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

What should be the goal of cognitive computing?

automated decisions.pngSome organizations think that cognitive computing is about getting better answers more quickly, typically using English to form the questions. There is no doubt that there is tremendous appeal to getting the answer to question in natural language, but is that really enough. In a world of data abundance, it can be difficult to know the right question to ask.

 

Unfortunately, many times it is the questions we never knew to ask, that turn into potential big gains or losses. One of my co-workers from HP labs mentioned that:

“It is interesting to note that change detection is a core competency (and survival property) of the visual cortex; it responds quickly because it constantly compares visual input with memories of what the world should look like. Thus, as we build next-generation systems based on large amounts of rapidly changing data, you want the data to self-organize, recognize similarities, detect changes, and help you assess anomalies so that these may be investigated.”

 

In addition to systems, we need services that enable the decision maker (human or machine) to react, respond and investigate based on the context of the information available, so that the entire ecosystem learns and adapts. It could be that having the future approach focus on better questions than better answers and how to display those questions and their answers more effectively should be the goal.

 

When I talk to leaders about where the future of services is headed, this is where my thoughts tend to go and it is going to take different techniques than organizations have deployed today.

Diversity of perspective is needed for IoT efforts

 

crayon.pngLately I’ve been coming across more articles like this one that states: 12 Hurdles Hampering the Internet of Things. It is definitely the case that there are positives and negatives for every new technology. In a previous post: Preventing the IoT from being the Oort cloud of the enterprise, I provided a few of some of these challenges.

 

I realized that there was not much about maximizing the positive benefits and minimizing the negatives. Diversity of perspective plays an important role – after all if we’re all thinking about the problem in the same way, only one of us is really needed. To tackle this problems you need individuals who look at both the business implications and the technology.

 

Like a successful market system, the innovation process has two dynamics: supply and demand. Supply is the reserve of ideas. It’s generated when leadership creates an environment that encourages those in the enterprise ecosystem to bring new ideas forward, to question the status quo. It comes from employees who live and work in that setting.

 

Demand is the organizational expectation of improvement. It’s the process of setting objectives and ensuring that everyone is clear on how they will be measured. It’s about establishing expectations to ‘do even more with more’ using the abundance of capabilities available.

 

For the Internet of Things you need different views on security, those who want to make the most out of the data for good and those who can see the implications of its improper use.

 

I was talking with some folks the other day about completing a Proof of Concept and mentioned to them that a PoC should be designed around answering questions. Sometimes the answers are yes and other times no. They shouldn’t view it as a failure if they don’t get the answer they wanted. The fact that they know something now rather than basing their perspective on supposition means the PoC was a success (even that knowledge can be fleeting though because there is so much change in capability today). Strive for better questions and let the answers fall where they may. Finding the lines is more important than coloring within them.

 

 

Experience optimization and a new wave of value

 

Waiting-for-the-Great-Leap-Forward.jpgI’ve mentioned before the waves of computing that have taken place over the last 50 years. When I think of it from an impact/value perspective (rather than one based on technology) the waves look a bit different. The first wave was the automation within the enterprise, addressing billing, inventory and even design automation. The second wave was automation and facilitation of personal activities. These included things like personal budgeting, on-line shopping…

 

The next wave is likely to be as different from the previous ones as the second one (focused on personal value) was from the first enterprise wave. This new wave is about automation and optimization of environments.

 

Technologies like IoT will shift both what and how we value. I was talking with another technologists the other day about the impact of automation at the macro level. A simple example is: What if a smart city were self-optimizing? Talking with the autonomous cars (which optimize at the micro level) while optimizing the environment of the city itself. Would that shift what people value and therefore what should be optimized? We can all recognize that all those individuals that make up the city are driven by different motivations --Will this new age of value be able to take these variations into account? I think that is part of what will make this new approach so compelling. We’ll have the abundance of computing capability to tackle it.

 

From a service futures perspective, the shift will likely be profound, since a new ability to derive behavior and goals will shift how value is assessed. Those organizations that can provide a better experience will outshine those that optimize based on someone/something else’s needs. It may not be so much what I own but what I can optimize – it will not be about mine, but about me (and what I’d like to accomplish). Start thinking about your organizations services from this perspective and it will likely change what you expect from your organizations IT.

 

Has the agile caused a reduction in critical thinking?

 

thinking.pngLately, I’ve been talk to some folks about problems they are having in their production environments. As I talk with them about the issues they encounter it seems clear they don’t even know their environment well enough to ask the right questions, let alone answer them.

 

Critical thinking skills were something where a great deal of work was focused on when computing resources were scarce and thinking time was relatively abundant (because you were sitting around waiting for code to compile). Now those forced breaks are rare, so people spend their time iterating through the coding process without having a chance to take a step back.

 

I don’t think agile techniques should cause a reduction in critical thinking, but I just see the potential is there to not really understand the architecture, the business rational… - since most developers are now so enamored with having working code. If you’re properly doing code reviews/walkthroughs you can outsource some of that big picture work to someone else and you’re forced to think it through.

 

Lately I’ve been looking at Lean Six-sigma techniques and applying them to operations management. This view is not anything new, but the abundance of computing capabilities should allow us to drive the costs out of its application. This technique usually involves asking these same kind of big picture questions although operations is a bit late in the process for that.

 

Do you see these issues too? What do you do about them?

 

Strategy and abundance?

 

business questions.pngMcKinsey had an interesting article titled: What strategists need: A meeting of the minds. In the article, various strategic thinkers expressed their concerns and views on what will affects corporate strategy efforts.

 

Tthe views on strategic frameworks and goals were enlightening, but it felt to me they were too scarcity focused and not embracing the shift in what is abundant around them. It may be that they view those shifts as tactical in nature, or too simple a foundation for strategy – but I see them as low hanging fruit for organizations to consume. It creates options that can be used to advantage quickly.

 

A point made in the article I’ve seen played out over and over:

“while analysis is very important, developing strategies is ultimately a people-centric process fueled by conversation. Each player brings his or her experiences and biases to the table, and the job of crafting a strategy is to navigate those in a way that is productive. The key is the good questions, and any advice on how to improve questions would be really helpful.”

 

It is often better questions, not better answers that makes the difference in strategic efforts, often those questions can be scarce.

 

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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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