January 4, 2011

Technical Complexity

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:16 pm by lindaslongview

The management of technical complexity and its evolution is probably my favorite subject.  I am simply fascinated by the challenges created by ever more complex technologies and the processes required to see them to fruition.

I read the book War Made New (Boot) a few years ago.  It was a fascinating read, with the most striking element being the evolution of tactics and strategies as new technologies emerged over 500 years of military history.  Boot captures the evolution of weaponry and concomitant strategies vividly because he covers 500 years of the proverbial arms race in time-lapse drama – it’s easy to see the big changes and the impacts of those changes in his case studies over such a long view.

I have wanted a similar treatise of commercial technology discussing the many innovations needed to manage technical complexity since the emergence of industrialization.  I have not found it yet…

Recently I read three separate books (in succession) that each provide pieces that help create a time-lapse perspective of commercial technology that includes social, structural, and historical contexts.  Although there is significant overlap in the ideas of the three authors, oversimplifying the content of each book allows me to divide them into the three domains:

Defining the trajectory of progress is very important to me because as a freelance participant (consultant) in the technology sector, I must continually update and upgrade my strategies for managing and participating in technology development and commercialization.  I must live at the edge…

From this trio of books, I distilled the following long-view insights:

  • We must develop our ability to collaborate to handle the increasing complexity of our science, products, and operational processes.  This is probably the single hardest task, because individually we struggle to maintain the illusions of “victory,” “control,” and “dignity,” which often get in the way of collective engagement. From Roger Martin:  “Erosion in [productively sharing responsibility] skills is hugely threatening in a world of large, complex networked organizations and coalitions and alliances in which joint choice-making and effective collaboration is a necessity.
  • We must encourage adaptability and options development in worker skills (ourselves, our colleagues, and subordinates) to effectively survive extraordinary futures.  We must really harness the instincts and knowledge of the different members of our teams.  We must encourage everyone to take the wide-view and to over-communicate perspectives.  From Kevin Kelly:  “We have lots of choices.  But those choices are no longer simple, nor obvious.  As Technology increases in complexity, the technium demands more complex responses.  For instance, the number of technologies to choose from so far exceeds our capacity to use them all that these days we define ourselves more by the technologies that we don’t use than by those we do.
  • We must understand, prioritize, and manage inherent conflicting loyalties that arise from the variable time scales (short-, mid-, and long-views) that confer operational system stability.  Because we will constantly face short-term vs. long-term conflicts, we must have strategies to prioritize our actions. From Stewart Brand: “The combination of fast and slow components makes the system resilient.

Are you actively developing collaboration, encouraging adaptability, and prioritizing conflicting loyalties?

January 3, 2011

Unstuck

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , at 12:43 am by lindaslongview

Back in August my blogging waned and by October it was gone.  No real reason except that I was stuck.

Although usually quite reselient, I got stuck when I lost my illustion of victory against osteoporosis.  What did I have to say after I had already declared victory in Moved the Needle by achieving one full standard deviation (from -2.6 to -1.6) of improvement after my first year and then regressing a half a standard deviation (-1.6 to -2.1)?

My battle with osteoporosis had helped me to create this blog, but my too early victory declaration reduced my commitment to my long-view premise and credibility. It was just easy to get involved in other important pursuits…

Yet, I have continued to feel the pull of the long-view, so I am declaring myself unstuck.

My long-view advice to self:

  • Stay confident when faced with a setback.
  • Persist when investing in the future (the long-view).

For the record, I regressed a half a standard deviation after one year of drug holiday (Boniva) but fully compliant load-bearing exercise (increased mineralization) and calcium supplements (increased mineral availability).

In late summer, I will know whether I can achieve -1.1 in 2011 with the assistance of drug therapy (Boniva).

Drip, Drip, Drip!

October 12, 2010

Going Beyond

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , at 8:52 pm by lindaslongview

There are so many titles that I could give this blog post:  discomfort, latency, periphery…but going beyond seemed appropriate for the lesson I just had reinforced by life.

I was out trail running, enjoying the beautiful scenery at the reservoir, when I noticed car debris in the usually clear path (photos taken later show debris cleared to the side). 

I judged the debris to be limited and I decided to simply to jump (hurdle?) over it and then continue my run.  Unfortunately, I misjudged it.  My right ankle caught an entangled vine and whipped another vine into the back of my left leg leaving an 8” scratch in the back of my left thigh.

It all happened fast and seemed inconsequential. However, because of endemic Poison Oak, I used a urushiol removal product, Tecnu, along the 8” scratch – just in case.  What I didn’t think about is that contaminated region might extend beyond the obvious 8” scratch.

Twelve days later, I learned the hard way that I had indeed been exposed to Poison Oak on my right ankle and on several other areas on both of my legs – except where I had treated the scratch (which was duly healed and gone).

So, my long view advice:

  • Consider a bigger region than just the obvious – periphery damage may not be visible.
  • Consider the potential for latency – sometimes a problem is not immediately obvious.

In hindsight, I probably could not have avoided the misjudgment that caused the exposure, but I could have used the Tecnu a bit more extensively and liberally (go beyond), but I just didn’t consider it. So, now I’m miserable with itching and angry red welts on my legs and ankle.  😦

Have you considered latency, periphery, and going beyond?

October 1, 2010

Straight Lines

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , at 9:16 am by lindaslongview

I recently had the pleasure of hearing David Brooks speak about politics and his career as a journalist (now for the New York Times).  He was both funny and insightful.

Mr. Brooks spoke on many subjects, but I was especially piqued by his observations about one specific character trait that makes President Obama unduly effective in his role as leader – extraordinary CALMNESS.

The story he tells about Obama’s calmness is as follows (paraphrased):

When Obama debated McCain in the 2008 presidential election, each man took turns at the lectern. Both could be seen writing notes onto the provided notepad.  An observer later collected those notes.  McCain’s notes were jotted words topical to the debate.  Obama’s notes were six extremely straight drawn lines. 

Wow!

I deeply appreciate those who have mastery of calmness because I am personally a hyperactive, difficult to sit-still person.  Yet I recognize that calmness is an essential ally in gaining mastery over new material or terrain.  It is easy (and natural) to panic when a situation seems overwhelming and futile.  However, panicking never breeds success.

Having pushed thorough to higher knowledge and performance many times before, I know that every obstacle must be overcome to achieve success.  As I continue to push myself professionally and personally, I often find myself in over my head. At those times, I must channel calmness to proceed.   My personal mantras (long view advice) for learning new things and tackling more demanding challenges are as follows:

  1. Breathe deeply through your nose (channel straight lines) – it helps to retain focus and minimizes irrational thoughts about quitting.
  2. Break down the problem – try simpler versions to validate the strategy or idea before incorporating into more complex scenarios.
  3. Ask for help – consult someone more knowledgeable and learn from them.

Although #2 (teach oneself) enables deeper learning, don’t wait too long to seek #3 (learn from another), because of #1 (irrational thoughts).

Would you benefit from channeling straight lines?

September 25, 2010

Eccentric Therapy

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:47 am by lindaslongview

I injured my RIGHT elbow in December 2009 – lateral epicondylitis (aka tennis elbow).  It has taken until now to recover…

This is after I had the same injury in my LEFT elbow in April 2009.  Although I injured my LEFT elbow rock climbing, I blamed it on a coincidental risk factor (see Heeding Warnings).  I injured my RIGHT elbow weight-lifting (clean and jerk), but I had no one to blame but myself.

To recover, I tried all the easy things, rest, the exercises that worked on my LEFT elbow, and even acupuncture, but I never achieved lasting relief, so I sought professional therapy (again!).

I was fortunate to have engaged the physical therapy services of Caron, who worked me back to full-strength, mobility, and no pain both times.  Caron taught me unequivocally the importance of eccentric therapy – one must SLOWLY increase the relative strength of the tendon relative to the muscle in order to heal the injury.

Eccentric training requires restraining one’s desire to increase intensity (for faster results).  It also means suppressing the urge to curl upward and only resist the DOWN – that is the essence of eccentric therapy. Doing more mitigates the leverage of the eccentric healing.

Substantiating Caron’s Eccentric Strategy, see the article titled Dodgy Elbows by climbing enthusiast Julian Saunders, it’s a worthy read! Dr. Saunders reinforces that:

We are interested in an eccentric load (a.k.a. negative contraction) only. This will stimulate the tendon to strengthen without putting too much duress on the muscle. How? The muscle is about 40-percent stronger when contracting eccentrically. Hence, it is not stimulated to strengthen to the same degree as the tendon. Because the tendon has a vastly smaller blood supply, gains in strength take longer.

Although it has been a pain (really!), my suffering has imbedded the utility of eccentric therapy.

My long view advice:

  • Focus on the cause (tendon)
  • Leverage effort (eccentric therapy)
  • Accept that it takes perseverance (daily repetitions)

The good news is that I think my elbow has regained significant strength; check out what happened to my grip strengthener yesterday!

Do you know when eccentric methods might assist you?

September 17, 2010

Baby Steps…

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , at 2:50 pm by lindaslongview

I often encourage my clients to just take baby steps when tasks seem overwhelming and hard to start.

Recently, I have needed to take that advice.

I had an AMAZING summer!  I enjoyed 4 weeks of a European vacation and another 4 weeks of my husband being around because he was on sabbatical. 🙂

The good was that we had a BLAST together — it was wonderful.  The bad was that I got severely behind in my client work and have spent the last many weeks digging out of that situation.

Because I am fastidious about my work and because I was very behind, I abandoned everything non-essential until I could get my work in order. My blog took the biggest hit with my last blog post from France during my vacation.  😦

Since then, I have wanted to blog, but given the lapse I have desired an extraordinary return blog post, yet it has not manifested.  So my long view advice (to me):

  • Take baby steps – the first step is always the start (or restart) of a journey.
  • Continue to strive for more, better, and stronger, but be patient with yourself or you will lose the JOY.
  • Keep taking baby steps until habituated – then push forward with all the passion you can muster.

I’m glad to be back!

Would baby steps help you get started (or restarted) on your adventure?!

June 21, 2010

Answer is 3

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , at 2:14 pm by lindaslongview

I have had a terrific opportunity to spend some time traveling in Europe on vacation.  There have been many opportunities to learn a bit about perspective, but a really great lesson has been taught to me via automobile parking in France.

As Americans accustomed used to large roads, large cars, and plentiful parking (most of the time), the roads, cars, and parking spaces in urban France were downright micro.  After a few days in France, we became more and more acclimated to the very challenging parking of the densely populated urban areas (often requires curb jumping for success).

When we arrived in Saint Tropez, there was a mix of the micro and large cars and thus the parking situation was mixed.  As my husband backed our rented European car into a marked parking space at our hotel, I was giving him guidance. He asked me, “How many spaces were in the empty back area of the lot?”

My first answer was 2 (from my American perspective based upon the striping of the spaces).  My second answer was 3 (when I realized that the spaces were large relative to the size of our small European rental car and there was plenty of room for another one next to ours based upon my recent acclimation to Paris parking).  My third answer was 4 (when I realized the same was the situation on the opposite side of the back lot based on the more recent acclimation to Marseilles parking which is even tighter than Paris!).

My answer sounded something like 2…, 3…., 4, because my perspective was shifting.

Afterward, my husband gave me a hard time about being unhelpful and indecisive, but it made me realize that he had assumed a single answer to a multiple answer question if you consider multiple perspectives…

In the morning, there were three cars parked in the back lot, so the answer was 3! Perspective was indeed important.

My long view advice:

  • When asking for guidance, recognize that advice might not assume a specific perspective.
  • Be patient with difference in perspective until a specific perspective is defined.

Are you considering the affect of perspective?

June 2, 2010

Butt Cut

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , at 1:08 am by lindaslongview

I have always loved mangoes.  Even though I grew up in the middle of nowhere and had never seen a mango, I loved the mango flavor in the Tropical Fruit Lifesavers, so my world rocked the day I had a REAL mango.  I’m fully addicted with a three-pack a week habit from Costco…

My friend Gayle mentioned to me the other day that she needed a mango lesson because they are hard to select and then cut.

My advice (hardly long view, but advice nonetheless):  It’s the butt cut!

Gayle’s Mango Select and Cut Lesson:

  1. Purchase the yellow/orangish “champagne” mangoes from Costco – they come in a pack of six.  (They aren’t always the Ciruli brand, but they have a similar look).  These are the most consistent mangoes for novices!  😉
  2. Inspect the mango for slight softness and excellence in color – should be slighly orangish when ripe.  If the skin starts getting wrinkled, it will be okay, but it’s a bit like a brown banana – it’s getting old.
  3. Find the butt of the mango.
  4. Slice off the butt of the mango.  (I like a small bladed knife with slight serration – usually an apple paring knife).
  5. Use the now flat butt of the mango to stand it on end for slicing the sides away from the interior flat pit.  Slice the 1st side away guiding the knife down the flat side of the pit – stay as close to the pit as you can.
  6. Repeat on the 2nd side.
  7. Hold the pit to allow you to remove the rind from the flesh remaining around the pit.
  8. Eat the pit like an animal!  (My favorite part!)
  9. Use a spoon to scoop the delicious flesh from the two sides.
  10. Enjoy!

For non-spoon eating preparation, do #7 (remove rind – essentially peeling an apple with a knife) BEFORE #5 & 6, keep #8, and change #9 to “slice appealingly and eat delicious flesh with a fork!”

Butt really how does this relate to the Long View?….

It’s connected via Chip & Dan Heath’s story on “How to teach a monkey to ride a skateboard” in their new book, Switch:

The answer doesn’t involve punishment.  Animal trainers rarely use punishment these days.  You can punish an elephant only so many times before you wind up as a splinter.  Instead trainers set a behavioral destination and then use “approximations,” meaning that they reward each tiny step toward destination.  For example, in the first hour of the first day of training, the future skateboarding monkey gets a chunk of mango for not freaking out when the trainer puts the board in his cage.  Later he gets mango for touching the board, then for sitting on it, then for letting the trainer push him back and forth on it.  Mango, mango, mango.  Hundreds of sessions later, you’ve got a mango-bloated monkey ready to skate a half-pipe.”

And there is the Long View connection – mango is a long-view training tool!

Have you had some mango today?!  🙂

May 17, 2010

Perspective

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , at 12:32 pm by lindaslongview

It’s been super busy for me and I’ve neglected my blog….

It’s the usual cause for inattention, too much to do, unexpected loss of time (a mild bout with food poisoning!), amongst other causes.  However, on Friday, my schedule was flipped upside down to accommodate another’s schedule, giving me an opportunity to regain a little perspective.

I usually swim in the early morning or late afternoon (a few days a week), but am rarely at the pool in the early afternoon.  What I learned on Friday afternoon is that the some of the early afternoon swimmers differ from they typical crowd. In the locker room, I noticed one woman in my peripheral vision mostly because of the sound of her walk – I thought that she was wearing flippers in the locker room!  When I turned to verify, I found that she did not have flippers, but had a challenging gait that caused the odd sound when she walked. Nevertheless, she managed very well.  Not two minutes later, another woman walked past, muttering “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, not Palin, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah.”  When I turned to see her, her one-piece swimsuit was inside out and she clearly had challenges of her own.

I was most impressed that both of these women were at the pool getting some exercise given their personal challenges.  Their courage made the inconveniences and slights in my own life seem so very small and insignificant.   How lucky I am to have full faculties and physical abilities!  My long view learning:

  • Be grateful for healthy vigor and intellectual breadth.
  • Maintain perspective because others’ challenges are often far more significant.

Friday’s mixed up schedule actually allowed me to regain some balance.

Are you maintaining perspective?

April 29, 2010

Eat Right & Stay Cool

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:09 am by lindaslongview

I have been guesting at a conference on cell culture engineering.   At this conference, researchers share knowledge and innovations for engineering the processes for making medicines known as biopharmaceuticals (large molecule cancer drugs, heart attack drugs, etc.). These drugs are manufactured on a large scale by harnessing the microscopic cellular machinery of a massive number of cells in culture.

I learned that cells in culture act just like humans, if you overfeed them they will be lazy and not make the desired product.  As I walked through the poster session last evening, I was struck by the importance of nutrition and environment on the productivity of cells to make these biopharmaceuticals.

In fact, researchers demonstrated that changes to the diet of the cell culture media (the food stream) could increase the productivity of the cells by 2x and more!  Apparently, in cell culture there is an equivalent of substituting a diet of ice cream with a well balanced diet of proteins and carbohydrates.

There were also several posters showing that manipulating key environmental conditions, such as temperature, could lead to increased productivity.  For example, most cell culture processes are run at normal body temperature.  One researcher showed that cooling the culture several degrees from normal body temperature increased the productivity of the cells. Make them shiver — their machinery runs faster! Like the cells, I know that I swim faster in cooler water I run faster when the weather is cooler (until it requires too much bundling up and I’ll then head to the indoor gym).    

The cells (and their researchers) reminded me that in order to achieve excellent performance over the long term we should all eat a balanced diet and stay cool.  Thus, today’s long view advice:

  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Stay cool for improved performance.

Are you eating right and staying cool?

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