Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Good Ole' Problem Solving

As we dig deeper into Common Core, we're finding that more and more of our Math is looking like those good ole' fashioned "word problems" (as they were called in back in the day).  Our students can't seem to get enough of them.  The more tasks they do and are able to solve, the more they seem to want them!  I think the thing students are enjoying most is the challenge itself.  Speaking of "back in the day," I can't help but wonder if I had been given an opportunity to solve some real world problems with my friends, been able to talk about them, share our ideas, make a plan of action, implement, and solve them, I might have been a little more successful at problem solving.  All I remember is someone telling me to look for key words like "all together" and "difference."  Yes, those are important too, but shouldn't drive how a student goes about solving a problem.  There are many ways to solve problems.
At an inservice this summer our presenter gave us a super difficult 5th grade math task.  She gave us a few minutes to think about it and plan for how we would solve.  I began drawing pictures because I'm an artist...Um, no, that's how my brain works!  When my table got a chance to get together and share how we solved the problem, I was amazed at the different strategies all the teachers used to get it!  I honestly didn't even understand how one teacher got there, but she did! (She must be gifted!)  
Anyhow, I loved the process and although my title says "Literacy Coach," I've been able to work with some small groups of students.  Their little faces light up when I bring in some problem solving for them.  It's no longer a chore, but a coveted challenge.  They want to show me not one way, but multiple ways they can arrive at the same answer.  Check out the work a group of 2nd graders did for me today trying to figure out what combination of 14 coins made $2.14.  Each one worked individually on the outside of the circle while discussing with each other what worked and didn't.  What did it sound like?  "Don't try a bunch of pennies...that sure didn't work." "I tried half dollars and some quarters, but that doesn't work either."  "I'm getting closer when I change my quarters to dimes and nickels."  "I'm giving this problem to my DAD!"
What did it look like?  A MESS!  Don't ya' love their scribbles where they tried something and it didn't work?  When they finally arrived at the answer it went in the middle so they could proudly display their accomplishment.  

All this problem solving motivated me to create a problem of the day activity for each month.  I actually started in early October, but it took me longer than I hoped to finish.  So...the October one is done and October is about OVER!  Yes, that's how I roll sometimes.  :-)  I scrambled to finish NOVEMBER for those that want to start right away!  Click on the image for a trip to my TpT store to investigate. It's geared specifically with 3rd grade in mind, but 4th would enjoy, and if you have some high flying 2nd graders, they'd be challenged!  If you like it, let me know and I'll throw the October one in FREE for ya' from now until the end of November!   

UPDATE to this post:  I now have 7 months complete!  October through April units are finished! You can get them individually, or all bundled up for a cheaper price!  (Bundle purchasers will simply need to re-download every time I add a new month to the unit at no additional cost!)

Bananas for math when it's fun,

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Business October 31st 2012, The "BOOsiness SPOOKtacular Edition of the Damned" Edition

How could there be a better place to spend Halloween than a theatre called the DARK ROOM? The Business is ready for the holiday, we have our candy, our costumes and our post victory parade riot gear all set.

Come one, come all, and bring the spirits of your ancestors with you. Don’t worry, if you get a case of the SPOOKIES, our guest this week will hold your hand.

Claudia Cogan will be joining us on this unholy night. She’s top notch. She's been on Last Comic Standing 7 as a semi-finalist, been nomi
nated three times for an Excellence in Comedy in New York (ECNY) award and won the first ever Time Out New York Joke of the Year nod. Claudia is an alum of UCB Theater improv school and played on several house teams. She has performed at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival and at clubs and colleges around the country.

Come join Claudia and your regulars Sean “Spooky” Keane, Bucky “Puts the SIN in” Sinister, “Maniacal” Mike Drucker and Caitlin “GILLotine” for a night of good Halloween fun*.

*”good Halloween fun” may include getting possessed by Halloween demongoblins. The Business is not responsible for any damage to your soul incurred during “fun”.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Even crooks deserve a fair deal

Remember Jérôme Kerviel  ?  OK, very excusable if you have forgotten who he is. He was the rogue trader who almost brought Société Générale ( a reputed French bank) to its knees. This happened in 2008. Kerviel was a trader who punted like crazy in the casino, that is euphemistically called financial markets - he was making gigantic bets that involved European stock index futures. The whole thing unraveled, he was fired, Société Générale tottered and ultimately lost € 4.9 bn.
Criminal proceedings were launched against Jérôme Kerviel  and he was sentenced to prison and a fine. He appealed, and, on Friday, lost his appeal. What caught me was the quantum of the fine. He was fined € 4.9 bn, the quantum of the loss that Société Générale incurred.  A fine of € 4.9 bn ???? Kerviel has no money and is unemployed and probably unemployable. How on earth is he expected to pay  € 4.9 bn ?
This is outright crazy. The judges have fallen hook line and sinker to Société Générale's assertions that it didn't know what was happening and that Kerviel acted alone. PPPPlease ........ That, to put it mildly, is nonsense.  His bosses must have been cheering loudly as long as he made profits and have thrown the book at him, when the whole thing collapsed.  The bank didn't know ??????? Baloney.
Société Générale , and the judge, argue that the massive fine is to prevent him from capitalizing on his story by writing a book (which he has done) or making a movie. That is extreme logic. Every crook tries to make money from his infamy. Jeffrey Archer wrote a whole book about his prison experience and sold God knows how many copies. The fault is not that of the crook - the fault is with those who buy the book or go see the movie. 
Kerviel is not your ordinary villain. Sure he broke company rules and did unauthorized trading. But then a few thousand bankers have done the same . He made no money personally - even his bonus wasn't obscene. He was a case of gambling instincts gone completely out of control. Does he deserve a € 4.9 bn fine ?
The logic that employees are personally responsible to make good the losses that arise if they violate the rules is a dangerous one. Sometimes company rules are not explicit. Sometimes bosses nod and wink when they expect employees to do things that are shall we say, fifty shades of grey ! If I were to calculate the possibility of personal liability, when taking a business decision, I would never make a decision in the first place. Something like this is what is happening in Indian government circles today - no babu is making any decision for fear that Kejriwal will allege that he is corrupt. Everything has ground to a complete halt.
It is a reflection of the anger against bankers that public opinion has no sympathy for Kerviel. Nobody, but a few busybodies have raised a whimper. I however think this is an outrageous court decision. Kerviel deserves to be punished. He deserves to go to jail. But he should not be fined € 4.9 bn.
It is a mark of civilized society that even crooks are given a fair deal.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Business Jazz - 26th October 2012 - Being Brave

The number one thing that holds us back from achieving our goals, from grasping our full potential, is ourselves.

Instead of taking action, we wait.

We wait for the perceived risks to abate, the circumstances to change, more time to become available to us. We wait for the support of others.

We promise we'll leap into action as soon as we have more money, fewer commitments, clearer goals.

Nothing happens. Even when opportunity comes knocking. "I'm not quite ready," we reply.


This week, Paul and Roger discuss two emails - one from Chris Brogan, the other from AJ Leon.

Both highlight the need for you to be courageous.

They urge you to take action over finding excuses.

Chris and AJ want you to become the whole person you are capable of being.

They offer advice.

To listen to this week's episode, hit the play button on the embedded player at the top of this post. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Help yourself

If you'd like to subscribe to Chris' emails, you find a place to sign up on his website.

If you're interested in The Impact Equation, the book he recently published with Julien Smith, you can find it on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

If you liked the sound of AJ Leon (and we think you probably do), you can connect with him at Pursuit of Everything.

Business Jazz Players

This podcast is a collaboration of people dotted around the world.

If you'd like to read our story so far, you'll find it here: Our Story. We've taken the liberty of adding AJ Leon.

PS - Would you like to hear more? We sometimes nearly always record an afters session on Audioboo. This is this week's:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bir Hakeim - A Guest Post

Readers of this blog would be familiar with Ravi Rajagopalan. Ravi is a very dear friend, a brilliant guy, with an incredible array of interests and knowledge. His cover drive might not have the silken grace of a David Gower, but that's the worst you can say of him. As you might have gathered from comments on my previous post, he is a military buff too and he was motivated enough by my take on El Alamein to write a guest post. As you will see, much better content, much better prose and much better pictures than I am ever capable of. So here is the story of Bir Hakeim , as told by Ravi.

The River Seine cuts through Paris, dividing the city neatly between the elite and the hoi-polloi.  Northwest of the city lie the salubrious environs of the 16th Arrondisement. The Passy metro station serves the inhabitants of this quarter, connecting Line 6 from the North to the 15th Arrondisement across the river  over a double-decker bridge built in 1904. The beautiful wrought-iron columns of the bridge would be familiar to movie enthusiasts.  Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider are pictured walking separately and unknown to each other on the bridge one cloudy Paris morning in the opening sequence of “Last Tango in Paris”. As you start walking on the bridge towards the South, you cannot miss the spectacular rise of the Eiffel Tower on the left. No matter how many times you cross the bridge in a day, the sight of the Tower will never fail to make you sigh at its sheer beauty. You reach the Ile de la Cygnes (Island of Swans) in the middle of the river.  The bridge widens out on the left hand side into a balcony popular with lovers. On the corner of the balcony is affixed a bronze plaque completely ignored by resident and tourist alike.

This is the Pont de Bir Hakeim.

Bir Hakeim has disappeared from maps today. It was an abandoned oasis and former Turkish fort south of Tobruk in the Libyan desert.  South of Bir Hakeim lay one of the great empty stretches of sand in the Libyan desert impassable to man and beast. In 1942, with war having come to North Africa, it was the last of the points on a line drawn from the Mediterranean Coast south towards the Libyan desert west of Tobruk where the Allies girded themselves against General Rommel’s Afrika Korps and Italian Armed Forces.  Tobruk was one in a line of ports which would be staging points for the Allies to try and hold off Rommel as he drove towards the Suez Canal in British-held Egypt to cut off the sea route to India and the Persian Gulf to the Allies.

France prepared for the Second World War with a strong Air Force and an impregnable set of defences along with Ruhr called the Maginot Line.  In May 1940, after eight months of relative quiet, German forces attacked north of the Maginot Line driving west. By mid-May the British Expeditionary Force was encircled and heroically escaped through Dunkirk in Belgium on anything that could float. The Wehrmacht swung south and raced towards Paris. The French armies fought as best as they could but were defeated by superior tactics.  Eight weeks after the Blitzkrieg began, in June 1940, France surrendered.  The German Army entered Paris and marched down the Champs Elysees.  General Charles de Gaulle escaped to England rather than surrender to the enemy. 

Outside France, most French forces surrendered to the Germans once the homeland fell. Except for small groups of stubborn men. None so stubborn as General de Gaulle, who repeatedly called on the French to fight and pleaded with the Allies to take these small groups of men seriously, to take France seriously.  With military losses mounting all over the world, there was no room for sentiment.  Some French forces were allowed to fight alongside the Allies wherever they could be found.  General de Gaulle had symbolic value and emotional significance, but no military value. He was tolerated.

In February 1942, Rommel began his drive towards Tobruk from the west.  Facing him was the British 8thArmy under General Sir Claude Auchinleck, consisting of British, Australian, Indian, New Zealand, South African and (a few) Free French regiments.  Large parts of the Libyan desert cannot support heavy trucks and tanks. The plan was to move along the coast as far south as possible, surround Tobruk and take it.

Bir Hakeim was allotted to a couple of thousand assorted French troops and Foreign Legionnaires. In overall command was General Marie Pierre Koenig – a colourful character.  Knowing that the Germans would hit Bir Hakeim to take Tobruk from the south, he prepared as best as he could, laying minefields and hidden explosives and preparing fortifications.  He had about 3000 men, and was vastly outnumbered.

The assault began on the night of May 26, with the Italian armored regiments leading the attack.  Successive waves of Stuka dive bombers pounded the French positions.  German tanks soon joined the attacks. The attacks were non-stop, the fighting was hand-to-hand at places.  Water was short – a situation made worse when Indian POWs released by the Germans in the desert a few days before wound up at Bir Hakeim needing medical assistance.  General Koenig kept his position resupplied as best as he could, and he held off the Germans.

Rommel now turned his full attention to Bir Hakeim by the first week of June, realizing that he had a serious problem with his supply lines if he did not take the position.  Respectful emissaries were sent to General Koenig under white flag, offering fair terms if they surrendered.  The emissaries were respectfully spurned.  The fighting resumed with renewed ferocity.  Fresh German forces now surrounded Bir Hakeim and it was clear that the position would not survive.

General Koenig realized he was done for.  He then did something remarkable.  He asked wounded French soldiers to man defensive positions and to continue to fire on the enemy.  The rest of his troops essentially drove through the French minefield in a daring move to escape north towards British positions.  Men and vehicles were lost but the vast majority made it through.  General Koenig was driven by Susan Travers, a British woman serving in the Foreign Legion in Bir Hakeim!

On the night of June 11, German forces broke through to Bir Hakeim, only to find a couple of hundred wounded Frenchmen. They had been delayed by three weeks. History says Rommel ignored an order to kill all prisoners and ensured these brave men were treated well in captivity.

Tobruk did fall to the Germans.  The German forces did reach El Alamein, to be met by General Montgomery, the new commander of the Eighth Army, who then famously “hit Jerry for six”.

The significance of Bir Hakeim is that France was able to tell the world its spirit was not dead.  The fighting soul of France was alive and well.  The easy contempt with which some Allied commanders treated the French due to their spectacular defeat turned to grudging respect. About 3000 Frenchmen held off 45000 German and Italian troops. By delaying Rommel for three weeks, the French ensured that the British were able to reinforce their positions east of Tobruk.  And ultimately, it contributed to Rommel’s defeat.

The plaque at the Pont de Bir Hakeim is simple and moving.

“At Bir Hakeim from May 27 to 11 June 1942, the First Free French Brigade repulsed furious assaults from two divisions of the enemy and affirmed to the world that France has not ceased combat”.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Business October 24th 2012, The "Home Game Before The BIG AWAY GAME" Edition

Before The Business hits the BIG STAGE at Cobb’s Comedy Club this Saturday night the 27th at 8pm, we wanted to enjoy a night at our Dark Room home with a perfectly delightful guest. In fact, if you’ve had the pleasure of meeting her personally or have just googled the meaning of her name, you know she is a calm and powerful goddess.

Shanti Charan is a winner. She won 1st place in the 2011 Rooster T Feather’s Comedy Competition and participated in the 2011 San Francisco International Comedy Competition
where she advanced to the semi-finals. Charan was recently awarded SF Weekly’s 2012 Best Stand-Up on the Way Up. SF Weekly says Charan’s writing “is clever and confident beyond her years.”

She will join your Business regulars Alex Koll, Sean Keane, Bucky Sinister and Caitlin Gill for an adventure 65 million years in the making*.

BYOBurrito and BYO$5. If you want to bring a friend, that’s FREE! Just grab a 2-for-1 coupon here, which is also where you can learn all about our show THIS SATURDAY, 8pm AT COBB’S COMEDY CLUB!!

*actually a stolen tagline from Jurassic Park. We cannot promise Spielbergian thrills, but there will be a dilophosaurus hidden under someone’s seat. WHO WILL SIT ON A DINOSAUR, WILL IT BE YOU?!?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Battle of El Alamein

We should not forget.

We are a generation that, thankfully, has not seen war. But the baser instincts of man are never very far from the surface. Even in our lifetimes we have seen horrors - Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Congo. But thankfully, nothing on the scale of World War II. Mankind should never forget the horrors of war.

This week is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein, one of the turning points of World War II. El Alamein was a dot in the Egyptian desert. Today it is a beach resort, then, it was in the middle of nowhere. But on the unforgiving desert sands was fought one of the most important wars of World War II. The Afrika Corps of Field Marshal Rommel was winning everything in its path. All through Europe, and elsewhere, the Germans and Italians were winning everything and the Allied Forces couldn't seem to do a thing about it. But at El Alamein, the tide was turned. Montgomery's forces defeated Rommel and the Germans were pushed back, and from then on it was only retreat. There were more important and strategic battles, like Stalingrad, or brutal, like Kursk, or impacting the whole population like the Battle of Britain, or remote and miserable like Guadalcanal but the two battles of El Alamein will remain one of the most important of the World War. It prompted Churchill to say those famous words - " This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." Church bells were ordered to ring all over England. And Churchill said, " Before Alamein we never had a victory, after Alamein we never had a defeat." It was one of those rare battles that was made into a movie, The Battle of El Alamein,  showing the Italian side of the battle, rather than the British or German side.

The current generation of Indians may not remember that World War II touched India as well. Of course, many Indians fought with the British and Allied Forces all over the world. But the Japanese invasion came to India's shores. In the battle of Kohima, the Japanese were halted and turned back. Even today, the exact spot where the Japanese were stopped - the tennis courts of the Commissioner's bungalow and an old tree that was shot out are still preserved as memorials of the War. You can see them if you go to Nagaland. Commonwealth war cemeteries dot the region - in Kohima, in Imphal and a few other places. They are immaculately preserved and the epitaphs on the tombstones will bring a tear to the eye. They were all 19 or 21 years old, they were from far away - Scotland or Australia and they fell defending India. On many of their tombs are inscribed the poignant lines - "Go back home and tell them, for your tomorrow, we gave our today "

There are about 60 or 70 veterans of El Alamein who are there today to commemorate the 70th anniversary and to remember their fallen comrades. It is unlikely that there would be another event of this nature - for the veterans are all in their mid nineties.

Which is why it is all the more important that we read about the War. To be told of the horrors.

We should never forget. For, if we do, we will repeat it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Formative Freebies and Paybacks!

     Ever have a moment as a parent where you have to step back and just let it happen?  I encountered that recently when my daughter came home in tears one day after school...upset that she got stuck with most of the work for a group project.  The educator in me began asking all the right questions..."Who's in your group?"  "What's the assignment?"  "How did you get stuck putting it all together?"  After a quick investigation, I learned that her 3 fellow group members were all boys.  They had done some of the work at school, but when it came time to put it all together, I guess they decided that should be "all her."  In their words..."You put it together for us and we'll present it."  It was 3 against 1, and since she's the compliant "teacher pleaser" she brought the work home to put the poster together herself.  It broke my heart to see her upset, but I quickly noticed her demeanor change as she began laying it all out for the task ahead.  I asked if I could help in any way and she simply said, "No! I got this!"
Three hours later, she reappeared with a huge smile on her face holding a BRIGHT HOT PINK poster with the most beautifully (and girly) decorated poster you have ever seen.  It had ribbons, flowery sequins, bows, lace...you name it!!  She even sprayed it with perfume before going out the door the next morning!!  Yep, my daughter decided if the BOYS were going to stick hours of work on her and they got the job of a 2 minute presentation, she was going to make it as painful as possible for them.  The teacher in me was thinking, "Oh no, the decorating was a bit much!"  But the mother in me was saying, "YOU GO GIRL!"   Her teacher, who was obviously aware of what had transpired, simply walked by her in class, leaned down and whispered, "I LOVE IT!"

     I recently conducted a formative assessment professional development with a wonderful colleague of mine.  We had the best time sharing some strategies for quick checks in the classroom.  A lot of the ideas came from my "Let's Recap" packet (also free in my TpT store), but we threw in a few different ones I thought I'd also make available for grabs.  Hope you can put to good use in your classroom!

Bananas for my daughter who can "hold her own" when necessary!

Business Jazz - 19th October 2012 - Keeping Ideas Alive

Ideas - we all have them. Some are fantastic, some less so. Most are never acted on.

In his latest email, Chris Brogan gives you seven steps to help you pick those ideas that are good for you and implement them. Paul and Roger discuss their own experiences of implementing ideas.

During the podcast, you'll hear occasional interference from someone's smartphone. Our apologies. The person responsible (Paul Roger) has been spoken to.

Our news

The podcast is available in iTunes now, making it easier to subscribe to.

If you listen to us on your Blackberry, we have you covered too. We've been accepted into the Blackberry catalogue.

Even better is that the cafe at the Blackrock Castle Observatory has given us our own table beside a fire. You can't imagine a more welcoming place, nor a better "studio" to record in.

The Business Jazz players


Business Jazz is a collaboration.

You, our listener, are the most important person.

Next is Chris Brogan. 

If you’d like to subscribe to Chris' email, you can do so by going here: ChrisBrogan.com. You’ll get a great insight into doing business the modern way - the human way.

This programme is produced and wrangled into shape by Mark Cotton. Connect with him via his About.me page. He's a great musician too. Just listen to this: Just Fontaine boo.

We record the show weekly at The Blackrock Castle Observatory Cafe. They always welcome us and our metres of cable with a smile. We pay for our own coffees. Just in case you think we get a kickback or anything. Not that we'd mind that. Not at all.

If you’d like to know more about Roger, he is here: The Digital Storyteller.

Prefer to connect with Paul? He's a ChangeAgent.

We’d love it if you engaged with us and told us what you think. Leave a comment here or find us on Twitter: @omaniblog (Paul) and @RogerOverall.

Thank you for listening.

The Business Jazz Band

PS - Would you like to hear more? We sometimes record an afters session on Audioboo. This is this week's:

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Business, "BIG BIRTHDAY ON THE COBB" Edition

The Business likes things big. Big guests, big theatres, big ol birthday parties. Big gets bigger when you do all the big things together. That’s why we are bringing big guests to a big theatre to have a big ol birthday party!!!!! Big!

Our guests know all about big. Jamie and Sis DeWolf produce Tourettes Without Regrets, a showcase of the best cutting edge underground talent with the longest running freestyle battle and the largest slam on the West Coast. The fight club of underground art, SF Guardian named Tourettes the “Best in the Bay” in 2012.

They are both guests we’ve wanted on The Business for some time, but when we heard that their birthdays are just days apart and fast approaching, we knew what had to be done. BIG BIRTHDAY SHOW.

This one is TOO BIG to hold at our home office at the Dark Room. Come join your Business regulars Alex Koll, Sean Keane, Bucky Sinister, Chris Thayer, Caitlin Gill and Mike Drucker at Cobb's Comedy Club, which should be ALMOST big enough for this show. Chris Garcia can't make it, but will be represented by friend of the Buisness Kevin Camia.

Come at us, bro.

About the Birthday Boy and Girl:

Jamie DeWolf is a slam poet, stand up comedian, teaching artist and filmmaker from Oakland, CA. Since his first slam in 1999, DeWolf (formerly known as Jamie Kennedy) won his way onto seven slam teams every year he’s competed and has since become a National Poetry Slam Champion, the Oakland and Berkeley Grand Slam Champion, a YouthSpeaks Mentor, and a featured performer on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. His full-length feature film, SMOKED, premeried at the Oakland Underground Film Festival in 2012 and is currently in talks with distributors.

As the great grandson of the cult of Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard, he remains a vocal critic of the cult in the public eye, and was the host of the first anti-Scientology summit in Clearwater, Florida, widely considered to be the “Mecca” for the Church.

Natasia Schibinger, aka “Sis”, is a film-maker, visual artist, and performer from Oakland, CA. After writing and directing her own short films which included dark humor and puppetry, she collaborated with Jen Gigantino. Together they created No-Penis Productions, an all female production company, producing shorts that favor beautiful women and pleasant violence.

As a performer, she’s well known to Bay Area audiences as the “evil Vanna White” of the infamous underground variety show Tourettes Without Regrets and performs disturbing vaudeville and crazed crowd contests. When she’s not shooting films, she performs at children’s princess parties and is professionally trained at face-painting, balloon animals and magic tricks. She’s currently in pre-production on a featurette about a swearing contest, hand drawing her own fairy tale, and planning her next short film.

Don’t miss this one! THIS IS BIG BUSINESS.

Speaking of BIG BUSINESS, those are the magic words to get yourself a $5 ticket to this show (regular ticket price is $20). Use the code “BIG BUSINESS” when buying your tix on the phone or at the door to get the super-discounted, bargain-basement ticket price of $5!


The Business October 17th 2012, The "Heart of Romane" Edition

He’s the Cesar of our salad, he’s our iceberg breaker, he’s all heart and has very little E.coli, The Business welcomes the founder and host of The Romane Event, Paco Romane!

Paco Romane, is an award-winning stand up comedian (voted “Best Comedian” in the San Francisco Weekly and San Francisco Bay Guardian), and actor. He has established himself as one of the funniest new comedians on the comedy scene and his energetic, self-deprecating comedic style is a hit with audiences across the country. He is also
a long time company member of Killing My obster, the Bay Area’s premier Sketch Comedy group. He uses his work with Killing My Lobster to create routines and characters that are inventive, funny, spontaneous, and utterly unique. The Haight-Ashbury said "Paco Romane is a genius when it comes to developing characters.

After last week’s burrito frenzy, super stuffed with guests , we take it easy this week go with just fresh, filling Romane. Business regulars Sean Keane, Bucky Sinister, Mike Drucker and Caitlin Gill will be there, and you can be too, for just $5!

WE SELL OUT, so get there early to get a seat.

As always, BYOBurrito and share your chips and salsa, it’s the decent thing to do.

Should Business Schools Be Braver?

About a year ago, a journalist asked me: “The current crisis; you could see it as the failure of corporate governance in general, and boards of directors in specific. What radical new ideas do we see coming out of business schools in terms of how we could organise governance and boards better?”

I answered him what I thought was the truth: “Ehm…. not much really”.

Last week, I was in Prague, for the Annual Meeting of the Strategic Management Society; a bunch of business school professors talking about their research. I attended a session which featured a panel of five senior professors who specialise in governance and boards. I couldn’t resist asking them the same question as the journalist had posed to me: “What radical new ideas do you have in terms of how we could perhaps organise governance and boards better?”

Their answer was basically the same as mine, with equal levels of eloquence: “Ehm… not much really”.

In fact, after a slightly stunned silence, one professor replied to me: “What do you think?” (the reply every professor gives to a student when s/he does not have an answer available), where the second one answered “boards is not really where the action is”. And that was that.

Somehow, I have to admit, I did not expect a real answer – just as I did not have one. And that is because business school professors seldom have an opinion. We are all trained – in our research, through rigorous PhD programmes and years of socialization – to not make assertions but to only make claims that are thoroughly proven, by solid empirics and rigorous theory. And I applaud and adhere to that; I like evidence. However, at some point, you need to take that evidence and develop an opinion. And that’s where it usually stalls, in business schools.

Because people are not used to say anything without evidence, they end up saying nothing at all. That’s because when it comes to questions such as “how could we organise this better?” the evidence is always going to be imperfect.

It reminded me of what a paediatric neurologist once told me: “What I do is part art; part science. I know all the scientific evidence and treatments and medication, but at the end of the day, every child and case is unique, and you have to make a choice and an develop an opinion”.

In business schools, we’re more likely to let the child die. Since we have no perfect evidence on what the exact treatment should be, we end up doing nothing.

Hence, that the five professors did not express an opinion did not really surprise me. But what I later realised, and what did surprise me – although I blame myself for my naivety – is that not only are you not expected to have an opinion; you’re not even supposed to want to have one.

Even raising the question and asking for an opinion is considered suspect, illegitimate and un-academic. As business school academics, we describe and seek to understand reality, but are not supposed to want to alter and improve it. Which is a shame, because sometimes I feel the world of business – and the world in general – could do with a bit of improvement.

“I know what I want, I have a goal, an opinion. If God lets me live, I shall not remain insignificant, I shall work in the world and for mankind! And now I know that first and foremost I shall require courage and cheerfulness!” Anne Frank, April 11, 1944

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Spare a thought for the poor Iranians

There is economic cataclysm going on in Iran. What guns and rhetoric have failed to do might be achieved by grubby old economics - the downfall of the nut cases who have been ruling Iran for sometime.

The Iranian rial has plunged into free fall. It declined by 25% in one week in October against the US dollar. Since the beginning of 2011 it has fallen by 70+%. It was some 10,000 rial to the US $ in 2011. Its now around 30,000 rials to the US $. The rial is now virtually worthless. Inflation by official estimates is some 25%, in reality more like 70%. There is economic chaos.

Why is this important ? You only have to look towards  the street protests that have sprung up in Iran to see how this is affecting everybody in Iran - the rich, the poor, and yes, even the mullahs. But, wait a minute. Iran is oil rich, right ? It should be rolling around in wealth. And yet, the country  is in deep crisis and the population is suffering.  Why ?

If ever there was an example of how a rotten government can destroy its people, it is Iran.  By all rights Iran should be a rich country. It is an ancient and rich culture and full of extremely bright people. And above all, it is swimming in oil. But unfortunately it has a government that must surely compete with North Korea and Zimbabwe for the title of the worst government in the world. It exports terrorism, it dips its fingers into every trouble spot in the region - it finances the Hezbollah in Lebanon, it backs the Syrian regime, it supports the Hamas in Gaza........ It is trying its best to build a nuclear bomb.

Consequently it has pissed off the world. Crippling economic sanctions have been the result. Nobody bar Russia and China, and to some extent India, is trading with it. It has been kicked out of SWIFT - the international banking settlement system. Therefore everybody, including Russia and China have to deal with it via the back door.  If anybody trades with Iran he has to virtually receive suitcases of cash in return. That's not easy to do on scale. So even exporting oil has become difficult.

End result is that the rial is plunging like a stone. So everything becomes incredibly more expensive. Food prices are doubling. Luxuries, which might even be necessities in other parts of the world, are becoming unthinkable. The common Iranian, like most others in the world, cares two hoots about religious purity and dogma. He wants to fill his stomach. And then wants to buy a mobile phone. After that he wants to post on Facebook. Simple.  If you deny that from him for too long and make him slide backwards, his patience will break and he will burn the beards of those who are stopping him. 

So for Israel and the hawks in America, here is a pleasant thought. You don't have to nuke Iran to stop them from acquiring nuclear weapons. The rial is doing the job for you brilliantly. With a bit of journalistic license I say, the bill is mightier than the bomb !

Friday, October 12, 2012

Business Jazz - 12th October 2012 - Email Newsletters

Email newsletters can be great things, full of useful information that can help you achieve your goals. They can also be horrible pieces of writing aimed solely at your wallet rather than you.

In his own latest email missive, Chris Brogan discusses the right way to do things.

As an aside, you’ll have noticed the new logo for the podcast. Designed by Paul on a beach. Literally. The first draft was carved out in the sand.

 The second draft was crafted in Paul’s Moleskine. The third on Roger’s computer, and given the seal of approval over a gin and tonic.

A work in progress

Business Jazz is a collaboration.

If you’d like to subscribe to Chris Brogan’s email, you can do so by going here: ChrisBrogan.com. You’ll get a great insight into doing business the modern way - the human way.

This programme is produced and wrangled into shape by Mark Cotton. Connect with him via his About.me page. He's a great musician too. Just listen to this: Just Fontaine boo.

We record the show weekly at The Blackrock Castle Observatory Cafe. They always welcome us and our metres of cable with a smile. We pay for our own coffees. Just in case you think we get a kickback or anything. Not that we'd mind that. Not at all.

If you’d like to know more about Roger, he is here: The Digital Storyteller.

Paul is crafting something new, with a website to come, maybe as early as next week. Meanwhile, he’s @omaniblog on Twitter and he Audioboos too.

We’d love it if you connected with us and told us what you think. Leave a comment here or find us on Twitter: @omaniblog (Paul) and @RogerOverall.

Thank you for listening.

The Business Jazz Band

PS - Would you like to hear more? We sometimes record an afters session on Audioboo. This is this week's:

Business Jazz - 5th October 2012 - Lists

Welcome to episode two of the BusinessJazz podcast, or as Paul would say: the second pilot.

We’re making progress. This week we have an intro. We also have a producer.

Our producer is Mark Cotton, and he is so much more than that. He is a sound engineer, sounding board, musician, “stunt guitarist” (we haven’t asked), composer, wrangler, adviser and all-round solid human being. We don’t know where or how to start thanking Mark, whom serendipity placed in our path. Please check him out on his About.me page. On twitter he’s @mcfontaine.

We also have to say a big thank you to Sarah Langston, Mark’s partner, who has stepped in to record an intro while our voice artist recovers from an ill-fated encounter with some food. (Get well Jane). Sarah recorded our current voiceover with grace and elegance at short notice. You can find her on Twitter under the handle @misspheric.

Sarah and Mark bring the band of people associated with the production of this podcast to five, not counting ourselves. The others are Chris Brogan (our inspiration), Jane Boyd (our cheerleader, our rock), and James Macolgan (the man who thought of the podcast in the first place). We hope to add to this troupe.

Of course, there is a second group without whom we couldn’t do this. You. Thank you for letting us into your lives.

By the way, if you want your own copy of the emails written by Chris that we discuss in this podcast, please go to his website and sign up. He’s also at Human Business Works.

We’re working on some artwork for the podcast. Once we have it, we’ll push the programme to iTunes and the Blackberry and Zune libraries. You’ll be able to find us easier that way.

If you’d like to get in touch, we’d welcome feedback. You can reach us via Marketing Write Now (Paul) and The Digital Storyteller (Roger).

Thank you for listening.

The Business Jazz Band

PS - In the podcast, Paul mentions the Cluetrain Manifesto. You can find out more here: The Cluetrain Manifesto.

PPS - Would you like to hear more? We sometimes record an afters session on Audioboo. This is this week's:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Economics Gangnam Style

What ?? You don't know what Gangnam Style is ? It is the K-Pop (Korean Pop) sensation that has taken the world by storm. It  is No 2 on the UK and US pop charts, watched on You Tube some 400 million times . Everybody , it seems, wants to prance like a horse . Even the West Indies team, on winning the T20 World Cup, gave an energetic rendition of Gangnam Style (note the absence of the word cricket in this sentence !). Well, if you haven't heard of the original before, you can add to the 400m+ views by watching it here - beware, you have to practice prancing like a horse while doing so.

This blogger is seriously musically challenged and has no qualifications to write a music post - that being the domain of experts like Suja.  Or like another esteemed reader of this blog who runs his own radio station. Instead he shall demonstrate his "hipness" by linking economics to Gangnam Style !

HTC (a Taiwanese company) just declared its quarter's results announcing a 80% drop in profits. At the same time Samsung (a Korean company) announced a 85% rise in profits. You see its all got to do with Gangnam Style coolness. Galaxy S3 is cool, HTC Desire isn't. Five years ago, you wouldn't dream of owning a Hyundai car. Today, its quite OK to park your Equus next to a Japanese or German equivalent and not be subjected to hoots of derision. Or consider Amore Pacific an increasingly successful cosmetics company - after all if South Korean girls can look so young and pretty, there must be something in the cosmetics they use ! South Korea is just not ships or steel anymore. Brand South Korea is going places - Gangnam style.

The country which has the biggest lessons to learn is China. China desperately wants to be loved and is nonplussed when nobody seems to love it. It would dearly love to export "soft power" in addition to its undoubted "hard power". But it tries to do that by pouring money into CCTV globally- now it must take a seriously self flagellating masochist to watch CCTV for more than 1 minute. It shoots itself in the foot by going after anybody who said hello to the Dalai Lama. It threatens war over a few rocks in the middle of the sea. It stands no chance of global embrace by doing such things. It only results in Huawei not being allowed to sell much in the US. Nobody is going to proudly claim to own a Haier washing machine or even a Lenovo laptop. Instead it should unleash the creative forces of its wonderful people. Make them prance like a horse. Or if they like, maybe waddle like a panda. Preferably Gangnam style !