My Social Experiment

We recently passed another Labor Day Weekend.  It marked the end of the summer of 2015, and the beginning of a new school year for my kids.  My work life this summer has been more than a bit challenging over the past few months, with a lot of change occurring around me — new leadership, relationships changing, and the like. Part of the fallout of all the change is an increase in the number of distinct threads of activity thrust upon me and my leadership team, all requiring a certain level of effort to address.

For those that know me would say I am a devoted user of technology.  I have one of almost everything in computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices.  I also enjoy the use of social media, actively using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  I’m in a Social Media Advocacy group at work to support the company’s efforts to increase business impact of social media tools at the corporate level.  I really enjoy this stuff, and all that it brings to enhance our lives.

Yes, I am fully connected.  Sometimes to a fault.  I get feedback (most of the time justified) from my family about my use when I should be more present.  It has happened at work, and, for the record, I am not the only one.

I wondered what might happen if I took a full holiday from my iPhone?  Would I become anxious or upset, almost like a drug addict?  Would my work suffer because I wasn’t paying attention over a long weekend to those that chose to work?  What would I see if I paid a little more attention to what’s going on around me?

I decided to do it.  Friday night I turned off my iPhone, placed it in the bedside table and left it there until Tuesday morning.  The world did not end.  I didn’t break into a cold sweat.  Social media continued and didn’t really notice I was absent. The work emails were there and it really didn’t matter whether or not I responded before.  It was a nice weekend because I let myself see the world around me through my own eyes, not tainted in any way by what was going on.

The biggest thing I noticed was that I lived with my head up.  The iPhone, even when in my pocket, draws my head downward.  Downward to look at it, downward to even sense it’s presence on my person or in the car.  For three days, there was no downward force drawing me away from my world.  I saw my world more fully, whether it was to be present with my family, or just to enjoy watching people as I went about my business.

I’m still a huge fan of my iPhone, and will continue to be.  However, I will be less afraid going forward of turning it off when it doesn’t really need to be on, and enjoy seeing life for myself.  I am going to be asking myself the question more often – does the iPhone really need to be on right now?

At the end of all this, it’s really about the fact the smartphone has arguably destroyed the boundary between personal and professional life.  Maybe shutting these devices off a little more often will help me reclaim some of my own personal life.  We’ll see what happens.

3M Technology Changing Medicine

Some of the cool stuff we are doing at 3M in software are some of the industry’s best kept secrets.  One example is our Littmann 3200 Bluetooth Stethoscope.  My team worked with the division to create this system.  This telemedicine technology is some really cool stuff.  Here’s a link to a great video about this project.  Also, it’s getting some great press from healthcare leaders, highlighted by a great post coming out of Microsoft.

We’ve got several more examples of great software technology coming out of 3M.  Stay tuned as I intend to share more about what we are doing!

Technology Easing Our Family Crisis

Last week my father suffered a mild heart attack.  During the process of diagnosing the heart attack, a CT scan revealed a significant mass in his lung.  To make a long story short, this heart attack probably saved his life.

As we have been dealing with this crisis, we have had the need to communicate with our sister in Colorado as well as extended family members.  During this process it occurred to me how much our everyday mobile technology and social media has made that task so much easier.  Also, it has helped us cope with long waits by providing entertainment options (e.g. music, games and media) and access to the outside world.

In this photo you see what I am talking about.  My brothers and Mom are enjoying a game of Monopoly on an iPad, and my brother is using SMS on his iPhone to continuously communicate with our sister.

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Andy, Charley and Mom playing Monopoly on iPad

 

Social media has also been a huge help on a few levels.  First, posting updates on Facebook has allowed me to update my broader network on what’s happening with Dad.  It has also invoked a virtual prayer chain in support of my family during this crisis.  I was able to read to Dad many names of people sending well wishes.  I got the feeling he appreciated the thought.

Coping with this whole ordeal would have been much more difficult without these tools.  Thank God we have them!

Congratulations, Lyle!

I just got my hands on Delivering Mobile-Friendly Websites with MVC4, authored by my colleague and friend Lyle Luppes (blog). I am really happy for him and this accomplishment.

I am not a software engineer, so I would not get much personal value in reading this book. However, I would not hesitate recommending this work to any software engineer interested in this topic. I have worked with Lyle for many years, on many projects, and I know his work to be thorough. Great job, Lyle! Congratulations on this accomplishment!

Book Review: 12 Seconds to Project Management Greatness

Last night I finished 12 Seconds to Project Management Greatness.  Mr. Everett is a former colleague of mine, and we have fought the good fight together some years ago.  I can say with great certainty and experience that the concepts discussed in the book are well rooted in reality, and any project manager could benefit from reading this book.

I appreciated the approach Mr. Everett took in creating this work, as it read more like a screenplay or novel which made what is a pretty dry topic a lot more interesting.  I enjoyed meeting the Master Project Managers in the respective locations around the world and hearing some of the well-crafted stories.  There were a few nuggets I took from the book that I can apply to my daily work, as well as a few reminders of things I instinctively knew, but haven’t practiced effectively for some time.

I agree wholeheartedly that if one was to master each of the Project Management Imperatives written in this book that they would be a great Project Manager.   As the book concluded, our hero Alex is suddenly transformed into a great Project Manager, and his world is made right almost immediately.   It made for a great story, but as the story was winding down, I couldn’t help but being reminded of a recent encounter with one of Minnesota’s great baseball heroes, Tony Oliva.

I was with my son at a Twins baseball game, and we had the rare opportunity to have an extended conversation with Mr. Oliva as we were introduced by a mutual acquaintance.  My 11 year old son asked him, “what is the secret to hitting?”  Mr. Oliva responded with two thoughts.  The first comment was very simple, “Practice.”  The second piece of advice regarding practice came a few seconds later, “When you practice, don’t try to be perfect, just make better” (broken English intended).  That’s good advice to young  baseball players and Project Managers alike regarding development – it is important to view development as a journey.

The tools found in the back serve effectively as a roadmap to go on that journey, and I recommend any Project Manager take the time to leverage those tools for their own development.  For me, that was a key value of the book.

Congratulations to Mr. Everett on a fine piece of work, and I look forward to the continuing story of Alex Pilgrim.

At the Epicenter of Big Data Research

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I am wiped out as I am on the plane home from my most recent experience at MIT.  This week the topic was Big Data.  Big Data is a big topic around the water cooler these days, so I thought it would be important to learn more about it.  The title of the course was Big Data: Making Complex Things Simpler.  This was a 2 day Executive Education course designed to brief managers and executives on this exploding field.

First of all, if you are interested in this topic I highly recommend making the investment of time and money to attend a future offering.  Professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Sandy Pentland, leading researchers in Big Data present a well-crafted curriculum that connects a great deal of their research around how Big Data now provides the technology framework to do, very quickly, what researchers have done for years – create hypotheses, design experiments and analyze results.  Because of Big Data technologies, organizations can become more data-driven in their operations and/or product development.  Key issues including data privacy and data ownership are discussed as well, but this landscape is changing very rapidly, so it was challenging to go into too much depth.

If you are looking to better understand Big Data technologies, this is not the course to take.  However, if you are looking to spend a few days better understanding the ramifications of Big Data and how they impact organizations, I highly recommend making the investment.  The participants in the class contributed greatly to the discourse, which I appreciated as well. Plus, it was a great place to network and find out what is happening in other industries related to Big Data.