Bookmarked! – January


Photo courtesy of this lyre lark

Strong processes, weak culture 

  • Processes present a limitation in that they encourage what Jim Collins (in Built to Last), or Harvard Business Review’s Leading by Leveraging Culture , call a weak culture. The assumption is that teams are not aligned enough with business strategy, so it is necessary to put prescriptive processes in place to ensure for teams alignment. 
  • Operational units, i.e the team that will be using these processes on a daily basis eventually are hardly ever consulted. This way, the processes acquire a Top-Downcharacteristic and the organisation enter into what Thierry de Baillon calls the Taylorist Knowledge : everything is in place to feed the weak culture.
  • strong culture organisation does not need that much strong processes.
  • The processes are then bottom-up, operational units validate processes that have proven successful
  • From my experience in managing IT projects, I notice that the more prescriptive a method is and the more it embodies a self-powered weak culture.
  • The less prescriptive the method is the more it encourages initiative, successful participation and a strong culture.
  • My 2 cents is that the 21st century organisation needs more a strong culture than it needs strong processes.


How IBM’s Sam Palmisano Redefined the Global Corporation 

  • The real story behind IBM’s success is the course Palmisano set for 21st century global enterprises. 
  • Recognizing that the company’s command-and-control culture wouldn’t work in the 21st century, he defined leadership as leading by values and created a unique collaborative organizational structure.
  • This meant abandoning IBM’s existing organization, in which product silos and geographic entities operated independently and frequently were more competitive than collaborative. Palmisano reorganized IBM into a “globally integrated enterprise” focused on worldwide collaboration. He cajoled, pushed, and pulled the company into a client-centric, agile structure able to customize delivery of IBM’s software assets, hardware assets, and intellectual property.
  • His ingenious first step toward creating a collaborative culture was a massive, global collaboration. In 2003 he launched an online, interactive “values jam” involving all employees for 72 hours to determine what IBM’s values should be. The three principles that emerged from that event guided decision-making throughout the organization, giving IBM’s huge, globally dispersed workforce the discipline necessary to execute the company’s new strategy.


The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption 

  • Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption — an intelligent manifesto for optimizing the 11 hours we spend consuming information on any given day in a way that serves our intellectual, creative, and psychological well-being.
  • Johnson draws a parallel between the industrialization of food, which at once allowed for ever-greater efficiency and reined in an obesity epidemic, and the industrialization of information, arguing that blaming the abundance of information itself is as absurd as blaming the abundance of food for obesity. Instead, he proposes a solution that lies in engineering a healthy relationship with information by adopting smarter habits and becoming as selective about the information we consume as we are about the food we eat.
  • Johnson argues that instead of the lens of productivity and efficiency, which have become a false holy grail for our inbox-zero-obsessed culture, we should consider this through the lens with which we assess what we consume biologically: health. Because the problem is now larger than a mere matter of getting things done.
  • Like any good diet, the information diet works best if you think about it not as denying yourself information, but as consuming more of the right stuff and developing healthy habits


Do Great Things 

  • Whether you’re a programming prodigy or the office manager holding it all together, technology empowers small groups of passionate people with an astonishing degree of leverage to make the world a better place. Yet I fear that our industry is squandering its opportunity and its talent. In companies large and small, great minds are devoting their lives to endeavors that, even if wildly successful, fail to do great things.
  • When did beating the competition or protecting your existing business become more important than serving users?
  • An abundance of angel capital and increasing fetishization of entrepreneurship has led more people to start companies for the sake of starting a company.
  • The result is a massive talent dilution
  • It’s good that starting a business is easier than ever, but the pendulum has swung too far from Silicon Valley’s hey-day when a handful of great companies were able to gather a critical mass of great people to do great things.
  • No one knows whether you and your teammates will realize your audacious visions, but in order to do great things, we must attempt great things.


This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business 

  • And here’s the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast–the road map and model that will define the next era–no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos.
  • Some people will thrive. They are the members of Generation Flux…What defines GenFlux is a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates–and even enjoys–recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions
  • “In an increasingly turbulent and interconnected world, ambiguity is rising to unprecedented levels. That’s something our current systems can’t handle.”
  • You do not have to be a jack-of-all-trades to flourish in the age of flux, but you do need to be open-minded.
  • If ambiguity is high and adaptability is required, then you simply can’t afford to be sentimental about the past. Future-focus is a signature trait of Generation Flux. It is also an imperative for businesses: Trying to replicate what worked yesterday only leaves you vulnerable.
  • Our institutions are out of date; the long career is dead; any quest for solid rules is pointless, since we will be constantly rethinking them; you can’t rely on an established business model or a corporate ladder to point your way; silos between industries are breaking down; anything settled is vulnerable

On acting local – the Morocco case


Image courtesy: wilbertbaan

Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard. 

Caterina Fake, co-founder, flickr

The world has become a small village. Any product or service you’d like to launch will be subject to the competition, maybe coming from a small village in China! If you’re working on a research, there is at least another team out there working on relatively the same subject. Everything you do has become measured against a far too large scale called “the Globe”.

Why am I bringing this up? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about finally concretizing some ideas of mine. The first issue was obviously answering the question: What makes my ideas better than what is out there? 

I think it comes down to this:

– Your idea is innovative enough to race against the world. This would normally necessitate resources, continuous innovation and full-time attention.


– Your idea takes into account your particular context. This makes your idea unique enough to have a chance to succeed locally, and it can be more than enough at times.

So you have a choice, come out with an amazingly innovative idea and go Global Or focus on your particular context and go Local. 

Due to the limited resources, most of the aspiring serial-entrepreneurs like myself would go for the second option. So I started decorticating my context considering the techy aspect of these ideas. If you're also thinking about launching a small (IT, ecommerce, web…) project in the Moroccan context, you might want to consider these points as well.

– Morocco is a widely Arab speaking country. But Arab content on the net is still scarce relatively to the number of Internet users and compared to other languages. One can see this as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. 

– The main use of Internet is in French or English. A multi-language service/product would be a good idea.

– The main users of Internet are under 30. Facebook is their platform of choice. Maybe you'd want to start there?

– There is also a huge lack of user-friendly contextualized websites that could help students and young workers leverage their knowledge and share their experiences…

– Which brings me to communities of practice. r-a-r-e!

– The average user would more consume than produce a content of quality. It would enable adoption if the product or service demands less from the user than it offers. 

– Many new technologies haven’t gone mainstream here yet. Lots of virgin fields are just waiting for qualified resources to jump in.

– Mobile apps’ use is still embryonic.  Apps such as foursquare haven’t reached the adoption threshold. And there is a huge need for apps that can meet everyday needs of Moroccan citizens.

– Personalization is trendy. More and more people think their belongings should reflect their personalities. I know a lot who would pay more to get unique pieces or to be offered personalized services. Maybe the product you're trying to e-sell should consider this as well…

– There are few product/services that reflect the true Moroccan identity. A niche to jump on?

These are mainly the aspects I could come out with. Can you think of anything that would make the Moroccan entrepreneurial context unique? I'm all ears.

To be continued…

Lamia Ben