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