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    Entries in work (89)

    Friday
    Sep052014

    You need a rival, not just more competition

    Wanted to point out to a really interesting study/paper on the effects of rivalry and competition on individual performance. In the study titled 'Driven to Win: Rivalry, Motivation, and Performance', author and researcher Gavin Kilduff took a look at what the phenomenon of interindividual rivalry (think Bird - Magic, Bill Gates - Larry Ellison, or Beatles - Rolling Stones) and its consequences for motivation and task performance.

    Long story short, (and the paper is kind of long so I will save you from reading the entire thing if that is not your bag for a Friday), is that in a study of competitive distance runners it was found that the presence in the competition of a rival, increased individual performance by as much as 25 seconds over a distance of 5K.

    And the paper makes an important distinction between what constitutes a rival versus the more general and generic idea of competition. A rival, in this context, is another runner with which you have competed against numerous times in the past and whose finishing times were consistently near to yours, such that in the course of many races contested over time you would have come to 'know' and recognize that competitor as a rival.

    So at the starting line, during the race, and in the important drive to the finish line you would in theory see and recognize this rival, and at least according to the study, your performance would improve relative to a race where you were just trying to do your best and not trying to best your rival.

    It is kind of an interesting concept I think, that there is a difference in performance that is driven by a rivalry compared to the more general and abstract notion of competition. Competition is vague. A rivalry has a name and a face and talks trash about you sometimes.

    If indeed we perform better when we have a rival what might that suggest for more mundane situations in the workplace? Should managers more actively pit one employee against another in performance-related competitive situations in order to foster the notion of rivalry?

    Should organizations more explicitly identify and benchmark against key competitors and strive to 'defeat' them in sales, recruiting, or other corporate contests?

    Should each if us personally select or identify a 'rival' to measure ourselves against and to compete with on a day-to-day basis?

    It's a jungle out there my friends...

    Happy Friday.

    Friday
    Aug292014

    LABOR DAY: What were the best and worst jobs you've ever had?

    Happy Labor Day Weekend!

    Labor Day is awesome. In fact, I think it might be awesome not just for the BBQ, (a good enough reason to love it, I plan on smoking my first ever pork belly this weekend), but also for the fact that it is one of the few holidays where we don't have to be constantly admonished to 'Remember the true meaning of the day'.

    No one seems to really care anymore about the 'true meaning' of Labor Day. The battle is mostly over. 'Labor' has more or less lost. 

    But so what? Let's have some burgers!

    So maybe we can try and have some fun today and share both our best and worst jobs that we have ever had.

    Just one tip though, if your current job is the worst one you have ever had, you might not necessarily share that one in the comments, just in case you still need that terrible job.

    So here goes, my best and worst jobs:

    Best Job - A tough call, but I am going to go with the gig I had helping to implement accounting and finance software for AT&T Saudi Arabia back in the 90s. The cool parts of the job were getting a chance to learn how business really got done, (we had to rename 'bribes' into 'facilitative payments' for example), living and working in the Middle East (much, much more fun than you would imagine), and having my career trajectory completely changed from that point forward. Lots of great memories from that gig.

    Worst Job - Again a tough call, as I have had a number of terrible jobs. But the worst was probably the summer job I had between Freshman and Sophomore year of college where I picked orders for grocery and convenience stores in a massive, refrigerated warehouse. And on the graveyard shift as well. Heavy lifting, freezing all the time, sitting outside on a stoop at 4AM to eat 'lunch' and to try and warm up does not equal good times. Sure, there was an occasional bit of fun, (once an entire pallet of orange juice cartons crashed from about 50 feet up), but the other 98.5% of the time there was pretty miserable.

    How about you? Feel free to share in the comments your best and worst jobs as well.

    Have a fantastic Labor Day Weekend!

    Wednesday
    Aug272014

    The Gamers are Taking Over the World

    The Video Gamers that is...

    Five quick links that hopefully will get you thinking just a little bit differently or more broadly about the role and value that video games, particularly multi-player online games are having in society, and ultimately workplaces.

    First the big news from earlier in the week:

    Amazon to buy video game broadcasting site Twitch for $970M (CNNMoney)

    Amazon agreed on Monday to pay $970 million to acquire Twitch, a service that lets users watch and broadcast video game play. Each month millions of people tune into Twitch to watch friends and strangers play video games, including competitive tournaments.

    An acquisition by Amazon and the lofty price tag would seem to validate the rise of gaming as a spectator sport. Advertisers are often willing to spend top dollar to reach audiences lured by live sporting events.

    "Broadcasting and watching gameplay is a global phenomenon and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month," Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.

    Just how popular are video game tournaments, not just online but as big-time events?

    League of Legends eSports Finals Watched by 32 Million People (The Verge)

    Riot Games has claimed that its largest eSports event yet, the League of LegendsSeason 3 World Championship broadcast over Twitch livestream on October 4th, was watched by 32 million people, 8.5 million of whom were watching at the same time. The numbers shatter previous records for eSports viewership, and show that video game streams can rival TV in terms of scale and reach.

    But is anyone, besides the big medial companies, actually making eSports an actual, you know, career?

    The Highest-paid Professional Gamers in the World (Business Insider) 

    Playing video games for a living is the dream of pretty much every adolescent male at one point or another. Believe it or not, there are gamers who are doing exactly that. And they're making some serious money. e-Sports Earnings has ranked the 100 players with the highest overall earnings from competitive gaming. Over 60 gamers have earned over $100,000 in prize money. To top it off, that's not even counting the sponsorship deals and income that many of these players receive from streaming their practice games on services like Twitch.

    Well, so what really? And this is a (mostly) HR/Talent/HR Tech blog, so why are we visiting video games again?

    Should You Put World of Warcraft on Your Resume? (HBR)

    The cognitive and social skills demanded in complex multiplayer games can be every bit as subtle, sophisticated and challenging as stud poker or bridge. Indeed, I know Silicon Valley and (admittedly younger) hedge fund quant teams who bond and boost morale through their Minecraft bouts. I may not fully understand the details of what they’re doing but there’s no doubt that these interactions are building relationships as well as protective structures. These teams —and the organizations that employ them—would likely welcome colleagues and candidates with authentic video-game passion and talent. Trust me, these folks will not be golfing at Torrey Pines.

    And one more, just to offer a hint or two at where things might be heading. And note, while typing this post up I had on some sports talk radio on in the background where the hosts just spent 10 minutes talking about the latest NFL suspension levied upon a player for launching his body/helmet missile-like at a defenseless opponent.

    Gladwell: Why College Football is Like Dog Fighting (CNN)

    In what way is dog fighting any different from football on a certain level, right? I mean you take a young, vulnerable dog who was made vulnerable because of his allegiance to the owner and you ask him to engage in serious sustained physical combat with another dog under the control of another owner, right?

    Well, what's football? We take young boys, essentially, and we have them repeatedly, over the course of the season, smash each other in the head, with known neurological consequences. And why do they do that? Out of an allegiance to their owners and their coaches and a feeling they're participating in some grand American spectacle. They're the same thing. And the idea that as a culture we would be absolutely quick and sure about coming to the moral boiling point over the notion that you would do this to dogs and yet completely blind to the notion you would do this to young men is, to my mind, astonishing. I mean there's a certain point where I just said, you know, we have to say enough is enough.

    Steve here - You were probably surprised a little bit on Monday when you heard about Amazon dropping just shy of $1B on a video game streaming site called Twitch. And if you were surprised that is ok, for now anyway. 

    But I think as a progressive HR and Talent professional you probably need to become more familiar and comfortable with thinking about games and gamers a little bit differently.

    Video games are everywhere. They are mainstream. And more and more people are going to walk into your office and want to talk about the success they have had leading teams in GTAIV or World of Warcraft and hopefully you will get what they are talking about, just like you inherently understand and value 'real' sports backgrounds and success.

    Happy Wednesday.

    Tuesday
    Aug262014

    You should never be surprised by someone that works for you

    Well, probably not 'never', but certainly not very much, and not when the 'surprise' is that the employee is really, really, really talented at something related either to their actual job or more generally to your business.

    The context of the notion that you, ('you' being a manager, leader, business owner, etc.), should have a strong sense of both the capabilities, and more importantly perhaps, the potential of the folks on your team. I know, not exactly some kind of breakthrough idea, right? HR and business leaders have been plotting folks on the 9-box Performance/Potential grid for years and years. In fact, there are at least a dozen really cool software programs that will help you automate and streamline and enhance the entire 9-box exercise.

    But so what, really? None of that matters if there aren't strategies in place to actually action the results of the exercise.

    Here's the specific example that I heard discussed recently on of all things, Bill Simmons' BS Report podcast, which is usually about sports topics. On this particular episode, Simmons and his guest were discussing TV talk shows, specifically the Daily Show on Comedy Central.

    Last Summer, The Daily Show's host John Stewart took an extended sabbatical from the show in order to work on a movie project. In his stead, Comedy Central slotted show contributor John Oliver in Stewart's place to host the show for a few months while Stewart was on leave.

    And long story short, Oliver killed it. He was funny, clever, and once his extended run was complete filling in for Stewart, he has suddenly in demand. He had many more options than perhaps he would have had he not been given this kind of showcase opportunity from Comedy Central. But once the guest run was completed, Comedy Central, perhaps surprised by how well Oliver performed in the 'top' job at the Daily Show, was left kind of stuck - at the they did not have a similar, high-profile kind of role to offer Oliver, and as was brought up by Bill Simmons on the podcast, they did not have Oliver contractually locked up into continuing on with Comedy Central at all.

    Long story short, Oliver moved on to HBO where his new show, 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver', has launched to critical acclaim and pretty significant buzz (amongst folks who care about these things).

    And Comedy Central is left wondering just how they managed to let Oliver walk, particularly when just a few months later another network star, Stephen Colbert, announced he was leaving to eventually become the replacement for CBS legend David Letterman on his talk show.

    In theory, better planning and understanding of their talent on Comedy Central's part might have led to a much more beneficial outcome for the network all around. Their #1 star Stewart, gets a needed break to re-charge and explore some important personal projects, a highly capable team player, Oliver, gets a chance to prove himself, and eventually slot into the #2 role, Colbert's when he leaves.

    Except that is not, in fact, what is happening, and Comedy Central is left wondering how they let Oliver go to (possibly) become a bigger star somewhere else.

    Hey, it happens. Maybe Comedy Central did know just how talented Oliver was, and just did not care that much. That is pretty bad.

    But maybe they were actually surprised by how good he was, and if so, that is even worse, because if you are really managing and engaging with talent, and not just playing with names on a 9-box, you should never really be surprised by someone that works for you. 

    Wednesday
    Aug202014

    CHART OF THE DAY: The Shrinking American Vacation

    Today's chart is perfectly timed for me, as starting from tomorrow I am heading out for a few days off. But my (too short) vacation I have lined up also aligns with an overall downward trend in the duration of American worker's vacations, as seen in the chart below, (courtesy of Vox). As always, some FREE commentary after the chart.

     

     

    From the data, which was sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 9 million Americans took a full week of vacation in July 1976. Contrast that to July 2014, when just about 7 million Americans scored a full week of sun or sand or just sleeping in on the sofa. If that does not seem like a big drop over about 40 years, consider that there are about 60 million more people employed in 2014 than there were in 1976. Bottom line, this data suggests that American workers, on the whole, are not taking long (used loosely) vacations like we used to.

    What might that mean for us today? Here are three quick takes, and I would love to hear what you think as well.

    1. The paradox of constant connectivity - Smartphones, tablets, Wifi in every coffee shop, bar, restaurant, etc. should (theoretically) make it easier for workers to go on longer vacations, but for some reason that is not happening. There are pretty few places in the country/world one can run off to on vacation and not be at least somewhat reachable. So in theory the ability to be reached, to monitor work and chech emails for any dire emergencies, and actually even do some work while on vacation has never been easier. But that still isn't allowing American workers to disconnect from work as much as we used to. Why not? 

    2. FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - This phenomenon, described as a form of social anxiety, fed by smartphones and social networking, is one where we become compulsively concerned that we might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, or other satisfying event. If you are not constantly checking your friends' Facebook and Foursquare updates, you might miss something really cool happening across town, for example. FOMO is a prety-well documented psychological dependence in social interactions, but since we use the same tools and tech more and more for work, then it makes sense that a kind of FOMO about work might be kicking in too. But in the work context, the perceived consequences of missing out might be greater. Instead of just missing a party or a Happy Hour, maybe you are missing out on some great work project or a rare chance to schmooze with the CEO. 

    3. It's a candidate's market, but the candidate's don't believe that yet - This is sort of the obvious one, where FOMO morphs into FOLOJ (Fear of Losing One's Job). Even though just about every labor market indicator is seemingly trending in a manner that suggest more power and leverage are shifting towards workers/candidates, (unemployment rate, job opening rates, time to fill, etc.), most workers are still not buying in to that story as yet. The brutal recession is not yet a distant enough memory for most of us to feel like we have either reasonable job security or a reasonable likelihood that we will find another suitable job should we lose the one we have. So we put in the extra hours, we check and respond to email at all times, and we don't go away on vacation for too long - lest anyone back at the office think, 'Hey, Steve has been out for a week, and things went just fine without him...'

    Anyway, that's it for today - I have to get back on the grind before I leave on my (short) vacation.

    No new content for a few days, but I am sure you will do just fine without me...