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I’m ready to ride the Wave (the Google Wave, that is)

September 19, 2009

This morning I watched the adult (geek?) version of Saturday morning cartoons: a presentation by Google introducing it’s new communication/collaboration technology called Google Wave.  To sum up my opinion of this uber-hyped technology:  Bring it on!

During my time wearing the project manager hat over the past several years, I’ve repeatedly experienced the stress associated with managing team communications that Google Wave is designed to relieve.  As someone obsessed with keeping a team aligned, sharing team contributions so other team members can build upon them, and preventing redundant effort and communication, I’ve tried moving email chains to a discussion board; drafting documents on Wikis; and having team members post their notes to a blog.  The challenge I’ve faced is that these tools are disjointed, lack real-time collaboration, and are far removed from the work flow for many team members (at the time, I was also limited to enterprise-hosted Microsoft SharePoint).  Email is so easy to use and pervasive that it even becomes the standard for document collaboration, with rev-after-rev of attached documents and spreadsheets flying between team members.  Google Wave is the first product I’ve seen that could clearly overcome these ease-of-use issues and truly become the central point of team communication and collaboration.

Looking forward to the day when Google Wave crosses the tipping point so I can lead teams more efficiently!

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

September 18, 2009

This morning I had the privilege of meeting with Alex Carmichael to understand her vision for the company she co-founded, CureTogether.  In addition to the  advice she provided on where my combination of my skills and vision may be most valued, I also appreciated the thought-provoking tagline on her business card: What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Two answers occurred to me on my train ride home.  This is not the first time these BHAGs have occurred to me.  Now that I’m putting them in writing, I can bet that it won’t be the last, either.

…align human effort globally towards extending the experience of being human indefinitely.

Having been raised in a Seventh-Day Adventist home, my world view in elementary school was that Jesus would be returning to Earth again very soon to take believers with him to Heaven.  Even though I knew that believers who had died prior to his return would be resurrected, I really hoped that he would come before I died so I could be spared from the experience of death.  Decades later, two things remain the same: my interest in living indefinitely and my belief that it’s possible.  If I were to name the most relevant aspect of my world view that has changed since then, it is this:  we are empowered and capable of overcoming the forces that bring each human life to an end.

Easy? No.

Possible? Yes.

Will it happen within my lifetime? I’m looking forward to finding out.

How will it happen? We won’t know until we get there.  However, the description that I relate to the most is that told by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman in their book, Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever .

I thought you were job hunting, not dreaming of the impossible. In my mind, they aren’t mutually exclusive.  In fact, if I look back at many of the key job-related decisions I’ve made, this dream has had a significant influence; I simply described it as wanting to apply my expertise in a way that helped people.  The mission statement of my previous employer, Medtronic, is even in line with this dream:

To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.

Great, so you have a vision, purpose, mission statement, blah-duh-blah.  What specifically are you going to do? I’ll answer that with this observation.  When Earl Bakken wrote that mission statement, it was his tinkering with a hot new technology called the transistor that enabled him to extend life with the first battery-powered pacemaker.  What’s the hot new technology that sweeping the world today?  For one, Twitter.  For another, Facebook.  Where do I think that these types of technologies are being tinkered with that will ultimately improve health and extend life?  If there’s anything to learn from Earl, I’ll bet it’s in someone’s garage.

You said there were two things you’d do if you knew you couldn’t fail.

Storytime has ended for today.  Stay tuned!

(How would you answer this question?)

Jeremy A Johnson: a Self-Knowing Reinventing Health Nut (by 43things)

September 10, 2009


I found the 43 Things Personality Quiz to be quick, simple, and fun.  More importantly, I wouldn’t disagree with the results.

Self-Knowing Reinventing Health Nut

Discovering my life’s themes: it’s all about Alignment

September 7, 2009

I feel like I’ve uncovered the deepest vein of gold so far during this long weekend of instrospection and self-discovery and wanted to write about it while the discovery is fresh.

As background, I’ve spent the majority of the last few days studying and applying concepts in The Job-Hunter’s Survival Guide, You Majored in What?, and Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0.  My motivation is to find meaningful connections between my vast array of academic, industry, and personal life experiences that will help me understand where to focus my career for maximum personal satisfaction and benefit to society (followed by learning to communicate this to potential employers effectively).  Before beginning this exercise, my unifying theme was something like, “I like applying new technology to help improve human life.”  Wreaking of vagueness, this statement needed an upgrade in order to differentiate myself.

What I discovered just minutes ago is that the underlying theme driving what I love to do and what I do well is creating alignment.  Why did I work like mad teaching myself Microsoft Access and creating a database that replaced the post-it-on-whiteboard process of collecting and sorting unmet clinical needs?  Why did I introduce Brightidea at my last job for soliciting and evaluating new business opportunities and innovations from our employees?  Why did I insist that my team record all their research results in Microsoft SharePoint—and then take the lead on creating the structure and process used that helped the team reach it’s conclusions and recommendations?  I observed that I’ve been using tools like this for my teams to work with for nearly a decade.  Only today was I able to distill the underlying motivation into a few words: I have an underlying passion for creating alignment in the world around me, and use my knowledge and skills to achieve this alignment.

My brain is actively making connections to so many other past accomplishments, activities, and experiences.   I’m going to predict that you, the reader, may not get the connections made above, even if you know me well.  That’s OK for now.  I’ll provide more examples as time allows (or as you ask for in the comments!).

The race for Web 2.0 mind mapping—no winner, yet

September 6, 2009

Those of you that have worked with me know I’m a die hard mind mapper—a mind map evangelist you might say.  For the past 6 years I’ve exclusively used MindJet MindManager in Windows XP.  Having moved to a Mac and because of my attempt at frugality, I no longer have MindManager at my fingertips.  Yesterday I went shopping for mind mapping tools and was pleased to see some good competition in this space.  After quick reviews of the top delicious bookmarks tagged with mind mapping tools, I narrowed it down to MindMeister and Mindomo.

MindMeister and Mindomo attracted me because:

  1. SaaS model: no software to install, available anywhere at anytime, platform independent, easy collaboration, continual improvement
  2. Low-cost entry: Free basic service and additional features for a small monthly fee
  3. MindManager friendly: maps can be imported and exported to/from MindManager

Each of these three tools has some work to do to get to the finish line, in my opinion.  Here are the key features I think each needs to add:

  • MindManager
    • Offer a free SaaS version: there are always people that will only start using a free version, especially given the other free choices available.  Get MindManager Web into their workflow and they will likely upgrade to the $120/yr version after realizing it’s superior to the others.
  • MindMeister
    • Allow orphan topics: sure, mind-mapping is all about relationships.  When populating a map for the first time sometimes it makes sense to do a mind dump that doesn’t require everything to be immediately related to the main topic.  It also helps for creating a separate topic for a legend, for example.  The lack of this feature alone turned me away.
  • Mindomo
    • Auto-save: every change made to the map must be saved on the server immediately.  With services like Google Docs, it’s what customers expect today.  This also prevents inadvertent loss of data if the browser crashes, which happened to me twice while using it yesterday.

These are just the top features I personally think each vendor needs to work on; this is not expected to be a comprehensive evaluation of mind mapping tools.

What’s your favorite mind mapping software?  Does it offer the features I describe above?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Elegant process for using visual thinking to solve any problem and sell any solution

September 2, 2009

Whether preparing a poster for an academic conference, presenting project plans to executives, or even designing this blog, I have always found joy in seeking out the simplest way to communicate a concept to my audience.  It may come as no surprise then, that I loved Dan Roam’s four napkin animations explaining the basics behind his book, The Back of a Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures.  I will definitely reference the visual guides he shares on his website next time I’m creating a presentation.  I’m also looking forward to reading Presentation Zen.

To see the napkin-style presentation in action, check out American Healthcare: A 4-Napkin Explanation.

What can a comedy theater teach us about innovation?

September 2, 2009

I heard John Sweeney give an enthusiastic and inspiring talk about innovation to the engineering and scientific audience at Medtronic a few years ago.  Included in his book was this handy card summarizing the innovation process and guidelines he used with his team at the Brave New Workshop. You’ll notice that the process and guidelines are quite similar to other processes you may have seen, such as those used at IDEO.  What can a comedy theater teach us about innovation?  My takeaway was that there are fundamental principles to the process of innovation that can be applied in any situation in which unanticipated, breakthrough, customer-thrilling outcomes are desired.