Archive for the ‘Food For Thought’ Category

Nerdy Shortcuts

Posted: May 17, 2013 by Alison in Food For Thought, FYI, Get Educated
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Who couldn’t use a time-saving tip now and then?  Some of these I was aware of but others were a revelation!  It’s a quick watch but full of good ideas.  Enjoy!

Spotting A Liar

Posted: February 12, 2013 by Alison in Food For Thought
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by James Allworth  |  10:30 AM January 14, 2013

It would have been almost impossible to miss the outpouring of grief that accompanied the news over the weekend that Aaron Swartz had committed suicide. If you didn’t know him, Swartz was the founder of Infogami, (later Reddit), one of the creators of the RSS specification (at the age of 14, no less), was deeply involved in the creative commons, and started up the digital activist group Demand Progress (among his other achievements). Tributes flowed in far and wide, and fittingly so — Swartz had accomplished more in his short 26 years than many of us will manage in a lifetime. At the time of his death, he was fighting criminal charges being brought by the Government for downloading academic articles from the online scientific journal store, JSTOR. Such cases are never cheap to defend; one estimate pegged the cost at $1.5M. If found guilty, he could have served as many as 35 years in prison and faced up to $1m in fines.

It was hard to think about this sad turn of events without wondering why the government decided to seek up to 35 years of prison time for a 26-year old who JSTOR had decided to drop charges against, and who, in the words of an expert witness, had done nothing more than be “inconsiderate.” There were a number of very powerful articles written on Swartz and the charges that he faced, and as I read many of them, that question only grew stronger in my mind. The closest I could come to a reasonable explanation was in a tribute written by Swartz’s friend, Professor Lawrence Lessig. Lessig characterized what had happened as a legal and societal form of bullying:
“[Swartz] is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.”

That explanation — of an over-zealous prosecutor — certainly seems reasonable at face value. But something kept gnawing at me about that word: “proportionality.” What does it say about us — about what we value — if this is exactly the proportionality of the legal system we have created?

In the past couple of months, there’s been reporting on a pair of crimes in the business world so flagrant as to literally take the breath away. The first of these wasn’t actually that widely reported on — in fact, I only know about it because a friend in the healthcare industry sent along an article on it. It’s a long read, but it’s worth taking the time to do so. It details how a medical device company decided to bypass FDA clinical trials and use bone cement in the spines of humans. Given that the cement wasn’t properly tested, it should come as no big surprise that a number of people died as a result. In sentencing the executives responsible for what happened, the judge described how “what has occurred in this case, in terms of wrongfulness — it’s 11 on a scale of 10.” In fact, the judge, for “the first time in his 25-year career… sentenced someone above the federal guidelines.”

That executive, for his role in what happened, received nine months in jail. (The federal guidelines actually suggested six months for this type of offence, which was not even a felony, but a misdemeanor). One of his fellow executives received a lesser sentence of five months.

And then there’s a case that was much harder to miss: that of HSBC, and their foray into the world of money laundering for drug cartels:

Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a “record” financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.

Lay those two cases down beside that of a 26-year old kid who did the online equivalent of checking out too many books out of the library. For doing that, Aaron Swartz was initially charged with four felonies. The prosecutors in the Synthes case agreed to charge the executives only with one misdemeanor each. In the instance of HSBC, they used their discretion to avoid pursuing criminal charges altogether. In Swartz’s case, the government decided to use that same discretion to bolster its initial four felony charges with a further nine — hence the possibility of over three decades of jail time and a $1M fine. Now, Aaron had only been charged — if justice had prevailed, it could have all been thrown out in court — but even in that circumstance, he would have still been roughly $1.5 million out of pocket just defending himself. Those HSBC executives never even got to that point.

I actually had the opportunity to talk with Aaron online a few weeks ago; partly as a result of an article that I wrote for HBR about corruption and its effect on innovation. Looking at the three cases above, I can’t help but see similar symptoms seeping into the justice system. I simply don’t know how else to explain the huge disparity in how justice was sought in these very different cases — other than regulatory capture. It seems you can get away with laundering money for the drug cartels, so long as you’ve been generous with the those responsible for appointing district attorneys; or better yet, if your industry has paid to undo all the regulation that prevents you from getting too big to fail. Similarly, when your lobby has been helping Congress draft the laws that govern food, drugs, and cosmetics, you can make sure that the federal sentencing guidelines are only six months should you breach the responsible corporate officer doctrine. This in turn means you can inject unsafe cement into people’s spines with relative impunity (apparently, those in the healthcare industry were actually surprised when the officers were sentenced to jail, even if it was for only a few months. One of the convicted executives went so far as to ask the judge to delay the beginning of his sentence until after the holidays). But woe betide you if, in the name of openness and sharing human knowledge, you decide to download academic journals. Because that sounds a lot like piracy — and we all know how much has been spent to stamp that scourge out.

It seems to me that there’s a new way of thinking about proportionality. Unfortunately, it’s being determined much less by any notion of justice than it is by a broken political system corrupted by the influence of money.

I really don’t like it, but I just can’t see any other way of explaining how else it could happen.
I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Aaron Swartz. If you’re interested in doing something to fix some of these problems, I’d encourage you to find out more about Rootstrikers and Demand Progress, two organizations that Aaron was deeply involved in.

More blog posts by James Allworth
More on: EthicsGovernment
James Allworth


James Allworth is the coauthor of How Will You Measure Your Life?. He has worked as a Fellow at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School, at Apple, and Booz & Company. Connect with him on Twitter at @jamesallworth. To receive an email when he posts, click here.

By John Kotter

A few weeks ago, the BBC asked me to come in for a radio interview. They told me they wanted to talk about effective leadership — China had just elevated Xi Jinping to the role of Communist Party leader; General David Petraeus had stepped down from his post at the CIA a few days earlier; the BBC itself was wading through a leadership scandal of its own — but the conversation quickly veered, as these things often do, into a discussion about how individuals can keep large, complex, unwieldy organizations operating reliably and efficiently.

That’s not leadership, I explained. That’s management — and the two are radically different.

In more than four decades of studying businesses and consulting to organizations on how to implement new strategies, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people use the words “leadership” and “management” synonymously, and it drives me crazy every time.

The interview reminded me once again that the confusion around these two terms is massive, and that misunderstanding gets in the way of any reasonable discussion about how to build a company, position it for success and win in the twenty-first century. The mistakes people make on the issue are threefold:

Mistake #1: People use the terms “management” and “leadership” interchangeably. This shows that they don’t see the crucial difference between the two and the vital functions that each role plays.

Mistake #2: People use the term “leadership” to refer to the people at the very top of hierarchies. They then call the people in the layers below them in the organization “management.” And then all the rest are workers, specialists, and individual contributors. This is also a mistake and very misleading.

Mistake #3: People often think of “leadership” in terms of personality characteristics, usually as something they call charisma. Since few people have great charisma, this leads logically to the conclusion that few people can provide leadership, which gets us into increasing trouble.

In fact, management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it’s not leadership.

Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.

Some people still argue that we must replace management with leadership. This is obviously not so: they serve different, yet essential, functions. We need superb management. And we need more superb leadership. We need to be able to make our complex organizations reliable and efficient. We need them to jump into the future — the right future — at an accelerated pace, no matter the size of the changes required to make that happen.

There are very, very few organizations today that have sufficient leadership. Until we face this issue, understanding exactly what the problem is, we’re never going to solve it. Unless we recognize that we’re not talking about management when we speak of leadership, all we will try to do when we do need more leadership is work harder to manage. At a certain point, we end up with over-managed and under-led organizations, which are increasingly vulnerable in a fast-moving world.


Predicting the future is hard, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. We’re Wired, after all.

Ten years ago, we boldly declared that we’d be living with phones on our wrists, data-driven goggles on our eyes and gadgets that would safety-test our food for us. Turns out, a lot of the things Sonia Zjawinski conceptualized in our “Living in 2013” feature way back in 2003 were remarkably close to what we’ve seen. We even got the iPhone right (sort of).

And so, as we look back on life in 2013 circa 2003, we’re going to spin it forward once again to tell you what life will be like in 2023.


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Predicted for 2003 (above):

Apple redefined the desktop, laptop, and MP3 player. The next insanely great thing: an LCD arm cuff that includes a PDA, wireless Internet, a mini iPod, and, of course, a phone. The iPhone bracelet’s motion sensor allows you to scroll through apps and files with the flick of a wrist, its clasp holds a digicam for use during video calls, and its wireless ear clip lets you listen and speak to callers. And everything can be done via voice recognition or touchscreen. Talk about the right call. Illustration: Kenn Brown.

Delivered in 2013:

Hey, it turns out, Apple gave us an iPhone after all! We got the name right, and even seemed to know about FaceTime. But the form factor details? Not so much. While you can wear an iPod nano as a watch, or make a call with your iPhone, if you want the watch-plus-phone combination that we teased you with 10 years ago, for now you’ll need to pick up a secondary gadget that can transmit to your phone, like this Pebble. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired.

Looking ahead to 2023:

Here’s the thing, the screen on a watch is simply too small to display lots of data. And as an input device? Forget it. Yet keeping your phone out of sight means you often can’t interact with your data on the go. The obvious answer is a variable size display. Samsung has already demonstrated a pretty convincing foldable OLED display prototype. Given 10 more years, we can easily see one screen serving multiple purposes by taking on multiple form factors, depending on whether you wanted to simply glance at it to read a message, or unfold it to write your reply. Illustration: Simon Lutrin/Wired