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Business Portfolio

Ideas and meditations about digital and traditional business, including fresh metaphors for marketing and contemplations of the role of business in the world and in our daily lives.



Photo credit: Aaron Burden


Business is where I spend the better part of my life. I started out in finance and moved quickly on to marketing ("objective" to "subjective"; science to art?) and ultimately to innovation and start-up mostly in technology and software.

"If it ain't broke... BREAK it," describes where a lot of the notions here go. The conclusions, directions, and arguments require an open mind and a fastened seatbelt.

Governance is Not Leadership
(09/21) — Leadership, not governance, is required. To conflate the two or assume that governance is, in fact, leadership is counter-productive and doomed. Governance is not leadership. It’s questionable whether leadership of governance is a valid nuance and valuable in the circumstance. (640 words; 3 min read)
Insurers: The Adults Have Arrived
(09/21) — I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's the insurance companies that will alter behaviour whether we recognize climate change or not. (890 words; 4 min read)
Government Effectiveness
(08/21) — There are places for government innovation, and it would be great if it were effective and efficient—while being deliberate. Those places could include great projects, like a space program, instituting national healthcare (or fixing a broken national healthcare system). But I would rather focus on effective and efficient. (885 words; 4 min read)
Project Managers' RACIsm Problem
(08/21) — Getting fixated on RACI, as so many project manager types do is silly and counter-productive. (1,185 words; 5 min read)
Remove the Public Service to Transform the Public Service
(08/21) — Public service disinclination and structure inhibits effective transforming of government. Remove it; transform government; put it back. (1,380 words; 6 min read)
The Governance Culture of the Public Sector is its 21st-Century Failing
(08/21) — Government is about… governance. For too many public officials (at all levels) that have taken it too far, focus on governance impedes doing anything meaningful. (1,050 words; 5 min read)
Listen to Your Mother (Nature): Adapt
(06/20) — The optimal method of transformation is evolution. Adaptation proves fitness for a changing environment. Especially as it relates to digital transformation, once an analogue organization leaps into the new digital environment, these are abilities are essential assets. The case for adaptation is hundreds of millions of years old. (765 words; 4 min read)
Digital Transformation: The COVID Rebound
(05/20) — COVID19 (and the induced economic coma) ignited behavioural change in businesses and governments. Those able to stay open often had a critical realization: “We should’ve become more digital.” As things reopen, expect an aggressive push to do just that. (830 words; 4 min read)
A Modest Proposal
(04/19) — I propose that those from whom we expect reason, thoughtfulness, maybe even wisdom—leaders in politics, private enterprise, and parts in between—voluntarily give up Twitter and the other tools of half-baked, shameless, knee-jerk “contribution” to the conversation. (For the record, whatever it is going on in social media, it is hardly conversation.) (985 words; 4 min read)
Plain Language Lament
(06/18) — An extended argument that demands for "Plain Language" have gotten out of control and are actually impeding effective communication. (4,815 words; 20 min read)
Age and Treachery
(02/18) — There’s a proverb that youth and vitality are no match for age and treachery.Its truth is evident by decades of mass murder on American youth. Youth and vitality are the children being terrorized by ongoing mass shootings in the nation’s schools. The treacherous oldies are the NRA executives and the nation’s leaders so firmly held in the NRA’s pocket. Also, all the adults who apparently don’t care enough about the nation’s children to do anything at all about this plague. (560 words; 3 min read)
Be Careful With That Plain Language Bludgeon
(02/18) — An op-ed length caution about the prevalence and danger of "Plain Language." (915 words; 4 min read)
Laissez Faire About Water and Privacy
(02/18) — Particularly in America, there is a founding myth of free-wheeling, unregulated capitalist democracy being a critical underpinning of (commercial) growth, societal success, and all that’s good in the world. Anything that inhibits or regulates that free wheeling is by definition bad. The question is: is right, good, or even sensible? (595 words; 3 min read)
Price's Law and Average
(02/18) — Price's Law, like Jack Welch's bottom 10% can lead to some bizarre, recursive conclusions. It's "turtles all the way down." (800 words; 4 min read)
With Digital It's Always 'Everything's Different Now'
(02/18) — I’ve been thinking about the successive waves of “Now everything’s different,” that overtook the world since the first IBM PCs and Visicalc arrived in the 1980s. In retrospect, the stench of eau de huckster exceptionalist hyperbole should have been a tip off. As a student of history, I should have known better than to get swept up. (670 words; 3 min read)
Digital Fluidity
(01/18) — There’s something liberating about being an expert in the realm of “digital.” It’s so wonderful because it’s so utterly undefined, being literally whatever it needs to be from day to day-—expanding such that it may very well be a quantum function in an organization: at once something and nothing. (660 words; 3 min read)
Rome Was Not Transformed... In A Day
(01/18) — An op-ed piece published in Canadian Government Executive suggesting that government stick with its transformation initiatives though they may be hard. (715 words; 3 min read)
Government Can't Innovate. True... Nonsense
(12/17) — An op-ed published in the Ottawa Citizen that goes some length to prove that governments get a bad rap regarding innovation. ( words; # min read)
Digital Transactionality: Why Relationships and Everything Else is Different
(10/17) — Relationships, at one time implying continuous personal connection, feel transactional if not outright commercial today. Obviously, relationships have always existed for some gain. But since the mid-nineties, we appear increasingly intolerant of the time and space needed for a relationship. Maybe it’s the result of exponentially expanding digitization. (1,900 words; 8 min read)
Just One Thing: The Secret to Transformation
(09/17) — I have the real secret of successful transformation. It does not come swaddled in famous proof points. There is no set of instructions. The real secret of transformation is flexible, universal, and works with any method and at any level you choose. The secret is just one thing. Do just one thing. And do it well. (1,200 words; 5 min read)
Preparing For Quantum Business
(09/17) — Quantum computing is unfolding in fits and starts. If and when it becomes viable, it will compel a similar shift in business (and life, probably). (900 words; 4 min read)
The Israelisation of the Inforamtion Organisation
(09/17) — This is a provocative way of saying IT security has to evolve past "castle walls" around high value items to making those items valueless without… (1,760 words; 8 min read)
We Need a Minister of Everything... Cyber
(11/16) — A submission to a government request for thoughts about cybersecurity. (680 words; 3 min read)
Don't Let Your Business Transformation Fail
(06/16) — The turbulence in human systems today can be deeply disconcerting—particularly to those responsible for transforming their organizations. To the rescue comes change management: paint-by-numbers frames for any leader to apply. Still, with so much professional guidance and clear direction, why do so many transformations go wrong? (820 words; 4 min read)
Innovation Nation? More Like Pontificate State
(06/16) — Canada will not become “Innovation Nation.” Without start-ups, innovation has to come from the enterprise level. It will not. Innovation is not easy and immediately accessible just because the organization is large. (775 words; 4 min read)
Intrapreneuring Again? Hopefully a Fleeting Notion
(06/16) — Like long forgotten songs on a K-Tel compilation, Intrapreneurship is back! Its day in the 1980s sun was a failure. Should intrapreneurship actually catch on, again... it will fail. ( 885words; 4 min read)
Privacy is Responsibility: Personal Information as Money
(05/15) — Entrusting someone with money creates a fiduciary responsibility. Fiat money makes even fools care more about the exchange. Why not with personal information? We could do worse than treat our allegedly valuable personal information as we treat dirty old cash. (515 words; 3 min read)
Innovation Fatigue
(05/15) — Question: When will Innovation—the Atkins™ of the business world--finally, mercifully burn itself out? (685 words; 3 min read)
User Experience is Nonsense
(05/15) — Customer experience is a valuable output of many complex inputs. To dictate that user interface equals customer experience is wrong; for customer experience to be even the dominant element of commercial input is simplistic and credits design too much. (700 words; 3 min read)
IT Security: the rise of the data chemists
(06/14) — The days of perimeter protection for online security and privacy are dwindling. That approach to safeguarding and ensuring data security are destined to the quaintness of punch cards. Relying on them for extensive or elaborate IT implementations is unwise. There is a better way. (830 words; 4 min read)
Innovation Fads, Fashions, and Trends
(05/14) — Many solutions to the innovation problem could help change Canada’s innovation trajectory. Maybe... Making Canada’s businesses more productive would solve multiple challenges, including innovation, and create a virtuous updraft cycle for the economy. (725 words; 3 min read)
Optimism and Technology
(05/14) — Society will eventually metabolize challenging conditions and innovators will find solutions to the problem they created. Balance will be restored... and the cycle will repeat. That’s the great thing about optimism: it’s sure to be better tomorrow. (670 words; 3 min read)
Dr. Oddlust—How I stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Cloud
(11/13) — A paper (for Canada Post) for a postponed legal conference in Calgary (Lexpert) contemplating Cloud Computing and its future. (2,000 words; 8 min read)
Keep It Simple, (we're) Stupid
(09/13) — A minor attack on the cult of simplicity and simplifying, only because nobody distinguishes between simple as "clear and uncomplicated" and simple as "easy and accessible." The first is essential; the latter is misguided. (800 words; 4 min read)
Reclaiming Trust
(08/12) — Consumer trust has seriously declined in an environment of accelerated, persistent change with short-term and debilitating long-term effects.To reclaim the state of trust that existed will require trust to be “borrowed,” which should be part of every marketer’s short- to medium-term plans. (2,100 words; 9 min read)
Waterboarded on the 27th Floor
(08/12) — An alter-ego contemplation on what it might feel like to be waterboarded at a career and commonplace employment level. (800 words; 4 min read)
Trust Deficit
(07/08) — In the terms and context of not trusting politicians, a brief contemplation of what trust is all about and how it affects organizations. (800 words; 4 min read)
The Revenge of Geography
(03/08) — An abridged Canada Post white paper as published by Directions Magazine. Pondering a future for location intelligence is a speculative journey through geographic permanence and human transience that ends with proving location intelligence to be crucial to businesses and governments. (1,900 words; 8 min read)
Complexity of Choice
(11/07) — A white paper for Canada Post that speaks to the value provided by organizations and people that narrow alternatives for people, including necessarily limiting product and service options. (2,250 words; 9 min read)
All's Fair
(07/06) — Musing about the effect maldefining a word ("fair" as "equal" v. "equitable") can have on an organization and its success. (1,340 words; 6 min read)
Reforming the Advertising Code
(01/06) — Cover feature in Ideas. Advertising is a thousand year-old, sophisiticated, flourishing art form that stratified into several castes. The separation appears to have worked. More and more, though, the distiction seems unwarranted and unproductive. Reformation is in the wind. (1,900 words; 8 min read)
21st-century Marketing: The Funnel of Love
(05/05) — The marketer-consumer relationship change framed as a move from an engagement to battle to an engagement to marry. (1,750 words; min read)
From Martial to Marital Marketing
(12/04) — Marketers! You are on the cusp of wasted opportunity. Wireless technology carries the chance to fundamentally evolve from "push" to "pull." (1,550 words; 7 min read)
Losing the Name Game
(11/04) — The CRM-driven quest for consumers' personal information is seeping into stages of marketing that are wrong for and do not require it. Moreover, the consumer environment has become generally less hospitable to this tactic. That's not good. (1,100 words; 5 min read)
A Lutheran View of Advertising Orthodoxy
(08/04) — Marketing is at the beginning of a conceptual shift unlike any since Trout/Ries brought "positioning" into the marketing lexicon. Advertising's persistent reliance on and propagation of a bankrupt framework is confusing and counter-productive. It is time to change. (1,500 words; 12 min read)
Structured to Fail
(10/03) — I've convinced myself that structure determines outcome to a great degree. The support is in the thinking of complexity theory. (1,100 words; 5 min read)
Going Faster: But Where
(07/01) — The future will unfold in response to short-term obstacles and needs. We're going blindly into the unknown very fast. (1,300 words; 6 min read)
Brand Canada or 'Branded' Canadian
(06/01) — A Policy Options piece about Canadian character as a brand and its implications on selling Canadian goods, services, and human resources. (3,200 words; 13 min read)
The Accession of Marketing
(06/01) — The dot-com boom and small-dip bust, together with demographic reality, marked the accession of marketing into the executive suite. (1,400 words; 6 min read)
Lining Up for the Anti-Globalization Conga -- Part I
(04/01) — Anti-globalization as typified by Seattle and Quebec City are unconstructive. Economics and history conspire against it. (1,300 words; 6 min read)
Air Canada Can Save Us
(02/01) — We're too fat; Air Canada is mismanaged and in receivership. This is an opportunity for one solution to solve both problems. (750 words; 3 min read)
Social Aspects of Shopping
(02/01) — We are social creatures. The conveniences and benefits of the online world are missing that key element. To permeate society fully the virtual world needs a stronger real social aspect. (900 words; 4 min read)
Recession? That's what happens after the gold rush
(26/01/01) — Globe & Mail opinion piece on the post-dot-com recessionary climate. (800 words; 4 min read) — Sadly, the link has been broken and I have no copy
Slow down and beware the dangers of 'Internet Time'
(03/01/01) — Globe & Mail opinion piece on the pop business culture phrase "Internet Time." (800 words; 4 min read) — Sadly, the link has been broken and I have no copy
Caveat Reader
(01/01) — Business books of every sort are not panacea, as likely to cause harm as do good. Beware of what you read and who you follow. (800 words; 4 min read)
Suitably Short-Sighted
(01/01) — Short-term reporting, immediate gratification, and a gap between word and action are incompatible with the long-term human story. (800 words; 4 min read)
The Real "Best" Practice in the New Economy
(01/01) — The "best" practice for the new economy may be not to recognize any practices as empirically best, but merely most appropriate in the circumstances. (800 words; 4 min read)
Toward a New Employment Contract for the Knowledge Economy
(01/01) — Capitalist enterprise and labour need to work together to keep human intellectual capital at home in Canada. That entails providing opportunities and paying better than elsewhere. (3,300 words; 14 min read)
Tilting at eCommerce Windmills
(11/00) — Using eBusiness as a means to protect the domestic market will fail. Consumers will be shortchanged and business will lose to stronger foreigners. (1,000 words; min read)

Other writings that might be of interest.