The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

A tool for innovative change – peer coaching

cooperation2.pngI was reading a post titled: Peer Coaching as a Tool for Culture Change, in the context of the post on innovative change I made last week and technical leadership in general. In the article it states:

“Given the complex nature of global organizations today, as well as their growing reliance on full-hearted engagement of human talent, culture is increasingly recognized as the nub of challenges resistant to logistical fixes.”

 

Although the article states that “peer coaching was most widely used by educators”, it has been part of my career almost since its inception. The constant reinforcement of goals, initiatives and personal responsibility are essential to getting a group to all row in the same direction. As organizations increase their span of control between the formal leaders and the individuals, spreading change reinforcement across the technical leadership is important – coaching both down and up the organization.

 

The technical changes underway (based on an abundance of IT capabilities) are facilitating a quite different world than just a few years ago, so a range of techniques will be needed for the culture to embrace them. Sure some of the same issues exist and the same solutions will work, but there are new options and an ever changing diverse set of perspectives and techniques will be required. Tapping into that diversity is one of the side benefits of this kind of peer coaching, since the bi-directional sharing of ideas is at its core.

 

What tools do you think are underutilized to enable change? Who have you talked to about this gap?

Blindsided by strategy?

strategic questions.pngI’ve mentioned before the relationship of abundance, scarcity and their role in strategy. As I was catching up on my reading this weekend, I came across the post: Where Are the Sinkholes in Your Strategy? Which touched on many of the same points I was thinking about but with better examples.

 

One great point brought out in the post was:

“Strategy is a lot like IQ for many people: to challenge their strategy is to question their intelligence.”

 

In this dynamic world, we need to bring in diverse viewpoints on a regular basis, because our assumptions of what we’re good at and what can differentiate us can be easily overcome by events. That doesn’t mean we can’t have strategy. We just need to validate its foundations more often.

Serious gaming that takes nerve…

neuron.pngEarlier this month I saw an article in Popular Science: Gamers Reveal Inner Workings of the Eye. Since I have an interest in gamification, I dug in a bit more. It turns out there was a story in May on NPR morning edition Eyewire: A Computer Game to Map the Eye that covered the same concept.

 

Eyewire is an example of a serious game that tackles a real problem using gaming techniques. It is not your typical business gamification implementation but an example non-the-less. To play the game, he players have to pick out specific cells in pictures of tissue the retina and color them in.

 

“Each player gets a high resolution picture of a different section of the retina to color. The trick to scoring point in the game is to only color the parts of the image that are nerve cells. This is something that's surprisingly difficult and humans are actually better at it than computers.”

 

Over 130,000 people from 145 countries have played the game so it must be both challenging and rewarding.

 

When we look at the abundance of IT capability and the wealth of information being generated by the Internet of Things, we are likely to see whole new levels of gamification techniques come into play, as we try to dig deeper for patterns and understanding or gather and inject insight right at the time decisions are being made.

Is it time for a Chief Automation Officer?

Automation officer.pngOver the last few years, there has been quite a bit of discussion about the race against the machines (or the race with the machines), based on the abundance of computing available. When I think about the IoT and its implications on business, it may be that information is just a side effect of an entirely different corporate strategic effort.

 

Maybe there is a need for a Chief Automation Officer more than a Chief Information Officer going forward?!? Someone who looks at the business implications and opportunities for cognitive computing, sensing, robotics and other automation techniques.

 

Or is automation just assumed to be part of all future strategic planning activities. As I began thinking about it, it’s clear that others have thought about this CAO role as well, although mostly from an IT perspective instead of one based on business need. It could be viewed that this is a role for the CTO or even the enterprise architect.

Half-way through the current wave of technology

I was preparing for HP Discover and it got me thinking about a presentation we pulled together almost 10 years ago (see illustration below - notice it didn't predict the downturn starting in 2008). The presentation did discussed the numerous technological ages in the history of corporate IT, starting with the mainframe, moving to client server, the internet and introduced the concept of a Next Big Thing wave related to computing everywhere. We are now halfway into the latest stage– and it is the second half of a stage where the real value comes to light and the wide-spread deployment takes place.

 

waves of computing.jpg

 

What’s interesting is that this is also the point where the organizations that are not dabbling in the leading edge pop their heads up, look around and wonder how they got there.

 

Everyone is realizing that IT needs to change. Many organizations have a portfolio of solutions that have built up, layer-by-layer from their previous successes, to the point where they're calcified and unable to take on much new. This is usually described as having 80% of the budget locked into keeping the lights on, rather than focused on generating new value for the organization – even though the business may have changed.

 

By now, most organizations have experimented with cloud, big data and automation. We’ve seen the value of automation on IT processes, since that is what enables the kind of productivity improvement we’re experiencing in the cloud computing space. Now it’s time to use those same pattern recognition and analytic techniques on the rest of the business. This is where the abundance of IT capabilities can shine.

 

Unfortunately, it is too easy to think about all this change being relatively new, when it has actually built up over time. We can’t take advantage of it effectively, unless we look at the possibilities in new ways. For example, shifting to view that ‘time to value’ and flexibility as the new measures of performance for IT projects, instead of non-business, commodity measures like system uptime or utilization. That change in perspective is what I'm hoping to discuss in my presentation.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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