Wise Words: Steve Jobs: saying no

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we [Apple] haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.


— insider source for and about broadcast network and cable news — 

Nobody has to tell anybody that we live in a 24/7 news cycle.

But the nature of ‘news’ has changed dramatically in a very short time. Some would even say that what passes for news these days is just a lot of celebrity gossip with a snippet of war-zone coverage and a political scandal or mud-sling thrown in for good measure.

Regardless, we still want to find out what’s going on in the world or our little corner of it. So do the folks who actually work in the news biz. Who knew?

So. Where do the news “professionals” go for the latest on their industry?

To a blog-cum-website, TVNewser from mediabistro.com. Launched in 2004 by Brian Stelter, a reporter for The New York Times who was then a 20-year-old senior journalism student at Towson University near Baltimore, Maryland, the blogsite provides up-to-the minute daily info about what’s happening in the teevee news biz. You’ll find ratings stats, who’s watching what (demographic breakdowns by program), links to major cable and broadcast resources, and lists of topics, archives, and recent ‘newsworthy’ events.

Great quote from one day’s entries on the TVNewser website —
The Hollywood Reporter: “Tune in to Fox News for comedy done right.”

If you’re really into this stuff — as most of the well-known talking heads seem to be, you can also sign up for the “Daily Media Newsfeed” via email to get your fix.

Be warned: news, blogs, email — all this electronic buzz about the electronic buzz can be addictive….

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

99.3 Random Acts of Marketing

Bite-sized business tips in a regular-sized package. What a deal!

Written by the owner of an ad agency in the central United States, Random Acts serves as both a reminder of what you may already know about marketing your products, services, or organization, and a gently humorous nudge to get busy about putting that knowledge to use.

Whether we like it or not, in our 24/7 constant-contact world, all business owners and employees are de facto marketers for the places they work, the clients they hold in relationship, and the products and services they provide.

Totally new ideas may be few and far between, but, as author/marketing guru McLellan points out, success often comes by doing the obvious and the mundane consistently and regularly. He quotes facts and figures — also an appropriate thing to do in marketing materials that cry for specificity instead of glittering generalities — and he mixes in anecdotes, bullet points, and references to other useful resources.

More than once, we are treated to the admonition to think of our audience(s) instead of ourselves when developing marketing materials and approaches. That’s a reminder that never grows old, especially in our ultra-consumer-driven world. Just because we’ve seen the ad or heard the story a hundred/thousand times doesn’t mean our potential customers have encountered it at all.

“According to a study by Thomas Publishing Company,” states McLellan, “most marketers give up too early. The study reveals 80% of sales to businesses are made on or after the fifth contact, but only 10% of all marketing efforts go beyond three times!

“When planning your marketing efforts, remember that frequency is critical to success. You have to get your customers’ attention, pique their interest and create the need for your product or service. Then, you have to stay under their nose until they are ready to buy. No single ad or direct mail piece can be expected to accomplish all that in a couple of attempts.”

The book is set up in an interesting format: all the information nuggets are on the right-hand pages. All the left-hand pages are blank, with the heading “Random notes:” — leaving plenty of space for you to doodle your own ideas and applications.

Random Acts is an easy read, but don’t let that fool you. You’ll learn everything from how using the two-letter U.S. state abbreviations can save you money on your direct mail projects to the value of thinking about marketing campaigns, not just brochures or one-off splashes. Like the adage about the irresistibility of potato chips or chocolate chip cookies, take just one taste of these Random Acts and you’ll stick around for the whole book.

Author: Drew McLellan
Published: Des Moines, Iowa: Innova Training & Consulting ©2003

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos


— news from the sustainable future —

Make a difference in and with your life in lots of ways while you also help others close to home and around the world.

The Worldchanging website highlights many opportunities in a variety of disciplines from nanotechnology to fashion. Some examples:

  • “Hot rocks” for home energy
  • Free bicycles in Paris
  • Indonesia’s efforts to keep its forests
  • Jeff Christian and the Buildings Technology Center at the Oak Ridge National Labs, conducting research on five prototype houses that cost between 60 cents and one dollar a day in energy costs
  • Venture capitalists investing in green technologies
  • Professor Ron Deibert, director of Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, creating a remarkable institution to research the intersection of civic politics and digital technology
  • Toronto’s Transit Camp

Explore issues like shelter, cities, community, business, and politics to see what you can do to help make the future one we’ll enjoy living. Let’s start now!

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos


— public television at its best — 

Looking for kid-friendly and family-friendly television? Wondering where to find a variety of news and opinion? Ready to get busy with how-to programs on everything from construction, gardening, quilting, painting, and cooking to antiques? Excited to experience nature, history, and cultural programming you won’t see anywhere else? That’s what public television in the United States does so well.

From coast to coast, America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and its public television affiliates offer a variety of over-the-air, digital cable, Web-based, classroom, and educational services to anyone with access to a TV set or a computer. Most led their states and communities in helping residents making the transition from analog to digital television in 2009 and are now offering diverse program streams on multiple digital channels — able to be viewed through humble rabbit-ears/over-the-air antennas in addition to the pricier cable TV subscriptions — as well as on their websites.

Here, we highlight IPTV (Iowa Public Television, Iowa’s statewide network) and KQED (the San Francisco affiliate of PBS), following a conference on the development of digital television (the ninth!), held each fall in Des Moines, Iowa, and sponsored in part by IPTV and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). As you’ll see when you visit these websites, each public television station has its own personality, most often reflecting its location and its audiences. They’re fun, flashy, studious, and entertaining — separately or all at the same time.

As Pat Mitchell, one-time head of the Public Broadcasting Service, reminds anyone who will listen, the PBS mothership itself is only an umbrella organization for this nation’s public television affiliates; it’s not an actual network like CBS, ABC, or Fox, which own their own stations across the country and can pretty much dictate the programs that go on the air (with advertising revenue as the main draw).

Rather, PBS is an umbrella structure that helps develop programming, which is then offered to its affiliates. But affiliates don’t have to put it on the air locally if they don’t want to. While that’s a challenge for the national organization, it’s also a darn good recommendation for the quality programming that usually shows up on your local PBS station. And it can serve as a reminder about what you can do (contact the local station!) if you want to see something else on the public television channels in your area.

PBS takes education and children’s television seriously — and has a lot of fun with it, too, as they’ve branched out beyond the TV screen. Maybe that’s why PBS.org ranks as the most-visited site on the Web. PBS now offers material for targeted audiences that’s accessible directly from its home page — including PBS Kids, PBS Parents, PBS TeacherSource (free lesson plans, activities and professional development tools for PreK-12 educators), and PBS Campus (distance learning courses available for college credit).

These days, more than ever, public television offers incredible value. Jump in!

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

Managing Humans

— Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager —

Despite what you might think from its title (and subtitle), Managing Humans has a lot to say to all types of businesses, all types of managers, and, really, anyone who wants to lead or is trying to be a leader anywhere.

Tell the truth now. Wasn’t it just yesterday (or maybe earlier this morning) when you were buried nose-deep in the latest stats from Google Analytics or the quarterly reports from accounting and you blew off the real, actual person hovering outside your door? Or your boss yelled at you about some missed or slipping deadline and you passed that kick-the-dog behavior down the line to your direct reports? Welcome to management. Welcome to business. Welcome to humanity. Welcome to life.

At one point or another, if you’re in a leadership position (whether inside a business or out), you’ll probably get wrapped up in the nuts-and-bolts of everyday events and forget that work gets done through people — the messy and inspiring, frustrating and amazing hot-bodies-with-brains-and-feelings who work for and with you. No matter how challenging these folks can be — and we recognize them when we look in the mirror and see that they mirror us, too — we all work better, and work better together, when we’re seen for the real people we are.

In addition to the messiness of our humanity, manager/leader wannabes must deal with another confounding factor — technology (namely, computers) — which leads to the time-sink of e-mail, social media, and the pervasive black hole of electronic gadgetry and software. Today’s companies and independent road warriors run on some flavor of Windows, Linux, OS X, iOS, Android, Google, assorted mobile apps for smartphones, text messaging, and a Web browser or two. Nerd heaven. The rest of us are just the complicating interlopers in this space, but we’re tethered to it because we must use the magical black box with the related QWERTY keyboard or beam-me-up-Scotty system — or die trying.

Enter Michael Lopp, a k a Rands (his alter ego appearing in the form of a Weblog — blog), a manager of 15 years from Silicon Valley, California’s software development partyland. He worked at the likes of Apple Computer, Netscape Communications, Borland International, and Symantec Corporation, and has been as involved as anyone in the thick of our workplace culture’s latest incarnation.

As a person deeply immersed in technology and the science of computers, you might be surprised to find Lopp saying things like, “Your traditional management book is based on the idea that there is a science behind management. It suggests means of reducing managers and management activities to a pleasant set of rules that, if followed, will result in organizational happiness. This is not that book.”

You’ve just been given fair warning, as you listen in on the (mostly) boys’ club, to expect more than a bit of attitude and a smattering of four-letter words in the fictionalized-but-essentially-true war stories of corralling the nerd herd. Don’t be put off by the occasional raunch or rant or by the technology focus. What soon becomes obvious in Managing Humans is that people are people and management is management, tech-focused or not. And people are the most important ingredient in any company’s success.

Here’s a taste from early on:

“My definition of a great manager is someone with whom you can make a connection no matter where you sit in the organization chart. What exactly I mean by connection varies wildly by who you are and what you want and, yes, that means great managers have to work terribly hard to see the subtle differences in each of the people working for them.

“See. See the people who work with you. They say repetition improves long-term memory, so let’s say it once more. You must see the people who work with you….

“Being a manager is a great job (I mean it), but it’s your ability to construct an insightful opinion about a person in seconds that will help make you a phenomenal manager….

“Every single person with whom you work has a vastly different set of needs. Fulfilling these needs is one way to make them content and productive. It is your full-time job to listen to these people and mentally document how they are built. This is your most important job. I know the senior VP of engineering is telling you that hitting the date for the project is job number one, but you are not going to write the code, test the product, or document the features. The team is going to do these things, and your job is the team….

“Organizations of people are constantly shifting around. They are incredibly messy. In this mess, judgments of you and your work will be constructed in moments — in the ten-second conversations you have in the hallway, and in the way you choose to describe who you are.

“Meanwhile, you need to constantly assess your colleagues, determine what they need, and figure out what motivates them. You need to remember that what worked one day as a motivational technique will backfire in two months because human beings are confusing, erratic, and emotional. In order to manage human beings in the moment, you’ve got to be one.”

If you don’t do anything else, check out this little Flash video. Then, for other clues about care and feeding, read Lopp’s blog, where you’ll find the eminently useful Nerd Handbook.

Oh, yeah. Welcome to life.

Author: Michael Lopp
Published: Berkeley, California: Apress ©2007

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

Free Press: Media Reform Network

— returning real content to journalism and expanding media literacy — 

Wonder what’s happened to the news? Why TV screens and radio airwaves are full of celebrities and their fashionable lives but you don’t hear a sensible discussion about ways to create jobs, restore the economy, rein in Wall Street speculators, improve educational opportunities and outcomes, or the impact on our children’s future of the mandated testing policy in the No Child Left Behind Act?

Wonder why more of us turn to international sources such as the BBC to find out what’s going on inside the government of the United States? Why fewer and fewer corporations own more and more media outlets (radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, books, music, concerts, and maybe even the Internet)? Why your local radio station disappeared into a sea of automated programming or your hometown newspaper disappeared altogether?

Well, you’re not alone. More of us are talking about it — and now, more people are doing something about it. In an unprecedented show of national concern, some 2.5 million Americans expressed their disapproval of the move toward media consolidation to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) following their June 2, 2003 decision to expand the ownership rules and allow the handful of existing media conglomerates to own even more properties. Politicians as diverse as Trent Lott of Mississippi, Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota spoke out against the monopoly of information.

Clear Channel, now the owner of more than 1400 radio stations and other media companies nationwide, is only one example of how media concentration shuts out local information. You’ve heard the story of the chlorine gas spill in Minot, North Dakota? Well, neither did the local residents. Perhaps that’s because Clear Channel owns the majority of radio stations in town — but they’re automated, meaning that the music and “talk” comes from some pre-packaged faraway source. The only real person in the area is a technician who monitors the machinery, and that person is not always in the building. Which is why the citizens of Minot couldn’t get any information about the chlorine gas leak in their own city in time to protect themselves. Is this really what we want for our communities?

Free Press is a national organization intent on increasing our participation in democracy and in the public policy debates about the media and its value to participatory governance. They sponsored the first of many National Conferences on Media Reform in Madison, Wisconsin (November 7-9, 2003), where veteran journalist Bill Moyers, a roster of national dignitaries, and two FCC Commissioners gave important speeches.

Free Press also joins the media literacy effort with groups including Smart Media Education from the Action Coalition for Media Education, Democracy Now!, and others, in helping us all learn how to watch a TV program or film, how to read the underlying messages in advertising, how to find child-friendly, family-friendly, and just plain people-friendly media fare on any platform or device, and how to ensure a wide range of thought and opinion in newspapers, radio/television broadcasting, online/social media, and access to information technology.

The conversation about diversity of media ownership is crucial to the health of our democracy. When fewer outlets are available, fewer opinions — regardless of their message — are expressed, and that’s not good for any of us. A recent study of young people, eligible to vote for the first time, found that many did not vote because they said they didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision. And still the big media giants gobble each other up, often with the blessing of the FCC.

In a democracy, it’s not important that everyone holds the same opinion (in fact, that’s extremely counter-productive); it is important that each of us has the information to hold an informed opinion and to respect the opinions of others (even when we don’t agree with them) as we participate in the community dialogue that makes our system work. We can’t do that if we don’t have access to information in the first place.

Everything we do is now shaped by some form of media. Keeping ourselves involved and informed is a critical responsibility of citizens in a democracy, and all of us need to be sure we can — and do — get in the game.

Oh, by the way…
The evening of November 8, 2003, also offered a spectacular lunar eclipse, clearly visible to most in the Northern Hemisphere of the United States. If you didn’t stand outside and gaze appreciatively during its approximately 7:06-7:36pm totality, check out MrEclipse.com and the NASA Eclipse website, both products of long-time eclipse guru Fred Espanek. He offers tips for how to photograph eclipses and information on the ones that will appear in coming years. Then, search Space.com for ‘eclipse’ to see more fantastic images.

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos


— The New Competitive Advantage in a World of More, Better, Faster — 

Are you running on information overload? Too much to do and not enough time? How do you figure out what’s important, how to get things done, make successful decisions, work productively?

Bill Jensen’s Simplicity: The New Competitive Advantage in a World of More, Better, Faster draws on a study of over 2500 people in 460 companies and states the crux of the problem: “The hardest work is figuring out what to do in a world of infinite choices.”

According to Jensen’s sources, “cognitive overload” costs U.S. industry $1.3 trillion through problems such as work complexity’s drain on the economy, the cost of stress-related problems, business’ tab for remedial education, and yearly fees for management consulting. In striving for clarity and simplicity, however, people can work smarter by recognizing what’s valuable and ignoring what’s not important. And Jensen practices what he preaches in this relatively small, clearly written handbook for “simple” success. Just remember: “simple” doesn’t mean it’s easy. You still have to do the work of change.

In slightly over 200 pages filled with chapter punchlines, one-page summaries, short quizzes, discussion points, theory corners, simple notes, models, examples, meaningful graphics, and typographical shifts that get attention and highlight key points, Jensen describes the concept of simplicity, helps us appreciate how work got to be so complex, and offers solutions for what to do about it, including a call to change how we structure companies.

“Simplicity,” says Jensen, is “the art of making the complex clear,” and it “can give us the power to get stuff done…. It’s a prerequisite if we want to leverage the untapped energy, innovation, creativity, and ideas that already exist in our organizations.” But in order to achieve this power, we have to change some habits, especially how we use time. “By changing how you organize and share what you know, you’ll spend a lot less time on…things that don’t matter and a lot more time on things that do.” Workplaces must organize time both so work can get done and so people can think — or you’ve lost your creativity, innovation, and competitive advantage, all of which reside in your workers.

Senior executives can facilitate simplicity by “working backward from what people need. People will trust the corporate infrastructure to help them work smarter if tools, processes, and information are grounded in their needs. Simpler companies start where employees and customers meet, then work backwards into business needs.”

While most work is no longer done with brute strength, many businesses operate as if it was. We’re knowledge workers now, and “productive knowledge work,” states Jensen, “is all about how we use each other’s time and attention as we try to get stuff done. Your worst competitor is day-to-day confusion — the time it takes everyone to figure out what to do and what not to do.” A shocking “60 to 80 percent of us can’t find or translate the info[rmation] we need for decisions.” To get simple, we must compete on clarity by using time differently, we must design smarter work by working backward from what people actually need, and we must lead through navigation — structuring companies according to the questions people ask, creating maps that follow human nature.

Jensen has written several other books, the newest of which is The Simplicity Survival Handbook, and he’s recently contributed as a guest editor to the staff blog at Fast Company magazine.

Author: Bill Jensen
Published: Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Publishing ©2000
Website: www.simplerwork.com

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos