Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Pleasant Surprise – Eating At “Not Your Average Joe’s”

I do not recall having ever used this space to review a restaurant. An unexpectedly delightful dining experience compels me to do so today.

My friend, Matt Knight, is finishing up his career as a naval officer by working in military intelligence at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Matt and I were looking for a place where we could meet and talk about his career choices as he transitions from the world of the Navy to the world of business. Matt asked his friends at the War College to recommend a place that would be halfway between his office in Newport and mine in Wellesley. Someone suggested we try “Not Your Average Joe’s” on Rte. 139 in Randolph.

I arrived with no expectations other than looking forward to catching up with Matt and spending some time together talking about his job search. I was not thinking much about what food we might order. I was immediately struck by the warmth of the staff and the extraordinary level of attention they pay to making sure their guests understand all the options available for their dining pleasure. The menu is a moderately priced assortment of standard fare – but the experience was anything but average. Our waitress managed to being appropriately attentive without hovering or being intrusive. There was none of the pretentiousness I have experienced in other places – ”Hello. I am Francois and I will be your server today. Today we are featuring as our special a charred monkfish, broiled for 26 minutes, and then lovingly messaged with a plum pudding reduction and served on a bed of kelp and Dead Sea salt for only $26.95.”

None of that! Our server came over to take our drink order and asked if this were our first visit to “Joe’s.” When we admitted to being rookies, she said: “We have a tradition of starting each guest off with this basket of foccacio bread – baked fresh in our brick pizza oven. We have a special dipping sauce that I think you will like. On this bread plate, I am adding olive oil to this mixture of grated Romano cheese, garlic, and red pepper. Enjoy. I will return with your drinks in a moment.” Wow – what flavor! I would return to this restaurant just for the dipping sauce and hot bread!

We decided to share an appetizer – an order of fried calamari. It was perfectly prepared – the telltale light golden color that announces that it has been carefully cooked in clean oil for just the right amount of time. The flavor was exceptional.

I order the entrée of steak tips, mashed potatoes and green beans. I confess to not being a big vegetable lover, but I consumed every last bean. The meal was excellent. Matt was equally satisfied with his baked haddock. Throughout the meal, our server returned to refill our drink glasses and to bring us a second basket of bread and a new supply of olive oil and dipping spices.

As we were finishing up our meals, the manger approached out table: “Gentlemen, do you mind if I bother you for a moment? Your waitress tells me that this is your first visit to “Not Your Average Joe’s. I have taken the liberty of putting together a packet that we like to prepare for our first time guests. Inside, you will find a brochure, explaining the history and philosophy of our restaurant. We are now in 11 locations – Lexington, Newburyport and Watertown to name a few - and will soon be opening a new place in Acton. In the packet, you will also find coupons for $5.00 off any item on your next visit, coupons for 10%, 20% and 30% discounts on take-out orders, a special phone number to call if you are planning to visit on a busy night. When you call, we will place your name on the waiting list and tell you how long we expect the wait to be. When you arrive, you will have moved up to the front of the waiting line. There is also a Website address (, and an e-mail address to use to reach us for questions and comments.”

We spent the next five minutes talking with the manager about how delighted we were with the whole experience. Matt and I mentioned the fact that the restaurant clearly understands branding and the value of superior customer service.

As Matt and I left and prepared to part from each other, we said: “Let’s plan to meet here again soon!”

Enjoy! This place is definitely Not Your Average Joe’s!


Thursday, October 27, 2005

“The Resting Place Of The Dead Has Something To Say To The Living” – In Memory of Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Hay

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

The family and comrades of Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Hay began to gather around 10:00 on Tuesday morning in the Administration Building at Arlington National Cemetery. The electronic board directed the Hay family and friends to Family Salon D on the lower level. A quick glance at the board told me that this day at Arlington, at least a score of families would be saying their final “Good-byes” to a loved one who had served our nation in time of war.

The confluence of events that led all of us – soldiers, airmen and civilians alike united in a bond of grief - to gather soberly in that room had had their climax a few weeks ago in a brief instant of gunfire and confusion. It happened a world away in Tal Afar, Iraq. My friend, Kevin Stacy, was patrolling the skies over Tal Afar, seeking out insurgents from the perch of his OH58D Kiowa helicopter. The second bird on this patrol was piloted by Kevin’s teammate and close friend, Dennis Hay. They served together in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, in a team they call “Pegasus.” As they flew low over the ground, they came under attack. The bullets missed Kevin’s aircraft, but Dennis and his co-pilot were hit by machine gun fire. Dennis was mortally wounded. He was 32 years old and leaves behind his wife, Rebecca, 5 year-old Jacob and 1 year-old Abigail – along with a coterie of extended family – parents, siblings, in-laws, aunts and uncles. In Family Room D, all struggled together - each in his own private grapplings and musings - to honor Dennis’ life and to find some comfort, solace and meaning in his all-too-sudden death.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

When Kevin e-mailed me from Iraq to tell me that Dennis would be buried in a hero’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, I knew right away that I should find some way to make the trip to Virginia. Kevin would still be in Iraq and unable to be in attendance in body. Perhaps, by my attendance, I could help Kevin to be present in spirit. Also making the trip was my friend, Matt. Matt is a combat veteran aviator. Matt wanted and needed to be at Arlington for a final farewell and to: “See this thing through to the end.”

Mounted on the wall of Salon D was a large plasma TV showing in real time a scene being acted out a few hundred yards up the hill at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. The scene was one witnessed daily by thousands who come to Arlington and to the Tomb of the Unknowns – the stately and perpetual vigil that is kept by elite troops standing guard over the marble tombs, and by extension, over each grave that hallows this storied and vast expanse of gently undulating hills on the banks of the Potomac.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus abide with me.

Rebecca and the children arrived with her family of origin, and shortly thereafter, an employee of Arlington National Cemetery directed us to follow her upstairs and to our cars for the procession to Dennis’ gravesite. This woman, a stately and dignified Afro-American, was perfectly cast in her role – a comforting and alluring amalgam of strength, confidence, decorum, solemnity and warmth. Once everyone had made their way to the cars, we processed through the cemetery to a site overlooking the Pentagon, and where we met the ceremonial escort that included the horse-drawn caisson that carried a flag-draped casket.

We disembarked from the vehicles and stood in the drizzle as a small band of military musicians played several familiar tunes. We returned to the cars and, led by the caisson and the marching band, we continued to wend our way among the labyrinth of pathways that tie together the far-flung reaches of the cemetery. Matt and I talked as we drove past seemingly endless rows of grave markers – more than a quarter of a million markers emblematic of lives lost in each of our nation’s wars.

“Matt, just think about what we are seeing here. Each one of these stones represents dozens of family members and friends whose lives were forever altered by the sacrifice made by their loved ones.”

“Al, I wish Kevin could be here with us right now.”

“I feel as if he is. By you and me being here, we have helped to ensure that Kevin is here as well.”

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

The procession halted near the intersection of MacArthur Drive and Bradley Drive – history whispering to us from those signposts that Dennis was joining the end of a long and ever-lengthening line of men and women who served this nation with distinction and with courage in time of war. As we gathered under the canopy that had been erected to protect us from the worst of the wind and the rain, the band played “Abide With Me,” the traditional hymn the words of which serve as a framework for this account of Dennis’ burial.

The chaplain began his remarks by quoting Dr. Tony Evans, a pastor in Dallas: “The Resting Place Of The Dead Has Something To Say To The Living.” As the chaplain spoke, the wind and rain picked up in their intensity – Nature attuning itself to the moment and pulsating in sympathy with the torrent of emotions, thoughts and memories swirling in the minds and hearts of those who had come to bid farewell to Dennis Hay. Leaves blew. Rain fell. The wind carried the strains of “America” and “America The Beautiful” beyond our ears and across the hillside towards the Washington Monument that loomed in the distance – its stony finger piercing the lowering blanket of clouds.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

The honor guard ceremonially folded the flag that had draped the casket and handed it to the ranking officer – a Major General who had once commanded a unit where Dennis had served. The General presented the flag to the family as symbolic of Dennis’s service and sacrifice. Our matronly hostess informed us that the ceremonies were now concluded and we should return to our cars. The wind and rain abated.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

In two’s and three’s, family members and fellow soldiers made their way up front to stare briefly – lost in their own reveries – at the box that contains Dennis’ ashes. Matt, bedecked in his dress blue uniform and his Cavalry Officer’s Stetson hat, hung back and waited until everyone else had had their moment alone with Dennis.

“Al, there is something I need to do.”

Matt spent a few moments near the urn, and then reached down to grab a handful of mud from the ground where Dennis would soon be laid to rest. Dennis’ mother had lovingly made bows for each mourner to wear – crafted from red, white and blue material. Matt took his bow between his fingers and gently ground into its fabric the mud that he had plucked from Dennis gravesite.

“Matt, is this for you, or for Kevin back in Iraq?”

“It is for both of us.”

While I had waited for Matt to have his time alone with Dennis, I watched the lone honor guard who had remained to hold vigil. He stood ramrod straight and was the very picture of flawless military perfection – trousers creased, uniform spotless, shoes shined into mirrors that reflected the gray sky overhead.

And then I spotted the flaw. The soldier was unaware that a solitary maple leaf – brown and rain-soaked – had been blow by the wind and had alighted on the tip of his left shoe. This dead deciduous remnant had been torn from its life-giving branch too early in the season by a brief but violent storm. It lay draped across the soldier’s glistening shoe as if holding on for dear life – delaying as long as possible the moment when it would fall to the ground and moulder into dust.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mini Book Review – “The Tears Of Autumn” by Charles McCarry

I love it when friends recommend a new restaurant and my palate is stunned by new flavors, textures, exotic dishes and decadent desserts! I have the same sense of wonder and pleasure when I sink my teeth into the work of an author whose unique blend of literary spices and sauces I have not tasted before. Such was my delight when I devoured the pages of “The Tears of Autumn,” written by Charles McCarry and first published in 1975.

The plot is a very plausible solving of the Kennedy Assassination that takes the reader on a breakneck tour of Saigon, the Congo, Dallas, Paris and Washington, D.C. But it is not the plot that made this book such a delightful read; it is the author’s use of image and language that evokes imagery and feel. The author’s arch wit also added to my appreciation of the writing. Let me share just a few morsels:

“Miller thought he was the world’s champion burglar, but he couldn’t think of a way to crack the GRU. However, I had Dieter. I recruited him by giving him . . . .a cyanide pill to carry in a hollow ring – Krauts don’t think you’re serious unless you give them a cyanide pill.” (p. 47)

“Christopher pressed the electric window control. The stench and noise of the canal and the heat of noon thrust through the open window like a beggar’s hand.” (p. 149)

“The day went by slowly, fried by the morning sun, flogged by the afternoon rain.”

That is good writing!

I would love to hear from readers who have experienced some of McCarry’s other novels – Citizen Nader, The Miernik Dossier, Old Boys, The Last Supper.



Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Off On The Right Foot – Doug Blevins and Adam Vinatieri

I love my job! I get to meet some of the most interesting and inspiring people in the world. Recently, in the course of conducting a search for senior sales executives for one of my client companies, I made the acquaintance of Doug Blevins. Because of his geographic location, Doug was not able to consider the particular position I was trying to fill. But my conversation with Doug was enough to make me want to know more about him – his story and his dreams. I share the story with you for two reasons: you, too, may be uplifted and inspired, and you may be aware of an inside sales position that may be perfect for Doug that would allow him to work from his home in the Southwest corner of Virginia.

Here is the beginning of Doug’s story in his own words:

I am the first and only person with a disability in history to become an Assistant Football Coach in the National Football League! Despite being born with cerebral palsy, which prevented me from ever being able to walk, I pursued my dream of coaching professional football and grew up to work for such teams as the New York Jets, New England Patriots, and the Miami Dolphins. Including a 5-year tour of duty as the Kicking Coordinator for the NFL Europe League.

In addition to working with the organizations listed above, Doug has developed his own kicking and punting consultancy business and school.

Doug Blevins Kicking & Punting, Inc. is a professional kicking development business that coaches and develops kickers and punters for high school, college, and professional football. We also provide our clients with a wide variety of professional Kicking Consulting services. Through DBK&P I coached/developed such NFL Kickers/Punters as Adam Vinatieri of the New England Patriots, Chris Hansen of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Aaron Elling of the Minnesota Vikings, Kris Brown of the Houston Texans, Joe Nedney of the Tennessee Titans, David Akers of the Philadelphia Eagles, Leo Araguz of the Kansas City Chiefs, Shayne Graham of the Cincinnati Bengals, Don Silvestri of the Florida Bobcats, David Cool of the Orlando Predators, Silvio Diliberto of the Amsterdam Admirals, Manfred Burgsmuller of the Dusseldorf Rhein Fire, Jesus Angoy of the Barcelona Dragons. Doug Blevins Kicking & Punting also provided Kicking Consulting services for the Toronto Argonauts and the Canadian Football League. Each summer we conduct Kicking Camps serving hundreds of high school kickers and punters all across the United States and Canada.

Doug, I am a New England Patriots fan, so the name, Adam Vinatieri jumped out at me. Please tell me about the development of your relationship with Adam.

Adam and I are like brothers. Adam is godfather to my seven year-old son. When he graduated from South Dakota State, one of his friends told him about my kicking school. He sent me a tape. He was raw, but he could kick the ball a mile. So, in the spring on 1995 he came down here to Virginia and we started working together. It took my wife and me a few days to figure out that Adam did not have any money and was living in his truck. We helped him get a job as a cab driver, but that was not good for his back, and it was effecting his kicking, so he got a job tending bar. Before too long, one of our citizens helped him to land a job as the bartender in one of our region’s most exclusive hotels. That paid the bills while we worked together to perfect his kicking game.

At that time, I was working for NFL Europe, signing all the kickers and punters and working with them. We signed him to kick for the Amsterdam team, and he was playing for them when he caught the eye of Bill Parcells and the Patriots. They signed him as soon as they were able, and the rest is history!

Editorial note: here is Adam’s bio as it appears in the Patriot’s Official Website:

Doug, I understand that your coaching and teaching kicking is a part-time endeavor. Because of your physical condition, the best job for you right now would be an inside sales role that you could perform primarily from your home in Virginia. What would you like to say to anyone who might like to consider using your considerable talents to sell their products or services over the phone?

I was able to achieve these accomplishments because of an unyielding winning attitude! Just think of the exciting things your organization can accomplish by providing me with the opportunity to put that winning attitude to work for you. I have worked and succeeded in the most pressure filled environment in the world. The knowledge, expertise, and experience I have from working in professional football gives me the necessary tools to be a superb employee. I am a unique employee because I am very interested in being the best I possibly can be and achieving success. I do not approach any job or task with the philosophy of working fast to get home early. Going home is not one of my priorities! Achieving success and performing at an extremely high level is my priority! I think there are far too many people in American society today very happy to achieve mediocrity. I call that the watering down of the United States of America. That attitude and mindset is a disease that is eating away at the future of our country. If you provide me with the opportunity to be a member of your organization, you can rest assured that my focus is going to be on productivity and achieving success! I will be working fast to accomplish predetermined goals and objectives! I believe everything you do in life you should strive to be the best at doing it!

Thanks Doug. It sounds like you are ready and eager to help a new company kick on through the uprights!

If you know of a company that would like to benefit from Doug’s passion, motivational skill, salesmanship and energy, have them contact me and I’ll be glad to make the introduction. Doug also is well known as a motivational speaker, and would be open to accepting a limited number of additional speaking engagements.


ForeTell - A View Through Dr. Rich Adler's Looking Glass

Several years ago, my friend, Marv Goldschmitt, introduced me to his colleague, Dr. Richard Adler. Rich had developed a breakthrough tool for decision modeling that he calls ForeTell. Rich and I check in with one another periodically to see how things are developing in each of our fields of endeavor. I thought that I should share with readers of this Blog some of my recent conversation with Dr. Adler about ForeTell and his company, DecisionPath.

Al: “Rich, I have watched with fascination the different and widening applications you are finding for your Decision Modeling Engine - Foretell. How do you explain to a layperson what Foretell does?” (

ForeTell is a tool for exploring and comparing alternative strategies, plans, or policies in complex environments over extended time frames. ForeTell helps you to capture and leverage your available knowledge about critical situations in order to answer the question: “If we make decision X and the world evolves along path Y, what will happen to us (and to other interested parties such as customers and competitors)? In essence, ForeTell provides a low risk, virtual “test drive” for critical decisions.

To elaborate, it may be helpful to contrast ForeTell briefly with two alternate approaches.

First, the trade journals advertise business intelligence (BI) solutions such as databases and executive dashboard user interfaces as “decision support tools”. In fact, BI tools only provide what we call situational awareness: they aggregate and summarize past and current data to help users understand operational status and historical performance and trends. These results are clearly necessary inputs to considered decision-making, but they do not support – that is, actively enable or improve –decision-making processes. In contrast, ForeTell provides an explicit methodology and powerful modeling, simulation, and analysis software that target the crux of real world decisions: helping you to anticipate how key stakeholders will respond and adapt to your proposed actions, changes in their environment and the actions of others.

Second, many vendors of simulation tools would assert that their modeling software provides true decision support no less than ForeTell, including spreadsheet engines and Monte Carlo, Bayesian network, and system dynamics simulators. Our response is that these solutions are analogous to cameras that take pictures of the world with a film that is only sensitive to one color, such as blue or orange. Real world situations involve complex combinations of dynamic forces. By focusing on a single type of information and situational dynamic (e.g., numbers and financial or engineering formulas), these tools expose decision-makers to serious risks of omission and distortion. In contrast, ForeTell unifies several complementary dynamic modeling techniques within a single framework, providing higher-fidelity “what-if” projections (like “Kodachrome®”).

Al: “I was intrigued that in our last conversation you mentioned Avian Flu and epidemiology as a potential application of Foretell's capabilities. How would your tool be able to help the CDC predict the spread of a flu epidemic and take appropriate preventive measures?”

Every ForeTell application embeds expert knowledge about a particular type of decision and/or government or business segment. We are currently developing a ForeTell prototype that captures epidemiological information about infectious diseases, population demographics, and the dynamics of disease propagation (e.g., viral agents carried by parasites on birds, cross-species transmission, etc). We are looking to partner with infectious disease experts to incorporate public health knowledge concerning quarantine protocols, vaccinations and therapeutic drugs, health care system capacities, population behaviors during crises, etc). A variety of numeric models already exist for simulating disease outbreaks. What we believe is unique is ForeTell’s capability to combine that knowledge with more qualitative simulations of goal-driven (or “intentional) behaviors of populations at risk, government officials, and health care providers and networks as they adapt to changing conditions.

The resulting ForeTell system will enable public health users such as the CDC to:
· Rapidly define situations and conditions, either national or global, that precede or occur in the midst of disease outbreaks
· Impose different assumptions about trends and events likely to influence the "trajectory" of an outbreak
· Define alternate intervention strategies (combining quarantine, immunization, and treatment plans)· Project the likely outcomes of those strategies across diverse outbreak scenarios
· Analyze individual projections and compare key metrics (infected populations, survival rates…) to identify the most robust intervention strategies to adopt.

Al: “Early in the life of Foretell you worked on a simulation of a terrorist attack. What can you tell us about that simulation?”

We were approached by the Director for Homeland Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington D.C., “think tank”, to help them improve human simulations of national security crises such as terrorist attacks. CSIS assembled retired Government officials to play leadership roles (e.g. the President, National Security Council members) and apply current policies against plausible threat scenarios to uncover how those policies might perform. Computer models exist to predict outcomes of physical events, such as the path of the radioactive plume from a reactor explosion given specific wind patterns. However, what the “leaders” really wanted was a “physics” model that would project the social, political, and economic consequences of proposed courses of actions, locally, nationally, and globally, short-term and long-term, and taking into account anticipated responses of adversaries to those strategies. We were told that the Government has accumulated knowledge about terrorist groups and their behavior patterns over several decades, but that existing software tools could not model and exploit that knowledge in their “what-if” projections.
Given a “lessons learned” report from one of these exercises, we were able to develop a Pilot simulation that demonstrated how ForeTell could be used to explore cost-benefit trade-offs of different strategies (e.g., adopting different security measures) to increase preparedness in the face of an emerging terrorist threat. We also hooked up this simulation to a Geographical Information System (GIS), so that as intelligence evolved over time and government agencies or terrorists acted, these changes were displayed on a map.

Al: “It seems to me that there are broad varieties of scenarios in which Foretell could be useful - both in dealing with man-made events like a terrorist attack, and naturally occurring phenomena - like an epidemic or a natural disaster. What kinds of companies and government agencies could most benefit from Foretell?”

The specific ForeTell application that we are developing would benefit the CDC, the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), and the Department of Defense. This system would address not only natural disease epidemics, but also outbreaks resulting from bio-chemical and or radiological weapons engineering by terrorists or hostile countries. Other interested parties would include counterpart emergency management and public health organizations at state and municipal levels, the United Nations, other non-government organizations (NGO) with similar charters. Multi-national corporations could be interested in this system as part of their emergency preparedness planning efforts.

This type of ForeTell model can be adapted or extended to address various other strategic planning applications involving national security, business continuity planning and investment strategy. A key aspect of infectious disease decision models is that effectively strategies rarely result from selecting one approach from a set of mutually exclusive alternatives – A vs. B vs. C. Instead, robust strategies will consist of a collection of measures (e.g. quarantines, interdicting travel, particular therapeutic regimes, etc), schedules (e.g., ordering and staging activities in time), and allocations of resources (e.g. Five million dollars to measure A, etc).

More generally, security and preparedness problems are amenable to portfolio management decision techniques, which involve allocating effort and resources across a set of investments or activities in order to maximize one’s return, such as increasing the level of protection against one or more threats. ForeTell’s “sweet spot” consists of this kind of portfolio management problem, which involves involving uncertain and incomplete information, extended time frames, diverse actors with independent agendas, and complex environmental forces.

Al: “For those of us who are not technologically sophisticated, can you give an example or a case study of how ForeTell makes a difference in the real world?”

Actually, if you don’t mind, I’ll share two case studies that I think will illuminate what I am talking about in terms of Foretell’s practical capabilities.

Example 1:

We recently developed a ForeTell application with the chief learning office at a systems integrator that targets the difficult problem of managing organizational change. This system allows you to describe a pending transformation such as a corporate reorganization, an acquisition, or adoption of a new technology platform. You can also sketch dominant environmental forces, both external (e.g. economic conditions, competition) and internal (e.g., resource, leaderships) and possible events that likely to influence the landscape (e.g., a merger of key competitors). Most importantly, you can define change enablement initiatives to address the uncertainties, fear, and resistance that disrupt operations and momentum when companies embark on change. The application includes a library of pre-defined components to help you assemble decision models quickly and consistently. ForeTell then projects the likely impact of your proposed change strategy on your organization's readiness to change, and helps you identify gaps and refine your intervention plan to improve its likely effectiveness.

Example 2:

We recently developed a ForeTell application with a leading pharmaceutical consultancy. Its purpose is to help drug companies optimize their investments in marketing and sales channels for FDA-approved drugs (e.g., physician detailing, direct to consumer advertising). Given a list of drug companies, their drugs for a medical condition such as heartburn, and estimates of their monthly spend rates in different channels, the application projects the market size and allocation of market share across competitors. This simulation helps a drug company optimize its investment in its drug's "marketing mix". The problem is that such models presuppose a static marketplace. In fact, if you adopt a strategy and it is successful, your success will soon "show up on the radar screen" of your competitors (courtesy market intelligence vendors such as IMS Health, Inc). and they will adapt their strategies to counter yours. Incidentally, this exact problem afflicts the Department of Homeland Security: the media announces every new counter-terrorism prevention measure that DHS institutes, such as new airport scanners or border security measures. Terrorists (who are much more adaptive and opportunistic than drug companies) eliminate targets that are no longer "low-hanging" fruit and focus their attack planning at the next level of weakly protected targets, changing the game.Our ForeTell drug application addresses this problem by modeling available knowledge of how competitors (or adversaries) are likely to respond to perceived changes in their environment. For example, if Competitor-X sees a decrease of market share of between 0 to 10% over 3 months, they are likely to respond by increasing advertising and detailing by 15% over the next quarter. The resulting simulation resembles a chess game that more accurately reflects the evolution of real-world scenarios and strategies: if we do X and competitor-X responds by doing Y, what will happen to all of us and to the market? Marketers at major drug companies (and counter-intelligence authorities) routinely collect this kind of intelligence. Prior to ForeTell, however, it was difficult or impossible to incorporate such behavioral knowledge and leverage it in a predictive model for guiding strategic planning.

Al: "Rich, thanks for taking the time to explain what ForeTell is all about."

For more information on ForeTell, DecisionPath and Dr. Adler's work, I encourage you to visit his Website:


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Compassion Fatigue? Responding To The Earthquake in Pakistan

In a recent e-mail, my son, Tim, living and working in Poland, made me aware of a close friend of his from Pakistan who is working feverishly to help her ancestral village of Mansera near the epicenter of the earhquake. In my response to Tim, I shared the following thoughts:

"I fear 'compassion fatigue' may be setting in among many Americans. People gave spontaneously and generously to the Tsunami relief last year, ditto for Hurricane Katrina. There was a more muted response to Hurricane Rita, and I have not even heard people talking about the earthquake in Pakistan."

Tim's friend, Tania, shares her perspective on the tragedy in Pakistan and her personal efforts to make a difference:

"As you all know there was a devastating tragedy that occurred in Pakistan this past weekend. An unprecedented earthquake destroyed a major portion of the country. The Government of Pakistan is relating that over 40,000 Pakistanis are dead and the numbers will climb. I have regrettably heard that phrase too often in recent times “the numbers will climb”. Can’t say that these people are just numbers for me. I am very thankful that my family was miraculously saved during this tragic strike on lives. As my grandfather told me this morning “I am alright, but there are 40,000 people dead around me”. Trying not to get unproductively emotional on this, however, I would like to appeal to the charitable side of all of you. These people are in desperate need and I believe that making a contribution is crucial at this point in time. My friends Madiha Tariq, Samiha Barkat and I have organized a secure funding mechanism to provide immediate assistance to the village of Mansera. It is a village outside the city of Islamabad and I know many residents of Mansera. This was the Epicenter of this disastrous earthquake and has left ONE HUNDRED Percent of the inhabitants without anything. It is also sad to report that a lot of the survivors are the children of people who have perished under homes and businesses. They are currently sitting in the wide open with little to no relief services. Our plan is to send money to Pakistan via my family who is prepared with reinforcements to purchase much needed items like blankets (surprisingly the terrain in Pakistan in these months undergoes very harsh climates), food, tents and other shelter providing items. The smallest donation will make a much bigger difference then we realize. I say if we can get one blanket on one child, we will have accomplished a great triumph! As we are all so spread throughout this country the most efficient way to contribute would be by Mail. Anyone interested in participating in this attempt to help please mail a check to the following address and I will personally guarantee that it reaches the ones who need it the most and as immediately as possible.

Checks Payable to: Tania Tanvir
Mail to: Tania Tanvir
Abt Associates
4800 Montgomery Lane
Bethesda, Marlyand 20814

* * * * *

I normally advocate channeling resources through recognized agencies - like the Red Cross, but in this case, I trust Tim's confidence in Tania and her family's commitment to help their fellow residents and neighbors in Mansera in a timely fashion. I plan to send a check today to Tania.

The telling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan was prompted by a man asking Jesus: "Who is my neighbor?"

After he had told the now familiar story of the Good Smaitan, Jesus asked his interlocutor: "Which of these . . .was a neighbor to the man?"

The expert in the law replied: "The one who had mercy on him."

Jesus told him: "Go and do likewise." (Luke chapter 10)


Spam In The Blogsphere - Help!

In the past few weeks, I have noticed a disturbing trend: comments posted to my Blog that are Spam advertisements for good and services.

Here is an example:

Great stuff on golf equipment testing and I even bookmarked you! Of course I do have a similar page about golf equipment testing

I am not aware that I ever wrote a posting about golf equipment testing, but there you have it!

I am wondering if others are encountering the same issue and how you may be dealing with it.



Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Blind Men and the Elephant - A Business Application

In a breakfast meeting this past week, I was listening to a friend tell about his frustration in trying to get a prospective client to understand a complex solution that his company offers for solving document management and business process challenges. Depending upon the functional role of the person hearing the presentation, they would often only understand from their limited frame of reference a small portion of the what the solution could offer. I said: "It sounds like the fable of the Blind Men and The Elephant." My friend asked me to remind him of the story. I did so, and then when I returned to the office, I was prompted to Google the story to make sure I had all the details correct. I found the following version of the fable that I want to share:

American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) based the following poem on a fable which was told in India many years ago.

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

In a complex world, in which the whole is often more than the sum of its parts, how often do we fall into the trap of thinking that we have discerned the whole elephant? The ramifications are far ranging. In communicating with colleagues, clients, customers, do you take the time to ensure that they have a broad enough picture that they can discern the whole elephant - or rhino! In responding to the needs of a prospective customer, do we assume that we understand the whole elephant when we may have only encountered and analyzed the trunk or the ear?

In thinking about this whole topic, I close with one of my grandmother's favorite expressions: "I see, said the blind man"!


Calling All Jack Higgins Fans

I have just been introduced to the writing of Jack Higgins, so I am looking for some recommendations from fans of his who know the ins and outs of his extensive oeuvre. I just finished his latest novel, Without Mercy. I won’t review it here, other than to say it was a fascinating pastiche and weaving together of Moscow, British Intelligence, the IRA and tradecraft. I have already been told that I would enjoy his novel, Solo. I am open to other recommendations.

The genre of espionage novels is one of my guilty pleasures. I love the works of Jean Le Carre, and am saddened that he is gone and won’t be producing any more works like The Tailor of Panama or The Constant Gardener. I am a fan of Ludlum, as well as of Alan Furst.

I look forward to comments from fellow fans of espionage page-turners.