Archive for September, 2011

The world of New York in the land of America

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

New York is overwhelming which is why everyone from everywhere is eager to see it. Over the 8 days in my Hilton pied-a-terre, I visited the Statue of Liberty, shared the same corners of Mid-Town as the President of Iran, toured the USS Intrepid Museum as well as the opening of IBM’s Think and MOMA’s Talk to Me exhibits in addition to a birthday party at BowlMor, several delicious dinners and sights of fashion and individuality that I could not see in a lifetime in Durham. Yet, I was completely amazed by the falafel truck owner who sold 1,000s of meals per day to nearly every market segment imaginable: tourists, school groups, financial execs, visitors, hometowners, even other food-truck vendors. The lines were so long, like 150 people, that I asked a chowing-down limo driver “what is he serving?!” He replied, “the lines are usually longer…all of the way down the block.” OK! The Unstoppable Power of a Good & Well-Executed Idea. Over a couple of days, I observed this food-truck’s supply chain of mini-vans and cars bringing to him vats and cartons of chick-peas and tomatoes and utensils. Meanwhile, Kodak is down to its last couple of hundred million because it never figured-out how to compete with the digital camera marketplace that it invented (you could look it up).

Of course, what is impressive about New York is all of the things that you can do and still be disappointed by what you didn’t do or even know that there was to do. The more that I visit, the more that I realize how segmented is its geography and neighborhoods. Mid-Town is far from East Village, although only a $15 cab ride; 6th Ave and 53rd is a long way from Pier 82, although only a 25 minute walk. Seeing one’s world through the eyes of a visitor is recalibrating. We, me with my Swedish and Lithuanian guests, hustled on Sunday morning for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. First, underground on the #1 train to the base of the Island, aka Battery Park. Out of the subway tunnel into the open space of the Park; into the Homeland Security tent then on board a jam-packed ferry to the Statue of Liberty. That one has to nearly undress for security purposes in order to visit the Statue could be thought provoking. Happily, the symbol of America’s premise elegantly inspires as we discussed the chaotic and had-to-be dangerous journeys that awaited the immigrants for whom Ellis Island and the Statue meant so much in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My Swedish friend mused ‘why did we select Minnesota as our rallying point?! Couldn’t they have chosen Florida?!” Last week, Hewlett-Packard fired and hired its 4th and 5th CEOs in 6 years now favoring the former CEO of eBay. Perhaps there is an auction in the works.

We were all impressed by the size and capabilities of the USS Intrepid, a World War II vintage aircraft carrier. More impressive to my corporate guests was that this enormous and enormously complicated ship was built in about two years. Such a feat combines examples of motivated teamwork, fearful necessity and bottomless budget. During our own planning discussions, we laughed a couple of times about ‘getting it (our tasks) done’ in less time than the construction of the Intrepid.

Our Innovation Workshop concluded with a visit to IBM’s Think Exhibit at Lincoln Center. This venue intends to celebrate IBM’s Centennial, promote its interconnection with the global economy and to relate itself to the simply brilliant and brilliantly simple discoveries in astronomy, medicine and communications over recorded history. I’m stuck recalling a video clip of President John Kennedy announcing The Moon Program at Rice University.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Could you imagine, don’t you wish that we would exhibit such political conviction and collective fortitude in the face of the challenges and opportunities of our time by asking not what our country can do for us….

Latest phone app from Blue Pane Studio

Monday, September 26th, 2011

This launch page lay-out with buttons that take users directly to desired content has become ever more popular. The metaphor seems to be an “app comprised of apps.” This app developed for the office of minority recruiting at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

This project was especially satisfying because of the nature of the client’s work, namely broadening the appeal of science, and the validation of Blue Pane Studio’s client focus: scientists. It is a thrill to provide – design and develop – the newest software for this important community within our economy. Instead of forcing scientists to grind through grant proposals and the procurement processes incumbent with large, public entities, we work with their existing budgets, confident that if we deliver on schedule with compelling projects that we’ll earn respect, trust and sponsorship. So far, this formula works. The possible reduced profit margins are exceeded by the satisfaction of helping to introduce new productivity tools to organizations who know what to do with them.

What do you do, actually?!

Friday, September 16th, 2011

I’m often, too often, asked ‘where’s the money or business value in Social Media or Web 2.0 or the games that the younger people play?’ Next week, I’m contracted to organize a four day Innovation workshop for a successful Swedish Bank. The draw for their visit is the popular and interesting Finovate Conference (no presentations, only demonstrations). I suppose that a joke could be that someone needs to innovate a correct way to hold an ‘innovation conference.’ In the notes below, I try to prepare my clients for our discussions so that we will perceive our meetings as but an important step in the on-going dialogue-relationship-friendships that must be established if we are actually to influence changes in their enterprise. I feel that this is marginally self-serving and for that, I apologize. On the other hand, I could take you through a couple of dozen slides….

16 Sept 2011 Good morning,

It’s a beautiful Friday in New York City, the final weekend of summer so the City is in a happy mood.

I’m the IBM executive responsible for the relationship with Tuck Business School. Tuck is part of Dartmouth College, located in Hanover, New Hampshire and known for a hands-on approach to its business classes.

The Center for Digital Strategies convenes an executive roundtable three times per year with IBM as a participant. Attached is the Tuck Enabling Innovation report. If you scan this doc, I believe that you’ll find a couple of thoughts that may apply to our own discussion next week. Of course, valuable innovation is not about ideas, but about execution.

On Sep 15, 2011, at 1:39 PM, Christopher Perrien wrote:

Hello all,

I’m enroute to New York this afternoon as I have briefing with a South Asian bank tomorrow. I look very forward to meeting each of you and promise that I will do my part to help make our time together both productive and memorable.

Like each of you, I’ve participated in numerous briefings of all flavors over my career; most wear us out with the parade of presentations that seemingly have no interconnection and do not in purposeful ways link to our jobs and companies and decisions. “Death by Powerpoint” is the cynical phrase. The second challenge to off-site meetings is that we have to return to on-site where “the Tyranny of the Urgent” trumps our fresh thinking and sincere desire for incremental change.

I realize that you know what needs to be done to keep the bank healthy in an unsettled economic climate; as well, you have many ideas for how to better connect the bank to its clients and to its employees. Our discussions and the uncommon venues of next week may offer new ways for understanding each other and may renew our excitement for taking on the challenges of institutional change.

BTW, Fortune is on our side as the extended weather forecast in New York is favorable, cool in the evenings (by American standards) and warm by day (by anybody’s standards). Fashion Week will end tomorrow so the City should still be looking good and in good spirits for your arrival. Tony and I tried to hold one of our sessions at the NYC Fashion Institute of Technology but they were fully booked for next week. I feel that our industry should look broadly and especially at changes in retail distribution for clever ideas that may apply to banking. Lots to think about next week!

On Sep 14, 2011, at 7:50 AM, Christopher Perrien wrote:

Good morning from North Carolina,

Since I wanted to encourage you to think about the potential of video, I planned to make a short, related video then realized that sending a big file to Sweden may not be worth it. So, here is a photo of me in my home office as I write this note to you. I’m a jazz fan (a poster of Louis Armstrong is on the left side of the photo over my right shoulder) as New Orleans is my hometown. I find that business and jazz composition have much in common. There is a baseline or beat and thematic objective, but pretty much the musicians are on their own to challenge and to complement one another within this framework. All innovation requires boundaries.

For the past 18 months, I’ve encouraged my clients to watch this video by Simon Sinek which describes How Great Leaders Inspire Action. His references are Apple Computer, the Wright Brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King. It is brilliantly simple without being simplistic. I marvel at his provocative question of Why is Apple Computer consistently successful with no advantage in funding, access to talent, hardware & software components? Mr. Sinek’s presentation was first offered at a TED Conference. BTW, he is a biologist by training.

Speaking of jazz: there is plenty in New York. If you’d like to spend an evening in club or two, this can be arranged with pleasure. Here is a link to a performance on a late night television show from New York where two forms of American music, jazz and country-gospel, come together in vibrant harmony. Only view this if you want to get your feet moving.

On Sep 13, 2011, at 11:55 AM, Christopher Perrien wrote:

Me again,

I cannot believe that Djokovic exhausted Rafa in the US Open final! What a spectacular and confident performance! What he improved over the past year were small elements of his game which he totally controlled: his fitness and his serve, especially his ball toss so that opponents were not able to guess the direction of his serve. Incremental change can make big differences in performance and achievement is a lesson that I learned from this.

PARTICIPATION is the secret of social media. Just that simple. Not a tool such as Facebook or Twitter or a specific app on a smartphone. We’ve all grown-up, were educated, were / are measure in a world of Knowledge is Power, but it is hard to know something – at least for a long time – that is not easily known by others thanks to the speed of the Internet. Sharing Knowledge or helping others To Know is the opportunity. Younger generations and, certainly, our children understand this concept without evening knowing that they know this.

I suggest that we spend some of our time next week discussing what would changes in participation look like and feel like across the bank.

Or we could hire a crowd of “financial doctors” to tell us how to get smaller as did a large US bank. I don’t think I’d be interested in attending that party. Here is the related article.


On Sep 11, 2011, at 7:51 PM, Christopher Perrien wrote:

Hello all,

I don’t know if you are tennis fans as I am and I am inspired by the victories of Novack Djokovic and Samantha Stosur even tho Roger Federer, my hero, was defeated. I’m less fond of Serena Williams, btw.

Novack showed supreme courage and a bit of reckless spirit as he faced two match points on Roger’s serve. His go-for-it shot so stunned Federer that he could not recover over the next four games which Djokovic won to take the match. Stosur has won only three titles in her career, including the longest match played between women at the US Open- and that was this year! Now she is the first Aussie champion in nearly 40 years.

Despite being on the cliff of defeat, Novack decided to lose with his strongest shot and ended up the victor; despite the image of never playing to her potential in the important matches, Samantha envisioned a different result and defeated Serena handily.

Certianly, life is not sports and banking is not about miracle moments. Yet both have opportunities where courage after hard work is rewarded. I hope that after our discussions next week that we will be on a path to realize new opportunities for the bank or opportunities for a renewed bank.

Here is a link,, to a recent BMW series of dinners on Innovation and Technology. A related quote that appeals to me:

“Change starts with the individual. Imagine people in positions of leadership seeing themselves as more than heads of a company, but seeing themselves as leaders of societies.”. Diana Glassman, Founder and Owner, Integration Strategy. I feel that your banking culture understands her statement more than most might understand it.

Tomorrow, I’ll send a note revealing the secret of social media.

From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Mississippi River

Friday, September 16th, 2011

COMING APART After 9/11 transfixed America, the country’s problems were left to rot. by George Packer Download NYer PDF

I grew-up in New Orleans and my wife grew-up in Mount Airy, North Carolina. We sometimes amuse ourselves during cocktail hour by reciting the differences in our social and cultural circumstances, always marveling that we found enough in common to want to marry. We could never imagine that a New Yorker article would connect our hometowns.

We both moved away from our hometowns for a reason and we remain attached to each of these spots on the map: one on a river and the other at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The troubles of our hometowns were a long time in coming and will take a while to fix. Certainly, such is the nature of civilization: people try, succeed and fail in one location then move to start-over in the next. Right now, we’re all caught-up in something that seems much larger than us – is the population too large? do we use too much gasoline? is the government to blame? – where we’re not sure what to do or even if we’ve hit the bottom yet.

I wonder if our nation’s decline is represented by these two uniquely charming locations or are their declines better represented by America’s?! Certainly New Orleans is not the city that it used to be – and probably never was any way. Its mythical gentility and creativity was perpetrated while those in authority neglected nearly every fundamental civic responsibility. Katrina washed away this veneer.

The folks in Mount Airy have made do since they settled the area prior to the American Revolution. They display a strong sense of self-reliance coupled with a short horizon to the world at large. As I think about it, this is pretty much the opposite of how New Orleanians have seen themselves and their world.

Now both communities share the understanding that as any semblance of reliable, centralized leadership is in dangerous short supply, self-reliance in the day to day is how they will have to survive and to re-construct a future for their friends and families.

As a 14 year old water boy, my wife’s great-grandfather walked from Virginia to Gettysburg in 1863 for the battle. Wounded on the third day in the North Carolina attack adjacent to Pickett’s charge, he was paroled and returned home. He wore his uniform in the annual town parade into the early 1930s. New Orleans surrendered early in the war with barely a fight, never considering itself actually a part of the American South. My money’s on Mt. Airy. Meanwhile, here’s a cut from a recent David Letterman show where the Preservation Hall Jazz Band joins with the country-gospel Del McCoury Band performing I’ll Fly Away. Hope springs eternal!

Blue Pane Studio’s latest app for Dartmouth College

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Home screen design with multiple icons becoming the lay-out of preference for clients so that user can go immediately to desired info source. App complements recently renovated Grad.Studies web site.