Why Healthcare Reform Will Move . . This Time

August 29th, 2009

Don’t confuse as social commentary the fundamental factor driving healthcare reform this time around, that as an advanced society we’re already paying the costs associated with the 40-50M Americans that are currently uninsured.

What? No left-leaning social ‘do-gooder’ rhetoric?  No, ‘leave the free market alone’ complaint?  Nope, it’s a simple fact.  Both perspectives have failed.

Again, this isn’t social commentary for the sake of social commentary.  We, as a whole, don’t particularly care to insure the uninsured out of a high standard of social justice (or that it’s generally perceived as the ‘right thing to do’) . . or we would have done it already.  And the ‘free market’ argument?  Bupkis.  We’ve gone from 20M to 30M to 40M to (nearly) 50M uninsured over the past how many years . . and decades?  That’s tremendous market growth (if you were to look at the uninsured as a market), and if the free market cared at all, meaning ’saw any profit in it’, there would have been a solution long, long ago that kept bringing people from ‘uninsured’ status back to ‘insured’.  The fact of the matter is the uninsured are treated as a cost, one that Americans aren’t particularly inspired to cover and one the free market doesn’t see any profit in.

So why is healthcare reform going to happen this time around?  Simply put, everyone has a story.  Whether it’s a mother or father, brother or sister, child, grandparent . . it doesn’t matter — Everyone either has or knows of a story too close to home.  It’s pill-splitting, it’s deferred care (and increased expense down the road), and it’s people dying for coverage days or weeks before they’re finally approved.  That’s the micro-momentum . . . little stories sprinkled across America.

The macro-momentum is that — boiled up — all that micro-momentum has the effect of having convinced nearly everyone that a) the system is broken (or nearly broken) and b) that all these ‘off the books’ expenses aren’t so off-the-books.

The impact on the uninsured is driving 2/3 of bankruptcy.  It’s fundamentally hitting people the hardest that most need coverage.  These costs aren’t hidden — In fact, they’re already incurred.  Sick people don’t just wander off, disappearing into the woods never to be seen or heard of again.  They, whether by their choice or the stranger standing next to them when they collapse in the street, are treated.  That’s cost.  And that’s cost we as an advanced society are already paying to cover, if just in the crude form our current system allows.

When it comes time for Congress to reconvene in September it is unclear exactly how healthcare reform will proceed, but proceed it will.

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Anything is Possible

July 17th, 2009

Sitting here on a Friday afternoon, isn’t it interesting the phrase isn’t ‘Everything (is possible)’?  Surely if you add it all up, anything adds up to everything . . eventually.  So, why isn’t it ‘Everything is Possible’?

Well, maybe it’s that we already know the answer, that while anything is possible, we know intuitively that the saying’s logical conclusion doesn’t necessarily apply to adding up all those anythings into one big everything.

But then what does that say about us?  Well, one thing is that we both understand and appreciate our limits — We know when to accept them and, on occasion, when to step beyond them.

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Twitter: The Launch Point for THE Next Major Virus Attack?

June 24th, 2009

Twitter is to a havoc-wreaking computer virus like airline travel is to a global pandemic.

When you think about computer viruses, you think about a) their capacity to inflict damage and b) their ability to propagate.  Devastating viruses are disastrous to those infected, but if they’re not able to spread very easily, they’re relatively innocuous to the overall population.  It’s the viruses that inflict massive damage and spread easily that are the most serious.

So, isn’t Twitter one of the greatest threats of all?

In the traditional model of virus distribution the goal is more often cumulative in the sense that the impact of a virus is intended to escalate and magnify its impact over time as computer after computer is infected — It’s a serial process, and the timescales involved typically ranged from weeks to months, even up to a year or more.  For instance, the Conficker virus reported to launch a major attack on April 1, 2009 was purported to be in circulation, active distribution, and on-going development in various forms by those responsible for perhaps a year.  No doubt they were and are yet still serious about whatever they’re up to, but there’s an element of time that works in both their favor . . and ours . . as the virus spreads.

But Twitter presents a different story.  What’s unique about Twitter is its combination of trusted status, instantaneousness, and anonymous forwarding to unknown URL’s (tinyurl and bit.ly are just two of many services used for the purpose of posting shortened, anonymous links on Twitter).  This particular combination has troubled me for quite some time, and it’s become article-worthy because of the growing prevalence of fake ’spam accounts’ on Twitter.  If you haven’t seen one, they’re relatively obvious fake accounts that post one or more links to advertising or virus-infected pages that then follow a thousand or more Twitter accounts, laying in wait for anyone unwitting enough to visit and click on one of the fake links before — Poof! — they’re suddenly spammed with advertising or, worse, infected with a virus.

The saving grace thus far is that these fake ’spam accounts’ are set aside if even only slightly by the fact someone actually has to visit the fake ’spam account’ page for it to actually be dangerous (or, for those more technically adept with Twitter, a heavy Twitter user inadvertently electing to follow one of these fake ’spam accounts’, thereby introducing links to spam or viruses into their personal timeline).  Either way, everyone is ever so slightly ‘protected’ by the fact they must actually engage in some manner in order to open the door to being spammed or infected.

But that all changes if (or when) whoever’s spreading spam and viruses via Twitter successfully cracks a real person’s account.  Think about it, your computer could just as easily be infected by Lance Armstrong on the opening day of the Tour de France as it could be from opening an attachment in your e-mail.  Lance Armstrong has — get this — exactly 1,145,304 followers on Twitter (just checked).  How many of those follower would willingly click on any link he publishes . . . and not give it a moment’s thought?

And how many of those who click would simply look to the rest of us like they’re totally absorbed with the link Lance just posted as each of their computers get infected or, absolute worst case, starts dropping off the internet forever as their hard drives crash.  It’s not far fetched — The reality is that upwards of 1,000,000 computer could be infected (and possibly destroyed) in a matter of minutes.  That’s parallel, not serial virus distribution, and that’s way more alarming than what we’ve faced to date.

Obviously, Lance Armstrong would never be party to such an act — Taking down 1,000,000 of his fans’ computers would do damage to his reputation, too.  But that’s, in part, what makes it possible and perhaps even more likely, the fact everyone trusts Lance Armstrong . . . and everything he (purportedly) posts.

This is a make-or-break issue for Twitter — No company can simply walk around killing its Customers, intentional or not.  It’s not just bad for business — It ends the business.  And it could very well be the end of Twitter should something like the above ever actually occur.

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EntrepreneurialC has Launched!

May 11th, 2009

Anyone with a little investigative insight will see that this is truly the ‘first’ post, thus at least dating the official moment when WordPress was installed and the backbone for the EntrepreneurialC was established.

But that tidbit is beside the point.  After much investigation and discussion with quite a number of colleagues followed by contemplation and critical thought, here is EntrepreneurialC.

What is EntrepreneurialC?  Well, the more serious explanation is that it is the coupling of Entrepreneurship and Consulting, and specifically their ability to project and manage the unknown, respectively.  What’s ‘known’ is generally easier to contend with, in part, due to its familiarity, but it’s the ‘unknown’ that is typically much, much larger and that presents many more challenges and opportunities to achieving success.  EntrepreneurialC is a fundamental recognition that it’s how well a business can contend with and navigate the unknown that drives performance, not a pattern of sticking to the relatively little ‘known’ (and trying to make the best of that).

The more light-hearted explanation, which also serves as a tag line of sorts, is that “It’s like Vitamin C for your business.”

Businesses are too often tempted and trapped to fall into ineffective, unproductive practices . . . It’s hard to always be your best, and if you’re lucky enough to be there, it’s even harder to stay on top.  I’m reminded of a professor of mine sharing a story in class while earning my MBA.  His story focused on an encounter with the CEO of a well-known and global company and the CEO’s reluctance to allow a case study to be written depicting how well the company was both performing and structured for success into the future.  The CEO’s fear?  That a mere case study would sow the seeds of complacency in a company the reaps the rewards to this day (and suffers the penalties) of Moore’s Law.  His fear was that 18 months later he could find himself in a whole heap of trouble having possibly fallen backward as opposed to constantly leaning forward.

Simply put, the CEO was afraid of his company learning how good they really were.  Even that mere knowledge, that was enough to threaten what kept the company going, namely its innovative drive and leadership . . . and constantly driven by the unknown.

And it’s that that similarly drives EntrepreneurialC.

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Facebook is about to Implode

April 21st, 2009

Facebook isn’t working, at least it’s not working, i.e. performing, the way it should.

More pointedly, its financial performance is not outpacing its success in gaining traction.

[When I decided to feature this article with the launch of EntrepreneurialC, my inclination was to provide a solid example for applying entrepreneurial and consulting perspectives to a situation most people are familiar with and, more importantly, to do so in an easily understood style, hence this article and its focus on Facebook.]

So why is Facebook about to implode?

Get Rich Being LazyFacebook ads generally stink.  They don’t promote value.  They’re driving to the lowest common denominator (if they haven’t already).  And they don’t connect with ‘me’, at least not in any way, shape, or form that I would expect based on how much information Facebook has on me.

For a week I made it a point to look at the ads being served, and I became even more discouraged.  Again and again, ads like the one to the right were the most prevalent.  (I took a snapshot of this particular ad just because I thought it so exemplified how crappy and pointless most of the ads are.)  Not all Facebook ads stink — They don’t.  But let’s be just as fair in calling this ad out (and others like it) for the crap that they are.

This one complaint is probably my biggest — Surely, Facebook can’t possibly believe there’s greater monetization to be had on my traffic by encouraging me (and everyone else) to be lazy, can they?  Yet, here it is. 

Facebook is basically just one huge, multi-dimensional Twitter.  I actually am a (reluctant) fan of Twitter so, this is not nearly as backhanded a compliment as it might sound.  But here’s the deal . . . In large part, Facebook is just a lot of specifically-targeted, typically short, though not 140-character limited, messages and whatnot . . . and that’s pretty much about it.  Just because one is a comment on a photo and another is a comment on someone’s status doesn’t really mean they’re not fundamentally the same thing — They’re still, for the most part, just short and sweet messages pervasively floating in and out of everyone’s profiles.  But that’s not why I’m critical of Facebook.

Why I’m critical on this specific point is that I have yet to see where (or to what) all this adds up to.  If I take Twitter by comparison, what sold me on its value is that one day I could not access my GMail account.  I wasn’t sure if it was my computer, my network, my ISP, or Google itself.  All it took was a 20-second visit to search.Twitter.com to see that — Yup — lots of people were commenting on their lack of access.  That answered my question, ended my search (and waste of time), and I was able to productively move onto something else in the meantime.  How or in what manner Facebook delivers that sort of value doesn’t seem to exist, and it’s unclear if it ever will.

On occasion, Facebook applications are serving viruses.  This is no joke.  You would think this criticism would be listed first (and I’m not sure it shouldn’t be).  I will say that this point was what tipped the scales to writing this article and deciding to feature it with the launch of EntrepreneurialC.  It’s still stunning, but an application — without question — served me a virus (and tried to do so more than once).

Regardless of the architecture behind the scenes, the applications are branded with Facebook’s look and feel, and regardless of where exactly the content is coming from, it’s Facebook’s reputation that’s at stake.   Simply put, it’s awful business to jeopardize your Customer’s ability to consume your products or services.  Infecting a computer means a lost Customer — It’s unclear to me how Facebook’s architecture would ever allow for this possibility (without their being a serious lack of appreciation of who their Customers really are and what Facebook must do to gain and keep their business).

[The details are that I was using Chrome, was advised by Chrome on at least two occasion 'not to proceed' for fear of being directed to 'unsafe' pages, and that an immediate scan by Norton Internet Security found (and removed) a virus.  Two instances of trying to report this went unanswered.]

Facebook has regularly encountered technical issues.  This comes and goes, but technical issues that ‘bring down’ Facebook make for a pretty weak argument for Facebook being part of the fabric of how people live their lives.  If Facebook really wants everyone using it all the time, then Facebook needs to be available all the time.  I’ve done enough in the areas of Operations and IT to know that ‘things happen’, but that’s not an excuse — It’s just a reality.  The approach is to try and proactively prevent as many of those types of situations as possible and, on the (rare) occasion that something bad does happen, to take that particular situation and both learn and apply everything you possible can from it, making it more and more unlikely that bad things will happen in the future.  It’s not easy — In fact, it’s very, very difficult.  But it’s the right answer, and yet I’m not seeing clear signs that Faceook has that approach completely and thoroughly in place.

[I'm listing this point because technical issues have clearly happened with some regularlity, but it's listed fourth because I've yet to find much convincing evidence either way on whether this really is a significant factor in Facebook's future.]

So how does all this add up to an ‘implosion’ of Facebook?  Well, go back and look at each point and apply the following tags in order . . . ‘Revenue’, ‘Value’, ‘Security’, and ‘Reliability’.  As those tags more intuitively link for most people and how they judge whether a company will succeed or fail, you’ll likely get my point (if you haven’t already).

Keep in mind, this isn’t a forecast of the future — It’s an assessment of where certain things stand at this relative moment in time.  Standing by the above, there is much that must be accomplished if Facebook wants to sustain itself and achieve its goals, financial and otherwise.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other strategies at play that may not mitigate some of the above.  Remember, it’s a game of overall, not unilateral, success across all fronts — The path to Success often encounters Failure along the way.

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