Monopoly Yerushalmi

I am so excited to play this edition of Monopoly Jerusalem edition. 


The properties of obviously from famous places in the Holy City of Jerusalem, such as The Kenneset, Mount Olives, Mount Herzl, Hebrew University, Montefiore Windmill, Mahane Yehuda Market, The Biblical Zoo, The Israel Museum, Tower of David, and of course, The Western Wall, and more. 


The cards are in both Hebrew and English so I can continue to improve my Hebrew language skills. 


I think this is a perfect topic to be thinking about today, which is  Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av).


This is a perfect Shabbat game for after Shul and Kiddish, and I am looking forward to the family sitting down to play Monopoly Jerusalem style. 


I want to also note that Jerusalem along with the Holy Temple (may it be rebuilt speedily in our day) is a perfect topic to be thinking about today, because this is the day on the Hebrew calendar when the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in both 586 BCE by the Babylonians as well as in 70 CE by the Romans after they had laid siege to the city–the exact same day of the calendar year over 650 years apart–and so this is a day of commemoration, mourning, introspection for the Jewish people. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Amazon’s Dangerous Genius

I am marveling at the Genius of Amazon and Jeff Bezos but also concerned about their future direction. 


Traditionally, they have invested for the long-haul!


For years, Amazon never made a dime, actually operating at a loss.


But all the time making long-term investments in infrastructure (warehouses, supply chain, logistics, etc.) and in customer acquisition. 


Their great selection, reasonable pricing, free shipping, and easy return policy lured hundreds of millions of people to drop the brick-and-mortar stores and even other online retailers to go Amazon all the way. 


Most people I know get virtually everything and anything on Amazon these days. 


Of course, the fear always was that Amazon would become such a dominant player and monopoly that no one else could compete. 


For a long time, they didn’t even charge sales tax!


It seems people can’t even imagine not having Amazon–where in the world would they shop and get all their stuff in 2-days or less (Prime Customers) and still be able to return all the crap they don’t even want. 


So here is the rub.


Now that Amazon is so dominant, guess what?  They are raising the Prime Rates and cutting back on returns–with customers actually being banned for returning too much. 


Ah, the lure, bait and switch. 


Amazon got us all as their slave customers–and we let them and love them for it. 


And after they snared us with all the convenience and security of being able to return stuff, they pull the rug and what can you do, but cry foul?


I love Amazon for their genius and what they have done for eCommerce, but I don’t like that they’ve built in a sense a dark empire to prey on their loyal customer base. 


Mr. Bezos, here is my message to you…


Please stay true to your ideals of customer-centricity and long-term investment in the company that has been the foundation for what you have built into such a retail juggernaut.  


Keep valuing your customers and serving them well and not trading them in for short-term profit gain.


In the end, that is a winning strategy that won’t land you in either regulatory hell and/or antitrust action to then force you to bend your knee or your ultimate breakup. 


Remember, you have one chance to make the right decision for Amazon or I fear that it’s not product returns that you’ll be for long worrying about. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A One Taxi Town of HELL!

Taxi
So coming back from vacation today was a tear.



We had an early flight–before dawn–and when we woke up, I called the town’s single cab company to confirm our early morning pickup (of which the reservation had been made the prior day by the front desk manager at the hotel). 



When we awoke the morning of the travel, I called the cab company to confirm they were on their way.



A man picks up the cab company’s phone and says curtly:



– “I am the dispatcher and also your driver this morning.”



– “I have another person to drop off near your location and will be 15 minutes late.”



Upon which he just hangs up, and we readjust our schedule slightly.



Then I receive a text message 20 minutes early that says the cab is downstairs. 



We rush downstairs, but there is no cab.



15 minutes later he arrives.



He says in a commanding voice:



– “Don’t you put the luggage in trunk, it can damage my computer [we don’t know what computer he was talking about].”



– “Shortest person sit behind me!”



We look at each other at how strange this cabbie is behaving, but again it’s the only “game in town.”



We get in the back seat, upon which he proceeds on the “dispatch computer” set up in the front seat to ignore us with mild apologetics and  works to handle calls, texts, and other people arrangements, while we are waiting in the back [already late because of his prior excuse] to get to the airport.



After what seemed like forever, he turns to me and says, “How are you going to pay?”



I ask, “Can you take a credit card?”



He says, “Yes, but the card reader may have interference at the airport [from this tiny airport, really?], and the ride will be 50 bucks!”



Realizing he was playing some sort of game with us to rip us off, since this was a meter cab, I try to explain that it seemed he was overcharging us saying “Well, we took a cab with you company from the airport just the other day and only paid around $40 and that was in a snowfall [today were clear skies and roads], so I’ll pay you the same $40.”



He turns angrily to me this time, and says threateningly, “You‘re trying to lowball me!  How about I just drive you around in circles and charge you by the meter even more?”



At this point, we could tell this guy was seriously off his rocker, and I try to deescalate this and ask, “Why are you giving us such a hard time with all of this?”



He seemed to calm down for a second as he was ostensibly trying to figure this out, and said okay, “We’ll do the meter [and you’ll pay]!”  



Now we were running late to the airport, this driver had our luggage hostage in the trunk, and he has threatened us to take us for an unwanted tour of the city instead of to the airport and overcharge us or potentially even make us miss our flight altogether.



I looked at my wife and daughter and they were clearly understanding the danger we were in of losing the flight, luggage, and so on; but as we discussed later, they were afraid of even worse physical danger from this person. 



He starts the car and with the dispatch computer screen still open [he angrily slammed open and closed the laptop multiple times], he drives on the highway while simultaneously, still working on dual duty as dispatch…we were terrified.



About halfway to the airport, he turns to me again, and says “Okay, I’ll turn the meter off [before] 40 bucks and you pay me 40!”



Afterward, my wife told me she thought he was going to pull over before 40 bucks and just drop us off somewhere in the middle of the highway.



I ask, continuing to try and calm this guy, “I don’t understand how can the meter be going higher than when we made the same trip in reverse in a storm just the prior week?”



Note, there wasn’t [barely] another car on the road and unlike in big cities, there was no signage with the driver’s picture, name, identification, etc.



He says, again in a threatening manner, “Oh I can also take the back roads to get you there cheaper, but you wouldn’t want me to do that, would you?”



Then he pauses, thinks again, and repeats, “Just pay me $40 cash {and he reaches to turn off the meter).



Soon after, we reach the airport terminal, and the taxi driver jumps out, dumps our [hostage] luggage on the side and holds out his hand. 



I gladly give him the $40 and thank G-d that we are at the airport and safe.



This was really an eye-opening lesson about what can happen when you are in the car with someone and they are in total control over whether you get where your supposed to go, make it in time, get your things, and get out safely.



In these small towns, it is no help that the cab company is a monopoly and probably the dispatcher/driver is probably also a part owner and maybe even has friends at the local airport, hotel, police, and the courts, etc.



I don’t think for a second that we were his first victims, and hope that people reading this will help make this his last! 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Microsoft + Nokia = HP + Palm

Microsoft + Nokia = HP + Palm

Microsoft buying Nokia is a desperate play at mobile computing.

Unfortunately, the purchase doesn’t add up in terms of common business sense.

Remember, in 2010, when HP bought Palm for $1.2B?

Palm once held 70% of the smartphone market to fall to only 4.9% share at the time that HP bought it and committed to “double down on WebOS.”

Now, fast forward to 2013 and Microsoft is buying Nokia for $7.2B, with a mobile software market share of about 4% combined (compared to their prior Windows desktop operating system market share of over 90%) and ZDNet reporting that it was “double down or quit.”

When HP bought Palm, it was a hardware maker buying software; now with Microsoft buying Nokia, it is the software maker buying the hardware vendor.

But in both cases, it’s the same losing proposition.

In 2010, at the time that HP bought Palm, Stephen Elop was leaving Microsoft to become CEO of Nokia (and in 2011 Nokia made the deal for a “strategic partnership” with Microsoft).

Now in 2013, when Microsoft is buying Nokia, HP has thrown in the towel and just sold off the remnants of Palm O/S to LG Electronics.

Ballmer is right that Apple and Google do not have a permanent monopoly on mobile computing, but purchasing Nokia is not the answer.

Microsoft’s stock is down more than 5% on the day of the merger announcement…and there is more pain to come from this acquisition and Microsoft’s hubris.

Buy more outdated technology, and you’ve bought nothing, but change the culture to innovate, design, and integrate, and you’ve changed your organization’s fortunes. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Strategy, Blue and Red and Successful All Over

Blue_ocean
Recently, I was reading about something called “Blue Ocean Strategy.”
The notion is that in pursuing differentiation, an organization’s aim is “not to out-perform the competition in the exiting industry [and to fight it out turning the oceans blood red), but [rather] to create a new market space or a blue ocean, thereby making the competition irrelevant.”
While I like the ocean’s metaphor and agree with the need for organizations to innovate and create new products and services (“blue oceans”), I think that competition (“red oceans”) is not something that is inescapable, in any way.
In profitable industries or market spaces, competition will enter until supply and demand equilibrium are met, so that consumers are getting more or less, the optimal supply at the requisite demand. The result is that organizations will and must constantly fight for survival in a dynamic marketplace.
Moreover, as we know, any organization that rests on its past successes, is doomed to the trash heaps of history as John Champers, the CEO of Cisco stated: It’s “easy to say we’re the best…we don’t need to change, but that’s exactly how you disappear.”
In essence, while we may wish to avoid a duke-it-out, red ocean strategy, every successful innovative, differentiation-driven, blue ocean strategy will result in a subsequent red ocean strategy as competitors smell blood and hone in for the kill and their piece of flesh and cut of market share, revenue, and profit hide.
To me, it is naïve to think that blue ocean and red ocean strategies are distinct, because every blue ocean eventually turns blood red with competition, unless you are dealing with a monopoly or unfair competitive environment that favors one organization over any others.
The key to success and organizational longevity is for innovations to never cease.  When innovation dries up, it is the moment when the organization begins their drowning decent into the ocean’s abyss.
So as with the lifecycle of all organizations, blue ocean strategies will eventually result in red oceans strategies.  Once this occurs, either the organization will leverage their next blue ocean strategy or bleed red until their body drains itself out and dies off—leaving the superior organization’s blue ocean strategy to carry the day.
Together, blue oceans and red oceans—drive the next great innovation and healthy competition in our dynamic, flourishing market.
(Source Photo: here with attribution to freezingmariner)

Playing The Hand We Are Dealt

It’s a new year–2012–congratulations, we made it!

For the new year, I wanted to share this photo that I came across of “The World’s Largest Monopoly Game.”

To me, the most striking aspect of this photo is not the size of the game board, but that the people are actually the pieces.

So often life seems like we are pieces in a big game–as if someone is spinning the dice of life and depending on what number comes up–so goes our fortune.

But inside, I don’t really believe that–that is too fatalistic and too defeatist. At the same time, I don’t believe that we are in control of everything that happens every moment.  To me, there are larger forces at work–emanating from G-d, and we must “play” the hand we are dealt.

G-d sends us tests and trusts in life, as Rick Warren says–we do not directly control these.

The tests and trusts give us the opportunity to grow beyond what we are today, to learn life’s hard lessons, to care for others, and ultimately to elevate ourselves.

Indirectly, how we do and how well we learn life’s lessons–sometimes “hard knocks”–may influence the nature of the future tests and trusts that G-d sends us.

In Monopoly, the roll of the dice or the Chance and Community Chest cards seem to determine our fate–how many spaces we move ahead, how much we have to pay or how much we receive, or whether we end up in the proverbial Monopoly jail.  In contrast, in real life, we have the power to choose how we react to to those “chance” events–do we get angry, do we lash out, do we become defeatist or do we fight for what we want and really believe in.

For the New Year, what a great time to resolve to take back some control over lives and to not just be like human pieces in a big game of Monopoly–to choose instead to accept the tests and trusts that you are give and to do the best that you can to grow from them.

This morning, I heard Joel Osteen say on TV that we should prophesize good for ourselves, so that our words can open the door for G-d to bless us.

While, I do not think that our words of desire control what G-d does, I do believe that how we act does influence events, although not always in the way we think.

There is the age old question of why do the evil prosper and the good people suffer?  Often, I’ve heard various answers given that either we don’t really know who is good or evil, we can’t understand G-d’s plan, or the real reward and punishment is in the World to Come.

However you see it–G-d’s plan and ultimate justice–what we can constructively do is to try our best everyday and in every way–what a better plan than just circling the Monopoly board like a helpless and hapless piece in one big game.

(Source photo: here)

>Microsoft Reveals Secrets and Enterprise Architecture

>

This week Microsoft said they had a big announcement, and that it wasn’t about Yahoo! It turns out that Microsoft decided to reveal some of their technical documents for Microsoft Vista, Office, and other applications.

Why would a company like Microsoft reveal their technical secrets to partners and rivals alike? How is this decision a good architecture move, especially by the master architect himself, Bill Gates?

We all know that companies strive to achieve strategic competitive advantage and that one major way to do this is by product differentiation. The goal is to develop a unique product offering that customers want and need and then build market share. In some case, this results in a situation like Microsoft’s virtual monopoly status in desktop operating systems and productivity suites.

So why give up the keys to the Microsoft kingdom?

Well they are not giving up the keys, maybe just giving a peek inside. And an article in The Wall Street Journal, 22 February 2008 tells us why Microsoft is doing this:

  1. Internet Revolution—“For 30 years, Microsoft has…tightly held onto the technical details of how its software works… [and] it become one of the most lucrative franchises in business history. But Microsoft traditional products aren’t designed to evolve via add-ons or tweaks of thousands of non-Microsoft programmers. Nor can they be easily mixed or matched with other software and services not controlled by Microsoft or its partners. Now the Internet is making that kind of evolution possible, and transforming the way software is made and distributed.” As Ray Ozzie, chief software architect of Microsoft states: “The world really has changed.”
  2. Do or die—Microsoft’s prior business model was leading it down a path of eventual extinction. “The more people use these applications [free technologies and shareware], the less they need they have for Microsoft’s applications.” Microsoft is hoping to maintain their relevance.
  3. Antitrust ruling—“Last September, an appeals court in Luxembourg ruled against Microsoft in a long-running European case that forced Microsoft to announce a month later that it would drop its appeals and take steps to license information to competitors.”
  4. Interoperability—“Microsoft announced in July 2006 [its “Windows Principles”]…such as a commitment to providing rival developers with access to interfaces that let their products talk with Windows.” The key here is customer requirements for systems interoperability and Microsoft is begrudgingly going along.

Is this fifth such announcement on sharing by Microsoft the charm? I suppose it all hinges on how much marketplace and legal pressure Microsoft is feeling to divulge its secrets.

So it this the right User-centric EA decision?

If Microsoft is listening to their users, then they will comply and share technical details of their products, so that new technology products in the market can develop that add on to Microsoft’s and are fully interoperable. The longer Microsoft fights the customer, the more harm they are doing to their brand.

At the same time, no one can expect Microsoft to do anything that will hurt their own pocketbook, so as long as they can successfully maintain their monopoly, they will. Not that Microsoft is going away, but they are holding onto a fleeting business model. In the information age, Microsoft will have to play ball and show some goodwill to their users.