The Age of Speed by Vince Poscente

I was all set to be annoyed by this short book, but ended up being charmed by its cheery good-nature and earnest focus on its theme. The Age of Speed by Vince Poscente is a self-conscious little business book that is a little too aware of itself, and by no means an intellectual heavy-hitter.

Yet, perhaps because of that, it gets the job done. It drives home the message that irrespective of what you are doing (at least in the world of private enterprise), you should probably be learning how to do it faster. The message that the pace of change is important is not new — it goes back at least to Alvin Toffler and Future Shock (1970). What Poscente does is make a neat little case for adopting a certain philosophical attitude towards speed (namely “addiction” — pun not intended).

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Personal Brands, Identity and Perception Management

A friend recently made an abstract remark along the lines of “there is no reality, only perceptions, and life is about managing perceptions.” A common enough sentiment, admitting layers of interpretation depending on whether you are talking about marketing or the nature of reality. “Perception management” as a high concept has helped me, through the years, integrate a rich collection of thoughts on identity and the apparently faddish Web 2.0 idea of personal brands (commonly misunderstood as “You are Your Facebook Profile”). Perception management goes beyond individuals, but let’s stick to the simple case. Here is my current model.

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An MBA in Gordon’s Restaurant

Today, on October 25th, 2007, I make a prediction. There will be a bestselling business management book written in the next two years with the kitchen or restaurant as its primary metaphor, and it will prominently feature Chef Gordon Ramsey. Not primarily because he is an amazing model of a philosopher-warrior-businessman-artist, but because the kitchen, not the battlefield, is the metaphor for business in the 21st century. I might even write the book myself. Here is my first stake in the ground. You’ve probably seen books like the The 10-day MBA and the The 12-Hour MBA Program. Here I channel Ramsey and offer you the 60-minute MBA.

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Iron Filings on Your Brain

Much of work-life balance, I think, is about trying to match what you need to get done to what your current energy pattern can handle. It is no use trying to control your energy patterns — the day-to-day wins and losses around whatever is absorbing you at the moment will drive that. But you can be smart about fitting other things into even the deepest energy troughs. Right now, for instance, having been through a couple of brutal weeks at work, I simply don’t have the energy to finish any of the complex drafts I am working on. But I do have enough energy to write about a simple idea. It’s a trick I use to squeeze the last drop of mental energy out of even the lowest energy trough. I call it the ‘Iron Filings on Your Brain’ trick. Ponder this picture of magnetic lines of force rendered visible by a sprinking of iron filings (public domain image):

magnetic lines of force

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Meditation on Disequilibrium in Nature

The idea of stability is a central organizing concept in mathematics and control theory. Lately I have been pondering a more basic idea: equilibrium, which economists prefer to work with. Looking at some fallen trees this weekend, a point I had appreciated in the abstract hit me in a very tangible form: both stability and equilibrium are intellectual fictions. Here is the sight which sparked this train of thought:

Trees 1

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Whales are Trees

Would you say this object — I present two views — is animal, vegetable or mineral?

Baleen 1 Baleen 2

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Is Jeff Bezos the New Jack Welch?

I don’t usually read the Harvard Business Review because it is inconvenient to read for free, and expensive to pay for, but I happened to dip into the latest issue and was really impressed with the Jeff Bezos interview. Every generation in business is defined by one or two CEOs who manifest and model the defining qualities of the age. With this interview, I think Bezos is in contention for the 2000s.

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Where is I?

I kicked off my writing on consciousness with a post on my overall framing of the problem. Now, by way of warm-up, let’s explore a problem that is confusing and interesting, but not completely mysterious, which I call the problem of indexical extent. The indexical problem is this: assume somebody explains consciousness satisfactorily, and even the existence of specific conscious points of view. Follow-up question: Why are particular conscious points of view associated with particular conscious beings? In particular, why is this particular conscious point of view associated with me? That’s still too hard, so let’s start with a simpler question: “Where is I?” This is the problem of indexical extent.

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The Dawn of the Century of Food

Everybody who gets up on a soapbox at some point needs to make a ritual declaration by finishing the sentence: “The twenty-first century will be about ________.” We’ve heard pronouncements from various gurus that the blank should be filled with 1) China, 2) Chindia, 3) BRIC nations 4) Global warming, 5) Terror, 6) Right-brained thinking, 7) Wisdom (the logic being “something that tops the age of information”) 8 ) Non-profits, 9) Multinationals 10) The aging global population. They are all wrong, and I know what I am talking about because my middle name is actually Guru. The twenty-first century will be about food. It will be a century of amazing progress. All aspects of humanity’s engagement of food: its culture, ethics, taste, healthfulness and philosophy, will get better. And it will all be in large part due to a revolution being ushered in by that much-maligned technology, television.

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Strategy, Tactics, Operations and Doctrine: A decision-language tutorial

Note: the ideas in this post have been significantly refined and turned into a book. The treatment here is somewhat obsolete as a result, but the spirit of my revised arguments remain the same.

Suppose a job candidate walks into your office and hands you a resume. It proclaims, “strategic, systems thinker.” You wince, and almost throw her out right there, but since other parts of her resume look promising, you decide to give her a chance and proceed with the interview. Now ask yourself, how would you actually probe if there is any substance behind the candidate’s claim to strategic abilities? Here is a very good answer: ask the candidate to tell a story. Not any old story, but a relevant one, like how she views the history of development of her field. Or how she views her own personal trajectory. If you can’t figure out why this is an excellent question, read on.

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