Can you please take 5 seconds and check? It’s a simple 4 step process.

Here’s a fabulous quote from Viktor E. Frankl:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

We live in a world were so many people don’t recognise that a space exists, they respond as soon as the stimulus has arrived.

One of the areas where this is most prevalent is in social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, they all suffer from it. People see the stimulus of a post and respond immediately.

I don’t think that a day goes by without me seeing re-posted content that doesn’t pass the space test. People talk about fake news and fake media, but the primary creators of these phenomena are us and our inability to use the space to validate the stimulus.

Whether it’s the global re-writing of the news (or non-news) about Donald Trump and his ability to feed Koi Carp, or the latest “URGENT: Tell all of your friends…” on Facebook we all need to learn to use the space.

The space doesn’t need to be very big, just a few seconds is all you need to check whether you are responding to something genuine or just creating digital noise.

These are the 4 simple steps:

  1. Recognise that whatever the stimulus says, there is always space.
  2. Filter with suspicion. Most of these things only require a modicum of suspicion.
  3. Check your suspicions. There are numerous ways of doing this quickly.
  4. Choose your response. You have the freedom to choose.

1. Recognise that whatever the stimulus says, there is always space.

It’s not urgent, it might say it is, but it’s not. Anything on social media, or on email that says it’s urgent isn’t so urgent that it can’t wait for a few seconds. If it really required an immediate response then it wouldn’t use email, Facebook, twitter, etc.

You have space, use it.

2. Filter with suspicion. Most of these things only require a modicum of suspicion.

Certain things should always make you suspicious, others are probably fine, the tricky ones are the grey ones.

If it’s too good to be true – it’s suspicious.

If it says it’s urgent – it’s suspicious.

If it says it comes from an organisation with which you have financial ties – it’s suspicious.

If it come via that friend who always re-posts this kind of thing – it’s suspicious.

If it’s out of character – it’s suspicious.

If it says it’s urgent and comes from an organisation with which you have no dealings – it’s beyond suspicious and should just be ignored.

3. Check your suspicions. There are numerous ways of doing this quickly.

Google is probably your best friend when it comes to checking your suspicions. Copy and paste a short extract from the re-post or email and it’s likely that you’ll get a flood of search results along the line of: “Amazon email hoax…”; “Egg Windscreen Attack…” and “Win a $1000 Amazon Gift Card” Facebook Survey Scam

If you want to be a bit more targeted there are specific hoax sites like Hoax-Slayer and fact checking sites like Snopes. This is quite regularly the content that Google is highlighting at the top of the search results.

Once you check you’ll probably be surprised by how long the scam/hoax has been floating around the internet – I’ve seen the Egg on Windscreen one recently, it was first reported in 2009!

4. Choose your response. You have the freedom to choose.

Once you’ve checked you can choose what you do in the light of that checking.

Sometimes the right thing to do is to post a response informing your friend/acquaintance of their foolishness. Be careful doing this, you are, after all, telling someone you know that they are twit and people don’t always respond well to such helpful prompting.

Quite often the best response is to do precisely nothing. It’s not always worth posting anything to correct the friends and acquaintances. The chances are that whoever is going to re-port the re-post has already done it anyway.

Those response are assuming that what they have posted is a verifiable hoax/scam. Another response is to create more space and wait a while. Just because there isn’t any public information to say that something is a hoax doesn’t mean that it isn’t. Give it a couple of days, check again, and your suspicions may well prove to be valid.

The final alternative is, of-course, to re-post whatever it is that someone has asked you to highlight. You only have to do this if you really want to, remember: “In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Because it’s Friday: “Fake Apple Store” by Improv Everywhere

The folks at Improv Everywhere decided that as the iconic glass cube Apple Store on 5th Avenue, NY was closed for refurbishment they would open another one – using a subway elevator.

They even created a queue of people waiting to get the new iPhone X, people love to join a queue:

Repeating Under-Performance – We All Do It

You are an under-performer.

You are performing below your optimum, I can guarantee it.

There are many things that you do every day that you could do more efficiently, fast and better.

Some inefficiencies are seen, others you are unaware of.

One of my repeated inefficiencies goes like this.

  1. A remind pops up on my device to tell me that I’m due to join a meeting.
  2. I double-click on the meeting, opening up the invitation
  3. I scroll down to find the link for joining the meeting which are somewhere in the text of the meeting:join-skype-meeting
  4. I then click on the link to Join Skype Meeting.

It’s a simple four step process, but it’s a 25% inefficient process if I use steps as the simplistic measure of process flow. Step 3 is nugatory.

That’s not all though, my simple measure of efficiency is missing the fact that the scrolling down activity takes the longest of all of the steps to complete.

I must have repeated this set of tasks thousands of times. They are so deeply ingrained in my process memory that I don’t even challenge them.

So why is step 3 nugatory?

The efficient process goes like this:

  1. A remind pops up on my device to tell me that I’m due to join a meeting.
  2. I click on the meeting reminder.
  3. I then click on the Join Online button that is shown in the reminder and join the meeting: join-online

It’s a trivial example, but these are the things the we do every day that make us under-performers. Or do they? Is this type of efficiency a good measure of performance? I wonder.

“Wow, when did I become so impatient?”

The other day I was listening to a podcast in my car via my iPhone connected to the Bluetooth enabled in-car entertainment system.

I quite regularly listen to podcasts and audiobooks. It’s great way of filling the time with valuable input.

This particular podcast was very interesting, the interviewer was talking with a woman about some of the struggles and delights in her life. Most people would regard this woman as highly successful and yet by pealing back a few of the layers it was clear that not everything in her life had been plain sailing despite the outward appearance.

The interviewer wrapped up with a helpful end of podcast summary and then is happen – silence.

I looked down at my in-car entertainment system screen to see that the podcast file still had another 3 minutes to run, but the content had finished!

“That’s fine” I thought to myself “I can press the next-track button on my steering-wheel.” So I did, but nothing happened!

This occasionally happens in my car. It’s normally with the podcast application, but also happens with other. My iPhone is quite happily playing, but the controls aren’t working.

I looked back at my screen 2:50.

Like many modern entertainment systems there are different ways of achieving the same thing, so I tried those in the vain attempt that one of them would recognise my desire to move on to the next podcast.

I looked back at my screen 2:40.

I was on the motorway by now and the thought of reaching over for my iPhone flashed through my mind. I knew that if I could just press in the right place on the screen it would take me to the next podcast.

It was about now that I started coming to my senses.

I looked back at my screen 2:35.

Time to start talking to myself:

“What am I thinking? What priority am I putting on these few minutes?

“Why does the silence bother me so much? Another podcast will be along in just a short while, relax and enjoy this precious moment. Look at all of those people desperate to speed past you on this road so that they can get there just a few moments earlier.”

I looked back at my screen 2:33.

“Why would you even think of reaching for your phone? It’s such a dangerous thing to do, imagine if you’d been in an accident just because you wanted to get to the next podcast. Would the risk be worth the reward? Of course not.

“Wow, when did  become so impatient?”

I looked back at my screen 2:31.

I reached over and turned off my in-car entertainment system.

Because it’s Friday: An Alphabet of Brands

Designer Vinicius Araújo has created an Alphabet of Brands which renders each letter, using a Helvetica form, in the style of an electronics brand that represents that letter.

  • B for Beats
  • D for Dell
  • J for JBL
  • X for Xerox
  • you get the idea..

It’s amazing how evident the aesthetic styles are in these beautifully done renditions.

Watch out for a few animations as well.

Via Colossal:

Concept of the Day: The Tragedy of the Commons

I like concepts that have a history and this one dates back to 1833 and an economist called William Forster Lloyd.

The concept refers to a hypothetical situation where unregulated grazing on common land could create a situation where an individual herder, acting in their own interest and within their rights, could result in overgrazing. The overgrazing would then result in a tragedy for the group of people who use that common.

(In the UK Common Land, the commons, is land that is available for use by the Commoners for a particular activity. Livestock grazing was, and still is, a regular use for common land. The origins of common land go back to medieval time and thus some land has been grazed by Commoners for hundreds of years.)

Over the years the commons has become a metaphor for many situations where a resource is shared.

A great technology example of the tragedy of the commons is email SPAM. The actions of a few people significantly degrades the value of the email utility for the majority and results in a cost to everyone who uses it.

In the UK there’s been a lot of news coverage recently about the overuse of antibiotics, particularly people going in to their doctors and demanding medication even though they are of no value to their condition. The actions of these individuals has contributed to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria which is highly likely to result in the common value of antibiotics being destroyed for the majority.

There are so many business situations where the tragedy applies. I’ve seen many teams fail to be effective because an individual was optimising their activities to the detriment of the group.

Put simply, the tragedy of the commons applies to those situations where people’s personal short term interests are at odds with the longer-term interests of the group. I’m sure you can think of many, many more examples?