It isn't all over; everything has not been invented; the human adventure is just beginning.

Gene Roddenberry
From the Beatles to the Mouse, timely Innovations

From the Beatles to the Mouse, timely Innovations

Posted by martin.parnell |

Fifty years ago, in 1967, the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles, was released.

It was the band’s eigth studio album and became an immediate commercial and critical success. It spent 27 weeks at the top of the UK albums charts and 15 weeks at number one in the US. The record sold 250,000 copies in Britain in its first week (500,000 by the end of June)

The album and its cover were praised for its innovations in music production, song writing and graphic design, bridging the cultural divide between popular music and legitimate art. In May of this year, in an article on the “Biography” website, Laurie Ulster wrote: The studio’s technology was an important piece of Abbey Road’s creative puzzle. At that time, producers only had four tracks available to work with, and every time they transferred the recording to another tape, they sacrificed some of the quality. The constant improvisation needed to move beyond the restraints of the era spurred the Beatles, along with producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick, to new creative heights as they found innovative and strange ways to get to what they were after. That spirit of experimentation is as much a part of the album as the tracks themselves. 

I decided to take a look back at what other innovations and events came into play that same year. Here are just a few:

During February of 1967, NASA launched the Lunar Orbiter 3 spacecraft The main purpose of the Lunar Orbiter 3 mission was to photograph the surface of the Moon in order to find and analyze potential safe landing sites for future missions in the Surveyor and Apollo programs. The cone-shaped craft also measured radiation and micro-meteoroid impact. The mission lasted for a total of 264 days and it ended in October of that year, after taking 149 medium resolution and 477 high resolution photographs. 

From April through to October of 1967, “Expo 67” was held in Montreal, Canada 

to create the 900 acre site, Montreal built new islands and added to existing islands on the St. Lawrence River, where they then built the 90 pavilions. The expo had 62 participating nations and had over 50 million visitors, making it the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century.

In the summer of 1967, in New York City, CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) opened its doors. Featuring 117 exhibitors showcasing technology like transistor radios, stereos and black and white televisions, it began a 50 year legacy of innovation.Held in Las Vegas every year, it is the world's gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies and where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.It has been the launch pad for new innovation and technology that has changed the world.

Also, in 1967 Douglas Engelbart filed for the patent on the computer mouse, which he had invented in 1964.  His creation was made from wood and had two gear-wheels that sat perpendicular to one another so as to allow movement on one axis. When you moved the mouse the horizontal wheel moved sideways and the vertical wheel slid along the surface. 

Moving on to this year, here are some of the winners of the 2017 Edison awards:

Diamox by Element Six:  Diamox is a new type of electrochemical cell, using boron-doped diamond electrodes, for treating highly contaminated industrial wastewater without chemical additions. It is a simple on-site modular solution for industry that is cleaner for the environment and can enable safe direct discharge or reuse of process water.

Molekule by Molekule: Molekule has created the world’s first molecular indoor air purifier. Where other air purifiers trap pollutants in filters and eventually re-release them into the air, Molekule is the only air purifier to eliminate all indoor air pollutants (e.g. allergens, VOCs), leaving the air clean and safe to breathe.

Sherwin-Williams Paint Shield is the first EPA-registered microbicide paint that kills certain harmful bacteria on painted surfaces. Representing a game-changing advancement in coatings technology, Paint Shield kills greater than 99.9 percent of these select bacteria within two hours of exposure on a painted surface.

GameChanger Q-LED Sports light by GameChanger is a high-performance lighting system designed for sports venues, with a revolutionary form factor and Internet of Things connectivity at half the cost of competitive systems. Unlike its competitors, GameChanger is bar shaped with proprietary optics which makes it more efficient in its lighting patterns and run wireless from mobile devices.

And if we look into the future, here are some innovations to look forward to, according to Seth Archer, on the Business Insider website:

According to Yigal Nochomovitz, an analyst at Citigroup, eye diseases will affect around 21 million people in the US by the year 2020. If a new way for sustained treatments is developed, it could usurp the current shots and eye drops.  Small implants could deliver drugs to a patient's eye for an extended period and could expand the possible marketplace by $13 billion in the next 15 years,

Robots have traditionally performed repetitive tasks that are easy to program. With new advances in robotics in a variety of fields, industrial robots have a larger base of technology to pull from, and they could do tasks that require more collaboration and communication.

Bendable screens, new materials, and augmented reality may all be contributing factors in the next wave of technology hardware design. Phones could start looking like wallets with folding screens, and TVs may be as thin as paper and transportable by simply rolling them up and taking them with you.

I wonder what innovations have come into everyday use, in your lifetime and which ones you would like to see developed, in the future.

How many of the innovations we have seen developed are likely to last for the next 50 years or is technology moving at such a rate that nothing that is new now will last that long? What innovations might we see in the arts? Who knows, maybe someone will come up with a 2017 album to rival the longevity of Sgt. Pepper.

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Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.

Voltaire
Get the Best Answers by preparing the Right Questions

Get the Best Answers by preparing the Right Questions

Posted by martin.parnell |

Media Coach, Alan Stevens is sometimes asked to write speeches for other people. He says that it's a tough task and, in order to do it well, “You need to be able to get inside the head of the other person, to understand the way they think, the impression they like to create, and the phrases they like to use”.

He informs us that many politicians employ speechwriters. Most of Ronald Reagan's great orations were written by his chief writer, Peggy Noonan. Even JFK's "ask not what your country can do for you..." actually came from the pen of Ted Sorensen.

Stevens explains that it’s not enough to just re-work what a person says, you have to go deeper and try to see things from their point of view. When writing a speech for someone, he will go to see them speak, or watch videos of their speeches. Then meet with them, and ask them a set of questions.

When I looked at those questions, it struck me that answering them would be a valuable exercise to do in a range of situations, e.g. when preparing to write your own speech, when making a presentation or pitching an idea.

If you are able to answer these questions, not only will you be prepared, but you will be more confident in your approach.

These are the questions that Stevens asks:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What is your key message?
  • Can you explain that to me simply?
  • Why is this important to your audience?
  • What challenges do you expect?
  • What is the practical application?
  • Can you give me some stories and examples?
  • Are you sure of your position?
  • What do you want to leave out?
  • Why is this important to you?

If you are a journalist, you could use most of them when conducting an interview or writing a story.

It might be worth keeping this check list and referring to it until you get into the habit of asking yourself these things, each time you prepare a speech or written piece. 

If you are in a mentoring role, you might consider the words of Simon O. Sinek, a British/American author, motivational speaker and marketing consultant, who said “Leadership isn’t answering the questions others ask. Leadership is asking others to answer their own questions.”

And it’s worth remembering that, whether you are speaking or writing, your subject line or opening sentence will be the hook to capture attention.  You want people to sit up and take notice. Answering these questions can help you with that too.

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To reach the goals of your life, you need discipline, you need luck and you need something as important as these two: Vacations!

Mehmet Murat ildan, author and playwright
How to enjoy a Guilt-Free Vacation

How to enjoy a Guilt-Free Vacation

Posted by martin.parnell |

It’s that time of year when many of us are looking forward to our summer vacation. A time to relax with family and friends or go off and pursue a passion.

However, for some people, the thought of taking time off work can create a great deal of stress. On the website Be Well At Work, Suzanne Gelb, PHD, JD, points out some reasons why they might feel this way;

  1. People are afraid of being replaced or they’re afraid of their work piling up while they’re gone.
  2. By taking vacation time they worry that the boss might think they’re not pulling their weight. They need to keep working to prove how valuable they are to the company. 
  3. They think they’ll miss too much work.
  4. They’re afraid they’ll get penalized for taking too much vacation time and be passed over for promotion in the future. 

It is worth considering that, taking a vacation is extremely good for you—and for your employer, too.

In a study conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, researchers found that taking time off from work can boost your productivity, engagement, and overall happiness.

But even with all the facts swinging in favour of taking that long-overdue trip, it can still be difficult, at times, to get over your “vacation guilt.”

In a blog entitled "Holiday Vacations: Your Time to Rejuvenate" Robert Half gives some tips for enjoying your time off;

1. Create an action plan

Consider all of the potential projects that may need attention while you’re away. Write down an instruction sheet for those serving as backup so they know what to expect and how to handle specific situations. Also provide the names and numbers of contacts who might need to be reached. If you think someone will need to access your computer or other systems in your absence, speak with your manager or IT support to determine the best way to share security passwords with the person.

2. Spread the word

Give plenty of notice to key contacts that you will be out of the office and let them know who has been assigned as your backup. The more prepared people are for your absence, the less likely you will receive last-minute requests on the way out the door.

3. Wrap up your work commitments

Do your best to keep the last few days before your holiday break free from meetings and non-essential activities. That way, you can concentrate fully on cleaning out your inbox, wrapping up projects and tackling any final assignments.

It sounds obvious, but some workers find it hard to complete every task before breaking up for holidays. Make it your goal to wrap up loose ends before your last day, informing colleagues where you’re at with projects then switching on your out-of-office reply on all devices.

It might mean making a checklist a few weeks before the holidays start or allocating a certain period of wrap-up time each day in the lead-up to your break, but it will be worth it.

4. Prepare for your return

Remember that a key part of vacation preparation is getting ready for the days when you’ll be returning to work. Consider which projects will need immediate attention when you arrive. Also allocate time to check messages and meet with your boss and anyone who served as a backup in your absence so you can get updates on what you missed.

5. Step away from the smartphone

One of the challenges is that most of us use our smartphones to keep in touch with not only our work life, but our private life too, so it’s a slippery slope. Once you’re using your phone, it’s hard to switch the work mode off altogether, so for some people not using it at all is the best option.

If necessary, share your phone number with someone who will use it only in a true emergency - not when an employee has trouble remembering the time-saving Excel tip you shared three weeks ago. Also, resist checking in with the office. The more you stay in touch with work, the less of a break you will have. If you must check email and voice mail, limit it to once a day.

 

So, whatever way you choose to spend your vacation time, prepare well beforehand, try to leave work behind and think how much more enjoyable it will be, not only for you, but those with whom you share your precious time off.

Enjoy! (and don’t forget the sunscreen)

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Communication is one of the most important skills you require for a successful life.

Catherine Pulsifer - Author
How to be Most Effective at Getting your Message Across

How to be Most Effective at Getting your Message Across

Posted by martin.parnell |

Earlier this year, I was invited to give a presentation at this month’s TEDx YYC. 

On Friday, I stood on the stage at the Jack Singer Hall, situated in the Arts Commons building in Calgary and gave a talk entitled “Life is a Relay”. Whilst rehearsing for this type of event, I am always aware of the need to integrate passion, humour, anecdotes and facts, into my talk. 

Along with these are other aspects to be conscious of, such as expression, body language and overall presentation. It all comes down to what I want to say, how I’m going to say it and how it will be interpreted, by the audience. 

In the work place, it is becoming increasingly common for a person to send an email, text, tweet or some other form of modern communication, which is OK for certain messages to get through, however, I would argue that, whenever possible it is better to speak to someone directly, either by picking up the phone or seeing them in person. 

In 2011, Anthony Tjan, CEO of venture capital firm Cue Ball, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review, in which he stated: 

“Like many readers, I have experienced too many unproductive strings of back-and-forth emails or texts that should have stopped in round two, but continue. The problems with trying to resolve sensitive matters over email or text are quite obvious:

1. It is hard to get the EQ (emotional intelligence) right in email. The biggest drawback and danger with email is that the tone and context are easy to misread. In a live conversation, how one says something, with modulations and intonations, is as important as what they are saying. With email it is hard to get the feelings behind the words.

2. Email and text often promote reactive responses, as opposed to progress and action to move forward. Going back to the zero latency expectation in digital communications, it is hard for people to pause and think about what they should say. One of my colleagues suggests not reacting to any incendiary message until you have at least had a night to sleep on it, and always trying to take the higher ground over email. While by definition reactive responses occur in live discourse, they are usually more productive.

3. Email prolongs debate. Because of the two reasons above, I have seen too many debates continue well beyond the point of usefulness. Worse, I have experienced situations which start relatively benignly over email, only to escalate because intentions and interests are easily misunderstood online. When I ask people if they have called or asked to meet the counterpart to try and reach a resolution, there is usually a pause, then a sad answer of “no.”

Email is one of the greatest productivity contributors of the past two decades, and social communication platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have fundamentally changed and positively enriched the means and reach with which we are able to interact. Yet we have to recognize when such digital channels cannot substitute for a live conversation.

Email and social networking modes of communications have created a generation of casually convenient new connections, and even helped us deepen existing relationships, but they can rarely replace the real world. As digital communication accelerates the pace at which people form and broaden relationships, it is also decreasing the rate at which people are willing to resolve issues professionally and directly in-person. The next time you experience an issue over email, ask yourself if it is something that would be better served by a real conversation.”

It is also important to remember that, when someone communicates with us, in person, we are able to read their body language, expression and tone of voice. According to researchers M Mahdi Roghanizad and Vanessa K Bohns, in an article for the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, published this year, a new study has found that people tend to overestimate the power of email and are, in fact less persuasive than they think over email and overestimate its power.

Highlights of the research showed: People underestimate compliance when making requests of strangers in person. In two studies, we found the opposite pattern of results for emailed requests. Requesters overestimated compliance when making requests over email.

This error was driven by a perspective-taking failure. Requesters failed to appreciate how untrustworthy their emails would seem to others. Bohns concludes that  "A face-to-face email is 34 times more successful than an email". 

So, I would suggest that, if possible, next time you want to have a discussion, present an idea or share a point of view with someone, why not pick up the phone or, better still, arrange to speak to them in person.

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