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Starting out as a software engineer in computer communications, I ran across the robustness principle:

Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others

accept rejectIt’s a highly useful approach to get software programs to work well with each other, but I’ve also learned that it’s even more powerful when talking about human relationships.

Humans make a lot more mistakes than computers do.

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You know that innovation in your business carries risk. That new product might fail. The creative marketing campaign might bomb. So you cautiously invest in these efforts, attempting to control any damage which might result.

But you may not have realized that innovation is also personally risky for your employees. Despite your best efforts to encourage your folks to be creative and “think outside the box,” they experience personal turmoil in actually doing it.

Here’s why:

Your employees typically are paid to … do their job. Read the rest of this entry »

Personality testingA fair number of companies use personality tests during their interviewing process.  This is dumb.

Why would I say that?

  1. It tells you basically nothing useful.
  2. It’s insulting to interviewees.
  3. Any interviewee that’s halfway intelligent can figure out how to feed you the answer you want to hear.  If you’re testing for test-taking intelligence, there’s much better ways to do it.
  4. It’s a waste of time and money.
  5. You’re kidding yourself that your decisions are any higher quality than just trusting your folks’ gut feel.

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InvoiceI was having a nice chat recently with a lady from FreshBooks. If you haven’t heard of them, they have a nice system for creating and sending invoices.

We got to talking about invoicing disasters, because it seems EVERYBODY has a story.  Including me.

Just last month, in fact.

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The Athletic Director was fired from the local university a few days ago, which has created all kinds of conjectures about how it affects the building of a new on-campus stadium.  That has been quite the topic of debate for a couple of years now.

But what caught my attention today was the AD’s quote in the paper: “I wasn’t in it for a popularity contest.  That’s not what leadership is.”

Of course he’s right.  But we’ve all seen how this concept gets abused.

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BankI closed out my safe deposit box today and moved it to a different bank.

But let me tell you the interesting story behind this.

I’ve kept our box at this bank for 29 years now.  Even when we moved out all our other accounts from the bank, it was just too annoying to think about moving the box.  So every December, I’ve dutifully paid the bill for renting it for the next year.  They didn’t increase the fee, so it was just easier to let it sit.

This year, the bank popped me with a 51% increase in the fee.  Yikes!  Read the rest of this entry »

washing-machine-197211_640I bought a new washer and dryer a couple of months ago.  A decent investment of money, for sure, but this pair might last us another thirty years.

Overall, the experience was what I expected.  This is a major American brand, so it had the usual pile of random papers in the box, under an amazing amount of packing material.  But the machines work as expected, and are much more efficient than what we had previously.

We’re reasonably happy.

I got two emails today from the manufacturer which were seeking my feedback.  Fine.  Read the rest of this entry »

I saw a fantastic article this morning by

Tim O’Reilly

Tim O’Reilly, who heads up O’Reilly Media.  In How I failed: Six lessons learned Tim addresses a few key areas where he wishes he’d done better over the years:

  1. People hear only half the story
  2. “That’s how it’s done”
  3. Cash and control
  4. Tolerating mediocrity
  5. Hiring supplements, not complements
  6. I’ll take care of that

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Frustration ComputerI had a chance to witness an interesting exchange recently that went totally out of control.  This happens all the time in social media like Facebook or LinkedIn, and on email as well.

One person makes a comment which expresses a point of view – perhaps a little controversial, but it doesn’t even have to be that.  It may in fact be a totally reasonable comment in the way they view the world.

Then the comment raises the emotions of a reader.  Perhaps that person misunderstands the message or the intent, but perhaps it’s just something that wouldn’t be said the same way in their world.

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I’ve had several opportunities recently to speak with people who were clearly teetering on the edge of business failure.  It’s a hard place to be, but it doesn’t have to be hopeless.

When you’re getting to that stage, here’s some advice which might help.  (But remember, I’m not a therapist!) Read the rest of this entry »

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