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    Relax, your 401(k) bounced back - time to make plans for Las Vegas in October

    This post was more or less completed over this past weekend, and I fully intended it to run yesterday. But after the bloodbath across global equity markets on Monday, it seemed a bit ridiculous to run a piece on Tuesday morning with a pitch to attend not one, but two events in Las Vegas this October. Sure, they are both fantastic, can't miss type events, and yes, I can offer you a really attractive discount to attend one or both of these events, but let's be honest - was anyone on Tuesday going to think seriously about approaching the boss for some travel budget, or consider a little additional personal investment in their professional development on such a disastrous financial day?

    But then, perhaps shockingly, the markets rebounded yesterday, and while certainly the uncertainty surrounding US and global economic conditions are likely to persist for the time being, the sting of Monday's sell off has been assuaged at least somewhat, and I figured I'd better make my case quickly this morning, since who knows what might happen when the bell rings a couple of hours from now.

    So here are the facts, and once I lay them out it will be clear what the only logical conclusion will be for you, the Human Resources or HR Technology professional at which to arrive:

    1. The 14th Annual HR Technology Conference is set for October 3-5, 2011 and will be held in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort. This event continues to be the pre-eminent event in the world of HR Technology, and in fact, rivals (and likely surpasses), any mainstream Human Resources conference for its sheer number and depth of exceedingly outstanding sessions, the scope and breadth of the solution providers that exhibit in the Expo hall, and the opportunity to rub elbows, break bread, and engage with the sharpest and savviest thinkers in the world of Human Capital Management.  

    2. If you skip this event, you will lament your decision for the remainder of 2011, and will almost certainly begin scheming planning to attend in 2012. Why put yourself through a year of regret?

    3. At no other event can you attend presentations from executives from the most important, innnovative, and exciting technology providers in the space, see case studies from innovative organizations like Facebook and Groupon, and even get the opportunity to hear from me, your dedicated servant not once, but twice during the course of the event, as I have the privilege to co-present a session with the HR Ringleader, Trish McFarlane, as well as participate on a HR and Social Media panel moderated by the HR Capitalist, Kris Dunn.

    4. If you move fast, (or really before September 19th), you can use the discount code STEVE11, (all caps), to receive a $500 discount off the published registration price. Again, the conference information and registration details can be found here. And you should really take advantage of this opportunity. Truly.

    But wait!  There's more!

    If you act now you can double your learning experience in Las Vegas this October!

    Here's how:

    The 4th HRevolution conference for Human Resources and talent professionals will be held on October 2, 2011, one day before the HR Technology Conference kicks off. HRevolution has partnered with the HR Technology Conference to present the latest in what has become well known in the HR community as a challenging, engaging, informal, and boundary stretching program of facilitated conversations that is sure to enhance and support your HR Technology experience. With sessions from leaders from Zappos and Glassdoor, as well as some of the leading voices in HR and social media today, the HRevolution - Las Vegas is the perfect way to get your HR Technology Conference experience started. And thanks to the partnership with HR Tech, all attendees of HRevolution will receive a special, top-secret discount code (even better than STEVE11), that will give you the best value for HR Technology that you can find.

    So here is what I really think you ought to do:

    1. Register for the HRevolution event on October 2nd. You can get your tickets here.

    2. Then take your HRevolution discount code and register for the HR Technology Conference here.

    3. Book your room at Mandalay Bay or at any one of the dozen nearby Vegas hotels offering rooms at half the price.

    4. Get ready for the best learning and networking experience you will ever have.

    Take my word for it, or better yet, ask anyone that has attended HR Technology or HRevolution, you won't regret it! 


    Don't try to be original...

    Browsing through the Google Reader early this morning and came across this piece on the CoDesign blog highlighting a sweet infographic on typography.  Sure I know that infographics are really close to Jumping the Shark right now, but at least this one is actually focused on graphics and typefaces, and not just an elaborate and link-baiting way to show some simple statistics or bar charts that I thought it was worth featuring.

    For many, the selection of fonts or typefaces is kind of a random act - we know we shouldn't choose Comic Sans under any circumstances (you do know that right?), but after that if we occasionally wander from the default Times New Roman font it is usually a crapshoot what choice we land on.  Arial? Verdana? Something something serif?

    Who knows? And does it matter, really?

    Well typefaces can influence your message - and these handy infographics might help you to better understand what effect your choices about type could have upon your content, (these images were pretty big, click the thumbnails below to view the full-size versions).



    What I like about the charts is how the designer managed to simply connect a style of type, say 'Modern Serif', with a feeling or expression of the connotation that style suggests, in this case 'Glamour'. 

    In addition to these relational connotations between typefaces and content, the charts also offer some simple suggestions on the design and layout of documents and displays of text and graphical information.

    But besides all that, and the real reason I decided to post about these charts here, was the closing statement that wraps up the second infographic. I'll repeat it here in case the infographics don't render fully for email and RSS subscribers.


    Sort of a different way of saying, don't overthink your choices in design and typography, and it suggests there could be some danger in trying too hard to create something so new and never before seen that a designer or communicator could ultimately detract from the message.  I think it is good advice for more than just font choices - it can be really easy to obsess on 'original' or 'ground breaking' at the expense of 'good'. I know I have fallen into that trap sometimes when designing presentations, getting caught up for hours on the images and the text alignment and fonts. Ultimately if what you have to say or communicate is good, really good, the design stuff probably matters less. 

    If the message and writing connect with your audience in a meaningful way, then it probably doesn't matter too much if the font is geometric or serif or extra chunky. 

    Just as long as you don't choose Comic Sans - no way you are overcoming that.


    Can Innovation be Departmentalized?

    It has been an exceedingly dreary few days (weeks, months, years?), here in the USA, with the seeming inability of our government leaders to find solutions for significant issues like the national debt crisis, the ensuing downgrade of US Treasury debt, and the most recent and horrible loss of soldiers in Afghanistan. 

    Unemployment remains unacceptably high, many large organizations while reporting strong profits, are choosing to sit on cash stockpiles, rather than increase or expand their labor forces. It is a very uncertain climate, and in this uncertainty it seems like for many companies, caution and restraint make a more prudent choice than more aggressive expansion. Sure, there are still (and always will be) exceptions to this rule, and we have seen several successful tech companies like Apple, Google, and Zynga (and more), continue to increase revenue, create new products, and expand hiring. But for all the high-flying tech successes, there are perhaps more news reports of organizational contraction and mass layoffs, (RIM, Cisco, HSBC, to choose just a few). Image - smithsonian.com

    What marks the key difference that allows some companies to succeed and thrive in these tough economic times compared to ones that struggle to survive, or that hope to endure through this sustained period of economic malaise with exercises in cost-cutting, hiring freezes, and even workforce contraction?

    Might one of your answers be 'The ability to innovate?'

    It makes sense right? Apple wins because they created new and better ways to buy and enjoy music with the iPad, transformed the mobile phone experience with the iPhone, and re-invented and continue to dominate the tablet computing space with the iPad. They have simply out-innovated (and executed, and marketed, and managed), their way to success and dominance.  Heck, they might still have more cash on hand than the US government.

    So the question is then, if 'innovation' is the prime cause or factor for sustained growth and success, can organizations and nations simply declare 'We are going to become more innovative', and set up a department, task force, blue-ribbon panel - whatever; and sit down and commence innovating?

    I thought about this while reading some articles on a new blog on the Smithsonian.com site called 'Department of Innovation', a resource that describes itself as follows:

    "...in the spirit of banging the drum for new ideas and fresh thinking, this blog will track all things innovative, not just in science and technology, but also in how we live, how we learn, how we entertain ourselves."

    And while that sounds like a worthy and perhaps even productive undertaking, (there are already a few cool articles on the site), I can't help but think by (at least by name), compartmentalizing innovation into its own 'Department', might not be the right way to frame the discussion, and certainly not the right way to try to advance innovation inside organizations. 

    My sense (and this is completely unresearched, so if I am off base, please feel free to bash me in the comments), is that the most truly innovative organizations don't try to box up or to departmentalize innovation. They realize that innovative concepts or even creative ideas can come from anywhere and at anytime in the organization. 

    It seems to me that the pre-requisite for improving the chances for innovative ideas to spring up and take root in any kind of an organization is to create an environment where people feel free and safe to share ideas, explore new concepts, and have a real chance to see their work and effort impact the organization, their colleagues, their customers, and their communities. The first step to becoming more innovative might just be granting permission.

    For real success today, I wonder if every department in the organization needs to be the 'Department of Innovation.'



    Yesterday on his Blog Maverick blog, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban re-posted a piece he had orginally written in 2008 titled 'How to Get Rich'. While there isn't much in the way of specific or tactical advice in the piece - and as Cuban states in the article  - "This is not a short-term project. We aren’t talking days. We aren’t talking months. We are talking years. Lots of years and maybe decades. I didn’t say this was a get rich quick scheme. This is a get rich path." - the post does offer some solid advice not so much in the way of actually getting rich, but rather in positioning yourself to take advantage of opportunities by virtue of hard work and preparation. You should definitely pop over to Blog Maverick and check out the post.Patrick burning it late on a Friday night

    For me, the money line was Cuban's take on how the commitment to outwork the other guy, and to grind away at night and on the weekends if need be to gain that critical edge that comes from better preparation, more complete study, and from simply knowing more about the industry, market, players - whatever than the competition. Again from the Cuban piece:

    "Before or after work and on weekends, every single day, read everything there is to read about the business. Go to trade shows, read the trade magazines, spend a lot of time talking to the people you do business with about their business and the people they buy from."

    Look, no one needs this blog to remind them of the obvious, that hard work and a real commitment to digging in, to putting in the long hours needed to achieve the kind of deep, and differentiating knowledge about whatever subject or line of work you're interested in truly is a prerequisite for sustained success these days. I think we all know it. But I also think sometimes we forget what it looks like, what it feels like to read white papers at 11PM on a Friday, or to cycle through thousands of unread posts in Google Reader on Saturday morning before the kids wake up, or to participate in industry events and online forums with energy and enthusiasm.

    It's a grind to do those things for sure.

    The picture on the right of this piece is my son Patrick, age 10. In what can possibly be seen as a testament to shoddy parenting, it was taken at about 11PM on a recent Friday night, as he was diligently battling away to get a post written for his 'Patrick's Investigations' blog, (stop by and drop him a comment if you like). Eleven at night, in the dark, grinding over a post because he wants his blog to succeed, he wants to be a good writer, and he has figured out (on his own), that those things are not at all easy.  Achieving those goals will be lots of hard work. 

    Cuban re-ran his 'How to Get Rich' piece in response to the recent economic news in the US as a reminder that no matter how bad conditions get, that buckling in and simply out-working the competition still gives anyone the chance to perhaps not get rich, but to at least get ahead. I ran this piece today to share a small image of what the grind looks like, played out late on a Friday night, by a little kid.

    Have a Great Weekend!


    I want my MTV, I mean my workforce apps

    MTV was in the news this week, as the venerable network of 'Video Killed the Radio Star', 'Beavis and Butt-head', and more recently 'Jersey Shore' celebrated its 30th anniversary. Over the 30-year run MTV has certainly changed its focus, direction, and strategy, and as many observers are quick to note, the network doesn't really have that much to do with music anymore as it has long since morphed into a more general entertainment property.

    But even noting these changes in MTV's purpose, it was kind of surprising to me when I received an email Press Release pitch with the title - 'Latitude and MTV Networks Uncover the Meaning Behind Our Addiction to Apps', referencing the results of a recent study on mobile application usage conducted by the research firm Latitude on behalf of MTV Networks.  Since (shockingly, I know), I am old enough to remember when MTV was stil about playing bad Journey videos, I had to check out the press release and some of the study's findings about mobile application uptake and the important app value propositions - after all what workplace or HR technology solution is not making a move (or already has arrived), in the mobile and app space?  And as smartphones and tablets are taking over on the consumer side as gateways to the web, there's no doubt the same will (or is already) happening inside the enterprise.

    For context here are some details on the purpose and the methodology of the study from the Latitude release:

    The study investigated the underlying psychology and current behaviors surrounding app adoption, use, and abandonment for heavy app users, and ultimately uncovered top characteristics and features of a successful app. The study included a round of initial qualitative interviews, a deprivation phase (normal app users were asked to go app-free for three days), and a quantitative survey of more than 1300 app-engaged smartphone owners between the ages of 13 and 64.

    So what did the study show the main benefits are of app usage and therefore are the primary drivers of longer-term adoption and reduced the chances of app 'abandonment?', (again, from the Latitude Press Release):

    • Apps Create Me Moments: Apps allow intense personalization and hyper-focus, filling our idle moments with “me time” on-demand. This expectation for powerful, instantaneous “me focus” is making its way into desired in-app entertainment and ad experiences. Personal context is king!87% of participants said: “Apps let me have fun no matter where I am or what I’m doing.”

    Implication for designers of 'workplace' apps: Smartphones and tablets are really personal devices, much more so than the standard-issue company PC or laptop. Apps therefore need to maintain and leverage this personalization of experience, app users like to see their apps as almost personal tools, and not just extensions of a bland or generic enterprise solution. 

    • Apps Make Everyday Life Better: Apps are enhancing our day-to-day experiences directly by enabling productivity, achievement of our personal goals, and so on—and indirectly through the resulting creation of free time, improved mental well-being, opportunities for positive discovery, and more. 

    Implication for designers of 'workplace' apps: Sort of obvious, but the main point of emphasis is that the enterprise apps, particularly ones that might be transaction driven, need to do more than just replicate processes typically performed on PCs in corporate systems. They need to make the experience and process better - more efficient, simpler, more enjoyable. If the staff hate the process and the tool while using it in the office, simply porting it to an iPad won't make them feel any better about it. In fact, they might rebel, wondering why they can't seem to escape from it.

    • Apps Open Us to New Worlds: Whether it’s learning new languages or gazing at the stars, the possibilities seem endless as apps open people’s imaginations to the new and “magical.” As mobile technology rapidly innovates, people increasingly envision apps as complementing and transforming traditional media experiences into “something new.” 91% of participants said: “Apps expose me to new things.”

    Implication for designers of 'workplace' apps: How about approaching your app strategy beyond simply taking what you have in the office and porting it to a mobile app and think about what you can deliver that is brand new? What value can you add to the employee experience that they can only get via your new app? Whether it is new learning content, a tool that mashes up data in your CRM with social web content, or simply a syndicated feed of news and events about your company or industry - consider building something brand new and exclusive to app ecosystem.

    What's your take - can the designers and workforce technology experts learn from the MTV crowd?

    Or perhaps a better question - will you be watching the retrurn of Beavis and Butt-head to MTV this Fall?