The following extract on meetings comes from What Ever You Think, Think The Opposite by Paul Arden.
In a meeting you don’t have to worry about how you are coming across to colleagues, because they are busy worrying about how they are coming across to you.
Meetings are for those with not enough to do.
A meeting is a performance, an act to convince people of their own importance.
The real players don’t need to act out the meeting game.
They roll up their sleeves and get on with the job.
A 15 minute stand-up meeting at the start of the day helps get the team on the same page before the work gets done. It should be the only information session scheduled for the day, whereby each team member briefly describes: what they did yesterday; what they are going to do today; and whether they need help with a problem.
For the remainder of the day, meetings should only be scheduled if decisions need to be made by certain project stakeholders. Try to avoid information sessions, and email communication packs instead. Follow these rules and you will discover many more productive hours in your working week.
I’ve been traveling interstate for work on a weekly basis for the past 3 months, and will probably have another month or so to go before I head back to Sydney for work. I have already spent more time working in Brisbane than I have worked in Sydney, where my home office is located. I am also proud of the fact that I have also outlasted all my colleagues that were also traveling from Sydney and Melbourne to work in Brisbane.
Each week I fly to and from Brisbane, and I have been amazed with the number of people that do the same. It certainly keeps the airlines busy. In fact after seeing first hand that most flights are packed I decided to buy shares in the airline that I use, and they are actually starting to come good! Now that I am invested in air travel I actually feel a little better about having to wait around in airport lounges or waking up at 5am to catch an early flight.
I enjoy working with the Brisbane based ThoughtWorkers, as well as the permanent staff that work for the client. They are a great bunch of people, and working with them certainly makes work more enjoyable. If anyone is concerned about work-life balance, then I highly recommend moving to Brisbane for work. The weather is great and the hours are a lot shorter, mostly because Queenslanders are quite laid back. Not to mention that there are great beaches to the north and south of Brisbane, all within a two hour drive.
Each week the ThoughtWorks team gets together to do something fun after work. Most weeks it is having a yarn over a few beers, or dining at a local restaurant. This week we had poker night in my apartment, which I call the “executive suite”, since it is the only room in the serviced apartments building with a plasma screen tv. We have poker chips lying around at work for prioritisation sessions, so I decided to put them to use after hours too. We purchased pizzas and beers and played several hands of Texas Hold’em. A fun night was had by all.
Although I don’t mind traveling interstate for work, I also don’t find it to be sustainable. Eventually the early mornings, and the countless hours spent at airports will get to you. Not to mention the time spent apart from loved ones. For these reasons I am glad that I will be taking a break from traveling when the project is over, as I don’t want to get burned out and become completely jaded with traveling.
Just finished reading Purple Cow by Seth Godin. The core message behind the book is that you need to stop being like everybody else and instead focus on developing an innovative product that targets a niche market. Godin argues that there is no need to appeal to the masses as there is little growth in this strategy. Instead of spending $10 million dollars on one television advertising campaign, that money could better be invested in developing 10 innovative products with a budget of $1 million each. At least this way you have a better chance of producing a new high growth product.
Now if you spend that $10 million dollars on developing 10 different products does that mean you need to raise more money to advertise each of the new products? Seth Godin seems to think not. If you design a purple cow product, then essentially the product will sell itself. This is done through viral marketing. If your product is remarkable then it is worth talking about. The early adopters that are continually searching for a product to make their lives easier will no doubt tell their friends, and their friends will tell their friends, and so on and so forth.
An example of this is Apple’s recent release of their iPhone. They built a remarkable new phone with an innovative touch screen. The hype and pandemonium over this phone was built up over the last 8 or so months when it was announced late last year. This led to die-hard Apple fans camping outside Apple stores waiting to be the first to purchase the iPhone. These early adopters then went straight home and blogged about their new phone or rang their friends to tell them about how remarkable their new phone is. The book gives lots of other examples of companies that have taken some risk to produce a purple cow product, then reap the rewards by milking the cow for all its worth.
The book is an interesting read, but its structure reads like a bunch of blog entries that were printed out and slapped together as a book. I would recommend reading Seth Godin’s blog instead, or his article on the Purple Cow in Fast Company.
From my recent trips to Thailand and India I was reminded that there are less fortunate people than me around the world. When I was in those countries I gave my money away to those less fortunate, they were mostly children no older than ten or twelve that spend their lives begging on the streets. Being hassled by beggars is a nuisance in those countries, and some people would say that I am only contributing to the problem. At which point I feel like beating them over the head with their Nike shoes and telling them that they have already been contributing to the problem through products that exploit third world countries. But then there is no point arguing with the ignorant.
Raising money and donating to charities is a fruitless cause. Most charities have massive overheads in that a large portion of your donations goes towards paying the salaries of the non-profit organisations’ executive salaries, and whatever is left may eventually find its way to some third world country. When I was younger I used to do swim-a-thons to raise money for various charities by swimming 100 laps of an Olympic sized swimming pool. I participated in door knocking for the Red Cross at school, and even worked on a clickstream data warehouse for Green Peace as part of my undergraduate thesis. Over the years I have contributed a lot of time and money to these organisations, and it is only until you become a little older and a little wiser that you realise that your efforts towards these charities have made little impact on the lives of those less fortunate.
Handing over a few Rupees to a child in India is so much more effective than donating to a charity as it eliminates the middle man (the charity execs). However I am not that naive. I know that the child that I handed the Rupees to may have been kidnapped and put to work on the streets, you can see it in their eyes. In fact one of my colleagues when I was in India refused to give money to a little girl that was begging when our rickshaw stopped at a red light. She hit him when he refused. What would make a child do that? Perhaps the fear of returning “home” with a less than satisfactory haul of alms would be received with some form of abuse. I would not want that to happen, no matter what perspective you take on giving money to beggars.
I object to giving money to poor people on the streets in Australia. We have a welfare system in place that is suppose to support these people. My tax dollars are suppose to be going towards helping those people get their lives back in order. Poor people in third world countries are not so fortunate. India does not have a welfare system that can help those in need. Nor can those below the poverty line simply go out and get a job, as there are simply not enough jobs available for a nation that has such a large population. So what do those people that can’t get jobs do? They beg for money. Or perhaps driven to such despair that they steal, or sell their own organs. You don’t realise how lucky you are to be living in a country like Australia until you’ve visited a third world country.
So how can you help people that live in third world countries without donating to a charity or flying to the country and handing over money directly to those in need? Sadly there aren’t many alternatives around, except for maybe a non-profit organisation such as Kiva. You can go to Kiva’s website and lend to someone in the developing world who needs a loan for their business – like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or weaving clothes. All of your money that you lend goes towards helping the entrepreneur, and none of it is kept by Kiva. Even PayPal (Kiva’s payment broker) waives any fees that are associated with the money that you lend.
The reason I think Kiva is better than donating to a charity is that it supports the right behaviour in developing countries. It encourages people to start a business that can provide an income to support their families. It is a much more sustainable behaviour than simply giving people a bag of rice, which is what charities claim they do. The age old saying rings true, â€œGive a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetimeâ€.
I signed up to Kiva today and loaned some money to four different businesses in developing countries. Hopefully they will make good use of this money, and if it works out well then I will certainly contribute more money to this cause. I do intend for the money that is paid back to go towards other businesses in developing countries. Seeing some of the money returned through the loan is a sure way of knowing that your money has helped kick start a business in a developing country.