Shine, Baby, Shine: Larry Hagman talks Solar


Go J.R.! Note he mentions my client – the Solar Electric Light Fund. Stay tuned for more news about them…
I like the SolarWorld ads Hagman does quite a bit. Here he’s talking to Sue Ellen (who seems to be blaming him for BP’s mess in the Gulf):

Shine, baby, shine! Well said, Larry Hagman!
The thing about Hagman is he put his money where his mouth is – years ago – by converting his estate to solar, before solar was cool.

VG: “The U.S. Must Grab the Lead on Green”

Vijay Govindarajan on the HBR blog: The U.S. Must Grab the Lead on Green. High time our business leaders started leading, as VG encourages them to do. 

According to VG:

At the company level, many energy businesses are unwilling to
cannibalize their existing services and their current investments. At
the national level, the same dynamics are in play. Aided and abetted by
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the traditional energy lobby (oil, coal)
is using its political and economic muscle to stifle innovation in
alternative energy and clean technologies.

Don’t get me started on the losers at the US Chamber of Commerce!

Zero Currency: Fighting Corruption at the Point of Sale

00rupees.jpg

A nice story from the World Bank blog about a grass-roots organization‘s efforts to stop petty corruption in India and around the world:

the idea was first conceived by an Indian physics professor at the
University of Maryland, who, in his travels around India, realized how
widespread bribery was and wanted to do something about it. He came up
with the idea of printing zero-denomination notes and handing them out
to officials whenever he was asked for kickbacks as a way to show his
resistance. Anand took this idea further: to print them en masse,
widely publicize them, and give them out to the Indian people. He
thought these notes would be a way to get people to show their
disapproval of public service delivery dependent on bribes. The notes
did just that. The first batch of 25,000 notes were met with such
demand that 5th Pillar has ended up distributing one million zero-rupee
notes to date since it began this initiative. Along the way, the
organization has collected many stories from people using them to
successfully resist engaging in bribery.

I like it. Now let’s send some “zero dollars” to the Famous Five justices Supreme Court, the Blue-Dog Democrats, and the entire Republican party.

Emotions and Decision-Making

Insights on Anger, fear, and escalation of commitment
via strategy-business.com
“…angry employees are more likely to commit further resources to a failing project or choice. By contrast, fear makes people second-guess themselves and often abandon support for efforts that have gone even slightly off the tracks.”
OK. What happens when you have other emotions like sadness, joy, or just plain happiness? Do you make stupid decisions when you delude yourself? Or does a cynic make better decisions?

IBM: Keys to innovating your business model

This is something that keeps happening with IBM’s FTP server.

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I was just trying to download this report: Seizing the advantage. When and how to innovate your business model”…

I have to say, this happens all the time on the site.

What’s going on IBM? This is not exactly the best way to win friends and influence prospects.

P.S. – will let you know if I ever get to the document!

UPDATE: Not sure if this is the same document, but I found it on the UK site.

UPDATE #2: Look what I found at Booz >>

UPDATE #3: And this from EY >>

Orit Gadiesh on Curiosity

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How do you encourage curiosity across a global organization?

Many consultants out there would rather just give answers and are even afraid to ask questions. We deliberately hire people who aren’t like that, even early in their careers, and senior consultants coach them on how to be inquisitive. Sometimes that means asking a client’s managers very difficult questions, really pushing them hard to reveal or do things they’re not comfortable with–getting a CEO to explain lagging sales, for example, or to acknowledge why a competitor’s pulling ahead. Other times that means encouraging constructive dissent–deliberately engaging with people who disagree with you and being willing to probe them on their point of view. That can be tricky, but persistent questioning usually produces the best solutions.”

Orit Gadiesh in an interview HBR, Sept. 2009

Remember when she debuted?  Too bad her purple reign is over…

free2work.org: The End of Business As Usual?

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If you haven’t heard about free2work.org, you will. This is part of a growing explosion of consumer-education organizations dedicated to exposing “worst practices” among multinationals.

The hope is that if consumers know what is going on, they will vote with their purchasing power and seek out the companies that are doing good. I’m all for it. Who wouldn’t be? Oh, I forgot about the US Chamber of Commerce

On the academic side of things, we see the same story emerging:

Rosabeth Moss Kanter‘s latest book, SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good argues that “the model of American capitalism that worked so well to raise the fortunes of millions of people last century appears to have hit a wall. What’s good for General Motors may no longer be good for the country. In its place must arise a new model of the company, one that serves society as well as rewarding shareholders and employees.”

Maybe Doug Smith was just a little ahead of the times when he wrote On Value and Values: Thinking Differently About We in an Age of Me – which to me is still the best book in this space.

Wild Phil Townsend: Where is GE’s Open Reverse Innovation?

Phil Townsend wonders why GE hasn’t opened up it’s Reverse Innovation model in his post: Opening up Reverse Innovation >>

Townsend makes a good point:

So why can’t a company like GE follow down this path with “open reverse innovation
– inviting small companies in India and China to submit their products,
services and ideas to be evaluated by GE for global distribution.  Of
course, the open model would require an environment of trust
but what better way to create goodwill in new markets than to be seen
as a development partner in the China, India, and resource-starved
Africa?  A.G. Lafley sits on GE’s board; surely he could help them get started.

Townsend also proposes the formation of innovation collaboratives funded by companies like GE to create a pipeline of new products for GE. 

Not a bad idea, if you consider that a recent
McKinsey survey found that 20% of companies have opened up their
innovation processes to employees and customers and they report a 20%
rise in the number of innovations
, on average.

Cloud Computing = Disruptive Innovation

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Mezeo’s Steve Lesem explains how Cloud Storage is a disruptive innovation:

The common assumption is that the traditional IT vendors will be disrupted by cloud computing offerings from Amazon and Google
The truth is, Amazon and Google may eventually impact this market, but
they will not be the first to disrupt traditional IT service
providers.Already we see hosting providers like Rackspace and SoftLayer provide their own suite of differentiated cloud offerings.

My thinking is that the entire cloud story is a paradigm shift for IT. See this article I just co-authored: Considerations for Migrating to the Cloud: How Cloud Computing is Changing the Enterprise »

See also
: Lesem’s Cloud Storage and The Innovator’s Dilemma »

Stay tuned for more on the cloud.

The Future of Media: Not Just a Song but an Attention Platform

Edo Segal has an interesting guest blog at TechCrunch describing the “Future of Media.”

He points to Apple’s App Store as an example of what the rest need to learn:

The only way to block the incredible ease of pirating any content a
media company can generate is to couple said experiences with
extensions that live in the cloud and enhance that experience for
consumers. Not just for some fancy DRM but for real value creation.
They must begin to create a product that is not simply a static digital
file that can be easily copied and distributed, but rather view media
as a dynamic “application” with extensions via the web. This howl is
the future evolution of the media industry. It has arrived from a
company that is delivering the goods. Apple has made it painless for
consumers to spend money and get the media they want where they want
it, proving that consumers are happy to pay for media if delivered in
ways that make it easy and blissful to consume.

He also states, rather matter of factly, that “he premise of extending the media experience to the cloud is a core
necessity for the survival and growth of the media industry.”  I agree.  The media industry needs to “sell access and experiences, not media files.”

So how does an artist or a media company build these experiences?

I’ve been doing some thinking along these lines for a band I’ve followed for many years – Steel Pulse. What’s interesting is that while the band has a huge, global, cross-generational following built over the past 35 years – the media companies that were responsible for promoting them have done absolutely nothing to tap into this enthusiasm.  Not one thing.

The same goes for most of my business thought-leader clients as well.  The publishing houses do nothing to create a conversation with the passionate fans. 

Engagement is the key.  How does a musician or an author engage with their audience, their fan-base?  It starts with the quality of the conversation. And let me tell you, it’s far easier for an individual thought-leader or musician to do this than companies, largely because companies are too formal, too corporate, and don’t usually communicate with a human voice.

What’s needed is a way to go direct. 

Let the celebrity or thought-leader engage with their fans directly to build an attention platform, unique to the celebrity. The company that empowers this attention platform, and builds new services for the fans, will build the next media empire with the “lock-in” that comes with authentic engagement. 

Of course, none of this works without authenticity.  The celebrity must remain true to themselves. In Steel Pulse’s case, this means they need to stick to their core brand dimensions.  So each successive album, each song, each product, each statement, builds on the Steel Pulse Experience.wordle_spbrand.gif

They could even track the core messages of a successful album – in this case “True Democracy” – and extend their meaning in new songs and releases:

wordle_truedemocracy.gif

So now let’s talk engagement, and I’ll break it into two simple phases – push and pull (borrowed from JSB and JH3).

Phase One: PUSH

So what does the celebrity do today?  In Britney Spears‘ case, she’s
tweeting her launch of a new song.  To me that’s not much of anything.
Yes, she’s reaching out through social media -Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace – but these are all still one way marketing pitches – push media.

The artist pushes their songs, their products, their newsletter, their tweets, etc. etc. No discussion, no give and take.  Products are created and sold. One market, one size fits all. Core fans are treated the same as newbies. Nothing special except the show and the products – media files: audio or video. See what I’m getting at?

All of this is still just pushing product.

Phase Two: PULL

What happens if the fans come to you – with their suggestions, requests, and insights? What happens when they want to participate? Is it possible to co-create products and services based on insights from yoru fans?  Of course it is.

Start the conversation. Go 80/20: focus on the 20% of fans that will get you 80% of your profits. Start talking (and listening) to your biggest supporters.

Engage: physically meet the 20%. Create special events for them. In soccer for example, fans pay $30-50 dollars just to watch Cristiano Ronaldo practice. What’s wrong with doing a 30 minute sound check for your fans?  Invite them to the sound check – and have exclusive “sound check products” available only for these fans – available at the event, and online as well.  You could even have a question and answer session that they get to download later that evening.

Then of course you sell the live version of the show – for a “limited time only.” Vary the show slightly with the song set, so every night is a different.

Let your fans download the raw tracks and make their own mixes. Have a contest for the best mixes. Sell the mixes to other fans.  Use them in your album.

And when you create a new album, it’s version-time.  Reggae music has a long history of selling versions. What’s sad is they’ve stopped this traditional practice when really they need to be exploiting it. (See Hal Varian on versioning.)  So every song should have the following versions: album version, extended version, dub version, accapella version, acoustic version, dance version, Nyabinghi version, etc. etc.  

Talk to the fans about the songs through webcasts, band-calls.  Let then know where and what’s next.  Let them vote on what you should do next.

For legacy songs, make sure you sell versions-in-time. The 1983 version of Chant a Psalm a Day is quite different from the 2000 version, which again is totally different from the 2009 version. Real fans want them all.

All of this is do-able today. It’s not about technology, it’s about attitude, and the ability to communicate, to lead.  For a cause-driven band like Steel Pulse, this is their opportunity to shine.

And let your fans share in creating and spreading your experience.

Now let’s take a quick look at the business world. 

VG, as he’s called affectionately, is an author and well known strategist. His latest article in the Harvard Business Review, co-authored with Jeffery Immelt and Chris Trimble, has been a huge success – introducing the world to a concept called reverse innovation.

What we’re doing now is building his engagement strategy – through his innovation newsletter.  The idea is to start a conversation about innovation with the people most interested in this topic.

A small step to start, but I know from experience that a “simple” newsletter can drive over 50% of monthly sales online.

The great news is anyone can build an attention platform like this. And if you have something important to say, your platform will bring you the attention you deserve. 

It may even elect you President!

As I was finishing up on this, I just saw a tweet from John Hagel on author platforms (read here). Again, if Apple can help an author or musician build that platform, then Apple will “lock-in” that artist for life.  Same goes for Amazon.com. The distribution model for media is changed forever, period.

Interview with Hal Varian: The Economics of Information

This is a digital reprint of an interview I did about ten years ago with UC Berkeley’s Hal Varian. At the time Varian was co-author of a bestseller: Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy; it’s still worth reading today. Today he’s the Chief Economist at Google. There are still a number of good things in this interview that the media companies could learn from…  (I’m a bit embarrassed by the silliness of my questions, but hey.)

I suppose we should begin by asking you for your definition of “information” and what you call “information goods”.

When we talk about information goods, we mean anything that can be digitized. Text, pictures, moving images, sound, all the media that can be delivered over a digital connection. Some people call them digital goods.

Information goods have some interesting properties. On the supply side there’s normally a big fixed cost to create the first copy, of say a movie, and then a negligible cost to create additional copies. On the demand side, the interesting feature is that you don’t really know what information is until after you’ve consumed it. So you have to experience it to know what it is.

When you’re selling information, you’re dealing with how do you give free samples, how do you give part of it away, how do you establish a reputation so people will purchase the information you’re providing, etc. etc.

I read about a travel publishing company that put its contents on-line, and their book sales went up, because people wanted the books with them when they traveled…

Yes. Another example is the National Academy of Sciences. They found when they put all their content on line and people could actually look at what the content was, they were more likely to buy.

What are some of the techniques you find companies use to create and sell information products? How do you sell an information product to different customers at different prices? How do you find out what the different customers will pay? Can you do this on a website?

The trick is to “version” your information product: construct a product line of your information goods that will appeal to different market segments. A common way to do this is to use delay: issue a book first in hardback, then, a few months later issue a cheaper edition in paperback. The people who are really interested will get the hardback, whereas people who are only casually interested will wait.

We see financial sites on the Web that sell real-time stock quotes, but give away quotes that are 20-minutes delayed. A movie first comes out first in the theater then six months later in video.

Then there are other things, user-interface, for example. If you look at Dialog, which is a search company, they have two types of search engines- one is a professional search engine, with Boolean searches and all sorts of options, and then they have an “ordinary-person” search engine, with a stripped down interface. It’s nice because the ordinary person wants to use the simpler interface, while the paying professional uses the professional interface. So there isn’t any cross-market cannibalization.

Other dimensions on which to version your product are user convenience, image resolution, capability, features, tech support, etc.

You mention Gresham’s Law of Information in your book. What is it?

Gresham’s law said “bad money crowds out good”. We coined “Gresham’s Law of Information” which says “bad information crowds out good”. Low-quality, cheap information can displace high-quality, authoritative information: look what happened with Encarta and Britannica. However, Britannica is now fighting back and has come out with products that are much better suited to computer use. Smart consumers will look for quality information.

Your example of the struggle between Encarta and Britannica, how Britannica lost out to the upstart $49 Encarta…

Right, although they’re coming back. They’re doing some clever things now. What happens there is the incumbent in the industry has a very low marginal cost, so they should be able to beat the entrant but they can’t quite change their business model. It’s hard. Telephone companies are having this problem, the print/publishing media is having this problem, TV networks have this problem vis-a-vis cable.

(This was before Wikipedia!)

Since there’s a high cost of innovation and a low cost of imitation on the web, isn’t it harder to keep “first-mover” advantages?

You’re right, we talk about this — the competition is only a click away. But the clever company, which has that first-mover advantage, will try its best to create “lock-in” for their customer base. For example, look at what Amazon has done- one click ordering, keeping information on what you purchase so they can recommend books to you. If Amazon is recommending good books to me and I want to switch to say Barnes & Noble, I have to start all over.

Another good example of that is e-toys. You put in the birthday of your nephew, your neice, and your cousins, whatever, and they send you a reminder that your nephew’s birthday is coming up and here’s a nice stuffed rabbit that’s very popular with children in his age group.

Can you tell us a little more about your lock-in strategies?

Since the competition is just a click away on the Web, it pays companies to invest in building customer loyalty. The best way to do this is to produce a product that is so much better than the competition that they don’t want to switch! But there are other ways too, such as loyalty programs, like frequent flyer programs that reward frequent purchasers.

What about lock-in strategies for suppliers and partners?

What we were thinking about there was that if you have a group of loyal customers that are purchasing your products, and there may be other complementary products that they would also purchase, but you may not be the best firm to supply that. So then what you do is sell access to your customers.

The portal companies are doing this. For example, I go to Yahoo, and Yahoo charges other companies to have access to me. Let’s say e-toys wants to move into baby or children’s clothes. They might not do that themselves, but they could partner with other companies that do that.

So once you have a loyal customer base, then you can sell access to that customer base for other products that complement what you are selling.

What about the dangers in this, with privacy issues?

It’s certainly convenient for me to be reminded when my anniversary is or my nephew’s birthday or something. That’s a service, a good thing. Of course they can use the information about me in ways that could be detrimental- they could sell it to mailing lists and I get deluged by email. So the trick is to make sure that consumers give their consent; you want to know exactly how the information is going to be used by the company in question. There are companies like e-trust which meet a very important need.

I was looking at ANX, the auto-industry supplier network, and I found out that Chrysler, despite its enthusiasm during the pilot, isn’t part of the production version of ANX. And if you go to the Chrysler supplier website, you find they’ve created tons of business applications. So when does it make sense to join a standards organization and when does it make sense to go it alone?

There’s this fundamental equation that says that the value to you is your share of the market value times the size of the total market. So some of your actions, like standardization, can increase the total size of the market, but it can decrease your market share because it creates more competition. So you have to trade-off these two effects.

So you’re saying if the total size of the market gets bigger, and you make a bigger profit despite a lower market share, then you are on to something… How do you protect intellectual property on the web? Will the current move of providing patent protection to internet business models help or hurt the future of e-commerce?

The point is to maximize the value of your intellectual property, not maximize its protection. You can charge a lot lower price for content on the Web because you can reach a much larger audience.

I’m quite unenthusiastic about patent protection for Internet business models and feel that it will retard progress in this area.

(Like I said, my questions are quite stupid, but the versioning of information goods – that’s still something the media companies can learn about! This cartoon was also done about the same time…)

http://www.onewwworld.com/noodleman/noodle98.gif

Finally, to get you up to speed, here’s a decent interview with Prof. Varian with the [global-warming deniers](http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/winston/2009/10/superfreakonomics-misses-the-b.html) at Superfreakonomics >>

Innovation in Turbulent Times: Two Heads are Better than One

In their article Innovation in Turbulent Times, Darrell Rigby, Kara Gruver, and James Allen make the case that the key to growth is pairing an analytic left-brain thinker with an imaginative right-brain partner:

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Fine, but the problem is that in most “rational” industries – dominated by “maximize shareholder value” thinking, there no room at the top for the creative thinker.  In fact, I would argue that most companies are too sharply skewed to the left brain. The CEO, CFO and the heads of all the business units are too focused on P&L to think outside the proverbial box.

They need to improve their “intuitive intelligence” by chatting with Francis Cholle >>

Misplaced Priorities: Six Strategies for CEO Failure?

American style management has been under some considerable stress these last few years. Now the nerds at Bain have some advice for the CEO. Apparently there are six dilemmas CEOs must face and – surprise! Bain has uncovered six strategies to help the CEO manage these dilemmas. Check out the cool diagram below:

ceosdilemma.gif

I personally think the CEOs would be better off following VG’s 3 box strategy and executing on it.  This other stuff is fine, but it doesn’t seem to be the stuff of great leadership. Nowhere do we see anything about creating great products or obsessing over your customers or sustainability.  I bet Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos do not manage their companies this way.

“How GE is Disrupting Itself” by Immelt, VG, and Chris Trimble

VG has touched a chord with this article in Harvard Business Review

HBR

How GE is Disrupting Itself describes the concept of reverse innovation – how products developed in and for low-cost countries (like India and China) by multinationals (like GE) lead to growth – not only in the low-cost market, but at home as well.

VG says the article has touched an “emotional” chord with readers who are saying that this approach is just what “western” multinationals should be doing – designing products for the local market at a price-point which is within reach.

Check out the advertisement for one such product:

To me, this is just the first step to being truly global (as they say at Thunderbird). With business commitments at a local level, social commitments will surely follow. 

Now let’s see some “ecomagination” in action and build portable solar/wind electrical generators for off-grid villages at an affordable price-point. Right, Bob?

Communicating Change

It’s not enough to work hard and do your best when the Becks and Limbaughs of the world are doing their best to destroy your arguments with rage, hatred and lies.
What’s needed is a simple framework to communicate what it is you are doing and why.
Vijay Govindarajan‘s post – Obama’s Challenge: Communicating a Framework for Change – shows us what Obama should be doing to communicate more clearly.
And he’s got to find some of that campaign passion as well.

The Rise of Intuitive Intelligence: An Interview with Francis Cholle

Here’s my intuitive intelligence interview with Francis Cholle at Emory Marketing Institute >>
Cholle’s main point is that businesses have lost track of how to manage holistically. They are too focused on counting beans to create sustainable business value.
He’s not saying analytics are useless. He’s just saying that Mark Hurd at HP isn’t going to come up with the products HP needs for the future by using analytical processes (that’s not in the published interview – but we did discuss it!).
Read the interview here>>

Jack and Suzy Welch’s Reality Advertising

Jack and Suzy Welch star in a Microsoft-sponsored, web-based, business reality show. The site is here, but it’s too cluttered (I think they were trying to be cool).
I do think this is a great advertising campaign, if the branding fools don’t destroy it (by placing too many Microsoft (yawn) pitches in the margins, for example).
Watch the first show below. Jack jumps in and “surfaces” a few issues at Connect by Hertz – a new car-sharing venture. In a way, the fact that Jack pulls these issues out in 5 minutes sorta tells us how out of it Hertz is.
Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

After watching this I get the feeling they don’t understand VG’s Box1-2-3 strategy for innovation. In fact, they are most likely going to fail. After 30 days, the CEO has still NOT created a global business unit for Griff. Not good. No follow through on commitments.
One more thing. Why doesn’t Microsoft bring Jack and Suzy into Microsoft for a few days? They could wake the sleepyheads real fast. Stop one: The Automotive group!
Also, I’d like to see Obama send Jack and Suzy into GM for six weeks. That would sure be a reality show worth watching.
BTW: A quick ecosystem analysis shows that Zipcar is beating them hands down. Rankings: almost 600,000 for Connect by Hertz and 22,000 by Zipcar.

Intel and Wind River: Shaping Strategy for the Future of the Consumer Experience

The acquisition of Wind River by Intel should not come as a surprise for anyone who has been paying attention to the rapid evolution of the online experience. We know for example that the future of electronics is collaboration, sharing, and accessanytime, anywhere, on any device..
Companies that build a vision around the future and then work to make that future a reality using their business ecosystems will win the next round of competition after we emerge from the recession. Intel’s shaping strategy, as my friend John Hagel would call it, is nothing short of brilliant.
Let’s see why.
In the automobile “infotainment” world, Intel has been quietly working with Wind River and BMW (and others) to build a shared platform for devices based on open source standards. The ecosystem partners comprise the Genivi Alliance and are in competition with another, smaller ecosystem of partners driven by Microsoft. The difference is that Microsoft’s infotainment stack is not open. Ford’s Sync and Fiat’s Blue & Me products are based on this competing platform. (How long before they switch?)
The ultimate irony – both platforms are built on Intel. And in this case, Intel knows something that Microsoft doesn’t – that open systems are the future.
The Wind River platform is not limited to automobiles. They’re doing the same across a variety of marketspaces, like the Open Handset Alliance Android – another open source platform.
The Wind River acquisition also helps include “Intel Inside” on all the devices which cloud computing will bring. Intel is making sure that the Telcos, IT hosting providers, hardware and software vendors – everyone gets to use Intel as the foundation of their future business.
Shaping Strategy 101: Intel gets it.

Customer-Driven Innovation: Interview with Gaurav Bhalla

Here’s my “Customer-Driven Innovation interview” with Gaurav Bhalla for the Emory Marketing Institute.
According to Bhalla, the key building blocks of value co-creation are:
Listening: learning about consumers’ experiences; their angst, frustrations, desires, and aspirations

Sustaining value co-creation conversations:
meaningful conversations that yield the raw material for co-creation
Experimenting and rapid prototyping: to manage risk, improvise, and enable speedy value co-creation
Execution: only when co-created value is delivered can the next round of value co-creation be initiated
Read all about it >>

The Heretical Views of Freeman Dyson

Global warming greatly exaggerated?
What’s wrong with Freeman Dyson?
Maybe the climate models he’s criticizing are off – but perhaps he hasn’t seen the pine beetle destruction across North America – all the way from British Columbia to New Mexico. Perhaps he hasn’t seen the dry, hot weather across California. Perhaps he hasn’t seen the melting Glaciers in Glacier National Park. Perhaps he hasn’t seen the mild winters in the Rockies. Perhaps he hasn’t gotten out of his air-conditioned office…
This is what happens when you get too smart. I agree with his principal point – that PhDs are, for the most part, a bunch of nerds who are too busy examining parts of the elephant to see the animal itself. I even agree that we are not spending enough time working on poverty, infectious diseases, public education and public health. But to say that global warming is somehow less important misses the entire point. Of course they are all related. Of course we have to become radically more serious about sustainable development. But too say something this absurd? Really.
Here’s where I do find myself agreeing with him:
I say the United States has less than a century left of its turn as top nation. Since the modern nation-state was invented, about the year 1500, a succession of countries have taken turns as top nation. First it was Spain, then France, then and Britain, than America. Each term lasted about 150 years. Ours began in 1920 so it should end about 2070.
I agree with his analysis as well:
The reason why each top nation’s term comes to an end is that the top nation becomes overextended militarily, economically and politically. Greater and greater efforts are required to maintain the number one position. Finally, the overextension becomes so extreme that the whole structure collapses. Already we can see in the American posture today some clear symptoms of overextension.
But here’s where he’s missed the boat: the two are connected. If the United States decides to re-invent itself as a sustainable economy, it will lead for another 200 years, period. That is what Obama and Gore have figured out already, but somehow, this smart heretic has not connected the dots.

Byron Katie: Challenging Your Assumptions

The Work of Byron Katie can be used as a tool to challenge business assumptions.
Here, on Byron Katie’s blog we find the following business inquiry: “Having More Customers Means Having More Profits” in which a biz-dev manager starts questioning his team’s belief that “more customers equals more profit.”
The process is described as business inquiry.
Here are the manager’s conclusions:
“Having fewer customers means having more profit.”
“One, we could focus on the customers that have the strongest cash positions, the ones who are most likely to weather the recession.
“Two, we could stop wasting time on difficult customers, the ones that keep changing their orders. They’re very high maintenance, but we keep them because we think we need them to meet our numbers.
“And three, we could stop serving customers that don’t pay in a timely manner, the ones with poor payment history.”

More at Byron Katie’s blog >>

Swine Flu Updates: How Twitter Makes a Difference (UPDATED)

UPDATED: HealthMap from Google.org and the CDC >>
I have to say I’m not impressed by the swine-flu coverage in the traditional media.
What’s interesting is that one company – Veratect – has done a better job of identifying, elevating, and monitoring this crisis.
Their swine-flu Twitter feed is here. Judge for yourself. >>
Other good sources include the CDC and Google News, and the Flu Wiki
Photos here >>
Background: the politics of health >>

Backlash: How Early Adopters React When the Mass Market Embraces a New Brand


David Reibstein‘s theory holds true online as well. Let’s look at an example of how this works with online communities, knowledge – based communities in particular. Let’s say we build an online community around a specific topic. When the site starts up, we attract the early adopters – some of them thought leaders in their fields. The posts, articles, and debates are generally led by a handful of these thinkers, and they attract a following. The newbies, as they engage with the community start off by learning, asking questions, sometimes just lurking. The quality of these early debates is typically high and participation intense and invigorating.
So what happens when the community suddenly experiences growth – massive numbers of the hoi-pollloi descend on the site and suddenly the quality of discussions takes on a Twitter-like feelstupid and stupider. The old school rebels, first through silence, and second by disengaging. This takeover by the wisdom of the masses can be avoided, through ruthless editorial direction and skilled moderators. And every once in while, the new participants challenge assumptions that deserve to be challenged, and are given their space in the sun.
So how do we manage this growth and stay true to the community’s intent?
Three options come to my mind:
1) Manage membership – simply keep the community at growing in a measured way – firing the “bottom” 10% each year, and bringing in a fresh crop of participants at 20%… This is the surest way to sustainable growth.
2) Create a merit-based aristocacy – with tiered membership based on the value of the participant’s contributions.
3) Create a feeder community which is built for the masses and an elite community for the thought leaders and their followers. Moderate the interaction between these groups with the possibility of upward migration based on peer-based invitations.
You’ll notice I am not advocating open communities where everyone has an equal voice. That’s because I’m not talking about social communities, but communities of practice where respect is reserved for the competent.