Tag Archives: Skills

When did Built to Last become Planned Obsolescence?

I could do a bit of research and find out the actual answer to my question from a marketing or product development standpoint, but that isn’t my objective.  (If you know, please do share.)  I’m more interested in this question in an esoteric manner; we seem to have started this idea with products, quietly and slowly (washers and dryers used to be built for 15-20 years, now 8 seems to be the norm yet they cost comparatively more!) and the idea has spread to other parts of business and life.

End of Child Labor is Progress (Cotton mill workers,1909.Lewis Hines, National Child Labor Collection-Library of Congress.)

End of Child Labor is Progress (Cotton mill workers,1909.Lewis Hines, National Child Labor Collection-Library of Congress.)

 

Now progress is different than planned obsolescence – I learned to type on an old manual typewriter (my pinky fingers will never forget the force exerted to depress those keys was nearly beyond their power) and am thrilled to now use Word on my laptop to create.  That is progress, new inventions to improve upon old process.  Calligraphy and quill pens are now lovely in living history settings and used for artistic expression, but we will stick with our gel pens, thanks.

 

And as for applying the concept of obsolete to people, well skills might get a little stale, but not a person.  A person who has learned how to navigate a changing world always has something to offer.  We might have to slow down our hurry just a bit, sit down and have a chat, and then cull through the conversation for the good stuff.  But there will be good stuff; solid knowledge on making a life, earning a living, solving problems.

 

Older people might not know their way around all of these devices, but should your GPS break most would be capable and happy to show you how to read a map.  To tell you a story or two about the area where you find yourself.  How it once was, how it came to be what you see before you.  Sometimes this means a place quite different as the story progresses, but since nature is cyclical sometimes it means returning to something similar to what it was before.

 

One of the answers to my question might be, ‘that’s progress’.  Hmmm.  It seems to be more about pure commerce to me, which is what it is; but then we should carefully consider what parts of the world to apply the concept.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Order from Chaos, or Getting it to Make some Sense

You are just back from vacation.  It was lovely and fun and restful and all of the things that vacation is supposed to be.  But now your thoughts turn to going back to the office and what you will most likely find.  Some level of chaos.  This post would apply equally well to being a late-comer to an existing project, or being brand new to the office.  Unfamiliarity, of any kind, looks just like chaos.

what you felt like on vacation - you want to retain that...

what you felt like on vacation – you want to retain that…

 

I used to work with someone who had very rigid ideas about how something, anything really, should be done.  It boiled down to her way or wrong.  That is pretty common, but additionally she was the type to complain bitterly about what you had done ‘wrong’ to anyone and everyone – but you.  She was also a person who was frequently absent from the office for a variety of reasons.  The unspoken rule got to be to do the bare minimum on her work in an attempt to avoid the bitter recriminations.  We only did that much because we couldn’t leave her customers just hanging.  And this only applied when she was out of the office; if you got a stray call that belonged to her and she was in the office then you apologized and forwarded the caller.  I hated to do it, but I had to talk to her most every day and rarely to any of her customers.  Office survival.

 

Anyway, I wrote about preparations for vacation here – Vacation, Ahhh.  Even still, and despite having very competent co-workers as back up people, coming back in is an adjustment and has some element of chaos.  Just start slowly.  Look for the familiar so things start to make sense again.  Are there emails that you can group together and knock off all at once?  Can you trade a little vacation trinket for intel on the happenings around the office in the past week?

 

The same holds true for the newbie to a project or an office; keep your ears and eyes open and some little thing will start to look familiar.  Little victories of understanding start to expand your comfort zone.  Particularly look for the person or persons who seem open to interaction and also are pretty knowledgeable about the process.

 

Getting back into a groove, or getting into a new groove is tiring because your brain is so busy making associations of new to known.  Celebrate the little gains, build on them, and it will feel a lot less like chaos fairly quickly.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Some Random Thoughts on Networking… Please Add Yours

I went to a networking event recently, held quarterly by a LinkedIn contact.  It was my first time in attendance because I am putting pressure on myself to network more, and farther outside of my comfort zone.  I will benefit, but it does take energy.

understanding

My thoughts:

  • It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, you don’t live in a box so you need to figure out how to keep your contacts fresh.
  • Most people have as many and possibly the same reservations that you have about going.
  • Follow up matters – but is also dependent upon your intent for starting the contact in the first place.
    • How many people do you know that just go through motions because they have been told that they must?
    • One person I know went to coffee with a new contact and was frustrated when the new contact didn’t seem to understand the point of the coffee meeting follow up.  (Hint: it isn’t a coffee klatch.)
  • You need to spend a couple of moments before the event getting your thoughts together about your own expectations for the event.
    • If it is your first event, your objective can be as simple as getting through the event.  Be yourself – your most vivacious self that you can muster.
  • Some people will be there just to collect cards – these are probably the folks who had the most yearbook signatures in high school and a lot of trophies.  Don’t spend too much time with them.
  • This is social, so have some fun.  But remember appropriate behavior for the occasion.

 

Ultimately, networking should help each of us to find people to expand our community.  What do you have to say?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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Be an Emulsifying Agent

I was just baking cookies, can you tell?  In cooking, or chemistry (which is the same basic idea, but you do not want to eat what you produce) an emulsifier is an ingredient that helps other ingredients become a cohesive new entity.  Like cookies from eggs, flour, sugar and other ingredients – like chocolate (the best one).  Without the emulsifying ingredient you wind up with a bowlful of wasted stuff that refuses to combine properties and become something new.

DSC03383

I wrote a bit differently about this early on, The Right Ingredients.  Also prompted by baking cookies.  Inspiration can come from any direction at any time and be applied in unusual ways.  But I digress.

 

This same principle can be applied to teams, groups, or pairings in the office.  Sometimes a team doesn’t seem to coalesce because no one is acting like the emulsifying agent, each person is too determined to retain their own distinct properties.  Yes, yes we all must make sure that we are known – personally branded in today’s parlance – but what if being known as stand-alone also means getting a rep for standing in the way of team success?

 

It is quite possible to be known as a highly capable individual and also as a collaborator, or team player (bzz-bzz goes the buzz word bee).  These are not mutually exclusive traits.  Your skills and experience combined with the skills and experience of others on the team could lead to awesomeness.  But you can’t act like oil to their water.

 

Reach out, share, exchange ideas.  Offer a little something of your skill or experience and let the mixing begin.  I’m going to go have a cookie or two.

 

How about sharing a little something here?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Promises, Promises – The Follow Up Trap

More than once I have called someone back to complete a request and had the person on the other end of the line express astonishment that I called back.  Gratifying for me, but disturbing too.  If the opportunity to gain kudos is just this easy, why aren’t more people doing this simple thing, follow up?  Oh my, in the interest of complete disclosure I must also admit that I have been the person who hasn’t followed through on something too.  Though I constantly work on myself to keep this to a bare minimum.

 

The excuses (er, reasons) we don’t follow up:

  • Forgetfulness, plain and simple – completely gone from the memory banks, or just a wisp of a thought that ‘I told X that I would do something, I think…’
  • Fear – So-and-so didn’t really mean that I could call to make an appointment to (learn / discuss / ask…) about Y
  • Didn’t really ever mean to – be honest, the offer to do something, be somewhere or whatever was made in the moment with no intention of completion

And so very many more that you would stop reading if I tried to list them, and really there isn’t any point.  But if I’ve gotten you to consider some of your own reasons why you get trapped, then I’m glad.

public domain crab trap

public domain crab trap

 

The maxim that the road to hell is paved with good intentions came about and has lasting power for good reason.  (Except for the last point above.)  We become so disappointed with others when they let us down, but can we look in the mirror and hold our own gaze steadily on this topic?  Probably not, for we know (thanks to another maxim) that to err is human.

 

But we can also decide to do better each time we have a ‘next time’.  We can understand our triggers for forgetfulness – if you ever ask me about something that requires follow up in a space where I cannot or do not write it down, then beware that this is one of my follow up downfalls.  I have learned to ask you to help me to remember with an email or some other prompt.  (Particularly if you have a smartphone because I do not – archaic, I know.)

 

We can disable the fear with the thought – another maxim, our ancestors know us so well – that nothing ventured is nothing gained therefore we shouldn’t decide for the other person whether they meant it or not and go ahead and make the request.  Politely follow up once or twice, and then forward this post on follow up to them…

 

Sometimes all it takes to be successful is just this little thing called follow up.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Separating Out Thought Strands for Clarity

It would be such a relief to come to a resolution or to gain some understanding in one or perhaps several nagging corners of our lives, wouldn’t it?  Clarity on the issue and ‘what would happen if I do x versus y’.  But this relief will only come with the unsnarling of the various complications that are revealed when we track the particular strand of thought.

 

Imagine if we could actually isolate a thought strand and follow it through it’s whole length, teasing it straight and clear of the spots where it intersects with other strands so that we could really examine it without having to consider anything else.  ‘But if’, ‘what about’, and all other contingencies could be swept aside, to be slowly added back in later; after your head is clear on the main issue.

 

thinkingHow many times have you thought that you had a solution to something, went to tell someone and been stopped cold by, ‘did you consider…’?  I came at this issue in a different way earlier this year; We Want Linear, We get Billy from the Family Circus.  We crave simplicity, but we are complex and we have created a complex world.  There is nothing for it, but to roll up our sleeves, find a relatively quiet spot and carefully think through one problem at a time.  One step at a time.

 

Messy, inconvenient, tedious – I know.  It would be so much easier if someone would just come up with a formula for each of our more common difficulties (like a vlookup for getting along with coworkers) where we just plug in our particulars in the right part of the formula and voila – instant solution.  But wait, remember that we like to be treated as individuals and not just a number?  Snap, now we have to decide – formula or individuality?

 

Individuality usually wins out because the thing about those formulas is that they have snarls of their own.  Daggone it.  Maybe someone is working on a real pensieve, the thing Dumbledore used in the Harry Potter books…

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Consternated, Bewildered and Confounded

We must be getting smarter than previous generations.  How else to explain it, the severe lack of use for these words – consternated, bewildered and confounded?  We live in a hard to navigate and complex world that folks from a couple of generations ago would describe as downright consternating, if not wholly bewildering.  And yet, we have almost entirely ceased to describe ourselves and our surroundings in these terms.

 

It couldn’t be that we have reduced our vocabularies to short, easily texted words, no not that.  It must be that we have grown in our ability to understand complexity, that we are no longer ever perplexed, at sea, baffled, befuddled, or bemused.

public domain old movie still

public domain old movie still

 

Except, I must say that I have my moments when I am baffled, when something is unclear.  When I would be caught with the cocked-head dog pose if someone took my picture.  Maybe I am alone in my consternation, left behind while everyone else figured out the keys that protect against bewilderment.  I text – yes I learned when my children were in their teens or I wouldn’t have heard from them.  And I confess that texting long words is tiring.  My fingers find it perplexing, even.  They cannot keep up.

 

Rules about the appropriateness of texting while at work can be bemusing.  Or is your employee handbook silent on the topic?  It must be ok by default then, confound it.

 

Are you ever befuddled?  What causes it?  I hope you never find yourself at sea without a paddle, unless you have a motor that is.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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