Sunday Oct 26, 2008

Leadership Today

Really good conversation about leadership from Charlie Rose at the Harvard Business School with John Doerr, Jeffrey Immelt, James Wolfensohn, Meg Whitman, Anand Mahindra. My favorite bits come around the 31 minute mark when they start focusing more about the economic shift to Asia and the keys to leadership. Some of the concepts they talked about include:

    \* Spend what you earn. That doesn`t sound so anymore, eh?
    \* Educate people for a global world. The U.S. is still focused on the West.
    \* Don`t forget the liberal arts. Think.
    \* Ask people to help. People want to gather together, be involved, volunteer, help. Ask them.
    \* Build the following: a sound financial system, an energy policy, a health care system.
    \* Be accountable for results.
    \* Balance right brain and left brain thinking.
    \* Encourage a culture of acknowledging mistakes.
    \* Knowing is not nearly as important as learning.
    \* Expect unpredictability.
    \* Be willing to make decisions and stand by them.
    \* Communication.
    \* Transparency.
    \* Ideas are good, but execution is absolutely everything.
    \* Teams win.
    \* Character. You know it when you see it.

I`m extremely suspect of so-called experts and big names predicting the future nowadays, but this panel was a nice mix of sobering realism and inspiration with very little preaching. Just some people talking. Well worth a listen.

Monday Aug 04, 2008

Ignoring China

Silicon Valley: If we ignore China, will it go away: "From Hong Kong to Singapore to Tokyo to Beijing and Sydney, they get it. But here in the Valley, there’s push back to the idea that China poses a threat to the Valley’s continued tech dominance. It took me a while to realize why. The Valley really is threatened and, rather than confront the challenge, prefers to remain in a state of denial. It’s easier in the short term. The questions I’m asked here in the Valley mostly center on Chinese government politics, Internet censorship, counterfeiting, and pollution. Sure, these are big issues, but there’s very little curiosity about what new technologies are being developed in China. It’s just a given that there really aren’t any, so why bother asking?" -- Rebecca A. Fannin, VentureBeat

Should be an interesting decade, eh? Not asking questions is a fascinating position to take in any situation. Looks like an interesting new book. Will check it out.

Monday Jul 28, 2008

Japanese or Chinese?

Ok, what language is more difficult to learn for western adults -- Japanese or Chinese? The consensus seems to be that Japanese grammar is more difficult than Chinese grammar, but Chinese pronunciation is more difficult than Japanese pronunciation. I would agree. Now, can you imagine a language that combines the most difficult aspects of Japanese and Chinese and includes the complexity of their character-based writing systems? I still think telepathy is the way to go.

Sunday Jun 08, 2008

Koreans Going After English

Some South Korean parents are so motivated to get their kids into English classes that they are willing to split up their families to do it -- For English Studies, Koreans Say Goodbye to Dad. That's just very sad. The Korean government has stated that it will start addressing the problem by hiring more English teachers. I also didn't know that there are now more than 103,000 South Korean students in the United States -- the highest population of foreign students in the country.

Monday May 12, 2008

Japan Inside China

Very interesting. A little Japanese inside China -- [i18n-discuss] Solaris Teacher Training and Sun University Tour- Dalian. Next time I visit China, I have to spend some time in Dalian to explore this China-Japan connection. I first read about this in a Tom Friedman column, but it's not talked about that much here in Japan. Gotta check it out.

Sunday May 11, 2008

Avoiding Competition

You catch that Fortune article -- You have 7 years to learn Mandarin -- about China surpassing the United States economically in seven years? Whether it's seven years or fifty doesn't really matter, I suppose, since people will be arguing about how to measure this for a while. And the measurements themselves are changing, it seems. How convenient. Whatever. I think it's cool either way because it offers new opportunities, and that´s what I´m after. In fact, aside from the word freedom, I can´t think of another word that describes Americans better than the word opportunity. Can you?

But Fortune seems defensive. We are supposed to "worry" about this, and we are told that American individuals "can avoid competition with Chinese workers by doing place-based work, which ranges in value from highly skilled (emergency-room surgery) to menial (pouring concrete). But the many people who do information-based work, which is most subject to competition, will have to get dramatically better to be worth what they cost. For government leaders: Improve U.S. education above all."

The first part of that paragraph is ridiculous. You can't "avoid competition" in a global economy, and I´m not "worrying" at all. Why not embrace the change as an opportunity? In fact, wouldn't be cool to live in China for a bit to check all this out first hand? Wouldn´t it be cool to learn some Chinese and interact with Chinese from their perspective for a while? I don´t see very many people in the US thinking this way about the rise of China (and India, for that matter, and some other emerging markets around the world, too). In fact, Sin-Yaw Wang has it right when he comments about the Fortune piece: "The new generation of business leaders, now in their 20s or 40s, must learn to do business in China and with Chinese. 7 years is not that long to master a language, especially when one is not even trying." I agree. And I´m reading this view (the not trying bit) over and over again. It´s defensive. Oh, well. I suppose that´s an opportunity for those who see it differently, right?

Thursday May 01, 2008

Crazy English in China

Fascinating piece about this guy Li Yang teaching "Crazy English" to huge crowds of people in China. His technique is rather unique, but I can see how it may have significant benefits for anyone learning another language as an adult. The larger language issue in China, though, is illustrated by this utterly amazing quote from the article: "Linguists estimate the number of Chinese now studying or speaking English at between two hundred million and three hundred and fifty million, a figure that’s on the order of the population of the United States." Just think about that. Just think about how that changes things in the future with language barriers beginning to melt away and what means for global communications and global economics. Also, Ampontan has a detailed analysis of the article that's well worth reading and adds some interesting context from Japan.

Friday Apr 18, 2008

40,000 OpenSolaris Starter Kits

Derek Cicero just announced that the current OpenSolaris Starter Kit is being discontinued so we can  re-work things a bit and come out with a new one. This is good. During the last 14 months, the OpenSolaris engineering team shipped 40,000 kits to community members around the world -- many of who live in rapidly emerging markets in Asia and Eastern Europe. The program was remarkably successful, especially since it was a first effort for us. Huge congrats to the Starter Kit Project on opensolaris.org.

Friday Feb 01, 2008

Solaris Leading in Japan

"Our focus on Solaris 10 is really paying off big time. If we look at the number of downloads, it's very impressive. We see one of the highest downloads of Solaris in the world, in terms of geography, from Japan." -- Denis Heraud, President, Asia Pacific, quoted in the Singapore Business Times, Jan 31st, 2008 (sorry, no link, it's paid). "The fact that Sun has been engaging on the open source approach to the market is really putting Sun in a strong position. I think that the success we have worldwide and in APJ [Asia Pacific, Japan] is very much linked with this adoption of Solaris 10."

Cool.

Sun Growing in Asia

Sun Micro's Asia brightens amid U.S. gloom: Sun is growing -- and hiring -- in rapidly expanding markets in Asia.

Tuesday Jan 29, 2008

China and Korea Coming to Japan

Chinese flock to Japan in tourism boom: "The number of Chinese visitors to Japan exceeded the number of Americans for the first time in 2007, data published on Monday showed, highlighting a boom in regional tourism fuelled by Asia’s growing wealth ...  South Koreans remained the most numerous visitors at 2.6m, up 22 per cent from 2006, followed by Taiwanese at 1.39m. Mainland Chinese were third, followed by visitors from the US, Hong Kong and Australia." -- Financial Times

Cool. The more diversity here the better.

Tuesday Jan 08, 2008

Torvalds on Democracy and Culture

Interesting interview between Jim Zemlin and Linus Torvalds. Two issues jumped out at me -- democracy and culture.

Torvalds on Democracy:

\*\*\*
Jim Zemlin: Let’s look a level deeper at the social interaction because open source is often described as this sort of democratizing process that, you know, everyone has a say, there’s this grand consensus, but at the end of the day, needs to be some sort of decisiveness when it comes to making decisions. How do you deal with that?

Linus Torvalds: Well, I mean, it’s really not a democracy at all and some people call it a meritocracy which is not necessarily correct either. It’s – I have a policy that he who does the code gets to decide, which basically boils down to there’s a – it’s very easy to complain and talk about issues and it’s also easy for me to say, ‘You should solve it this way.’

But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is actual code and the technology itself and the people who are not willing to step up and write that code, they can comment on it and they can say it should be done this way or that way or they won’t, but in the end their voice doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is code.
\*\*\*

I agree. But I'd just add that "code" to me means anything that you actually produce. It could be a document. A piece of artwork. A spec. Some code. A building. Whatever. Those who "do" always distinguish themselves from those who talk. To me that's the essence of a meritocracy.

Torvalds on Culture:

\*\*\*
So, the language barriers tend to be a huge problem for – well, actually, maybe more even the different cultural issues that – with Asian countries they have good penetration; some of them have huge penetration of Internet use, they have a obviously great education and they do not end up contributing a lot to open source, not the kernel, not to generally other projects either.

And that seems to be at least partly cultural and it’s really hard, then, for some of these people who have cultural barriers and a language barrier to then become actively involved. It does happen, but it certainly explains a lot of the reasons why Western Europe and the U.S. are the biggest development areas.
\*\*\*

This one's tougher. Although I agree that there are big language and culture issues in some Asian countries, at least in China I see these melting fast. It could be a very different open source world in a few years.

There are many other really interesting bits in the interview. Take a look. And a listen. Linus Torvalds - Part I | Linus Torvalds - Part II

Monday Jan 07, 2008

Japan and Friedman`s Globalization 3.0

After thinking more about this conversation on globalization, I re-read Tom Friedman`s The World is Flat over the winter break. The book is out in paperback, of course, and Friedman calls this updated and expanded version "3.0" in the introduction. It`s about 650 pages, but it`s a really quick read. Especially the second time around. Friedman tells lots of excellent stories that take you right along on his own personal journey around the world. There is a lot of talk of China and India, of course, but Japan comes up from time to time, too. And that`s what hit me this time around. Japan.

Some brief background first. Friedman breaks down the history of globalization into to three gigantic meta categories -- countries, companies, and individuals. Basically, globalization 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. And we are just now entering 3.0, the era of individual globalization, where everyone who has access to technology (that`s Friedman`s "flat-world platform") has to compete with everyone else in the world who has access to technology. Now, it took 500 years of globalization to get here, but that`s where we find ourselves now. And I think the key point to the book is that globalization 3.0 is very, very different from globalization 1.0 and 2.0 because 3.0 is based on, in part, the individual. That`s where Japan comes on.

Although Japan comes up from time to time while Friedman discusses globalization 2.0, I could find very few (if any, actually) references to Japan and globalization 3.0. Friedman goes to great lengths to talk about how individuals can compete in the new flat world, but that discussion seemed to be focused primarily on the United States and Western Europe and the emerging markets in Eastern Europe, India, and China. That`s when it hit me that Japan seems vulnerable under Friedman`s theory since Japan is not based on the concept of the "individual" at all and it`s certainly not an emerging market. It`s all about "groups" here, and individuality is somewhat rare among the average Japanese -- certainly among the millions of workers that make up corporate Japan in and around Tokyo. I didn`t think about this when I read the book the first time since I hadn`t lived in Japan yet. It`s obvious now, though.

So, can Japan, which is famous for its vertically integrated corporations (the exact opposite from Friedman`s open and horizontally flat world), compete in globalization 3.0? How would "groups" of people even recognize this as a problem? And how would these groups of people transform Japan`s various corporate global supply chains into an economy that recognizes individual global competition? This is not as great a problem for the west since most western cultures are based much more on the concept of individuality -- especially the United States. Friedman hints at this cultural issue when he quotes various Chinese leaders who recognize this very problem in China. China (and Korea, for that matter) shares with Japan some of these East Asian characteristics of groups. But China seems to be changing specifically to compete on all levels -- country, company, and individual. That third part is most fascinating here in East Asia. Will China pull it off? Will Japan recognize the issue and engage down at that level?

Some Friedman flat world videos here at MIT and here on Charlie Rose and here at the NYT.

Friday Dec 28, 2007

Stiglitz and Friedman on Globalization

Here's an interesting conversation between Thomas Friedman, Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times, and Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, discussing globalization -- Transcript: A TimesSelect/TimesTalks Event on Globalization. It's from April of 2006, but it hardly feels dated at all. The entire word is discussed, of course, and it's fascinating. But I think India and China probably grab the lion's share of air time.

At one point in the conversation, Friedman talks about getting three things right -- education, infrastructure, governance -- in the context of how some countries are modernization and globalizing more effectively than others. From Friedman:

"China and India, China in particular, actually increased the pace of its reform in a lot of those areas. So Mexico went from being right on our border to a thousand miles away, and China went from being thousands of miles away in some ways to right on our border. But -- And I’ll just finish this one point because this is important. People have to make choices. Governments have to make choices. Priorities. Look at India. Today they’re about, I think, 70,000-80,000 Indian foreign students in the United States. There are roughly a similar amount from China. I think there are about 10,000 from Mexico. Those are also choices societies are making in terms of how to get educated, what language to learn and how to become a competitor and a collaborator on this platform. So you have to -- Development is a choice. It’s not some inevitable thing. You have to choose to bring your infrastructure, your education and your governance to the level where you can access this whole new technology platform."

They are obviously talking about why Mexico has not fully realized the benefits articulated by proponents of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). And although that issue is certainly complex, what shoots out at me is actually a country not mentioned in this 15,000 word conversation: Japan. Why is Japan not mentioned in the context of globalization? I think it has a lot to do with the quote I cite from Friedman: choices. Both government and individual. Now, many would argue that what India and China are experiencing is simply the result of their economies rapidly growing due to modernization and that Japan is already a mature market. Heck, many at Sun make that argument to me when I bring this up. Sorry. I don't buy it. That's only a small part of the issue. The biggest part is attitude. China and India want to globalize. You can read it in their political rhetorical can you can hear it and see it where you go there. Japan, on the other hand, shows little interest in globalizing compared to some of its biggest neighbors in Asia. Also, the "mature market" bit falls apart when you look at the United States the last two decades. To say that mature markets can't grow and change and continually modernize is just wrong. It's all comes down to attitude. Well, ok, it's more complex that than, of course, but that's where it starts.

Anyway, check out Stiglitz and Friedman. Very interesting stuff. Extremely complex, though. Can you predict where things will go? I can't. It's very cool working at a global company right at the foot of two massively emerging markets, though. There is such huge potential throughout all of the Asia Pacific region. 

Monday Dec 17, 2007

Bangalore, Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai

I've been thinking a lot about the four cities I visited in the last couple of months for Sun Tech Days China and FOSS.IN -- Bangalore, Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai. There are many differences, of course, since these cities live in two vastly different countries here in Asia. But there are also some key items that are identical. The OpenSolaris communities in those cities are young and active and reaching out to the rest of the world, and their perspective is overwhelmingly positive. And the same can be said for the Sun engineering teams participating in community building activities there. Such a breath of fresh air. And such a privilege to be working with these guys.

Sunday Dec 16, 2007

China and India

"I don't think Americans have any idea about the scale of the shift going on in China and India." -- Robyn Meredith, author of The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China, and What It Means for All of Us. Interesting discussion about globalization, democracy, communism, capitalism, developing markets, and politics. 

Tuesday Oct 09, 2007

China's Global Growth

China Begins to Fulfill Its Potential for Big Profits: "This year, China for the first time will contribute more to global economic growth than any other country, including the U.S., according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund. With its economy expanding at a rate of more than 11% this year, China is on track to surpass Germany as the world's third-largest national economy by dollar value, although its annual output is still less than one-quarter of the U.S.'s at market exchange rates." -- Andrew Batson and Jason Dean, Wall Street Journal

The article mentions Caterpillar, Sun, Intel, and others as they all rapidly invest to expand in China.

Tuesday Oct 02, 2007

Project Blackbox Coming to Tokyo

Project Blackbox is coming to Tokyo November 12-14 at Tokyo Prince Hotel. I'll be there with my camera. Here is some press about the Project Blackbox Asia tour: Sun Project Blackbox debuts in Asia.

Friday Sep 28, 2007

Open Source for Better Security

Quote: Asia finds security in open source: "Better security protection tops the list of buying criteria for open source software, reveals a new study conducted on Australia, China, India and Korea." -- ZDNet Asia

This is really excellent. I remember when the anti open source forces were trying to convince everyone that proprietary software was more secure. The message failed. Times change.

Wednesday Sep 19, 2007

Sun Flying in China

Sun Aims to Double Sales in China: "China is a market of huge importance to us strategically," said Don Grantham, Sun's executive vice president of global sales and services. "The plan here is to grow our business very, very significantly." -- Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

It's great to see Sun aggressively moving into emerging markets around the world, especially right here in Asia where I live, and especially because I'm trying to focus on Asia for the future. Also, I think China (and India as well) will help reform the Japanese market since competition is good.
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