Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jury Duty

I've been experiencing the joys of Jury Duty this week. Today I went into the office for 2 hours then I dashed to the court house to finish the jury selection. I couldn't get out of it. I found it interesting that out of all the jurors selected that I've spoken with, nobody wanted to serve because they have too much to do at work. Many get paid time off of work, but still feel too busy with work (and the lawyers excused the retiree who has time!!!). We live in a country where we appreciate the right to a trial and to be heard, but nobody wants to participate due to time and money constraints (and I understand this!!) Now that I've accepted the fact I'm on the jury and cant get out of it, I am going to try to "enjoy" my civic duty.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It LOOKED like snow....

This is what we woke up to this morning. Southern California "snow." I had to grab my iPhone and take a picture as I got out of the car this morning. Little balls of hail.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Blind Leading the Blind

I was having a conversation with my junior-high school aged son about "seeing the whole elephant." He read the parable in the "Dark Hills Divide."

I decided I wanted to look up the legend myself.

John Godfrey Saxe's ( 1816-1887) version of the famous Indian legend,

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approach'd the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," -quoth he- "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," -quoth he,-
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said- "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," -quoth he,- "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Though they each were correct, none of the individuals had the full perspective.

Life sees much of conflicts, where narrow perspectives ruin possibilities for experiencing the "elephant" together.

It is fortunate indeed when you are involved in a project and all members see the elephant together. This type of process produces the rare experience of being able to see through each other's eyes. At the end of the project, perhaps you may have felt your group could tackle "the world" together. If you were not successful in achieving this "shared vision", you probably hope you'll never have to experience that again.

I like to think that good communication and participants willing to share perspectives help to see "the whole elephant." Willingness to listen and attempt to see another's perspective can help open the picture of the elephant.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

iPhone organization

So, how am I going to organize my iPhone home page.

Apple's iPhone page says:

When you find a web app you like, you can put it front and center on iPhone. Just open the web app on your iPhone, tap the plus sign, and then tap "Add to Home screen." iPhone will make a Web Clip and add it to your Home screen automatically for easy, one-tap access. You have up to nine Home screen pages for all your Web Clips and you can organize them any way you like.

So, will I find my favorite sites and put them on one of my nine home pages? I've already experimented with adding "pages" but I don't want it to be so overloaded I cant find anything. What are the most important sites when I'm out and about with my phone?

Monday, January 14, 2008

I hate Power Point Presentations

I just read a great blog by Guy Kawasaki. He has 10 (really 13) questions for Garr Reynolds, the author of, " Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter)."

I especially liked the following question and answer:

Question: How did we get to this place where most presentations suck?

Answer: There are many reasons. First of all, presenting exceptionally well isn’t easy. In fact it’s hard. That’s why we find great presenters—and great communicators in general—so remarkable. They are all too rare. Many professionals simply have never had much practice and just follow conventional wisdom and do it “like everyone else” instead of doing it effectively.

This reinforced my observation of why I inwardly grown at the beginning of most power point presentations. Poor presentation slide decks and too much text on each page just make me cringe. People tend to load the slide decks up with too many words because they don't practice and are afraid of speaking without the crutch of words on the power point page. So many people think that poor presentations is what is normal.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Abiline Paradox

I was reminded today about the Abilene Paradox related by management theorist Jerry Harvey. The paradox begins during a terribly hot Texas summer day. A man and his wife were relaxing one afternoon with the wife's family when someone suggested a trip to Abilene (several miles away) for dinner. The man was was not too keen about driving across a desert, on a scorching summer day. Others seemed keen for the ride, so he kept his objections to himself.

When they arrive in Abilene, the food is bad and they return home exhausted, several hours later. One of the family members dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it."

The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon. (Note thanks to Wikipedia for providing me the final details and quotes).

Sometimes it is human nature to not want to go against the grain, or not want to "rock the boat." Harvey's point was that individuals in organizations are often concerned about standing out and being the "odd dissenting person," that groups can end up acting on decisions that don't necessarily reflect the views of any of their individual members, often defeating the very goal they are out to achieve. Another example of irrational decision-making.

What behaviors in your group or organization discourages individuals from openly voicing their feelings or pursuing their desires? If your group or family is on the road to Abilene, then you may arrive at a place where logical values can fall victim to group dynamics.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Storage Organization

From construction equipment and yard care equipment to toys and sports equipment, the storage of goods has become a burden for most middle-class families. There is a storage crisis in California. One UCLA study indicated 75% of families studied had so much in their garages, that cars would no longer fit.

So, do these so-called families have an excess of goods they just have to keep around? But is it organized? I would guess not. In my house, we're always in PURSUIT of organization. I need to get rid of the clutter.

A recent wall street journal article said the following:

"According to the International Housewares Association, closet and storage items were the fastest growing housewares category over the past five years, with consumer spending increasing at an average of 20.5% per year. The association's latest HomeTrend Influentials study ranks home organization and home storage among the hottest housewares product categories through 2010."

What's new in organization products? I'll need to look. I see organization companies popping up, but I have not found the ideal solution for me.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Test Technorati

I'm doing a test. Is anybody reading my blogs? I am actually trying to discover what blogging is really about. I've read blogs for years, but never really considered writing a blog. But during the end of December I was doing some inner thinking and deciding I wanted a change, but I dont know what is yet on the horizon. So, I thought I would experiment with a blog, and see what I ended up writing about. So this particular blog is my experiment with linking to Technorati.

UPDATE: After testing, I decided I didnt want to use the account I set up in Technorati. I didnt realize the member name I created would show up on my blog. I would have created a different name. So, back to the drawing board.

Files, files, and more files

I'm cleaning out the desk of someone who was layed off after several years. I am trying to organize her "stuff," which was really some of the company's important papers. Some papers, she seemed to not know what to do with. As a company, we tried many organization systems -- scanning everything, filing some things, etc. I loved it when we scanned most documents as I seem to be able to sort folders electronically better than I do actual physical files (plus there's always "spotlight" search on my computer).

Today I read about 2 sites: and will scan your receipts for you for $19.95/month. I dont know what a company rate pricing is, but I'm curious. FileMyReceipt has you scan in the receipts yourself and will store them. This doesnt seem to be much use, as I could store them myself -- even using Amazon storage services if needed. But having someone scan my receipts? Hmmmmm. Sounds like a good idea to me. I wish I knew someone who had used their services.

Monday, January 07, 2008

All-Digital TV is coming....

I knew it was coming. I read a blog that reminded me. On February 17, 2009, federal law requires that all full-power television broadcast stations stop broadcasting in analog format and broadcast only in digital format.

So, I hopped over to the government website that gave me the scoop. I guess my 10+ year old TV wont work. We don't use cable, but rather use antenna. But then, I don't remember the last time I turned the TV on. I'm more content watching DVD's of movies and old TV shows using a big screen projector. Or, I'm watching YouTube on my iPhone. I seem to get all my news via the internet. Maybe I don't much care that All Digital TV is coming.

Of course, its another issue as to whether the government will be ready for February 2009.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Great Communicators

I read an interesting blog today by Bert Decker: Top Ten Best (and Worst) Communicators of 2007. Communication is so important today in so many aspects of business and life. There are many lessons to be learned if you think about why these communicators were chosen.

Puzzle Pirates

My favorite online multi-player game is Puzzle Pirates. Even my kids are "addicted." Its a great game. It has a little "economy" going where you can earn POE (Pieces of Eight) performing different "missions" like sword fighting, sailing or bilging -- just to name a very few. POE can be exchanged for Doubloons. The exchange rate changes constantly, so its like a mini bank. Players use the POE and doubloons to buy all sorts of things -- clothes, buildings, ships, merchant stalls, etc. Characters are anonymous, so you dont have to disclose who you are.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Costa Maya Dreaming

It must be all the Southern California rain today. I can't help but think of the sunshine in Mexico. Although I just had a vacation, one of the best vacations I ever had was at Mayan Beach Garden. Mayan Beach Garden Inn is located 20 km north of Mahajual. They had great cabanas and the food was excellent. Check out their recipe for chocolate molten cake and banana pancakes. Yum Yum. If cabanas aren't your style, the wonderful hosts there can help locate other places for you to stay. And speaking of wonderful hosts, Marcia and Kim are great examples of good customer service. They go out of their way to make your stay the best it can be.

Pessimistic Moment

OK, so 2/3 of the people in our company will be at CES this week. I know trade shows are stressful, yet there is still an emotional high at being at one -- working the booth, talking to real customers, discussing deals, etc. BUT, as one of those who get left behind to take care of the office and end of the year fiscal details, I hate the feeling of being left behind and not being part of the action.

Speaking of politics

I read this in a Reader's Digest magazine I found at the airport:

"Like all federal workers, members of Congress (and their dependents) are eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program..... For less than $1,000 a year, they and their Senate colleagues can also drop by the office of the Capitol’s physician, where a $2 million-per-year staff of nearly 20 doctors, nurses and technicians is at their service. For major operations, they’ve got access to top-notch government facilities like Bethesda Naval Medical Center, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had his heart bypass surgery a few years ago. "

Unless congress gets to live like the rest of us, we'll probably never see health care reform in the US.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Goal Misalignment

I've been thinking of an old classic management article I read in graduate school. Steven Kerr's, "On the folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B." I found an updated shortened version of it here.

This article is still pertinent and relevant today. I keep thinking about it as I work in a start-up.

What about start-ups? What is the reward system -- options and buyouts? Bonuses? Does management and shareholders have long-term goals in mind? Or are they rewarding just short-term earnings? Is long-term profit being sacrificed for short-term advantages? Are Investors goals in alignment with employee goals? Investors, Managers, and Employees will seldom seek the same outcomes, thus controlling investors and management may need to be aware of what they are rewarding.

Consider the example of investors wanting the company to be "cost conscious." But investors (or management acting on investor wishes -- and this distinction is important) may not really be explicit in describing how that goal is to be achieved, neither do they reward effective cost consciousness. This is really an intangible goal that isn't really very specific and may result in a a different outcome than really intended. Costs may be "cut" for appearances sake to show an effort is being made to reduce spending, without thinking through all the implications of a cost cut. A cut may be made that actually reduces productivity.

Differences in perceptions can cause goal misalignment. Different individuals may receive different cues from the environment than others and many perceive different behavior as a necessity to accomplish avowed ends. Perceptions of how the company may fulfill an individual's goals may also be incongruent, leading to unfulfilled expectations and misunderstandings.

I also think about this article we hear so much about politics (OK, so who is going to win in New Hampshire?) . Politics drive me crazy. Most voters are united in one great purpose: "More." Few individuals can be elected who promote "Less." Thus, politicians are elected who have promised more -- more police, more schools, bigger pensions, etc. The political reward system is designed such that it is irrational to produce less. Who wants to vote for someone who promises less? Yet, voters are crying for less expenses, budget cuts, etc. This conflicts with the way individuals vote. Are we as a people rewarding the behavior we want? Are we rewarding "more" while hoping for "less?"