Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Partially Evil?

When your corporate slogan is "Don't be evil," you have to be prepared for shots like this one.

What You Really Want

This is truly news you can use.

Go to incompetech.com and get free on-line graph paper.

BTW: Great name.

Smart Moves

It's easy to spot dumb moves by companies but how about the smart ones?

Business 2.0 provides a very interesting list. Click here.

Keep Pushing

According to this article, more cars are getting past the 100,000 miles mark.

One Volvo in our neighborhood had over 700,000 miles on it. There's an owner who got his money's worth.

Oscar Who?

Here are the Oscar nominees.

I haven't seen any of the nominees for Best Picture, partly because of my schedule and partly because the cost of going to the movies has risen so much it is easy to get out of the habit.

Discussing the Gap

CareerJournal has some great advice on how to discuss a gap in your resume due to a personal loss.

It should remind us just how many people out there have a great deal of personal pain of which we don't have a clue.

Polar Bears

Professor James Q. Wilson writing in the February 2006 issue of Commentary (the smartest magazine in the world) on the subject of "How Divided Are We?":

"In extreme form...polarization can entail the belief that the other side is in thrall to a secret conspiracy that is using devious means to obtain control over society. Today's versions might go like this: 'Liberals employ their dominance of the media, the universities, and Hollywood to enforce a radically secular agenda'; or, 'conservatives, working through the religious Right and the big corporations, conspired with their hired neocon advisers to invade Iraq for the sake of oil.'"

[Wade note: Sure, the liberals all meet every Thursday evening in Al Franken's living room to draft headlines for The New York Times and the conservatives are so evil and clever they planned a war for oil but they drew the line at actually planting WMDs to make their case.]

Monday, January 30, 2006


The Nuremberg Trials documentary will be on National Public Television, not on National Public Radio.

Let It Be

Check out the team dynamics in this American Heritage account of the final recording session of The Beatles.

Trivia item: George was mad at John, not at Paul.

Quote of the Day

"Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can."

- John Wesley

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Just Say No

Some people have difficulty saying no, so I've developed the following as a public service.

17 Ways to Say No

  1. No.
  2. I don’t do that.
  3. That doesn’t fit with our current program.
  4. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.
  5. I’ve got to go with my intuition on this and it says, “No.”
  6. My team/boss/family would kill me if I did that.
  7. It’s not in our budget.
  8. I can’t fit it into my schedule.
  9. My religion won’t permit it.
  10. I’m already overcommitted.
  11. Let’s run that by Legal.
  12. Let’s have a focus group.
  13. My predecessor was fired for doing that.
  14. I was once fired for doing that.
  15. (The Gary Cooper Approach): Nope!
  16. (The Dennis Hopper Approach): There are two ways that’s going happen: No way and no how.
  17. (The Hollywood Approach): I love it, baby. It’s a winner!

Quote of the Day

"I took a course in speed reading...and was able to read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It's about Russia."

- Woody Allen


Yesterday, you were able to kick back (sorry) with some Chuck Norris facts, now - for those of you who are fellow members of the cult - you can hear actual lines from Napoleon Dynamite.

It's sweet.

Click here.

No GoDaddy

ABC has rejected the 13th version of a GoDaddy commercial for the SuperBowl. You may recall the previous commercial ("Was there also a football game?") in which a well-endowed young woman testified before Congress and caused cardiac arrest.

Some speculate that GoDaddy is using the rejections as a publicity device.

If so, it's working.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Watch Out!

CSO magazine examines three not-to-miss risks.

They’ve also listed 14
nightmare scenarios.

No, the next Adam Sandler movie didn't make either list.

Bait Car

A Canadian website by people who love their work so much they take pictures of their customers.

No Tanks

Random Culture has posted an interesting contrast between searching the word “Tiananmen” on the US version of Google and on the Chinese version.

Chinese version.

US version.

Worth Checking Out

John McWhorter, whose earlier book, Losing the Race, is must reading for anyone interested in civil rights and affirmative action, has a new book out: Winning the Race.

I'll review it in a future post.

In the meantime, here's a 2001 interview with McWhorter from Reason magazine.

Ministry of Propaganda

It's hard to decide which document shows greater contempt for the customer:

  • these memos from a marketing firm regarding cigarette smokers in the United Kingdom or
  • this excerpt from an elementary school book in Castro's Cuba.

Very Faint Praise

Several years ago, Lehigh University professor Robert J. Thorton developed the Lexicon of Inconspicuously Ambiguous Recommendations (LIAR). Some samples:
  • "In my opinion, you will be very fortunate to get this person to work for you."
  • "I most enthusiastically recommend this candidate with no qualifications whatsoever."
  • "No person would be better for the job."
  • "I would urge you to waste no time in making this candidate an offer of employment."
  • "I cannot say enough to honestly recommend this person for employment."

Hmm. I think I'll reread some of my letters of recommendation this weekend.

Quote of the Day

"You think because you understand one you must understand two, because one and one makes two. But you must understand and."

- Ancient Sufi teaching

"Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer."

Okay, don't get too serious this weekend.

Go to www.chucknorrisfacts.com and get pearls such as:

  1. Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried. Ever.
  2. Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.
  3. Chuck Norris is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.
  4. The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.
  5. If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can't see Chuck Norris, you may be only seconds away from death.

I'm Listening

Read Judge Richard Posner - always an interesting thinker - writing in The New Republic, on wiretapping. Click here.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Looking Up

Which countries are most optimistic about their economic future?

This BBC survey finds positive attitudes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pinstriped Rapperz

Occasionally, while surfing the Internet, you find something so twisted and bizarre that you sit stunned, wondering about the future of the world.

That was my reaction to this article about the cult popularity of corporate anthems.

Beyond Words

Charles Krauthammer on his brother, Marcel.

Acronyms Assistance

Nancy Dodd Cates of Pepperdine University has put together a handy list of business and information technology acronyms. See it here.

Here's also a list of e-mail and chat acronyms.

Who thinks up these and who has the time and/or inclination to remember more than five?


Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the bestseller "Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking," examined the downside of intelligence in this New Yorker article a few years ago.

An excerpt:

"The management of Enron, in other words, did exactly what the consultants at McKinsey said that companies ought to do in order to succeed in the modern economy. It hired and rewarded the very best and the very brightest--and it is now in bankruptcy. The reasons for its collapse are complex, needless to say. But what if Enron failed not in spite of its talent mind-set but because of it? What if smart people are overrated?"

The McKinsey stories and the example of the submarine war in the north Atlantic are fascinating.

Royal Diplomacy

Prince Charles is getting some press over a remark that he made to the effect that if the British don't start exercising some more, they'll be as fat as their American cousins.

If you are surprised at this lapse of diplomacy, remember that Charles studied gaffes at the feet of a true master.

Surviving the Bad Boss

Not that you'd ever need this but...

Mary Brandel, writing in Computerworld, has some good tips on surviving a bad boss and there's even a bad boss survival blog packed with ideas.

Good Guy

Guy Kawasaki, iconoclast and venture capitalist, has some good tips on his blog today regarding on bootstrapping your new business. He notes:

“Someone once told me that the probability of an entrepreneur getting venture capital is the same as getting struck by lightning while standing at the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day. This may be too optimistic.”

Quote of the Day

"You can't imagine the extra work I had when I was a god."

- Emperor Hirohito

Comparable Unworth

As this article shows, the doctrine of comparable worth is alive and well in Canada.

Comparing the pay of a flight attendant to that of a pilot and alleging sex discrimination may win points for creativity but little else.

Fortunately, the United States sticks with the equal pay for equal work standard.

In other words, if you want the same pay as a pilot, become a pilot.

BTW: Have you ever noticed how comparable worth advocates always want a group's pay raised and never advocate having the "favored" group's pay lowered?

The Nuances of Grand Theft Auto

Is porn hidden within the Grand Theft Auto game?

A city attorney's office is going after the company for misrepresentation to gain a different rating and for unfair competition.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."

- Mel Brooks

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Motivation Recipe

There are the traditional theories of how to motivate employees, such as can be found here, and then there is the unconventional but time proven approach.

The Seldom Discussed Topic

The one topic that is seldom discussed in the workplace but is absolutely crucial to effective leadership is courage.

Most employee relations lawsuits come about because someone, somewhere, was reluctant to confront the problem while it was small. They ignored it and played "Let's pretend it's not there" and the problem grew into some attorney's creature.

Courage is not discussed because it's one of those personal things you are supposed to have and if you don't have it, for God's sake don't tell us because then we might have to address your problems for you and we have a little problem with that courage thing ourselves. As a result, lack of courage is usually a group problem. The supervisor lacks the guts to confront the difficult employee because he or she knows that the folks in upper management in turn lack the guts to support firm action.

[I once provided advice on a situation where a supervisor had waved a gun around, showed up drunk, threatened employees and fondled women. When upper management was briefed on the matter, one of the executive suite wizards asked, "Can't we find a desk for this guy somewhere?"

It's a safe bet that he didn't want the desk next to his own.]

How do you get courage? By doing courageous things. That's how the military and police and fire departments train their recruits. They teach them to behave illogically by forcing them to move toward, instead of away from, danger. They drill and drill again so that certain actions become second nature and self-confidence grows.

The same approach can be taken in small steps in the workplace. The phone message you don't want to return? That's the first task you should tackle. The difficult employee who needs to be turned around? Sit down and talk about the specific performance problem in clear, no-nonsense terms. It won't be easy the first or second or even the tenth time but it will get easier and, some day, the actions that you regard as standard will be worthy of being called courageous.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Paralysis By Due Process

Common Good has posted a chart on the steps that are required to fire a public school teacher in New York City.

Read it and weep here.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Get It Done!

Are you having problems getting things done?

Check out this article on David Allen's GTD system.

Jerks at Work

CareerJournal examines rudeness in the workplace:

"According to a continuing study by Christine Porath, a management professor at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, rudeness in the workplace can cost an organization time, effort and talent. More than 90% of nearly 3,000 people surveyed as part of the study said they had experienced incivility at work. Of these, 50% say they lost work time worrying about the incident, 50% contemplated changing jobs to avoid a recurrence, and 25% cut back their efforts on the job. One in eight said he had left a company because of a rude incident."

Read it all here.

I confess that this is one of my hot buttons. There are excuses for many things but there is never an excuse for being rude.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Better Than My Flip Chart

You are thinking of using some charts in your next presentation?

Check these suckers out!

I really like the one on the Baby Boom generation.


Here's a list of 50 self-help classics as designated by Tom Butler-Bowdon.

It's the sort of list that one could dispute but that's partly the attraction of such exercises.

Ends, Means and Spotting Ethical Problems

The University of Washington Business School has issued a study on how people approach ethical problems. A certain type of person is more inclined to spot ethical problems. An excerpt:

“Reynolds found that people who focus primarily on the ends recognize ethical issues when harm is done but are much less sensitive to ethical issues that seem to only involve a violation of the means (someone lied, broke a promise, violated a policy, etc.). When it appears that no harm is done, ends-based decision-makers are much less inclined to see the issue as an ethical one. Means-focused people, however, recognize both harmful situations and those situations in which the means used were an ethical issue.

“The results are surprising, he said, because they suggest that means-based decision makers are affected by a much broader range of what they consider to be ethical issues. "’For that reason, ends-based decision-makers might be very surprised to know what others call or treat as ethical issues,’ Reynolds said. ‘You could say that ends-based decision-makers are 'blind' to those kinds of ethical issues.’”

Read the whole article here.

Customer Disservice

Lifehack.org has some excellent guidelines on how to drive a customer crazy. I think I've seen all of these.

  • Pretend you haven’t noticed they are there.
  • Stay in first gear, especially when they are rushing.
  • Let them overhear your personal phone call, and make no attempt to end it.
  • Open late. Close early.
  • Say “That’s not our policy.”
  • Say “That’s not my job.”
  • Say “I’m not allowed to do that.”
  • Say “I have no idea.”
  • Say “Are you sure that’s what you want?”
  • Slouch. Chew Gum. Twirl your hair between your fingers.
  • Give them a blank stare, or worse, roll your eyes.
  • Fidget distractedly.
  • Appear bored.
  • Finish whatever other task you have at hand, while they wait for you to attend to them.
  • Talk story with other employees.
  • Laugh at an “inside joke” they are not privy to.
  • Speak in a monotone.
  • See how long you can go without smiling.
  • Be late for their appointment or with their reservation.
  • Take shortcuts with your service, saying “you don’t really need this part do you?”
  • Make excuses.
  • Have a quick comeback for every point they may wish to make with you.
  • Offer mechanical, routine service that is so uneventful, so ordinary, that they expect to pull a number and listen for you to call out “Next!”
  • Look at them with open disapproval or impatience.
  • Speak so softly, or in such a rush, that they need to keep asking “What was that?”
  • Give them directions so involved or confusing they have to write them down.
  • Give them “scenic” directions that take them out of their way when they really wanted a shortcut.
  • Ignore the very young and very old in the group, talking only to the ones you assume are the “responsible ones” - or the paying ones.
  • Assume that all customers are the same, and you already know what they want.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Crystal Ball Time

It's pretty gutsy to list six management fallacies for the future but David Batstone does so here.

As for his prediction regarding teams: I know this is the case in some organizations but the majority still strike me as unprepared for that great leap. We'll have to see if they ever take it.

Interviews Plus

CareerJournal reports:

"An increasing number of employers are putting candidates for salaried jobs through a battery of mock assignments, stressful "day-in-the-life" job simulations and role-playing exercises. A senior-level candidate might spend a day in an office being bombarded with phone calls, emails and complaints from vendors or subordinates, while a would-be employer judges how well how well the candidate prioritizes and handles pressure. The tryouts supplement interviews, reference checks and written tests."

I can understand the value of this but am also a little wary when it goes beyond a basic interview. There is potential abuse by employers who simply want to get some free work or ideas from a highly qualified person.

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Quote of the Day

"85% of the world’s work is done by people who don’t feel very well."

- Winston Churchill

Sure Admission

The following essay has bounced around the Internet for years. Supposedly, it is from an actual college application to New York University although that's far from certain. Anyway, it is a classic and I thought I'd pass it on:


I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently.

Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I'm bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don't perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400.

My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations with the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven.
I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin.

I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Quote of the Day

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Quote of the Day

"In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car."

- Lawrence Summers

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Quote of the Day

"There are only four types of officer. First, there are the lazy, stupid ones. Leave them alone, they do no harm...Second, there are the hard-working, intelligent ones. They make excellent staff officers, ensuring that every detail is properly considered. Third, there are the hard-working, stupid ones. These people are a menace and must be fired at once. They create irrelevant work for everybody. Finally, there are the intelligent lazy ones. They are suited for the highest office."

- General Von Manstein on the German Officer Corps

Monday, January 09, 2006

Who is an Applicant?

Lisa Harpe of Peopleclick has a good article on just who is a job applicant. This may seem obvious until you consider questions such as:

"If someone hands a resume to one of your executives at a cocktail party, is that person an applicant?"

"If someone applies for a job that you haven't advertised, is that person an applicant?"

"If someone who is obviously unqualified applies for a job, is that person an applicant?"

An excerpt:

"It is important for an employer to know who qualifies as an applicant for two reasons. First, only an applicant may make a case of discrimination in hiring. Second, an employer must be able to identify the gender and race of all applicants to evaluate whether its hiring practices have an adverse impact on women or minorities. Federal regulations require employers to solicit race and gender information on all applicants and to maintain the records required to show the impact of all selection procedures on women and minorities. . Understanding the definition of an applicant can help employers minimize risk and protect themselves from costly audit defense."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Superficial Action

A supervisor, who has a problem with the performance of one employee, does not confront the employee but instead sends a memo to the entire staff urging compliance with a policy.

A sales manager calls a meeting to analyze a decline in meeting sales goals. He tells the sales staff to get their sales up but does not examine the specific actions that they will have to take in order to do so. When the goals sink again next month, the manager will call another meeting and do the same thing.

These are examples of superficial action where the emphasis is on being able to say some action was taken rather than taking action that will truly make a difference. Practitioners of superficial action are interested in establishing their innocence. They are less interested in being effective and, if pressed, will frequently admit that they expect little to result from their efforts. In short, superficial action is an alibi.

What is surprising is how often you can encounter superficial action in workplaces. It is reminiscent of an old joke from the Soviet Union - "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work" - and it can reveal a much deeper problem in which the employees and management have a tacit agreement to permit poor performance in the interests of industrial peace. These dysfunctional teams aren't in search of excellence. They're in search of comfort.

Check out your own workplace. It is a rare workplace that is devoid of superficial action.

Friday, January 06, 2006

No Brainer or Whole Brainer

These right brain/left brain exercises by Andrew and Mary Bragg are from the ThinkingManagers.com website.

Although too much has probably been made of the right brain/left brain differences, it is interesting to consider which of the activities on their lists you tend to do as a matter of course.

Due to the nature of my work, I read a lot of nonfiction. As a result, I've found that including books that are either completely outside of my usual routine or are flat-out bizarre (e.g., Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman) has helped to expand my creativity.

As an exercise, it resembles the old Spanish anarchist proverb: "If they give you lined paper, write against the lines."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Job Hunting Tips

It's easy to be critical of articles like this one from CareerJournal on job hunting. They state the obvious ("Write a resume! I didn't think of that!), but if you've conducted any job recruitment campaigns recently, you'll know that there is a large portion of the population that needs the basics, such as:

- Don't use an e-mail address that might create the wrong impression. You may think "hottiebabe" is cute but the HR folks will think differently.

-Don't expect a fast response but if you get one, be prepared to interview. After all, you contacted them.

- Don't hide jobs. If you had to take a less than attractive job to pay the rent, say so. That may actually score points with the Horatio Alger types and it will be better than having to explain an employment gap.

- Proofread your resume. Read it out loud - I suggest a Foghorn Leghorn voice - because that will help to spot the problems. Watch for missing words. Avoid jargon and stilted terms such as "utilized" and "effectuated." Plain language is best.

- Don't badmouth your former employer. If there was a personality conflict, you can say so but going overboard ("They were vicious swine!") will only sink your chances.

- Do have someone put you through a mock interview. When they do so, have them ask basic questions, such as "Why do you want this job?" and "Why should we hire you?" Many applicants only prepare for the tough questions and then are completely flummoxed by the easy ones.

- Do dress appropriately. That means clean and conservative. Anything flashy or seductive should be out.

Finally, play the odds. Use all of your personal contacts but also submit your application/resume to large numbers of employers. You may think that contacting 25 firms is impressive but it isn't unless you possess some unique skill. Fortunately, websites such as monster.com and jobing.com make it easier than ever to contact large numbers of employers.

Job searches are a hassle but they are a part of life. Everyone has a job search horror story or two so don't be discouraged. As an old friend of mine says, "You'll eventually find a job. It's a matter of time." You just want to make sure that you are doing everything possible to make that time shorter.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sowell on Diversity

Thomas Sowell, the Stanford economist who's written extensively on Affirmative Action, is seldom cited in the average diversity training program. This may be because Sowell is not afraid to challenge the implicit assumptions that should be addressed in such sessions. One excerpt from a Sowell speech:

“Every culture discards over time the things which no longer do the job or which don't do the job as well as things borrowed from other cultures. Each individual does this, consciously or not, on a day-to-day basis. Languages take words from other languages, so that Spanish as spoken in Spain includes words taken from Arabic, and Spanish as spoken in Argentina has Italian words taken from the large Italian immigrant population there. People eat Kentucky Fried Chicken in Singapore and stay in Hilton Hotels in Cairo.

“This is not what some of the advocates of ‘diversity’ have in mind. They seem to want to preserve cultures in their purity, almost like butterflies preserved in amber. Decisions about change, if any, seem to be regarded as collective decisions, political decisions. But that is not how any cultures have arrived where they are. Individuals have decided for themselves how much of the old they wished to retain, how much of the new they found useful in their own lives. In this way, cultures have enriched each other in all the great civilizations of the world. In this way, great port cities and other crossroads of cultures have become centers of progress all across the planet. No culture has grown great in isolation-- but a number of cultures have made historic and even astonishing advances when their isolation was ended, usually by events beyond their control.”

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Michael O'Leary Uncut

Those of you who want the uninhibited, four-letter-worded views of controversial Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary can find them here.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Life, Satire and Bono

You know, you try to be a little idealistic and the rest of the team resents it. This straight story from CNN about the tension created by Bono’s efforts to save Africa resembles one from the satirical site The Onion.