Tag Archives: Productivity

The End of Men? Not in the Retail Sector

By Virginia Postrel – The collapse of traditional retailing reverses a much-heralded trend: Jobs that involve working with things are disappearing, while those that demand a winning personality — celebrated as “emotional intelligence” — are growing.

Men lose while women win, especially at the bottom of the educational and income ladder.

Contrary to the feminine triumphalism that declares traditionally male skills obsolete, the economy is full of surprises and cross-currents. In the retailing world, demand for people-pleasing sales clerks is down.

Like capital-intensive factories, warehouses with robot assistants make workers more productive and hence more valuable. In Amazon’s cutting-edge facilities, they complement human skills. more> https://goo.gl/RNMzln

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The Path to Better Management of Government’s Huge Programs

By Alan Balutis, Dan Chenok, Greg Giddens, Stan Soloway and Jim Williams – The pace of technology is more rapid today. Government, like the commercial sector, has changed its approach to the concept of programs, shifting to a model in which modular steps and agile processes have largely displaced traditional, large-scale “waterfall” strategies. Still, the need for strong program management skills remains central to success.

But, outside of the Department of Defense and a few civilian agencies, program management is not ‘institutionalized’ as an established management discipline.”

  • First, we believe there needs to a clear line of leadership. Program management is a core component of agency success and should be treated and embraced as such.
  • Second, we need to establish clarity of responsibility and accountability for the delivery of program results.
  • Third, with the establishment under PMIAA (Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act) of the program management career field, we must move quickly to design and implement a consistent training and professional development process for program managers, as well as a clear and contemporary set of requirements for hiring them.
  • Change management, a skill critical to driving success in managing complex programs involving multiple stakeholders, should be a key element of this curriculum.
  • Fourth, to help program managers continue to grow and learn, OMB (Office of Management and Budget) should ensure that the Program Management Policy Council created by the statute is set up effectively.

With these building blocks in place, agencies can zero in on what is most important: performance. Programs fail for many reasons, including inadequate governance, meaningless metrics, and insufficient capacity for or willingness to change. Strong program management can help overcome each of those barriers; without it, they are likely to endure. more> https://goo.gl/PHG67A

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Updates from GE

Game On: Augmented Reality Is Helping Factory Workers Become More Productive
By Tomas Kellner – As chief engineer for advanced manufacturing at GE Healthcare, Jimmie Beacham, 43, is in charge of a futuristic laboratory in Waukesha, Wisconsin, experimenting with new ways to make things. He and his team are using the Xbox and a connected Kinect motion tracker to bring augmented reality (AR) into the factory and help workers become more efficient. “We are projecting the work instructions onto the parts and use sensors to monitor the assembly and give feedback to the operator,” Beacham says.

Specifically, the Kinect and a camera are following the worker’s movements and feeding them to a computer that stores the assembly instructions. The computer controls an overhead projector that displays the manufacturing steps on the workbench. Based on the visual and sensory feedback, the system signals the operator immediately if an error occurs or guides them to the next step.

The system currently at the Waukesha lab came from Light Guide System, a Detroit-area maker of augmented reality tools for industry. The first applications are focusing on guiding workers through “the critical steps where we can’t afford to make a mistake,” Beacham says. But his team has already started expanding its scope and connecting it to face recognition technology, collaborative robots, or cobots, and Predix, GE’s software platform for the Industrial Internet. more> https://goo.gl/KaGM9r

Updates from Adobe

5 Illustration Trends for 2017
By Terry Hemphill – Illustrators whose work combines found imagery and traditional illustration in a conceptual, collage style are in high demand, according to Marlena Torzecka, president of Marlena Agency, an illustration and art agency in Princeton, New Jersey.

“Time is so valuable now, there’s often only one or two days to produce a piece for publication, making it nearly impossible to send a photographer to do a shoot for a story,” says Torzecka. “For example, for an editorial illustration about a breaking political story, it might mean photographing several people together who may not even be in the same location. It’s much easier to use existing photos to tell a new story.”

But collage also provides a wide-open playing field for illustrators to explore and mix ideas and concepts to produce images with a special power and appeal for the viewer. more> https://goo.gl/0je6O7

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Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard

By Noah Smith – One common assertion is that while manufacturing jobs have declined, output has actually risen. But this piece of conventional wisdom is now outdated. U.S. manufacturing output is almost exactly the same as it was just before the financial crisis of 2008:

It isn’t just manufacturing employment and the sector’s share of gross domestic product that are hurting in the U.S. It’s total output. The U.S. doesn’t really make more stuff than it used to.

And, more troubling, the U.S. is now losing computer manufacturing. Susan Houseman et al. show that U.S. computer production began to fall during the Great Recession. In semiconductors, output has grown slightly, but has been far outpaced by most East Asian countries. Meanwhile, trade deficits in these areas have been climbing.

Faced with this evidence, many skeptics will question why the sector is important at all.

Why should a country specialize in making things, when it can instead specialize in designing, marketing and financing the making of things? more> https://goo.gl/5xRTIf

Why Overcoming Inertia Takes Two Whys

By George Bradt – As laid out in an earlier article on “Three Steps to a Compelling Message,” leadership stories to inspire change need to:

  1. Depict the platform for change (why)
  2. Create a vision of a better future (what)
  3. Lay out a call to action (how)

Scott Jackson provides a model leadership story in his book, Take Me With You, published this week. In particular, he nails the two whys it takes to overcome inertia.

  1. Why #1 – Why I Can’t Keep Doing What I’m Doing
  2. Why #2 – Why I Should Listen To You On This Subject

more> https://goo.gl/Dc74Ee

How Trump’s Plan to Reorganize Government Could Work

By Steve Goodrich – On March 13, President Trump issued an executive order for a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch. It calls for the OMB director and agency heads to develop plans for improving the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of agencies, subcomponents and programs within 180 days.

I am not naïve, and yes, I have seen this many times before. But if done right, with a strong foundation and a plan, it could work. It could also be another once-and-done exercise that demonstrates little to no value. Many administrations have conducted similar exercises, most of which faded with the political passing. The Trump executive order runs the risk of having little or negative impact, reducing readiness and demoralizing employees. It also has the potential to do great things for our country.

Here are a few suggestions for how to make it work.

  1. It must involve Congress.
  2. It should begin with a national summit that results in a strategic plan.
  3. Someone must be in charge.
  4. Reorganization must address vertical and horizontal programs.
  5. Reform must cross agency boundaries.
  6. Accept that some investment will be necessary.
  7. Leverage what you have before you throw anything out.
  8. Make hard decisions.
  9. Fix the foundation.
  10. Create a culture of sharing.
  11. Grow people.
  12. Address financial issues

more> https://goo.gl/CGO0zu

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The body is the missing link for truly intelligent machines

BOOK REVIEW

Basin and Range, Author: John McPhee.
Descartes’ Error, Author: Antonio Damasio.

By Ben Medlock – Things took a wrong turn at the beginning of modern AI, back in the 1950s. Computer scientists decided to try to imitate conscious reasoning by building logical systems based on symbols. The method involves associating real-world entities with digital codes to create virtual models of the environment, which could then be projected back onto the world itself.

In later decades, as computing power grew, researchers switched to using statistics to extract patterns from massive quantities of data. These methods are often referred to as ‘machine learning’. Rather than trying to encode high-level knowledge and logical reasoning, machine learning employs a bottom-up approach in which algorithms discern relationships by repeating tasks, such as classifying the visual objects in images or transcribing recorded speech into text.

But algorithms are a long way from being able to think like us. The biggest distinction lies in our evolved biology, and how that biology processes information. Humans are made up of trillions of eukaryotic cells, which first appeared in the fossil record around 2.5 billion years ago. A human cell is a remarkable piece of networked machinery that has about the same number of components as a modern jumbo jet – all of which arose out of a longstanding, embedded encounter with the natural world.

We only have the world as it is revealed to us, which is rooted in our evolved, embodied needs as an organism. Nature ‘has built the apparatus of rationality not just on top of the apparatus of biological regulation, but also from it and with it’,

In other words, we think with our whole body, not just with the brain. more> https://goo.gl/oBgkRF

Updates from GE

Charged Up: GE Shows Investors Its Energy Playbook
By Tomas Kellner – The acquisition of Alstom’s energy assets delivered $1.5 billion in synergies in 2016, $300 million above GE’s original five-year target for Alstom synergies, GE’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Bornstein told investors at a conference in New York held by GE’s Power and Renewable Energy businesses last week. “Alstom makes us more competitive,” Bornstein said. “It broadens the service base and creates long-term incremental value.”

Jobs, cash, costs and software were the key themes at the conference. Bornstein said GE Oil & Gas was now “applying the same methodology” to its planned merger with Baker Hughes. “The businesses are very complementary,” he said. “It’s going to be a merger of equals.” Bornstein said he was “highly confident” the deal would “deliver a lot more value than $1.6 billion” in synergies by 2020, the target the companies released when they announced the deal last October.

Bornstein also talked about the need to speed up the shrinking of GE’s $25 billion in “structural costs,” which are funding support functions, R&D, corporate operations and other expenses. more> https://goo.gl/z07MkD

Updates from Adobe

The Infinity Wall
By Charles Purdy – Inspired by the event space’s interior design—which involved curvilinear wood elements and sculptural wooden columns—the team came up with the “Infinity” theme.

“The interior had planes of wood, and there was a beautiful Zaha Hadid bench that looked like a tree trunk made of slats of wood,” says Vincent Rogozyk. “For this reason, we started designing with slats. The scale of the wall informed the scale of the graphics—the idea was to make the whole thing look like a giant object.”

Bałauszko and Michał Czubak brought the designers’ sketches to life, turning the biomorphic and geometric shapes into polished motion graphics. The final work comprised four basic scenes of abstract 3D kinetic animations that were programmed to morph and transition in a loop. “We designed using 3D software and Adobe After Effects CC, with the help of an offsite render farm,” says Rogozyk. “We definitely tested the limits of the hotel’s Internet connection.” more> https://goo.gl/JzQHRZ

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