My wife is an emergency room nurse.  She has a theory that the trauma bay is more likely to be empty during a televised Chicago Bulls game. What makes her believe this? Enough patients over the years who've told her they waited until the game was over to call the ambulance. Add in the reflection on consistently realizing that the trauma bay was less busy when the Bulls played. Then add the predictions proving true after the theory had been developed. And then sharing the theory with co-workers...who share their experiences. (Confirmation bias, anyone?? lol)

So is my wife correct that her particular hospital emergency department occupancy is impacted by a basketball team's schedule? We don't know. Maybe the winter weather impacts it. Maybe the team's season's relative success is an added factor. But until you design the algorithm and input the data to disprove her, I'll believe her. I have nothing else to disprove her dozen years of experience! 

Our heads are fill…

The Spectrality of Non-Linearity

One way I help explain adaptability and complex systems is through imagery or heuristics of linear versus non-linear structures. 
Linear structures follow highly predictable pathways, such as step-by-step checklists. They have reliable inputs, efficient processes, and comfortably measured outputs. 
Non-linear structures have multiple pathway options, and utilize flowcharts or branching diagrams. Furthermore, non-linear structures have varying levels of predictability - from highly regulated "closed-loop" systems to organic "open-loop" environments. (Open-vs-Closed discussion is best suited for another blog.)
Let's stick with non-linear-closed-loop environments. I've been spending a lot of time visualizing these structures for not only the length of the factory assembly line, but also the variety or diversity in available options (width). 
Take these three (3) games of chance:
flipping a coin, rolling a single six (6)-sided die, and drawing from a stack of 52 pla…

Weekend Building Blocks - 06 APR 2018

There's no value in collecting blocks unless you're connecting them to build something awesome! This is a unique Weekend Building Blocks in that the first three (3) of my recommended resources deal in one way or another with mental models!
The 3 Types of Decision Makers, Mental Models, and How to Processes Information. Venkatesh Rao is a guest on Farnam Street's podcast The Knowledge Project, with host Shane Parrish. Rao does an excellent job explaining mental models and how they impact our outlook and decisions. Listening time: 1:07 Getting the Most Out of Your Retrospectives. Mahesh Paolini-Subramanya discusses single and double-loop thinking/learning, and the relationship with mental models. While I suggest we frequently challenge our own beliefs and assumptions (red-teaming comes to mind), I'm skeptical that we can intentionally change the mental models that are most deeply ingrained in our subconsciousness. How would implicit biases fit into this article? All Mode…

Our Tendencies to Want Things To Be More Complicated or More Complex

Theory: Some of us want to believe our situations are more complex than complicated. Some of us want to believe our situations are more complicated than complex. If you're looking for how I define Complicated and Complex, start with Dave Snowden's Cynefin framework. But please don't stop there. I've written some pieces here on trying to answer What is Complexity?...on the difference between answers and advice.....and on LEGOs, policing, and jazz music. While I generally agree with Snowden and his categorizations, my Kool-Aid has a slightly different recipe than his. 
Extending beyond Cynefin, we need to analyze the relative openness of our environments, systems, and "loops."  Non-linear situations tend to be further described as being either Open-Loop or Closed-Loop environments. (Note: I wrote about this, as applied to the routine nature of police traffic stops.) 
While I understand the value of categorization, to think that systems are either open or closed…

Complexity Cocktails & How We Drink The Kool-Aid

It's Easter weekend - a time of year when I spend a little more effort to reflect on beliefs, confidence, doubts, ignorance, hope, and faith. Chief among the questions is a theme of asking what in my life do I defend and to what extent...along a spectrum from not-at-all up to final fatal battle of death.

In the last month or so, I've also been particularly watchful of how others and I promote and defend the ideas, content, stances, and agendas of leaders in their respective realms. Much of this is online, but also in person. The clues take on many forms. 

Who is drinking whose Kool-Aid? and Who is pissing in whose?

We can all imagine someone we know or follow who speaks in the same exact language as someone deemed a leader in a specific industry or community. These followers "like" or "share" or "retweet" darn near everything the leader posts. Everything the follower does is in direct harmony with the leader. It's a regurgitation without the addi…


Having spent almost seventeen (17) years detailed to a police SWAT team (but never served in the military), I heard plenty of tacticalisms - the term I've assigned to the catch-phrases and platitudes that get tossed around among members of the tactical operations community.

These tacticalisms, however, aren't isolated to TacOps folks. They're within not only other aspects of policing....but other industries, hobbies, and walks of life. If you're a SWAT cop, you've undoubtedly heard these phrases. Heck, I've used them all!

Here are eleven (11) that make me cock my head and say Hmmmm:

Slow is smooth; smooth is fast. [We all know there is specific cadence, tone, and a pause required to say this one!] Simple logic puts this as slow equals fast. As a math and physics guy --- fake news! Maybe we should discuss movement in terms of velocity, direction, and acceleration. But range guys talking about vectors and coefficients of friction simply doesn't sound as cool.

Hood Drills & Sense-Making

I vividly recall the feeling when I popped out of the subway into Times Square. I had lost my bearings. No sense of direction. So many flashing lights, honking horns, fast-walking pedestrians. Hard to separate signal from noise. Our hotel was but a block away (as learned from studying a map), but I didn't know which way to begin. Aside from our luggage as a red flag, I must have had TOURIST written all over my face. 

Contrast this New York City scene with dropping me off on a corner of hometown Chicago and taking off my blindfold. A check of a street sign and some address numbers on a building might tell me exactly where I am. Other clues include: the people, architecture, landmarks, smells, the direction a river flows, the route name on a passing CTA bus, clues in a billboard, gang graffiti.  

The bits of stimuli begin to cluster together to help a person make sense of the situation. But they can only synthesize a hypothesis or answer based on historical knowledge. It requires an u…