Recently in Productivity Category
March 4, 2013
I really like this thoughtful approach to designing how you read, store and respond to online content.
I must do the same.
October 9, 2012
Nearly four years ago I liveblogged Luis Suarez talking about his nine-month old project to abandon e-mail. How's it going, after nearly five years? Well, he's still not using e-mail, and he hasn't been sacked yet, and he's lost a load of weight, based on photos from the two events...
His talk was as much an interaction with the audience as a talk, and not really a great opportunity to liveblog - but here are my notes:
- 71% of the employee workforce is totally disengaged. 7/10 don't give a shit about you. Employees are not their to do your work, but their work. This is your problem
- We're going to stop using e-mail to bully, to build power, to cover our arses. Half of some employees' workday goes to e-mail. What a waste.
- By dropping e-mail, he's both challenged the status quo, and shown people a better way of working through being open on the network. Four years ago, everyone thought he would be fired. Now, he's featured in their video adverts for their social business offerings.
- He believes in what he's doing, he owns his work. He lives in his networks.
- He gives a shit about what he does.
- Define how addicted you are to e-mail. Resist the urge to respond to e-mail. Inbox zero is bullshit. It doesn't exist. Break the fucking chain.
And that was that. Now I suppose I ought to write something about what I took away from the day...
August 13, 2012
Theme Park is a great, interesting attempt at doing a deep, thought-provoking blog. Well worth a few minutes of your time.Like so many tyrants, paper was overthrown - by the digital age. And, like so many revolutions, we just exchanged one tyranny for another. We took the wire as our new ruler, and it bound us tightly to our desk. The electric cables to power our computers; the ethernet jacks connecting us to the internet; even the twisted copper of the phone line all conspired to keep us on the office's side of the window.
March 8, 2012
Dan Satterthwaite, head of human resources at Dreamworks Animation gave a fascinating talk about how they've built a company that has coped with three major technology shifts, and fosters a creative work environment.
The first shift, of course, was from the hand-drawn, photographed and transferred to film workflow that dominated early animation, through to a CGI-dominated company. The transformation needed to backup that process was revolutionary at the time. It was 20 years ago, but the effects are still being felt. We had 1000 employees, now we have 2200 - but half of those started in the last three years.
60% of the employees made the transition from hand-drawn to CGI animation. It took an extraordinary amount of training and effort. They'd previously partnered with PDI that did CGI for adverts. They bought PDI, and a set of competancies with them. Animators essentially have to have acting skills to animate these characters.
The generational shift has happened lightening fast - and it left some people behind. There are a set of people doing different work now, because they weren't able - or willing - to make the shift.
Then they had the new wave of 3D. It's vastly different from the old 3D, because things are authored in 3D, so the wrokforce needed to be retrained in 3D thinking.
Now, they have multi-core processing in chips, which means they can do more, faster. They have models which know how the characters "function" and so can animate on an iPad-like device, just by tweaking the face rather than manually shifting numerical values about.
Stage 1 and 2 was seven years. Between 2 and 3? Three years. Maybe the next one will only be two years away?
March 6, 2012
Not much time for blogging today; between meetings, travelling, and doing some paid writing work, this old blog has been sadly neglected. (And yes, I'm aware I owe you a "redundancy two months on" and a "nine years of One Man & His Blog' post.) But I have learnt one very important lesson from use of my iPad as my main computer for the last 30 hours or so: I've found my perfect combination for long-form writing:
- iPad in vertical orientation
- Keyboard (in my case, the keyboard dock)
- iA Writer
It's such a clean, focused writing environment that my attention stays focused on the job, and the words just flow out of me. Honestly, I wish I'd had this combination back in the days when I was bashing out 5,000 to 10,000 words in a day to hit a deadline on a White Wolf book. It would have made life so much easier.
In an odd way, it's the closest thing to a typewriter I've seen modern technology produce, combining the basic proportions and aesthetics of that writing experience with all the comforts of spell-checking and immediate access to the web for research that modern technology brings.
I suspect I'll be using this combination for much of my writing, even once the MacBook Pro is back in play.
(I suspect I owe Mr Belam some credit for introducing me to iA Writer. But he's my arch-enemy, so I won't give it to him... ;-) )
March 5, 2012
Well, if I wanted a good opportunity to test out the iPad as a primary work tool, I have it now. My MacBook Pro is off with the Apple doctors at Brighton's Genius Bar for a brain transplant. And it could be gone for up to 14 days...!
While I can grab some time on my wife's iMac, it means that my iPad is going to be my primary working tool for the next few days at the very least. Perhaps that's apposite in the week that Apple is due to launch the iPad 3. :-)
All posts for the next few days will be coming from Blogsy, the rather lovely iPad blogging app I've talked about before. Should be a fun little experiment, especially with some event liveblogging coming up later in the week...
February 8, 2012
O2 is today launching what’s it’s calling “the biggest flexible working initiative of its kind,” as it lets a quarter of its 12,000-strong workforce work remotely for the day.
Employees at the UK mobile operator’s Slough HQ will carry out their daily duties as normal, except they’ll be working from home – or another suitable ‘remote’ location, as O2 closes the doors and switches off the lights at its 200,000 sq ft offices near London.
It's an interesting experiment. Most knowledge workers can work from anywhere with WiFi, so long as they have a laptop and a mobile phone with them. Personally, I think home working is over-rated. Nice for a day or two a week, but no more than that. I'd rather be out and about, working amongst my contents, clients and the industry I'm part of. Journalists - to my mind - spend far too much time in the office, and not nearly enough out and about in the industry they're reporting on.
November 1, 2011
July 22, 2011
Those who know me are aware that, on the whole, I prefer the arrive late/ leave late approach to work. I skip the worst of the commuting, get more done befoe I leave home, and generally feel better about life. In my world, the early bird might catch the worm, but it gets grumpy and doesn't eat it because he feels a little sick.
But some things are worth getting up early for. I'm a big fan of the Like Minds events, and the idea of a business book club from them could just be tailor-made for me. And so, I dragged myself out of bed early enough to join them at The Hospital Club this morning to hear Scott Belsky talk about his book Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality.
After a rather scrummy bacon buttie and some pain au chocolat (which are pretty much worth getting out bed for, frankly), we settled down to hear him explain how the hell to get creative people to actually buckle down and deliver.
Most ideas never happen, suggested Belsky. He wishes for an idea meritocracy, where only the best survive... Don't we all? And he, like the rest of us has become convinced that ideas don't happen because they're great. That takes away the romantic notion that a great idea will come to fruition.. Most ideas never happen because of the double-edged sword of creativity. When an idea strikes, energy and excitement is high. But it subsides as you get into execution, eroded by the drudgery of project management. How do you escape the drudgery and return to the excitement? To many of us just come up with a new idea and get excited by that instead, so things never get completed.
One shouldn't understimate the gravitational force of operations, suggested Belsky. The demands of the grind take over, and the ideas never get executed. A strategic offsite gets overwhelmed by daily life. Creative people tend to be disorganised. So, getting ideas in all about defying the odds. Some teams are able to do that again and agaimn - how?
You have to overcome reactionary workflow, the endless stream of communication that can blight our lives. We're in the era of reactionary workflow, pecking away at the inboxes of our lives and trying to stay afloat. Belsky gives the example of a friend who commuted by car, and found himself a deep thinking/sacred space while driving. Then he got a new car with iPhone linkage. Goodbye non-stimulation time. Creating windows of non-stimulation where you ignore social media and e-mail inputs and focus down on the things you want to achieve can be incredibly helpful.
And you should spend time on organisation. The equation:
Creativity x Organisation = Impact
It doesn't matter how much creativity you have, if you don't invest time in organisation, you will have zero impact. For the last three years Apple, a company reknowned for creativity, has won an award for the best supply chain management. Many have speculated that COO Tim Cook is as important to the company as CEO Steve Jobs.
- Organise with a bias to action
- Go into creativity workshops and focus on the action steps
- If meetings lead to nothing actionable - replace them with an e-mail? A stand-up?
- Culture of capturing action steps.
- Surround yourself with evidence of progress
Three base types of people:
- Dreamer - something new all the time. Goes to bed happy when there are new things in the pepline
- Doer - says "no", extinguishes ideas. Goes to bed happy with nothing new in the pipeline
- Incrementalist - rotates between the two. They create too much and never scale them.
Value the team's immune system. Doers can extinguish distractions. Dreamers bring new things. Empower different people at different times based on which of these three groups they fall into.
Share your ideas liberally and allow others to comment on them. Those which garner the most reaction are probably the ones you should focus on. Chris Anderson just pushes all his ideas on his blog (both internal and external.) Is there a risk of premature sharing, and your ideas being nicked? The benefits outweigh the costs.
Fights force people to explore each other's opinion. However don't let these fights push people into apathy. When you stop exploring opinions, you stop performing.
- Don't be burdened by consensus.
- Overcome the stigma of self-marketing
- Curate because it attracts attention, and then people will listen when you have something new to say.
And he finshed on a note that I found particularly compelling: gain confidence from doubt.
"If 99% of people think you're crazy, you're either crazy or onto something. We shun people before we celebrate them. Status quo is the grease on the wheels of society."
But sometimes, status quo is another word for terminal decline...
It was a good talk, and I'm now throughly lookiong forward to diving into the book. Scott Gould has already reviewed it, and comments from the other book clubbers should start flowing over the week. Ve Interactive blogged the event, too.
September 26, 2009
Social is not new, businesses have known about social for a long time. It's the greater access that we now have (potentially) to learn more about how to do stuff well through collaboration that we are excited about - or we should be. Imagine if you could connect with people who think like you throughout the organizationImagine indeed...
October 24, 2008
JP Rangaswami of BT Design went a little bit further in that direction, by outlining how social tools can usefully become part of our working practices - and even build on some of the existing ones.
Social tools enavble the communities within businesses to emerge. There are fewer figures of authority and it's more a peer space than the traditional heirarchial business.
And it's worth bearing in mind that communities are not mutually exclusive. You can be (and are part) of many communities, and (if you're lucky) many communities select you to be part of them.
Young people today are going to come into the workplace used to pervasive. mobile communications and they're not going to be impressed with the static, lock-down worsktations we have now.
"They're pre-trained not to think as stupidly as previous generations," said JP.
And you only get proper levels of productivity by loosening you grip on these tools. Instant messenging can be important because it's one of the few forms of communication where it's polite to be silent. "Are you still there?" has become part of the language of phones because mobiles drop connections. In IM it's not necessary, because there's a status, allowing you to see if people are online or not, or if they're busy, or away from their computers. In this context, e-mail has almost become snail mail - people become irritated if you don't reply.
So, public indications of what you're doing is useful. But in most companies, Outlook rules our lives, and it can tell you that the best time for this group of people to meet is this date. But it doesn't share or advertise that information beyond that group.
Compare that to Twitter where you can have a person to person conversation using the @username protocol, but it's in public. You can take it private if you want, through direct mesages, but the conversation is still captured in a useful form.
This isn't particualrly new - there have been forms of an activity stream or newsfeed since 2006 at least. But using these activity streams for aggregation of community activity is valuable. If you can share that data maongst working teams - or communities - you gain the benefits of the network effect.