Sunday, February 26, 2017

Opportunities in the midst of accelerating change

Everything is getting faster.

Everything is getting crazier.

Many people say that everything in our lives needs to get radically reordered to keep up.

I don't think so.  I think that old school values matter increasingly.

In 1965 Intel co-founder Gordon Moore published an idea that has become know over the decades as Moore's law  Moore extrapolated that computing would dramatically increase in power, and decrease in relative cost, at an exponential pace.  

You can't match wits with Moore's law.  We can stay ahead of it by leveraging the oldest of pass times - conversation, unexpected collaborations, and building networks.

This is a good quote from Thomas L. Friedman's new book 'Thank You for Being Late':

"If you took Intel's first-generation microchip from 1971, the 4004, and the latest chip that Intel has on the market today, the sixth-generation Intel core processor, you will see that Intel's latest chip offers 3,500 times more performance, is 90,000 times more efficient, and is about 60,000 times lower in cost.

To put it more vividly, Intel engineers did a rough calculation of what would happen had a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle improved at the same rate as microchips did under Moore's law.

These are the numbers:  Today, the Beetle would be able to go about three hundred thousand miles per hour.  It would get two million miles per gallon of gas, and it would cost four cents!"

Our computational skills haven't matched Moore's law exponential growth for decades.

However, for those willing to ride the bronco, our people skills can.  And we can do it through the oldest of mediums.  Conversations. A willingness to understand and consider.  A penchant for building new networks.

Are things getting faster?  Yes.

Are things getting crazier?  Only if you let them.

Thomas Friedman's book 'Thank You for Being Late'.

Moore's law

Eastern Screech Owl.  Wisconsin, late winter, 2017,

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Persistence overcomes resistance.

Adam Steltzner led the Entry, Descent and Landing team in landing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars.

This quote is from his book, 'The Right Kind of Crazy', a great book about breakthrough innovation in the face of the impossible.

"There comes a moment in every creative or innovative process when you're not only lost; you're not even sure where to find a map.  Spending time in this Dark Room is terrifying, but there is no easy way out.  You have to stay calm, to hold on to the doubt, listen to the problem, and keep thinking of solutions while avoiding the mind-locking panic that you won't find one in time.  We were in the Dark Room and the only way out was persistence."

Persistence can overcome a lot of unknowns.  When you persist, the problems you need to know about show themselves, rather than waiting to grab you as you go by.  It's always best to meet problems on your own terms rather than waiting to wander into them unprepared.

Problem solving requires a strong heart, a calm demeanor, and diverse skills you can mix and match on the fly.  The problems you'll face typically get more daunting the closer you get to your goals.  This is especially true for innovators, artists and entrepreneurs.

As Steven Pressfield says so eloquently in the War of Art,  "The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death."   

"That's a law of nature.  Where there is a Dream, there is Resistance.  Thus, when we encounter Resistance, somewhere nearby there is a Dream."

Adam Steltzner and his team delivered the Curiosity Rover to Mars with perfect landing almost 5 years ago.  Just prior they were stuck and terrified with no easy ways out.

We all face those moments.  Dreams are nearby.

Persistence overcomes resistance.  


The Right Kind of Crazy.  Adam Steltzner

The War of Art.   Steven Pressfield

Purple Gallinule (photo).  Mauston, WI, 2017.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

How We Dream Up Things That Change the World - Make the Tools That Fix the Problem

I'm reading a good book called 'INVENTology.  How We Dream Up Things That Change the World', by Pagan Kennedy.

Ms. Kennedy, former innovation columnist for the New York Times, advances the idea of a 'Lead User' and how people in that role - all of us looking to solve a problem - can infer world changing solutions no one has yet seen.

The term Lead User was first coined in the 1970s by economist Eric Von Hipple as a name for people who struggle with problems for which no off-the-shelf solution is available.  Along the way he became a Lead User himself, as the inventor of a solution people needed for a specific problem that few even recognized.   In the end there were many, and various problems his solution solved.

When Von Hippel later switched carreers and became a researcher he was struck by the question:  Who really dreams up breakthrough ideas?

First he identified about 100 scientific instruments that had made a significant impact and then dug in.  "He learned that about 80 percent of the scientific instrument products had begun with someone who needed the tool."

This is the lesson my engineer/inventor Dad taught me:  if you want to make a real impact you design the tool that makes the tool that makes the product.  That is, you get into the problem deeply enough to personally understand what's needed to make the tools that help solve those problems.

Here is the author's summary of this phase:  "Of course, only certain types of problems are valuable.  Ideally you would want to suffer from a frustration that is rare now (so that no one else knows about it) but that one day will bother lots of people.  'Lead Users are familiar with the conditions which lie in the future for most others', Von Hippel wrote, and so 'they can serve as a need-forecasting laboratory.'"

This is my take away.  The world has problems.  Our job is to understand what's needed next and invent tools to help get us through what's coming.

Seems about right.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Welcome back. Buckle up.

Welcome back.  I've taken about a year off from this blog to launch a new business.  That work is well underway and it's time to get back to writing.

I’m mashing up for-profit enterprises with non-profits to develop new regional food networks.  We're making jobs for people with disabilities along the way.

It looks like a promising way to leverage entrepreneurship in support of non-profit needs and goals.

In my first post back in 2005, I said I wanted to help launch a million new small businesses.  I still do, now more than ever.


I used to try to match a photo up with the nature of the blog post.  Going forward I’m going to use photos I’ve taken of birds.  Because I can.

Ring-necked Pheasant, male.  January 2017, Middleton, WI.  Rick Terrien. 

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ring-necked Pheasant.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Inspiring Purpose Prize leaders.

In 2015 I was fortunate to be honored as a Purpose Prize Fellow.

The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of the Purpose Prize, just published a great report about this year's prize winners.  It's an inspiring group that I'm very proud to be associated with.

From a remote corner of Alaska to Harlem, from micro lending to the arts, these 'encore career' leaders are demonstrating beautifully the many ways that age and experience can help solve intractable problems.

The world needs 'encore' contributors.  To a person, we're all doing this to help create a better world for the next generations.

It's an honor to be sprinting along with this group.

Intergenerational Inspiration Marks 10th Year of The Purpose Prize.  Templeton Report.  Dec. 10, 2015.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

My Kiva report. Thanksgiving 2015

really like working with KIVA to support entrepreneurs around the world through micro loans. is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.

As of Thanksgiving 2015 I've made 108 loans to entrepreneurs in 69 different countries.  73% female.  27% male.

I've supported 7 of KIVA's 7 markers for social performance.

The business model is called a revolving loan.  You make the loan on your terms and when you get paid back you get to loan it out again. 

The interest you make is paid in gratification for being able to help your global peers build a better world.

As Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus said:  "A charity dollar has only one life; a social business dollar can be invested over and over again."


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful. Purpose Prize Fellow 2015

I am profoundly grateful that the work we are doing is being recognized.

I've just been included in a group of remarkable people creating inspiring new careers as a Purpose Prize Fellow.

Thank you!

From the Purpose Prize / web site:

" is building a movement to tap the skills and experience of people in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world.

Our ultimate goal is to create a better future for young people and future generations."

Everyone I work with, especially my co-workers with disabilities at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, is grateful for this recognition.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Author Marlon James - a huge win after 78 rejections.

You want real entrepreneurship?

Get closer to what artists and scientists do:
- Dream.
- Test.
- Persevere.
- Repeat.

Jamaican author Marlon James says he nearly gave up writing after his first novel, John Crow's Devil, was rejected 78 times by publishers.  He was recently awarded the Booker Prize, a literary award given each year for the best original novel, written in the English language, and published in the UK.

This recognition came within a close shave with disaster .  He had to retrieve the only remaining copy from an old email outbox.

Mr James dreamed and tested his story.  He persevered. Over and over.

"'There was a time I actually thought I was writing the kind of stories people didn’t want to read,' he told Today. Asked if he had considered giving up writing, the 44-year-old writer said: 'I did give it up. I actually destroyed the manuscript, I even went on my friends computers and erased it.' He said he retrieved the text by searching in the email outbox of an old iMac computer."

Entrepreneurs should look to artists and scientists for their inspiration:

Booker Prize winner's debut novel rejected nearly 80 times

Monday, September 28, 2015

"The Future of Food is Food"

Steve Case is an important investor and entrepreneur (AOL).  He recently wrote a good article called "The Future of Food is Food"

There are so many people touting goofy food trends that it's hard to keep up.  What Mr. Case brings us back to is the fact that someone has to grow real food and someone has to prepare it.

This is not manufacturing.  This is not an app.  This is not counting users.  This is food.  Part way through the quote below Mr. Case asks if Google would be serving powdered food and drinks to its employees.  I don't think so.

The world needs small, regionally based production kitchens that can capture, stabilize and move to market the millions and millions of pounds of food that are wasted every year during the harvest.  There is just no way to save it without minimal processing and a way to store it for year-round use on a commercial scale.

That's what our friends at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen do.   They take real food from real family farms in the Upper Midwest and turn it into delicious ingredients for year-round use on menus across the region.

They also take treasured recipes - and exciting new ones - and turn them into real food products and brands that food entrepreneurs can build careers on.  Nothing being made into 22nd century food powders.

Sure there will always be new ways of growing food and certainly new ways will arise to store and preserve it, but those efforts will be in support of real food not 'food like substances'.  That's what they do at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

Astronauts may have started out drinking Tang, but now they're growing leafy greens on the International Space Station.

Here are a few excerpts from the Future of Food is Food (link below)

"Do we need healthier food and a cheaper way of sourcing and distributing that food? Absolutely. But that’s not a powder. It’s authentic, natural foods, locally sourced, sustainably grown, brought fresh to our tables."

"Or let’s take Google. Google’s culture thrives on collaboration, which includes a buzzing and healthy in-house dining experience for everyone to mingle and relax. I doubt Google would dream of firing their chefs and replacing their buffet with powdered drinks."
"In fact, some of the best ideas I have ever been part of have come over a shared meal. I remember having sushi with Steve Jobs when he was outlining his vision for the iPod, and being moved by a conversation I had with Nelson Mandela in his home after lunch about the rise of Africa. And not a week goes by when I’m not inspired by an up-and-coming entrepreneur, sharing his or her vision for a better world as we break bread."
"Sure, there will be some that prefer powder over real food, and more time in front of a computer over more time with loved ones. Indeed, one advocate of powder over food recently told the New York Times, “I think engineers are ready to throw in the towel on the illusion that we’re having this family dinner … Let’s do away with all the marketing facade and get the calories as quickly as we can.”
"That is sad. That is not what Silicon Valley disruption is about. What are we innovating for, who are we building the future for, if we don’t value human connection?"
"In my opinion, Michael Pollan had it right when he urged us all to eat 'real food,' avoid 'edible food-like substances' — and 'don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.'"
"Sometimes revolutions take us forward by taking us back."

Amen.  You should check into Innovation Kitchens

The Future of Food is Food.  By Steve Case.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My 100th Kiva loan to global entrepreneurs

This weekend I made my 100th micro-loan through   

It's a good feeling to be able to support entrepreneurs globally.  It's especially nice when Kiva makes it so easy.

My portfolio after 100 loans:

73% female.  27% male.
About 95% related to agriculture and food entrepreneurship.  Kiva has a 98.59% repayment rate.  Kiva currently has about 1,341,049 individual lenders who have made about $759,301,075 in loans globally.

I'm proud to be part of this story.  I've included a link at the end if you'd like to learn more.

Here is the story behind my 100th Kiva loan (photo).  This story lured me in because it mirrors the effort we're making at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen to improve food preparation efficiencies while creating valuable jobs for co-workers with disabilities:

"The 'Cristo el salvador' communal bank is made up of 5 responsible women who want to get ahead in life. In the new cycle the group is represented by Vilma, who is 50, single and has 4 children, 1 of whom still depends on her. She has a business selling all types of food that she prepares for her customers herself with a lot of hard work. That is why she will use the loan to buy an renew her utensils, such as pots, stirring spoons, plates and cutlery she needs to be able to serve and sell better. This is how Vilma generates her own income with a lot of hard work and dedication, to offer her son a better quality of life. In future, she plans on doing buffets for all types of events, because she is the best at that. In the group photo, Vilma is standing among the other members, who are seated."

Here is my 'country list', of places where I chose to make my micro-loans loans to help entrepreneurs:

Burkina Faso
Congo – DRC – Democratic Republic of Congo
Costa Rica
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Sierra Leone
South Africa
United States
Viet Nam

Don't wait for top down solutions to problems that can be solved at the person-to-person level.  I invite you to join this adventure in support of our global peers:

Thanks Kiva!