Messages Sent and Received–Or Not

primeinc Growth, Innovation, Leadership, Productivity

Ever since my long-ago youth, I wondered how I could determine if what I described as, say, blue was the same thing that someone else described with the same word. Was it possible that despite our common-sense approach that said that we all were using the same terminology, we really weren’t communicating at all?

This specific conundrum came up in a recent article, that shows that I was basically on the right track: Communications are not always as simple as we’d like them to be.

message_bottleIn my usual way, this got me thinking about communications in other areas, as well. I like to think of myself as a consummate communicator: I formulate my thoughts and ideas, consider how best to bring them forth in spoken or written words, and transfer appropriate meaning to my audience.

Alas, I find that too often my intentions are not made manifest in the desired transfer of information owing to a plethora of reasons, including lack of common vocabulary, inattention on my part or that of my audience, addition of “noise” to the “signal” (for whatever the reason),  and more.

How, then, to ensure that the message sent is the message received?

I’ll leave that as an exercise for the student.

But, if you figure it out, please let me know.

Questions: How can you know that what you’re sending is what is being received? What steps can you take to ensure clean transfer of information? How might your life—professional, personal, or both—be affected by a lack of communications? How could it be enhanced by cleaning up the “signal?”

On hiatus…

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I’m going to have to use the energies I usually use for this platform in other areas for awhile, perhaps as long as through the rest of April. Please keep checking in, though, as I never know when something appropriate might strike me, and I’m motivated enough to post something, constraints on my time notwithstanding!

What Used to Be May Not Be

primeinc Growth, Innovation, Leadership, Productivity

It’s clear that things aren’t always what they seem. I’ve written on this subject before; see this link. But Particularly in scientific endeavors, all it takes is one experiment or reproducible observation to put things into the proverbial cocked hat.

Image courtesy of Springer.

Image courtesy of Springer.

Take this item, for example, in which is reported an experiment that seems to show that the speed of light in a vacuum is variable, as are the vacuum conditions under which such observations are made.

Complicated, I know, but who said the Universe was simple to understand?

Still, it did remind me that so much of what believe—know!—to be true may not be as fixed as we think it is, with concomitants that we probably had never thought about.

Questions: What do you “know” to be true? How do you know it? What consequences would there be if such a strongly held position (belief?) were shown to be variable, and not constant? Are you prepared to allow such “heretical” thoughts to enter your consciousness?

 

Daily Battles

primeinc Growth, Innovation, Leadership, Productivity

I often come across words of wisdom, or guidelines to help get one through one’s life, or even just a day. Most are commonplace and obvious, but that doesn’t always disqualify them or their value. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and all that.

life_preserverSo, it was with some ennui that I accessed this blog post, only to find that I was in significant agreement with most of them.

I’ll not claim that this is an exhaustive list, but I quite liked the sentiment and rationale behind the choices, and wanted to share them with my loyal readership.

Questions: What do you choose to guide your behavior, daily? How about long-term? Do you live up to those guidelines? How do you feel if you don’t? What can you do to ensure that you cause most—if not all of them—to take place, every day?

 

Forest for the Trees

primeinc Growth, Innovation, Leadership, Productivity

I love numbers—for various reasons. Most germane to this post is that I think that finding numerical patterns makes me feel like I have some control over things, although—to be sure!—such an approach is illusory at best, and misleading, at worst.

blocksNonetheless, finding real or apparent numerical relationships in the Universe is interesting and comforting.

So, finding this link that advises that visualizing relationships in data is not the same as analysis was quite welcome.

Too often, it seems, practitioners of the technical arts conclude that because they are able to visualize relationships, their job is done.

Not so. It’s only the beginning.

Questions: Do you substitute data for information? How do you know when you’ve done enough analysis to draw a conclusion? What false leads might you be susceptible to, such that your conclusions (if drawn at all) may be erroneous or misleading? How can you protect against such?

 

The Unexpected

primeinc Growth, Leadership, Productivity

Our planet had a bit of a scare last week: In two apparently unrelated incidents, pieces of the Solar System made incursions into our neck of the cosmic woods.

The one that we knew about in advance, asteroid 2012 DA14, whizzed by at speeds in excess of 17,000 mph, well within the orbit of the synchronous satellites we all depend on for weather forecasting and telecommunications support. That was a close enough call to awareness that things Out There are not as quiescent as we might like to think.

The one we didn’t know about hit the atmosphere over Russia. While about one-third the size of the asteroid, it was moving about two-and-a-half times faster, with attendant kinetic energy. Had it hit the surface without having broken up in flight the way it did, and had its trajectory been even just a skosh different, the results could have been dire–at least, locally. As it was, there was ample cause for alarm, as noted in this video of the effects of its shockwave on the citizenry:

The earlier-seen path through the atmosphere was awe-inspiring; this on-the-ground view was just plain frightening.

Questions: How well prepared are you—emotionally—for unforeseen events? Can you realistically be prepared for everything? How about just for anything? What do you consider a true disaster? Do the day-to-day things that get you really irked qualify? Are they even on your radar, as compared with a real disaster?

More Things Not Dreamt Of

primeinc Growth, Innovation, Leadership, Productivity

Despite oft-repeated claims by the self-described cognoscenti, something new in science is being discovered all the time. As Hamlet opined, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” [Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5, 159–167]

bee_flowerToday’s tidbit comes from the realm of physics and animal behavior, specifically this item that describes how bees can sense the electric field surrounding a flower to ascertain its pollination status.

Who’d-a thunk it?

I draw several conclusions from the report: The first, that bees (and, presumably, other biological entities) have capabilities that have not yet been dreamed of, never mind found. This leads to the second conclusion: that we haven’t yet got it all figured out yet, nor, I suspect, will we ever do so. In support of this contention, I invoke Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems, which say, basically, that you can’t figure out the entirety of a system from within the system. The application here may not be exact, but it is related.

Humbling, isn’t it?

Questions: How sure are you of your grasp of the contents and bounds of your discipline area? Are you willing to entertain the prospect that there’s more to be learned? If so, how can you ensure that you don’t settle into complacency? What are the consequences of not exploring things further? What are the benefits of doing so?

 

 

When Junk Isn’t

primeinc Growth, Innovation, Leadership, Productivity

I cannot document this, but ‘Way Back When, in the days when I was a graduate student studying the interactions between nucleic acids and proteins, I was firmly convinced that the then so-called “junk” DNA—which was comprised of all noncoding sequences in the genome—couldn’t just be junk. As much energy and resources were expended on maintaining its sequence as for the coding regions, and I just couldn’t fathom why that would be, unless there were a role for such sequences.

DNATime has proven me correct: “Junk” DNA is anything but, as it has major—MAJOR!—roles in control of gene expression. And, as time goes on, increasing levels of complexity are layered into the equation, as shown by this recent item.

I’m not writing this to assert my claim to precognition, but rather to point up that “consensus” science—indeed, consensus anything—is subject to later modification, and that virtually everything we think is so may very well not be—with attendant consequences that can have effects that far exceed the localized phenomenon under discussion.

Questions: How set are you in your belief system? Do such beliefs always work for you? How can you determine if it’s time to change your beliefs? What might prevent you from making such changes? What are the consequences of sticking to your beliefs? Of changing them?

Is So! Is Not!

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Too often, I find myself in situation where I argue something that I know to be the case, only to find out afterward—in the face of incontrovertible evidence— that the opposite was true. How did I ever end up thinking one way, and finding out that what I had reported—and, worse, acted upon—was contrary to fact?

steep_descentA recent item may give a clue: It seems that the human brain is not only capable of real-time editing, but it actually does it. As described in the referenced article, despite all best hopes, the human cognition system is not a simple data-acquisition-and-retrieval construct. There’s more going on than we are commonly aware.

Such phenomenology shouldn’t be a surprise. It has long been known that eyewitness accounts are notably fraught with inaccuracies, and perceptions can be altered by the smallest of contributions, as noted here.

Clearly, we must be on guard against apparent certainty!

Questions: How do you know that what you think is so, is so? In what kinds of difficulties have you found yourself because of misremembering or misperception? How can you dig yourself out of such a hole, should you find yourself so located? How can you prevent such positioning in the first place?

 

What’s In Is Out

primeinc Growth, Innovation, Leadership, Productivity

Okay, this isn’t science or technology related (except by a looooong stretch), but it does have relevance for our ongoing conversation (well, monologue, as I don’t allow comments).

My reading is eclectic, to say the least, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I came across this item, describing how fashion in men’s shoes has changed over time.

man's_shoeI was fascinated to note how the height and color of men’s shoes reflected their “position” in polite society. I’m not exactly a clothes horse, so such things tend to escape me. Indeed, I find “fashion” of any kind to be ridiculous, especially given the vast sums of money spent on development, display, and acquisition of what’s “in” today, and particularly that it’s going to be “out” very soon—sometimes before the bills for what was “in” are paid.

I just cannot fathom what keeping up with “fashion” does for the individual, nor for society. But then, I’m clearly not Their target market.

This whole blind spot carries over into management theories: ISO, Six Sigma, etc. all have their uses, but they’re always superseded. It makes me wonder: What do they all have in common? How do they differ? Are there basic principles that convey across all such “fashions”?

Questions: Are you driven by what’s “in”, whether in personal or professional endeavors? If so, what does it do for you? Is the result always beneficial to you? How do you define “beneficial”, anyway? Can you set the fashion?