Govgeddon Is Not An Option

Govgeddon Is Not An Option

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about how the Federal government is falling to attract young people.

“Employees under the age of 30 hit an eight-year low of 7% in 2013…[while back in 1975, more than 20% of the federal workforce was under 30.”

Conversely, 45% of the federal workforce is older than 50.

Moreover by September 2016, a quarter of the all federal employees will be eligible to retire–that the retirement wave we’ve been hearing about for years, but never seems to really come (because of the economy).

Without “a pipeline of young talent, the government risks falling behind in an increasingly digital world.”

It’s not the older people can’t learn the technology, but rather they aren’t digital natives as those born in the later part of the 20th century.

To see just a glimpse of the digital divide, you need to go no further than when many of these folks snicker at us for even just sending emails–something so uncouth to the younger crowd.

With years of salary freezes, no awards, benefit cuts especially for new hires, and shutdowns, the federal government which used to be “an employee of choice,” is “now an employee of last resort.”

Further, “the reputation for bureaucracy and hierarchy is driving away many workers.” People want to be productive and get things done, not spin their wheels.

Yet, the government offers so many exciting jobs performing critical missions in everything from national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, and so much more, it is ironic that we cannot attract young people, who are often the most idealist.

Diversity in the federal workforce means that people under 30 are not a rarity!

Everyone–no matter what age, sex, race, religion, and so one–provides an important contribution, so that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

We need people to clearly feel the honor in public service, to see the importance of the missions performed, and to be treated like valued workers and not political pawns in partisan showdowns and Washington shutdowns.

Let’s actively recruit with an attractive smorgasbord of enhanced salary and benefits, especially in critical fields like cyber security, information technology, biotechnology, aerospace engineering, and more.

It’s time for the federal government to become attractive for young (and older) workers again, and not apologetic for providing important jobs in service of the nation.

The federal government needs to compete for the best and brightest and not resign itslef to second-tier, ever.

Our young people are an important pipeline for fresh ideas and cutting-edge skills, and we need them to prevent a govgeddon where we can’t perform or compete with the skills and diversity of workforce that we must have. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Sears Couldn’t Sell An Appliance Let Alone A Rolex

Sears Couldn't Sell An Appliance Let Alone A Rolex

So I was amazed at the depths to which Sears will go to try to save their horrible brand.

The Wall Street Journal (21 July 2013) described how Sears online has started a marketplace where they are now hosting the selling of high-end goods at their low-end department store site.

Sears which normally sells kitchen appliances, tools, and crappy clothing is now trying to market $33,000 Rolex watches and $4,400 Chanel handbags.

Good luck to that after their failed 2005 merger of Sears and Kmart–as if combining two lousy companies make one good one.

Since 2005, the company revenue has steadily declined about 25% from $53 billion to $39.9 billion and they lost $4 billion in 2011-2012. Yeah, that today’s Sears!

My own horrible experience with Sears:

I went online to order a range, and Sears botched the order over and over again and kept me holding endlessly throughout the miserable process and at each stage asking for my feedback and apparently doing nothing with it.

Problem #1: It started out pretty simply–I asked for some guidance comparing a couple of models, chose one, and they entered my order. However, when I looked over the order, they had entered the incorrect delivery date–when I wasn’t available. So I contacted Sears back to correct the mistake, but they couldn’t get their system to reflect the correct date–it would only show the original incorrect date–and this is a multi-billion dollar company? But I shut an eye when a supervisor finally assures me that it will arrive on the correct date.

Problem #2: The next day or so, I get a call from a Sears customer service representative who asks me whether I am the Andy located in XYZ (some G-d forsaken location)–ah, no! Well, they explain that’s where they have my order shipping to. They can’t explain how that happened, but promise Sears will fix it.

Problem #3: This time, I get a call from the Sear’s installation company. They are demanding that they will not come out to do the install unless I pay them a required inspection fee. But I explain that my order from Sear expressly states that shipping and installation are FREE. Sorry, they tell me free is not free, and if I have a problem, here’s a number to their national whatever line.

Three strikes, Sears is out–I contact them to review what had happened and to cancel this order. They refuse to cancel it–again, I think to myself this is a multi-billion dollar company? Over and over again this goes on, until finally they agree to cancel the order and refund my money.

All this nonsense literally wasted hours of my time.

Sears is no longer that brilliant mail order catalog of the early 20th century; now they are a dumpster diving junk company trying to sell brand stuff, but they are laggards to the brilliant Amazon and eBay retailers–and soon Sears will be out of business headed to the big retail trash bin of history.

The Rolex watches and Chanel bags are just another Sears circus sideshow. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Who hasn’t Been There?

Who hasn't Been There?

So I was teaching a course this week in enterprise architecture, and some of the students asked about EA having a bad rap and brand (i.e. that it seems to not work so well in many organizations) and why is that?

We had a pretty robust discussion around this–why some organizations fail and others succeed with EA.

We discussed the critical success factors that as the CIO or Chief Architect you can impact, and how these can drive planning and implementation for the organization to succeed.

At the same time, we also acknowledged how–to be frank–not everything is in our control.

This was a class full of CIOs and Vice Presidents, and I gave an example and said you are all successful now in your jobs and careers, but raise your hand if you haven’t been there–where you were on the outs and you boss or colleagues just didn’t like you?

This was a class of about 20 people, and out of all these highly achieved folks, only one hand went up–a young kid–with only 3 or 4 years out of school, and still learning the ropes.

Yes, this one person had not yet been on the losing end, but everyone else–all these successful people had been–ALL of them!

The point is not to say that success is just a chance event–it isn’t!

You have to work hard and try your best– but no matter how much you think of yourself–it’s even more important to remember that you don’t control all the factors of your life that determine whether you succeed or fail.

The same people that now had big, successful jobs, were the same people who had in a prior job or time been the person who could do no right at work.

I tell myself to remember that there is personality, chemistry and fit at work; there is timing–and it is everything!–and there is how the stars are aligned.

It helps a lot to be humble and learn, grow, work hard, never give up, have fun–and have faith in a mightier power above.

From what I’ve seen, life is a cycle and today you may be down, but tomorrow you will be up (and the opposite is true too–so don’t kick the person that is down and hurting).

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)–for everything and for everyone. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What’s Your Information Lifecycle

A critical decision for every person and organization is how long to keep information out there in the physical and cyber realms.

Delete something too soon–and you may be looking in vain for that critical document, report, file, picture, or video and may even violate record retention requirements.

Fail to get rid of something–and you may be embarrassed, compromised, ripped off, or even put in legal jeopardy.
It all depends what the information is, when it is from, and who gets their hands and eyes on it!

Many stars have been compromised by paparazzi or leaked photos that ended up on the front page of newspapers or magazines and even government officials have ended up in the skewer for getting caught red handed like ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner sexting on Twitter.

Everything from statuses to photos put on social media have gotten people in trouble whether when applying to schools and jobs, with their partners, and even with law enforcement.

Information online is archived and searchable and it is not uncommon for parents to warn kids to be careful what they put online, because it can come back to haunt them later.

Now smartphones applications like Snapchat are helping people communicate and then promptly delete things they send.

With Snapshot, you can snap a photo, draw on it, even add text and send to friends, family, others. The innovation here is that before you hit send, you choose how long you want the message to be available to the recipient before vanishing–up to 10 seconds.

Snapchat has sent over 1 billion messages since July and claims over 50 million are sent daily–although forget trying to verify that by counting up the messages because they have self-destructed and are gone!

Of course, there are workarounds such as taking a screenshot of the message before it vanishes or taking a photo of the message–so nothing is full proof.

Last year, according to The Atlantic, the European Commission proposed a “Right-To Be Forgotten” as part of their data protection and privacy laws. This would require social media sites to remove by request embarrassing information and photos and would contrast with the U.S. freedom of speech rights that protects “publishing embarrassing but truthful information.”

Now, companies like Reputation.com even provide services for privacy and reputation management where they monitor information about you online, remove personal information from sites that sell it, and help you with search engine optimization to “set the record straight” with personal, irrelevant, exaggerated or false information by instead publishing positive truthful material.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (7 Feb. 2013), “Ephemeral data is the future,” but I would say comprehensive reputation management is the future–whether through the strategic management of permanent information or removing of temporary data–we are in a sense who the record says we are. 😉

Cafe Barbie Debuts 2013

What an awesome idea for a cafe that can appeal to girls and women worldwide–a Barbie Cafe.

It opened in Taiwan last week and it is licensed by Mattel the founder of Barbie dolls (1959).

At 7,100 square feet and with $1.7 million dollars of investment, you get a lot of Barbie ambience–especially plenty of pink and frills (and calorie counting).

While some women may be turned off to the girlie stigma of a Barbie Cafe, there are probably many others who are enchanted with the dreamy image it bring from childhood and the ability to express a certain femininity, the Barbie way.

My prediction–in the near future, there is going to be a Ken Cafe opening up right across the street. 😉

Dyson Vs. Dirt Devil

Vacuum

For those of you neat freaks out there, you probably have been sold on the King of Vacuum cleaners–the Dyson!

Dyson, a British company has built a vacuum cleaner (and fan and hand dryer) empire with 4,000 employees and $1.5 billion in sales.

For a number of years now I have used Dyson including their super powerful (and expensive) “Animal” bagless cleaner–this thing actually ate up one of my phone cords and tore it to shreds.

I’ve also had other Dysons and my experience has been that while they look really nice in their bright yellows and grays, and sort of sleek for a vacuum, but they tend to break down–especially the motor for the brushes that work on the floor that I find accumulates hair and dirt around the spinner until it stops working.

The other thing that I’ve found with the Dyson is they come with so many annoying attachments, many with no place to actually attach them all–I think it is overkill for most people’s basic cleaning needs.

After going through a number of Dysons, I finally got fed up with paying so much and getting so little, and we decided to stop “investing” in short-lived Dyson vacuum cleaners.

Instead we said let’s get a simple, cheapo, Dirt Devil for like 50 bucks and run it into the ground. If it stopped working we could replace it 6-10 times for the cost of a single Dyson!

We purchased the Dirt Devil, and my expectations were very low–I actually considered it an experiment in purchasing this low-tech machine, and just seeing what we would get.

Well, it’s been about 3 months and I can’t believe the amount of vacuum you can get for so little money with the Dirt Devil–it is bagless like the Dyson and without scientifically measuring the amount of dirt it picks up, I’d say it is almost equivalent in getting the dirty job done.

Additionally, the Dirt Devil–doesn’t come with all the useless attachments–a case where more is less–and it weighs only around 8 pounds, which is 1/3 of what the Dyson weighed–so it is much easier to use around the home.

Similarly, when I look at the cool Dyson fans without blades, it seems almost magical how they actually work, but frankly who cares if it cost $300-$450 and doesn’t work as well as a basic floor Vornado that sells for about $120.

My opinion is that Dyson is generally overpriced and underperforms–but at least you’ll have the image of innovation and performance, even if not the reality at the price point.

Anyway, If I had a vacuum cleaner dream, it would be to one day get one of those “commercial” vacuum cleaners that you see being used in the huge buildings–almost non-stop use–and they may cost a little more, but they actually give you more as well. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Molly DG)

TED For Everyone

The New Yorker (9 July 2012) has an article on TED Talks.

TED stands for Technology/Entertainment/Design and is a conference venue for some of the most magnificent speakers.

Just looking at some of TED’s “most popular this month”–turn to TED if you want to hear about:

– Information being collected about you on the web
– How through vulnerability, we can empathize, belong, and love
– Whether through evolution our kids will be different than us
– Ways to prepare for Alzheimer disease
– New ideas for cleaning up oil spills
– How schools kill creativity
– The talents and abilities of introverts
– How to inspire and be a great leader

TED is literally a world of information and it is presented in a high quality way.

Almost anyone would be floored by the honor to present at TED.

Talking at TED means not only that you have something important to say, but that you can pull-off saying it the right way.

What makes TED lectures great though (and viewed 800 million times so far) maybe also makes them more than a little sterile.

Firstly, the 4-day TED conference itself is only for special people–admission starts at $7,500 and no that does not include lodging and travel, and you have to have an “invitation”–posh posh–to attend.

Then, the actual presentations are “closely governed”–speakers are carefully sought out and vetted, material that is counterintuitive is of interest, and “TED’s eye for theatre…[with] vigilance about immersion and control” are a strong part of the showmanship.

However, while on one hand, these things perhaps are a hugh part of the TED success–wash, rinse, repeat–on the other hand, it also makes for a feel that is very scripted, uniform, almost molded.

The New Yorker article even describes how the speakers practice again and again–repeating their monologues hundreds of times and to whoever will listen. There is essentially nothing impromptu, ad-libbed, or in a sense real about the entertainment-aspect of what you are watching and listening to.

While the information seems to always be great–the presentation with the speaker, sound, lights, slide show, audience shots, etc.–comes across like a row of identically-built houses in a development.

Each “house” (or presentation in this case) may be filled with interesting people, things, and love, but on the outside, as one of my friends says–they are identical, so that coming home after a long day at work, you almost don’t know at times which row house is yours anymore.

If TED ever did a lecture on how they could improve TED. these would be some of my suggestions (and there is no gloss here):

Open it to everyone–Restricting TED to invitation-only is elitist and maybe worse. Opening TED to more people to attend, learn, and enjoy–let’s everyone have an opportunity to benefit–regardless of who you are or where you come from.

Diversify the speakers–It is nice to have scientists and entrepreneurs and stars present at TED, but it would be even nicer to have regular, common people too. Everyone has a story to tell–whether or not you have a Ph.D. or run your own company. While it is great to learn from the “experts,” it would be fascinating to hear from everyday people on their challenges and how they deal with them and overcome them or not. Just as an example, regularly, I see an incredible homeless lady on the street in DC–yes, well-dressed, talkative, polite–and I would want to hear how she ended up where she is and how she copes and survives her experiences on the street everyday. The point it that every person is a world onto themselves and worth hearing about–the key is how to get the experiences, the feelings, and the lessons learned.

Genuine, less scripted speeches–Part of good entertainment is making it real, but when it is just another (over-)rehearsed performance, the speakers seem almost robotic. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear human beings talk in a more relaxed and yes, genuine-way about very important human topics of significance to us all? Right now, people crave information –heck, it’s the information age and nice informative lectures are racking up the views, but at some point soon, people are going to want and expect more.

Shake it up with the venue–TED is conservative extraordinaire. The one (or occasionally two or three) speakers on the stage, the dark background and spotlighted speaker, the PowerPoint or Prezi presentation, the dangling microphone, the opening applause, the slow and methodical speech–yes TED is “ideas that inspire,” but it is also a venue that bores. Perhaps, if you are an avid conference attendee and like the routine, copy-cat set-ups, you feel at home in TED.  But why not let people talk here, there, and everywhere–let someone speak on the street, in a park, on a ship, or even parachuting off a plane.  How about someone on the International Space Station?  Or on the front lines in a major military engagement. People have a lot to say and where they say it–says a lot about them and adds to their message. A stage is a stage. Even a snake-oil salesman has a soapbox.

Not to be confused with TED, there are TEDx events–“TED-like” that are organized by volunteers on a community-level, a “do-it-yourself TED” that is occurring at a “global rate of about five per day”–and these come closer to the open ideal, but still more can be done to make TED itself an organization where truly ideas come from all people, for all people.

While TED’s brand is exclusive and valuable–perhaps more important is education that is valuable for the masses.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Juhan Sonin)