Zeitgeist

Zeit·geist = spirit, essence of a particular time

A collection of food-for-thought posts and articles on technology, business, leadership and management. 

Metanoia (n.) the journey of changing one's mind, self or way of life

A conversation over the weekend with Peter Simons, co-founder of Performant, a management consulting firm, turned into a twitter dialog which, eventually, sparked other thoughts and ended up with his ideas about change in my inbox.  His views around change & perceptions are too good not to be shared (thanks Peter for permission to reproduce in here), not to mention his formula to calculate quality of feelings as a function of change in perceptions, simply brilliant (nerds & quants please feel free to comment or elaborate).

Metanoia

CHANGES

Changes in our lives are important and cannot be avoided.  We normally do not like them, they trigger us to take action.

There are many simple examples how we react to changes. If temperature starts raising we notice.

If light levels or sound levels suddenly change we react.  If something in our view suddenly moves we look at it before we know.

The reason is that when we lived in trees we needed those triggers in order to survive.

Today changes affect us in the following way: If something changes for the better we are happy. If it changes for the worst we dislike.  Once better or worse we do not pay attention to it anymore. We get used to it. Hence only the CHANGES give a stimulus to our mood, to our lives.  Please understand the importance of changes to the way you are.

PERCEPTION

Whatever we do in live is mainly driven by perceptions. Marketers now that very well.

We hardly take the time to verify and we believe what we perceive.  The media are very good at that. We assume a lot and that is dangerous.

News shows one side of the story:  the accident with the aircraft. They will NOT TELL US how many aircrafts landed safely.

They will not tell us about all the peaceful muslims on earth after a car bomb kills an American soldier in Afghanistan etc..

It would be worth to THINK at least  a few minutes once digesting information.

QUALITY

Here we go.  We are triggered by changes. You cannot always manage changes yourself.  Or can you? Yes you can because a large part of those changes are changes in PERCEPTIONS.  We are triggered by CHANGES IN PERCEPTIONS:

For those who love mathematics:

U = d(Perception)/dt .

where U is the quality of the feeling that was triggered. It can be positive or negative

Once you understand that,

YOU yourself can change your perceptions too.

- look at the flip side of a story, what was NOT TOLD???

- if you have a bad moment start to think that tomorrow probably will be better and if tomorrow arrives ENJOY the improvement

- in conflicts with other people try to understand that a large part of the conflict is probably based on perceptions. Find out what really goes on instead of assuming

Three ways of improving your quality of life, personally and professionally. It improves your decision-making.

Good news: think about it and you will find that there are many more ways of changing your perception.

About Peter Simons

By applying the management techniques he learnt at AT&T, Peter turned smaller technology companies into successful businesses. In the current crisis he is co-founder of Cohen & Simons that assists companies in financing industrial, technology and life science companies.

Peter holds an MSc (Hons) in electrical engineering from Eindhoven University of Technology and an MBA (Hons) in finance and general management from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

@efernandez

The 20 mile march

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This is an updated (and corrected) version of a post from January last year. Found it incredibly valid these days, even if it will turn 2 years old in a few months.   

You may be familiar with the "20 mile per day" concept, originally coined in the business world by Jim Collins, referred in his latest book Great by Choice, a leadership oriented publication which came after Good to Great from same author.

To be honest, I have not been able to finish reading any of these two books. The second and earlier one, Good to Great was given to me some time ago. Actually, I received two copies, probably because the sender thought I needed two to make sure I couldn't escape from the learnings... but, as usual, I am much faster than knowledge.

But the important point here is about the journey, the journey itself and how to reach your destination, or, in business (or life) terms, how to accomplish your goals.

The 20 mile a day approach is totally about HOW. Once you have set up your goal (business or strategic targets), and based on the environment (market, competition, and/or other 3rd parties' elements), you should take a look at yourself (resources, competences) and make a bold (...ad here...) decision:

this is HOW I am going to make it

Surprisingly enough, the statement "this is HOW I am going to make it" delivers only 15 entries in Google search (actually 13+2), versus 489 results for

This is my GOAL

Which confirms two things:

1. There is more gravitation towards Objectives (and Strategy in general) compared to Execution, and...

2. This post (based on 1) is fit for purpose considering Execution should take 98% of our energy, as Tom Peters says and many times ReTweeted:

  1. About all you need to know: Execution is "the last 98%." Put people 1st-2nd-3rd. Cut the crap and do something-anything ... RIGHT NOW.
    Fri, Jan 06 2012 21:33:17

Here is the story:

The race to the South Pole happened in 1911, a century (+1 year) ago, between Scott and Amundsen. Actually, both heroes made it to the pole, however, it was Amundsen who reached his destination 34 days before Scott, and came victorious.

Scott died in his way back from the pole, as a consequence of starvation, cold, and bad planning for a worst case scenario.

Both men, took different approaches towards same goal. Amundsen made it by means of a key execution tactic, the 20 mile a day approach, planning everything, no matter how bad weather was or how steep hills, so they could make an average of 20 miles every day.

In contrast, Scott chose a reckless approach, pushing his crew to travel much further and faster on favorable weather conditions, whenever provided.

Amundsen and his team changed his outfit, and used Eskimo-style skins instead of the heavy wool clothing. They also used skis and dog sleds for transportation. They created supply depots on their way to the south pole, and thoroughly calculated the exact amount of dogs necessary for the trip, actually, part of the food supplies as well.

Amundsen's plan was carefully designed to meet execution requirements, with a long term orientation. Risk was, Scott could eventually go faster, unless weather conditions worsen.

On a personal note, Amundsen's strategy reminds me my personal experience running my first marathon. Over the course of 26 Miles I had to compete against others at the beginning and against myself at the end, controlling carefully pace and running style, adapting to limited physical resources and the ups & downs during the race.

After 20 miles running, no more and no less, step length, body weight balance, muscle workload, or breath control become critical. Is at this point when runners "hit the wall", an invisible physical and sicological barrier which makes many abandon.

Amundsen equals success, success as measured by the traditional metrics recorded in history books. Success defined as reaching your goal, getting to the South Pole, first and before anyone else.

However, I found another success story here.

Scott's team couldn't make it as weather conditions turned against them, and, contrary to Amundsen, they weren't prepared for that. It actually cost them their lives.

These are Scott's last words, just before he died, in his way back from the pole :

We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last ...

Scott and his team literally d-i-e-d pursuing a dream, they strongly believed in what they were doing. Determination, for me, is one of the key ingredients required to deal with reality and make things happen.

They made other mistakes but definitively, they put all they had into it, and with that, comes glory, another form of success, no matter if you arrive second or last, like in a marathon.

 

@efernandez

 

Start up pitch - Engineering Leadership Program at IE Business School

Fascinating times in the tech world. I have learned (the hard way) how the start up pitch process works these days, and what are the key messages to convey to investors to grab their attention (and their funding) for your project.

In essence:

1. Focus on the need (the problem) you are trying to solve. Articulate clearly your solution.

2. Metrics: how big is this thing?. Market size, audiences, where are they? How much interest do they have? proofs? (have you piloted this?)

3. Demo your solution as much as you possibly can.

4. Competition, who are they? risks?

5. Financials: not relevant overall as all investors consider very difficult to predict what will happen. Very important though to state clearly how much funding are you asking for, and what are you gonna do with it.

6. The team. Team is crucial in a start up. Investors invest in people not in projects.  Always secure a capable team with the required experience and competencies.

7. Finally, the most important thing of all: put all the p-a-s-s-i-o-n into it.

Emotions are the engine of everything we do, if you are wholeheartedly committed with the project investors will notice by the way you show your emotions. This gives them confidence you're going to stay even if your project runs out of money.

For us, prior to graduation at the Engineering Leadership Program from IE Business School, we had to present our start up project to a jury of seasoned experts.

Out of the more than a dozen presentations, this project (our project) was selected as the winning start up, see below on slideshare:

[slideshare id=26433685&style=border:1px solid #CCC;border-width:1px 1px 0;margin-bottom:5px&sc=no]

Awarded Best Start-Up project by IE Business School at the Global Engineering Leadership Program in its 2013 edition.

Co-leaders: Antonio Mansilla Laguia, COO Kellogg EMEA & Javier Garcia, CFO Endemol

Jury:

. Paris de L'Etraz. PhD. Managing Director Venture Labs at IE Business School

. Ikhlaq Shidu. PhD. Chief Scientist at UC Berkeley's Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership

. Jorge Montes del Pino. PhD. Business Angel & Advisor. es.linkedin.com/pub/jorge-montes-del-pino/7/831/a56

. Roy Richards. PhD. Columbia Tech. Chairman & Board Member at Southwire Corp.

About the Global Engineering Leadership executive program: UC Berkeley has partnered with the IE Business School (ranked 7 globally) and the prestigious Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to offer a global version of the Silicon Valley Engineering Leadership Program.

Click here to see the video.

Thanks to Antonio Mansilla, COO Southern EMEA at Kellog as well as to Javier Garcia, CFO and board member at Endemol.

Thanks also to Mario, Antonio's 9 years old son, who kindly let us into his room at his home to install the Smarthings hub we used for demoing purposes.

@efernandez

The Sales Cycle Inside Out #toomuchtimeonplanes

sales cycle

The full picture behind a handshake, the universal expression of a successful transaction, a sale, has many similarities with other processes in physics, like the behavior of sub-atomic particles in a fusion process where atoms combine at the expense of energy to achieve a 'desired' new stable form. In a short-sighted view, a sale, is just a transactional consequence of the collision between a problem and its potential solution. Beyond the solution, it's about 'the job to be done', as analyst Horace Dediu many times refers to.

Problems belong to buyers, who are perpetually in active seek of solutions, in a dance surrounded of sellers.

 sales

In between problems and solutions, where they meet, there is, in 'firewalling' words, a DMZ area, the conflict zone. In the corporate world, this DMZ area is delimited by finance, business operations, business affairs and legal on one side, Brand & corporate marketing, channel marketing, Product Marketing, Technical support and PR on the other.

Picture yourself driving the Challenger spacecraft re-entering atmosphere. You can feel the heat below your feet, that burning side of the spaceship will be what we call sales in any company. This fringe, always in friction, is where I work, at the beginning of the end of problems, where the job needs to be done.

Problems and solutions belong to 'The What' of the story. The bigger picture becomes visible if we ask about 'The Why'. Why does a problem exist?, answers are not always evident.

Majority of the times, particularly in the tech word, and as a consequence asymmetric competition, it becomes necessary to reverse engineer everything from the visible impact in the market.

Smartphone sales, as an example, may illustrate this. A smartphone is actually a piece of hardware whose purpose is to materialize an interconnected multimedia experience for human beings (although we see also cats, dogs and other animals staring at screens). The problem to solve here, is to deliver intelligibly a stream of content&services to an UI, the solution (or the tool if you will) is a smartphone.

In this case, the problem belongs to different stakeholders in the value chain. Content and service providers want to reach end users, that's their problem. They ultimately rely on carrier networks to convey their products. Carriers, owners of networks, also want to reach end users and their problem is to make sure end users have something in their hands with a screen as big as reasonable to deliver their megabytes of data. But… why?.

Problem owners or buyers, carriers, content developers, service providers, share the same motivation, they want to monetize their products or services, that's why. In other words, they want to deliver something on to a recipient (at a cost) to obtain a benefit (at a profit), the delta between cost and profit speaks to the importance of the problem and fuels the determination to resolve it.

In our example, the solution is simple, go and buy an smartphone. In our story, those with bigger profits at a stake will be keener to dance with smartphone vendors, rules are simple, everyone will fight to maximize profit or reduce cost in the value chain but always within the limits to secure the new, aspirational stage, is not jeopardized. i

It's a sum-zero game in which everybody wins one way or another. We, users, enjoy our connected life in our never-leave-more-than-a-meter away smartphones, while carriers, content and service providers make commercial profits. It's all about the transfer of value and the transactions in between.

But, this is not over, no single solution can ever, never, serve entirely to solve the problem it is intended for. There will be always gaps. Gaps need to be filled in by means of innovation in products and services, ultimately serving better end users, us, for a richer and happier experience.

Is there a limit to this?.  I guess the answer is yes, if we, at some point of time, connect ourselves to an on demand endorphins delivery system.

But, this is a standalone topic on its own…

@efernandez    from the series #toomuchtimeonplanes