Japanese philosophy makes simplicity profound. Whether it involves work, family, or some ritual in one’s life, these three things create happiness for me:
1. Something to do
2. Something to love
3. Something to hope for
The table stakes show that higher levels of engagement, passion, and vision improve satisfaction. The opposite of happiness comes in the form of inaction, aversion, and hopelessness.
Quality of life improves by optimizing the sources of happiness.
Companies like Airbnb, Uber, Tinder, and WeWork have really changed how techies work and socialize. As a result, there’s an explosive growth of digital nomads and experience-seeking junkies — many of whom are tech workers who’ve managed to have fun while earning a paycheck in far-flung places.
Will the insatiable desire for new travel experiences translate into more unique remote-working opportunities? These gigs offered by startups like WiFi Tribe look much more exciting than being moored to a dock at home.
Things built to last and meant to be sustainable are losing out to the ephemeral and the disposable. I like the idea of spending a year or two in Timbuktu, but not sure how one can grow by becoming a full-time carpetbagger. I ended my carpet-bagging days when I just couldn’t maintain my health and well-being.
I wonder if this trend will fade once the global economy cools down. I can’t imagine having to work while CouchSurfing. 🧐
Reading this book. I really like the organizational blueprint highlighted here by entrepreneur Safi Bahcall. Whether you are an artist/innovator (developer, R&D scientist, UX designer, engineering, etc.) or a soldier/operations guru (marketer, sales, HR, customer success/CX, project manager), you’ll need strong collaboration in order to generate the best results for a firm.
Re-thinking the process about how we organize ourselves could improve the execution of big and small projects, alike. Artists and soldiers represent two wings of the same bird.
How do we make the bird soar and solve the biggest problems? Can a simple shift in mindset fuel success?
Great presentation by Keri Keeling from Oracle about formalizing the account planning process…
My favorite record store in Austin closed 15 years ago. If I want the Tower Records experience I have to go overseas.
When I visit Japan every couple of years or so, I can still drop by Tower Records in Shibuya and the Toys ”R” Us Japan headquarters in Kawasaki (where I was a consultant many years ago). Toys ”R” Us never shut down in Japan. Japan loves vintage ’American’ brands.
Struggling retail brands continue to find success in Japan where the population density swells in city centers usually near train stations. Thanks to a strong public transit system, the foot traffic is endless for stores which rely on customers to visit the old-fashioned way.
While shopping malls shrink in America due to the smartphone lifestyle, the Japanese remain loyal to big-box retailers making the effort to market themselves and provide ”omotenashi.”
If you enjoy classic rock, I recommend Phoenix where old bands keep strumming. If you love old school shopping experiences, visit Japan and think about opening a store there.
Few large cities in America offer master-planned communities and estate homes similar to Houston for a fraction of a million dollars. It’s rare to find metros in the South that have successfully built industrial sectors capable of surviving recessions and globalization.
The Energy Corridor (77079) in Houston employs over 100,000 folks. The Texas Medical Center (77030) supports a similar figure enabling another growing cluster for jobs. These two zip codes help power Houston’s economy. The tech sector is a big part of the growth story in Houston. Austin and Dallas have tech stories of their own which are masked by higher real estate prices than Houston, but nothing like the mediocre housing on the East or West Coasts.
I don’t know many people on the East Coast or West Coast who have joined the migration of ’housing’ refugees coming to Houston. Houston attracts all walks of life from across the globe which creates a unique diversity and mishmash of cultures.
Austin or Dallas first comes to mind whenever I think of Texas. If Houston can fix its flooding and crime issues, it could become a third coast gem for families seeking normalcy amidst the bluster of high-strung living on expensive coasts. There are plenty of tech jobs in Houston— to go along with cheap gas and doctors on standby. 😆
With wealth inequality increasing in almost all large metros, Houston counters the trend with a not so secret sauce: by developing strong industrial sectors around affordable housing. By limiting zoning laws, residential communities and condos (that are actually affordable) sprout up all over the city, near the key zip codes where people work. This trend is definitely changing, but Houston has done a good job of addressing the affordable housing crisis plaguing NYC, San Francisco, and Seattle. Houston will become unaffordable in 5 to 10 years —- when everyone starts moving there after Austin and Dallas get saturated.
The jobs growth must continue because Houston is not the most exciting or geographically-pleasing place in the world. These two zip codes are worth looking into if you are expanding your business or organization.
Andrew Yang is a long shot, but as long as the Democratic Party and liberal media networks like MSNBC focus on ‘beating Trump’ versus focusing on the needs of the American family, 2020 will bring little change. This excellent op-ed points to what is missing — Andrew Yang deserves more air time to share a positive vision for American families.
The originator of advertising shared this tidbit long before the internet age began.
In this age of the customer, the conscientious consumer will impact business decision-making. Consumers are becoming more aware of sourcing, sustainability, and responsible investing. Business ethics and corporate social responsibility take center stage. Salesforce does a great job of highlighting this at their conference — making it ripple out to partners, customers, the United Nations, and beyond.
The famous bookstore in Paris is 100 years old. I was there when it turned 99.
Will it make it to its 200th birthday? Will there be enough bookworms to preserve it throughout this century?
There’s something to be said about the largest e-commerce company in the world beginning as a bookseller twenty-five years ago. It will be interesting to see if the Paris bookstore outlives Amazon.
Scott Heiferman founded Meetup just after the dotcom bubble crashed. It scaled over time and gained a global following. Before Facebook and LinkedIn, Meetups were the platform of choice for anyone interested in community-building. Evite was another similar tool at that time.
Scott decided to sell the company to WeWork a couple of years ago. As someone who relied on Meetup for all kinds of networking including running a community myself, I’m not sure if I’ll renew my subscription. The biggest benefit offered to Meetup community leaders was the usage of swank office space at WeWork locations for free. The cost of admission was often free in the Meetup world. Things seemed too good to be true. It’s impossible to run such a business for too long.
It’s a shame if Meetup gets shut down because there are so many folks like Scott who scaled amazing communities and connected with each other. I hope Meetup survives the WeWork reorganization.
If you grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen, this movie is for you…
The empty chair mantra has caught on at many companies starting with Amazon. Jeff Bezos alludes to the customer who needs representation, so the idea is to keep an empty chair in every meeting.
What if the empty chair also became a civic lesson for companies to give back. What if the empty chair was kept for disadvantaged youth, for the homeless, or for the stranger who’s terminally ill.
I helped with a recent program focused on customer experience and social impact. I couldn’t help but think about the empty chairs there representing those who may never get the chance to ascend the lofty heights of SF. At the same time, I felt gratitude towards the inspiring speakers and sponsors for shedding light on customer experience, employee experience, and volunteerism.
It’s why corporate social responsibility has become the primary reason younger generations chose an employer in the first place. I believe the more a company aligns social impact to its mission statement, the more likely it is to survive in the long term. Companies like Salesforce, DocuSign, Zendesk, and Medallia clearly understand what’s at stake. The employee who cares about the empty chair is a keeper.
CAR-T is a new treatment for cancer which is now available at over 100 hospitals. It re-engineers a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer. It was one of the hundreds of trials at MD Anderson which successfully reached the mass market. Patients get access to such trials at the largest research hospitals. For anyone who gets diagnosed with complex cancer (stage 2 or greater), the best chance of survival is at a research institution.
Fortunately, my relative was able to join a breakthrough trial in Houston. As someone who studies processes and systems closely, I’ve learned more at MD Anderson than any other hospital because of the transparency, the quality of care, and aggressive vision which adopts the latest technologies such as Oncora. MD Anderson even has a yoga program.
Here’s a well-written essay by a Stanford doctor about her experience treating current patients with CAR-T. Huge strides are being made in the race to cure cancer.
(we began at Stanford and made our way to MD Anderson where we found access to such trials as well as a better patient experience)
The tech world has become much more hands-on in the last decade. Nearly all founders and CEOs build, configure, & implement products and services. Customer success becomes everyone’s mission when project execution happens with customers in perpetuity.
Proposify is a cool tool I’ve used. It’s made by a tiny Canadian company. In the world of Customer Success, it’s an unknown startup (with global ambitions) but has managed to scale from zero.
I really like how they’ve grown the customer success function from scratch. Founder Kyle Racki outlines how they made it happen.
Customer Success(CS) is often coined as a subset of Customer Experience(CX). The reality is that Customer Success drives CX initiatives. Based on anecdotal evidence, CX professionals seem to have fewer job opportunities than CS pros. Bob Thompson expounds on the dilemma here. CX needs CS more than ever.
It’s ok to lose some competitions. Every battle is not worth fighting for. I’ve seen a recent spate of successful people pass away well before their time, not from accidents, but from illnesses like cancer. Almost all were fierce competitors who led stressful lives.
Sometimes, losing really means living.
In search of a more democratic internet (from an academic’s perspective)…
Here’s a quick recap of Ramesh’s talk. Algorithms power the fastest growing companies. Tech companies monopolize and monetize exchanges. A handful of platforms and apps control nearly all of the world’s data. Here’s a popular slide he shared.
Silicon Valley tech leaders continue to determine technology access and user experiences for most of the world’s population. While good intentions drove them to success, the lack of awareness (and governance) of the unique needs of global cultures has resulted in cultural misappropriation and inefficient use cases. While most of us benefit from the new technologies, our data is being used against our future livelihoods, and for insane profits. Ultimately, the data will be codified to usurp our jobs. It’s already happening.
Ramesh portrays hope for an alternative tech universe focused on community, equality, and shared opportunities. He showcased some real breakthroughs of rural tech entrepreneurship —- mostly off the grid — insinuating that success is possible without being part of the global technology hegemony.
The viewpoint shared here is not entirely new. Populist movements have been railing against harm from the U.S. technology sector’s consolidation of power through data collection. Everyone from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump has expressed concerns. The least concerned appear to be the politicians controlled by the U.S. Tech lobby.
Some data issues are being addressed by GDPR and other government controls, but little has been done so far. We have embraced the Facebooks and Amazons of the world and given them all of our data. Yet, it’s frightening to think about indigenous populations, and what they might do to us if they made it across our borders. 😉
What if the same people were brilliant tech entrepreneurs trying to get us off the ‘grid’ as we know it?
A culture of empathy makes Japan a bit more frictionless than most countries. Omoiyari or empathy is a minimal expectation, not something which needs to be taught or enforced.
MD Anderson strives for as much human interaction as possible — creating a patient-centric experience that does not lead with technology. Rebecca Kaul, Chief Innovation Officer, outlines a world-class experience for patients and their families. I can attest to it — having walked the halls and seen hundreds of smiles.
It’s terrifying to think of hospitals just becoming factories of automation where doctors become obsolete. Some tech innovators should take a closer look at the human side of care. Huge efficiencies can be achieved through technology, but medical leaders shouldn’t replace the white glove treatment that extends care and keeps hope alive.
Entrepreneurship is often derived from life experiences rarely witnessed in America. Challenges yield creativity. Lual Mayen escaped Sudan and now runs a gaming company in DC. The son of another refugee entrepreneur Abdul Fattah Jandali is none other than the great Steve Jobs. America’s success comes from a culture of inclusion, not derision.
The former Soviet Union instituted the “continuous workweek” known as neprervka almost 100 years ago. Weekends didn’t exist. Families couldn’t see each other much. Burnout was pervasive. The experiment didn’t last long. In today’s workforce, flexibility is the expected norm with the caveat that work can get done anywhere and at any time thanks to technology. Instead of balance, we work much harder today and don’t know our neighbors.
Life in America works when there’s a calendar otherwise we lose sight of the life we have to live. Japan is another schedule-driven society I know all too well. The work we do overtakes the work needed at home and in the community. Technology is creating more imbalance when it should make us more civic-minded citizens.
This insightful article highlights some startling examples such as Home Depot’s evolution from FT retail employer to just another revolving door for part-timers. Technology helps with scheduling and workforce productivity. A business succeeds thanks to technology but hurts the average worker. The end goal is seemingly to employ 24×7 part-time workers just like the failed Soviet experiment. If we work all the time we won’t have time to revolt with our neighbors against a government and business world suppressing civic life. One-dimensional plutocrats lacking maturity and human empathy take reins because we didn’t have time to do our homework with our neighbors.
Home Depot was a recent client of mine. Back in the 90s, I recall it being a company of experts. The retail stores excelled with full-time workers and experts. You could always count on the friends you made at Home Depot. Home Depot’s band of experts created a positive employee and customer experience. Things changed in the 2000s when Home Depot changed its full-time work culture into a part-time one without experts. The store experience was pretty bad, and the online experience was even worse.
When I fast-forward to the most recent years — as I helped Home Depot move its customer service capabilities onto a smartphone — things have dramatically improved as Home Depot connected its brick-and-mortar experience with its mobile and online channels. The low-cost flexible workers have become ‘experts’ with customer knowledge at their fingertips. While over-scheduling a part-time workforce has certainly been good for Home Depot’s stock performance and for customers like me, the employee experience hasn’t improved. Only store managers are full time. They watch their stores like hawks, replacing workers frequently.
I’ve always worried about the kind of experience these part-time employees might be having since I consulted at the headquarters. Since I don’t think it’s fair to punish part-time workers struggling to support their families, I tended to give everyone 5-star ratings on the mobile experience surveys. The Atlantic article highlights the role scheduling has played in diminishing quality of life including time for civic life. As 2019 comes to a close, it’s become much harder to achieve the civic goals I set out for myself.
Neprervka has been resurrected in new ways. We are wired 24×7, tethered to our phones, becoming customer support for our companies, but not for the sake of customers. The end goal is survival — in order to pay the bills and raise law-abiding children. “It takes a village” was a proverb I heard often back in my schooling days. The culture of our hometowns — whether back in Texas or in the backwaters of Asia — has disappeared as we embrace what is tantamount to a socially-stratified corporate lifestyle in ritzy urban centers. The pressure never ends to be at the top of your game. There’s only one winner for every race. Losers go home. The carefree freedoms of the local coffeehouse culture (from childhood) have been replaced by a virtual prison — where our phones connect us to our humanity — not conversations around a cooler with our families and neighbors.
Making a difference in the world has become a big deal if you tie it to the opportunity to make a big sale. If you garner good enough PR you just might keep the government off your back. Corporate Social Responsibility deserves more executive ownership and visionary action since many government leaders are not up to snuff. As citizens, we need to reprioritize our lives to avoid rule by hegemonic forces such as the tech industry which has successfully hijacked our minds.
Nonetheless, our shared fate is being sealed by a faceless boardroom of plutocrats making painful decisions equivalent to those passed down by dictators like Joseph Stalin a hundred years ago. Our phones gave us this convenient lifestyle but also distracted us enough to elect stupid people into public office. Too many things on the schedule blind us from seeing the light.
Let’s join forces with our neighbors for the greater good before we lose our vacation and weekend time, too. 😁
This Japanese expression meaning “one life, one encounter” is a favorite. Time flies, but memories can be made to last. Behavioral psychology points to the younger population choosing experiences over things.
How do we keep up in the business world? I’ve learned that treating every initial customer and prospect with omotenashi (selfless hospitality) increases the possibility that they chose to return. At the same time, loyalty is becoming a thing of the past with so many consumers addicted to the pursuit of new experiences. The bar has been raised so high that every interaction requires additional creativity on top of selfless hospitality. Sometimes, this creativity requires provocation.
It boils down to creating memories with every customer interaction. The best marketers are memory makers.
Steve Jobs may not have been the greatest human being, but he left a permanent footprint in the sands of time.
Great podcast by Mio Adilman and Zendesk. As a One Medical customer, I can vouch for the intuitive mobile app and on-demand availability of great docs. Frankly, the healthcare industry needs the most disruption.
This is Silicon Valley’s dilemma: To empower and train (give back locally) or to automate and outsource (reduce local opportunities). The tech sector should benefit local communities wherever it succeeds. The 99% lives here, too.
Years ago Pico Iyer captured in an NYT column the desperate pursuit of silence and detox from our noisy world. The root cause of our anxieties according to him was traceable to the devices that wired us with info which we don’t necessarily need, certainly not all the time. A measured response meant going off the grid to a place intended to give back one’s bearings in order to consciously live again. The end game was potentially a happier life.
Today, the end game careens towards an exciting life with tech — not necessarily a happy one — with microbursts of joy as we speed towards 2020. Laura Holson, a writer for the New York Times, spells out a different narrative from Pico’s — examining the ups and downs of our pursuit of happiness. Happiness may be quantified by the number of joyful moments one can generate (even if it’s from social media).
I know this rings true in the customer experience world where happy customers tended to have more aha! moments.
Both NYT essays allude to a life prone to instant gratification which needs examination and recalibration. Mindfulness might be attainable for a handful of NYT readers. The rest of us tackle the world as an exciting scavenger hunt with nothing more than a small screen and tiny keyboard. It’s possible to collect joyful memories without using devices. Maybe the secret to joy is leaving the phone behind on the next journey.
South Asian lit festivals have grown over time. As the population thrives in large metros like Houston and Seattle, South Asian book-readers stake their ground and share voices which go beyond the professional brilliance of the community. All that glitters is not gold. There is real pain felt in the community as immigrants.
Pain can be recorded and promoted in the form of art. I attended the Houston edition of the famous Jaipur Literature Festival. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni of “Arranged Marriage” fame along with Mira Jacob highlighted a diverse program. Both writers took decades to publish their first notable books. They were activists addressing community issues long before they became writers.
The festival also featured longtime Bollywood film actress Manisha Koirala who emerged in the 90s. She shared her first book, Healed, a memoir of how she overcame cancer. Cancer is pervasive, yet it’s something South Asian survivors struggle to handle publicly. Manisha brings forth her story and inspires anyone on the same journey.
What I’ve learned from attending these events is that writing is hard. These activities inspire me to read more and share things online. Blogging helps me find my own voice.
Sony is not what it used to be. Japan, Inc. is relevant, but no longer a powerhouse. Old school rarely gets noticed in this age of warp speed. John Nathan’s story of Sony is a cautionary tale but also highlights conscientious leadership. Sony might not have kept up with the growth of the new tech companies, but it didn’t have the volume of sordid scandals today which pose a greater threat to external growth for tech startups than the competition. The fastest-growing companies today are struggling to establish a work culture and hold onto their employees.
Sony was led by grownups who never left the room. The culture was refined and maintained by its co-founder Akio Morita. And it worked for a very long time as portrayed by John Nathan.
Based on my own experience in Japan, business life and work culture rarely changed every year. The monotony was a good thing for long-term career seekers. Professional stability also helped the Japanese maintain nuclear families. Some of my expat friends in Japan continue similar routines over two or three decades thanks to the stability of their tech employers. The same cannot be said about Silicon Valley.
Nice clip highlighting the difference. Stay tuned for an event on 11/12 about implementing CX at orgs focused on social impact.
What’s the point of connecting in the first place?
America ticks to the idea of prosperity — a materialistic gospel that financial success, health, and a loving family is all that you need. Supposedly, an inner faith grows in proportion to your bank account and positive behavior. The Hindu law of Karma resonates with the Prosperity Gospel. An apostle of this trend, Donald Trump grew from America’s winner-take-all culture that subsumed Faith, too. The general perception is that he will get re-elected if the economy stays on the fast lane. Somehow, Money became Faith’s best friend.
To accept the Prosperity Gospel, I get vibes that I’m continually sold-to, even in San Francisco, the hippie capital of the world. When I travel outside America, I realize that I’m a person again and not a customer or prospect in someone’s database. It’s hard to get excited about good intentions that don’t come for free. You don’t leave your AMEX card behind like the American commercial says. 🤣
What I’m looking for is Grace — the state of unconditional love. I think Faith ultimately comes from a divine source that is not keeping score and will save us no matter who we are. What makes Faith grow is expanding Grace to encompass the rest of humanity, especially those underserved, hungry, and struggling to survive. In giving, we receive. The world needs prosperity, but it needs Grace even more. Miracles happen every day because of random acts of kindness.
I learned about Aha! software. It’s one of the fastest growing companies according to the Inc. 5000 list. Aha! is an amazing enterprise software for creating product roadmaps.
The interesting side story is that it’s completely self-funded with no VC backing.
Before relying on Jira during software development, a tool like Aha! could help conduct product planning and develop roadmaps. It’s impossible to stop learning in Silicon Valley.
The great quote here is attributed to an HBS professor who deciphered ‘surveillance capitalism.’ Shoshana Zuboff’s writings are worthy of your time.
Here are my thoughts on tech and community life…
The world hardly knew each other before the Internet. You had to make the effort to understand your place according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. After garnering a sense of belonging, safety, and social equity within one’s village, you ventured to other villages and befriended other tribes.
People connected for the sake of regional safety or to advance socially and gain notoriety through sheer brilliance. A civic culture promoting politics, academics, and business enabled the nonstop hustle and bustle which in turn, created leaders of diverse communities and global businesses.
While many people left their villages behind, many more chose to stay back. A physical connection was required to connect and make a difference. Today, only a click of the ’like’ button on social media is needed to go along with the fine art of texting and emoji-ing. Texting and Tweeting reduce the need to connect in-person ensuring distance in a super-passive way, all in the while, pretending to care. A lot of nobodies have become somebodies and a few brainless people boosted their way to the top. Social media rewards attention seekers, “dotards“, and tech entrepreneurs while ignoring the chroniclers of our age—authors and community leaders. Can anyone in America name their city council members in the township where they live? Admittedly, I wouldn’t be able to either. 😂
The primacy of community has become a lost art where one takes care of neighbors, elders, preserves culture, and protects their tribe when it becomes endangered by its surroundings. Neighbor-to-neighbor connections existed before the Internet, but this culture has given way to a virtual community life propped up by technology platforms such as NextDoor. How does the virtual world come back to life? There are civic experiments happening in places like Seattle which connect neighbors.
The internet has empowered many on their professional warpath using technology. Staying back in a global village seemed like such a career-limiting move. While billions of people have access to each other, it’s unclear what purpose is being served.
Overall, good things are happening. However, relationships are increasingly being defined according to business contracts and social status. My friends in the business world obsess over deal flow, and the stock market’s ebbs & flows. My techie friends ruminate over startup exits and failures. The saddest stories are from one-time valedictorians and brilliant change-makers who’ve become transactional bots just going through midlife crises. A few of my oldest connections stay dormant — on Linkedin.
I championed social impact events in 2019 and it was hard to get my tribe to show up. The events were successful and highlighted the need for meaningful work, not just a paycheck. Corporate social responsibility programs (aside from a few like Salesforce’s) remain underfunded because it’s not a priority in a Silicon Valley obsessed with billion$, not minions. The CEO is the ultimate arbiter of corporate philanthropy. Too many CEOs, VCs, and entrepreneurs do too little.
I don’t know what to do with all my connections. I prefer not to sell them shiny new objects, nor do I care to become a buyer of theirs. What I want — is to deepen my personal ties in 2020 and re-connect with my roots. I’m hoping for more coffee with real people while consuming less content from online mavens. What we’ve lost from all these technologies is that visceral dose of community which was spoon-fed to us during childhood. The community should never be relegated to the Internet only.
I’ll focus on my limited understanding of Maslow’s hierarchy by staying true to my cause: connecting good people and keeping this poetry alive.
Excellent podcast with Carly Fiorina. I don’t have a direct connection to Carly, but my first startup experience was with SpinCircuit, which partnered with her at HP where she was the newly appointed CEO. SpinCircuit eventually got acquired by Cadence Design Systems.
In my experience as a consultant for large enterprises and startup companies, I frequently see two kinds of workers. A few people run towards the fire and solve problems. Conversely, I see many more folks run away from problems and focus on self-promotion and ladder-climbing.
In this age of social media, self-promotion is way too easy. It’s hard to grind. It’s hard to give back to the community after a long day when there are mouths to feed in the workplace and in a household. Carly Fiorina reflects quite a bit about difficult times in business, especially during the forgettable 2000s. Winning at all costs at the expense of society created problems that grew much bigger.
I like this podcast because Carly Fiorina doesn’t mince words and portends about what is going wrong in today’s world and where it may lead us. The hardest thing in the world is to solve problems as they arise. A fire gets larger when it gets ignored. It’s hard to be the kind of leader who is constantly grinding and firefighting. The last 10 minutes of Carly’s leadership talk here is pure gold.
Nonetheless, 2019 was probably the hardest year of my life. I learned to grind and run towards the fire.