’Fessin’ Up

By Guy Higgins

I’m going to start this with a quote form the New England Aviation History website:

“On March 15, 1973, a U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3 Orion with five men aboard left Brunswick Naval Air Station for a routine training flight over the Atlantic Ocean.  While on the flight, the aircraft crashed into the sea about 40 miles south of the air station due to an unknown cause.  Coast Guard and Navy aircraft sent to search for the missing plane reported debris floating on the surface, but no sign of survivors.”

I remember hearing about that event – it was a pilot training flight. That’s why there were only five men onboard – pilot, copilot, flight engineer, two observers (big airplane, need guys looking out aft where the pilots have no way to see). In 1973, the Navy was unable to draw any conclusions regarding the cause of the accident. Continue reading

Social Media and Security

By Guy Higgins

Last week, I posted on thoughts about where organizational cyber-security responsibilities should be assigned. This week, I want to look at the organizational risks associated with social media.

The country seems to be all in a dither over the use, by Cambridge Analytica, of the personal data of millions of Americans (as collected by Facebook) in support of President Trump’s campaign in 2016. I find that mildly amusing because there were no laws broken by Cambridge Analytica in either acquiring the data or in using it (which begs the question of whether or not there should be such laws, but that’s above my pay grade). Even beyond the fact of the legality of Cambridge Analytica’s efforts for President Trump, the same kinds of analyses were used by President Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012. In fact, the man who developed the idea of leveraging “Big Data” for use by political campaigns (at least as asserted by a book I read and the title of which I cannot dredge up) was Joshua Gotbaum. Serendipitously (and why I remember Josh’s name), I actually worked with him while he was the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Economic Security back in ’95 – ’96. He’s a seriously smart and honest guy. I have a lot of respect for him. The point, however, is that bulk mining and use of personal information has been going on, quite openly and legally, for over a decade. Continue reading

Security – Whose Job?

By Guy Higgins

In the wake of revelations of the sale of enormous amounts of personal information by Facebook to Cambridge Analytica, I’ve read numerous posts and articles about privacy and security. In this post, I want to discuss organizational security – mostly, but not entirely, from an IT perspective.

Almost all organizations have some IT/Internet security, and those that are not very small have a dedicated person or a group whose responsibilities include making sure that their network and the data within that network (I’m including “cloud” storage as being within the network) is secure.

Similarly, most organizations have someone who is responsible for physical (traditional) security. One of the questions I’ve seen discussed concerns the overlap, if any, between these two functions – physical and cyber security. At first glance, there would seem to be little if any overlap – until we start to pull on that thread a little bit. Continue reading

In the PINC

By Guy Higgins

I recently read an article in Aviation Week, The Normalization of Compliance. The article starts with a review of the prevalence of non-compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) among pilots (take two deep breaths and relax – those guys who routinely fail to comply with all the required procedures are a very small minority). The article refers to an eleven-year-old article in Aviation Week that discussed “procedural intentional non-compliance (PINC)” as evidence of the persistence of the non-compliance problem. The author then goes on to talk about why non-compliance continues even though it is known and recognized, why it remains a problem, and what can be done to improve compliance. I think that the article includes a great deal of excellent advice for non-aviators as well as for the audience to which it was directed. Continue reading


By Guy Higgins

Recently, I came across an article on Farnham Street, “Your First Thought is Rarely Your Best Thought: Lessons on Thinking.” The article meshes well with some work done by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and described in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow. The article discusses how human beings very frequently seize on their first thought about something. That assertion aligns with Kahneman’s “thinking fast” or the reliance we all have on our “intuitive” thought process. Kahneman has found that humans rely to a very large extent on that intuitive thought process – a reliance on experience or narrative consistency (along the lines of, “This is like X, Y or Z.” or “That sounds right.”). Continue reading

Corporate Leadership Development

By Guy Higgins

I’ve posted about this topic in the past and was recently inspired to post again by an issue of QUARTZ Obsession (an email I get each day that explores some seemingly random topic). The email that inspired this post was titled, “The Peter Principle.” The email explained that the Peter Principle is the captured by the sound bite, “employees rise to the level of their incompetence” and discusses why that might be true. Continue reading


By Guy Higgins

Several years ago, I read a biography of Richard Feynman, the Nobel Laureate physicist. One thing that struck me was that, in his field, Feynman accepted no new data or results without duplicating the original work himself. If he was successful in duplicating the published results, and, if the published hypothesis was supported by those results, Dr. Feynman would integrate the new information into his model of the world. I thought that his approach was interesting, but that he also wasted a lot of time. Well, now I’m not so sure he wasted his time. His approach ensured that he really understood how the data and results were derived and whether or not they were valid or as broad ranging as the published articles stated. He knew!

Dr. Feynman’s approach was extremely important from his perspective because he maintained a mental model of how the real world actually works. Not beliefs about how the world works, but how he knew that it worked. That meant, to him (and, I have to assume, any rational person), that if new results and conclusions conflicted with his mental model, he had only two choices. He could demonstrate that the work, data, results, and conclusions were wrong or invalid, or, accept that the work, data results, and conclusions were correct he would be forced to change his mental model to conform to his new knowledge. That kind of rigor (and the ethics and willingness to change his mind), is extremely important. That was important for Dr. Feynman, and it’s important for leaders everywhere.   Continue reading

Improving Policies

By Guy Higgins

At the risk of appearing to be political, I want to talk about the demands for new gun control legislation in the wake of the horrendous shootings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, because it prompted me to think about the value of adding new strictures to existing ones. I do not intend to debate or even mention existing, proposed or even possible legislation, but rather look at it from the perspective of corporate or organizational policies. Continue reading


By Guy Higgins

Last week, I posted about context and clarity in communication. As I was reading The Admirals (an excellent biographical overview of the four WW II Fleet Admirals, Leahy, King, Nimitz and Halsey) by Walter Borneman, it occurred to me that the exchange of messages surrounding a major WW II battle provided an excellent historical example of what can happen with the lack of clarity and context. Continue reading

Context and Clarity

By Guy Higgins

I recently saw, on social media, a political cartoon from 1941 with a question from the person who posted the cartoon juxtaposing the situation in the cartoon with a situation today. Unable to help myself, I commented, and I received a reply that said, “It was only a question and any implication you draw is yours only.”

That got me to thinking – was that true? Was I reading into the post something that wasn’t there? After much more consideration than I intended, I decided that, while it is remotely possible that I have been wrong in the past, I was not wrong about this. The post was not just a question. By referring to an extremely specific situation, the question was put into a specific context and projected onto a situation today. That’s important because the tacit (but only) purpose of any post was to communicate, and communication must be both clear and complete. Continue reading