In many ways, I had an idyllic up-bringing. My parents loved each other, my brothers and sisters were (mostly) fun to be around, and my grandparents were retired farmers. You would think that what your grandparents did for a living before they retired would have very little bearing on your life. But when that occupation is farming, well… There’s really no such thing as a retired farmer. Continue reading
We live in “interesting times”. I’ve heard a lot of complaints from friends, acquaintances and the media lately about how moribund our government has become. It’s true not just in the US, but around most of the world. Just when we need leaders to drive forward a variety of human, economic and environmental innovations, our elected officials appear to be uninterested in governing. So who’s in charge when it comes to creating the kind of value that adds to the economy?
Citizens should be able to count on government to step in for intractable problems. We understand that these issues need a big voice and strong leadership to succeed. But structurally, I don’t think that government – at the present time – has the capability, capacity, or confidence to lead on the truly important issues of our day. Continue reading
I’m an efficiency expert. My raison d’etre is to make businesses run better, faster, cheaper. I love the work, which is challenging and rewarding, in more ways than one. But in recent years, I see a darker side to what I do.
Efficiency increases the divide between employees who are capable of innovation and those who merely follow instructions. In an earlier post, I mentioned three examples of how automation is taking away jobs, faster than any of us ever imagined, and in a wider variety of professions and industries.
At the present time, the easiest tasks to automate are the ones that don’t require the ability to think on your feet, or reason out problems, or innovate. We’ve heard before that the drive toward automation and efficiency is increasing the divide between the educated and uneducated workforce. The thought is that there are going to be fewer jobs in the middle income strata. Continue reading
My avocation is process efficiency. I spend my time helping businesses come up with ways to do things smarter, faster, better. My teams think it a big success to decrease the time it takes to do something by 50% or more. Yet… I’m concerned about how all this efficiency, including automation and “right-sourcing”, are affecting the long-term prospects for human employment. Continue reading
At one time, Stephen King decided to stop selling a relatively popular book called “Rage”. The novel was the first book published under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman, and was written decades ago. It’s the story of an angry teenager who shoots teachers and holds classmates hostage.
For a while after the book was published, King defended his story, saying that it did not cause anyone to go off the deep end. Over time, however, the book was found in the belongings of four perpetrators of school shootings, and around 1997, King allowed the book to fall out of publication and apparently asked publishers to remove existing copies from sale. A few years after that, many applauded his decision, although others thought he should have stood up for the rights of the artist.
This isn’t the only story of how people use their influence to create a better world. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that she is training herself to stop saying, “I’m sorry” at work. At first, this seemed ludicrous to me, now it seems like genius. Business people, most particularly businesswomen need to get out of the habit of apologizing. As a good girl, who prides herself on being “raised right”, this feels a little callous and rude, but there’s an important lesson here. Continue reading
It’s a well known maxim – “the corporation has no soul”. I believe that with my whole heart. People have souls, enterprises don’t. Sometimes, the culture of an organization allows the collective souls of its employees to set a shining example, but those efforts are still led by feeling, thinking humans.
There are lots of reasons for business to exist, but the overwhelming and primary reason is to make money. And… if a corporation focuses on that goal without wavering, they will do a lot of good along the way.
Most of us understand the basics of the enterprise. Every business in the world – from Campbell to Planters – has followed one script… Continue reading
I’m regularly surprised by questions about how to justify a sustainability program. It’s an easy answer. It takes time and money to run a sustainability initiative and you justify it in the same way you justify ANY company expense.
Business “value” is quantified in just a few ways. Revenue and current cost savings are considered hard value. Productivity gains and cost avoidance are soft value. Goodwill and reputation value are even softer still.
Hard Value. Discussions of hard value are easy. Continue reading
I’m a ’70s kid. I grew up in a small town, with a small mall. We had some bigger anchor stores, but the place to be if you were a smart kid, was the RadioShack that sat right in the middle of the mall. I’ve already written about my first job. My second job was this… I arrived for my teenage summer job at the family business. My dad pointed to some boxes in the corner and said, “There’s your job.”
“Unpacking boxes?” I asked. Continue reading
Yesterday, I saw a great post on an HR site, suggesting an out-of-the-box interview question. Frankly, these are sometimes a dime-a-dozen, but I really like this as a good interview opener: “Tell me about your first paying job and what you learned from it.”
My first job, at the age of 14, was on a land surveying crew. My dad owned the business and there was only one job available (my older sister was already working in the office, at the reception desk). It was hot, sweaty, dirty and definitely not the job that a teenage girl dreams of.
What did I learn at that job? Continue reading