Monday, August 01, 2005

A Short History of Progress

Restful long weekend. I did go into the office for a few hours on Saturday and did work a few hours today. I feel quite caught up which is good since I go to California this week and usually fall a bit behind when that happens.

Elizabeth got a new bicycle on Saturday so we did have a cycle adventure on Sunday. 3 ½ hours of cycling (from south Guelph to West Mountrose) followed by an unfixable flat tire followed by a long walk and eventually a ride by the son of a friend (thank you Rob). It was perfect weather for an adventure. Moderation is not yet something I have mastered.

I finished 3 books this weekend. (I always speak in terms of finishing books since I tend to read 4-7 at a time. A few chapters of one then another, different books in different places for different circumstances.

My health book was “Body for Life” an old classic by Bill Phillips. It was good and inspirational although I disagree with some of his theory. For me, I would rather just eat real and healthy food rather than synthetic shakes. Part of maturity in reading is filtering information – accept the good stuff and filter what is not agreeable without rejecting the whole work. One method he uses that is great he calls the high point technique. I call it peak training. Progressively work at higher intensity until you cannot lift (or run) more, then reduce weight and then go to the high point again. I do know this is the way to gain strength.

My business book was “Fast Innovation” by Michael George. This work is based on one of my favourite books “The Innovators’ Dilemma” by Clay Christensen. It talks a lot about disruptive innovation. Major changes in process or product that can give a company an edge. In our case it is likely to be process that will be the disruptive change. One of the challenges we have a SYNNEX is we tend to sell a non-differentiated product. As such, the margins are razor thin and the business is “cruelly efficient”. Still we need to seek that disruptive difference that can separate us from the competition. The challenge in lean companies is they often lack the resources to innovate.

And my favourite of the weekend was “A short History of Progress” by Ronald Wright. Similar to another favourite of mine – “Guns, Germs and Steel”. The book starts with “Where do we come from?”, “Where are we?” and “Where are we going” and proceeds to follow this through from the stone age to the present. One of the theories he espouses is “sometimes there can be too much progress”. Like making explosives that can blow up the world. Or on a smaller scale, the extinction of a species due to superlative hunting and harvesting techniques. This is a fast and riveting read – highly recommended (even though it is primarily recreational).

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