What Big Data, what information dominance?

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A new adage is blowing around in the world of innovation. According to Wikipedia, The term “big data” often refers simply to the use of predictive analytics, user behavior analytics, or certain other advanced data analytics methods that extract value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set. Analysis of data sets can find new correlations to “spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on”.
It is reminiscent of an early US Navy doctrine, as a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or belief system. As such, it is a thinking pattern, in which is stated that “information superiority permits the conduct of operations without effective opposition”.
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However, in an electronic war game back in 2002 one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five out of six amphibious ships were sent to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in the span of just one hour, resulting in the virtual death of over 20.000 US service personnel.

It was the result of an asymmetric strategy by the opponent forces.

Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, adopted an asymmetric strategy, in particular, using old methods to evade Blue’s sophisticated electronic surveillance network. Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to front-line troops and World-War-II-style light signals to launch airplanes without radio communications.
Red received an ultimatum from Blue, essentially a surrender document, demanding a response within 24 hours. Thus warned of Blue’s approach, Red used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of Blue’s fleet by the second day of the exercise. In a preemptive strike, Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the Blue forces’ electronic sensors and destroyed sixteen warships (Wikipedia)It is the same kind of bold thinking we noticed in our blog Thinking outside the SeaMap:  “doing different things” or “escaping the temptation to do more-of-the-same but only better”.

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Military strategists distinguish between symmetric and asymmetric warfare. Symmetric warfare is characterized by standing armies that follows more or less the same tactics and organized in the same way. Their standard mode of operation can be traced back to Napoleonic Warfare.

Guerrilla warfare is an escape from fighting according to the rules imposed by the often far more powerful opponent. Therefore, this strategy is often applied by less powerful opponents. The most famous form is guerrilla warfare, next to terrorism.

Asymmetric competitor strategies could be an effective approach in business. Basically, it is not playing the game similar to the other companies, that is selling and marketing the same products as competitors but cheaper and better. It is about disruptive innovation, changing the rules in the market, by delivering a complete different product than you competitor does. It is all about gaining competitive advantage by creating an unique niche in the market. Playing another race at a different circuit.

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There is much more to say about the embarrassing destruction of the mighty US Navy, as the over reliance on technological superiority and information dominance. It’s all about big organizations and the neglect of intuition about the intentions and capabilities of the competitor.
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Asymmetry

There is much more to say about the embarrassing destruction of the mighty US Navy, as the over reliance on technological superiority and information dominance. Also, the neglect of intuition about the intentions and capabilities of the enemy.

Disclaimer: Now you have heard  about the advantage of disruptive innovation or step-out innovation and decide that your organization should do “some of that.” But most organizations are designed to do something else very well. Namely, what they are already doing. You may have a brilliant vision, you may have identified the next great idea, but organizational routines, standard Key Performance Indicators and existing organizational structures will prevent proper execution: The company will will continue to do what they are already doing succesfully: ” a tiny bit better and a tiny bit cheaper?” See “Why Big Companies Can’t Innovate” by Maxell Wessel.

See also the video: Disruptive Innovation Explained by Clay Christensen.

Thinking outside the Sea Map

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In 17th and 18th centuries England, France, and Spain contested the Dutch domination of world trade and the control over the seas and trade routes. After initial English successes, the war ended in a decisive Dutch victory.

In 1667 Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter sailed up to the river Thames and attacked the British Royal navy in her home base and towed away the Royal Charles, pride and flagship of the English fleet to display it as a tourist attraction in Hellevoetsluis in the Netherlands. It was one of the worst defeats in the Royal Navy’s history, comparable with that of the fall of Singapore in 1942.

Till then, both navies had tried to fight each other at the open seas. Numbers of war ships, range and caliber of the guns and coordinated maneuvering skills were key success factors. However, de Ruyter did something totally different, he sailed up to Chatham and surprised the resting British fleet there.  That way he outperformed the British navy by changing the rules of the game.

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This kind of thinking is the same you should apply when you want to reach dramatic cost reductions, come up with a radical new concept for an existing product or creating a breakthrough innovation. In those cases more-of-the-same thinking will not provide for a game change in the market. Patterns of standard thinking should be broken in order to get competitive advantage.

Edward de Bono, de inventor of lateral thinking, called it Sur/petition: creating value monopolies when everyone else is merely competiting.

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However, it is not simple to come up with disruptive ideas. And also, to convince your board and your crew.

When the secret instructions were opened on June 7 there was a lot of protest. It was noted that most officers do did their best to find objections, but not to come up with solutions.

See also: Creative Execution: What Great Leaders Do to Unleash Bold Thinking and Innovation or watch this video 2′ 23”

The Charm of Imperfection

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In an earlier post about focus, we stressed the importance of paying attention to the focus of the thinking. Taking a problem or challenge unquestioned as it exposes itself may lead to brilliant solutions for the wrong problem. It is therefore required to pay substantial time and effort to (re)define the focus of the thinking.

The problem of attention is best illustrated by the figure-ground phenomenon:  it is known as identifying a figure from the background. For example, you see words on a printed paper as the “figure” and the white sheet as the “background”. However, it is possible to define the white sheet as the “figure”and the “background” as the printed words. Some examples of figure–ground perception shift are:

Figure–ground perception can be expanded from visual perception to include abstract (i.e. non-visual) concepts such as melody/harmony, subject/background, and positive/negative space. The concept of figure and ground fully depends on the observer and not on the item itself.

In art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the “real” subject of an image. It is called Negative Space. The Japanese word “Ma” is sometimes used for this concept, for example, in garden design.

With respect to presented information we called this phenomenon “Left Out” and “Cassandra information“: What is not there?

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What is not mentioned in the report, intentionally or unconsciously?

We will take the figure-ground reversal a little bit further. Normally, we strive for perfection– broadly, a state of completeness and flawlessness. We value strength, beauty, completeness, velocity, winning etc. Let’s shift focus to the negative face. What is the beauty of imperfection? Amazingly, there is no such page in Wikipedia neither in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Ripping or distressing of jeans, though also arising naturally as a result of wear and tear, is sometimes deliberately performed by suppliers – with distressed clothing sometimes selling for more than a non-distressed pair. For example, Pucci sold “embellished mid-rise boyfriend jeans” for $860 USD. In other times it would be a sign of poverty.

The Golden Raspberry Awards is an award ceremony in recognition of the worst in a film. Most winners do not attend the ceremony to collect their awards.  Notable exceptions include Tom Green (Worst Actor/Worst Director), Halle Berry and Sandra  Bullock (Worst Actress), Michael Ferris, Joe Eszterhas (Worst Screenplay), and Paul Verhoeven (Worst Director)

“The Bad Hemingway Contest” is an annual writing competition that has been held for nearly thirty years, the contest pays mock homage to Ernest Hemingway by encouraging authors to submit a ‘really good page of really bad Hemingway’. Also to mention the “Hemmingway Look-alike Society”, a bunch of “portly gray-bearded old men.”: not being unique is the pursue, but striving for the likeness of someone else is worth pursuing.

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It is all about focus shift

It is all about perception shift. A shift from looking for perfection to valuing imperfection. In Japan, it is called Wabi-sabi the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”

What about the 25 inventions that are completely pointless, as a Car Exhaust Grill or a sadomasochistic tea kettle?

Leaning towers seem to attract a lot more visitors than towers standing upright.

A choir for people who cannot sing and are tone deaf was started by Nadine Cooper, 48, who wanted to join a singing group but never had the courage because she was aware she could not stay in tune. Her self-consciousness started when she was a child after a music teacher ordered her to keep her mouth shut because of her awful singing.A tuneless choir for those who . . .well can’t sing: Listen, this bunch is really hair-raising the roof!

 There are hundreds of quotes about imperfection:
At last, imperfection is even a subject of serious studies, for example, “On Ugliness” by  the legendary   Italian novelist, literary critic, philosopher, semiotician and university professor  Umberto Eco.

Out of Date Concepts – Thinkibility Nibble

 

Concepts occur in solid form and are often not questioned. After all, they have proved their worth and value. Concepts as an abstract or generic ideas, conceived in the mind, are generalized from particular instances. The more “solid” a concept appears the higher the chances are that the concept was conceived in the collective mind decades or ages ago.

Historically, marriages in most societies were arranged by parents and older relatives with the goal of legacy and economic stability and political alliances. So, the concept then was defined as a kind of business agreement, rather than something that involved love.  It is therefore  not surprising that a concept such as matchmaker – as the process of matching two or more people together for the purpose of marriage –  also got outdated.

In general, outdated concepts can be considered as originally adequate in the circumstances in which they were designed, but now hopelessly outdated because of the changed circumstances, be it economic, social, historical, technological, etc.

Schematically shown:

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For example:  since we have reduced democracy to selecting representatives, and reduced representative democracy to mean simply voting, a valuable system is now mired in deep difficulties.

” In a referendum, we ask people directly what they think when they have not been obliged to think – although they have certainly been bombarded by every conceivable form of manipulation in the months leading up to the vote. But the problem is not confined to referendums: in an election, you may cast your vote, but you are also casting it away for the next few years. This system of delegation to an elected representative may have been necessary in the past – when communication was slow and information was limited – but it is completely out of touch with the way citizens interact with each other today.”

“This blind faith in the ballot box as the ultimate base on which popular sovereignty rests can be seen most vividly of all in international diplomacy. When western donor countries hope that countries ravaged by conflict – such as Congo, Iraq or Afghanistan – will become democracies, what they really mean is this: they must hold elections, preferably on the western model, with voting booths, ballot papers and ballot boxes; with parties, campaigns and coalitions; with lists of candidates, polling stations and sealing wax, just like we do. And then they will receive money from us.”

“Local democratic and proto-democratic institutions (village meetings, traditional conflict mediation or ancient jurisprudence) stand no chance. These things may have their value in encouraging a peaceful and collective discussion, but the money will be shut off unless our own tried-and-tested recipe is adhered to.”

Could we conceive alternative designs for  a system that would express the will of the people, as is the original idea behind the concept of democracy: a system of government in which all the people of a state are involved in making decisions about its affairs?

Look for some real interesting ideas in “Why elections are bad for democracy ” by David Van Reybrouck.

There are many concepts that have become outdated or soon will become. Can you think of any? And can you design any new concepts that can be used instead?

Poor Social Design – Thinkibility Nibble

According to a Dutch report, the number of people with intellectual disabilities getting paid care,  increased between 1998 and 2011 fivefold (the figures for other Western countries will not be much different)

The large increase is not because more people have a disability, but because the diagnosis is now  made more often by changing demands in society. This would be partly because more and more digital services, such as Internet banking and the smartcard, have becomm widely available. That someone has a mild intellectual disability is by that more likely to be noticed.

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Read again.

The number of people with intellectual disabilities getting paid care are increasing because more and more services become digital available.

It is normally assumed that (digital) technology will make our existence  easier, yet large population groups are excluded from participation in society by using the same (digital) technology.

Instead they get paid off for their inconvenience, caused by a poor design of digital services.

Technology should be used to make things more simple. Techology that make thinks more complex is simple of a very poor design quality, even for not intelectual disabled.

World’s Most Interesting Reversals (1) – Thinkibility Boost

In a Reversal the usual supposed cause-effect relation between objects or subjects are turned upside down. For example, it is supposed that the establishment of a permanent observation post increases the safety of recreational sailing. A Reversal could set up that the establishment of a permanent observational post rightly effective decreases the safety of sailors. The Reversal set up could lead to the idea that permanent observation gives sailors a misplaced feeling of safety, and also that observation can only timely detect sailors in difficulties, but doesn’t prevent accidents, nor solve them if happened.

  • Reversals are applied to create opportunities to escape from patterns.
  • Carefully designed Reversals are excellent thinking strategies in attempting alternative explanations for phenomenon in medical science, sociology and psychology.

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One uncommon, unique and different arrow goes in the opposite direction of the rest of the group, symbolizing unusual nature, being a rebel or innovating with creative thinking.

As a somewhat weird hobby we collected some Reversals. Some will be known to you, some will astonish or even upset you. Many “collectors items” we gratefully derived from This Explains Everything -155 thinkers about the most elegant insights all time.

  • The idea that team building can be stimulated by organizing a party with a lot of talk, fun, good food and drinks is totally wrong

Team spirit will evoke by successfully attaining goals in “weathering tests”. That teams after their trials exuberantly would party is wrongly interpreted as a condition for team spirit. Team  members will  become supportive only after overcoming an obstacle.

  • We have a certain impression that important decisions in one’s life are taken consciously.

However, biologic research shows that important decisions are taken unconsciously, but that nevertheless our brains invent acceptable explanations regarding the token decisions (Terrence J. Sejnowski). Also, people don’t behave in a way because they are so-and-so, but make conclusions about what they are by observing their own behavior (Timothy D. Wilson). Traditionally, psychological problems come from the inner part of the clients. However, self-perception theory perspective suggests that people derive their inner feelings or abilities from their external behaviors. We don’t do who we are, but we are what we do.

  • In what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls “lucretan underestimation” current risk assesment methodologies are based on the worst event ever happened (the worst recession, the cruelest war, the worst unemployment rates), not on what could happen.

He argues that nature looks forward by anticipating to what perhaps would happen, by reserving extra capacity and building up strength. Redundancy is therefore not a defensive approach. See also the three earlier blog post about building robustness in systems here.

  • Placebo’s – sugar pills with no effective medical working – are thought to have no influence on the body at all.

Sometimes patients given a placebo treatment will have a perceived or actual improvement in a medical condition, a phenomenon commonly called the placebo effect. Eric J. Topol suggests to use “placebo medication” as a therapy.

Two people are often less effective than one single person. The merely presence of some other beings prevent a single person are often than not to take adequate action in a situation.

Another examples of the inadequacy of “More Is Better” : “More ideas are better”. Actually, many inferior ideas will not even one really innovative idea. “More hands are better”: Many organisations try to solve problems by adding more resources (time, budget, workers, overseers), while fundamental redesign of the work processes could solve the problem. Often problems are solved by reducing the people involved.”Bigger is Better” or “Economies of Scale“: Many mergers, intended to improve efficiency and to reduce running costs, actually become counter productive.

  • Normally it is assumed that romantic harmony between couples is the standard with the aim of copulating is the joint reproduction of offspring.

Huge conflicts between spouses are regarded as signs of dysfunction. However, David Buss posits a radical reformulation in a theory about sexual conflict: Sexual conflict or sexual antagonism occurs when the two sexes have conflicting optimal fitness strategies concerning reproduction, particularly over the mode and frequency of mating, potentially leading to an evolutionary arms race between males and females.

  • “Dirt is not dirt, but only matter in the wrong place.” is another example of an Reversal which ensures that we will continue to question conventions.
  • Some models of human behavior in the social sciences and many economics models assume that people are on average rational, and can in large enough quantities be approximated to act according to their preferences.

The concept of bounded rationality by Herbert Simon reverses this assumption to account for the fact that perfectly rational decisions are often not feasible in practice because of the finite computational resources available for making them. Humans are not rational actors but satisficing: the idea that in decision-making, rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision.

  • The idea that “there is a someone in my head” or ” some part of my head is responsible for …” is debated by David Eagleman.

In “Incognito. The Secret Lives of the Brain” he suggests that the brain contains divers and overlapping ways to handle the world. There are a lot of “someones” in our head, a representative democracy that functions due to competition between the brain parts of which we are not conscious at all. As such, the brain is subject to neural conflicts.

  • Throughout centuries,  it has been assumed that a perceived object doesn’t change under influence of an observer.

However, quantum physics, psychology and sociology has shown that this is not true. To expand this concept it is suggested that biology is the science about behavior of biologists, physics the science about behavior of physicists. This is a Reversal of empiricism, a theory of knowledge which states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. Another Reversal of empiricism is the statement that perception without a theory is not possible. Theories like ideas, hypothesis, perspectives, perceptions, assumptions, etc. do have an important and fundamental role to acquire and enhance knowledge. Any observation takes place against the background of a theory, consciously or not. So called “Evidence-based Policy” is then more it’s Reversal: “Policy based Evidence”.

  • Most software applications are designed to assist us with thinking tasks.

But in reverse, in the “Computional Brain” computer models constrained by neurobiological data can help reveal how – networks of neurons subserve perception and behavior – how their physical interactions can yield global results in perception and behavior, and how their physical properties are used to code information and compute solutions.

A last Reversion, to reflect on: To get a good idea the standard approach is to search for better ideas. A reversed approach is to get rid of a bad idea. Doing so helps to suppress simple, obvious but not effective attempts whereby a better solution can arise.

figure_ground_reversal_by_mystiedo-d5yo2zzIn a following blog post we will continue with some World’s Most Interesting Reversals. In the meantime, you are invited to subscribe to our blog.

How to Fail Most Successfully

Ultra-Solutions, first coined by Paul Watzlawick, are solutions that in a previous situation worked brilliantly or at least to your satisfaction. Then you try the solution in another context and it turns into the opposite. The solution is worse than the disease. It is a way to fail most successfully.
NASA built silos for rockets against corrosion. The missiles were becoming increasingly larger, and the silos were increasingly getting higher. So high that the upper air began to condense and considerable corrosion of the rockets occurred. Thus, the solution to the problem turned into the reason why the solution did not work.Ultra-Solutions are a result of patterned thinking. The idea is that a new but similar problem will be solved by applying a more-of-the-same solution, which solved an earlier problem satisfactory.

It is smart to have a central handling of passengers and luggage at an airport. That saves manpower and infrastructure. It also ensures quick handling and flow. Despite a drastic increase in air traffic airports continued to maintain this solution. As a result, the travel time of a passenger of the central hall to the plane takes as much time as the flight time to any place in Europe.

It is wise to make business activity measurable. This means that you get more understanding of where efficiency gains can be achieved. To measure is to know. Therefore, the more aspects you measure, the better. This focus on measuring aspects have resulted in physicians having less and less time for consulting patients,  teachers giving fewer lectures, and nurses paying less attention to patients. Vital components of good health care and teaching have disappeared. As a result, the quality of the care may become less efficient since the patients have little time to explain and discuss their symptoms and there is little time to discuss preventative care.

Thus, sometimes an adequate solution turns into its opposite and becomes the problem. The problem could be described as lack of thinking. Old ideas are used in new situations without any proper examination of risks and potential problems. It is also one of the pitfalls of Yellow Hat Thinking that is used in the Six Hat Thinking framework.  Under this thinking framework, the attention is focused on different aspect, which helps tominimise neglecting to search for both positive aspects and risks and potential problems. However, it is easy to have a strong belief in an idea and a possible reversal of positives is difficult. Yet, it is necessary to search for faults with an open mind. This search belongs to Black Hat Thinking and stepping away from the search for positive aspects is a good strategy. A short break may help you to refocus on actively searching for risks and possible long-term consequences with a suggestion.

Photo: Architectural Design by chrisroll