Habits of Entrepreneurs

Habits of Entrepreneurs

I guess I’m on an entrepreneurial kick this week. Maybe I’m getting psyched for next week’s ARC Forum in Orlando where I will be interviewing many new companies inhabiting the cybersecurity space.

I’m not much on “infographics” and I downloaded this one without noting its source. Note that nowhere on it does this graphic cite its source. However, I read many books, blog posts, and listen to podcasts on the subject of daily habits. This one reflects most of what I’ve learned.

However number one–create a routine–actually needs an entire infographic devoted just to it. Maybe that will be my next attempt at looking at the personal and people side of this business.

I’ve been involved in several start ups. These all make sense. Although these look pretty drawn out. Usually life happens that screws the thing up. But returning to the pattern is key.

Isn’t It Time We Considered Making Moral Decisions

Isn’t It Time We Considered Making Moral Decisions

Sometimes we must step back from a narrow view of technology and consider how (or if) we make moral decisions.

I saw this in a blog called Big Think. It’s a good starting place for thinking.

A few weeks ago we talked to Dr. Fred Guy, Director of the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics and associate professor at the University of Baltimore, who told us about his goal to create a Philosophy Camp for adults and why such an initiative is important.

Adults tend to become lazy with their thinking, backing into moral and ethical wrongdoing without noticing fully what they’re doing. As he says:

“Adults are so busy and focused on so much other than ethical issues that we don’t often stop to think coherently about what our moral principles really are.  Or what we think of our own moral character. We just assume we’re good people and let it go at that.”

Guy urges us to revisit and refine our moral code with the help of some good philosophical thinking.

He offers a series of questions that we can use to examine the case we are faced with. He calls it the ABCD Guide to Ethical Decision-Making and it goes like this:

 A:  Awareness: Are we aware of the ethical issue we’re a part of?

• Do we know all the facts? 

• Is this an ethical problem or a legal one? Or both?

• Can it be resolved simply by calling upon the law or referring to an organizational policy?

• Am I aware of the people involved in this case and who may be affected by my decision and action?

B.  Beliefs:  What are my moral beliefs? What do I stand for?  Most of us know if we give it some serious thought.  What we decide and do in a given ethical situation depends on our moral beliefs, principles, values and virtues — or lack thereof. We may ask:

• What kind of person am I?  Would I want this done to me or to those I love?

• Would it be responsible of me if I thought everyone should act this way in my situation?

• Am I setting a good example or a bad example?

• Can I continue to respect myself given the probable outcomes of my action? 

C.  Consequences:  Use moral imagination to think about consequences for ourselves and others, not only now but into the future as well. It’s the ripple effect. Our actions may indirectly affect others we don’t know.

• Who may be affected by my decision?

• How may my decisions/actions affect other and myself?

 D.   Decision:  Given the facts of the case, our own personal ethics, and the consequences that our decision and action will have on others, what is the best thing to do in this case?  

• Would I mind my action being broadcast on the six o’clock news?

• Could I justify my actions to my family and close friends?

• What advice would I give to a close friend who had the same decision to make as I do? 

Just taking the time to pause and go over these questions when we are making an important decision, can take us out of the default moral mode we live in and, hopefully, out of the trap of just assuming we’re good people, without truly delivering on that assumption.

Personal Productivity For The New Year #10StepsBook

Michael Sliwinski, developer and CEO of the productivity app I use called Nozbe, has written a new book—10 Steps To Ultimate Productivity.

He has been crowdsourcing the editing—obtaining ideas from a large cross-section of users. It’s been an interesting process, although I’ve travelled some during the process and have only contributed ideas to a few chapters.

We have arrived at the end of the process. The book should be available before too long. He looks at some final tips here.

I’ve used some sort of checklist for 35 years or longer. Then I read Getting Things Done by David Allen and became a convert to his process. Then I began looking for digital apps. The first couple I found were too cumbersome. The app must be easy to set up, yet flexible. Data entry must be easy. Screens and reports must be clear and simple.

I wrote about this one day, and Sliwinski wrote back. Nozbe was in its first year and like a good CEO/entrepreneur should, he was out beating the bushes for customers. I became one.

The goal of any system is actually “getting things done.” You can make a list, copy it from week to week, and never check it off. Trust me I’ve done that. For years.

One technique is breaking tasks down to smaller chunks. The other thing is to concentrate for a period of time and then take a break for a few minutes. Walk around. Fix a cup of tea. Then tackle the task again. The Pomodoro Technique suggests working 25 minutes and taking 5 minute breaks. You can actually set up a task with calendar in Nozbe to alert you for working and breaks.

Since I work from home, I also set a routine for doing certain writing when I get up, eat a light breakfast, go to the gym, then go to the coffee house for a couple of hours of concentrated writing. I like routines, partly because I can decide what to do and can also decide to make a change. I also don’t have to think about mundane things. I go to the coffee house, I scan sources and write my article, blog, or whatever.

Sliwinski says in the book, “The maximum productivity that I’ve mentioned in every chapter isn’t some deadly grind but a lifestyle. An approach that assumes rational planning, well organized, effective action and systematic development. The result is a harmonious sense of control and fulfillment, as well as time that we can spend with our loved ones or realizing our passions.”

Don’t make your system a burden, but allow it to free you for productive work.

10 Steps To Ultimate Productivity #10StepsBook

10 Steps To Ultimate Productivity #10StepsBook

As many of you know, I use an app called Nozbe as part of my Getting Things Done practice for personal productivity.

Several years ago I wrote about GTD and soon heard from a guy called Michael Sliwinski. He was from Poland and had written an app oriented toward David Allen’s GTD methodology. He told me about Nozbe. I was using something else but not thrilled with it. After a few months I tried Nozbe seriously and got hooked.

Michael is in the process of writing a book to complement use of his app and introduce people to productivity. I’ve read a draft of the forward of the book. In it he mentions myths of people who use productivity systems.

One myth concerns the type of people who use a system. He calls them “dweebs”. You know, those unimaginative, dull, plodding sort of people.

Truth be told, creative people are usually quite organized in their lives. They have a morning routine (usually write or draw first then exercise; executives work out first as a general rule) and like organization and regularity.

I’m a writer. I find that having a productivity system allows me to focus on one thing at a time and get it done. There are things that interfere, but I can always start my day off on the right foot.

I’ve Seen Productivity From Both Sides Now

I’ve Seen Productivity From Both Sides Now

Maybe We have been thinking about productivity all wrong

I’ve been on a mini vacation and soccer season is heating up—early. I foresee a very busy eight weeks ahead.

My focus has been manufacturing technology for most of my career—and certainly my writing career over the past 20 years. One purpose of technology pretty much for as long as there have been humans has been to increase productivity. We answer the question, how can one human produce more goods and services economically.

Perhaps it was just an early plow that enabled the first farmers to grow more crops so that the community could eat better which today enables just a few farmers to feed a nation.

Eliminating jobs is the other side of the equation. We need productivity in order for the economy to grow. We need jobs for everyone so that everyone can eat—and also find some self-worth. 19th Century philosophers bemoaned the mechanical manufacturing age because they thought that it took the soul out of a craftsman’s work. Work is part of the formula for making us human.

Does automation simply take away jobs in aggregate? I wrote about this a few months ago after interviewing some people from A3, the automation association (robots, vision, motion control trade association). The answer is no.

Productivity has not been growing in the US for quite some time. Economists are wondering why. Recently an article appeared in The New York Times publicizing a recent paper that looks at the current state of productivity growth in the US from a different angle.

I have excerpted parts of the article below.

American businesses are doing a terrible job at making their workers more productive.

Productivity growth is the weakest it has been since the early 1980s — only 0.8 percent a year over the last half a decade, compared with 2.3 percent on average from 1947 to 2007. This is the root cause of slow growth in both G.D.P. and worker pay.

At least, that is the standard way of thinking about productivity and its relationship to the economy. In a mainstream view, productivity is a kind of magic force that helps explain rising output. New labor-saving inventions come along or new management practices are taken up that miraculously allow companies to produce more output with fewer hours of work.

The authors ask, can we think about this differently.

It’s a chicken or egg problem: Does low productivity cause slow growth, or does slow growth cause low productivity?

The second possibility is the provocative argument of a new paper published Tuesday by the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal think tank. The paper argues that the United States economy is not actually closing in on its full economic potential and has plenty of room for continued growth — so long as the Federal Reserve doesn’t put on the brakes of the expansion prematurely.

J. W. Mason, the author of the report, argues that soft productivity growth reflects not some unlucky dearth of new innovations, but rather is a consequence of depressed demand for goods and services and a slack labor market that has depressed wages.

Maybe if the labor market were tighter and wages were rising faster, it would induce companies to invest more heavily in new labor-saving innovations.

What’s particularly interesting is that this diagnosis — though decidedly not the policy prescriptions — has some overlap with the arguments of influential conservative economists.

A recent paper published by the Hoover Institution and American Enterprise Institute argued that the productivity drought was caused by insufficient investment in capital equipment and software, and was poised to rebound.

But capital spending has been weak over all, and particularly weak for those more transformative innovations.

If you look at long-term patterns of productivity growth, they roughly fit this idea, that a booming job market tends to be followed by a productivity boom, and that deep recessions are followed by productivity slumps.

The strongest productivity growth in post-World War II America came in the late 1960s and early 2000s. The two periods of greatest weakness were the early 1980s and the last decade since the global financial crisis. 

In this way of thinking about productivity, inventors and business innovators are always cooking up better ways to do things, but it takes a labor shortage and high wages to coax firms to deploy the investment it takes to actually put those innovations into widespread use.

In other words, instead of worrying so much about robots taking away jobs, maybe we should worry more about wages being too low for the robots to even get a chance.

What One Thing Can You Focus On To Change Everything?

What One Thing Can You Focus On To Change Everything?

What one thing could you do today, this week, this month, this year that would have the more impact on yourself, your company, your organization?

“One of the most empowering moments of my life came when I realized that life is a question and how we live it is our answer.” So states the theme of The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.

Jim Truchard, known as Dr. T within National Instruments the company he cofounded, recommended this book last May when I was down in Austin at the company’s conference.

The journey toward the ONE Thing begins with a question. Keller says, “Voltaire once wrote, ‘Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.’ Sir Francis Bacon added, ‘A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.’ Indira Gandhi concluded that ‘the power to question is the basis of all human progress.’ Great questions are clearly the quickest path to great answers.”

Keller calls this the focusing question. What are you trying to solve? Where do you want to go in life? What sort of person do you wish to be?

Find your question.

Understand and believe it

The first step is to understand the concept of the ONE Thing, then to believe that it can make a difference in your life. If you don’t understand and believe, you won’t take action.

Use it. Ask yourself the Focusing Question. Start each day by asking, “What’s the ONE Thing I can do today for [whatever you want] such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?” When you do this, your direction will become clear. Your work will be more productive and your personal life more rewarding.

Make it a habit. When you make asking the Focusing Question a habit, you fully engage its power to get the extraordinary results you want. It’s a difference maker. Research says this will take about 66 days. Whether it takes you a few weeks or a few months, stick with it until it becomes your routine. If you’re not serious about learning the Success Habit, you’re not serious about getting extraordinary results.

Keller talked about habits, something I’ve discussed regarding Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. Or as Keller puts it, “People don’t decide their futures. They decide on their habits. Their habits determine their future.”

What one big thing will double my sales next year?

What one big thing will stabilize financing for my nonprofit?

What one big thing will be the service that defines our organization?


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