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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management

Having an exciting destination is like setting a needle in your compass. From then on the compass knows only one point–its ideal. And it will faithfully guide you there through the darkest nights and fiercest storms — Daniel Boone

Saturday, October 10, 2015

To the Moon and Back: We Can Do Hard Things

Leadership, Space Travel
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
10:15 am

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Kennedy moon speech 1961

A brief excerpt of the speech:

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

… in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

What a thrill it was of living through those years of incredible innovation, splendid courage and diligent work by so many people. As President Kennedy said, it was not just one man going to the moon, it was a nation united in effort to get that astronauts there and bring them back.

P.S.  I think the look on Lyndon Johnson’s face is priceless.  It is as if he were thinking, “What in the world has that guy been smoking? We’ll never do that!”


Avoid Insanity: Embrace Change

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
10:36 pm

Albert Einstein is credited with saying “Insanity is doing something over and over expecting different results.” I tend to do that – lapsing into familiar behavior patterns that I know through experience don’t produce desired results. 

Last Sunday morning, as I awoke from elusive dreams I can’t remember, I had these words running through my head: “Look, think and act differently.” Inspired advice? For me, it was.

I need to embrace change and look at challenges in my life differently, think about them differently, and act differently to overcome them.

For example, I know that sitting on the living room sofa alone in the evening watching some dumb cop show triggers insatiable hunger. I have experienced that over and over and over. I need to change that behavior. I am always less hungry when I am productively engaged in a meaningful project that focuses my mind away from food.

Professionally, I too often accept the status quo as the preferred approach. I must not be satisfied with the ways things have been.  I need to look for new, creative solutions, different ways of doing things that deliver better results.  I must be a catalyst for change, not someone along for the ride.

When I get back home from my current business trip, I am going to make a big sign like the little one above. Then, I am going to follow this advice. I am going to change. I want success, not insanity. Care to join me?


Business-led Innovation

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
2:01 pm


This morning I watched an interesting webcast where Bob Evans, Oracle’s Senior Vice President, Communications spoke with Jean-Marc Frangos Managing Director, External Innovation, BT Technology Service and Operations, on the subject of innovation to provide outstanding customer experience.  I was impressed with a statement Frangos made:

“Innovation is not something a special team does—it is something that must be ingrained in the mindsets and behaviors of everyone, and for which, ideally, there should be no special process.”

I learned that last year, Oracle sponsored a study on this subject by the Economist Intelligence Unit, “Cultivating Business-Led Innovation:”

The study, including results from a survey of 226 global respondents, also features customer, author, and expert interviews on strategies for fostering innovation, along with information about technologies that support innovation and lead to competitive advantage.

The study concluded six recommendations for improving the process of business-driven innovation:

Culture comes from the top: it’s up to the leadership to set a tone that makes workers feel empowered to innovate—and allowed to fail.

Success in innovation is also about failure: redeploying members of teams involved in failed innovations can help to increase the prospect of success elsewhere by ensuring that learnings are disseminated.

Pushing down authority is an enabler: empowering smaller teams to build their own tools to solve business problems helps to give rise to wider innovations.

Encourage small iterative projects: These set up an environment in which repeated experimentation and learning refine winning ideas.

Disruptive technology trends are empowering: executive respondents to our survey feel that the IT department should play a key role in educating business leaders about new technology trends. Knowledge is of course critical to using new technologies appropriately and effectively.

Get everyone involved: look for opportunities to increase the cross-fertilisation of ideas between as many business units as possible. Encourage customer participation and customer data comparisons in innovation initiatives.

Innovation is tough, especially for big companies with competing priorities.  It is always enjoyable to be involved with intelligent, motivated people who believe in innovation and create outstanding results.


Empathy in [Robotic] Leadership

Humor, Leadership
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
5:23 am

Empathy: The capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being.

Will we ever be led by robots  - with or without empathy?


I doubt that anyone has ever accused Larry Ellison of being a robot.


Learn to be Simple … Find Joy in Work

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
7:41 pm

Jay Deragon’s post today was entitled, “Reframing the Meaning of Work.”  The final phrase in the post was “learn to be simple.”

The proposed simplicity?

work with a purpose creates joy …

work that creates joy creates happy customers …

happy customers are loyal and more profitable.

How does this affect employees?

What happens when someone wants to pay you to do what you love to do? The meaning of work then changes to an extension of your natural talents and instead of labor there is joy. 

How about entrepreneurs?

The reason entrepreneurs love to work and usually don’t consider how much time they spend working is because they intrinsically understand the purpose of their work and it satisfies their heart and mind.

How does this affect you?  What is your purpose in work? Does it bring you joy?

Henry Ford


The Most Asymmetrical Aircraft Ever Made

Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, May 19, 2012
11:30 am

The photo below is of the Blohm & Voss 141, a concept aircraft produced for the the German air force, or Luftwaffe, during World War II. Despite its several advantages for the tactical reconnaissance role for which it was commissioned, this airplane “didn’t make sense to the German High Command, possibly simply because of its appearance,” dooming the project.

BF 141

Talk about trying to stuff square pegs into round holes!


Think Different!

Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, May 19, 2012
11:00 am

Yesterday, after I posted about square pegs in round holes, my daughter sent me the classic “Think Different” quote embodied in this video:

Interestingly enough, the video talks of “round pegs in square holes,” not the other way around as the idiom was originally conceived. How apropos! Think different(ly)!


Square Pegs and Round Holes

Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, May 18, 2012
3:12 pm

Square Peg; Round HoleDid you ever wonder where the term “square peg in a round hole” came from?  According to Wikipedia, the term first appeared a book by British novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton his late 19th century book, Kenelm Chillingly, His Adventures and Opinions:

Kenelm Chillingly asks, “Does it not prove that no man, however wise, is a good judge of his own case? Now, your son’s case is really your case —- you see it through the medium of your likings and dislikings, and insist upon forcing a square peg into a round hole, because in a round hole you, being a round peg, feel tight and comfortable. Now I call that irrational.”

The farmer responded, “I don’t see why my son has any right to fancy himself a square peg … when his father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, have been round pegs; and it is agin’ nature for any creature not to take after its own kind.”

As I see it, when square pegs and round holes meet, we have two options, both requiring significant change:

  1. Carve the square peg into a cylinder.
  2. Cut the round hole into a square.

If neither gives, a mismatch will persist.

Have you ever felt like that?


Remembering Steve Jobs

Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, October 8, 2011
7:12 am

I was honored to meet and work with Steve Jobs in 1984 as I led a project to enhance the capabilities of the information systems powering the new Macintosh factory in Fremont, California. I was but a small star in Steve’s large universe, but it was a privilege to see first hand bits and pieces of his genius that would make a profound impact on my life. It was only fitting that my iPhone, a brilliant example of his bold creativity and attention to product excellence, would deliver a news alert about his passing Wednesday afternoon.

In our home, I counted one old Apple II (a part of my personal computer museum), three Macintosh computers, one iPhone, one iPad, a whole raft of iPods, and several Pixar movies as tangible examples of his affect on our lives. Yes, we directly benefited from Steve’s genius.

As I pondered his death and considered my own mortality (I am two years older than he), I was impressed by Steve’s insight that he shared in his famous Stanford commencement address:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

“To Follow Your Heart” is great advice, but not always easy to follow.  I have found myself deeply reflecting on that advice during the past few days.  In the things which matter most – family and faith – I have followed my heart and have been blessed beyond measure.  But I must admit that professionally, I wonder.  Am I really engaged in the right things which will deliver the most value to my fellow beings and bring the most joy? Should I soldier on, or make significant changes?  What does my heart really say?

Thank you, Steve, for sharing your world-changing genius with all of us.   And thank you for triggering the deep introspection of the past few days.  May you rest in peace.

And than you, Jonathan Mak, for your inspiring logo tribute to Steve.


Conference Rooms and Company Culture

Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, October 8, 2011
6:06 am

Have you ever noticed how a company’s conference room naming convention reveals much about their company culture?  I have recently attended customer meetings in conference rooms “F” and “30.” How’s that for old school drabness?  In stark contrast were “Nazareth” and “KillZone,” offering conference room tribute to Jesus’ boyhood home and a popular video game, respectively.

I suppose that innovation and business success may have little to do with how conference rooms are named, but I prefer the stimulating names.

Copyright © 2005-2013, Mark G. Dixon. All Rights Reserved.
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