Monday, January 14, 2013

Soliloquy of a Technocrat

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and not necessarily those of their employers

Author's note: This post has nothing to do with any technocratic political party. The word technocrat is only used to express the author's viewpoint as described below.


Definitions (As used in this paper):
Technocracy: The synergy of technology and the ideology of democracy
Wealth: Any economic resource including the most basic … food, clothing water etc...

I have always loved technology. From my first color television, to my commodore 64, to my new Kinect, I am amazed every day by the pure wonder that technology can bring to our lives. I remember before my family could afford a PC, I used to read all of the computer magazines and memorize details about the latest computer technologies, waiting and hoping for the day I could get my hands on them. My perspectives have matured, and though I am still like a kid in a candy store with new technologies, I have grown to understand why I love technology so much . I think somewhere deep inside I have always known that technological innovation is of key importance in helping to make the world a better place.

A few years ago I completed a Master’s Degree program in Technology Commercialization at the University of Texas. When I first walked in the door, I was excited to learn about the latest in hi-tech innovation, but I was surprised to learn that they had a completely different definition of what technological innovation is. They spoke of things that typically never came to mind as technological innovation; my definition was far too narrow. Technological innovation started with the beginning of mankind, from cavemen learning and creating new tools and techniques to hunt and gather, to the invention of the wheel and metallurgy, to Adam Smith creating specialized roles in early mills and factories; each of these new tools, methods and processes were crucial innovations no different from the latest robotics and supercomputers. Technology is about new and improved ways of doing anything; be it hi-tech or low.

While that was an important realization, I soon read something that drastically changed my entire perspective on technology … that all new wealth is created by technological innovation. This may sound strange at first, but it is one of the most crucial perspectives that I have learned in life. Keep in mind wealth here refers to economic resources as basic as running water and food. Our world is limited by scarce economic resources, it is full of people who suffer, starve and die every day. Our world has only so much production capacity, and unless there is a way to create new economic resources, there is little hope of increasing quality of life to the poor and suffering throughout the world.

The idea that we can create new economic resources was new to me. I had never thought of the world in those terms but it is true. Without innovation, 1 plus 1 will always equal 2, but when we innovate, we make the miraculous happen … we can make 1 plus 1 equal to more than 2. That is to say we can take the same amount of input, and realize more output. So if an innovation can allow a factory worker to make two pairs of shoes with the same amount of time and energy that it would have taken to make one pair of shoes, then that innovation will help more people in more places to eventually have something as simple as a pair of shoes … or clothing, shelter and food. And beyond economic resources, technological innovation transfers to political innovation. Technology has created an ever-increasing degree of transparency in government, and is what enables grassroots efforts that will reshape existing structures and create new forms of government. Technology has flattened the world, and every day the world grows smaller and different nations become increasingly economically intertwined … which is the most effective way to promote peace.

In my job, I help businesses to use technology to become more efficient … to do more with less. And in doing so that organization will be able to repurpose that money. While some of it may be absorbed by greed, some of it may trickle down to new production, including offshoring and outsourcing which will help to develop a far less mature economy. And as those economies grow they will in turn help others to grow. As those economies grow, caste systems will be eliminated, the middle class will rise, more people will have the opportunity to become educated. Those who would become criminals today could be given the opportunity to have better jobs, and be able to find fulfillment in providing a better quality of life for their families and not turn to violence out of ignorance and desperation.

A lot of people wonder how they can make a difference in the world, but I think we all do every day. Whether you create technology, manage it, or even just use it … each of these roles is so important. The wheel would have no effect if nobody used it nor improved upon it . The same is true of the printing press, or any other innovation which we know has made the world a better place. That is why I believe each of us has the responsibility to learn, and become educated, and to make the most of the gifts we have been given. When I hear of a factory job being offshored, I feel deeply for anyone who loses a job … but I also realize that we here in the wealthier country have the opportunity to become educated and to re-apply ourselves and realize our unique potential … something that many in this world do not have. That factory job could mean that someone who wouldn’t even have basic food and running water, now can.

I believe humanity is evolving and that technology can be used for good or evil, and the more we make use of the time and opportunities that we have been given, the better the world will become. Humanity is evolving, and technological innovation is the fuel that powers the growth and evolution of humanity.

And that is why I love technology. It is so much more than cool toys, it is a basis for who we are and who we can aspire to become. It is something we can utilize to make a difference in the world every day, and something tangible and real that we can see making the world better for all of humanity.

"Science and technology are not just for the already affluent; they can offer so many fresh opportunities for small or very traditional underperforming economies to be transformed into new, shared, and sustained prosperity - and, most important, for enhancement in the quality of everyday life." George Kozmetsky

Art Fewell started working with technology when he graduated from high school at the age of 15. Since that time he has worked for tech giants SBC Communications, Nortel, Cisco and is currently a Fabric Specialist at Dell, where he helps businesses to use technology to become more efficient. In his free time Art enjoys spending time with his wife Dez and his 6 and 8 year old sons Benjamin and Ryan.

The Spirit of Innovation

To be an innovator is to open your mind, stop being negative and bring back the idealism. Things can be better, progress has never, and will never be stopped. Move past the people who have told you that you can't, who have told you NO - there is no room in the world for 'that's just the way it is' mentality! If that were true we would still be living under kings and dictators, we would still be serfs, still be slaves. While I say we are no longer serfs and slaves, the truth is that we still are. The innovators of the past have given us greater freedom, but we are still in a world where the few control the power, where our sweat and labor is being used to enrich the few in power while much of the world is living in poverty and desperation. It is never easy to change the world, but it is what we have to do.

I know it was not easy for those who have died for freedom, for those who risked their lives stepping on the mayflower, for those who refused to go to the back of the bus, and for all of those who never stop fighting no matter how great the challenge may seem.

Remember those who have inspired you, people like Rosa Parks, Thomas Edison and others. All of these people carried with them the spirit of innovation, the spirit that says I will not give up, I know how to make the world a better place, and I will not be told 'that’s just the way it is'. They would not accept the world telling them how to think, how to act, or what their values should be. Today our challenges are different than those of our forefathers , but no less significant. Today businesses use their power for pure greed, we have allowed them to take from us our retirement, our health, even our homes, and we still continue to idolize greedy companies. How many more Bernie Madoff's and Enron's will it take. We have allowed the government to steal our democracy away from us, by forcing us to limit our choice to the lesser of two evils, to prevent real progress. They have created a system where only the rich or the corrupt can lead in effort to control the resources that were meant for every man, woman and child on this planet. Our churches have gone from being centers of compassion in our communities to being centers of division, giving us additional reasons to dislike each other instead of teaching us to love without judgment.

I know that we have all been given the gift of the ability to create a better future for ourselves, and that is the essence of our humanity, that is innovation. Today, the forefronts of science are discovering amazing, miraculous things that are shaking the foundations of empirical thought, but in our history, there has been one consistent … progress - that is the one true empiricism. As we face the challenges of the future, we need to look to the past, to understand our humanity, to understand what we have been fighting for, and to know that now, we are closer than ever to the world that we all want, too close to give up. The history of a humanity is a story of innovation. A story that shows from the beginning the powerful have been trying to control our bodies, our minds and the resources meant for all of us, and how every step of the way, slowly but surely, we have been fighting to take it back.

Many people look at the youth of today ands see rebellion, narcissism and ego, but I see something deeper. What greater ego could there have been than Rosa Parks, telling an entire nation with her actions that they were all wrong. But this is not ego, it is intelligence and pride, knowing that she knew a better way. Ego is our unfortunate response that arises when we are told that others are better, and more capable, and deserve more than we do. We have been taught to believe this our whole lives, but inside we know this is not true, there is no one greater than the least of us … we were all born with the same gifts … to have our own will and with the ability to create our own future.

The spirit of innovation calls to all of us, to believe in ourselves, to never stop fighting. No man has ever invented anything alone, every wonderful thing we have was already here, on this planet, just waiting to be discovered. These gifts belong to no man, they belong to us all.

So let us innovate, and bring real meaningful progress, taking back the world for the people whom it was meant for. We no longer need to simply protest, we have been given the tools that enable us all to share our ideas, and passions. Social media tools that help us all to find others with common interests and ideas so we can band together and bring sustainable, meaningful change to create a better world.

I used to sit in school in pure amazement of the idea that Edison, Plato and others just came up with their brilliant ideas seemingly out of thin air, and I wondered how anyone could be so smart … but I have come to realize that Plato and others were solving the challenge meant for them, in their day, and that we have new challenges, new problems that have not yet been solved.  Each of us have the knowledge and the ability to find new, better ways to improve all aspects of our lives. We can no longer allow ourselves to be told that we must accept old ways of doing things when we know there is a better way. It is up to each of us to believe in ourselves, and work together to create a better tomorrow.

The Innovators credo:

I am Plato, I am Thomas Edison, I am Rosa Parks, I am (Fill in the name of those who inspire you) … I will not be told how to think, how to act or what my values should be. I will not be told to simply accept the bad of the present … I have the courage, strength and conviction to fight for a better future for myself, for my children, and for all of humanity. I am the spirit of innovation, I will not, and cannot be stopped, and I will create a better future for our world.

"I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free." Rosa Parks

"We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles." Thomas Edison

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends upon the unreasonable man." G.B. Shaw

Art Fewell grew up in a trailer park, and never thought much of his own capabilities ... but he was given the greatest blessing: people who believed in him. And because of this, he has accomplished far more than he ever thought he could. Art has worked for tech giants SBC Communications, Nortel, Cisco and is currently working at Dell, where he spends his time trying to bring meaningful innovation to the world.   Outside of work Art enjoys spending time with his wife Dez and his sons Benjamin and Ryan.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.

On the evolution of culture and morality

I just posted a comment to a thought provoking article on this topic ... thought I would share my views

There is widespread confusion across the whole of society between lasting principles of reality and temporal best practices only applicable within particular social paradigms and sub-cultural practices. For example one thing I have found to be fairly pervasive across most branches of Christianity is the notion that perhaps Levitical laws towards food were simply examples of a divine 'God' revealing his scientific knowledge of food cleanliness and sanitation in a way that primitive ancient people would understand. The notion of temporary practices espoused as moral codes is accepted by most Christian leaders across all sects in various examples -  even Paul addresses an example of this concept directly with his 'weaker brother' argument in Romans 14. Yet despite numerous examples there is a massive selective enforcement of this notion across sects and rigidly dogmatic views espoused for concepts that theology might imply could be similarly temporal. The result is a global citizenship marked by widespread confusion about the separation of ethics, morality and religious principles ... most don't know how to separate the concepts and many that see the separation are torn asunder by religious leaders who are rigidly dogmatic and threatening - inconsistently using terms like "moral relativism' to scare their audience into compliance with narrow-minded and selectively enforced dogma. 

As pervasive as this mentality has been across our country it has fueled a larger challenge to most sociocultural concepts that are new. Our society has been conditioned by the idea that we had already reached perfection in our governmental and sociological systems and need to work backward to get back to the time when these systems functioned ... all the wile the reality is they never did. And these religiously-motivated ideologies bleed into all aspects of culture. For example being from a single parent home used to be seen as inferior causing numerous social problems and there were legitimate studies to back that up. I was raised in a single-parent home during a time when it was far less common and got to experience the sting of being a bit of a social pariah due to the rarity and the pervasive cultural judgmentalism towards single-parent families. Today we see single-parent homes becoming much more pervasive, and correspondingly more recent studies of this no longer show the same negative psychological delta between those raised in single and dual parent households, so perhaps it was never about single vs. dual household but rather about being an outcast and victim of rigid societal close-mindedness and rampant judgmentalism. A similar example is the modern 'slut' - wasnt that long ago that it seemed majority of the most well regarded psychological experts claimed definitively that having multiple sexual partners had a much more negative & traumatic psychological impact for women - and their reasoning was that clearly monogomy must be physiologically wired specifically into females ... and now in the post-sexual revolution it doesnt take more than a trip to a local college or a survey of the healthiest and most successful women in our society to see how misguided this notion was. As ridiculous as it sounds that is the past we are currently awakening from - . My mom is a nurse and she always said the biggest surprise in her life was that childbearing actually caused physical pain as she went to nursing school at a time (not long ago, in the early 70's) where the male-dominated medical field taught that labor pain was just a figment of the female imagination. 

Perhaps in a war-centric population, it may have been necessary to have only a very limited set of social norms that were acceptable, but today as the world moves rapidly into the information era and the creative economy, success is contingent on our ability to move past these outdated norms and re-examine in detail what it is that makes our society the most CREATIVE, happy, healthy and successful that it can be.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and not necessarily those of their employers

Friday, August 3, 2012

Why I love our government services


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and not necessarily those of their employers

Monday, April 9, 2012

Innovation OR moral relativism, NOT Both


If I were to tell many that society trends towards the positive, the traditional ‘thinking mans’ approach would be to say that this is childs stories and idealistic fantasies, we ebb and flow, history repeats itself and while nuclear technology can be used for good, we could just as easily end up blowing each other up and ending all life … this is true, it is possible, that is the mystery in between free will and the clearly deterministic pattern that occurs in nature.

But, when we come to realize that all of nature through all of recorded history has been that of expanding life, and we realize that nature in fact acts as though it ‘wants’ life to expand, somehow the actual reality of what nature needs today is something we happen to find very fulfilling, and we can see that the evidence in nature would not indicate a consistent ebb and flow of the same menial reality, but a net positive gain that is favorable towards expanding life, which is clearly apparent when you look at larger trends. We have been misaligning the actual realities of what is possible with the percentage of possible development that our systems allow us to capitalize upon.

Everything that is possible today was physically possible 1000 years ago, the only difference is that technological innovation creates new possibilities, it allows us to adapt reality to what we find fulfilling today which is an extension of what mankind has always desired.

Today, the simple math is that innovation always results in less effort to accomplish a task, and larger innovations result in a lot less people required to accomplish a task. There is not a linear relationship between the efficacy of an innovation and the needs that society places on nature, one person can come up with an invention that replaces the need for 10, 100, 1000 people creating a surplus of energy available to work on solving more complex challenges. The feeling of fulfillment that we get from being creative could simply be an illusion that nature plays to get us to solve increasingly complex challenges and expand life in the universe.

But, where I think it is cool, the romantic side of things is that my perception is at any point in history, people still hold the same ideals, they still enjoy a positive reality, they simply come to accept the notion that the burden of reality is greatly difficult. If we gave the person 1000 years ago the choice between free, independent and creative work, and indentured servitude (or the modern corporate equivalent), they would have likely chosen something that was primitive to today’s norm, but the more positive of the choices that fit into their worldview (This is the basis of human game theory models), this would indicate that our feeling of fulfillment is more than just a temporary evolutionary mandate to meet a need.

A better example that I think is demonstrable is that we in this world today have people that are still living in a very primitive manner, and if we take a child from one norm and inject them to a new norm, they recognize that more modern approaches do not simply align to human desires to a physiological or evolutionary difference between people, human desire and the notions of goodness do not seem to change at their core, people get brainwashed and adjust and adapt, but short of a nonlinear inter-species type leap, we find fulfillment in the same ways that our ancestors would have if we control for other variables. Morality, love, and fulfillment, if they do come from a physiological source, are the same to all people.

So determinism from that perspective  would then tell a story of a species trying to adapt reality to itself, and perhaps a driving force in nature powering this drive. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” G.B. Shaw

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Love Principle


We are in a period of concentric waves of novelty in its most pure form. If you search for the root of novelty, you can increasingly see the drumbeat, the effects. The challenge becomes that each disruption unleashes a chain reaction of complimentary disruptions.

The other thing is that a human lens cannot predict the exact moment of novelty. This is essentially the Higgs-Boson particle of philosophy. It is clearly a good thing: stewardship of this knowledge is something that is beyond the human condition today. But, like Higgs-Boson, we can study this through inference, and it is through inference that we can start to identify the mathematical implications of strange attraction.

Essentially innovation results in the opposite effect of entropy; when an innovation occurs, the amount of output from the exchange of energy creates a slightly positive byproduct that becomes amplified through a network effect.

While we cannot identify the source of novelty, we can increase strange attraction, which occurs through dissemination of novelty, the chain reaction I was referring to earlier. Fortunately, innovations like the internet come with a system for rapid dissemination. The problems we are experiencing today are a result of a mismatch between potential and kinetic energy.

Society has essentially been stalled by corruption, and it has profound impact on the world. The last 100 years of management science have been a continuous disproving by academia of greed-motivated theories. Realizing the profound impact of Schumpeter we find the fundamental truth of disequilibrium/equilibrium=innovation.

As Schumpeter observed, scarcity is key to understanding the source of novelty, but there had to be something beyond, and considering the impact of scarcity, the weakness in the circle of life.

I submit to you the impetus within the human condition that pushes us from stasis into the moment of creation is love. (While I play off the hyperbole, please consider 'love' or other emotions in this example could simply be how we percieve physiological brain chemistry that could have evolved to promote expansion of life/complexity). Regardless of the ebb and flow, a look at history demonstrates a net positive growth in human dignity. Clearly this is the implication of Schumpeter, the implication of New Wealth, the evidence of the positive trajectory of humanity. We can’t say why, but something was set in motion, and this system that was set in motion was not left with motion alone, not left to pure chance; it had a safeguard, a clearly deterministic safeguard, the positive exchange of love.

The metaphorical loaf in the basket that never runs out, the principle that when we combine love with the network effect, the positive growth becomes one of infinite possibility. The only limitation to our advancement is opposition to diversity and the loss of faith that has become apparent in society today.

The challenge of the moment is that of dissemination. Right now the challenge society faces stems from the mismatch of potential and kinetic energy. Society has not yet absorbed the potential energy from the last significant disruption. The challenge that Apple nearly solved was the key to removing the jerkiness from innovation, to allow disruption without being disruptive. Apple's contribution was one of art ... the elegant marriage of left and right brain that facilitated adoption & dissemination. While this does facilitate enhancing the 'smoothness' of a disruption (a disruption in its own right) - this simply provides an enhancement to a disruptive strategy, and this enhancement to design approach is already becoming commodity & undifferentiated. It does not contribute otherwise to predicting disruptions or market readiness.
 
The key challenge that we face today is something that I think you have the potential to affect, which is the principle that I call the Apple Effect. The true source of Apple’s success was from the dissemination of previous development, the marriage of left and right brain so elegantly exemplified by Apple’s products was actually the development of art. But unfortunately Apple chose to cling to greed rather than openness, and subsequently it is going to miss out on the network effect. Apple is now attempting to abuse the regulatory system to impede dissemination, and this will contribute to the potential-kinetic energy mismatch, and the big threat here is the attractor of greed. Chaos bears relation to the attractor of love versus the attractor of greed.
 
But, greed is a problem. It is clearly a very powerful force, and it is exactly what prevented society from acknowledging Schumpeter and Drucker. As soon as a greed-based theory rears its ugly head it pulls quite strongly from the positive chain of strange attractors, strengthening the network effect of greed. The Apple effect is doing this today, even though its contribution was built on the back of Chesborough. Jobs took full credit, and has lead follower business leaders down a promising-looking path that is still based in short-sighted greed & unsustainable.

Strange attraction lies in the network effect; it is the chain by which novelty gets disseminated, and the mathematical basis for radical openness.

My belief is that the strange attraction of love is greater than the strange attraction of greed (or at least within our perceptions). Make no mistake, the solution of the economic problem today is the revival of the entrepreneurial spirit, and the spread the economic imperative of joy.

I do not mean to infer a Teleological source for determinism ... if there were in fact a Teleological source of determination, the obvious implication would be to recognize we are not supposed to know that, or to focus on that. I do however mean to infer that, potentially, determinism is positive through the state that we can only now consider as phenomena, a phenomena that is manifested as love.

Friday, April 6, 2012

if we are the 99%, then what the hell do we need them for anyway? the open source, the internet, the entrepreneurial spirit that this country was found upon, we are building a better world

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Schumpeterian Leadership: A Complex Systems Perspective

Here is another paper I wrote for a class ... not nearly thorough enough, but very interesting for a quick paper I hope.


Schumpeterian Leadership: A Complex Systems Perspective
Arthur Fewell
Northcentral University
  
Abstract
This paper seeks to analyze Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter’s work on development through the complex adaptive systems framework. Recent research has sought to combine equilibrium and disequilibrium based economic models into a unified complexity-based theory of strategic leadership; however, this review finds that Schumpeter utilized complexity based approaches heavily, inferring that his model is already based in complexity theory. This understanding can provide greater insight into Schumpeter’s approach and a simple translation into complexity frameworks to build upon the body of research.  Further, this paper cites evidence and argues that equilibrium based approaches do not accurately describe the economic reality of creative destruction and therefore should be limited to strategic management only within an economic norm. 

Schumpeterian Leadership: A Complex Systems Perspective

As the global economic crisis of the early 21st century continues to bear down on society causing significant human impact, progress is desperately needed; however as the economy flounders, disagreement about causes and indecision about solutions for improving economic woes proliferate. While there is little disagreement that financial mismanagement, short-sighted and misguided industrial management and rampant corruption have contributed significantly to economic woes, policy makers disagree on methods to correct the situation (U.S. Senate, 2011). While this disagreement abounds, the human toll of a poor economy continues to be very real, and it is apparent that more conclusive, effective and actionable research is necessary to move the economy forward (Walumbwa, Avolio, Gardner, Wernsing & Peterson. 2008). In addition to the need for consensus on methodology to improve the economy, there is also a great need to better understand organizational and sociological dynamics required to effectively introduce change. While there is currently tremendous research done on abstract personality attributes associated with follower-perceived leadership efficacy, additional empirically supported research is necessary to promote consensus support for strategic leadership approaches within the complex dynamics of real-world environments. In recent years, a growing body of research has been emerging to support the application of complexity theory to organizational behavior based on the notion that organizations behave as complex adaptive systems. Of particular note, substantial research by Bettencourt, Lobo, Helbing, Kuhnert, & West (2007) has provided strong empirical support demonstrating that organizations and industries do function as complex systems.  However, complexity based approaches are a relatively new area of focus for researchers, and while the tremendously broad range of applications for complexity theory demonstrates its relevance across all biological and sociological sciences, the breadth also distributes the efforts of researchers interested in organization complexity research across a wider range of applications. Again while this breadth has very positive implications for research, there is also tremendous need for increasing focus on the most urgent and immediately actionable research implications. In contrast to more recent attempts to support organizational complexity theory, Schumpeterian economic theories were established in the 1930’s and have had the benefit of 80 years of research (Diamond, 2007, p. 4). In recent years the popularity of Schumpeter’s theories have amplified as modern interpretations such as disruptive technology theory have gained tremendous popularity and support (Wiggins & Ruefli, 2005, p. 5). While Schumpeterian theories have shown tremendous promise in economics, there is a lack of clear linkage to the multitude of organizational processes that need to be established to create organizational efficacy, which is further convoluted by years of misguided research into Porter’s (1980) equilibrium based approach. In contrast, complexity theory provides actionable research that supports every aspect of complex systems; however it lacks a framework and clear ties to empirically established economics theory. This paper proposes that Schumpeter was heavily influenced by early complexity research in biological sciences, and that an examination of select works reveals striking parallels between the foundation of Schumpeterian principles and organizational complexity theories. A strong linkage between these areas of research could provide direction for advancement in complexity research by supporting the notion that the empirical support for Schumpeter could be applicable to organizational complexity theory. A sufficient demonstration of linkage between these concepts provides a clear precedent to direct and inspire further research, and lend support to the notion of complexity theory as a unified theory across sociological systems, and linking the implications of organizational complexity theory to strong economic growth indicators.
Cunha & Vieira (2006) suggest that research in strategy has traditionally been divided into “planning” and “learning” schools of thought. The “planning” school of thought is related to Porter’s (1980) work which suggests that deep knowledge of the environmental variables can provide an organization with a defensible competitive position (Cunha & Vieira, 2006, p. 839). The “learning” school of thought is based in Schumpeterian theories of creative destruction and perpetual disequilibrium (pp. 839-840). Cunha & Vieira suggest that a third paradigm has recently begun to emerge that synthesizes these two schools of thought into a unified “complexity theory of strategy” (p. 840). I would like to suggest however, that this unified complexity theory of strategy is neither new nor recent, but that Schumpeter utilized identical principles commonly found in complexity based approaches to strategic leadership in the formation of his economic theories (Schumpeter, 1993, 2005). Complexity theory proposes that novelty arises when “collections of actors with simple individual behavioral characteristics combine to produce complicated coordinated patterns of group behaviors that change and adapt to environmental circumstances”. In striking parallel, Schumpeter notes “The fundamental economic truth can be formulated as follows: all observable variables seek to place themselves in a certain relation to each other, or in other words, they adapt themselves to changes in data at all times.”
Research on systems dynamics reveals that in simple systems, individual agents in a system may fall into attractor patterns in which similar agents will organize in a collectivist manner and resist variation. Heylighen, (2006) observes “once the components have entered into this mutual arrangement (attractor), they will tend to stick to it, and no longer be able to undergo certain types of relative variation” (p. 3). Schumpeter (1993, 2005) again describes similar observations, “A continuous increase in population and wealth immediately explains an equally continuous improvement of roads and an increase of the mail coaches in circulation in a step-wise adapting manner. But add as many mail coaches as you please, you will never get a railroad in that way” (p. 115).
The difference between a simple system and a complex system according to complexity theory is the introduction of “strange attractors”, which, according to Boal and Schulz (2007), are “products of nonlinearity and interactivity” (p. 413). These types of attractors are considered to be ‘strange’ because they represent a partial move from stasis; systems devolve into chaos if stasis is not maintained, however novelty by its nature contradicts stasis. Such attractors are therefore considered to exist “between stable equilibrium points and complete randomness … these regions are typically referred to as the edge of chaos” (Boal and Schulz, 2007, p. 413).  Again Schumpeter (1933, 2005) describes strikingly similar characteristics in his observations, describing the “edge of chaos” in his own terminology noting that novelty arises between determinacy and indeterminacy, “Novelty is the true core of everything that must be accepted as indeterminate in the most profound sense. Novelty always exists together with a wide area of circumstances and processes that, in principle, are deterministic” (p. 113). Schumpeter further describes his view of novelty, distinguishing the concept of “development” from the concept of “growth”, defining growth as a series of linear adaptive steps, and defining novelty or development as phenomena that cannot be traced back through linear steps or linked solely to environmental or any other known causality.  Schumpeter never claims to have identified what the source of novelty is exactly other than that it is phenomena; however, he provides further linkage to complexity thinking by noting the similarity with Darwinian adaptation. However he does break with the Darwinian approach in that Schumpeter believed whatever the source of novelty is, if it is discoverable, will be discovered through economics as he suggested that the source of all novelty is inherently related to scarcity, stating that economics is “the origin of all concepts” (p. 118). So while numerous researchers have suggested the merging of deterministic and indeterministic theories into a common complexity theory (Cunha & Vieira, 2006; Holmdahl, 2005; Davis and Eisenhardt, 2005), it would appear that Schumpeter’s approach was already based in complexity theory.  Porter’s (1980) equilibrium approach was never an accurate description, and would never lead towards the sustainable differentiation that was the very aim of the theory; rather, equilibrium based approaches have served as a distraction that have led economic strategists and policy makers in exactly the wrong direction. Clearly however, there have been numerous empirical studies to support Porter’s equilibrium approach to strategy, which at the surface could make it appear as though the equilibrium approach has merit by which it can contribute to a larger complexity-based theory of strategic management. The answer to this seeming paradox is perhaps most evident in Wiggins & Ruefli’s (2006) landmark study in which they demonstrated exhaustively that companies which were pursuing equilibrium-based sustained competitive advantage approach did achieve superior growth; however, as would be expected according to Schumpeter’s thesis, the equilibrium based approach overwhelmingly led to diminishing returns and did not provide sustainable competitive advantage. Porter’s approach and related research provide excellent guidance for strategic efficacy within a given norm, however when new norms arise, Porter’s approach offer’s no guidance and can lead towards increasing entrenchment in existing products (McNamara, Vaaler, and Devers 2003; Constantinos & Oyon, 2010).  While this paper has not provided evidence beyond Wiggins and Ruefli on the accuracy of disequilibrium over equilibrium based approaches, the linkage supports the notion that empirical research in Schumpeterian economics lends support for complexity theory, and vice versa. Perhaps more importantly, a re-examination of Schumpeterian economics through the lens of complexity theory can provide a framework by which to better understand and to extend upon Schumpeter’s research. Schumpeter noted that he did not believe it would be possible to identify the root cause of novelty, but he also noted “We find novel phenomena in the economy as in any other social domain, and there is no difference between novelty in the economy and elsewhere. As usual, however, our vision is sharper in the economic domain than in other domains, because economics is the most quantitative of all sciences. Of all sciences, not just of the social sciences.” And Schumpeter indicates that perhaps it is possible to identify the source of novelty. “I have used the word ‘impossible.’ I think it is more correct to speak of a new task. This task obviously involves the logical and mathematical, but, at least if there is any truth in what has been said in the above, eventually economics, the origin of all concepts.” 

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Monday, December 5, 2011

The edge of chaos

Interesting notes on Complexity theory applied to Org behavior. Never thought of it that way, but a system that can both innovate and remain stable must by its nature be at the edge of chaos ... much like my favorite quote "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends upon the unreasonable man." G.B. Shaw

"A complex system is one whose component parts interact with sufficient intricacy that they cannot be predicted by standard linear equations; so many variables are at work in the system that its over-all behavior can only be understood as an emergent consequence of the holistic sum of the myriad behaviors embedded within. Reductionism does not work with complex systems, and it is now clear that a purely reductionist approach cannot be applied; …in living systems the whole is more than the sum of its parts. This is the result of… complexity which allows certain behaviors and characteristics to emerge unbidden." (Levy, 1992, pp. 7–8).


"Complex adaptive systems operate in this transition zone between stable equilibrium points and complete randomness. Poised between solidity and precariousness, these regions are typically referred to as the edge of chaos. Neither stability nor chaos is capable of exhibiting the characteristics of complex systems—such behavior can only exist balanced at the edge of chaos. Strange attractors are products of nonlinearity and interactivity. In a sense, falling into attractor patterns produces a constraint on the system behavior; the system of interacting agents loses degrees of freedom in the variety of its activity pattern: “Once the components have entered into this mutual arrangement (attractor), they will tend to ‘stick’ to it, andno longer be able to undergo certain types of relative variation” (Heylighen, 2006, p. 3). In the context of a system of
aggregated agents, constraint equates to correlation in behavior; attractor patterns emerge because agents are less likely to be acting independently but are instead acting more in concert with one another (Marion, 1999; Prigogine, 1997). Ordinary systems overspecify that behavior correlation and reduce the ability to adapt to changes in the conditions they face. Complex adaptive systems provide just enough constraint to allow agents to cooperate, and thus release energy for adaption and create new system properties. Levinthal & Warglien (1999) put it in more familiar terms when they described how this worked within teams: “… cross-functional teams bring together multiple constraints, increase interdependencies in early design phases, and thus make the design landscape more rugged… the variety of functional background of team members makes it likely that different starting points are initially sampled. As a result, a variety of alternative designs is likely to emerge” (p. 348). The appearance of strange attractors and zones of relatively frequent system behaviors shows that while systems may appear on the surface as behaving randomly, those behaviors mask an emergent order that guides agent-based systems to potential new levels of collective behavior." (Boal & Schultz, 2007, pp 413-414)




The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and not necessarily those of their employers

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Job Satisfaction: It’s not Just About Happy Employees; It’s About the Very Survival of Business

Sorry if this is not the most readable format, it is in APA format because it is a paper I wrote for school:


Work; along with death and taxes, it's one of the few things in life that is a certainty for most. According to the United States Department of Labor (2010), the average American adult spends a greater portion of their life working than doing any other activity, so naturally job satisfaction is a key tenet of a happy life. In a recent article entitled "How Will You Measure Your Life", Harvard business school professor Clayton Christensen reported that on the last day of the classes he teaches, he asks his students to contemplate their goals in life and to find a cogent answer to the question "how can I be sure that I'll be happy in my career" (Christensen, 2010, p. 48)? In seeking to provide guidance for this question, Christensen eloquently summarized the work of Frederick Hertzberg, noting that “the powerful motivator in our lives isn't money; it's the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements” (Christensen, 2010, p. 48).  While studying factors that affect employee motivation, Frederick Hertzberg (1987), proposed that the factors that create job satisfaction, which he calls motivators, are entirely separate from the factors that leads to job dissatisfaction, which he calls hygiene factors (p.9). The difference, Hertzberg reports, is that hygiene factors, also known as dissatisfaction avoidance factors, are factors that are necessary to get employees to show up for work, but do little to promote motivation beyond the minimum job requirements (pp. 8-13). Hygiene factors emanate from mankind's animal nature of self-preservation; they are extrinsic to the job and include: company policy and administration, supervision, working conditions, salary, team relationships, status, and security (p. 9). In contrast motivator factors promote employees internal desire to become much more involved and take a much more personal investment in workplace success. These factors are intrinsic to the job and include: achievements, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement, and growth.  (Hertzberg, 1987, pp. 8-13).
For the employee it would seem obvious why job satisfaction is very important, but what about business; why should it consider the desires of it’s employees? Throughout the history of the Industrial Revolution, few topics have been as divisive as the treatment of employees. Early American economist Adam Smith was noted for popularizing the notion of specialized roles in early mills and factories, producing awareness of strategic planning to maximize human productivity (Witztum, 2010, p. 156). The landmark Hawthorne studies of the early twentieth century helped to create awareness that improvements in factory conditions can have a significant impact on employee motivation and output (Doyle, Pignatelli & Florman, 1985, p. 2). Yet despite evidence from research, a popular historical viewpoint on labor has been to simply drive as much possible output as could be forcibly obtained from the employee. Early corporate abuses of human rights led to the formation of unions and collective bargaining, which has resulted in many cases in increasing the discord between management and employees (Devinatz, 2011, p. 290). As noted by Devinatz (2011), unionization is generally not popular among employers, whose desire to avoid unionization resulted in efforts to  promote better relations with employees; a notion that did not sit well with executives, many of whom saw the requests of unions as a form of pandering that could slow the growth of industry (p. 291). In this effort to promote positive relations with employees, businesses started to recognize that promoting job satisfaction was more than mere pandering to employees; measures that improve job satisfaction resulted in increasing creativity, productivity, and overall performance (Schusler, 1979, p. 247). Whitman, Van Rooy, & Viswesvaran (2010) report the findings of a meta-analytical study which thoroughly demonstrates that there is a significant relationship between job satisfaction and work unit performance; which along with other studies, the authors’ claim, has resulted in the reemergence of job satisfaction as a vital research topic (p. 41). Efforts to improve employee relations combined with increased study on organizational productivity also found that age, gender, and racial diversity can have a very positive impact on unit performance, as diversity can bring different skill sets, different tools, and also bring perspective from different bases of potential consumers, helping corporations to reach a larger addressable market (Reagans & Zuckerman, 2001, p. 502).
Beyond mere productivity improvements, employee treatment is a core tenet behind sustainable business practices which many modern economists believe are crucial to the very survival of businesses (Peck, 2011). Following the great depression of the early twentieth century, economist Joseph Schumpeter (1931) proposed that forces of creative destruction were the true force behind economic volatility (p. 179). In studying the observations of Schumpeter, Wiggins & Ruefli (2005) found that despite the best efforts of the most sophisticated managers in the business world, forces of creative destruction caused businesses fail over time (p. 895). What Schumpeter observed would later be popularized as the “disruptive technology theory” by Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, who proposed that creative destruction could be harnessed to build sustainable businesses that could withstand the “indefinite number of waves” proposed by Schumpeter (Diamond, 2006 pp. 15-16; Schumpeter, 1931, p. 179). While much of the popularity around the disruptive technology theory has been absorbed as mere product strategy, the core notion behind these efforts is to create a business model that can be sustainable over time (Christensen, Johnson & Rigby, 2002, pp. 22-31).
Today, the encampments of the Occupy Wall Street movement remind us that there is an urgent need to change the way the community views employers and the way that employers interact with the community and their employees (Bregman, 2011; Baldwin, 2011). And today, the effect of the hyper-competition era observed by Schumpeter, combined with the effects of management policies and financial markets that have prioritized short term enrichment over long-term sustainability and socioeconomic well-being are coming to a head. The sociopolitical, macro economical, and environmental results of hyper competition are threatening to tear the very fabric of society, which has resulted, finally, in increasing activism and increasing awareness that business and industry need to promote economic and social well-being (Edlund, 2011). This is not only for the good of the planet, but essential for the very survival of businesses, as research is increasingly demonstrating that all the shortsighted, greedy policies that have been employed by businesses are actually the factors that had been causing businesses to fail. Business is nothing more than a collection of individuals; its very purpose is to provide goods and services for the betterment of society. The whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, a business is not itself an entity with its own opinion, desires, emotions; it is a representation of the collective desires of the employees that execute its purpose, and the community that allows it to exist.
As a bystander, a mere observer of the turbulent economic times of the early 21st century, my hope is that, finally, the citizens of this world will rediscover the core essence of industry; business is not about promoting the well-being of a soulless, nonhuman entity, the very essence of business is based in humankinds inert desire for social interdependence to promote a happier, healthier world for all of mankind.



Reference List
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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and not necessarily those of their employers