Thursday, September 22, 2005

An article I wrote - 'Mind Your Language' will be published in the: IEE Engineering Management Magazine. Here is an excerpt, enjoy!

Mind Your Language was a comedy series that used to appear on the BBC channel in the late 1970s. The comedy depicted issues faced by immigrants when attempting to learn the English language. On immigrating to the UK, individuals from different countries (Italy, Japan, China, Pakistan, India, Sweden, Spain, and France) were asked to learn English from a British instructor. The comedy vividly displayed how issues of communication, coordination, and organization got disrupted due to lack of common language, context, and expressions. While some of the plots may have been exaggerated for the sake of humor, most of scenes were realistic of issues faced when individuals who speak different languages attempt to communicate and engage in joint work. In organizations, the concept of language is central to the occurrence of organizing, language is what connects the various entities and enables for the flow of information and knowledge.

Language is what differentiates human species from others in our environment. Language is a medium of signification, i.e. language helps us use signs for expressing thoughts. Today, with the omnipresence of global and multinational corporations, I am always surprised by how little care is taken by senior executives in their use of languages. Most organizations commit blunders when communicating with their constituents who are in foreign locations. One example comes to mind, a senior and seasoned executive in the Middle East was giving a presentation in Chicago, Illinois. The Executive opened up his remarks with, “Good morning gentlemen” and then proceeded into his presentation. He obviously forgot to take a good look at the audience to realize that half of them were ladies. Obviously, he had turned off half of his audience and his message fell on deaf hears. Other common errors that occur when language is not properly accounted for have to do with faulty advertisements. Chevrolet naming its car “Chevy Nova” and trying to sell it in Latin America, where “no va” means “it doesn’t go”. Bacardi attempted to introduce a new fruity drink in the German market called "Pavian" to suggest French chic, however "Pavian" means "baboon" in German. Parker Pens translated the slogan for its ink, “Avoid Embarrassment- Use Quink" into Spanish as "Evite Embarazos-Use Quink" which means "Avoid Pregnancy-Use Quink". In today’s world, where conducting business globally across borders is the norm, we must be cognizant on how we communicate with people from different cultures. Failure to do so will result in poor work practices, project failures, employee hostility, and poor sense of “organizing”.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I read an interesting article - Rethinking the Midmarket, by Aaron Ricadella, in InformationWeek (September 12, 2005, p. 53-58) [Available at InformationWeek], outlines Microsoft’s proposed strategy to target midsize companies. As noted by Ricadella, “Microsoft is making a big strategic shift in its 5- year-old business-applications division toward a simple but so-far elusive idea: Different kinds of workers use computers differently, and software should be designed for an employee's role in the company. After two years of research, Microsoft managers have identified more than 50 everyday job roles at midsize companies they believe will benefit from desktop environments created just for them--everyone from a president or CFO to account managers in a sales department to workers on a manufacturing floor. Receptionists, too, get a unique data view on their PCs…” Workers will benefit from getting access to information they care about, rather than being inundated with all organizational information. Microsoft also plans to simplify its ERP software and make it more accessible to midsize companies. And finally, software may actually be designed to meet the challenges of current work environments. As noted in Ricadella’s article, “To understand the jobs people do at midsize companies, Microsoft's engineers and managers spent two years studying their workdays in excruciating detail, recording their conversations, snapping photos of people at their desks, and generating 15,000 pages of transcripts. The conclusion: Most workers don't like their software, because it forces them to work with business automation and personal-productivity apps that are often incompatible. In other words, today's business software doesn't look like today's business…”

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dissertation Update - I have now completed the data collection and data recording phases of my dissertation. I have also completed the first round of preliminary analysis of the data. Next steps – deeper analysis, write-up, and then defend the research.

Friday, September 09, 2005

In the next few months, I will step away from the Engaged Enterprise. I will join the Information School, of the University of Washington as an assistant professor. I will begin there in December, and will be making the move to Seattle in the next few months.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Innovation! Innovation! Innovation! I am going to be attending the Seattle Innovation Symposium (Sept 13-14), hosted by the University of Washington. The goals of the symposium are (1) to come up ideas of new billion dollar industries, and (2) to find ways to shrink the innovation cycle, i.e. from ideas to market. Here is my two cents on innovation. I split innovation into two phases – the invention and the commercialization. Inventing calls for breaking old ways of thinking. In order to innovate we must be able to question fundamental assumptions, confront the obvious in novel ways, and synergize multiple sources of expertise. Once we have invented, we must then begin the commercialization process. Here, you must have a structured, optimized, and tested methodology in place. Inventions are the loose and creative bits, commercialization of inventions needs to be structured and optimized.