The New Media

I can remember a time when the only news programs on television were on CBS and NBC and late arrival to the game, ABC. Now, there is an explosion of news options, particularly online—and no two are alike. Here are a few of the newest providers that have captured my attention.

Digg

“Digg does curation: building products that make life smoother, simpler, and smarter. Re-founded in 2012, Digg now provides the most relevant and compelling content to millions of users a month. Using proprietary data sources and a crack editorial team, we cut through the clutter of the Internet and make sense of the noise so you don’t have to.”

Credentials: Digg was an early entry into this niche with its launch in 2004. After many stumbles, it shuttered in 2012, only to be reborn after its purchase by Betaworks (previously know for Tweetdeck, Chartbeat and Bitly).

What I like: Visually, Digg stands apart from other news curators. Its clean look is uncluttered by the onslaught of ads we’ve come to expect from other curators. Regarding content, it focused on the top stories gaining traction in cyberspace, going for quality rather than quantity.

Medium

“Medium is a different kind of place to read and write on the internet. A place where the measure of success isn’t views, but viewpoints. Where the quality of the idea matters, not the author’s qualifications. A place where conversation pushes ideas forward and words still matter.”

Credentials: Medium was launched in 2012 by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams as an invitation-only blogging platform. It has since opened up and evolved to include both professional and non-professional authors supplemented by talented editors.

What I like: The theme WTF Economy or What’s the Future of Work? Also, the dynamic highlighting is very interesting.  As you follow people, you’ll see their highlights in posts you’re reading.

Ozy

“When we launched OZY, we had a big idea. Instead of bringing you yet another news site pulling together the latest stories from across the Web, we wanted to give you something better. We wanted to give you a news site you actually loved. From the start, we promised only original content, focused not simply on where the world is but, more importantly, where the world is going. And every morning, we set out to profile the people, places, trends and technology that are ahead of their time and worthy of yours.”

Credentials: Contributors include Bill Gates, Condoleezza Rice and Bill Clinton. Partners include NPR, CNN, USA TODAY, Huffington Post, PBS NewsHour, MSN and Axel Springer.

What I like: Stories are grouped into compelling themed sections: The Presidential Brief (a daily top ten list), Rising Stars, Provocateurs, Good Sh*t, Wildcard and more.

Quartz

“Quartz is a digitally native news outlet, born in 2012, for business people in the new global economy. We publish bracingly creative and intelligent journalism with a broad worldview, built primarily for the devices closest at hand: tablets and mobile phones.”

Credentials: Quartz’s business focus comes naturally; its founding partners are Chevron, Boeing, Credit Suisse, Cadillac and GE. Their founding team has serious journalism pedigree and they have staff on the ground in key bureaus worldwide.

What I like: Obsessions. These are hot topics of interest to their writing staff, often those that might not make the front page of other outlets.


Weekly Download 15.19

download-150965_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

Workplace Culture vs. Climate – why most focus on climate and may suffer for it painfully points out that much of the current focus is on rather superficial “climate” issues, not on the deeper culture of an organization. As part of the ongoing theme that the definition of work matters, this article does a great job of pointing out the difference.

Predicting the Future and Exponential Growth shatters assumptions. Our intuition, based on a natural tendency toward linear forecasting, is that the next five years will grow (or change) at the same rate as the past five years. That’s a pretty significant amount of change. However, when growth is exponential, this is not the case. In simpler terns, this rapid construction of the future happens because the tools that are built today for tomorrow make it easier to build the future the next day.

Uber and AirBnB get a lot of press about their new and innovative approaches. They are providing access to services without owning the assets—they provide a technology platform without owing the underlying service. Uber offers access to thousands of on-demand drivers as an alternative to a taxi company. AirBnB connects travelers with accommodations without having to build and market hotel rooms. All with a very different pricing model, and (dare I say?) a superior customer experience. Networks and the Nature of the Firm explores the huge economic shift generated by adapted software and connectedness.

But, is this so new? There have been many iterations of low-cost networks or platforms replacing large organizations or fragmented providers.

  • Travel agents aggregated knowledge on travel, and then services like Kayak and Expedia replaced travel agents.
  • Ebay was a platform for individuals to sell things that were previously sold through local outlets, classified ads or hobbyist conventions. Etsy and Amazon have subsequently expanded on the model.
  • Digital media has given rise to an exponential number of individuals providing reporting, opinion, and content where large-scale organizations just 30 years ago had the only national and global platforms.

How can networks and platforms, especially digital ones, impact your organization and role. Isn’t the driving factor a superior customer experience?


We’ve Been Here Before

As I approach the 30th year of my career, I begin to wax nostalgic about the changes I see in the workplace. Available people, process and technology are in the process of redefining the space we call “the office.” Beyond the physical space, “the office” includes how we work together and define productivity. While today’s tools may be new, we’ve been through this process before—several times, in my case.

During the first three years of my career, I focused on transitioning from handwritten accounting schedules, forms and journal entries to electronic methods (13-column green pad to spreadsheets). Later, there were additional improvements in systems, access to data, and sharing of work (network shared drives and graphical charting capabilities).

The next phase was marked by a more complete transition from mainframe/mini technologies to server and personal computer technologies. Large ERP systems transitioned from green screens to client/server technology. Many new capabilities and features were enabled, including: scanning of receipts and shipments; electronic exchange of data and documents; and data importing and exporting.

Currently, we’re in the middle of transitioning from “behind the firewall” to “in the cloud.” This has dramatic implications, perhaps even more pronounced than in past phases. I believe that both the degree and speed of change are more dramatic and significantly faster than in the past. This is aided by the new low-cost, pay-as-you-go cloud options, a dramatic change in workforce demographics and global access to talent, markets and customers. No longer are large corporations at the forefront of the innovation, nor the adoption of new practices.

Transitions are endless and a natural part of life. What I find fascinating and important is looking at what have we learned from the past, evaluating what aspects are still relevant, and determining how lessons learned are applied in the current transition period.

Given my career, one of these keys learnings is around how we work. I believe we’re in a phase of “step-function” change, not “incremental” change. Put another way, we need to not look for little improvements in efficiency, but look at what is happening around us, create a shared vision of “what could be” and map a course toward this future state. As Michael Hammer noted in his seminal 1990 Harvard Business Review article Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate:

“It is time to stop paving the cow paths. Instead of embedding outdated processes in silicon and software, we should obliterate them and start over.”

Today’s key technologies—social, mobile, data/analytics and cloud—offer an opportunity to create new ways of working. We can leverage the same management disciplines: customer experience, quality principles, agile and responsive design, teaming and leadership principles, concepts of manufacturing efficiency and automation…and the list goes on. Outcomes must be relevant to the future environment and address the realities of competitive global economic talent, and resource challenges.

We’ve been here before. We need to stay future focused and use well-known disciplines to create the new future workplace. Incremental improvements in efficiency won’t be enough to be competitive in today’s and tomorrow’s marketplace.

Additional resources:


It’s Not About the Device

thanksgiving-229287_640A veritable cornucopia of new devices has recently been released (e.g. Microsoft Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, IPad Pro), as well as new phones, other tablets and updated laptops. I contend that their value is not in the device itself, but in the use case. Said another way, the magic is in how YOU use it, not about the nuanced technology features. Here are a few examples from my work life that show various devices in action in ways that meet my unique needs.

Capturing notes in a conference keynote setting

  • Setting: Usual setup is rows of chairs with no tables.
  • Devices: A tablet with stylus is ideal for electronic handwritten notes. I use my phone camera to take pictures of relevant slides or the speaker to help aid my memory.
  • Process: Take rough notes, publish to PDF and place in electronic folder along with any pictures, handouts and a scan/copy of the conference agenda.
  • Output: Summary document in electronic folder consisting of: a list of takeaways, further ideas to explore and/or additional resources (link to speaker’s website).

Facilitating a business meeting

  • Setting: Conference room, in the office or offsite. I need access to multiple pieces of information and don’t want it to get in the way of the discussion. A laptop screen can be intrusive.
  • Devices: Pen and paper in the form of a notepad or journal, plus tablet with OneNote app.
  • Output: Notes and follow-up items. Additional documents are created or a summary of the meeting is created from handwritten notes, scans of any whiteboard or flip chart work. All items are placed in a electronic folder or in OneNote shared notebook.

Writing a monthly summary report

  • Setting: Office.
  • Devices: Laptop with multiple computer displays and three or four applications running.
  • Output: A one-page word document. Ability to reference calendar, various emails, last month’s report and various other documents.

Two easy traps to fall into are: 1) thinking that one device will meet all of your needs and 2) the lure of the latest and greatest new shiny object in the marketplace. Before investing, consider this:

Being productive is about using multiple tools at hand in a way that works for you. Work process, collaboration and tools will continue to evolve. Devices will continue to proliferate and improve. There will never be a singular device for all situations and individuals.

The use cases dictate a combination of different features (technology and otherwise). My work situations are perhaps a bit more diverse than many. But the same rules likely apply to everyone—there are many tools and applications within your environments that can help personal productivity. Trying to make them all fit into once device is not practical, in my opinion.


Weekly Download 15.18

download-150965_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

Where do great ideas originate? I always obtain clarity and focus or sharpen ideas while in the shower (how unoriginal). 8 Habits of People Who Always Have Great Ideas has some great tips on how to create that space for insight. Connections are another big area for me—connecting concepts, people and/or experiences. Perhaps that’s why I always use analogies to illustrate messages.

What is a Master Penman? Even a pen aficionado like me didn’t know there was such a designation. There are only 12 in the world, and Jake Weidmann is the youngest by several decades. I was amazed at the precision in his art—such detail and creativity. I’m glad there are people like Jake preserving and advancing these art forms. Check out Master Penman Jake Weidmann and Why write? Penmanship for the 21st Century 

Your Job Title Is … What? “Overlord of Entertainment Infrastructure” struck my fancy. I love the graphic as well as the article that followed.

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Illustration by Ron Barrett, The New York Times, October 23, 2015