Just Frogs

Frog 1 Frog 2 Frog 3

What’s with the frog infatuation–especially associated with ice cream and frozen yogurt (SweetFrog, Frogg’s Ice Cream, Frosty Frog, etc.)?

According to Save The Frogs, some interesting facts:

– There are over 6,300 species of frogs and toads (a close, warty relative of the frog). 

– They range from just 9 mm to over 30 mm and 6.6 lbs, and can live from a few years to as many as 30-years (ol’ frog river uncaring with the flow of the Mississippi). 

– Frogs are amphibians developing in their larval state in water as herbivores, but as adults living on land as carnivores (flies anyone).

– Toads tend to have poisonous secretions as does the Poison Dart Frog (maybe the princess should not be kissing that frog).

– Australian Stony Creek Frogs build nests for their eggs just like birds (got to protect those youngins). 

– Wood frogs adapt to the freezing cold by stopping their breathing, blood flow, and heartbeat (now that’s extreme hibernation).

– Similarly, Burrowing Frogs survive hot, dry climates by slowing their metabolism and shedding their skin into a protective mosture-retaining cocoon, and others can live underground for as many as 10 months and surface in mass when the rains come (like the 2nd plague in Egypt).

– Pesticides, fertilizers, and parasites have been increasing deformities in frogs such as missing limbs or having 6 legs (making jumping on 3 legs a bitch and jumping on 6 an unfair advantage). 

Frogs are a great illustration of how to “adopt or die” with the emphasis on living and thriving forward–not so sure though about frog-flavored ice cream. 😉

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

Robots: More Than A Technical Challenge


This is the DARPA Pet-Proto Robot (a predecessor to the Atlas model) showing some pretty cool initial operating capabilities for navigating around obstacles.

– Climbing over a wall
– Straddling a pit
– Going up a staircase
– Walking a plank

These things may seem simple to you and I, but for these robots, we are talking about their autonomously sensing what’s around them, identifying and evaluating alternatives to overcome them, deciding on what to actually do, and then successfully executing on it.

Not bad for a machine (even if we are spoiled by the the great science fiction writers and special effects of Hollywood)!

We will be seeing a lot more progress in this area in the 27 months in response to the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), where robots are being looked to “execute complex tasks” for “humanitarian, disaster relief, and related activities” in potentially “dangerous and degraded, and human-engineered” environments.

I’d say only another 15-20 more years and the robots will walking among us–but are we prepared for the significant shift about to occur.

Think about it–these robots will be able to do a lot more of the physical work (construction, manufacturing, service, care-taking, even warfighting, and more), and while we will benefit from the help, jobs are going to continue to get a lot tougher to find if you are not in fields such as engineering, science, technology, design, and so on.

This is going to lead to continued, significant social, educational, and economic disruptions.

What is now a robotics challenge to meet certain performance benchmarks, may in the future become a human challenge to shift from a human-dominated world to one which is instead shared or commingled with machines.

This means that we need to define the boundaries between man and machine–will we be working and playing side-by-side, how about loving or fighting each other, and is there the possibility that the machine will some day transcend the inventor altogether.

I believe that we need significant more study and research into how robotics are going to transform the way we live, work, and interact, and how humanity will adapt and survive this new monumental opportunity, but also looming threat.

What is just an obstacle to overcome in a simulation chamber may one day become an urban battlefield where humans are not necessarily the clear winners.

While I love robotics and where it can take us, this cannot be a field limited to the study of hardware and software alone.

Smart Cats Aren’t Afraid to Innovate

Smart_cats

It’s really hypocritical that on one hand we put innovation on a pedestal, but on the other hand, we tend to nix new ideas.

The Atlantic (July/August 2012) has an article called “Let’s Cool It With the Big Ideas.”

The author, P.J. O’Rourke, rails against innovation, saying: “I don’t have a big idea, and I don’t want one. I don’t like big ideas.”

Let’s just say this article by O’Rourke proves his point and not only about big ideas.

Unfortunately, like O’Rourke, many in our society seem to have a love/hate relationship with innovation.

We love new ideas when they work to our benefit–like having a smartphone perhaps–but we fear the worst about failing and people seem to loathe change of any kind until it’s a “proven entity.”

Hence as O’Rourke points out the derogatory feelings and sayings about new, big ideas:

– What is the big idea?
– You and your bright ideas.
– Whose idea was this?
– Me and my big ideas.
– Don’t get smart with me.

The last one is really the clincher with it all–without new ideas and the bravery to explore them, our “smarts” really do go out the window.

This is reminiscent of when the great Library of Alexandria burnt to the ground almost 2,000 years ago, destroying many of the “new ideas” of the philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, poets, and playwrights of the time, leaving us for centuries stuck in the Dark Ages!

Sure, new ideas are threatening to old ways of thinking and doing things, but we are an evolving species–stagnation is death.

According to Harvard Business Review (October 2010) in “How to Save Good Ideas“–a more enlightened article here, explains how to counter fearful and destructive people “who try to kill ideas” using “fear-mongering, delay, confusion, and ridicule.”

Some of the suggestions to counter the naysayers:

– When they attack you for “dictating” a new idea–you can explain that there is a vetting process, but like with a train conductor, we need to provide direction for our people.

– When they say, no one else is doing this–for any new idea, someone has to be the first to try it, and we have the capacity to innovate and succeed.

– When they criticize your timing–acknowledge that you can’t do everything and the poor projects should be weeded out, but promising new ventures should proceed.

From a leadership perspective, we cannot shove new ideas down people’s throats, but rather we need to explore ideas openly and honestly. Leaders should explain the imperative for change, explore organizational and market readiness, look at costs and benefits, mitigate risks, and help people in adopting and adapting to change–and this last one can be the most difficult.

For those that are comfortable with the status quo or afraid of what change may mean to their jobs, status, and security–there are times, when reassuring and working together can move people and the organization forward, but there are also times, when perhaps the person-organizational fit may no longer be right, and it is time to part ways.

The way we do things today–no matter how comfortable–is not the way we will always do them.  Times change, challenges build up, opportunities emerge, and as survivors, we either adapt or fade into the annals of history.

“There is more than one way to skin a cat,” but if we are cool to new ideas, the cat will most definitely get away from us–and it may be for good.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ivo Kendra)

G-d’s Creation and Man’s Adaptation

Technology_everywhere

I took this photo today at the East View of Sugarloaf Mountain.

This guy is sitting on the rocks towards the summit of the mountain and doing of all things…technology–it’s REALLY everywhere!

He is nestled away in the brush and trees on this rock–off the mountain edge–and is typing away on a laptop computer.

Not what I was expecting in the middle of all this nature, but then again I was guilty of bringing along some of my tech toys too.

And at one point–on this–what felt to me–like a near vertical climb (but it wasn’t)–and standing lopsided on these protruding rocks, all of a sudden my smartphone rings.

“Hello,” I say grabbing onto a branch of a nearby tree.

On the other end, “Yes, the is so and so from Dr. whatever’s office, and your test results came back as this and that…”

No, it wasn’t bad news, thank G-d, but it was just so awkward getting this call up on the this lush mountain and in this way.

I thought for a moment–maybe, I shouldn’t have brought my phone and other technology stuff on the hike–then it would be just me and the beautiful nature–man and mother Earth–alone and as one.

That thought lasted about a full split second–yeah, that’s truly nice–but like Adam in the Garden of Eden without his fig leaf, I feel truly naked–without my technology.

The garden is a lot more inviting when I know the rest of the world is just some personal technology away.

Like the guy reading and working on his laptop nestled on the mountain–maybe what we have is the best of G-d’s creation and man’s adaptation–a beautiful marriage–good for the body and the soul.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Breaking the Organization Free of Dysfunction

>

Recently, I read this amazing poem called “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson (see below).

It’s about the learning and healing process. It can apply to individuals as well as organizations.

It’s about learning from our mistakes, growing from them and changing accordingly. This is one of the purposes of life.

All too often, we get stuck in a misguided way of thinking, a “bad” behavior, or in the case of an organization–a dysfunctional status quo.

But it is possible to break harmful paradigms and to change for the better.

Dysfunction is as much about habit and accepting the status quo as it is about the challenge of change.

But growing beyond the dysfunction is possible and rewarding.

Here are five lessons for organizational leaders from this poem:

  1. Change is hard
  2. Change is possible
  3. Change is growth
  4. Change is incremental
  5. Change is healthy

And one for “good luck”…We don’t change for change’s sake, but to literally avoid the pitfalls that can sink us.

____________________________________

AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE SHORT CHAPTERS

By Portia Nelson

I

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost … I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place but, it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit. my eyes are open I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

>Global Innovation and Enterprise Architecture

>

For architecting the enterprise, we need good ideas to mature, evolve, and innovate. And good ideas can come from literally anywhere, so we should not limit ourselves to looking for them in-house, in our industry, locally, regionally, or nationally. Good ideas are global and we need to reach out for these ideas, adopt them, and make them our own, regardless of where they originate.

National Defense Magazine, July 2008 reports that “technology flows freely across national borders and the United States depends on foreign technology to secure its military edge, says a new study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.”

In fact, “many of the greatest achievements in U.S. weaponry were made possible by foreign technologies, ‘whether that is nuclear weapons thanks to German Jewish scientists, whether it is space, thanks to German scientists…whether it is armored vehicles, a British invention, or airpower, also a British invention. Stealth technology was actually a Russian algorithm that Northrop Grumman scientists happened to see at a conference that told them how to calculate the bouncing of radio waves,” says Pierre Chao a defense industry analyst.

Remember, while the U.S. populace has many advantages including being diverse, highly educated, relatively affluent, and having the freedom to pursue and express new ideas, we represent only 4.5% of the world population. So we do not have a monopoly on science, engineering, and innovation.

Actually, “by 2010, if current trends continue, more than 90 percent of all scientists and engineers will be living in Asia,” according to Mario Mancuso head of the bureau of industry and security at the Department of Commerce.

Additionally most of our military technologies come from abroad. “In the past, approximately two-thirds of our nation’s military technologies were developed in a defense R&D setting, with the remaining third coming from adaptations of commercial, off-the-shelf technologies. Today, those proportions have been almost exactly reversed.”

Even our most advanced new jet fighter, the Joint Strike Fighter, is a global initiative, “with hundreds of contractors across many borders.”

There is an old saying that there is strength in numbers. The world is 6.7 billion in number and growing fast; the U.S., while a superpower is only a small part of the whole world. Therefore, we need to embrace innovation from everyone that can contribute positively. Innovation is incremental; we can learn from others, build on it, improve on it, and integrate it with our own creativity. Then we are architecting our enterprises with the added force of globalization.

While it would be good if the U.S. could retain its leadership in innovation, the reality is that we can no longer afford to be an island of excellence. The main thing is to harvest ideas wherever they come from and leverage them in ways that help us maintain our technological edge, promote economic prosperity and support the wellbeing of our nation.