Congrats to Bruce Weber

I'm not an Illinois fan, but my wife and I are big fans of Bruce Weber and were sad to see him leave the Purdue program several years back. Glad to see him get to the Final Four. He is going to be a thorn in Purdue's side for a long time.


Let's Party

So here's the photo I received back from iPod My Photo. Not bad (like I said when I sent it off I didn't think they had much to go by). For some reason Spencer looks like the boy from the Matrix who says "Just remember the truth... there is no spoon."

I'm also adding the source photo for a comparison.


Picked up a PSP tonight

The local EA Games had a couple PSPs in stock, so I grabbed one. Picked up Tiger Woods Golf as well. The value kit comes with Spiderman 2 movie in the new UMD format.

Will not get a chance to do much with it tonight, as Spencer has already put on his Spiderman clothes and gloves and is watching the Spiderman movie. I'm dying to see how it plays online - supposedly it comes with built-in Wifi.


Dear Customer???

Wow. So I apply for a new account at EmigrantDirect.com (as I referenced below), and I get an email from them thanking me for my application. The salutation???

"Dear Customer"

Wow, how personalized. Gee, I gave them me and my wife's name, drivers license, and bank account. You'd think they could do a little better than that! Something like...

"Dear cheap bastard, how much college do you think that measly $100 is going to pay for?"

"Dear joker, we looked at your checking account, and you're not worth having as a customer"

"Dear leadfoot, we looked up your driving record."

"Hey mister paid-off-both-their-cars, we have auto refiance loans..."

I mean come on! "Dear Customer"? Tom Peters would be so impressed.

And, if that's how bad they are with managing data, it doesn't give me a lot of confidence in managing my financial data.

If anyone wants a free $25...

email me and I will refer you to ING Direct. I get $10 a referral, and you get $25 when you open your account. I don't think there is a minimum, or at least it didn't list it.

ING Direct has a 2.80% APY for their savings accounts. Pretty good, but not as good as EmigrantDirect.com, a new player which is currently offering 3.25%. I've been with ING Direct since 2002, and every time someone has "upped" ING they've have responded by upping their rates. But this is the first time I've seen someone a full half point ahead of ING, so I am going to move some of my money over there. Will watch both closely and see if EmigrantDirect is just offering a teaser rate (as my local bank, Horizon, loves to do) or they are serious.

Even the boring appliance industry has a blog

Check out ApplianceBlog.

Personally, I like That Home Site! better.


I now have Gmail invitations available

I know most of the world already has a Gmail account and I'm one of the last to get one, but if you would like one, please email me at jvreagan@gmail.com.

Changing your luck

The Innovation.net blog had an interesting entry on luck; I was able to google and find this article on researching lucky and unlucky people. Very interesting read!


Put in an order for iPod My Photo

Placed an order this evening with http://www.ipodmyphoto.com. Will see how it turns out. It's one with me, Spencer, and Garrett. If it turns out good, it will be well worth it - the artists don't have much to work with!


Another Christensen Disciple

As much as I like to blog about Innovation, I ran across blog article that takes a stab at integrating current trains of thought from Clayton Christensen, Michael Porter, and Peter Drucker in the innovation space. Simply a summary of the their theories.

Some feedback on Gmail

I've been trying Gmail (thank you Jeff Nemcher for hooking me up with an account) for the past week or so. Here's some observations:

  1. I love the way Gmail manages threads. Click on a item in one of your folders, and you see not only the message, but it pulls out all the other messages in that "thread" (replies, forwards, etc) and makes it very easy to navigate up and down the chain. Way cool.

  2. POP support. Ok, so I can access my Gmail from my favorite email client (Outlook, Eudora, whatever). Very nice feature, and the primary reason I have not adopted Yahoo! or Hotmail's email services as my primary email provider.

  3. POP support. Ok, now flip that around... I cannot access my POP accounts from Gmail. Yahoo! and Hotmail give you that freedom. In the long run, if Gmail lives beyond beta, this is probably not a big deal, as most people will use Gmail as their primary email service. But right now as I'm trying this out, this is a key feature I need to have.

  4. Ads. Yep, you're going to get ads, but in true Google fashion Google keeps them relevant and out of the way. Not as bad as I thought they would be.

  5. Signatures. I haven't figured out how to do HTML in the signature yet. =(

In the end, I think I will end up using this as my main email. Google is not likely to disappear, and maybe I save a few bucks a month by not having my own domain name. The threading feature alone is worth keeping Gmail.


Ok, this is interesting

Not sure how long this link will remain active, but it's for a listing at Overstock.com for a wireless network card. Problem is, Overstock's price ($34.90) is actually higher than the list price ($29.99) they post! At least their "savings" calculation is correct... they claim to save you -16%!

Growing away from sports

Maybe I'm just too busy these days. Maybe I'm finally growing up. Maybe I'm maturing. Maybe I'm sick of the sports media acting as if anything that happens in sports is bigger than life itself. Whatever the reason, I do not follow sports the way I once did.

This past year was the first year (in 12 years) my wife and I did not get season tickets for Purdue football. Sure, we still made it to half the games (including Purdue's blowout at Notre Dame... heh heh heh), but I did not have the same zeal for the games that I once did.

And the latest steroids crap takes the cake. Conseco, MacGwire, Sosa, Bonds taking steroids? Really? Gee, there's a news flash. What's next, you gonna tell me Sosa's bat was ALWAYS corked?

And why is Congress so worked up over this? Isn't there a war going on in the Middle East? Shouldn't we be worried about fixing the Social Security System that will collapse in the next 20 years? How about the oil shortage we will soon face due to booming demand in Asia? Where is the discussion on alternative energy sources? Were all those issues resolved last week and I missed it 'cause I was working late every night?

Not sure the NCAA (or people like me that support it) is any better. Here we are in March Madness. $5B CBS is forking over to the NCAA. Lots of people at lots of universities, the media, etc. making out very well due to the tournament. Everyone except... the players. Go figure.

Maybe I shouldn't blog after a long week at work =)

Why didn't they have this while I was in college?

Students at Franklin W. Olin College in Ohio can get information on the status of their laundry, find out which machines are available, and get notifications when their laundry is done. Very cool. Would have saved me a lot of long trips down to the laundry room =)


Fresh ideas and fresh perspectives

This might very well be my number one insight into innovation: new innovation comes from new perspectives. Period. I'm always impressed at the insight new people bring to the table, even if they know nothing about the domain/processes/etc. Some people argue that people are changing jobs too fast these days - I argue we aren't changing fast enough! If innovation is the "in thing," and we need to increase the velocity of innovation, why wouldn't we rotate people in and out of jobs?

I submit that in order to keep pace with the rest of the globe, American companies are going to have to figure out how to manage cross-company talent pools. To me, you get all the benefits of internal resources (intellectual capital) and all the benefits of external resources (fresh perspective) without the risk (a company is simply exchanging resources with another company).

Diversity vs. Chemistry

Ok, this is an area of interest and consternation for me. The term "diversity" has been thrown around for at least the last 15 years in the business world. Yet I still see two trains of common thought around diversity that I would have expected to evolve beyond superficialness (is that a word?) by now:

  1. Diversity is measured solely by gender, ethnicity, and country of origin

  2. Any diverse group is better than a non-diverse group

For this discussion I will simply focus on the business aspects of diversity, leaving out the social ones. And rather than go into a long paper on diversity vs. chemistry, I'm going to jump right to the chase and throw my opinion out:

It is the right chemistry that can help drive business performance and needs to be measured; diversity as a metric is not useful

There, I said it.

It is the right mix of people, their experiences, their personalities, their cultures, their biases, their education, their knowledge, their wisdom, their risk-tolerance, their emotions, their passions, their view on life, etc. that enables great ideas to emerge. Have a diverse group of people for diversity's sake is not likely to generate any meaningful results. It's like grabbing random ingredients in random quantities and expecting to cook something that tastes good (and hoping you didn't grab poison in the meantime!).

Sounds easy, but what constitutes the right mix? I submit that your "portfolio" of people must include at least the following:

  1. Representation within the group that are strong in the five basic hats of de Bono's Six Thinking Hats(if you are not familiar with the six thinking hats I highly recommend familiarizing with them). Put another way, you need a group that is capable of creativity, fact analysis, postive thinking, negative thinking, and emotional insight.

  2. A balance of people in the group along the T-F (Thinking-Feeling) dimension of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

To me, that's chemistry.

A balance of different "hat" thinkers will ensure that all aspects of an idea are visited, and visited well. A balance of Thinkers vs. Feelers will ensure that ideas have a proper dose of rational vs. emotional perspective applied to it.

Note that the number of people here is largely irrelevant. My experience is that you want a few people that are each good in a couple "hats." Too many people and you either get analysis paralysis or the "shy" voices are not heard (very bad in terms of chemistry). I would argue that the great visionaries are capable of strong thinking in all five hats.

Also note that my "portfolio" is a minimum; clearly, for specific circumstances you will want to include additional diverse resources. Perhaps a strong gender mix, perhaps a strong cultural mix, perhaps a strong educational mix. That doesn't necessarily mean more people, just more diverse dimensions.

Now, to address my second observation ("any diverse group is better than any non-diverse group"), I would say if the goal is better ideas, I would tend to agree with this train of thought. However, in today's business world of "Fire, Fire, Fire" (as opposed to "Ready, Aim, Fire"), speed is an important consideration. And diversity/chemistry certainly doesn't speed things up.

To be clear, I am not against diversity per se. I'm against the assumption that diversity automatically generates better results. If only it were that easy! Diversity is a tool, not a measure.


For the record...

I finally won a free iTunes song from a Diet Mountain Dew after approximately 60 tries. So I can quit complaining now =)


Alright, this is cool

John Knight sent me this site which allows you to take a digital photo and make it look like an iPod ad. Even if I could do this in PhotoShop, for $19.95 it's probably worth it just to have someone else do it.

I will post here when I actually try it!

How Customers Think

I love the Innovation domain. How can you not? Trying to figure out that next great idea that changes the world is invigorating. That no blueprint for success makes it intellectually stimulating. That I do it in a Fortune 200 company is equally frustrating. =)

As I study the Innovation landscape more and more, I continue to get drawn into deeper and deeper dives in this space. My latest foray is into the area of consumer behavior, how the brain works, and cognitive science. Not much of a foray to date (lots of blog reading... my favorite is the Eide Neurolearning Blog), but I've decided to give How Customers Think a whirl. Been sitting on my bookshelf for three months, and I finally got around to opening it.

I've become a disciple of Clayton M. Christensen, whose theories on innovation are changing the way large companies think about innovation. My favorite quote from Seeing What's Next follows:

Furthermore, those who require data or best-practice comparison companies to make decisions about the future must throw their collective hands ups when inassailably conclusive quantitative data doesn't exist. And the truth is, data only becomes conclusive when it is too late to take action based on its conclusions.

Wow. Think about that. "...data only becomes conclusive when it is too late to take action based on its conclusions." Again, wow. Big problems for big companies trying to do innovation.

Christensen goes on in Seeing What's Next and outlines his theories and models for innovation. But I was left wanting to dive deeper. Thus, How Customers Think.

Already I like this book (primarily because it agrees with my philosophies on consumer research!). It starts off by identifying six marketing fallacies:

  1. Consumers Think in a Well-Reasoned or Rational, Linear Way

  2. Consumers Can Readily Explain their Thinking and Behavior

  3. Consumers' Minds, Brains, Bodies, and Surrouning Culture and Society Can Be Adequately Studied Independently of One Another

  4. Consumers' Memories Accurately Represent Their Experiences

  5. Consumers Think in Words

  6. Consumers Can Be "Injected" with Company Messages and Will Interpret Those Messages as Marketers Intend

Put another way, the way most companies go about consumer research and marketing is just plain wrong. Ouch. And that doesn't even begin to address marketing around innovation.

My appetite is whet. The next few days might be the fastest I've churn through a book, and will likely create plenty of blog postings =)

Eaton HomeHeartbeat

I've known about this little gem for a while, but not it's becoming public knowledge. Apparently ready to sell by this summer, the Eaton HomeHeartbeat will be the first standards-based home sensor-and-communications system.

The exciting part of this is that it's based on the Zigbee standard, allowing innovative consumer product companies to come up with their own solutions to integrate with the system.

It will be interesting to see if HomeHeartbeat takes off. Compared to previous forays into the home automation space, it's relatively inexpensive, has an easy-to-use User Interface, and uses standard-based communications to interact with the home.

Yes, I'm on the waiting list for the HomeHeartbeat =)


A day at the Museum of Science and Industry

Family went to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry today. Always a good time, and Spencer always has a good time.

Today I was glad to have a membership. Apparently the Body Worlds exhibit is really popular, and I estimate about 500 people were waiting in line for tickets. Thank goodness members get a special line to get tickets =)

We went to the new Game On video game history exhibit. Very cool, and brought back some good memories. Lots of consoles, games, and handheld devices from the last 35 years. Didn't see any Intellivision though.

Also saw the Omnimax film Mystery of the Nile. Exciting views of intriguing civilations (ancient and current). Always makes me wonder how civilations, like Egypt (or China, or the Mayas, etc), can go from such greatness to irrelevance. Just how do you "lose" progress?


So I signed up for Google Adsense

Adsense is a program from Google that allows one to post ads from Google on their web site and generate earnings from click-throughs on those ads. Been meaning to try it for quite a while... finally got around to doing it today (actually I signed up a while back and finally put the code on my site, but I digress).

I don't expect to make much on this, if any. There is a $100 threshold, and it would take quite a few hits to break through that. Any earnings from Adsense will be added on top of my annual contribution to my favorite charity: Freedom Alliance, a great organization that takes care of the families of those that preserve our freedom. I suppose this should motivate me to actually put up USEFUL content that people would actually want to read.

Trends in Internet communications

I was first introduced to the Internet as a freshman at Purdue University back in 1988. There, I was given an email account and had access to computers that could access the Internet. Those computers had newsreaders that allowed me to access Usenet newsgroups. For a while, Email and Usenet were the two primary means of communications over the Internet.

The Web appeared in 1993, and obviously took off. But it didn't kill email or Usenet as communications tools, even as web-based versions of email and Usenet became popular. No, the death (or decline) of Usenet, I purport, was a result of the mass advertising and spam into the content channel. In other words, as more and more spam filled the channel, users found the medium less and less useful, and finally left altogether to "spamless" web-based message boards (which now are losing users to blogs). But the trigger was not the new medium; it was the decay of the old medium.

I submit that new "fads" are simply mediums that are free of the "crap" that eventually fills mediums as they mature. Put another way, it's not that these new communication mediums are functionally superior to older mechanism; rather, they simply haven't been poisoned yet.

Now Email is on a usage decline (I am basing this solely on my own observations and experiences). Between basic spam, graphic spam, the "hey forward this to everyone you know" messages, and the urban legends that make their way around the internet (don't get me started on that topic), email is becoming more of an annoyance than a tool. A colleague of mine at work mentioned that he heard people in Korea use email only as "legacy tools to keep in touch with their parents. They use IM and SMS to keep in touch with their friends." How funny - that's how I treat email. And if Skype turns out as good as I hope, I'll be chucking another junk medium out the window - my landline phone.

Podcasting has emerged over the last year as a new means of communication. I must say, it's great to have a medium not cluttered by junk...yet. Reminds me of the web back in '94-ish. It will gain steam for a little while, until someone figures out how to dump junk into the channel. Then on to the next great frontier. Isn't innovation great?

So? you're asking? I don't know. I guess I don't have a point. Just an observation from my castle on a cold March Saturday afternoon =)

The gall of Brainbench

Brainbench is a testing/certification service for a number of areas of discipline, including business and computing. I've liked the service over the last few years, and I've had my employer pay for a subscription for myself and my team.

At this point in my career and development I've probably "outgrown" Brainbench. So, I decided not to renew. They renew your subscription automatically if you do nothing, so I went to their web site, and with a little effort found a link to "request not to renew." So I click on it.

It brings up a page where it asks me why I don't want to renew. No big deal. Until I see that this information is REQUIRED. Excuse me? Who the frick are you to require such information from me? Worse yet, they REQUIRE a phone number from me as well. What??? To NOT do business with you, you're going to REQUIRE information from me? GFY. Obviously I entered garbage in each field.

In one instant they go from a resource I would strongly recommend to my colleagues to one where they won't ever get a mention from me.


Microsoft pushes for patent reform

A long time overdue, IMHO. Nice to see a company with the resources and influence of a Microsoft take up this charge. The changes Microsoft is proposing will go a long way to stop some of the ridiculous patents being awarded (only to be thrown out later at significant cost to innocent companies).


I'm getting old

Officially turned 35 today. Wow. There's a milestone that hits you squarely in the nose.

Had a nice birthday dinner of my favorite (burgers of course!) with my wife's specialty ice cream cake. Spencer is a huge Incredibles fan, and had the thoughtfulness to get me a "Mr. Incredibles" shirt for my birthday. Very cool, and he gets excited when I put it on (in turn he has to go get his Dash costume on). And my wife got me the first three seasons of "24". That's 72 hours of TV show. Will be years before I get through them all.


Career thought of the day

Companies don't create jobs...individuals create their own jobs.


iPods on sale at buy.com

iPods usually go for $10 less at Buy.com than at Apple's Store. I noticed today you can get $20 off a 20GB iPod. No idea how long this lasts... will have to check with my wife to see if I can get another one =)

And, if you use Upromise, you can get an additional 2% for your 529 account.


Finally got Lego Mindstorms

Been trying to justify ever since Spencer was born that I needed Lego Mindstorms. After years of putting it off, my parents and my sister got me the kit for my birthday.

Impressed with how easy it is to put together a simple, programmable robot.

I have two projects in mind: first, I want to download leJos (a Java Virtual Machine you can download into the Mindstorms RCX brick/microprocessor), and second, I want to integrate with Spencer's Lego train system. The light and touch sensors should make a good toolset!


Freezerator Rant

Ok, I'm pissed. And disappointed in my employer.

The Gladiator Freezerator touts itself as a "second refrigerator." That's directly from the marketing material on the web site. And it looks like a traditional top mount refrigerator. A smaller, upper cavity where traditionally you'd find a freezer, and a larger lower cavity where you'd traditionally find a refrigeration compartment. Take a look at the site... wouldn't you agree?

Sorry, not the case. We left it plugged in for a couple of days. After all, we did read the manual on usage due to the nature of the product being designed for garage use. And it recommends to run for at least 24 hours before putting anything in to cool (and the manual uses the word "cool" as opposed to "freeze").

Today, my wife throws in our cokes and bottled water around noonish. By the time she gets home from the grocery store this evening at 10ish and goes to put stuff in the fridge, everything is frozen solid and the two cases of cokes have exploded. Pull out the manual, read it carefully, and finally on page 10 it does say that the lower compartment is for freezing only.

Hello? Maybe Gladiator/Whirlpool could have mentioned that in their marketing materials ya think? (For those that don't know, I do work in Whirlpool's Innovation and Technology organization). Or maybe something to make it obvious that the lower compartment is a freezer? Bad design, bad marketing, bad documentation. Disappointment all the way around. I'm a believer of the Tom Peters philosophy that misuse due to bad design is the manufacturer's fault, not the consumer's.

I'm dying to hear what Whirlpool's customer service reps have to say when my wife calls them on Monday! What sucks is that our customer care organization is chartered with making consumers happy due to problems creating by our engineering, manufacturing, and marketing organizations.

This type of outcome should not be acceptable at Whirlpool! My job as a leader is to embed that thinking into the organization.

I will say, the mess was easy to clean up =)

I will also say that the Executive Program that allows managers to get free product into the homes is not just a perq. In this case, I got to experience what a consumer really sees. I would love to see our call center data and see how many similar complaints have been received (Aaron, are you reading this???). That is assuming that we're selling very many Freezerators =)

Ah, I feel better. Now off to play some Rainbow Six and kill some terrorists.

Giving Audible.com a try

I spend 80 minutes a day in my car commuting to and from work. I like listening to audio books, but at $20-$40 a pop that can get quite expensive (I can churn through a book a week). I'm enjoying my iPod and iTrip, but would really like to get more audio books. Books on iTunes are in line with those that I find in stores or on Amazon. Too expensive for my consumption.

Ran across audible.com this afternoon. For $22 a month you get two books; on top of that they have some cheap books. Saw Tom Peters and other business authors for under $10. And when you sign up, you get two free books. So tonight I grabbed four books (valued at $120) for $20. Of course, I sought out the most expensive ones =)

And, it integrates nicely with iTunes =) BOO YA!

What a load of crap

I don't buy it. I drink two Diet Mountain Dews a day, and I have yet to win a song on iTunes, even though they claim "1 in 3 wins." So, after 5 weeks, and 50 DMDs, I have ZERO wins? hmmm...


Recipecast is alive!

Thanks to Aaron Dykstra for getting Recipecast up and running. Recipecast is a podcast site for recipes. Looking forward to creating my own recipes and getting them on the site.

Tested the site out and it works great. With iPodderX it integrates seamlessly with iTunes. Yeah, I know, I sound like a broken record.

The Freezerator

Received our new Freezerator this week. The Freezerator is a heated refrigerator (keeped things "cooled" instead of "frozen" in the winter for those of us that leave in cold climates) that is styled in line with the rest of the Gladiator Garageworks offering.

Looks very nice, is a little bigger than I expected. Comes on wheels so it's easy to move around the garage. Heater is a little noisy, but it's in the garage.