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A Whole New Mind (ok, really just a whole new right-brained mind) December 7, 2009

Posted by Muckzak in A Whole New Mind.
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Perhaps I’m just cynical…  I never thought myself to be quite so dismissive but this is the second book in this class that induced multiple eye-rolls…  My mother would probably have smacked me if she saw my utter disrespect during a few moments of mental sparring with Mr. Pink. 

This book has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years.  The premise really appeals to me – holistic approach to thinking and living.  Count me in. 

Unless by counting me in, you actually mean that my mere existence is inferior.  I may have a problem with that assumption…

Daniel Pink sets out to convince us that it is no longer sufficient to only rely on pure analytical core competencies.  I can agree with that… however, he continues to diminish the importance of sound technical quantitative competencies IN FAVOR of creative and design thinking approaches.  In fact, he touts GM as progressively understanding that they’re in the ART BUSINESS.  (mind you, the book was published in 2005).  As a taxpayer, I’m offended. 

There were some good ideas in A Whole New Mind but I embraced them within my own mental model.  Primarily, I thought thinking through the implications of Asia, Abundance and Automation was a useful excercise.  I also thought its presentation of Design’s importance was compelling.  However, the book tries to preach its beliefs on all aspects of a person’s life.  That would imply that said person’s life (mine as an example), currently, is missing the mark.  Is this book the key to enlightenment?

(insert eye-roll)

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Truth never gets old… December 7, 2009

Posted by Muckzak in Moments of Truth, Uncategorized.
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Reading ‘Moments of Truth’ by Jan Carlzon was like getting into the old trusty DeLorean and zapping back to the future (I now realize that opening blog lines referencing films from decades ago is my thing…) – it was familiar, predictable and innovative for its time. 

The book was originally published in 1987.  Email was unheard of in the average household, airline tickets were actually booked through agents and not one case study had been written on the genius of SWA.  Given this point of reference, the book was actually refreshing to read and included a great roadmap for leading a company in both strategy and execution. 

A leader develops a comprehensive strategy primarily oriented towards the needs of the market it serves.  Customer focus is the key and all objectives begin from the customer’s point of view.  Once the objectives are determined, the leader has to articulate and communicate to the board of directors, the unions and the employees.  You have to then empower people to achieve the goal and establish measures to ensure the company is headed in the right direction.  Empowering people means delegating and, often, this works best with a flatter organizational structure. 

Here are several insights that I thought were worth sharing:

  • Giving someone the freedom to take responsibility releases resources that would otherwise remain concealed
  • An individual without information cannot take responsibility, an individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility.
  • A leader is not appointed because he knows everything and can make every decision.  He is appointed to bring together the knowledge that is available and then create prerequisites for the work to be done. 
  • When you are oriented toward your customers, you are probably in the business of providing them with a service in addition to the ‘hardware’ itself. 

The book was a quick read and I would definitely keep it on my shelf as a quick litmus test when trying to put the customer first without losing sight of leading an organization.

As the Future Kills Us December 7, 2009

Posted by Muckzak in As The Future Catches You.
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“The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope.  Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”

Sound familiar?  It’s the voice of optimism from a cynical Sarah Connor in Terminator II – Judgment Day.  Her doomsday narration voice resounds in my mind as I navigate through chapter after chapter of the reading assignment for our Systems Design class.

I’m within the first thirty pages of the book and I already want to stop.  I inherently dislike rhetoric that dwells on negative paranoia themed ideas without substantiating facts.  Is the disparity between the rich and poor widening because the poor are getting poorer?  My instinct tells me, not necessarily – technology has enabled us to increase the potential of capital creation.  I’m unclear as to why multiplying the amount of global wealth is a bad consequence.  Would the author be more satisfied with a smaller ratio than 427:1 if it meant that the total global wealth was reduced? 

Now that I’m on page 50, I’m waiting for the epiphany.  I’ve read more facts but they are in a vacuum.  For instance, it’s amazing how quickly opinions can change:

                But before Microsoft became the behemoth it is today . . . Apple built a simpler and better    operating system… But it did not share . . . It kept its program “exclusive.”           Programmers found it       easier to work with Microsoft’s “open” system… So today you can      buy 70,000 Microsoft-     compatible programs… and 12,000 Apple programs… Even though it had a better product…             Apple lost. (p 37)

 Apple lost?  That’s a very definitive statement.  Apple has 29 billion in cash today and has rebounded beyond conceivable expectations.  It unquestionably grew consumer markets for online music sales, MP3 players and smart phones.  It evolved from just a personal computer company to a multimedia conglomerate.  Results and conclusions are always dependent on the referenced moment in time.    

I’ve skimmed through page 150.  Growth in genome research, development in nano technologies…  Interesting…  but not interesting enough to keep reading at such a high level of generality.  All these sound bites just sound condescending.  Sleepless (and angry) in Berkeley. 

I give up.  You had me at page 196.  1984 came and went 25 years ago. 

You never know what the future holds.  I face it, not for the first time, which a sense of hope.  There are plenty of people out there who value human life, and as our society and resources change and evolve with continued technological innovation, I believe the world gets smaller and more personal.  Our collective conscience grows.  There is nothing to fear. 

                Only

                                Opportunities

                                                To

                                                                Seize.

December 7, 2009

Posted by Muckzak in Design Thinking.
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Design thinking… I’ll admit.  I know nothing of the sort.  I am taking this class because I realized after my first year at Haas that I’m here to learn new things – ideas, concepts, skill sets, etc.  There is a temptation to focus on refining my strengths.  Not only is it safe and familiar but it’s Easy.  As a full time grad student AND mother of an almost one-year old, Easy is an alluring proposition.  However, Easy is not what got me here in the first place.  So here I am – not quite sure knowing where here is but here nonetheless…

As a self admitted novice in design, the readings on Design Thinking were a good introduction to what we are even supposed to be learning about…  I have heard Tim Brown speak previously and the innovation cycle was discussed in another class.   As a finance nerd, it is hard for me to get my mind around such an unstructured process but yet, still, I admire it.  At some point professionally, I stopped exploring.  I’ve been rewarded for ‘doing’… but I think that as the budding philosopher slowly wilted away, a ceiling was built on what ‘doing’ can actually produce.   The Design Thinking article sparked a bit of curiosity. 

How can I start to think about things differently?  Prototyping intrigues me.  I am rarely the idea generator.  I am the idea implementer.  I wonder if playing with pictures and mindmaps and prototypes could tease out more of the ideas in my head.  I certainly think that incorporating diagrams and flow charts would even enable me to advance my professional development.  I often tweak my same little ‘box’ when developing new projects.  But maybe these tools might help me move to several different geometric shapes instead of the familiar four-sided quadrilateral staunchly constructed with right angles… 

The definition of the learning process as ‘applying the four steps of experiencing, reflecting, thinking and acting in a highly iterative fashion’ is well articulated.  More importantly, I agree that learning style is ‘not a fixed trait in an individual but arises from consistent patterns of transaction between the individual and his or her environment’.  I am learning much differently as a 30 year-old than I did as a 20 year old.  And I learn differently as a new mother than I do as a new employee within a company.  It’s interesting to think about how I can use these points of reference to engage in each quadrant of the Innovation Process.     

I often think of examples, such as the Fridgepack design or the evolution of the meaning of cleanliness, as common sense that isn’t that common.  It amazes me that simple solutions are so complex to discover.  I think both of these articles push me to use this class as a venue to keep thinking about the world around me and how I can uniquely dissect and contribute to it.

Christine Mucker on Back of the Napkin September 30, 2009

Posted by Muckzak in Back of the Napkin.
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This is a book about ’solving problems and selling ideas with pictures’. The funny thing… the book is comprised of 90% words.

I would love to be able to move away from my natural inclination of conveying ideas with numbers, tables and bullet points. Simplified pictorial representations can be so much more powerful. The problem is – I still don’t know how change from quantitative to qualitative and retain the whole story.

This book has gotten me thinking… How can I improve my ability? What should I consider when trying to create a meaningful presentation? If nothing else, the book has made me search for alternate methods of communication. One idea in the book that inspired me – ‘Push visual ideas by finding multiple ways to show the same thing’. However, it’s the HOW do I show something multiple ways that still has me stumped. Maybe I haven’t quite gotten there yet.

I must admit, I’m still not completely finished with the book. It started off in my bag and I’d read it on the bus and at school… then it landed on my nightstand for the before the lights go out reading time. Now it’s relegated to the bathroom. It’s losing ground in my reading heirarchy.

I’ll keep you posted if, during it’s reign in the loo, any more meaningful insights are revealed.