The other night, I was in the Bettr@ office in Beijing, which is not but a 10 minute walk from the hotel that I’m staying at (the Sariz international, which is pretty nice since it has a gym). It was kind of late, and I was the only one left in the office. I asked Jeff if it was safe to walk home and he suggested I “run” but that it should be pretty safe. After looking outside, it was pretty dark and rainy so I decided to take a cab. When I got in the cab I tried to recollect how to get home (keep in mind, it’s literally only like 4-5 blocks away).
I guess I never realized this before, but it’s extremely disorienting to try to register landmarks when you can’t read the characters around you.
When you’re in the States (or somewhere else where the character type is the same as the Latin alphabet), you can look around, and recognize the name of a certain place or even the logo of a company. Even if you’re not actually actively reading the letters, you are subconsciously recognizing them.
In Beijing, I can’t read any of the words, and everything looks the same to me. So I ended up paying more for a cab than I needed to and it took me 20 minutes to get home instead of 10 just by walking.
Why is any of this important?
Well, it made me think of how often we take for granted that we can understand our surroundings, and the situation we’re currently in, and a strong sense of control that we can change that situation if we want to. We have (or at least I had) a certain level of confidence that stuff *can be* figured out. There’s a certain feeling of safety in “knowing” things that we can rely on.
I wonder if this is what it feels like to be a disenfranchised poor person in a developing world. You don’t really have the safety of looking around and always “knowing” what’s going on or feeling like you’re in control of the situation. Yikes. That worldview is completely antithetical to risk taking, entrepreneurship, and the sense that one can improve one’s own lot in life. It’s disheartening, desolate, and defeatist.
And as we know (or are learning more about), perspectives on the world matter a lot. In fact, that may be all that matters– far more important than the resources and natural abilities that a sovereign state is endowed with. Related: One of the very few things that I actually learned in bschool in a strategic competitiveness class in a note I jotted down: “You can choose to compete” from a Singapore case study.
There are some great little nuggets in this article:
Education is on the cusp of a transformation because of recent scientific findings in neuroscience, psychology, and machine learning that are converging to create foundations for a new science of learning.
Writing in Friday’s (July 17) edition of the journal Science, researchers report that this shift is being driven by three principles that are emerging from cross-disciplinary work: learning is computational, learning is social, and learning is supported by brain circuits linking perception and action that connect people to one another.
“We can learn what to do by watching others, and we also can come to understand other people through our own actions,” Meltzoff said. “Learning is bi-directional.”
“Educators know children spend 80 percent of their waking time away from school and children are learning deeply and enthusiastically in museums, in community centers, from online games and in all sorts of venues. A lot of this learning is highly social and clues from informal learning may be applied to school to enhance learning. Why is it that a kid who is so good at figuring out baseball batting averages is failing math in school?” said Meltzoff.
This is completely unrelated to bettr@, but I was looking through my notebook for stuff from the WFS conference and remember listening to a discussion about subvocalization and intercepting signals from the brain before they hit your vocal cords.
This technology could be pretty awesome in due time. Some pretty amazing possibilities here, including never having to listen to an annoying overly loud voice again.
You have to love publishers who are trapped in old models of conducting business: connecting people who had unique and interesting ideas about the world, the lumberjacks to cut down trees to make paper, and the distribution channels like a bookstore, Amazon.com, or in some cases, oligopolistic grasp over school boards (in the case of textbooks).
In design school (and in my entrepreneurship courses at Bschool), there is always a lot of talk about disruptive innovation. The standard claim, that Clay Christensen
espouses, is that large companies are uninterested in small markets, and so they wait until small, scrappy, lean startups create compelling products, businesses, and models that are working.
While this might be the primary reason, I believe that years of calcified experience deeply embedded into one’s mental model prevents efforts to establish new markets in the first place.
For instance, how many people have heard of textbook publishers creating e-books? I remember as an undergrad that e-books were supposed to be the next big thing. Personally, I was all excited because I thought I would have to pay a lot less, and could gain a lot more benefit if the books were digitized and online.
Here we are a little shy of a decade later: how many people do you know that actually used e-books on a regular basis? What are they actually used for?
Amused by this, I was hunting around looking for information and I found this slideshare presentation on e-books. Really interesting takeaways:
– Years of web interaction have instilled “lazy” search habits, and so people tend to “satisfice” for the fastest, mostly right (or in some cases, mostly popular resources). Just like in democracy though, full majority rule doesn’t always work and you need to safeguard the interests of minority groups. What is the implication of this for search consumers looking for content regarding climate change? would you rather see what is popular, or what is fringe (and possibly truer!)?
- Associated to this is the issue of findability within a collection: students using a most efficient path to a “good enough” answer are actually unaware of what they are not finding. Is there anyone out there who thinks this is really frightening?
- Students have positive expectations of e-books, until they find them and use them. This in itself is an interesting discovery. We are quintessentially judging an entire medium by its cover.
- There are some takeaways that are more obvious, that are related to searching, and actually reading the book. oftentimes print is preferred for reading (portability, annotations, marginalia). Convenience and cost savings are huge drivers in using e-books. before someone actually purchases or acquires the book, there is a perception that they can just read the whole thing online. it turns out that this is not the case, And the e-book mostly just ends up sitting there unread. At Bettr@, we often talk about the problem of books sitting unread on someone’s shelf ( and as Don Tapscott said in his lecture @ WFS2009, most digital natives just plain don’t read books, and they’re no stupider for it)
As we look to the future of Bettr@, we plan to add features with a keen understanding of how students and learners are navigating, finding, retaining, and recalling information that would otherwise be delivered using eBooks.
I just switched to Disqus commenting (I’m a huge fan of Disqus. Not that I get a ton of comments on here, but I haven’t been posting a ton in the past several months, which I fully intend on changing. For reals. In part I was reinvigorated to communicate the dire situation that our world is in by the World Future Society conference, which reminded me of the real reason for working on a startup and having an exit strategy & profit motive in mind.
As a sidenote, we’re getting a little tired of the bloggers that have switched to twitter and have effectively stopped thinking for long enough to put out half decent, original content, or at least have a clearly communicated point of view on someone else’s content (like the Jason Kottkes and Cory Doctorows of the world)
If you want to be scared and motivated to do something about it, read this, the 2009 State of the Future. (That’s not the actual book, just a summary.
By the way, did you know that organized crime accounts for more deadweight loss than the defense spending of all the countries in our world put together? If that isn’t a collective b@#$* smack in the face, I don’t know what is.
I rarely buy things, being a recent graduate student saddled with loans and working on an exciting new lean startup, Bettr@. (When do you actually have the time anyway?)
Here’s a useful lifehack I’ve found for saving money at Amazon.com that you may have tried. Instead of using a wishlist for yourself, just save stuff in your cart for later.
1- allows you to essentially ALWAYS get FREE super saver shipping. If you want to purchase an item for $15 but want free shipping, just take the item from the “saved for later” pile and click “Move to Cart” to take the total over $25. And Ouila! Free.
Often times you get useful messages about price signals at the top of the page, below the annoying and irrelevant ads. The “Das Leben Der Anderen (Lives of Others)” DVD that I wanted to give to little bro, which used to be 15.99 is now 10.99. I wasn’t planning on purchasing it at 15.99 earlier, but I sure would be at 10.99.
As a sidenote, I love price discrimination that helps the consumer when I’m the consumer. I have a draft entry for a post envisioning the future of variable and even dynamic pricing that I’ll work on later.
The Shift Report from the Deloitte Innovation Center for the Edge just came out, and some of the findings were fascinating. The executive summary and the findings make well reasoned, intuitive sense.
What’s great about it is that a lot of it fits directly in line with what we’re envisioning with Bettr@. I feel like I say that all the time, but it’s hard not to. But I’m dead serious. Look at the quote below (I’m borrowing from the Bettr@ blog at this point). I swear to you, we didn’t pay JSB or John Hagel to write this.
Worker passion also appears to be an important amplifier. When people are engaged with their work, they seek ways to connect with others who share their passion and who can help them get better faster. In this case, management can play an important role: identify those who are adept participants in knowledge flows, provide them with platforms and tools to pursue their passions, and then celebrate their successes to inspire others.
Ultimately, I believe that the report has huge implications for what it means to be a manager/leader in the 21st century. This quote expresses clearly why places like the IIT Institute of Design make perfect sense.
Leaders must move beyond expense cuts and instead decide which assets, metrics, operations and practices have the greatest potential to generate long-term profitable growth. They must keep coming back to the most basic question of all: What business are we really in?
It’s not just about being lean; it’s also about making investments in the future. One of the easiest ways companies can achieve the performance improvements promised by technology is to jettison the distinction between “creative talent” and the rest of the organization. All workers can improve their performance by engaging in creative problem solving.
A good friend and former coworker, Craig Sahrmann, sent me this article from the Wall Street Journal a while ago.. as in more than 4 months (Jeez, I gotta stop making draft blog posts, it’s a horrible practice)
The article is titled “The Secrets of Marketing in a Web2.0 World“.
This tiny piece of advice interested me the most:
Find a ‘marketing technopologist.’
So who should direct a company’s forays into Web 2.0 marketing? A number of managers identified an ideal set of skills for an executive that go beyond those of a typical M.B.A. holder or tech expert. We coined the term marketing technopologist for a person who brings together strengths in marketing, technology and social interaction. A manager said, “I’d want to see someone with the usual M.B.A. consultant’s background, strong interest in psychology and sociology, and good social-networking skills throughout the organization.“
So…what kinds of roles do technopologists actually take within an organization? Literally, what would one look up on LinkedIn? The thing about large companies, seemingly, is that they have these quasi formal sounding titles that make it really hard for me to figure out WHO to talk to at a company to tell them about working with Bettr@ in a partnership role. Is it “social media strategist”? It’d be great to know. Also, it would be great to know how large their budgets are and how much discretionary spending they are allowed per year.
p.s. if i weren’t starting Bettr@ right now, I feel like being a technopologist or whateveritscalled is a pretty sweet job if you liked the safety and sameness of working for a large slow moving company.
Kevin and I were out on a little scavenger hunt today, looking in a magazine related to Running to see how much stuff in it was actually valuable and relevant content related to running vs how much was self serving, irrelevant advertising.
The results were not too surprising: Most of the content was irrelevant advertising, and obviously being a mass channel, the magazine doesn’t really even have the capacity to be “custom” in any way
In any event, I was intrigued by this particular shelf in B Dalton (yes, apparently they’re still in business). Notice it says gift ideas? Well, if you look closely (you may have to open it in Flickr), the entire shelf is about getting better at stuff. Cooking, Fitness, Design. In fact, it says the word “Textbooks” above the shelf.
We weren’t exactly sure if the sign was in the right place or not, but we found it fascinating that the bookstore perceived the content on the shelves as the perfect gifts for another person. Wouldn’t those gifts be so much better if they were bespoke or tailored to the person you gave ‘em to?
This seems to be the year of weddings. My best bud from undergrad got married this past weekend, and I got to see some of my friends from school come to Chicago for the wedding. I even got to roast Nabeel with a Keynote slideshow, which was the most fun I’ve ever had giving a presentation, let me tell you. As they say, there’s an app for that and it’s only $7.99. And it works great! Just a few tips if you’re going to use it:
If you are presenting in a wifi free area, you can set up a personal network using your airport on your mac. Just click on the wifi icon in the top right menu bar on your computer, select “Create Network”. I renamed mine to one word, left the channel 11, and hit OK. Then I connected to it using the iPhone.
You have to make sure that the presentation remote software is running. You can get it here. Sometimes, when you turn the phone off, or the computer goes to sleep, you need to Unpair and then Pair the iPhone. Doing this allows you to see the Keynote presentation faster than waiting for it to refresh.
Select the personal network I just created, Presentation.
Here’s the notes from the Keynote document, and the slide number. If I want to move forward, I just flick the screen to the left.
This is actually driving the preso on the laptop. Sweet, eh?
Anyway, I think Nabeel’s roast went really well, and I was able to refer back to my notes briefly through each slide while I was at the table waiting to begin. I wish that Wooji had the ability to actually store a copy of the presentation locally on my iPhone and practice it while I was on the subway, but maybe that’s coming in a future revision?