Investment Checklists?

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to read more “long-form” material.  After reading Nick Carr’s scary book The Shallows I became aware that my interest and ability to read anything longer than a paragraph or a screen was atrophying, so I resolved to get back in the saddle.

Which led to my reading another great book, Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto.  If you haven’t read it, do so.  He shows that setting up a “checklist”-style process is essential to avoiding mistakes in areas as diverse as the surgical operating room, the cockpit of an airplane, and, yes, a VC firm.

For better or worse, the sponsor of a deal generally gets excited about it (if they don’t, it’s probably not a great deal!) and tends to, ahem, overlook certain shortcomings of the deal.  Having a checklist in place is a way to make sure that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed.

Your thoughts?

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Thinking about “Consumerization of IT”

I’ve been doing a lot of writing — or at least content generation (I don’t think PowerPoint really counts as writing) — about mobile lately, or about the explosion of “new clients”, or about the consumerization of IT.  I’ll share the stuff here as it comes out.

Unfortunately, none of these terms does any justice to what’s going on.  I think we’re witnessing the end of the PC/client-server/desktop web era and the beginning of a new era.

What marks the new era (in no particular order)?

  • Diversity of clients
  • Portability of clients
  • Mobilization of “real” computing
  • Beginnings of ubiquitous computing (a meme where you control all the computing resources available to you by carrying an identity/authorization around with you in a mobile client of some sort)
  • Cloud-ification of the back end.
  • Rise of the cloud service provider
  • End of the mechanical disk drive
  • Big Data-fueled applications
  • Video as the “new text”

Very interesting.  More later.

Why People Don’t Trust Companies (or at least don’t trust their publicity)

I was at an all-day conference on online PR.  I’m not a real PR person, but I drive Valhalla’s PR.  I also know what I don’t know, so I hoped I’d get something out of an all-day klatsch on measuring PR effectiveness online.

Good information, for the most part.

But the bloggable thing was the exercise we did in the early afternoon: each table in the big room had to handle a synthetic online publicity crisis.  A video was uploaded to YouTube showing child laborers in our (fictional) coffee plantations in Brazil.  Kids saying, “Oh, yeah, I don’t get injured most of the time.”  Stuff like that.

We had five minutes to react, and then found out that our own people said the facts of the video were probably authentic.  And then moms began to blog about us online…

I said to our table, “why not just tell the truth as we know it: yes, the footage is genuine; yes, this is a situation we’re going to get on top of; yes, we are acknowledging it.”

Everyone at the table was horrified: we couldn’t do that, it would “escalate” the crisis.

And no one else in the big room of 300 brought it up.  An acknowledgement wasn’t even on the table.

My wife tells me I’m nerdishly honest, and there’s something to that.  If someone had laid out a plan to acknowledge the damaging publicity in some face-saving way, it would have been an improvement on what I was suggesting.

But everyone’s response was to “keep it from spreading”, just the thing we had been told in a panel an hour before was the way _not_ to handle a crisis.

Oh, well.  I guess there are nuances to PR we amateurs don’t get.

Agile and GTD

I know something about Agile methodologies for developing software, albeit at the 30,000 ft level appropriate to a Mere Suit.

I know a lot more about GTD, being a deep addict of many years’ standing.

It seems to me they have something in common.

Weekly reviews = ends of sprints

Projects/folders/multi-step tasks = stories

etc.

Any thoughts from the Agile-oisie?

Wisdom of Fights?

A lot of attention has been paid to the “wisdom of crowds”, with great discussion about whether, when, and how crowdsourcing gives accurate appraisals of situations.  We are the wiser for it.

But very little talk about another widespread belief, and perhaps a distinctively American one: I call it the “wisdom of fights”.

I thought of this earlier this week watching yet another discussion panel where the MC clearly believed his job was to get the panelists to start disagreeing with one another.

Why?  Is there some intrinsic virtue to disagreement?

It’s a widespread belief.  Our justice system believes that both defense and prosecution should unabashedly attack one another’s positions, with the clear implication that this process will surface everything a jury needs to reach a decisions.  The judge is required so the combatants will fight fair, but there’s no notion that the fighting itself is suboptimal.

Politics: the debate format has pretty much supplanted the speech format.  If we let Romney poke holes in Obama’s positions and Obama poke holes in Romney’s, we’ll know as much as if we had read through thoughtful presentations of each of their positions and then come to our own conclusions.

“Let’s you and him fight” is a very popular news format today, and most of the criticisms decry the lack of civility in the format, not the lack of veracity.

What makes science work is that both sides agree that a certain experiment will falsify a theory if it goes wrong.  Because the test is connected to the theory as a whole, something of significance takes place in the disagreement.  It’s profound disagreement.

So much of the “wisdom of fights” disagreement is shallow: it’s finding out that someone didn’t publish his tax returns, that someone won’t answer a certain question, that someone is vulnerable to a humiliating analogy or insult.  The disgreement isn’t under test in any way, except in the trivial sense that someone who stands up under repeated insult has some kind of staying power.

The wisdom of fights is very suspect.