Monday, June 24, 2013

Like Sugar, Cotton and Oil, Software Solves Everything

In 1965, the world’s best-selling science fiction novel, Dune, introduced us to a future interstellar world at war over a “spice” called melange.  Found only on the desert planet of Arrakis, melange was the most sought-after substance in the universe, capable of providing human beings a better and longer life, and unlocking “prescience,” which made interstellar travel possible.

Melange, you might say, was a product advantaged beyond all others for its time and place.

Occasionally, there are commodities here on earth that have more than a passing similarity to Frank Herbert’s melange.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Want Innovation?--Think (Ames) Shovels

My thanks to friends and associates Greg Galer, Henry Ames, Bill Ames and Nicole Tourangeau Casper, Director of Archives and Historical Collections at Stonehill College, for their combined efforts in aiding me in today's visit to the Arnold B. Tofias Industrial Archives--the Ames Shovel Collection.

It's a gem located on the Stonehill campus in Easton, Massachusetts, not far from Oliver Ames's (1779-1863) famed Shovel Works, and tells the story of one of America's oldest enterprises--and the Industrial Revolution's great successes.

Were you to walk across America in first half of the 19th century, you would have found Ames shovels at work on every farm, foundation, country road, turnpike, canal and railroad in the early Republic.  Fun to see this collection in person.

A few pictures below.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Getting Things Done, Old Style

Joseph Paxton's famous "Emperor
Fountain" at Chatsworth
We live in the worlds of Big Business, Big Labor, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Data and, in the last decade or two, Big Productivity.

There’s an entire industry that’s emerged to promote productivity in the form of Getting Things Done (“stress-free” productivity!), First Things First, Franklin Covey, 7 Habits, the 4-Hour Work Week, a hundred apps, a thousand courses, and a steady barrage of articles all instructing us on how to use our time more wisely.

I am certain, for example, to stumble upon a dozen articles this year with advice on how to clear my email inbox.

We are challenged with “contexts” in our daily tasks, selective ignorance, interruption prevention and avoiding open loops.  Special red files store our life goals, which must not be mixed with the light blue files containing this Friday’s tasks.  Even our GPS reminds us to pick up toothpaste when we pass the CVS so as not to have to make a second trip.

So, it comes as something of a surprise when we discover someone from the past who, not having been blessed with all of this productivity advice, could get anything done at all.  But get it done they did, and many (whom we rarely hear about) lived extraordinary lives filled with an endless series of accomplishments.  I've had chance meetings with some of these folks in my research over the last few weeks and, for no other reason than I like their stories, share them with you here.