Monthly Archives: March 2013

Why iPhone Users Should Love Samsung Today

First of all, let’s just acknowledge that I have an iPhone. I’ve had one ever since the iPhone 3G (I’m not quite such an early adopter as to have bought the original 2G version). And, for the most part, I love the iPhone. Over the scant few years that it has been in existence, it’s truly changed how the world communicates and shares information. But let’s face it…the last few years have been a little blah as far as iPhone advances go. The headlines have been about the Retina display (iPhone 4), Siri and her associated challenges (iPhone 4S) and the larger 4″ screen (iPhone 5). Sure there have been advances under the hood, but I’ve been wanting something a little more…let’s just say sexy.

And that’s why last night’s announcement about the new Samsung Galaxy s4 was so exciting to watch. Eye tracking technology? AirWave gesture-based interface? A TV control app that uses an Infrared blaster? That’s a lot of buzz to get excited about. And it marks the first time that I’ve actually looked forward to the announcement of a smartphone other than an iPhone. And to me, that means that for the first time since the iPhone was introduced, the ball is truly in Apple’s court to respond. Rumors certainly abound about the next version of the iPhone. Could there be a fingerprint scanner? An even larger screen? I’m sure the iPhone rumor mill will kick into overdrive following Samsung’s announcement, and that is precisely why I believe every iPhone user should be thanking Samsung tonight.

Let’s face it, to remain innovative and cutting edge, we often need a rival to compete with. Coke needs Pepsi. Boeing needs Airbus. Nike needed Adidas (for many years the Nike vision statement was “Crush Adidas”). And, in the world of smartphones, Apple needs Samsung.

Samsung has put a huge target on Apple’s back. The launch of the new Galaxy s4 didn’t take place in Seoul, it took place in New York City at Radio City Music Hall. Samsung wants to beat Apple in the US, one of the few smartphone markets Apple still controls. Samsung might as well have sent a horse’s head to 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino. Now all eyes will be on Apple, ramping up the excitement for the next iPhone over the summer.

What will make this looming battle even more exciting is that the two companies have seemingly different strategies they are following. Samsung has long competed on hardware, and now has added a lot of “wow” software features. Apple has competed on simplicity of use and an integrated experience. There’s no way to know which will company will ultimately prevail, but I do know that the competition will be thrilling to watch and will likely lead to a slew of new innovations that we can’t begin to imagine today.

While eating lunch together earlier in the week, a friend perfectly summed up the predicament that Apple finds itself in today. Apple faces a lagging stock price and a market where the still very sophisticated iPhone 4 is being offered free to new subscribers in the US and eating into iPhone 5 sales. I asked somewhat rhetorically, “What went wrong for Apple?”

“They didn’t count on Samsung to be so strong,” he responded.

After today, perhaps the rest of us can count on Samsung to be strong enough to keep challenging Apple. And ultimately, we’ll all benefit. Even Apple.

NB: As much as Chipp loves innovation in the smartphone space, he secretly longs for a day when new phones are just introduced and not turned into made for TV spectaculars at Radio City Music Hall, the Moscone Center or anywhere in between. 

This post first appeared on Synecticsworld’s website.

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Epigenetics – One More Reason to Blame Everything on Mom

This evening, I had a unique opportunity to meet one of the foremost experts in nutritional research, Professor Patrick Stover, Director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell Univeristy. And I left with an entirely new perspective about the interplay between genetics and nutrition.

Epigenetics, or “Above genetics” is the study of how certain mechanisms can change the way that genes in the body express themselves, without altering the underlying DNA.

In normal-human language, that means that you could take identical genetic twins and, by providing different stimulus at critical times, influence their development so that they look nothing alike. Even though their genes remain the same.

For those of us that are not twins, it could mean that whatever mom ate while we were in the womb played a role in how our genes evolved into being us. Maybe we are smarter, better looking or more athletic than our genes alone would’ve dictated? If our moms were drinking Choline supplements, we certainly would be less stressed-out. And maybe we’d have a lower chance of Type 2 diabetes as an extra benefit! And, not only was that benefit passed onto us, but also to our children without ever altering the genome.

For more, check out the following from the always brilliant Neil deGrasse Tyson on Nova.

How to Stop Trying to Do Everyone Else’s Work (And Enjoy Doing Your Own)

Over the last few years of working at Synecticsworld, I’ve noticed different themes that have appeared in my work. Over the last couple of months, the theme of “clientship” has come out in a lot of conversations. For those of you that may be hearing this term for the first time in a Synectics context, clientship means putting the ownership for an outcome in the hands of the person who is ultimately responsible for delivering on it.

As straightforward as that concept may sound, many of us are susceptible to making a mistake or two when it comes to recognizing clientship. As I’ve personally experienced it in the past, and I’m hearing again lately, the easiest mistake to make is to take on ownership for someone else’s problems. This is especially problematic when the person who really owns the problem has not asked me to help in that way.

Here are a couple of straightforward examples that might resonate for some of you.

  1. Example #1: Trying to do more than I’m asked. Now, this might sound like heresy in a working environment where everyone is trying to do all they can to distinguish themselves, but few things I’ve witnessed will sap a bright, talented, young person’s energy than doing a ton of extra work for someone that didn’t want it in the first place. I’m sure many of us have been there…we see an opportunity to grow the business, spend a bunch of time doing research, developing a business case, and preparing a meticulous presentation only to find out that the person at the top really isn’t interested. “But the opportunity is so clear! I can’t understand why they would pass on it!” Well, neither can I, but as the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. (NB: Old sayings become old sayings for a reason.) Beating ourselves up because someone else doesn’t want to grow as fast as we do will only lead to us bruising ourselves.
  2. Example #2: Giving advice to someone that doesn’t want it. This is something that likely resonates with many of us. This is what happens when we’ve heard someone vent, or watched someone go through a difficult time in his or her life, and we jump in with a helpful, “Here is what I think you should do…” And we are surprised when that offer lands on the floor with an audible thud and perhaps a dirty look.

The thing that both of these situations have in common is that the person who really owned the problem, the “client” didn’t ask for any help from us. But because we are born as awesome problem-solving machines, we can’t help but try to solve any problem that comes our way. At best, we cause ourselves a lot of extra work and frustration. At worst, we jeopardize friendships or our jobs.

So, how can we avoid this pitfall (in three simple steps)?

  1. When you sense you might be entering a situation where you could be treading on someone else’s clientship, first ask, “Who really owns this problem?”
  2. If it’s not you, figure out what your role might be in helping them. Do you want to help them talk through, or facilitate, solving their issue? Do you want to offer ideas and act as a resource to them in that way?
  3. Once you have figured out the role you want to play, ask for permission. For example, “I think there might be some additional ways to grow the business beyond what has been identified. Can I look into that and provide you with some ideas?” Another example would be, “It sounds like you’ve been going through some tough times. Could I offer a few ideas that I thought about while I was listening to you?”

And, no matter what, if the person says no to your offer of assistance, my offer is to drop it then and there. The sooner we give ourselves permission to pay attention to the people in our lives that want our help and expertise rather than those who don’t, the happier and more productive we are going to be.

Special thanks to Harry Barrett for always reminding me of the importance of clientship.

Trust: The Real Casualty at Yahoo This Week

By now, we all know that Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, announced this week that she has banned employees from working at home. After the collective “Gasp!” that swept across a country full of remote workers had finally subsided, we were left to debate the wisdom of such a decision.

Clearly there are good arguments for such a restriction (it allows more face-to-face time with colleagues, encourages unscheduled “collisions” between co-workers that can lead to new ideas, and makes it easier to observe how much and how often people are working). And there are good arguments against such a restriction (lost time spent commuting, loss of flexibility, increased time and stress managing child-care in young families). But the truth is that the real issue that few are talking about is the impact on trust at Yahoo.

Trust is an amazingly important, and easily disrupted, ingredient for any stable, long-term relationship, either personal or professional. When trust exists, we can take risks and change the world together. When trust has been violated, fear and uncertainty rules our world, people watch their backs, and we start playing “cover-your-ass”. It’s not the kind of working environment that a struggling tech company needs.

This opens up a few questions that beg to be answered.

  • Does Marissa trust us? If I were at Yahoo, I’d have a hard time believing that Marissa trusts that we are all working as hard as we can in the best interests of the company. I’d feel like, for all the talk about Yahoo becoming more innovative as a result of this ban, this was really just a way for her to keep an eye on all of us. Are there really that many people working on a start-up on the side while on the Yahoo payroll? If so, doesn’t it say much more about the quality of managers that oversees these remote workers, which will not be solved by simply calling them back to the office?
  • Can I trust Marissa? I’d also wonder if I can trust Marissa to have my best interests at heart. As she is a very highly compensated CEO, I know she has a responsibility to the shareholders and board, but I wonder if she understands what it means for me to upend my life. Especially when the realities of her life are different from mine. Couldn’t there be another solution?
  • Even if she trusts us, does Marissa believe in us? Which is why my biggest frustration would be that Marissa does not appear to trust the rest of us Yahoos to come up with a better solution than this. For all the bluster buzzing around the Internet about the relative benefits and drawbacks of allowing people to work from home, it feels like the thinking is at the wrong level. Instead of debating about whether people should work at home or in an office, the real task Yahoo needs to be solving is, “Develop creative solutions to improve innovation and productivity and regain our standing as a tech industry leader.”

Sitting here in my (home) office I can come up with half a dozen ideas right off the top of my head to solve that challenge, and none of them have to do with where my desk is. Imagine what a team of Yahoo’s best and brightest could come up with! And if they had a team of Yahoo developers with them, they could immediately start prototyping some ideas that could eventually turn into money-making products. Because, if Yahoo is having a problem with productivity and innovation amongst its remote workforce, I’m pretty sure that many of the other 499 of the Fortune 500 are having the same problem. And if Yahoo is saying they can’t find a way to use technology so that I can be innovative and productive no matter where I’m sitting, its time to short their stock.

And if in the end, one of the recommendations is to have people start coming into the office everyday and stop working from home, at least the recommendation would be coming from a group of people who are working from home offices that look like mine, not one in a penthouse atop the Four Seasons San Francisco. And that would be a recommendation I could trust.