Passwords Are Dead, The Amazon Tax/Dropbox’s Exodus from the Amazon Cloud, When Teamwork Works Best + more

It’s an information security heavy week this week and with good reason.  Back in 2014, a Russian crime ring stole more than 1.2 billion passwords, and ever since we are regularly hearing stories of further thefts and breaches.  It’s not surprising, then, that there has been a push for  multifactor authentication.  Re/code digs into that this week, citing a recent op-ed by Barack Obama in the Wall Street Journal.  I think we’re all aware, however, of the need for multifactor authentication these days, and we’re seeing our technology add that ability as it advances.  Along with that, however, are the risks faced by the utility industry, how AI and other technology can advance and change the landscape of information security (we can only hope that AI will be as ethical as the Siemens Systems 4004 that was featured in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), and other factors we can see the continued growth in information security and why so many white hat hackers are active today.  The top concern of CIOs at public and private institutions alike these days is information security, which is also why we’re seeing so many CISOs being added to the C-suite.

I’ve linked a few other articles in the past about the vulnerability of medical devices as the Internet of Things continues to grow and more devices become connected.  This article in Wired delves into pacemakers in particular, but not only from their vulnerability, but also their lack of transparency when it comes to the code used to operate them.  The author is an atypical user for a pacemaker and the standard code inhibited her ability to resume her normal lifestyle.  As she notes, providing “security through obscurity” isn’t the best way to reassure your users of the safety of your device and offer little opportunity for an easy fix for people who may be outliers in their usage.

This is an interesting glimpse into some of the machine learning work that Facebook is doing.  What is machine learning, you ask?  This is a good basic overview of what it is, here’s how it fits in to search engine result optimization and how you explain it to non-CS minded people.

I mentioned last week how Google’s AI DeepMind had won the first two matches against human competitors and shared some articles on what that meant, and this week The Verge interviewed DeepMind’s founder, Demis Hassabis on how AI will shape the future.  Hassabis believes that AIs best future use is in advancing science faster.  It’ll be interesting to see how AI impacts both labor markets and research in the next decade or two.  Wired may give us a glimpse into what that experience will be like as well.

Safety in the cloud is a concern that often has to be overcome when we talk to our customers about whether to move their infrastructure to a cloud based solution.  What comes along with that push for the more secure infrastructure provided by the cloud is the tax for it – for example, the Amazon tax, or cost of having Amazon (or others) host your data for you.  It makes sense, depending on the size of your enterprise, to leverage Amazon’s economy of scale.  What happens, though, when your demand outpaces the availability and the scalability of Amazon, not to mention when the cost of Amazon’s economy doesn’t scale?  Dropbox’s recent exodus from the Amazon cloud is case in point of a company outgrowing the capacity and cost benefits of using a third party provider.  That said, Apple just shifted to Google for some of their cloud hosting as well.  Amazon has dominated in this arena for the better part of a decade, but competitors large and small are coming out looking for a way to unseat the empire.

We wouldn’t think of it this way, but GE is acting more and more like a startup these days, albeit a 124 year old startup.  Jeff Immelt is and has been driving that culture and is starting to see his bets into the Internet of Things start to pay off.

TechCrunch has an interesting dig into how Sindustry is creating the next big tech companies and how those companies are being valued.  They seem to be the unicorns inside and out of Silicon Valley that are burning out – “PlentyofFish, an online dating site, sold to Match for $575 million. WeedMaps, a cannabis dispensary directory, is valued at $300 million. And Ticketfly, a live-music ticket seller, recently sold for $450 million to Pandora.”  $300 million valuation for a map where marijuana can be bought legally?  In great part this is being driven by the shift of millennials from wanting products to wanting experiences and as well the devaluation of the “nuclear family” within American society.  There’s a whole lot of thought out there about all the various dating apps out there and how they are changing society and culture.  Then there is the excitement that came out of CES in January around the Sindustry applications around Virtual Reality.  It’s an inescapable that we as leaders need to adapt to these new market demands and also decide what business we’re willing to pursue and what business pushes our own ethical boundaries too far.

So, when DOES teamwork work best?  Harvard Business Review thinks that it is when top performers are rewarded, and rewarded well.  Companies have attempted to reward teams based on the performance of the whole and have discovered that that model just doesn’t work … again and again.  By recognizing top performers you will drive the performance of all, and in the end, everyone will benefit.  Along those lines though, we should talk a little about leadership.  Most times when you see Organizational Design practitioners brought in to “fix” ongoing organizational issues, it’s due to not a lack of leadership, but poor leadership all around – and yes, these can be two different things (although one often overlaps the other).  Sometimes organizations can succeed in spite of their leadership, but it will only last so long.  One of the fundamentals, a loyal and intelligent workforce, will eventually lose their loyalty and stop caring without effective leaders.  So great organizations are the result of great leadership.  Why?  Because leaders are the shapers of culture and organizations will die on the vine if change isn’t managed well by its leaders.  Trust is a foundational part of any organization and is instrumental in any change initiative an organization drives. If a  leader doesn’t have a hand on the tiller of the boat, organizations will lose focus and perspective.

Being a manager takes a set of skills that are clearly identifiable and trainable; leadership skills, while straightforward, are not as natural or “simple.”  Leadership is a combination of caring, comfort with ambiguity, persistence, communication, negotiation skills, political astuteness, humor, level-headedness, engagement, challenging, self-awareness, and future focus.  Observation of how a leader acts will tell you as much if not more about that leader than who they say they are – again, coming back to leading by example.  That said, this seems common sense to us – leadership isn’t mystical, it comes down to a few fundamentals: vision, credibility, adaptability, and (most importantly) courage.  I’ve spoken before about the difference between management, leadership, and transformational leadership (management is about the what we’re going to do, leadership about the why, and transformational leadership is about the organization that is going to be and the how to get there).  Along with any form of leadership, aside from the usual suspects like strategy, ROI, our people, et cetera, we have to have our own fundamental definition of what leadership means to us … and that definition is going to be different for every leader.  That definition will then help guide us in defining roles, fundamental direction, and  identify and explore strengths and weaknesses.  So leaders must develop their own leadership philosophy.  If you’ve not defined it for yourself, it’s only a matter of time before it is defined for you and you are removed from leadership.

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