Bush the Elder’s “Vision Thing”

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A colleague suggested a TED talk by Simon Simek on “leadership.”  Can any talk or book about “leadership” be credible?
I am suspicious of someone who casually proposes that humans are motivated “by biology not psychology.” As if these could be cleanly partitioned off from one another.

I can perhaps overlook that oversimplification.

But most organizations “believe” many things. Concurrence of employee/vendor teams, if it could be measured, would surely cut across many beliefs and ideas. It would be difficult to prove that what motivates people is a directly causative to success of a given enterprise. Being motivated can lead to good as well as bad results. There are good and bad, successful and unsuccessful visions that can be communicated (or mis-communicated) to prospective cult members. Many a startup with great vision, collective commitment, and focus on “why,” not just “what” — will fail to make the cut.

Inspirational, powerful rhetoric is great (and its absence is painful), but show me what Simek in his talk disparagingly refers to as “the 12 point plan,” too. A core principle in understanding how people operate, I believe, is the notion that knowledge, and the pursuit of it in an enterprise, is intersubjective. That means, at some level, distrusting not only the expressed beliefs of others, but one’s own instincts to believe.

Maybe Simek it simply reiterating what Bush the Elder was said to have commented about “the vision thing.” Give it its due, but no more.

Recruiting #fail: On Recruiting for Proficiency

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What follows is a position description received this month from a firm  — not a recruiter.

Required Technical Skills:

  • Proficiency in all MS Office applications including MS Project
  • Front end development (HTML, Flash, Ajax, Javascript – templates)
  • Back end development (XML, HTTPS, Web Services, Web dav, data mapping)
  • Experience with implementing and managing Demand Ware solutions a plus, Demandware Business Manager, DemandWare UX studio (Eclipse based development environment), DemandWare control center
  • Clear understanding of web technologies like Java, DotNet, PHP, Ruby, SQL, MYSQL, MSSQL, HTML 5, Javascript, IIS, Apache, Performance fine tuning techniques, Flash, AJAX, Mobile platform, CRM, Web services, XML
  • Understanding of Informatica, SAP, Biztalk is a plus

A piece of work, but not about getting work done.

Use (Corporate Knowledge) or Lose It

Danger Sidekick (credit Wikipedia Commons)

Danger Sidekick (credit Wikipedia Commons)

When a firm decides to shutter operations, the loss of knowledge capital in the form of talent should appear somewhere in the risk assessment. While significant short term savings may be achieved by closing a division (in the case of Microsoft, perhaps to save $$$ to purchase Skype?), one side effect can be a brain drain to bonanza to well-heeled competitors. A report from CNN Money today identifies several members of the original Danger (Sidekick) team who are now working at Google’s new innovation wing, “Android Hardware”:

Hershenson and Brit were part of the trio that founded Danger in 2000. The third partner: Android chief Andy Rubin. The three engineers launched pioneering consumer smartphones, like the once-ubiquitous-among-celebrities T-Mobile Sidekick in 2000.

Now all three are working for Google, perhaps with added incentive.

Following was my post to David Pogue’s NY Times story announcing the closing the Cisco’s Flip operation.

DP, you’ve got this mostly right, though I think there is a more disturbing back story that goes beyond this one. It’s the life cycle of smaller to medium sized technology firms whose founders and investors cash out by selling to a major (usually public) company. Another example that comes to mind is Microsoft’s killing off the Sidekick, another neat device paired with an even better cloud service to back it up. What’s gone is more than the idea — seen in its pre-acquisition form, these firms are living, breathing entities, with expert sales and marketing groups, engineers, an idea-makers. Listen up, politicians: THIS is the real “job growth,” not stringing fiber into empty office suites and hosting MS Office training classes for the unemployed. Killing off firms like Danger and Pure Digital aborts the creative offspring that their collective intelligence could manifest. A few among them will have cashed out, but most of those 550 workers will be consigned to endure a personal version of the Flip tragedy. Writ large, it’s the U.S. version of capitalism shooting itself in the foot just when job growth is needed most. Markets dump capital mainly into mega-firms like Cisco, whose far-flung, unwieldy enterprises are far less efficient at converting that cash into good ideas and jobs” (April 14, 2011).