Five Frogs on a Log

Gary Feld has this story by Lewis Jaffe:

One of his slides started out as a question. “If there are five frogs on a log and four decide to jump off, how many frogs remain on the log.” Of course – the instinctive answer of “one” is wrong. Five frogs actually remain on the log, as deciding to jump and jumping are different things.

In an entrepreneurial context, intentionality is important, but results are what really matter. Lewis reinforced this in a memorable way – as the point he was making is “just because you decide, doesn’t mean you do.” He stressed that one of the main problems he sees early in his tenure as CEO of a company that is failing is paralysis – everyone has ideas about what to do, but no one is willing or able to do them.

Remember – just because a frog decides to jump, doesn’t mean he will. Be careful not to confuse intentionality with results in your business (or your life.)

India’s First Rural Mall

Indra Sharma writes about ITC’s Choupal Sagar, which was recently opened in Madhya Pradesh:

Recently, ITC has launched the first rural mall-Choupal Sagar at Rafiqganj that is a little village about four kilometres from Sehore town in Madhya Pradesh. In continuation with its project e-Choupal, Chaupal Sagar is the first rural mall in the country andt stands on an eight-acre plot with a shopping area of 7,000 square feet.

The farmers can buy soaps, detergents and toothpaste, almost everything they need for the family including TVs, DVD players, pressure cookers, room heaters, watches, sewing machines and grinders and, of course, cigarettes. Motorbikes or even tractors are also available. The company is marketing a new range of clothings and shoes too for the rural customers. And the plans are very ambitious. Starting in the first week of October, the daily sale is already between Rs 70,000 to 80,000- not bad as a business proposition too.

The idea is to create a one-stop destination for farmers. The farmer, with his family, drives into Chaupal Sagar in a tractor trolley laden with the produce from his field, he proposes to sell. His grain weighed on the digital weighing machine, he drives on to the godown where the produce is unloaded. Meanwhile, his kids can enjoy the swings and video games and his wife may like to move around and select the items she needs for the household. As soon as the farmer gets his cash, they make the required purchases and drive back by evening. They can, for a change, have their lunch in the cafeteria. If he intends to, he can even carry fertilisers and pesticides and get a diesel fill for his tractor.

The shopping area is only a part of the vast Chaupal Sagar. At the back of the mall is a godown where ten thousand tonnes of grain can be stored. Then, the entertainment area with video games and swings. A diesel pump, a cafeteria and a soil-testing laboratory are also coming up and so is a sale point for fertilisers, pesticides and other agro-inputs. A bank, an insurance company office and a training centre for farmers will complete the set-up. If he needs to, the farmer can consult a doctor who will be available on the premises. Is it not the beginning of the great change the villages will be undergoing in months and years to come?

The Lost Instinct of Collaboration

Dave Pollard writes:

The Wisdom of Teams says the preconditions for successful teamwork (something akin at least to collaboration) are (a) broad commitment to a clear, common purpose or goal, (b) a shared sense of urgency, (c) broad-based, productive participation and sense of belonging, (d) open communication and trust, and (e) complementary skills and diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. The authors also suggest that organizational leaders make lousy team-members (they can’t relinquish control and they intimidate others from playing an equal role). The best teams, in fact, are leaderless, self-managed in an egalitarian way.

Is the crushing of our instinctive tendency and desire to collaborate a conspiracy by the rich and powerful to keep us under their control? Maybe it is, but the important question is What can we do about it? Here are my thoughts:

  • Get involved in truly collaborative activities. If you have never experienced that remarkable feeling of collective accomplishment, you don’t know what you’re missing. Not only are such activities fun, they’re extraordinary learning experiences too.
  • Be vocal when a project or activity that could or should be (or is advertised as being) collaborative, is not, either because it’s set up hierarchically in the first place, or because some of the ‘players’ don’t behave in egalitarian, collaborative ways. Most people don’t recognize the critical difference between a truly collaborative team and a group, but if that’s articulated, most people, either by instinct or from experience, will recognize the difference and the superiority of true collaboration. Teach them. Show them.
  • Help the team self-select and self-manage. Oust the big egos and out the wallflowers and lurkers.
  • If your work and play don’t give you regular, real opportunities to participate in truly collaborative efforts, and if as a result you’re not really having fun in either, maybe it’s time for a change.

  • Vortex Conference

    Jeff Nolan writes about the Enterprise IT conference [1 2]:

    Geoffrey Moore Keynote, Orchestrating the Stack:
    – the stack consists of business layers (services and applications), compute process layer (app platforms), and compute engines (hardware)

    Service oriented architecture, the next big thing
    – current stack represents internet-enabled client/server dependent on large monolithic structures
    – current leading technologies push the internet itself into the position of being the application bus
    – with the internet as the bus, all of the stack elements become modularized as a shared service
    – new stack will not happen overnight and it will privilege specific layers

    VC Investment in China

    [via Paul Denlinger] Mercury News writes:

    For years, if not decades, entrepreneurs have dreamed of making it in China, salivating at the prospect of more than a billion people and an economy growing at 9 percent a year. But for the most part, those dreams have so far remained just that — dreams, with few and limited cases of success.

    Now, new developments are drawing the eyes of VCs, and they see money. A raft of recent successful initial public offerings of Chinese companies show that foreign investors finally have a way to recoup profits from investments there. The companies, which are listed on Nasdaq or Hong Kong stock exchanges, are producing gains that some say could make U.S. ventures pale in comparison.

    China’s income per capita has risen sharply over the past decade, giving consumers real purchasing power. Half the population in several major cities has phones, compared with only 1 percent in 1990. A large tide of U.S.-educated Chinese entrepreneurs and engineers have returned home to China, taking back valuable management experience.

    Finally, the massive growth of foreign direct investment in China from corporations is helping spur China’s economy. About $1 billion in capital is invested in China per week, according to McKinsey & Co. China draws more in a year than India does in a decade, says Ram Shriram, an angel investor and early backer of search engine Google. He has invested mainly in India, but China is grabbing his attention. It “makes the industrial revolution look lame in contrast,” he says.

    TECH TALK: The Network Computer: The Four Devices

    So, why will the network computer be the fulcrum around which this new computing platform will be built? We already have four devices the PC, TV, cellphone and gaming console. Why will it not be one of them? Let us consider each of them.

    The two primary issues with the personal computer are affordability and manageability. In the developed markets, complexity and the cost of operation for computers is becoming an issue. In the developing markets, the cost is of utmost importance. Even today, a barebones PC in India costs about Rs 15,000 ($330). While there are ongoing efforts by companies like AMD and VIA to bring this price point down, that will only happen by impacting performance and user experience.

    More than affordability, the more serious issue over time is going to be the complexity involved in managing the computer. Most desktop users run pirated copies of Windows, leaving them vulnerable to viruses and spyware. That could be solved with using Linux. But the issue of adding and upgrading applications and managing user data still remains. This is where a thin client network computer scores over the thick desktop. It brings both affordability and simplicity by centralising processing and storage, and making software delivered as a service from the grid. The network computer needs no management just like a telephone. If it stops working, it needs to be replaced, without fear of any loss of data since the user data is stored centrally.

    So, can cellphones or PDAs be the answer? After all, countries like India have more than three times as many cellphone users as computer owners. I think not for a simple reason. The small input/output footprint of the cellphone and PDA makes it usable for niche applications, not for sustained work. Yes, the screens could become better and there could be keyboards attached but then we are no longer talking portability.

    The cellphone is a personal device. It can complement the network computer, but it cannot replace it. In fact, the cellphone with a capability to attach to an external keyboard, mouse and monitor could double as the network computer and this is the directions I see network computers evolving in over time, as the incremental cost of adding communications protocols like WiFi or GSM/CDMA becomes close to zero. Until then, the cellphone will not be able to replace the network computer.

    The third option is to use the TV connected to a set-top box. The problem in this TV-STB option is two-fold. First, the display resolution on TV does not compare favourably with that of a computer monitor. The TV screen also inherently limits the display to less than that of a 640×480 resolution (which could result in horizontal scroll bars for most web pages). While it is possible that these limitations may be overcome, the second limitation would then kick in. In most Indian homes, the TV is a shared entertainment device it is still not a personal device. As a result, using it for computing would be limited to non-TV watching times only.

    It could be argued that given that people have no real options, they may prefer to use the TV-STB combo itself as a network computer. That could be especially true in light of the planned offering by Reliance Infocomm for Indian homes which would bundle a set-top box with a broadband connection. My feeling is that in these scenarios the TV would at best be used for entertainment-related functions. So, while this could be a possibility in homes, it definitely rules out the enterprise market. Given a choice between a TV-STB combo and the network computer, I believe people will increasingly opt for the latter.

    The fourth device that is widespread in the developed markets in the context of entertainment is the gaming console. So, could the gaming console be the network computer? I think not. What the gaming console does is provides an alternative to the set-top box the display still remains as the TV. So, it suffers from all those limitations. In addition, the business model of the gaming console industry is to subsidise the console and make money off the software (games). That model is unlikely to work well in developing countries where software piracy is rampant. As a result, the game console cannot be subsidised and so its inherent price advantage disappears.

    That leaves us with having to create a new device, the network computer.

    Tomorrow: The Fifth Option

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