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Interesting to read an archived Aug. 22, 1985, NY Times story MICROSOFT AND I.B.M. JOIN FORCES. From the article: “The International Business Machines Corporation has agreed with the Microsoft Corporation, a key software supplier, to develop fundamental software for personal computers, the companies said today.”

But what is most interesting is this additional note about the deal:

“But Microsoft will be able to sell the jointly developed operating systems to other computer manufacturers, which should allay industry fears that I.B.M. would one day migrate to its own, proprietary operating system. That could have locked others in the industry out of the market and made it impossible for existing software to run on future I.B.M. computers.”

Microsoft, at the time a newer, much smaller company, managed to move the incumbent giant IBM to make a major concession and allow Microsoft to “sell the jointly developed operating systems to other computer manufacturers”.

As the original article noted it appears this was to “allay industry fears that I.B.M. would one day migrate to its own, proprietary operating system”. It was feared that this would have allowed IBM to lock competitors out of the PC market. Ironically, by the 1990s that’s exactly what Microsoft, not IBM, was accused of doing.

There’s an interesting lesson in this story that a larger competitor, while having many potential tailwinds, may simultaneously be carrying a significant disadvantage. Being a new or small company can have its advantages.

Automation is a powerful tool for personalization. Yet, it can easily end up doing the opposite for a business. Have you ever canceled an appointment with a service provider only to later get an automated text message asking you how the visit (that didn't happen) went? The same goes for marketing automation. While there are plenty of great use cases for automation, it can easily turn into an efficient way to lay bare a company's lack of personal interest in its customers. This is especially true when automation is implemented by an outsourced marketing partner with little to no understanding of, or experience with, your customers. Automation alone can’t fix poor customer service.

I was fascinated to learn that trees store more information than I previously realized. Tree rings tell at least two stories. The first, which we probably all learned in school, is the age of the tree, represented by the tree rings. The second, that I was unaware of, is a look at the environment that surrounded the tree during its lifetime. Each year a tree adds a new layer of growth in the form of bark. These layers of the tree appear as rings. A narrow tree ring represents a year of bad weather and a wide ring a year of good weather. Good weather = good tree growth = a wider tree ring.

The tree tells you a story about itself, but that same story tells you something about its surroundings. In the United States modern record-keeping for the weather began in 1891. Yet, Mike Baillie, a dendrochronologist, devised a computer program that matches the patterns of tree rings from around the world providing a measure of weather data going back some 7,400 years. Of course, tree ring analysis provides far less detail than modern weather data record keeping. Nevertheless, with his tree ring insights, he extended the available data pool by over 7,000 years.

Fascinating to think that there are potentially decades or more of weather data sitting in our yards and thousands of years of it in forests around the world. It makes me wonder what other metaphorical tree rings are around us in our organizations, environment, and lives.

What other things are inconspicuously storing information that can be analyzed and turned into insights?

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