Trendlines: The New, Hot and Unexpected

BOSTON (06/15/2000) - SYSTEMS FLYING BLIND By Phil Scott Since the middle of the 20th century, when someone first dragged a radar receiver to an airport control tower, pilots have been taking orders from the ground. "Controllers tell pilots where traffic is, and they tell them to speed up, slow down and to turn," says Amy Pritchett, an assistant professor in the Georgia Tech School of Industrial and Systems Engineering in Atlanta. "Typically, pilots have been unable to know exactly where and how they fit into the traffic flow."

But now, with advances in computer and communications technology, plus a U.S. government mandate to modernize the air traffic control system that dates back to an era of propeller planes carrying fewer than 100 passengers, pilots and controllers have a chance to rebuild the system from the ground up. Or rather, from the air down. Part of the new technology that pilots will be using in cockpits is called Cockpit Display of Traffic Information (CDTI). It combines input from other systems such as global positioning system (GPS) technology, which lets each aircraft know very accurately where it is, and ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast), which lets an aircraft broadcast its position and intent to other aircraft, and not just to air traffic control.

CDTI can then show pilots exactly who and where other planes are, as well as their airspeed and even their intentions--a flood of the information that customarily trickled in from air traffic control. How much data is enough, and how much is too much? For Pritchett, a pilot herself, and L.J. Yankosky, a Georgia Tech graduate student in industrial and systems engineering, those are the questions.

With a grant from NASA, the duo placed 12 pilots in a cockpit simulator with CDTI that offered three different amounts of information and ran the pilots through some typical air traffic control procedures. Most of the pilots--11 of 12--strongly preferred the display with the most information, Pritchett says.

"They liked having more information and getting more involved in air traffic control." And while no one called for eliminating controllers, "pilots found they were using the information to change how they interacted with one another for the better," she says.

Controllers who participated in the study felt they didn't need to talk as much and could give more precise directions. And pilots didn't second-guess the controller because they knew exactly where they should fit into the flow.

But Pritchett's study revealed another important fact: "Even having more information doesn't help if another airplane was unpredictable in its behavior." For those who believe that flight is a metaphor for life, that's not a bad lesson to learn.

DEPARTMENT OF BIG, SCARY NUMBERS 2 million: number of Java developers working by 2005, making Java the second most popular programming language in the world 3 million: number of VisualBasic developers by 2005 $2.2 billion: size of the application building block market by 2002. 90: percent of respondents to a Computer Security Institute survey who detected computer security breaches within the last 12 months. 75: percent of respondents who acknowledged financial losses because of computer breaches Sources: Gartner Group Interactive, "Where Are Java Programmers When You Need Them?" and Computer Security Institute, "2000 Computer Crime and Security Survey."

WASHINGTON WATCH By Elana Varon

DIGITAL EARTHQUAKE INSURANCE DEBATE The insurance industry can't be expected to pay if the whole Internet shuts down, says Frank Wisner, vice chairman for external affairs with commercial insurer American International Group. So he's asking information execs to lobby taxpayers for an insurance program modeled after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) that's been guaranteeing your bank deposits ever since the Great Depression.

Wisner told more than 100 corporate auditors and CIOs gathered at a White House conference earlier this spring that the government should become "the reinsurer of last resort in case of a digital earthquake," just as it steps in to heal businesses that suffer from natural disasters. The Commerce Department's Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office--the group in charge of rallying government agencies and industries to be more vigilant about network security--agrees that a public safety net has merit. But John Tritak, the CIAO director, says the private sector would have to drum up sufficient political support for the idea.

Federal insurance could protect businesses--and the economy--from huge losses from a cyberwar. Such protection could be hard to get in the private market, says Marshall Acuff, equity strategist for investment bank Salomon Smith Barney Holdings. But Acuff worries that the promise of a federal bailout would discourage companies from taking proper precautions. Even a plan modeled on federal banking insurance through the FDIC might not fly because companies wouldn't want to invite the same kind of government scrutiny that banks get in exchange for protection.

"Most corporate folks would say they don't want the government in anything else," says Thomas Horton, who chairs the National Association of Corporate Directors. Horton thinks the feds would probably come to the rescue in a disaster anyway, if enough damage were done. "They bailed out Chrysler," he points out.

NO NEW NET TAXES FOR NOW on May 10, Congress extended the Internet sales tax moratorium from 2001 to 2006. The moratorium is the only point about Internet taxes most lawmakers agreed on after the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce issued a politically inconclusive report in April. Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, the Senate sponsor of the current moratorium, is pushing a compromise he thinks would "break the gridlock" on the issue by kicking it over to state governors.

A majority of governors want a new, uniform sales tax system that would make it easier for businesses to remit the revenues. Most ACEC commissioners liked the idea, but not enough to make it a political certainty. Wyden would give states a few years to deliver a plan, on which Congress would get to vote. He thinks the states don't really need the approval, but they "don't want to take the political heat" for calling in Net sales taxes they can legally collect now.

Given the passion that taxes arouse, there's bound to be plenty of heat generated by both the pro- (including brick-and-mortar retailers) and anti- (opponents of taxes in general) Internet tax forces before the issue is resolved. Marla Grossman, a lobbyist representing dotcoms at Washington, D.C.-based Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, thinks the issue has less impact on CIOs than pending rules about online privacy or digital signatures.

Got news or views on IT issues in Washington? Send them to washington@ cio.com.

THE WEB IT'S A NICE DAY FOR A... WIRED WEDDING By Meg Mitchell A funny thing happened on the way to the altar. Somewhere between the Wedding at Cana, when Jesus changed water into wine to create the world's first open bar, and Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?--about which the less said the better--nuptial bliss became synonymous with public displays that go far beyond affection.

For better or worse, the Internet, with its indulgence of voyeurism, offers plenty of tools to serve both the need for resources and for attention of brides and grooms to be. The granddaddy of them all is Theknot.com, the website of The Knot Inc. based in New York City, on which one can plan an entire wedding without leaving the desktop: find a photographer, find a dress, find the answers to wedding day etiquette (What do you do when Aunt Sylvia has one too many?). Two other major sites are WeddingChannel.com and UltimateWedding.com.

The attraction of these sites lies far beyond their usefulness. It takes the average person approximately three-and-a-half minutes to find out all they want to know about someone else's wedding. Unless, of course, the average person is planning a wedding of their own, in which case they'll feign interest in someone else long enough to buy a few minutes to chatter on about their own plans.

At Theknot.com, more than 2,000 people become members each day. That's a lot of wedding talk. Visitors can not only browse acres of tips on food, makeup and finding the perfect honeymoon spot, but they can look at the pages of other couples and join live chats about urgent matters like whether a tiara works with short hair. "People find there is an audience for their complete self-involvement," says Carley Roney, one of The Knot's cofounders. At WeddingChannel.com, visitors can browse a library of stories on how couples became engaged. And at UltimateWedding.com, check out how featured couples are planning their day (mostly so that you can make sure you're planning something better).

If it's true that a wedding represents the average person's chance to be famous for a day, these sites allow people to stretch that day into months and months.

But the Internet will be a true success when it offers a way to download the money to pay for it.

LEGAL MATTERS FOR PITT'S SAKE

American actor Brad Pitt is suing. And it's a fine show of how the far corners of the electronic world can slam together like a collapsing star. Pitt alleges that a resident of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, plus several others, have infringed on his name by registering a website called Bradpitt.com, which is housed on a server in Kincaid, Ill. That, however, is not to be confused with the website Bradpitt.net, registered in Finland but recently relinquished to Pitt. Got that? That site sold Pitt paraphernalia without Pitt consent. But Bradpitt.com simply contains the announcement: "This domain name is for sale," along with contact information for those soliciting offers. So where is the jurisdiction in this melting pot of cybersquatting? According to precedent, personal jurisdiction holds in the place where the harm is done, even if the defendant made his keystrokes across the globe, and here that is California, where Pitt resides. At press time there had been a demand for mandatory arbitration through ICANN as an alternative to civil litigation to force the transfer of the domain.

HOT TOPIC LEADERSHIP THE GLASS HALF FULL By Polly Schneider People who see the world through rose-colored glasses are often chided for being naive and out of touch with reality. Yet Pollyannas have a lot to teach the world of business--at least that's what recent research from the Center for Creative Leadership in Greenville, North Carolina, suggests.

By analyzing the Center's database of psychological data from surveys of more than 10,000 managers since 1988, Senior Fellow David Campbell discovered one common leadership trait: optimism. "We have a standardized survey, and if you [administer] it in a typical organization and calculate it by rank, you always find that people in the higher ranks find more satisfaction and motivation on the job," he explains. And despite the pressures of being at the top, Campbell's research shows that people get happier the higher they rise in their careers.

Thinking positively is not only good for your personal career development, but it also drives leaders to perform and score wins for their organization. Says Campbell, "Optimism produces persistence and encourages people to continue in the face of setbacks."

So which comes first? Are people at the top optimistic because they are at the top, or does optimism propel people to reach the top? A little of both, probably. Research from leading behavioral experts in academe points to the latter, Campbell says. One such expert, Albert Bandura, a professor at Stanford University, describes optimistic leaders as those with "self-efficacy," the capability to perform and the self-confidence that they can perform well. "It's sort of like the Weight Watcher's philosophy. Everyone in America knows how to lose weight, but whether or not you believe you have the self-discipline to do it is what matters," Campbell explains. People who have achieved success in the past believe they can do it again--and that's why senior execs are more optimistic than their underlings.

Is negativity in your blood? It is possible to learn optimism, but it requires a lot of self-talk. If you suffer a loss, ask yourself the following: Is it permanent, pervasive in my life, and am I responsible? Campbell says optimists tend to answer no to these questions while pessimists would say yes to all three and get depressed. His advice to those wanting to improve their outlook on life and climb the ladder at the same time is simple: Choose a small, nonthreatening task to prove yourself. Take on a volunteer project in the community, or offer to plan your company's annual picnic. There's always tomorrow, after all.

READ 'EM AND REAP They don't make good beach reading. In fact, many of them end up awaiting the dumpster in unread stacks. The annual report, that glossy brochure filled with financial data that publicly traded companies are required to publish, rates up there with white papers and the Yellow Pages when it comes to dull reading material.

Enter the Report Gallery, which runs a jazzy website promising the impossible: to make financial disclosure fun. That may be a stretch. But the two founders, Thomas Amon and David Roach, have been preaching the benefits of publishing financial information online for more than five years. By scrapping the traditional annual report, the two Orange County, California, entrepreneurs argue, companies save printing and delivery costs--not to mention some trees.

The company charges an average of $2,500 for its services.

The lively website (www.reportgallery.com) now contains more than 2,200 annual reports from some of the world's big corporations, including Boeing, Disney and McDonald's. The colorful design draws investors into the site, where they can compare financial information from most of the Fortune 500, read about international companies in English and search links to other financial service sites.

And Cornerstone Investor Relations, the Report Gallery's Santa Ana, California, parent company, doesn't want to stop at annual reports. Soon, they say, companies will be able to create virtual walk-throughs of corporate headquarters and new plants in foreign lands, as well as live video of CEOs delivering messages to shareholders. -Susannah Patton TRAINING HIRE ME, PRETTY PLEASE By Sarah D. Scalet Venerated rumor has it that MIT students are socially inept. But if they are, could 165 of them have earned degrees this year--for being charming? Forget about technological innovation and scientific brilliance. Charm School was an afternoon of technique, with wannabe smooth-talkers focusing on topics such as the art of the schmooze, elevator etiquette, wine, small plate balancing, mobile phone manners, earnest gazing and other listening skills and a game titled Who Wants to Be a Charminaire?, spoofing the popular TV show, with prizes including deodorant and toothpaste.

"We try to be a little timely," says Charm School Coordinator and Assistant Dean for Student Life Programs Katie O'Dair, emphasizing that the annual event is an irreverent way of tackling serious subjects--not a makeover day for nerds. "Anyone visiting campus today will see that's not what MIT students are really about. This is clearly about life skills."

The school opened its well-mannered doors eight years ago, O'Dair says, based on a faculty member's observation that some students were not learning certain skills they would need in the business world. Since then, Charm School has become an anticipated part of MIT's month-long Independent Activities Period, a period between semesters when students choose short courses from a selection of nontraditional subjects.

Most of Charm School's 30 miniclasses are taught at booths assembled in a well-trod area of campus. For each 15- to 30-minute class completed, a student gets a certificate; six classes earn him or her a "bachelor's degree" in charm, eight yields a master's and twelve a PhD. This year, of the 800 students who dropped in and the 165 who gathered enough charm credits to earn degrees, about 100 earned charm PhDs. "People who committed to Charm School did it all the way," says O'Dair.

With the kinds of positions MIT grads will take in an increasingly technical business world, it wouldn't behoove us to say anything rude. But we do have to wonder, if students are so pocket-protector-free, why the library staff felt moved to contribute a charm school section on "What happens if you drool on your book." Let's hope for an incomplete in that one.

OFF THE SHELF Edited by Carol Zarrow

A HISTORY LESSON The Management Century: A Critical Review of 20th Century Thought & Practice By Stuart Crainer Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2000, $28 In The Management Century, Stuart Crainer methodically moves the reader decade by decade through U.S. political and economic events since 1900, discussing their impact on business philosophy. Each chapter focuses on the few men (and fewer women) who helped develop American management theories and practices--corporate tycoons, scientists, engineers, academicians, writers and psychologists. Some of their mantras for success still apply today. Peter Drucker's assertion, for example, that the one valid purpose of business is to create a customer is as challenging now as it was in the mid-1950s. But Crainer also examines some once-accepted ways of thinking that ended up discredited. A concluding chapter summarizes the current state of management theory in a series of topics that reflect today's uncertainty, for example, "Living and Dying by Ideas," "In Search of Values" and "Corporate Mortality." So if there's no time to get that MBA anytime soon, you can use this book to learn who's who and what's what in the world of business theory. -Lynne Rigolini ALSO... The Monk and the Riddle: The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur By Randy Komisar Harvard Business School Press, 2000, $22.50 Komisar presents a fascinating carpe diem tale, part seminar and part philosophy, that incorporates business development advice and his own educational experiences as a central figure in the history of Claris Corp., LucasArts Entertainment, WebTV and GO Corp. Along the way, he teaches a budding entrepreneur how to stop deferring his life's ambition and relish a gamble.

-Stewart Deck

CIO BEST-SELLER LIST 5. The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger Perseus Books, 2000 4. First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman Simon & Schuster, 1999 3. Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy Philip Evans and Thomas S. Wurster Harvard Business School Press, 1999 2. Clicks and Mortar: Passion Driven Growth in an Internet Driven World David S. Pottruck and Terry Pearce Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2000 1. Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life Spencer Johnson The Putnam Publishing Group, 1998 SOURCE: Date from week of April 30, 2000, compiled by Amazon.com Inc.

Tell us what you're reading and why at books@cio.com. Visit the Reading Room at www.cio.com/books.

WHAT THEY'RE READING

Ed Glotzbach, executive vice president and CIO, SBC Communications, San Antonio The Whole Systems Approach: Involving Everyone in the Company to Transform and Run Your Business, by W.A. Adams and Cindy Adams (Executive Excellence Publishing, 1999) "Chapter 6, on diagnosing organizational health, has been helpful in instructing me about the proper focus for a large organization. Very good book." The Power of Simplicity: A Management Guide to Cutting Through the Nonsense and Doing Things Right, by Jack Trout (McGraw-Hill, 1998) "An excellent work on the need to simplify in order to be effective...one of those books that I refer to often and reread certain passages."

TIME MANAGEMENT 5 LESSONS FROM AMAZON.COM'S JEFF BEZOS 1. Set aside Tuesdays and Thursdays as your own, without any regularly scheduled meetings.

2. Break your routines. Visit stores. Scrutinize your own website. Learn from unexpected places.

3. Work fast and fix small mistakes later. The only fatal error on the Web is being too slow.

4. Use e-mail aggressively to learn what customers think. They won't always be polite, but they will be candid.

5. Make time for thank-yous. That's never the most urgent task, but in the long run it can be very important.

From an interview with Jeff Bezos in The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 4, 2000 HOT TOPIC KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT YOU KNEW IT ALL ALONG By Carol Hildebrand How many times have we said it? KM is not a pure technology play--it involves people too. (OK, we don't have the exact number, but trust us, it's a lot.) Now KPMG Consulting has come along to put a nice, solid foundation under all our insistent soapbox rhetoric. The consultancy recently published "Knowledge Management Research Report 2000," a survey of 423 organizations across the United Kingdom, mainland Europe and the United States. (Each of the companies reported at least $300 million in revenues and represented a wide variety of industries.) The study found that more than two-thirds of respondents have set up knowledge management programs and have high expectations of them: 79 percent felt that KM could play an "extremely" or "very significant" role in improving competitive advantage. But while these organizations have succeeded in implementing KM technology, such as collaborative computing or databases of internal experts, the investments could be wasted because companies so often ignore the human factor.

A significant number of companies are experiencing problems with employee use of KM systems, according to the study. For example:

67 percent claim to suffer from information overload 67 percent say that employees want to share knowledge but don't have the time 62 percent say that employees are not using the available technology to share knowledge effectively Less than one-third of the respondents have implemented incentives that reward knowledge sharing.

Says David Parlby, a partner at KPMG Consulting in London, "In reality, the problem is that many systems were designed without due consideration to employee needs. Without employee-friendly programs, companies risk wasting the considerable resources they've invested, and are unlikely to realize the full bottom-line benefits."

Excuse us, please. We have to go write 10 times on the blackboard, "It's rude to say I told you so."

The full report is available at the KPMG website at www.kpmgconsulting.com.

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