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What I’m Reading – April 2017: Veterans Entrepreneurs, Organizational Study, Media, Baseball, Kung Fu, and Star Wars

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A wrap-up of articles I found most interesting this month.

How Veterans Turned Entrepreneurs Are Disrupting The Pentagon’s Weapons Program – Fast Company, 4/3/2017

This was my favorite read of the month. Having been in the defense contracting world for several years, I understood the inflexibility of contracting – where the military defines their problem and hires someone to work on it. Companies and contract companies are rarely allowed to take the initiative. This puts problem solving in the insular world of the military, which reduces outside views and hence innovation. According to his article, however, several tech companies have been able to penetrate the insular bubble and introduce new ideas. Fast Company details their challenges and successes in a world dominated by close-mindedness and a system that caters to entrenched contract companies.

Needless to say, I am looking at the websites of these companies to see if I can help their mission.

Wow with Insight: A journey to becoming a data and analytics leader – Corinium Intelligence.com, 4/3/2017

Corinium Intelligence interviewed Rick Davis, VP, Global Data Office, Kellogg Company. In this interview, Davis discusses the challenges of analytical positions and departments. Their goals are constantly changing as the environment changes as does the available sources of data – from traditional insight to modern data sources such as AI and the Internet of Things. According to Davis, analysts have to be open minded and willing to connect ideas that might not have gone together before.

I agree 100% and would say this is relevant to corporate and military intelligence. It might also be relevant to financial and other types of analysis.

Organizational Agility: Winning in Today’s Complex Environment – The Strategy Bridge, 4/21/2017

This article discusses how military units can better succeed. According to the author, military units should be more flexible, use improvisation, power down, and innovate. While I agree and recommend the article, I think the author is tilling well-worn ground, especially in regards to Special Operations. Many of the management books I read in my MBA courses emphasized these organizational traits. They are great, but they require intense rapid learning, intelligence, and teamwork.

The military is an awkward place for innovation and agility. They spend the first few months of a member’s career deprogramming and reprogramming them for uniformity. Then they spend years in a closed culture. Articles like this assume members would be able to ditch their organizational programming and think like civilian innovators. Meanwhile, when consultants, who work in innovation and fast-moving fields, are brought in, defense organizations push back.

I wrote more than normal on this because I much as I would like to be, I am not optimistic. And that makes me sad.

Trump and Emergent Strategy: The First 100 Days – War On the Rocks, 4/28/2017

Keeping with the business and national defense theme, this article by War On the Rocks postulates that President Trump is enacting a “learning and improvisation” methodology to foreign policy. Trump is not providing overarching guidance, rather going with a more business-like rapid-learning and flexible style of navigating the waters of geopolitics. The author provides suggestions how the president can succeed with this methodology.

The Link Between White Supremacists and Islamic Terrorism – The Cypher Brief, 4/20/2017

This great interview with former FBI agent Michael German discusses the similarity between terrorist groups such as a white nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists. German dissects the psychology of groups and how operational objectives sometimes supersedes ideology. He also compares different groups such as Al Qaeda and Nazis. According to German, there are many similarities in recruiting, practicality, and operations. These groups often glaze over the ideology for operational success, which is not uncommon for any political movement, just their tactics and attempts to be relevant are different.

Beyond Alt: The extremely reactionary, burn-it-down-radical, newfangled far right. – NYMag.com, 4/30/2017

Another article about political groups. In this very long article, a team of writers dissect the right-wing of America. In the beginning of the article, they label this group a counterculture, not a political movement. They also detail their use of social media and technology – the same tools used by other counterculture groups around the world for years. The idea is that waves of ideas move faster than established philosophy. If that overarching philosophy is weak, or it’s people don’t believe, they will be sucked into the tide of the counterculture. This tide is magnified exponentially by technology. Lastly, the article details personalities and ideas center to the new right-wing group.

The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think – Politico.com, May/June 2017

Politico explores the geography of media and how it relates to politics. As media increasingly goes online it migrates more to metro areas with urban, liberal ideals. Unfortunately, local newspapers are losing staff due to lost revenue to national websites. It is a vicious cycle and Politico has some good data behind it.

Unchecked fake news gave rise to an evil empire in Star Wars – Washington Post, 5/4/2017

I am a total geek for articles that use Star Wars to view our modern condition. This article brings up a very good point – that media is rarely seen in the Star Wars galaxy, at least in the canon movies. Without a media presence, government powers are able to run roughshod on the people and authoritarians are allowed to take over.  It is an interesting point about Star Wars that I never realized.

‘Kung Fu Kenny’ Is Just the Latest Example of Hip-Hop’s Fascination With Martial Arts – Complex.com, 4/19/2017

Complex.com does a great job explaining the influence of kung-fu in hip-hop. While old school hip-hop fans might know this relationship, it has slowly fallen out of public knowledge. Thanks to Kendrick Lamar, however, many of hip-hop’s old school influences have come back to light with a modern twist. But it is now up to media and older fans to explain to younger hip-hop fans what they are seeing and why it is important.

History Awakens: February 2, 1876 and the Founding of the National League – MLB Blogs, 4/24/2017

A very interesting look at recently discovered documents that created the National League – the oldest professional baseball league in existence. The article also tells the story of the politics behind the document.

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