Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Passion, apples, and vision

Fortune Magazine broke cover on its list of most admired companies for 2008. Apple took top honors on both US and World rankings. Some excerpts from an interview with Steve Jobs:

"We don't get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? So this is what we've chosen to do with our life. We could be sitting in a monastery somewhere in Japan. We could be out sailing. Some of the [executive team] could be playing golf. They could be running other companies. And we've all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it. And we think it is."

It was certainly the most inspired point of the interview, if only slightly more than his views on downturns:

"We've had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren't going to lay off people, that we'd taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place -- the last thing we were going to do is lay them off. And we were going to keep funding. In fact we were going to up our R&D budget so that we would be ahead of our competitors when the downturn was over. And that's exactly what we did. And it worked. And that's exactly what we'll do this time."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Anthill, collective wisdom, and survival

In a typical anthill, foraging follows a pattern where the ants walk at random, stumble upon food, and return whatever they can carry back to the anthill. On their way back, they leave behind a trail of pheromones to attract other ants. Soon, a somewhat ordered line of ants can be found hard at work between the food source and the anthill.

Ants know a thing or two about cooperating with each other.

Now just imagine what would happen if ants stumbling upon food did not leave a trail of pheromones behind, or if the other ants were not to follow the trail.

That is the predicament of many large companies who have not embraced the internal deployment of social software within their firewalls.

Just the other day I read a thread where web 2.0 on the enterprise was described as the latest fad in the corporate world. I responded with a long argument about the benefits observed in the deployments within our company.

I should have talked about anthills.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My employee's opinions are his own; the GM spat

I always wondered about how effective are blog disclaimers along the lines of "These opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent my employer's point of view".

It is easy to dismiss one lone voice inside the walls of a cube farm, but look at what happens when the press makes a piñata out of GM CEO Rick Wagoner over a comment made by GM chairman-turned-blogger on the topic of global warming:

General Motors Chairman Bob Lutz may think that global warming is "a crock," but GM CEO Rick Wagoner made it clear at a press event Tuesday that GM doesn't share Lutz's views. Instead, Wagoner believes that global warming is a very real issue facing the planet and that automakers must take action.
"The comments weren't coming out of our company," Wagoner told The Detroit News at the event.

Wagoner continued by saying that average temperatures around the world are on the rise, and while there is no definitive evidence linking cars to global warming, it's GM's goal to reduce its vehicles' CO2 emissions.

Lutz defended his stance on global warming on GM's corporate blog last month, saying "My beliefs are mine and I have a right to them." However, Lutz insists that he shares GM's stance on "the removal of cars and trucks from the environmental equation."

Take note, Bob Lutz used his blog to address the negative media buzz.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"The science of experience"

Excellent article on Times Magazine, titled "The science of experience".

There is an interesting experiment with two nurses, one with 2 years of experience and the other with 25. They tend to a robotic patient in a simulated environment, the junior nurse nearly kills the patient; the senior nurse moves across the run with far more confidence and speed, actually killing the patient in a shorter period of time.

A quote to motivate you reading the article:

Ericsson's (Dr. K. Anders Ericsson) primary finding is that rather than mere experience or even raw talent, it is dedicated, slogging, generally solitary exertion — repeatedly practicing the most difficult physical tasks for an athlete, repeatedly performing new and highly intricate computations for a mathematician — that leads to first-rate performance. And it should never get easier; if it does, you are coasting, not improving. Ericsson calls this exertion "deliberate practice," by which he means the kind of practice we hate, the kind that leads to failure and hair-pulling and fist-pounding.

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