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Plano Texas 75023
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Recent View from the Prairie Articles

April 2018

Making Decisions with Incomplete Knowledge

We are always needing to make decisions without knowing the full information about the situation or what the consequences of the decision will be. We need to have a system of making decisions and reviewing such decisions when the consequences we become aware of them. We do best to also ask the deep questions.

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Mindfulness

A current wave through management circles is to spend time in "Mindfulness". The practitioners claim studies showing that managers who set aside time for "Mindfulness" make better decisions. There is an obvious reason for that result. But any time in "Mindfulness" can be improved by focusing on the questions.

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February/March 2018

Examine Your Myths

Humans live on stories. We love to listen to stories, we learn more from stories than from facts, and we have our own story which gives us our own time and place. But sometimes, those stories are myths. When we try to run companies on myths, we run the risk that the myth no longer holds true for us. When we live by a myth, we are far more vulnerable to con men and being taken advantage of by people acting as if they are fulfilling the myth. Business myths abound in our culture. Learning to question our myths can be a potent business advantage.

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The Jungle Will Overtake a Garden

Anyone who has seen Angor Wat or the images of how Mayan temples were discovered can see the power of the jungle to take over a fancy city. Trees are growing everywhere and huge temples got covered with dirt and vegetation. Even a lowly garden has weeds attacking it every week. The same is true for any computer system.

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January 2018

Too Big Not to Fail

Back in the 1950's, the American economy was dominated by a few huge corporations. Companies like GM, AT&T, US Steel, IBM, and General Electric had dominant positions in the marketplace and were where people wanted to work. Since then, several have gone bankrupt and the others are much smaller part of the economy. What happened? They were all "too big NOT to fail". Human beings are not perfect. We have a predictable failure rate.

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Get Feedback

To have a learning organization, we need feedback. Learning happens fastest when there is quick, effective feedback. But how do we best get feedback? To get best feedback, we need both formal and informal methods.

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December 2017

Trusting Data

We have all heard customer support people tell us "that is what the computer says" even when we knew that the computer was wrong. Computer data is often trusted when it shouldn't be and not trusted when it should be. Computers and data need to cross a "trust boundary" and things go wrong at that boundary. We face liars and out dated information all the time. We need to have a good process for letting data inside that trust boundary.

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Costs of Speedups

In the Large Hadron Collider, the second run was designed to run at a rate of one burst every 25 nanoseconds. To put that in perspective, in 25 nanoseconds, light travels only about 8 feet. There was tremendous costs and effort to be able to get some information when things are happening that fast. In business, we are all being pushed to speed up processes.

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November 2017

Antifragility

When software is first written, often it is "fragile"; users can find keystroke combinations or inputs that "crash" the program. Many a web page has been hacked by people who have discovered ways to break the normal behavior. It takes a lot of work to build the software so that it is able to gracefully handle bad input or aggressive attacks. We need systems that are not fragile. The same is true with corporate systems. We need antifragile corporations.

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Turn the Problem Around

Many times, when we can get stuck on a problem, it helps to turn the problem around and look at it from another viewpoint. Turning a problem around is a common solution technique in the physical sciences and in sales. We can "solve" a problem from one viewpoint and then, when looking at the problem from the other side, see a totally different solution that is often far better.

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October 2017

Internet of (Vulnerable) Things

In Nature documentaries, we can watch penguin colonies raise their chicks. We can watch the adults come and go. All the while, right off shore, the sharks are swimming, waiting for a meal, knowing that the adults and chicks will swim right into range.
Currently, there is a mad rush into the Internet of Things. Yes, the opportunities are huge. But the spread of unsafe devices is putting all of us at risk.

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Ignore Stuff

The human body is receiving a huge amount of data every second, most of which we ignore. Our eyes are processing every second and send the data to the brain on a network of about a million nerve cells. We toss away most of this information. In management, often we need to ignore certain things. Much can be safely ignored but there are some that should not be.

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