innovation


“A mind is a terrible thing to waste and I dread to think that it will become more so with the assistance of a collective of machines.” – J. Durant

No, my age has absolutely nothing to do with my concerns and apprehensions.  If anything its the result of applied human intelligence and the creative processes that spin off from it.   It is fair to say that today we are into an experimentation cycle and are using research as a means to see just how far we can take the science of artificial intelligence.  There will be some, like Alphabet, who are ahead of many.  Let be perfectly clear that this is a normal learning curve, not just for the innovators but will prove beneficial to later adopters as well.

I do have concern about the notion of intellectual implosion.  Intellectual implosion is where the deployment of AI becomes centered on a closed and narrow application universe.  A simple example would be the use of an AI framework that provides ‘what if guidance’ for business decisions.  It sources of input become limited to a single domain, the company.   Now you might respond to this by saying that we then need to entertain other external sources in order to further elaborate the possibilities both arithmetically as operationally.   But here is where we introduce several factors of concern involving these external sources.  Some of the concerns include;

  • Accessibility and negotiated access
  • Timely (at least as expedient as internal sources) Availability
  • Reliability
  • Balance of understanding (simple definitions)
  • Units of Measure
  • Raw and Deductive Elements

It then becomes a question of need and viewing the concerns with open eyes.  While traditional systems can contain damage, an AI system can propagate even the slightest condition extensively.   It’s not a ‘do not go there’ condition, it means that more regiment must be deployed to check, authenticate, isolate, repair, respond, or release in the course of use.

Beyond Implosion

Let me reiterate that my concerns are not my hesitation to progress.  In fact I am a strong proponent to most things that can make our lives more enriched and productive.  But with that said it places an immense burden on the shoulders of engineers, architects, administrators and management to see to it that we act responsibly.  Our concerns are not just something that is downstream but starts with our present conditions.  Nearly a day goes by when we don’t hear of some technological mishap.

  • Compromises
  • Attacks
  • Failures
  • Denial of Service
  • Efficiency Losses
  • Unreliability
  • Usability Challenges
  • Technological Excesses

are but a few of the things we face today.  How will these challenge what we do tomorrow if we are to advance in the direction of AI?  Overlooking these will be solved by AI, they will be magnified and even acted upon.  The old mnemonics GIGO (Garbage In-Garbage Out) takes on a whole new depth of meaning.  Where humans would act now a rule based action would occur in mostly a non-visible fashion.  To emphasize this point I recently read about experimentation being done at Alphabet where the AI platform had adapted itself to conditions that weren’t set in the rules (came up with its own auto response/reaction).  This for some might be a bit discerning but it shows not only the depth of capability but also the need for the extensive level of human consideration that must be exercised with each an every element.  Catch state, rule limitations, plausible creations elements and redo back checking are but a few of the safety nets that can be considered.

Human Intellectual Depth

As suggested in the previous section there is an elevated level of human thinking that is necessary in AI.  It’s not simply a language form, some rules, data inflow/outflow and a permissive deductive element… it requires real thought, collaboration, postulation, experimentation and a mindset of value generation maintenance.  Present experimentation aside we need to think abnormally.  I think of this is the sense that mere replication of present habits, conditions and outcomes may or may not be the way we need to go.  Why create a robotic arm that emulates the limitations of a human arm or for that matter why create an arm when it is possible that some other form of fetch-release-retain-manipulate mechanism might be better engineered?  In the same context, why think of need or solutions utilizing AI in the same way as we would today?  While it may be comforting that we ‘can do it’, the focus is upon outcomes and growing possibilities.   Even these have a strong potential for change.  The fluidity of AI will change us from thinking in a steady state sort of way to one in which we are driven by rapid adaptation.  The bigger limitation for mankind is the ability of adoption and possibly whether some of the adoption will have to remain vested with the technology.  It remains quite possible that some adoption will remain out of human hands because of the frequency and extent to which it is taking place.

Big Questions

Thinking about the topic should excite us but is also apt to raise up a multitude of questions, concerns and elements for investigation.  Listed below are few of the ones that I have been pondering and I hope that it can be used as a basis for your further inquisitiveness.

  1. How will AI-AI or even Global AI be negotiated?
  2. Will AI-AI/Global AI represent a definable limited and restricted access point(s)?
  3. How does Smart Cities play into AI applications?
  4. To what extent will not AI institutions hinder?  Who will be hindered, AI or the non-AI player or both?
  5. What happens when AI acts cross over that are either wrong or out of control?
  6. Will risk become normality and normality become risk (in the present context)?
  7. Rogue AI threats and issues?
  8. What other present day technologies and practices will put under strain?
  9. How much computing power will be required and the importance levied for comprehensive network connectivity?
  10. How does it affect society and human collateral?
  11. Will the divergence from task to intellectual focus enable or disable societies and companies?
  12. Pervasive and responsible constraint becomes a matter of philosophy.  Should it be regulated, mandated and reshaped?
  13. Convergent roles require collaborative AI interaction (eg. elements of software engineering such as dev-ops, verification & validation (V&V), analysis).  Considered or overlooked or simply ignored?
  14. Extent of human intrusion and at what level of intrusion?
  15. Is there a safe state for change or is it invoked real-time (and should it)?
  16. What paradigms will change, become obsolete or need to be totally created that involve not just AI but also it’s close partnership with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and advanced analytics?
  17. Speed and quality have plagued businesses, will diametrically different levels of speed give way to quality issues (resolve, mask or create)?
  18. …. Others…. over time there are I’m sure more.  What will your additions be?

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” – H. L. Mencken and as I have often said “A complex problem doesn’t necessarily require a complex solution.” (J. Durant)

Do we move forward with AI…. YES.  Moving forward is not with reckless abandon but still following sound business and engineering tenants.

 

 

 

“We live in a time where reality and fantasy exist with blurred lines.” – J. Durant

In context of transitional sciences we consider and debate the question as to the adaptability of people to morph from the present state to some aspired to condition.  The journey is often rough as the result of many condition.  Theriantrhropy is the mythological ability of human beings to metamorphose into other animals by means of shapeshifting.  The present day the concept of theriantrhropy can be considered as our ability to change ourselves into different forms, not necessarily in the physical sense but in behavioral/intellectual ways.   Some of this will occur as a bi-product of experience, exposure and learning.  Other changes result from external influences.   During the last decade our ability to transform has been challenged with the rapid changes in our world be it occurring in society, technology, business or the tightened connections within the global community.   We simply cannot curl up into a ball, in the corner of a room and expect to be safe.

First State Condition (Now/Present)

Before we even get started one must give consideration to what state the person(s) are in.  Are they struggling, unmotivated, overachieving, opinionated, persuasive, empowered, bewildered, etc.?   We must never overlook where we are, what is causing these conditions to exists (both good and bad), and what corrections might need to be employed before embarking on a state of transition.  I refrain from relating this to specific genders, age groups or cultures to avoid generalization, but these two can play a hidden but decisive contribution as to what occurs and how these matters must be attended two.

Second State Condition (Compelling Drive)

We must assume that we have taken steps to acknowledge, re-mediate and to address the know conditions that exist in the first state.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been resolved, but it is expected that it becomes an element of attention during the course of transitioning in order to facilitate expedient achievement of planned objectives.  In the second state is when we look to elements to facilitate transitioning.  The most common tactic is to engage ownership.  In today’s business climate it less about assignment and more about taking voluntary ownership.   Some companies have created this climatic condition that can be viewed as customary.  However for others, especially in industries and cultures that are have a strong ‘command and control’ mentality, this will be something very new.  In order to achieve this we must,

  • introduce the concept and all of the beneficial reasons for this change in approach,
  • put forth the elements needing ownership and permitting guided signup for each. Note: it is critical that we guide this in order to avoid over-subscription or taking on roles that  are a mismatch, and
  • go forth, monitor, coach/counsel, reassign if necessary (but with dignity) and update as appropriate.

Third State Condition (Steady State)

Our conditioned ability to reach a steady state in transitioning is not for a single occurrence but one that will survive the potential every changing events that are apt to occur.  It was difficult to suggest that that a steady state would ever be achieve and would most likely be assaulted with new transitional challenges.  Whether these occur as a result of new principals and constraints or whether embodied inside of an element of disruptive change is unknown.  Experience has shown that changes occur, that some of these are apt to fail and then repair sometime later, and others will take the world by storm (duration to be either sustained or momentary).  It’s for these reasons that transitional aptitude and mindset must be keen and responsive.  Reliance on resilience based on the person or intuition are simply added benefits, not a reliable means to achieve positive and lasting flexibility.

The third state has one element that is key, toning.  Like a body builder who achieve a desired stature in order to maintain that they need regular toning physically, mentally and nutritionally.  Toning to achieve a steady state in transitioning (addressing the regular assaults of solicited and unsolicited change) involves toning.

  • Physical transitional toning – Regular involvement, refinement and development of transitional aptitude.
  • Mental transitional toning – Intense topical immersion through educational means.  It is important to utilize a geographically diverse variety that  (formal, informal, reading, classes, mentoring discussions, observation…) fits your learning style.
  • Nutritional transitional toning – Understanding you physiology…. what your application index is, the type of person you are (Myers-Briggs, Colored Brain…) and how to provide a suitable intellectual nutritional balance to maintain proficiency.

As management we are always worried about time and cost.  How much time will need to be dedicated to or how much cost will be involved.  This is not only a very legitimate question but also one that must drive much of what we do.  Instinct is not a sound means to achieve real and last results.

In terms of time, this relates to the three states as previously described.   Lots of issues will require attention even though these are matters that should have been corrected earlier.   Slow progress caused by environment and events will extend time.  However, the payback is found downstream as we start to pace the organization with present day state of changes.  No drag race goes from a standing stop to full speed immediately, and neither should we expect organizations to transition that way.

The cost relate mostly to the cost of time but the offset to the time is a higher degree of control and responsiveness to change.  We can easily dispatch an event to an appropriate level of attention, with a proper support collective in an expedient fashion and do so without be reacting but orderly responsiveness.

In conclusion, what we see happening and what some of you may envision is a lasting change in behavior.  A change that brings pragmatic protocol to embrace habit conditioned to the realities of transitioning, change and expediency.

 

 

“Life is not a cookbook where you find a recipe and suddenly your are a chef.  Mastering balance, flavor and presentations are key to award winning results.” – J. Durant

We are on an eternal quest for answers.  Seeking out the story of people who have experience success often relates to what we perceive is wisdom.   We seek with intent to replicate and overlook the importance of mastery.

If you look back over articles and books on such topics as start-ups, innovation, disruptive technologies and the many things that whirl about us there is a natural abundance of ‘how to’ or ‘guidance’ sources.  Why?   Simply put these things sell, people want quick and decisive real life examples.  But in opting for speed and outcomes there is also a natural tendency to acquire intellectual command of the topics, and the pursuit of further immersion.

I recently read an article that described the pursuit of venture capital and the frustrations experience with not only the process but the deployment of resources once financing was acquired.  The real crux of the matter was an over attention on need and less of an attention to having formed a financial and operational structure to accept revenue inflows (regardless of source).  Why is it important?  From personal experience the importance lies in the value produced from having routine operational elements, including finance, to be carried out in an almost automatic fashion.  This permits us to be attentive to pressing and often disruptive events without having to be immersed in routine care and maintenance of critical business elements.   In the case of startups the failures are routinely caused by an over attention to critical elements that have not achieved steady state reliability, caused in large part to care as  you go.  As the title suggests we think too much, and we own too little in terms of intellectual ownership.  In the context of start-up organizations there is an abundance of attention given to product/service promotion but all in the wrong way.  We really don’t need to know what a car is made of or what the material specifications are, we do however need to understand the market and how it can be convinced to make a commitment (aka market conversion).

Leap of Faith

Life is not easy and while our vision is to win, our most daunting challenge is to survive.  Survival of the fitness epitomizes the struggles and the acclaims achieved during the course of life’s ventures.  Maybe this is reflected in marriages that last, our is lifetime commitment but the struggle is everyday life with another person.  In the case of business its surviving the daily on-slot not just from market or competition but societies as a whole.  Rigidity has its place but in terms of staying the course of survival we must be prepared and capable to transition at a moments notice.  Talk is cheap when trying to characterize ourselves as flexible or are we?  Are we simply saying we are because our world of flexibility is dependent upon a rigid framework for addressing change?

To leap forward means that we need to change our behavior (aka transition).  We need to view knowledge as the fuel for adopting personal knowledge, not as an instruction to follow.  Think beyond the norm, looking for big questions that possibly don’t have answers (because they haven’t been asked before or thought about in a particular way), and a search of wisdom from places that are on your hostile radar will open your mind in ways that you might not expect.  At the same time we must be resistant to pessimism, refrain from dooming anything to unacceptable before you have taken it in, pondered, prodded, experimented and adapted to characteristics (personal and professional).

I’m not a name you would see on a billboard list of successful entrepreneurs because I haven’t achieved multi-billion dollar levels.  But is the achievement of a level a sign of commanding understanding and abilities?  Maybe so, by your scorecard, and thus the reason why the words of wisdom reach a level of respectable acceptance.  But you also may remember cases in which the wisdom was inappropriate for your needs.  Why is that given that it resulted in success?  Was it that we didn’t dig deep enough to understand the conditions by which success was achieved, or was it a matter of conditions taking place at the time of the success story?  Maybe it was first to market, or maybe it was simply something as simple as selling an interest that was in fact the source of the success.   This is somewhat like a book on Success that creates a revenue stream of success or a methodology that sells you on discovering who you are (when we would hope that you already some idea of that already).

Recently I experienced an opportunity to question a person who contrived a model.  The model was interesting, although more confirming than discovery.  What was more concerning from my perspective was the lack of credentials (thus personal opinion and packaging) and the forward thinking as to where to go beyond the model to affect organizations.  In retrospect, and without malice, it was an example of marketing creativity over material substance.  Many of you have heard the term, “we can sell ice cream to Eskimos”, but is this a condition we are apt to subject our livelihood to or for that matter wish to be associated with?

Honor and integrity in business have been cheapened by clever wordsmithing to legitimize our mission to produce growth and revenue.  I think of this a bit like a petty thief who steals to feed his family and uses this to justify the illegal behavior.  The decision rests in your hands whether need over rides principals.  What hinders us, once again, is fear.   Whether it be the fear of failure or the fear of the unknown we shackle ourselves to opportunities in which we marginalize ourselves.

As stated earlier I’m not a named commodity except to a few long time followers who have come to realize the virtues that I possess at a personal and professional level.  These has resulted in loyalty but also a life journey stewardship.  I am also a strong believer in survival and as a result believe that aside from traits we must be capable to exist in disruption.  Disruption that has valued purpose and not leaning towards it being a ‘Distraction’.   The separation in meaning is quite clear to me, it’s the difference between a plausible occurrence and one that is of little to no value.  But be careful because what may be of little to no value today, may be essential tomorrow.  Sometimes we need to give a bit of pondering thought and other cases we simply need to file it away for periodic examination.  Often what may fade has the probability of re-occurrence later on, almost like the idea that is ahead of its time.  This is an example how failures can and often are more valuable than the sagas of acclaimed success.

In Conclusion

There is no conclusion, only a continuum.   The river doesn’t dry up because we can’t make it upstream, it expects us to understand the ebb and flow, the rapids and the flat waters of our journey.  We command the river when we understand our role and the conditions by which we chart a path to the headwaters.  The same holds true in our journey in life and in business.  We are driven not by answers but by wisdom, and that is further embellished with our rendition uniquely crafted to fit our needs to produce a valued outcome.  Mastery however involves an intuitive reflect in the application of knowledge.  Not a quick reference or a set of notes but a humble and childlike inquisitiveness that is never satisfied.  As parents we know the stage of ‘Why?’ that occurs.  Unfortunately it gives way to answers and principals that stems the question of ‘Why’.  This creates a sad state, but it is not without redemption.  While we can postulate on what causes this, it’s really not important because the cause isn’t what needs correction.  What needs correct is us, today, at this very moment, to act upon a need to redeem our desires to own the ‘Why?’.

“Fear is debilitating and causes irrational thinking.  We need to back up a couple of steps and look at things in a better light before we throw ourselves from the building.” – J.Durant

For quite sometime we have been bombarded with articles and news about the coming of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and all sorts of other ‘human replacement’ tools.  As I am sure some of you are aware there are just some things that these things can’t do or at least we would not permit them to do just because they might be a bit more reliable, efficient and consistent.   There again we have walked on the border with such controlled experimentation as cloning and various other forms of neuro response solutions so who knows just what kind of mad scientist may be lurking to set forth their madness in intellect driven machine.

So let’s take a moment and accept a few things…..

  1. Some form of intellect driven solutions will be put into play and these will replace legacy solutions that involve a human component.
  2. Most like intelligent solutions will embrace a consumer-to-business (C2B) paradigm.  This will ultimately reduce costs and expediate the formation of relationships.
  3. The care and oversight for such solutions will require humans.  However, rather than relying upon casual oversight they will be nurtured by intelligent analytics either in the form of predictive or preemptive forms.   And,
  4. Robots are apt to be involved in order to serve as a service conduct into the interaction with the AI environment.

Now for the really questions that never seem to get mentioned from those expounding on the AI exploits of leading companies like Google, SalesForce, DeepMind, Facebook, OpenAI, Baidu, Microsoft Research, Apple, IBM and Remark.   But in delving into these deeper it is clear that there are a few elements to recognize.  Some of these are noted as AI involved based purely on name and maybe a slight be of tinkering with the concepts and technologies.  There are some that are heavily focused on the AI mechanism that would be used to drive an AI like behavior.  Finally there are some that have wrapped the AI wrapper around an intelligent process, possible an advanced analytic element, and labeled it as AI.   You are also apt to see a similar situation with terms such as learning machine and robotics (especially those that are non-mechanical) as well.

Classical Transitioning Concern

An all to common condition that exists in transitioning is having a plan that is doomed before steps are taken due directly as a result of existing issues.  Thus far we have not seen any of these points raised up by the AI and robotics enthusiasts or those who have expressed guarded reluctance to journey toward the utilization thereof.   Some of these existing conditions include,

  • Green field conceptualization of the AI model and the metamorphic conditions one can anticipate.
  • Interface negotiations from sending as well as receivers.  Stakeholders in receiving solutions may be a bit reluctant to accept AI driven infeeds.
  • Verification and Validation (V&V) readiness.  Most recently British Airways had a system wide shutdown that crippled their operations.  If we are experiencing these conditions in complex networked but traditional systems what is it going to be like with flight by automatic systems like AI?
  • What mechanisms will be used to fuel the AI solution?  Will those mechanisms be ready to provide reliable feed information but in doing so be expedient enough to fuel the AI application?
  • Have boundary reach parameters been set?
  • Consideration for security, validation, performance, real-time conflict management, in-flight updating, and some of the more technical elements of AI?
  • Has thinking been toward ‘right solution’ and not remain focused on existing solution?   Again more green field/blue sky thinking.
  • Formulating a growth based design that will engage elements of robotics and analytics.
  • Understanding that the AI solution may be more than just an event driven paradigm and will demand the inclusion of event base stimulation, deductive modeling that builds upon (or adjusts) a rule frame repository, and the concepts of prediction/authentication/ and progressive simulation (apart from the live environment).
  • Destination driven repository containers that are distributed but interconnected globally as opposed to single destination service.  This also brings up the question about non-stop up-time.
  • Extent of human or non-human intervention schema.

And there are allot more that are required in order to insulate from failure and elevate the opportunity of success.

Circle Condition

Unbeknownst to consumer/recipients of change there exists some form of exploratory cycle.  It may be as simple as a survey and an alpha test of market, or as formal as experimental research.   I reread an article (actually from a different source) on TensorFlow Playground a working example of neural technology.  Impressive and stimulating, well illustrated form of scientific/mathematical application to draw deductive suggestive outcomes with a high probability of accuracy (but not at 100%).  Then I got thinking about whether 100% was attainable from humans either, after all we are prone to mistakes whether through random attention or the result of circumstantial conditions that exist.  Clearly the purpose is to build a sense of trust and understanding, as a commercial effort for the market place.  It also illustrates that the technology was being applied to the known science of math and to legitimize its ability.  What we have seen however is that the line between research and usable solution is often a fuzzy line.  The jumping from concept to application overlooks some grooming required and especially in this case the need for a science that has an element of runaway evolvement based on conditional stimulation and seed data.

In some respects the concepts and principals of AI follow a similar path as is the case with compilers.  There are a finite set of conditional parameters that can be involved based on formalized criteria, set by the institution, to produce and outcome.  What creates the circle is that the outcome is then feed back in the process to which some events may be repeated and others taking a totally different path.  The fear isn’t in the use of the technology it’s all of the possible things that can go wrong.  To understand their potential and to determine what the appropriate level of care that must be exercised should be.   This is not a path in which we have seen similar debates about before.  Space programs, nuclear reactors and fly-by-wire systems have all had their moments of glory and those times when intervention (and often spot creativity) must be exercised.

So Where Are We Now?

We are in some interesting times.  It remains uncertain the degree and speed in which AI will advance.  My suspicion is that for some that are already poised with intellectual driven tools, whether it be predictive analytics (ready for preemptive forms), robotic clusters looking to advance from rule based paradigms or semi-thinking information technology solutions looking to employ a bit more merging of trends with behavior change they definitely will have a leg up.  For the rest it will become a decision as whether to wait or to start taking some of those formative steps now that exists for the organizations that are poised.   Looking at past failed attempts at AI it was the result of institutional support (left mostly to universities and the Department of Defense with Ada).  Today respected institutions, like Google, provide a groundswell of interest and support by association.  Whether its rightly so is not up for debate but rather to be acknowledged as a fact.  It is not without risks but as long as we humans have control we can do what is needed to insure that our AI will succeed in a controlled and appropriate fashion.

“A thousand jumps without a mishap is no basis to decide to abandon your reserve parachute.” – J. Durant

There are several assumptions that I’m not going to make.  One is that there isn’t some sort of contingency plan and secondly that the plan (if it exists) is actually plausible.  The existence of a Plan B may very well exist and was thought to be durable enough to work in the event of the unexpected.   It is also quite possible that anticipated projects of markets failed to recognize that there were not only fatal flaws in service offerings but also had not considered the potential rapid acceleration of disruptive technologies.  These situations are all possible and realistic so where does this leave us in the world known as ‘outsourcing’?

The Here & Now

I should come as no surprise about certain conditions existing that leads us up to today.  Nearly 7 years ago President Obama was threatening H1b visa reform so it should become as no surprise that it would again regain visibility under President Trumps initiatives to put America back to work.  Nationalism whether in the US or India is always of utmost concern.  Employed workers reduce the possibility of civil unrest and if band-standing about the topic brings support from citizens.  But the US is not the only ones in the throws of employment concerns as you look about all of the other nations.  Some nations, such as the Philippines, who gained BPO notoriety in 2010, continues to struggle with providing sustainable employment opportunities and relies heavily on the export of human capital.

There here is that as nations of service providers we need to earn revenues in order to provide employment and foster continued growth.  What happens however is as the revenue streams shift the organization becomes challenged to remain in step.  It is possible that the size of an organization can hamper its ability to be nimble in this situation but it can also be a case that the labor force is too narrowly skilled to adapt to the rising challenges.  As a result labor falls under direct attack through downsizing.  It isn’t always about tenure but it can also be about skills and the ability to advance those skills in a reasonable time frame.

What were some of the sourcing challenge that sat in abeyance waiting for a tipping point?  As I stated back in 2011 (Frost & Sullivan/Manila), ‘The celebration of successful BPO supremacy must be short lived.  The time is NOW to transform and advance the services provided by the BPO community whether it be in Information Technology (IT) or Knowledge Processing (KPO… which we now refer to as analytics).”   The message while loud and clear went unanswered until now and the reaction has been anything other than chaotic.   In large part, the absence of a Plan B is becoming more and more apparent as a rush is being made to educate up.   Unfortunately equally concerning is that education is but an introduction and a far cry from the level of expertise that this new wave of technological disruption is causing.

Woulda-Shoulda-Coulda

What is a Plan B?   Not to sound too parochial, it a preconceived game plan that addresses anticipated and unanticipated conditions.  Often it is considered as having a Plan B when we feel amply equipped to make decisions at a moments notice.  This is not planning, this is reacting.  As with most reactions they are best serving in the moment but in the long term (and that could be as short as a couple of days).  A reaction is intended to be exercised by skilled and experience personnel who are willing to be accountable for their decisions.   The question is whether this is taking place or not?

For employees that are most apt to say NO.  This response is influenced by fear and uncertainty caused by a situation that is beyond their ability to in control of.  It may further justify or erode confidence in those making these decisions.  What is however within the control of the employee is to be aware and ready of the changing world that they are employed in.  Accepting a complacent role is not going to insulate you from the havoc caused by change and is most likely going to put you in jeopardy.

For the decision makers, the leaders, and the visionaries of the company its a profound wake-up call.   There may be a multitude of sins that has place the business in a vulnerable position,

  • too much time and effort place in self-promoting and not enough time keeping your ear to the ground for change,
  • thinking that you are a leader when in fact there is a void in the sound ability to deliver and thus creating trust issues in the market,
  • riding out the good ride as though it will never end and when it does end finding plausible but untrue reasons why it happened,
  • failure to plan, anticipate, monitor and adjust.  This is not an ancillary or optional element but one that serves as your reserve for adapting to change, and
  • viewing a plan as the end and overlooking the elements of transitioning as a part of a success formula.

It should however come as no surprise that these small elements with high impact are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of critical failings in outsourcing.  Don’t view my words as too harsh but simply a reality check and the opportunity for companies to reinvent their role engagement.

Metamorphism

It is far to easy to either live life in the moment or react to the ebb-and-tide of change.  But nearly a decade ago the word in favor was ‘sustainability’ and it didn’t just pertain to startup enterprises it served equally well for established institutions.  It was however difficult to envision sustainability when you were living in that moment.  Probably for that reason alone the notion of considering a Plan B was viewed more as an opinion than as a necessity.   Looking over thousands of Plan A’s and B’s they fail on content but do exceedingly well on form.  The plans also tend to portray the world as some sort of orderly process that takes place and relies heavily on past performance, despite changing social and consumer interests that add the element of context.  These and the lack of diverse thinking, because of confidentiality trust concerns, has created a storybook saga where the element of realism was more wishful that plausible.

Not everyone has been doom and gloom on either not having or having but poorly orchestrated plans that address planned and disruptive change that has been tempered by current situations.  The few companies are surprisingly small but are riding the wave of current success and in doing so are forced by institutional investment circumstances to think ahead and anticipate.  They have also, possibly caused by having done this for a period of time, has immortalized planning and specifically a plan B mindset into their regular protocol.

Circling Back

Let’s return back to outsourcing and where we go from here.  Whether you have a plan, a Plan B, it’s not working or it is the reality is what we face and what the clock looks like.  In all cases we have a small amount of time to transform and perform.  This opportunity is fueled by the customer and their drive to embark on significant technological change.  It is a bitter pill for the customer to swallow when shifting off of legacy linear solution technology in favor of more aggressive, machine driven solutions.  Not only does risk need to be mitigated but trust needs to be earned through concept, technology and custodians.   Secondly, there is an opportunity for adaption of present intervening environments.   When dealing with such elements as machine learning, artifical intelligence, robotics (both mechanical and intellectual) and advanced analytics these do not permit a lift and drop approach.  They must be carefully crafted, deployed, adjusted and grown in order to further reduce the impact of risk that they introduce.  This provides both a service opportunity to providers but also invaluable time to grow accustom to a greatly different paradigm.   Despite what one might think humans are resistant to change.  A study by the University of North Carolina (USA/2000) illustrated that people resist change, despite unhappiness with present circumstances, based on known vs. unknown trust.  A lack of participation in change only added to the reservations that they had that change could take place and if not that they wouldn’t be held to blame for it failure.

For sourcing companies there are immediate course adjustments that will be necessary.  Obviously resource levels will require adjustment, locations modified, work modes modified and reinvestment employed with these only being a few of the many things that need to be put into play.  It will however also require a shift in thinking about the role of the business, the attitude towards labor resources and even a willingness to trust from both within and from outside.  Historically openness has been cautiously provided when it came to business relationships, but the door of local proprietary behavior has been shut on operational improvements.  If at all, it has been relegated to a simple one way providing of inward value without the opportunity for shared and mutual inclusion.

Is there hope for the future, of course there is always hope.  Is it too late to make change?  Let’s just say we need to get moving and not adopt a wait and see.  It will be too late if the need is already here and you have nothing to offer except hopes and promises that can’t be fulfilled.

 

On a daily basis we are exposed to topics of leadership.  From the aisles of government to the offices of commerce we seek leadership.  Our pursuits call upon leaders of the past who’s successes give instantaneous acclaim for their profound leadership.   However, we also see the assault on leadership from the rank-and-file that are in search of what they perceive to be leadership.

What is leadership or more specifically the instrument that we call a leader?  There are numerous definitions that exist and most point to the characteristics that a leader should have.  But is that really a definition or is it simply a personal depiction of what they perceive a leader to be.  In pondering this topic I tried to visualize the model which is comprised of two end points; a person who is followed (aka leader) and those that respond to the edicts of that person (aka the follower).   This definition is not  limited to just people but can also relate to entities such as a company, country or even market. Leadership these examples is earned and not bestowed, as might be the case when we deal with an organizational setting.   Thus we have two ways in which a leader reaches this role, by earning it through value based outcomes or though assignment.

images (2)Let’s talk a bit more about assigned leadership.  While we all assume that a leader has earned the role it can also be heavily influence by need and urgency of that need.  Each of us can easily think of cases where you wonder how a person became the leader when there appears to be a lack of leader traits.  It may be the case of earning the seat by tenure/opportunity and less about character traits.  However, as a follower (or a person sitting on the sideline as an observer) our scorecard may be much different that the one being used by the leader’s leader.  What we must come to realize that a leader’s leader may not only looking at the tactical implementation of initiatives but how those fit in with broader corporate objectives.  The leader-leader may know of about matters of urgency and thus are looking for the trait of decisiveness, technical abilities and project delivery track record as key components needed in this newly appointed leader.  All the while the contingent of followers are looking for a guide, mentor and someone who can appreciate their challenges.  In short the conflict between ‘action based decisiveness’ and ‘cooperative support’.  As we have read in the last few years there has been ample discussions about the focus of generational attitudes on the leadership model.  I’m not going to delve into each except to say that conditions will challenge each and every generation.  There may be times commanding group think, where as at other moments a more pragmatic scientific approach or even a unconfirmed decisiveness that is required.  It is mostly likely not feel right for you, it may never been fully embraced by you, but you will be expected to support the approach.  Now I’m a bit reluctant to say this but it is as important to know how to be a committed, effective, trusted and faithful follower as it is to be a responsible leader.   This is not something that is easily achieved and will require you to #transition your entire persona to fit varying conditions.

The leader who achieve acclaim through accomplishments is often lauded by others. You can’t take achievement away but at the same time we cannot assume that their style or approach is reproducible.   There is always that hint that right-place/right-time was the factor that made it happen.  It also should be noted that its easily to reverse engineer elements into an outcome as the baseline for success.  But even in those cases there are conditions, often undisclosed that contributed to it taking place.   Timing, budgets, corporate support, market readiness, human capital and the much allusive innovation often sit behind successful efforts.   So the leader sits between the two ends of success; the followers (instruments) that will be put into action whether in a day-to-day operative setting or on a initiative based venture and the leader’s-leader who is commanding the leader as a follower.

It is important to realize that the question of transparency and awareness exists.  How much is needed to invoke success or how little.   This question is best considered when thinking about ability to influence and knowledge capability of the individual (or even group).   During my career I have had many occasions when the market should have known but the ability to convert was near to impossible because of fear of the unknown.  The value of transparency, even with a risk reduction roadmap, remained an obstacle.  The information ‘fell on deaf ears’, it failed to transition thinking and added one more variable to a list of other variables that still had not been resolved.  One can never, regardless of  virtues, overcome these barriers.   Leaders and followers may be called upon to engage in initiatives or support processes based solely on face value, and this command massive trust.  Anyone who has sat in this role has had more than one hair brained scheme dropped in their lap and was expected to carry it out.  It is highly possible that you were right, if that is at all important, but being right isn’t the question.  The question is about achieving a result as a leader in the face of all opposing odds and utilizing the resources at your disposal.

As a professional, leader of follower, we are obligated to mature as professionals but also as individuals.  It possibly the reason why elder leaders are called upon for their wisdom because it is expected that they have reached a level of maturity.  Life teaches us many lessons most of which cannot be repeated because of the parties involved.  But none the less they took place, the story was written and the last chapter produced.  To reach maturity the craft of following, leading, sharing and #mentoring must occur.  If your pursuit ended in college, you leadership desires ignored following development then the outcome will produce substandard leaders.  Ambition, interest and even technical skills are not enough to be a leader that is anything more than an expendable resource.  Once you have served a purpose your value is no longer worth the fallout from the elements that lacked the potential for leadership growth.

Education is important, but it’s value impact is achieved when used with the right leadership personality.   The right tools will assist in achieving goals but if the talent is not there, then don’t expect to produce a world class painting just because you have an expensive badger hair paintbrush.

GBS Instrumental Leadership

The context of the Global Business Service (GBS) is a collective of organizations that are a resource to other institutions around the world, and not solely focused on domestic market.   The GBS model involves a spearhead, participants and market.  Because of its disruptive emergence out of shared services and outsourcing paradigms the ability of GBS to achieve formation has been circumstantial and not cohesively formed.  By this, we have engaged numerous events and initiatives to hold onto the concept of GBS but have been a bit apprehensive to raise acclaim as the leader.  I’m sure its a worthy bar room discussion as to why, but at this point its more a matter of embracing the need for leadership, determining how that can be achieved and putting it into action.   Time and time again leadership contention becomes a leading barrier to achieving worthwhile results.  Organization vs. organization vying for the leadership role becomes a polarizing effect.

imagesIn the meantime however is the target consumer who operates in its own independent sphere of needs and benchmarks.  Are they the leader looking to direct or are they the follower of a supplier (or possibly even a market)?  It’s this quandary that is where confusion commences and as a result assertions of leadership are made.  Often it becomes a unsettled state in which neither party takes leadership but also neither one takes responsibility when issues arise.  The result isn’t just hampered outcomes, its creates negative emotions that may never turn positive (eg. mistrust, apprehension, disappointment, accountable failure…).   GBS awaits leadership, from the onset with those institutions that deliver value based services.  Secondly there needs to be leadership in governance by those agencies and institutions that are crafting the channels of opportunity.  A lack of leadership often results in a reflection of confusion, disarray and loss of opportunity.   But also there needs to be humble but privileged following that realize that acclaim comes to those are the backbone resource for the GBS initiative.   Looking back on past ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) initiatives the overlapping leadership of multiple organizations has caused failures to take place.  Even more pronounced is that their durability remained only for the period of time in which instrumental parties remained in place.   Leadership isn’t about reward but about building capability for durable empowerment.   In Southeast Asia agencies vie for leadership of GBS, corporate suppliers are looking for and aggressively competing for leadership visibility and employees are striving to become leaders while still in the embryonic stage.  All the while the consumers outside of the region are at a loss as to where to go or how to gauge the reliability of the organizations and services.  So what needs to be done?

The first step in leading is to understand and objectively evaluate present conditions not only on the ground but also looking beyond the present.  Without this self-directed examination what will result is gross independence of organizations that continue to run autonomously.  This will ultimately results in shallow depth of value generation and a narrow band of specialization.   Secondly we need to craft the most basic form of structure that will center on bring about GBS.  This fundamental form will ultimately result in key initiatives to build corporate and organizational leadership through educational, editorial and trade events.   The big question in most minds is who should be leading GBS?  I suggest that it does not have to relegated to one leader and that there is ample room for leadership each bring to bear an ability that another may not possess.  As is the case in government and business, while there may be one leader (such as ‘President’ or ‘Prime Minister’) there still remains a cabinet and other regulating leaders that must be consulted and to which agreement must be struck.  While the focus is often one the one, it is really a reflection of the decision of the collective of leaders.   Finally, more attention must be directed as to whether the consumer is the leader or the follower or whether they are in fact a peer leader.  A peer leader that has a span of leadership control, in this case the consumer having domain control to engage, monitory and see to delivery of service delivery outcomes.  By comparison the peer leader of the provider has domain control to engage, perform and deliver outcomes not simply because they are driven by contract but because its the right thing to do in order to sustain a productive relationship.

Yes we have leaders by title, some by role and others by relegation of duties.  But true leaders do not bask in the shade awaiting a provocation.  True leaders engage and form action based upon conditions that exist or that are anticipated.  It also should be acknowledged that followers play an essential role.  Not only do followers deliver outcomes but they are also play a role in continued sustained leadership.  All must be ripened on the vine for one day to be harvested and brought forth to the next purpose in the food chain of leadership.

SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT to members of PIKOM leadership for providing the leadership discussion stimulation which provoked this article to be written.

From that single organic nodule of package life an offspring is produced, or not.  This week has been particular enriched with insight and wisdom, some unsolicited and others remaining a bit of a quandary.

This week Hubert Dreyfus passed away.  A professor and a human being, a philosopher who challenged us to consider the practical limits of computers.  Aside from his academic acclaim and intense experience as a human being his message was far deeper than the antidotal point on message.  Yes, he asked us to consider the depth of use and application of technology in our personal lives, business and society.  He appears to have know the extent of human temptation and addiction.  Today we are drawn to the light like a moth to a candle, embracing the new and forsaking the tried and true. Is it because we are afraid of being left behind or are we considering the real vs. illusionary value of it all?  Or is it that we are sitting on the edge of restrained obsolesce and the jump seems right even if we might be stepping out into the darkness with hardly a basis of comfort.  Although I never had the chance to meet him in person I enjoy some brief ‘technological’ interchanges to better understand his stance on artificial intelligence.  During my advanced studies he provided invaluable opinions about the difference between machine learning, the need for social contact and interchange, along with some quite private discussions about risk.   It was a bit unnerving to consider to realize which was always in front of my eyes that the success or destruction is not in the device but the enablement provided by the human steward.   To me it wasn’t just a learned opinion, although gifted with experience at MIT and Rand, but his deep and profound thought given on the subject.

The Junk Drawer

Few people do not have a junk drawer.  Whether it be made up of household repair items or kitchen gadgets we all manage to eek out a space to stash away an much anticipated device of salvation.  Likewise we see the emergence of the same for abandoned technology.  Cables, cell phones, chargers and various explored ancillary devices find their way to ‘the drawer’.  We pretty much know that what goes in is unlikely to come and be used, time is not on the side of technology and the obsolescence that occurs.  But our frugal nature suggests that we or someone might find a need or use for these cast aside items.   I mention the junk drawer in a broader context that we have lots of technologies that have come and gone.  Often replaced by what appeared to be superior solutions, that later prove to be less superior that even more future ones.

I think back to my very first expose to artificial intelligence in the 1970s.  It was with a very simple but quite illustrative product called VisiEXPERT produced by the now defunct Visi Corp.  The product was a very rudimentary rule based artificial intelligent (AI) solution.  Its operational example used the pairing of cheese with wine and allowed for the addition of new elements and relationships.  At that time it was robust enough to learn or be driven by inference, it required aggressive assertions in order to advance outcome delivery.  Later in the 1980s we saw the ADA and LISP development as service languages support for data driven behavioral modification processes.  In both cases their emergence was not months but decades in the making and although solidly formed it struggles to produce a groundswell of disciples.

So our junk drawer continues to grow and with this we see the rekindling of interest.  For those in the AI community the drive is not so much from the technology as it is the promotional support of the business community.  AI is talked about in a single breath with learning machines but how does this all fit together with life?


Embryonic Appearance

This past week (May 5, 2017) I read a piece that Scott Ambler a legendary agile disciple wrote about the “Darth of Qualified Agile Coaches”.  The points reflected a condition in which labels get applied but the lack of substantive value creates an abundance of non-value.  Even though the focus was on promoting professional qualifications there remains a quite similar condition as it pertains to AI.  We see a plethora of AI involved entities who for all intense purposes are new market entrants.  But let us not also be fooled by capabilities driven by attending a course, as Scott pointed out, it involves intense and purposeful experience to fulfill the obligations as an expert in a given field.  Even in my case with over 40 years in the information technology field and intensely active engagement in AI related activities I still feel I have lots to learn.  Its from this vantage point I wish to ask the question about capabilities.

When I think in quite simplistic terms as pertaining to AI I think of ‘the seed’.  That kernel catalyst that will drive the growth of technology based learning.  I also think about risks and what level of permissiveness that we should allow the AI model to undertake.  Embedded in that kernel is data and we need to be astutely aware that data is not always clean, controlled and ready for use.  It necessitates sterilization to make it ready and all must be done in as near to real-time as possible.  Momentary lapses in time or hesitation in commitment of cleanliness jeopardizes the AI value proposition.

To further emphasize this point I will refer you back to some earlier writings on did on advanced analytics.  I find that while analytics also makes use of data, it also has the potential to become a close partner with AI and the learning machine.  As stated in this earlier article (10/15/2014) the real next generation is not in preceptor or predictive analytics, it in the real of preemptive which takes action vs. alerting us of or indicating that a condition has the potential to occur.  In short, the model reflected the raw basis of the learning machine.  While not centered on growth of knowledge and more centered on action the elements exists for the feeding the AI model through preemptive analytics.  I also contend that anything short of being soundly grounded preemptive logic, including predictions is really shaky ground for AI.  The basis of this opinion is the potential for runaway illogical reaction by the AI model paradigm.  In the most simple of examples I think of how I look at a situation and react to later discover it was not exactly as I saw it.  If this had been applied to an AI scenario who knows whether reversion would have occurred and if it did was it through intervention or a separate set of rules to deal with error management?

Conclusion… Just a Wee Bit of Fertilizer

No planting would be complete without a bit of care and accelerated nurturing.  AI is no exception.  In this context our growth enhancement hormone is a combination of pragmatic engineering, anticipatory examination and a purposeful examination of our present state of intellectual discourse.  Most would agree that humans make errors and thus anything we do is both prone to error creation but also possibly error propagation caused by what we presently do.  One cannot view human emulated thought process as simplistic.  Even the most rudimentary movements, considerations, evaluations and commitments entail literally thousands of possible paths and choices.  While technology can handle volume and responsiveness it remains the dutiful obligation of humans to craft the paths, the gates of decisions, correlation of relationships and discernment of probable paths with rational and common place or dissenting opposition.  Its for these reasons that the engagement of personnel involved with AI cannot be causal technological Spartans.  Technical proficiency will remain important but the management of the operating intellectual paradigm will remain critically essential.  This involves raw in-sources from data, progressive analytics, paradigm development and deployment to error corrective models as the minimum for sound control.   Even then understanding is bounded by experience and therefore secondary ability to communicate, examine and model will help bolster the skill set needed for application of AI.

To the consumer there may be some worry or dissension, much as was the case with the use of voice response systems.  People are hesitant to embrace what is uncomfortable or viewed as inadequate by comparison to what they have grown accustom.  So while AI proponents dabble in the science there remains a great degree of need for transitioning of people to a new world order.  Some may enjoy a more hidden affront to consumers where others will be challenged regularly by real-time consumerism exchange.  Simply remember that all things are solvable as long as we understand the nature of the best, the human condition.

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