Enlightened Conflict

How do you solve a problem when one half absolutely hates the other half?

February 10th, 2017

Polar Opposites conflict

 

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I want people to think about our politics here in America, because I’m telling you guys that I don’t know of a single nation in this history of the world that’s been able to solve its problems when half the people in the country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country.

This is the most important country in the world, and people in this body cannot function if people are offending one another.

Marco Rubio

 

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Well.

 

Polarization can create some pretty foul conduct.

 

Polarization can bring out the worst in people.

 

Polarization can create stillness within turmoil when movement within teamwork is needed <and desired>.

And.

 

Polarization within leadership is a virus that infects everyone in the organization … not just in leadership.

marco rubio speech on respectful conflict

I was reminded of this as I watched a completely underreported and under the radar speech Marco Rubio gave on the senate floor after <I believe> Elizabeth Warren had been asked to stop speaking.

Warren gained all the headlines where Rubio actually had the words we should have all been listening to. It is maybe 8 minutes long and worth every second.

 

 

Please note that I believe this message is more important than just one directed toward the Senate … it is a message which all Americans should take note of.

We are fortunate to have the privilege of freedom of speech & thought and we should embrace that freedom as one to permit healthy discussion, debate and disagreements … all of which should enable healthy, positive decisions.

 

Freedom is a tricky thing. In the United States of America we have the unique opportunity to “criticize a president without retribution.” <as past President Obama said to a group of military people at MacDill Air Force base>.

 

But our freedoms are being challenge by Trump and his attitudes & behaviors in ways we haven’t really seen in a very very long time.

 

The Trump Affect ripples way beyond simple executive orders and specific friends unfluencers ripples2actions that will have an impact on the people of the country. The more dangerous ripple effect is one of attitudes & behaviors.

Within this dangerous Trump affect ripple,  the freedom to freely criticize is a little less secure … and the way we criticize, debate & discuss in the Trump era appears to be one of not listening, not respecting and not believing that there could possibly be a way to do something differently than the way “I believe.”

 

Trump and his merry little band of morally corrupt liars suggest that there is no middle ground for “ladies & gentlemen to disagree with ladies & gentlemen” <note: this is a rip off of the Ritz Carlton motto>.

 

The Trump Affect has trickled down into his direct organization … the congress.

 

And within that ripple Republicans either embrace the bully opportunity or simply privately watch in horror as leadership decorum and leadership example <which, by the way, IS important as impressionable children and adult seeking cues on how to be leaders watch closely>.

And within that ripple Democrats screech & gnash their teeth in impotent frustration over not only having no power to shift the tides of change but also because, in their heart of hearts, they know this is not the way business should be conducted.

 

Balance has disappeared.

compromise balancing actWhile people can bitch & moan that decorum, in the past, has only encouraged stagnancy & lack of action they should not confuse with what business is conducted and how business is conducted.

Just as I am more accepting of my high school football coach if we have a losing season but the players play with respect & dignity and go to class and show signs of growing up with a healthy personal responsibility … I am less accepting of the coach who permits poor behavior & lack of respectful competition even if they win more.

You can have all the good in this case. But balance has been lost.

 

In fact.

 

We should face the fact that balance deserted us the day Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy.

 

And that is why Rubio’s speech is so important. Without actually saying it he suggests that we shouldn’t let Trump drag us down into some dysfunctional squabbling amorphous blob of indignant jerks.

 

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“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.

Both are nonsense.

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

 

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Rick Warren

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I like conflict and I think conflict is healthy.

creative spark light bulb

It is a basic Life truth that conflict is the positive friction that often creates innovations and new thinking and new ideas.

But, as with most things in life, there are degrees of conflict.

 

The kind of conflict we need now, more than ever, is the productive type.

 

We need to better embrace the valuable contradictions in life.

Things like:

 

Smart and funny.

Silent but says a lot.

Liberal conservative.

Cynical optimist.

 

Oh.

 

And enlightened and conflict of course.

 

We need to better embrace the fact that contradictions are powerful.

They create a chemistry ending in positive friction <when done right> and the fire for innovative thinking and thoughts.

 

In general I believe contradiction not only make life & people interesting but they also forge the kind of decisions that become the iron construct for a solid culture, civilization and country.

 

We need to embrace that conflict is part of life and not treat it as only a negative thing.

 

void embrace the unknownHumans are neither passive nor stagnant. We move. We do. We think.

 

Combine that fact with individuals are unique <although they may group together> and inevitably there is some conflict. It can simply be healthy competition or it can be staggeringly evil intended activity <i.e. there will be conflict because your point of view and thoughts shouldn’t exist and I am going to extinguish them>.

 

We need to embrace the fact that conflict can be “managed”.

Maybe call it competitive camaraderie. I call it enlightened conflict. I believe if people know more about stuff <I don’t really believe it needs a technical term> then conflict will be conducted with knowledge.

 

I would suggest that ignorance, and being close minded, guides conflict toward evil interactions … while knowledge guides conflict to responsible interactions.

 

Lastly.

 

We need to embrace that enlightened conflict is really some version of pluralism.

A pluralism in that it encourages, and embraces, freedom to learn and freedom to think different thoughts.

 

In the end I imagine what I really care about are people’s actions. They can remain mute as far as I am concerned as long as their actions respect others opinions and others lives and meets global responsibilities.

 

Look.

 

enlightened conflict ideasIt is silly to think that conflict doesn’t exist as part of our natural behavior <I apologize to all the “why can’t we all get along” groups>.

 

It is silly to think that friction between beliefs and causes is not the spark for something better.

 

It is silly to think conflict and friction is not good.

Good conflict leads to positive friction and ideation and evolution of ideas.

 

But it needs to be conducted with respect. Respectful disagreements & debate lead to two things:

 

  • Positive friction.

 

  • Enlightened conflict.

 

 

The first is based on curiosity plus friction equals better ideas and thinking.

The second is lack of ignorance plus conflict equals respectful competition.

 

We here in the United States have an incredible privilege … a freedom to say what we want and disagree and criticize whomever we want. We shouldn’t abuse that privilege by not understanding that it creates good conflict which enlightened conflict thinkenables ‘gooder’ ideas.

 

Marco Rubio did something in his speech which I endorse wholeheartedly … he tried to make an impact on his own little corner of the world … encouraging positive friction for enlightened conflict.

 

 

Marco Rubio had a stellar enlightened conflict moment … and more people should see it and listen.

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“Enlighten the people, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Thomas Jefferson

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finding a better version of capitalism

May 28th, 2016

 capitalism conspiracy elite

 

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“The combination of technology and capitalism has given us a world that really feels out of control.”

 

Jonathon Franzen

 

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 “Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the Kingdom of Brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of Communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis.”

 

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Martin Luther King 1967

 

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Why am I writing my umpteenth article on capitalism?

 

capitalism kills loveI saw a number from some USA research the other day … something like 50% of people under the age of 30 do not believe in capitalism.

 

Ok.

 

Capitalism is good.

 

Capitalism is not bad.

 

Just wanted to get that out of the way.

 

But that does not mean there isn’t always a tension between good and bad in the soul of capitalism. It is an incredible wealth-creating & life bettering mechanism and, yet, left to its own devices can run off the tracks <morally and financially>.

 

Capitalism needs guard rails. Or some smart guy called it “embedded countervailing power.” It needs guard rails because humans will be humans.

 

When business is good, human beings become greedy.

When business is bad, human beings become fearful.

 

And I would like to remind everyone that culture is created by … uhm … human beings.

I say that not to be a smart ass but to suggest there is a real culture war in America, maybe the world, and it is occurring in the business world.

 

I purposefully use ‘culture’ because it has to do with some ethics or moral fortitude, some personal responsibility and some pragmatic hope for the future.

In fact … if we fix how capitalism works <systemic & infrastructure aspects> the net result is addressing income inequality, wage stagnation and overall economic prosperity as well as some individual “self-stuff” <kind of all the big societal issues we tend to discuss>.

 

Anyway.

 

A moment on the role of government.

trust the government society young

It is both a fallacy to believe Government is not the problem nor believe they are the solution.

We have a mixed economy < I stole that term from Foreign Policy magazine>.

 

Capitalism is not a governance system which is about maximizing corporate profit at the expense of the citizenry. Effective government curbs greed obejectives & regulates capitalism so that it does the good things it is supposed to do <innovate & bring prosperity to many> and it doesn’t do the bad things <be driven solely by greed>.

 

Let’s be clear.

 

America is not based on an unfettered capitalism nor has it ever been <nor was it ever meant to be by the founding fathers>.

 

It is a managed capitalism system <always has been … I say that to head off any of the ‘government is too involved’ today talking heads>.

 

Government attempts … sometimes better than other times … to put reins on humans within a capitalistic society.  Let’s say it’s something like giving enough range for wild horses to run free … but not to trample the gardens and lawns of the surrounding areas.

 

This ‘fettered’ managed capitalism idea is not perfect. It ebbs and flows and morphs into different shapes as time passes.

But it IS an effective economic and political system.

 

I would suggest that while polarizing … capitalism is balanced … when balanced.

But a better version of capitalism really is not dependent upon governance and laws <and putting banks out of business> but rather personal decisions, choices & responsibility.  Yes. I just suggested <again> that people, not the system, will define the better version of capitalism.

 

Adam Smith suggested the three pillars of a society are: prudence, looking after oneself as best as one is able; justice, keeping the law of the land; and reflection people imperefcetbeneficence, caring for others and society where there is need.

 

Clearly our main issue is not how to survive on true scarcity <that is not a perceived scarcity or a “less than” scarcity> but rather how to live well with plenty.

 

To date we have chased double digit growth and higher GDP all the while seeking higher material happiness <sometimes confused with higher standard of living>.

 

We have become societally insatiable.

 

In other words … we cannot have enough.

 

This funny Maslow chart reflects that as additional personal needs are fulfilled it induces new needs <which we, as humans, constantly improve ourselves in order to further attain these ‘self actualization’ activities>.  Think about this from a non-funny sustenance perspective in growing from poverty to non poverty <but the dimension perspective will always reside in the human mind>.

money puzzle-maslow

 

Yes. Capitalism has certainly vastly improved our lives and our means to live.

 

But it has also fed this insatiability.

 

Some guy named Sandel wrote in “what money can’t buy … the moral limits of markets:”

 

  • the more things money can buy the more the lack of it hurts.

 

  • buying and selling can change the way a good is perceived (he used “giving children money as incentive to read a book may make reading a chore rather than a simple pleasure”).

 

This all leads to an overall attitude that endless <and double digit> growth is essential to maintain and improve our quality of life. While I will not go into the detailed debate … that is simply not true <this is a standard efficiency versus effectiveness argument>.

 

Now. All that said.

 

The issue is really about the attitudes & attributes we are attaching to capitalism.

 

As I share some thoughts to try and address the young’s lack of belief in capitalism I will lead with two things:

 

  • Communism promises to make everyone equally rich and instead makes everyone equally poor.

 

  • Youth thinks it invents the world. Maturity respects the world it finds.

 

Suffice it to say that Capitalism is becoming some evil entity in the minds of many young people. In addition, aspects of other ideologies <communism being one> are being used relatively flippantly as ‘better than’ what is occurring within capitalism.

I actually believe it is a lack of understanding … but it is also quite possible there is a deeper lack of faith with capitalism.

 

If you step back you can see why the young <and the shallow thinkers> feel this way.

 

  • Real unemployment is nearly in double digits. Most Americans think the economy will recover next year, but only 2% think it will make a complete recovery.

 

  • On average, according to Gallup, Americans believe that 50 cents of every dollar the federal government spends is wasted. Democrats, who are supposed to believe in big government, guess that 41 cents of every federal dollar is wasted. Republicans think it is 54 cents, and independents put the number at 55 cents in the dollar.

 

  • A poll found that most Americans would rather their government did less. Some 57% said it was doing too many things that were better left to individuals and businesses. Only 38% thought it should do more.

 

And many people have genuine complaints. Many working-class men have lost their jobs. Those who are still employed have seen their wages stagnate. And overall they don’t trust government not to make it worse.

 

This is a sad state of affairs <for government who CAN make shit happen> because regulations can positively address stagnation & inequality without intervening in entrepreneurial decisions or in the price/profit mechanism.

 

The harsh black & white truth no one wants to say is that regulation is what makes free markets … well … free <free markets cannot sustain themselves>.

 

Anyway.

moral crossraodsI have been thinking about capitalism for a while nudging my mind toward discussing morals and character <society & culture>.

 

I found it interesting to think about Schumpeter when addressing the youth capitalism challenge.

 

  • what Joseph Schumpeter called ‘the cultural contradictions’ of Capitalism

 

One of the cultural contradictions <I believe he outlined 5> was … Rationality.

In that Capitalism encourages rationality in behavior. And that culture creates, and demands, a natural conflict by insisting on some ‘irrational’ behavior.

 

Rationality comes to life as the “maximization” of particular interests of individuals and groups.

This same rationalization then bleeds into both personal lives <family & home> and ultimately becomes embodied in some form or fashion into cultural forms.

 

Children become quasi economic assets <or their rearing incorporates rational ‘maximization’ theory embedded in capitalism>.

 

At its extreme … maximization bleeds into soulless wealth and extreme consumption thereby substituting saving and societal salvation.

 

Oddly, but fairly, he suggests consumption wins against accumulation. This leads to a certain diminishing of the desirability of incomes above a certain level.

 

At the same time, however, when the breaks of certain values associated with ethical or religious tradition fail <called the sophrosyne: Greek philosophical term meaning healthy-mindedness and from there self-control or moderation guided by knowledge and balance. Roman poet Juvenal later interpreted sophrosyne as “mens sana in corpore sano” – “a healthy mind in a healthy body”> individuals and groups come into natural conflict with capitalism. The basic human instinct is one of core values <in some degree within everyone> and therefore the natural contradiction forces some balance within capitalism.

 

This means that the irrational components of behavior are critical for capitalism to emerge and withstand rational arguments … especially when based on long term considerations.

 

But.

That said.

 

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“This is the genius and the Achilles’ heel of American culture. We … have a strong belief in self-determination and agency, even when our expectations fly in the face of reality,”

 

Katherine Newman, who studies social mobility

 

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Capitalism in America is not functioning efficiently for a variety of reasons … but that doesn’t make it bad.confuxed

 

The issue of Confused capitalism … or being confused by capitalism.

 

No matter how altruistic and non-materialistic you may be … the issue is simple … as we sit perched on a stool at the bar of society where we can scan the room and see the danger of those who have nothing or little … as well as those who have the most <and lots of most>.

 

If the majority of us begin to look like we are either nearing the dangerously ‘nothing people’ or, contrarily, appear to be too distant from those who ‘have the most’ <no matter what your exact status is> we get nervous … if not angry.

 

Materialism, culturally, is therefore naturally cyclical in that it will always seek to balance itself. For we always ‘want’ … but most of us want it to be within the realm of ‘hopeful that we can get more’ … without appearing too greedy. Hence that is fairness.

Give me a chance for something more than I have … and give me more and I won’t be too greedy.

 

While everyone can debate the role of money with regard to people’s happiness … it is true that economic health does make people happier <more secure, more comfortable, more sustenance>.

This actually means that free-market capitalism is not devoted to integrity and a reliance on trust but rather economic growth.

 

And this suggests the people need to be regulated.

 

Why do we balk at regulation?

 

The US has always been a wide-open, free-wheeling country, with a high tolerance for big winners and big losers as the price of equal opportunity in a dynamic society. If the US brand of capitalism has rougher edges than that of other democracies most people inherently believe it is worth the trade-off for growth and mobility.

Buut while we like the free wheeling we also recognize that we are going through some type of crisis. It just becomes a discussion on what type of crisis.

 

Some think it is a crisis of capitalism. <I don’t>

 

Others think the crisis is moral. <I do>

 

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“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”

 

 

Bertrand Russell

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First there is attitude. What is maybe a disregard for societal fairness versus what could be construed as individual ‘winning’ or ‘what I deserve.’

 

A lot has been written about the effects of globalization during the past generation. Much less has been said about the change in social norms that globalization enabled. Many people, particularly people in power positions, took the vast transformation of the economy as an excuse to rewrite the rules that used to govern their behavior.

 

I say that because while there will always be isolated small groups of lawbreakers in high places what truly destroys morale is a systemic corner-cutting, rule-bending, self interest behavior type of construct.

 

I have thought about how and why this happens.

 

It starts early.

As young children we start off with a healthy core of greatness, but before long it gets covered in layers of doubt, fear and guilt. Often this is caused by people we trust most like parents, teachers and managers who put us down in subtle and less subtle ways. It’s as though people were flicking bits of mud at us until our core of greatness is totally covered. Even worse, we flick mud at ourselves by accepting smaller versions of ourselves through negative self-talk and poor thinking; and we become a tiny fraction of the potential that once existed.

 

Once potential is curbed we seek to find success in other ways … sometimes circumventing “what is right” to make small excusable steps in our behavior to attain ‘small personal successes.”

 

repair faults consumerism

Second is our propensity to consume <and its self perpetuation>.

Our propensity to consume without thought for the planet, the poor or even the person next door is a sign that greed and fear are the motives of the moment.

 

Freedom certainly creates problems (inequalities most notably), but it also solves them.

But the central aspect of freedom advanced by these thinkers was the market, or what Adam Smith had described as the propensity to truck, barter and exchange. In this area, freedom allowed dispersed individuals—disposing of their own resources and choosing for themselves what they want to buy—to generate a level of prosperity that has had no precedent in human history. And the pricing system that emerges from the market—that is, from the push and pull of supply and demand—provides the indispensable knowledge needed to guide the economy.

 

So. All that said.

 

I would tell young people that Capitalism is not the issue.

It is the people within the system <and young people can fix that by entering the system>. The system can work just fine … it is simply being abused at the moment.

 

Capitalism needs to be managed to be more oriented to the long term and socially more responsible.

 

Interestingly … Richard Branson has formed an initiative to do just this … but I found it interesting that initially he sought to have a board of Business Elders … but  there were too few candidates from the business world of sufficiently unimpeachable character to staff it <insert ‘oh my’ here>.

 

Anyway <to conclude part 1>.

 

Since World War II in particular, America has been on a consumption surge/binge. While wages have certainly stagnated family disposable income has grown, life standards have improved, health has improved and overall quality of life has improved <and showed a continuous growth>. Unfortunately, at the same time, while families busily lived their lives they also had access to the finest inventory of toys capitalism could provide. Each generation was doing better than the one before, life was good and standard of living acquired a layer of ‘non essentials’ as part of how the people lived a successful & happy life.

At the same time.

Televisions starting bringing news, influential people talking and capitalism toys into the family living room. Television allowed busy families the opportunity to be exposed to complex issues through professionally crafted sound bites and talking points. People were now becoming more informed from a larger perspective, not just local perspective, and we ushered in the inevitable “keeping up with the Joneses” aspect.

What we face is the natural rising tide of ‘better than before’ facing the ebb and flow of time. The waters being drawn backwards is not appreciated by those standing in a spot washing their feet in the surf. Is it greed for most people? No. it is simply a desire for the status quo – “better is a right not a privilege.” Therein lies the social & cultural task at hand.

 

Anyway <to conclude part 2>.

 

Doing something.Accountability where you stand

 

Me?

 

I write and post on my blog. And speak about it wherever and whenever I can <especially to young people>.

 

It is easy to talk about it because it seems like if we take a moment and reflect on the problems in the world today we might easily come to the conclusion that it is mainly due to deterioration of our morality compass.

It seems like everywhere we see people filled with greed and intent on self-gratification.

It seems like people are always willing to compromise on values/morality to make personal gains.

 

If we start talking about values and create some sort of awakening in the minds of people.

 

Will everyone do it? of course not.

But someone has to go first.

 

Someone has to become the catalyst for change.

 

Why not the youth? We should encourage them to enter the system and build what they desire from the inside out rather than simply breaking the system as unfixable.

let the bout begin

October 5th, 2012

Alright, time for me to write about the first American presidential debate.

Of course, me being me, I am going to look at the first American presidential debate very differently than all the talking heads on tv are looking at it.

I will let everyone else debate on who won the debate and the excruciating dismantling of each word. Mostly because it was such a mosh pit of he said/she said partial/selective truths which was incredibly annoying and in the end I believe the everyday person had no clue if either told the truth.

Anyway.

What fascinates me is watching what I perceive as two significantly different debate strategies … not ideologies <although they are lurking their within their debate strategies>.  And what may make my point of view different than others is:

–          I don’t know diddly about politics or debate strategy so I have an unfiltered business <or sports> point of view on what I saw., and

–          I truly believe that despite what we all feel about politics and politicians there are some very very smart people thinking about everything that is being done and said and that there is very rarely anything done without a purpose. Anything. Even a perceived disinterested participant.

That said.

Here is what I believe.

Both campaign teams know this is a 3 round boxing bout (with an under card bout). And I think both campaign/bout handlers know exactly what they are doing and the candidates are delivering on a 3 round  strategy  <no matter how the talking heads want to tear apart one as if it is the end all be all>.

Let me take on the biggest elephant in the room … for example, while we may not have seen the presidents ‘A game’ <I think he could have been sharper> I do believe he did exactly what he was asked to do by his Angelo Dundee.

Anyway, that is what I believe and here is what I saw.

To me I saw the Raging Bull (or ‘strong like bull’ if you prefer) strategy versus the Muhammad Ali strategy.

Attack, deflect and create doubt (with an eye to knockout) versus absorb, counterpunch and show unshakeable confidence (with an eye to knockout) strategy.

The Romney debate strategy is former and president is latter.

Both extremely viable strategies.

Both really smart strategic plans of action for the appropriate candidate.

Let me begin with the Romney Raging Bull strategy because it was executed flawlessly in the debate.

First.

Attack.

Relentlessly attack.

The Republican trainer <I apologize … I do not know the Raging Bull’s trainer> told him before he went into the ring “you need to win this round on punches” and “don’t come back to the corner with any punches or energy left. Leave it all out there.”

Now. Here is what truly made this strategy effective in the first debate. The trainer had Romney commit to a brilliant opening psychologically driven tactic.

Intellectually we all know it is an open debate of ideas.

However, psychologically, when the president is involved, there is an additional dynamic. Psychologically we expect our president to be treated with respect so no matter how you prepare yourself for it the first attack, the ‘he was wrong’ or ‘he wasn’t smart’ or ‘he didn’t prioritize correctly’, we bristle. We don’t like it and maybe even get a little angry at the attacker (unless you are Rush Limbaugh of course).

Now. We get over it in a debate, but the first punch hurts.

The republican trainer had Romney rip the band aid off fast and quick and early (opening). He punched the president right in the nose as soon as he stepped in the ring. Painful?  You bet. But he got it out of the way and paved the way for a full 40 minutes or so of attack. Well thought out. Well done.

After that it was all about landing punches … didn’t have to be good solid punches but be relentless, don’t give him any space, just keep punching  … because something will land and even if they don’t it doesn’t give him any openings to attack.

And attacking played to his strength. Romney is an excellent debater and excellent when the subject is one he has prepared for. His weakness is the unforeseen. He sometimes struggles <and gets flustered> when things aren’t going as planned.  Therefore the Romney team avoided the semi-impossible task of guessing every question or possible punch and created the platform for him to win – attack. Just get out there and say what you want to say and what has been scripted.

Oh. They also told him … ‘on anything else? Do. Not. Say. It. <and don’t even think about saying it>.’

Next.

Deflect.

His trainer told him “I do not want you to absorb one punch. Not one.”

Romney was brilliant on this strategic objective. And I mean frickin’ brilliant. It didn’t matter whether the president counter punched with a real truth, a half truth, a partial truth or no truth because whatever the president said the response was “that’s not true” <or ‘you are wrong’>.

He deflected.

And when he actually decided to go on the attack again by counterpunching he simply selected whatever one aspect he had a script memorized on. He slid the punch and counterpunched on his terms. Slightly aggravating to the viewers because that meant he didn’t actually answer the questions but, to the Romney team, it was about punches. And after a while the president simply stopped punching because even he recognized he gained nothing as no matter what he said all people would remember is “that’s not true” every time he said something.

The other brilliant aspect was that it kept the dialogue on parts and not the sum of the parts <brilliant>.

Parts:

Would he increase deficit? Of course not. Never.

Would he cut taxes for the rich? No.

Would he cut back on America’s future investment strategies? Silly, of course not.

Would he raise taxes on the middle class? No.

Would he roll back regulation? No <if it is smart>

Would he cut education? Never <they are our future>.

Sum?

<p.s. – they cannot all be true and add up. It really is arithmetic>

Brilliant. Well played.

Now.

As a truth person I hated the strategy. As a strategy-to-win person I thought it was brilliant.

Lastly.

The trainer told Romney, after he told him he needs to win the round, remember, whatever happens in the fight itself when in doubt you counterpunch with the objective to create doubt in the president – his words, his actions, his knowledge of facts – so that people just aren’t sure about the overall current plan and leader (of course the ultimate hope is the president may even show a crack of doubt or regret at some point for some past decision when I assume Romney would have pounced – rightfully so).

Stay on mission. Whatever you do stay on script and create doubt on whatever he says.

I am not sure that last objective was achieved but that’s not the point. It was the strategic vision. And I think whoever (the Romney Raging Bull trainer) designed the strategy deserves a cocktail.

The risk?

The risk is partially energy (like a real boxing match) but the debates are so spread out (although it does mandate a high level of energy every round) so I believe it is really about rhythm. You only have so many punches. The risk is he slips into some rhythm that can be read before the punch comes or he slightly revises the punch <going slightly off the practiced script> and leaves a big opening. Or he simply runs out of punches and the champ is still standing and has some whoopass punches left. But Romney has a lot more punches he can throw than the president can. Any challenger in a tough economy does. In addition he has the benefit of selective hindsight … punching past actions without having to defend his own actions. And when an economy is doing poorly the challenger has a simplified attack stance as he punches … no need to explain the case of what is wrong … everyone knows <but it is an easy punch to throw if you are suddenly backpedaling>. All Romney has to say is: “I can do this job better than that.” Look. It is always easier to look back and say “stupid, why did you do that?” when no one knows what you would have done in that time and place. But that’s how the bout is fought. Raging bull won a lot of matches. He can win.

– The proof that my theory may be right?

Romney is a bottom line business guy through and through. I would probably love him running a troubled business. I do not doubt for one minute he is a compassionate man but all business leaders have a switch. A switch where it ain’t personal  … it is business. And you have to do that sometimes <as a business person>. I imagine he is ruthlessly effective at dissecting past actions of others, revise and improve moving forward. And I tend to believe his business credentials show that this strategy is a mirror reflection of what takes place in a boardroom. What makes him appealing is that when cornered he really doesn’t know how to play politics … he is a business guy. He knows people are involved, and he cares about them, but ultimately he is about making the right business decision and believes the happiness of people will follow. This strategy is perfect for him.

Moving on to the president.

The Muhammad Ali strategy. To me this was the most interesting.

Because while I believe the raging bull strategy was very easy for Romney to implement I believe the Muhammad Ali strategy is a little more difficult for the president to implement.

I believe the democrat Angelo Dundee told the president “remember champ, this is a 3 round bout, not one, and you are the champ, he cannot knock you out in this round, so this round you absorb every punch he’s got. Let him give you the best he has. You will probably lose this round. That said … I only want you to come back at him if, and only if, you think you can put him down on the mat. Other than that, suck it up, absorb what he’s got and just give enough counterpunches to see what else he’s got.”

Well. The president did what he was asked.

Flawlessly if not painfully. He was pushed on the ropes and took a battering.

He used counterpunches to show he was unshakeable in his beliefs on his plan. He used counterpunches to show aspects of his vision. And, yes, there were some openings (albeit not many because frankly the relentless attack was pretty relentless). But if the criteria were “only if you can put him down” then he did what his trainer told him to do.

Let me give a hypothetical, but realistic, example.

The Democrat team is in the bout strategy room and someone says “okay champ, when you get an opening you swing from the hips with the 47% punch and rock him.”

Everyone says ‘hell yeah.’

The republican Angelo Dundee, sitting in the corner with a twisted sweaty towel, clears his throat and growls … “do we know his counter punch if he slips it? … think about this …  the other guy says ‘I am glad you brought that up Mr. president because I owe America an apology … especially the 47% but 100% of America. I was wrong to say that and I apologize. I am for 100% of America, have been, and always will be. Please accept my apology’ … all said looking directly at the camera and 67 million people” <plus youtube & media the next day> …  Angelo takes a deep breath and then says … “Champ, you can’t ask him if he was flip flopping or changing his mind or even lying … he just apologized to 67 million watchers and 250 million Americans. That punch misses.”

Silence in the room as they think.

(He lets the room ponder that for maybe 30 seconds as he sips some water … clears his throat and turns directly to the president)

“Champ, you can throw that punch if you want, but you need to get your hands up quick to protect your jaw because you know for sure that immediately after he has looked directly at the camera and apologized he is going to turn to you and look directly at you, in front of 67 million people, and ask you ‘is there anything you would like to apologize to America for?’”

He doesn’t even let that one sit in the room but immediately reminds the entire room “in round one the champ only attacks with a punch that will put him on the mat. Let’s move on.”

Someone give the republican Angelo a raise.

Now.

I do not think this was easy for the president. And while some viewers thought he was disinterested or making notes I actually think he was writing something like “remember to take Angelo out to the woodshed, if Michelle doesn’t, and kick his ass for making me do this.” Because while I believe this is a great strategy for a champ it is not an easy one for someone who wants to fight.

Which is why I believe the president was at his best in the closing comments.

He basically got to finally come off the ropes after being battered for 40 minutes and say “I took the best he has, I am bloodied but still standing here, I am unshaken and confident that my plan is the best for America and its people.”

He got to say to Romney “if that is the best you got you, you didn’t hurt me <and you are screwed and should be worried because I am not going away>.”

I am not sure the president can do this strategy, for personal pride reasons, for one more round and wait for the third to finally come out swinging. Well he could, and maybe should, because strategically it is quite possible <although he does need to find some openings in round two to score some solid points> but I think personally this strategy is very difficult for him to take. But if his Angelo Dundee could convince him … I would. Muhammad Ali was one of the best strategist and counter punchers of all time. He waited. And waited. And watched. And waited more. And by taking the best shots and still be standing he gained confidence, he gained some respect, and then he used all he learned and won.

Now.

I think the Democrat Angelo Dundee is going to give a different strategy to Biden … I think he is gonna tell him “go out and kick the young whipper snapper’s ass and feel free and be a jerk about it. Win us the old white folk.” But that is a different post.

Anyway.

The risk here? You can’t deliver the knockout punch in the last round. It’s all or nothin’ in the 3rd round and by this time all of America that will ever even think about voting is watching.

67 million will look like frickin’ peanuts by this debate.

And he has to win by TKO or KO. You are too far behind in points to simply win on points. You need to put him on the mat a couple of times or out for good. It puts a lot of pressure on the champ. But those are the moments champions are defined. Mohammed Ali won a lot of bouts this way. But he did lose some matches. The president can lose.

– The proof my theory may be right?  Well. The democrat strategy was exactly the same during the republican primaries. People were jumping up and down saying “why aren’t the democrats defending themselves?!?” as the republicans used the president and the administration’s plan of action as a punching bag. The administration just absorbed the punches and unshakabley kept on keeping on. And then they came out swinging. Time in and time out by biding their time they got the ammunition they have needed for the counterpunch uppercuts. They have used this strategy before.

In addition … the media is actually throwing the punches for him as he rests in the corner for the next round. All the talking bobbleheads are sitting around talking about all the things he could have punched Romney with. Gosh. Romney won the round on punches but the announcers are all talking about the quality of the punches and punches the President could have taken. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm … kinda smart that the president didn’t have to bring them up.

Someone knows their shit in the democrat camp.

Okay.

If I am right, I actually believe these strategies are a reflection of the choice America has and they were outlined pretty clearly in the debate:

–          Romney. Aggressively attack the short term issues and deflect the long term (not ignore it but the priority is “create jobs now”).

Private, private, private <with some delegation to states>. Now. I don’t really believe he believes this but this is the message. But he is certainly a believer in unfettered <or minimally fettered> capitalism. Let me use healthcare as an example because it is such a lightning rod.

When people hear him talk the people are confusing state rights and his business acumen. In his heart he wants 50 small businesses managing America. It is irrelevant they are called ‘states’ he just believes that businesses generate effective bottom line and effective cost-efficient solutions. That may be an extreme generalization but that is the core of his belief.

–          Obama. Absorb the best punches (issues) we are given and create an unshakable future (this doesn’t suggest ignoring immediate job creation but the priority is a solid foundation for the future).

Balance, balance, balance. People don’t like to hear it. Romney message is a lot easier to grasp. The president pounds away at selective governmental assistance and encouragement of private sector innovation. It ain’t sexy and it ain’t just talking about jobs. The president, using business acumen as an example with regard to healthcare, suggests Massachusetts was a new product test market which can now be rolled out nationally. From a business perspective the president philosophically is actually pretty close to a national franchise business model.

Please note that both are viable approaches with pluses and minuses on each. But do not be fooled into believing one system is better than the other. They are simply systems. It is always the people who manage the systems over the long term (not just a year or 4) that make or break either of those business models.

That’s my thinking.

Oh. And who really wins if I am right?  The media and whoever covers the third debate. Viewership will continue to increase as the Obama strategy is to guide everyone to the last round of the bout. Especially if the second round goes the way I think it will <a purposeful draw>.

And, actually, I imagine the candidates do also. In a very close race the last debate becomes the make or break moment.

I am sure a lot of people do not want to agree with what I just wrote but, remember, a lot of these yahoos have Harvard and Princeton and a whole bunch of high falutin’ degrees. They may not be in touch with what happens around the average American kitchen table but that doesn’t make them dumb. They know their shit.

And rarely is something happening that they haven’t planned … they just don’t tell you their plan <that is the Bill Belechik acumen I believe>.

I look forward to rounds two and three … and the undercard also.

Euripides, economists & economy

October 3rd, 2012

“Circumstances rule men and not men rule circumstances.” – Euripides

<a thought I hope both candidates remember in the debate & in general>

Let me be clear upfront.

–          I am not old enough to have met Euripides,

–          I am not an economist (albeit I did get a fake undergraduate economics degree – fake in that it was an essay theoretical driven degree and I have always known how to write and be theoretical …in a good grade drivel way),

–          I am not afraid of numbers (and in fact find comfort in them sometimes),

–          and, lastly, I am perfectly unclear on what is best to fix the american economy (although I am fairly sure which president we have is irrelevant to fixing).

Now.

I used to think I knew.

At least in broader strokes.

Now? I am simply confused. Ok. Not confused but rather unclear why I can’t choose some items off the Romney menu and why I can’t choose some other things off the Obama menu. And I am also unclear why they wouldn’t want to do the same.

Why do I say this?  Well. I read the Wall Street Journal (an unabashed republican skewed paper) and when going into detail … some of what “the Romney plan” suggests is good stuff. Not all (because for some reason they want to make it all about dollars and cents) but a lot. .

And then I watch MSNBC (an unabashed democrat skewed information provider) and some of what “the Obama plan” suggests (and has implemented) is good stuff. Not all (because for some reason they want to make it all about fairness) but a lot.

Then I watch CNN and get really confused because they actually try and be fair by representing all views <which apparently viewers do not like because their ratings are lower despite having the best, by far, news product available today>

— separate note (just in case CNN is reading this): they should hire me … I could change that —

Anyway.

I want to pick and choose ideas.

Now, whenever I get confused <on this stuff> I typically try and get some perspective by reading letters to the editor in The Economist after they have written a British point of view on the topic I may be having some confusion over. I find the letter writers, when critiquing the article, do a nice short portrayal of ‘what really is’ (and regardless of however the Economist may skew an article the letters kind of nail down truth …or as close to truth as one can get) and get to a nice clear point.

I did this … and I am still confused.

The only thing I am not confused about?  After watching night after night of negative TV ads from both sides I am perfectly clear that both candidates lie, are stupid, their plans suck and, in general, Wile E Coyote would have a better plan than either of them.

Anyway.

Personally? I want to pick and choose from both menus.

I don’t believe you can go 100percent to invisible hand top down economics. Too slow, not sure I trust business leaders in key segments to look beyond dollars and cents to reinvest in people and some segments just need to be infrastructurally ‘force changed.”

I don’t believe you can go “government dominated” overall. That’s not what free market is all about and, frankly, it’s not America.  We have always been about self-made and “selves” have to have an opportunity to “make.”

At crossroads moments like this … the one we are in … it seems to me we need some of both. Government to be heavy-handed where large infrastructures long term changes need to occur (healthcare was one of those in my eyes … secondary education would be another).

Government has to have a softer touch in the involvement of businesses but somehow has to identify regulatory standards to insure some type of moral code (so profit doesn’t trump “what is in the best interest of the people”).

Maybe, in the end, all of what I typed is the reason I don’t get involved in Romney-Obama bashing … it is all complex and quite complicated and each has valuable ideas & thoughts.

The economy situation is one where short term decisions may have minimal short term results with massive long term implications … and at the same time we need long term decisions which maximize some short term results (without massive long term negative impact).

It is a fine tuned dance of which simplicity seems nowhere within any of the plans.

And what makes it more complex? People. Citizens. Us. You & me.

Similar to the business world if we don’t immediately see positive results everyone starts running around like chickens with their heads cut off looking for someone to blame or suggest something is wrong.

I do not envy either candidate … for a variety of reasons <some just listed>.

However … despite the fact I do not envy them I will watch the debate tonight.

Yeah. I know. No one ever wins an election from a debate and, in fact, no matter what happens in the debate afterwards Democrats will wave their hands in the air while chuckling over some Romney miscue and Republicans will pound their fists on tables everywhere saying “see, Obama is a spineless jelly fish” and Libertarians will smoke some pot and mumble something about Ron Paul.

By the way … I predict the media will claim Romney a winner <regardless of what he actually says … unless he drops some verbal bomb pissing off over half, or 47%, of the country or drools or wets his pants or something>. My prediction is based on the fact there is too much Obama positiveness currently going on and they will want to keep the story alive for as long as possible <boy … that was cynical, wasn’t it?>.

In the end … I will watch for 2 reasons:

candidates explaining the economy

–          Presenters. Debate format aside … this is really about a string of mini-speeches. What I mean by that is, as a presenter, there are some things that you really, really want to say. Therefore you are always seeking the opportunity to say it. Now, that can lead to trouble. It means you are partially not really listening but simply looking for the verbal cue from which to leverage. It also can get you to create some incredibly absurd links to get to what you want to say. Part of being a great debater/presenter is what you are willing to “leave in the bag.” That is the fun art of watching this.

Plus. Because the economy is so topical I love to watch both of them get twisted in knots trying to explain the math <see chart to left> in a way that doesn’t make anyone think they will have to sacrifice anything.

–          Soul. I began with Euripides and will end with him:

“The company of just and righteous men is better than wealth and a rich estate.” – Euripides, Aegeus

Now. I am not foolish enough to believe we will really see the ‘real, authentic’ man but debates have a habit of creating situations where you can get backed into the corner. And to quote that infamous movie Dirty Dancing it can become a “”nobody puts baby in the corner” moment. It is within those fleeting moments you can get a glimpse of what’s inside the person. And how he/she handles the moment. I seek a glimpse of the just & righteous.

Plus. No matter what anyone tries to tell me … a presidential election is not about the economy. Both candidates have a viable plan of action <in some form or fashion>.  What I want is one who will pick & choose off the menu to lead America and … well … someone even remotely inspirational … let’s call that someone a dealer in some pragmatic Hope.

today’s economy (my perspective)

September 6th, 2011


This post was inspired by a conversation I had with someone who, after a couple of beers, saddled up to the table and said what a lot of people are feeling … “I am just not sure that America will pull through this … I am really concerned ..”

Boy.

That gets you thinking. Maybe even moreso than you may already be thinking.

It becomes more real when something that may have been rattling around in your head all of as sudden is out there.  In public. Real words.

So.  Personally I am an optimistic cynic. As well as a studier of history and generations. And while I do believe because of the cycle of generations (and the fact we lose histrical knowledge over time) we are doomed to repeat mistakes … as well as inspired to repeat new success.

“We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days.  But so said all before us, and with just as much apparent reason …  On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us.” Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1830 in Edinburgh Review.

Yeah.

Said in 1830.

Good ole Tommy was taking on all the doomsayers of his day.

Lets bring him back.  We need him.

Ok. Don’t get me wrong. America is a country with some serious problems.  As I noted in an earlier article at least 55% of America is really hurting (PewRearch: the 2 Americas). One in six Americans are using food stamps. And the government cannot agree on how to take steps to address the problems so there is governmental paralysis.

And I believe the problems run as deep as they do because of real estate more than anything else. The last figures I saw suggests almost 30% of homes with mortgages are upside down (and that skews toward the younger labor force). It’s a double hit to America. Home value has decreased over 33% (yeah,  that means many homeowners have lost 1/3 of their equity) since the peak. And that translates into a stagnant work force (homeowners have lost the mobility to move to available jobs). So real estate has affected wealth and overall labor force.

So. Why should we have optimism (beyond the great quote at the beginning of this post).

Well. US has the biggest economy on earth. Think of it like a huge aircraft carrier.  It will not turn on a dime.  It takes time and space to get going in the opposite direction. US is the possessor of the world’s reserve currency (that has far reaching global implications for our future success).  And the US has a nice track record of re-inventing itself every generation or so. And an incredible track record of re-invention at “crisis” moments – political crisis (Andrew Jackson bringing in the voice of everyday citizens, Theodore Roosevelt creating a 3rd party) as well as financial crisis.

In addition I was reminded of optimistic thinking in a great article I found online (of which I cannot now find again) which referenced a guy named Dr. Matt Ridley.

Dr. Ridley  (Matt Ridley, author The Rational Optimist) argues that traders’ wealth builds empires and entrepreneurial tinkerers are more likely to inspire scientists than vice versa. From Stone Age seashells to the steam engine to the personal computer, innovation has mostly been a bottom-up process.

Therefore progress is sustainable as long as there is innovation and ongoing trade.

lastly.

He also states that with new hubs of innovation emerging everywhere, and with ideas spreading faster than ever on the Internet, he expects bottom-up innovators to prevail.

His prediction for the rest of the century?

“Prosperity spreads, technology progresses, poverty declines, disease retreats, fecundity falls, happiness increases, violence atrophies, freedom grows, knowledge flourishes, the environment improves and wilderness expands.”

Now. Am I implying that the phenomenal growth and changes we’ve seen for the last 150 years will continue? Well.  Yes and no. phenomenal growth is relative.

Americans are typically optimistic, but right now most of us are under a cloud of pessimism. A new Bloomberg report finds that 40% of people think the economy will stay the same over the next year; 40% think it will get worse; and only 20% think it will get better. Another survey, meanwhile, shows there’s also great pessimism among the wealthy.

We need to boost the every day families spending power.

We need to remember the qualities that got us to being the largest economy in the world.

But the reality is that this is not the worst of times.

I try to balance pessimism with optimism. Things are never as bad as they seem when they’re bad, and they’re never as good as they seem when they’re good.

Out of adversity comes opportunity.  And out of the big always comes the small (which will become big).

Creative destruction is a powerful economic engine.

And there is always money to be made if someone is willing to step up. .

Regardless.

we shouldn’t ever be taken in by the oversimplified labels of boom and bust that are being bantered about to describe what is happening.

We always need to remember that companies fail even in boom times while others succeed in recessions.

And while unemployment, which is typically a lagging economic indicator, will continue to rise yet while economies have struggled they have not totally frozen (or failed).

There is still a lot of money to be made, demand to be met, customers to be served and innovations to be created to create new markets.

And there are a boatload of companies making money right now, a lot of people working and a lot of people thinking even if they aren’t working. And we are still the largest economic engine in the global mass transit system.

And if we seize the moment (instead of being dragged down by the moment) we will reinvent ourselves one more time.

Donald Sull, professor of management practice at London Business School, wrote recently about seizing the upside of a downturn.

“Most managers look for golden opportunities when the good times are rolling. This is a mistake. The best opportunities often arise during downturns when distressed sellers are forced to offload valuable assets at bargain prices.”

“Economics is not about things and tangible material objects; it is about men, their meanings and actions.”

Ludwig von Mises

Perspective is a tricky thing.

Just as success looking in the rear view mirror uses an obvious kind of circular logic where a particular social, cultural or economic  phenomenon is applauded it is also that same rear view mirror that ignores how uncounted (large) numbers faced the same phenomenon and failed. It is a fact, the truth, that answers to questions of history are usually not well understood in the moment.  It is only with the benefit of hindsight that we can piece together the relevant factors that might have produced noteworthy events. For every economist who stands up and points to how their economic crystal ball predicted the future there are dozens with broken crystal balls. And my other gripe with most economists is they focus on numbers solely ignoring the cultural & social aspects which influence attitudes & behavior.

Regardless.

I am simply providing my own point of view on perspective for what is happening in today’s economy. In 1830 when that quote was made the average lifetime of someone was a little less than 50 years old.  Now it is a little less than 80- years old. That alone gives people different perspective. As well as it absolutely changes generation cycles and the friction between old & new (because there are more older people hanging around we retain knowledge longer but it also creates additional friction with younger people who typically inspire the new thinking).

But, in the end, today’s economy is not about government or stocks or unemployment figures.  It is about people and their attitudes, values and actions. America will be okay if we make it okay.

Yes.  Maybe the truth is as simple as if we refind what Clotaire Rapaillle suggests is America’s Culture Code (“just do it”) … well … we will just do it.

the next industrial revolution

May 31st, 2011


 

It is rare I make predictions (I am not that smart and my crystal ball has failed me too many times) but here I go.

I do believe the next industrial revolution is upon us.

 

And I even have a name for it.

 

It is “Mass Customization.”

 

Huh?

How can it be “mass” and “customized? (rhetorical question: lots of explanation to follow). Suffice it to say this is all about technological innovation (which inevitably all industrial revolutions are about).

 

But.

 

Before I get into the nitty gritty about this contradictory sounding idea I want to spend a minute on the ‘non-technology’ side of the revolution (this is my personal rant lead in to the technology idea).

 

People.

 

It would be easy to say this is a case of how new manufacturing technology will change the world and create the next revolution. But let me begin the hard way.

This is about people.

 

Every achievement.

 

Every innovation.

 

Every breakthrough.

 

Every industrial revolution.

 

Everything is only possible because it is humanly possible through someone’s imagination.  In fact this next industrial revolution is not based on some technological “need” (or efficiency need) but rather it will be an embodiment of meeting consumer needs through human imagination (coming to life in a technology solution).

 

I say all this so that we don’t lose sight when I begin talking about this new industrial revolution and the relevant technology and amazing future manufacturing possibilities that we don’t lose sight that ideas are built from human imagination and achieving what is possible.

 

Ok.

That said (rant over).

 

Let’s talk about this so-called next Industrial Revolution. That means we are talking about this idea of mass customization.

 

While seemingly contradictory this is all about a production process that combines the elements of mass production with elements of being able to tailor specific products … to the utmost level of customization.

 

Think about this.

 

This industrial revolution will mean products are adapted to such an individual level that no two items are the same.

 

Ok.

 

To be clear, this is NOT about “information customization” (i.e., the mass produced is the same but each of the ‘mass’ can be cosmetically  customized).

This is not about jeans or whatever item that can be cosmetically created to match an individual’s ‘want.’

Nor is this about anything that is simply personalized.

This new industrial revolution will be about true customization.

Each output being unique.

So.

If that is so then how the hell can it be mass produced?

This is where imagination and technology meet.

It begins with the internet (of course).

The internet has greatly increased the possibilities for mass customization. And not because it will customize anything itself but it enables a completely unique distribution access model. In other words I no longer need a store front to get the input I need to customize a match to a specific customer need.

But this is not just about the internet.

 

Because this is a real and new manufacturing technology only enhanced by the internet not dependent upon the internet.

 

This technology takes customization to a new level practically eliminating any “mis-communication” and insuring that desired demand matches delivered output.

 

The industrial revolution we know and love (the one in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s) was all about mass production economies of scale. And it changed our world by making things more accessible (economically and accesswise) then was possible up to that point.

 

The sacrifice?

True customization.  Sure. You could choose colors and specific features and stuff like that.  But the basic widget was the basic widget. Customization (in a mass produced product) was all about cosmetics.

 

The new industrial revolution? (big drum roll)

 

3D printing.

 

 

Ok.

 

Don’t think about your printer in the office.  This idea is a manufacturing process called 3D printing.

Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it does to produce thousands.

Economies of scale as we currently define it are irrelevant when you discuss 3D printing.

 

Ok.

Here is how 3D printing works:

–        First you call up a blueprint on your computer screen and tinker with its shape and color where necessary.

 

–        Then you press print.

 

–        A machine nearby whirrs into life and builds up the object gradually, either by depositing material from a nozzle, or by selectively solidifying a thin layer of plastic or metal dust using tiny drops of glue or a tightly focused beam. Products are thus built up by progressively adding material, one layer at a time: hence the technology’s other name, additive manufacturing. Eventually the object in question (The Economist actually used a violin as an example) is created.

 

(whew. Simple huh?)

 

 

A 3D printer works by taking a 3D computer file and using and making a series of cross-sectional slices. Each slice is then printed one on top of the other to create the 3D object (it is difficult to wrap your head around this kind of production). Simplistically 3D printing is all about additive production, in other words, not building something piece by piece but rather by gradual build up. Therefore, because 3D printers don’t need to carve material from preexisting blocks (as in sculpture), the process allows for as elaborate and visually complex shape as you desire. All created in a matter of hours with no manual labor.

 

The size of these shapes is only limited by the size of the printer making them.

 

Yeah.  Think about that last sentence.

 

The beauty of the technology is that it does not need to happen in a factory.

 

Small items can be made by a machine like a desktop printer, in an office, a shop or even a home. Sure. Bigger items like bicycle frames, panels for cars, aircraft parts (examples of things that can currently be built using 3D printing) need a larger machine and a bit more space – but not an entire factory space.

 

Today’s constraints to 3D printing?

 

 

The process is possible only with certain materials (plastics, resins and metals) and with a precision of around a tenth of a millimeter.

 

Anyway.

Oh.

 

This additive approach to manufacturing has several big advantages over the conventional one.

 

It cuts costs by getting rid of production lines.

 

It reduces waste enormously (requiring as little as one-tenth of the amount of material).

 

It allows the creation of parts in shapes that conventional techniques cannot achieve, resulting in new, much more efficient designs in aircraft wings or heat exchangers, for example.

 

It enables the production of a single item quickly and cheaply—and then another one after the design has been refined.

 

Up until now 3D printers have been used primarily for prototyping (aerospace, medical, packaging, automotive) but has been used for jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction and dental industries.

To date, in most cases, once a design was finalized it shifted into conventional mass production methodology(parts are manufactured and assembled in production lines).

Now?

3D printing has now improved to the point that it is starting to be used to produce the finished items themselves.

It is already competitive with plastic injection-molding for runs of around 1,000 items.

And because each item is created individually, rather than from a single mold, each can be made slightly differently at almost no extra cost. Mass production could, in short, give way to mass customization for all kinds of products … heck … any manufactured product (use your imagination … appliances, recreational items, home goods, etc.).

Beyond the consumer aspect … think about this disruptive manufacturing idea from an innovations opportunity perspective.

By reducing the barriers to entry for manufacturing, 3D printing should also promote innovation. If you can design a shape on a computer, you can turn it into an object. You can print a dozen, see if there is a market for them, and print whatever amount more if there is a market at the same time modifying the design using feedback from early users.

This should energize inventors and start-ups because building out new products will become less risky and expensive (by the way … that thought translates into an exciting innovation path as the barrier to manufacturing during product development is eliminated – or reduced significantly). Think about this.

That random idea you have in your head that you are struggling to find someone to capitalize and produce can be manufactured on your own and sold on your own.

 

This is such a profound technological change it could turn the economics of manufacturing upside down. Some believe 3D printing will decentralize manufacturing business completely and  reverse the urbanization that accompanies industrialization (I don’t believe that).

I do believe it will change the way manufacturing will be done in the future.

I do believe it will have a ripple effect and create a strong “cottage production industry.”

I do believe it will create some societal ripple effect (allowing stronger ruralization – I made that word up – of America).

 

I do believe that while 3D printing technology is only in its product life infancy that it already shows the same disruptive qualities as the original printing press.

 

As one writer said: “Just as moveable type spread across Europe and democratized knowledge the proliferation of 3D printers eventually promises to democratize creation.” Think about how far this can go.

Developing your own product and designing it and ordering it from the corner cafe on your cellphone.

But.

There will always be a place for economies of scale on some things and some mass production. 3D printing will just create a new aspect to mass production.

(Albeit a big aspect – in my mind).

3D printing can create a manufacturing world in which consumers can design and manufacture their own products.

Look. I know it is impossible to predict the future. And it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing.

But the technology is here. 3D printing is spreading fast as the technology improves and costs fall. A basic 3D printer now costs less than a laser printer did in 1985.

Future innovations are coming.

One last thought.

Why do I feel so strongly about this 3D technology being successful?

It meets a consumer desire.  A want. In fact I could argue … a need. A need from the aspect of self-identity. A want? “I like to have it my way.”  It’s as simple as that. Whenever affordable technology can meet an existent consumer desire (and a desire that many people stifle due to either economic constraints or possibility constraints) that technology has an increased likelihood, an exponentially increased likelihood, of success.

Get ready.

Hold on (‘it may be a bumpy ride and you may be tempted to hold your hands up’ – Charlie Sheen reference).

3D printing is likely to disrupt every manufacturing segment it touches.

I believe 3D printing will be at the core of the next industrial revolution.

capitalism, crisis and cycles

July 22nd, 2010

So. I rarely simply cut & paste an existing article but then I came across this interview. I believe all of us think about the current economic situation and is it a recession or a depression and why it happened and what will happen. This interview with Richard Foster is probably one of the most concise down-to-earth every day language discussions on the topic I have ever seen.

In addition. The concept of creative destruction (which is not about advertising) is one I have always been interested in. Simply it suggests that creative minds in a marketplace, think entrepreneurs & innovators, will ultimately destroy the boundaries of the existing marketplace and in the wake of the destruction a new system will be created. And the cycle will resume. Of course, anyone who follows my thinking know I like cyclical behavioral patterns so of course I liked the interview. Below is a nice image I found from an innovations company which simply shows creative destruction concept.

There are a couple of real gems in here if you fight your way through equities and hedge funds.

 

The essence of capitalism is capitalizing. Such a simple statement that explains the essence of not only our economy but our ethos as a nation. That means at our core we are “growers.” We are happiest when we see opportunities or innovations or new things and capitalize on them.  Literally and figuratively this is a huge thought.

 

– Creation will happen again and will again leave behind the big guys trying to rely solely on operations. For those of us in the world who talk about brands (and really mean companies) and repositioning and revitalizing this thought is very important. As the marketplace cycles we so often seek to freshen stale imagery when the reality is we should be seeking to refresh some creativity WITHIN the company  (that could be attitude, innovation or a variety of things) so that their world becomes bigger than ‘relying solely on operations.” Another huge thought.

 

Anyway.

It’s interesting reading.

Enjoy.

 

A coauthor of Creative Destruction explains how the business world—and the capitalist system—will change in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Richard Foster, a McKinsey director from 1982 to 2004, is a coauthor of Creative Destruction: Why Companies That Are Built to Last Underperform the Market—and How to Successfully Transform Them. In that book, he and Sarah Kaplan argue that to endure, companies must embrace what economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction” and change at the pace and scale of the capital markets, without losing control over current operations. In a recent interview with the Quarterly, Foster offered his view of how the current financial crisis might change the business world and the capitalist system.

 

The Quarterly: How does your vision of creative destruction apply to today’s situation?

 

Richard Foster: Let’s start by looking back. In the 1970s, we had the “Nifty 50”—invulnerable companies that couldn’t possibly lose, and of course they all did. It will be the same today; there will be surprising losers, and survival will come down to simple things, like cash and margins. If you’re a low-margin company without a lot of cash or perhaps with too much leverage, you will not make it. Someone will figure out how to do better.

In the financial-services sector, the upheaval will create a new generation of leaders. Fifty years ago, we didn’t have 8,000 hedge fund managers. Then somebody said, “We can go short as well as long; we have much better information than people did in the 1930s, and the information comes to us instantaneously rather than days after the event. We can make a lot of money modeling and leveraging that information.” So the hedge funds were born. How many of those guys had been successful at mutual-fund management? I don’t think any. They might have been commodity traders, but few were mutual-fund managers. Today, other kinds of people with no experience or expertise will challenge incumbents from outside the industry, and there will be a lot of them. Most of the challengers will fail, but a few will succeed, and they’ll become the heroes of the next generation. If you had to bet on anything, that’s it because that’s what has happened in the past.

 

The Quarterly: Could you elaborate on this life cycle?

 

Richard Foster: In the book, Sarah Kaplan and I show that over the long term, the market performs better than companies do. There can be periods—5, 7, 10, even 15 years—when that isn’t the case, but corporate performance always reverts to a lower level than the market because the economy is changing at a faster pace and on a larger scale than any individual company so far has been able to do without losing control. That’s the challenge: to create, operate, and trade—to divest old businesses and acquire or build new businesses—at the pace and scale of the market without losing control.

The balance among creating, trading, and excelling operationally changes over time. When the economy is in a growth spurt, there’s more creating. Few companies are trading very much and operations are fine. In those circumstances, the newer companies in the economy tend to outperform the index, and the older companies that are only focused on operations underperform the market.

As the market collapses, the weaker upstarts get squeezed out. The survivors are the cash-rich “operators,” which perform at levels closer to the averages, which themselves are lower. Companies that operate well shine in down times, as they are now. Every investor on the planet is looking for companies that have cash left. The turmoil will clear away the weaker companies—the companies that have taken too much risk. This doesn’t mean they’re bad companies; it’s just that they’ve taken on too much risk given their balance sheet resources.

 

The Quarterly: What happens then?

 

Richard Foster: New, young companies that have conserved cash and have solid and often expanding margins surge ahead. When this happened in the ’70s, companies such as The Limited, The Gap, Home Depot, and John Malone’s TeleCommunications Inc. sprung from the burned forest. After the crash of 1987, Microsoft, Oracle, and Amgen took off. Then in the ’90s, we had the Internet companies. Creation will happen again and will again leave behind the big guys trying to rely solely on operations.

 

The Quarterly: To what extent is today’s financial crisis different from earlier ones?

 

Richard Foster: The granddaddy of cycles in this economy is the equity premium, which is the difference between the longer-term total returns to shareholders and the supposedly risk-free debt rate. It is the premium the equity investor gets for taking the equity risk. Looking back, we can see seven great cycles. During the boom times, when the equity premium goes way too high, everybody hocks everything to get in on the game, and this creates the conditions for a crash. When the crash occurs, the politicians come in and say it was this or that person’s fault. Then they create regulatory institutions, and virtually every one of those institutions—starting with the Federal Reserve, in 1913, as a result of the crash of 1907—has been quite productive for the nation in the longer term. This includes the formation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, in 1934; the Investment Company Act, in 1940; the beginning of the end of fixed commission rates in 1970; and the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, in the early 2000s.

 

The Quarterly: What happens in the aftermath of the new regulations?

 

Richard Foster: What do self-respecting entrepreneurs do when subjected to new regulations? They learn the regulations backward and forward and then vow never to start another business that falls within the scope of those regulations. And so off the entrepreneur goes to find a new way. That’s one reason credit default swaps eventually took the form they did—the other options were regulated.

The new entrepreneur often seeks ways to innovate outside the scope of the newly established regulations. In the beginning, all that works out fine. We have innovations, we love the people who created them, they’re great heroes, the returns are strong, everybody says, “I’m going to be one of those guys.” Eventually, all the truly good guys who are going to get into that business have done so. The opportunity starts drawing less savory figures—charlatans who overmarket, cut corners, establish usurious contracts, and do other clever things to generate profit for themselves. They end up bringing the system down. Then guess what happens? At the end of that period, after the equity premium has soared and collapsed again, the government steps in and regulates the systems, this time focusing on the last wave of abuse. And then we start over.

We were getting somewhat better at handling these cycles until 2000, but since then we’ve gotten worse. The collapse of 2008 isn’t like the crash of 1929, because we have the institutions that were created in the last century, and they are very effective. Understanding the differences between the ’30s and today is at least as important as understanding the similarities.

 

The Quarterly: Capitalism has just taken a beating. What will the future look like?

 

Richard Foster: The essence of capitalism is capitalizing—bringing forward the future value of cash to the present so that society can grow more quickly by taking risks. It goes back to the Dutchmen in the 16th century, sitting at their coffeehouses in Amsterdam and Leiden, loaning each other money for a guaranteed return. Someone said, “I’ll give you a little higher return if you give me a piece of the action”—and equity was invented. That had the effect of bringing forward, into real cash today, the net present value of future earnings. That levered society and allowed it to grow at a much higher rate than it would otherwise have. Equity was a very clever invention, and we are not going to give it up. This is the way people are. This is the way commerce works and will continue to work unless capitalism ends. And that won’t happen, regardless of what you read in the press.

the truth in today’s world part 1

May 14th, 2010

rather than love truth

This is kind of a rant and kind of an observation. The observation is that it is sometimes easy to get a much skewed perspective on what is happening in the world if you are not careful (I know I fall into this trap often). The rant is that people sometimes say non factual things as factual statements to stir up an opinion and that isn’t responsible. This is a continuation of some other posts I have written (remapping the Middle East, civilian count versus soldier count) and others upcoming (green energy conference in Delhi – a friend attended – the myth of Palestine and immigration). But. Here goes.

The following is an example of what I often read from people (and it does represent a lot of what I hear):

“Every generation has more worries and fears to face than the previous one. People today live with war and threats of war, more kids having babies, more violence and layoffs … it’s everywhere you turn and this only scratches the surface of a day in the life.”

“even when we’re facing crises that would have destroyed whole cultures as recently as a couple of hundred years ago.”

So. Let’s talk about some truth. Let’s discuss what is really happening in the world in relation to what we just read.

First. I am not going to suggesting there aren’t issues globally. But I may suggest they are not exactly what we believe they are or to the extremes we perceive (on some things). Frankly it is easier to be an alarmist today than at any time in history. Once again it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care. It just means it is tougher today to isolate the real issues from non real issues than ever before.

Second. With the intent to simplify I may be too simple in some things I am sharing. I apologize. There are degrees of everything. I am trying to communicate the core factoid.

Third. Some perceptions and some truths:

–          Islamic terrorism is a large persistent problem that actually involves a very small group of fanatics (but that small number creates an exponentially larger fear and unrest number).

The reality. Since 9-11 the al Qaeda has not been able to mount a single major attack anywhere. Despite all the airport color codes and media related city threats and self made videos they have been able to do nothing. (But it sure feels like they are doing a lot)

Let me stick with Islam for a second.

–          The perception is that Islam is solely a warrior religion and Muslims are attacking our daily lives.

Fact. There are more moderate Muslims in the world (who do not believe in aggression and war) than there are fundamentalists (who are the supporters of aggressive tactics). Indonesia is an excellent example of a “democratic Islamic” country where moderates rule and it is a way of life. The Koran does not condone killing and certainly does not condone suicide deaths. It was actually a Muslim nation in a war against another Muslim country that renewed the concept of jihad. Oh, and “Muslim” is so broad a term it often becomes useless other than to sensationalize what may only be a small segment of the larger group.

–          Violence (or war). As noted above in the editorial italics there is a perception we have more war or threat of war than ever before.

Fact. We are in an extraordinarily calm period in world history. At no time have the odds of one of us dying from some organized group violence been lower. Major countries are just not involving themselves in sheer numbers like the past. Now. I am not trying to diminish atrocities simply thru numbers because even the few are atrocious. But. In terms of sheer numbers (activity or people) we are at a low point in violence.

Say what? (you say about these facts)

So why are some perceptions out of whack?

Never before have we had 24/7 access to images and words heightening each event, each bomb (or bomb threat), each storm (or storm threat), becomes the HUGEST EVENT OF ALL TIME.  It feels like disaster 24/7 thru media. Unfortunately it does not reflect what is really happening in the grand scheme of things (some people call this seeing the trees and missing the forest).

Ok. Next.

How about Middle East?

–          The Muslim geography is in a state of unrest. Iraq. Israel and Palestine all crumbling and fighting before our eyes.

Fact. Lebanon, Dubai, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are all booming economies. Thriving countries (some even more so than US). And, oh by the way, several border Iraq. It is a relatively stable region with possibly less divisiveness then we are seeing in our own country with regard to some key issues.

–          We Americans are feeling uncomfortable, maybe better said, uneasy not only with what is happening in our own country but globally. Everything feels unstable. Why is that so? Here are some reasons:

  1. Surprising success of Developing countries. Ok. Maybe I should refer to them as traditionally referred to as developing (or third world) countries. They are currently outpacing economic growth of developing countries.

Their business models (a unique hybrid of government and private) are often proving to be nimbler and offering                the same quality. Than existing business models (and it’s not just cheap labor).

  1. Decentralized global communities.  Americans find comfort in centralization. Sure. We enjoy state autonomy but find comfort in the bigness of the greater good of USA. Decentralization is scary. It feels unorganized. It feels. Well. Not big. And a lot of the world is reverting back to the quite successful smaller nation state model (a fragmented economy with smaller nations with predatory instincts).
  1. Our Global attitude.

The 2007 Pew Global Attitude survey reflected massive shifts in positive attitudes with regard to democracy open markets and free trade globally (and particularly in nontraditional democratic comfortable countries).

Yet.  USA ranked dead last in support for free trade.

Same study.

  1. Attitudes toward foreign companies.  Even countries with traditional suspicion of western companies (think ex colonies of England USA Belgium France etc) were quite positive with regard to the impact of foreign company involvement. USA was in the bottom five showing little to no interest in foreign companies involved in American economy.

So. The general population believes we should be received positively but do not want to receive.

  1. Our superiority complex is being challenged.

Small thing. But. America is the only country to issue annual report cards on every country in the world. And yet other countries are challenging America’s role globally.

Lastly.

  1. Poverty. Yes. America is in a recession (see word depression if I was allowed to call it that).  But globally economies are on the rise. Our failing is we always seem to focus on prosperity versus poverty (meaning we like to see how high is high versus whether the lowest is rising).

Globally poverty is being addressed. Ok. Poverty still exists and in a number of countries (think about 50 or so with India at the head of the list) it is extraordinary and needs to be fixed. But. Globally the poor are being absorbed into productive and growing economies. The following number seems surreal to Americans but it is a common global standard. One dollar a day. In 1981 the global poverty population living on a dollar a day was 40 percent. In 2004 it was down to 18 percent. By 2015 it is projected to be 12 percent. The world is not becoming affluent but it is becoming less poverty stricken (that is a good thing).

So. There
are some truths globally. Lastly I wanted to comment on “facing crisis that would have destroyed cultures as recently as a couple hundred years ago.” (I am going to ignore the more kids having kids and totally ignore “each generation has more fears than the one before” … yikes … if I had told that to my grandfather I may have been decked).

The comment is simply not true.

The world has faced larger crises and survived. America itself has faced larger crises and survived. History is cyclical and we inevitably innovate which simply increases our ability to manage crisis (unfortunately innovation sometimes also exacerbate the level of crises).

In the end our perspective is being driven by a couple of things that are difficult to solve.

Ours is the first generation of Americans that thinks it can demand perfection in war (zero casualties or think ‘less than 5’ and win).

Our present leisure, wealth, and high technology fool us into thinking that we are superhuman and should always be able to overcome both human and natural disasters (either by foreseeing it or having every plan of action to resolve it on hand).

Accordingly, we become frustrated that we cannot master every obstacle (and often seek to blame). Then, without any benchmarks of comparison from the past, we despair that our actions are failed because they are not perfect. That may be the most important truth I could communicate in this post.

Enlightened Conflict