Category Archives: Life Lessons

Solving Complex Problems Without Adding Complexity

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Ever wonder why a common complaint in the workforce of many large companies is that the business processes are too complex?  While every company tries to remove inefficiencies, its a recurring narrative that the bigger a company is and the longer it has been around, the more likely it is to be mired down in processes that sap productivity and don’t add value.

Yves Morieux is a Senior Partner and Managing Director of the Boston Consulting Group,  head of BCG’s Institute for Organization.  In a recent TED talk, he really got me jazzed looking at how the top two organizational structures that corporate leaders use for resolving business challenges contribute directly to this productivity atrophy.  It is his opinion that these methods are obsolete and no longer work into today’s corporations.  He makes some compelling arguments.  What do you think? Continue reading

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Ready Player One: And My Love of Video Games

220px-Ready_Player_One_coverReady Player One, written by Ernest Cline, consumed all of my available attention from start to finish. I was transported to a captivating dystopia where the real world decayed and the general population spent their lives jacked into the Oasis, a virtual reality world based on Video games and 80’s pop culture, searching for the fortune of the designer and creator, hidden deep inside.

Published in August of 2011, It quickly joined the ranks of the New York Times Best Seller list.  Warner Bros. bought the rights to the movie before the book was even published. The genuine writing style and nerdy characters quickly drew me in.  I felt like one of them. I got to relive aspects of my childhood long buried. I highly recommend the novel, to anyone who has struggled to explain how immersing themselves into an rpg or platform video game was a formative part of their growth as an imaginative individual. I will not spoil the book! Just want to talk about games and growing up. GO READ IT! Continue reading

Posted in Art, Inspirations, Life Lessons, Literature, Shifting Perspectives, video games. Tagged with , , , , .

The Art of Debate & Why It’s So Important

Is Islam a Peaceful Religion?

This question may incite thoughts and feelings that you don’t want to think about right now. That’s ok.  I don’t mind if you don’t feel like confronting this question at this moment. But shortly after the beheading of a British soldier in London on May 22, 2013 by individuals justifying their actions in the name of Allah, the Oxford Union society held a debate on this very question. They decided that they felt compelled to talk about it their feelings.

Oxford Union Debate: Is Islam a Peaceful Religion?More than 450 Oxford University scholars and community members gathered for a debate, with arguments presented by six speakers- three that propose that Islam is in fact a peaceful religion, and three that do not. The speakers would have their time, to speak their piece on the subject. These people came with the most noble of democratic intentions – to hear reasoned arguments for and against something, to determine their position from the arguments poised and their own experiences, and to vote for or against the motion as they saw fit.

I am inspired by the individuals who had the courage to defend their beliefs, the individuals with the courage to question, and by the people that found it worth their time to spend an evening engaging in serious self reflection.  Most of all, I am thankful for the Oxford Union for discussing topics that cause us to question our beliefs and actions, for keeping the masterful art of debate alive.    Continue reading

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John Kao – Mr. Creativity on Large Scale Cultures of Innovation

Kao_JohnA lot of companies are starting to have earnest discussions about innovation. My own company strives to build a “culture of innovation” making it part of the fabric of everything we do.  But what does that look like?

Dubbed “Mr. Creativity” by The Economist, John Kao calls himself an innovation activist.  He is chairman of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation, whose i20 group is an association of 30 national ‘Chief Innovation Officers.’  John coined the term “large scale innovation” to refer to innovation as a societal agenda.  He has advised numerous nations and regions on innovation strategy and execution, including Finland, Singapore, the City of San Francisco, Abu Dhabi and elements of the US government as well as the European Union innovation policy team.

And as the last keynote speaker at the World Innovation Forum, I got to hear his response to his corporate clients trying to build a culture of innovation.  With several wise words and a few musical performances, John earned his nickname and my respect. Continue reading

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Dan Pink – To Sell is Human

"Whether you are peddling cars in the lot or ideas in the meeting, increase your effectiveness by decreasing your power."

Dan Pink is the author of five provocative bestselling books about the changing world of work. I highly recommend his work, as it is easy to get through and extremely informative.  His talk at the conference was around His book, To Sell is Human, about the art of selling: what has changed, what no longer works, and how to sell in a world of information parity.  Check out the video after the break of the core concepts of his book!

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Texting and Driving Infographic

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Rebecca Henderson – Sustainable Corporate Values

 Rebecca Henderson- Building a sustainable organization, culture, and values

“For the last 50 years we have been focused on reducing our reliance on Labor and Capital. All we have to do now is put the same focus on reducing energy and material dependence.”

In a riveting display of her professorial skills, this co-director of the business initiative at Harvard University “schooled” me on the subject of her career’s research: exploring how organizations respond to large-scale technological shifts, most recently in regard to energy and the environment.

Her success stories, or companies that seem to have been successful in navigating potentially damaging changes to their business, have done so by talking about some previously taboo subjects in capitalism: their values.  She contends that because values are a powerful motivator, and positive motivation has shown to make employees 3x as effective, sharing corporate values could have very positive economic effects.

Industry must become more self-regulating, because national governments just don’t have the jurisdiction to propose meaningful protections everywhere they are needed.  Having clear corporate values can drive to this goal.

Johnson & Johnson has been putting values at the heart of its business model for over a century, and it has paid off. Even after devastating losses in consumer sales due to Consent Decree, J&J acted quickly and responsibly to recall products. Now that these products are starting to return to the shelves, they are finding that the Brand Loyalty has survived, in no small part due to the ethical actions taken to protect their customers, which they put first. When you are against the ropes at a moral fork in the road, there is a lot to gain from taking the highroad.

Posted in Activism, Inspirations, IT, Life Lessons, Shifting Perspectives, Work. Tagged with , , , , , , .

Insights from World Innovation Forum 2013

A few weeks ago I attended the World Innovation Forum at the regal New York City Center, a two-day immersive look at what it means to build a culture of innovation, hearing from a broad range of speakers, across countless disciplines. From the experience, I came back to my work and personal life refreshed and invigorated, as is true of most conferences. I think what makes this experience truly unique is that unlike other conferences, Innovation is not an industry specific thing, and yet has become so widely desirable in so many facets of life. I found insights from this experience that I hope to carry across the broad spectrum of my creative endeavors, both personal and professional, and here, I plan to share them with you.

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Michael Martin – Vibram

Michael Martin – From a Marketing Strategy to a Global Movement

“We sold a product that went against everything we ever did in the industry, without a business model, that no customers asked for, that people initially hated, without spending a dollar in marketing.”

Michael Martin, General Manager of the Five Fingered shoes (you know, the “toe shoes”), shared his journey building a product that was doomed to fail according to virtually every conceivable measure of potential future success.

The company’s big break was actually deep in it’s history, when it sold the first rubber soled shoe, going on to supply the US military with all of its footwear. They had proven they could innovate once, why not again? As anyone in a large successful company can attest, it is a lot harder to innovate in a proven, successful market than it is at the start of a company when you have nothing to lose.

As if putting Mauro’s theory into practice, they relied heavily on their loyal customers to advertise their product for them. They have a website where their customers have made three minute videos about what Five Fingers means to them.  Suddenly, this confusing, unwanted product has evolved into the 2010 “Item of the Year” in the Plus awards for design excellence.  All of this is possible because they had the courage to stand by their idea, because of their experience with a young, unproven product. The courage to accept early failure as part of the road to future success is instrumental to building a culture of innovation.

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Overcoming Obstacles: David Blaine

Nothing is quite as poisonous as the words, “you can’t do it.”  Those words are more caustic than tar, more debilitating than any disease, and have destroyed thousands of dreams. It’s not the words themselves; it’s just a sentence, an opinion, right?  It’s when the public ridicule of your resolve raises to critical mass, and becomes the mantra of the gloomy cloud of people that have already given up hope on their own dreams, and threatens to drown you out completely, that it becomes dangerous.  They start to convince you that, “maybe you can’t,” and it becomes clear that the emphasis on what we can’t do stifles our ability to “do the impossible.”

David Blaine doesn’t listen to these voices, even when the global scientific community insists that something isn’t possible. His insistence on pushing the boundaries on what’s possible can teach us a valuable lesson.  Sometimes, conventional wisdom isn’t true. Sometimes, failing firsthand is better than believing you are doomed to fail at the start. More on that after the break, but first, David Blaine, soft spoken and humble,  tells the story of how he learned how to hold his breath for 17 minutes.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang/eng/id/741

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