Archives: May 2007

Event: Stockholm

Tom's visit to Sweden continues today in Stockholm. If you attended the Bestseller event, we'd like to hear from you. And if you'd like to download the slides, you can do so here:
XAlways, Stockholm

Event Slides: Göteborg

Last week Tom was in Mauritius. This week he's in Sweden, speaking to a group in the port of Göteborg. American spelling is Gothenburg, but Tom likes to use the same spelling as his hosts. In that spirit, I'm providing a link to a Swedish-language website about the city. If I'm wrong about what language it is, please let me know! We'd also like to hear from you if you attended the event.

For copies of the PPT files, you can use these links:
XAlways, Göteborg, Sweden
XAlways, Long Version, Göteborg

Mauritius & Memorial Day

Beach in Mauritius

Alas, Memorial Day finds me on the road. Then again, there are a lot of our troops on the road today as well. My thoughts go to everyone who is serving, but especially to those in Iraq and Afghanistan. And a particularly special thought is aimed at Keith Bishop, husband of our Abbey Bishop. Thanks, Keith.

It seems odd to combine thoughts of Iraq and beautiful Mauritius. But it's where I was, and you'll see a bit of it above and below. Note the lovely (to me) old boat that also served its time, and no doubt with distinction.

As wealth grows in India and the Middle East, and as Boomer restlessness accelerates from every corner of the globe, Mauritius stands poised to become a primo travel destination. Middle Eastern investment money is already flowing in, full tilt.

(Am in Göteborg, Sweden, as I write.)

Weathered side of a wooden boat

New Master

Tom has updated his Master Slides once again, and separated it into three parts to make downloading easier. And the three categories of slides that Tom considers to be the logical breakdown of his message? 1) Innovation, 2) Value added, and 3) People.

Part 1, Innovation, XAlwaysMaster2007
Part 2, Value Added, XAlwaysMaster2007
Part 3, People, XAlwaysMaster2007

53 Hours, But Who's Counting? Me!

After, count 'em, 53 hours ... West Tinmouth VT to Boston to London to Johannesburg to Mauritius ... I'm ensconced in a fabulous oceanfront room at the Meridien hotel. I barely survived (remember, 53 hours in the same underwear) a TV crew that was waiting, upon my arrival at the hotel. The all-day seminar is for local business and government leaders.

[To download the slides, use the link below. It takes a while, the file is 6.3 MB.—CM]
XAlways, Innovate or Die, Mauritius

Cool Friend: Bayley

Stephen Bayley is the coauthor (with Roger Mavity) of Life's a Pitch ... How to Be Businesslike with Your Emotional Life and Emotional with Your Business Life. He introduces the book this way:

What we've written here is almost the ultimate design book, because it's about how to design yourself ... how to create a winning and attractive personality ... how to get to "yes" in an argument or presentation. So, the book is about the self—communication, self-presentation, and how we create impressions. It's a book about design, but design that is applied to people and ideas ...

And, having been the first chief executive of London's Design Museum, Stephen knows his topic. You can read the rest of his Cool Friends interview here. Or visit his website,, and his book website, Welcome to the Cool Friends, Stephen!


Check out the comments to "Packing Light(?)." There are superb links, worth a chunk of time, far better than I'd have offered ... I guess that's the whole point of Blogging, eh?

Thatcher's Shadow, Flat World, Etc.

Sign reading Fire Assembly Point

Just another ho-hum day in the Global Economy, circa 2007.

(Speaking of the global economy, above is a charming picture of my view from the Heathrow Terminal 4 Hilton, where I'm hanging out for 10 hours between my Boston to London flight and my London to Johannesburg flight. A little different from Vermont in full Spring bloom at this time yesterday. So, why do I do this?)

Iconic Books

I'd never had in one place that list of books I offered yesterday. For me it is a very big deal, like publishing the Source Code for Tom. Hence, I put together this little PowerPoint version of the list, with a couple of additions that speak to the issue of non-rational factors in "life's little outcomes."

Packing Light(?)

Packing for Mauritius, Sweden, and misc American destinations. Thanks to British carryon restrictions, pruning of my normal load is mandatory.


I am really & truly uncomfortable unless I am accompanied by my "bibles," or a hearty subset thereof.

As I've said many times before, all my training and observation cause me to throw oceans of icy water on the idea of linearity, rationality, and plans that matter.

Hence my biblical/iconic books, several mentioned before:

#1, no contender for the spot, Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It starts this way: "This book is about luck disguised and perceived as non-luck (that is, skills) and more generally randomness disguised and perceived as non-randomness. It manifests itself in the shape of the lucky fool, defined as a person who benefited from a disproportionate share of luck but attributed his success to some other, generally precise reason." "We underestimate the share of randomness in just about everything, a point that might not merit a book—except when it is the specialist who is the fool of all fools." "Mild success can be explainable by skills and labor. Wild success is attributable to variance."

Mr Taleb, a Wall Street trader among other incarnations, has favored us with a companion: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

Mr Taleb waxes poetic about the work of Philip Tetlock. My tome of Tetlock's is Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? Experts take a beating (thrashing is more like it) in these insanely well researched pages. A sample from the dust jacket: "A fox, the thinker who knows many little things, draws from an eclectic array of disciplines, and is better able to improvise in response to changing events, is more successful in predicting the future than the hedgehog, who knows one big thing, toils devotedly within one tradition, and imposes formulaic solutions on ill defined problems."

Two others in this genre:

Scott Page's The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. Consider: "Diverse groups of problem solvers—groups of people with diverse tools—consistently outperformed groups of the best and the brightest. If I formed two groups, one random (and therefore diverse) and one consisting of the best individual performers, the first group almost always did better. ... Diversity trumped ability."

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. More of the same ... I can never get enough.

My oldest friend in my iconic stack, perhaps read (cover to cover) at least a half dozen times, is Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould. Once more, at the heart of the matter are discussions of various sorts of statistical distributions. I fell in love all over again, dare I admit it, with the importance of standard deviations in a set of observations.

Whoops, I lied. My oldest pal is Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases, by Nobel Laureate (economics) Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic, and Amos Tversky. The distortions in our perceptions of events is the subject of this pioneering, seminal, and thoroughly researched work, which arrived in 1982, the same year as In Search of Excellence.

Along those same lines as Kahneman et al., I am taking with me Cordelia Fine's spanking new A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives. "Your brain has some shifty habits that leave the truth distorted and disguised. Your brain is vainglorious. It's emotional and immoral. It deludes you. It is pigheaded, secretive, and weak willed. Oh, and it's also a bigot." (What's not to love about that as a starter?)

Along the same vein, my core approach to innovation is to examine the real world, the messy stories about how new stuff really arrives on the scene. Such as:

An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States—Charles Beard (1913)

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger—Marc Levinson

Tube: The Invention of Television—David & Marshall Fisher

Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World—Jill Jonnes

The Soul of a New Machine—Tracy Kidder

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA—Brenda Maddox

The Blitzkrieg Myth—John Mosier

Indeed, I can hardly jam this set into a bag that must accommodate the climates of Mauritius, Sweden and California over the course of the next ten days or so. Nonetheless, the spirit of these works will, as always, color my observations beyond measure.