Quick Economic Recovery Optimism Wanes

Anyone else caught up in an amazing whirl-wind of seemingly endless new piles of idunnowhat since Jan 4?   Hard to believe a month of 2010 has seemed to just jam on by.

Whether you had the last 2 weeks of ’09 off or tried to polish as much as possible before year end, almost everyone I’ve talked to has seen an onslaught of renewed vengeance into business activity that seemed to be paced with undeniable optimism.  The pains of ’09 are behind us, right?  Er, at least that’s what we thought.   We were all immensely excited to move beyond the last year of the decade.   The holiday season seemed to be filled with hope that at long last the recession was ending.   And, 2010 will be filled with glorious growth and the taste of prosperity.

Brace yourself for more ’09
When Jan 2010 started, it appeared that everyone had quickly forgotten about ’09.   And, for good reason.   Last year was challenging in many, many ways.   A new year brings renewed budgets, a chance to re-start, a chance to reach back to those contacts that said “yea, let’s touch base in January”.   What’s transpired so far appears to be an over-flowing bucket of messages, requests, schedules, deadlines, budgets, and most important — defining and delivering on our target goals.  This is testing everyone’s ability to get organized, to be organized, and the realization that not much has changed.   I am also reminded that at the end of the day our schedules are really dictated by our networks of contacts, family, and business events and rarely by ourselves.  It’s really hard to control.   What ever happened to those days when I had time to blissfully fall asleep on the couch in front of the basketball game?  Those seem like decades ago.  Oh…it was.

Look at what we’ve seen in 2010 already:

  • Federal budget deficit will be worse in 2010.  Now estimated $1.6Trillion.  Up from $1.4 Trillion in ’09.  Disgusting.
  • Transit agencies fighting to close budget shortfalls.   In the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve already heard woes from BART, Muni, and Caltrain.  I’m sure there’s many more metros and cities in the same boat.
  • Layoffs and restructuring.  Chevron, Verizon, Walmart, and Johnson & Johnson have all announced layoff plans in Jan. 2010.
  • Current unemployment rate is 9.7 (December ’09).  There were increases in all 50 states in the last month of the year.
  • Live events canceled, postponed.  2010 will be filled with inconsistencies.  some events that will trigger renewed hope;  Other events  you’ll be caught asking yourself  “how did I ever get involved in this?”
  • The Dow closed the year (Dec. 31) at10,428.05 and NASDAQ was 2,269.15.   By January 31, it’s 10,067.33 for the Dow, and 2,147.35 for NASDAQ.  Investors are not exactly oozing with consistent confidence.
  • There’s still a war in Afghanistan, Mr. President.

OK, enough of the doom and gloom
Yea, I had to dig deep here, but let’s look at some areas that are looking good in 2010.

  • Apple.  Stock (AAPL) at all-time highs.  Cool consumer electronics are continuing to be the rage.  And, for a few hundred dollars, people are willing to try almost anything Apple.
  • Venture capital improving and business results stabilizing.  Upstream has received $75Million in venture capital.   Ford reports strong January sales (could be due to Toyota’s accelerating disaster).   UPS beat expectations, which shows packages are on the move and internet sales are continuing to grow.   Expect more turn-around news in the areas of home purchasing and financing.
  • Businesses are adopting social marketing into their operations and not just using the free stuff.  Real $ being spent, department resources being re-shaped.  This isn’t an after-thought anymore of some rogue employees.  It’s mainstream and if you ain’t doing it or not supporting the efforts, you’re losing out to your competitors.  Big time.
  • Many green businesses are thriving.  Great source of jobs, economic growth, and investment into the future.
  • Microsoft Office 2010 is in Beta – that should solve a few issues, right?   Oh, possibly negated by introducing a million new Windows bugs and 100 security patches.

Personal brain hygiene perhaps
Do you really feel you can accomplish everything on your plate by just coming in and grinding it out like you’ve done for the last 30 days?  I want to suggest a few ideas that might get you back on track.   Sure, it can’t change the deficit or solve the war.   It can’t balance an ill-allocated municipal budget.   But, it will make you feel better and more productive.

5 things you need to do.

  1. Clean up. Take a look at the papers and magazines on your desk.   Shuffle them into 1 neat pile and set it in the corner.   Check back in a week.  If you haven’t touched the pile, recycle it.  You’ll probably never have time to read them this year.
  2. Organize your inbox.  Find a 3 hour window on your calendar next week.   Block it off.   And book yourself a conference room regardless if you live in a cube or an office.  No one bothers you in a conference room — they think you’re in a meeting.  While you’re at it, turn off your mobile phone, and log out of social networks — particularly Facebook and Twitter.  You’ll survive.  At the end of your 3 hour one on one meeting, write down the 10 most important items you’ll work on next.
  3. Plan a vacation with family or friends.   Even if only for 1 nite.  Perhaps you went away at end of December and came back to work and it’s been go-go-go.   You need something to look forward to.
  4. Stay focused on value-add vendors.   This is a two-fold suggestion.  It means #1 – shortlist your vendors that are viable and let the rest go, and #2 – make a decision, sign agreements, generate POs, build a plan, and start executing.   Everyday you postpone is 1 more day you don’t have a solution and won’t be addressing your MBOs.
  5. Attend a seminar outside of your business domain.  Perhaps you have a hobby or new interest.  Find a local event or seminar and make plans to go.  Meet some new people and get your mind on something fresh.

Worth considering?   Any other ideas that are personally helping you?   Or, do you believe 2010 will be way easier than ’09?

I have no doubts we will exit 2010 in a far more prosperous situation than ’09 and way beyond ’08.   Until then, address your own productivity now…it’s only going to get harder.

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Time to Pay the Twitter

That’s crazy to pay for free service.  Yes, I agree.  Call it what you will.  But, everyone *and* your mother is on Twitter.  O K, not everyone.   And, not everyone’s mother.  But, high probability the person in front of you at the supermarket is on Twitter.  Meanwhile, the conversation of Twitter’s “service up-time” or lack thereof, revenue model, and competition is on the rise.

I didn’t always think this way.  If you asked many of many friends and business acquaintances, they will tell you that I was once a strong Twitter opponent.  Yes, just months ago I could be caught saying “it’s just a passing fad”, “no one really cares except those deep inside the echo chamber”.   Now, it seems the whole world’s in *that* chamber.  I’ve gone from “twitter is a waste” to “twitter is somewhat useful” to “having a little fun on twitter” to today — “twitter would be better if I paid for it”.

I’m actually telling Twitter “go ahead and charge me”.  I’m not sure if the Twitter founders and advocates are pumping their fists screaming “yes” or “dear god — you’re missing the point”.

Let’s consider a few facts.

  • 90% of Twitters content is generated by 1-2% of the registrants.   The huge mass of folks that tweet less than 10 times (i.e. sign up and tune out) is staggering.  Just do a search on “Patricia Smith” reveals that after you get through the top 20 contributors, dozens of Patricia Smiths with less than 10 followers and haven’t tweeted in months.
  • Spam and follow-bots are increasingly annoying.  15% of Twitter traffic, according to security expert Alexandru Catalin Cosoi of BitDefender, as quoted in The Globe and Mail.  Seeing a new follower like @girliej6j6 who’s following 20 times more people than are following them.  Weak.
  • The number of times Twitter is inaccessible due to Twitter server overload is majorly frustrating.  Yes, you know.  You’ve even tweeted that Twitter is twimbelling.twitter-addicts1249598011
  • More than 40% of all tweets are “pointless babble.” That’s from a study released this past month by San Antonio-based marketing firm Pear Analytics.  The study, co-authored with research firm TNS, also shows that 30% of users are tweeting to interact with family, 30% connect with celebrities, and 24% interact with other bloggers.  Because there’s no fee “per tweet”, to follow a friend, colleague or industry specialist, the model succumbs to “you should try my awesome spaghetti and meatballs recipe”.
  • Anyone ever tried to contact Twitter support.  ‘Nough said.
  • Twittter search stinks.  A royal piece of crap.   Hence, why you’re using third-party tools.  Wouldn’t it be nice if these services were seamlessly integrated?  True plug-ins.  Not apps.   (Think: native salesforce.com Appxchange.)  It would be so much easier and better experience.
  • Instantaneouness.  Yes, a new word for real-time, and where else can you get speedy answers?  Confirm an earthquake or major emerging world or local event.  Get a referral or recommendation faster on the Twitterer network.  And, hence the value differentiator between Twitter feeds, and Google, which is best for searching archives (things more than 4 hours old).   Yes, an indirect plug for why some enjoy Facebook too.

What I find most strange is that Twitter has a value of $441 million to $589 million, according to a report by an independent research firm co-founded by financial world celebrity Michael Moe.  So, it has about a 10x of $55M invested to date.  And, no revenue model.

It’s certainly against the norm for social networks to charge a fee.   Social networks seem to enjoy leveraging the old radio and TV model.  An annoying, content-based ad network.  But, I like satellite and internet, commercial-free radio and I’m willing to pay for it.   Anyone who has SiriusXM knows what I’m talking about.

Twitter isn’t purely a social network.  Maybe it’s actually useful and worth a small fee to improve the service.  Like any other brand, product or service I believe in, I’d like an easy way to impact and improve it.  You know, really be a customer.  When you get something for free, you’re not really a customer.   You are servants to whatever policies are set.  Businesses with paying customers are fixed to higher standards.   Notice how Twitter and Facebook need to keep issuing “terms of use” statements.

So, you would benefit from this model:

  • Everyone would have a verified account.  Twitter would be accountable.
  • User experience would improve with a single interface that has all your favorite integrated tools and plug-ins.  Furthermore, users would have more control over the views, compatibility, and features.
  • Porn (and other stalking advertising-type followers) would be significantly reduced – as they would have to pay to play.   In fact, Twitter could remove those accounts/users entirely.  If they object, put them in their own “room” so to speak and then if you want to follow and be followed by those types of entities, it’s your choice.  Sure, you can add a block to your account, but you still have to review each request for legitimacy.
  • Search would work.  I know there’s excellent third party products, but I’d much rather a self-contained accessible system.
  • Improvements and application usage would be driven by how customers want to use it and ability to provide innovative feedback.
  • Better mobile apps.

Making the brands pay for Twitter won’t work.  There are far too many folks out there with larger footprints than a lot of brands.  And, what it I RT (re-tweet) what my company posted, are you gonna charge for that?   There’s no way to segment the payment model.   I do agree that brand (corporate accounts) should pay a larger fee than individuals, but still advocating payment from everyone.

Twitter has been far from consistent on this topic. Biz Stone recently reiterated that Twitter would not charge users for existing usage habits; but, the company plans to launch a set of premium services, such as more detailed analytics or deeper CRM services, for which companies using Twitter may be willing to pay. See article Twitter to Remain Ad-Free launch a revenue model.   But, CEO Evan Williams stated a year ago that the largest revenue upside will come with brands being charged for access.   Biz Stone now says “it might be hard to tease out who is using the service professionally and who is using it for personal reasons, and then charge them for it. So the idea is to build a set of features that people are willing to pay for.”   Aha.

So, if Twitter costs money, we will all start migrating to a new free system, and Twitter will die a slow, painful death.  Perhaps.  But, the new system will hit the same roadblocks after awhile, i.e. where’s the revenue model.   And, will they be able to raise $50Million to invest in the infrastructure to run it and build technology relationships?   Meanwhile, Twitter can be working on harnessing their true advocates that see value in the connections.  The conversations.  The news feeds.  The recommendations.   Etc.  Etc.

Competition is coming for Twitter.   I doubt Microsoft will sit on the sidelines forever with MSN Networks and watch someone else get market share.  It wasn’t that long ago that MySpace was dominant and seemed untouchable.  Now, we only seem to talk about Facebook.   It could just as easily happen to Twitter.

Yahoo has launched a microblogging service that emulates Twitter. It’s called Yahoo Meme, and it was launched in English in early September.  Similar versions have been available in Spanish and Portuguese for a few months.  Yahoo Meme allows users to post photos, videos, and other content with short descriptions. Users also follow each other in a fashion similar to Twitter. The company says the goal of Yahoo Meme is to allow people to share content without having to join a specific social networking site. However, users do have to be registered on Yahoo.

All I’m saying is that I’m ready to pay $25 or $30/year for a better experience, reduced threats of spam attacks, and protection of my online persona and connections.  Net net.  Something will have to happen. Charging an annual rate for member usage would create instant, recurring revenue, cut down on the “my meatballs are delicious” tweets, and improves the service immensely.  Note the word “service”.

Alternatively, what if Twitter returned their VC money and made it opensource shareware.  With volunteer donations.  We could develop a diverse, superuser community of top social media influencers, which would manage the direction, and put the passionate developers together on one platform.

OK.  Back to more productive online activities.  Like studying up on changes I need to make to my fantasy football teams.   BTW, fantasy sports is another social network I pay real $ to subscribe (and also littered with banner ads that my eyes have been taught to skim over).

Feeling a Little Loma

Reading all those comments about CalTrans on sfgate.com.   People definitely feel strongly about that Bridge and CalTrans.  When things go right, everyone applauds CalTrans…and, at the slightest of slip-ups, they’re called out as “bums”.   The 70-year-old bridge was in severe need of repair, yet one that I seem to rarely think about being unsafe.  Now, we’re all set with the new detour to begin the retrofit of the new East side section to this iconic and important artery in the Bay Area.

The Bridge had a planned closure this weekend, and by all accounts, CalTrans and the CC Myers’ crew were ready to address a near engineering marvel to move out and replace 300 feet of road way, 200 feet high off the water.   That part went fine.  What we weren’t ready for was an extended closure due to an issue found during the new road work.   It was the bridge inspection that led to the extended, and now, unexpected, unscheduled closure.

An upper strut of the Bridge cracked and they needed 1 more day to fix.  With the Tuesday commute pending, we all went scrambling, but when the rubber met the road, literally, CalTrans ended up completing the repairs early Tuesday morning, which led to a 2 hour delay and avoided a whole extra (24 hour) delay.   Quite stunning change of course in last 24 hours.

It’s always a little strange when the Bay Bridge closes.  It happened 2 years ago to fix the West side of the bridge, and ended up opening up about 12 hours ahead of schedule.   But, what really occupies me is what happened 20 years ago.

Loma Prieta.   It’s one of the few times when I remember to a tee what happened after the quake hit and the

number of people who shared in the experience within a short period.

I had just arrived home from my afternoon history class at UC Davis.  I only had 2 quarters left at school.  I walked into my apartment on F Street, put my books down, and felt a strong, rolling wave.  Perhaps just a little

lp - bay bridge_09

woozy after a long day at school.  No, it felt like an earthquake.   I turned on the radio and I ran to my study room.  Sure enough, a hanging plant was swaying to and fro.  From the radio “a large earthquake has hit the bay area, and centered in Palo Alto”, a 100 miles away.  My parents lived in Palo Alto.  I immediately called home.  I reached my mother instantly.  She said that everything is fine.  Her clock radio fell off a shelf, but the power was still on.  I learned later that the earthquake was actually centered in Hollister, but regardless, it was a miracle that I actually got thru that instant as almost every phone line got tied up as the Bay Area was reeling in damage.

I bolted out of my apartment on my bike to head up the street to my buddies house to watch the World Series.  It wasn’t just *any* World Series…it was the “Bay Bridge Series” between the Oakland A’s and the SF Giants.   I opened the door swiftly, “did anyone feel the earthquake?’

“Sure did,” everyone responded.   “And, no baseball today”.

“Really?”

earthquake22No way.  Candlestick had cracked in the upper section.   The upper deck of the bay bridge went thru the lower deck.   The Marina district was engulfed in flames and crushed homes, and the Cypress Structure in Oakland completely collapsed.

I stared at the TV.  Looking at the Bay Area and roads I had travelled uncountable times.   Stunned.   Helpless.   The Bay Area would never be the same again.

About 2 weeks later, I had tickets to the Rolling Stones concert in Oakland, which would have been fine to get to, but we also decided to spend the day before in the city.  It must have taken 2.5 hours to get from Richmond to SF…complete crawl over the Richmond-San Rafael and Golden Gate Bridges.

Alas, the Bay bridge would be fixed within a few weeks in 1989.  A new section would be dropped in.  The Cypress Structure was removed, the Embarcadero high-rise was removed.   Many blocks of the Marina were re-built.

Now on Tues, Sept. 8 2009, the bridge has re-opened as the earthquake-proofing from 20 years ago continues, which I guess is certainly far better than unscheduled closures.  Albeit a pain, we seem to adapt and move on.  And, being prepared for at least 1 or 2 more closures to re-attach the new section.  Until next Labor Day…

The Bridge is cracked and they need 1 more day, meaning we’re now scrambling to address a commute no one planned for.   So, no we’re in lp - bay bridge_09unscheduled territory and I can only stop and reflect on what happened 20 years ago.

In Obsolete Terms

With the kids getting older, I’m now realizing how many things they have access to today that I never did at that age.  It’s amazing to think that whenever they see a computer they assume it’s connected to the internet.  They have email and collaborative internet games like Toon-Town whereby they can play against other connected kids and siblings.   They have hand-held computers they can play in the car that sure beat my car-trip days of finding the A-B-C’s on road signs.

Some technology like compasses and barometers, which have been around for hundreds of years, haven’t been totally replaced.  But, we now use more pleasantly-reliable technology like GPS in-car, mobile phone, etc.   We’ll still use terms like “what direction are we traveling”, so that’s a bit easier to explain.

However, what will be more difficult to explain is how the latest advent of technology replaced something the kids will never know about.  Where terms and phrases will become obsolete.   Here’s a few of my favorites:typewriter

Honey, Where’s the Liquid Paper? – This not only meant for fixing a written word, but also it fixed misspellings on the typewriter (before the advent of IBM Selectric which had an special editing type ribbon to erase misspellings.  Jeez, what an amazing technology that was.  Hours of savings and cleaner, type-written results.  I’m sure if I put a typewriter on the kitchen table (I don’t have one in the house), the kids would scream in unison “what the heck is that?”  Ironically, you can find pictures and the history of typewriters on the internet.

Go adjust the Antenna – Perhaps this is where Ro-Sham-Bo was invited and the loser had to get off the couch and adjust the antenna while everyone shouted out the changes in the reception.  Do you remember get excited about going to Radio Shack and your dad buying a state-of- the-art antenna that you just couldn’t wait to wrap the wires around screws on the back of the TV?   And, then of course the local channels would come in clearer, but you still had to adjust the antenna as soon as you changed the channel — the knob on the front of the TV of course.   When was the last time you saw one of those huge antennas on top of someone’s house?   Maybe only in Des Moines.

I’ll Go Get the Paper – Home delivery of the newspaper has been a staple almost my whole life.  Even in college, I had the Chronicle delivered to my apartment.  Now, I can get the Chronicle on-line and the need to pay for a home delivered paper virtually vanished overnight.  Obviously, no surprise almost every newspaper company is out of business or near bankruptcy as they didn’t adjust their business models fast enough to align with people’s changes in reading habits.

I’ll Bring My Polaroid – Remember about 25 years ago being the life of the party by being able to take instant photos and then passing them around.   Shaking them in your hand to dry after taking a photo and watching the images come to life.  So to speak ’cause no matter what, they’re still fuzzy with mis-matched colors.   Today, of course, it only takes a $20 (or free) mobile phone to take a digital image and send it or post it to anyone in the world.  Polaroid isn’t exactly out of business, but just another vendor in the digital camera market.

rotary phoneCheck Out Our New Rotary Telephone – Do you remember being worried that a number had too many “9’s” in it, or were you excited to whip the entire dial around and watch it spin back.  While we still use the term “I’ll go dial that number”, the word dial has taken on new meaning.  In reality, to dial – means to regulate, select or tune in.   Sure, that’s what we’re doing, but it’s not the result of using a circular device or knob.  I could imagine my kids reaction if we brought a phone like this into the house.

I Got a Deal on These Cassette Tapes – I still remember paying premium dollars to get blank tapes to record my records to play them in the car.  What a pain that is compared to today.  We would spend entire weekends playing albums and writing down the songs on little cards that fit inside the cassette tape boxes.  The iPod changed all that, but so did the ability to cut a CD.  The only thing the kids would associate tape with is an art project or fixing stuff around the house.

As I think of new ones, I’ll add to this post.   What terms or appliances are obsolete in your house?

Bluetooth is Not a Public Restroom Enabler

When your driving your car, it’s important to use a Bluetooth or some type of hands-free device.  Not only a law in many states, but miles safer for all those millions of you distracted drivers.  But, sitting in your car, you’re commuting or doing errands, you can chit-chat on the phone to your heart’s content, chuckle out loud, whatever you wanna say.   Traveling in the car is always a great time to catch up with friends, family or urgent business messages in a private setting.  So, much usefulness there.    And, since you’re alone many times in the car, no big deal to gab away as you weave your way thru traffic. 

Bluetooth headsets do appear lame in restaurants and bars.  Do people feel some uber importance by sitting at a bar with phone hanging on your ear?  If you do, seek help.   No one cares.  Furthermore, no one wants to hear your conversation about your spouse’s inadequacies indoors.   If you *must*, take the call outside.  Please!

Pale in comparison though to the one area I really can’t comprehend  —  someone in middle of a conversation or otherwise using the restroom, yip-yappin’ away on their no-cell-phone-signmobile phone or hands-free device.  You know, this is disgusting…I was completely torn on actually writing  a blog about this.  Not only because of the non-PC nature, but I’m still stunned that people actually think this etiquette is rational and acceptable.

Absolutely not.  In the same vein of  “Shut up and drive” or  “Take your conversation outside”.  Please don’t use mobile phones in public restrooms.  It’s just rude.   While not a safety issue (unless you have a tendency to drop your phone occasionally) and while not in need of any legislation yet, have some courtesy to the person you’re speaking with let alone others using the restroom.   Sure, play games on your phone, listen to music if you have an extended restroom stay (in silent mode or with headphones), but what makes you so damn busy, you can’t take a break from your digital world?   How about a little private SMS – “I’m busy right now.  Call u back”?

If you think public restrooms are an acceptable place for a phone conversation, let’s hear why?  If you agree with me, like to hear from you too!

Either way, perhaps you’ll think twice the next time you need to borrow someone’s phone.

Value of Diversional Productivity

I’m doing it right now. Well, I believe I’m doing it right now.  I’m being productive.   Or, is this a diversion from what I really should be doing.? No, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

I saw a real interesting tweet by Chris Brogan a couple last week  ago – it says “Gotta run.  Face down doing work.”  Wait a sec.  Twitter isn’t work?  Then, why is every imaginable business and millions of  consumers and business people on it?   And, god forbid, during normal business hours.  Outrageous.social-web

We’re loaded up with social web today.  And, like it or not, consciously aware we’re doing it or not, we’re seeing activity increases across all demographics daily. 

Whatever your online flavor, there’s an appetizing application.  You know – article commenting, twttr, facebook, linkedin, youtube, support communities, associations, wikipedia, etc etc..  And why?   Because we’re social beings and like it or not, we’re drawn to it without even knowing that we’re drawn to it.

Back in 1999, we thought the web future would be about eCommerce.  We were right because eCommerce has continued to grow every year to the point that we’ve generally overcome our fears of credit card fraud and purchasing apparel among other finished goods without testing it first.  Online purchasing saves time vs. going to the mall, using our cars less, and allows us to find the lowest price.  Furthermore, for brands large and small, the battle to develop the best web stores is as intense as ever.

We were wrong because the most dominant web usage is now social interaction.  In fact, businesses and organizations are moving swiftly to allow buyers and window shoppers the opportunity to engage in conversations with folks they don’t know in order to make a decision.  In 2001, we’d say “wow, this site has reviews”.  Today, we say “what do the reviews say”.

In fact, there’s a whole ton of social ways we’re using the web now, and becoming the way we do business.  Why?  It’s becoming the norm.  It’s fun.  It’s always on.  And, for whatever strange reason, we don’t mind interacting on the web with people we don’t know…hiding behind our handles of course.  Some of my favorites:

  • Sports Talk – used to only occur on radio.  Now, it’s part of every article, event, game.  And, fans can generate the news just as fast as the reporters… basis for the BleacherReport.
  • Travel – where to go, where to stay, weather.
  • Food – sharing recipes, cooking tips.  I like to eat.
  • Product Support – getting expert assistance on all these gadgets that are infusing our home and cars.
  • Innovation – able to give product feedback directly to manufacturers and distributors.   Fast and convenient.

And, tons of other non-monetary needs:  family, law, career and business management, eradicating snails and gophers, ailments, or advice on pets.  All of which resolve challenges in my life, make me more satisfied with products I own,  and most of all saves me time.   Socially, we seem to take pride and self-satisfaction in giving and helping others, and the social web has evolved to provide that net.

But, perhaps the greatest social web interaction which I believe has enormous returns and the real reason for this article kicks off today with “Selection Sunday”.  Ahhhhhhhh. 

March Madness.  The Big Dance.  The NCAA Hoop Championship.   The envy of all other sports championships, but no matter, ’cause we all tune in.  It used to be a cut-out from the local newspaper, but now, we can do the pool online, compete, automatically score, join private and public groups, and chat to our heart’s content.   And, the rage grows.

However, Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, the big employee productivity know-it-all firm will put out its anuual article on Monday or Tuesday of this week and state how much corporate productivity will be lost as a result of March Madness.   No thanks to you for bringing up the negativity of it all.  Where in your equations does the value of employee communication come up?  It appears you’re turning your back on what it really means.

ncaa-2009-big-dancePooh on you, Mr. Challenger.  This week sparks great hope across the country as we cheer for the underdogs, Alma meters, mascots, uniform colors, or whatever tips your fancy.  The real returns are the wide range of online (and sprinkling of offline) pools that sprout up everywhere in this great land.  The result is camaraderie, rivalries, trash talking.  Yup, good old interaction.  A break from the mundane — something we all need right now.

In the workplace, coffee shops, sports bars, online chat rooms, news sites, and anywhere where folks meet, it’s a tme to lift up and have a conversation about a non-work topic that speaks of fun and excitement that is just priceless.  And, in a time of economic in-prosperity and generally ill news everywhere we look or go.   It’s a time for  3pt prayers, buzzer beaters, unforced turnovers, big rebounds, high flying dunks, and team spirit. 

Yes, Mr. Challenger.  Hope, diversion, interaction — all leading to better collaboration with our fellow colleagues and making new friends.  It’s priceless.   It’s time to dance.

Funniest Moments in Sports – Hal Mcrae Does the Twirly Bird

Ah, meltdowns.  Why do we seem to take so much pleasure in watching other people lose it?   The infamous phrases and actions that lasts a lifetime — you can just repeat the phrase and everyone in the bar knows the incident you’re talking about.

“Playoffs?”,  “We had ’em right where we wanted them”,  “I’m 40; I’m a Man”,  “I don’t know what a game face is”…

One of my all-time favorites though is former Kansas City Royals manager Hal Mccrae.  This 1993 scene takes place in his back office under the stadium holding a press interview.  Clearly, a bad day at the ball park, but after a reporter questions his batting lineup late in the game, the blowup ensues.

Check it out for old time’s sake.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kamDqL-AGzI

There’s 4 reasons I love this meltdown.

1. The desk clearing sweep.  Yup, stuff is flying in every direction. Everything’s in harms way.

2. The poor phone.  After having thrown just about everything in front of him, he doesn’t just merely pick up the phone and chuck it. He does the twirly bird and flings in god knows what direction.

3. Bloody-face reporter.  The reporters start to exit the room realizing it’s probably a good time to leave. One of the first guys that comes out has blood coming down his cheek. To this day, I’m still curious what he actually got hit with. Was it the phone?

4. 1.75 liter of a little something-something.  As the tirade spills out into the hallway, Hal seems to gripping a fairly large bottle of liquor. The f-bombs are flying so quickly, the “bleeper” can barely keep up with him. I wonder if Hal poured himself a glass, or did he just chug it straight from the bottle?

And the phrase we’ll always remember…”Don’t ask me all those stupid a$$ questions”.