27 September 2008

The end of the credit crisis is not nigh?

A recent post by Chris Penn about the current credit crisis included this great chart. It shows clearly the remaining pieces that need to unfold in this drama.

So, like Churchill said, perhaps this is the end of the beginning?

For me this means that it is time to think seriously about simplicity and what is really important in life. Time to focus and get organised. Time to be brave.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

#WDS08 Final day and night

Made it back from speaking at Small Business September events in regional NSW to attend the final day of Web Directions South 08 in Sydney.

Again Maxine, John and the team put on a great event and diverse range of speakers.

The real standout presentations for me - because they made me think - were from Jeffrey Veen and Mark Pesce.

Veen talked about data and the importance of data visualisation in a web 2.0 world where we enable users to control the rendering of our data.  He used the great example of John Snow who used visually presented data to convince his peers that cholera was caused by water rather than bad air. Looking forward to seeing his slides again for more cogitation.

While Pesce, dressed in red and black for a reason, gave a rousing call for us to realise that anarcho-syndicalism is the answer.  As he stated: "A system with no hierarchy, no bosses, no secrets, no politics. (Well, maybe that last one is asking too much.) Anarcho-syndicalism takes as a given that all men are created equal, and therefore each have a say in what they choose to do."

The interesting thing about his notion is that for it to work we need to open source and collectively build a peer to peer network that is equal to or better than that provided by the telcos.  Some animated discussion afterwards made me think that we are on the brink of this possibility.

Of course, the after party and dinner were great fun and the pics are on Flickr.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

26 September 2008

Geek speak made simple

This is a really good presentation from Oracle that helps to translate geek speak and culture ...

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

25 September 2008

Slides from Small Business September 2008

Here is a copy of my slides from seminars in Taree and Coffs Harbour for small business owners:

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

17 September 2008

Six Sigma & Innovation

There has been a lot of criticism about Six Sigma especially in relation to innovation, for example here in Tom Peters On Six Sigma Vs. Innovation.

It seems that many people misunderstand the origins of Six Sigma as a process improvement methodology. Six Sigma grew out of the TQM movement in the late 1980s when we were all focused on making major efficiency improvements in response to tough economic times and on improving quality to compete more effectively.

The Six Sigma methodology has two flavours, each with a slightly different focus. D-M-A-I-C, which is focused on improvement of existing processes, and D-F-S-S (a.k.a D-M-A-D-V), which is focused on developing new processes or repairing broken processes.

Six Sigma was never a methodology directed at innovation, however, it can work well with other innovation methodologies like Triz. Although once people started using Six Sigma at GE attempts were made to use it as the basis of structured approaches to new product development. This was done by adapting DFSS and applying it to product development.

But a key thing that the discipline of Six Sigma can give an organisation is a structured and coordinated approach to process design. Realistically any other structured and coordinated approach can also give similar benefits. Six Sigma enables the development of a common language, a common way of measurement and tracking. These competencies are often fragmented within an organisation.

Certain competencies are necessary for an organisation. If a company cannot undertake its base or core activities in the most efficient way possible, i.e. routinize the boring stuff, how can they free up the resources to do the cool stuff?

That is the benefit that Six Sigma can give, make the routine stuff run really cost effectively and efficiently. Thus freeing up resources to focus on innovation and new product development.

But anyone who is dumb enough to try and use a process improvement methodology to drive innovation deserves whatever badness arises as a result. IMHO two different things - business as usual v. innovation - need (at least) two different approaches.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

16 September 2008

Learning Organisations & Failure to Learn

One of the best critical analyses of learning organisations is John Nagl's book comparing the British and US armies in Asia post World War 2.

The specifics of each organisation in its particular context are interesting from a historical perspective. However, of more importance are the general principles of learning organisations. It is interesting that Nagl identifies socio-cultural factors as important in both the ability of the British army to adapt to the situation in Malaya and in the failure of the American army to adapt to the situation in Vietnam.

Nagl brings real life military experience to his analysis (having served in the Gulf War & Iraq). But it is his understanding of the 'soft' issues that really stands out for me. For example, the British class structure - where everyone knew their relative position - is seen as freeing people up to accept new information. It is typical of the challenges we face in the workplace today.

Those of us who wish to democratise and empower the workplace are fighting against the forces of coercion and control. This kind of change is all about 'soft' issues and this book is worth a read in that light.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

12 September 2008

eLearning 08 Conference

Just back from a planning session with @robynjay for the eLearning 08 Conference, which is scheduled for December 2008 in Sydney. It sounds like an interesting conference. Mark Pesce is going to deliver the keynote and I will be facilitating interactive panel sessions.

And for these panel sessions interactivity is the watchword. No passive observers! It's going to be all about engagement, inspiration and passion. Can't wait.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

11 September 2008

Free stuff (like hugs)

Had an interesting conversation with Juan Mann today in Sydney (accompanied by free hugs, of course). We discussed free hugs, free stuff in general and it made me conscious of how many offers for free stuff that we receive that are actually not free. Instead, they are usually designed to get us to buy some other item. This idea of free stuff has been taken over in our commercialised world and we even joke that there is 'no such thing as a free lunch'.

But on the other hand, we also have a saying 'the best things in life are free'. The free hug I received today made me really mindful of how much I want to tune into those non-commercial things, the best things that are free. Things like a sunny day, a hug or a puppy.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

9 September 2008

Interesting Corporate Blog

Have been thinking and talking to lots of people about Enterprise 2.0 recently and came across an interesting blog by some people at Oracle in Australia. Their blog - The Red Room - is a great example of grass roots corporate blogging to reach out to stakeholders.

It is really worth a look as these folks seem to be engaged in genuine dialogue and communication (very un-Oracle if you know what I mean).

The blog aggregates stuff they find interesting around the traps and shares useful Oracle technology related information. They are also experimenting with different media such as podcasts and slideshows to see what works.

Good to see a human face on such a big company for a change! Impressive that Oracle is communicating on a human level for once.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

8 September 2008

Small Business Oz & Technology

A conversation with Simon Sharwood at Tech.Ed Sydney regarding his recent article on small business technology really helped to crystallise some thinking for me.

Because most of my working life has been inside large organisations like GE, AMP, Citigroup or government the problems of technology pricing had never really impinged on my consciousness. However, now that I am running several small businesses this issue is top of mind.

Decisions about spending even small amounts like $1,000 are critical to a small business. We cannot afford to spend our cash unwisely. Also many small business people do not have many technical skills that would enable them to do a lot of work themselves. Thus a decision to acquire technology is coupled with the need for assistance in setting up and running that technology - there are few IT departments available in small business land.

With entry level pricing for many technology solutions at $10,000 plus the barriers for small business in Australia are enormous. This makes SaaS solutions coupled with decent broadband access utterly critical to small business growth in Australia.

The first companies that get this right and understand the right price-points for small business will be able to own the niche. It is a niche that is totally under serviced at present, but which has great need for help. But that help must come at the right price.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

7 September 2008

Happy happy joy joy a mobile phone that works

I have been watching the iPhone clutching hordes of my acquaintance with their pretty new phones and wondering if that was the answer for me. But something stopped me from queueing up to collect my iPhone overnight in the winter cold with my buddies. It was the thought that my needs were more utilitarian than theirs. I just need a phone that works, that makes phone calls reliably and which enables me to leave my notebook PC or MacBook at home.

Discussing these business needs with friends it was suggested that I try an HTC phone. A friend over at Microsoft arranged for a loan phone for me to try - the HTC Dual Touch.

I've been putting this phone through it's paces for a fortnight now and it is my favourite phone ever! A deliberate strategy was to ignore the user manual as I wanted to see how intuitive this phone is. And it is pretty intuitive to use without referring to the manual.

The practical reasons I'm loving this phone are:

  • I can leave my notebook computers (MacBook and eee PC) at home & still surf the net, Twitter and email on the go
  • It has a touch screen as well as a number pad - so I can switch between the two as I choose
  • It works like a real PC and the Windows Mobile is stable and easy to use
  • The internet is fast with the 3G
My wish list? I wish the HTC Dual Touch reoriented the screen from portrait to landscape when the phone is rotated. I also wish that the keylock would not kick in while I'm browsing the net. These are minor issues and usually by this stage of phone usage I'm starting to experience regret. But right now, I'm thinking that this is a good phone that delivers what it promises.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

4 September 2008

Mobile Phone Saga I

I have learned to hate many mobile phones over the past few years. They have promised much but delivered little of that promise. They often even failed to deliver on the basic promise of making telephone calls reliably.

Sony Ericsson invented a really complex and multi-layered menu system that I gave up on quite quickly. Although, for a phone it did play music quite well.

Nokia provided reliable phones that generally worked but which failed to deliver on any promises over and above making phone calls. Using the Internet or GPS navigation on them was a pain. Also these features killed the battery in mere minutes. It is worth noting that I never did get around to acquiring an N95 (on many accounts an impressive device).

But the phone that I have hated the most is a Samsung. The quality issues with the Samsung were so bad that it went back to them for repairs three or four times in the first 3 months. It barely worked as a mobile phone and totally failed to deliver any other functionality. As a result I now refuse to purchase anything manufactured by Samsung as they are synonymous with rubbish quality in my mind now.

Now I ponder, how hard is it really to design a mobile phone that reliably works as a phone, enables connection to the Internet, plays media files and allows email access? Based on my experience to date this must be harder than putting human kind into space.

The picture above shows a selection of my phones dating from about 2003.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Bargain Deal at #WDS

You can attend Web 2.0 Executive Bootcamp at Web Directions South at a bargain price (according to my buddy @trib).

Register here and quote the discount code - W2BAL - with this deal you're getting a hefty discount to the normal price.

BTW, Web Directions South is shaping up to be an interesting event with some challenging topics up for discussion and some amazing speakers.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

2 September 2008

Geek Tribes are Melding

We are seeing a fluidity in the way techies interact with different technologies today. This topic came up in a conversation with @ceibner at Microsoft Tech Ed earlier today.

In the past people focused on a very narrow (often proprietary) technology stack, such as Java or .NET. However, now with web 2.0 most people in the technology world interact with a broad range of different technologies. We might use open source tools like Blogger, Wordpress, Media Wiki, or Wikispaces to quickly put together a blog or a wiki, while still using the corporate platforms like .NET or Java at work. At home we might use PHP, Joomla or Drupal to put together a website for our friends or community. Out of curiosity we download and experiment with Photosynth or AIR.

This diversity and richness in the technology available to us now really drives creativity. It is only possible because of the philosophical breath of fresh air from web 2.0 that has begun to break down the barriers between languages and platforms. This ability to understand, use and mashup many diverse technologies has really liberated us from the old locked-in mentality of the past.

It was quite refreshing to talk to people at a Microsoft event today and to realise that these practitioners are using a wide range of tools to meet business and personal needs. The barriers in our own minds about these technologies is dropping away and enabling some real creativity.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Geek Girls at Tech Ed Sydney

Had some fun today with @ceibner and @alegrya at Microsoft TechEd, also ran into @rog42 and @nickhodge - a few pics are up on Flickr

Also was on panel session for high school students at TechEd this morning with @nazzer and Dorothea and Ms Megabyte talking about ICT careers for women (we were in the affirmative on this topic)

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire