A Business Technology Place

Interactive Films, Data Mining, and Orson Welles

Will interactive films find a viewer niche?

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on Netflix has was released last December as a choose-your-own-adventure film. If you haven’t read about or tried viewing the film, it’s worth your time to consider the implications for future video content delivery and marketing. Bandersnatch is an interactive film. Viewers are periodically presented with options during the film to choose a path for the main character. The remote control for the TV is used to select between the two paths. So while each option is filmed, only one is shown. There is no prescribed ending for the story. In fact, there are numerous paths and multiple possible endings.


I remember reading interactive books during the early 80s. Though I can’t recall the name of the books or the author, I distinctly remember choosing to have the main character in the book drink the sea water while stranded on a raft in a baking sun. The story ended on the next page as the character met his end with dehydration. I had to backup and choose again. I was devastated with the consequences of my choice!

I didn’t really enjoy those books and only ended up reading two of them. Likewise, I found Bandersnatch more of an annoyance than something intriguing and engaging. Maybe it was the story. Maybe the characters. Whatever the reason, I didn’t feel the urge to continue to play the film to explore different options. I made my choices and moved through the film until I hit an ending and was done.

What’s really happening?

Netflix, as with other media content providers, shows viewers suggested selections of film based on an algorithm using meta data of content watched in the past (comedy, science fiction, thriller, etc.). I’ll admit, the Netflix algorithm is pretty good, as I usually don’t have to scroll far before I see a title or subject that I want to know more about and may want to view. When I’ve seen my wife scrolling through her profile the suggested content is completely different based on her past viewing selections.

Which leads me to wonder what more about me is Netflix determining with an interactive film like Bandersnatch? They can learn if I’m more prone to take a risk versus taking the safe choice. They can learn if I’m prone to choosing a path that will promote violence instead of walking away. They can learn if I would choose the blue pill or the red pill…….The choices would become limitless. Netflix is probably mining all the data on choices to make additional and more educated guesses on personalized content. This could lead to a much deeper level of understanding of who I am, my likes, dislikes, and tendencies. How many marketing companies would pay for that data?

Sure, there is angle here that says find a niche film-type that will keep and potentially attract more customers to Netflix subscriptions. But this move really gets Netflix deeper in the heads of the viewer. Personalized content will become richer. It’ll be like my cell phone listening to my conversation and then I see an ad for what I talked about when I open a browser!

Orson Welles replay.

Here’s an idea for Netflix if they want to spring a joke and cause their viewers to panic. On April 1st, release an interactive film and make the screen of the viewer go haywire as if they have been infected with a virus (think phishing). It would be like revisiting the War of the Worlds broadcasts that created the illusion the earth was under attack by aliens. I can see viewers flooding social media and calling Netflix telling them they’ve been hacked!

I expect Netflix to try more interactive films in the future as they learn from each film and fine-tune output and logistics. With more universal stories and a broader audience, they’ll see how easy it is for all us to willingly give over information about ourselves. Happy data mining to the marketers in the room.  

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/kUFSi7  Fork in the Road by Wonderlane via Creative Commons

Planting organizational seeds for a sustainable future

I’m in the process of repositioning to a new role within the same company. I’ve done this in the past, but never viewed the transition through a lean lens.  When this happened early in my career, I looked forward to the new job without giving thoughtful consideration to the previous job. Sure, I had documentation and notes I could leave for the next person. But I didn’t think about leaving a sustainable system.

That all changed when I was introduced to lean philosophy and thinking. The fifth lean principle is to pursue perfection. This is the principle that creates the basis for making continuous improvement and respect part of the culture and not just another management fad. Lean thinking identifies value and remove waste in such a way that practitioners view their work as more than a job. The work becomes part of a sustainable system that adapts to changing environments.


Ready to Spring Mike Lewinski via creative commons – https://flic.kr/p/e9Fj5B

Today, as I transition to a new role, I’m leaving a team of managers with a set of documented standard work that creates the foundation for continuous improvement. I’m leaving them with departmental metrics that support the mission of the group. I’m leaving them with a defined system for problem solving and root cause analysis that systematically snuffs-out recurring problems that prevent excellent service delivery. I’m leaving them with the foundation for growing leaders who understand the work by going to the gemba. This time, the role change is different. This time I see and care about leaving a sustainable system for the next leader to enhance and make better.

4 of the 14 principles of the Toyota Way promote long term thinking and people development. Read these four principles and imagine how following them can promote sustaining a company culture by respecting people.

Principle 1) Base management decisions on long-term philosophy even at the expense of short-term goals.

Principle 6) Standardized tasks are the foundation of continuous improvement and employee empowerment.

Principle 9) Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others.

Principle 14) Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement.

Pursuing perfection and continuous improvement is bigger than any individual. The big idea is to grow leaders so the system can survive management changes. If the system truly becomes part of the culture then the system will sustain itself and continue to grow over time. Of course I realize if new leaders are not versed in lean thinking then all of this may seem like foolishness to them. Therein lies the challenge for organizations in the midst of adopting lean. Grow leaders into elevated positions that understand the work and the system. Weave the system of lean into the culture so that it’s part of the core makeup of thinking.

The lesson in all this is to start planting seeds today for a sustainable system tomorrow. The seeds of long term thinking, standardized tasks, growing leaders, and continuous improvement are not only great ways to respect employees, but key to providing value to customers as well.

Onward and upward!


Have you found it?

Questions.

What do you want to do?

What do you want to be when you grow-up?

What’s your dream job?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

While the questions can be interpreted with different time horizons, they all focus on the core of who I am. These questions help me to think about motivators in my life as well as what provides emotional reward. The questions could be rephrased as “who are you, what gets you up in the morning, and why are you here?”

Answers.

I’ve heard some acquaintances answer with specific jobs or titles. They want to be a doctor, lawyer, pilot, etc. Then there are a group of friends who are motivated to switch their careers to something different. They may answer with stated goals to start a business or to go back to school to become a nurse. Others I know, answer in terms of what they don’t want to be doing because they haven’t determined what they do want to be doing. Someone once told me, “I don’t want to manage people. I don’t want to deal with their problems because I have enough of my own.” They were happy using their skills as an individual contributor.

My experience is our answer to the question will change over time as we learn more about ourselves. We determine what we do and don’t like. But over time, we also find more about what we value and what motivates us to work.

Meaning.

I’ve written in the past that I’m one of those odd people that went to college and never changed majors. I declared Computer Science as a course of study before I stepped foot on campus. At graduation, I walked across the stage to receive the paper with Computer Science written on it and I’ve been working in technology ever since. Here’s the thing, I loved my studies. I’ve loved my job assignments. I don’t feel like I’ve ever ‘worked’ because my days are filled with completing tasks I enjoy. I’m doing what I was wired to do.

Look for it!

As I’ve gained more experience (can I say matured?), I’ve adjusted my answer to the question “what do you want to do?” Now, I answer the question in terms of connecting people together with solutions provided by technology. It’s like a mission statement, “I connect people through systems and solutions”.  I enjoy working with technology components like servers, networks, and software. But I’ve come to realize what I’m really doing is connecting people with solutions to make their world a little easier. People are the ‘why’. Technology is the ‘how’. I still love to create. I love to solve puzzles. I love to experiment, dabble, and search for better ways of doing things (continuous improvement). These things make me smile. 🙂

Have you found it?

Have you found what gives you satisfaction such that you don’t consider working work? Look for it. Search for it. Find it.

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: Larry Smith – Look! Via creative commons – https://flic.kr/p/c2yKFS

Making Respect Part of the Culture

The word respect is so common in company core values that I wonder if it’s become ubiquitous.  How do we define respect? Is it treating people kindly, helping those in need, and recognizing the contributions of others? Most certainly. But the challenge is, these are surface level behaviors and don’t create lasting impact for the organization or individuals. If something is a core value, I would expect to find it deeply embedded in the thinking, behaviors, and expectations for a company.

Giving respect to others is a key component for molding the culture of an organization. It requires more than periodic displays of kindness. Respect is way harder than that, but so much more powerful. Respect requires a willingness to change an opinion. It requires admitting others may have more knowledge about a situation. It requires collaboration.  Respect is sustained actions and involvement of employees in continuous improvement and problem solving.

Listen with an open mind

Employees on the front-line of work notice weaknesses in product and solution delivery. Why do we so often discredit them because of their position or because their thoughts don’t fit the corporate narrative? Listening to others with an open mind and not having predetermined answers shows respect because it creates meaningful dialogue. When we seek to understand the viewpoint of others, we risk opening our minds to alternate solutions. But we also show the other person that we care about understanding their view point. Respect is two-way communication.

I’ve have ongoing dialogue with employees about the work-from-home policy. I can tell you I have a different opinion than they do about the right balance of office and home days. But I’m trying to be open to dialogue that centers more around work output and uninterrupted flow. I know we’ll reach a better solution with common understanding and approach.

Participate together in problem solving

An ultimate sign of respect is to involve employees in solving problems. Jim Womack describes it this way in an article respect for people:

“Over time I’ve come to realize that this problem solving process is actually the highest form of respect. The manager is saying to the employees that the manager can’t solve the problem alone, because the manager isn’t close enough to the problem to know the facts. He or she truly respects the employees’ knowledge and their dedication to finding the best answer. But the employees can’t solve the problem alone either because they are often too close to the problem to see its context and they may refrain from asking tough questions about their own work. Only by showing mutual respect – each for the other and for each other’s role – is it possible to solve problems, make work more satisfying, and move organizational performance to an ever higher level. “

This is a great example of driving respect into the culture through sustained actions rather than kind gestures. It shows respect for employee’s insights and skills. It creates a framework for employees to directly impact their work cells and production output. When an employee and team are part of creating a solution they feel more pride and accomplishment.  

Accepting constructive feedback

What we do with feedback from others is an indicator for how we respect them. If we dismiss feedback we could be overlooking an opportunity for improvement. If we take feedback personally we are telling employees not to be honest. If we retaliate against feedback by taking actions against an employee, then we create distrust in the organization.

In my career, I’ve had a manager question my ability to make a decision after I told them I thought they were showing signs of micromanaging. I’ve had a manager tell me I wasn’t onboard with the corporate strategy after I cautioned about moving too fast without understanding risks to business disruption. In both cases, trust was broken between the manager and I and I believe a lack of respect was present. They chose not to engage in dialogue, but to dismiss my feedback as insubordinate.

Learn together  

True learning involves sharing results with employees and guiding them in processes to problem solve for additional improvements. Learning is completing a cycle of plan-do-check-act and acting upon the results. When a group of people realize that continuous improvement is really about becoming a learning organization, then a cultural transformation is underway.

On my team, one way we’ve been learning together is by establishing visual metrics that align to our mission. We review the metrics weekly and discuss impact to our service delivery. Over time, we’ve adjusted the metric or even created a new metric as we’ve learn more by examining results. Growing together creates strong culture. Everyone sees progress and everyone feels setbacks.

In summary I would say respect is more than this –

Rather it’s best characterized by this –


Onward and upward!

My next book to read just got hacked

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

I have a confession to make. I find it difficult to select my next book to read. It usually goes something like this. Open either the Kindle app or local library app on my tablet. Stare at category headers like fiction, history, and business. Decide on casual or serious reading. Then start scrolling through books, reading summaries, and reviews. Hopefully, I feel good about a selection and begin.

Part of my challenge is I enjoy both casual and serious reading. I define these as:

  1. Casual Reading is for fun, entertainment, or to relax.
  2. Serious Reading is for learning and thinking.

A third type of reading but less common is purposeful.  

  1. Purposeful Reading is to find, record, and retain information about a topic.

Casual reading is relaxing but also stimulates creativity. Serious reading deep dives a topic and promotes alternative thinking. Depending on my mood, I enjoy both. Maybe I should just let Alexa decide for me??

Substitutes.

With the advancement of digital media, digital players are now ubiquitous.  Options for content include podcasts, blogs, news reports, and video documentaries. It’s to the point that I consider some non-book digital content to be a substitute for books because it fits my categories of casual and serious reading. I may be listening rather than reading, but I’m still consuming content that can be both educational and relaxing.

The blog from Mitch Joel  and Podcasts from Gemba Academy are as compelling and thoughtful as a serious read but in smaller segments. The podcast from the Wharton Business School called Moneyball provides a blend of both casual and serious content. How I built this podcast contains information from entrepreneurs just as informative as a biography but with an added twist to hear the story story in first person voice.

I’m not giving up my love of reading. But I’m finding these modern alternatives satisfy some of the same hungers for learning and entertainment. It’s good to have choices.

Alexa, read a book to me!

Onward and upward!