The $40 Entree: Restaurants & Dynamic Pricing

From the NYTimes, an article on pricing in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
“Forty is the new 30,” says Richard Coraine, the chief operating officer of Union Square Hospitality Group, which recently began charging $42 for a 1¾-ounce appetizer portion of lobster at lunchtime at the Modern in New York. Ten percent of its lunch patrons order the dish, it says.
Apparently the $40 entree is migrating from high-end NY restaurant menus to your average restaurant chain across the nation.
Here’s the real story – the use of analytics to increase profit margins:
But what makes the rise of the $40 entree so significant is not just the price creep, it’s the sophisticated calculation behind it. A new breed of menu “engineers” have proved that highly priced entrees increase revenue even if no one orders them. A $43 entree makes a $36 one look like a deal.
“Just putting one high price on the menu will take your average check up,” said Gregg Rapp, one such consultant. “My mom taught me to never order the most expensive thing on the menu, but you’ll order the second.”
With just a few keystrokes, restaurateurs can now digitally view the entire history of a dish: how the lamb sold around this time last year, whether it did better when paired with squash or risotto, and how orders rose or fell when the price went from $39 to $41.
With a few more clicks and a new stack of paper in the office printer, the menu can be revised to test new prices.

Meanwhile the obesity problem just keeps growing. Wonder if that would end if McDonald’s switched to $40 dollar entrees…?!
Speaking of analytics, to learn more about “Competing on Analytics” check out Tom Davenport’s free webinar on the subject – October 31, 2006.

Invisible Science

Scientists are working hard to become invisible.
They can stop working so hard. Our current age hates math and science – and soon scientists will be extinct. They certainly are an endangered species in the US!

Carr: Top-Down Disruptive Innovation

Our friend Nicholas “IT Doesn’t Matter” Carr has written a wonderful essay on top-down innovation – the anti-thesis to Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma.
Carr tells us that top-down disruptive innovations actually outperform existing products when they’re introduced, and they sell for a premium price rather than at a discount.
Exhibit A: Apple’s iPod. Writes Carr: “The iPod upped the performance stakes immensely. By using a tiny hard drive to store music, it allowed people to carry hundreds, even thousands, of songs with them at all times. Its price, starting at $399, was equally eye-opening — the price of a mid-range component stereo system.”
Good point.
The article definitely make you think that there is some benefit (profit) to providing high-end products. So why are so few companies doing it?
Because to compete on quality is much more difficult than competing on cost. For one, it takes imagination. And even more important, it takes execution. And that takes good leadership. Would Apple be succeeding without Jobs? Look what happened to Apple when they had that guy from Pepsi running it. Almost destoyed the company.
So it’s not that easy. But top-down innovation can be done. The question is: can it be sustained?

REWIND: Remember The Cluetrain?

Some of my clients (both B2B and B2C) need to go back in time and read The Cluetrain Manifesto.
Here are the classic “95 Theses” (try substituting the word “market” with “customers” or “friends”):
95 Theses
1. Markets are conversations.
2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
13. What’s happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called “The Company” is the only thing standing between the two.
14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman. ‘
15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.
16. Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.
17. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
18. Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.
19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.
23. Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.
24. Bombastic boasts—”We are positioned to become the preeminent provider of XYZ”—do not constitute a position.
25. Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.
26. Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.
27. By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay.
28. Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what’s really going on inside the company.
29. Elvis said it best: “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds.”
30. Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable—and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.
31. Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Your own “downsizing initiatives” taught us to ask the question: “Loyalty? What’s that?”
32. Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language.
33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can’t be “picked up” at some tony conference.
34. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.
35. But first, they must belong to a community.
36. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.
37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.
38. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.
39. The community of discourse is the market.
40. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
41. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.
42. As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company—and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.
43. Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right.
44. Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.
45. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.
46. A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.
47. While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to “improve” or control these networked conversations.
48. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked marketplace.
49. Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.
50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.
51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
52. Paranoia kills conversation. That’s its point. But lack of open conversation kills companies.
53. There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market.
54. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.
55. As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets.
56. These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other’s voices.
57. Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner.
58. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few companies have yet wised up.
59. However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.
60. This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.
61. Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false—and often is.
62. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.
63. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you.
64. We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.
65. We’re also the workers who make your companies go. We want to talk to customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script.
66. As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other?
67. As markets, as workers, we wonder why you’re not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.
68. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around—in the press, at your conferences—what’s that got to do with us?
69. Maybe you’re impressing your investors. Maybe you’re impressing Wall Street. You’re not impressing us.
70. If you don’t impress us, your investors are going to take a bath. Don’t they understand this? If they did, they wouldn’t let you talk that way.
71. Your tired notions of “the market” make our eyes glaze over. We don’t recognize ourselves in your projections—perhaps because we know we’re already elsewhere.
72. We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.
73. You’re invited, but it’s our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
74. We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
76. We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?
77. You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.
78. You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.
79. We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.
80. Don’t worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it’s not the only thing on your mind.
81. Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?
82. Your product broke. Why? We’d like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We’d like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she’s not in?
83. We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.
84. We know some people from your company. They’re pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you’re hiding? Can they come out and play?
85. When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn’t have such a tight rein on “your people” maybe they’d be among the people we’d turn to.
86. When we’re not busy being your “target market,” many of us are your people. We’d rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing’s job.
87. We’d like it if you got what’s going on here. That’d be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we’re holding our breath.
88. We have better things to do than worry about whether you’ll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?
89. We have real power and we know it. If you don’t quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that’s more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.
90. Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we’ve been seeing.
91. Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future.
92. Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can’t they hear this market timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.
93. We’re both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they’re really just an annoyance. We know they’re coming down. We’re going to work from both sides to take them down.
94. To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.
95. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.
Special thanks to Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger. And John Hagel before them.

The New Evangelical Environmentalism

Bill Moyers’ Is God Green? Religion & Environment helped me see that not all evangelicals reject reality.
“A new holy war is growing within the conservative evangelical community, with implications for both the global environment and American politics. For years liberal Christians and others have made protection of the environment a moral commitment. Now a number of conservative evangelicals are joining the fight, arguing that man’s stewardship of the planet is a biblical imperative and calling for action to stop global warming.
“But they are being met head-on by opposition from their traditional evangelical brethren who adamantly support the Bush administration in downplaying the threat of global warming and other environmental perils. The political stakes are high: Three out of every four white evangelical voters chose George W. Bush in 2004. “Is God Green?” explores how a serious split among conservative evangelicals over the environment and global warming could reshape American politics.”
Here’s the declaration which splits the evangelicals.
Watch these clips:
Is God Green? Richard Cizik National Asssociation of Evangelicals
Rick Warren’s quote
How Cizik fell off his horse on the way to Damascus
Jesus didn’t do a cost-benefit analysis before he decided to act. So why are we getting hung-up with “ExxonMobil-ese”?

Christian Double Loop Marketing™

I always knew that Double Loop Marketing™ facilitates “putting butts in seats” as one of my clients likes to say, but this is just too funny:
“Themed Web sites create buzz, drive attendance swell for two churches”
Exhibit A:
Result: attendance up 70 percent
Exhibit B:
Result: attendance up 68 percent
Note the use of TV ads and billboards to get attention for the websites.
Although this is not full-fledged Double Loop Marketing™, it is a start. In some ways, this is identical to the microsites the pharma companies keep pitching on TV.
The one problem I see is that these are not sustainable “thought-leadership” based campaigns.

Customer Driven Innovation

In strategy + business, Michael Schrage writes about how involving customers in the innovation process can add value to new product designs:
“In industry after industry, a shared model for innovation adoption is emerging. The most valuable “platforms” — the tools and technologies used internally to discover, design, and test new products and services — can be creatively and cost-effectively sold or lent to customers, clients, and prospects. Customers get a chance to “try before they buy.” They can adopt and test new ideas and technologies before investing in them. And the purveyors of new technologies rapidly gain insights into the potential value of their wares — insights that might otherwise take years to gather.”
His examples: Cisco, P&G, and Goldman Sachs.
Cisco: “Cisco had several highly sophisticated customers who weren’t satisfied with “solutions”; they wanted to see and understand the thought process behind the company’s proposals. Were these architectures really the best or most cost-effective that Cisco had to offer? So Cisco began showing these customers its in-house simulations. And the customers, in turn, expressed a desire to adapt these design, configuration, and optimization models for their own use.”
P&G: “Procter & Gamble has begun to share some of its computer modeling and market research techniques with Wal-Mart, Tesco, and other distribution channels. This includes the celebrated P&G “moment of truth” research, which tracks consumer attitudes at two critical times: when the product is chosen and when it is used. To be sure, many of P&G’s biggest distributors are also rivals that offer their own private labels, so there are risks to sharing this type of proprietary innovation platform with them. But the rewards are even greater: They include ongoing close ties with retailers, who often share their own innovative tools for analyzing (for example) how store layout, shelf space, and signage influence purchase decisions. Together, these manufacturers and retailers can develop a relationship that transcends any particular innovation tool or technique.”
Goldman Sachs: “In the early days, we would run simulation after simulation demonstrating that our instruments would help them better hedge their risks,” acknowledges one former Goldman Sachs and Salomon Brothers executive. “But, frankly, they didn’t fully trust either us or our simulations. It wasn’t until we started giving them the simulation tools we used ourselves that they took us seriously.” … These free simulators proved to be the most profitable innovation that the Goldman Sachs derivatives group launched. Soon, clients began asking for custom derivatives and other tailored instruments. “Without the simulators, customers would never have known what to ask for, and we would never have thought to ask,” recalls the bank executive. Yet, despite its success, this innovation appeared nowhere in the bank’s R&D budget or prospectus. It was only a tacit, not an explicit, locus of value creation.
But not everyone is so keen to share their knowledge. The article tells us about Eric von Hippel’s hypothesis that internal innovators frequently view customer innovators as rivals who might undermine their creative role.
Ultimately, we’re talking about demand innovation. A double loop model enables you to learn how to extend your offerings into your customers’ internal value chain, creating a platform for profitable growth. It’s also about identifying unmet customer needs – by going upstream or downstream as dictated by your industry’s value configuration…

The Marketing Survey Rebellion

So many U.S. residents refuse to participate in marketing-research surveys that it has become increasingly difficult to get reasonably reliable consumer data — a problem of potentially catastropic implications for the big marketers who spend tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars for such research each year. “This is a problem of stunning scope,” explains reporter Jack Neff of Advertising Age.
Great news for Double Loop Marketing™ marketers like me. Why? Because marketers can test their new ideas, products, and services on a double loop site in a far more efficient and effective way than traditional surveys.
Listen to the audio interview here >>
I disagree with their take on online surveys – because they’re doing the same old junk.
What needs to happen is this: market researchers need to get off their cushions and start observing people in the marketplace and marketspace. Digital anthropology: the observation of online behavior. That’s it.
The market research community needs to get into Web 2.0, period.

Michael Porter’s Business Competitiveness Index: US #1

The United States and Germany remain atop the latest Business Competitiveness Index, with China continuing to slip in the rankings while India ascends, according to a report released from Michael Porter’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness.
The U.S., ranked number one in four of the last six years, scored high on business environment, financial markets, and innovative capacity. Germany, number two, benefited from its orientation on exports, the unique competitive positions of its companies, and the quality of its legal and regulatory framework.
Rounding out the Top 10 were Finland, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, Japan, and Hong Kong SAR. Hong Kong increased its ranking by seven, in part by strengthening management education, the efficacy of government boards, and local availability of process machinery, the ISC reported.
Other high-income nations increasing their ranking included Qatar, Norway, and Malta. Advanced economies on the decline included Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Taiwan, and France.
China, which has retreated in the rankings since 2002, fell nine spots to 64, according to the ISC. “This year’s decline was driven especially by higher levels of corruption, weaker assessment of buyer sophistication, and concerns about labor relations,” the study found. Also contributing were weak property rights, poor board governance, and low quality of management education. “Overall it is clear that euphoria about China is moderating as the realities of its competitiveness become more apparent,” the report concludes.
India moved up four rankings to 27, aided by improvements in its business environment and increasing levels of company sophistication.
Hmmmm. Porter’s Index should be put next to a Global Standard of Living Index. Then we can learn which countries are the best for both employees and employers. But that might be too much to ask from Harvard. Maybe Yale could do that…

Video: Chad and Steve from YouTube

I love it. The geeks at Google give the geeks at YouTube 1.6 billion dollars – and this is how they announce it. Brilliant!
Now let’s see if they can find a business model. [I think they will – will they go beyond Adwords and Adsense?]

TIME: The Secret Letter From Iraq

Reading this in TIME magazine made me very, very sad. And angry.
The worst politicians are killing our best soldiers. If there is an “Evangelical” God, George W and his buddies are going to be roasted in the inner circle of Hell.
This is what happens when you have a government that deceives good people who just aren’t too bright. [Whoops, there goes habeas corpus. We’ve thrown ourselves back into the 13th century.]
Here’s the secret letter from Iraq:
Written last month, this straightforward account of life in Iraq by a Marine officer was initially sent just to a small group of family and friends. His honest but wry narration and unusually frank dissection of the mission contrasts sharply with the story presented by both sides of the Iraq war debate, the Pentagon spin masters and fierce critics. Perhaps inevitably, the “Letter from Iraq” moved quickly beyond the small group of acquantainaces and hit the inboxes of retired generals, officers in the Pentagon, and staffers on Capitol Hill. TIME’s Sally B. Donnelly first received a copy three weeks ago but only this week was able to track down the author and verify the document’s authenticity. The author wishes to remain anonymous but has allowed us to publish it here — with a few judicious omissions.
All: I haven’t written very much from Iraq. There’s really not much to write about. More exactly, there’s not much I can write about because practically everything I do, read or hear is classified military information or is depressing to the point that I’d rather just forget about it, never mind write about it. The gaps in between all of that are filled with the pure tedium of daily life in an armed camp. So it’s a bit of a struggle to think of anything to put into a letter that’s worth reading. Worse, this place just consumes you. I work 18-20-hour days, every day. The quest to draw a clear picture of what the insurgents are up to never ends. Problems and frictions crop up faster than solutions. Every challenge demands a response. It’s like this every day. Before I know it, I can’t see straight, because it’s 0400 and I’ve been at work for 20 hours straight, somehow missing dinner again in the process. And once again I haven’t written to anyone. It starts all over again four hours later. It’s not really like Ground Hog Day, it’s more like a level from Dante’s Inferno.
Rather than attempting to sum up the last seven months, I figured I’d just hit the record-setting highlights of 2006 in Iraq. These are among the events and experiences I’ll remember best.
Worst Case of Déjà Vu — I thought I was familiar with the feeling of déjà vu until I arrived back here in Fallujah in February. The moment I stepped off of the helicopter, just as dawn broke, and saw the camp just as I had left it ten months before — that was déjà vu. Kind of unnerving. It was as if I had never left. Same work area, same busted desk, same chair, same computer, same room, same creaky rack, same… everything. Same everything for the next year. It was like entering a parallel universe. Home wasn’t 10,000 miles away, it was a different lifetime.
Most Surreal Moment — Watching Marines arrive at my detention facility and unload a truck load of flex-cuffed midgets. 26 to be exact. We had put the word out earlier in the day to the Marines in Fallujah that we were looking for Bad Guy X, who was described as a midget. Little did I know that Fallujah was home to a small community of midgets, who banded together for support since they were considered as social outcasts. The Marines were anxious to get back to the midget colony to bring in the rest of the midget suspects, but I called off the search, figuring Bad Guy X was long gone on his short legs after seeing his companions rounded up by the giant infidels.
Most Profound Man in Iraq — an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied “Yes, you.”
Worst City in al-Anbar Province — Ramadi, hands down. The provincial capital of 400,000 people. Lots and lots of insurgents killed in there since we arrived in February. Every day is a nasty gun battle. They blast us with giant bombs in the road, snipers, mortars and small arms. We blast them with tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, our snipers (much better than theirs), and every weapon that an infantryman can carry. Every day. Incredibly, I rarely see Ramadi in the news. We have as many attacks out here in the west as Baghdad. Yet, Baghdad has 7 million people, we have just 1.2 million. Per capita, al-Anbar province is the most violent place in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. I suppose it was no accident that the Marines were assigned this area in 2003.
Bravest Guy in al-Anbar Province — Any Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (EOD Tech). How’d you like a job that required you to defuse bombs in a hole in the middle of the road that very likely are booby-trapped or connected by wire to a bad guy who’s just waiting for you to get close to the bomb before he clicks the detonator? Every day. Sanitation workers in New York City get paid more than these guys. Talk about courage and commitment.
Second Bravest Guy in al-Anbar Province — It’s a 20,000-way tie among all these Marines and Soldiers who venture out on the highways and through the towns of al-Anbar every day, not knowing if it will be their last — and for a couple of them, it will be.
Worst E-Mail Message — “The Walking Blood Bank is Activated. We need blood type A+ stat.” I always head down to the surgical unit as soon as I get these messages, but I never give blood — there’s always about 80 Marines in line, night or day.
Biggest Surprise — Iraqi Police. All local guys. I never figured that we’d get a police force established in the cities in al-Anbar. I estimated that insurgents would kill the first few, scaring off the rest. Well, insurgents did kill the first few, but the cops kept on coming. The insurgents continue to target the police, killing them in their homes and on the streets, but the cops won’t give up. Absolutely incredible tenacity. The insurgents know that the police are far better at finding them than we are — and they are finding them. Now, if we could just get them out of the habit of beating prisoners to a pulp…
Greatest Vindication — Stocking up on outrageous quantities of Diet Coke from the chow hall in spite of the derision from my men on such hoarding, then having a 122mm rocket blast apart the giant shipping container that held all of the soda for the chow hall. Yep, you can’t buy experience.
Biggest Mystery — How some people can gain weight out here. I’m down to 165 lbs. Who has time to eat?
Second Biggest Mystery — if there’s no atheists in foxholes, then why aren’t there more people at Mass every Sunday?
Favorite Iraqi TV Show — Oprah. I have no idea. They all have satellite TV.
Coolest Insurgent Act — Stealing almost $7 million from the main bank in Ramadi in broad daylight, then, upon exiting, waving to the Marines in the combat outpost right next to the bank, who had no clue of what was going on. The Marines waved back. Too cool.
Most Memorable Scene — In the middle of the night, on a dusty airfield, watching the better part of a battalion of Marines packed up and ready to go home after over six months in al-Anbar, the relief etched in their young faces even in the moonlight. Then watching these same Marines exchange glances with a similar number of grunts loaded down with gear file past — their replacements. Nothing was said. Nothing needed to be said.
Highest Unit Re-enlistment Rate — Any outfit that has been in Iraq recently. All the danger, all the hardship, all the time away from home, all the horror, all the frustrations with the fight here — all are outweighed by the desire for young men to be part of a band of brothers who will die for one another. They found what they were looking for when they enlisted out of high school. Man for man, they now have more combat experience than any Marines in the history of our Corps.
Most Surprising Thing I Don’t Miss — Beer. Perhaps being half-stunned by lack of sleep makes up for it.
Worst Smell — Porta-johns in 120-degree heat — and that’s 120 degrees outside of the porta-john.
Highest Temperature — I don’t know exactly, but it was in the porta-johns. Needed to re-hydrate after each trip to the loo.
Biggest Hassle — High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and “battlefield” tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no effect on their preconceived notions of what’s going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they’ve been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here.
Biggest Outrage — Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest Offender: Bill O’Reilly.
Best Intel Work — Finding Jill Carroll’s kidnappers — all of them. I was mighty proud of my guys that day. I figured we’d all get the Christian Science Monitor for free after this, but none have showed up yet.
Saddest Moment — Having an infantry battalion commander hand me the dog tags of one of my Marines who had just been killed while on a mission with his unit. Hit by a 60mm mortar. He was a great Marine. I felt crushed for a long time afterward. His picture now hangs at the entrance to our section area. We’ll carry it home with us when we leave in February.
Best Chuck Norris Moment — 13 May. Bad Guys arrived at the government center in a small town to kidnap the mayor, since they have a problem with any form of government that does not include regular beheadings and women wearing burqahs. There were seven of them. As they brought the mayor out to put him in a pick-up truck to take him off to be beheaded (on video, as usual), one of the Bad Guys put down his machine gun so that he could tie the mayor’s hands. The mayor took the opportunity to pick up the machine gun and drill five of the Bad Guys. The other two ran away. One of the dead Bad Guys was on our top twenty wanted list. Like they say, you can’t fight City Hall.
Worst Sound — That crack-boom off in the distance that means an IED or mine just went off. You just wonder who got it, hoping that it was a near miss rather than a direct hit. Hear it practically every day.
Second Worst Sound — Our artillery firing without warning. The howitzers are pretty close to where I work. Believe me, outgoing sounds a lot like incoming when our guns are firing right over our heads. They’d about knock the fillings out of your teeth.
Only Thing Better in Iraq Than in the U.S. — Sunsets. Spectacular. It’s from all the dust in the air.
Proudest Moment — It’s a tie every day, watching our Marines produce phenomenal intelligence products that go pretty far in teasing apart Bad Guy operations in al-Anbar. Every night Marines and Soldiers are kicking in doors and grabbing Bad Guys based on intelligence developed by our guys. We rarely lose a Marine during these raids, they are so well-informed of the objective. A bunch of kids right out of high school shouldn’t be able to work so well, but they do.
Happiest Moment — Well, it wasn’t in Iraq. There are no truly happy moments here. It was back in California when I was able to hold my family again while home on leave during July.
Most Common Thought — Home. Always thinking of home, of my great wife and the kids. Wondering how everyone else is getting along. Regretting that I don’t write more. Yep, always thinking of home.
I hope you all are doing well. If you want to do something for me, kiss a cop, flush a toilet, and drink a beer. I’ll try to write again before too long — I promise.

Ethanol versus Exxon: Wake Up!

Biofuels: Think Outside The Barrel
Vinod Khosla is a venture capitalist considered one of the most successful and influential personalities in Silicon Valley. He was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems and became a general partner of the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers in 1986. In 2004 he formed Khosla Ventures.
Listen to his presentation to the nerds at Google, and you start getting mad at our politicians and oil-businesses.
Why can’t we do this? Because Exxon doesn’t want to. Listen, even the CIA wants to do this. I don’t often agree with those guys, but the facts are simple. Watch the video and call your congresswoman.
In Brazil, VW is debating whether they even need to manufacture “gas-only” cars anymore. Wake up, America. We can create some real wealth in the Mid-West instead of funding the Saudis.

“Gandhi Got a Shock and Took a Vacation”

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi [मोहनदास करमचन्द गान्धी] :
“Whenever I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won. There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail. Think of it: always.”
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?”
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”
“The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within.”
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
“Fear is not a disease of the body; fear kills the soul.”
“They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.”
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
“No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.”
“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.”
“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.”
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
“I am a Muslim and a Hindu and a Christian and a Jew and so are all of you.”
“The function of a civil resistance is to provoke response and we will continue to provoke until they respond or change the law. They are not in control; we are.”
“If you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.”
“He Ram!”
It was Gandhiji’s birthday this week. I kept hearing the words of this song by Big Audio Dynamite:

I’m afraid all the profound stuff about Gandhi escapes me. Except that he knew his PR and his politics, and he had real guts.
Who is today’s Gandhi? A non-violent, all-inclusive, social activist who can move millions… Nobody on the radar… The closest we have is Nelson Mandela.
Karamchand. What’s that about?
Learn more about this crazy fellow >>

Video: Tom Peters – “Give it Your All”

This is romantic drivel. Another example of “Tom-Peters-hyperbole.”
My view: Don’t let your work kill you. Do less. Do it better. And have fun.
Football players and ballerinas are sick people, very sick people.
On the other hand, I do sometimes collapse with exhaustion after working on a project – usually because I haven’t slept at all. This is not the best way to be creative, but it is the best way to meet a deadline. Why do they call it deadline anyway? Because you’re dead at the line? Tom Peters supports that.
Let’s see – do the workers on the Toyota production line keel over at the end of the day? Hope not. Not exactly a sustainable business model.

USA Today: IDEO, The Deans of Design

IDEO is all about experiential approaches. Its designers try to see and sense the world by getting inside the heads of their fellow human consumers. The firm-a dream come true for the concerned parents of liberal arts majors everywhere-employs anthropologists, cognitive psychologists, and sociologists, among other right-brain thinkers, to create, improve, or reimagine all manner of products, services, work spaces, and business systems. “It’s a very human-centered process,” says Tom Kelley, the firm’s general manager and brother of founder David Kelley. “Others approach a problem from the point of view that says, ‘We have the smartest people in the world; therefore, we can think this through.’ We approach it from the point of view that the answer is out there, hidden in plain sight, so let’s go observe human behavior and see where the opportunities are.” – from this article in USA Today
What a novel idea.
How come no one in the auto industry gets this?

Marketing Toyota on Second Life

From the Economist:
“Toyota is the first carmaker to enter Second Life. It has been giving away free virtual vehicles of its Scion brand and, in October, will start selling all three Scion models. The price will be modest, says Adrian Si, the marketing manager at Toyota behind the project. Toyota really hopes that an “aftermarket” develops as avatars customise their cars and sell them on, thus spreading the brand “virally”. Toyota will be able to observe how avatars use the cars and might, conceivably, even get ideas for engineering modifications in the real world, he says.
“Those Scion cars have “great driving performance for in-world physics,” says Reuben Steiger, the boss of Millions of Us, a company he founded this year to bring companies like Toyota into Second Life for marketing and brand-building. “How it corners and makes sounds when it changes gears is great.” So Toyota, which is a client of his, along with Sun Microsystems and even Mr Warner, shows that Second Life is “perfect for creating experiences around a brand,” says Mr Steiger. “We don’t think that conventional advertising will be very prevalent,” he says, because it would “be badly received culturally”. Advertising in Second Life is not about “trapping people” but about captivating and stimulating them. A good campaign in Second Life costs about $200,000 dollars, he reckons, of which only a tiny part is property leases and most goes to paying the talented designers to create great virtual stuff.”
MMORPGs meets Web 2.0.
Who has time for reality? For global warming? For politics and corruption? For war-profiteering? See what I mean?
This is a form of double loop marketing all right, but I don’t like it.

Channel Surfing Past Your Democracy

A funny paper I stumbled upon thanks to Larry Prusak who’s talking about knowledge populism.
“Our cable company offers over seventy channels. About 7:00 p.m. there are mostly sitcoms, game shows, and tabloid TV. The FCC decided to strike a blow for programming diversity by effectively forbidding the major network affiliates to program network-produced shows before 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.(8) The major result of this regulation is that the independent stations (and Fox) fill the time with reruns of previous network shows. This means I get to see all the episodes of Roseanne I missed over the years. Generally speaking these are shows that appealed to a broad enough segment of the public taste that they have survived long enough to go into syndication. So much for diversity. Meanwhile local network affiliates fill the time with game shows like Wheel of Fortune and tabloid shows like Hard Copy and Inside Edition. So much for attention to serious issues. One station has started showing reruns of The Simpsons. I am delighted. Nothing like good, cynical humor that undermines everything honorable about American life.
“It may seem controversial or strange to say that there is a problem for the Madisonian system if people do not seek serious coverage of serious issues. Perhaps this suggestion is unacceptably paternalistic; perhaps we should take people however we find them. But as I have noted, the system of deliberative democracy is not supposed simply to implement existing desires. Its far more ambitious goal is to create the preconditions for a well-functioning democratic process…”
Hmmm. Let’s think for a second. Nah, better to click on something else.