I always read Seth Godin’s blog. They entries and short, direct, to the point, and always give me something to think about.
Here is a recent posting
“I’m making money, why do more?”
Because more than you need to makes it personal.
Because work that belongs to you, by choice, is the first step to making art.
Because the choice to do more brings passion to your life and it makes you more alive.
Because if you don’t, someone else will, and in an ever more competitive world, doing less means losing.
Because you care.
Because we’re watching.
Because you can.
There is a difference between doing more and doing different.
Sometimes, doing more of the same is your biggest liability - whether its your personal life, a for-profit company, a non-profit organization, or a government agency.
I always encounter people in organizations that are intent on “doing more”. This is their biggest mistake. They do more of same expecting to get promoted. The only thing “doing more” (of the same) in non-strategic job roles is going to get them is “more of the same” since few managers will promote someone who excels at being ”a workhorse”.
Doing more (of the same) didn’t keep most traditional booksellers from going out of business. Amazon did it different. Different beat more of the same.
For non-profits, doing more of the same when the social, economic, technological, cultural and other external realities are shifting under your feet is going to send you on a trajectory of irrelevancy. Traditional organizations like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the ARRL faces this challenge. Do more of the same when the external context has radically changed – or do different?
NASA essentially accomplished its biggest goal in 1969 by landing a man on the moon and returning safely back to earth. What happens when you do it 6 more times? Doing more of the same triggered some scrutiny by Congress with a report saying they needed a viable strategic plan, not to do more of the same, but to do more of something different – something that can engage the national vsion. How about the US Post Office. They would like to do more of the same (delivering physical postal mail) but seemingly most of the public doesn’t need more of the same. Customers do different and the Post Office is now in decline because they are not doing different – what customers really need, want, and are willing to pay for.
Do more? Ok. But sometimes, doing more of the same is really doing less.
Doing a little different may grant you the privilege to do more of the same… Then the chance to do different again… and the process repeats.
Doing more of the same. From one of the few books on the social history of amateur Radio “Why end this book as of the year 1950? It is because the story of ham radio’s development essentially takes place in the first fifty years of the twentieth century. Having been created, accepted, regulated, and achieved permanent status by 1950, the story after that becomes one primarily of repetition.” Read the posting – ARRL: Does the ARRL need a Strategic Plan?
NASA – more of the same. From the office of the Inspector General ” These problems are not primarily of NASA’s doing, but the agency could craft a better response to the uncertainty, for example, by developing a strategic plan that includes clear priorities and a transparent budget allocation process. A better response would improve NASA’s ability to navigate future obstacles and uncertainties. An effective agency response is vital, because at a time when the strategic importance of space is rising and the capabilities of other spacefaring nations are increasing, U.S. leadership is faltering….” NASA: What to do after mission accomplished
More of the same.. missing it all. Of Telegraphs, Telephones, Radios, and Organizational Momentum
Doing a little different – Stupid Survives until smart succeeds
We build our own prisons and serve as our own jail keepers, but I’ve concluded that our parents and the society at large have a hand in building our prisons. They create roles for us – and self-images – that hold us captive for a long time.
“There are people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives.”– Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
Sometimes I hear the expression, “Passing the time”. People are trying to find ways to “pass the time”. That is, they are bored, have nothing to do, or otherwise unmotivated to do anything. They need to find a distraction, or entertainment, something to “pass the time”… until they pass away. Life as a tragic waiting game for death.
Sometimes I hear about people who visit the doctor and they are told they have some sort of terminal illness. One of the first things they do is to catch up on their “bucket list” – do all those things they had planned on doing before the end of their life. These people are running out of time.
So, how can some people struggle to “pass the time” when they have all the time in the world while others struggle to do all they can in the limited time they have?
We only have one life. We all have limited time. Why would anyone struggle to “pass the time”?
What do jobs and the concept of education have to do with it?
Reading the Huffington Post I ran into an article about Bill Gates. The article had a quote from Gates
Gates’ belief that education is the greatest predictor of America’s future is supported by a report released last March that declared education to be an issue of national security. “A Nation at Risk,” penned by former New York City Schools chief Joel Klein and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, argues that a failure to provide quality education in areas like foreign languages, science and technology will create major future deficiencies of engineers, diplomats and soldiers, among others.
“As we’re not able to train people for the jobs, you’re going to hit a limit that, no matter how good the economy is, you’re not providing the opportunity,” Gates said Wednesday.
Whenever I read something like this I cringe. What always seems to be confounded in these opinions and statements is the difference between getting an education in the classical sense and getting a vocational education. Whenever you hear “job” and “education” in the same sentence think “training”. Training is not an education. Perhaps we conflate the words training and education so much we lose the distinction.
Management consultants – hands off the educational system
For all the respect I have for the consulting firm McKinsey I had to set that aside last year when I read their report “Boosting Productivity in US Higher Education”. Boosting productivity? They used terms like “unnecessary credits” as if higher education was like a factory to produce “just in time” workers for immediate deployment as dictated by what America’s corporations need today.
Why are people … Passing the time?
People who are “passing the time” are generally not working – either by choice or by circumstance. When I hear “passing the time” I get the idea that the educational system and the job market have both fulfilled their purpose and at the same time it has destroyed someone.
Note the use of the words “train people” in the quote above by Gates. Training people is like manufacturing a part (a cog) for a giant machine. I don’t think many people would identify themselves as a “cog” but that’s how most companies treat people and that’s what they are. Companies have “roles” and there is generally little problem in swapping different individuals in and out of roles (interchangeable parts). This is especially true for jobs that are non-strategic (operational, support, etc.)
So, when you are out of a job you are essentially a cog without a machine. And a cog without a machine really has no purpose or identity. Having no purpose or identify all a cog can do is “pass the time”. Opportunity? A custom manufactured cog for a particular machine in a particular era has little chance of reuse.
Too many people don’t consider the difference among education, vocational education, and training. As Gates points out, America needs people to be trained for jobs. But, unfortunately the terminal point for people “trained for jobs” will be quick obsolescence in a rapidly changing job market and/or wages reduced to poverty level to the extent that “training” is readily available to anyone producing surpluses of undifferentiated workers.
Gates’ belief that education is the greatest predictor of America’s future is supported by a report released last March that declared education to be an issue of national security.
Yes, education, not training. But the article does not make this distinction. What is important for America is not so much a ready and able”trained’ workforce to solve pressing in-demand problems of today but an educated segment that can create a tomorrow for America in the context of a global economy.
No one who is educated to “make the future” will ever have time to “pass the time”.
Training people for today’s jobs seems to be a tragic (and necessary) sacrifice of people which leaves them aimless near the end of their lives.
Re/Imagine everything – Mary Meeker 2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update – Business Insider
The Future of Digital – The Future of Digital… is not in a rear-view mirror
McKinsey – Boosting Productivity in US Higher Education
Mary Meeker from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins recently gave a presentation at Stanford University on the the state of the web. The slide deck is filled with industry trends and statistical data to back it up.
So, I went through the deck and if you’re paying attention to the world we live in, nothing in the deck should be a surprise to you. Every presentation of this kind is backward-looking. That is, it describes trends that everyone can observe. These sorts of presentations do not “look around corners” nor do they speculate on a discontinuous or non-linear future. Of course, these latter events in history represent the significant opportunities for society and culture.
All that being said, there is interesting trend data and statistics in Mary Meeker’s deck.
The linear societal doom
It was going good until I looked at the last few slides in the deck. One slide shows US spending on entitlements and debt as percent of GDP. Another slide shows the distribution of taxes among entitlements, defense, interest and other. The US spends 57% of taxes on entitlements. A third slide shows that entitlement and interest expense will exceed GDP by 2025.
What Jay-Z knows
We were kids without fathers… so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves. – Jay-Z
What Jay-Z knows is about peer groups. Pick your peer group, don’t let it fall to chance.
Everyone who walks on the face of the earth encounters peer groups. Each peer group has it’s own culture and set of standards. Whether you are going to be successful in life (a sort of difficult self-referential idea inside the group) depends on what peer group you hang with.
We could probably all agree that being part of the entitlement system which represents 57% of tax revenue spending is, in a sense, making one group of people pay for the existence of another group of people. If this entitlement peer group continues to grow then a well-functioning economy is unsustainable. When entitlements and debt exceed GDP (Gross Domestic Product) then that will be the end of the “late great USA”.
Pick who will inspire you…
Reading the slide deck its easy to see that the folks who consume these sorts of decks believe that “the future has unlimited possibilities”. And, as Jay-Z says, “we pick and choose… [those] who would inspire the world we are going to make for ourselves.”
But what about the other peer group? What about the people who consume 57% of the taxes that other people pay?
There are people everywhere where the temptation of having someone else pay your way is too strong to resist. I encounter these people from time to time. They have little regret or embarrassment for their situation. They would rather spend their time “working the system” to try to get benefits than spend their time positioning themselves to be productive members of society.
Read the Jay-Z quote again and then page through the slide deck linked below.
Who will you pick to inspire the world that we collectively will make? Are you the “Meekers’s” or a recipient of the 57% of tax revenue?
Read some related postings
How do organizations deal with changes in the external environment?
It’s February 14th – Valentines Day
So, what if you had “Sight” – an embedded contact lens that provided you an augmented reality and “coaching” (when needed) on a date?
Check out this video from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design graduates Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo, titled “Sight,” credited to an entity named Sight Systems
If we are in an age of “love in the age of algorithms” then what better addition than “Sight” - enabled by technology and our always-on hyper-connected global reality – giving you that extra “edge”.
And if “Sight” doesn’t quite work out for you in a “legitimate way” then perhaps the ending of this short digital film will suggest an alternative, but less acceptable approach, to a successful dating experience.