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Archive for August, 2011

Miki’s Rules to Live By: Life is an Informational Interview

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

I was reading a post from Mark Suster and I realized that something he said near the end really encompasses the way I try to live.

Life is an informational interview.

Informational interviews are how you learn; they entail talking to people in different walks of life, different positions and different ways of thinking.

Informational interviews require you to come with an open mind and your listening skills fully engaged.

It’s an approach that should flavor all parts of your MAP—reflect in your mindset, inform your attitude and permeate your philosophy.

Try it; you may be surprised, not only at how much you learn, but also how much fun it is.

Flickr image credit: Gangplank HQ

Ducks in a Row: Decision Fatigue

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

This article on decision fatigue should be mandatory reading for every manager and worker looking to boost group performance or their own.

It provides scientific explanations why

  • interviews are more difficult if you struggled that morning with decisions about what to wear and the best route to the company;
  • the wrong candidate is hired and the real catch gets away;
  • getting married often lowers productivity (not the reasons you might expect);
  • skipping lunch is as bad as skipping breakfast (which is just plain stupid);
  • having snacks available and buying dinner when working late is required and
  • timing meetings and other critical tasks can make a significant difference.

Decision fatigue is the price every human pays for the multitude of choices we face daily; not just the obvious big ones, but every tiny fork in the road.

“No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price.”

Moreover, decision fatigue is a major contributor to ego depletion.

“…ego-depleted humans become more likely to get into needless fights over turf. In making decisions, they take illogical shortcuts and tend to favor short-term gains and delayed costs.”

Not exactly the actions you want in yourself or your people.

The focus on food is obvious once you think about it. Most people know you can’t exercise without providing fuel for their muscles, but seem to think their mind runs on air and desire.

“…psychologists neglected one mundane but essential part of the machine: the power supply. The brain, like the rest of the body, derived energy from glucose…”

Decision fatigue also impacts self-control, AKA willpower, and self-control has a large role in keeping us focused.

Read the article; it provides a scientific basis for creating a culture that helps people deal with decision fatigue and all its ramifications.

“When there were fewer decisions, there was less decision fatigue.”

The solutions lie in an open exploration of the subject with your people and a conscious effort to provide an environment that minimizes the effects of decision fatigue.

“The best decision makers are the ones who know when not to trust themselves.” – Lead researcher Roy F. Baumeister, social psychologist

Flickr image credit: ZedBee | Zoë Power

The Cost of Being Comfortable

Monday, August 29th, 2011
This article was originally published as The Cost of Being Comfortable on Technorati.

I read an interesting article from a Forbes advisor called A Young World is No Place for Old Corporations; in a nutshell it talks about nostalgia for “what the WSJ calls America’s  ‘Midcentury Moment’, those post war  “golden years of the 1940’s, ‘50s and early ‘60s?” The boom years when Americans forged the world’s new super power, as those in Europe diminished.

It goes on to say, “During this time US companies became dominant corporations on a world stage, strongly influencing how business was conducted all over the world.

Fast forward to 2011, America now competes in a fierce global market against young and dynamic economies.”

It lauds the dynamic spark that drove the US economy; a common theme, but one I get tired of seeing.

Tired because it only tells only the upside of the story and ignores so much.

I am neither an economist nor an historian, but here is my view of the same history.

  • European industry didn’t diminish, it was crippled by WWII.
  • The US became dominant because we were the only country in a position to produce as opposed to spending our efforts and money to rebuild.

In other words, in comparison to the material and psychological devastation experienced by the rest of the world what the US suffered was more like a serious inconvenience.

But not too inconvenient, since we kept on producing and selling.

War’s end left us in the cat-bird seat—not rebuilding, just retooling to sell what the rest of the world needed to rebuild.

A lack of competition breeds arrogance, sloppy practices and fat—fat management and fat labor; it is easy to succeed in a world with little-to-no competition.

When countries no longer needed us because they produced their own we were surprised; when they went beyond and more efficiently produced what we produced and innovated where we had not bothered we were shocked.

When comfortable, we humans seem to believe that some version of what is will always be; it isn’t that we don’t believe in change, but we seem blind to radical change.

We are taken by surprise when it happens and long instead for whatever version of the “good old days” brings us back to our (false) comfort zone.

Flickr image credit: Bruce Turner

mY generation: One Day Per Week

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

See all mY generation posts here.


Expand Your Mind: Privacy Bits Plus

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

I dearly love the NY Times; it keep me informed, entertains me and endears me to all those to whom I send pertinent articles about their businesses and interests. I read a number of other sources, but NYT is my favorite.

For starters, what happens with a government promotes actions in its own country that it condemns in others?

“British officials and representatives of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry met Thursday to discuss voluntary ways to limit or restrict the use of social media to combat crime and periods of civil unrest, while trying to dodge charges of hypocrisy and censorship…”

Regular readers know I’m a privacy nut and there’s lots of stuff happening around that subject, starting with the company I love to hate, Facebook, which has once again changed its privacy settings—possibly for the better (maybe).

“…every time Facebook users add a picture, comment or any other content to their profile pages, they can specify who can see it: all of their so-called Facebook friends, a specific group of friends, or everyone who has access to the Internet. … Similar controls will apply to information like users’ phone numbers and hometowns…”

Will the US ever enjoy the privacy choices that Europe does? I and dozens of others have written warnings that what goes on the web stays on the web, but what about your right to have it removed—at least from commercial sites?

“As a general matter, companies in the United States don’t have to recognize your right to be deleted,” says Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a research group in Washington.”

Cellphone and voicemail hacking has been in the news the last few months and I’m getting tired of being told how “that can’t happen here.” Ha! Is that wishful thinking.

“Just how vulnerable are everyday United States residents to similarly determined snoops?
The answer is, more than you might think.”

Enough privacy, on to other stuff.

The big thing now is to check reviews on sites such as Yelp, before trying anything new. This attitude is predicated on the basis that “the wisdom of the crowd” is authentic and trustworthy—which seems to be just another cyber-myth.

“Determining the number of fake reviews on the Web is difficult. But it is enough of a problem to attract a team of Cornell researchers, who recently published a paper about creating a computer algorithm for detecting fake reviewers. They were instantly approached by a dozen companies, including Amazon, Hilton, TripAdvisor and several specialist travel sites, all of which have a strong interest in limiting the spread of bogus reviews.”

My final offering proves that I do read stuff other than the NYT.

How do you ask for money, whether loan or repayment? While most do it in person there is a small minority that totally wimp out.

“Of the 1055 polled, 6% of respondents said they’d prefer to ask for money via text message, and 4% said they would do it via email.  A sad and lonely 1% of respondents said they would do it through social media.”

Have a wonderful weekend!

Flickr image credit: pedroCarvalho

If the Shoe Fits: Shutting Your Mental Mouth

Friday, August 26th, 2011

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

Experience teaches that if you absolutely need information frame it as a  question and then shut up.

It’s a tried and true method that every good sales person knows (they call them closing questions) and is guaranteed to get whomever you are talking with to answer specifically.

For most people it’s a diffucult strategy to employ in spite of working 99% of the time.

Often the silence stretches, creating pressure to fill the void, so the askER enumerates, adding detail or “what I mean is…” and the askEE is off the hook and rarely responds to the original question.

Even when the askER stays quiet their mental mouth is moving, framing responses, organizing rebuttals, responding to possible scenarios.

Whether physical or mental, your thoughts drive the words and the more thinking the less listening, because the focus is elsewhere.

In order to get funded you need to hear investors.

In order to sell you need to hear your customers.

In order to manage you need to hear your people.

You can’t hear if you are talking.

Shutting up is key and that means shutting your mental mouth along with your physical one.

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Image credit: Bun in a Can Productions

Entrepreneur: Murphy’s Law

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

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Most people are familiar with Murphy’s Law, which teaches “anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” but entrepreneurs have a special relationship with it.

More accurately, entrepreneurs are intimately familiar with its corollary, O’Brian’s Law, which states, “Murphy was an optimist.”

Entrepreneurs are definitely, glass-is-three-fourths-full, keep on truckin, fight-through-the-pain people and, like Murphy, optimists.

If they weren’t, they would never become entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs face dozens of obstacles and sometimes money is the least of them.

Whether you want to build a small biz or scalable enterprise, you need to ask yourself one question—not if you believe Murphy’s Law, but whether you can live by O’Brian’s.

Flickr image credit: Szalik

Wordless Wednesday: If You Believe…

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

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Flickr image credit: ieshraq

Ducks in a Row: Mea Culpa

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

In the popular vernacular, the expression “mea culpa” is an admission of having made a mistake by one’s own fault (one that could have been avoided if the person had been more diligent).

Mea culpa are two of the most powerful words any manager can say—as long as they are authentic.

Creating a culture where mea culpa is not just tolerated, but applauded is the mark of the best ‘leadagers’ (Leader + Manager discussion).

They offer no value if they are uttered insincerely or as a means to an end.

Publicly taking responsibility for an error, let alone a real screw-up, is the mark of a good leader, a great manager and a true mensch.

How often have you said ‘mea culpa’ and meant it?

Flickr image credit: ZedBee | Zoë Power

Perceptions

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

84585996_629e8a5471Did you know that there is no “real” reality?

That’s because the reality we each live in is perceived through our own MAP and that perception is reality.

We filter our mental, emotional and physical surroundings through our MAP and, like snowflakes, no two people have identical MAP, so no two people perceive identically.

I can’t live in your mind any more than you can live in mine, so no matter how close our worldviews seem, they will never be identical.

Does perception influence corporate culture? Absolutely.

Look at Google, since it’s one of the most discussed corporate cultures it’s easy to compare perceptions. Outsiders usually mention the stock options, food, concierge services and in-house massages first, while insiders hottest buttons are the 20% time to work on their own ideas, how well they are heard, opportunity to make a difference, and respect shown at all levels.

Consider the manager, whether CEO or team leader, who describes his organization’s culture as flexible, open, fair and motivated, while the workers see it as inflexible and regimented.

Aside from bosses who don’t walk their talk, the difference is often perception, i.e., what is a tight ship to the manager is micromanaging to the staff.

Although culture is a product of MAP, everyone needs to be on the same page. That requires the culture-setters/enablers to listen to the perceptions of all those in their organization—especially when what they hear is uncomfortable.

Once heard, they need to act; they need to do what it takes so their people’s cultural perception is the same as their cultural vision.

Flickr image credit: Foxtongue

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