All posts by mallagher

Donald Trump’s Advocacy Without Inquiry

We have all met folks whose opinions are not flexible. Discussing things with these folks usually leads to argument. It gets personal. and nothing gets resolved.

The problem is wide spread. And it is easily resolved. Lafley and Martin bring out the solution in their book “Playing to Win”. They write

In any conversation, organizational or otherwise, people tend to overuse one particular rhetorical tool at the expense of all the others. People’s default mode of communication tends to be advocacy  — argumentation in favor of their own conclusions and  theories, statements about the truth of their own point of view.

They suggest a different form

The kind of dialogue we wanted to foster (at Proctor and Gamble) is called assertive inquiry. Built on the work of organizational learning theorist Chris Argyris at Harvard Business School., this approach sincere expression of your own thinking (advocacy)  with a sincere exploration of the thinking of others (inquiry). In other words, it means clearly articulating your own ideas and sharing the data and reasoning behind them, while genuinely inquiring into the thoughts and reasoning of your peers.

How do you do that?

To do this effectively, individuals need to embrace a particular stance about their role in a  discussion. The stance we tried to instill … was a reasonably straightforward but traditionally underused one “I have a view worth hearing, but I might be missing something.”

We are all good at assertion. We are less practiced at inquiry. But if we want to do exchanges at the highest possible level, that is a skill that we must master.

So what about Donald Trump? Have you ever wondered where his opinions come from? What is the basis for his conclusions? Sometimes he refers to facts — which are often false. But he NEVER leaves room for inquiry. There is never any opportunity for LEARNING.

For this reason alone, the sooner we can get beyond this dude, the better. We can do better and we need to do better.

An Update on thorium Reactors

I first started thinking about thorium reactors after watching a TED talk by Kirk Sorenson. I found the idea of developing an alternative to uranium based reactors that was safer, smaller, cheaper, and that uses a more plentiful supply of fuel to be pretty mind bending.

More recently, Business insider published a long article about thorium reactors and I posted on it.

Since then, I have started to look for sources to keep up with news about thorium reactor development. I will be tracking these.

the fist is thorium Energy World, a blog that is updated every now and then.

Alexa and Her 10,000 Skills

First, the news. Alexa toolbox of skills is growing at an accelerating rate.  From Wired

While 10,000 may seem like an arbitrary milestone, it’s an instructive one, especially when you consider how fast it’s come. Last June, a full year after the ASK launched, Amazon announced that Alexa had reached 1,000 skills. By September, that number had tripled. In January, Alexa’s skills catalog swelled to 7,000. It took just over a month to tack on another three thousand.

Unfortunately, as Alexa becomes more skillful, it becomes more difficult to figure out what Alexa can and cannot do. In other words, Alexa is not getting much smarter.

Sadly, I think that we will be stuck in this paradigm for a while. The reason is that the skills that Alexa is getting generally link us to suppliers of pre-fab solutions. So, for example, Alexa can adjust the oven temperature for a GE device as needed. Alexa can order a pizza, as long as it is form Domino.

Using Dan Kahneman’s line of thinking, this enables us to do things faster. It does not enable us to think of better ways to do things. Can we get better ideas from AI powered bots? Of course we can. But to get that, we will need a paradigm shift. Instead of the AI  imprisoned by a given supplier, like GE or Domino, the AI needs to be free to serve our needs. So when we ask Alexa a question, Alexa should give us the BEST possible answers, not just the one that a given company wants us to hear.

And when will this happen? The first step is not technological. It is devising a new business model where we can make money by giving and getting best possible solutions to questions — solutions that open the door to further discussion, not just a one off transaction, like ordering a pizza.

Will this happen? I think so and when it does, it will shake up the world as we know it.

Leaving Donald Trump Behind

Would it be fair to say that Donald Trump is the last gasp of 20th century man? That might sound a bit odd, but if you think about it, Trump does embody certain characteristics that are sooooo last century.

The most important one is certainty. Trump is certain that he is right. It matters not what others say or think. Trump believes that he is smarter and has the right answers. Indeed, he distorts reality when he needs to in order to justify his opinions.

So how is this a 20th century phenomenon? Consider that in the 18th century, the enlightenment opened the door to speculation that was not God centered. Western man started to think in terms of science rather than religion. And this led in the 19th century to certain “scientific views” about history. I refer to Hegel and Marx in particular. In the 20th century, these so called scientific views hardened into ideologies – communism, fascism, capitalism. Each ideology was certain that its view of history and the world was correct. Ironically, the tool that opened our minds — scientific method — then closed them. Amidst mind boggling scientific advances, we clung to the certainty of our views on the most basic issues.

And of all the unpleasant character traits that Donald Trump exhibits, his closed mindedness is perhaps the most obnoxious.

That tells us something. The 20th century is over. We are now embarked on a new century that will develop new ways of seeing the world. If we want to visualize what we would like to leave behind, just think of Donald Trump.

Enter the Soft Spoken Hero!

The world is full of people who want to take and hold center stage. But they are not necessarily the folks we remember with the most fondness. The soft spoken hero is often that person. He doesn’t take center stage, he earns a place in our hearts.

Gregory Peck was that sort of person. He was a very handsome man and a film star.

Image result for Gregory Peck

And you might think therefore, that he was full of himself. In fact, he was exactly the opposite. He was full of respect and kindness for others. And he had a warm sense of humor about himself and the people he knew.

You get a sense of that from this video about him. I especially enjoyed the interview segment from British TV in the middle of the clip.  Enjoy!



Leadership Lessons!

Leadership is one of those words that endlessly fascinate. What makes a leader? What does a leader actually do? How can we measure leadership success or failure?

Unfortunately, we do not have settled answers to these questions. If we dud, we might have more success in making policy choices  So it may be useful to reflect for a moment on how great leadership has been exercised.

This video attempts to do that, using  Winston Churchill  as a case study,  As a Churchill buff, i found the video to be quite entertaining! Enjoy!