Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Internet of You

There is a relatively new term out in the world - have you heard about it?  It's called "The Internet of Things" or IoT for short.  There are two ways I could explain to you what this concept means.  The first, which you will thank me for not using, is to describe in massive technical detail how everything will be interconnected via the Internet, as described here in Wikipedia.  The second is to speak of IoT in more plain English, in ways that are meaningful to the average human being.

Imagine the Internet of today.  This reality includes computers, tablets, phones, appliances, and even cars.  Now think of the future and what could be included that isn't in that list as of today.  At some point, say between 5 and 20 years from now, everything you can conceive of will be (inter)connected.  Where this will start to get really interesting is to think about how all of this will affect you personally.

There are few fields/industries in the world that receive more time and attention than healthcare.  While scientists are always looking for ways to improve health and medicine, the "holy grail" of their work is the end of aging.  What would you or for that point Bill Gates and Warren Buffett pay to become immortal?  If you're 20 and in peak health you may not opt to pay much.  But fast forward to 40, 50, 60 years old and beyond.  Sooner or later you will almost assuredly be willing to pay everything you have to ward off the effects of aging, pain, disease, and eventually death.  Towards the end of his life Steve Jobs was quoted more than once saying (paraphrasing) that he'd give all his wealth to avoid death.

Now let's think about life outside of healthcare.  The entire human existence is becoming, day by day, focused on information and data.  More than anything else, information is power.  Every single government, business, and organization focuses tremendous resources on the identification, retention, and analytics of any data that can be gathered.  If you've heard about "Big Data" you'll know that the next big corporate arms race is to find ways to understand business and customers in ways that were always opaque in the past.  If you can gain insights that your competitors can't, you can beat them in many ways within the marketplace.

  With Big Data analytics and tools such as Hadoop, with a large enough data set a company can learn things that are completely non-intuitive.  The best example I have heard about this to date was when a company ran Hadoop analytics on a 3 terabyte pool of data that held information on operations, finance, sales, manufacturing, and compliance data.  The company was expecting to get back a profitability analysis, but instead found something much different.  They discovered that their business was 34% more likely to have a lost-time safety incident on Mondays after a European soccer (football) match that occurred the previous day (Sunday).  Furthermore, that percentage went up to 46% if the temperature dipped below 56 degree Fahrenheit!  The translation was that many male members of their workforce were coming to work "hung over" after a Champion's League match and were extra careless when they got cold.  Fascinating and highly relevant data gathered through extraordinary serendipity, wouldn't you agree?

But now back to you and the Internet of Things.  Very soon, every part of you, possibly down to your individual body cells will be connected to the Internet.  You, your doctor, and probably many other organizations will know exactly how you are functioning in real-time.  Yes, the privacy concerns will be myriad but the benefits will be monumental.  We're talking about limitless access to knowledge, instant "telepathic" communication to anyone, and probably a greatly extended life if not just pure immortality.

It will be natural for you to doubt what I'm saying.  The first argument that you'll likely mount will go something like this, "Hey Christopher, there is just no way to connect everything to the Internet.  There are not enough IP addresses to go around now as it stands."  In case you're wondering, the entire Internet is, more or less, based on nodes that have a unique IP address.  Under the old protocols of IPv4, that limitation existed.  Going forward the world is adopting a new format called "IPv6".  Under that protocol the possible number of assignable IP addresses is: 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456.  Put another way, there can be more IP addresses than all of the atoms in the world!!

Prepare for a world where everything that exists, everything that you are is part of one all-encompassing Internet.  So how about you - are you ready to be immortal?  Are you ready to enter the matrix?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In Search of the Perfect Career

I have read several published opinions on the subject of "Mastery", or the ability to become completely dominant at a given activity.  When I first read about Mastery it was in the context of becoming an Olympian.  In a book titled, oddly enough, Mastery by Robert Greene, he states that a person (you) has to practice something at least 10,000 times to become a master.  That means you have to play 10,000 games of Pacman, drive a car for years, or throw a frisbee until your hand falls off if you want to be great.  One of the greatest Orators of all time, an Athenian by the name of Demosthenes, practiced giving speeches with his mouth full of pebbles.

Many of us would agree that to achieve a "perfect" career, one must be a Master or at least approach mastery.  So what does that mean and how does it apply to business or the CIO profession?  There are many answers but one thing remains a certainty.  In order to become perfect you must first embrace numerous forms of imperfection.  And that's where the problems set in.

Think about not only your career but those of the people who surround you.  Through empirical observation I can say with certainty that most individuals I've seen are exceedingly (deathly?) afraid of making mistakes.  I've actually seen so many examples of people opting to do nothing rather than take a risk on making a mistake that I could write a humorous book reflecting on all of the instances.

The whole concept of Mastery and its achievement is based on learning through failure.  I guarantee that if you attempt something 10,000 times you will fail on at least 50% of your tries.  Truth be told, that percentage is probably much higher.  Put into practical terms, if you want to be a great leader you MUST make many mistakes.  It is the only way to determine the nature of perfection while learning to avoid imperfections along the way.

A common misconception that people have concerning a Perfect Career is that, if you attain that status, you will be respected and admired.  With possibly one or two exceptions, the opposite is going to be true.  If you aspire to be a leader, a CIO, you will be charged with making very important decisions day in and day out.  For every decision that you make, some people will love you, some will hate you, and the majority of people won't care one way or the other.  Let's take a look at the last eight United States Presidents (Obama, Bush 2, Clinton, Bush 1, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon).  The general consensus, at least today, is that Reagan was the most popular of the group with Clinton right up there.  Would it surprise you to know that each and every man in this group had a negative approval rating during at least part of their presidencies?  President Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be one of the greatest presidents of all time.  Yet did you know that he was first elected with only 39.8% of the vote and was despised by many people during his term?

Mastery, Fame, and Respect, and Love are very rarely gifted to any great leader in a combined form.

So do you want to be a great leader in the technological world of today?  Do you want to be a revolutionary CIO who can reinvent the role and possibly earn the CEO chair?  If you do you'd better become comfortable with embracing failure.  You see, that's whole purpose of doing something 10,000 times in order to achieve Mastery.  Only by failing in every conceivable way, multiple times, can a person hope to understand the nature of perfection, how to attain it, and what to avoid.

For the very reason that perfection demands failure most people will fail to reach their goals or even maximize their potential.  To make mistakes and better yet, to embrace and learn from them, is not a universally shared human virtue.

And now the best part - reaching perfection means that many people are not going to like you.  Don't take my word for it - think of a person who is considered a Master and then review the data that references how they are viewed by the public.  Whether it's a sports star, actor, politician, activist, soldier, or parent, are they universally admired?  Don't just look at yesterday's news; look at all of the data.

If you search for the Perfect Career you now have a better understanding of just what it will take for you to achieve your goal.  What do you think?  Can you handle the work, dedication, and fortitude that it requires?  Are you willing to embrace failure and the disfavor of your neighbors?  Good luck to you and may your path be difficult.