In February, I presented my outlook for the economy and the wire harness industry to executives during a virtual Wiring Harness Manufacturer’s Association (WHMA) conference. John Sprovieri covered that conference and recently published a recap of my remarks in ASSEMBLY. At that point I was optimistic, and since then, my forecast for 2021 and 2022 has improved. There are still a number of challenges. Supply chains are constrained and prices are rising across the board. COVID variants remain a risk even with mass vaccination, as we saw with the recent Kentucky nursing home outbreak. But the economic environment is improving.

Another day, another SPAC.

But this is one I was excited to see. I met REE Automotive at this year’s CES, and had the chance to talk with some of their executives. They build a flat, modular EV platform with all of the drive-by-wire, brake-by-wire and steer-by-wire technology in each wheel. This should, in theory, make servicing the vehicle quicker and less expensive.

REE highlights a number of trends in the mobility space: electric, Mobility-as-a-Service (Maas), mission-specific vehicles. It will be interesting to see how these trends evolve.

I joined the PCTY Talks podcast this week to talk about how the digital revolution continues to accelerate and what the impact will be on the HR profession. Here are a few topics we discuss:

Diversity, equity, and inclusion

What we’re learning about digital tools and technology is that it is not neutral. So there are positives that it can bring and obviously negatives, there’s externalities that we have to guard against. I’m actually quite optimistic about the ability of technology to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. Obviously, we have to guard against some of the externalities, we’re seeing things like AI recruitment tools that should hopefully help us avoid and overcome some of the biases that have been in recruitment processes for decades. Now, we have to make sure that the data we’re using to power those tools is fair to socioeconomic groups and that it is aligns with the goals that we have. If we’re just grabbing data that’s a mirror of the way we’ve always implemented recruitment tools and techniques, then we run the risk of carrying those biases into the software programs. So we want to guard against that. But I think there’s a lot of opportunity there. So you know, AI recruitment tools is one. Workforce analytics, and the data around our workforce can obviously really help us. When we’re doing this, we’re looking at setting goals for our diversity, equity inclusion, for the year or for the decade, and then we have to start to capture data around that to see if we are doing that. So you think about not just compensation, but are there patterns in the way our employees are using the benefits that we offer? And do those align with the goals that we have around diversity, equity and inclusion? Or do we have certain employees that are only using certain benefits? We think we’re offering these great benefits, but maybe they don’t align with some of our overall goals. I think that is an area that we really haven’t fully utilized. But I think workforce analytics is really going to give us a lot of insights into our workforce, and the patterns of our workforce, and our organization, and really help us understand whether we’re successful or not.

The importance of data

Ultimately, what will power these AI platforms is the data. We need to make sure that we’re using data that is consistent with the organization we want to be a part of, the organization that we want to build, and the society that we want to live in. We’ve seen in recent years, as we’ve uncovered some of these results, that some of the data we have used has inadvertent biases in it. And in some of these aren’t intentional biases by  programmers or developers, designers, but they seep in because of the the data that’s being used. And so the data, and ensuring that it aligns with our goals, and that it’s fair to all of our employees is extremely important. And it’s something that we’re going to have to continue to monitor throughout time. Because these programs are designed to evolve as the data changes and as the data reveals new insights. I think the other thing that COVID brought is that it changed some of these patterns. And so some of the tools that we had been using are broken because the data changes and the pattern of employees changes. And so we’ll need to recalibrate these programs and and techniques and tools to ensure that they still align with what we’re trying to achieve.

Organizations need to ensure that their data is organized, structured, and well kept. Every organization is sitting on a tremendous amount of information. If you don’t have the data available to really explore and to really understand the patterns that exist under the surface, then you’re not going to be able to employ these tools as effectively as you could. So first and foremost, you’ve got to get your data in order. And data comes in lots of different forms and factors. And so companies and organizations need to realize that there’s lots of places that data will show up. And there’s lots of ways in which data can show up within your organization. There’s lots of data in every organization that will inform executives and HR professionals on the current state of the organization and what needs to change in order to really achieve the goals that they’ve set for that organization.

You can hear more in the full episode.

My literary agent Lucinda Halpern wrote a nice post on what to prepare for a conversation with an agent or publisher. She offers great advice on thinking beyond some of the obvious aspects like audience – though she also stresses the importance of being specific about your audience. She points out how it is important for nonfiction writers to identify “why this book and why now.” I think that is a very important question. I’m working on my next book and I actually changed course early last year because the timing was no longer right for the topic that I had been working on. She also points out the importance of knowing the book’s big reveal.

This is an opportunity to demonstrate your research of books in your category, and make the case for how yours fills a niche. It could be that your research or writing has tapped into something that is previously unknown or not commonly believed, or that you’re shedding light on a little-known story that deserves more attention.

The book world is pretty crowded and it is increasingly important to have a strong and counterintuitive framing.


Early into the pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Kearney, culled the opinions of 400+ senior-level executives from various industry sectors to identify the best response to the COVID-19 crisis. Five imperatives emerged from the survey that remain highly relevant as we think about the future of manufacturing:

  1. Rapid tailoring of manufacturing and supply systems to changing consumer behaviours
  2. Agile manufacturing and supply system set-ups enabled by advanced technologies
  3. Logistics coordination across and within global value chains
  4. Adoption of new ways of working and governing to increase manufacturing resilience
  5. Shared responsibility and collaboration among companies and authorities to address social and environmental challenges

These motivations will help drive the factory of the future. Manufacturers need transparency (into their own operations and the operations of their suppliers), tighter (and quicker) coordination with their supply chain, and the ability to more quickly evaluate data (and respond accordingly). Connected factories will facilitate each of these. Connected factories will provide a systematic way of collecting and sharing data throughout the entire supply chain in near real-time. Real-time information sharing across equipment and plants will also help automate decisions based on incoming information so there is an interactive element to connected factories, that feeds on itself. We aren’t there yet, but there are a number of ingredient technologies that are coming together now to push this transformation forward. 5G being one of the key ones. Drones. Autonomous vehicles. Cheap sensors. Analytics. They are all coming together in the years ahead.

The word “robot” first appears in Karel Capek’s 1921 play R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robots. It derives from an old Church Slavonic word, rabota, meaning “servitude” and the Czech robotiti meaning “drudgery” and robtnik meaning “forced labor. Matt Simon had a good guide to robots last year in Wired.

The first industrial robot was Unimate. It joined the assembly line at a GM plant in Ewing Township, New Jersey, in 1961

Katie Collins over at CNET offers a look at some of the robots set to make their virtual appearance at CES next week.


The NYSE’s plan to delist three Chinese telcos (China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom) was on, then off, and now is looking to be back on again. The initial decision was driven by President Trump’s November 2020 executive order barring investment in “Communist Chinese military companies,” as well as the the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (HFCAA), which President Trump signed into law on December 18th, 2020. The HFCAA requires companies publicly listed on stock exchanges in the U.S. to declare they are not owned or controlled by any foreign government and requires companies to be delisted if the PCAOB is blocked from auditing financial reports from the company. Here’s the list of Non-SDN Communist Chinese Military Companies.

The move is intended to protect U.S. investors from poor corporate governance and a lack of transparency.  A side effect might restrict the ability of these companies to raise capital, though all are also listed in Hong Kong. A battle over access to capital is yet another direction the growing war with China will travel.

A secondary effect could also be that it helps Chinese-based exchanges become more influential in the global capital markets. Some of the largest companies in the world are based in China and many of them are listed in the U.S. If investors can only gain exposure to these companies through China exchanges, it could drive capital there and make them more influential on a global scale.



Big data is often discussed as being this radical alternative to the hypothetical and deductive approach. But in archaeology, it’s providing us with a better generalized model to test against, or to fit alongside, the really localized things we’re doing. That way we can better contextualize the type of micro-historical research that we both think is going to continue to be archeology’s bread and butter for a long time

This is Parker VanValkenburgh of Brown University discussing recent work to develop online databases that enabled researchers to better understand the forced resettlement of the Inca Empire in the 1570s by Spanish conquerors.

Here’s the full article.

In the final #techspansive episode of 2020, Ross Rubin and I recap the biggest stories of the year and look forward to 2021. We analyze the industry’s biggest tech stories, including:
—How tech and other industries will take the first steps toward the post-pandemic future
—How Google and Facebook will react to their government lawsuits as Apple faces developer protest.
—How the trade war between the U.S. and China may engulf new companies and geographies

You can find all #techspansive episodes wherever you find your podcasts including: