Hiroshi Ishii

I dropped by the lab of my old colleague Professor Hiroshi Ishii at the MIT Media Lab and was wowed by one of his new projects. Hiroshi is the Doug Engelbart of our generation — a true user-interface pioneer that keeps inventing the next paradigms for manipulating information remotely. But even more importantly, Hiroshi is that special kind of leader who when you say to him, “Great job, Hiroshi” he is always quick to say, “I didn’t do this. My students made it happen. I’m proud to get to work with such great students.” I know for certain that his students hold him in high regard as a truly unique, creative leader. -JM

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

redslides

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

20130703-131320.jpg

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