Frightened, clueless or uninformed?

As usual, Seth Godin makes some good points in his blog Understanding business development.

Yes, yes - I know. You are possibly over the fact that I'm an avid reader of Seth Godin, but as usual, he makes some good points in his blog Frightened, clueless or uninformed?

In my job, I deal with a lot of clueless people.

I was talking with one of my colleagues yesterday where he articulated exactly what I'm talking about: He met with a technical decision maker who 'knows what to do and how to solve his organisation's problems'. To do so, he's chosen best of breed applications - the best tool for each specific job. Then in the next breath, he admits the organisation's problems are a result of having stove-pipes of data with no visibility across them all.

Did I miss something there?

Sounds like more coaching is in my future.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:18 AM, ,

Life's a Pitch

I originally bought this book knowing of my leaving Adobe so thought it would be useful to get my brain into the right head-space for my next role. My partner also constantly accuses me of being too 'nice' at work and not trumpeting my successes nearly as much as I should.

So it was with those points in mind that I picked this book up at the airport on my way over to the United States in December, but as usual, didn't get through nearly half the reading material I took with me.

Fast forward to late February 2009, with several job options available to me, I finally opened this book (and ignore that it took until November for me to blog about it).

The book is organised into halves with each of the authors providing a different approach. Roger Mavity writes the first half and Stephen Bayley the second. Roger's style is more end-result oriented that is concise, organised and business-like, where as Stephen's style is a journey that is more philosophical and colourful. I gravitated more to the first half initially, but after a few chapters the second half grew on me.

This really is a 'must read'. For everyone. At first glance, you'd believe it was only for sales people but about 80 pages in you realise that "the whole of Life's a Pitch".

The first half of the book opens with a brilliant explanation of why 'pitching' matters:
"Life is not a pattern of gradually evolving improvement. It's a series of long, fallow patches punctuated by moments of crucial change. How you handle the long fallow stretches doesn't matter much. How you handle the moments of change is vital

These big moments are not decided by chance - they're decided by how you handle them. How you pitch your case is what makes the difference."
You can either choose to believe that or not... I do - as I made the point in my blog Optimism & Staying focused where I called out Po Bronson's point of similar effect as well as the underlying them to Outliers.

We're then guided through chapters such as:
Beautifully, we're then taken to the application of the pitch with examples such as job interviews, which as Roger notes: "All pitches are a personal test. But they are not a test of you alone. They may be a test of you and your team; they may be a test of you and your idea.... Except in one very special case: the interview".

Finally, Roger finishes up with the psychology of pitching - understanding the transfer of power. Again, to quote "It's about the removal of negatives and the creation of positives". It relates a little to the book All Marketers are Liars in terms of understanding the dynamics of what you are attempting to do. It's this chapter and the following six that segway so nicely from the 'how' into Stephen's... I guess you'd call it the 'why bother?'.

Read it and you will be better for it. Chop chop!

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:54 AM, ,

The Myth of Entrepreneur as Risk-Taker

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell highlights how Bill Gate's success is a combination of hard work combined with the 'perfect storm' of things like location, timing, etc

Tim Ferris takes a slightly different look at this story in his blog Do You Really Know Bill Gates? The Myth of Entrepreneur as Risk-Taker which in turn came from his book review of a new book Leap.

Might be worth a read...

Image by ivan petrov


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:37 AM, ,

Making business alliances work

I promised back in a May blog to write about "the pitfalls of alliances".

First of all, there is always a lot of debate over terminology in this area, but to be clear I think these factors apply to both joint ventures, business alliances and strategic alliances.

I thought a cool definition of an alliance was by Rosabeth Moss Kanter in an HBR article: Alliances are the corporate equivalent of "friends with benefits." The partners combine forces to achieve strategic goals of their own without getting married, being engaged, or dating exclusively.

Secondly, I'm pretty sure there are entire semesters devoted to this and related topics at business schools around the world, so this blog is by no means exhaustive - just my two cents on the topic. :-)

My personal views as to why alliances fail are as follows:
  1. The business model wasn't clear;
  2. There wasn't a shared plan & measurement;
  3. There wasn't a clear enough value proposition for customers;
  4. Senior Management didn't make a commitment to making the partnership work; and
  5. The people factor.
Trying to get a square peg in a round hole is simply a lesson in futility, so setting out with a partnership or alliance without clarity on the business model is going to end in a world of hurt.

A good article on the "why are we doing this and what is the best structure for us to achieve our objective" is the Booz Allen Hamilton article here. In The Art of Profitability the issue of business model design is simplified into easy to understand models. And of course, there are tonnes of assets online including at McKinsey's wesbite and HBR.

With any business endeavour - if you want to get from A, to B, to C - you've got to have a plan. And for a plan to work, you've got to ensure everyone with something at stake is involved.

Sounds obvious, right?

What's amazing is how hard it is to get 'busy people' to commit to joint planning to put on paper "here's what I want, here's what you want, and here's how we're going to win together".

Planning by itself, however, isn't going far enough. As an Open Texter said in his blog "if you don't keep score then you are only practicing" - a statement Lou Gerstner echoed with "people respect what you inspect".

There are some really good tools out there to make both the planning & measurement easy. Checkout and Channel Dynamics for ideas.

To point #2 - a good example of 1+ 1 = 3 is how Open Text has selected it's strategic partners, Microsoft and SAP. In both cases, the partner is a leader in a segment (Knowledge Worker vs Enterprise Processes), lacks the value that Open Text provides (Enterprise Content Management) and customers are clear on why they need the combined solution.

With any endeavour, if senior management isn't committed to the deal, no one is going to get behind the partnership. Jack Welch makes this point in Winning where he advises managers have to become cheerleaders for the new project.

Finally, the people factor. Like all relationships, you've got to work at it. Advice given to me a long time ago by a great boss & mentor was that "people deal with people". I think all too often people come to the party with their point of view and their agenda forgetting that the other party could be doing that as well.

Image by Mateusz Stachowski

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:04 AM, ,

Rice Paddies and Math Tests

I recently wrote about Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, Outliers.

One of the chapters of the book is titled Rice Paddies and Math Tests which Malcolm uses to illustrate his point about heritage and it's impact on your abilities which you can leverage in order to succeed in life.

There are two aspects to this chapter that I found fascinating:
  1. That you can tell a lot about a culture's values by their proverbs; and
  2. The theory as to why people of Asian backgrounds do so well in maths tests.
I'll start with the maths theory first.

He takes the TIMSS data which shows kids from Asian countries scoring significantly higher than their Western counterparts in maths. As Malcolm went on to explain in his blog:
"A more modest gap between Asian and the rest of the world could, I think, be safely explained with conventional arguments about differences in pedagogy, or school funding or some such. But 40 percent versus 5 percent? Differences of this magnitude require more fundamental explanations, which is why I felt it necessary to make such a strong cultural/historical claim in my book."
Malcolm presents the theory that the key reason is that Asian languages have a logical counting system and as a result, students find it easier to approach and learn than Western counterparts.

The research presented was quite logical and rational including:So if you accept that theory, the second becomes a KO: the cultural legacy of the rice paddy is one of hard work.

Through supporting evidence (Graham Robb: The Discovery of France), Malcolm proposes that rice paddy farmers work some 3,000 hours per year - some 10 to 20 times harder than wheat or corn farmers.

To illustrate that, Malcolm leverages historian David Arkush's comparisons of Russian and Chinese peasant proverbs:
"If God does not bring it, the earth will not give it" is a typical Russian proverb.


"No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich."
As Malcolm goes on to say: "Working really hard is what successful people do", and, "it's not so much ability as attitude".

I have to say, this is a point I TOTALLY subscribe to. At work, I've often discussed with managers that we can teach people skills but you can't teach people attitude.

Image by Diana Myrndorff

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:42 AM, ,

Outliers: The Story of Success

My first book review that I blogged was The Tipping Point. This was my first introduction to Malcolm Gladwell and I have to say: I was a fan and hanging out for his next book.

That next book was Blink which looked at the phenomenon of how we make snap judgements and the light and dark sides of that process.

In his latest book, Outliers, Malcolm takes a look at the story of success. "Outlier" is a scientific term to describe things that lie outside normal.

What Malcolm attempts to do is show us is that our sense for what constitutes success is incorrect: "People don't rise from nothing... It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't".

From Malcolm's Q&A on his website:
" order to understand the outlier I think you have to look around them—at their culture and community and family and generation. We've been looking at tall trees, and I think we should have been looking at the forest."
As a fantastic illustration, the book opens with an analysis of the Canadian Ice Hockey teams, their selection process based on birth cut-off dates and how that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I found the idea of the disadvantage of being born in December versus someone in your year at school born in January fascinating and quite personal (my birthday is in December) - a twelve month gap in age represents an enormous difference in physical maturity for two ten year-olds. It really does add a new spin to the idea that timing is everything.

The point being made is that "if you separate the 'talented' from the 'untalented' and you provide the 'talented' with superior experience, then you're going to end up giving a huge advantage to that small group of people". If 'talent' if based on age rather than true apples-for-apples skill, your logic is flawed.

Malcolm then introduces us to the "10,000-Hour Rule", claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practising a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

The rest of the book then provides supporting evidence for his thesis.

Most engaging of all though in Outliers is how Malcolm looks at his own family history and personalises the story to conclude the book.

As always, the criticism around Malcolm's books persists: he over simplifies complex social trends. I content that this simplification of macro-trends is what makes Malcolm's books so engaging and easy to comprehend.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:35 AM, ,

SAP World Tour 2009

Earlier in August, I had the good fortune of attending some of the events as part of SAP World Tour 2009 in Sydney.

It was in a similar theme to SAP World Tour 2008 - business issue focused rather than being about technology per-se.

A highlight of the tour was speaker Jeffrey Word, who is also the editor of the book Business Network Transformation. The research in the book focuses on business network transformation (BNT) as it is being executed by leading corporations and is illustrated with extensive real-world examples of successful strategies used by well-known brands. Readers will learn how BNT manifests itself in every aspect of their business and how they can effectively transform their own business networks to achieve competitive advantage and differentiation

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:29 AM, ,

Where all think alike, no one thinks very much

At least according to Walter Lippmann, US author & journalist (1889 - 1974).

Without doubt, the current economic cycle requires managers to critically review their sales outlook (demand) and match output to that outlook. If demand has softened fundamentally across their industry and product segments (an example would be luxury car sales), they are going to have to reduce output and costs associated with it. Pretty basic stuff really.

However, the best managers don't simply follow the crowd, they look at what is unique to their business and determine how they can be best setup for the future.

Many companies have chosen to cut costs as if there will be no upturn in the economy i.e. they've cut workers from their workforce (as Adobe did earlier this year) in order to reduce costs and reduce output.

As Stephen Elop (who worked at Adobe and I have respect for) outlined in
Microsoft's Elop: It's 'Time to Double Down' on R&D, "there are companies that don't make that shift, that don't make the big investments, that don't make the hard decisions. But now is the time to double down and actually make those investments, [so that when the recovery starts] we're in a strong position and can take a share and be more successful than we were in the past."

Granted, for some organisations, reducing headcount is an appropriate move, but there are other approaches that are better suited to organisations that will experience that recovery.

As the article Afternoon shift to be cut shows, Holden:

"... is responding to an 80 per cent drop in export sales as well as declining local large car sales, but the company was aiming to retain its workforce as it prepared for the introduction of a second production line at Elizabeth to build a four-cylinder powered small car.
This is a really good workforce, highly talented and highly skilled – the last thing we want to do is lose that," Mr Reuss said."
They've taken, in my mind, a great step to reduce costs, spread that burden across the entire team equally, and ensure there is a skilled team in place to respond to future increases in demand. Let's just hope they don't go and give their management team absurd bonuses at a time like this.

But if all other options have been discounted and headcount reductions are required, responsible managers will ensure they are aligned to those investments in the future and not 'across the board' cuts.

The HBR article How to Market in a Downturn makes a parallel point regarding marketing budgets (another 'cost') succinctly:
"As sales start to drop, businesses typically cut costs, reduce prices, and postpone new investments. Marketing expenditures in areas from communications to research are often slashed across the board—but such indiscriminate cost cutting is a mistake.
Companies that put customer needs under the microscope, take a scalpel rather than a cleaver to the marketing budget, and nimbly adjust strategies, tactics, and product offerings in response to shifting demand are more likely than others to flourish both during and after a recession".
Perhaps I'm being harsh? After all, as the HBR article, The Layoff acknowledges:
Why aren’t layoffs taught as a subject at business school?... Boards expect executives to do them well, but nobody knows how.

Image by Sanja Gjenero

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:31 AM, ,

The Finance 2.0 Manifesto

This is an interesting read from HBR, The Finance 2.0 Manifesto, that provides some colour to the ongoing topic I blogged in Bailing out the Thieves and 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis.

I wish I could approach the world with this level of optimism and altruism... no, seriously! I suspect the reality is that the incumbent leaders, both politically and in business, are driven less by these ideals and more by the power they can accumulate and exert (or have to as a result of the deals people make to scale the ladder). BTW - I'm taking the view that money is a derivative of power.

Granted, the current economic turmoil does make one question if the 'invisible hand' theory still applies. Perhaps we've managed to find an industry (financial services) where self-interest doesn't lead to effective self-regulation? [editor's note: re-reading that sentence made me laugh a lot!] At the very least, I think we can all agree there are some financial services practises that need (and are slowly getting) more regulation - practises such as naked short-selling (see SEC Halts Short Selling of Financial Stocks to Protect Investors and Markets and Australian short selling ban goes further than other bourses).

Image by Asif Akbar

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:30 AM, ,

There is No Delete Button on the Web

I read the article The Unforeseen Consequences of the Social Web on ReadWriteWeb with interest.

Of particular note was the point that there is no delete button for content - it's all cached and stored. Lidija Davis makes the point that "...although the information you put out on the Web may seem insignificant today, you have to ask the question of whether it will be insignificant tomorrow, or in five years when you need to apply for college or seek new employment".

I've posted commentary on this issue before and you'll enjoy how Peter Shankman recently discovered a seemingly off-the-cuff Tweet by James Andrews, an executive of Ketchum New York.

The bottom line is that social media has made it easy for us to tell the world what is going on in our lives and inside our head, but as always, you need to think carefully about what you do and say because you can no longer choose who is going to read about it.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:14 AM, ,

Does anybody gives a damn about global warming?

With the GFC dominating news of the day and the burden it has placed on everyones daily existence, has global warming been put into a box in the corner of everyones minds?

According to the article News flash: Nobody gives a damn about global warming on VentureBeat, the answer is: yes.

As I wrote about in Shell Global Scenarios to 2025, it would be a real shame for us to drop the ball on this as most research indicates that simply stopping extra emissions (i.e. staying put with our emissions right now) won't be enough to reverse the effects of global warming... but will put us on track to avoid a catastrophic ending to our existence here on Earth.

Yes, I'm aware that balancing short-term issues (like the GFC) with long-term goals (like reducing our influence on the Earth's normal climate fluctuations) is a tough gig. As Jack Welch said in his book Winning: "Anyone can manage short-term: just keep squeezing the lemon. And anyone can manage long-term: just keep dreaming. Real leaders able people who are able to squeeze & dream at the same time".

Let's hope the current leaders - people like Kevin Rudd, Gordon Brown and Barack Obama - can do this rather than get caught up playing politics as usual.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 9:32 AM, ,

Brawl Street: Jon Stewart v Jim Cramer

It is without doubt, the news topic of the moment - the GFC. Along with the humour (see my past blogs here and here), the sorrow, the pessimism and the optimism, comes the blame.

I've already looked How culture has shaped the GFC but lately I've been watching the Jon Stewart v Jim Cramer saga unfold.

I'll declare my position right now on this one (after joining a healthy Facebook status commentary on the topic): I've worked in the funds management industry and dealt with the press enough to know what they both don't want you to know - nobody is doing the sort of analysis you would expect on every company all the time. They pick one or two to focus on and that's it. Combined with the fact that companies are using things like off-balance sheet entities to hide debt and liabilities, and you realise that even if analysts try to perform their jobs, it is largely irrelevant because they are missing the icebergs altogether anyway. It's like asking a ship's captain to navigate around iceberg's using only google map images from last year. You might by chance make it through (probably statistically more than you'd think) but sooner or later you are going to come unstuck.

Funnily enough, when someone does call it out ahead of the storm, it seems everyone feels safer to stay with the herd and deem it heresy. As both Mr Friedman (Obama’s Ball and Chain ) and Michael Lewis (The End of Wall Street's Boom) state in their articles, Meredith Whitney has become what Bethany McLean was for the Enron saga.

This is the sort of problem the regulators need to focus on. I know everyone is upset with the casino that is the financial markets, but that isn't the problem it really looks like. The issue is trust. If the dealer at a blackjack table can't trust that the $100 put on the table actually is that person's $100 to gamble, the whole thing goes out the window.

The tough part to reconcile is that these people often don't think they are lying. They really have drunk their own cool-aid and believe the lies - I suspect a variant on Joseph Goebbels oft quoted statement "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it."

If you haven't checked it out yet, see the clips below in the order you should watch them. Part 2 below has the real meat and I think Jon really hits the mark about 3mins 30secs in:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:34 AM, ,

Shell Global Scenarios to 2025

I can't remember how I was put onto this book, perhaps it was even a recommendation by Amazon? Regardless, Shell Global Scenarios to 2025 was a pretty interesting read.

Now, the first thing to be prepared for, is that this is presented in the style of a companies' annual report or text-book, so if you are hoping to pickup a gripping novel, this book isn't what you are looking for.

Shell Global Scenarios to 2025 provides us with an outlook on future scenarios influenced by the dominant forces of our times. The Shell website provides text from Shell Global Scenarios to 2050 and has a good executive summary available for download of the Scenarios to 2025.

Shell Global Scenarios to 2025 is particularly influenced by Enron and 9/11. In the book, we are taken through three forces at play:
The three core 'scenarios' influenced by those forces, with the associated trade offs between the above 'unachievable utopias', we are presented with are:
I'd love to read the 08-09 reports because the GFC will likely show a hybrid of the Low Trust Globalisation & Flags scenarios to dominate how we operate as a society during the period 2008-2011.

Of particular note has been how Europe and China are following the US lead on stimulus packages and the ensuring regulatory overhauls as forecasted.

Interestingly, little of the impact foreseen from Enron has occurred to date, but I suspect with Obama in office and the GFC still bubbling along, that will change rapidly in 2009.

The Middle East scenario has played out more, as you would expect given the troop levels of past years. This too has played out more along the lines outline in the Flags scenario - "a turbulent Middle East driven by conflict. Low oil prices provide additional incentives to attempt cautious reform, but this is bitterly contested. Groups unite against common enemies rather than for common objectives".

Both the Low Trust Globalisation & Flags scenarios review the cost of compliance and how that is likely to negatively impact trade. I'd argue the GFC definitely puts a dent in much of the Open Doors scenario panning out, and puts a question on how the Global Environmental Movement (GEM) with externalities such as carbon costs priced in via trading schemes will progress - if at all.

An an interesting point in the Flags scenario is the economic growth outlook. Despite the scenario being conceptually driven by security concerns, it is interesting to see how today's economic situation makes much of these hypothesis likely, including:
Conversely, some of the elements they predict will be unlikely, specifically "the reduced mobility of capital ensures emerging markets (BRICs) receive less foreign direct investment". I'd argue with the US domestic market unlikely to experience real growth in the coming 2 years, multi-nationals will look more intently towards emerging markets for growth.

Finally, one of the most fascinating reviews is between India and China. The historical comparisons of manufacturing value add, rural populations, IT&C services exports & numbers of computers per 1000 people was quite eye opening and provided good data for their summary - that India's sustained growth to 2025 will not be as great as China's (4-6%% to China's 6-8%). Regardless, it is clear both India & China will be the dominant growth engines in my lifetime. That is particularly enforced by the views on African futures and the current drain of critical skills they are experiencing.

In all, an interesting but reasonably technical read.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:30 AM, ,

Reviewing how culture shaped the GFC

Having blogged about Louis' & Michael's books and discussing my 'culture epiphany', it's interesting to look at the GFC with this lens.

Check out this delightfully hilarious view by Bird & Fortune on the reckless, but not unexpected, behaviour from investment bankers and mortgage brokers alike.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:23 PM, ,

Liar's Poker

I ordered Liar's Poker book shortly after having blogged The End of Wall Street's Boom having enjoying Michael Lewis's writing style. I was also intrigued to read his story given how long the boom actually lasted - I guess in an attempted to better understand the booms origins.

Within Liar's Poker, Lewis provides his account of his four years with Salomon Brothers from 1984 through the crash of October 1987. This includes his rather interesting (but not unique) hiring, the training program and years as a bond salesman in London.

It's an hilarious story and it will have you shaking your head in disbelief - unless you've worked in sales or on a trading floor: both of which I've done. If you enjoyed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, you'll love this book for successfully combining history, behavioral science and humour. It also serves to explain the current sub-prime mortgage mess that was the catalyst of the GFC we are living through.

The backdrop to the drama was the economic decisions made by the US Federal Reserve in October 1979, chaired by Paul Volcker, whereby they announced that money supply would no longer fluctuate with the business cycle: money supply would be fixed and interest rates would float. As bond prices move inversely with rates of interest, this set the wheels in motion for the events that created the gold rush Lewis shares with us.

The title of the book refers to the game of deceit that many of the best traders (or "Big Swinging Dick's" as Lewis refers to them) played and the relationship the game had to their success as bond traders. According to Lewis, "In any market, as in any poker game, there is a fool. Warren Buffet is fond of saying that any player unaware of the fool in the market, probably is the fool in the market. Knowing about markets is knowing about other people's weaknesses. And a fool, they would say, was a person who was willing to sell a bond for less or buy a bond for more than it was worth".

To illustrate the "iron testicle, market whipping" behaviour at work, Lewis shares the example (amongst many others) whereby a trader attempts to buy on the money market as prices were rising against him. The trader explains to his boss that "He couldn't buy money as all the sellers were running like chickens". His boss responds "Then you be the seller". The trader then sells a hundred million dollars and the market collapses to the price he was originally trying to buy at. He buys back the hundred million dollars plus the fifty million he wanted, and books a tidy profit on the trades.

Having had it pointed out in the book that "Blackjack is the only nonindependent outcome game in the casino" and knowing that when you have the statistical advantage you need to bet big, I'll be reading up on card counting!

It's worth re-reading (or reading for the first time) Michael Lewis' article titled The End of Wall Street's Boom on from December 2008 - it provides a great footnote to the book. I particularly loved the story about Danny Moses:
When a Wall Street firm helped him get into a trade that seemed perfect in every way, he said to the salesman, “I appreciate this, but I just want to know one thing: How are you going to screw me?”. Heh heh heh, c’mon. We’d never do that, the trader started to say, but Moses was politely insistent: We both know that unadulterated good things like this trade don’t just happen between little hedge funds and big Wall Street firms. I’ll do it, but only after you explain to me how you are going to screw me. And the salesman explained how he was going to screw him. And Moses did the trade.
It also serves to punctuate the point: one man's misfortune is another's opportunity. Whilst most of us were watching our investments plummet, someone was on the other end of the trade enjoying the short sell.

Finally, this book provides an interesting counter-point to Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? in the sense that Liar's Poker shows us the dark side (just as Enron did) to 'culture'.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:24 PM, ,

Rethinking 'Crossing The Chasm'

In doing research for my blog on Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" back in October, I had come across this article on ReadWriteWeb titled Rethinking 'Crossing The Chasm'.

I sadly hadn't had a moment to read it until recently but thought it well worth a blog.

Interestingly, I'm not sure their use of the iPod as a case study is actually valid. A key point Moore makes is that chasm crossing only applies to break-through technologies. My personal view, and you are free to comment and challenge it, is that the iPod was merely an evolution of the venerable Sony Walkman leveraging new technologies. I would however concede that the iPod with the combination of iTunes would better qualify as a chasm leaping hero. To summarise: it was the combination of iTunes with the iPod (which was otherwise just another digital music player) that leaped the chasm.

I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion that the speed at which we're operating at has dramatically increased and the Chasm Theory may need to be adjusted for this speed.

I'm going to go surfing for data on adoption cycles... I'm sure since computers, mobile devices and now social networking sites, things are getting out of control !


posted by Lee Gale @ 5:29 PM, ,

One man's misfortune is another's opportunity

Given the current state of the economy, my own employment situation and being on the board of a small business - I am frequently having conversations with people about when things will turn around and what they will look like in the aftermath.

There is no doubt, things will never be the same again. They will be similar, but different... and that's okay.

Occasionally, someone will ask "what if things never get better?"

I have pretty strong views that they will. I guess you would have deduced that from reading my blog on Optimism & Staying focused.

Reading this Business Week article titled For Some Small Businesses, Recession Is Good News sums up nicely why I believe the system might crash, but can be rebooted.

Whilst large corporations who have been consolidating and operating on "hyper growth, massive scale & nimble-as-the-Titanic" operating models are certainly going to be hurting during this cycle, the invisible hand ensures individuals, then small groups and then larger groups will find ways to adapt and profit in the new environment. This in turn helps reboot the system: slowly but surely.

Another example: as most industries were hurting as oil prices went up, Exxon Mobil reported a profit of $45.2 billion for 2008, breaking its own record for a U.S. company, and even as its fourth-quarter earnings fell 33 percent from a year ago. A good example that when someone is losing, someone else is winning... and a good example that fortunes can change rapidly.

There will be light at the end of the tunnel... we just have to do all the right things to survive in the tunnel for a while.

Image by Giuseppe Crimeni

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:53 PM, ,

Are you smiling in Your Social Network Photos?

According to this ReadWriteWeb Article, "researchers Nicholas Christakis and James Folwer recently published a paper in the British Medical Journal where they examined how a person's happiness is related to the happiness of their friends in their offline social networks. To follow up that study, they examined those same happiness clusters in online networks like MySpace and Facebook. Their conclusion? Happier people tend to have more friends and are more central to the network when compared with their more sullen friends."

In the Facebook study, "they took note of the students' profiles and who their friends were. They also noted whether the profile photos contained a smiling face. Next, the researchers looked at the other photos found in the students' Facebook albums, this time paying careful attention to who "tagged" who in the photos. This was important because the people who take the trouble to be in the same place, take a photograph together, upload the photograph, and label ("tag") it, almost always have a closer relationship with each other than they do with the rest of the "friends" found on people's profile pages. These "photo friends" tend to represent a person's real-life friends. In fact, the average student in the study had over 110 friends on Facebook, but they had an average of only six of these "photo friends" (close friends)."

The article & research goes on to summarise that those who smiled were also more likely to be at the center of the network when compared to those who don't.

Food for thought next time I am having my photo taken!

And whilst I'm on a Facebook topic, I thought I'd share how I'm doing with my friends review.

Today's Facebook friends = 238, down on the 262 previously reported. Good progress assisted by moving work colleagues I'm not actually "friends" with to Linked In.

Today's Linked In contacts = 482, up on the 351 previously reported. No concerns here as Linked In is for contacts I want to have, rather than "friends" I want to see socially.


posted by Lee Gale @ 6:09 AM, ,

Timing is everything

Continuing from my blog about the book The 4-Hour Workweek, I'm known to be in the habit of saying: Timing is everything.

I picked up this view with respects to sales, but it applies to so much of what we do.

Tim outlines in his book, "when you ask for something often has a bigger impact than what you ask for".

Think about how this applies to:
I think the big challenge for a lot of people when dealing with timing, is that it really requires you to be thinking about the bigger picture and other people i.e. not yourself.

Searching high and low for the right terminology here was challenging. I went past sapience, consciousness, self-awareness, conscientiousness and settled at empathic. Being empathic means being able put yourself in the other person's shoes (not literally please), but don't confuse being empathic with sympathetic (the former is awareness where the later involves having a positive reaction).

Of course, the counterpoint to "timing is everything" is that "the timing is never right".

I hope you enjoy mulling over the yin and yang of timing. Next time you need to ask for something from someone, take some time to think how timing plays a role in getting the result you want.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 12:59 AM, ,

The World Is Flat

I was introduced to this book by Simon Dale from SAP at a conference he was the keynote speaker for. Interestingly, I had read an article on the image used on the cover being central to a copyright case, so I was automatically interested. I then heard this book spoken about by several other people in casual conversation (clearly the book had reached tipping point) so felt compelled to read it.

So I jumped on Amazon and ordered The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman (my copy is the expanded version).

I would suggest this book is a must read for any student and anyone in business so they can get a good view on the dynamics of the world we're in today.

I think a good indicator of how popular this book is that Googling "The World Is Flat book" returns 994,000 results! As you can imagine, the NY Times whom Friedman writes for regularly, has a pretty good review and summary.

Friedman not only writes well, but does so on an important subject- globalization - or more specifically the nature of the business world and how the global interconnectedness and outsourcing has leveled the playing field.

How did our current climate come about? There are 10 'flatteners' in total that Friedman lays out for us in the first part of the book (over some 200 pages and listed at Wiki) before explaining "the triple convergence" of all of them to reach tipping point.

But what about the opportunities and threats going forward? Whilst Friedman's view is largely focused on the United States (pages 261 to 392), the issues impact any "first world" nation including Australia. Friedman sounds the alarm with a call for diligence and fortitude - academically, politically, and economically. He sees a dangerous complacency, from Washington down through the public school system. Students are no longer motivated.

At this point if you've been following my blog, you will realise why I liked this book: it appeals to a world-view I have, specifically that we need to be investing in our education infrastructure to remain globally competitive. If you want a balanced view on this book, check out MetaCritic.

When you read through most people's reviews and comments of this book, the key criticism seems to be that the the book is very well-written, but over simplifies many of the key issues - most notably the realities surrounding the fact that in order for such a system to work with any kind of sustainability it needs to create jobs to replace the ones that have been outsourced.

Friedman's answer to this is that creativity and inventiveness will take the place of the grunt-work that's been outsourced. The critics argue that many of our society's most financially successful businesses have never invented or innovated anything, instead relying on finding new ways to produce an existing product in a way that's cheaper and faster than their nearest competitor - thus fostering an environment that's not very conducive to innovation. But isn't 'process' a competitive differentiator? And therefore building a better mousetrap is innovation! Additionally, I suspect only a small percentage of a sector needs to innovate (aka Apple, Google, Netscape, etc) to upset the incumbents (like Microsoft) sufficiently to drive change.

If you'd like to speed read the book (which I don't think you should because you'll miss out on most of the compelling information), Wiki Summaries has it online.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 6:16 AM, ,

The End of Wall Street's Boom

A great read that I cam across whilst researching other blogs is this article titled The End of Wall Street's Boom.

What is so interesting is the dramatic illustration of herd mentality that was adopted.

If you are crying after reading this article, go back to my blog in November to try to find the humour in this. Trust me, laughing is all you can really do about it now. That, combined with applying the lessons learned to anything you participate in the future.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:24 AM, ,

Hidden costs of Social Network Profiles ?

In the last few weeks, I've been reading quite a few articles on how Facebook and related sites has been impacting peoples lives negatively.

Before continuing, I should clarify that the people in question (allegedly) behaved poorly and social networking sites have helped increase/accelerate the impact.

Take for instance the case of the woman whose profile cost her a college degree. ReadWriteWeb has a pretty good analysis of the situation so I'll leave it at that.

Then take the case where Australian law firm Meyer Vandenberg convinced the Australian Capital Territory's Supreme Court to allow service of court documents on An Australian couple who defaulted on their mortgage via the couple's Facebook page. Read about it here, here and here. I love the quote that "Facebook has become less fun since it has been discovered by lawyers and bankers," from internet law expert Dr Matthew Rimmer.

But my all time favourite is Kyle Doyle's sickie that was kiboshed by a smart HR manager. Classic.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 9:12 PM, ,

All Marketers Are Liars

I was first introduced to Seth Godin's views and style on his regular "Change Agent" posting on Fast Company. The article that hooked me was his amusing views on business schools.

So, on a rare occasion when we were dashing through the airport on our way to a holiday (not work), I quickly grabbed his book All Marketers Are Liars from the shelf.

Seth offers his views on how marketers can discover and tell authentic stories that are believed by those who tell them and listen to them.

It appealed to me as pretty much the whole book is relevant in my work in software sales.

Note, there are extensive references to:
I'd recommend checking these out first in order to get more value out of "All Marketers Are Liars".

Essentially, the key take-away I saw in All Markets Are Liars, was the concept of appealing to people's worldviews and developing marketing (messaging) around that, rather than trying to buck the system.

As Seth proposes, people’s worldviews are different and we don’t all want the same thing. People can see the same data and make a totally different decision - so don’t try and change someone’s worldview. Seth contents that marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively, and therefore your opportunity lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on and going from there.

But one caveat: a worldview is not forever - it’s what the consumer believes right now.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:09 AM, ,

Exceeding Dunbar's number on my social network sites

I am having to rethinking my 'friends' list on Facebook at the moment.

Presently I have 262 'friends'.

I've clearly exceeded Dunbar's Number - the supposed cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable social relationships: the kind of relationships that go with knowing who each person is and how each person relates socially to every other person - and it's bugging me.

It's bugging me because Facebook terms these contacts as 'friends'. What I'd love Facebook to provide is different types of contacts. Family, Friends, Friends of Friends, Work Colleagues, etc. I'll give Facebook their dues, you can slice up your privacy settings to achieve these results, but better grouping would allow you to more simply glance at who you invited to an event, sent an email to, etc

I think this limitation explains why on LinkedIn I have 351 'connections'.

'Connections'... a much better blanket term, but it doesn't solve my Facebook dilemma.


posted by Lee Gale @ 4:08 PM, ,


My first book review that I blogged, was The Tipping Point. The second book that Gladwell brings us is Blink.

Blink takes a look at rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye.

I had been introduced to the idea of 'thin-slicing' previously as 'filters' your brain has for what it will and won't take notice of. I can't remember where but I suspect I've just supported the point of the book!

I believe the author's research and assessment of 'blinking' was quite balanced - both the positive and negative views on it - but in taking a look online at the commentary about the book, I marvel at how it appears so many people seem to have absorbed only half the book.

For instance: I don't agree with the Wikipedia comment: "he finds that experts often make better decisions with snap judgments than they do with volumes of analysis". I think Gladwell did suggest in some cases this can be true, but I don't think that's all he suggested, rather, that once we're aware of a situation and the influential forces acting in that situation we can leverage our experience to short-cut much of that analysis. I'd content you had to have done some of that analysis at least once (i.e. study) to fully understand the situation and therefore be able to more rapidly assess it, but I don't think you can forgo that study completely.

As Gladwell writes on his website: "It's thinking--its just thinking that moves a little faster and operates a little more mysteriously than the kind of deliberate, conscious decision-making that we usually associate with 'thinking'".

Interestingly, in writing this blog I came across the book Think, which from the looks of things takes offence at half the argument (the positive aspects of 'blinking') and mounts the opposing argument on the 'snap judgement' front. Given my view is that Gladwell didn't really make the point that we should all just start being lazy with our brains and instead try to understand and harness this power, I'll be skipping Think. Having said that, I'm sure Gladwell is pleased that someone has taken the time to put up an opposing view (assuming they didn't merely attempt to crudely capitalise on his success).

At the very least, you should take away from this book a better understanding of the process your mind goes through when you 'judge that book by it's cover'.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:06 PM, ,