The Book of Allan

19 August 2011

LANSING, Mich.–Allan Dale traces his computing roots back past Burroughs, for whom he worked at one point.

He's created and sold off technologies a few times over and could probably go flying off into the sunset (he's a pilot), but that's not nearly as fun as what he does.

Today, he's the CEO of a company here, Lectronix, that's managed to insert itself and its technology into an innovative system in policy–the iForce–through its partnership with Rockwell Collins.

While we live in a culture that celebrates youth and rebellion, it never really hurts to spend time chatting with someone who's done a lot in an industry over 50 years. It didn't with Dale.

For him, the biggest change we've seen in recent decades is Google, pure and simple.

"I have the world available to me at my fingertips at a moment's notice," he says during an interview in his offices. "It's having the world's best encyclopedia…sitting in the middle of our brain."

This leads naturally to his next point: That data is the key to "everything."

"You make bad decsions without data. When you have all the right data, it's almost impossible to make the wrong decision."

These questions and answers turn out to be a running start toward the bigger question: What makes a good innovator? The word "innovator" is so co-opted, misused and mangled these days, and there's little hard research into the genetic qualities that make a Gates, Jobs, Wozniak, or Brin.

His answer:

"The best innovators are people who work on a probability basis. There are no black and whites; there are only grays. I evalutate every decision I make based on the probabilities of different outcomes. Where I can make the error is the data feeding that probability matrix in my mind. Nobody's right all the time. What I will not tolerate is guesses, called assumptions. Assumption is a sophisticated word for 'I don't know so I'm going to guess.' "

If you can't get enough information to make a decent decision, walk away from it, Dale said.

We could call this, Quotations from the Book of Allan.



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