This is good news

The New York Times reports that the Chinese are going after the electric car market. Should that worry us?

It’s time to say it. Harden the fuck up, America. Stop whinging and whining about the economic transition. Get with it and start competing. A new race is being defined.

There’s been recent hand wringing over the innovation gap. Some think Silicon Valley has lost its mojo. I don’t think so. The Japanese threw down the gauntlet with hybrids (and a few plug ins too). The Chinese are coming on with mass manufacture, and the Indians can have a game changer with an electric Nano. Interesting times.

The US responded with Tesla, an early adopter’s wet dream. The Chevy Volt (God, I wish I had my ’63 Nova) is what GM is dishing up. And Ford’s hybrids seem to do nothing but add a few MPG and increase the cost of maintenance. Competition should up our game and breed innovation. That’s how it works in Silicon Valley…let’s hope Detroit can catch on.

I don’t like to point out problems without offering a solution. In this case the solution may very well be to sell off the GM brands (if possible) and form new business alliances with global partners. Crysler-Fiat?  Where’s Lee Iacocca right now? He’s not just making olive oil, is he? Interesting times indeed.

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TechCrunch 3rd Summer Meetup

Going to TechCrunch’s 3rd summertime fling wasn’t at the top of my list for a Friday night. I ignored the event until Twitter-aided social alchemy came into play.

I was without Twitter for 10 days. A series of epic hardware/software fails kept me off the grid. On the eleventh day I settled in with a reconditioned Lenovo (oy!) and installed Twhirl. One of the first tweets I spied was Arrington putting up 200 invites for grabs. I jumped on it. Within 4 minutes all were taken.

The gig started at 5.30. Not that the Valley is a 9 – 5 place, but I figured that there would be a lot of Fred Flintstones sliding down the tail of their dino at 5 and making their way to Sand Hill Road. I got there at 6.30 to find a minor traffic jam adjudicated by rentacops. Once parked, there was a long line, but the socializing wasn’t bad. The shock for me was this…. young entrepreneurs being carded at the door. The borders of the sub 21 crowd’s badges had a different color to indicate their lack of drinking age.

I often ask myself why I give up a Friday night to attend such events. After all, none of the ideas are nearly as interesting as what you can find at MIT’s Media Lab or Stanford’s AI lab. The reward I get is seeing so many old friends. These are the ones that were there when this whole damn thing got started. I won’t name names, but they are the ones that were ambling about the West Coast Computer Faire thinking that this is cool shit.

Every generation has inventors. There are visionaries born every day. I just hope that none of us ever forget that seeing the unseen is still the game. We all need a bigger dose of that.

Smart and lazy

“Finally, there are the intelligent, lazy ones. They are suited for the highest office.”

General Erich Von Manstein (1887-1973) on the German Officer Corps

I have an affinity for the smart and lazy lifestyle but never considered it an asset until this evening. Jim McGee’s post about balancing diligence and laziness ends with an appeal to consider the following:

  1. What alternate terms than diligence and laziness could we use to better frame the issue?
  2. How important is it to carve out times and places to engage in visible laziness within organizations?
  3. Is this a problem that needs to be solved at the organizational level? For which types of organization?
  4. What barriers to innovation, if any, does a bias toward diligence create?

macintosh-team.jpg

The most vibrantly creative team I’ve ever been a part of was the one that flew the pirate flag on Bandley Drive, the original Macintosh team. Steve called us the A players, while the Apple II crew were the B players. Nevermind that the money was flowing from the B team’s side and we were still a money pit. That didn’t matter, we were Steve’s folks.

The hallmark of the B player was diligence. They worked in a larger and more structured environment that needed reliable processes and repeatable results. Diligence got the job done.

The hallmark of the A player wasn’t laziness. It was the confidence that comes from knowing you’re doing something the B player could never do. You were going to change the world. It was a higher calling than just shipping product.

1) The diligent – lazy continuum doesn’t work for me because of the negative value that our part of the world puts on “lazy” behavior. I prefer framing the discussion in terms of the organization’s objectives. Do the objectives call for a structured or less structured environment? After the Macintosh and Apple II divisions merged it became painfully apparent that the B player managers were counting heads at 9am while the A player managers may make it in by noon, unless they were sleeping under their desks again. It was a very confusing time as the less structured met the more structured organization. And not one of the A or B players could be called lazy.

2) It’s important to let people nap. Studies have shown (and life in Italy proves) that napping is very beneficial. If any “laziness” is on display then it should be introduced as a personnel policy regarding napping.

3) It’s a problem to be solved in the context of the job to be done. Some jobs do not require much creative thought yet demand constant attention. They are unlikely to find beds installed in their worksites. Other jobs come with a license to wool gather. Certain editorial posts in the publishing industry come to mind.

4) Overbearing diligence can be a barrier to innovation. Yet having a diligent process for brainstorming, wool gathering, whiteboarding, workshopping, et. al., is a very good thing. There’s nothing like a diligent facilitator in a room full of smart people.

Some of the best results come from mixing up the diligent and the lazy provided they’re all smart.