us back home?

Getting started: the jargon

Agile

We spot some technical jargon immediately.  Computer people like “agile”.  What they mean is doing just as much as we can to be able to get some feedback.

Imagine it this way, when we begin a journey from London to Edinburgh, we ask the SatNav for a route and then we tend to assume the journey will then be pain free.  Often the journey is not and the real outcome involves looking for another route in a mild panic when the inevitable happens and we are diverted.

The alternative is a SatNav that works like this.

  • It finds the best route and first junction about 15-20 minutes away
  • As we reach that junction, it quietly rechecks the route taking into account any weather and traffic information that has arrived since then

Agile is simple getting on with the first task but allowing that the overall route to the destination may change.

Sense-making

Sense-making is best understood through the SIR COPE acronym of Karl Weick.

Sense is not about truth.  Sense is about piecing together whatever information we have so that there are no discrepancies and so that we are willing to ‘stay in the game’.

Sense-making is an ongoing process; it is a confusing process; and it is ultimately a social process because a key factor in our decision to stay or go is our judgement of the people around us and their loyalty and commitment.  In military terms, it is ‘morale’ – do I even want to belong to ‘this man’s army’?

What can we learn from weary soldiers managing the battlespace?

So jargon aside, what new does William Mitchell add in his description of thinking clearly in the battle space?  I will be using my words now because these are my notes.  I hope you find them useful but if you do, check back to the original article.

#1 Think imaginatively

Technically, we call imagination in “thinking about the systems of systems” or in Mitchell’s words “network philosophy”.

In practice, we think like this:  I want to attract more customers to my business.  They either don’t know I exist, or barely pay me any attention, and when they notice me, don’t trust me.  I want to win their trust.

Of course, I can woo them directly and sometimes I will.  But they already have relations among themselves.  So when I woo the fellows who, say, wear hats, the fellows who don’t wear hats don’t want to take part.  That second level effect is systems thinking.

When we are busy, or in goal mode, our systems thinking tends to get turned off.  Let’s go back to driving from London to Edinburgh.  When I set my SatNav and I head out onto the motorway, I know the trip will be boring, so I don’t want to know about all the wonderful places I could visit just 5 miles off the motorway, or I will not stick to my task.

But I also don’t know about the inter-schools football championship that is about to disgorge a flood of cars into the junction ahead of me.  That’s what management intelligence is for. To make a system that scans for the opportunities or threats that we aren’t scanning for, and should not be scanning for, because we are in executive-mode and concentrating on something else.

But the key takeaway is not that we have lookouts.  The key takeaway is that we have lookouts how understand second order effects what causes what.  And for there to be any point to having intelligent lookouts, we need managers who understand the messages from lookouts.  That’s why managers must be fluent in systems of systems thinking.  They must be able to follow the briefings and ask the right questions.

 #2 Write things down

Technically, we call this state “iterative modelling”. We write down what we think to build a bridge from our brainstorming to our action.

In practice, we log our interactions with potential customers and we see how well we are doing.   We calculate our open rates and click through rates and sales.  We use numbers to focus our attention on what must be done and to learn how to do what we do even better.

Very simply, when we drive from London to Edinburgh, part of the system is written down for us. The SatNav is doing the map calculations for us using a straightforward A* algorithm and some detailed information from maps.  Then it presents it on a map annotated with voice commands.

We do the rest. We look at our clock.  We note the time to destination on the SatNav.   And we note what time we ‘must’ arrive and make our decisions accordingly.  We can see immediately that SatNavs are going to become much, much better at learning.

There are several skills involved in modelling dynamic information.  We have to know what to model. We have to capture data.  We have to write programs of very many sorts.  We have to lay out information.  And we have to learn, a lot, about how to make the whole system better.

And in that morass of work, we might forget what all this is about: to bridge the dynamism of systems about systems thinking with action that has to be taken in some instances, in a split second.   This is what we are doing this for!

#3 Look at alternatives

Technically, the third stage is called “hypothesis generation and testing” or “scenario planning”.  Oh my, how we hate to do this when we are in the thick of action!  To be goal-oriented means to be confident of what we are doing.  And we resist any undermining of our confidence including thinking about what else might be a good idea!

But snap decisions are dangerous and unwise.  A good MI system delivers the correct information to make choice at the right time.  We slow down thinking to speed up work – or avoid false starts and over commitment to unwise courses of action.

Let’s imagine, for example, that we are very attracted to selling big ticket items to wealthy customers.  And that we are reasonably successful.   But that our smaller items fly off the shelves in our ‘outlet’ shop around the corner.   Now imagine we have a choice: spend the next hour serving the high value customer, or spend the next hour helping move the queue around the corner.  It’s helpful to have a display that shows our two choices and their consequences so we can make the choice in terms of what we will achieve and not simply our personal preference.

Equally, when we are driving from London to Edinburgh and we are diverted, in the time we have to reroute, it would be helpful to have a display that shows the best 5 choices rather than requires us to step through them painfully – a task that cannot be done until we find somewhere to pull over.

Every MI system has assumptions built into them. And though we use the systems in a very trusting way on a day-to-day basis, we should know what those assumptions are and what information we are not seeing.  Yes, the data must come packaged ready for action. But we must have people in the background looking at alternatives and produces displays for those too.  Caveat emptor: If we rely on computer systems that we don’t understand and don’t insist on getting better and better, then we only have ourselves to blame.

The three steps of Agile Sense-Making

So this is it agile sense-making –

  • Think imaginatively (imagine the side-effects)
  • Write things down to bridge imagination to action (a computer program counts as writing things down)
  • Have alternative programs that bring together analyses in different ways (our methods must learn)

This is the new world of management consulting folks – data driven.  Now let’s find the clients to match!

CHECK OUT SIMILAR POSTS

One Comment

Coding in schools? Take the splinter from our eye perhaps?

As I wait for FTP to download a website from a server onto my laptop, I thought I would write a bit.

I was up late last night, probably unwisely, as I tried to fix odd errors on my online shop. One error led to another.  I left a message for my US suppliers went to bed and got up in the morning to the usual geek-like rude reply – read this link.

Well my response is

a)      Why wasn’t that pointed out to me earlier

b)      When I put that advice in plain words, your product does not work under the conditions you said it would work. You did warn us by saying “if you use  . . .”.  But the truth is that you should have said “We do not recommend using  . . . If you do use our product with this other product, here are the 5 things you must get right.”

Anyway, I deleted the 2nd product and guess what – their product now misses the 2nd product and has frozen my online shop.  Hence downloading a copy of what is left onto another compute for safekeeping before I fiddle any further.

So why is this important?

  1.  Don’t do your computing when you are tired and don’t try to read Geek-English when you are tired and stressed.  They do their computing and writing when they are tired and stressed and it shows.
  2. There is a big debate going on in UK about teaching coding in schools.  I scoff at this debate. It began with Eric Schmidt of Google, teasing the UK government about teaching word processing in schools (i.e., using Microsoft).  The geeks of UK have fallen for this line and now think we should teach the average teenager how to write the next package. Hmm. .  it will be as a bad as the one that I am using and why anyway should we trade in Microsoft for Google.  For all our frustrations with Office, it is much more stable than any Google product.
  3. But yes, we should all use computers a lot more. I bought some software because I thought my predilection for writing code from scratch was ill-served.  Get working ecommerce software and use it! Bad idea. Bad idea to rely on geeks. Much better to know every corner of your code yourself.

But of course we cannot know everything.  But yes.  Using other people’s code is like signing a document without reading it. We do it – often.  We shouldn’t.  We should streamline our lives to have two boxes:

 # Box 1 : Not very important to me

Things in this box are not important to me.  So I can afford to sign bits of paper or use other people’s code or eat food of unknown origin or sleep with someone who seems to sleep elsewhere too – you get my drift.

If it doesn’t matter, put it in this box.

# Box 2: Very important to me

In this box are the things I care about.  So I should tend to them carefully and learn about them deeply.

As I can’t do everything, I should be very selective about what goes in this box.

I have to be careful about leaving things out too which do impinge upon me or would enrich me enormously.  So what is important must go in and what goes in must be looked after.

What kids should learn at school

That’s what kids should learn at school. To do their work well.  Not to spend time on things they don’t care about.  And not to complain if things they ignored turned out to be important.

Of course, when they are small, they can’t understand this completely or understand enough about anything.  So we grow their world for them slowly, helping them to push back their horizons, bit by bit, as they can absorb more and attend to it with the same care as things already in their world.

To live in narrow world is not grown up. We might even argue that it is to be ‘not of sound mind’.  But to suggest we should code at school.  . . that’s as half-baked as the code I stupidly bought.

Teachers know a bit about helping kids to grow

Kids must go to school and expand slowly from the world they are in to a bigger world. Teachers have some idea of the average pace that kids can work at.   And they know quite a bit about managing an environment where kids can grow steadily in a safe environment.

How can we help schools?

If we think there is something in our world that teachers might like to see, then I think we should invite them in.

Hold bar camps for teachers to have a lovely relaxing weekend in their hols with good food and pizza and geeks with blazing eyes excited by their weekend challenge.

We can accept problems teachers identify with software and work on some improvements.

A splinter out of our own eye?

But it is not kids who need fixing. It is not schools who need fixing.

It is the geeky world of very bad software and very rude help desks. N’est-ce pas? And TG for Google Translate so I could check my spelling.

Getting with the program

Oh, btw, did you see National University of Singapore have built an iPhone app that translates Mandarin speech into spoken English.  . . might make me lazy about learning Mandarin.

Anyway, Stanford watch out.  Asia is hot on your vapour trail.

And where is UK . . . making key apps?  . . . making life better? . . . yes Eric Schmidt is right.  We are a nation of chatterers preferring to use a word processor than to build one.

We should build the companies and businesses that take on NUS and IIT – Kids will work that out fast enough and set that as their new horizon.  Something for kids to look forward to  . . . they don’t need to aspire to aping US entrepreneurs for 20 years ago or 40 years ago.

And if you don’t know what NUS or IIT stands for, of course Stanford’s former post-grad students can solve the puzzle for you.

So ends my self-entertainment – but my FTP download is still not done.  Is it stuck in a loop?  Dearie me. Do I have to understand it’s code too?  Well don’t be taken in by geeks.  The first thing I learned as a CS student is that code is arbitrary.  The problem is usually the comma you didn’t know was supposed to be there.  Now to search Google for ‘looping FTP’. Logic will not fix this. Nor common sense. Someone has seen it before – or not.

CHECK OUT SIMILAR POSTS

Leave a Comment

10 questions to get ready for moving past the financial crisis

In my rough-and-ready barometer of where we are in dealing with the financial crisis, I note that #occupylsx has got people talking.  That’s great. Instead of mumbling into our beer, we are talking.  That’s a far cry from doing, of course.

Using the denial, anger, bargaining, depression, adjustment cycle, I reckon we are up to bargaining. We still believe we are going to make this go away.

When we do get around to adjusting and getting on with life, we are going to need to be well informed about what we can do and whom we can do it with.  If you intend to be around when we get round to sorting things out, these questions might help disentangle the issues.

What do you feel, and what do others feel about these issues?

#1 Are people in the UK angry?

#2 Are all people in the UK angry to the same degree?  And if not, who is more or less angry and what has led us to that opinion that our levels of anger differ?

#3 Is everyone who is angry, angry about the same things?  And with the same people?

#4 Who is angry with you and how do you feel that some people are angry with you?

#5 Who many people in the UK are of working age? How many people in the UK work in banks and the financial services?  How many people do you know who work in these industries?

#6 How much money does our government need each year to run the schools, the hospitals, the roads, the police, the fire service, the army, the navy, the airforce?

#7 How much money do the banks and financial services kick-in to the cost of running our government?

#8 What are the various things we could “do” to the banks?  Which three seem to be the most popular?

#9  When we “do” these things to the banks, what jobs will be created and which will be lost?  Who will be the winners and losers?

#10 When we “do” these things to the banks, what will be the amount they kick-in to the cost of running the government?  Will that be more or less and if it is less, how can we make up the shortfall?

CHECK OUT SIMILAR POSTS

Leave a Comment