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Encouraging Innovation

I recently read Gartner’s report, “New CIO Responsibilities in a Digital Business World“, and was intrigued by their encouragement to nourish the “three subcultures within IT”. They defined these subcultures as:

  • Operator (linear IT) — focused on keeping things running and improving, based on defined requirements where the priority is stability and reliability
  • Innovator (nonlinear IT) — focused on creating new business value and capabilities where the need for speed, innovation and exploring fuzzy requirements are valued
  • Guardian (leadership) — focused on ensuring the long-term success of the business, staying industrial strength while being ready for the future, balancing innovation with risk, ensuring a strategic long-term focus and investing in the capabilities required for the future

The standout in this list is the call out of “innovator” as a group that is focused on exploring the areas where a lot of ambiguity exists and is valued.  Innovation is getting a lot of play in the IT field, but it is also getting stifled by the frameworks for risk reduction that IT values so much. Old school and new school companies alike including AT&T, Adobe, and LinkedIN are establishing new organizational models to encourage  innovation via both financial empowerment and political empowerment. This suggests that innovation is not possible at the rate desired within the other two subcultures, operations and leadership.

Like many problems in this space, I believe it is a problem of structure. I also believe there are many structures that would succeed that do not result in a completely external group being formed. Google and other companies made famous in the last decade their application of 20% time — that is, 1/5 of the work week is designated to personally identified projects and the other 4 are dedicated to the initiatives that have been assigned. The problem here is that if you are within an operations group, much of your time is dictated by external forces, not planned project work.  The line is further blurred when you look at DevOps groups that are responsible for new development as well as ongoing operational support.

There is not a one-size-fits-all response to encourage innovation. Organizations are going to have to look at their internal structures, their industry, and all the forces being placed on those walls to determine how best to respond. But they must not overlook their existing talent, and should find ways to include them in the innovation process (ideation, gate reviews, etc.) even if they cannot be dedicated full time. At the same time, the existing talent must be open to new ideas, products and methods that may run counter to “the way we’ve always done things.”

A December to Forget

This month hasn’t been the worst ever, but it has been trying. I came down with the flu-like-crud on December 1st. This rendered my attempts to train futile. I think I’ve logged a single, solitary run this month. It took 3 weeks to recover. I had hoped that during this time my shoulder would recover. I injured it back at the end of October, and I’m not really sure HOW. Sadly it did not improve.

I went to the doctor today and the good news is that the x-rays and examination did not prove to be remarkable. The bad news is that it still hurts!  The doc gave me a cortisone shot along with prescriptions for an anti-inflammatory and physical therapy. I start the medication today and will go to PT on Monday. Hopefully this course of action will yield results where my previous plan of limiting use did not.  My next IM is not that far out in the future!

Lake Lanier Islands Triathlon 2014

Sunday, September 28th was the 10th annual Lake Lanier Islands Triathlon. It’s been eight years since I last ran this race. I dug out my Emerald Point Triathlon Race Recap after the fact to see how I did and how much I have evolved (or devolved!). In short, I’m eight years older and roughly 10 minutes faster.

Not much has changed at this venue since my last visit:

  1. Participants are now required to check their bike in the day before. Kind of a pain, but with 1000 folks at a small venue, it’s really a necessity.
  2. Body marking is gone. I guess this has been phased out over the past couple of years, but this was my first in a couple of years, so I was a bit surprised to see those temporary tattoos.  They are a real pain to remove too – baby oil is definitely required.
  3. The resort has created a marina in the area that was once the swim exit.  The huge climb up to transition is still there, but now you have to run across a long pier begin that climb.


I felt really good on the swim. It’s been awhile since I raced in open water. I felt like I sighted really well the whole way and kept an even stroke. Once I turned right at the first buoy, the field opened up a bit and I was able to swim my swim. My split was a bit disappointing because the chip time stopped at the mat in the transition area. It included the run across the pier and up the hill. Of course I took it easy here to avoid getting my heart rate up. I would’ve gone harder had I realized that was still part of my swim time. There was a mat at the swim exit, but I think that was just checking us in to the race.

Course and elevation profile of the Lake Lanier Islands triathlon.

Lake Lanier Islands Triathlon bike course


Regardless of what the literature says about flatness with only 1 real climb, the course is hilly.  You’re in North Georgia. It’s going to be hilly.  I executed the bike course really well, with an IF of 1.05.  Any more than that would’ve screwed my run, and even that may have negatively impacted my run a tiny bit.  My Garmin 705 had issues with the distance, registering a total of only 9.6 miles instead of the 12.5 – 13 that the course really is. Not sure what went wrong there. At least I have my power numbers – that is the most important part.


Lake Lanier Islands run course

Lake Lanier Islands run course


I had a pretty easy time finding my pace and getting out on the run course. Like the bike, there were a bunch of hills to deal with on this course, but only 1 of them was really of any significance that began in the second mile and was about 1/2 mile long.  I walked the hills which I think may be a result of cooking the legs a little too much on the bike. Or may just have been mental. Who really knows?  Once I hit mile 2 I was moving the whole way and passed a couple of folks in my a/g.  The finisher chute had started to deflate, but some kind folks were holding it up as I crossed the mat.  1 hour, 27 minutes.  Not too shabby for being older and not training nearly as much as I used to!


My transitions went really well. I had staged things well, and have Yankz on my running shoes. I could probably shave a minute off of each. It has been awhile since my last sprint tri, so I will just be content with it as is.

In summary, it was a great day. I had a lot of fun not only racing, but also in training the 8-10 weeks leading up to this event.

Outlook 2010 and 2013 Meeting Ribbon Missing

I recently experienced, for the second time, the case of the missing appointment actions ribbon in Microsoft Outlook.  I was running 2010 when it disappeared, and was greatly disturbed by it.  I found the article The Outlook ribbon disappears from Microsoft Outlook when you use the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Client for Microsoft Office Outlook on Microsoft Support. Sadly, I painstakingly fiddled with my registry as prescribed and found no relief.

It turns out that my problem was being caused by the iCloud plug-in.  How did I determine this? Process of elimination. I went to File – Options – Add Ins, clicked on the GO button next to “COM Add-ins”, and then unchecked the iCloud add-in.  Voila! All the meeting actions returned to view.


Shows that the meeting actions are once again visible.

My meeting actions have returned!

Mailbox iOS App – I Like It

Last year I looked at a new app called Mailbox that was promising to tame the beast that is your gmail inbox. At the time, I was turned off for a couple of reasons:

  1. There was a wait list within the application before I could use it. There were something like 500,000 people ahead of me.  This seemed bogus to me at first.
  2. They store my email on their servers.  I have my own system of rules setup within gmail, so this did not seem like an appealing approach to me.
  3. It was only available for gmail. I have an Exchange account for work and an iCloud account for personal communications. I was really looking for a more complete solution.

I finally gave in and began using the app a few weeks ago, and I really like it. I thought through my original list of complaints, and have come to grips with them in the following ways:

  1. Because they were storing messages, they needed disk and i/o capacity. The wait list approach allowed them to grow predictably rather than get flooded and be rated as a crappy app out of the gate. I think ratings probably did suffer a little bit by the wait list (e.g. it too me a long time to go back and give them a try), but in the end I haven’t heard anything negative about their service overall.
  2. Google stores my email on their servers. If I allowed them to, with all of their data mining and ad targeting capabilities, why wouldn’t I let someone else? How much worse could it really be?
  3. Mailbox added support for iCloud and Yahoo.  This made it so that all my personal mail (gmail and iCloud) could be processed by their app, and my work email could be entirely processed by the native iPhone email app.

What does mailbox provide that my own rules based approach not?  Reminders.  With Mailbox, I have the ability to tell it to remind me of a particular message later today, tonight, tomorrow, or at some future date and time. It then removes that message from my inbox so it does not clutter my thinking.  At the appropriate time, I get a notification on my phone and the message re-appears for me to act on.  The service also works with gmail rules – I just have to go back in and change my rules that route to my old “_Read” label to the one within Mailbox.  This will make it so that newsletters and other general information sources automatically go in a “to read” list that I can process when I have free time to catch up on stuff.

So far, so good. I am happy with the application as is, but also looking forward to seeing what these guys do next.

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