Monday, June 20, 2011

Like a Diamond

As posted on

About 200 years ago it was discovered that diamond, like graphite, was made entirely of carbon. One brilliantly reflective, the other black; one hard, the other soft. How was it possible that two things with properties so contrasted could be made of the same thing? With this discovery came an extraordinary insight: what mattered was not the element itself, for the single carbon atom in isolation had no particular properties. What mattered was the bond structure.

So what does this mean? A chemical bond is simply a probability of how much time electrons from one atom spend hanging around in the space of another. In the case of the diamond the carbon atoms are strongly bonded to each of their four closest neighbours giving it the property of hardness. And so closely engaged are these atoms that when light energy enters it is not welcomed and it bounces around simply leaving the system giving it its reflective sparkle. In contrast, in graphite the carbon atoms are not all tightly bonded but rather some of them associate with one another in more fluid nature giving it softness and the ability to accept or absorb light energy to make it its own.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Learning to Organize

Back in 1996 when I was in business school we used to sit around and make fun of our organizational behaviour classes. Soft stuff. Not hard core like finance. Now I know better. Finance is the easy stuff. Organizational behaviour on the other hand is complex and can profoundly change socital outcomes.

So what is organizational behaviour about? If you really think about it, it’s about how human beings come together to share their knowledge and abilities to create, build and get things done. And why should we do this? Because when it is done well, the outcome can be far greater than the sum of the parts.

Paradigms of progress are exemplified by large scale organization. In the United States and most European countries, for instance, somewhere between 5 and 10% of working adults are entrepreneurs. In India it is almost 50%. What that means is that entrepreneurship in the developed world results in larger scale, more people coming together to get it done. Indian entrepreneurs, on the other hand, tend to operate in structures of 1 to 3 people. There are probably a great many reasons for this. Not least that most Indian entrepreneurs operate in micro scale markets – village communities of hardly a few thousand people that don’t provide an opportunity for scale.