Saturday, November 18, 2006

Must read business books

The business books I have read, will read or have used that more or less have defined my current business thinking (of course it will change and I'm still missing quite a bit of topics, give me time):

Finnish TV: Mogadishu Avenue

Finland is a very homogeneous country, but there are foreigners there as well (this poster was one of them for quite a while, and is open to becoming one again). Mostly they are people from Russian, Estonian, Somali, Vietnamese, Chinese, Swedish or American extraction. They tend to stick to certain specific cities and areas of the country, and there are certain stereotypes to each. MTV3, one of the local TV channels (not related to MTV, Music Television) started airing a drama/comic series about an area of Helsinki with many immigrants, and how the different inhabitants adapt to each other.

Even though I only share with the foreigner characters in the series the fact that I was also a foreigner living in Hesa, I have to admit that reading about one of them who according to the plot is an African man that tries to become more Finnish than the Finns, taking a local surname from his wife, hanging pictures of Mannerheim in his house and making his son try to win the tango king contest to become the first black tango king, well, brought a smile to my face and a little bit of moisture to my eyes. =) And I haven't even seen the series yet. Is it any good?

Ode to curiosity

I still remember that I learned to read when I was 4. After that all mayhem broke loose and you could not make me part from a book, regardles. I was so interested in everything, and literally devoured any written material that came to my hands. It took me some time to learn that curiosity was not only about the contents of books, but about what would happen if you kicked a ball a certain way, did something to a frog, or how would people be. During the years I have met some people that are not (or seem not to) be curious about pretty much anything. I really don't understand them, because to be curious is part of what being human is all about (but one we share with other organisms... after all, "curiosity killed the cat", which is a horrible saying). We're all very curious when we're children, but not so much anymore as adults. Why?

I admire our grandparents

One point brought home from another of the speakers at the CWF is the fact that people of our grandparents' generation (65+ years old) have already gone through very big changes in the world, something that I don't think we recognise often enough. If your grandparents are old enough, they saw the introduction of radio, TV, trans-atlantic travel, the Second World War, decolonisation, the European Union, the nuclear bomb, the massification of the automobile... without even talking about microwave ovens, immigrants from different parts of the world, computers and the internet... If you take into account that the rate of change is much faster now than when they were your or my age, you can only come to the conclusion that the world will be even more drastically different when we reach their age.

If there's people over 70 wathching pictures in Flickr and doing their banking over the internet, that's the kind of person I want to be when I'm their age, and I understand why not everybody can be like that (there's also cultural issues of, say, uncertainty avoidance involved which they are not responsible for, among many other factors). If at that age they still take the world at face value and enjoy what they do, that's the person I want to be. So if you agree with me spare a thought for your parents and grandparents and give them your love and respect. Probably a hug would be nice too.

The singularity vs. chauvinism

One of the speakers at the CWF made some very interesting points that I had already thought about but not really articulated in the fluid, structured way he did, but of course I need to start from the beginning.

The singularity I'm talking about is something that to some people might sound like a concept out of science fiction: the fact that in the next few years, the processing power of a computer will be reaching that of a human brain, and we will be able to augment our grey matter with cybernetic prostethics. As such, we will have more "processing muscle" than ever before, but our ability to imagine, that what takes us apart from machines, is what adds value. At the same time, we're more connected than ever, but that doesn't make us less chauvinistic, and maybe even more, because we're able to see up close those things that we didn't lay our sight on before, like poverty, war and strange people and customs. A point that was very important is that we don't know where it's taking us, how it is changing us and even whether we will survive these opposing forces bringing us together and at the same time further away from each other. I sure hope we do.

La estrategia del Tec de Monterrey

No fui al Encuentro Ex-a-Tec Europa este año (con eso de que no soy Ex-a-Tec pero amigo del Tec, Rangel dixit y además, ni tiempo tuve), pero me imagino que no han de haber cambiado demasiado su estrategia. Estaba checando mis notas del evento del año pasado y me dí cuenta de un "detallito": ya se les quemó el agua en algunas cosas. En la estrategia del Tec hablaban de la economía del conocimiento, cuando durante los últimos 3 o 4 años se está hablando de la emergencia de una economía de la creatividad. ¿Se habrán dado cuenta, o el ITESM sigue siendo el Instituto Transformador de Estudiantes en Simples Máquinas?

Hugo Sánchez: Mexico coach

The legend of Real Madrid, the man that as a player scored the second largest amount of goals in the Spanish league, the man that took Pumas to win back-to-back titles and to beat Real Madrid at the Bernabéu in 2004 to leave them in the relegation zone in 2005 has been appointed coach of the Mexico football national team. I didn't like our previous coach Lavolpe far too much, but their battle in the media was absolutely annoying and counter-productive. Even though I'm wearing my Mexico '86 commemorative edition jersey I have to say A ver si como roncas duermes (a phrase in Spanish similar to asking whether one can walk the walk having talked the talk).

I just hope that not only he instills that winning mentality he so much talks about, but also that he really wins, period.

When will Latin American governments get it?

As said in some of my previous posts, I was at the Creativity World Forum in Ghent this week and I was really surprised by one thing, but let's start from the beginning.

The event itself was organised by the self-proclaimed Districts of Creativity, an association of what I can only term regions-state borrowing from Kenichi Ohmae's term. These districts of creativity include Flanders (Belgium), Qingdao (China), Shanghai (China), Lombardy (Italy), Nord-Pas de Calais (France), Karnataka (India), Maryland (USA), Baden-Württemberg (Germany), Rhône-Alps (France), Catalonia (Spain), Scotland (UK) and Québec (Canada).

I was at the Karnataka booth (Bangalore, the IT capital of India is in this state) and I was pleasantly surprised by the attitude of the government representatives there. Regardless of the fact that I am a student and I don't have anything to bring to their country they really explained to me what are they all about and invited me to come. I couldn't help but contrast it with the attitude prevalent in most of Latin America that Foreign Direct Investment is the devil and we are so much better without it, and how the Indians really try to attract as much as they can but not only stay at the lower end of, in this case, software production, but keep on repeating their matra of "moving up the value chain" (no pun intended).

When will our governments start doing that?

Séléction Féderale

You can see that Belgium is quite a dividied country when the newscasters here don't talk about the football national team, they talk about the football federal team. They say that Belgians are only united around the football team, the king and the flag, and I'm really starting to see that it's (almost/mostly/???) true. Interesting.

Suomi 1-0 Adzerbaijan

Valkosininen joukkue pelasi hyvin ja uskomaton fakta on, että kansallisjoukkue on taulukon päässä Portugalin, Puolan ja Belgian edessä Eurooppanmestaruukseen väylällä. Hyvä Suomi!

Veracruz 1-2 Chivas

The Mexican football league follows a very strange system for those that follow European competitions. It has two tournaments per year (Apertura during the fall and Clausura in spring) and a system of league followed by playoffs. 18 teams are divided in three groups based on last year's performance out of which the top 2 qualify to the quarterfinals, and another 4 teams to a preliminary play-off round. If you don't get it, don't worry, neither did I when I was a kid...

Why is this important? Because Chivas did qualify to the preliminary play-off phase, and played on wednesday against Veracruz, beating them 1-2. Tonight the "holy flock" plays at home, and we hope to get to the quarters. It would be very important for the team and the fans to win the league given that we haven't won in 9 years, we're still the team with the most titles in the league, and this year is our 100th anniversary (we had big celebrations in May).

In the meantime, I'll leave you with wednesday's goals and I hope I wake up a happy man tomorrow morning.

FU Business School

I was talking with a guy who runs a biotech start up I met at the Creativity World Forum about the fact that he feels that he hasn't heard enough in business literature and training about the failed cases in business, meaning all the companies that for some reason or another failed, and why. That's why I propose the creation of a new paradigm in business education:

The Fuck Up Business School

At the FUB you don't learn how to be an efficient business leader, you learn how to be an inefficient one. You study all the mistakes that previous companies have made so that you can innovate and make new ones. After all, trial and error is the best way to learn, so why don't we leave the error part to previous attempts? ;-)

Constitución de Cádiz

Juro que no sé por qué siempre que hablo con algún amigo catalán o valenciano que conozca un poco de historia siempre terminamos hablando sobre la Constitución de Cádiz. Ésta fue la primera constitución liberal en el reino español, la cual reconocía "Las Españas" como partes integrales del reino, ya estuvieran éstas en la península o en ultramar. ¿Por qué es esto importante? Porque algunos historiadores piensan que si la constitución de Cádiz no hubiera sido prohibida por Fernando VII, las colonias americanas no se habrían independizado (p.ej. algo que muchos mexicanos no saben es que la guerra de independencia de México empezó como una protesta contar el rey, no contra España), y sin forzar demasiado la imagiación se puede llegar a pensar que viviríamos en una especie de confederación, en lugar de ser el cúmulo de países descoyuntados que somos. No sé si sea plausible dado un entorno histórico que contiene tanto la revolución francesa como la estadounidense ni tampoco si estuviéramos mejor o peor, pero es interesante pensarlo.

Creativity World Forum in Ghent, Belgium

This week I had the opportunity to attend the Creativity World Forum in Ghent, basically mentioning how regional governments, enterprises and individals can compete and benefit in the so-called creative economy. The event was comprised of two days of conferences and workshops, with some cocktails and extensive networking thrown in between as it happens in this kind of events.

Generally I can say that I was inspired by the congress, but there is still left one nagging feeling that the word "World" is slightly too pretentious in the name, given that there was nobody from two continents (South America and Africa) and the vast majority of the participants were Belgians from Flanders. However, I believe that it was a very good initaitive by the local government and it's interesting to see the already the rise of the region-state that had been predicted by Thomas L. Friedman and Kenichi Ohmae.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Planta 4a

I saw this movie some weeks ago in Dutch TV. Quite nice, but very, very sad. Recommendable if you have a chance to see it.

This blog will most probably be on "publishing holiday" for the next week or so. Hope my four readers (Germán Dehesa dixit) don't miss me too much.