December 6, 2009

Size Disadvantage?

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:09 pm by lindaslongview

It’s easy to benchmark size when rating performance – it is visible and typically easy to measure.  Yet other less accessible attributes can contribute importantly to success:  agility, competence, experience, focus, knowledge, patience, skill, strategy, etc.  Because these other attributes are less visible and are harder to assess, we often choose to measure on the basis of a simple benchmark like size.

In June, I got agitated about “how much playing time?” my son received at a tournament (see Applied to Soccer).  Although my long view leadership advice in that post has merit, I now realize that on a systemic basis, I oversimplified my son’s soccer situation.  There was more to learn and assess…

In the case of sports, bigger players benefit from their size on two counts:  1) they are physically more powerful and 2) youth coaches often select larger players over their smaller teammates on the reasoning “you cannot coach size,” and give them more opportunity early (for example, more playing time on game day).

However, having more diligently watched the dynamics of my son’s development as a soccer player a few more months, I now realize that being small (for a longer duration) is only a near-term disadvantage in terms of opportunity (passed over for the boys who have grown bigger earlier).  In subtle ways, smaller boys, like my son, benefit from their size disadvantage over the long-term because they cultivate their game differently.  For example, my son has impressive knowledge of the tactics and strategy of the game.  His skill, agility, and speed are his primary tools for success (different emphasis than his larger teammates).  When he finally achieves improved size parity within the next few years (he has more growth left than those who have grown early), perhaps like Lionel Messi, he will still be reasonably competitive due to his quiet mastery of the less visible attributes of the game?!

Today’s observation is simply a personal reminder to engage in long-view thinking everywhere when learning:

  • Expand observations,
  • Increase knowledge, and
  • Cultivate more complex thinking for improved accuracy (include more attributes in mental models).

As a result of my agitation, I paid greater attention to the team dynamics, learned much, and now realize that it is all part of the beautiful game.

Nevertheless, I wish my son increased joy (and playing time) as he auditions for a different team in a slightly less competitive league. 🙂

Are you constantly expanding observations, increasing knowledge, and cultivating more complex thinking everywhere?

October 10, 2009

Incongruence

Posted in Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:17 am by lindaslongview

OneEyeI was recently involved in a recruitment dance at a small biotech ready for manufacturing scale-up.  The organization had some very interesting and valuable technology and was looking for someone with mastery in manufacturing scale-up (me).  Initial impressions suggested an excellent match to my skills, interests, and passion.

I talked to the organization a few times over the course of several months.  Although I was in no hurry to find my next full-time professional adventure, I was delighted to be considered for the position and was eager to get traction if there was to be a successful match.  At my last meeting, I met with a recently hired executive that assessed my ability to fit into a start-up culture.  He emphasized and reiterated the urgency of the scale-up effort, suggesting only weeks remained before a crucial deadline.  How would I handle that pressure? I answered his questions truthfully: I am not a miracle worker, but I am extremely competent with a track record of success even under crisis conditions. He thanked me for my time and promised to get back to me by end-of-day and no later than end-of week.  A week came and went and there was no follow-up, so I sent a brief email requesting an update.  What followed was a series of emails trying to set a time for a phone call.  By the third email, it was quite apparent that my candidacy for the position was not a priority.

Although I am confident that I could have helped them technically, I finally realized that I was not a culture fit for their organization because I was frustrated that their actions were incongruent with their wordsHow could they claim excessive urgency for technical scale-up deadlines yet be so delayed in getting back to candidates necessary to meet the deadline? This example, was one of several examples of inconsistency that could be rationalized singly, but together created a sense of pervasiveness.BigHairandChin

This journey got me to thinking deeply about the importance of congruence and consistency.  I began to notice it everywhere.  In fact, I categorize three broad types of incongruence:

  • Harmless/Intentional Incongruence that is part of comedy.  In this context, incongruence works because it is intentionally funny.  An example is the intentional incongruent dialogue and props in the performance of Monty Python’s Spamalot.  Similarly, my accompanying photos are funny because they are incongruent.
  • Annoying/Incomplete Design Incongruence that is an omission of an overall review of the customer experience.  An example is the mixed use of manual and sensor-based equipment in the ladies’ restroom at my local mall.  The toilets flush by sensor, the soap is dispensed by sensor, and the towels are provided by sensor.  However, the water is delivered from the faucet by turning the knob.  I no longer recall how many times I (and others) have felt like an idiot waving my hands under the faucet trying to make the water come out then realizing that I need to turn the handle!  This situation is just an annoying omission, no one really thought about how a customer would experience the facility after several sensors have been presented – we expect sensors for all interactions.
  • Damaging/Short View Incongruence that results from mixed messages.  An example was my opening story.

Congruence is an important long view attribute because it creates predictability, reduces uncertainty, and increases credibility – people know what to expect and how to behave.  My long view advice:ScrambledFace

  • Create priorities and communicate them profusely.
  • Strive for consistency and congruence in your messages (story) and be aware of the potential for misunderstanding.
  • Be intentional with your actions; actions speak louder than words.

BubbleFaceIt was emotionally hard to call and decline the technical opportunity with that small biotech because I had already imagined success on their behalf and I felt invested.  However, because I sell process confidence* (requires congruence), I declined the opportunity.  I wish them a successful future and I will keep looking for the right fit for my next adventure!

*Note:  see my superpower statement at Entrepreneurial Athleticism

Does your story match your actions/behaviors?

September 5, 2009

Moved the Needle

Posted in Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:52 am by lindaslongview

One year ago, as a result of a running hip injury and a prior history of a hip stress fracture (running), my doctor recommended a bone density measurement even though I am young, active, and have no significant risk factors for osteoporosis.  Obediently, I went for a DEXA measurement.

Shortly after, my doctor informed me that the good news was that I had not lost any height, but the bad news was that I had osteoporosis.  I was shocked.

bone

This diagnosis was opportunity to adjust my lifestyle to improve my long-term skeletal health.  As with any significant emergent problem, the long view response is similar:

  1. Assess priority – does it merit long view investment?
  2. Define improvement/success metric(s)
  3. Create a plan for improvement/success
  4. Execute:  drip, drip, drip…
  5. Measure improvement/success
  6. Reassess priority  (Celebrate improvement/success)

Establishing priority was easy.  To ensure my long-term skeletal health, I was immediately committed to aggressively battling this silent disease.  Complacency was never an option for an Off-the-Scale-Futurist.

Defining the improvement/success metric was also easy.  I needed to increase my bone density to greater than -1.5 spinal t-score (low end of the normal range) as measured by DEXA.

With my doctor, I created a threefold plan for bone density improvement/success:

  1. Increase mineral availability:  take calcium supplements 3×600 mg/day.
  2. Decrease demineralization:  add drug therapy, Boniva 1x/month.
  3. Increase mineralization:  add load-bearing exercise.  This required a remix of my athletic lifestyle.  My typical regimen of swimming, biking, running, and an occasional cardio machine provided limited load-bearing.  Only running counted as load-bearing, and it only loads the lower skeleton.  So, I reduced swimming and biking in favor of weight-lifting 2x/week, along with my usual running.  After a bit, I realized the combination did not give me the joy of athletics to which I was accustomed, so I went in search of new load-bearing sports. I tried both yoga and rock climbing, both of which provide whole skeletal loading.  Although I liked yoga, it didn’t like me (rhomboid strain).  I loved rock climbing – it is so addictive that it became the clear winner!  🙂  I now mix a combination of swimming, biking, running, and rock climbing throughout the week, along with weight-lifting 1x/week.  I still have joy, but I increased the amount of load-bearing exercise.

Since DEXA bone density is measured no more frequently than annually – I committed to a full year of execution.  Keeping the faith, I impatiently and anxiously awaited my next DEXA results, drip, drip, drip, …

I recently received my results and I moved the needle!  I went from a -2.6 spinal t-score to a -1.6 spinal t-score; a full standard deviation of change.  Woohoo!  Although I didn’t quite reach a number greater than -1.5, I certainly made a significant gain.  Time to celebrate!

Because load-bearing is now integrated into my lifestyle, I no longer need aggressive focus.  Time for a new adventure…

What are you doing to ensure your long-term health?

July 23, 2009

Tracking!

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:10 am by lindaslongview

I love cheering on my friends who are participating in sports because it is a great way to stay connected, to provide meaningful positive reinforcement for the participant, and have fun by participating vicariously.  Until now, vicarious participation has been limited by time and proximity or by TV coverage (Olympics, ballgames, etc.).  So, unless I have been near enough (and had enough time) to go watch at the friend’s venue or my friend has been an elite athlete that makes TV coverage, I have been relegated to listening to tales and seeing photos later.  All that is being changed by customized tracking…

Chi2MackinacRace2This weekend, a college buddy of mine was crewing on a sailboat that was racing from Chicago to Mackinac (Michigan).  During the race, all the boats carried a GPS chip that constantly transmitted data to the iBoat website which then showed the positions and identifying information of all the boats in the race.  It was so much fun watching all of the boats race toward Mackinac over the three-day race.  As I went about my own weekend, I kept pulling out my iPhone to check-in on the position of my buddy’s boat (the little green dot on the map).  What a riot!  I would show anyone who would look how my friend was doing in his race – real-time.

Also this weekend, my sister-in-law (SIL) and I ran in a local ½-marathon.  Timing was done using RFID technology – a disposable RFID tag was attached to the shoe of every runner.  As we crossed the start line, our start time was captured and as we crossed the finish line, our completion time was captured.  Because it was a long race, my husband (also SIL’s brother) planned to be back at the finish line to cheer us on (and take our picture).  Although we gave him a pretty good estimate (less than 2 hours) of our expected completion time, he tracked our progress via iPhone GPS technology since SIL and I carried phones with remote tracking enabled (my teenagers!).  Even though the iPhone tracking worked, it was klugy and not universally available.  Imagine what the experience could have been for many others if real-time text-messages (tweets or emails) were being sent via RFID timing portals at milestones along the trail?!  I know that I would have paid extra to sign up a for race day texts (or emails or Tweets) as my “bib” number reached various milestones.  What an opportunity to create connection and positive reinforcement!

Over the long view, enriching the experiences of others by creating connection and positive reinforcement always pays positive dividends. If you can think of a way to create connection, meaningful positive reinforcement, or camaraderie, as part of your service and/or product, do it because it will build loyalty, returns, and possibly additional revenue!  Real-time tracking has added value to many businesses – package delivJimOnRailery, sailboat racing, … I’m hoping that the technology will trickle down to running, cycling, swimming, etc.

I can’t wait to participate vicariously with MORE of my friends through tracking – it will help me stay connected.

Can you create an opportunity to enrich, create connection, and reinforce positively in what you do?

May 31, 2009

Rocking Customer Service

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:48 pm by lindaslongview

iSH3_Interval_H20AudioI had a rocking customer service experience yesterday with H20 Audio that reinforces why I am a raving fan for them…

Even though swimming is a second-string pursuit (I’d rather be rock climbing, running, biking, etc.), I swim regularly because it “rehabs” everything I injure in my other athletic pursuits. The downside of swimming is the boredom.  So, about six (6) years ago, I started a down and up affair with music while I swim…

I started with waterproof earphones coupled to a waterproof “bag” that held a 1st generation iPod.  I stuffed the bag in my swimsuit and swam happily to tunes for a few weeks.  Unfortunately, the “bag” sprung a leak and that iPod is now a doorstop (husband was very unhappy).

A year or so later, I found and purchased a SwiMP3.  The sound quality of the bone conduction speakers was awesome, but it was terminally painful to update my music because it was iTunes incompatible.  As I became more and more iTunes exclusive, it became more and more obsolete.

When I found the iSH2 from H2O Audio, which holds an iPod Shuffle, I was delighted.   Unfortunately, those early waterproof earphones had inconsistent performance and I still pined for the sound quality of my SwiMP3, but with the ease of iTunes.  I began sending notes (to both companies) asking for sound quality AND iTunes compatibility.  I was elated when H20 Audio told me that they were about to come out with the iSH3 (aka Interval) incorporating their Surge headphones to the iPod Shuffle casing.  I was so delighted that I ordered two as soon as they were available in Feburary 2009 (one for me and one for my friend’s birthday in May).  I was so early in my purchase that I had to work with customer service to register – the warranty website had yet to list the iSH3!  That’s how I met Richard at customer service.

I have been rocking my splashes very happily ever since.  I love my iSH3 and whenever anyone at the pool asks me about it, I encourage him or her to purchase an iPod Shuffle ($50) and the iSH3 ($80) – great deal!  I provide the H2O Audio website info and tell them that they will not regret it.

Imagine how distressed I was when I found out that my friend’s gift had a broken latch!  Considering that I had purchased it in February and I desired to make it right when I saw her next weekend, I was glad to have a relationship with Richard.  I typed up an email to Richard, explained situation and he made it right!  I have a new iSH3 on the way so that I can swap with my friend when I see her next weekend and then I’ll send the broken one back. With this gesture, H2O Audio amplified my raving fandom. ☺  Their customer service exemplifies my three favorite (long view) customer service mantras:

  • Build relationships with your users. Get to know each other – exchange full names and try to know something about the other person that allows you to connect. For a customer, nothing is more frustrating than either not knowing whom to call or not having comfort to call when a problem arises.  Creating connection encourages honest, timely communication.
  • If your customer calls you to complain or seek advice, THANK them, encourage narratives, and listen for information in the details.  No matter how hard it is to say “Thank you” to someone who is complaining, be sincere.  The provided information is a gift that will help you to make products better – you will learn how the product is actually being used.
  • Fix what isn’t right without excuse and be grateful for the opportunity.

This advice applies equally to technology development (internal customers) as to consumer products (external customers).

Are you building relationships with your users?  Thanking them? Fixing what isn’t right?  Staying grateful for the opportunity?

Are you rocking your splashes with an iSH3?

May 21, 2009

Durable Connections

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , at 11:25 pm by lindaslongview

PeterbuiltTruck_FisheyeRecently, I received a tip about a professional opportunity from someone that I skied with more than 25 years ago!

As Robert Putnam points out in Bowling Alone: “Strong ties with intimate friends may ensure chicken soup when you’re sick, but weak ties with distant acquaintances are more likely to produce leads for a new job.” Thus, it is not surprising that I might receive a job tip from an informal connection, what is surprising is the durability of the informal connection. Clearly, there is long view importance in cultivating positive relationships with acquaintances because they are durable. You never know when, where, or how reciprocal positives will emerge.

Sometimes benefits of unexpected connections will accrue quickly and sometimes they will emerge over a long time scale. When I reflected back to that weight-lifting class in high school that I wrote about in my last blog post (Inspiration from Rachel Alexandra), I realized that I gained much more from that informal connection to Todd than just an “A” in weight lifting.

Todd’s dad owned a trucking company, so Todd was a skilled truck driver at the tender age of 16. Although we had very little in common (except that fateful weight lifting class), I think my intensity and motivation changed him. As we worked together regularly, he decided that he would teach me to drive an 18-wheel rig.

Being game for an adventure, I took him up on the offer to learn. When I started my “lessons,” I could competently drive a manual transmission (I successfully received a driver’s license at age 14 with a final road test in my brother’s 3-speed 1955 Willy’s Jeep). When I finished my “lessons,” I could drive a 15-speed conventional Kenworth and a 16-speed (dual gearbox) cabover Peterbuilt on the grounds without stalling. I had no fantasies of commercial level skill, but I loved the power of commanding a huge diesel engine. That unique experience allowed me to be especially comfortable around BIG equipment, which has been valuable to my professional career.

Although I haven’t seen Todd since high school, should I run into him again, I would absolutely extend whatever kindness I could on his behalf. Who would have guessed so much could come of a high school weight lifting partnership? It is good practice to be open to diversity and to extend kindness to all those that you meet.

Who will you help today?

May 18, 2009

Inspiration from Rachel Alexandra

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , , at 6:38 pm by lindaslongview

photo by Steve Helber/Assoc. Press

Steve Helber/Assoc. Press

Rachel Alexandra, a girl horse, won the Preakness Stakes, the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown of Horse Racing this past Saturday!  It hasn’t happened in 85 years.

Part of long-view thinking requires identifying, being present, and breathing-in moments of inspiration to launch and sustain transformation.  The achievement of Rachel Alexandra is one of those rare inspiring events.

Rachel Alexandra’s accomplishment reminds me of similar inspiration…

I was paying attention (and cheering) when Title IX was passed into law (1972) and when Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs in the tennis “Battle of the Sexes” (1973).  At that time, I imagined the transformation of our world to largely what we have now – women participating, competing, and being taken seriously in many, many sports, just like the men.

In 1977, I was the first girl in my high school to be allowed to take weight lifting for P.E. credit instead of the expected volleyball.  I recall that the coach agreed to give me an “A” if my cumulative total for the three defined lifts: squat, dead lift, and bench-press, was three times (3x) my body weight at the end of the program.  The boys needed a cumulative total that was five times (5x) their weight for an “A.”  Although it was probably a fair accommodation considering that boys are stronger than girls, I wanted to be taken seriously.  I set my goal at 5x in three lifts.

In class, I was partnered with Todd, the skinny kid who also weighed only about 100 lbs. and who didn’t really care about weight lifting.  Although we had different outlooks and viewed each other suspiciously at first, we found common ground.  I was grateful for his collaboration to help me achieve 5x. Together we learned excellence in technique and worked hard.  At the end of the term, we both achieved 5x and the rest of the class took us seriously.  ☺

I am grateful to have been inspired by the birth of equal opportunity athletics and to have participated in nurturing and sustaining the transformation.

Woohoo, Rachel Alexandra, you go girl! 

How are you inspired?!

April 2, 2009

Entrepreneurial Athleticism

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , at 7:59 am by lindaslongview

pole_vault

There is an adage that says, “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”  This week I received experience.  I learned that I was trimmed from the short list of candidates for an executive position at an emerging technology company. This outcome was not terribly surprising because I did not have sufficient deep technical experience (none!) in their key process operation.  I am only disappointed because I enjoyed the people that I met, I continue to be interested in gaining expertise in technology more new than familiar, I was joyful at the prospect of making the world a little greener (CleanTech), and I had that deep instinct that I could help them build a successful and sustainable organization.

Although it is sometimes a challenge to take a deep breath and be self-aware enough to be gracious and grateful simply for the opportunity to be considered, it was not hard in this situation.  In the process of being considered, I had the good fortune of connecting to industry leaders, receiving excellent advice, and learning more about my own value proposition than I previously was aware.  For example, although I have been selling my technical agility in combination with my organizational strengths (see Proverbial Zebra), I had yet to create a value proposition to best market my superpower* (see Credibility).  In this process, I discovered that entrepreneurial athleticism has already been described and advocated in the recruitment of CleanTech (emerging technology) management teams:  “The best approach is to source individuals who have demonstrated an ability to reinvent themselves…” – WooHoo!  This discovery has deepened my conviction that my value proposition is both valid and valuable.

Although this particular opportunity was not to be, I continue to be confident that a suitable adventure will find me.  They always do.

(*Linda’s superpower:  I create, amplify, and broadcast process confidence to ensure emerging technologies achieve commercial success!)

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