Showing posts with label Entrepreneurial. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Entrepreneurial. Show all posts

September 1, 2016

Great New Kosher Food In Washington DC

So nice to meet this impressive young Jewish women today, Carly. 

A Sophomore at GW University, who had the brainchild for more and better kosher food options in Washington, D.C. 

Hence, Brooklyn Sandwich Company food truck. 

The kids are lining up for their whole brisket sandwiches on a pretzel bun with broccoli slaw and many other kosher sandwich and soup treats. 

This is awesome opportunity for some terrific kosher food in America's capital. 

Great job to Carly and Rabbi Yudi Steiner!  ;-)

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)

March 8, 2016

When Technology Is Our Superhero

I liked this Linux Cat Superhero sticker that someone put on the back of the street sign in Washington, D.C. 

There is something great about the promise of technology (with G-d's help of course) to make our lives better. 

When we get excited about technology, envision it, invest in it, and bring it to market--we are superheros making the world a better place. 

While many technologies may be "pie the sky" invoking more hype than higher purpose, if we can discern the doers from the duds then we can achieve the progress for ourselves and our children that we desperately want. 

Technology should be a superhero and not a villian--when its about the mission and doing what we do better, faster, and cheaper.

While Washington DC is a long way from entreprenurial and innovative Silicon Valley, the nexus between IT and public service has never been greater or more important. 

For example, when it comes to ideological clashes between (the iPhone's) security/surveillance and privacy or between the proliferation of robots vs. jobs for real human beings, balancing the competing interests is the soul of technology and public policy. 

Every truly useful technology should have it's superhero to represent and advocate for it, while us mere mortals sort out the implications and make sense of it all for the real world. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

November 18, 2014

Say Little And Do Much

New Article by Andy Blumenthal here in Public CIO Magazine. 

"It's not what we say, it's what we do that really matters."

Hope you enjoy!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

July 24, 2013

Hyperloop Takes Us Supersonic

Elon Musk in a genius -- from SpaceX to Tesla to Paypal -- he has us inventing like almost no one else can.

Now his concept of the Hyperloop is once again breaking all preconceptions of travel on Earth. 

Forget planes, trains, automobiles, and boats--Musk's promised open source plans would take us from New York to Los Angeles in under 45 minutes!

The system would be built based on the following premises:

- Safer in that it never crashes and is immune to weather

- Faster than any Earth transportation available today

- Cheaper than air travel 

- Better using self-powered solar panels and energy storage

In business school, we were taught to think in terms of better, faster, cheaper--what's amazing about Musk is he has a track record of not just thinking it, but making it so. 

While the Hyperloop doesn't exist today, I find it awfully exciting to think that one day, it will. 

On the plus side, Elon Musk makes George Jetson our reality; on the minus side, now we have no reason not to visit the in-laws. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to booknews)

August 19, 2012

When TMI Is PC

An interesting editorial in the New York Times (19 August 2012) bemoans the state of affairs in the workplace, where generation Y'ers, take the liberty of sharing too much [personal] information (TMI) with others.

The author, Peggy Klaus, gives examples of young workers talking about their looking for other positions, recounting family birthing experiences, or discussing sexual exploits or a shortage thereof. 

Klaus see this as a carryover of people's online social behavior or what she calls "Facebook in your face"--where you "tell everybody everything"--whether appropriate or important, or not at all!

Similarly, this behavior is viewed by some as young people simply acting out what they learned from their helicopter parents--who instilled "an overblown sense of worth" on them--where every poop is worth sharing from infancy through adulthood. 

Ms. Klaus refers to this as O.S.D. or Obsessive Sharing Disorder--and she instead calls for "decency, common sense, and just plain good manners" in deciding what to share and when.

While I agree with a certain amount of base political correctness and decorum in the office, I think too much control (TMC) over our workforce is not a good thing.

We cannot expect people to fit in, be enthusiastic about coming to work, and be innovative and productive in their jobs--when they have to constantly be on guard--watching what they say and what they do, and worrying about making any mistake. 

Assuming that people are not doing anything that hurts themselves or others, I think we should give people more room to breath, be themselves, and to self-actualize.

Holding the reins too tightly on workers, risks developing a cookie-cutter workforce--where everyone must look-alike, talk-alike, and think-alike--like virtual automatons--and such a telling and controlling environment destroys the very motivated, creative, and entrepreneurial workforce we desire and need to be globally competitive and individually fulfilled. 

Best practices for teleworking, flexible work schedules, and clubs and activities at work that let people be human and themselves--makes for a happier, more committed, and more productive workforce. 

Creating climates of workplace sterility, and fear and intimidation for every miscued word or imperfect deed--is neither realistic for human beings that are prone to make mistakes--nor conducive to learning and growing to be the best that each person can be.

I am not a generation Y'er, but I appreciate people who are real, words that are sincere, and deeds that are their personal best--whether it's the way I would do it or not. 

Yes, don't talk and act stupid at work--and shame yourself or others with hateful or abusive behavior--but do feel free to be honestly you as an individual and as a contributor to the broader team--that is better than a zombie army of worker bees who faithfully watch every word and constrain every deed. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Irregular Shed)


December 9, 2011

Losing The Edge, No More

For years, there has been all sorts of uproar about the U.S. and its citizens and businesses losing their edge.

From critics who point out to how our educational system (especially through high school) is not keeping up, how we are not attracting and graduating enough folks in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), how our inventions are freely copied overseas, and how innovation and entrepreneurship is suffering at home whether due to challenging economic or social conditions.

Yet, when it comes to losing our edge, nothing is more maddening than when the technological advances we do have are taken from us--this happens in numerous ways, including:

- Cyber Attacks: According to the Pentagon Strategy on Cyberwar as per the Wall Street Journal (15 July 2011) "each year a volume of intellectual property the size of the Library of Congress is stolen from U.S. government and private-sector networks." Cyber espionage has affected a broad range of our prized national assets: from Space Shuttle designs to the Joint U.S. Defense Strategy with South Korea as del as the plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more. Moreover and unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg. For example, this past August, McAfee disclosed a cyber spying operation dubbed Operation Shady Rat that infiltrated some 71 government and corporate entities of which 49 were in the U.S. and which included more than a dozen defense firms over five years, compromising a massive amount of information.

- Spies/Insider Threats: Spies and insider threats can turn over state secrets to foreign powers or entities causing a major lose to our competitive advantage. This has happened with convicted spies from Aldrich Ames to FBI agent Robert Hanssen, and more recently to Army Corporal Bradley Manning accused of turning over troves of restricted documents to WikLleaks. And despite the amazing efforts to catch these subversives, presumably, there are plenty more where they came from.

- Expropriations: We lose our edge to foreign nations and organizations when our high-technology or intellectual assets are used without our consent or otherwise seized and compromised. This can happen from having our copyrights trampled on, our designs simply copied and "knockoffs" produced and peddled, or even when we are in a sense forced to exchange our intellectual property for basic entry into foreign markets. But this also happens more explicitly and violently when our assets are literally taken from us. For example this happened in April 2001, when Chinese fighter jets intercepted (in international air space) and crashed a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance plane and didn't return it until July in disassembled pieces. Similarly, when the tail of the stealth modified MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, with sensitive military technology, used in the raid in Osama bin Laden's was recovered and held by Pakistan for weeks before it was returned to the U.S. And we saw this again this week when the Iranians showed off a prized RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone they now have seized, and which secrets presumably may end up in Russian, Chinese, or ultimately terrorist hands.

Developing an edge is not something we should take lightly or for granted--It is based on lots of talent, experience, and hard work and we do not have an exclusive hold on any of these.

We must prize our scientific and technological advances and secure these the way a mother protects it's young--fiercely and without compromise.

No matter how much or fast we churn out the advances, it will not matter if we do not safeguard our investments from those who would take it right out from under us. We can do this by significantly increasing investment in cyber security, strengthening counterespionage efforts, and not letting any nation or organization take something that doesn't belong to them without consequences--economic or military--that restore our edge and then some.


November 28, 2011

Moving Forward in Reverse

There is "more than one way to skin a cat" and there are those who take the high road, and others who take the low road to get to where they are going.

The Wall Street Journal (28 November 2011) has two articles this morning on how how reverse is the new forward.

"Reverse Mentoring Cracks Workplace" is about how "Top managers get advice on social media, workplace issues from young workers." It's a reverse on the traditional mentoring model where older, experienced workers mentor younger workers; now younger technology savants are teaching their older colleagues some new tricks.

According to the article, Jack Welch championed reverse mentoring as head of GE when "he ordered 500 top executives to reach out to people below them to learn how to use the forward a decade and mentors are teaching theirmentees about Facebook and Twitter.

Really this phenomen of learning from the young is not all that odd, when you think that many, if not most, of technology's greatest advancements of the last 35 years came from college kids or dropouts working out their garages and growing whole new technologies, industries, and ways of doing business.

Another article called "Great Scott! Dunder Mifflin Morphs Into Real-Life Brand of Copy Paper" describes how Staples and Quill have teamed up to market a new brand of copy paper called none other than Dunder Mifflin (from the TV show "The Office" now in its 8th season).

Here again, we are in going forward in reverse. "For decades, marketers worked to embed their [real] brands in the plots of TV shows and movies. Nowadays, they are seeing value in bringing to life fictional brands that are already part of pop culture."

This reminds me of when I started seeing Wonka chocolate bars--originally from the movie, Willie Wonker and The Chocolate Factory--showing up on store shelves.

Whether the young mentoring the old or fictional brands showing up in real life, changes that are the reverse of what we are used too, are not something to "bristle at", but rather are the new normal.

There are many ways to success and we will find them through creativity, innovation, and entreprenuership--any and every way forward.


September 17, 2011

Peepoo, It's All In The Bag

Peepoo--a silly name for a very serious product.

It is a self-sanitizing, disposable, single-use bag, made by Peepoople, which serves as a portable toilet to collect human waste and prevent the transmission of disease.

Without proper sanitation, human waste harbors contaminants, such as viruses, bacteria, worms, and parasites that infect fresh and ground water.

2.6 billion people (40% of the world) have no access to basic sanitation (i.e. toilets) and one child dies worldwide every 15 seconds because of this.

The Peepoo bags contain a simple, but important layer of urea, a non-hazardous chemical that makes human waste pathogens inactive in just 2-4 weeks.

The biodegradable bags are buried and decompose in about 1 year making needed fertilizer for people in poverty around the world.

Despite a current 15% poverty in United States, we live in such an economically privileged and technologically advanced country here that it is hard to imagine not having the basics for human dignity and health like a toilet and running water.

I stand in awe of the people that are working globally to help to those in need through the development of innovative, functional, low-cost, and environmentally sustainable products such as this.

There is so much to do to help people at both the high-end and low-end of cost and technology that it can be confusing how to invest our finite resources. For example, at the high-end, this week NASA unveiled plans for the most-powerful rocket planned projected to cost tens of billions of dollars to carry people to planets deep in space and potentially make discoveries that can alter the course of humanity in the future. Yet, at the low-end, we have billions of people with fundamental human needs that remain unmet here on Earth, who are suffering and dying now.

I remember a discussion with colleagues that our challenge is not simply to carve up the pie between competing alternatives (because there are so many critical needs out there), but rather to grow the pie so that we can give more and do more for everyone.

This mimics our economic situation today, if we just try to carve up our national budget between mandatory and discretionary budget items, we are left with a situation where there is seemingly not nearly enough to go around. Hence the imperative to grow the economy--through education, innovation, small business start-ups, international trade agreements, and more. We've got to grow the pie and quickly, because there are people that need jobs today, while there are long-term needs such as social security and medicare solvency, medical breakthroughs, and all sorts of innovation that await us in the future.

We can't forget the people that need Peepoo bags today and we can't stop investing in NASA and like for the future--growth in our only answer--and that comes through education, research and development, and the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship.


February 12, 2010

The Do It Yourself Future

Technology is the great emancipator. With it we can do things ourselves that we needed others to do for us before.

Of course, the examples are endless. As we approach tax season, just think how many people do their own taxes online with TurboTax or other online programs when before they needed an accountant to do it for them. Similarly, it was common to have secretaries supporting various office tasks and now we pretty much have all become our own desktop publishers and office productivity mavens. I remember having a graphics department years ago for creating presentations and a research department for investigating issues, events, people, and causes, now with all the productivity tools and the Internet, it’s all at our fingertips.

Wired Magazine, February 2010 in an article called “Atoms Are The New Bits” by Chris Anderson states that “the Internet democratized publishing, broadcasting, and communications, and the consequence was a massive increase in the range of participation and participants in everything digital.”

With technology, we are free to help ourselves. We are independent, self-sufficient, and that’s typically how we like it. And not only are we able to do for ourselves, but the barriers to entrance for entrepreneurs and small companies have come way down.

The author states: “In the age of democratized industry, every garage is a potential micro-factory, every citizen a potential entrepreneur.” Similarly, Cory Doctorow wrote in The Makers that “The days of General Electric, and General Mills, and General Motors are over. The money on the table…can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people.”

We all know how Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, working out of a garage building computers, started Apple. Similarly, how Michael Dell started operations out of his dorm room. Nowadays, we see more and more people going out on their own as contract workers and as teleworkers, not tied to particular companies or work locations. They have been freed by technology to work for whom they want and where they want.

At the extreme and in certain cases, there is a perception that “working with a company often imposes higher transaction costs then running a project online…Companies are full of bureaucracy, procedures, and approval processes, a structure designed to defend the integrity of the organization...[instead] the new industrial organizational model [is] built around small pieces loosely joined. Companies are small virtual, and informal. Most participants are not employees. They form and re-form on the fly driven by ability and need rather than affiliation and obligation.”

While I do not believe that companies will be disadvantaged for large and complex projects like building a bridge or designing a new commercial airline, there is no doubt that technology is changing not only what we can do ourselves, but also how and when we associate ourselves with others. We can do work for ourselves or for others practically on the fly. We can communicate immediately and over long distances with ease. We can form relationships on social networks for specific tasks or as desired and then reorient for the next. There is a new flexibility brought about by a do it yourself culture facilitated with simple, affordable, and readily available technology, and this DIY phenomenon is only going to increase and accelerate as the technology advances further and further.

Some important implications are as follows:

  • One, we need to constantly look for cost-savings in the organization and at home from the new technologies that we are bringing online enabling us to do more ourselves—there are cost offsets for the support we needed before and no longer require.
  • Secondly, we need to encourage our employees to take advantage of the new technologies, to learn them, and use them to their utmost and not to fear them.
  • Thirdly, the next generation of workers is going to demand more flexibility, empowerment, and continued work-life balance based on their increasing ability to go it alone, if necessary.
  • Finally, new technologies that are user-centric—easy to use and useful—will outperform technologies that are overly complex and not intuitive; the new normal is do it yourself and technologies that don’t simply enable that will be finished.


July 7, 2008

The Virtuous Cycle and Enterprise Architecture

To move the enterprise into the future, organizations need leaders who have the skills and abilities to generate genuine improved results for the organization. These leaders are not afraid of change, embrace new ways of doing things, and are generally speaking, growth oriented.

The Wall Street Journal, 7 July 2008, identifies the effective leadership traits of those who “demonstrate a virtuous cycle of beliefs and behaviors.” Here is my cut at them:

  1. Outlook on change—it starts with their outlook on life; effective leaders see “life as a journey of learning, [and] therefore embrace uncertainty, seek new experiences, [and] broaden [their] repertoire. This is in contrast to managers who follow the “vicious cycle” with an outlook that “life is a test,… [they] fear uncertainty, avoid new experiences, [and] narrow [their] repertoire. Leaders rich in experience often either come up the ranks, having been trained and worked in various diverse jobs internally or having worked in a multitude of external organizations in similar or different industries, but in either case, these leaders have been tested time again and have a developed a history of success in the face of constant or frequent change.
  2. Customer view—effective leaders “understand customers as people” (versus seeing them only as data points), and they are thus, better able to detect new growth opportunities. This reminds me of the user-centric approach in enterprise architecture that I espouse. If we focus on the end-user/customer, and take an thoughtful approach to genuinely satisfying their needs, rather than just trying to make a sale, then we will always be working to do things better, faster, and cheaper. This is a long-term growth approach, rather than a short-term market share or stock price watcher view.
  3. Action-orientation—virtuous leaders manage risk through action instead of through analysis paralysis, and they place “small bets quickly” rather than big bets slowly. One manager at a confectionary company put it this way, “get the products into the marketplace, and then start to understand what works and doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, either take another shot at it or cut your losses.” That’s the price of learning. While this approach seems a little too loosey goosey; I do see the value of cutting off the analysis phase at a reasonable point, making a decision, and then following through with corrective action as needed.
  4. Agility—great leaders are agile and believe that “abilities are malleable” and with change can come growth, as opposed to believing that “abilities are immutable” and leaders being fixed in their way of doing things. There is a need for entrepreneurial leaders who while not risk seekers, are able to take calculated risks. They change as often as necessary to remain agile, growing their own and their organization’s capabilities in meeting customers’ needs, but they do not change for changes sake alone.

What interesting is that each and every trait identified here for effective leadership centers around change—embracing it, acting on it, managing it, and remaining nimble in the face of ever changing circumstance. This is highly consistent with the enterprise architecture view of identifying the baseline, target, and transition plan and moving the enterprise ever forward in the face of constant change.


April 14, 2008

Honda and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture helps to define, structure, and govern the business processes and enabling technologies of the organization. It packages this into an identification of the as-is, to-be, and transition strategy. EA is a methodology for planning and governing.

Some companies though, such as Honda, function more by a seat-of-the-pants approach than by EA.

Fortune Magazine, 17 March 2008, reports that “the automaker’s habit of poking into odd technical corners sets it apart—and gives it a big edge on the competition.”

Honda is a huge, highly successful company. “Since 202 its revenues have grown nearly 40% to $94.8 billion. Its operating profits with margins ranging from 7.3% to 9.1% are among the best in the industry. Propelled by such perennial bestsellers as the Accord, the Civic, and the CR-V crossover, and spiced with new models like the fuel-sipping Fit, Honda’s U.S. market share has risen from 6.7% in 2000 to 9.6% in 2007.”

What is Honda’s secret to success?

The wellspring of Honda’s creative juices is Honda R&D, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honda Motor.”

"Honda R&D is almost the antithesis of EA’s planning and governance."

Honda R&D “lets its engineers, well dabble,” so much so that even the president and CEO of Honda says “I’m not in a position to give direct orders to the engineers in R&D.” Honda gives a lot of latitude to its engineers to “interpret its corporate mission” to the extent that their engineers have been known “to study the movement of cockroaches and bumblebees to better understand mobility.” R&D pretty much has free rein to tinker and figure out how things work, and any application to business problems is almost an afterthought.

This “more entrepreneurial, even quirky” culture has helped Honda find innovative solutions like fuel cells for cars that are “literally years ahead of the competition”. Or developing a new plane design “with engines mounted above the wings; this has made for a roomier cabin and greater fuel efficiency.”

At the same time, not having a more structured EA governance approach has hurt Honda. “When Honda launched the hybrid Insight in 1999 for example, it beat all manufacturers to the U.S. market (the Toyota Prius came six months later). But while the Prius looked like a conventional car, the Insight resembled a science project; it didn’t even have a back seat. Honda halted production in September 2006 after sales dropped to embarrassing levels. Toyota sold more than 180,000 Priuses last year.”

Honda is learning its lesson about the importance of planning and good governance, and now, they “tie [R&D] more closely to specific business functions” and “as a project approaches the market, the company is asserting more supervision.”

R&D and innovation is critical, especially in a highly technical environment, to a company’s success; however even R&D must be tempered with sound enterprise architecture, so that business is driving technology and innovation, rather than completely doing technology for technology’s sake.