This Does Not Compute

Technology doesn’t like me. When I have a problem with one of my gadgets the response of my tech people is often “I never saw that before.” Lots of people think I emit an electrical charge that interferes with the internet, cell service and wifi.

Recently I was forced to get a new computer and mobile phone—a traumatic event, as I was not only moving to new devices I was sure would not work properly but I was trading in my familiar PC technology and an old Blackberry for a Mac and an iPhone. The transition has been humbling, stressful, irritating, and ultimately, exhilarating.

During the transition and now into the ongoing de-bugging, I noticed I was saying a particular phrase quite often. “I have no idea what you’re telling me.” I brought out this response both to descriptions of what I had to do to use some new program properly and to explanations about the most recent glitch in my systems.

Thinking about this, I realized I was saying out loud what many people just think to themselves when listening to their boss or the head of their organization. The speaker is sharing what to them is obvious information while the listeners don’t have a clue what the speaker is talking about.

There are two reasons for this. In the case of experts, they assume that everyone has the basic knowledge on which their instruction or information is based, so they skip to the middle. They forget that the reason they’re experts is they have a greater depth of knowledge of a particular subject than most people. I often remind technology experts trying to explain something to me that the first step in their explanation should be to tell me to turn the device on.

In the case of managers, they assume that what they’ve been thinking about has through osmosis sunk into the heads of those around them. They forget that they have fully internalized the process that led to their pronouncements, a process that needs to be revealed before anyone can understand their conclusions. When I’m the listener in such situations I request that the executive back up and supply the logic that led to their idea.

In both cases it’s the same issue, someone so close to what they’re sharing that they completely forget to lay the foundation so others can understand the solution. Missed communication that leads to bad results…a computer that still doesn’t work or a new business initiative that goes awry and wastes lots of time and money.

The solution is simple for the expert and the manager. Lay the foundation and build to the solution. And never forget the final question, “do you fully understand what you heard or do you need more information and explanation?”







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Fidgeting To Success

Some of us just can’t stop moving, including me. When I was in school it was horrible. “Sit still” were the kindest of many words I heard from teachers at wit’s end about what to do with me.

There I was, a smart kid with little control over a short attention span and unlimited energy. I was often told to sit in the front of the room so the teacher could watch over me. The front, the worst possible place since I learn and remember best when watching from a distance. When put in the front my foot tapping ramped up and my eyes and mind wandered continuously. And let’s not even get into being sent home or whacked on the butt with a big wooden paddle…with holes drilled in it for maximum impact.

These traits are with me still. Some part of me is always moving and I get bored rapidly. Really rapidly.

New research by Julie Schweitzer, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the MIND Institute at the University of California, indicates that when kids like I was are allowed to move around they perform better…much better. Moving improves their alertness and attention.

How novel. The possibility of taking the needs of the customer into account rather than setting everything up for one’s own ease and comfort.

On the other hand, for those who don’t exhibit short attention spans and the need for continuous motion, fidgeting reduces their performance. Clever schools and teachers are now adeveloping ways to allow those who need movement to move without bothering those sitting still. The result? All students do better.

It’s a case of research and actions based on the research finally catching up with what I have always known. Different kids have different ways of learning and to perform their best they need to be accommodated in different ways.

One size does not fit all. Neither in the classroom nor in the workplace.

As I got older, I learned to find jobs and do things where continuous movement and a short attention span were a benefit rather than a detriment. I travel all the time, work with a wide variety of clients, often stand in the back of the room, and continuously walk around my office…or anywhere else I happen to be. When I speak, no podium for me. I wander around the stage with my body marking the words. It helps me think.

I have no idea what percentage of people are like me but there certainly are lots of us. Even within this group, there is great variance. Some more active, some less. Some with shorter attention spans, some with longer.

Even though there is a whole industry dedicated to discovering and explaining all these different styles people have and what they mean, so many companies still take a one size fits all approach.. Lucky people work in the companies that are paying attention…

My nephew works for Microsoft. He is some sort of technology genius who sits in a room and designs things we’ll be using some day in the future. He has more focus and sitability than I can fathom. One time I asked him if he was looking to get into management. He looked at me in horror and let me know that Microsoft had a career path where he never had to manage anyone and yet could advance in rank and pay, the same as those who transition into management. The smile on his face lit up the room.


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