walk forward dollar TT TOONS

Archive for March, 2008

What Happened to Philippe Starck?

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Philippe Starck is giving up design…

This has been cycling around for the last few days, and I mostly just thought that Philippe Starck’s comments were those of a person who has just become really bored. His comments were made during an interview for Die Zeit, specifically an answer to the question regarding how he can design more things in a world already rampant with stuff (much of it designed by Starck, himself):

“I was a producer of materiality and I am ashamed of this fact. Everything I designed was unnecessary. I will definitely give up in two years’ time.”

Philippe Starck

I imagine he is massively distracted by his role as a developer and tastemaker for the exploding Chinese moneyed glitterati. That would wear anybody out, right? I was not planning on writing about this, but then read a post at that was right on the mark. Here’s the deal, he may have committed much effort over the past decades to create designs within a materialistic constraint, but he didn’t have to. Instead of toilet brushes he could have focused on insulin pumps. Instead of bathtub drain plugs he could have improved the wheelchair. He could have committed that same effort to non-materialistic designs that improve and/or save people’s lives. The thing is, he still can do this and we would love him to do this. I am surprised that he has given himself a two year sunset as a designer. Why not just quit now? Directed at Starck by Mocoloco:

“Why don’t you devote that substantial talent and media savvy of yours to making stuff that’s smarter, more sustainable, and dare we say it, cool, in that gotta have it, materialistic way you know so well. Or is this really about clients who aren’t quite ready to make the big changes required to create the smarter, more sustainable, cool design? Greenwashing got you down? It’s not going to be easy.”

How To Organize a Conference. Rock On!

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Adaptive Path MX Conference April 20-22

In February of last year I and a co-worker had an excellent time at held in San Francisco. The speakers were solid. The cool, smart and interesting people-to-meet quotient was quite high (including of frog and of Dell). I immediately became an advocate, have blogged about some of the speakers here, and continue to relate back to the experience and what I learned. The theme of the conference, “Managing Experience through Creative Leadership,” is one that is clearly industry agnostic, focused on creating successful and engaging audience experiences, and stands to benefit a multitude of businesses and teams regardless of their proximity to or intersection with a stereotypically “creative” business. This stuff should matter to all of us.

I’m going back again this year, and those that know me have already heard this about a thousand times. I have sent out invitations to join me at the conference. I am attending with a co-worker and friend, who also is a participant in our yearly “Innovation Tours.” This year’s tour begins with the MX Conference, and then we are scheduling tours and information sessions with a number of companies and organizations in and around the Bay Area. This should be an inspiring and invaluable trip, and an opportunity to make some great connections.

I received a confirmation email from Adaptive Path, and in that was something that I thought to be incredibly cool. They are paying a lot of attention to the time we are not at the sessions, and creating opportunities for all of the attendees to cross paths. There are the obligatory end of day cocktail receptions, and daily lunches scheduled as part of the conference, but it is the reservations for tables of eight made at restaurants around San Francisco that struck me as especially cool. As an attendee, just decide where you want to eat and show up. The reservation is already made and you have no idea who you will be dining with, which presents all kinds of happy accidents. It’s a dining/conference mashup, and a service for those not familiar with the city to get them out and meeting others.

So, yeah, I’m looking forward to this conference. I’m planning on live tweeting (inspired by David Armano’s tweets from the AdAge event a few weeks ago) the interesting things that I learn, and will try to recap at the end of each day here on schneiderism. You can follow the conference on by .

Gorgeous Visualization. Great Song.

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

from on .

Heavy, heavy day. Great discussion, new connections, incredible research, and too many emails and phone calls. I feel tired in a good way and as a contrast to the rather intense post of yesterday I offer this really rich animation just sent to me by a co-worker and via . This is about all I can handle for the moment but am working on a number of posts on topics like the upcoming in San Francisco from Adaptive Path, which I am attending, and a new Workplace of The Future piece stemming from conversations with Darren Shavor of . Good times.

Five Principles of Effective Change

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Tomorrow Ain’t Promised Today

I am fascinated by change in organizations, by what drives it, what leads it, and what makes it happen. There are a number of businesses that are in a struggle right now, and this struggle is driven by their inability to previously anticipate market conditions and the realities within which they operate. Some are quickly and effectively reinventing themselves. This is exciting, and as business culture, irrespective of industry, can be prone to many legacy notions of practice, process and value creation, we know that through effective leadership and strategy legacy thinking can be overcome. Most of us would acknowledge that we can literally see change in business on a daily, if not hourly basis. How we work, and the markets within which we operate, are subject to exponentially increasing change as it relates to communications, globalism, competition, continuous improvement, consumer/client need, collaboration, user experience, teaming, talent… I could keep going, but imagine that you get the picture. I have posted about this a number of times, but I want to elaborate on some of the broader principles that I am beginning to consistently identify:

1. Nothing motivates change like the “near-death experience”

There was a great post back in October at that touched on this issue without really revealing any conclusive answer, but that got me really thinking. Why is this? Does it take a brush with disaster to shake people out of stasis? Is change fear based? My current observations are that this is often the case, though it does not need to be. However, people tend to be lazy and comfortable, and change is hard, dedicated work. Change is often also very entrepreneurial, entails risk, and not everyone is programmed to approach business in this way. But when the survival of the company is at stake, people suddenly perk up and pay attention. They become focused. This is an opportunity. Effective leadership seizes on this opportunity.

2. Leading change is clearly identifying what needs to happen, and then executing

We have all sat through too many meetings where somebody in leadership makes a compelling case for change, and then you never hear about it again. Change is war. Change requires thorough and well-thought-through strategy and the tactics to achieve that strategy. This is a fundamental rethinking of a business, of process, and of market relevance, and a fundamental reformulation of how a business navigates these successfully. This is then followed by action, by execution. There needs to not only be next steps, but next steps to the next steps, and the right people need to be in ownership of the direction and management of the business course in support of this direction. Otherwise, you just sat through another hour you will not get back.

3. Effective change leadership requires a strong connection to operational reality

Given a situation where an organization needs to undergo some fundamental reassessments of business model, practice, and market relevance, it is imperative that those leading such assessments be grounded in the contextual reality of the organization. You cannot set the bar impossibly high out of optimism. You need to set incremental targets that are reality based and mostly achievable with hard work and focus. I am a firm believer in the benefits of failing forward as a way to test concepts and ideas, but if the goal is an unattainable target you will do a better job demoralizing your team while also undermining the larger goal of moving the organization forward. Respect the need for action, but take the time to plan effectively. Base your assessments of problems, current conditions, and even future possibilities on hard data, when possible, and avoid the mistake of presenting baseless assumptions as actionable strategy. Manage goal setting very, very carefully and tie those goals directly to the expertise and resource required. Also, consider an exit strategy for goals insofar as your team understands that if Plan A is not successful, that Plan B very quickly goes into action. I think that the I Ching nails this with the idea of “wind over wind,” which presents the approach of “…gently overcoming any impasses that are in your way by being consistent and having well defined goals to focus on. This way changes and will have long-term and far-reaching effects.”

4. Passion can be an effective motivator of change, but you have to authentically show it

While it cannot be the sole catalyst for success, passion can certainly get you far in creating energy and impetus behind a strategy. However, it needs to be bolstered by awareness, connection to reality, and a deep knowledge base. Without passion, though, you face a much more challenging process. Let’s face it, change should be exciting for an organization, and it is an opportunity to bring everyone together for a unified purpose. This begins with passion for the power of an idea, for the importance of an effort coming from the top. Consistently. The more directly this passion is communicated, the more resolute your support for these efforts will be. Leaders need to tap this, the people that support them feed off of it. This is about as close to politics as leadership in business might come, but we’re talking charisma and energy here. Change that is mandated by a detached, disconnected, and aloof leader is doomed to failure. Change that is lead by an effective leader who is passionate, invested, and connected is a rallying point. We love leaders who work as hard, or harder, than we do.

5. With the right team, anything is possible, and effective change leadership demands the right team

There are few businesses where one or two people can achieve a successful transformation. We need the support of people who are better at some things than we are. Not necessarily a lot of people, depending on the organization, but certainly people who deepen the capabilities and potential of a change effort. In most business books about this topic some significant amount of content will be dedicated to effective teaming around and in support of a strategy. This is because they’re right. Teams need to be built for speed, steeped in commitment, with members chosen for both what they bring to the effort and a devotion to work with others to achieve success. Not everyone is cut out for this, and one person that is not operating from this place can sink the efforts of an entire team. Replace them. Test for acumen and energy. Profile for passion and thought leadership. Surround yourself with people who are not afraid to challenge convention and work to do things better than they have done before. This should be leadership team best practice. For truly successful companies, it most certainly is.

I would say that these five principles are very much a work in progress, but it seemed appropriate and compelling to begin to commit my thoughts to review by a broader audience. What I know is that there is no one magic process for effectively leading and managing change within an organization. Change is based on customization of approach, and that is borne out of a deep and thorough understanding of what challenges a company faces, and an intense investigation into how it might successfully overcome those challenges. The most important piece, though, is a cohesive commitment to action.

Social Gestures Beget Social Objects

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

This interview with by , which I came across because I follow Hugh on , is reinforcing of a conversation I had last evening about how companies might begin thinking about social media, and how social media might be helpful in building strong connections with their audiences. Specifically, we were discussing a company that produces outstanding content that people pay for, that when they find they generally love. Content that stands qualitatively above comparable content from most all of their competitors, but content that is ultimately difficult to find unless you are specifically looking for it. This company has no active digital strategy, that I can tell, and has not begun considering the benefits of meeting their audiences on their own turf. Imagine if they did? The really cool thing here, for this company in particular, is that there is virtually no risk and minimal cost for beginning to experiment with this. But there is a tremendous amount to gain, and to be gained in a way that is authentic and meaningful for those who seek such a connection and value the content that they create. That’s cool. And exciting. And potentially a wasted opportunity.

Mars’ Promethei Planum Images & Detail

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Promethei Planum on Mars by the ESA

Earlier this month the European Space Agency posted some high resolution images taken by the of the ice covered oddity that is . The images are striking and gorgeous, and depict the seasonal ice coverage of this cratered area that measures as deep as 3,500 meters in places. In the image below on the right is an impact crater, partially covered in ice, that measures roughly 100 km wide and 800 meters deep.

Promethei Planum on Mars by the ESA image II

It’s A “Manhunter”

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Northrop Grumman X-47B

It has been a while since I have posted about robots, so via comes news that we are that much closer to bigger, better, and more stealthy flying robots of death. At least the United States Navy is. We’ve had operational drones and remotely piloted craft that could fire on targets, but within the next year the Northrop Grumman X-47B will take flight, and begin aircraft carrier landing testing a year after that. This is a mean machine, and brings an array of capabilities to bear all from a compact, efficient, and radar resistant form factor. It’s not a small craft, but it is much smaller than all other carrier based aircraft. It’s mission profile reads like a Tom Clancy novel:

  • Ballistic missle defense
  • Irregular force attack
  • “Manhunting”
  • Strike-coordinated armed reconnaissance
  • Combat air support
  • Special operations force support
  • Air interdiction
  • Electronic surveillance
  • SEAD/EW (I have no idea what this means…)

The impetus behind creating this robotic aircraft is to provide the Navy and Marines with a platform that can stay in flight for 50-100 hours, carry 4,500 pounds of ordinance, and perform the toughest missions under the most dangerous of circumstances. Clearly criteria that make a pilotless option priority. Additionally, there are plans to make the airframe compatible with carrying directed energy weapons. That would be lasers.

Again, reality maps to science fiction.

Growing Innovation Culture: Honda

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

The light shines brightly on Honda

I don’t care what business or what industry you are talking about, innovation matters big time. I get this, and my investigations into how you cultivate a culture of innovation is an ongoing theme on schneiderism. I find it really interesting that companies like Toyota (as well as BMW, Porsche, Audi, Tata, Nissan, VW, Mazda…) continue to receive coverage with regards to the success of the innovative internal cultures they have supported, and the measurable benefits of those cultures in terms of market success, while essentially the entire American automotive industry struggles to find itself, let alone perpetuate a culture of innovation, let alone even THINK about market success. Many, including myself, have looked closely at how Toyota’s long history of creating and supporting innovation wherever it sets up shop. In many ways, innovation defines Toyota. Recently, Fortune took and revealed another deeply innovative company culture. It also revealed the demonstrable benefits of that culture.

For Honda, innovation is equivalent to excellence, and excellence clearly pays. The article states that since 2002 Honda’s revenues have grown close to 40%, approaching $94.8 billion. Most interesting to me is that Honda’s U.S. market share has risen from 6.7% in 2000 to 9.6% in 2007. That is partly because of American manufacturers LOSING market share, but is also because Honda continues to provide smart, affordable and innovative products that people WANT. Badly. Honda, along with Toyota and BMW, are the only automobile companies to make it into Fortune’s list of the top 20 of the . Apple is number one, by the way.

So, how does Honda make this happen? They let people experiment and explore. The culture encourages this. Leadership wants it. More specifically, they encourage their engineers, especially those who drive R&D, to be entrepreneurial in their pursuits. The kicker is that at Honda not only are employees typically paid less than at the competition, but their opportunities to move up in the organization are pretty limited. That’s because Honda is very, very flat as an organization… and it is this flatness that empowers people to experiment and to be entrepreneurial. To innovate. Employees tend to be incredibly loyal to Honda, as an added bonus, and this also is directly related to the flatness of the organization. That, and they magnify their passion by being around others who are so invested in experimenting, improving, and creating. Others that are passionate about innovating. There is even a on Honda’s corporate website dedicated to their focus on innovation, and the important results of that focus. Masaaki Kato, president and CEO of Honda R&D, offers his perspective on Honda’s innovation success:

“We want to look down the road. We do not want to be influenced by the business.”

Masaaki Kato, president and CEO of Honda Research and Development

The Loss of Arthur C. Clarke

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke

Catching up on my feeds just now I was saddened to see that , physicist, author, innovator, futurist, and ardent believer in the potential of humanity, has died. He was 90, so the man had a very decent run. Perhaps his most recognized work was 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie for which just celebrated its 40th anniversary. He leaves behind an enormous legacy of invention, creativity, art, and inspiration having written over 100 books. Enormous. Few have been so profoundly influential to so many, and managed to do it with such consistent style, usually sporting a satin Nehru jacket and tanned from the beaches of his home in Sri Lanka. For me, Arthur C. Clarke is the Yin to Philip K. Dick’s Yang. A couple great quotes from Clarke in honor of his passing…

Reflecting on his life:

“Sometimes I am asked how I would like to be remembered. I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter. Of all these I would like to be remembered as a writer.”

A terrific quote on the value of the space program, from 1970:

“The inspirational value of the space program is probably of far greater importance to education than any input of dollars… A whole generation is growing up which has been attracted to the hard disciplines of science and engineering by the romance of space.”

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

Meet Them on Their Turf

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Is anybody listening to what we are saying?

That’s a line from a really excellent slide presentation by and via that succinctly summarizes some of the best opportunities for companies today as they contemplate their interactive marketing strategy, and how best to connect with their audience(s).

Three of his points here that are especially meaningful to me:

  • Leverage the Content Management System - Huge value here, especially when combined with a thoughtful content strategy, analytics, and the focus to continuously improve and help audiences get the information that they seek. You’re only as good as your content is fresh. I am an enormous proponent of Wordpress as not only is schneiderism built with it, but two sites I am currently involved with are also taking advantage of what Wordpress offers. It has become a powerful technology for efficiently building effective websites and is very customizable from an interface design standpoint.
  • Combine technologies for a stronger strategy – Like using to promote new content or priority links to people that choose to follow you. Effectively combining micro-marketing technologies can create an incredibly macro effect by making it incredibly easy for people to find you, your company, or your perspective and to help you communicate to a much broader audience very quickly, efficiently and cost effectively.
  • Orchestrate infinite touchpoints - This is perhaps the most powerful slide in Armano’s presentation, and it relates very directly to the effective combination of technologies. Your messages can and should manifest themselves in a number of ways, and in a number of places. Starting with an effective website, also think about a mobile strategy, how you should use online social networks, and sites like , , and Twitter. Effectively combining these into a range of audience touchpoints is powerful, and ultimately worth spreading your investment. In terms of platforms, it would seem shortsighted to invest in only one (like a website) when a little additional effort can position you with a range of effective communications technologies, and the technologies that your audiences are using to get information. This would be the embodiment of the whole “meet them on their turf” strategy.

Another great line from the presentation is “make the participant the star.” Armano presents a total of ten points related to investigating your interactive marketing strategy, and they are all pretty tight so I suggest taking a moment to view the .

Enceladus via Cassini

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Cassini flies by Enceladus

Absolutely stunning imagery of the recent fly-by of Saturn’s moon by Cassini presented in a photo animation. You will find little mention of this in the news, and that is mostly because the news does not care. Lost opportunity for the news. We’ve investigated the robotic Cassini probe here before, and it continues to be very, very busy. On March 12th Cassini flew within 30 miles of Enceladus, approaching from above Enceladus’ north pole and thus seeing the moon as a crescent. Some facts on this beautiful moon:

  • Enceladus is very bright, reflecting nearly 100% of the light that strikes it
  • This is because we believe it is almost entirely covered in water ice
  • It’s surface is considered to be geologically young at less than 100 million years old
  • There is evidence indicating that the interior of the moon may still be liquid
  • It is about 500 km wide, or roughly the width of the state of Arizona
  • Enceladus is known as the “geyser moon” because of enormous eruptions
  • These are created by the release of energy caused by frictional geothermal heating

More on Enceladus and Cassini’s observations , , and .

What Is Important, To Scale

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Water/Air in proportion to Earth

A fascinating image. On the left is all of the water on Earth, roughly 1.41 billion cubic kilometers (including oceans, ice, lakes, rivers, ground water, clouds… etc) proportionally represented by the blue marble sitting over Italy. On the right, all of the air in the atmosphere, roughly 5,140 trillion metric tonnes, proportionally represented by the pinkish marble. I would have thought both to be somewhat larger, the reality being that we only have a tenuously thin skin of both water and air.

I found this to be quite surprising, a bit startling, and a little scary.

Image and story via , who tests the mathematical veracity of these proportional representations.

Thoughts on The New Marketing

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Is it a marketing revolution?

This is going to be a bit stream-of-consciousness, but I want to share these thoughts. I feel like I am experiencing a slow motion revolution of sorts, one that has been underway for a while, as I’ve suddenly experienced a lot of discussion around broken models, agencies of the future, emerging media, and the new marketing… primarily from the kickass blogs (all now featured in my blogroll on the right, so visit them often) of , , , and . Garrick and I have actually had some killer conversations IN PERSON, as well. Anyway, this discussion has really been happening for years (in slow motion…), but lately it seems more intense, more focused. I think some people are scared, and others are excited. Why? These two camps, scared and excited, pretty much align perfectly to those that don’t get what is happening in the world of media, advertising, communications, and people’s expectations for same, and those that do get what is happening. I am beginning to hear with more frequency references to “New Marketing,” “New Advertising,” and “New PR” from those that appear to get this reality. What makes them new?

Well, pretty simply, three things… and how they are successfully dealing with them:

  1. The increasing prevalence of the internet in a pervasive, accessible way, and…
  2. The reality that the internet is rapidly becoming everyone’s medium of choice.
  3. That traditional advertising, PR & marketing is largely irrelevant given 1 & 2.

I’m certainly not the first to point this out, but it would seem prescient to remind ourselves (especially those of you that are scared) that things are now very, very different than they were even five years ago. People ignore advertising and messages. They find them irritating, and are annoyed when these things are pushed at them. But even in the context of social media, old models persist. At lunch today pointed out that the ads on his MySpace page really bothered him because he didn’t care. They were for companies that he’s not at all interested in. They took up space and were irrelevant and distracting in a bad way. That is the old model in action. Let’s look more closely at how that happened:

  1. Company with an internal marketing team wants to get a message out.
  2. That message is that they are “current, with it, and meaningful to the kids.”
  3. They engage an agency of sorts.
  4. Agency brainstorms and comes up with banner ads. Ugh.
  5. Agency says “You should be advertising on MySpace, where the kids are.”
  6. A big media buy and campaign investment later, it’s lunch conversation for us.

And so it goes. The advent of the internet changed a lot of things, but one thing it really did well was create a communications platform that empowered a lot of people to start talking about their likes and dislikes and about their experiences. It began to connect people in new and meaningful ways based on this talking. Suddenly, what was being said mattered. It came from real people, and felt much more authentic. In most cases it WAS/IS authentic. Suddenly, you could niche down as far as your interests demand and suddenly, advertising, marketing and PR in the traditional sense seemed somewhat less relevant, and sometimes totally irrelevant. Not good for traditionalists in these industries. The internet has allowed us to refine the skill of ignoring everything except that which we are interested in. Going back to those that get it, it would seem the smartest thing to do in these industries is work really hard on connecting people with the information, products, services and companies they are interested in. To help them connect, to support them, to make it easy. For the agency to be the advocate for the audience, which probably sounds totally heretical to some. This is a partnership with audience that is pretty cool, and yet to be really figured out. It won’t be advertising, marketing, or PR when it is figured out… it’ll be something “New.”

Ten Important Emerging Technologies

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Technology is cool, like this lightbulb image…

From (an excellent online tech resource) comes this interesting list of technologies to watch for over the coming months… the “emerging technologies” of this year. You’ve no doubt heard of some of these, and others can’t be too surprising, but taken together this list should give at least a little techno-infused optimism for the balance of 2008 (I’m feeling better already):

  1. – Data+human psychology+ machine learning=less surprise
  2. – Slight decrease in precision yields better power usage
  3. – Nanoscale radios built from carbon nanotubes
  4. – This one should be self-explanatory, but still very, very cool
  5. – The miniaturization of magnetic sensory arrays
  6. – Next generation apps bring back the desktop
  7. – Potentially 100x faster than today’s silicon transistors
  8. – Physically mapping the neural circuits of the nervous system
  9. - Identifying and understanding patterns in life to help you live your life
  10. – Effective cellulosic biofuels require effective enzymes

The practical neatnik in me is perhaps the most enthused about the potentiality of my environment without the tangle of power cords everywhere. The futurist in me is getting pretty excited about the potential of graphene transistors. There is concern in Silicon Valley about the probable termination of as we approach the performance envelop of silicon based chips. Having something that is so theoretically expansive in contrast, and from PENCIL LEAD, is quite comforting.

2001: A Space Odyssey… Turns 40

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Being a lover of this movie and a huge fan of , it seemed fitting to honor this incredible classic on its 40th anniversary (and it pains me to say “classic” in reference to a movie only just slightly older than myself). Given your probably very busy life, the above video has condensed this sci-fi marathon into five intense seconds. Enjoy.

Wise words from Stanley Kubrick:

“If you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the consoling illusion that it has been mastered.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999)

The War For Talent

Monday, March 10th, 2008

The Duke of Wellington rallies the troops at Waterloo

Despite whatever you believe to be our immediate economic reality, it is a good time to be young, smart, and focused. Companies struggle to navigate what is really a seller’s market for “human capital,” and attract the next wave of talent into their fold. The problem? There are several other companies fighting to recruit the same individual. A very successful public company in the consumer lawn care space that I know well admits actively raiding the talent pools of the medical technology companies in the area. Med tech to lawn care? Why not! The thing is, these talent pools are also targeted by financial services firms, retail giants, and others. They’re all competing openly for the same talent. This is a really good case study in supply and demand. You don’t have to look far to realize this is playing out everywhere. Often times, takeover bids between companies are as much about expanding talent as they are about increasing market share. Talent is perhaps the most important weapon in the battle for market success.

And this is nothing new. Look back ten years and business magazines were full of articles about the looming, and now pressing, “War for Talent.” that surveyed 6,000 executives in 77 companies which consistently identified that the single most important corporate resource over the next 20 years as talent, define in the study as “smart, sophisticated businesspeople who are technologically literate, globally astute, and operationally agile.” Sounds familiar. Not much has changed in ten years. What’s more, the study goes on to tell us that even as the demand for talent goes up, the supply of it will be going down. Supply and demand in action.

What’s a company to do? Get aggressive, really aggressive. Focus resources on talent acquisition that are commensurate with those focused on market expansion. The reality is that the former will ultimately beget the latter. As a best practice, companies need to be obsessed with ensuring that they are staffed by the best possible people, from the top on down. This is entirely a quality proposition, and it means always having your finger on the pulse of available talent, regardless of the real need for people. It means having an organized HR team that has an effective talent profile, and relentlessly tests for this profile. It means ensuring that your organization is a recruiting machine, that your people, your environment, and your package are not only competitive… they’re compelling. And relevant. And tailored to the people you seek to attract. Stop and think about your company for a moment, and think about your company in two years if a focused plan to attract talent was deployed. I suspect we are talking about two very different companies.

The McKinsey study also revealed ten years ago that only 60% of the corporate officers interviewed said that they were able to pursue most of their growth opportunities. These corporate leaders said that they had good ideas, and that they had the budgets to pursue these ideas, but they lacked the right people to execute. They reported that they did not have enough talented people to pursue their good ideas, regardless of budgetary abundance. They were “talent-constrained.” Ten years ago the implications of this were huge, and was a part of the feeding frenzy that became the .com debacle. Today these implications are staggering and I have yet to find a similar analysis regarding the relationship between growth and talent, but I would surmise that we are facing similar if not more critical deficiencies in growth as it relates to the talent needed to create that growth, and the lack thereof.

Setting The Nanoscale Bar High

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

Morph nanoscale electronics concept

From the comes this exploration of the future application of nanoscale electonics technology. Very cool, and probably not that far from reality, given the momentum in nanotech. This longish video takes you through several of the nanoscale innovations:

This motivates me to complete a series of posts I have been working on related to nanotechnology. They are taking me awhile because I continue to find more to read. We live in very interesting times.

Video via via

Who Get’s Social Media?

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

I can’t explain.

Social media is the panacea du jour. It still feels new, and for many it still remains unknown territory. It seems like something business should be doing, and businesses are trying to understand how social media may or may not support their objectives. For this, they look to the agency specialists, those whose job it is to embrace the cutting edge and live innovation in communications, those that are supposed to have the backs of business when it comes to strategic marketing planning. Brian Morrisey’s last week in Adweek reveals that agencies may be the wrong ones to turn to for social media insights.

This is because nobody has really been able to “figure out” social media yet, least of all the agencies, and that may be the point. Perhaps the organic, authentic nature of social media makes it not-figure-outtable. Various agencies continue to try, and experiment with approaches that range from the bizarre to the probably effective, but in reality the environment is still very, very fluid. This reality presents the paradox of agencies knowing that social media is a big thing, and professing to be ahead of the curve on this big thing, but not really knowing how to work with this big thing to create value for their client businesses. Participation is an art form, but they are all still experimenting. That is dangerous for businesses. And expensive.

Last week a co-worker said to me that blogging is so “last year.” I laughed, and pointed out that the ROI of blogging for businesses has not even begun to reach a level of note. If he was referring to people blogging about their cat, I am inclined to agree, but the power of social media for business is very, very much in its infancy. He did not know what he was talking about. I suspect that with regards to social media, most don’t.

A choice quote from Morrisey’s article:

“You get the sense that agencies talk a good game. They put up a good presentation about what social media is, but when you get to implementing campaigns, the day-to-day management skills are not meeting the marketers’ expectations.”

Jim Nail, CMO and CSO – TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony

Thom Mayne Moves Faster Than LEED?

Friday, March 7th, 2008

San Francisco Federal Building by Thom Mayne of Morphosis

This is an absolutely gorgeous rendering of the Federal Building in San Francisco designed by and his team at . Mayne is now navigating the certification process for this project. Originally, the building was on track to obtain a minimum of LEED Silver certification. The interesting thing is that it seems LEED certification, the , and Thom Mayne are not on the same page as some of the technologies employed for this project are, as Mayne asserts, so absolutely cutting edge they are not actually yet part of the LEED certification process. Upwards of 70% of the building is temperature moderated through natural ventilation, and this was achieved through incredibly complex modeling of the interior environments and how air should naturally move through them, and controlled though a custom window wall that regulates internal air temperature, thermal mass storage, and passive and active sunshading. While LEED addresses items like bicycle racks and construction materials recycling, the thermal comfort and air quality regulated by Mayne’s system do not impact certification in a substantive way.

Like any high profile project, it is not without some controversy. To my mind, this project highlights some of the drawbacks of the USGBC’s point based LEED certification program. It would seem that sometimes designing sustainably and designing “LEED” are not the same thing.

Story via

“My Job is To Not Be Easy On People.”

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Steve Jobs, sexy beast

Great interview with Steve Jobs by Fortune editor Betsy Morris excerpted at . Read it.

He knows what he is doing:

“Our DNA is as a consumer company — for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply.”

On his reputation as a total hardass:

“My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects. And to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.”

It’s all about focus:

“Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we’ve got less than 30 major products. I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”