Why California Should’ve Been Calling Ken Smith, And That He Says I’m A “Jerk-Off”

Originally Posted at Blog.com on June 12, 2014 by Marshall Barnes R&D Eng

By MARSHALL BARNES, R&D Eng Copyright June 11, 2014 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Ken Smith, who describes himself as a Business Plan Reviewer and Start-up Coach for Springboard Enterprises, that has served as Co-chair of CEO Service Committee for the MIT Enterprise Forum Cambridge; and is the author of the start-up resource guidebook Selling Innovation, should have gotten a phone call from California a few weeks ago or even before. Why? To help fight the San Diego fires, that’s why. Or at least that’s the kind of thing he’d have you believe. Oh, that and that I’m a “jerk-off”.

You see it all began back when a blog post of his was posted somewhere and I responded to it in what you might say was a highly critical fashion. Now mind you, this was probably the blog post on innovation that made me decide that I needed my own blog because the level of innovation business B.S. had just reached the gaging level, just on the stench of it all. So, when I saw his opening statement where he starts talking about how nothing comes from a vacuum, I had had it. So I responded in part:

“Well, this one got off to a bad start from the “get-go”. The problem? The analogy used. The whole, “The one place a spark of innovation cannot come from is a vacuum”.
Now, I don’t know where Ken is going to end up with this, since this is simply the opening salvo of a series, and the listed topics look compelling enough but I’ll tell you right now, he’s got a big problem with this “vacuum” thing that I find troubling. Let’s do it by the numbers, shall we?

1. The illustration used shows a man on stage with a fairly inaccurate depiction of Telsa doing one of his electrical demonstrations. I often use Tesla as the man that people should pattern their innovation process after and not Edison. However, it was Tesla’s great rival, Edison, who invented the light bulb. And guess what? That light emitting device, which has historically been used to illustrate the spark of a brilliant new idea, operates because that light springs into being inside the *vacuum* of the bulb…

2. Although I do not use this technique to get new ideas, I fully realize that it does work on a certain level. I’m talking about the transcendental meditation technique of emptying your mind so that a creative spark will emerge. In other words, put your mind in a *vacuum* state. I don’t use it because my mind is more like the Internet – always on and filled with information that I can access at will…

3. How many innovations have come from Man’s exploration of space? Plenty. Guess what? Yeah, you guessed it – space is a *vacuum*.

4. Now let’s try on a little quantum mechanics. It is now known by all of us who work in physics that although space is a vacuum, it is teaming with potential energy. In fact, particles pop in and out of it, all the time. One of the claims to fame that Stephen Hawking still has intact is “Hawking radiation”, which is the light emitting from the edge of a black hole caused by a process known as “particle pair separation”. This occurs when two virtual particles emerge from the vacuum of space near the black hole boundary and one is sucked into the black hole’s inescapable gravitational field and the other is just far enough away to escape. Normally, the two particles, which are opposites, would collide into each other and annihilate. It is the escaping particle that causes the “radiation” referenced from the term”.
___________________
Well, that’s how it started out. I said a lot more, basically using, Ken’s total cluelessness on the vacuum issue as an example of how so many so-called innovation promoters use a lot of fancy analogies and metaphors, but many times don’t know what they’re talking about, especially because many of them are not innovators themselves, and I used Ken’s business laden bio as an example. Well, he wasn’t too thrilled about any of that and he had this to say:

“Marshall, thank you for your comment. You are 100% correct – the topic is the application of sales and selling techniques for bringing innovations to market. That’s why the title is not ‘The Innovation Process’ or ‘Creating Innovation’, but rather ‘Selling Innovation’. I am sure all of the readers appreciate your writing so many words explaining why you are so upset about what the article and book are NOT about.

To your comments, I usually don’t but in this case…

First to introduce computer-assisted instruction into the core curriculum in two school systems.
Worked with a team on one of the first music video CD-ROMs for the great artist Peter Gabriel.
Worked with a team on the first multi-media corporate training template for Glaxo Pharmaceuticals (in use for 5 years).
Designed, hand coded and launched the second major auto manufacturer web site (VW.com 1.0 + 2.0).
First to build an online advertising analytics tool for banner advertising measuring effectiveness (about 2 years before Google launched by the way).
First to launch a remote control consumer tech support service while building, running for years profitably and then selling the company.
Worked with a team to launch the first automated PC maintenance tool, distributed by a top 10 cable provider to all 25M users.
Designed the first data aggregation platform for measuring distributed renewable energy generation for grid management and control, standards model supported by NIST leadership.
And when I was a young man I also played Div. 1 College Athletics and got a try out for the US Jr. Olympic Team, you? 
There’s more but, you get the point…”


(Ken promoting his current company’s latest innovation. Note, however, that they only offer a 10% discount to replace your stolen item, but if it’s insured, why do you need the service in the first place?)

Now, I want to interject here that yeah, I got the point. The point is that I struck a nerve with old Ken that made him fly into a testosterone fit in which he actually exposed how shallow his innovation background is and proved my point for me! Now, I’m going to analyze this so you all will learn something here about innovation promoters –

1. He’s the first to introduce computer-assisted instruction into the core curriculum in two school systems. OK, so what does that mean? What it reads like is that someone else put such instruction into a school system somewhere else first, and that he just happened to be the first to get it in two school systems at the same time. Is that really such a big deal? I mean, he doesn’t say what he wrote, who was on the team that created it or anything else. We have no way to even determine the size of these school systems or anything that would indicate the significance of such an achievement, if there really is any, beyond a sales bonus. Where’s the innovation in that?

2. He worked with a team on one of the first music video CD-ROMs for the great artist Peter Gabriel, to which I reply, “whoop-dee-do!” What was this work, anyway? He doesn’t say. Besides I trump him all over on this one. First, years before that CD-rom ever existed, I was the first rock musician to solo produce and direct a rock video album of his own self-produced and performed music – The Last Communication, in 1980. You might remember seeing a reference to that from Video magazine in my first blog here, down at the bottom. If not, check it out. Ten years later, I did it all again, but this time created the first and still only psychoactive rock video album, Seeing the Breykiot (which will be rereleased next year, worldwide). Notice how my achievements have “first” and “only” attached to them and you can tell what I did. Not so for poor Ken, but let’s give him some more rope for the fun of it.

3. Ken worked with a team on the first multi-media corporate training template for Glaxo Pharmaceuticals (in use for 5 years). Again, “worked with a team”. Sure, he uses the term, ‘first” here, but it wasn’t the first ever, it was the first multi-media training template for Glaxo, or at least it reads that way. Again, we have no indication of what it was that Ken did, so you see a pattern here – he shrouds his activities in ambiguity. In other words, he’s stretching the significance of his efforts.

4. “Designed, hand coded and launched the second major auto manufacturer web site (VW.com 1.0 + 2.0)”. This is where knowing the dates would be useful. However, that’s another thing that Ken does, he gives no timelines. I have no problem giving out dates or time periods because it helps verify the veracity of a claim. So when Ken does it without a date or year, it actually works against him. Whenever he did the site, VW.com has just recently been updated, so they dumped what Ken did, it would appear. Go to VW.com and scroll down until you see the redhead. The big text says “Welcome to the new VW.com”. If Ken had been involved with that, I’m sure he would have said so…

5. Ken also claims, without citing dates, that he was “First to build an online advertising analytics tool for banner advertising measuring effectiveness (about 2 years before Google launched by the way)” . Google was incorporated in September of 1998, so I’m guessing that would be around the time that Ken says that “Google launched”. That would put his claim for his analytics tool to be 1996. However, once again, because of Ken’s proclivity toward ambiguity, there is no way to judge his claim. Not only does he not give a specific year, but he neglects to identify what this tool was even called. It may be quite valid, but with no basic information, it’s just empty bragging. And I want to be very clear here – it’s not that I don’t believe him, but if he’s really done all this stuff, why not be more specific? It would actually be interesting reading, I think. What the hell?

6. Ken follows that up with more empty bragging – “First to launch a remote control consumer tech support service while building, running for years profitably and then selling the company”. Really, Ken? What was the service called? When was it launched and where? Who’d ya sell it to?

7. Oh no, he’s doing it again – “Worked with a team to launch the first automated PC maintenance tool, distributed by a top 10 cable provider to all 25M users”. Yeah, nothing about what he did with the team, who they were, no name for the “top 10 cable provider”, Nothing. Yawn…

8. More endless prattle. “Designed the first data aggregation platform for measuring distributed renewable energy generation for grid management and control, standards model supported by NIST leadership”. Again, what was the platform called? When did all this happen? The more he brags without dates, names, years, the more it just looks like total malarkey. Again, I’m not saying that it is, but he’s making it look that way, not me.

9. This is the one I loved. This is the one that proved I had cleaned Ken’s clock and he was going to put me in my little place for doing so. How I love this line – “And when I was a young man I also played Div. 1 College Athletics and got a try out for the US Jr. Olympic Team, you?”

OK, you have to remember that this whole litany of empty claims were supposed to be centered around Ken’s innovation background, specifically technical. The fact that he felt compelled to bring up his college athletics history shows that now, Ken is just running a testosterone fueled rant, to which I responded with – ”But since you brought it up, so you tried out for the Jr. Olympic Team. Did you make it?” He never responded, which must mean, ‘No’. So let me reiterate this – what he’s bragging about is the fact that he played Division 1 College Athletics, tried out for the US Jr. Olympics (not the regular Olympics, mind you) and then FAILED to make the team. Whoa. Like that is totally impressive.

Think about that for a second – this guy flips out to the point that he starts tossing in his college athletic history and bragging about something that he knows he didn’t successfully complete. Worse yet, his long list of unidentified accomplishments is both bizarre and indicative of what I’m claiming is wrong with this industry in the first place – an overabundance of people professing expertise that, when put on the spot, come up with this kind of crap.

To be fair to Ken, I did some checking into his claims and I was able to find a timeline that matched in part, some of his empty bragging – http://www.linkedin.com/in/kennethhsmith . Of special note is that it appears that he was with a company called Internet Strategy Consulting USWeb as the Vice President, which may be where he was doing his analytics bit “two years before Google launched”. At any rate, if you care to, you can go down the list and try to figure out where he was when he allegedly did what. The fact that we’d have to go through all that hassle, still adds bogusness to this whole affair, especially because his involvement with the listed firms still doesn’t verify what he claims he did at the time. Times, by the way, that can only be guessed about by the activity he was claiming to be involved in, compared to the company descriptions from the LinkedIn list and when he is listed to have been with those companies.

So this is a major example of how flawed the innovation promotion industry really is and that there is indeed a valid purpose to this blog. I’m telling you now, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Remember, I eventually discovered so much malarkey in this industry that I felt like I was gagging on this stuff. There is so much, that I believe it is actually a threat to businesses everywhere, resulting in wasted time, money, resources, manpower and man hours. That is why this blog exists. As the disruption this industry so badly needs, an industry that actually brags about disruption, at that. Oh, I forgot – Ken had a little more to say:

“Oh, and by the way, I am the first and I believe still the only civilian to earn – that’s f’ing earn jerkoff! – a B Sawyer Certification from the US Forest Service after spending three days in training classes and in the deep woods of NH with 30 of the most dedicated, bone tough, and courageous men and women I have ever had the privilege to sweat with. What does that mean, Mr. precise language? It means that I am licensed by the Federal Government to carry a chainsaw into the woods for trail clearing or to fight forest fires, not just without Forest Service supervision but leading a crew into a fire fight. So if there is a forest fire and I am called to duty I’ll be strapping a chainsaw to my back and hiking INTO the fire. You can check my credentials anytime…maybe you’d like to go for a hike with me someday?”

So this is why California should have called Ken to fight the fires. This is so laughable. More evidence that this was in fact a testosterone fueled rant on his part, because I had intellectually exposed him. He called me “Mr. precise language” so let me get rather precise here, for a moment. Notice what he says next and I’m going to break it down for you to expose his hidden message, precisely –

“I am licensed by the Federal Government” – this is his way of saying that he has authority vested in him by a higher power

“to carry a chainsaw into the woods for trail clearing or to fight forest fires”,- now substitute ‘chainsaw’ for ‘machine gun’

“not just without Forest Service supervision ” – so this means that he can act on his own, and to do what?

“but leading a crew into a fire fight. ” Uh huh… A fire fight is the military term for ‘gun battle’. That’s why I said substitute ‘chainsaw’ with ‘machine gun’, because I knew where he was going with this. He switched the phrases – from “fighting forest fires”, to “fire fight”. I wonder if he was ever actually in the army. Nah. If he ever had been, I’m sure he would have included all of his combat action reports as well.

“So if there is a forest fire and I am called to duty I’ll be strapping a chainsaw to my back and hiking INTO the fire.” Notice his use of the well established military term, “called to duty”. That sentence could easily have read, “If I’m called to duty, I’m strapping a 50 caliber on and marching into a fire fight…” Yeah, I rest my case on that one.

So he thinks I should be impressed that he’s licensed by the Feds to carry a chainsaw into a fire. No, I’m not. What I’d be more impressed with, since he thinks he’s so damned innovative, is if he came up with a better way to fight the fires. Like getting the largest helicopters possible to fly with large tanks of water that would be sprayed with high concentration on areas of burning forest. Dropping water from the air isn’t that effective because the water disperses as it falls. You need fire hoses in the air, blasting areas on the ground. You could have armored vehicles on the ground like tanks but instead of firing shells, they spray water. The interior would be refrigerated so the occupants stay cool against the high temperatures outside. The operation would be coordinated between helicopters in the air, the armored vehicles on the ground and men like Ken that would go deeper to fight the fire, but have a safe place to retreat, if need be, inside the vehicles. A pathway into the forest could always be cut for the vehicles by the men on the ground. Container tanks of water could be parachute dropped from the air to replenish the supply for the vehicles, if need be. The container tanks would have motorized mobile capability to get them to the vehicles easier (they’ll be really heavy) and the vehicles would have an outside hydraulic mechanism on either side to lift the water containers into place, similar to the garbage truck mechanism that lifts dumpsters up and empties them into the garbage compartment of the truck.

All of this would be a far more effective way of fighting forest fires. With all the genius that Ken has, you would think that his infinitely innovative mind would have thought of this while he was sweating with his chainsaw in the woods amongst the flames and smoke. Ah, but then again, it would rob him of the opportunity to brag about how macho he is…

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s