I have entered into a new collaboration for strategy and executive consulting. The business is called Interlink Partners, and our focus is on high level, rapid interventions to help companies manage growth and change.
One of the challenges faced by changing businesses is the need for an upgraded executive team, capable of quickly coming up to speed and delivering a real impact early. Hiring executives is a slow process at the best of times, and there is no guarantee that they will all arrive at the same time, or that they will work well together.
Our approach is to assemble a team of experienced executives, with CEO, strategy, operations, finance, marketing and international business skills. The impact of this is that the new team can get things done from the first day.
Having spent a long time in marketing and strategy, I’ve been often frustrated by the emphasis on “spin”—making things look better than they are. It’s a temporary way to make people feel better, but it doesn’t work as a sustainable strategy for marketing and sales.
This site on Squidoo is dedicated to thinking about this issue—it also links to other business-related resources:
Squidoo is interesting: it’s like a huge forest of bulletin boards, in which anyone can create a topic and host a discussion.
We’re just back from a month or so of travel to the UK and South Africa.
We had a great time staying with various members of our family in SA—Ralph’s apartment in Cape Town, Caroline and Peter’s holiday home in Onrus River, and Rob and Angela at Watermead. Here are a couple of photo galleries showing our trip to Cape Town and to the farm.
Here’s another gallery: this one is of our visit to Robben Island, the prison / leper colony where Nelson Mandela and many others were imprisoned. The tour is well worth the trouble: the trip through the prison was narrated by a man who was imprisoned there. His commentary was quite understated and matter-of-fact, but compelling and vivid.
The boys had a great time on the farm getting to know their cousins Claire and Emma, picking raspberries, swimming, sailing and playing a variety of board and card games.
Rob’s dairy is amazing—a rotary affair that goes around once every six minutes, and milks over 700 Jersey cows in a couple of hours. I don’t envy him the schedule: up at 0430 every morning, rain or shine!
Some of my architectural studies…
Digital morphology is the study of form using computer tools. We did a project last semester to explore the creation of new forms that might have architectural uses, with Autodesk’s 3dsMax software as the basic tool.
My exploration started with the way sails move in a wind field as boats tack into the wind. The movement of the sails was the starting point, and then we looked at ways of perturbing the surface, based on the characteristics of parts of the surface. I think this is still an early exploration, but I learned enough that with a suitable project I think I could use these tools to create something interesting and relevant.
Architecture and me
After many, many years away from architecture, I’ve enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco for a M.Arch degree, with the intention of practicing architecture in a couple of years. It’s a tough schedule, with classes three days a week and work two days a week, but it seems to be sustainable.
The school is a bit unusual in that all the academic staff are practicing professionals. This give the school a very down-to-earth flavour, although there is still room for theory. It’s interesting and fairly challenging from a time perspective. So far it’s a lot of fun.
I’m taking three classes: a design studio, a theory class looking at what architecture is and how architects work, and a class called “Computer Generated Morphology” that looks at using examples from nature, coded in a 3-D modelling environment, to generate architectural forms. These kinds of ideas are behind some of the things we’ve seen recently, for example the Beijing athletic stadium (the bird’s nest) and the Beijing Aquatic Center (the water cube). Both of these buildings used computer models to generate the actual structure of the buildings.
As time goes by, I’m hoping to post a bit about the classes and what I’m learning, but time is short with this schedule!
Back from a trip to LA
We drove down in my Acura—it’s comfortable for long distances. The purpose was to attend a party given in honour of Donald and Melany’s baby: Naomi. We stayed for a week or so, and it was good to see everyone again.
Towards the end, I developed a bronchial infection and was out of action: in fact it’s just on the mend now, a week later. As a result Marina had to drive us back, a tiring but not unmanageable task. Subsequently Caelean also developed a fever, and he’s also on the mend. We think both of these may be connected to Jeremy’s bout of pneumonia, but it’s hard to tell. So Marina is the only one left unscathed.
Naomi is a very cheerful child, now seven months old, and we attended her first outing to the beach, well hatted and protected from the sun. She was fascinated by the waves, and not at all fearful. I had previously only seen Naomi when she was very tiny, and of course at this stage she changes almost every day. I think her happy disposition will be an asset.
Naomi is born into the paparazzi world of digital photography: I’m sure she was photographed several hundred times during the few days we were there! But I am not inclined to publish pictures of other people’s children on the web, so if you would like to see any, please let me know.
Music for everyone
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design—it’s a community and a conference, held in Monterey each year. Their tag line is “ideas worth spreading”, and they publish videos of many of the short (under 20 minute) talks from the conference each year. This one is about music, and shows some work from MIT’s Media Lab that makes music much more accessible to everyone.
Music is more than…
I came across this (thanks, Stephanie!) this afternoon: it’s a group of people who get together to explore home-made musical instruments, many of them combinations of mechanical and electrical or electronic components. Some of them are played in conventional ways, some make music under computer control, and some combine multiple techniques.
What’s nice about this is that it describes a group of people who get together to share their ideas, and to have a good time together. It’s a long way from a conventional concert, but just as rewarding, and perhaps more so.
There’s a lot going on in electronic music—tonight the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (that’s right) is playing and I’m hoping to go. There’s also a group in the Bay Area that get together regularly to learn about electronics, computing and music. A week ago I went to a talk at UC Santa Cruz that presented some algorithmic music—I’ll try to post separately about that.
Yamkat and family
Sadly, we don’t have many pictures of ourselves sailing Yamkat—our 30′ Richard Woods catamaran. Here are a few from our very first sail, when we all had a chance to try her out, and the boys enjoyed taking the helm, and exploring the huge trampoline forward, from which they could see their reflections in the water (and no doubt other things of great interest…).
Between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, on the Pacific coast, lies the Ana Nuevo State Natural Reserve. It’s home to a big colony of elephant seals—in fact the largest colony in the world. Every few years we go out there to see them—it’s different at each season of the year, and this year we went out to see them in early February. The weather was cold and grey, but it didn’t rain (except for a few moments, perhaps), and we were able to have a great view of the different parts of the colony. It’s important to book, because you can only go near the animals as part of a guided tour, which keeps everyone safe, and limits the disruption to the seals.
They are really big—especially the males, which seem mountain-like. The males compete for rank in the colony, and develop deep scarring around their chests, and in some cases all around to their backs. The dominant male in a colony is kept busy chasing off all the other males.
There’s a lighthouse, with a now derelict keeper’s cottage on a low island facing out to sea. It must have been very inconvenient, with no direct access by land, and now it’s automated and the cottage is no longer used.