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Knowledge or Wisdom?

I have made my living in the IT business for the past 40 years.  I think we might all agree that in the IT business we have seen great minds with deep knowledge create once unimaginable technologies that have altered the course of humanity.

Yes, smart people indeed.  But altering the course of humanity comes with a price.  One price is I get to poke fun at my industry and those smart, IT people:

Conventional IT Wisdom:

Faster hardware doesn’t solve business problems – unless the business problem is slow hardware.

More bandwidth / memory / storage / processing power than you’ll ever need, will last you six months.  A year tops.

IT project advance or die.  Sometimes both.  But if it isn’t advancing it’s dying.

Functionality isn’t the same as usefulness.

The systems that last are the ones you were counting on to be obsolete.

Exactly what you want, always costs more than you can afford.

Data isn’t information.  Information isn’t knowledge.  Knowledge isn’t manageable.

Frank Hayes

There’s that word, “knowledge”.  Our favorite Unknown Sage offers this wisdom:

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

I guess that means when we’re assigning dishes for people to bring to the upcoming office pot luck, we should have IT bring the dessert and not the salad.

Even though I’ve “been in IT” for two score, I haven’t actually interacted much with IT.  I suppose their views about sales people are predictable – and perhaps even understandable and well deserved!  It’s probably because we simply think differently about things.  Back to our Unknown Sage:

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all its navigation and communications equipment.  With all the clouds and haze, the pilot couldn’t determine his position or how to get to the airport.  But he saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it up.  The sign read, WHERE AM I?

People in the building quickly responded with their own sign, “”YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER.

The pilot smiled, waved, looked at hoes map, plotted the course to the airport and landed safely.  On the ground, the co-pilot asked him how their sign helped determine the helicopter’s position.

I knew that had to be the Microsoft building, the pilot said because they gave me a technically correct, but completely useless answer.

And yes, those Microsoft engineers are laughing all the way to the bank.  Wisdom aside, they definitely know how the money works!

Rule 8 – Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer.  This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 11 – Be nice to nerds.  Chances are you’ll end up working for one. 

Bill Gates

Still, there remain some IT professionals that know the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Back to Frank Hayes:

Conventional IT Wisdom:

Free anything… isn’t…

If nobody else is trying something, there’s usually a reason.  Maybe not a good reason, but a reason…

“We’ve never done it that way before” is a more powerful argument than any cost/benefit analysis…

It always takes longer and costs more to do it later.

A good idea is no match for a bad habit.

The hardest problems get solved last. 

I’d call that wisdom!

GAP

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Strategic direction…

Last year, my company made a strategic change to our go-to-market approach and corresponding sales, implementation and support processes.  We made significant changes to almost all of our software programs too.

This is not a foreign phenomenon – companies implement strategic directional changes all the time, true?  And you know it’s strategic when they create a logo, a slogan, and have T-shirts made up.

As with any “strategic direction” there was a corresponding amount of “push-back” from the field.  This is also not a foreign phenomenon – pushback from the field is always a normal reaction to changes in strategic direction, especially from sales people – true again?

It always amazes me how change-adverse sales people are even though our profession is all about selling change.  But I digress.

I was one of the messengers tasked with going out to face sales teams and sell the advantages of said strategic direction.  Carrying the message from leadership to the field – fun!  I was not a member of the Corporate Staff, thankfully.  Just someone on one of the internal teams assigned to this project:

Corporate Staff:

Known in some quarters as Sea Gulls for reasons relating to their propensity to fly round the country leaving their mark wherever they have alighted. 

Norman R. Augustine

As I mentioned, there has been a degree of pushback from our constituents.  Pushback often gravitates towards the shadows of strategic initiatives; the areas not fully baked; vague issues yet to be worked out.  And vagueness in the technology field presents problems:

Golub’s Laws of Computerdom

Fuzzy project objectives are used to avoid the embarrassment of estimating the corresponding costs.

A carelessly planned project takes three times longer to complete than expected; if carefully planned, it will take only twice as long.

Project teams detest weekly progress reporting because it so vividly manifests their lack of progress.

We’ve all been there – leadership decides on a strategic direction and a project team is assembled to covey the tactical meaning and daily impacts to the field.  In 2017, I was one of those project team someones.  Hooray!

In 2018 we are continuing our strategic direction.  Our team has done a pretty good job with pretty good support in the deployment of these strategic changes.  But it seems that in every meeting, someone from the field stumps us with a question about the process and the changes that puts in that uncomfortable, “I have no clue what they were thinking” position.

When we are put on the defensive we can’t always defend or even explain our Corporate Staff beyond Woltman’s view:

Woltman’s Law

Never program and drink beer at the same time.

I think it will be OK though.  Strategic changes are often complicated; take a while to work out the vagaries; hard to convince everyone.  And given the complexity of this roll-out I feel we have faced the field as well as possible.

That is until we’re facing said field and someone raises an issue we weren’t prepared for.  Then, if we’re not careful; even with our pretty good efforts; we run the risk of making things worse:

Anderson’s Law

Any system or problem, however complicated, if looked at in exactly the right way, will become even more complicated.

So, if your company is making a substantial change and you’re involved with articulating the message behind the new, strategic direction to the field, don’t panic.  Just hide the keg in the programming department and plan your travel so you don’t follow behind the Corporate Staff.

GAP

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Data, Big Data, & Really Big Data…

I attended an Executive Roundtable sponsored by Webolutions in November.  Webolutions (https://www.webolutions.com/ ) is my preferred “Thought Leader” when it comes to what’s going on in marketing.

John Vachalek and his team (including Mike Hanbery, John Brackney and Cindy McGovern) have addressed several key topics in their 2017 Round Tables: “IoT and the Impacts on Your Organization”; “Developing a More Engaged and Productive Workforce”.  November’s topic – one of my favorites – was “Effectively Using Data to Drive Organizational Success”.

The discussion centered on Key Performance Indicators; leading KPIs; lagging KPIs; sales KPIs; operational KPIs; customer KPIs; KPIs for everyone and anything.  And, how can a round table discussion about KPIs be held without including the systems and technology that store all of that data?  It’s been stated about Google:

Google tracks everything; and everything is a lot. 

Unknown Sage

Mike Hanbery and John Brackney led a stimulating, 1-hour discussion on KPIs, data, and big data.  Webolutions does a great job of getting past systems hype and really focusing on the strategic thinking necessary for today’s technology to be used effectively.

On my left was an industrial engineer.  I believe he and I found agreement:

Machine-generated data is precise; People-generated data is messy.

Across from me was the CEO of a regional eye care center, who stated all the data in the world doesn’t help him convince one of their doctors to consider changing his or her practice habits:

Conventional IT Wisdom:

A good idea is no match for a bad habit. 

Frank Hayes

When Mike noticed I had been quiet he decided to ask for my opinion.  Mike knew what he was asking for – I have attended many of his company’s meetings and taken their “Join the Conversation” invitation literally.  I doubt he was surprised when I offered the position that data has no value.  Then, I expanded and said data is actually worse than that.  That stimulated the conversation!

When challenged, I first clarified that my views are solely based on the sales profession and data, even big data, might be terrific in the engineering and medical professions; marketing too.  But in the sales profession, data typically just drags people down to the bowels of CRM “administrivia”, which according to Wikipedia:

Administrivia: 

Administrative details that must be dealt with in order to do more interesting work.

Too much attention to CRM data and administrative details prevent sales people from doing “more interesting work”, aka selling!  And don’t even get me started on predictive analytics (which I have addressed before http://thequoteguys.com/2015/02/self-obliteration/ )

Yet here we are often citing CRM systems in our examples of all the data that can be harvested for KPI purposes.  But at what cost?

According to Integrity Solutions (aka a “data” source), who cites CEB’s research (aka “big data”):

The number and diversity of buyers involved in a typical B2B purchase has increased to 6.8, according to CEB data.

Integrity Solutions then coupled that data and big data with LinkedIn (aka, “really big data”):

Based on reports from LinkedIn, 20% of the people involved in a purchase change roles every year.  In other words, the person you’re selling to today may not be in that role when you have your next meeting.

Yep, we’re tracking data that will likely prove to be entirely useless.

I favor Vince Gatti’s view about using CRM for personal coaching of our “future-self”.

In the sales profession, I’ll vote for “next step action” over KPIs every time; how about you?

GAP

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Authenticity…

If you’ve been reading me for a while you know I poke fun at many things not the least of which is technology.  Even though I make my living selling technology – and have done so for more than 40 years – the idiosyncrasies of my industry do not escape the “pen”.

Irreverent?  Perhaps; but at least it’s authentic.  You see, I’m continuously amused by my industry and my profession.  I believe Clarke is too:

Clarke’s Third Law

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Is magic authentic?  In our world of advanced technology today, search engine marketing in general (and Google in particular) places a big emphasis on “authenticity”.  In a post (of course) by Matt Kapko way back in April of 2015 titled “7 staggering social media use by-the-minute stats”, he cites IDC research:

Eight of the world’s most popular social networks generate an astonishing amount of content every minute.  The social “universe,” composed of every single digitally connected person, doubles in size every two years, and by 2020 it will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion GBs…

Zettabytes?  Magic alright.

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. 

Eden Phillports

But can mankind’s wits grow sharper fast enough to keep up with our machines?  According to a futurist who spoke at a technology conference sponsored by RSM way back in 2014:

70% of all internet traffic is machines “talking” to machines, posing as humans.

70%!  Machines posing as humans!  Is that authentic?  Of course, the primary vehicle supporting such machine-to-machine human charade is social media.  This, in turn, poses the question, “Can machines be social?”  Well… let’s consult… another machine:

Living organisms including humans are social when they live collectively in interacting populations, whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary. 

Wikipedia

Wondering if Wikipedia is human or a poser?  Let’s go to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary © which was at least started by humans in 1828:

Social  adjective

3: of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society

Seems to me that in order to be considered “social”, humans need to be involved.  But if machines are now posing as humans how do we validate authenticity?  Or do we even care?  I mean, next up following social media and virtual reality is self-driving cars, true?  Question:  Can there be “muscle cars” that are self-driven by muscle-less computers?  Would these self-driving, muscle-cars be posers?

OK, OK…  I’ll lighten up on technology for a moment.  Posers aren’t limited to machines posing as people.  Posing has been around for a long time and is witnessed in many fields:

The difference between being an elder statesman and posing successfully as an elder statesman is practically negligible. 

T.S. Eliot

In today’s day and age, it’s hard to be authentic.  So many want to be perceived as some other persona.  Using a machine, we can easily doctor our image; a video; our resume; our online profile.  But in so doing, we are not being “true”.  Perhaps to seek authenticity in the face of 21st century technology we need to turn back to a different time:

Be yourself, everyone else is already taken. 

Oscar Wilde

Spoken by a 19th century, Irish playwright no less – and I’m saying that’s authentic and not magic.  No really – it’s really me; no it’s not my computer posing as me – it’s really me; really!

GAP

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Creative overload…

I was listening to the speech by our Chief Development Officer at our 2017 worldwide users’ conference.  It was creativity at its best.  He summarized all of the new features (aka shiny objects) his massive army of programmers was programming into our application.  Seemingly, there is no end to the creativity of our technology posse and the shiny objects they continuously code.

I get it – if we don’t write new code our old code becomes obsolete – just when the end-users are comfortable using it:

Troutman’s Laws of Computer Programming

  • Any running program is obsolete
  • Any planned program costs more and takes longer
  • Any useful program will have to be changed
  • Any useless program will have to be documented

So rather than documenting exiting programs; rather than reinforcing how to use them with end-user types; creative people who program find it easier to just replace it vs. document it.  Besides, documentation is much, much harder than creativity:

Arnold’s First Law of Documentation

If it should exist, it doesn’t.

Arnold’s Second Law of Documentation

If it does exist, it’s out of date.

Arnold’s Third Law of Documentation

Only useless documentation transcends the first two laws.

Then I reflected on my personal use of applications provided by these and other creative technologists.  I Googled how many phone apps (alone) there are in the world – here’s what the Google-Machine returned:

This statistic contains data on the number of apps available for download in leading app stores as of March 2017. As of that month, Android users were able to choose between 2.8 million apps. Apple’s App Store remained the second-largest app store with 2.2 million available apps.

5 Million apps to choose from – just for our phones!  WOW!  I can’t wait for the release of the 5 million and 1st app can you?  Call me the dinosaur, but here are how all those creative apps (not to mention all of those additional features technologists are pouring into my business systems) make me feel:

 

Yep, place me on the curve just past the, “Hey, where the f*** did they put that?!”

If in today’s world creativity is analogous with “more”; how do we get to “less”?  What’s wrong with things that are (A) simple and (B) work?  Why does everything have to be subjected to creativity?

Andi’s Addendum – And beyond

  • The complexity of a program grows until it exceeds the capability of its maintainers.
  • Any system that relies on computer reliability is unreliable.
  • Any system that relies on human reliability is unreliable.
  • Make it possible for programmers to write programs in English, and you will find that programmers cannot write in English.
  • Profanity is the one language all programmers know best.

Every time someone tells me they have a new idea, I cringe.  It’s like everyone is searching for some holy intellectual grail:

Creativity:  The process of having an original idea that has value. 

Unknown Sage

Here’s the thing – just because something is technologically feasible, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  When someone promotes “IoT” (aka the Internet of Things), I reach to make sure my wallet is secure.  And don’t get me started on virtual reality.

According to WhatIs.com

Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.

Suspends belief and accepts it as real – really?  I wonder if that creativity begets real value or virtual value.  Hmmm… you’re right… what’s the difference.

GAP

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Sounds complicated…

Ever have that feeling on the buy-side of a sales presentation?  The more the sales rep said, the harder he tried, the worse things got?  How much of our business marketplace do you think is occupied by “average people”?

I consider myself an average person – which begs the question, “What on earth is an average person”?  I guess “it all depends”.  According to Wikipedia:

…as chronicled in his bestseller The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation’s Most Ordinary Citizen, Kevin O’Keefe successfully completed a nationwide search for the person who was the most statistically average in the United States during a multi-year span starting in 2000. Newsweek proclaimed of the book, “The journey toward run-of-the-mill has never been so remarkable.”

Looks like Kevin O’Keefe remarkably over-complicated his search for an average person.

OK, hard to define perhaps but if you believe as I do that masses of opportunities are staffed by average people tasked with making buying decisions, then how effective are we at conveying our sales message to these average persons?

In the technology sales profession, we easily digress into a language of acronyms, technical terminology, and over-complication, true?  The end result often confuses the prospective buyer – and a confused prospect doesn’t buy.  They probably say to themselves, “This seems complicated; sounds expensive; I better wait.”  And Poof!  There goes our deal.

This language of confusion isn’t limited to the technology profession.  I recently listened to a discussion about making coffee and the various methods, machines and machinations that can go into it:

Rudnicki’s Nobel Principle:

Only someone who understands something absolutely can explain it so no one else can understand it at all.

Unknown Sage

To add to the mess, many sales people pile on “the demo”; delivered by the “Technical Sales Consultant”; and that’s when our prospect switches to Coke.

Truth be told; I do coach my clients to leverage visual-based selling techniques to convey technically complex topics conceptually.  I like to follow Stephen R. Covey’s view so the prospective buyer has context in case we have to delve down into more complicated details.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 

Stephen R. Covey

Most of the time I prefer to create my own visuals vs. relying on my marketing and/or product specialists because they typically add methods, marketing automation machines, and machinations  (aka features, statistics, and 3rd party research) that in an effort to clarify – actually confuse.

I will on many occasions reuse visuals created by someone else, so long as I can easily understand them.  You see, if I as an average person can get it, the odds are high my prospective client can too.  However, my buyers remain wary:

GAP‘s Dictionary of Computereeze:

Salesman – A user-friendly conveyor of highly technical, data processing concepts in an easy-to-understand, though sometimes slightly inaccurate fashion.

Trying to keep things simple (and accurate) has served me well; I believe the skill of getting to the essence of a prospective buyer’s situation, in layman’s terms, is a key to successful sales transactions.  Here is an example of one of my favorite pie charts that reflects this principle of simplicity:
pieSo I ask…  Take a look at the PowerPoint slides; handouts; pie charts; and websites you leverage to sell your products and services.  Was your content written by marketing specialists, technical writers, and product experts?  Does it clearly convey your main point?

Or, does it cause your prospect to think, “Sounds complicated – I’m switching to Coke”?

GAP

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Playing our position…

Now that the 2016 NBA Championship is over (congratulations Cleveland!), I believe cross-over lessons learned are available between the game of basketball and the professions of sales and marketing.

As usual, I draw my opinions from personal experience.  At 6’3”, I played the low post position in basketball (aka the “5”) through my sophomore year of high school.  By junior year, I was too small, too slow, and not athletic enough to remain in the “5”; so I moved to the small forward position (aka the “3”).

As I looked forward to playing collegiate ball, it was painfully obvious that at the NCAA Division I level, my only chance would be to play the off-guard role (aka the “2”).  Even then, getting playing time among the superior Division I athletes would be iffy.  Thankfully, the NCAA has other divisions.

I started every year of college ball, albeit Division III.  But even then, I played different positions.  My sophomore year I played the “5”; junior year the “2”; and senior year the “3”.

Of course, as we watched LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers we saw him seemingly seamlessly move from role to role throughout each game.  Sometimes the point guard (the “1”); other times the power forward (the “4”); and so on.  Such movement from position to position works in today’s NBA game.  I suggest it doesn’t in the sales and marketing world.

You see, every time my marketing colleagues try to play outside their position and dabble with the tools, tactics, and techniques preferred by sales professionals they seem to muck things up for the both of us.

Based on my StrengthsFinder 2.0© profile, my strongest strength is Context – I understand the present by researching the past (aka history).  And when it comes to history, there are many examples of what happens when marketing professionals try to play the sales professionals’ position.

Take telephone prospecting (aka cold calling); a tough position to play even for the most seasoned sales professional.  Our marketing colleagues thought they could help which begot “telemarketing”.  Yuck!

Look at what happened to the art of business letter-writing.  Yep, marketing stepped in and voila… we have mass mail (aka junk mail).  Email correspondence begat email blasts (aka spam); LinkedIn for personalized, professional networking begat social media marketing (aka Internet din); and so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect and value most of the things marketing professionals contribute to the cause.  What sales professional doesn’t look forward to receiving a Marketing Originated Inquiry?  Anything warmed even slightly is better than a cold list.  But a Marketing Originated Inquiry isn’t a “lead” – that’s the sales professionals’ position.

Maintaining websites; search engine optimization; white papers; positioning statements; market research; branding; marketing communication pieces; the list is long for the value marketing provides.  Just not “leads”.

According to the renowned, marketing automation company, Marketo:

There are many definitions of a lead, and there are even more definitions of a “good lead”… in our own revenue cycle, a lead is “a qualified prospect that is starting to exhibit buying behavior”. But the sales and marketing team don’t always agree on what constitutes “buying behavior”…

Seemingly every time a marketing professional is attracted by the shiny objects sales professionals use in the pursuit of leads (let alone good leads) the marketer thinks applying the “more button” makes these tools, tactics, and techniques better.  When in reality, their “help” makes things worse.

It would be better if we all simply played our positions, true?

GAP

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Dinosaurs…

I was driving through eastern Utah earlier this month.  The enormity of the landscape is breath-taking!

Eastern_Utah

The drive was made even more impactful realizing that this is where dinosaurs walked millions of years ago.  I could close my eyes and “see” them roaming the plains with the mountains as their backdrop.  Then I realized I was driving and opened my eyes; relying on my driver’s training to avoid joining the dinosaurs!

At that moment, two Air Force jets roared by.  Hill Air Force Base is a major military installation in Utah.  Seems that our most modern military warfare technology trains over the same space previous dominated by ancient dinosaurs.  A striking contrast.

There I was in dinosaur country, with modern jets roaring by – what better place than to contemplate the nature of my profession and the views I have about what it takes to succeed in sales in the 21st century?  Weird you say?  Welcome to my Jurassic Park LoL!

In the sales profession, we can learn a lot from our military.  No – I’m not saying our customer is the enemy.  Nor am I suggesting we adopt a competitive attitude often voiced by Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation:

It’s not enough that we win; our enemies must lose.

That quote has been attributed to Gore Vidal; Genghis Khan; and even Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War©

You see, during our road trip we were listening to an audio book, Ghost Image: A Sophie Medina Mystery© And at the moment I was reflecting on the dinosaurs while the jets were roaring overhead, I heard this line from the book:

In the military you don’t learn you are trained.  In combat you rely on your training to get you through.

Then it hit me – when I offer “sales enablement” to my clients they aren’t actually learning how to sell.  I’m not trying to “teach” them; I’m trying to “train” them.  Actually, it’s worse than that – I’m trying to “re-train” them.  I believe, without such re-training they will continue to use sales tools, tactics and techniques that have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

And as stated above, in a sales cycle we rely on our training to get us through.  I know it’s not a life-or-death challenge.  But it is job and/or career threatening, yes?

Back to another one of my favorite book titles: Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life© by Alan Deutschman:

Deutschman concludes that although we all have the ability to change our behavior, we rarely ever do.

I often profess, “The market has shifted…”  My clients assume the context of my statement is technology; technology in the market has shifted (from traditional, client-server oriented software to Cloud Computing).  And just like our military, we must equip ourselves with new technology or risk being surpassed by our competition (in the military context, our enemies!).

But in the context of selling to a modern buyer, that element of the market has shifted too.  If we don’t re-train ourselves to sell the way the modern buyer buys, we risk becoming obsolete; replaced by eCommerce, an iPhone App, or some other “serve-yourself” option buyers have available to them to bypass we sales dinosaurs altogether.

Rare maybe, but I know my clients have the ability to change their behavior.   Yet, I left the eastern plains of Utah wondering, who is the dinosaur?  Them – resistant to re-training?  Or me – thinking I actually can enable them to change their behavior?

GAP

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Interrupted Attention…

That term was used during a recent webinar.  They were explaining the modern phenomena of people being fixated to their electronic devices.  And in the office – people operating 2-3-4 computer monitors at a time; multitasking throughout meetings.  The presenter presented presentation techniques to address this phenomenon.  I don’t think the audience was paying attention.

Yes, yes, I know – in 2015 multitasking is not just an accepted practice; it has become an expected practice.  I sometimes worry when a client finds me giving them my complete and undivided attention, they are thinking I’m some kind of whacko!

Masquerading as a better way to put everyone in touch, e-mail (and voice-mail) have become incessant distractions, a nonstop obligation and a sure source of stress and anxiety.  

I expect that a public statement by the Surgeon General is in the offering. 

 Seth Shostak

I’ve written often on the impact technology is having on our ability to be smart; to think; to be prompt; to be polite.  We all can relate to those occasions when we’re “caught”, can’t we?  Sorry – I wasn’t listening.  But does it persist?

I only have to be told twice; once. 

Adam Katzenmeyer

I can remember a time when it was more difficult to work with children because of their low attention span.  It used to be that we would complain that our kids are hopped-up on sugar; wound-up with adrenaline; hard to catch their attention; hard to get them to focus.  Maybe this is the source of stress and anxiety Seth Shostak was referring to:

Two children were playing in the back yard when their father came to the porch and yelled at them for the third time to come in for dinner.  The one child turned to the other and asked, “I can’t remember; which one am I?  Jesus Christ or God Dammit?”  

Unknown Sage

In today’s world it seems to me that the levels of interrupted attention among children and adults are reversed.  But when the stress and anxiety of continuously multi-tasking wears us down, our favorite, Unknown Sage offers us this assistance:

Thing to say when you get caught sleeping at your computer:

“Did you ever notice the sound that comes out of the keyboard when you put your ear real close?”

Raise your head slowly and say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Comparatively, children seem to be a little more attentive today, a little more focused on accomplishing tasks at hand; a little easier to work with. Today, it’s the adults that have “become their TV”; “become their in-box”, “become their phone”.  And we’re not particularly concerned about being rude with our multi-tasking either.

Well, if both adults and children have interrupted attention spans these days, at least I can rely on my horse.  He offers me his best in memory-retention.  Yes, horses are definitely the best – as suggested by Elmer Wieland, founder of America’s finest precision mounted, youth drill teams (see http://westernaires.org/about/ ):

The more I know adults, the better I like children.  The more I know children, the better I like horses.

It’s true – Even if I haven’t ridden my horse for a while; even if we haven’t worked in the round pen.  When I put a saddle on his back he doesn’t freak out; he doesn’t spit the bit out of his mouth.  And when I climb on his back, thankfully, he remembers me; remembers it’s OK; and he doesn’t buck me off.

If only our children; our colleagues, and our clients were so attentive.

GAP

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Workforce generations…

So I was walking through the office before sunrise the other day.  Heading to the coffee machine – you know – the usual ritual.  My colleague Craig was already strapped in and online in a meeting at his cubical.  His phone was set to mute (demo account set to stun!).

Now I don’t know exactly how old Craig is, but his LinkedIn profile shows he graduated from Michigan State with his under graduate degree the same year I did.  Close enough (LoL!)  As I strolled by heading towards the coffee machine and commented about Craig being the “early bird”, his response was classic:  “Came in early – wanted to get a good seat.”

That’s right – two Old Guys starting their day early.

Much is being said and even more is being written about the generational make-up of our workforce these days.  With so much chatter going on – I can’t help myself – I’m weighing in.

How about you?  Which generation are you part of?  And which generation of employees do you think is the most productive; the most valuable; the most important generation for today’s business setting; and into the future?

In offering full disclosure – I’m a proud member of the Baby Boomer generation.  And I’m biased.  In fact, a former colleague of mine who I worked side-by-side with for a few years (and a member of the Generation X generation), once commented (in a very complimentary way I might add) “The old guy can still hunt!”

My online research suggests that as of 1/1/2015, there are 4 generations in the workplace:

  • Traditionalists aged 65-88
  • Baby Boomers aged 46-64
  • Generation X aged 30-45
  • And Generation Y (aka Millennials) aged 16-29

So, with this mixture of old and young; experienced and naïve – my bad – I meant inexperienced; hard workers and smart workers; I ask again, which generation provides the most business value contribution?

BTW – as a side note; where do you fall on the work hard – work smart continuum?  Here’s what my Traditionalist friend has to say:

Work smarter, and as hard as you can. 

Tom Hopkins

Well, my colleague Craig and I can certainly vouch for the “work hard” side.  That early morning?  Not a single Millennial in sight.  They started rolling in at about 8:30.  What was the John Wayne line in the movie Cowboys?  “Burning daylight”, (when it was still dark!)

OK, maybe the Millennials at our company prefer a flexible schedule.  Much has been said and much has been written about our Millennials.  Here is one of the recommendations on how to motivate Millennials by Lauren Sveen in her Denver Post article: 

Studies of millennials by the Intelligence Group, a youth-focused research company, have revealed that 74 percent of them want flexible work schedules.

Really, Captain Obvious?  In fact, when you read her full article (see Welcoming Millennials to the Workforce ) is there anything she suggests for Millennials that Baby Boomers would not appreciate too?

Look at Frederick Herzberg’s summary published in the Harvard Business Review.  And his research was from the 1950’s and 1960’s – aka “Traditionalists”.  The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess.

Marty Birk, a Division Vice President of Sales I worked under “back in the day”, used to ask, “Gary, if you were going into a selling war would you take So-and-So with you?”  Well, in 2015 I don’t care what generation my colleagues are from.  If they can get the job done – harder or smarter – that’s good ‘nuff for me.  How about you?

GAP

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