Einstein was right

Albert Einstein

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when
we created them.” – Albert Einstein


Einstein was right. In order to solve our problems, be they of healthcare or education or the enterprise, we must look at them with new eyes. The advent of Web 2.0 technologies, social networking, and mobile and cloud computing has given us this ability. We can solve our problems more effectively, less expensively, at any time and with more humanity than ever before.

It may have started as just another smart buzzword, but when Andrew McAfee of MIT coined the phrase and defined the concepts of Enterprise 2.0 over the last few years, he started a movement. It has been a slow one, and one for which we do not yet have all the answers, but one that is increasing in breadth and significance every day. Some only break the surface by adding a “social” technology or two into the enterprise’s portfolio, but others see it as the birth of the “corporate ecosystem.”

It is no longer true that enterprises have finite boundaries. Outsourcing has, at least in theory, integrated other companies with their own cultures into most enterprises. Technology infrastructure has become available as a secure, commodity service to be subscribed to rather than a capital asset to be owned and depreciated. Innovating and keeping product pipelines filled has begun to require enterprises to crowdsource or openly innovate in some way. Customers are using social media and demanding their brands and companies do the same. All of these pressures are breaking down the enterprise walls and forming an ecosystem of people, knowledge and relationships.

I have found success in driving Enterprise 2.0 change into enterprises by “thinking big, starting small and scaling fast.” The first ensures an understanding of what is possible and what is most likely to deliver value quickly. The second provides a level of comfort to those who are skeptical and proves that value can be realized. The third is most important and generally does not end, but is a continuous improvement of tools, processes, information and behaviors getting us ever closer to Enterprise 2.0.

farmland preservation signEarlier this year, Somerset County and Bedminster Township, along with over seventy-five other governing bodies, endorsed the Green Acres, Water Supply and Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Act of 2009. Thus, adding their support to a coalition of more than “135 statewide, local and regional organizations ranging from sportsmen’s groups and environmental organizations to affordable housing and urban park advocates” that is driving “NJ’s Keep it Green Campaign.” Voter approval of Public Question #1 is what is needed to ensure we continue to preserve our parks, wildlife, farms, water, and history.

Preservation in Bedminster
Robert J. Stahl Natural Area sign

As chairwoman of Bedminster’s Open Space-Farmland Preservation Committee, I have the pleasure of seeing first-hand just how valuable preservation is. Over the last twenty-five years, Bedminster has successfully preserved approximately 3,500 acres – 20% of the township. That total includes about twenty farms, three new active recreation parks, and 1,500 acres of natural, open spaces that will never be developed. Early on in our history of preservation, a brilliant $7.5 million Open Space purchase prevented what is now the Bridgewater Mall from being built where we currently enjoy River Road Park and The Robert J. Stahl Natural Area!

A Healthy Future is Possible

By approving this Preservation Act, we invest in a healthy future for our state and ourselves. “A study by the Centers for Disease Control found more than 25% more people exercised three or more days per week when they had access to parks and other outdoor places.” In these tight economic times that means, the Preservation Act can provide a natural exercise areas for an average of $10 per household annually, instead of having to spend $1,000 or more on a gym membership. (Madison Eagle 10/16/09)

cattle farmThe Preservation Act also protects our local food sources and those delicious farm stands we enjoy in and around town. It preserves habitat for diverse, including rare and declining, species of wildlife. It ensures our drinking water is clean and secured for years to come. It guarantees scenic areas like ours continue to attract the hikers, bikers, equestrians, fisherman, sports teams, and other enthusiasts who support local businesses while they enjoy their time here.

Keeping Property Taxes Low & Value High

Our own properties are also positively affected by preservation. Average home prices increase 16% when located near permanently preserved open space (NJCF). “Studies by the American Farmland Trust have shown that for every dollar residential development pays in taxes, it requires on average $1.19 in services. In contrast, farmland requires an average of only 37 cents in services for every dollar it pays in taxes.” Thus, open spaces requiring no municipal services and farmland requiring far less than they pay for help keep our property taxes low. (NorthJersey.com 10/20/09)

For all these reasons and many more, I urge NJ residents to vote yes to Public Question #1 on November 3rd!

UPDATE: Congratulations, NJ! We passed the referendum and now have over $400M to spend on preserving farmland, open space, waterways, and historical sites. W00t!

data worldI bet we look back on May 21, 2009 as an historic day; a day when everything changed…On this day, the Obama Administration, specifically its CIO, Vivek Kundra, announced the launch of Data.gov which “will open up the workings of government by making economic, healthcare, environmental, and other government information available on a single website, allowing the public to access raw data and transform it in innovative ways.”

Obviously, the mere thought of a government opening up its proverbial kimono is amazing enough, the real, grand moment, however, will be when the first applications of this data materialize.  Just as Apple’s AppStore for the iPhone displays the brilliance (and not a little stupidity) of the crowd, Data.gov will bring forth today’s innovative developers and enterprises.  I can’t wait to see what they do!

One day earlier, Google announced it will open up its servers to geographic data from anyone.  This goes beyond its 2005 open API announcement for its map services enabling mashups to “viewing, storing and updating geodata on the web.”  And even with some initial service limitations, this is a win-win for all developers — as they no longer have to manage their own geo-data store — as well as Google itself, who can add this new geo-data to their search results and possibly generate revenue from it.

One week earlier, the Wolfram|Alpha had its soft launch “to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone.” This is a “quest to make knowledge computable.” It also “contains 10+ trillion of pieces of data, 50,000+ types of algorithms and models, and linguistic capabilities for 1000+ domains.”  It is truly amazing to have come so far and daunting to still have so far to go in its endeavors.

What these events all have in common is the super consolidation and subsequent dissemination of the world’s data in the hope of it becoming knowledge and wisdom.  The results could be life-altering, good or bad, but definitely different.

What I hope to also see from these events in my clients and other enterprises is their wake-up from the deep sleep so many of them are in when it comes to dealing with corporate data.  If the above events are the future trend, huge changes need to begin in corporations.

Most of them are so caught up with securing a perimeter that no longer exists, complying with useless but required SOX audits, and working around Legal’s latest inane guidelines, they see all “their data” as confidential and therefore secret.  This often occurs within the silos of the corporation itself, so sharing of data doesn’t even cross lines of business or departments.  It is my hypothesis, as seen in a few leading edge organizations, that there is only a very small percentage (~10%) of all corporate data which is truly confidential or proprietary, and enterprises are losing out on significant opportunities to increase sales, innovate new products/services, or improve operations by not widely disseminating the other 90%.

So, how do we get them to see it?  How do they “consolidate and disseminate” in a way which is secure and appropriate, yet leverages and empowers the employees, partners, vendors, suppliers, stakeholders, peers, and others connected to these companies?  How should companies democratize data?

tesla_resizedAs I struggle to understand why we are propping up a clearly flawed model in our automakers, I am very excited by what I see from the newbies.  Though still too expensive for me at over $57,000, the new Tesla Model S is still extraordinarily impressive — 300 miles on a 45 minute charge and able to go zero to 60 in 5.5 seconds.

Given what we know now, it boggles the mind that Ford dropped Th!nk from its portfolio because it decided to get out of the electronic car business in 2003.  Th!nk has struggled along, mainly in Europe, but has recently secured new financing and plans to push into the U.S. market shortly.  Where they seem to excel is from the modularity of their technology.  They have basically built the core functionality of a car and allowed the battery source and outer shell to be just about anything.  Thus, they are poised for both a B2B and B2C play or both.

It is this kind of ingenuity and innovation, not just in the auto industry, which gets me up in the morning lately.  If we continue to bankroll failed models, however, we prevent or at least delay new innovations and new ideas from reaching viability.  It is easy to play it safe, hard but possibly more rewarding to be out on the edge…

UPDATE. “Electric car startup Tesla Motors has a new partner: German giant Daimler.

The Federal CIO

Though President Obama has yet to announce a CTO, he has announced his choice for Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra.  His choice is a promising one, given Kundra’s fantastic success as CTO for Washington D.C. For example, he saved the city millions by switching off Microsoft’s Office platform and onto Google’s Apps platform for desktop productivity and even crowdsourced technology solutions for the city, saving even more millions in development fees.

O’Reilly has a great summation of audio and video clips describing what Kundra has to say.  Viewing them has given me great hope for the US and our amazing leader who can recognize innovative talent in this traditionally unfathomable space.

Our first CTO…

Could it be? Could we be getting a U.S. Chief Technology Officer? It certainly seems possible, with our most technologically savvy President in office. If we were to have such a role, it would most definitely enable Obama to intelligently craft many of the solutions to the issues he has been talking about, such as healthcare, climate change, energy independence, government 2.0, etc.

Technology Review has a good interview with one of the names being bandied about for holding such a post, Cisco’s Padmasree Warrior.

In my last post, I talked about biomimicry as the answer to most of our human problems. Some of those problems include information dissemination, joint knowledge creation and relationship management.  By looking at the insect world, we can and have solved many of these problems.

dbeeThe insect world seems chaotic, but in reality it is a self-organizing, redundant, highly specialized, centrally managed system.  Colonies of ants and bees, for example, look like chaotic swarms, but in reality their queens give the orders, specialized workers carry out those orders and have backup systems, like chemical trails or poisons, which allow for problems, like invasion or weather, to be surmounted without damaging the overall system.  Individuals “know” each other through their scents or chemical signature and can share experiences and collaborate together once identified as “friends.  Is this beginning to sound familiar?  They may not have perfected smell-o-vision on the Internet yet, but once I “know” who you are, I can “friend” or “follow” you on any number of networking systems today.

Just like in the insect world, the systems we are creating are as diverse as the insects on this planet.  Their diversity stems from how the systems are being used and by whom.  For example, Facebook versus LinkedIn or Twitter versus Yammer where the difference is primarily between personal and business networks. Some of these networks are to ensure relationships are not lost and we can keep up with each other as we move from job to job or place to place.  I’ve found a number of people from school and past jobs through these networks that I never would have otherwise.  Others are focused on sharing information or on collaborating together to develop new knowledge.

I believe there are also classes of users who by using these systems differently are creating sub-systems within the larger network.  Take Twitter users for example.  There are many who use it as a global IM client.  Personally, I find this annoying when done all the time as that information is usually not relevant to more than one or two people.  I often “unfollow” very quickly if that’s all that’s coming across.  Others use it to ask questions or describe thoughts or describe live events as they unfold.  I liken this to the bee that has found a jackpot of pollen and wants every bee to know. My goal is to find jackpot bees from many different gardens so that my Twitterverse is diverse and highly valuable.

I have been finding that for many of the same reasons these technologies are so popular outside of business organizations, they are failing inside those same organizations.  It may be the self-organizing nature of the systems or the perceived lack of control over the information flowing through the system which worries businesses, regardless it is failing in most established businesses.

This year’s TED conference included a talk by Tim Berners-Lee where he spoke of information management being the next big issue to tackle as we tackled the WWW.  This is also true within businesses.  Too many assume all of their information is confidential and thus must be under lock and key, when in reality very little of it is.  It is my hypothesis that this fear of the truly unknown (ie information) is what is preventing a lot of social networking and collaboration from occurring  productively within businesses today.  How do we fix this?


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