Meaningful Living in the Hashtag Age

Posts tagged ‘technology’

Looking Up: My 2015 Resolution

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Over the next 24 hours millions of people will set goals for the New Year. Typical resolutions will be a laundry list of positive changes like weight loss, spiritual growth and financial stability.  Most goals will be realistic and achievable and others will be too whimsical to set in motion.

But the idea of leaving one year behind and diving head-first into the next is refreshing. It’s a chance to start over, to get life right and to forgive yourself for the mistakes of the past 365 days. It is the finish-line for wrapping up unresolved issues and the starting point for reinventing your life.

This year, I’ve decided to take a different approach to setting my personal and professional goals. Of course I plan to eat healthier, love harder and seek peace in everything I do, but my primary goal will be unlike my goals of the past.

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Contained, Stored or Leashed: How not to handle Innovation

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Have you ever watched an innovator convert an idea into a practical concept, mold that concept into a viable business model then employ an operational process that allows a new venture to spread its wings and soar? If not, you should, because the sheer curiosity and eagerness of a dedicated business leader is inspirational beyond words.

It takes commitment to start a business.

It takes boldness to put forth an innovative idea.

It takes heart to see it through to the very end.

For those of us privileged to work with business trailblazers, we’ve witnessed many new ideas take flight. But in order to help these pilots stay above the clouds, both public and private sectors must do more to avoid putting roadblocks in their path.

Innovation is the idea of thinking differently about how we do things. In many ways it is the key to building a better world. From the development of the polio vaccination to the creation of the Internet and beyond, when we inhibit innovation by not providing the resources needed to mature an innovator’s dynamic ideas, we are also hindering our own personal and professional growth.

Innovation should never be contained, stored or leashed. To grant it the freedom it needs to change the world, it must be unfettered then fueled. But the fueling becomes the problem.  In order to properly drive innovation public and private sectors must create pools of resources accessible to both thriving ventures and start-up companies.  In a perfect world, every program created in the name of entrepreneurship would offer hefty funding resources, mentorship and collaborative opportunities. But we live in the real world. With countless limits on capital resources for new businesses and political opposition to funding more research and development, roadblocks to innovation will continue to exist over time unless we act now.

So, how can we give innovation the freedom to thrive? Here are my three ideas to help public and private sectors broaden their view of the needs of entrepreneurs:

Money matters. You’ve heard it a million times: access to capital is key. Well, it is. No company succeeds without financial support.  Call it what you want – crazy, ill-conceived or unorthodox – but the process of creating new technology is a lot like throwing spaghetti at the wall. You sling it until it sticks and when it does, you peel it off, figure out what made it stick in the first place then do it all over again. But if every sling at the wall costs $50,000 or more, innovators may only get one chance at success. Therefore, the key is to ensure that all public and private entrepreneurial programs develop strategies that will provide multiple layers of funding for companies at each stage.  One shot just isn’t enough.

Failure isn’t final.  Public and private entrepreneurial programs should be designed with failure in mind. In a recent Forbes magazine article, “Why is Innovation so Hard?,” writer Edward D. Hess discusses a key factor in what hinders us from accepting failure. He writes: Our educational system and most work environments have taught us that good performance means avoiding failure, not making mistakes. This is a big problem, because failure is an unavoidable part of innovation experimentation.

Innovation requires the willingness to fail and learn. But failure comes at a cost that most investors don’t want to take on. Innovators with great ideas often fail at the early-stage because of a lack of financial support. Programs created to help them often offer assistance worth the value of one sling at the wall and nothing more. To change this, we must shift our psychological acceptance of failure and instill new ways of thinking into public and private program development.  Although failure may be final to most investors, to a serial entrepreneur it is often the beginning of a new onslaught of creative ideas and concepts that deserve a chance at success.

Supporting the best and disregarding the rest is no way to build a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. The best of the best technologies can be found at the least attractive places. Great ideas can come from anywhere. From basements in an urban community to labs at junior colleges, entrepreneurial programs should throw out the status quo and start looking for great inventions in some of the most unlikely places. We must learn to support business growth at all levels and create new avenues for innovators to get the recognition they deserve regardless of their educational background, income level or geographical location.

Simple stuff, right? We will see….

Effective Management: What I’ve Learned So Far

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The U.S. labor force has changed over the last 25 years.  Workers today have access to career opportunities that didn’t exist just ten years ago.  Technology has equipped organizations with resources to help improve productivity and streamline processes in short order.  The internet alone has created platforms to help people find jobs, get trained and share professional experiences that are vital to assisting businesses in meeting their mission objectives.

After over 15 years working in management-level positions, I am well-aware that the road to economic globalization is being built on the backs of highly skilled workers therefore making everyone’s role in an organization essential to business growth. However, successful businesses still heavily rely on the expertise of their management staff. The old saying, “a company is only as good as its leaders,” is still true.  And in this day and age, when leaders are concerned about weak economic growth and down-sizing, there is a need to revisit, or revise, our game plan for creating productive work environments.

If I had to write a pocket-sized manual on preparing for management in the 21st century, here’s what it would say:

  • Good managers should never display passive-aggressive behavior. Employees with passive-aggressive behavior will often show non-verbal aggression that manifest in negative conduct. These are colleagues or co-workers who refuse to take responsibility for tasks, purposely miss deadlines and go over their boss’s head to make him or her appear incompetent. Good managers should never play a role in aiding passive-aggressive behavior and more importantly, managers should never display similar behavior when dealing with their employees. Here’s an example:  Your top producing employee comes into your office and ask for a pay increase without knowing that you were recently informed that due to budget constraints no one will receive bonuses or pay increases for the next 6 to 12 months. You are obviously frustrated to learn that you will not receive your much-needed Christmas bonus.  But during the meeting, instead of being honest about the situation, you become irritated, insulting and dismissive.  Although your actions fail to reflect your true feelings, the employee is left confused and angry. Effective managers must learn to be clear and honest about how they feel, particularly when the issue is important to the personal or professional livelihood of their staff. Don’t play emotional games with your staff and remember that you are setting the example for the entire team.
  • Learn to appreciate the Millennial’s new work ethic. They will check their Facebook and Twitter accounts a few times a day during work hours. They will bring iPhones to meetings and Google what they don’t understand (or what they think you don’t understand). They will challenge your ability to do your job and recommend what they consider are lean processes that will make your head spin. And many of them may not stick around long enough to redeem a 401(k) or pension plan.  But, on the bright side, Millennials will bring a level of creativity and technical savviness that can help you improve productivity. They will rightfully expect and aggressively fight for inclusiveness that will not only promote diversity in the workplace but will also allow you to learn from each employee’s unique personal and professional background. So, if you can overlook a few tattoos and piercings you will learn a lot from them and in return create a better work environment overall.  Trust me.
  • Never (ever) hesitate to make the BIG decisions. If your team thinks you’re weak, than you’re weak. Perception becomes reality. Being decisive as a leader shows that you are not afraid to make things happen and you have no fear of being accountable.
  • Stay focused on what matters most. This rule will never change. Get focused on the mission, stay sensitive to the needs of your team, make decisions, be accountable and get the job done. That’s what effective management is all about.

To show kindness –> LIKE my status

Not long ago, I had a theory: if at least ten percent of my friends LIKE my status I had achieved Facebook success. Anything less than 10% and I should delete the post, change my name and move to another country.

Although my theory was flawed and my motive ill-conceived at best, I ultimately realized that our desire to be liked, even in cyber-space, is rooted in our need for positive feedback and inspiration – two important acts of kindness. Although social media provides an easy way to share our love and support for one another, we should never confuse the enormous impact of what God refers to as ‘unfailing’ kindness with the frivolous act of clicking LIKE on Facebook.

In a time before social media, kindness was readily expressed in more meaningful ways. A young man would help an elderly woman take her grocery bags to the car or a neighbor would share a plate of warm cookies with the kids next door. Although these acts of kindness still exist, in a world where 1.2 billion people are on Facebook monthly, our standard for how we express our support for one another has shifted.

Our accomplishments and sometimes our failures are expressed to the world on-line instead of over the phone or in-person. And when our friends applaud our efforts by hitting LIKE or come to our rescue with an appropriate quote of inspiration, we often feel less alone. Even amongst the clutter created by selfie-enthusiasts and Candy Crush fanatics, staying connected and sharing a part of our lives with those we love is important. But when kindness is minimized to hitting LIKE on a computer screen, its impact is diminished.

When we click a mouse instead of picking up a phone, we acknowledge what our loved ones have accomplished but fail to express words of kindness that are sustaining. When we click a mouse instead of praying for and with those we love, we miss an opportunity to intercede before God on their behalf and to show an inexhaustible compassion – the same compassion God shows us every day.

As Christians and Facebook citizens, it’s important to never forget that the Great Commission has not changed because of technology. Although Facebook is a great way to show your support, God’s word remains the same and His expectation that we offer others an unfailing kindness even in a changing world is worth more than a million LIKES.
So the next time you hit LIKE, follow-up your support with a prayer and words of inspiration and continue to show those you love the loving-kindness, grace and mercy God has shown us all.

Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

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