Monthly Archives: February 2011

Embrace the Chaos (via Aspergers : A Mom’s Eye View)

Embrace the Chaos Recently my daughter spent a few days with a friend, visiting her grandmother.  Aside from hoping that the girls were behaving themselves and having a great time, what came to mind was the realization of how calm and quiet our house was without her….The two boys were still at home, so there was still action going on, but everything was relatively peaceful and laid back.  The boys played together well and were happy to engage in family activities, … Read More

via Aspergers : A Mom's Eye View

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Filed under Career, Children, Education, Uncategorized

A Valentine’s Day Message for My Wife (but you can read it too)

Fifteen years ago today I scared the bejesus out of Joanne by talking about “our future” over a romantic dinner.

Since we had only been dating for a few months Joanne panicked and, after dinner, held long, torturous phone calls with her mother and sister.  Here every word and nuance was examined in minute detail; numerous scenarios were teased out, discussions were held on whether she was being honest with me…or herself, and whether she should stop seeing me.

Obviously, being a guy, I was oblivious to this – which can be best explained by reading this.

Two years later, almost to the day, Daniel was born!

I’m not sure who said what in those conversations.  But I am certain  that I’m eternally grateful that those post Valentine ’s Day conversations went my way.

Valentine’s Day is a double-edged sword for me because Joanne can be terribly difficult to buy presents for.  She doesn’t need much in the way of material things (she isn’t particularly interested in jewelry), and my fashion sense is so poor that I would never think of buying her clothes…unless they came from Frederick’s of Hollywood or Victoria’s Secret.

On the other hand, Valentine’s Day is one of those times when I stop taking things for granted, at least for a few hours, and actually let her know how appreciated  she is.

Joanne is the heart that beats in the center of our family – a constant source of love, strength and common sense that we all rely on to a ridiculous degree.

Our paths were so different that I really should never have met her – but I am so glad that fate intervened, because I have found my soul mate.  She is so much more than a wife.  She is my lover, my mentor, my confidant, my best friend, and the best mother my children could possibly have.

In the fifteen years since that Valentine’s Day dinner I have learned an incredible amount about life, love, family and, of course, Joanne.  I have discovered Joanne’s two evil twins – the fun one that appears after the third screwdriver, and the sharp-tongued one that appears when her sleep is disturbed.  Along the way we have collected memories and stories that made us cry with sadness and cry with laughter.  I wouldn’t change any of it.

I believe it was Theodore Hesburgh who said “The most important thing that a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”  Fortunately Joanne makes this so easy to do.

A few years back I bought a book for Joanne called “Six Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak”, which contained the following:

Scared her a lot.  She stayed.

I’m so glad she did.

Happy Valentine’s Day     !!!

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Filed under Life - or something like it, The Human Condition

Why Innovation Can Kill Morale

in·no·va·tion

[in-uh-vey-shuhn]
–noun 
1. something new or different introduced
2. the act of innovating;  introduction of new things or methods.

 

Everyone wants innovation these days.  So much so that some companies have created a Chief Innovation Officer position, and kicked off innovation programs.  Being seen as innovative is important for the company image and helps your company attract talent.

But the definition of “something new” means that innovation involves pushing people outside of their comfort zone, and this is not without risk.

By it’s very nature innovation carries with it the potential for failure.  People will be feeling their way, researching new ideas, and learning by trial and error.  And it is that last part – error – that is a critical part of the innovation process…and which creates problems.

Innovation inevitably means some programs will not yield a useful end product.  But even programs that fail provide real world experience and that experience is going to pay big dividends on future projects.  Past failures provide the experience to see problems earlier and deal with them before they get out of hand.

Silicon Valley is successful in large part because of their high tolerance of failure.  As the Economist put it “bankruptcy [in Silicon Valley] is treated like a duelling scar in a Prussian officers’ mess.”  Silicon Valley doesn’t necessarily have better people, but it does know how to fail properly, which includes identifying the useful components of a failure and recycling them elsewhere.

But many companies haven’t grasped this concept.  They ask people to innovate, but then punish teams whose projects fail by marking them down in annual reviews.  This means innovators have less opportunity for advancement, lower pay and, ultimately, poor morale.  Not exactly the mindset companies are looking for in the people creating their future.

Companies rationalize this by saying “We have to continually improve, which means dropping the low performers”, and that makes sense if the low performers are the ones doing the same jobs year after year, but not when people are forging new paths.

If you punish innovation failure then don’t expect people to flock to your next innovation, regardless of how tempting it is.

Companies that are intolerant of failure create a culture that is comfortable with the status quo and, often, actually fight innovation (the corporate antibodies).    In todays hyper-connected world word gets around quickly, and companies suddenly find that the best talent is simply not interested in talking to them for fear of stagnation.  This causes panic in the boardrooms which then leads to…another innovation program

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Innovation is risky, but risks can be managed.  Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Learn to identify failures early, before they eat up too much capital and become too big to fail.  Have checkpoints built-in to every project with clearly understood rules about what it would take to get approval for the next step.  Sites like Killer Innovations have great tools for setting programs up the right way.
  • Don’t create an environment where a failure means someone is out of a job, as this just about guarantees that early failures will never be identified – at least not by the people close enough to the problem to spot it early.
  • Review every project – good and bad – to find what worked, what didn’t work, and see if there is anything that can be reused in other areas.

Above all, understand that without failure you can never create anything truly new, so look for the people who are comfortable with risk and nurture them.  Creativity and innovation can be fun, and if you can create a culture where people have fun at work you will have to beat the top talent away with a stick.

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Filed under Career, Education, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition