Innocence

“‘ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed’!” The voice is positively gleeful now. “‘ And everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned…’ Ah, that’s my favorite line. Gets right at the shallow performativity of so many things, don’t you think? Innocence is nothing but a ceremony, after all. So strange that you people venerate it the way you do. What other world celebrates not knowing anything about how life really works?” A soft laugh-sigh. “How your species managed to get this far, I will never know.”

— The City We Became: A Novel (The Great Cities Trilogy Book 1) by N. K. Jemisin
https://a.co/7npAZXy

“With the rise of Lean Startup, we began to focus on outcomes, yes, but we also started to celebrate failure. I want to be clear here: it is not a success if you fail and do not learn. Learning should be at the core of every product-led organization. It should be what drives us as an organization. It is just better to fail in smaller ways, earlier, and to learn what will succeed, rather than spending all the time and money failing in a publicly large way. This is why we have problem and solution exploration in product management—to de-risk failing in the market.” from “Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value” by Melissa Perri

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Fix your boring, but immediate problems first

When GDS started in 2011, mobile apps were that day’s special on the fad menu. Ministers all wanted their own. Top officials thought they sounded like a great idea. Delighted suppliers queued up to offer their services to government. We’ll talk about apps in more detail later. For now, all you need to know is that GDS blocked 99% of requests for them. Government wasn’t ready for apps, because the people asking for them didn’t really know what they were for. They just sounded good. The blogpost explaining the apps policy, written by Tom Loosemore in 2013, quickly became the digital team’s most widely read post. 16 We have seen too many chief executives and department heads proudly explain their organisation’s pioneering work on artificial intelligence, say, while in the same breath conceding their back office systems can’t reliably pay employees on time. Or running pilots with connected devices while thousands of their customers still post them cheques. This is not to say that preparing for the future isn’t right and good. Responsible leaders need to keep their eyes on the horizon. The successful leaders are those who can do this while remaining mindful their view will be ruined if they step in something disgusting lying on the floor.

from “Digital Transformation at Scale: Why the Strategy Is Delivery (Perspectives)” by Andrew Greenway, Ben Terrett, Mike Bracken, Tom Loosemore

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Americans smile a lot

Just as it is easy to misinterpret the reason for an icebreaker activity, it’s easy to mistake certain social customs of Americans that might suggest strong personal connections where none are intended. For example, Americans are more likely than those from many cultures to smile at strangers and to engage in personal discussions with people they hardly know. Others may interpret this “friendliness” as an offer of friendship. Later, when the Americans don’t follow through on their unintended offer, those other cultures often accuse them of being “fake” or “hypocritical.”

Also:

…[a] Russian saying “If we pass a stranger on the street who is smiling, we know with certainty that that person is crazy . . . or else American.”

From The Culture Map

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“Most people in contemporary society don’t believe in Athena”

COWEN: When you translated the Odyssey — as a reader, I think of your approach as pretty clean and direct and very easy to read, but also with a lot of psychological depth, and I prefer that in the Odyssey. But when I read, say, the Hebrew Bible, I want something a little more, maybe stentorian in tone, or a little more baroque, actually. I think a lot of people feel the same way. Why that difference? Why do we want something different from a Bible translation often?

WILSON: ..I think it’s partly just about the source text, and it’s also about the cultural perception of the sourced text. Most people in contemporary society don’t believe in Athena, so we have a different idea about how should divinity be represented in this text versus in a text where there are people who still worship the God of the Hebrew Bible, right?

From “Emily Wilson on Translations and Language,” _Conversations with Tyler, episode 63.

a dream I could only watch instead of do

She never brought up Daniel again, but it didn’t really matter. I’d already made it a habit to consider the way my life could have been if I’d said yes when Daniel had asked the question I knew he didn’t even think was a question, just a rite of passage we had to go through. (You could see a marriage approach some couples in Texas the same way you could watch a summer storm churning on the plains, miles before it hit.) It was possible my life wouldn’t have been any more or less enjoyable had I turned from person to wife, wife to parent, had I stayed in White Deer and parceled my hours out to a family, turned my mother grand. (A life might comfortably disappear into a well-worn groove between house, school, and grocery store. (All lives disappear one way or another. (All hours get spent.))) But as pleasant as it might have been, that kind of life also seemed—somehow—elsewhere, like a dream I could only watch instead of do.

From Certain American States: Stories by Catherine Lacey

Maybe the legacy organization actually knows what they’re doing

Usually we’re told that improving IT means changing the old organization. I’ve been re-reading The Art of Business Value, and re-came across this, to the contrary:

This way of thinking has always struck me as a little strange. Our goal is to deliver value, to figure out how to meet the needs that are determined by the organization, and yet we consider the organization to be the biggest impediment to doing so. The only explanation I can think of for this is that we are implicitly assuming that there is a stable, objective, preordained definition of business value, and we are determined to deliver on that definition despite the organization around us. In my experience, this arrogance is not warranted; in fact, the organization probably understands value in ways that the Agile team does not, and the obstacles to Agile adoption actually tell us something useful about business value in the organization.

Because, in fact, the organization knows the “business value,” the strategy, it’s in charge of reliving:

The organization has had to learn what business strategies, values, protocols, and behaviors work in its environment to support its ultimate aims, whether those are maximizing shareholder value or accomplishing mission objectives. That learning forms the basis of tacit assumptions and norms, the organization’s collected wisdom about what behaviors foster success. And if success means accomplishing the ultimate goals that serve as the sources of business value, then the Agile team must come to understand those values, strategies, goals, and operational modes that are embedded in the culture around it—that is, the business values that have been known to foster success.

From The Art of Business Value.

Management, as practiced by a young IBM

Of course, there were countercurrents. Managers wanted to control activities. That impetus for control and management of potential risks led to the rise of bureaucracy, characterized by highly defined processes. Generations of executives micromanaged people all the way down the organization while fighting the growth of paperwork and “signoffs.” Such behavior also originated with Watson Sr., who exhibited such contradictory behavior. A vast number of decisions came to him, so many that when his son Tom took over the business in the mid-1950s, one of the first things he did was reorganize IBM to move decision making out of headquarters and into the broader organization.

Yet, simultaneously, the Old Man admonished employees to take individual responsibility for running their “piece of the business,” a phrase used frequently by executives with their staffs. Reflecting back on his first ten years at IBM in 1924, Watson Sr. told a class of the company’s executives that, “It is our policy not to burden any one man, or any group of men, with the responsibility of running this business.” 17 He gave thousands of talks to employees extolling these themes and a positive philosophy about IBM sales. By the early 1920s, this eternal optimist had begun telling salesmen that only 5 percent of all business information was handled by data processing, leaving 95 percent yet to be seized, a magnificent sales opportunity. He spent more time talking to his employees around the world than most future CEOs at IBM would. He met continuously with customers and public officials, far less so with the media.” from “IBM: The Rise and Fall and Reinvention of a Global Icon (History of Computing)” by James W. Cortada

From the history of IBM book I’ve been reading. See more…

Churchill’s Daily Practice

This was despite his continuing large daily intake of alcohol. Harold Nicolson recalls a friend coming away from lunch with Churchill “rather shocked by . . . the immense amount of port and brandy he consumed.” On a typical day, according to his aide Sir Ian Jacob, Churchill drank champagne and brandy with lunch, then, after his afternoon nap, had two or three glasses of whisky and soda, then champagne and brandy with dinner, followed by more whisky and soda. Jacob noted that he also sometimes accompanied his breakfast with white wine.

From Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom.