LEARNING FROM WET BABIES

March 2nd, 2015

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Change is an interesting concept.  About the only person who likes change is a wet baby.  The reason is, for the baby, things get better and the baby doesn’t have to do any work.  That isn’t usually the case for the rest of us.

Lots of people have a default position of, “I hate change.”  The reason is that they are not convinced things will get better and they don’t want to do any work.  It is the proverbial case of the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.

The problem with that position of course is that anything worthwhile is something that you must work to achieve.  Furthermore, once you forge forward in that work, the devil you don’t know never materializes or at least it turns out to be not as bad as you feared.

To keep your business profitable, you must change things occasionally.  Ignoring the need for change is a big mistake.  Just ask the Swiss watchmakers.  They did not want to change, and digital technology made them obsolete.

Making a change to maintain or improve profitability is not only wise for business.  It is equally wise for personal and professional growth.  Let’s stay profitable.





THE BUSINESS PRECURSOR

February 27th, 2015

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Repeatedly, I am amazed at some of the most simple and timeless principles of succeeding in the real world.  Jim McCann is the chairman and CEO of 1-800-Flowers.com.  Reflecting upon his life experiences, he articulates one of my favorite success principles (Jim McCann “How Did I Get Here?” Bloomberg Businessweek, 2/16/15–2/22/15, p. 72):

Create a relationship, and business will follow.

I am more comfortable doing business with someone once I know that person.  Knowing about the business is one thing, but knowing the person behind the business instantly appeals to the relationship experience.

Business is business, but it is the personal involvement that takes it to a deeper level.  That is what makes the business even more fun and successful.





A NEW LEVEL OF FINGERPRINTING

February 26th, 2015

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Necessity is the mother of invention and the inventing has not stopped yet.  This is certainly the case for a new cybersecurity technology developed by PFP Cybersecurity.  The 12-person startup in Vienna, Virginia, has created an amazingly innovative sensor device that discerns malevolent code changes (Dune Lawrence “Power Fingerprinting” Bloomberg Businessweek, 2/16/15–2/22/15, p. 34):

Placed near a computer system or industrial equipment, PFP sensors analyze energy use patterns and create a so-called power fingerprint, then monitor energy use for changes.  . . . Any failure or new code in the system shifts its fingerprint ever so slightly, and within milliseconds the PFP software sends an alert to security staff.

The device looks for changes that we would not normally even be able to detect.  This reminds me of some of the cybersecurity tools that analyze the user’s typing and keyboard habits as an additional data point in detecting intrusion attempts.  Likewise, the PFP sensor is not an all-encompassing total solution, but it adds an additional layer of protection.

Many others have significant confidence in this new approach.  PFP Cybersecurity has already worked with the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the military.  It looks like power fingerprinting brings a new level of power to the cybersecurity war, and these days we can say, not a moment too soon.





LEADERSHIP OVER YOU

February 25th, 2015

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When it comes to leadership, it is common to think of those we lead and those who lead us.  As important as those persons are, I propose an even more important person.  That person is you.

How are you managing self-leadership?  You are the most important person in the crowd because you are the only person over whom you have total control.  Therefore, the question is crucial and vast.

The question is crucial because of the potential effects on your leadership dynamics.  The question is vast because self-leadership encompasses many areas, including these:

Professional growth.

Personal growth.

Skills.

Relationships.

Ethics.

Affiliations.

Health and wellness (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual).

Goals and objectives.

How you handle success.

How you handle failure.

Commitments.

Dedication.

Life’s mission and vision.

It is wonderful to give leadership to others and it is wonderful to receive leadership from others.  Nevertheless, the most important person in leadership is you.  Everyone you touch will rise or fall on the basis of how well you exercise self-leadership.  Remember, no one can lead you best, nor can you lead anyone best, unless you have mastered self-leadership.





SATELLITE SECRETS

February 24th, 2015

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Quick!  How do satellites keep their location information secret without crashing into other satellites?  That is a very good question, and one that many companies and governments are trying to solve.  No one wants any more satellite collisions such as the one in 2009 when US’s Iridium 33 collided with Russia’s Cosmos 2251, destroying both satellites.

Here is the problem:  Satellite stakeholders view location data as proprietary information.  Leaking that data could degrade competitive advantage.  Simultaneously, governments rightfully have concerns over national security.

Currently, the conundrum is being handled by empowering an independent third party, Analytical Graphics, to receive everyone’s satellite location data confidentially.  Analytical Graphics then runs the calculations and alerts relevant parties about possible collisions.  The one downfall to this arrangement is that all parties must unequivocally trust Analytical Graphics.

Recognizing that the current solution will not necessarily hold together, an interesting new approach is being developed.  It involves some pretty sophisticated cryptographic programming, as Brett Hemenway and Bill Welser explain (“Insecure Skies” Scientific American, February 2015, pp. 28–29):

In the 1980s specialists developed algorithms that allowed many people to jointly compute a function on private data without revealing any number of secrets.  In 2010 DARPA tasked teams of cryptographers to apply this technology to develop so-called secure multiparty computation (MPC) protocols for satellite data sharing.  . . . The [MPC] design guarantees that participants can compute a desired output (for example, the probability of collision) but nothing else.  And because the protocol design is public, anyone involved can write their own software client—there would be no need for all parties to trust one another.” (p. 29)

One of the disadvantages to the encrypted process is speed.  Using a secured process can take seconds when a nonsecured process can be performed in milliseconds.  The expectation is that technology’s speed will come to the rescue.

Let’s hope that happens faster rather than slower.  We don’t need any more space debris cluttering the orbital highways or tumbling on our heads.





SUBMARINE SURVIVAL LESSONS

February 23rd, 2015

If you were going on a submarine mission, the one item that you would want to guarantee functioned would be your air system.  Figuring out that you have no oxygen is not something you want to do at 500 feet below the surface.  That would clearly be a life-threatening situation.

Metaphorically, New Delhi is in that submarine.  On the positive side, India is committed to industrial growth but on the negative side, its air-quality strategy has not yet caught up with its industrial-growth strategy.  A recent World Health Organization study determined that New Delhi’s air is the most polluted in the world.

Researchers affiliated with the University of Chicago, Yale, and Harvard have determined that New Delhi residents’ life expectancies are reduced by 3.2 years due to air pollution.  Air-purification systems are becoming increasingly common and are just another indicator of the growing concerns about this dangerous problem, as Gardiner Harris reports:

Some embassies, including Norway’s, have begun telling diplomats with children to reconsider moving to the city, and officials have quietly reported a surge in diplomats choosing to curtail their tours.  Indian companies have begun ordering filtration systems for their office buildings.

Thankfully, India is not just recognizing the problem.  India is starting to move in the important direction of taking action.  Although no overnight solutions exist for this major challenge, at least public awareness is growing rapidly.  Hopefully, the needed changes to counter the issue will occur even more rapidly.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/world/asia/delhi-wakes-up-to-an-air-pollution-problem-it-cannot-ignore.html?_r=0





HAVING A VOICE

February 20th, 2015

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Sometimes you find a gem in a comic strip.  That was the case recently when I read Sally Forth.  If you are not familiar with the strip, it chronicles the fun and foibles of Ted and Sally Forth, a 30-something married couple, and Hillary, their young teenage daughter.  Each character is still very much finding a path in this life.  Adding to the humor is Ted’s passive aggressive resistance at giving up his own childhood to step into true adulthood.  Needless to say, this makes for many hilarious situations.

In this particular episode, Ted and Hillary are experiencing a flash-forward to the year 2025.  Hillary is seeking her dad’s advice about what to do with her band that she and a couple friends have had for over 10 years.  She faces the usual questions about making a living in the arts, long-term success, and all the associated tough decisions.  That is when Ted—not normally known for his reservoir of wisdom—spouts this exhortation to Hillary (Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe, February 5, 2015):

Do you know why people play music?  Or draw or write or act or dance or sing or do stand-up or create?  Because it’s through their art they can interpret the world.  And it’s through their art they can add their ideas to the world.  It’s not about having an audience.  It’s about having a voice.  And if you don’t pursue your art, you may lose that great opportunity to have your say.

Ted presents some deep insights.  Sooner or later, one way or another, your passions must intersect with your professional life.  You don’t have to be an artist, but you must find your voice.

Exactly how all that plays out and all its complexity does not always translate to easy answers.  Nevertheless, Ted’s speech reminds us that we must sometimes struggle to seize the talents and abilities with which we have been entrusted and use them in a manner that calls upon the very core of our being, our heart, and our soul.  Only when we do this, will we maximize our impact on the world.  And isn’t that what we want to do?





ELEVATING THE ELEVATOR

February 19th, 2015

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When it comes to elevators, apparently there is more than one way to move around buildings.  In this case, we are elevating the elevator in a new way.  ThyssenKrupp Elevator plans to market an innovative elevator system.

Instead of relying on the traditional steel cables to suspend and move elevator cars up and down shafts, the new system would use a magnetic levitation system similar to those of high-speed trains.  Furthermore, in addition to moving cars vertically, a complex of interconnected shafts would allow horizontal movement.  The system would allow multiple cars to operate simultaneously within the same circuit thereby significantly improving passengers’ wait and ride times.

Because this technology removes the need for the heavy thick steel cables, an intriguing new vista opens up about skyscraper design.  Julian Olley (director for vertical transportation, Arup) declares (Belinda Lanks, “Innovation: The Sideways Elevator” Bloomberg Businessweek, 12/22/14–12/28/14, p. 37):

[This system] could help skyscrapers reach record-breaking heights.  . . . The mile-high building is easily achievable.  There is absolutely no limit to how far you could go.

Thanks to the system’s improved speed and efficiency, ThyssenKrupp Elevator estimates that buildings of 1,000 feet or more would recoup their procurement and installation costs within a decade.

It looks like we had better start planning for taller skyscrapers.





FIVE QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT CORPORATE CULTURE CHANGE

February 18th, 2015

 

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Corporate culture is one of the most important elements to any organization’s success and prosperity.  Inc. has an excellent definition of corporate culture (http://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/corporate-culture.html):

the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature.  Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community.  As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure.

A valuable exercise is to stop and think about what behaviors you experience in your organization.  In so doing, you must face the fact that the behaviors—good or bad—exist because the corporate culture permits them to exist.  That is a wonderful situation if the behaviors are good.  It is a nightmare if the behaviors are bad.

We are each going to embrace and affirm a good corporate culture or we are each going to embrace and affirm a bad corporate culture.  That is a pretty clear choice in my mind.  Let’s embrace and affirm good corporate cultures wherever they may be found.  When we come upon bad corporate cultures, let’s challenge them and aim to change them.  Ultimately, this is a professional, ethical imperative.

Now, the question arises, how do we change the corporate culture?  And before you even try to answer that question, first you must ask the question, can the corporate culture be changed?  Because the how makes no sense without the can.  Finally, you must assess your role in changing the corporate culture.  These questions lead us to five fundamental questions to ask about corporate culture change:

  1. How big is the organization?
  2. How large is the inertia?
  3. Who are the influencers?
  4. What can you do?
  5. Should you stay or leave?

Let’s consider these questions one by one.

How Big Is The Organization?

Although not formulaic, you absolutely must understand the size of an organization when you are attempting to change its corporate culture.  Your knowledge of the organization’s size will drive all aspects of your strategy and process for corporate culture change.

The kinds of challenges a multibillion-dollar corporation presents will not be identical to the kinds of challenges a 20-employee small business presents.  The larger the organization, the higher the tendency for the current corporate culture to be solidified, regardless of how good or bad it is.  The larger the organization, the more important it becomes for the changes to spring from the top down.  Without an executive-level commitment and execution, the changes simply will not catch fire at the middle-management level and down to the bench level.

If the organization is small- to medium-sized, that does not mean that these dynamics are absent, but simply that their speed and style may vary.  Your approach will still need to be tailored to connect more effectively with people at various levels.  The task is not necessarily any easier.  In fact, it could be harder because the smaller the organization is, the higher the possibility for one stubborn individual to create roadblocks to the entire process.

Size never tells the whole story.  However, it does remain a significant factor in your strategy and process.  Everything about your strategy and process will need to be adjusted to the size-specific assets, limitations, and unique opportunities of that organization.

How Large Is The Inertia?

Inertia is a physics concept that refers to the tendency of an object that is in motion to remain in motion and the tendency of an object that is not in motion to remain at rest.  Although it is a physics concept, it has many human illustrations.  We all experience those inertia moments at various times and we see them in other people.

What is true for the individual is true for the corporate culture because the corporate culture by definition is the composite of all the individuals.  When you want to change the corporate culture, knowing the magnitude of the inertia is crucial.  You might find many dynamics in motion that need to be stopped.  You might find certain aspects of the corporate culture that are at rest that need to begin moving.  Your prospects for success and how you design your strategy and process are all dependent on the size of that inertia.

I remember once moving a very large piece of medical equipment on wheels.  It took much more of my strength than I first realized to get it rolling.  Once I got it rolling, I nearly took out a wall.  It had much more inertia than I initially realized.  The good news about inertia is that once you understand it, you will know where to put your resources.  You will be putting your resources where they will be most effective and where genuine needs exist.  Without this inertial knowledge, you would be nothing more than a feather in a tornado.  With this inertial knowledge, you will be a funneling force capable of redirecting energy, objects, and people.

Of course, the inertia of physics is rooted in unbending formulas and equations of the universe.  Corporate culture inertia is rooted in people’s minds and hearts where formulas and equations do not always work.  However, it is the minds and hearts of people that will move a mountain or create a new one.

Inertia never tells the whole story.  Nevertheless, once you understand its size and configuration, then you can apply your energies where they will be most effective.  Only then will you have an opportunity to change the corporate culture.

Who Are The Influencers?

Let’s consider the influencers.  Do you know who they are?  And lest you answer too quickly, remember that a job title does not automatically equal influence.

In any organization, it is those who have influence that are the genuine leaders.  At its core, leadership is influence.  Sometimes that comes with an impressive job title and sometimes it does not.  Once you have identified the authentic leadership, then you will know who the influencers are.

Identifying the influencers is key to executing corporate culture change.  When you know who the influencers are and you understand how they think, what their goals are, their integrity, and their character, then you can deduce the options for corporate culture change.  The influencers will drive that change.  Knowing who they are tells you much about what that change might look like.

As with all these variables, knowing who the influencers are never tells the whole story.  Nevertheless, once you understand the influencers, you at least have a much better idea of what the future may hold.  In knowing that, you can commit to the future with an informed confidence and excitement about that corporate culture change.

What Can You Do?

Let’s consider what might be the most important question, what can you do?  You have a voice.  You are empowered.  You bring a perspective.  Never underestimate where your volition might take you and the organization.

Understanding what you can do frees and empowers you to do it.  The specifics of exactly what you can do will vary with the situation.  You can offer input.  You can affirm the positive.  You can share your opinions.  You can set the example.  You can meet with a key influencer.  You can challenge the status quo.  What you cannot do is dodge the professional, ethical imperative to embrace a positive corporate culture and to change a negative one.  You do not have that selfish luxury.  The professional, ethical imperative does not permit such action.

Although it is easy to focus on what other people could do or should do, the professional, ethical imperative demands that you take other people out of the spotlight and place the spotlight on you.  You cannot control what someone else will do.  You can only control what you will do.  Understanding what you can do is perhaps the most important step in corporate culture change.

Should You Stay Or Leave?

Let’s consider that last question, should you stay or leave?  The question is intensely personal and corporate culture change is never easy.  You will have a lot to analyze.  Nevertheless, your answers to all the prior questions will provide the resources you need to make a good—albeit not easy—decision.  By understanding the size and inertia of the organization, by identifying the influencers, and by discerning your ability to contribute, you will have a rich resource reservoir to create your solution.

This is all you need with just one exception.  The single item that trumps everything else is your integrity.  Although all the previously described analyses are necessary, you must let your integrity be your final arbiter on whether you stay or leave.

In some cases, the quality of the people, the timing, the need, the opportunities, and a sense of calling will overwhelmingly affirm your decision to stay with your integrity intact.  You are part of the glorious solution.  In other cases, certain aspects of your findings will clearly confirm that for your integrity’s sake, you must leave.  When a situation will compromise your integrity, you have two choices:

  • Leave the situation and thereby preserve your integrity.
  • Stay in the situation and thereby destroy your integrity.

Remember, leaving an organization is not the worst thing that can happen in your life.  However, preserving your integrity is one of the best things that can happen in your life.  The challenges of corporate culture change will always be there, and not every hill is a hill worth dying on.  In some cases, your best choice is the choice to live to fight again another day.

CONCLUSION

Corporate culture change is a complex, challenging, stressful, and complicated task to say the least.  It will stretch you in unimaginable ways.  This multilayered process demands that you continuously bring your best self to the task.  By exploring these five fundamental questions, you will have the assurance that you are engaging the corporate culture challenges in the best possible manner for the best possible outcome.





ANTISOCIAL SOCIAL MEDIA

February 17th, 2015

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I think that social media is a marvelous thing.  However, that only remains true if you do not let social media make you antisocial.  Jose Garces (cookbook author, restaurateur, and chef) shares a timely life lesson from which we can all benefit (“How Did I Get Here?: Jose Garces” Bloomberg Businessweek, 2/9/15–2/15/15, p. 80):

E-mails, texts, and social media can be overwhelming.  Be present, and enjoy the moment.

This might seem obvious, yet I continue to observe and hear of so many people who are letting the virtual replace the real.  They are letting the online replace the on point.  They are letting the high-tech replace the high-touch.

You don’t really get do-overs for life and relationships.  Remembering to be present in the moment and extracting the full value from that moment is something we can cultivate.  My advice is to do so.  Emails, texts, and social media will always be there.  You cannot say the same thing for the moments.  Savor the moments life presents to you.