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Published on 2021-07-12 21:00:00 | words: 4648
As you probably saw in previous articles (and even in previous versions of my CV- the next one is coming out soon), in 2012 re-registered in Italy, after being based abroad since the late 1990s, and started working again full-time in Italy in February 2012.
It was actually a chance to live in just one town (my birthplace, Turin) full-time for the first time since... high school.
Not my choice, to return- and saw how things in Italy had worsened since I last considered to return in Italy, in the early 2000s (in that case, my choice).
Anyway, was an interesting, in-depth update (for various reasons) also of my past "in the territory" political analysis and interaction activities- including recovering my unusual (for the locals) bipartisanship.
I think that you know what happened worldwide since March 2020.
At the time, was working on some further books on cultural/organizational change and digital transformation, while looking for missions and maybe an eventual further relocation abroad.
Therefore, lockdown was a nuisance for my search, but decided that was better to use the "tremendous opportunity" to be stuck for an indeterminate amount of time by doing something counterintuitive.
I have been writing since the early 2000s how many opportunities my birth country (Italy) and birth place (Turin) on extracting benefits from digital transformation at least since the OECD launch of the initiative on e-government.
I think that the acceleration due to COVID19 of digital transformation and green transition (helped also by soul searching after Brexit), as outlined within the #NextGenerationEU and associated measures and national recovery and resilience plan, as part of the RFF (Recovery and Resilience Facility), will be a subject of study for a long time.
Therefore, as you probably noticed since summer 2020, I routinely published articles (and, in December 2020, also a chapter within a book on an impromptu organizational study on Italian bureaucracies across few years) on these various measures.
So, this portal will stay on theme as "change, with and without technology", but the financial and policy analysis side will be in no small measure focused on this side of EU-wide socio-economic transformation.
Aim: to keep sharing information, in a structured and "trackable" way, so that it can then be used as a source by others.
This short article that doubles up as a service announce has many short sections, each built around a part of the overall concept:
_evolving a publishing schedule
_Feynman's tourists vs. explorers
_business needs and writing habits
_if you start writing...
_...keep going and spread across channels...
_...but remember what you stand for
_killing communication by a thousand cuts
_and now, a "schedule of intent"
Evolving a publishing schedule
My bet, already in February 2020, was that it was worse than the "it is a problem in China", so sidelined the book-writing activities, and assumed that I would be able to work full-time on some knowledge updates and data projects (including Edge computing hands-on) that I had to postpone when I opened (and then closed) a company in 2018 (called "Change di Roberto Lofaro").
Since March 2018, when I resumed really publications after a three years gap due to a "settling potential" that could have created too many layers of incompatibility, gradually resumed working on all the threads (cultural and organizational change, decision support/data-centric, digital transformation), and now I am ahead of my publishing schedule (books excluded).
Recently gradually converged on few "routine publications":
_continuing my weekly update of the tag cloud search on media released by the European Central Bank (includes a quarterly update of the associated dataset on Kaggle- you can see both the search and dataset on robertolofaro.com/ECBSpeech, useful to keep up-to-date on trends in banking oversight and fintech trends from a regulatory perspective
_adding a further stream on both the Italian PNRR (github.com/robertolofaro/pnrr), related to the #NextGenerationEU
_updating a status progress on the overall Recovery and Resilience Facility of the NextGenerationEU (https://www.kaggle.com/robertolofaro/eu-recovery-and-resilience-facility-current-status)
_a weekly or twice a week article release on one of the themes well summarized by Linkedin automatic profile outliner:
A summary that, incidentally, represents the main industries I worked in most often since 1986.
This short article is part of my "book drafting" series, but covers something more than just traditional books.
The key point being: starting between July and August 2021, I will either start a new mission or move onto a new role, and therefore will shift my publication and "idea testing and sharing" activities to week-ends.
And, having completed on July 5th my COVID19 vaccination cycle (Pfizer Biontech, if you are curious- first shot on 2021-05-31), I look forward being able to travel without having to resort to tests etc.
In my line of work, the length of business days Mon-Fri is variable also when I am working in just one timezone (since the late 1980s, I was routinely working also remotely with activities at least partially a handful of timezones apart).
As for my spare time during the week... will keep working on my languages, book reading, and... Go training.
Actually, in late 2012, after seeing that the local conditions were even worse than I had seen in the early 2000s when I worked part-time with start-ups and in Government projects to prepare for my (aborted in 2005) return to Italy, decided that it was the right time to "test the ground" in Germany, where I was often in the early 1990s (you can guess why).
So, went ahead and visited Berlin in November 2012.
I do not like to be a tourist: so, instead of hotel rooms, I wanted an apartment (usually, a residence or similar, as I had done while working in Paris).
Feynman's tourists vs. explorers
Somebody quoting Feynman shared a meme few days ago: philosophers are tourists, scientists are explorers.
Was it really said by Feynman? Does not matter, fits a scientist playing bongos and learning whatever he saw fit (I remember reading a couple of books about what meant to be a serious scientist)...
Those who worked with me know that, beside quoting here and there bits of my past dwelling in natural and medical sciences since I was a teenager, and social sciences and study of cultures and their histories too, on business activities I like to share the Weltanschauung (I think that "philosophy" is as much overused in business as "mission", "vision", and, yes, "paradigm shift").
Or: the outline of principles that enable then e.g. delegating and self-organization on minutiae.
Example: whenever I had a team, I said to its members something on the line of... if something goes wrong, or you think that could go wrong, and I am the activity manager or anyway interface with the customer, let me know earlier more than later, as almost anything can be fixed and communicated, but waiting until it is too late creates issues in terms of credibility.
Risks? Yes, but if you are used to work with teams whose members are scattered around, or where your presence is not continuous, it is a matter of "de-biasing communication".
It might start as a "question", but then it turns to "investigation".
Therefore, as I had done for other locations in the past, also in Berlin decided to "explore"- shopping in the local supermarket, using the local laundrette, trying to be as much "ordinary" and "local" as possible (including by preparing so that I could watch a show in theatre and understand it, to "feel" also the public- I selected "39 Steps", as it is a good test of your ability to understand fast speakers).
In the end, as you probably know, as I had announced the travel within my profile on Frype/Draugiem (I joined by activating a long standing invitation in 2007, before my latest trip to Riga, the first one in a decade), I did a "daily live travelogue", my commentary on what I saw linked with history and a bit of cultural/organizational/political analysis, making it a "challenge".
What did I say? That I was going to add a further post after the previous one had reached 50 readers.
Well... it ended up being a post a day, and some days, to keep up with my promise, two, and resulted in my first published book (and then a Facebook page, where I still post material related to the EU, #BerlinDiaries).
Incidentally: you can read the book for free, just visit the Facebook page.
Business needs and writing habits
In my prior business life, once I was asked how much did I write each year- considering all the multiple assignment I had at any time, versioning, etc... probably in the 1990s I churned around 10,000 pages each year (in few languages).
So, after the first book, and after my first experience in Italy and having a chance to read daily local newspapers as well as borrowing continuously books on how the local socio-economic context had evolved since the 1990s, I decided to publish the first business book.
My choice was to resurrect an old practice of when I was delivering cultural and organizational change since 1990: preparing a "paper" or a "set of papers" to share as common ground before a workshop, or to use within the workshop, brainstorming, training, etc.
Something that actually I had learned first in political activities, then in "solution sales": build a case, but share also reference points to qualify your case, otherwise you are trying to sell and evangelize at the same time.
Also, build a collection of "position papers" on various themes that are or could become trendy, and keep up-to-date, or update them before use: better than starting from scratch when in a hurry.
The target became a praxis:
_6x9in books, to fit a pocket and allow casual reading
_50 to 100 pages, to allow also a single-seating reading (imagine a daily short travel)
_"series", to connect more points.
Yes, years before somebody published a "connecting the dots" consulting book, I launched the first book of a series that I called "connecting the dots"- again, you can read (for free) the volumes published so far here.
The first business book? Was actually a "revised collection" of an e-zine on change that I had published 2003-2005, when I was planning to return to Italy, with 800+ subscribers (selected managers) from over 500 companies (not just in Italy).
Actually, I had also designed and led (and paid) a direct marketing campaign to achieve that target, described within the #BFM2013 book.
But before and along with books, while in Brussels, since 2007 (nom de plume aleph123, since 2008 under my own name), published articles and essays on cultural and organizational change, business number crunching, as well as digital transformation, complementing my cross-industry experience (from politics, to automotive and banking, to gas and logistics, outsourcing, retail, start-ups, etc) with continuous learning and updating, also to observe and (try to) spot trends.
It was a useful exercise, used as I was to juggle half a dozen of assignments (each one often with multiple sub-assignments with different roles) across countries, industries, technologies.
If you start writing...
I kept publishing, and halted only between late summer 2015 and early 2018, as I did not know at the time which direction my "settling down" in Italy would take.
Well, 2018 was a pivotal year, as I had a chance to cross-check, before spending too much, if my plans to deliver the kind of services I had delivered in the past still made sense, in Italy.
Since the early 2000s all across Italy, I lost count how many times was introduced to such cases: being bipartisan and not belonging to any tribe, while having worked routinely in Italy and abroad with companies that fairly exceed the average size of Italian companies across many industries, my "contribution" was asked- but, apparently, budget was never available (was only available for the co-opted).
The rationale is always the same: if I cannot benefit from what I invested (and keep investing on) due to some market constraints, I rather share it on a channel where I have freedom to share, than via a company, publisher, or even non-profits created as a "safety net" for "co-opted" lacking the skills that are required for their roles.
Therefore, after shutting down the activity in December 2018, kept publishing at least one book a year (sometimes more), and plenty of articles that, in and by themselves, often amount to mini-books.
I wrote in previous articles that since the lockdown started in March 2020 I decided to do what I had expected to do in 2018, but on an accelerated tempo.
So, during the various lockdowns I had long days (up to 18 hours) attending (virtually) webinars and workshops, working on my language skills, all while studying books and of course also writing.
Except a couple of "technical" books (i.e. focused on specific arguments, not necessarily about technology- also auditing bureaucracies and contracts or laws is a "technicality"), I decided to postpone published books, also if since 2018 drafted a few, along with those that were already drafted between 2013 and 2015, and not yet published.
The articles on this website are often drafts of books, split across few "episodes", to keep it all readable with a modicum allocation of time, i.e. 4,000-8,000 words (a mini-book 6x9in of 50-100 pages is around 17,000-28,000 words, plus images- the longer, the more images and charts).
At the same time, gradually since 2018 added here and there more "data-based" material: first on my Github profile, based on Excel and R, then also on my Kaggle profile, based on Excel, Python, Jupyter, Geopandas, etc.
The 2018 postponement to the 2020 lockdown had anyway interesting side-effects: back in 2018-2019, tested Amazon AWS and others, but most of what I did since 2020 would have been technically and economically unsustainable, while in 2020 and 2021 there are plenty of resources available, from courses, to online websites providing computing facilities for free.
As promised, within the "citizen audit" series will share some more material on NextGenerationEU, few weeks down the road.
With obvious limitations that will be related to what will appear probably in September on my CV as "ongoing activity", the publications started in 2013 and then resumed in 2018 will continue, focusing on the same themes that Linkedin already recognized.
...keep going and spread across channels...
Actually, there is a couple of themes that I worked on and off since the early 2000s, but luckily (as now both electronics, AI software libraries, and computing facilities are much cheaper or even free).
The idea, that I already shared in articles in the past, is all around few key concepts:
_data pervasiveness, also from occasional providers, embedded within routine decision-making
_need of "Edge-based" preprocessing, filtering, and even integration with locally relevant sources
_management by exception, including data-driven, automated decision-making on low-risk or auditable ex-post activities
_fluidity of the configuration and availability (and interaction) of devices, in number, nature, and interoperability.
Including in the picture, more often than not, ourselves.
So, I started few months ago to resurrect and expand, courtesy also of the new skills added as a test to support my data visualization and analysis activities since March 2020, also the "physical" element of my skills and knowledge, i.e. electronics (I have been first an associate, then a member of IEEE in few countries, 1997-2018) and its integration and interaction.
I am still waiting for some components (physical electronics) on a slow journey from China to test some "systemic integration" ideas (and also to test suppliers for my current and future experiments), but in July and August I had scheduled few activities on "AI at the Edge"- including some material that I purchased long ago but never had the needed time and resources (meaning: people with skills that could share ideas with).
I published seven years ago a book on BYOD, but in that case it was more a "philosopher" perspective of interaction between humans carrying devices and their environment, while over the last few months added also the "scientist" side.
More work to do in my spare time- you cannot imagine what happens when you have not used anymore a soldering iron for decades, so since late last year it has been a long journey, and will still take some time, so I started with simple, non-critical tasks, and expanded.
Therefore, as I had already started to do in early 2021 for another book (yet to be released in its "paid" version, AI organizational scalability, on the organizational side of AI integration in business processes), my books and article publications in 2021 and 2022 will be split across few channels:
_this website for drafts and introductory articles, and occasional
_Amazon.com (and its national versions) for the paper edition of books
_Leanpub.org for the electronic edition of books and any additional addenda
_GitHub.com for project- and book-based document repositories, to enable versioning and "fork-ing" (evolving your own version)
_Kaggle.com for datasets and Jupyter Notebook to present, visualize, share data
_YouTube.com for "videobooks" on change
...but remember what you stand for
Anyway, I must confess: I learned communication first by observing and studying (father in theatre, family friend with an art gallery that I followed around as an early teenager, personal interest in cultures and archeology), then in political advocacy, then my "on the ground study" was in sales, university, my roles in the Army, and sales plus presentation roles in business.
If you design and deliver training, there are two basic ways (and many variants):
_rota learning, easier on the teacher (keeps repeating the same- I remember a statistics professor in the University of Turin that was famous as his lessons had some antics, rituals, and... his lessons were verbatim his book)
_performance, contexualizing your expertise to your audience.
As you can imagine, I was inclined to the latter, and also when preparing for my business courses new people to deliver training (actually, also in the Army), did a routine of first watching a deliver, then discuss, then become an assistant, then discuss, then deliver while your "mentor" observed, then discuss, then... phase out and parallel, we have a new person able to deliver.
Sometimes might involve more than one "trainee", sometimes the cycle must be shortened, but the overall approach is to "train-by-example" (and yes, I like the "lead-by-example").
My first formal cultural and organizational change assignment as a freelance was in 1990, but it was when I had to scale up and work not as a consultant (coming and going), but as somebody called up as a "resident" with the task of "changing the way we work and think", that, despite the shared agreement to work on a year-long contracts, I saw the chance to actually have a change from its blueprint to my own phase-out after internal resources took over.
As I saw it useful, spent part of my spare time "fixing" concepts about marketing and branding that I had learned through my prior activities, by working with others who had real experience in the field, not just a marketing degree or passed some exam rushing through e.g. Kotler books, without digging into the details, or the choices behind those apparently intuitive bullet lists.
I liked to read Kotler's books on various domains more than his famous "know it all", because usually those "by domain" books, written along with other authors, digged deeper into case studies, and allowed me to cross-reference and contextualize something that I had been e.g. asked to turn into a model for a customer by somebody with decades of experience, but with no explanation.
In most cases, seeing first "how" some specific cases worked, and then reading "why" helped more than doing the other way around.
A couple of examples: "Marketing Places" (that I read first in a library in Turin) and "High Visibility"- the latter was useful enough that I also purchased (an old habit as a consultant on change that I had until the early 2000s, to read books, find them interesting, and then buying copies to give to others- not necessarily just customers.
Killing communication by a thousand cuts
In the past, courtesy my experience cross-industry, was exposed to different "new normal" ways of developing the communication side of organizational culture, but overall what I had learned decades before in political advocacy as well as performing arts and by studying past cultures can be boiled down to "Pavlovian expectation".
Which not simply "consistency", "continuity", or whatever: if you have "patterns" that, no matter how much apparently chaotic, are understood as patterns by your audience, whatever new you deliver can elicit a reaction in your audience, and, if recognized as "your usual", will simply be added as a further "learning" in your audience about the patterns.
At least, this is what I observed- and I think that there is nothing really that much innovative (yes, as a kid studying how our brain worked, I liked to read also books explaining Pavlov experiments, albeit of course, on first exposure, I grasped only some elements, and only later "contextualized" those elements into something wider).
I know- marketing and branding, at least considering what I saw in the (various) field(s) and then read in books, is one of the most prolific industries for those "guru philosophizing", and a massive jargon producer.
And I read dozens of books in few languages, across the decades, at least since the early 1990s, dissecting the communication side in a thousands ways.
My American friends will probably recognize the saying about squirrels, but, frankly, some over-intellectualized and over-bookish communication initiatives sound closer to a "killing communication with your audience by a thousand cuts"- quoting a bit of Chinese history.
So, consider this section just a reminder and a pointer in a direction.
Remember both what you stand for, and to constantly see if that choice, however will be expressed by actions and writings or other way to deliveer to the audience, could (probably gradually) generate that "Pavlovian expectation" that converts a mere passive audience into somebody expecting something old and something new, but anyway something "in pattern"- no matter how chaotic might seem to occasional audiences.
And now, a "schedule of intent"
Yes, for this last section, a MontyPython-esque title.
As I wrote above, for obvious reasons, soon all my publishing activities will take place over week-ends, as it happens since late 2019 for the weekly update of the ECBSpeech tag cloud searching application.
Further more data visualization and acces experiments will be shared- and, whenever I will need to create a dataset, will share also a Jupyter Notebook, or other ways to share "how" the data have been assembled, so that interested parties can "recycle" my work.
If the source data are open data, and if bringing all the data together takes time and effort, and if the result is acceptable to many, while I am in the "free sharing mode", why should other have to redo what I already did? I had the opportunity to benefit from the shared work of many (e.g. on my Edge computing and AI experiments)- what matters is that the groundwork is done and documented once, so that more resources can be focused on creating something new.
Within the "channels" list shown in a previous section, you will see material starting from 2012 (in some cases, before- also if most material that I posted online since 2007 is now offline).
No, I am not going to share which books will be published over the next 12 months- but I think that you can easily spot the "knowledge clusters" that could evolve into books.
One single point is worth sharing: as I did first in 2008 in Brussels, I plan to keep being cross-industry, as "systemic thinking" is the underlying factor of most of my articles and books, connecting what I learned in different industries and domains by doing, also if, whenever I write, I take the opportunity to revise my own needs to update or expand knowledge, and provide pointers that could help others accelerate what maybe took a long time (and various mistakes) to settle in my mind.
Just to repeat a concept I wrote about long after I shared it with partners and colleagues around Europe while working around since the late 1980s: this is why I think that politics is business, and business is politics.
Neutrality is a fig leaf, but how can you call "neutral" political choices that are actually pushing for specific business models, such as the global minimal taxation on multinationals at 15%?
It was a political choice, but its acceptance by business showed that it was actually a business choice, a good compromise that has the potential to streamline a convergence that, de facto, will make remove "taxation arbitration" between jurisdictions, and simplify business choices.
When I was in Brussels, as at the time was focusing on Dutch (for obvious reasons) but, out of boredom, in my spare time learned the basics in Russian and Mandarin, as usual, to avoid being a "tourist" and be instead an "explorer", studied also a bit more about the culture.
It was interesting to read how, in China, foreign companies were required to pay taxes locally- I will skip the details I read about back then, but a more recent source (April 2021) could be interesting to some.
If you read the article within the link, will remember a lot about the current discussion on the new global minimal taxation.
For now, stay tuned!