Starting with macOS Catalina, Apple deprecated its long-standing iTunes media management app. In its stead, we got three new applications: Music.app, Podcasts.app, and TV.app.
I just upgraded my laptop to Catalina. After cleaning up some random post-upgrade changes, I set out to do some work. Before starting, I thought I’d get some music going in the background. So I did what I always do to play music on the computer: I typed CMD-space to open the system Spotlight search field and then itun-RETURN. This sequence of keystrokes usually launches the iTunes application. I’ve done it so many times I now do it reflexively, without even looking at what the system is doing.
Which is why I was confused when I saw an unfamiliar app welcome dialog pop up. I knew iTunes had changed in this release, but the dialog wasn’t what I expected: I was onboarding onto the Podcasts app. My first thought was that perhaps the Music app opened with a description of the new apps that replaced previous iTunes functionality so that I wouldn’t be lost entirely. But the welcome dialog said nothing about Music or TV — it was all about Podcasts. When I closed it, I realized I had actually opened the Podcasts app. I was baffled.
So I typed CMD-space again and then the word itunes:
AI can help identify and reduce the impact of human biases, but it can also make the problem worse by baking in and deploying biases at scale in sensitive application areas.
The phrase “artificial intelligence” is leading us astray. For some folks, it’s become a type of magical incantation that promises to solve all sorts of problems. Much of what goes by AI today isn’t magic — or intelligence, really; it’s dynamic applied statistics. As such, “AI” is highly subject to the data being analyzed and the structure of that data. Garbage in, garbage out.
It’s important for business leaders to learn about how AI works. The HBR post offers a good summary of the issues and practical recommendations for leaders looking to make better decisions when implementing AI-informed systems — which we all should be:
Bias is all of our responsibility. It hurts those discriminated against, of course, and it also hurts everyone by reducing people’s ability to participate in the economy and society. It reduces the potential of AI for business and society by encouraging mistrust and producing distorted results. Business and organizational leaders need to ensure that the AI systems they use improve on human decision-making, and they have a responsibility to encourage progress on research and standards that will reduce bias in AI.
There was a time, many years ago, when I used only one computer for my day-to-day work. It was a laptop, and it was with me most of the time, at least during the workday. I accessed my digital information exclusively on this device: email, files, etc. I kept my calendar on a (paper-based) Franklin Planner. For mobile communications, I used a beeper. I told you it was a long time ago — a simpler time.
Then a new device came on the market, the Palm Pilot:
It was like the paper planner, only digital: it could store your calendar, address book, to-dos, and such. You’d write into it using a gesture alphabet called Graffiti, which you had to learn so you could use the device. But most importantly, you could also sync it with your computer’s calendar, address book, etc. You did this by sitting it on a cradle that came with the device and pushing a button. You connected the cradle to the computer using a serial cable and installed an app on your computer to manage communications between the devices. It was crude and complex, and I loved it. The prospect of having my personal information in digital format with me anywhere was very compelling.
Organizations never exist on their own; they’re part of an ecosystem, a web of relationships that make it possible for things to get done. Your decisions affect the ecosystem, and the decisions of others affect you.
This has always been so, of course, but the internet has made ecosystems more visible and susceptible to disruption. Transacting has become easier and faster. Changes are often immediate, have more impact, and lead to greater network effects. The balance of power shifts: organizations can leverage connections to go straight to consumers. Alternatively, intermediaries can create new roles for themselves, becoming purveyors of information as much as goods.
There are great opportunities for organizations that can affect system dynamics. But there are also risks — to themselves and to the ecosystem. For example, in a recent interview with economist Tyler Cowen, music critic Ted Gioia talked about the impact internet streaming has had on the music industry:
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon By Brad Stone Hachette Publishing, 2013
In a 2013 interview, Charlie Rose asked Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, to define his company. “I would define Amazon,” he replied, “by our big ideas, which are customer centricity, putting the customer at the center of everything we do, and invention.” The Everything Store traces the story of how those ideas — which have been at the core of Mr. Bezos’s vision for Amazon — created one of the great entrepreneurial success stories of our time and transformed the way we shop.
But customer-centricity isn’t the only value that has led to Amazon’s success. Ruthless execution — another central value, and one that the book doesn’t shirk from describing — has allowed Amazon to move faster, smarter, and more aggressively than its competitors. The company’s ability to move quickly has allowed it to exploit strategic advantages it gained due to thinking long-term, another central value.
Alas, Amazon’s relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction has often come at the expense of other actors in the ecosystem, especially employees and vendors. The company’s negotiators don’t aim for win-win, and work-life balance is anathema. The book describes a demanding environment that selects for a particular type of employee, one that’s fully committed to — and willing to make personal sacrifices for — the company: Continue reading →
The latest episode of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with design leader and coach Andrea Mignolo. Andrea is VP of Product and Design at Movable Ink, a marketing technology company based in New York. She’s also been posting insightful articles on Medium about the value of design. I referenced these two in particular in the show:
These articles are what prompted me to schedule a conversation with her. The thesis is that design is useful for more than just making product and services; it’s also a particular way of being for organizations, one which emphasizes learning through making:
I think a lot of people talk about wanting design-driven companies, but I think that that’s maybe a little too much hubris. I think it’s really design helping facilitate and spread these activities ways of thinking ways of exploring into other departments as well or just creating a culture where this is part of the approach.
The first part of our conversation centered on this idea of “designerly ways of being.” I was especially keen to learn about the Experiential Learning Cycle; a model Andrea has been using to implement these ideas.
The second half of the interview took a fascinating turn: Andrea discussed her experience as a practitioner of integral coaching, which helps individuals and organizations find new ways of being in the world. I’m intrigued by these practices and left wanting to know more.
I hope you get as much value from this conversation as I did.
“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.” Jack Dorsey on why Twitter is banning political ads.
“I think the most stunning surprise about the state of the world at the moment is to see such a profound lack of optimism in the future, by so many people, in a time of great prosperity.” Microsoft’s Brad Smith in an interview about his new book.
“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly. The world is messy; there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids, and share certain things with you.” President Obama on call-out culture.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the strategic importance of information architecture to a product launch. As an example, I discussed the recently-released Microsoft Surface Pro X, which isn’t compatible with all Windows apps. Alas, when the product launched, Microsoft’s app store didn’t make it clear to users of the Pro X what apps wouldn’t run on their device. Per a report on The Verge, Microsoft has now updated its store so these users don’t see incompatible apps.
Again, a caveat: I don’t own a Surface Pro X or use Windows, so I haven’t tested any of this. Still, I expect that hiding apps that aren’t compatible with the user’s device is an improvement. Given how soon after launch Microsoft rolled out this change, most customers probably won’t experience the frustration I highlighted in my earlier post.