Manage By Walking Around http://jonathanbecher.com Aligning Execution With Strategy Sun, 06 Oct 2019 23:17:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 https://i2.wp.com/jonathanbecher.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/cropped-jb-logo.jpg?fit=32%2C32 Manage By Walking Around http://jonathanbecher.com 32 32 56894116 The Many Sides of the Truth http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/10/06/the-many-sides-of-the-truth/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/10/06/the-many-sides-of-the-truth/#comments Sun, 06 Oct 2019 23:15:04 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=7391 If you were to ask people in the technology industry to name the best commercial ever made, the majority would likely cite “1984” from Apple. That commercial, which aired during the 1984 Super Bowl, introduced the Macintosh personal computer. In fact, Advertising Age ranked “1984” as first on its list of the 50 greatest commercials....

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If you were to ask people in the technology industry to name the best commercial ever made, the majority would likely cite “1984” from Apple. That commercial, which aired during the 1984 Super Bowl, introduced the Macintosh personal computer. In fact, Advertising Age ranked “1984” as first on its list of the 50 greatest commercials.

The Apple commercial is incredibly well-done but I find another from the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. to be even more memorable. Like 1984, “Points of View” also relies on black-and-white imagery and a simplistic voice-over. Watch it:

The commercial shows the same event from multiple perspectives, each with a different interpretation of what is happening. The payoff line is powerful: “It’s only when you get the whole picture you can fully understand what’s going on.” The commercial reinforces Guardian’s position of “open, honest, fearless journalism” and suggests it provides fair and balanced coverage. Balance is something we all need even more now; 30+ years after the commercial first aired.

I was reminded of the “Points of View” commercial while reading the book ‘Truth: How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality.’ The author, Hector Macdonald, doesn’t try to differentiate truth from falsehood. Rather he reminds us how dangerous it is to assume that we have the truth and others do not. We all suffer from confirmation bias – we see the world through distorted lenses which support our existing beliefs and filter out contradictory ones.

Due to this bias, Macdonald says there can be “competing truths” which are supported by three kinds of people: advocates, misinformers, and misleaders.

  • Advocates select competing truths to create a reasonably accurate impression of reality so as to achieve a specific result.
  • Misinformers innocently propagate competing truths which unintentionally distort reality.
  • Misleaders deliberately deploy competing truths to create an impression of reality they know is not true.

Most people fall in the category of misinformers, repeating information they have read/heard without stopping to ask if there are other points of view.

Disappointingly, Macdonald doesn’t provide any guidance on how to differentiate between the three types of people nor any method for judging which of the competing truths are better than others. For me, I combat fake news through rigorous fact-checking and use of the baloney detection kit. When I have a strong point of view, I try to be open-minded by asking myself what would cause me to change my opinion and then diligently look for that evidence.

Science trains us that there is a single answer to most questions. But, as the Guardian commercial vividly shows, in life there can be many sides of the truth.

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Unusual Town Names In Every U.S. State http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/09/29/unusual-town-names-in-every-u-s-state/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/09/29/unusual-town-names-in-every-u-s-state/#comments Mon, 30 Sep 2019 04:36:48 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=7370 On a recent trip to Ireland, a local told me that Ireland had lots of unusually named towns. His favorite was Bastardtown in Wexford County but a close runner up is the difficult-to-pronounce and spell Muckanaghederdauhaulia. Seriously? After I returned home, a close friend reminded me that unusual names for towns wasn’t just an Irish...

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On a recent trip to Ireland, a local told me that Ireland had lots of unusually named towns. His favorite was Bastardtown in Wexford County but a close runner up is the difficult-to-pronounce and spell Muckanaghederdauhaulia. Seriously?

After I returned home, a close friend reminded me that unusual names for towns wasn’t just an Irish phenomenon. He pointed out Bridal Veil, Oregon (a popular source for wedding invitations) and Hell, Arizona (perhaps a potential location for divorce notices?). Of course, little kids’ Christmas letters get mailed to North Pole, Alaska.

This got me thinking – what are the most unusual town names in each U.S. state? Here’s my list:

There are some fantastic names on this list but each state has many others to choose from.

Do you know of an unusually named town that should be on the list? Share it in the comments below.

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Words Matter, Made-Up Edition http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/08/25/words-matter-made-up-edition/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/08/25/words-matter-made-up-edition/#respond Sun, 25 Aug 2019 20:05:11 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=7361 As my mantra is “Words Matter,” I’m fascinated by the etymology of words, how different cultures use language, and when people accidentally/purposefully misuse English. I’ve covered spelling bees, written about mondegreens and eggcorns, and advocated for the banishing of overused words. So, it’s probably not surprising that a friend caught my attention when he recently...

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As my mantra is “Words Matter,” I’m fascinated by the etymology of words, how different cultures use language, and when people accidentally/purposefully misuse English. I’ve covered spelling bees, written about mondegreens and eggcorns, and advocated for the banishing of overused words. So, it’s probably not surprising that a friend caught my attention when he recently told me that he had to ‘inoculatte.’

With apologies to dictionaries everywhere:

Inoculatte (verb): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late. 

A made-up word that should be real (and IS in the urban dictionary). In researching the origin of the word, the earliest mention I can find is a 2006 Washington Post contest which asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. The results of the annual contest are behind a paywall so I’ve pulled out a few which amused me:

Cashtration (noun): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

Bozone (noun): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. Sadly, the bozone layer shows little sign of breaking down. 

I can’t tell if the original contest is still active but luckily another site called Wordplay Masters Invitational has kept the idea going for the last decade. They are accepting 2019 submissions now and here are a few of my favorites:

Fastborwarding: Fastforwarding through the boring parts of a movie.

Ablandonment: Leaving a tasteless meal unfinished.

Fambush: When a member of your family appears out of the blue (especially with needs and/or difficulties). Alternatively, when your entire family descends upon you without warning.

You can peruse all of the previous years’ winners or submit your own.

Words matter. Like life, words are constantly changing. Even if they are made up.

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7 Factors That Make Us Stupid http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/07/28/7-factors-that-make-us-stupid/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/07/28/7-factors-that-make-us-stupid/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2019 01:36:52 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=7357 I stumbled on an insightful definition of being stupid from Adam Robinson: Stupidity is overlooking or dismissing [conspicuously] crucial information. Robinson argues stupidity is not the opposite of intelligence. Instead, stupidity is impaired judgement due to one or more factors: Rushing or urgency Information overload Physical or emotional stress Intense focus on an outcome Being...

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Culture Gets A SEAT At The Table http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/07/21/culture-gets-a-seat-at-the-table/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/07/21/culture-gets-a-seat-at-the-table/#respond Mon, 22 Jul 2019 00:54:24 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=7339 Struggling with the pun in the title? I’ll start with some background… SEAT is an annual conference for sports & entertainment professionals, focused on whatever is top-of-mind in the industry. It distinguishes itself from other conferences by strongly emphasizing networking and relationship building. This year’s event was held at the Daytona International Speedway, the first...

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Struggling with the pun in the title? I’ll start with some background…

SEAT is an annual conference for sports & entertainment professionals, focused on whatever is top-of-mind in the industry. It distinguishes itself from other conferences by strongly emphasizing networking and relationship building. This year’s event was held at the Daytona International Speedway, the first time the conference had been held outside of a hotel and the first time the Speedway had hosted an event of this scale.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jbecher/status/1150780436488085505

This year’s three concurrent tracks were digital marketing, data & business intelligence, and venue technology & design. In addition, popular subjects like CRM, AI, and social media were prominent throughout. However, the event also had its share of surprising topics. The opening session was titled “Health & Mental Well-being as Growth Drivers” and may well have been my favorite of the conference. Some interesting soundbites:

  • 80% of people make unhealthy life choices (sleep, diet, exercise), reducing their lifespan by 8-10 years.
  • Not getting enough sleep has dire consequences, including increasing the risk of cancer by 70%.
  • A shared focus on well-being can create an organizational purpose even stronger than traditional mission statements and objectives.

Another surprise was that the topic of culture showed up repeatedly. Toward the end of the event, I asked five attendees which topic most surprised them – each separately answered ‘culture.’ Because my mantra is “culture eats strategy,” I was pleased to see a sports conference consider the impact of culture on business performance.

For example, one of the panels discussed whether sports organizations should become purpose-driven. The contrary point of view suggests everything should directly support winning games and ultimately championships. Creating a separate purpose might be distracting from the primary mission. However, no team will win every game and every championship. Creating a purpose based on societal benefit inspires fans during the difficult times. A purpose can also serve as a rallying cry for employees, who work long hours and might be lower paid compared to other industries. While the panel came to no clear-cut conclusion, I firmly believe creating a purpose can create a strategic advantage.

Culture also appeared during discussions of CRM and business intelligence. Many practitioners lamented their best ideas weren’t being implemented and wished they had more executive support. While I understand the desire for explicit management buy-in, I think the more critical issue is creating a culture of innovation. Here at the San Jose Sharks, we have a series of principles which encourage employees to try out new ideas, even if their ROI isn’t immediately understood. There should be no shame in a failed experiment, as long as the lesson learned is documented for others.

Now that culture is at the SEAT conference table, I suspect it will be an on-going discussion topic at future events. After all, without the appropriate culture, key initiatives are unlikely to be successful.

Is culture a discussion topic at your company?

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Sheets to the Wind http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/07/07/sheets-to-the-wind/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/07/07/sheets-to-the-wind/#respond Sun, 07 Jul 2019 19:45:24 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=7334 During a recent catch-up, a close friend pointed out another person in the restaurant and commented that it was a little early for him to be two sheets to the wind. I was amused – not because 7pm was indeed early for someone to be drunk in a restaurant – but because I had always...

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Repetition Is Your Friend: The Spacing Effect http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/06/23/repetition-is-your-friend-the-spacing-effect/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/06/23/repetition-is-your-friend-the-spacing-effect/#comments Sun, 23 Jun 2019 20:21:53 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=7324 A common misconception about school is that it teaches us how to learn. However, in my opinion, school doesn’t teach us how to learn, it teaches us how to pass tests. We pull all-nighters, cramming information into our brains, to ensure we have facts memorized. Often, we forget what we “learned” as soon as the...

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A common misconception about school is that it teaches us how to learn. However, in my opinion, school doesn’t teach us how to learn, it teaches us how to pass tests. We pull all-nighters, cramming information into our brains, to ensure we have facts memorized. Often, we forget what we “learned” as soon as the test is over.

There’s a similar phenomenon in our professional lives. We try to memorize the names of people we meet, the script for a speech, or the key facts for a sales meeting. We announce a new strategy once during an All-hands meeting and hope employees remember the details.

There’s a better way to learn: spaced repetition.

Learning occurs best when new information is incorporated gradually into the memory store rather than when it is jammed in all at once.

— John Medina, Brain Rules

We are more likely to recall concepts if we learn them in multiple sessions, spread out over time. Spaced repetition doesn’t require more effort but it does require better planning. The investment to learn has to begin long before the knowledge is needed. Instead of cramming, you’re nibbling.

Schools don’t use spaced repetition. Most lectures cover a single topic which the teacher doesn’t mention again – until the test. And most students don’t think about the topic either – until they’re cramming for the test the night before.

Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist and quantitative memory research pioneer, first identified the spacing effect in the late 1800’s. His research showed that 40% of new information is forgotten in 20 minutes and 70% after one day. More information could be retained by repeated exposure to material over a series of increasing intervals.

So how do you take advantage of spaced repetition to learn more? There are three major components:

Limit the length of learning sessions. All-night cramming is inefficient because attention spans are limited and we retain decreasing amounts of information over time. I recommend no more than 90-minute sessions (read the 90-minute rule).

Create a learning schedule. For example, after you’ve reviewed information for the first time, review it again an hour later. Wait a day and do it again; then every other day, weekly, every other week, monthly, etc. At every step, if you find yourself remembering more, you can reduce the frequency. If you remember less, increase the frequency.

Track progress. Tracking progress reinforces to ourselves that we are improving – even if it takes longer than expected. Positive reinforcement is crucial to overcome difficult points in the learning journey.

I’ve been applying these techniques in my professional life for many years. It’s common for me to repeat information several times, in several different ways, over an extended period of time. I counter the “we’ve already told them that” objection with the reality that most likely don’t remember what we’ve told them. When rolling out a new strategy, it’s not only important to have multiple sessions but to check how much employees are retaining after each session. Eventually the new strategy doesn’t feel new anymore.

As a former colleague of mine once quipped, when it comes to learning, repetition is your friend.

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Defending Learning Latin, almost ad nauseum http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/06/02/defending-learning-latin/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/06/02/defending-learning-latin/#comments Mon, 03 Jun 2019 03:05:26 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=7313 As an eighth-grader, I decided to take Latin as an elective. Openly, it was more of an impulse choice than a carefully-constructed decision. Not surprisingly, my friends questioned my decision and I found myself defending learning Latin. In fact, the class was much more interesting than I expected it to be. At the bottom of...

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As an eighth-grader, I decided to take Latin as an elective. Openly, it was more of an impulse choice than a carefully-constructed decision. Not surprisingly, my friends questioned my decision and I found myself defending learning Latin.

In fact, the class was much more interesting than I expected it to be. At the bottom of our first quiz, the teacher included a still memorable quote:

Latin is a dead language, as dead as it can be.
First it killed the Romans, and now it’s killing me.

The textbook also had a series of engaging cartoons designed to help you remember random phrases. My favorite was a Roman policeman who had stopped a speeding chariot and asked “ubi ignis est?” – translation: Where’s the fire? That still cracks me up.

Over the years, I’ve realized that knowing some Latin can improve your English vocabulary. While English is considered Germanic language, Latin has had a strong influence. There are plenty of Latin words commonly used in English – consider alias, et cetera, vice versa, verbatim. During a particularly busy time at my last job, a close friend sent me a two-word email: “memento vivere.” Sure, I could have googled the phrase but my Latin schooling suggested it translated to “remember to live” – my friend was encouraging me to take a break from the tyranny of the urgent.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to share ten of my favorite Latin phrases:

a priori — from what comes before; relying on knowledge rather than experience.

ad nauseam — used to describe an argument that has taken place to the point of nausea.

barba non facit philosophum — having a beard doesn’t make you a philosopher; similar to “clothes don’t make the man” and “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

carpe diem — seize the day; usually used to encourage someone to act.

caveat emptor — let the buyer beware; the purchaser assumes the risk that the goods or services fit the needs. Similar to “as is.”

et tu, Brute? — from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar’s last words after being murdered by his friend Brutus; used to convey betrayal.

ipso facto — by the fact itself; something considered true by its very nature.

mea culpa — my fault; usually used as a confession. Similar to “that’s on me.”

non sequitur — it does not follow; used to describe a remark which is absurd because it doesn’t make sense in the current context.

quid pro quo — this for that; an exchange of value. Similar to “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

Of course, I could have included many more. What’s your favorite Latin phrase?

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Explaining The Dunning-Kruger Effect http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/05/27/dunning-kruger-effect/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/05/27/dunning-kruger-effect/#respond Mon, 27 May 2019 20:40:24 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=7308 Have you heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? The term derives from a 1999 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which showed that low performers tend to overestimate their abilities. It’s not that low performers think they are better performers than higher-skilled people (that’s the illusory superiority effect); it’s just people think they’re...

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Excessive Fanaticism in Sports http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/05/05/excessive-fanaticism-in-sports/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2019/05/05/excessive-fanaticism-in-sports/#comments Mon, 06 May 2019 01:42:05 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=7302 One of the things I love about my job is the unbridled passion of our fans. I’m continuously in awe of the many ways people express their love for the San Jose Sharks. When was the last time someone tattooed the logo of a technology company or bank on their body? Being a supporter of...

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