Challenges to Autonomous Control

Great article in the New York Times about the challenges with autonomous vehicles. I continued to be fascinated by solving this problem and the resulting impacts that will have on all of us. I’ve written about it here and here and other places.

This article highlights some of the very subtle but real challenges with having an automated system control all aspects of a complicated problem. It is these boundaries or edge kind of problems that are the hard problems to solve. Things on the edge. These are the issues and problems that will delay any automation moving into the mainstream. Having a car stay between two lines is not the hard problem.

And then in the decade after these problems are solved and these vehicles are the norm, we’ll all forget how to manually drive the car because we’ve turned that problem over to the machines. Just like pilots today who are so used to autopilots that when they have to take over in a complex situation, they may not be up to the task.

Supply Chain Fails

A year and a half ago I ordered a number of actual, physical paperback books to give to some friends at an event where I was speaking. The book was one I wanted to hand out related to the topic of our discussion and my time with them. A certain big book company began shipping these books in separate shipments from around their universe. However, the books kept coming and went way over the amount I ordered. I kept getting new shipment notices in email when I had already received the ones I had ordered.

This particular company is a big web based company and it is hard to actually talk to someone there. I sent emails and finally got a hold of a person and explained the problem. The first person couldn’t understand and didn’t fix the problem. I called again and got another person who did see the problem and managed to cancel what was happening. I offered to ship books back, but they said keep them and give them away.

Seven months ago I ordered some socks from another online business and got double the shipment.  Two weeks ago I ordered some running apparel and instead of three items, I got six. In both these cases, I offered to return the over shipment and they told me to just keep them.

A big company which ships a lot of books and two smaller, niche companies who are probably closer to the edge getting their order management and shipping wrong.

I don’t know if this is IT or order management or their online revenue engine, but in any case, companies big and small must get this right. You can’t stay in business long if you are getting so many shipments wrong.

I should have ordered iPads.

 

Facts vs Narrative

In reading several books lately and through several observations, I’m better understanding the need for leaders to look for the facts and avoid the narratives. Too many leaders have a narrative or worldview or agenda they are driving that are not based on facts. It might be regarding climate change or it might be spending in an organization or it might be a new program that someone wants to start or stop. In many cases, poor leaders are driving or driven by the narrative independent of the facts.

The facts are sometimes hard to spot and the facts might not be the facts because they might be created or driven by a narrative further up stream. So even the facts needs to be questioned and discussed. However, if you want to be a leader, if you want to have an impact, if you want to succeed, you’ve got to be looking for the underlying facts.

In some contexts, this means looking for the ‘root cause’ in others situations it might be clearly understanding ‘the goal.’  Either looking backwards to the cause or forward to the destination. In either case, find this first. Look for this.

The world is a strange place right now with narratives driving so much.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Just finished reading (actually listening to on Audible) Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker. I first found Eric on his blog which I follow via email. You can see some of the content posted here.

I’ve read a lot of leadership and getting things done and how to be better kind of books over the years and I’ve posted about some of my favorites on this blog on the reading page.  This has to be one of the very best of these books that I’ve read and I highly recommend it. I’ll be adding this book to that page.

Listening on Audible is great, but I can’t highlight the text as it goes along. If I could, I’d share a number of specifics. I’ll likely go through this one again on Kindle.

Ideas around work-life balance, your weaknesses might really be your strengths and that being on the edge is usually better than being in the middle. And about people like Einstein, Genghis Khan and Ted Williams.

I’m thinking about getting some extra ‘real’ copies to give to some friends.

You can also follow Eric on Twitter @bakadesuyo. I don’t know Eric and haven’t met him. The links to the book are amazon associate links however.

Connected All The Time

So there is a story on Mashable called The Latest Tool in Medicine? The iPhone which highlights some studies where iPhones are being used to collect data as part of medical studies.

Yes, carrying around a powerful compute device, that you can interface with, that is connected to the mother ship for two way communications might result in some powerful new medical studies, advances, options and ideas. Duh.

It is not really the iPhone, it is the mobile, connected, compute device that people have with them all the time (and won’t leave behind) that is the key here. I love my iPhone, but that is not the advance, it is the connected device connecting to the patient/subject.

There will be huge things coming from this as has been written about elsewhere. Immediate detection of crisis events, more frequent sampling of data in studies, ability to trigger something to happen to the patient (administer something), etc. etc. Lots of things can come from this.

Not Average

I recently completed reading The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Rose. And yesterday I read a related article called “What Are You Hiding?” which goes along the same lines. The book is outstanding and makes a great case for you can’t compare yourself against averages in many cases. The articles does the same in a shorter version.

We tend to compare our IT shops against an average in benchmarks yet both of these make the point that this is not always reasonable. None of us are average. None of our organizations are average. We are all unique in some aspects. We all have unique business requirements. We all have unique characteristics.

The standard benchmark in IT is IT spend as a % of revenue. We compare what our ‘organization’ spends on IT compared against the average for our ‘industry group.’  Really, are any of us average? Do these benchmarks mean anything? Should a group be ‘judged’ by these benchmarks?

They might only provide directional considerations, but we are all unique.

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.