Weekly Download 14.12


Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

How Did The Meter Get Its Length? If a foot equals 0.3048 of a meter, what is the length of a meter based on? Hint: it took a long time. Perhaps the precision wasn’t worth the effort!

Reinventing the Wheel gives proof that challenging historical conventions can make sense.

A corporate giant continues to evolve. The last time Apple split its stock, it was a completely different company. This month Apple’s stock split 7-for-1. What’s new since their last split in 2005?

The lizard brain is at work again, this time impacting our response to constructive feedback. When listening to criticism, don’t use the wrong part of your brain. Instead, tap into the mammalian side.

Simplistic, Simplify or Simple


Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Simplisticsimplify or simple. Are we using these words correctly and appreciating the differences between them? When strategizing or problem solving, it seems that all too often we shortcut to simplistic in the pursuit of solution. An orientation toward action may cause us to not fully examine the underlying complexities of a situation before moving ahead. That can result in landing on a solution too quickly that really isn’t a solution at all.

Sometimes we might simplify…we reduce down. This can be important, but it may also not be sufficient.

Simple can be hard. It can take time. Elegant is another word that comes to mind. We may have to work hard to take things away until we get to the very essential elements.

Think about the meaning of these words. When do we need to challenge ourselves to go further and achieve simple when we may have settled for simplifying or simplistic and called it “good enough” in the past?

Weekly Download 14.11

download-158006_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

Did PowerPoint Ruin GM? This interesting WSJ article describes the potential that facts relating to the ignition switch fault were edited out of long PowerPoint presentations at GM. It reminds me of a much older Edward Tufte essay that discusses the pitfalls of what is now commonly referred to as “death by PowerPoint.” Tufte also analyzes a Boeing presentation to NASA, and takes the company to task for oversimplifying and obscuring crucial information. How often do we let monotonous slides and the related editing process dictate the flow of conversation? Wouldn’t it be better to just write a report and not present anything? I have moved away from PowerPoint-driven meetings as much as possible, sometimes even handwriting the key points I want to discuss. How do you make sure the right dialogue is occurring in your meetings?

handdrawn meeting presentation

Sketch and photo by Mark Baker

I remember writing a blog entry (a rant, really) about six or seven years ago on why email needs to go away. We allow valuable hours to be driven (like Pavlov’s dog) by what arrives in our inbox. With the number of communication and information points today, it becomes unruly to manage the sifting and sorting. A Company Without Email? Not So Fast discusses a couple of solutions that are picking up traction.

You never know where simple, profound inspiration may be found. Like in a fortune cookie. Great Things are Made from Little Things cites one of my favorite quotes:

 “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”—Aristotle

Cultural Bias, Translation and Learning

One lesson learned on my recent business trip to India: idioms don’t always translate. Case in point, in a meeting with several colleagues, I said, “This process is like explaining water to fish.” It didn’t take. The conversation quickly devolved as the Americans tried to explain the meaning to our Indian counterparts (What were we…mammals?  Did the mammals eat the fish? Or drink the water?). I felt like Abbott and Costello doing “Who’s On First?” Needless to say, we all had a good chuckle trying to unravel this one.

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

The key takeaway is that we don’t always appreciate our culture, or ways of working, or knowledge until we see it from the viewpoint of others who have a different cultural background. Note that I said “different,” not better or worse, just different. Are we open to new perspectives? Do we relish the opportunity to be uncomfortable and truly learn? Can we take advantage of others’ experiences without judgment? I’d like to think so.

This was shared by my India counterparts, and was met with many chuckles, even within their culture: Indian Headshakes.

 For my Indian friends (and young friends) to appreciate Abbot and Costello: Who’s On First.

Mindfulness and Happiness at Work

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

Meditation, enlightenment and the pursuit of happiness were once considered the purview of New Age gurus, yogis and hippies—those folks who were “out there.” Now, these concepts, often encompassed under the banner of “mindfulness,” are moving into the mainstream and are being embraced in the business world. Let’s take a look at who’s leading the charge and what they are saying.

“Mindfulness is a process of actively noticing new things.”—Ellen Langer

  • Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity. This Harvard Business Review article features an Interview with Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard. Her research on mindfulness has revealed that, “… by paying attention to what’s going on around us, instead of operating on auto-pilot, we can reduce stress, unlock creativity, and boost performance.” Langer links mindfulness to business practices and leadership at multiple points. Additional resources include her books Mindfulness and Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility.
  • Another excellent article from Harvard Business Review is Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life, by Harvard professors Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams. Here, the authors debunk some of the myths about work/life balance, but also show deliberate choices can help reconcile conflicts between the various roles and responsibilities we all have. They look at five major themes: “defining success for yourself, managing technology, building support networks at work and at home, traveling or relocating selectively, and collaborating with your partner.”

Here’s a simple tenet for balance and happiness that I keep in mind: know what you love and love what you do. Living to work is not a privilege that comes easy. What routines do you have that allow you to be clear about who you are and what you enjoy? For example, I enjoy the sensory aspects of cycling…the focus on breathing, cycling technique and being engulfed by the surrounding sights and smells. It helps me reduce the daily noise of work and focus on the important longer-term items necessary for success.

Weekly Download 14.10

download-158006_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

The Next Generation Enterprise Platform explores the need “for a technical approach for the next generation enterprise that’s beyond what is currently available, or maybe more accurately, supports the need to use available technology in a somewhat different way.”

User-Centric IT: Transforming IT to Put People First  looks at a new paradigm for enterprise IT. The five core principles resonate with me:

  1. User-Centric IT serves the business by empowering people.
  2. User-Centric IT adapts to the way people work, not the other way around..
  3. People, information and knowledge must connect in real time.
  4. Mobility is a work-style preference, not a device..
  5. Security should be inherent and transparent to the user experience.

A graphic overview of Accenture’s six key IT Trends 2014. You can click on each box for a deeper dive. Then, take a second look at the trends in a circle graph that shows the evolution from technology to the building blocks for new business models.

New ways of consuming information are making news:

  • Have you heard of Quartz?  Think Tumblr meets Wired magazine. This is old media (Atlantic Media) innovating to stay relevant.
  • Very Short List describes themselves as a “delightful e-mail that shares cultural gems from a different curator every day.”
  • Tab Dump is a curated list of news available via RSS, Twitter or email.

The Platinum Rule

Ty Bennett Book Cover SignedWe’ve all heard about the Golden Rule, but have you heard of the Platinum Rule?

At the Information Technology Alliance Conference I recently attended in Dallas, sales and leadership guru Ty Bennett was the keynote speaker (full disclosure, I chair the Keynote Committee). Ty described the platinum rule as “treat others as they wish to be treated.” Easy to say, harder to do. He provided an example of a simple way he applies the Platinum Rule at his company. He asks clients, “What is the best way to communicate with you? Phone, email or text?” How elegant.Ty Bennett at ITA Dallas Spring 14

From a client’s perspective, even if we provide the answer one would have expected, you feel that being asked the question matters. This reminded me of the following quote from the recently deceased Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”