28 February 2006

Time Is Not Guaranteed

Early this morning, before coffee or even e-mail, a phone call: one of My younger cousins, Ricky, barely 21, died from a fall in a work-related accident.

Death has a way of focusing Our minds on the fragility of life, on how vulnerable We really are. But beyond that is the sense that Time--Our presence in it--is not guaranteed to anyone. To the average 21-year-old, Time is infinite, stretching out to a future that he or she cannot see an end to. Sure they sense that in some way, in some odd manner, they will age and maybe look like Dad or Grandma, but Time, being seen as infinite, is not really important.

And that is wrong, both for the individual as for the society that individual inhabits.

At the individual level, maybe the fear of death keeps Us from focusing too much on Time, yet We live in a world where Time is an obsession. Practically every electronic doohickey tossed into the market is related to Time and how it "saves" some. Our attention spans are tuned to ever-decreasing snippets of Time, because We must turn Our attention to something else right now. We complain that We don't have enough Time for everything We want to do, blaming Time for Our own inability to make choices.

Time is an ally, not an enemy. But it is an ally that needs to be acknowledged and partnered with, not treated with cavalier indifference. Perhaps Our confusion about Time at the individual level would make more sense at the societal level, where making a minute count is an alien concept. We live in a society where The Fools take all the Time in the world to do something rational and productive, but rush headlong like frenzied lemmings into stupid, illegal and immoral acts. Maybe if We took more Time to elect them, We could reduce the number of Fools.

Time has run out for Ricky. He was a good kid and a very nice young man, polite, kind and with a quietly quirky sense of humor. His potential will remain untapped. Hopefully the society he lived in--that We live in--will not suffer a similar fate.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 February 2006

Grizzly Fodder

At the behest of a few friends and writers, I decided to watch Grizzly Man, the oft-lauded documentary about Timothy Treadwell, self-defined "protector" of the brown bears in the Katmai Park, part of the Alaskan Peninsula. The film tell us that after 13 years of Treadwell spending time amongst bears, the bears ate him.

They took too long.

The movie reveals a mental and emotional defective with gender-identity issues confusing feverish intensity and a feeble grasp of reality with being worthy of transcendent importance. Treadwell suffered delusions of adequacy and parlayed that iota into a wispy grandeur by tireless self-promotion and relying on the odd characteristic of some of society's elements to extend "the kindness of strangers" to creatures too weak to survive on their own.

Time and again the film shows a man who is at best confused, but more likely deranged. His emotional stability is virtually non-existent, and this is revealed by film he took of himself, so Freud only knows how Treadwell dealt with life off-camera. His friends seem to make more apologies for him than anything else and his parents practically call him a lost cause.

The more I watched, the angrier I got. Stepping back from the feeling, I noticed it really wasn't directed at Treadwell as such, but at his type.

Treadwell was a Fool. And you know by now, The Jenius despises Fools.

What I saw in Treadwell is what I see to a nauseating degree in what passes for Our "leadership":

-- Feverish intensity as an excuse for a lack of true passion, confusing activity with productivity.

-- A grasp of reality that makes Alice in Wonderland seem like an anthropological paper.

-- The delusion that because they are doing something, that something is actually valuable. Forget results. Forget logic. Forget any semblance of competence. The Fool shrieks to the winds: Because I am doing this, this is great!

-- Lack of knowledge or the IQ of a fruit salad are not impediments to continuing empty behavior and crow-squawking cacophony. In fact, they are requirements.

And let's not forget the role the media and audience play in this debacle. Playing the gaseous role of the media in the movie is director Werner Herzog, who can't help but insert himself into the story. Herzog acts as if Truth doesn't exist unless he smarmily pokes a stick at it, layering pseudo-philosophical crap over the issues he thinks are relevant. Forget the facts, is his style, let's look at my feelings about this.

Our local media suffers from the same wishy-washy, half-assed attitude as well, eschewing any head-on analysis in favor of gossip, scandal and morbid curiosity. Their defense is "That's what the public wants," which ranks up there with "I was cleaning my gun and it went off accidentally--17 times." The public wants Truth, and it is up to the media to choose how that Truth is to be presented, without the need for a subjective id to intrude.

And in the role of audience, the silent majority, is Amie Huguenard, Treadwell's girlfriend who died in the same grizzly attack. As My father has said time and again: "An idiot always finds bigger idiots to applaud him." What happened to Amie is a tragedy, but let's not release her from the responsibility of doing something stupid to follow a Fool in his Foolishness.

The Fools We have here--as do so many Fools--have their own coterie of sycophants and lamebrain applauders, fervent supporters of idiocies, who fall into the canyon of unreality and set up camp. These camps all-too-often grow into bigger nuisances, with Fools roaming freely.

The difference is, grizzlies will kill and eat these Fools. We, in the civilized world, aren't so lucky.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

24 February 2006

23 February 2006

Soldier Report: FUBAR

Some of you may already know Aníbal Freytes, The Information Soldier. He read yesterday's Jenius post and commented. Here's what he wrote:

You know I worked right there where they hold all of Puerto Rico's eGovernment effort for more than a year. At any time I could have told any of the guys working there to set up my eGoverment account. I mean, I could actually bypass the morass of bureaucratic processes that you would have to go through in order to get an account (like having to go in person to your local Treasury department office and present IDs and sign stuff up). I can actually still call some of those people and get my account up and running in two minutes.

But I don't. I won't!

Three things:

1. The eGovernment portal does not work well with my browser (you know, Firefox).

2. I don't trust the (technical/digital) security there. Not that the people there aren't capable. But they are reactive. Ask (I did!--part of the job) for a complete listing of hardware, software, services and data and you will get an incomplete answer, if not an outright blank stare from most.

3. I don't trust the government with my information. Period.

Even if the above didn't apply there isn't (to my knowledge) any established means to settle damages in the event of an information leak. And I'm not talking money, but accountability, responsibility.


1) There is no chain of command or clear authority/responsibility structure concerning citizens' data in the current Puerto Rican e-government effort.

2) It doesn't work with Firefox. Or Opera. (The Jenius uses Opera since 1996.) The whole shebang runs on Windows. Excuse Me, My mistake: the whole shebang lurches on Windows.

3) There is no clear-cut idea of who has what, running what, doing what, within the e-government system. That has the soothing effect of a foghorn blast, in your ear, while in REM sleep.

4) Yesterday's forum was more cult than business, more bribery than marketing and more disgusting than illuminating. Microsoft essentially runs the entire e-government process. It has sole power over what should be an increasingly-vital government infrastructure. Power corrupts. Enough said.

Is Aníbal wrong? Not from the answers government employees gave Me yesterday. To dismiss the points listed above would require Us to think that the "drones"--the people at the technology/citizen interface level--are kept in the dark while the "upper levels"--too blind to even consider how to overcome the technology gap so prevalent in Our society--hide information or plan a strategy too deep for mere mortals to understand.

Right. And bacon has anti-gravity powers.

The only possible conclusion is that The Information Soldier, reporting from four years on the front lines, is absolutely right: the local e-government effort is a pathetic blend of Swiss and limburger cheeses, gaping and smelly.

In military parlance, a soldier would call this FUBAR: Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition. (Yes, "Fouled" is a euphemism. Feel free to edit.) Or even SNAFU: Situation Normal: All Fouled Up. (Ditto on the editing.) To dismiss the acronyms, We have to take hold of this process in one of two ways:

1) Yoke The Fools to a real future, based on open standards, beholden to no one single entity; open standards that protect Our information and the processes it may be used for, or

2) Yank control from the Frankenstein wannabes and do the work Ourselves.

Or We can do what We've been doing up to now which is letting The Fools play with technology without supervision, the literal horror of retarded monkeys playing with loaded guns. The Soldier knows it, The Jenius knows it, now you do, too.

It's time to act.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 February 2006

Snapshots of My Day

8:24 A.M. -- Don't want to get up. Don't want to go anywhere. Don't want to see anyone and much less talk to anyone. Too bad, but My day has already scheduled that and more. So, just get there and get it over with.

10:16 A.M. -- Leave for eGovernment Forum. Should have been there at 9:00 A.M. Microsoft event, lunch included. Decided to go to bolster e-goverment newsletter coming out next month.

10:21 A.M. -- Flipping through AM stations because some noise is better than silence. Suddenly hear voices from the past. The Mills Brothers. The Mills Brothers! Means nothing to most of you, but to Me it's a birthday gift in February when My birthday's in November. Ride the warm feelings 'til 11 AM.

11:14 A.M. -- Got to the Ritz Carlton in time to hear Ms. Marie Johnson, former Head of the eBusiness Division for the Australian Government. Now Executive Director (Worldwide) of Microsoft's eGovernment Intiatives. Speaks well, from experience, very organized, straight-from-the-shoulder talker. Met her later to get her angle on practical ways to get governments to align policies and technologies. Could contribute to the upcoming e-government newsletter.

12:58 P.M. -- Skipped the free lunch for a BLT at Denny's. No one to talk to at Denny's.

3:44 P.M. -- Ileana Fas, Director of the Office of Managment and Budget (P.R.) and Jorge Silva, Secretary of the Economic Development Department, spoke glowingly of technology-based initiatives within the government and aimed at citizens. Much vision, much enthusiasm, a noticeable gap: how will We get Our people to use these services? Asking around, The Jenius was told by several people in the respective departments that not even the government's employees are eager to sign up for service access (divided into two levels: basic and "Level 3", which allows the person to actually make online transactions). "Build it...and they will ignore the whole flaming thing."

5:23 P.M. -- Sitting in a cafeteria trying to figure out how My personal and professional lives will come together again. No clear answer.

8:18 P.M. -- Finished a presentation of My "Building Effective Teams" conference to a group of Master's degree students at Universidad del Este. Enthusiastic response surprises Me for the whole thing felt "off". Again to My surprise, everyone there took My business card; the first time that's ever happened. (Note to Self: Get more business cards.)

10:51 P.M. -- Drove home listening to The Mills Brothers. Took the scenic route.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

21 February 2006

The 7% "Solution"

Recently, embattled governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá--he of the jellyfish will--proposed a 7% sales tax on all retail purchases made in Puerto Rico. For a consumer-addled economy like Ours, that's like telling vampires their blood supply will be spiked with bat snot from now on.

Leaving aside the thorny issue of whether a sales tax is needed or not, let's look at what this sales tax is and means. As the local press trumpeted, like Archimedes yelling "Eureka!"(mercifully, without the nudity), this proposed 7% sales tax would be amongst the highest of the 50 States. Third, in fact. Only We're not a state, see, so that angle is as moot as Fools actually being human beings.

Now why would a governor already careening aimlessly down the slippery slope of ineffectuality propose a sales tax so ridiculously high? Is it because he no longer has any "political coin" that needs protecting?

No, it's because the government he is lumping (he is a lump, he isn't "running" it and grammar forces Me to the present progressive, hence "lumping") is about to have its ubiquitous bonds downgraded to junk status.


"Junk" status for a bond is exactly what it seems to mean: the bonds are slightly better than lottery tickets in terms of future value. To his credit (slight pun, not entirely unintentional), Acevedo inherited a rampaging tapeworm of fiscal mismanagement, dating back through several Administrations, so it isn't entirely or even mainly his fault that We're faced with such a downgrade. What is his fault is acting like a spastic Captain Queeg, intent on placing his fantasies of "a renewed Puerto Rico" over the realities of "you're going to get steamrolled".

The legislature, the bigger, more contentious lump keeping the executive lump in lumpdom (sometimes, The Jenius gets carried away...) stated immediately that their proposal was a 4% sales tax. Uh-huh. No dismissing of the sales tax idea? No exploration of an alternative program, such as a 1% now, another 1% later, with another 1-2% in mid-2007? Bitter medicine should be taken quickly, but isn't there even going to be a discussion of whether this is the bitter medicine We should take, or even if it's needed?

Over the past 15 months, Puerto Rico has been stalled to the nth degree by a legislature that acts more like a day care center rumpus room, complete with drooling and diapers, than as a governing body. Time and again its monkeyshines have stonewalled, ignored or even openly countered moves by the governor to set his agenda of progress (such as it is). Once again, the legislature has vowed, promised, guaranteed--hell, sworn in blood for all The Jenius knows--to stop this 7% "solution".

And yet, the 7% sales tax will pass, barely molested by The Fools in drool-drippy diapers. (Got carried away again.)

Why? Politics and money. The 7% sales tax gives the legislature, dominated by statehooders, the chance to excoriate the governor and his party for "establishing" a sales tax higher than in 47 States. They will conveniently ignore their role in passing such a tax, of course, certainly, don't you know. The obvious "conclusion" is that, with Puerto Rico becoming a state--vote now ye lunkheads!--the sales tax will come down.

Uh-huh. And if my grandmother had balls, she'd be my grandfather.

And have you ever seen Fools turn down additional monies into their greedy, grubby, garbage-infested hands? The sales tax monies will swell coffers far beyond what the Sewage Gang and Powerless Posse have achieved in their near-abandoned agencies.

Get used to the 7% "solution": it's addictive, loathsome and here to stay.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 February 2006

WOMBAT Roundup: Don Peppers

From last month's WOMMA Conference in Orlando, a framework that hits home...

Don Peppers, he of the 1-to-1 Marketing fame along with Martha Rogers, made a very effective presentation about their "Return on Customer" metric. Basically, it means measuring the current and lifetime value of your customers and prospects and noting how it changes, sometimes in opposition to shareholder value (the traditional measuring stick).

Acording to Peppers and Rogers, you can have a company gaining shareholder value while dramatically losing customer value. Example: Blockbuster's late fee charges, which accounted at one point for over 30% of profits; good for shareholders, bad for customers and thus bad for Blockbuster's future.

One particular slide made Me bolt upright. Here it is:

Many businesses are in this situation:

-- Reasonably profitable, but no significant growth being achieved with current customers.
-- Short-term results trump every argument.
-- Business units act independently, but wind up "fishing for the same fish in the same pond."
-- Generally declining response rates, but no metric in place to gauge any actual loss of value.
-- Anecdotal evidence that customers and prospective customers feel over-solicited and even harassed.

This is exactly what is happening in Puerto Rico, as a whole. Not just "many businesses," but almost all. And if you extend that thought to government, then it's even more appropriate: barely any growth, knee-jerk thinking, repeated straining of the dwindling middle-class, apathy beyond mere ennui and We are feeling harassed, exploited and even abused.

From an advertising environment that makes "Blade Runner" look normal to sheer pig-headed Foolishness (and as ever, the obligatory apology to pigs everywhere), Don was talking not only about Return on Customer--which We should all take up--but he was also talking about Return on Citizen. If We now target even newborns as customers, it would seem more important to recognize that by maximizing Citizen Value, We can get a better Return on everything, far beyond the basics of money profit.

This isn't some new-fangled idea: the Greeks brought it up almost 3,000 years ago. Forgive Me if this sounds pessimistic, but it may take another 3,000 years before The Fools start using it as something other than a Blarney Stone for lip-service.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

16 February 2006

Blended Tears

How do you tell a child his world is about to end?

How do you comfort a mind and heart that fears without understanding exactly what that fear is? How do you keep that mind and heart from blaming himself where he shares no guilt?

How do you convince a tiny broken heart that leaving him is not abandonment, that the end of his life's routine of being with Daddy every day, playing, running and just being silly together is not to be?

I don't know how. I held Kaleb while he cried, his little body usually so sturdy and energetic, now limp and fragile. He cried for a long time and I held him for a long time, stroking his hair, kissing his cheek, rubbing his back...feeling helpless.

He cried alone, for though I'll admit to crying, now was not my time. It was his, it was my son's time to start healing. To shed the tears that let him relieve tonight's pain, leading into tomorrow's hopefully lesser pain.

Kaleb's asleep now. We read a book about pirates, watched part of a movie, took in the first half of a basketball game. Routine. Tomorrow it won't be. Tomorrow we say goodbye to each other in a way we've never done before. It will be his turn to cry again and my turn to help him with a brave face, a calm demeanor that will reassure my little boy that, yes, I love him, that I will be there for him, that I will return again and again to be his Daddy forever. But my face and my words cannot heal him; maybe his tears will help.

Kaleb's time to cry has passed and will come again. Mine is now.

15 February 2006

Failure and Friendship

Failure: Earlier today, before the sun rose, I left my home for the last time. The long winter of my marriage has taken its toll on my wife and me; the next step now is to dissolve the bind that no longer really exists.

As the child of a divorce, this was not supposed to be. We have a little boy, Kaleb, who's 5 years old and suffering the anxiety of insecurity, the quiet pain of constant tension, the sadness that emerges when one's parents are enmeshed in strife. I see in his eyes and face the pains I carried throughout my childhood, many of which I refuse to remember. It wasn't supposed to be that way for him. I was so sure it wouldn't be.

I have failed. Though not alone in that failure, I make no claim to being a victim, nor a martyr. I tried what I could for as long as I was able, but there came a point of no return. My wife still believed, for her own reasons, that we could regain whatever we had. Maybe I--maybe we--didn't try hard enough. Maybe we never had enough. Maybe, sadly, we never could.

I have failed, but Time and Life offer the chance for redemption. As my wife points out, we are forever united through Kaleb. Of that I have no doubt and no compunction. Maybe from our separate lives we can forge a unity that eases the shadow that all too often clouds Kaleb's eyes. Maybe one day he can see his parents sharing a moment of casual friendship that warms the aching emptiness in his chest. If not abiding love between his parents, I hope he will someday see, at least, everlasting friendship.

Friendship: The solitary need not be alone. In this time of sadness, I can count on the support of my family, not as defense, but as acceptance. Far beyond that is the support I am receiving from friends. It isn't easy to share such intimate fare, and if I've been successful in doing so, it's been because so many wonderful people have chosen to share with me.

My spiritual sisters--Carol, Diana and Zoila--have listened without judgement, acknowledged my faults and virtues and led me to brighter places. Without them, I would still be wandering my inner world wrapped in misery.

Ironically for a self-confessed failed husband, women have been my best friends for all my adult life. And yet, I am blessed with the presence of men who not only work with me, but extend their hand in support. Whatever I have achieved this past year, and whatever I might achieve in a foreseeable future, is thanks to Roberto, Iván, José, Kevin, Francisco, Luis and Ramón. Some of them have previously walked a similar path to mine: their insights into those paths have helped me immensely. And to a man, their support has been offered with quiet grace, never against women, but for me.

Failure and friendships now; hopefully friendships preserved and new ones forged in the future. Though much pain is shared by my wife, Kaleb and me, I speak now for myself: I am sad. I am disappointed. And yet, I am blessed.

14 February 2006

Asses & Tumors

Now the Department of (Inferior, Outdated, Culturally-Useless) Education announces a reduction of 5,000 employees from their payroll.

Big fat hairy deal. This is like a patient with cancer-riddled internal organs being told he's about to have his appendix removed.

The Do(IOC-U)E's problems are legion, from simple stupidity to complex stupidity:

-- Simple stupidity: Payroll and related costs absorb over 90%--read that again--of the department's budget, despite the fact that teachers comprise less than 40% of the department's total personnel. With an annual budget over $1.2 billion and running a roughly $360 million deficit each year, this department is as simple and attractive as a cesspool.

-- Complex stupidity: Political cronyism and blatant corruption have never blended well with education. Maybe it's just Me, but the carrion-feeding mentality doesn't jibe well with forging a better future. Right, Victor Fajardo? (For those of you just dropping in, Victor Delictor is in jail now for being more than just an incompetent Education Secretary: he was also an insidious supplier of illegally-gained monies to the local statehood party, led by another donkey, then-governor Pedro Rosselló.) (For those of you who object to "donkey", please substitute "ass". Please do.)

What are the expected savings from this toenail-clipping reduction of 5,000 employees? About $15 million. Woo-hoo! Hell, Victor Malefictor took $11 million all by himself, so excuse Me for not being impressed. A 1% "savings" from a runaway behemoth of crass political and cultural incompetence is not going to amount to anything, so again, what's the big deal?

The problem is that the current jackass in La Fortaleza (those of you who object to "jackass" can simply use "ass"; and again, please do) Aníbal Acevedo Vilá keeps trying to jump humongous chasms in two leaps (or four) rather than one. Reducing the size of government, like removing cancerous tumors, is a great idea. But tumors are removed by excision, not shaving. Although it's very hard--if not impossible--to tell where the tumor ends and where the "government organ" begins, My suggestion is to cut away boldly, to make the changes as strong as possible so that the process forces an analysis of what's tissue and what's rot.

And if it turns out that there is no tissue, only rot, then We can start making positive strides to a more effective infrastructure, even if it means eliminating a sorry "marketing" arm like PRIDCO or an even-sorrier "teaching brain" like Education. We need changes now and We're not going to get them through half-measures.

Actually, half-assed measures. Two asses amounting to half-assed government... When it comes to asses, the math can get complicated...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 February 2006

GTJ Weekend Mix

1) Proving that great minds think alike: From Brad Isaac's Achieve-IT! blog, a post titled "Paralyzed by indecision? Try a 'subliminal' coin flip." Shades of My own slant on the topic, just a few days ago…

2) For all My WOMMA homies--or WOMMies--(The Jenius just made that up. Feel free to use it.), here's the power of word of mouth marketing, from Bokardo: Fully 2/3 of all Netflix rentals come from recommendations. Here's an article about that, as the original source is now behind a paywall:

3) From Media Matters, The Top 12 Media Myths and Falsehoods About the Bush Administration's Spying Scandal. Short version: the murderous moron and his cronies are lying, as indicated by "evidence" they themselves have offered as justification for their actions.

4) If you're looking for online reading and research material, take a stroll through the Directory of Open Access Journals. Over 2,000 journals are listed with more than 500 of them fully searchable by articles. Perfect for students, professors and inveterate readers.

5) This article in Business Week analyzes how the current economic measures don't tell the full story of how strong the economy is. Enlightening in the sense of casting a brighter light on the subject, it leaves the door open for the question: How do we measure the economy so we do get a clearer picture of its strength? The answers need to be placed in government hands as quickly as possible.

6) From the newly-discovered Smart Mobs blog (it ain't real until The Jenius notices it…), a post that you don't need to read, but it would be good to ponder deeply: half the pre-school children in South Korea use the Internet daily.

7) Once again, a Jenius shoutout to Steve Hardy, the Creative Generalist, with a Confucian quote and a Guy Kawasaki list of suggestions to teens and young adults. From Confucius: "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life." Amen. (Note: For the first time ever, The Jenius will actually do no work or work-related activities for a 4-day period, this May. Never needed a vacation, but one should try new things, right?)

And from the entrepreneurial guru, Guy Kawasaki, this list of hindsights for young people starting out:

10)-Live off your parents as long as possible.
9)--Pursue joy, not happiness.
8)--Challenge the known and embrace the unknown.
7)--Learn to speak a foreign language, play a musical instrument, and play non-contact sports.
6)--Continue to learn.
5)--Learn to like yourself or change yourself until you can like yourself.
4)--Don't get married too soon.
3)--Play to win and win to play.
2)--Obey the absolutes.
1)--Enjoy your family and friends before they are gone.

The Jenius disagrees with number 10 (where's the adventure in that?) and is happy to note that 7 of the remaining 9 have been high on His list for many years. Which two aren't? Number 7 (never learned to play a musical instrument) and, sadly, number 1.

"Looking out for number 1" will take on a whole new meaning for Me this year.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

10 February 2006

Socratic Method Revisited

There are times when The Jenius, in full conversational flight, is asked: "Are You a reporter?" Sometimes the question is framed: "Is this an interview?" And time and again, in the middle of business meetings or work-related discussions, The Jenius interjects for a few seconds...and gets blank stares.

The Power of Questions is undenied. The simplest way to absorb information from another person is to ask them questions, granted that they answer them intelligibly and honestly. But questions are also the easiest way to get someone to absorb information from you, mainly by eliciting the answers from within themselves.

Socrates developed this method some 2,500 years ago. By asking questions, he would get his students to follow a line of reasoning and arrive at a conclusion. The method was so powerful that Socrates gained a reputation for turning his opponent's arguments against them without ever once having uttered a statement. In the Greece of his day, this was the equivalent of being heavyweight champ of the world without throwing a single punch.

Using the Socratic method as a daily tool, The Jenius has taught junior high school students about why Japan attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor (after actually convincing them that World War II really happened); taught college students about how Italy lost the chance for colonial empires in the New World; business men and women have polished their concepts and launched numerous companies after Socratic sessions and, in an unforgettable highlight, actually had a Fool reverse his decision to oppose much-needed environmental protection for Puerto Rican wetlands. (He is still a Fool, but a bit enlightened.)

Not once in these exchanges did The Jenius have to resort to books or other outside authorities: the entire engagement was managed through questions and the answers given by the other party. Most significantly, once the conclusion was reached, the people invariably commented on how they "knew" most or all of what was asked. For therein lies the power of the Socratic method as a teaching tool: it expands the listener's knowledge by adding new connections to his or her information base. As mentioned before in these writings, data is not information and information becomes knowledge only when a personal context is applied to that information.

The Socratic Method makes personal context the sole criteria for eliciting and connecting information. What isn't known is derived from the person's own level of knowledge, or presented to fill that exact gap. Someone once said that what you teach a person could be easily forgotten, but what a person teaches himself or herself is owned forever. Through the Power of Questions you can help others own greater knowledge.

For a transcript of a session using the Socratic Method to teach third graders binary math, click here.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

09 February 2006

Strategy First...Always

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat." Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There was a time, not so long ago, when the business world was abuzz with the teachings of the legendary Sun Tzu. Through his writings, dating from 2,500 years ago, a whole cottage industry of war-related themes were applied to the corporate world, from von Clausewitz, Napoleon and Attila the Hun to Special Forces and samurai.

Despite all that war-mongering literature, the corporate world is not really a battlefield and the martial spirit of the past 40 years has given way to a more holistic view, encompassing human nature's softer sides with practical hard-core realities based on expanding metrics.

But Sun Tzu's original observation remains true: Strategy alone will lead to victory, but tactics without strategy are doomed to fail.

Is The Jenius advocating strategy--the mental side of execution--over the more forceful and specific actions espoused by the word "tactics"? You betcha. (A lengthier discussion of what strategy is/means can be found here; one on tactics can be found here.

Why? Why make action subordinate to thought (so to speak)? Because strategy--direction--is ultimately more important than processes. To use an analogy: The Jenius wants to make the trip from San Juan to Moscow. If He chooses the right direction and sticks to it, He will eventually arrive in Moscow, simply by switching conveyances--tactics--along the way. If by contrast He chooses to use a sports car from San Juan to make the trip faster, He will soon discover that sports cars and salt water don't go well together.

Simplistic? Certainly, but the point is that with a proper strategy, effective tactics will emerge, but no amount of clever, inspired and/or powerful tactics will lead to a successful conclusion unless a coherent direction is maintained.

Look around you. Notice how people, organizations, the government, act in a frenzy of activity, but achieve very little. People without goals are merely flailing away at life. Companies without a solid business plan are simply identifying opportunities for their competitors, who will swoop in and pluck them. And Our government is a hodge-podge of conflicting actions and ideas simply because the concept of one coherent strategy is anathema to The Fools.

"When you don't know where you're going, any road will lead you there" appears in the epitome of books about dizzy behavior, Alice in Wonderland. Business and Life may not really be battlegrounds, but they are spheres where winning and losing, achievement and failure, are a constant reality. It isn't what you do so much as where you're going that often, if not always, determines the difference between reaching the pinnacle of success or dwelling in a valley of defeat.

Begin with the strategy; a plan, direction or roadmap with a destination. Then use your imagination, energy and tenacity to discover ways to overcome, avoid or bypass the obstacles you will find. The saddest lives are those that were filled with whirlwind struggles, the chaotic daily frenzy of actions taken in isolation from each other, desperately trying to grasp mirages that were never goals, and have ended in exhaustion, a slumping into death like peace after a storm.

Seek peace--fulfillment--in a life led with strategy, one led with purpose. It makes all the difference in the world.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

08 February 2006

Theorem I

If Talent + Technology = Ubiquity,

And Ubiquity = Access to all possible markets,

And Success = High compensation from high-value markets

--A) Markets have different values.
--B) A person has different values to markets.

Then Success =
--A) Defining high value markets
--B) Finding or Creating high-value markets
--C) Establishing a dominant and profitable presence in high-value markets

Since defining, finding, creating and establishing are self-initiated actions,

And developing talent is self-initiated,

And technology selection and use of technology are both self-initiated,

THEREFORE: Choice of Talent, Choice of Technology and Choice of Actions = Success on a Global Scale


The Jenius Has Spoken.

07 February 2006

WOMBAT Roundup: Woman Power

Here’s a Law of Marketing: If you aren’t marketing to women, you are going to fail.

And lest you scoff, this Law is on its way to becoming as ubiquitous as the Law of Gravity.

-- Fact: There are more women than men in every age sector, across the world.
-- Fact: In the U.S., women are the majority as small business owners and recipients of college degrees.
-- Fact: Women are the majority as online users and total amount of money spent in offline and online purchases.
-- Fact: Women influence anywhere from 60 to 90% of all purchases for items as disparate as furniture, cars, entertainment, clothing and insurance.
-- Fact: This majority—and its power—is going to rise in the coming decade.

Conclusion: If you aren’t marketing to women, you are going to fail.

So here’s where you should be looking to avoid the insipid marketing “strategies” known as “treating women like men in skirts”, “thinking pink” or “stereotyping women”:

Yvonne DiVita: Author of Dickless Marketing and a blogger with a reputation for a no-nonsense approach to marketing. Yvonne’s take on marketing, and how to tap into the power of women, can be discerned through her blog, Lipsticking, which features an intriguing blend of advice, interviews and personality. Not only is Yvonne on-target with her marketing advice, she is also looking to develop the next generation of business books through her Windsor Media Enterprises company, thus extending her influence in range and depth.

Toby Bloomberg: If the title of her blog—Diva Marketing—doesn’t give you a clue to her approach, you need to get rid of those blinders. Toby’s approach is more Grande Dame-meets-Mrs. Brady: elegant as a chandelier and warm as just-baked cupcakes, but it’s as effective as anything you’ll find in the business world. And yes, she is a Bloomberg (THE Bloomberg as far as The Jenius is concerned...) Toby doesn’t market so much as she shares, a crucial distinction that goes to the very heart of marketing successfully in today’s economy. To read her blog is like entering a cozy tea room with your favorite teacher: comfortable and enlightening.

Holly Buchanan: Senior Vice President of Client Services for FutureNow and a woman who sees marketing from the perspective of writing (copywriter) and “consuming” it, with a blog titled Marketing to Women Online. Holly tends to go directly to the nitty-gritty, like her multi-part analysis of the Pew Internet Report “How Men and Women Use the Internet”. She writes about everything from corporate strategy to marketing tactics with keen insight and a remarkable paucity of words. (The Jenius has been known to—ahem—use 17 words where maybe 10 will do.) Holly is direct, but gentle. No stridency here, folks: just candid viewpoints and valuable advice.

In fact, Yvonne, Toby and Holly are equally “non-strident”. Their voices are friendly and supportive, very much seeking a greater common good for all marketing campaigns. By approaching each of them, you will discover a larger world of blogs, websites and companies that are leading the way to powerful marketing, greater sales and stronger reputations.

And if you want to put it off, here’s a nudge: If you aren’t marketing to women, you are going to fail.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 February 2006

WOMBAT Roundup: Scott Ginsberg

He is up to 1,923 days and counting…

Scott Ginsberg is known as The Name Tag Guy, for—what else?—wearing a name tag. Every day. All day. Since November 2, 2000, Scott has been making himself eminently approachable by wearing his name on his lapel. (And beyond…)

Pure Genius.

You see, Scott has taken the very simple idea of identifying yourself easily and created a cottage industry for himself and for all those who follow his principles of approachability. Speaking in the casually relaxed manner that indicates intense preparation, Scott told his story in a witty, warm and engaging fashion. Of all the WOMBAT speakers, a group as talented as you’d hope to find in any business event, Scott stood out because We absorbed his message like a desert absorbs rain.

Why? Well, speaking as a Puerto Rican who wears a hat and has a penchant for wanting attention, being approachable is not a problem for Me… sometimes. The Jenius tends to be aloof in public, but can turn on the charm and meet dozens of people in the space of a couple of hours. But for the average American, living in a society that frequently overwhelms the natural tendency they have to friendliness, being approachable is not easy. Like dancing (which most Americans really shouldn’t do in public), making connections comes off awkwardly… and it shouldn’t. The average American is as bright and charming as any person you’d hope to meet anywhere, but when it comes to “front porch” actions, they seem to freeze like deer in headlights.

Puerto Ricans make connections in a natural rhythm, like breathing. So Scott’s message to Me wasn’t so much to develop approachability as it was to be effective once you’re approachable. It might seem like a small difference, but let Me ask you: when was the last time you met several people in an event and actually developed any sort of relationship with more than half of them?

Scott teaches you how to do that and more. Starting with just a name tag, he developed a method to market yourself—the Brand You of Tom Peters—with a high degree of effectiveness. Drop by Scott’s website, subscribe to his "Building Front Porches" e-zine and learn how to make major investments in your greatest asset: yourself.

Tell Scott "The WOMBAT Guy in the Hat" sent you.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 February 2006

WOMBAT Roundup: George Silverman

It is said that the pioneers are the people that catch all the arrows and are buried when the settlers come in to get rich. Well, George Silverman is a word of mouth pioneer who’s been on the receiving end of more than his fair share of arrows…and he’s far from being buried. In fact, like a true pioneer, he’s forging ahead, beyond word of mouth marketing, to a new frontier.

George is the best-selling author of The Secrets of Word of Mouth Marketing and he’s been preaching the Gospel of WOM for some 35 years. Back when the advertising and marketing worlds were filled with “creatives” aiming at awards while indifferent to sales (a situation still largely true in Puerto Rico), George was quietly but firmly telling them “word of mouth.” Creator of the telephone-based focus group and other types of direct contact marketing studies, George probably knows more about how word of mouth actually spreads through a market than anybody alive.

So in that spirit, at a time when word of mouth is practically the constant wet dream of “settlers” seeking riches, you’d think these same “settlers” would be lining up at George’s door to get the “X marks the spot” map, right?

You’d think.

Seems that George, a self-effacing lover of magic, by rightly eschewing “I’m The Man” posturing, has faded into the background of the very field he almost single-handedly helped create. WOMBAT was an excellent event, but The Jenius and many others noticed that it was long—very long—on theory and short—woefully short—on practical methods to make WOM happen.

Guess who filled THAT need to a proverbial “T”? (The Jenius had a seat in the standing-room-only presentation George gave, mentioned here.)

In a private conversation afterwards, George acknowledged that he no longer “owned” word of mouth. So he was now aiming to “own” decision-making process. In essence, word of mouth or any marketing method is virtually useless unless it takes into account the way people make decisions. An upcoming book by George (working title: Friction-Free Marketing) is several steps in the right direction to taking all marketing, including WOM, to a greater level of success.

George Silverman may not be a business guru that takes an economy by storm. He is more the steady wind that makes reaching new horizons a workable adventure. The wise ones will sail with him. Here’s hoping that WOMMA will make use of his potential to help themselves grow as well.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

02 February 2006

Building Effective Teams

Today, The Jenius spoke at the Caribbean Software Conference, better known as CaribeSoft. Thanks to the invitation extended by Kevin Shockey, of Portal Al Exito fame.

An outline of Building Effective Teams follows:

-- Effective teams have high levels of competence, focus and energy.

-- According to Steve Hardy, of Creative Generalist fame and the object of The Jenius’ envy, you want a team to exhibit “Rule 33”: three traits that you want and three that you don’t. What you want are talented individuals, clearly defined roles and responsibilities and hard work. What you don’t want are idiots (“leave them to the competition”), lazy folks and prima donnas.

-- When building a team, The Jenius looks for people who exhibit certain traits or tendencies, such as:

-- Confidence: Both in themselves and as a feeling they inspire, leading to trust, the single most important characteristic for creating an effective team.
-- Optimism: Pessimists are no more realistic than optimists, and optimists are easier to deal with. A team made up of only optimists will eventually derail, but it will go farther than a team solely composed of pessimists.
-- Conflict: The process of growth requires conflict; avoiding it dooms a team (marriage, company, etc.) to ultimate failure. You want a mix of different people, for that way, conflict will polish the path to achieving goals. But if conflict becomes the goal, the team is doomed.
-- Opportunities: Looking for problems to solve is narrowing the team’s focus to only the “here and now”. Looking for opportunities beyond problems leads to bigger horizons.
-- No: An effective team says “no” to wasting time in excessive planning, theorizing, unacceptable behavior, distractions and unethical behavior. It goes back to dealing with conflict: many times, the only good answer is a rock-steady “no”.
-- Unity: Seems obvious, but out on the field, in the market or in front of the customer, the team is always a team. Crack that wall of powerful unity and you destroy the greatest potential of the team.
-- Tenacity: Effective teams don’t happen overnight, nor do great successes. Tenacity combines patience and open-minded determination to stay the course. Stubborness refuses to see anything but the goal, making no changes; tenacity sees the big picture, makes adjustments and keeps going.
-- Simplicity: Effective teams eschew complexity to keep things simple. They focus on the basics and on doing them well. By being simple, they preserve the ability to adapt to opportunities and use complexity to make things happen. Then they simplify those to make them stronger.

And how do you remember these “Jenius Criteria”? Easy: COCONUTS.

Yeah. It’s Brilliant. Thank you.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 February 2006

WOMBAT Roundup: Overview

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) held a conference in mid-January at the Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, home of Disney Magic. The conference, known as WOMBAT (for punny reasons) was a triumph of organization and lightning-in-a-bottle timing. Word of mouth marketing is THE hot topic today in the always-important category of “making profits happen”.

However, word of mouth marketing is not new: it’s as old as conversation. What makes it the in-thing nowadays is its exponential power, thanks to technology and the Internet. What with e-mail, instant messaging, free cell phone calls, VoIP, blogs, podcasts, forums, social networks, tagging and product review websites, the power of a few choice words shared freely has gone from 1-to-1 marketing to 1-to-the-world, with millions tuning in to their preferences.

WOMMA was founded less than a year ago and already boasts 250+ members, an impressive growth spurt. Andy Sernovitz and his colleagues have focused their efforts on not only growing the organization, but also developing the basic foundation of word of mouth marketing so that the unsavory elements—the shills, spammers, stealth marketers, unethical telemarketers and the like—are pushed aside.

The conference in Orlando boasted a stellar line-up, with names such as Don Peppers, George Silverman, Bob Mankoff, Bob Garfield, Bryan Eisenberg and Scott Ginsberg, along with bloggers Steve Rubel, Yvonne DiVita and Toby Bloomberg, amongst others. For My money, the Big Gun was George Silverman, a guy who was pitching word of mouth marketing when the rest of Us were sucking Our thumbs. If WOMMA wants to up the ante and become a world-class organization, the first step is giving Silverman a major keynote spot in their next conference. He was the pioneer and he’s still the intellectual heart of this movement. (And he’s moving ahead at light speed. Mark My words.)

As for the rest, you’ll be reading about them in upcoming posts, especially George (again), Scott, Yvonne and Don Peppers. They made deep impressions on The Jenius and that ain’t an easy task.

If you’re looking for more information on word of mouth marketing as it applies to Puerto Rico, drop by Refiereme.com, or subscribe to Mercadeo Social, a monthly e-zine from the good people at Computers & Business World. (Disclosure: The Jenius is a consultant to Refiereme and writes and edits Mercadeo Social. Yeah, busy busy Me.)

One last word: If you’re wrapped up in your MBA-ness and don’t see what the fuss is about word of mouth marketing, please please stay in that mode. The rest of Us love you stationary targets We can turn into business roadkill.

The Jenius Has Spoken.