>A Young Adult Chooses To Give Rather Than Take

>Here is a poem written by a young adult who was recently confronted
with a difficult choice – whether to go on a fancy trip to Europe or
Peru, costing thousands of dollars but promising “the time of your
life,” or to spend a week participating in a Habitat for Humanity
project, and giving back to those in need.

I am humbled and inspired by her words and her choice.

In terms of tikkun olam (repair of the world – a Jewish term for an
individual’s purpose in life), this is a great lens with which to view
many of the choices we have day in and day out. Our investments in
people and those less fortunate are often the best ones that we can
make – and those with the highest return, personally and for the
organizations we represent.

_____________________

“What is a Good Feeling?”

A dream maybe that looks me in the eye,

I try to catch it but it just flies by,

A short second ago there was my chance,

I was even just about ready to dance.

The question is always asked: why not me?!

Why can’t I be lucky!

The sun, the moon, the stars,

Waken me up oh mars.

Shine that light on me,

Guide me to what is happy,

Pearl, silver, and even gold,

It’s now time to think beyond what is displayed and told.

Look beyond the light,

Into the darkness of the night,

Like others, it is even hard for me,

When I even dare to see reality.

The million-dollar beach home,

The shape of a dome,

An in-door pool,

Oh how mighty and cool.

Pshh, ya right!

Just look at MOST people’s plight,

People losing jobs here and there,

This is in no way fair.

Millions of citizens living on the streets,

On disgusting benches supposed to be used just for seats,

It’s time to wake up and see,

People don’t live all rich and fancy.

It’s time to open our eyes,

We shouldn’t live lies,

I want to step closer to reality,

I’m at the right age to learn more about actuality.

I want to help others,

I want to give to families: fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers

I want to put smiles on children’s faces,

I want to leave some of my traces.

Traces of charity,

What a rarity,

I want to be one who gives and not takes,

For once in my life I am positive that this won’t be a mistake.

This choice is the right,

And I say this with all force and might,

It’s without doubt a chance to make a difference,

This surely makes the most sense.

~THERE IS NOTHING LIKE THE GOOD FEELING OF ASSISTING OTHERS~

>A Vision of User-centric Communication Design

>

[Authored by Andy Blumenthal and published in Architecture and Governance Magazine November 2009]

As technology has advanced in leaps and bounds over the last 30 years, so has the number of information devices—from phones to faxes, pagers to PDAs, desktops to Netbooks—and it goes on and on.

Some devices, despite having outlived their useful lives, have been slow to disappear from the scene completely. For example, fax machines are still in our offices and homes, although now often combined with other de- vices such as the “all-in-one” copier, printer, scanner, and fax. However, why with the ability to scan and e-mail with attachments, do we even need to fax at all anymore?

Similarly, at one time, pagers were all the rave to reach someone 911. Then cell phones and PDAs took over the scene. Nevertheless, paging never fully went away; instead, it was replaced by “press 1 to send this per- son a page.” However, why do we need to page them at all anymore, if we can just leave them a voice mail or instant message?

It seems as if legacy technology often just doesn’t want to die, and instead of sun-setting it, we just keep packaging it into the next device, like the phone that comes with e-mail, instant messaging, texting, and more. How many ways do we need to say hello, how are you, and what time will you be home for dinner?

When is technology enough and when is it too much?

Of course, we want and love choice—heck, we’re consumers to the core. Technology choice is like having the perfect outfit for every occasion; we like to have the “right” technology to reach out to others in a myriad of different ways for every occasion.

Should I send you an e-mail on Facebook or should I “poke” you or perhaps we should just chat? Or maybe I should just send you a Tweet or a “direct message” on Twitter? No, better yet, why don’t I send you a message on LinkedIn? Anyway, I could go on for about another three paragraphs at least on how I should/could contact you. Maybe I’ll hit you up on all of them at the same time and drive you a little nuts, or maybe I’ll vary the communications to appear oh so technically versatile and fashionable.

Yes, technology choice is a wonderful thing. But it comes at a price. First, all the communication mediums

start to become costly after a while. I can tell you from my cell phone bill that the cost of all these options— e-mail, texting, Internet, and so on—definitely starts to add up. And don’t forget all the devices that we have to schlep around on our belts (I have one cell phone on each side—it’s so cool, like a gunslinger from the Wild West), pockets, and bags—where did I leave that de- vice? Let’s not forget the energy consumption and eco- unfriendliness of all these gadgets and all the messy wires.

Additionally, from a time-is-precious perspective, consider the time sinkhole we have dug for ourselves by trying to maintain a presence on all of these devices and social networking sites. How many hours have we spent trying to keep up and check them all (I’m not sure I can fully remember all my e-mail accounts anymore)? And if you don’t have single sign-on, then all the more hassle— by the way, where did I hide my list of passwords?

Next out of the gate is unified communications. Let’s interoperate all those voice mail accounts, e-mail ac- counts, IM, presence, and social media communications. Not only will your phone numbers ring to one master, but also your phone will transcribe your voice mails— i.e., you can read your voice mail. Conversely, you can listen to your e-mail with text-to-speech capability. We can run voice-over-IP to cut the traditional phone bill and speed up communications, and we can share nonreal-time communications such as e-mail and voice mail with real-time communication systems like our phone.

So, we continue to integrate different communication mediums, but still are not coalescing around a basic device. I believe the “communicator” on Star-Trek was a single device to get to someone on the Enterprise or on the planet surface with just the tap of a finger. Perhaps, our reality will some day be simpler and more efficient, too. When we tire of playing with our oodles of technology “toys” and signing up for myriad user accounts, we will choose eloquence and simplicity over disjointed—or even unified—communications.

As the founder of User-centric Enterprise Architecture, my vision is to have one communicator (“1C”) device, period. 1C is an intelligent device. “Contact John,” okay—no phone number to dial and no e-mail to address. 1C knows who John is, how to reach him, the best way to contact him, and if he is available (“present”) at the moment or not. 1C can take a message, leave a message, or communicate in any way (voice, text, video, virtual) that an individual prefers and that is appropriate for each portion of a particular communication to ensure that the communication intended is the communication received. 1C is not limited to a one-on-one communications, but is open to conferencing—as needed. Mention the need for Cindy to be in on the communication and instantaneously, Cindy is on and then off again. 1C is ubiquitous in time and space—I can send you a communication to arrive now or next week, when you’re here or there, when you’re in country or out, in a car, on a flight, on a ship, or underwater—it doesn’t matter. Like telepathy, the communication reaches you effortlessly. And, of course, 1C translates languages, dialects, acronyms, or concepts, as needed—truly it’s a “universal communicator.”

The closest we’ve come so far is probably the Apple iPhone, but with some 50,000 apps and counting, it is again too focused on the application or technology to be used, rather than on the user and the need.

In the end, it’s not how many devices or how many accounts or how many mediums we have to communicate with, but it is the communication itself that must be the focus. The 1C of the future is an enabler for the communication—anytime, anywhere, the right information to the right people. The how shouldn’t be a concern for the user, only the what.

>Choice Architecture and Enterprise Architecture

>In a free society like America, we are generally all strong believers in our rights and freedoms—like those often cited from the Bill of Rights– speech, press, religion, assembly, bearing arms, due process and so forth. More broadly, we cherish our right and freedom to choose.

According to an recent article in Harvard Business Review, December 2008, one way that enterprises can better architect their products and services is by “choice architecture.”

Choice Architecture is “design of environments to order to influence decisions.” By “covertly or overly guiding your choices,” enterprises “benefit both company and consumer by simplifying decision making, enhancing customer satisfaction, reducing risk, and driving profitable purchases.”

For example, companies set “defaults” for products and services that are “the basic form customers receive unless they take action to change it.”

“At a basic level, defaults can serve as manufacturer recommendations, and more often than not we’re happy with what we get by accepting them. [For example,] when we race through those software installation screens and click ‘next’ to accept the defaults, we’re acknowledging that the manufacturer knows what’s best for us.”

Of course, defaults can be nefarious as well. They have caused many of us to purchase unwanted extended warranties or to inadvertently subscribe to mailing lists.”

Given the power of defaults to influence decisions and behaviors both positively and negatively, organizations must consider ethics and strategy in equal measure in designing them.”

Here are some interesting defaults and how they affect decision making:

Mass defaults—“apply to all customers…without taking customers; individual preferences into account.” This architecture can result in suboptimal offerings and therefore some unhappy customers.

Some mass defaults have hidden options—“the default is presented as a customer’s only choice, although hard-to-find alternatives exist.” For example, computer industry vendors, such as Microsoft, often use hidden options to keep the base product simple, while at the same time having robust functionality available for power users.

Personalized defaults—“reflect individual differences and can be tailored to better meet customers’ needs.” For example, information about an individual’s demography or geography may be taken into account for product/service offerings.

One type of personalized default is adaptive defaults—which “are dynamic: they update themselves based on current (often real-time) decisions that a customer has made.” This is often used in online retailing, where customers make a series of choices.

There are other defaults types such as benign, forced, random, persistent, and smart: each limiting or granting greater amounts of choice to decision makers.

When we get defaults right (whether we are designing software, business processes, other end-user products, or supplying services), we can help companies and customers to make better, faster, and cheaper decisions, because there is “intelligent” design to guide the decision process. In essence, we are simplifying the decision making process for people, so they can generally get what they want in a logical, sequenced, well-presented way.

Of course, the flip side is that when choice architecture is done poorly, we unnecessarily limit options, drive people to poor decisions, and people are dissatisfied and will seek alternative suppliers and options in the future.

Certainly, we all love to choose what we want, how we want, when we want and so on. But like all of us have probably experienced at one time or another: when you have too many choices, unconstrained, not guided, not intelligently presented, then consumers/decision makers can be left dazed and confused. That is why we can benefit from choice architecture (when done well) to help make decision making simple, smarter, faster, and generally more user-centric.