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Archive for November, 2012

If the Shoe Fits: Don’t be a Fool

Friday, November 30th, 2012

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAre you familiar with the old saying “a fool and his money are soon parted?”

So are a fool and his startup.

In the situation I’m talking about both could happen—will happen unless the fools with the money dump the fool from his startup.

The founder fool has great talents, but his best is wooing and managing money fools, i.e., investors.

He’s also good at wooing people to join his fledgling company, but even better at being the author of their destruction.

He is a master of disparagement—eye rolls, winks, smirks and, of course, sarcasm.

This founder fool’s arrogance is based on his ability to manage upwards, but mostly on fear; fear that someone who works for him may somehow, somewhere, become more successful than he.

That arrogance, combined with his unfettered belief that anybody who works for a living, including in his own company, is a lesser person creates an environment that destroys people by damaging their self-respect.

Not only does he take out the (in his mind) competition, he also improves retention, since those he undercuts are less likely to leave.

As Jeff Haden says, Self-respect is a lot like trust. Once lost, it’s almost impossible to regain.

Almost. It can be regained, but doing so takes careful rebuilding and support by a manager skilled at seeing diamonds where others see a lump of coal.

And that means either the investor fools rise up to oust the tyrant or the people find the courage to walk away.

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Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Big Opportunity in Big Data

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinkrejci/6259499293/

I no longer live in the Bay Area, but as a center of entrepreneurship I am still very connected. Big data presents enormous opportunities for entrepreneurs, so I asked Walter Paliska, a senior marketing manager at EMANIO, Inc., to share intel what is means to the enterprise startup community.

By Walter Paliska:

Between November 13th and 14th I had the opportunity to attend the Big Data Business Forum in San Francisco, CA.  Over the course of two days several companies, both large and small, were able to display their wares and discuss how “big data” is impacting us.  Some of the key takeaways from the conference, especially for CEOs and executives in start up organizations, are directly related to how big data is driving innovation and on the opportunities available for startups.  The rapid growth of data is driving a core set of new problems that businesses are trying to both understand and cope with:

  1. The technology part is growing, but the business value is not keeping up.  One of the interesting takeaways from conversations with a number of attendants was this: while the IT side of the house understands the problem that the rising amount of data is causing, the business side is having a hard time grasping the value that analyzing all this data will provide.  Some small software startups are beginning to try and address this challenge by deploying tools that are easier to use and that bring data analysis “closer” to the business user – but clearly there is still a large gap between IT and the business side.
  2. Big data is hard – very hard – and expensive.  Once again a key takeaway from the conference was that solving big data problems is both technically and fiscally challenging.  While Fortune 500 companies are clearly looking for ways to exploit their copious amounts of data, actually doing so still requires an exceedingly high level of expertise and tools that are still costly and difficult to use.
  3. The “platform wars” make things harder.  Should a business standardize on Hadoop? HPCC? SAP Hana?  How do available solutions work with any of these platforms?  What are the differences and business implications of each?  Depending on how one answers these questions and on the selections one makes, the available software tools and solutions vary.  The world of big data is not nearly as clearly defined and understood as server operating systems, enterprise ERP systems etc., and that means opportunity for new solutions that help bridge the gaps.

These are just some of the challenges that businesses have today with big data.  The implication for startups is clear, helping business users understand the value of their data and providing tools that make the process of using and benefiting from big data easier, less expensive and more uniform – regardless of platform – can begin to bridge the chasm between IT and the business side to finally realize the benefit of “big data” for everyone.

Enterprise startups are hot and ideas relating to big data will fuel many of them.

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Flickr image credit: Kevin Krejci

Love, Sports, Management and Oxytocin

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

The best way to achieve a top performing team is to drug them.

In a good way, of course.

The drug of choice is oxytocin, “a brain peptide known to promote positive intersocial relations” previously relegated to intimate relationships, but, based on new research by Dr. Gert-Jan Pepping, a researcher at the Center for Human Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, one that seems to play a significant role in team sports.

“In any social setting that requires some form of social interaction, be it cooperation, trust or competition, we require social information to guide our behavior and a nervous system and associated brain chemicals that are sensitive to this social information.”

While the good doctor is focused on athletic teams what hit me was the applicability to the teams found in businesses of all kinds and at all levels.

Think about it, people tend to separate the personal and professional with language, but call them what you will all human contact revolves around relationships

We’ve all seen or heard about brilliant managers who created teams that went above and beyond and in doing so creamed their competition.

Looking at the companies and teams of managers known for the passion they instill (think Steve Jobs), the high productivity, creativity, drive and fanatical loyalty, both to the company and each other, can you doubt the presence of high levels of oxytocin?

The good news is that oxytocin production is catching, so by being a good boss you can increase the feelings and reactions that produce oxytocin—even among the more lackadaisical members of your team.

“Even when you don’t much like sports, watching others high-five and leap about the living room after their favored team scores will lead “your body to release oxytocin.”

Cheering your team on, recognizing efforts, celebrating accomplishments, both large and small, and other similar actions creates an environment conducive to the production of oxytocin.

But be warned; your people aren’t stupid and will know if you’re faking, so be sure both your attitude and actions are authentic.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Ducks in a Row: Nucor’s Sustained Culture

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Nucor has always played a prominent role when I cite companies where culture has been the major driver of its success and CEO Dan DiMicco is the poster boy for what a CEO should be/do.

Since 2000 DiMicco increased sales fivefold and gave shareholders a 464% return, but keeping and developing the culture put in place by Ken Iverson is his greatest claim to fame as well as the basis for Nucor’s phenomenal success.

Nucor is living proof of a mantra in which I totally believe, i.e., people are intelligent, motivated and honestly want their company to succeed, and that, given the opportunity, all employees, no matter their level or education, will use their brains and skills to make success happen whether they are told to or not.

Read this short overview to really understand the difference between Nucor’s approach to things like pay for performance, empowerment and ‘ownership’ vs. the emptiness of those words at most companies.

DiMicco is moving up to Executive Chairman and President John Ferriola is being promoted to CEO, but don’t expect the culture to change any time soon.

The CEO-in-waiting, Ferriola, has said “I consider myself an apostle” for the gospel of Ken Iverson.

Flickr image credit: Nucor

GE and the Next Internet

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Are you, or someone you know, an expert in social computing or software development?

Do you want to put those skills to work in ways that change lives?

Do you crave the excitement of innovating, but not the environment of a startup or even a Google?

Think about the Internet as applied to the industrial world.

The concept of Internet-connected machines that collect data and communicate, often called the “Internet of Things,” has been around for years. Information technology companies, too, are pursuing this emerging field. I.B.M. has its “Smarter Planet” projects, while Cisco champions the “Internet of Everything.”

But it is General Electric that is really pushing the envelope in a new East Bay (extended Silicon Valley) software center where they have already hired 250 engineers in the last year and a half.

The company plans to increase that work force of computer scientists and software developers to 400, and to invest $1 billion in the center by 2015. The buildup is part of G.E’s big bet on what it calls the “industrial Internet,” bringing digital intelligence to the physical world of industry as never before.

GE believes it can leverage the breakthroughs across its product line, from jet engines to medical equipment.

GE is a much different, not to mention much smarter, company under Jeff Immelt than it was under Jack Welch.

Welch used financial engineering as GE’s engine for profit during his tenure all but abandoning and gutting the industrial R&D expertise that had sustained its profits for decades—short-term thinking vs. long-term.

Nor does GE doesn’t believe or expect to do it alone.

Now G.E. is trying to rally support for its vision from industry partners, academics, venture capitalists and start-ups. About 250 of them have been invited to a conference in San Francisco, sponsored by the company, on Thursday.

GE and its ilk are opening up new opportunities for those who love to innovate, but don’t love startups. (And that’s OK.)

And if you do have that entrepreneurial bent why not focus it on industrial or enterprise efforts, instead of yet another consumer boondoggle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In case you’re curious, I had a fabulous Thanksgiving and four wonderful days off (I could get used to that:) Better yet, I got everything on my to-do list done. Yea!

How was your holiday?

Flickr image credit: General Electric

Something to Think About

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/karola/3623768629/

As I said Sunday, I won’t be posting again until Monday. And to sweeten my time off my gym is closed until Monday (Now that’s something to be thankful for!).

I decided to share my first (2006) Thanksgiving post today, because I honestly believe it is one of the most important concepts I have to offer.

It’s mind food for you to consider and digest along with tomorrow’s feast and the leftovers during the weekend.

Don’t judge who you were and what you did in the past based on who you are and what you know now.

Everybody knows that hindsight’s 20/20, but that doesn’t stop people from laying a coulda/shoulda/woulda trip on themselves.

Each of us is composed of multiple, past “me’s,” each a different, stand-alone version from the current one.

When you look at past actions (Why did I…) you need to first ask yourself if you made the best decision/action possible based on the information you had at the time in conjunction with the person you were at that time.

If, in fact, you did, then the you you-are-now has no right to judge, i.e., beat up on, the previous you for that decision.

This doesn’t mean that you need to condone everything—today’s you may decide that in the future you should do more research or whatever—but it does preclude you from taking your former self to task.

****************************************

Thanksgiving is a time when we’re supposed to be thankful, but exactly what you give thanks for is a very private matter—I have one friend who gives thanks for her family, another who gives thanks that her family is far, far away.

So, no matter your age, when giving thanks be sure to include all the past you’s, whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, since they got you where you are today and their very existence guarantees that there will be many more in the future as you grow.

Have a wonderful holiday and I’ll see you all on Monday.

Flickr image credit: Karola Riegler

Ducks in a Row: Bureaucracy and Culture

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kittischoen/5767902764/Are you following events at the BBC?

If not you should be, especially if you ever doubted the power of culture and the destructive force of bureaucracy.

Ben Bradshaw, a former BBC correspondent and now a Labour member of Parliament, said the 2004 scandal, touched off by reporting about British intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, had created a system based on “fear and anxiety.” The BBC, he added, became “even more bureaucratic and had even more layers, which exacerbated the problem of buck passing and no one being able to take a decision.”

Of my many posts that delve into bureaucracy, I think the most important is Process vs. Bureaucracy—two things that are frequently confused.

As I say in that post, bureaucracy is “process calcified, convoluted, politically corrupted, or just plain unnecessary.”

All of which occurred at the BBC.

Or, as Tim Luckhurst, a journalism professor at the University of Kent who worked at the BBC for 10 years,

“They wanted systems that could take responsibility instead of people.”

But there are no systems, software or bureaucracy at any level that can take the place people skilled in handling wetware.

Nor is there any business, from Fortune 50 to micropreneur, or organization that can function without it.

So whether you manage yourself or a cast of thousands you need to embrace process and jettison bureaucracy.

Flickr image credit: Kitty Schweizer

Better than Money

Monday, November 19th, 2012

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1095615From two different authors.

“I haven’t worked this hard in years and have never felt so valued”a former colleague who had changed jobs

“To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money.”Professor Norihiro Sadato, the study lead and professor at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan

Taken together they should drive home the value of telling your people outright how much you value them or how good something they did was,

I’m not talking about compliments for compliments sake—those are hollow and only extend the bad habits learned in school, such as when kids are complimented just for showing up on time.

I’m also not referring to ‘stars’; those almost mythical employees who some managers seem to value more highly than their entire team. (Guess which is more easily replaced the one star or the entire team.)

I do mean the heartfelt appreciation for a task well done or for being a good team member.

So in the stress and pressure of achieving deadlines don’t lose site of the two most successful motivation and retention factors yet found:

  • the chance to make a difference; and
  • being appreciated.

And just think—they don’t cost a dime.

Flickr image credit: dinny

Quotable Quotes: Thanksgiving 2012

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tostie14/66655595/Thanksgiving posts are early this year because I’m planning to take the holiday off—all four days. I can’t wait. It’s not that I’m going anywhere, actually I plan to spend those four days doing stuff that I’ve put off for months and in a few cases years. If I manage to stay on plan I will really have something to celebrate come November 26.

Today’s quotes fall in two categories; the first is dedicated to those who serve on Wall Street and kindred souls who frequently forget what they have in their effort to have more; the second is just plain fun.

Just so there’s no mistake, I’m referring to the group what fits Horace’s comment, “Only a stomach that rarely feels hungry scorns common things.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon outlined the attitude perfectly when he said, “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

Robert Flatt seconds that in his comment, “Thanksgiving like contentment is a learned attribute. The person who hasn’t learned to be content…lives with the delusion he deserves more or something better.”

Forward these quotes to anyone you know heading down that path; I doubt they will recognize themselves, but one can always hope.

Now for some fun.

Erma Bombeck provides the real reason for the name ‘Thanksgiving’ (I always wondered, but never knew for sure.) “What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?”

If you remember your school lessons they always show Indians bringing food to the first Thanksgiving, but Dylan Brody’s insight shows why it’s a good idea to listen to your elders, “You know that just before that first Thanksgiving dinner there was one wise, old Native American woman saying, “Don’t feed them. If you feed them, they’ll never leave.”

And Irv Kupcine reminds us of the true nature of the-glass-is-half-full people, “An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.”

And on that note I’ll leave with a Thanksgiving rhyme from our old friend Anonymous,

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
and your pies take the prize,
and may your Thanksgiving dinner
stay off your thighs!

Flickr image credit: Kevin Tostado

Expand Your Mind: Try Jookin

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

I call Saturday Expand Your Mind and I try and provide links to articles and information of which you may be unaware or that gives you a different view of something you already know.

Along the way I learn a lot—both new stuff and new ways of looking at old stuff—just like you.

What I want to share today has nothing to do with business or anything about which I usually write.

But it blew my mind and I thought it was likely to have a similar effect on you.

A little background.

Street dancing, for lack of a better term, fascinates me. The athleticism is amazing and the skill required is obvious.

As with any art form, innovation has moved it in new directions, with multiple offshoots.

My knowledge is miniscule, so I read with great interest an article on a form called “jookin” and its stellar practitioner, Lil Buck.

In the last few years Memphis jookin has acquired international celebrity, principally because of the exceptional young performer Lil Buck (real name, Charles Riley). An extraordinary YouTube clip of Lil Buck dancing “The Swan” to the cello playing of Yo-Yo Ma in April 2011 caused a sensation.

Of course I watched the clip and that’s what blew my mind.

What do you think?

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho; YouTube credit: OpeningCeremonyNY’s

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