How to Super Charge Yourself During the Summer Holidays

3 min read

Holidays are nearing (or for some of you holidays is already there). I wanted to share with you how you could make sure you are super charged after your holidays. Or maybe I should nuance this already a bit, let me share with you how I make sure I am super charged after my holidays and how this could work for you:

Do Something You Actually Love

First all of make sure you are always doing something you want to do more often. Even though my work is quite flexible, I cannot play soccer with my son full time during workdays. So my holidays will be all about playing soccer with him and doing all other sorts of fun things with my family such as visiting places, having a wonderful meal and enjoy that we can spend a few weeks together without interruption from the outside world.

Stop outside interruptions

You don’t want to be distracted during your holidays. Therefore I will do exactly the same thing as last year: remove corporate email from phone for a weeks. Also I will disable most notifications on my phone. When I am on holiday I want to be on holiday, I don’t want to spent time on my phone doing work related items or be distracted by its notifications. Really disconnect. Every year I am considering to buy a feature phone just for the holidays, however I guess I am not brave enough yet to really take that step.

Get inspired

Holidays are for me opportunities of catching up on books I want to read and to get inspired. Some of these topics are work related, however given that I am very lucky that my work is based on my passion, I don’t see these books as work. The books I will be reading are:

Learn something new

Another book I am reading is about Swift, the new programming language from Apple. I like to learn new stuff, and the holidays is great, since most likely I have got a couple of hours to spare to learn a new skill. It is not the top priority, though I like my brains to remain active and learn something new.

Exercise

Besides keeping my brains on a certain level activity I prefer to keep my body also active and most like I will go on some long walks or will do something cycling. Doing no exercise at all would make me very restless, I need to feel the burn in my muscles every few days. This is what works for me: being with the people I love, doing things I like, without being interrupted by things I don’t want at that very moment is my ideal holidays which makes me supercharged and ready to go back work with renewed energy.

Disconnect to charge

Sometimes you have to really disconnect to charge yourself: it at least helps me to provide myself with a fresh perspective on things. How are you supercharging yourself?

 

Why You Need to Develop that Scarce Skill

4 min read

The digitisation of our world creates a huge shift in how we do our jobs. The shift is even so big that some of the jobs we do will be completely commoditized and replaced by digital solutions. For a long time we assumed that craftsman were just fine, since working with your hands is enormously specialised work that no robot could replace. However with the emergence of 3D printing, craftsman such as the goldsmith might just be years away of being replaced by a 3D printer and a designer with 3D design program. And even the 3D designer could be replaced by an algorithm.

All competences are being digitised

The skill of working with gold and turning it into something beautiful is becoming something that can be done via technology. Though when you are creating stuff, what is your next skill to learn? Is it becoming a better craftsman by improving the old, or will you become a different craftsman by adopting the new?

If you are a parcel company (or perhaps less abstract: a truck driver for such a company), you know the end is neigh for your job. Amazon considers drones for delivery, and even though that might be futuristic it should make you think: do we need people and trucks to move stuff from A to B? The answer is clear: no you don’t, drones most likely will be more efficient. So what is your next skill as a truck driver?

Though not only in the physical world this ongoing replacement is going on. The digital world is reinventing itself just as hard. Front-end development used to be a no brainer, we need front-end developers because there is no tool that could replace them. We need to rephrase that statement: there was no tool yet. A tool like Macaw is coming very close and it will be just a matter of years before the front-end developer is obsolete. What will the front end developer do, what will his speciality become in the upcoming years.

Machines outperform the strategists

And it might be clear that when you make something you can be replaced by a robot, that is the old scary picture being painted by the industrial revolution. However when your job is thinking, such as you are a strategist of some sort, your job is dead wood. What you do is draw up different strategies for your company or customers based on your insights and sometimes based on a bit of data.

However what you cannot do is comparing 400 million different scenarios with 1000 parameters to show what is most likely to work in the end. In the age of big data the machine has become the faster thinker with more capacity to create the best strategy based on data. You as an individual can only do so much, but not comparing million of scenarios in a couple of minutes. So what is the strategy for the strategist to be of added value, will he become a button pusher on the big data machine; a typical blue-collar worker?

Move where the added value shifts to

As with everything the added value shifts from time of time and skills that are scarce will be commoditized. End 19th centuries we had computers, people who did really complex mathematical computations, they got replace by… yes computers as we know it. When you watch Mad Men you’ll see typists, a skill that is completely commoditized. Work changes, however most of us never realised that this change was so constant and moved so quickly with digital.

If you want to be sure you’ll make the right next step for your next job make sure you become the expert in a scarce skill in a field that is suffering from abundance. Such as becoming a data scientist in the world of big data or a growth hacker in the world of digital. However do not consider those as the jobs you’ll keep till your pension, already think about your next step after this new role. Since also these jobs will be completely commoditized and digitized.

 

Your Company is Killed by Meetings

7 min read

Imagine: you are asked to spend two hours of your day with 7 other people in a room, doing nothing. Just be in the room listen and then leave. If you are working in a bigger than average organisation most likely this has happened to you more than just once. Even worse: it might have become a daily habit. Spending hours on end with a bunch of people talking about stuff, without actually doing anything and making any impact. That activity is an enterprise killer, which is known by the term: “the meeting”.

The inconvenient truth: most meetings are just a way to please the ego of the organiser of the meeting. The organiser needs attention and the easiest way to get your attention is to book a meeting and since most of us are just conditioned to show up, we just show up to please the organiser. The worst thing is: nobody asks questions about how you spend your time. Being in meetings all day is a perfect excuse to most managers that you are at work, while the only thing you do is the opposite: avoiding work.

A meeting is never just an hour of your time, it is an hour of every participant’s time: having a meeting with 7 people and you is a full working day of productivity that is going down the drain just by one meeting. That is just the meeting time, worst case you have to do some travelling to do to get at the meeting place, though there is at least switching time involved to get in a somewhat productive state over the meeting itself. It is more like 1.5 working day lost due to that one hour meeting.

How to overcome  being killed by meetings and become productive once again

Old habits die-hard and meetings are one of the worst habits we have developed over the years. Let’s start to break this bad habit:

Do you really need the meeting

Always ask these questions first:

  • Do you (the organiser) need to consume other people’s time?
  • Do you (the participants) need to attend this meeting?
  • What value will this meeting bring to its participants?
  • Is there an other way to solve the issue besides scheduling a meeting?

Know the goal of the meeting

Is the meeting for information sharing? Cancel it. Meetings are either for problem solving or for decision-making, nothing more. If you want to share information with a group, just make sure you have an enterprise social network solution available in which you can share the information (or request to share information) with the group. This is by far more efficient than stealing everybody’s time and put them in a single space. If there is no goal mentioned for the meeting, always cancel it, poorly prepared meetings are timekillers.

Don’t accept default durations of meetings

Why should a meeting be 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 60 minutes? Scheduling software offers these standard durations, however do you need 30 minutes? Would 18 minutes be sufficient? Why not schedule 7 minutes if you only need 7 minutes. Plan for the time you need, create a constraint and me sure that  you finish within the scheduled time.

Only concrete things are worth having a meeting about

Abstract things don’t exist and therefore can be discussed for days on end. Only have meetings about something really concrete (a product, an issue that can be reproduced a piece of design) are worth having since you can do something with it.

If the meeting is about an issue and the issue has a location go there, not to a meeting room

Issues become more tangible if you experience them, not when they are conveyed in words on a Powerpoint slide. Meeting rooms are just isolated places from reality, nothing really happens there besides meetings. If you can go elsewhere which has a better connection to the subject of the meeting, go there.

No agenda, is no meeting

If there is no agenda, there is no structure, no preparation and absolutely no value. If people appreciate your appearance and added value of you in a meeting, they should appreciate your time first. Appreciation starts with preparation so that you waste as little as possible. Also preparation helps to come to the insights which people must attend (as little as possible).

Meetings end with actions, owners and deadlines

If you don’t end up with actions you’ve had a conversation, not a meeting. A meeting ends with a set of actions in which each action has an owner and a deadline. Reporting back on these actions doesn’t require a new meeting, it requires communication and an agreement on how to update others on the progress.

Actual things you could do tomorrow to reduce your meetings

Over the years I have introduced, experienced and heard about many successful solutions to adapt your workaround in an easy way to become more effective and to spend less time on meetings. They might inspire you to take action and to start changing the way you work right now.

Meeting credits

The issue with meetings is that everybody can schedule them, it isn’t a scarce resource. Well your time is scarce, though when it is managed by somebody else it is not perceived as scarce. To create a better understanding on what you are wasting by scheduling meetings make time a really scarce resource. You can do so by creating meeting credits. One meeting credit is one hour of one person’s time. So if you want to schedule your weekly look-at-me meeting with 10 people it will cost you 10 credits. By limiting the credits you force people to think critically about meetings in general and specifically in who should be attending the meeting and who not, since if you invite too many people or organise too many meetings you’ll be out of credits and you won’t be able to organise yet another meeting.

The standup meeting with a twist

Stand up meetings are supposed to be short meetings, however since some people improved standing into an art form they can go on for hours. There is a simple change you can apply I heard of: ask all the participants to drink a big glass of water before the meeting starts. As soon as the first person has to go to the bathroom the meeting has finished. Drinking water is healthy and not having meetings for hours is also healthy, so why not combine both?

Record and repeat

One alternative I just heard from my friend Björn de Visser was to record and repeat. He is always thinking when he has to do a meeting with a repeatable topic: “Can I make a Webinar out of it”. Indeed, why would you do a meeting more than once (or repeat parts of the meeting) even though the audience is different. That is just poor time management from your own side. Focus on the new things in a meeting, everything that could be repeated could be used in the preparation of the meeting or to consume it afterwards, this way you can have a really focused meeting on the things that really matter.

Socialize

Just talk with each other more often. There is the Allen curve that shows that the more we are apart, the less we communicate. However it is not when we have a meeting that we communicate more with each other, we talk to each other, however that doesn’t imply that there is real communication. Social platforms are a great way to keep in touch with each other and to overcome the Allen curve and to keep the communications going. Meeting can then be used to make decisions, instead of just catching up.

In the end

It is about you managing your time, not the time of others by scheduling meeting in their calendars. That goes of course both ways, others shouldn’t be managing your time by scheduling meetings in your calendar.

 

Why you should be able to code if you work in Social Media

5 min read

Before I explain why should be able to code while working in the Social Media industry let me explain how I acquired this skill and how it helps me.

My history

Just after I got a cable internet connection at home which allowed me be online 24/7 I learned to code. Before I really learned to code I used to maintain a website on Geocities (it was the late nineties after all) with immense animated GIFs (created with Xara3d) created with Frontpage Express. However at a moment in time it didn’t fit my needs any more, I wanted to do more. So I went to a bookstore and bought this small book. It promised me I could hand code my own website within 20 minutes. It was my first experience with building real stuff for the web and discovering how to make things really work.

From Mark Up to Code

After a while I noticed that writing good mark up was nice, though it scaled rather poorly if you wanted to do a small change and you had to edit hundreds of files. Therefore I was looking around at one of the biggest forums in the Netherlands: Gathering of Tweakers for some help. Instantly there was one guy, named cutter, who was willing to help me by providing me some code snippets and a few sessions on ICQ for additional help. That was the way I learned how to write PHP and work with MySQL.

From there on I had my own company that helped organisations in creating content management systems and I wrote a very scalable blogging engine for one of the biggest websites of the Netherlands (which was decommissioned just a year ago after over approximately 6 years of service). Still I am every now and then playing around with PHP and also some Ruby on Rails just to try out things, build stuff and see if it works.

Now let me explain why it is important for you to learn to code.

There is more in Social Media than being Social

Knowing how to push a button on Twitter or Facebook might look like your core activity when doing something on Social Media, however it isn’t. Neither isn’t being great in PowerPoint to create a strategy or talking with people on how things could change when applying social design or how to integrate a Facebook widget in their website.

Your job is making things work. Your job is problem solving. If all you know about Social Media is what you see of Facebook and Twitter, you’ll miss 80% of it, meaning that at best you perform at only 20% of your level. You need to know what is under the hood, not in detail, nor do you have to be a code ninja. However if you are not aware that there is something under the hood and how it works and how you can make it work, you are doing yourself a service.

You might think it is not your job to build things since you are mainly an advisor or consultant, however you should be able to at least build a quick and dirty solution just to validate your assumptions. Plus you’ll get better on your job if you’re experimenting and creating real stuff. If you only wait till somebody else already has built the solution for your problem so you can include it in your PowerPoint, most likely that other person is becoming more credible and knowledgable in this area since he has:

  1. Build the solution
  2. Spend probably quite some time in analysing everything to be able to build it
  3. Gained insights on what is the next step for the product / service he is using as a platform

So not only has the creator an advantage of having the product, he has also the advantage of having more knowledge than you since he acquired that knowledge during the creation process. Plus he most likely gets a better overview on how things work and could predict easier what the next big developments will be for the platform he has worked on. Overall he gained more knowledge quicker than you did making charts in PowerPoint. Actually knowing how things work is such a valuable experience.

That is only the business side, however wouldn’t it be great that you can finally solve your own problem by just developing your own solution? I know I enjoyed it when I wanted to sync my Google Reader with Delicious, or when I wanted to automate some stuff to be automatically shared on Twitter. Now there is ifttt.com to solve these problems for me, however there is not always a solution available. Why wait on it, start solving it for yourself. Worst case is that you create a solution which is used by 1 billion people.

Your Next Step in Learning to Code

Start coding in just a few simple steps:

  1. Go to Code.org or to Code Academy (or to one of these many other sites) and start a course.
  2. Pick the problem you want to solve
  3. Start solving it in small iterations
  4. Share it with somebody and ask for feedback
  5. Learn somebody else to code
  6. repeat

If you don’t have the inspiration for 2, just ask people who are near you what they would like to do with social media. I am sure they have some demands that aren’t solved already by a solution.

Write code, improve your problem analysis, solve problems, get better in your job, have more fun.

 

Three Excuses Software Vendors Cannot Make Anymore

3 min read

Last year was a great year in numerous ways for me. Also because I had the opportunity to see a lot of new products being demoed to me (if you would like to provide me with a demo, read more about how you could pitch me here). However in many demos there were still some poor excuses which were more a showcase of lack of skills than a real excuses. Therefore a small list of three excuses you cannot come up with any more:

Sorry, our people need to be on premise for maintenance

As you might have noticed we the Curiosity has landed on Mars taking many wonderful pictures and doing great research. However did you also know that the engineers of the Curiosity rover did an over the air software update. Of course what Apple did was very interesting with their over the air updates on the iOS devices, however what the NASA did was an update from Earth to Mars, which is pretty impressive. So stop with your excuses that your guys (or girls) have to be on premise to do maintenance.

Sorry, we don’t have an internet connection here

Felix Baumgartner was 40km up in the sky before he started his long (and fast fall). Every bit of this of jump was streamed live, in HD! If you can get a decent connection 40km up in the air to stream at least 720p, you must be able to get some kind of connectivity in a more urban area. Prepare yourself and make sure you have a backup (and a backup of the backup) internet connection with you when you have to demo something which requires an internet connection.

Sorry, our live demo doesn’t work

Demos and particularly live demos are still something that is hard for many companies to do right. Most often there are glitches, failures and other unexpected behaviours that leave the one who provides the demo embarrassed. Google has redefined how you can do your demo in a more exciting way? Did you ever do a demo of your product while doing a parachute jump, jumping over buildings with a BMX and abseiling from a huge building? I guess not. And probably you didn’t do it streaming this demo live. Google did and that is the reason you have absolutely no reason to have a failing demo. Since your demo is most likely in a very controlled environment doing just ‘boring’ stuff.

Just stop making excuses and start being excellent. You are not updating software on Mars, jumping out of a capsule on 40km up in the air or demoing your product during skydiving. You are doing simple things, why should it be then so hard to do it right.