The Irregular Newsletter of Z/Yen Group Limited
Security Forward Workshop and Dinner - 21 January 2015
Security Forward, Risk and Intelligence Forum’s October meeting was held at Z/Yen's offices in the City of London. To a full room, Martin Huddleston led with a talk on DSTL and APMG's Cyber Defence Capability Assessment Tool (CDCAT). Martin Huddleston is a specialist technical leader at DSTL, headquartered in Salisbury, England. His presentation led to a lively debate on the merits of various methodologies to cyber-risks.
Martin was followed by our ‘Speaker in Residence’, Lt Col Crispin Black, gave a presentation wittily entitled "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Predicting the Future … Accurately". Crispin attempted to grapple with a paradox that has become part of British life: how is it that members of our government and business elites seem incapable of swerving out of the way of seemingly obvious disasters? The Western military defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of a few thousand men equipped with Kalashnikovs and flip-flops, and the debauching of the UK’s leading retailer, Tesco, were the two examples he chose to highlight.
He identified nine themes behind these and other disasters:
Facts: much more difficult to establish than you might think – even when no one involved is actively trying to obscure the truth. He cited the military historian, Colonel Archibald Gracie’s, experience as a survivor of Titanic – he needed months of detective work to pin down the exact details of survivors’ stories.
Language: even languages closely related to our own, produced by cultures similar to ours, can be a barrier to understanding. Increasingly, elites now speak a private form of of our own language, English, that is of little use in forecasting the future.
Self-hypnosis: a phenomenon identified by the Harvard historian, Barbara Tuchman, whereby a group of decision makers deny and distort reality to persuade themselves that a particular venture is going well rather than disastrously.
Face: often felt to be an Oriental or Asian vice but in fact alive and kicking in Western bureaucracies. Saving the face of political, military or business leaders has become a core activity of governance.
Audit: we seem to live in a fire and forget world where few like to have their decisions and their consequences examined forensically.
Deception: little awareness especially in government service that sometimes our opponents or enemies actively wish to seduce us into a course of action that will prove our undoing. What you see on the ground may not be reality but a giant ‘come hither’ sign.
Deformation Professionelle: many of our elites effectively live in mental ‘gated communities’ and cannot think beyond their own specialities.
The need for Diversity: used most often in Western public discourse in its racial or cultural sense. Rarely as a warning against closed thinking.
Macbeth Syndrome: The reluctance of decision makers to break off from an unfolding debacle – even when it has become obvious. As Macbeth famously put it to his charming consort: "I am in blood Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er."
After the presentations, the team moved to the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers for the traditional cocktail before dinner. Crispin chose a blue martini named a "Yale" as something that Professor Mainelli would have been unable to predict, nor order in the hallowed crimson halls of the Harvard Club, but could have as an Honorary Liveryman of the Furniture Makers.
Our dinner speaker, UCL Professor Adrian Furnham, gave a wonderfully incisive, yet easy-on-the-ear, and memorable talk around his new book with Ian MacRae, "High Potential: How to Spot, Manage and Develop Talented People at Work". His psychological insights triggered a great discussion ranging from corruption to challenge in large organisations.
Our next meeting is planned for Thursday, 23 April 2015.
Unpredictable Turn of Events in Z/Yen’s Predictive Analytics
Ian Harris is a relatively rare sight on the speaker circuit. Indeed, in the analytics world, we might describe one of his appearances as an anomaly, perhaps even an outlier. But in the Civil Society sector; health, membership and charities, interest in Z/Yen’s predictive analytics work is growing fast and Ian is now spreading the word.
Earlier this month, Ian conducted a Charity Focus Roundtable at Baker Tilly. The specific topics covered included:
- improving donor/member income and retention;
- reducing volumes of unsuccessful contacts;
- predicting the effectiveness of grant making;
- reducing errors in transaction processing.
Ian’s main message is that predictive analytics is no longer the domain of only the largest most complex organisations, requiring proprietary software and serious data skills. To deliver that message, Ian debunked several myths about analytics and Big Data currently circulating. Powerful tools for analytics are now either free or bundled with ubiquitous software, such as Excel. These tools can be used by information analysts and data jockeys in organisations of any size, with just a little additional training.
The Baker Tilly event was peppered with interactive puzzles and paradoxes, borrowed from Z/Yen’s predictive analytics courses, to illustrate and illuminate the topics.
Z/Yen is now offering a range of coaching and training courses for those clients who want to utilise the skills of their own analysts to get more out of their information. Highly modular, the courses can be tailored to specific sector and/or specific client needs. So far, Z/Yen has deployed the courses in specific client settings, but watch this space, as we intend to launch some general appreciation courses for both senior executives and information analysts, to enable you to ask the right sorts of questions and understand the answers.
Price of Fish Paperback Launch
There will be a modest launch event, followed by a Long Finance discussion, at the City Business Library on 17 September between 9:00 and 10:00. Michael will be leading the proceedings and both authors will be present. The event will be a grand opportunity to pick up a signed copy of the paperback ahead of the hoards.
Although the event is free, you need to book a place in order to attend and spaces are limited. Please click the following link if you would like to book a place:
We hope to welcome many members of the Z/Yen community there.
Security Forward Workshop & Dinner - 1 October 2014 – Z/Yen & Honourable Artillery Company
Security Forward, Risk and Intelligence Forum’s October meeting was held at Z/Yen's offices in the City of London. There was a record attendance and quite a few new faces around the table. The meeting started with a presentation from our ‘Speaker in Residence’, Lt Col Crispin Black, who gave a presentation entitled "The Middle East: What Next?"
Crispin questioned the position of Putin and Russia with regard to the Middle East. He pointed out that movement towards democracy is not a natural progression. He highlighted the need to engage Iran in the process of stabilising the region. When seen from an historical perspective, the current borders are a recent imposition resulting from the Sykes/Picot recommendations on carving up the old Ottoman Empire and sharing it out between Britain and France. Saudi Arabia has only been in existence since 1932. 'Islamic State' does not recognise these artificial borders and talks of Al Sham (Greater Syria) which means the whole of the Levant and Mesopotamia, as part of the Caliphate, harking back hundreds of years. Perhaps we are reaping the results of that recent European legacy? The map is not fixed. As ever, Crispin’s presentation was challenging and stimulating and enjoyed by all.
After our usual round-robin to identify ‘in tray’ issues and concerns, our second speaker was Ben Fletcher, who was Deputy Director of Olympic Security. Ben was a Member of the Olympic Security Board, who were collectively responsible for programme delivery of the thirty five related projects and management of the one billion pound budget. He gave a fascinating talk entitled "Securing the Games: Planning, Delivery And Lessons From The UK’s Biggest-Ever Security Operation". He described the sheer complexity of drawing together so many different Agencies and trying to co-ordinate all the different groups' inputs. Folks wished they'd had far more time for Q&A with Ben.
We ended the day with a most enjoyable dinner at The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) Headquarters in the City, where Michael Mainelli is an ex officio member, and were fortunate to have one of our Founder Members as our dinner speaker. Peter Fraser-Hopewell gave an excellent presentation entitled "The Challenge of Restructuring" which was most informative. He raised the security implications and cultural challenges of cross border ownership of a strategically sensitive company undergoing restructuring. We raised our glasses in celebration with a Desert Healer cocktail.
Our next meeting is planned for Wednesday 21 January 2015.
Analyse These Bargains on Daytime Television
Years and years of working for Z/Yen should result in Z/Yen folk picking up some seriously useful life skills, such as an uncanny knack for spotting an opportunity to make a quick buck, e.g. by spotting a bargain.
Marie Logan (a well-known Z/Yen alumna) and Linda Cook (even more well-known as Z/Yen’s Practice Manager) are appearing on the daytime television game show, Bargain Hunt, on Friday 22 August at 12.15 on BBC1.
The show requires them to attempt to make profit buying knick-knacks at a retail market and then reselling them at auction. Further, they must seek to make more money than another team of two intrepid bargain hunters. By all accounts it was a fierce, no-holds-barred competition.
We cannot tell you how Linda and Marie got on, naturally, but we do highly recommend that you tune in to see how our highly-trained, analytical risk/reward managers in red got on against the gifted but ill-fated, non-specialists in blue.
Contrary to popular belief, most of us Z/Yen folk aren’t available to watch daytime television, so we’ll be setting our recorders. Or, as Linda so helpfully puts it, “it will be on BBC iPlayer for a week, just in case you miss the show live. After that we will probably be on repeat forever!”