A Trace in the Sand

by Ruth Malan

 

 

 

 

Architects Architecting Architecture  

January 2012

  01/01/12

Happy New Year!!


Traced

This journal holds a trace of my journey of discovery (at least the part that has nothing directly to do with work with clients). I write to think, to learn, to play with and connect ideas, find insights, track what I've read, and interact with it... So, a new characterization for my Trace emerges -- this is my own personal "maker" space, where what I am building through exploration, discovery and experimentation is myself, my point of view on architecture and being an architect. This is, then, a learning lab/playground of a curious mind... hence it is, well, messy!  Consider yourself warned! :-)

Until 2012 entries mass, may I suggest you take a look at last January's Trace? No? Well, at least the first few posts. This year everyone and his uncle is eschewing New Year's resolutions in favor of emergence and responsiveness, so there remains a place for those who think a balance of intentionality and responsiveness is good too. But, if you only stopped by here for the pointers elsewhere, you'll find an excitingly extensive list of blogrolls on the right.

And for the 15 in 7 billion kindred spirit type, oh my do I have a bunch of writing for you! ;-)  I have been tracing my exploration here for close to SIX years, and the 2011 archive-links are in the column on the right, or you can look at the not-yet-completed Journal Map.

 

  01/02/12

A Collegial Gesture

Thanks are due to Peter Bakker for tweeting, and Antonio, Rene, Martin, Stuart, and Gerold and Ernest and Tom for retweeting, a recommendation to enterprise architects to browse my mind map.  :-)  I much appreciate the camaraderie such a gesture indicates. Camaraderie? You know, goodwill in the inclusion in the conversations and explorations that enrich and deepen our understanding of this young field. Conversations are healthy when we don't all hold the same views, nor even identical concerns. So, it is precisely because you don't (ever/always/entirely) agree with me that I am of value to you. :-)

That said, kind though the recommendation is, perhaps you could just scan the map of topics and leave it at that? It is intimidating enough that some of the aforementioned great architects might sometimes read (some of) my mind. But the list of topics is by itself illuminating. It only covers perhaps half of the journal entries, but even so it indicates the scope of concerns of our field.

1/3/12: Alright! Yesterday my journal map page had way more hits than this one! And the ward of words worked -- phew! ;-)  The tension between the desire to be included and the desire to stay in a quiet spot where the voices are friendly is well expressed here: Is Audience the Enemy?  :-)

1/8/12: Ok, this has the makings of becoming the iconic "thank you" even beyond computing (hey, barefoot programmers can dance!): Grady Booch's Kickstarter Happy Dance. Promise, delivered.

Creative Waves of Destruction

Lego! Now there's a story. See also:

We're watching through Burke's series during workouts and, in the light of the "new" concept of "remix" and "combinatorial" creativity (which is, really, itself a remix), it reminds me of:

"Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new at all." - Abraham Lincoln

But they're new to us, and so they're exciting. And we put them to new uses, make fresh combinations, and wallah, emergence does the rest: something distinct is born. If nothing else, a distinct point of view. Distinct abilities come from what our bodies know how to do and what our minds can conceive.

1/6/12: For a taste of James Burke's Connections, Episode 1 is on Google videos (here). There's also an episode on the social revolution launched by the printing press in a later series, here: A Matter of Fact: Printing Transforms Knowledge (Day the Universe Changed - Ep 4). (You might have read How Luther went viral, The Economist, Dec 17th, 2011, which updates points James Burke makes by casting the story in today's context.)

Here's a set of "connections" styled writing:

Malcolm Gladwell foreshadowed himself, writing "In the Air" and then The Tweaker: The real genius of Steve Jobs, November 14, 2011. Connections. It makes for an interesting study, and a slew of cool "innovation games."

Tracing connections and influences is also a pursuit within the arts. I enjoyed the Pont-Aven collection at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It is wonderful to see and trace the influences among Paul Gauguin and the artists who followed him to Pont-Aven, including Emile Bernard and Paul Sérusier. Gauguin was influenced by others, including Charles Laval, in this work, and Cézanne, as can be seen in this work. The latter being the first Gauguin painted during the two months he spent in Provence with Vincent van Gogh in 1888 (following Gauguin's summer in Pont Aven).

It would be more fun still to trace the influence of talented architects at Google, for example, on the architects and developers who work with them, and then move on to creating their own influence pools, with their own distinctive styles born of their strongly held point of view. We see Gauguin's point of view evidenced through the visual nature of painting. Besides, since enough of his art is held in public art museums we get to access enough to appreciate the distinctive style -- the values and principles and themes and structures -- of his work, and also to trace its influences. With commercial software, not so. Alas.

I also enjoyed this video, by way of Grady Booch:

2/4/12: More connections: Understanding connections, Paul Wallis, September 15, 2011

Getting Past But

This tweet:

reminded me of these posts:

The connection? Yep. We do this don't we? We put the architect behind the elephant, tying him up with damage control. A good job. Lots of commotion. And job security in being a hero. And when the thing comes undone, well, someone else always needs a hero.

And then neither the architect nor management can envisage the contribution an architect could make in strategy setting. And yet the connections that make new conceptions possible, have a strong technology component to them. Yes, yes, empathy for the customer and others in the value stream, too. But also a curious interest in what technology has made possible, and how it relates to this opportunity. Connections.

So. Stacked decks. Or Getting Past ‘But’ (Note: this is not (just) about getting ideas (we have plenty of those), it is about getting ideas that congeal into a compelling value set that we get organizational will behind. Gumption, yes. But will. Gumption and determination and resilience and passion and... you get the picture.)

See also The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent, which has sections on "Messes" and "With or Without You."

This slideset -- Pen and paper tools for getting from research to design (via @manuvollens) -- pairs well with key sections of the Getting Past ‘But’ report. David Sibbet and The Grove are great resources for getting work done using visual tools. And of course there's Dave Gray's visual thinking work and Gamestorming book.

1/3/12: Which reminds me, I still need to buy:

Ok. Did that. The combination of Kindle (for iPad and desktop) and one-click will kill my budget!

On the subject of The Grove, if you haven't visited The Grove on SL, I recommend it (for a recreational moment)! (It was the reason I conducted a small reconnaissance venture into Second Life.)

[By the time I've figured out I want to note an article or blog, I've all too often lost track of who or what pointed me in the direction of the article. I do try to give credit to sources of links, and apologies for the times I don't!  I do keep track just enough that most people will show up with kudos at least often enough in my journal to give you a heads-up on their great scouting -- feel free to read that as an implied suggestion that you might like to consider following them. ;-) ]

 

  01/03/12

Design Is

Image source: original back cover of The Universal Traveler via Maria Popova

Also via @manuvollens: How to prototype and influence people, by Aza Raskin. You might also be interested in the section on Visual Thinking and Visual Design on my Trace map (my inner critic has already told me that section needs a sub-structuring/re-ordering). There are also posts like Testing on Paper collected under Improvement and Validation.

(Re)Source Diversity

Diversity

I disagree somewhat. Sure, I would be most uncomfortable if someone read my work despite finding it distasteful to do so, but feeling some kind of duty or necessity. But it is, I think, a good starting point for someone to value diversity of perspective and style and be at least a little curious as to what that diversity has to offer. There are so few women in our field, that proactively seeking out women's voices is needed to expand the mix in one's architects-architecting-architecture reading portfolio. As voices of power go.... Confrontation and assertiveness and displays of arrogance run against my grain because it is fundamental to my orientation not to occlude others. I think that is true for many gentle men, and I fundamentally don't believe that those properties are essential to leadership, and in particular facilitative networked leadership styles rely more on empathetic servant leadership, working more at the level of culture and example than dictate and authoritarian power.

 

  01/04/12

Inattentional Blindness (and Other Cognitive Flaws)

I discovered that Matthew Taylor of RSA Animate is on Twitter and promptly followed him -- you well know I love RSA Animate and other RSA projects. Well, naturally I had to check in on his blog. It is wonderful! Challenging! Insightful! Even, sometimes (appropriately), funny! Well, anyway, I'd just read Linda Stone's Perpetual Inattentional Blindness (by way of Tim OReilly). So "Like the corners of my mind" fit the pattern. We humans are ... well, flawed. But think about it -- what material that gives us for a sense of humor, which, when turned upon ourselves is the instrument of humility (and when turned on someone else is the instrument of humiliation)! And yet we are so marvelous, and we accomplish the remarkable! Matthew Taylor's writing being a case in point -- illustrating that people are and achieve the remarkable, I mean.     

Catching up a bit on RSA Animate, I watched The Divided Brain. It is wonderful! I love the ending! As you watch it, you might remember some of the points I (nervously) made about EA drawing on both sides of the brain. Drawing? You know, in both senses. ;-)

1/5/12: As things divided brain go, this is timely: ACM and BPM: A Battle of The Hemispheres?, Max J. Pucher, January 4, 2012

1/6/12: I observed that humor, when turned on someone else, is the instrument of humiliation. Further to that point, used that way, humor is a dominance assertive ploy. If we want to live within a more flat, less dominance hierarchical world (despite our ancient encoding) we need to become more sensitive to the behaviors that convey dominance. 

1/6/12: This TEDx video of Nitin Nohria urging moral humility also draws attention to our flawed nature. I'd read about the Milgram experiment but hadn't seen the video footage. Intellectual and moral overconfidence abounds. It is even in the title of this book and blog: You Are Not So Smart. The bold is mine. David McRaney is probably playing with our propensity to feel others are flawed, when he tells us we, not he, are not so smart. :-) Anyway, this post is chilling: Deindividuation February 10, 2011. We are imperfect creatures and it is well to develop humility, moral and otherwise.  I always notice when people use imo (instead of imho) -- is it that they think that to say humble would be inauthentic? I do value authenticity. That said, I would hope that humility still has a place in our value set. Intellectual humility holds within it, among other things, the willingness to find oneself to be wrong or to have an incomplete understanding or simply a different understanding and experience set. It is not a deficit in confidence. Indeed, I think quite the contrary. It comes from a place of resilient self-esteem but also high value placed on others, and a compassionate understanding for all of our limitations and intellectual, perceptual and moral frailties.    

1/8/12:  Another look at our flaws, this time from the perspective of their impact: Occupy Wall Street, Procrastination and The Battle of Ideas, Piers Steel,  October 26th, 2011 (via Peter Bakker). It includes an example of the folly in ignoring "the map is not the territory." Literally. And figuratively.
 

Dropping Bits on Form

Dropping bits? Well, dropping them in this bucket, so that I don't have to use up more of that "brain almost full." :-)

As videos go, I enjoyed To Understand is to Perceive Patterns by jason silva (by way of Ernest Buise). As patterns and form go, I loved Zachary Abel's Mathematical Sculpture so much I forwarded the link to my hubby and kids, and was thrilled when Sara shot back "awesome!" from her phone. I thoroughly enjoyed Grady Booch's essay "The large-scale structure of software-intensive systems". And I am intrigued by constructal theory, and look forward to Adrian Bejan's book: Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization.

This Open Brain Experiment (...or ... Janus Made Me Do It)

Corporations use strategy setting and budgeting cycles to prompt a reconsideration of the attention/resource allocation portfolio. We tend to use the turn of the calendar year (Janus or January) and our individual birthdays to prompt such a re-evaluation of our dreams and the priorities we assign to achieving them. And I use the pending anniversary of this Trace to reassess (agonize over?) its value to me and to others.

Peter Bakker's kind recommendation of my Trace map to enterprise architects, and the retweets by several others, threw me into another fit of self-conscious uncertainty because encountering my Trace that way is ... well odd. The posts are not self-contained the way (mini-)essays, like most blog posts, are. They are just nets that caught some thoughts as they flew by. But when I go back over a month, or read a set of posts on a related topic, the sum is, well, greater than the parts. And I feel like this Trace is a great celebration and example of this reconfiguration of humanity that is as big a revolution in human relationships (and the content of mind that is the product of our interaction with other minds, IRL and through books and other media) as the invention of the printing press and mass produced book. 

James Burke makes the case that the printing press created specialists -- very quickly, all knowledge couldn't be held in one mind. And the book invited deepening knowledge hence increasing specialization in knowledge areas. First, it created the Renaissance man, who hungrily devoured the newly accessible (outside of the church) works of the ancient Greeks that were put in print -- and translated into many languages. Then specialist focus was needed to further advance knowledge. All that specialization was hugely important in getting us to where we are now, but it has created the islands that make the polymaths and systems thinkers again vital to further advances. And just in time, we have the advent of the internet and instant, convenient and often even free access to all manner of information, and Serendipity engines like Twitter that send the mind skipping through a great variety of sources. It is like our information hunter gatherer and agrarian minds got access to international information markets where all manner of knowledge and insight and even maker kits and social labs for developing know-how is in easy reach and we have but to trade other forms of recreation for recreational self-education. And we are tossed back into an age of the polymath or "Renaissance person." At the same time, of course, we have ever deepening specialization. Even specialization in a form of generalization, or the ability to make connections across specializations, which is inherent in the conception and architecture of innovative (more or less open, more or less bounded) systems (of systems) within domains and across domains of commerce (including the commerce of war, of aid, and of education). 

Daniel Stroe kindly characterized this Trace as a "da Vinci journal" -- he was too kind and it is immodest to mention though I only do so to give Daniel credit, along with James Burke, for giving me the threads with which to weave this tapestry of thoughts. And self-justify my self-indulgence in tending this Trace -- even as the rest of me scolds myself to gather my attention to focus more concertedly on ze book. :-)

Anyway, the kind recommendations produced a small rush of glancing visits -- the number being a testament to Peter and other wonderful architects who retweeted. But no significant stickiness -- the veil of words remains effective, even in Trace map form. ;-) So that need prompt no special urgency to retire this too-open mind thing. The bigger question, as always, relates to the balance between structured and unstructured, formal and informal writing. Or writing that remains relatively hidden behind the veil of its messy, tumultuously wordy state (this Trace), and writing that is more accessible thanks to both more structure and the greater sense of authority a more business-like structured format (and publication channel) conveys.   

This is a case of "wait, wait, don't tell me." And not. A frog. In disguise. Perhaps. Not.

Q<=s!

I am bold. And not so. Last October I wrote this:

Shallows or (dis)Connected Long Tail?

This brain-of-brains thing we've created with the internet has the potential to shift the state of humanity -- in good ways, sure. But also in bad. There are concerns that we and our interpersonal lives are becoming more shallow. We flit through zingy morsels of brain treats served up on the i-way, rather than reading books. We text and tweet rather than conversing and writing letters. We watch youtube on our computers and don't support live performing arts, pressing them to evolve away from their classical roots to be more electrifying. Our tastes shift to satisfying an addiction to the buzz of lots of little eurekas.

I think there's an alternative way to see what is happening, at least in part. Which is to say, for example, we communicate more frequently and across more channels, so if you look at any one channel, it will appear more "thin" but it's just a slice -- diced, moreover, into smaller chunks. But is the communication shallower or more rich, taken across all the parts and allowing, too, for emergence? Are we reading more shallowly, or are we following our interests more passionately, going deep but also leveraging the facility the i-way has given us to tie together sources that bring the everyman into the state of being a polymath or Renaissance man? Are we interacting less, or more with people with like interests, distributed globally, who encourage and fuel our thinking?

I think the potential is there. But we have to make better use of it.

... which brings me to... a related observation...

I try to show up in my journal. To be human. Not a mechanistic facade stripped of human qualities because I think that if we are to use technology to be more rather than less human, we have to embrace, not run from, our human qualities. Which is not to say we should behave badly and childishly (goodness me, that's an ageist term! but immature seems wrong too...) and so forth on the internet as anywhere else we show up. But rather to be the best of our human selves. So, I like, for example, Cory Booker's use of Twitter. And Tim O'Reilly's.

You might say our internet "avatar" or persona is one of those masks we put on, that we become. So better if that mask is fully and gloriously human.

Unfortunately. The mask I project ahead of myself, that I try to step into, is the person I like and respect. And I have decidedly odd sensibilities. Oh well.

Then again, is the social net more like this (from a poem I wrote):

a dalliance with ourselves

where we meet

at the watering place

of our own image

Right...

Time to move... on! 

A personal helicon holds no expectation beyond "To see myself, to set the darkness echoing." (Heaney)

Oh. I should say -- I so liked Jeremy Denk's "Love is Complicated" post -- and Janet's wise comment (August 17), along with bratschegirl's (August 26), in response. If I thought it applied, that'd be one thing. 

Still, you might want to take a note of bratschegirl's observation (quoted below), bearing it in mind when next you're discussing your architecture with the management team:

"In the orchestra world, we have a similar phenomenon when it comes to contract negotiations. It’s the inevitable discussion of dress code. Janice Galassi had a wonderful take on this some years ago, and what she said basically boils down as follows: Board presidents often don’t understand the ins and outs of multiple doubles or why the principal horn needs an assistant on a program containing the complete orchestral works of Richard Strauss. But clothing? That they get, and therefore they bring it up. Once it’s all over, of course, it’s rather amusing to recount such things as the objection to velvet onstage because it’s “too black,” but it’s rather tooth-gratingly hard to get through with a straight face at the time." -- bratschegirl, comment on Jeremy Denk's "Love is Complicated" post

Human dynamics are messy.

But I posted only this and this to this public Trace. Why publish the fuller version now? I'm not more bold. So it may not (probably won't) last long. But if my Trace is both a trace and an open brain experiment in this larger connected mind or internet-of-minds thing we've created with our blogs and social networked presence, then it raises and invites exploration of bigger questions. Oh, I'm not saying this Trace is important; just that it raises important questions. Like, what is it we've done here? What does it open us to? Do we compartmentalize ourselves more, as we did in the factory age where we sent machinima  (you know, mechanical, unemotional, rational, highly specialized and task-focused) versions of ourselves to work (or at least, that's what we were supposed to do).  Or do we embrace and project our humanity, and rise to the vision we hold of our best and most complete selves? Yes, falling short most (all?) of the time, but being challenged by how we would like to be, and are, in our best and most resourceful moments.

Ah, yes. Poems. I recounted using some problem solving illustrations to Dana, and he shared that he asks architects to think of a time when they don't "get it" at first; perhaps it is a poem, or a problem like one I was narrating, and he recommends just hanging out in that place for a bit, feeling what it is like to not get it. And then to remember that when explaining the architecture to someone who clearly just isn't getting it. .. So... did you get the poem snippet I shared? :-) See, if nothing else, it gives you some of the "I don't get it" time to draw on. ;-)  But if you want to understand more, this might help. No? Ok. The connection to Narcisuss? How about the global "watercooler" that is the social interweb? Well, perhaps you can explain reflexivity to me, 'cos it's got my head spinning.

1/6/12: Reflexivity? Ah:

"A great insight about the modern condition, offered by among others Anthony Giddens, is that we are increasingly reflexive. By this is meant that we tell ourselves a story about ourselves and that, rather than deferring to our fixed place in a religious or monarchical world view, we want to be the author of that story. I have suggested that in the 21st century we will add a new dimension of thinking: neurological reflexivity. The idea here is that in thinking about thinking we are aware of, and adapt to, our cognitive frailties."

-- Matthew Taylor, The century of the brain?, November 15, 2011

The author of our own stories. Moreover, we, the protagonist of our story, are as audaciously plucky, as interesting, as sparkling (and yes, as forgivably full of flaw and foible for in any finite life we cannot foster every, nor even any, quality to perfection for, aside from the uncontrollables, they interact, in unknowable ways even) as any in another author's work of fiction. We have arrived at a recognition that we write much of the story of our lives, although there is a strong crowdsourced element to it too... ;-)

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Hockney-in-dig-at-Hirst-art-process-459603.xnf

The "iron triangle" of art? Hockney has a point of view. A rather contrarian one. Does he think a play is not art? Can there not be a more collective art too?

2/17/12: Cindy Kallet and Grey Larson's (video) Back When We Were All Machines is charming but it is also a thought provoking modern-day folk awareness-raising/protest song. And for me it provoked this thought stream: The industrial era was not just the era of the machine and mechanization in the usual sense of moving work to machines but also mechanization of human work, making humans more like machines. Compartmentalized work. Business persona leaving personal "stuff" and emotions at home. The factory era of cut-and-paste people shuffled into jobs broken down into small chunks of work that required little training or conceptual skill. Productions lines where workers themselves could be production lined. Then machines moved into those positions, leaving people with jobs that required more integrative ability and cognitive and skill-based flexibility. Now, with the age of computing and connectivity, of deep and wide pipes of mind-to-mind-immediacy, not just mind-to-paper-to-mind-over-time library-like availability, have we turned the page on the humans-as-machine age to one where humans use machines to be more fully human, more compassionate and empathetic, more connected with one another, more able to reach human aspirations for cognitive/intellectual and emotional development? That would be a nice outcome, but I don't believe we are there yet. It would be choice about how to live and work that we would have to make, and concertedly move toward.

 

  01/05/12

To Public Policy and Beyond

Matthew Taylor (CEO of RSA, the company we know from the wonderful RSA Animate animated TED talks) addresses much of his insight at public policy and Big Society, but I think his points apply well to organizations in general. Consider this, for example, for resonance:

"In relation to individual reflexivity, a forthcoming RSA paper entitled ‘the hidden curriculum of the Big Society’ will argue that the Big Society requires citizens who are capable of greater autonomy, responsibility and solidarity. These attributes are in turn associated with a higher degree of mental complexity, which survey evidence suggests is only currently possessed by a small minority of the population.

Big Society citizens need to be thoughtful, ethical, connected people who – among all these qualities – are aware of, and able to mediate, some of the cognitive frailties which arise from trying to negotiate a modern world with prehistorically evolved brains.

I guess one sign of such an ethical ‘ubermensch’ (I know strictly speaking that’s a contradiction in terms but give me a break), would be an ability to withstand superstition as well as illusions such as confirmation bias."

--  Matthew Taylor, Calvinism, confirmation bias, county councils and the Big Society, November 22, 2011

 

Matthew's self-effacing humor is a wonderful foil for the serious challenges (of the complacency busting sort) and insights he puts to us.

 

 01/06/12

Disrupting the Text Book

and the camera!

  01/07/12

Technology's Scatterlings

Scatterlings and fugitives.

The Machines Took Them!

"The U.S. produces almost one-quarter more goods and services today than it did in 1999, while using almost precisely the same number of workers. [...] Although businesses haven’t added many people, they’ve certainly bulked up on machines. Spending on equipment and software hit an all-time high in the third quarter of 2011. "

--  David Lynch, It's a Man vs. Machine Recovery, January 5, 2011

And while advances in technology will create new jobs, and more higher paying jobs at that, we need to be concerned about the people whose skills have been made obsolete or too costly in competition with automation.

'“The era we’re in is one in which the scope of tasks that can be automated is increasing rapidly, and in areas where we used to think those were our best skills, things that require thinking,” says David Autor, a labor economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.'  --  David Lynch, It's a Man vs. Machine Recovery, January 5, 2011

We need to be concerned not to click-click our tongues in accusation and despair, but to work more concertedly to create new options and to attend with vigor to the education crisis. So much is laid down in childhood, and we need to give all children the base of brain development that will allow them bright futures.

See also:

"The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom." ~ Isaac Asimov

1/21/12 Well, the machines, and losing global competitiveness: How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work, January 21, 2012

1/22/12 Can We Build Tomorrow's Breakthroughs?, David Rotman, Technology Review, January/February 2012

I also write at:

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- Trace In the Sand Blog

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Um... and these
- Nick Carr

- Tom Peters

 

Green Thinking

- Sylvia Earle, TED

- CNN Money Business of Green videos

- Matter Network
 

Comics

- xkcd

- Buttercup Festival

- Dinosaur comics

- geek&poke

- phd comics

- a softer world

- Dilbert

 

 

 

 01/08/12

Aside...

Hey, want a workshop in Europe in March/April/May? Yup, James Taylor is touring. :-)

As visualization goes, don't you like the way James Taylor shifts perspective in this teaching (guitar) video (by way of Dana)?

...

Business Analytics -- A Cautionary Tale

"The Genius Bar would have been killed by many retailers during its early years when it was underused. But, as reported in an HBR interview with the brilliant creator of Apple stores, Ron Johnson (now the CEO of J. C. Penny), strategic instincts prevailed over data reporting on customer traffic. Johnson realized that the Genius Bar was a vehicle to reinforce and enhance customer relationship damaged by product issues and that Apple is in the customer relationship business as much as the computer business. As a result he stuck with the concept and was rewarded when it got so much traction that reservations became necessary to handle the customer flow." -- The Genius Bar — Branding the Innovation, David Aaker, January 5, 2012
 

On the Importance of Being Earnest

And imaginative. And willing to "give it a try":

We should have by design our just desert:

JACK: Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?
GWENDOLEN: I can. For I feel that you are sure to change.

-- The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, Oscar Wilde. First performed in 1895.

By Sara

Become as a Child

We ostensibly value a child's curiosity, a child's imagination, a child's willingness to learn by trying this and that (or, in adult terms, failing). But are we being disingenuous*? Thwarting these in children and ourselves?

This morning I remembered something that both struck me cold, and lit a warming spark of insight. When Ryan was little, he would have these grand plans -- you know, to build a rocket, and that sort of thing. I would have to forcibly (in the sense of bringing the more sensible of my inner voices to wrestle my outer voice to silence) hold myself back from throwing the wet blanket of adult know-better on his ideas. The chill was that memory. The illumination? Realizing that children are pragmatists too; it's built in. They will "build a rocket" out of stuff at their disposal (sheets and whatever structure they can muster to mock-up their contraption) and go into "outer space." Building a rocket to them was as real as "building a rocket." There's no need to bring the "reality" of knowledge and cost into the picture, because they will build as much of their vision as they can, and they will make do with that. All that "have grand visions and then scale back to fit what can be done" is built in, if we just stay out of the way. So, the kids still have big visions -- fix hard problems of the world visions. And they do the remarkable, even though the doing is a mediation between the big idea and what can be done given limited time and resources. But rather than having the world tell them "can't" and "not possible" and "get real," they have to figure the moderation between "ship something" and the "ideal they envisage" out for themselves.

Somewhere along the way we develop this idea that it is rational -- read grown-up -- to smash the ideal that our less fettered selves can envisage upon the rocks of knowledge and past experience. So we don't play out the idea with mockups. And we don't build incrementally towards the big idea, because where we can start is too far from what we envisage. Fortunately the IBM Watson project didn't fall by the it's-impossible/know-better wayside:

"The early practice rounds for “Jeopardy” were downright disappointing. Many of Watson’s answers were stupid and irrelevant, some laughably so. Each wrong answer demonstrated the profound failings of simple search-based technologies and showed how sophisticated Watson needed to become.

We had to keep the team’s collective intelligence from being overcome by egos, or dragged down by desperation. Leadership had to be steadfast and persistent but grounded in optimism. Through it all, the team developed a culture of trust that let creativity flourish."

--  David A. Ferrucci, Building the Team That Built Watson, January 7, 2012
Dragon of chaos and creativity

* Disingenuous? You think that too strong a word? Then may I call your bluff? I used a children's story in Getting Past ‘But’. Doesn't that just inspire you to read it? But, but, a children's story? In an Executive Report? I mean, like, for adults? Goodness me. I do battle dragons. Wink.

Well, who innovates on a bed of unturned preconceptions?

We have to dream big. And be resilient optimists, even when there are rational adult wet blankets who'd be happy to tell us what won't work.

Image source: Sara B.
 

Canalized Attention

What we are paying attention to, shapes what we perceive and pay attention to. In Connections, James Burke is focused on persuading us of his thesis that change is very much a matter of a chance web of events, a weaving together of unrelated discoveries. Despite the thrust of his argument, we can quickly see how important, too, was the role of simply playing with something to discover what it was good for -- giving rise to waterproof Macintoshes, for example. And the role of trying to address a problem that "progress" had surfaced, and which then presaged more problems and "progress." Chance plays a role. But so does intentionality. The role of "and." And that "opposable mind."

Intelligent Design

Here's just one of a nice set of insights on design:

"Fourthly, good designers look at what might all change in the short, medium and long-term, by engaging with the best trends and forecasting intelligence. Unlike other crystal ball gazers they use this prescience to help them understand how they could bend the future, shape it to their vision."

-- Simon Rucker , How Good Designers Think, April 26, 2011


 

 01/09/12

Not In Kansas Anymore

Since I was using the scanner, I pulled these in from a sketchnotebook.

 

 

 

As things "not in Kansas any more go," this High Scalability post on Etsy is superb!

And this frames the "not in Kansas" message powerfully:  Social Architecture (a manifesto) by Luc Galoppin, October 19, 2011 (I lost track of who tweeted it. Sorry.)

Hm. Gotta find (a whole) brain, heart, and courage.

Oh right, we already have them. We just need to draw on them.

Draw? This visual on visualizing at work is great! 

 

 01/11/12

Enterprise Architecture

Actually, I quoted that in 2009... but no-one was listening... ;-)

Naming Empires

How we define enterprise architecture helps direct our attention and shapes expectations others have of us. Now, two decades in, we still cycle back to that "what is EA?" discussion from time to time. When we do, I am often tempted to point to "Enterprise Architecture as Strategic Differentiator," for even though it was written in 2005, it is very sensitive to the spread in how enterprise architecture is, in effect, defined by virtue of how EA teams are chartered in practice. While I don't like "maturity" models (I think "maturity" is too often laden with irony when applied to people and to organizations), the treatment around pg 5-6 might be taken that way. But, here we are. 2012. And we still have a spread in how EA is interpreted in practice. Enterprise architects within IT are placed in the position of either acting outside their charter (which is uncomfortable and can feel like a career risk) or acting at the scope their reporting structure and decision scope formally affords. Our stance is to help architects act outside their ostensible charter if that is what the business strategy necessitates, but in a "Jaime Lerner" sort of way, proving value quickly before resistance has had a chance to set in -- that, btw, is a reference to a story towards the end of Enterprise Architecture as Strategic Differentiator. ;-) Enterprise architecture is about crossing boundaries. And exceeding parochial expectations. Indeed, isn't that both the definition and the value proposition of enterprise architecture? Ok. I tease myself. I have to. It undermines the soapbox I stand on, so that it doesn't grow too high. :-)

There is a serious point in that "architecting across" though. Project architects in different domains do tend to reform their ideas of EA when their domains are brought together by the need to integrate or consolidate or reap greater leverage and they find contention between the domains demands sensible arbitration. This is a reactive -- being backed into recognizing the need for -- stance, but it's worthwhile knowing where handy levers are. ;-)

1/12/12: The Doing Defines

We might say that what is done is what counts. That is, what is actually done by enterprise architects -- and hence in the name of enterprise architecture -- is what will define enterprise architecture, at least for the community that observes what is done and its results. So we should stop squabbling about the definition and do stuff. What stuff, though? My point is that how we think about enterprise architecture shapes what we do. If we think it is tactical (only), we will focus on spot-triage (only). And how our organization thinks about enterprise architecture shapes what they explicitly and implicitly charter us to do. If our organization views enterprise architecture as an IT function that tackles infrastructure consolidation, focusing on cost-cutting, that is a pretty rigid expectation and responsibility box from which to deliver business value through technology.  I am very much in the camp that holds that we are the biggest determinant of how empowered we are -- which is to say, if we perceive ourselves to not be empowered, we most surely are not. And if we perceive ourselves to be empowered, we generally are, though exceptions apply in strong command and control cultures. So I agree that our actions will shape what enterprise architecture becomes for our organization, and this will ripple out in stories to have wider impact. But there is also the important role that the notions we have to begin with, shape our intent. Which shapes what we do. And what we get.  And, since EA is relatively new to many organizations, or under reconsideration and redesign in others, having a coherent, sensible explanation of EA is helpful in setting senior management's expectations for the role, shaping how they set it up, what it is responsible for, what and who it has access to, and so on.

So, yeah, given that we have a notion of what it is, we'll get on and do something. And some days we will put on a hat that looks more like that of a technical specialist, other days we will be more concertedly focused on shaping the technical culture of the organization to adjust to a new business direction, and other days we will investigate changes in the competitive landscape as technology and market forces mass to create new opportunities, etc. Having a strongly held point of view on enterprise architecture will help us ensure that we aren't always drawn off into some very local, narrowly scoped problem that has value, but is not strategic in the sense that someone with more narrow scope of responsibility could adequately address it.

Peter Bakker pointed to a review of a book on the infrastructure in New York City and when one looks at the infrastructure of Dubai, one sees that if it isn't already being noticed, it will become clear that it is architecturally significant to the city, impacting the city's desired outcomes. We don't conflate enterprise and business architecture because the technology substrate of business isn't separable from business capabilities anymore (if it ever was). The intertwining of human and technology capabilities in the creation of business capabilities means we need to consider the multifaceted nature of business capabilities as we provide that "guiding hand" of design intent to nudge, and shape and hustle evolution in the direction of getting outcomes we intend (even as we remain open to reassessing and altering our desired outcomes as the context shifts and/or we learn more).

All that said, this is our tongue-in-cheek definition:

Architecture is the set of decisions the architect makes.

"What decisions does the architect make?"

The architecturally significant ones.

"What is architecturally significant?"

The architect decides!

"A tautology!" you protest.

Ah, think about it, I counter.

There is an element that is self-fulfilling -- to the extent that intent can be realized in complex systems with lots of interacting forces, many externally sourced. If we decide that technology is independent of, or technology leads the business, we act that way. And technology does -- by constraining the option slate of the business. Then the business decries corporate IT, and "goes rogue" -- from the perspective of corporate IT.

Note: You could turn that around, and say the architecture is the set of significant (strategically shaping) decisions (intent to begin with, and realized as the system is built and evolved) and then the architect is whoever made those decisions. Who would that be? Management in many cases. Remember Conway's Law?

1/13/12: EA Hired. What's the Job?

There is a spread in what is done under the banner of enterprise architecture, and that determines and is determined, explicitly or implicitly, by that organization's (working) definition of enterprise architecture. Organizations are, in effect, hiring enterprise architecture to do a "job" for them, and is it not reasonable to ask what that job is and what outcomes we want EA to help us achieve when we delegate that job to EA? And how do we set EA up to be effective in that job? 

I help organizations define that job, and redesign it when they're not getting what they want from it. So I have a perhaps peculiar interest in the navel-gazing discussions that surface (repeating themselves, but with fresh nuances if you watch for them) in various EA circles around "what is EA?" :-) I understand exasperation at the recurrent discussion, especially if heels get dug in, but it doesn't behoove me to ignore the variance in the in-practice working definitions of EA, nor the shifts in these over time. I am very much in sympathy with "architecture is what the architect decides" (or does) but it is worth noting that what the architect gets to decide is delimited by the organizational context, how the architect is chartered, formal role relationships and responsibilities, and whatnot. So we have to work both sides of that coin (expectations of the architects and of the organization) if we want to redesign the job to get more the outcomes we want from it.

Enterprise architecture doing a "job"? Well, analogous to this (product as a job):

1/31/12: Ecosystems and Infrastructure Architecture

Interesting discussion hosted/prompted and moved along by Peter Bakker: Infrastructure Architecture is way more important than Enterprise Architecture. The desire to bring attention to the really important role of IT (and the infrastructure that allows flows and coordination and collaboration and ... and ... and ... blah blah ... relationships) was what prompted me to write The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent and in particular the section on IT is It. But it is not a game of tag any more -- should not be, anyway. Peter is making/advancing several key points (as I understand it, anyway). One is that infrastructure isn't just technology, though in information terms technology is vital, and becoming ever more so. Two, the infrastructure that supports value, information and work (and other?) flows is increasingly connected within the broader ecosystem (and interconnected ecosystems) the organization participates in, so the infrastructure architect is working across boundaries not just within the organization. Of course, beyond the organization, there is still less "control," or the ability to exert influence is different beyond the organization's boundaries. The webs of relationships that "grease the skids of commerce" -- and more sustainably enable a thriving ecosystem in the best sense of enhancing meaningful lives and livelihoods -- rely on technology and other infrastructural elements (like standards). This infrastructure interweaves among organizations and creates interdependencies. Connectivity and interactions that create mutual dependencies allow participants to build greater value in synergistic flows, and these interactions are enabled by critical community or ecosystem infrastructure analogous to that of cities, as Peter is pointing out.

A key idea of enterprise architecture is, I think, to put parochial turf aside and consider the system and system in context of systems of systems or the ecosystem and web of interacting ecosystems and ... the Universe. (Just kidding. But context factors.) This should not undervalue any perspective or area of focus, but simply provide ways of thinking about and integrating various perspectives that inform and constrain and enable other dimensions and facets and perspectival orientations to the system. So, as I see it, one of the things Peter is advocating is that we put an infrastructure filter on our enterprise lens and zoom out beyond the enterprise to see and take into account and influence and make informed choices given the broader infrastructural setting of the ecosystem(s) the organization interworks within, takes advantage of, and serves. Well, of course we do this. But it is good to bring it explicitly into the conversation. Last month I talked about strategy doing this, and we can see that the organization can strategically influence the infrastructure of the ecosystem so as to better serve its interests within the value streams and solidify or build or enrich its position in the ecosystem.

Our wintry day (hence more indoor) workout fare of late has been the Extreme Engineering series, and it is very much about infrastructure -- massive, highly engineered infrastructure that is amazing in its audacity and ambition, advancing man's achievements in the face of Nature, but then being poised to be toppled by Nature given an ill-twist of fate... This quote from John Gall's Systemantics has me wanting to reread it:

"When a system is set up to accomplish some goal, a new entity has come into being: the system itself ... Whereas before, there was only the problem, such as warfare between nations, or garbage collection, there is now an additional universe of problems associated with ... the new system. " -- quoted in Editorial: The System of Information Architecture

2/1/12: A point that emerges with renewed emphasis is that regardless of whether the business executives are savvy to this need to take into account the infrastructural interrelationships in the broader ecosystem, the infrastructure architect needs to be. Which means the advocacy and relationship management demands on the infrastructure architect are high. And so it goes.

That is, it is valuable to take that infrastructure lens -- or something like an infrared camera, but instead of being able to see heat distribution, we'd see the infrastructure of the value network(s) -- and use it to see what undergirds and enables (and what obstructs) the relationships and value contributions and value flows of -- and even well beyond -- the extended enterprise. We can assess the importance of this infrastructure in the positive and in the negative -- what does it enable, and what does it disable if it fails? In the same way that if key infrastructure in NYC came undone, it would undo the city and all its enterprises, the broader infrastructural networks and relationships are vital to the conduct of an enterprise's business -- and this interdependency is only becoming more powerful, making the organization more vulnerable to failure of the infrastructure outside the boundaries or span of direct control of the organization (business, agency, whatnot).

So, from a particular vantage point, or way of viewing the ecosystem, the infrastructure is "more important" than the (even extended) enterprise (and its architecture). To the extent that the ecosystem infrastructure is the transport and conduit and enabler of relationships and flows in the ecosystem, not only is it a business endeavor for the businesses provisioning that infrastructure but it is a critical enabler of other businesses that emerge because the infrastructure is in place to sustain them.

To make this concrete in my mind, I think of examples like Smart Grid. But lines start to blur if, for example, I think of etsy.com as a hub for cottage industry/artist entrepreneurs. To me, etsy is a relationship platform that digitally connects long-tail producers and consumers, reformulating cottage industry as surely as mass production and transportation reformulated it in the Industrial Revolution. There is the "classic" IT infrastructure on which etsy runs, of course. But is a relationship platform like etsy.com infrastructure? It is a question that teases at me. Returning to more steady ground, the most obvious examples include the internet and the cloud, both of which have allowed new organizational forms to emerge and flourish in new or morphed ecosystems. Of course search, and search-related advertising, are likewise both obvious and transformative. Search connects providers and consumers (of information, goods and services), and advertising creates cash flow not just to search providers but to a more diffuse network of "co-dependents" in the producer-consumer match-making game. But much of the impetus for search is moving onto "Serendipity engines" like Twitter and Facebook. So are those infrastructural? They are clearly relationship platforms. And we're back where the earth shifts under my feet! Whatever. I don't personally have energy around declaring exactly where the boundary lies. I do think it is important to recognize the web of computing enablement doesn't just extend what individuals and organizations can do, but also fosters the creation of thriving business ecosystems.

The strategically insightful infrastructure architect participates in an inter-organizational set of plays shaping ecosystem infrastructure that is crucial to the vitality of the organization she works for. And pays attention to the shaping forces that are playing out, determining support and encumbrance to ecosystem flows (and collaborations, value creation/consumption interdependencies, etc.) to influence choices within the organization and interventions it makes in the broader society of messily and (more or less intentionally and nonetheless) emergently interwoven ecosystem infrastructures.

In architecting, we rely much on separation of concerns as a tool for gaining intellectual traction on a system design/evolution problem. And one could cast my "filter" or "infrared" analogy as a particular separation of concerns -- filtering out all but, or focusing on, the infrastructural elements and relationships in the broader context of our organization. By dealing with separable concerns separately, we're amplifying our ability to see/discern, understand, reason, probe, test/evaluate and otherwise bring expertise and consideration to bear. And as system thinkers, we know that is not enough. As important as it is to have these different views addressing focal concerns, it is also important work across these views, interrelating and reasoning about the systemic issues that cut across them. [I love this image from Christoph Niemann as a metaphorical visualization of how the views interrelate not in a mechanistically interlocked sense but in a more organic or narrative (hat tip to Tom Graves) way]. In addition to working across concerns, we're also working across the system at our given level of scope, and considering that system in its broader context. For example, a map of the critical infrastructure of an ecosystem is, from the perspective of the organization, a context map -- a particular flavor of context map, and only one of a variety of different context maps, all taking different focal concerns as their "filter" or abstraction paradigm. The point though, is that the ecosystem is the context from the perspective of the organization. From the perspective of the ecosystem, the same map is a key architectural view. It just depends on the scope of architecting that is being done.

The discussion is happening on Peter's blog, but I do want to highlight these wonderfully illustrative video sketches:

I couldn't resist adding the Monty Python "Architect Sketch" to the mix (strongish language and implied gore; it's Monty Python). In so many ways, it's all about the handshake. ;-)

Some time ago, Grady Booch used the analogy of a river for enterprise software (in one of his On Architecture columns) and I really like it. Anyway, the river metaphor fits with this notion of flows. Can you tell I'm reading Design By Nature? :-) [The authors see the world through a constructal/flow filter.. It is an interesting perspective and I'm getting a lot of value from the book ... in spite of the hubris -- redefining life, for example, is .... at least bold.]

PS. As ecosystem development goes, this story is inspiring (and a reminder that it is never just about infrastructure): Tony Hsieh's new $350 million startup, January 23, 2012

2/2/12: Well, oops. I didn't mean to shut down a very interesting discussion! And just when Stuart was saying "I think we are really going somewhere now" and I was interested to know where. :-) But, as Dana puts it, the crucial role of the architect as leader is to decide, on matters of architectural significance, when it is time to end discussion of views and alternatives and make a decision (or ensure one is made that he is comfortable being accountable for). So, Peter is well versed in the art of moving forward.

2/4/12: More, related:

2/6/12: Ecosystem Infrastructure, Architecture and Analogies

: Pointing to Nick Malik's City Metaphor post

In that tweet, Paul Wallis is pointing to Peter's blog comment where he quotes me, and to Nick Malik's post: Civil Engineering Analogy to Enterprise Architecture: Flawed. I think this might be an opportune time to remind ourselves that analogies are not identities. Oh, I really like the points Nick is making there. And they complement and extend the points I was inferring from Peter's discussion and pointers. But I think it is useful to be aware that analogies are tools for leverage, and indeed part of their utility lies not just in extracting the insights they bring with, but (as Nick deftly demonstrates) also in insights stimulated if we look for where the analogy falls short and (this is the key) needs to be hybridized or blended with other analogies to be still more useful. No-one thinks an airline hub ought to roll, for example. So there are attributes of the hub of a wheel that we draw on, along with attributes of other analogies, to create the hybrid concept of an airline hub. Now I'm not saying city codes are a good analogy for IT standards (actually, I haven't thought about it). I was only agreeing that the city infrastructure analogy gives us another vantage point from which to understand something about our field. I don't think what comes from taking this vantage point is especially new or surprising -- in retrospect. That hindsight is 20/20 thing, that obscures what now seems obvious. But it does highlight that while we have explicit cross-enterprise architecture work going on in certain domains like Smart Grid and AUTOSAR, it might be useful to treat ecosystem infrastructure as an architectural domain of significance more generally. And in this domain -- one that cuts across and between and weaves through enterprises -- infrastructure architecture is "more important" (I'm using that "more" playfully) because it is the conduit and enabler for relationships and flows of information and value and sense-and-control systems and ... But (for those whose competitive spirit is raised by the word "more", wink) infrastructure, we might want to note, only "wins" (in this inversion of hierarchy) when we widen the playing field beyond the (extended) enterprise -- which changes the rules by which we are judging the game. Or, if you look across a city, or a business ecosystem, you're looking for what is cross-cutting and what provides services that make the whole viable. Well, we call that infrastructure. So. There is a domain where infrastructure is king. Wahoo technology! Not just technology. But importantly technology. Because infrastructural technology can change -- very rapidly -- the terms of engagement in an ecosystem, overthrowing industry incumbants with surprising speed. Which again underscores the importance of bringing technology to the strategy table.

I think Peter has opened up an very interesting discussion area around ecosystem infrastructure as a domain of inquiry in of itself. Again, this is not unprecedented. It is more a matter of looking more directly at something we looked at obliquely -- through industry architecture efforts and so forth. It also raises a discussion of the relationship of EA to the ecosystem, and while we have been having overlapping discussions (of the value network and the broader competitive landscape and ecosystem/context of the enterprise) I think it will be useful to frame more of the discussion explicitly in terms of the infrastructure that supports the connections, relationships and flows of the ecosystem.

2/2/12: Back to the Scope of EA Running Debate

A small comment on Tom's post titled How IT-centrism creeps into enterprise architecture -- Tom makes a good point that the ‘TOGAF Version 9.1 Management Overview‘ slideset sends mixed messages about what EA is and why it is important. I've tried to point out that the field itself has a spread in interpretation/working definition, and it would help if the TOGAF "salespitch" to management held out a clear and self-consistent articulation of EA to management. We try to shift the in-practice defintion of EA towards realizing the full promise of architecting the enterprise (or more precisely, better understanding and with more effective intentionality, evolving the architecture of the enterprise) not just its technology, by articulating what this achieves (you may go ahead and assume this is yet another plug for the infamous Fractal and Emergent "short book"). Tom is doing an excellent job of this too. As are the likes of Jeanne Ross and others.

But I am also sensitive to the practical reality that EA-as-more-than-EwITA missionary zeal coming from the technology camp looks and smells like a technology god on the rise looking for prestigious office in the corridor of power. As I've said, I don't believe the answer is to capitulate to EA=BA, even though this may be more palatable to those who are leery of the nerd-camp (for though clearly its star of fortune and sexiness is rising, it still has its own language and exclusive culture). But there's a long haul between here and a universal view of EA, and I'm not at all sure that we should expect ever to reach that supposed zenith of universal understanding. I like living in a plural world. There is no universal view or practice of strategy. Why should there be of EA? So we work with architects to help to evolve the in-practice working definition of EA in their organization, helping them to create relationships with business leaders and other stakeholders based on a better understanding of their concerns and mental models -- to do that left-hand--right-hand work that balances changing the culture and creating immediate value. Naturally, we believe that EA=BCA (where business capabilities are multifaceted, and technology is a crucial facet of many, if not all, business capabilities) is a useful way to conceive of and gain cognitive and operational traction on the "architecture of the enterprise." But we recognize that there are other compelling/interesting/useful views. Not to mention organizational situations where there's a series of gatekeepers keeping those given the designation "enterprise architect" effectively locked within a narrow slice of technology turf where they can at best work to shape the technology landscape within the organization and have only very indirect, gatekeeper-channeled access to any stakeholders outside of corporate IT. We can warn that we wont get what we want from EA with those restrictions. And work to reshape the culture, working networks of influence within the organization. And working avenues of external influence, like Tom is doing advocating that The Open Group create a compelling and consistent vision message for its management audience. Even if that audience is pretty much an IT set, who, like enterprise architects, are hamstrung by the organization's perceptual boxes. And so it goes. We do what we can. Pushing rocks uphill. Of course, leaving our really quite delightful and wonderfully written papers in the path of executives you want to influence would help a lot. ;-)

Say what -- a Open Group Business Architect Certification?

Ok. That's "interesting."

1/30/12: Misc. vaguely related snips:

"Despite the occasional service outage, Amazon's cloud computing has become a important tool for many tech companies, allowing startups to get up and running in a cost-efficient way and larger companies to perform day-to-day operations without having to run their own data centers. Among Amazon clients: Netflix, Instagram, Quora and the Platform as a Service company Heroku." -- Meet Amazon's all-stars, CNN Money
 

A cup dipped into the information flood:

2/16/12: As analogies and metaphors go, this is interesting: Your Brain Can Feel Metaphors (2/13/2012). Metaphors engage metaphorically related areas of the brain. But if our brains treat metaphors literally (a metaphor alluding to a touch sensation ignites the touch area of the brain), then perhaps that is why some people take them too literally? Analogies are such a powerful learning device, enabling us to parlay what we know into new areas. But, as with any device, it can be misapplied -- often (or even generally?) without even realizing it.

 

Meetings, Decisions, Owners

"Every meeting must have one clear decision maker. If there's no decision maker -- or no decision to be made -- the meeting shouldn't happen."  -- Matt Rosoff, How Larry Page Changed Meetings At Google After Taking Over Last Spring, Jan. 10, 2012,

 

 01/12/12

An Exposition or a Conversation?

It occurred to me that if one wants to hold a conversation, an exposition isn't the right format. An exposition is more like a maple tree that sends its seeds out on the winds, caring only that some find a fertile spot to take root. It has an important place in the ecosystem of ideas. But it's not a conversation, if only because it is set up unevenly.

 

 01/13/12

Principles

I've enjoyed peeking in on the Twitter-scussion on architecture principles today and particularly like the points that Kris Meukens made as he neatly/succinctly captures a key point (or, if you like, set thereof)!

I didn't say that. No. I didn't look in on Twitter when I'm scrambling to get ready for... No. Not me. ;-)

Later: the discussion, plus Tom Grave's comments are here: How useful are principles in enterprise-architecture?, January 13th, 2012

Tom Grave "Principles are the actionable expression of vision and values."

1/14/12: The Twitter-scussion continued, and Tom again pulled out and commented on today's thread. I'm going to pull out a sub-thread from across the two days (and include some of Kris' tweets that Tom missed/decided not to draw in because there is some overlap as Kris iterated towards a very taut, pithy statement):

  • richardveryard: "Have difficult #entarch decisions ever been resolved by appealing to bland uncontroversial principles?"
     
  • krismeukens: "principles are inclusive/exclusive statements of what contributes to reach strategic goals"
  • krismeukens: "principles are invariable inclusive/exclusive statements that should just establish focus"
  • krismeukens: "#principles are invariable inclusive/exclusive statements as a tool to constrain the space for emergence in a complex domain #cynefin"
     
  • krismeukens: "The core of strategy work is discovering the critical factors and designing a way of "coordinating" and "focusing" actions to deal with them. The credits [...] should go to Richard P. Rumelt (Good Strategy / Bad Strategy)"
     
  • destivia: "Never forget a ‘model’ is always only a preliminary version of how we see or want to see reality."
     
  • ebuise: 'A few hours ago @krismeukens tweeted: “The core of strategy work is discovering the critical factors and designing a way of “coordinating” and “focusing” actions to deal with them.” Aren’t principles derived, directly or indirectly, from this process? And as such related to reality and steering into future realities? Can’t aspired directionality of the future be related to reality?'

As an aside, my internal reaction when I saw Richard's triggering tweet was "is this another case of blaming the vehicle (not the driver)?" So I watched the stream with interest, and it is astonishing what smart people can do in 140 character bursts! ;-) Principles set direction

I leveraged the discussion above, which overlaps with and adds important nuance to my own earlier wording, to create this opening statement to my earlier discussion of Architecture Principles:

An Architecture Principle is a normative statement that orients (or loosely steers) and aligns decisions and actions so as to achieve strategic outcomes. That is, Architecture Principles focus and guide decisions, shaping direction to address factors critical to achieving strategic intent and strategic/architecturally significant system outcomes. Well-stated principles cleave the decision space between decisions in line with the principle and decisions that run counter to the principle.

There is still more discussion here, though that discussion only adds further nuance/complexifies still more, when what I need to do is simplicate. I'll return to the topic and work up a cleaner statement soon. In short, the primary guidance is less is more. I do much like Kris' point about constraining the space for emergence -- this is in line with the discussion of principles as "light touch," or "left hand" working-through-culture-imbuing-values and "guiderails" or "boundary fences" (or "we need to do this to keep away from the edge of the cliff") approach that is distinct from making all the concrete decisions to be made in that area.

When the kids were a few years younger, we listened to Bud Not Buddy in the car—it made going to school fun, but of what relevance could it possibly be to architects? Well, Bud has all these "Rules and Things to have a Funner Life and Make a Better Liar Out of Yourself"  -- for example:

"If You Got to Tell a Lie, Make Sure It's Simple and Easy to Remember."

"If a Adult Tells You Not to Worry, and You Weren't Worried Before, You Better Hurry Up and Start 'Cause You're Already Running Late."

You might say Principles are to "have a funner life" paying attention to what really matters to the strategy (and key aspects of system integrity that makes the strategy possible). But it's not fun if there are too many to care about and learn/remember/govern and live/act/decide by.

If you want to offer suggestions to make the exposition more clear, please do!  I do try to give credit where it is due. My email address is in the signature blurb that foots each month's Trace. I would most especially like it if you could send me an example of a principle statement that you really found useful, or pointer to examples, that can be shared.

2/6/12:

"One of the best ways to define your principles is to ask the question, “I would give someone free reign to do this as long as they ______.” Fill in the blank. Or ask yourself, “Where is the edge, beyond which, I am unwilling to tread, regardless of the prize?” Once you’ve decided where you draw the line—and have written it down—you might be surprised at how far out the boundaries really are. Everything inside those lines: Fair Game!" -- Geoffrey Webb, Defining Your Principles, February 6, 2012

2/27/12: Interesting classification: "Delineation (differentiation) principles and Interoperability (integration) principles." -- Mats-Åke Hugoson, Thanos Magoulas, and Kalevi Pessi ,The Impact of Enterprise Architecture Principles on the Management of IT Investments, 2012

 

 01/14/12

As Good As It Gets

Last night we watched As Good As It Gets. It's great!

Is it though? What? As good as it gets. Is this it? Is this as great as we are? Is this as good as we make ourselves and each other feel? The feeling being so wrapped up in what it is we do, shaped by and shaping our very identity.

The movie counter-positions the extreme of subtractive -- belittling -- approach to human spirits and accomplishments, with the alternative of an additive approach, seeing and building on the positive. Both "see truths"; one undermines by pointing to weakness. The other builds up.
 

(R)Evolution of Education and Books

 

 01/21/12

Back, Sort Of, Maybe ;-)

Well, wahoo -- breakthrough! Two people missed my Trace! No, make that three -- I did too! :-) I reread the Become as a Child postlet, and I'm glad for what keeping a Trace draws out. That said... yep. The Book!  Must . Write . The . Book . Must  . :-)

I like what happens in my Trace. I like the connections it makes [if you weren't enthralled by the poetic compression, wry humor, and empathy/compassion in that On the Importance of Being Earnest post you're fired ;-)] as well as the thoughts it reels in and pens down still wriggling and squirming and interestingly fresh. ;-)  I tease -- myself. But. Enough of that.

The Book!  Must . Write . The . Book . Must  . Well, at least someone asked for it. :-)

Then again, a dear (and generous-kind) friend told me that the internet was boring without my traces, so...

Oh alright. The book.

Uh. Which book? ;-)  Just kidding.

 

 01/22/12

Dots

I read a very interesting, insightful and well-written article on the job squeeze and Apple's manufacturing in the New York Times yesterday and added a link to it in The Machines Took Them. Today I realized that the Charles Duhigg who had followed me on Twitter was the author of said article! Well, I followed Charles Duhigg back with enthusiasm! :-) 

Here's the article and related video:

So, we'll have to take a look at his book and blog, now won't we? :-)

1/25/12: Apple's numbers are astonishing, but this update is startling: Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad,  Charles Duhigg and David Barboza, January 25, 2012

Also relevant to the topic of where the jobs are going:

Ah, yes, Books

As books go, I've been reading Thinking Fast and Slow -- it's great! I can't believe I was so slow getting to it! Before that I read (a lot of) 12 Essential Skills for Software Architects by Dave Hendricksen (2011). It's good, although I can't fathom how someone writing about software architects in 2011 would have missed our work over the past decade and more. ;-) But that's nice too, for it leaves a lot of room on the table for what we bring. :-)

 

 01/23/12

Luck We Make

Luck we make

That reminds me of Zuckerberg's "Revenue is a trailing indicator of value you build.

Complex Adaptive Systems

Anyone who has taken our workshops will recognize the fit of our approach to this positioning of the need for responsive design:

 

 01/24/12

Properties

In Quality Attributes, Contexts and Challenges, Charlie Alfred gives his trademark awesome treatment to the topic, covering the basics elegantly, and introducing his caveats and extensions to the idea set convincingly and clearly.

Rebecca Wirfs-Brock wrote a nice series of posts on "landing zones":

And Tom Gilb's work is the other "obvious" source along with the series of books and technical reports from the SEI:

  • Competitive Engineering: A Handbook For Systems Engineering, Requirements Engineering, and Software Engineering Using Planguage, Tom Gilb 0750665076
  • Requirements page on Tom's website

All the ballyhoo is because we so often rely on "best effort engineering" to determine system properties (e.g., when the system is rolled out and stressed under operational loads), when it would help to understand what properties stakeholders really care about (as attractors but also to understand and characterize significant detractors from the experience) so we can focus some of the awesome power of intentionality, not to mention bring the lens of serendipity to bear, on getting more the system properties we want, than otherwise. Yeah, yeah, Emergence. But we can give emergence a helping design hand -- we do learn, do we not? Not fast enough? Never fast enough! But better than not at all. Besides, when we know what we are shooting for, we can tune -- and redefine the target as we learn more about that.

Consider the baby and the magazine vs.iPad -- she had clear requirements for the magazine (translated from its competitor, the iPad) and she was even prepared to test her finger to make sure it was working correctly before deciding that the responsiveness of the magazine was the problem. Clearly best effort engineering of magazines is no longer sufficient. ;-)

2/4/12: See also:

2/21/12: And:

Putting the Big Question to Apple

Well, well, The Economist complimented @Charles Duhigg on his NY Times piece! The Economist article, Apple and the American economy (Jan 23rd 2012) adds to the story, drawing on a paper by Richard Baldwin:

Interesting read for enterprise architects (in manufacturing companies) looking more deeply into operating models and enterprise design considerations -- note that relationship platforms (in this case ICT coordination) have been a landscape reshaper.  And the platforms are themselves reshaping.

So, what happens next, as we bring the question of "how do we want to be?" to bear in questions of organizational and national competitiveness and sustainability. Will qualities like fair play and civic responsibility and environmental stewardship come to play a role in how we perceive products and where our product loyalties lie? Dictators have been overthrown...  Apple might want to take heed...

Twitter and Facebook have created an interesting phenomenon -- though Twitter especially, given the name and logo! What is it? Why, murmuration of course. And videos of murmuration exhibit murmuration! Ok, just like starling flocks are unusual among birds, so too are such large and intense murmurations of Twit-flocks. There's a fine line between a tough truth cast lightheartedly, and being flippant, and I don't always know what side of the line I'm on. The point though, is that the spin-up or spin-down crowd phenomenon is something to be at least a little concerned about. It is really powerful. It can do tremendous good. Or ill. What a world! So much to be excited about, but also a need to steadfastly ask how we want to be.


Delight or Smite

"Funny how framing something as a confrontation gets attention... Wouldn't it be a better world if the point was simply made without the gimmick of confrontation?" she said confrontationally. :-)

Grin. Just reacting to "Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers" because it is not about that, is it? At least in the blog post, they're equating "providing a series of bells and whistles in customer interactions" with seeking to delight customers, and that seems naive, at best.  Reducing customer effort is a great place to focus; it might even produce delight! ;-)

Dan Ariely's "Are We in Control of Our Own Decisions?" TED talk comes again to mind -- we don't like tough choices and our brains avoid them without even telling us! So one place to focus is to simplify choices. Brand loyalty simplifies choices. Fanboyism simplifies choices. Delight simplifies choices.

But hey, frame it how you will. Create value. And don't undo value that others in your organization and in the value stream beyond create.

When we look for value to create, we look at removing frustrations as eagerly as we look for hearts desires.
 

Yes, clearly I'm avoiding other work I should be doing; this was not on my To Do list today. Um, Charles?  I ought not to stop by that distracting global watercooler thing called Twitter for the kind of social break an introvert can handle -- lots of voices, no actual people. :-). I do declare it must be completely remodeling introversion!

A common theme emerges across the span of today's bursts of distraction: focus.

Ok. Ok.

Buckle Up -- Someone Put Technology in Hyperdrive!

Well. Not quite. Yet. But reading the tea leaves:

it's time to get optimistic!

What tea leaves are you reading? Tell, tell! That list needs to be LONGER to be credible!! :-) And I have a vested interest in optimism. As do you. Economies, you see, do that murmuration thing too. And it is up to us to get an up-spin murmuration going. IBM has been doing its part, investing its way out of the doldrums. Intel looks to be taking that strategic path too.

Spin

Well, well, The Economist complimented @Charles Duhigg on his NY Times piece! The Economist article, Apple and the American economy (Jan 23rd 2012) adds to the story, drawing on a paper by Richard Baldwin:

Interesting read for enterprise architects (in manufacturing companies) looking more deeply into operating models and enterprise design considerations -- note that relationship platforms (in this case ICT coordination) have been a landscape reshaper.  And the platforms are themselves reshaping.

So, what happens next, as we bring the question of "how do we want to be?" to bear in questions of organizational and national competitiveness and sustainability. Will qualities like fair play and civic responsibility and environmental stewardship come to play a role in how we perceive products and where our product loyalties lie? Dictators have been overthrown...  Apple might want to take heed...

Twitter and Facebook have created an interesting phenomenon -- though Twitter especially, given the name and logo! What is it? Why, murmuration of course. And videos of murmuration exhibit murmuration! Ok, just like starling flocks are unusual among birds, so too are such large and intense murmurations of Twit-flocks. There's a fine line between a tough truth cast lightheartedly, and being flippant, and I don't always know what side of the line I'm on. The point though, is that the spin-up or spin-down crowd phenomenon is something to be at least a little concerned about. It is really powerful. It can do tremendous good. Or ill. What a world! So much to be excited about, but also a need to steadfastly ask how we want to be.

Of course these effects aren't new news. Although... 

This was unexpected? Let's see... they didn't have a 10 year old to learn from... It's a tough situation, but we have more than enough real problems to address to spin up the global economy, collaborating to expand what we can do with less of the Earth's precious resources. 


A Leader's Words

"Booker countered that leaders are elected to make difficult decisions, not submit to a public referendum."

-- David Ciambusso, Newark Mayor Cory Booker blasts proposed N.J. gay marriage referendum, January 24, 2012

That is a man of principle -- Booker is taking a firm stand on one of the dominant civil rights issues of our time, not abdicating his responsibility to protect the legal standing of the founding principle of equality, to play it safe politically. 

 01/25/12

The Influence Factor

Dana has this really neat (geeky) way of expressing the tough position of an architect: your authority/influence quotient is the lowest in the organization. Huh? Well,

authority count = the number of people you have authority over (count yourself) 

influence count = the number of people you must influence to achieve what you are responsible for

Your authority/influence quotient is then some mighty small number! Think about it! Staggering, huh?!! But authority isn't the answer. To increase your leverage, you need goodwill. Goodwill is "the real silver bullet." Another Dana-ism.

In other news, an architect told Dana he should do the Madison story at TED. That was a really, really nice thing to think and then to say. That is an additive approach to human spirits.

Someone else wrote of our recent workshop "was fun and rocked."  Whoo!

On the subject of recognition and goodwill. Undeserved praise isn't a way to buy goodwill on the cheap. But recognition -- heartfelt, authentic recognition -- builds goodwill. Of course if we aren't building goodwill on many fronts, recognizing -- discerning and appreciating -- good work isn't going to do it. But it is an avenue that is often downplayed as we're leery of praise as manipulation, on the one hand, and on the other, there may be concern that too much credit is given away. But think about it. We spend our days pouring our lives and our passion into our work, and recognition of the good work we do is scant. And therein lies a wealth of opportunity for the architect as leader. From your vantage point, you have the perspective to see and acknowledge with credibility the good work others are doing. Use it! Don't listen to the well-intentioned folk who jealously guard the font of recognition -- they mean well, but it's not a non-renewable resource. I suppose it could theoretically be inflated by excess supply. But hey. Earth calling -- on this planet, people die. They live a short time, hear words like "great" associated with sincerity with their work way too seldom, and then up and leave us. So in their experience, I'm sorry, but there's no opportunity for the word "great" to become meaningless -- not when it comes from a discerning, credible source anyway. I just said discerning. I didn't say chary, or damped by envy or a small-minded concern that giving away recognition diminishes recognition the leader wants for himself. Discerning. Looking for and measuring against a wisely multi-faceted appreciation for contribution.

And in trade for giving credit where it is due, you further build credibility -- being able to see what is remarkable, what is effective, what is great, is a mark not just of a generous and giving spirit but also the mark of an acutely observing, discerning and highly capable mind. It means you see. You see past small-minded guarding. And you see excellence and have a strongly held point of view that gives you perspective and an aesthetic from which to appreciate. Recognition (where it has been earned) is one of those things that gives to the receiver and to the giver. It expands resources.

I said "where it has been earned" but that is a caveat that requires far more generous judgment that generally applied. We have to be in full command of our own resources, being confident of our own value and cognizant of the detractions we have had to accommodate in ourselves to attain our strengths, so that we are fully empathetic and able to extend the same level of appreciation for the good another builds in himself and in the world.


 01/31/12

Big Intelligence Undercover as Big Data

"Big data" is a phrase du jour but what gets done with big data is where it gets interesting. Think Watson and Google's autonomous car. And disconcerting...

2/3/12:

"Of course, data analytics is nothing new. But the terabytes upon terabytes of unstructured data in the world (including Tweets, Facebook updates and Amazon (AMZN) reviews) is unprecedented. According to IBM's Saxena, 90% of the world's information was generated in the last two years. Producing data is much easier than making sense of it. That's where Watson and other next-generation analytics tools come in. The supercomputer can process 200 million web pages in three seconds. What's more, it can understand human language."

-- IBM's Watson is changing careers, Michal Lev-Ram, February 3, 2012

A New Leaf

Several years ago, friends were over and, upon discreet encouragement to eat the dinner we'd prepared, their young daughter said loudly "It's not that special." Most don't even get to that assessment of my Trace, bouncing off at the sight of ever so many words. And schlocky sketches. But of those that venture to read a little, I can only guess that the reaction is the same -- "It's not that special." Well, tomorrow we begin a new month, and within days we head into the 7th year of Tracing. I think it's time for a new leaf, don't you? I shouldn't do anything that is simply meh-worthy. Life is too short.

 

I also write at:

- Resources for Software, System and Enterprise Architects

- Trace In the Sand Blog

- Follow ruthmalan on Twitter

 

Papers:

- Strategy, Architecture and Agility: The Art of Change: Fractal and Emergent, 2010 

- Innovation and Agile Architecting: Getting Past ‘But’: Finding Opportunity and Making It Happen, 2008

 

Feedback: I welcome input, discussion and feedback on any of the topics in this Trace in The Sand Journal, my blog, and the Resources for Architects website, or, for that matter, anything relevant to architects, architecting and architecture! I can be reached at

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a deer in the headlights sort of look is just perfect next to an expression of openness to feedback ;-)

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