Author Archive

Health, Education & Productivity

A recent email brought notice of four impressive National Academy reports.  Two were 2021 reports on High Quality Primary Care and The Future of Nursing.  One was a 2017 report on Pathways to Health Equity and the other was a 2012 report on Primary Care and Public Health.  These are all impressive pieces of work. […]

Addressing Complications

The world seems to be coming increasingly complicated.  Everything seems connected to everything.  It seems reasonable to argue that this has long been the case.  Diseases migrated from the old world to the new world, as did social and cultural norms.  However, this process took years or decades. Now, accelerated by technology, it takes days […]

The Spectrum of Talent

Economic growth, many argue, stems from technological innovation.  Does technological innovation depend on the flow of STEM talent from our educational system?  That certainly was not the case in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Inventors emerged from all corners of society, few equipped with degrees in science and technology. The transformation from inventions to innovation […]

Rethinking Health, Education & Productivity

As I have discussed many times before, a compelling overall goal is a healthy, educated, and productive population that is competitive in the global marketplace. Anyone who is not healthy is a drag on the national economy Anyone who is not educated is a drag on the national economy Anyone who is not productive is […]

Investment Priorities

We have, of late, been focused on federal policies to assure and enhance the STEM talent pipeline in the US.  There is a widespread sense that the pipeline is not as robust as the economy and competitiveness requires.  Are we trying to “fix” STEM?  Maybe, but we need to keep priorities in perspective.  As I […]

DoD Acquisition as a Sport

The US Department of Defense acquires systems to equip forces to assure the national security of the country.  The process of acquiring systems is termed Acquisition, which involves a very complex organizational system across the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the four (now five) military services, and the aerospace/defense industry.  It is very competitive. […]

Is Everything Connected to Everything

For many years, my research related to design, operations, and maintenance of national security and space systems.  Over the past two decades, I have added healthcare delivery, higher education, urban systems, as well as energy and transportation.  These complex ecosystems interact in myriad ways.  In particular, they interact in terms of claims on societal resources. […]

What Has Changed

I began my career as an engineering assistant at Raytheon over 50 years ago.  Since then, I have founded and managed five high-tech companies, and held faculty positions at six universities.  These experiences led to working with 100+ companies, agencies, foundations, etc.  What has changed over the course of this journey? Increased computing power at […]

The Inequality of Hidden Taxes

The 2020-21 “multi-demic” of the coronavirus, economic disruption, and racial unrest has prompted a wealth of promising ideas for how to improve everyone’s lives in terms of health and wellness, economic security, and racial equity.  As appealing as these ideas may be, they will face enormous implementation challenges and hurdles. We have been here before […]

Theory to Practice

According to Wikipedia, “Critical race theory is an academic movement of civil rights scholars and activists in the United States who seek to critically examine the law as it intersects with issues of race and to challenge mainstream liberal approaches to racial justice.  Critical race theory examines social, cultural and legal issues as they relate […]

The Business of Lying

Bill Bryson’s remarkable book, Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United State (William Morrow, 2001), chronicles the history of the English language in the US.  His chapters on travel, cooking, shopping, and advertising are particularly compelling. A key element of Bryson’s story concerns how we are convinced to value, […]

Making Money Without Providing Value

What if you could make money by selling people securities, or equivalent, that have no inherent value, but people think will eventually be worth substantially more than they paid you for them?  You can potentially make money from an endeavor that provides no value to the economy or society.  You can make money off of […]

Games for Life

I have always enjoyed playing cards.  When growing up, card games were frequent in my family and quite serious in the sense that you did not joke around.  You seriously and studiously did your best to win.  I play cards every day, now online.  In this post, I consider how card games can help us […]

Intuitions That Mislead Us

One of my recent readings has been the late Hans Rosling’s Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. (Flatiron Books, 2018).  It is a fascinating read, loaded with valuable insights. Hans Rosling asked chimpanzees to answer 13 multiple-choice questions about the state of the world.  […]

The Wild West of Commodity Trading

I recently read Javier Blas and Jack Farchy’s The World for Sale: Money, Power, and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources (Oxford University Press, 2021).  This fascinating book reads like a novel, almost a page turner.  What will the traders do next? They chronicle the history of commodity traders of oil, grain, metals, and […]

On Being Colonized

During the Era of Colonialism (late 1400s to the mid- to late 1900s), European powers colonized most of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania, the Middle East and the Arctic, excluding Antarctica.  This typically involved oppression and exploitation of indigenous ethnic and racial groups inside the geographical area colonized.  This oppression and exploitation often is […]

Humans as Apex Predators

Simon Winchester’s latest book, Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World (Harper, 2021), caused me to think about humans’ roles in the overall ecosystem. Are we apex predators, meaning that we regularly eat many other species but no other species regularly eats us? The contrast that interests me is not apex versus […]

Perspectives on Work

I recently finished James Suzman’s fascinating book Work: A Deep History, from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots (Penguin Press, 2021).  He chronicles humans’ work practices over many millennia.  The meaning of work has changed dramatically over this period.  Perspectives that we take for granted emerged much more recently than one might have […]

Rules for Robots

Isaac Asimov introduced three rules for robots in his 1942 short story “Runaround,” which is included in his 1950 collection I, Robot. “First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human […]

One Overarching Goal

Many problems and potential fixes are being considered and debated to address the pandemic, associated economic slump, and economic and social inequities. Climate change is hovering in the wings.  How do all these potential initiatives fit together? I think we can integrate all of these ideas by thinking about how they all support pursuit of […]

Too Many Stakeholders and Too Many Ideas

There are many complex contexts that involve a wide range of stakeholders with a broad array of ideas for improving the context of interest.  Such contexts can range from neighborhoods to wards to cities to states and countries.  I am involved in one right now with 200+ ideas; a few years ago, I played a […]

Transform Work to Transform Culture

Most organizations want members of their workforce to be more collaborative, share information, and make better and faster decisions.  These pursuits are often termed workforce culture transformation.  For very large organizations, for example, elements of the federal government, this can be a daunting aspiration. Consider experiences with two examples of transforming work.  Over the past […]

How to Be a Republican

I grew up in New England in the 1960s and 70s.  My whole family was Republican.  We supported John Chafee, Edmund Brooke, Eliot Richardson, and Nelson Rockefeller.  Social liberals and fiscal conservatives.  These types of Republicans are long gone.  Nixon, then Reagan, and recently Trump discovered that courting southern whites could win elections.  Social liberalism […]

Brick by Brick and Other Innovations

I recently read Robertson and Breen’s Brick by Brick: How Lego Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry (Crown Business, 2013).  As my children, grandchildren, and I have been long-time Lego fans, this book was fascinating.  It led me to think about innovation more broadly. But first, let’s consider the Lego […]

The Invention of History

I have just finished reading Robin L. Fox’s The Invention of Medicine: From Homer to Hippocrates (Basic Books, 2020).  I found it interesting that numerous medical treatises were attributed to Hippocrates many centuries after his death.  It seems that the content of these treatises was more credible if attributed to Hippocrates.  I have read of […]

The Old and New Normal

The old normal involved lots of bus, metro, and uber rides to meetings with sponsors, colleagues, and friends in pursuit of new opportunities, progress on existing opportunities, and just plain socializing.  Transit time was at least an hour per day and sometimes two, sitting in a bus, train, or car catching up on your email […]

Mentoring

I often encounter people seeking mentoring.  What are they usually seeking?  My sense is that they are facing one or more dilemmas.  They are seeking help to make sense of and address these dilemmas. One dilemma is that they are facing an important decision about what to do next in their careers.  They can see […]

An Agenda for Change

What needs to change to transform our society in the ways needed to achieve new levels of equality, performance, and value creation?  I have nine suggestions in two broad areas.  In general, we need to move from status quo practices to best practices as shown in the table below.   Function Best Practices Status Quo […]

Frustrations With Change

There are several forces currently driving change in our society: Pandemic impacts that have completely upset the status quo Economic impacts of the pandemic that have left many in dire straights Disproportionate effects of economic, educational and social inequities These forces have led to an overwhelmed healthcare system, enormous unemployment, and intense frustration on the […]

A Wicked Problem

Wicked problems defy formulation and resolution.  They involve conflicting values, concerns, and perceptions that lead to conflicts, strong positions, and perhaps even hatred of the “others” who have opposing views. We are faced with roughly 50% of the country being in fundamental conflict with the other 50% of the country.  Actually, Biden-Harris won 51.3% of […]

Knowing and Being

This book provides a great tour of philosophy, primarily German, in the early decades of the 20th century. Eilenberger, W. (2018). Time of the Magicians. Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer, Heidegger and the Decade that Reinvented Philosophy. New York: Penguin. Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859), Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (1905), and Freud’s Psychoanalysis (1917) had upset […]

Understanding and Managing Complexity

If you think the complexity of the current situation – pandemic, global warming, and race relations – is overwhelming, I have a suggestion for coping with the complexity.  The just published issue of The Bridge (https://www.nae.edu/Bridge.aspx) provides a wonderfully broad and intriguing set of perspectives of how complexity is manifested throughout our society.  We cannot […]

Crossing the Information Chasm

Facebook, Twitter, and other emergent platforms have resulted in the Balkanization of the world of information.  There are large subpopulations that believe the moon landing was faked, climate change and the pandemic are hoaxes, and the presidential election was fraudulently stolen from Donald Trump. They only pay attention to information sources that support these views.  […]

Changing of the Palace Guard

It is interesting to live in Washington, DC and observe how sponsors and colleagues are reacting to the changing of the palace guard.  Most of these people are at least one level below the political appointees of the palace guard and will not be leaving.  They seem relieved, not existentially but practically.  Their new superiors […]

Problem Solving in Complex Adaptive Systems

It is important to distinguish between understanding complex problems and solving them. Solving problems in complex adaptive systems can be quite difficult and often intractable. Climate change, global warming and their consequences provide a compelling example. The science seems clear in terms of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. The relationship […]

Designing as Dialogues in Contexts

Subramanian, E., Reich, Y., & Krishnan, S. (2020). We Are Not Users: Dialogues, Diversity, and Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. The authors’ central argument is that we have a much deeper relationship with the things we create than just being users. Social media provides compelling examples of how the usability of the interface, while important, […]

Investment Strategies

How do people envision the future?  How do they consider uncertainties? How do they think about investing today to have a better tomorrow? People seem willing to invest in their personal futures, e.g., retirement. They seem willing to invest in their children’s futures, e.g., education. The further they look into the future, the more difficult […]

Progress at the Speed of Trust

Stephen Covey originated this idea in his book The Speed of Trust (Free Press, 2006).  Progress is limited by the extent to which key stakeholders trust in the endeavor of interest and support its pursuit. There are multiple levels of trust.  At one level, we are concerned that leaders and other authorities will not mislead […]

Hope in Troubling Times

How can we deal with all the negative things swirling around us?  A natural tendency is to hunker down and avoid the bad vibrations. Just wait out the negative things until positive things are possible. Of course, if everyone does this, anything positive could be a long time coming.  Michael Curry has a proposal. Curry […]

Transforming Anger

It is so very easy to get angry about the current situation in the US.  Pandemic, recession, hurricanes, flooding, fires, earthquakes, protests about racial injustice, attempts to pack the Supreme Court and undermine elections are all woven together over the past six months.  It is almost a perfect storm of calamities. My anger is not […]

Unfortunate Themes

Here is my recent reading/watching list: Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America by Kurt Anderson (Random House, 2020) The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket by Benjamin Lorr (Avery, 2020) Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell (Little Brown, 2019) The Social […]

A Reformed Optimist

“Everything will work out in the end and, if it doesn’t, it is not the end.” This was a theme in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012) but attributed to Paul Coelho and John Lennon much earlier. I am an inveterate optimist, but I am reconsidering my inclinations.  Look how we have handled […]

Death by Complexity

Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge University Press, 1988) presaged Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking Press, 2004).  Both books provide vivid explanations of how societies fail and why. Societies create mechanisms to deal with new challenges.  Walls are built to thwart Mongol hoards.  Regulations are created to […]

Disruptive Innovation in the Public Sector

How can innovation be cultivated in the public sector?  Consider defense, education, and healthcare.  These three primarily public sector systems are ripe for disruption and innovation. Enormous improvements of services and decreased costs are undoubtedly achievable. The key question is how to disrupt the status quo. Let’s first consider how a direct approach might work, […]

The Game of Life

I have just finished reading a wonderful book by Maria Konnikova, The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win (Penguin Press, 2020).  Konnikova is a PhD psychologist who researches decision making and risk.  She decides to study this in the domain of poker.  She begins as a total novice and […]

Wrenches in the Works

It is very difficult to foster change and innovation in complex social systems.  You need to understand key stakeholders; their perceptions, concerns, and values; and how to gain their support for central elements of the changes being entertained.  It can take much time and work to build a coalition capable of moving forward. Examples of […]

A Real Deal

We have in the US over 400 years of injustice in our country. Native Americans, African-Americans, and more recent immigrants have all been abused. We have taken advantage of them for the benefits of mainstream Americans at the time. What was this mainstream?  Initially it was immigrants to Massachusetts and Virginia. Over time, we added […]

The Nature of Evidence

Show Me the Evidence was a popular book by Ron Haskins and Greg Margolis published by Brookings in 2014. The central idea was that economic and social policy should be based on credible data rather than just opinion and advocacy. This seems reasonable, although ideology has of late disrupted these intentions. Can this idea be […]

The Loss of Time

When all the days seem the same and the patterns of daily life endlessly repeat, you can begin to feel that time is gone.  The clock has stopped.  Nothing progresses. Everything is now.  The future, even the past, is on hold.  Everything will repeat, again and again. Of course, repetition has always been true. Birth, […]

Dealing With Risks

This is a very risky time. What does that mean?  Risk equals the probability that something unfortunate happens times the consequences of it happening. It seems like both sides of this equation are working against us. So, what to do?  First, we need to differentiate risks to you and the general public. If you have […]

A Complex Society

Recent challenges suggest that the complexity of society in the US has become increasingly difficult to understand and manage.  We seem to have great trouble agreeing on anything.  Consequently, we do not act to quickly understand what is happening and competently develop and execute compelling courses of action.  Let’s explore the sources of the impasse. […]

Social & Economic Equality

We have been awash in protests of racial inequality. Assuming we agree inequality is bad — not everyone does — what can be done to greatly diminish this inequality? Those who have suffered this discrimination are poor, unhealthy, and uneducated. How can we address these discrepancies?  We could just give everybody money.  This idea has […]

The Academia-Industry Interface

Academia scales down problems to make them rigorously tractable for the methods being researched. Industry scales up the methods, often sacrificing rigor, to assure results are applicable to real problems. While these may seem like mutually exclusive strategies, that need not be the case. What are needed are intermediaries who understand both sides of the […]

Betting on Change

We expect that the pandemic will lead to a new normal that will be significantly different than the old normal.  Perhaps there will be opportunities for innovations in the marketplace.  What changes deserve our bets? We can assume that people will always want pasta, potatoes or rice, as well as beans, broccoli or mushrooms. But […]

Two Months of Quarantine

Two months or one sixth of a year limited to once a week early senior mornings at the grocery store with 6-8 other older folks stocking up.  Everybody is in masks. Feels like a heist. I am getting used to the routine of every day being the same as every other day. Actually, it has […]

The New Normal

Zoom and other online platforms are working out pretty well.  Teaching class this way is better than many people expected.  Many types of doctor’s appointments are much easier logistically and are more satisfying than driving, waiting, etc.  Social get-togethers using these platforms are not as good, but they are much better than social isolation. Once […]

Zooming Ahead

Over the past two days I was immersed in two Zoom meetings, one for 6 1/2 hours and another for 7 hours. The first was a National Academy of Engineering convocation, which I helped organize. I was one of the two speakers who wrapped up each half day. The second was a Division of Behavioral […]

Making History

I recently encountered an amazing app and I am dumbfounded as to how it works.  It is called My History. You can watch any sporting event from the past, for example, the Colts-Jets Super Bowl of 1969. If you watch with the My History app, the Jets do not necessarily win. Their upset quest is […]

Two Disparities

We have recently learned that blacks have been disproportionately dying from the coronavirus.  This is not because the virus is sensitive to the race of its victims.  It is because blacks are much more likely to have health issues that undermine their abilities to survive the virus – asthma, diabetes, obesity, etc. A recent study, […]

Robber Barons

Unregulated capitalism developed a strategy in the 19th century, if not earlier, of the big players putting the small players out of business, either by acquiring them or cutting prices below which the smaller players could not survive. Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie excelled at this, often financed by JP Morgan. Once the small, possible innovators, […]

Mental Health

I have lately been delving into substance abuse, suicide, and mental health in general. This past weekend, I used an AI-based platform to digest 250 journal articles on these topics.  The resulting panorama of mental health is really astounding. I have earlier focused on hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and, most recently, cancer. My sense is […]

Social Distancing

We are trying our best to physically distance ourselves from risks of the coronavirus.  Along with washing hands and not touching your face, this practice seems to make much sense.  Everyone I know seems to be doing these things.  However, the phrase “social distancing” got me thinking. Most of us have been social distancing for […]

Butterfly or Bat

The coronavirus started when a person ate a bat or another wild animal infected by a bat – both being in the same neighborhood market where wild animals were sold.  This person became “patient zero” in what has blossomed into the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, the bat cannot be faulted.  The behaviors of the human […]

Five Great Service Providers

It is really wonderful to experience great service.  In this post, I highlight five companies that epitomize my criteria for great services.  One is 170 years old, another 98 years old, another 75 years old, and the others 39 and 32 years old.  Several much younger companies, with whom I interact, do not make my […]

What Happened Versus Why It Happened

How can we address alternative facts?  I think we should differentiate realities that can be empirically verified versus assertions about why these realities have occurred.  Succinctly, we need to differentiate data and evidence from various pundits’ interpretations. I am constantly amazed at the wealth of pundits available who will comment on anything.  There are thousands […]

King Coal

The government has delivered on its promise, via statutes and regulations, that every building in the US be heated by coal-fired electricity by 2050. All buildings – residential, commercial, and industrial – are required to have coal-fired electrical generators within the building.  Every building now has a coal bin and coal deliveries are ubiquitous. All […]

Power

Several previous posts have focused on the realities I have encountered in Washington, DC in the three years that I have been here.  Indeed, I feel like a stranger in a strange land.  This arena is supposedly focused on providing the greatest value for the citizens of this country.  More specifically, the goal is supposedly […]

Quality of Service Continues to Erode

I recently read about a passenger’s experience with American Airlines.  A six-hour flight from Newark to San Francisco had evolved to a 53-hour trip.  Due to several cancellations, American had suggested that the passenger buy a second ticket.  He waited and eventually made it – two days later.  Airlines ticket prices and fees continue to […]

Advocacy Driven Decision Making

Within much of engineering, and particularly, operations research, the goal is often the “best” decision that maximizes or minimizes a well-defined criterion or objective function.  One can then, for example, employ mathematical programming to calculate the lowest cost routes for delivery trucks.  Often one can even mathematically prove that these routes are best. Over the […]

Ten Years of Fundamental Change

After 163 posts of over 90,000 words — a 360-page book if published traditionally – we have reached the 10th anniversary of this blog.  So, what has happened?  Here are a few highlights, none of which this blog influenced. On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama won the presidency with 365 electoral votes to 173 received […]

Uncle Donny’s Picnic

When we last saw Uncle Donny, he was focused on making Monopoly great again, with rather mixed results.  Donny and Uncle Vladmir were mainly focused on making Monopoly great for them.  Neither of them is ever concerned with making things great for anybody else. Uncle Donny, it seems, lives on golf courses.  The picnic was […]

Two Moles

George and Alice told Sam about Emily and Edward’s revelations. “Pretty impressive, actually.  You taught them all about sex,” Sam remarked. “So, you aren’t concerned that they know all about you?” George asked. “Yes, I am concerned.  Emily and Edward are now SoftCorp moles.” “Like Kim Philby in the early 1950s?” Alice asked. “Wow, you […]

Double Play

The man reached into his suit coat pocket, pulled out a wallet, and flipped it open to show his badge. “Agent Sam Baker, FBI.” George froze.  He did not know what to do.  After a few seconds of just staring at Baker, he said, “How do you know me?” “We have been watching Freethinker Forum […]

Information & Control Versus Computation

A recent book, Possible Minds (Brockman, 2019), provides 25 essays on the future of AI, building upon Norbert Wiener’s 1948 classic Cybernetics: Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine.  A key distinction among these pundits is between information and control versus computation. This distinction is intriguing. My roots are definitely in the information […]

Freethinker Forum

George Adams was a graduate student in Public Policy at Georgetown.  He relied on a cognitive assistant that he named Emily after his favorite aunt. It was sort of a fun thing to do, thinking that Emily might be of some I’ll-defined assistance. George totally underestimated the possibilities. Emily learned from everything George did. His […]

Nature Shows

I have, of late, taken to watching quite a few programs of this genre.  The cinematography tends to be wonderful, especially with my high-definition television.  These shows are quite compelling to watch. One thing that immediately strikes me is how the world’s species are focused on eating each other. The dynamics of the food chains […]

Think Differently, Play Together

Over the past couple of decades, I have invested my energies in understanding complex enterprises in terms of the multiple levels of phenomena that underlie corporations, cities, countries, and even climate.  These levels include people, processes, organizations, and society, all of which both enable and constrain each other.  Ignoring any of these levels risks devising […]

Is N = 1 Feasible and Affordable?

In my last post, I argued that everyone is cognitively unique.  Others have argued that everyone is genetically unique.  Can we really tailor assistive technologies and medical care to each individual?  Is it feasible?  Is it affordable? Of course, there are many examples of how we tailor technology to our personal preferences.  We adjust the […]

Neural Diversity

In my early 50s, I changed my research focus from engineered systems — such as airplanes, ships, and power plants — to healthcare delivery. The central question was how to make the fragmented system in the US more effective and efficient. Now in my early 70s, I have for the past couple of years been […]

Drugs and Devices

We have this apparent predilection to want too much of a good thing.  Painkillers have their place, but not as a way of life.  Smart phones are enormously helpful, but do we really need 24×7 texts on every aspect of life?  Of course, this is not new.  Radio and TV talk shows have long captured […]

Taking Charge — Episode 8

The reception and dinner for Board of Trustees was held at the River’s Edge an upscale venue on the Hudson River on the eastern side of the Beresford property. “Welcome to everyone – trustees and guests,” Marie opens, after having clinked a spoon of a water glass to gain attention. “Welcome to Beresford Village.  Most […]

Taking Charge — Episode 7

Brad, Mary, and George meet in Marie’s conference room.  Marie will join them later.  Pete O’Connor has been recruited to help.  Pete is Director of Educational Technology at Beresford. “Pete, we have been doing some benchmarking of course offerings around the country,” George opens. “What have you found?” Pete asks. “There is sufficient high quality […]

Taking Charge — Episode 6

Phil Chen, the Beresford Provost, walked into Marie’s office.  They greeted each other and shook hands, and then sat across from each other at Marie’s conference table. “Phil, I want to outline a new hiring strategy and get your opinion.” “Sounds great.” “Let me provide a bit of background first.” “Ok.” Marie discussed her analysis […]

Taking Charge — Episode 5

Marie and George were drawn to exploring the real nature of value in higher education. “Are we investing in the things that create the most value for students and society?” Marie questioned. “It is not just a question of where we deploy each year’s discretionary resources.  It is also an issue of where we deploy […]

Taking Charge — Episode 4

“Ok, what is the upside of the subsidy? I think I know, but I want your assessment, George,” Marie opens. “Faculty members publish journal articles, that get cited, and over time increase their h-index,” George responds. “An h-index of N means that you have N or more articles cited at least N times.  Right?” “Yes.  […]

Taking Charge — Episode 3

George has been exploring how money is spent and the outcomes produced.  His latest quest has been trying to understand the benefits of subsidizing faculty members so they can pursue research.  When Marie and George operated at the department level, it never occurred to him to question this.  However, Beresford is trying to make it […]

Taking Charge — Episode 2

While George continued his sleuthing, Marie focused on building relationships across campus with faculty, staff, students, and alumni, as well as each member of the Board of Trustees.  It was a lot of work, leaving her exhausted every evening as she retreated to the President’s House. She tried to stay connected professionally with her colleagues […]

Taking Charge — Episode 1

Marie Cornwall had a distinguished career as an engineering faculty member and department chair at one of the top universities in the US.  Her specialty was decision making under risk.  She had published widely on this topic and was frequently sought for consulting engagements, as well as prestigious advisory boards.  From the perspectives of her […]

Baptizing Cats

A couple of ideas intersected this week.  First, a piece I was reading suggested that the endeavor they were elaborating was “As difficult as baptizing a cat.”  Depending on how you have related with cats in the past, this statement evokes an immediate sense of what the baptism experience would be like.  I am on […]

The Price of Tenure

To achieve promotion and tenure in science and engineering, you need 16-20 articles published in reputable journals.  You need to accomplish this in five years, so you need 3-4 articles per year.  You need to publish a significant portion of these articles with your PhD students.  I will assume 10 with PhD students and 10 […]

Making Monopoly Great Again

I was at one of my favorite pubs for brunch on Sunday, Town Hall on Wisconsin Avenue.  A few of us regulars, including the bartender, got talking about the new normal – Occasional Government.  We tried to find some analogy to help understand what is going on and likely to happen.  I suggested the following […]

What My Cognitive Assistant Knows

I posted a piece on Emily, my cognitive assistant, last March. Several readers have asked me what she really knows.  Beyond deep understanding of health and well being, driverless cars, and complex systems in general, what does she know about me? She has complete access to everything I do via computer or other digital devices. […]

Understanding Organizational Failure

When do organizations fail?  It is typically when their financials go south.  Their deficits are unsustainable.  Cash is draining from the enterprise.  Their strategies for stemming the tide are too little, too late.  Why do organizations fail?  What causes these financial outcomes? The story that led to these consequences almost always started playing out much […]

An Unexpected Interview

I couldn’t tell whether the inquiry related to an opportunity for entertainment, adventure, or travel.  To my complete surprise, the inquiry led to a possible offer of employment.  The employer wanted me to join a team that would be exploring complexity.  I asked what that meant.  They said, “It is difficult to explain, but we […]

Security Plan

How should we handle the current wave of domestic terrorism?  It has been suggested that armed guards at all schools and houses of worship could solve the problem. Let’s estimate what that would cost, never mind its effectiveness. There are roughly 360,000 houses of worship —  350,000 churches, 4,000 synagogues, and  3,000 mosques.  360,000 times […]

Enough Is Enough

I have always been fiscally conservative and socially liberal which, when I lived in New England, meant that I was a moderate Republican aligned with the likes of Edward Brooke, John Chafee, Eliot Richardson, Nelson Rockefeller, and Margaret Chase Smith. I was a fan of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton 1, and Obama — […]

On Writing

In two months, this blog will see its ninth anniversary.  In well over 100 postings, I have discussed enterprise transformation and fundamental change, often in the context of academia, healthcare, transportation, and other domains.  What motivates these musings? First and foremost, I write to discover my position on issues, challenges, etc.  Rather than trying to […]

Strategic Thinking

I have started and led several companies, as well as research centers at universities.  Often, things get started with a serendipitous opportunity.  Suddenly, you have a paying customer or a willing investor, and soon an employee or two.  You begin to formalize things.  People ask about your strategic plan.  Winning another contract or securing another […]

Why You Should Avoid Delaware

If you travel through Delaware to get from New Jersey to Maryland, or vice versa, it will take 240% more time per mile and cost 600% more per mile than in other states.  These are pretty good reasons to avoid Delaware. It is 20 miles from the Maryland border to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. The […]

Stories of Compliance

My post “Cultures of Compliance” in September 2016 led to quite a few responses from readers.  I noted then that a culture of compliance laced with administrative incompetence is particularly lethal.  Many readers’ responses built on this theme.  In this post, I highlight some of the stories they related. Many stories related to food, primarily […]