Another Service in Googlespace

Google keeps on introducing micro-services. Here’s one I find very, very interesting: Blogger Web Comments for Firefox.
Despite the geek-inspired name of the service, it’s another brilliant move. Here’s how it works:
As you visit any given page in Firefox, a comment panel featuring blog posts linking to this page will appear on the bottom right of your browser. Clicking on any of the entries will open that blog post in a new tab. You can toggle between the compact and extended comment lists, or even hide the panel completely. To bring it back, just click the icon or the icon in the lower right corner of your browser and select “View comments.” When there are lots of comments, you can click on the “Show lots more…” link, which will open a new tab in your browser with all Google Blog Search results.
Pretty nifty, ha?
Of course, to add your own comments on the page you’re on, you’ll need to have a Blogger account.
What it does for Google is take it one giant step further into the social-networking-wisdom-of-crowds space. And they didn’t have to acquire anyone to do it.
Learn more about Google’s product development process >>

Abramoff, Business Ethics, and Peter Drucker on Decision-Making

Find me an honest politician, and I will spare this world. We looked everywhere, but could not find an honest politician.
I’m kidding here, but just barely.
“Abramoff is the central figure in what could become the biggest congressional corruption scandal in generations,” writes the Washington Post.
And today there’s another story: apparently “the U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group.”
And:
“Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman’s former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.).”
“The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay’s vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy.”
Everyone knows how corrupt politicians are. These days, it seems worse than ever.
But now we are looking at the Enronization of Business, all business.
If competitive advantage is gained through “bribes,” then why should business ever play straight?
Is corruption the core-competence of successful businesses? What happened to the rule of law?
From Exxon to Wal-mart, businesses have lost their way. In their hurry to boost shareholder value, they are destroying their brands and their future.
They are playing in Box 1 and ignoring Box 3.
So why is this happening? Why are so many smart businesses (and politicians) being so dumb?
The answer comes to us from the late Peter Drucker:
Drucker tells us this story about Alfred P. Sloan Jr. who is reported to have said at a meeting of one of the GM top committees, “Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here.” When everyone around the table nodded in assent, Sloan says: “Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”
Drucker’s point is that “unless one has considered alternatives, one has a closed mind.” Decision-making for Drucker is best only if based on the clash of conflicting views, the dialogue between different points of view, and the choice between different judgements.”
The first rule of decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement.
Alas, few business leaders or politicians tolerate dissent in their ranks. In fact, they work hard to eliminate nay-sayers.
And that is the root cause of all this corruption. Not money, but bad choices, bad decisions. OK- perhaps it is money after all.

Vijay Govindarajan on Strategy & Getting a Global Mindset

Where American education excels is in critical thinking, imagination, creativity and unstructured problem solving. People from India, and also China and Japan, have the basic skills drilled into them, “and when they acquire the knowledge taught at American business schools, the combination is dynamite.”
That’s Vijay Govindarajan (VG) explaining how East meets West and increasingly how West will have to meet the East.
Govindarajan has taught more than 3,000 students in his 20-year career at Tuck, and he has specific advice for the area’s high school students: “Learn languages, they open up your mind to different possibilities. Take courses in public speaking to build your level of confidence. Really focus on education, especially science, math and technology, and travel,” he said.
Is travel education? VG seems to think it is.
Read this article and listen to this audio interview on strategy.
Note his Box 1-2-3 freamework. According to VG, strategy is a competition for the future, not the present.
Box 1: Manage the Present
Box 2: Selectively Forget the Past
Box 3: Create the Future
Most companies are stuck in the present- Box 1. They spend their time in Box 1 and think they’re doing strategy.
It’s about continuous improvement (linear performance) vs. breakout performance (non-linear). Listen to his example about Hasbro- the family entertainment company. Who has time to play Monopoly for a half a day?
Again, listen to this interview. What happens when children go older younger– a non-linear shift in Hasbro’s market. By focusing on the tweens- learn how Hasbro creates a whole new business with Video Now… Box-3 thinking.
Roots and chains… Fertilize your roots, but break your chains.
Nice language from VG. But how do you re-invent Monopoly?
What about Kodak? VG tells us why Nokia and HP are the biggest player in digital cameras.
How can companies succeed in strategic innovation? See Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators: From Idea to Execution >>

How to Create Dysfunctional Teams

From The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:
Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust
Strategy for Overcoming:
• Identify and discuss individual strengths and weaknesses
• Spend considerable time in face-to-face meetings and working sessions
Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
Strategy for Overcoming:
• Acknowledge that conflict is required for productive meetings
• Understand individual team member’s natural conflict styles, and
establish common ground rules for engaging in conflict
Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
Strategy for Overcoming:
• Review commitments at the end of each meeting to ensure all team
members are aligned
• Adopt a “disagree and commit” mentality—make sure all team
members are committed regardless of initial disagreements
Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
Strategy for Overcoming:
• Explicitly communicate goals and standards of behavior
• Regularly discuss performance versus goals and standards
Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
Strategy for Overcoming:
• Keep the team focused on tangible group goals
• Reward individuals based on team goals and collective success
Makes sense, right? It’s not quite so simple.
A manager in a large Fortune 500 company once gave everyone on the team (yours truly included) a copy of “Who Moved My Gouda?” as a substitute for addressing the real issues affecting performance. Was I inspired or what?
Message to management: do not go out and buy copies of a book for your team and expect to solve anything.
I think the real key to teams working well is a sense of shared purpose. Of course, results matter… which is why we all need to study the secrets of successful strategy execution >>

Joe Vitale: How to Write a Press Release to Get Attention

Just before the last US presidential election, I asked Joe Vitale to write a product press release for one of my clients. The product was a political toy- a frisbee for dogs- one for Kerry-bashers, and one for Bush-bashers.
Here’s what he wrote:
Who Would Your Pet Vote For?
New Online Poll Lets Pets Decide Next US President
If you can’t decide who to vote for this November, there’s a better way to make a decision than flipping a coin: Let your pet decide.
“This race is going to the dogs anyway,” says the three mysterious men in Arizona who created the world’s first polling booth online for pets at http://www.xxxxxx.com
“We thought we would simplify the process by creating a poll where our pets can go vote,” they explain.
The creators also developed a way to determine if your pet is a Republican or Democrat. There are twenty categories of statements. For example:
If your pet likes to display affection in public, it may be a Democrat. If it doesn’t like to show affection, it may be a Republican.
If you pet sues incompetent vets, it may be a Democrat. If it always gets the best in vet care, it may be a Republican.
“We didn’t stop with just the poll,” says the creators. “If your pet wants to get out some aggression, it can get one of our chewable Frisbees and tear the heck out of it.”
It’s a cloth Frisbee with a caricature of either George Bush or John Kerry that has the international sign for “no” across the face. There’s a navy-blue border with stars, and a squeak toy inside.
“People may find it comforting to chew on one, too.”
Who will the pets decide should be our next President?
Watch for the results at http://www.xxxxxx.com
*** end ***

The results? In 48 hours we got 12 responses, 8 for national radio-talk shows. Part of it was the product, part of it was the “is your pet a Democrat or a Republican” angle I dreamed up, part of it was the distribution of the press release. But the most important part was the way in which Joe Vitale captured your attention with words. It was a press release that had to be read.
Copy is king. Hypnotic copy builds kingdoms.

Capturing Attention Data

When you pay attention to something (and when you ignore something), data is created. This “attention data” is a valuable resource that reflects your interests, your activities and your values, and it serves as a proxy for your attention.
I like the AttentionTrust.org model of rights:
Property
You own your attention and can store it wherever you wish. You have CONTROL.
Mobility
You can securely move your attention wherever you want whenever you want to. You have the ability to TRANSFER your attention.
Economy
You can pay attention to whomever you wish and receive value in return. Your attention has WORTH.
Transparency
You can see exactly how your attention is being used. You can DECIDE who you trust.
This is what Google should have done if they were serious about their vision: “Don’t Be Evil.”

SBA Incompetence

Doug Smith says: “Getting something — anything — wrong 85% of the time demands extreme “Brownie/FEMA” like incompetence — incompetence on a scale that, seriously, shreds the use of the word ‘administration’. ”
In this case, he’s talking about the Small Business Administration.
Apparently 85% of small businesses that got disaster recovery loans for 9/11 were not impacted by 9/11 in the first place.
Asks Smith: “Are you or anyone you know aware of any program or business or initiative that failed in its purpose and objectives 85% of the time?”
Read all about it >>

MBA Blowback? The Chinese B-School

B-School’s are booming in China, says BusinessWeek:
“For U.S. companies, the emergence of China’s new managerial class has positive and negative implications. For those seeking to penetrate China’s massive market of 1.3 billion people, the graduates of the nation’s new MBA programs will supply a steady stream of local talent with in-depth knowledge of China, something their Western managers can’t provide. But as Western management ideas take root in the nation’s corner offices, multinationals could find themselves confronting a newly powerful adversary: Chinese companies suddenly in possession of the management knowhow needed to go head to head with global giants. Those same ideas — about efficiency, productivity, profitability, and growth — hold vast potential to ignite China’s already blistering economy, raise living standards, and transform the nation from a low-cost manufacturing center to a make-or-break battleground for the global economy.”
Read the full article: China’s B-School Boom
Is this the MBA Blowback? Read JH3 and JSB’s paper on “Innovation Blowback” to see where I’m coming from.
By contrast, in a BW article earlier this year, here’s what they reported about US B-Schools:
“In 2005, just 19% of full-time programs in the U.S. reported an increase in application volume, down from 21% in 2004 and 84% in 2002, when applications reached an all-time high.”
The news for US B-schools just keeps getting worse. A study from the Graduate Management Admission Council shows applications to full-time U.S. MBA programs down for the third consecutive year.
A tale of two empires? One going up, one down? Or is the world just getting flatter?

BusinessWeek: Predictions for 2006

Here are a few things the staff of BusinessWeek and BusinessWeek Online think will happen next year — or at least could happen. See if you agree:
• The economy, which is expected to show 3.7% growth when the final numbers for 2005 are in, will continue to grow at around 3.3% through the end of 2006. The jobless rate should also edge down by yearend 2006 to 4.9% from 5% now.
• A year from now, the Dow Jones industrial average, now trading in the 10,800 range, will be around 11,500, as inflation remains in check, corporations keep spending on technology equipment and on mergers, and earnings rise at a slower but sustained pace. The wild cards: Higher energy price or a slumping housing market could make the markets volatile.
• The Federal Reserve will lift its target rate to 4.75% by spring, up from 4% now, but that will be it for rate tightening in 2006. The yield on a 10-year Treasury note will rise to 5%, from about 4.5% now, by yearend 2006.
• Oil prices, still in the $60-a-barrel range, will fall below $55 by yearend 2006.
• The housing bubble will develop a slow leak, but no pop. Mortgage interest rates will continue to slowly creep up, and some valuations in major cities will drop slightly (see BW, 12/26/05, “Where to Invest”).
• Germany will regain its status as Europe’s growth locomotive next year, chalking up a GDP rate of 2% or better, vs an expected 0.9% for 2005. Tops for 2005: Spain with 3.4%, followed by Britain (1.6%) and France (1.5%) (see BW Online, 12/28/05, “A Better Tomorrow for the EU”).
• China will revalue the yuan up by an additional 5%, after the modest 2.1% revaluation in July, in a gesture to appease U.S. trade hawks.
• India will move beyond outsourcing software and systems management into realms such as medical design.
• The New Rich of India and China will continue to develop a taste for building homes in “McMansion” styles reflecting their own distinctive national architectural tastes.
• Conservative Shinzo Abe will replace Junichiro Koizumi as Japan’s Prime Minister when Koizumi’s term as LDP President expires in September, 2006 (see BW Online, 9/14/05, “The Man to Watch in Japan”).
• In a gesture toward cultural modernization, recently crowned King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia will grant the Kingdom’s women the right to drive on Saudi highways.
• Surprise move by Apple (AAPL ) next year: Steve Jobs & Co. will introduce a computer that brings music, video, and games into a seamless digital entertainment unit for living rooms. It will prove to be a hit, but not quite another iPod (see BW Online, 12/29/05, “A Tough Act to Follow”).
• Surprise deal of 2006: Google will acquire Vonage (see BW Online, 12/28/05, “10 Deals the New Year Might Bring”).
• Faced with rapidly emerging economies in China, India, and Eastern Europe, America’s top B-schools will be forced to come up with ways to weave global issues into their traditional coursework. International studies will become mandatory at the best schools (see BW, 1/9/06, “China’s B-School Boom”).
• By the end of 2006, a full line of Jim Cramer toys and action figures will be available for sale on the Internet (see BW, 10/31/05, “The Mad Man Of Wall Street” ).
• The New England Patriots will shock the football world and win their third Super Bowl next month.
• The Anaheim Angels will win the 2006 World Series.
Let’s track these predictions, shall we?

Mars vs. Venus: How Men and Women Use the Internet

Here are some highlights from a new report from Pew Internet and American Life which shows how men’s and women’s use of the internet has changed over time.
The percentage of women using the internet still lags slightly behind the percentage of men. Women under 30 and black women outpace their male peers. However, older women trail dramatically behind older men.
Men are slightly more intense internet users than women. Men log on more often, spend more time online, and are more likely to be broadband users.
In most categories of internet activity, more men than women are participants, but women are catching up.
More than men, women are enthusiastic online communicators, and they use email in a more robust way. Women are more likely than men to use email to write to friends and family about a variety of topics: sharing news and worries, planning events, forwarding jokes and funny stories. Women are more likely to feel satisfied with the role email plays in their lives, especially when it comes to nurturing their relationships. And women include a wider range of topics and activities in their personal emails. Men use email more than women to communicate with various kinds of organizations.
More online men than women perform online transactions. Men and women are equally likely to use the internet to buy products and take part in online banking, but men are more likely to use the internet to pay bills, participate in auctions, trade stocks and bonds, and pay for digital content.
Men are more avid consumers than women of online information. Men look for information on a wider variety of topics and issues than women do.
Men are more likely than women to use the internet as a destination for recreation. Men are more likely to: gather material for their hobbies, read online for pleasure, take informal classes, participate in sports fantasy leagues, download music and videos, remix files, and listen to radio.
Men are more interested than women in technology, and they are also more tech savvy.
Still, the data shows that men and women are more similar than different in their online lives, starting with their common appreciation of the internet’s strongest suit: efficiency. Both men and women approach with gusto online transactions that simplify their lives by saving time on such mundane tasks as buying tickets or paying bills.
Men and women also value the internet for a second strength, as a gateway to limitless vaults of information. Men reach farther and wider for topics, from getting financial information to political news. Along the way, they work search engines more aggressively, using engines more often and with more confidence than women.
Women are more likely to see the vast array of online information as a “glut” and to penetrate deeper into areas where they have the greatest interest, including health and religion. Women tend to treat information gathering online as a more textured and interactive process – one that includes gathering and exchanging information through support groups and personal email exchanges.
Read the complete report here >>

The Pre-Blog Era: Looking Back on Online Communities

Back in 2001, the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported that:
“Some 84% of Internet users have at one time or another contacted an online group. Tens of millions of Americans have joined communities after discovering them online. And many are using the Internet to join and participate in longstanding, traditional groups such as professional and trade associations. Furthermore, many Americans are using the Internet to intensify their connection to their local community.”
That was before the blogosphere took off. I wonder what it’s like now? If anyone has some data on this, please share if possible!
Read the full report here >>

Santa Goes Online: Record Holiday Sales for Online Retailers

Several online merchants reported record sales during the holiday shopping season, including online retail giant Amazon.com, which said popular items were iPod music players, video games, coats and jewelry.
Amazon said it had its best holiday sales season ever, with more than 108 million items ordered. The busiest day for the world’s largest online store was Monday, Dec. 12, when more than 3.6 million items were ordered, or 41 items per second. The most expensive item purchased during the period was a pair of diamond earrings worth $94,000.
A study from Nielsen/NetRatings, Goldman Sachs and Harris Interactive found that between Oct. 29 and Dec. 16 holiday online retail spending reached $25 billion, a 25 percent increase from the same period last year. Shoppers spent the most on clothing, followed by computers and hardware, consumer electronics, books and toys, and video games, the study found.
Read all about it >>

William Dunk: Systems on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown

Says Dunk:
“The world of broken systems is also a world of broken communication where citizens will have to be ingenious beyond belief to fight entropy. Broken systems turn ordinary citizens into guerilla fighters.”
Read Dunk’s brilliant “letter” here >>
Better yet, subscribe:
Simply send an email to join-globalprovince@lyris.globalprovince.com. Leave the subject field and the body of the email blank. You will automatically be subscribed to the Global Province.

Clayton Christensen: The Innovator’s Battle Plan

Here’s a quick look at a slice of Christensen’s book- Seeing What’s Next.
According to Christensen, the more interesting scenarios occur when there are asymmetries—important differences of motivation or skills. Asymmetries of motivation occur when one firm wants to do something that another firm specifically does not want to do. Asymmetries of skills occur when one firm’s strength is another firm’s weakness.
In this excerpt, he discusses three topics:
1. How asymmetries power the process of disruption
2. How to identify the company with the shield of asymmetric motivation and the sword of asymmetric skills on its side
3. How to identify circumstances in which a high-potential disruptive development will prove disappointing, ending in either a brutal fight or incumbent co-option
See also my archived interview with Clayton Christensen.

How Executives Waste Time Together

Thumbing through my “moth-eaten” (I use the phrase in jest) September 2004 issue of the Harvard Business Review, I stumbled across an article which made me raise my eyebrows.
The article makes the case that companies routinely squander their most valuable resource – the time of their top executives.
What was interesting about the article was the actual breakdown of how top management spends its time together in meetings.
The data was collected across 187 countries in a joint study by The Economist Intelligence Unit and a consulting company. Here’s what they found: out of the total time available for senior management meetings – 250 hours per year – managers spend on average:
62 hours on operating performance reviews
27 hours on crises of the moment
22 hours on administrative issues and policy
22 hours on workforce issues
18 hours on corporate governance
14 hours on financial policy
12 hours on investor communications and guidance
11 hours on team building
10 hours on succession planning
6 hours on litigation
6 hours on community service and social responsibility
3 hours on “other”
The total “nonstrategic” time per year is 213 (out of 250). Which means that in any given year, only 15% of meeting time is available for strategic issues. That’s 3 hours a month left for critical activities like strategy development and approval – at best.
And worst of all, they didn’t even mention golf!

Robots Easier to Talk to than Humans

“When answering the android’s questions…Japanese subjects were much more likely to look it in the eye than they were a real person.”
The Economist highlights the agenda behind Japan’s race to perfect their robots:
“Many workers from low-wage countries are eager to work in Japan. The Philippines, for example, has over 350,000 trained nurses, and has been pleading with Japan—which accepts only a token few—to let more in. Foreign pundits keep telling Japan to do itself a favour and make better use of cheap imported labour. But the consensus among Japanese is that visions of a future in which immigrant workers live harmoniously and unobtrusively in Japan are pure fancy. Making humanoid robots is clearly the simple and practical way to go.”
Ouch. Read the article here >.

Bethlehem: Walled and Silent

From the Voice of America:
“Every year at this time, Christians around the world turn their attention to Bethlehem, a small city in the West Bank, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was born. Christians have lived in Bethlehem for centuries, but now many are leaving. A bloody Palestinian uprising and the construction of a massive security barrier around the city mean the Christmas spirit is quickly disappearing.”
How still we see thee lie…

Measuring Democracy: The Journalists-in-Jail Index

In 2005, we have 125 journalists sitting in jail (that we know of).
China, Cuba, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are the world’s leading jailers of journalists in 2005, together accounting for two-thirds of the 125 editors, writers, and photojournalists imprisoned around the world, according to a new analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The United States, which is holding journalists in detention centers in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rose to sixth among countries jailing journalists, just behind Uzbekistan and tied with Burma, CPJ found.
Is this a good way to measure democracy?
See the numbers here >>

UK Organic Food And Drink Market Now Worth £1Bn

Sales of organic food and drink have almost doubled to more than £1 billion in just five years, reveals a new report.
The organic market has mushroomed in value by 94 per cent between 2000 and 2005 to reach £1.2 billion this year, say consumer analysts Mintel. And they tip the blossoming organic sector to double in value again in just five years to be worth £2 billion by the year 2010.
Now – with organic products championed by TV chefs including Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein – just one-in-three (29 per cent) of British adults say that they never buy organic, down from some 37 per cent just two years ago.
The research also found that organic goods can no longer be seen as the preserve of affluent “foodies.”
Julie Sloan, Mintel’s senior market analyst, said: “Among those who have bought organic produce in the last 12 months, there is in fact surprisingly little difference between the better off ABs and those in the middle income C1 group.”
Go there to read more >>

The Draw: World Cup 2006

Print this out and stick it in your wallet. My predictions are in bold 🙂
GROUP A
Germany
Costa Rica
Poland
Ecuador
GROUP B
England
Paraguay
Trinidad & Tobago
Sweden
GROUP C
Argentina
Ivory Coast
Serbia & Montenegro
Holland
GROUP D
Mexico
Iran
Angola
Portugal
GROUP E
Italy
Ghana
USA
Czech Republic
GROUP F
Brazil
Croatia
Australia
Japan
GROUP G
France
Switzerland
South Korea
Togo
GROUP H
Spain
Ukraine
Tunisia
Saudi Arabia