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All posts for the month February, 2004

Ready, Fire, Aim. Picked up on this Tom Peters’ adage several times before as the antidote to the rational ready, aim, fire approach to planning. This link is the conlcuding chapter of this Rand Organisation paper “Seeking Nontraditional Approaches to Collaborating and Partnering with Industry” aimed at US Army business needs.

Liked this [Quote] The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. [Unquote] ? Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future.

Re-usable “Paper”. Blogged earlier link. Didn’t spot this “social life of paper” link from Malcolm Gladwell before though [Stuart's Henshall's previous link.] This is an interesting subject if you’re in an industry where the take-up of electronic “devices” seems to be lagging behind possibilities. People are very attached to the paper paradigm, for very good reasons. Makes you think about the way people really interact with information, and what information really means to them.

Stuart is gathering quite a collection of thoughts and links on this subject.

Extra-Specially Weird. Often browse Rivets for amusement (and general education) around some of the more strange (and wonderful) things the web throws up, without straying into the downright perverted or pornographic, often without any particular reason to link to anything on-topic as far as my blog is concerned, but Lindsay Marshall’s own caption sums up this extra-specially weird weirdo.

Data as Narrative. Post from Gary Murphy on advogato referreing to David Gelernter’s New York Times piece. Can’t see the original piece from here (need my NYT account details !), but it describes “scopeware“.

Basic point is organising (and persisting) data sets (files) accoring to things like mime-types or source technology types, is much less relevant than the “narrative” in which the information content is involved. The narrative sequence provides much better context for the “semantic intent” and purpose of the information. Too true.

Relevance vs Orthodoxy. A bit of a whinge by someone who didn’t get the job at Harvard Business School, [via Seb Paquet], but that same subject again ….

Orthodoxy – classical reasoning, logical positivism – just doesn’t cut the mustard in real human / social / organisational / business life. In fact it’s almost irrelevant unless you’re an accountant. Yes, irrelevant. Good spot Seb.

The article is worth a further read.

Saw The Cooper Temple Clause blow Black Rebel Motorcycle Club away, supporting them at the Cambridge Corn Exchange last night.

TCTC may be a bunch of poseurs, but they had variety and imagination on their side. Great bass performance, and slick changes and finishes showed them well rehearsed and experienced on the road. BRMC started promising, with a Dylanesque acoustic plus harmonica opening couple of numbers, building into their heavier vein by the third number, but after that … they were stuck in that groove from the second bar of every number with equally unimaginative staccato back-lighting throughout. Guitarist playing for the sympathy vote with his hand in a plaster-cast didn’t add to the quality either.

Not That Easy [via Ton] In this [Steven Covey] interview he declared management of people superfluous. One manages money, stocks, portfolios, and the like, not people. Give people purpose and a course, and then stop interfering with them. The interview ended with this quote [emphasis Ton's]:

In most organisations there is a lack of trust, and most employees are powerless. In this era of knowledge-workers we still use the industrial model of control, in which we treat people like objects. It is as if we are still practising bloodletting, although we know all about bacteria and how they work. [End]

Sorry, but that stuff needs prefacing with “in an ideal world”. My emphasis is the word “then” in the first paragraph. “Giving” people a purpose or cause ain’t that easy, and expecting any group to share the same goal and purpose as individuals is wishful thinking. In reality what this is saying is that managing “intent” is what really matters, and having to apply “control” is a sign that intent is not managed within business bounds. Of course, this idea of within bounds implies measurement and is the root of the destructive re-inforcement of the old command and control metaphor of management.

Manage what you can’t measure. Neat trick if you can do it.

Rational Ignorance [Jo Ito] [via McGee]. Interesting. On the balance between academic and detailed “rationale” in the language a 12 year old could understand (O-level theory as I call it) on the one hand, and inspired (and interesting, and involving, and rhetorical, and aesthetic) brevity on the other.

The former is of course Pirsig’s death grip of scientific rationalism, whereas the latter is pure Quality. As Einstein may have said, approximately, in science, the hard bit is the inspiration to “find” a hypothesis (from who knows where), whereas disproving it using the logic of scientific method is the easy mechanical chore. Advancing the boundaries of science relies on this chore. Advancing human knowledge is another matter.

Intent is part of Knowledge – Official. Hans Blix [via BBC] talking with David Frost about the government spin (both US and UK) in WMD intelligence saga says [Quote] “It was to do with information management. The intention was to dramatise it,” [Unquote]. Dramatise, sex-up ? Intent all the same.

Interestingly he is publicly stating the same allegation over which Hutton appeared to exonorate Blair et al. Is that contempt or just plain common sense ? [Quote] Baroness Amos ….. has rejected claims that the government “dramatised” intelligence on Iraq, saying Lord Hutton’s report had cleared the government on the issue. [Unquote]. Oh, well that’s OK then.

Classical-Rational Decision Making. Got an interesting search hit on the site which threw up these items.

Impact of the evidence-based health care “movement” on health service strategic planning, 1995-1998. by Dr Jane Farmer Department of Management Studies, University of Aberdeen. Note the scare quotes in the title, not quite daring to accept evidence-based-management approach. Good sign.

Anonymous presentation on Decision Support Systems. Ultimately obvious motherhood stuff, but an intersting “triangulation” view of taking two perspectives (contexts) for viewing a single item of information along the way.

Organisational Memetics – Paper by I. Price. Very reminiscent of my own dissertation in much of it’s content, though moving the decision making model on into evolutionary paradigm, which I never did at that time. Also has an extensive bibliography.

Just started reading James Joyce’s Ulysses yesterday (it had to happen one day, Jorn). I’m about six chapters in (two chapters into the second part) and surprised to find it not too hard going. Plenty of unintelligible neologisms, but they don’t interrupt the already strange prose-poetry flow. Plenty of intriguing throwaways that presumably hint at things we do not yet know about Mulligan and Daedalus. For a book accalimed as the novel of the 20th century, not surprising to find one or two wonderful turns of phrase.

Most intriguing are the Nietzschean Superman and Zarathustra references. Set in 1904, written between 1906 and publication in 1922, there are no references to Nietzsche in the copious introductory bibliographical and biographical notes (I’m reading the Paris / Shakespeare 1922 text published by OUP). I didn’t think Nietzsche had been translated into English at that time ? Did Joyce read the original German, whilst living in Austria ?

Another intriguing point is that the chapter naming plan (implicit only in the 1922 text, but explicit in earlier drafts) includes a chapter “Scylla and Charybdis” – the title used by James Willis in his essay on the pitfalls (whirlpool) of rationalism prompted by his reading of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Rather naively I guess, I was also rather surprised at all the references to the politics and war of Irish independence.

Reading it in the Pickerell, as usual, a couple of English students were interested to know if it was my first read of it and how I was finding it, given that it was on their reading list and they hadn’t started it yet. More difficult to understand was why was I reading it given that I didn’t have to.

Been worrying about this since Northrop’s references to Aryan, and the 20th century “PC” difficulty of attributing the language to an Aryan “race”.

Since Sir William “Indiana” Jones proposed a common Aryan or Indo-European language in 1786, with linguistic similarities having been noted by European travellers as early as the 1500′s, the idea of a common “proto-indo-european” language (PIE) seems well established amongst linguists and historians. What is less clear is any agreement on the precise tree or hiearchy of which languages evolved from which, nor even whether repeat and reverse migrations and cultural influences, may have involved a more complex web rather than a simple tree.

Hindus may claim Sanskrit (refined, pollished, perfect – language of the gods) as the root. Europeans may claim Aryan (ie Iranian), Armenians may claim Aryan-Armenian, but most would agree a common PIE. What is clear is that there was a fluid Indo-European exchange of populations and culture, with common linguistic threads, that pre-dates greek, latin, and all the later romance and germanic european languages. Obviously the reason agreement is difficult is because much of this evolution pre-dates written history, and it seems (?) that the oldest written texts were the Sanskrit “Vedic” texts.

I guess the term Indo-European just avoids complicating the issue, where all that is inferred is their shared origins, in cases where precise historical sequence before the written texts is not relevant to the subject. Using Aryan (like using Sanskrit) confuses the issue with a paricular claim of aboriginality with a particular people at a particular time. Seems the proto-language and its migration east and west is generally accepted as arising 4000 BC in Anatolia / Armenia / Upper Tigris-Euphrates-Mesopotamia terrirory. Sanskrit’s claim to originality can only go back as far as 1500 BC and only as far as 100 to 200 BC in written form.

Sources: [SanskritOrigins] [ArmenianHighland] [Encyclopedia.com] [1911Brittanica]

Knowledge is Human. Well no prizes for that, but in fact this IBM research paper by Dueck, relates Human “views” of knowledge with their personality types a la Myers-Briggs. The conclusion is easy too – KM is about managing humans – but this paper leaves some nagging doubts that the “rational” way to manage knowledge the way you like it is to select humans with the knowledge view you like – the yes men. Myers-Briggs is really about seeking a balance of mixed types in any organisation. To do otherwise is to presume some absolute knowledge outside humans.

Myers-Briggs ? Briggs-Myers ? I’m guessing daughter Isabel of mother Elizabeth Myers after taking married name Briggs and then working with mother (and husband Peter ?) as “Myers & Briggs” adopted the moniker Briggs-Myers, so working idependantly she carries the “trade-mark” with her. Only guessing. Must check biogs.