Monday, January 23, 2006

Rules for blogging

What a great article! I'm posting this for posterity and for my future blogging classes. Amanda LaBonar writes an excellent article for the Marquette Tribune, Personal Responsibility needed when blogging.

It is an excellent article. I picked it up from Anne Davis (no relation) at the anne.teachesme blog. Anne, in true teacher form creates an excellent synopsis of the article.

  • Freedom of speech comes with personal responsibility.
  • Everything you post represents you.
  • I don't post anything I wouldn't be comfortable with anyone, from my parents to potential employers, viewing.
  • We complain about free speech being taken away, but we are giving away our privacy without a second thought.
  • I'm not bowing to the administration or running scared that something I might post will get me more then a slap on the wrist. I'm being realistic. These posts reflect you, and you never know who is looking at them.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Amazon CEO confirms that small towns can achieve success through technology

No suprise here --- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos delivered the keynote this week to a group of entreprenuers in North Dakota says:

"It's getting easier and easier to do amazing things from wherever you happen to be in the world," Bezos said at a press conference. "You can physically be anywhere as you do it, and you can affect the entire world with what you build...."

"This single individual [Shawn Fanning of Napster] completely changed something," Bezos said. "That's the kind of thing people can do anywhere. They can do it in Seattle, they can do it in North Dakota."
This is an important economic development point for small town America: being technologically savvy is essential. Economic Development organizations like the Economic Development and Technology Ventures (EDTV) at Georgia Tech offer programs like TechSmart to help small towns get up to par in technology.

As I often tell my students, when dealing with technology they and I often "don't know what we don't know." It is essential to constantly inquire and to never ever assume that you "know it all." We must continually benchmark and press forward in technology to ensure that we have communities that will foster the creation of Napsters and Amazons in the garages in our small towns.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Elements of Innovation - Guy Kawasaki Style

Here is a cool article by a Guy Kawasaki -- a columnist for Forbes and venture capitalist. He's been blogging for a very short time and has many page views. (uh over 150,000).

I think he has some good points but it boils to "thinking outside of the box." However, that old term is precisely that -- old.

He elevates true innovation to be even more important than quality. "Don't worry, be crappy," he says. I would argue that there is a balance to keep. To be an innovator you must be perceived as a quality provider in order to attract the early adopters. However, early adopters know that there are inevitably "glitches." As long as "glitches" don't turn into "gulches" that keep the product from behaving in its intended manner. Vaporware doesn't help anyone.

He brings back that good old target marketing we learned in business school. Emphasizes persistence. My favorite thought of his has to be this:

Think digital, act analog. Thinking digital means that companies should use all the digital tools at its disposal--computers, web sites, instruments, whatever--to create great products. But companies should act analog--that is, they must remember that the purpose of innovation is not cool products and cool technologies but happy people. Happy people is a decidedly analog goal.

True innovation is exciting. It is done by can do thinkers. It is done by people who are willing to take a risk.

Innovation is as difficult to predict as when you will fall in love or when you will get over an illness. Like love or illness, however, you can foster an environment conducive to innovation. Just as you can foster an environment where you're likely to fall in love or likely to get well.

I'm adding Guy's blog to my bloglines account. I'm very impressed. His article is shock therapy for those who are afraid to innovate although it shouldn't be taken too literally.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Optimus Keyboard - best of CES

I fell in love with it!

Every once in a while an innovation (or in this potential innovation) comes along that will change everything! We've been talking about LCD technology becoming so inexpensive that it will appear everywhere. Here is a very useful way to use it.

The Optimus keyboard available February 2006 (?) is going to be a great tool for graphic designers and folks alike. Imagine a keyboard that is "smart." When you change the font in Microsoft Word, the keys change to look like that font.

Big deal! Yes! What if your font is wingdings? What if you are multi or trilingual -- it changes to spanish or Russian characters as you change the font! What if you are a graphic designer? What if you are mathmetician and you need the correct symbol?

This is an incredible innovation that will inevitably create many knockoffs -- everyone is going to want one of these keyboards. I have to wonder if the input jack on the computer is going to have to change as the keyboard becomes more of a two way communicator.

It also is supposed to have ability to have buttons with a graphic that look like the icon assigned to that button. Special -- go on the Internet button or a button that takes you to your e-mail or favorite website. You won't have to remember which does which, the icon will be on the button!

Curious as to what the market response will be -- I showed this to my computer science students and explained the concept. These 10th graders saw the vision and wanted it now -- they said that $600 would be a little much but at $200 they would ask for it for Christmas!

One said - "This keyboard would the the iPod of next Christmas if it was priced correctly, we could see our emoticons on the keyboard. We'd have to have it because it would help us communicate much more easily with our friends on mySpace and in e-mail."

Others said -- "This is just the way that computers are going to have to be. No one will want a regular keyboard anymore if it works."

My student's response shocked even me! I hope this keyboard works as they say it does -- it will truly be an innovation that is wanted by anyone who has a computer.

I found so many bloggers who want this, its ridiculous!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Plant the seeds of profit

Zig Ziglar explains this concept in his book See You at the Top. Thoughts are like planting corn in a garden. When you plant corn in your garden – you get corn, not potatoes. Whatever you plant will eventually come up. In this way, when you plan negative thoughts in your mind, negative reactions and attitudes will be your harvest. Also, when you plant corn, one seed produces hundreds of new kernels. Between planting and harvest there is a tremendous increase in the number of corn kernels.

What types of thoughts are you planting? What words are you planting in the minds of others? Encouragement? Positive outlook on the future of your company? Pessimism? Hopelessness?

We all have an innate desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Give them something bigger to be a part of.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Customer service?

It is so difficult to get to talk to a human now when you need customer service. There is a "cheat sheet" posted on the Internet on how to reach a human from various companies. Sadly, I need to print it out.

Ahhh! THe advantages of a small town. I like to do business in my small town. This is not just because I'm a chamber member or a local citizen. It is because that when I'm in a crunch, I'll have someone to call on.

I have a perfect example. Over Christmas our big freezer went out at "The Shed" which is our family gathering place. Complete with all of the fixings for the holidays! On the Friday at lunchtime before Christmas!

Only in a small town would we see what happened next. We called and a repairman came out that afternoon. We have friends in the rent all business who helped us to get a freezer there within one hour! He wasn't at work so I called his wife at home -- she helped! Christmas was saved!

I saved some money and bought our school firewall from an online company that I adore and provides great customer service. We went back to school on Monday as teachers and I discovered that lightning had hit the firewall and modem. The modem is serviced locally by the city. Two men came in through the pouring rain and replaced the modem. It is Thursday and my firewall is still waiting. It is in transit and I have a shipment number but its just that it is still in transit. I have 350 students and 35 faculty waiting with bated breath for someone out of town to help. You see, no one worked on Monday and I had no one to call. They are great companies but I had no one to call.

Doing business locally is about just that...having someone to call. Having someone to help you when times are tough. I love to pench a penny but I pay a little more locally and when I'm in real trouble I have friends as well as vendors. I like to do the same for my customers. They know I will not leave them when the chips are down.

Think about local business when you think about the best customer service. You don't need a cheat sheet to find your friends!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Leadership is listening!

Each new year I work with my ninth grade classes on goal setting, planning, and character building. This is an opportune time because at the beginning of the ninth grade -- they think they know it all. They don't know what they don't know! At the middle of the year, they've gotten their grades and most of them have gotten the rude awakening that this is where it begins to count! They realize they want to make better grades and they are willing to change -- to listen!

Albert Einstein said, the definition of insanity is

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Well, that is what so much of us do. We want new results but we don't want to change. It doesn't happen! Kids want better grades but they don't get organized, they don't write down their assignments, they don't study. We must teach them those skills.

I have a grandmother who I adore. She is truly a woman who has made much of her life after growing up with nothing in the depression. I am forever changed due to her presence. One of the most complimentary things that all people have said about her is how she listened. When you talked to my grandmother, she would attend to you with a rapt, engaged expression of 100% listening. She watched your body language and she saw everything! She listened and heard!

I want to be more like her. My new year's resolution is unlike that of many, I think. I am resolved to become a rapt, engaged listener. It is so important. I feel that I do it so poorly.

I have picked up a life changing book that I love called The ServantBORDER=0: A Simple Story about the True Essence of Leadership by James C. Hunter. In this book, the mentor Simeon is talking to a man who has been sent on sabattical by his wife and work for an inability to get along with people. He seemingly has everything but has some habits that cause problems with others.

Simeon tells John, the executive on Sabbatical:

"When you cut people off in midsentence like that, John, it sends some bad messages. Number one, by cutting me off you obviously have not been listening to me very well if you've already formulated your response in your head; two, you do not value me or my opinion because you refuse to take the time to hear me out; and finally, you must believe that what you've got to say is much more important that what I've got to say. John, these are disrespectful messages you just can't afford to send as the leader."

"But that's not the way I feel, Simeon," I [John] objected. "I have a great deal of respect for you."

"Your feelings of respect must be aligned with your actions of respect, John."

That is my question for you -- do you listen to your students? Do you interrupt them? There is one other think I love from the book, it is the definition of leadership.

"The key to leadership is accomplishing the tasks at hand while building relationships." (p 41)

I love it! It also has a great discussion on whether you lead through power or authority. I'll save that for another day!