It came to light today that Europe’s happiest people are the Danish, nice to know I was reading a book written by one of the happy people. As someone who is from the lower order of happy people I think I have something to learn .
- The De-Portalization of the Internet (aka What I Would Do If I Were Running Yahoo!) – A VC
- What would radical transparency mean for Wired? (Part 1) – The Long Tail
The basic premise is this: The value of a portal was in its ability to aggregate together everything in one place, the failure of the portal was the inability of the portal to get people to information quickly. Rather than using portals, people preferred search, once they have found something they then use tagging, adding favourites and subscription.
I have never been a fan of portals. I’ve never seen the point, they’ve never been able to answer the question that I’m asking. I consume a steady stream of information, most of it via subscription, there are then a number of sites that I go to, but most of them are accessed via favourites, the rest of the time I use search.
The emerging generation are exactly the same. Emily (10) accesses a few games on the Internet, she never remembers the URL of them, she relies on Google to get her there.
One of my pastimes is to operate the web site of our church. More than 50% of the traffic comes to the site via search, another 10 is referral. The other 40% is people who come direct, but I’m sure many of them are using favourites, I know I am. The front page stands as a place for information, but I’m really more concerned with the content, because that’s where people are getting to via search.
I’m not sure that there really is a de-portalization going on, I don’t think that the Internet was ever truly portalized.
(Speaking as an English person I find the need to create new words for things a bit of a mystery, especially when they end “ize”.)
In a post about the use of PowerPoint during the Iraq War, Visual Beings used this term “Visual Illiteracy”.
Some days a phrase gets me thinking – Visual Illiteracy is a new one.
There’s even an International Visual Literacy Association.
Take your pick of definitions, they all seem to be saying very similar things: the ability to communicate and understand visually rather than in words.
I suppose this fits into my brain series. The right-brained people seem to be the ones who are more likely to be visually literate. Visual literacy is going to be a skill which will be invaluable to people who are needing to be more creative and more conceptual. It seems to be something you can learn.
Having done a small amount of research I am staggered by how many words have been written about a topic that is all about visual. Apparently there is a taxonomy of visual literacy?
Greg at EOD joins the rant about the glut of information and it’s definitely one of the more entertaining ones.
“As of now, my fancy-pants, community-generated, emergent-behaviour data-sorting heuristic is: a calendar. If I haven’t gotten to something in a week, it dies. Stick that in your attention economy and smoke it. I’m re-booting. Feed list: empty. In-box: empty. TiVo: OK, OK, I still need to watch “24.” But other than that: empty.”
There is a lot to be said for the time based approach.
My dad always used to follow a three draw approach. When his in-tray became full he would put everything out of it into the top draw in his desk. If someone asked him about something he would go and find it, if it was in his top draw it would get put back into his in-tray. Every time his top draw became full he would take everything out of it and place it in the bin without even looking at it. If it had become that old he clearly wasn’t going to get to it and it probably wasn’t relevant anyway. GTD encourages people to do something similar and Greg’s approach sounds equally sensible.
It’s definitely time for people to realise that they need to take control no-one else is going to do it for them.
Today is one of my ‘working in the office’ days rather than working from home. It’s been over a week and I had forgotten how difficult some things can be in this environment.
I am currently trying to listen into a teleconference, it’s not very load and there are a number of people in a room talking, sometimes all at once. Here in the office the person next to me is on the phone, in front of me is a small meeting area where another group of people are also on a teleconference with a speaker phone. Behind me are two more individuals in an open conversation. This keyboard I am using is not the quietest either.
Result – cognitive overload. I should be able to listen in to his call without giving it my utmost attention but I can’t. I even find myself having to close my eyes in order to cut some things out. it’s a good job I don’t have to contribute much to this meeting. I definitely don’t get this at home that’s for sure.
The blog is a follow-up to the one I wrote the other day on Role Profiling – Does it have any value? In this blog I asked myself the question:
- Does a role profile really make a difference to an organisation?
This blog ought to be one of those with loads of links to other people’s thoughts and ideas, but actually I didn’t find much on blogs to link to, and it was difficult to know which of the web sites could be regarded as authoritative. I do, however, have access to Books 24×7 which is great for getting access to information when you need to read published literature which comes with a certain level of authority. I used to dislike the online reading experience, but I am becoming more comfortable with it. All I need know is a tablet and then I can read in a format which is more like the book format.
Anyway, here are the results of my research.
Role profiles are a tool, and people use tools for many things, sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly – to the man with a hammer every problem is a nail. Where this particular tool works well is in a situation where there is a clear definition of the business objectives. The role profile being linked to those business objectives. In making this clear link the contents of the role profile doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone because the objectives are already known, understood and owned by everyone in the enterprise.
The role profile’s job is to communicate what the company regards as important for a particular role, with a clear link to the objectives. And that is where it gets really interesting as far as I am concerned, because many companies then connect a role profile with a salary and seniority. But actually that shouldn’t be it’s job, that is using the hammer to fix a screw. Especially when related to the type of organisation that I work for.
I work for a knowledge organisation, the knowledge is the organisation. As such, one of our key objectives should be to be a learning organisation. We need to keep renewing the knowledge assets, in the same way as a car company or a mobile phone company needs to keep refreshing the product. In refreshing the assets though, we need to know what the attributes of the assets are that are important to our customers (existing and potential) so that we have something to sell. That is where the role profile could come in as a tool to help us to understand the knowledge assets that the company wants to build in us, and then to sell to our customers.
But this isn’t just for the companies benefit. As an employee I gain value in two ways. Firstly I gain the knowledge assets. The assets are built in me. You can have a whole debate about IPR if you like, but I can’t take this knowledge out of my head. Secondly, I gain, because I have a clear understanding of my value to the company. And this is where salary and seniority should come in, but not as a direct result of the Role Profile, but as an assessment of my value to the organisation.
Where organisations have managed to define clear objective and to communicate them through a role profile or similar mechanism they have managed to build a learning culture which is focussed on delivering the assets that others want to buy.
I’m not going to comment here on how my own employer is doing on this.
I have updated my blog design in line with some reading I have been doing on design. it’s an interesting idea within the blog space. Is the design of the web page actually that important, on the basis that people could be reading the content in all sorts of ways, without even touching the web page.
Anyway, I have gone for a green design, with a predominant white feel to it. The green is to fit in with the ‘oak grove’ theme. The picture in the new graphic is one of mine. It was taken at Tarn Howes, so it’s a real English Oak. I’ve tried to stick to the web colours in the design so as to enable good compatibility. I’ve also removed the picture of the face in the sand because I’m not sure that it was saying much. I actually don’t have a good picture of myself, when I’ve taken one I’ll add it in I think.
I have set myself a little challenge this week. It follows on from some discussions last week within a management meeting. And here is the question:
- Does a role profile really make a difference to an organisation?
The background behind the question is this.
I work in an organisation that has on numerous occasions done role profiling exercises and generally failed in it. These exercises normally have numerous purposes and numerous customers. Even as an employee you want a role profile for more than one purpose; you want it to position you within a grading structure, but you also want it to tell you what you need to develop and you also want it to tell you were you are in the salary band for the role that you are doing. Each of these issues is fraught with danger. The company I work for wants to be able to position people in roles so that it can understand it’s skills base, but it doesn’t want to link that to salary because that would lead to all sorts of issues.
The company has recently undertaken it’s latest exercise and communicated a structure (badly) to each of the staff. As far as my team is concerned more than 70% of the team is sat within two bands within a single role.
So does all of this stuff actually make a difference? Do companies with a strict role profiling mechanism achieve a higher level of staff satisfaction (for instance) than do companies who have absolutely no structure at all. Do companies that point both ways have more problems than companies that are at one extreme or the other? Is the role more important the more junior you are?
From a personal perspective, I don’t think I care. But why don’t I care? In what situation would I care? I am only thinking about it at the moment because I have been told what my role profile is (I have worked for over 10 years not knowing what it was), and because I have been asked to be part of management team that looks at the issue.
So what is the value of a role profile. It definitely has a cost, but does it have a value. To be perfectly honest – I don’t know.
Suppose that means that it is time for some research. Great, I love learning something new!!!
My friend Steve has just posted a really interesting article on the business case for PDA’s, but most importantly the impacts of the Always on Society.
It’s very interesting observing the social impacts of the working environment that people are forced to work in. I wrote the other day about the general working environment and it’s impact personally on my productivity. (Today I am working from home and it’s Friday s feel great). But it’s a really interesting thing to observe how other people interact with technology and the various connection infrastructures that they have.
Sue, my wife, is an interesting example. She works as a Pastoral Worker for our church (a voluntary position, but no less demanding) and the way that she interacts with the various connection infrastructures is fascinating.
When we come home from holiday, or even a short break, Sue has established a routine that drives me nuts, but is actually no different to the way so many people interact with their connection infrastructures. On films people returning from holiday, walk through the door with bags in hands, turn to each other, have a big hug and say something like ‘it’s great to be home’. Not in my house, are you kidding. As soon as Sue gets through the door she picks up the post and goes straight to the phone which will inevitably be flashing with a number of messages. These messages will be the few messages that have been left in the last 24 hours, because she has already phoned it every day while we have been away. And while she is walking around with the hands-free phone listening to the messages she walks into the study turns the PC on and sits down. She then goes through the post while the PC is booting up (still listening to messages) and down-loading the emails. She then goes through the emails. As a man this is infuriating because I am, of course, completely superfluous to this activity (there is nothing worse for a man than to feel redundant). So what do I do, I go and get the bags in from the car of course.
The thing is, these messages and emails can be anything. It’s not primarily personal correspondence that she is dealing with here, it’s primarily work related. And because she is a pastoral worker these messages can be anything and generally include births, deaths, sickness, upset, separation; anyone of the full spectrum of life’s highs and lows.
Yet, just because it is there, she needs to reconnect herself. She knows it drives me mad, and she knows that for me it marks a stark and sudden end to a holiday that I would rather keep going for a few hours.
I don’t take a laptop on holiday, not because I will fell the need to stay connected, because I know Sue will need to.
The other thing she has is the need to read text messages as soon as they arrive, wherever whenever, even if it’s late at night. For me, it’s more likely that the message itself will spoil my nights sleep, for Sue, the knowledge that there is some information that she doesn’t have will definitely spoil her nights sleep.
Now, there is some logic to all of this. And I’m not saying I’m right and she is wrong. I’m just saying we are different. For Sue, she would rather get all of the information in small doses. Just because she has the information doesn’t mean she worries about it. For me, I’d rather not have the information at all, because I do worry about it. Not sure whether that’s a man-woman thing, or whether it’s our different personalities. What it does mean is that she sneaks away while we are on holiday to phone home and listen to the messages and that definitely troubles me, because it feels a bit like she is behaving like an addict would. She only does it because she knows it winds me up, I’m sure.
Anyway, at today’s level of technology there is a certain level of disconnection. If we are camping in Northern Scotland there is no mobile signal and I’m not driving to a phone box so she can listen to the messages. But those days are rapidly coming to a close. So what will it take for us to fully understand what we are doing to ourselves in being this connected and when will we understand how to train people how to deal with his level of connectivity. How do you train someone to turn off a mobile phone? How do you train someone to know that stuff happens and to relax in it? How do we change the technology so that we get the really important stuff and not the dross? I have a colleague who sends everything to me as ‘urgent’ and it’s not. One of these days he’ll send me something really important and I’ll miss it.