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Happy trials

After nearly three months we finally returned from our Life Work adventure a week or so back. It’s taken me a little time to write about it because a) I’m still sifting through all the memories to find the hidden gems of meaning; and b) the day after we got back I took off to Perth for four days to help an old friend celebrate his 40th birthday.

Two and a half months up and two days back

One phrase that has been with me over the whole journey is plastered across the title of this blog. I found the phrase left in the comments section of either a Facebook or LinkedIn post I wrote announcing our imminent departure a few months back. It was left there, amongst all the general platitudes and well wishing by a friend of mine Georgia Murch. Now there’s a small chance that this was just a typo and that Georgia really meant to wish us “happy trails” but knowing Georgia I would suggest that it wasn’t.

Campfires

At the time I first read it I wasn’t really sure how to take it. When you announce a big trip like this you kind of hope everyone will be joyous and perhaps just a little bit jealous and although I always appreciate a good pun it felt a little bit deflating as well. Weirdly though, I haven’t been able to get the phrase out of my head for the last three months and looking back on it now I wonder if in fact it’s the best, and simplest, way of summing up the whole experience.

Let me assure you there has been no shortage of happiness…but also no shortage of trials. Here is an excerpt from one of Naomi’s Facebook posts highlighting just a few of the things we’ve had to endure during the trip (she assured me this was the abbreviated list).

  1. No time together without kids
  2. Sleep deprivation
  3. Arguing in the car about our next destination
  4. Kids fighting
  5. Stopping the car in the middle of nowhere, getting out of the car and refusing to get back in the car
  6. Mess, everywhere you look
  7. No wardrobes
  8. Stressful packing up and setting up days
  9. Eating crap food at theme parks/on the road because there is no alternative
  10. Drinking bad coffee because there is no alternative
  11. Being pooed on by birds
  12. Missing our dogs terribly and worrying about them after one ends up with a nasty injury, and they dig up our friend’s tennis court and a nice big hole in our hallway carpet
  13. Finding a pediatric dentist along the way to remove a splint after Miss 7 nearly knocks her front teeth out
  14. Miss 7 then proceeds to chip a front tooth on the bath tap
  15. Miss 7 goes to first aid after she flips out of a raft halfway down a waterslide called the BLACK HOLE!
  16. Miss 7 gets bitten by a horse which is distressed by 300 tourists trying to pat it and her being caught in the middle
  17. Miss 9 burns her hand while toasting marshmallows
  18. Miss 9 wakes up in the night and proceeds to vomit in the campervan
  19. Miss 9 sprains her ankle after doing 100 cartwheels
  20. Being stranded on the Gold Coast while our campervan takes a trip to the mechanic for 4 days
  21. The drone gets attacked by a sea bird and now lies at the bottom of the ocean
  22. Leeches
  23. Simon’s flights being cancelled/delayed
  24. Really bad showers
  25. Did I mention the dirt and sand in our beds.

And yet when I read over this list again none of this comes with an ounce of regret. Not only have we had the privilege of enduring these trials as part of a once in a lifetime adventure, I also have no doubt that experiencing these challenges has made all of us better for it.*

*Along the way I’ve been reading Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder and you could easily look at the above list as a list of disorder, things that are worth mentioning because they are both uncommon and challenging. The academic side of me that I’ve been trying hard to suppress over the last few months of blog posting would then want to talk about how the ability of each of us (both individually and collectively) to absorb and recover from each of theses trials has made us and our relationships stronger…but let’s not go into that.

So why does it take a trip like this to bring us all closer? Why couldn’t we have created such an experience without leaving the comfort of home? There’s no good reason for not doing it, but I can also tell you we didn’t. Perhaps it’s because that ‘in the moment’ conflict sucks. None of the above experiences were enjoyable at the time they occurred, their value is only when looked on in retrospect. Perhaps we just don’t have the energy for it, that after long days slaving away in the salt mines we don’t want to endure further trials…even if they are an opportunity for connection and growth.

Or perhaps we’ve just got really good at avoiding conflict in our day to day lives.

Not only do we live in more controlled environments that have eliminated many of conflicts causes, we have also become incredibly good at avoiding confrontation when challenges inevitably arise. We have smaller families living in bigger houses, we fill our lives with work and other activities, we go on resort holidays and lay on daybeds drinking cocktails out of coconuts…and we have a multitude of devices that require our constant attention. There are now so many other places we can go when the going gets tough that we can sometimes pretend that the challenges of human existence don’t apply to us.

But when you shrink your entire living space to something smaller than your dining room it becomes almost impossible to avoid these types of challenges. And once you can no longer avoid them the best strategy is to embrace them. For us that meant family gatherings around the campfire where each of us shared how we were currently feeling. We asked questions of each other to better understand what was going on and we collectively discussed ways of making things better.*

*In fact, we had one of our little gatherings the day after we got back (this time around a candle on the dining table) and much of the conversation was focused on how we can bring all that was good about our adventure into our day to day lives. The first challenge was how to deal with the incredible amount of unnecessary space in our house. To this end Nomes and I have decided to move out of the upstairs master bedroom and into one of the kid’s bedrooms so we can be closer to them. For their part they’ve agreed to continue to share a room for the foreseeable future (its relative luxury compared to sharing a bed in the camper trailer). In addition, the girls have also voluntarily committed to no screen time during the week in exchange for our weekly family movie (a ritual we started on the trip).

The very last questions I ask my digital champions at the end of a project, after everything’s been implemented and the feedback has been gathered is “Knowing everything you know now, would you do it again?”

And if I was to look back on the last three months and answer that question the answer would be an irrevocable “Yes!” In fact, Nomes and I have already been discussing how we could do a trip like this on an annual basis.

Rounding up the horses at night

So, as much as describing the adventure as a Happy Trial may not sound as appealing as drinking cocktails out of coconuts, I think the accumulation of experiences and where the journey has taken us is infinitely more valuable than any tropical holiday I’ve had in the past. And just because I really do encourage you to consider how you might swing an adventure like this yourself, how you might flip the life and work parts of your life for an extended period and enjoy your own set of Happy Trials, I will leave you with something a little more positive – a list. My list. A reflection on some of the incredible experiences and happy times we have had together over the last few months (and I can also assure that this list is abbreviated as well).

  1. The girls chasing waves in their best dresses and getting completely drenched
  2. Nailing all the rollercoasters at Movie World
  3. Rounding up a herd of horses at 10 o’clock at night in our dressing gowns
  4. Spending a day building a straw bale house
  5. Poppy catching her very first fish
  6. Three generations of Wallers abseiling off a mountain at sunset
  7. Playing story games around campfires
  8. Reading books for no reason except pleasure
  9. Driving my camper van Dennis for extended periods (being behind the wheel is one of my happy places)
  10. Jervis Bay at Sunset with the beach to ourselves
  11. Toasting marshmallows (even after Miss 9 burnt herself)
  12. The girls showing me up in their very first surf lesson
  13. Waterslides
  14. Following the locals recommendation, camping next to an isolated beach and being the only people on it
  15. Stews and other camp specialties
  16. Seeing the girls learn to love reading
  17. Our weekly family movie night
  18. Taking a detour and exploring where my Dad grew up on the Southern Yorke Peninsula in SA
  19. My camper van office
  20. Having the complete support of my team throughout the trip
  21. Seeing the whole team grow and develop in my absence
  22. Having so much time where it was just our family
  23. Having time to stop and reflect on where the world and where my work is heading next
  24. Getting home and starting back at work with renewed excitement and vigour
  25. The anticipation of getting to do it all again

 

Where’s Waller

 

Slamming into the pot holes on the road less travelled

I’m pretty sure I don’t necessarily believe in karma. If I did, I would have put down last week to a karmic episode, instead I’m now forced to find some other life lesson in what happened.

I had been really looking forward to last week, as much as it meant me leaving Dennis (the camper van) and Daisy (the camper trailer formally referred to as Goldie) for a few days it was going to be the most radical example of our Life Work Adventure. It involved me flying out from our trip to present at three events across three states within three days and then flying across the country to be back with the girls in time for a hot dinner on day four. But I was soon to find that sometimes things don’t quite go as planned.*

*Oh yes, I fully appreciate the irony that my last post was about how great preparation makes planning less necessary…but more on that later.

The expectation was that we would park up the van Tuesday, somewhere around Nelson Bay in NSW, then on Wednesday morning the girls would deliver me to Newcastle Airport (30 minutes away) where I would then catch a flight to Melbourne. Once in Melbourne, I would be picked up by a driver at the airport and driven to a client’s office to run a three hour workshop (on enabling technology adoption) before heading back into the Melbourne CBD for the night. Then on Thursday morning I would rise early and head to the Arts Centre to do a keynote on using technology to deliver more engaging tourism experiences before returning to the airport and continuing to Perth. I would run my final event, an all-day bootcamp for my Digital Champions Club, on Friday before an early Saturday morning flight back to Newcastle (via Melbourne) to catch up with the girls…and catch up on some sleep.

On paper it looked like everything would dovetail in nicely but almost immediately things started to unravel.

Plane cancelled

Firstly, my flight from Newcastle to Melbourne was cancelled with only a couple of hours’ notice (due to a lack of crew) and as there was no other flights leaving Newcastle I then bought a second ticket (on a different airline) to Sydney and a third ticket (on a different airline again) to take me through to Melbourne. Unfortunately, my second flight out of Newcastle departed late (also as a result of crew issues) which meant that I only made it to Sydney in time to watch my connecting flight back out of the gate and take off down the runway. And even though the client was incredibly accommodating (with all the participants volunteering to stay back until 6pm) the multiple delays meant we eventually had to pull the pin and postpone the workshop until a later date.

My plane leaving without me

Thankfully the other events went far more smoothly, though Qantas put on a domestic leg of an international flight to Perth which has different security requirements that resulted in having a $100 bottle of my favourite wine…that I’d bought from the cellar door…in the Hunter Valley…as a gift for the guest speaker who was presenting at the Digital Champions Club the following day, confiscated at the airport.

Bottle of wine confiscated at the airport

If I was a believer in karma or fate I’d probably put it down as some form of retribution for my previous posts on how well prepared I felt for just about any eventuality, or as a good friend of mine in Perth pointed out, perhaps it was the necessary punishment for being so bold as to think I could just go and live and work on the road for three months with my family.

But as I am not a believer in karma I’ve now being forced to come up with a different explanation as to why all these things went wrong. Here’s what I’ve got so far.

  1. If you plan on doing anything, something will generally go wrong
  2. If you plan on doing something irregular or uncommon, then the chances of things going wrong escalates rapidly.
  3. When something does go wrong, you will always wish you built in some additional capacity
  4. If things are important ALWAYS build in some additional capacity
  5. Every time something goes wrong it’s an opportunity to learn
  6. The biggest risk is we don’t learn when we should, and we end up with the same problem at a later date

Oh, and the best thing is this. You don’t necessarily need to wait for the ‘something’ to happen to you. The power of the internet and open sharing means that you can just as quickly and easily learn from other’s mistakes…with far less downside.

So, if you’re ever travelling with your family, working from a van and need to fly out from a regional airport for an important gig, half a day of spare capacity is not enough. Always fly the night before.*

*You might think that this is incredibly niche advice but I guarantee that someday in the future I’m going to get an email to a long defunct email address saying ‘Oh my god Simon, your advice saved my life’.

Update

We left Lake Macquarie on Friday and headed to the Hunter Valley for an impromptu birthday lunch and a spot of wine tasting. We camped for a couple of nights before heading back towards the coast. We stayed a couple of nights at Anna Bay before heading to Nelson Bay…which was the start of the adventures described above.

Birthday lunch in the Hunter Valley

I stayed on in Perth a couple of extra days to catch up with friends and spent a magical day at Rotto on the Sunday before heading back towards the van and the girls on the Monday. After dealing with a couple of days of awkward rain in Nelson Bay (awkward because we haven’t really had to deal with much of that since leaving Melbourne) we packed up and headed north again. We are currently at a farm stay just near South West Rocks and Byron Bay is now clearly in our sights.

The view at Rotto

Doing less to achieve more. Five things I’ve learnt from working a 30 hour week.

Six months ago I wrote a post committing both myself and my team to a 30 hour week. I felt now might be a good time to check in and let you know how it’s gone.

But first a confession. I haven’t actually managed to stick to just 30 hours of work each week. There have been a couple where I’ve done less but in most cases I have done more. That being said, I probably didn’t start with an average of 40 hours a week either. So a more accurate title for this post would have been ‘Five things I’ve learnt working at least 10 hours less per week‘…but it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

So what have I found?

I’m more relaxed
We all struggle with a lack of progress sometimes. The old me would have taken this as a sign that I needed to work harder and longer until I ‘broke through’. The new me steps out, goes and cleans the pool or takes the dogs for a walk. In the back of my head, I know I’ve got some time to burn so I might as well just take a break.

I’m more selective
Cutting your hours back is a great catalyst for culling the work and the clients that you don’t want to do or that don’t add value. Over the last six months I’ve had countless conversations with my team about whether a particular task, program or client is really worthwhile. Sometimes they have, sometimes they haven’t, but the most interesting discussion have been on the ones that didn’t appear to be worthwhile but after making a couple of little tweaks, suddenly made sense.

I’m doing better work
Funnily, one of the first clients I told about my 30 hour week immediately booked me to give a keynote to a room of 100 consultants. It made me realise that now we walk around with our work in our pockets, so many people are struggling to maintain balance. But apart from giving me the opportunity to experiment with a different approach to work and to explore a bunch of new ideas about how technology can make us more human, the reduced pressure and additional head space (see points one and two above) has also improved the quality of my thinking and ultimately my work.

I can switch off easier
I used to really struggle to call time at the end of the work day. When you have your own business there is always at least one more thing you could do…and I would generally try and get it done. Cutting my hours has given me permission to call it quits at the end of the day and not be racked by guilt as a result. This is not to say I don’t think about work outside of work hours anymore, rather I don’t feel I need to, but sometimes I still want to.

I enjoy my family time more
I used to work so hard to put boundaries around my work. I would explain to Nomes (my wife) and Miah and Poppy (my kids) that just because I worked in the backyard didn’t mean I didn’t have work hours. I would leave ‘the house’ at 8:30 in the morning and would finish at 5:30 in the afternoon. But these artificial boundaries just meant I missed out on doing cool things like going for a swim with Miah and Poppy after school or taking Nomes out for lunch during the week. Now I get to be the person who says yes to everything.

As I write this I’ve been trying to think of the ‘cons’ as a counterpoint to the ‘pros’ above…but I really can’t think of any. I really have no intention of returning to my old schedule, if anything, I would like to cut back my hours a bit more. In fact the family is currently planning a three month ‘work-cation’ in our campervan Dennis where the intention is to experiment with a whole lot more flexibility than I employ at the moment (if you’re interested, you can follow follow the adventure through my YouTube channel).

Probably my biggest take away to date is that our current obsession with busyness means we are often doing more work rather than ‘good’ work or the ‘right’ work. Perhaps this is because employers still struggle to define output in other ways apart from the number of hours worked. Perhaps it’s because our identity is increasingly tied to what we own or what we earn. Perhaps it’s because we are worried that if we don’t look busy we might lose our jobs. But regardless of the reason why we feel compelled to be busy I have little doubt that we are often doing a whole lot more than we need to achieve a whole lot less than we could.

This blog post has been syndicated to Medium. If you’d like to add comments or ideas, head over to this page.

In productivity, not everything that counts can be counted

At times I wonder whether one of the most dangerous cliches in business is ‘what gets measured gets done’ (for other candidates you might want to check out this post at Forbes. It is not necessarily wrong, what makes it dangerous is that so many people have come to believe it and therefore it’s right.

apprenctices

So if we really want to get something done, something that really matters, then the only thing we can do is measure it. And conversely, if we can’t measure it (and make it somebody’s KPI) it probably won’t get done.

Take for example productivity. Productivity is perhaps one of the most important measures of success in modern organisations. It is how we measure efficiency, which is not only a key driver of business competitiveness but also the thing that has allowed us to raise living standards and improve the human condition around the world (you can read more about that in this recent blog post).  But somewhat ironically, our efforts to measure productivity often result in unproductive behaviours.

If you read a business text book it will give you a definition of productivity that looks a little like this ‘An economic measure of output per unit of input’ (this one comes from Investopedia because it came up first when I searched Google but you can find similar definitions everywhere). So if we want to improve productivity all we need to do is measure outputs and measure inputs. Simple huh?

The real challenge for organisational leaders  comes when we try and define what ‘output’ and ‘input’ really means. Output is really about the amount of benefit that we can create for our customers. This is sometimes approximated as revenue but for many organisations (especially government ones where the customer pays indirectly through taxes) this is not a great measure of impact.

So instead of measuring benefit or impact we end up measuring something that is, well, a bit more measurable, like throughput. Throughput could be the number of widgets we produce or the number of reports that we can write, or the number of meetings that we can hold. This is much easier to measure but generally a poor representation of benefit. In fact some of these, such as having too many meetings could easily be seen as detrimental…but they are easy to measure.

The same challenge occurs when we come to measuring input. A really valuable measure of input might be ‘energy’ (check out this cool article on Productivity 2.0 for more on this) but once again this is incredibly hard to measure. It is much easier to measure hours worked or even better, headcount.

[tweetthis]Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.[/tweetthis]

So instead of measuring something useful, we end up measuring how busy you were, regardless of whether the work was valuable, and whether you turned up, regardless of what you were doing. These problems are otherwise known as busyness and presenteeism, both of which actively reduce productivity (for more on the problems of busyness I can highly recommend this blog post by Dr. Jason Fox).

So perhaps it is time to update our cliches to something more useful. I quite like this one by William Bruce Cameron:

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

A better approach to improving productivity is to acknowledge that some of the things that matter can’t be measured. Instead we need to motivate people with a purpose aligned to our customers need. We need to provide them the right tools and technology to be productive (because throughout human history we have used technology to improve productivity), and then trust and support them to do what they need to do.

If this sounds challenging, just think about all those meetings you won’t have to go to.

 

What is your return on technology

I’m not sure if anyone else remembers the mid-80s B Grade Australian film Ricky and Pete. To be honest, there was not a lot worth remembering but there is still one scene that sticks in my mind. In the scene, the mechanical genius Pete and his sister Ricky need a truck for their burgeoning gold mining operation but all they have is a classic Bentley that they stole from their Mum. No one is willing to trade in the Bentley so Pete chops it up and turns it into a makeshift truck.

 

For many, this is a bit of an ouch moment – turning a perfectly good Bentley into a perfectly average truck. But to me, this highlights the difference between consumption mindset and investment mindset.

When we have a consumption mindset there is no need for the Bentley to have any value beyond the joy or prestige of driving it around. This is fine in our personal lives but not very useful in our business lives. In our business lives we need to have an investment mindset and make sure we spend our time and money on things that can generate a financial return.

[tweetthis]An investment mindset with technology means we spend our time and money on tools that generate a return.[/tweetthis]

The problem is that for most people having an investment mindset is hard and boring and a consumption mindset is easy and fun. So unless a purchase is explicitly treated with an investment mindset it is likely to be seen as consumption.

And this is the problem with most of our digital technology. We don’t treat it as an investment. Most often the end user either wasn’t involved in the investment decision during purchasing or purchased it with a consumption mindset. As a result our digital technology is treated as a toy rather than a tool.

If we want people to use digital technology better we need to start having more explicit conversations about expected returns. Just like large capital investments use Return on Investment (ROI) to justify the capital and operational costs we need to start talking about Return on Technology (ROT) with our end users.

Do you treat your technology as an investment or as consumption? I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

 Image credit: Adam Singer via flickr

The humanity of technology

Humanity of technology

I would like to share with you what I believe might be my biggest and most important revelation of the last 12 months. I have no doubt that many of you may get to the end of this post and go ‘duh!’ but this post is not for you, this post is for all the other people like me, especially ones working in IT and business, who might benefit from my ‘a-ha!’ moment.

There is no shortage of logic

For a long time I have been providing extremely logical reasons and approaches to digital technology. It has been about dissecting your work into individual tasks, allocating the right ones to technology, managing information correctly, being more effective and multiplying returns.

But for some reason, even with an overwhelming abundance of logic many people have been slow to adopt technology or still actively avoid it. I would lay out logical arguments as to why we need to be using more digital technology and using it better, how that it will allow us to make more informed decisions in business which in turn will positively impact the world we live in, but even close friends and family have failed to act.

[tweetthis]You won’t engage w/ digital technology if negative associations are holding you back[/tweetthis]

For a long time this has been a real frustration for me. How is it then that even people who trust you implicitly, who know what you are saying makes sense and who know they really should do something about technology fail at the first hurdle? Even worse, they would often nod their heads in agreement, say a couple of reassuring things, but ultimately do nothing about it.

Even just today I have been presenting at a conference for a large financial services firm and all the messages are about what technology can and will do, the functionality and services it will make possible. There has been nothing about what this means for people, how they will benefit (or suffer) as a result.

It’s about people

But then I had a glass of wine with a good friend (thanks Inge) and was sent a fantastic book (thanks Matt and Pete) and now it all makes sense. It has finally dawned on me that the decision on whether or not to engage with digital technology is not based on logic, it is based on emotions. The potential of digital technology doesn’t matter if you have beliefs, fear or negative past experiences that are holding you back. After all these years of working with people and technology I have now realised that the challenges we need to address are no longer technological ones, they are human ones. The technology is good enough (and it will only get better), we now need to learn how to implement it in a way that matters to them and addresses their needs. We need to bring the humanity into technology.

Please help me out

So whether you went ‘duh’ or ‘a-ha’ I would love to know what beliefs that have held you back, or perhaps even still hold you back, from using digital technology? Please email me your thoughts, or if you have time, complete a short questionnaire to rate some of the most common negative beliefs that I have heard.

 

Thanks for your help!

When it comes to technology, kids don’t know worse

Kid's don't know worse

Although we like to think that our kids often do things because they don’t know better, when it comes to digital technology they often do things because they don’t know worse.

Younger generations haven’t invested heavily in older, less effective ways of working. So when the opportunities of digital technology arrive they are ready to jump right in. In contrast, many older workers are still holding onto older, less effective paper based systems. This is primarily because they have invested heavily in their systems and they as long as they work ‘OK’ they are unwilling to spend time testing (or investing in) alternatives.

In reality any previous investment we have made in developing our systems should be considered a sunk cost. The time cannot be recovered and we need to look at the both the investment in and return we would get from digital systems as an independent decision.

Also, what we consider to be ‘OK’, or an acceptable level of performance in one generation of work, is slow and outdated in the next. Acceptable performance is not defined by the individual, it is defined by their peers. Even if you use express post satchels, a decision to continue to undertake all correspond by hand written letter is neither acceptably fast (or acceptably cheap) if all your competitors are using email.

So next time you see younger generations ‘playing’ with digital technology ask yourself whether it is because they don’t know better…or because they don’t know worse.

Photo credit: henriksent via flickr

Improve on the Status Quo

One click away

I think one of the reasons for the slow update of Digital Technology in business is a search for the “Silver Bullet” or the “Perfect Solution.” In fact, We seem to systematically over estimate the risks and underestimate the opportunities of the alternative relative to the “Status Quo.”

I had one client who refused to install a cloud file sharing solution for his staff because the data security risks were perceived to be too high. So what was his staff doing in the absence of a provided solution? They were emailing documents to their personal email accounts ( which are more often than not cloud based anyway) and sharing documents on USB sticks.

So which of these two scenario is the unsafe one? The one where your staff used a tested and approved cloud service to share & sync files ( and therefore you always know where the files are stored ) OR the one where multiple copies of documents are stored in the Inbox and Outbox of personal email systems and also on the staff members personal home computer ( which are often not password protected ) and where documents are shared on unsecured USB drives, 60% of which go missing with Corporate data on them?

I think, the BIGGEST risk of all is, assuming that we already have it right, that there is no room for improvement. The next BIGGEST risk is waiting for a silver bullet when all we need to do is ” Improve on the Status Quo.”

What is Digital Intelligence?

As work becomes increasingly dominated by technology we need new ways of thinking to continue to be effective. Our ability to acquire and apply new knowledge and skill is what we call intelligence. In the process driven world of the industrial age this was dominated by concepts of logic, more recently we have identified other forms of intelligence such as Emotional Intelligence which are incredibly important in high human contact environments. As we enter an age of work that is increasingly conducted using digital tools we are going to need a new type of intelligence, Digital Intelligence, if we are to continue to be effective.

A simple definition of Digital intelligence is “the ability to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills related to digital technologies”. It is more than the ability to use digital tools, but rather the know why, know what, know how and know when of digital technology to improve effectiveness and outcomes. Digital Intelligence is fundamentally about our relationship with technology, just as Emotional Intelligence is about our relationship with others. Digital Intelligence is not about the use of digital tools at the exclusion of human ability but rather it is about the relative strengths of both people and technology and playing to those strengths.

Over the last few years access to digital tools has exploded. We have Facebook, Twitter and other social tools to connect and share with our friends, we have cloud backup services such as Dropbox and Evernote for making our information available everywhere and we have new tools such as tablets that allow flexibility in how and where we operate from. As we interact with all these different digital tools we are building our Digital Intelligence.

The only problem is, we are not building our Digital Intelligence intentionally, and as a result we are not doing it very effectively either. A prime example is our relationship with the oldest of digital tools, email. When I ask executive teams who thinks they are effective with email less than 5% would put up their hand. When you ask the same group who has ever had training to develop their email skills less than 5% would put up their hands again (and its not always the same hands).

We chance across new tools rather than seeking them out, we learn basic skills by playing rather than advanced skills through learning, we copy what our friends are doing rather than asking whether this is the best time and place to be using a particular tool. And we also have a fascination with what is shiny and new rather than what is effective. When something shiny and new is also effective then this is a bonus…but rarely our intent. As the role of digital technology continues to grow in business we need to grow our Digital Intelligence along with it.

What do you think of the idea of Digital Intelligence and have you done anything recently to develop yours? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Photo credit: CPOA via flickr

Recycle your wasted time

Recycle your wasted time

I had a Melbourne client recently that worked as a virtual CFO for a couple of businesses based in Sydney. One of his responsibilities was approving large requisitions. This would be required five or six times a week and often happened outside of normal business hours.

Although he would have already been informed of the requisition and have provided some form of prior consent,he still needed to sign off on the requisition form. This involved the form being emailed to him, him printing it out, reviewing it, signing it, scanning it, converting to a pdf and then emailing it back again.

All in all this process use to take him about 45 minutes but in reality only provided about 5 minutes and 10 seconds of value. There was five minutes of value when he reviewed the document and about 10 seconds of value when he signed it.

[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1BtfADA”]Engaging in low value-adding, process-inefficient tasks takes time away from real value-adding ones.[/tweetthis]

This means that 88% of that whole process (or about 3.5 hours a week) was waste. This waste meant that the client couldn’t couldn’t be doing something more valuable with his time and his client had to spend a minimum of 45 minutes waiting for a 5 minute job. By improving the process and removing about 40 minutes of waste the client was then able to spend more time doing things of value (including spending more time with his family)

In your experience, how much of your time is spent providing value to your client and how much is waste?