Archive for March, 2013

Book: How to Deliver a TED Talk by Jeremey Donovan

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Just finished reading this book. Thoughts coming soon…

Thoughts: On [Rapid] Prototyping

Friday, March 1st, 2013

When you have an idea pop in your head, rapid prototyping is a good way of getting that idea into an object you can toss around. It doesn’t have to be fully functional – even barely functional may be good enough. This note is about two stories regarding prototyping (rapid, in that the objects were hardly functional and focused on look and feel).

The first story is that which Jeff Hawkins (inventor of the Palm Pilot PDA) used to tell – about creating a bunch of prototypes in his spare time – on his kitchen table. In an in-between approach – whenever there was an idea and spare time.

The second story (the one that stands out the most in this book) is from page 387 of “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson where Tony Fadell sequentially reveals styrofoam models of prospective designs. Upshot is that this approach enabled an instant decision in one meeting instead of a drawn out status quo over many meetings.

The second one is the

Thoughts: The 5 “Wisest” Things I Have Heard (A work in progress)

Friday, March 1st, 2013

I wanted to build a collection of things that I have heard, read or somehow otherwise learned that I hold closest. Each one is to be tied to a story and together would comprise a “story-based” introduction to these “wisest” thoughts.

The first one is quite easy.

(1) Not all customers are customers you want to keep. I first learned this at a Fred Pryor Seminar on “Exceptional Customer Service.” This was back in 1997 when I had become an IT Manager and provided service to a couple of hundred departmental clients. I thought I needed help with appearing “supportive” to clients but actually managing them to minimize the demand on my time. The seminar speaker emphasized that a positive customer support experience is far more valuable than advertising. Where advertising may generally have less than 30% effectiveness (if you’re lucky), customer retention in the high 90% range or so is quite an impressive performance. So guess which one costs more on a per customer basis? Also, there isn’t anything much better than the happiest customers singing praise of you or your product. But what about those customers who seem to live to be attention-hogs or born-complainers? Lose them – disinherit them, if you can. Tell them outright that you don’t want them using your product or services. If they’re in your department, have them look elsewhere for help. Even if they tell a colleague or a friend, how much damage could they cause? Not much because even their colleagues are already familiar with their negative behavior and don’t trust their opinions (we see this phenomenon on Yelp! today). I became more attached to this principal while in CRO at Handspring. We let go of up to 5 customers during my 22 months there because of their poor demeanor – stopped the support effort, took back the product, processed the refund, and told them to stop doing business with us. This let us focus on the good customers and kept things moving forward. While intentionally cutting off customers seems counter-intuitive at first, it is an excellent option to be robust.

Here’s an interesting related article:

(2) Defer the Bug. When you’re creating something, there will often be an imperfection or a bug. If you’re working to a deadline, you need to prioritize the bugs then decide which ones need to get fixed first and which ones (a) get deemed acceptable because the risk of occurrence is extremely low or the outcomes are not catastrophic, or (b) get deferred (i.e., will get carried to the bug list for the next product refresh). From my experience at Handspring, a lot of bugs get deferred and often through more than one product refresh. The lesson here for product developers is that you should do your diligence in seeking bugs but fixing them takes quite a lot of emotional intelligence, otherwise nothing would ever get released.

(3) Timing is everything. I learned this mostly through investing. There are market timing strategies and Value Line has timeliness ratings on stocks it analyzes. I have also seen where new and brilliant technologies were just too early and slow in the early adopter phase and failed to reach widespread adoption. Sometimes, a poorer technology  with better timing has succeeded. We also may have heard that timing is critical in acting and even telling jokes. It affects precision and accuracy in sports.

(4) Underpromise. Overdeliver. Seems obvious when you hear it. Not so easy when you have to do it. Competitive fear seems to drive “overpromise” resulting in a huge “underdeliver.” Happens in the movies, in technology, in finance, in business,… If you’re in control of something though, make sure you set expectations appropriately and don’t set your audience up for disappointment.

(5) Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. This is actually just an example of a collection of statements that refer to how a group that appears to be one may actually be a mixture of two. There are left-handed, right-handed issues – interesting ones being tools favoring the majority who are right-handers, and sometimes you can find tools being made for left-handers. There’s also left-brain, right brain and how different they are; fascinating that within one side, there are sections which control different things – my favorite example is how former US Representative Gabbrielle Giffords went through music therapy and used singing to communicate via language. See Then one of my personal favorites is that girls play youth basketball for different reasons than boys (and as a corollary that coaching girls and coaching boys at basketball requires two very different plans and approaches).



Exercise: Extension of the Bucket PostIt Exercise

Friday, March 1st, 2013

I am in the process of designing a categorization methodology for the results of the Bucket PostIt exercise (described in May 23, 2012 entry) and am seeking a way to make this categorization a participant-level activity in order to quickly reveal the scope of the group’s thinking. Making this a speedy critical thinking exercise would add to the brainstorming-to-prototyping aspect of the workshop.

Richard St. John: 8 secrets of success (TED Talk)

Friday, March 1st, 2013

[I discovered this TED Talk from its mention in “How to Deliver a TED Talk” by Jeremey Donovan] In his 2005 TED Talk “8 Secrets of Success,” Richard St. John summarizes what he has discovered when looking into what leads to success and presents his framework of “the eight traits successful people have in common.”

Specifically, the traits include: Passion, Work, Focus, Push, Ideas, Improve, Serve, Persist.

These were filtered from St John’s interviews with many “successful” people and serve as a good platform for discussing “success.” I believe there are similar studies done with youth as well. However, these all required that success be pre-defined in order to scope the pool of people to interview.

I am also reminded of Shawn Achor’s point that Happiness should be placed before success so that happiness is ensured as a result of being successful. Actually, St John touches on a similar point in his second TED Talk “Success is a Continuous Journey” from 2009.

Therefore, something more captivating might be learning about the eight traits that happy AND successful people have in common.

As an extension (and if this were something brought into the YCISL program), we should also look at extrinsic factors and perhaps even consider a pre-disposition to reach levels of happiness and success together. In YCISL, we already consider how family, community and environment affects the support one feels while striving for happiness and success.

Video is at

Additional information can be found at

Idea: The History of My Life in Photography Terms

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Much of my life can be traced along the lines of the history of computers – that is, I can relate many changes in my life in tandem in my use of computers. This is why visiting the Computer History Museum was a lot of fun. Thinking to the start, I won’t include the Casio fx1000 (although that was very cool and a significant aid), I like to think of my TI-55 with its red LED display (how cool was that?) as my first computer – it was programmable!

Back to photography. I like to think of the photographic timeline because of the massive transformation that happened due to digital photography. I remember spending many happy hours in a dark room in high school working with chemicals, photo paper, glove bags, film, tanks, reels, and enlargers. The smell of the chemicals are still vividly in my memory. Then there were the stores or drive-throughs where you dropped off film and picked up a week later (initially) or 1 hour (later). That is mostly in the distant past now, with a trickle of activity at the photo labs of drugstores or Costco.

So what changes best define photography to me? Well, my first recollection is the Kodak Instamatic with its cubic flash attachment. Somewhere in there was the Polaroid although I personally didn’t have one. One of my first serious cameras was the Pentax ME (I think my first hobbyist camera actually wasn’t an SLR). It was good enough for snapshots around school to develop in the dark room. When I graduated from high school, I got myself a Nikon FM and a Nikon EM. Used them on my trips to Sri Lanka and Europe. Then we tried a Canon APS format camera which was used for a relatively short 2 years; it still sits in a drawer but the APS technology didn’t make sense. We went back to regular 35 mm film when my first child was born – an Olympus, I believe. Then we got into digital photography before my second child was born – and the changes were more than I could have ever predicted. We’ve experienced several solid Canon Elph digital cameras, an Olympus which used a flash memory that quickly disappeared, an un-durable Casio Exilim, a hand-me-down Pentax that was tired, a Nikon D50 that drowned in Gatorade and even an Apple QuickTake 150. I’ve also used disposable cameras and even underwater disposables. It’s been fun trying all of them but I’ve learned not to expect too much. I now have a Nikon D40 which has served me well but is now starting to disappoint and a Sony Cybershot (so now I have a lot of fun taking panorama photos). With the D40 I have invested in lenses – finding out my older Nikon lenses were of no use – and lighting equipment including flashes, stands, and a commander. I continue to learn new things – most recently about lighting options for more interesting shadows.

I recognize myself by this history with cameras. They have changed physically and in their emotional effect. They have impacted my routines (as far as processing and archiving photos). I wish that everyone could look fondly at their life with something so emotionally attached. It’s good practice for other things which become a huge and wonderful part of life – having children.