Tag Archives: Enterprise

The Right Decision

Recent books

Recent Books on the Creative Economy

Thanks to a respected Facebook friend, I encountered a wonderfully perceptive, entertaining, and enlightening post by Steve Denning on Forbes.com today. Because of my long-time involvement in the knowledge management world, both as a practitioner and somewhat as a thought leader, I also count Steve as one of my Facebook friends. However, I didn’t find the piece through him. Regardless, I’m glad I encountered it and, as a bonus, it really came at a propitious time for me. I’ll link to it at the end of this post. It’s somewhat long, but so full of good information and insight I believe it’s worth every moment it takes to read it.

As I’ve written about numerous times, I took an early retirement from the organization I had pretty happily labored for for over two decades. Actually, five days from now it will be precisely three years since my last day there. It was a bittersweet day for me, as I was both glad to be rid of the constraining shackles of the parent organization and depressed over saying goodbye to so many people I’d come to regard as family.

Adding insult to injury was the seeming invisibility that seems to accompany most everyone who’s put out to pasture. I wrote about that as well here. I have found myself occasionally lamenting my decision, though I always seem to be able to recall there truly was a good reason for it; I couldn’t stand the corporate culture of United Technologies and Pratt & Whitney. I was ready for a change.

Now comes Steve’s wonderful article. To sum it up as briefly as I can – so you can spend your precious time reading what he wrote, which is far better than anything I’m capable of – he breaks down the realities of the three different economies we can see all around us: Traditional, Financial Capitalism, and Creative. I have long been most interested in dealing primarily with the Creative Economy, but spent a large portion of my working life in the Traditional Economy. My experience with Financial Capitalism is much the same as just about everyone else. I’ve lost substantial equity because of their criminal activities and greed.

I’m now more convinced than ever I will spend the rest of my life making a place in the Creative Economy. I want as little a part of the Traditional Economy as possible, though part of what I’ve been working on may require providing creative services to traditional organizations. I will no doubt see how that progresses and am prepared to turn on a dime if necessary. I have no desire at all – never have – to be a part of Finance, save for some of the more creative and worthwhile aspects such as crowdfunding and efforts like Kiva, etc.

Now, to get you to Steve’s article without further ado. The title is “Leadership In The Three-Speed Economy“. If you have the time, I’d love to read what you get out of the piece. Hope you get a lot, regardless.


More of That Lifelong Learning!

The Queen Mary from my hotel window

The Queen Mary Outside My Hotel

I just finished my presentation, the last in a group of three on the subject of social media for the American Oil Chemists’ Society’s meeting in Long Beach, CA. This was a huge event, with about 1500 people and lots of organizations in attendance.

The room was set up for nearly 300 people, but no more than 30 – 40 were in attendance at any one time. I have since learned (and am not in any way surprised to find) that the scientists in the organization are somewhat reticent to adopt social media. Actually, I’m very familiar with the problem and even discussed it in my presentation.

One thing I think I’ve gotten out of this, as a result of going through the process of creating my schpiel and also from my conversations with my co-presenters, who both have businesses they’ve been running for about as long as I was at Rocketdyne, is a clearer understanding of what I may have to offer and can build a viable business around.

Both of them told me nobody’s providing much in the way of education and services designed for the use of social media inside an organization. Both of their presentations were about the value of social media, but they were focused almost entirely on how to use it to either market your organization or to connect with like-minded people in order to build your connections or your personal brand.

After I finished, we sat down for a panel discussion. Frankly, I wasn’t feeling all that good about my efforts, but I do seem to be my own worst critic. However, one of the members of the Society, who has been attending meetings since 1976, got up and said he thought ours was the best session he had ever attended. That felt pretty darn good to hear!

One more bright spot. I was asked to write an article on my subject for their industry publication and expect to hear more about it in the next several days. We’ll see how that goes. I’m glad I put this presentation together and now I’m going to refine it and see if I can find other places who would like me to give it. I’m told there’s a market out there. Now I have to find it.


Strange Retirement Pastimes

A Whimsical Mailbox

Beam That Junk Mail Down Scottie

Being semi-retired (or, as I like to think of it, part-time retired) has its advantages. It is, however, a strange time for me and, I imagine, for most people who find themselves suddenly idle or at least not having to be somewhere every weekday. After so many years of working, not having to do anything in particular is a bit on the weird side.

To tell the truth, I have been looking for something useful to do almost since the day I left Rocketdyne, but I have taken some time to – shall we say – smell the roses. One of the things I did was to find myself driving around local neighborhoods looking for, and taking pictures of, interesting curbside mailboxes. This happened because we had a nice brick mailbox built for our house and I suddenly developed an interest in them. I never much bothered looking before.

Camera Mailbox

Smile! You're on Candid Mailbox

So I started driving around looking for exemplars of particular types, e.g. brick, wood, stone, and especially whimsical ones. I discovered it was a gold mine and before I knew it I had close to two hundred pictures of various types of mailboxes, all suburban, curbside ones. What to do with them? I considered several things. Creating a coffee table book; writing an illustrated ebook; etc., as well as using the collection to develop a useful taxonomy, thereby getting some practice at the type of organization necessary to do it right.

Then someone suggested I create a blog and share the pictures. Well, since I already had a blog (this one!) on WordPress, I thought that was a great idea and I created “Going Postal”. So, here I’m sharing a couple of pictures of my favorites, along with the link to my other blog. I’ve still got lots of pictures, I’ve been sent a half dozen by friends and even a person I don’t know, and I expect I’ll get out there again and take a few more. I’ve seen some more interesting mailboxes lately.

I am also using the blog to sort of memorialize this suburban icon, as I am fairly convinced mail as we know it will soon disappear. It just makes too much sense. If most people are like me they throw away much of what they get and we all know it’s just a huge waste of paper. Anyway, I discuss my prognostication a bit on Going Postal. You can read it there if you like.


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.


From the Frying Pan, Into the . . . ?

Last week, during the remaining few hours of a two-day Novations class in Project Management, I received a couple of somewhat disconcerting emails. The first one, from the President of the company, was a notification a “Voluntary Separation Program” was being offered to all employees (well, almost all) who would be 60 years of age or older on May 15, 2010. This was announced as the latest step in many that have been taken to prepare the business for the challenges presented by the ending of the Space Shuttle Main Engine program and by the changes announced recently by NASA. I can’t say it was a surprise. The second email was from HR. It contained the (again, not startling, but nevertheless uncomfortable) news that I was (being close the 63 years old) eligible for the program.

Now, I had not – until that point – seriously considered leaving the company. I have been there for a total of over 23 years (cycle time; I worked my first year as a temp and left for two years to join a somewhat ill-fated yet necessary attempt to rejoin a family business) and had every intention of remaining at least another 15. Furthermore, as the lead for a team charged with changing the way we did business, with special responsibility for the use of social media, I was excited about the challenges we faced and the opportunities that presented. Suddenly, I felt very old and somewhat useless. It was not a comfortable feeling at all.

I have since spent a great deal of time thinking about what this means to me and, as a result of this thinking, I have decided to take the offer. In fact, I signed the papers yesterday declaring my intent to do so. While it isn’t the most lucrative of offers they could have made, it will give me about six months in which to plant the seeds of my next career, a career I intend on pursuing with a vengeance. I am also old enough to retire, which will increase the time I have before I need to start dipping into our savings. One last course available to me is filing for social security, something I would rather wait until I am 66 to do so I can receive the full amount.

So . . . what am I going to do with this breathing space. Well, my friend Luis Suarez has hinted at some of it in his post of today, “When This All Gets Cool, It’s All about The People and Your Passion“, and it’s even in my profile on Facebook, where I said “I am most interested in using today’s Internet based social computing technology to further the interests of my company and, not incidentally, humanity as well. I see no reason the two interests can’t converge. Do you?” It looks like I won’t be doing it to help my company, but I’m confident I can find other companies interested in what I do. Possibly, the most exciting thing about this change in career, though, is it will allow me the time to work with schools, community-service organizations, and other types of enterprise that can benefit from my passion about social computing and the promise they hold for doing the right things.

This is the journey I am now embarking on and I’m literally bursting with enthusiasm for it. I believe it will be a large part of the experience I will chronicle in this blog. I will continue my long association with my friends and colleagues in the Enterprise Thinking Network, many of whom will continue (unless there are further, massive layoffs) with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. In fact, I am scheduled to co-present a workshop with Johnnie Pourdehnad, long-time associate of Russell Ackoff’s, and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also serves as the Associate Director of ACASA (Ackoff Collaboratory for the Advancement of Systems Approaches). This will be in April, before I have officially left the company (scheduled separation date is no earlier than May 14), at this year’s In2:InThinking Forum – an event you should consider attending if you are interested in new ways to view the world and the work we all do. I recommend it highly.

At any rate, thanks to a fairly extensive network I have built over the years in order to increase my value to my current organization (Hmm. Guess that didn’t work all that well, but it has had the side benefit of being useful to me professionally), I have already begun seeking out new adventures and new ways in which I can be of service. Maybe I’ll even be able to make a decent living at it! I you have any ideas of what some of those things can be, please don’t be shy. Let me know. I promise I’ll get back to you.


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