Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Constant innovation, constant disruption

This article or rather the one it links to, says the increasing pace of change is normal in the new economy.


"Innovation is disruption; constant innovation is perpetual disruption. ... [R]obust growth sustains itself by poising on the edge of constant chaos."

If this is true, then the skills of self-management become ever more important. Knowing and defining your own career path, whatever your role, is going to be a crucial success factor in coming years (in fact even now).

What does this mean, though, for those who struggle to get by? The people who genuinely can only cope with a day-to-day, 9-to-5 job? How can Unions and Employers help people in this new world?

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Open Hearted CEO

I'm reading One Billion Customers, a book full of the harrowing cross-cultural misunderstandings that happen as Western companies try to do business with the most populous country in the world, China.

It's full of amazing characters on both sides who show the kind of leadership that's needed when reaching out to a completely different culture.

One such leader is - or rather was - Austin Koenen. He was arguably the most successful CEO of the embattled China International Capital Corporation (CICC), the first joint venture between a government-owned Chinese enterprise and a foreign company (Morgan Stanley).

One Billion Customers describes Koenen's approach:

"Chinese who worked with Koenen often used the same word to describe him: 'openhearted'. They meant they trusted his sincerity and believed that he genuinely cared about their careers and lives. Behaviour imperatives in Chinese culture are extremely negative and fairness isn't a hallmark of the society. Parents motivate their children by focusing on their faults and inadequacies. The government rules through control, shame, and a ubiquitous presence.

Worries about retribution for making mistakes guide the actions of most employees. Thus CICC's employees were extremely receptive to genuine kindness, sincerity and coaching from their new boss, whose competence was without question. For many, it was the first time in their lives that somebody in authority had treated them kindly."

Koenen also implemented systems and procedures to help the double-headed monster turn into a single entity, but his human kindness probably was his greatest heritage.

Sadly, Koenen died of a heart attack in 1998, and the CICC joint venture split up in 2002. Unfortunately, sometimes it an individual really does stand between success and failure.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Idealog hits the big time—from day one

Idealog - Idealog hits the big time—from day one

It's so cool to be associated with a winner! Consider this bragging by default.

"Official figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation today show Idealog’s total New Zealand net circulation is 12,221. This is a great result. It puts Idealog almost on equal footing with the weekly newspaper National Business Review in circulation, and significantly ahead of all our major competitors,” says
co-publisher Martin Bell."

I'm glad that I ignored the little voice in my head that said there wasn't room for another Fast Company-style magazine in New Zealand. Sometimes the little voice is helpful; other times it's a damned pain.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


My mum was reading my article in the latest Idealog on bad design.

"It's interesting," she said, "but there's a long word I don't know."

Puzzled, I asked what it was. "Some sort of German word..."

Ah. Schadenfreude. "To take pleasure in someone else's misfortune." Quite unlike the Gemutlich stereotype of Germans.

Anyway the fact that she hadn't heard of that word made me worried. After telling so many for so long that they needed to make their language clear and understandable, have I become an elitist pig?

Then I remembered where I first discovered Schadenfreude (the word, anyway) - Lisa Simpson.

For the sake of clarity, avoid watching the Simpsons! It can really obfuscate your clarity!

(The above picture has nothing to do with this post)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The struggle for balance

Writing words for a living can really take it out of you. Especially when it comes to relaxing.

Being a literarily inclined fellow, my leisure activities tend to consist of:
  • Reading
  • Watching movies
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Blogging!
Trouble is, those so-called leisure activities eat up just the same brain cells that my "day job" does - particularly when I'm trying to do two of them at a time (a frequent occurence).

So I'm not meaning to contradict my previous post on how noise bulks up your brain, but sometimes... after a few long work days and lots of interviewing... I just need a bit of:
  • music (instrumental)
  • walking and other exercise
  • cooking (although that's usually done while listening to a podcast!)
  • silent, reverent contemplation
That last one doesn't come naturally to me. I've only been developing the habit of shutting up for a while after going to a church that practices it in its worship services.

I remember sitting there at church one time contemplating the incredible light from a candle. I was thinking, "there's really good quality silence here".

Crazy, isn't it? As a culture we need specific places to go to enjoy what's always available - for physical exercise, we run on a treadmill inside a gym. For contemplation, we go to a purpose-built church.

Ah, it's not that crazy, really. Not when you consider the kind of world we live in now.

I was thinking about prayer in the business world the other day. If you're not religiously inclined, just imagine I'm talking about meditation.

The current "state of the world" demands we think of things in terms of currency (ie it's current, I don't mean money), scarcity and immediacy. That's why newscasts are so popular - and addictive.

During the recent war in Israel and Lebanon I've had news from so many sources - but when I analysed it, I wasn't getting a better understanding of it at all. I was picking up the raw emotions involved - and that wasn't helping me, or the situation in the Middle East.

So this week - simply because I feel I need it - I'm easing back on the information flow just a little, in that eternal search for balance.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Noise gives you a brain workout

I wondered why I write my best writing in cafes and pubs. Turns out I'm giving my brain a workout, according to this interview with unorthodox USC professor Bart Kosko.

The more you can concentrate with background noise, the more it strengthens the brain. Isaac Asimov used to set his typewriter up in stores and other loud places to work. His claim was that you get really good at writing when you’re in a crowd. You want to be energized by that background noise, rather than distracted.

Exactly what happens to me. Most times. Other times, I can't even concentrate with just my music and the TV on, and I have to turn one off.

Just kidding. But the cafe thing is true.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

And I thought I had deadline pressure...

I just heard Condoleeza Rice on the news saying (and I'm paraphrasing here) that she hopes to get the fighting in Israel over by the end of the week.

Now that's pressure!

I've heard news reports that people are very unhappy with Rice's performance in the middle east last week, but I wonder what anyone can have done? These are big, big issues, and I'd love to be a fly on the wall, trying to understand just what it is that people think will change it. Chances are pretty high it comes down to personal influence - and leadership abilities.