I was Investigating on the evolution of Argentina's Foreign Debt over the past 150 years or so (history is a pasion I tend to keep offline, for reasons unknown), when I came across CIA's World Factbook entry on this country. Upon other interesting (and rather unbiased) facts one can read this tidbit:
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 22% based on non-official estimates; the much lower official rate lacks credibility (2008 est.)
The official rate (as measured by INDEC) was 7.2% for that same period.
I can't help but wonder how is it that we, Argentines, can allow a government to systematically lie to us. It is plainly unacceptable.
Yet there are many people who benefit from this double standards situation. No one on the middle class does, but Argentine governments have proved a serious expertise on slaughtering Argentina's middle class.
As part of a global community, and part of a global (or worldsourced) company it is very difficult to explain this kind of crap to people in places that make some more sense.
Oh, and before I forget, according to the same CIA factbook, Argentina Ranks #211 out of 224 in inflation. Hey! lets look at it from the bright side, at least this is not (yet?) Zimbabwe with a 11,000,000% inflation in 2008.
Also, we are in good company with countries such as Venezuela, Iran or Nicaragua.
I know I repeat myself, but here's the twist: there are several pressing matters in Argentina today. The one that makes the most headlines is the lack of security. As in going out to the street and being mobbed, robbed or killed. That has started an idiotic discussion on installing the Death Penalty.Needless to say I oppose it without any contemplations.
The thing is, such discussions are nothing else than mere distractions of the real issues we face. insecurity is nothing else than a by-product of the lack of serious and permanent policies. Each government is more interested in trying to be as corrupt as they can, instead of trying to make life better for the same people that voted them.
How can we even suggest giving a state that lies on a permanent basis the power to kill? It is plainly stupid. We are being idiotic.
Is Argentina beyond saving? I fear so. The only reason we are not Ethiopia or Afghanistan is because we are blessed enough to have an abundance in natural resources.
Until we realize as a nation that changin reality is something that needs to be done collectively we will be lied to, stupidized, and led to think irrelevant matters we will not surge from the downward spiral we've been in since the 1930s.
We are corrupt, at all levels. We are all corrupt. We like the easy way out from all situations. Nothing can be built until we extirpate that from our national DNA.
I have been thinking about this post for several months now. I even mentioned at a conference I gave some time ago. The final push to actually put my arse in the chair and actually start typing the text came from a post entitled: "deliberately unsustainable business models".
This quote is quite inspiring, in my honest opinion:
The problem arises when the desire to sustain overcomes the desire to be awesome and more resources go to surviving than succeeding. This is abundantly clear in the case of US automakers and banks, whose current arguments for financial support rest on their need to survive, not their ability to succeed.
Although the post is talking about Museums I think the extrapolation to business is an easy to do.
A good example of this is Apple. Yes, I know, I work for Lenovo, but forgive my sacrilege; I'm trying to make a point here.
History tells us that years went by, Apple then became a successful company, with a board of directors and everything. Then Jobs got fired.
That was probably the best thing that ever happened to Apple Inc. Distance from the company he had founded and, doubtlessly, a desire to go medieval on those who turned their backs on him by the sheer weight of success, re-boosted Steve's desire not only for success but for awesomeness. Upon his return in 1998 he reinvented the company and drove it to an unprecedented (and unimaginable) level of success (and awesomeness).
A similar evolutionary arc can be spotted on many companies. The change from cool startup to serious company usually slaughters or silences that desire and need for awesomeness. Need I say "Yahoo!"?
The study of complex systems, on the other hand, demonstrates that a delicate balance between change (innovation) and stagnation is required for such systems to subsist. Furthermore, this balance is leaned towards the stagnation side.
How can we marry this two theoretically opposed concepts?
Imagine a well established complex system, for example the dinosaurs ecosystem reign. Now picture a violent change in that system, a meteorite hitting near Yucatan, for instance. A somewhat stagnated (thus efficient) system is wiped out in a single moment.
Now imagine the world's economy. A pretty well established system. Suddenly a sub-prime mortage crisis hits and creates a credit crunch... You get the picture, aye?
My interpretation is that during normal times "business as usual" is king. Yet, during crisis things have to shift rapidly.(And yes, Apple was at Crisis when big Steve returned to the company)
The interesting thing about crisis is that once they are over things are never quite the same, thus people and companies should not adapt to the crisi, but rather make the changes needed to survive and be in a good position when things get back in track.
To follow with the Dinosaur extinction analogy: species that were well adapted to live in an environment where the atmosphere was saturated with dust probably boomed for a short while. Yet, the real winners were those that were sturdy enough to make it through the worst times but had the evolutionary weapons to take full advantage of the post-crisis conditions. In the case of the dinosaurs this were Mammals.
Smart companies should not focus too much on the current crisis situation, but rather just enough to ensure survival (even in less-than-ideal situations). What those companies should do instead is to try to understand the changes going on during the downturn, and how those are going to shape the next "normality".
If the interpretation is close enough to what reality will be, and actions are taken to be on a good position under such circumstances not only survival will be ensured but also unprecedented growth.
To put it in just one phrase: don't focus too much on adapting to dire conditions, but rather on adapting to the reality that will follow.
With their environmental bonafides in question and without a profitable business model, it's possible that current biofuels could be a bad idea, regardless of their impact on the world's food system.
Bad idea? Horrible idea is more like it.
What will happen when the food industry is presented with the option of selling crops for fuel for a high profit or crops as food for a lower margin? They'll will inevitably choose the first option.
The rising cost of food puts quite a strain on the entire economic balance. If food becomes more expensive it impacts buying power, since people have to spend more money just feeding themselves. With less buying power companies sell less. With less sales there are two possible options: increasing profit margins (aka: cutting costs or pumping prices) or go out of business. It creates a vicious cycle.
Then there's fact that biofuels are not at all greener than fossil fuels.
Within that same "not that green" line of thought lies the menace of monocultures. Having the same crop growing on the same piece of ground growing over and over and over again kills the soil. When the soil stops being as productive farmers inject fertilizers. That keeps them rolling for a while, until it becomes saturated enough for people to walk away from that plot. What is left is not a nice sight. (and this I've seen with my own eyes, no one needs to convince me of its impact).
Another thing to take into account is that a high proportion of crops are raised in 3rd world countries. 3rd world countries have systemic corruption. Corruption plus oportunity for proffitability with disregard of laws equals a nasty situation. (Blood diamonds, anyone?)
To this day I wonder how European legislators could be so short sighted. And I say "European" because the so-called Greens have stronger influence on the EU.
Famous last words: bio-fuels replace a tough problem with a worst one.
Or a handbook on how Argentinian Government runs this country.
87 fucking days. That is how long the strikes and protests from the rural workers has lasted. There have been ups and downs. We've seen Supermarket shelves empty and fill up again. Now we see them emptying.
What is going on around here is the kind of idiotic fight our current government loves to get into. Their definition of strength is to never step back a single inch. It would seem that "to talk" equals "debility" in their deranged and power blinded minds.
It all started due to a tax imposition to agricultural exports. With soybean and other commodities at record prices Government thought it would be a good idea to increase the export fees. There were two problems with this: a. It didn't contemplate that such high taxes would strangle small producers and b. the money will most certainly go to some obscure account somewhere in the Cayman Islands.
If a government calculates year-to-year inflation in 9% and independent studies show it could be nowhere bellow 25% one of two things must be happening. Those in charge of price variation measurements are either morons (and they need to quit) or they lie (and they need to quit). Only in a country such as Argentina can something so obscenely absurd can be sustained for so long.
The sheer lack of political intelligence to solve something as primary as food production in a country which has historically based its economy on... Guess what? food production, demostrates that this government (as those that preceded) cares not about the general wellbeing but to make as much money as they can during their time in power.
I don't think I have ever came across a policy that was thought to last for longer than a couple of years in my entire adulthood. A country is not built upon temporary fixes. A country is built with a general direction in mind, with a common goal, with planning, with long term policies.
Argentina survives by the sheer fact that we have settled on a blessed land. All it takes is to toss a couple of seeds and plants grow. Drill a hole on a mountain and some mineral pops out. Anyone who ever visits is amazed by the beauty of the geography. Maybe that's our problem, we take things for granted. Way too much. (There is even an old Joke about that: God is creating Earth and places great farmlands, beautiful mountains, amazing coastlines all in the same place; some Archangel comes and notices this; thus he asks God if he didn't go too far with the good things on this particular land. God smiles and replies: "maybe, but I'm going to fill it up with Argentinians")
This government (and their farmer counterparts) are sickening. The greed and idiocy on the method never cease to amuse me in the worst possible way.
(can you tell I'm pissed?)
My first post with a "29" in the age field. Interesting times.
I'm in the verge of having to taking some decisions soon. Somewhat scary, I must admit.
As usual I can't say too much (what did you expect?) but the plot thickens and things will sort out one way or the other.
The good thing is that all options look good. Certain paths seem more promising than others from a certain point of view. But looking at them from a different perspective other paths arise as being best.
How do you take your own decisions? How do you weight what is best in the long run?
Anyway, fun times ahead, I'll keep you updated.
Who would want to read another post on the latest soap opera that stormed through the geek-world? Most people won't, but that is not going to prevent me from writing one.
Yahoo played the part of tough cookie. I'm surprised that Jerry Yang didn't go back to Balmer with a note saying "its not you, its me. I'm so confused, can't commit!". The whole thing has been too hormonal, too teenager. And Y! trying to make the School's ugly nerd (Microsoft) jealous by going with the quarterback (Google) was just hilarious. Hilarious on an uncomfortable-to-watch, I-really-should-not-be-laughing way.
That being said, I must admit I'm happy that the thing didn't kick off.
Why is it good? Because I truly believe Yahoo can do a better job in trying to innovate and cut the advantage Google has on its own rather than with Microsoft. If it had happened, Microhoo would most certainly lost a lot of users (who'd have nowhere to go but to Google).
I think Yahoo! thought they were too good to be true for far too long. Now they realize they are in a tough spot. That is the reason why they now have a new strategic plan to start moving their engines. What I dislike about their plan is that its implementation so far seems to have relied more on accquiring than on innovating from within.
Someone recently told me: "Yahoo is the place where good apps go to die". The transition from Garage startup to big corporation didn't suit Yahoo well. Google is undergoing that same process in which they no longer are a bunch of kids doing fun stuff but a corporation that makes business. I want to see how they handle the first time they have to sack a good chunk of their employees.
They have a good core of nice applications, and did some smart shopping (del.icio.us, flickr), but they need to start doing something to take stuff a step forward. Integrating logins is not integrating applications, and that is all they've done. Besides, can anyone tell me what serious never-seen-before innovations yahoo has come up with on any of the stuff they own and run for the past... 6 years?
Now, when I read Jerry's post on Yodel I know things are wrong:
We know the spotlight will probably stay on us for a while. That’s fine — we have a clear path ahead and momentum to build on. And thousands of dedicated Yahoos around the world who have held up well to scrutiny. It’s now up to us to show what we Yahoos can really do.
Dude, having the spotlight on you is not "fine". It is awesome. You should leverage that to motivate your people, inspire your engineers and get you out of that nowhere land where you've been so comfortably sleeping in and start build that "momentum" you talk about. You are on everybody's mouth and not because of a sex or drugs scandal, that can't be that bad.
I reserve the opinions on Microsoft's web applications for myself. But let's just say that if my yahoo mail started looking and working like the live.com one, I'd drop it quick. If it started working like their latest OS, I'd go hermit and never taouch a computer again in my life.
Bottom line is: If yahoo! gets its act together an Google starts behaving more and more like a "large corporation" (I see the signs already) there is still a chance. That chance wouldn't of existed if Microsoft got its hands on Yahoo!.
See, Mariano, told you I smelled a post coming.
6:30AM, dragging myself out of bed. I'm not a morning person, and ever since the Government decided to apply daylight savings time I'm still off the clock hours. It feels like 5:00 or 5:30 AM rather than 7. I quietly drag myself to the living room, power up the suspended ThinkPad and try to bring my senses back to life. It usually takes me about 1 hour to feel coherent enough to cope with any logical arguments. This time around I don't have that option it is already 7:00AM and I must dial into a conference number to talk to our guys in China.
Only half hour into the meeting (which I lead) I start to feel like I'm grasping some sort of sense and getting to communicate some concepts. Communication is a problem all by itself. In this instance I have an interpreter on the other end of the line translating my words into Chinese and asking the team's questions for me, then translating those back to English. The impression I always get is that when I say things like "This is not going to get approved" it'll get translated to: "we need more spaghetti".
It is not a minor task to try to bring teams from different parts of the world together. Language barriers and time zones are limitations that are hard to cope with. I don't expect people in China to talk in English (or Spanish), quite on the contrary I feel in debt because I wish I knew some Mandarin to enhance our dialogs instead. As for Time zones, I'll just say that wife has already learnt to ask when we can have dinner or go to sleep, since I usually have some appointment with the other end of the planet at the oddest times.
But it is all well worth the efforts, in most cases. There is such an underlying richness and potential behind the sheer fact of counting with all those differentiated human backgrounds that make me gladly do those things, even when I hate the world around me as I turn off the alarm clock at 6:30 AM for a conference call.
Cultural clashes are a significant portion of such interactions. What one can regard as a smart comment, or a funny allusion might be interpreted as insulting or not understood at all. Words must be chosen carefully and the tone in which statements are thrown out through the impersonal phone line must be well tuned and orchestrated. Engaging is also quite defying. I know how to wind up people in my own culture, but that does not quite work the same way for people with a completely different background. I struggle to motivate people from across the globe, people whom I've never seen in my life.
The difference that cultural background makes on the way people solve similar problems is a power that only a handful of companies are able to unleash. What usually happens is that a certain way of doing things is choked down the throat of everyone, the results are usually not pleasing.
If imposing methods and ways of doing things is not the answer, what would that answer be. To watch and learn. An acute observation of the subtle differences of a way people in distinct cultures work and interact can yield as a result some changes and tweaks on how to improve methods and processes to fit perfectly. It is only through that that a good result can be achieved.
I'll use an example that is close to me. Argentina is an odd country in many ways. Our everchanging political panorama, economic crisis and sparse resources force most of us to be in a continuous state of adaptation. Since there is not a maturity (from society or government) to plan with more than a couple of months we become great improvisers. Thus, semi-chaotic situations seem to fit best the "Argentine Breed". On the other hand long term planning and process set up are not our best strongholds and neither can we adapt well to structured processes (this, of course, is a very broad generalization, you get the point).
In a world where working with colleges with the most differentiated backgrounds is an everyday thing only those companies who are smart enough to adapt to the particularities of every place will have a leading edge in terms of service and production.