Category: Maps

The mirror, the dress, and the digital paradigm

In a hurry and feeling impatient.

There I was, standing in front of the mirror attempting to tie an attractive knot in the long cloth belt of the taupe colored wrap-around dress I had chosen to wear that morning.

I needed to be out the door; I didn’t have much time before the beginning of a meeting with a group of clients.

I tied the knot, stood back, looked in the mirror, frowned, untied the knot and tied it again.

“This one”, I muttered to myself, “is worse than the first”. I let out a sigh, and then something unexpected happened.

I had an immediate impulse to go to the menu and select and click Undo. To go back to the previous knot with the quick, simple click of a mouse. 

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Your fortune cookie: A strategic message for a lucky summer!

The tradition of wrapping words of fortune and luck inside a small pastry originally comes from 19th century Japan. However, through the waves of migration to America and Europe, together with an eager entrepreneurial spirit, this tradition suddenly changed hands and began its legendary popularity as the ritual dessert at the end of a meal in thousands of Chinese restaurants.

The mystery and intrigue of glimpsing one’s fortune wrapped in a cookie is ageless, whetting our appetite for solving the riddles of our future.

As a way of wishing you all a wonderful summer—full of relaxation and reflection, The Strategy Blog has made a fortune cookie just for you.

Inside one of the four cookies below, you will find a message that, if understood and used wisely, will guide you on your path to healthy and happy project development.

The message is meant especially for the summer month of August, though it holds true throughout the 12 months of the year.

All you need to do is:

Contemplate all four numbers and, when you are ready, choose one, click on it to open and read what’s inside.

After you read your fortune, if you feel curious and would like to open another, go ahead—there is strategic wisdom to be found in them all. But remember, the first one you open is the message that was meant especially for you.

Enjoy…

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The three strategies of the classic world

After many journeys to distant lands as a kind of modern day Ulysses, after wandering far and wide, back and forth over the seas, I finally arrived safely to the mythical port of Ithaca—Barcino, in my story.

In my voyages over the years I have come to know scores of projects and their strategies from many different lands. I have loved them, nourished them, warred with them, and even left many of them to travel their own journeys with new maps and cunning.

As I reflect back on the types of strategies I have seen used throughout the world by entrepreneurs, organizations, and businesses, I see clearly that they can be categorized into three classic groups that I will briefly describe below.

In honor of my own journey’s end at the ancient Roman port, today known as Barcelona, I thought it appropriate to coin names for these strategies that still thrive with good health in our modern times. Thus was born: strategius spiritum, strategius erraticum and strategius precisum. 

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The shimmer and shine of failures

Failures. We don’t talk about them much. We don’t put them on our CVs, and we don’t open our cover letter, job interview or project pitch referencing them.

But maybe we should.

Risky? Perhaps.

Sassy? Yes.

Illustrative of our capacity to pay attention, learn and evolve by looking at situations squarely in the eye and having the courage to keep going, this time with more understanding and skill? Definitely.

And the project scouts, headhunters, team builders, above average bosses and great human relations professionals know how very important it is. As a matter of fact, fearless learning from failures could be the most important ability you have.

It goes something like this: if you have any real experience in the work world then you have surely been part of a project that has failed (meaning it didn’t meet objectives, either those formally stated or personally desired). And you know what? That’s great. That’s absolutely perfect. There is no better opportunity to learn—no better opportunity to put your analytical, critical and creative thinking skills to use than to take a failed project apart.

Maybe this is not initially easy for you, and that’s understandable. Here’s what you can do right now. Sit back, push your chair away from your computer a bit or set down whatever screen you have in your hands, raise your eyes upward toward your brows and think: what was the last or the biggest project failure of mine? Not a mistake, not a misstep, not a bad decision, but a true failure. Meaning, you did not do what you set out to do—either with your own money and resources or those of others, it doesn’t matter for this exercise. The only criterion is that the project did not work. Period.

Now that you have that in mind, let any surge of emotion that comes up pass through you like the wind that passes through the leaves of a tree, to then become still and calm again. Spend a few minutes thinking about what went wrong, strategically speaking. No blaming other people. Think objectively and be cool about it. Deconstruct the whole project if necessary; find the parts that were weak, the blind spots, see what was missing or overly abundant. Name it all, honestly. Free of guilt and resentment. Examine it, cut and polish it like a diamond in the rough. Discover its size, dimension, shape and contours and let the opportunity shine so brightly that you become mesmerized by its reflective brilliance. You, my friend, have discovered a treasure.

Why can we learn even more from a failed project than a successful one? Because there is precise and detailed information about the exact type of action, absence, oversight, thinking or strategic misstep that lead a project down the wrong road or a road to nowhere. This information is your treasure. It will turn your strategic toolbox into a treasure chest, and if you do this exercise honestly and with genuine curiosity, you will never ever make those same mistakes again. Your next projects will be strategically clearer and have a greater chance of meeting goals and of being successful.

Still finding this unpleasant? Would you like an example from my bag of experiences? OK, here goes.

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Three values important to you

This is not easy to write. And I am not entirely sure why.

One reason could be the deceptive levity of the word ‘values’ compared to the depth of influence the word has in our world, and in our every day lives.

What, then, are values? A question that philosophers, writers, poets, politicians, creators and common folk have contemplated since the concept came to life a very, very long time ago.

Wikipedia says: personal values provide an internal reference for what is good, beneficial, important, useful, beautiful, desirable, constructive, etc. Values generate behavior [...] and provide answers to questions of why people do what they do and in what order they choose to do them.

But we don’t really need those definitions, do we. Because we inherently know what values are. We feel what they are much more clearly than we can probably describe them. Values reside in a place deep inside us. Deep inside the individual and the collective self.

I think the reason this post was not easy to write is because of the very nature of values themselves —of their deep seated place within ourselves and within in our society. And reaching into ourselves and wrapping language around what we find, can sometimes be, well, challenging.

When I put myself and a few colleagues to the task of naming three of the most important values for us, I was met with silence, smiles, pursed lips, searching eyes and groping for words. Everyone eventually came up with three, but the effort it took intrigued me. I wanted to know more.

So, I hit the streets of Barcelona on a weekend afternoon with a digital recorder wanting to hear what people’s most important values were —people I had never met, randomly chosen. The question was not easy to construct, nor was the answer easy to convey, though, interestingly, every single person I approached seemed sincere in their desire to answer, everyone took the question very seriously. The basic question I asked was this: What are three values, important to you, that you look for in others or in society?

And here is what a few people said:

So, if you were to take a moment to answer that same question, what would you say? What are three values, important to you, that you look for in others or in society?

1._____________
2._____________
3._____________

Now let’s turn to your project, organization or business. Are any of the three values you have just named clearly reflected there? In the mission statement? In the objectives? In the relationship with your public? Do they guide you in your daily management?

They could be reflected in your project in a number of different ways. Why?

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Zero tweets

The digital era is cool. It’s seductive and extremely convenient. It can make life easier, faster, and even more visible.

Except when it doesn’t.

Some things can actually become invisible. The lives of some people.

In our world of work, there is a very large group who are invisible to the digital gaze. Even in our own projects or enterprises, people who are doing some of the most important work might never show up at the top of a Google search after we enter their name and tap the return key.

The great majority of the people working on projects, often times very large projects, are busy with the work that must be done in order for the project to function. The general public rarely, if ever, sees their names in large illuminated lights. 

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Technology, real time and you

Something new is happening.

Never before have we, the general population, been able to step back and watch the spread of technology as it occurs.

The ability to view the extension of different technologies has usually come long after their introduction into mass culture.

The maps of the proliferation of the printing press, the telephone, automobile, television, air travel, moving pictures, and computers were usually made available well after these technologies were already being used by large numbers of people. Even now, many of us have never seen or thought about what those maps might look like, nor have we had the tools to chart the different ways these technologies changed elements of human activity and interaction.

This information has historically been kept within the small circles of academic, scientific or product researchers.

That can all be different now.

Today, because of the massive production of creative data, those of us who have access to the internet can watch the movement of technology unfold right before our very eyes.

Let me show you one example of what I mean, a spectacular digital map that was built to show the rapid unfolding of the communication technology “Android”.

It might first be helpful have a bit of background.

Android is an open source operating system for mobile devices currently owned by Google Inc.

The Android operating system is a stack or combination of technologies: an operating system, applications and middleware (middleware provides connectivity between individual software applications). The basic goal of this technology stack is to achieve fast, smooth and easy data transmission for people using mobile devices.

The Android mobile operating system is used for smartphones, netbooks and tablets. The first phone using this system was released in late 2008, producing a ripple of activity around the globe—the beginning, very probably, of a profound change in the tools humans use to communicate

And for the first time in history, you and I can watch this change occur.

The very short video that follows is a moving map, in fast time, of Android mobile devices being activated by people around the world from late 2008 to early 2011—a three-minute light show that condenses twenty-six months of the expansion of a new communication technology. First we get global view, then North America, then Europe, then Asia.

Take a look here or on the screen below.

Pretty spectacular, right?

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The cartography of economies

Let’s take a very common term and expand it a bit. Economy. Let’s define “economy” as the wealth and resources of a specific thematic or geographic area, in reference to the production, use and availability to people of material things or ideas. Ok, that’s good.

Now let’s use this definition to frame today’s world – easily conceived as a construction of an increasing number of different, autonomous yet interconnected economies. Let’s define just a few: well, there’s the global economy that we all participate in by default, then there is an individual country’s economy, then a city’s. But within this basic cartography of economies, what other areas can we draw lines around to then form a more defined community or tribe of relations?

The economy of technology, the economy of health, the economy of human relations, the economy of communication, the economy of culture, the economy of architecture, the economy of food, the economy of story telling, of craftsmanship, of music, of leisure, of beauty, of consciousness, of justice, of education, of talent, of knowledge, of nature, and, why not, the economy of the soul.

These economies overlap and fold over each other; the lines we draw around them are soft and fluid. Yet, if we take a look at the world using this map, it could help us to see more clearly the contours of our areas of influence and contribution, and to visualize and plan the movement of our projects with greater awareness.

And I’m guessing that if you actually do take a moment to see the fuller picture of what you are helping to create, shape and expand in this world, it will give you a particularly nice feeling.