Kev & Jewell article in the Berner Zeitung

Today, a very well-written article about the Kev & Jewell project came out in the Berner Zeitung!

 

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Kev & Jewell is LIVE!

Welcome to the world of 2 thrill-seeking, adrenaline-junkie electrons who, after being “TV-Jockeys” for decades, have been in search of a new thrill after CRT’s (TV’s) were replaced by flatscreens.  Find out what happens when they discover ebeam!

See the trailer here…

And surf through the website here:

Kev & Jewell

The intention is to turn this into a TV Series.  We are currently seeking investors and partners to make it happen.

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The Work/Life Balance Model is Obsolete

3 reasons the Work/Life Balance Model is obsolete.

HOW?

1)  It optimizes for the wrong parameter.

2)  It assumes a zero-sum game.

3)  It causes many people more stress than it saves.

“Work/Life Balance” is a phrase heard almost daily.  Whether one hears it in the work place or in social circles, it seems to be accepted as more than a standard now.  Often, it even seems to be expected as a human right, not a privilege.  This should actually be celebrated.  It shows how prosperous we have truly become.  By “we”, I refer to professionals in the industrialized West.  Not everyone has this luxury.

Just consider what it took to get here.  If my parents or grandparents could have heard people whining about not having the right work/life balance, they would have become a bit heated and then would have called the unbalanced ones spoiled brats.

As for me, as soon as some idea becomes mantra, it is already time to call it into question.  Every innovation eventually becomes an anti-innovation.  (reference to work by Marshall McLuhan)  Now I’ve called this mantra into question and this is the result:

 

1)  Optimizing the wrong parameter.

The work/life balance model optimizes for TIME.  A better model (see below) would optimize for something we can actually change.  For example:

FULFILLMENT

SATISFACTION

HAPPINESS

 

2)  ZERO-SUM GAME

If one optimizes for time, one is forced into a zero-sum game.  24 hours in a day.  Sleep 8 of them.  Work 8 of them.  Do “Life” in the remaining 8.

Whoever said it had to be a zero-sum game?

This model paints you into a corner before you even begin.  Think of the human heart.  Is it an entity with finite capacity?  At some point, we have all told somebody that we love her/him with all our heart.  Let’s say this person became the mother/father of your child.  What happens now?  Do we love her/him and your child with only half our heart now?  Of course not.  It doesn’t work that way.  The heart is capable of infinite expansion.  And humans are most certainly more than capable of handling more than a fixed amount of fulfillment.

 

3)  STRESS

I know many acolytes of the work/life balance.  It works out well for many of them.  For others, it causes more stress than it saves.  They create inflexible walls between work and “life”.  They insist on remaining rigid while standing in a raging river.  They say yes or no to things based on dogma rather than merit.  They invest lots of energy maintaining the walls and additional energy in sorting topics, invitations, and requests.  For these people, it becomes a burden.  That which you resist, persists.  It becomes a no-win scenario.

 

THE ALTERNATIVE

What did Captain Kirk do when faced with a no-win scenario in a training simulation?  He hacked the simulation.  (reference to the Kobayashi Maru training simulation)  So, let’s hack this model.  HOW?

A)  Optimize for something other than time.

B)  Break down the wall.

C)  Find synergies between activities that were previously on opposite sides of the wall.

 

A)  Optimize for something other than time.

Let’s say we spend 8 hours working and 8 hours at life.  Now let’s optimize for satisfaction.  We accumulate Satisfaction Units (SU’s) during the time we spend at each. (I was going to use Fulfillment Units, but then saw how the abbreviation might have been a bit comical.)  If we have been successful at running the work/life model, we will be racking up the same amount of SU’s on each side of the wall.  Let’s say 8 SU’s on each side, or 1 SU / hour.  If we are scoring only 4 on one side and 8 on the other, then it is clear that it is time to make some changes. And thus, this exercise alone has been worth it.

B)  Break down the wall.

There is no longer work and life.  There is just life.  We just saved ourselves the effort it takes to classify and sort.  We also saved all the energy it takes to maintain the wall.  The effect is calming.

C) Find synergies.

If you love what you do, you’ve got this all dialed in already.  There are activities on both sides of the former wall that we like and those we do not like.  There are certainly commonalities.  Some will appear on both sides.  Does it really matter when we do them?  Once identified, we can spend the energy dividend to focus on the things we get satisfaction from.  Instead of scoring just 1 SU / hour, we might achieve 5 SU’s / hour.

5 SU’s / hour x 16 hours = 80 SU’s.

That’s a big jump from the 16 SU’s we scored while the wall was up!

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2015 Swiss Nationaler Clean-up Day

Bravo IGSU for expanding the Swiss National Clean-up Day!  Last year, there were over 300 cleanups throughout Switzerland.

Get ready, because the 3rd Swiss National Clean-up will take place on 11 and 12 SEPT 2015.

Get ready! Sign up.

Be a HERO… Organize a clean-up yourself.

What’s it all about?  Not to clean up other people’s messes.  It’s about behavior change.

Computers copy information.
Humans copy behavior.
Behavior is shown through actions.
In order to copy a behavior, a person needs to SEE an action.
Would you like to change this littering behavior in Switzerland?
Ja?
Then get out there and SHOW the others the behavior that they should copy.
http://igsu.ch/de/aktuelles/clean-up-day/#home

We urge the organizers of other clean-ups and “Chüüdertage” who have not yet switched the date of their clean-ups to coincide with the National Clean-up to please stop being so stubborn and think of the big picture.  We need CRITICAL MASS to make a change.  The media will not report on 70 people who gather to clean up the side of a road.  However, if a HALF MILLION people in Switzerland are out in the streets and forests and rivers cleaning up the mess, well then… that’s a different story!  That WILL get coverage.  The national media will report it.  Probably international as well.

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NDA

NDA…

Non-Disclosure Agreement?  or

No Discernible Advantage?

Currently, we are overrun with NDA’s.  If the trend continues, we will have to insert this function into the job descriptions of our team.  Thus, I must ask.  What is the real worth of these documents?

If one is dealing with the types of people whose character allows them to break promises, then the NDA is useless because these people will break the contract anyway.  They are able to break whatever contract they sign.

If one is dealing with the types of people whose character forbids them to break promises, then the NDA is again useless because these people will not break a promise whether or not it is written down.

So… what is the value?

Any answers out there?

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SWISS NATIONAL CLEANUP DAY: 21 SEPT 2013

The event we have been working on for over a year is going to happen!
SWISS NATIONAL CLEANUP DAY will happen on 21 SEPT 2013.

It is organized by IGSU and PUSCH.

http://www.igsu.ch/de/aktuelles/clean-up-day-2013/

BE A HERO.

Organize the cleanup in your area.  There are instructions and tools on the www-site about how to organize and market a cleanup. If you already are involved in a cleanup or know people who are, we urge you to move the date to 21 SEPT.

Why?
It’s all about doing things that scale!

The media does not care about an event where a few hundred or even a few thousand people turn out. BUT… an event in which 1/4 MILLION people turn out across an entire country… that’s a different story. That will be in all the papers, blogs, and news channels…  even international media will cover it!

 

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Occam’s Razor

What the heck is Occam’s Razor?

Is it another marvel from Gillette?  Have they managed to pack 7 blades into a razor cartridge now?  (And we all thought they’d stop at 3!)

Is it something like a Ninja star?

Is it a constellation somewhere between Orion’s Belt and Cassiopeia’s Chair?

Is it that 13th Zodiac sign that will line up with the center of the universe and signal the end of a cycle in the Mayan calendar?

 

If you selected none of the above, you are correct.  It is just a more mathematical way of describing the K.I.S.S. principle.

KISS = Keep It Simple, Stupid!

 

Wikipedia has a lengthy entry on Occam.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam’s_razor

This entry states:

Occam’s Razor is attributed to the 14th-century English logician, theologian and Franciscan friar Father William of Ockham who wrote “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity” (entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem). This is also phrased as pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate (“plurality should not be posited without necessity”).

 

There are two invaluable uses for Occam’s Razor:

A)     when analyzing something that has already happened; troubleshooting for example.

and

B)  when planning something.

 

The planning scenario and the analyzing scenario make use of the same principle, but in opposite directions.  One looks forward to the future, the other looks back.  When planning, the simplest plan is the one with the greatest chance of success.  When analyzing an outcome, the simplest explanation of the events is almost always the correct one.

 

How does this work?  It’s just a game of probability, really.  Let’s look at the two cases more closely.

 

A)  Analyzing / Looking back:

Applying Occam’s Razor in the reverse direction tells us that the simplest explanation for an event is usually the correct one.  This is why you can quickly throw out most conspiracy theories.  They may be intellectually intriguing and may be entertaining on the silver screen, but the implementation of plans with such great complexity is a totally different story.  Forget about the monumental task of recruiting skilled people who have no day jobs, no families, and no hobbies.  We are only considering the complexity of the plan here!  Such plans are orders of magnitude too complex to work other than in Hollywood films.  The probability of success of the typical conspiracy which plays out in in such theories is not just half that of boring, conventional explanations, it is hundreds or even thousands of times less!

Dispelling conspiracy theories is not the goal of this blog entry, so I won’t delve into any specific example, I’ll just drive the point home with a broad generalization.   No self-respecting conspiracy theory is complete until it involves some kind of COVER UP, right?   Now just step back, zoom out, and pick that one a part for a minute.  Let’s say you’re plotting a conspiracy.  You need 100 other people to carry it out.  All of these people need to stay quiet about it.  You are 99% sure that each of your co-conspirators will not spill the beans.  99% looks like a nice, safe number, but in reality, that plan has a more than a 63% chance of failing.  And if you are only 95% sure about each of the 100 in this fellowship of the thing… you’re totally hosed.  The probability of failure is over 99%.

 

B)  Planning / Looking forward

Let’s say you want to plan an event or create a strategy.  You want to do this because it is your goal to achieve a certain result and you are confident that this result will not simply happen on its own.  That is because Newton’s Law applies to life as well.  Projects at rest remain at rest.  You expect that when you execute the plan, you will get your desired result.  The plan is a sequence of events, all of which must be executed successfully in order for the desired result to occur.  They are links in a chain.  If one link breaks, the chain no longer connects the driving force with the object.

So how can you make a successful plan?

Well, ask yourself how would you make a successful chain?

  1. Use as few links as possible.    A chain with 10 links has 10 things in it which can fail.  A chain with 2 links has only 2 things which can fail.
  2. Use strong links.  A strong link has a low probability of failure.

 

The number of links in the chain is analogous to the number of steps in the plan.  The strength of an individual link is the probability of success of each step in the plan.  Using 2 chains would probability of success by building redundancy into the system.

Here is an example.  Let’s say you live in New Jersey and have an important appointment in the Chrysler Building in Manhattan at 14:00 on the last Saturday before Christmas.  Missing this appointment is not an option.  Being late is even worse.   Normally, you would just drive in early, meet a friend  for breakfast at your favorite diner, and then take care of some shopping.  But, this Saturday is different.  Your child has basketball practice until noon.  Your wife still has her driver’s license, but just barely.  Thanks to her last speeding ticket, she must complete a driver’s safety course.  This course runs on Saturday mornings.  The course lets out in time for her to play taxi driver for the little basketball star, but that makes you the lunch cook and means she cannot play taxi driver to get you to the train station.  Mix all that together and it means you cannot get an early start.  You must make lunch, scarf it down, kiss everybody goodbye and hit the road.  You give yourself a start time of 12:30.  That gives you just 90 minutes to get from your wonderful adventures-in-wreath-making door to the art deco door of the Chrysler Building.

So, you begin evaluating your options:

A)  Drive.


B)  Express Bus –> Taxi

  1. Drive to a bus station
  2. Ride in an express bus in to Manhattan
  3. Take a taxi to the Chrysler Building


C) Train  –> Taxi

  1. Drive to a train station
  2. Ride a train to Secaucus Junction
  3. Transfer to another train and take that in to Penn Station in Manhattan
  4. Take a taxi to the Chrysler Building

 

Which one is the right choice?

Well, if you look at it in terms of simplicity and simplicity alone, then A is the best choice and C is the worst.  There is only 1 link in the chain in PLAN A and 4 links in PLAN C.  But your goal is to get there on time, so it’s not enough to look only at the number of steps.  You have to consider the strength of each link as well.  If the probability of success for each plan were equal, then you’d have to pick PLAN A because it is the simplest.  You do not have to remember  bus numbers or track numbers or departure times.  You do not have the risk of not flagging a taxi in time.  It’s a no brainer.  But, in this case, all the links have different strengths.  Alas… you’ll need your brain this morning.

So now you must evaluate the probability of success of each step.

PLAN A is simple.  There is only 1 step.  Thus the probability of that step is the probability of the plan.  You start to take inventory of all your trips in to Manhattan over the past years.  How many times have you made it in under one hour?   Not many.

How many times have you given yourself 1 hour and it has taken 1 ½ hours?   Many!

How many times has it taken nearly 2 hours?  Not many, but it has happened.

Then you remember that it is the last Saturday before Christmas.  It is going to be a ZOO!  All things considered, you have to give PLAN A only a 50% probability of success.

 

What about PLAN B?

There are 3 links in the chain.  You give each step the following probabilities:

  1. Drive to the bus station:                99%
  2. Express bus in to Manhattan:      60%
  3. Taxi to the Chrysler Building:       90%

 

Usually the express bus is pretty good.  These buses can take the express lanes and can zip right through tolls.  But, slow traffic can still affect them AND they will not be able to avoid the impending zoo.  So, you rate it only slightly higher than the car trip.  Taxis are usually not a problem to find, but you have to account for the possibility of getting a guy on his first day as a taxi driver.  So, that’s not a sure fire thing either.

That looks pretty good, right?  Two steps are over 90% and one is over 50%.  And… one of them is even a 99!  That’s almost 100!

Don’t pop the champagne yet.  Remember that these steps run serially.  All of them have to go right or the plan fails.  That means you have to multiply the probabilities of success to arrive at the probability of the plan.

Altogether, the probability of PLAN B is = 0.99 x 0.6 x 0.9 = 53.5%

Hmmm…  That doesn’t give you that warm, fuzzy feeling so…

…on to PLAN C:

There are 4 links in this chain and you give each link the following probability:

  1. Drive to the train station:           99%
  2. Train to Secaucus Junction:    98%
  3. Another train to Penn Station:  95%
  4. Taxi to the Chrysler Building:   90%

 

Altogether, the probability of PLAN B is = 0.99 x 0..98 x 0.95 x 0.9 = 83%

Now that looks better!

Then you remember some blog you read about shaving or something where the bloke made a pretty good case for keeping things as simple as possible.  So you think of a way to take steps out of the plan.  Perhaps there is a direct train to downtown?  You check NJ Transit online and find out that if you drive to a station on a direct line, you can get a direct train to Penn Station.  Now you have PLAN D which looks like this:

  1. Drive to a different train station:     99%
  2. Direct train to Penn Station:            95%
  3. Taxi to the Chrysler Building           90%

 

Probabilities of each of the steps are the same, but because you have 1 step fewer, the overall probability does up to 85%.  That’s the answer.  Pick the simpler one.

 

What about redundancy?

Having a clone would be handy.  That would certainly increase your chances of success.  The technology is not quite there yet, though.  Luckily, in this case, there are some possibilities for redundancy which do not involve clones.  While in Manhattan, if you can’t find a taxi, you can take the subway or the bus.  You could make a decision tree with some ‘mission rules’.   For example:  “If the wait time for a taxi is more than 2 minutes, proceed to the 34th Street / Penn Station subway and take the 3 to Times Square / 42nd Street, then the 7 to Grand Central.”

Including options which can run in parallel or steps which can be quickly substituted in the case of failure increases the probably of success, but it does not make the plan less complex.  The complexity increases and with it, the effort needed to manage and execute the plan increases.  This is also a source of failure.  Unless you are good at remembering numbers and scenarios, you’ll have to write all this stuff down, or else you’ll be standing there in front of Madison Square Garden (which is actually round) muttering to yourself, “Was it 34th or 43rd?  Was it the 7 to the 3 train?  Or the 3 to the 7?”

 

Exactly this, the visualization of complexity, is the main value of project management software.  Large, complex projects have so many phases and so many steps in each phase that they quickly become abstractions to the mere mortal.  Unless you are John Nash or are born with the latest generation CPU’s like our children are, it is hard to manage risk when it is abstract.  A good project management tool, Primavera for example, allows one to see the steps (aka Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)) of a plan as a flow chart.  This helps tremendously when ‘de-risking’ a plan.  You can visualize which events are running in serial and which are running in parallel.  Or better yet, you can visualize which events COULD run in parallel.

 

And now, I must leave you.  It is time to make my plan to get from my house in Langenthal to a lunch appointment in Bern.  Project management software is not necessary for this mission, though.  The Swiss trains are ALWAYS on time.  (and when they are not, they reset the clocks to put them back on time!)

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6 Degrees of Separation

I have a big project now at a company where I was a once full-time employee.  Today somebody asked me how long it would take me to find a contact in a selected industry who was responsible for advertising.  He was referencing a presentation I gave nearly 7 years ago.  It was the third time in past 4 weeks that somebody had referenced this presentation.

In that presentation all those years ago, I was to report on my business development activities.  I decided not only to report on the WHAT, but also on the HOW.  There was already a sense of legacy surrounding this presentation as several of the WHAT parts have become significant parts of the company’s business are now well-documented on this company’s web-site.  The real surprise was to hear how one of these “HOW” parts had sunk roots and had worked its way in to the vocabulary of daily business.

The section of the presentation to which I refer was about the power of networking.  In it, I described the principle of The 6 Degrees of Separation.  (Not to be confused with the famous road-trip game The 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, though the concepts are very much related.)

The principle of 6 Degrees of Separation says that every person on the planet is only 6 (or fewer) degrees of separation from every other person on the planet.  A degree of separation is also know as a “move” or a “connection”.  Social networking sites such as LinkedIn, XING, and Facebook bank on this principle.  This says that you can pick anybody on the planet and:

  • you will know somebody (1st move / degree)
  • who knows somebody (2nd move / degree)
  • who knows somebody (3rd move / degree)
  • who knows somebody (4th move / degree)
  • who knows somebody (5th  move / degree)
  • who knows this person (6th move / degree)

 

This sounds totally absurd until you look at it mathematically and then start dealing out real-world examples.  Let’s look at it mathematically first.

Do you know 44 people?

If you do, and if these 44 people also know 44 other people (2nd degree), who in turn know 44 people not already in this growing network (3rd degree), and then expand it out to the 6th degree, there will be over 7.4 BILLION people in this group.  The population of the earth in 2009 was estimated to be about 6.8 Billion.  So, based on some very simple mathematical assumptions, it is possible that 6 moves which expand the circle of friends at a rate of 44 people per person per move, will move the circle out to include the entire population of the Earth.

Now let’s look at some concrete examples.  I knew that this would be a mind-bender for this audience 7 years ago, so I prepared some examples.  As expected, they challenged the concept.  I was ready.  I asked, “Whom would you like to find?”

I expected that they would ask for George W. Bush and a few celebrities.  Sure enough, George Bush was indeed the first request.  I went around the room and asked several people how many moves she / he expected.  The most common answer was, “Forget it!  There IS no connection!”

Then I dropped the hammer…

“There are actually two paths between you and the President of the United States.  The first path has 3 moves.  The second has 4 moves.

Path 1:

1st Degree:         You know me.
2nd Degree:        I know a guy who was a Secret Service Agent
                           who was on presidential duty.
3rd Degree:         This guy knows George W. Bush.”

Jaws were already dropping, but I went on.

 

Path 2:

1st Degree:         You know me.
2nd Degree:        I grew up with a guy who now works closely with
                           the government of the state of New York.
3rd Degree:         This guy knows Governor George Pataki.
4th Degree:         George Pataki knows George Bush.

Shall we find anybody else?”

Sure enough, they asked for Madonna.

“OK.  Here is  Madonna in 4 moves:

1st Degree:         You know me.
2nd Degree:        While living in San Francisco, I was in a band
                          and we shared a rehearsal studio with a girl band.
                          We knew all the members of this band.
3rd Degree:         One of the members of this band knows Courtney Love**.
4th Degree:         Courtney Love knows Madonna.”

What is the lesson here, Grasshopper?  😉
 

Networking is mathematically destined to be successful!

In the above examples, it seems highly improbable that the circles of friends & acquaintances of the cast of characters involved would ever cross. 

But, they do.

And…   I have many such examples. 

Now imagine how the probabilities rise when considering people in related industries or people with similar backgrounds!  Finding people in industries related to yours is much more likely than the above examples!

** In case you don’t know who Courtney Love is, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:  Courtney Love is an American rock musician and actress.  Love is primarily known as lead singer, guitarist, and lyricist for the alternative rock band Hole and for her marriage to the late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain.

——-

Posted: 13 AUG 2010

The 6-degrees Saga continues…

Just a few weeks ago, I heard from a former roommate for the first time in many years.   Between the time that we were roommates and now (2010), she had moved to New York City and had immersed herself in this and that scene: fashion, music, avante garde, who knows, does it really matter?  Whatever scene it really is, she knows a modern phenomenon: Lady Gaga.

You, the reader, are now 3 moves away from LG.

1)  You know me.

2)  I know my ex-roommate.

3)  She knows Lady Gaga.

Now who dares argue with the power of networking?

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Lucky Punches happen all the time

Gold mines are all around us.

You can find one, too.  But, you have to look.   So, how does one find a gold mine?

One hires a prospector!

I enjoy dispelling myths and one of my favorites is the myth that lucky punches never happen.  Companies assume that:
a)  they never happen, or
b)  they depend only on luck and thus it is not worth it to look for them.

This has not been my experience.

Lucky punches happen all the time.   Finding them is part art and part science.  Science can be taught and art can be bought.  Thus you can find them too.  I have found several of them during my career and can find them for you.  I can also teach your organization to find them.

I offer consulting and execution in all phases of the product life-cycle.  However, my specialty lies in the front end: delivering attractive business opportunities.

To learn more about my offering, I invite you to check in regularly as I build up this blog.

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