Category Archives: Uncategorized

Consumer Telepresence Solution List

I’m keeping track of a few things coming out there in telepresence and remote collaboration — it’s a pet interest of mine. Starting this log so I don’t forget what I find:

  • Perch: iPad-to-iPad portal that turns on when a face looks into the iPad.
  • Sococo: Multi-virtual-room parallel reality with lots of bells and whistles.
  • Sqwiggle: Simultaneous video-portals making it easy to interrupt each other.

I’m more than aware that face-to-face is *way* better than any of these solutions. That said, it seems like in certain situations we should be able to imagine a better future than all being in the same room together “studio style” given that we’re in this strange global interconnected world and all … at least that’s what I read on the Internet. -JM

Red Burns

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Click on the image above to view the presentation that Red would give to welcome incoming classes at ITP.

Yesterday I got the sad news that Red Burns passed away. She was the warmest (when you needed it), the meanest (because you deserved it), and the smartest (without making you feel stupid) leader around. Red was also the most non-academic-y of the academic leaders I have known, and she always made me question the nature and stereotypes within the academy. Red fit no stereotype I knew of — and for that reason she was a beacon of uniqueness and possibility for us all. This old video from a few years back gives a great taste of the special person that Red was to all of us.

You will be missed, Red. Thank you for telling us all the truth — because we definitely needed to hear it. Your advice to me was always consistent, and because of you, I know what to do and not do. What not to do, is to not let you down. Red, thank you.

Survive, Compete, Aspire

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Leadership doesn’t have to always be creative. There’s lots to shamelessly copy and emulate out there. I try to collect all kinds of smidgens of knowledge from other leaders that I encounter, and scribble my notes in some illegible scrawl. This is one of them, which I can’t remember who I heard it from.

The notion is that you need to first be able to survive — which is based on having core skills and knowledge. Then you get to compete — which requires specific strengths and competencies. And if you’re lucky enough, you get to aspire to lift the entire field that you represent upwards. Aspiration is less of a check-off-the-box assault at making it to the top, and instead is the magical, emotional part of something — grounded in a set of values — that embodies a sense of possibility. It gives you the *feeling* that you can make a difference. Because you can feel it in your gut. -JM

Generosity as Doing, Not Thinking

My father never said much to me as I was growing up. He was a doer, more than a thinker. Because my father could only speak Japanese, many people thought I could speak Japanese too. Nope. I could understand a lot though, as he was often giving instructions on what I should do. So if I knew a few spoken words in Japanese as a youth in my “conversations” with my dad it was an obedient, “Yes. I’ll do it.”

There’s one thing I learned from my father, by watching how he’d interact with everyone around him, that had nothing to do with language. Or about thinking. Just doing. And it was doing nice things for other people. He was always someone to go the extra mile for a friend. And he never asked for anything in return. This always struck me as odd — having observed the world outside of his sphere (ie “the real world”) in comparison year over year growing up — wondering to myself, “What was dad’s doing … giving everything he had … away?”

When we think of strategy, we usually think of managing scarcity. Or, choosing the best outcome among other alternatives. Dad never seemed to act from a position of “strategy” in his business, and in his dealings with non-business friends and people. He seemed fully comfortable giving away whatever he had, and just assuming he would always make more. Of what?

I now realize that he created massive amounts of generosity. If I may be more specific, he inspired me to believe that generosity was something that you *do*, and not something that you think about doing. Otherwise it isn’t being generous at all.

Dad loved the confidence he embodied in himself — to be generous, for generosity’s sake — with no particular reason why he *could* be generous at all. He was enigmatic in his ways. Instructive as a doer. Doing is a way of thinking out loud too. That sounds right. Now I get it … it’s always helpful to think out loud.

Okay, my ten minute doing-as-blogging break is over … thanks for visiting. -JM

On Humility

A friend wrote to me today, asking me how my being Asian affects how I work or think — for a presentation he was giving.

Granted, I was born and raised in the US — so I like to think of myself as no different than any other American. But I know that every group has its own identification of themselves in relation to other groups — diversity is a wonderful thing when called out and celebrated. At RISD we started something called RISDiversity because I believe that communicating the richness of a community’s diversity leads to a stronger community. So I briefly reflected a bit about this notion of being Asian and how that impacts how I might behave, and shared the following:

My one thought would be that we all love the story of the underdog. But specifically the underdog that is humble, and still remains humble even when the unlikely thing happens that s/he succeeds. Because more often than nought, the underdog’s role is to fail. Asian values are about humility — humility is a calming and welcome force in our chaotic world today, I believe.

Humility is always re-ingrained in me when I remember how I am the son of a mom-and-pop tofu maker from Seattle, and I worked along side them as a child. I learned what hard work is about — and it made me realize that no matter how high I might rise professionally, I will never be someone that could have worked as hard as my parents did at the tofu store. They taught me humility, just by being who they were and are.

I feel lucky to know many people of many backgrounds that resonate with my thoughts above … of their parents or relatives or friends. With respect, wonder, and love. And humility. Whether you’re Asian or non-Asian, of course. Human. Being. I figure that covers all of us. :-) -JM

No, you go on. I’ll be fine here

This morning I’m doing a bit of research on the work of a person I once used to study a great deal: the late Dr. Herbert Simon. In particular I’m looking for references on his work as defining design as “satisfice-ing.” As is often with a Web search, I found something completely different, as in this 2001 obituary where his former graduate student recounts two beautiful moments he had with his mentor:

Kotovsky, another former graduate student, said Dr. Simon loved to argue. When he would preface a statement with the words, “Look, friend …,” that was a signal that he was about to put the kibosh on his opponent’s argument.

“You had to be sure your head was attached when he used the word ‘friend,’ ” said Kotovsky. He recalled the first time Dr. Simon directed “Look, friend” his way: “That was the moment I passed into adulthood.”

Dr. Simon enjoyed playing the piano and, particularly in recent years, used to gather with friends who played violin, viola and other instruments.

In addition to the Nobel, Dr. Simon was the recipient of virtually every top award in every scientific field he pursued: the A.M. Turing Award in computer science, the American Psychological Association Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology, induction into the Automation Hall of Fame, the American Society of Public Administration’s Dwight Waldo Award and the National Medal of Science, among them. He was always appreciative of such honors, but maintained they were no big deal.

“The thing that he really cherished was doing his job as a professor,” Kotovsky said.

One night, for instance, Kotovsky had invited the Nobel laureate to speak to a group of freshmen at one of the residence halls.

After Dr. Simon spoke, everyone sat on the floor eating submarine sandwiches, while the students huddled around him. The conversation continued for hours until Kotovsky, worried that Dr. Simon might be getting impatient and tired, sidled up and asked, “Will you be ready to leave soon?”

“No, you go on,” Dr. Simon replied. “I’ll be fine here.”

“That,” Kotovsky added, “was who he was.”

It reminded me of a frame I reference in Redesigning Leadership on “Professor as Leader” — I feel lucky to have had many teachers and mentors that quietly led with a similar eloquence like Dr. Simon. I am certainly, thankfully satisficed :-). -JM

But am I dreaming big enough?

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Last week I was in Asia where I sat with a gifted creative leader. As we talked, I scribbled notes on the back of a menu that I can barely read now, as evidenced above.

One thought I liked was her response to my question on the meaning of integrity. As we both have an arts background, the word “integrity” has special meaning. She said resolutely, “Integrity equals consistency.” I have to totally agree with that. Her definition captures the ambiguity of how integrity doesn’t necessarily mean one is doing “good” versus “bad” — it means that they are being absolutely consistent sometimes to a fault but always towards an ideal.

The other takeaway I had from our meeting was something she said about people who “work hard” — as in the common form of phrase of, “S/he really works hard!” Her point being that we tend to value the idea of someone who works hard, but how working hard often isn’t good enough because, as she said, someone who simply works hard may be doing that hard work with what she called “small dreams.”

Instead, the paradigm she seeks in the people that work with her isn’t one of “hard workers” but those with truly big dreams. She quickly added, “Big dreamers … that execute well.

I found this conversation extremely useful for when and if I am told, in a complimentary fashion and with only good intention, that I am a hard worker — which happens from time to time, but it’s always made me feel uncomfortable … but I didn’t know why. For I now know, if I want to be truly effective in life, that I might say … and ask back, “Thank you! But am I dreaming big enough?” -JM

Link

What is Design

I’ve started a new blog on whatisdesign.net — and yes, indeed, you are correct that I absolutely can’t maintain all of these sites. And yes, indeed, I have no idea why the link text in the previous sentence is so GIGANTIC. -JM