Posts filed under ‘Thought Provoking’

Intersection 2012

 

This past week-end, I attended an event at Pixar studio called the Intersection. As an observer of the Sabbath, most Saturdays find me in church or spending time with family unless I am involved in some activities that involve benefiting others.  However, in a few cases, I have attended a few events during the Sabbath where I thought that I would learn something that would lead to tremendous personal growth (personal growth can lead to spiritual growth) but not always.

The Intersection event did not disappoint.  Intersection is a conference for leaders (business and nonprofit), investors and students who want to change the world!!!  (My kind of people). What makes this conference so different is the fact that you have people from different backgrounds bringing innovative ways to affect social change. The conference name comes from the fact that the “Intersection” of skill sets and ideas should bring about more innovative approaches to solving the world problems.

Here are a few ideas learned from the Intersection conference:

  • All new ideas are combinations of existing ideas.
  • All innovative ideas appear to be obvious afterward
  • We are horrible at predicting what will work hence the importance of using diverse teams that can unleash an explosion of ideas
  • At the intersection we come up with more ideas
  • Putting more money behind an idea does not necessarily guarantee success: For example for the Newton MessagePad Apple spent $500M and Palm computing spent only $3M on Palm Pilot because that’s all they had
  • When tackling a problem or project, focus on your smallest executable step

 

How does intersection happen at Pixar?

  • Both companies avoid the common way of doing things
  • At IDEO, they spend a lot of time at the extreme (for example with professional chefs for a kitchen or kids) as opposed to members of the general public
  • IDEO brings in a lot of young people that have not been “brainwashed” in the common way of doing things at other companies
  • Both companies are open to people with different backgrounds.
  • You want to create a broad tent. In a movie, different groups are pushing to win: The finance guys want to make sure they make as much money as possible, the creative guys are pushing the envelope in another direction…If one group ever wins, the company loses. The job of the president at Pixar is to make sure that a single group doesn’t win.
  • Why do they only have success at Pixar? They have failures but they don’t release them.  In Ratatouille they used one line from the failed previous version. Pixar does a lot of iterations.
  • Steve Jobs never went into a story meeting because he would have too much weight

  

Other ideas:

  • There are a lot of smart people outside of your organization than inside. How do you connect with these smart people outside of your organization?
  • Li & Fung is an example organization that has managed to leverage resources outside of their organization: they have a 15000 network. In a bad year they have a 30% return on equity (that’s very good in the apparel world!) 
  • They have figured out how to connect to different pieces. They have found a way to create long lasting relationship. Li & Fung knows a lot about the company of their partners so there is a lot of trust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 18, 2012 at 10:03 pm Leave a comment

The restavec complex and its impact on success

I just finished reading the book “Outliers,” and the author Malcolm Gladwell makes the point that success could be linked to one’s “cultural legacies.” Specifically, he mentioned how the cultivation of rice, which is year-round in Asia, had an impact in instilling the notion to Asians that with hard work, they could achieve success.

Although I agree with most of the points made in the earlier part of the book, I certainly would also agree that the arguments made by Malcom Gladwell that cultural legacies are at best controversial. However, this has led me to ask to what extent are there any parts of my own “cultural legacies” that may give me an edge to be successful or may be an impediment? Personally, I believe that whatever limited success that I have had is attributed to my Haitian background.

Unfortunately, I believe that there is also a part of the Haitian legacy which may negatively affect the level of success that we can reach.  If you’re not Haitian you may still be affected by it, as I believe that all of us who are descendents of African slaves are affected by it. If you’re not a descendant of African slaves, there may still be other aspects of your own “cultural legacy” that may play in, as I will discuss later.

The cultural legacy that I want to address is what I called the “restavec complex” or “not your slave complex.” Before I defin this complex and its symptoms, let me explain where it comes from. In Haiti, restavecs are children mostly from poor families who are informally “adopted” by more economically able parents. But these restavecs are not treated as sons and daughters, for the most part they are children slaves or at best second-class children.

What is the legacy of restavec on the Haitian psyche? I believed that it has had the unfortunate impact of poisoning relationships between us and made us a more hierarchical society. Even within the same social classes, in terms of personal relationships, there is this distrust where one doesn’t want to be perceived as being inferior to the other “I’m not his or her restavec.”

What’s the impact of the restavec legacy?  The biggest manifestation is less social cohesion or social networking, which translates into having less social capital. If you measure social capital based on the number of social clubs/groups, the level of interaction between members of the group, there is no question in my mind that those of us of Haitian descents would be at the bottom and not at the top.

What it means in terms of success is that our Haitian cultural legacy has pushed us to be “lone wolves” instead of working in a “pack.” It doesn’t mean that we cannot be successful as “lone wolves” but that our success will be limited; that we will not be able to go after the big “preys.” Concretely, what does it mean? That our cultural legacy might push us to be more averse to entering into a partnership with others to do something that none of the partners could do on their own. Specifically, I think this cultural legacy would tend to push us against entering into a partnering relationship where we are a minor partner even when our position as a minor partner in that relationship is fair and commensurate with the contribution we bring to that partnership. Other manifestations of the restavec complex:

  • Less likely to help someone to move ahead (because this could put us in a situation of perceived inferiority once that person has moved up or the person might become less dependent on us)
  • Less likely to rejoice in the success of others (Sadly, I heard someone once said that this phenomenon is part of we are since “Haitiens” stand for “Hai le tien” in French that is to hate one of your own). The perceived success could be seen as putting us in an inferior position.
  • Personal conflicts are more likely
  • Personal honor becomes very important

As I mentioned earlier I don’t think the “restavec complex” is limited only to Haitians. Because of the persistence of quasi-slavery in Haiti with “restavecs,” along with a perpetual dictatorship, I believe we have been more affected compared to other populations. I think the “restavec complex” or “not your slave complex” is likely to affect populations that have been under long periods of dictatorships, periods of enslavement, economic oppression or mistreatment by a “majority” group. Hence,  symptoms of the “restavec complex” would not be limited to African countries or countries with people of African descent (think Eastern Europe).

July 4, 2009 at 7:17 pm Leave a comment

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