How To Get A Job At A Startup If You Have No Skills

How To Get A Job At A Startup If You Have No Skills

Hire me

This post is by Justin Kan, cofounder of Justin.tv and TwitchTV. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was interested in doing product management at a startup. He was working as a consultant, but wanted to join a company like foursquare as a PM. However, he wasn’t getting any return calls and was becoming frustrated, and wanted my advice on why. I told him this: Guess what? Everyone thinks they are the next Steve Jobs, but they aren’t. The odds are you aren’t God’s gift to product design. And even if you are, no one will be inclined to believe it, because you have no evidence: you’ve never 1) started a startup, 2) worked at a startup, 3) worked in product management, 4) designed products as side projects. All your experience is in another irrelevant field; why should a successful startup give you a chance?

The risk that each party takes has to be equal. You are taking a risk in tying your career to a startup: the less proven the startup is, the more risk you are taking. The startup is taking a risk by assuming you will be an effective producer: the less direct experience you have, the more risk they are taking. Many times I see younger would-be employees not understand this: they think they should be able to get a job as a PM at a Dropbox or Airbnb, not realizing that they are taking practically no risk on the company. At the same time, they have no PM experience themselves, so the risk the company would be taking on them is quite high. Consequently, they rarely get the jobs without exceptionally good self-salesmanship.

Sometimes these young people watch The Social Network or read stories about other Millennials founding companies with no experience and think they should be able to join a startup with little domain background. After all, they’ve seen their friends leave their jobs and start companies in completely different industries, right?

This is a fallacy, however. Only one person gets the benefit of the doubt at a startup: the founder. That is because the founders of a company are taking the most risk, and consequently the company is by necessity willing to take the maximal amount of risk on them. This doesn’t apply to later employees, where risk has been vastly reduced.

So what should you do if you want a career switch to a job at a startup you don’t have any experience in? In traditional industry, you might go to business school, after which it is socially acceptable to switch job tracks, but everyone knows having an MBA doesn’t go too far in a startup.

Instead, I’d recommend a couple things. First, consider looking at startups where you can get in on the ground floor; generally, companies with less than 10 people. These companies are unproven and won’t likely have throngs of experienced people banging down the doors. By matching yourself to a company where you’ll be taking on as much risk as it will be taking on you, you’re likely to be higher up in the candidate pool than you would be at an already successful startup.

Second, consider applying for a job in an area you have experience in, and then once you’re in, work your way into the area where you want to be. For example, if you have experience in sales but want to work on product, join a company that needs sales, prove that you are competent in sales and then you will be taken much more seriously internally when talking about product. Eventually, you might even get the opportunity to do product directly: companies are much more likely to give chances to employees who are already doing well in another area. This is because you’ve reduced the risk associated with you. When considering a new employee, there are many risk factors: will she be productive, have a good attitude, fit in culturally. By being a competent existing employee, you’ve just removed several of those risk factors, making it easier for the company to take a chance on letting you work on something new.

Third, spend much, much more time and effort on your “application” than you would for a traditional application. To startup founders, it is always flattering and attention grabbing when someone takes the time to think in depth about their relatively unknown business. Sometimes, job applications are more like a series of conversations about the vision and future of the product. That’s how we hired Jacob, our first designer for Justin.tv / TwitchTV, who did several rounds of mockups for the product without even being hired as a contractor. That’s how Tristan Walker secured his position at foursquare, by sending a series of emails to the founders and flying out to NYC on his own.

Lastly, try to give yourself some experience. In your spare time, design something. Almost anything goes a long way to differentiating yourself from the throngs of people who want to work on products but have never done so. Even an unsuccessful web application is better than nothing; it shows that you at least can produce something basic.

You can get your dream job at a startup and get into the tech world, even if you have limited experience. You just need to expect to go above and beyond, and be flexible in where you are starting out. No one is going to go out of their way to make it easy for you.

What you need to know about 3-D TV

 

Courtesy of HD Guru

By Gary Merson and Geoff Morrison, msnbc.com

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about 3-D HDTV. However, the poor roll-out and competing viewing formats have made 3-D one of the most confusing features ever.

This guide will help you decide which 3-D-equipped HDTV is right for you.

What it is
3-D TV is more accurately described as “stereoscopic” television. You may recall View-Master slide viewers — these are an early example of 3-D TV, just minus the TV part. The underlying principle is the same: Two distinct views are made of the same object, one as the left eye sees it, and the other as the right eye sees it. To view in 3-D, the left eye must only see the left eye view and the right eye the right view.

If there is leakage between the different views (as in, the left eye sees some of the right image, or vice versa), ghost images appear when viewing. This is known as crosstalk, an obvious issue that degrades the viewing experience.

Types of 3-D
There are two distinct types of 3-D televisions: active and passive.

Passive 3-D requires the cheap, lightweight glasses you get at most 3-D movie theaters. These “circular polarized” glasses are interchangeable among the different passive 3-D TV brands, such as LG and Toshiba. A number of third-party companies now sell passive 3-D glasses as well. The proponents of passive 3-D, like LG, continue to campaign against the active format. Passive 3-D TVs assign half their lines of resolution to each eye, so at any given moment each eye receives 1,920×540 resolution.

Active 3-D uses battery-powered “active-shutter” glasses with simple LCDs as lenses. These block/pass the light when synced to the television. The glasses are manufacturer-specific 3-D glasses, and as they are more complex than passive 3-D glasses, cost more. Most sync to the TV with IR (infrared, like a remote) but a growing number are wireless (Bluetooth, etc). Active 3-D TVs provide full 1080p resolution to each eye.

Blu-ray
In addition to a 3-D TV, you need a 3-D source. The most common is Blu-ray. Currently, Blu-ray players with 3-D as a feature command a slight price premium over their 2-D-only counterparts. Even so, inexpensive 3-D Blu-ray players abound. Blu-ray is currently the only way to get full 1080p 3-D. All other sources deliver lower 3-D resolution.

There are 139 3-D Blu-ray titles available now. Check out HD Guru’s 2011 Blu-ray player buyer’s guide.

Cable/satellite
A growing number of cable providers, along with DirecTV, are offering a few 3-D channels.

DirecTV and Comcast have carried ESPN 3-D since its launch. Time Warner Cable and Verizons FiOS followed suit shortly thereafter. DirecTV also offers dedicated 3D channels such as n3D, 3net and DirecTV Cinema (a VOD service).

Starz 3-D is available VOD on Cablevision, Cox, Verizon, Blue Ridge and Comcast. (The latter also has Xfinity 3-D.)

(Unlike Blu-ray 3-D, all other sources of 3-D are partial resolution. This is out of the need to fit the 3-D signal in the same space as a 2-D signal. Geoff has a detailed article about the technology behind this.)

The TVs
Remember, 3-D is a feature. All 3-D TVs can display a 2-D image. And all top of the line TVs are now 3-D. Most importantly, remember that 3-D TVs make the best 2-D pictures.

Fortunately, 3-D doesn’t add much of a price premium over 2-D TVs. Generally speaking, adding 3-D tacks on about $30 on mid-range 46-to-50-inch TVs, and about $100 for mid-range 55-inch. For example, an LG Infinia 55LV5500 55-Inch 1080p LED-LCD HDTV with Internet capability costs $1,290, while the step-up 3-D version, the 55LW5600 is just $89 more on Amazon. And the difference between the Samsung 46-inch UN46D6300 and the 3-D UN46D6500 was just $25 last we checked.

Some other 3-D models to look into are the Panasonic Viera 50-inch TC-P50ST30 and the Samsung 51-inch PN51D550 — two plasmas that are currently selling for well under $900.

(TV prices are of course subject to change without notice, especially between Black Friday and Christmas.)

Black Friday shoppers go gaga for TVs

 

By Annalyn Censky @CNNMoneyNovember 25, 2011: 8:21 AM ET

As soon as the doors opened at midnight for Black Friday, Best Buy shoppers rushed for doorbuster deals on LCD TVs.As soon as the doors opened at midnight for Black Friday, Best Buy shoppers rushed for doorbuster deals on LCD TVs.

WOODLAND PARK, N.J. (CNNMoney) — Doorbuster deals on LCD televisions drew crowds of Black Friday shoppers to big box stores on Thanksgiving evening.

And for Isabel Baez, the wait outside a Best Buy (BBY, Fortune 500) in northern New Jersey, started long earlier. At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, to be exact.

“I had my tent, my sleeping bag and a book, and I just got in and held down the reins,” Baez said. “The main thing is to just have fun. Just enjoy yourself, be early, and don’t be stressed if someone is before you in line. You’ll get what you want.”

An hour before Best Buy opened at midnight, just as Black Friday began, the line stretched not only around the entire building, but through the parking lot as well. Nearby, porta-potties were set up for the overnight campers, and police patrolled the area.

The store handed out maps and tickets to the first shoppers in line, who were there mainly for deals on TVs, gaming systems and tablets.

A $199.99 sale for a 42-inch Sharp LCD TV was a popular favorite. Prepared to spend $3,000 that night, Baez planned to buy not one of those, but also a second TV, three tablets and a laptop.

Down the street at Target (TGT, Fortune 500), crowds also gathered long before the store’s midnight opening. The first people in line were hoping to snag a 46-inch Westinghouse LCD TV for $298.

Jeanette Bessinger from Clifton, N.J., didn’t even eat Thanksgiving dinner. Sandwiches would have to do instead. She got to the store around 6 a.m. on Thursday, prepared with a folding chair and two blankets.

“I had a map a month in advance,” said Bessinger, who has shopped on Black Friday for the last eight years. “Make sure you bring food and wherever your stay, make sure there’s a bathroom close.”

While waiting in line, she was also shopping online via her smartphone.

“I already bought a pot and pan set, and a new curling iron,” she said. “Shop while you’re in line. Everything’s free shipping.”

She was planning on buying two TVs in the store, as well as more stocking stuffers.

Independent analysts predict LCD TV prices are at their lowest levels of all time this Black Friday, as television manufacturers try to use bargains to revive struggling sales. And unlike last year, when experts cautioned that the best deals would come after the holiday season, analysts don’t expect prices to fall much further this year.

About a half hour after the Best Buy store opened, Nelson Verges Fuentes was already precariously balancing four TVs on his cart in the check-out line.

“This is a special occasion,” he said. “We’re giving TVs to our nieces and nephews for Christmas.”

Planning to spend about $1,000 that night between himself and his mother-in-law, he said he was disappointed he had to cut back his holiday spending after his employer cut his pay 10% earlier this year.

“Economically, I’m feeling the strain,” he said. “That’s what makes you want to plan ahead and do this.”

An estimated 152 million people are expected to shop over Black Friday weekend, up 10% from last year, according to a recent report from industry trade group the National Retail Federation

Facebook and the fight against spammers

Doug Gross, CNN
By Doug Gross, CNN
updated 6:01 AM EST, Thu November 17, 2011 | cnn.com
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks in September. The site's large user base makes it a hacker target.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks in September. The site’s large user base makes it a hacker target.

(CNN) — The wave of pornographic and violent images that flooded Facebook over the past few days has drawn attention to a side of the social networking mega-site most of its users don’t think about:

Facebook is a coveted prize for hackers.

“It’s hard to put it into perspective as to how good a job they’re doing (at preventing spam), because they have a giant target on their back,” said Chester Wisniewski, a senior analyst with security firm Sophos. “They have a giant target on their back with the user base they have. Every spammer’s got a dream of catching them.”

In this week’s attack, a hack that exploited security flaws in some Web browsers sent images of porn, Photoshopped pictures of celebrities in compromising positions and images of intense violence to millions of users, according to Facebook. Users apparently were duped into copying malicious code into their browser windows, helping the images spread.

Many Facebook users were outraged by the fact that porn made its way onto the social network. On one hand, the offensive images call into question Facebook’s ability to rein in spam as it becomes more popular. On the other, it’s a counterintuitive testament to Facebook’s spam-fighting abilities that users were surprised to see these nasty images showing up on the social network.

Facebook apps go beyond ‘like’ feature

If this happened on e-mail, after all, no one would blink.

Less than 4% of the content shared on the Facebook is spam, Facebook says. Compare that with e-mail, where a whopping 89% of content is spam, as CNN partner site Mashable reports.

Less than 5% of the site’s members experience spam on any given day, Facebook said in October. Meanwhile, only 0.06% of its 1 billion log-ins per day are compromised, the site says. (Of course, that’s still 600,000, so someone could shade that number to make it sound miniscule or huge, depending on intent.)

To Wisnieswski, the way Facebook responds to spam and other hacks is a mixed bag. Generally, he says, they’re quick to jump on the big problems but slower on the day-to-day stuff.

“If it’s malware-related … scams and spam and things like that … they’re pretty good about it,” he said. “They’re very conscious about the fact that they don’t want their users to be infected.

“But with the survey scams and things, they don’t seem to be that effective.”

Facebook, of course, is far more likely to agree with the former point than the latter.

Spokesman Andrew Noyes says that, on a site under virtually constant attack, the Facebook team is constantly working to protect its users.

“We believe the security fight requires a multipronged approach,” he said. “In addition to our dedicated legal team, Facebook also has security experts and engineers focused on the integrity of the site. We’re continuing to build systems to prevent and respond to spam attacks. Our User Operations team also works around the clock to identify problems and assist those affected.”

Noyes said Facebook’s security team has identified the hackers behind this week’s attack and are “working with our legal team to ensure appropriate consequences follow.”

In recent months, the site has launched several public tools and initiatives trying to stay ahead of the inevitable attacks.

Last month, Facebook announced two tools it’s testing: Trusted Friends and App Passwords. Trusted Friends would help users get back into their account if their password is changed without their knowledge. App Passwords would add a layer of security when users approve third-party apps.

This summer, Facebook launched a “Bug Bounty” program that pays people for reporting security problems, and a suite of security tools rolled out in May includes “clickjacking” protection and remote log-ins. In January, users got the ability to surf Facebook with a secure browser setting.

“We work regularly with analysts, engineers, fraud experts, and security investigators to prevent abuse, defeat criminals, and help maintain Facebook as a trusted environment,” Noyes said in an email.

In fact, there are some built-in advantages to the way Facebook works that help keep the level of spam lower than with e-mail, a relative Wild West for spammers and scammers.

As he pondered upcoming changes to Facebook messaging last year, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark noted in a blog post that the site’s requirements for creating an account help.

“The deal is that a Facebook identity (profile) pretty much ensures that there’s a real person behind it,” Newmark wrote. “It’s possible to fake a Facebook identity, but it’s a fair amount of work, way more expensive than getting a new Gmail or Hotmail account.”

While acknowledging those efforts, Wisnewski says there are still some holes in Facebook’s security game.

A major one, he says, is the Facebook app development process.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has publicly celebrated the millions of third-party app developers registered with the site. But that means there are millions of people who get expanded access to Facebook data just for paying a nominal fee.

“Because Facebook doesn’t verify anything about you or have any human review process at all … we see these guys create hundreds of developer accounts for the same scam,” he said.

Wisnewski also wishes Facebook would add additional layers of security every time users start up an app.

“If they really want to get a grip on this, there are a few things they could do — but the things they could do, by Zuckerberg’s worldview, would slow down innovation.”

All that said, Facebook has a track record of aggressively going after scammers and spammers once they’re caught.

In August, self-proclaimed “Spam King” Sanford Wallace was indicted in a California court. Two years ago, Facebook sued him and a federal court ordered him to pay $711 million.

Previously, Facebook won a $360 million judgment against spammer Philip Porembski and, in 2008, was awarded the largest award ever under federal anti-spam laws — $873 million — after suing Adam Guerbuez and Atlantis Blue Capital for sending objectionable images on the site, according to news reports.

Crowded highways expected for Thanksgiving

By Aaron Smith @CNNMoney

The highways will be crowded this Thanksgiving weekend, according to AAA, which projected a rise in travel.The highways will be crowded this Thanksgiving weekend, according to AAA, which projected a rise in travel.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — More Americans are hitting the road this Thanksgiving holiday, despite higher gas prices, according to the motorist group AAA.

The American Automobile Association projects 42.5 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles during the Thanksgiving weekend, an increase of 4% from the 40.9 million people who traveled last year.

But gas prices are also up, making the drive more expensive this year. The nationwide average price of unleaded gasoline was $3.39 per gallon on Thursday, compared with an average of $2.88 a year ago.

The high cost of gas might be why travel was flat for Memorial Day and actually decreased, compared to last year, during Independence Day and Labor Day. But the Americans who have been staying home to save money are shrugging off their financial concerns for Turkey Day, according to AAA.

“Driving AAA’s projected increase in the number of Thanksgiving travelers is pent-up demand from Americans who may have foregone holiday travel the last three years,” said Bill Sutherland, vice president of AAA Travel Services, in a prepared statement.

Donate to the Salvation Army with your iPhone

“As consumers weigh the fear of economic uncertainty and the desire to create lasting family memories this holiday, more Americans are expected to choose family and friends over frugality.

Driving will be the dominant mode of transportation during Thanksgiving, while forecasts for air travel are mixed. AAA is expecting air travel to increase by nearly 2%, but the Air Transport Association of America is projecting a 2% decrease.

AAA defines the Thanksgiving weekend as the period from Wednesday, Nov. 23, to Sunday, Nov. 27. To top of page

Internet Insecurity: The 25 Worst Passwords of 2011

By Sheryl Nance-Nash Posted 11:30AM 11/15/11, dailyfinance.com

You’ve got locks on your doors and maybe even an alarm system guarding your home. But all that stands between criminals and your bank account information is the word “password.” Sound familiar? “Password,” “123456″ and, weirdly, “monkey” are among the 25 worst passwords of the year, according to SplashData, a private company that sells security services and password software.

SplashData compiled its list — released Monday — from files containing millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers.

How often do you change your passwords?

And despite all the fancy technology available to hackers, when it comes to breaking and entering, they’ll still go for the low-hanging fruit, starting with easy passwords like these.

Here’s a tip for creating a more secure password: Make it eight characters or more, and use multiple types of characters — upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. (For more tips, read DailyFinance’s article on how to create safe, memorable passwords.)

25 Worst Passwords of the Year

1. password

2. 123456

3. 12345678

4. qwerty

5. abc123

6. monkey

7. 1234567

8. letmein

9. trustno1

10. dragon

11. baseball

12. 111111

13. iloveyou

14. master

15. sunshine

16. ashley

17. bailey

18. passwOrd

19. shadow

20. 123123

21. 654321

22. superman

23. qazwsx

24. michael

25. football

Breakthrough chip mimics human brain function

Researchers have developed an analog silicon computer chip with about 400 transistors that mimics the activity of a single brain synapse – a connection between two neurons that allows information to flow from one to the other.

By John Roach

The day that computers outsmart their human overlords may yet lie in the distant future, but a new computer chip that mimics the basis of learning and memory in the brain is a critical step towards that moment.

“We are not talking about recreating a whole brain at this point. We have to start with one system,” Chi-Sang Poon, a research scientist in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, told me Thursday.

Poon and colleagues have started with an analog silicon chip outfitted with 400 transistors that emulates the activity of a brain synapse — a connection between two neurons that allows information to flow from one to the other.

There are about 100 billion neurons in the human brain, each of which has synapses — or gaps — between it and other neurons. Emulating one is a step “for building truly intelligent brain systems,” he said.

The development is a departure from digital computer chips that simulate the spiking of neurons, treating their function like a simple on-off switch. Poon’s chip directly mimics the ion channels that lead to the spiking. He likens it to understanding what’s going on inside a black box.

“We really get into the nitty-gritty of how the neurons work intra-cellularly,” he explained. “That involves all the ionic processes that are going on. Neuroscientists spend their life trying to understand how these things work and fit together.”

The chip, he said, will allow neuroscientists to conduct basic research on how the brain actually works. Eventually, this could lead to the study and treatment of diseases related to brain malfunction, for example.

Other potential applications further down the road include devices that replicate specific brain functions that are incorporated with brain-machine interfaces. This could increase the versatility of devices that allow people to operate wheelchairs and computer mice with their thoughts, for example.

“Once it is to the level that we can build reasonably good replicas of brain systems, we can actually build brain systems that can replace some of the damaged brain parts,” Poon added.

The same concept, he noted, could be even be used to “enhance part of the brain systems beyond the normal human capacity.”

And, stepping outside the machine-brain interface, the same chips could be used to build artificial intelligence devices that faithfully mimic or replicate brain behavior for tasks such as pattern recognition, cognition, learning, memory and even decision making.

“As long as we understand how the brain works, we can always reverse-engineer it and put it in a chip to reproduce those functions,” Poon said.

Poon and his colleagues describe the chip this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Building Team Unity

Getting your employees on the same page

By: Tim Votapka, Prosperity Plus Management Consulting Inc., Office Technology Magazine

 

Have you ever had a moment when someone in the office did something that really did not make any sense?  His (or her) response may often be, “But that’s the way we’ve been doing it for years.”

Now, recall what impact that has had on you, your staff and, ultimately, the productivity of your area.  Let us take a look at this a little more closely.

Example One:  Your new sales reps cannot seem to get into the routine of entering all of their daily activities into your CRM system.  When you investigate this, you find out they were under the impression that the system was only necessary for booking appointments, proposals, and closed sales.

Example Two:  You put the time and money into developing a direct mail campaign, but after a few weeks, you find out that no one has been mailing the postcards out on a regular basis.  When you investigate, you discover that your marketing coordinator thought it would be best to see how many prospects responded before releasing the next flight.

In each of these examples, major flubs occurred that affected the health and viability of the organization.  And in both cases – plus many more like them – decisions were made based on arbitrary data; that is to say, orders and commands were issued without a good, sound explanation.  It also means decisions are being made without consideration of policy.

As consultants, we see this occur in businesses of every shape and size.  The issue here is the introduction of “arbitraries.”  L. Ron Hubbard, author of Hubbard Management System, defined the term very preciously when he said that an “arbitrary” is a “false order or datum entered into a situation or group.”  It may reveal itself as the rule of thumb staff members apply to any given situation in the absence of policy.

Sometimes these arbitrary decisions enter into the organization virtually undetected and without any known source or author who can provide the appropriate rationale.

So you ask a sales rep. “Who told you sales reps didn’t have to enter daily activities in ACT?”

“Um, well, I thought that’s always been the case.”

“I see.  But who told you that.”

“Well, I think it was Joe when I first got here.  Yeah, he told me there weren’t enough fields in ACT to enter that information, so we said we just skip over that.”

That is about as blatant as an arbitrary can get and, unfortunately, Joe cannot be corrected on his false data because he left the company back in 2006.  Hopefully Joe went to a competitor where he could spread even more false data and confusion.  Regardless, the damage is done and now his irrational idea has been adopted as policy, which, unless eradicated, will bring the overall tone, morale and production of the team down over time.

In his experience with group dynamics, Hubbard discovered some very practical phenomena.  A group, he determined, is as effective as the reasonableness of its ideas and the height of its ethics, plus its ability to confront and handle its environment.  If your team members are confronted with irrational policies or behaviors and do not spot them, they will go off course.  A common example of this occurs in many dealerships during the summer.  You may start to hear sales reps defend their lack of appointments and sales by blaming it on the slow summer:  “Everyone’s away on vacation in August; that’s why we’re not getting any deals signed.”

This is an arbitrary piece of data that can enter into a dealership, giving the team the justification necessary to make fewer calls and close fewer sales.

Notice Hubbard’s use of the word ethics in his definition of group effectiveness.  This concept is often misunderstood, as it can be thought to mean not breaking policy or the law.

In fact, ethics is actually measured by one’s ability to think and act according to the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics.  A group with good ethics writes and follows policies that promote the maximum amount of survival of its members and it overall purpose.  The absence of policy and ethics can (and will) open the door to non-survival practices or routines, even among the best staff members, simply because the arbitrary decision or policy can appear to be legitimate.  Scary, huh?

Now, there are occasions when certain arbitrary orders enter the scene for legitimate reasons.  For example, an emergency situation may arise that does not allow a manager much time to explain his orders to the group.  Recent floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other major events in certain areas of the United States probably forced many managers to issue orders or directions to staff that did not come with specific explanations.  In cases like this, the staff is used to following instantaneous orders, which are issued to protect and safeguard the group.  When this happens, staff members instinctively follow the orders, provided they have faith and belief in the rationale and sanity of the manager who is issuing those orders.  Even then, the manager should gather up his staff immediately after the crisis or emergency ends and explain his orders and reasons in order to avoid any change of having these become standard operating procedures (SOPs) down the road.

But the vast majority of arbitrary rules are not born out of emergency situations.  They are more likely the implanted ideas from an individual who either did not understand an agreed-upon policy or SOP, or simply had false data that had never been cleared up earlier by management.

Fortunately, there is a remedy for this.  First, examine your team, probing for any orders and commands that were issues without explanation.  If you find any, clear these up until there is absolutely no doubt in your mind that everyone impacted understands the directions and why they were issued.  Secondly, ask your staff members if there were any other earlier orders or commands given that they did not understand.  Clear up any issues with these.

You will find that with persistence and repetition, your people will be able to spot arbitrarily set policies and will question them.  When they do, you will have a more smoothly running and more profitable operation.

How technology is reorganizing political protest movements

Police attempt to disperse a crowd at Occupy Portland on Sunday.
Police attempt to disperse a crowd at Occupy Portland on Sunday.

By Micah Sifry, Special to CNN, cnn.com

Mon November 14, 2011

Editor’s note: Micah Sifry is co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, a website that examines how technology is changing politics, and the author of “WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency.” This commentary is part of a series of “Campaign Tech” articles that will run through 2012 and explore technology’s role in the presidential election.

(CNN) — A column by New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane on Sunday raised a plaintive question: “Who is Occupy Wall Street?”

In the piece, he searches desperately for the leaders behind what is today’s hottest political phenomenon. In the course of an admirably open exploration of how the Times should report on the Occupy movement going forward, he — along with a group of his journalistic peers whom he consulted for advice — revealed a telling assumption about how political movements must work.

Though he quotes a commenter on his blog who told him that the movement’s lack of traditional leaders is part of its message, he can’t let go of the idea that it must have leaders.

“An investigation into (its) origins would lead to the identities of early leaders, at least, and the search for the broader leadership of the movement should continue from there,” he writes.

A sampling of leading journalism educators that Brisbane polled, many of them former top newspaper editors, agreed.

“Most said it was important to understand who the leaders were and what demographics they represented,” Brisbane reports.

“Leadership tells you a lot about a movement,” Jerry Ceppos, the former executive editor of the San Jose Mercury News, told Brisbane. “But I can’t I can’t cite the name of a single Occupy Wall Street leader. I know some members say the groups are ‘leaderless.’ But I have trouble believing that this is an entirely organic movement that grew without a leader. I’d push hard to see if there are leaders and to profile them.”

Why this insistence on finding the supposed leaders of Occupy Wall Street? The reason goes beyond a desire to understand the movement’s goals, I think, into something more existential that is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of how networking technology is changing politics.

For many traditional political observers such as Brisbane and his colleagues, the notion that a political movement might arise without charismatic leaders is inconceivable. Every previous movement, after all, has had its figureheads. Think of Gandhi, MLK, Mandela. Or, at the less exalted level of recent times, think of Ralph Nader, Al Sharpton or Michael Moore on the progressive left, or Sarah Palin, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin on the Tea Party right. The same question was raised, if you recall, around the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, which were often described as “leaderless.”

A movement can’t be leaderless, right? Who would we feature on the front page? Who would we put on the Sunday talk shows? Who would we negotiate with?

Or if you’re feeling some distress about politics in America today, who might lead us to cure all that plagues us, from economic doldrums to climate change to failures of leadership in so many other institutions, from corporate boardrooms to the church to college football programs? Is there a savior rising from these streets?

No, political movements can’t be leaderless. The Occupy Wall Street movement is, in fact, leader-full.

But it’s a vastly different kind of leadership that is emerging. It’s one that, like the networked technology that supports it, rejects all forms of top-down hierarchy and values peer-to-peer network weaving instead.

Ilyse Hogue, a progressive activist who was on the staff of MoveOn for many years, recently put it this way, in one of the first uses of the term “leader-full” that I have seen:

“We should all strive not for leaderless movements, but for leaderFULL movements. The former trends towards autocratic loudest voices dominating. In their best manifestation, the latter creates equitable space to raise up all voices, create mechanisms for group decision making and accountability, and to catalyze self-responsibility and empowerment.”

Most of us come from a world and a generation that only knows one kind of leadership, the one whose organizational structure looks like a confusing government flowchart.

Everything about our industrial age institutions, from schools and churches to corporations and government, trains us to think of leadership as top-down, command-and-control. Give the right answer, get into the right school, get a good job, work your way up the chain of command, win the good life. But today, more and more of us live in a sea of lateral social connections, enabled by personal technology that is allowing everyone to connect and share, in real-time, what matters most to them.

And at a moment when so many traditional political institutions appear bankrupt, incapable of reforming themselves and paralyzed in the face of huge challenges, the result is an explosion of outsider movements for social change whose structure looks more the masses of people that gathered in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, the pro-union demonstrators in Wisconsin or the Occupy Wall Street protests around the country.

Indeed, I think there’s a reason we keep seeing this recurring image of a filled circle rather than a hierarchy in today’s protest movements: All the points on a circle are equidistant from the center.

Spots in the middle are hubs, but no one hub dominates. Resilience is built through the multitude of lateral connections between all the points in the network, so if any hub fails, others can pick up the slack. And thus today’s networked movements are not only highly participatory, with many leaders instead of just one, they are also much stronger than movements of the past that could be stopped or stalled by the discrediting, arrest or killing of their singular spokesmen.

Going from a world of top-down leaders who use hierarchy, secrecy and spin to conduct their business to a leader-full world filled with self-starting network weavers who are transparent and accountable about their actions will take some getting used to.

But the Occupy Wall Street movement, like the Tea Party before it was captured and turned into a marketing vehicle for the Republican right, represents the flowering of something very deep about our networked age. It is personal democracy in action, where everyone plays a role in shaping the decisions that affect our lives. We may face huge challenges, but while some of our material resources are in scarce supply, we have an abundance of leaders coming.

Time Management

Key Steps to turning chaos into high-payoff results

By: Melissa D Whitaker, Office Technology Magazine

Do you ever wish there was more time in the day?  Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed with the growing pile of important tasks or activities that are continually added to your schedule?  Does your list leave you feeling chaotic and hopeless?

I regularly come across salespeople who tell me they have everything in their heads and, therefore, do no need to write down what they need to accomplish each day.  However, these are some of the people who admit that they feel chaotic, overwhelmed and sometimes forget to respond to client requests.

Take the Time to Plan

Since salespeople are so overwhelmed and have a difficult time getting what is on their plate done, they typically have no idea how to make time to plan their days so they can accomplish more.  I always tell people to break it down into bite-sized pieces.  First, start with a “weekly action plan.”

The old adage, “Plan your work and work your plan,” is still the best lesson on time management.  When you have a clearly defined plan, the accomplishments you can achieve will greatly increase.  An effective plan should list your objective(s).  Writing out objectives helps you clearly analyze your goals and gives you a yardstick to measure your level of productive activity.  Your subconscious mind becomes actively engaged in working on your full list of objectives, allowing you to relate in normally unrelated circumstances.  The subconscious mind is the innovator, giving you unique ideas and solutions to obtain your objectives.  A written plan helps you work smarter as you achieve each objective.

Maximize Your Plan

There are five steps that will help turn chaos into high-payoff results through effective time management:

  • A Weekly PlanAt the end of the day on Friday, it is essential to sketch out and have a plan for the entirety of the following week.  It is important to have every time slot filled with productive activities.  Do not have blocks of time open with no plan of attack.  First, fill in every time and day you have scheduled appointments and/or presentations of some kind.  Then fill in blocks of time for telephone prospecting and follow-ups.  Next, you need to fill in blocks of time for any in-field cold calling that may be required (depending on your industry).  Block out lunchtimes and any other necessary activities.  Then step back and make sure each day has a plan.  I am not saying there cannot be flexibility with the schedule (things typically change throughout the week), but the important thing is you already have a plan, instead of showing up Monday morning and trying to figure it all out.
  • Daily Action Plan – It is not only important to have a weekly plan, but it is equally important to have a daily plan.  At the end of each day, take 15 to 20 minutes to plan the next day.  You must have a plan of attack for what you need to get done and who you need to call, along with what appointments and/or presentations you have scheduled.  This is the time to make a list, prioritizing your activities in order of importance and payoff. This is also the time to gather any research or appointment materials you will need the next day.  You want to make sure everything is organized and ready so that when you arrive, you can jump-start your day and immediately get on task.  You do not want to waste precious time doing busy work.  Just remember that for every item you mark off, the more momentum you will have to keep attacking the rest of the list.  Your self-esteem and self-confidence will increase and, ultimately, you will accomplish more.
  • HPAs vs. LPAs – The most difficult thing to do is take the first step.  Now that you have broken through that wall by planning, you have to start evaluating your plans.  There are many activities salespeople are required to do and they break down into HPAs (high-payoff activities) and LPAs (low-payoff activities).  You need to ensure that the bulk of your day – from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. – is filled with HPAs.  HPA examples include activities where you are in front of, or speaking to, prospects and current clients.  They are HPAs because they move you toward making another sale.  Next you want to look at required activities, such as proposal writing, strategy sessions with your managers, etc.  Fill those activities in your schedule from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to the end of the day.  These are LPAs.  Yes, they are required and necessary activities, but they are not directly connecting with a prospect or current client and cannot be done during the most important times of the day.
  • Avoid Time Traps – At the end of the week, take a look at your weekly schedule and see how things changed as the week evolved.  Take a snapshot of your plan and the results.  Analyze what happened.  Did some of your scheduled HPAs get squeezed out with LPAs?  Did issues and emergencies arise that wasted your time?  You need to avoid these time traps.  Examples of time traps include: socializing with colleagues, smoke breaks, unqualified prospects, emails, etc. It is your job to minimize time traps so that you can maximize your productivity.
  • Database Management – Now that you have fine-tuned your time efficiency, you will  start to gather a lot of information.  For this information to be effective, it is vital to use a CRM tool.  Use the CRM to help you stay focused and pull this vital activity into a targeted plan.  This final step brings all the steps together to make a well-oiled sales machine.  By implementing each of these steps, you will start realizing the benefits of higher sales and overall better results.