Thursday Jul 09, 2009

Sleep on it

I work late. It's perfectly normal for me to be on the phone with people in the U.S. and the U.K. till 4 a.m. multiple nights a week. Sometimes I go to 5 a.m. if I can`t get to sleep, which is rather inconvenient if you have things to do the next day like other meetings or just life stuff. It`s insane, I know, but it`s my reality for the time being. It will change in due time. Anyway, the longer I do this the more I notice some trends. Some bad, some good. Here`s an interesting one that keeps popping up:

Going to sleep immediately after managing or participating in active, intense, and stressful meetings (I call them "hot" meetings) or after dealing with fast breaking issues can lead to some really hairy nightmares. Keep in mind that 9 a.m. in San Francisco is 1 a.m. in Tokyo the next day, so as the Americans are gearing up for action your body in Asia is supposed to be winding down. Over time, this is a jarring experience. Generally, most normal people don't crash immediately after these hot meetings. They drive home. They go for a run. They take a swim. They eat dinner. They play with the kids. They walk in the park. They catch a baseball game. Watch a little TV. They unwind a bit before bed. Whatever. They don't just go from work to bed in 1 minute (and, no, checking our email at nite while watching Leno is not work, sorry).

But what's interesting about this is that when you get through the initial nightmares and get into normal sleep you wake up with a fresh set of ideas about how to solve the problems that buried you in the meeting before you went to sleep -- which was just a few hours earlier! I've never had this experience before, but he pattern is clear. My subconscious mind seems to be working out the details of the problems while it serves up a steady flow if dragons and murders and other such bloody and graphic fun. And when I get up, I have multiple new ideas for dealing with stuff. I now keep a notebook close by so I can jot down whatever comes out immediately upon waking. Those first few moments are critical, though. Once conscious thinking starts, all is lost and you are simply up.

Friday May 15, 2009

Tokyo Beers for Books 051409

I went out to the Tokyo Beers for Books event the other night at Genius Tokyo in Ginza to see John Wood, Founder of Room To Read and author of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. Fun nite. Great cause. Special thanks to Gary Bremermann for organizing the event with several hundred of his closest friends.

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Tokyo Beers for Books 051409

Thursday Feb 19, 2009

All Day, All Night

I'm looking forward to taking tomorrow off and not working on Sunday. On Saturday, I'll be at the Tokyo Open Source Conference for half a day or so, but that's not work. That will be fun. I'll take pictures.

These past two weeks have been brutal. Multiple events late at night all over Tokyo followed by meetings with the guys in California right up till 4:30 a.m. on far too many occasions. And then up early many mornings as well. If you haven't worked internationally with direct ties to a country piles of hours away, this experience is difficult to describe. It's sort of like having a constant jet lag and never being able to work on your local time zone even though that's where you live (or you think you live). You know, you don't fly for many months, and then you take an 18 hour flight (in 3rd class, of course) to someplace far away. How do you feel when you arrive? Jet lag. Now, do that every single week for three years in environment where communication is challenging at best. It's not exactly like traveling frequently, which is easier in some respects and harder in others, but the jet lag feeling is identical. You get used to it to a certain degree, but every now and then you cross way over the line. The last two weeks have been like that.

Someone once told me that I should "go right to sleep" after my last call. But that's not realistic. It takes time to wind down. I mean, how many times do you go home after work and then just jump into bed and fall asleep? You don't. When I finish a 2:30 a.m call or a 4:30 a.m. call İ'm all wound up and pacing all over the place. Heck, some of these calls are pretty stressful in that you have to brief large numbers of people (you're not just listening quietly in bed, in other words), and you have to be on your toes. Literally. Then, after a call, since everyone's around, you may grab someone for a quick one-on-one via phone to follow up. Engaging in real time is critically important, I can't stress that enough. But before you know it, the sun is rising and the birds are singing and all that crap. It's enough to drive you insane. I'm figuring out little tricks to work around this, and I'm developing some skills that will come in extremely handy some day. Oh, well. We all have challenges, right?

But what's cool on this schedule is that I can take out the garbage way before anyone else (even breaking the rules and no one notices!). And in Japan, that's cool because there are all sorts of interesting rules involving garbage.

Sunday Jul 27, 2008

The "Last Lecture" Lives Forever

Professor Randy Pausch died a couple of days ago from pancreatic cancer. If you are feeling depressed about life, just click on some of these links below and spend a couple of hours looking into this wonderful person. You may cry but, you'll not be depressed anymore.
Thanks to Randy's Last Lecture, millions of people may find it a little easier to live in the moment, a little easier to be inspired, a little easier to dream and take a risk.

Monday Jun 23, 2008

Working from Home (or anywhere)

I've been thinking about giving up my office and engaging Sun's work from home program. I've always supported the notion of working from home -- or wherever you need to work from given the circumstances of your projects and your geography. Place shouldn't matter. Results should matter. Being tied to an office as the only place of work is outdated at best. But I also value the concept of everyone getting together in the same space at times because I believe that face-to-face contact is essential to getting quality work done over the long term. Local teams can get together weekly in the office for meetings and white board sessions, and distributed teams can get together quarterly or bi-annually. And in between team meetings, various members can be interacting at conferences or user groups. In other words, there needs to be a balance of face-to-face and digital-phone relationships. Everyone has a different opinion about what the mix should be, but pretty much everyone who values innovation believes that a variety of work experiences is necessary and the key to that is flexibility.

But many times working from home doesn't fit for some people. They miss the office interactions that proximity enables. And that's real. I have certainly experienced that there is great benefit to being close to others and close the action if an organization is centralized. The "bump-into" factor can be a significant cultural bit on some teams, and that puts remote employees at a tremendous disadvantage. However, I have an interesting twist to this. I live in Japan. Just outside Tokyo. And I go to the office every day, yet 99% of my activities are global. I actually do very little work in Japan with the Sun Japanese team for the Japanese market on the Japanese time zone. The cultural and language barriers are gigantic for a solo American to focus on the Japanese market, and also I'm the only Westerner as far as the eye can see around here at Sun. As a result, I'm actually working more and more on a US schedule so I can connect to my core team in California. So, that means I work most nights and early mornings to get the guys in the US and Europe on the phone live. I find that real time communications -- phone and email -- is the most effective way to compensate for the distance and time problem I live with every day. When you are responding to things 10 hours later than everyone else it's just too late. Over time, the conversation simply moves on without you and you are slowly forgotten. I can give many examples of this. It's real. To compensate, you over work so you are on the same time zones as whoever you are working with 10,000 miles away. That's not a good long term strategy because over time you simply die.

So, real time interaction with a distributed team is absolutely critical if you have no local team that forms the base of your job. That's the key. Now, most Asia Pacific Sun employees eventually cross over and interact with the US and/or Europe at odd times of the day for meetings and such, but for me working at odd hours is quite literally my entire job. And it's exhausting. It does wonders for the family life, too. Not to mention the early death part. So, that's why I'm thinking about doing the work-from-home program. The team I work for is spread out in six cities on three continents. For me, I come to the office to get in to Tokyo, but it's not really necessary, and at this point I'd argue it's wasteful. At the very least I can save the commute time (45 mins each way standing on painfully packed trains). I can walk my daughter to kindergarten and back 10x during that commute time to get to an office where I have no real day-to-day interaction with anyone there. Or I can sleep, too. An extra hour and a half of sleep would come in handy -- especially on my 22 hour days. Perhaps by working from home I can get more of my main tasks done, and then when there are occasional opportunities for Japan-specific projects I can take better advantage of them. We'll see. I'm just thinking about it. Two things are clear, though: I have little time or patience for inefficiency anymore, and no one in my position does what I do. They are all global employees working from home.

I'm off to Prague tomorrow ...

Sunday May 11, 2008

Immigration a Key to Innovation

Great article in Newsweek from Fareed Zakaria -- The Rise of the Rest -- about how large chunks of the world are dramatically improving and growing significantly in an era of ever reducing violence. Finally. A positive view of globalization, and one distinctly lacking all the fear about the US falling to second class (or even third class) economic status (which is nothing more than propaganda). The gloom-and-doomers and isolationists in the US are an obviously and obnoxiously vocal minority, and they will miss this positive view because it's actually based on embracing the entire world with that nasty word -- immigration. Zakaria says that "the potential for a new burst of American productivity depends not on our education system or R&D spending, but on our immigration policies. If these people are allowed and encouraged to stay, then innovation will happen here. If they leave, they'll take it with them." 

Wednesday Apr 23, 2008

Tuesday

Tuesday is a long day for me. No getting around that. I get up at 5:30 in the morning to get ready for the OGB call at 6. After that, who can go back to sleep, right? So, I then try to get as many people in California on the phone or email or IM or IRC as possible, so I can interact with them in real time. That's critical. The time window is closing fast, so I generally work as rapidly as possible in the early mornings. Then it's breakfast with my wife with the computer on and perilously close to my kid's morning juice. This is Japan. The kitchen table is small. But so far it's been ok. The wet sneezes with bits of cereal flying around are pretty easy to clean up. No full juice disasters. Yet. Then it's off to the train station around 10 am to the office in Tokyo while the Americans all leave the office for dinner and sleep and whatever. While at the office, I have a meeting or two every now and then during the day, but for the most part I do very little work in Japan for Japan, so as a result, I have the entire day all to myself to just pound on the computer. Sometimes I'll get the guys in China and India for some stuff, but many times it's 8 hours of silence. I'm not kidding. The office here is dead quiet. It's corporate Japan. Shhhh. I do hear keyboards clicking, though, and these guys are communicating in ways I don't see, obviously, being the only American for miles around. Anyway, I can get a lot done during these times, and I've become unbelievably efficient and organized because of this, and I have zero patience for anyone who wastes my time. I've been known to walk out of meetings (or hang up if the meeting is with another region somewhere else) if the meeting is only a chit-chat session. Then I split around 6 or so to take a swim in the cleanest damn pool on earth and get home before the trains are so packed that I suffocate on the way or amuse myself by counting the ear hairs of the guy standing next to me. He's inches away, of course, yet he never notices me. I seem to be the only one on these trains who notices anyone else. No one just looks around. Odd. Anyway, once home, I play with the kid. Eat. Whatever. But as the evening rolls on, I start to peek at the clock and figure out who in Europe I need to get since that's their mid-day and, more importantly, who in the US is just waking up to start their next day (which is still my same day). This can get confusing any time during the week, but on Tuesdays it goes straight into the Twilight Zone. On Tuesdays, I have a 10 pm meeting with some guys in the UK who have just returned from their lunch on the same day, and then again at 1:30 am my next morning with the Americans who just finished their breakfast from the previous day. Meanwhile, my dinner from many hours ago has already digested, and I'm getting hungry again and my family is long asleep. And it's dark outside. After my 1:30-2:30 am call, I generally need to get someone back on the phone for a quick check on something, and I immediately conclude that -- ouch! -- everyone's up over there and there's a lot going on, so I quickly see if I can do some stuff while they are all in one place. When 3:30 am rolls around I've pretty much had it. Bed. 22 hours. That's Tuesday.

Sunday Apr 13, 2008

Mega Regions

Unlike emerging economies within specific nations -- such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- there is another way to look at the global economy, which is via something called the mega-region. That´s the real driving force of the global economy, according to Richard Florida in Wall Street Journal -- The Rise of the Mega-Region.

Florida says that "
[t]he world's largest mega is Greater Tokyo, with 55 million people and $2.5 trillion in economic activity. Next is the 500-mile Boston-Washington corridor, with some 54 million people and $2.2 trillion in output. Also in the top 10 are mega-regions that run from Chicago to Pittsburgh, Atlanta to Charlotte, Miami to Tampa, and L.A. to San Diego. Outside of the U.S., you can find megas around Amsterdam, London, Osaka and Nagoya, Milan, Rome and Turin, and Frankfurt and Stuttgart."

He also says that
"China is not our real competitor. Rather, we should be thinking about the great mega-regions around Shanghai, Beijing and the Hong Kong-Shenzhen corridor, which account for roughly 43% of the output of the entire country."

Interesting perspective. Florida recommends a few ways of dealing with the megas, but the one I found most engaging was the promotion of density to increase innovation and production. So much for suburbanization, I guess. I´m not sure how this works with the Internet, though. The Internet enables massive distribution (or decentralization, I guess) of talent, innovation, and, in many cases, production. Does that support or undermine this mega density perspective? Perhaps both.

Tuesday Sep 18, 2007

American Productivity

Report: U.S. Workers Are Most Productive: "Only part of the U.S. productivity growth, which has outpaced that of many other developed economies, can be explained by the longer hours Americans are putting in, the ILO said. The U.S., according to the report, also beats all 27 nations in the European Union, Japan and Switzerland in the amount of wealth created per hour of work -- a second key measure of productivity." -- AP

Cool. I'm not at all surprised by this. Here's the original study from the International Labour Office. I'll have to read it in detail. I'm sure there are many interesting bits in there.

Saturday Sep 15, 2007

Telework

The quiet revolution: telecommuting: "Telecommuting will become a mainstay in Corporate America but that doesn't mean everyone will be working at home all the time, a prediction made by many workforce observers just a decade ago. The U.S. worker will be a mélange of office inhabitant and work-anywhere warrior." -- MSNBC

It seems that the US is far ahead of the rest of the world in this issue. It's great to see. The article also talks about Sun's Open Work program.

Tuesday Sep 04, 2007

Trust

At I.B.M., a Vacation Anytime, or Maybe None: "For the past few years, employees at all levels have made informal arrangements with their direct supervisors, guided mainly by their ability to get their work done on time." -- New York Times

There are other companies cited in the article doing interesting things in HR as well. Sun in the U.S. does a very good job on this issue, too. It all comes down to trust and treating people like adults. But the article also cites the influence of "peer pressure" at work. Pressure -- both good and bad -- among peers probably influences your productivity as much as any corporate policy directed down from the top. So we can't always blame the company if we are treating each other like children. Fortunately, there are usually more than enough really excellent role models to hang out with so the anti-bodies aren't so bad.

Saturday Sep 01, 2007

A Steve Ballmer Job Interview

How To Make A Microserf Smile: "Ballmer decided he needed a new human resources chief, someone to help improve the mood. Rather than promoting an HR professional or looking outside, he turned to perhaps the most unlikely candidate on his staff, a veteran product manager named Lisa Brummel. When Ballmer floated the HR job in April, 2005, Brummel said: No way. But Ballmer wasn't about to take no for an answer. Picking up a traveling golf putter, the Microsoft chief started taking it apart as he barreled around Brummel's office, hammering home why she was the perfect candidate. As an outsider unsullied by HR dogma, he said, she'd bring a fresh approach. Besides, Ballmer argued, Brummel was hugely popular and had the people skills to get the job done. The two went back and forth, with Ballmer slapping Brummel's whiteboard for emphasis and Brummel parrying with: 'But I love doing products.' After more than two hours, Ballmer ended the meeting. By then the putter was in pieces. 'Sorry about the golf club,' he said. Brummel was deeply conflicted ...."

Deeply conflicted? I'll bet. My goodness. I'm just trying to imagine McNealy or Schwartz whipping into my office and breaking my golf club on my white board. I'd be deeply conflicted, too. Never happen, I know. You'd never find a golf club in my office. Or a CEO, actually. But these Microsoft slice-of-life stories never cease to amaze me. What's a "traveling golf putter" anyway?

Tuesday Aug 07, 2007

Berkun's Myths

Here's Scott Berkun talking about The Myths of Innovation at Google's campus in Silicon Valley recently. Really cool stories about innovators and their innovations and some of the things people have done throughout the ages to attempt to quantify innovation. I especially liked the opening history and also when Scott picked apart the word "innovation" itself. Seems innovation means many things to many people. I agree. There are certainly more practical ways to determine the success of an idea than just slapping the work "innovative" on it and sending it out the door. Just an aside: the word "community" is starting to feel like its falling into the innovation trap as well -- it's tossed around so often now that no one knows what it really means anymore. Anyway, Scott's talk is well worth the hour so do take a peek. I'll be getting this book for sure.

Monday Feb 19, 2007

A way of Thinking

Another interesting article on Toyota -- From 0 to 60 to World Domination. This is a really long piece, over 8,000 words, but it's really nicely done.

Toyota employees think long term. They invest heavily in R&D -- much more than their competitors. Goals of quality and efficiency pervade the organization in engineering and marketing and manufacturing and pretty much everywhere else. Serving customers and building great products while not simultaneously hurting the environment (or at least not making it any worse) don't seem contradictory to these guys. They skip the utterly obscene executive pay packages common in the U.S. Unions are not present, nor are the American-style health care costs. They value evolution, not revolution. They prefer long-lasting and well-researched yet flexible strategies over short term sprints based on fads or whims. Their engineers very clearly lead and do significant -- at times obsessive -- field research first hand behind the wheel all over the world. Marketing is both traditional and grass roots and apparently quite simple and effective. They learn from their mistakes. They are remarkably open about their processes, but they also keep secret some of their innovations just as any smart company would. They are a culture built on top of Japanese culture, for sure, but they are by no means exclusively Japanese. They evolved based on the personal experiences of a unique group of people who dealt with the challenges of a country destroyed by war in a particularly innovative way. They are not perfect and don't lead in every market, but they are certainly on a roll in the biggest market and are delivering one body blow after another to the U.S. auto industry. Very interesting story.

There are a lot of great quotes in this article, but this one just jumps off the page:

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Toyota spends $20 million a day ... on research and factories. "They are outspending G.M. in R.&D., product development and capital spending," says Sean McAlinden, an economist at the Center for Automotive Research, a not-for-profit consulting firm in Ann Arbor. "If that trend continues, we're dead. The problem is, suppose we made a car" as good as a Toyota. "Then we only have a car as good as they do. It's not just about catching up, or getting into the game. You’ve got to get ahead somehow. But how?"
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So, even though the Toyota Production System is open, and even though this article makes it clear that Toyota "has never really caught the Big Three by surprise," people are still asking "how" they do it. Fascinating. Just having access to an open process will only take you so far, I guess.

Further down in the article you'll find the bit that helps explain why so many miss this point:

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Management theorists who study Toyota's production system tend to say that it is difficult to replicate, insofar as the company's methods are not simply a series of techniques but a way of thinking about teamwork, products and efficiency.
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A way of thinking. That's tough to copy. Even Toyota formally teaches the system to employees now since the company is growing so rapidly outside Japan, and they are concerned about quality in some markets. I'd like to take that class, actually. Wouldn't you?

Friday Feb 16, 2007

Always On

Seems people with all these mobile devices are working longer and longer -- Survey: Blackberry owners chained to work. Well, if that makes them happy, more power to them. Not me, though. I already work too many hours and need to cut back. At times, I can do this pretty well, but occasionally I fall back into my pattern. I'm still interested in working more efficiently and with a higher degree of focus than I am in doing more things in even more hours. I actually want to do less. Much less. Longer and harder and "always on" have only negative connotations to me at this point. Now, having full mobility while you are working a project is beneficial in many ways, but if that means you never stop working then that's a problem.

From the article: "Contrary to shiny happy ads suggesting we do more in less time, in fact, there is evidence to suggest that we simply do more, more of the time," analysts Kaan Yigit and David Ackerman said.

That's been my experience, too.

Thursday Feb 08, 2007

No More Paper

Some interesting quotes from Arthur Sulzberger at the New York Times -- NY Times publisher: Our goal is to manage the transition from print to internet.

On dumping paper: "I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either," he says. Well, that's cool. No more ink on paper. I go out of my way to not buy ink and paper if at all possible and have done so for years now. It's simply too wasteful. What the world doesn't need is more garbage blowing around in the streets.

On Bloggers: "We are curators, curators of news. People don't click onto the New York Times to read blogs. They want reliable news that they can trust," he says. Well, that's certainly true. I do want some news when I go to the NYT (and I go there often). But I'd like to read blogs from your reporters as well, and I could care less what your editorial board says. Reporters out in the field are the ones I want to hear from, not the guys in the top floor. The reporters have opinions, though, and I don't believe for a minute that news stories are not affected by those opinions. There's nothing wrong with that, per say, but I'd just like it acknowledged so I know what the perspective is, that's all. I've never read an objective piece of writing from any human being in my life, by the way, but there's nothing wrong with that because people are not objective. Arthur then goes on to say: "Once upon a time, people had to read the paper to find out what was going on in theater. Today there are hundreds of forums and sites with that information," he says. "But the paper can integrate material from bloggers and external writers. We need to be part of that community and to have dialogue with the online world." Cool. Nice to see the Times advance online.

Tuesday Feb 06, 2007

Vladimir Putin Comments on Microsoft

This story is getting even better. Erik points me to the next round -- Microsoft declines to intercede in software piracy case. And there is more on Techmeme. Now, having the former leader of the Soviet Union comment is one thing, but I didn't know that the current leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has also chimed in. My goodness.

From the International Herald Tribune:

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Monday's request for Gates's involvement by Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union, followed condemnation of the prosecution by Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, last week in response to the first question at his annual news conference.

"To grab someone for buying a computer somewhere and start threatening him with prison is complete nonsense, simply ridiculous," Putin said. "The law recognizes the concept of someone who purchased the product in good faith."

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Great quote. This probably wouldn't be an issue with OpenSolaris or Linux. Just a hunch.

Mikhail Gorbachev to Bill Gates

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is asking Microsoft's Bill Gates to lighten up on a teacher in Russia -- Gorbachev to Gates: Show mercy on software "pirate".

From the article:

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In an open letter, Nobel Peace Prize winner Gorbachev said the teacher, Alexander Ponosov, from a remote village in the Urals, should be shown mercy because he did not know he was committing a crime.

"A teacher, who has dedicated his life to the education of children and who receives a modest salary that does not bear comparison with the salaries of even regular staff in your company, is threatened with detention in Siberian prison camps," read the letter, posted on the Internet site of Gorbachev's charitable foundation www.gorby.ru.

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A Siberian prison camp? For probably using some outdated Microsoft software to help kids get computer literate? My goodness. Talk about overkill. Teachers have it tough enough, so I do hope Billionaire Bill and the Russian authorities back off. I can think of a few things in the world that are a tad more important than this, couldn't you? You know, guys, there is plenty of free and open source software around now that can be used without getting you tossed in a prison camp.

Sunday Dec 24, 2006

Goodbye U.S. Innovation?

The NY Times asks a good question in Goodbye, Production (and Maybe Innovation) -- "Can invention and design be separated from production?" The question is being asked because some people are getting seriously worried that the United States is not making anything anymore. From the article:

Import penetration, as it is called, worried economists and policymakers when it first became noticeable 20 years ago. Many considered factory production a crucial component of the nation’s wealth and power. As imports gained ground, however, that view changed; the experts shifted the emphasis from production to design and innovation. Let others produce what Americans think up.Or as Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, put it: "We want people who can design iPods, not make them."

But over the long run, can invention and design be separated from production? That question is rarely asked today. The debate instead centers on the loss of well-paying factory jobs and on the swelling trade deficit in manufactured goods. When the linkage does come up, the answer is surprisingly affirmative: Yes, invention and production are intertwined.

"Most innovation does not come from some disembodied laboratory," said Stephen S. Cohen, co-director of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy at the University of California, Berkeley. “In order to innovate in what you make, you have to be pretty good at making it -- and we are losing that ability."

So, what do you think ... can you separate invention from design and production?

Absolutely, I believe you can. You don't necessarily have to make everything you invent (although I think the U.S. has gone too far in intentionally gutting its manufacturing base). But the mistake is not thinking that you can't separate these things, but believing that some things are innovative and some are not. In other words, the belief that design is innovative and production is not, that the special people -- the smart ones -- design things and the regular people make them, is wrong. Builders are just as innovative as designers and inventors. Don't think so? Ask the entire American auto industry. And a few other industries along the way (if you can find them). This knee-jerk "let-others-produce-what-Americans-think-up" mentality may lead to short term profits in some cases, but it has also increased the number of foreign disruptive innovators undermining the very industries doing the outsourcing. Wild. If that's not karma, I don't know what is. I'm not saying that all outsourcing is evil. I'm simply saying that what you outsource can potentially be just as innovative to your future competitors as what you choose to keep. Thinking otherwise is foolish.

Saturday Dec 23, 2006

The Toyota Way and Open Source

More news of Toyota taking out GM -- Toyota’s Sales Projections Show It Surpassing G.M. And more analysts are pointing to the famous "Toyota Way" business processes the company uses as the critical factor. From the Times article:

Toyota’s rise would also prove a victory of sorts for its unique corporate culture, the so-called Toyota Way, which is rooted in an obsession with craftsmanship and constant improvement, or "kaizen." Analysts said the Toyota Way would likely become enshrined as the industry’s gold standard, and the model to mimic or surpass for new challengers from South Korea and China.

"Enshrined as the industry’s gold standard, and the model to mimic," eh? That sounds like open source coming to the auto industry. After all, Toyota's processes are open, aren't they? But the notion of simply mimicking someone else's processes sounds trivial. The implementation is just as important as the source or specification of any business process. And that's much more difficult to mimic because what makes an implementation special is buried deep within the culture of every person doing the implementing. It's not necessarily secret, but it's oftentimes incomprehensible.

Tuesday Nov 28, 2006

Europe and Globalization

Fascinating to see Europe take to globalization even more than the United States and Japan -- Europe Surpasses U.S., Japan in Reaping Gains From World Trade. Some really surprising quotes in this article, too.

Sunday Nov 26, 2006

A Clear Mind

I love this quote from Sin-Yaw Wang -- "Meditation first clears your mind. It then allows you to think on one subject, or to plan on one project. With a clear mind, you don't need to write your thoughts down. You remember them." Very nice. I'm just trying to imagine life without a to-do list. Wonderful.

Monday Oct 23, 2006

Dawkins and God

Is it just me or does Richard Dawkins sound just exactly like what he criticizes?

Saturday Oct 14, 2006

English in India

Here's a fascinating interview about the economic rise of India over the last 30 years -- India and the State of the IT Industry. I love the "snake charmer" story, but what I found most interesting was how S. Ramadorai feels that English in India is a critical component for the knowledge economy there -- enabling better communication with the West and also providing a convenient competitive advantage with respect to China, where English is not as pervasive.

Tuesday Oct 10, 2006

Going Anaerobic

Here is some interesting biology of unconventional competition from David Berlind in his piece covering a presentation from Gartner analysts Ray Valdes and Neil McDonald -- Gartner: Embrace user rebellion or risk the wrath of it:

In the tech industry, unconventional competition could easily arise should organizations chose not to embrace certain communities of users. In particular, Valdes cited the days of Netscape vs. Microsoft when executives for the latter were infamously quoted as saying that they wanted to "suck the oxygen out of the system." Said Valdes, "When you try to cut off the air supply like that, what happens is anaerobic bacteria arise they're the kind that don't need that sustance. Unconventional competitors will arise that don't need oxygen." Netscape was a more traditional company. It had stock holders. It had employees. It had constituencies that it had to serve. It needed oxygen. The same cannot be said of the open source solutions like Firefox that are now challenging Microsoft on a variety of fronts. It raises a good question. With Internet Explorer usage starting to erode, might Microsoft be in different place had it worked harder to embrace the communities of people who went anaerobic?

I just love the image of a community going anaerobic on a company filled with aerobic employees having no idea what's going on because they feel they are not part of the community. The community is something out there, and we are all safe in here. But it doesn't work that way these days. And it's sort of a nice leveling factor, don't you think? The solution, of course, is really quite simple -- let go. Ok, implementing that letting go is somewhat more difficult, but it's necessary from time to time as history demonstrates. I now understand why many people miss these rapid market shifts, though. They have accumulated so much power from their old system that letting go represents losing. So, it's taken away from them anyway. Wild. Not true in all cases, of course, but true enough in many cases. Personally, I love the process. I can think of nothing so liberating. In this world, anyway.

Monday Sep 18, 2006

Competition for Wikipedia

Some buzz out there on The Citizendium Project, which means potentially some competition for Wikipedia. The community model planned for Citizendium will be different from what Wikipedia uses, so it will be really interesting to see how it goes. I don't think anyone has implemented the definitive community model for the generation of content, so new attempts should be welcomed, right?

Wednesday Sep 13, 2006

The Innovators and The Competent

I agree with Nicholas Carr here when he says, "One of the dangers of placing too much emphasis on innovation, I suggest, is that a company can end up devaluing the work of the 'merely competent.' In fact, having highly competent employees is usually every bit as important to a business's success as having highly creative ones." That's good to hear. With all the attention on super smart innovation, it's nice to see that us mere mortals are necessary too. And working within an open community environment like Sun offers us regulars the opportunity to innovate in small -- but important -- ways. And that's what I'm trying to take advantage of. Improving consistently in small ways. Whether that's innovation or not I don't care. It's improvement and that's what counts. And that's what's encouraged.

Friday Sep 08, 2006

Get Special -- FAST

Nice quote from Dr. Marty Nemko in a podcast interview with Dr. Moira Gunn on one of the keys to elongating your career in today's market of rapid change:

You need to become a serial specialist. Today's specialist in technology is going to be obsolete in three to five years. So you have to learn the art of  becoming a specialist again and again and again. Yes, you're right, even if you can write well and speak well and work well on teams, that isn't going to be enough. But I think choosing your one little narrow area of specialty isn't going to be enough either. You have to use resources to get special fast.

This one principle is both terrifying and thrilling. Yes, you will eventually be disrupted in your career by some guy coming along, no question. And those disruptions are occurring faster and faster and coming from multiple directions. But that doesn't mean you can't re-tool and do some disrupting yourself. In other words, things change so rapidly now that there is more opportunity to cycle back around and carve out something new. No one has a lock on power or status or title for very long anymore.

Thursday Sep 07, 2006

Scale China Style

It's really tough to imagine growth rates on a scale that China is going through and driving -- China to lead the broadband world:

The number of broadband subscribers in China is growing at a staggering 79 per cent annually, and will reach 79 million in 2007, consulting firm Ovum predicted in research released today.

Recent estimates from Leichtman Research suggest that the number of broadband connections in the US, currently the world's largest market, is around 51 million.

This is why it's great to be in Asia. I'm living in a large and mature and sophisticated Japanese market, while at the same time in close proximity to massively growing markets such as China. My kid is going to have such a different life growing up than I had. Actually, I'm going to have a different life than I had, too. Somehow I think it's going to be easier on her, though. :)

Sunday Sep 03, 2006

India

Here's a giant article on India's economic growth -- The Next Industrial Giant Is ... India? Fascinating to see the competition between India and China in this article and the very real distinctions between their economic systems. I'm looking forward to spending a great deal of time in both countries in the coming years.
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