THE UNSEEN PROFIT KILLER

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I read recently that experts believe that a depressed worker loses about 6 hours productivity each week. That is a lot of time. No matter how you calculate it, the financial costs are significant. Depressed workers are the hidden profit killer for the company, the employees, and the customers. Everyone loses.

Fortunately, most progressive companies look for ways to enhance employee wellness, including conquering depression. Employee assistance programs, wellness coaches, and additional resources all help employees find help for difficult life challenges. Even among medical insurance plans, the trend is toward covering mental health more adequately than in the past.

Finally, as a professional person, you have an ethical obligation to remain alert to colleagues that may be struggling with depression. Granted, depression isn’t always easy to spot. Nevertheless, you never know when an opportune moment may occur. Perhaps someone opens up to you after a meeting, someone asks for some personal advice, or you just happen to pick up the telltale signs that something is seriously wrong.

In those moments, we must never forget how powerful our influence can be. The life you touch may be the life you save. And that outcome is profitable for everyone.


A COLD FUTURE HOPE

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Organ restorations and transplants are major medical events. Scientists and doctors continue to discover and refine techniques for tissue restoration and organ replacement. Currently, blood veins and valves can be frozen and then later surgically implanted into a patient. Organ transplants occur routinely, but the patient must take antirejection drugs for the organ to remain functional.

Still very much in the science fiction realm, people on the far fringe of this work hope someday to be able to freeze an entire body prior to its fatal-disease-driven death. Once the cure for that disease has been discovered, the idea is to thaw out that frozen person and begin administering a disease treatment plan. Echoing back to the science fiction TV series, Lost In Space, astronauts could be placed into computer programmed “freezing tubes” and simply thawed out and resuscitated after their long intergalactic journey is completed.

The dreamy possibilities of course are as endless as the liquid nitrogen required. Some of the folks that work on this are eternal optimists. One in particular cracked me up. Danila Medvedev is a Russian transhumanist who cofounded the Moscow-based KrioRus, an organization dedicated to some of these fringe causes. Writing in Bloomberg Businessweek, Josh Dean summarizes the technicalities of the process and Medvedev’s attitude toward any perceived difficulties:

The best way to cryopreserve is to replace all the water in the body with a chemical that essentially turns the tissue into glass as it freezes. Vitrification, as the process is known, prevents the damage caused by ice crystals when a body is frozen in its natural state. But vitrification has its own flaw: No one knows how to reverse it. Medvedev describes this as a minor challenge. The important thing, he says, quoting American nanotechnologist Ralph Merkle, is that ‘information is not destroyed’ by freezing. They’ll work it out later.

To whatever degree these endeavors might be workable, it will be interesting and beneficial. In spite of your feelings about human mortality, much of the work in this field is based on established science. Yet that established science does not necessarily render it believable. Nevertheless, Medvedev and his cohorts hope to create new capabilities:

Further down the road is the possibility of short-term clinical freezing, in which a patient is placed into a temporary cryonic state to keep him or her alive while recovering from traumatic injuries, say, or during space travel. The military is looking at the former; NASA has begun some very preliminary studies on the latter.

This is all quite fascinating. However, in the meantime I would endorse maintaining all your personal health and safety protocols—physically, mentally, and spiritually. No one has any guarantee as to when that cold winter might arrive.


FACEBOOK FACE-TO-FACE

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Facebook has often been fertile soil for users with strong beliefs, viewpoints, religious convictions, political persuasions, or any other particular soapbox you want to name. That makes sense. As with all social media, it is a place where people meet online and have the opportunity to express themselves freely—perhaps at times a little too freely for some people.

Some of the ensuing disagreements have led to significant stress for some users. For example, Google executive, Ben Galbraith, has signed off Facebook until next year. He explains why (Jon Swartz, “Election Fallout Hits Social Media: Frayed Facebook Users Take Timeout from Political Posts” USA Today, November 17, 2016, pp. 1A–2A):

‘I’m seeing lots of posts that fill me with anger and require several moments of conscious relaxation to prevent me from writing something that I’ll regret. I’m tired of expending so much mental and emotional energy.’” (p. A2)

His feelings are common to many as Swartz elaborates:

The abrupt decision to turn off the social media spigot of news—62% of U.S. adults get their news from it, the Pew Research Center says—as well as other media that covered the polarizing election resembles reactions people have after a car crash or assault.

This kind of stress and turmoil triggered by social media is saddening, but we definitely understand how and why it happens. With that in mind, one simple countermeasure can mitigate most if not all the pain, and that is simply to treat Facebook as it you were face-to-face with other people. The onus is not confined to the person that chooses to share information. The intended recipient has a responsibility too. Here’s why:

  • In a face-to-face situation, a person of class does not rudely impose his or her ideas upon an unwilling or uninterested person. Why would we think that we are just fine to do so online?
  • In a face-to-face situation, a person of class will gauge the other person’s interest level and position, and adjust what information is shared and how much is shared. Why would we believe that we are free to share what we already know is potentially inappropriate, insulting, or painful?
  • In a face-to-face situation, an uninterested recipient has the ability simply to change the subject of the conversation or walk away. Therefore, as potential recipients of online content, why wouldn’t we simply move on to the next post so that we do not even waste our time being bothered with content in which we already know we have no interest?

These situations are analogous to the customer that says horrific things to a customer service agent on the phone when that customer would never behave that way in person. We must remind ourselves that if civility and etiquette have validity, then they must find application in every context and in every platform. This is especially true for most social media because we lack the benefit of body language and tone.

If we would treat Facebook and all other social media as if we were face-to-face with people, then we would all be much happier and relaxed. Try it today.


TEN FOR FOUR IS A GOOD DEAL

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Although never a guarantee, the numbers reveal that the more formal education you achieve, the less likely you are to be unemployed. You can read the significant evidence published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If that isn’t a good enough reason to earn a degree, the Journal of the American Medical Association published research earlier this year citing that a 25-year-old who earned a college degree will typically live ten years longer than a 25-year-old who never finished high school (Ben Steverman, “Retirement’s Scariest Question: How Long?” Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/7/16–11/13/16, p. 51).

Data can unintentionally be interpreted to say many things. Some of those things might be right and some might be wrong. In this case, I don’t think we are saying that higher education all by itself makes you live longer. However, here are aspects about higher education to consider:

  • People who commit to earning a college degree have an inner sense of drive that carries over to other aspects of their lives, including health and wellness. Perhaps many of these folks that gain that extra decade arrive there partially because of a personal drive for excellence. The cumulative effect of innumerable positive individual choices could be longevity.
  • People who earn a college degree often find their lives enhanced in a variety of ways. Perhaps many of these folks gain that extra decade simply because their quality of life is enhanced, rendering them less prone to debilitating illnesses and ailments.
  • People who earn a college degree enhance their self-worth. Having a positive self-perception is a great inoculation against poor lifestyle choices. Perhaps that enhanced self-worth predisposes those persons to avoiding addictions, risky lifestyles, and criminal activity.

Keep in mind that generalizations do not apply to everyone. I know plenty of college graduates that died very young. However, the fact remains overall, higher education tends to be associated with improved health and longevity. Therefore, wherever you see the opportunity within yourself or others, let’s encourage higher education engagement. Ten for four is a good deal any day.


DON’T MESS WITH THE CHOCOLATE

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Many people take many things very seriously. That is true when it comes to food and it is especially true when that food is chocolate. That is why any chocolate maker must give extremely careful consideration to the customer experience before making changes to the chocolate. Recently Toblerone made that discovery in an unexpected way. The Associated Press reports that Toblerone decided to:

“widen the spaces in some of its triangle-array bars, offering about 10 percent less product for the same price.”

The rationale? You guessed it. As with so many businesses, it was an economic decision. You can only offer the same quantity and quality of a product at a certain price for so long. Without adjusting for the realities of business, you eventually go out of business. Toblerone made the business decision that aligns with staying in business, but the specific solution it enacted was not ideal. It customers were not happy.

That situation suggests two often overlooked perspectives:

  • Whether you know it or not, every business decision eventually affects the customer experience and public relations. Everything about how you choose to do business either works toward keeping you in business or putting you out of business. Customers choose to come and go, directly or indirectly because of your business decisions. Business decisions always translate to the customer experience and public relations.
  • Toblerone could have made a decision that preserves its profitability while simultaneously giving customers what they want. My guess is that Toblerone’s customers (who already love the product) wouldn’t have been the least bit upset if the pricing increased. Customers are smart enough to understand basic economics. Raise the price, keep the shape, and keep your customers! My wife feels violated every time the size of that container of ice cream or any other product decreases with or without a price increase. In her words, “they think I’m that stupid that I won’t notice that? Just increase the price of the container without decreasing its size!”

Let’s give our customers what they want and let’s give our customers more credit. The businesses that know what their customers want and respect their intelligence will keep their customers.