The Irregular Newsletter of Z/Yen Group Limited
Security Forward Workshop and Dinner – 23 April 2015
After our usual round-robin to identify ‘in tray’ issues and concerns, our second speaker was our own ‘Speaker in Residence’, Lt Colonel Crispin Black, MBE, MPHIL. Crispin is an independent expert on terrorism, intelligence and security, as well as a novelist. Crispin’s presentation was entitled ‘Business Ethics-vital underpinning of capitalism or naïve contradiction in terms’. Crispin suggested that fewer people are willing to defend capitalism than would have been the case a generation ago. He described capitalism as representing ‘an absence of rules and lightly regulated’ and the ‘freedom to make money’. He pointed out that the City Of London has been responsible for an explosion of wealth, requiring imagination and intellectual skill as well as an entrepreneurial spirit. He said that there is now a disdain for money making institutions which seems to be shared by many in this country and a move against respect for money making. He suggested that left wing philosophy and anti-capitalist opinions are no longer challenged as they would have been and that there are fewer people willing to defend the City and the financial institutions. He drew upon the likes of ‘Philip Marlow’ to illustrate what we once aspired to emulate, a hero with an old fashioned Christian morality who always had a moral compass to influence all his actions. Crispin said that the corporate culture of an institution is set by those at the top and we have seen how one bad apple at the top can change the morality of an institution, resulting in a disdain for capitalism as a whole. The City of London is a great wealth creator and the over reliance of rules should not replace personal values and standards. There was a lively discussion about the over reliance on rules and regulations and the unintended responses to them. This presentation was very well received and thought provoking as always.
Following the meeting, we dined in at The Aldermen’s dining Room at the Guildhall, which provided a fascinating venue for us, courtesy of Alderman Michael Mainelli. Our ‘dinner speaker’ was Brigadier Allan Mallinson, the distinguished military historian and novelist, who was encouraged to continue on from his presentation as the participants wanted to hear more from this very knowledgeable expert. After the dinner, copies of his latest book ‘Words of Command’ were presented to those who were there.
Our next meeting is planned for Thursday the 2nd July.
Tricks of the Trading – ExtZy for Kids - 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.
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.
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.