31 May 2005

Transforming Pessimism

The average Puerto Rican is a pessimist. Now for those of you who confuse surnames with origins, "Schmidt" comes from Germany by way of Ponce, Orocovis, Santurce and Aguadilla.

Back to my point: Pessimism reigns in the average Puerto Rican. The "can do" spirit here is a "can't do" depression. Being pessimistic also leads to a passive attitude, a "somebody save me" malaise that feeds on itself and ultimately leads to feelings of inferiority.

Those of Us who are angry at this point, please stick around: The Jenius is not a pessimist. Those of Us who agree with Me, stick around: there's work to be done. Those who don't care can continue to serve as Exhibit A in the "See the Problem" presentation.

The origin of pessimism is teaching, not instinct. For proof, watch the average toddler learn to walk: pessimists would continue crawling until age 24. We learn to be pessimists, which means We can learn to be optimists.

A brief digression: DON'T give The Jenius that tripe about "pessimists being realists." Optimists are realists, too, for what kind of a world would We live in if the pessimist "vision" dominated? The Jenius can see Us still in trees, picking fruit and slinging poo at lions. (Come to think of it, The Fools almost do that now.)

Now how does one go about "learning" optimism? First of all, it cannot be done by denying pessimism. Humanity has long discovered that denying any part of the Self only strengthens that part of the person. Therefore, one must embrace the pessimistic tendency and lead it in a new direction.

Enter Hegel, or to be precise, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Dispensing with the details, Hegel is known for a philosophical tool (often misused and misquoted, but very useful) known as the "Hegelian dialectic." Defined as Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis, it can be simplified as "A viewpoint + the opposite = a combined solution." As applied to Our quest to change pessimism, it takes the original pessimistic thought, generates the opposite idea and then combines them to find a solution.


Thesis: Puerto Rico cannot become a key global economic player because it is too small.

Antithesis: Puerto Rico is small, but densely populated and thus a beehive of relationships, a key component of the Knowledge Economy.

Synthesis: Bring more of those relationships and relating skills to the forefront of the economic expansion effort (thus obliterating size with overall impact).

The example may be overly simplistic, but the method works at all levels. All it requires is that one take just 2 additional steps beyond the initial pessimistic reaction: generate the opposite (easy), then bring them together for a solution (from easy to difficult.)

Like any habit, it takes time to become proficient in its use. It takes practice. And don't think it can't be done: you learned pessimism, you can learn to do this.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

30 May 2005

Surgeon General: Example

Dr. Richard Carmona, Surgeon General of the United States, was the Commencement Speaker at the Ponce School of Medicine's graduation ceremony this past Saturday. Speaking without notes, directly from the heart, Dr. Carmona was eloquent and forceful, a presence that elevated what was a dour and otherwise classless event into a memorable one.

Dr. Carmona is of Puerto Rican descent, his family origins tracing to Ponce and Cataño. Although raised in New York, his "abuelita"--the iron-willed matriarch of her 27 children--insisted in teaching him about his roots, ancestry and Latin American culture. This sense of identity, fostered from childhood as a necessity, gave Dr. Carmona a base from which to evaluate the world and its diversity.

A key point to understanding Dr. Carmona is that he is a high-school dropout--who became Surgeon General. In a path that can only be called "varied," Dr. Carmona was a Special Forces combat soldier, paramedic, registered nurse and deputy, amongst other things. With a level of persistence few could match, he willed himself from marginal to central, from dropout to Top Doctor, betting on himself despite the obstacles. He never took any of his circumstances as weaknesses, nor did he let the limitations of the thinking of those around him limit his own.

Dr. Carmona credits his "abuelita" for supporting him every step of his difficult way and for teaching him the true value of community. In a moment of sincere passion, Dr. Carmona asked the newest health practitioners "Who are you helping come up behind you?" and "What is your legacy going to be?"

With simple words, Dr. Carmona told the graduates that they were sitting there because many, many people had helped them along the way, and that their success could only be extended by helping others make the same journey. And when the future left this day far in the past, he urged each and every one of them to make sure they had created a legacy far beyond personal success, one that encompassed the community, their nation and even the world.

Dr. Carmona spoke as Surgeon General to doctors and Public Health officials, but his words have meaning to all of Us. Who are We helping to come up behind us? What will be Our Legacy when Our time is up?

There have only been 17 Surgeon Generals in the history of the United States. Of those seventeen, only one dropped out of school. Dr. Carmona is one of Ours, a bright star of what Our Talent can produce. There are many others. It is time We brought them forth en masse.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 May 2005

Variety Pack 001

The Jenius wants to present a variety of matters today:

GOOD LEADERSHIP: In the current EnterPRize Competition, sponsored locally by the Guayacán Venture Capital Fund, 10 projects were selected as semi-finalists for the $100,000 cash award. Of the 10 projects, two are created by members of Open Source Minds: LasFinanzasPR.com and an event and location-specific content management system proposed by Kevin Shockey. The Jenius predicts that the cash award WILL go to one of those two projects.

GOOD LEADERSHIP: Speaking of Kevin, he will be in Brazil next week participating in the 6th International Free Software Forum. There he will not only present his conference, titled Teiniaguá and Open Source Java: Myths or Reality?, he will also present the SNAP Development Platform, created and developed here in Puerto Rico.

BAD LEADERSHIP: The Retailers' Union (Centro Unido de Detallistas) is continuing its traditional whiny "Protect-me-I'm-too-little!" sobfest by begging that The Fools get their act together (HA!) and "get the country moving again."

The Jenius has 6 words of advice to the Boo-Hoo Bunch: Shut up and get to work. If this so-called "Union" represents over 65% of the economic muscle of Puerto Rico, why the blazes are you asking for "protection" and government "support"? YOU should be telling The Fools what to do and how to do it, instead of treating those nincompoops like pashas granting favors. Here's some more free advice: Protection is akin to destruction. If you firmly believe We can't compete without protection, get the hell out of the way and let Us, who believe more in Us than you ever will, get the job done. You haven't done it, and at this rate, you never will.

GOOD/BAD LEADERSHIP: Estudios Técnicos, led by a former Chamber of Commerce president Joaquín Villamil, urged the private sectors to take action against government inaction and "let politicians know they don't own this country." Bravo! But in their Symposium on an Economic Direction for Puerto Rico, the stated recommendations range from trite (more effective and efficient government and private sectors; stimulate public and private investment) to the banal (unite academia, government and private sectors; develop tax reforms.) Here's The Jenius' shorthand reaction: Duh. These same ideas were proposed four decades ago and the fact that a Symposium of experts comes together and can only repeat these ideas as their recommendations is pathetic.

True, in trying to educate government, We are dealing with Fools, lower primates dominated by base instincts. So if We know this--and We do--it makes sense to find other ways to get the message across, because simply repeating it is useless. One definition of insanity is to continue the same behavior and expect different results. By that standard, this is lunacy.

GOOD LEADERSHIP: Andreica Maldonado Arroyo, from Inés Mendoza High School in Cabo Rojo won Third Prize in the International Science Fair held recently in Phoenix, Arizona. Competing against students from 40 countries, Ms. Maldonando won the Women Geoscientists Award for the project she developed with her science teacher, Mr. Iván Montalvo.

The news, and that of other Puerto Rican award winners, merited one-eighth of a page in the Island's so-called "leading newspaper." However, the anorexic (or bulimic) doings of women in Thailand merit page after page after freaking page in that same daily. Our media covers "news" like vultures: they circle only around stench. Time and again, Our Talent--Our True Talent--gets shoved aside in favor of crudeness, violence, idiocy and gossip.

Ms. Maldonado, Mr. Montalvo and the many thousands--yes, thousands--of Our People who achieve great things deserve much better. It's about time We gave it to Ourselves.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

26 May 2005

Happy Birthday, Kaleb

The Jenius has a son. His name is Kaleb and today he is 5 years old. He is at that magical age when his every emotion is honest, his curiosity seems limitless and his potential is taking shape. He is my son. I love him dearly. And I am afraid.

He knows very little about the world around him, but more than I think he does. His world is undergoing major changes and he faces them alone, for he has neither the words nor the perspective to ask the right questions. He needs to learn more, and I try to guide him, but forcing him will get us nowhere: Kaleb will learn at his own pace, in his own way, so that what he gains in information can become internalized as knowledge.

I know he is feeling anxious and he expresses it as anger and frustration. I ask so much of him, forgetting he is only five years old. I want so much to protect him, to shield him from all pain, but that is not love: it is dominance through fear. My fears are not his, nor should they be. And yet, because he loves me, they are.

I ask so much of myself, trying to be the perfect father, forgetting that Kaleb doesn't need perfection. He needs a father, an example of strength as well as an example of human frailty. Someone who laughs with him and listens, who expresses happiness and anger, who celebrates victory and shrugs off defeat, though pain may slow that process to a crawl. A father who makes mistakes and admits them, who can say "I was wrong" and "I'm sorry" with humility, not vengeance. A father who will let him grow as his own man, secure in his own self-knowledge and confident that he will always have Dad at his side.

We have shared more, Kaleb and I, than I ever shared with my father. He was of a different time and era, one where fathers loomed atop Mount Olympus and deeded out their time as seeds from a dwindling harvest. He knew no other way. I do. One would think that more time with a baby, then toddler and pre-schooler, would quell the fear We as parents tend to feel. It hasn't. If anything, my fear is sharper. Oddly, the fear is not that Kaleb will fail, for he already shows abilities The Jenius took until adulthood to develop: the fear is that I--that Our generation--will fail him and all the other children whose future now depends on Us.

On a recent trip to San Juan, I returned home past midnight. The house was quiet and I looked in to see Kaleb sleeping. As I was writing notes about the work I had done and would do the next day, Kaleb emerged from his room, stumbling slightly in his sleepy walk and gave me a hug, resting his head upon my shoulder and sighing. He gave me a kiss and stumbling slightly in his sleepy walk, he went back to bed. His world was right again; Dad was home.

That may not be the truth for much longer. Kaleb, sometimes I may let you down as a father. Not because I want to, but because I make mistakes. You will probably forgive me far faster and more often than I forgive myself. And sometimes, I may let you down as a man, as an example of what an adult should be in this ever-changing world. Again, I am human. But although I may let you down, I will never fail you. I can only fail you if I quit, if I give up and simply let the world pass me by, a limp body by the roadside to the Future. For as long as I can, I will try to make a difference. And when it is Your Turn to start making a difference, I hope We can do it together.

Happy Birthday, Kaleb. I love you and I always will. May Our Road always be shared.

25 May 2005

The New Informational Literacy

The Jenius reads and absorbs, with most of what He reads simply sticking to some neuron or the other, waiting for the right moment to emerge. Ever so often, something leaps off the screen (or page) and merits immediate attention:

Case in point, from the very good Creative Generalist blog, posted May 21st, 2005: (emphasis added)

"Laptops, wireless internet access and robust search engines have fundamentally altered the way in which information, criticism and expertise are engaged in the classroom. It's all making education and academia much more transparent, says NYU journalism instructor Jefferson Flanders, whether teachers like it or not.

Transparency holds out the promise of a deeper, richer and more democratic educational experience, but also an implied challenge to the traditional academic order.

The late Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon had it right: the verb “to know” used to mean having information stored in one’s memory – and it now means having access to that information and knowing how to use it. Maintaining the instructor’s authoritative “sage on the stage” role will grow more difficult. Instead, teachers at all levels will increasingly be called on to help students navigate this Alexandrine-like Web library and a new informational literacy will be needed, with an emphasis on judgment, synthesis, clear thinking, and what author Robert McHenry calls a “genial skepticism” about the veracity and quality of the information a mouse-click away."

With the determination of Noah building the Ark, We have to find ways to create that new informational literacy, to create a new form and style of teaching that embraces the expanse of knowledge rather than its containment. One that sees the pure virtue of exploration rather than the ugly vice of domination. A teaching style that enhances the individual and his or her uniqueness rather than continuing a system that seeks to impose conformity for its own sake, demanding obedience because it is convenient and settling for less because its vision cannot see more.

The second step in the new process is to see every social interaction as a possible teaching channel, understanding that most "teaching" occurs outside of schools and classrooms. Thus teaching is not "a specialty": it is a function, one that benefits from widespread development and use. It demands more of the individual and less of the system, a positive step as We know the system lost whatever effectiveness it may have had long ago.

And by placing the responsibility on the individual, We relegate the system--the government's flaccid, near-sighted and self-serving "educational" effort--to an increasingly-irrelevant background. It's not like We'd be pushing a mountain: all We're doing is nudging the system along the slimy path it has been creating for itself all these years.

The first step is to acknowledge that We must create this informational literacy as producers and consumers--prosumers, in Alvin Toffler's word. We have a stake both as developers of this informational literacy and users of it. To cede that responsibility to The Fools is... well, You can write the epitaph.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

24 May 2005

Innovate and Propagate

Last night, on My radio show "Expandiendo Horizontes," (Yes, The Jenius is bilingual), Dr. José Cruz, CTO of Commoca was asked what he felt the government needed to do to make a real difference in Our current economic growth. His answer was simple: "Diversify and take risks."

Dr. Cruz pointed out what hundreds, if not thousands, of Us have been saying in almost metronomic fashion: Manufacturing is not the economic engine of the future. In the interest of keeping the messsage simple, the strategy now is "Innovate and Propagate."

To Diversify requires letting go of elements that are no longer relevant (or as relevant) to the current economic climate. Why anguish over "the needle industry" when that industry had a fork stuck in it 25 years ago? Why continue to "recreate" tax breaks and subsidies when those strategies have been proven barren all over the world? (It's not an "advantage" if everyone else has it, or has something better.)

To Take Risks is to complete the letting go of the familiar and embracing the new. For The Fools in government this means (A) Letting go of their traditional power base and (B) actually learning something constructive for the Island's sake, not their own personal gain. The odds of that happening are squarely in the realm of imaginary numbers related to the last digit of pi.

Innovate and Propagate is simply to take charge of Our economic development to the fullest extent possible, relegating The Fools to the farthest fringes possible. We create the New Economic Reality of Puerto Rico by implementing projects and companies that leapfrog (Dr. Cruz also used that word) The Fools' ignorance and propel Us into a better competitive position, company by company, industry by industry.

Propagate means We communicate to the world what We are doing, on an individual, corporate and industrial level. The global economy is no longer one of nations getting together to hammer out trade agreements: it is about individuals coming together to forge opportunities and the means to exploit them. Yes, exploit, as in "To utilize; to make available; to get the value or usefulness out of." Unlike The Fools who exploit Us negatively, We can--We must--exploit opportunities positively. And We must make it Our greatest priority in the next few years or risk losing another generation. We are here to make sure that what was done to Our Generation, to Us, will never--never--happen again.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

23 May 2005

OSM Lunch 001

The Jenius had a dream. One where a group of savvy, talented and dedicated people could get together and start exploring ways of making a better future for themselves, the industry and ultimately, Our Island. Dreams have a way of shining brightly, often far brighter than Reality. But not this time.

Friday's Open Source Minds Lunch was better than The Jenius ever dreamed it could be. At one point, The Jenius went 30 minutes without uttering a word, simply absorbing what was happening. It was an intense learning experience and this is only the beginning. That good things will emerge from this and future Lunches is a given; the only question remaining is "how much."

For the record, the following professionals were present:

Luis Correa, Refiéreme.com - luis@refiereme.com -- 787-637-9630

Kevin Shockey, SNAP Platform - kevin@snapplatform.org -- 787-410-2058

José Rodríguez, LasFinanzasPR.com - jgrodriguezaledo@gmail.com

Gilberto Faisca, LasFinanzasPR.com - gilberto.faisca@gmail.com -- 787-608-5731

Ricardo Forestier, LasFinanzasPR.com - rforestier@infogerencia.com

Iván Merced, Merced & Asociados - imerced@merced-a.com -- 787-598-7933

Diana Figueroa, T.I.P.S. - dfr_bluebutterfly@yahoo.com - 787-365-7618

William Cabán, UPR Internet2 - william@monids.org

Francisco Santana, VASA Consulting Group - vasa@vospr.com -- 787-645-5840

Oscar Cucurullo, Computers&Business Magazine - ocucurullo@millenniumla.com -- 787-530-7575

Roberto Filomeno, Freelance Project Manager - rofi@coqui.net -- 787-594-9473

Evelyn Tirado, Freelance Journalist - etirizarry@msn.com

Carlos Pérez Olmo, UPR Professor/Financial Consultant - Cpolmo@directway.com -- 787-531-7727

And what does this Lunch mean in specific terms? When a quality group such as this comes together, many benefits are created, but We'll just focus on one: the network. Taking a conservative estimate, say that each of these capable persons is connected to 5 other capable persons. Taking out 10% for overlap (persons that are already known to 2 or more OSM members) the Group at this Lunch immediately expanded their professional network by 54 high-quality contacts. Notice The Jenius emphasises high-quality. So many of Our "professionals" seek quantity without regard to quality and ultimately end up with their Outlook Contacts filled with data and no tangible results. If you seek quality first, quantity will emerge if it is needed. In any case, quality will trump quantity every time.

The Future is already here. Some of Us are doing something about it. And you?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 May 2005

Open Source Minds

Today The Jenius and More Geniuses will begin an advanced form of The Group, the gathering of minds first postulated in My April 11th post. (Look it up!) Called "Open Source Minds," this group will seek to exchange, polish and develop ideas with an eye towards improving Puerto Rico's progress in the Knowledge Economy. We have no "500 item agenda," no dues or fees, no positions: just an honest desire and clear track record of wanting to make good things happen for their own sake. And unlike others, We represent All of Us equally. None of this "high-sounding crap for personal gain" or "façade for created interests."

If you were not invited, someday you might be. However, and speaking strictly for Himself, The Jenius can tell you this: many of you won't be invited. Ever. The reason is quite simple: you don't qualify. You might think you do, but what you think about yourself and what your peers see are quite often two different things. You might talk a good game, but walk like a crippled yak. You might promise the moon, but deliver stinky cheese. End result: You are not worthy.

Is everyone invited to Open Source Minds "worthy"? No. That would defeat the purpose of "Open." But what happens to the "unworthy" when they discover their greed, insincerity, lack of commitment, incompetence and/or irresponsibility are revealed? (And the unworthy always reveal themselves.) Nothing. Nothing happens for them. The group, focused on positive results, progress, sharing and the future will simply move on, leaving the unworthy behind.

Why the arrogance? Why not? Didn't the ISOCPR claim to represent the entire Internet industry, would become one of the greatest chapters worldwide in 2 years and ended up being what the military calls a "cluster bang"? (Only no respectable grizzled soldier would ever use "bang") Did they ever get their act together, whatever that act may be? Does the Center for New Economy do anything except have "buddy-pal" meetings with established (and threatened) guardians of the Old Economy? Are any of the old guard associations--Retailers Union, Chamber of Commerce, Manufacturer's--actively concerned and proactively involved with the Knowledge Economy? Aren't they actually political cockfighting rings for senior members and wannabes? And aren't they all bastions of arrogance, acting as if they have the world by the tail when, in fact, the world has passed them by and what they are holding is best left to the imagination?

Maybe arrogance is the wrong attitude to have; The Jenius can see that. But unlike the other so-called "leadership groups," Open Source Minds favors voluntary action for broad results rather than personal gain. That alone is worthy of being noted, albeit without arrogance.

Open Source Minds will be important. It will have a profound impact on Puerto Rico's progress in the coming years. This is not arrogance, but fact. Far beyond whatever The Jenius could conceive of, Open Source Minds is a powerful engine for change. It doesn't rely on one person, or a tiny cadre of "insiders": it depends on the collective energy, imagination, talent, intelligence and will of an expanding community.

No, not everyone is invited nor is everyone worthy. What Open Source Minds will do requires people with higher goals, greater vision and a greater degree of maturity than the average. It is very likely that The Jenius is the least qualified to belong to This Group. But The Jenius would rather be a benchwarmer on a Championship Team than a star on a team of losers.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

19 May 2005

The Purpose of Growing Up

"I'll tell you what I think. I think you don't grow up until you stop thinking about other people's purposes or lack of them and find the purposes you believe in for yourself." --Orson Scott Card, Xenocide

Adolescence is that painful period when doubt hovers above and within every thought and action. To a blessed few, the teenage years are clear sailing. To the rest, the teenage years are a roller-coaster ride sans brakes or an "Off" switch.

The Internet Industry in Puerto Rico is still a few years away from adolescence. Within the metaphor, one could say it is in the mid-childhood phase, a 7-year old kid still clinging to pre-school tendencies while trying to make sense of its growing emergence into a wider world.

As such, the Industry--We--are still caught in the grip of "them," those companies or industry niches that We deem are "showing the way." Very few are local companies; most are based in the U.S. We see them as worthy of imitation, which might be a good thing, except that We often also see them as "unbeatable." Combine that with the narrow-sighted focus of Puerto Rico as Our only market and you have a child who thinks he can't do math better than the teacher and sees monsters in closets.

Our Industry will grow up and it is The Jenius' hope that it will do so in "dog years," not in "Fool" years. (Yes, The Jenius would rather be a dog than a Fool. Anything's better than a Fool.) But in growing up, the painful "teenage years" will be Our next biggest threat. And what separates a successful adolescent from an embattled one is a sense of purpose. Not one imposed from without, as society and education insist, but one that is chosen and accepted freely, then internalized. This is never an easy step, at any stage of growth. But the sooner it is taken, the better.

To have Our own purpose, to trust Our own mind, to seek Our own path in Our own way because no one else can or should do it for Us is the step We need to take. It won't happen immediately; it may take a few years. But it can't take long. The world moves on and it pays no attention to those who choose not to keep up.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

18 May 2005

P2P & Blue Oceans

Two recent posts, slightly edited, juxtaposed for pondering and discussion. The first is from Dave Pollard's excellent "How to Save the World" blog. The second is from the well-focused "Innovation Weblog":

"Peer-to-peer service models will emerge. This could be fascinating, because there's a precedent for it in just about every country that has ever suffered through an economic collapse. The next generation may start by working their way through university fixing computers inexpensively for the big, sloppy computer manufacturers.

But why would they stop there? Once they become expert at repairing your piece-of-shit Dell computer, why wouldn't they start building their own, and offering much more customization, better upgrade capability, lots of free, Open Source software bundled in, and friendly, reliable, knowledgeable local service? At a fraction of the price.

Yes, at first some of them may be pretty crappy themselves, but the market will work that out, just as it did with the Japanese manufacturers when they first entered the Western market (remember when Made in Japan was synonymous with poor quality?) And if you buy your next computer from your neighbour's son's upstart enterprise, why not do your banking through your niece's new community bank, part of a huge peer-to-peer network of community banks all helping each other out? And why not a new industry comprised of young legal students (or retired lawyers) offering alternative dispute resolution services for $20/hour instead of the $200 the lawyer charges? Lots more examples spring to mind."

From Innovation Weblog:

... Last fall, Harvard Business School Press published a book by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne called Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant. In this blog post, Alan Wunsche, author of the Business on Demand weblog, reviews the book, and compares its focus to that of The Innovator's Solution.

"Blue ocean strategies create uncontested market space, creating and capturing new demand. Red ocean strategies are designed to compete more effectively in existing market space to beat the competition. Blue ocean strategies break out of this narrow tunnel vision of competition by first understanding that whole industries naturally succumb to strategy convergence through endless benchmarking and similar customer segmentation exercises.

Kim and Mauborgne present a compelling analytic and strategic planning tool they call the ’strategy canvas’. By understanding 4 key sets of strategic questions to challenge the existing business models, they demonstrate that it is possible to fundamentally shift the strategy canvas of an industry."

Where does the similarity to The Innovator's Solution come in? Alan explains that "the similarities lie in the true understanding of how customers value the products and services you provide." And which you could provide, I might add. Christianson and Raynor call this helping customers by providing them with innovative products and services that help them with the jobs that they need to get done."

Peer-to-peer service models. "Blue ocean" strategies. Ponder. Discuss.

The Jenius Has Spoken

17 May 2005

Smart Sponge, Stupid Squid

One of the The Jenius' favorite SpongeBob Squarepants episodes is the one where--Yes, The Jenius is a SpongeBob fan--Squidward, the vain pseudo-intellectual wannabe know-it-all, starts teaching an art class. His only student is, of course, SpongeBob.

Starting from the basics, Squidward draws a squiggly circle on the chalkboard, followed by a snide "Am I going too fast for you?" SpongeBob draws a perfect circle. Incredulous, Squidward demands that SpongeBob show his method. The little yellow dude does, going backwards from a perfect head portrait to a proportion diagram to the finished circle.

Angered, Squidward crumples the paper into a wad. After a cheerful "Good one!" from SpongeBob that slays The Jenius every time, the yellow artist makes an origami figure of both of them playing leapfrog. Incensed (there's a theme here), Squiddie rips up the paper and SpongeBob proceeds to rearrange the pieces into a drawing of both of them playing leapfrog, but this time with Squidward on top.

Beside himself, Squidward declares SpongeBob's works as meaningless and leads him over to a huge block of marble, where after blathering platitudes and crumbling marble into rubble, he asks SpongeBob to sculpt. With one tap, a statue worthy of Michelangelo emerges, one that even Squiddie can't help but admire. But, recovering his brain-damaged viewpoint, Squidward lambastes the effort as worthless because "Art has rules" and SpongeBob "didn't follow the book." Squiddie desecrates the statue by plopping a rubber nose shaped like his on it and then declaring proudly "Now that's art!"

SpongeBob's spirit is crushed and he ends up in a trash dump. However, money appears in Squidward's studio IF "he" can continue to create such marvelous statues/art. His own work is, of course, putrid; the rubber nose is removed like the blight it is. Faced with the need for true talent--Self-Interest meets New Reality--Squiddie rushes to bring SpongeBob back and get him to create more Art. But, alas, the little dude is heartbroken. He deems himself unworthy, incapable of matching the "higher standards" of Art "by the book."

Squidward insists and SpongeBob returns to the classroom. But now his circle is squiggly, the method he used before to produce a perfect circle is no longer acceptable, because it isn't "by the book." He no longer does origami and when Squidward shreds "the book" to pieces, SpongeBob energetically rearranges them into... the book.

Finally, desperate, Squiddie places him in front of the marble. SpongeBob, filled with the power of "by the book" thinking, goes overboard in his approach (he goes beyond "seeing" and "being" the marble to "dating" and "licking" it), and with a trembling hand, crumbles marble into rubble. Inspired, he then adds a rubber nose to the pile so it will be "Art."

The Jenius suspects you know where this is going. SpongeBob represents Us while Squidward represents The Fools in government and education who fear progressive, "different" thinking. (And a squid is an excellent metaphor for it has 10 arms filled with suckers and man are these Fools grabby.) However, Self-Interest will meet New Reality someday (The Fools may not grasp many concepts, but oh do they react with vigor to the idea of "more money, more money and more money!") and suddenly, the urge to "fix" what they have destroyed will become frantic.

The solution is to break the cycle, to move on without The Fools to the fullest extent possible, so that when the day New Reality sets their heart a-pounding with greed and fear, We can say "Too late. We've moved beyond you."

And on that day, The Jenius knows he won't be alone in enjoying their desperate, futile flailings.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

16 May 2005

Kindergarten Mind

Many folk assume that "creative people" are painters, musicians, artists and writers only. That view has changed dramatically in the past 40 years as scientists and educators have identified the basic elements of creativity, elements that virtually every person on the planet possesses.

Especially children. The abilities to question, make connections, perceive essence, accept reality, sidestep reality for a new vision, invert cause and effect, challenge accepted "rules," play for play's sake, express emotion freely (most importantly, to express emotion as related to physical actions) and take joy in exploration are key components of creativity. And as anyone who has spent time with toddlers and preschoolers knows, creativity abounds in them.

The main destroyers of creativity are parents and school. Parents seldom wreak their havoc on purpose, as their intention is to make sure their children are safe. Parents often curtail a child's creativity because it can be embarrassing, such as "invisible friends," "night horrors" or lying, or because it can lead to dangerous behavior by the child (excessive risk-taking in physical activities, use of alcohol, etc.)

But schools destroy creativity on purpose. The whole point of an incompetent school system--and that is what We have--is to teach children the power of one: one right answer, one fact at a time and one way of doing things. This "convergent" (to one point) way of thinking is precisely the opposite of creativity's "divergent" (expanding along many paths) thinking.

An excellent article on how parents--and The Jenius adds, teachers--can Encourage Creativity in Children is available here: http://www.accessnorthga.com/articles/afullstory.asp?ID=91422

Some excerpts, emphasis added:

• Relax and enjoy the creative process with your child. Children who are constantly directed to conform to expected outcomes lose the confidence and spontaneity essential for the development of creative thinking.

• Respect the child's efforts and let them know that you have confidence in their ability to do well. Let the child have both freedom and responsibility to deal with the consequences of their thinking.

Expose your child to a diversity of cultures, experiences, people, and ways of thinking. Let them see that there are different ways to think about a problem. Encourage children to try new experiences within their age level abilities and expectations.

There is plenty more excellent advice, but the excerpts are meant to convey that forcing conformity because of ignorance and a pathetic need for control, combined with insularist thinking (what some call "island mentality") will do more to harm Our Future than practically anything else We are doing or not doing.

The positive aspect is that We can control and change this situation. It requires action, takes time and effort and means We must leave Our comfort zone. The rewards are potentially so great that not making this investment is tantamount to damaging--or destroying--Our Future.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 May 2005

Great and Pertinent Thoughts

"The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants from life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe it is possible." -- Richard M. Devos

"In order to succeed we must first believe that we can." -- Michael Korda

"In the moment you carry this conviction (about succeeding)... in that moment your dream will become a reality." -- Robert Collier

"Whether you think you can or think you can't--you are right." -- Henry Ford

"We can do only what we think we can do. We can be only what we think we can be. We can have only what we think we can have. What we do, what we are, what we have, all depend on what we think." -- Robert Collier

"The strongest single factor in prosperity consciousness is self-esteem: believing you deserve it, believing you will get it." -- Jerry Gillies

"The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

"The barrier to success is not something which exists in the real world; it is composed purely and simply of doubts about ability." -- Mark Caine

"For the resolute and determined there is time and opportunity." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Desire creates the power." -- Raymond Holliwell

"I do the very best I know how--the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end." -- Abraham Lincoln

"The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence." -- Vince Lombardi

"What the mind of man can conceive and believe, the mind of man can achieve." -- Napoleon Hill

"If there is a way to do it better... find it." -- Thomas A. Edison

"He who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times." -- Johann Von Schiller

"Until input (thought) is linked to a goal (purpose) there can be no intelligent accomplishments." -- Paul G. Thomas

"We are told never to cross a bridge until we come to it, but this world is owned by people who have "crossed bridges" in their imagination far ahead of the crowd." -- Speaker's Library

"The empires of the future are the empires of the mind." -- Winston Churchill

"We don't need more strength or more ability or greater opportunity. What we need is to use what we have." -- Basil S. Walsh

"A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds." -- Francis Bacon

"Success doesn't come to you: you go to it. -- Marva Collins

"All great achievements require time." -- David J. Schwartz

The Jenius Has Quoted

12 May 2005

Tired TecnoFeria

The Jenius was at the TecnoFeria yesterday and has one word to describe it: paltry. Coming on the heels of My recent post about events, let's analyze what happened... or didn't happen:

1) Sponsors: The primary sponsors were SAP (pronounced "sap") and the SBDC, the event organizer. Some local firms also sponsored, some of whom didn't show up. Sponsors who get the publicity and don't show up, unless they have a validly powerful reason, are cynical opportunists of the pathetic state local tech events are in: they garner what publicity they can, but save the money and time of dealing with the event itself. Educators they are not and some would applaud them for doing this. The Jenius would have those lamebrains and their supporters deported for having "pocket-length" vision, i.e., can't see past their own pockets. Slackers such as these are not, never have been and never will be, the pillars on which to build a truly global industry.

And yet, the lack of sponsor support bears review. The problem stems from a widespread and deeply-held lack of perceived and actual value as a result of sponsoring a tech event. Improve the quality of events in terms of industry content, ability to attract prospects and clients, increased networking potential and bottom-line results (sales, contracts) and tech events will once again attract sponsors. Is it easy? Of course not. Yet it can--and will be--done.

2) Content: Well, let The Jenius see... the SBDC gave a lengthy, nostalgic chat that enveloped the audience in the warm spirit of 1998, with its glittering promise of low-cost websites generating sales every minute like a cash machine. SAP did its usual polished job of presenting SAP. And LasFinanzasPR.com (Disclosure: The Jenius is a consultant to LasFinanzasPR.com, making them Jeniuses-by-association) presented a basic tech planning/selection/implementation outline. With the exception of LasFinanzasPR.com--and The Jenius will accept the possibility of bias, but points out that LasFinanzasPR.com offers accounting and financial management services, not technology consulting--the other conferences were essentially sales pitches: the SBDC in "use me mode," and SAP is "buy me mode."

Now, the SBDC is allowed to make pitches because they are eager and willing to provide a service that costs the user nothing and can actually be a remarkable source of help. But SAP, faced with the opportunity of leading the market, chose to pander to it, even though the market at the event was really not good for SAP.

3) Attendance: Peaked at about 450, far from the expected 800. And of that "crowd," from one-third to almost one-half were students, a good market for the SBDC, Interamerican University and banks (credit cards, anyone?), but bad for the true Internet businesses that were exhibitors. As expected, plenty of morning attendees, but once lunch ended (free finger food and beverages was a very nice touch), the drop-off closed the event.

4) Venue: A Coliseum is bad, very bad, for an event that doesn't jam the place wall-to-wall. Puerto Ricans equate "atmosphere" with trading skin flakes as they move around, so unless it's crowded, it ain't "happenin'." The Jenius called people and warned them away from the event because His contacts would be arriving after 1 PM. By that time, the event would lose most of its value as an information and networking possibility. The Jenius understands that donating the use of the venue was a good offer, but unless the event can take advantage of the donation, it simply complicates future efforts to stage similar events.

5) Publicity: The staple of sponsor attraction, The Jenius can't really rate this aspect with any sense of certainty. However, almost a dozen of His contacts in the Internet industry, media and government were not aware of the event as late as May 9th.

What's been done has not built for the future. What's being done is repetitive, dull and uninspiring. We know growth will not happen given the present set of efforts. It's time to launch more focused, more inspiring, more visionary and bolder efforts to educate, galvanize and guide Puerto Rico's Knowledge Economy Leaders into a global player category. Now.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

11 May 2005

Generalist Thoughts

It has happened often in the past few years: Someone asks The Jenius "What do you do?" and the answer is quite long: consultant, writer, problem-solver, entrepreneur, public speaker, editor, researcher, translator, idea generator and teacher. Tack on radio show host and the list is almost complete.

The Jenius is an acknowledged Generalist. A Jenius of All Trades, Master of None. On a personal level, this is a Good Thing. It has given The Jenius free rein to pursue His interests, one of which is avoiding boredom.

Why has The Jenius evolved into this Generalist pattern? First of all, because The Jenius is almost completely unaware of what He really wants to do. Second, His interests are varied, spread across many disciplines, and The Jenius feels happy pursuing them and other interesting ones that come across His path. Third, The Jenius discovered that not being a Specialist was a good thing, because Specialists are often self-limited and thus incapable of stretching to cover new ground. Fourth, The Jenius also discovered that when it comes to making things happen, Generalists have huge advantages over Specialists.

The main difference is flexibility, of both mind and processes (closely related.) Generalists lack any pre-defined way of looking at a situation simply because they have so many "frames" they can use. By and large, Specialists see things through one or maybe two "frames," a product of forcing the greater part of their knowledge into a narrow viewpoint.

And when it comes to implementing solutions or taking actions to generate change, a Generalist tends to adapt his or her methods to the circumstances, rather than attempt the near-impossible: changing the circumstances to fit the method.

Are Generalists better than Specialists? Not really; it depends on the situation. If You need brain surgery, You certainly don't want a Generalist. But if You are trying to grow Your business, You will treasure the people that can wear many hats and get different jobs done.

The problem in Puerto Rico is that Generalists are required to act as if they were Specialists. It seems that people simply cannot understand a Generalist until a "recognizable label" is slapped over the package. The goal--and the error--is in trying to fix the person into a narrowly-defined and traditional (read: old-fashioned) category. Instead of value, you get limitation. Instead of focusing on adaptable skills, the focus is on unchanging experience. One is future-oriented, the other based on the past.

Now apply this general(ist) principle to the current reality in Puerto Rico, where aiming for specialist labels has been firmly established as public policy. Proof: Simply peruse plans and reports issued by government agencies, particularly Economic Development, Education and the Planning Board, as well as the Legislative and Executive branches. These are dotted liberally with references to "specialists" of all stripes, each confined to their own niche. No effort is made to connect specialties, leading one to the impression that these connections will occur by magic.

They won't: that's what Generalists are for. Specialists are valuable, but specialization over the long term is a dead end in a rapidly-changing and constantly evolving world.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

10 May 2005

A Major Event

One of the powerful development tools an industry can have is events. From small, informal but regular gatherings to major multi-day galas, events are ways of connecting, galvanizing and guiding the overall growth of an industry or economic sector.

So guess what We don't have in Puerto Rico's Internet industry?

Oh, We do have "events," but beyond a low-level of "connecting," do they galvanize and guide? Please, a moment while The Jenius laughs to tears.

Thank you.

What passes for "events" in Our Industry are either sponsor-driven vehicles or sales pitch agendas, and are often both. Now, if the sponsor-driven vehicle opens new markets and ways of attacking them, bravo. But that takes vision and creativity, two traits sorely lacking in the "Company" events We are subjected to.

On the other hand, a sales pitch marathon is never useful. It has the whiff of desperation and the undertone of begging. When paired with "producers" or "event managers" whose grasp of technology is on the same level as that of an average (or even smart) Australopithecus, We have small disasters.

The Jenius has already advocated the creation of a small group to come together and discuss ideas and lend a visionary mind to the development of Our Industry. Now The Jenius suggests that Our Industry come together to create a large event, one that can fill the vacuum and feed Our professionals with the galvanic energy and guidance We need.

Here are the criteria The Jenius believes are required for this event:

1) It must focus on the overall picture of global Knowledge Economy development for Puerto Rico.

2) The conferences, seminars and workshops must focus on procedures, processes, techniques and solutions that help Our Industry compete globally. NO sales pitches.

3) The event must have an expansive agenda of 8-12 presentations so that a variety of topics are presented and viewpoints aired.

4) Technology must play a vital role in the event, at least at the level of archiving the knowledge shared. Attendees who may have to select one presentation over another will know that they can receive the material on a CD, flash drive or website download within 24 hours of the event's closing.

5) The event, once launched, must always have the next event in mind, not as a source of income, but as an ongoing element in the discussion, planning and development of Puerto Rico as a global Knowledge Economy player.

Would sponsors support this kind of event? Yes, eventually. At first they will want to play their "I sponsor so I want a speaker" card. Those that do will receive a "Submit their presentation and IF WE APPROVE, then s/he can speak.” And if they balk? Good riddance. As long as We act like sucking at their money teat is the only reason We survive, We will remain stagnant.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

09 May 2005

The Importance of the Question Mark

Neal Postman, observer, critic, pundit and analyst of education, once wrote: "Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods." The Jenius considers this the most pithy, incisive, accurate and damning indictment of the current educational system He's ever read. The power of curiosity, the willingness to explore, challenge and seek beneath the surface, is a hallmark of childhood activity, and yet this very same power is seen as a threat that needs elimination by a system unworthy of the word "education."

In a related idea, Steve Hardy, the talented thinker behind the excellent Creative Generalist blog, has written words that The Jenius knows are Truth:

In a diverse, information saturated, hyperinnovating, and interconnected world it's not hard to find the merits of generalist thinking - especially in the realm of ideas, the base of so-called knowledge economy. However, we continue to steer kids into very specializing education systems and we're doing it to them earlier and earlier in their lives.

In our haste to train a better specialist to develop things faster, better and with more precision we've built a process that is relentlessly shortchanging society of those people - generalists - that can think with wide-open imagination, big picture synthesis, and an informed sense of context.

The current "educational" system, built by mediocre minds, monitored by mediocre minds, implemented by mediocre minds and conveniently ignored by The Fools can only mass-produce mediocre minds. Yes, there are quite a few who rise above the sludge to claim their rightful place as thinking adults, but by and large, the system throws away the greater part of Our enormous potential.

The system is a failure. It cannot be repaired without a massive series of dismissals, a thorough overhaul of the basic curriculum and the imposition of strict professional standards for teachers. And while We're here, let's end world hunger, give every adult a Lexus and find a way to get excess toothpaste back into the tube.

The current rush to "push" children into the "educational system" is akin to leading lambs to slaughter for no discernible reason except the notion that this is "the best we can do."

The ancient Chinese had a story about this mentality: The greatest cook of his day was I Ya. His master praised him daily and ate the finest meals in all of China. One day, as the great cook stood in the glow of the master's admiring guests, the master said "Because of I Ya I have tasted every flavor known to man except the taste of human flesh."

Hearing this, I Ya went home and butchered his own son, cooked his flesh and served it to his master so that his master would lack nothing that I Ya could give him.

Grotesque? Yes. Excessive? Not really. Look at the story's dynamic and look at what's happening in Puerto Rico. Aren't We "serving up" Our children--Our Future--to a "master," an unthinking, uncaring, insatiable, gaping, leprous maw that simply consumes Us day after day? Who is this "master"? Why are we serving it?

You tell The Jenius. The question mark is out there and needs to be kept alive.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 May 2005

Times A'Changin'

The Jenius had an interesting day yesterday, one that could, with proper focus, drastically alter the path of economic development in Puerto Rico for the next 15-20 years.

"Dem's big words, Kemosabe."

Not big enough.

The Internet industry and many of its high-tech brethren have complained that they work and develop in anonymity. Very soon, that will change.

Many so-called New Economy companies operate in relative isolation; that will change.

Many of these same companies tend to look at Puerto Rico as the market, with occasional wisps of global dreams. That will change.

The herd mentality that denies the values of journalism amongst so-called "business reporters" and "business magazines" in Puerto Rico will be shaken to the core by an active cadre of thinkers and doers.

The Fools in government continue to blather and dither and otherwise stink up the air with flatulent ignorance and insincerity. That will not change enough, but it will be exposed for the idiocy that it is.

The current goals of the local educational system are incompatible if not outright detrimental to preparing Our children for the demands and opportunities of the 21st century. That will change.

The insipid and vapid inanity that passes for business organization leadership and "industry groups" will be left behind as a new vision of leadership creates a level of progress these sad-sack fossils can only dream of.

The days of industry events presented as "Sales Pitch Marathons" will end. We deserve better and We will get it.

The brain drain will slow down.

The days and years of pretending to be a competitive economic force will give way to the pain of actually becoming one, followed by the pride of place a true player feels.

These are not pipe dreams: these are promises. The Jenius will obviously not do this alone. Many others will play greater and more important roles in this transformation. On a winning team, even the player who seldom gets into the game is also a winner. The Jenius will play, and play to win. But it is the Team, one called Puerto Rico, that will actually achieve the victory.

Th Jenius Has Spoken.

05 May 2005

Diplomacy and Life

One of the greatest pleasures The Jenius experienced in college was playing Diplomacy, a game that ranks with chess and poker as a matching of wits.

In the game, up to seven players represent one of the Great Powers prior to World War I. The object of the game is to capture at least 18 of the 34 “supply centers” on the board (a map of Europe stretching from England to Russia.) Each country begins with 3 pieces (armies or navies; Russia begins with 4) and to win, you must have allies...and beat them, too.

The brilliance of the game is that no matter what you say, promise, threaten, negotiate, deal, offer, agree to, state, promise or swear on a Bible, the only thing that matters are the written orders you give your pieces. No dice are involved and nothing is left to chance. In simple terms: actions, and their results, are all that matters.

If anything, Diplomacy brings out the traitor-level in all of us. But in Diplomacy, as in real life, the end doesn't justify the means. If you only play once, whether you keep your word or not means nothing in the long run, simply because it was just a game. But if you play regularly within a group, you quickly learn that lacking integrity is a weakness…and that always keeping your word is too (if you expect others to do the same.) The lack keeps your from forming strong alliances as nobody believes you and being too straightforward and trusting often makes you the patsy with a knife in his back.

The Jenius played well over 40 games with the same group of 18-20 players and when you consider each game can take several hours to play, you can see it was a considerable investment of time. Happily, The Jenius can report that He won almost half the games He played in, a very respectable effort in such a competitive and unpredictable game.

What The Jenius learned about this cooperate-but-compete balancing act can be summed up in these four points:

1) Integrity makes the difference between winners and losers. By and large, winners were players who almost always kept their word. Understanding that it is a game, the occasional “betrayal” was still used, but when the situation was doubtful, the more skillful players would choose a path of integrity rather than toss away goodwill and trust on a gamble. Players who vacillated between “betrayals” and “commitments” were usually eliminated first (reduce the variables) or in the middle of the game when clear thinking and strong communication skills were needed. (Negotiation phases were almost always 10-15 minutes long, placing a premium on speaking your mind well.) Cheaters and people whose integrity is "convenient" get bounced or trip themselves up in real life too.

2) Winners created compatible short-term and long-term plans, but remained flexible. Diplomacy openings are less variable than in chess, but quickly expand into literally millions of possible variants. Good players took short-term goals and linked them to a long-term plans, but as the game progressed, they would constantly re-evaluate short-term goals and long-term plans. Some players reacted emotionally and skewed their short-term plans to gain revenge: we called them “rabid dogs” and they were easy to take out. Others set a distant goal, never varied it and once a good player figured out what it was, he or she could outmaneuver them easily. Every short-term goal required reassessing the long-term, but good players made sure they adapted short-term goals to their long-term plan as long as possible, and if they changed their long-term plan, it had to be for a better final result.

3) Where you start is not as important as where you finish or how you get there (provided you kept Rule 1 firmly in mind.) The seven Great Powers in Diplomacy are not equal. Two of them (Italy and Austria-Hungary) are so close to each other that trust seldom really develops and they are often eliminated fairly quickly. However, good players could play any Great Power and achieve wins or top finishes simply because they combined integrity, planning and flexibility. By doing so, they combined predictable behavior with unpredictable strategies, making themselves attractive allies and fearsome opponents. Remember: No one can play their best or compete at the highest level if they are limited to reacting to you.

4) The best players expanded the board. This single insight vaulted The Jenius to being the best or second-best player in the group. The true “battlefield” in Diplomacy was much larger than the gameboard: it encompassed the mind and heart of every player in the game. Some players simply did not have the drive or passion to win. To these players, an offer in which they could finish second or even third was as good as gold. It wasn’t manipulation: they got what they wanted and The Jenius got the victory he had to have. In fact, most games boiled down to determining who would accept what and then finding the simplest path to achieving those desires. And if two “gotta win” players were involved, the best strategy was often to team up, reduce the board to just the two of Us and then go at it. In any case, by looking beyond the confines of the situation, a myriad of options opened up that could lead to greater and more satisfactory results.

How does Diplomacy apply to the Internet industry in Puerto Rico?

1) Your word is your only coin: it is best when golden.

2) Planning and flexibility beat improvising and lunging.

3) The achievement is in making progress, not in waiting for progress to come to you.

4) Forget slicing up the pie: aim to make a bigger pie.

5) Cooperate until you can compete for bigger results.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

04 May 2005

PRTEC Forum Surprises

Two more surprises emerged from the recent PRTEC (Puerto Rico TechnoEconomic Corridor) Forum. One is education-based; the other is a creative endeavor with great promise.

The University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez is expanding its Biotechnology Program, launched in 1997. Under the leadership of Dr. Rosa Buxeda, the Program is not only reaching out to commercial and industrial interests, it is also forging links to research and biotech facilities in the Western Hemisphere.

Two examples of the new scientists are Rosa and Carmen. Rosa is a sophomore from Villalba, a small town riven by long-term unemployment. Despite limitations other towns in Puerto Rico seldom see, Villalba has a strong science education program in its schools, testimony to the power of dedicated teachers.

Carmen is from San Juan and is on track to complete two Bachelor of Science degrees, in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. Her passion for research is fueled by practical applications, not abstract conceptualizations limited to textbooks.

At the university level, women have long taken over as the dominant force, with higher graduation rates and total numbers in many fields. Hard sciences--biology, chemistry and physics--are one of the few bastions left where men can claim "superiority," but it's only a matter of time before that misconception, too, gets trampled into dust.

Using the concept of "innovation studios," Dr. Brian Thompson, Canadian, and Dr. Jaime Ramírez, Puerto Rican, are developing a model to combine academic and research resources with practical business applications to help create new products, services and opportunities.

For those familiar with IdeaLab, a similar "business innovation" project out of M.I.T. that once rode very high and has recently suffered the backlash of the dot-com implosion, the studio concept of Dr. Thompson and Ramírez has more of a "problem" focus than an "incubator" focus. It is designed to be a free-flowing work environment with clear goals, combining the "amorphous power" of creative and interdisciplinary brainstorming with an ultimate focus on "the bottom line."

Of the two surprises, the Biotech Program is the big winner at present, with a new facility on track for completion in 2007. The dynamo at the heart of this growth is Dr. Buxeda, a woman who simply refuses to take "no" for an answer. For the innovation studio concept to work, flexible and insightful minds must gather together to launch and sustain it. Fortunately, Dr. Thompson has established a similar project in Canada and Dr. Ramírez brings a decade of Silicon Valley experience to the (sadly barren) local table.

These three professionals are making a difference. Many others are too. Let's not forget that Truth as We shake Our heads and sigh when perusing the paltry present: it is these people--We self-selected few--who will truly make the difference in Our Future.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 May 2005

Information No-Flow

The Jenius commends Kevin Shockey for an incisive post concerning the recent Governor's visit to a Microsoft "event" in Washington D.C. http://www.x-cito.com/?p=63 Kevin sticks to dissecting the speech itself (to which he provides a link) and The Jenius cannot help but agree with Kevin's analysis.

In addition, Kevin is taking more steps towards Making Our Voice Heard. Here's where you can find a list of Senators, who need to be educated on just about everything, but We should stick to just casting light in their darkness about Knowledge Economy issues and its importance to Our Future: http://www.x-cito.com/?page_id=64

Linguistic notes: The term "senator" is derived from the Latin word senex, and is also the root for the word "senescence," meaning "aging, decaying, degeneration, decline" and is often applied to vegetation.

Isn't Latin precise?

The Jenius finds it interesting that 10 of the 27 Senators do not have e-mails listed in Kevin's directory. It is standard procedure for all Senators to receive an e-mail address as part of the "services" they receive in office as the highest-paid legislators in all the United States. Talk about wasted money...

Now, the problem with 10 of 27 Senators not listing their e-mails is two-fold: Either the Senator in question chooses not have it listed (and there is NO valid reason--NONE--for not having it listed) or the e-government "infrastructure" is virtually useless. (That, Jenius loyalists, is a pun. Enjoy!) It is possible, if not highly likely, that both are valid.

To you Senators with the stupid arrogance of not listing your e-mails: We pay your bloated salaries and benefits, so you work for Us. For better or for worse, We elected you, and though We may regret it every day of your term, you owe Us service. You are not "your own boss," you are not "executives," you are public servants, or in terms you can grasp, servants of and to the public.

Unlike a private citizen, who can do as he or she pleases unless forbidden by law, you, puny Senator, are forbidden to do anything except what you are allowed to do by law. You hadn't thought about that, right? Of course not. To you, thinking has an elusive quality.

As a public servant in a democracy, you are required by law to be accessible to constituents and citizens. That means going to your office, being present at public hearings, reading your mail, answering your phone (or having someone do so; just pick one of the 20-something people you employ, half of whom might actually exist) and listening to your voice mail. And, because the technology is there, using e-mail.

If you don't know how, learn. Pre-schoolers can do it so you are somewhat qualified. And surely someone in your circle of real employees can handle it. Even you can't hire a whole tribe of total incompetents, though you seem to consider this goal "The Holy Grail of Senatorial Achievement."

As for the government "infrastructure," what's the point of having an information channel without information? As a start, ALL e-mails for all personnel, from the Governor's Office down to Second Assistant Bootlicker, at the State, and Municipal levels, should be available. This is not optional. An information network demands the largest number of connections possible. Not providing this information because of personal whims, political spite or ignorance is to defeat the purpose of the whole effort, a government specialty that long ago should have been rooted out like the cancer it is.

And what is the best part of this mini-lecture? That the Senators who need it most are not likely to ever see it. That doesn't matter: they'll find out eventually.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

02 May 2005

PRTEC Forum Surprise: Commoca

The Jenius is long overdue for mentioning a real surprise emerging from the PRTEC Forum. Here is one: Commoca. http://www.commoca.com/home.htm

With a presentation by Dr. José Cruz, Commoca is a sterling example of tackling the myriad challenges We face every day and using Intelligence to knock them off, one by one. It might not be easy, but it can be done.

Commoca emerged from the closing of a Texas Instrument facility in the States. By negotiating to continue the R&D for a specific chip, Commoca engineers salvaged victory from a defeat, creating a platform for Voice-over-IP (VoIP) services that could serve as the basis for a market worth billions of dollars.

Over time, Commoca had to deal with stupid government financing (some programs give you money only as a reimbursement of expenses, usually months after the fact, essentially handing you a crappy two-ton white elephant that pees in your coffee every day), inane, nearly-useless application forms created for manufacturing in the 1950s and never updated (not from lack of time, but from lack of intelligence) and further undeniable ignorance of how New Economy companies work develop.

To their credit, Commoca has reversed the brain-drain, (to a small degree, but every little bit counts.) At the same time, Commoca has also added high-profile industry veterans that are not from Puerto Rico to drive their next evolutionary stage, taking dead aim at becoming a dominant VoIP player in the next few years.

And if The Jenius is being barren on details, it is purposeful: You need to talk to these heroes at Commoca to get the full impact of what they have achieved. Try calling them at 787-834-0011 or writing them at info@commoca.com (And they are hiring: careers@commoca.com)

Looked at objectively, by a random panel of 100 Puerto Ricans, 99 would say this company should not exist at this point. Commoca’s founder had to convince a multinational that, despite the lack of true R&D success locally, further development of a “dead project” could be done. They had to battle The Fools every step of the way, with only a tiny handful of allies whose power is fleeting when compared to the leaden stupidity that clogs what passes for “progress” in the Byzantine bureaucracy We tolerate. The principals had to over-extend themselves to keep the project afloat, working for no pay and in some cases, taking a clear loss. The stress and strain on them, their families and their early employees was fierce, and yet, with more obstacles than should have been tossed in their paths, Commoca is thriving.

Those 99 Puerto Ricans are merely a guess, but You will know if The Jenius exaggerates a little bit or not at all. But even with a 1% level of support, that still leaves a little under 40,000 Open Minds that can Make a Difference. With 40,000 of Our People aiming Puerto Rico to the future, We can certainly step boldly into the New Global Economy as minor players. The Jenius believes—insists—We should settle for nothing less than being Key Players in the Global Economy.

Ask Yourself: Are you in the 40,000? If not now, then when?

The Jenius Has Spoken.