Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Some radical ideas about work

There are quite a few things swirling around out there with regards to the traditional work relationship (go in to work from 9-5 Monday thru Friday) and it's effectiveness. One such article mentions the new ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) recently implemented at Best Buy.
The results have been spectacular: an average 35% boost in productivity in divisions working in ROWE and a decrease in voluntary turnover by 52-90% depending on department. (Interestingly, involuntary turnover increased among ROWE workers—while it might seem like slacker paradise, shirkers have no place to hide when the only measure of work is results. What’s more, as the number of meetings fell, collaboration and teamwork improved.) Just as important, employee engagement and other “soft” metrics (like energy and hours of sleep and family time) went up significantly. Check out the fascinating study from University of Minnesota for more data on the links between freedom and accountability, productivity, happiness, and health.
Kinda makes you want to be a workplace happiness consultant, doesn't it? Or maybe that's what they should be calling those guys like Bob & Bob from Office Space?

In other work related news, apparently telecommuters are both more productive and more loyal? Start setting yourself up for this kind of work now, it will become prevalent before you know it...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On Resources, and using them

Grinding It Out also touches on this concept that "business will expand to tax the facilities provided." Think you'll need 80 seats in your restaurant? Put in 120, and sure enough, you'll find a way to fill all those tables at peak hours.

This is probably a concept that we can see everywhere in our world:
  • If days became 26 hours long, you can imagine, that it would only take a few days for you to figure out how to fill those extra 2 hours (and you probably wouldn't know the difference).
  • The Central Artery, a highway in Boston, was built with a capacity that well exceeded the "need" at the time, but of course, almost immediately after the work finished, they started planning it's replacement. The increased capacity brought and more cars until it could hold no more. $14.6 billion later, I'm told the traffic situation has improved somewhat.
  • Somehow, no matter what size my desk is, it seems to be entirely covered with piles of stuff within days of a thorough cleaning
And so on...

Someone was recently telling me about similar research done with food and rats. Or rabbits? Can't remember. Basically, the size of the group correlated precisely with the amount of food placed into the habitat. Kinda makes you wonder if we should be worried about the recent run-up of efficient food production on this planet...?

PS - Going to be off for a few days. Check back in a week...I promise a swift return!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Apparently McDonalds is not evil

I just finished reading Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's by Ray Croc. It's essentially an autobiography of Croc, who is often heralded as one of the great American entrepreneurs of this century. Basically, you can't help but come away from the book with a reverence for this man. He is so hardworking, passionate, and clearly genuine. I've never hated McDonald's, but I haven't spoken highly of them since I was around 8. And no, there is no story behind that.

Really, McDonald's is just a well oiled (no pun intended) machine trying (and succeeding) to win the game of business. It's not like they're out their killing kittens to get what they want...

The last two paragraphs of the book (see, I did read the whole thing) are beautiful:
Too many young Americans these days don't get a chance to learn how to enjoy work. Much of this country's social and political philosophy seems aimed at removing the risks from life one by one. As I told a group of business students in one of the talks I gave at Dartmouth, it is impossible to grant someone happiness. The best you can do, as the Declaration of Independence puts it, is to give him the freedom to pursue happiness. Happiness is not a tangible thing, it's a byproduct -- a byproduct of achievement.

Achievement must be made against the possibility of failure, against the risk of defeat. It is no achievement to walk a tightrope laid flat on the floor. Where there is no risk, there can be no pride in achievement and, consequently, no happiness. The only way we can advance is by going forward, individually and collectively, in the spirit of the pioneer. We must be able to take the risks involved in your free enterprise system. This is the only way in the world to economic freedom. There is no other way.
Amen brother. Sounds just as true 30 years later...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Destruction, in the form of a pill

Imagine a little pill. Something that, without physical side effects, could have the most disruptive effects on our way of life.

What would that pill do? Put people in a constant state of bliss? Halt the bodies natural aging process? Double the size of our....brains?

Try this: eliminate the need for sleep. Sweet, we'd all get an extra 8 hours of leisure time each day, right? Scott Adams doesn't thinks so...

Or would the possibility of working twenty hours a day become a necessity, as wages plummet with the instant doubling of labor supply?

Suppose the sleep drug becomes illegal in the United States without a prescription (likely), and legal in a competing country (also likely). The countries that use it will become economic powerhouses while effectively enslaving their workers around the clock.

Read the rest...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Money can buy happiness, apparently

Or, according to this article, more correctly:

there's a 72% correlation between per capita GDP growth in a country and its citizens' happiness.

And by worldwide standards, we're doing pretty damn well in here in America. But what about "mo' money, mo' problems" and "money doesn't buy happiness"?

Maybe those are just ways of telling ourselves we don't need more?

PS - the article also says we're making more babies than at any time since the 70's, and have the highest rate of any developing country. I'll let you draw your own correlation between sex and happiness.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

On Killing Time

I've said it before and I'll say it again:
Doing the things that you have been putting off will make you happier than continuing to procrastinate.
Even if you don't think it affects you. It does.
Even if you think you'll have plenty of time to do it later. You won't. And even if you do, it will come at the expense of other more enjoyable things.

I didn't kill any time today. Although technically I didn't get to relax till 9pm (and promptly began to write this blog, which probably doesn't count as relaxing anyway), I feel so much better than all those days when I just get to kill time however I please.

Of course, refer below to what I learned in 2007, and you'll see that if I keep this up for a few days, I'm sure to long for "killing time mode" again.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What I Learned in 2007

One year ago, I proclaimed 2007 "The Year of the Can". I'm not exactly sure whether or not I succeeded, but it does feel like the right kind of changes are in the works. Slowly though. Very slowly.

In a sense I fell off the wagon these last two months. I've stopped worrying about setting myself up for the future, which is both good and bad. Good? I'm not anxious about wasting time anymore. Bad? I know I am capable of more, and should be taking steps towards making my future happier and more productive.

I've rationalized this by telling myself that, since I will be skipping town (perhaps for good?) at the end of this coming summer, there is no point in building towards anything because I'll be starting over again in a few months. Of course, I realize this is stupid, but as Memento proclaims:
So you lie to make yourself happy, nothing wrong with that. Everybody does it! So what if there's a few little details you'd rather not remember?
But what I'd really like is to not have to lie...or more correctly: why can't admitting to yourself what's really going on be 90% of the battle? It feels like much, much less right now.

What did I learn in 2007?
  • Death can be a powerful catalyst - in the short term. It's sad how quickly you can go back to your old ways...the ways you thought the experience would change you forever.
  • It is always better to prepare first and kill time second. Never the other way around.
  • The grass always seems greener. At this moment, I'm almost certain I would feel exactly the same about my life even if I had not switched careers.
  • I say that people are the most important thing to me, but I rarely live up to that. I want to want closer relationships, but if I never take the right steps to make that happen, isn't that a sign? Sometimes it just feels like "hanging out in the company of people I care about".
  • I have long term ADD. Instead of switching tasks every 5 minutes (which I also do, but not chronically), my primary interests switch every few weeks.
  • Information browsing should only be used for inspiration, not as a strategy for gaining knowledge. Before the internet, it made sense to devour any useful tidbit of information that came your way. Now, ANYTHING you will ever need to know can be found in seconds. Educate yourself on an as needed basis, otherwise it's just information overload. Every. Single. Day.
What have you learned?