Notes from the Road

Thoughts about the world as I travel through it

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BIG and Small

Glen Small writes about Bjarke Ingels in this article. The comparison is interesting: Both are full of energy and ideas. Their architectural strategies have a number of things in common. But they could not be more different from a business perspective.

The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has a stream of prestigious comissions, and a portfolio of significant projects in many parts of the world. Glen in contrast has a lot of breakthrough ideas, but much less built work.

There’s no answer to the question of which is the right approach. At the end of the day, some choose to produce ideas, others choose to produce product. Ideas can be very influential (think Adolf Loos), and so can product (Frank Lloyd Wright). It’s probably more comfortable to make a living out of product than ideas, and Glen can attest to that.

Ollie’s New Beginning

Cover Picture

While we were living in England, my younger son and I were talking about writing. I think he was about seven at the time. Together we developed the idea for a story about a boy and his toy dragon. Starting with a mind-map, and moving on to a full-blown outline, we talked the story through. It took a long time to get it all written, but both our boys took an interest in the story and offered suggestions.

The book was completed a while ago, but as anyone who has tried to get a children’s book published knows, it’s tough out there.

Finally, five or so years later, the book is published! You can get a copy by clicking here, or on the cover image.

It’s published at lulu.com, which offers print-on-demand services.

You can also get an electronic copy here.

The next step is to get the book into Barnes and Noble and the Amazon bookstore: hopefully you’ll soon be able to order it from there as well.

If you haven’t read it yet, Ollie’s New Beginning is the story of a young boy and his dragon. It explores the challenges of separation and independence in a story that makes great bedtime reading for a young child.

Now if you buy a copy, I can share the royalties with my son and writing consultant!

Sales and Marketing MindXchange

I just returned from three interesting days in Tempe, Arizona, at the Frost and Sullivan Sales and Marketing MindXchange. This is a highly interactive event – workshops, facilitated discussions, and a lot of networking.

I was somewhat skeptical at first, but it turned out to be a good thing for several reasons:

  1. The quality of the participants was high. From many different branches of marketing, and many different kinds of businesses, so diverse experiences and challenges.
  2. The interactivity – which meant we could benefit from all the experiences of the different people.
  3. Some great speakers – the two best in my view were Martha Rogers (of 1:1 Marketing fame) and Vincent Cho from Intuit, who gave an excellent presentation on the implications of the new Internet technologies on sales and marketing.

The result of these was good networking. Frost and Sullivan also did a great job of keeping the whole thing informal – no ties (well, hardly any), and a very casual atmosphere throughout.

So if you’re in marketing and are interested in getting a broader picture of what’s going on in a range of different markets – this is not a bad way to do it.

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Technology will let us live forever

Ray Kurtzweil is not only a respected technologist and innovator, he is also known as something of a futurist. His latest book, The Singularity is Near, argues that technology will radically change our experience of living, and will fix a lot of the things that eventually kill us. There’s a summary of some of the main points here.

It occurs to me that there’s a connection to something the Jesuit theologian Teilhard de Chardin said many years ago – that there’s educational evolution as well as physical evolution. When we learn new things, we are irrevocably changed. The connection is that Kurtzweil is reminding us that technology, which is the result of knowledge, and therefore inextricably linked to education, evolves faster than we do biologically. Our bodies will be overtaken developmentally by machines. This is unavoidable.

The challenge for all of us is to make the absolute best of this that we can. To be responsible, forward-looking, and to express our care for the future of our world in the way we harness the potential of our technology-rich future.

Keeping up to date with NetVibes

The world is changing fast, and it’s tough to keep up. www.netvibes.com is one of the great tools I’ve found recently. They let you create a custom home page on the web that contains lots of feeds from the sites that interest you, of course along with the ubiquitous and de rigeur Google search bar.

RSS feeds are the way to keep up with the news – and with NetVibes you can build your own real-time newspaper. There’s lots of information around on what RSS is and how to use it: here’s one from CNET.

You can also use NetVibes to watch your Google Mail.

Saint Osama?

This controversial piece was written to try to counteract the black-and-white, good and evil, freedom versus terrorist rhetoric that abounded following the 9/11 attacks. Now several years on, I think it still has merit. We see the US and other governments spending enormous resources on war, creating enormous pain and division, while there are many humanitarian causes that would not only have benefited directly from those funds, but that would go some way to building bridges between East and West, Christian and Moslem. It is deeply disappointing that fear and anger continue to prevail, where in truth compassion – and compassionate action – seems much more likely to create sustainable progress.

Attending Aurora Theater’s marvelous “Saint Joan” last week in Berkeley, I was struck by the parallels between the life of this fifteenth century warrior and our current nemesis in Afghanistan. Joan of Arc was a religious extremist who believed that God gave her precise instructions, independent of the advice of the established church or civil government. She also spoke of “France” and “England” in a day when both land masses were ruled in haphazard fashion by feudal lords. (more…)

A Sailor’s View

This was written for a US publication called “Spinsheet” that serves the yachting community. Following the attacks on New York and Washington, the paper asked readers to contribute their thoughts. With September 11th approaching again, I thought it was worth reprinting. Here’s what I wrote.

Sailing connects me with the planet, and with all the peoples of the world. It is easy to forget in these difficult times that the US is not the center of the universe, and that we are not the only people to have suffered a terrorist attack or to have lost innocent citizens in recent years. Yet every time we climb into a boat, and head away from the dock, we are physically connected, through the seas that surround the globe, to our fellow-travelers across the world. (more…)

An unsettling similarity

This quotation seems eerily consistent with the current British and US approach to communicaton with the electorate:

“Of course the people don’t want war… That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

The quotation is from Hermann Goering.

A Foundation for Peace

I was in Brittany last week at a wedding (a wonderful experience in itself!), and I met a person who leads a foundation focussing on teaching and promoting peace with children. The website is http://www.graines-de-paix.org, and it’s a multi-lingual site. (more…)

Safely home again

We came in from San Francisco without event. The security here was a little tougher than we’d seen at Heathrow – our carry on bags were briefly searched at the gate right before we climbed on the plane.

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