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Archive for August, 2016

URGENT: In Case You aren’t Aware…

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Goggle may be phishing paradise

A security researcher found a problem in Google’s own login page that could allow a hacker to easily steal people’s passwords — and the company apparently isn’t too worried about fixing it.

Whereas Apple fixed an iOS security flaw in hours

Security firm Lookout announced on Thursday that it discovered a major security flaw that exploits iOS and can give a third party complete control over your iPhone.

But 86% of users haven’t applied the patch.

If you are one of them fix it at Settings > General > Software Update.

Innovation in the US vs. China

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Local Roots

Food has become a major focus of innovation around the world.

Researchers, private, academic and public, are looking for better ways to feed a hungry planet.

Not just feed them, but feed them healthy food — sustainable, healthy food.

Local Roots is a startup that grows 65,000 pounds of lettuce a year in three small shipping containers inside their LA warehouse. Energy is the only large suck and the company is exploring green energy options, such as solar.

The startup uses vertical hydroponic farming, a method where plants grow year-round with LEDs rather than natural sunlight.  Instead of soil, the seeds lie on trays with nutrient-rich water, stacked from the floor to the ceilings inside the shipping containers. (…)  Each 320-square-foot shipping container produces the same amount of plants as four acres of traditional farmland — using 97% less water on average.

I’m a salad freak and that lettuce looks great.

In 1984 I spent 2 weeks traveling around China (yes, the Great Wall and Forbidden City are incredible, but the Terracotta Army was mind-boggling) and the food was out of this world — not at fancy restaurants, but at everyday places.

However, if I ever go back I think I’ll skip the salad.

Image credit: Local Roots
YouTube: Healthy Secret Worlds

Ducks in a Row: Agility and You

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mbp_/2098427009/

I am not a lover of trendy terms, no matter how hilarious Dilbert makes them, and I’ve found they turn off a lot of people — from workers to bosses.

One of the newest to hit the trendy list is “agile” in all its various forms.

What became trendy agile was born 15 years ago.

The term originated in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development in 2001. It was a specific approach in a specific sector, but soon its core principles – moving quickly to build a minimum viable product, using iterative development to improve it on the go, with testing and feedback built in at every stage rather than just at the end.

Just how ubiquitous has agile become? It was used by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon last fall in a memo to employees to describe the future (and justify layoffs).

“Our customers are changing. Retail is changing and we must change,” McMillon wrote in the memo obtained by The Associated Press. “We need to become a more agile company that can easily adapt to shifting customer demand.”

Many companies talk about becoming agile and a large number of them think a quick and easy means to that end is to lay off the older and bring in the younger.

They couldn’t me more wrong. It’s not age that makes one agile, Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff isn’t young, it’s MAP.

Your MAP is responsible for how you lead, as well as the values that underpin your company’s culture.

If your MAP isn’t agile, or willing to change to become so, there is little hope that your company (or department or team) will be agile.

Hat tip to Wally Bock for pointing me to this article.

Flickr image credit: Martin Pool

Golden Oldies: Narcissism And Leadership

Monday, August 29th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I wrote this post back in 2009 and since then the number of narcissistic leaders in all walks has exploded. It’s literally a global epidemic, with tech leading (pun intended) the way, although the current crop of politicians is still out front. Read other Golden Oldies here.

narcissus“Leaders tend to be narcissistic, but you don’t have to be a narcissist to be a leader.” –Amy Brunell, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Newark campus.

“…narcissistic behavior is a “trait predicting charismatic leadership. People who are charismatic and charming… They think they’re entitled to it. They think they’re smarter than other people and they can get away with it.” –W. Keith Campbell, head of the psychology department at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Narcissism isn’t necessarily bad, but it is growing. When psychiatrists deemed it a bonafide personality disorder in the 1980’s it affected 1% of the population; in 2008 the number stood at around 6.2%.

Most politicians are narcissists, as are many media personalities (neither is surprising), but it seems that more and more business leaders fall in that category also.

There are 7 component traits that are measured.

  • Authority
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Superiority
  • Exhibitionism
  • Exploitativeness
  • Vanity
  • Entitlement

Although I have no proof, I bet that most, if not all, Wall Street honchos would score fairly high on these traits.

“A study published in December in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people who score high in these traits are more likely to be leaders, but these individuals don’t necessarily perform any better and potentially may become destructive leaders.”

So much for the much-ballyhooed ‘charismatic leader’.

Now let’s have some fun.

Go to Take the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and take the test.

Then come back and share your score and whether you believe it fits you.

My score was 11, but if I had taken it 30 years ago I think it would have been at least 5 points higher. (Age is either mellowing me or I’m more realistic:)

There are no right or wrong answers and even if you score off the narcissism charts that doesn’t mean you’re ‘bad’—as with any trait it is how you handle it in everyday life that matters.

If the Shoe Fits: Where’s the Money?

Friday, August 26th, 2016

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAs an entrepreneur, the constant stress around money in vs. money can at times be overwhelming and deeply emotional. Anxiety/angst/anguish/fear-and-loathing, and all synonyms thereof, best describe the feelings swirling in and around the entrepreneurial community these days when the subject of money, AKA funding, comes up — although not so much if you are one of the “chosen”, i.e. connected/entitled.

That said…

Bambi Roizen, Vator Founder and Managing Partner of Vator Investment Club, actually sees more money available. (Here is the video and full transcript of her talk at Splash one year ago. The quote is edited for clarity.)

There were about 20 post seed venture funds; now my friend Paul Martino counts probably 200 and there’re going to be a lot more funds. If you think that there’s going to be a crunch, don’t worry about it. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot more funds coming to fill that void. I think there’s going to be a lot more specialized funds. (…) I think that’s we’re actually going to see local funds. Local funds investing in local businesses.

Because remember, this is the opening up of title 3 to the average investor. (…) It’s so hard sometimes to look at companies, because they’re so good at telling stories these days. I knew that was going to happen — you’re such great storytellers, you have to be, because you have to sell your vision. But it makes it really hard for investors to know what to invest in, so they’re going to invest in everyone, right? Money is available.

I asked KG what he thought from his perch as a serial entrepreneur who has raised funds in very different economies and attitudes over the years.

 “What she says is interesting. However, what we’re seeing is the financialization of the startup/entrepreneurship industry, with the consequence that financial investors will get involved earlier, take larger stakes and leave less for the entrepreneur and the team. 

One could say that it is good that capital may become easier to access (if this is true), but the cost of that capital is also increasing since there are now two layers of return that has to be provided much earlier than before — that to the VC and also to the VC’s LPs. 

In other words, entrepreneurs are coming earlier into the VC model where only a few outsized returns matter and the majority of companies are pushed/allowed to fail.”

Many VCs treat startups the same way commercial agriculture treats seedlings — once they get to a certain size they are thinned in order to concentrate resources on fewer plants that will yield a larger harvest.

“This may actually be negative for a whole host of companies that have no way of maturing before being put under the pressure of the VC return machine.”

However, newly emergent investors may bring change to the game. Kobe Bryant and Jeff Stibel have invested together since 2013 and have started a new fund with their own money.

Dozens of other musicians, actors and athletes are investing directly or through funds they started or joined.

Hopefully, that money will be more patient and come with a different mindset than the typical Silicon Valley focus on the connected and entitled.

It would be good to see at least some of the new funding go to the unconnected — especially people of color.

But no matter how much money is out there, I’m willing to bet that will take a lot more than vision/great story/rapid user growth to access it.

These days investors want a solid business plan focused on generating revenue, and, in many cases, a strong spotlight on social responsibility/giving back.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: More About Naming

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

WhartonMy part of this post will be a brief, because I want to be sure you use the link I’m going to give you.

Have you ever noticed that when a subject, word or name comes up you suddenly start running into it from all sides.

Last week’s Entrepreneur post look at the challenge of naming a company or product and used CB Insights as a kind of case study.

Today I read an article from Knowledge @ Wharton (it’s worth subscribing) called How (Not) to Name a Company in the Digital Era.

“Name selection is more important now than ever before,” says Alexandra Watkins, founder of brand consulting agency Eat My Words. “Your name has to work harder than it did 20 years ago.”

Driving the charge are shifts in technology and consumer habits. The ubiquitous presence of internet domain names and web addresses, or URLs, social media and the prevalent use of smartphones and tablets with their smaller screens call for new rules on how a company, product or service should select its name, marketing experts say.

I thought it was very good and sent it to several serial entrepreneurs who have been through the naming fire multiple times.

They also thought it was excellent and said to share it.

So I am.

Now click the link.

Image credit:  Wharton

Fun and Games with NSA

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

https://www.nsa.gov/news-features/puzzles-activities/puzzle-periodical/2016/puzzle-periodical-05.shtml

The Federal government is definitely out of favor, whether for doing too little or too much depends on your MAP (it never does enough for us and does too much for them).

In no part of the government is this more obvious than NSA; the poster child of dislike, distrust and disdain.

But those feelings should hold only for the leadership, not the techies who staff the place.

NSA hires a lot of techies and techies are techies the world over. One of the things they all have in common is that they love puzzles, especially math and logic puzzles—not just to work them, but to create them.

“Intelligence. It’s the ability to think abstractly. Challenge the unknown. Solve the impossible. NSA employees work on some of the world’s most demanding and exhilarating high-tech engineering challenges. Applying complex algorithms and expressing difficult cryptographic problems in terms of mathematics is part of the work NSA employees do every day.”

So if you love puzzles click the link above and try your skills. Here’s a sample from a software developer.

Four friends, Holly, Belle, Carol, and Nick, gather for May birthdays. Holly announces that she has a game before dinner. She hid gifts for each of her friends inside three separate boxes secured with padlocks. She challenges her friends to figure out the combination without consulting each other.

She provides the following information. All the padlocks have the same combination. The padlocks use 3 digits from 0 to 9. She also tells them that the sum of the three digits is equal to nine, and every digit is equal to or greater than the previous digit. Holly tells each of her friends one of the digits in the combination. She states, “I’ve given the first digit to Belle, the second digit to Carol, and the third digit to Nick.” The caveat is that the friends cannot share their numbers with each other or they will forfeit the gifts.

Then Holly gives her friends 30 minutes to open the padlocks while she watches and finishes dinner.

The three friends begin to think of the solution. One by one, they each try their hand at their padlock, but none of them opens the padlock. Seeing that no one has succeeded, suddenly Carol realizes she knows the answer, and successfully opens her box, revealing a new fitness tracker. Following this, Nick opens his padlock, revealing a new tablet; and Belle opens her box to find new pair of headphones.

Having watched this entire event unfold, can you determine the correct combination?

Hint: Belle knows her digit is a 1.

Click and scroll down for the solution.

Have fun, everybody.

Image credit: NSA

Ducks in a Row: Make a Difference — in the US

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bonniesducks/4395202521

Is making a difference important to you?

It should be, since most workers are happier and more productive in companies that give back.

That holds true no matter the age of the worker or the size of the company.

Companies, departments, teams or individuals can choose to make a difference.

Some go far afield and seek to mitigate the problems and tragedies of less fortunate countries.

Others focus on local problems, which makes sense since companies are usually urban.

That said, you don’t have to go overseas to third-world countries to find third-world problems to solve.

Tech could start less than 200 miles from San Francisco in Fresno, CA.

While Facebook wanted to wire India, it isn’t interested in doing the same in the US.

Though Central Valley harvests most of the country’s crops, tech workers often forget their neighboring region exists. In the Bay Area map according to Urban Dictionary, the Central Valley is jokingly referred to as “unknown parts.”

And consider this.

According to a recent Pew survey, approximately five million students still lack access to high-speed Internet. Experts have taken to calling it the “homework gap.”

Or turn your gaze to the other coast and some of the most beautiful countryside in America — Appalachia — home to some of the most grinding poverty and third-world living conditions to be found in the US.

And while you’re gazing, check out what’s being done to change that.

Crunching all the data imaginable won’t always yield a solution, since anomalies do happen (for an in-depth understanding of that read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, still brilliant/viable after 60+ years).

Back when I lived in San Francisco, it was often termed “49 square miles surrounded by reality.”

That’s expanded to 7,000 square miles (contained in the nine-county Bay Area) surrounded by the reality of places like Fresno.

Tech needs to understand that technology in and of itself is not a solution.

Tech is digital, while the world and the humans who inhabit it are, and always will be, analog.

So while technology itself isn’t a solution, the ways it can be applied may be.

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

One more request.

School is starting soon and most kids are shopping, whether at Nordstrom or Walmart, while thousands of foster kids are facing school without even a backpack.

There are dozens of ways you can help them.

Skip a few Starbucks or Peets visits, choose a charity, check it out and donate the coffee money you saved.

Flickr image credit: Duck Lover

Golden Oldies: Are You a Messy Desk or Clean Desk Person?

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has moved through life harassed and harangued by all the nice, helpful, neat and organized folks who honestly believe that I’d be better off if I would change my habits and be more like them. Happily for me they’ve had no effect; like the leopard, my desk is still messy, I still work out and still eat healthy. What about you? Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/denverjeffrey/1950409800/An article a few days ago made me a happy camper for three very different reasons. Here they are in the order of their importance to me.

Reason 1: It provided a scientifically acceptable reason for having a messy desk and gave me permission to quit trying to clean it up. This was especially nice, since ‘clear desk’ is a constant item on my to-do list.

Reason 2: The clinically tested reason for having a perennially messy desk is creativity. How cool is that?

Reason 3: I beat the pattern because I have creativity, yet I eat healthy and go to the gym daily (not on weekends).

Essentially, the study showed that “Those in messy spaces generated ideas that were significantly more creative, according to two independent judges,… people that are organized and predictable, typically eat better and live longer than people who are disorderly. They also tend to have immaculate offices.

Last year I found that I possessed three of the five parts of Innovator DNA, based on a Harvard definition, but, after a lifetime of trying, am totally incapable of the final two.

Dr. Kathleen D. Vohs, a behavioral scientist at the University of Minnesota and the leader of the study, seems to think that the only way a messy desk person could develop healthy habits is to clean up their desk.

“My advice would be, if you need to think outside the box” for a future project, says, then let the clutter rise and unfetter your imagination. But if your primary goal is to eat well or to go to the gym, pick up around your office first. By doing this, the naturally messy can acquire some of the discipline of the conscientious.

I’m willing to bet that Dr. Vohs is a clean desk person or she would understand that it’s not that simple.

But, as a messy desk person, I will tell you that you can build a healthy eating-gym attending persona without ever cleaning up your desk.

One caveat, in part of the study people were given a choice between chocolate and a healthy snack (carrot sticks?). The messy desk crowd took the chocolate, which meant a messy desk equals unhealthy choices.

However, based on a lifetime of experience with neat desk friends, all with lots of self-discipline, I think it just means they didn’t like chocolate.

Flickr image credit: Jeffrey Beall

Entrepreneurs: What’s in a Name?

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Over the years, founders have asked my for my opinion and ideas on naming their company and/or product.

They ask, but they rarely listen.

Especially if they already have an idea — which they are usually in love with.

They aren’t looking for ideas, let alone an opinion that differs from what  they already think.

They are looking for agreement and validation.

Of course, I’m not an expert and don’t present myself as such.

That said, common sense and past flubs say that product names need to be relevant — to the product, the market and especially to the target country/language/culture.

Additionally, they need to be easy to remember and spell — particularly “created” words.

Lean methodology recommends MVPs for market validation and the same should apply to naming.

Proof of the importance of listening to market input is demonstrated by CB Insights’ CEO/Co-Founder Anand Sanwal, who recently told the story not only of how the company got its name, but also its logo.

When we started the company, we called ourselves ChubbyBrain.  We were always focused on private company data but we were trying to be hip and startup’y (or that is what we’d like to believe)

Anand says their wake-up call came from a potential client.

We love the product and the data and what you guys are doing.  But we can’t buy a product called ChubbyBrain.

Wow. Talk about wake-up call; more like revelry played five inches from your ear.

You can see how the logo changed, too, from this

chubbybrain-logo-worst-logo-ever

To its current incarnation.

Amazing what you happens when you listen to the people who will actually pay you.

Image credit: CB Insights

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