Posts tagged “Feature Article

On Time

Posted on April 18, 2014


Homer Simpson described alcohol as the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems. In many organizations, you hear similar statements about time. The timeline is too aggressive. We have plenty of time. We need more time. We’ll have more time next quarter. We have to start now. Time is often perceived as uncontrollable, must like the movements of the sun came to be viewed as being ‘controlled’ by Maya sacred kings. It’s generally not the case. In most environments, a better understanding of time and relevant time pressures can help you better pace activities and control the quality of outcomes. Time Pressure Time pressure is frequently associated with poor decisions and stress. IT projects procured in the last week of the fiscal year are between two and six times more likely…

On Ants and Networks

Posted on October 19, 2013


Interpreting an ant’s behavior can be quite difficult, especially without the accompaniment of a confident young relative. What an ant is doing at any given moment is often just as vague as why the ant is doing it. We do know, however, that behaviors of individual ants are heavily influenced by ongoing interaction patterns within the colony network, which in many ways is similar to the way we navigate our networked world. Ant Interactions First, some background on ant interactions drawn from the work of Stanford’s Deborah Gordon: Ant colony behavior arises from dynamical networks of interactions among ants. The pattern of interaction is more important than content in influencing behavior. Ants react to two kinds of external information: changes in the outside world…

Finding a Natural Cycle

Posted on August 28, 2013


Approaching the Labor Day holiday in the U.S., it’s a good time to consider work cycles. Upon closer inspection, most work routines appear more arbitrary than natural. Wall Street obsesses over quarterly earnings. Workers clock their eight hours (or more).  Auto makers release new models every year…often as early as July of the prior calendar year. Work structures frequently constrain more than they enable. “At some point in time the cycle takes over, and even though you’re not really ready to make the record during that window, it’s the only window you have, so you put it out. Cracks in the foundation start. And slowly, over time, the creative process gets eroded, and it becomes something that’s just a window in the schedule instead of the…

A Look at Shinola

Posted on July 21, 2013


An old shoe polish brand is on the rise. Shinola, defunct since the 1960s, has been revitalized as an American-made watch, bicycle, and lifestyle goods brand with assembly in downtown Detroit. Using the Detroit connection, an emphasis on craftsmanship and guidance from Tom Kartsotis (the founder of Fossil), Shinola has expanded distribution into a variety of high-end retailers and a storefront in New York. A visit to the retail store in Midtown Detroit shows Shinola has even brought back the shoe polish: *

The Trend Toward Authenticity

Posted on July 3, 2013


In The Craftsman, Richard Sennett describes “honest” brick used in the eighteenth century as brickwork in which all the bricks laid come from the same kiln, are naturally colored and are exposed on the final building surface. This concept of honesty or authenticity of materials refers to purity of substance, minimal manipulation in production and a sense of naturalness. In our often artificial environment, it is interesting to see a growing trend toward authenticity and its flavors across domains. For automobiles, it may be using natural materials and designs consistent with vehicle heritage. In photography, it may be using analog equipment or avoiding Photoshop in order to produce a more natural or organic look. For restaurants, it may be using fresh, locally-sourced produce, documenting…

A Hackcrash of Reality

Posted on May 18, 2013


On April 23, 2013 a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account stated that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. Stock prices immediately dropped, wiping more than $130 billion off the value of the S&P 500, and market liquidity dramatically declined: In addition to raising further concerns about high-frequency trading algorithms, the hackcrash provides an opportunity to rethink how reality is created, framed and reported. Creating Reality In The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Daniel Boorstin writes that in contemporary culture the fabricated, the inauthentic, and the theatrical have displaced the natural, the genuine, and the spontaneous, until reality itself has been converted into stagecraft. This concept of pseudo-events is quite powerful if we can differentiate between what is meaningful and…

Beyond the Formula

Posted on April 28, 2013


Big companies love big data. It allows detailed analysis of business operations, targeting of potential customers and forecasting of outcomes. It can guide business decisions, provide statistical evidence and enhance managers’ confidence. It may also cause problems when overly simplistic formulas and models are used to represent a complex environment. Recall or Litigate In the movie Fight Club, Ed Norton’s character applies “The Formula” in his automotive Recall Coordinator job. According to the narrator, analyzing three or four variables determines whether a recall is the best (read: the cheapest) option for the unnamed company. In practice things are more complex. In August, Progressive Insurance lost a number of customers after choosing to litigate an unclear case and undergoing a social media backlash (see details…