Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Slack to Improve Team Collaboration by Dave Nelsen

Here's something to think about: You and all of your company's employees spend, on average, a little
more than 40% of your time working email. Is there anything in business that consumes 40% of your resources, or even 4% of your resources, that you've never tried to optimize?
Here's another thing to consider. Email was invented in the 1960s. Back then none of us had ever imagined an iPhone, or a PC, or a CD player, or a pager, or a VCR or a microwave oven. Heck, I'm not sure I'd yet seen a color television. One of my friends did have a black and white television to which his parents had applied a translucent color overlay. The top 20% was blue and the bottom 20% was green. It turns out that few programs feature a shot showing both grass and sky but if they did, then yes, my friend had a color television. Mostly, people on his TV just looked ill.
So a lot has happened technologically since the 1960s. We've stopped sending telegrams (fun fact: the second 'T' in AT&T now stands for 'T' ... as there are no more telegrams). We've stopped using VCRs. While I use its technological replacement, the DVR, even that is threatened as I now stream from Netflix, Apple, and Amazon, or use YouTube. We've stopped wearing pagers. We've even relegated CDs to the past and are now moving beyond their replacement, MP3s + iTunes to streaming services including Apple Music (love it!), Pandora, and Spotify.
And yet we're still using email. Oh yes, and microwave ovens, although they have evolved; they rotate your food and figure out how long to cook it automatically. And there's been massive technological progress in microwave popcorn.
Back to email.  
It's more or less the same technology I first experienced in 1982. And so I've supplemented it with Dropbox, Evernote, Wunderlist, and texting...on my MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and of course "the cloud." Do you think perhaps it's time to say goodbye to email? Absolutely! So what then?
Say hello to Slack. First, to establish its credibility as an important company/product, Slack is funded by a veritable Silicon Valley dream team comprised of Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners,
Kleiner Perkins, and Google Ventures. It doesn't get any better than that.  
The Slack product was launched in 2013 and, according to Wikipedia (so it must be true), attracted 8,000 customers in the first 24 hours. Hopefully, none of these companies (or the hoards that came afterwards) are your competitors. It's simply shocking that a small team of smart coders could create a system that's actually better for employee collaboration than email...more than half a century later. (Now I'm making myself feel old.)  
So what is Slack? Go to  www.slack.com and find out. Watch the video created by Sandwich Video, about how they themselves use Slack after they were hired by Slack to create a video about how companies use Slack. Talk about recursive self-references. Wow!    
As I've advised with other new communication tools (Yammer, Chatter, anything social media, or social networking), find a few volunteers in your organization to run a small-scale trial among themselves. Not to be too stereotypical but they probably won't be the employees who were using email back in 1982. Actually, it's a good bet that they weren't even alive in 1982. Interestingly, that year was the beginning of the Millennial generation.  
After 30 days have them report on the pros and cons of Slack vs. email. My guess is that the ‘pros’ will prevail and your competitors will hate me. But your employees won't.


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Friday, July 10, 2015

MikkiLeaks: Honoring Our Heroes by Phil Liebman

My driving purpose in life has me working with CEOs and other top executives because I believe they all have the potential to be my heroes. And I have hopes that I can help you become my hero as well. This begs the question: Who are YOUR heroes? I had always disliked being asked that question. I struggled to point to any one person and definitively say he or she is my hero. I would find myself making it up to suit the context of whatever discussion we were having.There were plenty of people whom I greatly admired but few I knew well enough to consider their actions heroic. I could count my mother and father and my mother's father among the heroes in my life, and could rattle off some great heroes out of history but struggled to identify living heroes beyond those I knew intimately.
Then about ten years ago when I became a TEC/Vistage Chair I came to realize that the people I admired most were the people I had been inviting into my professional world and into my groups. These men and women, through their inventiveness, dedication, and skill at accomplishing things, and above all else their caring, were doing more to benefit society than I had previously experienced when I idealistically immersed myself in politics and government. I came to see that through their ability to create value and solve problems these business leaders were better able to benefit the social, economic and cultural needs of our communities and the world. And the evidence of their good work is all around, in the dedications on libraries, hospitals, university research centers, and even a few towns named for them. I had discovered who my heroes truly are.
Do you ever think of yourself as a hero? Or whom you might be a hero to?
Are you courageous? Do you have an insatiable desire to do or to make things better? If so, you could certainly be one of my heroes. What does it take for someone to be one of yours?
A Final Thought on One of My Heroes 
I began working on this month’s contribution to MikkiLeaks over the long Independence Day weekend. One of my historic heroes happens to be Benjamin Franklin. Beyond being an inventor, a statesman and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Franklin was also a successful businessman and entrepreneur. In 1727 in Philadelphia Franklin established The Junto, a club for mutual improvement. Its purpose was to debate questions of morals, politics, and natural philosophy, and to exchange knowledge of business affairs. They also were a charitable organization that made a subscription public library of their own books. Franklin credited his business success on having this resource available to him, and Juntos, built on the same principles, exist to this day around the world. In good measure it is quite similar to the resources provided to the CEOs I work with through my Vistage Groups and is experienced worldwide by more than 18,000 Vistage and TEC members. Perhaps it's a resource you'd like to explore.

Phil Liebman is a Vistage Group Chair, a Fellow at the Thayer Institute for Leadership Virtuosity and the Founder of the BullFrog Group – helping CEOs become better leaders. You can reach him by email at phil@Strat.com - or by phone at 845.262.8611 or Visit www.TheBullFrogGroup.com

Friday, June 12, 2015

Don't Call it an iWatch by Dave Nelsen

I ordered my Apple Watch on the first day one could: April 10, 2015. Unfortunately, I didn't rise in
the middle of the night to do so at the earliest possible hour. So I had to endure an interminable 4 - 6 week wait. The watch finally arrived on Friday, May 15. In case you're curious, I got the larger (42 mm) version with a stainless steel case and black leather magnetic closure band. It runs $699 but throw in AppleCare and taxes and you're well north of $800.
My first impression was that it was beautiful and much easier to set up than I'd expected. Maybe you read the article by the New York Times reporter who claimed that it took him four full days to start to get the hang of it. That's probably because he tried to test virtually every major function and app ASAP. That's not how the rest of us will get started. It's easy and intuitive if you go one function at a time.
The main thing I like about the watch is that it's always with me, even when my phone isn't. That first day I was doing an online registration for one of my vehicles and needed the current mileage from my car's odometer. I left my iPhone sitting on my desk and walked out to the garage. Of course, that's when an important call came in (doesn't it always). Normally, I would have missed it and a game of voicemail tag would have continued. But not this time. I was still within Bluetooth range of my iPhone (reportedly up to 300 feet) and my wrist started ringing. Magic.
Which reminds me about a few things that you need to know. First, the Apple Watch also includes WiFi which can greatly extend the range. But that emphasizes a key point. The vast majority of Apple Watch functions rely on the iPhone. You can't even set it up without first pairing. So if you own a Samsung Android smartphone, you'll have to get the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch instead. I hear that it's pretty cool too.
Back to the Apple Watch and my favorite features so far. That's always the second question I get from someone seeing it for the first time (the first being "Can I see it?"). Mostly, it comes down to using it as an iPhone remote control.
For example, two weeks ago I was riding in a shuttle from Monte Verdi to Montezuma in Costa Rica while listening to Jimmy Buffett songs in shuffle mode (I just had to work that in). FYI, I have exactly 50 Buffett albums containing 589 songs, albeit with lots of duplicates. The iPhone was in my pocket. Whenever a repeat came on, no problem. Just use the Apple Watch to skip to the next one. What album was that song from? Just check the song name and album title on the Apple Watch. Need to change the audio volume ... You get the idea.
When I run I use the Nike+ app. In the past I had to hold the phone in my hand in order to see my stats in progress (or depend on the more limited audio readouts). Now I can put the phone in my armband and glance at the watch instead. AND I can see my heart rate too, although not in the same app. For whatever reason (likely privacy), Apple does not allow third-party apps like Nike+ to access health data.
Flying from Pittsburgh to Denver a week ago I used a boarding pass on my Apple Watch. And in Denver I paid for my venti Americano at Starbucks using it instead of the iPhone (or even the more primitive credit card which can too easily be hacked). Pretty much anything in your Passbook app can be used on your Apple Watch.
Still, the Apple Watch doesn't have all the desired apps yet. Most notably it doesn't yet track your sleep and doesn't include my favorite social GPS app, Waze. That said, I'm very optimistic about the future of Apple Watch. If you haven't tried one yet, get down to your closest Apple Store. Tell them that Dave sent you.

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