April 2013

Victoria Petrova at Basic Element

April 24, 2013

She runs a leading Russian conglomerate with a 250,000 employee organization, encompasing hundreds of companies in five continents and eight sectors. Petrova's main challenge: change management, introducing new operating models that recurrently expand people's productivity. Her answer: technology & telepresence, training, hard work (reading a lot, keeping yourself connected with emerging conversations). Her struggle: attracting young talent - who seem to be more interested in entrepreneurial ventures - to work in large corporations.



Theology at the University of Edinburgh: angels, chlorofluorocarbon, anthropocene and grace

April 12, 2013

Here. Seated in a standard square wood chair designed for the average posadera to endure 90 minutes of lecture. It was February 18th at 5:25 pm in the University of Edinburgh historical St Cecilia's Hall, regarded as a symbol of cultural life of the Scottish enlightenment. The surrounding neighborhood of Cowgate is a buoyant rapid of tradition and emergence over cold, hard, dark stone. The one time students den Bannerman Bar (sweet beer and colossal hamburgers) confronting both, the “mathematicians only cave”  at the opposite corner, and the St. Cecilia’s Hall. It is a very alive corner over the Fringe Festival. There is something beautiful about Latour, he always seems to be holding back a smile or even a deep laugh. Thinking, anthropology or existence seem to be a fun, unpredictable, creative game with him. More a Merlin than an academic. Blending his discourse with architecture, theatrical dance, music, science and politics and alway keeping the joyful drama alive. Un-leashing the modern mind from their heavy assumptions on any sort of transcendence, essence, or fundamental ontology... but historical power. Yes, the wizard claims, in our worldly experience reason is undistinguishable from power... and of course, power is a special verb, a networked verb embroiled with a peculiar assemblage of humans and non-humans. Uufff... how much work just to live life in wonder!! But it is simple! and he laughed looking at me... agency is just anything that transforms, anything that triggers a change... keep it simple!... the rest is just stylistic, I give a voice to non-human because I found it illuminating. Beautiful. And do not forget, at every step everything gets distributed between humans, non-humans and goddesses in a perpetual flow.

Selling Services in China

April 10, 2013

I've articulated an initial framework on aspects of the Chinese style of developing social capital, or guanxi and how one might integrate it with strategies for growing a business. Ontologicaly, it is based in a temporal framework of trust (needs to be made more explicit). Of course, it is tight synthesis with many streams to explore... and it is lot less a description than a speculative possibility. You can find it on my Text-Text page or by reading the Scribd version below.

Thriving in Beijing

(I altered some facts in the narrative to keep it more private)

We arrived at Beijing, Monday the 4th at 6am. Two hours later we checked into the Swissotel Beijing Hong Kong Macau Centre, 2 Chao Yang Men Bei Da Jie. The taxi ride took us 40 minutes to the SML Holding building, in 1073 Jintong West Road, Chaoyang District, the new 4job4u offices. We didn’t feel the change, but the company had jumped from 1500 mts2 of office space to 3500 mts2. We were just landing and on the verge of getting our first lesson on business in China.

We occupied the conference room in the 13th floor, facing the CCTV Station of China. After 90 minutes of logistic and coordination with Xen Xin, CEO PA, we met Stephen Dedalus, who immediately gave us a tour around the new offices, introducing us to the different work groups and explaining the new branding posters displayed on the wall. The 4job4u Tiger was coming back. The brand has been declining along the last four years, but still has recognition, a positive equity. Many experienced and talented people have left the company.

March 2013 results are heavily influenced by seasonality. However, 4job4u results against their gigantic competitors were spectacular. While zhaopin.com was flat and 51jop.com grew at a 4.5% in March, 4job4u.com grew at a staggering 40%!!... posters were shouting aloud on the new offices walls that contained the cubicles of Hunters and Farmers. People need to be motivated, Stephen remarked, we need to show them that they are doing a good work, that the new 4job4u it is underway. Traffic will come, results will come.

I visited 16 offices the last 2 weeks, he explained. It is the first time I made myself available to the people. In three occasions people approached me to talk about difficulties produced by a sort of fraud or corruption in some of our products . A product that should have a gross margin of about 40 or 50%. It seems that previous administration wasn’t directly involved with the people in the regional offices. It was a remote relationship. A system of kicks-back slowly permeated the practices of sales, project management, providers, and customer’s people. It was a catastrophe for the previous American investors and we have to fix it.

I'll have a meeting with Jin Li Bo, Product Manager and Zhao Ma, Sales Director. I need to change this current inherited situation. I brought them to my office in Beijing to discuss this issue openly. Do you want to observe the conversation?

No more than 40 seconds later we were seated shoulder to shoulder around a small circular table in his office listening to a conversation intermediated by a translator. Jingli is a low margin market, started the Sales Director of the Tianjin region, we do not have entertainment budget… It took 10 min to Stephen to ask his managers not to tell him manipulative stories. Don’t lie to me, he said, the erosion in product profitability it is not caused by market conditions, it was caused by a system of kick-backs… and you are aware of that. Are you? He asked. Both approved nodding their heads and barely whispering. Were you involved? Are you playing a role in this mechanism? He continued. No, they whispered again. I’ll trust you this time. Go and fix this situation, call me with a clear report of what you have done, and a proposal. I don't want lies, no hidden costs, and no automatic approvals for dinner. I understand that there are some practices in the market, but I don’t want to hide what happens, but make it visible and shape it. If you need something, you call me. Ok? This time I’ll trust you.

We were introduced to “guanxi” a couple of hours after landing, one of the key aspects of the Chinese business way.

The meeting was over in twenty minutes. Then we were back to the conference room and we spent the early afternoon organizing the next few weeks of the projects. We listened for the third time that his main concern was to develop his team, that people outside and around him. He spoke as if there was no connection between their change and his change, their behavior and his behavior. However, he suggested he might need to learn something here.

Well, I answered trying to capitalize on the opening, let me share some of my initial assessments about you. You are the guy that resolves all the issues and makes all the decisions in the company; you do not give room for people to learn from their own mistakes, you don’t give room for your team to come up with proposals, you manage by request and all this may not be sustainable for the leap you drew in the business case, and for the new business phase you are already engaged in. These are my reactions about you, not even preliminary assessments. So, I won’t spend much time defending them in a conversation. It is just for you to know about my reactive point of view.

We are here to help you to prepare your team and your company’s core capacities.

There seems to be a great distance between you and your direct line of reports, my colleague said to Stephen. This fact will affect the dynamic and performance of your Integration Plan. Absolutely, answered Stephen, inserting his words in my colleague’s initial lines. Keep in mind Chinese people turnover in commercial roles. We are fundamentally sales. I’ll present the plan to the team tomorrow; you are invited to the meeting. I think it will be worth your time. He left to his next meeting.

Over the next few days, we traveled thousands and thousands of kilometers along East China. A succession of meeting rooms, hotels, food rooms, train stations, airports and taxis. I never had the sensation of having left the Beijing airport. Never felt a genuine piece of the mythical and legendary China… and nevertheless that was China.

Lessig and basic, basic repairs to our Representative Democracy

April 09, 2013


Representative Democracy is delivering very poor service to the citizen. Time to fix it. It doesn't need disruptive innovation, just basic repair...Basic, very basic citizenship... fight against corruption, especially when it is at the center for our institutions and so ubiquitous and so covered by pompous language that nobody gaf about it. We need the schools to educate the kids to take the addiction out of papa, as they did with tobacco!!!!... just start moving, just do something that can accumulate, just move in a systematic direction... as Plato would have said, it time for the pendulum of the Republic to swing toward mechanisms of distributing agency that are more in tune with the spirit of the city, the polis.

The Bird's Nest

April 08, 2013

Guillermo Beijing National Stadium pic 201303
Ai WeiWei, Herzog & de Meuron, Li Xinggang, Enerpac, 1.3 billion humans, CCP, 42,000 tons of Chinese steel, Baosteel, Wuhan Iron and Steel, Q35, Q460, CITIC consortium, Beijing Municipal Government, IOC, ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, polytetrafluoroethylene, pervious concrete, Arup Lighting, 7,811 square meters of grass, CATIA advanced 3D model-based design software, Chinese ceramics, plate tectonics...

Less management, more value

April 05, 2013

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall we have experienced a couple of hypes and a succession of disastrous pseudo-landings combining a blend of illegal wars, financial crises, and expensive dinners in which the attendees were subtly or forcefully struggling about avoiding the bill and setting up others to pay for it. We have a collection of epic moments: Beijing's Tienanmen; Moscow's Red Square defense of democracy; the Arab Spring; the students asking for better education in Chile; and the British astonishingly - jaws loose - observing Murdock's news empire pinching mobile phones and bribing their officials.

In these years there were also some incredible events: the silicon integrated circuits powered Internet achieved 100K hosts twenty four years ago and over 904 million hosts yesterday; we've entered into a new geological era: the anthropocene. We are clouded, mobile, and earth-bound. Not a molecule of this was managed, it simply happened. All of this was carefully managed: it happened by neither chance nor fate. Everything was a wave of translations and trials of strength in a vast pluralistic network. Value has been produced, destroyed and distributed.

This is the world in which we "manage" a vast value-chain that delivers value to multiple constituencies. Some of them humans, others non-humans; some beautiful and powerless, others tyrannical and grey. The people that manage are people engaging in conversations through their natural voice. Are they task-controlling freaks? Decision makers? Team leaders? Agile-lean teams? Game players? Everything at once?

We want fewer people managing, and more people playing and adding value in value games. More people putting their life in everything they do, less people selling their time.

Game architecture and game mentorship are becoming the essence of management. That's what we did with SSE Onshore Renewable Energy in Scotland and it works!