2 Heads Are Better Than 1

My daughter brought this incredible video to my attention–conjoined twins Abby & Brittany–age 22–share a body from the waist down.

They have 2 heads and necks, 3 lungs, 2 hearts, 2 gallbladders, 2 stomachs, 1 liver, 1 large intestine, 1 small intestine, 2 left kidneys and 1 right, 1 pelvis, 1 pair of ovaries, 1 uterus, 1 bladder, 1 vagina, and 1 urethra.

The video asks, what happens if:

– 1 gets sick?
– 1 dies?
– Who is the biological mother, if they have a child?
– How do they handle boyfriends?

I understand that 1 controls the left side of the body and 1 the right side–leaves you to imagine the unbelievable coordination issues to do everyday activities like walk, drive, type, swim, and so on that we take for granted.

Yet, despite their life challenges, they are actually staring in their own reality TV show on The Learning Channel (TLC), which premiered on August 28.

Here is a link for more information about these incredible women.

Some of the things that I think about when I watch Abby & Brittany–are not the physical, but more the emotional, psychological, and spiritual issues, such as:

– Do they ever feel lonely?
– How do they handle the need for privacy?
– Are they introverts or extraverts or one of each?
– What are their personalities like?
– Do they like each other?
– Do they fight often and how do they resolve conflict with each other?
– Do they like/dislike similar things?
– Do they share the same religious beliefs?
– Do they feel responsible for each others actions (like if one hits someone or says something hurtful to another)?
– Do they believe in an afterlife?
– Do they intuitively share thoughts, dreams, ambitions (or only when they articulate these to the each other)?
– Do they consider their condition a random occurrence, a “freak act” of nature, a test, a punishment, or something else?

I imagine that they are hugely inspirational and am looking forward to hopefully watch the show tonight at 10 pm with my daughter and learn and marvel how they do it!

A Technologist’s Personal Rorschach Test

So I gave myself a little Rorschach test.

This was from a outdoor mural at school that I really liked.

I let my mind freely associate and had some fun too.

I could’ve gone on with this, but wanted to keep it clean.

Hope you like the mural and creativity.

If you had to do this exercise, I’d be curious to see what you came up with.

Have a good week!

Andy

Mind Readers and The Psychology of Excess

Animal_house

Seeing a number of senior officials in the last year “ousted,” I find it sort of scary the risks and travails that executive leadership can entail.

There are so many good, hardworking people at GSA making progress for the Government in terms of property management, contract management, fleet management, and more, that it was a huge shock to many today, when GSA leadership including the Administrator, were ousted for what White House Chief of Staff called “excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors, and disregard for taxpayer dollars.”

This at a time when the nation is struggling to reduce the national deficit now at $15.6 trillion and avoid another debt ratings cut from the three credit report agencies that would potentially drive interest up and cause even more damage to the nation’s economy.

Of course, the GSA is not the only example, just last year, we had the unfortunate “muffin mini-scandal” as reported by Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 September 2011), where the Government was alleged to have paid $16.80 apiece for muffins.

What causes this psychology of excess where taxpayers end up footing the bill for extravagant items and events?

1) Hubris–Are there people who feel they are so high and mighty, they just have all the trimmings of office coming to them and theirs?

2) Neglect–Do some executives rise too far and fast, and maybe things get out of control?

3) Misguided–Is it possible that some may actually really think that hiring a mind reader on the taxpayer dime is a good idea?

4) Accident–At times, oversights, mistakes, and accidents happen, and while we may prefer they didn’t, they are a learning opportunities.

5) All of the above–Perhaps it is some combination of all the prior four?

It reminds me of something my father taught me that “G-d does not let any flower grow into the sky.

This means that no matter how good we are or how far we go in our careers and in life, we remain mortal and infirm, and subject to human imperfections.

That’s why it’s never a good idea to tout your own infallibility.  Just Last Thursday, the GSA Administrator, as reported by Government Executive Magazine, told a conference “Why us? Because we’re the expert shoppers. We’re the folks you want on your team when budgets are tight, you’re making purchases, and there’s no room for error…”

Obviously, I assume there was no intent to brag, but we all say things like this at one time or another, and it’s good to reflect and stop ourselves from going too far.

This is not about the GSA or any other agency or organization in particular, but rather a lesson in humility for all of us.

This unfortunate incident should not obscure the good work, done every day, at all levels, by every Federal agency.

(Source Photo: here)

>Revenge of the Introverts

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I am an introvert.

Does this mean I am among a minority of the population that is shy, anti-social, “snooty,” or worse?

Many people have misperceptions like these, which is why Psychology Today’s current issue has a feature story on the realities vs. the myths of introverts. Actually half of the people you meet on any given day are introverts.

According to the story, introverts are:

Collectors of thoughts…(and) solitude is the place where the collection is curated…to make sense of the present and the future.”

Most of us don’t realize that there are many introverts, because “perceptual biases lead us all to overestimate the number of extraverts among us.” (Basically you extraverts take up a lot of attention 🙂.)

To me, being an introvert is extremely helpful in my professional role because it enables me to accomplish some very important goals:

I can apply my thinking to large and complex issues. Because I gravitate to working in a quiet (i.e. professional) environment, I am able to focus on studying issues, coming up with solutions, and seeing the impact of incremental improvements. (This will be TMI for some, but when I was a kid I had to study with noise reducing headphones on to get that absolute quiet to concentrate totally.)

I like to develop meaningful relationships through all types of outreach, but especially when interacting one-on-one with people. As opposed to meaningless cocktail party chatter – “Hello, How are you today?” “Fine. And how are you?” “Fine.” Help, get me out of here!

I get my energy from introspection and reflecting; therefore, I tend to be alert to areas where I may be making a mistake and I try to correct those early. In short, “I am my own biggest critic.”

So while it may be more fun to be an extrovert—“the life of the party”—and “the party’s going on all the time”—I like being an introvert and spending enough time thinking to make the doing in my life that much more meaningful and rewarding.

[Note: Lest you think that I hold a grudge against extraverts, not at all—you all are some of my best buds and frequently inspire me with your creativity and drive!]

>Implicit Requirements and Enterprise Architecture

>With electonic contact lists in Microsoft Outlook on the computer and on organizer programs on cellphones and other electronic gizmos, why would anyone still keep a physical Rolodex anymore?

The Wall Street Journal, 24-25 November 2007, reports that “some executives are still spinning their rotary card files…more than 20 years after the digital revolution that forecasted the paperless office, the ‘rotary card file’–best known by the market-leading brand name Rolodex–continues to turn.”

The article continues, “as millions of social-network users display their connectedness on their Facebook pages, a surprisingly robust group of people maintain their networks on small white cards. Most of these devotees also rely on BlackBerrys and other computer-based address books.”

This infatuation with physical Rolodex files extends to models like the 6000-card wheel that are no longer even on the market. Other executives keep as many as 8 or 9 Rolodex wheels on their much needed desk space. Why?

The article states that “part of the card system’s appeal has always been that it displays the size of one’s business network for the world to see.” Yet, social-networking sites like LinkedIn also display the number of contacts a person has, so what’s the difference from a physical Rolodex file–what need is the technology not fulfilling with users?

From a User-centric EA perspective, it seems that people have a fundamental need with their contacts to not only be able to maintain them in an organized fashion and to demonstrate the size of their network (to show their value to the organization), but also to feel important and accomplished and to be able “to wear” this like a mark or medal of distinction, in this case by laying it out their Rolodex files prominently on their desks for all to behold.

In EA, when we design technology solutions, we need to keep in mind that there are functional requirements like the organizing of personal and professional contacts, but there are also human, psychological requirements that may never actually come out in a JAD session. These are unstated or implicit requirements and architects need to plan technology to meet both the explicit and implicit needs of users.

A little like Sherlock Holmes and a little bit like a psychologist, an architect must explore user needs beyond the surface if they are to successfully align new technologies with end-user and organizational requirements.