Smarter Devices, Dumber Users

14119236_mlAnticipatory computing – the buzz is growing louder but how much do we need it? Despite the ubiquitous mobile device and it’s plethora of tools for building to-do lists, recording memos, managing our appointments and alerting us about all manner of anniversaries, there still seems to be an emerging market for helping us remember even less ourselves.

Thankfully, in addition to that pressing concern, there are more meaningful ways in which predictive computing is being used in mobile devices. Primarily, these tools tend to focus on helping us manage our ever-complex, time-poor lives by personalizing our information streams and thereby uncluttering the process of finding that most relevant of data morsels. In this article I’ll take a quick poke around to see what’s been happening in this space.

 “It is one thing to use computers as a tool, quite another to let them do your thinking for you.” – Tom Clancy

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Performance Management – Coach or Counsel?

13283719_mlOne of the key responsibilities of both managers and leaders is to encourage and enable peak performance in our teams. From time to time the journey towards this goal will undoubtedly founder upon the rocks of incompetence and low commitment. When this happens the problem is quite likely to be rooted in matters of alignment, accountability and the supporting ecosystem. However, there will often be times when an individual will benefit from, or simply need, focused personal, coaching or counseling. Tackling this early is critical. Doing it right even more so.

“The test of an organisation is not genius. It is its capacity to make common people achieve uncommon performance.” – Peter Drucker

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Resilience – get some

17708483_mlLast week I attended a 1-day conference themed around the idea of Resilience. While we were casually sipping our morning coffee, one of the first speakers asked the audience to raise a hand if they knew someone who had experienced depression – a forest of hands shot into the air – pretty much everyone in the packed conference hall. That surprised me and so did many of the statistics that followed. So, here, I will present a snapshot of what was discussed to help raise awareness a little. I will also distil some of the key recommendations to help you and those you care about build some resilience ahead of time.

In the Australian workplace only 24% are actually engaged whilst 60% are not engaged and 16% are actively disengaged. Moreover, 12% report being highly stressed every day. Apparently, 45% of Australians will have a mental health issue in their lifetime and one in five will actually be experiencing a mental health issue at any given time. Look around you. Worryingly, 86% of us prefer to suffer in silence.

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I won’t need to innovate in my job

3683769_mlI recently learnt that many college and university students are uninterested in the ideas and techniques that underpin innovation because they feel that it doesn’t apply to them. If they do not envisage becoming entrepreneurs or designers or engineers or scientists then what’s the point? I do not believe it is a massive leap of the imagination to assume that this type of thinking might also permeate the general working populace. That’s disappointing because there are very few, if any, organisations that are content to rest on their laurels and coast along at the same levels of performance year on year in any part of their value chain. If you want to avoid slipping back in the pack then you have got to innovate and this applies to every area not just the laboratories… 

“Innovation opportunities do not come with the tempest but with the rustling of the breeze” – Peter Drucker

I believe that the problem is two-fold. The first is an issue with the perception of what innovation is really about. The second is the lack of a supporting culture and environment.

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Why aren’t they doing what I want?

25944867_mlFor the most part, people do not do things unless they are motivated to do so. Of course, I’m ignoring the various forms of coercion since they are always inappropriate. Actually, motivation, on its own, is not enough. People must also be able to do what is required of them and they must receive some kind of trigger to spur them into action. This is the basis of the Fogg behaviour model and was originally focused on UX design. Its application is much broader and it can be nicely integrated with a number of other useful viewpoints that I’ll be introducing below.

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Don’t Torpedo Your 1-on-1s

25576130_mlI’ve always found 1-on-1s an extremely powerful management tool. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I am referring to a regular meeting with each of your first reports or your manager that is just the two of you maintaining the relationship, staying aligned, understanding goals and removing obstacles. Communication is a fundamental part of both leadership and management and it needs to be open, frequent and, importantly, two-way. A 1-on-1 is the perfect forum for ensuring this is being done effectively. It is not a team meeting. It is not a surrogate for some other project meeting you wish you’d had. It is about continual and constructive engagement, collaboration and growth.

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Stephen Covey

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Don’t be a micromanager

29910420_mlI’ve heard a few stories of late from people unhappy with the level of interference they are experiencing from managers who insist on particular ways of working. Ranging from detailed lists to hourly check-ins this micromanagement undermines trust and subtracts value from both people and processes. It brings to mind several quotations but this one serves my purpose eloquently:

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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Manager or Leader? – what the?

22783955_mlRecently there’s been a fair bit of chatter on LinkedIn and elsewhere debating the differences between a manager and a leader. It seems important to some people – typically those that see it as some sort of hierarchical transition. I have thrown my two-cents worth into the ring by stating “good managers lead and good leaders manage”. Surely it is an anachronistic folly to think that a manager can somehow be effective without demonstrating leadership qualities and, likewise, that a leader can get away with ignoring sound management practice.

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Overloaded? – propose an alternative

11797609_mlI often meet people who claim to be overloaded – too much work, no resources, no time. I also meet people that get extraordinary things done whilst somehow cutting through the noise of overload.

The secret is simply a matter of priority, focus and commitment. What is important is to focus on what matters most and deliver that. Of course, ascertaining what matters most is influenced by context, objectives and the needs and support of other stakeholders.

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Meetings – make them productive

1558393_mlHow much do you enjoy going to meetings? In my view meetings can be the second biggest time-waster after email. I’m sure you’ve been in a meeting where it seemed there was no clear point, no end in sight or where no decisions were made. Maybe you’ve got a meeting like that today. Anyway, despite our regular participation in meetings day after day, it amazes me how poorly organized and managed they can often be.

We put up with much and seem to apply little of what we have learned when it comes to our turn to call a meeting. So here I am sharing a few of my golden rules for meetings in the hope that they inspire some more productive meetings down the track…

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