Monthly Archives: April 2007

Mind Set!

I just finished reading John Naisbitt‘s Mind Set!: Reset Your Thinking and See the Future. (You can download a PDF of its table of contents, prologue and introduction here.) I can certainly recommend this book, and it has piqued my interest in one of his earlier books, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives–a sum of local analyses can lead to a “megatrend.”

The author describes a mindset in terms of how we receive information. A mindset impacts one’s perception and one’s reality–perception of reality can be self-fulfilling when deliberate enough. In particular, Mind Set! is focused on “mindsets that are deliberately developed for a purpose.”

What purposes do I have in mind? What mindsets are required of me to achieve them?

Mind Set!

Part one (of two) is focused on the following eleven mindsets:

  1. While many things change, most things remain constant
  2. The future is embedded in the present
  3. Focus on the score of the game
  4. Understanding how powerful it is not to have to be right
  5. See the future as a picture puzzle
  6. Don’t get so far ahead of the parade that people don’t know you’re in it
  7. Resistance to change falls if benefits are real
  8. Things that we expect to happen always happen more slowly
  9. You don’t get results by solving problems but by exploiting opportunities
  10. Don’t add unless you subtract
  11. Don’t forget the ecology of technology

(#1) “Most change is not in what we do, but how we do it.” Mr. Naisbitt is adamant that business is more about constancy than it is about change. He advises to differentiate between the following concerns: basics and embellishment, rules and techniques, trends and fads, and breakthroughs and refinements.

(#2) “We find the seeds of the future on the ground, and not in the width of the sky.” Mr. Naisbitt also cautions: “Basic change is the result of a confluence of forces, rarely because of just one force (especially when it is against the recited wisdom).” Consider the term “news hole” and the impact of print media going away and being replaced by digital/online media (e.g. InfoWorld). Is the size of the “hole” fundamentally changing? What new disciplines are required in light of these changes? “While it is crucial to be well instructed, it is not the amount of information we collect but how consciously we receive it.” Be verifying and selective where source of information are concerned. Optimize signal-to-noise ratio. Maximize value for time spent and attention given.

(#3) “In business, politics, or private life, the gap between words and facts widens when personal pride is involved. Often it’s not the promises made but the problems hidden. In the fight for performance, the power of having to be right often takes over. Don’t be misled; check the score of the game.” Rhetoric does not beget performance. Simplification to increase transparency wards off the camouflage of complexity.

(#4) “Having to be right becomes a barrier to learning and understanding. It keeps you away from growing, for there is no growth without changing, correcting, and questioning yourself.” One would be wise to emulate Albert Einstein who was more focused on what than who.

(#5) To assemble the puzzle, value intuition over calculation; so, develop your intuition (e.g. ability to correctly time slice). Make the proper connections, and pick ripe fruits.

(#6) “Even the most talented leaders need the parade to put an idea into practice. If we have the parade too far behind and run ahead with our vision, we will be running empty miles.”

(#7) “Do not underestimate people. When they resist change–change you think they ought to readily embrace–you have either failed to make benefits transparent or there are good reasons to resist. In that case, instead of lamenting the resistance, look for their reasons for resisting.”

(#8) “Expectations always travel at higher speeds [than results].” Follow the path of least resistance (e.g. flood with ideas to see which “break out,” where and how, too).

(#9) “You don’t get results by solving problems but by exploiting opportunities.” To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, if you don’t find the circumstances you want, create them. So, rather than hunkering down and solving problems (i.e. dealing with yesterday), set sail and create opportunities (i.e. mine the future by understanding its embedding in the present). You’ll need a prepared mind, a strong will and an affinity for (or at least a high tolerance for) repetition (and therefore patience, too).

(#10) Pay attention to the principle of forced choice in a closed system. Produce and retrieve consumable levels of information (i.e. don’t be wasteful). Be selective to avoid paralysis (e.g. the number of books in my library, the number of magazines and feeds I subscribe to, etc.). Strike manageable levels, focusing on relevance and quality of sources. “Our goal should not be to create cemeteries of information, but cradles of knowledge and inspiration.”

(#11) “The more technological our world becomes, the more we need our artists and poets.” As Mr. Naisbitt explains, the artist and creative among us are especially equipped to help society accommodate technology and to help culture evolve through meaningful embrace (e.g. imagination). Regardless of your artistic bent or mine, we can all consider the consequences of our relationship with technology by asking the following questions raised by the author:

  • What will be enhanced?
  • What will be diminished?
  • What will be replaced?
  • What new opportunities does it represent?

Mind Set!

Part two of this book involves the presentation of a set of puzzles assembled using a particular combination of the mindsets presented in part one.

The first puzzle announces: “A visual culture is taking over the world.” This take-over appears to come at the cost of literacy and the written word. Collaterally, verbal and communication skills decline, leading to less informed, less active and less independent minded individuals. In the end, human imagination suffers.

However, to communicate these days one has to project an immersive experience. More importantly, I would argue, one must develop one’s own integrity and authenticity, and consistently serve that up to his or her audience. Where content, data and information is concerned, visualization techniques that promote people as much or more than, for example, documents are increasingly important. One cannot afford to imagine their colleagues attending to their ideas. Rather must be able to qualitatively and quantitatively visualize all-important collaboration around them and progress about them. For example, when I seed an idea, who most consistently contributes to its germination?

The second puzzle articulates how we’re moving from nation-states to economic domains, not multinational corporations. Mr. Naisbitt advises the reader to study the economic activity of a domain (e.g. all products and services for enterprise content management) as the way to know the score of the game. He suggests that behavior in economic domains shall:

  • Cause countries to enhance their identities by becoming more culturally nationalistic.
  • Cause companies to be defined by their confederations and networks of entrepreneurs.
  • Cause a mass customization of talent where individual talent is fitted to needs–globally. That is Free Agent Nation but on a global scale.

The global trading system is regrouping at a higher level; therefore, our number one economic priority must be education and training. It also sounds like a fantastic opportunity for a new breed of talent agencies to rise up and connect “players” and “teams.”

The next two puzzles dealt with China and Europe, respectively. I’m convinced that I need to visit China–reading and research alone are insufficient for me to appreciate its ramifications on my work and livelihood. I’m also convinced that if I ever start a company with global aspirations, I’ll insist on an Asian Pacific sales and marketing strategy before one focused on the European Union–recall the author’s “Mutually Assured Destruction” criticism of the EU (e.g. central planning and individual freedom cannot coexist).

The fifth and final puzzle addresses the present innovation reservoir borne out of revolutions from the 1980’s and 1990’s. Mr. Naisbitt submits that such a period of discontinuous changes begets a longer period of continuous changes–an evolutionary era of great opportunity and a period that builds on a ground already prepared.

Mind Set!

I’ve already changed how I go about my research and how I gauge the value in contributing sources based on reading Mind Set! I’m committed more than ever to reading more of the thought-through and less of the off-the-cuff (e.g. with respect to the printed word (roughly): books > research papers > magazines > blogs).

This book has tempered my thinking and my expectations. Hopefully both are more realistic in light of applying and learning to apply several of the mindsets Mr. Naisbitt details.

Mind Set!

Update 8/10/2007 (via The Journal of the EDS Agility Alliance): “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” -John Naisbitt, in his 1982 book Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.

About character and reputation

I recently came across the following quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Considering how the passing of the sun, for example, causes a tree’s shadow to change shape (and finally disappear), the President’s statement gives me pause. How much time do I devote to “shadow observation” rather than observing the tree itself? How much time do I attend to my “personal tree” instead of worrying about shadows currently cast by it (i.e. others’ perceptions)?

Software factories and automobile assembly lines

At the Microsoft MVP 2007 Global Summit held last month, I had the opportunity to hear Jack Greenfield talk about software factories. During Jack’s presentation Sam Gentile essentially remarked that while he understands and uses software factories, he doesn’t understand the point/value of software product lines (e.g. BDUF vs. agile…).

As Jack provided a thoughtful response, I too was thinking about how I’d reply. The following analogy came to mind–from an episode of The History Channel’s “Modern Marvels” show on the subject of assembly lines. (You can view a small portion of the show online here.)

Henry Ford was quite successful in cementing the role of the assembly line in automobile manufacturing. A well-known remark of his is, “You can have whatever color you want as long as it’s black.” And the way Ford tooled and drove its assembly line exemplified this focus. After Ford’s workforce rebelled against the ever-increasing speed of the line and was wooed back by essentially by money, Ford’s customer base increased its demand for customization–even just a change in external paint color. Enter GM.

GM was able to grab a fair bit of market share from Ford by understanding how to copy Ford’s success while also addressing consumer demand for increased choice.

Later, after choice was commoditized (i.e. presumed by the consumer), quality came to the foreground. Enter Toyota.

Toyota dramatically changed the role of the line worker to a fully empowered, responsible agent of quality and process improvement. Instead of increasing production by dialing up the speed of the line, Toyota practiced “kaizen.” Its management reduced available resources by 10% and expected/supported the line to adapt. Quality wasn’t a job–recall Ford’s more recent “quality is job one” campaign–it was a mindset…a workplace lifestyle, if you will.

Now South Korea and its Hyundai corporation are getting into the fray with an emphasis on enhancing quality through robotics and repeatable fine tolerances in manufacturing as a result. A May 2007 Motor Trend article about Hyundai’s recently revealed Concept Genesis emphasized the potential of a car that can compete with a Lexus while featuring a price of a Toyota. Sounds like more disruption to me.

Back to software factories and software product lines…

At its very beginning, Ford represented (just) a software factory. GM represents an initial software product line–harvesting assets from Ford. Toyota represents a later software product line–harvesting assets from GM and from Ford.

Perhaps Ford could have kept GM at bay or out of its market by taking more of a “software product line” mentality from the get-go–similarly, American auto makers and the likes of Toyota and Honda (Japanese auto makers).

Later, another MVP remarked that his essential concern is protection from what is going to change (or from “variability” to reference Jack’s translation of this concern). I believe that a software product line practice can raise visibility here and also to the inverse concern: Where are my fundamental assumptions? What are my invariants and what happens when change happens there?

In the case of automobile makers like Ford, GM and Toyota, history offers powerful examples of why architects should pursue software product lines and understand how they underlie software factories.