Interesting Reading

I’ve picked out a few articles that struck me this week as particularly interesting. Thought I’d share them here.

  1. How Long Till Hackers Start Faking Leaked Documents appeared in The Atlantic a few days ago. I had never considered this possibility before and it has really struck me. Distribute thousands of real emails and insert in 2-3 carefully crafted ones into the mix. Elections could be influenced. Governments could fall. Businesses could collapse. I had never thought of this before and is absolutely no reason to believe it isn’t happening already or will happen.
  2. Spotting the Gaps is a wonderful reminder that we need to learn to see what is missing. We need to learn to look for the missing pieces, the things that aren’t there or aren’t happening. We tend to only see what is right in front of us. Perhaps we should start purposely asking about what is missing in discussions about problems and opportunities.
  3. Six Rules to Simplify Work is another gem. Reenforce the integrators is particularly important. Those who connect and tie things together are very valuable. Learn to be that person.
  4. Seven Steps Toward Better Critical Thinking is another very good list of things to consider. Don’t believe something just because everyone else does. I might add to the list that you need to consider the source of a position because they might be biased in favor of one position over another. I recently read an article where someone came out criticizing a position yet it wasn’t clear in the article that the author was motivated and prospered by the decision going a particular way.

I post a lot of articles that I like on twitter at @brewerma.

 

Haves and Have Nots

Last week I had a chance to spend time with a group of CIOs hosted by a well known information technology company. During the course of the 2.5 day session, the host company took some time to tell us about their IT operations and strategy.

The differences between what they are doing and what I see others doing was dramatic as the difference between black and white. Most of us, in the meeting could probably barely, barely, not at all, relate to this IT shop.

I see the same when I see the average IT spend as a % of revenue between different industries with some industries spending perhaps 15% or more of their revenue on information technology where manufacturing companies might be spending less than 2%. That difference is just staggeringly huge and it manifests itself across the whole spectrum of IT investments between those industries.

The haves and have-nots I think.

It might be that the incumbents in industries, those who have been around for a long time with embedded bases and IT foundations that just work, are going to slip behind and perhaps not be able to catch up? Start-ups who don’t have that base in place are free to startup on the newest, the latest, the cloud, the simpler, etc.

If a company is in the former situation, they need to double down on prioritzation, careful investment decisions and very strategic thinking about their IT infrastructure and operations. It is not easy.

 

Compromised Email

A friend of mine had his security compromised a few days ago when someone managed to steal some information from him and cause further damage. He called and wanted to know things he should do.

I told him to assume his home computer, or all of them, was compromised and I encouraged him to use a different platform (a chromebook in this case) to start resetting his passwords and revalidating his information. Leave his likely compromised home computer alone for a while. Turn it off.

He started down this path and then re-logged into his email account (gmail in this case) and changed the password.

I wasn’t with him at this time but a few minutes it occurred to me that he ought to look at the filters or rules that he had put in place to process his email so I sent him that message. I don’t know why I thought of this as I don’t recall thinking of it or reading about this before, but I just thought he ought to look at his filters. He looked.

Someone, had put a filter in place to block certain inbound emails and send them elsewhere.

So, his email had been compromised and the perpetrators had been clever enough to put filter rules in place to further hide the compromise as long as possible. Amazing. I had never considered this before and I’m still thinking about its implications.

If you get your email or computer compromised, you really need to start over on a new platform and then methodically regain control of your accounts. And, turn on two-factor authentication wherever you can.

Be careful out there.

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Cross Disciplinary

When I was in graduate school, I remember sitting in a vector calculus class and realizing how the thoughts in this class were beginning to merge together with an earlier electromagnetic fields class and my current complex analysis class. The thoughts and ideas were overlapping and merging together. It was a moment of clarity for me as I saw how these different disciplines began to fit together.

This draws me back to Steven Johnson’s book Where Good Ideas Come From which I’ve talked about before here and where he writes about exaptation and liquid networks and how ideas can blend together, cross over, and become something new. He uses the phrase ‘idea sex’ where ideas blend together to become something new and perhaps amazing.

I just finished reading one of James Altucher’s books, The Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth after following him online for a long time. In the book, he talks about reading all the time and in several places about tying different things/thoughts/disciplines together. He, like Johnson, use the phrase ‘idea sex’ where you combine two ideas into a new better idea.

This is not just taking a good idea and applying it to your problem or space. It is about blending ideas together in a new fashion. One day at work years ago, we had a network cut that isolated one of our key sites off our corporate network and to make matters worse, the tool we used to communicate bulletins about outages was hosted at the site cutoff. We lost the channel we used for corporate communications with this outage. In thinking about this, I realized we should have an off-network communication channel and at once, we realized that Twitter could be that channel. We could create a private account on Twitter and only allow approved people to see the tweets of that handle. Then we’d have a communication channel for broadcasts 100% off our network. We used a social networking platform in a new way to solve a problem and it cost us nothing.

I see this all the time. When I read the book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto) I could see how that applies to several problems in a University setting and I shared it with friends there and I also had work related applications in mind.

Tying all this back together, I think we need to

  • Be reading all the time and reading across disciplines. Don’t just read in your area of expertise, but read across lots of areas and include fiction in your reading too.
  • Connect people together and have more meaningful conversations and not just about the weather and the score of the game. Talk about politics, about what you are reading, about what struck you on a blog post or in a twitter feed, talk about ideas.
  • Share great ideas and nuggets of information with others that might help them in their endeavors with no expectation of anything in return. Become known for sharing ideas with others.
  • Listen deeply to what others are saying and perhaps what they are not saying.
  • Become a person who facilitates the success of others. Countless leadership books talk about this.

Altucher’s book is about a lot of these ideas and he even suggests we should host dinners with interesting people. Just bring good people together to meet, share and connect. Perhaps, one of your guests might solve a big problem that another one of your guests is struggling to solve.

There was a wonderful post in the NY Times the other day called The Moral Bucket List which starts by saying:

ABOUT once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.

When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day.

Be that kind of person. Be someone connecting dots and people.

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Invest in Infrastructure

I’ve been reading for over a year every article I can find about electric vehicles.  I have several friends who have Tesla vehicles and have had the chance to talk with them and ride in their cars. Nissan has the Leaf, we are hearing that Apple is getting into the act, Tesla and Chevrolet are already there.

This plus the expectation that self-driving cars, and more importantly trucks are going to result in massive changes. Industries will be impacted. Startups are looking at how to retrofit existing trucks. Our cities might look different. And trucking itself is a massive employer in many regions. The article that got me first looking into this is here.  Tesla hints at how this world will work.

The issue of jobs and impact and change are real and they are coming. Quite probably, the benefits of such far outweigh the negatives but it will be disruptive. Most technical and society shifts results in those who benefit and those who are disrupted. Uber and similar is another dynamic here too.

I’m particularly interested in the infrastructure to recharge electric vehicles. All of them have you install a recharging station in your garage or wherever you park your car at night. But they ALL need a nationwide infrastructure where you can recharge your vehicle away from home. It doesn’t take a real leap in thinking to realize that the right answer is a common recharging platform and infrastructure on a national scale. We don’t need BetaMax versus VHS again.

This brings in the Seth Godin’s article of last year where he says, “infrastructure investments are most effective when they are centralized and consistent.” Federal governments, in all countries, can do some of their best work for the future when they bring people together, set some standards, and then facilitate investment in these infrastructure platforms. The Interstate highway system in the US is an example of this working well, but the US has also failed in things like a national high-speed rail system.

These companies need to work together and agree on standards. Governments should facilitate this. The leverage would be huge.

 

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