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Archive for January 2013

ARRL: Reaping the Whirlwind

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“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.  The one great exception is in the area of technology, and save for minimal descriptions necessary to the story, that has not been our concern.
The World of Ham Radio, 1901-1950: a social history by Richard Bartlett

It is rather interesting that a book published in 2007 ends with the above Epilogue.  The author is essentially saying that, for him, the evolution of ham radio ended in the 1950’s  and so that is where his book on Amateur Radio will cease to tell the story.  There is nothing else to report other than “repetition”.  It’s a sort of “Mission Accomplished” and the date in history is 1950.

Look in the index of the book and you will find that the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) has about the most page references of any entry.  The ARRL figures prominently in the story of Amateur Radio since its founding at the beginning of the 20th century up until where the author ends the story.

A couple of weeks ago there was a segment on 60 minutes on the newspaper industry.  The newspaper industry just like traditional book sellers, travel agents, video rental, and all the rest have been hit by a technological revolution.  This technological revolution can be seen either as death through  irrelevancy or as harbinger of opportunity – depending on your perspective.


Newspapers are in trouble because they continue to do what they do, and what they always did – print newspapers no matter what the massive changes (opportunities) that were in front of them all along.  Traditional newspapers are in  trouble because they were in a state of repetition while the whole world changed, and continues to change, around them.  Printed newspaper are falling into a state of irrelevancy for an increasing large number of people.

In the case of the The Times-Picayune which was profiled on 60 Minutes the reason the paper gave for not changing was the traditional audience for the paper.  The idea being that they would be loyal to their current audience and the preferences this particular audience chooses to consume their news.  But, in the end, the current audience and their preferences could not sustain the ongoing full operation of The Times-Picayune.

The Take

There is an interesting parallel between the decision of the author of The World of Ham Radio published in 2007 to cut short the history of Ham Radio in 1950 and the newspaper industry.  Both the ARRL as a proxy for Amateur Radio and The Times-Picayune as proxy for newspapers in general are caught in decades long cycles of repetition.  Both remain loyal to their existing audience.  The audience for both is generational.

As for the The Times-Picayune newspaper they were forced into shutting down parts of the enterprise due to financial concerns brought about by change.  They were forced into this unplanned event based on financial drivers.

As for the ARRL, it seems to be a waiting game of how they deal technological change which makes Amateur Radio an interesting hobby in the context of our taken-for-granted always-on hyper global connectivity available to anyone with a smart phone  and the issue of their membership which shows a clear generational preference.

This is from ARRL CEO David Summer K1ZZ posted on the ARRL website:

Mr. Sumner reported on his research into “state of the art” strategic planning by large membership associations. Perhaps because of the negative impact of the financial upheavals of 2008 and the revolution in electronic publishing, at this time there appears to be no consensus among associations as to the value of strategic planning or the best way for associations to go about it. The ARRL Board last updated the organization’s strategic plan in 2009 and normally would conduct an in-depth review three to five years later. The committee discussed the perceived shortcomings of past strategic planning efforts along with possible improvements. Without taking a formal decision the committee concluded that while strategic planning remains important to the ARRL, planning for a successful Centennial celebration in 2014 is the current priority. A fresh approach to strategic planning should be taken immediately afterward.

In 2014 the ARRL will celebrate its 100th anniversary.  One would wonder if the ARRL  Centennial celebration – its current organizational priority – is primarily a look back or a look forward.  If it’s a look forward then can the ARRL afford a delay in the Strategic Plan that sets its course for the future in the context of its membership which is in a generational bubble and modern taken-for-granted hyper-connectivity global communications technology available to anyone with a smart phone – not just those with an Amateur Radio license.

“at this time there appears to be no consensus among associations as to the value of strategic planning or the best way for associations to go about it“… is that what happened to the newspaper business in general and The Times-Picayune in particular?

Read more…

NASA: What to do after Mission Accomplished?

Written by frrl

January 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

The Future: Hidden in Plain Sight

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“‘All right,’ said the Cat: and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.  ‘Well!’ I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice: ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!’”  Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

If you go wandering around a typical Fortune 500 company chances are 100% that there will be a “Diversity Program”.  By Diversity program the majority of organizations implicitly and unthinkingly understand this to be – primarily and exclusively – diversity around ethnicity.

What about generational diversity?  What we should all know for sure,  based on simple observation, is that in any large organization there are individuals representing 4 distinct generations.  It would be easy to say that these 4 generations are easily mapped into age groups –    but I won’t as this is sometime not nearly the case – depending on the organization.

For those organizations that are in the path of the increasingly velocity of technological change and which must adapt to survive and prosper then making some sort of assessment of who you have in key positions becomes important.

There is a tremendous amount you can learn about people by having simple casual conversations.

In plain sight

Individuals differ widely in what they notice and what escapes their notice.  People differ widely in their level of curiosity.   People differ widely on what drives them into discovery.  If you had the opportunity to have a simple informal conversation with someone how would you get a handle on the above?

Comments on the content of television aside, everyone watches television.  You might watch the nightly news, a reality show, PBS or whatever.  No matter the category of the television programing something pervasive is going on.  Did you notice it?

Ask someone if they saw the “hash tag” on the nightly news, the reality show, or the PBS show.  Maybe they don’t know what you’re talking about.  Ask them if they see that word beginning with the # mark at the margins of the video image.

It’s a valuable observation to make note of the diversity of the answers you will get if you ask people about hash tags as part of an informal conversation.

  • Some people, even though they watch a lot of television, will tell you they have never seen these hash tags even though they did.  That is, they are not overtly conscious of seeing them.  Their eyes saw them but it was not raised to a level of consciousness.  The hash tags are there – but not there.
  • Some people will tell you they saw those tags.  But they won’t know what they are.  For these folks, they see the tags, know that they don’t know what they are but don’t have a level of curiosity to find out what they are, what they mean, and how to use them.
  • Some people know what those hash tags are and tell you they have them as pre-defined search terms in Twitter.

So, if you were to wander around an organization, in sort of non-threatening way, and have a simple informal conversation with people in different parts of the organization and at various levels of the organizational hierarchy – what would you expect to hear?  From what parts of the organization, from who in the organizational decision-making hierarchy.  Who should know what and should you be surprised by the answers you get?

If you were to ask those responsible for new product development about hash tags and they didn’t  know what a hash tag was (didn’t see ’em (but yes they did); saw them but didn’t have the curiosity to find out) what would you think?  What about those folks in engineering – does it matter if they know what a hash tag is?  And heaven help you, if someone in the marketing department doesn’t know what they are.

It is easy, and an oversimplification to make a projection (hypothesis) that those who know and those who don’t know are easily segmented into age groups and into levels of the organizational hierarchy.  That is, young people know, old people don’t know;  those in higher levels of an organization know – no matter their age; people near the bottom of an organization don’t know – no matter their age.

Try it. You might be surprised at what you discover.

But clearly, if your VP of product development or someone in the marketing department doesn’t notice these sorts of remnant grins of the Cheshire Cat marking the future in plain sight at the margins of the television screen then perhaps you need to make a more detailed assessment of how well your organization is positioned to recognize the future with such people in place. 

So, when it comes to strategic direction and strategic priorities, it’s not so much about ethnic diversity as it is about generational diversity and the advantage some generations have in seeing what other generations can not – even though it’s in plain sight.

Read more…

What does the next generation think about who should be doing what…
Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25

Written by frrl

January 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Who NOT to invite to your brainstorming sessions

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I caught this posting by Seth Godin

The cost of neutral

If you come to my brainstorming meeting and say nothing, it would have been better if you hadn’t come at all.

If you go to work and do what you’re told, you’re not being negative, certainly, but the lack of initiative you demonstrate (which, alas, you were trained not to demonstrate) costs us all, because you’re using a slot that could have been filled by someone who would have added more value.

It’s tempting to sit quietly, take notes and comply, rationalizing that at least you’re not doing anything negative. But the opportunity cost your newly lean, highly leveraged organization faces is significant.

Not adding value is the same as taking it away.

Pick carefully those people you invite to your brainstorming session.

Sometimes people are picked for brainstorming because they have certain domain knowledge but the selection process forgets some crucial elements.

  1. Those people who want to “go along to get along”.
  2. Those people who are in a domain that is not exactly “social”.
  3. Those people who are not generally familiar with paradigm shifts.

The purpose of brainstorming is to come up with new ideas and be creative.  At its best, a brainstorming session with different perspective can allow a group of people to “see around corners” in a way that is not possible with a team of solitary disconnected individuals – no matter how smart or extensive their domain knowledge.  They key is to build upon other people’s ideas in an open way.

So, people who want to “go along to get along” ( consensus thinkers – read) don’t make good brainstorming group members.  Those who lack social skills may miss important social cues during a session and perturb the social dynamic that is so important to brainstorming.  Finally, as Seth points out, there are many people, who are excellent in delivering their domain knowledge in an operational setting but generally are not the authors of paradigm shifts.  For this last group of folks  delivering consistency and the status quo are as fundamental to them as water is to fish – that is, an unnoticed environment in which they live.  Delivering the status quo is the exact opposite of the purpose of brainstorming.

If your brainstorming session is not producing the results you expect then maybe the problem is not the process – but the people you have selected.

Written by frrl

January 14, 2013 at 4:16 am

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