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Archive for June 2010

Preserving the Morse Code Tradition

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“It’s the method of communication that saved more lives than another other method of communication.  That’s one reason why it will never die;  because there are people around that will make sure it will be preserved.

Apropos our posting on the russian spies using Morse Code in 2010  – for those unfamiliar with “the code” here is s short video from the BBC

I have striven to give the world improved and cheaper means of communications by electrical transmission through space – Marconi

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June 30, 2010 at 11:14 am

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Lightning Strikes in Chicago

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Check out the amazing video…

For the third time in the last 6 days, another line of nasty storms rolled through Chicago on Wednesday evening. In this clip you will see three of the tallest buildings in Chicago get struck by lightning at the same time. Willis Tower (Tallest), Trump International Hotel and Tower (2nd Tallest) and the John Hancock Building(4th tallest).

Check out a related post –

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June 30, 2010 at 3:58 am

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Morse Code is not dead; Back in style by Russian Spies in 2010

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For Amateur Radio license requirements the FCC dropped the Morse Code requirement years ago.  There is no current military use of Morse code.

Just when you thought that Morse Code was dead.  The Russian spies, recently arrested in the US, are keeping the The Code  alive.

10 Russian Spies Arrested in the US (6/29/2010)

According to CBS news

According to court papers in the case, the U.S. government intercepted a message from Russian intelligence headquarters in Moscow to two of the defendants. The message states that their main mission is “to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US” and send intelligence reports.

The complaint alleges that some of those charged had a long-term goal to become “sufficiently Americanized” in order to gather intelligence in the U.S. and to “recruit sources who are in, or are able to infiltrate, United States policy-making circles.”

The complaint says that the “agents” were trained in “foreign languages; agent-to-agent communications, including the use of brush-passes; short-wave radio operation and invisible writing; the use of codes and ciphers, including the use of encrypted Morse code messages; the creation and use of a cover profession; counter-surveillance measures” and more.

Good, the code is back in style

Check out this vintage military morse code training film –


Check out this related info on high speed CW

The R-353 is a Russian spy radio set developed and used at the height of the Cold War, in the early 1960s. It features an advanced built-in burst encoder for sending coded messages in morse code at very high speed, in order to minimise the risk of detection by enemy interceptors and eavesdroppers. Radios like the R-353 are very rare and only very few have survived.

Check out this great site on Shortwave Espinionage –

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June 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm

RSVP Come as you will be party; antidote for Groundhog Day

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For gamers sitting in your basement living a virtual existence…

I heard about this a few years ago – a “come as you will be party“. 

Here is how it works.  You arrive at the party as if it was five years from now.  You dress as you will be in five years.  You talk as if it was five years from now and you act as if it was five years from now.  In short, you take on the persona as if you accomplished your goals.  Oh, and it will be videotaped – to be played back at a similar party five years hence.

Five year plan

Five year set of goals?  Huh?  Many people don’t have any goals.  They just live from day-to-day.  Tomorrow will be just like today; today was like yesterday; yesterday was like the day before; and so on and so on and so on.  The day after tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and five years from now will look like yesterday and the day before.   It it any wonder that people have dead-end jobs?

Groundhog day

If you saw the movie Groundhog Day then you understand this idea of repetition of the same day over and over.  But what is different between the movie Groundhog Day and some peoples lives is that, in the movie, the key character, Phil Connors, learns something new about himself each day by introspection and improves himself.  So each day is a mini-revelation to Phil that adds up over time.  In the end, Phil Conners gets the girl.  He is a better person and breaks the cycle of living each day over and over again.

Some people never get any better.  They just live the same day over and over.  They fear change; never take risks; they fear failure and never use it as a learning opportunity.  They never envision any future that is any different from today, yesterday, and the day before.


The great successful men of the world have used their imagination.  They think ahead and create their mental picture in all its details, filling in here, adding a little there, altering this a bit and that a bit, but steadily building – steadily building. — Robert Collier

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June 29, 2010 at 4:32 am

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Second Skin; Second Life; to be someone with power

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Humans want to be more than what they are; we are driven to be more than what we are.  A lot of players have what they perceive as dead-end jobs.  And they logon to these worlds and suddenly they’re someone with power.

Check out this trailer to “Second Skin”

Here is a brief review posted to

There is a distinct separation between the “real world” and the “digital world”. You can call it a “synthetic reality”, “virtual existence”, “online community” – whatever the name, we have pockets of intentional community that allow us to be different, behave in a way completely removed from how we are in our day-to-day.  Even at Burning Man last week, people were referring to the “Default World” as being the realm outside Black Rock City. From World of Warcraft to The Sims, even on Facebook, we design images that represent ourselves, a digital face that we present to the online world. Second Skin examines the variety of ramifications attendant upon that separation, primarily as seen in World of Warcraft and Everquest II.

At the beginning of the trailer the narrator says that wer are living a a world that is becoming increasingly atomized and we are all becoming isolated.  That may be true of gamers sitting in thier basement,  but it is far from true for people who live in the real world.

Global communication and the tools of social networking have provided an unparallled opportunity for collaboration, creation, and innovation across a global community that trancends place and time.  Everyone is free to choose to exploit this opportunity, or not.

Yes, “Humans want to be more than what they are; we are driven to be more than what we are“.  But the locus of this achievement should not be in a synthetic reality.  People give up too easily in the real world.

How many remarkable people, innovative ideas, great companies, and great products have we lost because some folks gave up too early and entered a fantasy world rather than slog it out here in the real world?

 Malcom Gladwell and others, based on evidence, think that it takes 10,000 hours to master something.  How many gamers have put in 10,000+ hours of gaming in a virtual world?  What would happen if this 10,000 hours of gaming was redirected to mastery of something in the real world that frees them from the “dead-end job”?

Achievement (of lack thereof) could simply be a matter of technique or approach – and not ability, capability, or untapped potential.  If gamers are willing to spend 10,000 hours playing games then it might indicate its not even a problem of motivation and dedication.  Maybe it’s process?

From David Shenk:

…non-achievers seem to be missing something in their process–one or more aspects of style of intensity of [deliberate] practice, or technique, or mindset, or response to failure.

What is deliberate practice?  Deliberate practice:  1. Focus on technique as opposed to outcome (accept the process), 2. Set specific, measurable, quantifiable goals, 3. Get PROMPT feedback from knowledgeable people; APPLY it immediately.

Another contributing factor for  achievement vs non-achievement and what counts as “success” is peer group.  Once gamers get into virtual worlds as an escape from “a dead-end job” (the real world)  then we all know that misery loves company.  There may be little chance of escape from a culture where achievement in a virtual world is taken as an acceptable substitute for achievement in the real world.

“Identity, community, economy, love, redemption, and achievement – all in a world that doesn’t exist.”  Imagine the magnitude of the loss to society and culture.

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June 28, 2010 at 4:47 am

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Java4Ever Movie Trailer

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Coming soon – take a look.  PG-13, please, not for sensitive viewers

Alternative link for above –

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June 27, 2010 at 5:01 am

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The new Yaesu FTDX5000 up close and personal

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Check it out

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June 27, 2010 at 12:29 am

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What stage are you in the development of moral reasoning?

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Read the related article – The Sociopath Next Door

Read the story and decide what you would do

A woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of Radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000, which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, “No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money from it.” So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife.

Should Heinz have broken into the laboratory to steal the drug for his wife? Why or why not?

A Theory of Moral Development

What follows below is is a very brief (and incomplete) version of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development
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June 25, 2010 at 8:16 pm

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Take a video tour of the ARRL Lab

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Ever read those product reviews and tests in QST Magazine that were done in the ARRL lab?  Well, here is where it happens.  Take a look.

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June 25, 2010 at 1:53 pm

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The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us

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“The conscience of a people is their power” – John Dryden

“Minds differ still more than faces” – Voltaire

Have you ever heard someone say “I did nothing wrong” when in fact you and a great many other people thought what they did was very wrong?  In fact, so wrong that the majority of people asked themselves, “How could anyone possibly do that?”

The risk to yourself  is to think that other people think like you or me.  Or, to think that the great majority of people are ruled by some sort of  standard of right and wrong; standards of which, are accessible to all of us – a sort of 6’th sense that we all have.

Martha Stout Ph.D is a clinical psychologist in private practice who also served for twenty-five years on the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

Dr. Stout has an interesting description of public figures or people you might know

Imagine – if you can – not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern of the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members.  Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. 

And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.  Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. 

Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.  You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness.  The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience that they seldom even guess at your condition.

In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world.  You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences, will most likely remain undiscovered.

How many people are like this?  Dr. Stout thinks that 1 in 25 people in the population is a sociopath.

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June 23, 2010 at 3:15 am

The Law of the Lid Part II – The intractable definition of career success

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Surprised to see Lady Gaga at the front of the Fast Company list of the top 100 creative people for 2010? – well, maybe not.  A little more reasonable is number two on the list – Eddy Cue  ( read it )

Steve Jobs may own the limelight, but Eddy Cue, 46, holds the key to the Apple kingdom. Cue runs arguably the most disruptive 21st-century Web businesses: iTunes and the App Store, the latter of which is poised to create a $4 billion app economy by 2012. The unassuming Cue shot up through Apple’s ranks in the late ’80s, going from desktop support to Hollywood power broker, cutting deals for movies and music. Cue’s next campaign will be challenging Amazon’s Kindle dominance, with the Cupertino cocktail of the iPad and the iBook store.

It’s good to see someone who made it from “desktop support” to Apple Vice President.  That is quite a trip – from helping someone with their desktop hardware or software to leading a part of the Apple enterprise that is projected to tap a market to generate $4 billion in revenue.

If Eddy is 46 years old now as Apple VP in 2010, and if he started out in the 1980’s as desktop support – then that is a nearly 20+ year career journey.  Good for him!

The intractable definition of career success

It’s amazing the diversity of the definition of career success.  If Eddy, at 46, was still a desktop support person, would he be considered a failure?   Is there a “right way” and a “wrong way” when it comes to careers?  How and why is Eddy Cue, at 46, a Vice President at Apple and not a desktop support person? 

Is preference for progress or personal achievement an  unfair bias?

Is it an unfair bias to say that people “must” have a career progression – and if not, they have failed in their careers?  What about the “bias” of progress in history?  Is it a foregone conclusion that we must see progress in culture and history?  What if the colonization of America by Europeans resulted in the Europeans taking on the culture of native american indians and keeping the status quo?

If America was, in 2010, simply a static repetition of the native american culture and “progress” that we see today in 2010  (science, culture, technology) was erased then would America be a “failure” against its potential?  What makes one way better than another way?  If America never landed a man on the moon, never became a superpower, never built great cities, or did anything that America is known for, would it be considered a failure aginst its potential?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Are personal careers like the progress of a nation or culture?  Is “progress” demanded, and is it “natural”?  And if the progress in your career is like the progress of history and culture then is the lack of progress considered some sort of failure?  A failure of ability to achieve potential.  Again, why is “progress” better than no progress?  What about mediocrity?  What’s so bad about mediocrity – or just being “average”? It certainly takes less effort to be average than it takes to be remarkable?  Why be remarkable?  What drives people toward achievement?  And, why is mediocrity acceptable, and preferred, by some people?

If the worldwide global culture was still “swinging in the trees” would it matter?  Or, is there something “natural” in human being that progress is natural, and that lack of progress is somehow to be avoided,  undesirable, and to be discouraged?

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June 21, 2010 at 10:22 pm

How it works – Heathkit HA 14 Linear Amplifier tutorial

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The Heathkit HA-14, the compact kilowatt linear amp, is the lessor known of Heath’s linear amplifiers.

But, if one is looking for simplicity, then is the linear for  you.

Check out the video as Dave Larson, KK4WW  shows you the linear and explains the schematic diagram

Here is the full schematic –

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June 21, 2010 at 4:39 am

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Does Professor Quality Matter in Education?

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A weak faculty operates a weak program that attracts weak students.
(Koerner 1963)

This is some interesting research based on  student data from the US Air Force Academy

This research has interesting implications for the ongoing debate over “teaching the test”, short-term vs long-term benefits of an education, and “deep-learning”.  The study found that the way introductory courses are taught may have a detrimental affect  on student study habits that may have to be “unlearned” for follow-on courses.

Finally, and most significantly … “our results show that student evaluations reward professors who increase achievement in the contemporaneous course being taught, not those who increase deep learning.”

So, if these student evaluations are used as input for promotion and tenure decisions of professors, are we rewarding and promoting less experienced and less qualified professors over highly qualified professors that position students for longer-term deep-learning even though their students perform less well in contemporaneous courses and provide lower score evaluations back to these professors?

Here is the conclusion from the research paper.  A PDF of the full paper is available at the end of this posting


We find that less experienced and less qualified professors produce students who perform significantly better in the contemporaneous course being taught, whereas more experienced and highly qualified professors produce students who perform better in the follow-on related curriculum.

Owing to the complexities of the education production function, where both students and faculty engage in optimizing behavior, we can only speculate as to the mechanism by which these effects may operate. Similar to elementary and secondary school teachers, who often have advance knowledge of assessment content in high-stakes testing systems, all professors teaching a given course at USAFA have an advance copy of the exam before it is given. Hence, educators in both settings must choose how much time to allocate to tasks that have great value for raising current scores but may have little value for lasting knowledge.

One potential explanation for our results is that the less experienced professors may adhere more strictly to the regimented curriculum being tested, whereas the more experienced professors broaden the curriculum and produce students with a deeper understanding of the material.

This deeper understanding results in better achievement in the followon courses. Another potential mechanism is that students may learn (good or bad) study habits depending on the manner in which their introductory course is taught. For example, introductory professors who “teach to the test” may induce students to exert less study effort in followon related courses. This may occur because of a false signal of one’s own ability or an erroneous expectation of how follow-on courses will be taught by other professors.

A final, more cynical, explanation could also relate to student effort. Students of low-value-added professors in the introductory course may increase effort in follow-on courses to help “erase” their lower than expected grade in the introductory course.

Regardless of how these effects may operate, our results show that student evaluations reward professors who increase achievement in the contemporaneous course being taught, not those who increase deep learning.

Using our various measures of teacher quality to rank-order teachers leads to profoundly different results. Since many U.S. colleges and universities use student evaluations as a measurement of teaching quality for academic promotion and tenure decisions, this finding draws into question the value and accuracy of this practice.

Read the full paper  from The Journal of Political Economy

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June 18, 2010 at 1:33 pm

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Fast Company: The 100 Most Creative People in Business for 2010

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“This year’s 100 Most Creative People offers our own, idiosyncratic perspective on business.

The selections reflect the breadth of news ideas and new pursuits at play in our business landscape.

From interface designer Yugo Nakamura to HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins to futurist Ray Kurzweil, we can attest that creativity is alive and well in 2010″

Check it out –

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June 17, 2010 at 1:49 pm

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Alvin Greene and the voice of the people

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Or, Mr Smith goes to Washington

Well, I guess the gentlemen are in a pretty tall hurry to get me out of here. The way the evidence has piled up against me, I can’t say I blame them much. And I’m quite willing to go, sir, when they vote it that way – but before that happens I’ve got a few things I want to say to this body. I tried to say them once before, and I got stopped colder than a mackerel. Well, I’d like to get them said this time, sir. And as a matter of fact, I’m not going to leave this body until I do get them said.
-Jefferson Smith (James Stewart – read about the movie)

By now everyone knows the story of Alvin Greene winning the election in South Carolina. 

Now the democratic party wants him to step down 

The Democratic Party there has called for Greene to step down as the nominee after it was revealed that Greene is facing a pending felony charge for allegedly showing pornography to a college student. 

He’s an unemployed veteran, who has claimed in some media accounts that he paid for his $10,400 filing fee with money saved up from that job. Some — including Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, who has suggested that Greene may be a plant meant to wreak havoc on the race — are doubtful. 

Does it matter if: 

  1. he’s facing felony charges?
  2. he’s an unemployed veteran
  3. people voted for him because his was the first name on the ballot?
  4. people confused his name with Al Greene the singer?
  5. someone gave him the $10,400 filing fee?
  6. he has very little / no experience in politics
  7. he has no money for a campaign
  8. he lives at home with his parents
  9. won’t answer questions on his position on the country’s foreign policy
  10. he is “very busy”

Seems like the state Democratic Party wants to dismiss the “will of the people” that elected Alvin. 

People say that you need to be rich, have an elite education, and mount an expensive campaign to win an election.  Well, not so.  Alvin Greene had none of this – and he won.

This just goes to show you how much consideration or “due diligence” that people do before they vote.  Perhaps if his opponent, Vic Rawls, changed his fist name to “Lou”  – Rawls would have had a better chance of winning the election. 

One wonders, if the Electoral College was set up to ensure that these “mistakes” of the “voice of the people” are not propagated up to the level of the Vice President and President of the United States. 

The Electoral College ensures that the President of the United States is not directly determined by the individual voters.  Sort of the ultimate “safety net” against a sort of insanity by ordinary people – ala Alvin Greene.

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June 16, 2010 at 1:13 pm

On Commitment

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There is a difference between interest and commitment. 
When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. 
When you’re committed to something,
you accept no excuses, only results.
– Ken Blanchard

If people’s commitment was to 99.9% quality instead of 100% it would mean:

  1. Two unsafe landings at O’Hare International Airport each month
  2. 20,000 incorrectly filled drug prescriptions every year
  3. 500 incorrect surgical operations performed each week
  4. 50 newborn babies dropped at birth by doctors each day
  5. Your heart failing to beat 32,000 times each year.

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June 14, 2010 at 1:15 pm

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The History of Communications – the past 150 years

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The Pew Internet Project has put together a retrospective of the past 150 years of communications. 

You can find a link to the full paper (24 pages) at the end of this posting.

In addition to the historical facts, this paper includes some interesting predictions made in the historical context in which these communications inventions emerged.

Here are a few predictions about radio from the time:

Sir William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, a Scottish mathematician and physicist, is quoted as saying in 1897:

Radio has no future.

According to a report in Dunlap’s Radio and Television Almanac, Sir John Wolfe-Barry remarked at a meeting of stockholders of the Western Telegraph Company in 1907:

…As far as I can judge, I do not look upon any system of wireless telegraphy as a serious competitor with our cables. Some years ago I said the same thing and nothing has since occurred to alter my views.

A June 1920 article in Electrical Experimenter titled “Newsophone to Supplant Newspapers” reported on an idea for a news service delivered via recorded telephone messages and also predicted the:

 radio distribution of news by central news agencies in the larger cities to thousands of radio stations in all parts of the world” leading to a time when “anyone can simply listen in on their pocket wireless set.

H.G. Wells wrote in “The Way the World is Going” in 1925: 

I have anticipated radio’s complete disappearance…confident that the unfortunate people, who must now subdue themselves to listening in, will soon find a better pastime for their leisure.

In 1913 Lee de Forest, inventor of the audion tube, a device that makes radio broadcasting possible, was brought to trial on charges of fraudulently using the U.S. mails to sell the public stock in the Radio Telephone Company. In the court proceedings, the district attorney charged that:

De Forest has said in many newspapers and over his signature that it would be possible to transmit human voice across the Atlantic before many years. Based on these absurd and deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public…has been persuaded to purchase stock in his company…

De Forest was acquitted, but the judge advised him

to get a common garden-variety of job and stick to it.

Here is the full paper –
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June 14, 2010 at 4:44 am

The Future of Cloud Computing

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The future of cloud computing

Technology experts and stakeholders say they expect they will ‘live mostly in the cloud’ in 2020 and not on the desktop, working mostly through cyberspace-based applications accessed through networked devices. This will substantially advance mobile connectivity through smartphones and other internet appliances. Many say there will be a cloud-desktop hybrid. Still, cloud computing has many difficult hurdles to overcome, including concerns tied to the availability of broadband spectrum, the ability of diverse systems to work together, security, privacy, and quality of service.

Read the full report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project –

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June 14, 2010 at 3:51 am

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How to Look Really Brilliant with Little Effort

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Here is a story from Jack Canfield

Virginia Satir, the author of the classic parenting book Peoplemaking, was probably the most successful and famous family therapist that ever lived.

During her long and illustrious career, she was hired by the Michigan State Department of Social Services to provide a proposal on how to revamp and restructure the department of social services so what would serve the client population better.  Sixty days later, she provided the department with a 150 page report, which they said was the most amazing piece of work they had ever seen.

She replied, “Oh, I just went out to all the social workers in your system and I asked them what it would take for the system to work better.”

One of my favorite quotes from Henry Ford is this

Why is it that whenever I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached?
— Henry Ford

What amazes me is that there are still so many “industrial age” corporations out there that think like Henry Ford.  That is, that the executive team has all the answers and the workers are just the “hands” that do the work and offer little else.


So, was it “brilliance” that allowed Virginia Satir to go ask the social workers how to make the system work better – or simply lack of common sense on the part of the executive team at the Michigan State Department of Social Services?

An old joke from consulting is… “a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is and then hands you a bill.”  This is exactly what Virginia Satir did.  She borrowed the states own employees to tell her how to do things better, compiled, analyzed, and delivered the information, then she handed the Michigan State Department of Social Services a bill. 

The approach of asking employees for input on improvement must have eluded the Departments executives.

The Toyota Way

Toyota is famous for The Toyota Production System (TPS) – which is not only a manufacturing system but also a corporate culture and philosophy.  A large part of TPS is employee empowerment.  Here are some recent statistics

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June 13, 2010 at 5:22 am

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Fast Path to a Golden Parachute – Eleven Accelerators

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Mapping the Path

David Dotlich and Peter Cairo are a couple of executive coaches with experience coaching top executives.  Along with psychologist Robert Hogan these guys put together a sort of laundry list of why executives fail.  Or, in our terms, execute a fast path to a Golden Parachute.

Of note is that the list that these folks put together centers on behavior and psychological attributes of people.  The list of career derailers does not include things like lack of domain knowledge, industry expertise, or other sorts of “knowledge-based factors” or “vision/strategy factors”.  This is not to say that CEO’s do not lose their jobs based on performance unrelated to behavioral factors.

Behavioral and Psychological Factors that can Speed Your Exit

The focus of their list is behavioral and psychological attributes that cause people to undermine and/or sabotage their careers.

According to David Dotlich and Peter Cairo

The third thing that we know for a fact about leaders is that perhaps two-thirds of the people currently in leadership positions in the Western world will fail; they will then be fired, demoted, or kicked upstairs

… leadership failure is a behavioral phenomenon.

… leaders fail because of who they are and how they act in certain situations. Especially under stress, they respond with a pattern of behavior that can sabotage their jobs and careers. They rely on a specific way of thinking, speaking, and acting that ultimately causes them to fail. Many times, they’re not even aware that their behaviors have become reflexive.

A central focus – The inability to build a team

From Dotlich and Cairo

The most common reason for their failure will be their inability to build or maintain a team.

Their inability to build a team will be a function of certain dysfunctional dispositions, interpersonal tendencies that are usually invisible during job interviews or assessment center exercises.

These tendencies usually become apparent when people are under pressure or when they let down their guard. Moreover, there is considerable consensus regarding the nature of these dysfunctional dispositions. They reliably fall into eleven categories, and they can be assessed with considerable fidelity.

What’s so bad about failure?  It could be very lucrative

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June 11, 2010 at 4:35 am

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Review: Mach Speed CarTunes Max Range MP3 Payer FM Transmitter

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Me and Gaga


How do you bring your GaGa with you? – as well as your ZZTop, Jeff Beck, and the rest of the gang?

The solution has to be cheap, nearly a throw-away. It has to be simple to operate. Nothing fancy – I just need it to play MP3’s.  And it has to play it through an FM Radio.  Oh, OK, I really want it to use on a motorcycle; and maybe in the car.

I have an iPod Touch and that is great for listening to music, podcasts, audio books, and all the rest. 

But I would rather not take that with me in the car, and on the motorcycle.  What’s the solution.

Mach Speed CarTunes Max Range MP3 Payer FM Transmitter

After I did a bit of research, I picked up a Mach Speed CarTunes Max Range MP3 Player/ FM Transmitter with 2GB of memory.  The price was right $19.99 (not $20; just $19.99 – under $20)

Here is the description

The Mach Speed CarTunes Max Range is new from Mach Speed – A wireless MP3 player and FM transmitter that lets you take your tunes to your vehicle. The Mach Speed CarTunes Max Range MP3 Player/ FM Transmitter is a 12V USB device offers 100 FM frequencies, built-in 2GB of memory, and an additional line-in connection. All you have to do is insert the 12V adaptor end of the Mach Speed CarTunes Max Range MP3 Player into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter receptacle or power port. Tune your FM radio onto one of the preset frequencies, then use the channel button to set the player’s broadcast frequency to match the one you’ve set on your radio. The Mach Speed CarTunes Max Range MP3 Player/ FM Transmitters features include previous track and volume decrease, play/pause, next track and volume increase, and channel button. This device also works with virtually any media device, or use the internal memory. The CarTunes Max Range is the perfect companion, wherever you may roam.

This is an all-in-one solution of bringing your tunes, podcasts, audio books, and other media with you on the road or any place where you have 12v available.  It has 2 GB of memory on-board as well as a slot for an additional memory card.  It also has a 3.5mm jack for an alternative input if you don’t want to use the built-in MP3 player capability.  In this case, what you feed into the 3.5 mm jack gets transmitted to the FM radio.

The FM transmitter section covers the entire FM broadcast band.  So you can pick any “unused” frequency in your area.  The FM transmitter seems to have good range.  As tested, the range is at least 50 feet.  Used in a vehicle, you will never need this range.  The FM transmitter was powerful enough to overcome some local FM radio stations in the area.

Its simple to load music on the device.  Just plug in the supplied USB cable to the device and a computer.  You know the drill; just drag and drop the MP3’s that you want to play onto the device.  It’s as simple as that.

The Take


  1. The price is right.  For $20 you can get a combo MP3 player with 2GB of on-board memory, FM transmitter section, alternative inputs (3.5mm jack), and external memory expansion.
  2. The FM transmitter section is more than powerful enough for vehicle use and to overcome weak local FM broadcast stations.
  3. The FM transmitter covers the entire FM broadcast band (88-108Mhz) so it should be easy to find an “unused” frequency in just about any area.
  4. It’s one-piece, no wires, and easy to take with you.
  5. Simple operation.  Previous song; next song; pause
  6. The device remembers what song was playing and the FM transmit frequency  the last time you powered it down.  When you power it back up, it picks up where it left off.


  1. The display is way too small to be useful.  You will need a magnifying glass to see all the information that is in the display.  In a display as big as your fingernail is the name of the song playing, a spectrum display, bit rate, length of the song playing, a few more things.  Add to this the fact that it is generally in your 12v accessory plug located away from easy view while you are driving.  There is no way you are going to be able to read the display.
  2. No playlists, no easy navigation of the songs on the device.
  3. No shuffle play
  4. No on/off switch.  Plug it in, it boots, and starts playing.  Pause is the only option; no “off”.


I have an iPod Touch but I don’t want to drag it around with me in vehicles, especially a motorcycle.  The Mach Speed Car Tunes Max Range MP3 Player with FM Transmitter is an inexpensive solution to bringing your tunes with you which plays through a standard FM broadcast radio receiver within a range of about 50 feet.

The controls are minimal.  It is difficult to navigate the songs other than previous and next song.  The digital display is too small to be useful.  There is no shuffle play – for those who do not like predictability.

All in all – this is a useful “throw-away” device that serves a useful purpose.  It’s simple and direct.  Load it with up to 2GB of music and go.  If it gets trashed, lost, or vibrated to death on a motorcycle – it only $20 lost.  Between the time you buy it and the time  it ends up in the trash, this device should provide sufficient utility to justify the $20 cost of this all-in-one solution to bringing your tunes mobile without placing a more expensive MP3 player at risk in adverse environments.

Written by frrl

June 8, 2010 at 4:20 am

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Toxic Corporate Cultures: Lessons from the Enron Debacle

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What can we learn about corporate cultures from the Enron Debacle?

Dr. Paul Wong, a Clinical Psychologist, took a stab at identifying five aspects of a Toxic Corporate Culture.  He wrote an easy-to-read 6 page paper – Lessons from the Enron Debacle: Corporate Culture Matters!

So, take a read

From the paper, here are the five signs of a toxic corporate culture and four signs of health.  This is just a summary.  Each of the these are treated in more detail in the paper along with background on how Enron conducted business.

Toxic Corporate Cultures

The following corporate cultures are described as toxic because they are dysfunctioning in terms of relationships and adjustment to changing times. They undermine the social/spiritual capital, poison the work climate and contribute to organizational decline.

  1. Authoritarian-hierarchical culture – The big boss alone makes all the major decisions behind closed doors. Even when the decisions are harmful to the company, no one dares to challenge the boss. The standard mode of operandum is command and control, with no regard to the well being of employees or the future of the company.   Hierarchies without accountability tend to have a corrupting influence on ambitious, autocratic leaders. When the boss is dysfunctional and has the power to impose his selfish, irrational decisions on others, the entire company suffers.
  2. Competing-conflictive culture – There is always some sort of power struggle going on. Leaders are plotting against each other and stabbing each other on the back. Different units and even different individuals within a unit are undercutting, backstabbing each other to gain some competitive advantage. There is a lack of trust and cooperation. People often hide important information from each other and even sabotage each other’s efforts to ensure that only they will come up on top.  There is no regard for the larger picture and the overall goal of the company. It is everyman for himself.  Both management and workers are obsessed with their own survival and self-interests.
  3. Laissez faire culture – There is a vacuum at the top, either because the leader is incompetent and ignorant, or because he is too preoccupied with his personal affairs to pay much attention to the company. Consequently, there is an absence of directions, standards and expectations. When there is an absence of effective leadership, each department, in fact, each individual does whatever they want. The leadership void will also tempt ambitious individuals to seize power to benefit themselves. Chaos and confusion are the order of the day. No one has a clear sense where the company is going. Often, employees receive conflicting directions and signals. Often, decisions are made in the morning only to be nullified in the afternoon. Given the lack of direction, oversight and accountability all across-the-board, productivity declines. In this kind of culture, the company either disintegrates or becomes an easy target for a hostile takeover.
  4. Dishonest-corrupt culture – In this culture, greed is good and money is God. There is little regard for ethics or the law. Such attitudes permeate the whole company from the top down to individual workers. Bribery, cheating, and fraudulent practices are widespread. Creative accounting and misleading profit reports are a matter of routine. Denial, rationalization and reputation management enable them carry on their unethical and often illegal activities until they are caught red-handed or exposed by correcting forces of the market. When management are blinded by greed and ambition, their judgment becomes distorted and their decisions become seriously flawed; as a result, they often cross the line without being aware of it. Enron serves as a good example.
  5. Rigid-traditional culture – There is a strong resistance to any kind of change. The leadership clings to out-dated methods and traditions, unwilling to adapt to the changes in the market place. They live in past glory and any change poses a threat to their deeply entrenched values and their sense of security. Workers are discouraged or even reprimanded for suggesting innovative ideas.

The five types of toxic cultures are not mutually exclusive. For an example, a corporation may be both authoritarian and traditional. Similarly, a corporation can be both authoritarian and corrupt. When a company suffers from a multiple of diseases, drastic operations are needed to save it from demise. Unfortunately, not many managers are competent in the diagnosis and treatment of toxic corporate cultures.

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Written by frrl

June 7, 2010 at 11:38 am

Who owns culture? Culture as a corporate differentiator

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Who Owns Culture?

Over the past few days we posted a few articles on culture.  To the question, “Who owns culture?” applied to society or to a nation, in a free society like the United States, one might say that “no one” (no person and no group) owns Culture. 

That is, in a free society, people are free to read the culture, and re/write the culture for this and the next generation.  For all we know, this is nothing more than a random walk into an uncertain future.  For people that take the long-view, this scares them.  (Read a related article.)

To the question, “Who owns culture?” applied to a corporation, the answer is easy.  The culture is owned by the CEO and the Board of Directors. 

Just about every major corporation has a page on their web site dedicated to “espousing” the corporate vision and core values of the corporate culture.  I say “espousing” the corporate values insofar as sometimes much of this is Public Relations for consumption by investors and customers. 

The real test of corporate values is behavior.  You only need to look at the behavior of Enron, WorldCom and other poster children of corporate corruptionto to see what can go wrong despite exemplary stagecraft of corporate value systems. is a real success story.  Started by Tony Hsieh in his early 20’s, Tony is smarter than the average CEO about corporate culture.  In fact, Zappos is built around living the corporate culture that it espouses.

Perhaps Tony’s emphasis on corporate culture was based on the previous company he founded, LinkExchange.  In one interview, Tony said that they hired people with the right skill sets and experience but were not culture fits – then the whole company went down from there.  Asked what he would do over when he started Zappos, Hsieh replied that he would “hire more slowly and fire more quickly”.

Paying new employees $2,000 to quit

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Written by frrl

June 7, 2010 at 3:24 am

Who owns Culture?

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If creativity is based on the past how can you have a future without remixing the past?  Is creativity being strangled by laws of copyright and intellectual property?  Will copyright kill new forms of expression?  What is the balance between protection and the freedom to creatively remix?  Who owns culture?  Who owns the right to “read” the culture but also the right  to creatively re/write it for the current and next generation?  Could a society or nation flourish in a “read-only” culture?

Lessig wants to legalize “what it is to be young”, a “new literacy”  and a new  “way to speak” for this generation so they can participate in the creation and re/creation of culture.

Who is Larry Lessig?

Lawrence “Larry” Lessig (born June 3, 1961) is an American academic and political activist. He is best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications.

He is a director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and a professor of law at Harvard Law School. Prior to rejoining Harvard, he was a professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society. Lessig is a founding board member of Creative Commons, a board member of the Software Freedom Law Center and a former board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Read more –

Watch at TED

More about the Creative Commons license –

Written by frrl

June 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

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Creativity, Innovation, and Intellectual Property – Lessons from fashion’s free culture

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What is the ownership of creativity?  Is copying “stealing” or a sign of the creators genius?  Does copying within an industry destroy it or enhance it?  Without ownership is there any incentive to innovate?  Is there an innovation “knock-off”?  What are the virtues of not copying?  Does copying accelerate innovation?  In an industry that has no intellectual property protection can you make things that can not be copied?  What is an aesthetic and how can you use this to resist copying? Can white people play bee bop? In what ways are comedians like fashion designers?  Are the most profitable industries those that have intellectual property protection of those that don’t?

So, what lessons can be learned from the fashion industry – which does not have copyright or intellectual property protection – about creativity, innovation, and the free culture?  How will this inform other industries as they wrestle with the issues of ownership of creativity and intellectual property?

Another TED talk: Johanna Blakely: Lessons from fashion’s free culture

Written by frrl

June 4, 2010 at 4:48 pm

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How digital-to-analog converters can be applied to the development of e-commerce

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It’s amazing how many great academic papers are out there.

Unlike the debacle with Cold Fusion, these papers are vetted by professionals before they are accepted for conferences sponsored by professional organizations such as the IEEE.

This paper was accepted with review by the 2008 International Conference on Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE).

CSSE is one of the important conferences sponsored by IEEE Computer Society, which serves as a forum for scientists and engineers in the latest development of artificial intelligence, grid computing, computer graphics, database technology, and software engineering.


Recent advances in cooperative technology and classical communication are based entirely on the assumption that the Internet and active networks are not in conflict with object-oriented languages. In fact, few information theorists would disagree with the visualization of DHTs that made refining and possibly simulating 8 bit architectures a reality, which embodies the compelling principles of electrical engineering [19]. In this work we better understand how digital-to-analog converters can be applied to the development of e-commerce.

Read the full text of this paper:  Towards the Simulation of E-Commerce by Herbert Schlangemann

Written by frrl

June 3, 2010 at 5:38 pm

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Transgressing the Boundaries: How Postmodernism can Revolutionize Science

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Finally, Postmodernism gets it due.

Over the past two decades there has been extensive discussion among critical theorists with regard to the characteristics of modernist versus postmodernist culture; and in recent years these dialogues have begun to devote detailed attention to the specific problems posed by the natural sciences.  In particular, Madsen and Madsen have recently given a very clear summary of the characteristics of modernist versus postmodernist science. They posit two criteria for a postmodern science:

A simple criterion for science to qualify as postmodern is that it be free from any dependence on the concept of objective truth. By this criterion, for example, the complementarity interpretation of quantum physics due to Niels Bohr and the Copenhagen school is seen as postmodernist.

Clearly, quantum gravity is in this respect an archetypal postmodernist science. Secondly,

The other concept which can be taken as being fundamental to postmodern science is that of essentiality. Postmodern scientific theories are constructed from those theoretical elements which are essential for the consistency and utility of the theory.

Thus, quantities or objects which are in principle unobservable — such as space-time points, exact particle positions, or quarks and gluons — ought not to be introduced into the theory. While much of modern physics is excluded by this criterion, quantum gravity again qualifies: in the passage from classical general relativity to the quantized theory, space-time points (and indeed the space-time manifold itself) have disappeared from the theory.

Read the full text of this famous paper in the history of science:
Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity

Written by frrl

June 3, 2010 at 3:32 am

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Tips and Tutorials on Extreme Computing on YouTube

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If you are in to building extreme computing platforms you should know about this YouTube channel.

A recent video blog

The YouTube Channel –


Written by frrl

June 1, 2010 at 4:01 am

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The Law of the Lid and why Leadership can’t be taught

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The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and we miss it, but we aim too low and reach it. – Michelangelo

The Journey

Why do some people stay employees all their life?  Why do some people become self-employed and start businesses?  Why do some small businesses stay small businesses?  Why do businesses that start out as single-owner sole proprietorship stay that way and never become employer businesses?  Why do some companies grow to global enterprises while others never even have a nationwide presence?  Why are there enduring “Mom and Pop” businesses while at the time a single Wal-Mart store in Rogers Ark.  can grow to 8,400 stores, 2.1 million employees, and 400 billion dollars in revenue over 4 decades?

The answer to the question above lays in many parts – timing, circumstances, resources, and perhaps, just dumb luck and serendipity.  There is one aspect that one can ferret out of the numerous aspects that determine how far an individual, team, organization, or company gets on the journey to “success” – for whatever definition of success one chooses to define.

What is “The Lid”

The “lid” is a term used by John C. Maxwell.  Here is how he explains it

Leadership is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential. The higher the leadership, the greater the effectiveness. Your leadership ability–for better or for worse–always determines your effectiveness and the potential impact of your organization. If you want to grow your church or company, you need to lift your lid.

A few years ago, I met Don Stephenson, the chairman of Global Hospitality Resources, Inc., an international hospitality advisory and consulting firm. At the time, his company took over the management of hotels and resorts that weren’t doing well financially. I asked him to explain how they did it.

Don said that whenever they went into an organization, they always started by doing two things: First, they trained all the staff to improve their level of service to the customers; and second, they fired the leader.

“You always fire him?” I asked. “Don’t you talk to the person first–to see if he’s a good leader?”

“No,” he answered. “If he’d been a good leader, the organization wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in.”

And I thought to myself, Of course. It’s the Law of the Lid. To reach the highest level of effectiveness, you have to raise the lid–one way or another.

The good news is that getting rid of the leader isn’t the only way. You can also do it through personal growth and development. 

To further illustrate the Law of the Lid, Maxwell tells the story of the McDonald Corporation.  Which, if you didn’t know, if it wasn’t for Ray Kroc,  would not be the global corporation that it is today.

If the McDonalds corporation was left to the McDonalds brothers – Dick and Maurice,  McDonalds would be a single restaurant on the corner of 14’th and E streets in San Bernardino California.

Here is the story of Dick and Maurice McDonald as told by Maxwell

Let me start by telling you a story that illustrates the Law of the Lid. In 1930, two young brothers named Dick and Maurice moved from New Hampshire to California in search of the American Dream. In their search for success, the brothers tried out a few business opportunities in and around Hollywood. In 1937, they struck on something that worked. They opened a small drive-in restaurant in Pasadena.

Dick and Maurice’s tiny drive-in was a great success, and in 1940, they decided to move the operation to San Bernardino, fifty miles east of Los Angeles. Their business exploded. Annual sales reached $200,000, and the brothers found themselves splitting $50,000 in profits every year–a sum that put them in the town’s financial elite.

As times changed, so did they. In 1948, they streamlined everything, reducing their menu and emphasizing service with speed. And their profits soared. The two young men had the golden touch.

Who were these brothers? Their names were Dick and Maurice McDonald. They had hit the great American jackpot, and the rest, as they say, is history, right? Wrong! The McDonalds never went any farther because their weak leadership clamped a lid on their ability to succeed.

It’s true that the McDonald brothers had one of the most profitable restaurant enterprises in the country. Their genius was in customer service and kitchen organization. But when they tried marketing the McDonald’s concept to open other franchises in 1952, their effort was a dismal failure. The reason was simple. They lacked the leadership necessary to grow their organization. Dick and Maurice were good restaurant owners and efficient managers. But they were not leaders. At the height of their success, Dick and Maurice found themselves smack-dab against the Law of the Lid.

In 1954, the brothers hooked up with a man named Ray Kroc, who was a leader. He soon struck a deal with Dick and Maurice, and in 1955, he formed McDonald’s System, Inc. (later called the McDonald’s Corporation).

Kroc immediately bought a franchise to use as a model and prototype to sell other franchises. Then he assembled a team and built an organization. The “lid” in the life and leadership of Ray Kroc was obviously much higher than that of his predecessors. Between 1955 and 1959, Kroc opened 100 restaurants. In 1961, for the sum of $2.7 million, Kroc bought the exclusive rights to McDonald’s from the brothers, and he proceeded to turn it into an American institution and global entity.

Today the company has more than 21,000 restaurants in no fewer than 100 countries. Leadership ability–or more specifically its lack–was the lid on the McDonald brothers’ effectiveness.

So, there are a couple of points to make

  1. The Law of the Lid sets the limit of effectiveness of an individual, team, organization, company, or for that matter – a society, culture, or a nation.  (If we extend Maxwell’s concept to the extreme.)
  2. According to Maxwell, Leadership can be taught. (“The good news is that getting rid of the leader isn’t the only way. You can also do it through personal growth and development. “)

Number one is true’; Number two is “maybe” and “usually not”

Here’s why

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Written by frrl

June 1, 2010 at 2:25 am

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