Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is Your Innovation Really Unnovation?

Is Your Innovation Really Unnovation? - Umair Haque -
In the race to innovate, most organizations forget a simple but fundamental economic truth. A new process, product, service, business design, or strategy can only be described as an innovation if it results in (or is the result of) authentic, durable economic gains.

The post goes on to describe what innovation and unnovation is using familiar examples from today's business world.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

HBR :: Why You Should Encourage Weakness

Why You Should Encourage Weakness - Peter Bregman -
Little Johnny comes home one day, looks down at his feet, and gives you his report card. You smile at him as you open it up and look inside. Then your smile disappears when you see the F in math. You also see an A (English) and two Bs (history and science). You look down at little Johnny and ask, "What happened in math, Johnny? Why did you get this F?"

A useful article on performance reviews, for both parents and managers. We are all familiar with the example above and more often than not have gotten the same reaction from our parents as well. What we learn as children naturally have an effect on how we handle similar situations as adults. Something I often find myself saying is that "Each individual comes with a unique set of talents". Obviously a recruiter can't gauge them at an interview. But a few months down the line, clear patterns start emerging and the more you observe the more you will understand someone's strengths and weaknesses. I agree with the author of the article that, instead of trying to make the individual excel in his weak areas, a good manager should put emphasis on the strengths and ensure they manage to get away with a "C" in the weak areas.

Read the article, it's more interesting than my preview :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

HBR :: Why Google's One-Trick Pony Struggles to Learn New Tricks

Why Google's One-Trick Pony Struggles to Learn New Tricks - Conversation Starter -
But Google faces a tough situation in that, in 2008, 97% of its revenues come from Web advertising, and 68% of that advertising is on its own Web sites. That's down only slightly from 69% in 2007. This is a problem because while Google has been on a torrid growth pace for the past few years, it's essentially a one-trick pony: search advertising. Make no mistake, it's a very nice trick, but one that has little upside outside of organic growth. And Google isn't likely to grow much more in search advertising given its dominance, especially in advertising-rich markets like the United States.

Being at the right place at the right time can take one so far. Somewhere down the line, to sustain growth and survive, you have to do things the old fashioned way. You know, the boring stuff, like market analysis, competitor profiling, growth forecasting etc., etc? This is why value investors such as Warren Buffet has always avoided investing in IT companies. Here are some quotes from an interview immediately after the dot com burst in 2001 (other than "I told you so!").

"The fact is that a bubble market has allowed the creation of bubble companies, entities designed more with an eye to making money off investors rather than for them."
Cort had all the right ingredients for a purchase: "a fine though unglamorous business, an outstanding manager and a price... that made sense." [on his acquisition of Cort Business Services]

So here's a goal for the new IT entrepreneur. Create a company with solid business roots. A company worthy of Warren Buffet's attention. If he  one day invests in your company, you have achieved something no one in your industry has achieved so far.

Maven : An unexpected error has been detected by HotSpot Virtual Machine

I was running a Maven2 build of a fairly large project when suddenly my VM said "An unexpected error has been detected by HotSpot Virtual Machine", keeled over, and died. Like a faithful Java programmer I ran the build again ... no luck! However, before it died, the VM wrote a log file. An ideal starting point for a post mortem, yet not much useful data. But I did notice an interesting line there ...
VM Mutex/Monitor currently owned by a thread:  ([mutex/lock_event])
[0x0805c388/0x0805c3b0] Threads_lock - owner thread: 0x08100b80
[0x0805c7d8/0x0805c7f0] Heap_lock - owner thread: 0x0805cf38
Looks like even the gods at Sun write Thread Unsafe code once in a while, not just us mere mortals. So I Googled around since Sun's explanation of this type of error was not very helpful. Apparently the Inet4AddressImpl of Sun isn't thread safe (or is it their IPV6 stack? see comments below), which is the root cause of this particular problem. The solution I came across was to use the VM option with Maven2.

My VM: Java HotSpot(TM) Server VM (1.5.0_16-b02) for linux-x86

Monday, May 11, 2009

The world needs a super sovereign currency!

The People's Bank of China--Speeches
"When a national currency is used in pricing primary commodities, trade settlements and is adopted as a reserve currency globally, efforts of the monetary authority issuing such a currency to address its economic imbalances by adjusting exchange rate would be made in vain, as its currency serves as a benchmark for many other currencies. While benefiting from a widely accepted reserve currency, the globalization also suffers from the flaws of such a system. The frequency and increasing intensity of financial crises following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system suggests the costs of such a system to the world may have exceeded its benefits. The price is becoming increasingly higher, not only for the users, but also for the issuers of the reserve currencies. Although crisis may not necessarily be an intended result of the issuing authorities, it is an inevitable outcome of the institutional flaws."
The above is an excerpt from the proposal by the Governor of the People's Bank of China presented at the G20 Meetings. A timely proposal and I hope India, Russia and other nations will help carry this to completion. Why? for several reasons.
  1. One of the purposes of establishing the IMF was just this. Instead, today it is reduced to the status of a Bully used by certain western nations to threaten everyone else. Especially developing nations (Ok. That was partially a rant, than a sound economic reason).
  2. The dilemma of effectively addressing domestic and international demands would not be present in such a super sovereign currency. In other words, the Triffin paradox, which is inherent in the present system can be negated.  
  3. Globalization. Somewhere, somehow in the past, the US suceeded in pushing their local currency to the status of the global reserve currency. This doesn't mean it's right. In the face of the current global economic collapse (partially attributable to this monetary system), it is time for the world to say "Enough is enough!".
  4. The US has benefited from the wide acceptance of it's currency. But the cost bared by the global economy can't be justified. Simply said, bad fiscal policy decisions made by them now have global repercussions. What kind of a twisted system is that?
We can spend days arguing about how we arrived at the current situation or we can make a genuine effort to change it. We can argue about how the headquarters of key global institutions such as the UN and IMF ended up in Washington instead of Geneva or we can change it. And if the dissolution of these puppet institutions seems the logical solution, countries like Russia, China and even India should not be afraid to pursue it.