Thriving in turbulent (Digital) times

These are a few of the slogans flowing around Digital and Business Transformation and my reply in brackets. Digital is eating the world (Yes) The World is being disrupted (So what?) The future is too hard to predict (Not really) The overspill of digital technology is impacting every business. Scare stories abound and they don’t offer much of a solution. The reality is the internet has changed how you do your job. And it is going to continue to change how you do your job. If you don’t change someone who will change will put you out of business, or make your organisation seem too inefficient by comparison. Copying the work of the kid at the next desk doesn’t work. Learning together, open conversation and preparing and adapting to change does work. It is not the strongest businesses, nor the smartest, nor the one with the most money (though that helps) that succeeds. It is the ones that adapt to change fast enough. We’re running a workshop on this topic in a few weeks. If you’re interested in this you can find out more...

Algorithms : prose written by people

As the ACLU highlights the problem of Algorithms that discriminate we need to remember that Algorithms are only as good as the assumptions that they’re based on. In reality we’d be better off if we replaced the idea of Algorithms as “clean unbiased maths” with “prose instructions written by fallible people.” But alongside the potential for bringing about social progress, the Internet also holds the possibility of contributing to unlawful discrimination. An example of this potential negative impact is a patent recently acquired by Facebook that could conceivably permit loan servicers to gain access to the credit ratings of a loan applicant’s social network and then use that information to determine whether the applicant qualifies for a loan. The patent combines the possibility of serious invasions of privacy with the realistic prospect of illegal lending discrimination. More here.  The Guardian also had a piece on some of these problems two years ago. Image of Justice via...
Snails, Systems and Slack

Snails, Systems and Slack

Paul Quigley CEO of Newswhip wrote a lovely blogpost about the great Snail Derby of 1998. Faced with the problem of getting the Snails to race in the same direction, an innovative 6yo came up with Snail Trails.  Snail trails. Snail trails are not a product you can buy. Snail trails are a streak of water, placed in front of a snail using one’s fingertip. You see, snails prefer pushing themselves over wet surfaces than dry surfaces. My girlfriend observed that a simple streak of wetness leading directly from the snail’s current position to the finish line kept them on the straight and narrow, so to speak. Snail trails saved the day, and the snail derby of 1988 was a roaring success. Paul goes on to describe how you create snail trails for customer acquisition for SaaS businesses. There is a broader lesson for businesses in the use of technology.  Demming said that “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”  A snail trail is a better system. It’s a very clever use of lightweight technology to reduce friction in a process.  Good systems do that. They reduce organisational friction.  They drive better organisational conversations.   And the value of reducing friction in processes and conversations is very very large. One company that is building organisational snail trails is Slack.  I’m a very big fan of Slack. The value of what it’s is doing is rumoured to be up to $2 Billion. Double what it was worth 12 months ago. That’s part of the value that Slack is capturing. And it reflects a small portion of value that it is creating by building better Snail Trails. /Dermot...
The Emperor’s New Facts

The Emperor’s New Facts

“It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble, it’s the things we do know that just ain’t so.”  Artemus Ward We’re focussed on helping people improve their businesses in Near Future.  And we think a lot about how we might do that. A part of that involves improved thinking, and asking awkward questions.  I’ve found over time that most ideas are logically constructed and the best way to challenge ideas are to challenge the assumptions, the basis on which they’re built.  If the assumptions are wrong everything else falls apart. Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert L Sutton wrote a wonderful book on evidence based management a few years ago called “Hard Fact, Dangerous Half Truths & Total Nonsense” which poked holes in many of the modern Shibboleths of management. One of the myths that Sutton and Pfeffer explored in their books was on the nature of Financial Incentives. The evidence shows that incentives sometimes demotivate, sometimes motivate the wrong behaviour and often attract the wrong sort of talent. Even in the best of circumstance are damn hard to get right. Even a company as clever as Microsoft has managed to design disastrous incentive systems that it has now abandoned. We are planning a breakfast event in a few weeks in. It will be on the theme of what we know that isn’t true.  It is designed to break open a few management myths, the Emperors New Facts. The event will be invite only and we have a few open slots, email dermot  @nearfuture.io if you’d like to be included in this or future events that we might...
#RebootingIreland 2000AD, Metaphors and Messy problems

#RebootingIreland 2000AD, Metaphors and Messy problems

Lucinda Creighton has launched a new political party.  Or launched a #hashtag. I’m not quite sure which. As I tweeted yesterday “First thought on #RebootIreland When rebooting a computer you don’t get a different operating system” There was a lot of comment on Twitter. Dave Winer said recently Twitter can have a tendency towards “high fructose emotional rage medicine.” Mostly the comment was cynical rather than hate filled. My first thought was of a comic. There is a panel somewhere in my mothers attic from an episode of 2000AD. It’s from the story Strontium Dog. The storyline is set at the end of a war. A military police force is being disbanded and being replaced. Panel one has the old police force. And panel two has the new police force. Same group. Different uniforms. Same system. Plus ca change. I was reminded of that panel when thinking about #RebootIreland. When we exchanged Fianna Fail for Fine Gael and Labour a few years ago that was the transition. Mostly because the state was governed by the Troika and administered by the politicians we elected. I’m not sure that what’s intended here will be any different. I took a look at the #RebootIreland website. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. As Tommy Collison commented “This party will champion human inventiveness.” What does that even mean? #RebootIreland — Tommy Collison (@tommycollison) January 2, 2015 I have equal questions of what some of the other statements mean Fostering a spirit of entrepreneurism in our public sector that will reward those who work the hardest and deliver the best results for our public services. I’m not...
The Teachers Strike, Fool’s Mate and Strategic Play in Education

The Teachers Strike, Fool’s Mate and Strategic Play in Education

The teachers are on strike today. My wife among them. So I have skin in the game. I’ve lots, I’ve three kids as well. Still at primary with some superb teachers and I want the best education possible for them. There is a good post here on why one teacher is going on strike and in it John Killeagh points out some of the things done on behalf of education reform so far Remove Guidance Counsellors from secondary schools Increase the pupil/teacher ratio Cut capitation grants to schools Again, cut capitation grants to schools (and again for next year) Reduce supports for students with Special Educational Needs John Killeagh in his piece states that “I don’t trust the motivations behind these measures.” He’s right not to. Simon Wardley in another context talks about “Fool’s mate” and the where of Strategy. Most of the problem appears to be that companies cannot see the environment (i.e. they have no map) and aren’t used to any actual form of strategic play. I’m not going to draw a map in this context but I want to point out the strategic play in the education environment. This is only partially about the assessment of the Junior Certificate. It is an important part of the play. Implementing continuous assessment may or may not be a good idea. If its done as planned it will start the creeping corruption of the Irish Education system that Fintan O’Toole has talked about. Twice. And the Ministers idea of 40% rather than 100% assessment. Well can you be 40% corrupt or 40% evil? Yes those are inflammatory words and if there are principles...