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Posts Tagged “Facebook”

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.” So with social media.

I’ll be short this week. I seem never to tire of listing caveats about unanticipated conundrums surrounding social media and technology. It frequently creeps into my essays.

One of the reasons I find myself dubious and cautious about social media is the perfervid evangelical zeal of its proponents, which I frequently find blinker-visioned, jaundiced and of limited practicality for busy, non-genius entrepreneurs like myself.

Drew Neisser, CEO of Renegade, partially addressed this issue in his blog, The Cut, last year. Drew is a successful entrepreneur and frequent speaker and thought leader on social media. He writes well and simply. He offers several helpful practical suggestions for “social media fatigue.”

  1. He suggests keeping Twitter lists under 200 and perhaps keeping a much smaller list you really care about.
  2. If you have more than 100 friends on Facebook, hide the dull ones.
  3. Look for trusted curators in your area of interest. Don’t follow everything. Drew recommends PSFK to discover the best of the best.
  4. Don’t feel you can’t go silent for a while.

As I hunker down in my luddite cave, cowering away before the onslaught of social media, I’d like to have more of this kind of practical advice. Every day seems to offer an avalanche of cool new technological must-haves. I need advice that helps me manage, sort, and prioritize a multifaria of social media. I could use a lot more common sense techie thinking. I don’t need to be “cool” and I don’t need every cutting-edge app. I don’t need technological Nirvana. I do need what I can use simply, quickly and efficiently.

Avinash Kaushik of Analytic Evangelist says, “Social Media is like teen sex. Everybody wants to do it. Nobody knows how. When it’s finally done there is surprise it’s not better.”

Sounds right to me. Thank you, Avinish.

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Geoffrey Chaucer says in “The Merchant’s Tale,” “There n’is no werkman whatever he be/That may beth werken wel and hastily.”

When you are in a rush, slow down. Or, as the Roman Emperor Augustus says in the 1st century A.D., “Festina Lente.” (Make haste slowly).

I’m a fairly hyper guy. That’s not an uncommon state for any entrepreneurial salesman. The day I am not up to my ass in alligators is the exception. However, though it may be counter intuitive to the credo of most entrepreneurs, I’ve personally found a multitasking frenzy ain’t the answer to this conundrum.

Perhaps I’m just slow and a dullard, but what occurs when I rush to get everything done in the seemingly inadequate time frames I’m presented with, is that I pay a price. The personal price I pay for speed is sometimes accuracy, sometimes quality, sometimes verboseness, sometimes oversimplification–but there is always a diminution in quality, exactitude and in depth of communication. That loss of precision is particularly a negative in presenting a compelling sales tonality to a corporate leader. Casual mistakes can sink you with these folks.

Finding time not to speed through things is a question of prioritization and time allocation. Any important project, RFP, or business communication needs to marinate. I personally have to allow the space for this.

One of my concerns about our burgeoning social media is simply the time it sucks up. How many online miracles and digital wonderments can I absorb? I personally find an overabundance of data makes important things fuzzy and harder to find. It actually impedes good decision-making and my business intuition. For me information overload withers efficiency. So personally, if I have to eliminate my attentiveness to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, et. al., that is a prioritization that creates time for me to find empathy, understanding, and subtlety in all my sales outreach. I simply decide not to speed through to cover everything our new media seems to demand I be up on. For me speed is the enemy of doing the core executive sales chores well.

The wisdom of the ages has cautions for the time-pressured entrepreneur. In the sixth century B.C. Confucius said, “Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly.” Or to quote Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet, “Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.”

So thank you Confucius, Chaucer, Augustus and Shakespeare.

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Quartz, the cutting-edge NY digital news outlet, caught my eye last week (March 21, 2017) with this headline: “IBM, Remote Work Pioneer, Is Calling Thousands of Employees back to the office.”

This is a big change in direction for Big Blue. As recently as 2009, IBM had 40% of its hirelings working from home.

In fact, a number of companies have quietly begun shifting their home-based associates back to their corporate offices. This trend began to emerge publicly with Marissa Mayer’s startling decision to end Yahoo’s remote work policy back in 2013. Facebook now offers a $10,000 bonus to employees who live close to their office, and many other companies, like Best Buy and Reddit, no longer allow work from home. By September of this year IBM’s over 5,500 marketing people will have to work from physical offices in one of seven central locations: San Francisco, New York, Austin, Armonk, Boston, Atlanta, or Raleigh. Remote work will no longer be an option. (IBM already applies this policy to departments like security, procurement, most of IT, Watson, Watson Health, cloud development, and artificial intelligence.) Companies increasingly feel collaboration, creativity, and community are better fostered in a central office.

As an early successful adopter of the virtual office model with my first entrepreneurial firm, Corporate Rain, in the 1990s, I have always thought “What’s not to like?” After all, you save on office rent, office expenses, and commuting. And research indicates that remote workers are more productive and put in more hours than their office-based kindred. Also, for many people, it has been a partial solution to the work-life balance problem. According to the Gallop Poll, 25% of all American workers are presently laboring remotely.

That said, however, I am increasingly coming to a sense that for many companies, particularly large ones but also some of the small ones, there is a compelling rationale to centrally co-locate their office communities again.

For example, Best Buy reported that productivity had an average increase of 35% in departments that shifted to employees working whenever and wherever they wanted. However, there is a different set of benefits that ensue from central offices–and most of these benefits center around creativity and innovation.

Note John Sullivan, professor of management at San Francisco State University, a specialist in HR strategy–again quoting from Quartz. Sullivan says, “It turns out the value of innovation is so strong it trumps any productivity gain….[Remote work] was a great strategy for the 90s but not for 2015.”

Certainly established companies are searching for how to solve the conundrum of creativity and how to come up with the next transformational eureka out of their behemothic institutions.

They long to infuse entrepreneurial passion and disruptive imagination into their titanic old-line firms. Their hidebound strategies aren’t working, therefore renewed office centralization is increasingly favored as a tool to help create a more generative, communal, cohesive business ambience–hopefully one more like the entrepreneurial laboratory.

Jeff Smith, IBM’s CIO, advocates agile management based around “squads”. He says “…leaders have to be with the squads and the squads have to be in a location.”

There increasingly is a valuation of what many call “the watercooler effect.” (Steve Jobs certainly appreciated the value of how chance meetings and accidental conversations can lead to disruptive ideas.) Note a recent study by Kevin Rickman of George Mason University and Michael Pratt of Boston College, who found that increased offsite work can have very negative effects on the office environment. Mason and Pratt state: “If the office is going to become a collection of employees not working together, it essentially becomes no different than a coffee shop (though perhaps with better internet and worse coffee.).” That may be a bit overstated, but perhaps reflective of the most au courant new HR thinking.

When asked what percentage of Google’s workers telecommute, Patric Pichette, then CFO said, “Our answer is: As few as possible.”

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unnamedAs a frequent business traveler, I have noticed an unhappy change of late: I’m meeting fewer people than I used to. And I don’t like it.

It is not that I am a hopelessly garrulous yakker by nature. Quite the opposite. I’m a bit of an introvert–a lover of reading and personal cogitation. But I’m finding my recent business travel an increasingly isolating experience. Too much so.

I used to have the jolliest of chats with total strangers on planes, trains, and boats. It broadened me, it amused me, it opened me to the new. Of late, not so much. Less and less do I find these unexpected illuminating contacts with folks different from myself–whether it be a country barber, a beauty queen, or another business owner.

Why is this? I’ll tell you why. It’s bloody technology, goddammit.

I’m afraid technology is turning us into dull-eyed, unpresent I-Zombies. We are losing the gift for connection to our fellow human beings, as well as stunting our brain processes that summon nonrational revelations and “aha”s.

This was brought home to me earlier this year when I was in Dallas on business and found myself a bit lost and late to my next appointment. I was walking through the downtown arts plaza and I looked for some friendly, authoritative face to approach for aid. But as I looked around I found every person I saw shuffling along fully immersed in their personal private technology Idahos, oblivious to any person or thing around them.

I didn’t want to rudely interrupt, but I was annoyed because I needed some directions! This made me think about how much present richness and human feeling we sacrifice for an ersatz virtual reality. (I increasingly feel the same way walking down Broadway in New York when half the folks bump into you while texting, rather than taking in the infinitely unique international culture and urban magnificence constantly on display in my never-boring city.)

6a00d83451c29169e20112796ebe9f28a4Note Douglas Rushkoff‘s book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. (The title is a riff on Alvin Toffler‘s Future Shock from the ’70s.) We’re becoming addicted to what Rushkoff calls a “dopamine squirt,” the ego boost we get from Twitter, Facebook, emails, and texts. This leads to a compulsive immersion in the superficiality of keeping current and cool on social media. According to Rushkoff, this is stress-inducing and, more importantly, creativity-killing. I certainly agree that we are becoming committed to a sort of always-on, live-streamed reality show which is taking us into creatively shallow, spiritually thin cultural waters.

Or consider Nicholas Carr‘s book The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, which posits the rewiring of our brains by way of technology and social media. (Carr first became alarmed when he found himself increasingly unable to concentrate when he sat down to read a book, because of his longing for and growing addiction to the peripatetic excitement of his pinging computer.) Carr writes: “Any kind of thought process that requires focus on one thing is what is being disrupted, and, unfortunately, another thing brain science tells us is that the process of paying attention, paying deep attention, activates a lot of our deepest thought processes. Our long-term memory, the building of conceptual knowledge, critical thinking, all of those things hinge on our ability to pay attention.”

In other words, our “eureka” moments may be being sacrificed for a mess of pottage–that mess of pottage being our present experience of superficial sledding on an omnipresent sea of technological connectedness.

So I miss my now-infrequent accidental connects with my fellow man when I travel. (Not to mention the fact I’ve gotten two major pieces of business through these chance encounters over the years.)

144476685_87a0c6a898_zJaron Lanier, computer scientist and classical musician, who originally popularized the term “virtual reality,” wrote a book in 2010 called You Are Not A Gadget, in which he offered this prescient warning:

“Information is alienated experience. Stored Information might cause experience to be revealed if it is prodded in the right way. A file on a hard disk does indeed contain information of the kind that objectively exists….But if the bits can potentially mean something to someone, they can only do so if they are experienced. When that happens a commonality of culture is enacted between the storer and the retriever of the bits. Experience is the only process that can de-alienate information.”

I don’t think I can sum things up much better than that. So, the next time you travel, try keeping some of your time away from the allures of your iPad and iPhone. There might be some lost soul out there looking for directions. Like me.

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2704_825111_080514P_0208There is a reason to take vacations.  That reason is to simply stop.

This summer I took my first vacation in over two years.  It was not easy.  Taking a vacation is a very specific conundrum for the impassioned small businessman.  There is no good time to do it.  There is no time when it seems there is not a Sword of Damocles looming over our high-risk, very personal business creations.  There is no time when we do not need four times as many hours as there are in the work week.  It seems unimaginable to take a prolonged work intermission.  A true existential furlough from our labor.

Workaholism is a habit.  It is an addiction.  It needs to be fought each day with tools like meditation, prayer, yoga, and exercise.  But it also needs the occasional Big Break.

My friend Helanie Scott, CEO of Align4Profit in Dallas, writes an excellent newsletter on business leadership each week.  She points out that brain researchers have proven that habits create neural pathways in our brain and these paths are like ruts in the road that send you in a predetermined direction before you even have time to consider where you are going.  We need to break up these preordained ruts periodically.  She says, “That’s scary enough but it gets worse.  The longer you indulge in a bad habit, the stronger grows the pull of your neural pathways.”

Clayton_ChristensenNot taking a vacation is a bad habit.  It’s easy to get off—to get high—on the everyday frisson of business drama.  Harvard Business School professor Clayton Cristensen, in his bestseller How Will You Measure Your Life (Harper Collins, 5/15/12, with co-authors Karen Dillon and James Allworth), points out that the ROI of work is immediately apparent.  It offers instant gratification and feedback in the form of general approbation, ego inflation, contracts, and money.  Entrepreneurship can be a habit not too different from the high of cocaine, heroin, or sex.

Bart Lorang, CEO of FullContact, a contact management firm in Denver, warns of what he calls “misguided hero syndrome.”  (Stuart Varney, Fox News, 8/14/14)   Misguided hero syndrome is the belief that the world might stop spinning without our wonderful selves.  He actually pays his associates $7500 to take their vacations.  He only asks three simple things of them in exchange.:

1.  They actually go on vacation.
2.  They must disconnect from all technology.
3.  They can’t do any work on the vacation.

Personally, I was stopped in my tracks this year when I realized my recent divorce was partially caused by my bad work addiction.  I think I actually never wanted a real vacation, though I denied that to my wife.  My relationship with my daughter was also in danger.  She incessantly asked me to “take off my business face” and be with her.  (I noted that uber-entrepreneur Tesla’s Elon Musk is a twice divorced father of five, who has acknowledged taking only one vacation in four years.  Hmm.)

imgresWell, I took eight days out west with my daughter this summer.  I committed to only checking my email every other day during that time.  And no Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et. al.  That’s as close to going “cold turkey” as I can for now.  All was fine when I got home.

It’s ego-gratifying to believe our companies would collapse without us.  L’etat c’st moi!  The fear of vacation is partly that we might discover we are less important than we thought.  A vacation allows one to self-humblify.

In her novel Bel Canto (Perrenial Publishing, 2002), Ann Patchett intones through one of her characters.  “I don’t have any talent for vacations.”  Me either, Ann.  But I intend to practice more.

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