You go, Google….

America, United States, Times Online, The Times, Sunday Times

 Google is taking a stand at a very interesting time when privacy and basic rights are under assault. I admire a corporation, especially one that isn’t journalistic (who are expected to take these kinds of stands, but seem to do so less often these days), that can do the right thing for its customers.


The Millennial Generation: NYT 1.22

The Sunday business section of the New York Times carries a good examination by Tom Zeller of the "Millennial Generation", those born between 1980 and 2000 (the first generation to be born into a world where PCs were assumed, not introduced, unlike my generation which used typewriters in college and adopted PCs in our 20s). The piece is somewhat pedantic in discussing this new demographic’s infatuation with digital media, instant messaging, social networks, gadgets, etc..

Yet it is worth a read because of the insight that in four years this group will outnumber boomers and GenX.

The good quote from Vicki Cohen,vp at market researcher Frank Magid Associates:

"…every time you turn around there’s something new on the horizon. And this group, as we’ve been noticing, is kind of the arbiter, quickly determining whether things are hot or not." 

The question, for marketing, is the influence of this group on promulgating discoveries to the other demographics. Will a Facebook ever emerge for boomers and seniors? Will Flickr become the favorite of grandparents seeking pictures of the grandchildren? Will text messaging catch on with executives the way instant messaging has permeated corporate communication channels? 

Apologies in advance to non-Times Select members trying to find the piece.

Carolina BBQ and Planned Community Dwelling

I’m not a barbeque addict — waxing passionately about dry rub vs. wet, Memphis vs. K.C. — so figuring out Carolina BBQ is probably wasted on me. However, being the obsessive compulsive that I am when it comes to diving into the local experience and being Roman while in Rome, I did a Google Map search for BBQ near my office, found a joint a couple miles away, and decided to launch the BBQ boat before exploring for an apartment.

The place was Lewis Bar-Be-Que on NC 55. The place was empty which I didn’t take as a great sign (to be fair it was after 2 pm, so the lunch rush was over) , but the place felt funky which was a nice break from the complete barrage of fast food that surrounds me down here. Papa John’s, Chick-N-Fil, The Colonel, and fancy versions of McDonald’s called "McCafes". The menu at Lewis’s wasn’t very complicated, so I figured I’d go in and say, "Hey, I have no clue what to order. What should I get? I’m from the North and I’m an alien" or just go for it.

I kept it simple and went for: "A barbecue sandwich please."

The lady found a hamburger bun, went to the steam table, scooped some pulled pork (essentially pork shoulder stewed a looong time until it falls apart) and asked me if I wanted "slaw."


Sure. Coleslaw. My side dish. She plopped a big green blob on top of the pork, put the lid on it, and wrapped it up. Okay. So the coleslaw is on the sandwich, not next to it. No big deal. So I squirted extra sauce on the thing and sure enough, the unique attribute of Carolina BBQ made itself known — it’s vinegar based, not tomato. So a ton of the stuff soaked in, but that’s not a bad thing.

" Nor is it about the heavy BBQ sauces found elsewhere.  Carolina barbecue is splashed with a thin, vinegar based sauce.  There are three regional sauces, actually.  Eastern North Carolina for the basic sauce, western North Carolina for the basic sauce with a bit of tomato added and South Carolina style, spiked with mustard."

I scarfed it in the parking lot while reading the map for my next destination. It was very good. Not earthshattering, like the Hunan smoked ham at Brandy Ho’s in San Francisco, but not bad. Good enough to do again and good enough to blog about.

Apartment hunting

Tomorrow I continue the apartment-and-best BBQ search. The apartment situation is … well … put it this way, I haven’t lived in an apartment since I was 34. The landscape down here — and to be fair, it is winter — is sort of like Nashua, NH without snow (and my nickname for Nashua is Nausea). Lots and lots of pine trees. Big pine trees. Brown grass, swampy little creeks, no real hills, certainly no vistas. So, one doesn’t shop on the basis of view, but amenities. I looked at very new "planned" communities around Brier Creek, places that have seen better days around Lake Lynn, and places that are possibilities. The whole affair is tedious. Furnish or unfurnished? Spartan for just me, or sumptious for my wife and son? The prospect of furnishing a place is discouraging. I need a tent with Internet as far as my creature comforts are concerned. I need to build a decision tree for what I need an apartment and why. Other than sleeping, bathing, and eating, the primary attribute is a closet I can park my stuff in. On a cost basis, I can continue the itinerant life-style in extended-stay studios such as the one I am in now, but that builds in some stress in moving my stuff back and forth every weekend.

I need to drive out of the suburban areas and find the country side. I’ve never been a fan of the angry suburbs. -I need some funk, so tomorrow I go to the college town of Chapel Hill to look for people who prize a good cup of coffee, a decent bicycle mechanic, and a big bookstore.

 The tools for finding a place are actually kind of interesting. I found (an Ebay company) which is sort of a apartment management company listing service that is slick and shows all sorts of great living experiences in a nice search engine. Then I run the marketing version through and discover that one lakeside complex I visited had a murder occur on its premises last month. Nice.

The reviews people leave are funny at first, but after a while it’s all complaints about the management, the missing maintainance men, the dog poop, the loud music, the guy downstairs who smokes.

Oh well, short lease, furnished if possible, and be done with it.


Travel advisory

Do not stay in a hotel that backs up to the loading dock of a Sam’s Club (Studio Plus, Weston Parkway, Cary, NC). The trucks get unloaded at four a.m .by forklifts with back-up beepers and trolls who throw dumpsters filled with Yoohoo bottles off the roof into the parking lot.


I would open the window and scream, but they’d never hear me.  

On being new

Lowell Bryan, one of the greater presences at McKinsey, was a source of great management aphorisms during my stay at The Firm. One that I won’t forget was his observation that no executive is completely integrated until six months on the job. I chafed at that sweeping statement. Who wouldn’t? I’d assimilate in three months. Heck, give me a month and I’ll be up to speed, on the same page, getting the joke. I think he was right, not in the sense of effectiveness, Lowell was indicating that half a year is what it takes until someone is completely familiar with the system, the culture, and the goals.

Those lists of stressful life events and their effect on one’s health and mental well-being must include drastic career change somewhere in the top rankings. Divorce, grieving, moving homes … the new gig ranks up there for sure as one of life’s stress peaks.

There’s plenty of self-help out there. Jim Citrin, the prolific Spencer Stuart headhunter wrote, You’re In Charge: Now What, which I read last spring upon arrival at CXO Media. It was helpful, providing a rational framework for the first 90 days. Getting into Citrin’s work and letting Amazon do its job and recommending another title, I also read

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels. That plowed the same ground, was less useful, but had some impact.

The upshot is similar to a McKinsey engagement, go in as well prepared as possible, ask the right questions, don’t arrive swinging a business plan, make the hard HR decisions sooner than later, establish the communications protocols with the boss or client, and then seek a quick win to establish some credibility.

The key thing I learned this week, having gone through four "first weeks" in six years is this: the sense of helplessness and dislocation fades and fades quickly. Any disruption in the psychic Force is mostly due to doubt and being sharply jolted out of the comfortable. It passes, and if you can tuck the panic attacks away and focus on structuring the learning and absorbing, then the facts will settle you down. That and keeping close to a support network of former colleagues and friends.

The worst new-guy experience I endured was when I took on Switzerland in 2002. Throw some jet lag, a new language, and a grim corporate apartment (in Wipkingen, a neighborhood of Zurich) together and you have grim. A couple months later and I was literally and figuratively hiking up mountains. The cultural adaptation is tough one to finesse. Jim Michaels, the venerable former editor in chief of Forbes, despised the term "corporate culture," but every organization has its own cadence, language and demeanor. It’s tempting to chafe against it, but it will pervade, ultimately. For example — a great indicator of a corporate culture is its Powerpoint templates. McKinsey was black and white and all business. The Swiss were incredibly focused on corporate identity and would howl if a foreign font polluted the template. Journalists? Well, journalists despise Powerpoint and are fond of citing Scott McNealy’s quip that powerpoint was the worst blow to corporate productivity ever invented. But look at the presentation style of an organization and you’ll soon determine how buttoned up it is, how entrepreneurial, how analytical, quantitative or verbal.

The concept of being pushed and stretched to grow is familiar to anyone who has seriously trained for an aerobic sport.  The same holds for careers. One can sit in place in a comfortable slot for years or you can seek out some scar tissue. It may be ugly, but it is usually stronger. Being new, while unpleasant, has its upside — variety builds perspective and, one is never as clean of sin as one is the first day on the job.

Took less than three months and already there’s a business model built around the video iPod — pod dating. Think but with video. I am glad I am married.


Tip of the hat to Michael Laskoff at The Brand Asset Management Group for the pointer.

Lunch over IP – Smart Blog

Lunch over IP


Thanks to a Boingboing pointer I discovered Bruno Giussani’s very thoughtful blog. Having worked for two years in his region — specifically Ticino — it’s refreshing to get such smart insights into the European tech and entreprenurial community.

I need to spend more time seeking out things like this. Bruno’s post on the WEF’s decision to edit blog postings at Davos this coming week was what drew me into his feed in the first place.

Jim Forbes: Notebook Makers’ Greatest Assets: R&D

My Weblog: Notebook Makers’ Greatest Assets: R&D

Jim Forbes on why R&D matters in notebooks.

"What do best selling notebook brands have in common (I mean besides healthy sales figures)? The answer is simple: they share a common trait– they’ve spring from companies that have portable specific research,development and design  projects.

The best example of this is the ThinkPad brand. For the last decade of the 20th Century I watched IBM fuel and compound the growth of  ThinkPad by adding features that came from its R&D labs and design centers.  Some of the products weren’t so successful– the Butterfly expanding keyboard on the ThinkPad 701, for example. But others propelled the brand into a name that not only had above average recognition, but which carried with an implied cachet of reliability, durability and innovation.

When IBM sold ThinkPad to Lenovo, i sincerely hoped that the vast body of ThinkPad R&D as well as related experimental design was part of the sale. Judging by the ThinkPad X- compact notebook brand, I think the R&D DNA it was transferred to Lenovo. My one big fear about Lenovo ThinkPad was that the brand would go bland, becoming yet just another notebook cranked out in Taiwan or the People’s Republic that was based on a bland formula driven by spread sheet economics. If that happens, then ThinkPad will end up joining a list of products sold at membership department store and unloaded on west coast docks from high speed ocean freighters that make the Pacific crossing in seven days. And that’s not good."

 Friday I get to tour Lenovo’s Design Center. This is going to be a candystore experience for me.

North Carolina

Arrived Sunday night on Southwest with the realization that at $75, the fare made the flight cheaper than a train, indeed, making Southwest essentially a bus with wings. No complaints here.

Day two in the Research Triangle coming to a close with a new X41 Thinkpad. Always nice to unwrap a new PC. Someone needs to come up with an easy transfer system — especially for moving browsers and extensions, etc. etc. over without a hitch. Six hours in, and I still have a stack of stuff to install and move over.

That said, total FNG experience I am living in, trying to remember names, figure out passwords, find the printer, the men’s room, the coffee, and then returning in the evening to the throughly depressing extended stay suite in Cary, NC.

Will blog more in the days to come.  Cell is the way to best find me, that or the usual emails.


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