Tag Archives: LinkedIn

Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication

 

In an effort to improve my “working out loud” chops, I’m learning from a friend who has begun sharing the text of (not links to) his blog posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as on the blog he’s had for a very long time. <Light Bulb!> This one’s a kind of reverse emulation, as this is something I shared on Facebook first.

Simplicity - Da VinciI have found an interesting difference of opinion on the subject of simplicity versus complexity, but it seems to hang on what dimension of endeavor we’re looking from. From an engineering design perspective – especially wrt products for the consumer market – there’s evidence complexity (think shiny objects) is actually a better seller than simplicity.

It seems to me, however, that da Vinci was looking a little deeper than marketing prospects and was more interested in the aesthetics of design . . . all kinds of design.

So . . . I’m thinking of it in terms of this software tool I am now representing, called World Modeler, which is used to model the elements required to make important and quite likely expensive organizational decisions to better . What we (Quantellia, LLC and I) can do is transform highly complex decision models (involving numerous decision levers, external factors, intermediate effects, interconnections, and even qualitative assumptions) to graphically (and quite simply) show how they will play out over time given certain values. The goal is to render the complex simple, not to simplify that which is complex.


Teach, Learn, Share

The following is from a post I published in LinkedIn, in response to an emailed request from Dan Roth, Executive Editor. They implied I’m an “influencer”. How could I resist?


Giving advice to young people beginning their professional careers is not something I’m generally asked to do. How does someone whose background and experience is as unconventional as mine even relate to others who have already gone a different route? You just finished earning a Bachelor’s Degree. I never attended undergraduate school. What can I say to you that will make any sense? Nevertheless, LinkedIn has suggested I give it a shot and even ensure my thoughts stand out by tagging them with #IfIWere22, so here goes.

Twenty-two! Whew. That was 45 years ago. I have a hard time even being certain what I remember from back then actually happened. By that age I had already been in the US Navy (medically discharged after a short stint), owned a small business, lived on the streets of the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco during the waning days of the Summer of Love, and the North Campus district above the University of California at Berkeley after that.

By all measures of the time, I was a failure. I had nothing to show for those years save a hell of a lot of street smarts. How does one put that on a résumé? I did manage to get a job at a jewelry manufactory, where I learned to melt . . . er . . . solder gold and silver, making some very high quality jewelry, but it surely wasn’t a career I was interested in pursuing. In the next few years I had lots of jobs, but no career to speak of.

Law School Graduation

Don’t take life too seriously.

At 26, despite having no undergraduate education and never having taken the SAT, I was able to attend an accredited Law School, largely because I scored very high on the LSAT and after my first year easily passed the First Year Law Student’s Exam. It was not required of those who had their Baccalaureates. I received my Juris Doctorate in 1976.

I was lucky. I had some resources at my disposal and I had always been an avid reader and a self-learner – an autodidact. After graduating Law School I realized I didn’t much care for the legal profession and, coupled with my father having a major heart attack, I felt I had no choice but to join my family’s wholesale food distribution business. For the next 12 years I worked with my family and in several different jobs and businesses. You can see my profile for yourself. This is LinkedIn, after all. :)

Now . . . the question remains, what did I learn and what can I pass on to you as you begin your career? One thing, probably, is you don’t want to do what I did. However, there are at least two very important things I think brought me to where I am today (btw – check out my last job before retirement. It was a doozy), which isn’t wildly successful, but has given me a considerable amount of satisfaction.

First, don’t ever stop learning. Read, experience, experiment, test, and share. Learn so you can share what you know with others. It is the best way, IMO, to move forward. Too many people try and create a persona for themselves they hope will be perceived as irreplaceable. Don’t be one of them. Your value is in sharing knowledge, not hoarding it. You will be much happier because you won’t be constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering who’s sneaking up to replace you. You’ll be too busy concentrating on the steps above you.

Second. Perseverance. In the words of Coach Jimmy Valvano, “Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up.” No matter how bad things are, they will improve if you just don’t give up. This doesn’t mean you won’t experience failures and setbacks. They’re inevitable. What it means is, despite your losses, despite those failures and setbacks, you need to pull yourself up and get on with your business. And when these things happen, refer to the previous paragraph; learn. Turn that sow’s ear into your very own silk purse; defeat into victory. You can do it.

I hope some of what I’ve written here will be of use to you. If you are in the intended audience for these “If I were 22″ posts, you’ve got your entire career ahead of you. Keep your eyes and ears open. You don’t need to plan every step; serendipity is a wonderful thing. As you can see from the picture of my Law School graduation in 1976, above, I also think it’s important to not take oneself too seriously. Enjoy your lives and make others happy. Good luck out there.


What Goes Around . . .

It’s been nearly three years since I “retired” from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. I’ve been through several iterations of “What do I want to be when I grow up” and I think my latest incarnation is actually working! I’ve given myself until the end of this year for it to prove out to be a viable trajectory, at least for a few more years while I still have to tend closely to my children. You can read my most recent self-assessment/self-promotion at LinkedIn.

Additionally, some of the seeds I planted a while back may be sprouting, which would be really satisfying and might steer me comfortably toward another line of work I can enjoy.

It seems understanding Social Media’s role, both inside and outside the corporate firewall, wasn’t a terribly interesting subject for most organizations and, despite my zeal, I couldn’t get the traction I needed to do what I thought made sense. Equally, at least here in Simi Valley, small businesses have had a very hard time – as a whole – seeing how social can be used to promote their business or organize their work a little more effectively. I need to say . . . there were lots of opportunity for being a charlatan and raking in some dough or for doing something I didn’t really enjoy just to make money. I’ve chosen not to follow those paths, so the challenge has been finding – again – who and what I want to be or, more accurately, continue becoming. Being frugal’s been kind of important as well. :D

It’s important to note there are lots of large organizations who recognize the value of social for reaching out to, and communicating with, their current and potential customers. There are fewer, in my estimation (disclosure: I have not researched the numbers. I have, however, been observing for a long time) that appreciate the value of social to build community inside the firewall, let alone in the space they share with their suppliers/vendors.

At any rate, I haven’t given up entirely and I was gratified to be contacted by someone who interviewed me on the subject nearly 2 years ago. He asked if the audio could be used in a couple other blogs and sent me a link to it. Frankly, I had completely forgottenI did the interview. Also, inasmuch as I am now doing some editing/proofreading professionally, I was a tad dismayed to read the copy that accompanied it, and I’ve asked for the opportunity to proofread these new publications prior to publication. I don’t believe I  had that opportunity with the first publication, which can be found here. Below is the Vimeo audio file with my interview. I don’t think I made a fool of myself. I’m hoping I actually make more sense today than I did back then. I’m gratified Dustin felt it was worthy of being repeated.

PS – I may no longer be a Chief BooMillennial Officer, but I do think I’m still an Emergineer and definitely a Serendipity Wrangler.


Obvious to Him . . . Perhaps?

The Obvious?

Euan Semple is a friend of mine; at least in the sense we are “friends” on Facebook and we are “connected” and have engaged in an email conversation on LinkedIn. I also follow him on Twitter and read his blog (somewhat infrequently, I must confess). I know he’s read my blog at least once because he commented on a post of mine. We have not yet met face-to-face, nor have we had an actual conversation where we could hear each other’s voices (each others’ voice?), say . . . over the phone or with Skype.

This morning I came across an item on my Facebook wall from him. It was a link to a video of his Do Lecture, shared through his blog, “The Obvious?”. I don’t see too many things from Euan in Facebook, so it caught my attention. I clicked on it to open a tab with the link so I could view it later. Many times I don’t end up viewing the item I’ve set aside, but this time I did. I’m very glad too. You can listen yourself here.

Euan is probably best known for his introduction of forums, blogs, and wikis to the BBC and now spends his time advising organizations on how to integrate these and other “social” applications into their businesses. You can learn more about Euan from his blog or from his website.

As I’m writing this I see one of his friends has commented on the original Facebook post. She says she finds his talk bitter sweet, because he says what she’s been saying too . . . to no avail. I have to admit to feeling the same way, though I did manage to get some traction in changing the organization I spent nearly a quarter century with.

Euan clearly knows what makes an enterprise tick. He also is keenly aware of the numerous ways in which traditional organizations and management waste time and energy and, actually, hinder progress in most every enterprise that’s built on the traditional, hierarchical business model we’re all so familiar with.

I strongly suggest you listen to his lecture yourself. It’s only about a half-hour and it’s quite enlightening and entertaining. He’s a wonderful storyteller. I actually took some notes while I was listening – which is not like me at all – and here are some thoughts that stood out. I’d sure be interested in hearing any of yours.

Euan points out that fear of messiness is troubling. I forget his exact word, but I wrote down the thought it triggered for me, and that was fear of messiness stifles creativity and, therefore, innovation. In addressing the fear that using social media would get out of control, he reasonably points out we still need middlemen to make sense of all the data and information out there. I have heard the people I believe he’s talking about referred to as curators or gardeners. He goes on to point out what we don’t need are gate-keeping middlemen who add no value at all.

He makes quite a few points about culture and how best to deal with the inevitable resistance and fear one encounters when even talking about social media. One of them is a reference to the concept of Trojan mice, i.e. unobtrusive, small things that generate change through their adoption and use. Another comes from one of the few slides he used with words – “Easier to build a tool for the community than a community for the tool” – though he expresses a bit of distaste for the way many view communities. Here he points to the difference between conscripts and volunteers and, for me, invokes the value of emergence, that communities spring up from recognized, shared needs and desires, not from the dictate of management.

I think my favorite thing he talks about is the dreaded ROI argument; one I was beaten about the head and shoulders with for many years, both in terms of knowledge management and later regarding the use of social media (which I have argued elsewhere is what KM is really about; surely the kind of KM I’m most interested in!) to connect people. In a sense, it’s what the entire lecture is about, but he offers up what he calls a Scotsman’s tip about ROI – “Keep the I really small and no one will give you shit about the R”. I got a kick out of that.

So, please take a half hour of your time (plus however long it took you to read this far) and check his lecture out. It’s quite good. It helped me get to know Euan a little better, as well as reinforced my thoughts about so many things I don’t know where to begin. It is, indeed, bitter sweet for me as well.


It’s Getting Chilly, or How I’m Planning on Doing Some Cold-Calling

Well, I’ve finally decided to go out in earnest and get some clients. I don’t think I’ve mentioned much (if anything) about what I had hoped to do with my life after leaving Rocketdyne and, frankly, it was a bit amorphous in my mind for some time as well. I keep looking for ways in which the knowledge I’ve gained over the years can be put to good use for others. I’m beginning to see some fairly clear outlines of just how I might be able to do that. It isn’t all about “clients” either.

Today I met with the Principal of my youngest daughter’s school, Sycamore Elementary in Simi Valley; on Friday I am meeting with the Principal of my other daughter’s school, Vista Elementary also in Simi. I decided a while back I wanted to see if I could bring something to the table that might improve the educational system . . . some small but significant contribution I might offer that would take advantage of my Knowledge Management, Social Networking/Computing experience, as well as my overall skill set acquired from well over four decades of business experience.

Today’s meeting was a bit of serendipity, actually. I take my children to school every morning, dropping the older one off first, then dropping my youngest off on the way back home. Today I also walked the youngest in and watched her play a bit before class started. I then went into the office to talk to the Principal. My intent was to have essentially the same conversation I had with the Principal at Vista. After all, it resulted in an appointment to delve further into the issues. All that I could have asked for. I discovered today was the one day out of only a few in which she has set aside some time to have coffee and a chat with whichever parents happened to show up. Lucky for me!

Double lucky . . . the President of the PTA was there as well. She was very interested in what I suggested which, btw, was that I learn how they do “business” with an eye toward discovering ways they can take advantage of new tools, services, and techniques that might relieve them of any pain they’re experiencing. I know they’re experiencing it. You can’t be paying attention and think the schools and their ancillary organizations aren’t suffering from any number of headaches and problems which would improve the educational experience for students, teachers, parents, and administrators alike if they could be even partially solved.

So that’s what I offered to give to both schools. I have suggested I can afford to put in at least four hours a month per school and I am both willing and eager to do so. I plan on taking the same attitude to commercial and industrial establishments as well. I believe there are lots of ways in which social computing can be put to good use for small, medium, and large businesses. I also believe there are a lot of people out there who are holding themselves out as Social Media “Experts”. I am not doing that. I’m merely saying I think I can help – first and foremost – understand what kinds of problems any particular organization has that they want to address. Only then can they even think about what tool, service, process, or technique might serve to do so.

In order to drum up business that will actually make me income, I have developed my first piece of “Collateral” to leave behind after visiting the organizations I offer my services to. Anyone who is following me on Twitter, is my friend in Facebook, is connected with me through LinkedIn, reads this blog, or connects with me in any one of numerous other ways probably knows I’ve shared a few presentations I’ve given in the past – when I was still an employee of Rocketdyne. They can be found on Slideshare, here. I want to share what I’ve done in creating a brochure to leave behind after an initial conversation with a prospect. My intent is not for this brochure to introduce me, but rather to serve as a reminder of the conversation I expect to have with whoever it is I’m discussing these things with.

I know, from my years of pursuing knowledge in this field, through literally hundreds of conversations on the subject, and from following and reading the work of dozens of people whose intelligence I have nothing but the deepest respect for, that almost anyone; every process; every business; yes, even every institution – up to, and including, those of government at any level – could be improved through the intelligent application of social computing. Of course, every situation is different. The City Council here in Simi surely would neither benefit from, nor require, the same thing that might benefit the U.S. Senate, and a small restaurant surely doesn’t require the same capabilities that a large manufacturing or distribution enterprise would find helpful.

So . . . that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Below are the two pages of a three-fold brochure I’m going to get printed shortly and start bringing with me as I literally knock on doors. It’s not the only method I intend on using, but it gets me out of the house, and that’s a good thing. I’d be interested in any feedback those of you who might read this post have to offer. I’m a work in process. Aren’t we all?

Click on Image for Larger (Legible) Version

Click on Image for Larger (Legible) Version

P.S. – Special thanks are due to my friend Luis Suarez, who was kind enough to look over what I had done and make some very useful observations and suggestions. Thank you so much, Luis. You are one of those people whose presence I value dearly.


To Search or Not to Search

About a week and half ago, while searching for I have no idea what, someone where I work came across a document or two that contained sensitive personal information. They should not have found this information, yet there it was. They were using a tool we have called Goldfire Researcher, a very powerful semantic search engine developed and sold by Invention Machine. The discovery precipitated an order from our IP Attorney to immediately remove access to all the databases generated from our huge share drive. This occurred almost on the same day I had another of Invention Machine’s products, Goldfire Innovator, installed on my machine and a couple of days before I was to receive training on its use. Needless to say, the training became exceedingly difficult as there was nothing to use for research; at least nothing internally.

Today we are to meet with two of our lawyers and decide how to proceed. I don’t believe anyone thinks it is in the best interests of the company to not be able to search our own data for useful information in either performing our daily work, or in our innovation initiatives. I understand the position of the lawyers. Being one myself (though that is not my position where I work), I appreciate the need to protect the privacy of our employees and the information that was found should not have been where it was. We need to put a process in place that allows access, yet protects all kinds of sensitive information. It will be interesting to see just what we come up with.

I should point out this is not a shortcoming of the tool(s) that Invention Machine provides. Rather it is, in some ways, a fortunate side-effect of the power of the tool(s) that we have surfaced areas where others have not been adhering to the procedures we already have in place for protecting this kind of information. I am hopeful we will find a way out of this quandary soon and will be better organized with respect to all our data as a result.

Rick


A Few Wordz on Spelng, Grammar, and Punctuation.

In the course of an interesting conversation precipitated by a Tweet from one of the folks I follow on Twitter (is that from the Department of Redundancy Department?), I was asked to share a blog I posted on a site within the firewall where I work. Since the subject of that blog has absolutely nothing to do specifically with the business I’m in, I have no problem doing that. Please understand, though, I was writing in response to an issue I had heard raised numerous times at work and I was specifically trying to address that issue.

Nevertheless, the issue probably exists to some extent outside our particular firewall. In fact, since the blog post that precipitated the conversation I’m referring to was making a point far more generally applicable than the subject of my blog, I feel compelled to point it out as well. It’s from ProNagger.comConverting Procrastination Into Action, and the specific post is located here. What follows now is my post from work, the title of which is identical to that of this post:

I have heard that some people are a bit reluctant to use AskMe because they know whatever they write will “live on” for a long period of time and they don’t want to take a chance of looking foolish for years to come. I can understand that, especially when it comes to taking a position with respect to a technical issue that may not have a crystal clear answer. I can also understand the reluctance when it comes to spelling, grammar, etc.

So let me point something out that I’ve learned over the last couple of years. First of all, while spelling, grammar, and punctuation are all very important (and few people are quite the stickler I am for their correctness), when it comes to communicating and sharing ideas, I think they’re a bit overrated. This has been driven home to me especially when using Windows Messenger, which I do quite a bit. I have finally reached the point where I don’t bother using capital letters and I only use punctuation when absolutely necessary to be clear.

I also use Twitter, which only allows for the use of 140 characters in any act of publishing. So, sometimes I take a lot of liberties with spelling in order to pack as much meaning into a short communication. So, the point I’m making here is . . . I hope you won’t let the possibility you will post questions, answers, etc. on AskMe with mistakes in them stop you from contributing. It really isn’t that big a deal – especially when balanced against the substantial need to increase our ability to share our knowledge and learn from each other.

This post generated quite a few comments, most expressing relief to have this pointed out to them. One of them, from a colleague I know well who blogs a fair amount internally, merely pointed out his discovery that the original author of the post can edit it, but those who comment could not. I felt compelled to respond and here is what I said:

I have learned the same thing. However, I specifically refrained from correcting this blog because of the message I wanted to convey. I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that spelling, grammar, and punctuation are extremely important in demonstrating the veracity of a document intended to convey important factual information and, perhaps, some other types of communication that require excellent form. I think we all agree as well there are certain forms of communication that needn’t be quite as “clean” as others; IM and blogs come immediately to mind. I have read a lot of blogs by a lot of very well-read and highly respected people. I notice errors popping up all the time. I think most people forgive those errors, not because they don’t matter at all, but because they don’t really detract from the message and the rapid dissemination of ideas is seen as more valuable than careful editing. Besides, blogs generally don’t go through edit cycles and, if you read the newspaper you know editing is no guarantee of good writing either.

I have a confession to make. Though I changed nothing in the blog as it appears at work, I did make a couple of changes here where I discovered errors in my original post. Please forgive me. As I’ve confessed elsewhere, I have a tendency to be a member of the Grammar and Spelling Police . . . I have to follow my bliss!

Rick

I have learned the same thing. However, I specifically refrained from correcting this blog because of the message I wanted to convey. I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that spelling, grammar, and punctuation are extremely important in demonstrating the veracity of a document intended to convey important factual information and, perhaps, some other types of communication that require excellent form. I think we all agree as well there are certain forms of communication that needn’t be quite as “clean” as others; IM and blogs come immediately to mind. I have read a lot of blogs by a lot of very well-read and highly respected people. I notice errors popping up all the time. I think most people forgive those errors, not because they don’t matter at all, but because they don’t really detract from the message and the rapid dissemination of ideas is seen as more valuable than careful editing. Besides, blogs generally don’t go through edit cycles and, if you read the newspaper you know editing is no guarantee of good writing either.


Social Computing Isn’t Just for Old Folk!

I don’t suppose there are all that many people my age who get so much satisfaction out of all the social computing services and tools available on the Internet nowadays. If they do, I suspect they’re mostly on Facebook, as I am. There’s so much more available, though, and I’m trying to make the most of them. Sometimes it seems a bit overwhelming to try and keep up while also learning how these services can benefit my company (or any company – you never know) as well.

This evening was a great example of why I’m so enamored of them. The weather for the last couple of days has been quite temperate for southern California; far cooler than the previous week, when the temperatures were getting into triple digits. That was great for using the pool, but now I favor just sitting outside and enjoying the cool breeze that picks up at the end of the day.

While I’m sitting on the patio, enjoying at tall Scotch & water, I’m also using my Blackberry to communicate with people all over the country; sometimes all over the world. I have – on my BB – both Twitterberry and Facebook mobile, as well as my Gmail account. So I’m reading an email  from a friend in Florida, carrying on two Twitter conversations with friends in Texas and New York, taking and uploading a cute picture of my oldest (8 y/o) daughter, and reading a response from a friend in Arizona.

The connections available through the Internet are absolutely astounding and it pisses me off to think all this is coming in the late autumn of my life. Nevertheless, I plan on squeezing every last bit of connectivity, education, joy, and solace I can get out it before I move on. This in one awfully contented evening.

PS – As I sit here typing on my laptop, my daughter (who cannot yet type) is sitting next to me with a disconnected keyboard, mimicking my actions, Ooh! Sweet!


The Sky is Falling

For the record, I am neither religious nor superstitious. However, enough things have gone wrong today to make me wonder if I shouldn’t at least be knocking on wood my house is still standing and (obviously) my fingers are still working.

The first thing to go on the fritz was our only service/tool I would consider a social tool where I work. We’ve had our IT folks and support from the vendor look at everything and each one of them, so far (time to put the hammer down), is looking at the machine logs and – seeing nothing untoward – shifting responsibility. The problem, however, remains and needs to be dealt with immediately, if not sooner.

So . . . then Twitter suffers a denial of service attack and is either down or clunky for hours on end. I was going through double withdrawal and it was beginning to make me twitch a little bit. Something had to be done.

Well, not much I can do about Twitter but, as the project manager for our internal social tool, I could raise a ruckus and get people doing something – collectively – to help fix this problem. So we get the vendor rep on the phone and he is always helpful and knowledgeable and we work with him frequently to resolve minor issues and discuss feature upgrades, etc.

The conversation starts out just fine but suddenly his phone starts distorting and cutting out. He tries using his cell phone and, after a couple of minutes, it drops from the call. He calls back and, again after a few minutes, it starts distorting again. As of now, we’ve been on and off the phone for over an hour, the problem still exists internally, Twitter stills seem famischt, but at least the phones kinda worked.

I’m wondering, the Perseid meteor shower is only six days away. Maybe Comet Swift-Tuttle is returning to slam us and we’ve just missed it. Maybe its the end-of-days, maybe the Mayan calendar is right or Nostrildamus hit it “on the nose”. Stay tuned.


Blogging While Employed & Finding Value

I’m finding it difficult at times to keep my mind on work, mostly because I want to follow the threads of the tweets those I follow on Twitter are providing – and it’s time consuming to do so. There is so much good information out there about how social computing can transform an organization – or even an individual (see Nancy White’s wonderful article here) – and I want to study it all.

I’m not exactly a newbie to this stuff, as I’ve been tweeting for around a year now, I’ve had a blog for seven or eight years, and I’ve been a member of Facebook for quite some time as well. However, the exigencies of my work and family life have kept me from participating as fully as I would like to. This is especially true of my work life. I want to write about it but worry I should not do so, as it might be perceived as disloyal or, heaven forbid, tantamount to sharing information they do not want to make public. I know all about the first amendment, but I like my job – despite the company’s hierarchical, command-and-control past and (mostly) present.

Thankfully, there is change in the wind as more and more people are discovering just how useful social computing can be and how important it is to the future of our company – especially as the market for our services is changing and the need to move from strictly government contracting to far more commercial endeavors increases. Our reluctance to change, I’ve discovered, is not limited to my industry (see this post) – which I find heartening, if somewhat disquieting.


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