chemistry, it’s amazing — in coaching and in business

June 24, 2008 at 11:12 pm | Posted in Business | 2 Comments
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For years, I have been trying to figure out what makes a coach successful. At first I thought it must be experience. That’s why I guy like Bill Belichick could get run out of Cleveland on a rail for being a failure, then gain experience and go build a dynasty in lowly New England. But wait… then there’s Jimmy Johnson, who was successful as a college coach, then built a dynasty in Dallas, but ultimately failed badly when taking over in Miami. Ah, so it must be the players! But that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny either because teams often swing wildly from year to year with the same crop of healthy talent, sometimes the coach makes a difference, sometimes not.

I thought about this due to all the recent rumblings (like this one) over Yahoo! CEO Jerry Chang. The CEO comparison game starts, and folks start talking about track records of failures, and turnarounds, and stock prices, and profitability, etc., etc. And I thought, “man does this feel the same as a team looking for a new head coach!”

Here are two things I’m sure of after playing and coaching for many years:

1) Head coaches get way too much credit for a team’s success.

2) Head coaches get way too much blame for a team’s failure.

To me, it boils down to chemistry. What’s that mean? It’s a confluence of incalculable factors that lead to the success or failure of a group of people. Yes, there are things you can do to mitigate risk and increase your chances of success, but in the end, it’s the unknown variable combinations that seem to dictate the final outcome. If the outcome is good, there’s a lot of chest thumping. If it’s bad, there’s a lot of finger pointing. And I’m just not sure either is justified.

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can you innovate a commodity?

June 24, 2008 at 9:05 am | Posted in Business, Technology Trends | 4 Comments
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Yesterday I talked about Seth Godin’s comments regarding that you are only a commodity by choice.

Tony then had a nice comment, where he ended with this question:

Can you have a successful product strategy in which you don’t innovate but instead just force the commoditization of your competitor’s products? Probably, but who wants to be there?

I think the answer is that a lot of companies want to be there. In fact, I think MySQL has exactly one billion reasons to be happy about being there! 😉 Which brings me to this post.

If you talked to MySQL, they would argue that they are, in fact, an innovation company. They would say that their pluggable table engines and their MySQL cluster are just a few of the ways they have innovated the RDBMS landscape. But, I don’t agree. Would they be where they are if they charged for their database from the outset? Doubtful.

So the question is…. was the fact that they carved out a commodity niche in the ancient (by technology standards) RBDMS market, in and of itself, an “innovative” approach? Did they engineer things differently to allow that model to work? Why didn’t PostgreSQL (who was there first, and was free, and was open source, and had more features) win that battle? Did MySQL do some “innovation” of the entire process (not just the technology) that allowed them to succeed after coming a bit late to the game with less features?

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