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One Word Describes the Trump Administration: Uncertainty

Image of Trump by DonkeyHotey under a CC-by-2.0 License 

There is an old adage used by investors, strategists and market watchers that “markets hate uncertainty” and the Donald Trump presidency is all about throwing grenades in to everything and creating that uncertainty. As I read, talk with senior leaders, venture capitalists and even small business owners like myself, everyone is unsure what to do next when it comes to healthcare insurance, investments, and more.

In my view Trump’s creation of uncertainty is negatively impacting markets, innovation, investment (both domestic and foreign) and is only going to get worse as his presidency continues.

Here are a few examples that have come up from the beginning of April until today:

That last bullet point is about uncertainty in healthcare, especially after the House passed the repeal of Obamacare, and how insurers, hospital and clinic systems, physicians, business leaders, and so many others are just not sure what to do next. They see how horrifically bad the GOP direction would be if passed by the Senate — and how it leaves out millions of our fellow Americans — and are on-hold until Trump and the GOP figure out what to do themselves.

Virtually everything under Trump is uncertain and his administration’s falsehoods (i.e., lies) about even small details means that any initiatives or policies Trump and his minions put forth are treated with uncertainty.

Uncertainty is my reason #2,445 why Trump is the worst thing that has ever happened to America.

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NewCo Shift: Covering What's Next?

John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Conference 2005 Credit: James Duncan Davidson/O'Reilly Media, Inc. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Conference 2005
Credit: James Duncan Davidson/O’Reilly Media, Inc. 
Used under the CC 2.0 license.

In 2006 I had a brief conversation with John Batelle out at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. Batelle, a serial entrepreneur, author and journalist, has been at the forefront of many future directions and I think he’s on to something once again.

We’ve all seen the obvious shifts that have occurred since the internet became a commercial reality and other forces that have been accelerating now that the world is increasingly connected. News is instant so local TV news, daily newspapers, magazines, and radio are struggling so much we can hear the death rattles.

Communicating with one another is easier than it’s ever been. We can see, read, hear and experience new developments and innovation as fast as those electrons move through internet ‘pipes’ (and even though the entire internet weighs only as much as a strawberry).

That communication capability means that the time for new developments and innovation to occur continues to compress. What used to take months or years now happen in days or weeks.

But it’s not just communications capability. It’s also the push for not just profits, but for making a positive impact on the world, to be sustainable, to bring meaning and purpose to work, and to make capitalism leap to the next level of impact globally. (See this, this, this, this and this to see what I mean).

Technological developments and innovations are now so mainstream that they’ve faded into the background and are expected (my running joke, when people knock an Apple or Tesla announcement as not being BIG ENOUGH is that “…they didn’t introduce a holodeck or replicator so people were disappointed“).

newco-shiftNewCo Shift
Batelle has an insightful post The Tech Story is Over which discusses how mainstream tech has become and argues that:

I think the answer lies in the reinvention of capitalism. We’re on the brink of an entirely new approach to business, one built on shared principles of integrity, transparency, and sustainability. If we succeed, the world could become a far better place.

What I didn’t know was that Batelle had a larger vision to create a curated site of deep thinking surrounding this premise called NewCo Shift:

We’re thrilled to debut NewCo Shift on the new Medium for Publishers platform today. If you haven’t heard of us yet, NewCo Shift is a multi-channel business publication, with a central home right here on Medium (if you want to learn more, you can read this overview). We’ll be publishing on a weekly and daily cadence, and interacting with the tens of thousands of readers and followers who care about the largest shift in our economy since the industrial revolution.

Batelle’s not the first one to come up with this premise but Batelle is uniquely plugged in, has the track record to deliver a world-class product, and knows how to build buzz. It will be interesting to see how this might become the WIRED magazine of the next decade or two: a publication everyone reads because not doing so means you’re out-of-the-loop.

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Happy Birthday Macintosh!

mac-30-yrs-old

Apple has a tribute to Macintosh on its website on its 30 year birthday

The Mac was introduced thirty years ago today on the Super Bowl with the now famous ad directed by Ridley Scott, and won numerous awards. Advertising Age called it the top ad from a pool of the 50 best commercials of all time

But I had a sneak-peek in November of 1983 when, while in Hawaii with all the other sales and marketing folks from around the world, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh to the company and showed us the commercial!

Though forced to use PCs at many of the companies I worked at over the years, I did so reluctantly while always owning my own machines…and those machines were almost always Macs (had to buy PCs only for our business accounting). If not for the Mac my wife’s business would never have started 28 years ago (one we now run together…you can read the story about its founding here) and all the creative stuff I’ve done over the years can be directly attributed to, what Steve Jobs describes in this short video snippet, is how Macintosh is like a “bicycle for our minds.” 

[Read more…]

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The iDoctor Is In

Don’t know how I missed this in January but my aunt Marlys just sent a bunch of us an email with a link to it inside. It’s an NBC Rock Center segment called iDoctor and it’s about the healthcare revolution being enabled because most of us are carrying around incredibly powerful computers called a “smartphone,” a device that can send data directly to our doctors.

 

If you’re interested, here are some links you’ll like to view:

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Sears Social Media is Worthless

Sears Social Media is completely worthless but, as I discovered, it probably doesn’t matter since Sears is so dysfunctional and mismanaged they’re about out of business anyway.

In February of 2011 I wrote this post after being hammered on by Sears after buying some appliances from them. Sears Social Media, a group in Austin, TX, had a “case manager” followup and I suspect did so only because I was CC’ing the current head of marketing for Sears Holdings, Dave Friedman (who is now gone).

My wife and I made the mistake of buying a garage door opener from Sears a few weeks ago. Having forgotten to make certain I did NOT receive marketing/customer service phone call followups (like last time) I received a call Sunday afternoon from a robocalling service in Chicago, wanting me to partake in an automated survey, and I was under a desk assembling it for my sister-in-law. Exasperated I hung up and, after I finished assembling the desk, sent a tweet to @SearsCares (the social media group) and @Sears (some other Twitter feed). A “case manager” named Brian indicated he needed my contact info so I DM’ed him my email address.

Never received an email followup from anyone.

Next day (Monday afternoon) while in a business meeting my mobile phone rings. It’s another robocall coming in for the survey I never took. “Seriously?”, I thought. So after the meeting I started tweeting to their social media group in the hope I could get someone to intervene and stop the damn calls. Now “Diane”, someone who said twice, “Sorry for the delay in speaking to a case manager.We appreciate your patience. Thanks, Dianne cc:@Sears

I’ve heard nothing and it’s now been 20 hours since their last message stating that they’d help out.

So I went to Sears Holdings in an attempt to find out who runs Sears Social Media and discovered a few things:

  • Their Q3, 2012 results are so horrible that it’s no wonder the financial management of the company — obviously sucking the company dry — is clueless and probably milking the company as it dies
  • Their marketing and social media efforts are led by a revolving door of senior managers. After Dave Friedman left Sears brings in a high profile ecommerce strategist, Monica Woo, who stays just five months. It’s no wonder the ship is sailing all over the place since it’s without leadership and the rudder is broken.

Did I give up? Mostly. Especially since I had an “Aha!” and remembered that the phone number I’d given Sears after the LAST fiasco was my Google Voice number (which is set to ring my mobile) so I logged in and blocked the robocall number.

But isn’t that fixing the wrong problem Sears? Hopefully the next time I shop at Sears (um…that’ll be never) I’ll remember to give you a number I can block.


UPDATE: After nearly THREE DAYS of Sears social media “interactions” I received this email (I had sent two others to “smsupport@searshc.com” and also filled out a form on Sears website) and called ‘Gabriel A.” as requested. Turns out there is not much he can do — he certainly can’t affect Sears robocalling or other marketing — but he offered to “close the case” since I’d already blocked the phone number (and, of course, he gets scored or paid on how many “cases” he resolves):

Sears Social Media Customer Service <smsupport@searshc.com>
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 3:27 PM

Dear Mr. Steve Borsch,

My name is Gabriel A; I work for Sears Executive office we are an escalated complaint and resolution team. Please contact me at your earliest convenience so that we may discuss your issue in depth. Please contact me at your earliest convenience on my direct phone number that has been provided below along with my business hours. I look forward to speaking with you soon. We have also created a case number in which we reference when you call which is ____________.

Gabriel A.

Social Media Support – Case Manager
Sears Holdings Corporation
Phone: 888-266-4043 extension 92
Email: smsupport@searshc.com
Schedule: Monday – Friday 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM (CST)

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The Essence of Value

Chip Kidd, an author, editor, and graphic designer, is best known for his book covers but this TED 2012 talk he gave on “Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is” was very enjoyable for quite another reason. If you watch it, like I did, for how it informs what I do in so many other areas, it will undoubtedly give you much more than your investment of 17 minutes. For me it turned out to be another learning point on my journey toward understanding how to get to the essence of value and of success itself.

Thought others might like to view it too so am posting it (and, if nothing else, so you can watch him in his amazing fashion statement!):

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McKinsey: Cities and the rise of the consuming class

Gaining insight is one of the most important things you can do when identifying trends, especially now that the trend is toward an accelerating, global economic shift toward Asia. It’s one of the reasons why we stay close to what is delivered by McKinsey & Company, a firm founded in 1926 that has grown into a global partnership serving two-thirds of the Fortune 1000.

Their think-tank arm, the McKinsey Global Institute, has just released a new report entitled, “Urban world: Cities and the rise of the consuming class” and is definitely worth a read.

It starts out with this, “Cities have long been the world’s economic dynamos, but today the speed and scale of their expansion are unprecedented. Through a combination of consumption and investment in physical capital, growing cities could inject up to $30 trillion a year into the world economy by 2025. Understanding cities and their shifting demographics is critical to reaching urban consumers and to preparing for the challenges that will arise from increasing demand for natural resources (such as water and energy) and for capital to invest in new housing, office buildings, and port capacity.

But it gets better as it discusses how this new report finds that, “…the 600 cities making the largest contribution to a higher global GDP—the City 600—will generate nearly 65 percent of world economic growth by 2025. However, the most dramatic story within the City 600 involves just over 440 cities in emerging economies; by 2025, the Emerging 440 will account for close to half of overall growth. One billion people will enter the global consuming class by 2025. They will have incomes high enough to classify them as significant consumers of goods and services, and around 600 million of them will live in the Emerging 440.

Amazingly this report is free and they have made it available in variety of formats: an executive summary PDF; the full report as a PDF; a Kindle MOBI version of the full report; and an EPUB version for the Apple iPad, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, and other devices. All available here.

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Skype's Incredibly Confusing Product Mix

Since 2005 I’ve been an avid Skype user and enjoy its use for phone calls, international calling, screensharing, and even for podcasting and interviews. The quality of its audio is fantastic and I love having my contacts available everywhere. I have the unlimited subscription plan for $3/month so I can call landline and mobile phones in the U.S. and Canada, and usually leave a few extra dollars in the account so I can easily call my wife when she is traveling abroad.

To illustrate how embedded Skype is in my work and personal life, I even purchased a phone number some years ago so I could easily route calls to Skype. I then subsequently bought a Skype cordless phone so my account could be always-on and always-connected. Of course, I use the Skype apps on my iPhone and iPad too.

The #1 drawback with Skype, however, is how unbelievably confusing it is to give them my money and it’s even tougher to recommend to someone else how they can get set up initially. Some other issues include:

  • I’d like to add group video calling. This requires an additional subscription, separately managed, instead of an upgrade to my current account
  • For my business I set up Skype Business — mainly so I could allocate Skype Credit to others in my office — but I couldn’t “take over” my Skype account and manage it within the Business dashboard…I could only add additional credit. 
  • A friend wanted to get set up with Skype and emulate my account type. I had to screenshare with him in order to see what was on the screen since he had to buy a subscription.

It goes on and on. Now I have two sisters-in-law getting setup on Skype since one is traveling with an iPad and one is home. They needed to sit with me to figure out what to buy and why. I’d hoped that Microsoft buying Skype last year would have helped with making it easier to give Skype our money, but it’s worse. Just go to the Skype website and try to figure out what to buy and you’ll see what I mean. 

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Fail. Fail. Fail. Learn.

Can the lessons learned from video games point the way to a new fail, fail, fail and learn model for K-12 education?

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, parent or teacher, employer or employee, trainer or trainee, one thing is clear: traditional models of learning are being attacked from all corners as broken, virtually unchanged since the 1890s, and desperately in need of fundamental reform.

You’ve seen or heard the statistics about India’s top 10% of K-12 students being more in number than all the students in the U.S., and that the Asia Pacific region graduates more PhDs in one year than the U.S. does in 10. 

Questions abound about how to fix it:

  • With the world’s information increasingly at our fingertips with an internet we’re connected to with computers, smartphones and tablets — at home and mobile — how much information do we need to pack in to our brains like traditional K-12 models emphasize?
  • Now that cognitive scientists, psychologists and education-oriented startups are gaining new insights in to ways in which students can learn and do so quickly, what are the right models?
  • With gaming and game theory being viewed by many experts as the best way to move in to a model of fail, fail, fail and learn…what works? Will all our kids be taught with Halo3 or other off-the-shelf games?

What’s the fix? This is a complex question and I’ve watched several talks, by experts in the field, and a new Minnesota startup (CogCubed) has compiled several videos on one page here that you should watch if interested. What’s pretty clear after watching them all (which I’ve done over the last few years) is that there are some great ideas out there but few ‘platforms’ upon which people can build fail, fail, fail, learn applications.

Let’s face it: without platforms (e.g., computers, the internet, desktop & now ebook publishing) and higher level tools and approaches, new innovations and industries struggle to emerge, even with great ideas and directions!

What was a big surprise this morning was discovering just such a platform company for new ways of enabling students to engage in learning that encourages play, manipulation, failing and ultimately learning. Sifteo is a “…venture-backed startup based in San Francisco, California. We make Sifteo cubes, an interactive game system designed for hands-on fun and Intelligent Play. We also make a growing number of unique and exclusive games for Sifteo cubes.

Rather than me telling you more, go view those compiled videos above and then watch this very short introduction by David Merrill about Sifteo. If you don’t come away with interest, intrigue and the ability to visualize new emergent models of learning, I’ll be even more surprised:

To learn more, here is David Merrill’s talk at a recent TED conference or just go to their website.

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3D Printing: Manufacturing's "Big Bang"

Visualizing the future for me is so easy that I get very impatient waiting for it. Way back in 2005 I wrote a post called, Print 3D Objects on Demand which talked about a breakthrough in 3D printing technology that promised to turn computer aided design in to end-products in an instant. 

Since then we have come a long way but I’m still impatiently waiting for mainstreaming, even though I’m about to jump in to MakerBot, “…a company founded in January 2009 by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach Smith producing an open source 3D printer to democratize manufacturing. You order it, build it, and you have a machine that can make you almost anything!

But is mainstreaming close? Yep. The New York Times “Bits” column about “The Business of Technology” had a brief post on Sunday by Nick Bilton about 3D printing called, Disruptions: The 3D Printing Free for All which said, in part:

It won’t be long before people have a 3-D printer sitting at home alongside its old inkjet counterpart. These 3-D printers, some already costing less than a computer did in 1999, can print objects by spraying layers of plastic, metal or ceramics into shapes. People can download plans for an object, hit print, and a few minutes later have it in their hands.

Near the end Bilton writes:

A recent research paper published by the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., titled The Future of Open Fabrication, says 3-D printing will be manufacturing’s Big Bang as jobs in manufacturing, many overseas, and jobs shipping products around the globe are replaced by companies setting up 3-D fabrication labs in stores to print objects rather than ship them.

No question we’re a ways off from buying a 3D printer for our home to make finished goods, “Honey! Will you come here and look at these designs online so we can start printing our plates for Thanksgiving?” More likely 3D printing is going to first enable organizations to rapidly prototype new designs and shorten the cycle times for taking a great idea or innovation to manufacturing. Later on we’ll undoubtedly head over to a “Kinkos for 3D Printing” to have stuff made on industrial-strength printers, like those made by my hometown dominant player in the space, Stratasys

But who knows? Maybe breakthroughs in nano-materials will enable us to buy a 3D printer at Best Buy and crank out all sorts of finished goods right at home. Finally I’ll be able to just ‘print’ my ideas vs. taking weeks to get a production-ready prototype.

To learn more: