May 31, 2011

CPR by iPhone


Great new iPhone App by the San Ramon Fire Department called FireDepartment.
This life-saving iPhone app notifies citizens trained in CPR (that have opted-in) of a cardiac emergency occurring in a public area near them.
An article in Government Technology (May 2011) explains that citizens can "start administering CPR before first responders arrive at the scene."
The problem it addresses is that generally it takes about 7 minutes from a heart attack to death, and it can take about just as long for rescue crews to reach victims.
So, if there are qualified people in the vicinity that can help in the the crucial minutes in between, they can literally save lives.
This is how it works:
1) Emergency dispatchers receive a call for help.
2) They enter "CPR assistance needed" into the dispatch system.
3) First responders AND local citizens with the CPR app (within 500 feet of the emergency) are alerted.
4) Location-based technology in the iPhone directs you to not only where the assistance is needed but also to where the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED) can be found.
"If you're at Starbucks and next door at the deli someone goes down, you're getting a notification."
Currently, the app covers San Ramon County's 155 miles, but there are plans to make it available as open source code to other jurisdictions across the country as well.
The app was developed with the help of Fire Chief Richard Price who previously was a software engineer and is bringing a new technology focus to life-saving emergency response.

There are also iPhone apps that walk you through performing CPR, such as CPR-Choking and CPR Hero.
Hopefully, we never need these apps, but it's good to know people and information are there to help just an iPhone app away.

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May 30, 2011

Nothing But Legs

For Memorial Day...taking some time out--and loving it! :-)

Thought this optical illusion by Shigeo Fukuda was pretty cool to share.


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"G-d Said No"

A friend sent this to me and I wanted to share it with others who can benefit.

Hope you enjoy!

___________________________________________


I asked G-d to make my handicapped child whole.

G-d said, No.

His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.


I asked G-d to grant me patience.

G-d said, No.

Patience is a byproduct of tribulations;

it isn't granted, it is learned.


I asked G-d to give me happiness.

G-d said, No.

I give you blessings; Happiness is up to you.


I asked G-d to spare me pain.

G-d said, No.

Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares

and brings you closer to me.


I asked G-d to make my spirit grow.

G-d said, No.

You must grow on your own!

but I will prune you to make you fruitful.


I asked G-d for all things that I might enjoy life.

G-d said, No.

I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things.


I asked G-d to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.

G-d said...Ahhhh, finally you have the idea.


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May 28, 2011

Perfect Is The Enemy of Good

Perfection is a destructive force.

And the French philosopher, Voltaire recognized this when he said "Perfect is the enemy of good."

I never really fully understood this saying, until recently reading a Harvard Business Review article (June 2011) called "The Paradox of Excellence."

The article states: "High achievers often undermine their leadership by being afraid to show their limitations."

At the heart of it...high achievers can let anxiety impede their progress through stress, alienating others, and failure to seize real opportunities.

Here from the article are some of the "classic high achiever" behaviors that can get in the way of success unless artfully managed and balanced (my views):

1) Results-driven: High-achievers can be so work-oriented that they forget the people the make it all it happen. This is why they need to remember to delegate, empower, share, and CARE about others. The work is a team effort!

2) Highly-motivated: They can be so serious about all aspects of their jobs that they "fail to distinguish between the urgent and the merely important." Instead, they should take a bigger-picture PERSPECTIVE on the tasks and prioritize these accordingly. Not everything is life and death, thank G-d, and we need to keep a sense of humor and take the time to enjoy what we are doing.

3) Competitive: They "obsessively compare themselves with others," which can cause them to feel insufficient or make false calibrations. You have to remember to INTERNALIZE that the competition is not with others but with yourself--be the best you can be!

4) Risk-managed: "They may shy away from the unknown" and avoid risky endeavors. As they say in Wall Street, without risk, there is no reward. To INNOVATE and transform, you need to take calculated risks (without betting the farm!) after doing due diligence on an investment or opportunity.

5) Passion: This can lead to powerful, productive highs, but can also result in "crippling lows." Recognize that there are natural ups and downs in the course of one's work. You can STEADY yourself through these by seeing it as incremental growth and improvement, rather than as either pure success or failure.

6) Guilt: "No matter how much they accomplish, they feel like they aren't doing enough." This is an endless trap of it's never enough and never good enough. Hey, we're all mortal. Do what you can and balance the many demands that you have on you in your life, but FOCUS on what's most important, since you can't do it all and you can never get it all done.

7) Feedback: High-achievers "care intensely about how others view their work" and they require a steady stream of positive feedback. Don't get hung up by what other people say or think--it's not personal and they have their own problems. Stay focused on delivering excellence in products and services to the customer, and use whatever feedback you can get--positive or negative--as valuable information to IMPROVE your offering.

If you are a high-achiever and demand much (if not the impossible from yourself), take a step back and a breath in and out--you can accomplish a lot more of what's important to you if stop trying to be perfect, admit your vulnerabilities and limitations, and just try to do your best--that's all that anyone can ask.

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May 26, 2011

Educating The World


Salman (Sal) Khan is amazing!

He quit a job as a hedge fund analyst to start a free and now highly popular educational website Khan Academy.

Khan is the founder and sole faculty of the academy, and has posted over 2,100 educational videos on topics ranging from:
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • History
  • Statistics
  • And more
Khan goal is to "educate the world" providing the tools so that everyone can learn at their own pace, and where teachers are facilitators.

Khan explains the concepts of the various subjects slowly and clearly and uses an electronic blackboard to demonstrate examples and problems.

The Khan Academy also provides exercises, test prep (like for the SAT, GMAT, etc.) and a dashboard for tracking student progress.

As of today--26 May 2011--Khan has served up over 56 Million lessons!

According to BusinessWeek (May 23-29, 2011) Khan's work was recognized in 2010 by donations that included $1.5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, $2 million from Google, as well as others.

Of course, there are other free learning sites out there, but to me Khan Academy seems unique in its breadth and depth of core academic learning--plus they are all taught by Khan!

Khan Academy is becoming the "free virtual school" for the world, and his students seem to love it.

While Khan is doing a super-human job, one suggestion that I have is to consider adding social collaboration tools (chat, blogs, groups, and so on) to the site to enable students to discuss about the material and ask questions and even post their own insights that others can benefit from.

Also, opening some element of this up to crowd-sourcing (like Wikipedia) may help this to grow even bigger and faster.

At some point, even a King Khan needs some help to educate the masses.

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May 25, 2011

Apples or Oranges

There are lots of biases that can get in the way of sound decision-making.

An very good article in Harvard Business Review (June 2011) called "Before You Make That Big Decision" identifies a dozen of these biases that can throw leaders off course.

What I liked about this article is how it organized the subject into a schema for interrogating an issue to get to better decision-making.

Here are some of the major biases that leaders need to be aware of and inquire about when they are presented with an investment proposal:


1) Motivation Errors--do the people presenting a proposal have a self-interest in the outcome?

2) Groupthink--are dissenting opinions being actively solicited and fairly evaluated?

3) Salient Analogies--are analogies and examples being used really comparable?

4) Confirmation Bias--has other viable alternatives been duly considered?

5) Availability Bias--has all relevant information been considered?

6) Anchoring Bias--can the numbers be substantiated (i.e. where did they come from)?

7) Halo Effect--is success from one area automatically being translated to another?

8) Planning Fallacy--is the business case overly optimistic?

9) Disaster Neglect--is the worst-case scenario imagined really the worst?

10) Loss Aversion--is the team being overly cautious, conservative, and unimaginative?

11) Affect Heuristic--are we exaggerating or emphasizing the benefits and minimizing the risks?

12) Sunk-Cost Fallacy--are we basing future decision-making on past costs that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered?

To counter these biases, here are my top 10 questions for getting past the b.s. (applying enterprise architecture and governance):

1) What is the business requirement--justification--and use cases for the proposal being presented?

2) How does the proposal align to the strategic plan and enterprise architecture?

3) What is return on investment and what is the basis for the projections?

4) What alternatives were considered and what are the pros and cons of each?

5) What are the best practices and fundamental research in this area?

6) What are the critical success factors?

7) What are the primary risks and planned mitigations for each?

8) What assumptions have been made?

9) What dissenting opinions were there?

10) Who else has been successful implementing this type of investment and what were the lessons learned?

While no one can remove every personal or organizational bias that exists from the decision-making equation, it is critical for leaders to do get beyond the superficial to the "meat and potatoes" of the issues.

This can be accomplished by leaders interrogating the issues themselves and as well as by establishing appropriate functional governance boards with diverse personnel to fully vet the issues, solve problems, and move the organizations toward a decision and execution.
Whether the decision is apples or oranges, the wise leader gets beyond the peel.

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May 22, 2011

Peace and Security

With all the questions about peace in the Middle East, there is a lot of enthusiasm for a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, living side-by-side in peace.
This is a practical vision that would resolve a lot of suffering and enable us to move constructively forward.
It may be hard to understand why Israel needs very specific conditions to protect itself, but this video sent to me by a friend explains it very well.
In a historical perspective, I think it is important to be aware of the context of the Jewish security concerns as well:
1) Six million Jews (ONE out of every THREE men, women, and children) were murdered in the Holocaust just last century.

2) Tens of thousands more were lost in numerous wars to overtake Israel (in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 2006, 2008 and in the Intifada's).

3) Mid-East neighbors (that support terrorist organizations--like Hamas, Hezbollah and more) do not even recognize Israel's right to exist, and are chartered to their ultimate destruction.
As a Jewish American, I too share, pray, and hope for peace in the Middle East...let it be so as a genuine and lasting one.
While Middle East peace often seems impossible, G-d can do what we think is impossible.
(All opinions are my own)

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May 21, 2011

The Information Blanket

On July 4, 1976--the 200th anniversary of our free and democratic nation, something incredible was happening in Uganda--Operation Entebbe, a rescue operation to free over a hundred hostages at Entebee Airport.

This rescue operation became the basis for the movie Operation Thunderbolt, one of of my favorite movies (aside from Rocky).

The movie portrays the heroic and miraculous raid at Entebbe Airport in Uganda by the IDF to save the hostages of Air France flight 139, with 248 passengers and 12 crew (the Jews were later upon landing separated from the non-Jews and held captive, while the others were released). IDF Commandos with only a week of planning and preparation, travelled 2,500 miles in a daring operation that resulted in the rescue of the 103 hostages in a 90 minutes raid. Only three hostages and the commander of the mission, Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu (the older brother of the Prime Minister of Israel today) were killed in the battle.

Despite, Uganda's support of the terrorists in this event 35 years ago (a long time yes, but still pretty awful), today to help innocent people of this country and others that can benefit, I write about...The Information Blanket.

BMB, an independent advertising consumer PR company launched The Information Blanket this month to fight infant mortality.

According to Fast Company (June 2011), the Blanket is targeted for a country like Uganda where "on average 77 of every 1,000 Ugandan babies will die before they reach their first birthday."

The creative director of BMB worked with UNICEF to "determine which health facts would best educate mothers and hopefully prevent infant death" and then they designed The Information Blanket with easy to read and understand information such as:

1) Vaccinations--"Get your baby vaccinated: 6, 10, 14 weeks."
2) Feeding--"Breast-feed 8-12 times a day."
3) Doctors--"Don't forget to schedule your doctor appointment."
4) Temperature--"38 degrees Celsius."
5) Growth--"Growth chart (months)."
6) Warnings--"Warning signs: unconsciousness, convulsions, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, eye discharge, poor appetite, fast breathing, dehydration."

These days, when going paperless and making everything digital is practically a mantra, I find The Information Blanket not only an effort to help people save lives, but a refreshing reminder that information can be delivered in many ways. And whether on a rock, a tree, bits and bytes, or a blanket, getting information out there to people is education, growth, and life for humanity.

Also, the role of design in effective communications and information technology is critical. Apple gets it...heck, they practically invented it. The more we incorporate good design and innovation into our communications, the more effective they have a chance to be.

(Source Photo: BMB)

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May 20, 2011

Purpose Drives Productivity


Enjoyed speaking with Francis Rose today on Federal News Radio (1500 AM) on the subject of employee motivation, especially in a challenging budgetary environment.
Overall I tried to convey the importance of managers communicating to people how very important they are to the mission.
Everyone has to eat, but without a sense of purpose, we feel lost.
Hope you enjoy this audio of the interview.

(Source Photo: Photobucket)

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May 17, 2011

Know What's Right, Do What's Right

In a conversation with a good friend recently, we got to talking about integrity--the meaning and of course, the importance.

And at one point, he says straight-out, integrity takes two things:

1) Know what's right

2) Do what's right

And I'm loving it!

Straight-forward and simple--know and do what's right.

Then he tells me about Gus Lee, a nationally recognized ethicist (and Chair of Character Development at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point) who wrote this book Courage: The Backbone of Leadership.

I was inspired by what I heard and since went back to learn more about his philosophy on the subject.

Lee believes that "leadership is grounded in high character" and that "we think we are looking for managers, but in fact, we need principled leaders."

To drive our "moral courage", Lee says we have 3 powerful resources:

1) Conscience--"that moral, inner voice."

2) Discernment--this is where you work to discern "the higher right" getting past "fear, feelings, and wishful thinking" and of course, our own self interests.

3) Discerning Advisors--we seek the counsel of "the most courageous, high integrity, high character, and principled person or people" you know.

And I would add a fourth important resource, which is religious teachings that can be a steadfast guidepost (especially when coupled with the others as a personal litmus test of whether you are applying them correctly).

Finally, I like Lee's observation that there are three type of individuals when it comes to issues of integrity:

1) Egotists--those who are self-serving.

2) Pragmatists--those who "serve results" or what I would call serving a specified cause.

3) People of Courage--those who "act in the right regardless."

Doing the right thing is not easy (it means putting aside your own interests)!

That's why it takes tremendous courage to be the type of moral person that we all ultimately admire and respect.

Those leaders who act with moral rectitude, these to me are the few and the amazing!

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May 15, 2011

Hooray For Motivation

Much has been written about the importance of meaning in driving a productive and motivated workforce.

Already in 1964, Frederick Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory differentiated work satisfiers (aka motivators) such as challenging work, achievement, and responsibility, from dis-satisfiers (aka hygiene factors) such as the absence of status, job security, adequate salary/benefits, and pleasant work conditions.

In other words, motivation is driven primarily by the underlying meaningful and the productive work, not by the context of the work such as the money and fringe benefits.

In that vein, Harvard Business Review in "A Spotlight on Productivity" in May 2011 describes how poor managers "unwittingly drain work of its meaning"--in essence destroying their employees motivation and their productivity.

1) Trivializing Your Workers Input--"managers may dismiss the importance of employees work or ideas." In a sense, this one is about marginalizing employees, their creativity, and their contributions and is extremely destructive to the employees and the organization.

2) Decoupling Employee Ownership From Their Work--"Frequent and abrupt reassignments often have this affect." Also, not assigning clear roles and responsibilities to projects can have this affect. Either way, if employees don't have ownership of their projects, then the productivity will suffer amidst the workplace chaos and lack of ultimate accountability for "your work."

3) The Big Black Hole--"Managers may send the message that the work employees are doing will never see the light of day." In other words, employees are just being forced to "spin their wheels" and their is truly no purpose to the "shelfware" they are producing.

4) Communication, Not--Managers "may neglect to inform employees about unexpected changes in a customers priorities" or a shift in organizational strategy due to changes in internal or external market drivers. When employees don't know that the landscape has shifted and moreover are not involved in the decision process, they may not know what has changed, why, or feel invested in it. Without adequate communication, you will actually be leaving your employees blind and your organization behind.

So while it is tempting to think that we can drive a great work force through pay, benefits and titles alone, the lesson is clear...these are not what ultimately attracts and retains a talented and productive work force.

The magic sauce is clear--help your work force to know and feel two things:

1) Their work--is ultimately useful and usable.

2) That they--are important and have a future of growth and challenge.

When they and their work mean something, they will get behind it and truly own it.

In short: mean something, do something.

To get this outcome, I believe managers have to:

1) Make the meaning explicit--Identify your customers, the services you are providing, and articulate why it is important to provide these.

2) Determine strengths and weaknesses of each employee and capitalize on their strengths, while at the same time coach, mentor, and train to the weaknesses.

3) When workers go "off track," be able to give them constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement without demeaning and demoralizing them.

4) Find the inner strength and self confidence not to be threatened by your employees actually doing a good job and being productive--that's ultimately what you've hired them for!

5) Recognize the importance of everyone's contributions--It is not a one-person show, and it takes a bigger boss to recognize that other people's contributions don't take away from their own.

6) Be a team and communicate, honestly and openly--information hoarding and being the smartest one in the room is an ego thing; the best leaders (such as Jack Welch) surround themselves with people that are smarter than them and information is something to be leveraged for the team's benefit, not weaponized by the individual.

There are more, but this is just a blog and not a book...so hopefully more to come on this topic.

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May 13, 2011

Who's On First

I have a new article in Public CIO Magazine (April/May 2011) on the topic of Accountability In Project Management:

We've all be to "those" kinds of meeting. You know the ones I'm talking about: The cast of characters has swelled to standing-room only and you're beginning to wonder if maybe there's a breakfast buffet in the back of the room.

It seems to me that not only are there more people than ever at todays meetings, but meetings are also more frequent and taking up significantly more hours of the day.

I'm beginning to wonder whether all these meeting are helping us get more work done, or perhaps helping us avoid confronting the fact that in many ways we're stymied in our efforts.

Read the rest of the article at
Government Technology.


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Reading is Love


What an inspiring story this week about Jim Brozina and his daughter Alice Ozma.

Jim's wife left him when Alice was ten years old.

And when Alice started 4th grade, Jim (a retired librarian) made a challenge to his daughter to see how many nights they could read together in row--it was a way for them to spend time together and bond.

Well their "Streak" went on and on--for over 3000 nights--almost 9 years--until Alice's first night at Rutger's University.

Alice majored--of course--in English Literature.

And she wrote a book called "The Reading Promise" about her dad's selfless devotion and love to her, reading every night.

I remember as a kid, the commercials encouraging reading--"Reading is Fundamental".

Now I know that reading is not just fundamental (to learning and growth), but is also a way to love someone.

In the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, how many of us spend the time with our kids--consistently and with the utter devotion that this father did--one chapter a night, every night?

Aside from the lesson of selflessness in this story, I also see in this the message of incremental change and growth--by starting off with just 15 minutes a day and building on this incrementally, Jim and Alice were able to accomplish so much together over the years--in terms of learning and their relationship.

So while, the big blowout moments in life are significant memories for us and very often get a lot of emphasis (i.e. as in "let's make a memory"), the day-to-day consistent building of relationships and learning, can have a truly larger than life impact over the long-term.

On a more personal note, I remember when I was debating going back to school for my MBA (while working full-time during the day), and my dad encouraged me and told me that the years would come and go regardless, but that if I made the commitment, at the end, I would have something valuable to show for it.

I listened to his advice and went to school at night for what seemed like ages for an MBA and then numerous certifications and other learning opportunities, and I am always glad that I did. Dad was right...the years pass regardless, but your hard work pays off. I will always be grateful to him for that advice and support--love comes in many shapes and sizes.

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May 11, 2011

To Infinity and Beyond

This is an incredible video of Yves Rossy, the former Swiss military pilot, who became "Mr. Jet (or Rocket) Man".

Rossy is the real life version of Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear (the heroic character with the jet pack, but without the laser on his arm).

You see Rossy invented a 120 pound wing suit, powered by 4 jet engines that enables him to fly like Superman through the air at speeds averaging 125 mph.

In 2006, Rossy flew for over 6 minutes over the Swiss Alps; in 2008, he flew over the English Channel between England and France for over 9 minutes; and in 2009 he attempted to fly over the Strait of Gibraltar between Morocco and Spain.

Last week, Rossy wanted to fly over the Grand Canyon, but canceled beforehand, it is said because by the time he got FAA approval, he did not have enough time to practice.

Typically, Rossy jumps out of a plane, helicopter, or air ballon, flies like a bird even doing multiple aerial loops, and then lands by parachute.

Although Rossy flew for many years in the Swiss Air Force (including Mirage III supersonic fighter jets), according to the UK Daily Mail, he always wanted to get real with it as he says: "In a plane you are surrounded by computers and shielded from the air, but I wanted to fly naked."

What I admire about Rossy:

1) Courage to take it to the next level--Rossy doesn't accept the status quo; he is constantly "upping the ante" and trying to be accomplish the next great thing in aviation.

2) Innovates and invents--first thinking up the way he will do it and then developing the means to achieve it--he puts the planning and execution together!

3) Trains hard--he believes in making at least 2-3 test flights before actually attempting something new.

4) "No" is an acceptable answer when it's the right thing to do--when Rossy doesn't feel comfortable going forward, he's not afraid to say so and will stop the exercise and thereby avert possible disaster.

No longer is it just a child's imagination and a playtime event to stretch out one's arms and race around pretending to fly; Rossy is living the dream for all us and bringing new opportunities for future transportation to the fold.

One more thought: this could be the corollary to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)...this is the Unvehicle Aerial Man (UAM)--add this to the military's bag of tricks.

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May 8, 2011

Happiness Is Not The End


I was outraged to read the opening article in the May 9-15, 2011 issue of BusinessWeek (
which I usually greatly respect): "Why Bin Laden Lost."

Here are some of the "highlights" from Businessweek:

- "The United States has no purpose. That is perhaps its greatest achievement...the United States was not founded for the greater glory of anything."

- "The most successful organizing principle the world has ever known is a simple guarantee that we can buy and do things that have no point greater than the satisfaction of our own happiness."

- "We human follow base and pedestrian needs...Freedom. Self-determination. Democracy. All of which are means to an end. For us humans, the end is almost always just a house."

- "You might consider embracing what defeated him. Do something private and ridiculous, something that answers no creed. Pursue happiness."

Yes, we won the battle against Osama Bin Laden this week, but the war is not over.

Bin Laden's henchmen are already forswearing that they will turn our joy to sorrow.

Why?

Because the clash of ideas and principles remain.

One one hand, we have belief in mandated, restrictive religious sharia law and the return to a 7th century caliphate (i.e. government of the people--the state is supreme) and on the other we have principles of freedom to choose--how to worship, what to say, what to publish, when to gather etc. (government for the people--the people are supreme).

With the Spring Uprising in the Middle East, it seems that the people are leaning toward the latter, although there is much work to be done to transition from the former.

Bloomberg Businessweek's article misses the whole point of our great democracy and the freedoms it provides.

Rather than being a society whose end and purpose is simply to "shop until we drop" and that is free to orgy itself on prosperity, physical pleasures, and materialism, we are about so much more.

The United States and its partners do have a purpose.

No, we are not a society that mandates a certain religion or in fact any religion, we leave that to for the individual to choose. But we are a society of laws, principles, and belief in freedom to choose one's destiny.

Not everyone chooses well, but that is part of the freedom to learn from our mistakes and grow.

The end, for most good and upstanding citizens of this country and others, is to be driven by principles and righteousness--such as human rights, curing the ill, feeding the hungry, rescuing the downtrodden, innovating and creating opportunity, and building stronger personal protections and cultural institutions.

I think it is sad that Bloomberg endorsed exactly the view that the terrorists hold of us -- a view that is shallow and wrong.

We do not focus exclusively on the "pursuit of happiness," rather that happiness is a means to a higher end. Similar to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which begins with physical survival and proceeds to self-actualization through connection with others and giving back.

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May 7, 2011

Beyonce Moves Us

This video is funny and enjoyable to watch; only 20 million views on line...am I late to this one?

Leadership lesson: some things are just primal (like music, song, dance...) and we can reach people on many levels through intellect, emotion, spiritual, and so forth.

People are not just one sided, but complex and you never know when even a baby will just get down and move to Beyonce.

Thanks to a colleague for sending this to me.

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SEALS - Going Beyond The Veneer

What a great article in the Wall Street Journal today (7-8, May 2011) about the Navy SEALs.

No, the article is not about how they are just these pure lethal, killing machines--as Osama Bin Laden learned this week.

But rather, about what it takes to be a Navy SEAL, and in my mind implicitly what it takes to be the best in life at whatever you chose to do.

The Navy SEALs were stood up by President Kennedy in 1962 as an elite new commando force for all-terrain missions (aside from being the nation's elite maritime special forces):

Hence the acronym: SEa, Air, and Land.

Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden recounted at Fort Campbell this interaction with his granddaughter, as follows (Source: Washington Wire):

"We're going to see the guys out there who got Osama bin Laden," Mr. Biden said he told her.

"And she grabbed a little friend of hers and said, "My pop's going out to see the whales!'"

"Not the SEALs," Mr. Biden added, "the whales. Because if they're that good, they've got to be big, man."

And it is true, the SEALs are big men, but not necessarily in the sense that you might think.

Yes, they can kick your a** six ways to Sunday, but becoming a SEAL is really about heart!

While the SEAL training draws the physical best--"high school and college track and football stars, national-champion swimmers, and top-ranked wrestlers and boxers, only 10% to 20% ...manage to finish" -- and there are only about 250 graduates a year, total!

So what's the differentiator--between making it and not (through "Hell Week"--the culmination of the 6 months of grueling training)?

The SEAL author sums it up for us this way:

"Almost all the men who survived possessed one common quality. Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear, and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the 'fist' of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others, to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose."

Very well said!

Some major leadership lessons:

1) In the end, physical strength (what they call the "size of their biceps") and prowess is only part of the equation--and at some point, everyones strength gives out--"they break". But the heart and soul of the person, what drives them inside, is not subject to physical limits--and that is the part of us that is our essence and is immortal and can drive us to true greatness. And like the story of little David (the champion of Israelites) beating the giant Goliath in the Bible, with courage, ingenuity, teamwork, and purpose, we can do the seemingly impossible.

2) It's important to see beyond the exterior of the person or situation that's before you, and to go deeper into what behind the veneer. On the surface, lots of people may look like they could be SEALs, but only the cream of the crop make it. Similarly, when it comes to business opportunities, hiring situations, and complex negotiations, it's critical to "go deep, before you leap," so that you can make important determinations of what is really the best for you and your organization.

3) You don't just become the best, and stay that way, but you have to earn it every day. For example, training is critical and learning and growth is a life-long pursuit. As the SEAL states from one of his instructors: "The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war." We've got to put in the sweat equity into everything we really want, and which is really important us.

4) Never forget you are not alone, you are part of a "squad", a team, a nation, a people--you are a child of G-d. Together, we are held together by principles and values that transcend the individual and the moment. These make us strong beyond our physical limitations, our sheer numbers, and even our technology--although these certainly help ;-)

Our fighting men and women make tremendous sacrifices for all us, and becoming a SEAL or other special forces commando requires even greater demands--and the physical part is only the beginning, only the veneer.

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May 6, 2011

Avoiding The Ultimate In Surprise


Everyone remember the I Love Lucy show? Well, that show really epidemized what it meant to surprise and be surprised by all the antics that the main character, Lucy, got into--show after show.

One thing that's very clear is that no one really likes surprises (except maybe for some comic relief and that's one reason I believe the show was the most popular season after season).

So what's the problem with surprises? They are not inherently bad--there can be good surprise and bad ones.

The issue is really that people want to be prepared for whatever is coming there way.

Even surprise parties or gifts somehow seem sweeter when the recipient isn't completely "taken by surprise."

One of my bosses used to often repeat to the team, "I don't like surprises!"

Hence, the importance of what we all got in the habit of saying--communicate, communicate, communicate--early and often.

With the tragic tornados that struck last week across the south killing some 329 people, we are reminded how important early warning to surprises in life can be.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that new technologies are being developed for early warning of these tornados such as:

- Visual cues--Antennas that can track cloud-to-loud lighting, which is often invisible from the ground, but it "drops sharply in a storm just before a tornado develops" and can therefore provide early detection for those that can see it.

- Sound waves--Using "infrasonic microphones" we can pick up storm sounds from as far as 500 miles away at frequencies too low to be detected by the human ear and can filter out the noise to track the storm's severity and speed, and therefore hear in advance if it is turning dangerous.

Early warning saves lives...even a few extra minutes can provide the much needed time for a person to get to a shelter.

After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami which killed more than 230,000 people, an early warning system was put in place there and again with the the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011, we see the ongoing need for these efforts to advance globally.

These efforts for early detection and alerts have always been around.

Already thousands of years ago, settlers built lookout towers and fire signals to get and give early notice of an advancing army, marauders, dangerous beasts, or other pending dangers.

Nowadays, we have satellites and drones providing "eyes in the sky" and other technologies (like the proverbial trip wires and so on) are being developed, refined, and deployed to protect us.

Advance warning and preparation is important for risk management and life preservation and leveraging technology to the max for these purposes is an investment that is timeless and priceless.

The challenge is in identifying the greatest risks (i.e. those with the most probability of happening and the biggest impact if they do) so that we can make our investments in the technologies to deal with them wisely.

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May 4, 2011

"Sexual Healing"--Marvin Gaye Wasn't Kidding


Ok, so the only topic that can compete with the killing of Osama Bin Laden (OBL) this week is an an article about sex--what???

No, I am not trying to be crude or vulgar. The Wall Street Journal, 3 May 2011, in the Health Journal reports that research show numerous health benefits to sex.

As if the mere act of procreation wasn't enough already...research now shows that sex:

- "Relieves stress" ("there's a relaxation response and a satiation response")--what's new there?
- "Improves sleep and burns calories"--ok, more no brainers as it "burns an estimated five calories per minute"--did anyone say competition with Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig? :-)
- "Reduces pain" ("you lie there and life is great")--who has time to think about pain?
- "Eases depression...improves mood"--ditto with the above
- "Strengthen blood vessels"--it's good exercise!
- "Boosts the immune system"--a perk up all around.
- "Lowers the risk of prostate and breast cancer"--Thank G-d!

Of course, there are chemical explanations for pretty much all these things: hormones, neurotransmitters, endorphins, testosterone, estrogen, prostaglandins, dopamine, prolactin...(OMG, no wonder, I never went to medical school).

But maybe the greatest gift of all, aside from the pure love and intimacy are several studies which suggest that "sex extends life in general"--almost like the holy grail of health benefits:

For men, those "who had sex less than once per month were twice as likely to die in the next 10 years than those who had sex once per week." While for women, those "who said they enjoyed their sex lives lived 7-8 years longer than those who were indifferent."

Like I said, maybe the only story of the week that can compete with the U.S. dealing the final blow to OBL.

Oh, what a week. ;-)

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May 1, 2011

Social Networking the Pepsi Way





On April 27, 2011, Pepsi announced the launch of it's state-of-the-art "Social Vending Machine."


It's a touch screen, networked machine that aside from enabling the purchase of soft drinks and the provision of nutrition information online, it also enables users to "gift" a drink to a friend by entering the recipient's name, mobile number, and a personalized text message (and even has an option to personalize it with a short recorded video).

The recipient of the Pepsi gift simply enters the redeem code at a pepsi social vending machine to get their soda. They can also return a thank you gift to the sender or "pay it forward" and give a gift to someone else.

In addition, the machine makes use of advanced telemetry to remotely measure and report on inventory, manage delivery scheduling, and update content on the machines. This machine is alive with changeable content and interactive communication between users.

As the Chief Innovation Officer of PepsiCo Foodservice states: "Social vending extends our consumers' social networks beyond the confines of their own devices and transforms a static, transaction-oriented experience into something fun and exciting they'll want to return to, again and again."

Additionally, Mashable reports that in phase 2, Pepsi is planning to integrate their Social Vending concept with other social media such as Facebook, extending the reach of product placement and gifting even further through cyberspace and social networking.

While many companies continue to struggle to figure out how to integrate social networking into a companies operations and make it profitable, PepsiCo has a simple formula for how it engages it's customers, promotes sales, and makes it all seem completely natural to the whole transaction--like it belonged there all along.

Great job PepsiCo!

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