Have Some Chutzpah

Have Some Chutzpah

Nobody likes to get or feel rejected–whether asking someone on a date, applying for a job, coming up with a new idea…you don’t want to get shot down…you want to be appreciated for who are you and what you “bring to the table.”

I used to have a teacher who used to tell his students “nobody appreciates how great you are like your mother does.”

In other words, don’t get overconfident and think your so smart, so good-looking, or so otherwise great–just because you received unconditional love from your parents–who tell you everything you do is so amazing and you are G-d’s greatest gift to mankind–doesn’t mean it’s really true.

So get real about yourself!

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (7 January 2013) had an article about something called “Rejection Therapy”–where for 100 days, this guy–Jia Jiang–“makes at least one preposterous demand everyday” that get him “strange looks, rude comments, and outright dismissal.”

He posts videos of this to his site entresting.com or “Hope from nope.”

Jiang is trying to learn a little chutzpah and determination in the face of rejection–especially for landing some venture capital funding for a social networking app he wants to build.

To teach himself to get out there, try his best, be willing to fall off the horse and get right back up again, Jiang now purposely seeks to get rejected every day–thinking that “Everybody has failures periodically. The people who are generally successful are the ones who bounce right back.”

So he asks random people for crazy things…like a policeman, if he can sit in his/her squad car–just to see what happens and if he gets rejected whether he can brush it off–and generally be strong in the face of (repeated) failure and some accompanying adversity.

It’s a crazy experiment, but one that is getting Jiang noticed–maybe you’ve got to be a little crazy to stand out from the crowd.
In the end, it’s not about rejection, but about trying your best and being willing to take some bruises and bumps along the way to your goals.

The path to success is littered with wounded and even dead bodies–to succeed you’ve got to have some chutzpah–plus a dose of resilience and perseverance–to get out there and try, try again. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Adapt and Live!

Train

The Times, They Are a-Changin’ is a song by Bob Dylan (1964), it is also the reality of our times today, and how we react to all the change can make or break us.

Like with Agile Software Development, one of the main values is “responding to change over following a plan,” to improve the success of software development, similarly in the world today, we need to be able to rapidly and flexibly respond to change in order to successfully compete.

Fast Company (February 2012) has two important articles on this topic–one is called “Generation Flux” and the other “The Four-Year Career.”

Generation Flux is about how we are living in a time of “chaotic disruption” and that this is “born of technology and globalization.” Generation Flux is a mindset of agility versus a demographic designation like Gen X or Y.

All around us we see the effects of this rapid change in terms of business models and leadership turned upside down, inside out, and sideways.

Recently, we have seen:

– Mainstay companies such as American Airlines and Hostess declare bankruptcy

– Some titans of the Fortune 500 companies ousted, including Carol Bartz of Yahoo, Leo Apotheker from HP to name just a few

– Others, like RIM and Netflix have fallen from grace and are struggling to regain their footwork–some will and some won’t

At the same time, we have seen the ascension of companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon becoming the “kings of the hill”–driven in part by their agility to get in and out of markets and products:

– In 2010, Google was getting out of China; today Google is expanding its presence once again. In addition, Google continues to start up or acquire and discontinue services regularly; just last year they closed Google Desktop developed in 2005, Google Health Service started in 2008, and Google Aardvark purchased in 2010 (and more)

– Amazon, once an online book and music retailer has now become the premier e-Commerce company as well as the No. 2 in tablets and in the top 3 in cloud computing.

– Apple was slick in developing the navigation wheel on the iPod only to get rid of it completely with the touch-screen of the iPad.

– Facebook continues to adapt to security and privacy concerns, but still has more to do, especially in terms of simplifying choices for their users.

According to Fast Company, to survive, we need to be profoundly agile and “embrace instability, that tolerates–and enjoys–recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions.” The article points out that this is just as Darwin has professed, ultimately it is the agile that will survive–not the strongest or smartest.

For organizations, change, agility and adaptability is the name of the game, and they are depending on petabytes of information and the business intelligence to make sense of it all to make the right decision every day.

For individuals, “the long career is dead” (U.S. workers have a medium job tenure of only 4.4 years and have an average of 11 different jobs over a lifetime) and “the quest for solid rules is pointless” (with automation and robotics atrophying low- and middle-skill jobs and part time, freelance, and contract work all on the rise). Now, in an agile marketplace, “career-vitality” or the continuous broadening of individual capabilities is encouraged and expected, and the “T-shaped” person with both depth or subject matter expertise as well as breadth in other areas in becoming more and more valued.

Moreover, hard skills are important, but social skills and emotional intelligence are critical to get along, share information, and collaborate with others.

Of course, not all change is good, and we need to speak up and influence the direction of it for the good, but in the end, standing still in the path of genuine progress is like standing in front of a speeding locative.

While the quiet and serenity of maintaining the status quo is often what feels most secure and comfortable in uncertain times, it may actually just be the forerunner to the death knell for your career and organization. There are no short-cuts to continuing to learn, explore, and grow as the world around us rapidly evolves.

Adapt and live or stagnate and die.

(Source Photo: here)

What is The Secret of Laserman

 

This is a terrific performance by Laserman. 

He seems to break all the laws of physics and manipulates laser light beams as if it is both a vapor and a solid. 

He stops and redirects it, yet at the same time he pushes and twirls it–huh? 

While I am not a fan of the movie Tron–I think I actually fell asleep in the theater (and more than once), this performance more than makes up for it. 

My favorite piece is at 1:39 when Laserman picks the laser light up out of the stage–people start yelling as no one can believe it!–and he starts twirling it around like a baton now. 

Then at 1:48, he breaks the light beam in two and starts twirling both and sticking them back in the stage only to start bending the light again. 

To me, this performance is really cool and inspiring–it  makes me think of a bright future for all of us–one that is agile, high-tech, heart-pounding, and where natural laws are almost made to be broken. 

Someone please tell me how he does this…I promise, I won’t tell 😉

>Turning IT From Frenemy to Friend

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Fast Company (December 2008) describes Frenemies as a “thrilling intricate dance” of friend-enemy relationships.

Half a year later, CBS News (July 2009) reports that this words is added to the dictionary: “Frenemysomeone who pretends to be a friend, but is really an enemy.”

Recently, I’ve heard the term applied to Information Technology, as in they they here to help (i.e. friend-like), but boy are they often an obstacle as well (i.e. enemy-like).

Obviously not the message any IT executive wants to hear about their folk’s customer service and delivery!

Today, the Wall Street Journal (25 April 2011) writes about the “discontent with the [IT] status quo” and it calls somewhat drastically to “Get IT out of the IT department.

Why?

Based on responses from business and IT leaders, here are some of the key reasons:

– “IT is seen as overly bureaucratic and control-oriented” (51% business and 37% IT)
– “IT doesn’t deliver on time” (44% business and 49% IT)
– “IT products and services doesn’t meet the needs of the business” (39% business and 29% IT)
– “IT consists of technologists, not business leaders” (60% business and 46% IT)

Therefore, the WSJ states “both for competitive and technological reasons…business unit leaders need to start assuming more control over the IT assets that fuel their individual businesses.”

This is being called “Innovative IT”–where “IT shifts to more of a support role. IT empowers business unit self-sufficiency by providing education, coaching, tools, and rules, which allow for individuals to meet their needs in a way that protects the overall need of the enterprise.”

The result is rather than delivering IT to the business, we deliver IT “through the business.

In this model, there is an emphasis on partnership between the business and IT, where:

IT provides services to the business (i.e. through a service-oriented architecture of capabilities)–systems, applications, products, tools, infrastructure, planning, governance, security, and more.
– The business exploits these services as needed, and they innovate by “dreaming up ideas, developing prototypes, and piloting changes” that will most impact on-the-ground performance.

I believe this is consistent with stage 4 (the highest) of architecture maturity–called Business Modularity–as described by Ross, Weill and Robertson in Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: In this stage, we “grant business unit managers greater discretion in the design of front-end processes, which they can individually build or buy as modules connected to core data and backend processes. In effect,managers get the freedom to bolt functionality onto the optimized core.” The result is a “platform of innovation…[that] enables local experiments, and the best ones spread throughout the company.”

Related to this are interviews in the WSJ today with 3 CIOs, that all bear out this IT leadership direction:

– Frank Wander (Guardian Life Insurance)–“We have IT embedded into each business and we have a seat at the table. We’re partners.”
– Norm Fjeldheim (Qualcomm)–“We’re structured exactly the same way Frank is. IT is embedded in the business. I’m only responsible for about half the IT budget.”
– Filippo Passrini (Proctor & Gamble)–“Our business partners are people outside IT….in the past we were always in ‘push’ mode…now…there is a lot of ‘pull’.”

So one of the goals of IT and business is to transform from a relationship of frenemies to friends and genuine partners; this will leverage the strengths of each–the expertise of our technology professionals and the customer insights and agility of our business people.

>Cloud Computing, The Next Evolution

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On November 4-5 2009, I attended a good CSC Leading Edge Forum on Cloud Computing.

The kickoff by W. Brain Arthur was a highlight for me (he is the author of The Nature of Technology). He provided an excellent conceptualization of cloud and it’s place in overall technology advancement and body of world innovation. Essentially, he sees cloud in the 2000’s as the next evolution from the Internet in the 1990s. As such, the cloud is computational power in the “virtual world,” providing a host of benefits including easy access, connectivity, and cost efficiency. He sees the cloud coming out of the initial frenzy and into a industry sort-out that will result in a stable build out.

Another great speaker was David Moschelle from CSC who talked about the myriad benefits of moving to cloud such as scalability, self-service, pay as you go, agility, and ability to assemble and disassemble needed components virtually on the fly. With the cloud, we no longer have to own the computing means of production.

Of course, we also talked about the challenges, particularly security. Another speaker also spoke about the latency issues on the WAN with cloud, which currently limits some usability for transactional processing.

Over the course of the forum numerous examples of success were given including Bechtel achieving a 90% cost advantage by moving storage to the cloud. Others, such as Amazon were able to put up new web sites in 3 weeks versus 4-6 months previously. Also, Educational Testing Service as another example is using cloud bursting, since they tend to run data center at known cyclical peaks.

Others connected cloud with social computing: “the future of business is collaboration, the future of collaboration is in the cloud.”

In terms of the major types of cloud, I thought the relationship between responsibility and control was interesting. For example:

  • Software as a Service — more “freedom” from responsibility for service, but less freedom to change service (i.e. less control)
  • Platform as a Service – (Hybrid)
  • Infrastructure as a Service – less freedom from responsibility for actual end-user services, more freedom to change service provision (i.e. more control)

In all cases, the examples demonstrated that organizations do not have a lot of leeway with SLAs with cloud providers. It’s pretty much a take it or leave it proposition. With liability to the vendor for an outage being limited to basically the cost of the service, not the cost of lost business or organizational downtime. However, it was noted that these mega-vendors providing cloud services probably have a better availability and security than it’s customers could have on their own. In other words, an outage or security breach will either way cost, and where is there a greater chance of this happening?

Sort of a good summary was this: “Leading companies are moving development/test and disaster recovery to the cloud,” but then this will reverse and companies will actually move their production in the cloud and provide mainly a back up and recovery capability in house. This is similar to how we handle energy now, were we get our electricity from the utilities, but have a back-up generator should the lights go dark.

>To Invest or Not to Invest, That is the Question

>There are scarce dollars for investment purposes and many competing alternatives to invest in. Therefore, organizations must make wise investment decisions.

Common sense dictates that we invest in those technologies that will bring us the greatest return on investment. However, investing in IT is not only about seeking to maximize profitability or superior mission execution, but also about mitigating risk.

MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring 2009, discusses the need to balance between two types of investment risks.

The first, and obvious one is financial risk—“the failure to achieve satisfactory returns from an investment;” those organizations that load up on too much financial risk, can actually put themselves in danger of not being able to stay financially solvent i.e. too many poor investments and the company can be sunk!

The second risk is competitive risk—“the failure to retain a satisfactory competitive position for lack of investment.” Organizations that are too conservative and don’t invest in the future put themselves at risk of falling behind the competition, and may be even out of the race altogether.

So how do we balance these two risks?

On one hand, we need to make critical new IT investments to stay competitive and become more effective and efficient over time, but on the other hand, we need to manage our money prudently to stay on solid financial footing.

Managing financial risk is a short-term view—similar to looking at the daily stock market prices or quarterly financial returns; if we can’t meet our financial obligations today or tomorrow, game over. While managing competitive risk is a long term perspective on investing—we need to remain agile amidst our marketplace competitors and outmaneuver them over time picking up additional customers and market share and building brand and satisfaction.

In information technology management, we must manage both the short-term financial risk and the long-term competitive risks.

What tools are in the CIO’s arsenal to manage these risks effectively?

Enterprise architecture planning is a strategic function that takes a primarily top-down view and assesses organizational requirements (including competitive needs) and drives IT investments plans to meet those needs. In this way, EA manages competitive risk.

IT governance or capital planning and investment control is a bottom-up view that helps us manage shorter-term financial risks by providing a structure and process for vetting IT investments and prioritizing those. Sound IT governance helps us limit financial risk.

So we attack the risks from both ends—from the top and from the bottom.

While we cannot entirely eliminate the risks of failed IT investments or of missing opportunities to knock the competition off its feet, we can manage these by architecting our enterprise for long-term success and by appropriately scrutinizing the selection, control and evaluation of our investments so that we safeguard our financial resources.

So the CIO can err by going too far in either direction:

So a balance needs to be maintained.

“More specifically, a balance should be maintained between errors of omission and commission.” Fail to invest and modernize the organization’s technology and you commit the error of omission. Invest overly aggressively and you commit the error of commission. “A balance must be struck between the error of pursuing too many unprofitable investment opportunities as opposed to the error of passing up too many potentially profitable ones.”

>Challenges of a Change Agent

>I have always been fascinated by leadership and how to grow an organization in spite of a broad variety of obstacles to change and maturity.

Indeed, as I have studied, read, watched, and practiced leadership and change initiatives for over two decades, I am always intrigued at the role of the change agent.

Certainly, it is hard to be a change agent for so many reasons. It is hard to change yourself let alone to get others to change. It is hard to exist in an environment where you see new and different possibilities, but others see only their way or the highway. It is hard to see others jockey for power and revel in the humiliation and shame of their peers. Change is only for the strong-hearted.

It’s interesting to me that change agents are often alone in the enterprise. They are specifically brought in fix highly ingrained problems that very often culturally rooted and that are damaging to the continuing maturation and success of the enterprise. But the change agent is coming in with “fresh eyes” and accompanying toolkit of best practices from outside the insular dynamics of the dysfunctional organization.

But the change agent is alone, or relatively so as they may be others who are “bucking the trend,” to try to bring a new openness and flexibility to the stagnant corporate culture and decaying ways of doing business that descend like death over complacent or arrogant organizations that think that once on top of the world, always on top.

Applause to the organizational leaders who are aware of processes, products, and ways of thinking that are broken and recognize the need for change and attract the agents of change and agility.

But the change agents run against the tide. They are new and are viewed as not knowing anything about the organization. Moreover, they are perceived as a danger to the comfortable long-standing held beliefs and ways of doing things. And moreover, they are seen as a threat to the incumbents. So from the incumbents perch, the change agents need to be shamed, humiliated, thwarted at almost any cost. And the change resisters in the established hierarchy “revel” in every obstacle they throw up.

There is an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, 21-22 March 2009 about a website where people “revel in each other’s humiliation.”

The French site http://www.viedemerde.fr has 70,000 readers and it has “become a phenomenon in France…it receives a thousand or so new stories a day from which three young men who run it pick a dozen or so to post…the site now has 7,200 vignettes picked from nearly 400,000 sent in.”

It started a couple of years ago by the founder who “started posting stories online about the frustrations of modern life.”

The stories of life difficulty that are shared and read by others is closely aligned with Schadenfreude, a German word which means “One’s person’s misfortune is another’s happiness.” Or another version for the popularity of the site is that “one person’s misfortunes reassure another.”

Whichever explanation you adhere to for the popularity of people posting and reading about other people’s misfortunes and shame, points to people’s need to open up and release thoughts and feeling that are shameful and painful; people have a need to share, commiserate, and gain acceptance and to know that they are not alone.

Now there is an English language version of the popular website www.fmylife.com and “stories are flooding in. But the content is often similar. ‘It’s like there is a kind of solidarity among all countries when it comes to misfortune. We are all in a big, international pile of crap—but we’re in it together.”

The enterprise, its diehard stalwarts, and the change agents are also in it together. And they will either sink or swim. Hopefully, they decide on the latter.