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.