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Archive for the ‘Good to know’ Category

When Marty Kotis looked at his company’s monthly wireless bill, he found a stunning charge — for 2,500 text messages on a single staffer’s phone.

There was more: Another staffer had 800, and a third, 700.

But Kotis, who owns a real estate development firm in Greensboro, NC, didn’t reprimand his employees, although many of the messages were personal in nature. Instead, he put it all into perspective.

“The people that had the high text numbers are very good at their jobs,” said Kotis, president of Kotis Properties. “They worked weekends, extra hours. I had them do a lot of things for me outside of general work hours.”

Just a few years ago, owners were adjusting to workers spending time surfing the internet. Now, it’s texting friends or communicating via Facebook or Twitter. And bosses are learning that as long as the work is getting done, it makes sense to let employees take high-tech breaks.

As Kotis pointed out, many staffers are also working well outside of business hours. “There is blending of work and personal time going on,” he said, and so it’s fair for employees to take some time during the workday for personal matters.

He said of his own company, “we give them things like work cell phones and ask them to carry them at 8 at night to take calls.”

Clamping down on texting, Twitter and the like can give your workplace an unpleasant atmosphere — something that could ultimately hurt your productivity now, and make it hard for you to retain good employees, especially as the economy improves.

“You have to give an environment where people want to be,” said Damian Bazadona, owner of Situation Interactive, a New York-based marketing firm. He also noted there’s a quid-pro-quo in many businesses — the same people who are texting are often eating lunch at their desks.

Both Kotis and Bazadona noted that activities like texting and using Facebook and Twitter are more likely to be done by younger staffers, who use these tools to communicate with the entire world. That means they’re probably using those communication channels for work, too. Kotis said one of his employees “pretty much did a deal through text.”

The key is being sure that employees aren’t abusing the privilege of spending personal time on the Internet or texting at work. Kotis recalled an employee who was sending and receiving personal e-mails during a meeting, and acting as if he was taking notes about the session on a laptop.

“He got fired on the spot for that,” Kotis said.

Kotis’ employee wasn’t being discreet about e-mailing, so it was easy to catch him. But a lot of high-tech communicating is harder to detect.

Not to worry, Bazadona said, a worker’s falling productivity will alert an owner to a problem.

“You can tell in their workload,” he said, adding that co-workers who are pulling their weight are likely to let a boss know when someone else is goofing off.

Kotis said that hiring a solid, hard-working staff should mean that a small business will have few problems with employees spending too much time online or texting. In the few cases where that has happened, Kotis found when he questioned staffers they would acknowledge they’ve had too much high-tech down time.

Kotis said he approached a staffer who was spending too much time on Facebook, and the employee immediately cut back.

The staffer with the huge text bill didn’t realise how many messages she had sent and received. She offered to pay for her personal messages, and told Kotis, “I want to let you know I’m not just wasting your time.”

Source: Daily Star

The proposed new Google GDrive could kill off the personal computer, experts have warned.

The Google Drive service, which will reportedly launch later this year, allows users to store information online on Google’s own servers rather than on the hard drive.

The process has been dubbed ‘cloud computing’ and is being seen as ‘the most anticipated Google product so far’.

The GDrive would mean users would no longer have to worry about their hard drives crashing as their data could be accessed from any internet connection, a move that could effectively make PCs redundant.

However, there are concerns over the security of storing such a high degree of personal data online rather than a PC with experts warning that Google will gain unprecedented control over users’ information.

Peter Brown, of the Free Software Foundation, a charity which helps defend computer users liberties told the Times: ‘It’s a little bit like saying, “we’re in a dictatorship, the trains are running on time”.

‘But does it matter to you that someone can see everything on your computer? Does it matter that Google can be subpoenaed at any time to hand over all your data to the American government?’

The GDrive would mark a departure from the Microsoft Windows operating system and will enable users to treat their computer as software rather than hardware.

Dave Armstrong of Google Enterprise, said: ‘There’s a clear direction…away from people thinking “This is my PC, this is my hard drive” to “This is how I interact with information, this is how I interact with the web”‘.

A Google spokesman refused to confirm if the GDrive was to be introduced soon.

Source: Daily Mail

Suppose every utterance and facial expression at a meeting were routinely captured and archived in high-definition digital video recordings – searchable and available in perpetuity. Would this be a godsend or a nightmare? The answer is probably HBR List 2009 logoboth, but we’re about to findout for sure. Within a few years, a synthesis of technologies from an array of companies will make possible a “total recall system,” or TRS, that can produce such recordings.

Let’s say you miss an important meeting. Instead of having to piece it together from the contradictory accounts of those who were there, you will be able to log in to your company’s TRS and search a recording of the meeting for the stuff you really care about. Or maybe you’d like to revisit discussions that stretched over a series of meetings and led to an important decision for which you are partly accountable. All the deliberations along the way – advocacy, misgivings, evolving positions – are there for your review. Of course, if the decision turns out to have been a bad one, the record will likewise be there to vindicate or implicate dissenters and promoters alike.

Indeed, TRS is a double-edged sword. A silly suggestion made in a brainstorming meeting might end up on YouTube, Yahoo Video, or MSN Video. Every thoughtless or sarcastic comment could potentially come back to haunt its maker in an HR inquiry or a lawsuit. Recorded content would be discoverable, potentially increasing the already staggering costs and complexity of litigation. Clearly, digital-rights protections that prevent the unauthorized from accessing these records will be hugely important. On the other hand, companies could use the recordings to defend themselves in court. And software programs will be able to dig through the recordings to identify people’s expertise and network ties, making it possible to find everyone who has mentioned a subject of interest, on what occasion, and to whom.

The next frontier is technology that can recognize faces and interpret gestures and expressions. (Does John Doe always twitch when he makes commitments he doesn’t keep?) These capabilities should be available in a decade. Yes, Big Brother may ultimately capture everything we say and do at a meeting, with consequences both good and bad.

Source: HBR

Well, it is totally out of track. But those who are spending corporate lives like me are likely to develop a nice belly by now. So lets check what this article wants to say about fitness.

CARL FOSTER, an exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, was amused by ads for a popular piece of exercise equipment. Before-and-after photos showed pudgy men and women turned into athletes with ripped bodies of steel. And it all happened after just 12 weeks of exercising for 30 minutes three times a week. Then there was the popular book, with its own before-and-after photos, promoting a program that would totally change your body in six weeks with three 20-minute exercise sessions a week.

There are many examples of people who took up exercise and markedly changed their appearance. But how long does it take? And how much time and effort are required? Six weeks sounded crazy to Dr. Foster.

“We said: ‘Wait a minute. You can’t change yourself that much,’ ” Dr. Foster said. So he and his colleagues decided to experiment. Suppose they recruited sedentary people for a six-week exercise program. Would objective observers notice any changes in their bodies?

The plan was to photograph volunteers wearing skimpy bathing suits and then randomly assign them to one of three groups: cardiovascular exercise, weight lifting or control. Six weeks later, they would be photographed again.

Their heads would be blocked out of the photos, which would be shuffled. Then the subjects and judges would rate the body in each photo on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being spectacular.

The volunteers were men, age 18 to 40 (the university’s human-subjects review board looked askance at having women photographed and rated like that). And they were sedentary. “These were people who were just sort of dumplings,” Dr. Foster said.

Results were not surprising. The subjects rated themselves more highly than anyone else rated them, and female panelists rated the subjects lower than the male subjects or panelists rated them. But, over all, the subjects’ ratings barely changed, if at all, after their exercise program. And neither did objective measures, like weight or percentage of body fat, or waist size or the size of the bicep or thigh.

Exercise physiologists approach the whole new year, new you, total body transformation mania with a jaundiced eye. Yes, they said, people can change the way they look. But not overnight.

“I think it’s pretty clear,” said William Kraemer, a kinesiology professor at the University of Connecticut. Often the promises are just marketing, he said. “A lot of times when you are dealing with health clubs, they are trying to get new members who have made New Year’s resolutions.”

“To make a change in how you look, you are talking about a significant period of training,” Dr. Kraemer said. “In our studies it takes six months to a year.” And, he added, that is with regular strength-training workouts, using the appropriate weights and with a carefully designed individualized program. “That is what the reality is,” he said.

And genetic differences among individuals mean some people respond much better to exercise than others, said Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, an exercise researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He added that although he does not think the before-and-after photos in ads are doctored, most people will not change so markedly no matter how hard or long they work. “I believe they are taking the top one or two people out of thousands,” Dr. Tarnopolsky said.

People who did change their bodies say six months is a bare minimum to see real change.

Schuyler Antane, 43, a research scientist, is one. He began in January 2006 with a diet, which meant, he said, “letting go of the foods that taste good, but are wicked evil. And no more beer.”

In three months, he had lost 10 pounds and was down to 190 pounds on his 5-foot-8-inch frame. Then he read a magazine article on 5-kilometer races and decided to try to run. He could run for only five minutes when he started, and it took two months to train for his first race. But he kept at it and improved. Within six months, he weighed about 150 pounds. Then he added bicycling and swimming, becoming a triathlete. That, he said, got him to his fighting weight of 140 to 145 pounds.

“My beer belly is long gone,” he said. “The only flab in my midsection is excess skin, but I am not vain enough to have an operation.”

Now, said Mr. Antane, who runs with a group in Princeton on Thursday nights, “everything changed — my outlook on life, who I hung out with, how I felt about myself.”

Jim Lisowski, 45, the owner and chief executive of SciTec, a research and development company in Montgomery, N.J., said he had let himself slip out of shape, going from 189 pounds to 225 pounds. He is 5-foot-10 1/2. Then his wife bought a joint membership at a gym within walking distance of his office. At first, he went sporadically, but he decided to get serious after about three years.

That was the end of February 2005. By the start of 2006, Mr. Lisowski, who goes to one of my gyms and whose company employs one of my best friends, was a changed man. He weighed 184 pounds and had a muscular, utterly transformed body. He did it with a routine he continues to this day — working out five or six days a week with more than an hour of hard cardio, first on an elliptical cross-trainer and then a rowing machine followed by lifting weights for about an hour.

“My approach was to get fit,” Mr. Lisowski said. “I knew I would lose weight.”

The nine months or so that it took to lose the weight and gain strength and endurance seemed fast to him. He attributes it to the fact that he had been fit before he let himself go, and to his attitude.

“You can go to a gym and spend time there and not make changes,” he said. “You’ve got to break a sweat, you have to increase the weights. You’ve got to challenge yourself.”

Then there’s Charles Reilly, a federal prosecutor in Manhattan and a marathon runner who took a 10-year hiatus from the sport when he joined his local school board. He just did not have time to exercise, he said. Along with exercising less, he ate more. Soon he ballooned from 159 pounds to 282. “It came on gradually, but it came on,” Mr. Reilly said of the weight.

On April 18, 2005, he had his last school board meeting — he’d decided not to run for any more terms. Eight days later, he went out for a run.

“After half a mile, I had to stop and walk,” Mr. Reilly said. But he kept trying. A month later, he could run three miles without stopping. After three or four months, he says, he could run for five miles. By the end of 2006, he ran 10 miles. In the meantime, he also changed his diet. “My goal was to lose 100 pounds,” Mr. Reilly said. He did it, hitting his goal on Feb. 3, 2007, in a little over 21 months.

Mr. Reilly continues to run and has maintained his lower weight. Many who knew him when he was on the school board no longer recognize him, he said. “They do a double take and say, ‘Is that you?’ ”

But, Mr. Reilly said, he never believed those ads saying you can transform yourself almost overnight.

“It’s not really possible,” he said.

Source: Newyork Times

Well, don’t get too excited about the title. There might be many other quotes of the great man that you like. But still it might be worth reading….

#10. On Management

My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects.

And to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.

#9. On Hiring

Recruiting is hard. It’s just finding the needles in the haystack. You can’t know enough in a one-hour interview.

So, in the end, it’s ultimately based on your gut. How do I feel about this person? What are they like when they’re challenged? I ask everybody that: ‘Why are you here?’ The answers themselves are not what you’re looking for. It’s the meta-data.

#8. On Firing

We’ve had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place — the last thing we were going to do is lay them off.

#7. On a CEO succession Plan

I mean, some people say, ‘Oh, God, if [Jobs] got run over by a bus, Apple would be in trouble.’ And, you know, I think it wouldn’t be a party, but there are really capable people at Apple.

My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do.

#6. On Product Strategy

It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do.

We just want to make great products.

#5. On Leadership

So when a good idea comes, you know, part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and, you know – just explore things.

#4. On Evangelism

When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself.

They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else.

#3. On Focus

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.

#2. On the User Experience

Our DNA is as a consumer company — for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply.

#1. On Creativity

That happens more than you think, because this is not just engineering and science. There is art, too. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of one of these crises, you’re not sure you’re going to make it to the other end. But we’ve always made it, and so we have a certain degree of confidence, although sometimes you wonder.

I think the key thing is that we’re not all terrified at the same time. I mean, we do put our heart and soul into these things.

Columnist David Brooks, commenting in the Dec. 16th New York Times about Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book called “Outliers,” made a statement as profound as it was accurate: “Control of attention is the ultimate individual power,” he wrote. “People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them.”

But why is that truer now than ten or twenty years ago? Why will it be truer still ten or twenty years from now? As I wrote in May, Internet distractions evolve to become ever more “distracting” all the time — like a virus. Distractions now “seek you out.”

Distractions mask the toll they take on productivity. Everyone finishes up their work days exhausted, but how much of that exhaustion is from real work, how much from the mental effort of fighting off distractions and how much from the indulgence of distractions?

Pundits like me are constantly talking about Facebook, Twitter, blogs and humor sites, not to mention old standbys like e-mail and IM. One gets the impression that we should be “following” these things all day long, and many do. So when does the work get done? When do entrepreneurs start and manage their businesses? When do writers write that novel? When do IT professionals keep the trains running on time? When does anyone do anything?

Source: Lifehacker

Hiring the right people is not as simple as it sounds! Millions of managers ask themselves this same question every day. I asked my friends Geoff Smart and Randy Street (HBS ’97), co-authors of the instant New York Times bestseller Who: The A Method for Hiring, if they would answer this question. Following is their answer.

GS & RS: It’s hard to hire the right person because managers use “voodoo hiring” methods that don’t work. Unsuccessful hiring is every manager’s #1 problem. They don’t teach you how to hire in high school, college, or even at Harvard Business School!

Hiring managers who invent their own approaches, most of which are horrible, not only waste time, but also produce a 50% failure rate on average. And, in tough economic times like these, getting your business’s house in order from a talent perspective is of paramount importance if you are going to weather the storm.

We conducted the largest research ever done to solve this problem of unsuccessful hiring. We distilled 13 years of consulting insights across hundreds of companies, performed exclusive interviews with over 20 billionaires and 60 other CEOs and investors to collect their best advice and stories on this topic, and completed a university-sponsored scientific study of 313 CEO careers.

What did we learn? We learned 7 things that managers can do today to improve their hiring success rate from 50% to 90%. We call this the “A Method For Hiring.”

1. Write a written “scorecard” with quantifiable outcomes you expect a person to deliver. It’s time to be precise — not fuzzy.
2. Identify what elements of your culture you must have in candidates.
3. Source the best candidates using your network and think twice before over-relying on ads, job boards, and recruiters.
4. Consider paying a much bigger referral bounty to your employees who source A Players who are hired. One high performing company, for example, pays its employees a $100,000 hiring bounty for people who are hired (paid out $10k per year for 10 years of start date if both the referring party and the referred party are still employed).
5. Select the right person by conducting at least one extremely thorough, 3-hour, chronological interview. Really dig in. Find out for each job the person has had:
* What was the person hired to do?
* What were his or her biggest accomplishments?
* What were his or her mistakes?
* What would his or her bosses say about them (which can be verified with reference checks).
* Why did he or she leave?
6. Watch out for red flags like: candidates who don’t take responsibility for past mistakes, or who speak poorly of most of their bosses. Watch out for the 20 behavioral derailers that Marshall Goldsmith writes about in What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.
7. Sell candidates by remembering the 5 Fs of what candidates care about:
* Fit (with your company)
* Family (support for joining your company)
* Freedom (to make decisions)
* Fortune (and glory)
* Fun

Source: Harvard Business



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