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Archive for April, 2012

Death of the Creative Pause

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Let’s start with a short personal quiz.

A. Do you consider yourself creative?
B. Do you2357471331_4c3696064d_m

  • love your iPad;
  • wouldn’t be caught dead without your smartphone;
  • can’t conceive of spending time without a music source;
  • still follow TV shows, whether on TV or online;
  • all of the above, often simultaneously?

What if B interferes or even cancels A?

What if the springboard for creativity and creative problem solving is boredom; a mind free of distractions that can wander untethered?

…a phenomenon that’s been identified by Edward de Bono, the legendary creative thinker. He calls it the “creative pause.” (…)The creative pause allows the space for your mind to drift, to imagine and to shift, opening it up to new ways of seeing.

From HBS’ Jim Heskett’s research question on deep thinking to my own comments on the value of silence, the need for undistracted time and the resulting creativity is well documented.

To be or not to be distracted is an individual free choice and can’t be dictated by others, but it is always wise to look at the consequences of one’s chosen actions.

Distracted driving kills people.

Distracted thinking kills creativity and innovation.

Flickr image credit: MacintoshDo

Quotable Quotes: Work

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

1078874_word_work_on_the_dicesWork; everyone works, one way or another, paid or not.

Some people work hard, while some hardly work; or as Sam Ewing said, “Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.”

According to Pearl Buck work is good for your health—at least is if you like it, “To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.”

Teddy Roosevelt offered yet another view of why on the value of work, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

Most successful people will tell you that if you do what you love the money will follow, but not everybody believes that.

I have a kind of mantra that I share with clients, ‘People who join you for money will leave for more money.’ Henry David Thoreau said something similar long before, “Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.”

Joseph Campbell had another insight to the person who is only in it for the money, “I think the person who takes a job in order to live – that is to say, for the money – has turned himself into a slave.”

But even when we love our work we all like a pat on the back and having our work appreciated, but rather than trying to force the acknowledgment take a tip from Henry J. Kaiser, “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”

Finally, it’s Stevie Wonder who sums it all up perfectly, “Ya gots to work with what you gots to work with.”

stock.xchng image credit: hisks

Expand Your Mind: TED-Ed

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

I have only one link for you today, but it’s a doozy.

It comes with the impeccable credentials of TED and is called, rightly so, TED-Ed.

It’s a link to a world for you to explore with your kids and other learning-oriented friends.

It’s one of those links that you should blast out to everyone in each of your networks and Tweet so the world will know.

“Our goal here is to offer teachers free tools in a way they will find empowering,” said TED Curator Chris Anderson, on the new TED Ed site. “This new platform allows them to take any useful educational video, not just TED’s, and easily create a customized lesson plan around it. Great teaching skills are never displaced by technology. On the contrary, they’re amplified by it. That’s our purpose here: to give teachers an exciting new way to extend learning beyond classroom hours.”

Yes, it’s a fantastic tool for actual teachers (send those you know the link), but, in the end, we are all teachers and learners.

And here’s a link if you want to get directly involved.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho, YouTube credit: TED-Ed

If the Shoe Fits: Nothing is Black and White

Friday, April 27th, 2012

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mWhy is it that so many who offer good professional commentary ruin it by presenting it as black and white?

Nothing that involves humans is black and white.

If I describe a manager who screams, rants, insults, and belittles his people I doubt that you would want to emulate his style.

What happens when I tell you his name is Steve Jobs?

Nothing is black and white.

A recent Inc. article listed 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses, they are

  1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.
  2. A company is a community, not a machine.
  3. Management is service, not control.
  4. My employees are my peers, not my children.
  5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.
  6. Change equals growth, not pain.
  7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation.
  8. Work should be fun, not mere toil.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the list, the concepts are good, but there is a lot wrong with the accompanying commentary starting with the adjectives.

According to the article bosses who don’t embrace these eight in the way described are average bosses.

More accurately, the descriptions of the actions and attitudes attributed to the “average boss” belong, by and large, to the toxic boss category.

Based on the categories Jobs is average, by the descriptions he’s toxic.

Tony Hsieh comes to mind as fitting the description of ‘extraordinary’, although I doubt you would hear him describe himself that way.

Apple and Zappos are both highly successful.

The take-away is nothing is black and white; things that look great at first glance need to be thought through before you embrace them.

Option Sanity™ helps think things through.

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock allocation system.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.
Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.”
Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Not Always What It Seems

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

We all know that things are not always as they seem and people certainly aren’t.

Brilliant ideas can come from any individual and are not dependent on their level or even their expertise.

By the same token, investors that sound great may not be, while those who are off-putting could be your salvation.

There are no hard and fast rules for evaluating whether what you see is what you’ll get, because each case is different—but that doesn’t matter.

The important thing to remember is that most stuff and people come with multiple layers and they may not be what they seem.

So while I can’t offer a multipurpose evaluation tool I can provide you with an unforgettable visual to remind you to look past the obvious.

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Be the Thursday feature – Entrepreneurs: [your company name]
Share the story of your startup today.
Send it along with your contact information and I’ll be in touch.
Questions? Email or call me at 360.335.8054 Pacific time.

YouTube upload credit: davidwrg

Legal or Honorable?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Is your company

  1. legal or
  2. honorable?

Surprisingly, in spite of scandals and lawsuits people still seem to have trouble understanding that they are different—not joined at the hip.

I could write a lot on this subject to go along with all the articles and advice already out there, but I’m a believer that stories, especially true stories, carry more power.

2144873715_066981337c_mSuch is the story of MetLife that, along with Prudential and John Hancock, will pay out more than a billion dollars for their completely legal but totally dishonorable actions.

The difference between an annuity and life insurance is that the former is paid to a live beneficiary, while the latter is paid to the dead beneficiary’s heirs.

A live beneficiary makes a fuss if the check doesn’t arrive on time.

Heirs only make a fuss if they know abut the insurance policy.

MetLife and the others were very careful to check to see if annuity beneficiaries were among the living, since they could stop paying if they weren’t.

But they saw no reason to cross reference deaths with their life insurance holders, because then they would have to pay.

An absolutely legal decision—but…

“There is simply no reason why insurance companies shouldn’t be scrubbing their policy lists,” looking for matches with the Social Security Administration’s master death index. (…)They stressed that insurers had generally checked the Social Security death index regularly to see whether other customers, who bought annuities, had died. In that case, the insurers stopped sending payments.

Stories are powerful teaching mechanisms.

The difference between legal and honorable should be crystal clear.

Flickr image credit: John Murphy

Ducks in a Row: When Stupid Invades the Culture

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

“What they were thinking is beyond me.” –Peter King, House Chairman, Homeland Security Committee, on Meet the Press, 4/22/12

3537199718_3819e6f815_m‘What were he/she/they thinking’ seems to be the universal question these days.

Boards ask it about CEOs and other executives.

Managers ask it about employees.

People ask it about their politicians and religious leaders.

Spouses ask it about their each other and their kids.

In short, everybody asks about everybody and no one is exempt as either asker or askee.

Have people really stopped thinking, gotten stupider or is something else going on?

All of the above.

The something else started with tele—telegraph, teletype, telephone, television—and the world shrank as communications sped up.

Attitudes too changed, as captured in the title of The Hombres 1967 hit “Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out).”

Subjects that were covert, if not downright taboo became titillation fodder for the salivating mob—everyday folks who were delighted to learn that feet of clay were as common in self-described role models and “superior” career paths as in their friends and neighbors.

Now communication is instant; not necessarily true, but real-time fast,

(Corrections, however, are problematical, since stuff on the web is uncontrollable and, therefore, for all practical purposes, uncorrectable.)

Were the pre-Boomer generations of secrecy better?

Not really; secrecy opens the door to threats and blackmail (still true today).

How much is too much?

Is it viable to evaluate you now based on your actions at Woodstock, Spring Break or even a drive-in movie when you were 17?

It’s not generational; men and women have raised hell, lied, stolen, cheated and played around since time immemorial and many were/are caught.

But in these days of instant, irretrievable and irrevocable information perhaps it’s time to start thinking about consequences before, instead of being asked “What were you thinking?” after.

Flickr image credit: Myrrien

Conduct Unbecoming…

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

[Oops! My apologies. this weekend was the first warm days where I live and I spent them in my garden:) (What a mess!) In so doing, I lost track and didn’t write Sunday’s Quotable Quotes and although I had this post ready I forgot to schedule it for this morning. –Miki]

I’m sure you’ve seen the story regarding the resignation of Best Buy CEO Brian J. Dunn.

Yet one more incidence of fooling around with the help = inappropriate personal conduct = resignation/termination.

Lawyer Michael W. Peregrine writes that times are changing.

It’s the traditional compact in corporate America: what C.E.O.’s do on their own time is their business, as long as they are not breaking any laws. And it’s a compact that is rapidly going by the wayside, as boards concerned with the corporate reputation are increasingly making clear.

However, it does make one wonder when actions that have almost always resulted in termination at lower levels make headlines when they happen in the executive suite.

With few exceptions, most companies have rules against managers dating subordinates; affairs between peers are considered dicey and intra-office adultery is a definite no-no.

When companies are demanding entre to the personal/private areas of candidates’ social media prior to hiring why is it so surprising that corporate boards are focusing on personal/private executive behavior?

In a world where street reps are forever and the bedrock of good corporate culture is trust and authenticity there is no room for do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do executives.

Expand Your Mind: The Facebook Impact

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

All the world is Facebook—or so Facebook would have you believe—especially with its upcoming IPO.

I don’t have a Facebook account (we maintain on for Option Sanity™, although it’s not particularly active at present). The more I hear the surer I am that I don’t want one.

Mark Zukerberg would have you believe that Facebook’s only interest is making your life better, but a comment from RickyGunns reveals a more and more frequent and unflattering view of his colossus.

…he plans to make it a mandatory agenda to broadcast everyone’s life in real time invading all privacy for his own legacy and profit trying to be another Bill Gates with the exception that he will do it at anyones expense.

Long defamed for frequent, unannounced changes to its (so-called) privacy policy, problems are now arising that are likely to play out in Congress and at Supreme Court level as the demand by private employers, government and colleges for access to candidates’ Facebook pages (either by asking for logins or to be friended) escalates.

In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.

In 2007 I wrote about an executive’s dilemma when he found out that the wife of a senior manager cited abuse when she sued for divorce. Although his work performance was fine, the executive was uncomfortable having him on staff. Liz Ryan, a well know HR guru, said, “Ron should be evaluating Terry’s performance on the job, and nothing else.” Most of the other commenters agreed with this. That’s only five years ago, but the personal/professional boundaries have changed drastically.

Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard says, “The core of the problem is the blending of personal and professional lives. We are still in the infancy of trying to understand how to deal with all this.”

Interestingly enough it is younger people who are changing their behavior to meet the challenge.

But today’s spring breakers — at least some of them — say they have been tamed, in part, not by parents or colleges or the fed-up cities they invade, but by the hand-held gizmos they hold dearest and the fear of being betrayed by an unsavory, unsanctioned photo or video popping up on Facebook or YouTube.

Or opting out completely.

But the company is running into a roadblock in this country. Some people, even on the younger end of the age spectrum, just refuse to participate, including people who have given it a try.

And there are a number of startups rushing to meet the needs of those who want to socialize only with those they really know.

Dave Morin, who worked at Facebook for four years before leaving to help found Path in 2010, explains the rationale for his company this way: “Facebook has made socializing on the Internet normal. But now there is an opportunity to return to intimate socializing.”

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

If the Shoe Fits: Attitude and Additions

Friday, April 20th, 2012

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mLong-term success is as much about attitude as it is about product.

How do you rate yourself on the following?

I believe that

  • good information can come from nobody; bad information can come from somebody;
  • values verbalized must be values lived;
  • to be valid, a social contract can not embrace the concept of “but me;
  • fairness comes from applying all rules evenly and equally, no exceptions;
  • listening, especially when it’s something you don’t want to hear or from an unusual source; and
  • it’s sometimes necessary to modify or let go of an initial vision and pivot in order to succeed.

What would you add to the list?

Option Sanity™ embodies fairness.
Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock allocation system. 
It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.
Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.”
Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

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