SOCIAL MEDIA NEVER SLEEPS, BUT YOU SHOULD

August 29th, 2014

Sherry Turkle is a professor and psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her specialty is the study of the relationship between people and machines. Turkle’s latest book carries somewhat of an indictment beginning with its very title, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. In a recent interview, she responded to a question about how some folks are so addicted to their phones that they take them to bed with them (Mark Fischetti “The Networked Primate” Scientific American, September 2014, pp. 83–85):

I’m doing a case study of a young woman who has 2,000 followers on Instagram. She’ll ask about a problem at 9:00 at night, and at 2:00 in the morning she’s getting responses, and she’s awake to get those responses.” (p. 84)

I am certain that Turkle’s case study is just one scenario among many. For some people, social media’s draw is so compelling that they cannot turn it off at night. As Turkle affirms, it has created a new style of being:

I share, therefore I am.

A great philosopher once said:

I think, therefore I am.” (Rene Descartes)

Perhaps we need to do more thinking and less sharing.





PERSON, PLACE, OR THING

August 28th, 2014

Sherry Turkle is a professor and psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her specialty is the study of the relationship between people and machines.  Turkle’s latest book carries somewhat of an indictment beginning with its very title, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.  In a recent interview, she responded to a question about how social media and technology are negatively affecting human relationships (Mark Fischetti “The Networked Primate” Scientific American, September 2014, pp. 83–85):

People start to view other people in part as objects.” (p. 84)

Turkle’s observation speaks to the danger social media and technology present to us.  If we do not maintain our internal moral compass, our sense of ethical standards, our fundamental approach to relationships, then we will transition to a lesser place where people are not people, but things.

In the physical world some can believe the façade that the more money and material things I have, the better I am as a person.  The person who dies with the most money and things wins.  That same façade presents in social media in a different form.  The form it takes is that the more tweets, likes, comments, friends, views, followers, or connections I have, the better I am as a person.

The myths of the physical world have invaded the virtual world.  It is that very dynamic that subtly causes us to see people as objects instead of people, and that is what we must guard against.  Remember, anytime I view a person for what he or she is instead of for who he or she is, then everyone loses.





DON’T FORGET TO MEET ALONE

August 27th, 2014

Sherry Turkle is a professor and psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her specialty is the study of the relationship between people and machines.  Turkle’s latest book carries somewhat of an indictment beginning with its very title, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.  In a recent interview, she responded to a question about how social media and technology are affecting human interactions (Mark Fischetti “The Networked Primate” Scientific American, September 2014, pp. 83–85):

One primary change I see is that people have a tremendous lack of tolerance for being alone.  . . . Every bit of research says people’s capacity to be alone is disappearing.  What can happen is that you lose that moment to have a daydream or to cast an eye inward.  Instead you look to the outside.” (p. 84)

Turkle’s observation speaks to the fundamental dynamic of being motivated externally versus internally.  If I have a lack of tolerance for being alone, then that means that I am overly dependent on external factors.  My motivation comes from the external rather than the internal.  External factors will have a place in our motivations.  Nevertheless, if our fundamental motivation is driven by the external instead of the internal, then I believe we lose character, value, and depth.

Turkle goes on to point out that this is a problem for all ages because it relates to our personal development:

Solitude is the precondition for having a conversation with yourself.  This capacity to be with yourself and discover yourself is the bedrock of development.

If I never have any conversations with myself, then how can I develop myself?  I cannot.  Introspection, thoughtful reflection, searching deep within are all activities that lead to discovery and growth.  We cannot do that if all our conversations are with someone else.

Today and every day, don’t forget to meet alone.





THE CHALLENGE OF KEEPING IT SIMPLE

August 26th, 2014

When Mark Dwight founded Rickshaw Bagworks in San Francisco, he wanted to sell customizable bags for people and companies.  He also wanted to offer very low minimum order requirements with fast delivery.  His strategy required design decisions that have since infused all aspects of his business.  He kept everything as super simple as possible.  As powerful of a strategy as this has been, Dwight affirms that while achieving simplicity is one thing, maintaining that simplicity might be something else entirely (Mark Dwight “Simple Designs for Complex Times” Inc., June 2014, p. 60):

I’ve found that maintaining simplicity is deceptively difficult.  . . . Organizations, especially big ones, . . . over time . . . create layers of complexity, and this creates opportunities for smaller, simpler, nimbler competitors.  At Rickshaw, it’s OK to brainstorm wildly complex ideas.  But at the end of the day, we say, ‘How can we simplify this and make it work under our set of constraints?’

I agree with the idea of maintaining the proven simplicity.  What I appreciate even more is that the company remains free to brainstorm and explore new methods, strategies, and approaches.  This means that it never assumes things are perfect.  It also means that once the company identifies a new idea, it also looks for ways to simplify it while still maintaining the kernel of the idea.





SIMPLE SELLS

August 25th, 2014

When Mark Dwight founded Rickshaw Bagworks in San Francisco, he wanted to sell customizable bags for people and companies.  He also wanted to offer very low minimum order requirements with fast delivery.  His strategy required design decisions that have since infused all aspects of his business.

First, he simplified the customer experience by offering fewer customization options instead of more.  Customers requested this simplification.  Therefore, customers liked it (Mark Dwight “Simple Designs for Complex Times” Inc., June 2014, p. 60):

We reduced the [color choice] options.  This improved the customer experience, streamlined order fulfillment, and simplified our user interface.

Second, he preached the mantra of “keep it super simple” into all aspects of his operations.  Regardless of whether it is raw materials, policies, or sales, everything is kept super simple:

We design with pencil and paper: simple tools for simple designs.  We predominantly sell direct and build to order, avoiding finished-goods inventory, forecasting, and waste.  We source most of our materials and components domestically, to keep our supply chain short and facilitate just-in-time material delivery and fast turnaround.  We avoid rules and legalese.  Our short, plain-language guarantee states ‘No reasonable request denied.’

We can learn some lessons from Rickshaw Bagworks.  Granted, some business situations certainly require much more complex design at all levels.  If that is what is required to get the job done, then so be it.  On the other hand, perhaps too many companies are making too many things too complicated for no real benefit.  It all comes down to one key design word.

Simple.





THE SEC LETS A CAT OUT OF THE BAG

August 22nd, 2014

When the stock market fell 600 points in five minutes on May 6, 2010, that prompted the Securities and Exchange Commission that perhaps it needed a better view on stock trading.  Seeking to create a massive new computer system to perform detailed tracking on stock trading, the plan is to create the Consolidated Audit Trail, or CAT for short.  The CAT promises to be an especially thorough monitor of trading activity even to the point of providing data that in the past was not immediately available for SEC scrutiny.  In addition to ferreting out illicit trading activities, the CAT will enable better and timelier postcrash analyses (Matthew Philips and Silla Brush, with Dave Michaels “An SEC Computer to Peer Into Dark Pools” Bloomberg Businessweek, 8/11/14–8/24/14, pp. 28–29):

[CAT] will be one of the largest databases in the world, designed to funnel 50 billion daily records into an archive.  The computer will track every stock quote, order, and trade, including when and where transactions occur, the brokers who handle them, and the customers they represent.  The CAT will pull data from the 18 U.S. public stock and options exchanges and the private trading venues run by banks, known as dark pools, that don’t have to immediately report data to the SEC.” (p. 28)

Building the CAT is a big task.  Who gets to handle this lucrative project remains to be seen.  Among the bidders are the likes of Google, Sungard, HP, IBM, and Tata Group.  Rumors are that the initial five-year contract could run as high as a billion dollars.  Now there’s a CAT that is never going back in the bag!





IF YOU THINK IT’S TOUGH HERE . . .

August 21st, 2014

If you think it is tough doing business here, you can try moving to Argentina.  Sometimes we can forget how difficult life is in other parts of the world.  Some Argentines are not overly upset by the nation’s 40% inflation.  That is because they can remember 1989 when inflation was a whopping 1,300%.  Pharmacy owner, Eduardo Woznica, explains the typical business mindset in Argentina (Camila Russo “Argentines Gird For a Financial Storm” Bloomberg Businessweek, 8/11/14–8/24/14, pp. 16–17):

‘In Argentina we’re all used to going to bed without knowing if things will be the same when we wake up.  Now, that feeling is stronger.’” (p. 17)

All I can say is I am glad I am not a pharmacy owner in Argentina.





A NEW STYLE OF STRESS

August 20th, 2014

No one can argue that the American workplace has not changed radically in the last 100 years.  How about just the last 20 years?  The nature of work and the kind of stresses we encounter are changing.  Part of this is due to the speed of work, its occasionally ambiguous circumstances, its always-on presence, and its technology.  All these factors have created new kinds of stress as Geoff Colvin observes (“The New Trend?  Reducing Stress in the Workplace—by Order of Management” Fortune, August 11, 2014, p. 42):

As work becomes increasingly cognitive, fast-changing, and uncertain, we’re wearing people out in new ways.  These are unforeseen effects of the friction-free economy.  . . . Friction made the economy less efficient, but it protected people; sometimes it was simply not possible for you to be reached or to get information or participate in a meeting.  In today’s friction-free economy the old protections are gone, and employers and employees are struggling more than ever to figure out the new ones.

Technology enhances before it harms.  We enjoy the enhancements, but we must remain mindful of how the technology works so that we can prevent its harm.  We are technology’s governor.

Increasing numbers of companies are recognizing these dynamics and are taking steps to address them.  Wellness has increasingly become important.  Today, technology means that wellness is even more important because the opportunities to undermine it are many.  As a result, too many employees are succumbing to a degradation of their wellness because of the added avenues of stress.  Colvin summarizes the situation well:

We’ve been replacing the physical stressors of work with mental and emotional stressors for many years.  What’s new is that we’re hitting a resistance point.  Many people seem to be reaching a limit.  In an increasingly friction-free economy, mental and emotional health is the new wellness.





YOU CAN BE 40 OR 40 OR 40

August 19th, 2014

Are you 40 or 40 or 40?

Before you accuse me of assuming your age, or of asking a ridiculous question, please hear me out on this.  In considering age, more than one kind of 40 exists.  Regardless of your age, more than one kind of that age exists.  Here are a couple examples:

“Bob.”  Bob’s chronological age is 40, but he looks like he is 55.  Bob has chosen to ignore physical fitness.  He has chosen to pick up numerous habits that are simply not good for him.  He has a negative attitude about his life, his job, and his family.  When you meet Bob, you wonder whether he will be willing and able to do the job you have for him.

“Bill.”  Bill’s chronological age is 40, but he looks like he is 25.  Bill has chosen to embrace physical fitness.  He has chosen to avoid numerous habits that are simply not good for him.  He has a positive attitude about his life, his job, and his family.  When you meet Bill, you instantly have the impression that he is more than willing and able to do the job you have for him.

Life is not so much about what happens to you as much as it is about how you choose to respond.  Life is not so much about what is out there as much as it is about what is in you.  Life, to a very large extent, is what you make it.

As a professional, your approach to life will always shine through.  You cannot hide it.  The only question is are you 40 or 40 or 40?  The choice is yours to make.





PERSPECTIVES ON THE TASK

August 18th, 2014

How much you enjoy your work and how well you might do with it are all related to your perspective.  The writing field is no different.  James A. Michener once said (“On the (Opposing) Record” Writer’s Digest, October 2014, p. 15):

I love writing.  I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.

When you love your field so much, you genuinely enjoy the tangling in more ways than one.  That is—at least I hope—why you are in your chosen profession.

On the other hand, even within our chosen professions, sometimes we have certain tasks we just have to muscle through because they need to be done.  Consider Dorothy Parker, who has a slightly different take on writing than Michener does:

I hate writing.  I love having written.