An Introduction of Sorts

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There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of time. But it was a beginning.

— Robert Jordan

I knew I wanted to bring notsocommoncents back to life when I found myself blogging about the disruptive trends in business and technology on my company’s SharePoint. Somehow, I had finally become comfortable expressing my opinions to others outside of my trusted circle. Adding to that, the notion of bringing back a blog that I wasn’t originally a part of was mildly presumptuous of me. However, I couldn’t resist the siren’s call. It was time to start documenting the conversations that Brandon, Mikal, and I were having about various topics in business, technology, and the Corporate America culture in a format that would allow for greater feedback and new ideas from others. Where I differ from Mikal and Brandon is that I do not have a formal MBA education. I have a background in Engineering, Physics, and a business degree by osmosis and association.

So how did I come to straddling the fence?

I started having a dual track education by interning at Arthur Andersen as a Business Consulting intern just before high school graduation, and going to college to study electrical engineering. “Uncle Arthur” showed me the value of strong management’s ability to open doors and I greatly appreciated their desire to make sure I spent my time productively (i.e. no coffee runs, no photocopies.)

I would bounce back and forth from business to technology all throughout college, gaining practical lab experience and doing voluntary consulting work for a state agency. Arthur Andersen was going down in flames right while I was about to graduate, the dotcom bubble had burst, the job market was tight, so I decided it was best to go to grad school. There I studied Astrophysics and Computational Physics. After an intensive focus on the deepest levels of science and math (Quantum Field Theory anyone?), I quickly realized that I was able to make meaningful connections between the three disciplines and I was able to communicate them to people who did not have the background in one or the other.

I found my way back into Consulting after grad school and immediately went to work applying sound engineering principals to understand people, process and technology, at an enterprise scale. I’ve spent the last few years reading lots of books and papers on Software Design, User Interface design (though you may not be able to tell from our templateJ), Applied Finance, Minimalism, and Online Marketing. As an IT Consultant I am often a firsthand witness to a lack of innovation and corporate dysfunction, groupthink, (insert your choice descriptor here), etc. I seek to shine a spotlight on these practices, point out their disastrous effects, and discuss alternative solutions.

I will seek to connect the dots, to dive into the details, and concisely synthesize and summarize.You can expect me to draw on some constructs and conclusions from other disciplines to offer insightful commentary, particularly if it is about something disruptive to the status quo. I will also focus on pointing out why we should stop spending time doing unnecessary process and work activities and spend more time “Getting Real” and “Ship It”. Mostly you can expect some good old fashioned commoncents. I also expect and will enjoy learning from the readers and their commentary. I truly believe you can learn from anyone and I look forward to growing with you.

– Justin

What can business learn from Academia?

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So we’re in the first week of relaunching the blog. Complete with not yet altogether template – and devoid of course of content. Justin and I made the conscious decision to just get it up and running and observe how the blog evolves from there. I don’t want writers block to settle in, so I’ll kick things off from the first post.

What are the goals of this blog? Brandon, Justin and I all have different reasons for wanting to give the blog a go so I’ll speak to my own.

When we launched the blog in 2005 we were just some young braniacs who were on the tail end of a six year journey of matriculation having entered an accelerated MBA program right out of high school. Over time we completed a number of internships, excelling in each one yet we held loftier goals. We didn’t want to just enter the work force and climb up the corporate ladder, we wanted to be driving forces behind business success. Accordingly the goal of notsocommoncents was to apply our business acumen beyond coursework and to join the conversation buzzing beyond our campus. Worded another way our goal was to extend our academic experience (the teaching and learning from others) to the inter webs.

In the process I learned a lot about online marketing, corporate complacency, herd mentality, good enough, and even homogeneous thinking within corporations. We gained more and more readers and more than our fair share of kudos. So this blog really served as the launching pad to our realization that yes – there really is a better way to approach problems and do business. So why relaunch? Why now?

For me its probably for the same reasons. Over the past three years I’ve immersed myself in data, market research, competitive analysis, marketing books, consumer behavior and a host of other topics that peak my interest and while I have great colleagues who are extraordinarily helpful and insightful (one of the perks of working at Microsoft) I feel I’m fighting the onset of corporate glaucoma. Which is to say the narrowing of business vision – symptoms include difficulty separating out common practice from common sense (one is good, one is the enemy of good, guess which is which).

A business or an organization’s ability to keep fresh perspective, learn from itself, its customers, its competitors and other industries is directly correlated with prolonged success. Accomplishing this is a continuous challenge for any organization. Especially as we industry observers look to crown the next maven or guru.

But maybe we’ve been looking at it wrong, maybe it is less about the person, making decisions and more about their approach to the problem.

Doesn’t this sound like an area ripe for academic exploration?

It does to me. I’m glad to be back interwebs, I look forward to learning with you.

– Mikal