Month: May 2014

Future housing in Britain

As the London housing supply problem continues and lower income households are forced to move out of the city (city rents and cost of living becomming unaffordable), they may well encounter groups of economic immigrants entering Britain who want to live as close as possible to their prospective employers of the future i.e. at the city margins.

The pressure to house both groups is firstly an issue of the land. And secondly an issue of housing on that land. Both groups will want cheap land. And housing that can be rapidly and cheaply constructed (perhaps 3D printed or prefabricated dwellings).

Where might the cheap land come from that is relatively near the centres of thriving commerce in the UK? Typically, from land being sold at a discount, because of its drawbacks. Example include; ex-landfill land, land next to railway sidings or motorways, land next to busy airports, ex-quarries, land at flood risk and ex-industrial land. Councils, NHS Trusts and other organisations under financial pressure may also be interested in selling off surplus land, simply to help balance their books.

Since existing towns and villages won’t have the space (or the interest from existing residents in building new schools, shops, social and medical facilities for the new settlers), it’s likely that new towns and villages will need be constructed. Perhaps as high density settlements, Soweto style.

Central government would be wise to prohibit the construction of new towns and villages alongside existing airports, rail and road links. Why? Because this would prevent their future width-expansion, to cope with an increased settler commuter-traffic, to and from the main centres of employment.

Central government and the UK Environmental Agency would also be wise to prohibit the construction of new towns and villages on known floodplains, or in low lying areas next to the sea, for obvious reasons.

Welcome to prefab Britain.


Innovation Value Chain

Old World Innovation chain

Researchers spend their life finding new insights.

Valuers (funders, financiers, analysts & appraisers) spend their life pricing the things that researchers uncover, so that Traders can exchange value.

Sometimes traders can also be researchers, but innovation impact (on society) is secondary to the direct value of the exchange.


New World Innovation chain?

Valuer’s set the innovation priorities based on innovation impact.

Researchers get to work and traders then exchange the outputs.

Clash of the titans – Big Data and the Internet of Things

Forecasting & trading models appear to become ever-more capable. They crunch ever-bigger datasets (the age of big data), manage market trades and even shape data-driven public policy.

Meanwhile the Internet of Things is computerising evermore devices, to control the timing of service provision to us, often where the how of the service remains a mystery to us.

At some point, will human choices be sacrificed between these two complexifying forces, as they progressively control our World for us?

Even without the rise of high performance computing, the age of big data and the Internet of Things, coalition politics (both at the UK and EU level) appear to be putting the brakes on implementing effective change. So as parliamentary change management slows down while digital action speeds up, where are these changes taking us, as a society?

Will voter apathy rise further and will we escape on-masse, to the World of mall shopping, computer games, reality TV, You Tube home videos and sport on the terraces?

Lastly, the irony of the social network, might be when people start using it to help make sense of the device-social network (The Internet of Things), as its sociability quickly overtakes our own…

UK Social Comment2

EU voting cause and effect – EU elections began in 1979 and now, over 70% of British law comes from the EU, while British MP representation in the EU parliament (the amending chamber) is a mere 8%. Even worse, British voter turnout for the last EU election (2009) was only about one third of the voting population, less than the 43% average voter turnout across Europe. What’s worse – that so few people vote after seeing the EU parliamentary process in action for so long, or that so few people vote for something that is increasingly dominating their lives?

A Scotland voter’s choice; vote YES and hope Scotland can quickly join the Euro (to win more exports off a weaker currency than the pound), or vote NO, stay out of the Euro and hope that one day Britain will adopt the Euro for itself?

Join a gang and the life you waste will be your own.

The more ice in your cocktail, the less appetite to relax and celebrate. So it is with global warming and rising oceans.

Higher education outreach needs honest commitment & a regular engagement, just as marriage needs honest commitment and a regular engagement.

Parents share the frustrations of shadow governments – one has all the knowledge and none of the respect to act. The other has little of the knowledge and none of the respect to act.

Change and Progress

_MG_9388 _MG_9440 _MG_9394

If change gets in the way of common sense, it probably isn’t progress.

Career management is a journey through a series of business case jungles.

Molotov cocktails use information and logic to carry anger, petrol, glass and a burning taper to their destination, to effect change. Management cocktails use information and logic to carry passion and organisational resources to their destination, to effect change. If it’s the right sort of change, the stakeholders get to enjoy a cocktail together afterwards.

Career management used to mean following a linear journey from technical skill to organisational leadership. If the career landscape now sprouts new skill needs in all directions, how linear can that progression actually become?

The most reliable and empowering form of career management is entrepreneurship. If you happen to work with one large organisation as your dominant client, it won’t hurt to diversify your ‘product range’ for other market needs.

Closed Loop Thinking – the opposite of closed thinking

How many community and business problems get bigger, because we grow the ‘open loop’ rather than growing the ‘closed loop’?

Open loops involve inputs at one end, some kind of non-linear travel and some outputs at the other end. As the human population grows, as economic activity grows, as the monetary value grows, more goes in, but correspondingly more comes out of the open loop. Think of a plumbing system with water flowing through it. Think of house supply shortages and rising house prices, creating barriers to people getting onto the property ladder (the result).

With closed loops, as there is growth in population, economic activity and/or monetary value, the loop itself has enough flexibility to get fatter and it enlarges proportionately. Think of global trade, the human vascular system (veins & arteries), healthy lifestyles, housebuilds linked to household growth. Or the double-entry book-keeping system itself.

Open loops are about waste and shortage.

Open loops are about freedoms (with some adverse and sometimes unexpected consequences).

Open loops are about functional department battles (to obscure the blame for waste).

Open loops are about poor strategy, executed to excess.

Open loops allow you to only measure flow, not total volume.

Open loops are about one-time trading (exploitation), with little trust.

Open loops tend towards disorder & obsolescence over the long term.

Open loops discourage significant innovation & teamwork.


Closed loops are about proportionate recycling for net growth.

Closed loops are about responsibilities (what goes around comes around).

Closed loops are about joined-up leadership & waste avoidance.

Closed loops are about great strategy, executed to excess.

Closed loops allow you to measure total volume and flow. As ‘volume’ builds, its capital value also builds e.g. social network or phone network size, club membership influence, no of bank accounts held, customer information. The opportunity – create enclosed volume to create collateral than can be financially borrowed against.

Closed loops are about repeat trading (sustainability), with embedded trust.

Closed loops build order & sophistication over the long term.

Closed loops are about significant innovation & require teamwork.


How can you make an open loop more efficient?

  • Increase the rate per period (a possible trade-off is more efficiency sooner, but faster wear and tear on the supporting infrastructure, causing more maintenance cost).
  • Increase consistency within the flow (create fewer gaps and more even flow, including using queuing or booking systems, or variable pricing, to manage time of day demand levels).
  • Reduce the friction between flow and its infrastructure (manage people’s expectations about freedom to act within boundaries and make appeals time-limited).

How can you make a closed loop more efficient?

  • Increase its flexibility to expand and contract cost-effectively, as demand dictates.
  • Leverage the infrastructure investment. If employ blended learning in higher education, can increase the flow, with proportionately less investment to scale up the infrastructure investment.


Are open and closed loops the same thing as vicious and virtuous cycles?

An open loop isn’t a cycle, but instead is a one way flow. A closed loop is a virtuous cycle.

Are open and closed loops the same thing as self-balancing and self-reinforcing cycles?

Self-balancing cycles typically involve trade-offs, for example in politics. Stability is achieved when there is common agreement and recognition of the value of the trade-offs made. Arguably closed and open loops can be both self-balancing and self-reinforcing. The problem with an open loop being self-reinforcing is that the downstream problems (pollution etc) prevent its sustainability.


The opportunity

If government policy-makers take more of a closed-loop approach, rather than an open-loop approach, policy regulation might design out tax avoidance, pollution, redundancy, unemployment, crime and economic migration.

If corporate owners take more of a closed-loop approach, rather than an open-loop approach, corporate policies and procedures might design out process inefficiency, process rework, redundancy, legal and after-sales support costs.


The means

So how can you turn an open-loop approach into a closed-loop approach?

(1) One way is to join together two open loops to create the closed loop.

At a university, in the Facilities Management department, use heat transfer from research equipment experiments to generate power (geothermal energy generation) or heat office buildings.

Use faculty discoveries that are approved for commercial use (new materials and energy management systems especially) to reduce the university’s estate operating costs.

In a corporate setting, people are hired, work and then retire or leave the organisation. Unemployed and retired people then provide volunteer labour to advise organisations how to run better. Can these two open loops be joined into one closed loop? If the organisation creates a new status for those retiring or leaving it as employees, those ex-employees could then plough back on a voluntary basis, ideas and advice that the same organisation then benefits from, to grow and hire more staff. Similarly, when the Justice system succeeds in rehabilitating law-breakers, not only is future social cost avoided, but their productive contribution helps build the economy and national culture to greater heights.

(2) Another way is substitution – replace open with closed. This happened historically when the World adopted the double entry book-keeping approach to business records.

In a university setting, embrace a student self-service model, reinforced at all points of the student lifecycle, from preregistration, enrolment, self-directed course content enquiry, study group communication, campus services, course assessment, student survey, student finance, aspects of graduation, professional registration, alumni communication and life-long learning

In an automotive design example, effect refinements to engine efficiency aim to turn exhaust gases into usable system inputs and replace the heat (generated by friction) and moving parts wear with frictionless or solid state components.

In a government policy setting, modify the tax system to build public reserves that are ear-marked to maintain and develop public infrastructure, regardless of economic cycles. Build the fund in the good times and spend correspondingly more in the downturns.

Food for thought?