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Ducks in a Row: the Whisper Ethos

July 22nd, 2014 by Miki Saxon

duck-secrets

I’m starting to appreciate the ethos of Whisper co-founder/CEO Michael Heyward a lot more these days.

What changed my attitude were his comments at the Fortune Brainstorm conference regarding threats, whether violent or suicidal, child abuse/porn and hurtful responses.

“You can’t use the service to hurt other people” (…) The company searches for words and terms that indicate threats, crimes or suicide. And it has human moderators that will pull down abusive, inappropriate material and take further action if it seems necessary. (…) “You’re talking about actual people’s lives. We take that very seriously.”

Unlike Mark Zukerberg at Facebook.

Perhaps Heyward can also find a way to help the women who post about the sexual harassment they endure in order to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Whisper started with lots of celebrity rumors and still receives thousands of frivolous secrets, but if it stays true to Heyward’s ethics and vision it could play a real role in making the world a little better place to live.

And that is a nice legacy to put on a tombstone.

Join me tomorrow for a look at my personal ethos and what I’d put on my tombstone.

Flickr image credit: Jeffrey

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Expensive Distractions

July 21st, 2014 by Miki Saxon

 2832163100_81db3c85d1_mWould you be surprised to know that interruptions cost business $650 billion dollars a year.

“A typical information worker who sits at a computer all day turns to his e-mail program more than 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times… data from 40,000 people who have tracking software on their computers, found that on average the worker also stops at 40 Web sites over the course of the day…”

Would you be more surprised to know that was in 2008?

650 billion dollars in lost productivity.

And that was before smartphones, texting, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Angry Birds, Candy Crush, etc., etc. (These days bosses are worse.)

Can you imagine the cost in 2014?

Flickr image credit: underminingme

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If the Shoe Fits: Is Airbnb a Good Corporate Role Model?

July 18th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mFrom Napster to Uber and Airbnb, I’ve never been partial to startups whose success was based on cheating, AKA, breaking laws.

And the explanation that the law(s) are outmoded, even if true, doesn’t change my opinion.

Airbnb just introduced a new logo that was jumped on in the Twitterscape for its blatant sexual innuendo.

But that pales in comparison to its apparent theft.

 Airbnb’s new logo is an exact copy of the Automation Anywhere logo, as Jay Yarow pointed out on Twitter

Automation-Anywhere

Automation Anywhere started life as Tethys Solutions, LLC in 2003 and rebranded as Automation Anywhere in 2012.

Perhaps Airbnb sees appropriating a logo in the same light as moving into a community and ignoring its laws.

It should be interesting.

And with a client list that includes Cisco, Harley, MasterCard, Coach, Boeing, Oracle, Intel, Virgin and dozens of others, I doubt Automation Anywhere is going to roll over any time soon.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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Entrepreneurs: Ryan Grepper and the Coolest

July 17th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

Ryan Grepper’s Coolest is proof that necessity is the father of invention.

Not that his invention is a necessity and it won’t save the world or even a little bit of it, but it will make your summer fun easier.

The original galvanized metal cooler was patented in 1954.

Coleman introduced a plastic liner in 1957 and wheels were added a couple of decades later.

But nothing, including the fancy electric versions, even comes close to Grepper’s Coolest.

There are far more moving parts to manufacturing a complicated product such as Coolest, which Grepper seems to understand.

It’s also nice to see a “real” product from a twenty-something that while focused on fun will generate revenue through sales, not ads.

Obviously, others agree. Coolest has raised over $5.5 million dollars from more than 29,000 people—and the campaign still has 42 days to run.

Coolest is definitely a global business in the making.

I’m sure it won’t be long before he will have to choose between building a company and selling or licensing his technology.

What would you do?

Image credit: Coolest on Kickstarter

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Can You Explain this Stupidity?

July 16th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

Would you jump in front of an object moving at 30 mph or better to take a selfie?

Would you do it knowing that not only you, but others could be seriously injured or even killed?

That’ what was happening at this year’s Tour de France.

tour-de-france-selfie

What drives people to play this kind of Russian roulette and then brag about it?

I doubt they have a death wish or even consider that they might maim or kill someone else.

Do they have any understanding of cause and effect; action and consequences?

Is it “but me” syndrome?

Is it that they just don’t think?

Can they think?

I honestly don’t understand and would appreciate any insights you might have.

Image credit: Jose Been via Business Insider

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Ducks in a Row: is Solitude a Lost Art?

July 15th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/3994131468

A month after I started this blog in 2006 I focused on the magic found in silence; magic that allows you to think, dream and innovate.

Silence is a requirement to get to know oneself. In 2007 I wrote, “My own anecdotal evidence shows that while most people are uncomfortable with silence, others are actually terrified by it.”

Two years ago I cited Edward do Bono, a giant in the world of creative thinking, who believes that boredom is the springboard of creativity.

Last year research found that the constant time spent with today’s ubiquitous screens not only affects the brain, but also reduces capacity for connection, friendship and empathy.

Now, eight years later, people’s need for distraction and abhorrence of silence have been proved.

A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek details an experiment just how far people will go to escape solitude.

Being alone with no distractions was so distasteful to two-thirds of men and a quarter of women that they elected to give themselves mild electric shocks rather than sit quietly in a room with nothing but the thoughts in their heads.

Is this you?

Flickr image credit: Alice Popkorn

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Looking to Learn

July 14th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

How much can you learn from this video beyond the obvious?

The obvious lesson is that texting while driving can get you killed.

But there are more general take-aways that you can use in any business.

  • The unexpected is good way to make a point.
  • Being startled forces people to focus.
  • A negative can be used to drive home a positive.
  • Covert education through entertainment.
  • Pictures are worth a thousand lectures.

What other lessons did you find?

YouTube credit: MadOverAds

 

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If the Shoe Fits: Do You Wear the Emperor’s Clothes?

July 11th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mStupidity is rampant; from the five billion dollar valuation of Cynk, which has no revenue, to these idiotic interview questions, which were recently banned.

Why would investors buy illiquid stock in a company with no revenues?

What does knowing how many piano tuners there are in the world have to do with being a productive contributor?

There was a time when both these scenarios would have been greeted with you’ve-got-to-be-kidding laughter, but times have changed.

Cynk’s valuation is the result of its claim to sell introductions to famous people.

The interview questions were Google’s, and, as we all know, Google only does smart stuff.

These examples prove that jumping on the wagon to avoid missing out or because an idea/action is sourced from/endorsed by a name brand isn’t always a smart way to go.

Blind stupidity is best avoided through individual, critical thinking.

In other words, that’s the best way to avoid being dressed like the emperor.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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Entrepreneurs: Ask KG Charles-Harris About the Dark Side

July 10th, 2014 by Miki Saxon and KG Charles-Harris

kg_charles-harrisKG sent me a link to a post in the WSJ by Jason Nazar, co-founder/CEO of Docstoc, which was just acquired by Intuit.

It should be mandatory reading for every budding entrepreneur.

Why?

Because it tells the other side of what’s involved building something with just a four million dollar investment.

The “other side” is about the long days (and nights), the stress and the negative effects on family and friends.

All the stuff that is rarely mentioned and when it is discussed it’s either glossed over and minimized or rationalize to the point that most entrepreneurs shrug it off.

KG understands this well, because he is traveling the same road.

And while you may not be able to ask Jason Nazar questions you can ask KG in the comments and he’ll respond.

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Ducks in a Row: Open-book Management

July 8th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/carlcollins/69912897

Among today’s most popular buzzwords is ‘transparency’.

Transparency is one of the most important underpinnings of ‘authenticity’ and ‘trust’.

Corporations large and small trumpet the transparency of their dealings—except financial ones.

(Individuals, too; they will describe in detail their thoughts, attitudes and actions, even their sex lives, but freak when the subject is their money.)

But some bosses believe that financial transparency is not only possible, but can lay the groundwork for an extraordinary culture.

Financial transparency means not just sharing all the company financials with all its employees, but ensuring they have the skills to understand them by explaining and discussion them.

It’s called open-book management and was documented in “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham.

Mr. Stack and the managers bought the plant [International Harvester engine plant], renamed it Springfield ReManufacturing and turned it into a thriving collection of more than 30 businesses now known as SRC — thanks largely to an innovative strategy that came to be known as open-book management.

The basic rules are

  • Know and teach the rules: every employee should be given the measures of business success and taught to understand them
  • Follow the Action & Keep Score: Every employee should be expected and enabled to use their knowledge to improve performance
  • Provide a Stake in the Outcome: Every employee should have a direct stake in the company’s success-and in the risk of failure

Ari Weinzweig and co-founder Paul Saginaw wanted that kind of inclusive, engaged culture when they started their company and used open-book to anchor their growth.

Zingerman’s Delicatessen, a tiny sandwich shop near the university, into a group of nine businesses that, three decades later, has 650 employees, 18 managing partners and combined annual sales of $50 million.

That’s called success and has been recognized as such and emulated a la Tony Hsieh.

Wayne Baker, a professor in the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, turned it into four case studies. Bo Burlingham featured Zingerman’s in a book called “Small Giants,” which is about companies that “choose to be great rather than big.” And the owners and employees of more than 1,000 companies have attended ZingTrain seminars to learn more about the Zingerman’s model.

While their approach is definitely a success, not everyone likes or wants the involvement.

Former staff members talk about the frustrations of having to placate difficult customers, as well as the stress of being “Zingy” throughout a long shift. “It is exhausting to work somewhere where you feel like you have to improve what you do constantly,” said one former worker at Zingerman’s Roadhouse.

Others love it.

Krystal Walls, who works in the mail-order business and has two children and a third on the way, said at the training session, “I have never worked anywhere where I was trusted or respected like this.”

When their little deli first succeeded they were offered substantial buyouts, as well as the opportunity to franchise, but none of those options allowed them to pursue their vision and make a difference. The company pays its people well and provides full health benefits.

“Employees who are stressed out financially, wondering how to pay for their kid’s allergy meds, or their rent or auto insurance, are not going to be able to do their job well,” said Mr. Saginaw, who has been lobbying in Washington for the last year for an increase in the minimum wage. “We’re comfortable with the notion that there’s such a thing as enough. Others may be wealthier than we’ll ever be, but I wonder if they’ve lost a certain amount of joy in their work.”

Flickr image credit: Carl Collins

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