Simplicity in a complex environment possible?


In all of our sophistication(s), humans react to the world in simple ways as our ability to cope with its complexity is limited. Do we seek simple solutions that hide or ignore the complexity?

Human senses are constantly producing far more data than their brains can process. Our brains cope with complexity by identifying important features and filtering out unnecessary detail(s). An example such as on seeing that the space you enter has four walls, a floor and a ceiling, you know you have entered a room and usually ignore the details. As individuals we deal with complexity by removing or hiding it. Our mental schemes are one way of doing that. Habits are another.

We also simplify complex decision-making by using received wisdom (e.g. advice of others, conforming to the beliefs and attitudes of what we may be associated to).

Society has many ways of managing complexity, one common approach is “divide and rule” approach to management which leads to hierarchical division of large organisations. Hierarchical breakdown introduces its own issues as the need to define early what are the decisive factors. Although structural changes can take place but only of rather limited value. Such systems have a tendency to go for the local optimum in each branch (see “The first step is key…”).  Another approach is to define laws, rules, commercial standards which creates limits and restrictions.

New technologies are usually introduced to simplify our lives, but inevitably they have unexpected side effects on society. An example is the introduction of robotics/ labour-saving systems set off cascades of social change, such as the decline of the nuclear family. In addition instead of addressing and replacing the complex systems with more efficient adaptable ones, we add additional layers of complexity by keeping legacy systems and integrating them with the so-called new and simpler ones. On top of that there is a continuous addition of business process which makes consolidation almost impossible. It makes life simpler to rely on others to provide solutions to complex problems.

This inability to fathom complexity leads to a belief that any worthwhile solution to a situation must be simple. Any change introduces complexity into people’s lives. Rather than face issues that are complex, some retreat into denial, preferring to believe in a simpler future in which there is no change and continue with their paradigms.

In an era of post-truth and pseudoscience, avoid dismissing uncomfortable facts out of hand. Complexity arises from the richness of interconnections between things. Can we continue to ignore the wider context and the side effects of actions and ideas? The continuous adoption and extension of programs are vital to humans over time.

“Our brain is not to think – it is to keep us alive”


The first step is key …

In the previous post we looked at Getting in and out of the box at will …. Thinking and acting outside the box is not easy at all.

The post Three Things You Need To Know About The Brain To Build Great Teams by Everett Harper shows some reasons for this based on Ellen Leanse book, The Happiness Hack. We all want to be happy. Our brain experiences two forms of happiness:

  • One, “hedonic” happiness, is associated primarily with fast reward dopamine cycles
  • The second “eudiamonic” form seems to rise from longer, slower reward cycles associated with serotonin

The post states that we have been hacked and are now flooded with hedonistic fast reward happiness. We must break free when we go out to explore the boundaries of our box to finally start thinking and acting outside of it. Once we manage to leave the box this triggers new insights causing ‘eudiamonic’ happiness but also fear.

Fear is the natural response of the brain to new experiences. The brains main purpose is not to think but to keep us safe. Keeping us safe works best by following routines and patterns. So the safe place is in the box where we follow what used to work. To get outside and break with routines and habits requires explicit action, it’s hard.

And finally once you have left the box it will be hard to convince others to move. They comfortably sit in the box. The perceived good place is in the box, talking about better alternatives is perceived as negative. But routine tends to be boring – a convincing and exciting vision may help to get things going.
People often say that execution makes the difference. Maybe it is the decision to make the first step ….

Towards a digital barter economy?


Barter is a system, used since many centuries ago, of exchange where goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money.<

Thus a barter economy is one where money does not exist or has ceased to be functional. It means consumers have to gain goods or services through exchange. Limitations introduced are:

  • Difficulty to produce or find the demand of specialised goods only wanted by a proportion of the population
  • Indivisibility of some goods/services
  • Seasonal; perishable
  • Subjective means to judge how much good and services actually are

Then came the development of using commodity money whose value comes from a commodity of which it is made (e.g. cigarettes, gasoline, precious metal, etc). The system of commodity money eventually evolved into a system of representative money as gold/silver merchants or banks would issue receipts to their depositors – redeemable for the commodity money deposited. Eventually these receipts became generally accepted as a means of payment and were used as money. To date most countries adopted fiat currencies that were initially fixed to the U.S. dollar as it was fixed to gold. However in 1971, the U.S. government suspended the client convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold and many countries have thus de-pegged their currencies from the U.S. dollar. In our current state most of the world’s currencies became unbacked by anything except the government’s fiat or legal tender and the ability to convert the money into goods via payment.

Can the use of fiat currencies continue to sustain in the forthcoming digital ecosystems? Would money evolve to become cryotofiatcurrencies? There is the notion of “private money” set out by the noted Maltese “lateral thinker” Dr Edward de Bono which he argues that companies could raise money just as governments now do – by creating it from thin air. The idea of private currency was treated as a claim on products or services producers by the issuer. An example is company x can issue “ Company x currency” that would be redeemable for its products and services but also tradable for other companies’ currency or for other assets in a liquid market. According to Dr de Bono, to make such a scheme work, the company needs to learn to manage the supply of money to ensure that the monetary base and its capacity to deliver are matched and that inflation does not destroy the value of their creations.

This will introduce a new financial market where companies instead of issuing equities, it issues money that is redeemable against future services. In the case of startups, this money would trade at significant discount to take into consideration the risks inherent in the venture. But once it passes this state, the value of the money will rise provided products/services are available and more importantly used and preferred by consumers. With potential tens of millions of such currencies in circulation either being traded on futures, options, foreign exchange markets this leads to the question of usability and extremely complex transactions that people can not comprehend. The notion is that an individual’s “digital me” will be conducting these transactions with other digital representation of the physical individuals.

“Digital me” (see Be your digital self …) will be entirely capable of handling complex transactions and/or negotiations with other such as matching demands and supplies of financial assets, determine prices, or make settlements. Communications will be in real time and activities take place instantenously.

Will digital tokens be the form of “private money” described above to be the defacto in the marketplace? There will not be any centralisation to manage new forms of money. Tokens won’t only be issued by companies and tokens that implement on the values of communities will become prominent in the transactional space.

“Every day, in every way, the future of money looks very much more like its past” – Dave Birch


What I read got me thinking

“Making me think” is one of the biggest compliments you can obtain from me. We are used to continue our habits and patterns and it takes great effort to escape from them.
As a child I was always inquisitive and full of questions – although some are not so challenging but when in doubt we try to understand and learn by asking lots of questions. Over time we perceived to think that we have asked all important ones with all the answers ready. Thus the creation of “our box.”

Asking questions is a way of getting in and out of your box at will and to develop new concepts, thoughts and ideas. Asking yourself (and others) many questions every time is a form of gym to workout your brain. Martin Gaedt explores this in “Rock your ideas” (available in German only). Look around and start to challenge yourself and others – rock your ideas!

How will Artificial Intelligence affect crime, war, justice, jobs, society and our very sense of being human? Max Tegmark provides a fascinating perspective into different forms of life, its evolution and physical limits in Life 3.0. The book defines basic terms like intelligence and busts common myths. Max raises many questions, provides answers and stresses the importance of having accepted ethical standards in the rise of AI.

What is happiness? Is there a formula to become happier? What are the parameters and how can the outcome be optimized? Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat takes an engineers perspective.

Can humans overcome death? Should they? Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari looks into a world where more people die from eating too much then from having nothing to eat and where more people commit suicide then there are victims of soldiers, terrorists and criminals together.

Do you believe what you can see? Can you only see what you believe? The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data by Michael P. Lynch explores this paradox.

What is money? What is currency? What if companies issue their own money? Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin: From Money that We Understand to Money that Understands Us by David Birch s a fascinating book exploring how technology is changing money.

Do you know what work is? Do you work in the office or are you just busy playing roles without producing value? Lars Vollmer provides answers in his book Zurück an die Arbeit: Wie aus Business-Theatern wieder echte Unternehmen werden. The book is available in German only.

What is important? What is true? Is it important, that it is true? Gunter Dueck explores these questions in his book Flachsinn: Ich habe Hirn, ich will hier raus. The book is available in German only. How can one escape from the growing shallowness? Maybe by listening to these books and by challenging yourself …

The publications above made me think … What books made you think? How have they influence “your box”?

A good time to “workout” our brain and reflect on “our box” during the holiday season.

Getting in and out of the box at will …

I recently read Don’t Just Think Outside The Box — Go In And Out Of It At Will by Bruce Kasanoff. The post was about Eric Lee, a specification writer who started to successfully paint on glass motivated by his wife.

  • “Here’s what I find most fascinating: Eric never stops thinking about what’s possible and how he might stretch the boundaries of where and how his art finds its way into the world.”
  • “I don’t think out-of-the-box,” says Eric. “I believe in knowing where the box is, and going in and out at will. I don’t want to be pressured to always be edgy. Sometimes there are classic techniques that work best.”

Do you know what and where your box is? Do you know its boundaries? This is actually a very interesting and also challenging question. Do you know the boxes of the people you interact with or the boxes of team members at work?

Thinking and acting outside the box and experiencing the world from different perspectives with fresh eyes is increasingly important in our fast changing time. Start by thinking about your box(s) as you can only step outside the box if you understand the boundaries, the paradigms and habits which make the box your box.

Thinking outside of the box allows you to get rewards outside of your reach.”

― Matshona Dhliwayo

Be your digital self …

We all have at least one digital self, something representing us to engage in the technological world. Initially this may just be information about us and related data. But at some point, in time this digital footprint will learn and adopt our behaviors and become active.
We may have multiple digital selves – genuine and facades. The genuine self is the one which learns directly from our behaviors and mirrors our social identity. The facades are tailored for specific situations or may try to protect the genuine self.
The genuine digital self will become a mirror of you – most likely knowing more about you than you do yourself.
Is the genuine digital self a legal subject or just acting on behalf? Our genuine digital self will be able to act much faster considering more information than we can – if allowed. We must consider the level of responsibility and accountability on our physical self for what it does. Should this begin with a form of parent child relation and to evolve becoming a legal subject over time.  This evolved relationship enables the digital citizen to grow and learn over time to become of full legal age at some point.
Ethical standards for digital selves will become increasingly important – humans have ethical basic patterns which are inherited and part of the DNA. Before digital selves become widely adopted and increasing active, digital self will require such standards.
We will, as part of the evolution, need to revisit our standards of privacy. Are we able to pause our digital self and what would be the impact and disruption to our digital ecosystem?  Digital self-editing may sound funny but may soon become a serious issue when others detect discrepancies and lead to distrust. Observed digital selves – you observed by others – can be used to validate information or complement it. So, you need to become more yourself – which for most people is not a big issue.
We need to evolve our perspective of what we treat and define as sensitive information during this journey. Fundamental attributes such as name, birth date or social security number will be increasingly hard to protect. So, we will need to change the way how we see personal information during this journey. Many legacy constructs like credit card numbers are not suitable for the digital age and must be replaced – this is the essence of the ‘digital transformation’.
Obviously, the digital self needs to be well secured and protected. This includes integrity, availability and confidentiality. Initially you will be responsible to keep your true digital self secure. But at some point, this will change and your digital self starts to protect you – two evolutionary states of digital self defense.

November on FINthinkers

November 2017 was the first month for the FINthinkers blog. Below is a short summary of what covered so far
Our blog started with Change is inevitable looking at diverse types of change ranging from evolution to revolution. We also touched on Conway’s Law which states that organizations designing systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations. Following Conway’s law companies need to change the organization to create the systems required to stay relevant in the new normal. In Next stop – FinTechGiants ? we look at the available dimensions to outperform others and at the relevant structures which each company has. Many companies seem to apply a Tur Tur strategy to change looking giant from far away but very small if one gets closely.
Client Experience and Brand
Noisy Channel(s) to Channel-less highlights the need to think from the client’s perspective. No client talks about channels but we all like to have seamless and ubiquitous experience to reach the desired outcomes. So brand’s digital behaviour becomes vital when services are transparent in a digitally augmented world.
Homomorphic Encryption started a series of posts on security and related topics.
We hope that the posts inspired you to think about the topics. The nest posts will follow soon … thanks for reading.


Digital Tur Tur

Be aware of signs of Mr. Tur Tur

Let me begin with a German children’s novel written by Michael Ende. Lummerland is the home to Jim Button and Luke the engine driver. On one of their adventures Luke and Jim gain a new friend, the giant Mr. Tur Tur. He is an apparent giant and only appears giant in size from far away but is normal when being close.

The apparent giant is of course an allegory – one that often comes to my mind when having discussions or reading about digital transformation. Many of the declared digitization strategies seem like Mr. Tur Tur in nature. The way things are presented and promoted as part of digital transformation initiatives seem impressive from a distance – labs established, digital officers nominated, technology declared to be multi speed, problems to be solved via agile and innovation formalized. But upon looking closer, not so much has really changed.

Digitization is about rethinking value propositions from the core based on digital paradigms with the clients in focus. The generated revenues reflect the result of excellent value propositions. These value propositions must fit not just into any but into the client’s networked world. Digitisation necessitates the redefinition of the core value propositions and transformation of the business model. A high degree of automation and digital assets are qualities of such a model, but a high automation of processes or the replacement of paper with web forms do not imply successful digitisation.

Many value propositions will become ubiquitous as they happen behind the scenes transparently integrated to create the outcomes desired by the client. This will happen though the integration of interfaces to services into user journeys or skills into client’s personal smart assistants. Highly scalable and continuously available interfaces, also known as, APIs are key building blocks to enabling these impending capabilities.

To brace the digitisation journey, a company must encompass all dimensions of skills, organization and technology (see Next stop – FinTechGiants ?). To date only a few incumbent companies have approached the challenge and adopted its fundamental way. Rule of thumb indicates that incomes erode by 50% while a dominating player emerges during the digital transformation of an industry. The question for digital laggards becomes how long they can sustain against the trend in the market – trying to catch up does not work. Agility and scalability are imperative and key to survive in the digital world – qualities that must be regained or even re-learned by many organizations.

Look out and be aware of signs of Mr. Tur Tur in your environment. Digitisation requires fundamental changes and cannot be achieved incrementally – underestimating them or creating a perception through marketing campaigns will impede and be detrimental to your business.

Conway’s Law – Change or Fail?

We were recently discussing Conway’s Law in the context of the ongoing transition towards solutions which are digital in their core. The law is named after programmer Melvin Conway who first introduced it in 1967 and said: ‘ organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.’  If Conway is right, then this means that implementing a new inherently digital solution requires organizations to change structures or at least their ways to communicate.  Sounds like change is inevitable … 

Change is inevitable ….

Evolution, tranformation or beginning revolution – open your mind, think and act!

Change is the only constant. Have you thought about the types of changes we are experiencing now? Is it evolutionary, transformational or even the coming of a revolution?
  • Evolution – the gradual development or formation of
  • Transformation – a dramatic change of state of being
  • Revolution – a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or current establishment
Today many use the term ‘digital transformation‘ to mean the transformation of the current state into a state which is digital in its core. A state where information is continuously collected, exchanged and analyzed allowing to create smart and interconnected products which adapt and learn.
Some refer to the ‘4th industrial revolution‘ and mean a fundamental and wide reaching change affecting the life of all of us, the society and its values. What happens when smart machines perform the work and humans have time? Do we then focus on our intrinsic motivation? It is clear that many of the paradigms and trained thinking patterns we are used to immediately become invalid.
If you look around and open up your mind – enabling you to notice what you belief is possible – thus you then sense that we are probably quite close to a revolution where many things we consider as naturally given today will be replaced by a new normal.
  • Start by looking at a one example: self-driving electric cars and its implications. Soon we will transition from car ownership to co-sharing where you pay per use via a simply request which matches your current needs. There is no need for personal parking spaces or garages; With connected self driving cars, there will be substantially transformation of current governance and road infrastructure, less cars and accidents; insurances business model will need to be different.
  • Other additional examples to ponder upon such as the increase in automation or the on-demand replication of goods and imagine how the implications of these scenarios interfere and influence each other.
The changes are combinatorial and the consequences are profound and complex. They will most likely happen much faster than expected once its trigger point is reached.
Are we really in a transformation or at the beginning of a revolution?   Are you ready for the change? Are we ready for the change? Is your company making the future happen or busy running a red queen’s race?


Change happens …. change is happening …. progress in optional