So Much For the "Gorgeous" Beach Walk …

Tom is vacationing by the Atlantic Ocean. Yesterday morning [Monday 29 July] he took a beach walk at 6a.m. "Gorgeous," he says. But how would he know? He tweeted his way down the beach. Turned out to be a tweet sequence he'd like to reproduce here. "Sterling," he calls it.


Starting vacation today? Vacation goal: No vacation goal. REFRESH. [Pure hypocrisy on Tom's part—cm]

Vacation: Unless you are a truly shitty manager, your team can live w/o you for 48 hours. No emails. ZERO.

19 people require 19 different "management styles." (Just like great teacher who has distinctive way of dealing with each of 19 10-yr-olds.)

Yo, jovial boss: Some of your very best folks hypersensitive. Light wiseass remark can demoralize them for month. Uh, people are different.

"Jovial" types often dim when it comes to hypersensitive types ... who are often your most thoughtful people.

Don't waste a moment this week persuading naysayers. Spend your time deepening and widening network of allies.

Monday reminder: A "small" act of incivility may well be remembered for 10 years.

Make your 1st meeting today a demo of Leadership Excellence. Prep your ass off.

Make your 1st 10 emails of the day positive!! Every damn one of them!!

Thank 5 people for SOMETHING before day's end.

MBWA today ... or bust.

Thank a front-line employee this morning for bringing a great attitude to work this Monday morning.

Suck down for success! Add 2 people 2 levels "down" in another function to your network. The Real Work is done "down" there.

Are you 40? 45? 50? Sign up for a Web course this week on something new you need to understand. DO NOT DELAY.

Bain study concluded that 80% of companies think their service is good. 20% of their customers think so. Do you have similar disconnect?

When I ask you Friday afternoon, "Who was the most interesting person you added to your network this week," what will your answer be?

Devote the week to better cross-functional integration. Do SOMETHING in that regard before 11AM this morning.

Is there anyone on your agenda for the week who will give you a genuinely novel perspective on something of importance? If not, why not?

I'm mostly a function over form guy. My iPhone a sleek beauty; or, rather, it was until I put an ugly, garish, drop-proof cheap case on it.

Passed a Frank Gehry-ish house on beach walk. High on artsy-fartsy scale, likely a leaky nightmare to live in. (I'm a Donald Norman-ist.)

[We're glad he paused long enough to take a photo—below—cm]


Tom's caption: World War II pillbox, Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard, MA, as of 30 July 2013

Leadership Reductionist Revised

In keeping with Tom's long-held conviction that every document can be improved—if only by one word if a closer-to-perfect word can be found—he has provided a revision to his "'Reductionist' Leadership Self-Assessment." Only one element has been changed (not in substance, in wording only), but the revision is, in fact, an improvement. For good measure, he made the piece into a PowerPoint presentation, too. We hope you'll download and use whichever you like.

"Reductionist" Leadership Self-Assessment PDF
"Reductionist" Leadership PPT

IIA Orlando

Tom's in Orlando, Florida, speaking to the Institute of International Auditors. For the occasion, he produced a version of his "Systems Have Their Place—Second Place," which you can download here. As always, there are a couple of PPTs, also:

Institute of International Auditors, Final
Institute of International Auditors, Long Version

Recent "Hot" Reading

Tom's been reading up a storm in the last few months. Following an old habit, he transforms some of the most telling material to slides for subsequent use in his presentations. You'll find here some of his favorite quotes—as always, all yours, and please use!

Download the PPT: "Hot" Books/Recent Reading

Leadership Reductionist Redux

Back in May, Tom posted a self-assessment for leaders of orgs big and small. In keeping with his stance that a focus on people is more important than vision, energy, and integrity in a leader, he proposed statements on which to evaluate yourself addressing that aspect of leadership particularly. We put up a fast-draft PDF when Tom blogged this, but we've had time to polish it up a bit, and we're posting the new version now.

Sample assessment statements:
• Listening is Item #1 in our set of Core Cultural Values.
• I believe in the Iron Law of Communication: Regardless of circumstances, if there is a miscommunication ... it's my fault
• 100% of our employees have specific development plans/programs carefully designed and precisely tailored for them and on which they ... are rigorously evaluated.

If you'd like to test yourself on those standards and more like them, you can download the PDF (revised once more on 19 July) now.

Manchester VT

On 22 June 2013, I had the privilege of acting as MC/host for a TEDx conference in Manchester VT—effectively, my home town. The chosen topic was creativity, and some 13 talks attacked the issue from every angle imaginable. As MC/host, I began by attempting to set the context—and chose to do so along economic lines. Call it:

Creativity: NO OPTION.

What follows, very lightly annotated, is an expanded version of that context-setting overview.*

(*I did not give a speech—and I did NOT use PowerPoint. The presentation here is my notes subsequently transformed into PowerPoint.


In his superb book Enough!, Vanguard founder Jack Bogle at one point quotes pollster Daniel Yankelovich:

"The first step is to measure what can easily be measured.
This is okay as far as it goes.
The second step is to disregard that which cannot be measured, or give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading.
The third step is to presume that what cannot be measured is not very important.
This is blindness.
The fourth step is to say that what cannot be measured does not really exist.
This is suicide."

Yadda Yadda Yadda …

Tom was tweeting about Big Data & Gamification & Algorithmic determinism this morning. Though the thread here is not 100% transparent, we thought you might be amused.

Tom's tweets:

As I dig deeper into big data/algorithmic determinism/gamification I am appropriately impressed but feel as if the world is being sterilized.

Read big data/gamification/algorithmic gurus and wonder where the human beings/humanity have gone. Exabyte/zettabyte/yottabyte heaven awaits.

Loyalty 3.0 and The Gamification Revolution are my two latest Amazon acquisitions. I have no idea what I think.

"Why" [questions of causation] may become obsolete & insurance be denied because you had a Zoroastrian college roommate, but human chaos will continue to reign.

But will your sociology department be a hotbed of revolutionary thought with faculty who were selected by a big data-derived recruitment algorithm?

But artist will be uninsured because data/cameras show he once inadvertently sat across a bus isle from convicted pedophile.

I'm a trained behavioral scientist who loves nothing more than wallowing in data, but some bigdata-/alorithmized-world implications unsettle.

On the other hand: As a 40-yr student DKahneman (e.g., Thinking, Fast & Slow), I'm frightfully aware of how routinely our instincts suck.

Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near sits on my bedside table, and I wish I'd wake up one morning and discover it missing.

As someone who's lived for 50 years with a religious belief in the primacy of data, it's an "Oh-shit-my-dream's-come-true" nightmare moment.

Religiously believing in the Supreme Power of Data was fine ... as long as your data sucked.

Data uber alles. There is no God but Correlation. Is the Googleplex Heaven? Or Hell?

My problem is the more I study, the less idea I have of what I think. And I know for sure that's either a good thing or a bad thing.

What is the mathematical relationship between a yottabyte and yadda yadda yadda?

Thought Grenades Podcast

Tom joins long-time friends Robert Thompson and Mike Neiss on their podcast, Thought Grenades. These two former members of the erstwhile Tom Peters Company have been hosting a different thought leader weekly for over three years on their podcast, available through iTunes.

Listen in to find out:

• Why, if you're searching for excellence in business these days, you should start looking with small businesses.
• Why, if you want to criticize government, you should get yourself elected to the local school board.
• Why "Act, think," beats "Think, act.

From Outraged to Open-minded

A couple of years ago, Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson authored a cover story titled "The Petabyte Age." The use of "big data" (more or less everything, not a sample) and the attendant primacy of correlation over causation as the basis for discovery was described thus: "The data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete." He also called the phenomenon "the end of theory."

I was outraged—correct word choice. But that was then and this is now. I still haven't swallowed the whole pitcher of Kool-Aid, but I have moved to the point of open-mindedness. Recently, I have read and re-read two books. One on Big Data. One on the looming takeover of pretty much everything by algorithms—yes, I do exaggerate.

Mostly, assuming you're not a full-fledged expert, I urge you to give yourself some space—beach reading?—and take a deep dive into both.

To perhaps titillate, but not summarize, I am providing a handful of quotes from each of the two.

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier

"As humans, we have been conditioned to look for causes, even though searching for causality is often difficult and may lead us down the wrong paths. In a big data world, by contrast, we won't have to be fixated on causality; instead, we can discover patterns and correlations in the data that offer us novel and invaluable insights. The correlation may not tell us precisely why something is happening, but they alert us that it is happening. And in many situations, this is good enough. If millions of electronic medical records reveal that cancer sufferers who take a certain combination of aspirin and orange juice see their disease go into remission, then the exact cause for the remission in health may be less important than the fact that they lived."

"Correlations let us analyze a phenomenon not by shedding light on its inner workings, but by identifying a useful proxy for it."

"Predictions based on correlations lie at the heart of big data."

"There is a philosophical debate going back centuries over whether causality even exists."

"Unfortunately, Kahneman argues [Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman's masterpiece Thinking, Fast and Slow], very often our brain is too lazy to think slowly and methodically. Instead, we let the fast way of thinking take over. As a consequence, we often 'see' imaginary causalities, and thus fundamentally misunderstand the world."

Walmart: "[Using big data], the company noticed that prior to a hurricane, not only did sales of flashlights increase, but so did sales of Pop-Tarts. ... Walmart stocked boxes of Pop-Tarts at the front of the store [and dramatically boosted sales]."

"Aviva, a large insurance firm, has studied the idea of using credit reports and consumer-marketing data as proxies for the analysis of blood and urine samples for certain applicants. The intent is to identify those who may be at higher risk of illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, or depression. The method uses lifestyle data that includes hundreds of variables such as hobbies, the websites people visit, and the amount of television they watch, as well as estimates of their income. Aviva's predictive model, developed by Deloitte Consulting, was considered successful at identifying health risks."

Bonus: On the topic of causation and incomplete models, I offer this wonderful commentary by pollster Daniel Yankelovich, which appeared in Jack Bogle's stellar book Enough! To wit:

"The first step is to measure what can easily be measured. This is okay as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which cannot be measured, or give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what cannot be measured is not very important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what cannot be measured does not really exist. This is suicide."

Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World, by Christopher Steiner

"Algorithms have already written symphonies as moving as those composed by Beethoven, picked through legalese with the deftness of a senior law partner, diagnosed patients with more accuracy than a doctor, written news articles with the smooth hand of a seasoned reporter, and driven vehicles on urban highways with far better control than a human driver."

"... The audience then voted on the identity of each composition.* [Music theory professor and contest organizer] Larson's pride took a ding when his piece was fingered as that belonging to the computer. When the crowd decided that [algorithm] Emmy's piece was the true product of the late musician, Larson winced." (*There were three possible composers: Bach/Larson/Emmy-the-algorithm.)

"When Emmy [algorithm] produced orchestral pieces so impressive that some music scholars failed to identify them as the work of a machine, [Prof. David] Cope instantly created legions of enemies. ... At an academic conference in Germany, one of his peers walked up to him and whacked him on the nose. ..."

"... Which haiku are human writing and which are from a group of bits? Sampling centuries of haiku, devising rules, spotting patterns, and inventing ways to inject originality, Annie [algorithm] took to the short Japanese sets of prose the same way all of [Prof David] Cope's algorithms tackled classical music. 'In the end, it's just layers and layers of binary math, he says. ... Cope says Annie's penchant for tasteful originality could push her past most human composers who simply build on work of the past, which, in turn, was built on older works. ..."

"When you ask [Cloudera founder Jeff] Hammerbacher what he sees as the most promising field that could be hacked by people like himself, he responds with two words: 'Medical diagnostics.' And clearly doctors should be watching their backs, but they should be extra vigilant knowing that the smartest guys of our generation—people like Hammerbacher—are gunning for them. The targets on their backs will only grow larger as their complication rates, their test results, and their practices are scrutinized by the unyielding eye of algorithms built by smart engineers. Doctors aren't going away, but those who want to ensure their employment in the future should find ways to be exceptional. Bots can handle the grunt work, the work that falls to our average practitioners."



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