December 2007 Archives

Graphics tool for strategic thinkers

There are a number of chart types that are not included in Excel or PowerPoint that I would like to use, but I have not found the right graphics creation tool. Mekko Graphics: the graphics tool for strategic thinkers promises to be an application that can do these types of charts.  I downloaded the trial version and I will try it out.

One that I find especially frustrating is called a Marimekko chart:

marimekko chart

In the past I have calculated the areas and plotted this kind of chart by hand. I like this chart type because it can provide a quick snapshot of a market.  Because of this it is frequently called a Market Map and displays relative market share within a total market as well as individual geographic segments.

I was led to this graphics software site by a blog by Stephen Few, the author of Show me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten.  Stephen also publishes a site called Perceptual Edge.  In the site he describes his objection to Marimekko charts:

In the case of Marimekko charts, however, separate values are encoded by the length and the width of each rectangle. As such, all of the variables in a Marimekko graph are spatially encoded. We can easily view some pairs of visual attributes independently, but others we can only easily view together as a whole. For instance, we can easily see the area and the color of objects independently. These are called “separable” visual dimensions. It is easy, for example, to quickly find all of the large rectangles, all of the blue rectangles, or all of the large blue rectangles in a display that consists of red and blue rectangles of varying sizes. Other pairs of attributes are called “integral” visual dimensions. In this case, we tend to perceive the dimensions holistically, not independently. For instance, the lengths and widths of rectangles are perceived holistically as their areas. If we try to find all of the tall rectangles in a display, our eyes will be drawn to the tall rectangles with the largest area, even though there might be other rectangles of similar heights that we have trouble noticing because they have small widths. In order to search for differences in only width or only height, we are required to work harder and spend more time than we would if focusing on the differences of two separable visual dimensions.

I tend to like this type of display because it gives you a quick gestalt of a market, the data can be teased apart in other ways, in my opinion the magnitude of the differences in area are quickly apparent.

"The Pathfinders" - Documentary - (4of4)

The story of the project's success.

directed and edited by John Beck Hofmann.

"The Pathfinders" - Documentary (3of4)

"Problem solving is the very essence of Mars Pathfinder"

directed and edited by John Beck Hofmann.

"The Pathfinders" - Documentary - (2of4)

The second installment of the Mars Pathfinder documentary, very inspiring.

directed and edited by John Beck Hofmann.

The Pathfinders" - Documentary - (1of4)

This is the first installment of a 35 minute documentary on Mars Pathfinder.  The project is a great example of extraordinary creativity and team work.  These explorers innovated at every step of the project and, as they say in the video, tested everything again and again so they would be ready for any eventuality.  The results of the mission are inspiring and demonstrate true shared leadership, curiosity and courage.


"35 minute documentary on JPL / NASA's Mars Pathfinder Mission which landed on July 4th 1997. The documentary, which was directed and edited by John Beck Hofmann and produced by Brian Muirhead, won the Gold Plaque award at the 1999 Chicago International Film Festival - Intercom.
To see more of my work or to contact me, goto:
Also check out my soon to be released movie/tv series: (less)"

I am doing research on creative destruction which is a term coined by Joseph SchumpeterThomas McCraw of Harvard Business School has written a book on Schumpeter entitled Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction.  In a blog called Econtalk there is a podcast in which Thomas McCraw discusses his book.  The interview is called McCraw on Schumpeter, Innovation, and Creative Destruction, EconTalk Permanent Podcast Link: Library of Economics and Liberty. This is a wonderful interview about an extraordinary intellect.


Tom Peters presentation gives some examples of creative destruction in the context of business strategy:

10 Challenges of Change

A lot of my work involves change management and I often have to go back and refresh myself, or relearn concepts.  Today as I searched, I found an interview that Peter Senge did in 1999 with Fast Company.  It focuses on what he and his colleagues have learned about learning. It is worth looking at again.
In "The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations," Peter Senge and his colleagues identify 10 challenges of change. These 10 items amount to what the authors call "the conditions of the environment that regulate growth."
Challenges of Initiating Change
Challenge Explanation

"We don't have time for this stuff!"

People who are involved in a pilot group to initiate a change effort need enough control over their schedules to give their work the time that it needs.

"We have no help!"

Members of a pilot group need enough support, coaching, and resources to be able to learn and to do their work effectively.

"This stuff isn't relevant."

There need to be people who can make the case for change -- who can connect the development of new skills to the real work of the business.

"They're not walking the talk!"

A critical test for any change effort: the correlation between espoused values and actual behavior.

Challenges of Sustaining Momentum

"This stuff is . . ."

Personal fear and anxiety -- concerns about vulnerability and inadequacy -- lead members of a pilot group to question a change effort.

"This stuff isn't working!"

Change efforts run into measurement problems: Early results don't meet expectations, or traditional metrics don't calibrate to a pilot group's efforts.

"They're acting like a cult!"

A pilot group falls prey to arrogance, dividing the company into "believers" and "nonbelievers."


Challenges of Systemwide Redesign and Rethinking

"They . . . never let us do this stuff."

The pilot group wants more autonomy; "the powers that be" don't want to lose control.

"We keep reinventing the wheel." Instead of building on previous successes, each group finds that it has to start from scratch.
"Where are we going?"

The larger strategy and purpose of a change effort may be obscured by day-to-day activity. Big question: Can the organization achieve a new definition of success?

Publish PowerPoint Presentations on YouTube

At the end of the year there are lots of lists of the best web-based applications.  On Bnet, I noticed an interesting app reviewed by Rick Broida called PPT to YouTubeYouTube only accept video formats such as WMV, MP4. To put a PowerPoint slide show on YouTube, you need to convert PowerPoint file to WMV or MP4 video.This is exactly what Wondershare PPT to YouTube can do for you.  Other PowerPoint slide sharing software includes Docstoc and SlideShare.


Task Management in Gmail

I have become a big fan of Gmail, but I miss the task management functionality in Microsoft Outlook.  Recently I started to use Remember the Milk, which is integrated with Google Calendar and offers a very quick, stripped down task management web-based service.  Imagine my excitement when I read the Remember The Milk - Blog and found that they built and have released a plugin for Firefox that presents a task management column on the right side of your mail screen in Gmail. Task management is fully integrated into Gmail... It seems to work great and I am already procrastinating!


Understanding E-Learning

Learning Circuits provides a good place to investigate e-learning and the changes that Web 2.0 concepts and technologies have brought to the learning domain.  These trends value faster transfer of knowledge, learning delivered in short bursts within the context of the workflow and development of learning experiences quickly at a lower cost to the organization.  In an article by Tony Karrer, CEO of TechEmpower, he describes the trends that are causing the changes in e-learning and anticipates the results.

In addition, he provides a good bibliography of additional resource on e-learning:

E-Learning 2.0 definition on WikiPedia:

"E-learning 2.0," By Stephen Downes, National Research Council of Canada, eLearn Magazine, October 2005,

Posts from that relate to this article:

On Point : Warren Bennis on Leadership


On WBUR this evening I listened to an interview with Warren Bennis on Leadership.  Click through this link: On Point : Warren Bennis on Leadership, the link includes an audio file so you can hear the On Point broadcast.  "Warren Bennis has made a big name for himself over the years as a business management guru. He's been an advisor to Fortune 500 companies and to presidents. Along the way, he's thought a lot about leadership -- what makes a great CEO, general, president. Lately he's decided that it all comes down to judgment. Courage, vision, experience are all fine, but in the end, good judgment is what makes the difference."


I don't like the term KM 2.0 because I don't think that knowledge management and the technologies that support it has evolved much beyond the initial stages of development. The slide show: The Evolution Of Knowledge Management Km 1.0 Vs. Km 2.0 presented on slideshare presents examples of how our thinking has progressed with regard to knowledge management.   Knowledge managers and software developers recognize that the richest knowledge sharing happens in a community in which ideas are shared rapidly via conversation.  Static repositories and one to one communications via email do not provide a channel rich enough to build understanding of concepts.  Many professional service firms have invested in static repositories and while these still have a place as knowledge sharing repositories, they can not substitute for face to face conversations.


Have the courage to fail better


Tim Ferris is an unusually insightful writer and teacher.  In a blog post How to Get George Bush or the CEO of Google on the Phone | The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss he cites an article by Adam Gottesfeld about he teaches Princeton students to connect with luminary-level business mentors.  Each student has to discover how to contact someone and get them to answer a quesiton, perhaps even develop a relationship.  He gives some inspiring stories of how students figure this out and the key, because it is hard, is to fail better.  Once you have failed, fail better the next time until you figure it out.  These are critical insights, not only for students.  I feel like I need to take this to heart; take more risks, fail faster and better.  I think that I would be more successful if I took the advice from this article.

When I visited China to sell executive education and learning solutions, the executives in the companies we met with asked for a demonstration of what we could do, they did now want a proposal or anything else. They wanted us to be there and to demonstrate commitment by showing us the product.  So, I read with interest a story about Caterpillar's experience marketing massive construction machinery in China. The article entitled Caterpillar's roadshow was originally noted in the Wall Street Journal and then amplified in Church of the Customer blog In Caterpillar's case they haul 38 ton tractor scrapers all over China to demonstrate their functions and to create a buzz in the construction industry. 

Is there a cultural difference in the way that Chinese executives want to buy services and products?  What is your experience in this market?  I am primarily interested in understanding selling professional services in developing markets.

Processingtalk, a blog on the latest news for Process Engineers posted a study analyzing the adoption of different modes of learning.  The study by the Chartered Management Institute asks the question: "will training via the Internet ever take off?" in the engineering sector.  Engineers according to this study are not using easily available training to improve their skills.  Managers admit to spending less then 30 minutes on the company's intranet, using the Internet, or accessing e-learning materials to solve a single problem.  In fact, only 13% of engineers surveyed have ever participated in any structured e-learning program. The research, outlined in a report called 'Realising Value from Online Learning', is based on the views of 998 respondents. It also includes in-depth interviews with 12 large employers in the UK.

Interesting findings which argue against management's wish to reduce cost by using on-line training more aggressively.  Over half (52 per cent) of respondents in the sector claim resistance to e-learning is caused by the 'loss of the human touch'.

Henry Chesbrough was a colleague of mine many years ago.  He recently answered questions about innovation at a conference on private banking innovation. The event took place in Dublin and was organized by Enterprise Ireland. Henry's talks about Open Innovation and Open Business Models, two terms he coined in two different books.

Developing people, in my opinion, is one of the most important responsibilities of a manager, and so when I read this post Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog @ LeadershipNow: James Kilts on Developing People, I realized that the boundaries we set on our people may limit or enhance their growth.  The author of this post notes an analogy to a Japanese carp, known as a koi to make the point.

The fascinating thing about the koi is that if you keep it in a small fish bowl, it will grow to be only about two to three inches long. Place the koi in a larger tank or small pond and it will reach six to ten inches. Put it in a large pond, and it may get as long as a foot and a half. However, if you put it in a huge lake where it can really stretch out, it has the potential to reach sizes up to three feet.

People, like the koi, will grow to the dimensions of their boundaries. Fortunately, unlike koi, we have the advantage of helping our people select their boundaries. And it is the leader’s job to set the kind of boundaries that allow people to reach their full potential.

I have been reading Richard Ogle's new book, "Smart World" which proposes that the world of ideas thinks for itself.  This means that the community does the thinking collaboratively through conversation and sharing idea.  Ideas and the generation of new ideas cannot therefore be understood outside the context of the conversation occuring at the time.  Anne Zelenka discusses this in a post on Gigaom: The Web Mind at Warp Speed and in fact refers to Richard Ogle's book. Essentially she argues that the faster we discus and converse about new technologies or new approaches to solving problems increases the likelihood that new and interesting ideas will emerge along with useful analysis.

I do, however, continue to wonder about reflection and thinking. We no longer seem to give our selves the chance to reflect on what we have learned. Our instinct now is to immediately pull up and shoot.  Perhaps that is required in today's hyper fast world .

The turmoil in the capital markets is beginning to effect our daily lives.  Today, for the first time, I lost some new business because of the credit crunch which has frozen budgets in a client company.  Then, later in the day, I got a note from a mortgage broker that I have used in the past, saying that his company is stopping all lending in New England and that he is moving to a different job.

At the same time, the U.S. stock market is up over 80 points today as investors anticipate a rate reduction by the Federal Reserve.  And, the Financial Times reports that Equity derivative trades are on the rise.  Now, I thought that derivatives, because they lack transparency that is required for stable markets, are part of the reason for the credit crunch. Investors are using sophisticated equity derivative trades to bet on the stronger performance of large multinationals against their smaller rivals in the wake of the credit squeeze. This workout will be interesting to watch.

Meanwhile on the ground, at home, we begin to feel the squeeze.

When I was in China, I learned that Sinopec, the national oil company, has over one million employees.  The management challenge for a workforce of over one million is extraordinary.  So it is little wonder that Chinese business schools are beginning to offer more opportunities for a business education to individuals and executives.  BizDeansTalk - business management education blog: China Educational news + Chinese B-Schools Lift their Game relates that  Chinese universities did not start to offer MBA programs until 16 years ago.  Now 96 universities offer more than 230 MBA and executive MBA programs. With the enormous challenge of globalization the number of students and programs is likely to continue to grow dramatically.

The other day my son, who is just starting his career in business, asked me how to manage his boss. I wish I had some of the advice that Stephen Covey presents in Become the Leader of Your Boss. It is so important to learn how to manage up, to be empathetic (even to your boss) and to understand what motivates behavior.  Since I have been a manager for so long, I immediately thought about an article from the Harvard Business Review: "Management Time: Who's got the Monkey?" by William Oncken Jr., Donald L. Wass.  My experience as a manager was to delegate and coach, not to take things back or to hover as someone executed my direction. 

One thing that I have learned from, that could be relevant, from the practice of negotiation, is to always, "go to the balcony" (Roger Fisher (professor and Director of the Harvard Negotiation Project) and not to get immediately emotional about work related problems.  From the balcony, you can look down on situations and decide on the best course of action.  Reacting immediately and emotionally to frustrating events is easy, but unproductive, and bosses that hover over your work can push you to react emotionally.  Going to the balcony and empathetically making an effort to understand a bosses concerns, could help.

Would empathy help with a boss that likes to micromanage?  It is worth a try; working with people requires lots of experimenting.   I had one boss that liked to micromanage, so I learned what his anxieties were.  I found I could keep him off my back by bringing up the aspects of my job that made him most nervous.  He only focused on those things, usually quite trivial and detail oriented, and left all the other stuff to me. I was free to work on the things that were most important and interested me.  He left our checkpoint meetings with answers to the questions that most concerned him most, while I made my contribution.

Robert Scoble pointed out a list of Office 2.0 applications which covers most of the types of applications I use frequently in my work. Office 2.0 Database - My Office 2.0 Setup provides a list, compiled by Ishmael Ghalimi, of the Web 2.0 applications he uses and then lists the competing apps.  Our lists overlap a lot.  I have become a big fan of GMail, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Notebook, and I am in the process of switching from Outlook.  I use MindMeister with my colleagues when we are brainstorming.  I still however use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio and Project since I know them and it is hard to switch.  I also use the Adobe CS3 Suite since they have the best products in this area.

I do have an unsolved problem with Instant messaging.  I would prefer one app for IMing and now I have three: GMail, Microsoft Live Messenger, and Skype.  I can't seem to combine all the channels.  Meebo is close, but does not provide a connection to Skype since a lot of my collegues use that.  One combined app would be really appreciated.

Donald Sull is an Associate Professor of Management Practice in Strategic and International Management at London Business School, discusses closing the gap between strategy and execution. This is the first part of a series of videos on Google Video.

Strategy is not linear and requires constant iteration to stay relevant as new information becomes visible.  A linear view of strategy will not work in an environment of constant change.

How to make FLV files

A critical skill in today's multimedia world is to be able to create .flv files to upload to video sites.  I have had this trouble with which requires flash files of the short videos that people make.  I am not a video professional by any means, so if I make a video, I want to see it before uploading it and if it is stupid, I will edit it or throw it away.  If this is how you work too, then read this page on Wimpy - How to make FLV files


I have begun to migrate all my mail usage to Gmail from Microsoft Outlook. Using Gmail as Your Universal Email Account is a post by Peter Jalbert, a prolific writer of articles about Google at Google Tutor.  Once you begin to understand GMail's approach to organizing mail in threads, how to filter emails with meaningful labels, and how to incorporate Chat, you can appreciate the power of this application.  In fact, I am finding GMail faster and more stable then Outlook.

Information Access in a Networked World


Danah Boyd, a blogger who writes apophena, did a speech at Pearson Publishing on November 2, entitled  Information Access in a Networked World  which is worth reading.  She has great insight into how technologies are being used now.

There are three ways we acquire information: push, pull, and osmosis.  The discussion becomes most interesting when she talks about how teens engage in these processes, which is evolving differently as technology changes.

Ralph Knows It

I found this video by mistake on You Tube.  I sometimes feel like this!

ITunes Windows Registry settings

One of the most read posts on this blog is a post I did in 2004 on ITunes and Windows registry settings, so I thought I would update it a bit since Apple has come out with instructions on you to fix problems with CD issues caused by device filters.

Device filter entries from third-party optical drive software can conflict with iTunes for Windows. This can cause issues like these:

  • iTunes does not detect any supported CD burners.
  • iTunes does not recognize audio CDs.
  • Windows does not recognize audio CDs after installing iTunes.
  • You are presented with this message even after reinstalling iTunes:
    "Warning! The registry settings used by the iTunes drivers for importing and burning CDs & DVDs are missing. This can happen as a result of installing other CD burning software. Please reinstall iTunes."

For ITunes for Windows XP look here:

For Windows Vista:

Let me know if these solutions work for you!

Selling: Every Cold Call Can Be Warm


Ben Casnocha: The Blog: Richer First-Time Interactions: Every Cold Call Can Be Warm

It is really hard to be inspired by cold calling!  I must be like most people and avoid this type of interaction with people that I don't know.  Never the less, Ben Casnocha, in his blog, Ben Casnocha: The Blog, suggests that there is never a need for a cold call.  You can always warm up a call by finding something out about a person, especially today with the amount of information that there is available on the Internet. 

Here is Ben's advice:

I hardly ever agree to talk to someone random who says, "Hey Ben, read your blog, wanna talk on the phone this week?" On the other hand, I do like talking to people -- like a fellow named Dan did today -- who provide more color. Something like, "Hey Ben, I've been reading your blog. I share your views on religion and self-improvement. I don't agree with you on X, but would love to talk about it sometime. Here's some background on who I am. XYZ. We also seem to share XYZ as friends."

I still write cold call emails to people I want to meet -- though far less frequently than I used to, since I'm now usually a degree or two away already -- and always try to show that I have looked him/her up and do see real reasons why we should talk. Perhaps similar interests. Common friends. Common career path. Common reading list. Whatever.

There's no excuse not to make a first-time interaction rich. With blogs and Google, every cold call can be warm.

8 Tips on the One Thing for Leadership & Management » Slacker Manager

I found a great set of leadership tips from the Slacker Manager blog as I was reviewing some of my starred items in Google Reader.  (what a wonderful tool!)

This post refers to  a book by Marcus Buckingham, GO Put Your Strengths to Work - 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance.  Here are the nuggets that were copied from the book:

  1. The chief responsibility of a manager is to turn a person’s talent into performance.
  2. Great managers find what is unique about each person and capitalize on it.
  3. Average managers play checkers while great managers play chess - they understand the differences in each piece and coordinate the team to take advantage of the individual strengths.
  4. Great managers spend 80% of their time working to grow an employee’s greatest strength.
  5. Great leader’s rally people to a better future.
  6. Great leaders find what is universal and capitalize on it.
  7. Great leaders muse, pick heroes with great care, and practice their words, phrases, and stories.
  8. Great leaders answer these questions: Who do we serve? What is our core strength? What is our core score? What actions can we take today?

Om Malik writes about Google's investment in its proprietary infrastructure.  These investments give Google a defensible lead in the speed they can deliver search results.  Om does not say it, but the speed that Google can deliver results makes the cost of entry into this business, or even competition with them exceedingly high.  To deliver the same user experience other search companies would have to make similar investments or find an extremely innovative way to architect their systems.  It is unlikely that they can do that given Google's resources. Google has created a very defensible position in this market in a way that is not easy to replicate.

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Five Years of Blogging!

I started writing this blog five years ago on November 14, 2002.  I was a much more prolific poster at that time; I was also unemployed.  Since then I have created two businesses and become a partner in Bridge Consulting International.  My kids have been to college.  And I still blog.  I even have another blog at  This blog  focuses on executive education, strategy and innovation, which is my business focus as well.  Please continue to follow both blogs, I want to improve the content, my frequency of posting, and the presentation of the blogs.  I host them myself now, so I can make adjustments as I see fit.

Green Gets Legs at P&G

According to a Financial Times article, P&G sets ��greener�� products targets, �Procter & Gamble has set itself a target for environmentally targeted products, marking what senior executives describe as a major evolution in the corporate philosophy of the world��s largest consumer products company.��

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