Steak or Peanut Butter

Steak and Peanut Butter.jpeg

Ok, so yes this is not the best looking steak and peanut butter…


But that’s not the point here.


I was talking to a workman who has a seasonal business. 


“Business is doing well,” he said.


During the busy time…they can work 80 days straight without a break. 


And also work until midnight.


But the flip side is that for many months in the year, they have very little work at all.


It’s literally feast or famine. 


As we were talking about this, he says to me:

“We really have to make it during the busy season, because that determines whether we eat steak or peanut butter the rest of the year!”


It struck me how difficult this must be too depend on a few months for how you live all the year round. 


Sure, it must be nice to have a slower season and have some rest, relaxation, and maybe some fun. 


But if, G-d forbid, you’re not earning enough to support yourself for the duration of the year and you’re stuck eating peanut butter because you can’t even afford a steak anymore, then that must be pretty darn tough. 


Just something to think about and be grateful for if you can eat what you want and when you want to. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Looking Forward, Backwards

Looking Forward, Backwards

Farhad Manjoo argues in today’s Wall Street Journal that “there’s plenty” of innovation going on, despite the grumblings that their isn’t.

His main argument is that “the smartphone and the tablet ‘are’ the next big things.”

Manjoo tells us to “grow up” and calls us “spoiled children,” because we are not satisfied with these and simple future enhancements of this.

He would have us accept that there won’t be “anything as groundbreaking in a generation.”

Well, looking back at past innovation and calling that as our current and future innovation is like looking back at our past successes and simply resting on our laurels as good enough.

Unfortunately, no business can rest on their past successes–they must constantly innovate to stay relevant in the marketplace and meet their growth targets for revenue, profit, market share, and customer satisfaction.

As they say in financial prospectuses, “past success is no guarantee of future success.”

Similarly, as individuals we do not just settle for past success, but we strive everyday to make a contribution, to learn, and to grow as long as we have the strength to try.

When we stop striving, we may as well be heading downhill in the cycle of life, because as we all know, “if you are not moving forward, then you are moving backwards.”

Life is not stagnant, and yesterdays innovations are not todays creative breakthroughs or tomorrows leaps forward.

The rate of innovation is no longer measured in generations in the 21st century–and for those who think it is, they would have us accept defeat in this highly global, competitive marketplace.

While we should not be greedy, why are we so ready to say good enough, instead of really critiquing ourselves (e.g. calling a dry spell, a dry spell) and continuing the tough journey into the future.

At least Manjoo cites incremental work in privacy, enterprise technologies such as cloud computing, and robotics as tech trends – so maybe there is still hope. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Innovation Infertility

The 7 Skinny Cows

Many of you may have probably the seen the movie, “Children of Men,”–it is themed around a time in the future when women are infertile (because of pathology, pollution, drugs, or whatever) and the world is in chaos–for what is life without children to carry on?

Fortunately, in the movie, after 18 years, one woman does get pregnant and bears a child and there is hope in the scientific community for a resurgence of humankind.

Unfortunately, we are now in a similar period of technology, where big innovation of yesterday has come grinding to a miserable saunter.

When the biggest news leaking out of superstar innovator, Apple is the potential for an iWatch–uh, not exactly earth shattering, we know we are in innovator’s hell!

And vendors from Apple to Samsung and Sony trying to come out with some sort of voice activated television–again, who doesn’t hate the TV clicker, but really this is not going to revolutionize our entertainment center days.

With hundreds of thousands of apps available for everything from social networking, eCommerce, gaming, and more, it seems like there are more copycat apps then anything else coming out these days–where’s the real wow factor?

Microsoft can’t find it’s way in a mobile world, the mighty Intel has been supplanted by ARM with mobile chips, Marissa Mayer is trying to figure out how to remake the jump for joy, Yahoo, relevant again, as are the Vanderhook brothers and Justin Timberlake trying to do for MySpace.

With the overemphasis on the form factor making bigger and smaller sizes and shapes for computing devices, we seesaw between iPod Classics and Nanos and between iPads and Minis. But where are the great functional enhancements? Yeah, ask Siri.

Similarly in computing architecture, we have latched unto cloud computing as the next great savior of IT-mankind, ignoring the repackaging again of the mainframe into a cool new computing model again, and relegating the prior go-to architecture of distributed computing as the evil twin. Sure, we can save some bucks until the pendulum swings back toward more decentralization and agility again.

In social computing, with Facebook what can you say–it’s got a billion users, but virtually not a single one would pay a dime to use it. If not for marketers scooping up our personal information online and advertisers annoying us with their flashing and protruding pop-ups, we continue to trade privacy for connectedness, until we lose too much of ourselves to identity thieves and snooping sources, and we fall back clamoring for more protection.

In security, we are getting clobbered by cyber intrusions, cyber espionage, and cyber attacks–everyday! We can’t seem to figure out the rules of cyberspace or how to protect ourselves in it. We can’t even find enough qualified people to fight the cyber fight.

I was surprised that even magazine, Fast Company, which prides itself on finding the next great innovation out there, states this month (April 2013), “Growing uncertainty in tech is creating chaos for startups, consumers, and investors…nobody has a non-obvious new social business model that can scale.”

As in the movie, Children of Men, we are suffering from an infertility of innovation–whether from burnout, a focus on short-term profit instead of long-term R&D investments, declining scores in STEM, or a lack of leadership–we are waiting for the next pregnancy so we can have hope again, but are disappointed that so many are false positives or overhyped prophets.

One of the things, I am most excited about is Google Glass and their concept of augmented reality, but the glasses are geeky and will need to be package in a lot more eloquent solution to really be practical in our futures.

The next great thing will come–life is a great cycle–but as in the Bible with 7 fat cows and 7 skinny cows, leading to the great famine in Egypt, we are now seeing lots of skinny cows walking around and it is darn scary. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)