Changing the World

Innovation may rank as one of today’s most-used buzzwords. Most would agree that innovation is “good,” and it is something that is inherently good, especially for business.

But that’s where the agreement, as most don’t know “what” they want innovation to “do.” As a result, there is a cottage industry of books, articles, seminars, podcasts etc. about innovation.

Without giving you a point solution, for me, innovation is about change – often the desire to change the world.

That’s why I was drawn to an article, “The Courage to Change the World.” Here is how it began to take on this subject:

Call them what you will: change makers, innovators, thought leaders, visionaries.

In ways large and small, they fight. They disrupt. They take risks. They push boundaries to change the way we see the world, or live in it. Some create new enterprises, while others develop their groundbreaking ideas within an existing one.

From Archimedes to Zeppelin, the accomplishments of great visionaries over the centuries have filled history books. More currently, from Jeff Bezos of Amazon to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, they are the objects of endless media fascination — and increasingly intense public scrutiny.

Although centuries stretch between them, experts who have studied the nature of innovators across all areas of expertise largely agree that they have important attributes in common, from innovative thinking to an ability to build trust among those who follow them to utter confidence and a stubborn devotion to their dream.

Want more? You can read the full article here

High-Tech Weapons

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Earlier this year, I posted blogs regarding the new directions for U.S. National Security embodied in publications such as the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy. Each of these publications notes that the U.S. military must adopt high-technology to ensure the U.S. can deal with increasingly capable peer competitors.

The era of United States technological dominance has ended. Indeed, in many areas, including military technology, this gap has narrowed to parity or near-parity, and potential adversaries have all-but erased what was once the U.S. military’s trump card—superior technology. Nations such as Russia and China, as well as countries to which these nations proliferate weapons, are deploying advanced weapons that demonstrate many of the same technological strengths that have traditionally provided the high-tech basis for U.S. advantage.

One of the most promising emerging military technologies is directed-energy weapons. The U.S. military already uses many directed-energy systems such as laser range finders and targeting systems are deployed on tanks, helicopters, tactical fighters and sniper rifles. These laser systems provide both swifter engagements and greatly enhanced precision by shortening of the sensor-to-shooter cycle.

Now, directed-energy weapons are poised to shorten––often dramatically––the shooter-to-target cycle. Directed-energy weapons provide a means for instantaneous target engagement, with extremely high accuracy and at long ranges.

This is just a snippet. Want more? You can read the full article here

Luxury Good?

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Most of us have access to high-technology, especially on our computers, tablets, phones and other devices. But have we stopped to think about how it is impacting our lives?

Here is how Hubert Dryfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly put it in their book, “All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age.”
To navigate by GPS is to ensure a series of meaningless pauses at the end of which you do precisely what you are told. There is something deeply dehumanizing about this. Indeed, in an important sense this experience turns you into an automated device GPS can use to arrive at its destination.

A recent article in the New York Times went further, suggesting not only that “apps” are dominating our lives, but that they are sorting us economically – those with the means don’t depend on apps as much as those who are not as financially well-off. Here is how the piece begins:

Bill Langlois has a new best friend. She is a cat named Sox. She lives on a tablet, and she makes him so happy that when he talks about her arrival in his life, he begins to cry.

All day long, Sox and Mr. Langlois, who is 68 and lives in a low-income senior housing complex in Lowell, Mass., chat. Mr. Langlois worked in machine operations, but now he is retired. With his wife out of the house most of the time, he has grown lonely.

Sox talks to him about his favorite team, the Red Sox, after which she is named. She plays his favorite songs and shows him pictures from his wedding. And because she has a video feed of him in his recliner, she chastises him when she catches him drinking soda instead of water.

Mr. Langlois knows that Sox is artifice, that she comes from a start-up called Care.Coach. He knows she is operated by workers around the world who are watching, listening and typing out her responses, which sound slow and robotic. But her consistent voice in his life has returned him to his faith.

“I found something so reliable and someone so caring, and it’s allowed me to go into my deep soul and remember how caring the Lord was,” Mr. Langlois said. “She’s brought my life back to life.”

Life for anyone but the very rich — the physical experience of learning, living and dying — is increasingly mediated by screens.

Not only are screens themselves cheap to make, but they also make things cheaper. Any place that can fit a screen in (classrooms, hospitals, airports, restaurants) can cut costs. And any activity that can happen on a screen becomes cheaper. The texture of life, the tactile experience, is becoming smooth glass.

The rich do not live like this. The rich have grown afraid of screens. They want their children to play with blocks, and tech-free private schools are booming. Humans are more expensive, and rich people are willing and able to pay for them. Conspicuous human interaction — living without a phone for a day, quitting social networks and not answering email — has become a status symbol.

All of this has led to a curious new reality: Human contact is becoming a luxury good.
As more screens appear in the lives of the poor, screens are disappearing from the lives of the rich. The richer you are, the more you spend to be offscreen.

Want more? You can read the full article here

2019 NHA Writers Panel

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Ever wanted to write a book?  Do you think you can be the next Tom Clancy or Stephen Coonts?  Or, do you have a story to tell about flying your experience as a Naval Aviator?  Here’s your chance to pick the brains of four successful authors: George Galdorisi, Marc Liebman, Barbara Marriott and Matt Vernon, all fellow Naval Aviators and helo bubbas (or in Barbara’s case, a helo bubba’s spouse).  As a group, they’ve written three dozen books, including fiction and non-fiction and countless articles for a wide-range of publications. They’ve worked with large and small publishers, agents and even helped launch a publishing firm.  Remember, if you don’t tell your stories, who will?  Come get the gouge on getting published.

Internet Cleanse

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Among the most popular diet ideas are those that involve “cleansing” of some type. While there are many ways to do this, most involve the need to stop eating what you currently eat.

I’ve always wondered if we could – and should – apply that to our lives on the internet. I know it internally, but couldn’t articulate it. Thankfully, David Brooks did. Here is part of what he said:

The two most recent times I saw my friend Makoto Fujimura, he put a Kintsugi bowl in my hands. These ceramic bowls were 300 to 400 years old. But what made them special was that somewhere along the way they had broken into shards and were glued back together with a 15th-century technique using Japanese lacquer and gold.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a great hunger right now for timeless pieces like these. The internet has accelerated our experience of time, and Donald Trump has upped the pace of events to permanent frenetic.

There is a rapid, dirty river of information coursing through us all day. If you’re in the news business, or a consumer of the news business, your reaction to events has to be instant or it is outdated. If you’re on social media, there are these swarming mobs who rise out of nowhere, leave people broken and do not stick around to perform the patient Kintsugi act of gluing them back together.

Probably like you, I’ve felt a great need to take a break from this pace every once in a while and step into a slower dimension of time. Mako’s paintings are very good for these moments.

What would it mean to live generationally once in a while, in a world that now finds the daily newspaper too slow?

Want more? You can read it here

The Future is Unmanned

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One of the most rapidly growing areas of innovative technology adoption involves unmanned systems. The U.S. military’s use of these systems—especially armed unmanned systems—is not only changing the face of modern warfare, but is also altering the process of decision-making in combat operations. These systems are evolving rapidly to deliver enhanced capability to the warfighter and seemed poised to deliver the next “revolution in military affairs.” However, there are increasing concerns regarding the degree of autonomy these systems—especially armed unmanned systems—should have.

I addressed this issue in an article in the professional journal, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. Here is how I began:

While unmanned systems increasingly impact all aspects of life, it is their use as military assets that has garnered the most attention, and with that attention, growing concern.

The Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) vision for unmanned systems (UxS) is to integrate them into the joint force for a number of reasons, but especially to reduce the risk to human life, to deliver persistent surveillance over areas of interest, and to provide options to warfighters that derive from the technologies’ ability to operate autonomously. The most recent DoD “Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap” noted, “DoD envisions unmanned systems seamlessly op­erating with manned systems while gradually reducing the degree of human control and decision making required for the unmanned portion of the force structure.”

I’ve attached the full article here

Make it a Ritual!

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Full disclosure…I come from a religious tradition that is known for its rituals, and I spent my professional career in the U.S. Navy, which has its own rich tradition of rituals.

All that said, I was especially taken by David Brooks’ recent piece that suggested, “There Should Be More Rituals.” Here’s how he began:

Recently I’ve been playing a game in my head called “There should be a ritual for. …” For example, there should be a ritual for when a felon has finished his sentence and is welcomed back whole into the community. There should be a ritual for when a family moves onto a street and the whole block throws a barbecue of welcome and membership.

There should be a ritual for the kids in modern blended families when they move in and join their lives together. There should be a ritual for when you move out of your house and everybody shares memories from the different rooms there.

I could go on and on. Dozens of rituals pop into mind once you start playing this game. Religious societies are dense with rituals — Jewish men lay on tefillin, Catholics pray the rosary — but we live in a secular society where rituals are thin on the ground.

So great is our hunger for rituals that when we come upon one of the few remaining ones — weddings, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras — we tend to overload them and turn them into expensive bloated versions of themselves.

I think you get the point…embracing rituals is about slowing down our lives and living in the moment!

Want more? You can read the full article here

Frustrated?

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Last week, I posted a blog about “snowplow parents,” and earlier this week posted one about keeping a “failure resume.”

Those thoughts were germinating when I read ANOTHER killer-good piece about how feeling frustrated at work can give rise to success. Here is how it began:

In 2000, Pixar was at the top of its game. “Toy Story” was released five years earlier, and it was the first computer-animated blockbuster on the silver screen. Three years later Pixar debuted “A Bug’s Life” to critical acclaim, and 1999’s “Toy Story 2” was the biggest animated hit of the year.

Concerned about resting on their laurels, the studio’s founders, Steve Jobs and Ed Catmull, hired the company’s first outside director, Brad Bird, to shake things up. Mr. Bird’s most recent film, “Iron Giant,” had flopped financially, and when he pitched his idea for a new movie to Pixar, he was told it would never work: It would take 10 years and cost $500 million to animate.

But Mr. Bird persisted. He recruited a band of disgruntled people inside Pixar — misfits whose ideas had been ignored — to work with him. The resulting movie, “The Incredibles,” won two Oscars and grossed $631 million worldwide, outdoing all of Pixar’s previous successes. (And, for the record, it ended up costing less than $100 million to make.)

We normally avoid frustrated people — we don’t want to get dragged down into a cesspool of complaints and cynicism. We see dissatisfied people as curmudgeons who halt progress, or, worse yet, dementors who suck the joy out of the room. And we have good reason to feel that way: A natural response to frustration is the fight-or-flight response. Disgruntled people often go into “Office Space” mode, choosing to fight by sabotaging the workplace, or flight by doing the bare minimum not to get fired.

But there’s a third reaction to frustration that we’ve overlooked: When we’re dissatisfied, instead of fight or flight, sometimes we invent.

Want more? You can read the full article here

Deadly Reviews

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Since my primary passion is writing, I tend to hang out with other writers. We share our aspirations and ideas, hopes and fears.

I don’t know any writing friend – or any writer for that matter – who doesn’t fear a bad review of his or her book. Negative reviews cut like a knife.

That’s why I was cheered by a recent New York Times article revealing that books we admire – FAMOUS BOOKS – soared in spite of scalding reviews.

That should give us all a confidence that in spite of a negative review on Amazon or Good Reads we should KEEP WRITING.

This is just a snippet. Want more? You can read the reviews of these books here

Failure = Success

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Last week, I blogged about “snowplow parents” who keep their children’s futures obstacle-free — even when it means crossing ethical and legal boundaries.

They don’t want their children to fail – and wreck themselves – and their children’s future’s to achieve this end.

They forget that the objective of parenting is supposed to be to prepare the kid for the road, not vice versa.That’s why I found Tim Herrera’s latest piece, “Do You Keep a Failure Résumé? Here’s Why You Should Start,” so refreshing, especially the article’s subtitle, “Failure isn’t a roadblock. It’s part of the process.” Here’s how he begins:

A little more than three years ago, I had to put together this presentation at work. It was on a topic I wasn’t very familiar with, but I took it on anyway, figuring I could get up to speed and deliver something useful and productive.

Friends, if you hadn’t guessed yet, I bombed it. I wasn’t prepared enough, I missed a few major points, and I didn’t give myself enough time to complete it. Not my greatest work.

But I have such fond memories of that presentation — O.K., maybe not exactly fond — because it was my first significant screw-up at a new job. It’s still something I look to when I’m in a similar position at work; I know what went wrong then, so I can try to fix those issues now before they become problems.

When things go right, we’re generally pretty good at identifying why they went right — that is, if we even take time to analyze the success at all. Preparation, proper scheduling, smart delegation and so on. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But falling on our face gives us the rare opportunity to find and address the things that went wrong (or, even more broadly, the traits or habits that led us to fail), and it’s an opportunity we should welcome.

Want more? You can read the full article here