Welcome to the world “beyond risk”: Volatility; Uncertainty; Complexity; Ambiguity


Illiteracy has long been recognised as an issue that “advanced economies” must address and, although I am no expert on the subject, I get the impression that great strides have been made and education is more widely available than at any point in our history. So, the question arises: why do educated people (and nations) still keep doing such really stupid things to each other, our planet and economy? 

The answer MAY lie in this great quote from Alvin Toffler:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

This quote crops up in a presentation that could go some way to explaining our predicament…

Political, Financial and Business leaders in the sophisticated, advanced, Western World have lost the art of listening and are intent upon clinging desperately to the belief systems that got them where they are. Despite the fact that the depth of the flaws have been exposed time, after time, after time! Read more of this post

Global Supply Chain fragility [Procurement Intelligence Unit]


English: Risk Management road sign

Image via Wikipedia

Back in 1776 Adam Smith wrote about the “specialisation of labour” and, like complexity, this brings enormous benefit to an organisation (or in this case of a nation) BUT the old adage about “too much of a good thing” holds true.

Improved productivity is the holy grail for most CxO’s but, without frequent scanning of the ecosystem (upon which the organisation is reliant), careful measurement and management, the point at which the benefits of specialisation turn negative can, suddenly and unexpectedly, be reached: at Ontonix we talk in terms of “critical complexity“.

Although labour specialisation can increase productivity, overemphasis on the division of labour/product/market would result in overspecialisation. Pashke (2004) explains that the overspecialisation of labour has the tendency to restrict communication between the various areas of (work) expertise and the general public. This then would ensue in communication gaps appearing within and outside the organisation: specialised knowledge becomes exclusive.

Read more of this post

Creators and casualties of complexity: why banks are eurozone’s fault line [BBC]


The familiar expression that springs to mind is “what goes around comes around” or, in Biblical terms, perhaps befitting the scale of the problem…

“as you sow so shall ye reap”

However, please note the deliberate use of the term “casualties” rather than victims. Because, the ability to socialise the losses renders citizens as the VICTIMS!

Here’s the lethal chain of causality: banks have found it harder to borrow because of their big loans to the likes of the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese governments, and because of fears these governments will struggle to repay their debts; but if one or more of the banks were nationalised, the perceived liabilities of these governments would increase; and that in turn would erode confidence in the ability of other banks to repay what they owe; and so on, till no institution in the eurozone is seen to be sound. Read more of this post

Complexity and Operational Risk


A collage of Systems Engineering applications/...

Image via Wikipedia

An interesting thing about complex systems is how easily "stories" from one domain can be understood and applied, to good effect, in others! "Thinking in systems" may be the first step in process from exaptation to adaptation…and survival.

Prevention will always be better (and more cost effective!) than cure. Hence Ontonix have a specific product: OntoTest

The reason bars place bouncers at the door is because it’s easier and less riskier to prevent entry than to root out later

No one ever said choosing a career in IT was going to be easy, but no one said it had to be so hard you’d be banging your head on the desk, either. One of the reasons IT practitioners end up with large, red welts on their foreheads is because data centres tend to become more, not less, complex and along with complexity comes operational risk. Security, performance, availability. These three inseparable issues often stem not from vulnerabilities or poorly written applications but merely from the complexity of data centre network architectures needed to support the varying needs of both the business and IT.

Read more of this post

Ontonix: Model-free methods – a new frontier of science


ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in September (and again in November 2010): I thought it worthwhile revisiting this piece by Dr Jacek Marczyk, (Founder & CTO of Ontonix Srl.) as it tied-in with some of my recent thoughts regarding “complexity paralysis”, procrastination and belief systems.

When we make decisions or when we think our brain does not use any equations or math models. Our behaviour is the “fruit” of certain hard-wired instincts and experience that is acquired during our lives and stored as patterns (or attractors). We sort of “feel the answer” to problems no matter how complex they may seem but without actually computing the answer. How can that be? How can a person (not to mention an animal) who has no clue of mathematics still be capable of performing fantastically complex functions? Why doesn’t a brain, with its immense memory and computational power, store some basic equations and formulae and use them when we need to make a decision? Theoretically this could be perfectly feasible. One could learn equations and techniques and store them in memory for better and more sophisticated decision-making. We all know that in reality things don’t work like that. So how do they work? Read more of this post