14 August 2009

Ravenchase, in the NYT!

The company that I used to work for, Ravenchase Adventures, just had an article published about them in the New York Times. It focuses on the trouble that such a company would have in this economic climate, but has an overall positive tone. I have a certain, extra measure of pride in this because, before I left the company, I was put in touch with the reporter who I in turn put in touch with the company president. It's like I'm almost famous!

My shallow pride aside, it's a really great company and I hope that this brings them some more well-deserved attention!

10 August 2009

Promoting Corporate Excellence

Via kottke, I came across a stack of slides from Netflix on developing a corporate culture, embedded below.

Some highlights:

  • Slides 24-29 on building a strong team. 
  • Slide 33, on the difference between efforts and results.
  • Slides 41-55 on the relationship between employee freedom, business complexity and the percentage of high performance employees in a company.
  • Slides 76-84 on the responsibility of managers to create a context where high performance employees can thrive.
And many others on compensation, an innovative vacation policy, etc... I encourage you to look through them all. In short, I'm impressed. It strikes me as the sort of environment where high performance individuals will thrive in a cohesive and coherent way, leading to great results.

What frustrates me, though, is the outcome of all this incredible performance. After all this work, all this effort, how is the world different? Someone in Minnesota gets a DVD one day earlier than they would have otherwise. While the global energy challenge remains unresolved, while one billion people get by on less than $1 per day, etc...

The real challenge going forward is building a system wherein this level of performance can be sustained while providing benefit where it's most needed. I understand that Grameen Bank has had some success in this respect, but I want to see more.

Of course, I have nothing against Netflix, I wish them nothing but continued success. They're providing the world with an excellent organizational model, let alone a lovely DVD rental service.

Enjoy the slides!

05 August 2009

To Versailles, Finally

Thanks to college friend Adam coming to explore Paris, I finally had an excuse to go see Versailles. Esther and I were thinking about going when I first visited her in 2005, but I had already seen another ch√Ęteau and was getting frustrated with the ridiculous displays of wealth.

My impression after having seen the palace and its grounds is that I made a good choice in 2005. It is a pretty incredible on the part of Louis XIV to have responded to social unrest due to the injustices and excesses of his government to build an even bigger, less sustainable palace outside of palace. The guy had already been living at the Louvre, how much more can you want?

Apparently much more. Here's some photographic evidence:

It was, understandably, extremely luxurious, but it left me wondering what the ultra-wealthy are doing these days. There, at Versailles, the floors creaked, there was no impressive technology on display, it was all very traditional. What are the moderns doing with their disposable income?

More than anything, it made me want to go to Las Vegas to see what that example of excess and unsustainability looks and feels like.

Here's the full album:

Versailles with Adam