Category Archives: tracking

Thinking about Industry 4.0

Say the word “industry” and you are not likely to draw a big crowd. Industry is boring!

But is it? In the old days, perhaps it was. Industry was something that happened in dirty, smelly, noisy, polluting factories. But we may be about to change that paradigm. Those factories may be moving closer to where you live. And they will be automated. And they will be pretty cool.

‘Here is a taste of what “Industry 4.0” looks like!

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Don’t Look now, but Your Country May Be in Trouble

You might not have been following this story, but nation building has been discredited.

It had been the flavor of the month back when the Soviet Union collapsed back in 1991. And lots of money was invested to help nations transition from Soviet to western orientation. But that was basically a “one off” situation. And many think that the results were not that great. So the words “nation building” are no longer used in polite conversation

Too bad. The reality is that each and every nation will thrive or not based upon a vision of where it is going and how it will get there. This is less a matter of abstract justice and rights. It is more a matter of finding, developing and using human resources in the most creative ways possible. Governance, law, education,, policing, and a host of other services are tools to accomplish that.

Libertarians might argue that this should just happen on its own. Get government out of the way, and rational actors will make the most of the opportunities around them. And the libertarians have a point. Rational actors do and will make the best of the opportunities around them  — for themselves. They will not bother to build a middle class if a middle class would not serve a basic need.

Here is another reason that nation building won’t just happen. Globalization — as we understand it now — is based on trade patterns that exist now. So, low cost labor has helped move lots and lots of manufacturing to low wage locations. This offers something that looks like relative prosperity.  But as Rebecca Keller writes, technology is changing those trade patterns. New strategies to find prosperity are needed. And that means investing in local human resources. That type of investment doesn’t happen int he private sec tor.

This is the start of a thread that I will be tracking on how global trade patterns are shifting and what countries are doing about it.

Stay tuned!You can follow from the “Ideas Tracking” page above.

Minimum Viability Does not Mean Crappy

This is a quick follow up to my last post about “making stuff”.

When we start out making stuff, we find out pretty quickly that we are not very good at it. We do not have enough experience. I found that out, for example, when I took my first drawing class in university.

As Sir Ken Robinson points out — that is totally ok. It is to be expected. The magic comes if you learn how to improve.  You do that by focusing while doing on what needs improvement.

Warren Buffet can help you figure out what that is if you are making something for a client . It is to “delight them”. Not please them. Not satisfy them. But delight them. To do that, you need to take a step back from the process and ask yourself, what would be delightful here?

And to get there, you might ask yourself, what delights you?

Do You Make Stuff?

Most of us don’t. I don’t. And I would not know where to start if I had to start.

But I think that Marc Andreessen is right — success these days involves making stuff. Not necessarily big things, like cars or space ships. We can succeed by making very little things — if those things add v alue. If they improve the ability of people to do something better.

I have learned a lot about this over the last several years as I tried to help clients design and build small software products. These were all “minimum viable product” experiments. Perhaps the most important thing is that it is very difficult to anticipate whether your great idea will actually solve other folks’ problems.

When we try to do things that are hard, it is good to break the task into parts — to model it. That way, as Tim Ferriss correctly points out, we can identify which of these parts gives us the biggest return. And then we can focus on those parts.

Alex Cowan offers a model for develop MVP’s. I will be using this and reporting back here. Stay tuned.