Monday Apr 02, 2012

ArchBeat Top 20 for March 25-31, 2012

The top 20 most-clicked links as shared via my social networks for the week of March 25-31, 2012.

  1. Oracle Cloud Conference: dates and locations worldwide
  2. The One Skill All Leaders Should Work On | Scott Edinger
  3. BPM in Retail Industry | Sanjeev Sharma
  4. Oracle VM: What if you have just 1 HDD system | @yvelikanov
  5. Solution for installing the ADF 11.1.1.6.0 Runtimes onto a standalone WLS 10.3.6 | @chriscmuir
  6. Beware the 'Facebook Effect' when service-orienting information technology | @JoeMcKendrick
  7. Using Oracle VM with Amazon EC2 | @pythianfielding
  8. Oracle BPM: Adding an attachment during the Human Task Initialization | Manh-Kiet Yap
  9. When Your Influence Is Ineffective | Chris Musselwhite and Tammie Plouffe
  10. Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse 12.1.1 update on OTN 
  11. A surefire recipe for cloud failure | @DavidLinthicum 
  12. IT workers bore brunt of offshoring over past decade: analysis | @JoeMcKendrick
  13. Private cloud-public cloud schism is a meaningless distraction | @DavidLinthicum
  14. Oracle Systems and Solutions at OpenWorld Tokyo 2012
  15. Dissing Architects, or "What's wrong with the coffee?" | Bob Rhubart
  16. Validating an Oracle IDM Environment (including a Fusion Apps build out) | @FusionSecExpert
  17. Cookbook: SES and UCM setup | George Maggessy
  18. Red Samurai Tool Announcement - MDS Cleaner V2.0 | @AndrejusB
  19. OSB/OSR/OER in One Domain - QName violates loader constraints | John Graves
  20. Spring to Java EE Migration, Part 3 | @ensode

Thought for the Day

"Inspire action amongst your comrades by being a model to avoid."

Leon Bambrick

Thursday Jan 12, 2012

Hard Luck Without Soft Skills

In my conversations with IT architects, whether for the ArchBeat Podcast, or for my Oracle Magazine column, or just in casual gab sessions, the importance of communication and other soft skills comes up with surprising regularity. These soft skills are as essential for effective architecture as they are for the success of individual IT architects.

Two recent posts on the Harvard Business Review blog come at the idea of soft skills from different angles. Each is worthwhile reading for architects -- and anyone else -- who wants to improve communication and other social skills and the capacity for creative thinking.

In The Business Case for Reading Novels, by Anne Kreamer, discusses research from York University that offers indications that "fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness."

Some people, in some roles, might be able to get away without social skillfulness. "IT architect" is not one of those roles. Socially skillful IT architects are far more likely to be effective and successful, and far less likely to find their cars on fire in the parking lot night after night.

Creative thinking is another important soft skill for architects -- and, let's face it, for everyone else. In Don't Think Different, Think About Different Things, Art Markman suggests that the surest path to real innovation is an indirect approach. "When you need to solve a problem in a new way, you have two options," says Markman. "One is pure research and development. The other requires finding knowledge (which we already know) that offers a novel solution."

Marman suggests thinking beyond the immediate problem. In my experience, I learned long ago to take that one step further. When I'm tasked with coming up with a creative solution to a problem, the least effective strategy is to think about the problem – at all. For me, focsuing on the problem is the surest path to a complete brain freeze.

What works for me is doing something completely unrelated to the task at hand. As Markman points out, the information we need to come up with creative solutions is already in our memories. "In order to solve a problem," Markman suggests, "you need to ask your memory the right question." In my case, the right question invariably has nothing to do with the assigned task.

I'm no neuroscientist, but I figure my strategy works because of the left brain/right brain thing. While the logical, rational side of my brain is focused on some inconsequential diversionary activity (walking, maybe, or reading fiction), the creative, intuitive side of my brain is free to percolate in the background, connecting and reconnecting neural dots until the creative solution emerges. And it always does. Sitting at my desk trying to force a creative thought is a completely pointless activity.

Bottom line: Cold logic and rationality have a very definite place in IT. But it takes people to make IT work for people. Your soft skills are key to making that happen. Neglect those skills at your peril.

Wednesday Dec 07, 2011

ArchBeat Link-o-Rama for 12/07/2011

Monday Nov 07, 2011

ArchBeat Link-o-Rama for 11/07/2011

Monday May 23, 2011

Ending MEGO: Presentations Don't Have to Suck

Oracle ACE Director Ron Batra [blog] and Oracle enterprise architect Pat Shepherd [blog], two of the people I interviewed for my latest column in Oracle Magazine, made a point of mentioning the importance of presentations in communicating with IT architecture stakeholders. PowerPoint and its equivalents are certainly the tools of choice in such gatherings, and I've seen them used to great effect. But having endured my share of MEGO-inducing presentations ("My eyes glaze over") I couldn't help but laugh out loud at Keyvan Nayyeri's DZone article The Art of Presentation, in which he shares his opinion that "the majority of presentations and presenters suck."

Nayyeri writes:

We all have attended presentations that made us want to go to sleep right away or...that didn’t have any excitement for us and most likely, we were able to predict what happens next.

Nayyeri goes on to offer sound advice to those interested in keeping audiences awake and engaged during presentations. Read his entire article: http://dotnet.dzone.com/news/art-presentation

Of course, sometimes even the best presenter will struggle to engage an audience. I'm rarely called on to present, but on occasion I'm involved in organizing and stage-managing day-long events that involve multiple presentations by others. One of the challenges at such events is that even with excellent presentations, at some mid-afternoon point members of the audience lapse into low-level comas. One remedy I've always wanted to try is to hire a group of bagpipers to burst into the room unannounced at about 2:30pm, raise hell for about 15 seconds, and then abruptly leave.  I figure the adrenalin rush should be sufficient to keep people awake until the post-conference cocktail reception. 

I hope one day to put that theory to the test...

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