Tuesday, November 28, 2023

There Are Niche Businesses for Everything–Even Martian Soil!

I was reading a NY Times article about how people colonizing Mars will probably have to bring insects. Then, they described a research project at Texas A&M where an aerospace student grew peas in Martian soil, with waste from black soldier flies.

But, how did they get Martian-like soil?  It turns out there is a company called TheMartianGarden.com which creates and sells simulated Martian soil! They sell it to hobbyists, educators, and researchers.

© 2023 Praveen Puri

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Van Halen's "Executive Dashboard"

Back in the 1980's, the press highlighted the rock band Van Halen's contract stipulation that, before the show, there had to be a big bowl of M&Ms backstage–with all the brown ones removed.  It was chalked up to the indulgent, rock star ego but, in truth, it was a clever form of "executive dashboard."

As the band later explained, they were one of the first bands to put on highly complex concerts with pyrotechnics. If things were not set up properly, someone could get seriously hurt.  They needed a quick way to tell if the local management at the next venue had actually read through their large contract / operating manual, and set things up before they arrived.

So, they put a clause in the middle of the contract saying that they could cancel the show unless the bowl of M&Ms (sans the brown ones) were there.  Then, when the band arrived for the concert, they could simply look for the bowl.  If it wasn't there, or didn't have the brown ones removed, they knew that they better start checking other things.

Executive dashboards are important components of Strategic Simplicity®.

A well-designed indicator can alert leaders and managers to serious issues, without having to get involved in micromanaging.  They are a great tool for our Attention Scarcity Age, where everyone is cognitively overloaded while operating in complex, fast-changing situations.

© 2023 Praveen Puri

Friday, November 3, 2023

Tech Done Wrong: Singapore Financial Regulator Gives Bank 6-Month Ban from "Nonessential" IT Changes

Digital innovation is important, but not at the expense of reliability and stability. The WSJ recently had an article about the extraordinary step that Singapore's financial regulator took with DBS Group, its largest bank. The regulator banned them from making "nonessential" IT changes for six months! 

They took this severe action because the bank, which has focused heavily on digital banking, has recently had a spate of outages, with online payment services and ATMs being offline for long stretches. It seems like leadership focused on the "sexy" areas of AIcloud computing, and blockchain technology, but they neglected basic customer service and experience. All companies, especially ones in regulated industries, need to understand that their first priority is making sure their technology works.

My tech leadership consultant colleagues Sten Vesterli and Aviv Ben-Yosef, and I have written many articles, and advised many clients that digital innovation is much more than focusing on shiny objects. There needs to be a focus on the "boring", but very important, areas of business need, value, and reliability.

© 2023 Praveen Puri

Passive Aggressive Tech Leadership

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article that TikTok staffers are fearing layoffs. The reason? Get this: According to the article, TokTok is asking it's managers to give more employees lower ratings in performance reviews! 

Have you heard of a more passive-aggressive technique? Naturally, staff are demoralized, expecting layoffs and reduced bonuses.

This is a terrible way to reduce pay and headcount. They've undermined any credibility with their review process and destroyed employee trust and motivation. This will cost them much more than any discomfort from doing a traditional, transparent layoff.

© 2023 Praveen Puri

Sunday, October 29, 2023

AI and the "Last Beatles Song"

Just saw an interesting article in the Weekend WSJ. The Beatles are releasing a "new" song.  

Lennon had recorded it at home, as a demo, before he died. Then the other Beatles had recorded tracks to finish it, but they couldn't release it because Lennon's track was badly recorded, with background noise.

Now, they were able to use AI to clean it up.  The article says "Along with tambourine, electric harpsichord and other instruments listed in the credits for the song, 'machine learning' and 'source separation' are also cited."

© 2023 Praveen Puri

Saturday, October 28, 2023

When 1+1 = 3

I've spoken before about scoping out micro projects that allow you start transforming your business, and start racking up wins, even when your teams are overwhelmed with fire-fighting and keeping the lights on with BAU (business as usual tasks).

But, if these small projects are designed carefully, your organization won't just start to accumulate benefits linearly.  Instead, progress can increase exponentially as these projects enable future projects to become bigger and deliver more value.

The key is that each micro project should do two things: 

1. Deliver strategic and organizational value. 

2. Increase your teams' capacity to handle bigger. more complex initiatives.

For example, a micro project that streamlines a few database tables for a critical application can not only deliver faster, more accurate services to your clients, but it can now make it easier to build the data analytics tools that have been on the back burner because, with the old tables, the project plan was too complex relative to the resources you could afford to allocate.

© 2023 Praveen Puri

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Dad Jokes!

  • I got fired from my job at the keyboard factory. They said I wasn't putting in enough shifts. 

  • I accidentally drank a bottle of invisible ink last night. I’m in the hospital now, waiting to be seen.

  • I should’ve known inventing a boomerang with teeth would come back to bite me.

  • The difference between a hippo and a Zippo is that one is really heavy and the other is a little lighter.

  • What has fur and flies? A dead werewolf.

  • What's tiny and sounds like a pigeon? A smidgen. 

  • My Doo-Wop group broke up, so now we’re a Don’t-Wop group. 

  • What do you call a reluctant potato? A hesitator. 

  • If a bear wears shoes and socks he still has bear feet. 

  • Getting my drone stuck in the tree isn’t the worst thing that happened to me today. But it’s definitely up there.

© 2023 Praveen Puri