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Hindsight-Based


Here’s yet another insightful paragraph from William Livingston’s “Design For Prevention“:

Khan Academy

October 6, 2010 1 comment

Via this Bill Gates tweet;

I discovered the Khan Academy. The breadth and depth of knowledge that Sal Khan has acquired and freely shares is astonishing and awe inspiring. Mr. Khan creates blackboard based videos in which he gently derives and explains the topic at hand. In real-time, Sal explains his thinking and makes/corrects mistakes on the way to the successful transmission of knowledge, understanding, and insight. I’ve watched several of Sal’s physics and math videos and I’m grateful for his selfless and passionate contribution to the world.

I’d love to create something on the scale of a Khan academy (would you?). Alas, all I need to do is develop a hard-to-copy product that someone actually wants and a strategy for selling it. D’oh! To the chagrin of the institutional world, the low cost tools of production and no-cost means of getting word out have been here for at least a decade, but it is only being slooowly recognized as the ultimate business infrastructure.

Waiting For Management Guidance

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

In “The Design Of Design“, Fred Brooks laments that he used to be able to track new developments in the entire field of software engineering – which was born in 1968. In the present age, because of massive innovation, expansion, and deep specialization requiring steep learning curves, he realizes that there’s no hope of anyone being super human enough to keep up anymore.

Since I used to try to keep abreast of all developments in the field, I felt the same way as Fred. Now, I have a strategy that keeps me from staying awake 24×7 reading books, papers, newsletters, blogs, and articles. I filter the tsunami of information down by trying to track developments only in my domain of focus; distributed and embedded real-time systems. I occasionally look into the fast moving enterprise IT technology space for cross-domain applicability of ideas, but it’s all I can do to keep abreast of my area while simultaneously doing some real application work that adds value to my company‘s products.

How about you? Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the rate and amount of information being created and disseminated in your field? Do you care about and pursue personal exploration and discovery, or do you just punch the clock and wait for the infallible geniuses in management to guide and train you in the new technologies that could keep you and your org viable? If it’s the latter, then you may (as the left portion of the figure below shows) remain stuck in the stagnant and boring “Waiting For Management Guidance” state forever. If you’re dwelling in this sad and potentially infinite state, there is still hope in the form of an “epiphany” of understanding – big daddy ain’t gonna help you grow personally or professionally.

Ideally, one never wastes any time in the spirit-sucking “Waiting For Management Guidance” state. The “Exploring And Discovering” state, which is a natural gift to all human beings, would be transitioned to right out of the box. When we are born, we actually do enter this state right out of the box – so to speak. As soon as we start going to school, the institutional indoctrination starts and before we can say WTF?, we’re well on our way to the “Waiting For Management Guidance” state.

Fifty-Fifty

September 14, 2009 Leave a comment

No Help

Because of the current economic environment, lots of recycled articles (take charge) regarding continuous education have appeared. Almost every one of them dispenses the same advice: “only you are responsible for continuously educating yourself and keeping your skills up to date”. Of course this is obviously true, but what about an employer’s duty to its stakeholders for ensuring that its workforce has the necessary training and skills to keep the company viably competitive in a rapidly changing landscape? Because of this duty, shouldn’t the responsibility be shared? What about fifty-fifty?

Some Help

There are at least two ways that corpo managements (if they aren’t so self-absorbed that they’re actually are smart enough to detect the need) react to the need for continuing education of the people that produce its products and provide its services.

  1. Hire externally to acquire the new skills that it needs
  2. Invest internally to keep its workforce in synch with the times

Clueless orgs do neither, average orgs do number 1, above average orgs do 2, and great orgs do 1 and 2. Hiring externally can get the right skills in the right place faster and cheaper in the short run, but it can be much riskier than investing internally. Is your hiring process good enough to consistently weed out bozos, especially those that will be placed in positions that require leading people? If it’s a new skill that you require, how can your interviewers (most of whom, by definition, won’t have this new skill) confidently and assuredly determine if candidates are qualified? As everyone knows, face-to-face interviews, references and resumes can be BS smokescreens.

If external competitive pressures require a company to acquire deep, vertical  and highly specialized skills, then hiring or renting from the outside may be the right way to go. It may be impractical and untimely to try and train its workforce to acquire knowledge and skills that require long term study. If you have a bunch of plumbers and you need an electrician to increase revenue or execute more efficiently, then it may be more cost effective and timely to hire a trained electrician than to train your plumbers to also become electricians (or it may not).

Which strategy does your corpocracy predominantly use to stay relevant? Number 1, number 2, both, or neither? If neither, why do you think that is the case? No cash, no will, neither?

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