Return from Vacation

I just spent almost a week in Western NY visiting with the family. It was a very good time.

I attended the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys game. It was electric. Great time. I lost my voice.
The tailgating before the game was very interesting. The ordinarily empty parking lots come alive and evolve into some sort of agreed upon society. Their are rules that everyone knows but no one speaks them.
One group has an internet site (no idea if it is a myspace, facebook, blog, or what) where they direct each other to bring certain items. Because the system works so well, everyone that comes to their tailgating gets to eat for free. There is also a makeshift bar inside a truck. The drinks are free but no one takes advantage of that fact

It just goes to show you that when people are interested in something bigger than themselves, they find a way to achieve their desires. In this case, a fun tailgating experience.

9/11 and its Real Impact on the Economy

This past Sunday, Thomas Friedman wrote an opinion piece that I’ve thought about for some time now. The piece is titled 9/11 is Over. The idea of the article is that the US is off balance. The US is too involved in preventing 9/11, the problem is that 9/11 already happened. Friedman would like to see an enabled 9/12. One that reflects the values of the US prior to  9/11, but with less intrusive forms of security.

Friedman’s point was emphasized by tourism. He noted the statistics presented by Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association that show the US has an overall decline in overseas tourists. Most other places have had an increase. I prepared a strategy canvas that highlights the different elements for travel.

<img src="/images/85389-74649/Strategy_Canvas_1.png” border=”0″ height=”355″ width=”649″>

So what does this mean? The US is in Red and Europe is in Blue. Disclaimer, being high or low doesn’t mean good or bad. This process comes from Blue Ocean Strategy. The idea is to have lines that are dissimilar in important aspects. When the lines are the same then both groups are offering the same thing. That results in no differentiation.

Ease of Entry – The US has increased the complexity and scrutiny of the Visa process. That makes the Ease of Entry Low since it isn’t easy to come into the US. Europe on the other hand has less complex Visa rules resulting in High Ease of Entry.

Cost of Travel – Since the US dollar is low compared to many other currencies, the cost to travel to the US is cheap. For someone with foreign currency, you can get more for your money. So the US has Low Cost of Travel whereas Europe has a High Cost of Travel since the Euro and Pound are doing so well.

Things to do – Each group has many things to do. I’m sure you can find something for fancy at either location. I marked each of these slightly above the medium line with the US slightly higher because of the natural diversity of the US (Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Hawaii, and so on).

Exploring Ease – How easy is it to get around? The US is Low in this regard and getting lower with every 9/11 security implementation. Europe has a rail to almost anywhere you want to go. Hostels also provide a significant means to discover the area. The US has many hotel/motels, but that is missing the point a little. This is a huge advantage for Europe.

Safety/Welcome – This one is relative. I believe that each one has very safe and welcoming conditions as well as the opposite. I feel that there is no clear distinction between the two. I gave the US a slight edge because there isn’t really any anti-fill-in-the-blank like there is anti-Americanism.

Travel Distance – Unless you come from Canada, Latin America, or the Caribbean, traveling to the US means crossing an ocean. I know that South America doesn’t really cross an ocean but figuratively, you do. To travel to Europe from say India, you don’t need to cross an ocean. I’m not trying to downplay the size of Russia, but you give yourself many more options traveling to Europe. So travel distance for Europe is Low and High for the US.

Familiar Language/Culture – The US has a high Familiarity with Language/Culture because of the penetration of Hollywood. Across the world you can see US created content. Maybe it isn’t exact to the culture, but it isn’t too far off either. Since no where else has that, the familiarity with the Language/Culture is Low in comparison. Sometimes that works as an advantage, but for the casual traveler it doesn’t.

So there is my strategy canvas of the two tourism groups. What is revealing is how much the US has changed since 9/11. Economically, the US is spending millions of dollars on protection, but what is the return on investment? The US is losing millions in tourism income and the next level is losing millions in business because other countries aren’t spending as much on protection. They are spending on improving their offerings… from their home countries. 9/11 is analogous to Hurricane Katrina. The initial attack was like the hurricane itself. It did a lot of damage. But the hurricane raised sea levels or raised suspicion. After spilling beyond tolerable levels each one created more long term damage. The flooding created rot and disease. Instead of repairs, its complete rebuilding. The US created ill will and poor economic policy (barriers and hassles).

Task Accomplished: Efficiency and Productivity

What is the relationship between efficiency and productivity? If you work efficiently, does that mean you were productive? If you were productive with your time, but does that mean you were efficient with what you were doing?

That is probably getting too philosophical, but I really don’t know.

Today on Wired.com they ran a story about David Allen called Getting Things Done: Guru David Allen and his Cult of hyperefficiency. He is all about self organization to accomplish stuff (finishing emails, groceries, thank you notes, getting married, and so on). His methodology centers on the details. He wants to avoid thought provoking searches for meaning – he just wants to clear out his “to do”. His methods primarily are based on priority and the type of action. He wants those that follow his advice to be as specific as possible.

I see value in doing things this way. For every item you get to cross off the list, you feel more self worth and that becomes addicting. However, by focusing on all the details, do you become too routine? Do you miss the big picture? Do you read the emails but not realize your cousin had a baby?

An opposite feeling happened in 1969. That is when Apollo 11 came back to earth successfully. Here is an entry in a Time magazine article about the launch of Sputnik called Space Brains:

In that most American of plays, Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman,
father of two layabout sons, is stunned to find that his neighbor’s boy
is arguing a case before the Supreme Court and hasn’t mentioned it. “He
don’t have to,” his neighbor answers. “He’s gonna do it.” A coda to
that idea is offered in the elegiac new documentary In the Shadow of
the Moon. One of the scenes shows the men of Mission Control lighting
cigars after the 1969 splashdown of Apollo 11. Behind them, on a
control room viewing screen, two words are projected: TASK
ACCOMPLISHED. That may be a less triumphal phrasing than “mission,” but
whatever you call it, Americans knew enough not to boast about a thing
until we had done it.

“TASK ACCOMPLISHED” certainly means much more in this context than clearing out the inbox of email. My concern about David Allen’s approach is if it is used for high risk, high important jobs. At what point does someone write “TASK ACCOMPLISHED” under his advice?