The 2009 List

It's that time of year again. And what a long, strange trip of a year it's been. Some thoughts from 2009:

Work moment.Trip to India in April, at the tail end of a tour that took me to Mexico City, Johannesburg, Mumbai and Bangalore. While meeting with the technical managers in the Bangalore office, someone mentioned that "innovation is a bad word now." The ensuing discussion - of how innovation is not a substitute for direction, leadership and strategy, nor is innovation in the form of disruption necessarily a strategy in itself - was frank and bi-directional. The "new isn't better unless it informs strategy" maxim shaped much of my thinking around cloud computing as the year progressed.

Family moment. There were more than a few this year: watching the Devils implode in the strangest playoff game I've ever seen, with my son there for mutual comfort; getting to see Renaissance in concert for the first time ever, and seeing Yes for the umpteenth time; spending a long weekend in Atlantic City with my wife, daughter and sister, and laughing until we were exhausted every day; watching my son play football for the first time, and seeing him earn a varsity letter in hockey, the first in our family since my sister lettered in x-country letter 25 years ago; going to a Yankees playoff game with my daughter, sitting closer to the airplanes departing LaGuardia than the field, but loving every second of it. Tops, though, was an afternoon and evening spent slicing, dicing and eating and our way through the Chef Allen's reality cooking experience, as my wife and I celebrated our anniversary by working for our dinner.

Nerd toy. Tie between the old school and new school. Old school: drum set, purchased from a work friend and representing one of the biggest challenges to my marriage in more than two decades. Not a good thing to have down the hall from your home office when you're doing a podcast. New school: USB 8-track Alessi mixing console, prompting the completion of the basement "Studio Zero".

T-shirt. Jeph Jacques "Bear Monster" shirt, followed closely by his "Robot Family Tree" shirt. Bear Monster has become my preferred travel t-shirt. Also found out that I'm not the only one who thinks it's important to travel comfy: Cory Doctorow told me he can't understand why anyone who would thousands of dollars for a business class airline ticket, fly in a suit, only to arrive looking rumpled and uncomfortable.

Reading. Finished Neal Stephenson's Anathem to start the year, and it was one of the best books I've read in ages. Worked my way through his Baroque Cycle, all 2,700 or so pages of it, and it was enjoyable but egregiously long. When the stock market was close to its bottom, and New York City was easy to nagivate due to reduced commuter traffic, Cory Doctorow slipped me an advanced reader copy of Makers and it reset a lot of my expectations around work, value, and doing what you love.

Email. None of mine, and not really an email (again). Our daughter got a message that opened with "Congratulations" and was from her first-choice university.

Thoughts for 2010: Striving for "balance" between all parts of my life and those of my family members. Laughing as hard as I did over the July 4th weekend. Spending time on micro-sized projects, whether it's helping the band with their website or getting a friend's consulting business represented in a blog, or investing in economic bootstrapping through kiva.org. Finishing up Professional WordPress and trying hard to write a little bit, each day, along with exercise, eating fruits, spicy sauce, and vegetables daily, and cheering for the home team. A decade ago, we felt that bubble-induced sense of everything being directionally wonderful, and yet almost everything went pear-shaped from our sense of security to the economy to our trust in government institutions. Ten years after, when at times it feels like many things are going wrong, it's time for Randy Pausch's head fake, realizing that we have the means to drive the course correction we want.

Comments:

A 2010 book recommendation for you: "The Strangest Man" by Graham Farmelo (biography of Nobel physicist P. A. M. Dirac). Includes coverage of his various times at Princeton's IAS, alongside Einstein, too.

Posted by Peter Schow on January 04, 2010 at 11:36 AM EST #

'...in the Bangalore office, someone mentioned that "innovation is a bad word now." The ensuing discussion - of how innovation is not a substitute for direction, leadership and strategy, nor is innovation in the form of disruption necessarily a strategy in itself - was frank and bi-directional...'

Indeed! Innovation cannot thrive in a vacuum and can be a different kind of innovator's dilemna. I used to work in SUN's Bangalore office till mid-2008 and created the BeleniX livecd via which I brought not one but several innovations onto the table - many sleepless nights of love's labor. All of that, BeleniX in it's entirety, went on to become what is the SUN OpenSolaris distro today. However I was left nowhere at square 0 - no rewards or recognition, no mention of BeleniX anywhere, no career growth etc. etc. in-spite of my innovations fundamentally driving a flagship product. Finally I had to jump ship.

This was a result of many things, but most notably being a lacuna from management, no leadership, no coordination and so on. In fact the happenings can become a case-study in how in some cases impactful innovations can move so ahead that they leave the innovator in the dust! Strategy, direction, leadership and other infrastructure need to be present to nurture innovations And the innovators.

Posted by Moinak Ghosh on January 05, 2010 at 04:12 AM EST #

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