I’m Thinking Of Getting An iPhone 4

July 30, 2010

Antennagate notwithstanding! Although I’m now considering a rival, the HTC Desire running Android – confusing having so many options! I work almost exclusively on a mac but at the same time I don’t want to get too (unthinkingly) locked in.

Interesting comparing these different and rapidly developing approaches, see eg here:

I’m not minimizing the Android challenge to Apple. Indeed, I think it is likely to become the most important business battle of the next half decade. But those who argue that the best lens for watching this fight is comparing just the iPhone to Android are just wrong. Their argument is that all Android devices are phones, that the iPod Touch and the iPad are not phones.

Helpful iPhone 4 reviews: Engadget and Trusted Reviews.

Update: Well, I got one as well as a free case (the Speck Pixelskin HD) and some insurance cover!

Picture credit: here.


Making Decisions With Random Actions

July 29, 2010

Amusing and insightful post on writing a book, but some of the ideas apply to most creative activities…’just do it!’

The theory about big decisions is that they require a tremendous amount of thought, and that investing in all this thought results in better decisions. There are many classes of decisions where there is a right move. Where deliberate planning around complex issues involving different people with varied goals is essential to making a correct decision.

Your unwritten book is not one of these decisions. Stop debating it.

Lots of talk about the difference between preparing for doing things and actually doing them!

In writing a book, you’re going to find all sorts of interesting ways to mentally beat yourself up. You’re going to consider new tools and different writing schedules. You’ll discover that inspiration can be encouraged, but never created. You’re going to find constructive ways to procrastinate and your friends are going to stop talking to you because all you talk about is that damned book.

See also here and here.

Picture credit here.


Buffett’s Storytelling Lessons For Startups

July 26, 2010

Interesting post at Entrepreneur Corner on three lessons from Warren Buffett on shaping communications for startup ventures:

Lesson No. 1: Converse Like a Real Human Being

Lesson No. 2: Admit Mistakes and Move On

Lesson No. 3: The Power of Humor in Business

By coincidence, these three lessons relate to a previous post on clarity as a business strength (and the second broadly links to ‘lessons learnt’, a recurring theme on this blog eg here).

Out of curiosity I went to the web site (Berkshire Hathaway) to see how ‘conversing like a real human being’ worked in practice.

Here’s a random extract from the Shareholder Letter for 2009 to give a flavour:

Our metrics for evaluating our managerial performance are displayed on the facing page. From the start,
Charlie and I have believed in having a rational and unbending standard for measuring what we have – or have
not – accomplished. That keeps us from the temptation of seeing where the arrow of performance lands and then
painting the bull’s eye around it.

Selecting the S&P 500 as our bogey was an easy choice because our shareholders, at virtually no cost, can
match its performance by holding an index fund. Why should they pay us for merely duplicating that result?

Quite different from the more formal approach we’re all familiar with from company reports and web sites!

The Letters provide good examples of the power and effectiveness of a storytelling approach in an area not known for clear and lively communications.

Picture credit: here.


Aiming To Please

July 23, 2010

Something for the weekend :-)

“We aim to please…but our aim is awful”

Well, it amused me…

Spotted (a while ago) here.

And in a related, although different context, see also here.


Clarity As Competitive Advantage

July 22, 2010

Provocative post from Dan Pink on the importance of clarity and trust in business relationships.

Using business-speak at work rests on the notion that the distance of professional language is inherently strong – and the closeness of personal language inherently weak.

But this idea may be wrong.

Like any valuable relationship, the ones we have in business hinge on trust. And trust depends on openness, respect and humanity. Yet we often resist taking that approach in our professional lives, even though we know it would be absurd to do anything else in our personal lives.

and offers an interesting challenge

So try an experiment. For the next seven days, go monolingual and speak only human at work. Don’t say anything to your boss, your staff, your teammate, your supplier or your customer that you wouldn’t say to your spouse or your friend.

It might startle people at first. But I suspect that they’ll reply in the same vernacular – and you might start actually understanding each other and getting something done.

This topic also relates (somewhat indirectly) to my thoughts on a recent Gurteen Knowledge Cafe – as the meeting progressed through it’s different phases people went from talking (admittedly rather mild) ‘professionalese’ to speaking naturally leading to more open communication. Of course this example is a million miles away from the rather extreme and stark cases that Pink highlights which often involve (unsurprisingly) customer service. The interesting part of the Cafe was that it smoothly encouraged this transition!

Interesting of course to view the Apple Antennagate issue in this light – see, amongst many others, here.


Strategy and Graphs

July 20, 2010

Interesting post here on how a football team’s strategy can be visualised with graphs to hint at likely match outcomes. I hadn’t appreciated quite how much football data was openly available – see here!

So we now have a more scientific rival to Paul The Octopus!

Maybe there are some imaginative business-type applications linked to this, distinct from the established social network analysis? The tricky part is getting good data of course, although perhaps rough proxies can sometimes be used for indicative purposes.

Related: interesting discussion of football visualisation methods considered by the BBC here.

Picture credit here.


Knowledge Café At Arup

July 12, 2010

Last Wednesday, after a meeting with Ron Donaldson on innovation and (independently) growing small businesses, I attended one of David Gurteen’s Knowledge Cafes. This time it was at Arup at their London offices near Goodge Street Tube. I won’t make any detailed comments on the café itself as there’s a good write-up here and I’ve written about a previous one, held nearby at the BT Tower as it happens, here.

However what did strike me was the difference in ‘tone’ of the different phases of the event.

1. Mingling Before
Quite a few new people attend every event – this is interesting in it’s own right but does mean that on the whole people tend to chat to familiar faces or have the rather quirky conversations you have when you meet a complete stranger!

Another aspect is how the building itself affects the overall mood. The cafes are held in a very wide range of organisations and it’s interesting comparing and contrasting their physical environments. The space at Arup was very large, you never felt crammed in and this definitely helped.

2. Café Itself
David uses speed-networking to break the ice – you have a few minutes with 3 random people, usually those fairly near you. Although you may not learn much (it’s far too short), it’s a good way for getting everyone into a ‘participative’ frame of mind.

The café itself follows and the discussions focus on the theme of the evening, this time the pros and cons of consultancy. The tables had about  6-8 people on them. It obviously depends on who’s attending and the topic but keeping a single conversation going with this number seemed to me a little strained and sometimes side conversations developed (often on spin-off subjects). I think 4 would be a good basic number for productive interactions.  David tells me that in his opinion 4 is the optimum number but that he is often constrained by the size of tables available. Maybe no tables at all is a better option!

I’m not sure I learned anything new at the cafe, rather it seemed to me it was a sort of ‘priming’ for deeper conversations that could then follow.

3. Loosening Up Afterwards
After the café proper, I noticed that quite a few people hung around and a lots of small conversations followed. Some would be to take advantage of chatting to the ‘speakers’ and others to old friends of course but there seemed quite a few new interactions going on. Often at conventional meetings there is a mass exodus!

David encourages informal socialising after cafes and on this occasion quite a few people transferred to the pub. This to me was the most interesting and productive phase (and not due to the beer and football!). I had three really interesting and open one-on-one conversations with people I’d never met before (that covered a wide range of topics) but yet were motivated by the atmosphere of the café beforehand in some subtle way. Having a open and frank conversation with a stranger is usually quite tricky as barriers always go up.

Obviously you can’t draw any general conclusions from one event and from one point of view but I think I’ll start thinking about these types of café meetings differently from now on – focusing more on the ‘water cooler’ discussions at the end but appreciating that you need to go through the earlier phases to get the most out of them.

Anyone agree?


Lessons Learnt At The World Cup?

July 8, 2010

Well, World Cup 2010 in South Africa is soon coming to a close. As perhaps to be expected, most of the predictions were misleading or were overtly overoptimistic in the first place, barring Paul The Octopus of course (more on this here and here).

Now that Germany have beaten Argentina very convincingly, England’s defeat doesn’t look too shabby. However, England’s problems still remain and some key changes will need to be made. It’s an interesting case of ‘lessons learnt‘, particularly as it’s the complicated type where politics and egos are bound to have a key determining role.

There was a nice summary in a leader in The Times recently (before the confirmation of the continuation of Fabio Capello as manager), here’s an extract:

To learn from defeat requires an understanding of causes. The FA has now tried every type of coach, from passionate motivators to coolheaded rationalists. None has succeeded, so it is obviously time to look elsewhere for the real reasons for England’s failures. It’s time to invest in the grass roots, not to redecorate the shop window. There are now 34,000 elite Uefa-trained coaches in Germany. England has fewer than 3,000. After Germany’s defeat at Euro 2000, all that nation’s top clubs were told to establish youth academies or face having their licences revoked.

Supporters may crave the thrill of change, even if it is only cosmetic. But José Mourinho or Arsène Wenger would probably not fix the England team, even if either could be persuaded to take on the impossible job. Unless English football addresses its structural inadequacies, we won’t need a great manager to win the World Cup. We will need a miracle.

Picture credit here.


Free eBooks On Social Media

July 6, 2010

Handy post on MakeUseOf on free ebooks on social media and related matters.

The books mentioned are:

  • “Content” by Cory Doctorow (published 2008)
  • “The Cluetrain Manifesto” by Levine, Locke, Searles and Weinberger (published 2000)
  • “The Future Of Reputation” by Daniel Solove (published 2008)
  • “The Wealth of Networks” by Yochai Benkler (published 2007)
  • “The Art of Community” by Jono Bacon (published 2009)
  • “The Future of Ideas” by Lawrence Lessig (published 2003)
  • “What Matters Now” by Seth Godin (published 2009).

All good to read through or at least skim. So much to do and so little time – see here!

Picture credit here – it’s an interesting timeline.


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