August 28, 2010

Some lessons I've learnt at Silicon Valley

This afternoon, by the time I cross the Golden Gate, I will switch on to holidays mode (and mood!) until September 20th.

But before I enter in that mood, let me tell you a few things that I have learnt these days researching at Stanford and visiting some innovative companies at Silicon Valley.

Stanford Graduate School of Business. Few people were researching these summer days. But nearly all of them where assian graduate students. It's impressive to see their dedication and discipline. We europeans ought to do something about it, especially when one of the key issues in the next decade will be the productivity imperative: "Developed-world economies will need to generate pronounced gains in productivity to power continued economic growth. The most dramatic innovations in the Western world are likely to be those that accelerate economic productivity". (Source: Mckinsey Quarterly, June 2010).

Last week I was luckly invited to "The Santuary of Secrecy": Apple headquarters. The most common answer you get when you adress questions to employees is: "I don't know". And the reason is that there is an internal policy of only knowing what you need to know to do your job. And it does make sense for their business model, which is pretty based on Steve Job's intuition to come up with "the next iThing" on time. But, is it sustainable?

There is a big difference between having a product advantage and having a competitive advantadge. Product advantages alone are difficult to sustain. Will Steve Job's successor be able to keep this level of uncommon geniality?

That's me, riding Googleplex.

And that's the Google Bike.

At Googleplex, I met Avinsah Kaushik the world guru on Analytics. If you have an hour ahead, it's worth watching this video:

Tesla Motors was another remarkable visit. They are launching the Tesla Roadster, a high-performance electric sports car. This high-end car together with the low-end Tata Nano are two extreme examples of a phenomenon shaking not only the car industry: the polarization of demand. Which in few words means that any average product, with average features, for an average client and with an average price is facing a demand contraction. Dramatic differentation is becoming mandatory to survive.

What song would you play to cross the Golden Gate?  I feel like playing September Grass (James Taylor).

August 17, 2010

Sabbatical hideaway in Stanford

The most difficult part is done: picking up 30 docs among the hundreds of them that I happen to find during the year and keep in a special folder. Next week I will work on them as part of my sabbatical hideaway in Stanford.

It's impossible to read them all, and I don't think it would be very helpful. Choosing is hard, but absolutely necessary to cope with overabundance and the paradox of choice, as Barry Schwartz explains brilliantly in this video:

OK, and here is the soundtrack of this post:
Sweet Little Mystery, by Wet Wet Wet.

August 13, 2010

Kindle Business School

All you need to attend a summer course at Kindle Business School is a sharp selection of books and documents, and discipline to reach your daily reading goals.

If you use the Text-to-Speech application -so you can listen to what you're reading-, you will experience how fast you can read: a book a day!

These are my latest readings:

August 8, 2010

After 38 years begging in the streets

I spent last week teaching at INALDE Business School in Bogotá and Medellín, invited by Professor Fabio Novoa and the Alumni Association. Apart from having the chance of meeting more than 300 professionals in different executive programs of the school, I came back to my summer quarters in Miami with a moving story. It has to do with this scarf:

Besides the sessions at INALDE, I participated as well in an event organized by the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. After my conference, someone from the audience came to give me a scarf with my name written on it. He was Reinaldo Niño, and entrepeneur with an inspirig story.

Reinaldo has spent 38 years begging in the streets of Bogotá, but the course of his life changed dramatically -and for the best- when he happened to stumble with a bag filled with cotton. He decided to divided the cotton in two pieces and sell them as two scarfs. And that was the begining of his company, Manos Doradas, that today employs people from the streets:

Let me introduce to you Reinaldo and his story:

Definitely, we need thousands of Reinaldos to change the world. And we should never excuse ourselves by aiming low, when is so much to be done...

I leave you with Between the lines, from Sara Bareilles, to think about it: