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Archive for February, 2011

The Pragmatic Idealist

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I had brunch today with two friends.

During the conversation one told me that he couldn’t believe I was still such an idealist at my age (older than dirt:).

His wife disagreed, saying that she couldn’t believe how cynical I had gotten.

They are both right.

I am, and always have been, a pragmatic idealist.

How do you become a pragmatic idealist?

By always striving to implement the ideals in which you believe, while fully functioning within the reality in which you actually live.

Image credit: http://www.warningsigngenerator.com

mY generation: Professional Development

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

See all mY generation posts here.

Quotable Quotes: Andrew Mason, CEO, Groupon

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

5036271875_90ddbeb5b4_mI get a kick out of reading interviews with Andrew Mason, Groupon’s 29 year old CEO. I find him refreshing; he seems to be missing the ego usually so obvious among entrepreneur superstars.

Most people are uncomfortable talking about themselves, which is why they dislike writing resumes and interviewing, but when they are highly successful they rarely admit it. Mason, on the other hand, has no such hesitation, “I’m just not used to talking that much about myself. It feels strange,”

Entrepreneurs, and those who write about them, love to tell how they always wanted to be an entrepreneur and started as a kid by selling whatever to their neighbors. Mason is an exception, “I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur before this,” he has often said, “and I still really don’t. I just like to build things and do things.”

As to planning out his career, “I never really planned my life more than one month in advance. I try to chase whatever I think is the most interesting thing to do at the moment, and if it becomes less interesting, I find something else to do.”

But he must have planned Groupon, right? Wrong. It was actually started as a side effort to support a different social enterprise. “There was a kind of freedom that came with not caring if it failed, and caring primarily that it was something we could be proud of.”

Mason also doesn’t see Groupon mainly as a technology function, “Really, it’s a way to get out of the house, to explore the city—an expensive city—and to spend more time with your friends or loved ones.”

Mason is young and many wonder how he will avoid being a shooting star instead of a major light in the online firmament as has happened to far more experienced CEOs, but I think he has the perfect approach, “I’m hopeful that as long as we continue to think that we suck and try to be better every day than we were the day before, then we can avoid a similar fate.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if more CEOs channeled Andrew Mason?

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/techcrunch/5036271875/

Expand Your Mind: Hot Innovation

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

A great deal of innovation, including those with the potential to change the world, is done not just by entrepreneurs, but internally in corporations.

Fast Company offers a list of what it considers the 2011’s 50 Most Innovative Companies. Some are innovation standards, while others will surprise you, however number 21, DonorsChoose, innovative or not, is a sad commentary on US education.

Innovation, like sex and love is often progressive, with one idea often leading to another. First off, now on the Web, the two have progressed from sex (general and nitch porn) to love (general and nitch dating sites) to infidelity. Obviously, if someone works their way through these sites sequentially then the next needed innovation is divorce, which is provided by Tim McNamara at ClearViewDivorce.

The next three are my personal favorites, because they address my personal needs so perfectly.

Liquid glass looks like a solution to any problem surface that I want smooth and easy to clean.

A new wall panel made by National Gypsum called Thermalcore seems like a great way to cut my heating bills when I finally remodel.

Finally, my office faces my front yard where I feed dozens of birds, a few squirrels and the occasional hawk that stops by for a starling lunch and I enjoy them through three large fixed pane windows. Unfortunately, the birds often crash into the glass, but a German company has solved that problem. I’m replacing the panes with Ornilux.

What fabulous new product have you found lately?

Image credit: MykReeve on flickr

Training vs. Teaching

Friday, February 25th, 2011

I once read that potty training is the last time you can actually train human beings and from then on you must teach, which means presenting the information for them to learn.

You never hear the education establishment, politicians or the media talk about training students, they talk about what they need to learn—even though the focus is mainly on what they need to learn to score well on standardized tests as opposed to critical thinking.

Training means “to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior of (a child or other person) by discipline and instruction.”

Try that on anyone over two and see how far that gets you.

Business focuses on critical thinking, yet business talks about training—training leaders, training managers, cross training skills.

I think the more conceptual the subject the more it resists training and the more it requires the kind of teaching that leads to learning, which requires an open mind and a willingness to change.

What do you think?

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31055119@N08/4495169935/

Entrepreneur: When the World Tells You “No”

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

3207635_160e3bb46b_mNo, it can’t be done.

No, nobody will buy it.

No, [insert your own].

Whether you have an idea that will change the world or a way to do what is already being done better, faster, cheaper or a combination of them, you are going to hear no.

Not once or twice, but many times a day.

You may hear it from family, friends, colleagues, investors and startup specialists.

A critical factor in innovation, whether for an entrepreneur or in small group in a large company, is the ability to unemotionally evaluate the quality and value of each ‘no.’

Some will be valuable in helping to tweak your idea to make a better product, while others only foster negativism.

You need to sort them out, use the good stuff and delete the rest—especially from sources who really care about you—no matter how often you hear them. (This applies to most advice.)

If you do get a bit discouraged when people keep raining on your parade just remember these others who heard the same thing.

  • In 1936 the editor of the Pictorial Review refused the opportunity to serialize Gone with the Wind before its actual publication.
  • In 1937 Roy Disney (Walt’s brother) said that Mickey Mouse was passé and should be phased out.
  • In 1962 Decca Records rejected a recording contract with the Beatles because they didn’t like their sound and believed that guitar music was on the way out.
  • In the late 1980s Ken Olsen said that business would never gravitate to personal computers.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottrettberg/3207635/

WW: Artistic Innovation

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Fantastic. Sustainable. Green.

Learn more.

Image credit: YouTube

Ducks in a Row: the Destination is a Function of the Journey

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Someone once said, “Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey.”

Bad management, at any level, is often a function of focusing on the destination and forgetting the journey.

The destination is usually quantified as “success,” a smoky concept at best, or more specifically goals, such as raising productivity, increasing sales, launching a new product, etc.

Then the journey would seem to be those things needed to achieve the goals, but is that accurate?

More and more modern research and studies are showing that the journey is better defined as company culture, since it is the culture from which success—and everything else—flows.

No matter at what level you manage, the culture that flows from you will define the environment in which your people work and that, in turn, will define and drive your success.

In an era of global competition and a fast moving business environment the best managers make sure they mind their metrics and their cultures—but not in that order.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Motivating Management Change

Monday, February 21st, 2011


How do you get culture-blind managers to wake up to its importance?

How do you get them to understand that just as there is no “I” in team there is no “I” in leader and that if they insist on capitalizing the “I” in leadership it will change to leadershIt?

In other words is there a way to motivate managers to change their MAP if the “I” is a function of inexperience or ignorance as opposed to entitlement and willfulness?

A useful 2×4 to accomplish this is vested self-interest (VSI) as manifested in the MyCFF mantra so popular today—my compensation, my career path, my future.

It is amazing how much a person is willing to change when those changes further their own goals—even as far as changing “I” to “i.”

Click vested self-interest for how-to details.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/3000885176/

mY generation: Kids

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

See all mY generation posts here

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