Showing posts with label Interaction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interaction. Show all posts

April 9, 2018

An Introverted Extrovert

I thought this was an interesting phrase someone used the other day to describe their personality.

They called themselves an "Introverted Extrovert."

I asked what they meant, and they explained as follows:

"I'm Introverted until I get to know someone then I am extroverted with them."

This actually made a lot of sense to me.

We may be reticent at the beginning when meeting new people, but once we feel comfortable with others and start to trust them, then we naturally open up to them.

The truth is most people aren't extroverted (social) or introverted (shy). 

Instead, people are on a continuum, which is generally a bell-shaped curve.  

In other words, most people are somewhere in the middle---either introverted extroverts or extroverted introverts. 

Well, what's an extroverted introvert?

It's someone who tends to be more comfortable and trusting and social with people, but they also need time alone to recharge, and perhaps they even get shy sometimes. 

Most people don't exist on the extremes--that's why they are called extremes!

So don't be so quick to judge yourself as an introspective introvert or an outgoing extrovert or anything else for that matter. 

We are "this" AND "that"--sometimes maybe a little more this or that, but that's all part of us and it's okay to be us! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 19, 2017

Customer Service NO-NOs

So if you're in customer service...

The answer is easy. 

It's always got to be YES. 

- Any less is a big No-No!

The customer's needs are paramount.

Their satisfaction is your goal. 

So your job is to figure out how to get from no to yes!

You've got to problem-solve and figure it out. 

And it's not enough to come up with any old solution.

When I said to my colleagues the other day:
"There's a solution to every problem."

Someone joked and answered back:
"It's just that the customer may not like it."

And I responded:
"Well then that's not the solution you are looking for!"

You've got to go back to the drawing board and get to a legitimate yes. 

Of course, it can difficult, especially when at times you deal with some challenging customers and problems.

But listen, this is the customer service field and in the end, the customer experience should be WOW fantastic!

It's the customer that is depending on you to come through for them and their mission. 

Doing your job isn't just a matter of reading off of some cue card or playbook. 

This is real life with real consequences. 

If you can deliver, the customer will be able to do their jobs, and they may even sing your wildest praises--wouldn't that be rewarding? 

Customer service means getting to YES from the earliest possible moment in the interaction, meaning it, and legitimately delivering on it--no other questions asked.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 12, 2016

Oculus Rift Has My Attention

This picture is an older version of Oculus Rift--larger, heavier, more clunky than the streamlined version coming out this April for $599.

Zuckerberg's Facebook announced the purchase of Oculus virtual reality (VR) in March 2014.

I can't think of another piece of consumer technology that I want to try out more than this. 

Initially for immersive 3-D experiences in all sorts of entertainment, including gaming, movies, television, and more. 

But soon to follow are use cases for virtual meetings, classrooms, doctor's appointments, and anything requiring our interaction and communication. 

Hush-hush is the more intimate use for things like virtual sex. 

Also, there are opportunities for augmented reality where physical reality is supplemented with computer sensory input making your real-experience that much richer and informed.

With the Oculus Rift, I imagine myself immersed on a safari in Africa, flying into the reaches of space, relaxing at the most beautiful beaches, praying at the Western Wall, fighting my way through first person shooter and action adventures, and reliving biblical and other major historical events.

I don't see VR for myself as an escape from reality, so much as being able to experience many more of life's realities and possibilities out there. 

My only fear is that as VR gets better and better, it becomes easier and easier to fall away from our challenges in the real world, and just live inside a mask with a controlled environment where our virtual choices and experiences seem all too convenient and real. ;-) 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Weston High School Library)
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November 13, 2015

What's With The Best Buds?

 I never quite understood the best buds t-shirt wave.

This is especially the case when the person is alone and there is no best bud anywhere to be found. 

We are all social animals, and perhaps, we all wish to have a best bud in our lives--someone to "buddy around with" and who knows and understands us, and unconditionally accepts us. 

Best buds seems to almost be able to read each others minds and finish each others sentences...and they laugh hysterically together about these mindless things for which apparently only they get it. 

When best buds are together, it's like they are almost in a bubble of their own world, and everyone else is on the outside, if they even exist to the buds at all. 

That's because bests buds are it--they have history, they share things in common, they think alike, and they work in tandem.

It's like getting two for the price of one: they are Batman and Robbin, Tonto and The Lone Ranger, Cheech and Chong, Laverne and Shirley, Simon and Garfunkel, and so many other couplings that stick together like peanut butter and jelly. 

If you have a best bud then you already know you don't need to give them a t-shirt to spell it out--the chemistry already says it all. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 17, 2015

From Stability Comes Instability

I remember hearing the phrase (not sure from where), "everything and the opposite."

I think it refers to how within each thing in life are elements of the exact contrary and opposing force. 

Similar to the interactions of ying and yang, the world is an interplay of opposites--males and females, black and white, fire and water, ebb and flow, good and bad, optimism and pessimism, and so on. 

Everything has a point and it's counterpoint.

It was interesting to me to see this concept expressed in terms of the financial markets (Wall Street Journal), where bull and bear contend in terms of our finances.

But what was even more fascinating was the notion from the economist, Hyman Minsky, who noted that the very dynamic between stability and instability was inherent within itself.

So for example, Minsky posits that a stable economic market leads to it's very opposite, instability.

This happens because stability "leads to optimism, optimism leads to excessive risk-taking, and excessive risk-taking leads to instability" (and I imagine this works in reverse as well with instability-pessimism, retrenchment and limiting risk to stability once again).

Thus, success and hubris breeds failure, and similarly failure and repetitive trial and error/hard work results in success.

It is the interflow between ying and yang, the cycle of life, life and death (and rebirth), the seasons come and go, boom and bust, and ever other swinging of the pendulum being polar opposites that we experience. 

The article in the Journal is called "Don't Fear The Bear Market," I suppose because we can take comfort that what follows the bear is another bull. 

But the title sort of minimizes the corollary--Don't (overly) rejoice in the bull--because you know what comes next.

Go cautiously and humbly through life's swings.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 4, 2014

UNSOCIAL Social Media


This video is absolutely fantastic. 

Congratulations to Gary Turk for hitting the nail on the head here. 

And thank you to my daughter, Michelle, for sharing this with me.

  • Smartphones, dumb people. 
  • Easier to connect with people, but we spend more time alone.
  • Be there in the moment. 
  • Give your love, not your like.
  • Look up from your phone, shut down your display.

Part of me just wants to say that Social Media is one of THE biggest wastes of our time...REALLY! 

Another part of me, believes in some aspects of it for information sharing, collaboration, and being a greater influence. 

But Social Computing is NOT a replacement for genuine human interaction, which is too OFTEN what it has become. 

I applaud my daughters, for at times, disconnecting their Facebook accounts to read, spend time with friends, and do other activities.

We've lost too much of ourselves to an escapist virtual reality--where it's easier to HIDE behind a screen, then be there in the flesh facing the challenges that we must. 

There are great aspects to being online--it's been a true information revolution--but the computer needs to SERVE the human master, and not the other way around.  ;-)
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April 26, 2014

Treat People Nice

On a recent college visit, I saw this sign hanging on a door. 

The quote is by Maya Angelou and it is very powerful:


"People will forget what you said,

People will forget what you did,
But people will never forget how you made them feel."

As human beings in this world, we come and go.


Our time here is finite. 

We will be replaced by others.


What is truly memorable about us is our relationships and how we treat others. 


When we show kindness to people or when we are cruel to others--these things are never forgotten. 


Our interactions are the mark of who we are inside--do we sincerely care about others and the bigger picture or are we just plain selfish?


How about you--can you remember:

  • how that parent who loved you made you feel? 
  • how that teacher who taught you made you feel? 
  • how that friend who played with you made you feel?
  • how that boss who mentored you made you feel? 
  • how that clergy who inspired you made you feel?
  • how that spouse who was your companion made you feel?
  • how those children who looked up to you made you feel? 
  • how those colleagues who supported your work made you feel?

I'm sure you can also remember times when people made you feel not so good--perhaps, you scowled or even cursed them under your breath. 

Getting results in life is not enough--we can't do it by stepping on other people and really being successful that way.


Empathy and kindness or a hard heart and cruelty--you will be remembered one way or another. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 17, 2014

Time To Spread The Magic

So I'm not the biggest fan of Disney theme parks -- maybe that is not a popular thing to write.

But to me, the rides alternate between fake or nauseating (when they're not broken down), the characters are outdated, the parks are hot, overcrowded, and the lines and wait times are long, and the ticket prices are sort of crazy for what you're getting (not). 

Let's see, a day at Disney or day at the beach--uh, I'll take the beach any day!

But Disney is doing something magical these days. 

Bloomberg Businessweek reports how Disney's new MagicBands are using technology to make the theme park experience more convenient, even if not more fun. 

The MagicBands are like an all-in-one electronic link between you and Disney:

- No need for an admission ticket, because the MagicBand does that.

- Reserve your favorite rides, use your wrist band. 

- Hotel room keys, that's right the band unlocks your door.

- Shopping at Disney kingdom, the band functions as your debit/credit card. 

- Being greeted by name or wished a happy birthday, the bands make your experience more personal.

What's more Disney uses the bands for "big data" analytics--for capturing your likes and preferences for rides, restaurants, food, and souvenirs--and this adds up to customer service enhancements like restocking shelves, opening up reservations, expedited queues, and even targeted mail and text messaging/advertising. 

The bands have radio frequency identification tag/chips (RFID) as well as GPS sensors, so Disney knows who you are, where you are, and even much of what you're doing. 

Spooky from a privacy standpoint--sure, you are really sitting there exposed in just about every way. 

But this technology has arrived, not just at Disney, but via embedded RFID in your smartphones or your body someday soon. 

The synthesis of man and machine...the mystery is gone in the magic kingdom, but maybe the service gets better. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 16, 2014

How Our Colony On Mars Will Get Built


Absolutely amazing development in robotics...

According to the Wall Street Journal, Harvard University researchers have developed autonomous robots inspired by termites or ants. 

They can build complex structures by working in a group or swarm.

Each robot is independent, yet by being programmed with the target structure, they work harmoniously together to build the structure without further guidance. 

They have sensors along with a set of rules that enable them to interact with each other and the environment to get the job done. 

They can even build stairs to enable themselves to get to higher levels of the structure and add the next set of building bricks. 

The robots are 8" by 4.5" with pinwheel tires for traction and are powered by off-the-shelf motors.

"Each robot 'walks around the structure until it sees something that needs to be done and then does it...they can recognize errors and correct them.'"

Perhaps, the robots can not only learn from the termites, but we can learn from the robots. ;-)
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September 13, 2013

Communicating 360

My daughter, Michelle, is taking a university class in public relations and as part of the class she was asked to interview 3 people about their perceptions of this field.

So she posed some questions to me and here is how the interview went:


1. In your own opinion, what is public relations?  Why do you think of public relations this way?

Public relations is simple, it's about relations with the public--communicating and connecting with people about what you do, why you do it, how you do it, for whom you do it, when you do it, and where you do it.  It is includes marketing and sales, customer relations, investor relations, government relations, relations with partners, as well as crisis communications, and maybe even recruiting talent to the organization. 


2. What do you think of when you think of public relations? Why do you think of this/these?

When I think of public relations, I tend to think of many of the big, well-known brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Allstate, and so on--they do a lot of advertising and communicating with the public. They invest in this and it has a pay-off in terms of organization, product, and brand recognition.


3. What do you think the skills are that are needed to work in public relations?

Creativity, visual thinking, messaging, branding, marketing, sales, and psychology. 


4. Would you distinguish public relations from marketing? If so, how?

Public relations, to me, is broader than marketing. Marketing has to do with getting product awareness out there and selling, but public relations involves not only connecting with customers, but also investors, suppliers, partners, even the government, and international players. 


5. Can you give examples of what you think public relations is today? 

Public relations is how an organization interfaces and communicates with all its stakeholders.  It is mainly external or outward facing and differs from internal communications which is inward facing, like talking with employees. Public relations uses advertising, media, commercials, messaging, branding, logos, newsletters, mailings, to get the word out from the organization's perspective--good news and also countering bad news.


So how did this "IT guy" do with answering questions about public relations? 

Not my field, but maybe the MBA and private-sector experience helped, a little.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 3, 2013

People Needing People

My wife always tells me she needs a lot of personal space--she likes time and focus to do "her thing." 

No one nagging, yapping, coming around, asking for things...just some quiet time for herself.

I can appreciate that--we all need time to think, be creative, take care of personal things, and pursue our own interests. 

At the same time, people need other people. 

When we are done doing our things, we need human interaction, attention, conversation, sharing, touch. 

I saw a few things this week that really brought this home:

1) The Netflix show "Orange Is The New Black" about a young woman put in jail and how she handles all the challenges of being incarcerated with literally a cast of characters.  But in one scene in particular, she is thrown in the SHU (Solitary Housing Unit) and within about a day, she is hearing voices and talking to someone that isn't there. Alone, she crawls up into a ball--like a baby--craving someone to come, anyone. 

2) Visiting the nursing home today, I saw many old people screaming for help. It is a really nice nursing home as far as they go, and the people apparently weren't screaming because of mistreatment, but rather for attention--a human being to be there interacting with them. Interestingly, even when the old people are sitting together, they are still yelling in a sort of helpless anguish being alone, only calming down when a family, friend, or caretaker comes over to them, touches their hand or hugs them, asks about their wellbeing, and shows genuine human caring. Yes, they have real physical needs they call out for help for too, but I think even many of those calls for help--too many and too often to all be for actual needs--are just for someone to come around and pay them attention and be there with them.

3) I remember years ago, seeing some parents put their child to sleep at night. But the child wanted their parent to sit with them and comfort them while they drifted off to sleep. But this parent strictly followed the Dr. Spock guidance that you just let them cry it out, and boy did this little girl cry and cry and cry.  I said to my wife, this is not the right way--it can't be. And I myself always fought that the children should be held and comforted when they cried, not forced at such a tender young age to be alone and "self-sufficient."

While people need time and space for themselves, even the biggest introvert among us needs other people. 

In solitary, people can literally lose their mind--alone, scared, desperate, but solitary doesn't have to be a prison, it can be an emotional and mental condition where people are craving even just a hug from someone who gives a damn. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Clover 1)


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July 18, 2013

What A Good Answer Costs You

This was a funny sign that I came across with a colleague of mine. 

It's a price list for answers.

An answer (presumably incorrect) is 75 cents.

A thoughtful answer (but again incorrect) is 1.25.

A bona fide correct answer is $2.15.

The only thing that's free is getting a dumb look.  

I gave the guy $5 and told him to keep the change. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 6, 2013

Teamwork or Telework?

Clive Thompson makes an interesting point in Wired (15 May 2013) on productivity versus creativity.

He says that people seem more creative when interacting with other people in a group, and more productive when left alone to get their work done. 

Hence, he advocates for telework to improve individual productivity, but basically only after the team first gets together to figure out what creative things they should be doing. 

While I agree that group interchange can be good for bouncing ideas around and sparking innovation, and that with some quiet time, people can plow through a lot of work on their own--this is only a very narrow perspective.

Really, very often, the exact opposite is true....think about it. 

When alone, and with some quiet time to think, you may come up with some of your best and most creative ideas. That is because the pressure is off to strut your stuff with the others, the groupthink is gone, and you can concentrate and free associate.  Inventors, writers, painters, and other creative types come up with some of the best innovations, when they are left alone to do their thing. 

Similarly, when people are in a group, they can often be much more productive than when working alone. Whether in mass producing good as a team in a factory, as team mates in sports passing and scoring, as warfighters waging battle side by side, and even as the construction crew in the picture above putting up a brand new high-rise building--people, when working together, can do amazingly great and productive things.

So yes, while at times groups can spark creativity among each other and quiet time can be good for getting (some paper) work done, often the exact opposite is true--and the group can produce in quantity and quality and the individual can think, experiment, and truly innovate.

Group and individual work is not correlated one for one with creativity and productivity--it all depends on what you are trying to get done. 

But either way, you need both telework and teamwork to think and produce. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 31, 2013

What Does A Robot And A Spouse Have In Common?


This is a pretty cool advance in robotics. 

The robot doesn't just perform tasks, but it interacts with the person--sensing his movements and thereby anticipating his needs. 

According to Gizmag, this advanced robot was developed by Cornell's Personnel Robot Lab. 

As you can see in the video, the robot sees the person picking up a pot and moving towards the refrigerator, and the robot "understands" and goes to pull open the fridge door. 

In another example, the robot first without anticipating the person moving his coffee cup, pours coffee, spilling it on the table, but then with the special programming, the robot "sees" the person picking up the cup to drink and putting it down, and waits to pour until the cup is in stably in place. 

The anticipatory skills of the robot are based on 120 3-D videos in its database of people doing everyday tasks and extrapolating from it to what is occurring around it. 

The robot's predictions of the person's actions are refined as the person continues to move making the robot's response that much more in tune and precise with the person it is interacting with. 

The less far out in time that the robot has to predict, the more accurate it is: for 1 second out, it is 82% accurate; 3 seconds out, 71% accurate; and 10 seconds out, 57%. 

It is pretty incredible that we are able to program a robot to watch and sense similar to the way we do, and to react accordingly. 

The challenge will be as in the show Lost In Space, where the Robot is often confounded by illogical or unpredictable human behavior, and frequently, repeats "Does not compute." 

People are not programmed like computers--they experience conflicting and complex thoughts and emotions, behave in unpredictable or seemingly illogical ways, may have difficulty making up their minds in the first place, or may change their minds, even multiple times. 

Being a robot in a human world will by necessity mean being adaptable and understanding to changing human moods, whims and desires, and being able to respond quickly and appropriately--sort of like what being married is all about. ;-)
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March 5, 2013

Lets Play Chicken


So probably everyone knows the game of chicken.

They play this game in the movie Footloose--driving these big tractors towards each other waiting to see who flinches, chickens-out first, and veers out of the way before the vehicles collide. The person who moves out of the way first is the "chicken" (although that person is probably pretty darn smart not to risk getting him/herself killed!)

An article in the Wall Street Journal (18 February 2013) on making friends by sharing, but not oversharing, reminded me of this. 

Like two vehicles driving towards each other--making friends is about coming together by disclosing who you are and what you are about--finding and enjoying commonalties, respecting each others differences, and being able to interact in a mutually satisfying way. 

Driving gradually and carefully, you can get to know someone by mutually sharing and connecting--first a little, and then building on that with some more. 

Beware of disclosing too much, too fast--it can make another person uncomfortable--like you're dumping, desperate, or maybe a little crazy!

At the same time, not being able to open up can make the other person feel that you don't like or trust them or maybe that you are a little boring, shallow or that you are hiding something.

Of course, the chemistry has to be there and it's got be reciprocal--both the feeling and the sharing--users and stalkers need not apply. 

However, if things aren't working out between the two people and they are on course for a head-on collision, someone has got to get out of the way--maybe that person is a chicken or perhaps they just know when it's time to say goodbye. 

Anyway, chickens can either end up doing the chicken dance or they can end up as roadkill--it all depends on how they approach the other chicken. ;-) 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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January 15, 2013

Challenging The Dunbar 150


Today, Facebook announced it's new search tool called Graph Search for locating information on people, places, interests, photos, music, restaurants, and more. 

Graph Search is still in beta, so you have to sign up in Facebook to get on the waiting list to use it. 

But Facebook is throwing down the gauntlet to Google by using natural language queries to search by just asking the question in plain language like: "my friends that like Rocky" and up comes those smart ladies and gents. 

But Graph Search is not just a challenge to Google, but to other social media tools and recommendation engines like Yelp and Foursquare, and even LinkedIn, which is now widely used for corporate recruiting. 

Graph Search uses the Bing search engine and it's secret sauce according to CNN is that is culls information from over 1 billion Facebook accounts, 24 billion photos, and 1 trillion connections--so there is an enormous and growing database to pull from. 

So while the average Facebook user has about 190 connections, some people have as many as 5,000 and like the now antiquated business card file or Rolodex, all the people in your social network can provide important opportunities to learn and share. And while in the aggregate six degrees of separation, none of us are too far removed from everyone else anyway, we can still only Graph Search people and content in our network.

Interestingly enough, while Facebook rolls out Graph Search to try to capitalize on its treasure trove personal data and seemingly infinite connections, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (10 January 2013) ran an article called "The Dunbar Number" about how the human brain can only handle up to "150 meaningful relationships."

Whether hunter-gather clans, military units, corporate divisions, or an individual's network of family, friends, and colleagues--our brain "has limits" and 150 is it when it comes to substantial real world or virtual relationships--our brains have to process all the facets involved in social interactions from working together against outside "predators" to guarding against "bullies and cheats" from within the network. 

According to Dunbar, digital technologies like the Internet and social media, while enabling people to grow their virtual Rolodex, does not really increase our social relationships in the real meaning of the word. 

So with Graph Search, while you can mine your network for great talent, interesting places to visit, or restaurants to eat at, you are still fundamentally interacting with your core 150 when it comes to sharing the joys and challenges of everyday life. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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October 20, 2012

Dance Robot, Dance!


This robot has rhythm and can dance Gangnam Style.

It is called CHARLI-2 (Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence--Version 2).

Charlie was developed by Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa).

At five feet tall, CHARLI is the United States' "first full-size humanoid robot."

Charlie can do things like walk, turn, kick, and gesture--he is agile and coordinated--and as you can see can even dance and also play soccer!

One of the things that makes CHARLI special is his stabilization technology--where it can orient itself using sensors such as gyroscopes.

According to Wired Magazine (19 October 2012), The Office of Naval Research has provided a grant of $3.5M to CHARLI's creator to develop a nextgen robot called the Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid (ASH) to work aboard Navy ships in the future and interact with humans.

CHARLI won the Time Magazine "2011 Best Invention of the Year" as well as the Louis Vuitton Best Humanoid Award.

While the CHARLI robots still move relatively slowly, are a little awkward, and are almost in a child-like "I dunno state," we are definitely making exciting progress toward the iRobot of the future--and I can't wait till we get there.

For me, I see the potential and this robot can certainly dance circles around me, but that's not saying much. ;-)

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May 30, 2012

Communication, What Comes From The Heart

Leaders always seem to be trying to get their message "right".

They ponder what will it take to win the hearts and minds.

They may hire consultants to tell them what they should say.

They engage fancy speechwriters to say "it" just so. 

Then, they monitor the polls to get feedback and see how their message was received.

However a new article in Harvard Business Review (April 2012) throws a curve ball at this whole notion--stating: "It seems almost absurd that how we communicate could be so much more important to success than what we communicate."

From my perspective, there are many factors that contribute to the success of our communications:

Firstly, let's face it--personality, likability, charisma, and charm go a long way to influencing others--and yes, it seems like this is the case, almost at times, regardless of the message itself. 

Then there is everything else from emotional intelligence and political savvy for "working" the audience to doing your homework in terms of getting your facts right, making your presentation engaging, using back channels to build support, and giving people the opportunity to ask questions, contribute, and buy in. 

According to the HBR article, successful communication directly impacts team performance, this occurs through:

- Energy--"the number and nature of exchanges among team members"--with more interaction being better.

- Engagement--the distribution of communications among team members--with more equal distribution being better (i.e. communication isn't being dominated by one person or a select few).

- Exploration--this is the communication between a team and other external connections--with more outreach being better for creativity and innovation. 

For all of us, communicating is as much about the way and how much we interact with others, as with what we actually have to say. 

That's not to say, that what we have to communicate is not important, but rather that the mere act of communicating with others is itself a positive step in the right direction.

We have to genuinely interact and connect with others--it's a critical part of the influencing and teaming process. 

Only then, does honing the message itself really make the difference we want it to. 

People communicate with other people and this happens in  a very direct, personal, and emotional way. 

There is a Jewish saying that my wife often tells me that her grandfather used to say, "what comes from the heart goes to the heart."

I think that is the correct notion--sincerity is at the core of it takes to really communicate effectively with others. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to VisaAgency)

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May 28, 2012

Solitary Social Creatures

We've all had the feeling of being alone, abandoned, and feeling down and out. 

As social animals, we crave being with others--even the biggest introverts out there have got to have social interaction. 

Sometimes, when young people live alone--before finding their significant others or old people live alone--after losing their significant others, there is a deep pain of being isolated in the world...almost as if there is no meaning itself in being alive.

Yet, others seem to adjust in a way to living alone, as long as they can reach out and get social interaction in other ways--family, friends, colleagues, classmates, at clubs, religious institutions, and more.  

Either way--"No man is an island," as John Donne wrote in 2003. 

Being alone is torture. 

No really.

The Wilson Quarterly (Spring 2012) in an article entitled "The Torture of Solitary," by Stephanie E. Griest is about the purpose and effects of solitary confinement as rehabilitation and as a punishment. 

Coming out of the Middle Ages, where physical torture was common--dungeons instead of jails, cages instead of cells, racks and rippers instead of rehabilitation and yard recess--the Philadelphia Quakers in the 18th century, had the idea that solitary confinement was humanitarian.

They believed that "what these prisoners needs...was a spiritual renovation. Give a man ample time and quiet space to reflect upon his misdeeds, and he will recover his bond with G-d.  He will grieve. He will repent. He will walk away a rehabilitated man."

And so prisons (like the 1829 Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia) were built with entirely isolated cellblocks and prisoners were engulfed in silence and aloneness.  

Any rejection of the mental torture of isolation through any form of communication--such as pipe clanging or shouting through flushing toilet pipes--could lead to yet again physical tortures--such as "strapped inmates into chairs for days at a stretch, until their legs ballooned" or even putting their tongues in "iron gags."

The article concludes from the effects of solitary that "the physical pain of these tortures--common in many prisons at the time-paled beside the mental anguish of solitude."

From the horror-mangled looks on the faces of the prisoners, Dickens wrote: "I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body."

I cannot imagine the pain and horror of these tortures by design--physical and mental. In all cases, the scars of the flesh and soul are probably indescribable and outright haunting to even the imagination. 

Eventually the horrible effects of solitary and the high-cost of prison cells housing individual inmates, resulted in Eastern State Penitentiary being converted into a museum in 1971 with the "The crucible of good intention" finally shuttered.

From the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Miller, we read:

"A considerable number of prisoners fell, even after a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others, still committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community."

"In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court nearly declared the punishment unconstitutional;" it is now used mostly for "short-term punishment for exceedingly bad behavior."

Currently, there are more than 60 prisons across the country with solitary cells housing up to 25,000 prisoners. 

This is a puzzle--what do you do with offenders that are too dangerous to be with others, but as human beings too fragile to be alone?

What is striking to me is how something as "simple" as putting someone by themselves and incommunicado can drive them literally nuts!

Almost like we cannot bear to be by ourselves--what is it about ourselves that we must turn away from, be distracted from, and causes such inner horror?

Our minds and bodies need to be active to be healthy, this includes being social--being alone and bored in solitary has been shown to cause people to hallucinate, go insane, and even kill themselves.

Yet still people recoil from other people--emotionally, they may be turned off or nauseated by them; physically, they may fight, separate, or divorce and end up for a time by themselves again--people make the decision that it is better to cut your familiar loses, then go down with a ship filled with corrosive and abusive others.

I imagine Buddhists meditating in the mountains or in an open field--alone and yet at peace--but this is self-imposed and temporary and more like a "time out" in life. 

Then I see humans languishing in dungeons and in solitary confinement--physically and mentally tortured--they scream out in the void--and I see G-d reaching out to finally take them from their immense suffering to be reborn and try their lives again.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Deisel Demon)


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May 26, 2012

Hey, Gesture Like This!


This new gesture-recognition technology from Leap Motion is amazing. 

"For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimension with your natural hand and finger movements."

The closest yet to get us to the vision in the movie, Minority Report

"Leap is more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard, and more sensitive than a touchscreen." 

Scroll, pinpoint, pan, play, shoot, design, compose, fly--just about everything you do onscreen, but more in sync with how we generally interact with our environment and each other. 

I like when the guy in the video reaches forward and the hands on the screen reach right back at him!

I'd be interested to see how this can be used to replace a keyboard for typing or will it be augmented by a really good voice recognition and natural language processing capability--then we would have an integration of the verbal and non-verbal communications cues.  

In the future, add in the ability to read our facial expressions like from a robot and then we may have some real interaction going on mentally and perhaps dare I say it, even emotionally. 

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (24 May 2012), the Leap is just the size of a "cigarette lighter that contains three tiny cameras inside" and costs just $70--"about half the price of a Kinect."

The Leap is so sophisticated that it can "track all 10 of a user's fingers and detect movements of less than one-hundredth of a millimeter."

At their site, I see you can even preorder these now for estimated shipping at the end of the year.  

I think I'll put this on my holiday gift list. ;-)

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