Thursday, January 12, 2017

Change Management: Norway's switch to Digital Radio

Norway is making the switch: moving from FM Radio to digital audio broadcasting (DAB).

As reported in the Local, an English Norwegian news site, Ole Jørgen Torvmark, the head of Digitalradio Norge, (jointly owned by the private and public radio stations):

"The big difference and the main reason behind this big technological shift is that we want to offer a better radio service to the whole population."

The article also notes that FM can only support 5 national stations, whereas DAB can support 22 national stations and 20 smaller ones. Furthermore, they make the case it is:
  • Cheaper: Will cost an eighth of FM.
  • Better: Better coverage, ability to catch up on programs.
  • Faster: Easier to get Emergency messages out.
However, not all are happy. According to the WSJ, 2/3rds of people are actually against the move. The Local noted that people are not pleased about paying the extra money for getting the new radio to receive the signals - despite the advertised benefits.

For those interested in the technology behind AM and FM radio check out this:

But for more on the challenges of abandoning this decades old technology check the following BBC report:

As any technology professional knows, one of the most difficult aspects of making change is the people aspect of the technology. For example, Norwegians would be collectively better off if the switched to DAB as the overall cost of operating radio would be much cheaper.

But is that good enough for people to pay the costs for getting a new radio?

It's important to recognize that people need more than cold facts to be positive towards change. Organizations that need to make such changes - technology or otherwise - need to also address the emotional nature of people by addressing the fear, uncertainty and doubt that comes along with such change. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

SEC and Whistleblowers: Can robots come to the rescue?

Saw this following news alert from AccountingToday:

"The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it had awarded more than $5.5 million to a whistleblower. According to the SEC, the whistleblower directly reported critical information to the commission about an ongoing scheme at their workplace, and that led to a successful enforcement action..."

The article also gives some useful stats on the number of whistle-blowers coming out and the total number of payouts, so check it out.

This is good news in terms of promoting the idea of speaking truth to power. Without such assistance it can be quite difficult to encourage whisteblowing.

We often have a romantic notion of what it is like to tell the truth when there is a drive by all of those around us to commit fraud. Too many Hollywood blockbusters make us believe, falsely, that there is always a happy ending where the good guys win.

For a reality check, we should take a look at Alayne Fleischmann's ordeal in attempting to blow the whistle on the mortgage fraud at Jamie Dimon's JP Morgan Chase. As Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi notes:

"Fleischmann...had to struggle to find work despite some striking skills and qualifications, a common symptom of a not-so-common condition called being a whistle-blower...Thanks to a confidentiality agreement, she's kept her mouth shut since then. "My closest family and friends don't know what I've been living with," she says. "Even my brother will only find out for the first time when he sees this interview."

As she notes in the video below, the reality of such environments is that there is subordination of the "compliance" functionsto enable the fraud to go through (e.g. the Due Diligence manager got angry when people thought that the loans were bad), lack of effective segregation of duties (e.g. sales people were involved in the due diligence review), and other issues:

Can robots come to the rescue?

When looking at process automation more broadly, we see that one of the "side benefits" is compliance. For example, when library loans out e-books they are never returned late as the patron's access to the digital copy on the reading device is removed right on the due date. Similarly, with autonomous vehicles they never speed, fail to complete to a full stop and the like.

Insurance companies have attempted to use what we can call "compliance tech" by offering drivers a discount for good driving if they are willing to install a monitoring device in their car. As noted in the CBC article, Desjardin Insurance has noted that 7000 people have for this offer which they call Ajusto. As can be seen in the video, Ajusto also leverages gamification and social to promote this program.

Although they have promised that such technology can't be used to penalize the driver, many skeptics are not sure that it will turn out that. For example,  Leonard Kunka, a motor vehicle litigation lawyer, notes:

"It's an invasive technology. It provides a lot more information than insurers currently have to set premiums, and I question whether it's any better than what the insurers use today to set premiums, which is a person's driving record and their history of collisions and accidents."

In other words, can we expect the insurance companies to maintain rates when they can "see" the driver constantly breaking speed limits? Conversely, can we expect them to lower rates when they see that people can drive safely above the speed limits?

Although I doubt it, the reality of such compliance-tech is that it is only used by people who are already compliant: the others who are not compliant would not sign-up for such technology and even if they did would somehow subvert it - as we saw with the whole Volkswagen emission debacle:

"In the test mode, the cars are fully compliant with all federal emissions levels. But when driving normally, the computer switches to a separate mode—significantly changing the fuel pressure, injection timing, exhaust-gas recirculation, and, in models with AdBlue, the amount of urea fluid sprayed into the exhaust. While this mode likely delivers higher mileage and power, it also permits heavier nitrogen-oxide emissions (NOx)—a smog-forming pollutant linked to lung cancer—up to 40 times higher than the federal limit. That doesn’t mean every TDI is pumping 40 times as much NOx as it should. Some cars may emit just a few times over the limit, depending on driving style and load."
Ultimately, technology is only good as the people that support it and so we can't abdicate such responsibility to technology. Instead, we need to continue to encourage people morally and financially to speak the truth when the see things go awry.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Millennials: Are we influencing them or are they influencing us?

Millennials. Most of have heard something about them by now. A friend of mine, who is a millennial, shared this video with me via Facebook:

Given that it's been a few years since I uncovered this generation, I thought it was a good refresher on the topic. However, I think a couple of caveats are important to the phenomenon:

  • Millennials are middle class: As Sinek notes that millennials have the entitlement notion. However, that can only develop if they've been insulated from reality of life. That is, they've always had a "safe zone" to fall back on: namely the bank and couch of mom and dad. This is not a reality of people who live in poverty inside or outside of Canada/US/Europe/Australia. 
  • Boys adrift phenomenon may be a confounding factor: Dr Leonard Sax wrote, Boys Adrift, a phenomenal book that explores why boys - specifically - have "failed to launch". This includes video games, pornography, misguided education approaches education and other factors. Definitely important to look at Sax's work when the individual in you are trying to help or advise is male. 
That being said, what I thought was interesting is: who is influencing who? Specifically, when Sinek spoke about smartphone addiction I thought "uh oh is he talking about me?" 

I recently commented to a colleague about how I have a propensity to ensure that I clear all my notifications and maybe that's a good thing because that way I am up to date on all my emails, slacks, and texts. However, after watching this I realize that in my desire to remain constantly productive, I am favouring the virtual world or the physical world. 

Although these devices are amazing in terms of helping us doing more with our dead time (e.g. driving ). That's how I "read" Dr. Sax's book - by listening to it on Audible while on the go. However, am I now at the point where I tend to prefer the screen of the smartphone? It is truly a strange thing for me. Early on in my career as a junior auditor I found the most effective way to deal with clients and colleagues was not by phone but actually going and discussing with the person live. In fact, when I returned to Deloitte in 2012 the new virtual mode of connection took a while for me to adjust as we used Lync (now Skype for Business) to conduct meetings - no more physical presence. 

So how can it be that I've been accustomed to the "millennial approach" to interaction?

Nicholas Carr, who wrote an article for the Atlantic "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", which he later followed up with "The Shallows" actually talks about a similar phenomenon that he went through. He noticed how it was hard for him to get through books. What he discusses in his book is how by being immersed in the era of tweets, blogposts, and YouTube clips is that our brains are actually been reshaped by neuroplasiticity to favour this type of engagement over reading. 

Combine that with the dopamine bursts that Sinek talks about, it's no surprise that I have suddenly become millenialized. 

However, there is hope. 

Carr discusses how by disconnecting and forcing himself to read he is able to restore his brain and once again consume long-form material. The key is to purposely retrain our habits  to return to world of physical interaction and put away the smartphones as Sinek suggests. 

For more on the positive side of neuroplasticity see the work of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young who was able to rewire her brain. It's a truly inspirational story about how a woman was able to overcome her learning disabilities and help others as well.