Just Hanging Out

Lion_in_window

I understand when someone says they are just going to hang out, but this is ridiculous–a lion hanging out of the window, overlooking a main thoroughfare in the Capital!

With all the intrigue about the emails and affairs the last few days–I think this feline, might just be feeling a little curious.

The father of one of the ladies involved said there is a lot more to the story…Mr. Lion here is watching and waiting with the rest of us to hear what’s up.

Certainly, not our finest national moment–and as Ricky Ricardo would say, “Lucy, You got some ‘splainin’ to do!” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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)

Do Business With Good People

Robot_with_a_heart

While most companies run to do business with anyone with a checkbook or credit card, some amazing others are more discriminating.

In interview on Leadership in the New York Times (24 December 2011) with Ori Hadomi, the CEO of Mazor Robotics(they make robotic systems that aid in spinal surgeries) he states: “You can’t afford to working with people are not good people [you need to be selective]…you need to look at your vendors and your customers the same way.”

He actually “told one our salespeople recently that he didn’thave to sell our product to people who were not nice to him.”

Wow–this is powerful stuff.

It’s not about just the money, it’s about the meaning and feeling good about yourself, the organization, and what you are achieving,

Similarly, Hadomi has a different–better–philosophy on the role of the management that typically sees itself as making sure employees get the work done and work hard.  Hadomi states: I believe that my role is not to make people work, but to give them the right working conditions, so that they will enjoy what they do.”

On making mistakes, often a punishable offense in organizations, Hardomi states: “It’s natural that we make mistakes.”  The main thing is that we learn and solve them for the future.

With planning and communicating, while many organizations play their stakeholders and stockholders telling them everything is going to be just great–and this often is pronounced when companies reassure investors and others right before they were about to fall off the proverbial bankruptcy cliff.  However, Hardomi tells us that while positive thinking can help motivate people, it can also be dangerous to plan based on that and that instead in Mazor robotics, he establishes an executive as the devil’s advocate to “ask the right questions [and]…humble our assumptions.”

In working out problems, while email wars and reply-alls fill corporate email boxes, Hardomi cuts it off and says “after that second response…you pick up the phone.”  Problems can be resolved in 1/10 the time by talking to each other and even better “looking at the eyes of the other person.”

As we all know, too often, the number and length of meetings are overdone, and Hardomi has instead one roundtable a week–where everybody tells what they did and are planning to do–this synchronizes the organization.

Who does Hardomi like to hire, people that are self-reflective, self-critical, and can articulate their concerns and fears. These people are thoughtful, are real, and will make a good fit.

Hardomi sets the bar high for all us in breaking many traditional broken management paradigms–he is paving a new leadership trail that especially from a human capital perspective is worthy of attention and emulation.

(Photo adapted from herewith attribution to Gnsin and Honda)

Technology Anonymous

Technology_addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for their program to help people attain and maintain sobriety.

With the latest addiction being everything technology, there is now a movement toward “technology detox” or the AA equivalent, Technology Anonymous.

I remember reading months ago about people so addicted to the Internet and online video games that they literally had to be institutionalized to get them to eat, sleep, and return to some sort of normal life again.

Apparently, technology taken to the extreme can be no less an addiction than smoking, drinking, of fooling around.

And there is even a Facebook page for Internet and Technology Addiction Anonymous (ITAA).

I’ve recently even heard of challenges for people to turn off their technology for even 24 hours; apparently this is a tough thing even for just that one day–wonder if you can do it?

The Wall Street Journal (5 July 2011) reported on someone who “signed up for a special [vacation] package called “digital detox,” [that] promised a 15% discount if you agree to leave your digital devices behind or surrender them at check in.”

The message is clear that people “need a push to take a break from their screens.”

Here are brief some statistics from the WSJ on technology addiction even while on vacation:

79% expect to remain connected for all or some of the time on their next vacation.

68% (up from 58% in 2010) say they will check email while on vacation–daily or more frequently–for work.

33% admitted to hiding from friends and family to check email on vacation.

– Also, 33% check email on vacation while engaged in fast-paced activities such as skiing, biking, and horseback riding.

For people routinely checking email as many as 50-100 times a day, going on vacation and leaving technology behind can be a real shock to our social computing systems. Should I even mention the possibility of not logging unto Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flikr, etc. I see people convulsing and going into withdrawal just at the thought.

So what is this technology addiction we are all on? There’s no nicotine or alcohol or testosterone involved (except in some extreme video games, maybe).

Incredibly, for many technology is the first thing we check in the morning and last before we close our eyes at night.

It even lays on the night table right next to us–our spouse on one side and our smartphone on the other. Which do you cuddle with more?

It’s scary–technology is an addiction that is not physical, but rather emotional.

It is the thrill of who is calling, emailing, texting, friending, or following us and what opportunities will it bring.

Like Vegas or a lottery ticket…technology holds for us the possibility of love, friendships, sexual encounters, new job opportunities, fame, fortune, travel, and so on.

There is no limit, because technology is global and unbridled and so is our ambition, desires, hopes, and even some greed.

(Source Photo: here)

>Evolving Capabilities To Meet The Times

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http://abcnews.go.com/assets/player/walt2.6/flash/SFP_Walt_2_65.swf

Great question raised by ABC News on why can’t we contact 911 using texting (except for Black Hawk County, Iowa–population 130,000!).

I would extend on the question and suggest that we be able to contact 911 by any number of ubiquitous technologies whether texting, instant messaging, email, or even potentially social media sites (e.g. 911 on Facebook).

Frankly, if someone is in trouble, they shouldn’t have to get to a phone anymore, but rather they should simply be able to contact emergency services from wherever and whatever they are doing as long as they are connected–whether by desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, help should be just a message away.

Moreover, by capturing photos, videos, and voice, we can send a more multi-media, data-rich stream of information to 911, enabling them to better assess and respond to the situation.

We owe it to both those in need of help and those emergency service providers to link them through more types of communications services and more information-rich media.

I believe that the excuse that people will make more mistakes texting doesn’t ring true in an information economy where Americans send 5 1/2 billion text messages a day.

In fact, a mistaken text is better than no text!

The key is to evolve our capabilities and not stay static in 50 year old technology, just because.

>A Turning Point for the Government Cloud

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Los Angeles is moving to the cloud, according to Public CIO Magazine March 2010, and “they are the first government of its scale to chose Gmail for the enterprise.”

“It turned out that Washington D.C., was using Gmail for disaster recovery and giving employees the option to use it as their primary e-mail.” But LA is implementing Gmail for more than 30,000 city employees (including police and fire departments) as well as planning to move to Google Apps productivity suite for everything from “calendar, word processing, document collaboration, Web site support, video and chat capabilities, data archiving, disaster recovery and virus protection. “

CTO Randi Levin is leading the charge on the move to cloud computing, and is taking on concerns about cost, data rights, and security.

  • On Cost: “The city estimated $5.5 million in hard savings form the Google adoption, and an additional $20 million savings in soft costs due to factors like better productivity.”
  • On Data Rights: Nondisclosure agreement with Google includes that the data belong to the city “in perpetuity,” so “if the city wants to switch to another vendor after the contract ends, the city will be able to recall its archived data.”
  • On Security: “Google is building a segregated ‘government cloud,” which will be located on the continental U.S. and the exact location will remain unknown to those outside Google. The data will be “sharded”—“shredded into multiple pieces and stored on different servers. Finally, Google will be responsible for “unlimited” damages if there’s a breach of their servers.

LA conducted an request for proposal for software-as-a-service (SaaS) or a hosted solution and received responses for 10 vendors including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Google was selected by an Intradepartmental group of IT managers and a five year contract issued for $17 million.

Currently (since January), LA is conducting a Gmail pilot with about 10% of its city employees, and implementation for the city is slated for mid-June.

Additionally, LA is looking into the possibility of either outsourcing or putting under public-private partnership the city’s servers.

And the interest in government cloud isn’t limited to LA; it is catching on with Google Apps pilots or implementations in places like Orlando, Florida and within 12 federal agencies.

Everyone is afraid to be the first in with a major cloud computing implementation, but LA is moving out and setting the standard that we will all soon be following. It’s not about Google per se, but about realizing the efficiencies and productivity enhancement that cloud computing provides.

>Information Stats to Scare

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We all know that we are generating and receiving more information then ever. Good thing? I like to think so, but sometimes, you can have too much of even a good thing.

Certainly, information is a strategic asset—its vital to making sound decisions, essential for effective communications, and critical for expanding our thinking, breaking paradigms, predictive analysis, and helping us to innovate.

But when information is too much, too unorganized, too often, or too disruptive, it’s value is diminished and organizations and individuals suffer negative effects.

Here are some information stats to scare from Harvard Business Review (September 2009):

  • 60%–Those who checked email in the bathroom (and 15% even admitted to checking it while in church)
  • 20—Average hours per week spent by knowledge workers on email
  • 85%–Computer users who would take a laptop on vacation
  • 1/3–Emails considered unnecessary
  • 300—Number of emails executive get a day
  • 24—Minutes for worker to recover from being interrupted by an email notification
  • 40—Number of websites employees visit on an average day
  • 26%People who want to delete all emails (declare “e-mail bankruptcy”) and start over
  • 3—Number of minutes before knowledge workers switch tasks
  • ~$1 trillion—Cost to economy of information overload
  • 85%Emails opened within 2 minutes
  • 27%Amount of workday eaten up by interruptions
  • 2.8 trillion gigabytes—Size of digital information by 2011
  • 31%Workers whose quality of life is worsened by email

Some interesting antidotes offered by HBR:

  • Balance—weigh cost-benefits before sending another email
  • Reply to all—disable the reply all button
  • Five sentences—keep email to 5 sentences or less
  • Allots—affix virtual currency from a fixed daily amount to email based on its importance
  • IM Savvy—program by IBM that senses when you are busy by detecting your typing patterns and tells would be interrupters that you are busy
  • BlackBerry Orphans—to regain the attention of their parents, children are flushing their parent’s BlackBerries down the toilet

While the issues and proposed assists for information overload are thought provoking (and somewhat humorous), what is fascinating to me is how technology and the speed of its advancement and adoption are positively, but also—less spoken about—negatively affecting people and organizations.

It seems like life keeps accelerating—faster and faster—but the quality is deteriorating in terms of fuzzy boundaries between work-life, weakening of our closest relationships, burn-out of our best and hardest working people, and unrealistic expectations of people to be always on—just like the email account that keeps spitting out new messages.

Somewhere along the line, we need to hit the proverbial “reset button” and recognize that information and communication are truly strategic assets and as such need to be used intelligently and with good measure or else we risk cheapening their use and limiting their effectiveness.

>Blogs and Enterprise Architecture

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Well this is interesting to write: a blog about blogging 😉

Blogs are becoming a great new tool for enterprise communications and an alternate to clogging up already full email boxes.

CIO Magazine, 15 January 2008, states that “enterprise users can get lost in storms of ‘reply-all’ e-mails while trying to manage projects. Blogs offer a better way.”

The group president of systems and technology for Bell Canada says that “email, used by itself just doesn’t cut it anymore for project management and interoffice communication.”

What’s the interest level and use of blogs?

Forester Research reports that “54% of IT decision makers expressed interest in blogs. Of companies that had piloted or implemented blogs, nearly two-thirds (63%) said they used them for internal communications. Fifty percent said they used blogs for internal knowledge management—and these companies are leading the way of the future.”

A software social consultant says that “traditional enterprise solutions were designed to keep IT happy. They’ve not usually designed with any thought to the user, like a blog is.” What a nice user-centric EA concept, design technical solutions that meet user requirements; let business drive technology, rather than doing technology for technology’s sake.

Why do people resist blogs?

“People are hung up on this concept of the blog as a diary and as an external marketing medium,” rather than understanding its criticality as a tool for communications and knowledge management.

How can you advance the use of blogs in your organization?

  1. Calming the troops─if people are nervous about blogs, consider avoiding the term blog and call it an ideaboard or some other non-technical and non-threatening name.
  2. Security and compliance—build the blog behind the corporate firewall and “establish rules of engagement,” so that proper social and legal etiquette is not violated and passive-aggressive behavior or “web rage” is mitigated.
  3. Start small—“blogs catch on virally, when you need to introduce the idea to the right test group, which will evangelize the idea to the rest of the enterprise.”
  4. Tagging—have people “tag their posts with keywords that will help later with search and discovery needs.”

From an EA perspective, blogs are not a substitute for email; we need email (some of us desperately, like a morning cup of joe), but blogs are a great complementary tool for participatory communications that involve discussion type interaction by more than two users or for capturing enterprise knowledge and making it available for discovery. Also, blogs are a tool that gives a voice to people, who may otherwise remain part of the silent masses; people feel freer to express themselves in blogs, and through freedom of expression comes advancement of ideas, greater buy-in, and better enterprise decision-making.

>Email and Enterprise Architecture

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How many emails a day is enough?

The Wall Street Journal, 27 November 2007 reports that we are all being inundated with email and it is only going to get worse.

On average, the corporate email user received 126 messages a day last year, up 55% from 2003.

Moreover, “by 2009, workers are expecting to spend 41% of their time just managing emails.”

Further, by 2011, the average number of corporate emails sent and received per person, per day is expected to hit 228!

According to Microsoft, users fall into two general categories for how they handle all the email:

  1. Filers—“strive to have an empty inbox at the end of the day”
  2. Pilers—“the super-messy desk people. They’ve got 5,000 emails in their inbox, most of them unread”

One new novel architecture approach to help manage email is based on a product from Seriosity, as follows:

“Attent™ with Serios™ is an enterprise productivity application inspired by multiplayer online games. It tackles the problem of information overload in corporate email using psychological and economic principles from successful games. Attent creates a synthetic economy with a currency (Serios) that enables users to attach value to an outgoing email to signal importance. It gives recipients the ability to prioritize messages and a reserve of currency that they can use to signal importance of their messages to others. Attent also provides a variety of tools that enable everyone to track and analyze communication patterns and information exchanges in the enterprise.” (www.seriosity.com)

So for example, users may get 100 serios at the start of the week, and they get more when others send them messages. They allocate these serios to each message they send. “A message asking some if he or she wants to go out for lunch might carry a value of three ‘serios’ of virtual currency; [while] a message about an important customer with an urgent problem might get 30 serios. In this way, we try “to get people to send fewer message, or just more relevant ones.”

From a User-centric EA perspective, having senders designate the importance of messages is a wonderful idea to help receivers gauge relative importance and need to read. This is an improvement over the basic Microsoft Outlook capability that enables users to simply mark something with a “!” as important or not.

The Seriosity product is a good example of how technology can meet emerging business requirements, even when it involves managing hundreds of emails a day.