Tag Archives: Social

Why Can’t You Learn, Old Dog?

I am both amazed and highly disappointed at the number of people who believe the ability of colleagues to talk to each other via a tool that is either fairly ephemeral and basic (e.g. MS Communicator) or more persistent and inclusive (e.g. MS Yammer or Cisco Jabber) is a waste of their time. One of my least favorite things to hear is “I’m too busy to learn how to do that” or “I don’t have the time to waste on these things.”

Tin Can Phone

How can I help you?


“These things” are designed to improve our ability to share what we know and to find out what others know; not as a lark or just because, but in support of the work we do every day. How often have you remembered there’s some information that’s available to help you out, but you can’t quite recall where you last saw it or who told you about it? Imagine being able to essentially broadcast a question and have it reach dozens or more people, any one of whom might be able to answer the question for you. How is that a waste and in what way is spending 10 or 15 minutes to learn how to use a tool wasteful given how much time it can save in the long run? Even if you only saved 5 minutes per month, you’d be in the black after only a third of a year.

The business world is changing; grudgingly – at least in many places – but nevertheless changing. A long time ago one of my colleagues who had been a student of Deming’s and who was deeply involved in the understanding of systems, offered his belief that the main reason we survived as a company wasn’t so much because of how good we were at what we do. Rather, it was in large part due to the reality that everyone else was much worse. He wasn’t talking about our organization’s technical skills, but rather about our systems and procedures, most all of which exude bureaucracy from every corner.

I believed him then, and I’ve seen nothing to dissuade me from believing it still – even after a nearly five year hiatus and having been back for over six months now. I’m not sure how much longer any organization can continue doing business the way they’ve always done. I can’t possibly predict when it will be too late to change; when another business will match our technical skills and outperform our organizational skills, leaving us – eventually – in the dust.

It will undoubtedly take longer in aerospace than it would in, say consumer electronics, but even with long-term contracts and government funding there has to come a time when failure to learn and modify how things get done, especially those things that rely on people talking to and working with one another, will mark the end of an organization’s viability. I don’t dwell on it, but I do find myself occasionally listening for that other shoe to drop. You?


I Review Age of Context: A Must Read

Age of Context Cover

I’m not in the habit of reviewing books, but I have a special interest in this one, not merely because I played a role in its production, but because of what the book means to us culturally and economically. What follows is the review I posted on Amazon.

I have long been enamored of the concept of Systems Thinking, which holds (among other things) that systems cannot be understood absent their context, the interrelationships of components within each system and with other systems of which they are a part (or are a part of them). In my career I have often heard it said “context is king.” I am predisposed to look for the contextual interrelationships in all things I attempt to understand.

It was nearly a year ago when Shel Israel posted a request for help on Facebook. He was looking for people who could serve as fact-checkers for his and Robert Scoble‘s new book. At the time, I responded and suggested I could serve as his proofreader. He accepted. Thus began a wonderful adventure. Soon I was proofing Shel’s columns in Forbes (q.v.) under the general title “The Social Beat”. Most of them were portions of what would become the chapters of this book “Age of Context”.

Since that time, I have proofed nearly every column he’s written related to the book, as well as each chapter that ultimately became this wonderful book. I also outlined at least six of the chapters for the authors to use in interviews and at speaking engagements and, toward the end, ended up checking each hyperlink and compiling them into a single document.

I bring all this up in part to reveal what surely has the appearance of a conflict of interest in my recommending you purchase and read this book. However, the greater part of what I’m revealing is how thoroughly it moved and excited me. I will admit to being a techno-geek, and I am naturally drawn to shiny new things. I am somewhat prejudiced. However, Robert and Shel have carefully scoured the tech world and now present their findings and conclusions, and many of them should fairly knock your socks off. I can’t tell you how many times I practically came out of my seat as I was reading about their discoveries. It made it hard at times to do my job. Frequently, I wanted to add my own comments to what they were explaining. I somehow managed to contain my excitement. It’s their book, after all.

In “Age of Context” you will find dozens and dozens of applications and approaches that seek to more completely understand, and integrate into, various aspects of our lives. Whether in the home, at work, or at play; whether in their approach to health, recreation, designing and building cities, or marketing product intelligently, Robert and Shel bring together (put into context, if you will) what these developments mean and how they can — and most likely will — improve our lives. They also recognize, and in no way gloss over, the important issues of privacy and safety many of these developments raise.

Yes, I am somewhat prejudiced. However, I feel quite safe in saying this is an important book. I don’t care for the term “futurist”, but I’d like to think I can recognize some of the next big things. There are a lot of them in this book. You owe it to yourself to understand the coming storm of innovation and change the authors so presciently offer.

Buy it at Amazon
My Review on Amazon


Social Business and Social Intercourse

Hand Axe and Computer Mouse

The Axe (made by one person) vs. The Mouse (made by millions)

While working on a presentation, which I’ll be giving to the American Oil Chemists’ Society’s Annual Meeting in Long Beach, CA at the end of this month, I’ve been looking for material I can use to highlight my excitement at the prospect of social business applications. I long ago came to the conclusion that what then was the nascent capabilities of Web 2.0 would someday revolutionize how we go about creating value in our economy and, necessarily, in our enterprises and organizations. Nothing has diminished this excitement and, in fact, I become more excited as I follow the changes that are taking place today.

In doing this bit of research I was reminded of a wonderful TED talk I watched some time ago and thought to check it out and see if it would jog my memory and, perhaps, give me some greater insight into how I can communicate my excitement and the vision I have to those to whom I will be presenting. The talk is by Matt Ridley and is entitled “When Ideas Have Sex”. I’ve embedded it below. In addition to the points he makes about the interchange of ideas (sex), it is also a wonderful example of the systemic nature of existence and human interaction.

Matt also refers to an interesting essay I believe gave him the overall idea for his talk. It was written by Leonard E. Read and is entitled, “I, Pencil: My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read.” Although I’m reasonably certain it was written with somewhat of a political agenda, which is the defense of free-market capitalism, I believe it also demonstrates the systemic nature of human economy and interaction . . . trade, if you will. I will leave the arguments for and against government intervention, whether through planning or through regulation, for other posts in future.

In the meantime, I really think you should read Read’s essay and watch this highly-engaging TED talk by Matt Ridley. You may find yourself wanting to repeat the process on occasion. I think this was the third time I’ve watched. Hope you like them.


Brand Haiku – Ode to Philz

A new Facebook friend of mine, Christopher Carfi, made me aware of this entertaining project that’s gaining some traction on the Interwebs . . . Brand Haiku. I got sucked in a little bit and wrote two of them (though I realized the first wasn’t about a brand at all, which is why I wrote the second, actually). So here’s a link to The Social Customer Manifesto, where I got started. There seems to be a lot of interconnected activity out there on this subject. I believe I’m adding to it by blogging my comments (i.e. my haiku, which appear below).

Brand Haiku – Ode to Philz.

The door is open
Kids wait silent in the van
Fall semester calls

My daughters greatly miss
The four free-wheel shopping carts
Once found at Trader Joe’s

Addendum: I have once again realized I missed the mark here; at least on the original intent expressed in the concept of “Brand Haiku”. Although I do now (in my second attempt) mention a brand, I am essentially relating a complaint or pointing out what my daughters and I consider a short-coming. I am, therefore, now adding a third attempt, to wit:

New Android phone’s a bust
’til Target geek points out app
That kills useless tasks


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