Compartmentalizing

I’m going camping tonight.  Just for one night.  But for one night I’ll be disconnected from the Internet, away from my cell phone and just hanging out with three of my closest friends.  I’ve always found that being able to change your surroundings, even if for a brief period, can be renewing and refreshing.  It’s also a great time to both reflect back on what you’ve been doing and look forward to what you want to be doing.

People often talk about the “work / life balance.”  I don’t describe it that way since for me, and for many of you, work is life, or at least work occupies a large portion of your life.  I describe it as being able to compartmentalize.  When changing roles from work to home, it’s important to have the ability to compartmentalize one role for another.  I’m referring to the ability to change roles from being a boss or employee or team player at work to being a good boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, friend or neighbor, or whatever the scenario calls for.

All too often people carry their frustrations from one interaction to the next.  I’m all for confronting issues and dealing with problems, but when you leave a bad meeting and go to another meeting with a whole new agenda, you need to leave your problems at the door.  The same thing applies for when you have a bad day at work and you get home.

I guess another way to put is is… be happy with what you have and remember that tomorrow is a new day.

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Leadership

There are a lot of books on leadership out there, but there is only one that tells you how to be a leader… or as I’d say, “How to not suck at life and instead work to inspire those around you to be great.”  Some folks believe that leadership is born and not learned; I disagree.  While some folks are probably better suited to become strong leaders, the skills of leadership can be adopted by anyone in any situation and put to good use.  Much of it seems like common sense once read, but are things that people often forget.

The book is called FM 6-22, also known as The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual.

If you’ve ever been faced with having to lead a group of any size, this book will provide invaluable help. It covers leadership characteristics, leadership presence, leadership intelligence (both ways!), and topics like how to extend influence beyond a single link, how to lead by example, how to lead by authority, and how to provide direction, guidance, feedback and priorities.  And it covers how important all of those topics are.

Finally, it covers a topic the “business school” leadership books often omit, how to deal with the stress of being a leader; a topic of great importance as you lead your teams into new projects, initiatives and essentially ask the people under you to trust you.

As a side note, I think this books is also for the “cheerleader” type of leaders (what I tongue-in-cheek call bullshitters) because it helps those kinds of leaders understand that not everyone can just rally around an idea forever.  They need evidence, confidence and a feeling that the leadership is competent in being leaders.  Being a cheerleader is fine, as many cheerleaders might know what’s happening under the hood and have enough confidence in themselves to just tell everyone “it’s gonna be awesome, we’re gonna be rich if you just build this,” but for many workers that won’t fly.  You have to tailor your messages to your audience, and nobody knows how to do that better to a diverse group of individuals than the US Army.

In closing; go get this book or ask me for a copy; I keep a bunch around.

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Filed under Entrepreneurship, Leadership

Software patents shouldn’t be abolished, but they should be reformed

Chris Dixon has written about why software patents should be abolished.  I don’t agree, though I do agree they need a massive amount of reform.

But first, an aside. I’ve been reading Chris’ blog for the last few weeks, ever since News.YC started posting all his links.  He’s one of the few entrepreneurs who has a blog worth reading, and rarer still, I see eye to eye on nearly everything he writes.  I’ll do another post at some other point highlighting some of my favorite essays of his, but the point of this introductory post is to discuss about my views on how to fix software patents (as opposed to simply eliminating them).

Software patents are an interesting construct, and highlight the extreme abuse of patents in general.  There is nothing inherent about software patents that make them more egregiously abused than other patents, just that software companies patent more than companies in any other field.

Chris does a good job discussing the the issues with patents, including one of the most serious, that examiners aren’t qualified to examine patents.  The reality is that they are quite qualified, they simply don’t have the time to properly evaluate patents because they are so deluged with applications. And, they are not just applications from inventors, but they are reviewing applications from lawyers who craft the filings to be both specific and broad at the same time!  In a special language using special diagrams and other constructs specifically developed to create ambiguity, where certainty belongs.

So that needs to be fixed.  But that’s not the most serious problem with patents.  The most serious is that the cost to file a patent is relatively low, and once granted, a patent lasts for up to 20 years.  This has generated collectives of patent trolls who collects 1000′s of patents that they use to aggressively pursue “infringers” (I mean, innovators).  20 years to go after people is a long time in the world of innovation.  But in a world of broad and vague patents, 20 years can represent 20 years of massive royalties and headaches for inventors.

In my mind, the solution to patent trolls is to make the cost of a patent increase every year.  If a patent costs $100 in year 1, $1000 in year 2, $10,000 in year 3, $100,000 in year 4, $1,000,000 in year 5, $10,000,000 in year 6, $100,000,000 in year 7 and $1,000,000,000 in year 8 then at some point the cost of renewing a patent will exceed the benefit derived.  But this model would also provide for a clear and transparent way for a company to protect a patent indefinitely so long as the holder derives more benefit than the cost of renewing.  Perhaps an exponential cost model is too aggressive, but some sort of sliding scale could be established to accomplish the same means.

What do you think?  Would this model work?  This doesn’t stop people from filing applications, but I’m sure a similar model could be worked out on the application side to help stem the tide of applications.

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