Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (22): Let's Look at the Data

Quality intelligence gathering defines the quality of strategic assessment.

May 29, 2009

Lebron James, and Naked Without Data

In today’s world, companies, entities, people and concepts are naked without data. Making business decisions or predicting trends using data analysis is perhaps the only way to survive the future. However, it is not the raw data, but how you analyze it that matters. In other words, asking the right questions. Like the ones that many Wall Street firms didn’t ask when betting the farm, the house and the cars on mortgage-backed securities.

A good reminder of how to use data smartly came this week, thanks to Lebron James and my beloved Cleveland Cavaliers. As a frame of reference, none of my three professional teams have ever won a championship in their sport in my lifetime. That would be zero wins in approximately 120 attempts. In fact during such time these teams have made it to the finals on just three occasions. Ouch!

Here comes the “naked without data” part:

Moments after the Cavs lost Game 4 in a best-of-seven series, one the “analysts” (not statisticians but rather former NBA stars who likely have not been trained in statistics) “revealed” how stacked the odds were against them coming back to win it. In the history of the NBA playoffs there have been 3-1 series leads exactly 187 times, and only eight times has a team come back to win. So the Cavs odds are only slightly better than 4 percent, right?

Wrong. What Kenny Smith –- one of my favorite entertainers and basketball analysts — forgets when dealing with stats as opposed to offering up his sensational, articulate and simple breakdown of the subtleties of the pro game is that his sample set of 187 prior events had a bias to it that makes it not directly relevant at all in assessing the Cavs odds.

Why? Well, across the 187 instances of 3-1 series leads we would expect that the majority of them were generated by superior teams. For instance if the Lakers, Celtics or Bulls at the height of their respective Magic, Bird and Jordan years held 3-1 leads in the first or second rounds we would EXPECT them to win those series NOT because of the numbers but because of their superiority! In the case of the Cavs and Magic, the Cavs were actually favored to win the series. If the Magic win the series it will be a well-earned upset. Not a shocker, since the Magic won almost as many games as the Cavs during the regular season and we are now in the semi-finals, where only very good teams remain to compete.

So Kenny was starting with a very faulty sample set, which in this case made the Cavs odds look horrendous. What would have been impressive was if Kenny Smith understood his flawed sample set thanks to his statistical and logical training in grade school and provided the number of instances when a favored team was behind 3-1 in the late rounds of the NBA playoffs. THAT would be darn useful. If you threw in home court advantage, since the Cavs would be playing two out of the three remaining games at home, it would be all the better.

Since there are a mere eight instances of teams overcoming those odds, Kenny might be able to do an easy case study to see what happened in those games, to find out if there was a pattern or not and then use his basketball knowledge to tell a truly powerful story. I’m just guessing, but maybe then the odds move to, say, 20 percent from 4 percent. Still far from ideal for Cavs fans, but the Cavs do have the league MVP on their squad in Lebron James. So that should matter. As it did in Game 5.

So how does this relate to the technology industry? Data is a critical weapon and a difference-maker. Real-time analysis of data is one of the reasons why a company like Google has been able to make itself the king of online advertising, because with the ability to quickly, constantly analyze the data, it can then match ads with pretty much any content page across the web.

Of course, no one is giving Kenny Smith a hard time for the statistical irrelevancy of his comment. But we can probably chalk that up to the eternal optimism of true fans.

Copyright 2009 GigaOm. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

C360's Latest Update

In previous "Collaborative View" posts, we cautiously mentioned that "... the U.S. economy is slowly coming back. ..."

Our research told us that various Silicon Valley companies are currently quite busy and are doing well. We believe that some parts of the U.S. economy will be roaring back late this year.

Beside working on the book, we are currently busy with several market research and strategy development projects.

The alpha draft v.6 of our "Strategic Assessment" book has just been completed. The beta release will be available sometime in the next three to five months.

If you are interested in being a beta reader, please contact us at service[Aatt]collaboration360[dott]com.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (21): Sifting Reality from Illusions

“All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone. Everything is in relation to everything else.”

~ Buddha

Politicians of all sorts will occasionally use generalized phrases to tell their audience that they have a "high impact" solution that is beneficial to the public.

Go to your favorite news sources and examine the speeches (and sound bites) of your local and regional politicians.

Check if they are using some of the following phrases: Back to Basics; Best Use of Available Resources; Community Objectives Coupled With Meaningful Commitment; Empowering Communities; Growth; Maximize Potential; Meeting Challenges; New Sense of Initiative; Positive Outlook; Quality; Reassessment, Rebirth, Renewal, Revitalization, Stability; Task Force; and Team-Oriented Approach.

Also, if their messages do not possess any tangible specifics (i.e., exclusive dates, defined metrics, etc.), it is a "stopgap" illusion.

Following are some of our favorite strategic assessment's rules:
* Look for "intelligence" situations that have high signal and minimum noise; and .
* The number of informational items with "bells, whistles, smoke and mirrors" is inversely propositional to the number of tangible informational items.

Collaboration360 Consultants (C360 Consultants). Copyright:2009 © All rights reserved. Copying, posting and reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infringement of copyright.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Best Practices of Desktop Strategists (6)

From our experience, we have seen a few people who can think, strategize and implement regardless of the technology, the distance and the grand settings. We referred to them as world class strategists.

These people can also stay focused on the current objective while minding the grand picture.
It is a rare skill. Does your team possess this set of skills?

Following are some of the other questions that we usually ask our clients:
  • How does your team look at your projects and plans?
  • Do they know what is the grand picture for your plan?
  • Can your team view your entire plan from a top down view?
  • Do they understand your plan from a "bottom up" perspective?
  • Can your team see the tactical specifics for each milestone?
  • Can your team see what is ahead after each completed milestone?
  • If a strategic change in one milestone occurs, can they also see the consequential strategic change from one milestone to the following milestones?
  • Regardless of the amount of critical information at your team's fingertips, do you sometimes feel that your team feel overwhelmed by an information overload that they are caught in a phase of paralysis by analysis?
  • Do you feel that your team is not receiving the quality information, that they cannot make a good decision?
Poor quality of information usually prevents one from gaining the strategic insight of the current situation.
  • How many times in your professional career, has your team been able to instinctively perform your projects without fear and uncertainty?
  • Has your team ever automatically connect the dots and reap the rewards?
Technology comes. Technology goes. It is just a tool that does specialized tasks. Nothing more. Nothing less.

To prevail in the global economy, one needs the dual skills of analyzing the information and connecting the dots.
  • Does your team possess that set of skills?
  • If they cannot effectively connect the dots, will they reap the rewards?
  • Is your team still able to effectively compete in spite of the situation?
If not, it is time for you and your team to reconsider the strategic process of seeing the grand picture.

Conclusively, it should always be the plan that runs the technology, not the other way around.
Do you have a process to build that specific plan?

If not, you should contact us at service[@tt]collaboration360[dott].com.

Collaboration360 Consultants (C360 Consultants). Copyright:2009 © All rights reserved. Copying, posting and reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infringement of copyright.


Beyond BlackBerry, high-tech execs shun gadgets
Fri May 22, 2009 4:13pm EDT

By Franklin Paul

NEW YORK (Reuters) - You'd think the leaders of the world's biggest and coolest tech companies would be total gadget freaks, 'tricorder'-carrying whiz kids sporting the latest doodads months before the masses.

Think again.

Top brass and chief thinkers from companies from Web upstart Twitter to "Big Blue" IBM told the Reuters Global Technology Summit that, when not developing "the next big thing," they turn to hobbies similar to that of non-geeks.

They read books and go fishing. Very un-Star Trek, eh?

"I'm not actually a gadget freak. And I'm not a computer freak. I'm a physicist," said Eli Harari, chief executive of SanDisk Inc, which makes those ubiquitous fingernail-sized digital memory cards and USB thumb drives.

"I love technology. But I don't like gadgets. I rarely use my notebook PC -- and I type with two fingers," he said.

Popular folklore and network TV, fuel a belief in a high-tech world of anti-social genius's like Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory" or Jack Bauer of Fox's hit show "24", who have critical data at their fingertips via powerful gadgets.

But most of the summit guests admitted that the only super device they wield is a mobile phone -- Research in Motion's Blackberry or Apple Inc's iPhone -- with most saying they would suffer without them. ...

Technology executives said their busy lifestyles don't leave much time for dabbling with sophisticated devices that do not pertain to building their own businesses.

"I like to get away from electronics," said John Chen, CEO of business software provider of Sybase. "I have found that very constantly grinding (is) quite stressful."

Like many of his peers, Chen seeks respite in the printed word. But two camps are evolving, now that Inc's Kindle digital reader has captured the fancy of executives bored with sitting around airports.

"This morning I got on a plane to come down here," Corning Inc Chief Financial Officer Jim Flaws said. "I had checked to make sure it downloads the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. I can read both of them on my BlackBerry, but it's a little easier to read on your Kindle, which is...bigger."

Venture capitalist Tim Draper, a man accustomed to writing million-dollar checks, said he was itching to buy a Kindle, but was too frugal to do it yet.

"I have a little bit of Kindle envy," he said. "I have a Sony Reader, and I have a whole bunch of books on it. I'm so cheap, I want to be sure I've read all of those books before I buy a Kindle."

Sybase's Chen, a self-described old-fashioned guy, says he will pass on Kindle. "If I get on a plane for a long ride, I read a book. I can't stand Kindle. It's not an Amazon issue -- I like the feel of a book."

The aversion to toting gadgets doesn't mean that tech leaders aren't wowed by their electronic abilities. Take, for example, one new take on an activity thousands of years old.

"The last thing I bought was a fish finder -- it's amazing technology," Ralph de la Vega, AT&T Inc's mobile chief, said of a device made by satellite navigation tool maker Garmin Ltd . "I don't know how people used to fish before -- you had to have a lot of stored knowledge."

"You can go to a place, scout it out and say 'I think there's fish over there!' Its such a better thing to do than just casting a fly, and you don't know where the fish are."

He pulls out his other favorite device -- an iPhone -- to show off a snapshot of his prized catch, a Bass. ...

(Reporting by Franklin Paul, editing by Tiffany Wu, Leslie Gevirtz)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (20): Assessing a World Class Implementer

"When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of momentum; When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing.Thus the momentum of one skilled in war is overwhelming, and his attack precisely regulated. His potential is that of a fully drawn crossbow; his timing, the release of the trigger. In the tumult and uproar the battle seems chaotic, but there is no disorder; the troops appear to be milling about in circles but cannot be defeated. An apparent confusion is a product of good order; apparent cowardice, of courage; apparent weakness, of strength. ..." - Sunzi 5

Learning from Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War'
Saturday, May 9, 2009
The China post news staff

Last Friday marked the latest in a string of naval confrontations between China and the U.S., when, according to the Pentagon, two ships from China's Bureau of Fisheries Patrol came "dangerously close" (within 27 meters) to the surveillance ship USNS Victorious operating in the Yellow Sea.

The patrol vessels used high-intensity spotlights on the Victorious multiple times. The crew on the Victorious responded by sounding its alarm and shooting water from fire hoses at the vessels. The hour-long standoff ended only after the Victorious radioed Chinese military vessels for help.

China holds the U.S. responsible for unauthorized entering of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu characterized the incidence as a violation of international and Chinese laws by the U.S. and required the U.S. to take effective measures to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

The U.S., on the other hand, was silent on the confrontation, which is the fourth in the past month alone. The standoff was missing in a White House statement on the conversation between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The recent showdowns between the so-called G-2 nations are seen as indicators of China's increasing confidence in its naval might and Washington's reluctance to escalate situations in a time when it needs Beijing on broad to tackle issues such as the financial crisis, global warming, and North Korea's arms race.

The unprecedented display of maritime armory on the 60th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) on April 23 was a far cry from the celebration a decade ago, which was, as the Economist put it, "a little more than a few commemorative stamps and plenty of bunting."

Not so this year. In a bit of chest pounding, China showcased two nuclear-powered submarines for the first time.

While China's naval power is still far behind that of the U.S., China's recent clashes with the U.S. are more than simple calls for attention, and should be regarded with caution.

Since the humiliation of seeing the U.S. aircraft carrier Nimitz enter the Taiwan Strait following the 1995-6 missile crisis, China has been eager to deny the U.S. unrestricted access to where it considers its own backyard.

Andrew F. Krepinevich, a military consultant and an expert future strategist, argued that China is not looking for a head-on ocean head bunt with the U.S., but to develop a military strategy that enables the weak to defeat the strong. He called the strategy "shashoujian" (the assassin's mace), a combination of Western technology and Eastern wisdom to create surprise, break the U.S. military's communication network, and launch preemptive attacks "to the point where such attacks, or even the threat of such attacks, would raise the costs of U.S. action to prohibitive levels."

In other words, Beijing opted not to overpower the U.S. Navy, but to obtain the capability of area denial. By showcasing its nuclear submarines and its growing confidence in the seas, Beijing had averted the U.S.' attention out of East Asia, which is in line with the oldest of Chinese military wisdoms, Sun Tzu's Art of War: "When your opponent is in superior strength, evade it."

Other shashoujians such as China's ability to smash orbiting satellites and its cyber-warfare capability (though Beijing denies its development of such technologies) are all aimed at disrupting U.S. military communications and making it difficult to coordinate an operation in East Asia.

/// A good strategist always out-positions his competitor’s advantage through the use of solid planning and preparation. Once a leverage was gained, he has the option of eradicating the competition.

For now, China's strategy seems to be working. Facing a global financial crisis and two ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. is inclined to see China more as a partner than a competitor. Such a situation could post a great challenge for Taiwan.

/// When the resources of the favored is spread thinly, their best survival option is to establish alliances not opposition.

While Beijing and Taipei seem to be on their way to diplomatic detente, the option of attacking the island by force has never left the table. Even best friends fight sometimes, so while the people of Taiwan should hope for improving relations, they should not leave their fate to the mercy of a heavily-armed big brother.

The long term survival of the ROC should not be assumed, but earned. Taiwan's military should learn from China and develop its own area-denial capabilities to prepare for the unthinkable.

These include capabilities to create surprise and opportunities, such as better intelligences and cyber-warfare. After all, one of the best ways to maintain peace and promote camaraderie among friends, ironically, is to make dispute an ugly option.

Copyright © 1999 2009 The China Post.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (19): Assess, Position and Profit

"The Book of Military Administration says: 'As the voice cannot be heard in battle, drums and bells are used. As troops cannot see each other clearly in battle, flags and banners are used. ... Now gongs and drums, banners and flags are used to focus the attention of the troops. When the troops can be thus united, the brave cannot advance alone, nor can the cowardly withdraw. This is the art of employing a host. ... In night fighting use many torches and drums, in day fighting many banners and flags in order to influence the sight and hearing of our troops. ..." - Sunzi Chapter Seven: Maneuver (Griffith translation)

The guys are quite brilliant. They saw the possible market need, conceived a very simple concept, used Window Excel as their platform and wrote some VBA code. Bang! They became a niche marketing success. Conclusively, necessity is the mother of invention.

Signs of the times

A growing number of college, high school teams are switching the way they signal their plays

Tom FitzGerald, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, May 15, 2009 (05-14) 21:34 PDT --

It's as much a part of baseball as razzing the umpire. The third base coach conveys a play to the hitter and base-runner by touching something - his nose, his cap, his left arm, his right arm, his chest, his buckle, anything you can touch without, well, being obscene. To the uninitiated, it looks like a series of tics in search of medication.

Yet, somewhere in that sequence, there's a sign that the steal is on, or the bunt, or the hit-and-run, or most likely nothing at all. One of the gestures is usually the "indicator," and the next sign is the one that means something.

Newspaper accounts trace the origin of hand signals to one of big-league baseball's only deaf superstars, outfielder William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy, in the 1880s. Ever since then, signs have been given, and signs have been stolen. That's a part of baseball tradition too. Cal is among a growing number of college teams that have switched to a different system that uses numbers rather than hand gestures. If you go to a baseball game in Berkeley, a bingo game might break out.

Head coach David Esquer, in the first-base box, is giving the signs with his fingers after looking at his master chart. Three-one-fist (for zero) before one pitch. Three-two-one on the next. The batter and runner each check the numbers on a chart wedged in their plastic wrist band. Don't bother trying to decipher the code. All the numbers come out of a computer program, and there may be 25 three-digit combinations (out of 200) that mean steal.

Unless you have a telephoto lens like a newspaper photographer to give you a close-up look at a wristband, the system is pick-proof. "You see quarterbacks in the NFL having to go to their wrist bands, and they're running multimillion-dollar offenses,"

Esquer said. "I figure we can run some baseball plays on the wrist as well." Is there any downside to the numbers system? "The cards slide in and out a little, so you have to adjust them now and then," said first baseman Mark Canha, Cal's leading hitter at .356. "That's about as bad as it gets. It's a system where you can't miss any signs really." "You don't have to worry about picking up certain indicators, so it's pretty simple," said second baseman Jeff Kobernus, a .351 hitter. "It slows down the game a little bit because (Esquer) has to give it to both the runner and the batter. Sometimes people in the stands will (mockingly) ask, 'What was that number again?' " Nearly 100 college teams are using the system, and many high school teams are jumping on board, too.

Some teams use it just for conveying pitch signals to their catchers, who consult their wristbands and then use traditional finger signals to the pitchers. Pitchers are prohibited from using wristbands because they could be distracting to batters.

The system was dreamed up at the College of Southern Idaho in 2004 by coach Boomer Walker and pitching coach David Carter, who wanted a foolproof system of pitch signals. The coach would call out the numbers or flash them with his fingers. The catcher would find the first two digits on the top of his chart and go down to the intersecting point with the third digit. The sign might be for a changeup outside, or a curve inside, or a fastball in the dirt. The system turned out to be easily adaptable to other aspects of the game.

Teams that use both offensive and defensive cards simply flip them over each half inning.Some coaches made up their own spreadsheet files.

A couple of former Western Oregon University players, Liam Woodard, 30, and Bryce Gardinier, 28, have turned the system into a cottage industry, tailoring the system to specific teams and even specific pitchers. Gardinier wrote a computer program, and Woodard set up a Web site, They peddle the system for $249.99. If you want 25 wristbands, it's $400. A coach can shuffle the numbers before every game. "It's been fun for us to have our own piece of baseball," Woodard said.

Cal's Esquer was one of their first customers, and he has passed it on to local high school coaches, like Max Luckhurst of Campolindo-Moraga and Chris Declercq of San Ramon Valley-Danville. Both of them swear by it. "I've made one mistake, and (the players) have made one mistake," Luckhurst said. "It's pick-proof but not fool-proof. There's room to read the chart incorrectly. But it speeds things up. It's a lot faster than going through a full sign sequence."

His players had to pass a classroom test on using the chart before they could get their uniforms. Nothing less than a perfect score would do.

According to Declercq, "If they're using it at the Division I level, with guys so crazy about stealing signs, it will work for us." He said his players missed an average of two signs a game last year under the old system.

In planning, no useless move. In strategy, no step is in vain. - Chen Hao

With the new system, he said, they haven't missed any. How vulnerable is the traditional system? "I've got a kid who's smart," Declercq said, "and the other day he had the other team's pitch signals by the second inning." Not everybody is convinced the numbers system speeds up the game. City College of San Francisco and San Francisco State use it only for pitch signals.

On offense, CCSF coach John Vanoncini said, "I think it slows the play down, and umpires now are concerned about the pace of play." SF State coach Tony Dress said, "I'm old school. My signs are not scientific, but they're not easy to pick." The most hide-bound traditionalists aren't about to jump on the numbers bandwagon.

"One of the problems in college baseball is there's too many signs being given," said a pro scout who asked not to be identified. "This system makes it easier to give signs all the time. You see a coach giving signs when it's 0-and-2 and nobody on. There is much more pressure on these college coaches to win now that they feel they have to take control of everything."

The scout doubts you'll ever see the numbers system in the major leagues. "A big leaguer wouldn't wear the wristband," he said. Cal's Esquer admits the numbers aren't for everyone. "I'm the first to admit it," he said. "It's not traditional baseball. It was hard for me. But I hate missing signs more than I have to look traditional."

E-mail Tom FitzGerald at

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (18): Assessing from the Field Level

Regardless of the situation, always maintain a state of assessment. Ms. Rousso's process of assessing the competitor is simple but efficient for the Poker game.


Vanessa Rousso Teaches the Art of Poker

LP: Whose idea was it to incorporate the principles from Sun Tzu’s book “The Art of War” into the curriculum?

VR: Oh yeah, that’s me; that’s typical me. I’m obsessed with the Art of War and Sun Tzu. It goes along with the whole idea of game theory and all that. I’m a big strategy buff. I’ve always loved riddles and puzzles and anything where you use logic and figure out the optimal play. The strategies that Sun Tzu espouses I find it to be so amazing because although it was written so long ago, his advice is really timeless and boundless. It’s extended for hundreds of years in truthfulness and beyond just war obviously. All of his points can be analogized to business and obviously to poker. It was a way to make the content a little more unique from other boot camps that are out there. So I wrote the curriculum based on that and based on the many times that I’ve read Sun Tzu, and I hope people like it. The game theory stuff I’ve taught a lot over the last few years and I just added the Art of War stuff to it. So it will be the first time I teach it on April 5th.

LP: I think people are going to love it. Which bit of the Art of War do you think best applies to the game of poker?

VR: There is none that is “best”. There are a couple tenants that I have centered my presentation around that I find are really germane to poker. Those are probably the parts where he talks about, and I’m not sure if I’m getting the quote exactly right, but something to the extent of “he who makes no calculation will never be victorious; he who sometimes makes calculations will sometimes find victory, and only those that make many calculations will find victory often.”

Then he goes on to break down the factors that are involved in calculations, such as measurement, calculations, quantity, comparison, and then victory. Those all analogize to poker really well.

First you need to measure and figure out what’s my chip stack? What are the blinds? How much does it cost a round? How many chips do my opponents have at the table? You need to measure and size up your opponent.

Then you, of course, calculate. You calculate your pot odds, you calculate your average chip stack and how you are, relative to that. You calculate your average chip stack at the next level; calculate how much time is left in the level, and what sort of shape you will be in at the next level, and then so on and so forth.

Then you compare your different alternatives and choose the best one. If you do analysis like that, you will be victorious far more often than if you ignore the calculations that are necessary in poker.

That’s pretty much what forms the framework of how I use the Art of War in my presentation. Also there is a big chunk of it on “know thyself” and also “know thy opponent.” I tie that into my game theory information acquisition chapter, which I have taught at a ton of boot camps before. So Sun Tzu ties in well there as well.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (17): The Dilemma of Assessing

When assessing one's marketplace, focus on understanding what are the current and future economic influences and the current state of the marketplace.

At this moment, businesses of all sizes must decide
what is the next big trend for their marketplace. They are in process of assessing their grand picture, searching for the grand variable that indicates the economy is turning around.

Historically, the smaller companies usually pursue the "high risk, high reward" ventures while the larger companies sit and wait for the smaller companies to validate the new marketplace and create internal mistakes at the same time .

Conclusively, the process of strategic assessment always plays the important role in understanding what are the current and the future opportunities, especially for those who are willing to pursue the apex position of their marketplace.

what is the dilemma? Deciding on when to stop assessing and start the planning and preparation process. We will touch more on this topic later on.


No rebound just yet, according to supply-chain survey
By Peter Clarke
EE Times Europe
(05/06/09, 08:33:00 AM EDT)
LONDON — The electronics supply chain remains pessimistic and appears to believe we have not yet seen the bottom of the recession, according to a survey of more than 230 electronics supply chain decision makers.

Respondents gave an average score of 4.2 regarding how the current economic situation is impacting their company on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being "very negative" and 10 being "very positive."

When asked about the next 6 months, these same respondents answered with an average score of 4.6, a small, but significant increase, pointing to a belief that the business environment in the technology sector will improve. Respondents were also neutral (average score of 4.9) regarding prospects for their company's profits for the next 6 months.

Respondents that identified themselves as electronics manufacturing services (EMS) or original design manufacturing (ODM) companies were generally more optimistic at 5.4. Respondents from semiconductor, distribution and logistics, and components manufacturing firms were more pessimistic, giving average scores of 4.2, 4.0, and 3.4 respectively. The survey was conducted by and sponsored by electronic component distributor Digi-Key.

"'s survey is revealing and confirms what we're seeing," said Paul Singh, CEO for privately-held Suntron Corp. a North American EMS provider serving such end-markets as military/aerospace and industrial and medical electronics. "Economic conditions are impacting the industry as a whole, but quality-focused companies not burdened by a lot of debt and with good cash flow should emerge okay once economic conditions improve," added Singh.

"Our findings don't indicate a full recovery in the electronics sector is underway just yet but our survey results do provide some helpful information indicating where we are right now in this downturn," said Mark Zetter, president and founder of

Related links and articles:

Top 25 distributors of 2009

Intersil and Digi-Key sign distribution agreement

When the going gets tough, the tough get trained


If you are interested in understanding the basics of assessing a marketing terrain, please view this past post .

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A History Channel's Documentary on Sun Tzu's The Art of War

This coming Saturday, History Channel's is rebroadcasting a two hr presentation on Sun Tzu's The Art of War ... Our friend Mark McNeilly of will be featured as one of the on-camera experts.

Behind the scenes, we contributed to the content of the show. ... Enjoy the show.

Saturday, May 9 at 5 p.m. ET on HISTORY CHANNEL

All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable of attacking, feign incapacity; when active in moving troops, feign inactivity. When near the enemy, make it seem that you are far away; when far away, make it seem that you are near. – Sun Tzu.

Sun Tzu was the Nostradamus of warfare, and his book The Art of War, written 2,400 years ago, is still the ultimate how-to book for winning. This two-hour special brings his words to life. Shot like a graphic novel, Art of War weaves together several epic stories, including the story of Sun Tzu himself, and a war soon after his death where a city is saved using his tactics as China takes the first step toward unification.

Art of War also follows other epic battles in history—Roman battles, The American Civil War, World War II, and present day—that illustrate more of Sun Tzu’s lessons and how the people who understand his strategy are the most dangerous weapons of all. While his ideals were originally created for battle, his lessons could be used by anyone who wants to win—whether at sports, business, or life.

You can also purchase the DVD at the History Channel website store here:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Best Practices of Desktop Strategists (5)

One cannot assess and strategize if he cannot focus. When one has the "world class" focus, he sees the connections within his grand settings from a top down view. Gaining the view of the entire grand settings enables one to make better decisions.

If one cannot focus, their
ability to make proper decisions will diminish.

It has nothing to do
with the abundant of information that he or she gets.

May 5, 2009
Ear Plugs to Lasers: The Science of Concentration

Imagine that you have ditched your laptop and turned off your smartphone. You are beyond the reach of YouTube, Facebook, e-mail, text messages. You are in a Twitter-free zone, sitting in a taxicab with a copy of “Rapt,” a guide by Winifred Gallagher to the science of paying attention.

The book’s theme, which Ms. Gallagher chose after she learned she had an especially nasty form of cancer, is borrowed from the psychologist William James: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” You can lead a miserable life by obsessing on problems. You can drive yourself crazy trying to multitask and answer every e-mail message instantly.

Or you can recognize your brain’s finite capacity for processing information, accentuate the positive and achieve the satisfactions of what Ms. Gallagher calls the focused life. It can sound wonderfully appealing, except that as you sit in the cab reading about the science of paying attention, you realize that ... you’re not paying attention to a word on the page.

The taxi’s television, which can’t be turned off, is showing a commercial of a guy in a taxi working on a laptop — and as long as he’s jabbering about how his new wireless card has made him so productive during his cab ride, you can’t do anything productive during yours.

Why can’t you concentrate on anything except your desire to shut him up? And even if you flee the cab, is there any realistic refuge anymore from the Age of Distraction?

I put these questions to Ms. Gallagher and to one of the experts in her book, Robert Desimone, a neuroscientist at M.I.T. who has been doing experiments somewhat similar to my taxicab TV experience. He has been tracking the brain waves of macaque monkeys and humans as they stare at video screens looking for certain flashing patterns.

When something bright or novel flashes, it tends to automatically win the competition for the brain’s attention, but that involuntary bottom-up impulse can be voluntarily overridden through a top-down process that Dr. Desimone calls “biased competition.” He and colleagues have found that neurons in the prefrontal cortex — the brain’s planning center — start oscillating in unison and send signals directing the visual cortex to heed something else.

These oscillations, called gamma waves, are created by neurons’ firing on and off at the same time — a feat of neural coordination a bit like getting strangers in one section of a stadium to start clapping in unison, thereby sending a signal that induces people on the other side of the stadium to clap along. But these signals can have trouble getting through in a noisy environment.

“It takes a lot of your prefrontal brain power to force yourself not to process a strong input like a television commercial,” said Dr. Desimone, the director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at M.I.T. “If you’re trying to read a book at the same time, you may not have the resources left to focus on the words.”

Now that neuroscientists have identified the brain’s synchronizing mechanism, they’ve started work on therapies to strengthen attention. In the current issue of Nature, researchers from M.I.T., Penn and Stanford report that they directly induced gamma waves in mice by shining pulses of laser light through tiny optical fibers onto genetically engineered neurons. In the current issue of Neuron, Dr. Desimone and colleagues report progress in using this “optogenetic” technique in monkeys.

Ultimately, Dr. Desimone said, it may be possible to improve your attention by using pulses of light to directly synchronize your neurons, a form of direct therapy that could help people with schizophrenia and attention-deficit problems (and might have fewer side effects than drugs). If it could be done with low-wavelength light that penetrates the skull, you could simply put on (or take off) a tiny wirelessly controlled device that would be a bit like a hearing aid.

In the nearer future, neuroscientists might also help you focus by observing your brain activity and providing biofeedback as you practice strengthening your concentration. Researchers have already observed higher levels of synchrony in the brains of people who regularly meditate.

Ms. Gallagher advocates meditation to increase your focus, but she says there are also simpler ways to put the lessons of attention researchers to use. Once she learned how hard it was for the brain to avoid paying attention to sounds, particularly other people’s voices, she began carrying ear plugs with her. When you’re trapped in a noisy subway car or a taxi with a TV that won’t turn off, she says you have to build your own “stimulus shelter."

She recommends starting your work day concentrating on your most important task for 90 minutes. At that point your prefrontal cortex probably needs a rest, and you can answer e-mail, return phone calls and sip caffeine (which does help attention) before focusing again. But until that first break, don’t get distracted by anything else, because it can take the brain 20 minutes to do the equivalent of rebooting after an interruption. (For more advice, go to

Multitasking is a myth, Ms. Gallagher said. You cannot do two things at once. The mechanism of attention is selection: it’s either this or it’s that. She points to calculations that the typical person’s brain can process 173 billion bits of information over the course of a lifetime.

People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money, she said. Do you want to invest your cognitive cash on endless Twittering or Net surfing or couch potatoing? You’re constantly making choices, and your choices determine your experience, just as William James said.

During her cancer treatment several years ago, Ms. Gallagher said, she managed to remain relatively cheerful by keeping in mind James’s mantra as well as a line from Milton: The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.

When I woke up in the morning, Ms. Gallagher said, I’d ask myself: Do you want to lie here paying attention to the very good chance you’ll die and leave your children motherless, or do you want to get up and wash your face and pay attention to your work and your family and your friends? Hell or heaven it’s your choice.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (16): Strategic Assessment's Golden Rule

In our future book, we will emphasize on some of the significant assessment points. ...

April 29, 2009
Poppies a Target in Fight Against Taliban

ZANGABAD, Afghanistan American commanders are planning to cut off the Taliban’s main source of money, the country’s multimillion-dollar opium crop, by pouring thousands of troops into the three provinces that bankroll much of the group’s operations.

The plan to send 20,000 Marines and soldiers into Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul Provinces this summer promises weeks and perhaps months of heavy fighting, since American officers expect the Taliban to vigorously defend what makes up the economic engine for the insurgency. The additional troops, the centerpiece of President Obama’s effort to reverse the course of the seven-year war, will roughly double the number already in southern Afghanistan. The troops already fighting there are universally seen as overwhelmed. In many cases, the Americans will be pushing into areas where few or no troops have been before.

Through extortion and taxation, the Taliban are believed to reap as much as $300 million a year from Afghanistan’s opium trade, which now makes up 90 percent of the world’s total. That is enough, the Americans say, to sustain all of the Taliban’s military operations in southern Afghanistan for an entire year.

Opium is their financial engine, said Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. That is why we think he will fight for these areas.

/// By assessing the economic and logistics points of the Taliban, the U.S. Military realized what was their primary source of their strength.

... Among the ways the Taliban are believed to make money from the opium trade is by charging farmers for protection; if the Americans and British attack, the Taliban will be expected to make good on their side of that bargain.

Indeed, Taliban fighters have begun to fight any efforts by the Americans or the British to move into areas where poppy grows and opium is produced.

... To offer an alternative to poppy farming, the American military is setting aside $250 million for agriculture projects like irrigation improvements and wheat cultivation. General Nicholson said that a $200 million plan for infrastructure improvements, much of it for roads to help get crops to market, was also being prepared. The vision, General Nicholson said, is to try to restore the agricultural economy that flourished in Afghanistan in the 1970s. That, more than military force, will defeat the Taliban, he said.

There is a significant portion of the enemy that we believe we can peel off with incentives, the general said. We can hire away many of these young men.

Even if the Americans are able to cut production, shortages could drive up prices and not make a significant dent in the Taliban’s profits.

/// One of the key objectives of the U.S. military is to diminish the momentum of the Taliban's.

To instill chaos into the heart of the opposition, the first step is knowing the mind and the structure of the opposition.

After the Taliban was strategically assessed, the
U.S. military discovered the fuel behind their engine and focused their efforts toward dismantling it.

While politics steer the Taliban cooking pot, the financing of the opium is what fuels the cooking pot.
Eliminate the fuel of Taliban. The idealogy of the Taliban will decline immediately.

This "Remove the Firewood from Under the Cooking Pot" stratagem can be found in the 36 Stratagems essay.

In our soon to be published book on strategic assessment, we will cover more on this point.

The foray into Zangabad suggested the difficulties that lie ahead. The terrain is a guerrilla’s dream. In addition to acres of shoulder-high poppy plants, rows and rows of hard-packed mud walls, used to stand up grape vines, offer ideal places for ambushes and defense.

But the trickiest thing will be winning over the Afghans themselves. The Taliban are entrenched in the villages and river valleys of southern Afghanistan. The locals, caught between the foes, seem, at best, to be waiting to see who prevails. ...

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

When attacking a strong force it is difficult to attack it directly as it stands. In these cases, one attacks the corners. In large scale battles, after careful inspection of the enemy's forces, one can gain advantage by attacking the corners of exposed strategic points. When one has eliminated the strength of the corners, the strength of the whole will also be diminished.
Miyamoto Musashi

Friday, May 1, 2009

A History Channel's Documentary on Sun Tzu's The Art of War

This coming Sunday, History Channel's is doing a two hr presentation on Sun Tzu's The Art of War ... Our friend Mark McNeilly of will be featured as one of the on-camera experts.

Behind the scenes, we contributed to the content of the show. ... Enjoy the show.

PREMIERE: Sunday, May 3 at 8 p.m. ET on HISTORY CHANNEL

All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable of attacking, feign incapacity; when active in moving troops, feign inactivity. When near the enemy, make it seem that you are far away; when far away, make it seem that you are near. – Sun Tzu.

Sun Tzu was the Nostradamus of warfare, and his book The Art of War, written 2,400 years ago, is still the ultimate how-to book for winning. This two-hour special brings his words to life. Shot like a graphic novel, Art of War weaves together several epic stories, including the story of Sun Tzu himself, and a war soon after his death where a city is saved using his tactics as China takes the first step toward unification.

Art of War also follows other epic battles in history—Roman battles, The American Civil War, World War II, and present day—that illustrate more of Sun Tzu’s lessons and how the people who understand his strategy are the most dangerous weapons of all. While his ideals were originally created for battle, his lessons could be used by anyone who wants to win—whether at sports, business, or life.