BEATING BLIND SPOTS

October 20th, 2014

One of the most important prerequisites for leadership growth is beating your blind spots.  Perfect people do not have any blind spots.  Therefore, if you are a perfect person, then this material will not apply to you.  Read no further.

You are still reading.  That is a good sign because it means you—like me—recognize that we are not perfect.  We all have blind spots.  We have come to understand that the question is not whether we have blind spots, but rather what are we doing to eliminate them where possible and compensate for the ones we cannot completely eliminate?  Blind spot awareness is something that tends to grow over time if we are personally and professionally committed to growth.

Blind spot awareness directly correlates with a willingness to learn.  When a person is new in a certain industry or position, it is easy to be overconfident after acquiring a nominal knowledge of that new world.  However, when that occurs, then that person will tend to have many blind spots and not even know they exist.  Additional learning is usually the key to conquering those blind spots.

Blind spot awareness correlates with humility.  An arrogant or prideful person will have difficulty recognizing his or her blind spots.  However, amazing things can happen when that same person shifts to a humble attitude.  Opportunities will abound for gaining insights into blind spots and how to conquer them.

Blind spot awareness correlates with a willingness to receive feedback from other people.  I am certain that you have observed a certain person manifesting a serious fault or flaw in some aspect of leadership or performance.  You probably looked at that person and could not believe that she did not see what was happening.  Turn the tables on this.  Is it possible you have ever been that certain person?  We all have.  That is why continuously demonstrating an approachable persona is extremely important.

The worst thing about blind spots is that they enable us to do damage ignorantly.  That is why recognizing blind spots is crucial so that we can correct them or compensate for them.





tDCS IS COMING SOON

October 17th, 2014

Advancements in neuroscience, medicine, and learning have taken us to an interesting place.  Alexis Madrigal describes its background (“Prepare To Be Shocked” The Atlantic, September 2014, pp. 28–30):

Several years ago, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency got wind of a technique called transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, which promised something extraordinary: a way to increase people’s performance in various capacities, from motor skills (in the case of recovering stroke patients) to language learning, all by stimulating their brains with electrical current.” (p. 28)

Thync is a startup based in Los Gatos, California.  Having already raised $13 million from investors, it plans to sell a small, Bluetooth-enabled tDCS device beginning next year.  Brad Stone reports on Thync’s marketing strategy (“Just Relax” Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/13/14–10/19/14, pp. 35–36):

While most scientists are focused on the therapeutic effects of tDCS, Thync is developing it as an alternative to mood-altering drugs such as alcohol and caffeine.” (p. 35)

Alcohol and caffeine work in two different directions.  Alcohol is a depressant whereas caffeine is a stimulant.  That is why the device can be set to whichever cranial effect is desired: “calm vibe” or “energy vibe.”

Technologically, this is fascinating.  Therapeutically, it has the promise of changing people’s approach to mood-altering drugs.  Commercially, this will be a very interesting niche to watch.

Many unknowns exist.  Even Thync states that one of the biggest challenges is simply helping the consumer understand how to apply the device so that the correct electrical stimulation occurs.  I would assume that Thync has done its homework in mapping the device to the brain.  Otherwise, you are just wasting electricity or in a worst-case scenario, injuring your brain.

Currently, the company is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration to ensure regulatory compliance.  Thync’s CEO, Isy Goldwasser, is very optimistic.  He leaves us with an enticing sales pitch:

‘the energy you’re getting is your energy, the calm you’re feeling is your calm, the self-control you feel is your self-control.  We aren’t changing you at all.  It’s your body and mind responding to a signal.’





PASSIONATE PURPOSE BRINGS THE NUMBERS

October 16th, 2014

Revenue, profit, sales, and other financial metrics are all important to a business.  That is why we measure them.  As important as they all are however, it is more important to ensure that the organization has a clearly defined purpose for existence.  The organization’s purpose will drive its numbers.  I like the way Jon Gordon expresses this truth in his book, The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2011):

When a company focuses on its purpose instead of numbers, everyone is passionate and energized and this energy fuels performance and enhances the bottom line.  . . . It’s not the numbers that drive people, it’s your people and purpose that drive the numbers.” (p. 115)

You cannot be focused on your purpose without it driving your numbers.  Every decision you make will first pass through the grid of does this help our purpose?  If it helps your purpose, then it has to help your numbers.  If it will not help your purpose, then it cannot help your numbers.

Numbers do not understand purpose; passionate people do.





BAD ENOUGH TO BE GOOD

October 15th, 2014

Danny Meyer is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group.  He has successfully launched numerous restaurants.  In so doing, he has faced many obstacles.  Out of that experience he shares some wisdom for all businesspersons (“Pivot” Inc., June 2014, pp. 72–79):

Any great business has to figure out how to turn adversity into advantage, by determining what is good about the new situation.

What I love about this affirmation is that it condemns complacency and endorses creativity.  It is not that you are ignoring the difficulties, but you are disciplining yourself to envision a better future.  Rather than giving in to a defeatist mentality, you are exercising the opportunity to analyze the new situation so that you discover hidden advantages.  It is these hidden advantages that reveal a new strategy.

The next time you are facing adversity, immediately ask the question how can I turn this into an advantage?  What is good about my new situation?  If you do that, then you will find greater success than you could have imagined.

Is the situation bad enough to be good?  If you look hard enough, it will be.





WILL DIRECT BRAIN STIMULATION ENHANCE INTELLIGENCE?

October 14th, 2014

Advancements in neuroscience, medicine, and learning have taken us to an interesting place.  Alexis Madrigal describes its background (“Prepare To Be Shocked” The Atlantic, September 2014, pp. 28–30):

Several years ago, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency got wind of a technique called transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, which promised something extraordinary: a way to increase people’s performance in various capacities, from motor skills (in the case of recovering stroke patients) to language learning, all by stimulating their brains with electrical current.” (p. 28)

This is very exciting because it represents the confluence of several disciplines to produce a potentially powerful human benefit.  Here are four key predictions about where all this might take us:

1—Brain stimulation will expand our understanding of the brain-mind connection.

2—DIY brain stimulation will be popular—and risky.

3—Electrical stimulation is just the beginning.

4—The most important application may be clinical treatment.” (p. 30)

These predictions are significant for several reasons.  As with any new field, the potential for error is serious if not handled carefully.  This reminds me of some of the early studies in virtual reality in which participants become so enmeshed in their virtual worlds, that upon disengagement they experienced severe depression and disorientation.  Just as we learned with virtual reality, the promise of tDCS is great, but it will have to be used and monitored sensitively.  There will be wise and unwise ways to use tDCS.  Hopefully, we will be able to focus on the wise.





EXPECTANT LEADERSHIP

October 13th, 2014

Do not expect in others what you do not first see in yourself.  That is a leadership principle.  If you are a genuine leader, then you will first be modeling the leadership that you expect your followers to embrace.

Sometimes this is difficult.  You cannot model what you have not first embraced.  It is only by effective modeling that your leadership gains credibility.

If you expect patience, care, kindness, and diligence in your followers, then by this leadership principle, you have some accountability.  Are you modeling that patience, care, kindness, and diligence?  If you expect your followers to provide an excellent customer experience, are you providing an excellent customer experience?  If you expect your followers to project a positive attitude, are you projecting a positive attitude?  If you expect your followers to be continuously learning and growing, are you continuously learning and growing?

Leadership is easier said than done.  Every leader knows this.  Expectant leadership is one principle you can never escape.  However, the expecting only finds its fulfillment when you are doing the modeling first.  If you are not modeling, then it makes no sense to be expecting.





THE LUNCH CRUNCH

October 10th, 2014

Not all that goes crunch is lunch.  Most people would likely agree with that statement, especially when they think of bugs for lunch.  On the other hand, we have a new trend developing of insect consumption as a normal dietary practice.  Katie Van Syckle describes her first experience of having bugs for lunch (“Crickets for Lunch: The Insect Food of the Future Is Finally Here” Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/6/14–10/12/14, p. 90):

At first bite, Exo’s cricket-based protein bar tastes like a fancy Fig Newton.  The cacao nut variety, in particular, has a similar crumbly texture and datelike flavor, with boozy notes of brandy.  Pairing it with coffee, I forget I’m eating the arms, legs, heads, and wings of 40 bugs that have been pulverized into cricket flour to produce the treat, which you can buy for $3 at health-food stores.

The trend is catching on at gyms, health-food stores, and specialty restaurants.  As with any new, exotic, or nontraditional food, getting beyond the ick factor can be a challenge:

There’s a reason vanilla and cinnamon are still high on Exo’s ingredient list.  Will the average consumer eat dried bugs?

Exo remains optimistic.  It sees its cricket-based protein bar as the gateway bug.  And we all know what happens from there!





PICK UP AN ALGORITHM ON THE WAY HOME

October 9th, 2014

Kenny Daniel and Diego Oppenheimer are the founders of a startup called Algorithmia.  Algorithmia is essentially a virtual marketplace where companies can purchase algorithms, small snippets of code, or complete programs.  Academic coders contribute code to the startup, which then makes that code available to companies.  The areas of specialization include (Olga Kharif, “Innovation: Algorithmia” Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/6/14–10/12/14, p. 45):

language-recognition functions, . . . analytics for Web traffic or predicting user purchases.

Daniels clarifies the startup’s purpose as:

a way of crowdsourcing artificial intelligence.  . . . We want to bring together algorithms that do image processing and language processing and hopefully build a more intelligent system.

I think the collaborative networking aspect of Algorithmia is outstanding.  It is another example of excellent partnership between businesses and institutions of higher learning.  When you consider all the talent residing in our academic community, the prospects are staggering.

Finally, if a company cannot find the code it seeks, it is free to post a reward for the specified coding.  Subsequently, the company and the programmer who creates it can negotiate a licensing deal.





A MIGHTY LONG EXTENSION CORD

October 8th, 2014

Electric cars are the coolest things, but those extension cords are what really kill them.  We’ve all heard that argument, in one form or another, anytime electric cars are discussed.  Battery technology faces a daunting challenge to create a system that will produce reliable, long-term power.  Without that, consumers and businesses simply are not interested.

A major positive development might finally be arriving on the battery scene.  According to Ann Marie Sastry (the founder of Sakti3), the kilowatt-hour cost of her company’s batteries will become as low as $100.  That is significantly cheaper than Tesla’s batteries estimated to be about five times that amount.  The key is the use of a new solid-state electrolyte.  It is more stable and easier to work with compared to traditional battery technology (Brian Dumaine, “Will This Battery Change Everything?” Fortune, October 6, 2014, pp. 33–34):

Sastry knew that getting rid of the liquid electrolyte and replacing it with a solid wall would eliminate a host of problems.  Liquid electrolyte provides great conductivity to push lithium back and forth in the battery, but it can cause chemical reactions that over time degrade batteries or, worse, cause meltdowns and fires, such as the ones that occurred in a Boeing 787 and in Sony and Dell laptops.” (p. 34)

Because everything is solid state, the manufacturing process is similar to that of computer chips.  This means that it is faster and cheaper.  Sastry’s has several financial backers who share her vision, including the state of Michigan, Itochu, and GM.

I think battery technology is a stupendous thing when it powers my smartphone.  I remain a bit more apprehensive when I am driving hundreds of miles across the country.  My questions are:

How reliable will this battery technology be?

How well will this battery technology hold up over five, ten, or more years?

Will the safety edge remain?

Will the replacement costs be prohibitive for the average consumer?

As Sakti3 forges ahead, these questions and many others will no doubt be answered.  It is those answers that will convince me to plug in or just fill the tank.





ANTIFACEBOOK

October 7th, 2014

For every movement there is an antimovement.  Facebook is no exception to the rule.  I came across an interesting antiFacebook called Ello.  Here is Ello’s manifesto (www.ello.co “Manifesto”):

Your social network is owned by advertisers.  Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data.  Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads.  You are the product that’s bought and sold.  We believe there is a better way.  We believe in audacity.  We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency.  We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.  We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment.  Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate—but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.  You are not a product.

As opposed to Facebook’s intensely visual newsfeed laced with ads, Ello tends to be minimalist.  Some user data is collected for site improvement and you do have to set some privacy options.  Currently, Ello has no revenue source, although special features for a fee are said to be forthcoming.  Ello also takes donations.

Would you like to join Ello?  If so, you cannot simply create an account.  You must first register to be considered for an invitation.  Once registered, then you are on Ello’s wait list.  When Ello decides to issue a new batch of invitations, you might be on the list.

With all the new online networks being created daily, it is hard to know just how far Ello will go.  However, given that Ello is specifically positioning itself as the opposite of Facebook, perhaps Ello will be one of the next big things.  Of course, how big Ello can grow without ad revenue is another question entirely.