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Friday Roundup #3: Useful Articles, Books, and Apps
Thanks for the great feedback on the roundups this month! As a reminder, I'm doing this as an experiment for August to see how we like it, so your feedback counts. I've changed the formatting a bit to make the articles easier to read.
Notifications decrease performance as much as multitasking
We know that multitasking decreases performance, but Just Hearing Your Phone Buzz Hurts Your Productivity adds additional credence to the "turn off all notifications" best practice. Just hearing a ding, buzz, or call has similar effects to actively multitasking.
A quick tip for iPhone users: you can create a "Do Not Disturb Passthrough" list of contacts and put your phone on Do Not Disturb and anyone who sends you a message or text from that list will get through. It's great for remaining available to your partner, kids, friends, and key coworkers while shutting notifications off for everyone else.
Why Trump is Winning
I've been thinking a lot about Donald Trump's influence on the current presidential process. Don't worry, I'm not going to bash or laud Trump - I'm thinking apolitically here about what he's doing that's grabbing our attention. I'm also currently appreciative of the conversations his presence is fostering.
I ran across Scott Adams' (from Dilbert fame) Can We Call A Trump Puppet a Trumpet? where he discusses how Trump's visual metaphors are superior to the more convoluted metaphors of his competitors. The zinger: "The reality (as far as I can tell) is that [Trump's] playing three-dimensional chess with two-dimensional opponents."
It's All Good Until I Know How Much You Make
Back in April, the CEO of Gravity Payments announced a plan to cut his own salary and raise minimum pay in the company to $70,000. He got a lot of praise and PR, and I've had my eye on the consequences of that, as the American psyche attaches relative earnings to worth and I wondered how his employees would adjust.
Let's pause there: what I mean by relative earnings is that a person would be just fine making, say, $70,000, until she learns that someone else is making $72,000, or even that someone who was making less than she does is now making the same as she is. When my clients and I talk about open book management, one of the first things I'll tell them is that they need to cloak wages so that people don't know who's making what - all they need to know is that a certain portion of the revenue is going to wages.
We see this principle playing out in the employee backlash at Gravity Payments. The backlash makes no rational sense - no one lost in the deal in a real way - but, as Dan Ariely pointed out, we're predictably irrational.
Millennials Value Meetings
If you've been thinking about cutting meetings because "everyone hates meetings," think again. Millennials value face-to-faced meetings more than you think. From the article: ""We tend to try to plan every minute of the meeting from breakouts to general sessions,” he said, “but I think the ability to think in like groups and the ability to create open spaces is one way to get millennials more engaged." Right on.
Creative Apocalypse Or A New Era for Creatives?
Steven Johnson's The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn't is a must-read. He tackles the argument that "the digital economy creates a kind of structural impossibility that art will make many in the future." The problem with that argument is that it hasn't actually panned out, and he shows how.
His conclusion: "contrary to Lars Ulrich’s fear in 2000, the ‘‘diverse voices of the artists’’ are still with us, and they seem to be multiplying. The song remains the same, and there are more of us singing it for a living."
Aside: I wrote Why Creative Entrepreneurs Don't Need to Worry About Free in 2009 that I really wish I had kept working on, as it goes into this more. Luckily, it looks like this article is a setup to Steven's next book.
On Amazon's "Brutal" Workplace
Speaking of Free and capitalism, you might have heard about the recent Amazon "takedown" piece, Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in A Bruising Workplace. I have a lot to say about this particular piece - alas that I'm currently on a book deadline - but I didn't at all read it as a takedown piece. I viewed it from the lens of a former Army officer and with the experience of how high performance teams work. If you sign up for an elite or high performance team, you know it's going to be tough and you also know that there's a "purposeful Darwinism" at play. It's part of the deal.
Jeff Bezos has created a culture of extreme performance and this is known in the hiring process. It's true that the stories of (mostly) women getting culled because they took on caretaker roles is a problem AND there are ways Amazon could improve on the snitching and undermining culture, but it's unclear that it not being a warm-fuzzy place to work like Google (whose economic structure is based on (effectively) zero-cost products, thus allowing considerably more margin) makes it evil.
Of course, we as consumers may decide that we'd rather support a company that takes better care of their employees, but we need not make the decision from the belief that Amazon is hoodwinking their employees.
Are You An Implementor or Enabler?
I stumbled on Josh Kaufman's Are You An Implementor or Enabler? and wanted to share it with you because it's a key idea we all need to know about. In my experience, people struggle with career progression because particular roles call for different amounts of implementation or enabling.
For instance, founders stifle their business's growth largely because they can't let go of being an implementor and need to shift to being an enabler; leaders struggle because their job is often 90% enabling, but the 10% implementation is on really important projects that no one else can do. Read Josh's article to check-in with whether you've got the right mix of inner Implementor or Enabler.
Al Ries' Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It is a good read if you make the necessary translation from corporate context to your personal context. It argues that the true cost of diversification is often a loss of growth.
Carla Birnberg and Roni Noone's What You Can When You Can: Healthy Living On Your Terms is a great read for making eating, sleeping, and feeling better less daunting. It really helps to interrupt the "someday/maybe/tomorrow" patterns that are easy to develop. Remember, your body is more than a head transportation vehicle. (Note: Carla was my guest for Episode 37 of the Creative Giant Show.)
Zoom. Zoom is a video and web conferencing service that's quickly replacing GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar for me. I've used GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar for years but, here of late, I've had more and more problems with it. After some critical fails with it last week, I switched to Zoom and it's been glorious. It's cheaper, easier to use, records video on Macs, and more people can be on screen. I need to dig into it more on the webinar side of things, but it's definitely worth the switch if you're just using it for meetings.