Archives: September 2006

Microsoft Turns Landmines into Flowers

Looks like the landmine movement will soon reach the desktop. Microsoft is changing the game MINESWEEPER to placate those who thought the game was insensitive to landmine-plagued communities worldwide. With the Vista release you will be able to, at least virtually, turn landmines into flowers ...


There have always been a small but persistent group of users who disliked minesweeper as a concept because they felt it trivialized the problem of land mines. For those of us living in North America, land mines are an abstract entity that you really only see in a movie, but in many parts of the world people are killed or maimed by mines on a daily basis ...

One of the realities of making something with the reach of Windows is that it is almost impossible not to offend someone somewhere with anything you do ...

In the minesweeper case, since we were doing a re-write anyway, we thought it would a good time to address these concerns. We added a preference that allows users to change it from looking for mines in a minefield to looking for flowers in a flower field. Now, personally I am not a fan of using flowers here—I mean, you WANT to find flowers, right?—but this was an established alternative in the market and none of the other ideas we had (dog poo? penguins?) could pass the legal/geopolitics/trademark/etc. hurdles

Even I think this is kind of silly, but since they started ... why stop there? Why not put an option into the game to turn a real minefield into flowers with a link (for those users who find the thought of virtual mines on their computers repugnant) to donate to relief groups that remove REAL mines? Groups like Mines Advisory Group, HALO Trust and Adopt-a-Minefield can always use the money. Now THAT would make a difference.

Event: Hexaware

Tom has traveled from Fajardo to Phoenix. (Is that on the way to Vermont?) He's speaking to a group from Hexaware Technologies, at their Client Summit '06. Theme of the meeting: Reinvent.
The PPT slides are available for downloading here:
XAlways, Hexaware, Phoenix, AZ

IDEO Feature

U.S. News & World Report has a feature story about the design firm IDEO. It's definitely worth reading as it includes some fascinating examples of how IDEO has approached finding solutions to various complex problems, most notably the re-design of an emergency room. We've been watching the progress of IDEO with amazement for years. Founder David Kelley was interviewed about the company as one of our Cool Friends back in 2000. His brother Tom, the general manager of IDEO and who is quoted in the U.S. News article, has appeared as a Cool Friend twice (2001 and 2005). Be careful, though. If you read all four pieces in one sitting, you may catch innovation fever and find yourself compelled to camp out in the yurt in IDEO's lobby.

More YouTube

Someone has posted a short clip of Tom from an HSM event called Sixty Second Insight. Tom talks about talent and how if you can still stand after your "performance," whatever it is, you haven't given it enough.

Have I Got 'Em All?

Two Flags, Puerto Rico and United States

Perhaps surprisingly, this is my first visit to Puerto Rico. It may be "epic" for me. I think this finishes my Tour de U.S.A.+ ... I've been to all 50 states, the Trust Territories of the Pacific (Guam, 1966, on the way to Vietnam), the U.S. Virgin Islands (swiped from Churchill in exchange for a few rusting Destroyers), and now Puerto Rico.

Do we have sovereignty over anybody else? (Iraq doesn't count!)

Event: SHRM

The occasion for Tom's visit to Puerto Rico is the SHRM Convention. That's the Society for Human Resources Management. Their blurb from a Google search goes like this: "Advances the human resource profession to ensure that HR is recognized as an essential partner in developing and executing organizational strategy."
You can get the PPT slides here:
XAlways, SHRM, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
XAlways SHRM Long

Hmmmm …

This week's U.S. News & World Report, in its cover story, observes that in the last 5 years (a more or less "recovery"), entry level wages for college grads have gone down! Women: 3.5%. Men: 7.3%.

That's a big deal given that "intellectual capital" intensity is supposed to keep us afloat for the next few years/decades/"forever."

26 Passions; 5 "Damn Its"

What's the stuff that's really caught my attention over, say, the last 63 years? That was the reporter's question. I'll drop the first 23 and start in Vietnam in 1966. I figure, more or less, that 26 things have really gotten (way) under my skin. I've never had a plan. I proceed from Passion to Passion and let each one take me where it will. Some are eternal; some are transient. Anyway, I decided to foist them on you, accompanied by a little Special Presentation ... what else? (Sorry: Some are in shorthand; most, though, I think are transparent.) To wit:

Leadership Effectiveness (Vietnam: 2 Commanding Officers: "Captain Do it." vs "Captain Plan it.") ... '66-'68 ('06)

Organization Effectiveness (Vietnam Seabee Battalion in the field vs Pentagon) ... '69-'70 ('06)

B>A* (R.F.A.) (*Behavior drives Attitude: Action takes precedence.) ... '71-'06

Implementation = #1 ... '73-'77 ('06)

"Soft is Hard" ("Management Style," etc.) ... '77-'79 ('06)

Soft is Hard: "It's the PEOPLE, stupid!" (Gobs of autonomy!) ... '66-'06

(Org) Structure>Strategy ... '77-'83 ('06)

Strategy-Structure+/ "McKinsey 7-S" Model ... '77-'81

Action>Planning ... '74-'06

Mess = Reality ... '77-'06

Skunkworks/Skunks ("Offline" Innovation/Innovators) ... '84-'91

MBWA/Hands On leadership ... '80-'85 ('06)

Excellence I ... '79-'84

Mid-size biz is cool ... '84-'89 ('06)

Customer service ... '84-'88

Innovation ... '87-'92

Free trade/Hayek ... '90-'92

New Org Models ... '92-'96

PSF ... '92-'06

WOW! (WOW Projects) ... '93-'06

Brand You ... '94-'00

Design ... '94-'06

Women (Markets-Leaders) ... '96-'06

EXCELLENCE II ... '06-??

Healthcare (Quality-Wellness-PatientCentric) ... '06-??

Exuberance-Passion (Soft is Hard) ... '42-'06

Same vein, same media conversation: Some stuff I've tried to do has caught on ... such as my longterm passion for "Customers First" and "Design Mindfulness." But there are 5 areas where I feel stymied. That is, I scream & shout & reason ... and the tectonic plates creak but do not move. (Much.) Well, there has been some movement on the "women's thing" (market potential, leadership) and Brand You ... but neither have reached the "Go For It"/Revolution stage. Well, I'm not gonna take it anymore (not that I really have); I'm going to get more focused & turn up the volume & be more rude. Watch out! The 5 "Damn Its":

* Women (market potential, leadership potential)
* PSF (Professional Service Firm "model" as driving force in Value Added/Intellectual Capital Revolution)
* Brand You.
* R.F.A. ("Bias for Action" from In Search)

Excellence Always

You can see from recent posts that Tom has been adding new ideas to his slides. The special PPTs all get folded into his master presentation, and here it is, the collection of all current slides that Tom pulls from when speaking. Title: XAlways. 1251 slides reflecting his insistence on Excellence Always.

"Built to Last"?

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal's feature piece was titled "Seeking Growth in Urban Areas, Wal*Mart Gets Cold Shoulder." To continue to grow, the argument goes, the only thing left for Wal*Mart is urban areas. Except many of those urban areas don't want 'em. E.g., Boston's mayor said Wal*Mart's not his kind of company. Mayor Menino is not alone. Is this the kiss of death for the Arkansas giant? Hardly! Nonetheless, couple it with bad publicity, pullouts from places like Germany, and a long-dead-in-the-water stock price ... and things could be better. The same can obviously be said for recent times' Utterly Invincible Duo: Microsoft & Dell. (And then there are the Big Pharma embarrassments. Oh, and Ford. And ...)

The day's mail also brought my 2 October Fortune. In an article titled "Bill Ford Finally Joined the Club" (the high growth Deposed CEO's Club), there is a telling ("Telling?" Try: Amazing!) "little" chart. Standard & Poors rates companies as "Low risk," "Average risk," and "High risk"—based on "the ability to achieve long-term stable earnings growth." In 1985, some 41% of big enterprises were "low risk;" and 35% were "high risk." In 2006 the "low risk" group had dropped to just 13%. And the "high risk" gang weighed in at ... 73%.


Not to be smug (sure, Tom), such facts support (1) my long-time skepticism of the "built to last" idea and (2) my Total Skepticism about any "business model" (I hate that term) considered and labeled, as so many are-have been, "the last word"—Dell & Wal*Mart have been accorded that status for the last few years.

(See the wee Special Presentation attached.)