The All-Knowing (Not)

Knowing.jpeg

Check out this guy’s shirt:

“Those who think they know EVERYthing
annoy those of us who do.”


What would make this grown man put this handwritten sign on his shirt like this?  


It’s funny some people really do think they know everything. 


And they are the hardest and most annoying people to listen to, because their pompous arrogance blinds them to what others think, feel, and have to say. 


The only way to really know many different things is to learn from others and then incorporate that into your brain matter. 


Progress (societal and self), including thinking, is incremental–that’s why education is so important!


No one (except G-d, of course) knows everything, but everyone knows something. 


So we can learn from everyone!


Don’t fear other’s people knowledge, skills, and abilities–we are a community and we really only work well when we function together. 


It’s like on most of the survival shows I’ve seen–one or two people (even those highly trained) fail miserably at long- (or short-) term surviving, because “it takes a village!”


Overall, I like my father’s humble version on life much better:

“I know nothing and I can prove it.” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

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It Takes A Village

Village.jpeg

I wanted to share some good tidbits about effective management, collaboration, and engagement that I heard this week at a Partnership for Public Service event.


It Takes A Village – No I don’t mean the book by Hillary Clinton, but rather the idea that no one person is an island and no one can do everything themselves. Rather, we need the strengths and insights that others have to offer; we need teamwork; we need each other!


2-Way Communication – Traditionally, organizations communicate from the top-down or center to the periphery (depending how you look at it).  But that doesn’t build buy-in and ownership. To do that, we need to have 2-way communication, people’s active participation in the process, and genuine employee engagement.


Get Out Of The Way –  We (generally) don’t need to tell people how to do their jobs, but rather develop the vision for what success looks like and then get out of the way of your managers and people. “Make managers manage and let managers manage” and similarly, I would say, hold people accountable but let people work and breath!


Things Change – While it’s important to have consistency, momentum, and stay the course, you also need to be agile as the facts on the ground change.  “Disregard what’s not working, and embrace what is.” But you must stay open to new ideas and ways of doing things.


This is our world of work–our village–and either everyone helps and gets onboard the train or they risk getting run over by it. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Perception Is Reality

Hook.jpeg

Sometimes, one person’s clothing hook is another person’s elephant trunk.


Or maybe it’s the other way around that some creative person looked at an elephant and thought:

“Oh my that trunk of his would make a great clothing hook.”


Life mimics art and art imitates life.


And that is flattery both ways. 


Either way perception is reality. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Left-Handed Screwdriver

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So I’m not so sure what is so funny about a left-handed screwdriver…


Except of course that there is no such thing!


The same screwdrivers work in both the left and rights hands. 


Duh!


But that’s what it is with some people that like to call what they are doing innovation or out-of-the-box thinking.


When really, what’s new to them is just regurgitation of “what’s old is what’s new!”


We can’t just work harder, rather we need breakthrough thinking to work smarter. 


But how many times do you really see smarter happening versus just a different flavor of the month introduced to score points or mark some victory laps. 


Real innovation or transformation means making a new way to screw things together and not just screwing it with a different hand.


Yes, most innovation is really individual small steps that end up in aggregate, making a great leap for mankind. 


Occasionally, someone really does invent the smartphone–now that was smart!


Be careful buying that left-handed screwdriver or into that new methodology for accomplishing great things until you know that it really isn’t more snake oil sold from someone’s bullsh*t soapbox–and that it is from someone with a very big mouth and a very little brain. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

When Incremental Improvement isn’t Enough

When Incremental Improvement isn't Enough

One of the things that I love about the Intelligence Community (IC) is that they think future and they think big.

Noah Schactman in Wired Magazine (12 December 12–great date!), gave a snapshot view of 2030 as provided by the National Intelligence Council (NIC).

Some of the predictions (or aspirations) include:

– Bioprinting such as creating 3-D printed organs (how’s that for your orchestrating your own organ transplant?)

– Retinal implants for night vision thermal imaging, seeing the distance without binoculars, or even one-upping Google Glass by providing augmented reality in your eye instead of over it

– Brain chips for superhuman thought and recall (those without remain doomed to brain farts, in comparison)

– Bioweapons where DNA is used to target and take out people by genetically engineering viruses to attack them, specifically, without leaving any markers

– People embedded in machines–reminiscent of when Ripley in the movie Alien enters in an exoskelton robotic suit to kick some Alien butt!

Other predictions include: megacities, climate change, big data clouds, aging populations, and more drones.

While some of these advances are incremental in nature–for example genetic engineering and bioweapons are incremental steps from DNA sequencing of humans.

However, other leaps are more dramatic.

An article by Stephen Levy in Wired (17 January 2013) discusses how Larry Page (one of the Google founders) strives for inventions that are magnitudes of “10x” (often actually 100x) better than the status quo, rather than just 10% improvements.

Google has many examples of leaping ahead of the competition: from its transformative search engine which has become synonymous with search itself to Gmail which came out with 100x the storage of its competitors, Translations for the entire web from/to any language, Google Fiber with broadband at 100x faster than industry speeds prototyped in Kansas City, Google Books providing a scanned and searchable archive of our global collection of books and magazines, Google+ for social media (this one, I see as just a Facebook copycat–to get on Facebook’s nerves!), Google Maps for getting around, Android their open platform operating system for mobile devices, and even self-driving cars–many of these are developed by Google X–their secret skunk work lab.

I really like Google’s concept of going for the “moon shot” rather than just tweaking technology to try and stay ahead of the competition, temporarily.

And as in space, there is so much territory to explore, Google believes it is attacking just .1% of the opportunities out there, and that the tech industry as a whole is attacking maybe 1% in aggregate–that leaves 99% or plenty of opportunity for all innovators and inventors out there.

To get to 2030 and beyond–we’re just at the tip of the innovation iceberg! 😉

Making Change Probable

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An article this week in the Wall Street Journal (15 May 2012) called us “a nation of whiners.”

 

The national insult aside, what was more important was that the author lamented that whining doesn’t help, but problem-solving does!

 

According to the article, whiners can be treated therapeutically by:

 

1) Mirroring–letting people see/hear themselves in this state of learned helplessness.

 

2) Challenging–confronting whiners and asking them what they are going to do about their situation.

 

3) Encouraging–providing positive reinforcement when people make positive steps to taking control of their lives.

 

Similarly, there are those who get stuck in a sort of professional rut, complaining about the status quo, but they have trouble working incrementally to try and change things.

 

A strong leader can help their people move on from the status quo, applying the therapeutic techniques above, but also by doing the following:

 

1) Inquire–talk with your people and find out what they think is working, isn’t, and how things can be improved.

 

2) Envision–together, set a vision for a better future that addresses people’s genuine concerns in the aggregate.

 

3) Empower–delegate specific actions so everyone can be a part of the solution; give them the authority along with the responsibility to make change possible.

 

4) Observe–monitor progress and review whether the changes being made are having a positive impact and where adjustments in strategy need to be made.

 

These are really fundamental leadership skills, but applied to people who are feel helpless, hopeless, or are just plain resistant to change, the key is how we exemplify forward momentum and help others feel they too can make a genuine difference.

 

Bad situations are generally not life sentences, if we can but imagine positive change, break it down into incremental steps, and then put one foot in front of the other, and we are on our way.

 

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Rifqi Dahlgren)

 

Seeing Is Believing

This robotic seeing eye dog from Japanese company NSK is an incredible display of how technology can help the blind and was profiled in PopSci on 9 November 2011.
While there are reports of many advances in returning sight to the blind through such breakthroughs as stem cell molecular regeneration and camera-like retinal implants, there will unfortunately be medical cases that cannot be readily cured and herein lies the promise for robotic guide dogs.
These dogs do not provide the same companionship that perhaps real dogs do, but they also don’t require the same care and feeding that can be taxing, especially, I would imagine, on someone with a handicap.
The Robotic Seeing Eye Dog can roll on flat surfaces and can climb stairs or over other obstacles.
It is activated by a person holding and putting pressure on it’s “collar” handle bar.
The robotic dog can also speak alerting its handler to specific environmental conditions and potential obstacles, obviously better than through a traditional dog bark.
The dog is outfitted with Microsoft Kinect technologyfor sensing and navigating the world.
It is amazing to me how gaming technology here ends up helping the blind. But every technological advance has the potential to spur unintended uses and benefits in other areas of our life.
Recently, I saw an advertisement for MetLife insurance that proclaimed “for the ifs in life” and given all the uncertainties that can happen to us at virtually anytime, I feel grateful to G-d for the innovation and technology that he bestows on people for helping us handle these; sometimes the advances are direct like with Apple’s laser-like focus on user-centric design for numerous commercial technologies, and other times these are more indirect like with the Kinect being used for helping the blind, or even the Internet itself once developed by the military’s DARPA.
I imagine the technology cures and advances that we achieve are almost like a race against the clock, where people come up with counters to the ifs and threats out there, adapting and adopting from the latest and greatest technology advances available.
Advances such as Kinect and then taking us to the robotic seeing eye dog, bring us a little closer–step by step, each time incrementally–to handling the next challenge that calls.
This week, I was reminded again, with the massive asteroid YU55 speeding past us at 29,000 mph and within only 202,000 mile of a potential Earth collision (within the Moon’s orbit!), how there are many more ifs to come and I wonder will we be ready, can we really, and whether through direct or indirect discoveries to handle these.