Archive for February, 2012

Universal truths and connecting the dots

Posted by on Friday, 24 February, 2012

Universal Truths, by definition are, well, universal… so it shouldn’t surprise me to have realized the connection one truth can provide to many seemingly disparate venues.

Earlier today I posted to Facebook and Google+ a link to an article by Professor Richard Beck outlining a particular break between Christian thought and behaviour. Beck had identified a thread of behaviour in Christian culture, which I am sure we’ve all seen as well: specifically the touting of Christian concepts while behaving in ways which don’t exemplify those same beliefs, and sometimes in ways which would appear to be even counter to them. At times, he challenged students, and those of us reading his article, with rather provocative words… which is, in all honesty, what got my attention and then held it. Go ahead, take a few minutes and give his article a read, I think you’ll find it worthwhile.

What struck me nearly immediately when reading Beck’s insights, wasn’t how Christians are saying one thing but doing another, but rather how closely the concepts he laid out mimicked ideas I’ve been very close to in the past few years. In particular, IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines. Sure, laugh it up, but hear me out on this…

The overarching theme in both IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines and Beck’s article is simple: “Don’t be a jerk”. Sure, there’s other various refinements and distinctions in the specifics, but really, they both distill down to the same thing. In my particular case, I am always amazed at how truly brilliant my company’s guidelines really are and often use the key components far beyond just my work life. In fact a few of these guidelines from IBM can easily and directly translate to what Beck is speaking of as well:

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  • Respect your audience. If this isn’t obvious, well I don’t know what is. Can you imagine how this simple act would nearly wholly negate Beck’s article if we all abide by this guideline? Just imagine how many more ‘decent human beings’ would be part of this world!

 

  • Be aware of your association. In IBM, we are reminded to be aware of how our actions and words can (and do) reflect on the company, that our social presences should reflect how we’d present ourselves to clients and colleagues. Likewise, in Beck’s examples, the Christians he has encountered could seemingly stand a reminder of this guideline as it seems their actions and words have reflected poorly upon the larger faith.

 

  • Don’t pick fights. Another of the obvious tenets, but it goes on to also admonish us to be the first to correct our own mistakes. Not an easy task, but again, one which we could all benefit from regardless of our faith.

 

  • Try to add value. This one may not be immediately obvious, but it does hold true for all of us as well; don’t add to the noise if you can’t provide worthwhile information and perspective. Imagine the shift we could see if Beck’s “Sunday morning lunch crowd” took this guideline to heart as well? Would he have such words as ‘entitled’, ‘dismissive’, or ‘haughty’ to define them, or would Beck be able to begin using phrases like ‘insightful’, ‘respectful’, and ‘engaging’ to define the same group?

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And so it came to me as I was reading Beck’s article: there are indeed universal truths which we all know deep down, but often gloss over and/or simply forget at times. Universal truths, which by obvious definition span religions, cultures, and even corporations. Truths as simply profound, and simply encapsulated by, single phrases… of those, I’d say “Don’t be a jerk” may be the greatest singular universal truth demanded by all of humanity, but far too often forgotten by the same who preach it.

So, a call to action and a challenge: Take time this weekend and read IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines, then re-read Beck’s article and reflect on how you (we) can implement some small change in our daily lives to ensure, in time, beck’s article is proven outdated and no longer relevant. Perhaps we can start by asking ourselves “does this add value?” when we go to post something online, or “am I respecting my audience” when we’re out to each for Sunday lunch…

At the very least I’ll bet you’ll like yourself a little more… I’m sure I will 😉

Looking forward…. and setting my sights

Posted by on Thursday, 16 February, 2012

At work, this is the time of year we are all furiously working on our Personal Business Commitments (or PBCs since acronyms are more fun) for the year, essentially working out our goals for the coming months. While I’d love to blog about my PBCs externally, I can’t since that would expose company confidential information as it directly relates to business strategy (though you could expect to see things like working outside the inbox and driving social business initiatives to make appearances there, quelle surprise!) … of course in keeping with working openly and transparently, my colleague Kelly and I are working on our own PBCs in an internal community forum, and activity which will help us refine our goals to be more effective in our roles.

But, it also got me thinking… I CAN expose my personal, non-work related goals, be open and transparent, and find greater accountability than if I just kept them in a draft email to remind myself every now and again. So here we go, these are my goals for 2012.

Goals…

Fiscal:

  • Pay off both Visa cards (Credit union and Bank)
  • Pay off Motorcycle – done by May 2012 at latest.
  • Plan and save for a trip to Ireland in 2013
  • Research available channels/strategies and begin selling photos
  • Stretch goal: Research avenues/strategies to enable some level of income for writing, outside of day job.
  • Sell my SCA Armour (Photograph each piece and determine best channel for sale).

Self improvement:

  • Take a week long motorcycle trip (Mt. Rushmore will likely be a full week out and back).
  • Visit 2 or more light houses
  • Get two more tattoos or equivalent sleeve work.
  • Reduce my weight by 80lbs, again.
  • Get a large, framed map of the USA to use for plotting out rides and general decoration.
  • Build a personal 5 year plan and begin executing on it.
  • Read 5 books by Dec 31. 2012 (2 already done:  Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman  and The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing: Long-Distance Motorcycling’s Endless Road by Melissa Holbrook Pierson)

Home improvement:

  • Clean and organize the garage including disposal of unneeded items.
  • Clean and organize the home office, including filing and disposal of unneeded items
  • Paint loft, hallway, guest bath, stairs, pantry, and laundry (Pantry planned for Pres. Day weekend)
  • Build a 5 year plan for the next improvements to tackle.

The trick now, of course, is to focus everything I do to ensure it is working towards achieving one of the goals above. Anything that doesn’t support one of these goals will likely take lesser priority this year. Some of these are quite lofty (for me, possibly not for some of my readers), while others are easily attainable within a relatively short span of time, well before end of year.

Unless laziness wins out of course 😉

Two weeks into killing off e-mail…

Posted by on Friday, 10 February, 2012

… and here’s what my numbers show thus far:

Week 1 Week 2
Outbox / sent: 2 8
Total Incoming: 116 228
Total opportunities: 41 64
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Yup, I received nearly twice as much email in week 2 as I did in week 1. And I sent four times more email. That’s actually not a failure to me though. It is expected that in the beginning of trying to reduce your inbox, your outbox may suffer a tad as I am ignoring step 2 (Stop Replying!) in favour of replying with guidance to better alternatives. Mind you I haven’t had much opportunity (contrary to the ‘opportunities’ line above ) to reply like that, but one of my colleagues has, and it seems to be catching on as others are starting to see the value with communicating in forums and wikis to solve problems across teams.

For me, however, this week saw a huge win:
I have been working off-hours (after “work” but before Jean gets home, that no-man’s land of time when I am normally sitting at my desk and working anyways) on a small javascript tool to generate URLs based on user entered variables. Thanks to one of my colleagues who did all the heavy informational lifting over the past nine months, I was able to dig in and get this javascript tool working initially just based on the fact that he had shared this information on a wiki already, allowing me to work when he wasn’t necessarily available… and here is where the really big win was seen for me (aside from the tool itself which will be a huge benefit for me directly):

I was able to collaborate, test, validate content and sanity check with five other colleagues, then roll out the tool to an internal webserver all without sending a single email. Zip. Zero. Nada. No email was harmed in the creation of this tool!

Think about that for a moment. Over the course of two weeks, we went from concept to delivery of an internally deployed tool without sending any email. This includes all the testing cycles where bugs were found, corrected, retested, and other changes were updated and re-deployed to a test server. How did we do it? Easy. We used two wiki pages, our SameTime instant messenger service, and a total of 3 phone calls (one of which was to show another colleague what it does before we roll it out to a larger audience).

This little side project just inadvertently proved to me that projects CAN be run from start to finish with a minimal amount of e-mail exchanges. I say minimal here as this was a small scale proof of concept, and presumably larger more complex projects may require an e-mail or two… but I’ve shown that our alternative tools do a much better job of getting the job done, and therein lies the huge win.

We moved “working outside the inbox” from concept to reality for this project… and that excites me even more than being able to create a useful tool for me and some of my colleagues within IBM (which is itself rather exciting)!