The Value of Pain

Three notables on the value of pain:


1) Pain is a warning of dangerous threats and helps safeguard us.


2) Pain that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!


3) Pain lets you know you ain’t dead yet.


Then again, nothing wrong with a little pain relief. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Feel Good But Deeply Ailing U.S. Economy

Stagnant Salaries

Get comfortable with your salary, because it isn’t going anywhere positive–payrolls are stagnant!

The Wall Street Journal reports that wages since the recession “have grown slowly, advancing at a pace of about 2% annually” for a total of 12% since 2009.

In contrast, in the 20 years prior to the recession, wages “grew on average better than 3% annually”–that’s 50% more increase per year!

Sure some of the increase is now coming in the form of benefits growth, such as time off, subsidized commuting costs, and health insurance premiums, but workers still need to be able to pay their bills.

For the federal workforce, things have even been worse with pay raises of “just 2% [total] over the last five years” and a proposed 1.3% (with locality pay) for 2016.

Is it surprising then the innovation–one of our greatest strengths–is also drastically slowing in the United States. We are not rewarding risk with reward like we used to–and that changes the whole innovation equation!

Also no surprise then that mergers and acquisition are booming as the key to corporate growth as well as cost-savings through economies of scale are seen as one of the only ways to wring out profit growth in companies bottom lines.

All in all:

– While inflation is up an average of 2.13 over the same 10-year period.

– This leaves the average household more than 6% worse off then they were a decade ago…that’s a lot of time to be working and getting negative returns on your investment of time and effort.

Combine this with:

– Manufacturing down to only 9% of jobs in the U.S. economy

– The country’s ongoing spending binge–a national debt that has doubled over 8 years from around $10 trillion to almost $20 trillion by 2017 and interest payments about to take off with rising interest rates.

– Throw in a arms-race with China and Russia and the aging Baby Boomers setting up the economy for dramatic increases in Social Security and Medicare

And the “fun” NOT is only just beginning. 😉

The Millennial Workplace

Keep Mouth Shut

So a colleague from a law enforcement agency told a funny story the other day.


When he was an agent-in-training he said they told them, “Keep your eyes open and your mouths shut.”


Basically, you are new–so watch and learn before you do something stupid and potentially get yourselves or someone else in trouble. 


But now as someone who been there for decades and is a supervisor, he was interviewing someone right out of school, and in the interview the kid says, “I want to be in charge!”


The difference from Generation X and the new Millennials couldn’t have been starker. 


But what did this guy do, he didn’t show the candidate to the door by his earlobes, but rather he ended up hiring him. 


Times have changed–not only with all the technology we use–but also in terms of people’s expectations from the job.


What do people want these days–aside from good compensation and comprehensive benefits?


Engagement through challenging and meaningful work that has tangible outcomes from day one

Innovating and creating versus pushing paper and doing routine, repetitive work

– Using current and cutting-edge technology

Opportunities to stay and advance or building the resume to “move out to move up”

– Lots of feedback, teamwork, sharing, and transparency

– Considerable work-life balance 


The bottom line is don’t be surprised by the kid who wants to be in charge from the get-go, instead relish their gusto and unleash their talent in your organization–with guidance, they can do amazing things. 


It’s not your fathers workplace anymore. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to g Tarded)

Stark Raving Internet Crazy

Internet_crazy

An article in the Daily Beast/Newsweek called “Is the Web Driving Us Mad?”postulates that we are addicted to the Internet by virtually every definition of the word.

Physically:
– “Americans have merged with their machines”–literally starring at computer screen “at least eight hours a day, more time than we spend on any other activity, including sleeping.”
– Most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unableto be without their media links to the world.”

Psychologically:
– “Every ping could be a social, sexual, or professional opportunity” so we get a (dopamine) reward for getting and staying online.
– Heavy internet use and social media is correlated with “stress, depression, and suicidal thinking” with some scientists arguing it is like “electronic cocaine” driving mania-depressive cycles.

Chemically:
– “The brains of Internet addicts…look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts.”
– Videogame/Internet addiction is linked to “structural abnormalities” in gray matter, namely shrinkage of 10 to 20% in the areas of the brain responsible for processing od speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information,.”
– The brain “shrinkage never stopped: the more time online, the more the brain showed signs of ‘atrophy.'”

Socially:
– “Most respondents…check text messages, email or their social network ‘all the time’ or ‘every 15 minutes.’
– “Texting has become like blinking” with the average person texting (sending or receiving) 400 times a month and the average teen 3,700 times!
– “80% of vacationers bring along laptops or smartphones so they can check in with work while away.”
– “One in 10 users feels “fully addicted’ to his or her phone,” with 94% admitting some level of compulsion!

At the extreme:
– “One young couple neglected its infant to death while nourishing a virtual baby online.”
– “A young man bludgeoned his mother for suggesting he log off.”
– “At least 10…have died of blood clots from sitting too long” online.

These are a lot of statistics, and many of these are not only concerning, but outright shocking–symptoms of bipolar disorder, brain shrinkage, and murderous behavior to name a few.

Yet, thinking about my own experiences and observations, this does not ring true for the vast majority of normal Internet users who benefit from technology intellectually, functionally, socially, and perhaps even spiritually.

Yes, we do spend a lot of time online, but that is because we get a lot out of it–human beings, while prone to missteps and going to extremes, are generally reasoned decision-makers.

We aren’t drawn to the Internet like drug-abusers to cocaine, but rather we reach for the Internet when it serves a genuine purpose–when we want to get the news, do research, contact a friend or colleague, collaborate on a project, make a purchase, manage our finances, watch a movie, listen to music or play a game and more.

These are not the benefits of a drug addict, but the choices of rational people using the latest technology to do more with their lives.

Are there people who lose control or go off the deep-end, of course. But like with everything, you can have even too much of a good thing–and then the consequences can be severe and even deadly.

Certainly people may squirrel away more often then they should for some un-G-dly number of hours at a computer rather than in the playground of life–but for the most part, people have taken the technology–now highly mobile–into the real world, with laptops, tablets, and smartphones being ubiquitous with our daily rounds at the office, on the commute, walking down the street, and even at the dinner table.

Is this a bad thing or are we just afraid of the (e)merging of technology so deeply into every facet of lives?

It is scary in a way to become so tied to our technology that it is everywhere all the time–and that is one major reason why cyber attacks are such a major concern now–we are hopelessly dependent on technology to do just about everything, because it helps us to do them.

From my perch of life, the Internet does not break people or attract broken souls except on the fringes; more typically it puts people togetherto achieve a higher individual and social aggregate capability then ever before.

If the pressure to achieve 24/7 would just come down a few notches, maybe we could even enjoy all this capability some more.

Now I just need to get off this darn computer, before I go nuts too!  😉

(Source Photo: here adapted from and with attribution to Cassie Nova)

>The Cost of Underestimating Technology

>

While research is important and I respect the people who devote themselves to doing this, sometimes they risk being disconnected from reality and the consequences associated with it.

From the Wall Street Journal, 2 April 2011–two economists calculated that “$1,700 is the benefit the average American derives from personal computers each year.”

They call this the “benefit we get from computers above and beyond what we pay for them.”

To me, this figure seems inconsistent with common sense and the realities on the ground.

In an information age, where we are connected virtually 24 x 7 and can download hundreds of thousands of apps for free, endlessly surf the internet, shop and bank online, get much of our entertainment, news, and gaming on the the web, and communicate around the globe by voice, video, and text for the cost on a monthly high speed connection, I say hogwash.

Moreover, we need to factor in that most of us are now information workers (about 20%) or depend on technology in performing our jobs everyday and earning our living.

Just yesterday in fact, the Wall Street Journal reported that more people work for the government (22.5 million–forget the private sector information workers for the moment) than in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining, and utilities combined!

Additionally, at work, we are using computers more and more not only for transaction processing, but also for content management, business intelligence, collaboration, mobility (and robotics and artificial intelligence is coming up fast).
Finally, technology enables breakthroughs–in medicine, energy, environment, education, materials sciences, and more–the impact of technology to us is not just now, but in the potential it brings us for further innovations down the road.
So is the benefit that you get from computers less than $5 day?

I know for me that’s the understatement of a lifetime.

Apparently by some, technology continues to be misunderstood, be undervalued and therefore potentially risks being underinvested in, which harms our nations competitiveness and our collective future.

As much respect as I have for economics, it doesn’t take an economist to think with common business sense.

>When Shall We Call For Change?

>

We see change coming. We hear change coming. We feel change coming. But what happens? It does not come. Why?

1.     Fear—people are afraid of changing or of not being able to adapt (for example, some may be afraid of changing jobs for fear of failing or of not being able to make the transition well to a different organization).

2.     Money—someone(s) is invested in the status quo (for example, could it be that oil companies stand to lose if we go with hybrid engines or alternative energy sources like solar, wind.).

3.     Politics—perhaps, those in power have constituents that will “yell and scream” or lobby if others seek a change that they are for one reason or another are opposed to (for example, those who are pro-choice will lobby vehemently when pro-lifers attempt to limit or regulate abortion).

Note: I am NOT advocating for or against any of these positions, just providing a contextual explanation.

However, as a CIO or other leader (and this can be an official leadership position or one that is taken on by strategic thinkers, enthusiasts, and so on), I am convinced that we must call for change and help change along when “its time has come”—that is when the following conditions exist:

1)    Time is ripe

2)    Support to the people affected can be adequately provided for

3)     It is unequivocal that society will universally benefit and the change is fair and ethical. (Yes, the last one is hard to demonstrate and may be considered somewhat objective, but the concept of having “justifiable” change is important.)

Here is an example of an interesting change being called for by David Wolman in Wired Magazine, June 2009 that clearly demonstrates how these three criteria for leaders to evoke change works:

Wolman address the cost and by inference the benefits of change (#3 above): We “create hundreds of billions of dollars worth of new bills and coins every year…the cost to the taxpayers in 2008 alone was $848 million, more than two-thirds of which was spent minting coins that many people regards as a nuisance. (The process alone used u more than 14,823 tons of zinc, 23,879 tons of copper, and 2,514 tons of nickel.) In an era when books, movies, music, and newsprint are transmuting from atoms to bits, money remains irritatingly analog, carbon-intensive, expensive medium of exchange. Let’s dump it.”

Then Wolman demonstrates that  time for change is ripe   (#1 above): We have all sorts of digital money these days, such as credit cards, debit cards, e-checks, automatic bank deposits/payments, electronic transfers, and online payments. “Markets are already moving that way. Between 2003 and 2006, noncash payment in the US increased 4.6 percent annually, while the percentage of payment made using checks dropped 13.2 percent. Two years ago, card based payment exceeded paper-based ones—case checks, food stamps—for the first time. Nearly 15 percent of all US online commerce goes through PayPal. Smartcard technologies like EagleCash and FreedomPay allow military personnel and college students to ignore paper money….the infrastructure didn’t exist back then. But today that network is in place. In fact, it’s already in your pocket. ‘The cell phone is the best point of sale terminal ever’ Says Mark Pickens.”

Finally, Wolman shows that we can support people through this change (#2 above): “Opponents used to argue that killing cash would hurt low-income workers—for instance, by eliminating cash tips. But a modest increase in the minimum wage would offset that loss; government savings from not printing money could go toward lower taxes for employers. And let’s not forget the transaction costs of paper currency, especially for the poor. If you’re less well off, check cashing fees and 10-mile bus rides to make payments or purchases are not trivial…”

Whether or not it is “Time to Cash Out” of paper money as Wolman calls for (i.e. this is just an example to show how the criteria for change can be used), the need for leaders to move us towards and guide us through change is at the essence of leadership itself. Change should not be taken lightly, but should be evaluated for timeliness, supportability, and justifiability.

>Andy Blumenthal Presents User-centric Enterprise Architecture

>Check out this SlideShare Presentation: