Friday, February 19, 2010

Thoughts at the mid point

Clearly I dont Blog enough. My last post was in April 2009.

Today is my birthday. I am 38 and I am thinking that if I multiply that by 2 you get 76. That may well be a good life expectancy for a man in Trinidad given the fact that there is also a strong probability that I could be murdered or killed on the road by one of our lawless drivers.

This month's Time Magazine (Feb 2010) has a story on ageing. According to Time if people live longer, and that is what is expected, the implications could be that health care cost could skyrocket by the hundreds of billions. At the same time scientist believe that people will soon live to 150 and that the person to do that was born in 2000. You can also read the book "Blue Zones" which studies those societies in the world that have the longest life expectancy. That would be Okinawa in Japan, the sheep hearding wine drinking Sardinians of Italy and the Seventh Day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California. That reminds me- on my way to Trinidad from Miami I met a Japanese girl who told me that the magic of Okinawa is fading and life expectancy is falling. That was confirmed in the book "Blue Zones". Why? Okinawa has a large US Naval base and with that comes - KFC, McDonalds and other flag bearers of the un-sustainable/ un-healthy American lifestyle.

There is another school of thought that the more one's brain is active the long one would live. We have all heard of "old professors". Winston Churchill was a heavy smoker who lived into his 90's. Churchill had one of the most active minds in history. Apart from the little issue of being an architect of the victory of the free world against Nazi tyranny, Sir Winston was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature. If brian activity is a proxy for longevity, we can expect that most Trinidadians to be dead soon as thinking and reading are all but extinct in Trinidad.

The country with the lowest life expectancy in the world is Angola - an oil rich / economically poor African nation. Oil companies that operate there (like BP) should not be proud of the fact that they do business in a country where on average a person lives into their mid-30's. It is hoped that enlightened Corporate Social Responsibility policy and enlightened Governance (something of a rarity in Africa) would converge to invest in better health care and AIDS prevention / education for Angolan's. The irony of this of course is that Japan, which has no significant oil reserves, has the second highest life expectancy in the world. Talk about "resource curse thesis"!

So what else is there? There is "purpose". If we have purpose we have a reason to live and that counts for a lot. In business there is what is called "strategic purpose". If you read Jim Collins' book "Good to Great" - he explains that great companies have a purpose that is higher than satisfying their shareholders desire for a return on their investment (ROI). So Disney exist primarily to make people happy even if that means squeezing every penny out of them at the Disney Resorts ( ok I still love Disney). Collins uses the example of the State of Israel to teach "purpose". Israel, according to Collins, exist to provide a safe place for Jews in the world. That may be why they have been so successful in defending themselves since 1948.

Age is, according to Trinidad's greatest calyposnian Sparrow, just a number. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India is 78, Clint Eastwood is 79 and still making great movies, the Dalai Lama is 74 and Pope Benedict (Joseph Ratzinger) is 82. So if I do live as long as Joseph Ratzinger I want to be as active and as sharp minded as he is.

So folks, I will continue reading and when I am out of space for books there's Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble's Nook. I will drink my Red Wine, I will take my Fish Oil and Asprin and lets not forget the Reservatrol as recommened by Dr. Oz.

If I were to say that the last 38 years were a blast, I would be lying and being overly positive. Life in a small third world country isnt always easy. Everything here seems to be hard to do. Try to do anything in Trinidad and the invisible hand of third world incompetence intervenes immediately yanking you back and battering you into submission. That creates stress and stress erodes life expectancy. Try driving from point A to point B in Trinidad and you will see what I mean.

I am however a perpetual optmist and being a perpetuel optimist, I look forward the next 38 years and beyond that should be fun too. Here's to the year 2048 and no regrets.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Survival and the Firm

Its been almost a year since I posted something on this blog. That is an indication of how busy I have been in the past year.

Survival and the Firm

I just thought I would share this thought with readers. The though has to do with survival. What is the purpose of the organization? That was a question that I was asked once by a Lecturer. The purpose of the organization is to survive. That was an interesting thought. The most succesful companies in the world have one thing in common- they survive. Take Siemens for example. The fabled German tech company has survived its factories being bombed in WW II. Many of the units of Standard Oil are still around today - Exxon Mobil, Chevron. BP is over 100 years old. It was previously Anglo-Iranian Oil and before that Anglo-Persian Oil. It survives to this day.

In the past year we have seen the goats and the sheep seperated on Wall Street. The goats are Bear Stearns and Merril Lynch and a good example of a sheep would be Goldman Sachs. What separates them? The answer is the quality of decisions they made. Who makes decisions? People make decisions and they are supposed to do so in the context of systems. Senge notes that there are no bad people only bad systems.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goose & the Golden Egg

The Goose and the Golden Egg

The stresses of the modern work life and the imbalanced lifestyle of many of the young professionals in T&T will take its toll in next decade. Author Stephen R. Covey has used the fable of the Goose and the Golden egg to illustrate this imbalance between short term results and long term sustainability. In the case of the young professionals their output can be equated to the “Golden Egg”. From a business perspective Golden Eggs are obviously good things. Golden eggs mean increasing value and profit. These Golden Eggs are not only a function of the Goose which is one’s intellect, skills base and health (mental and physical) and general overall well being.

A person who is not happy at home will also obviously bring that negative emotional energy to work. The central question here is are companies interested in the short term output from employees or are they interested in the long term? Many companies have a policy that seeks to kill the Goose. Others fatten the Goose to later kill it. Some Goose in an attempt to satisfy their personal vanity and inflated ego are committing suicide and don’t even know it. The story of the Goose in Trinidad is indeed a sad one. I have lived long enough to see people whose careers got off to a blistering start in their 20’s end up being the number one customers of bars and rum shops in the mid-thirties. Burn out is also a reality that many will have to deal with in the coming years.

When we hire a person is it our vision that they stay with the company for 3 years, 7 years or 20 years. Companies with a long term outlook would obviously be interested in recruiting the best people and retaining their services in the long term. High employee churn is never a good thing. The third “R” in the human resource triumvirate is “reward”. What does “reward” mean? Does it only mean monetary and non-monetary compensation but should it be viewed in a broader “in-tangible” sense and how is that linked to motivation? Abraham Maslow’s work on human motivation cites “self actualization” as the highest of human needs. Self-actualization is the need to be the best that you can be or achieving one’s full potential.

Leadership- Not the Property of the CEO alone

Leadership - Not the Property of the CEO alone

As organizations gain increasingly equal access to information, knowledge and skills the leadership will become critical to competitive advantage. History and for that matter the history of business is replete with examples of leadership making the difference between a truly great company and those that flounder and fail. The same can be said of countries. Consider the case of Singapore under Lee Quan Yew and ask whether that country could have achieved its success without his vision and leadership.

Too many times however one gets the impression that employees view leadership as the property and domain of the CEO, Chairman and senior management. In like manner citizens in a country often believe that leadership is the property of the Government and the Prime Minister. That represents a narrow view of leadership and one that is fundamentally flawed.

All employees are leaders and as such should demonstrate leadership. Bringing out these leadership traits in all employees should be considered strategic to achieving the company’s objectives.

Friday, May 30, 2008

India 2008

The Taj Mahal - a Tear Drop on the Cheek of Time.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

English Country Side

Wiston House, West Sussex is about 45 minutes from Gatwick Airport. That's my shadow on the road.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Visiting JR and paying respects to JFK

Its been a while since my last post.
J.R. Ewing and John F. Kennedy

I was in Dallas last week (November 5th to November 12th 2007) . That’s right the same place that boast the famous 1980’s television series “Dallas” that starred Larry Hagman as the ruthless Texan oilman, JR Ewing. Dallas has also earned its place in history for the November 1963 assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Being a natural cultural explorer I couldn’t visit this American city and not visit Southfork Ranch, where Dallas the TV show was shot and Dealey Plaza where JFK was assassinated. JFK was well liked American President who was murdered under suspicious circumstances in the prime of his life.
Robert Groden
It was with great respect that I visited Dealey Plaza and paid my respects to the late US President. I have seeen Oliver Stone's movie JFK and I have seen a number of documentaries on the assassination. Walking in Dealey Plaza was therefore like walking through history. I met Robert Groden who served as a consultant to Oliver Stone on the 1991 movie "JFK" and was able to converse with him on some his theories. Groden has also written a number of books on the subject of the controversial assassination of JFK.
A Note on JFK
John F. Kennedy was the first United States President to be born in the 21st century. His Presidency is described in pop culture as "Camelot". He represented the coming of age of a new generation of American's. As an Irish Catholic - he was a break with the traditional protestant President's. His family "the Kenndy's" are considerd to be an American political institution. I liken him to Bill Clinton who in 1992 became the first "baby boomer" to be elected President.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Music of the Night


If you have never heard of the Phantom of the Opera you are probably a typical Trinidadian or under a rock. Last Wednesday I saw the famed musical at the Majestic on 44th Street Manhattan. The 2005 movie with Gerald Butler does not come close to matching up to the real thing. According to the information provided, the Phantom of the Opera has, since its London debut in 1986, grossed some 3.2 billion dollars. This means that the Phantom has grossed more money than the number one money earning movie of all time, the Titanic. On the same street (44th Street) there is the Minskof theatre which was showing the Lion King. I was also made to understand that Evita ( another Lloyd Webber production) was not showing in New York.