Human communications and the io t


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A presentation I gave to the Boston/New England Internet of Things Meetup on June 17, 2013 about the overlooked human communications aspects of the IoT that must be dealt with if its full potential is to be realized! In particular, I argued we will need new management styles and thinking for an era in which every worker can have shared, real-time access to data that would help them do their jobs more effectively and make better decisions. Finally, I suggested we need a new kind of organizational chart -- Buckyball Management -- modeled on the buckyball molecule, in which there's no vertical hierarchy, but every person is a value-creating "node," capable of collaborating with every other person.

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  • I want to talk about an issue that often gets too little attention when we are confronted with an exciting new technology that promises to transform our society and economy: human communication. I think that’s the case with the Internet of Things, especially because of all the emphasis on how the IoT will automate M2M communication and remove the need for human intervention. But I don’t believe complete automation is the highest and best use for the IoT, and I think it’s time that we begin some serious discussion of the issue.
  • Much of the need for human communication on the IoT will be because we will now be able to routinely do several important things that were impossible in the past. IMHO, from a management standpoint, the most important transformation will be in communicating data. In the past, limitations in communication technology meant that important information had to be passed -- sometimes literally -- from hand-to-hand, which meant there were gatekeepers who often chose to retain the information themselves to gain a competitive edge, that information would get distorted as it was relayed (like the old “telephone” parlor game..), or that it wouldn’t reach the person who really needed it in time for them to act on it. Now, by contrast, we can share information on a real-time, two-way basis with the entire company, our supply chain, our distribution channels, and even our customers. That will change everything!
  • We’re going to need to start placing more emphasis in our communications and our actions on words that go beyond the old mentality of my win is your loss: “we,” “share,” “collaborate,” “empower,” “win-win,” and “create synergies.”
  • Chris Rezendes talks about another communication tool the IoT creates that argues against thinking of the IoT as simply automating devices: the opportunity to harvest and share device intelligence. It’s what he calls “ground truth” -- objective, real-time data -- that can help us make more decisions, and do so rapidly, accurately, and with more confidence. Importantly, ground truth is most valuable when there are multiple decision makers involved, by making it possible for them to agree on the facts of the matter.
  • One example of this new language in action is one of what I call the “Essential Truths” of the IoT: that we can no longer gain strategic advantage from hoarding information. Sharing it will create win-win opportunities. So one of the things we need to routinely ask about our data is “why else can use it?,” which will make us think holistically, and inclusively, leading to new collaborations and shared benefits. One of the best examples I can think of this mentality is that Grundfos, the world’s leading pump manufacturers, now builds sensors into its pumps to monitor operations and know when to send repair crews. But it doesn’t stop there: in Africa, many people routinely walk 8 hours daily to and from pumps to get water: Grundfos shared its data with a designer who created an app the natives can use to see whether or not a given pump is operating that day. That’s cut the average time per day seeking water to 3 hours, giving these people time for more productive activities! Win-win!
  • Let me conclude by raising a vision of how I think companies can change their management to capitalize on the new “ground truth” of the IoT and to realize its win-win potentials. For nearly 20 years I’ve been preaching what I call “Buckyball Management,” where instead of hierarchical organizational charts we visualize the organization as a sphere, with every individual an empowered node, capable of creating value. Instead of just those immediately above and below you in a traditional tree, you can instead visualize everyone else in the organization, and create instant, ad hoc teams to address new issues. I believe the IoT can be the key tool to facilitate a switch to Buckyball Management.
  • I want to leave you with an inspiring example of this new mentality at work. This Spring, GE, a paragon of the Industrial Revolution that’s also an innovator in the IoT, ran a contest in conjunction with two IoT startups, Quirky and Electric Imp, to solicit ideas for IoT products that could be in production in time for the Christmas season. Clearly, for such an industrial giant to partner with two unknown firms is proof that they understand that in the era of the IoT, we need to talk -- and act -- in terms of collaboration and win-win strategies. Buckyball Management is a reality!
  • Human communications and the io t

    1. 1. Human Communicationand the Internet of ThingsW. David StephensonStephenson StrategiesIoT MeetupJune 18, 2013
    2. 2. Things we couldn’t do• Share information 2-way, & on real-timebasis:• Company-wide• With supply chain• With distribution channels• With customers
    3. 3. New business language• “we”• “share”• “collaborate”• “empower”• “win-win”• “create synergies”
    4. 4. “Ground truth”• ‘ground truth’ – the deployment ofdevices that create a new stream ofintelligence – device intelligence(DEVINT) that enables decision makersto make more decisions, faster, moreaccurately and with more confidence.
    5. 5. Who else can usethis data?• Must think holistically
    6. 6. Buckyball Management• No hierarchy• Each person a node,creates value• The more people youcan involve the better
    7. 7. Collaboration• Ad hoc human networks