The Talent Battle

The Economist writes that “talent has become the world’s most sought-after commodity.”

This survey will argue that the talent war has to be taken seriously. It will try to avoid defining talent either too broadly or too narrowly but simply take it to mean brainpowerthe ability to solve complex problems or invent new solutions. It will thus focus on what Peter Drucker, the late and great management guru, called knowledge workers. But there is no point in being dogmatic. The nature of critical talent varies from company to company: it may be the ability to crack a few jokes while turning an aeroplane around in 25 minutes, as demonstrated by Southwest Airlines. It is one of the marks of a sophisticated society that it rewards a wide variety of different talents.

Future of Social Networking

Bambi Francisco writes:

What’s next? Hiring virtual nannies to baby sit virtual children, sitting on virtual couches to speak to virtual therapists, or perhaps it’s coveting a virtual neighbor’s swanky new digs?

As more people spend time on the Web, increasingly they’re porting their offline habits onto the Net. The social networking spaces are the biggest examples of this.

Many of my readers know that I refer to MySpace spaces as dorm rooms because they are the virtual equivalent of that one-room environment that reveals in a snapshot, who you are and what you like. In my day, posters of bands were plastered on the physical dorm room walls. Today, those virtual posters sing on demand in our virtual rooms.

Education Idea

Jon Udell writes:

Imagine a mashup of Second Life, MTurk, and web-based screensharing. In this world, kids earn Linden dollars for advancing through sequences of mathcasts and interactive tests. But to really excel in the game, they’ll want to solicit help from tutors who appear as wise mentors in the game. Tutors also earn Linden dollars for their effort, and can earn bonuses when their students perform well.

Tutors and students rendezvous by way of MTurk. Students might advertise their tutoring needs, or the system — sensing the need — might do it for them. During a rendezvous, one or more students and a tutor share a whiteboard, converse in audiochat, and use a shared virtual calculator.

Now in truth, though Second Life would be maximally trendy, a basic web application would be more practical. Likewise, although tablet PCs would be ideal, something like a Wacom tablet would do fine. The essential ingredients would be: a pool of students, another pool of tutors, incentives for both, a mechanism for brokering supply and demand, and an appropriately equipped shared space in which to meet.

Where do the incentives come from? Parents. We’d fund this system in a heartbeat if it were proven to work.

Making Decisions

Knowledge@Wharton has an interview with Michael Useem, the auhor of ‘The Go Point’:

Along that line, watching people in office, responsible leaders — many of whom I’ve interviewed, witnessed, talked with — are very good at reaching decisions. They make timely decisions, they make decisions that are pretty good, but some don’t. As we think about American life at the moment, as we think about companies, or life in China, or really anywhere, it’s striking to me that people in mid-level office — sometimes in high office — are just not great at knowing when to pull the trigger, and how to pull it when they do.

With that as an animating concern, and being responsible in my own professional life for helping people develop their leadership, it did hit me personally a couple of years ago that this needs some attention. To give it attention, my method has simply been to go to people who are pretty good at making decisions, watch how they do it, witness them in action, sometimes ask them in retrospect to construct it.

But ultimately I suppose it is the teacher’s calling here, and that is to help people — either indirectly through academic research that I do publish as well, or sometimes more directly by providing commentary that people can draw upon — see themselves in the commentary, and thus draw lessons from it.

Valuing Social Networking Sites

Knowledge@Wharton writes:

“What makes this hard is that these companies seem to be so many years away from the kind of earnings that the valuation numbers are forecasting for them,” says Andrew Metrick, finance professor at Wharton. The $15 billion MySpace figure “would imply that a lot more people will be on MySpace than are currently on it.”

Metrick believes social networking sites will not be a passing fad. But there’s no guarantee that MySpace, Facebook or any of the other current players will be the big winners in the end. Fader, too, believes social networking is here to stay, but he thinks it may work best not as a freestanding function but as an additional feature on sites that draw users for other reasons. Hence, the winners may turn out to be other sites that adopt social networking features. Or they may be new players, or current networking sites that broaden their offerings.

TECH TALK: Gandhigiri: Towards a New India

Edward Luce has authored a book on India In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India. When asked about his views on Gandhi, this is what he said in an interview with The Hindu:

He was a brilliant mobiliser of the masses, a translator and the best populariser of an elitist freedom movement into an idiom the masses could understand, the most effective tactician of the freedom struggle. He was a legendary and towering figure. I would not want to diminish Gandhi and I wouldn’t be qualified to do so.

There is a very strong and deeply rooted cultural romanticism about the village in India. It’s primarily upper caste urban people who are the keepers of the flame of this romanticism. I want India to develop and development means urbanisation. It is an inescapable fact. I don’t believe that urbanisation means liquidation of culture. France is 90 per cent urban. France is quintessentially French. India has a great urban civilisational heritage. It’s not as if India’s cradle of culture is purely the village. But partly because of the distortions of the colonial era and partly because and this is not an original point I’m making the villages are the least tainted and least interfered with by the colonial presence, the village became the repository in the freedom movement dialectic of Indian culture. That romanticism which I think is very conservative is still quite widespread. It is not stopping India urbanising but it’s making the urban experience far more callous and bloody than it could be. Urbanisation can be done well. It can be anticipated. Demographic trends can be projected and you can start putting infrastructure in place without having to be Japanese.

We face many challenges in India even as we are on the path of rapid growth. Even as the nation was celebrating Gandhi Jayanti and the resurgence in interest in Gandhis principles, the New York Times was running a series of stories on one of Indias biggest problems the availability of clean drinking water to the masses. Here is what it wrote: The [water] crisis, decades in the making, has grown as fast as India in recent years. A soaring population, the warp-speed sprawl of cities, and a vast and thirsty farm belt have all put new strains on a feeble, ill-kept public water and sanitation network. The combination has left water all too scarce in some places, contaminated in others and in cursed surfeit for millions who are flooded each year. Today the problems threaten Indias ability to fortify its sagging farms, sustain its economic growth and make its cities healthy and habitable. At stake is not only Indias economic ambition but its very image as the worlds largest democracy.

Water is just of one the many challenges India faces. Education, energy, urbanization, healthcare, poverty, AIDS, infrastructure, corruption there is a lot of catching up to do. Indias young need jobs and opportunities and we have increasingly little time to provide it. We are going to need disruptive solutions to many of Indias problems. Gandhi realised that a violence-driven approach would probably not have gotten India independent and even if it did, it would not be the same India. His disruptive innovation of using non-co-operation as a weapon against the British needs to find its echo in todays India to solve the problems that we face. Gandhigiri is just a start.

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