Live RESPECT, You Flourish. Abandon it, You Crumble.


Photo Credit: J. Ng May, 2015 Conceptual Art. Lenbachhaus Museum, Munich, Germany.

One Sat morning I went to Starbucks to get my grande bold. The old lady in front of me looked a little queer. She ordered two tall pikes and paid with a Starbucks gift card. After several attempts, the server said, “Sorry Mam. The card did not work. Do you have any other method of payment?” After fumbling through her purse and all her pockets, embarrassed, she shook her head as if she just wanted to disappear. All eyes were on her. Before anyone had an opportunity to respond, another server took out two tall pikes, nicely put on a paper tray, with a big gentle smile, he looked this old lady in the eyes and said, “It’s on the house. My pleasure to serve you.” The lady was surprised but delighted. As she added milk to her coffees, her hands were shaking uncontrollably, likely due to some chronic problems. The hot coffee spilled on her hands causing burns, making a mess & a big scene. One server immediately came, attending to her burns, making sure she was OK. The other server went to pour two new cups of tall pike. Knowing her hands were not steady, he asked her politely if he could put in the cream for her, attending to details asking 2% milk or cream and how much she wanted, if she wanted sugar. The lady’s shame was turned into joy, enjoying the moment to be treated like a queen. Asked if she needed anything else, she answered no. The two servers walked her to the door, then came back to clean up the floor. I couldn’t help but to go up to the two servers and thank them for their good service and kind heart.

One might argue that coffee is different from a seat on a plane. But there is so much United Air can learn from how Starbucks treats non-paying, troublesome customers, so United Air can treat their paying customers with more respect.

To illustrate the gravity of the United Air’s narcissistic business practices, someone came up with the following restaurant analogy. Can you imagine that you went to a restaurant to eat. You sat down. Ordered your food and actually paid for it. With the food you ordered and paid for placed in front of you, the owner of the restaurant came out and told you his employee needed to eat before taking his next shift and asked you to get out of your seat so his employee can eat your plate that you paid for. You refused. You were upset.  You insisted to eat the plate of food you paid for. The owner sent in two security guards, assaulted you, then threw you out of the restaurant. As ridiculous as it sounds, that is exactly what United Air did: bullying and cheating their customer, when they assaulted a customer who has fully paid his fare and had boarded the plane, then got dragged off the plane just because the airline’s employees needed that seat that was rightfully the customer’s.

When the company is obsessed by greed for profit, they lose sight of customers. Customers become their inconvenience.  Such abandonment of respect creates a very toxic culture for the company that will eventually crumble the company.

The contrast between Starbucks and United Air is far too profound and significant. Good company culture always starts with the top.




Clarity in Execution is Key in Driving Innovation


Women In Business Markham Event at IBM Canada Software Lab, 8200 Warden Markham site, December 3rd 2014.


I capture my Lightning Talk at the Markham December 3rd, 2014 event of Women Cultivating Innovation for Business Success in this blog entry.

Henry Ford once said, “Innovation without execution is hallucination.”

I confess that I can’t stop “hallucinating” in that sense all day long. When I first took on this job as the Head of Research for CAS, IBM Canada Software Lab, my calendar was filled with back to back meetings. I met with many distinguished academics, researchers and technologists. We talked about innovations in various technology areas. Many brain storming ideas had great potential. I was greatly energized with my head filled with innovative ideas that had I switched my schedule to a twenty four hours work day, it wouldn’t have been enough to process them all.

How can great ideas in people’s heads be transposed into external reality that leads to business success?

The key to execute innovative ideas into business success is CLARITY. 

I highlight in particular the clarity in definition of success and the clarity in definition of relationships within the innovation Eco-system. The benefits are priceless. Such clarity:

  • Establishes shared goals
  • Establishes common understanding of roles and rules of engagement
  • Provides path for participation 
  • Motivates contributions

from all parties within the innovation Eco-system.

Clarity in Definition of Success


Academics and researchers value citations of publications. But to the bottom line of IBM’s software business, publications, while important, by itself alone is not enough to justify the return on research investment. We cannot possibly rest just by publishing how to make cars academically while people are traveling by horses, until people are actually given cars to drive. Innovation has to hit home run by bringing positive transformations in real life.

On the other hand, products built without harvesting research outcome may not be as solidly grounded on validated assumptions, with proven technology established through methodical approaches.

Leading an organization of applied research for commercialization, we clearly define success as measured in the four-P languages of innovation  namely, by patents, publications, prototypes and productization.

Clarity in Definition of Relationship

There are many parties and many people we work with within the Eco system of innovation. Clearly defining the relationship is key to a productive and mutually beneficial partnership. Examples of Key relationships in my world of technology innovation include (but not limited to):

  • Research Partners:
    • Are they partners from whom I consume their research outcome?
    • Are they partners whom I share my research agenda with as an invitation to new research areas?
    • Are they partners as co-innovator?
  • Customers
    • Are they sources of problem statements validation?
    • Are they early adopters of technology in proof of architecture, to provide feedback?
    • Are they purchasers of our technology?
  • Industrial partners
    • Are they competitors?
    • Are they collaborators?
    • Are they co-researhcers and/or co-innovators?
  • Business investors
    • Are they funding sources (e.g. venture capitalists)?
    • Are they business partners to take the technology to market (e.g. marketing and sales etc..)
  • Public communities
    • Are they advocates and influence-rs?
    • Are they crowd-sourcing? validating?

One partner can be in multiple relationships or change relationship from one type to another at different point in time.

Clarity in definition of success and definition of relationship accelerates efficiency and provides focus in innovation execution, greatly facilitating the transposing of great ideas internal to people’s heads into external transformed reality that brings positive impact and benefits.