How I Unplugged and Lived to Tell About It | Michael Hyatt


Earlier this year I predicted 2012 would be a time that people would unplug from the Internet. Here’s a blog post by publishing executive Michael Hyatt discussing his attempt to do just that.

Hyatt’s post:  How I Unplugged and Lived to Tell About It | Michael Hyatt.

My previous post on unplugging: 2012 predictions

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Olive Garden: Cheap eats aren’t always enough


Olive Garden has conceded it needs to make changes to address lackluster sales figures for five quarters in a row.

Although the chain offers “affordable Italian food,” which should be a plus in this economy, it has been suffering from competition from fast-casual chains like Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill, Motley Fool reports.

One person says Olive Garden plays Dean Martin music and expects that to provide an Italian atmosphere, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Company officials have acknowledged the need to make changes, and plan to introduce healthier, low-cost meals, Yahoo Finance reports. Other changes will include remodeled restaurants and a new ad campaign.

I agree with what one person posted in comment boards on Yahoo Finance: Olive Garden needs to focus on the food. Americans are demanding more healthy, fresh food, not frozen. If you have good food at a reasonable price, you have most of the components in place (along with good marketing to tout these changes). I recently dined at Carrabba’s with my wife, and the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was pleasant.

Oh, and I would ditch Dean Martin for authentic Italian music. Sorry Dean, but the Rat Pack needs a vacation.

Getting paid to drink coffee


I got paid today at a local coffee house for the second time this week.

I found a handful of change in the drive-through at the coffee house while walking to the front entrance: 42 cents in dimes and pennies.

I found 17 cents the other day.

On top of this great find, I’m getting free coffee this month from the coffee chain because I bought into a promotion–buy a particular travel mug, get free coffee in January. That’s what brought me to that coffee house this afternoon. That was a sweet deal!

You may say that 59 cents is just change. Yes, it is. But it adds up over time. I don’t recall ever finding this much change at once, but I always pick up pennies or other change whenever I see them (unless it means risking my life in traffic). I’ve only been fortunate to find dollar bills a few times. My Dad used to find $20 bills, and once, a $100 bill, but that’s been years ago.

My point is this: Paying attention can pay off, literally, whether it’s picking up change from the ground, or paying attention to the details at work. One of my former newspaper employers had a saying: Details make the difference.Your customers expect — and deserve — for you to pay attention to the details. If you take care of the details, you will have happy customers.

My Dad draws industrial blueprints, and companies from around the world demand that he handle their multimillion-dollar projects because he pays attention to the details; the customers know their orders will be taken care of when my Dad handles their project.

And if you don’t want to bother picking up change from the ground, that’s fine by me–it’s your loss and my gain!

Starfish and spiders as problem-solvers


A lot of business books claim to provide vital knowledge. Every so often one of these books actually delivers.

Last fall I read a fascinating book titled “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations” by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. The term “starfish” refers to leaderless organizations like Wikipedia, while “spider” refers to a company that has a traditional top-down leadership model.

I was fascinated by the concept of leaderless organizations, never having thought of Craigslist or Napster in that fashion. Although those websites had founders who administered them, their success was based on users having the right to act as co-administrators. This makes sense in hindsight – think of the popularity of television shows like “American Idol” where audience members vote to determine the contest’s winner. Realty show voting and Internet sites give everyone a voice in this age of social networking.

I’ve been revisiting “The Starfish” lately to gain new insights into the starfish concept. One chapter is devoted to hybrid organizations, or those that have aspects of both starfish (leaderless) and spiders (top-down management). The chapter mentions the work of David Cooperrider, a professor at Case Western Business School who developed the concept of “appreciative inquiry.”

Appreciative inquiry is used to solve problems in organizations. People from all levels of a company participate in pairs to interview one another. As the book states, a janitor may ask the CEO questions, which are provided by Cooperrider to encourage people to open up. Cooperrider’s intention is to break down the hierarchy. After the interviews conclude, participants get together to brainstorm, and every person’s idea is treated with respect. Since everyone feels they had a voice, they are more likely to buy into any plans that result from the session.

The “Starfish” authors make their case for the appreciative inquiry technique despite its sounding like a “touchy-feely” method. They note that the technique led to resolving a dispute between truckers and management at one of the world’s largest truck companies. The process also was credited with the creation of a strategic plan at the U.S. Navy.

You don’t have to view conflicts as an unavoidable part of doing business; disagreement can be healthy when it is managed effectively and channeled into creative problem-solving where everyone’s voice is heard in a respectful way. It’s only when respect is thrown out and disagreement is unmanaged that it becomes destructive conflict.

Listen to your shoes and take a step in the right direction


Choosing the right footwear may seem like a minor thing. But it can make a big difference in how you perform at work.

You may ask how footwear relates to marketing or business management.

It’s simple. If your feet hurt, you’re going to be distracted, irritable and plenty of other unpleasant adjectives.

I have a part-time job that requires me to stand — and to do much walking. I thought I had two nice pairs of dressy work shoes. But after a month on the job, my feet “told” me I was delusional. Your body often “knows” things even when your conscious mind doesn’t. And my feet “knew” I had bad shoes.

After I started “listening” to my feet, I researched appropriate shoes and the places to buy them at a reasonable price. I bought a pair of Bostonian and a pair of Rockport shoes. I wore the Bostonians yesterday, and I could immediately tell the difference. Whereas I had been coming home from work with extremely sore feet, cramped legs and worse, yesterday my feet were slightly sore but began to feel better once I sat down. Yesterday’s work shift was much more pleasant, and I feel I was more productive. I was able to concentrate on the job, and not my sore feet.

This morning I wore my old tennis shoes, and my feet “told” me they weren’t as good as the Bostonians. I quickly changed footwear, and right now I’m wearing the Rockports. I’m feeling more creative than I have in a while (hence, I’ve broken my writer’s block and am writing this blog). Think of the implications for management and marketing. It’s amazing how changing a pair of shoes can change one’s work productivity.

 

Was that not in your job description before? It is now.


I just viewed a job posting for an editor who not only will edit and handle the traditional production tasks, but is expected to serve as a backup for the receptionist when he or she leaves on lunch break.

If I had that job, that would be fine by me. I am currently doing “extras” that I once would have disdained. But that’s OK – I am happy to have a job and I am grateful to my company for providing me a job with benefits. The only reason I will eventually leave is for personal reasons – I’m getting married to someone who lives a bit of a long distance away. Otherwise, I would expect to stay with my company long-term.

With today’s economy, you can’t afford to say “that’s not in my job description, that’s beneath me.” Companies continue to feel the squeeze and are keeping staffing levels tight. They expect – and deserve – their workers to rally around the corporate flag and do everything within reason to help them pull through. It’s not only your job that could be on the line – it could be the company’s survival.

Starfish-style challenges


What do you do when you’ve always charged for delivering a service or product and some Web site comes along and offers something much like it for free?

That’s been the question plaguing the music recording, news and software companies for some time.

I recently came across a book published in 2006 that takes a fascinating look at this phenomenon: “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations,” by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. The authors take a look at movements/organizations that defy the traditional leadership model of “Who’s in charge?” Sometimes, no one is in charge. The Aztecs had Montezuma and a capital city, and were easily wiped out by the Spanish who killed the leader. The Apache had no centralized leader and no capital, and thus were better equipped to fight off attacks by armies from developed nations who looked for traditional targets to strike. But the book’s authors say that also describes the recording music industry’s attempts to fight off Napster: They effectively killed that one Web site, but their efforts antagonized people and spawned lots of imitators.

The authors write that Craigslist provided an unexpected challenge to the newspaper industry. Why pay for a newspaper classified when you can advertise a product for free all over the world? Likewise, why subscribe to a newspaper when you can read it for free online?

Newspapers learned to combine ad sales for print and online editions, as well as partnering with sites like CareerBuilder. After many newspapers dropped their attempts to subscriptions for stories, some organizations are taking a second look. My newspaper, The Daily Post-Athenian, already has returned to the online subscription model.

Platforms like the Kindle and the iPad hold out some hope of helping newspapers get digital media users accustomed to paying for content (the Wall Street Journal costs only $14.99 a month on the Kindle, and slightly more on the iPad).

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