Stepping back again and again

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I step back so much that, now I just keep saying hi!!!

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Posted in f.art

On agreeing to a vocabulary

Here is what we joke about conferences, everybody (audience, speakers, and event managers) starts with ‘a need to agree‘ on something early morning. This could range from “innovation is critical to success of business/India”, “gamification is revolutionizing business process”, “stories are the next strategy” or something like that. By end of day after speakers speaking, audience listening and event managers buzzing, the host notes that ‘all have agreed‘ on what we began with as a need, marking the successful close of the conference.

What happens in between is forcing a choice between competing sets of vocabulary, and each trying to push the other out. Even within one vocabulary, speakers/participants lean towards a specific sub set.

Here is where the conflict lies, and below examples as I noticed in a recent conference.

1. Visibility versus viability, while who ever is on stage successfully runs a viable business or used to, everyone else is simply looking to be more visible, like a 70 word intro before a 15 word question to speakers, or other plugs.

2. Cost versus price, this one is common even while the discussion is about pricing, most participants confuse it with their costs, and unable to rephrase / appreciate a concept for price. I think this is a genuine psychological inertia that is exhibited.

3. Revenue versus capitalization, most speakers agree that while the real deal for any valuation should actually be the revenues, most tech ventures are traded for capitalization. And who decides this price, the banker / investor / startup / someone else. In any case the switch to the higher number (usually capitalization) is towards resolving the first conflict of visibility versus viability.

4. Sales versus marketing, even if a session is about writing an advertorial or sponsored tweet, most confuse it with sales, this chunking of ‘sales and marketing’ is a way to avoid any responsibility in it, “…see I am techie…, the other guy in my team does all that”

5. Problem versus opportunity, not much of a conflict in this one, but still this comes to play when you are inside an already running business, best resources are staffed in the largest / most profitable current account fixing issues to keep the customer and not the most promising opportunity of acquiring a new (possibly less painful) customer. (the ‘strategic account’ conversation for another day)

Point I am trying to make is simple, to choose a field means adopting its vocabulary and its conflicts, and with changing fashions/fads if your vocabulary does not evolve as well, you are outdated even before you started.

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Posted in cognoise

So we are stuck…

So we are stuck with a theory, and we do not know whether it is right or wrong, but we do know it is a little wrong or at least incomplete – R P Feynman

As a good starting point acknowledging the incompleteness or the little wrong could do good for innovation however you choose to address it.

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Posted in cognoise, metaidea

Exploitation as contradiction in ideality

2 really disparate examples of exploitation here, I will do a couple of illustrations for defining these contexts as contradictions in players’ ideality and then applying a trend.

One from the affordable internet efforts and why even with reducing capex and opex telecom companies would not cut prices to customers and continue to exploit.

Player Function Ideality Contradiction and resulting exploitation
ISP/Carrier/Operator connect subscribers                          to internet not lose subscriber base, increasing revenues/cash flows, decreasing spend, monopoly increasing average revenue and profit per user directly contradicts with customers ideality to pay
Customer/Subscriber connect to internet for access to services and information pay nothing for connectivity, highest speed possible, always connected ties with devices, price increasing data plans, speed limitations, and forced congestion from operators
Investor invest for returns in companies that make profits reducing capex and opex with increasing revenues and profit is approaching ideality reduced customer service levels and migration of customers, puts revenue and profits on a decline, hence the stock value as well
Media Industry create and distribute media monopoly for content and affiliated business, no other competitive media / distribution channels becomes viable Access to media from internet directly contradicts with their business model to sell content from traditional forms of discs, cable tv content

Second example is around immigration from the recent Syria crisis, even though legal immigrants add value to the migrated place, why politicians continue to exploit voting population by fueling negative perceptions around immigration. But still continuing to turn a blind eye on labor exploits of immigrants to continue with a not so competitive economy.

Player Function Ideality Contradiction and resulting exploitation
State/Politician development and upholding state  sovereignty zero dollars spent on regulation, and citizens get all priority services from government, and never lose an election allowing cheap immigrant labor into non-subsidized industries maintains a bad economy building a false perception around immigration maintains status quo and votes from conservative population that wants to maintain sovereignty
Immigrant Labor to industry every border is open, every country is ‘migration’ worthy, on par with citizen benefits, rights protected lack of labor law to govern their employment means giving away rights, without votes or rights deprived of having a voice in the country
Industry/Employer Value creation for economy, investor, and customers cheap and exploitable labor use and less than minimum working conditions for higher profits, no litigation on violations lack of labor inspection / governance maintains  status quo, including less than worthy labor conditions and pay to immigrants and this as the only way to maintain competitiveness in a falling economy
Citizen Tax payer and uses benefits from state.Also customer for industry. Subsidized sectors, and unemployment benefits for citizens, Pay/Benefits without job. Subsidy perceived as right and any state capital spent on immigrants is actually something the citizen could be deemed eligible for as lost/wasted.
Border Control Regulate migrant flow into state no immigration (legal / illegal) means no patrol or control necessary migrants posing threats to sovereignty, and citizen welfare, calls for massive spend in border control and leading to a back passage creation

Now in both cases at super system level, you could add regulations that will move some functions from the players to another neutral authority. So Regulatory Authority could standardize price plans, open up migrations across, just like they do in insurance policy terms and conditions. Similarly new technology like unlimited connectivity say from Google Moon or, open id, could turn functions in favor of customers/migrants, while skewing for specific types of businesses and not the legacy ones.

In both cases simple system completeness trend will show deficiencies in the governance bit, and a massive undercut of benefits from customers/migrants as a driving force for the functions delivered.

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Posted in metaidea

How running your college workshop can fetch you a better job

You may have heard about graduates not being ready for industry, industry not having investments into finishing schools, about the rapid growth of disconnected/under-equipped/unregulated finishing schools throwing still unusable talent, industry accrediting academia with no standard method among other problems of disconnect between education system and industry.

In my opinion this is an issue at personal level that collective systems or their coordination cannot solve. In other words we are turning a universal problem into a global problem and throwing costly resources at it including student time, tax money to solve. Approach to such universal problem solving begins at student level.

Here is a back story of an unused workshop at IITM. It used to be a workshop heavily funded with staff supplies since inception, that was post second world war with developed countries funding or setting up labs in IITs (IITM has a lot of lab equipment from Germany, while Kgp most was from Russia, Kanpur was US equipment). I was probably one of the last set of students to touch an old German particle classifier that was almost defunct till we decided to do something with it. Actually number of students using the workshop steadily declined as industry needs, student interests, technology shifted over years, leading to under used infrastructure with no useful outcomes. Now one fine day (actually over a year) this workshop was converted to a student run lab, with much lesser resources than before but with complete freedom to do what interests students. Fast forward 2 years this lab establishes itself as national champion in robotics, new materials, among other accolades.

Now as a student it makes a perfect place to find your own version of ‘cool’,  follow on what’s interesting to the student, instead of working on lab experiments that industry does not need anyway.

If I were a recruiter and I get a student who can clearly explain his 2 failures while really doing something in such workshops, and not a shiny bright power point slide with all adjectives pre-loaded, he is on board…

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Posted in cognoise

Dogfooding software products

Here is the old story of Principia Mathematica written by Newton, when he was responding to a question by Halley about planetary orbits,  he only responded that he had calculated it mathematically and are always elliptical and had also lost the proof. But he promised to Halley he will reproduce the proof and goes into one of his famous 2 years retirement to write the entire Principia . It does not end there, like right now, Royal Society as publishers of books were in tough times, refused to publish Principia on financial grounds, and even when Halley was personally sponsoring the printing, the society itself was actually paying part for Halley’s employment with one of its previous unsuccessful commercial books called “History of Fishes“.

It was custom (as Bill Bryson puts it) that Newton never really got paid anything nor did he sponsor any money to get his book published, if someone else was interested, onus is theirs, in this case unfortunately Halley. And the society gave a raw deal by giving away copies of unsold books.

Payment in bad products

History of Fishes

Now the diametrically opposite context.

In a team built software product

1. there is no one single owner for idea / product

2. there is no individual revenue possibility or expense for the team

3. get paid anyways for whatever be the product or its quality or the purpose

That in my opinion is a bad recipe for quality. So here is the idea, “dogfood” the product i.e. every product team will need to find a market on its own for the developed product internal/external. And part of the revenue is directly shared. There are of course different model possibilities and I will go with the easiest and justifiable.

Elements of this model as I see it in my own warped way

1. Paying in product licenses

If the product that is being built is so good, can you please agree to take part of your regular salary as product license, and depending on everyone’s contribution, we will split the numbers only up to a certain limit, and then it will simply become a long tail % fixed, say after expiry of warranty on first release.

2. Order of license sale and revenues.

With a deep hierarchy in development, I believe the developers and architects’ license go first for sale, then the scrum masters or delivery managers, and then the higher levels of management later. Revenue sharing is truly from what was built for either direct effort or supervisory.

3. Expenses for such sale

This is a tricky area as most marketing functions are centralized and of course larger branding expenses at company level. So un-bundled marketing services should be costed accordingly, such as running an ad words campaign on Google, buying sponsored posts on linked in, or event/networking costs.

If it does not sell, then only the license part of your salary will get affected, and life goes on as developers find meaningful opportunities with real revenue possibilities to work on.

In a way a market gets created internally for projects/products to work on, and there is definitely a chance to design your career from inside by being open to trying and learning. I guess the same thing can also be done for a service, but a little more complicated.

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Posted in metaidea

Yet another innovation taxonomy…

this, that and more

I will be a little inarticulate here, specifically when it comes to innovation, what do we talk when we talk innovation internally. Depending on background, perspective, role, among other factors, it could be any of the above.

Capability I use it here within a very specific boundary, Honda’s example illustrates this point clearly, from seeing itself as an automobile maker, it sees itself as a power systems designer, with such a simple shift in outlook it has been able establish itself as a leader in many related fields like portable power, boat engines,   etc. Technology companies confuse capabilities a lot, as there are too many of them. So easier way to classify further would be to pick specific business outcomes that gets affected by a technology. For example capability to A/B test designs, capability to cut down ROI with new technologies, etc… One of the popular side to this classification is seeing creativity in relation with innovation and trying to build creativity / creative talent internally, usually through training.

State is like “being pregnant”, a very clear yes / no, and it gets theoretical to philosophical to spiritual when the nature of state discussion starts, and some are inclined to this specifically, usually the ones that also pick on innovation as a concept at a mental level. Concepts are related and complexities from subsumption / differentiation plays here and really no basis needs to be given, as long as it makes sense as a valid argument. None of these 2 has any outcomes guaranteed and safely so. Else we have to wait for a long time for that state or the concept argument to end.

Department is a space, earmarked for all those innovation action, in Apple it happens to be the design department, in IBM it is either Sales or research, I can no longer tell which, in GE it happens in research. Mostly a centrally funded structure with clear mandate on outcomes and how the units will use those. But with availability of information across boundaries becoming easier, it is very hard to keep an edge from within one single department. Still a preferred choice for old, hierarchical companies.

Process/Action is the distribution of what used to happen within the department and making it easy for anyone to do innovation with clear steps and results. Behavior/Culture I feel enough has been said and is absolutely not my favorite, as I put personal responsibility ahead of popular inaction.

So whichever way you want to define innovation internally and classify it, some things do not change, those include “tasking” around whichever metaphor you picked, managing risks on action, investment and market, measuring outcomes and reporting it out to investor/bosses, of course responding to politics that is there in any human/social system among other action.

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Posted in metaidea
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