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Thu 2 Feb 2012
Posted by Alicia under 21st Century Leadership, Alicia Blain, C-Suite, C.A.R.E. System of Leadership, CEOs, CIO, Corporate Change, Creativity, Employee Retention, Gen Y, Gen Y in the Workplace, IT, Innovation, Leadership, Leadership Tips, Leading a new workforce, Management, Managing Teams, Millenials, Millenials in the workplace, Millennials, Millennials in the workplace, Technology, Training & Development
Quote: “You can’t lead without imagination” ~ Seth Godin in Tribes: We Need YOU to Lead Us
Imagination is seriously lacking in today’s corporate environment. We are knee deep in a status quo that no longer serves us and that in many ways, makes us mediocre. To change that, we need to spark imagination in all our employees. But first, we must spark it in ourselves as team leaders. To create the spark you need to embrace experimentation. I’m not talking about creating a department or a committee to look into experimentation. I mean changing the way you lead your team so that experimentation is always encouraged and rewarded. When an idea doesn’t work out, it isn’t perceived as failure but as a learning experience that enriches the team and the lesson learned can be utilized to fuel the next experiment.
Experimentation is the final but core concept in the C.A.R.E. System. It is what ties it all together. In these posts, I have showcased Starbucks and its CIO to illustrate the key principles behind the C.A.R.E. System. At the very core of Gillett’s success was his innate acceptance or need to experiment. None of the examples would have been possible if Gillett had not embraced experimentation. Let’s recap all the ways he experimented:
- When he took on more responsibility in the face of daunting IT problems that needed resolution
- When he went to work at a Starbucks retail store, not knowing what he’d find or how he would do,
- When he showed the Executive team a live simulation highlighting the shortcomings of their existing POS system
- When he proposed the new business unit called Digital Ventures,
- When he chose an entrepreneur to run the new business unit,
- When he made IT and Marketing equally responsible for the new business unit
- When he asked employees for their ideas on making IT better,
- When he let employees select their IT devices,
- When he applied his knowledge of networks to help spark solutions in Starbuck’s retail business.
All of these examples illustrate that Gillett was open to experimentation. He may not have been comfortable with all of it but he chose not to play it safe. At some level, he understood that taking risks was critical to Starbuck’s survival and he, as well as his CEO, faced the challenge and came out ahead. I’m sure that there were ideas that didn’t work out. In fact, the article highlights one. Apparently, Gillett is a big gamer or lover of video games. Actually, he’s a guild master in the online video game called World of Warcraft. That’s a pretty big deal in the gaming community. Instead of playing down that passion, he set up a meeting between the executive teams of Starbucks and Blizzard, the owners of World of Warcraft so they could look into the possibility of doing business together. After all, both companies had a huge fan base and Starbucks needed to find ways to engage customers online the way that Blizzard did.
At the end, the experiment did not end up in a partnership. But all was not lost. The experiment sparked new ideas among the Starbucks executives that led to new offerings for their customers. Embracing a spirit of experimentation almost always sparks the imagination and that leads to more possibilities for innovation.
For companies to be relevant in the future they must make experimentation a core objective for all departments. It needs to be nurtured, rewarded and imbedded into the corporate culture. More importantly, it is a pivotal component if we are to transform the way we lead. Millennials will make up 50% of the global workforce in less than 5 years. As leaders preparing to pass the baton to the next generation leaders, I believe it is our obligation to embrace change and find new ways to lead.
So you may be wondering what happened to Ben and his direct reports? As I dissected the Starbucks case study, Ben was able to see real world examples of C.A.R.E. in action. It sparked their curiosity and an eagerness to try new approaches in their organization as Gillett tried to do in his. Ben, as CIO, made a very important decision that day. He chose not to play it safe. He realized the future required new ways of seeing things and new ways of leading. The Millennials were their new audience not just as employees but as customers. He realized that if transformation was going to happen, it needed to include the Millennials in the workplace. And he was ready.
I’ll end this series by quoting Seth Godin one last time. In Tribes: We Need YOU to Lead Us, Seth writes:
“The safer you play your plans for the future, the riskier it actually is.”
My questions to you are: How safe are you playing your role as leader? What one thing can you do today to get you slightly uncomfortable? What one thing can you do to get to know a Millennial in your workplace?
Like me, you’ll find that staying in your comfort zone as a leader is actually riskier than embracing a little discomfort to prepare for the future. Once you step out of your comfort zone and see all the possibilities that it offers, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner…
Tue 31 Jan 2012
Posted by Alicia under 21st Century Leadership, Alicia Blain, C-Suite, C.A.R.E. System of Leadership, CEOs, CIO, Corporate Change, Effective leadership practices, Gen Y, IT, Innovation, Leadership, Leadership Tips, Leading a new workforce, Management, Managing Teams, Millenials, Millenials in the workplace, Millennials, Millennials in the workplace, Technology, Training & Development
Quote: “ I don’t think we have any choice. I think we have an obligation to change the rules, to raise the bar, to play a different game.” ~ Seth Godin in Tribes: We Need YOU to Lead Us
Connecting with our employees and customers and adapting our mindset gets us ready to play a different game. But you also need action and to do that you have to be willing to RESHAPE your organization. To Reshape is the third module in the C.A.R.E. System. To visualize just how you can begin to do that, let’s go to our Starbucks example.
Again, Here’s the link to the Information Week article.
Here are 3 examples of actionable steps that Gillett took to reshape his IT team and their reputation.
1. He forced collaboration between teams. In the C.A.R.E. System for Next Generation Leadership, we call this “Letting go of Silos”. Silos are rampant across corporate America and they are innovation and motivation killers for most employees but especially Millennials. One of the key Millennial characteristics is their collaborative spirit. They work best in groups and the more you mix up the group the better. Imagine their surprise when they show up for work and see that business units barely interact with one another and they certainly don’t share and collaborate very much. In his pitch for a new business unit, Gillett forced the collaboration of the IT and Marketing teams. Talk about silos that don’t normally have much in common. The new unit was called Digital Ventures and Gillett hired an entrepreneur to run it instead of a corporate type. Now that’s playing a different game.
2. He let the employees choose their technology and propose new ideas. At a time when so many IT shops are still fighting the consumerization of IT here is a company that allows their employees to select from a wide assortment of technology, from Macs to PCs to smartphones to get work done. To be completely fair, the article did say that Starbucks modeled their Tech Café after the Apple Store. That brings up a good point. We should always be scouting the market for techniques that work for others and how they can be customized for our specific organizations. What I liked the most was that they welcomed feedback from the employees on all things concerning IT. In the C.A.R.E. System, we call that IT Advocacy. Millennials are the first generation of workers that actually want more technology than what currently exists in the workplace. No matter what team they work for, they can be invaluable to an IT Dept. But IT has to take the first step and request their help and then be open to the suggestions given. As IT Advocates, Millennials can be a wonderful test group for any new product, process, or upgrade that the IT Department is considering. If done properly, IT Advocates can be a great extension of the IT Department. As IT partners, they also create a great fan base for IT in the company.
3. Applying expertise from an unrelated field to solve a different problem. Gillett had little retail experience before working at Starbucks and according to the article he had never worked on the scale of a Starbucks. But he had worked for companies with big networks like Yahoo. Instead of disregarding that experience, he leveraged it to understand the retail giant and apply that seemingly unrelated experience at Starbucks. Gillett is quoted in the article as saying: “[…] big Internet, like Yahoo, had solved a lot of the technical challenges that big retail had yet to solve… If you think of all your stores like nodes on a network, and all your resisters as computers rather than cash registers, you can start to manage and deploy […] like Yahoo would a server farm […]” Many examples exist in business of how breakthrough ideas and products are discovered when a solution that worked in a completely unrelated field is applied to solve a different problem.
Sometimes, organizations are too narrow-minded in how they view and value experience. Perhaps an employee in your team has expertise in solving problems in another field that can be the breakthrough idea you need to solve a problem. You’ll never leverage that unrelated expertise if you don’t know about it or you don’t support it or you don’t find an outlet to try it out. Experimentation is the subject of our last post in the series and a pivotal one for transformation to occur.
Thu 26 Jan 2012
Posted by Alicia under 21st Century Leadership, Alicia Blain, C-Suite, C.A.R.E. System of Leadership, CEOs, CIO, Corporate Change, Creativity, Effective leadership practices, Employee Retention, Gen Y, IT, Innovation, Leadership, Leadership Tips, Leading a new workforce, Management, Millenials, Millenials in the workplace, Millennials, Millennials in the workplace, Technology, Training & Development
Quote: “What they needed was a leader to bring the organization to a new audience in a new way.” ~ Seth Godin in Tribes: We Need YOU to Lead Us.
If you’re not quite sure why Millennials are an organization’s “new audience”, I invite you to read through some of my past blogs to get a thorough understanding of this unfamiliar group. As leaders, we won’t be able to really reach that new audience unless we are willing to create a new way or at the very least question our existing way to see if it will work going forward.
That’s why it’s so important for us to ADAPT and find a new way so our next generation employees are engaged and productive in our teams. ADAPT is the second module of the C.A.R.E. System for Next Generation Leadership and it’s an important one because it has to do with a leader’s state of mind. ADAPT is all about mindset and getting comfortable testing your boundaries.
So what specific things can we do to ADAPT our leadership style? Let’s look at the Starbucks case study for ideas. As the new CIO, Gillett embraced 3 things that got him out of his comfort zone and ready to ADAPT and find a new way to lead his IT team.
Again, Here’s the link to the Information Week article.
1. He was curious and courageous. The article quotes Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz as saying that Gillett “had an insatiable curiosity and wasn’t afraid of pursing big, bold ideas.” Curiosity and courage are key components of the C.A.R.E. System. To change and adapt to a new way of doing things and of leading is not easy. You are fighting yourself and those in the organization that want to keep the status quo alive. Without being inherently curious, asking lots of “why do we do it that way” questions and being willing to fight the good fight, it is very difficult to ADAPT and give your new audience – the Millennials – a new way.
2. He asked for even more responsibility. In early 2009, Gillett has been in Starbucks for just one year and realizes he inherited what can only be termed an IT nightmare. At the same time, Starbuck’s new CEO, Howard Schultz,asks the company executives to give him ideas on how to turn the company around. He urges them to think outside their corporate functions. Does Gillett ignore his boss’ request because he legitimately reasons he already has too much on his plate? No. He goes ahead and pitches an idea for Starbucks to make a venture capital investment in a new business unit designed to push the company’s mobile and online strategy. That was a gutsy move. Instead of sticking to what he knew and focusing on just that, Gillett saw a rare opportunity to be part of a transformation at Starbucks. It required him to take on more than he probably could chew at that time. He got out of his comfort zone and adapted his mindset to take on a strategic challenge and he succeeded. According to the article, since creating the new venture “Starbucks has become a retail leader in mobile payments”. By stretching yourself and getting uncomfortable you push yourself to try new things. Like a muscle, the more you use it, the more comfortable you become letting go of your status quo.
3. He instilled an entrepreneurial spirit into IT. That’s very rare to see. IT departments in most large organizations these days are all about following the rules, often playing it safe, and saying a lot of NO in the interest of “security”. In the next post, we will see examples of what Gillett did that went against these typical IT practices. The examples were possible because he elected to run IT not so much as a corporate business unit but rather as an entrepreneurial venture. They opened themselves up to try new things. The focus was to address the needs of its customers – both inside and outside the corporate walls. That ultimately showcased IT as an enabler instead of a cop.
In today’s super competitive, global marketplace, organizations that don’t want to fall behind need to be run by leaders that are open to adapting their frame of mind and leadership frameworks to make way for the future. They need to ADAPT and find new ways for their new audience – the Millennials.
Wed 25 Jan 2012
Posted by Alicia under 21st Century Leadership, Alicia Blain, C-Suite, C.A.R.E. System of Leadership, CEOs, CIO, Corporate Change, Effective leadership practices, Employee Retention, Gen Y, Gen Y in the Workplace, IT, Innovation, Leadership, Leadership Tips, Leading a new workforce, Management, Millenials, Millennials, Technology, Training & Development
Quote: “ If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader” ~ Seth Godin in Tribes: We Need YOU to Lead Us
Being uncomfortable is how transformation begins. When I first started hiring Millennials, I didn’t want to change. The more they perplexed me, the more I dug my heels in my comfort zone. It wasn’t until I decided to understand why they perplexed me that the transformation in my leadership style took place and led to the creation of the C.A.R.E. System for Next Generation Leadership. That led to first seeing the potential Millennials brought to the workplace then tapping it then capitalizing on it.
The first step in doing that is to CONNECT. Many of us who cut our management teeth in the 20th Century approach leadership like this: I, leader, have a certain leadership style that you, employee, will need to get comfortable with. It is not my responsibility to figure you out or adapt my style to meet your needs. You need to conform to my style and work effectively under that style.
Really? Do we really want to lead that way? Does it work for us? If we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that working for a boss that took the time to know us and spend quality time with us are the ones we liked working for and worked the hardest for. Now more than ever, making a special connection with each of our employees is not only critical but expected. The more removed we are from our staff, the less effective they will be and that will reflect back to us. We also minimize our message and our vision. We need that direct connection to our teams to spread our message and communicate our goals.
So how can you begin to CONNECT? Let’s look at the Starbucks case study for real world examples. Here’s the link to the Information Week article.
As the new CIO for Starbucks, one of the first things Stephen Gillett did was connect with the people in the trenches and with Starbuck’s customers. How did he do that? He shadowed them by actually working in one of the retail stores. This is one of the key components in the C.A.R.E. System. As a leader you need to spend time with your target audience whether it’s your employees or your customers. It’s important for 3 reasons:
- You see firsthand how employees work. You can observe their thinking process as they complete their tasks. How is that thought process unique and can you leverage it in other areas or functions in your team? You also see how they do their tasks. Are there shortcuts that they are taking and are unaware of that help speed up the work? Can those shortcuts be applied in other areas of your operation? Or perhaps they are missing important steps that require more training? Is there duplication of work that you were not aware of? No report or spreadsheet analysis will give you that kind of intelligence.
- You see if the process works or doesn’t. In the case of Gillett, as he worked at a Starbucks store, he quickly realized that the point-of –sale (POS) system was broken. Even though the Starbucks brass knew the limitations of the system they were more focused on growth strategies and opening stores. They didn’t realize that the limitations of the POS were contributing to problems in opening new stores.
- You are able to make better and more intelligent decisions when prioritizing projects based on your firsthand experiences in the trenches.
If shadowing is effective downstream – working directly with your employees and/or customers, it is equally effective upstream – with your executive team. After spending time shadowing downstream at a Starbucks store, Gillett decided to bring the same experience upstream, to the executive team. He created a Tech Derby which is really a live simulation of a problem showing the pain points and a proposed solution to the problem. The simulation acted as a shadowing opportunity. Through a large-screen display, the executive team, including the CEO, Howard Schultz, shadowed a barista painfully placing an order in the outdated POS system. They got to see not just hear about how much time was wasted as the baristas had to translate orders so the POS system could capture them. Then, through a mock up of the proposed replacement system, the executive team was able to shadow the new process to see how much faster and more effective it was.
According to the article, “When they showed both to Schultz, ‘he just turned around and said, When? And whatever you’re going to tell me, it has to be faster’”. That’s how effective shadowing is and how powerful the concept of Connecting is to introduce change.
Imagine how connecting with your Millennials or others in your team can give you a bird’s eye view to what’s going on in the trenches. Imagine how many things you’ll be able to discover, uncover and identify that can be game changers to your team and ultimately your organization. The days when leaders could run teams by just interacting with their direct reports without a strong connection to their team members are disappearing quickly. The opportunity for innovation and real transformation lie with the ideas and creativity of those closest to the problems your team faces every day. You need to connect with them to tap and harness that creativity and find innovative solutions.
What examples do you have that illustrate how you CONNECT with your employees?
Tue 24 Jan 2012
Posted by Alicia under C-Suite, C.A.R.E. System of Leadership, CIO, Corporate Change, Effective leadership practices, Employee Retention, Gen Y, Gen Y in the Workplace, Leadership, Leading a new workforce, Management, Millenials in the workplace, Millennials, Training & Development
Recently, I was conducting a workshop with Ben, the CIO of a mid-size company and his direct reports. The CIO was having trouble holding on to his young workforce. More than that, he really couldn’t figure them out. He brought me so I could help them understand, engage and retain Millennials, those pesky 20-somethings that are now coming into the workplace in droves. Ben’s situation wasn’t unusual. Millennials in the workplace and what to do with them is a very hot topic these days and a real pain point for CIOs and other leaders.
In the meeting, shared my personal “Millennial” journey as a Senior VP of IT in a Fortune 500 company and how I went from total aggravation with Millennials to complete amazement at the contributions they could make in the workplace under the right conditions.
I explained to the group that I was able to make this transformation by creating a lab and putting Millennials in the workplace under the microscope to observe them intently and understand what made them tick. In doing so, I quickly realized that the leadership style and approach I had taken with previous generations of employees were simply not effective with the new breed of 20-somethings. After many experiments – many that worked and some that failed – a pattern began to emerge that clearly showed me that I needed a different framework to get through to these Millennials and capitalize on their unique perspective. I ultimately called the new framework the C.A.R.E. System for Next Generation Leadership. C.A.R.E. stands for Connect, Adapt, Reshape and Experiment.
As I was sharing specific examples of how I began to incorporate C.A.R.E. into my leadership style, Ben, the CIO, raised his hand and asked a great question.
“Alicia, would it be possible for you to highlight examples of specific steps I can take as a CIO to begin to put your C.A.R.E. System into action. Are there any examples out there of CIOs or organizations that you can point to that can help illustrate the key elements of your C.A.R.E. System.
I couldn’t have asked for a better segue way. Ben’s question highlights a need we all have to see and drill down on examples that can help us make necessary and oftentimes uncomfortable changes. The examples help us understand new concepts, demonstrate how the concept was implemented and give us food for thought on how we can incorporate them into our particular work environment.
Ben’s question was refreshing for 2 reasons. The first is that it was a good indicator that he acknowledged that change was necessary. Unlike many leaders, he didn’t think that holding on to the status quo and old patterns was going to solve the problem. He was open to trying new things. Secondly, he accepted responsibility for initiating the change and wanted guidance on how to start.
Over the next four posts, I will share with you the real world case study that I used to show Ben and his direct reports how to exemplify how the core concepts of the C.A.R.E. System can be used to effectively lead Millennials in the workplace .
The organization that will be highlighted in the case study is Starbucks and the person spotlighted is Stephen Gillett, its new CIO.
I welcome you to click here to read a recent article in Information Week written by Chris Murphy that spotlights the Starbucks CIO as the Chief of the Year.
Full disclosure: I don’t know Stephen Gillett personally other than what I read in the Information Week article and he has never heard about the C.A.R.E. System. I am using him in the case study because of specific examples of techniques or approaches that were highlighted in the article. The techniques help me illustrate real world examples of each of the 4 modules in the C.A.R.E. model that I know to be effective when leading next generation workers.
In my next post: we begin look at the Starbucks case study for techniques on how to Connect – the first module in the C.A.R.E. System
Recently I finished reading Seth Godin’s book, TRIBES: We Need You to Lead Us. It’s a quick read and I have been recommending it as a must read for corporate leaders as a starting place to challenge our thinking. In each of my posts, I will be quoting from the book to set the tone for us to be open to change.
In Tribes, Seth writes: “And if you insist on playing today’s games by yesterday’s rules, you’re stuck. Stuck with a stupid strategy. Because the world has changed.”
Change is a constant and our next generation leaders, the Millennials in the workplace, are counting on us to change and leverage their potential.
Thu 29 Sep 2011
I came across this great blog written by a Gen Yer called Derek Singleton titled “How Manufacturing can Attract Young Talent Again“. He is an ERP Analyst for a company called Software Advice and he covers the manufacturing software market. In the blog he ponders why he never thought to choose a career in manufacturing. He realizes that there are many reasons why young professionals like himself would never think of it either. Things like not having popular role models in manufacturing. Can you think of even one person in manufacturing that you’ve heard of? For that matter, when was the last time we heard a positive story about manufacturing? All we hear about are plant closings and how the factories are being moved overseas.
Derek goes on to explain why it’s important to pursue manufacturing careers and his points are well taken. What I liked best is that Derek had some suggestions to making manufacturing cool again to attract Gen Yers. Take gamification for instance. Did you know that there are 3D games that show new hires (aka Gen Yers) how to operate oil refinery equipment? Or that there’s a game called Plantville which is similar to Farmville designed to teach manufacturing processes and technologies to new hires? Companies like Invensys and Siemens have been investing their money in the gamification of manufacturing. How cool is that?
Derek also had a great idea about having manufacturing summer camps! Isn’t that great? What about restoring shop classes back in high school? The point is that you can’t expect young people to get excited about a career in an industry they have no exposure to or is not perceived in a good light.
It’s by attracting young talent that manufacturing can get a facelift and perhaps become cool again. Derek’s blog reminded me of several blogs I’ve written this past year on a similar vein. Last year, I wrote about Kristine Harper who followed her father’s footsteps and choose a career in mainframes. Yes, that’s right – mainframes. She started an IBM Share user group called “zNextGen There are over 700 engineers, all of them Millennials, that are “looking to improve mainframe technology skills and find places to use them.”
The manufacturing sector needs a Kristine Harper to jumpstart change, make it cool again and get Gen Yers excited about being a part of the change. The Armed Forces is another example. I’ve blogged several times about how different groups within the Armed Forces are using gamification to attract Gen Yers.
But first, Gen Yers have to know the industry exists in the first place. They have to be exposed to it, hear about it, learn about it, see role models in manufacturing that are making a difference, that are making change.
What do you think? Do you like Derek’s ideas on making manufacturing cool? Do you think it will atract Gen Yers? What ideas do you have to make it cool? Or do you think it’s too late? I hope not. Because if there’s an industry that needs the creativity, fresh blood and curiosity of Gen Yers, it’s manufacturing. Here’s to making “Shop” cool again…
Fri 11 Mar 2011
Did you know that there’s a museum dedicated just to the history of computers? Well there is. It’s called, aptly enough, the Computer History Museum . I bet you can even guess where its located. If you said Silicon Valley, you’d be right, duh!
Well they just opened a huge exhibit (25,000 square feet!!) which they named Computer History: The First 2,000 years. That was also the title CIO Magazine used to give us a sneak peek at some of the exhibit highlights. Click here to see the article by Lucas Mearian & the slideshow featuring some of the technologies on display.
Talk about back in the day!! Two thousand years is really going back. I loved looking through the exhibit highlights. It just shows you how far we’ve come with respect to technology.
Even if you’re not a geek, you’ll enjoy looking through the slideshow to see how far innovation, creativity & experimentation have taken us. And of course, as always, I encourage you to share the slideshow with your Gen Yers to really freak them out!
Happy Friday, everybody
Tue 1 Feb 2011
Last December in my December 28th blog titled “Do you have Large Thumbs”, I referenced a site called “When Parents Text“. It’s a hilarious site that spoofs Baby Boomer parents trying to keep up with their Gen Y kids/teenagers & trying to communicate by texting.
The other day, as I was reading the Huffington Post, I noticed they, too, have found the funny site. Catharine Smith in her blog titled : “When Parents Text: the 13 Most Hilarious Fails from Mom & Dad“, has a slide show of some of the texts on the site that she found funny.
Although this isn’t technically something I would usually add in the BIMD series, I included it because it shows how different our Baby Boomer roots are compared to those of Gen Yers. It’s one of the reasons the When Parents Text site is so appealing & resonates with both Boomers & Gen Yers. The generation that prides itself on setting trends is finding it necessary to adjust & learn to follow to keep up with their Millennial children. That’s okay but it’s funny to watch especially when we are trying to learn a totally new language created by our children. Looking back, Pig Latin looks sort of silly now, doesn’t it.
Can you imagine how totally different Gen Yers back in the day memories will be compared to ours? Like night & day…
Well, in the meantime, enjoy these funny text messages & show them to your kids so they can get a laugh, too.
Happy Friday, everybody…
Fri 14 Jan 2011
Sometimes you take a look at something and you can’t help but say “You’ve come a long way, baby!” That’s what I said recently when I saw the slideshow that Benj Edwards put together on CIO Magazine titled “A brief history of computer displays“. They go way back in time to the 1940′s to show the various computer interfaces that have been used over the years. Seeing some of the displays has brought back many memories of working back in the day.
Three of the displays, in particular, caught my eye. The first one were the early mainframe computers. In the 3rd or 4th slide , they show a mainframe computer & a keypunch next to it. Believe it or not, we used to have a keypunch machine in our apartment in Astoria, NY in the early 1960′s. Why you might ask? Well, my dad was a computer programmar. He was one of those people who saw early on how computers could change the world & he wanted to be a part of it. He was working as a computer programmer at the time for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital. Back in the day, it was just called Memorial Hospital. He was given a fairly high profile project which was to move all the billing for Memorial Hospital onto the new IBM mainframes at the time. Millions of dollars on the line – no pressure!
My dad worked day & night on this project and luckily for him, he had a perfect assistant to help him get the project out. The assistant was my mom. As it turns out, my mom was a keypunch operator & was able to key in all the code my dad was creating for the project. My dad had a keypunch machine brought in from work to our apartment. I remember stacks of keypunch cards that my mom fed into the key punch machine that would make these markings as she typed on a keyboard. I remember a drum where she would wrap a special card with special instructions for a particular run. I remember the loud sound that keypunch machine made when my mom entered the information and the cards started to get punched. I also remember how fast my mom was entering the information that looked like gibberish. Well, after a lot of hard work & testing, my dad’s project was a huge success. So huge, that the head of Memorial Hospital personally congratulated him on the great work. As a matter of personal pride, my dad’s billing system was so effective & so good that Memorial Hospital kept the system for many, many years. Such a smarty, my dad was!
The second display that caught my eye was the dumb terminal. Believe it or not, that is what I worked on when I first started working at Citicorp after college. The mainframe guys would have us enter & test stuff on those clunky terminals. All this information would get entered & then we would have to go to the computer room, ask a computer operator that worked on the other side of a glass window to get us a computer printout of what we had just entered. I remember the printouts were in that lined computer paper & even back then I remember thinking how much paper we were wasting. Those dumb terminals were the only semblance of technology allowed for us, the mere “users”. Otherwise, we had pen & paper. No PCs until the mid 1980′s f0r us.
The 3rd display that caught my eye was the teletype. Another unbelievable tid bit. Again going back to my early corporate days in Citicorp, every month the monthly financials were sent to the corporate office by our accounting people via a telex machine. Yes, you read that right – a telex machine. Someone would sit there for hours, typing away on this telex that would spew little holes on a long, narrow piece of paper. When that narrow piece of paper was passed through a special machine, you would see words begin to get typed on triple part paper. You would actually see your month end financials printed on the paper. One of the copies would be sent to corporate as a backup to what they already send via telex. Because you see, those holes being created by the machine – the telex itself – was updating the mainframe somewhere in one of Citicorp’s data centers. The accounting folks would keep the second part of the triple part paper & I forget who got the third. This was in the early 80′s.
When you look through this slideshow, try to think back & picture where you worked & what was going on in your life when those displays were in their heyday. As I did that, I have to say it brought back some great memories, especially the one about my dad. Who knows what great memories it will bring back for you.
Why don’t you share the slides with your Millennial kids & tell them stories of you back in the day. They will probably be shocked to see what technology looked like but I’m sure they will appreciate what they have today. I know I do.
Happy Friday, everybody!
Wed 12 Jan 2011
In my blogs I always try to highlight great examples of Millennials doing good & being Millennials. Last week, I came across a blog on Fast Company written by Simon Mainwaring titled: “Using Social Media to Mobilize Millennials“. In the blog, Simon talks about two projects that take a unique & highly Millennial spin on an existing practice. That practice is social causes & our need as humans to give back and help others less fortunate.
The names of the 2 projects are Pando Projects & Loudsauce. The first puts the Millennial brainpower to help young people that have an idea for a business but need help putting the business plan together. Each project gets a website, promotional fundraising & volunteer management tools to kickstart the project. The project is still a pilot but it shows the power of social media as people support projects based on the personal tie they have with that particular cause. If you look at the 15 pilot projects, it clearly shows the interest that Gen Y has for causes and making the world a better place. I particularly loved the projects that also had a multi-cultural component to them as it shows how the future of the US will be more ethnically and racially diverse than ever before.
The second project shows the incredible market savviness that Millennials possess. Loudsauce lists a series of campaigns for causes & based on your preference you donate money to fund advertising for that cause on TV or billboards & then you spread the word using social media such as Facebook & Twitter.
What struck me in both examples is the creativity they display by leveraging 2 of the 5 unique skills & traits that Millennials bring to any situation. The 2 skills are their collaboration or crowd sourcing approach to things & their use of technology. I believe Millennials are extremely lucky to be living in a time where technology provides access to so much that was not available in just a few years past. The way they use technology & harness it is unique to them & extremely powerful. On top of that, Millennials are natural collaborators. I’ve shown many examples in my blogs of Millennials coming together to get things done. They are wired to do it & because it’s natural to them, they harness that collectivity in ways prior generations can’t begin to fathom.
I agree with Simon on his take of the future. The unique skills of the Millennials layered on top of their affinity to get involved in social causes, layered on top of the technology available to help them do that will make them the ”founders of companies and industry leaders that will transform the products, services and role of brands in near future”.
But where will that leave corporations? For the first time, we have a generation of smart, collaborative young people who, at an age where other generations were forced to look for corporate jobs to get experience, have an option to start their own companies & use the collective brainpower of their peers to help them succeed. As corporate leaders continue to rely on outdated principles & techniques that hinder their ability to see the goldmine in their Gen Y staff, they may decide to opt out of corporate and start their own companies.
They have the technology, the social media & the brainpower of their fellow Gen Yers to provide them with the acumen & funding they need to start & grow their own businesses. That combination has never been available to other generations. Can corporations compete against that especially as so many Millennials are getting disillusioned by corporate & its leaders on a daily basis? What kind of talent will be available to corporations? Will the best Gen Y talent be willing to put up with all the hassles of corporate or decide to try their luck & start their own companies & bring on other bright & motivated Millennials?Will corporate be left with a mediocre talent pool going forward or will they be able to attract, retain & leverage the best of Gen Y?
Interesting questions that will be addressed at time goes on. If you want to be that corporate leader that can attract & retain top talent, you better start now First step, let go of the status quo, of your comfort zone & get uncomfortable. Let go of outdated styles & techniques that blind you to the potential that Millennials bring. Ignite experimentation in your group & make that connection with your young workforce. That will give you a good head start. Remember leading successfully in the 21st Century requires leaders to C.A.R.E. – Connect, Adapt, Reshape & Experiment to keep the best talent engaged & commited.
Are you doing that today?