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Archive for February, 2015

Critical Thinking…

Diving into the deep end today – way over my head!  Commenting (critically) about Professors from my college.  What do I know?  Growing up, my parents taught me to always respect my teachers.  It’s good to venture out from our parents’ basements occasionally, true?

Last fall, I attended a panel interview at my Alma Mater titled, “The Value of a Liberal Arts Education in Today’s Global Market Place”.  I was looking forward to the debate – especially one posed by an Interviewer interviewing Educators about today’s “real world”.  Turns out the Interviewer was one of them.  Not much of a debate.

College Professors are stellar at persuasive presentations when they’re on campus, aren’t they?  There we were; on campus; Professors gathered conducting a debate-less, debate with fellow Professors about the “value” of a Liberal Arts degree; in a room full of alumni, all of whom having earned Liberal Arts degrees.  Not exactly the real world setting for critical thinking on the “value in the global market place” I was expecting.

Question:  Can critical thinking thrive in absence of diversity, disagreement, and dissent (aka a debate)?  Well, what do I know?  (Ut Oh – I think I hear my Mom, “Gary, listen to your teachers now.”)  Let’s refer to today’s storage locker of critical thinking, aka Wikipedia:

The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

Now we’re getting somewhere – especially the last two words, “… and action.”  Count me in on the “and action part.

Our panel of Professors placed particular prominence on learning how to think critically.  OK – we can all agree that thinking in the business world is… well… critical.  However, I’m thinking that many companies place more value on the results of the thinking (aka the action part) when competing in today’s global market place.

I wonder whether things get over-thought on college campuses today.  I confuse easily about undergrads and their exotic, double-majors.    When faced with assigned tasks in today’s global economy, will they take action?  Or, think about taking action – critically, of course?  Did their parents prepare them for today’s boss that says, “You or your successor will get this job done!”?

The Professors’ positioned economic value in the context only academia seems comfortable with – that piece of global economy fiction known as “the long run”.  “In the long run” they stated, a person with a Liberal Arts degree out-earns their peer group.   What about today’s over-emphasis on quarterly-results and the “What have you done for me lately” mentality?

I wonder if many of our Liberal Arts students “qualify” for tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars of student loan debt to pursue a path of critical thinking to set themselves up for the long run.  But will they qualify for a car loan upon graduation in today’s “real world”?  Not to mention paying rent – which, of course may be why so many of our adult children are living at home with their parents?

“Critical Thinking” or “And Action”; “Results Today” or “In The Long Run”; what carries more value in today’s global market place?  What do I know?

And if you find adult children living in your basement, not thinking critically about paying back their huge student loan debt, are they’re simply waiting for the “long run” to come along?


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Is technology making us stupid?

Much is being said about the negative impact technology is having on us today.  For all the advancements and for all the good, many are suggesting there’s a negative side dare I say a “Dark Side to the Force” of technology.

For me, technology has represented an interesting (and amusing) dichotomy throughout my adult life.  On the one hand, from 1979 and literally spanning 5 decades, I have made a living selling the most modern and advanced technology of the time available to the business community.  On the other hand, I am the most clueless “end user” on the planet.

I’ve been guilty of many moments like this over the years; how about you?

The Know-Nothing: 

This is that clueless user who looks in vain for the “Any Key” when his computer prompts him to “Hit Any Key.” 

Lisa DiCarlo

For the longest time, I thought it was just me.  But recently, I have noticed a plethora of evidence that technology is impacting us more than we may want to admit.  Take this sign by the elevators at our local IKEA store:


 “Siri-ously”?  For the elevator?  And illustrated, no less!  Hmmm.

I don’t think I’m the only one noticing how dumb our smart phones are making us.  Here are 8 more examples – can you relate?  I sure can:

Was it the Internet that put us in the predicament?  Google?  Maybe smart phones are to blame.  Or Siri – yes, that’s it; Siri did it!  Of course, our favorite Unknown Sage suggests it’s actually worse than that:

In case you needed further proof that the human race is doomed through stupidity, here are some actual label instructions on consumer goods:     

On a Sears hairdryer:

“Do not use while sleeping.”

(That’s the only time I have to work on my    hair.) 

       On a bag of Fritos:

“You could be a winner! No purchase necessary.  Details inside.”

(The shoplifter special?) 

On a bar of Dial soap: Directions:

“Use like regular soap.”

(And that would be how?) 

On some Swanson frozen dinners:

“Serving suggestion: Defrost.

(But, it’s just a suggestion.) 

On Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert (printed on the bottom):

“Do not turn upside down.” 

(Well…duh, a bit late, huh?)

On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding:

“Product will be hot after heating.” 

(…and you thought?)

On packaging for a Rowenta iron:

“Do not iron clothes on body.”

              (But wouldn’t this save me more time?) 

On Booth’s Children Cough Medicine:

“Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication.”

(We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we could just get those 5-year-olds with head-colds off those forklifts.)

On Nytol Sleep Aid:

“Warning: May cause drowsiness.”

              (And… I’m taking this because?)

On most brands of Christmas lights:

“For indoor or outdoor use only.”

(As opposed to…what?) 

On a Japanese food processor:

“Not to be used for the other use.”

(Now, somebody out there, help me on this. I’m a bit curious.)

On Sunsbury’s peanuts:

“Warning: contains nuts.”

(Talk about a news flash) 

On an American Airlines packet of nuts:

“Instructions: open packet, eat nuts.”

(Step 3: maybe, uh…fly Delta?)

On a child’s Superman costume:

“Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.”

(I don’t blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)

On a Swedish chainsaw:

“Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands.”

(Was there a lot of this happening somewhere?) 

 Hmmm –  wonder what will happen when I say “any key” to Siri?


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Luv rules…

Posted Feb 11 2015 by with 5 Comments

Valentine’s Day is on its way – there’s still time to make special arrangements for that special person in our life.


OK, OK – so I can’t take credit for creating this awesome display of love for my love.  That was someone else’s awesome display of their love for their love.  But I can take “observation credit” for stopping along the roadside while driving through this western Illinois farm community to take the picture, can’t I?  I think my wife will give me credit for a little kind-hearted, photo-plagiarism because I know she knows:

Love rules without rules

Italian Proverb

And who says men are oblivious and have no powers of observation?  OK – so with the billboard approach there were no subtleties.  But observing his demonstration of love reminds us all that for this Saturday, no assumptions; no taking her for granted; no obliviousness; no subtleties are allowed.  On Valentine’s Day, we must shout our love for our love from the top of the mountains!  Of course, we hope our women do the same for the men in their lives:

You know “That Look” women get when they want sex?  Me neither. 

Steve Martin

This Saturday may be a special day in my marriage, but our relationship over the years has taken constant care (and patience).  Thankfully, my wife has patience:

Patience strengthens the spirit,

sweetens the temper,

stifles anger,

extinguishes envy,

subdues pride,

bridles the tongue,

restrains the hand,

and tramples upon temptation. 

George Horne

It’s easier to be patient with the little things I suppose.   But when times get tough, the most convenient person to argue with, vent to, and take our frustrations out on is often our partner, true?  Life seems to move so fast; people seem to be so stressed; the media inundates us with so many sensationalized issues.

I don’t know; are meaningful, loving partnerships easier or harder to find these days?  With everything racing at a break-neck pace, who’s responsible for maintaining a healthy, loving, long-lasting relationship?  Well, here’s a view from Wyatt Webb:

You are 100 percent responsible for 50 percent of any relationship.

Carrying more than ½ the load you say?  Yep – you and my wife, too.

Thankfully, my wife and I are still in love after all of these years.  We will do something quiet this Valentine’s Day; we enjoy our quiet time together – always have.  We’re blessed with sharing many common interests, so spending time together and “decompressing” from our fast-paced life is a nice retreat.

Like you, our conversations will span a variety of topics; children; friends; happy memories; love.  Of course, when we’re together we will also synchronize our calendars; debate upcoming projects; disagree on priorities; discuss business; and almost always review our finances.  Yuck!  Necessary I suppose, but certainly not very romantic.

Yet this Valentine’s Day I will be reminded:

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. 

Mignon McLaughlin

So here’s to February 14th – Valentine’s Day.  May you enjoy it with someone special in your life.  If you’re lucky enough to be in love, may you cherish your quiet time together; sharing common interests; being patient with life’s challenges; relishing the restorative results of romance.

And if you’re with someone but you’re not yet sure if he or she is “the one”, don’t worry – trust your gut feeling:

Love is not finding someone you can live with; it’s finding someone you cannot live without.

Rafael Ortiz

Love rules without rules Valentine’s Day – and every day.


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I attended my company’s annual sales “kick-off” meeting recently.  It was a terrific event!  Recognition of the outstanding; celebration of our 2014 accomplishments; preparation to execute our 2015 assignments; motivational speeches; the works!  Our sales force left totally fired up to dominate in 2015!

Although our company has been extremely successful to this point, our leadership stated in no uncertain terms to our entire sales force that we must move beyond being overly dependent on in-bound leads;

What got you here won’t get you there. 

Marshall Goldsmith

They proclaimed 2015 as the year of out-bound prospecting (aka “hunting”).  Everyone’s competitive juices were flowing!

And then came the automation worshipers…

Outside experts presenting their automated approach to appointment setting with prospects.  It was not a new message.  We have all heard that, “cold-calling is dead”, haven’t we?  We all use tools that come with claims about the wonderfulness of automating human-to-human interactions.  Just link with them on LinkedIn!  Hmmm, is it really that automatic?  Sorry – as my Grandmother used to say, “I’m no believe”.

Nonetheless, our outside experts enthusiastically presented their tools for sales-prospecting in today’s B2B world.  They presented in-person, mind you; no automation.  Was I seeing the beginning of our profession’s obliteration?  Has software replaced the sales professional?  Hmmm…

And then came the mathematicians…

“Spend less time on the right deals!”  “Sell more efficiently!”  “Using predictive analytics, we can selectively invest our time with prospects that are ready for us!”   Predictive analytics that “time the prospect”?  Hmmm, “time the prospect”…  Didn’t I lose a boatload in my investment account when I used automation to try to “time the market”?

But our guests spoke with great eloquence, which often accompanies technology;

Since Appian was first a famous Roman highway, you’d think this might be a clue to Xymos’ new identity.  But the release says; 

“Appian was chosen for the name because it represents the ability to use leading edge technology and innovation, integrated into solutions that provide differentiation and competitive advantage.” 

Just what the Romans had in mind. 

Rick Levine 

As Joan Rivers coined, “Can we talk?”   Not to peddle our products – but can sales professionals talk with a prospect about their business goals; their business plans; their business future?  Hmmm, actually talking with prospects about their aspirations vs. our products?  That’ll never work.

And then came the machinists…

Not sure how to “talk with a prospect”?  No worries. The machinists have the remedy.  Machine-based learning to help sales people talk with their prospects.  Machine-based learning – for human interaction?  Just shoot me!  With an automatic!

I’ve written about this before – see

Look – I get it; prospects won’t take our calls; won’t return our voice mails; won’t respond to our emails.  But what do I know?  I’m simply suggesting (and Gerald M. Weinberg seems to agree) we should be reluctant to become overly reliant on a software program to do our job of sales-prospecting;

Weinberg’s Law: 

If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.

I mean, don’t you think if it was that simple to become that efficient by becoming that automated, that the market would transact with statisticians and copy writers – not business people who sell?  It would be M2H (machine-to-human interactions) not B2B, true?  Are we automating the obliteration of our sales profession?

Now, I may not be able to avoid such obliteration by such automation by the masses of mathematicians and machinists.  But I refuse to condone self-obliteration.


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