I paid big money for my Macbook Pro Retina with “free upgrade” for Mountain Lion. I filled out the form about 36 hours ago, but still no MountainLion upgrade code and not even an email response of any kind.
It appears I’m not alone. The Mountain Lion Up-to-Date program was not ready for prime-time. People paying the $20 can download away, but not those who paid big for the new models. But why no word from Apple?
Ten dollars doesn’t get you a lot of parts. Then again, $35 for a computer seemed pretty outrageous not too long ago. The success of that Raspberry Pi Micro-Computer prompted professors Ken Goldberg and Ayorkor Korsah to stage a contest: Design a $10 robot. Conceived as a teaching tool for use in African classrooms, such a low-cost machine could prove to be revolutionary for education in poorer countries around the world.
Coding Q&A With Chris Coyier: Code Smell And Type On A Grid
Here we are again! Smashing Magazine’s Q&A. In case you haven’t seen it before, this is how it’s done: you send in questions you have about CSS, and at least once a month we’ll pick out the best questions and answer them so that everyone can benefit from the exchange. Your question could be about a very specific problem you are having, or it could be a question about philosophical approach. Go wild and challenge us!
We’ve done a bit of this before with a wider scope, so if you enjoy reading the Q&A, check out my author archive for more of them. Andrejs Abrickis asks: “Sometimes I face trouble with HTML email design and the proper CSS code. It takes quite a lot of time to make it cross-client compatible. I would like to know your opinion about the best CSS reset that could help to speed up email newsletter development. Is there any good tool for testing HTML emails?” http://sswi.me/NwmEGo via @smashingmag
Maps Show How the Physical Internet Literally Connects the World
Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens called the Internet “a series of tubes.” Sociologically, it’s something more than that, but on a physical level, he’s basically right. Easy as it is to forget, the information that appears on our screen generally travels first through a vast network of fiber-optic cables.
But where exactly does it go on its journey? A new set of images published in this week’s issue of _Fortune_ provides some of the clearest and prettiest pictures yet. They’re based on maps from Geo-Tel, a company that specializes in “telecommunications geography.” Geo-Tel’s CEO, Dave Drazen, tells me the information is derived from major U.S. based carriers and publically available sources. He notes that the maps aren’t comprehensive—they don’t include military or government installations, for instance. Still: wow.
The maps—one of the world as viewed from the North Pole, and one of New York City—go along with an article by Andrew Blum in _Fortune_’s print edition this week. They were visually enhanced by _Fortune_ graphic designer Nicolas Rapp, who also posted them on his blog. They’re reprinted here with Geo-Tel’s permission.
New York City’s fiber-optic cable routes are concentrated around the financial district. One major hub is the telecommunications building at 60 Hudson Street, in TriBeCa:
The world’s fiber-optic network as viewed from the North Pole (full-size image): http://sswi.me/PSzNzV via @slate
Viacom and DirecTV take spat to Twitter while channels stay dark
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are still on vacation but Viacom corporate is channeling their spirits as part of an effort to communicate with frustrated DirecTV subscribers who can’t get their favorite shows. The inability of the programmer and the satellite operator to agree on a […]
Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday is tomorrow, July 13. A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it or it could be who’s hungry and where their mouth is or who’s out of work and where the job is or who’s broke and where the money is or who’s carrying a gun and where […]
The Swedish Experiment: Spotify Helps Recording Industry Make Lots Of Money
We’ve mentioned before that Spotify shows how providing consumers what they want can really have a much stronger impact on “piracy” than any enforcement initiative. Both Spotify and The Pirate Bay started in Sweden, and both got tremendous penetration in the Swedish market. But as various studies have shown, infringement of music dropped drastically in Sweden as the service became more popular. A new report looks at the Swedish recorded music market, and found that it’s up an astounding 30.1% in the first half of this year, due almost entirely to Spotify. Digital music now accounts for 63.5% of all music sales, and streaming services (mainly Spotify) represent 89% of all digital music sales. MusicAlly notes that streaming may be cannibalizing downloads, but the massive growth in streaming is more than outweighing the decrease in downloads.
This even has the labels (who, yes, have an equity position in Spotify — more on that in a bit) talking about how they’re making more money than they have in a long, long time, thanks to Spotify: “We’re back to the same revenue levels as during 2004, and if the development continues in the same way we’ll be back on turnover similar to those during the “golden days” of the CD in just a few years,” says Universal Music Sweden’s MD Per Sundin.
“We’ve seen massive change in music consumption, where music fans are now listening to more music than ever, in an entirely legal environment. This means that revenues are increasing all the time, and artists get paid every time their music is played. Our artists get significant revenues from Spotify, which is our biggest income source for Sweden. A positive side effect is that we’re investing a lot in new talent.”
Mark Dennis, CEO of Sony Music Sweden, makes the same point: “One of the most gratifying consequences of this is that it gives us the opportunity to sign more artists, and record more new Swedish music than ever. In fact, for most of our artists, streaming music now represents the majority of the revenue.” Now, I’ve learned to take any claims from the major labels with a grain of salt, and there are some clear issues with Spotify. People have complained that the deals favor the majors so they get a larger cut than the indies. That’s definitely a problem. Others insist that Spotify doesn’t pay enough — but multiple studies keep finding that, on a per listen basis, Spotify actually pays quite nicely. There may still be significant issues with how the labels pass that money on to artists, however.
The point of this isn’t to say that “Spotify” is the answer. There are, clearly, some questions about that particular service. But it certainly shows that there _are_ solutions that very effectively _compete with free_, and as they grow, they can certainly help make significant money for the copyright holders. Spotify, of course, had a head start in Sweden, and the adoption rates there are incredible. However, the point is pretty clear: let new services like Spotify grow and thrive and effectively compete with free, and they will do so — and the business issues seem to pretty quickly sort themselves out. Obviously having even more competition would be a good thing as well, as competitors will keep trying to offer something even better (and put pressure on Spotify to advance as well).
In the end, though, Spotify is a classic case of giving the _public_ what they want, rather than what the industry wants them to have. And yet, in doing so, it’s also now providing massive revenues for the industry — even as people continue to insist that such a result is impossible.
The London Olympics are just a couple weeks away. I visited the site recently and expected to find a flurry of last minute, near-panic construction activity. There were a few bored-looking guards stationed around the site at gates, but beyond that—nothing. If I were in charge of this project, I would be on the phone with my contractor right now, leaving an urgent message (or six).
At ground level, things did not look ready. I took the Tube to Stratford Station, the last stop on the line, and got disgorged into the basement of a huge shopping center. From there, I followed my way toward the huge construction cranes poking into the drizzling sky. Temporary wire fences were everywhere and most level surfaces were filled with construction trailers, puddles, and piles of dirt. Streets and pathways end abruptly into orange barriers or concrete walls.
The former industrial site on London’s East End was a total mess—nothing like the cozy Olympic Villages I saw on TV during past games. Yet for all of its unfinished glory, the only noticeable human activity came from a pub called The Cow that overlooked the puffy prow of the water polo venue. Patrons spilled out onto the patio in front of the building and onto the gallery of the massive shopping mall that forms the center of the Olympic Park.
Still, it turned out I’d made a mistake that’s not unusual for project managers and leaders at all levels: passing judgment on the status of a project based on a low-level, up-close perspective.
I later learned that the major venues were finished right on schedule nearly a year ago—a perspective afforded by taking the elevator to the top of the tall parking garage at the back of the shopping mall. From that height, I could see down into the impressive 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium that crowns the site. Right next to the stadium was the swooping, gull-winged Aquatics Centre, a brilliantly designed facility that will reduce greatly in size after the Olympics when the wings are removed for a practical,long-use facility. Across the site was the Basketball Arena, purported to be Europe’s largest temporary building, but looking to me like a puffy box spring waiting for a suitable mattress.
On my way back down from the parking garage roof, I accidentally pushed the wrong elevator button and the doors opened to reveal an entire floor of the parking garage packed with hundreds of brand-new BMWs, each one sporting the official Olympics paint job and numbered—waiting silently to be called into its pre-planned assignment. It was an impressive, unplanned peek behind the scenes that made clear why there wasn’t a flurry of activity outside.
London is ready. No matter what it looks like close up, this massive project involving thousands of people, hundreds of groups, and billions of pounds, will be ready when they light the flame on 27 July .
As for me, the experience offered a nice refresher course on a few easily overlooked laws of leadership:
1 Take the high view. When you’re deep into a project, make time periodically to step away from the nuts and bolts of it. A view from a higher altitude offers a clearer picture of overall progress and remaining challenges. What looks like chaos on the ground can turn out to be a well-planned schematic when you got enough distance to view it properly.
2 Get multiple angles. At work, as well as in London, there’s more to a project than you can see from a single angle. Even going up onto the roof of a building didn’t tell me the full story of what’s happening. It’s also important to look from lower and middle levels as well, as I did by stumbling into the garage full of BMWs.
3 Expect last minute surprises. When we get a fuller view and become convinced that things are going smoothly, we still shouldn’t relax too much as a leader. Because no matter how many angles you get, you still can’t see everything. With the opening ceremonies just a couple weeks away, for example, Olympics officials recently decided to close down a portion of the M4, the main road from Heathrow Airport to central London. Engineers discovered cracks in an elevated part of the motorway and closed it for at least three days to make repairs. But they had the resources reserved to make it happen.
I, for one, will have a totally different appreciation for the Games this year as I watch them from my house. I would love to be sitting in the Olympic Stadium when the athletes march onto the track. But sitting on a stool at The Cow wouldn’t be bad either.
Craig Chappelow, who specializes in 360-degree feedback and the development of effective senior executive teams, is a portfolio manager at the Center for Creative Leadership (www.ccl.org), a top-ranked, global provider of leadership education and research.
Make no mistake; it’s an exciting time to be alive – especially if you happen to make your living as a brand designer. Opportunities for brand designers to bring value to their clients are everywhere – in every culture and… http://sswi.me/LVb2OM via @TheBlakeProject via @TheBlakeProject
Wywy wants to sync social TV, and scores $3m to do it
In social TV’s second-screen dream, timing is everything. And German startup wywy has just burst out of stealth mode with an impressive set of tools for keeping broadcasters, advertisers and viewers in sync — as well as control of long-established media monitoring service Idioma.
As if we didn’t already have enough reasons to distrust Wall Street, a new study finds that a troubling number of financial services professionals would rather bury a moral compass than use one. Twenty-four percent of participants attested that “unethical or illegal behavior could help people in their industry be successful.” Would Main Street be better off if this greed were curtailed by behavioral-steering technology—digital Jiminy Crickets?
In the classic story _Le avventure di Pinocchi_, Pinocchio learns that the essential difference between machines—an animated puppet—and real people is _moral conscience_. Though insignificant in Collodi’s novel, Jiminy Cricket serves as an external moral compass for Disney’s Pinocchio, following our hero through his adventures to tell him right from wrong. Pinocchio only develops moral maturity when he frees himself from the cricket’s advice and grasps how to make ethical decisions on his own.
Smartphones regularly function as extended minds that supersize recall, perform mathematics, and correct spelling. So why not go a step further down the enhancement highway and make your phone your own personalized, digital Jiminy Cricket?
A recent crush of smartphone and tablet apps claim to make hard decisions easier, and the range of ethical dilemmas they can weigh in on will only increase. At this rate, Siri 5.0 may be less a personal assistant than an always-available guide to moral behavior. But depending on a digital Jiminy Cricket may be a regressive step away from what makes us all real.
Want to raise your green game beyond the superficial grocery store choice of paper, plastic, or cloth? Use iRecyle and find out where to dispose of electronic goods, paint, metal, and hazardous material. Want to consume conscientiously? Use the GoodGuide mobile app or Shop Ethical! 2012 and you’ll put your values where your wallet is, without getting swindled by misleading corporate greenwashing. Have an on-the-job quandary that you don’t want to share with colleagues? Just look for a niche app. The New York State Bar Association Mobile Ethics App gives “judges, lawyers and law students access to instant ethics advice from their smartphones.”
Ethics apps do more than present users with relevant, sometimes hard-to-obtain information. Like a coach, they also directly influence our choices, motivating us to eat better, exercise more, budget our money, and get more out of our free time. Users don’t see these tools as threats to free will, self-esteem, or sustainable habits. Instead, they’re downloading increasing amounts of software containing a “good-behavior layer” that helps users avoid self-sabotaging decisions, like impulse buying and snacking. Capitalizing on three inter-related movements—nudging, the quantified self, and gamification—the good-behavior layer pinpoints our mental and emotional weaknesses and steers us away from temptations that compromise long-term success.
In many cases, good-behavior technology gets the job done by bolstering resolve with digital willpower. By tweaking our responses with alluring and repulsive information, while also shielding us from distracting and demoralizing data, digital willpower helps us better control and redirect destructive urges. Apps like ToneCheck prevent us from sending off hotheaded emails, while GymPact inspires us to go the gym. Students are getting into the act, too, and developing apps to make their classmates more responsible, e.g., get to class on time and be less distracted. Arianna Huffington’s project “GPS for the soul” promises to analyze a user’s stress levels and provide overwhelmed people with rebalancing stimuli, like “music, or poetry, or breathing exercises, or photos of a person or place you love.” We’re already willing to delegate self-control to technology—and future developments will likely give devices even more ethical decision-making power.
Michael Schrage, research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, gives us a glimpse into what the next generation of apps might do. While discussing potential developments in “promptware” platforms that cue ideal behavior (for instance, sense that we’re exhausted and recommend we should pause before making an important call), he notes that an app in the works will enable users to determine whether they speak too much in critical situations (like business meetings) and make real-time corrections to improve their performance. He speculates large-scale adoption might do more than change personal behavior. It could transform ethical norms—the very fabric of what members of a society expect from one another.
Currently, individuals are responsible for developing the skills necessary to communicate appropriately and self-correct when they stray from socially acceptable behavior. Promptware could invert this paradigm. When it becomes widely available, we could get criticized as irresponsible for not deferring to it: “It may be considered rude—and/or remarkably unprofessional—not to have your devices make sure you’re behaving yourself,” Schrage wrote in a _Harvard Business Review _blog post last November.
Presently, we use our own moral judgment—and carefully selected advisers—to determine whom to consider trustworthy. However, companies are already hard at work automating that judgment based on access to limited data. After Whit.li scans a user’s social media (like Facebook), it creates a psycho-social profile. According to the promotional material, that profile can be used to create trustworthy consumer-to-consumer interactions, like choosing whom to travel or live with. As our data trail continues to expand through increased social networking, more potent programs will be created. Perhaps they’ll enable massive multi-user rankings and produce a widely used profiling technology that has the feel of Rate My Professor meets Yelp. If you know your behavior is always subject to judgment, possibly even an instantaneous trust score, your social behavior could change profoundly.
As ethics apps continue to advance, so too will related technological enhancements. Twelve years ago, French theorist Bruno Latour wrote “Where Are the Missing Masses?” and essentially argued that cars embody morality when they are programmed not to start (or to beep incessantly) until the driver’s seatbelt is fastened. In the automobile industry, that example now seems archaic. Ford offers “Speed Limiter,” a feature that prevents drivers from exceeding a set speed, and is considering developing a car that “could help diabetic drivers by employing wireless sensors to monitor their glucose levels.” Nissan is experimenting with prototypes designed to detect when drivers are drunk, including one that “attempts to directly detect alcohol in the driver’s sweat.” Toyota is developing mood-reading technology that detects “if the driver is sad, happy, angry or neutral, before assessing how distracted they are likely to be as a result.”
While we may turn to disparate tools for guidance, they won’t soon coalesce into a single digital Jiminy Cricket app. At the moment, artificial intelligence is good at some things, but lousy at others. Mathematical models, statistical analysis methods, and reliable rules for acquiring and processing data are great for determining when to buy a plane ticket, send out a tweet, and drink coffee. But ethical dilemmas are special because they fundamentally concern what Aristotle called _phronesis_—well-informed, contextual judgment. Every parent has faced the immense challenge of teaching a child when it is OK to lie. White lies (which distort the truth to be polite) do battle with broken promises (which are justifiable in some cases). Fabrications (like rumors, which may or may not be true) collide with deceptive comments (which mislead by withholding facts), bluffs (miscues about what someone will do), and emergency lies (which can involve temporary deception to prevent harm).
To make the right judgment, you need to understand relevance and meaning, not match statistical frequencies. But as philosophers Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly argue, computers currently lack this ability. That’s why IBM’s Watson wiped the floor with its _Jeopardy!_ competitors but selected Toronto when faced with the following clue under the category “U.S. Cities”: “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest for a World War II battle.”
Why, then, should we bother speculating about digital Jiminy Crickets? It’s an updated version of the age-old question of whether we lose something fundamental by allowing technology to do more for us. Understanding where diminution begins can help us determine how far behavior-modifying technology should go.
Critics have argued that calculators keep kids from developing math skills and complain that Google has shifted recall from focus on facts to sites where information is stored. Most of us are content with these changes. Outsourcing morality, however, is quite another matter. More of our fundamental humanity hangs in the balance.
_The authors were supported by National Science Foundation funded project, “An Experiential Pedagogy for Sustainability Ethics” (#1134943)._ _Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation._
Get gadget demos in stores during CEA Demo Days - ConsumerReports.org
Get gadget demos in stores during CEA Demo Days
Shopping online is great, but it’s nice when you can kick the proverbial tires before you buy. With that idea in mind, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)—the organization that puts on the Consumer Electronics Show each year—is presenting its …
No one kept it a secret exactly during her lifetime, but few people knew that Elizabeth Taylor was a mutant. In fact her condition, distichiasis, which usually involves a frameshift mutation near the tip of chromosome 16, helped accent Taylor’s famously lovely eyes with an extra-sexy set of double eyelashes to bat at the cameras. Taylor lucked out, though: In other victims, distichiasis scars the corneas, swells the limbs grotesquely, opens up cleft palates, and causes varicose veins. In 7 percent of patients, it also leads to heart disease, and perhaps not coincidentally, Taylor had a history of heart trouble and died of heart failure in March 2011.
The distichiasis gene isn’t the only DNA with an extraordinarily wide range of effects inside the body. The self-explanatory hand-foot-genital syndrome (a chromosome 7 defect) can cause stubby thumbs, small feet, soft wrist and ankle bones, urinary tract infections, and a urethra opening not at the tip but on the underside of the penis. There’s also Waardenburg-Shah syndrome, which causes the unlikely combination of deafness, piebaldism (patches of albino skin), and so-called megacolon, including constipation so bad it’s often fatal.
Single genes that tweak many different body traits are called pleiotropic, and pleiotropic genes can wield their power in different ways. Some build proteins in tissues or cells that just happen to appear all over the body, like connective tissues. Others, like the distichiasis gene, _foxc2_, exert control not so much by building things but by controlling what other genes build and when they build them. Scientists call genes with this power transcription factors.
Remember that transcription involves turning DNA into RNA. Human beings have something like 23,000 DNA genes, but not all of them are firing at once. Genes turn on and off in individual cells at different times, and the varying on/off patterns make skin cells and liver cells and brain cells unique. Transcription factors are what turn genes on in many cases, by clamping onto DNA and signaling cells to start manufacturing something. And _foxc2_’s protein just happens to turn on many other genes in many different tissues—it’s a genetic manager. When genetic managers screw up, though, multiple body parts suffer.
Perhaps the most important transcription factors are _hox_ genes, which steer bodily development from our earliest hours. Insects, fish, mammals, reptiles, and all other animals share these genes, and the ubiquity of _hox_ in the animal kingdom explains why most animals have the same basic body plan: a cylindrical trunk with a mouth at one end, an anus at the other, and various appendages sprouting in between.
Humans have four stretches of around 10 _hox_ genes each, including a stretch on chromosome 12. And quite unusually for genes, the _hox_ have a pretty strict division of labor. The first few _hox_ within a given stretch generally design things near the top of the head. The next _hox_ design things a bit lower down. The next _hox_ work a little lower down, and so on, down to our nether regions. Why nature requires this tidy top-to-bottom mapping with the _hox_ isn’t known, but all animals exhibit this trait.
Scientists refer to DNA that appears in the same basic form in many, many species as highly “conserved” because creatures remain very conservative about changing it. (Some _hox_ and _hox_-like genes are so conserved that scientists can rip them out of chickens, mice, and flies and swap them between species, and the genes more or less function the same.) As you might suspect, highly conserved DNA like _hox_ is vitally important, and it’s easy to see why creatures don’t mess with _hox_ and other body-patterning genes very often. Delete some of this DNA and animals can develop multiple jaws. Mutate other DNA and wings disappear, or extra sets of eyes appear in awful places—bulging out on the legs or staring from the ends of antennae. Still other mutations cause genitals or legs to sprout on the head, or cause jaws or antennae to grow in the crotch area. And these are the lucky mutants—most creatures that gamble with these genes don’t live to speak of it.
Still, creatures can get around the strictures of highly conserved DNA in other ways. As mentioned in the palindrome entry, cells sometimes randomly double stretches of DNA. Doubling the _hox_ stretch would give animals backup copies, and the backup copies could then mutate without such dire consequences. In fact, changes to highly conserved DNA might explain some of the large-scale, macroevolutionary changes scientists see in the fossil record—the relatively sudden emergence of creatures with antennae or extra legs or other ingenious variations on the basic body plan. Again, few creatures win such gambles, but those that do thrive. And as we’ll see tomorrow, fussing with one bit of conserved DNA may well have spared us humans a lot of heartache (and brainache) in our past. http://sswi.me/LUKnSd via @slate
3 Ways Successful People Prioritize Their To-Do Lists
You look at your to-do at the end of the day and—gulp—only the inconsequential tasks are crossed off. That’s mismanaging priorities. Here’s how to get them in order.
To be successful, businesses must prioritize their focus. Any growing business has resource constraints: limited people, time, and capital. It is critical that the entrepreneur spend his or her time on the most important areas that can drive success.
These priorities, however, may vary with the type of business or the phase of growth. What is important is for each entrepreneur to think concretely about setting priorities and reexamine them frequently.
To set priorities, entrepreneurs must have concrete and useful data about their business, communicate the priorities to their personnel, and implement processes to ensure that these priorities are carried out.
One entrepreneur who I interviewed prioritized his focus simply as customers, quality, and cash flow. He stated that if an issue did not impact directly and materially one of those three areas, it could wait.
Managing by Numbers
How to prioritize effectively depends on having good information about the underlying business. It is important to have reliable current numbers. For example, if you are making a product, you would want to know daily your backlog, units produced, supplies or raw materials used and in inventory, quality issues, units delivered on time, customer calls about defects, customer calls about late delivery, new sales calls, new sales made, cash in, cash out, employee absences, and other issues.
Another way to think about the numbers you need to manage effectively is to think about what customers want and then what you have to do to meet those wants. All customers want defect-free products or services delivered on time with great, caring service. What do you have to do daily to meet those needs?
Draw a flow chart for each step of your production, delivery, and customer service chain and think about what to measure daily that will give you the information that tells you whether you have a problem.
For most entrepreneurs and growing businesses, the key numbers monitored pertain to cash flow. One entrepreneur stated her priorities this way, “You don’t eat if you don’t sell. You don’t sell if you don’t have a customer. You don’t have a customer if you don’t offer a good service.” Another successful serial entrepreneur stated his priorities this way, “Set up three or four priorities that take precedence over everything else: (1) manage cash flow, (2) focus on customers and quality service, (3) accelerate revenue growth, and (4) all the rest—unless something is on fire—can wait.” Yet, another entrepreneur stated it this way, “Focus on the areas of the business that are critical to making it to next month, next quarter, and next year.”
Business priorities are not static, however, and can change often. What we know is that when the entrepreneur spends time on setting and articulating the business priorities, it has a multiplier effect because it directs the focus of other employees to those priorities. It also engages the work force in thinking about what is important and teaches them to adapt as the priorities change.
Thinking strategically or on a macro level about how to grow a business is different than thinking tactically and reactively to more immediate business needs. Several entrepreneurs emphasized the need to allocate time to get away from the business to think clearly about what the business needed to do in the longer term. While at work, the daily “heat of battle” decision making often interfered with thinking broadly about the business’s direction. It was necessary to set aside time to get away from the daily business demands to focus strategically.
One entrepreneur emphasized this need by saying, “Give yourself an afternoon a week to think about five critical things going on in the business and make sure you are focused on big opportunities or problems.” One of my colleagues calls this specified time for strategic business thinking “firehouse time.” It is hard to think strategically when you are putting out “fires” daily—and, yes, that is the norm as you grow a business because growth generally means more employees and results in more mistakes, misunderstandings, and people issues. Thus, the term “firehouse time” means giving yourself time away from fighting the fires to think about the business. Another entrepreneur called this “working on the business” instead of working in the business.
One purpose of my research was to learn how entrepreneurs prioritized their time under high-growth conditions. I was looking for templates and heuristics of what approaches worked best. What I found were common-sense approaches.
Some entrepreneurs prioritized similarly to how the military teaches team leaders and junior officers: assess the situation and go where you can have the most critical impact relative to the mission.
Others focused on identifying and remedying bottlenecks. They created flow charts showing each critical step in the process of generating cash—the lifeblood of a business. They thought of the flow chart as a pipeline or funnel and monitored flows to determine where there were bottlenecks or flow delays. Finally, they focused on the bottlenecks and, not surprisingly, found that the bottlenecks they focused on eased.
Once set, it is important to communicate priorities to employees. How did entrepreneurs accomplish this task? Several entrepreneurs held a “start-of-the-day huddle” with all employees to set priorities for the day and an “end-of-the-day huddle” to review the day. Another entrepreneur had a meeting every morning at 8:30 a.m. with his direct reports, and then the direct reports had meetings with their direct reports. Those meetings cascaded down the line until, by 10:30 a.m., every employee in the company had been in a meeting, talking about that day’s priorities.
Not only must priorities be communicated, but also the business culture must be developed to facilitate working toward those priorities. A business culture helps keep employees focused on what is important and can deter aberrant behaviors.
Key Takeaways Successful business builders institutionalize “firehouse time,” that is, time that they get away from the daily fighting of fires to think about “working on” the business instead of working in the business. They use this time to think strategically and tactically about growth, processes, controls, and building their infrastructure. Successful business builders strategically focus the business in an area where it can excel and they focus themselves daily on the areas where they are most needed to have positive impact. Quality, customers, and cash flow dominate. Conduct daily “huddles” with managers that cascade to include all employees. Ultimately, as the company grows, your managers are critical for teaching and setting daily priorities and objectives.
Betaworks Acquires Digg (For Significantly More Than $500K)
Betaworks, the company behind bit.ly, news.me, Chartbeat and a number of other successful products, has acquired the social news site Digg.com for an undisclosed amount. Betaworks’ founder John Borthwick will become the new CEO of Digg. The site’s current CEO Matt Williams will join Andreessen Horowitz as Entrepreneur in Residence after the Betaworks transition is […] http://sswi.me/N5CBZT via @shellypalmer