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Archive for October, 2012

Halloween 2012

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hanna_horwarth/266812708/Looking back on previous Halloween posts I seem to have written rhymes for most of them (here’s a link to past efforts).

No one’s thrown any rotten eggs, so I guess I’ll do another one.

On the other hand, no one’s said anything positive, either.

Anyway, here are my contributions to the 2012 treats and tricks—or possibly part of the horror show.

Halloween is the night for spooks,
but mostly I run into kooks;
they dress kind of funny
even look like a bunny,
but are fast to put up their dukes.

Oops, that’s pretty lame; let me try again.

There was a young lady named Sue
who was invited to a Halloween do.
She hemmed and she hawed,
found a costume that awed
and so sexy the guys formed a queue.

<sigh> Not much of an improvement, but the third is supposed to be the charm, so here goes.

If you’re sexy and you know it clap your hands.
If you’re sexy and you know it clap your hands.
If you’re sexy and you know it Halloween’s the time to show it
If you’re sexy and you know it clap your hands.

If you’re sexy and you know it make your plans.
If you’re sexy and you know it make your plans.
Remember vampires they show it, while ghosts don’t even know it
If you’re sexy and you know it make your plans.

So much for the charm; it’s more like a hex.

I’m sure you can do better; please do so in comments.

And may your Halloween outshine my rhymes by at least a billion watts.

Flickr image credit: hanna horwarth

Ducks in a Row: Arrogance and Empathy

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/marionenkevin/3455573553/Years ago I worked with “Craig,” who, as vice president of engineering, managed a large organization that was responsible for research and development of a complex hardware/software product; a product that required a varied mix of skills, including hardware, software, quality, systems, etc.

Craig was the second best manager I ever worked with.

His people trusted him, knew he was completely fair and wouldn’t tolerate politics.

He understood culture, building teams and was expert at hiring people who would thrive in the environment he provided.

His boss, peers, subordinates and everyone with whom he interfaced including vendors considered him extremely competent—which he was.

And therein lay the problem.

For those who didn’t know him well the competence came over as arrogance, because Craig was missing one very important capability.

Craig was missing empathy.

He handled this by adopting a professorial style where emotion wasn’t required, which worked well in long-term situations, but not short-term ones.

Short-term acquaintances found him arrogant—except for those who really were arrogant. They noticed nothing different from themselves, but Craig saw them as arrogant.

We talked about it once and Craig explained that he had always been cerebral, never emotional, even in his personal life.

I asked him if he was Vulcan.

As to the absolute best executive, he had everything Craig had plus empathy. (More about him next Tuesday.)

Flickr image credit: Kevin

Dov Seidman and How

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Have you heard of Dov Seidman? The man who built and runs a multimillion dollar global company around the idea that the most principled businesses are the most profitable and sustainable.

That’s hard to believe in a world where every day stories bombard us proving over and over that ‘ethical leadership’ has attained the dubious honor of being an oxymoron, whether in business, politics and even in religion.

In a world focused on ‘how much’ and ‘how many’ it’s important to remember that what we choose to measure is an accurate reflection of what we value.

Seidman offers a cogent argument that the more important question is ‘how’, as he discusses in his book, “How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything” and the following video.

Image credit: The MIX

Expand Your Mind: a Different Look at Innovation

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

In 1914 why did that ultimate capitalist Henry Ford raise worker pay to the unheard-of wage of $5 a day? There is many a corporate titan who would do well to consider Ford’s philosophy today—before developing next year’s executive compensation plan or even deciding on this year’s bonuses.

Not only was it a matter of social justice, Ford wrote, but paying high wages was also smart business. When wages are low, uncertainty dogs the marketplace and growth is weak. But when pay is high and steady, Ford asserted, business is more secure because workers earn enough to become good customers. They can afford to buy Model Ts.

These days, innovation is touted as the world’s savior, but is it really the game-changers or their copycats that provide real economic benefit? An excerpt from The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking, by Eli Broad posits the latter. And before you argue keep in mind that Apple didn’t invent computers or MP3 music players.

Who does capture the benefits of new ideas, products, and models? Imitators. They get a free ride, avoid dead ends, capitalize on the shortcomings of early offerings or tweak the originals to better fit shifting consumer tastes. And yet, imitators rarely get the recognition they deserve: When was the last time someone received an Imitator of the Year Award?

Based on descriptions of the new Windows 8 operating system I’ve decided that I will switch a few weeks after I die. If all you use is a smartphone or tablet you’ll probably have more tolerance to it, but if you use multiple applications on a real computer not so much. HBS’ Rosabeth Moss Kanter discusses it in terms of people’s resistance to change and I agree, but I have a much stronger resistance to things that make me feel incompetent and/or stupid.

Technology is good at that and as one commenter said, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat there getting angry trying to figure out how to get something done. I’m not an idiot when it comes to computers, but this OS made me feel like one.” Kanter’s response? “Your software should not make anyone feel like an idiot.”

Common wisdom says “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it,” but there are times when that attitude is shortsighted. The Smithsonian certainly isn’t broke in any way, shape or form, but it has looked to the future and decided it needs to update its brand if it plans to continue for another 166 years and beyond.

Although the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum and research complex, is already a popular and trusted brand, officials there nonetheless decided they needed to raise awareness, particularly among young people, of precisely what they have to offer.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

If the Shoe Fits: Confidence vs. Arrogance

Friday, October 26th, 2012

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mWhy would anyone build an app when there are existing legal conditions that essentially block using the service it offers?

A company called Uber built an app that helps drivers and would-be passengers find one another.

It seems the perfect service for a place like New York City that lives by taxi.

The difficulty is that taxi apps for cab-hailing or payment aren’t legal because of existing contracts with payment processors.

“Those changes cannot legally take place until our existing exclusive contracts expire in February,” David S. Yassky, the chairman of the commission, said in a statement. “We are committed to making it as easy as possible to get a safe, legal ride in a New York City taxi and are excited to see how emerging technology can improve that process.”

Considering the contracts predate the app (if not smartphones themselves) wouldn’t you expect a problem?

Apparently not.

According to UBER CEO Travis Kalanick, the city put “obstacles and roadblocks” in their way.

So you tell me, exactly where does confidence end and arrogance begin?

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Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Breakdowns and Breakthroughs from GrowTalks

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

EMANIO’s CEO KG Charles-Harris sent another goody to share with you.

The interviews were conducted with the speakers from the recent GROW Conference, in which entrepreneurs are asked about their greatest fears, failures, and the lessons learned.

The lineup is impressive and the comments are a step above the typical entrepreneur sound bites we keep hearing.

I also believe that their comments are relevant even if you have no startup aspirations.

So with no further babble on my part here it is.

Be the Thursday feature – Entrepreneurs: [your company name]
Share the story of your startup today.
Send it along with your contact information and I’ll be in touch.
Questions? Email or call me at 360.335.8054 Pacific time.

YouTube image credit: GrowTalks

Tony Hsieh’s Shift from ROI to ROC

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/charliellewellin/3413568618/Of all the high profile entrepreneurs who have built wildly successful companies my favorite is Tony Hsieh.

Hsieh is amazing from his MAP and the culture it engenders to the lengths he’s willing to go to propagate and share it—which includes renovating an entire city.

Hsieh is one of those increasingly rare people with an abundance of common sense who eschews ideology and focuses on doing real good in his community well beyond what’s necessary.

A healthy take on doing good by doing well in a very capitalistic way.

Hsieh calls this effort the Downtown Project, a $350 million urban experiment to build “the most community-focused large city in the world” in downtown Las Vegas.

The $350 million breaks out as follows, $200 million invested in land and buildings; $50 million for small businesses; $50 million for tech startups/companies and $50 million to be used for education.

Typically companies like Zappos build spectacular campuses offering their employees all the amenities in their own little world, but that approach actually went against parts of the Zappos culture, which promotes unstructured interactions among the staff.

Hsieh took that attitude and created a different vision for the new campus.

He leased the former City Hall — smack in the middle of downtown Vegas — for 15 years. Then he got to thinking: If he was going to move at least 1,200 employees, why not make it possible for them to live nearby? And if they could live nearby, why not create an urban community aligned with the culture of Zappos, which encourages the kind of “serendipitous interactions” that happen in offices without walls? As Zach Ware, Hsieh’s right-hand man in the move, put it, “We wanted the new campus to benefit from interaction with downtown, and downtown to benefit from interaction with Zappos.”

In typical Hsieh fashion the effort is summed up in a way that reflects what is really needed from today’s business leaders.

“Every factory in the world is doing everything to maximize R.O.I. We’re doing everything to maximize R.O.C.—Return On Community.” –Tony Hsieh.

Flickr image credit: Charlie Llewellin

Ducks in a Row: Acqui-hiring

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/akzo/6834998858/Buying startups and shutting down their business in the name of acquiring talent is a hot trend—and one easily destined to fail.

Talent retention in ‘acqui-hiring’ fails most often for the same reason it has always failed—culture.

And before anyone offers the ‘large company culture vs. startup culture’ argument let me point out that Google and Facebook are large companies, not startups.

Retaining acquired talent isn’t a new problem and I addressed it in 2006 from the other side, i.e., a young company wanting to maintain its culture as it acquired smaller companies.

Realistically speaking, I don’t care how cool the culture and perks at Google and Facebook are, there is no way they or similar companies can provide true startup culture, camaraderie, or environment.

But it is amusing (if you don’t own their stock) to watch them try.

In the same vein, why is it so surprising when long-term employees leave?

The media loves to feature stories about turnover at Google, Facebook, Zynga, Groupon, Amazon, even Microsoft and other startup-no-longer companies, while ignoring the same turnover at Cisco, Intel and. IBM

When will they learn?

Those who get a thrill creating something from nothing and building foundations may start losing interest when the scaffolding for higher stories goes up and become totally disinterested when the walls go in.

High salaries, excessive stock options, even powerful positions may hold them, but retention doesn’t always translate to productivity or cultural harmony.

All I can say is caveat emptor and don’t whine if (when) it doesn’t work.

Flickr image credit: AKZOphoto

The Downside of Reddit and iOS6

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomofo/154877897/My wired friends (which is 90% of them) rag me for my resistance to being wired and periodic rants about privacy, which is so last century.

They tell me that it all makes life better; I tell them what they are full of.

Two recent pieces of information gave me great ammunition to refute their “makes it better” claim.

The first involves Reddit and its creep factor (it could just as easily be Pinterest, Instagram or Tumblr).

Reddit has come under fire for harboring a forum that encourages people to covertly photograph women on the street and upload the images to the site for others to ogle and comment on.

Posted anonymously, of course.

And, of course, those who posted the objectionable pictures, often of underage girls, were extremely upset when they were outed.

These actions, in turn, prompted an outcry from those who felt that they should be able to retain their own anonymity while posting photographs of women without their consent.

Reddit uses the ever popular “Freedom of Speech” defense for not doing anything, but, as Zeynep Tufekci, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill says it doesn’t qualify.

“…those running Reddit are twisting the logic behind that notion because the free speech referenced in this case refers to images of women, often underage girls, taken without their consent, and passed around for pleasure.”

I’m glad I’m beyond the age anyone would bother with my picture.

90% of the 90% mentioned earlier own iPhones, on which they tend to wax lyrical with little to no provocation and immediately upgrade when a new version is launched.

So when I read the Slate article about the new iPhone 5’s default tracking function I gleefully sent it on.

You weren’t imagining things. Apple’s new iOS 6 does, indeed, come with a default setting that tracks your activity, gathering a constant stream of personal data. Apple’s advertising arm, iAd, uses that data to create a targeted, personal ad campaign based on your recent Googling…

The tracking function isn’t just on the iPhone 5, but applies to anything that uses iOS6, like the iPod touch or iPad.

But at least Apple provides a way to turn the feature off (instructions in the article).

If having your cellphone track everything you do in order to send you targeted ads is supposed to improve life then I prefer my life to remain unimproved.

My friends and I will continue to disagree, but I can honestly say I am one happy dinosaur.

Flickr image credit: InfoMofo

Quotable Quotes: Life

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/joebehr/4986222129/Last week I shared quotes about living life; today I thought we’d check out commentary starting with what life is.

Sren Aaby Kierkegaard wrapped it up neatly when he said, “Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced.”

Alan Bennett’s opinion is more depressing, “Life is generally something that happens elsewhere.”
Andrew Brown suggests that for many people these days ‘elsewhere’ refers to cyberspace, The Internet is so big, so powerful and so pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.”

Pearl Buck has, to my mind, a more upbeat and accurate belief, Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”
For the many people who buy into Bennett’s attitude, while laying the blame elsewhere, I recommend they consider the words of Louis L’Amour, There comes a time when it lies within a man’s grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, the times, lack of good fortune, or quirks of fate.”

Shaping your life usually means change. Change is a choice; a choice that every person makes many times during their life. William James offers three things to do to make it happen. He says, To change your life;
-Start immediately
-Do it flamboyantly
-No exceptions”

Good advice, especially when we remember Winston Churchill’s wise words, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
But how do we know if we’re doing it correctly? We don’t; we can only do our best. As Goethe tells us, Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.”

If you do look backwards know that you will find many things that in hindsight would be better done differently or not at all, but rather than wasting time on regrets consider Tallulah Bankhead’s attitude, “If I had my life to live over again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.”
I’ll leave you to day with this thought and a ling to my favorite Rule.

Diane Ackerman said, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”

I vehemently agree and expounded on that in the very first Rule I posted way back in 2006.

Flickr image credit: Joe Wolf

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