Guest-blog: Neil Cattermull – ‘A Guide to Machine Learning’

Neil Cattermull

Because of new computing technologies, machine learning today is not like machine learning of the past. It was born from pattern recognition and the theory that computers can learn without being programmed to perform specific tasks; researchers interested in Artificial Intelligence wanted to see if computers could learn from data.

The iterative aspect of machine learning is important because as models are exposed to new data, they are able to

They learn from previous computations to produce reliable, repeatable decisions and results. It’s a science that’s not new, “but one that has gained fresh momentum”.

While many machine learning algorithms have been around for a long time, the ability to automatically apply complex mathematical calculations to big data “over and over, faster and faster“ is a recent development. Here are a few widely publicized examples of machine learning applications you may be familiar with:

• The heavily hyped, self-driving Google car? The essence of machine learning.
• Online recommendation offers such as those from Amazon and Netflix? Machine learning applications for everyday life.
• Knowing what customers are saying about you on Twitter? Machine learning combined with linguistic rule creation.
• Fraud detection? One of the more obvious, important uses in our world today.

Resurging interest in machine learning is due to the same factors that have made data mining and Bayesian analysis more popular than ever.
Things like growing volumes and varieties of available data, computational processing that is cheaper and more powerful, and affordable data storage.

All of these things mean it’s possible to quickly and automatically produce models that can analyze bigger, more complex data and deliver faster, more accurate results – even on a very large scale. And by building precise models, an organization has a better chance of identifying profitable opportunities – or avoiding unknown risks.

In the second of a two series blog (“Digital-transformation“), we welcome back Neil Cattermull – Public Speaker and Commercial Director living in London, United Kingdom and a public figure in writing about technology, and entrepreneurship, he is considered a global Industry influencer and authority within the tech scene.

Neil has travelled around the world assisting small to large firms with business models. Ranked as a global business influencer and technical analyst.

Neil has held directorship positions within technology divisions within the financial services market, such as Merrill Lynch, WestLB, Thomson Financial and I have created many small to midsize organisations.

Neil is going to discuss ‘A guide to Machine Learning’.

Thank you Geoff,
Machine learning is one of the most innovative and interesting fields of modern science around today. Something that you probably associate with things such as Watson, Deep Blue, and even the infamous Netflix algorithm.

However, as sparkly as it is, machine learning isn’t exactly something totally new. In fact, the concept and science of machine learning has been around for much longer than you think.

The beginnings of machine learning
Considered to be the father of machine learning, Thomas Bayes’ theorem was pretty much left alone until the rockin 50’s when, in 1950, famed scientist Alan Turing managed to create and develop his imaginatively named ‘Alan Turing’s Learning Machine’.

The machine itself was capable of putting into practice what Thomas Bayes had conceptualised 187 years earlier. This was a huge breakthrough for the field and along with the acceleration of computer development, the next few decades saw a gigantic rise in development of machine learning techniques such as artificial neural networks, and explanation based learning.
These formed the basis of modern systems being managed by artificial intelligence. The latter being arguably the most integral to the development of systems management technology.

Explanation based learning was primarily developed by Gerald Dejong III at the Chicago Centre for Computer Science. He essentially managed to build upon previous methods and develop a new kind of algorithm, enter the “explanation based algorithm!”

Yes, the explanation based learning algorithm was fairly standard in that it created new business rules based on what had happened before. However, what sets this apart as a breakthrough is that Dejong III had managed to create something that would independently be able to disregard older rules once they had become unnecessary.
Explanation based learning was one of the key technologies behind chess playing AI’s such as IBM’s Deep Blue.

A cold AI Winter
However, there was a period during the 70’s when funding was disastrously reduced because people had started thinking that machine learning wasn’t living up to it’s original billing.
This was compounded when Sir James Lighthill released his independent report which stated that the grandiose expectations of what artificial intelligence and machine learning could achieve would never be fulfilled.

This report led to many projects being defunded or closed down. This was incredibly unfortunate timing as the UK was considered a market leader when it came to machine learning. This dark period of time was effectively known as the ‘AI Winter’ and bar a momentary slip in the early 90’s, was the only real time that the possibilities of machine learning were ever really discounted by the scientific community.

Who is pushing the technology forward now?
Machine learning has reached a level now where companies such as DataKinetics have the capability to transform legacy systems into business driven analytics.

DataKinetics are at the forefront of their field and have been entrusted by many blue-chip companies, such as Nissan and Prudential, to streamline and optimize complex technology environments. With the advancements within technology today IT professionals are now capable of achieving so much more due to new innovations in machine learning.
However, this is just the beginning – if funding and interest into machine learning and AI remains consistent, there’s no telling what can be achieved.

Machine learning algorithms that can predict future outcomes, giving us – the humans – to react accordingly.

In essence, the main idea behind machine learning is that it’s essentially where a computer or a system takes a set of data created previously, applies a set of rules to it and provides you with an output that in that is more efficient.

In much the same way, there’s a cycle between the innovators and forefathers of machine learning and with the companies and groups of people that are doing it today.

That’s why companies such as DataKinetics are proud to be associated with such a rich and storied period of human endeavour.
Innovators are equally as important as pioneers, without innovation we have static evolution that does not progress our species further and we are staring at a near constant change in the tech space.

Datakinetics are innovators within technology and have had the foresight to predict the evolution of mainframe, machine learning and analytics with a tech roadmap spanning for over 30 years!

You can contact Neil Cattermull:
– LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/neilcattermull
– Twitter: @NeilCattermull
– email: Neil.Cattermull@gmail.com

Guest-blog: Neil Cattermull – Digital Transformation and ‘Open source on steroids’

Neil Cattermull


The two words ‘Digital Transformation’ seem to be words that we hear and see everyday across internal discussions at main executive board and c-suite. But exactly why are these discussions important, and why should they be a priority?

Firstly, what is Digital Transformation and why is it so important?




Let’s start from the beginning. Heraclitus once said:
“The only thing that is constant is change,” – and this is very true and relevant today.

With major moves forward in technology and accessibility toward digital media in the past 10 years, people now view technology in a completely different way and also learn in a different way.
This has been a huge factor in creating a need for companies to evolve and stay relevant, transforming the way they run their business, and also train their staff.

With the general concentration span of millennials being much shorter than that of their predecessors, businesses must change the way they interact with millennial employees and customers.

If we look at this from an internal perspective too, we see everything from employee training to onboarding and productivity can be improved through digital transformation in the correct way.
It is important to remember though that digital transformation will generate some push back and resistance. This is very normal, and this is also why it is important to implement it in the right way.

Effectively, Digital Transformation is an ongoing effort to rewire all operations for the ever-evolving digital world, by adopting the latest technologies in order to improve processes, strategies, and the bottom line.

Digital transformation became a term, decades ago, and at that time largely meant digitising. But today, a company needs to leverage digital tools to be more competitive, not just more digital.

Going forward, companies will need to harness machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of things (IoT) to be pre-emptive in their business strategies, rather than reactive or presumptive.

And after that? We can only speculate. Technology is advancing at a faster pace than we can adapt to it. What is clear is that digital maturity is a moving target, which makes digital transformation ongoing.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Neil Cattermull – Neil is a Public Speaker and Commercial Director living in London, United Kingdom and a public figure in writing about technology, and entrepreneurship. He is considered a global Industry influencer and authority within the tech-scene.

Neil has travelled around the world assisting small to large firms with business models. Ranked as a global business influencer and technical analyst. He has held directorship positions within technology divisions within the financial services market, such as Merrill Lynch, WestLB, Thomson Financial and he has created many small to midsize organisations.

Neil is going to discuss ‘Open Source on Steroids’.

The words “digital transformation” are on the lips of every person in technology and tech media, as well as many business leaders – from company CIOs and CTOs to technology to business line managers to writers in news publications and tech blogs.

At its core, a digital transformation is the enablement of technologies and workplaces tuned to today’s digital economy. The beating heart of this digital economy is the API, and is being followed now by emerging technologies like IoT (Internet of things) and FinTech technologies like Blockchain.

Today the transformation of processes, IT services, database schemas and storage are proceeding at exponential rates with Cloud, AI and Big Data currently taking center stage as new ways of working in the enterprise.

The glue to the majority of developments in the technology world is the adoption, proliferation and acceptance of Open Source technologies. Community developments such as Hadoop, Apache Spark, MongoDB, Ubuntu and the Hyperledger project are some of the names that freely fall from any Open Source discussion.

The question is where do you run these workloads? How do you run these workloads? And in what form should these workloads take?

Most major companies will have mainframe systems at the core of their IT systems, so the question is really whether to run new workloads there, or on other platforms?

Any building architect will tell you that before tearing down the walls of an old house or doing any significant structural changes, you should always consult the original architectural plans. In the same way, any systems architect would look very closely at what a mainframe system is doing now before considering running workloads elsewhere.

However, it is imperative to understand the difference between mainframe and midrange server technology at a very high-level:

• Mainframe systems are designed to scale vertically not horizontally
• Input / Output is designed in mainframe systems to move processing away from the core and very fast I/O is built in to the core of a mainframe system, even at the hardware layer
• Centralized architecture is a key feature allowing mainframe systems to manage huge workloads extremley efficiently – catering for 100% utilisation without any degradation of perfromance
• Resilience is built in to every key component of a mainframe; redundancy at the core
• At a transactional level there is no other system that comes anywhere near the level of processing of data that a mainframe system can process.

An argument against the mainframe could be to decouple software systems onto commodity hardware or cloud systems; but this tends to create server and cost sprawl, particularly if an important goal is to mirror the mainframe’s performance, security, transaction throughput capacity, reliability, maintainability and flexibility.

But as we move further into the world of IoT, with databases and Big Data systems acquiring vast amounts of ingested social media and transactional data, how are we scoping the growth and security of these systems?
We are not if we simply just keep adding to existing IT infrastructures – we need to be able to scale access and throughput to manage, interigate and optimse the hottest commodity we have: data!

Data is becoming a currency in its own right but we need to secure this new currency in a way we do today with traditional moentary systems.
And perhaps the best way to leverage this valuable asset is via APIs that allow enterprises to take advantage of the mainframe investments already made – enter a LinuxOne Open Source ready mainframe that assists with creating a familiar Open Source tooling stack on steroids!

The argument here is that a digital transformation is more than just empty words and data thrown on cloud servers, it is a state of mind, and an architecture that should encompass current and future systems towards overall business goals.

At the heart of this goal is the end-user consumer, something that every system architect should be very mindful of; however, downtime and security are quite often understated when creating the initial framework for key infratsucture projects.

These key elements must be baked into every project and at the very core of future technology initiatives – something that the Open Source Ready LinuxOne infrastructure delivers extremely well.

You can contact Neil Cattermull:
– LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/neilcattermull
– Twitter: @NeilCattermull
– email: Neil.Cattermull@gmail.com

Parallels between corporate environments and hummingbirds – hummingbirds return to places where there is positive energy

I recently paid a visit to Silicon Valley, California for an executive board meeting and aligned this trip to visit my international business partner in Oregon, Mark F. Herbert, for my yearly catch up, cross border strategic discussions and many “Meaningful Conversations”.

Whilst having a Meaningful Conversation we could not help but see a group of very excited hummingbirds, so we started to provoke thought and discussion across the possibilities and parallels between corporate and that of hummingbirds.

Mark and I sat there and then I said, ‘so why is a hummingbird so positive with energy? Hummingbirds should not physically be able to fly, and like these birds that always defy the “impossible,” ‘Mark stated to discuss that hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring 7.5–13 cm in length.

The fact that the hummingbird is the smallest extant bird species, the 5 cm bee hummingbird weighing less than 2.0 g, and these little winged wonders flutter their wings at a remarkable 80 times per second. Hummingbirds have essentially been reinventing themselves throughout their 22-million-year history’, which made me think of how us humans have so much to learn from these amazing little birds.

Then, there is the migration each year a hummingbird will fly from North America, in January or February to South or Central America proceeding at an average rate of about 20 miles per day, the northward migration is complete by late May. Banding studies show that each bird tends to return every year to the same place it hatched, even visiting the same feeders. The Rufous has the longest migration route of all hummingbirds—up to 3,000 miles (4.828km)—traveling from summer in Alaska to winter in Mexico.

Hummingbirds have so much association, they are associated with goddesses throughout the myths and legends of multiple cultures. In one Mayan legend, the hummingbird is the sun in disguise, trying to court a beautiful woman, who is the moon. Hopi and Zuni legends tell of hummingbirds helping humans by convincing the gods to bring rain.

An Aztec legend tells of a god who, in the form of a hummingbird, flew to the underworld to be with a goddess, who later gave birth to the earth’s first flower. A Native American hummingbird animal totem is said to aid in self-discovery and provide us the paths to self-expression and awareness
Hummingbirds can only be described as Agile and Adaptable!

The Oxford dictionary meaning of Agile is Nimble, Supple, Dexterous, Acrobatic, graceful. Qualities that organisatios and leaders today certainly look at building, being and demonstrating.

It seems to me that there are leaders who are more like hummingbirds in their approach to life and leadership.
As a leader your attitude will make you or break you. The right attitude can guide you through times of adversity with poise and grace and be a source of inspiration for others to emulate. And at the end of the day it is all about the daily decisions you make.

Here are four considerations for a good positive attitude.

1 – What you choose to see. As you look over the landscape of your business or organisation do you see recession, fear and uncertainty or do you see opportunity, growth, and new markets?

What you choose to see speaks of your perceptions. Your perceptions are shaped by your attitude. That is not to say you are not mindful of the negatives that exist but you are making a choice not to be defined by them. If you are going to have an attitude of excellence it begins with what you choose to see and ignoring the rest.

2 – What you choose to believe. By its choice the hummingbird chooses new life and growth over what is dead and gone. Your belief systems form the foundation of your personal growth and that of your leadership potential. What you choose to see formulates your perceptions but your beliefs formulate how you live. This attitude is the deal breaker both personally and professionally and it truly matters.

What you choose to believe speaks of your passion. Your passions are a reflection of your attitude and that is a reflection of your heart. What you choose to believe may not always make sense at the time. Yet when you choose faith over fear, hope over despair, trust over doubt, forgiveness over resentment, and love over hate, you are living out an attitude of belief that will set you apart as a leader.

3 – How you will spend your time. The hummingbird spends its time seeking life and beauty. When your attitude is aligned with what you believe and what you see it makes how you spend your time an easier proposition.

How you spend your time is all about priorities. Whether in business or in your personal life your priorities are a good indicator of a healthy attitude. Your time is your most valuable possession and a smart leader learns how to master it.

4 – How you will live your life. The vulture and the hummingbird, for better or worse, have made their choices and live their lives accordingly. Your attitude as a leader has consequences that will determine your altitude. The choice to have a good attitude is not always easy. Someone cuts you off in traffic, the deal you thought you were going to close doesn’t happen, your earnings report falls short of expectations; a friend betrays you; these scenarios and more constantly challenge your resolve to have a good attitude.

How you will live your life speaks of your purpose. Your attitude should be one of your strongest attributes that sustains you in the good times and what gives you the courage needed when times are tough. Make it your priority to live your life as a leader with purpose in your heart.

A final thought, let us take a moment to analyse the amazement of this little creature that have been known to some scientists as “An Impossible Miracle” and derive some lessons.

Hummingbirds are one of the smallest birds in the species. They can probably fit in your tall cup of coffee and weigh less than a tennis ball. They are one of the most adaptive creatures around. Having one of the highest metabolisms in any animal but can also go in a hibernation-like state to conserve energy when needed.

They are one of the most versatile animals on earth. The only bird that can fly both forward, backward, upside down and has the ability to hover in one place as needed. They are also one of the fastest animals on the planet with recorded speeds of up to 54km per hour. That is faster than some of the best race horses around. And, if you did not know, hummingbirds actually inspired the creation of the Helicopter.

There are a lot of things we can learn from the Hummingbird, both from the story and around the real facts about it.
Perseverance, Courage, Innovation, Adaptability, Versatility, and defying all odds.

As a human you always think about the experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and we are all tested in ways that you never expect.

Leadership forces you to stay true to yourself and to recognise when you are at your best and when you are at your worst; the important thing is to stay focused and keep moving forward. We aleways learn that it is overcoming adversity that brings the most satisfaction, and that achievements are made more meaningful by the struggle it took to achieve them.

Like the hummingbird, anything is possible if you believe in yourself and if you set your mind and heart to it. If you want something badly enough, you must be prepared to go after it with everything you have, no matter what the odds.

Change has a funny habit of teaching you much about yourself; it goes to the core of your own weaknesses, strengths and eccentricities. Leadership forces you to stay true to yourself and recognise times when you are at your best and worst; the key is to stay focused and to make decisions that will look at continuous improvement. Even though this may be small, incremental change, it is positive change you can build upon even though you may be in quicksand.

The question is, how much do you truly want your dream?

As the famous scientist Charles Darwin once said:


‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’

Guest-blog: Brad Borkan – Pivot from your goal for greater success

Brad Borkan

I have the fortune of meeting a fellow author recently, Brad Borkan, for a meeting of minds, to discuss our literature journeys, which I must say was incredibly enjoyable.

We discussed many subjects but importantly our personal thoughts and experiences across resilience and overcoming adversity.

Adversity of any magnitude should make us stronger and fill us with life’s wisdom, however, art in any form is born from adversity, I wrote ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ from adversity and set up a business in the double dip of 2008 and 2009, many people have done the same and it is almost a universal theme in the lives of many of the world’s most eminent creative minds.

For artists who have struggled with physical and mental illness, parental loss during childhood, social rejection, heartbreak, abandonment, abuse, and other forms of trauma, creativity often becomes an act of turning difficulty and challenge into opportunity.

As Eckhart Tolle once said:
Whenever something negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it.

Much of the music we listen to, the plays we see, the books we read, and the paintings we look at among other forms of performing art are attempts to find meaning in human suffering.
Art seeks to make sense of everything from life’s potentially smallest moments of sadness to its most earth-shattering tragedies. You have heard the statement ‘there is a book in everyone’ we all experience and struggle with suffering.

Determination, resilience, and persistence are the enabler for people to push past their adversities and prevail. Overcoming adversity is one of our main challenges in life. When we resolve to confront and overcome it, we become expert at dealing with it and consequently triumph over our day-to-day struggles.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Brad Borkan, who works in SAP Strategic Partner Marketing. He has a graduate degree in Decision Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania. Brad co-authored the book, “When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic”. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and lectures internationally on early Antarctic exploration and its relevance to modern-day decision making. His website is: www.extreme-decisions.com.

Brad is going to discusses with us today “Pivot from Your Goal for Greater Success:”

One of the five key lessons from the early Antarctic Explorers

Have you ever been in a situation where you are so close to achieving your goal, you can almost taste it? With just a bit more effort, luck and perseverance you can get there, but there is high risk and danger along the way. At what point do you push through and at what point do you determine that the risk is too great and turn back?

This was the dilemma facing Ernest Shackleton on January 8th 1909. Shackleton was leading a team of three other men: Jameson Adams, Eric Marshall, and Frank Wild. Their aim: to be the first to get to the South Pole.

As described in my book, When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic, this was the first Antarctic expedition under Shackleton’s command. In the style at the time, Shackleton named it the Nimrod Expedition, using the name of the ship in which he and his men sailed to Antarctica. The Nimrod Expedition had taken years to plan and everything hinged on this one life-and-death decision.

By January 8th Shackleton, Adams, Marshall and Wild had been on the ice for two and a half months, man-hauling a heavy sledge containing all their equipment: food, cooking oil, tent, sleeping bags and other gear necessary for survival across 750 miles of dangerous terrain in sub-zero temperatures. They were totally on their own; the only communication was as far as they could shout. However they were nearing their goal.

In that era, there was no understanding of nutrition, calories, vitamins or the causes of scurvy. Shackleton and his men knew they were running desperately low of food and were subsisting on starvation rations. While there were some depots of food and supplies they could pick up on their return journey, there was a substantial risk they could die on the way back trying to reach one of those depots.

Yet the South Pole was tantalizingly close. One hundred and three miles to go to attain the biggest, unclaimed, land-based prize on Earth – the first to the South Pole. It would guarantee their names in the record books forever. A bit of luck with the weather and snow conditions, fewer rations, a bit more effort each day — surely goals this big deserved some risk. As goal-driven human beings, wouldn’t we all want to go for the goal, regardless of the consequences?

Yet, amazingly, Shackleton turned back.

What he did before turning back is one of the great lessons from the “Heroic Age” of Antarctic exploration. He told Adams, Marshall and Wild that on January 9th they would leave the tent, sleeping bags and all other supplies behind and walk South as far as they could in one day, plant the flag, and turn back to their camp. Then the next day they would begin the long and treacherous journey home. Why did Shackleton do this? Why not just turn and head back immediately? They all knew the return journey would be risky.

The answer is: Shackleton wanted to cross the 100 mile mark. He wanted to go back to England with a prize. Maybe not the prize, but getting to within 100 miles of the South Pole sounded a whole lot better than either: (1) achieving the South Pole and starving to death on the return journey or (2) getting back alive with only have reached the 103 mile mark. In a letter to his wife Emily about the decision, Shackleton wrote, “I thought you would rather have a live donkey than a dead lion.”

He and his team did almost starve to death on the return journey. Remarkably, they did survive and upon his return, Shackleton wrote a two-volume book about the expedition called, “The Heart of the Antarctic”. He didn’t dwell on failure. He celebrated success — pivoting from his initial goal, and achieving a memorable landmark — the farthest South.

So why is this an important lesson for today’s business leaders? Because it is exceedingly difficult to turn away from one’s goal. It is difficult for a business to do it, and even more difficult for goal-driven businessperson to do it.

Business schools teach us that:
“Goal attainment = Success”

&

“Success = Goal Attainment”

Yet, this is not always the case. Businesses can be so goal driven that they do not see the big obstacles in their way. Take the case of Blockbuster. Their goal was to dominate the high street of every US and UK city and town, and they were achieving that. They were on such a tear, that in 1989, a new Blockbuster video rental store was being opened every 17 hours! In the early 2000’s Netflix was offered to Blockbuster for $50 million. Why should Blockbuster turn away from their goal of high street dominance? Goal attainment was so tantalizingly close.

We all know what happened to Blockbuster and Netflix. Had Blockbuster taken the Shackleton goal-assessment approach – that survival is more important than goal attainment — they may have survived, just like Shackleton and his men did, to live to see another day.

Shackleton’s next expedition, the Endurance Expedition, also didn’t achieve its goals. Again he had to pivot from his primary goal. Yet it propelled Shackleton to even greater fame, success and glory. It also revealed compelling lessons for modern business decision making. We will save that story for the subject of another blog.

You can contact Brad Borkan on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/bradborkan or by email: brad.borkan@gmail.com or via his website: www.extreme-decisions.com

Not just data… Meaningful Data that enables decisions

I have been discussing on the board of a company that I represent as a Non-Executive Director at a great level of detail the subject of Meaningful Data and the value of Meaningful Data vs Data and Information, in making informed decisions across the business. As the subject seems to becoming a business imperative, I thought a great opportunity for my next blog discussion.

It is very clear in today’s world that most organisations recognise that being a successful, data-driven company requires skilled developers and analysts. Fewer grasp how to use data to tell a meaningful story that resonates both intellectually and emotionally with an audience.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist who once wrote, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” The same applies to data. Companies must understand that data will be remembered only if presented in the right way. And often a slide, spreadsheet or graph is not the right way; a story is.

Boards of Executives and managers are being bombarded with dashboards brimming with analytics. They struggle with data-driven decision making because they do not know the story behind the data.

Sometimes the right data is big. Sometimes the right data is small. But for innovators the key is figuring out what those critical pieces of data are that drive competitive position. Those will be the pieces of right data that you should seek out fervently. To get there, I would strongly suggest asking the following three questions as a process for drilling down to the right data.

  1. What decisions drive waste in your business?
  2. Which decisions could you automate to reduce waste?
  3. What data would you need to do so?

Information systems might differ wildly in form and application but essentially they serve a common purpose which is to convert data into meaningful information which in turn enables the organisation to build knowledge:

Data is unprocessed facts and figures without any added interpretation or analysis. “The price of crude oil is £50 per barrel.”

Information is data that has been interpreted so that it has meaning for the user. “The price of crude oil has risen from £30 to £50 per barrel” gives meaning to the data and so is said to be information to someone who tracks oil prices.

Knowledge is a combination of information, experience and insight that may benefit the individual or the organisation. “When crude oil prices go up by £10 per barrel, it’s likely that petrol prices will rise by 2p per litre” is knowledge.

The boundaries between the three terms are not always clear. What is data to one person is information to someone else. To a commodities trader for example, slight changes in the sea of numbers on a computer screen convey messages which act as information that enables a trader to take action. To almost anyone else they would look like raw data. What matters are the concepts and your ability to use data to build meaningful information and knowledge.

The ability to gather meaningful data is as important as the insights the data can generate. Those insights, the end result of any data collection, is what people see and judge.
The hard truth here is that bad data leads to bad decisions. Thus, it is important to take the time necessary to build a proper data collection process.

Data is meaningful if we have some way to act upon it. Otherwise, we are mere spectators. This is one of the most problematic aspects of the current fetish of data visualisation, which appears to treat data as an unquestionable justification for itself, rather than as a proxy for things that we actually want to understand or probe.

You generally can’t put yourself into a visualisation, tell it a little about yourself, and nudge it towards a better understanding of the questions you want to ask of it (like you would any person you want to find out more about).

If we are satisfied with mere data, datasets or data visualisations as the end goal – rather than all the contextual complexity behind who, why and how it was collected, and what was excluded from the presentation – then we are contenting ourselves with just one dimension, not four.

Data doesn’t need to be numeric, digital or electronic; it’s anything that helps you to make an assessment, and in many senses if it’s non-digital it can integrate a whole host of other phenomena, providing a much deeper, if more complex, proxy.

A wonderful example of this was an air quality experiment led by professor Barbara Maher of Lancaster University. In the test, four houses had 30 potted birch trees placed directly outside their doors; and four households, acting as control subjects, did not have any trees placed outside.

A major innovation in the experiment was that levels of particulate pollution were evaluated by collecting dust particles that settled on television screens, which had been wiped clean at the beginning of the experiment, and comparing the two sets of households to see which had amassed more particulate. The experiment showed – viscerally, visibly and physically – that planting trees reduced particulate. It didn’t require a digital sensor sitting on a mantelpiece.

DIY data
One of the best ways to make data more meaningful is to make it yourself. Measure something – your body, your home, your neighbourhood – and it helps you to not only understand something about it, but more importantly it helps you to figure out the questions you want to ask and the hypotheses you want to assess. Measuring something yourself (the way your body temperature fluctuates; the cycles of noise in your neighbourhood) means you can better decide why and what you might do to affect or act upon it.

A city hackathon bringing dozens, if not hundreds, of software developers together for a short space of time to work for free on government-approved historical datasets is all well and good, but you have to ask how transformative it actually is to work on something without questioning why and how the data was collected, or which data has been excluded.

Collective collecting
When you join with others to measure something, you make meaning by having conversations about the data you are collecting. Sensemaking in this situation becomes a collective activity – you don’t even need to be using the same measuring equipment, you just need to be able to talk about what you’re doing with each other. “I’m measuring air quality,” you say. “Well I’m recording atmospheric humidity levels,” says your neighbour. Have a discussion and you’ll start to build up an intuition of how they correlate, or even better, look at ways of affecting them together, ideally for the better.

User experience
The most important aspect of making data more meaningful is to experience it, somehow, in situ. Even if you were not part of the process of collecting a dataset, to be near to where and when it was captured you are far more likely to be able to integrate all the unspoken, ambient, implicit, informal and unrecorded metadata that datasets and visualisations strip out with their numeric authority.

To stand in a space, a neighbourhood or a city and experience its windy mess while simultaneously being able to interrogate, prod and affect a dataset provides you with the kind of multivalence that is crucial to constructing any useful meaning. You are far more likely to be held accountable, and to hold others accountable, for making use of the data in any decision making process.

Most captivating storytellers grasp the importance of understanding the audience. They might tell the same story to a child and adult, but the intonation and delivery will be different. In the same way, a data-based story should be adjusted based on the listener. For example, when speaking to an executive, statistics are likely key to the conversation, but a business intelligence manager would likely find methods and techniques just as important to the story.

In a Harvard Business Review article titled “How to Tell a Story with Data,” Dell Executive Strategist Jim Stikeleather segments listeners into five main audiences: novice, generalist, management, expert and executive. The novice is new to a subject but doesn’t want oversimplification.
The generalist is aware of a topic but looks for an overview and the story’s major themes. The management seeks in-depth, actionable understanding of a story’s intricacies and interrelationships with access to detail. The expert wants more exploration and discovery and less storytelling. And the executive needs to know the significance and conclusions of weighted probabilities.

Discerning an audience’s level of understanding and objectives will help the storyteller to create a narrative. But how should we tell the story? The answer to this question is crucial because it will define whether the story will be heard or not.

As Stewart Butterfield once said:

“Hard numbers tell an important story; user stats and sales numbers will always be key metrics. But every day, your users are sharing a huge amount of qualitative data, too – and a lot of companies either don’t know how or forget to act on it.”

Leap first and the net will appear!

Do you know the one thing that people who have followed their dreams have in common?

None of them knew what the outcome of taking the steps to follow those dreams would be. They didn’t know if things would turn out like they wanted it to or if, instead, they would wind up failing at what they set out to do. They all had to take a leap knowing there was no safety net below.

It is normal when trying to create the life you want to feel some fear. When you are in the midst of doing the hard work to create the life you want, you will wonder if you have what it takes. You will have to come to a point where you have to leave behind the safety of comfort and the known and you must take that jump into the unknown, and you know there will be no net to catch you.

Are there risks to changing? Yes, and there might even be failure. But not really. The worst thing that can happen is that we wind up somewhere different from where we thought we would end up. But, I promise you will have changed in the process. You will have learned. You will be different.

And, you will be farther along the path to becoming the you who you were meant to be than if you had never jumped in the first place.

However, many people have mixed feelings about risk, in part because they sense that facing the things we fear can present solutions to our internal dilemmas. Risk is something you want and don’t want, all at the same time. It tempts you with its rewards yet repels you with its uncertainties.

Like it or not, taking risks is an inevitable and in-escapable part of life. Whether you’re grappling with the possibility of getting married, starting a business, making a high-stakes investment, writing a biograpgy, or taking some other life or career leap of consequence, one of these days, you’ll wind up confronting your own personal high dive.

At its simplest, a net is a series of ropes and knots bound together in such a manner as to create an effective support structure. As a metaphor for life, nets are the family, friends, coworkers, teachers, even short-term relationships, that support us through their kindness, shared wisdom and thoughtful guidance. In short, they are our safety nets. Safety nets come in a multitude of forms. At times, they’re even invisible to us, only to come into view when it seems like all is lost.

But, what if there were no safety net? When you’re standing at the threshold of opportunity, can you trust in yourself to step forward, to take a leap of faith with only your skills, knowledge and scrappy persistence to propel you and protect you? When you’re making the decision to jump or stay put, remember these three thoughts.

We try so hard to control so many things. We try to control the outcomes of our own situations. We try to control our environment, to control others, how they believe, how others choose to love us, how others choose to live.

What if we just stopped? And enjoyed what showed up? Exactly how it shows up. Surrender. Let go. Forget about the safety net and let yourself fly.

You just might end up exactly where you should be.

Smith’s four pillars of meaning — belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence — can help victims recover from severe trauma. They can also aid anyone dealing with the stresses of daily life. These strategies for nurturing the four pillars can guide you through times of adversity.

Write about your experiences, emotions, and thoughts regarding the causes and consequences of the trauma. Research shows that those who write about their lives make better sense of their stories, report better grades, display fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and enjoy more powerful immune systems.

Cultivate a sense of belonging. Feeling part of a larger purpose is vital to finding meaning. A survey of 28 janitors at a large Midwestern hospital found that when they felt doctors or nurses acknowledged rather than devalued them, they began to see their work as meaningful. Many even started to view themselves as caregivers.

Adopt a “meaning” mindset. High school students who believed their studies would allow them to fulfil a life purpose earned better grades in math and science several months later. For more on the power of mindset to help you build resilience.

Experience awe. Highly resilient people tap into sources of strength and power greater than themselves. One study noted that college students who spent one minute viewing a grove of 200-foot-tall trees became more altruistic than those who spent a minute looking at a tall building. Awe-inspired people feel a diminished sense of their own importance, researchers concluded, which leads them to be more generous.

Finally, there is no such thing as luck. Make your own luck by leveraging opportunities that come your way. Do the small things well. Do the hard things without complaint.

As Albert E. N. Gray writes in ‘The New Common Denominator of Success’, “make a habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.” In other words, be diligent in everything you do. Not because there is a pending reward, but simply because it is the right thing to do and prosperity of opportunity will certainly find you.

There are no accidents. Be as prepared as possible and then proceed with caution. I love the term cautious optimism. It’s a feeling of general confidence regarding a situation and/or its outcome; coupled with a readiness for possible difficulties or failure.

The law of Flexible Planning states that whatever can go wrong might go wrong. And once you adopt this pragmatic approach to life, you’ll begin shoring up your personal safety nets in the event of the unforeseen or unspeakable. I love Aung San Suu Kyi’s quote: “If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future but because I do not want to encourage blind faith.”

Remember, we are not saved from hardship but out of hardship. Tough times are going to happen to everyone no matter how healthy or wealthy you are.

My father used to say:
“Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.”


One of the greatest safety nets of life is the realization that what you are going through is going to have you emerge on the other side as a more tremendous version of yourself.

Without this truth, I would have given up a long time ago.

Guest-blog: Mike Johnson – The gig economy and 31 tips to get ahead of the competition

Mike Johnson

There are an estimated 1.3 million workers in the UK’s gig economy that means approximately 1.3 million people are engaged in ‘gig work’ according to ‘To gig or not to gig: Stories from the modern economy’ a new report from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. The report is based on a survey of 400 gig economy workers and more than 2,000 other workers, as well as 15 in-depth interviews with gig economy workers, who, instead of a regular wage, get paid for the ‘gigs’ they perform, such as a taxi ride or food delivery. The rapid growth of the gig economy threatens to transform the way we work and make the traditional nine-to-five job with a single employer a relic of the past.

Readers may recall that in February 2016 I wrote a blog: ‘So exactly what is the gig economy’

Today, I would like to introduce Mike Johnson, Mike is a self-taught prepper that turned his passion for preparedness into an online survival guide: MikesGearReviews.com. Mike shares his experiences and knowledge with the main objective of teaching families how to get ready to survive pretty much everything and anything from civil unrest to natural disasters.

Mike is going to speak to us today on the gig economy and 31 tips for using the gig economy to get ahead of the competition.

Working under the so-called gig economy isn’t always easy. You get to choose your schedule, sometimes also your terms, and your commitment. You get paid for your work output and nothing else. The gig economy can be a great thing for you but can also be the worst decision for your career.

The pros and cons of the expanding gig economy are still up for discussion. Some analysts fear what it can mean for the future of the whole labor industry. But it doesn’t look like it is going any time soon. After all, freelance and contractual jobs aren’t a new concept; these have been around for a long time.

Some also prefer doing freelance work rather than commit to a full-time job. For all the cons of not having a regular work, there are those who feel that providing jobs on a contractual, temporary basis is the best choice for them. They have more freedom that way, and they have more control of their situation.

If you are convinced that working freelance is the right choice for you, prep yourself for some competition ahead. Because like any other labor setup, the gig economy is full of competitive individuals.

Read our infographic for more information about gig economy and how you can get ahead presented by MikesGearReviews
(click to expand in new tab):

Source: https://www.mikesgearreviews.com/gig-economy/

If you have any questions, you can contact Mike on mike @ mikesgearreviews. com (just remove all 3 spaces)

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The Jekyll, Hyde and The Executive Director

Roger Phare

As an executive director, how do you powerfully lead your organisation through complex challenges? How do you align your organisation, staff, and board around impact and achieve financial sustainability? As daunting as these questions can seem, they are fundamental executive leadership responsibilities.

In spite of its institutional power, the position of an Executive Director remains an immensely demanding one, and not one that any qualified and capable man or woman will agree to lightly.

We welcome back Roger Phare as our guest blogger who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about ‘Jekyll, Hyde Associates and the Executive Director’

Thank you Geoff, today I would like to discuss the role of the Executive Director, which can arguably be the most individually challenging and changeable of all Board roles. Not that the responsibilities are any greater or less than Non- Executive counterparts, yet the concept of disassociating the “day job” with the Board role can be tricky and take some fortitude. The Executive director must possess or develop the ability to perform separate roles with separate mindsets; a veritable Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (and maybe other) set of personas.

The majority of companies start from small beginnings. Friends, family or work colleagues decide to set up in business and likely form a limited liability company. Almost invariably they become shareholders, directors and employees overnight. Generally there will be a leader; a chief executive who, more often than not, will also be elected chairman of the board. The other board members are often generalists, providing input based upon their work role experience.

Confusion can set in as the company grows and more employees are taken on board. This is where the understanding of role demarcation is vital. I recall being an executive director on the board of a growing company some years ago when one of my colleagues, who was head of the technical department as well as an executive director/shareholder, threatened to fire the receptionist for an indiscretion.
The receptionist did not report to this individual but his view was that as a major shareholder and director he had the over-riding power and right to make such decisions. He clearly had confused the roles, effectively merging all three responsibilities into one.

In the board room the need to disassociate the individual roles becomes even more apparent. Recalling that a director’s duty is to represent the medium and long-term interests of the shareholders, the double or triple role can be a major challenge. Let’s say that within a growing goods and services company the head of development, one of the founders and a minority shareholder, also sits on the board as an executive director. As a manager doing his day-to-day job, he has put up a business case to employ a number of new staff members within the development team.

At a board meeting, the annual item regarding profit distribution by way of dividends is discussed. The head of development sees this as an ideal forum to lobby for the approval of the business case. This is not say the overall decision will necessarily be wrong; it is that he has unwittingly brought his managerial role into the boardroom.

Once a company goes public, then the appetite for executive director’s wanes considerably. Most Commonwealth countries operate a unitary system, indicating a balanced mix of executive and non-executive directors. Yet over the past twenty years there has been a push for greater board member independence, with a move towards more non-executive directors. The executive directors are often consigned to the roles of chief executive and possibly head of finance.

Yet are we about to see the return of the executive director on public boards? There is no doubt that the need for up to date subject matter knowledge of industry trends is as much a requirement as expertise around governance and compliance. The need for this has started show itself in the rise of the advisory board; yet this can never replace true in-house expertise.

Perhaps we are about to witness the return of our Henry’s and Edward’s; but this time around improved peer mentoring and coaching maybe the answer.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Guest-blog: David Priseman – The future of technology in home-care for the elderly

David Priseman

Technology is currently critical to home health care. Future advances in home health care technologies have the potential not only to facilitate the role of home health care within the overall health care system but also to help foster community-based independence for individuals.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, David Priseman, who is an accomplished Executive Director. David had a career in consultancy and banking, including spells abroad with two major European banks and has worked for several years in the field of private equity and alternative finance as well as an advisor to SMEs. He has considerable board experience and currently chairs a mid-sized care home group and is a non-executive director of a small but ambitious technology company. He has a particular interest in how technology can address the challenges of the care sector, which is often slow to adopt innovation.

David is going to discuss with us today the future of technology in home-care for the elderly.

Both councils and families strive to keep the elderly living in their own home for as long as possible. Councils see a simple cost advantage in doing so, whilst families also like the idea that mum (statistically, it is usually mum) can still live at home.

However the reality of a single elderly person living at home on her own can be far from the rosy ideal. There is an alternative image of a harassed care worker rushing into an elderly person’s home, quickly heating up a tin of baked beans then 15 minutes later rushing out of the door. Yet this might be the only contact the person has with anyone until the same or a different care worker rushes by the next day.

Domiciliary care, like residential care, is difficult to provide effectively and profitably. Companies are handing back council care contracts as they cannot operate at the fee levels on offer (1). Staff recruitment and retention is a permanent challenge.

Councils are reluctant or unable to pay more than £15/hour, which is not financially viable for home-care providers, who now have to pay employees a higher minimum wage as well as their travel costs. However it can be viable at £20/hour. With care home costs around the £1,000/week level, half this amount would buy 25 hours of home-care per week. As the number of residential care beds is in slight decline whilst the number of elderly people is projected to rise steeply, this implies that the number of elderly people living at home will also rise. With this could come a significant growth in the self-payer home-care market.

People living at home are exposed to the risk of physical vulnerability, slow and inappropriate care delivery and social isolation. However the recent development of new technologies may in combination significantly improve the social and care experience for such people.

The unpredictability of the number of hours worked together with the short term notice of rotas and sudden changes in rotas are a major cause of high home-care worker turnover (2) and a headache for domiciliary care providers. However a range of competing software and apps have now been developed to mitigate (though not remove) this challenge. This can improve the efficiency of staff scheduling from a provider’s view point, addressing one of the main sources of dissatisfaction of employees whilst also introducing flexibility for the elderly resident.

Many elderly people have traditionally had a regular, perhaps weekly, phone call with their children. Some now conduct this through Sype. In addition, some families have installed a videocam or webcam in their parent’s home, usually in the kitchen or lounge/dining room, so they can see mum. This helps to maintain social contact and give reassurances about mum’s safety and wellbeing.

The development of ‘wearable technology’ should become more widespread. Currently the dominant application is for fitness monitoring during exercise, however it will increasingly move over to healthcare monitoring. This can be a watch or a monitor which is worn as an arm panel or in the future may be embedded in clothing; in all cases it measures certain of the wearer’s vital signs.
At present, these are mostly used in hospitals to reduce the requirement of nurses, of whom there is a well-documented shortage, to conduct routine patient checks. Instead, the data are transmitted to a cloud-based server and if a vital sign reading crosses a warning threshold this immediately signals an alert. In time, these devices will migrate to the residential setting.
This will speed up the awareness and treatment of a wearer’s condition. Major medical devices companies such as Medtronics and GE are active in this area, which has also seen technology start ups enter the market, such as EarlySense and Snap40. (3)

The internet of things (IoT) is rapidly increasing the number of internet-connected devices in the home. This can be used in a number of ways to improve the safety of elderly people living at home. For example, many people get up, go to the toilet, have a cup of tea and open the curtains. Sensors can detect whether or not the toilet has been flushed, the kettle boiled and the curtains opened, and if any of these things has not happened by say 9am then an alert would be triggered. (4)

One of the main problems facing the elderly living alone is loneliness and the lack of contact with others. Here, a combination of technologies is emerging to provide at least a partial solution. Awareness has recently increased of Amazon’s Alexa voice-controlled system which can search the internet, answer questions and respond to simple commands. Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are similar and rival devices.
Owing to improvements in voice recognition and AI, it will increasingly be possible to have an interactive ‘conversation’ with such devices. At some point, it may be possible to combine this with the face of a person on a screen or even a hologram of a person in the room to create the impression that a human is having a conversation with and maybe even developing a relationship with an intelligent machine-based ‘person’.
This idea has been explored in television and film, for example the science-fiction drama Her when a man develops a romantic relationship with his computer’s feminised operating system (5). Soon, it may become reality and even commonplace.

Finally, more than one of these technologies may combine in a way that provides care monitoring, practical assistance and companionship. Developed countries all have aging populations so the need to find solutions is urgent and many companies and universities are conducting research into this area, such as robotics with AI (6). New market opportunities are emerging to integrate and package appropriate technology solutions.

The vulnerable elderly living on their own at home have often been poorly served to date. Yet the number of such people is poised to continue to rise steeply. However a number of technologies are now being developed in parallel to tackle the problems they face. The result may be an improved care environment for the elderly at home: safer, reliable, better supported and less isolated. Such a future could be with us sooner than we think.

You can contact David Priseman on LinkedIn or by email: davidpriseman @ btconnect.com (remove spaces).

References

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39321579
2. http://timewise.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/1957-Timewise-Caring-by-Design-report-Under-200MB.pdf
3. http://www.earlysense.com/ and http://www.snap40.com/
4. https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/internet-caring/ and https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/elderly-independent-smart-home/
5. http://www.herthemovie.com/#/about
6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39255244

“Journeys to Success” – out next week!

In the best-selling “Journeys to Success” series, men and women share their personal stories of transforming life-shattering events into triumphant success. The stories inside this book contain powerful seeds for resilience, spiritual awakening and plain determination in the face of powerful events. ‘Volume 9’ (to be published on 19th June, 2018) is a dedication to the late Tom Cunnigham, who recently passed away.

If you love stories of overcoming life’s challenges, this book is for you!

The “Journeys to Success”-series has become an international sensation, international author and I’m incredibly proud to have contributed this chapter: ‘Striving for an Ultimate Goal’.

The series has sold over 100 million copies in various formats including ebooks, hardback, and paperback, apps and audiobooks.

See also: “Journeys to Success” – Podcast