Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Experts Predict Economic Expansion for 2015 and 2016

Experts predict a few more strong laps around this race track we call our economy. Fifty forecasting experts with the National Association of Business Economics (NABE) believe the U.S. economy will grow at a rapid pace over the next two years. They suspect Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will increase on average 3.1% in 2015 and 2.9% in 2016.  
Few can complain about the potential win-win situation brewing that will reward businesses with higher sales and better employment opportunities for job seekers. Experts believe the economy will improve to a point where unemployment dips under 5% by the end of 2016.
The advantages of polling experts can help gauge the overall likelihood of success for the nation. These economic gurus have become successful in their fields and have opinions on economic growth and development. Funneling their opinions into useful metrics helps see that the average opinion is positive.
Each expert sifts the questionnaire information through their personal experiences, judgments and opinions to come to a conclusion about each question. These conclusions are averaged to get the statistics seen above. The more people involved in the forecast the greater the validity of the results.
Positive news and accurate information often draws investment from interested stakeholders that desire to improve their profit margins.  For example, if you own a business that is likely to benefit from a growing economy and are holding onto cash the positive news may prompt additional investment. This can in turn generate more employment; 250,000 per month worth.
Growing economies, lower unemployment, higher investment, and sustainable spending are positive news for any government that seeks to place in the finals of racing nations.  That doesn’t mean any of this will come to pass but that industry experts believe it is possible and perhaps even likely. If you are a business investor or a person seeking to gain from employment opportunities these numbers should be refreshing.

Poem and Painting: Solitude at the Beach- Work and Life Balance

Dr. Murad Abel
The sands of summer,
subtle breeze of daylight hours. 

Whips of grass,
rustling in sway.

Salty sea of ocean blue,
A place to sit for a while.

On the shoreline grass,
Where noise is a soft hum.

The waves never stop rolling,
Always keeping the line of land and sea.

A few minutes of walking,
Life's problems step away.

A few hours a week,
Your focus will be at its peak.

The poem discusses the idea that each person needs to find balance in their lives, work life, and goals. At times that balance comes from spending time alone while other times it could be spending time with family or engaging in fitness activities. Each person should discover that which keeps them motivated about life.

Work is a process that is aesthetically pleasing for a great many high performance players. Yet life isn't only about work. It includes other things such as family, friends, goals, and hobbies. Professionals should round out their interests in life to include both work but also non-work activities.

In my experience I have met individuals whose only goal is to progress at work with little regard for the other needs in their life. They may eventually achieve their goal but must give up other things that also have importance. Too narrow of a focus takes away from the flavor of life and leads to burn out.

Find activities and hobbies that help you balance and round out your life. For example, if you like cars but never had a chance to put your effort into one go and find a classic junker to fix up on the few hours you own every weekend. Maybe you want to coach baseball, engage in art, or find something else of interest. The choice is yours!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Solar Powered San Diego Encourages Ecological Advancement

San Diego is well on its way to becoming a city destined for environmental salvation. According to the non-profit Environment California Research & Policy Center San Diego Ranks second in the nation in terms of solar power usage. We are doing well in protecting our environment and ensuring a sustainable future. That doesn't mean we can't do more.

Creating streamlined processes for solar power installation approval as well as encouraging higher levels of solar power reliance is beneficial for setting the framework for sustainable cities. If there are any unnecessary restrictions on installing solar panels it will raise the overall customer costs and slow the pace of solar integration.

There are advantages to developing solar panels that include less reliance on outside sources of energy, lowering long-term costs, and reducing environmental costs. As more renewable sources are developed the city will lower its overall carbon footprint and slow its contribution to environmental problems.

Finding the right policies, awareness processes, and incentives helps to ensure people make a equitable choice to use renewable sources. With solar panels there is often a higher initial investment but much lower costs spread out over the duration of the panels. Making sure people understand where they can get panels and their true costs can tip the scales in consumer choice.

Solar panels and ecologically designed cities are the way of the future. Those cities in the process of transformation and building new infrastructure should consider the benefits of developing ecologically sound practices. San Diego is in a strong position to foster ecological hubs that spur new industries in environmental and blue economic development. 


Why Industry Experts Won't Turn Their Back on Online Education?

Professionals wont turn their back on online doctorates because it provides them one of the only feasible ways to obtain a terminal degree. People with decades of experience don’t often go back to get a doctorate because of the years of time and investment that would pull them away from their business duties. Online doctoral education can marry professional experience and theory in ways that would be difficult for traditional schools to fulfill.
Online doctoral education has four purposes (Radda & Mandernach, 2013).:
1.      Prepare the doctoral community to develop knowledge and skills for the 21st century.
2.      Capture the collective intelligences and knowledge of individuals.
3.      Deepen scholarship and practical application of that scholarship.
4.      To further the interests of scholar-practitioners.

Online education has come a long way over the past 20 years and research has shown that the modality is growing in terms of benefits and effectiveness. One of the reasons why traditional colleges are adopting the model is because of cost and reach. With online education they can draw in additional learners that would previously been unable to go back to school.

We should think about all the experience out there hidden in the boardrooms and office. Many of these people would offer valuable knowledge to both academic and fellow industry stakeholders. Getting them into a doctoral program not only helps to grow their businesses but also ensure that their knowledge can be applied by others.

One of the main purposes of higher education is to grow and expand knowledge in a way that furthers the interest of societal stakeholders. Sometimes theory is developed that is difficult to implement for practical use in business. People with knowledge from industry have a better shot at developing theory that has immediate application to industry stakeholders that furthers economic growth.

Developing useful theory has a wider benefit to the business community and society. As better theory is produced and more quickly implemented into business practices the economic fundamentals of society strengthen leading to higher levels of adaptation and development. Seasoned business executives won’t turn their back on online education because they understand that quality of learning and usefulness of solutions are more important than the name of the school.

Radda, H. & Mandernach, B. (2013). Doctoral education online: challenging the paradigm. Journal of Education Technology, 9 (3).

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Importance of Listening to Veteran Needs- Using Feedback Loops

The San Diego VA is listening to veteran frustrations about services and the ease by which they can navigate the medical system. The initiative is part of broader effort to understand how to better service veterans and improve the effectiveness of VA hospitals. Throughout the month of August and September the VA is conducting town hall meetings throughout the country. This is the VA's opportunity to consider both physical and virtual feedback loops in future policy development.

As part of our Road to Veterans Day, VA is taking a hard look at everything we do in order to reorganize the Department around the needs of Veterans. Direct feedback from Veterans, employees and stakeholders is an important component of that Roadmap, and key to improving our services and operations,” states VA Secretary McDonald (Veterans Administration,2015).

Organizations use virtual feedback loops to understand how top level policies impact users on the bottom level. Sometimes feedback comment boxes are successful in collecting relevant information while at other times they pigeon hole the information into inaccurate data. Ensuring that online feedback loops are effective and offer alternative methods of presenting information is important. 

Having occasional face-to-face meetings offer opportunities for people to air their grievances to a real person they can hold accountable. It is important for those officials to provide their contact information. They will need to be empowered to make changes when consistent themes are discovered that could potentially improve the hospitals. 

The VA has been plagued by problems for a long time leaving a large swath of veterans unable to get the services they need. There is some indication that a number veterans have lost their lives trying to navigate the system. VA administrators allegedly hid the inefficient and ineffective methods from stakeholders and superiors thereby allowing dysfunction to grow. 

The face-to-face town hall meetings should only be a launch to more accountability.  Adaptive organizations develop adequate feedback loops that are able to make meaningful use of information while not inadvertently masking that information because of poor survey design. Leaving an open comment section in surveys and using a human evaluator in addition to automatic systems helps to ensure that open comments are collected and synthesized properly. 

All collected information can be reviewed on a regular basis and consistently applied to policy development and departmental approval. Incremental changes will help keep the organization responsive to its mission and to the people it serves. The process of growth and development relies on the ability to develop a semi-open system that incorporates, collects, and implements useful information and suggestions. There is nothing stopping the effective management and creation of adaptable government systems other than the people in it. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Benefits of San Diego County and City Partnering on Charger Stadium Project

San Diego County and San Diego are partnering through putting in $250,000 a piece to hire attorneys, consultants and industry experts to determine the best way to approach keeping the Chargers in San Diego. The plan to collaborate between the two governmental entities is a good one that tells the NFL and the Chargers that they are serious about keeping them here but also about protecting taxpayer interest.

San Diego County and the City of San Diego are stakeholders in the same project and would both benefit from keeping the Chargers in the area. Stadiums are expensive beasts that can easily cost over a billion dollars to develop. Most of the expense related to developing and building will be footed by taxpayers to it is important that the full scope of the project is understood.

There are times when cities get into projects and quickly find themselves overwhelmed with the project, cost, data, and legal ramifications. Effective legal challenges are mounted and soon what appeared to be a good idea is swamped in layers of red tape. Under those circumstances it won't take long for the NFL to figure out their needs aren't going to get fulfilled with this project.

All projects contain an element of risk that can be controlled. By evaluating projects in advance, alternatives, and methods of completion a more comprehensive solution can be formalized. Risk are reduced through the use of an effective plan that takes into consideration the challenges and difficulties that are often a result of expensive and high profile projects.

Successful stadium projects require the ability to plan and understand the scope of the project and then enactment of a strategy for completion (Sampson, 2006). Without defined objectives and knowing what the project is to accomplish there is a high probability that it will move outside of its objectives and include costs and add ons that have little to do with the project itself.

When spending taxpayer money that can have large implications for the area it is important to aim well and shoot once. Protecting taxpayer money and expanding the benefits from keeping the Chargers in town is important business that shouldn't be left up the whim of a few people. Having a team of experts might cost the city and county a little money up front but will save them millions in the long run.

Sampson, B. (2006). Build it and the fans will follow. Professional Engineering, 19 (10).

Amazon Prime and Prime Pantry Mark Improvements in Personalized Distribution

It wasn't long ago when the only way to buy household items was to trek on down to the store and wait in line wasting your precious hours. For many business professionals and overwhelmed parents it can be difficult and time consuming to take a few hours out of the day to shop. Services like Amazon Prime and Prime Pantry offer an affordable and time efficient alternatives. Their services would not be possible without improvements in the distribution systems that takes advantage of urban density.

This is how it works. For $99 a year you can get access to a huge selection of movies, products, 2-day shipping and other services through Amazon Prime. The 2-day free shipping has mammoth appeal to a new generation online shoppers who like to save cost and time. Within a matter of a few days they have their products at a competitive price not influenced by location differences.

Prime Pantry works a little different but offers a one low cost shipping value of $5.99. Customers purchase a large box of  household items and have it shipped to their house in 1-4 business days. In my case, the order showed upon in 2 days making the service convenient and affordable. I was impressed enough to try it again when I need enough items to fill up the box again.

The two services are only possible through improvements in supply chain distribution. Home delivery is now an affordable option for people who don't have a lot of time, or who simply find it convenient to shop on line. If you are a busy parent with a household of children or you are a busy professional engaged in renaissance activities you are likely to use the service more.

For a new class of people who live in urban areas and don't own a car Amazon Prime and Prime Pantry complement their chosen lifestyles. They enjoy freedom from auto expenses by taking public transportation and shopping online. Services like Amazon affords them the opportunity spend their free time with friends, family, or recreational activities.

What makes all of this possible is the developing of shipping warehouses in major metropolitan areas. Without the ability to distribute products quickly and within a short time frame the company wouldn't be able to offer this service or grow additional interest among consumers. The locality of Amazon warehouses, and their investment in efficiency, is paying off in the market in a big way.

The distribution process is matching customer preferences closer by better bridging the gap between customer wants, e-commerce, and physical delivery.  Allowing customers to avoid annoying lines, purchase online with their debit card accounts and having the products show up in a day or so appeals to a wide swath of families and young professionals. An entire generation of people are being socialized to the merits of shopping through a few key strokes while spending their time in more enjoyable pursuits.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The New Economy Requires More of an “Einsteinian” Approach

Einstein would feel at home in today’s world.  His creative genius in solving problems would be of great demand in today’s world. Gone are the industrial days where following simple instructions from start to finish guaranteed success in life. Today’s employment opportunities have a greater need for creative thinking, STEM, and unique approaches to solving problems.  The world is changing and society will need to catch up. 

A great many things in our society are still built off of the Industrial Era mentality. Our educational system, government offices, law enforcement, etc. continue to use a sequential pattern to process people and information in an inefficient and often ineffective manner. Contrary to institutional sluggishness, most businesses have already moved into the Information Era where they focus on competitive advantages to solve problems and reduce costs. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics between 1998-2004 30% of new jobs created were algorithmic while 70% involved complex heuristic work (Bradford, Manyika, & Yee, 2005). In other words, most jobs today don’t involve simple A to Z processing and require thinking at a higher level to effectively process information in a way the can generate new ideas. The use of creativity and intuition are not foreign in this environment. 

A paper in Educational Leadership highlights how creative thinking is more rewarded in today’s society than sequential thinking (Goodwin & Miller, 2013). The global economy requires new ways of educating people to use those skills and abilities that were second nature to geniuses. Education has the responsibility to meet the needs of preparing people for more complex work environments.

Einstein was considered “dim witted”, Thomas Edison had a “confused mind”, and Darwin was a “little slow”. They were characterized by “experts” in this manner because a healthy human mind was one that could easily follow instructions. Line up and take your number was the main criteria for success-not a whole lot of creative thinking needed. People were stuck where they were born regardless of their abilities.

Luckily things have changed for the better in most sectors of society. According to the paper divergent thinking, heuristic problem solving, and right brain thinking are needed in today’s world and should be taught, not thwarted, in education. There will be an increasing need for graduates to think beyond what is front of them and move into more complex thought patterns to overcome market challenges.  

When a person can think about problems from multiple vantage points they can be more creative. Likewise, it is necessary to try and understand problems as much as possible and make an intellectual leap when all of the information isn’t available. The right brain will need to be employed to tackle issues emotionally, intuitively, creatively, globally and analytically.

For those developing new products and solving complex problems they will need to come up with answers to very complex problems. They cannot solve problems simply by following pre-made steps but must move forward, upward, backwards, sideways and downwards to understand problems. The use of multidirectional perception is needed to tackle problems effectively. 

We can see this process occur in software creation, product development, consulting, science, and other fields that require heavy intellectual labor. As the economic output speeds up and relies less on physical attributes mental faculty will help in developing businesses to push the envelope of their industries. The educational process will need to adjust their processes to ensure that the brightest minds, not only the ones that can follow instructions, can move forward to meet the intellectual needs of employers. I’m sure that Einstein will find his employment options today much more to his liking than sitting on an assembly line.  

Bradford, C., Manyika, J., & Yee,L. (2005). The next revolution in interactions. McKinsey Quarterly, 4,25–26.

Goodwin, B. & Miller, K. (2013). Creativity requires a mix of skills. Educational Leadership, 70 (5).

Keeping San Diego's Biking Plan Moving Forward

Biking is a great way to get around that creates a better living environment, protects the environment and encourages healthier lifestyles. Seeing people out on the streets enjoying themselves and riding their bikes to grocery stores, restaurants, movies, and other places is one of those Kodak images for San Diego. People who live here, or who would be interested in living here in the future, will consider the "walkability/bikability" of neighborhoods before choosing a place to set down roots and invest in a home.

Traffic is also a major contributor to stress and lost time in the city. We only need to look at the highways during commuting time. When biking paths are available, and people live within a few miles of their workplace, they may consider biking in instead of jumping in the car. The more people who bike into work the more it saves on highway congestion and parking problems.

Let us not forget that San Diego is an ecological city that prides itself on advanced environmentally green development. Encouraging biking in the area also supports reduction of fossil fuels and pollution in the city. Bikes have almost no carbon footprint and are one of the best ways to support the reversal of global warming.

In metropolitan areas it becomes easier and cheaper to use public transportation. Urban and popular neighborhoods often rely on public transportation because it is difficult to find parking and maintain expensive cars. Bikes help people in these areas get around locally giving them some mobility within their neighborhoods while using public transportation for cross neighborhood movement.

Despite its benefits biking can be dangerous along certain streets where high levels of traffic move at a fast pace. Without bike lanes bikers are at the mercy of the good judgement of drivers; even if that judgement isn't that great. Drivers are sometimes are distracted, cut each other off, and feel perfectly comfortable zipping within a foot or so of a biker.  Bike lanes tell drivers "this is my area".

There will be hiccups in the implementation of any plan. City plans are generally developed from a city-wide macro perspective and at times neighborhoods will seek to adjust that plan for their own needs. Evaluating the concerns, seeking alternatives that create win-win situations when possible, and then moving forward is needed.  Keeping an adaptable version of the plan moving forward is helpful.

Supporting biking in San Diego is important for helping the local economy attract talent, reduce pollution, improve health, and create better neighborhoods. As more bike lanes are developed people will find more reason to leave their cars at home and take their bike to places they may enjoy. The discussion has motivated me to use my bike a little more often. Hopefully I can find a few lanes to use that keep me away from the onslaught of autos. 

City of San Diego Bicycle Master Plan

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Is Cheap Wine Poisoning You?

You may love the price of cheap wine but cringe at a dangerous chemical that is in it. Poison was not one of the things you read about on the label. According to a lawsuit filed against 28 California wineries they "produce and market wines that contain dangerously high levels of inorganic arsenic, in some cases up to 500 percent or more than what is considered the maximum acceptable safe daily intake limit” (1).  

The lawsuit may or may not have merit depending on how the facts play out. A little extra arsenic is common in wines but stay way below dangerous levels. According to a study out of Cornell 1,300 bottles of wine tested only 83 showed up with 5X more arsenic than what would be found in water (2). The risks are relatively low and multiple tests seem to confirm this. 

The type of wine that will be most likely to have higher levels of arsenic are cheaper white and blush wines that are from areas that need lots of irrigation. Cheaper wines are general produced in less healthy soils while quality wines are focused more on maximizing value from higher quality soil. You will pay a premium for the highest quality wines.

Wine and food can be mass produced like any other product. We see this with meat , chicken, and other mega agriculture. With a cheaper price comes the necessity to mass produce. It is that mass production that will create problems as repetitive actions are taken that raise pollution levels.  Yet without that mass production products would be extremely expensive.

Unless something significant comes out of the lawsuit there isn’t much a consumer can do unless they are an avid reader on wines and know their berry backgrounds. Moving up in price to higher quality wines is one option but that wine will cost you more money. Stay tuned and continue to read websites, lists, and blogs on the quality of your wine and where it came from.