Sunday, March 30, 2008

Compass AE + Video Conferencing = A Team Collaborating Without Borders

Traveling costs are going up.

Video conferencing is on the rise

Your virtual team of project implementers are located at
different remotes. How do you get them to collaborate as a team?

If some teams cannot collaborate in close quarters,
what are the chances that they will collaborate
well at remote locales?

How do you get them to collaborate as a team?
While technology connects people,
a good strategic team collaborative process is
the key to a project success.
Do you have a process that can get people to
collaborate as a team?

Our Compass AE methodology
is a team collaborative approach that.emphasizes on advanced planning. It enables the project team to use our Tangible Vision component to plan their goal and strategic overview. They are always collaboratively prepared for all situations. The team understands what are the specific priorities, the particular approaches and the different circumstances that could occur.

A properly-built team collaborative process enables the project implementors to effectively utilize their technology in specific situations. Without a process, technology is only effective in limited situations.

Our Compass AE process also allows them to collaborate regardless of the distance, the technology and the project culture.

In future entries, the beneficial values of Compass AE will be explained.

If you are interested in knowing more about Compass AE as a strategic collaborative tool. please e-mail us at Service[aatt]collaboration360[ddott]com


Pleased to meet you, virtually

13.03.2008 - Videoconferencing is coming into view for more and more businesses as prices fall and quality improves. Recently, 240 employees of the Revenue Commissioners from 11 regional offices attended a seminar on VAT. In the past, this would have involved a mass exodus of staff to a central location such as Dublin, an administrative hassle trying to accommodate the numbers in one room and thousands of man-hours lost as workers made the journey.

Upon finishing the recent seminar, however, employees were back at their desks in minutes. Videoconferencing technology enabled the workers to link in from the meeting rooms in their offices and partake in the information seminar with minimum disruption to productivity.

Last year, the Revenue Commissioners embarked on a six-figure rollout of videoconferencing. So far, 25 offices in major towns around the country have had a room kitted out with a video screen, audio equipment and network connection, with five more offices due to come on stream shortly.

On top of that, about 115 senior managers have been supplied with desktop webcams to enable live, one-on-one video meetings. The upgrade of the videoconferencing technology is providing tangible benefits for Revenue, says Paul McDonald, business operations manager, Revenue.

"The new system can link up to 12 sites at the moment to deliver seminars and we will be extending this in the future. Previously, we could only link two sites at a time.

"If necessary, we can cram dozens of people in the videoconferencing room. If you're using it for something like a training session all staff members don't need to be visible to the trainer on the other end. They can hear what's being said and get their chance to ask questions."

Cutting costs is not the chief driver for Revenue, says McDonald. "There are benefits vis-à-vis savings in travel costs and at some stage we'd be looking to reduce carbon emissions, but better communication is the main driver."

/// *** Better communication creates efficiency

A lot of Revenue's work is based on legislation so any changes to the law and the knock-on effects for the tax system have to be communicated to all staff at the same time to avoid regional discrepancies. Videoconferencing smooths the passage of this information through to those at the coalface.

For Icon Clinical Research, improving productivity and keeping on top of vital relationships are the benefits of videoconferencing. "One of our drivers for using videoconferencing technology is to ensure we maintain necessary relations with staff, peers and customers without travelling all the time to do so," says Joe Daly, IT director, EU and rest of world, Icon Clinical Research.

/// Think of the time and money that can be saved from not traveling all of the time. Time is money.

The biopharma multinational has offices in 40 countries, many of which utilise dispersed workforces. All the main offices use videoconferencing to keep in contact with each other and also to help manage remote workforces.

It's a development jetlag-weary executives of the 5,500-strong multinational are very glad of.

"We're a global company and we do have quite high travel costs, particularly for client visits and general meetings," explains Daly. Videoconferencing has reduced the number of trips executives make, freeing up time and curbing expenses.

When traveling, the anxiety of waiting for the uncertainty can be overwhelming.
This stress causes
the traveling professionals to be unproductive.
The question is ... do you want your people to perform and produce
below their norm?

Cutting down on trans-Atlantic crossings was also a key driver in NTR Group's adoption of the technology. The company's head office in Dublin had Digicom install a Polycom VX7000 videoconferencing system in its boardroom last year.

As a large global company with a number of subsidiaries, including Greenstar, Bioverda and National Toll Roads, NTR sees videoconferencing as instrumental to how it conducts its business.

"About 40 to 50 staff members in the Dublin office, primarily senior management, use it, as do other members of staff on occasions," says Gareth Delahunt, network administrator, NTR.

He says the decision to deploy videoconferencing was less of a money issue and more to ease the pressures on the diaries of senior executives.

"You can't be in two places at once. It facilitated getting a lot of work done," he quips.

Improvements in the quality of non-proprietary videoconferencing systems that can 'talk' to other systems is also driving uptake of the technology. For example, NTR's videoconferencing system is used both internally for company business and externally for contacting other organisations.

One of the main developments spurring the onset of videoconferencing is the wider bandwidths made available through broadband internet.

Previously, videoconferencing was done over ISDN lines, which was more expensive and awkward to implement. Now, companies use their IP (internet protocol) networks to facilitate internal video communication.

"ISDN was used in the past and it involved getting three lines brought into your building," explains Jared Huet, audiovisual consultant, Digicom. "Nowadays, companies are joining their networks together so they can make video calls over the internet."

The benefits of IP video is there's no cost per minute, whereas with ISDN you're paying per minute, per line. Utilising the three ISDN lines needed for videoconferencing means you're making three international calls and being charged per minute. With IP video there's zero call costs; it's an add-on to your existing network charge.

However, there are challenges around installing videoconferencing, both technical and cultural.

"Typically you use your network to transfer data from one server to another or to send email internally. It doesn't have to get there immediately. In real-time communication, however, a one- or two-second delay would make a conversation unworkable," says Daly.

"Because of that you have to give videoconferencing a higher quality of service on the network. Typically you use up 384Kbps of bandwidth for a two-way conversation between two videoconferencing units. You have to make sure you've enough bandwidth and that you've prioritised that type of traffic so it goes quicker than anything else."

Changing people's habits is perhaps the most challenging aspect, Daly believes. "In all the companies I've worked for, people think it's great initially but the novelty does tend to wear off after a bit."

"Our challenge now is to sell this to our people," says McDonald. "But anyone who has used it is quite impressed. The quality we have now is far better."

A high-definition future for videoconferencing in Ireland

The number of videoconferencing units sold in Ireland has grown about 100pc in the past three years, according to specialist reseller Videnda.

The yearly growth rate of around 33pc is down to three factors, says head of finance and operations, Liam Fahy. The equipment has got better; there's more bandwidth available due to broadband rollouts; and there's growing concern to reduce carbon emissions.

It's also due to people tired of trawling through airports and hotels. "Going over to London or down to Cork from Dublin for a one-hour meeting takes a full day. People are sick of it."

Sales of videoconferencing units are rising and customers are increasingly opting for high-definition (HD) units, says Fahy.

"One of our major suppliers went from shipping no HD units to it being 40pc of what they shipped in the space of six to nine months."

Fahy estimates over 1,000 Irish companies use videoconferencing, with the ratio of standard-definition to HD around 70:30.

Prices range from €3K for entry-level standard-definition units up to €25K for top-of-the-range HD units.

By Niall Byrne

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Collaborate for a Greater Cause

Laser Monks is one of Collaboration360 favorite charities.

A real cause that supports real people.

Good Works: Monks build multimillion-dollar business and give the money away
By Rob Baedeker, Special to SF Gate

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Strategic Assessment : Step 1 to Building the Tangible Vision (Addendum)

The key to building a good Tangible Vision is knowing your opposition, your settings and yourself via proper strategic assessment protocols.

Gathering the information is one thing. Knowing how to assess the information is another.


As Sun Tzu Says, Know Your Enemy - Competition
Posted: Feb. 21, 2008

Editor’s note: “The Angel Connection” is a regular feature in WRAL Local Tech Wire. LTW asked consultant Bill Warner to share advice for entrepreneurs seeking angel investors and/or venture capital investment. He is chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over 100 members throughout the Southeast.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Sun Tzu expresses it in many ways with respect to preparing for war, when he writes “know your enemy.”

Preparing to compete in business is similar in a lot of ways. One of the similarities is the need to know your competition in detail. As in war, you don’t want to enter the battlefield with the wrong weapons, deploying inappropriate tactics, with too few people, or engaging on the wrong terrain.

Have answers
When you are selling to a premier customer or presenting to a possible investor, you need to be prepared to answer such questions as:

• What makes your product or service better?
• Why should I buy from you?
• How are you differentiated?
• How successful are they?
• What are you doing to exploit their weaknesses?
• What strengths do they have, and how are you responding?
• What are they going to do to beat you?
• How much does your competitor charge?
• Is your service better?
• Are they public or private?
• Who funds them?
• Who is their lead investor?
• What financial position do they have?
• What is their pricing strategy?
• What is their marketing strategy?
• How is their sales force deployed?

Not being able to answer basic questions about your competition, will reduce your chances of winning a sale or getting funding. Worse yet, you will not be able to form a clear strategy to beat them.

What you need to know
An assessment of each of your competitors needs to be created. The research can come from all sorts of sources like: Websites, SEC filings, media articles, consultant briefings, marketing material, their customers and former employees. Of course, make sure you are not gathering anything that is proprietary. Basically the content of the assessment should be:

• Company description including demographics and size
• Summary of key management
• Financials, with an analysis of strengths and weaknesses
• Description of how they are capitalized
• Product line description with an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses
• Description of their marketing and sales strategy
• Positioning analysis and what makes them different
• Determination of what threats they represent to your strategy
• Description of what opportunities you have to beat them

Some people call this a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). It is, plus more. This basic information is what is needed to formulate a plan to win against them and to effectively answer the tough questions you are going to have to answer.

Organize this information in a way that allows you to quickly identify what strategy you are going to need to beat them all.

About the author: Bill Warner is the managing partner of Paladin and Associates, a business consulting firm in the Research Triangle Park area of central North Carolina, and is the chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over one hundred members throughout the southeast.

Copyright 2008 by All rights reserved.

# # #

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Recommended Strategy Book to Budding Strategists

Dr. Sawyer book "Tao of Deception" has just been translated to Chinese. Recommend the book quite highly.

The following content is from Ralph Sawyer's web site:

The Tao of Deception: Unorthodox Warfare in Historic and Modern China
First articulated by Sun-tzu in the Art of War, the concept of unorthodox warfare grounded Chinese theorizing on military activities for more than two millennia. Being defined against the orthodox and expected, the unorthodox can not be reduced to mere trickery or simplistic posturing, but rather constitutes the very essence of knowledge based, maneuver warfare. Unorthodox actions are designed to create and facilitate localized tactical imbalances, the requisite condition for exploiting overwhelming strategic power and thereby achieving a stunning, apparently easy victory.

While its implementation stresses special operations and manipulating the enemy, the concept of the unorthodox encompasses elements currently identified with asymmetrical warfare but in a more esoteric, often almost metaphysical conception due to Sun-tzu’s well known original formulation: “In warfare, the strategic configurations of power do not exceed the unorthodox and orthodox, but the changes of the unorthodox and orthodox can never be completely exhausted. The unorthodox and orthodox mutually produce each other, just like an endless cycle. Who can exhaust them ?”

Numerous pivotal historical battles in which desperate forces overcame immense odds by relying upon craft, cunning, and knowledge and thereby came to define the nature of unorthodox techniques are included. Collated in the military compendia, they invariably furnished a library of examples and methodology for later commanders.

"The Tao of Deception is a striking success and the first book to link ancient Chinese texts to current Chinese military planning. It has long been suspected that Chinese leaders today draw many specific lessons from their ancient classics. Ralph Sawyer, after a lifetime of translating classic Chinese military texts, has made a dramatic breakthrough to help us all understand the sources of potential Chinese calculations -- and miscalculations." Michael Pillsbury


# # #

Wrote a review for this book last year and will publish it here sometime this year.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Company without a Tangible Vision is a Company that Fails

The size of the company is irrelevant. If the company does not connect to their Tangible Vision, they will falter. When the senior management does not connect as a team, their troops will not connect to them.

Here is a story of Yahoo who kept on making bad decisions..

For the new reader of Collaborative View, the Tangible Vision is a strategic overview that delineates one's goal in specific guidelines.

It is a "Worse Than Failure" scenario when a personal implement is used against its owner.

f you are interested in knowing more about Compass AE as a strategic collaborative tool. please e-mail us at Service[aatt]collaboration360[ddott]com

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Compass AE principle: Process Precedes Technology

Many companies and governments believes in planning and operating from ground up. These groups rarely implement any advanced thinking and strategic foresight in their plans. If there is a problem, they utilize a "find a technological-driven solution and everything would be solved" type of approach. It usually cost the company more money after the damage is done.

Proper Preparation Prevents Pissed, Poor Performance
Compass AE is a team collaborative process that.emphasizes on advanced planning.

With their Tangible Vision, the Compass team is always prepared for all situations. They understood the specific priorities, the particular approaches and the different circumstances that could occur.

A properly-built process enables the project implementors to effectively utilize the technology in specific situations. Without a process, technology is only effective in limited situations,

If you are interested in knowing more about Compass AE as a strategic collaborative tool. please e-mail us at Service[aatt]collaboration360[ddott]com


February 4, 2008

SHANGHAI — For two weeks running, much of this country, long known for its capacity for mass mobilization, has been tied in knots by a series of major snowstorms.

Although the snowfall has been described as the worst here in 50 years, it has been nothing like the deep cover that blankets parts of New England or the upper Midwest in many winters.

But its crippling effect seems to have been mostly because of surprise. The storm knocked out electricity and water supplies, threatened the coal supply that fuels the country’s power plants and stranded millions of Chinese on the eve of the year’s most important holiday.

Many of the worst effects have been in parts of east-central and southern China, which are largely unaccustomed to serious snowfall.

Many victims, however — as many as 100 million people were directly affected — equate surprise on such a huge scale with lack of preparation.

For migrant workers unable to take their annual leave for the Lunar New Year, or for others stuck at home without electricity, water, regular supplies of food or even reliable news, the government, instead of an unpredictable weather system, increasingly appears to be the culprit.

In the last week the Chinese government has worked as hard at public relations over the crisis as it has over crisis management itself.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who has traveled around affected areas almost nonstop, went early in the week to the southern city of Guangzhou, where as many as 800,000 people had gathered at the train station at one point seeking to begin their annual vacations.

President Hu Jintao went to a coal mine in northern Shaanxi Province to encourage miners to redouble their efforts, including forgoing New Year celebrations, to spare the country’s power grid from further brownouts. Mr. Hu, who is known for his circumspection in public, was quoted as saying he was unable to sleep because of the scale of the emergency.

But in many badly affected areas the government seems to have almost disappeared, so overwhelmed it has been by the demand for emergency services. In other areas poor coordination between levels of government and among various agencies has seriously complicated matters.

“The main problem is lack of preparedness,” said Luo Shihong, a relief volunteer in Guiyang, in Guizhou Province. “By late January both the government and people thought the sky would clear up in a couple of days and it would be over. The officials had a lot of confidence initially, then a day or two later they discovered how unprepared they were mentally, physically and in terms of manpower.”

Xie Yonggang, a crisis management expert in northeastern Heilongjiang Province, had a similar explanation: “Despite the weather forecasts, the transportation department didn’t realize how serious this was until all the roads were already blocked.”

In Guangzhou, the capital of southeastern Guangdong Province, which has the largest concentration of migrant labor, these crossed signals may have narrowly missed causing disaster among the desperate crowds stranded at the train station.

Provincial authorities have worked hard for days to convince would-be travelers to abandon their plans to spend the holidays with family in faraway provinces, arranging ticket refunds, setting up shelters and offering nonstop propaganda about the money-saving virtues of staying put. Several hundred thousand people were gradually persuaded to leave the area of the train station.

On Thursday, though, a spokesman for the Railway Ministry said anyone wishing to travel home by train from Guangdong Province would be able to do so within five days. That brought a new surge of passengers, worsening the potentially explosive scene at the station.

Two people reportedly died at the station on Sunday, one crushed in a stampede and the other electrocuted as he tried to jump aboard a train.

“The Railway Ministry has a tone that is different from that of Guangdong, whose attitude had been clear,” said Wen Yunchao, a freelance Internet journalist. It would have been better to hold back as many people as possible so that some could go, instead of telling everyone they could go, he said.

The crisis in Guangdong has been made worse by other contradictions, as well. Although the provincial government has tried to encourage workers to remain at their dormitories, nobody seems to have coordinated with the factories.

“Many factories in the Pearl Delta are already closed or have laid off workers,” said Mr. Wen, the journalist. “The workers at those places have to go home, and they have brought all of their belongings and a few days’ cash out with them. They don’t plan to return to Guangzhou and don’t have a way back home, and we’ve seen no government arrangements directed at this group.”

Transportation is far from the only problem. China’s entire power system, from its extensive reliance on coal to its use of a high-tension power grid spanning the country, has proven surprisingly vulnerable. Agriculture, too, has suffered.

With train service badly affected, the authorities have faced the awkward choice of ferrying passengers or ferrying coal to power plants with the locomotives still in service. By some estimates, China’s coal reserves at power plants had dwindled to a historic low, with only a two-day supply remaining in many places.

Liu Xinfang, a spokesman for the national grid, said that as of Saturday 2,000 transmission towers and about 24,000 miles of transmission cables were still down in central and eastern China. “The wires have been frozen into huge ice sticks,” he said. “Some towers are bearing four times their weight.”

Others said the high number of collapsed transmission towers was a result of the fact that in southern China they are spaced far apart, largely as an economy measure.

One of the worst-hit areas for power has been Chenzhou, a city of four million in Hunan Province, where many have lacked water, electricity, heating or commercial food supplies for 10 days.

“Our power grid system was seriously damaged, in fact torn to pieces, and it is very hard to repair,” said Li Yufang, chief of the city’s emergency operations center. “When one part of the grid is fixed, another suddenly collapses, so power can only be transmitted intermittently.”

In southeastern Guizhou, another hard-hit area, officials said there had been extensive loss of winter crops, like wheat. Power has been out there for weeks.

“In towns and villages life now depends on primitive means,” said Lu Jiang, a spokesman for Southeast Qian Prefecture. “We get light from burning pine, and families grind grains with stone mortars. It’s not difficult to survive, but to live the way we did before the snow began, we will have to wait until the next season.”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A List of Current Project Management Trends

1 "Within three years, about two-thirds of U.S. professionals will be mobile workers. ..." - International Data Corporation 2002.
/// It is only a matter of time that most project teams will be operating from a virtual office. The question is ... how will these teams stay connected as a team? In terms of communications, tools connect them. Does it connects the team as a collaborative team?

2 "... In a recent survey of 124 financial executives, only 21% said they encouraged value-creating behaviors. ..."- Deloitte Dbriefs Webcast, Driving Enterprise Value, October 14, 2004
/// When building a Tangible Vision, the project team is encouraged to define the specific values.

3 "50% of all projects fail and a staggering 31.1% of projects will be canceled before they ever get completed. ..." - The Standish Group
/// This outcome happens when the teams lack a team collaborative process to connect with.

4 "Only 59% of all projects reach the market. In Europe only a meager 45% get shipped. ..." - Embedded Systems 07/2006.
/// From the Standish group report, 30% of all projects was completed on time, on-budget and on target

5. "The average cost of a Fortune 500 project range between $6-10 million before it goes over budget and over schedule. ..."- Baseline Magazine

6. "1 out of every 4 projects never get out of the starting line. ..." - Meta group
/// One in four implemented projects failed due to poor planning and an unwillingness to modify existing business practice.

7. "60% of all requirements for most projects are re-written. ..."- Construx
/// More than 60% of software projects in the U.S. failed, and poor requirements is one of the top 5 reasons.

8 "More than 50% of the project failures are due to reasons outside of the project. ..."
/// The project implementors are so focused on daily tasks and activities, that they lose track of their strategic matters and long range goals.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cooperation Creates Collaboration

Our Compass AE team collaborative process enables your project team to be strategically positioned ahead of the competition.

The following actions occurs:
  • The team knows the critical path toward completing the goal
  • The team focuses on their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses
  • The team always anticipate or seize opportunities
  • The team always know how to strategically adjust to changes
  • The team knows how to properly shape the path that leads to the completion of the project.
  • The team know how to strategically collaborate.
Our Compass AE process enables your project team to collaborate anywhere regardless of the distance, the technology and the project culture. With a compass direction, they collaborate without borders.

If you are interested in knowing more about Compass AE as a strategic collaborative tool. please e-mail us at Service[aatt]collaboration360[ddott]com


Following is an Interesting article on cooperation and gaming collaboration.

Cooperative games get casual players involved

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"... developers create more games that invite people to play collaboratively. Army of Two is the first next-generation title to be built from the ground up with cooperative play in mind, which runs through the bloody story line.

Much like Facebook and MySpace have rocketed in popularity through their focus on community and collaboration, a new generation of console games is offering more opportunities to create social modes of interaction. Unlike the solitary experience of playing a game by yourself or the high-stress environment of playing competitively with other players online, co-op offers an easier way to get into video gaming because you're among friends.

"Competition is fun, but it's just as fun to do teamwork," said Nick Puleo, founder of Co-Optimus, a Web site devoted to cooperative gaming. "Co-op is more of a positive thing than going around and killing the other team. It's built around a story or an objective that you can accomplish together."

Video gaming has had elements of co-op play for years. Two decades ago, arcade rats were playing Double Dragon and Contra side by side. With earlier consoles, gamers played on split screens on their televisions. More recently, hardcore PC gamers have banded together in online games like World of Warcraft to create epic battles and embark on various missions.

But in the past couple of years, there has been a co-op renaissance as developers started building the feature into their games, this time with online play so friends can team up remotely. Gears of War, Rainbow Six: Las Vegas and NHL 08 have utilized co-op to good effect. Upcoming titles like Resistance 2, Fable 2 and Haze are all building in more dynamic co-op features that allow up to eight players to work together.

One of the best-known titles in this new crop of co-op games is Rock Band, a four-player music game in which people play as members of the band. Greg LoPiccolo, vice president of product development at Harmonix Music, the developer of Rock Band, said the style of the game and its cooperative play have helped the company not only sell 1.5 million copies in the past few months but also reach out to a broader audience.

"There is a whole vast audience, specifically women, for whom competition is not their main desire for entertainment," LoPiccolo said. "Rock Band has been a good fit for them. From the outset, we hoped we would pull in a new set of customers who don't think of themselves as gamers."

Building co-op features into games isn't as simple as just adding a character. In Army of Two, the developers went to great lengths to ensure that both players can roam separately but
also work well in concert.
That can be harder in story-based games, where one player's progress will set off events in the game. In Army of Two, designers had to be mindful of tracking two players, ensuring their independent movements still work within a linear story line.

/// With Compass AE, each team member always knows what the entire team is focused on. When a Compass team that builds, connect and lead with their Tangible Vision, they will always succeed.

The game also forces players to revive each other, work in tandem to move around, and cover each other during firefights. When done well, the game can be rewarding for friends who are playing only recreationally, said Reid Schneider, senior producer for Army of Two at Electronic Arts.

"It's almost like watching a football game with a buddy as opposed to trying to compete with other," Schneider said. "It's a different experience with different expectations. This is more about the core enjoyment of playing together."

In Rock Band, designers allowed players of different skill levels to play with each other. But if one player falls behind and is on the verge of ending the band's collective round, a star player can save a bandmate through the use of stored "overdrive power."

"That can be really rewarding, if you're struggling and then you have a bandmate rescue you," LoPiccolo said.

Ted Price, president and CEO of Insomniac Games, which is releasing Resistance 2 this fall, said co-op can bring new gamers further into the gaming world. He said games like Resistance 2, which will feature eight-person co-op play, can prepare people for more intense multiplayer battles online.

"We think co-op can serve as a bridge between single player and multiplayer," Price said. "It's not about getting your butt kicked in multiplayer (games). We're introducing multiplayer concepts in a more safe way."

Peter Moore, president of the EA Sports label, said he believes co-op can draw players into games they might have thought were too daunting, such as shooters or sports games like NHL 08 or FIFA 08. By teaming with stronger players, new players can not only have fun but gain confidence, he said.

He said the co-op play was one of the nice features of Gears of War, a title published by Microsoft when he was vice president of Microsoft's gaming business.

"In Gears, you had each other's back and you took care of each other," Moore said. "Even if you were weaker, you could last longer and have more fun."

E-mail Ryan Kim at

This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


Monday, March 3, 2008

The Growing Trend of the Virtual Office

There is a slow inclining trend of virtual offices and large empty office buildings. ...
Our research tells us that the era of working in one central office is on a decline. The era of the virtual office began in the early 1990's and will continue to grow exponentially.

The question is how do you get your team to strategically collaborate as a team?


March 2, 2008
The Office as Architectural Touchstone


IT will be either one of the most challenging fixer-uppers in the history of modern architecture or one of the most significant tear-downs.
In any case, Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J., is for sale.

A decade ago, as many as 6,500 people worked in the low-slung complex, whose pioneering mirrored-glass facade reflects a gleaming three-legged water tower that looks like a giant Bell Laboratories transistor and pond-speckled landscapes where waterfowl outnumber humans.
Today, it is empty but for a few caretakers.

On a winter day, its vast atriums shudder with the sound of wind buffeting the sawtooth skylights. The only things moving along the miles of corridors are shadows.
And a prospective owner — probably more attracted by a contiguous 473-acre parcel near the Garden State Parkway in Monmouth County than by a vast, unwieldy monument — could demolish every bit of it. Designed in 1957 for Bell Laboratories, part of the former Bell System, by the architectural giant Eero Saarinen and the landscape firm Sasaki, Walker & Associates, the complex no longer suits today’s much smaller Bell Labs or its corporate parent, Alcatel-Lucent.

The property is on the market, but it is hard to imagine finding a new occupant for a structure custom-built two generations ago for physical lab work by a giant monopoly that no longer exists. The main building, with 1.675 million square feet of space, is organized into four pavilions set among atriums and linked by sky bridges. The perimeter circulation pattern leaves few offices with their own windows. Concrete walls divide many spaces.
While the fate of the Holmdel building is the most compelling preservation drama of the moment, it is not the only suburban corporate campus confronting 21st-century realities.

Mr. Saarinen’s research center for I.B.M. in Yorktown Heights, and Edward Durell Stone’s PepsiCo World Headquarters in Purchase, both in Westchester County, are among those that have been immaculately kept by their corporate occupants. But Union Carbide’s former headquarters in Danbury, Conn., has been in a state of flux almost since it opened. Others, like the General Foods headquarters in White Plains, have shed their original use and identity. I.B.M. kept its headquarters in Armonk, but in a newer and much smaller building.

“The less-centralized business model that I.B.M. has moved to can be done without the massive physical headquarters of past business eras,”
said Fred P. McNeese, director of I.B.M.’s corporate media relations. “There is also a different way of working, caused by advances in technology, that provides persons the ability to work remotely, doing the things that would have required them to come into a headquarters building in the past.”

/// Project implementors operate remotely is the growing trend.

How much longer can any of these postwar corporate centers — perfect embodiments of a moment in history when cities began to feel pestilential, when suburban flight grew easier on the interstates and when faith in America’s corporate power was unshakable — maintain the architecture and landscaping that made them such landmarks?

... Precisely because of those changes, solitary corporate campuses are regarded as “an evolutionary dead end” by Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit planning group concerned with New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. “They don’t provide the adaptable, flexible space that companies need,” he said. “They’re great architecture, but they act as a kind of straitjacket.”

... “Driving a long distance to a sylvan location is less appealing than it used to be,” Mr. Yaro said. In the tumultuous wake of World War II, the stand-alone corporate center in a verdant setting seemed like the wave of the future. The prospect of World War III loomed large enough that when the General Foods Corporation announced it was trading Park Avenue for Westchester Avenue in 1951, it took pains to say that “the possibility of an atomic attack on New York was not a factor.”

/// The emergence of the global economy and information technology has changed the rules of the global marketplace. ... The ease of communications and absolute privacy are essential to the remote project team. It is also important to collaborate as a team. Does your team know how to collaborate anywhere as a team?

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Wisdom of the Masses

The question is: how do you get a crowd to work as a team?


March 3, 2008
E-Commerce Report
Putting Innovation in the Hands of a Crowd

IF executives are going to rely on the wisdom of the masses for business help, it’s probably time the masses get a little compensation for it.

That’s the theory behind Kluster, the newest in a lineup of companies using the Web to channel the collective wisdom of strangers into meaningful business strategies. With a cash reward system for contributors and a big beginning at the TED conference last week in Monterey, Calif., Kluster hopes to attract just enough visitors with just enough business smarts to gain early momentum.

Along with members of the public, the 1,000 attendees of TED, a conference named for technology, entertainment and design that attracts leaders from many industries, used Kluster to generate ideas for a new product, then chose the most promising one and collaborated on the design. The result was Over There, an educational board game intended to promote cultural awareness, with questions like, What percentage of the world’s population lives further than one mile from their nearest pure water source?

According to Ben Kaufman, Kluster’s 21-year-old founder, there were a few parameters, including provisions that the product could not be wider or longer than eight inches and only specific materials, like single-injection plastic, could be used. Going into the process, Mr. Kaufman said he hoped the product would be something that doesn’t just serve an uninteresting consumer need, but a humanitarian product that can be used by everyone.

Mr. Kaufman said that would actually be a departure for him. As a founder of Mophie, a manufacturer of iPod accessories, Mr. Kaufman last year held a product design contest at the Macworld conference, with attendees submitting ideas and using a company Web site to refine designs and vote on the winner.

Out of that came the Bevy a key chain and bottle opener built into the case for an iPod Shuffle which Mophie sold by the thousands to retailers around the world. On the heels of that success, Mr. Kaufman in August sold Mophie for an undisclosed sum, then set out to build a business out of the process he used at Macworld.

Kluster includes a number of refinements to that process. Those who join are given 1,000 units of Kluster scrip, called watts, and they may earn more by telling the site more about themselves, like their area of expertise, age and income. Meanwhile, businesses are invited to post specific tasks to be addressed, like creating a new product, logo or corporate event.

Participants browsing the ideas offered by Kluster members can bet some or all of their watts on the ideas they most believe in, or post ideas of their own. Those who had winning ideas earn at least 20 percent of the bounty offered by the company that sought the idea, as well as more watts, while those who bet on the winning idea earn watts. Those who bet wrong lose what they wagered.

Mr. Kaufman said several well-known manufacturers would offer projects on the site after the TED contest. He would not disclose the identities of those businesses, but some, he said, would offer $50,000 or more for winning ideas, while others expect to give far less and hope that they have enough good will among their customers to spur ideas.

Kluster will make money, he said, by taking 15 percent of any rewards offered to projects and by charging fees for prominent placement of projects on the site, among other things.

Don Tapscott, the business strategy consultant and co-author of the book Wikinomics, said executives were quickly warming to the strategic value of P.F.E. ideas, or those proudly found elsewhere.

Throughout the 20th century, we’ve had this view that talent is inside the company, Mr. Tapscott said. But with the Web, collaboration costs are dropping outside the boundaries of companies, so the world can become your talent.

Mr. Tapscott, who credited Procter & Gamble with the P.F.E. concept, said executives can go overboard with the idea of outsourcing innovation if, in seeking such help, they expose too much of a company’s trade secrets. But so far, he knows of no business that has done so.

They always err on the other side, he said. They don’t do enough.

Among the obstacles in Kluster’s path are sites like InnoCentive and Cambrian House, which operate similarly. InnoCentive, based in Waltham, Mass., was until late last year a forum for solving science-related problems, typically for cash rewards. In September, it expanded into business, engineering and computer science, among other things. Since then it has grown by 15,000 participants, to 140,000, the company said.

Cambrian House, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, and has 64,000 participants, will also expand its Web site this year to accommodate projects across a broader range of industries. Until now, said Jasmine Antonick, a Cambrian House founder, the site has attracted mostly software and Web entrepreneurs.

Ms. Antonick expects the site to be profitable later this year, when it receives a share of payments made by businesses to several of Cambrian House’s participants, like two men who created Gwabs, an online video game that is to be distributed by an undisclosed company this summer.

Next month, it will introduce VenCorps, a site on which venture capitalists and other investors will review business ideas from the public and, after about 30 days, reward the best idea with $50,000 in exchange for a share of ownership.

VenCorps is a partnership between Cambrian House and Spencer Trask Collaborative Venture Partners, a division of the New York venture firm Spencer Trask. Sean Wise, a Collaborative Venture Partners founder, says he has high hopes for the site.

No matter how good a V.C. I could be, he said, I could never be smarter than the wisdom of a collective community.

Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research, said that Kluster had commercial potential. Asking communities for help with solving problems is certainly going to help businesses, he said. It’s just not something you can count on delivering business value yet.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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