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February 20, 2006

Sodoku Gone Bad

Sodoku has been sweeping the country over the past year. Now the USA Today carries a daily Sodoku puzzle. For those of you not aware, Sodoku is a puzzle that tests your reasoning and analytical skills. I've been doing the puzzles for the past 6 months or so. I'm hooked, I love it.  This afternoon I'm on  a flight and I open the USA Today and flip to the puzzle and start my "reasoning". I actually time myself now to see how fast I solve the puzzle. I keep a tally sheet - it's my way to prove to myself I'm not losing my mind yet. I'm in the middle of doing the puzzle and this guy next to me, who has his laptop out sees that I'm doing a puzzle. I have my Bose headphones on (I always wear them on flights - especially if I don't want to talk to the person next to me). Anyway, this guy interrupts me ( I look at my watch to make sure I don't get penalized for time wasted) and says "I have this computer program that solves Sodoku puzzles". I say, "great, but doesn't that defeat the purpose?". He retorts, "hmmm, but you always get the right answer in like 1 second". Ok geek. I give him the "dude are you serious" look and put my headphones back on and finish - sort of. I did get it wrong after taking 14min 23 seconds..

February 20, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 19, 2006

From what's Predictable to what's Possible

I've long used a model when asked to forecast out results called the "Predictable/Possible Model". It's pretty simplistic. It allows you to bracket a kind of worst case/best case scenario. It's easiest to use with sales organizations but you can really use it organizational wide. The "predictable" piece is the easiest to model. It's what I call the accountant approach, where you simply look back in time, see what you've always done in terms of results and then mathematically model out to the future what you most likely (predictably) will produce moving forward. Not a lot of inventiveness there. The harder part is trying to determine what's "possible". Here's where you run into problems, everyone thinks different about the future, always different tolerances of risk, different motivations, yada, yada, yada. The main premise of creating what's possible in terms of producing a future result is an old cliche - "thinking out of the box". Some companies do it well, others kill creativity. Most organizations have adopted the term "setting a stretch target" to try to break out of predictable pattern. Whatever the case, it's really about doing things differently, things you haven't done before, on a day to day basis to create a different result or set of results. Not abandoning how things have been done in the past, but adding in new dimensions to create a unique set of actions and therefore creating a different - UNpredictable - result. In a lot of start ups, organizations that are blazing new territory where "it's never been done before", you're always trying new things, adjusting the model. Of course it's a bit uncomfortable, breaking new ground, so you always need people that are comfortable being uncomfortable. One given of breakthrough performance, achieving what's possible instead of what's predictable, is that inevitably you will fall short of whatever goals you set (hopefully these goals are big, bold and bodacious). And what's the secret formula of achieving those stretch goals? When you do hit a wall, fall short, FAIL; that you NEVER lose sight of the stretch goal - NEVER. That you rally in a way that you've never rallied before. And how do you do that? Through conversation and exploration. You have conversations that you've been reluctant to have, you have more conversations than you've ever had in the past, and you have a different tenor to your conversations. In the end, if you're up for producing what's possible rather than what's predictable, it's how you react to failure and the future, rather than the past, and the failure itself.

February 19, 2006 in Business | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Your Hub - Citizens as Journalists

Over the past several months I've been getting an insert in my Denver Post once a week titled "Your Hub". It's a section in the paper that incorporates news stories from my community (in this case Lonetree/Douglas County) giving that homespun, my town newspaper feel. The articles are those that you would typically find in some small town newspaper; you know - bake sale for the local swim team, Littleton quilting club crowned "best in class" :-). Upon further examination though, you find that it's a newspaper "by the people". Anyone can submit articles by registering at yourhub.com and blog about anything they want. The newspaper staff then culls through the articles and puts them in a printed format for distribution. Or, you can go to the site and read all the articles/posts by the community (although I'm sure some of the articles are edited. Putting the editorial control in the hands of the people - well, sort of.

February 19, 2006 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2006

Letters from the Front - Tokyo

I've been in Tokyo over the past week on business - I'm staying at the Cerulean Hotel in Shibuya which is really fabulous. Without revealing too much, it's been a very successful trip. I love Tokyo and the Japanese people. I've been to Tokyo twice before, but never for any extended period. In my quest to be more cognizant of the world around me, I spent some time immersing myself in the culture. Japanese people are the most kind, gentle, considerate people in the world. The staff here at the Cerulean is simply amazing. Really, service at it's highest level, you can't walk through the lobby without a half dozen of the staff bowing and wishing you good morning. Although it gets a little weird when they wave you into the hotel elevator, and then get in with you, push the floor button, ride with you, wave you out of the elevator and walk you to your room. They are so kind. So a few of my observations;

- There's approximately 18 million people in Tokyo which is about the same size as the 5 boroughs of NY. That's almost twice as many people in the same area. That's a lot of people, but everything is clean, efficient and nice, really nice.

- The train system is phenomenal! Picture the NYC subway/train system and then multiply it by 10 in terms of number of trains/lines. It's very. very clean, the trains run like clockwork and they are packed with people. They have white gloved attendants ushering people in and out of the trains and giving information to lost souls like me. Although at one point I had an attendant chase me into one of the subway cars blowing his whistle. I had no idea they had subway cars reserved for women only.

- Speaking of trains. The Shinjuku station processes 5 million travelers a day. That's 5 MILLION a day. Do you know what 5 million people in a day looks like. One rush hour morning as one of the attendants was squeezing people into a subway car with a baton I swear my feet came off the ground because we were packed in like sardines - although he was so nice while he was doing it. It was great for my claustrophobia - NOT! One good point is that I'm about 6" taller than most so at least I could see above everyone.

- The cabs are amazing. The seats and headrests are covered with white linen clothes (like grandma had on her Sunday dinner table). Clean as a whistle. The drivers wear white gloves and suits! Really taking pride in their job. I took a cab to Roponggi Hills and the driver missed the exit. He circled back and then waived the fee apologizing profusely for his mistake. Last time I took a cab in the US I had to roll down the window because the guy hadn't showered in a week. And then he swore at me when I only tipped him 10%.

- Ya know the pictures that we see with Japanese people wearing white surgical masks on the street. It's not because they are afraid to breathe smog. It's because they may have a cold or the flu and don't want to get others sick. Talk about considerate. Think about that the next time you're on the number 7 from mid town to the Bronx and some guy is hacking up a storm all over you.

- Shibuya is a proxy for all teen fashion and technology worldwide. There's like a million kids that hang out in Shibuya, shopping, talking, coffee, bars, restaurants, etc and they are all dressed up. It's a place to see and be seen. If you're marketing products to teens, go to Shibuya and you'll see what the rest of the world will be wearing/using next year.

- Japanese people are thin. Without exaggerating I would estimate 49 out of 50 are rail thin (although I mostly noticed the women :-). You won't find jeans and baggy sweatshirts here, everyone is dressed very fashionably and takes pride in their appearance. It's a site to see.

- Japanese clean their hands all the time. Everywhere you go they have warm wet towels waiting for you to clan your hands. So, clean environment, health conscious, thin - let me see....think their health costs are low. I bet they're a small fraction per capita of ours.

There's not much bad to say about Tokyo or the Japanese. Some say the food isn't the greatest but I had some fabulous but strange food over the past week. Last night I went out for Tapenyaki (on my own) which was a trip. No one spoke English. I think the waiter got a kick out of me, he asked where I was from in very broken English and I said Denver, CO and he said "ahh, Broncos" or something like that. We laughed and nodded our heads a lot. He brought me a complimentary rice wine - OK, that sucked.

February 1, 2006 in Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack