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A View from The Prairie, 2018

January 2018

Too Big Not to Fail

Back in the 1950's, the American economy was dominated by a few huge corporations. Companies like GM, AT&T, US Steel, IBM, and General Electric had dominant positions in the marketplace and were where people wanted to work. Since then, several have gone bankrupt and the others are much smaller part of the economy. What happened? They were all "too big NOT to fail". Human beings are not perfect. We have a predictable failure rate.


Get Feedback

To have a learning organization, we need feedback. Learning happens fastest when there is quick, effective feedback. But how do we best get feedback? To get best feedback, we need both formal and informal methods.


February/March 2018

Examine Your Myths

Humans live on stories. We love to listen to stories, we learn more from stories than from facts, and we have our own story which gives us our own time and place. But sometimes, those stories are myths. When we try to run companies on myths, we run the risk that the myth no longer holds true for us. When we live by a myth, we are far more vulnerable to con men and being taken advantage of by people acting as if they are fulfilling the myth. Business myths abound in our culture. Learning to question our myths can be a potent business advantage.


The Jungle Will Overtake a Garden

Anyone who has seen Angor Wat or the images of how Mayan temples were discovered can see the power of the jungle to take over a fancy city. Trees are growing everywhere and huge temples got covered with dirt and vegetation. Even a lowly garden has weeds attacking it every week. The same is true for any computer system.


April 2018

Making Decisions with Incomplete Knowledge

We are always needing to make decisions without knowing the full information about the situation or what the consequences of the decision will be. We need to have a system of making decisions and reviewing such decisions when the consequences we become aware of them. We do best to also ask the deep questions.



A current wave through management circles is to spend time in "Mindfulness". The practitioners claim studies showing that managers who set aside time for "Mindfulness" make better decisions. There is an obvious reason for that result. But any time in "Mindfulness" can be improved by focusing on the questions.


May 2018

Surfing the Change Wave

Can you handle how fast the world is changing around you? With social media and other outlets, our customers and potential customers can control the image we have in the community. We can't control so much of the environment in which we operate. Some companies are accepting this and riding the waves of change around them. They find ways to get energy from changes they can't control.


The Science of Not Knowing

Human beings have three ways of not knowing. We can know that we don't know something. We can not know something and not know that we don't know it. We can "know" something but be totally wrong about it. This last one is the most costly and hardest to deal with. There are a number of costs of knowing but being wrong in that knowing.


June 2018

Karl Marx - 200 years later

Recently, several countries celebrated the 200 th birthday of Karl Marx. In his writing, he targeted America and Britain hoping to change their economies. He failed. While America has had armed rebellion and soft revolutions, we did not follow the path Marx wanted for us. What happened? It is important to look at the economic situation when Marx was writing, look at how America and Britain chose other paths, and see how Marx's vision ultimately failed.


The real danger of Artificial Intelligence

The story goes in WWII, the Russians trained some dogs to run bombs under tanks. But the German tanks smelled different so the dogs ran back under Russian tanks with the bombs. Artificial intelligence has similar problems. AI systems trained to detect images are being fooled by small changes to the pictures undetectable to humans. The results are AI systems not recognizing stop signs, misidentifying individuals, and not seeing dangerous situations.


July 2018

Sometimes the little things matter

The Large Hadron Collider is where the Higgs Boson was discovered. No, nobody actually saw it nor was there a solid signal on a measurement. Instead, it was only a blip of other particles that had very strong probability that they were created from the Higgs Boson. This little blip brought the Nobel Prize. In the business world, little blips can be important. We define our corporate culture by what small things we praise and which we fire over.


Credit Spigot Turn Off?

From the first, our country was built on credit but periodically, the credit spigot got turned off. In the 1800's, they called it a "financial panic" and those happened over and over again. In the 1900's, we only had the 1907 panic and the one Great Depression. More recently, we had the "Great Recession". However, what would happen if the credit spigot got turned off again?


August 2018

The Internet is Destroying Karl Marx

Recently, some places celebrated Karl Marx's 200 th birthday and the 150 th anniversary of the publication of Das Kapital. Today, the Internet is destroying his work. We know more about the history of money than he knew. And Karl Marx made two deep mistakes in his analysis. Nothing has intrinsic value, neither gold nor labor.


The 8 Hour Work Day is Gone

One major by-product of the Information Revolution is the destruction of the 8-hour work day. It was an invention of the Industrial Revolution and no longer is meaningful.


September 2018

The Coming Robotic Revolution

We are headed into another major revolution, the Robotic Revolution. We have already seen the impact of the Information Revolution with retail stores failing left and right. The Robotic Revolution is just starting and it will have just as deep an impact on our society. To properly survive this revolution, we need to know what robots can do and what only humans can do. As with the Information Revolution, there will be winners and losers. Robots are going to cause major changes to the job market


Rethinking Social Networks

For a while now, researchers have thought that the person with the most social connections was a key player in any social network. This has led to the LinkedIn phenomenon of a person with thousands of "connections". Yet, that person rarely is able to capitalize fully on all those connections. This has led to new studies that show more details about which connections matter. These studies can shed light on why diversity is profitable. A recent study found that it wasn't the number of connections that was the most important, but


October 2018

Dispatches from the Cyber War

In WWII, a lot of bombing runs over Germany and Japan did not target military installations. Instead, they targeted vital industrial capacity. The idea was to cripple their capability to create weapons of war. In today's Cyber War, we see the same thing. The recent Wired article on the cyber-attack that brought down much of Europe and world-wide shipping illustrates that any company connected to the Internet is a target in today's Cyber war. We are in a Cyber War.


The Cost of Multitasking

We get hit with interruptions all day long. Sometimes, we are able to get back to what we were doing. Sometimes, it can be a couple of days before we even have time to ask what we were doing. Interruptions can be a real problem or a real benefit. When needing to think, they are a problem. One solution is to schedule interruptions.


November 2018

After a Disaster, Rethink Your Business

The California fires are burning more than just trees and brush. They are wiping out whole towns. That is more than an inconvenience. That is a disaster for the businesses in those areas. What will things be like afterwards? Take this time to rethink the business. There can be serious benefits to doing so.


Start Over from the First

One of the first lessons in college physics is to not follow your instincts. We have so many assumptions about how the world should be working. But, when we measure, we often find things to be different. Repeatedly in life, we do well to start over by thinking that everything we know is wrong.


December 2018

Time Management and Priorities

In this busy time of year, we often lose track of time, miss events due to an over busy schedule, and stress out over all the tasks we think we need to do. Time management is a common theme. Often, people suggest different tactics. But the most common need is a better connection with our priorities and with our own styles.


Rebel Workers

A recent book by Francesca Gino makes the case for "Rebel Talent". In that book, she claims that companies do well to hire such rebel talent. While that is true, companies can't only hire such. There are successful rebels and there are people who only are rebels without succeeding in work or life.


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