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3 bucket-list trips this summerThe "irregular and irreverent" JimPinto eNews has certainly been irregular over the last couple of months - the last one was published in June. Thank you for the many emails asking what has happened.
I've been away, happily going off on bucket-list trips. You remember the movie "bucket-list" where two friends dying of cancer decide to go to all the places they wanted before they "kicked the bucket". That's my model. Well, I'm still in good health, so I keep going off on bucket-list trips....
In July we went on a 2-week Educator's tour of China. I'd visited China on sales-trips before, but this was purely for pleasure. We visited Beijing first - Forbidden Palace, Tiananmen Square, Great Wall, boat cruise in Dragon Valley, and many other wonderful places, along with good history-major tour guides who explained everything. After tours of the bustling old/new cities Suzhou and Hangzhou, we arrived in Shanghai for the world's largest-ever Expo; every country had its own big building. We could only visit a few sites in the day we were there, with huge lines waiting to enter each exhibit. I'd been to Shanghai some 15 years ago, and did not expect the glamour and grandeur I saw this time. Shanghai is now the largest city in China, growing 10% annually. Every evening at dusk the city lights up and the crowds gather at the Bund, the famous waterfront, in year-round celebrations. China has the largest population in the world and just this year has climbed to No. 2 on the GNP list, behind only the US, exceeding Japan and all other European countries. It's evident that the Chinese are moving fast towards prosperity and success.
After just a week back home in San Diego, we went off on a British Heritage tour for another 2 weeks. I'd lived in and around London for almost ten years, and had made many sales-trips around the country. But I'd never really seen Britain - so this was part of my bucket-list. On the first day, after a boat-trip along the Thames to Kew Gardens, and then Hampton Court, we returned to Piccadilly to see "Jersey Boys", the musical, at a central London theater. We then went off to see Stonehenge, Bristol, Bath and Chester. I'd been to Chichester, Winchester, Colchester and Manchester - but never to Chester (earmarked for another visit). We went to the Lake District, and then Scotland where took a boat ride along "the bonnie-bonnie banks of Loch Lomond". Next were Glasgow and Edinburgh (with a brief stop at Rosslyn, the 15th-century medieval chapel of 'Da Vinci code' fame) and St. Andrews (the birthplace of Golf). On the way back, we stopped at Coventry and Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon. I could continue to wax eloquent on the pub-grub we sampled and the beautiful places we saw, but my eNews word-budget is fading fast.
Because I still have B-L #3 to summarize. We boarded the cruise ship Norwegian Sun at "the white cliffs of Dover" for a visit to all the Baltic Capitals: Copenhagen (Denmark); Warnermunde (Germany) with a 2-hour train-ride to Berlin (the Berlin Wall, now just a line of bricks in the road, with a lot of recent history); Tallinn (Estonia) (wow, must go back for another visit!); two days in St. Petersburg (Russia) with bucket-list visits to the Hermitage and a private Opera recital; Helsinki (Finland) and then Stockholm (Sweden), with a 2-day cruise back to Dover. A quick bus-ride to Heathrow airport brought us back to San Diego the same day.
We are still digesting our bucket-list memories and sorting the many thousands of pictures that spewed out. I've now filtered my collection down to about 100 for each trip, to show off to friends and family on my iPad.
It's going to take me a while to get back to normal. The weblogs accumulated - even though I'd posted my vacation sign - but are now back in business. Frankly, I felt just a bit guilty about not sending out my eNews; but, I knew you'd understand...
Apple iPad - good, but not a laptop replacementI've had my Apple iPad for about 5 months now, and have formed some opinions which I'd like to share.
I wanted to take my iPad with me on my trips to China and Europe, in place of my comparatively-bulky laptop - but I didn't. The sync through iTunes on my desktop takes forever (backing up 60 MB takes time) and then it got stuck. So I gave up, rather than spend hours on the phone with Apple trying to 'Restore' it. I did get it working when I got back, but that took a whole morning....
Actually, I was happy that I took my laptop on the trip. This gave me access to my Outlook, which has everything on it, plus a lot of files and archives which I needed while away for several weeks. Plus I could store the gigabytes of photos via the USB port - iPad can't do that by itself; it can only sync via a computer with iTunes.
iPad is a rethink of the design and interface of the PC. Its ease of use is its primary selling point. But it is NOT a complete, standalone computer. Here is my view of its features & drawbacks:
Apple sold 3 million iPads within 80 days of its release and is expected to sell about 10 million in 2010. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, LG and Samsung will soon be strong competitors. Cisco says it will soon be announcing a tablet that will be able to handle high-definition videoconferencing.
You know, other than showing off photos and reading newspapers and magazines, I can find no compelling reason to carry my iPad with me everywhere. But, I never leave my iPhone behind. And you can see my photos on that if you just hold it closer...
Book - The Great ResetRichard Florida's new book, "The Great Reset" looks at the present economic crisis as a "reset" - a time of transformative upheaval (like the Great Depression) when new technologies and systems will be born, when the economy will be re-cast, and Society remade; when the places we live and work will change to suit new needs.
Many people tend to view the current economic downturn as a time to retrench, perhaps a period of waiting to see whether another "double-dip" will arrive. But, says Richard Florida, this is an opportunity to modify our thinking, to shift strategy, to adopt new tactics, to change and grow.
Crises force big changes. They remake our economy and society, and generate whole new epochs of economic growth and prosperity. These periods of destruction can be the most fertile, in terms of innovation, invention and energetic risk-taking, which is what sets the stage for recovery beyond past success.
WIRED Magazine editor Chris Anderson, a visionary I've often quoted before, says about this book, "The Great Reset shows how new technology and the new geographies of living and working come together to drive recovery. Must reading for anyone who wants to understand where we are now and where we are headed."
Good or bad, the future is accelerating towards us, whether we're ready or not. Rather than complain about it, and simply wait for an "upturn", this book shows how the self-organizing systems of the changing world and global environment will "reset" with new mechanisms of productivity, innovation and technology.
This is a provocative and intelligent book by a good writer, worth reading as a starting point for your own self-reset.
Small is Better in Industrial AutomationThe phrase "Small Is Beautiful" comes from the title of a 1973 collection of essays by British economist E.F. Schumacher. The book champion small ideas, in contrast with the "bigger is better" syndrome.
In my August 2010 article for Automation World, I examined the question: Can large automation companies be innovative, or is smaller better for innovation and creativity?
How many engineers in a large company work 15 hours a day on a new idea? Where in a large organization can you find the innovation and passion that typifies the start-up? This is the primary reason why big organizations aren't as innovative as smaller ones. They crush innovation before it interferes with the status quo.
Especially in tough times, managers within large organizations push to stay within budget. Their survival instincts are to conserve, not to expand. Rather than risk disruptive change, their instincts are to push sustaining developments and incremental improvements. There's always fear of competing with existing products (which may currently be contributing to the top and bottom lines).
Many people just give up when facing this dilemma, especially when the company is still profitable. Some choose to downsize, allowing the recession to be an excuse. They cut new-product developments and curtail advertising to preserve budgets.
Others seek to stretch development money by moving offshore, where engineering per-head costs are significantly lower. But that simply cuts loose the innovators, who form start-ups to develop their new ideas without organizational inhibitors.
With no organic growth, most large automation companies are following the strategy of acquiring smaller companies, expecting to extend the smaller organizations success record through expanded sales channels and global coverage. But that doesn't work. The acquired company is usually forced to fit into the larger organization, with its hierarchy, budgets, policies, procedures and petty politics.
The innovative leaders inevitably exit, leaving only second-level followers to fit into the larger corporate hierarchy. Acquisitions typically stagnate and simply get absorbed into the bowels of the larger organization.
My conclusion: In industrial automation, smaller is better.
Jim Pinto speaking engagementsMy bucket-list trips in the past months have put a crimp on my regular speaking engagements. I can't possibly do a speech in Chicago, while I'm in Beijing or Helsinki. Sure, I tried to get some speeches to synchronize with the places I was visiting, but no such luck....
I enjoy my speaking engagements. All my knowledge, background, experience and insights are focused on delivering a valuable message to a receptive audience. It stimulates the juices! Some of my best thinking comes while I'm delivering a speech, and in the Q&A and personal interactions that follow.
During the past couple of years, I have spoken at events all over the country and the world. I've visited Australia, England, France, Germany, South Africa, India and, of course, several major cities in the US and Canada.
I've addressed engineers and executives at companies such as Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, PAS in Houston, Omron in Chicago and Citect in Australia.
In March of this year, I spoke, along with my guru and friend Dick Morley, at Winnipeg in Canada, at the Technology Acceleration, Innovation & Manufacturing Conference.
The more I travel and speak, the more insights it gives me into the wonderful variety of ideas and experiences that relate to the places I visit, the people I meet, and the variety of topics we discuss. It stimulates my eclecticism.
Hey, if you're organizing a conference, sales meeting or industry gathering, I'd like to be considered as your keynote speaker. I'll help you pick a subject to suit your meeting theme.
These are some of my favorite topics:
eFeedbackIan Huntly [email@example.com] from South Africa comments on our recent discussions about 'Invented in Chindia' (JimPinto.com eNews 23 June 2010):
"The economists I talk to are talking 20 years (2030) for these milestones to be reached. The tilting point curve is exponential, at least with the current debt ratio and financial crises hitting the US and Europe. I expect the curve to steepen faster than this, at least in the next 10 years.
"From our view point in South Africa, things are moving much faster than predicted, for a repeat of the Japan versus West matchup of the 1980's.
"Take ISO 9001 Certification as a single leading indicator. China is top by a long way (more than the next 2 together) followed by Italy, Japan, Spain, India, and Germany, with the US down in 7th and dropping.
"The comment from one of your contributors about the 'value' of engineers in the different countries is another strong indicator. We have this problem in South Africa too, where the ability of universities to attract engineering talent has been dropping for many years."
"The US government should maintain an appropriate amount of regulatory control over free-market Capitalism, to avoid corporate negligence (e.g. return to employee abuses similar to the beginning of the Industrial Era, or runaway greed leading to another Enron debacle).
"But the US government should also not be the nanny of every citizen, allowing them to become dependent on the hand-outs, but instead, driving them towards becoming self-sufficient productive members of our society.
"The members of US Congress need to collectively stop promoting pork-barrel spending for their constituents at the expense of the entire nation. The President should be given the line item veto to help enforce that.
"Each government entity needs to be funded based on their effectiveness, not based on last year's budget plus percentage increases. If any government office is no longer needed, or is redundant, then get rid of it! Only then will a government thrive while maintaining public trust."
"Engineers have a unique point of view, and a systematic way of thinking, that is very valuable to technology-driven firms. As someone on the 'dark side' (marketing), I would like more engineers involved (or employed) in marketing. It's much more than just PR and promotion. Understanding the customer/market /competition, creating product requirements, and helping guide development are more important marketing activities than promotion (no amount of advertising can sell a product that completely misses the market). These activities can be within many engineers' comfort zones.
"I'm currently engaged in a project to find more effective ways to manage and market products for my firm. Part of the solution is closer alignment between engineers and marketers, and engineers with broader perspectives can help achieve this."
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