Why Small Means Fast

It’s common knowledge that the main advantage of small organizations is their agility and speed. A friend of mine recently showed me a $20 pull up bar he bought for his room. He’s probably a lean 5’9″–a whole half foot taller than me. When the bar was setup, I hopped up and did a set of ten pull ups without breaking a sweat, amazing my friend because doing three was already a challenge for him. Obviously, my ease resulted from my small size–I needed considerably less strength to lift my body mass than my friend. Mechanically speaking, it requires less force (hence work and power) to accelerate my mass resulting in a natural speed advantage for smaller bodies. My friend needs to exert a lot more energy (and stronger muscles) to move than I do.

This applies similarly to organizations: the big guys have inertia while small guys have speed. Once big guys get going, they are hard to stop and withstand, but if you’re small, they are easy to evade and outrun and there are many opportunities you can take before they can. Perhaps small organizations can even shrewdly attain equal momentum (impact?) to juggernauts by sufficiently increasing their velocity (momentum = mass * velocity). Agility also falls out of these metaphors because changing directions is just a form of acceleration, which means small bodies can adjust their courses with a lot less energy than big ones.

Given these realities, it seems odd that large organizations would try to “stay small” or offer a “startup culture” because while this may be a useful recruiting tool, it does not play to the strengths of bigness. Massive things are not easily shaken, they tend to be stable and unstoppable. They have the ability to take on massive problems that require the strength of numbers. They have more support structures to carry goals through to the finish instead of getting stuck when a team member leaves. They do have to work harder to accelerate (changing direction or going faster) and build up greater strength to reach their goals, but they also have more influence: their small decisions have massive implications.

Startups, on the other hand, have a tendency to “talk big” about changing the world, which again is useful for recruiting and morale, but does not reflect the present reality and advantages of a small organization: the ability to quickly exploit opportunities as they come, doing more/getting more done with less (10 pull ups instead of 2), and more control or influence over the direction and momentum of the organization.

For individuals, this may sound like a choice between “big fish in a small pond” versus “small fish in a big pond”, but I’m talking about organizations here.

Call it naive, idealistic, blatantly obvious, foolish talk, but it seems like it’s better for big companies to act big and small companies to act small: play to the strengths of what you are and adapt your strategy as you “evolve”. This is a mistake I think my church made in the past: despite being small, we tried to use Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church methodologies, which resulted in an overbearing structure that we lacked the strength to sustain. Instead of acting big by applying big strategies, it would have been better to adopt any helpful principles, and maximize the advantages of our smallness by for example increasing the flatness of the organization and emphasizing relationships between the leadership and members.

Your organization might grow into an integrated behemoth or it might become a loose confederacy of organisms, but in any case, it seems wise to play to your strengths instead of acting like something you are not.

My top 5 iPad apps (so far)

It’s been about three weeks since I purchased my iPad and I thought it would be fitting to write up a list of my favorite apps so far. I chose to write about apps that don’t come with a new ipad, but some are quite well known already. So without furrier ado, here it is:

Zillow

Not everyone is looking for a house, but this beautiful app has proven most useful on my house hunt. Being able to touch houses on a map makes a lot more sense in general than flipping through a list and it’s really easy to get the details and view photos in a gallery view. If you’re not looking for a house, the incredible map interaction available in Google Maps is very useful and impressive–try clicking on street view and you’ll feel like you’ve been magically teleported to the place on the map.

Dungeon Hunter

This game was previously released for the iPhone, but it looks really slick on the iPad. It’s similar to the PC game Dungeon Siege and the game play is quite fun.  Sometimes the UI controls aren’t the best (e.g. getting in the way of where I want to tap on the map), but can you imagine playing a 3d RPG on a laptop for 3-4 hours without plugging it in? It’s amazing that I can play this kind of game on the iPad anywhere, anytime because of the superb battery life. And when it’s time to stop, exiting the game is as simple as pressing the big black hardware button. It is a bit slow to load, but being able to start and stop playing a rather sophisticated game so easily is quite impressive.

ESV Bible

The ESV study Bible is one of my most used apps and it’s AMAZING given it’s price: free. I expected it to be just another Bible app backed by a web service, but it turns out that you get the whole ESV Bible for free, OFFLINE (since I have the wifi-only iPad, this matters alot)!!!  This app has a beautiful UI and beautiful typography. The search functionality is well thought out, organizing results by books of the Bible, and you can take notes on passages. It is a bit difficult sometimes to select the passage that you want to write a note about (seems like you have to press precisely on the verse number or something) and I wish the app had a way to sync my notes online, but overall this app has exceeded my expectations. A pay for version that includes the ESV Study Bible’s commentary would be well worth it.

Virtuoso

I play violin and I’ve always been jealous of pianists because it seems like pianos are everywhere–they can play virtually anywhere whereas violinists have to lug around a heavy case to and from select locations. Well, to my joy and dismay, those lucky pianists can now literally play anywhere. The Virtuoso app displays a touch piano keyboard on screen so songwriters and musicians can practice on the bus, in the park, at the library while in class…everywhere!!! And amateurs like myself can have some fun too messing around on the instrument when bored…now if only this company could release a violin simulation…i’d be very impressed…:)  (Note: the keys aren’t full-size and I think multitouch can’t handle 10 fingers, so its not like you can practice Fantasie Impromptu on this thing–though some have tried something like that).

ABC Player

Lastly, yes, the iPad doesn’t support flash, so you can’t watch hulu on it…but it does have an excellent player from ABC that lets you enjoy TV shows on the beautiful 9.7″ screen, nice and close. The main show on ABC that I like to watch is Castle, so yes selection is limited, but if other networks release similar apps, I don’t think I’m going to need a tv at all…

So that’s my list for now, hope it’s helpful for fellow iPad-ers and iPad-ers to be.

PS, this post was originally written on the iPad and then edited on a laptop to correct typos and insert the images.

Why today is not my day

Today is not my day.

My computer’s network connection went awry last night so I couldn’t make more progress on my work (it was after midnight, so technically it’s today).

This morning I woke up and felt a sharp sting on my left tricep when I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth.  I reached over and felt something like a ball of loose thread so I tried to pulled it out (all the while wondering why a sharp needle-like point would be in said ball of thread)

To my surprise I found a monstrous ant!!!  I leapt back and tossed the ant into the sink, slamming my hand against the wall because my reflexes aren’t calibrated at 6:30am :-P.  It was big, red and ugly–fire ant perhaps? It fell in the sink on its back, wiggling its legs and madly spinning its head looking for an angle to bite its prey.

I turned on the faucet thinking the adventure was over.  Unfortunately, my grandma soon informed me that she found an infestation in my room.

So my dad and I start taking apart my bed, smacking an ant here and there as we go, but even so, we can’t find the source of the problem.

Since we have to go to work, we leave my room undone with the lights on, anxious to return to the conquest of the ant colony when we return home.

When I arrive at work, I have to restart my computer several times because of DNS issues, which prevented me from connecting through the network.  Instead of idling at my desk, I go to the bathroom. 

While sitting there, minding my own business, I discover that the back of my pants is wet, so I spend the next ten minutes drying them off to spare myself the embarrassment of walking around the office with dark splotches on my back.

It’s now only 9:54am.  That’s alot of adventure packed into a 3 hour timespan.  A part of me wants to laugh, a part of me wants to cry–and my left arm still aches from the ant bite.  I want to complain, but I can’t help thinking this is exactly the kind of test where I can see if the gospel is good enough for everyday life.  Can I rejoice in God and the hope that He has promised?  Or will I resort to c’est la vie or whining?

Pray for me please!

 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
   his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

So that’s my unpolished blogpost for today.  Raw, real life.

SoliDeoGloria.

Drinking from a Firehose of Novelty

My apologies for the long delay between blogposts.  I haven’t posted more frequently because of my obsession with excellence that sets the bar too high for me to publish most of my half-baked thoughts.  I’m going to try trading off polish and thoroughness of thinking for frequency and volume of ideas.  Let’s see how this experiment goes–if it fails, I can switch back or try something new (comments welcome!).

Many people feel bored with life because of its plodding “same old, same old”.  I now know what it feels like to be on the other extreme: I feel like I’ve been drinking out of a firehose drowning in a pool of novelty for the past month.  Before I get into some details, here’s an observation:

Things get boring when they get old.  For a toddler, the simplest experience of a floating balloon can be a source of delight for several days.  For a particularly despondent teenager, you might need a surround sound system with a 500-watt subwoofer and stunning visual effects to arrest their attention.

The pain of boredom can often turn life into an endless pursuit of “the next big thing”, e.g. the newest smartphones, latest fashions, real-time political news, and nascent philosophies where wonder, mystery and discovery seemingly lie (this is perhaps one of the logical primary pursuits in life for a secularist who believes this decaying world is all there is–since the old is always passing away, you constantly must produce and keep up with what’s new lest everything you know or have becomes worthless).

One might assume that alot of novelty would be incredibly exciting, but I think I’ve bordered on the tipping point of what I can handle.  For example, last weekend I went on a roadtrip to LA with friends and had the novel experience of an 18hr drive without layovers.  Great company, good conversation, but my body clock has been way off ever since. 

During the trip, my Motorola Rizr fell on pavement and turned into a “Cracked-berry”.  This fortuitous circumstance disrupted my dithering–I had been meaning to buy a new cellphone for several months–and “forced” me get a Motorola Droid :-).  (I plan on buying an iPad, so I didn’t get an iPhone).

As you can imagine, my attention was totally absorbed by the shiny new toy in my pocket for three days straight.  Not good, especially considering that I am the coordinator for my church‘s Easter service this Sunday and should have been directing those efforts (which has also been a novel project management experience).

The day after Easter, I start my first full time job at Amazon.com, which I expect to be mindnumbingly mindblowing.  I’m anxious enough about all the learning, listening, relationship building and exploring I’m going to have to do my first week that I postponed buying an iPad because I know its alluring novelty will likely be a massive distraction.

Anyway, just to emphasize how novel-ed out I am, the two weekends prior to the LA trip, I attended two Seattle conferences: one for youth put on by Dare2Share and an “All Things Church” ministry conference at Overlake Christian Church where I helped man the booth for my dad’s company iCrescendo.  (I plan on summarizing my thoughts on these conferences in a future post).  It would be nice to have the freedom of exploring and enjoying all of these experiences at a contemplative pace instead of trying to process a year’s worth of material in the span of a month (sidenote: maybe that’s why couples need to cool off and pull back sometimes–too much, too fast without time to reflect…).

These experiences have led me to the (half-baked) conclusion that novelty is delightful and healthy in measured amounts.  Too little and we stop learning and growing and become boring.  Too much and we can’t take it all in and get frustrated because we want to enjoy it while it quickly passes us by.  Ideally we could engage in selective novelty from a basis of stability.  And of course there’s the dessert of reminiscing about the joy of a first ____ when novelty gives way to nostalgia.

Lastly, a brief note from a Christian perspective on how gracious God–the perpetual novelty–is in revealing himself as a relatable, discoverable human being in Jesus Christ.  After my experience being overwhelmed these past weeks, I wonder what it would be like for God to reveal His glory in a massive awesome display, perhaps like he did to Isaiah…not only would I feel undone by God’s holiness, but it seems like the innumerable virtues to enjoy and explore would overload my senses and cause my body to explode into a million pieces all longing to fully experience the slightest hint of glory.

By coming as a man in Jesus, people can meet and discover a fellow human being instead of falling apart at first contact.  By faith, we can today look back and contemplate the glory revealed in Israel’s history and at the Cross while looking forward to the hope of the Resurrection that Jesus guaranteed by rising form the dead.  Soon we will have the honor of spending an eternity exploring and enjoying every detail of the infinite glory of God–an everlasting novelty.

SDG.