Patterns from Patty's Pioneers Meeting in October 2015

Posted Tuesday, November 3, 2015 in Innovation by Patricia Seybold

Last week, Patty's Pioneers met for our semi-annual face-to-face confab. As usual, we all came away with new insights, wonderful peer support, and newly awakened perceptual filters. Without violating our confidentiality agreements and "cone of silence," I'd like to share a few of my personal take-aways--the patterns that emerged for me out of two days of rich conversation.

Common Themes

    • Taming Complexity. Our Pioneers relish complex ecosystems and cultures--whether corporate, non-profit, top down, or bottom up--whether high tech or low tech. In fact, most of us are leaders in at least two or three major organizational ecosystems. We tame complexity by keeping our cool, applying our years of experience (been there/done that), breaking things down into manageable components with simple, easy-to-understand rules that kick in every time there's a state change--which is usually triggered by an event.
    • Predicting Disruptive Events. None of us knows exactly what will go wrong, when (although a few of us have been sounding dire alarms about the inherent instability in the current economic system), but we all agree that something is likely to go wrong (e.g. not according to plan) most of the time. Therefore, we get really good at exception handling. The planning premise is that everything is broken at all times.
    • Spotting Emerging Patterns. Despite (or perhaps because of) our world view that systems are complex and unpredictable, we love to spot new trends, behaviors, and anomalies. We have a great time detecting these and making them visible to one another. Here's one that tickled me: Pat Kerpan pointed out that the current generation of young adults assume that they will live videostream their entire lives for anyone to see. What does that portend for corporate meetings? Pat mentioned the Lilly "throw it up in the air camera/drone." Here's a link to the video.
    • Making Mental Models Visible & Augmenting Human Intelligence. Several pioneers have projects underway that use real-time analysis to mine incoming research and public conversations about current events, to identify concepts and topics that are of interest to the people in their firms. Many pioneers have been doing this "concept tagging" for quite a long time. What's different today? Two things: 1) The concept map that's specific to each firm is more visible to all employees than ever before--it's the corporate mental model--, and 2) by flagging, analyzing, and summarizing important conversations, it allows the most talented people to focus on what they need to know the most.
    • Making Relationships Visible. There's a huge amount of work now focused on the social supply chain. Who is talking to whom about what? Obviously, if you know who in (or outside of) your ecosystem is in conversation with whom about what, that's extremely valuable. Today's social network tools and graph databases reveal much more about who is connected to whom and who is interacting with whom, about what, right now. This has privacy implications, yet these relationships are easily discoverable, thanks to social media connections.Linked In Graph
    • Continuous Planning. Planning is no longer a yearly or even quarterly, undertaking. We all need to be planning all the time, in real time. Our longer term plans may be more abstract than our near term plans, but they are both shifting continuously, as we sense and respond to the changes in our environment.

Wide-Ranging Topics

We talk about a lot of things. Each person brings fresh observations and insights. What follows are the topics that struck my fancy, along with my personal interpretations. I can't speak for the rest of the group. There were many more topics discussed. Topics emerge in typical Pioneers' fashion: high-level observations, followed by deep dives. You need a strong stomache, otherwise you get air-sick from all the deep dives and re-surfacings!

    • IBM, HP, Dell/EMC, Microsoft, Oracle, Google, Apple: Where are these players going? Are they still relevant? What do they bring to the party? One of my major take-aways was that large hardware players like HP, IBM, Dell and Apple have a not-to-be-underestimated core competency in supply chain management. Once a global company has built a global supply chain ecosystem, that company is not likely to go away, or to be challenged by an upstart. A global supply chain takes decades to build out and mature. These companies are no longer manufacturers; they are global supply chains.
    • Corporate Private Clouds are Immature and Unimaginative. Many of the corporate cloud initiatives we discussed were simply re-packaged data centers in which physical servers had been shifted to the next generation commodity hardware and virtualized. What's needed, instead? Connect everything in the cloud. Encrypt everything. Firewall it off from the rest of the world. Distribute it across clouds. Treat your network as logical segments no matter where they are. Once you get that up, stable, working, and making money, worry about integrating to your legacy enterprise systems. In other words, work from the outside in.
    • US Government's Surveillance Practices are Harming Global Trade & Damaging Livelihoods. So much of our commerce takes place electronically, the fact that the US intelligence infrastructure insists on being able to snoop on electronic communications and data stored anywhere in the world is making it more and more difficult for US-based software companies to be trusted. We also heard very personal stories of peoples' incomes and livelihoods being compromised by clumsy over-reaching bureaucracies whose privacy violations were justified in the name of US security.
    • What's Needed: Lightweight, Secure, Changeable, Virtual Infrastructure. If everything is encrypted end-to-end, and WE have control over our own security, and we know what we are doing, we can profit from the ability to build out, extend, and constantly change our networks and cloud computing infrastructure in order to reduce risk, and to optimize performance. 
    • Outsourcing isn't about Labor Cost; It's about Tax Breaks. Companies will continue to locate their operations where they get the most favorable tax treatments.
    • Talent is the competitive advantage in an increasing number of industries. Are you doing everything you can to find, nurture, and optimize the performance of your talent? As more and more jobs become automated, what will become of the untalented? And, if nurturing talent matters, how do we do that without creating an even greater, and unsustainable, gap between the haves and the have nots?
    • Process isn't Important; People (Talent) and Data is. Processes are irrelevant and will change, or should change, over time. Combine big data real time analytics with talented, experienced people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences in order to solve (or plan for) complex scenarios. 
    • The Internet of Things is all about "How do I Sense Faster." We are now in a world in which wearable and embedded technology communicates constantly and adapts dynamically. The winner senses more state changes faster and provides valuable advice in the right context.
    • Optimization of Atoms, Bits & Molecules. In the physical world, optimization at the Nano scale is where investments are currently paying off.  In the digital world, massively parallel processing enables more and more real-time optimization of complex systems.
    • Complex Decision-Making. Despite all the big data and analytics, in the human world, it's still about getting all the smart, experienced people "in a room" to ""make" or "take" decisions. These decisions, once made, are simply executed. There's no need for a lot of discussion, or even for a paper trail about how the decision was made. This drives the auditors nuts!
    • When Top Down Fails; Bottom Up Emerges. Many of the inspiring initiatives we talked about have emerged from otherwise abandoned people and communities in different parts of the globe. People who no longer have jobs because industries have moved away, are now experimenting with new, entrepreneurial initiatives. But their funding is not coming from conventional sources: banks, Venture Capital, etc. Instead, it's grass roots financing, coming from those who still have ties to these abandoned communities. A "Re-Villaging" movement is emerging in the countryside in many countries around the world, in the wake of financially weakened, environmentally damaged, overcrowded cities. E-Tools and networking are essential to the ability of these re-villaging efforts to succeed by connecting them to investors, markets, and resources. 

If you're interested in joining the Pioneers' conversations, feel free to contact me. This is a hand-picked group of visionary/pragmatists across several industries. We've been meeting and conversing for two decades. But in that time, people have drifted away and others have joined. There's always room for new blood and energy.


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