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The Most Valuable Gifts: Time and Books

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

http://xkcd.com/1616/

During the holiday media gift frenzy it is the truly wise who remember that the best gifts aren’t electronic or screen-dependent.

The very best aren’t paid for with money, either, but with a much more precious currency — time.

Time to love.

Time for friendship.

Time to play.

Time to talk and laugh together — F2F

Food cooked and shared together at (someone’s) home.

Not just during the season, but scattered throughout the year like diamonds on a velvet cloth or stars in a clear night sky.

Along with time, the most wonderful gift you can give a child is a love of books — real books.

Real because reading a printed page affects the brain in different and better ways than words on a  screen.

Whether your child reads or you read to them start with the books from Lost My Name, which creates personalized books using your child’s name.

Lost My Name — founded in 2012 by Asi Sharabi and Tal Oron — creates customised books based around a child’s name. The books are created and ordered online, then sent out to printing partners around the world. (…)  “As a technology company, we’re very proud to be innovating on one of the oldest media formats in the world – the physical book,” said Oron. “We think technology equals possibility. And possibility is the dominant currency in wonderful, nostalgic storytelling, where the book’s job is to inspire children to believe in adventure; that anything can happen if they imagine it. As screens become more and more seductive to children, there is an increasing need to inject more magic into books – to find new ways to spark their imagination.”

Even better are the books by Randall Munroe, former NASA roboticist, who specializes in science humor and whose 2014 book, “What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions,” became an unexpected mainstream hit.

Munroe believes that anything can be explained simply using normal language and proves it in his new book (which is a good choice for anyone on your gift list).

“Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words.” The oversized, illustrated book consists of annotated blueprints with deceptively spare language, explaining the mechanics behind concepts like data centers, smartphones, tectonic plates, nuclear reactors and the electromagnetic spectrum. In his explanations, Mr. Munroe avoided technical jargon and limited himself to the 1,000 most commonly used words in the English language. This barred him from using words like helium and uranium, a challenge when describing how a rocket ship or reactor works.

For book links and great comics (sample above; chosen for enabling holiday restraint) visit Munroe’s site.

Books are good for adults, too. Check out this month’s Leadership Development Carnival for critiques of books that run the business gamut from being a better boss to upping your game wherever you are in your career.

Another great thing about real books is what you can do when you are done reading them.

  • Some you’ll want to keep for your own library;
  • some you’ll share with friends, colleagues and those you mentor; and
  • the rest can be donated to your local library.

Happy reading! Happy discovery!!

Image credit: Randall Munroe

If the Shoe Fits: Startup Holiday Gifts

Friday, December 11th, 2015

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mThe holidays are here. Few real startups are in a position to throw lavish parties — or even modest ones.

That said, why not give your team with the most precious gift in existence — time.

Totally unwired time.

Time with no email, texts, pings, questions, discussions.

24 whole hours to do with as they choose.

24 hours that they can spend all at once or use slowly.

And if you really care for your team make it a recurring gift.

24 hours every quarter.

As long as it’s totally unwired.

Then make damn sure they use it.

Of course, that is a bare minimum — more is better.

And don’t forget, the team includes you.

Image credit: HikingArtist

App Cost/Benefit Analysis

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonahowie/7910370882/

A post I wrote after two researchers made headlines by hacking a Jeep and taking control of its vital functions focused on the idea that nothing would change until consumers voted with their wallets and demanded better security.

Until that hack, combined with several major data breeches in the last couple of years, the general public didn’t seem particularly concerned — and that nonchalance is especially prevalent in those who grew up wired.

In a comment on that post I wondered if consumers just didn’t care or didn’t understand, but there is another option.

I read a article about Conspire, a new site that helps find business emails and sent it to several people I thought could use it, including Ajo Fod, founder of QuantPrice and occasional contributor here.

Conspire uses your email account as the basis for a game of Six Degrees of Separation. Sign up, and it analyzes your email. Then enter the name of the person you want to search and it finds someone in your contact list to introduce you, examining that person’s social-media connections. It may even find multiple people to help introduce you. Then it will recommend the best choice.

Ajo joined and sent me an invitation. I haven’t accepted yet, because Conspire requires your email account information and password (plus my email uses POP3, not IMAP).

I asked Ajo if he was concerned about security and here is his answer.

Security is a concern,

… but benefits are a bigger.

… I’ve been hit before by a bad egg that decided to spam all my contacts.

… so, yes, I was worried when I gave out my email/password.

… In this case. I did some research and thinking and the potential seemed big.

I do worry about credit card numbers and identity.

… In my mind, the benefits outweigh costs.

People still send me phishing emails.

Perhaps, being an Indian security is a lesser concern to me than other people my age in the US.

Actually, Ajo gave it more thought than most people I ask no matter their age.

There is one more thing you should think about when doing a cost/benefit analysis.

Time.

What is the ROI for the time you will spend?

Is the new app a time saver or time waster?

Money can be replaced, but once time is spent it’s gone forever.

Flickr image credit: Jason Howie

An Internet Second

Monday, August 19th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/56380734@N05/6540313461/Entrepreneurs of all stripes are obsessed with the Internet.

They are not alone; most companies, from enterprise to micro biz feel the same way.

And it’s true whether their business is social media, ecommerce or a “real product” for the “real world.”

For those who are curious here is a realtime visual graphic that puts the impact of the Internet in perspective.

In one second on the Internet there are…

Flickr image credit: Jens Rost

Entrepreneurs: Jane Smorodnikova

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

LikeHack logoJane Smorodnikova, founder and CEO of LikeHack, is a client of mine.

When we first met in January she told me that she started the company out of desperation when she found herself drowning in information.

Everybody knows that there is just too much information out there, but people can’t (won’t) stop reading their social media because they have to stay in touch with the industry and people they follow and I am no different. I was constantly checking my Twitter updates and wasting valuable time on useless information and that was the inspiration for LikeHack—I needed to stay in touch and still be productive. During my recent trip to Boston many people, from designers to investors, said they needed it, too, and now I see them among our users.

Jane is a smart, talented, serial entrepreneur (four companies and counting) located in Moscow, Russia.

Social media isn’t my thing, but those I know and work with see it as both boon and bane; research shows that active users receive around 284 stories everyday, but read only ten.

That’s a lot of chaff to plough through to find the wheat.

A healthy lifestyle means not only eliminating junk food from your body, but also getting rid of mental junk food, AKA useless content. For some, entertaining themselves by chatting, skimming and looking at funny cats on social media makes sense, but many of us use Twitter and Facebook as a content source for our professional lives. We designed LikeHack so people could receive curated content from people they trust.

So what exactly does LikeHack do?

  • It filters the clutter from your social media stream to give you a digest of interesting stories using the magic of crowdsourcing by like-minded people;
  • takes the complete history of shared links and builds a filter utilizing similar people who like the same links from the same sites as personal content curators;
  • adds full text search to all the user’s content, including incoming content and all stories that were ever liked, shared or tweeted; and
  • supports Facebook, Twitter, Gmail (to collect links shared via e-mail), RSS, as well as importing Google Reader history, while future versions will include LinkedIn and Google+ integration.

And in case you’re wondering, I do content development and write, including the scripts for videos like this one.

Image credit: LikeHack

Social Change

Monday, February 11th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/birgerking/6875893248/I admit it; as anyone who is a frequent reader I am not a Facebook devotee; for that matter, I’m not a lover of social media in general, which includes MMOG sites such as World of Warcraft.

What people who know me don’t understand is that my dislike goes beyond my personal feelings.

Gently put, I am tired of and disgusted with number of intelligent, talented people who contact me for help balancing the demands on their time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to help people and rarely charge for one-off questions, but it’s getting ridiculous.

For years I found that the problem wasn’t so much one of time management, but one of saying yes too often.

But, as the saying goes, that was then and this is now.

Now, after a week of time tracking exercises and analysis they come back and admit to two, five, eight or even more hours spent on various forms of social media.

Most are surprised; they had no realization that the number was so high.

I suggest they cut back and use the time where they feel pinched—the reason they contacted me in the first place.

Some are sheepish, others are defiant, but most are reluctant to reduce their time.

I didn’t need to read about “FOMO addiction” (the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what we’re currently doing), I was hearing about it directly from the addicts.

So it was with great delight that I read that there is a growing rebellion.

The main reasons for their social media sabbaticals were not having enough time to dedicate to pruning their profiles, an overall decrease in their interest in the site, and the general sentiment that Facebook was a major waste of time.
About 4 percent cited privacy and security concerns as contributing to their departure. Although those users eventually resumed their regular activity, another 20 percent of Facebook users admitted to deleting their accounts.
(…)The report found that 42 percent of Facebook users from the ages of 18 to 29 said that the average time they spent on the site in a typical day had decreased in the last year. A much smaller portion, 23 percent, of older Facebook users, those over 50, reported a drop in Facebook usage over the same period.

Perhaps people are finally kicking their FOMO addiction, facing up to their time usage and figuring out that there is more to life than what’s online.

I find it most interesting that the decrease in Facebook usage is twice as high in the young (18-29) than in the over 50 crowd.

Who’d a thunk it?

Flickr image credit: birgerking

Entrepreneurs: Perceptions

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gagillphoto/3892952235/

Perceptions rule.

The things you say and do hold no reality other than the way they are perceived by your audience, which includes employees, customers and investors.

Everything people hear, see or do is filtered through their MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) and they a respond according to their perceptions, whether they reflect the actual intent or not.

In other words, what one person says and the other guy hears may have nothing to do with each other.

That’s why it’s critical to the success of your venture to actively manage the perceptions of all stake-holders.

Perceptions are a constantly moving target that are distorted by a variety of circumstances—from something as minor as feeling out of sorts to global economic turmoil; as a result the communications that were understood today may not work tomorrow.

Experts constantly bandy such words as ‘authentic’, ‘honest’, ‘sincere’ and similar terms in talking about how to change perceptions, when, in fact, there are only two things working together that actually accomplish perceptional change.

Those two things are actions and time.

If over time actions don’t back up whatever is said, then perceptions won’t change.

The greater the change the greater the cynicism as to how real and how sustainable it actually is, so don’t expect instant buy-in.

Communicate what you’re going to do and then do it consistently over and over forever—and watch perceptions change.

Flickr image credit: Gregory Gill

If the Shoe Fits: a Thought for Christmas

Friday, December 21st, 2012

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mDuring a recent conversation I heard several entrepreneurs say they didn’t have time, energy or money to invest in the holidays.

I get the money, but they are wrong about the time and energy, especially if they would like to goose both the creativity and productivity of themselves and their teams.

Just the act of getting away from your startup for a few hours, both mentally and physically and eating real food will clear your brain leading to improved creativity and productivity.

You can accelerate that improvement if you unplug completely.

The holidays are a tough time of year for many; even more so if they are feeling rejected—whether real or perceived.

Consider research that shows rejection and/or loneliness make people cold physically.

Just touching a warm object seems to stem the feelings and subsequent depression and even loss of self-worth.

Notably, touching something warm after a feeling of ostracism — like holding a warm cup of coffee — is enough to halt and even reverse some of these autonomic responses. (…) The findings, of course, don’t just explain why so many lonely souls while away the hours at Starbucks, embracing a warm cup of joe.

Knowing that, you can jump your own efforts an order of magnitude by taking a few minutes to reach out to someone who is lonely—not just now, but all year ’round.

You may not have the time or energy to volunteer, but how much effort does it take when you’re getting coffee to chat with a stranger who looks down?

And who knows what great things will result or what you may learn from your caring effort?

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Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Ducks in a Row: Back to the Future

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/akandbdl/5195990844/If your career or the time you’ve spent following business up and downs doesn’t predate 2006 then you may not think of Best Buy as a successful, cutting edge, highly innovative company with an exceptional culture.

I was reminded of Best Buy when I read that many managers still believe that time = productivity and contributions.

The managers viewed employees who were seen at the office during business hours as highly “dependable” and “reliable.” Employees who came in over the weekend or stayed late in the evening were seen as “committed” and “dedicated” to their work.

That attitude is so last century; in fact, it harks back to the industrial and even the agrarian age when presence was synonymous with productivity. After all, you couldn’t produce if you weren’t there.

The reason I thought of Best Buy is because it was the 2003 birthplace of ROWE.

ROWE means Results Only Workplace Environment and I’ve written about it previously (a lot), so rather than write the same stuff again here’s a link to my ROWE-related posts.

As to its success, in 2010 total revenues increased 11% and $4.4 billion of that was from female customers—not your typical big box tech shopper (at that time).

The extraordinary culture created by Brad Anderson that allowed for the bottom-up development of something as revolutionary as ROWE can not be overstated.

But it can be repeated.

Flickr image credit: Keith Laverack

Miki’s Rules to Live by: Grow and Let Go

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Do you struggle to remember people and events from the past?

Hazy memories of someone or something that loomed enormous at the time?

The author of this short mantra is unknown. I took the liberty of broadening it to encompass more of life than just people, because, for me, it says something very important about growing and letting go.

There comes a point in your life when you realize
Who/what matters, 
Who/what never did, 
Who/what won’t anymore… 
And who/what always will. 
So, don’t worry about people and events from your past, 
There’s a reason why they didn’t make it to your future.

2200537863_e0127d5573_m

Flickr image credit: Hryck

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