by Chris Billowsin Business Beller0 commentstags: Comprehensive Analysis, Crporations Don't Think, Defining Life, Foolishness, Institutional Learning, Summarizing a Business Organization
I can’t recall how I stumbled onto this concept and websites, but a while ago I found this riveting theory which I believe explains why most modern organizations are so inadequate at times and spend far too much time chasing the wrong priorities. I have touched on parts of this in previous blogs such as Driven to Distraction and Even the Best Systems Fall Victim and A List of Guidance. The reason why this happens is they fail to embrace Complexity Science. Basically, it is because our social institutions continue to operate like machines, believing that events can be tracked in a linear fashion and have measurable inputs that neatly match known outputs. While there is no denying that some institutions do operate like machines (take most factories), the fact that humans end up doing most of the work leaves the model sorely lacking. What is more accurate is to realize that all human based organizations are non-linear and complex. It is common for these systems to exhibit the following characteristics: Small inputs can lead to dramatically large consequences. Very slight differences in initial conditions produce very different outcomes. Global properties flow from aggregate behavior of individuals. Emergence (of order) […]
by Chris Billowsin Business Beller0 commentstags: Corporate Corruption, Foolishness, Human Condition
I was reading about Bernie Madoff’s investment scandal and it suddenly struck me that defined-benefit pension plans (public and private) operate on the same principal as Madoff’s Ponzi plan. Bernie Madoff defrauded his investors of $65 billion dollars with a massive ponzi scheme. Madoff was smart by never offering suspicious high returns to everyone, but did guarantee a steady and modest return regardless of the state of the stock market. This latter point should be suspicious to any intelligent investor. Yet that is exactly what our public and private defined benefit plans are doing. They guarantee a return or benefit rate. Yet how can they do this? Just like Madoff did, by using new money brought in from new investors (or pension contributors) to help meet the payout obligations. As long as new citizens grow up and are forced to contribute to the pension plans, the plan remains viable. But, perhaps we would all be better served by a defined-contribution plan, where the return is based on how well one’s money is managed, instead of compelling citizens to make pension contributions to maintain unsustainable payouts.
by Chris Billowsin Spirit Speculations0 commentstags: Comprehensive Analysis, Defining Life, Foolishness, Human Condition, Human History
Being intrigued by the title, I picked up this book to learn finally once and for all which side was right – Are humans a product of biology of genes or social environment? Spoiler Alert: Its both. As a society we have witnessed a longstanding feud between two camps – one set of people believes that genes and nature determines our destiny while their opponents insist that socialization and nurture is our sole determinant. Like the title suggests and as Ridley states almost immediately, it is both nature and nurture that affects human development. The two sides may have valid contributions to understanding human development, but neither side gets it completely right because of sectarian/institutional thinking. The problem is that we are all victim of a media that thrives on reporting the controversial and extremist positions of the Naturists and Nurturist camps. That debate has been an ivory tower battle that has spilled over into Pop-psychology books that teach parents how to parent, how to find a partner, etc. This book proves the level of inanity that academics can resort to. Ridley demonstrate how neither side got it right and how humans are both genes and social mores wrapped together […]
by Chris Billowsin Political Ponderings0 commentstags: Foolishness, Political Opinion
When Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States yesterday, I was and still am amazed over all the pomp, circumstance, and glitter that accompanies the presidential rite of passage. It’s a spectacle that stands in stark contrast to Canada’s celebration of a new political leader. New prime ministers are simply sworn into office with little more than a low-key ceremony with the Governor General at Rideau Hall, attended by a handful of dignitaries and family members. Inauguration day of the U.S. President is a grand affair, with the swearing-in at the majestic Capitol, an inspirational speech to kick off the new presidency, a packed parade to the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue and then a series of star-studded dusk-to-dawn balls. With such a grand, awe-inspiring celebration, I would expect to see a king being crowned. Yet the United States went to war with Britain to dispose of the monarchy and the entitlement of royalty. It is just pure irony that Americans celebrate and treat their President and the First Family like fairy tale royalty. And just like the fairy tale kings of old, Obama’s rise to the top is a real fairy tale in the making. For […]
by Chris Billowsin Political Ponderings0 commentstags: Foolishness, Free Enterprise, Human Condition
It remains painfully obvious that this book is written by a crank. Only a crank would tell us that we need to rethink our consumption patterns, how we manage our economy, and our relationship with our environment. Going against conventional thinking is pretty fashionable today, but to do so in 1973 and still be so relevant is testimony of a crank who knew what he was talking about. E.F. Schumacher wrote this book in response to what he saw as the quickening and centralizing nature of modern society. He saw governments and businesses getting bigger and losing their essential and natural sense of scale, which is human friendly or simply “small”. Thus prompting the title of the book. It was through this book that Schumacher is credited with influencing green economic thinking from the 70s and afterward. He articulated the fundamental question about growth: “How much further growth will be possible, since infinite growth in a fine environment is an obvious impossibility”. Such thinking was radical, yet not socialist. Instead his thinking was the basis of humanistic, or human-centred economics. This book helped shift the tired and largely irrelevant debate of Left wing vs Right wing economic politics or big […]
by Chris Billowsin Political Ponderings0 commentstags: Foolishness, Human Condition, Human History
The Economist posted an article, Why Wars Happen, explaining that the cause of most conflicts in the world during 2008 is due to ideological differences. This reinforces my conviction and past blog posts, Ideology vs Philosophy and Confessions of a Recovering Ideologue. that ideology in all of its forms is the scourge of the modern world. The research about world conflict was conducted by the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research, and has some pretty amazing information there. Does my criticism of ideology mean I am anti-thinking? No, I would instead argue that ideological thinking is an oxymoron. Ideology is a mental disorder that afflicts politics, religion, culture (political correctness), and business. To be ideological means to not think and to abdicate one’s rational powers. To truly be a thinking person one must be philosophical and open to new information.
by Chris Billowsin Mental Mischief0 commentstags: Defining Life, Foolishness, Human Condition, Smart Money Management
As if the news about the economic crisis could not get worse. The Economist just reported how a Bernie Madoff, a popular financial adviser, managed to pull off a massive Ponzi Scheme that saw him take billions of investors’ dollars and declare he had nothing to show for it. The articles titled, Ponzi Squared, and Con of the Century, talk about how Madoff created fabricated investment returns by using new investor’s money to pay for older investors’ returns. Close to fifty billion dollars (thats $50,000,000,000.00, yikes!) was invested into what amounts to little more than a large pyramid scheme. Amazing. Supposedly the people who invested with Madoff were sophisticated investors who never bothered to ask how Madoff made his money. Talk about stupid! What does this prove? That some people are crooks? Yes, but it also proves that people are idiots. They are the authors of their own misfortune. The Buddha said over 2,500 year ago that “Life is Suffering”, meaning that no matter what we do, there is also going to be loss and difficulty in life. I would say that Scott Adams helped update the Buddha’s message with his pithy statement, “People Are Idiots”: “… after careful analysis […]
by Chris Billowsin Mental Mischief0 commentstags: Foolishness, Human Condition, Quotations
Because of political correctness and democratic absolutism, we are afflicted with a ridiculous conviction that because somebody has experienced something, they somehow are fully qualified to be an expert. This is particularly rampant in the Social Work and self-help industries. The theory goes that the best therapy is administered by somebody who has suffered the same disease, problem, etc. It is a lazy assumption that I sum up as “Having Bad Teeth Doesn’t Make You Qualified to be a Dentist”. Would you consider a dentist to be qualified to do his job if he had bad teeth? No? Yet that is exactly what some people advocate when they believe that experiencing life’s difficulties gives them authority. Would a person who is having a mental health problem be qualified to help other sufferers by the virtue of their shared illness? No. There is something more to it. Experiencing something does not mean that it has been correctly understood. What is even more twisted is when the sense of victimization becomes a badge of pride and exclusivity. I remember being told by at least three different women that because of their terrible experience at the hand of male spouses, their suffering made […]
by Chris Billowsin Mental Mischief0 commentstags: Defining Life, Foolishness, Human Condition
There are a bunch of books and videos talking about the impending end of the world in 2012 as predicted by the Mayans. The Mayans are a long dead culture who appeared to have died themselves. You would think that given their perceived aptitude to prophecy, they could have avoided their own fate. Anyways, supposedly we have only four pieces of what were thousands of ‘books’ that talk about the cosmological system. It is like guessing the end of a book with only the first few pages. How can we be sure? Well, I guess pretending to be sure that the world will end in 2012 helps to sell lots of books To demonstrate the absurdity about predicting the end of the world, I pledge to give $1,000 Canadian to the author/blogger who is closest to correctly predicting the end of the earth in 2012. After the world ends, and your date is the closest to the date the world ends, you can contact me and I will Paypal you the money. No gimmicks or trickery here. Not only will you have the money but the personal satisfaction in being right.
by Chris Billowsin Spirit Speculations2 commentstags: Comprehensive Analysis, Foolishness
I was at a concert where I and a friend watched Tinsley Ellis perform. Tinsley is a a great blues musician and while we both agreed that we got our entertainment dollar’s worth with his performance, we disagreed about the quality of the opening act. The band that opened was named Deano and the Funky Bunnies, a local band that made a spirited effort to bring their cover tunes alive. My friend said that he was not surprised that they were confined to obscurity since they were not as talented and famous as Tinsley. I challenged him to define what talent is. Is it the ability to play the same music as well as Tinsley? Is it the ability to write your own music? Is it something else like fame? His ill-defined notion of talent is just a sneaky way of pretending that one particular artist is better than another. If talent means playing a blues song as well as Tinsley, then I am convinced that most reasonably capable musicians would be able to play something just as well as him. It would take time, some more than others to learn the piece, but they would all be be able […]