The best advice to any young person

I came across the below speech given by John Roberts to his son when he graduated. I can’t seem to stop pondering on how profound and insightful his words were to a young mind. I don’t believe there is much else to add, or to explain. I hope you also ponder on its meaning in your life and how you wish to give advice to any young mind out there.

“From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes. ” – John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States

COVID Puppy Boom: What you need to know before you take that step.

Did you finally decide to take part in the Coronavirus Puppy Boom and get a dog? Great – I applaud your ability to persuade yourself and partner to bring this fantastic companion into your life. But maybe you are doing this to win that coveted award from your kids: Best Parent of the Year award. Whatever your reasons, congrats. I must warn you, however, that dog ownership is no joke; many people have gone down this path but ended up failing due to lack of planning and not being adequately informed of the full extent of a dog owner’s responsibility. Recent reports had shown that dogs were given up to shelters for losing the “cuteness” factor, which is usually after six (6) months, and they became too much to handle. A study by Petfinder investigated the reasons for pet brought to shelters and concluded the following:

  1. The majority of dogs had been owned from 7 months to 1 year.
  2. Approximately half of the dogs surrendered were not neutered.
  3. A third of the dogs surrendered had not been to a veterinarian.
  4. A third of dogs acquired from friends were surrendered in higher numbers than from any other source.
  5. Most dogs (96%) had not received any obedience training.


1. Training starts with you. Train yourself first, then the dog.

If you look at the list above, you’ll agree that the terrible decision to surrender a dog could have been avoided by owners being well aware of their responsibility and taking the time to be mentally and financially prepared. I’m no saint in this arena, as I thought I was well prepared when we picked up our Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, Nairobi. I will be honest in saying that I wanted to take him back to the breeder within the first month. It was a lot of work, and he was a troublemaker: he nipped on our fingers and arms with his shark-like puppy teeth, he jumped on us, and acted like he was getting murdered every time we cut his nails, among other antics. However, with constant training and a partner that did all the heavy lifting, we now have a somewhat well behaved 16-month old who has become a permanent member of our household. I do not have the magic potion, but I can share some of the not-so-obvious advice I wish someone had given me before getting a dog.

A dog is simply a bundle of joy. Nairobi does all the right (read: cute) things to make my heart drop. And like a fool, I give in to his demands and manipulative ways. I tried so hard to be likeable that I treated him like he was the pack leader. But, my partner – the strict disciplinarian – would have none of it. She would chastise me for letting him lead the way on walks or for giving him treats for “free” (he must work for every treat given, I learned, by demonstrating good manners or doing the trick on command). I was reprimanded for being a doormat and reminded that, if my servility were left unchecked, we would have an unruly dog with no manners. It might be cute when you have a Chihuahua jumping on you, but the same cannot be said for a 100-lb Ridgeback, she would say.

We made a plan of the right behaviours we wanted to foster and what we absolutely would not tolerate of our dog. I needed to be on board and agree to these rules. If not, Nairobi wouldn’t see me as an authority figure and would be confused about what is allowed and not allowed. All dogs need structure and pack leaders that are stable. My best advice here is to start prepping yourself to be the pack leader; don’t let the dog train you to give in to his every whim. And do not think a one-time obedience class is all a dog needs; that is just the minimum. They need consistency and constant reinforcement. For example, if you have a no-dog-on-the-couch rule, letting him on the couch once in a while is not acceptable and will only confuse him; either let him on the sofa or not at all. If you enforce consistent rules, your dog will know what is expected of him and will respect your authority. The result? Good behaviour. The stats show that 97% of dogs given up to shelters did not receive any obedience training.

2. A dog is not cheap!

I did as much research as possible before getting a dog, along with cost estimates – I was proud. I thought my spreadsheet was comprehensive…until it wasn’t. One big expense has been dog sitting. I still wanted to go on vacations and had assumed that my parents or in-laws (both willing and able) would take care of Nairobi when we couldn’t. But you must understand: our boy isn’t small; he isan enormous and extremely stubborn teen with a rebellious streak. We simply didn’t trust our parents to enforce the behaviours we wanted to cultivate. Nairobi is manipulative and can be a lot of work; he knows how to truly use his charm and sad puppy eyes to make you bend to his will. We needed an experienced individual to take care of him. Enter dog sitters. They charge up to $100 a day. That is no trivial sum of money when you’re talking days of vacation. For example, if I went on a 2-week vacation and used a dog sitter who charges $50/day, the total cost is $700. Say you go on a 2-week vacation every year, and the average lifespan of a Rhodesian Ridgeback is 10 years, then you’re paying $7000 for dog sitting services alone. The more vacation days you want to take, the more that cost goes up.

So, before you get a dog, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is your lifestyle? Can you really fit a dog into your lifestyle? If you enjoy travelling extensively or would not be home all the time, rethink if you genuinely have the time and energy to devote to caring for a dog.
    1. The stay-at-home order is temporary. How do life and work look like after COVID-19?
    2. Can you truly afford a dog? Make a budget and consider the following expenses (these are estimates, and there is a lot of variances):
      • Vet visits: ~$100 per visit (will need quite a few the first year)
      • Vaccines: $100-150 in the first year
      • Purchase of Pet: There truly is no average that would be meaningful to provide here. You can adopt or go to a quality breeder. You get what you pay for, so beware of backyard breeders on Kijiji.  
      • Dog food: $400 – $1200 a year (depends if you choose kibble or go raw). Remember, more $ does not necessarily mean more quality. Do your research and make decisions backed by science and not based on what is trendy.  
      • Dog sitters (overnight boarding): $50-$100 a day (depends on sitter’s experience and sometimes size or age of pet)
      • Dog walkers: ~$30/half hour 
      • Obedience classes: $400 and up (you may not need these if you are experienced and can train your dog on your own)
      • Neutering/spaying: $200-$700 (the bigger the dog, the more $$$)

3. Be emotionally ready for the ups and down

As much as I love Nairobi, I had once thought about giving him up because he was just too much work, and I felt I would not be able to give him the attention he deserves. When I was at work, I was always worried about having left him home alone. He would howl in his crate for the first few weeks of being left alone. I worried that my neighbours would file a noise complaint. While in the office, I would periodically check on him through the baby monitor to see if he was okay. I would try to leave work around 2 or 3 pm so I could get home before the 7-hour mark to let him out to relieve his bladder, and I would continue working from home. It was a lot, and I had to adapt my lifestyle completely. When I travelled, I also worried about how the dog sitters were treating him: are they showing him the love I show him every day with cuddles and kisses? Is he getting his long walks and runs? I worried a lot. You never will stop worrying, which is normal because you love your dog, and he is part of your family. I do not have a kid, but I believe parents know what I mean. The difference, however, is that you would not give up your child after 8 months because he is a terror, and you cannot handle it. Giving up a dog is not like giving up a human child; we see the consequences for each of these as being very different.

I understand that the transition to fully working from home has created the perfect opportunity to raise a puppy. So many people who have always wanted a dog now have the time for a dog. I get it; it makes sense. But I strongly urge you: if you are planning to get, or recently got a dog, please give it some more thought and reflect on what dog ownership means to you and whether you would make a good owner. If you would like to talk about it, please feel free to reach out and I can share some hard-earned wisdom. A dog is a wonderful addition to any family and they can bring much joy and love to your life.

I leave you with these last words: a dog is only 12 years of your life, but you are his whole life and world.

Maintaining privacy working from home during COVID-19

Working from home (WFH) has become the norm, and it is expected to stay in place until further notice. This is a blessing and a curse. Blessing, due to time saved on your commute and increased time spent with your family. Curse, the added pressure of you being responsible for protecting your organizations’ privacy. We all have smart devices in our home and carry around a mobile device designed to make our life easier. However, these devices are continually trying to be better, which means learning about you: the consumer. How you choose to interpret this is entirely up to you, so go wild. My objective is to inform and provide some tips you can follow to protect your privacy and hopefully get you to think where else might you be vulnerable. Don’t limit your thinking to those mentioned previously, but think of anything that connects and sends information to its creator :).

Mobile applications and your privacy settings (Mic, Camera, etc.) 

There are a lot of simple applications you use on your device: the most popular of the group are social media applications. These are your run of the mill bad boys innovator type: FB, Instagram, etc. Now, what you don’t know is that they listen and use this data for target advertising. I recently experienced when I was speaking to my partner about a few things that needed to be bough, most notably was lentils and oats. Later, on Instagram, I was casually scrolling my feed and noticed ads from organizations that manufacture lentils and oat. Coincident? I do not believe so. FB owns Instagram, and FB had that massive Cambridge -Analytica scandal. Also, FB revenue is mainly from advertising…..Target advertising. After some research, I disabled my microphone access to Instagram (Settings -> Privacy -> Microphone), and noticed the type of ads I see have dramatically changed. I urge you to perform an inventory of your mobile device privacy and make necessary changes. I also noticed other apps that are non-social media type apps had access to my microphone. Social media platforms have provided some guidance on privacy settings, click to find out more :

There are millions of apps in the virtual app store, some with great developers that mean well, but some apps have bugs that exposes you, and those around you. Apps place on the store does not go through the most robust review process, and in some cases, can be installed without the use of an app store. Apps on your cell phone alter many settings on your device and, without your knowledge, can be listening, recording, or just learning about you.

 Smart Devices – They only get smart by learning about YOU.

 There are all these smart devices- too many to mention, so, here are two (2) questions to ask when you are unsure:

  1.  Can voice command activate them?
  2. Can they work without the need to be connected to your home network?

 If you answer yes to any of the above questions, well, I believe it is time you revisit or modify your security settings. Investigations over the last year have brought to light many interesting findings: 

-Amazon has thousands of people listening to Alexa data(Link), 

-Facebook listens and transcribes your audio (Link), 

-Apple captures what you tell Siri (Link), 

-Google eavesdrop (Link). 

I recommend you turn off your smart device during working hours to ensure your company privacy. If this might not be possible, here are some tips:

  •  Delete History – Alexa or Google captures your voice, they store recordings indefinitely, Clear your history through your mobile privacy settings.
  • Create a Secure network – Create a separate guest WiFi network for these devices to keep them apart from your computers and other secure devices. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada recommends that the network be password protected and choosing a WAP2 network when prompted.
  • Read privacy information – Get in the habit of reading privacy information. This information will often explain to you how the information is collected and used.

Working from home is new and represents a risk that many overlook in the digital world. It is not only the responsibility of the company’s IT department, but every remote worker to ensure security and privacy.

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated.

52 things I missed in 2019

2019 was an eventful year; we saw an impeachment trial, big fines levied on tech companies; the unprecedented amount of CEO shake-ups, and the on-going saga of the US-China trade war. These are the things that we saw in the news almost daily, and it drowned out some of the other news that would require coverage. Tom Whitwell publishes a yearly list of things he learnt and recently published his 2019 list; as I was reading all the articles I realized, I missed all of the things he learnt, which led me to my blog post.

The ones that drew my attention the most were:

  • #7 three private companies have fallen victim to ‘deep fake’ audio fraud – The fact that companies have fallen victim to deep fake audios are quite concerning in my world. Deep fake is an emerging risk and companies need to investigate protocols and controls to put into place, not to mention training for companies to discern or detect deep fakes.
  • #19 Google and Facebook lost $100 million between them to one scammer – It’s concerning when big tech companies like Google and Facebook has fallen preyed to fake invoices, not a nominal amount, but 100 MILLION (yes, all caps). This might be less than 1% of total revenue. However, it highlights that cyber awareness is crucial and the companies first defense.
  • #20 Teenagers with acne get higher marks, are more likely to complete college and, if female, eventually get paid more than people without teenage acne – Mhmmmm, this one is interesting…. I may have to conduct my own research on some of my friends that have acne to validate if they are getting paid more than me 🙂
  • #23 in the 1990s, it seems the US forgot how to make a critical component of some nuclear warheads – It’s hilarious to think the biggest employer in the US forgot how to make a critical component of a nuclear warhead…. Make sure you document everything!!!!! use this report as a driving force for your companies.
  • #28 Fashion++ is a Facebook-funded computer vision project that looks at a photo of your outfit and suggests ‘minimal edits for outfit improvement’ like tucking in a shirt or removing an accessory – Facebook getting into fashion advice scares me for the reason that: A) They are analyzing your picture and every part of your body, this is a perfect way to train their AI to know you and can pick you out on a street with thousands of people, all they need is access to a CCTV camera… Maybe, after they train their model, they can sell their model to the US government to monitor it’s citizens , which is against the law  FYI. But, that did not stop them……. Be worried!
  • #30 No babies born in Britain in 2016 were named Nigel – No babies in Britain named Nigel……Immigrants are definitely taking over LOL.
  • #34 28% of people like the smell of (their own) urine after eating asparagus – 28% of people like the smell of their own urine after eating asparagus? that’s just wrong, but if you are in that 28%, all the luck to you.
  • #35 AliBaba is investing $15m to research Chinese dialects, hoping to improve the performance of their voice recognition systems – Sure…………… very skeptical of AliBaba and their ties to the government. This just allows them to create amazing tech to use by the government.
  • #41 Disco, a Japanese high tech manufacturing company, has introduced an internal billing and payment system, where every cost is charged back to workers. Renting a conference room costs $100. “People really cut back on useless meetings,” says one staffer – Now, that is what I call innovation and efficiency
Below is the full list of 52 things Tom learnt in 2019.
  1. Each year humanity produces 1,000 times more transistors than grains of rice and wheat combined. [Mark P Mills]
  2. The maths of queuing are absolutely brutal and counter-intuitive. [John D Cook]
  3. Emojis are starting to appear in evidence in court cases, and lawyers are worried: “When emoji symbols are strung together, we don’t have a reliable way of interpreting their meaning.” (In 2017, an Israeli judge had to decide if one emoji-filled message constituted a verbal contract) [Eric Goldman]
  4. Harbinger customers are customers who buy products that tend to fail. They group together, forming harbinger zip codes. If households in those zip codes buy a product, it is likely to fail. If they back a political candidate, they are likely to lose the election. [Simester, Tucker & Yang]
  5. Baijiu is the world’s most popular spirit, with 10bn litres sold each year, almost entirely in China. The second most popular spirit in the world is vodka, with just 5bn litres sold. [Feyi Fawehinmi]
  6. A Python script, an Instagram account and quite a bit of free time can get you free meals in New York City. [Chris Buetti]
  7. At least three private companies have fallen victim to ‘deep fake’ audio fraud. In each case, a computerised voice clone of the company CEO “called a senior financial officer to request an urgent money transfer.” [Kaveh Waddell, Jennifer A. Kingson]
  8. Drunk shopping could be a $45bn /year industry, and only 6% of people regret their drunk purchases. [Zachary Crockett]
  9. Placebos are so effective that placebo placebos work: A pain cream with no active ingredients worked even when not used by the patient. Just owning the cream was enough to reduce pain. [Victoria Wai-lanYeung]
  10. Since the 1960s, British motorways have been deliberately designed by computer as series of long curves, rather than straight lines. This is done for both safety (less hypnotic) and aesthetic (“sculpture on an exciting, grand scale”) reasons. [Joe Moran]
  11. Between 1880 and 1916, Ireland had its own timezone, which was 25m 21s behind Greenwich Mean Time. After the Easter Rising, the House of Commons in London introduced GMT in Ireland and abolished Dublin Mean Time [Elena Goukassian]
  12. Drug names are changing: X and Z names (Prozac, Seroxat) are giving way to names ending in O or A (Natesto, Qsymia) which are more appealing to speakers of Romance languages in Europe and South America. [Pascaline Faure]
  13. The UK male suicide rate is the lowest since accurate records began in 1981. [Office for National Statistics]
  14. The goal of walking 10,000 steps per day may have originated when a Japanese pedometer manufacturer noticed that the 万 symbol (which means 10,000) looks a little like someone walking. The actual health merits of that number ‘have never been validated by research.’ [Amanda Mull]
  15. People hate asking sensitive questions. However, it turns out that people don’t hate being asked sensitive questions. So talking around difficult questions in research interviews is a waste of time and money. [Hart, VanEpps, Schweitzer]
  16. The Korean Police force includes five labradors who are clones of ‘Quinn’, a bomb-sniffing dog who found fame after finding a missing girl’s body in a 2007 kidnapping. [Kim Tong-hyung]
  17. As mobile phones became mainstream in the US in the early 1990s, the murder rate fell sharply. Street drug dealing became less popular, so gang-related turf wars were less common. (Other factors were also involved, obviously.) [Alexis C. Madrigal]
  18. Mechanical devices to cheat your phone pedometer (for health insurance fraud or vanity) are now all over AliExpress. [Matthew Brennan]
  19. In 2017 Google and Facebook lost $100 million between them to one scammer who sent them fake invoices. [Jeff John Roberts] [found by TomBot*]
  20. Teenagers with acne get higher marks, are more likely to complete college and, if female, eventually get paid more than people without teenage acne. [Hugo M. Mialon & Erik T. Nesson]
  21. 72% of classical musicians have taken beta blockers for performance anxiety. [Composed]
  22. Black women in the United States die in childbirth at roughly the same rate as women in Mongolia. [Annie Lowrey]
  23. Sometime in the 1990s, it seems the US forgot how to make a critical component of some nuclear warheads. [Nick Baumann]
  24. “Mushrooms and truffles are fungi, more closely related to humans than they are to plants.” [Lynne Peskoe-Yang]
  25. In the US Northwest, rain can damage the fruit on cherry trees. So helicopter pilots are paid to fly over the orchards, using their downdraft to dry the fruit as it ripens. For the pilots, it’s a risky but potentially profitable job. [Maria Langer]
  26. Gravitricity is a Scottish startup planning to store energy by lifting huge weights up a disused mine shaft when electricity is cheap, dropping them down to generate power when it is expensive. Using a 12,000 tonne weight (roughly the weight of the Eiffel tower), it should be half as expensive as equivalent lithium ion battery. [Jillian Ambrose]
  27. Spotify pays by the song. Two three minute songs are twice as profitable as one six minute song. So songs are getting shorter. [Dan Kopf]
  28. Fashion++ is a Facebook-funded computer vision project that looks at a photo of your outfit and suggests ‘minimal edits for outfit improvement’ like tucking in a shirt or removing an accessory. [Wei-Lin Hsiao & co] (In 2019, Fluxx helped launch Vogue Business.)
  29. Three million students at US schools don’t have the internet at home. [Michael Melia & co]
  30. No babies born in Britain in 2016 were named Nigel. [Jonathan Ore] (Correction: Robert Colvile, who broke the original story, points out that there could have been one or two Nigels in 2016 — the ONS only reports names with three or more examples)
  31. Using machine learning, researchers can now predict how likely an individual is to be involve in a car accident by looking at the image of their home address on Google Street View. [Kinga Kita-Wojciechowska]
  32. In 2018, the Nigerian government spent more on subsidies for petrol than on health, education, or defence. [Andrew S Nevin]
  33. According to WaterAid research, women spend 97 billion hours a year looking for a safe place to go to the loo. That equals 46 million working years, which is the same workforce as Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world. [Caroline Criado Perez via Tanya Gold]
  34. 28% of people like the smell of (their own) urine after eating asparagus.[Rolf Degen]
  35. AliBaba is investing $15m to research Chinese dialects, hoping to improve the performance of their voice recognition systems. [Emma Lee]
  36. At least half of the effort of most AI projects goes on data labelling, and that’s often done in rural Indian villages. [Anand Murali]
  37. Worldwide, growth in the fragrance industry is lagging behind cosmetics and skincare products. Why? ‘You can’t smell a selfie’. [Andrea Felsted and Sarah Halzack]
  38. CD sales still make up 78% of music revenue in Japan (compared with less than 30% in the UK). Japanese pop fans have been encouraged to buy multiple copies of their favourite releases to win rewards (buy 2,000 copies, win a night at a hot spring with your favourite star). One 32 year-old fan was charged with illegally dumping 585 copies of a CD on the side of a mountain. [Mark Mulligan] [found by TomBot*]
  39. Two disgruntled game developers wrote a script to generate and release identical but differently-named slot machine apps (sample names: Deer Antler Spray Slots3D Ravioli Slots). Eventually, the slot machine apps earned them $50,000. [Alex Schwartz & Ziba Scott]
  40. 80% of prisoners released late 2018 in a presidential pardon have opted to return to Kinshasa’s infamous Makala jail due to lack of means to live. [Olivier Kalume]
  41. Disco, a Japanese high tech manufacturing company, has introduced an internal billing and payment system, where every cost is charged back to workers. Renting a conference room costs $100. “People really cut back on useless meetings,” says one staffer. [Yuji Nakamura & Yuki Furukawa]
  42. A man who bought the personalised number plate NULL has received over $12,000 of parking fines, because the system records ‘NULL’ when no numberplate has been recorded. [Jack Morse]
  43. The islands of Orkney generate 120% of their energy needs using wind and solar. However, 57% of homes in Orkney are in fuel poverty, where a household spends more than 10% of income on fuel. [Chris Silver] (This year I worked briefly with Community Energy Scotland on a project with Energy Systems Catapult)
  44. Some blind people can understand speech that is almost three times faster than the fastest speech sighted people can understand. They can use speech synthesisers set at at 800 words per minute (conversational speech is 120–150 wpm). Research suggests that a section of the brain that normally responds to light is re-mapped in blind people to process sound. [Austin Hicks & R Douglas Fields]
  45. SpottedRisk is a disgrace insurance company built on data: “Firstborns are at slightly higher risk of disgrace, as are those… who’ve suffered recent breakups — until the passage of time sends the bereft partner back down the ‘risk-decay curve.’” [Boris Kachka]
  46. SDAM (Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory) is a rare syndrome where otherwise healthy, high-functioning people are unable to remember events from their own life. There is also an exhausting syndrome called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, where people can remember precise details about every single day of their life. [Palumbo & Alain]
  47. “Polling by phone has become very expensive, as the number of Americans willing to respond to unexpected or unknown callers has dropped. In the mid-to-late-20th century response rates were as high as 70%… [falling to] a mere 6% of the people it tried to survey in 2018.” [The Economist]
  48. In 2012, only one sports team (Manchester United) was worth more than $2bn. Today, there are 52 sports teams worth more than $2bn. [Kurt Badenhausen]
  49. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were invented by a cleaner at a Frito-Lay factory. He’s now VP of multicultural sales for PepsiCo America. [Zachary Crockett]
  50. Six reluctant Chinese hitmen who hired each other to carry out a murder went to jail when their outsourcing scheme collapsed. [Eric Cheung]
  51. Fast fashion is hitting the wiping rags businesses, because some clothing is just too badly made to be sold as rags. [Adam Minter] (In January, Fluxx worked with Fibretrace to develop new ways to make the circular economy work in fashion.)
  52. Asking ‘What questions do you have for me?’ can be dramatically more effective than ‘Any questions?’ at the end of a talk. (Many more good tips in this thread. [Jacqueline Antonovich]

The above list was originally posted on Tom’s medium blog

Principles of leadership according to Bill Campbell

I read an amazing book called the trillion-dollar coach by Eric Schmidt. Eric distilled the rules and principles that have been taught to him by Bill Campbell. These rules and principles have helped him, and some of the best-known leaders known in the tech world take their companies to super stardom. Bill Campbell was one of the most influential background players in Silicon Valley. He helped to build some of Silicon Valley’s greatest companies including Google, Apple, and Intuit, and to create over a trillion dollars in market value. He coached leaders such as:

  • Eric Schmidt, Executive chairman of Google
  • Larry Page, CEO Alphabet
  • Steve Jobs, founder of Apple
  • Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google,
  • Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg,
  • John Hennessy, former President of Stanford University,  
  • Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

I will save you the time of reading it and share with you the principles (See Below). These principles allowed these leaders to understand its the people that makes the company worthwhile. Some of us may not have the title of “leader”, but as individuals, we are leaders when speaking with our friends and colleagues. We can use some of the below principles to be better communicator, friends, and ultimately built trust.

Your Title Makes You A Manager, Your People Make You A Leader.
To be a good leader, you first need to be a good manager. Don’t demand respect, rather accrue it.

It’s the People.
The top priority of any manger is the well-being and success of her people.

Start with Trip Reports.
To build rapport and better relationships among team members, start team meetings with trip reports or other types of personal, non-business topics.

5 Words on A White Board.
Have a structure for one-on-one’s and take the time to prepare for them, as they are the best way to help people be more effective and to grow.

Best Idea, Not Consensus.
The manager’s job is to run a decision-making process that ensures all perspectives get heard and considered, and, if necessary, to break ties and make the decision. The goal of consensus leads to “groupthink” and inferior decisions. There isn’t a head at the Round Table, but there is a throne behind it.

Lead Based on First Principles.
Define the “first principles” for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundation for the company or product, and help guide the decision from those principles.

Manage the Aberrant Genius.
Aberrant geniuses—high-performing but difficult team members—should be tolerated and even protected, as long as their behavior isn’t unethical or abusive and their value outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues, and teams.

Money’s Not Just About the Money.
Compensating people well demonstrates love and respect and ties them strongly to the goals of the company.

Innovation Is Where the Crazy People Have Stature.
The purpose of a company is to bring a product vision to life. All the other components are in service to product.

Let People Leave with Their Heads Held High.
If you have to let people go, be generous, treat them well, and celebrate their accomplishments.

Build an Envelope of Trust.
Listen intently, practice complete candor, and be an evangelist for courage by believing in people more than they believe in themselves.

Only Coach the Coachable.
The traits that make a person coachable include honesty and humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.

Practice Free-Form Listening.
Listen to people with your full and undivided attention—don’t think ahead to what you’re going to say next—and ask questions to get to the real issue.

No Gap Between Statements and Fact.
Be relentlessly honest and candid, couple negative feedback with caring, give feedback as soon as possible, and if the feedback is negative, deliver it privately.

Don’t Stick It in Their Ear.
Don’t tell people what to do, offer stories and help guide them to the best decisions for them.

Be the Evangelist for Courage.
Believe in people more than they believe in themselves and push them to be more courageous.

Full Identity Front and Center.
People are most effective when they can be completely themselves and bring their full identity to work.

Team First.
You can’t get anything done without a team so the most important thing to look for in people is a team-first attitude. That the team wins has to be the most important thing.

Work the Team, Then the Problem.
When faced with a problem or opportunity, the first step is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.

Pick the Right Players.
The top characteristics to look for are smarts and hearts: the ability to learn fast, a willingness to work hard, integrity, grit, empathy, and a team-first attitude.

Pair People.
Peer relationships are critical and often overlooked, so seek opportunities to pair people up on projects or decisions.

Everyone Needs to Be at the Table.
Winning depends on having the best team, and the best teams have more women.

Solve the Biggest Problem.
Identify the biggest problem, the “elephant in the room,” bring it front and center, and tackle it first.

Don’t Let the complaining Sessions Last.
Air all the negative issues, but don’t dwell on them. Move on as fast as possible.

Winning Right.
Strive to win, but always win right, with commitment, teamwork, and integrity.

Leaders Lead.
When things are going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders. When you’re losing, recommit to the cause. Lead.

Fill the Gaps Between People.
Listen observe, and fill the communication and understanding gaps between people. Spot those fissures before they become deep and permanent, and act to fix them by filling in the information gaps and correcting and miscommunication.

Permission to Be Empathetic.
Leading teams becomes a lot more joyful, and the teams more effective, when you know and care about people.

It’s OK to Love.
The people on your team are people, and the team becomes stronger when you break down the walls between the professional and human personas and embrace the whole person with love.

To Care About People, You Have To Care About People.
Ask about their lives outside of work, understand their families, and when things get rough, show up.

Cheer Demonstrably for People and Their Success.
Don’t just sit there, stand up and show them the love for the work they are doing. 

Always Build Community.
Build communities inside and outside of work. A place is much stronger when people are connected. Invest in creating real, emotional bonds between people.

Help People.
Be generous with your time, connections, and other resources.

Love the Founders.
Hold a special reverence for—and protect—the people with the most vision and passion for the company. Campbell held a very special place in his heart for the people who have the guts and skills to start companies.

Build Relationships Whenever You Can.
When you’re in the elevator, passing someone in the hallway, or see your teammates in the cafeteria, take the time to stop and chat.

Positive Human Values Generate Positive Business Outcomes.
There are things we all care about as people—love, family, money, attention, power, meaning, purpose—that are factors in any business situation. That to create effective teams, you need to understand and pay attention to these human values.

Source: The trillion dollar coach by Eric Schmidt

A framework to Audit AI for trust, ethics, and bias

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated.

Note: I can talk about this topic all day. But I have kept the scope to the highest level to ensure that the ideas in this article are easier to grasp. I will be posting more articles that delve into details on how organizations can audit for trust, ethics, & bias.

Artificial intelligence (AI) requires humans to set up rules that will be coded by programmers. These rules will dictate how the various AI systems will operate within society and drive value for organizations. Many people tend to think AI is very sophisticated and beyond comprehension, and they throw buzzwords around such as “machine learning,” “natural language processing (NLP),” and “deep learning.” Let me try to explain the most popular AI systems:

  • Machine learning relies on programmers coding the rules of a process within a system so that the machine can execute these rules systematically, along with learning new things along the way. The learnings of such a program can be endless if proper constraints aren’t set.
  • Neural networks figure out the rules themselves like an infant would as they get older and are exposed to the environment around them. The way neural networks do this is called “deep learning.”
  • NLP, Image & speech recognition takes the world around us, which is messy and unstructured, and feed this data to a computer with a lot of dimensions. The computer will then try to see patterns that we could not easily see, or try to gather understanding of events that was not explainable and based on the data and dimensions programmed will provide decisions in real- time, and make predictions about the future.

With all that said, I’d like to get to the point of my post. AI is doing amazing things, and compelling use cases are being identified. However, using AI requires trust. Trust is essential when it comes to technology making decisions that have an impact on people’s lives. And with technology being given this power to make decisions, companies and governments need to demonstrate that their technology is free from their bias and has good ethics embedded in the technology.

It is challenging to demonstrate trust, ethics, and bias when it comes to using the various types of AI, but we will have to start somewhere. Over the last year, there have been numerous reports and fines related to the use of AI, such as:

Based on the growing number of incidents, it has become imperative that leaders on boards of major organizations be able to provide answers to regulators, customers, and the general public on the following questions:

  • What is your company using AI for, and what was it optimized to do? Leaders need to be able to clearly explain what their AI is optimized for when it comes to AI effectiveness. AI that is used to grant credit card approval, for example, along with setting interest rates for clients, will be optimized to ensure that the company manages their risk effectively by offering proper credit limits and interest rates to individuals who are considered low-risk. This sounds fine on the surface, but if we were to take a closer look, the optimization factor would provide a higher credit limit and favorable interest rates to wealthy individuals because they have multiple assets, low-risk ratings, and wider access to credit. On the other hand, individuals considered vulnerable (e.g., immigrants, women, people of color, low-income individuals) will receive higher interest rates, lower credit limits, or a credit card denial due to the fact that they do not have wide access to credit. This would demonstrate bias in the way the AI was programmed and the variables used to favor applicants of a higher social class and an ethical problem where you are discriminating against a certain class of applicant, gender and social standing, along with the values of your company (diversity, inclusion, etc.), which would diminish trust.. Organizations need to clearly understand what their algorithms are optimized for and be ready to accept the tradeoffs.
  • What were your tradeoffs?  If you designed an algorithm like the one above, what did you sacrifice to ensure the AI worked at 100% efficiency? Did you sacrifice customer privacy by feeding the AI system with numerous variables pertaining to the user across multiple product lines? Was the data source reliable, and can the lineage be traced? An AI system has no human emotions and will make decisions strictly based on the logic programmed. Additionally, the scenarios of your AI system will need to be understood as it relates to the variables not considered during the programmining and the tradeoffs you are willing to accept should those scenarios occur.
  • Were there any biases, and how can you demonstrate this? Bias is everywhere, and we all have them. Behavioral economists have confirmed that humans are susceptible to several cognitive biases. If you take the time to observe the countless instances of irrational human behavior all around you, you will realize that these biases are everywhere. Leaders should be ready to explain how their system is free from bias and whether the AI systems’ decision variables were challenged, and assessed, by independent parties for bias, and the conformity to design.

A framework to audit AI

Based on some research I conducted, I have developed a high-level framework on how to audit AI for trust, ethics, and bias. This framework is meant to serve as a starting point and can be adapted as needed.
Developed and created by Lorenzo Nagreadie

In short, using AI has a lot of merit and will allow people to do more value-added work, but AI will only succeed on a foundation of trust. With the framework above it provides leaders an approach on how they can go about understanding what their exposure is as it relates to AI and their use of them. The time has come where leaders in major organizations need to be aware of:

  1. The exposure if their AI algorithms fail and obligations to fulfill their duties?
  2. The use of their AI algorithm is legal, ethical, and responsible?

A practical guide to creating a culture of innovation

Innovation is necessary to stay competitive in today’s market as a company and as an individual. I have heard of many promising innovations or transformations undertaken by organizations and departments that end up in failure. The reason for failure? Adoption, the vision did not resonate, people did not understand, it didn’t stick, and many more. This guide is to get to the root of why your big idea did not stick with people and how to get people to generate innovative ideas.

1.    Communicate a compelling narrative about the vision: Let’s say a department or organization communicates the following vision: “We will grow our company by being innovative and adding value to consumers.” What’s wrong with this statement? Nothing. However, we need to effectively tell a story about how the vision resonates with the individual’s cause and how it effectively adds value. The organization’s vision is something the individual should feel strongly about that he or she will forego the competitor organizations’ salary to be part of the journey to create something amazing. Facebook, for example, has done a great job of communicating their vision and mission. Facebook’s mission is “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” People use Facebook “to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.” Facebook continuously innovates and makes strategic acquisitions to further this vision. Anyone I have met at Facebook believes in and connects with the vision that they work countless hours and defend the company through troubled times. If you want people to be innovative and bring their organizations to success during transformations, it is imperative that you clearly and effectively communicate that vision and align it to their personal mission.

2.    Foster trust: To try new things you need to have an environment where an individual feels empowered to speak up, try new things, raise their hand and ask for help. We do so with the confidence that our boss or colleagues will be there to support us. Let me quote Brene Brown: “Trust is the stacking and layering of small moments and reciprocal vulnerability over time.” When trust is not built we often feel forced to lie, hide mistakes, act as if we know how to do something (when we really don’t know), and fail to admit that we need help out of fear of humiliation, reprisal or finding ourselves on the shortlist of a layoff. American Airlines is a perfect [bad] example where the employees did not have the trust of their teams to feel empowered to do what is right and speak up while a passenger was being dragged out of the plane like an animal. Trust is when an individual shows up to work and can be his or her authentic self and feel empowered. His/her managers provide support and continuously have open conversations about elevating people versus improving the numbers or walking around and trying to catch you doing something your not supposed to.

3.    Have worthy rivals: Simply said, your rivals will show you where your weaknesses lie. You cannot be your best self or bring innovative ideas forward if you think you are the best and avoid being in situations where you are challenged. This leads you to accept the status quo and be crushed by your rivals. It is crucial to have a worthwhile rival to keep you on your toes and force you to confront your weaknesses so that you can address them and elevate yourself. You might be someone’s rival right now and that person may be putting in the hard work to address his or her weaknesses. Innovation requires a healthy dose of rivalry to generate innovative thinking and ideas.

4.    Have flexibility to pivot – Not all ideas are a success. You need to have the flexibility to change direction when you feel the value is no longer there. If the environment has incentives that measure success on outputs, you will not have great ideas. You will have compliance to meet those numbers. The environment should be such that it allows you to blow up your idea before someone else does. Companies demonstrate this by continuously blowing up their business before the market does, even when they were at their peak. Netflix did this by blowing its idea of delivering DVDs by mail to streaming, and Apple did this by entering the personal computing space. These companies did not go down the same path. They realized that, despite having a good idea, they needed to pivot to a better idea that will generate more value. Yes, it will be hard, but this is why you need to ensure the vision is communicated effectively and trust is embedded within your teams to handle the stress this is going to bring.

5.    Have the courage to lead: Leading may sound easy but it is far from it. Leadership is a lifestyle. It is thankless and solitary. You do not become a leader by attending an offsite or company event. You need to invest in the growth of others. Results are not immediate and you will often feel like no progress was made. You will need to continuously show up and lead others to see that vision. Lead at the front of change and practice extreme ownership.

6.    Live with a growth mindset: Nothing is a failure; it’s just an option that did not work at that time. Failure gives us time to re-group and apply new thinking to a problem. Innovation is hard, especially when it is so broad that many will not see the value early on. But going through this you will learn and incrementally get better at putting the best, innovative idea forward. Many leaders will share how many times they failed, but they just figured out that they need to keep trying a different approach if they believe in their mission. Always see things from a different perspective and change the narrative to yourself. Many departments have audacious goals and many cannot see the benefit of how they will get there. All they happen to see are the failures and the insanity around the ideas. But if we were to change our perspectives, we’d be forced to think broader and challenge ourselves, perhaps gain technology fluency, participate in something world-class and get a free education while we’re at it.

I’m mindful that the list I outline here is not exhaustive. But at least it’s something to start with when it comes to creating a culture where you are empowering people to be innovative.

This post was inspired by Simon Sinek.