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Book Review: What Matters Now by Gary Hamel

Interview of Eric Schmidt by Gary Hamel at the MLab dinner tonight. Google's Marissa Mayer and Hal Varian also joined the open dialog about Google's culture and management style, from chaos to arrogance. The video just went up on YouTube. It's quite entertaining. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Cover of The Future of ManagementMy list of must-read business writers continues to expand.Gary Hamel, however, author of What Matters Now, with the very long subtitle of How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation, has been on the list for quite some time.Continuing his thesis on the need for a new approach to management introduced in his prior book The Future of Management, Hamel calls for a complete rethinking of how enterprises are run.

Fundamental to his recommendation is that the practice of management is ossified in a command and control system that is now generations old and needs to be replaced with something that reflects an educat…

Tragedy at Sandy Hook

I’m sad.
I had some other ideas I wanted to write about today, but they no longer seem relevant to anything.As a father and grandfather, I cannot imagine what those families are going through.

It is incomprehensible. My Twitter feed is replete with comments on gun control.While I’m a gun owner, I would support a ban on automatics.But I think there is something deeper and more difficult going on. Guns have always been plentiful in the U.S. In the neighborhood I grew up in, every family I knew well owned guns.Most of the fathers were WWII vets.They would go small game hunting, duck hunting, and occasionally deer hunting.

There were no incidents of mass slaughter.No one took one of their father’s guns and murdered fellow students. What’s changed?Why does this happen now, but didn’t happen in the fifties and sixties?One answer would be everything.Single parents were rare in my working-class neighborhood, but common now.Class started with The Lord’s Prayer, The Pledge of Allegiance, and a Bible…

Congresswoman Schwartz Response to JOBS Act Inquiry

Official House photo of Allyson Schwartz (Photo credit: Wikipedia) I wrote my Congresswoman, the Honorable Allyson Schwartz, asking her to encourage the SEC to issue the guidelines on crowdsourcing capital, as directed by Congress in the Jumpstart Our Business Act ("Jobs" Act.  Here is her response:

As I work to address the needs and concerns of American families and businesses across the 13th Congressional District, it is important that I hear your views. I want you to know that I always take your views into consideration as I work to make the right decisions to revitalize our economy, invest in our future and meet our obligations. I appreciate you taking the time to contact my office and I want to share my views regarding our economy.
We have a lot of work to do to strengthen our economy. To succeed, we must restore consumer and investor confidence and ensure American businesses can compete in a global economy. Economic competitiveness can be achieved through a skil…

The Mongoliad Saga Continues

Neal Stephenson doing a book signing at the National Book Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)When I wrote a review of Mongoliad Book I, I noted that I was going to keep that book handy because there were so many characters and so many plot threads that I would need a refresher.Of course, the authors (Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Erick Bear, Joseph Brassey, and Cooper Moo) anticipated that, and the front pages list the characters by the area of the world they are located in. This was particularly useful, since the opening of book II picked up with a thread that I didn’t immediately recall, and some of the characters that I remembered the most clearly didn’t reappear until later in the volume.
Of course the core plot remains unchanged.A group of knights, the Shield Brethren, similar to the Knights Templar as an order under the direction of the Pope, have concluded that the only way to save all of Europe from being conquered by the Mongols, lead by a descendant o…

Solid Advice For Tech Start-ups

Guy Kawasaki in Sunnyvale, California at the Plug & Play Center signing his book Reality Check (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Cover via AmazonAs part of my continuing education in the world of venture capital, I’m reading Guy Kawasaki’s various works.His Art of the Start is still widely referenced as a must-read for anyone in a start-up, and in particular anyone considering raising venture capital.I’ve previously reviewed it here.There is clearly some overlap in the content between Reality Check and Art of the Start..Reality Check is larger and more fulsome, covering more aspects of starting and growing a business, while continuing to develop and update the topic of meeting, “beguiling” and working with venture capitalists and associated professionals. Some of the content was previously included in his blog.If you were a loyal follower of his blog, you might have already seen some of this material.
Kawasaki writes with a great sense of humor, much of which is self-deprecating. Like his p…

Access to Birth Control

In every election at any level nowadays, there are attempts to create an issue from whole cloth.  Generally these fail.  One recent attempt at issue creation concerns "access to birth control". This seems to have made an impact despite being spurious.
There may be candidates running for office who really would restrict access to birth control.  Clearly no one who is running for President plans to reduce access.
One could have a legitimate discussion of who pays for birth control, but not access.  My very rough guess is that there are six or seven thousand Walgreens, and a similar number of CVS stores.  Probably 1,500 Rite-Aids.  That alone would mean condoms are available in over 15,000 locations.  The real number is certainly much higher; I saw one report stating there are over 80,000 pharmacies in the U.S.
Once upon a time, long ago, there was health care insurance.  Individuals or employers paid a premium, and insurance companies shouldered the risks. It was similar to on…
Musings on the 25th Anniversary of the Great Stock Crash
Twenty-five years ago – the stock crash of Oct 19, 1987, the senior team of troubled consumer electronics firm Curtis Mathes was in the main conference room of its headquarters office.Getting a major chewing out by our bankers, Jack Koslow and Gretchen Ford Smith of Texas American Bank, known locally as “TAB”.Curtis Mathes was in serious financial difficulty and in violation of several loan covenants.This was greatly exacerbated by TAB’s problems.TAB was the long-standing premier bank based in Ft. Worth.
Banks and Savings & Loans in TX were failing.At one point TX was home to many of the U.S. largest banks.But the sudden collapse in the price of oil had bankrupted numerous oil and gas companies, with their defaults erasing decades accumulated equity in the big Houston banks.Dallas banks experienced a fair amount of that, but would likely have survived but for two other businesses.The defense industry was suffering from gove…

Warning Signs of a Brain Attack aka Stroke

Periodically I publicize the warning signs of a Brain Attack – AKA a stroke.I would like to give credit to the physician that stated that strokes should really be called Brain Attacks like heart attacks because they are equally serious.If you read this and can attribute it, please let me know.
But I want you to remember how serious these attacks are.If you, or a co-worker, or roommate, or anyone you are around exhibits any of these symptoms (e.g. warning signs), do NOT f*&! around- every second really does count.
1.Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
2.Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
3.Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
4.Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
5.Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
I have witnessed the devastating effects of a stroke first hand.Fast treatment in a properly equipped ER can make a remarkable difference. I can’t over emphasize this: see thos…

Reveiw of Knocking on Heaven's Door, by Lisa Randall

English: black and white picture of lisa randal at interview at cern 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 22: Lisa Randall of Harvard University speaks during the Digital Life Design conference (DLD) at HVB Forum on January 22, 2012 in Munich, Germany. DLD (Digital - Life - Design) is a global conference network on innovation, digital, science and culture which connects business, creative and social leaders, opinion-formers and investors for crossover conversation and inspiration. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
As I recall, I purchased Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Lisa Randall after reading a review in Barron’s.Subtitled How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, it is an exploration of both cosmology and particle physics, and a spirited defense of scientific analysis, hypothesis and testing.I refer to the prior review because I expected (perhaps unfairly) reporting on the state of knowledge on the specific physics t…

Hamilton Cigars

English: George Hamilton receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on his 70th birthday on August 12, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) At the height of the cigar boom, George Hamilton came out with a line of cigars.  As I recall, someone in his family had been in the tobacco business, and he is a cigar smoker.  I bought a box.  Candidly, they weren't very good.
I don't hold him responsible; at the peak, finding good tobacco and skilled rollers was exceptionally difficult; even the oldest largest and best firms were having difficulty obtaining quality tobacco.
I smoked a couple, then stuck them away in one of my humidors.  That was at least ten years ago (I've got to learn to label my boxes with purchase dates). 
I came across them the other day and smoked one to see if aging made a difference.  It did.  While still a bit on the harsh side, it tasted pretty decent.  The wrapper is rough - like fine sandpaper.  It burned a little unevenly, but drew OK.  I'll keep th…

Thank You - Venture Capitalists

I've been helping  - or rather attempting to help - Serality raise capital.  Full disclosure - I made an angel investment in Serality about two years ago.  As of this moment, I've contacted 143 venture investors.

I want to thank fifteen of them.  Those fifteen have turned us down.
Obviously I'm not thanking them for that.  But I understand it.  They have a business to run and they need to make a profit.  If our business plan is off-strategy for them, or we are too small or too early-stage or they simply think we've got a bad idea; all that is OK.  I appreciate the straightforward turndown. 
Serality is aimed at helping real-world communities that support the over-50 population - which is surging with millions of aging baby boomers.  That has lead to some interesting comments from some firms even though they are decling to invest.  Comments such as: "this isn't appropriate for us, but I've recently been dealing with my aging parents - you are on to somethi…

Add This Great Work to Your History Bookshelf

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The more I study American history, the more I realize how little I really know. I just completed Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals in which she explores the inter-workings, personalities and politics of the Lincoln administration.Every American schoolboy or schoolgirl knows that Lincoln presided over the most difficult period in American history save the George Washington era.Most know that he struggled with a series of second rate generals until Grant emerged. And that he was tragically assassinated just as the War Between the States ended. But how many of us know that many of the cabinet members opposed Lincoln in the primary?That many of those thought he was unqualified for the office?That one of them – Salmon Chase – actually tried to build support to oppose Lincoln in the 1864 election?Or that Lincoln’s opponent in 1864 was former General McClelland, who so famously failed to take advantage of his…

A Small Celebration

The market melt-up this summer has been good for me.  As a result, I had a little celebration this weekend with a glass of Sterling Merlot and a Sancho Panza.  That cigar was purchased about a dozen years ago in Dublin, where the rules on country of origin are different than here....

Very nice.

I hope that the fall will be good for all of us.  Here's to the best to our country and you for the rest of 2012!

A Must Read for Anyone Over Fifty

The Wisdom of Crowds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Daniel Kahneman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are an increasing number of books that provide insight into how our minds work.Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Coleman and The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki are two good examples.Daniel Kahneman, in Thinking Fast and Slow, picks up that theme and advances it by an order of magnitude.In my view, this is the must read book of the year, and absolutely required read for anyone over fifty.
Each knows that there are parts of our brain that toil away ceaselessly regulating breathing and blood pressure, managing digestion and keeping our heart beating on schedule without us being consciously aware of it.From other books like Emotional Intelligence, we know that there is also a high-speed circuit that responds to stimulus far faster than conscious thinking.There are numerous examples.Touch something hot with your hand and you’ll move it before you actually feel the pain.See someone you know in a…

Practical Advice for eBook Authors

John Locke has become one of the most successful Kindle authors in the world.He’s created two popular series with an action hero series (Donovan Creed) and a re-invention of the Western withthe Emmett Love series.In How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! he provides practical advice to authors who are writing for eBooks or other self-publishing vehicles.In full disclosure, let me begin by saying that I’m a Kindle author (albeit barely, my book Jobs Over Fifty, the Guide to New Employment for the Experienced Worker, has yet to hit the best sellers list.But there is still hope).
Locke is a savvy marketer and has given a lot of thought to using data and new media to promote his books.He links blogs, Twitter and email marketing campaigns to drive purchases and build a following.He used some very clever techniques, particularly in blogs and emails, to link his brands to other more powerful brands.While one of his examples of linking his message campaign to Joe Paterno and Penn State would…

Book Review - The Mongoliad Book 1

Neal Stephenson speaking at Google, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)I’ve been wondering if Neal Stephenson has decided to write a best seller of every genre’.Diamond Age is cyberpunk. The Baroque Cycle is picaresque. Reamde and Crytonomicon are action/adventure.Anathem is science fiction/fantasy.If we see a romance and a murder mystery come from his inventive pen, we’ll know that my conjecture is indeed correct.

In a way, Mr. Anderson is crowdsourcing his latest work, with the first book of The Mongoliad Trilogy recently published with co-authors Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, E.D. deBirmingham, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey and Cooper Moo.Or perhaps he has seen the commercial success of Game of Thrones, and is creating the script writing team for the series.(His books would be rather complicated to turn into a movie.A Lord of the Rings series would be more appropriate.The Baroque Cycle would have to be a series.) I continue to view him as the most creative and inventive author writing today.This first v…

Book Review: How the Mighty Fail

English: Jim Collins (James C. Collins), an American business consultant, author of "Built to Last" and "Good to Great". (Photo credit: Wikipedia) NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Clayton M. Christensen Founder of Disruptive Innovation Theory attends the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the NYU Paulson Auditorium on April 27, 2012 in New York City. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife) Cover via Amazon
As I’ve said repeatedly in previous reviews, there are certain business-book authors that are automatic purchases for me including Tom Peters, Geoffrey Moore, Gary Hamel, Ram Charan, Adrian Slywotzky, Clay Christensen, George Stalk and Jim Collins.Since I buy all their books, I get behind, pile other books on top and later find a book that I’d forgotten.Such is the case with How the Mighty Fail by Jim Collins which I recently discovered in my stack of books to get to.Collins dramatically advanced business analysis with Good to G…