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Ducks in a Row: Behavioral Addiction Means Profit

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/4549543273/

Do you believe that Twitter was founded with effects like Arab Spring in mind? Or that Mark Zukerberg started Facebook for altruistic reasons? Or that Instagram, Snapchat and other similar sites actually have your wellbeing in mind?

If so, you probably also believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

The primary purpose of every one of these sites is simple: to make as much money as possible.

How?

By using personalization to achieve behavioral addiction.

Infinite personalization comprises the artificial intelligence-driven, big-data based tools that allow algorithms to build a personalized Internet echo chamber customized just for you, designed to make you feel great. Infinite personalization feeds you the real, the fake, and everything in between, with the simple goal of holding your attention and getting you to come back for more. It is the process by which companies can measure, match, and predict consumers’ individual preferences with amazing accuracy and then tailor offerings to maximize revenue.

It’s done with full knowledge and, in my opinion, malice afore thought.

It’s why tech titans, starting with Steve Jobs in 2010, limit their kids, as I said a couple of years ago in The Hypocrites of Tech.

They want their kids to grow to positions of leadership and power and know they can’t if their world shrinks to a self-enhancing echo chamber that only regurgitates information that fits their preconceived ideas.

Personalization is active in the real world, too, and has been for several years, with young adults inventing ways to shrink their world by curating their college roommates and demanding “safe places.”  

All I can say it ‘good luck’ when their carefully curated echo chamber has to function in the work-world.

However, it’s a sad and scary commentary that in the frenzy to make more and more money tech is providing a detailed roadmap, along with the supporting technology, for demagogs to become dictators.

For a more detailed look at behavioral addiction check out Adam Alter’s Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

Image credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Golden Oldies: Differences Worth Noting

Monday, February 13th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

During his time at GE, Jack Welch was lauded and crowned as a god of leadership and management— How times have changed. Welch’s success was dominantly a function of GE’s financial services and he created one of the harshest cultures around—which would have failed miserably with today’s workforce.

Immelt sold off the financial stuff, totally changed the culture from one of suspicion to one of trust,  dumped the forced rankings, just issued a directive that all new hires learn to code and has responded to the current worldwide protectionist mindset by moving from globalization to localization.

Immelt is a worthy role model.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

2185315789_e5d6af6e0d_mThere is a sizable difference between accepting positional leadership when a company is at the bottom and there is no place to go but up and taking over when its at its height—even more so when what was the growth engine and source of extraordinary profits disappears from the economic landscape.

It is one thing to maximize what you have, wringing out every last possible dollar, and investing in innovation for sustainable growth in the future.

It is one thing to create a culture where public shame and the likelihood of termination for missing your numbers rules and changing that to a culture that encourages appropriate risk-taking and never kills the messenger when the risk doesn’t pan out; a culture that understands not every innovation will be a home run, but encourages and applauds the effort anyway.

These are the differences between Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt.

Welch had taken over when the company was in the bottom of an economic cycle. He took over GE in a recession, not at the height of a bubble.

Immelt got the job right after the end of the high-flying 1990s, an era which crowned CEOs with mythical, God-like crowns, and Welch was bestowed the biggest of them all.

Immelt had known before the meltdown the company needed to wean off the leveraged risk from finance that was begun under Welch. … He admitted mistakes, as any good leader must do, and GE more quietly if not humbly went about its business in making the company a 21st century sustainable and reliable profit engine.

The differences are worth noting.

Flickr image credit: laurita13

Fight Hate: Take Action NOW

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

http://www.businessinsider.com/womens-march-washington-signs-2017-1/#-42

Today is (or should be) the first day of the rest of your life speaking out and actively working for the world in which you want to live. To do everything you can to quell the rise of hate and change the direction of your world.

If you care it’s time to act — not wait for the other guy to do it.

I’m sure that some of my readers are happy with its direction and will be very unhappy with this post. They may even unsubscribe (it’s happened in the past), but that is their right and I respect that.

But hopefully the rest of you will heed this call to action, take time to read the links and time to think about the world you want — not just for yourself, but for you current/future kids and their kids, etc.

Last December I wrote about a pledge by techs not to build a Muslim registery and I quoted the words of Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor and rabid anti-Nazi, who spent seven years in a concentration camp.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This resonates with me because I am Jewish, granted I’m a sectarian Jew, but bigots don’t make that distinction.

My father’s family had the choice of emigrating from Russia or dying by the had of the Cossacks.

My Romanian grandmother was lucky. Her sister’s husband had only enough money to bring one sister to the US and she drew the short straw. The rest of the family died in the Holocaust.

I doubt it was an accident that the executive order was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I’m also a nobody and MAPping Company Success is barely a gnat in the blogsphere, but I’m adding my voice to Fred Wilson’s Make America Hate Again, Mark Suster’s Never Let Anybody Tell You to Shut Up and many others.

The hate being shown to this wave of refugees echoes the hate shown to past waves, but this time it’s far more hysterical and fraught.  

As for the argument that the Muslim ban fights terrorism, what really are the odds that you might die in a terrorist attack in the US, especially compared to all the other ways to die? Take a look at the hard data.

odds of dying

Yes, ISIS is real, but terrorism on our soil is an excellent cover for one of the truly ugly underlying reasons today’s refugees are so violently rejected — they are black.

Anand Sanwal provided an insightful comment in his typically irreverent style.

So I landed in India with my daughter on Saturday and saw the news about immigration changes in the USA.
I don’t think American citizens of Indian descent are banned from re-entering the USA yet, but let me know if anything changes as I got another 5 days here and things appear to be changing quickly.
For the time being, I believe my type of brown person is still considered ok so that’s a relief. But definitely let me know if that changes. Thanks.

From Trump to Tea Party you are seeing the second coming of WASP thinking.

If this isn’t who you are then you need to speak out.

Not only speak out, but get active NOW.

How?

By getting involved in Swing Left, an organized effort to take back the House in 2018 or go directly to the Swing Left website.

The operative word is NOW.

Image credit: Dave Mosher/Business Insider

Role Model: Shopify’s Harley Finkelstein — Transparency Is A Two-Way Street

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

harley-finkelstein-shopify

There’s a lot of talk these days from consultants, academics and executives about the importance of transparency, AKA being totally open and honest.

And many of those in the business world, from team leaders through CEOs, are actually walking the talk.

Or believe they are.

The problem lies in the fact that even those executives who have opened operations, especially financials, to the internal scrutiny of their people don’t recognize that true transparency needs to be a two-way street.

One-way transparency is open to spin — whether intentional or not.

Which, if you stop to think about it, should come as no surprise. It is a normal, human characteristic to put the best face on even the most negative thing.

So how is true, two-way transparency achieved?

By opening yourself to a no-holds-barred Q&A with everybody and forcing yourself to provide the A no matter how uncomfortable.

Harley Finkelstein, COO at Shopify and a new “Dragon” on CBC’s Next Gen Den, among other things, is the perfect role model of what should be called AMA transparency.

The AMA idea has been around for a while.

President Obama broke with convention back in 2012 when he agreed to do an Ask Me Anything — AMA — on the Internet forum Reddit.

But if you think it takes guts to expose yourself to a half hour of inquiries from strangers on the web, try fielding regular sessions of no-holds-barred questions from your own employees — live and on camera. Welcome to our normal routine: the internal AMA.

… While facing questions from my team is tough when I’m in the hot seat, it’s become a crucial tool for building trust as we’ve scaled from hundreds to more than a thousand employees.

I doubt you’ll find a lot of executives willing to do it, because a true AMA isn’t exactly fun for those in the hot seat, as Finkelstein freely admits, but it’s a great way to build trust, ownership/engagement, eliminate fear, etc.

There are plenty of times when I’ve been caught entirely off-guard. But that’s precisely the point. The element of surprise is the secret ingredient that makes the internal AMA such a valuable tool. (…)

Creating a culture where it’s safe to ask literally anything can lead to some awkward moments, but just taking that step helps instill a sense of ownership at every level. Sitting in that hot seat might make you sweat, but that just means you’re doing it right.

Do you have what it takes to “do it right?”

Image credit: Shopify

PS: Shopify is the first site I’ve seen that offers a “download” link next to all their leadership team.

Golden Oldies: Ducks in a Row: They Are Not You

Monday, January 30th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a Decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

In case you might think this post contradicts the one about how to be a great boss by giving your people what you wanted from you boss, it doesn’t.

The difference happens if you provide what you wanted, but only the way that would satisfy you, with no consideration of how they want it.

For example, recognition. While most people crave it, they want it displayed in different ways. I’ve always liked mine loud, more or less public and without having to ask. (Asking is akin to reminding your person that it’s your anniversary/birthday/Valentine’s Day, because they obviously forgot.) Others don’t want a fuss; to them, recognition comes from nothing being said. For them, feedback happens when something is wrong, so silence means everything is fine.

The trick is to not only give people what they (and you) want, but to give it to them how they want — sincerely.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hammer51012/3545163854Most of us crave acknowledgement when we do something well, I know I do.

Decades ago when I worked as a recruiter for MRI in San Francisco my boss, “Ray,” wasn’t big on that.

It’s not that he wouldn’t do it, he just never thought about it.

Acknowledgement wasn’t something Ray needed, so he was blind to its effect on others.

When he did give the kind of heady feedback that makes people hungry for more, you could see that he didn’t understand it.

Worse, more often than not, it came in response to what he was told — you literally had to walk into his office and say you closed the deal or got a new client to have it happen. 

But praise caught by fishing or out-and-out asking is not worth a whole lot when it comes to motivation.

Nor did he understand how to build a strong team; the kind that could put an ‘Office of the Year’ award on the wall.

I still remember his effort to create the same esprit de corps as “Jeff,” another MRI manager and good friend of his, enjoyed.

The effort failed, probably because Ray considered Jeff’s approach rah-rah stuff — the kind of stuff he was known to disparage.

Ray’s problem was similar to many managers I’ve worked with over the years, i.e., he assumed others wanted to be managed in the same way he liked to be managed.

When Ray did try doing it differently it felt like a con.

Which it was, because he didn’t really believe in what he was doing.

Image credit: Jim Hammer

Interviewing Fly-On-The-Wall

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

https://hikingartist.com/2015/10/21/cutting-of-the-branch/

This is a short post, because you need time to read the links.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a CEO building an executive team or a newly promoted supervisor, interviewing is critical to success — the team’s, the company’s and, especially, yours.

The most important things to learn from your interviewing aren’t about hard or soft skills.

The truly critical factors are

  • how they think; and
  • their attitude.

That should be the “make or break” information you come away with.

There’s a lot of help to be found here; look in the hiring category and use the various interview* tags — and, of course, today’s links.

Asking slightly off-the-wall questions that candidates can’t prepare for is a good technique as long as you have a valid goal in mind — one that is well beyond just being discomforting.

The technique is used by CEOs from companies diverse companies, including Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Stormy Simon, president of Overstock and Ashley Morris, CEO of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop.

Use them as a guide, because the same questions probably won’t work for you. First, they will become well-known as they are passed around the digital world, and second, because they won’t be relevant to your particular situation.

Now, a moment of interviewing levity, better know as “candidates say/do the strangest things” or  WTF?????

“It’s hard to say why a candidate would do some of these things,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human-resources officer for CareerBuilder, tells Business Insider. “Maybe he or she is nervous, thinks an employer would find it funny, or perhaps the candidate simply has no boundaries.”

More than 2,600 hiring managers and employers shared with CareerBuilder the most memorable job-interview mistakes candidates have made. Here are 25 of the most unusual things that happened:

I sent this link to several friends; here is the response of one who is a senior manager at a large industrial enterprise in the southeast.

I’ve been offered a blow job, been asked out, been introduced to the “cruising” area of my city, threatened with a sexual harassment suit and shouted at. Interviewing is no joke…

Managers are still sticking their respective feet in their respective mouths.

Don’t be one of them.

Image credit: Hiking Artist

If the Shoe Fits: Keep The Best — Get Rid Of The Rest

Friday, January 13th, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAs I’ve said before, Steve Jobs may be a good role model for building a company, but not for building a culture.

Just think what would you could build if you combined the best of Apple’s culture with the best of cultural benchmarks — the way Pearl Automation is doing.

Founded in 2014 by three former senior managers from Apple’s iPod and iPhone groups, Pearl has tried to replicate what its leaders view as the best parts of Apple’s culture, like its fanatical dedication to quality and beautiful design. But the founders also consciously rejected some of the less appealing aspects of life at Apple, like its legendary secrecy and top-down management style.

Pearl’s cultural focus is totally inclusive, based on the idea that, since, every employee is contributing to its success, every employee has a “need to know.”

The start-up, which makes high-tech accessories for cars, holds weekly meetings with its entire staff. Managers brief them on coming products, company finances, technical problems, even the presentations made to the board.

Of course, the first thing you need to do is accept that you are not Steve Jobs.

The next thing is to understand that both creativity and failure are necessary to succeed.

Eswar Priyadarshan, who sold his mobile advertising company, Quattro Wireless, to Apple in 2010 and stayed for four years, said that he learned about design and aesthetics during his time there. But he noted that Apple’s high compensation, focused product mission and top-down decision-making tended to damp the risk-taking necessary to start a company.

Mr. Priyadarshan, who is now chief executive of BotCentral, a six-person start-up, compared Apple to a community of warrior monks. “Warrior monks don’t talk and do whatever is asked,” he said.

The actual question you need to answer is: do you want to lead a team of warrior monks or are you more excited about herding a team of innovative, quirky, creative cats.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Golden Oldies: It’s All In How You See It

Monday, January 9th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

You hear a lot about “context” these days; mostly people claiming that their comments were taken “out of context” or some variation of that. People are very aware of context, but seem to forget about “perception.”  Context, in or out of, doesn’t really matter; what matters is the perception, whether your own or others. The recent campaign, no matter what side you were on, is a good example of how perception trumps everything.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

There is an ongoing debate in academic, and other, circles as to whether or not humans have free will.

Reading the latest arguments made for an interesting break, but my final reaction was, “Who cares.” However, the manager with whom I was discussing it was thoroughly upset and demanded to know how I could think that. He said that if he had no free will then all his efforts to improve had no value, since the results were predetermined, it didn’t matter what he did. (Hey, we all have bad days.)

When I explained why I thought his reaction was way out in left field, he said I should blog the answer, that it would do other’s a lot of good, so I did.

Primarily, I don’t care because I’ve found that everything is a matter of perception, and that for every person who proclaims TRUTH (in capitals), there is a counter perception held just as vehemently by someone else.

When people seek to improve/change skills, attitudes or whatever, they do so because they perceive a benefit in doing so, whether there actually is one of not is beside the point.

Fortunately, or not, no matter what the perception, one can find like-minded people who share it—the Earth is round, but not to everybody.

Life lasts a certain amount of time and all lives have highs and lows, but it’s the perception of the individual that determines which is which.

In other words, the choice is yours.

Ducks in a Row: The Education of Google Translate

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/demiace/190365145/

If you’re a regular reader you know I’m not a big Google fan. Google isn’t all bad or all good, but, as with any entity, a mix of both.

Their most recent big score on the good side is the effort to reduce, or at least not promote, fake news.

Google engineers and executives are disturbed by how its algorithm promotes offensive and fake content on the web — such as a Holocaust denial site reaching the top result for certain searches about the Holocaust — and they are doing something about it, search expert and editor of Search Engine Land Danny Sullivan reports.

In a different vein is the article KG sent that’s in the pattern of Tracy Kidder’s fascinating looks at the stories behind major technology developments.

It’s the story of the people and effort to radically change Google translate using AI.

Late one Friday night in early November, Jun Rekimoto, a distinguished professor of human-computer interaction at the University of Tokyo, was online preparing for a lecture when he began to notice some peculiar posts rolling in on social media. Apparently Google Translate, the company’s popular machine-translation service, had suddenly and almost immeasurably improved. Rekimoto visited Translate himself and began to experiment with it. He was astonished. He had to go to sleep, but Translate refused to relax its grip on his imagination.

It’s not a book, but it is a long article — long, fascinating and well worth your time to read.

Which is why this post is very short.

I sincerely hope you will take time to read both articles.

Flickr image credit: JC

Golden Oldies: Deck the halls with honest feedback

Monday, December 19th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

It’s that time of year again and and my best advice hasn’t changed since 1977 or as I wrote it in 2007. The only difference is that now it’s the same advice you can find in dozens of places. Done right (as described below) reviews are the greatest gift you can give your people. So give it to them, even if you don’t get the same from your boss. After all, it is said that it’s better to give than receive and, as I tell clients, you can control the former, not the latter.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

performance-review-1I’ve written on and off about the importance of, and how to do, performance reviews and it’s that time of year again.So in yet another effort to convince you doubters out there that honesty is the best policy and your people really don’t want to hear feel-good fudging, prevarications or outright lies, especially around Christmas.

Social psychologist William B. Swann in a new study published in the Academy of Management Journal… People don’t like to be treated positively if they know it is not heartfelt. If people are coming across as inauthentic and forcing you to come across as inauthentic in return, that can be enormously stressful… His work has centered on an idea known as self-verification theory. All people carry around an image of themselves that tells them who they are, whether they are good-looking or average-looking, for example, or clever at math, or kind and thoughtful or largely self-centered. Inasmuch as people want to be recognized for the things they are good at, Swann’s work suggests many people also want honest acknowledgments of their flaws, and that when these flaws are minimized or wished away, people end up feeling worse rather than better.

Just remember, honest and authentic don’t mean abusive or destructive. Offering recognition of what the person does well and being candid about areas that need improvement are two hallmarks of a good review.

The third is no surprises, which means that you’ve been giving candid feedback throughout the year.

What kind of reviews do you give? Receive?

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