Book Take-Aways and a Google Privacy Policy #FAIL

Today I learned:

1. Take-aways: I was reading the materials provided for an upcoming leadership training program I am participating in and one of the stats given was intriguing: Only 1% of people who read a business book will actually implement any of the ideas.

There was no source provided so I can’t back this up (and for this reason I am not citing where I read it), but it does seem like a reasonable guesstimate.  It got me thinking. Am I part of the 99%…or the 1%?

It seems in this area I am not doing too bad, but I could be doing better. When I read I already do it pen in hand and I am forever circling, underlining and bending page corners to keep note of things that hit home for me.  That said, I rarely look back to recalibrate on the lessons learned. Tonight I decided to change that with a new strategy.

Whenever I finish a book, if I think there are things I need to implement, I am going to schedule a 30 minute reflection in my calendar about a month away to revisit it.  If I find that time helpful I will schedule another one a bit further down the road.

To experiment, I tried it tonight with Peter Legge’s The Power of a Dream which I finished in the fall of 2011. It turns out there were several lessons and anecdotes I have actually used, but the refresher reminded me of a few gems I had forgotten.  A worthy exercise it seems. My assumption is that with a powerful book after 2-3 reviews I should be able to ingrain the key points permanently. Will it take more? Maybe, but this plan is a start, and it seems a useful experiment. Why not invest another couple hours or so in a book you feel strongly about? Otherwise it just gathers dust.

I am interested to know if anyone else does something similar – any comments?

2. Google Age Restrictions? Privacy Policy #Fail: Google products are integrated deeply into my life and the way things are going I assume they will be weaved into the lives of my kids too. That’s why I am quite concerned with a piece of their new privacy policy.  I was reading up on the changes tonight and I found this link outlining a new age requirement of 13 years for a Google Account in Canada.

Presumably this was done to match the existing Google+ age-restriction policy, but I see a problem with it.

Gmail is email. It is not Google+, and not Facebook. It is social, but not a social network. Integrating all our accounts across platforms makes some sense, but not when it limits access to the most basic communication tool they have – email. That’s akin to telling me when I was growing up in the 1980’s that I wasn’t allowed to buy stamps.

This could actually create a problem for me – I already have accounts for my kids. In fact, they had them in the womb. They are not even close to 13, and while the kids don’t even know about them yet, my wife and I actually use them. We send them things like pictures and funny one liners as sort of e-diary which we hope they will one day enjoy reading.

Will we let the kids use the accounts prior to age 13?  That was certainly the plan.  From what I understand lots of local kids need email as early as grade 1 to manage homework and communicate with their teacher.  I would hate to think this policy could sent my kids flocking to Hotmail, or god forbid, Yahoo.


Steve Jobs was an A–hole and Robin Sharma is a Genius

I can’t seem to read just one book at a time. Typically I have a few going and I switch back and forth depending on my mood. On the nightstand right now is the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, and The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma.

From these two amazing books, today I learned:

1. Steve Jobs was an A–hole (and a Genius): From the sounds of it the only thing you could predict about Steve Jobs was that an encounter with him would be entirely unpredictable.

A terrible boss. Demanding, demeaning, insanely detail focussed. I doubt I could have worked for him but I wish I could have.

A terrible customer. He would never hestitate to explain everything you had done wrong. There was no filter. No mute button. I would have hated dealing with him, but I wish I could have.

A terrible listener. Prepared slides be damned. No way would he sit quietly through your presentation. It would have been impossible to present to the man, but I would have loved to have tried.

An utter genius with an unrelenting drive for perfection. I own 6 products with his stamp on them. I can’t imagine life without them – they make my day easier and remarkably more fun. The more I learn about the man the more I find to both like and dislike, and the more I want to buy his stuff.

2. Robin Sharma is a genius:  I just picked up a copy of The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari, and only a few pages in I am fascinated. I already considered one of his other books, The Leader Who Had No Title, the most simple and simultaneously profound book I have ever read, so it is no surprise I am enthralled with this one too.

As a carryover from school I always read with pen in hand ready to circle things that impact me. This is the passage that hit me today:

What I love about Robin Sharma is the simplicity at the core of everything he writes. Stripped down messages not unlike Aesop’s fables. This passage presents such a simple concept in a way that is easy to action. After today I know that the next time I am presented with an idea I will be sure to ask myself, “Is my cup full or empty?”

Email-free Day and Overtime Solves Nothing

Today I learned:

1. Email-free Day: Email has been getting out of hand for me lately. From wasted time on CYA activities (noted in an earlier blog) to the mass of incoming and outgoing messages I deal with everyday it is all a bit overwhelming.  I checked my sent items this morning and quickly determined that in the past two weeks I have sent 422 messages.

I decided today would be different.

My goal? Zero sent messages.

9 hours later…mission accomplished!

I will admit three times I caught myself pecking out a reply to someone but each time I quickly caught myself and either made a return call or just walked over to their desk instead.

As a result, I learned a simple lesson. You talk to a hell of a lot more people in a day when you commit to sending less email. Presumably this is a good thing. This trial showed me email-free days could be worthy of a bit more experimentation.  Finding a way to stop reading them for a day might be next.

2. Overtime solves nothing: When I chair a meeting it starts on time. People know this, so they quickly adjust and show up on time.  Very rarely do I allow my meetings to go over the scheduled time slot too, and certainly not without checking on the participants to see if it is both ok and agreed it will be worth it.

After participating in two meetings today that both started and ended late it occurred to me extra time at the end rarely solves anything. Whether you start on time or not, if you haven’t solved the problem by the scheduled end, rarely is another 15 minutes going to solve anything. Often it is better to move on and then, only if necessary, revisit later when everyone can come in fresh.

Lying to your kids and a Kodak Moment

Today I learned:

1. Don’t lie to your kids: If you accidently break one of your daughter’s toys you need to own up to it. The other natural alternative – telling her it was destroyed by the wolves in the backyard who ate it when it was left out last night – is just a story full of holes that will be picked apart by your highly analytical child at roughly 3:17 am.

2. A Kodak Moment: On the drive to work I listened to an article from the Economist contrasting Kodak’s failed attempt to transition its brand from a dying industry, with that of rival firm Fuji-film which has successfully altered its course, surprisingly, towards a position within the cosmetic industry (among other ventures).

At lunch I found another Kodak article, this time by Seth Godin, that addresses the difficulty successful incumbents have in identifying a new course – my favourite quote being Kodak was “so in love with their success that they insisted the world change in their favor, as opposed to embracing the future that was sure to arrive.”

The lifecycle concept applies to every company in every business and (simplistically speaking at least) only the speed of transition for the industry really differs. Despite that, it is amazing to see how many companies live in the present rather than planning for tomorrow.  Personally, it certainly made me think about what percentage of my day I spend in the present and what percent I spend planning for the future. I decided to setup a simple reminder – a bit of “Kodak Time” is now scheduled into my monthly calendar.

As a aside, a special message to the strategists at Kodak:

Dear Kodak,

Digital printing will not save you guys, either.  It might not even be viable by the time you get good at it.



iPads, Apps & a 4 year old plus the Boy Scouts got it right

Today I learned:

1. iPads, Apps, and a 4 year old: My natural response to hearing a 4 year old say, “Daddy, can you plug in the iPad to the laptop and load the Dora app from iTunes again – I accidently deleted it,” is confusion, silence and obedient action. In that order.

2. Always be prepared: My boss and I met with a group from another organization today and I was reminded of a lesson from the Boy Scout handbook. She had put in several hours prep work for a brief meeting aimed at discussing a new project. The other group had put in zero prep, likely expecting to participate in exploratory discussions before really launching things in the next meeting.

Her work – basically a draft project charter – set the course for the meeting, helped bring everyone onside quickly, and put us off and running in the direction we want. The work will ultimately be a collaborative partnership so the time spent up front may or may not help us end up in a better place in the end, but there is no question that it will help us get there through a more efficient process.

Free Money and Virtual Punishment

Today I learned:

1. There is free money: I met someone today that told me (and I am closely paraphrasing here), “We are in a golden age. Money is essentially free.  The investment climate is such that we can guarantee returns in the future will be better than the returns we can obtain today. That means you need to spend your dollar today on (insert crazy idea), because the same dollar will be worth less tomorrow.”
I thought about arguing but I couldn’t quite decide where to start. Then I decided that the lesson from this was more easily learned: I now know one more place I will not invest my money.
2. Virtual Punishment feels good:  I spoke to a person that told me he was watching the movie I Don’t Know How She Does it, and it was so bad he stopped it, deleted it and then made sure to take the extra step and empty the Trash on his computer as some sort of punishment for the bits and bytes that made up the digital file. He said it made him feel better to know the cinematic atrocity was completely removed from his computer.
It occurred to me that while I agree with his sentiment – I have done exactly the same thing – it is completely illogical. Why bother emptying the Trash? And, why does it make you feel so good?
Assuming related animal research (link p. 159, paragraph 3) is transferrable, the desire to punish appears to be innate. I suppose it is the origin of “an eye for an eye.” But that only answers why an angry person might pick on something tangible, like kicking a flat tire or cursing a jammed printer. It doesn’t answer why virtual punishment makes any sense.
The only explanation I can come up with is that as our devices get “smarter” we also begin to attribute human characteristics to them.  There is some sense to this.  We’ve all seen Mad Max so we know how things turn out. I bet no one is Trashing that file, for fear of reprisal.

Email: Butt-covering and Productivity Measures

Today I learned:

1. Covering my butt:  I spend alot of my day preaching transparency, open communication, and the need to nurture trusting relationships. Simultaneously I save just about every incoming and outgoing email, and am I required to call on my stash all too often to cover my butt. I don’t like it, and never have. Today I learned I still need my stash and I have not figured out how to kill the endless loop. If only we could all delete them and start actually talking instead of documenting.

This gives me an idea: Would it be possible to go one single day at work without sending an internal email?  A worthy experiment for next week maybe…

2. First thing in the morning: On Seth’s Blog yesterday there is a post about the first thing when we sit at the computer in the morning. Essentially the question is this: Do you consume or do you create?

This got me thinking about a simple change I made a few months ago and how it is truly working. I setup my Outlook to open to a folder I labelled as Priority Inbox which holds those items that I decide are critical for the day ahead. Before I leave at night I make sure my Priority Inbox holds the key tasks for tomorrow and, most importantly, absolutely nothing else. That way when I sit down the first thing I see is what I need to see, and not what other people might want me to see.  Seth’s Blog help remind me that this little trick is working like a charm.

(Note: I don’t use task lists – I email myself things that need to be done, calls to return etc. If it is important enough, then those “tasks” are in my Priority Inbox, along with everything else.)

PVR with my Dad and Story time with Angry Birds

Today I learned:

1. The concept of the PVR is lost on my dad. This is despite the fact he owned one before me.

Our conversation tonight:

Me (immediately upon Dad’s arrival): Don’t tell me what happens in the hockey game, I PVR’d it.

Dad: You’re going to want to watch the first period, and then not much else until the shootout.

The lesson saved me a couple hours I guess.

2. Story time works with Angry Birds: In an attempt to mix things up, story time with my daughter has recently involved a fictional monkey (which she appropriately named Parakeet) and his travels around the world, supplemented by photos from google images of different cities viewed on our Ipad.

Inventive I thought, but admittedly I just wasn’t up for it tonight. Fighting a bit of a cold my creativity was waning, but I figured out a way to deal with it.

Story time tonight involved a gang of very angry birds who were intent on knocking over bad-guy pigs. Why? Well, the pigs had eaten all their birdseed of course. She seemed to enjoy it, and in the meantime I passed 5 more levels so I am calling it a win-win. I now have an idea for tomorrow too – an alligator that is sad because he want a bath, but he can’t find the water!