Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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    Welcome to a Silicon Valley State of Mind, thoughts tips and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "Silicon Valley's Top Information Strategist."

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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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General Comments

General observations on business and life.

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With all the high-tech, analytic software tools that I play with on a daily basis, one of my favorite tools is actually my shoe horn.

It is a gorgeous day in Silicon Valley today, and I’ll be spending part of it at lunch with a good friend Julian, who I met when I was consulting for PayPal. As I’m getting dressed, I realized how often I use my shoe horn, and it made me think about why this is a great tool. Great tools are simple.

I see a lot of companies choosing the wrong tools for their strategy. I’m one of the key contributors on TechRepublic’s Big Data Analytics blog, and someone made a comment the other day on one of my posts indicating that executives are erroneously trying to use Big Data to solve everything. He’s absolutely right; I see the same thing. It’s a very expensive mistake; Big Data resources are not cheap.

The bigger problem with most Big Data tools is that they’re complex. Sure, data scientists know what’s going on, but from the executive perspective, it seems like an alligator that you need to feed with fancy technology and fancy people. This isn’t good.

In fact, in many cases, you can get to where you want to go without big data. Most companies don’t even have their small data under control. And even if it makes sense to use big data for your strategy, you don’t need to dive straight into the deep end of complexities that you don’t understand.

If at all possible, keep your tools simple. Sure, I can hire a team of professionals to design a fancy, electronic device that will get my shoes on in sub-second time—but I’ll just stick with a shoe horn.

Tagged in: big-data strategy tools
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I just slammed the door in someone’s face. The same door that’s a few inches from the sign pictured here.

I’m not normally that rude to people, but in this case enough is enough. About three times a week, a different person comes to the door asking if I want solar panels on my house. The first time they came, I politely listened to what they had to say, agreed it’s an interesting thought, and said I’d investigate it on my own time. The second time they came, I cut them off before they got started, and told them somebody just came by two days ago. The third time they came by, I cut them off and said, “tell whoever is sending you people here, to stop.” The story I was told is that they’re all coming from different companies, and every person I encounter has no relationship to the next. It’s like a beacon went off somewhere, signaling all solar companies that I would like someone to visit my house and talk to me about installing solar—I don’t.

Well, this message isn’t being received. I’ve been dealing with this for weeks now. Tonight, this is how the exchange went. Shortly after I sat down to eat dinner:

(Knock, Knock)

Me: What?

Irritant: Hi, I’m Mr. Jackass from Jackass Solar?

Me: No soliciting, man.


You have to be perceptive of your customers’ needs. There is a sign right outside my door that says, “No Soliciting.” This means—no soliciting! I don’t do this to be mean or rude, but I’m doing both me and the door-to-door salespeople a favor. I can assure you, I’m not going to buy something from someone that comes to my door—I just won’t do it. If I decide to get solar, I’ll do the research myself on the Internet, then I’ll talk to some people I know that have had solar installed, and I’ll get a referral. This is why I have the sign outside; I’m saving us both the time.

How often do you keep badgering your customers with what you feel they need? Kodak was very late in the adoption of digital photography because they were too focused on what they thought was right. After breathing their own exhaust for too long, they finally filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Their future is very questionable at this point.

Value is in eye of the beholder. Your passion about an idea doesn’t mean anything until you’ve convinced your clients to be passionate about it. Maybe solar is a good thing for me, and I’m sure whoever just left my door is passionate about the benefits of solar, but if you think I’m just going to open my door and sign a contract with you to install solar panels on my house—you just don’t know me very well.

And that’s the whole point of this story.

Tagged in: customers ideas value
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It’s opening day for my new blog, and we're off to the races! Are you ready? I am.

After talking with my wife Kim for a while, we came up with the perfect title: “A Silicon Valley State of Mind,” and it couldn’t be more appropriate for how I’m feeling today.

It is awesome in Silicon Valley today; this is truly God’s country. As I’m writing this seminal blog entry from my cozy abode in San Ramon, California (a little east from all the action, but close enough feel the energy from both Silicon Valley and San Francisco), The Weather Channel on my iPad tells me it’s a sunny 91 degrees with no chance of precipitation, and a soothing, gentle breeze of 13 mph cooling things down to a “feels like” temperature of an amazing 88 degrees.

We’re going to have great fun on this blog. Unlike the previous blogs that I’ve written which carried more of a vertical focus of compliance or information strategy, this blog will be applicable to a wider audience. This blog will truly give you the perspective of a Silicon Valley insider, on topics ranging from high-level strategy to cooking the perfect meal.

To kick things off, I want to share with you what I’ve been up to for the past few months. I wrapped up my third major project with Visa back in February, where I worked with the head of Global Loyalty to strategize, prioritize, and launch their major initiatives for the fiscal year. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to focus on renewal—everything from my internal branding to my website to well, this blog! It’s been an absolutely terrific exercise in revisiting my priorities, making necessary adjustments, and reinvigorating my approach.

So, here’s the first takeaway for my new blog. You absolutely, undoubtedly, unequivocally must pause once in a while to refactor your business and your life. Refactoring comes from the world of agile software development, where you take some time to improve the codebase, without adding functionality. Coders know what happens when you don’t take time to do this—spaghetti code. Sure, the program works, but nobody (including the original programmer sometimes) can understand how!

It’s critical to reset like this, not only for your own sanity (i.e. you have to take a break sometimes), but also for the objective at hand. Staying myopic in execution phase precludes you from seeing the bigger picture. That’s the whole point of the second half of Deming’s famous PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) model.

In deference to the recently departed Dr. Stephen R. Covey, it’s vital that we take heed to his seventh habit of highly effective people—sharpen the saw. I was listening to an interview this morning between Tony Robbins and Dr. Covey, where he was talking about this and the other habits. In the interview, Dr. Covey uses a great metaphor—sometimes people are too busy driving to get gas.

I’m an execution nut like the rest of us, so I know how hard it is to pull away from what’s staring you in the face. When I was leading a critical data migration project for Visa (my first intervention there), it was non-stop, pedal-to-the-metal—sometimes for many days in a row. During the actual cutover, I was running calls with the team at 3 and 4 in the morning. It was brutal; but you do what’s necessary to get the job done. At some point though, you need to pull away. If you’re too busy driving to get gas, you’ll eventually run out. Fortunately for me, I get to refill with a Silicon Valley state of mind.

Hope you enjoy the blog—stay in touch!

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