Tag Archives: Culture

BOYCOTT WHO?

A dear friend forwarded this powerful article to me.  It shows yet another face of the human condition–one worthy of our constant attention and diligence.  I reproduce it here.  My only addition is the familiar photo of the most brilliant man known to history.  

Albert Einstein  

 A Jewish Boycott

A short time ago, Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khomenei urged the Muslim World to boycott anything and everything that originates with the Jewish people.

In response, Meyer M. Treinkman, a pharmacist, out of the kindness of his heart, offered to assist them in their boycott as follows:

“Any Muslim who has Syphilis must not be cured by Salvarsan discovered by Dr. Ehrlich, a Jew. He should not even try to find out whether he has Syphilis, because the Wasserman Test is the discovery of a Jew. If a Muslim suspects that he has Gonorrhea, he must not seek diagnosis, because he will be using the method of a Jew named Neissner.

“A Muslim who has heart disease must not use Digitalis, a discovery by a Jew, Ludwig Traube.

Should he suffer with a toothache, he must not use Novocaine, a discovery of the Jews, Widal and Weil.

If a Muslim has Diabetes, he must not use Insulin, the result of research by Minkowsky, a Jew. If one has a headache, he must shun Pyramidon and Antypyrin, due to the Jews, Spiro and Ellege.

Muslims with convulsions must put up with them because it was a Jew, Oscar Leibreich, who proposed the use of Chloral Hydrate.

Arabs must do likewise with their psychic ailments because Freud, father of psychoanalysis, was a Jew.

Should a Muslim child get Diphtheria, he must refrain from the “Schick” reaction which was invented by the Jew, Bella Schick.

“Muslims should be ready to die in great numbers and must not permit treatment of ear and brain damage, work of Jewish Nobel Prize winner, Robert Baram.

They should continue to die or remain crippled by Infantile Paralysis because the discoverer of the anti-polio vaccine is a Jew, Jonas Salk.

“Muslims must refuse to use Streptomycin and continue to die of Tuberculosis because a Jew, Zalman Waxman, invented the wonder drug against this killing disease.

Muslim doctors must discard all discoveries and improvements by dermatologist Judas Sehn Benedict, or the lung specialist, Frawnkel, and of many other world renowned Jewish scientists and medical experts.

“In short, good and loyal Muslims properly and fittingly should remain afflicted with Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Heart Disease, Headaches, Typhus, Diabetes, Mental Disorders, Polio Convulsions and Tuberculosis and be proud to obey the Islamic boycott.”

Oh, and by the way, don’t call for a doctor on your cell phone because the cell phone was invented in Israel by a Jewish engineer.

Meanwhile I ask, what medical contributions to the world have the Muslims made?”

The Global Islamic population is approximately 1,200,000,000; that is ONE BILLION TWO HUNDRED MILLION or 20% of the world’s population.

They have received the following Nobel Prizes:

Literature:
1988 – Najib Mahfooz

Peace:
1978 – Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat
1990 – Elias James Corey
1994 – Yaser Arafat:
1999 – Ahmed Zewai

Economics:
(zero)

Physics:
(zero)

Medicine:
1960 – Peter Brian Medawar
1998 – Ferid Mourad

TOTAL: 7 SEVEN

The Global Jewish population is approximately 14,000,000; that is FOURTEEN MILLION or about 0.02% of the world’s population.

They have received the following Nobel Prizes:

Literature:
1910 – Paul Heyse
1927 – Henri Bergson
1958 – Boris Pasternak
1966 – Shmuel Yosef Agnon
1966 – Nelly Sachs
1976 – Saul Bellow
1978 – Isaac Bashevis Singer
1981 – Elias Canetti
1987 – Joseph Brodsky
1991 – Nadine Gordimer World

Peace:
1911 – Alfred Fried
1911 – Tobias Michael Carel Asser
1968 – Rene Cassin
1973 – Henry Kissinger
1978 – Menachem Begin
1986 – Elie Wiesel
1994 – Shimon Peres
1994 – Yitzhak Rabin

Physics:
1905 – Adolph Von Baeyer
1906 – Henri Moissan
1907 – Albert Abraham Michelson
1908 – Gabriel Lippmann
1910 – Otto Wallach
1915 – Richard Willstaetter
1918 – Fritz Haber
1921 – Albert Einstein
1922 – Niels Bohr
1925 – James Franck
1925 – Gustav Hertz
1943 – Gustav Stern
1943 – George Charles de Hevesy
1944 – Isidor Issac Rabi
1952 – Felix Bloch
1954 – Max Born
1958 – Igor Tamm
1959 – Emilio Segre
1960 – Donald A. Glaser
1961 – Robert Hofstadter
1961 – Melvin Calvin
1962 – Lev Davidovich Landau
1962 – Max Ferdinand Perutz
1965 – Richard Phillips Feynman
1965 – Julian Schwinger
1969 – Murray Gell-Mann
1971 – Dennis Gabor
1972 – William Howard Stein
1973 – Brian David Josephson
1975 – Benjamin Mottleson
1976 – Burton Richter
1977 – Ilya Prigogine
1978 – Arno Allan Penzias
1978 – Peter L Kapitza
1979 – Stephen Weinberg
1979 – Sheldon Glashow
1979 – Herbert Charles Brown
1980 – Paul Berg
1980 – Walter Gilbert
1981 – Roald Hoffmann
1982 – Aaron Klug
1985 – Albert A. Hauptman
1985 – Jerome Karle
1986 – Dudley R. Herschbach
1988 – Robert Huber
1988 – Leon Lederman
1988 – Melvin Schwartz
1988 – Jack Steinberger
1989 – Sidney Altman
1990 – Jerome Friedman
1992 – Rudolph Marcus
1995 – Martin Perl
2000 – Alan J. Heeger

Economics:
1970 – Paul Anthony Samuelson
1971 – Simon Kuznets
1972 – Kenneth Joseph Arrow
1975 – Leonid Kantorovich
1976 – Milton Friedman
1978 – Herbert A. Simon
1980 – Lawrence Robert Klein
1985 – Franco Modigliani
1987 – Robert M. Solow
1990 – Harry Markowitz
1990 – Merton Miller
1992 – Gary Becker
1993 – Robert Fogel

Medicine:
1908 – Elie Metchnikoff
1908 – Paul Erlich
1914 – Robert Barany
1922 – Otto Meyerhof
1930 – Karl Landsteiner
1931 – Otto Warburg
1936 – Otto Loewi
1944 – Joseph Erlanger
1944 – Herbert Spencer Gasser
1945 – Ernst Boris Chain
1946 – Hermann Joseph Muller
1950 – Tadeus Reichstein
1952 – Selman Abraham Waksman
1953 – Hans Krebs
1953 – Fritz Albert Lipmann
1958 – Joshua Lederberg
1959 – Arthur Kornberg
1964 – Konrad Bloch
1965 – Francois Jacob
1965 – Andre Lwoff
1967 – George Wald
1968 – Marshall W. Nirenberg
1969 – Salvador Luria
1970 – Julius Axelrod
1970 – Sir Bernard Katz
1972 – Gerald Maurice Edelman
1975 – Howard Martin Temin
1976 – Baruch S. Blumberg
1977 – Roselyn Sussman Yalow
1978 – Daniel Nathans
1980 – Baruj Benacerraf
1984 – Cesar Milstein
1985 – Michael Stuart Brown
1985 – Joseph L. Goldstein
1986 – Stanley Cohen [& Rita Levi-Montalcini]
1988 – Gertrude Elion
1989 – Harold Varmus
1991 – Erwin Neher
1991 – Bert Sakmann
1993 – Richard J. Roberts
1993 – Phillip Sharp
1994 – Alfred Gilman
1995 – Edward B. Lewis
1996- Lu RoseIacovino

TOTAL: 129

The Jews are NOT promoting brainwashing children in military training camps, teaching them how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of Jews and other non-Muslims.

The Jews don’t hijack planes, nor kill athletes at the Olympics, or blow themselves up in German restaurants.

There is NOT one single Jew who has destroyed a church.

There is NOT a single Jew who protests by killing people. The Jews don’t traffic slaves, nor have leaders calling for Jihad and death to all the Infidels.

Perhaps the world’s Muslims should consider investing more in standard education and less in blaming the Jews for all their problems.

Muslims must ask ‘what can they do for humankind’ before they demand that humankind respects them.

Regardless of your feelings about the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab neighbors, even if you believe there is more culpability on Israel ‘s part, the following two sentences really say it all:

‘If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”

Benjamin Netanyahu: General Eisenhower warned us. It is a matter of history that when the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.

He did this because he said in words to this effect: ‘Get it all on record now – get the films – get the witnesses – because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened’

Recently, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it ‘offends’ the Muslim population which claims it never occurred.

It is not removed as yet. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.

It is now more than 65 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.

Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be ‘a myth,’ it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.

This e-mail is intended to reach 400 million people. Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.

How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Center ‘NEVER HAPPENED’ because it offends some Muslim in the United States?

Tami

¸…¸ / __//\___ ___\
,·´º o`·, /__/ _/\_ ____/\
“`)¨(´´´ | | | | | | | || |l±±±±
¸,.-·²°´ ¸,.-·~·~·-.,¸ `°²·-. :º° ·~·~·-.,¸

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

We are not human beings going through a temporary spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience.

 [end letter]

Thanks Tami.  And to my readers, especially those saved by faith, please pass this on.

Comment on this article — Name and email optional

.

Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged.

9 Comments

Filed under Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, Nobel Prize

WHERE IS CHINA’S STEVE JOBS?

IERGAs I heard it –

With the passing of Steve Jobs, we hear well deserved tributes on a daily basis.  But the question, “Where is China’s Steve Jobs,” is a in another category. It captures intense frustration and a strong desire for Chinese entrepreneurship. Where are their innovators? China keenly feels a lack of  intellectual capital building–a process that takes decades. It lacks the established business culture we enjoy in the US. While the need for building is great, the desire for a positive self-image is huge. How do you pass on knowledge to a business person who sorely needs it but cannot accept it because of culture?  The answer may lie in Chicago.  China enjoys a special connection to this city.  This may be an opportunity for our thought leaders to step up.

I cornered the speakers and pointed out that America was once a colony that supplied raw materials to Great Britain, which used those cheap resources to manufacture goods and sell them to our colony and the world. England owned the catbird seat.  Isn’t China that country now?

The answer surprised me. Structural change has altered that dynamic. Manufacturing is now at the bottom of the food chain–it goes wherever labor is cheapest. Like Japan before it, China has already experienced wage growth and is starting to outsource work to places like Viet Nam. Meanwhile, raw material prices are booming. About $500 counts toward the Chinese export of each iPhone when their real participation is only $30 in assembly.

China doesn’t want to manufacture cheap products. It wants to produce quality goods for its own growing middle class. It suffers two structural problems: From a business perspective, the country is like a baby that needs to mature. At the same time, its culture is an old man stuck in tradition.

I’m sitting among international business leaders at an event, WHY CHINA? WHY NOW? hosted by IERG Chicago—the International Executives Resources Group—a non-profit organization that creates and disseminates knowledge and ideas by sharing up-to-date information. Find them at www.iergonline.org

I’m here by special request of MIT and should cover yet another event this same evening, but can’t break away from the compelling, counterintuitive ideas presented here. The view of the city is spectacular, the food is great, and I am always surprised by the candor and warmth I feel when talking with Chinese nationals and those in long association with them. Anyone that deals with these people falls in love with them. I harbor serious reservations about trade with China, but I’ll reserve that for another article and highlight the positives here.

The panel surprises me with their depth and knowledge, and their enthusiasm for Chicago:

  • Bruce Montgomery—“Chicago is the new center for thought leadership.”
  • Elizabeth Harrington—“Chicago is a growth producer.”
  • Ms. Jia Zhao—“Chicago is unique. It’s such a great place to work. It’s the only city in the US that receives young business leaders from Shanghai. No other Chinese city has formed such a relationship, but the Shanghai/Chicago connection is long in history.”  (The quote about Steve Jobs comes from this gracious lady who enjoys a lifetime of profound experiences.)
  • Stephen Markscheid—“China has always been 25% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s GDP. Get used to it.”
  • Basile Waite—“China has overtaken the US as the largest consumer of energy”
  • Tracy Xu—“Over 70% of the businesses in China lose money, but China takes a long-term perspective.”

Each of these speakers brings a different perspective:

 

Bruce Montgomery

CEO, Wi-Fi Technologies, LLC

Bruce performed ably as moderator. He’s cordial, professional, well spoken, and concise. He knows how to bring out the best in a speaker and how to prepare an audience.  One must assume he’s done this before.  The first speaker is Elizabeth Harrington:

 

Elizabeth Harrington

Executive Director, Chicago-China Economic Development Center.

The US needs to attract 1 trillion in foreign investment in the next five years and the Chinese are now the wealth creators. GDP in the US has grown by a factor of 1.5 in 10 years. China has grown 10 times. The Chinese now have rising wages and spending power.

Reduced wages in the US and the currency gap provides an opportunity for us. For 20 years, foreign investment has gone into China. Now China is investing. 30% is in M&A, in areas like Energy, especially clean tech, which they need so badly, as well as Metals, and Real Estate. The residual investment goes to Industry. Only 9% goes to the US because they perceive us as protectionist. Investments are typically under 10M and usually much less. The target is small businesses and the method is long-term relationship.

Investors Take Note–China needs to re-deploy from US Treasuries to private companies. Chicago is in a unique position to seize Chinese outbound investment in both Real Estate and M&A. President Hu said Chicago is the best place to invest. We have a diverse economy. We are the headquarters for 30 of the Fortune 100 companies and the Chinese like to work with their peers. New York, on the other hand, is primarily financial. LA is a port city and big in entertainment.

Chicago is Key–Despite many blunders, Chicago has worked hard to be business friendly. We are a city of immigrants. We believe in free trade. Even with a history of machine politics, we’re all about business. As a result, we have five of the most successful Chinese companies in the Chicago area, including the only one to that attracted Warren Buffett’s investment dollars. Contrary to popular opinion, we have a deep culture of innovation and China wants to acquire high technology and innovation. Chicago has great universities, a good workforce, and it’s a livable city. We have financial services in the CME and CBOT, We have education in Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, and other top schools. Our logistics is amazing. You can travel to any other major city in the US in one day and get back for dinner. Health Care is strong with Abbott Labs, Baxter, and the Biotech Conference. Our service industry is alive with legal, banking, and consulting. We also have ongoing programs like the Chicago-China Friendship Initiative

Chicago helps visitors find the right people and engage them in the business community, then we stay connected for the long-term to make sure they are successful.

 

Ms. Jia Zhao

Attorney at Baker & McKenzie

She now calls Chicago home because it’s such a great place to work. With her long history in China, Jia Zhao told some astounding stories. Years ago, China was closed to the world. They decided to send students to learn about US laws. They wanted to know about such concepts as separation of power—could it really be true?

According to Ms. Jia Zhao, this event, titled “Why China? Why Now?” could once have been dubbed “Why America? Why Now?” 40 years ago, in ’72, Kissinger’s announcement of Nixon’s visit gave a big shock to the Chinese people. The US was their number one enemy. Why come alongside us? The Cultural Revolution still smoldered. Jia Zhao held a post in the foreign ministry at the time and attended Nixon’s first dinner in China. This is a woman who has been there and done that.

A Need for Law–China started opening up in the late ‘80s. In the ‘80s and early ‘90s their legal system started to develop. Joint venture law. Economic contract law. Owned enterprise law. Technology contract law. Enhanced compliance. Stricter procedural requirements. Greater supervision of foreign representatives.

Culture Shock–The Chinese find some concepts culturally bewildering: Why should there be a tax deduction for charity? After all, noble deeds should be associated with noble motives. All their business practices reflect a planned economy. Transparency is improving but still an issue. The idea of government serving the people is alien and new and needs to be worked out over time. But the younger people are more open to change and to outside ideas. Businesses are becoming more service oriented. China still has a long way to go. You can find both good and bad. It’s a work in process.

China’s Top Challenges–Finding talented workers and retaining them—this in spite of the huge population. Increasing costs. Internal competition with state-owned enterprises. Intellectual Property enforcement.  Equal treatment. Transparency. Market access in services.   Investment restrictions—they have categories of investment–Encouraged, Restricted, Forbidden.

Jia Zhao offers this guidance to American companies–When negotiating in China, take the time to explain to them why things are the way they are in the US. When you don’t understand something about China, say so. Engage in a strategic, rather than tactical dialogue. China is top-down. The US is bottom-up. Public awareness and the understanding of complex law is new. Develop your business with China on the basis of long-term friendship.

 

Stephen Markscheid

CEO, Synergenz Bioscience, Inc.

China is emerging from the Third World rapidly. They have exceeding Japan in GDP and soon will exceed the US. Over the last 30 years, miraculous growth has been driven by foreign investment. That has produced exports.

Clear Strategy–China’s Five Year Plan makes their business strategy clear. They want to move from an export driven economy to one that manufactures for its own people. They want to build their own brands. They lack the marketing expertise to carry it out.

Trends–Culturally, the Chinese people like to produce and save, while Americans like to consume and borrow.  Our SEC rules require Chinese businesses to have American nationals on their boards. Banks won’t invest in companies that are 100% Chinese run.

 

Basile Waite

Director, Ops-Asia LLC

China’s economy will double by 2020. They will add the equivalent of the UK every year. They’re still dependent on coal and pollution is terrible, but they’re committed to Kyoto protocol and have launched a renewable energy drive. A look at their Five Year Plan reveals their desire for big projects to come online as fast as possible. They want renewable energy to reach 20% by 2020. They want four nuclear plants by 2020 but now realize that’s not feasible.  They lack safety expertise and soft skills.

Opportunities–Their top-down planning changes the way projects get implemented and causes incongruencies. That makes opportunities for Chicago companies. We can fill the knowledge and experience gap.

Hunger for Knowledge–Wind & solar power don’t have all the pieces together. The Government is driving it but the knowledge base isn’t there. China knows how to manufacture but doesn’t know how to grow internationally on their own. They need to partner with foreign companies.

Learning–China has a tremendous capacity for learning. They’re good at building new highways and trains. What they lack are the kinds of knowledge bases that take decades to build. People are driving BMWs with a bicycle mentality. This opens the opportunity to share experience with them.

 

Tracy Xu

Independent Consultant, formerly with AIG.

Tracy offers a young perspective. She finished college in ’93 as English major and never expected to be here in Chicago. When she worked for Chinese government, she found the bureaucracy an obstacle. She worked for the US government to find out what was different.

The Long View–Over 70% of companies in China lose money, but China takes a long-term perspective. One example is A.O. Smith. The company lost money for years. Now it’s the most profitable company doing business in China.  It’s the largest manufacturer of water heaters.

Interesting points

There is no need for insurance in China because the government owns everything.

Wealth has exploded. China is second only to the US in people with over $1M in assets. China has pushed art, rare diamonds and wine to high prices. They bought Chairman Mao by Andy Warhol for $19M. Chinese will buy a downtown condo building in Chicago for cash over a weekend.

The US formed the EB-5 program to attract foreign investment to the US. 70% of all applicants are Chinese. China’s middle class is rising and more demanding of services and education.

The educational system has not yet reformed. When people graduate, they need a re-education to business reality. This creates an opportunity for the US companies to fill a void in services.

Not long ago, China’s people lived in micro government housing. Now, in the metropolitan areas, luxury apartments and single-family houses abound. These units cost twice what they do in Chicago.

A.O. Smith Case Study—The company lost money for years but has now evolved into one of the most profitable companies doing business in China.

10 years ago, all appliances sold at department stores. The company decided not to limit themselves to one distributor.

When making a purchase, Chinese like to gossip to friends. When they buy and when they complain, they want to talk to the owner.

During a price war, A.O. Smith refused to discount their units—instead they consciously decided to be the most expensive producer, but with the best service. The strategy worked. People figured, if they’re so confidence, they must be good.

The General Manager (top officer) is the most important employee in a Chinese company. A.O. Smith found that their American and Taiwanese managers didn’t fit the culture, so they came to China with attitude of learning everything the Chinese way. They finally found the right leader and took him under their wing for two years before putting him in charge.

Chinese companies are getting much more sophisticated. There are plans to buy out US distributors. This is a big opportunity for an influx of money to the US.

 

Conclusions

Intellectual property—many Chinese respect IP but not the ones with tanks. The military itself is breaking the IP laws. Chinese companies are fighting among each other on this issue. They break IP law when they have no economic alternative. The rising middle class and private enterprise are pushing for IP law. An interesting point–Sometimes counterfeit products help promote the real thing.

US companies can’t get patents in China. This is a big problem. Culturally, technology is seen as the legacy and heritage of the common people and should not be hoarded. This attitude is evolving, but is still ripe in the hearts of the Chinese.

Strengths–China is getting strong in Chemistry and Engineering. 800,000 Chinese enter Engineering programs in US universities every year. Once they intended to stay. Now they go back without hesitation. The US is in a depression. China is not.

Human Rights–As an Evangelical Christian, I’m concerned about human rights, so I asked a panelist about the repression of Christians. Response: Persecution is going on because the government has not yet decided which way to go on the issue. Meanwhile, people all across the country are criticizing the government openly—more than we might think—on all sorts of issues having to do with their economic and social lives. There is a great deal of turmoil and everything is in flux. There exists and ever-widening desire for freedom of expression.

That’s what I heard.  What did you hear?

.

GO BACK TO PART 1 – CHICAGO’S NEW SOUTH SIDE

.

Find Chicago Venture Magazine at
www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com
Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2011 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.

1 Comment

Filed under IERG, MIT Enterprise Forum

WHAT IS AN OFFICE?

MIT Enterprise Forum

As I heard it –

What is an office? Yes, I’m really asking that question. What makes an office an office? What might it be in the future, because it sure isn’t going to be what it once was. Sitting in the huge conference room at the IBM Innovation Center in Chicago, I hear serious ideas thrown around that question. The room dwarfs the oversized projection screen and four 60” flat-screen monitors flank the seats. The MIT Enterprise Forum is presenting THE FUTURE OF THE OFFICE, and tonight, this room is my office. There are more Ph.Ds. in the room than MBAs. MIT’s events are always as good as it gets. I like these events so much that I joined the executive committee and I never join committees. Tonight, I am treated to an outstanding panel:

  • Hugh Musick – Moderator – Dean & Director of Exec Education at IIT
  • Jeff Calusinski – IBM distinguished engineer – one of only 400 in the entire company
  • Brian Shapland – Forward thinker at Steelcase
  • Ross Kimbarovsky – Entrepreneur extraordinaire at CrowdSPRING

As moderator, Hugh Musick issues the challenge: What is an office today? What might it be in the future? If anyone can work with anyone, anywhere, anytime, what’s in the future? Further, what’s the value of culture in this distributed world? And how does culture promote work? Hugh turns it over to Ross Kimbarovsky of CrowdSPRING..

Ross starts with a story about a friend who asks a waiter to bring her special tea pot. Imagine having your own personal teapot and your own personal tea at your favorite restaurant. That’s a good analogy for the way people see the workplace these days, and the younger the employees, the more divergent their expectations about the ways they engage with employers and co-workers.

Next, Hugh makes a striking point. Work is now continuous—not the old 40 hrs. Productivity is no longer measured by time at a desk. A big cultural change is underway—not just in the works, but happening right now to you and me. The factory is no longer downstairs from office—it’s overseas. The middle class is growing worldwide. Management is becoming less top-down. Collaboration is the way successful companies do business today. Working is informal compared to anything in past experience. This is real. Practical. These aren’t dreams.

Brian’s company, Steelcase, makes high-end office furniture. How do they adapt to shrinking demand? He talks about stepping back for a new look and sees three key global work trends

  • Less square feet per worker. Yes, that’s already a fact despite the economy.
  • Today, only 72% of people consider the office as THE place to work.
  • There are 75M people in Gen Y. Today’s eighth graders will soon replace baby boomers in the workplace. These kids reject the traditional workplace.

Is your workplace ready for that kind of change?

Ross—people don’t know what they need. As they work in a new culture, their wants and needs change. Originally, people wanted video games and Ping-Pong tables, but that changed. Now people want flex hours, remote work. As the needs of the workplace change, companies keep adapting. “Thinking long term isn’t the real world anymore.” Whoa—they could do a big debate over that single statement, but I get his point.

 

TECHNOLOGY

To today’s young workers, technology is oxygen. Values have changed. To many, an iPad is worth 5K in salary. Ross points out that in the past, people needed all sorts of expensive office equipment. That limited what they could do away from the office and made remote work an obstacle. It was just too expensive to provide the essentials for every employee. Now, global telephony enables work anywhere, any time. Cloud Computing allows people to be productive away from the office. People sometimes work at 2am and take off the middle of the day. People are comfortable working where they want, when they want.

Hugh—The PC enables people to do things they never did before. Kids today are a true producer class. Tech lets them make anything they want. Movies, recordings, etc.

Jeff addresses the subject of technology in collaboration. Nobody needs to solve a problem alone any more. If two can collaborate face-to-face, many on social media can do even better. The old model was, get in front of clients, customers, employees. The new model is, get in front of community. Influence is key and sharing creates influence.

Ross points out a huge structural change. Because of technology, small companies can now compete with giants. His company, Crowdsping, is 19 people managing 100K+ people.

At the same time, traditional corporate environments are getting more and more entrenched. They don’t reward innovation. They don’t understand new structures. The way people want to work and the way they choose to work is vastly different from the way big corporations think people need to work. This gives small nimble companies a competitive advantage.

 

CULTURE

Today’s young workforce functions differently than their older counterparts. These people want a relationship with everybody in the room and constant feedback. They want the freedom to connect with the company president. But they’re satisfied with a relationship that’s digital.

According to Ross, you can’t legislate culture. You create culture by fostering the desired environment. Culture is defined by the way people cooperate, collaborate, innovate. It’s not done by building better offices. Culture drives work. Office space doesn’t do that.

Brian believes that if the culture doesn’t support the new ways of working, it won’t function in the workplace. Technology now lets you sit in a comfortable chair when 10 years ago people saw that as goofing off. Mentorship is huge in retaining workers today and a big part of encouraging collaboration. An interesting shift is the trend toward reverse mentoring. Reverse mentoring is more important than ever because experienced workers need to embrace unfamiliar technology. That’s a cultural reversal that can’t be denied.

Ross asks, if you have a non-distributed team, how do you design your office? One workplace may be fancy, another functional. Either style can work if it fits the culture. CrowdSPRING doesn’t have offices at all—just one big room and a couple of conference rooms. No cubicals, just open desks. Yet some face-to-face time is still needed to model collaboration. He freely admits that his model may not work for another company and recommends that you drive your structure by your company’s cultural needs, not by management’s needs.

 

TRUST

Trust is a different concept than it once was. Many kids today have online relationships with people they’ve never seen. What will be the impact of today’s eighth graders when they come into the workforce? These kids are comfortable with digital connections and a paperless office.

Sustainability is a big issue. People switch jobs at a higher rate than ever before. The successful companies will foster change that reverses that trend. The #1 priority is a company’s commitment to sustainability, and that comes from trust.

Ross makes a huge point: Trust is digital—“Do or do not,” as Yoda would say. Small companies ask people to do the work and trust that they can. To emulate that, large companies need to form small teams that have trust in each other, much the way Google does.

At this point, we go to Q&A. Ron May is saying that the panel is spooning out Pablum. Hasn’t he been listening? I know Ron May. His mama didn’t raise no dummies.   If he missed it, much of the audience must have missed it, too.  I admit that the subject is highly targeted but the abstractions the conversation throws out are nothing short of fascinating. We’re talking about the basic structure, culture, and human issues of the way we work. We’re at Point A and most of us didn’t even think about it. We’re heading for Point B, which will be really different. And that’s clearly the case once you recognize Point A. The ramifications are staggering. I lean back and recognize how glad I am that I came tonight.

QUESTION—“How do you address the issue that different parts of a large company may need different types of offices?”

Jeff—“IBM is 100% mobile.” What did I just hear? A hundred percent? Think about that for a moment. A big company like IBM. Then he points out that mobile means different things to different departments. For some that may be only one day a week away from the office. That’s still a big shift. Then he answers the question directly. “It has to vary by department.” Sales is mobile all the time while manufacturing can’t work away from the factory all that much.

Brian—Steelcase designs a different space to fit the particular group. People don’t want to be in cubicles, but there has to be privacy when needed. Imagine that. An office furniture outfit thinking in terms of company culture and human needs, using technology to make a fit on an individual basis. How many desk makers think that way?

QUESTION—“How do you measure value in a mobile collaboration? It may be easy to monitor sales, but what about everybody else?” As I listen to this question, I am keenly aware of the dehumanizing aspect of it. It’s a big corporate idea. How do you measure a human being?

Jeff—Many corporations, purchase technology, then put it in corner and tell their people, “Go use it,” with the expectation that people know how to use it. You’ve got to be purposeful in asking, “What is the expected outcome and how do we accomplish it?” It’s worth paying attention to this. People who are empowered download documents and do their own self-service. We no longer need to be directly involved in each function. Work is done in context. The real measurement is “outcome-based” And he’s right. We’ve come to the point where we no longer care about method. It’s the result that counts. That makes for acceptance of all kinds of eccentric work styles never tolerated before.

Ross—ROI is tough to measure, especially in social media. Ask instead, “Did this person contribute to revenue in a positive way?” That sounds to me like the previous answer. Results.

Brian—Companies are developing new metrics because customers are asking for them. We’re developing products to do the same thing. For example, an ergonomic chair that reduces repetitive stress injury. That outcome can be measured.

Hugh—”Metrics have changed. How do you measure what it costs to not do something you could have done?”  I’m struck by his question.  Clearly, you can’t, but the impact is massive.

Ross—It’s more difficult to measure productivity in large companies. Much of revenue these days is driven by exclusive projects—driven by people who spent a Friday doing “something else.” I find myself nodding in agreement. The best ideas happen at times that used to be seen as waste.

 

NEW MODELS

Jeff—“IBM’s Watson was developed through a collaboration across the globe, driven by mobile technology. Nobody had a budget.” No budget? Think of that. He goes on: “It took 4 years and represented a huge departure from the way IBM used to do things. Economic aspects are driving a lot of this. The question of “Where will we go?” is no longer limited to a small group of people. The old model legislated innovation. Now it’s all about people collaborating.” Yes, I can relate what he’s saying. This year I purchased mind mapping software that allows brainstorming and collaboration across the globe at a very high level.

Brian – “The Internet allows a synthesis of information. Information is power. Everybody can work better as a result. Even competitors are collaborating.” Again, I am struck by just how strange that would have sounded only a few years ago.

QUESTION—“How do you keep people from hiding in a big company? People work from home and get by with the minimum.”

Jeff—“You always have your A, B and C players. At IBM, one group produced a higher defect rate than others, so they had to move back to the office.” Jeff then ramps up the stakes to address the real problem looming over all of us. Help will soon be needed in the form of analytics because people need filters to deal with the overload of information. Something is needed to filter the masses of data. Watson did its job through statistics. Now the working environment needs to be smarter. It will tell us what we need to be doing. Does that sound like the Hal 9000? Then he shifts gears and talks about Amazon’s crowd sourcing model, built around ratings and reviews by the public that allows natural filtering. The same result using the Internet, but no Hal.

Jeff—today you are evaluated by manager who rates you at end of the year. That may change to another model—the way you are rated by your entire community. This is important. How are you rated by your network of 100 people?

Brian—“The way you motivate people and stop the cycle of hiding and doing nothing is actually very simple. It’s about being very explicit about expectations and goals.” That seems to sum it up for me.

QUESTION—“As the thinkers of tomorrow, how do you educate our children to fit what the world will become 5-20 years from now?”

Ross—Turns out his wife is a teacher. School districts have entrenched cultures, just like corporations. It’s even more difficult because of small budgets, small teams of busy people. There is a need to educate educators on new technologies as it becomes available. He compares Microsoft Word to Google Docs and points out the disconnect between what students already know and use and what teachers teach. His wife helps educators know what kids already know and use. So we’re back to the subject of reverse mentoring.

Brian—Steelcase Learn Lab is a classroom prototype, changing one-way directional teaching to three-screen multi-input. Students want to learn from each other. The technology makes every seat in the room seem like it’s in the middle. Nobody is at the back of the class.

Jeff—IBM and City of Chicago are working on this very concept.

QUESTION—“How do you encourage good work habits?”

Ross answers with a strong idea: If we were to create a company to compete with our company, what would we do? A lot of companies don’t ask their employees what the work space should look like. Keep asking what people need. Be ready for constant change. Don’t pass policies and build walls you can’t tear down.

QUESTION—“How does recession effect future of office and work? If people can’t get jobs, what will the office look like? What about the digital divide that doesn’t have access to Steelcase and IBM equipment?”

Jeff—Companies are doing more with less—using technology and fewer people.

Ross—CrowdSPRING has developed a network of over 100K designers. They are not pre-qualified. They do not need offices. Younger generations don’t want to work downtown in cubicles any more. Freelancing is more accepted. Companies are actually reducing office space.

Jeff—IBM is not just looking at your degree any more, but your multi-dimensional ability. Perhaps in the future you’ll work part time for two different companies and not in an office at all.

Brian tells us that half of his college friends either own their own businesses or work for a friend who does. The web has enabled an explosion in entrepreneurship. These are small companies. Because of technology, small can out-compete big. Today, you can buy a product online and assemble it yourself.

Afterwards, I talk with friend and luminary, Terrry Flanagan—a guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of business. He sums up the entire office topic in the words of architect, Louis Sullivan. “Form follows function.”

That’s what I heard.  What did you hear?  Comments welcome. 

Find Chicago Venture Magazine at
www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com
Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2011 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.

42 Comments

Filed under MIT Enterprise Forum