Fearless = Reckless

Fearless

I took this photo in the Metro in Washington, D.C. 


It says, “Be Fearless.”


Why?


No, it doesn’t pay to be wholly fearful–and paralyzed by anxiety or indecision. 


But it is stupid to be fearless–because being fearless is being reckless. 


It’s good to think about possibilities and consequences–not everything that can go right will and more often then not, as Murphy’s Law teaches, whatever can go wrong often does.


Better to think about what can happen–both good and bad–how to manage the risks and how to maximize the rewards.


Have fear of heaven and of bad things–and try to make them better, where you can. 


Fearless is for those who want to be stupid, act reckless, and end up mortally wounded or prematurely dead. 


Fearsome is for those who want to confront their fears head on, manage them wisely, and make the most of the opportunities in a risk-reward managed way. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Five Lessons From The Chilean Rescue

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This week, we as humankind were renewed by the rescue of the 33 miners in Chile.

“Viva Chile! They Left No Man Behind” writes Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal (16-17, Oct. 2010).

The Chileans took what was a human tragedy and instead turned it upside down and inside out into a worldwide victory!

Yet, as the rescue unfolded first with the search for the miners, their discovery, their being sustained while rescue tunnels were dug, and then ultimately as each miner—one by one—was brought to the surface safely—clean-shaven and smiling, I couldn’t help thinking to myself how perfectly everything was going—each time again and again—and then starting to worry that something has got to go wrong here (almost by Murphy’s Law)—this is too perfect!

Yet, nothing went wrong, it was a watertight rescue of all the miners.

As flawed human beings with all our warts and all, I think we were at some level shocked with disbelief by the flawless events that unfolded.

No cost overruns, no schedule delays, no one was hurt, no glitches in equipment or otherwise. It was a run of complete success that almost never happens in real life and yet, we all saw it unfold one, two, three…thirty-three before our very eyes.

This doesn’t happen in real life—only in fairy tales, right? This certainly doesn’t happen in most information technology projects! 😉

But even more stunning to us than the success of the rescue itself was the undercurrent of the prevailing of good over evil manifesting before us—almost like G-d was revealing himself to us again, as he did in Biblical times. As one of the miners poetically said: “I met G-d. I met the devil. G-d won.”

The shocker here was that a people, nation, and in effect the entire world was focused on saving these 33 simple miners. This in our day and age, when we have become more accustomed to those who dehumanize and devalue human life, rather than those who genuinely value and safeguard it as the Chileans did.

As Ms. Noonan puts it: “They used the human brain and spirit to save life. All we get every day is scandal.”

Recent events remind us of the huge contrast between those who value life and those who don’t, such as 9-11, almost daily suicide (read “homicide”) bombings for political aims, the blatant proliferation and threats of WMD (and now cyber warfare), the violation of human rights by dictatorships and thugs around the world, including political imprisonments, rigged elections, restrictions of free information flow, and more violent acts such as mass rapes, female genital mutilation, genocide, slave prison camps, and more.

Moreover, while we witness events going wrong everyday and governments, companies, and peoples seeming unable to set things right, in Chile, we saw a nation and a people that set their minds and might to bringing the miners home safely and they did, period.

There are some important lessons here for us for the future:

  1. Find the moral good. It starts with valuing and safeguarding human life. Our agenda should always be to prioritize helping others and saving lives. The Chileans did just that when they didn’t wring their hands and just walk away from the tragedy saying it was over. Instead, saving the lives was a national priority. Similarly, providing the speedy drill to the Chileans from the U.S. that tunneled in half the time to the miners was a gesture that we too value life and are partners with them in saving the miners.
  2. Contain the problem. The problems we face are “ginormous” (read: gigantic and enormous) and the only way we are gong to be able to overcome them is to break them down into pieces and attack them at their source. The Chileans took a big rescue operation and by decomposing it into plan A, B, and C, etc. and tackling each piece of the problem (locating the miners, sustaining them, rescuing them, etc.), they made the solution doable.
  3. Leverage technology. We are hampered in our abilities by our own human limitations. But we can extend our capabilities and expand those limits through technology. The rescue of the miners used many new technologies in drilling, communications, and materials to make the rescue not only possible, but also probable. We need to constantly innovate and use technology to make the impossible, possible.
  4. Stand united. No question, we are stronger together than apart. The Chilean nation and people united in their efforts to rescue and bring home the miners. It was a mission they believed in and which they stood together in accomplishing. Politics, infighting, and mudslinging can divide us when we need to be unified. We need to understand that when we take pot shots to score points, we undermine the mission and the successes we desperately need.
  5. Stay positive. Even in the face of what seems like assured calamity, we must keep our wits, stay strong, and focus on solutions. If we do this, we can say goodbye to Murphy’s Law, and helpless and hopelessness be gone. A renewed spirit of optimism and a can-do attitude can carry us forward to new heights that we can all be proud of.

As the article states: the Chileans “set to doing something hard, specific, physical, demanding of commitment, precision, and expertise. And they did it.” And we can again do it too.

>Are We Getting Any Closer To Unified Messaging

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The Holy Grail in communications has always been the drive to unify our messaging (data, voice, video) into a single device.

To this day, we continue to see vendors developing consumer products that combine as many of these functions as will possibly fit on a device.

For example, with the traditional copy machine, we have migrated to “all in one” devices that have copy, fax, scan, and print features. At the same time, cell phones have morphed into Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), and have brought together traditional voice telephony with email, chat, web access, GPS, photos, videos, and an almost endless array of applets.  Similarly, computers are converging communications functions for email, voice over IP, photos, videos, social networking, and much more. While televisions are merging in features for web access, movies on demand, and so forth. 

Convergence is the name of the game–the consumer wants more functionality, more communications capability, more raw computing power, in single, smaller, and sleeker devices.

Ultimately, the vision for mobile communications was first epitomized by the Star Trek’s Communicator with universal language translation and later by the communications badge that with one tap put you in touch with Scotty who could beam you up to the Enterprise in a flash.

So with all the convergence in our communications gear, are we getting any closer to bona fide unified messaging systems?

I don’t know about you, but rather than less communications devices, it seems like I have more and more to fiddle and diddle with. At least two cell phones that balance on opposite sides of my belt (one is my personal phone and the other my work device) and I still have regular landlines at both home and work. Then there is my work computer and my home computer and remote access devices like air cards, tokens, and so forth. Of course, I have Skype, numerous email accounts, FaceBook, Twitter, Blogs, digital cameras, and various printing/copy/faxing/scanning devices to choose from. With various devices in just about every nook and cranny of my work and personal space, I’d say that my ability to community is certainly extensive, but unified, simple, user-centric—I don’t think so!

Government Computer News, 4 May 2009, reports: “Like the paperless office, unified messaging—storing and accessing various types of communications, from e-mail to voice mails, faxes and videos, in a single place—has been something of a chimera.”

With unified messaging, like the Holy Grail, it seems like the more we chase it, the more elusive it becomes.

Why?

Perhaps, we have a little bit of Moore’s Law running up against Murphy’s Law here. While the capability for us to do more computationally and functionally with ever smaller devices become greater and greater, the possibility of getting it all to work “right” becomes a greater and greater challenge. Maybe there are limits to how many functions a person can easily understand, access and conveniently control from a single device.

Think for a second about the infamous universal TV remote that has become the scorn of late night comedy. How many people get frustrated with these devices—all the buttons, functions, alt-functions, and so on that no reasonable person seems to care to learn. Or think about the 2 inch think operating instruction booklet that comes with the DVD player or other electronic devices that people are scared to even break the binding on. Then there are the PDA’s with touch screen keypads that you see people fat-fingering and getting the words all wrong. The list goes on and on.

Obviously, this is not user-centric architecture and it doesn’t work, period.

The consumer product company that gets “it”—that can design communications devices for the end-user that are functional and powerful with lots of capability and as close to unified as possible, but at the same time simple, compact, convenient, and easy to use (i.e. intuitive) will crack this unified messaging nut.

We cannot sacrifice ease of use for convergence!

Apple and RIM, in my experience, have probably come closest to this than any other consumer electronic companies, but even here it is a magnificent work-in-progress unfolding before our eyes.

I, for one, can’t wait for the Star Trek communications badge to become commercially available at the local Apple store. 

>Murphy’s Law and Enterprise Architecture

>Murphy’s law is an adage in Western culture that broadly states that things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance…It is most often cited as “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” (or, alternately, “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way”)…The saying is sometimes referred to as Sod’s law or Finagle’s law which can also be rendered as “Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment”. (adapted from Wikipedia)

Well Murphy’s Law is pretty pessimistic and ominous, but I guess for those of us who are old enough to have lived through some of life’s up’s and down’s (and Murphy’s Law would probably say they’re mostly downs), then the adage is not only meaningful, but also a cautionary tale for how we conduct ourselves.

No, It’s not about being paranoid or schizoid or any of those things.

But probably more a big “WATCH OUT!” or “KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN!” sign plastered along the bumpy, curvy road of life.

One of my old pals has a spin of Murphy’s Law (although I don’t think he see it quite that way) that goes like this: “Man plans and G-d laughs.”

As a manager, I see Murphy’s Law as part of good program and project management. It’s about planning, planning, and more planning (sustained and determined), with plenty of risk management built in as you execute and deliver to the customer on behalf of the enterprise.

But even with planning and risk management, you can never cover every eventuality. What you can do is try to prevent or avoid certain risks, mitigate others, and accept the ones you can’t avoid or mitigate. Pretty much, simple as that.

User-centric EA is a process for the enterprise to plan and manage risk—all those inherent in Murphy’s Law. EA does this by formulating, documenting and communicating where the organization is at, where it is headed, and how it is going to try and get there. Furher, it vets these plans with leaderhip and subject matter experts, builds consensus, and drives positive, incremental change. EA helps the organization adapt to changes internally and externally. EA is a bulwark against the law of “anything that can go wrong, will.”