Review of What Just Happened, by James Gleick

I’m on a bit of a James Gleick kick right now, and before I dig into reading The Information in earnest, I figured I’d step back and write up my thoughts on What Just Happened, a collection of his technology essays from 1990 – 2001.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Gleick, he’s a fantastic science and technology writer, best known for his biographies of Isaac Newton and Richard Feynman…although when you’re a polymath like Gleick, “best known for” oversimplifies the breadth of your accomplishments.

During the nineties, he was at the forefront of those who understood just how profound the changes taking place to the information landscape were. He may not have been right 100% of the time (more on that in a minute), but he was always willing to see past the immediate wow factor of any given technological innovation to get at the larger implications for us as individuals, for our culture, and for society as a whole.

As you might expect, he covers a lot of ground in WJH, from the joys and frustrations of being a WinWord power user, to the radical transformation of telcos, the growth of Microsoft, the Internet and politics, the death of money, Y2K, and even the state of Internet porn circa 1995.

All the essays are excellent here, although some are more substantial than others. And while Gleick is always well-informed on his subject matter, you can definitely tell which topics he’s engaged with more deeply (especially the history of telephony, which is the starting point for The Information).

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Heads down

I recently kicked off a series of posts on insulation that’s meant to talk about the critical ways leaders can become disconnected—and hopefully provide some ideas on how they can fight against it.

I listed four kinds of insulation in the introductory post:

  • From the larger organizational context
  • From the work being done on the ground
  • From wider communities of practice
  • From the marketplace

In this post I want to dig into the third, insulation from wider communities of practice.

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Haven’t we got people for that?

I recently kicked off a series of posts on insulation that’s meant to talk about the critical ways leaders can become disconnected—and hopefully provide some ideas on how they can fight against it.

I listed four kinds of insulation in the introductory post:

  • From the larger organizational context
  • From the work being done on the ground
  • From wider communities of practice
  • From the marketplace

In this post I want to dig into the second, insulation from the work being done on the ground.

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Rebel without a cause

I recently kicked off a series of posts on insulation that’s meant to talk about the critical ways leaders can become disconnected—and hopefully provide some ideas on how they can fight against it.

I listed four kinds of insulation in the introductory post:

  • From the larger organizational context
  • From the work being done on the ground
  • From wider communities of practice
  • From the marketplace

In this post I want to dig into the first, insulation from the larger organizational context.

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Insulation

I get to meet a lot of leaders in my day-to-day work, from C-level executives to line-level managers and everything in between. And I get to see them at their best–fresh off the victory of getting X million dollars for establishing an enterprise content management (ECM) program–and their worst–in the middle of a mess they can’t fix, with their jobs (or maybe even their careers) on the line.

There are lots of interesting things to note about leaders in both of these positions, but the one that’s been on my mind lately is the importance of struggling against insulation:

  • From the larger organizational context
  • From the work being done on the ground
  • From the wider community of practice for a domain of expertise
  • From the wider marketplace

I want to kick off a series of posts over the next few weeks that look at this problem and how leaders at all levels can overcome it. As I let the ideas percolate, I’d love to hear from folks out there who’ve faced this issue themselves, or worked with a leader who did–what are your thoughts and experiences out there? Jump in, and let’s get the conversation started!

Review of Redefining Health Care, by Porter and Teisberg

Looking back through my records, it appears that I began Porter and Tesiberg’s Redefining Health Care last November, so it’s a bit embarrassing that I’ve only now, in March, managed to finish it. In my defense, about halfway through it, I left it on a plane, and that initiated a bit of an odyssey to get it back, but really it’s just a long book and I’ve gotten a bit sidetracked with other books over the last two months. But enough excuses…

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Do we really need a Chief Strategy Officer?

After taking a break last post to review Open Leadership, by Charlene Li, I want to return to corporate strategy.

For those of you keeping score, I spent a few posts walking through a hands-on approach to building out strategy that I’ve used successfully at many clients.

Today, however, I want to step back a bit and get a little philosophical by considering whether strategy is something organizations should address through a dedicated department that rolls up to a Chief Strategy Officer.

Spoiler alert: I don’t have a definitive answer. So if you’re looking for one, you need to go somewhere else. But I have some thoughts on the matter that I want to explore a bit here.

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