How IT all happened, Retain the ‘Einsteins’ in your office

Books2Byte – 2002 (From BL archives)



How IT all happened

D. Murali

The computer has become an integral part of our lives today. But there are still people for whom the beginnings of the computer could be as distant as the Ice Age. It’s time to get acquainted.

THIS is an age when computers have become an integral part of our economic infrastructure. For many, however, the beginnings of the computer could be as distant as the Ice Age. There lies the need for an `authoritative history’ of modern computing edited by Atsushi Akera and Frederik Nebeker, titled “From 0 to 1”, with experts as chapter authors who write in a “clear and accessible manner”. Read on:

  • The fourth root of the office appliance industry, and the one that was least connected to typewriters, calculators, or cash registers, grew out of the work of Herman Hollerith in the development of punched card tabulation. His company became the centrepiece of what would eventually be known as IBM.
  • Pascal’s wager: Pascal argued that if God does not exist, then one loses nothing by believing in him; but if God does exist, then one can gain eternal life by believing in him.
  • In a 1972 interview, Howard Aiken predicted that by the year 2000, computer companies would be giving away computers in order to sell their software. Interestingly enough, on September 17, 1997, Netscape announced that they would be providing free computers in order to promote their browser sales.
  • Alan M. Turing showed that any computation could be described in terms of a machine shifting among a finite number of states in response to a sequence of symbols read and written one at a time on a potentially infinite tape.
  • The Internet accommodates a wide variety of networks and demands only the lowest level of performance from each one. Without the ability to grow and change in unpredictable ways, the Internet would certainly not be the omnipresent technology it is today.

Recommended bedtime reading for the techies.

E-business suites

The four measures of corporate success are market share, revenue, cash flow and profitability. Every company’s senior executives need to assess each of these and to steer the company toward the desired combination. They need rapid response, made possible by software that supports such assessments. And the next generation of technology tools will need to increase strategic effectiveness and create competitive advantage, argues Mark J. Barrenechea in his book “Software Rules”. A few excerpts:

  • As a rule, any business practice that the CEO doesn’t understand or can’t understand at once is too complex. It would be constructive for CEOs to take such understanding as their prime criterion, because the importance of the drive for simplicity merits the continual attention of somebody with the power to get the job done.
  • In a thriving economy, any successful company may develop a “tomorrow the world” attitude. Ironically, this can mean a reduced sense of urgency when it comes to implementing complex global applications, and the process may drag out for 18 months or longer. In a stumbling economy, the same attitude can lead to damaging layoffs, to loss of markets, and ultimately to corporate failure.
  • Aircraft parts are expensive, and the importance of keeping planes in the air means that billions of dollars are spent on spare parts inventory. Cancelling a single transatlantic flight because of an airworthiness defect can cost an airline as much as $200,000. In the US, airlines alone carry nearly $35 billion in hardware and spare-parts inventory and spend about $10 billion on replenishment purchases annually; military spending may be double or even triple this amount.
  • Major broadcasting and Internet companies are aligning themselves with print and publishing companies to gain access to the supporting assets that enable more personalised service offerings (for the new any-place any-time when-I-want-it market). The delivery pipeline now extends across the Internet, cable, satellite, terrestrial, telephony, and mobile systems.
  • Too often, business transformations are retarded by the need, real or imagined, to understand all the current systems, processes, and data – to assess the impacts of the conversion and the training needs it poses. Try to understand past and present systems to the extent that it is strictly necessary. But implement the future.

And in future, there will be only two types of people, those who know the rules and those who are ruled.

War of talents

Is it possible to create a business-aligned talent system? Yes, according to David Sears, the author of “Successful Talent Strategies”. One can achieve superior business results through market-focused staffing, where there is a `talent flow’ – that is, employing people at the right time, in the right numbers, with the right mix of skills and capabilities, under the right terms of employment. Also, there would be `talent engagement’, that is aligning individual competencies with strategic objectives, maximising the mutual value of the exchange between employer and employee. Excerpts:

  • It is difficult to predict whether `talent wars’ or `talent massacres’ – or something in-between – will be the essential feature of the employment landscape. Indications are emerging that recent economic, employment, and talent downturns may be brief. For example, Dice Inc, an online recruiting service for technology professionals, listed about 4,600 job openings for the New York metro area at the end of February.
  • Most work has a substantial knowledge component. And advanced knowledge is also a requirement for many manual operations in healthcare, computer systems, and broad categories of installation, maintenance, and repair. Knowledge workers and technologists have a level of work autonomy that once was reserved for executives and highly skilled professionals.
  •  allows sponsoring companies to communicate their talent value propositions in the form of `why work for us?’ sections. It also sells information, based on interviews with company employees, about what it is like to work in a particular company. And Vault visitors can link to message boards where current employees post their own opinions of the workplace.
  • During the most recent talent wars, tactics and technologies collectively termed e-cruiting (online posting, job boards, career portals, research tactics) emerged to support companies with their aggressive hiring plans. The Internet became the most visible and most trafficked venue of the employment marketplace. From 1998 to 2000, the proportion of unemployment workers who reported regularly using the Internet to search for jobs increased from 15 to 26 per cent.
  • A fundamental reality is that the people you wish would stay are the ones most likely to leave. And they’ll leave because they can leave – they simply have more marketplace options. The marketplace, which includes search firms and job boards ( has 15 million resumes in its database), is apt to know more about a company’s workforce than the company itself.

And people leave their companies when the cost of staying exceeds the reward of leaving.

Books courtesy: Landmark.

Wednesday, Dec 18, 2002


Retain the ‘Einsteins’ in your office

D. Murali

Do you have many `Einsteins’ in your company? Here are some guidelines for holding on to them.


EINSTEIN: (noun) An intelligent, curious, and technologically-proficient knowledge worker who has the know-how to keep everything operating without costly delays, breakdowns, and crashes – and the individuality to drive managers insane. With that definition in the blurb, Dr John M. Ivancevich and Dr Thomas N. Duening provide the `tips and traps’ for `Managing Einsteins’, that is, leading high-tech workers in the digital age, which includes keeping them out of the grasp of the talent-starved competitors. Read on:

  • The world population of 6 billion has within it at least 200 million actual and potential Einsteins. Even if only 20 per cent of the potential Einsteins are now working in organisations, it would mean about 40 million super-intelligent individuals are engaged in intellectually rich work and projects around the globe.
  • E = MC2. E is equal to proper amount of management (M) times communication (C) squared. Simply, Einsteins require less direct management and require more open communication than other employees.
  • A light managerial touch with a liberal dose of honest communication can tap into an Einstein’s vast reserve of personal motivation, leading to high levels of effort (E).
  • Teaching Einsteins must be done correctly to be effective. Don’t make them sit still for instructions unless you have the following in place: a) A clear lesson; b) A lesson that concerns their craft; and c) A technique for measuring effectiveness.
  • Sprint University has 50 per cent of its 1,000 courses available through the World Wide Web, videos, workbooks, and the firm’s intranet. Sprint’s research showed that students learned slightly more online than in the classroom. The biggest gain Sprint found was that students attained their knowledge in just over half the time online.
  • Einsteins are smart, and they can understand a complex process. But if the process is more complicated than it should be, they will recognise it immediately and resent having to comply. A stupid process is made more stupid if it’s also more complicated than necessary.
  • Without honest feedback, Einsteins can develop major blind spots about their performance.

But the grouse of most Einsteins would be that they fall in the blind spots of their managers.


Doomsday call

For 3,000 years a code remained hidden in the Bible till it was unlocked by a computer. Thus begins the intro to Michael Drosnin’s book “The Bible Code 2”, which is actually a countdown, because “we may have only four years to survive.” Excerpts:

  • Eliyahu Rips, the mathematician who discovered the Bible code, appeared by name in the Bible, in the place that the Bible tells the story of God coming down on Mount Sinai. It was clearly no accident that `Sapphire’ read backwards spelled `Rips’. Mirror writing is a very ancient tradition. Indeed, the Bible itself says it is the way to see the future. The first of the prophets, Isaiah, said it: “To see the future you must look backwards.” The same Hebrew words can be translated, “Read the letters in reverse.”
  • Human speech was an intentional act of genetic engineering. That is clearly stated in the code: “I will place the language gene” is encoded in the Bible, crossed by “I will make intelligent.”
  • Arafat stared at the code table intently. Now he was shaken. His lip trembled uncontrollably. His eyes bulged wider. He seemed far more shaken by this than by the warning of his own assassination.
  • I don’t believe in God. And although almost all scientists now agree that there is almost certainly other intelligent life in the universe, I won’t really believe in little green men until they land here. I’m a reporter. I want hard evidence.
  • When I spoke to Dr Rips in the days after 9/11, after we had both found the attack on the `Twin Towers’ perfectly encoded in the Bible, I told him that even totally secular people now believed we lived in that ultimate time of danger foreseen by all three Western religions.
  • It is not possible to truly show the structure of the Bible code on a two-dimensional printed page, or computer screen, because it is really a three-dimensional cylinder. It is just like laying a map out flat instead of showing the globe.

A countdown that could scare you.

Books courtesy:

Wednesday, Dec 25, 2002


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