Category: Food for Thought

Don’t change your average get more at bats

Marc Andreessen continues to impress me, this time as a blogger. He writes today about how age relates to creativity, derived from an ongoing debate about how age relates to entrepreneurship. Marc provides a study by Dean Simonton covering his life’s work on the subject of age and creativity. The study by Dr Simonton is nothing short of profound and Marc even takes the time to break the study down into understandable chunks for us knuckle draggers.

This is a must read post. I’m not going to try and steal Marc Andreessen’s thunder just go and read his post.

Curse of Knowledge

Ron del.icio.us’ed me a link about the Curse of Knowledge. I have to say I have been party to the curse of knowledge on more that one occasion. What I learned is that the curse of knowledge is really a symptom of flawed communication. As the complexity of the information increases so does the impact of flawed communication. So as I have had to deal with this in my career, I have developed some simple rules to help improve the communication and reduce the curse of knowledge.

  • Make clear any assumptions you might have about the topic or the listener’s/reader’s understanding of the topic.
  • Allow the listener to ask refining questions and respond in a supportive manner.
  • Break the topic into small logical chunks. (This is one can be tough)
  • Don’t expect the listeners light bulb to go off as soon as your done communicating.
  • Use pictures and/or a white board when ever possible.
  • Actually listen/read and consider the responses from your explanation.
  • Be willing to be wrong and admit it.
  • Avoid email at all cost, when the information is important only communicate Face to Face, For the less important stuff the telephone will do, and only use email for the mundane.
  • Communicate until you feel like your being a bother. It is at he bother point you are just communicating enough.

Remember it never seems obvious to the listener.

Leaders Encourage Transparency

Ed Batista has a post about Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammon’s response to an article by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling titled A failure in generalship in the Armed Forces Journal. The article was called “blistering critique of the Army brass,” by Greg Jaffe of the Wall Street Journal.

On June 25, The New Yorker published a story titled The General’s Report by Seymour Hersh. The story details what happened to Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba, who lead the army investigation into Abu Ghraib. (via tompeters.com)

These articles are examples of how not to deal with critical information. Leaders must embrace both positive and negative information. There is always a short term cost of negative information, but reducing transparency within the organization to minimize the impact of negative information is WRONG. The reduction of organizational transparency will carry a larger cost over the long term, than that of the negative information. Reduced Transparency results in less trust, increased transactional and operational costs.

The saddest RSS feed ever

The Department of Defense News Releases feed allows technology to present a view of the the Iraq War that news does not. This feed contains the public press releases of the names of the casulties in Iraq and Afghanistan. I for one find this feed to be filled with nothing but loss and sorrow. I consume a fair number of RSS feeds and this is one feed that makes all others trivial.

If you are anti-war here is a feed of information that only motivates one to fight for an end even harder.

If you are supportive of the Iraq war you should subscribe to this feed to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the impacts of your support.

A feed that pains my heart to read.

Can you serve others better than you serve yourself

I have thought about this a great deal. The degrees of abstraction are endless. I have thought about it from a systematic perspective, from a social perspective, from a business perspective and so on. The answer I come to consistently is NO. Now let me explain.

The guiding point is: You cannot serve others any better than you serve yourself. I am not saying, if I want my friend to have a nice car, I must first have a nice car. Nope, what I am saying is, if I want my friend to have a nice car, I must first have the ability to give a nice car. At a personal level the actions we take that define us, are the foundations of our interactions with others. The personal side goes down a deep meta rabbit hole and is best left for another time.

The part that is more plain is from a business and systematic perspective. I had previously written “A provider cannot deliver a continuity of experience greater than the continuity of experience the provider has internally.”

You cannot manage a customers inventory any better than you can manage your own (definitely if you are using the same systems, people, and processes).

Do you think Ford could build cars for toyota better than they could build Fords, uh Nope.

Do you think that the U.S. can run a country any better than we run the U.S., uh Nope, just look at Puerto Rico (Usually worse).

If you have variability in your business process when you share those processes with your customer, guess what they get the same degree of variability.

If your email system sucks when you use it, it will suck when you host it out for your customers to use.

Do you think that Google employees have better mail services than Gmail users, I bet they do, but all services being equal I bet its darn close.

The reality is the systems, people and processes we use internally will never generate better results just because your using them on someone’s behalf.

Just the facts: “A Budding Network” by Frederick W. Smith

Dispensing with all commentary:

“A Budding Network” by Frederick W. Smith in Forbes 2007-05-07 (registration required)

  • FedEx spends ~1.5 billion /year on IT
  • Employs 7000 people in IT
  • FedEx Handles 3000 transactions every second
  • FedEx Receives 1000 package status inquiries every second
  • Orders are distributed to 70,000 handheld devices
  • FedEx handles 6 million shipments globally
  • FedEx has 275,000 team members
  • FedEx has 677 aircraft
  • FedEx has more than 70,000 trucks
  • The FedEx world hub in Memphis handles 400 flights / day
  • The FedEx World Hub handles 1.5 million packages / day
  • 15,000 FedEx employees can sort up to 500,000 packages / hour
  • A package sent from Miami to Phoenix will be scanned up to 2414 times

Fred Smith knew it in 1978

According to Fred Smith, in Forbes 2007-05-07 (registration required), in 1978 only 5 years after starting FedEx he said “Information about the package is as important as the package itself.” So here is an exercise fill in the blanks.

Information about ________ is as important as the __________ itself.

For example:

Information about the motor is as important as the motor itself.
Information about the customer is as important as the customer themselves.

This is a critical understanding, corporations need to consider deeply the value of their information assets. Listening to the master data discussions at Sapphire, many companies have a long way to go before they fully realize Fred Smith’s statement in 1978.