The Entrepreneurial Engineer

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Engineering podcast search engine

Rich Hoeg's eContent has a post about an Engineering Podcast Search engine created with Google Co-Op here. The engine can be accessed here.

Take the Guy Kawasaki venture capital aptitude test

here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Better coverage at Stanford

My entrepreneurial activities get better coverage at Stanford than they do at Illinois (see here). Tom Byers and the gang at STVP run a heckuva program.

The entrepreneurial pendulum

Rebelutionary has an interesting post (here) about the entrepreneurial pendulum or that swing in moods felt by the entrepreneur as he/she approaches the market, alternately believing him/herself to be an idiot or G-d's gift to commerce.

And speaking about ideas

And speaking about ideas Landing the Deal has a post (here) about a site called springwise.com whose slogan is your daily fix of entrepreneurial ideas. Check out today's ideas here.

Will Rob Smith get Roundtuit?

I forgot about Rob Smith's clever blog Roundtuit for ideas that others might get roundtuit if you don't. He was commenting about the Rotter-Covey square and mentioned a time management system idea he had blogged about earlier (see here for comment and here for link). I've also linked roundtuit to the permanent links of this blog (and here). Not a bad source of freebie ideas for the entrepreneurial engineer.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rotter, Covey, and the urgency-importance square

In The Entrepreneurial Engineer I talk about Julian Rotter's work on the distinction between those with internal versus external motivation. In Stephen Covey's famous book, he talks about the distinction between matters that are urgent versus those that are important.

The connection between these two authors is this. Matters that are urgent are important to someone other than you (externally motivated) and matters that are important get their importance because they are consistent with your internal motivation and goals. Saying this out loud helps highlight the point Covey was making and helps us name the quadrants of his famous urgency-importance square. Here in deference to Rotter's earlier work, we call the diagram the Rotter-Covey Square and name the four quadrants something other than I, II, II, and IV.

The upper right quadrant, called the do-it quadrant, concerns matters that important to you and others. There can be little question that these are matters of the highest priority.

The lower right quadrant, called the strategic maximization quadrant, conerns matters that are important to you, but not urgent for others. This, as Covey points out, is an oft-neglected quadrant, but one that should not be neglected. Thus, it is strategically important to rearrangea life to try to maximize time in this quadrant through long-term rearrangment of affairs so that more time can be spent on matters important to you.

The upper right quadrant, called the strategic minimization quadrant, concerns matters that are urgent for others, but not that important to you. Covey points out that for most of us this quadrant can be the dominant quad in our lives. We call it the quad of strategic minimization because it is important to a happy life to try to minimize time spent here through choosing work that gives us a steady dosage of activities that are important to us and others as well as time to do things that are simply important to us alone.

The lower right quadrant, called the tactical elimination quadrant, is the quad of busy work, work that isn't important to us or others. The best approach here is to just say "no" and tactically eliminate the time spent on items that no one cares about.

Rotter's distinction between internal and external motivations is an important one, and doing as Covey suggests by relating those to activities and how time is spent can lead to more time, better spent, on more meaningful activities.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Genetic algorithms used for stock picking

See my post on the latest hoopla of using genetic algorithms to pick stocks here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Business hatcheries

Jeff Cornwall has a nice post over at The Entrepreneurial Mind about student business hatcheries at Belmont University.
For those students who have their own businesses we offer our student business hatcheries. The three hatcheries on our campus offer student entrepreneurs access to basic business infrastructure (desks, computers, phones, faxes, copier, etc.) on a co-op basis and to a variety of educational opportunities tied directly to their personal entrepreneurial experiences. Faculty, entrepreneur mentors, our accounting faculty, and local attorneys provide support and advice for students participating in this program.
See the full post here with pictures.

Why engineers do what they do

Hot soup has a heartfelt blogpost about why engineers do what they do here.

Pride and passion for the joyful engineer

PE Magazine picked my short article The Joy of Engineering: Pride and Passion for the Professional. Download a pdf file here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Square of Epictetus


I've blogged about Epictetus before (here), and I really like the opening words of the Enchiridion:
Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.

If we think of the things in our control and not in our control and consider them juxtaposed with our internal state of mind (concerned or not concerned), we can get a nice visualization of what I've chosen to call the Square of Epictetus.

The two positive quadrants are when we are concerned with those things we can control and unconcerned with the things we do not. I've called these, the quadrants of accomplishment and peace of mind, respectively. On the other hand, when we spend concern on things we do not control or when we do not mind things we can and should, I've labeled these quadrants, the quadrants of needless worry and foregone opportunity.

In which quadrant do you spend most of your time? There can be honest difference of opinion between one of the two positive quadrants, and there can be genuine difficulty in not knowing whether something is controllable, even partially, or not, but looking at it this way, I wonder why I've spent as much of my life as I have in the quadrant of needless worry.

How do your rate in the Square of Epictetus? Where do you spend your time, and do you think you are spending your time wisely?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Boom vs. Boom

The MySpace and YouTube sales together with the rumors of a FaceBook sale got me thinking about the dot.com bust and the current round of big acquisitions. Is there a difference? Or is this yet another tulip craze? I actually think it is real, and I think there are a number of factors to take into account:

Technoecomomic forces. The technoeconomic forces of the first boom and the current one, if it is one, are the same. The internet (a) reduces transaction costs (see Ronald Coase), and (b) increases network returns (see Brian Arthur), but the difference is that the first boom was anticipatory: the infrastructure was not there to realize the benefits fully.

Infrastructure now in place. In the current boom(let), the infrastructure of search and advertising are now in place. Google is a central actor, and in some ways the Google IPO was central milestone in proving that the internet can generate real businesses with real returns. The first boom was about eyeballs (on web sites), but the current boom is about taking eyeballs and turning them into profits.

From widgets to self-expression. The first boom was about infrastructure and web widgets of various flavors. The current boom(let) is about lifestyle, self-expression, and identity; it is more human centered, less technology centered. The remaking of Apple as a music company in ITunes is a landmark in this shift, and the Friendster to MySpace and Facebook evolution is all about going from mere communication to community and projection of persona. This shift causes three other shifts: bigger bangs, younger actors, more communal enterprises

Bigger bangs. With infrastructure in place and the playing field shifted to self-_expression and lifestyle, the successes are faster and bigger. This gives us Big Bang capitalism with a vengeance. There is a positive reinforcement loop at work here. More entrepreneurs have always bred more entrepreneurs, but if this occurs bigger and faster, the new entrepreneurs become angels and VCs more quickly, and the cycle accelerates.

Younger actors and customers. The shift to lifestyle, changes the demographics of the boom(let) as well. Cultural change takes place among those who are not already set in their ways, the young. High schoolers and undergraduates now use AIM + Facebook/MySpace + Mobile phones in place of email. For them email is dead. This occurred quickly. Brin and Page (Google) were grad students. Karim (YouTube) got his BS from Illinois in 2004 and Zuckerberg started Facebook at Harvard in 2004 as undergrad. Future changes will occur at the HS and undergrad demographic. Current undergrads have noticed (at Illinois for sure), and they want to be like their successful peers.

Creative communal activities. David Brooks coined the term "BoBos" to refer to Bourgeoise-bohemians, those who accepted capitalist processes together with a creative ethic, and Richard Florida has chronicled the rise of the creative class. The new boom(let) reflects these changes well, I think. The new businesses are a pastiche of creative, marketing, financial, and technical effort. Stock and stock options create a kind of creative commune in which everyone benefits if the enterprise is successful. This is a change from capitalism of times gone by, and perhaps Marx's historical materialism was right in the sense that paternal and hierarchical capitalism of the 20th century would be overthrown by something more communal. It wasn't communism that arose, however. It was a more integrated and creative kind of business organization in which success was more evenly shared than in earlier industrial forms of organization.

Where does this lead?
It seems to me that these features will become hypertrophied as time goes on. Young becomes younger. Creative becomes more creative. Communal becomes even more communal. Lifestyle/identity becomes more like Hollywood and fashion than technology driven. My own work in Nextumi is at the edge of these trends, and my research in genetic algorithms has been redirected at helping enterprises and groups become more innovative and creative through the use of collaborative technology and machine learning together in a new synthesis (http://www-discus.ge.uiuc.edu/).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

WMU features TEE

Ed Eckel, librarian of the Parkview Campus of Western Michigan University, has recommended TEE to his engineering students here.

TEE hits ME mag

Bill Rule, an old colleague at the University of Alabama (now at SUNY Oswego), points out that TEE, the book, has a bit of writeup in Mechanical Engineering, the magazine of ASME on page 49.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

TEE book of the week at TSU

Texas Southern University (TSU) librarian has declared The Entrepreneurial Engineer the book of the week here:
This handy guide includes exercises at the end of each chapter to as the author puts it: “engage the material and put it into practice”. For current and future engineers who want to remain at the forefront of the field, this text has the information you need to succeed.

Take a look at the full blog entry.