Consulting

Pedagogy and Ergonomics

You may have heard of a successful online education site at https://www.khanacademy.org . This site has been recommended time and again as being a wealth of educational resources delivered far superior to what is offered in many classrooms. Free, quick and entertaining videos that teach in 10 minute digestible chunks.

I follow a blog, http://webtalkwithbob.blogspot.com , that has lately been focused on changes happening and needed in the education system. This blog has been promoting a venture at, https://www.coursera.org . Coursera describes their effort of providing education over the internet. They describe the “Pedagogical Foundations” for providing a basis for why online education is at least as good and with some evidence it can be superior to physical attendance in a classroom. The Coursera effort is more than education for education sake, it seeks to be accredited and provides educators and curricula from top Universities. So far, it also is free.

Educators will tell you that education has many benefits and is not just vocational training. However, education is a significant financial investment and it could not be so if it did not have a financial return. So, most students that purchase education expect it to benefit them financially. They are pursuing education to start or better their careers. So what happens when a Coursera or Khan Academy accredited graduate, which will likely exist someday, enters the workplace?

When I discovered the word Pedagogy, the study of education, at the Coursera site  I looked for its complimentary word meaning the study of work and I found that the word is Ergonomics. Ergonomics does not just mean a comfortable chair and oddly shaped keyboard. It has the same meaning and potential application to the workplace as Pedagogy does to education. So as Pedagogy shows that internet based learning with a Telepresence has advantages to education, Ergonomics should show some of the same benefits to telecommuting.

In fact when the telelearner becomes more the norm, the workplace will have to adapt and provide for the telecommuter. Something it does not do well yet. Companies that start developing and adopting policies and resources that support telecommuting will soon have the advantage of the best educated employees.

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Paging Dr. Drone

Where is the telepresence industry making the most effort?

The best known is military and law enforcement “drones”. This is done to protect pilots from combatants and to keep surveillance and offensive assets on station while relieving pilots and crew.

Yesterday I posted a video showing a telepresence application in education.  This allows a disabled or infectious student to maintain an education curriculum while also creating and maintaining an element of social interaction that comes in a school environment.

Another area of effort is health. To enable efficient collaboration of patients and specialized health professionals available coincidentally. Would you rather have a couple of minutes with each of you health specialist independently while they impatiently watch the clock to keep on schedule, or would you like to confer with all of them at once while they have the entire records and resources of their electronic office immediately at hand.  http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9229616/Physician_robot_to_begin_making_rounds.

Courtroom telepresence is being employed to protect and accommodate witnesses, make experts readily available and to eliminate expensive and hazardous transportation and unsafe interactions with violent defendants.

These are all applications where in most cases it would seem that hands-on face-to-face personal interaction would be critical to successful results. However, each of these applications have benefits that at least outway the distractions and in some cases have benefits that are more amenable to successful outcomes.

What’s New

Innovative (ADJECTIVE)

1. (of a product, idea, etc.) Featuring new methods; advanced and original.
2. (of a person) Introducing new ideas; original and creative in thinking: “an innovative thinker”.

Search the mission and values statements of many companies, the cover
letters and resumes of job seekers, or the position descriptions of
job boards and “innovative” is a common word. Companies strive to be
innovative and they want innovative employees. Career seekers promote
that they are the innovative people companies want.

But how innovative are company managers and employment policies? Are
they really using new methods for compensation? Are their staffing
methods advanced and original? Is the workplace environment creative
and efficient?

For the past 8 years I have worked with some companies that I found to
be truly innovative in securing staffing resources by contracting those
resources and compensating them through a 1099 instead of employing
them and sending a W2.

What made these companies innovative is that they partitioned the
development of technology critical to their companies core competancy
between contracted and employed staffing. They identified and
contracted the development of technology that was core, but generalized
across their product and client market. They employed staffing to validate,
maintain, customize and support the manufacture and marketing of their
products.

The advantage is that they could specialize and optimize their
staffing in both the contracted and employed areas instead of under
hiring or over hiring in either area. This avoided undesirable and
costly staffing reductions and improves time-to-market by avoiding
training and false starts caused by inexperienced or generalized
staff.

There are a number of companies looking for innovative staffing to
work on innovative products right now. I am currently looking for the
ones that are also interested in innovative methods for staffing. If I
have reached one in this blog, please give me a call.

DO YOU HAVE AN IP BUDGET?

Your company probably has an EDA budget that is spent on generating or outright purchasing IP from an EDA/IP vendor. Considering that the EDA software or license, usually, has not only a purchase cost, but an on going support cost with the vendor; and an internal cost to operate or incorporate the purchase into your product, how effective has that experience been? In some cases, generic IP works as expected, in many cases it can take as much effort to work with it as it would have to build it custom. Companies are always faced with make or buy decisions. However often these decisions are hampered by the fact that purchased IP comes from a different budget than compensation for personnel. Why not consider using some of the EDA budget to purchase custom IP? A contracted consultant can develop custom IP that the company owns and is easier to evaluate, incorporate, maintain and re-target than purchased generic IP. And if the contract is written properly it can be funded from the EDA budget instead of the compensation budget.

When to Contract Intellectual Property

Look at your electronic company’s product development resources. You can probably categorize 3 types: technologists, implementers and maintainers. Technologists come in two types: generalists and specialists. Implementers come in many flavors platform coders, embedded coders, analog circuit designers, digital designers, RF designers, board designers, component procurers, etc.  Maintenance resources include customer support, installation, failure analysis, validation, etc.  In a small company many individuals might perform more than one of these roles but even so their product development tasks could likely be categorized in one of the 3 categories. So, when a small company finds themselves short in one of these areas when should they consider contracting to expand their resources versus recruiting new individual employees? I think I have some answers to this question but I would like some feedback on my new blogging endeavor so I am asking the question to the readers.  When would you consider contracting a Technology Generalist? Specialist? an Implementer or a Maintaner?