/blog > archive > September 2011

peter-thiel

Alex Taussig at CNN Money describes a recent speech delivered by Peter Thiel at the Harvard Business School. In it, Thiel outlined two alternative approaches to the future: The definite future is one in which we choose one future worldview and allocate resources against it.Thiel argues that the America of the 50′s and 60′s, in which science fiction novels and government spending on the Space Race were overwhelmingly popular, believed in a definite future, and that this was good for innovation….It was the idea that aligning oneself around a common goal and believing in it, perhaps foolhardily, is the only way to achieve true greatness. Occasionally, you will actually achieve one of those crazy dreams. In contrast, the indefinite future is one in which we accept our inability to predict anything useful and hedge our bets by putting our resources behind a portfolio of activities down the road. This philosophy best reflects…

Read More…

lazarussquare

Emilie Wapnick at Brazen Life thinks that there is too much emphasis on specialization these days. She has written an entertaining piece with the provocative title Specialization is Overrated: Why You’ll Benefit from Being Kinda Good at Many Things. She makes a pretty good case, citing instances where skills that were not her true specialty were enough to get her through. Being “kinda good” at legal stuff was sufficient to secure a trademark. Being “kinda good” at CSS got her up and running on WordPress. I like the idea that we should all be generalists. I’ve always liked this passage from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long: A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve…

Read More…

Todd_Horton_KangoGift_Head

How much influence can a single cupcake (or mocha latte) have? You might be surprised. Several years ago I was running a tradeshow booth at Gartner ITXPO where we were giving out little IQ-test gizmos for anyone who would fill out one of our surveys (a pre-qualification device for subsequent sales calls.) We had purchased the IQ games in bulk for about $15 a pop. We could have branded them with our logo, but they would have cost a lot more, plus our product was called “IQ” anyway. Besides, their main purpose was to get people to fill out the forms. On the second day of the Expo, we ran out of games. Booth traffic dropped off to next to nothing, as we sat and watched hundreds of potential customers go by. So one of my colleagues and I dashed over to Sam’s Club and bought a couple of crates…

Read More…

Ford-Logo-square

Ford’s recent decision to pull its “we didn’t take the money” ad raises some interesting questions about corporate posturing and transparency, especially in the context of the relationship between government and business. What does it say if Ford pulled the ad because of pressure from the White House? And how clear a picture does the ad actually portray of Ford’s public position towards the bailouts? Daniel Howes of DetNews.com writes: With President Barack Obama tuning his re-election campaign amid dismal economic conditions and simmering antipathy toward his stimulus spending and associated bailouts, the Ford ad carried the makings of a political liability when Team Obama can least afford yet another one. Can’t have that. The ad, pulled in response to White House questions (and, presumably, carping from rival GM), threatened to rekindle the negative (if accurate) association just when the president wants credit for their positive results (GM and Chrysler…

Read More…

forksmall

John Lees at the  Harvard Business Review Blog Network says we need to change the way we think about job hunting. He outlines two very different thought processes that we might employ when making a career change. The first of the two sounds familiar: identify a few broad possible choices and then take the first thing that comes along that represents a reasonable match. The second process lacks the urgency of the first and is focused more on learning and making connections than it is on finding a job. Accepting a job under this model requires making a substantial match with items from a well-thought-out wish list. Lees concludes: My advice for anyone caught in career choice dilemma is this: stop trying to decide. We believe we’re choosing thoughtfully but mostly we just go round in circles, shooting down ideas one after another. Put your energy into idea-building. Imagine you…

Read More…

lightspeed

…if it’s really been established that some particles are traveling faster than light — and I very much doubt that that’s the case — then how much of the rest what Einstein had to tell us about the workings of the universe still holds? Specifically, are these particles actually traveling backward in time? I mean, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen when you exceed the speed of light? One possibility: (as mentioned in the linked article) the particles are engaged in some kind of quantum tunneling which allows them to get from point A to point B at faster than light speed without ever actually going faster than light. This is a cool possibility because it does away with worries about time travel and (more importantly) because  it’s in line with warp drive and hyperspace and other science fiction methodologies for achieving FTL travel. Another possibility: these particles are tachyons. If so,they must be…

Read More…

michaelscott

Don’t despair. There are still plenty of laughs to be had, if you know where to look.Read More…

The question is -- Who picked this picture of Seth Godin?

That is item #1 on Susannah Breslin’s list of 10 things she has learned about work. I followed the links on some of the other items before coming back to the first one, so I was momentarily confused when I landed on this page. She must have gotten the link wrong, I thought. Seth isn’t talking about how most advice is drivel; he’s talking about the importance of being weird. He’s quoting Dr. Suess. He’s quoting favorable reviews of his book, wherein the reviewer talks about people who want to “lead a tribe.” What does any of that have to do with the fact that — oh. Right. Sheesh, I may take issue with the guy from time to time, but I don’t think I would ever call him out quite like that. (Unless writing this post counts as doing that.) Still, I think Susannah’s list is good enough that…

Read More…

Connectivity

The org chart provides a picture of relationships within an organization. This is the official picture, the one that establishes reporting relationships. Sometimes  these charts are augmented with dotted lines to show multiple reporting responsibilities. And sometimes they are color-coded to show cross-functional projects and teams. But no amount of tweaking can make an org chart show all of the relationships that exist within an organization — not even all the important ones. Sometimes the most critical relationships are not represented. Consider this passage from War and Peace: When Boris entered the room, Prince Andrey was listening to an old general, wearing his decorations, who was reporting something to Prince Andrey, with an expression of soldierly servility on his purple face. “Alright. Please wait!” he said to the general, speaking in Russian with the French accent which he used when he spoke with contempt. The moment he noticed Boris he…

Read More…

mario

Scientists work on a problem for years and years. They can’t find a solution. The problem is embedded into a game and turned over to online gamers. Result: problem solved in three weeks: Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of Second Life or Dungeons and Dragons: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade. The exploit is published on Sunday in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, where — exceptionally in scientific publishing — both gamers and researchers are honoured as co-authors. Their target was a monomeric protease enzyme, a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses, a family that includes HIV. Figuring out the structure of proteins is vital for understanding the causes of many diseases and developing drugs to block them. I’ve said it before: there is a lot more to…

Read More…