Toro Strategic helps you reach your awesome.

Awesome is risky.

But "safe" isn't safe anymore.

Leveraging our experience and our expanding network of partners, providers and advisors,

we help you identify the right risks to take and mitigate the risks you can't avoid.

We help you be awesome!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The attention economy deactivates your awesome.

Social media, tv, especially 24 hr news, radio shows... all these are designed to keep your increasingly short attention on them. The entire business model is centered on attracting and keeping your attention. This means that they are incentivized to say or do whatever it takes to keep your eyes on them. Without your constant attention, these entertainment outlets are doomed to rapid irrelevance and cancellation.

Consider the implications of this. You know that you lose interest in the boring. That’s what boring means. But what keeps your attention? Things that are new? Yes and no. Completely novel things require effort to make sense of. Unless you really want to, this effort is too much. What we really like is “easy new”. New variations on themes we already like. Thus, the survival of all of these outlets is based on constantly feeding you mild variations on things you already like.

Remember the old saw about boiling frogs? You are the frog. News, social media, games, even the color scheme of your phone are the hot water.

We aren’t just slowly turning up the heat here, hoping you don’t notice. We have extremely precise measurements of what your specific tolerances for novelty and boring are. Whatever your media drug of choice is, we are giving you a precise mixture of new and old, of outrage and rapport, teasers and reveals. We know how to distract. We are good at it.

It is a staggeringly effective system. It took me an hour and a half to start writing this. I had written down the core idea, set my alarm, and I know how the system works. Still I got distracted by blinking lights and emails and “click here to read more.” Escaping takes more mental effort than I would have believed 20 years ago.

Try this exercise:
  1. Get yourself a pen and some paper, real paper not an app.
  2. Turn it off. All of it. Shut down the steady background noise of notifications and news channels vying for your attention.  
  3. Get still. When you are still and your mind is clamoring for input, think about what you are doing. Look at your thoughts as if from outside. What do you see? Does it look like addiction? Does it look like programming?
  4. Write down a few words for the feelings you have. Write down the thoughts that drive you to pick up the phone or turn on the news. Don’t think too hard, just be brutally honest. Ask yourself if the reasons are true. 
  5. Do those thoughts and concerns look like the person you think you are? Are you even thinking? Or is it just automatic? 

Technology is not the problem, it’s just exacerbated the problem. Technology is not evil. Even this system we have accidentally created isn’t evil. It’s just banal. 

We have the opportunity to change. We can choose better. You can choose better. You can choose awesome.

You can choose your direction.
You can choose what you focus on.
You can choose to do the real work.

It feels safe to stay connected so you don’t miss anything.
It feels safe to polarize and dig in your heels, surrounding yourself with the army of people who echo the same thoughts you absorbed.
It feels safe to attack or retaliate against anything that you’ve been told threatens you.
It feels safe to be told you were right.
It feels safe to feel fearful and endangered, because we are so used to it, it seems normal.

It is not. It is not normal, and it is not safe. In a world where truth is whoever shouts loudest wins and everyone is jonesing for the morphine of likes, followers, and empty affirmations, that feeling of safety is the most dangerous thing there is.

Awesome is disconnecting from the false and making real connections.
Awesome is accepting others and encouraging dissent and discussion.
Awesome is considering alternative points of view, letting attacks pass by, and changing your mind when you have considered the facts.
Awesome is taking the risk and responsibility that you might be wrong.
Awesome is owning your fears, doubts and prejudices and living your best life in spite of them.

If you have the choice between safe and awesome; choose awesome.

#chooseawesome #attentioneconomy #notsafe #fomo

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

This message is not for you.

Are you upset about having to work the weekend- but you’ll do it anyway?   Are you glad to have a job at all?  Are you ok with chasing someone else’s dream? Are you more comfortable watching reality tv?  

This message is not for you.  That's ok.

I mean, these are the standards which society has set for us.  That we have set for ourselves.  We are ok with complacency, ok with the status quo.  We are ok with watching other people doing awesome things while we get slower and older and keep hoping to win the lottery.  How bad could it be to go along to get along?

“What’s the worst that could happen?  On a given day nothing.  Over a year maybe a little.  Over ten years the invisible risks of playing it safe add up, compound, and soon become as inescapable as a black hole.” -Ramit Sethi

On the other hand, if you are tired of your gilded cage, or you want to feel there is meaning in what you do, or you just realized there is no secret knowledge that your boss’s bosses have that you don’t... this message is for you.  

This is an opportunity for change.  You can do something more.  You can own your fate.  You can choose what you will do tomorrow.  You have the frightening and awesome power to decide whether you will continue to turn someone else’s wheel or do something of your own making.  You can start something, big or small.  Start it, and see it through.  Doing this will change the way you see the world.

You might fail.  Your idea might go down in flames.  In fact, most likely whatever it is you do won’t be wildly successful.  But it might succeed.  Either way, you can keep having ideas, keep trying new things, keep doing things that matter.  You will have done it once and you can now do it again.  If you keep pushing your limits, keep reaching for awesome, your life will change.  And you might just change a few other lives as well.

Or you can stay comfortable.  That’s ok.  The machine needs cogs.  

The opportunity is now.  It isn’t a secret.  For those who take the chance, some will win.   Some won’t.  But they all have taken ownership of their fate.  They will all own the day.   

Yesterday you did hard work, came home and complained because you were tired and worn out.  Today you have the option to do real work, go home, and yes, be tired and worn out, but feeling the satisfaction of having stepped up, having shown up and owned it.   

My daughter worked very hard to get through college.  A few days after graduation, she called me and said she had this weird feeling, like happy and tired and eager all at once.  

That, that feeling right there? That’s awesome.  That is pride.  That’s the pride of having worked hard and earned something that you could have let slip past.  That’s the awesome feeling of having stretched out your own hand and grasped life to take you where you wanted to go, other than just floating along.

But the choice is yours.

If you have the choice between safe and awesome; choose awesome!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

If you have the choice between safe and awesome: choose awesome.

Right now, in your organization, your client’s organization, there is someone with an idea.  Maybe that someone is you. 
That idea is not incremental.  Not easy.  Not 'safe.'
And it is not what everyone else is doing.

Right now someone has the solution to a problem.  Right now you might have the idea that will change 10 lives.  Or 1000.  Or 1000000.

The safe option is to put that idea on the back shelf and forget about it, or wait for the time to be right.  After all, right now you don’t have time.  Or money.  It’s too hard. And it’s too risky.

The awesome option is to start that idea now. The awesome option is to do it because it’s hard. To speak first and keep speaking until someone listens.  It’s awesome because it’s risky.  It’s valuable because it’s risky.  
It is valuable because it is not what everyone else is doing.

Safe is doing what you are told. 
Safe is staying quiet.
Safe is incremental.
Safe is letting someone else decide what to risk.
Safe is comfortable.
But “safe” is not safe anymore.

Awesome is doing it anyway.
Awesome is speaking up and speaking out.
Awesome is audacious.
Awesome is taking responsibility for your own risks.
Awesome is sometimes uncomfortable.
Awesome is the new safe.  

Awesome doesn’t mean taking pointless risks.  
Awesome means taking the risks that make big things happen.

Right now, you have a choice: 
Be safe.  
Or be awesome.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Mitigating the artifacts of machine learning bias

Implementing artificial intelligence to better business is now an explicitly fixed piece of advice IT providers are sharing with their enterprise customers. But as more departments of business adopt machine learning, we’re finding that ethical decision-making is at risk due to bias within the algorithm involved.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Strategy Core Components: D3

Much has been written about strategy in business, from Micheal Porter's 1996 essay, "What is Strategy," to Richard Rumelt's more recent "Good Strategy/Bad Strategy."  Reading these and others still leaves one with questions.  
What is a viable strategy for my business?  
What should I do to create a strategy?  
Are my actions aligned within my strategy?
Does my business need a strategy? 
What is strategy? 

The central elements to strategy can be condensed into three main activities:
Diagnosing (of a challenge)
Defining (of policy)
Doing (of coherent actions prescribed by policy to overcome the diagnosed challenge)

Every strategy requires the identification and acknowledgement of a critical challenge.  Leaders must be aware of what is happening internally within their own operations, more broadly with the competitive landscape, and in the world at large, to recognize threats and opportunities.  These must be constantly considered.  The impact of a threat or opportunity must be analyzed and major threats and opportunities must be acknowledged.  Identification is not sufficient, the impact analysis gives us the "why."  Yes, my competitor is leveraging their excess infrastructure but why does this matter to my business?  
Moreover, the diagnostic process should begin to set a scope of time.  Acknowledgment that the competition has a 6 month lead and projections indicate that they will have 60% market share in two years sets a scope of time in which my business must respond.  This begins to answer the question of "when".  
Finally, the diagnostic process is ongoing.  Challenges may change over time, or need to be redefined as new information or techniques are learned.  A continuous focus on diagnosis is probably not sustainable, but periodically revisiting the diagnostics is highly recommended.

Defining policy sounds dreadfully boring, but it need not be, and is fundamental to making strategy work.  In fact, it is so central to operations, that policy defines itself if left ignored.  The classic whipping boy for proponents of innovation, "we've always done it this way," is an example of self-defined policy.  
Much better outcomes result from a considered and analyzed policy definition.  A well-considered policy should set goals, in the form of desired end-states.  These give us the "what."  
Policy also helps to limit the scope, in time, geography, and domain that we are targeting.  Thus, policy completes the "when" picture and tells us "where" we will focus.  Geographically, in the sense of markets, but also in terms of domain.  We may have occasional opportunities outside of our domain, but unless these support the larger strategy they are outside of our "where".
Finally, policy must tell us "how."  Policy need not be detailed, but it must provide guidance on the sorts of actions we should be taking and how to decide between alternatives.

Policy in hand, we may begin to execute the strategy.  However, vigilance in execution is required as well.  Policies are often "handed down from on high" and not understood as strategic tools.  The strategy, in terms of why, what, when, where, and how must be communicated, again and again so that the personnel executing on it understand their role, what is expected of them, the support they can expect, and what forces and criteria should guide their decisions.  As the wheels of the organization begin to turn, managers must be alert for distractions, unforeseen obstacles, and changes to the landscape and competitive environment.  
Strategic distractions may occur on any level of the organization, from the CEO on down, and can be equally dangerous.    While operational distractions such as email, or non-work activities, are certainly an issue, what we refer to hear are strategic distractions.  Strategic distractions involve activities which appear to be productive but do not further, or actively hinder, strategic activities.  Classic examples include expending resources on sales which are not strategic or will never close, and building capabilities which aren’t necessary or relevant.  Executives and managers must be alert in themselves and others for strategic distractions. 
Unforeseen obstacles are common, and should be expected, but can become problems in executing on strategy.  Obstacles may be a simple as the need for a part which through no easily foreseeable circumstance (plant breakdown, for example), is suddenly scarce or temporarily unobtainable.  Executives can prepare for these by building policies which address priorities and acceptable methods for dealing with delays.  Monitoring of supply chains, holiday timing, and even weather in some circumstances can help with preparing for the unforeseen.
Changes to landscape and competitive environment involve shifts in the common business landscape, such as legislation and global markets, or changes to competitor strategy and delivery.  Regulatory changes can cripple a strategy.  CEO’s should be aware, and cultivate managers and relationships which will keep them tuned to potential shifts in regulation and legislation.  Global markets are ever changing and can be unpredictable.  Shifting global markets may present unexpected opportunities - or close off planned supply or delivery channels.  Finally, wise executives always keep an eye on the competition, whatever form that competition takes.  Bellwether competitors, large or prominent, may be obvious and necessary to watch, but keep an eye out for startups and unexpected competition as well.  

Strategy begins with the diagnosis and acknowledgement of a critical challenge.  Policies must be developed with guidance and goals/milestones.  These provide direction and reference points for the actions and decisions involved in the execution of strategy.  Executing on strategy requires communication and vigilance, both inward and outward.  

Strategy is an ongoing, cyclic, learning process. It requires effort and attention.  You can make good strategy a habit though.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

What are Tensors?

AI and Accidents