The Idea Dude


Thursday, February 25, 2010

The beauty of human logic

A couple of weeks ago, my Macbook hard drive crash (the second in two years). The previous 20+ years and numerous computers never had an issue. Like they said in the investment ads, past performance is no indicator or guarantee of future performance.

Another colleague in the office had a hard disk crash this week. Searching in the forums for the best RAID strategy. For the small business owner, it's not the RAID with striping or fancy over the network. All he really needed was a disk controller with RAID and mirror a drive. Cost would have been $200. He is still down after 3 days trying to get his backup from his off-site backup.

The forums are full of comments like, "I don't think you need to mirror or backup your hard disk because I've been running Windows Vista for 8 months and nothing has happened". Yes, disk drives have very large MTBFs (mean time between failures), but like flying an airplane, disasters don't happen often but when it happens, it is catastrophic.

I'm not sure why we have this logic built in, but it pervades out thinking, whether it is buying insurance, investing in stock markets or backing up our data. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

We simply don't know how to assess risk. Which one is worse? the fact that your book falls off the table once a day and you have to pick it up or the fact that you have Ming Vase put high up on a cupboard and you live in San Francisco. You can live with the knowledge your book may look worse for wear over a year but you are less likely to survive your expensive Ming Vase falling down due to earth tremor in 5 years time. We are also more likely to fix the table or put the book somewhere else because it annoys us than insure that Ming Vase because it has never fallen over in the last 10 years.

The beauty of human logic.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is this the beginning of the end?

On Monday, I put in a 16 hour day to get some final touches to a client project as well as deal with a last minute request to add an extra feature to the application. Going to bed at 2:30am in the morning is generally no big deal except that I usually get up by 7am to get the kids ready for school. No big deal I thought until yesterday morning.

I arrived at work, ran up the stairs, unlocked the door and stepped in. I stared at the alarm pad with a total blank mind. As the beeping continued, I realized I had no clue what the password was, something I entered twice a day for the last four years. Not even the starting digit came to mind.

First dumb thing to do. Start punching a couple of combinations. Then realized it was stupid because I'm not about to guess the password in the next 10 seconds.

Panic mode sets in as I fumble looking for my phone to call my colleague. Of course, it was the morning I changed coats so after hunting in 4 different pockets, I found the phone.

By now, the alarm had gone off, I felt like a burglar. Called my colleague, then realized that he wouldn't be able to hear me with the siren blaring next to me.

Opened the door and ran down the stairs. The first thought was, 'I hope no-one was going to shoot me because, to anyone else, it looked like I was fleeing the scene of the crime. Got the password, ran back upstairs and after a few miscues, type the code in. Silence is golden.

Next 15 minutes was spent sitting in my chair anticipating a rush of police in response to the alarm. My colleague luckily called security to let them know it was a false alarm.

I learned two things from this experience.
a) I'm not cut out to be a criminal
b) I'm not as young as I thought I was. I'm sure I'll have a few more senior moments in the months to come.

Burning the midnight oil should be left for the young. The only thing I'm wondering is how many brain cells I killed in the process.

Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Our time has come

A good friend passed on an article about The Gentle Leader. The article talks about the contrary leader, the one who cares about people more than profits, who builds communities rather than empires, who inspires others to exceed and succeed him. The author believes that the corporate wolves have shown to be greedy, selfish, responsible for state of the economy today. The time has come for the gentle leader.

I would like to believe that. Except my corporate scars remind me who holds the purse strings and signs the checks. It is one of the reasons why I decided 4 years ago to walk my own path with my good friend Tony. The road less travelled has not been without its share of hardship but I can wake up and believe I'm making decisions for all the right reasons.

I am pragmatic. In larger companies, it is about the bottom line, shareholder value, profits, beating out the competition. Without any those, there is no business, and without business, there are no employees, the people I would care about and serve.

But there should be a better way, a compromise at worst where the gentle leaders are allowed to nurture, inspire and build communities because success is built by people and not defined by the products which do not exist without the people.

We should lead our teams the same way we nurture our children. By giving them opportunities to grow, make mistakes, guide and mentor. So that one day, they may become even greater than we are. For what better legacy to leave behind than the knowledge that we have enabled others to accomplish a thousand-fold more than we could ever do by ourselves.