Chick TV and Addiction to Gadgets

Today I learned:

1. I can’t watch a chick shows: Grey’s Anatomy, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars – they are all the same to me. Intolerable.

I simply can not watch these shows without constantly groaning about the problems I see and providing a sarcastic running commentary. At the same time I am happy to lose myself for a short time in sitcoms that are no more stimulating, like How I Met your Mother or The Big Bang Theory. This must drive my wife nuts.

2. My Addiction to (Useless?) Gadgets is Flourishing: The realization dawned on my today as I clicked “confirm” to finalize my online purchase of a Fitbit activity tracker that will help me monitor both my activities and sleep, syncing wirelessly to the web and – the kicker – allowing me to track the information obtained through an app on my phone.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not buyers remorse talking. I meticulously research these things and only buy stuff that I am convinced works well and I will use. It is just that I seem to have an addiction to these marginally useful products.

The evidence?

A few other things I own, and use everyday to make my life more enjoyable or easier, but I don’t really need:

  • Watch with a vibrating alarm, so that it wakes me up to exercise without stirring my wife.
  • TV remote app, so I can turn my TV on/off and change the volume when the kids lose the remote.
  • Bluetooth car speaker, solely to listen to the Economist from my phone will commuting to and from work.
  • Remote controlled light switches for all the bedrooms. Basically a glorified clapper, and a ridiculous luxury, but they look cool.

Ultimately I think it is good design that gets me. This is also why I have a love-in for most Apple products. If the gadget is simple, works flawlessly and looks good then I am an easy mark. Alternatively, if it doesn’t fit all those criteria and it somehow makes it into my home (e.g.this recent gift, which arguably fails all three tests), it is destined for the garage sale pile.

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Serving Feedback in a Sh*t Sandwich, plus The Death of Cable TV

Today I learned:

1. The Sh* Sandwich: I had a great discussion this morning with a few other managers about performance evaluations and the art of delivering feedback. One person came up with a term that I wasn’t familiar with before today – the Shi*t Sandwich.  Essentially this is the practice of framing a piece of negative/constructive feedback with two positive points.

For example: “You did a job great developing that proposal, John. We need to do a lot of work to get your presentation skills up to par, but in the end you are still great at developing rapport with clients.” Although, we know that with many managers the middle part will be more like, “…your presentation skills suck…” Hence the title.

Regardless, I am not a big fan of this approach.

It is an easy way to get across a tough point but the area for growth can get lost in “the bread.”  I prefer to deliver both the positive and the negative separately, clearly delineating between the two. As well – maybe most importantly – I think it is critical to ensure upfront the person is ready to hear everything you have to say.

My preferred approach would be closer to this: “John, would you like some feedback on our work with Customer X?…Great…I think you did an excellent job in some areas but in a few spots we need to work on improvement. Let’s start with what I think you did very well…”

From my perspective The Sh*t Sandwich is a cop out. It’s an easy way to get tough news across, but in the end if the key piece doesn’t hit home you will just need to revisit it down the road. Better to be clear, with specific examples, up front so you can get to work on the road to improvement.

2. The Death of Cable TV: Admittedly it is not dead yet, but its days are numbered.

In the fall we got a PVR, and we now watch about 5-10% of the commercials we previously watched, mostly when we forget to fast forward.

More recently we signed up for Netflix, and in the last month my 4 year-old daughter hasn’t watched Treehouse TV once. She is only interested in Netflix (via TV, iPad or Computer) as she is in control of what she consumes. She can even pause it to pee.

Add in Apple TV a couple weeks ago and we now stream shows, along with our pictures and music.

Interestingly, with more choice we are actually watching far less TV. Flipping on a slideshow or some music is now viable and fast, so we are turning to more laid back evenings with music, pictures and books. All in all, everything is better, faster and in-line with what we want, when we want it.

Reflecting on it today it occurred to me that it all happened very quickly. Our progression – from basic cable to everything on-demand – took us about 3 months. This spells very bad news for our cable account. If every hockey game was free in HD online we simply wouldn’t need it.

How many years will it take for everyone else to follow the same path? 10 years? 5?



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?”


I’ll never go to the bathroom alone again, and it’s never good when your daughter says…

Today I learned:
1. I’ll never go to the bathroom alone again: My problems in the bathroom are officially solved. No more awkward balancing of the laptop on my knees. All logistical problems have been flushed away. Now that we have an iPad I really can’t imagine going to the bathroom alone again. The only problem that might come up now is getting me out of there.
2. It is never good when your daughter says: “Daddy, you’ll never find your keys!” Today our pleasant little four year old was laughing and laughing while I madly searched the house for the my keys.  A fun game, apparently.