>Balance, Not Brute Force

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There is a new documentary called “Race to Nowhere.

It is about our 24/7 culture with it’s relentless pressure to succeed and how it is adversely affecting our children.

Directed by Vicki Abeles a mother of one of these children, who was literally getting sick from from the “race to be the smartest, to test the highest, and to achieve the most.

The message these days to children and adults is “produce, produce, produce.

But what are we getting from all the hypercompetition?

As one girl at the beginning of the trailer said “I can’t really remember the last time I had the chance to go in the backyard and just run around.” And another boy said, “School is just so much pressure, every day I would just wake up dreading it.”

This is not exactly the picture of happy, satisfied, and motivated children or of a dynamic workforce for the future.

What are we doing to our children and ourselves?

We have better technology and more information available now than ever before, yet somehow people are seemingly unhappier than ever–and it’s starting with our children, but it doesn’t stop there.

With the change to an information society, our innovators forget to create a shut-off valve (or filter) so people would be able “turn down the volume” on the information pouring in 24/7.

Adults can’t keep up, our students can’t keep up, no one can–we have opened the floodgates of INFORMATION and we are drowning in it.

No learning is good enough because there is always more to learn and no productivity is productive enough because the technology is changing so fast.

I remember a boss who used to always say “what have you done for me lately” (i.e. it didn’t matter what you achieved last week or yesterday, he wanted to know what did you do for him today!)

It’s the same now everyday and everywhere for everyone, yesterday is history–when it comes to learning and achievement; the competition from down the hall or around the globe is right on our tail and if you are not doing something new just about every minute, you risk being overtaken.

We know “failure is not an option” but is pushing until we have the equivalent of a societal nervous breakdown, success?

Like with all good things in life–love, vacations, chocolate, and so on–we can’t overindulge. Similarly with information overload and work–there has to be a “balance,” a happy medium–we can’t push the engine until it overheats. We need to know when to put the peddle to the mettle and when to throttle back.

If we can handle ourselves more adroitly in these competitive times (and less like a flailing drowning victim running frantically between activities), manage the flow of information smarter (not like sucking on the proverbial firehose) and alternate between productivity and recuperation/rejuvenation (rather then demanding a 24/7 ethic), I think we will see greater joy and better results for ourselves and our children.

We can all excel, but to do so, we have to learn to moderate and take a breathe–in and out.

Success and happiness is not always about more, in fact, I believe more often than not it’s about an ebb and flow. Like night and day, the ocean tides, the changing seasons, even our own life cycle, we have to know enough to compete intelligently and not with brute force, 24/7, alone.

So what if we turned off our Blackberry’s for just a couple of hours a day and let our kids do the equivalent…to be human again and find time for spirituality and community and rejoice in all that we have achieved.

>Can Microsoft Stomp Out The iPhone?

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So much for letting the best product win. According to the Wall Street Journal, 13-14 March 2010, Microsoft is forcing their employees to “choose” Microsoft phones for personal use and to push those who don’t into hiding.

Is this a joke or a genuine throwback to the Middle Ages?

Apparently this is real: “Last September, at an all-company meeting in a Seattle sports stadium, one hapless employees used his iPhone to snap photos of Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. Mr. Ballmer snatched the iPhone out of the employee’s hands, placed it on the ground, and pretended to stomp on it in front of thousands of Microsoft workers.” That sends a pretty clear message!

I guess the employee can consider himself lucky that Mr. Ballmer didn’t put him (instead of the iPhone) on the ground underneath his foot or perhaps maybe even just burn him at the stake for heresy against Microsoft.

Further, in 2009, Microsoft “modified its corporate cellphone policy to only reimburse service fees for employees using phones that run on Windows.”

While many workers at Microsoft can evidently be seen with iPhones, others are feeling far from safe and comfortable doing this. According to the article, one employee told of how when he meets with Mr. Ballmer (although infrequently), he does not answer his iPhone no matter who is calling! Another executive that was hired into Microsoft in 2008 told of how he renounced and “placed his personal iPhone into an industrial strength blender and destroyed it.”

Apparently, Mr. Ballmer told executives that his father worked for Ford Motor Co. and so they always drove Ford cars. While that may be a nice preference and we can respect that, certainly we are “big boys and girls” and can let people pick and choose which IT products they select for their own personal use.

While many employees at Microsoft have gone underground with their iPhones, “nearly 10,000 iPhone users were accessing the Microsoft employees email systems last year,” roughly 10% of their global workforce.

My suggestion would be that instead of scaring the employees into personally using only Microsoft-compatible phones, they can learn from their employees who choose the iPhone—which happens to have a dominant market share at 25.1% to Microsoft 15.7%—in terms why they have this preference and use this understanding to update and grow the Microsoft product line accordingly. In fact, why isn’t Microsoft leveraging to the max the extremely talented workforce they have to learn everything they can about the success of the iPhone?

It’s one thing to set architecture standards for corporate use, and it’s quite another to tell employees what to do personally. It seems like there is a definite line being crossed explicitly and implicitly in doing this.

What’s really concerning is that organizations think that forcing their products usage by decree to their employees somehow negates their losing the broader product wars out in the consumer market.

Obviously, IT products don’t win by decree but by the strength of their offering, and as long as Microsoft continues to play medieval, they will continue to go the way of the horse and buggy.