The Coming Triumph of the Strengths Movement

A few days ago, in the course of some routine correspondence at work with a colleague at another company, I noticed his email signature: “Win Over Others | Communication | Strategic | Analytical | Activator.” In my reply, I included a postscript, “p.s.: I’d be Intellection| Strategic | Input | Context | Ideation.” If this exchange sounds obscure to you, it’s because you haven’t taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder personality test, which is currently undergoing a fax-machine effect of sorts, creating a whole new language of interpersonal communication. The two sets of five words above are “themes” the test reveals. Chances are, you’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test at some point in your career. I suspect the MBTI is currently the most widely-used test of its sort. Today, I make a prediction: the Clifton StrengthsFinder will displace the Myers-Briggs by 2011. Let me tell you why (and why you should care).

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The Sage of Ribbonfarm #1

Sage 1

(Ribbonfarm is insanely proud to debut a weekly comic panel, inspired by R. K. Laxman’s style. You can contribute your own 1-panel gag ideas through the contact form. The only rule is that the gag must be generally about research and innovation, and that the black-curly-haired guy must be in every scene. Describe the visual and punchline in your suggestion).

The New Location, Location, Location

So far in my series on virtual geography, I have talked mainly about relative location — the 50-foot-rule, the Twitter Zone and the notion of ambient presence are all about where a is in relation to b, in cognitive and physical ways. What can we say about absolute location? The man with the best (and I believe, right) answer is Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, The Flight of the Creative Class and now, what might be his Magnum Opus: Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life

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CEO Badger Picks a CSO

The senior management of Hi-Tech Widgets Inc. was exhausted. A hurried six-month search to replace the lame-duck incumbent CSO, whose succession plans had fallen prey to poaching just as she was planning to leave for a University job, had finally come down to three candidates. The CEO, Badger, dourly reviewed his post-it note of key points over his early-morning coffee.

  • Medium-going-enterprise
  • Steady but not meteoric growth
  • Systems/processes starting to get past teething troubles
  • Startup “innovation-everywhere” culture starting to dissipate
  • Investors looking for more structure to R&D investment, at about 5% of revenues

He sighed. What the note didn’t capture was backdrop of resentments and squabbles.

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Generation Blend by Rob Salkowitz

Generation Blend: Managing Across the Technology Age Gap, by Rob Salkowitz is a book that might have saved me a lot of trouble. I have been managing a social media evangelism effort at Xerox for the past year, and learned many of the lessons in this book the hard way. But then, a year ago, this book probably could not have been written; 2007 was, in many ways, the year these lessons became very clear. The book tries to do three things: describe generational differences in attitudes and approaches towards work and careers, explain them, and examine one aspect of how to manage them: social computing technology. The results, respectively, are very competent, exceeds expectations and competent. Or B+, A+ and B- if you prefer letter grades. But the one A+ is well worth the cost of the book, and it is relatively straightforward to manage around the weaknesses on the other two fronts. It would have been a brilliant book if it had just focused on the explain bit.

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Against Clouds

I don’t usually look to Slate for technology analysis, but I thought I’d blog this as an instance of Nicholas Carr’s ‘Big Switch’ arguments starting to percolate into, and find reactions in, non-techie media (though the author is a credible techie).
clipped from

I think there’s a market for free, Web-based apps that offer basic features. Knock yourselves out, dilettantes. For me, it’ll be years before Photoshop Express can become powerful enough to replace my desktop version, or before Google Docs gets me to uninstall Microsoft Office. I’m not sure I want to. One of the nice things about Word and Photoshop is that once I fire them up and start working, I can forget all about the Internet for a few hours. Sometimes, my PC and I just want to be alone.

  blog it

Inventoritis and the Grabowski Ratio

“Overcoming Inventoritis” by Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa is a little rough diamond of a book. Though it is very amateurishly produced and designed, and reads like a set of long, disorganized, conversational email notes, it is packed densely with interesting practitioner insights, strung together loosely to argue that “Inventoritis” (never explicitly defined, but roughly, ‘falling in love with your idea’) is an extraordinarily dumb thing to do. The centerpiece of the book is an unusual take on the Edison-vs-Tesla argument. Going against the modern practice of making the former out to be a villain and the latter the hero, the authors argue that evaluated right, Edison was the better inventor. A revealing and startling point that anchors the whole argument is that nearly all of Edison’s 1000+ patents were commercialized, while Tesla’s failed at around an 80% rate, especially in his later phase as an inventor.

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The NAE’s Grand Challenges vs. Mine

The US National Academy of Engineers recently released a list of ‘Grand Challenges.’ As you’ve no doubt noticed, this sort of top-down driving of research agendas has picked up pace recently. You also have the new X-prize for a 100mpg car, following on the heels of the one which Burt Rutan won for commercial space flight. A bunch of other X-prizes have also come into being. Google joined the fray with its Lunar X-prize. Consider also the DARPA Grand Challenges. Then of course, there are the Clay Millenium problems in mathematics. Something bothers me about this top-down agenda setting for research, and formal competition as a way to drive innovation. Let’s poke at it by comparing the NAE’s list with mine.

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The Founding Fathers of Technology

I want to propose to you a powerful way of looking at technology. The plural form of the word, technologies, is becoming meaningless. There is only one globe-spanning beast, comprising vast systems of engineering design, production and operations, held together by a web of standards, and a central nervous system called ‘the Internet’ (ever wonder why we use the definite article?) This beast is what answers to the singular noun ‘technology.’ I started exploring this idea in a comic book format recently, in my story Mousetrap 2.0. With Nicholas Carr’s Big Switch, the idea seems set for the big time. In this post I want to introduce you to four of my favorite scientist-engineers, who conceived and enabled the creation of this beast in the short span of 50 years between the end of World War II and the turn of the century. Reading from left to right below, these are: Claude Shannon, Vannevar Bush, Norbert Wiener and Herbert Simon.

shannon.jpg bush.jpgwiener.jpgsimon.jpg

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Johnny Bunko and the Future of Work

Dan Pink, whose work I’ve written about before, is releasing a new book next week that will likely bring to a conclusion a powerful line of thinking about the nature of work, that’s been gathering momentum for about a decade. In doing so, this new book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, will likely spark some controversy, elevate the debate to another level, and frame a whole new set of important questions about the future of work. Johnny Bunko is a deceptively simple and doctrinaire business parable that distills the essence of a strengths-based millennial philosophy of work into a comic-book. So let’s take a look.

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