Category Archives: innovation

Point of View is Worth 80 IQ Points

During the years I worked at Apple, Alan Kay, a creative visionary, was also there.  Kay’s wise memes were often quoted.  One of my favorites, “Point of view is worth 80 IQ points,” is a constant guiding consideration for me.  It comes to mind when I convene groups or organize advisory boards for companies:  Is there a diverse mix of thinkers, personalities, and expertise represented?  It’s on my mind when I organize dinner parties.  In the years I spent working at Apple and Microsoft, it was on my mind when I made hiring decisions and assembled teams to work on any type of project.

In December, I ran into Chris Young, and as we caught up with each other, he related a fascinating, “point of view is worth 80 points,” story.    The story, Milk in Kenya, is below.

Milk in Kenya

For over two years, a group of engineers, scientists, and inventors had labored over a problem posed by a client. The client, a wealthy philanthropist, was deeply concerned about global health issues and poverty in Africa.  In particular, he had noticed that if the milk spoilage problem in Kenya and Uganda could be solved, it might be possible to break the cycle of poverty for small hold dairy farmers. Small hold dairy farmers typically own 2-3 cows, and milk is the primary source of their income.  Farmers wind up losing income because as much as half the milk their cows produce spoils before they can get it to the market where it can be sold.

The working assumption was this:  We need to prevent milk from spoiling.  This can be done through heating to achieve pasteurization.  However, this then requires that the milk either be refrigerated immediately, or specially processed and packaged in sterile packaging.

In conventional pasteurization, the milk is heated as briefly as possible, 30 minutes or less; just long enough to kill bacteria that would cause illness and not so long that it would compromise the fresh flavor of milk.   Along with the assumptions above, there was an additional, unquestioned assumption:  The milk needed to taste “fresh,” not cooked.

The engineers on the team investigated exotic technological solutions to refrigeration, thermal processing and sterile packaging.  After a comprehensive review of existing first world technologies, the engineers began to assess how to do ultra-high temperature pasteurization and sterile packaging in a new way.  Ultra-high temperature pasteurization, or UHT, conventionally requires steam injection, vacuum assisted cooling, and elaborate aseptic packaging that, then, yields packaged milk that doesn’t require refrigeration.

The team of engineers settled on an exotic technology that came out of the computer chip manufacturing industry:  the Tuckerman heat exchanger.  This is incredibly efficient and solved a lot of complexities.  There was just one problem.  Milk isn’t water.  As soon as the milk got hot, it fouled and ruined the heat exchanger.  Permanently.  Everyone involved was skeptical they could do sterile packaging a cost effective way.  The future of the project was in jeopardy.

Chris Young was asked to meet with the team.  Young, a mathematician, biochemist and chef, is a guy who wants everyone to love their food, and wonders why people like some things and not other things. He’s curious and playful, both in and out of the kitchen. Young and a collaborator had just finished a book and he had a little time free before publication.  Young’s boss suggested, “You really don’t know anything about this problem or project, but you do know a few things about milk, so go see if you can contribute something.”

The team asked Young to look at solving the milk-fouling problem for the heat exchanger.  The engineers were excited about the technology, and figured that if Young could make it work with milk, they’d have a solution.

Young had no pre-conceived ideas. He joined the team with an open, curious, and exploring state of mind, not attached to a particular outcome. He was not limited by what was known, and was able to hold what he did know, lightly:  maybe things are this way and maybe they’re not.

During a meeting with the team, when they were reporting on a trip to Kenya, one researcher mentioned that, in Kenya, people don’t drink milk by the glass.  People boil the milk, then add tea, and sugar.  The engineers and consulting dairy scientists had all assumed that milk needed to have a “fresh” taste.

Young wondered, is the “fresh” flavor really important?  If the milk tastes “cooked,” is that a bad thing?  Young decided to test the flavor; he cooked milk for longer periods of time and tested batches.  To him, the cooked milk tasted sweeter.

There was no scientific literature on the safety of holding milk hot.   However, Young knew that chefs around the world have cooked things at these temperatures for days at a time without spoilage or health risks.  Sous vide, a popular modernist cuisine food preparation technique, holds foods hot for hours or days. There was no reason to assume it would be unsafe.  Sure enough, when they tested the microbiological safety, it was better than that. It made the milk safer.

Young’s idea:  Why not just cook the milk sous vide, instead of pasteurizing it?  This process is less complex and less energy is consumed.

The team conducted sensory tests and those results are in.  Most Kenyans actually prefer the taste of hot held milk.  The solution is cheap – as cheap or cheaper than the current practices; and certainly far cheaper than exotic first world approaches, like the Tuckerman heat exchanger technology.

Chris Young was free to see an easy solution, in a situation where the experts had hit a dead end.

How can we think differently about team composition or about the challenges before us, taking into account Alan Kay’s wisdom:  “Point of view is worth 80 IQ points?”

 

 

 

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Dee Hock’s 1996 Quote…

Those who have heard me speak know that I often quote Dee Hock, the Founder of Visa, and one of the great business innovators of our time.

I use his quote below to describe how technology is evolving us, how we’re evolving technology and how both are evolving culture.

  • Noise becomes data when it has a cognitive pattern.
  • Data becomes information when assembled into a coherent whole, which can be related to other information.
  • Information becomes knowledge when integrated with other information in a form useful for making decisions and determining actions.
  • Knowledge becomes understanding when related to other knowledge in a manner useful in anticipating, judging and acting.
  • Understanding becomes wisdom when informed by purpose, ethics, principles, memory and projection.

Further, I map this evolution to a timeline:

1945-1965

Noise to Data

1965-1985

Data to Information

1985-2005

Information to Knowledge

2005-2025

Knowledge to Understanding

2025-2045

Understanding to Wisdom

Today, we are Knowledge Workers evolving into Understanding Workers.  Understanding Workers use technology to anticipate, judge and act.  Think about it.  This is what we’re doing with FitBit, Quantified Self, 23andMe.com, Facebook, and so many other technologies of this era.

As we move into an Era of Conscious Computing, we’ll also be moving deeper into Understanding and closer toward Wisdom.

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Filed under attention, attention management, dominant mass consciousness attention paradigm, engaged, information overload, innovation, O'Reilly Radar, technology, trends

It’s Not the WHAT, it’s the HOW…

Recently, Nicholas Carr wrote a piece:  The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains.

Can we really know that’s true?  It’s the web?  Is this a declaration of war on technology?  After all, it’s shattering focus and rewiring our brains, according to Carr.

My latest Huffington Post piece, Are We at War with Technology, considers the relationship between the WHAT (technology), the HOW (how we’re using it) and the human (us).

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Filed under attention, breathe, breathing, connection, continuous partial attention, email apnea, health, Huffington Post, information overload, innovation, overwhelmed, screen apnea, stress, technology

National Lab Day: Creating a National Learning Community

When Jack Hidary told me about National Lab Day, I got chills. The tag line for National Lab Day is: A National Barn-Raising for Hands-On Learning. Using the internet and social computing technologies, with the support of the White House and the business and scientific communities, National Lab Day reaches out to the education community, providing a tool set that brings context, community, and passion to education, and that has the potential to transform our educational system into a true learning community.

Read more….

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ZG Maps and ZG Mapping

People often say we’re multi-tasking ourselves to death.  What is it we’re doing and why has this become a passionate conversation?

I call what we’re doing today continuous partial attention, or cpa, for short.  In 1997, I created this meme to differentiate between simple and complex multi-tasking.   The motivations and the effects of simple vs. complex multi-tasking appeared to be very different to me.  I wanted a new name to describe what I was seeing in order to be very clear that when my mom was multi-tasking, she was doing something very different from what I found myself doing.

The meme, continuous partial attention, not only resonated with my colleagues in high tech and others outside of that field, it also ultimately led me into years of research – on individual and mass consciousness patterns of attention, trends, and related health and technology topics.

By now, I’ve developed what I’m calling  ZG Maps* and a process for using it called ZG Mapping. ZG Maps spans from 1945 and projects out toward 2025.   Some of the presentations I give at conferences and to corporations pull information from ZG Maps.  For corporate presentations, I often map the company’s history to the ZG Maps, illustrating when and how the company was in and out of sync with what I’ve come to call, the dominant mass consciousness attention paradigm.

In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen outlines how successful companies can miss out on important disruptive technologies by focusing solely on iterating on sustaining technologies.  I admire Christensen’s work.

ZG Mapping comes at these issues from another point of view.  My favorite Alan Kay quote is:  “Point of view is worth 80 IQ points.”  Thus, coming at innovation from a variety of points of view can add IQ points!

With regard to innovation, in addition to keeping Christensen’s points in mind, I think it’s crucial for companies to also consider:

  1. How their products, services, marketing, recruiting and management efforts can resonate with cultural shifts. Attention, expressed collectively, can define a community, a society, a business, a corporate culture or a set of products and services.  Mass consciousness attention patterns are at the heart of the ZG Maps.  A set of values, orientations, and trends emerge from understanding how past patterns flow into the present patterns, and then, into likely future patterns.
  2. How the youngest generation entering the work force can play a significant role in a company’s future success. In many companies, the newest and youngest hires become trapped at the bottom of a steep management chain, engaged in menial work, with little opportunity to effectively offer one of their greatest gifts:  their knowing and sensibility of the incoming dominant mass consciousness attention paradigm.

 

 

These and other topics will be covered in future posts.

*ZG Maps:  ZG for Zeitgeist and Maps or Mapping for orientation or orienting

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Filed under attention, continuous partial attention, dominant mass consciousness attention paradigm, innovation, trends, ZG Mapping, ZG Maps