Author Archives: Kevin

Organisation Bloomberg Style

My most recent “fun” book is Michael Bloomberg’s autobiography entitled Bloomberg by Bloomberg. I just kind of stumbled on to it. Both my roommates work for the company so not only does our household own a copy, but I also wanted to get to know more about my roommates’ work environment. In the book, Bloomberg tells an inspirational story of Bloomberg’s (the company) nascent years, the challenges the company faced and ultimately over-came.

What I liked about this book (and autobiographies in general) is learning about some of Michael’s eccentric, yet insightful philosophies on life, work and success. I liked Michael’s ideas on organization in particular, something I personally struggle with.

With regards to deciding which business tasks (accounting, logistics, sales, etc) to focus on, Michael had this to say:

“In computer terms, doing it whenever needed, on the fly, is working from a “heap,” not a “stack” or a “queue.” Working from stacks and queues is the rigid, bureaucratized method of operating; it makes you take out things in a predescribed order (i.e., last in, first out for a stack; first in, first out for a queue). But if you work from a heap, where input and output are independent, you can use your head, selecting what you need, when you need it, based on outside criteria that are always changing (e.g. what’s needed now, such as responding immediately to a customer complaint or getting a gift for your spouse’s birthday when that day arrives and you’ve totally forgotten). Look at your desk. Is everything in order? Or is it in a big pile like mine? Take your choice.”

What I like best about Michael’s “heap” approach to organization is its focus on responding to external pressures. It is the most merit-based approach for organization. Those tasks that are most important to the business (our your daily work) are done first, regardless of how long other things have been on the to-do list.

Essential to this approach, however, is a constant evaluation of external pressures. In high-level, macro analysis of strategy, this could happen on a quarterly or monthly basis. On a more micro, personal to-do list level, this could happen weekly, even daily. In this regard, it is the most demanding approach to organization.

That’s not to say the “stack” or “queue” approaches to organization are not useful. I can only imagine the customer service rep that decided to switch to the heap method of organization (Don’t bother calling if your problem isn’t life threatening). These two systems certainly have their uses.

As I mentioned above, organization is a real problem for me. Some times I over organize and some time I don’t organize enough. Either way the result is paralysis.
After trying a couple different approaches to organizing my work load, I have come up with the follow action points. Maybe they will be useful to you. Please share any thoughts you might have.

Action Points
On a weekly basis I will create a high-level to-do list that incorporates everything I am responsible for. This will give me a bird’s eye-view of what my week will look like and it will also give me the opportunity to share with my manager(s) to decide priorities.

I will use Outlook’s task function to create smaller tasks for each project I am working on. This will help me to keep track of the finer details of each project and insure they are completed on time.

I will trust my organization approach. This will help me to stop loosing focus on the project at hand for fear I have forgotten something.

The Future of Hong Kong

Living and working for the past seven months in Hong Kong has been nothing less than dream. Hong Kong is full of all the luxuries of the west, but also has a charm that only the east could provide. I have been treated to fun and exciting things to do on a weekly basis, and although the air pollution is terrible compared to San Diego, it doesn’t hold a candle to the levels in some of the cities in Mainland China.
Yet, things in Hong Kong aren’t all they seem to be. There is an anxiety about the city. The leadership of the CCP in the Mainland has said a number of times that they hope to turn Shanghai into a major financial center by 2020. Obviously this would transfer the center of ‘financial services’ gravity away from Hong Kong, a financial service heavy economy, challenging the city to find new industries to keep it relevant and to maintain its high standard of living. But to be honest, when Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang announced his plan to add new industries to Hong Kong’s repertoire a couple months ago, few seemed to take him serious. Economically speaking, Hong Kong could be looking at a difficult future.
So why am I not scared for Hong Kong?
I regularly read one of Hong Kong’s free newspapers: The Standard. Earlier this week, as I was flipping through the pages on my lunch break, I got to a cluster of articles under the “China” section. The first was an article entitled “Internet fears deepen over ‘white list’ bid”. Apparently Beijing plans to block even more websites from people using websites in the Mainland. They say that this is to block the growing number of porn websites but politically dissenting websites will almost certainly be blocked too.
The next article was about a Father who started a website for parents of children who became ill from drinking tainted milk (tens of thousands of children became sick after executives at a baby formula factory put an industrial chemical into the formula to boost protein levels). The website was designed to provide information and resources to parents. The Father was arrested and jailed for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.
The last article was of a 53-year old man who was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for co-authoring a widely circulated petition that called for political reform (what was this guy thinking?). After a year, he is finally going to trial. European and US diplomats have been barred from attending the trial.
The collection of these three articles was too much for me. I started laughing. If I’m a country, I would be doing my best to make my country as enticing as possible to global talent. Yet it seems like the government is doing everything it can to make the prospect of life in China a nightmare. As a foreigner, I’m giving a lot of thought to if I ever want to work in the mainland. Can I get away with living and officing in Hong Kong, and just visiting the Mainland? Would any foreigner in their right mind ever think of setting up a ‘life’ in this country? Currently facebook is blocked there. When you consider the fact that the language barrier in even the most developed cities is still a very big issue, keeping in touch with friends from home (via facebook) is a very important thing.
The top global talent will continue to flock to Hong Kong. The economic opportunities of China combined with the freedoms and luxuries that only a global city like Hong Kong could provide will ensure this. As long as the leadership in China continue to make stupid moves, no foreigner in their right mind would bother to stick around the Mainland after their fortune has been made.

And Btw, Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!!

Let’s Be Problem Solvers

I sometimes get mad when I receive emails complaining about this or that. Someone isn’t happy about Healthcare reform or someone isn’t happy about outsourcing work to other countries. It is always the same name calling, bickering and complaining.

Do people simply like complaining? Does it help them deal with the ambiguity of an uncertain future? I have always heard that in a for profit company (arguably the most efficient and productive human organization) constantly pointing out the problems without offering solutions is a sure way to get yourself canned. Your CEOs and Managers don’t care if you’ve identified a problem, they care if you’ve identified a problem and then SOLVED it. After all, problems without solutions just cause more problems, E.g. time delays, or complete inactivity. (there are always exceptions, some problems should be pointed out even when there is no solution yet)

There are thousands of voices all telling us how much is going wrong, but so few that are telling us how to solve those problems. When did society turn into a bunch of complainers? Has it always been like this? And most importantly, what can we do to reverse the tides of ignorance?

As I have said before, we must first become educated and then we must become the change in which we hope to see in the world.

There are a number of places that great ideas are being spread every day. TED.com offers a number of “ideas worth sharing” on a daily basis. Sharing them is easy. The site offers a number of ways to email or link the videos to friends. This is a video of Bill Gates talking about the work his foundation has been doing on malaria and education. It’s really good.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/bill_gates_unplugged.html

I received this video from csrwire.com. By subsribing to the RSS feed using igoogle (you can do this with a number of programs including facebook and outlook) I don’t even have to waste time visiting their website. I simply receive a link to their latest news articles on my google homepage. The video is about how architects at Virgina Tech have created a home that has a very small carbon footprint. The technology is really cool and has the potential to reduce energy consumption considerably. It is a great watch.

Know some other great websites? Please share!

Could you imagine if all of the people arguing about healthcare in the US, on the left and on the right, were actively seeking constructive solutions for the problem? What a different world we would be living in. What a BETTER world we would be living in.

I had planned on solving a problem of my own, but I will save that for my next post 🙂

Cultural Differencecs

My (our) friend from France, Alexandra, sent me this amazing piece of comedy last night. Being a global business major and all.. this stuff is important to me ;). What do you think, true?

Cultural differences are obvious in this picture…..
(Les différences culturelles sont très apparentes sur cette photo..)

The American is all business, looks ahead, nothing distracts him…
(L’américain est très professionnel, regarde ailleurs, rien ne le perturbe…)

The Canadian, a bit “out there”, worried about his appearance…
(Le canadien est un peu ailleurs, soucieux de son apparence…)

Now…….the French and the Italian………………………………?!
(Quant au français et à l’italien…)

presidents

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Who doesn’t enjoy a good wedding? There’s free food, a giant cake, dancing, booze—all the makings of a great night. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can also hope to gleam some high level wisdom off the old folks in attendance.

The gravity of the situation, that two people are crazy enough to spend the rest of their lives together, usually puts everyone, at some point, in a reflect mood. The older generations, enthused with memories of old times will often spill their guts on unsuspecting youths about lessons learned and wisdom gained from a lifetime of experiences.

One of the most interesting pieces of wisdom I have come across during a wedding was at my friend Ryan Coleman’s Wedding Reception. Mr. Coleman, who was obviously affected by the fact that his son had just gotten married, was having a chat with me about the gravity of the decisions different generations make. Where older generation are making decisions all the time—to buy two jet skis instead of one, to hire two employees instead of one—younger generations are making limited amounts of decisions, but paramount in their importance—who will I marry, what will I do for a living, to go to University or not.

As a non-committal, over-analyzer, I don’t need to be told twice how important this decade of decisions in my life is going to be. Girlfriends get the red pen from date 1, the idea of starting a career seems much better when none is secured, and material possessions represent balls and chains (I know, what a catch!).

I’m honestly thinking of starting a television show that follows young high school and university graduates as they search for their respective careers, loves and callings. Not only would it be educational for youths following in their footsteps, but also would be incredibly dramatic television. Dreams would be crushed, stars made, white picket fences erected and adventures born. Its Emmy bound for sure.

Rasterbator and Other Apartment Decorations

Tired of looking at that boring, white wall, but can’t figure out what to put on it, let alone how to afford it?… Rastorbate it!

Okay, so it is not that exciting, but it is still pretty cool. The program at http://homokaasu.org/rasterbator/ called The Rasterbator allows users to take any picture they like and blow it up as large as they need to. You can imagine how useful this comes in for young adults and University students. Both are prone to moving frequently and often into and out of dorms or apartment buildings where rooms can unfortunately resemble prison cells. The Rasterbator allows these poor, underprivileged souls to liven up their living space with photos, paintings or designs of their choice. Not bad eh?

Have a look at some of the many user generated rasterbated images

This is the one I put up in my 220 sq ft dungeon

Starry Night

Another great idea is to add some Christmas lights to your ceiling. It does a great job of taking the place of the harsh lighting that is common in small apartments where coffee tables for lamps are hard to come by. I grabbed the colorful ones. A better purchase might be the white lights with a dim setting.

Christmas Lights

Never leave home without your James Bond poster (courtesy of Lingli)

James Bond

A Tribute to Milton Friedman

Today, 31 July 2009, marks what would have been the world-renowned economist Milton Friedman’s 97th birthday. The Lion Rock Institute, based here in Hong Kong, put on a cocktail celebration for the late superstar economist, with a panel discussion, a few youtube clips featuring Mr. Friedman’s thoughts on the markets, and an open bar that I made sure to take advantage of.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Many of the principles that Mr. Friedman was an advocate for are apparently being trampled over by President Obama and a seemingly clueless US congress. The panel, which was comprised of well known Hong Kong economists who actually went to school in Chicago and studied under Mr. Friedman, were quick to critique the rational behind President Obama’s stimulus package, pointing to the fact that as the US begins to exit the recession, only the tinniest amount of stimulus money has actually been spent.

One thing Mr. Friedman was not, and it is important to highlight in order to save him from the hands of disenfranchised Americans, was a protectionist. If your business were going under because of outsourcing to India, “you are mistaken” Mr. Friedman would have said. Your business is actually going under because you have failed to innovate—“Tuff luck”. Only by exposing our businesses and industries to increased competition and pressure will we increase the necessity for innovation. Furthermore, it is innovation that is the key to providing the new and higher paying jobs necessary in order to continue raising living standards. An industry protected by government will likely destroy the need for innovation, in turn causing incomes and living standards to stagnate.

Mr. Friedman was very fond of Hong Kong. In the youtube clip below, he points out some of the reasons why Hong Kong has been able to increase it’s living standard so dramatically.

The world is getting crazy. As the US government, the spokesperson for freedom and capitalism around the globe, begins taking over banks and car manufacturers, it is the People’s Republic of China, the last great stronghold of communism that has adopted an increasingly free market economy. One has to wonder what will happen to Friedman’s teaching. In the US, will they be washed away by fiscal irresponsibility and a sense of entitlement? Will they gain further adoption by the hard working, status seeking Chinese? Or will Mr. Friedman’s free market system be blended with some sort of social collectivism, which is beginning to seem necessary in order to combat long-term imperatives such as climate change and resource conservation. Only time will tell.