Why Every Leader Should Build a RetroPi


It is estimated that the number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark by 2019.   The level of interaction with technology creates an illusion of understanding.   Expert users are not expert technologists.

Many senior leaders don’t claim to be expert technologists but when it comes to technology decisions it has become much easier to have an informed opinion on technology whether for design or desired outcome.   This has put a great strain on IT because technology while magical is not magic.   It takes hard work,  a great deal of thought and planning.   Even if agile methodologies are applied,  requirements matter.

In this world of 140 characters or less,  it is safe to say that some folks reading this blog if uninterested would have disengaged about eight sentences ago.    The expectation today is that everything will happen quickly and it will be exactly what was expected or we disengage and find something else.   This is one of many reasons that IT is suffering in large companies today.  CIO’s are fighting subscription or licensed services for solution delivery.   It is true that cloud services and licensed subscription models have great benefit but acquisition of these services still require strategic thinking.

A simple exercise in building a small and usable gaming system will demonstrate end to end implementation of easy to acquire technology and show how important strategic planning and understanding of technology is relative to projects small, medium or large.

Many leaders in industry are walking away from IT and looking to make IT decisions on their own.   They can use their own budget and solve their own problem without IT.  In some instances where risk is low, they can do this with very little impact.  In most cases, they find a need to bring IT in at either the end of the purchase or when they need to actually implement.  This creates contention and can impact their ability to get the software or services they wanted in the first place.   The underlying question is “Why can’t I do here what I do at home”?   Anyone feel free to comment on this .. but the various reasons should be addressed in another blog at some point.   

If industry  / business leaders want to make decisions in technology, they should become familiar with what it takes to compose and implement solutions.  I am not saying they should become IT experts but my contention is leaders should know their desired outcome relative to the environment they are in.    An info-graphic on AI can drive me to put Alexa in my home but this is very different from me deploying Alexa in my company.   As a leader, I need to understand the differences to make an informed and economically sound and viable decision.

Making it Real

The Raspberry Pi is a small computer that you can purchase for as low as $10.00.

The Raspberry Pi has free open source operating systems that you can download for many uses.   One of the operating systems available has software called RetroPi.  With RetroPi you can build a system that plays thousands of games from many of the older popular gaming systems.

You can get as fancy as you like depending on your desired result.


or you can keep it simple


Either way,  it is learning experience that incorporates some very basic skills using technology to accomplish a relatively simple goal.

Leadership that seeks to use technologies to enable and grow their business should have a tacit understanding of this kind of project.

Some factors to consider here are

  1. Instructions are readily available both written and video (Build a Pi)
  2. The operating system is no cost and easy to install
  3. The software is pre-configured and highly intuitive
  4. The estimated time to completion is 10 minutes (That’s fast)

Results May Vary

Here we have a simple project that should take 10 minutes to employ.  It will result in countless hours of fun and entertainment for the family and for those who enjoy retro games, it will save hundreds of dollars in purchasing a retro console.  It meets most of the criteria asked from technology companies and IT today.  It has the makings of a perfect simple technology implementation.

Side note, below is my machine that I built..


Tired of Explaining Why KM is Important

empty-library-717943Finding Nothing

The best search engine in the world can’t discover, query and present what it can’t touch.

To learn something you have to see it, read it, hear it, experience it, share it and understand it.   You acquire skills or knowledge by being taught in some manner.

It isn’t an idea or something we need to do, it is what we do.  It is part of our humanity and intelligence.   If we can agree that learning is important and if we can agree that knowing something is important.  Why is there a question at all around the value of maintaining knowledge assets?

A doctor may use a checklist to perform her work and she may also reference best practices and lessons learned but those explicit artifacts aren’t enough for most to trust her in surgery.   Could you imagine a doctor watching You Tube to see how to perform a heart transplant on her first patient?

The knowledge assets associated with developing competency are people interactions, understanding process, methodology, practices and tools.  If the people portion of learning is missing it takes longer to gain competency and it also may take many more failures to achieve success.

There are things that we can in fact can learn on You Tube and Google or other search tools alone but someone has to post the content.   All the time we hear and talk about big, small, medium and bite size data.  What good is data science without data?  What good is analysis with nothing to analyze?   Data comes from codified knowledge which comes from people.

People are the source of knowledge and the tools around them help collect information and information then can be stored as data.  It isn’t the other way around.  Even when data becomes information and is presented through an interface to a person, only then does it become knowledge.   After the person understands what they are looking at.

The Cost of “Not”

I met a few weeks ago with the former CIO of a large consulting firm.  Lucky for me he is retired and has time to share some conversation, thoughts and wisdom   I asked him about what he thought about knowledge management and knowledge assets in our working world today.

He said “Son, you are either making money or you are losing money, you keep your costs low and you make more money, you keep putting money into all this knowledge babble and you lose it.”

I asked if he thought that KM was important at all.  His response was “not really, what is it again?”    I asked about saving money over all by investing in people and tools to support work.  I asked him about productivity and losing experts and turnover and lag in decreased capacity.   I asked him about single person dependency and time to competency.    Here is what he said “If I am in the oil business, I am looking to find oil, when I find it, I will find people to get that oil out of the ground and I will find them and I will make a lot of money and that is what matters.”

Being Right

As I enjoy the coffee and the conversation, it does occur to me that this is a familiar story, at least to me.   Knowledge is important but people don’t worry about the opportunities or risks, they are more overly concerned with immediate and direct results.   In other words, if I make a million dollars but only get to take home 500K because I didn’t have something or know something that is ok.  It doesn’t seem to matter that I could have taken home 700-800k if I had the knowledge on hand.   It is the difference between the perception of what something could be over what something “seems” to be definitively.

The picture on this post is of empty bookshelves,  it seems to me that as we become more advanced in our ways, we don’t feel as if we need the people or the books or the place to go to read.      It is interesting to me to think that a lot of leaders only believe that people matter only in that moment when they are needed.   It is also interesting to me that there is a willingness to pay a high price overall to pay for this “knowledge as a service” concept even though it is much more expensive.

Information and content management is only as useful as the artifacts generated by knowledgeable people.   If we try to discard the people, we are left with very little.  If we have very little to store we will have very little to find.   All of these concepts simply add up to more time to accomplish goals and objectives and these will result in higher costs.

I can only hope that other senior leaders can find ways to see a bit more value in knowledge assets than my former CIO friend.