30 September 2005

Idea Platform

Cheap computers + cheap programs + Internet access = instant business impact.

Think about it: Nearly one billion people worldwide are currently connecting to the Internet, making it a part of their personal and professional lives. But the world has an estimated 2 billion more people who could conceivably join the cyberworld if computers reached the US$100 range and Internet access were closer to free.

So the formula really should be:

Minicomputers + open source + WiFi = instant business impact

Note that "open source" is not a specific type of program, but a methodology for creating new programs. Take "mash-ups," the current trend of combining openly-accessible source codes to create a new service/product. A good example is combining Google Maps with real estate listings to create maps of houses for sale or rent. The point here is that open source allows for rapid recombination of tools to create new ones.

Rather than continue the discussion and analysis, why not head to a couple of websites and use them as starting points for your own brainstorming session?

First, head for the amazing Wikipedia and look at the extensive entry for the Simputer. Then hop over to Emily Chang's eHub, a growing collection of open access tools and mash-ups. Then think hard about what you see there.

Because actually, the formulas listed above are incomplete. The complete version really is:

Minicomputer + open source + WiFi + IDEA + EXECUTION = instant & long term business impact.

How much of an impact depends on many factors, but get the first four right, make great execution your final focus and you will go from "impact" to "profits." And remember that profits are often not counted in coins, but in results.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

29 September 2005

Singapore Sting

There was a time, not so long ago, when Singapore, an island with roughly the same population of Puerto Rico but less than one-tenth our size, was not even half as prosperous as Us, when measured by income per capita.

Less than half. In other words, the average Puerto Rican living on this island made more than twice as much money as a Singaporan worker. A worker who didn’t have any of our “supports” such as grants, welfare and subsidies, the products of Uncle Sam’s largesse as economic fuel.

Look now. In the span of less than 30 years, Singapore has risen to the top of the global competitive charts, an amoeba compared to the enormous size of many of its high-profile, high-production brethren. An island of roughly 4 million people so prosperous it is recruiting an entire nation as its up-and-coming workforce: a nation—Malaysia—almost 6 times the size of Singapore in population.

Talk about the goldfish swallowing the cat…

And what has happened to Puerto Rico in those same 30 years? We fell from being the economic miracle economists flocked to study, many from that island called Singapore, to being the economic mess no one can or wants to fix.

Now, let’s not be Thomas Friedman-like in blind adoration of Singapore. The country may be an economic marvel, but it leaves a lot to be desired in the democracy department. This was the country that outlawed chewing gum and behaves toward the notion of a free press and individual choice with the level of acceptance the Pope has for satanic rites. So no, it isn’t perfect. But it is kicking Our butt with combat boots as an example of focused talent and economic vision.

The angle here is not “How do we become more like Singapore?”, but “Why them and not Us?”

There is only one starting point, one fundamental difference between Singapore and Puerto Rico that leaves everything else in the proverbial dust: Singapore has autonomy; Puerto Rico does not.

Those of you locals who immediately recoil and think “independentista” can go stick your tongues in the nearest electrical outlet. Autonomy—to be the master of your own fate—is not a concept strictly limited to seeking independence. [In fact, in a later post, The Jenius will argue that there really isn’t and never has been a true independence movement in Puerto Rico.] And again, in fact, Puerto Rico had a greater degree of autonomy in 1898, negotiated with Spain, than it has ever had before or since. So labeling a conclusive fact as “independentista” is simply admitting a bias against the Truth and shows a lack of brains, so let your tongue fry.

For the rest of you, it boils down to this: No one’s self-interest can ever be truly served if the decisions needed to implement the desired changes are in the hands of someone who doesn’t care what that self-interest is. Or if you don’t know where your true self-interest lies.

The problem here is two-fold: The U.S. has never given much thought to Puerto Rico, and at the level of the general population, the vast majority don’t give a damn. They have no reason to. In Puerto Rico, We have thrown away decades of Our lives in pursuit of what We can acquire, but only invested a few seconds to wrestle with what We want to be. One side couldn’t care less, the other side can’t bring itself to care enough.

So. If this isn’t exactly a stand-off, it results in a stand-offish posture concerning “Our Future.” In the meantime, a tiny, tiny island marshalled itself, took aim at some heady goals, and though one can certainly argue with the methods employed to achieve those goals, it is hard to dismiss the ongoing progress shown. They made their choices. They set their goals. They went after them with single-minded determination.

We make no choices. We have no goals. And the only thing We have a single mind about seems to be that “somebody’s gotta fix this mess.”


Not "somebody".


The Jenius Has Spoken.

28 September 2005

Blogging Wants

Even an avid reader can miss it... Along the right margin of Dave Pollard's extraordinary How To Save The World is a pair of lists. They speak directly to what is needed--wanted--in this blogging process We share as reader and blogger.

See if you agree:

Blog readers want to see more:

• original research, surveys etc.
• original, well-crafted fiction
• great finds: resources, blogs, essays, artistic works
• news not found anywhere else
• category killers: aggregators that capture the best of many blogs/feeds, so they need not be read individually
• clever, concise political opinion (most readers prefer these consistent with their own views)
• benchmarks, quantitative analysis
• personal stories, experiences, lessons learned
• first-hand accounts
• live reports from events
• insight: leading-edge thinking & novel perspectives
• short educational pieces
• relevant "aha" graphics
• great photos
• useful tools and checklists
• précis, summaries, reviews and other time-savers
• fun stuff: quizzes, self-evaluations, other interactive content

Blog writers want to see more:

• constructive criticism, reaction, feedback
• 'thank you' comments, and why readers liked their post
• requests for future posts on specific subjects
• foundation articles: posts that writers can build on, on their own blogs
• reading lists/aggregations of material on specific, leading-edge subjects that writers can use as resource material
• wonderful examples of writing of a particular genre, that they can learn from
• comments that engender lively discussion
• guidance on how to write in the strange world of weblogs

The Jenius Has Quoted.

27 September 2005

Genius Thinking

This one's like hanging a curveball to Barry Bonds...

Thinking like a Genius. Capital "G", emphasis added, let's move on.

The post is from The Occupational Adventure, a blog you should be reading if the cubicle you live in now has all the charm of a coffin or if your worklife in general leaves you wanting more. Here, in simple terms, is what Genius does that separates it from, the mundane. Call it "moving up three notches from J to G":

Thinking like a genius

So much of creating the life you want is about moving beyond the tired assumptions and breaking out of the rut. This article, Thinking Like a Genius, offers some ideas for doing just that.

In a nutshell, the ideas are:

1. Look at problems in many different ways, and find new perspectives that no one else has taken (or no one else has publicized!)

2. Visualize!

3. Produce! A distinguishing characteristic of genius is productivity.

4. Make novel combinations. Combine, and recombine, ideas, images, and thoughts into different combinations no matter how incongruent or unusual.

5. Form relationships; make connections between dissimilar subjects.

6. Think in opposites.

7. Think metaphorically.

8. Prepare yourself for chance.

If there's an underlying thread here it is that Genius ignores the common in favor of the uncommon. To a Genius, nothing is set in stone: everything is fluid, in fact, everything has to be fluid, for what's static is dead.

"Make novel combinations...no matter how incongruent or unusual. Think in opposites. Think metaphorically." In other words: dare to think. Don't restrict your thoughts--the only true freedom you will ever have--to what "they" think or believe. "They" are what keeps "Us" back. Children are deemed very creative because they don't know what they are supposed to think; the moment We "teach" them "what to think," We end up with drones, too focused on "fitting in" to have an original thought. Creativity is the key to breakthroughs. Albert Einstein once said: "Problems cannot be solved at the level of thought that created them." You cannot hope to rise above your current level of Life by thinking the same thoughts (or by not thinking).

But above all, point #8 is vital in understanding Genius: Prepare yourself for chance. The best definition of luck is "Preparation meets opportunity." Geniuses make dozens of efforts compared to "normal" people. Geniuses keep learning, probing, trying, discovering, failing, stretching, creating--thinking--long after others have quit. Genius, as Thomas Edison stated, is "...one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration."

Can anyone be a Genius? The Jenius thinks so. But first you have to want to think, observe, imagine, learn and create. You have to be willing to use the mental "muscles" others have had excised by "them" or have allowed to atrophy because "thinking is hard work." Thinking IS hard work. It's why so few people actually do it. And those that do it consistently We call...Geniuses.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

26 September 2005

Vi Marie: Infomediary

Take a minute and drop by this site.

Daily Computer & Business News is a project initiated as a one-stop source for business, technology and Internet-related news and it is managed by one woman. Her name is Vi Marie.

Every weekday, Vi Marie scans over 330 feeds to select some 45-60 items of interest and posts them for review. In a sense, hers is the most basic of blogs, a collection of interesting links with a unifying theme.

But what exactly is Vi Marie doing?

1) She is collecting and indexing information for third parties, in essence, fulfilling the role of infomediary.

2) She is teaching herself research skills congruent with most academic, commercial and professional interests.

3) She is learning about the current trends and developments in the chosen topics, ones that serve as springboards for a variety of efforts, from writing to consulting.

4) She has, over time, moved from general "grab bag" postings to more focused "business-oritented" posts. This is important because it not only reflects a personal interest (she is free to select all items), but she has also developed a "feel" for what is most valuable.

5) Based on this "feel," Vi Marie is now able to anticipate what could become important. Her knowledge is now aimed outward, at the "value point" of the blog's reader, who basically represents the average business person.

Daily Computer & Business News is as simple as a list... and as complex as a library. It is the product of one woman with a method and the discipline to keep the process going every day. Vi Marie is sharing knowledge in time-saving fashion, a valuable service in this day and age of chaotic overload. But the ultimate benefit will be in her hands, as she begins to act on what she can see over the horizon better than the rest of Us.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

24 September 2005

Government As Purgatory

It seems another weekend post is called for...

Aníbal Freytes calls himself The Information Soldier. A recent post of his speaks about something The Jenius will never know: working for the government of Puerto Rico.

After describing his early work experiences leading up to his first forays into government work, Mr. Freytes makes very clear he loves to work and works hard. Then comes this:

Now. I've changed jobs. Still in the government but it has changed...

Now, I try to get to my job as early as possible. Because, then I can leave as early as possible...

I hate myself for doing that, I hate myself for feeling this way. I hate myself for what I have become. Just another government employee. I used to look on "government employees" with disdain. In my mind, I was a "public servant". The difference being that a public servant is committed to do the best possible for Puerto Rico; meanwhile I reinforced in my mind the public view that government employees where there just for busywork and a paycheck.

I would like to get back in the private sector. I've sent out dozens of resumes. Precious few calls for interviews. No calls to offer something definite... I would love to return to the days when I got home fully spent, but happy; instead of brain-dulled and self-hating.

Some people get fired, others "quit", some more leave. Some have something to hang on to, others don't.

I fear... and grow desperate.

The information soldier is tired of feeling he can't ever win...

Wanting to get out of the office as early as possible... brain-dulled... self-hating... a growing feeling of desperation and hopelessness... This is misery. Tell Me this isn't a modern form of slavery, indentured servitude as "the Puerto Rican dream of security and easy living."

Mr. Freytes deserves better. In some small way, We need to make sure he--and the rest of Us--receive better.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

23 September 2005

Techno Sapiens: "Brand You"

It's time to go back to the fertile well that is Tom Peters...

For years, this eminent business savant has been trumpeting a simple idea: You are a brand.

Let's define the term: A brand represents the holistic sum of all information about a product... This symbolic construct typically consists of a name, identifying mark, logo, visual images or symbols, or mental concepts which distinguishes the product or service.

If you object to being called a product, call yourself a service, or a package, or a unique entity. It doesn't matter: what's thought of you constitutes a brand.

What does Tom Peters mean by "Brand You"? That your ultimate success will be based on how you develop that "mental construct" others have of you. Think of it as "reputation" combined with "marketing", who you are combined with how you present yourself.

Why is this concept so important? Because your level of success is not in anybody else's hands but your own. You either accept that and act upon it or you let Fate, whims, enemies or indifference slap you around.

So how do you develop "Brand You"? You follow those rules you learned as a child: read, learn, practice, imagine, create, ask questions, don't let not knowing slow you down, figure out what you like to do most and do more of that, find ways to get rewarded, keep your nose and hands clean, remember your manners and be a good friend.

Some of you read that short paragraph and mentally give up. It's too hard, you whine internally. Shut up. If success were easy, we'd all be superstars. Success begins with the acceptance that it belongs to you if you accept it depends only on you. Not "them." Not "luck." You.

So since your success depends on you, how can you let anything or anybody else determine your future?
You have to constantly be aware that your growth is the key to becoming the success you want to be, so that anything that stifles or curtails that growth is wrong.

Prepare. Communicate. Analyze the results of your actions. Learn. Grow. As you improve, and you will, your success will become greater. It's the truest and strongest path to success We humans ever have. Why settle for less?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 September 2005


How are you going to get out of the way?

No matter how effective or powerful a person, company or institution becomes, there comes a time when he, she or it stops being a force for progress and becomes a wall for stasis.

Verizon: You used the acquisition of a de facto monopoly (the Puerto Rico Telephone Company) to strangle the development of communications services, particularly those related to the Internet. Those lawsuits have dragged on for years, while the "100% digital" framework Puerto Rico was the first to have in the world became a fetid shadow of what it could have been. How are you going to get out of the way?

El Nuevo Día: Built on money rather than journalistic fundamentals, this under-informed, over-sold and ill-met vanity press takes any action it can copy to extend its influence and attempt to protect its revenue base. The Fourth Estate as General Ledger. Journalism in the trunk of a financial vehicle. How are you going to get out of the way?

The Center for the New Economy: Despite gathering a veritable stable of "names," this misnamed group has never been powerful or even influential. Recently the creator of "studies" any high-school graduate could have given the answers to in less than 10 minutes, the "CNE" brings together walls to form barriers. How are you going to get out of the way?

Fomento: The nickname for a hodge-podge mix of "economic development agencies," it is a living example of "too many ditchdiggers spoil the broth": riddled with myopic bean counters and pea-brained paper-pushers when what is needed is vision and execution. Imagine a blind octupus with eight very clumsy arms...and no brain. Try teaching it to type. Welcome to Fomento. How are you going to get out of the way?

Note that the question ignores "when" in favor of "how." To ask "when" is to waste time. To ask "how" is to place the burden of acknowledging their uselessness and their need to act squarely where it belongs. It implies action, the search for progress.

Many, if not all of the entities to whom the question is posed, will deny it applies to them in any way. They may be right, in the sense that maybe the moon is made of cheese. They may be incapable of coming up with a way of removing themselves as obstacles, even if they recognize being one. That would be like asking a rock to tapdance.

So, if they don't see it and they can't get out of the way, then what's the point of asking the question?

The Jenius thinks--hopes--you will see the answer. And start acting on it immediately... because the opportunities are there.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

21 September 2005

Choosing Our Government

Kevin Shockey, a name regular readers are vastly familiar with, made a comment on My special weekend post. Very appropriately, he quotes The Gettysburg Address concerning the position of government: “...of the people, by the people, for the people...”

Adlai Stevenson once stated “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.” Like the penchant for tough love, this hurts. It hurts because it is true. It forces Us to acknowledge Our role, or lack of one, in the chaos we call “Our Government.”

We want a better government, but We refuse to see beyond party-based biffle and actually face facts.

We want a better government, but We lap up the sewage of scandal where there is none, and make soufflés of indifference and pity out of the criminal excreta that guts Our Future.

We want a better government, but We don’t bother to go to public hearings about any issue that interests Us because nothing interests Us... except Our wallets. Somehow the government in its hog-seeking-truffles frenzy is supposed to interpret Our indifference and shape up, or respond to Our greed and cater to it. You are asking people who barely have a mind to read Ours or to kowtow to primal impulses. There's a formula for success.

We want a better government, but We browbeat anybody with talent and brains away from government. It makes those of Us with pettiness as a guiding star feel superior to those who seek to make a difference. Alas, it seems very clear that a vast majority of Us are following the same star.

We want a better government, but We can’t decide if We want to keep the colonial hybrid, request what will be denied or espouse a now flat(ulent) ideal. We can’t make up Our minds, contributing to an even greater obstacle to somehow reading it.

We want “somebody else,” hell, anybody else, to solve Our “Problem.” Grow up. It IS Our Problem and We have to solve it Ourselves.

There is some consolation here, from Harry Truman: “Wherever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship.” Obviously, the inefficiency We labor with means We are as far away from a dictatorship as We can be. With a little more efficiency or a little less government (minimal government can create a citizen-based democracy; note The Jenius said can...) and We could be on the road to progress.

And as someone said before: If We choose. And We must choose.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 September 2005

Bootstrapping Emphasized

If bootstrapping, as The Jenius suggested and presented in His previous post, is so great, why don’t more people start projects that way?

Because it takes a great deal of intelligence, creativity and courage to do what’s right.

Is The Jenius saying that going the VC route, or—bletch—the government handout route, wrong?

Yes. It is wrong.

At one time, the government funding route was not a handout, riddled with political cronyism and smelly of corruption. It was essentially a business deal, with one side contracting for services and the other agreeing to a repayment method. That was long ago, back when Puerto Rico was being developed under—ironically—“Operation Bootstrap.”

Now the government funding process is more akin to slipping some bills onto a whore’s nightstand, a slimy, wink-strewn, give-and-take more than an actual business deal. But like prostitution, the government will always find Johns and Janes to keep “business” booming. But that doesn’t make it right.

The VC route may have been the best method up to a decade ago, but the dot-com implosion showed quite clearly why lots of money is not exactly a cure-all for hare-brained ideas and lame-brained execution. VC funds are geared to maximize their own revenue, without much regard to what happens to the companies they fund. At its most basic, what the VC fund wants and what the company wants are two separate things and both are almost always incompatible with each other. You hear about the mega-successes, the billion-dollar IPOs and “instant” millionaires, but you don’t hear about the horrendous struggles against VC funders and the failures they help create that litter the business landscape.

As Greg Gianforte has so kindly reminded us, less than one percent of businesses get VC funding. If they are so good, so useful, so helpful, then why are they so damn irrelevant? It’s as if antibiotics were used in only one percent of all infections: it would make you wonder either about the medication or who’s in charge of it.

If you want to slide up to the government teat, feel free. If you want to play chicken with VC greed, have at it. Just don’t complain when bootstrappers are tearing up old markets, blazing new ones and raking in the money and glory while you’re still trying to figure out whose butt needs kissing this week.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

19 September 2005


The Jenius is tired--very, very tired--of hearing people say that they could start a business if someone gave them $100,000. And The Jenius is even more tired of people who have received that amount of money--and more--and STILL can't get their businesses to fly.

The Jenius prefers building the business quickly and letting the market finance it. In other words, you select a high-value concept and get the market to buy into it. Although defined differently, the term for this approach is bootstrapping and no less a personage than Greg Gianforte, CEO of RightNow Technologies suggests you look at bootstrapping to get your business off the ground.

Bootstrapping: The Secret to Entrepreneurial Success

How do you launch a successful high-tech business? If you ask the typical MBA, they'll give the same answer. Write a comprehensive in-depth business plan, take it to investors to secure a healthy initial round of funding, recruit the heaviest heavyweights you can, and start the PR machine cranking.

But, of course, they'd be completely wrong.

If you look at all start-ups, less than one percent get VC funding. Most are launched with less than $20,000. And some – including Dell – were created with less that $1,000. I personally started my first software company - which was acquired for $10 million by McAfee in 1994 - with a couple of friends and about $5,000 in cash. And I started RightNow Technologies - which went public August 4, 2004 and as of this writing has a market cap of $350 million - at my desk in Bozeman, Montana without any external funding whatsoever until the company was well-established with 400 customers.

That's why the advice I'd give to anyone wanting to start a company today would be just the opposite of what they tell you in B-school. I'd tell you to "Bootstrap" it.

I define "Bootstrapping" as the act of starting a business with little or no external funding. Bootstrappers don't write lengthy business plans, chase deep-pocketed investors, or indulge in overly academic market research exercises. Instead, they focus all of their considerable energy, brainpower, determination and skills on creating a business that can actually succeed in the real world.

In fact, I can offer at least eight solid reasons why Bootstrapping will consistently deliver better results than the "fund-and-burn" model that has become entrenched in Silicon Valley and elsewhere:

1. Bootstrapping ensures that you build your business on a legitimate, real-world value proposition. When you're Bootstrapping, you're forced to deal with customers and to fulfill their needs from Day One. If you have a lot of external funding, on the other hand, you can be fooled into thinking you've already created an actual business just because you're paying salaries and rent. But you haven't. You only have a business when you have paying customers. Bootstrappers know this instinctively, and never lose that customer focus.

2. Bootstrappers initiate the critical sales learning process sooner, not later. Selling is the hardest job of all. You have to learn how to be absolutely great at selling your product or service, and then teach others how to be absolutely great at selling it too. If you have too much cash-on-hand, it will take away from the urgency of initiating this process—so you wind up delaying the day when you screw up your courage, pick up the phone, and ask for that First Order. Bootstrappers are forced to start selling immediately as a matter of survival, which means they become better at selling sooner than their venture-funded counterparts.

3. Bootstrappers don't waste money; they make it. If you have $100,000 or $1 million in funding, what do you do? Leave it in the bank? Of course not. You go out and spend it—or, to use the commonly accepted term, you "burn" it. This has actually become an accepted practice! Venture funding actually encourages the start-up to waste money long before a viable business has been established. In a Bootstrapping model, on the other hand, waste simply can't occur because there is nothing to waste.

4. Bootstrapping accelerates time-to-market and time-to-profitability.
If you go the Bootstrapping route, you can start your business immediately. Immediately! If you want to pursue external funding, on the other hand, you can't start your business until everyone else tells you it's OK. Venture capital firms might take up to a year or more to decide on whether to invest. They might want a 200-page business plan. Their funding requirements might force you to spend up to $50,000 in professional fees. Venture-funded entrepreneurs spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find sources of external funding—while Bootstrappers are already on the street looking for customers and closing deals.

5. Bootstrappers are less likely to make big, fatal financial mistakes. Because they don't have huge amounts of cash, Bootstrappers can't make the kinds of huge mistakes that often destroy venture-funded companies it. From a personal perspective, Bootstrappers are also at less risk—because they don't have to put up the family home as collateral or jeopardize a lifetime of savings. They can start with whatever funds they feel comfortable investing to get things rolling and then fund the growth of their business with their actual initial revenue.

6. Bootstrappers are forced into unconventional thinking. Necessity truly is the mother of invention. Without a big cushion of cash, Bootstrappers are constantly forced to solve problems creatively. This results in innovative, outside-the-box approaches to everything from product design and manufacturing to marketing and sales.

7. Bootstrappers have more freedom and flexibility. When you take external funding, you become a slave to your business plan and you have to constantly answer to third parties: banks, private investors, grant agencies, etc. This destroys your ability to respond and adapt to unanticipated business challenges, changing market conditions, and unexpected business opportunities. Bootstrappers, on the other hand, aren't hampered by these forces. They can change direction overnight if that's what circumstances call for. This adaptability significantly increases their likelihood of near- and long-term success.

8. Bootstrappers wind up owning much, if not all, of what they create. This is a huge consideration. When Bootstrappers succeed, they get to keep their winnings. Some can even pass them along to their children. In a VC-backed company, on the other hand, you have to have to achieve a tremendous amount of growth to profit personally—since you have to fulfill your investors' ROI expectations first. In fact, once you're addicted to external financing, you can see your shares totally diluted by subsequent rounds of funding. So you can wind up with a successful business and little personal financial gain to show for it.

From my personal experience, I could add a ninth reason to this list: Bootstrapping is good, clean fun. When you Bootstrap a company, you're far less likely to find yourself in situations where you have to make promises you can't keep or where the temptations that go along with large sums of unearned cash present themselves. Instead, your entire focus is on creating value. You market, sell and serve your customers every day as if the business depended on it—because it does. And that commitment to achieving success by delivering value is really at the heart of the American business dream.

Forget "the American dream." Think "global success." "Empowerment." "Financial freedom." "Transcendental change." Stop waiting for someone to shackle your future with a check: make your business dream, your path to success, a reality today.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

17 September 2005

"We Have To Change First"

The Jenius has never posted on a weekend before. But thanks to my esteemed colleague, José Rodríguez, who sent me a sobering e-mail two days ago, a weekend post is necessary.

Translated from Spanish, this essay, anonymously written, is either inflammatory or depressing. Maybe both. There is an abundance of Truth here and those of Us who refuse to acknowledge it are without a doubt the ones thoroughly skewered in its words.

The general belief is that Rafael Henández Colón was no good, the same as Pedro Roselló (sic) and Sila Calderón. Now it’s said that Aníbal Acevedo Vilá is no good. And whoever comes after Aníbal will be no good either.

That’s why I’m beginning to suspect that the problem isn’t how corrupt and how big a thief Roselló (sic) was, or how autocratic Sila was. The problem is us. Us as a NATION. Us as the raw material of a country.

Because I belong to a country where becoming rich overnight is a virtue more appreciated than forming a family based on values and respect for others.

I belong to a country where, sadly, newspapers can never be sold like they are sold in other countries, that is, by placing some boxes on the sidewalks where one pays for one newspaper AND TAKES ONLY ONE NEWSPAPER AND LEAVES THE REST IN THE BOX.

I belong to a country where “PRIVATE BUSINESSES” are the “personal office supply stores” of their dishonest employees, blithely taking home paper, pencils, pens, markers and everything needed for their children’s projects, amongst other things.

I belong to a country where the people feel triumphant if they can steal cable TV by hooking up to their neighbor’s; where the people lie without shame to pay less in taxes or no taxes at all. I belong to a country where not being on time is a habit. Where company executives do not develop their human resources. Where there is very little interest in ecology, where people throw garbage in the streets and then blame the government for not keeping the sewer system clean. Where we steal power and water services and complain about how expensive they are.

Where there is no culture of reading and there is neither political, historical and economic conscience nor memory. Where our legislators work two days a year (and collect for the rest of the year like CEOs) to approve bills that only sink those that have nothing, screw those that have little and benefit just a handful of people.

I belong to a country where driver’s licenses, car inspections and medical certificates can be bought without any sort of test. A country where an elderly person, a woman with a child in her arms or a disabled person can get on a bus and people already seated pretend not see them so as not to give up their seat.

A country where cars have priority over pedestrians, even on the sidewalk. A country full of faults, but intent on lambasting its government. “The more I call Roselló or Aníbal a rat, the better I am as a person, though just yesterday I cheated on my math test or work schedule."

"The more I yell 'Autocrat!' at Aníbal, the more Puerto Rican I am."

No. No. No. Goddammit. That’s enough.

As the Raw Material of a country, we have many good things but we are far from being the men and women that our country needs. These defects, the constant cheating and undermining, the small-scale dishonesty that grows and evolves to become scandals, that lack of humanity, more that Romero, Hernández, Roselló (sic), Calderón or Acevedo is what has us in such dire straits, because these people have been nothing more and nothing less than OUR GOVERNORS. Born here, not anywhere else.

I’m sorry, because even if Acevedo resigns today, the next governor would have to continue working with the same defective raw material, that as a nation, we are. And he or she won’t be able to do a thing. I have no guarantee that anybody can do a better job, but while no one points out a way to eradicate the vices and flaws we have as a nation, no governor can be any good.

Do we need to bring in a dictator, to force us to obey the law by force or under a cloud of fear?

What we need is something else. Something more than critics and amateur political analysts. And while that “solution” doesn’t emerge from the bottom up, the top down, from the center, the sides or wherever, we’ll be equally damned, equally stuck…equally screwed.

We love being Puerto Rican. But when that Puerto Rican-ness becomes an obstacle to the possibility of our development as a Nation, then something has to be done.

We can’t afford to light the saints a candle to see if they’ll send us a Messiah. We have to change, for a new governor with the same Puerto Ricans won’t be able to do anything. It’s very clear: we have to change first.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

16 September 2005

Slogan For Puerto Rico

What Puerto Rico needs is a new slogan, a basis for a marketing campaign that, like most marketing campaigns, shines selective light on the good and casts shadows on the bad.

Seth Godin says "All marketers are liars." Maybe so. However, if no Truth is provided, the lying marketer will ultimately fail. So the game is to present as much Truth as possible. Some products, such as politicians, have no Truth: there's not a damn thing you can do with them, though Hades knows some idiots try mightily. As for the rest of the marketed products in the world, what truth they have can be augmented with minor or wholesale changes. Puerto Rico lies (pardon the pun) in that majority of "reasonably good, but needs improvement" category of products.

The Jenius suggests a slogan with more than a hint of mystery to it so as to invite inquiry and initiate a conversation. Here it is:

Puerto Rico: Talent at the profit point.

The Jenius hears a collective "Huh?" Read on.

There are four strengths to this slogan and any suggestion of a better one (and there may be many) would have to meet or exceed these four strengths:

1) Talent: By using a word clearly geared at a high-end characteristic, We are throwing off that severely outdated model of "cheap labor." We are not and have not been "cheap labor" since before The Bee Gees falsettoed at #1. Talent is never cheap and it isn't a commodity you can get anywhere...but you can certainly find it here.

2) Profit: Cheap labor is a cost-reduction strategy with an often-limited impact on the bottom line. By using the word "profit", We are clearly stating that Our contributions are not only useful, they are also valuable. Too many places focus on "cheap," but the true test of success is to focus--and achieve--profits.

3) "Profit point": A subtle but important strength: We are not a one-stop solution for everybody. We are also growing into Our own level of global technology. A "proft point" can be defined as the moment when infrastructure meets execution or processes meet markets. In other words, it can mean virtually anything so long as it is reasonable to the listener. He or she would understand We are value-added components, not basic tools, that Our physical limitations (from poor government to overstressed electrical system, et al), can be sidestepped, but Our Talent--Our amazing human resources--can still be used. (Think outsourcing or global alliances.) In addition, We acknowledge that We are in a learning phase, and as any good manager knows, the most valuable workers are those who have enough knowledge to do the job well, but need experience. Rather than call Ourselves "eager beavers," "at the profit point" sounds more professional.

4) Long-term: The slogan isn't a "quick fix promise": Talent at the profit point implies a lengthy commitment between the partners. For one thing, talent seeks its own reward, so nurturing that talent to find its reward within the current relationship is smart strategy. For another, if profits are consistent and growing, the relationship will be long and undergo redefining anyway...but both parties will tend to seek win-win arrangements. (Remember, We are not talking about an individual, but a country. People will make sudden changes often, but countries tend to move like glaciers.) Also, by linking "talent" to "profit," We would be unequivocally stating a focus on results. Let others talk about "potential" or "opportunity" while We clearly seize the high ground. It's not easy to hold, but it certainly attracts attention.

Like many good slogans, this one is like a coat hanger: you can drape all sorts of clothing on it. The important thing here is to find a way to cut through the clutter of global marketing (Ireland, Singapore, India, China, Malaysia, Chile, former Soviet satellites), kick-start The Fools from their inertia (at least try to) and give Puerto Rico an element that plays to Our strengths rather than magnify Our warts.

You might have a suggestion about a different slogan. Good. The more the merrier. So long as We pick one and give it an A+ effort. It's Our job and We need to get on it immediately.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

15 September 2005

Grading "D" Governor

This won't take long...

In a recent poll by a leading local newspaper (more cork than missive; topic for another day), Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá was given a grade of "D" or "F" by a substantial number of those surveyed. In fact, his "grade" was the lowest of any governor in the survey's history (not in all of history as the "cork" implied irresponsibly. Puerto Rico has had almost 500 years' worth of governors and some of them were so hated they feared for their lives. Suggestion to the cork: learn about Our history.)

The Jenius has some words of advice to D-guv: This is as good as it's gonna get.

---The oil situation may get better, but prices will stay high because there is no incentive to throw away increased profits. You will be blamed for this, even though it's not your fault.

---The current deadlock between the legislative Fools and your executive Nebbishness will not change. They don't want to change it and you can't. You will be blamed for this and it will be partially your fault.

---Your cabinet (The Jenius means your selected department heads; no capital letters here until you/they earn them) will begin dropping out like leaves in autumn. They won't have a choice, as sending their careers into the toilet is not something they want to join you in. You will be blamed for this and you will be largely to blame.

---In each subsequent survey, you will be excoriated for the stasis Puerto Rico suffers, for its lack of leadership, solutions and vision. You are obviously (thankfully) not the only person We depend upon for leadership, but you are certainly the most visible. That you have failed and will continue to do so is entirely your fault. And We will tell you so. Repeatedly. (And if We had any electoral brains, We'd aim to get rid of The Fools in the legislative twig as well.)

However, the world may change. A miracle--or tragedy--may occur that could thrust you into a new position. Pray for that, guvvy, pray for the miracle or pray for the strength to rise above the tragedy. Because it will be the only thing that could change your term from a "D", or an "F" (could We go farther down the alphabet? Please?), to a "C". At this point, "average" is the best you can hope for.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

14 September 2005

Frustration To Fun

How long does it take to launch a business in Puerto Rico?

According to a variety of sources, and based on 20 years' personal experience of consulting and business development, the average time is around 10 months. Let's call it 300 days or a little longer than the average gestation period of a baby.

Now there are some persons out there who are scoffing at that number...mainly because it's too short. And The Jenius is hard-pressed to not give these scoffers a tip of the hat for being more right than wrong.

The lengthy and ridiculous time it takes to launch a business in Puerto Rico is not the result of a lack of talent, knowledge and/or experience on the part of local entrepreneurs. Our People can match business savvy with anybody on the planet. (We may lose from time to time, but We will win more often than We lose.) To no surprise, the main obstacle to launching a business here is a faulty government structure.

And no, it's not limited capital. Our underground economy is almost equal to the "open" economy in terms of cash. Many times, projects The Jenius has helped develop have been funded from "underground" cash clearly not linked to illegal activities. (Think cash-based work and a desire to keep savings hidden from taxes...) Several times, the funding amounts exceeded $100,000. So no, limited capital is not the reason.

The government ringalevio to get a business started has elements of Byzantine bureaucracy, Pavlovian conditioning and Stalinist cruelty, with a hefty dash of P.T. Barnum thrown in to give it an American flair. The level of incompetence in this arena must cost Puerto Rico billions of dollars a year in lost economic growth, not to mention that it has steadily eroded the attractiveness of the Island as an investment site.

A small example: A local company developing a computer chip for Voice-over-IP (VoIP) applications repeatedly had their Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (a government agency) forms returned because their water consumption was considered "incorrect." The forms, geared to manufacturing, were being reviewed expecting hundreds, hopefully thousands of gallons of water a day as part of their production. With 5 people on staff, the rational answer of "1-2 gallons" was simply incomprehensible. Each returned set of forms added 60-90 days of processing time to the business launch. A matter that could have been cleared by simply listening/reading with a normal level of understanding to what the project really needed was not within the range of PRIDCO. And so a company that could have come together in under a year took almost two years to "open its doors." Byzantine, rigid, mindlessly cruel, more sham than substance...the government as obstacle.

Is it getting better? No. Will it get better? Why should it? Because We need it? We need many things, but The Fools have made it clear that what We need means nothing to their base urges. The clear option is to simply sidestep the government and launch businesses without their "help". Sure, certain regulations and laws must be obeyed, but even these can be greatly reduced with the power of the Internet. To continue the path of government-based and government-dependent business launches is to walk under the "Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here" sign.

The trend to avoid that walk has already begun: it will take more of Our efforts to make it a truly effective tool for economic growth in Puerto Rico. Forget frustration: think "fun". Think "fast, frenzied, results-based success!" And help Us make a bigger difference.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 September 2005


nebbish n. (Yiddish) a timid unfortunate simpleton

Let's end the suspense: The Governor of Puerto Rico, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, is a nebbish.

Timid: From body language to statements, Vilá seems to apologize for occupying your attention. He lacks assertiveness and that intangible element called "charm," which has nothing to do with physical appearance but everything to do with innate abilities.

Unfortunate: Assuming command of a government that has spent 12 years in frank decline, after being thrust into his party's leadership when the "preferred candidate" balked, AND after his own party's leader lame-ducked herself through mismanagement and an early "I quit" barely two years into her term, Vilá also has to face a contrary Senate, House and plurality of opposition mayors. Julius Caesar would have been mildly challenged; Vilá is vastly overwhelmed.

Simpleton: In times of crisis, it takes concerted, innovative thought and focused effort to rise above the fray and achieve brilliance. The condition Puerto Rico is in demands brilliance, for nothing less will make a difference. Instead of that, Vilá chooses half-baked ideas (pre-budget taxing, "voluntary" job reductions) and considers "wait and see" bolstered by mealy-mouthed salvos against the opposition as a viable strategy, the kind of "leadership" that can only be described as "simplistic."

What this amounts to is a leadership void that sucks potential out of the entire government, a veritable wasteland even at its best. A great team led by a nebbish, no matter how well-intentioned he or she may be, is mediocre; a lousy team led by a nebbish (no matter how...) is doomed. Unfortunately for Us, We have a lousy team...

...unless We realize that the team is NOT The Fools in and out of government, but Us. And that We are NOT really "led" by a nebbish and his counterparts, but by Our Own Talents. To keep waiting for the government, to keep acting as if the government were the end-all and be-all of Our Future, to act as if the government is a wallet We just have to dip into is to give undue power to Nebbish-led Foolishness. To accept that "That's the way things are" and shrug like oxen beset by flies is to allow the worst of what We are--or damn close to it--to determine Our Future.

We have options. They lie outside the traditional sources We have been coerced into thinking are the only ones. Let's find them, let's identify and join the women and men that are acting to develop Our Future. And let's do it now.

Hint: Those leaders have one clear-cut trait: They aren't relying on the government for anything. They may have in the past, but not anymore. They have ideas, often by the dozen, on how to make things happen without the government. Listen well and you will have found a Leader.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

12 September 2005

Teamwork 3

From the top-notch Creative Generalist comes a post that The Jenius wishes He could have read 20 years ago. Despite numerous brushes with articulating this very simple, very valuable Truth, The Jenius never really got it right. A research jag into future Jenius topics uncovered this gem, to a combination of sheer admiration and a touch of chagrin.

Called "Rule 33", it tells you exactly what you need--and don't need--to create a successful project team:

"Rule 33 is really quite simple. It goes as such: There are three things that a strong team absolutely must have and there are three things that a strong team must absolutely do away with. 3 and 3. Like I said, simple.

A strong team must consist of a bunch of incredibly talented individuals who understand their role and everyone else's roles within an organization and who work their asses off to get done whatever it is they do.

Conversely, a strong team absolutely cannot accommodate idiots, slackers, and big egos.

That's it. Your team is soaring if it has all of the first three things and none of the last three things.

In a nutshell:
---Talented Individuals - people who are already themselves capable and driven.
---Understood Roles - it's a concert, a symphony, a fastbreak...the interaction and passing is what counts here.
---Hard Work - anything worth accomplishing requires effort; lots of it.

---No Idiots - just don't hire dumb people; leave them for the competition.
---No Slackers - everyone must be firing on all cylinders; get rid of the deadwood.
---No Prima Donnas - check your ego at the door, cause nobody's bigger than the project."

Simple. But like so many simple things, so very difficult to do. Twenty years and hundreds of projects tell Me Steve Hardy has encapsulated a Business Law, that rarity of such value that it should be engraved in every business person's mind.

Start now. Look at your own projects at see if any of them live up to Rule 33. If they don't, do something about it. And don't settle for less than full adherence to Rule 33 in your future projects.

Take it from Me: you can't afford to settle for less.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

09 September 2005

Disunity Disaffection

A common complaint heard in Puerto Rico is about how Cubans, for example, arrive on the Island and within a short period of time, become quite successful. The Jenius has heard several otherwise-bright folks rail against "Cuban luck," "the undue influence Cubans have in higher government" or--indefensibly--"Cuban greed."

The truth is rather simple: Cubans arrive here willing to work hard, join a community that looks out for each other and don't wait for opportunities or benefits to arrive, but rather go out and get them. It's called hustle and Puerto Ricans hate it.

This "Cuban" mythos has been largely replaced by the "Dominican" one, with an added factor of base prejudice, a "looking down the nose" at Our close neighbors that is crass and baseless. That Puerto Ricans hate "hustle" is The Jenius's way of noting that We have an innate tendency to want to be given things, that for some reason working hard to achieve goals is seen as contemptuous and that incurring risk to change one's situation is considered stupid when compared to sheeplike conformity.

That Cubans, and now Dominicans, achieve a level of success that engenders envy in too large a portion of Puerto Ricans is a fact. That what they do to achieve it is beyond Our means is not. Cooperating and collaborating, in effect, seeking synergy to make 1 + 1 = 3 or more is simply good business sense. Lending a hand to your fellow man and woman is considered the basis for good community behavior. But We don't do that very often, preferring to pull inward rather than reach outward.

Local entrepreneurs are familiar with this "disconnection" factor, often laboring in isolation because fear is the over-arching concern when it comes to looking at other businesses: instead of seeing allies, they see enemies. They play it "cool" by working hard, but not working smart to create a network. Instead of "networking," they ply the "what can I get from you" attitude that directly implies "unless you give me a lot, I won't give you anything." They don't reach out, they reach down and in: down to the other's pockets and in to their own.

In unity lies strength. To go it alone, or worse, to act like the surrounding community is the problem instead of the opportunity, leads to the kind of disjointed, ineffective and misguided business growth We "enjoy." Maybe it's the immigrant "Us against Them" mentality that imposes unity. (Puerto Ricans in the U.S. tend to cooperate better with each other.) The answer is definitely not a bunker mentality, but one that goes a step beyond and sees the world as an "Us to Them" proposition. Puerto Rico is not the only market, nor is it even remotely a big one, when compared to global opportunities. If Our attitude is an obstacle--and it is--then changing it is the first step on the path to greater internal and external success.

If there was ever a time for isolation, it is long ended. Global markets demand global vision, connecting and reconnecting consistently to adapt to and create new opportunities. Standing on the sidelines and being snooty about Cubans, Dominicans or Puerto Ricans who are working hard to make a better tomorrow was never good form. Seeing an enemy where an ally surely stands is economic blindness. Staying in that same mindset is to toss Our Future away...every day.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

08 September 2005

Learning To Learn

When did you learn how to learn?

A Google search on the definition of "learn" returned these results:

1---acquire or gain knowledge or skills; "She learned dancing from her sister"; "I learned Sanskrit"; "Children acquire language at an amazing rate"
2---get to know or become aware of, usually accidentally; "I learned that she has two grown-up children"; "I see that you have been promoted"
3---memorize: commit to memory; learn by heart; "Have you memorized your lines for the play yet?"
4---be a student of a certain subject; "She is reading for the bar exam"
5---teach: impart skills or knowledge to; "I taught them French"; "He instructed me in building a boat"
6---determine: find out, learn, or determine with certainty, usually by making an inquiry or other effort; "I want to see whether she speaks French"; "See whether it works"; "find out if he speaks Russian"; "Check whether the train leaves on time"

Most people will probably think The Jenius means definition 3 above when they think of "learn." However, The Jenius is referring to definition 1: acquire or gain knowledge or skills. The difference is very fundamental and very important, for although memorizing is definitely a part of learning, it is a dead end, whereas the process of acquiring knowledge and/or skills is an infinite universe.

Memorization is a dead end because it simply piles fact and data with no true connection to insight: instead of growth you get clutter. Even if you can keep it organized enough to sustain its vividness over the years (unlike the "test syndrome" where you memorize what you need and forget it immediately after the test), you are not adding knowledge. To learn how to learn, to learn how to acquire knowledge and skills, is often an accidental discovery, for the educational system We pass through does almost nothing to teach Us a learning process.

For many, the discovery is part of one's own exploration of the world. For others it is the product of a loving parent's attention or a brilliant influential teacher. In whatever form the gift arrives, once received, it is never lost again. First school, then work becomes amazingly easier. The struggle others engage in to shove facts helter-skelter into a brain evolved over millions of years to find relationships is avoided entirely. And that is the key point of learning how to learn: allowing the mind to form relationships of the facts it receives. The natural function of the mind is battered into submission and shunted aside for the ungainly model of "this fact here, that fact there" that makes the educational system the sorry sewage pipe We must crawl through.

To pull together diverse facts. To assign relationships between them. To assign weights to those relationships so that relevant importance and nuances become part of the mental picture. To understand and note the gaps of the created relationships so that questions can be asked that lead to discovering the missing connections. To be willing, even eager, to seek out new facts and data with the confidence that their addition will exponentially increase the total value of your knowledge. To know that knowledge is a power you can gain as easily as breathing deeply...that is the immensity of learning how to learn.

How can We expect to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world with a never-changing mind? The product of Our educational system, the ideal product, is a mind like a rock, facts fused into a static lump. The mind that can teach itself is a liquid energy that defies time and space. Which would you rather have to face the chaos of modern times? Which do you wish your children to have? How will you go about giving them your choice?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

07 September 2005

Techno Sapiens: Roberts and Branson

Hot on the heels of The Incomplete Manifesto comes a pair of shorter lists that aim at the same general target: your creative success. The first is from Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, a major worldwide advertising agency.

Kevin Roberts' Credo

1. Ready. Fire! Aim.
2. If it ain't broke...break it!
3. Hire crazies.
4. Ask dumb questions.
5. Pursue failure.
6. Lead, follow or get out of the way!
7. Spread confusion.
8. Ditch your office.
9. Read odd stuff.
10. Avoid moderation!

Most of you will probably find this list easier to absorb, remember and put into practice than a 43-item manifesto. Different strokes and all that. But if you still found it too long, try Sir Richard Branson's 5 rules:

Sir Richard Branson's Rules:
1) Follow your passions.
2) Keep it simple.
3) Get the best people to help you.
4) Re-create yourself.
5) Play.

In any case, notice how the pursuit of creative power leads to a vision of life that is far from the beaten path. We invest so much of Our Time--of Our Life--in work and careers that settling for drudgery and routine seems criminal. Even if your chosen path is one that The Jenius or anyone else might find "boring," doing it with passion, engaging it with flair and vivid imagination cannot help but be a life-affirming and life-enhancing attitude. And it will lead to developing your best efforts.

Manifesto, credo or rules, they all give structure to freedom. Choose it now.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 September 2005

The Incomplete Manifesto

Written in 1998, The Incomplete Manifesto, penned by Bruce Mau Design Group, seems like a blueprint of Web 2.0 creativity. Read through these salient points and notice how distant--or how close--We are as a People to this kind of creative energy. (Bold text indicates The Jenius is adding his "Amen!")

Bruce Mau: The Incomplete Manifesto

1. Allow events to change you.

2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you'll never have real growth.

3. Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we've already been.

4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

5. Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.

6. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question.

7. Study.

8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.

9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis.

10. Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.

11. Harvest ideas. Edit applications.

12. Keep moving. The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it.

13. Slow down.

14. Don't be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black.

15. Ask stupid questions.

16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

17. ----------. Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven't had yet, and for the ideas of others.

18. Stay up late. Strange things happen when you've gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you're separated from the rest of the world.

19. Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent.

20. Be careful to take risks.

21. Repeat yourself. If you like it, do it again. If you don't like it, do it again.

22. Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things.

23. Stand on someone's shoulders.

24. Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

25. Don't clean your desk.

26. Don't enter awards competitions. Just don't. It's not good for you.

27. Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our "noodle."

28. Make new words. Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.

30. Organization = Liberty. Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between "creatives" and "suits" is what Leonard Cohen calls a 'charming artifact of the past.'

31. Don't borrow money. Once again, Frank Gehry's advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It's not exactly rocket science, but it's surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.

32. Listen carefully.

33. Take field trips.

34. Make mistakes faster.

35. Imitate. Don't be shy about it. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp's large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.

36. Scat. When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else ... but not words.

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

38. Explore the other edge. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.

39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces - what Dr. Seuss calls "the waiting place."

40. Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life.

41. Laugh.

42. Remember. Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction.

43. Power to the people. Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can't be free agents if we're not free.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

05 September 2005

1:100 Redux

[Note: Another recent Jenius post was picked up by Global Voices.]

A few friends were intrigued by my recent 1:100 post. Commentary, suggestions and even a few criticisms were tossed at The Jenius. A suggestion is analyzed, one criticism is deemed merited and the others are shown to be off the mark.

The merited criticism is that My description of the process did not identify Apex as a small to medium-sized business, i.e., a company that would receive a very positive impact from a $500,000 revenue increase in one quarter. That was a definite oversight.

A second criticism extended to the amount of money each team member would make if an idea was accepted: $1,000 per member, for a total of $5,000. The Jenius was told no company would pay that, to which My reply is: Yes, the smart ones will. Though that might be a circular argument, the fact is that any company reviewing the 1:100 concept would understand that the challenege--and value--lies not in the money expended, but in the result created. If you could buy lottery tickets for $5,000 with the guarantee of winning $500,000, wouldn't you do it?

Ah, but that leads to a third criticism: what if the idea doesn't work? The Jenius was almost accused of smarmily side-stepping the issue by placing a priori blame on the company for not executing properly. The 1:100 concept takes into account that whatever ideas are presented must be done so within the context of the business as it is in order to be accepted for what they can do. If the company's leaders can see a clear path between idea, potential execution and potential benefit, is it the team's fault if--after they leave--the execution and/or result are not up to potential? The 1:100 team is hired to create a launch pad, not pilot the spaceship into and through the ether.

Another comment was that 1:100 was not very impressive, that 1:1,000 should have been used. (It was couched as a suggestion, so The Jenius took it as a comment, not criticism.) The Jenius agrees, but understands that most people will not believe that a 1:100 ratio can be achieved as indicated, so offering 1:1,000 would simply overwhelm the mind: $5,000 for a $5 million return in 90 days? Also, let's face it: if any of Us could create a return for a small to medium-sized business in the $5 million/90 days range, he/she/they would definitely be worth much much than $5,000.

Another criticism is that The Jenius was focusing on short-term gain with a possible long-term loss, something He has fought against most of His career. Too many businesses make short-term decisions that kill their long-term prospects: hiring too soon or too many, accepting too large a contract too soon, etc. The Jenius accepts that a company could be faced with this dilemma, but the team itself would be aware of this potential mistake and would seek ways to avoid long-term pitfalls. It can be expected that the company leaders would ask what can be expected beyond the 90-day framework and acceptance of the idea(s) would require a cogent and reasonable answer.

Another criticism is that by only increasing revenue, the team could lead a company to grow too fast or take too big a risk. That criticism implies that the 1:100 team would ignore the danger of over-extending the company, ignore the power of "cost reduction plus revenue increase" and ignore the reality of using the company's current resources to the fullest extent possible. That's simply out of the question because ignoring those "details" makes the team's task virtually impossible to achieve.

And finally, one friend indicated that The Jenius was setting up the team to have their ideas ripped off, for what's to stop a company from simply listening (or recording) everything, then deciding to stiff Us, collect Our money and then do the best idea(s) anyway? A Non-Disclosure Agreement would be needed going in (the company would be providing sensitive data), but nothing would compel a company to act in an honorable manner other than the moral and ethical values of its leaders. The Jenius believes that most people are decent, honest and will play fair. The few that don't, though, could discover that within a few days of their "rejection" of the 1:100 team's idea(s), the team is now working for their competitor. A Non-Compete Agreement would solve that potential problem, one that defines that the 1:100 team would not work for a competitor for a period of one year after they were paid for their idea(s). Fairly standard arrangement for consulting and most likely would keep 90% of the potential vermin away from the concept.

The Jenius thanks those who took the time to discuss the 1:100 concept. And to the person who asked why The Jenius selected the gentlemen listed, here is a partial reply: Several more people could have been listed. The Jenius has the fortune of knowing quite a few Geniuses...and relishes the opportunity to work with any and all of them.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

02 September 2005

Spin-offs & Senior Management

There are times when an established company is faced with the opportunity to help develop a spin-off or launch an additional company. Senior management gets involved and unless certain rules are observed, the process can be one of pushing to create, only to let the newborn languish.

So here are The 4 Rules for Senior Management of Spin-offs:

1) Think beyond the money: Oftentimes, senior management looks at a potential project in terms of expenses and revenue. That's only part of the equation. From unconvering new opportunities and skill sets to elevating morale and attracting a wider range of talented employees, the decision to foster a spin-off effort has very positive intangibles. Leaving those off the decision matrix will most likely lead to a bad decision. And money is only part of the resources senior management and the company can bring to the project table. Everything from streamlining procedures to marketing and public relations are part of the toolbox a project needs for a successful launch, especially when senior management has experience in the same general field.

2) Give freedom and maintain control: No, The Jenius hasn't become a Zen monster. Senior management must allow the freedom for the spin-off team to seek solutions and make mistakes, while maintaining overall control of what the spin-off project needs to achieve. Upper management in these cases is not a player, but a coach. Stepping in to try to micromanage the project almost always weakens the effort, while simply letting the project team "do its own thing" tends to create spin-offs with no clear purpose to either the established company or any specific markets.

3) Establish clear "pull the plug" numbers: The worst thing for a spin-off project is to be shut down. To avoid the image of arbitrary or subjective decision-making, as well as reducing the potential effect of internal politics on the effort, clear objectives must be established and reviewed periodically. Not only does the process keep the team focused on achieving results, it also provides for an automatic project review with little extra effort. Obstacles are quickly identified and if more resources need to be allocated, they can be weighed and committed when needed.

4) Once the spin-off launches is when your real work begins: Senior management is not a checkbook and office space: it is a leadership role and leaders act. The moment a spin-off is ready to hit the market is when senior management is needed most, because they are the first, best and most respected salespeople for the project. Letting the spin-off try to "find its legs" is like building a bicycle and expecting it to be a motorcycle. At that point, the engine is senior management and a few weeks of ales and marketing by senior management may very well be the difference between spin-off success and limbo.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 September 2005


Imagine this scenario at mythical Apex, Inc.:

At 8 A.M., five people walk into the main conference room at Apex. On the table are five packets containing reports provided by Apex to describe the company, its operations, markets, current plans, objectives and obstacles. The conference room has a whiteboard, two computers with Internet access, index cards, PostIt Notes, notepads, pens, markers, etc.

At 9 A.M., the five-person team begins to brainstorm ideas that could lead Apex to generate a minimum revenue increase of $500,000 in the following quarter.

At 12 noon, the group is served an elegant lunch.

At 1 P.M. the group reconvenes to polish the best ideas and prepare brief presentations on the best ones, or an in-depth presentation of the main idea if only one is to be presented.

At 2 P.M., Apex's top brass files in to hear the idea(s). The group runs through its presentation(s) verbally, using a minimum of PowerPoint. (None at all would be best.)

Between 3 and 3:30, the top brass decide which idea or ideas they wish to see developed further. If no idea is deemed worthy, each member of the group pays $100 to Apex, to cover the expenses incurred during this one-day exercise. If one or two ideas are deemed worthy, the group then proceeds to create 1 or 2 outlines (2-4 pages long) that delineate the major steps needed to put an idea into action. By 5 P.M., they hand in the outlines and each person in the group receives a check for $1,000.

Thus Apex invests $5,000 in order to receive a $500,000 revenue boost in the coming quarter. That's a ratio of $1 invested with a $100 return, a 1:100 ratio.

Farfetched? Not at all. With a group of results-minded, entrepreneurial, rules-bending, solution-provider brains, achieving the 1:100 result is practically guaranteed. It takes fresh approaches to make a difference and injecting $500,000 into a company is the kind of short-term result that could springboard Apex (or any other outfit) into an entirely new level of success.

But maybe the whole plan falls apart and the revenue is not generated. If the company's top brass believes an idea is worth pursuing, but then botch the execution, that's not the group's fault. Having deemed an idea worth attempting and being given an outline on its major points should be enough for any competent organization to put into practice and achieve the desired result.

And what does it really cost a company to try this? What was shown above: a little over $5,000. Even if it costs as much as $10,000, a return in the $500,000 range could mean a yearly revenue increase of $2 million... or much much more. That's a result most medium-sized businesses would be happy to enjoy.

If any would-be Apexes ask The Jenius to do this, He would invite Roberto Filomeno, Art Medina, Ivan Merced and Kevin Shockey to that conference room. Think about it: for every dollar invested here, 100 will be coming back.

1:100. Think about it.

The Jenius Has Spoken.