Posted: January 19, 2011 Filed under: Uncategorized
How would you draw the meaning of life?
The question probably raises eyebrows. Can we even know the meaning of life? If we can know it, isn’t it surely something too abstract or personal to ever illustrate in a picture?
Last March, I spent two days at Panera Bread, hunched over an Asiago Cheese bagel and a limitless supply of fresh hazelnut coffee, grappling with the question of what I was supposed to do with my life. What end was I to pursue? How could I have the best chance of working at something that would not be a waste of my life? Should I pursue greatness? If so, what did this look like?
This soul-searching produced the following picture:
Based upon one of Aesop’s fables, Jim Collins explains the “Hedgehog Principle” in his excellent book “Good to Great”. In a nutshell, a fox attempts to capture and eat a hedgehog using a myriad of different cunning schemes. At each attack, the hedgehog simply curls into a spiky ball, and waits for the fox to go away. The fox is frustrated in every brilliant, unique attempt by this one, simple defense. The moral of the story is that the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
Collins goes on to suggest that organizations center their activities at the intersection of the activities that they are passionate about, that they can be world-class at, and that drive their economic engine. Collins calls this “the Hedgehog Concept”.
Using a curious combination of the prayer, the Gladiator soundtrack, asiago, and hazelnut, I translated this concept into my own personal hedgehog concept. Christ died for our sins and called us from slavery to sin to slavery to God. By faith, we live under God’s authority and do His will, stewarding God’s gifts, expecting that God will reward us with heavenly treasures and provide daily bread.
Passion, Excellence, and Reward. If we pursue these things, and center our lives upon Christ’s work, I believe that we will find at the end of our race that we have not wasted our lives.
Posted: January 12, 2011 Filed under: Uncategorized
Welcome to Systems Illustrated!
Systems are more like songs and symphonies than like structures and skyscrapers. So, what does a system look like? This is the question that we will explore together through the materials presented here.
To start, let’s define our terms. I define a system — especially an information system — as a dynamic exchange of messages between people according to a defined process using some physical platform. The key words are Message, Person, Process, and Platform.
The simplest example of a true information system that I can give is one that everyone who has ever eaten at a restaurant has used.
- A waiter walks up to a customer. The waiter greets the customer and introduces herself. The customer acknowledges the greeting.
- The waiter asks if the customer is ready to order. The customer is ready and orders a meal. The waiter writes down the customer’s order on a pad of paper with a pencil. The waiter gives an estimate of how long the meal will take to arrive.
- The waiter takes the paper order to the cook. The cook lines up the order with all the other orders. The cook prepares the meal. The cook announces to the waiter that the meal is ready.
- The waiter brings the meal to the customer. The customer eats the meal.
- The waiter asks if the customer is finished and ready to pay. The customer is. The waiter brings the check (created from the order). The customer pays the check.
- The check is filed for the restaurant’s records.
You see that this simple, basic interaction describes a set of Messages (the greeting, the order, the check), a set of People (customer, waiter, cook), a set of Processes (the welcome, the order, the meal, the transaction), and at least one Platform (the waiter’s notepad and pencil).
Systems are more like symphonies — dynamic performances of many individual instruments to produce a total experience that resonates with a particular audience — than like skyscrapers.
No one ever stubbed their toe on a system.
So, what do systems “look” like?