Archive for October, 2012

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CLEANING UP THE POST- ITS: LIBYA

October 21, 2012

Yes, to Tom Friedman on Meet the Press today chastising all for missing the REAL story: He reminded us that the most important fact of the Libya incident is not being discussed….the street demonstration in Benghazi to show the support for the Americans. Those of us watching it unfold saw/heard about this but there has been no follow-up.
Yes, to emerging written reports supported now by the investigation of what reporters and government officials were initially saying. There was total chaos, a local anti-American group took advantage of chaos elsewhere from the video and attacked; it was not preplanned for September 11. That other groups joined them AND opposed them…including the group Friedman praised. Again, this is what I saw and heard that day, and in the ensuing 1-2 days afterwards. Was I the only one watching in real time?
No, to Romney for trying to capitalize on – for a political advantage-an attack that killed 4 Americans.
Yes, to the investigation status that shows there was no Al-Qaida involvement as Romney and Republicans assumed and commented on while things were still in chaos. Romney’s political statement without the facts does not show strength or knowledge in foreign affairs….but did demonstrate to me once again,” WINNING IS EVERYTHING….the rest of you be damned!”
No, to the Congress that determined to call for investigation BEFORE the official report from State Department and President has been made…thereby, again for political advantage, putting us all in danger as people- doing real follow up for findings that could help protect future Americans-are being diverted to answer to those looking to win an election.
No, to Romney and Republicans for assuming Al Qaida and thinking they found a weakness they could capitalize on – without CHECKING to see if they had all the facts. Today, it appears Al Qaida was NOT involved; despite Republicans greatest wish.
No, to Obama for not responding immediately after his first address to position that we were getting contradictory input and we would be doing full investigation and getting back to the country with details once we had full report and were certain we had the situation contained.
No, to all involved as this became a central issue for not either making it a higher priority to resolve and to get progress reports out to the American people.
No, to the Republicans for chastising the President for “too little security” when the Republicans had cut security budget that would have allowed additional staff to supplement the Libyan security. The attitude of “let the country we are in take care of it” is not so easy when that country has a brand new democratic regime who took power in a revolution and is still trying to solidify and stabilize their own situation.
Are there any lessons learned here? I would like to think it gives us all pause for thought but I fear that the Mid 20th century scream from the corner office “who the Hell F—cked up now” is better drama than a thoughtful and careful evaluation of what happened; what caused it and what can we do to ensure we do not repeat same mistakes and ignore same pleads for help.
So far, it seems that a man well-regarded lost his life for his country….as an exercise to show which candidate does better in “spin”.

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BACK FROM SABBATICAL

October 21, 2012

I’m hoping to catch up today from a mini sabbatical since early October….filled with a few mental health days, a few days out of town, a lot of family interaction and issues, health issues, political distractions, and a little bit of just plain enjoying some good weather and the world in which I now live…all that in preparation for the short days ahead, the emotions of holidays, the biting cold of January, the reality of my drastically-changed life going forward, and plans for survival.
With little available time, energy and emotional stability, I’ve abused my Facebook page with opinions on election issues, urbanization, education and I am sure other “hot buttons” of the moment; so today I shall try to get those priorities sorted out and refocus my rants back to my blog-making it a little easier for others to ignore them!
Thanks to Lori Sturdevant in the Strib today that made me stop and think about how out of control I have been!
Americans focus too much on politics and not enough on governance….We relish competition, but it takes consensus to govern. We love a clash of ideas, but governing requires combining ideas, then selling the new product to one’s own skeptical allies.
I know that – so forgive me for my many mini Facebook rants. Studevant’s column was actually a tribute to the Citizens League…and I have added her suggestion to my “to do” list….perhaps I will be better served to channel all these thoughts to an organization who for 60 years has explored new policy ideas, recommended solutions and forged bipartisan consensus in a non-partisan way.
Meanwhile, I am drowning in post-it notes of comments and issues, so perhaps later in the afternoon, with the football game playing in the background, I will organize them all into a list of topics and comments suitable for another installation of Meanderings on a Sunday Afternoon.

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MORE on ENTREPRENEURSHIP…in the GREAT RESET

October 5, 2012

Did you listen closely Wednesday to how Romney was going to increase jobs?

I hope so, as you might want to compare his plan – based on what he learned as a business leader 30 years ago to the latest reality-start up companies.  Since 1977, there has been a net increase in jobs from businesses other than startups ONLY SEVEN TIMES.  And start-up companies have changed significantly over that same period of time.

Start-ups are hiring fewer people; they are depending more on contract workers.  At its peak in 1999, new start-ups employed 7.7 employees; in 2011, that number is 4.7 or a 46% decline.  That means the numbers Romney knows from times past will most likely not be achieved in times present…despite his claim that from his “experience” he knows he can do this.

This revolution in start-ups and small business started first in Japan in the 1980s when manufacturers learned the value of creating products in smaller batches and refining them more often, according to Eric Ries, the author of “The Lean Start-up”.

Then, in the ensuing twenty years, as the technological impact became apparent, first through tele-commuting, those small businesses learned they are more flexible by using “contractors”.

It is a concept I have personally been experimenting with since 2007….which lead to a new sales high for me of almost $ 2 million annually in 2010 and 2011…with no employees.  But more importantly, it allowed my company to better match the needs of my clients to very specific talents of contractors resulting in far less cost to the client than were I to have maintained a pool of potential skills within my own organization…and all the administrative staff, space and other overhead to support that pool of labor.

Fortunately, I also do not have to be concerned about “stakeholder value” so no decisions need be driven nor dollars diverted from obtaining client satisfaction; all sales dollars can be focused on providing top services at a fair price by the best in the industry….as supported by awards, honors, press, and the recognition we received for our work over those same two years.

This is a 21st century phenomenon now being called the Jobless Entrepreneurship.  It is part of the change we are seeing in this digital, collaborative age of the 21st century. It most likely is partly responsible for slower than desired job growth and recovery since our economy imploded in the previous administration.

In spite of that, I’m proud to be one of the pioneers; and already, I am seeing those that have come after have experimented and tweeked and achieved ever increasing results for their clients.

There is no doubt, today’s entrepreneurs and their clients are on board and continue to push the envelope for better results.  Results for clients themselves and for those they employ as contractors.  If you haven’t spent any time in the “Business” section of a bookstore, you ought to plan a trip….Social Media, Learning, Collaboration and Contracting are front and center, as well they should be….because it is working!

It’s only the Politicians and the Press that are lagging behind.    And I can assure you from experience, the 1980s successful businessman running for President does not have today’s business answers. 

But what about his Governor experience, you say?  Compare Bill Clinton of the ‘90s to Bill Clinton of today.  He may have built on his experience in the ‘90s; but he does not rely on it for his credentials.  Neither should Romney. 

The World has Changed.  Romney hasn’t.

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ENTREPRENEURSHIP

October 2, 2012

I know I am only seeing the surface and a controlled story, but I like what I am seeing and hearing from the University this morning.

“We were established to serve the needs of the people,” explained President Kahler, when meeting with the US Department of Commerce regarding a new program at the University of Minnesota.

Kahler’s message of “The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University:  Higher Education, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship in Focus” explained turning campus research into community business as it fits in a land grant university’s mission.

I like that.  It does indeed, seem to reinforce the mission from whence we came.  I, too, applaud Minnesota’s use of business people, not academics, to staff the Office of Technology Commercialization and a program designed to streamline the sale of intellectual property right to commercial companies; I’m impressed with the success ratio of the U’s start-up companies; and I like the experimentation with “entrepreneurial leave”.

It is only one article about the attention our University gained in Washington Monday…but it feels like a peak at some 21st century thinking and how we can reinvent ourselves to remain leaders in the world as we move forward.

That is refreshing after this long, long year of political debate about “hanging on” to what we once excelled at.

And just a fleeting thought crossed my mind as I finished the Strib article….I’m sure the “Ultra Entrepreneur” Mr. C would be pleased with this news.

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A MEETING OF THE MINDS

October 1, 2012

“Look between today’s two extremes.  America lives there.”

Yesterday, I wrote about our broken political system…and later in the day, saw that the STRIB had done likewise, by sharing the opinion of Stephen B. Young who simplified the issue much more succinctly than my attempt to condense Mickey Edwards book into a single posting. I have included portions of that article below.

Thanks to the baby boomers, who, out of passionate self-regard, adopted one or the other of these foreign approaches, these two ideologies have taken over our political system, have crippled our best ways of making decisions, and have brought us to a systemic gridlock where we are incapable of providing for our future success, both at home and in the world….If America is to survive, we must recover our moral sense.

American politics was designed to seek alignment between duty and advantage.  It should reflect a moral sense that we have individual human dignity to be respected by others but that we also have responsibilities to others.  We may not demand too much of them, as we are first and foremost each responsible for our own lives and for what happens to us.  But at the same time, in taking care of ourselves, we may not turn our backs on the community and its needs.

This is the middle way of mindful behavior that demands flexibility and collaboration at every turn.  It leaves no room for narrow-minded and strident ideologies.

Young then lists the results we could expect if we consciously try to achieve balance among the contending forces:

  • First, we would reject both the entitlement state and social Darwinism
  • Second, we would expect each  American to be virtuous and responsible for themselves and for our common good…Excellence, not comfort, would be the standard of the American life well lived
  • Third, we could accept the role of government and taxation as legitimate.  Government is to provide the public goods that will make the res publica prosper and which will not reliably be provided by a free market
  • Fourth, the deficit-prone programs we call entitlements-primarily health care and retirement stipends- would become a blended effort of personal responsibility and public subsidy.
  • Fifth, reliance on the moral sense would call for more tolerant communal approaches to person sexuality and religious liberty…But, where the moral sense might prove imperfect when such personal shortcomings would create high risks of harm to others…communal needs would justify regulation of personal conduct.
  • Sixth, the economy, especially the financial sector, would be incentivized to reward individual entrepreneurial achievement…Since trading and speculation contributes little to our society’s creation of wealth…such activity could be highly regulated…for fairness…and to reduce risk of credit market collapses.
  • Seventh, in foreign policy, the US would be a dynamic participant in global affairs, looking to protect and promote the moral sense through constitutional democracies and free markets and to provide checks against concentrations of power abroad that would abuse broadly accepted norms of right and fairness.

Forgive me for quoting at such length but I think this message is important.  As I read through it, I thought to myself, YES, this is why I consider myself an independent.  I generally do not see one side totally right; one side totally wrong.  Although when push comes to shove, I know from experience from over twenty years in the corporate world, interacting with a great many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that the late 20th century “business” thinking and ethics falls short.  Because I believe so strongly in collaboration and community,  I am generally pushed towards the side of the Democrats…and then live with the consequences; while continuing to hope for the good of our country that someday the balance between these two will be restored to what our forefathers envisioned. 

And, judging from the growing size of those considered “independent”, I think I share this dilemma with a lot of Americans….in fact, with latest estimates being 40% of the country consider themselves independent, it continues to amaze me that we allow two minority groups to manipulate and force us to choose between them and then let one of them run our lives for significant periods of time.