Algorithmic Data Process: “Manipulation” or “Magic” for People and Business?

April 22, 2015 12:55

Facebook and the Power of Algorithms

According to an article written by Professor Karrie Karahalios, from the University Illinois, and published in the MIT Technology Review October 2014 Issue, the power of algorithms is becoming a, mostly unknown, breeding ground for “corporate psychology research” on consumer behavior.  In the article, Professor Karahalios identifies the Facebook study on “emotion contagion”, which documents and identifies the contagious effects of newsfeeds, pitting negative vs. positive feeds posted on unknowing Facebook users pages, to identify their reaction.

The result?  More negative feeds, more negative posts.  More positive feeds, more positive posts.   Professor Karahalios then conducted a small study to determine what people knew about how algorithms affect their opinions online – only this time, the participants knew they were being monitored and manipulated on their feeds.  The result of this study?  One person “quit” Facebook all together after the project.  The other 39 participants modeled their own feeds, with more control, and a better result.

Algorithms, interactions online and acro5397276650_3ec1775117_bss mobile devices are now basically ubiquitous across most societies.  The surprise is not that the algorithms affect the way people interact, nor even that Facebook would use this method to “study” users actions.  After all, Google, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon and iTunes have all done this for years.  There are even algorithms we really love, like Amazons “other recommended books for you” based on our behaviour of reading interests, or Netflix’s suggestions, or iTunes “Genius” playlist creation that saves us the time of creating a playlist, based on the mood of the music we are listening to. But then this kind of data mining can have dangers too, like when Facebook got a ton of bad press after their “Year in Review” algorithm ended up highlighting the worst events of some people lives, and replaying them alongside a snappy tune.

Of course, it can be argued that algorithms, that are more stealth, surreptitiously invading our most inner psychology of surfing, searching and posting, are all “bad” and “evil” plots, but, like anything it is more a matter of the grey area.  We must ask the questions like “what if” and “how” and “why” with this evolving part of our social infrastructure that tracks, collects, recommends and influences us, most of us, unknowingly. Like anything in life, there’s both a good and a bad side to the level of detailed information algorithms make possible.


How to use Algorithms Positively

What if, in enterprise, we make our businesses smarter with algorithms?  What if, those practices that prove to be the best practices are tracked, in the daily work we do, whether on a production line or, like most businesses in the western world today, and increasingly globally, with intelligent service tasks?

What if, algorithms were linked, through enterprise Apps to not only the information we deal with, but the processes we follow after having information, better information, more clear information, about how the things we do daily are done best?  Call it big data analytics, meets process dynamics.  Call it micro data of our HITS “Human Intelligence Tasks”, meeting the process we followed to accomplish the best result in the least amount of time, and/or, with the best outcome.

The argument can be made that “emotion contagion” which Facebook seem interested in, when coupled with actual functions of workers in their roles, can capture a better set of “best practices”. Perhaps this will help save staff’s time, or create better engagement with customers on a broad scale.  Perhaps making our businesses better, more emotionally positive places to work, with increased productivity, could result in a win-win scenario of teams of people and the organizations they work for, getting an improved careers, bottom lines, lifestyles, while customers could have improved interactions with products and services.

The Genius Process List

Call it the “Genius Process List”.  How do we create Genius Process Lists, smart “to-do” lists?  With what we call smart tags, process flow chains, where we start with a study of what our business does, at each role level, and then extend that to mobile, to desk tops, to the devices people already use daily to get their work done.  It doesn’t have to be “hidden” either.  Like Professor Karahalios research shows, it’s better if it is not.  When people are more aware about what they are doing, they improve the results, improve their “genius”.  This phenomenon, also known as the Hawthorne Effect, was demonstrated way before the internet age, in a study done at the Hawthorne Electricity plant in 1924-1932. People work harder at becoming smarter and thinking more about how they do things, when they know they are being observed.

The challenge isn’t with algorithms, or how to use them.  The challenge is with the old style of management, the things that businesses do in the “hierarchical mindset” of management who love “control”.   It is well known, now, that the more progressive organizations, who let go of “control” and let people become more natural and passionate about what they do, are the most successful organizations in the world.  Daniel Pink has spoken on TED talks about this reality, what he calls the “Puzzle of Motivation“.

Organizations, Enterprises, can effectively engage process flows, algorithmic “smart lists” tagged To-Dos to help capture, direct and engage participants from their workers, if they begin to engage Enterprise level tools and let their staffs participate at the level where the HITS “Human Intelligence Tasks”, the work “actually” gets done.

The problem is with algorithms.  The challenge lies with the way that management traditionally “thinks” about BI (business intelligence) analytics, and so they (management) can use BI to figure it out.

Shocker for managers, and executives.  Your teams and people are smart, and getting smarter.  They do the work, so let them participate.  When Harley Davidson did this a few decades ago, talked to the mechanics and the workers on the “floor” – and learned how they would manage the failing bike manufactures business, it re-invented the company into a brilliant global resurgence and brand that dominated the new “bike” culture – offering some of the most expensive and sought after motorcycles in the world.  And this was learned well before algorithms could be accessed to help any business get smarter.

Getting smart in our businesses is in and of itself, a process.  Business is a process.  A decade ago when I wrote about Business in Process Enterprise Design (BIPED) and developed the process flow algorithms that drive our Patents-Pending which drive the 1to1Real platform, I was thinking how business managers could learn more from their staffs than any Accenture type system design of the day.  Today, a decade later, we are seeing the reality of algorithmic intelligence that is not going to go away.  The only questions now are, how and who will become the Harley Davidson businesses, the smart ones, to grow with intelligence from the Way things actually get done the best.

Who knows, maybe even management and their techniques, will become “smarter” along with more productive teams, and better actual intelligence about what those people who make your business tick do everyday.   All it takes is the right tool, available on the right devices, and a start in implementing process flows that tell about the “real” way things are getting done, and how they get done best.

Why it’s time to finally let go of Email.

July 25, 2014 12:45

As in Charlton Heston’s famous monologue in the original 1968 concluding scene of Planet of the Apes, we kneel in the sand at the end of email. At the crumbled statue of liberty of communication, we can easily apply Heston’s script, “you really did it, you maniacs, you maniacs, you blew it up, God damn you, God damn you all to hell !”

Email has existed for over 43 years. That’s a very long time and frankly, it can and should be replaced, quite easily. With increasing dominance of social media, it seems high time that businesses recognize that email is no longer an effective communication tool, both inside and outside their organizations.

Just three years after Heston damned the world for not thinking about what we had, the first email was sent by Ray Tomlinson to himself, in 1971. More recently, on July 1st 2014, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law came into effect. Now, at least in one nation, arguably the most important marketing tool of the century, has largely been erased.

Canada’s attempt to put an end to endless waves of email is not only warranted, but prescient. Email will likely be around for many more years, but as with letter writing, it has become an antiquated and frankly time consuming method of communication, without any of the romance of its fore-bearer.

These last few weeks we all have received emails from companies who one way or another have added our email to one of their drip lists. Even the worst spam offenders are taking the new laws seriously, sending out imploring messages so that they may “keep in touch”. I don’t think I clicked a single one, though I read many of them as even my company had to craft and send out its own.

“No thanks”, I thought. I’d like to avoid needless distractions during my day. When I’m curious about your brand or organization, or need your services, I’ll come to you. It’s not hard, I can literally just go to Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, Google, Instagram, or any of the plethora of other, more convenient and effective places I can find and talk to you. I may even visit your website. But I am not interested in simply being a depository for your marketing team’s latest campaign.

It’s time to run better businesses, without spamming people. What’s more, ‘management by inbox’ (a personal favourite phrase of mine designating the mistake too many companies continue to make) just doesn’t work. It’s time for businesses to stop wasting time trying to communicate with multiple team members in endless chains of emails. There’s too much at risk and it simply just takes too much time.

That’s the problem 1to1Real has always sought to solve. Our Activity Spaces allow team members to communicate effectively and dynamically to collaborate on projects and tasks. And our soon to be released iOS 7 1to1Real app will allow you the mobility you need to do your work, while you continue to actually live your life. You don’t need to be tethered to your inbox any longer.

Since 1971 email has been a great tool. It was also a great marketing idea. But with the emergence of an increasingly sophisticated technological ecosystem, there are better, more efficient ways to communicate with current and potential customers, and also with your staff, team and contractors.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Laws were a powerful statement. Businesses and organizations will have to comply. And frankly, why wouldn’t you want to? Don’t we all want less emails to sort through?

We suggest you try 1to1Real to manage even just one project. It’s time turn in that old 1971 vehicle you’ve been trying to drive your business around in for something a bit more streamlined. Build a more reliable and enjoyable relationship with your team, customers, and market.

Learn how 1to1Real can help your business be more productive, without email. Start a free trial today.