As we move through life technology is constantly overtaking us. I think this is one of the best parts of my job at QlikTech as you never get a chance to get bored! One of the most obvious of those is changing mobile technology: last April was the 40th anniversary of the mobile phone. I remember my first mobile phone was a Panasonic transportable. Didn’t I look cool carrying that down to my local bar on a Saturday night?

 

 

One thing that brought home to me how widespread the impact of mobile technology is was when my wife, who teaches 10 year old children, said that on an end of term day when children were told they could bring a toy to school (in my day it would have been Monopoly or Scrabble) four children in her class brought in a tablet pc.

 

 

 

These children were demonstrating the reality of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend.

 

IT departments around the world are trying to figure out how to live with BYOD (some by putting their heads in the sand).  It must be said that the matter can be complicated by the fact that it varies country to country. In some of the BRIC counties BYOD is much more prevalent because very few companies’ issue mobile tools such as phones and tablets, and arguably because of their burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit. Another factor is that personal smartphones are more function rich than phones supplied by many organisations to their employees, and that it’s a real pain carrying around two phones all day.

 

These forces are pushing us in the same direction towards having to support the BYOD movement. But let’s not be hasty, what do we need to think about when looking to support employees as they use their own device?

 

  • Full or partial funding
  • Security, partitioning of personal and work apps
  • Expanding mobile to other parts of business
  • What platforms to support and incentivize

 

(I will cover these points in more detail during a future blog.)

 

Now there has been a sea change, CTO’s who historically would say “NO!” when asked to support a personal device are now looking at how they can actually save money by doing so and increase mobile coverage within their workforce.   This is a growing fact of life: Gartner states that by 2016 38% of all organisations will only support BYOD and will actually subsidise employees for using their own device.

 

What are you doing about BYOD?  What are your experiences?  How does BYOD relate to how you use QlikView?

Shall we play a game?

What word can connect all three of these words?

Pine

Crab

Sauce

Here's a picture to give you time to think - be warned though, looking at the picture may stop you finding the answer (more on this below).

Qmark.jpg

 

Got it? That’s right; ‘apple’ can go with them all: pineapple; crab apple; apple sauce.

There are two ways of coming to the answer:

  • Analytic logic: did you run through a series of possible matching words until you found the right association? For example, saying: “Does ‘cake’ work? No. Does ‘cone’ work? No. Does ‘tree’ work? No. Does ‘apple’ work? Yes.”
  • Unconscious Insight: did you have a moment of pure insight, where your brain leapt to the right answer? You somehow just knew it, with no conscious thought process?

Humans do both, but the neurological process that drives insight, those amazing a-ha moments we all have, has been little understood until recently.

Neuroscientist Dr. Mark Beeman at Northwestern University is using puzzles and brain imaging to understand how insight works. His team have discovered that when an insight occurs different areas of our brains are active than when we reason analytically. The research has identified that a part of the brain above our right ear (specifically the anterior superior temporal gyrus) emits an intense burst of gamma brain waves when an insight happens. As Dr. Beeman says, “The dendrites – the pieces of the neurons that collect information - actually branch differently on the left and right side, characteristically having broader branching in the right hemisphere, so that each neuron is collecting information from a broader source of inputs and this allows them to find connections that might not be evident otherwise.”

So, here’s objective evidence of association occurring naturally in the brain, making connections between distant concepts, in a flash of insight. It seems that associative technology really does reflect the way that we think when we gain insight.

Interestingly, given all the attention on visualization at the moment, neuroscience research has found that although insights can be prompted by visual cues, the brain activity that generates insight is explicitly non-visual. As Professor John Kounios at Drexel University explains: “At the a-ha moment there’s a burst in the right temporal lobe… but if you go about a second before that there’s a burst of alpha waves in the back of the head on the right side. Now strangely enough the back of the brain accomplishes visual processing and alpha is known to reflect brain areas shutting down.”

In other words just before an insight the brain closes down part of the visual cortex.

“You have all this visual information flooding in; your brain momentarily shuts down some of that visual information – sort of like closing your eyes… so the brain does its own ‘blinking’ and that allows very faint ideas to bubble up to the surface as an insight”. Prof Kounios continues: “Think of it this way – when you ask somebody a difficult question, you’ll often notice that they’ll look away or they might close their eyes or look down. They’ll look anywhere but at a face which is very distracting. If your attention is directed inwardly then you’re more likely to solve the problem with a flash of insight.”

The key point here is that while visualization is very useful and compelling, used in isolation (or too extensively) it’s not the most powerful driver of insightful thinking.

Time for one final game: what word can link these four words?

Class

Casual

Risky

Discovery

Got it? I’m sure you have. So what was it for you, analytic logic or pure insight? If it was insight did you catch yourself looking away so your brain could blink!?

 

Notes: 1) This subject of this blog and the quotes in it came from a fantastic BBC Horizon documentary. 2) I’m aware that the word puzzles in this blog may not be as effective for readers whose first language is not English - I hope that doesn’t undermine its interest for those of you. 3) Distracting image source (creative commons sharealike license).

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