Category Archives: People

Book Review: Never Eat Alone — with Keith Ferrazzi

Do you know, what it’s like to drive a real Ferrazzi ?  Well, as far as this book is concerned (with a German Edition available as well), this Ferrazzi (model "Keith") clearly is driven by making both a connection and a difference.

Once you got used to sentences starting with expressions such as "networking super-hubs like me" ;-), you find this book to be a suprisingly complete guide to Book cover: "never eat alone" by Keith Ferrazzienhancing your very own interpersonal skills — always one connection at a time.
   At the beginning Keith Ferrazzi convincingly explains, why he believes reaching out to other people and offering your help being together the most effective (if not the only) way towards a happy as well as successful life, constantly telling examples from his own experience. You learn how to define your personal goals and then identify the right people to help you complete it. Then one gets instructions on how to get into the right mindset, while avoiding common pitfalls.
   Afterwards, Keith Ferrazzi teaches you the trade of how to successfully making connections, from in-advance research on the people you would like to meet, over pre-warming "cold" phone calls and adding meaning to small talk by showing some vulnerability, to detailed Book cover: "never eat alone" by Keith Ferrazziadvice on how to make sure, the people you once contacted won’t forget about you, while you still successfully survive the information flood caused by phone calls, appointments and contacts you gather.
   Then you proceed to the advanced concepts, containing guides to mastering typical business scenarios: You learn to systematically expand your network by e.g. finding "anchor tenants" out of other social groupings, getting most out of conferences by adding your own events and finally, well, not eating alone by inviting other people for dinner.
   Here it has to be said, that Keith Ferrazzi knows the art of pulling together the right people inside out and that his single chapter of tips on running successful dinner parties probably makes up for more substance than some entire magazines devoted to solely that topic.

Though some of the author’s advice may need some adjustment to your particular cultural environment, following his guidelines building your own brand by neither giving in to hubris, nor getting boring, will inevitably allow you to get along with other people in your own life much more joy- and successfully.

Want to give Ferrazzi’s practical approaches a try ?  Take this video as an example:

Unfortunately the book-accompanying website has been replaced by the one of its reportedly even more renowned successor Who’s got your back ?. But it’s still worth a visit, especially for Keith Ferrazzi’s blog, containing a multitude of valuable networking tips (many of which "never eat alone" discusses in greater detail…), and its community section where you can connect to and exchange with many other people practicing Ferrazzi-style business networking.

An Opposable Mind: Business Week interview with Roger Martin on "Integrated Thinking™ " as an approach to solving complex problems

This week in an approach to broaden my problem-solving skills and just after having subscribed to ROTMAN Magazine, I came across this highly interesting Business Week Feedroom interview with Roger Martin, the dean of Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto (thus more often than not named “Dean Martin” by the incident… ;-)), who coined and trademarked the term of Integrated Thinking, promoting a "Design" approach towards solving of complex problems.
   This essentially is based on the assumption, that it may be hard to solve new and complex problems by simply applying already existing "models" derived from challenges successfully managed in the past without having to face significant trade-offs caused by the obvious contradictory nature of these pre-existing solutions.
   What to do, if you are in a highly competitive market (and who isn’t these days…) ?  Cut costs or drive innovation by further increasing them ?
   In his ROTMAN magazine article Choices, Conflict and the Creative Spark [PDF, 385 KB] Roger Martin discusses how a more holistic way of addressing an issue can lead out of the dilemma of having first to choose between and then to act upon one of seemingly contradictory models by instead drawing from all of them to create a completely new approach.

So integrated thinking people are those, who…

…the capacity to hold two diametrically-opposed ideas in their heads. And then, without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other, they are able to produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea.

The advantage:

Integrative Thinking shows us a way past the binary limits of ‘either/or.’ It shows us that there is a way to integrate the advantages of one solution without canceling out the advantages of an alternative solution, affording us, in the words of the poet Wallace Stevens, “the choice not between, but of.”

And despite the common believe, that this integrated way of working on complex issues likely was unique to people mostly considered "geniuses" of their time, Martin argues, that the capability of creating new successful and elegant ideas from (at least by "proven" measures…) opposable concepts indeed may possibly be trained and learned by many of us. This would lead to the de-facto conclusion, that Integrative Thinking is largely a tacit skill in the heads of people who have cultivated their opposable mind.

And at this very point of time Dean Roger Martin and his students are working on a proof of the assumption…

OUTSIDE INnovation by Patty Seybold

Admittedly, I’m late. Patricia “Patty” B. Seybold’s work OUTSIDE INnovation already came out more than two years ago. And even though I started reading (or better: ‘devouring’) the first chapters immediately after it hit the bookstores in October 2006, the changes in my life, business and the moving left me up with always delaying OUTSIDE INNOVATION book cover this post until now. So what can I say after having lots of time to think through its ideas and concepts ?  Well, she got even better. :-)  The new book is even more fun to read than the earlier ones. Also the new structure with bite-sized information chunks is very pleasing if you don’t have a lot of time to read chapters in one piece. Though, now you have to pay attention in order to keep up with the thoughtfully chosen information structure, if you want to get all of the causal connections right.

However (again) Patty has done a terrific job assembling the case studies of quite renowned firms from Europe and the US.

Right a the beginning the reader gets an introduction into which changes have occured to corporate innovation efforts and where the author sees her customer-focussed approach to foster and collect innovative concepts right from a company’s customers related to the traditional ivory tower paradigm of traditional corporated R&D labs (“if we build it they will come”).

As these are:

  • finding lead users in your respective industry, giving them the tools to customize your products and then, in return, letting their inventions influence your product development
  • engaging with the most visionary customers to co-design new products, services and processes
  • enabling customers to help one other, share new concepts and build on top of each others ideas

Currently working for a personalized goods company myself, I’d personally recommend this read to any product manager, CEO and all controllers still thinking, continuously throwing out new cheap “quick & dirty” products was be the most effective way to e-commerce.

Buzz: Semantic Web in The Economist and on Tim’s Radar

It’s been Tim O’Reilly who wrote on his "Radar"about the perception of the Semantic Web as it has been reported by The Economist in a mistaken context recently, as a sort of name for any Web 2.0 application which seems to think — supposed to be many of them.
   Though, Tim uses the opportunity for an explanaition where he thinks the differences are and where the two may come together. The day after, he quotes different approaches and hurdles towards making semantic content reality.
Here is, what I commented on the articles:

Being a Semantic Web project leader myself, one major difference between the Semantic Web (narrower sense) and Web 2.0 to me seems that the latter for most people (including myself) is describing an outcome or at least a resulting type of application, while the first one obviously is just one of many available vehicles to achieve this outcome.
Using the Semantic Web as a way to build a Web 2.0 application has obvious disadvantages:

  1. You need much longer to get your pants on: There are about 1,400 pages of standards and methods between you and your first app and even more documentation assumed to be missing for the tools you are about to use in order to get it programmed…
  2. Your learning curve is pretty steep, even until you and your crew just got the most basic concepts. We ended up, splitting the tasks of programming (JAVA recommended) and data-modelling/markup-writing between different people, as it turned out that both tasks required a quite different mindset.

On the other hand it turned out, that with all of the additional work come some quite unexpected results:

  1. If you do it properly, you really only got to do it once. We actually found ourselves reusing our first creations quite early, as well as deploying those provided by other people with ease. The Semantic Web’s consequent standardization approach really allows you repurposing your stuff quite early — just like many others claimed it before and you never got there.
  2. Semantic Web data clearly takes away the pain from sharing data accross company- or other technical boundaries, because you already got your processing in place for whatever is going to come in from out there or vice versa.

Our result: If you are really about to create a single-domain application with only a limited need to exchange data with the outside (such as users ubloading files or developers submitting a bunch of parameters), most likely the Semantic Web approach will be a waste of production time and therefore money (at least until better developer tools become available).
Nevertheless, the more different and independent (!) from each other the various parties are (for instance when you may be building an exchange or trading platform) who are supposed to use the resulting applications, the more it’s probably worth considering to go through the accompanying hassle and get your feet wet with Semantic Web technologies.

Some currently argue that the Semantic Web (which I am admittedly very passionate about…) will never become real or at least useful, because it would need to many people to translate everything on the web and in the world into semantic expressions.
   But who talked about everything ? Prominent non-semantic applications like Wikipedia or even search engines’ ‘suggest’ features have shown us, that enough to be useful can be reached within several thousands, rather than millions or billions of entries.
   Which is (with regard to the web’s global scale) not very much actually… — especially as the Semantic Web technology has already been adopted for real applications (often just for internal use) by companies such as Adobe, Vodafone, Audi (the carmaker) and a bunch of well-known others.
This seems to me being quite similar to the early XML adoption at the end of last century: No-one really knew if this was going to be useful or just an IT fad as they had already seen so many.

So let’s handle Semantic Web technology just like we did it back then with XML: Wait, and see what people are going to figure out which purposes this is usable for… :-) :-)

What do YOU think ?  Is this the way to go ?  Any other elaborate concepts ?  I’d really appreciate to hear your input on this !!!

Jens Kunath: Answering my Start-Up Founder-Type Question on his Blog

Web 2.0 Angel Investor Jens Kunath just answered my question about preferred character types of founders when choosing a start up for an investment.
As a basic result he mentions on his blog, that within the initial founding state enthusiasm and rock solid knowledge about what is going on on the web are way more important to him than detailed knowledge of controlling or marketing.
   Though he also mentions, that this becomes more important the further the company grows.
Thanks for the comment, Jens. :-) :-)
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