Monday, June 30, 2008
As always, tipping back in your seat is fifty dollars, payable to the person sitting behind you, unless you are sitting in front of me, in which case the charge begins at a hundred dollars and my permission is required. Ask nicely, and if we can agree on a figure I will ask a flight attendant to unlock your seat.
Some other contenders for consideration: Layla by Derek and the Dominos; Mr. Tambourine Man by The Byrds; and Stranger in Town by Bob Seger.
Not to mention the hard rock tunes of Wayne Newton.
- Speak softly.
- Show up early.
- Think several steps ahead.
- Refrain from frequent praise.
- Don't tell others everything about yourself.
- Don't complain.
- Defend an underdog or a maverick.
- Use few words.
- Speak last.
- Speak slowly.
- Be reliable.
- Avoid fads.
- Be creative.
- Emphasize ethics.
- Avoid vulgarity.
- Go out of your way to be thoughtful.
- Remember names.
- Listen carefully to others.
- Read good books and listen to good music.
- Neither impose nor hide your religion.
- Be courageous.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
January 13: Black Canyon stage robbed near Gillett.
March 28: Five Bisbee bandits are hanged simultaneously at Tombstone from one gallows.
April 21: Black Canyon stage held up near Soap Springs.
June 1: Black Canyon stage held up and robbed.
October 18: Highwaymen rob travelers on Black Canyon road and hold up stage again.
Who says that travel hasn't improved around here?
Saturday, June 28, 2008
There is no evidence that the bland manager ever heard about witticism but some of the manager's friends did and, blandness aside, their buddy was pretty well liked so they made a mental note to return the favor some day.
It was a small example of how matters can get blown out of proportion. Knowing both men, I believe that if the bland manager had heard the comment, he would have laughed. He might not have appreciated the humor but he wouldn't have wanted it to affect the other guy's career. He also knows he's not in the running for any charisma awards.
Sometimes though the offended party is not the one who was targeted.
It so happens that I recently had to fly from New York to Seoul and back, in connection with the Korean release of one of my books (on paper, so far). What do you do on a 14-hour flight if you do not care for the mediocre movies that the airline offers? You read. But how many books can you pack in your carry-on luggage to keep you company on such an interminable journey? I ambitiously decided to read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which some pessimists consider a timely rediscovery for those living in the U.S. You can guess what comes next: yes, I downloaded Gibbon in seconds on my Kindle—all eight volumes—for a modest sum. Would Korean Air have accepted Gibbon’s eight volumes as carry-on luggage? Doubtful: he’s too heavy. While I did not make it through all of Gibbon during the trip, I could browse his thick volumes on my Kindle screen. I could even take notes and mark pages.
He also cites some negatives. I have become a major Kindle fan and share his frustration that some authors are not available. [No Bellow?] Nonethless, it is an amazing device.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Much to ponder there. A friend of mine once wondered how people could have known their fate and still stayed in the Alamo. The answer for many of them may have been that they knew something worst would have happened to them had they fled. Lord Jim's greatest flaw may have been his inability to forgive himself and yet one of his greatest virtues could be that he did not easily do so.
"Okay, the design looks functional enough. The darned thing is even attractive, in a rather sterile way, but aren't you making it too simple?"
"Ah yes. We understand your concern, but turn it around and check out the back."
"It's a mass of wires going every which way."
"The average user won't have any real idea as to which wire should go where. It looks like a fire hazard."
"We know. At one point a team member suggested color-coding and simplication. We fired him. He went to work for a rogue outfit in California."
'This is fantastic. It will keep our customers frustrated, confused, and in awe of our expertise. But what if they click for Help?"
"That's the real beauty of the process. Here, read one of our explanations."
"Let's see. Jargon. Unexplained abbreviations. Numbers. They won't be able to sort this out. The damned thing is like another language!"
"Some of us wanted to use Esperanto but we felt that might be too insulting. Instead, we've adopted a vocabulary that the average person won't possess. Any steps that might be logical to an outsider have been jettisoned."
"I take it that the Joe or Jane on the street has not been consulted?"
"Ah, there you are wrong. We did bring in some outsiders for a focus group, but only so we could retain the most confusing segments. That saved us from slipping into clarity."
"That's fantastic. What's next?"
"We charge them for technical support."
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I am a 20-something and you just need to realize that you are all old and wrinkled and outdated and we are the ones with fresh new ideas so you shuld repect that. and we are used to staying in touch with our friends and peer group and parents so we can stay in touch and it's not fair for you to ask us to turn it off durig the workday. i'm not hapy at my current job but am looking for a new one to find bosses who will pay me what i am worth because i have a college degree and probably know all the latest trends in the business world more than the other people at my job. i do think its a good idea for the old timers to learn the currnet social networks or step back so we can. i could teach them a few things, I bet.
A collection of questions may arise in other endeavors. "What would Jesus do?" is asked by many Christians when considering daily spiritual guidance. A simple dieting question is, "What and how much would a thin person eat?" Employees are often urged to consider "How would my actions look if described on the front page of the newspaper?"
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl suggested pretending that you've already done something and then asking yourself how you would feel. That's not a bad question but it may not sufficiently distinguish between how we'll feel immediately after the event and how we'll feel a day later. As Dennis Prager notes in his book on happiness, there is a difference between happiness and fun. Many activities may be fun in the short-term but they won't bring happiness.
And perhaps that's one of the many rubs: sorting out the daily struggle between short-term and long-term interests. A short-term pack of wolves nips at our heels while the long-term bear hibernates. Eventually, of course, the bear will awaken and pay us a visit.
We then learn that we should have given him far more attention.
Other times it aims higher: “In some languages,” said the Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin, “a double negative yields an affirmative. In other languages, a double negative yields a more emphatic negative. Yet, curiously enough, I know of no language, either natural or artificial, in which a double affirmative yields a negative.”
“Suddenly, from the back of the hall, in a round Brooklyn accent, came the comment, ‘Yeah, yeah.’”
- Theodore Levitt
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Many of you will recall the passionate response it unleashed. But was it really a blunder or was it a calculated move?
The approach may have been simple and yet it worked. Most of us have the tendency to slide into language that shoots past many in our audience. That's why the expert who can translate the complicated or specialized into easy to understand terminology is so appreciated.
It's not talking down to people; it's talking to them rather than at them.
Professional jargon is an obvious danger but so too is any reference based on an experience or interest your audience might not share. Military and sports terms are prime sources of confusion but so too are fashion and literary references. Have you ever been frustrated by a writer who uses a quotation in another language and doesn't provide a translation?
That person may have a priority but clear communication isn't one of them. The unclear use of jargon is not quite as bad but it can run a close second.
It is particularly insightful due to the current news about dictator Robert Mugabe's squelching of free elections in Zimbabwe.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I rented a car at LAX and took the 10 into town. It was clear sailing the whole way. Yesterday, I went to the office and it took me ten minutes. There was a minor hangup at one traffic light. And then, this morning, I made a trip that used to take me an hour… in eight minutes. It was creepy. It was like the early scenes in an apocalyptic movie. The fluid road stretched out before me, and my rented Avalon cut through it like a hot shark through the overly warm Pacific. And now I’m here, with time to kill.
I've noticed a similar reduction in traffic in Phoenix. More bus riders. More scooters. A lot more telecommuting. The accountant in the office next door comes in on a Segway a few days a week.
Members of the tribe may be spotted by their tendency to surface certain topics when you are just on the verge of taking action. For example, these are classic On the Verge revelations:
- Just before you walk into the board meeting, the On the Verge team member will note that the statistics in your report aren't "quite accurate."
- Shortly before you depart for the weekend, the On the Verger will casually mention the deadline that was supposed to be two weeks from now has been moved to Monday.
- Few vacations will ever begin without an On the Verger passing along a rumor that the boss is planning to reorganize the department.
- The project that the team has worked on for months and is about to roll out will receive an extra dosage of stress when an On the Verge team member notes that he felt from the beginning it wouldn't work because of strong opposition from a crucial, but hitherto unmentioned, source.
When confronted, tribal members usually resort to one response: "I thought you knew." This ingenius defense mechanism, which does not require a blowgun, can paralyze their victims with self-doubt and spark extended analysis of whether or not the withheld information should in fact have been discerned.
That is a psychological trap from which few emerge.
Read the rest of Christine Rosen on the myth of multitasking. An excerpt:
[HT: Andrew Sullivan ]
Monday, June 23, 2008
An electrified people's car for the 21st century, the Ox is a preview of Think's next-generation production vehicle, due out in 2011. Roughly the size of a Toyota (TM) Prius, the Ox can travel between 125 and 155 miles before needing a recharge, and zips from zero to 60 miles per hour in about 8.5 seconds. Its lithium-ion batteries can be charged to 80% capacity in less than an hour, and slender solar panels integrated into the roof power the onboard electronics. Inside, the hatchback includes a bevy of high-tech gizmos such as GPS navigation, a mobile Internet connection, and a key fob that lets drivers customize the car's all-digital dashboard. Pricing has yet to be announced, but the company's current vehicles cost less than $25,000.
I grew up in the Arab world in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and anti-Americanism was the standard political language – even for those pining for American visas and green cards. Precious few took this seriously. The attraction to the glamorous, distant society was too strong in the Beirut of my boyhood.
It is no different today in Egypt or Pakistan. And what people tell pollsters who turn up in their midst with their clipboards? In Hosni Mubarak's tyranny, anti-Americanism is the permissible safety valve for Egyptians unable to speak of their despot. We stand between Pharaoh and his frustrated people, and the Egyptians railing against America are giving voice to the disappointment that runs through their life and culture. Scapegoating and anti-Americanism are a substitute for a sober assessment of what ails that old, burdened country.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
A single statistic tells the tale. As against the 10 percent or fewer of American whites who hold negative views of blacks, the same mid-1990’s survey of intergroup attitudes cited above registered over three-quarters of blacks holding negative views of whites. To be sure, not all studies report such negative findings; nor do pollsters try, at least directly, to measure black attitudes toward whites as frequently as they do the reverse. But the handful of surveys that have indirectly probed black attitudes reveals a depressing and, as we shall see, indicative pattern.
Denial keeps you from realizing that you are in danger. It’s rooted in bad risk assessment, overconfidence, and a lack of relevant experience. Bouts with denial can delay your response, as Ripley illustrates through the testimony of Elia Zedeno, who relates her painfully slow escape from the 73rd floor of Tower One on September 11. Once you realize the extent of the peril, though, fear might take over. Deliberation requires overcoming fear to regain the ability to think clearly. Ripley tells the story of U.S. Ambassador Diego Asencio, taken hostage by armed assault on the Dominican Republic’s embassy in Bogota, Colombia. His experience put him through Ripley’s survival arc, and it was only through a period of “self-talk”—in which he realized that he was more worried about dishonorable conduct than death—that he overcame his mind-numbing fear. Asencio’s initial passivity is also common among groups. Contrary to popular understanding, group behavior during disasters is rarely panic-driven, but more often extremely docile and overly polite. Getting a group to respond and act effectively often requires aggressive behavior, like barking orders.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Did the sultan flick his handkerchief at his girl of choice for each night? Possibly. Did some have strange proclivities which tended in the dark and dreadful way that our guide seemed to be implying? I’m not sure I really want to know. But Sultan Ibrahim I, who died in 1648, certainly seems to have had an obsession with finding more and more obese women, and is rumoured to have ordered the drowning of his entire harem of 280 girls on a whim.
Speaking strictly from personal experience I can assure you that it is. I combine massive impatience with sizable amounts of sloth. They wrestle like bear cubs on the field of my nature until one eventually pins the other.
Each brings its benefits and that fact may explain why so many of us are not simply one theme, one approach, one strategy, but many. Think of yourself or your own circle of friends and associates. Have you not witnessed:
Sarcasm and kindness?
Sensitivity and cruelty?
Openmindedness and intolerance?
Creativity and rigidity?
Passion and indifference?
And, of course, the old duo of intelligence and stupidity.
Perhaps these combinations serve as safety switches to prevent the excesses of any single trait. At least I hope so.
That sounds so much better than acknowledging that perhaps we're just strange.
Friday, June 20, 2008
You will receive a detailed response as soon as I [check one]:
- Understand why it was sent to me;
- Forward it to 12 other people;
- Retrieve it from the company's attorney once the harassment investigation has concluded;
- Decipher the jargon/abbreviations;
- Get rid of the attached virus;
- Develop a taste for coarse humor;
- Figure out a way to waste your time.
I click on the free download and am then prompted/required to enter my password. For some odd reason, I have not chosen to memorize that password along with around 15 others that are only used occasionally. I'll dig it out at some point over the next week or so in order to get the report.
No doubt the content of the report will be fine but I'm wondering why they could not have simply sent it to the subscribers without requiring a password in order for it to be downloaded. I send documents to my clients without requiring an extra step in the downloading process. What should have been a moment of great convenience has become one of frustration.
Am I missing something here?
This danger grows because we don't measure such swings every day. If we did so, we might be spurred into corrective action. Instead, we rush forward with our attention focused solely on whether or not we are achieving the positives and miss the extent to which we are accumulating what will eventually be a heavy and possibly lethal load of negatives. Many days, we make no progress at all because our time has been consumed by activities that simply restore the status quo.
That is why a realistic study of achievement must include self-discipline. We would do well to reduce our analysis of others and devote more time to understanding the mystery that is ourselves.
- Gordon R. Sullivan and Michael V. Harper, Hope Is Not a Method
Thursday, June 19, 2008
- To remove reserved parking spaces for board members.
- To spend $1,200,000 on a research study.
- To change the organization's slogan from "Making You Glad" to "Making You Happy."
[If you answered 1 and 3, you understand the psychology of committees. If your answer was 2, you are far too rational.]
I was advising an organization on discrimination issues and the attorney was to prepare a department's defense.We both had a completely different take on an individual case. We parried for a while and the meeting ended with each of us convinced the other was wrong. Friendship seemed unlikely at that point.
Fortunately, our responsibilities forced us to work together and we eventually became allies and then friends. I suspect it was because we both left the door open to friendship.
You don't always get that chance. I knew one person who would dramatically and unfairly sever ties with people. Once the declaration was made, the offending party was deemed beyond the pale. Given the unreasonableness of the judgment, I doubt if the relationship was missed.
There are also those strange occasions when one just flat-out dislikes another and the reason is difficult to discern. ["I do not like thee, Dr. Fell. The reason why I cannot tell. But this I know and know quite well. I do not like thee, Dr. Fell"]
I once strongly recommended a man for a job and then learned, from several reliable sources, that the fellow hated me. I have no idea why and still have fairly warm feelings toward the man. Perhaps at some point I was unfair or sarcastic but I honestly can't think of the occasion; in fact, I still recommended him for the job since I saw no reason why his animosity toward me should have any bearing on the selection.
Those odd instances, of course, show the deceptive nature of first impressions. One of Joni Mitchell's songs has a line about people who come up the hills from all around you, making up your memories and thinking that they've found you. It can be stunning to learn of the assumptions that others hold about your background and opinions. That should encourage us to exercise some restraint with our own assumptions.
- Joseph Epstein
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
[Having grown up in Arizona, I've heard about water issues all of my life. My grandfather, a cotton farmer, used "waterstealingcalifornians" as one word. Of course, the farmers in California had their own version regarding Arizonans.] An excerpt from the article:
If water is the new oil, T. Boone Pickens is a modern-day John D. Rockefeller. Pickens owns more water than any other individual in the U.S. and is looking to control even more. He hopes to sell the water he already has, some 65 billion gallons a year, to Dallas, transporting it over 250 miles, 11 counties, and about 650 tracts of private property. The electricity generated by an enormous wind farm he is setting up in the Panhandle would also flow along that corridor. As far as Pickens is concerned, he could be selling wind, water, natural gas, or uranium; it's all a matter of supply and demand. "There are people who will buy the water when they need it. And the people who have the water want to sell it. That's the blood, guts, and feathers of the thing," he says.
Cultural Offering notes the bizarre logic behind a judicial power grab.
Wally Bock on the need for downtime.
Tim Berry outlines how to create a habit.
YouTube is experimenting with full length video.
Beautiful planes: Donald at 2Blowhards visits the Air Force Museum.
Must reading: Robert Samuelson on learning from the oil shock.
Revisionist history: Victor Davis Hanson and Pat Buchanan. [My take: Hanson wins.]
Kevin Kelly at Cool Tools lists books that changed his life. [And provides a photo of his library!]
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Chesterton does not write merely to amuse; he amuses to make a point. And the point is never as light and airy as it first appears. It doesn't seem like much to learn that the purpose of lying in bed is that it should have no purpose. There should be no excuse for it, no reason, no justification. So? So this: our simple pleasures should not be connected to a regimen or some scheme, or worst of all, to a habit. Moreover, our simple pleasures - like lying in bed - should not be denied for something over-rated like excessive wealth or even excessive health. These are secondary things. They are not the primary things. It is the primary things which have been ignored, and the secondary things which have been emphasized all out of proportion. "If there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals," says Chesterton, "it is the modern strengthening of minor morals. Thus it is considered more withering to accuse a man of bad taste than of bad ethics. Cleanliness is not next to godliness nowadays, for cleanliness is made an essential and godliness is regarded as an offence." Chesterton can see from a century ago that the world was headed to a time when smoking a cigar would be considered more offensive than performing an abortion.
I purposely mix my Internet scans with slow reading. It all depends upon the material. Some writers can and should be read quickly. Dickens, Faulkner, and Shakespeare, however, have to be read slowly in order to be appreciated and, in Faulkner's case, to be understood; in fact, sitting on a front porch and sipping a cool drink might help with Faulkner.
More seriously, he added, "Look, you just have to get out there and do it." Russert took in the swarm of people on Lexington Avenue and asked "Where are you from, son?"
"Bucks County, Pennsylvania," I said. Russert gestured to the people rushing by. "All of these folks," he said, "don't let them intimidate you. When I first started working for Pat Moynihan, I thought all of these Ivy League guys were ahead of me, that I could never catch up. Then Senator Moynihan took me aside one day, when I told him I didn't think I had it in me to compete in the big leagues, and he said, 'Tim, what they know, you can learn. What you know, they'll never understand.'"
Monday, June 16, 2008
In doing so, he destroyed his credibility. If he'd taken his position as the result of inadequate information or because one of the employees had behaved inappropriately, that would have been a different matter. The key factor was he was aware of exactly what he was doing and everyone else, including the demagogue, knew that. His behavior was a profile in cowardice.
There was another reason for the executive's conduct. He knew that the employees could not harm him but the demagogue might.
I'm sure that every employee there was aware of the distinction. I'm equally certain that they never forgot the lesson.
So it goes with many positions. We would love to be dropped via helicopter into the status and the power. If that feat were performed many of us would serve capably. It is the process that is repellant. As Oscar Wilde said of socialism, it would take too many evenings.
Nelson Rockefeller prepared for the presidency by studying issues. Richard Nixon both studied the issues and spent time listening to precinct captains in Iowa. You know which one got his party's nomination.
Gaining appointments is no easier. True, there are some who luck into certain slots but your usual appointee did more than submit a letter of interest. Hidden behind many appointments is an intensive campaign of persuasion. Sammy Glick has an advantage over Mr. Smith because Sammy's dedicated to promoting himself.
This may not be pretty but it is all too real. Whenever you admire the merchandise, be sure to check the price tag.
I was surprised by the relatively low salaries in New York City.
- Bill Geist, The Big Five-Oh!, 1997
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Read the rest of the interview with the 70-year-old who plans to swim the English Channel.
A scandal began brewing at WVU when the daughter of the Governor of West Virginia ( a former classmate of the WVU president) was retroactively given an MBA after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that WVU had no record of the degree claimed on the daughter’s resume. The daughter complained to the president, who assigned a review of the matter to college administrators. They eventually granted the degree, after giving the Governor’s daughter credit for classes she didn’t take.
The plot thickens and John notes the ethically challenged nature of universities.
All phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.
You know stuff about tanks and engines.
A five-day holiday requires only one suitcase.
You can open all your own jars.
You get extra credit for even the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
Your underwear is €10.00 for a three-pack.
Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.
A pace implies an even flow but that is not how our days go. We focus and produce and then do otherwise. The latter is not necessarily goofing off; it is simply doing otherwise, taking our minds off of the activity in order to restore them or to muster whatever is needed to focus once again.
We seek an even speed while applying the brake at certain points. We schedule our work hours when it might be wiser to set our non-work periods. That could well be more accurate.
Perhaps work is not something we escape from, but something we escape to.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Oh, one of those micromanagers! I know the type.
No, she's doesn't meddle but is genuinely interested in finding out about their operations.
She must not trust them.
She trusts them, but she wants them to know if there is any way she can make their jobs easier.
Are you ever naive. She's just trying to get dirt on them.
Not so. She's a big believer in servant leadership.
That's a scam. None of those management types care about their employees.
Don't be ridiculous. I've known many managers who've stood up for their team members.
Right. Only because it was in their best interest to do so.
So if they don't stand up, they're uncaring and if they do so, they're manipulative?
That's about right.
Would you do that if you were in management?
Sure. Only a sucker would fail to look out for #1. You don't know these characters like I do.
Perhaps not, but I've just learned quite a bit about you.
Friday, June 13, 2008
- We don't have time for any new approaches.
- Can we just focus on what's in front of us?
- Let's stick to the knitting.
- Don't fix what ain't broken.
- Don't be an egghead.
- The boss wants something that's tried and true.
- We can't afford to be creative.
- Just meet the deadline.
- That's not a "best practice."
- We'd be laughed out of the office.
- I'm not dedicating any resources to that.
- And just when would that turn a profit?
- If you know what's good for you, drop it.
- Submit it to the committee.
- If that approach was any good at all, someone would have already done it.
- That sounds way too simple.
- That's outside your area of expertise.
- Is anyone else supporting this?
- You're moving too quickly.
- They'll never buy it upstairs.
- Let's wait until somebody else does it.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Eclecticity reminds me that I need to raise my training fees.
Ed Driscoll quotes an expert on unfair campaign coverage.
Rowan Manahan and some guy named Peters on personal branding.
A twist on the Johnny Appleseed concept, only this time with a bike. [HT: Guy Kawasaki ]
Cultural Offering points us to the ten most worthless college degrees. [I like English Lit and Philosophy!]
Rip Torn gets a bum rap.
Liz Wolgemuth on how to be indispensible to Steven Spielberg.
Daniel Henninger looks at who is drilling for oil...and who isn't.
The feminist reformers acknowledge that few science departments are guilty of overt discrimination. They claim, however, that subtle, invisible "unconscious bias" is discouraging talented aspiring women. Therefore, the major focus of the equity movement is to transform the academic culture itself--to make it more attractive to women by rendering science less stressful, less competitive and less time consuming. Debra Rolison, a senior research chemist at the Pentagon's Naval Research Laboratory and a leader of the equity campaign, describes the typical university chemistry department as "brutal to people who want to do something besides chemistry around-the-clock." MIT biologist and equity-activist Nancy Hopkins says that contemporary science "is a system where winning is everything, and women find it repulsive." Kathie Olsen, deputy director of the National Science Foundation, draws the revolutionary conclusion, "Our goal is to transform, institution by institution, the entire culture of science and engineering in America, and to be inclusive of all--for the good of all." To this end, the National Science Foundation has launched a multi-million dollar grant program, called ADVANCE, devoted to "institutional transformation" through gender-sensitivity workshops, interactive theater and the like. ADVANCE is well named: it is the advance guard, softening up the hard sciences for the coming of Title IX enforcement.
Mr. Seligman and Ms. Duckworth turned their attention to eighth-graders, surveying the students about their habits and drawing on the reports of teachers and parents as well. They found that students' purported level of self-control – their willingness to delay gratification – proved "twice as predictive as IQ" when it came to "final grades, selection into a competitive high school, hours spent doing homework, hours spent not watching television, and time of day at which homework was begun." Yet for every article about self-discipline and academic achievement in the PsychInfo database, an online exchange for research papers, there are more than 10 about achievement and intelligence.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The cultural jihadists have enjoyed disturbing success. Two events in particular—the 2004 assassination in Amsterdam of Theo van Gogh in retaliation for his film about Islam’s oppression of women, and the global wave of riots, murders, and vandalism that followed a Danish newspaper’s 2005 publication of cartoons satirizing Mohammed—have had a massive ripple effect throughout the West. Motivated variously, and doubtless sometimes simultaneously, by fear, misguided sympathy, and multicultural ideology—which teaches us to belittle our freedoms and to genuflect to non-Western cultures, however repressive—people at every level of Western society, but especially elites, have allowed concerns about what fundamentalist Muslims will feel, think, or do to influence their actions and expressions. These Westerners have begun, in other words, to internalize the strictures of sharia, and thus implicitly to accept the deferential status of dhimmis—infidels living in Muslim societies.
Most of our discussion revolved around how to make the various stages work. The more we explored those, the more complicated the project appeared. It was at that point when he looked up, winced, and slowly described how the goal might be achieved through the use of some existing channels rather than chopping a rough path through a rainforest.
The simplicity and beauty of his approach reminded me of an old management maxim:
If you want to go hunting, start at the zoo.
The book is an easy and enjoyable read, mainly because it combines interesting anecdotes from a variety of industries with clear, to-the-point advice on the likely suspects of any frustrated worker's dreams. Employees who feel trapped in their jobs will see section after section that speaks to them, addresses their fears, and outlines avenues of escape.
The recognition of the fear factor (e.g., the section on "Worst Case Scenarios and Bag Lady Fantasies") is one of the book's major strengths because it tackles one of the prime reasons why people stay in jobs they hate.
If you are a frustrated worker and considering a career change, some time with Ms. Skillings's book will be time well spent.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Likewise, in the workplace itself, rests the danger of Indifference. The employee relations problems that can sink the effectiveness of teams do not stem from turf building and miscommunication but from indifference to the mission or to individual responsibilities. That attitude produces the other problems. Other goals are given such priority that the crucial ones are not consciously abandoned; they aren't given serious consideration at all.
Indifference is a silent killer that saps energy and destroys passion. It should be rooted out with the same vigor used against other dysfunctional attitudes. The effective performance of jobs requires certain levels of enthusiasm, commitment, and urgency. Those levels are not too much to demand of others and of ourselves. The individual who cannot meet them will not contribute to the team.
Monday, June 09, 2008
And that is where we first err. Praise, when mishandled, can be as cutting as a knife. Its related blunders may continue to wound years later.
Consider the following and assume that in each scenario the praise is sincerely meant:
Poorly-timed praise. Combine the giving of praise with an event or an audience that will dismiss or overpower it due to dismal timing and what should have been a kind gesture will be squandered. The recipient will probably know it has been squandered and will be accordingly resentful.
Embarrassing praise. Many people take criticism better than praise. Sometimes this is due to cultural proclivities, especially if the praise is given in front of others. The old line, "Praise in public, reprimand in private" doesn't always apply to praise.
Diluted praise. If you are going to praise, do so without footnotes or caveats. If you include either, your qualifiers will be remembered long after the praise is forgotten.
Inflated praise. Praise can be overdone. Once hyperbole arrives, credibility departs. Make sure that your words are credible.
- Charge less and many will think your product is lousy.
- Charge more and others will think you're too expensive.
- Charge a lot and a surprising number will believe you're great.
- Rapidly deliver high quality and many will appreciate it.
- Rapidly deliver high quality and others will assume the job must not have been very difficult.
- Defer to the wishes of your managers and you'll drive the lawyers nuts.
- Defer to the wishes of your lawyers and you'll drive the managers nuts.
- Manage autocratically and you'll get few complaints.
- Manage collegially and you'll get a lot of complaints.
- Give leeway to some employees and they'll appreciate the freedom and your vote of confidence.
- Give leeway to other employees and they'll fear the freedom and long for strict boundaries.
- Keep close to some customers and they'll enjoy your guidance and concern.
- Keep close to other customers and they'll suspect you're just trying to land another project.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
And the U.S. soldiers who offer up the jokes are only half kidding. Their point is a serious one: that troops from the United States—along with just a handful of other countries—do the bulk of the heavy fighting, while a number of other ISAF detachments are limited by their own governments' combat restrictions. These include prohibitions, or "caveats," against, for example, fighting in the snow for troops from some southern European nations. Other soldiers are required to stay in calmer areas of the country or to keep their aircraft grounded at night or to consult their home legislatures before operating near the volatile Pakistani border.
Read the rest of the U.S. News & World Report article here.
Do yourself a favor. Read the rest of Rob Long's essay on his entrepreneurial attitude.
We have similar experiences in the workplace. Insight is often tardy and arrives after the meeting, phone call, or retreat has ended. I've often recommended to clients that they have a follow-up contact with former employees to supplement the observations made during an exit interview in order to catch those delayed bits of wisdom. During the rush and emotion of the initial meeting, much can be lost.
Routinely adding a "follow-up thoughts" segment to important meetings can provide similar benefits. More than a few people will object, however, that this extra stage would delay progress. Another criticism is that the quality of analysis at the initial meeting may decline since attendees would know their comments have a safety net.
These criticisms may be correct. I have not seen the follow-up option used frequently enough to determine whether its advantages outweigh the drawbacks but occasional use has convinced me that the approach is worth exploring.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
One Laptop Per Child is struggling.
Tim Berry vents against stupid business plan bashing.
Michael Ledeen on why the mullahs will keep on fighting us. [He has an interesting take on the Iranian economy.]
Does Australia have a shortage of blokes?Defense analyst Frederick W. Kagan looks at the two candidates for commander-in-chief.
India's business schools may need an upgrade.
Fouad Ajami on the evolving Iraq debate.
Cool Tools has just the thing for long flights: trampoline shoes.
A British ad campaign against binge drinking raises the ultimate fear.