Archive for February, 2009

Ok…really its two different topics, so I’ll take holistic thinking first.

So I do HR consulting, and we are always talking about the big picture…creating a holistic transformation, etc, etc.  Let’s think about holistic.  Its means whole.  You’re thinking about the whole thing.

Why is this is pipe dream?  Two reasons:

  1. Employees, no matter how high up in an organization (other than the CEO/COO) only have a certain purview.  The Executive VP of Compensation….deals with compensation.  If s/he were to think about the effect of compensation, it is just one piece of what keeps an employee at a company and motivated to perform (there is also benefits, manager competence, even the comfort of the chair s/he sits in at work).  In short, the VP of Comp can’t afford to think holistically about “total rewards” or “employment brand”….their purview is too limited.
  2. Some companies now have “total rewards” managers, or some other role, trying to get around this paradox.  Its a good idea, and likely works better than roles with more limited scope.  2 issues here:
    1. Its hard to find someone that knows a fair amount about everything related to Total Rewards or Employment Brand (It was hard enough to know just about Compensation).  Competence at this level will be difficult to come by….by definition.
    2. Here is the main issue, and my main issue with Holistic thinking….even in the best case scenario:  Complexity is hard to sort out.

People are not smart enough to deal with real complexity.  No one is.  The human brain cannot deal with an unlimited number of variables.  If you make a manager’s scope too limited, they are not holistic.  If you make the scope larger, they run into the issue of complexity.  Ok….what’s the real issue?

They call it the Butterfly Effect or perhaps more accurately the Law of Unintended Consequences.  Bottom line, we are unable to predict the outcome of systems that get too complicated.  The weather is an example.  Businesses are another…at least currently.

I think business/management will eventually become more scientific.  The human brain often fails at modeling complex systems (no person can predict the weather), but science can do a little better given time.  Of course, we still can’t very accurately predict the weather…even with science.

Any advice for businesses?  Yeah, I do have some.  Its a vote for the next-best, iterative solution.  The great Holistic strategy is not forthcoming, and if it were… would be too complicated to implement.  Be willing to start something today that you know is a step, and isn’t perfect, and is full of holes.

Companies already do this.  They’re good at it.  Where then do they fail?

Short-sightedness.  They start on a step 1…by the time step 2 is supposed to happen, they’ve had turnover (the original planners are now gone), the business environment has changed….they’ve already come up with another plan.  Plan 1 isn’t anywhere near done, and they’re already on Plan 3.

There is an abundance of strategy in corporate America.  There is not a ton of execution/follow through.  Even I recognize this.  By the time I’m good enough at my current job to have real effect….I’m off to something else.  Sustained effort is gold.


And then there is inflation.  I explained here what the US is doing with its monetary policy (printing money), and how we might bail ourselves out of this mess (other countries will finance our ir-responsibility).  It seems the Chinese know it too.

Another short bit on inflation:  I’ve heard the business press say wage pressure causes inflation (if people get paid more, then prices go up).  That’s shit.  Inflation is primarily caused by a change in the money supply.  The money supply is controlled by the Federal Reserve.  The Fed causes inflation.

What the Fed tries to do is even out the business cycle, to prevent inflation, to prevent boom and bust by slightly rigging the system all the time to ensure even growth and stable prices.  We get back to Complexity though (and weather prediction).  No one can predict economics.  The Fed gets it wrong….and thus causes our business cycles, not prevents them.

I’m not down on the Fed….I’m sure Ben is one of the greatest economists ever to live….but that don’t mean shit.  The greatest weatherman is still just some clown pointing at clouds on a map…..failing against Complexity.

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I recently had my tennis strokes filmed by high speed camera.  It was very interesting.  You know what I learned?  I’m pretty good, and have lots of room for improvement if I play more (which is impossible because I’m old and am hurt all the time).  Regardless, especially on my groundstrokes, I am fundamentally very sound (thanks to my parents for all the lessons).

What was my worst stroke?  My serve.

I still win my serve most of the time.  It isn’t devastating, but I have a big kick, I’m consistent, and I can control it pretty well.  How hard do I hit it?  About 100 MPH throwing my arm out.  To put that in perspective, the best guys can serve near 140; the best women near 115.

How can the women serve faster?  Good question.  I can certainly beat them in arm wrestling.  Its technique, at least a lot of it.

Additionally, how hard to you need to serve?  Not 100+ MPH.  If you serve at the edges of the box with some spin, most people won’t even return a serve in the low 90s.  If they do, it’s popped up.

Here is my serve versus the serve of Mark Philippoussis…the most dominant server whose footage I have available (and one of the great servers of all time).

So you get these “key positions”, and here is my worst, the “Power Position”:

This is when you’re loaded and cocked.  After this its all racquet speed…how fast can I get my arm moving before I strike the ball?

So what’ wrong…3 things.

1)  Ball toss:  You can’t see it well, but my ball toss is not as far into the court/out in front.  This one is tough to change, because I am not tall.  I need the net clearance I wouldn’t get it threw it farther forward.

2)  Shoulder rotation:  We definitely look different in the shoulders, but the difference is not in elbow/racquet position….its in the shoulder rotation.  He’s dropped his shoulder perpendicular to the ground (180 degrees).  Mine is about at 115 degrees.  He has 65 more degrees of power.  He’s more loaded.

3)  Hip rotation:  This is single biggest mistake I make, and the most fundamental.  This is the only completely bad/wrong thing I do.  His right hip is cocked.  My right hip is already released (it is turned into the court).  Mark’s right hip doesn’t look like mine until after he hits the ball.  In essence, I’ve already unloaded.

So what about Andy Roddick (world record holder)?

Well…Andy is a freak, since he can get his arm moving faster than anyone on the planet other than major league pitchers….however, there is something to learn.

Mark P. has better mechanics, but Andy isn’t far behind.  His power position shows a tremendous load on the legs.  He seems poised to explode up into the ball.

In my defense, I had a knee injury during filming that kept me from a deep knee bend (but even a deeper knee bend would not change the fact I unload my hips before contact); however, the point remains valid:  Andy is generating a ton of power from his legs.

I need Mark’s shoulder rotation and Andy’s leg explosion.  I reality I would just like to be able to hit it harder than the women.


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US workers laid off by IBM offered their old jobs back…in India (at local wages).

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I would like to point out that Roger Federer is a little girly:

I mean the guy cried.  I don’t think its only because he lost; I think he loves tennis, and was touched by the fans, and is aware of his place in tennis history, etc….but the fact still remains he cried:  Not very manly.  Nadal did give him a man hug though, which I thought was sensitive, but not overly girly.  1 point for Nadal (besides being the Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon champion).

In the end, I think I like Federer more.  A little humanity in our sports stars is nice when contrasted with other sports.

The “man bag” is a bit much though (or should I just call it a purse?):

Next Topic, Jesus:

Remember in college we all took the World Religion class?  I think its a requirement at most schools, so everyone took something at least similar.  We learned about Joseph Campbell and the common myths/stories inherent in all religions.  The Greek gods and the Roman gods….pretty freaking similar.  Greek/Rome is just one instance; however, we learned that obviously the religions are borrowing from each other.

Islam as well borrows from Christianity, which borrows from Judaism, which borrows, I assume, from something else all the way back to pagans and two cavemen smoking weed and staring at the stars under a moonlit sky.

I never noticed I suppose in that religion class that the Jesus myth was not treated the same; we never studied its antecedents.  We assume it happened (virgin birth, son of god, rise from the dead, etc) in a vacuum for the first time.  That it was special.

Guess what?  The Jesus story had already been told….in Egyptian mythology (one of the oldest in existence).

Old testament: “I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.” Hosea 13:4″.  But lots of things are said in the Bible.  What does difference does one verse make?

Well…I used to read these crazy book by Graham Hancock, and while most of it was shite, some of it was interesting:

The life of the Egyptian God of Horus closely resembles that of Jesus.  There are a lot of comparisons in the chart in this link, and some of them are tenuous at best; however, the fact remains that the similarities (special births, son of god, miracles performed, crucifiction, resurrection after 3 days, etc.) are likely more than coincidence.

It is significant because we remember the Isrealites were formerly Egyptian slaves, so it would’ve been natural to co-opt Egyptian mythology (which was still worshipped when the Israelites were there), just as the Romans did with the Greeks.

I’m not making any comment on whether Jesus really existed, whether he rose from the dead, or whether people added to his story where convenient after he as gone (would he have been any less significant if he’d not been born under a star, had a virgin birth, or hadn’t turned water into wine?)….I simply do not know that.  But what I do know is that people make shit up….and usually when they do, they steal ideas from other people.  The Jesus myth is not unique.  The Hebrews took the framework from Egpytian mythology, with which they were very familar…having been in Egypt for 400 years.

Next Topic, the mind of God:

To simplify, being that there are so many commonalities in our myths and religions, that either means a) people borrow from each other (if we assume people are making up the myths), or b) God tells the same story over and over again (if we assume God is handing down the stories as the religions say).

If I were God (funny to think about), would I tell the same story over and over, or would I tell different stories?  I think I would tell the same/similar stories, because if I told different stories the people would eventually share the stories and thus they could converge anyway.

Alternatively, if I told different stories, people naturally war with each other, and so only the winning stories would remain…thus again you end up with the same/similar stories.

All roads lead to the same/similar stories.  It doesn’t matter what you start with.  In this case, the mind of God is not required.  All the stories will end up similar.

And this I think is what I took away from my World Religion class:  The winners tell the stories, the story remains the same.


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