Jay Cross helps people work and live smarter. Jay is the Johnny Appleseed of informal learning. He wrote the book on it. He was the first person to use the term eLearning on the web. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix.
Our 29-year old son Austin emailed my wife Uta last week from vacation in Hong Kong and Seoul. He couldn’t get any reception on his Android phone.
He wanted to be able to read messages and make emergency phone calls. Wednesday morning Uta went online to look at AT&T international calling plans. The three phones on our plan had worked in the UK, Switzerland, and Italy last year. AT&T’s services had changed since our trips abroad.
Uta called AT&T for further information. An AT&T rep in International Calling told her Austin would not be able to make calls on his phone. “But he has the latest Galaxy,” she explained. Again and again, the rep said international service was not available on that line. My wife said she did not understand. The rep repeatedly said my son would not be able to make international calls from his phone. “I don’t understand. What are you saying?” she asked repeatedly. Finally, when the International Calling representative could not explain further, she hung up and went to the local AT&T store.
A representative at the store looked up our accounts and mentioned international calling plans. Uta said she didn’t want a new plan. austin’s problem is that he was not even receiving calls on his phone. He wanted reception and a way to make pay-per-use calls.
All Austin needed was reception and an option of making pay-per-call calls. Besides, he was on a short trip and that was half over.
The rep advised that Austin remove the battery and put it back in to reboot the phone. Go to settings, check for local providers. Uta emailed Austin, who had already rebooted the phone. Settings showed eight providers. Nonetheless, he was getting no reception.
Thursday morning Uta called the rep at the store. She admitted that this sounded like an AT&T issue, not something wrong with the hardware. She checked with her manager and called back to say Austin’s phone needed expanded international roaming allowance.
All Uta needed to do was call Customer Care and request this free option.
An hour later, Uta received an automated email asking her to call an 800 number. The number was an automated voice telling her how to activate her Go-Phone, requesting her confirmation, and requesting she replace her SIM card. She called the store to ask what was going on. The rep confirmed this was an authentic AT&T mail but had no idea why we’d received it. (Go Phones do not require outside activation.) The rep could not identify who sent the superfluous email.
Uta called Customer Care about the mysterious email. They couldn’t explain it either, but as long as we’re talking could Customer Care help us expand Austin’s international roaming alliance?
Certainly, she was told three times, Customer Care could sell us an international calling plan. No, that’s not what we’re after. By this time, Uta could recite the international calling plan specs better than the AT&T reps. They could not even say whether international calling applied to Hong Kong and Seoul. Some said yes; others said maybe. Customer Care only offered the option of for-fee international calling plans.
Friday, the next day, Uta called Customer Care again. She reached a helpful fellow named Evan. As with every new contact at AT&T, she had to recount the entire story from scratch. AT&T apparently does not document customer calls.
Evan said he would call International Calling and request the “expanded international roaming allowance.” the right person to deal with this while Uta was on the line. Evan turned us over to Kershe Rumph in International Calling. Kershe understood what we were asking for: Expanded international roaming, free, not a new plan. He added the feature to Austin’s line. He said Austin would only need to recycle his phone.
Uta asked if Kershe could switch her line to international roaming, too. Kershe said he would do that and confirm by email. His email the next day mentioned only Austin’s line.
During the call with Kershe Rumph, Uta pointed out that we’d gotten reception overseas last fall. Why did we no longer have international roaming? “Because it has to be added,” she was told. Uta pointed out that we had international service last year. Kershe told her that they only add the service during sweeps of many accounts.
Why did Jay’s iPhone have international roaming but the others not? Uta was told my phone had been automatically updated in a sweep in November 2012.
This is balderdash. In November, I had purchased a new iPhone from Apple. Were our other lines deactivated for international calling at this time? Was neutering our phone retaliation for buying from Apple instead of AT&T? I’ll probably never know.
On Friday afternoon, Austin emailed Uta that his phone was working.
Uta had invested three days learning AT&T’s confusing terminology and retelling the same story over and over.
How does she feel about the experience?
She became very angry when the International Calling guy told her over and over that Austin’s line could not work internationally. What? Why? How is this possible? Again and again, the rep could provide no information.
Here’s a formula for stress: Feeling helpless when encountering stories that are at odds with one another. The feature might cost something or then again it might not. International might include Korea and Hong Kong or then again it might not. Receiving a spurious email without a way to contact the sender and with clearly inappropriate content. Frustration with dealing with an illogical, dysfunctional system.
I did my best to provide an explanation for what might be going on. Half of America’s workforce is disengaged. They don’t care whether they serve the customer or not. Judging from their service level, I suspect AT&T hires more than its share of the disengaged workforce. Also, AT&T either lacks or doesn’t use any form of Customer Relationship Management system.
AT&T people don’t know their products. Their knee-jerk response to service outages is to try to sell another product. How many people do they dupe into buying international calling plans by cutting off the free international call-per-call option and offering a recurring “plan” instead? I will forward a copy of this paper to the FCC to make sure they’re aware of the practice.
Clearly something is off when only one AT&T rep out of half a dozen can fulfill a simple request. This is a failure of leadership. By chance, I happen to have met the head of leadership training for AT&T; we spoke on a panel together. I’ll forward this to him, too. Perhaps leadership training could use this as a case study. AT&T has my permission to use this for those purposes.
My mantra for management is “Delight the customer.” This is not how.
Steve Hargadon interviewed me about informal learning yesterday. Steve does his homework and asks great questions.
If you listen to podcasts while exercising, perhaps you’ll enjoy the Audio of Steve letting me amble on for an hour.
A one-hour audio goes against my religion of brevity & less-is-more. However, if you want a painless way to peak into my thinking while hiking or peddling, this may be up your alley.
Harold Jarche posted this to the internal Internet Time Alliance network yesterday: “Check out slides 115-118″ http://www.slideshare.net/reed2001/culture-2009. I did. I was blown away.
D R A F T
Some of you have inquired about my research into happiness and well-being. I paused the project for six weeks. Upon return, I realized there’s a lot more to it. Taking a broader perspective, I realized you can’t deal with happiness without addressing joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, love, sadness, anxiety, anger, motivation, and relationships, (more...)
Dating back 25,000 years, Australia’s Aborigines are the world’s longest-lived culture, despite the harsh conditions of the Australian Continent. By dedicating more than half of their resources to intangibles such as learning, relationships, and the technology of eco-farming, the Aborigines created a society without war, crime, poverty, or taxes. You have to learn a lot just to survive.
Working Smarter Daily points to ideas from design thinking, network optimization, brain science, user experience design, learning theory, organizational development, social business, technology, collaboration, web 2.0 patterns, social psychology, value network analysis, anthropology, complexity theory, and more. These disciplines add up to what I call “working smarter.”
Working smarter embraces the spirit of agile software, action learning, social networks, and parallel developments in many disciplines. Every day, Working Smarter Daily uses social signals to select the top articles from blogs in these fields. Here’s how. And here are the top articles from this year:
Ten years ago next month, Clifford Nass and Byron Reeves published The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places. The Stanford profs had conducted a series of standard psychology experiments but substituted a computer for one of the participants. From the Amazon review:
“Fresh evidence of human gullibility never fails to entertain. Stanford professors Reeves and Nass provide plenty of cocktail-party ammunition with findings from 35 laboratory experiments demonstrating how even technologically sophisticated people treat boxes of circuitry as if they were other human beings. People are polite to computers, respond to praise from them and view them as teammates. They like computers with personalities similar to their own, find masculine-sounding computers extroverted, driven and intelligent while they judge feminine-sounding computers knowledgeable about love and relationships. Viewers rate content on a TV embellished with the label ‘specialist’ superior to identical content on a TV labeled ‘generalist’ (they even found the picture clearer on the ‘specialist’ box).”
It proved tough to put the theory into practice. Microsoft Bob was based on Nass and Reeves’ research. But the results weren’t all bad: Bill Gates married Microsoft Bob’s marketing manager, Melinda. Wikipedia reports that…
Bob received the 7th place in PC World magazine’s list of the 25 worst tech products of all time, a spot in Time magazine’s list of the 50 Worst Inventions, and number one worst product of the decade by CNET.com.
The notion of treating computers as if they are people popped into my head this morning when my wife stuck her head in my office to ask what was wrong. “Nothing,” I said. “Just swearing at the computer.” My research on well-being at work has sensitized me to the impact of negative emotions. At team whose members don’t express at least three positive emotions for every negative emotion will fall apart.
Could my outbursts against the computer be stressing me out? Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has demonstrated that the slightest emotional transaction can color one’s mood for hours. And I was swearing at my computer whenever I hit a glitch, which translates into one rant every fifteen or twenty minutes throughout the day.
Would it make me happier if I stopped griping about the machine? I decided to find out.
As of right now, I have ceased swearing at my Macs. In fact, I’ll praise them when they do a great job. After all, the iMac I’m writing this on is 25,000 times faster than the first computer I ever operated — an IBM 7094 Mod II — and cost 25,000 times less. And it connects me to the world. Not bad.
Unlearning habits formed over the course of decades will take strong reminders. I’m giving that reminding task to Mr. Bill and Ratbert. They’re right on my machine, ready to remind me that the problem is just a software issue (Mr. Bill takes those hits) or human error (Catbert’s department.) They will council me to calm down. Time fixes all glitches.
Think I’ll be able to hang in for at least a week? And do you think it might improve my mood?
The health hazards of sitting for long stretches are significant even for people who are quite active when they’re not sitting down
Still, scientists have determined that after an hour or more of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by as much as 90 percent. Extended sitting, they add, slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and lowers the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol in the blood. Those are risk factors toward developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
“The science is still evolving, but we believe that sitting is harmful in itself,” says Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at the University of California, Los Angeles.
I switched to standing desks several years ago. My upper office work tables are a few inches above waist-height. A fat squirrel enjoys running up and down the redwood tree just outside the window.
Step-stools lift my 120″ x 32″ work surface off the floor.
Downstairs in the Lab, I work at a waist-high slab of butcher block I bought at IKEA and mounted atop storage cabinets.
Those with sharp eyes will note Internet Time Lines, my n-scale model railroad, at the back of the butcher block top.
Do I get tired from standing all day? Never. I do suggest standing on a rug rather than a hard floor:
Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin, and Winston Churchill worked at standing desks and that’s good enough for me.
Wondering what this has to do with my primary interests in happiness and working smarter? Healthier people are happier and more productive than the norm. Standing up at work adds a few years to your life!
What does the phrase Don’t take this personally bring to mind?
Not being selected for the new project team?
Being assigned a task you don’t want to do?
Who’s kidding whom? These things are very personal.
I’ll never forget the time I had to lay off half my team. The personnel manager and I went through our routine. We put a large size box of Kleenex on the desk. One-by-one we called in half a dozen people, all close friends, and told them they were great, this was not about them, it was nothing personal, but they had the rest of the day to clean out their desks and depart.
People are emotional beings. We take everything personally.
Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, business has tried to cover this up. Management by spreadsheet is easier if workers are interchangeable parts. No messy emotions to get in the way.
But the business world is embroiled in great change. At the Stoos Gathering and other efforts to humanize management, participants are concluding that machines work well when you need to do the same thing over and over, but they’re not so hot when doing different things is required. Denser interconnections have transformed the world into a vast complex system. The past is no longer a guide to the future. Small things have enormous consequences. Logic breaks down. Shit happens. Everything’s different.
These days it’s more productive to think of organizations as organisms. Managers become stewards of the living. Their role is to energize people, empower teams, foster continuous improvement, develop competence, leverage collective knowledge, coach workers, encourage collaboration, remove barriers to progress, and kill off obsolete practices.
Living systems thrive on values that go far beyond the machine era’s dogged pursuit of efficiency through control. Living systems are networks. Optimal networks run on such values as respect for people, trust, continuous learning, transparency, openness, engagement, integrity, and meaning.
Business is emotional and is becoming more so. I aim to help corporations bring emotions out of the closet. Our forthcoming mobile app is part of that effort.
Business managers have a lousy time even talking about emotions and “the soft stuff” because they don’t know how to measure it. This has made it difficult to show the financial impact of having happy or languishing work teams. Even though it’s obvious that happy workers make customers happy, skeptics want “proof.”
Our app, Blips, measures happiness, satisfaction with life, and optimism by individual over time. This enables us to correlate changes in happiness to business results. Investing in the happiness of workers becomes a sound business investment. The app will debut at Online Educa in Berlin next month.
Now in its 18th year, Online Educa is the largest international e-learning event for the corporate, education and public service sectors, with over 2000 delegates from 100 countries. I’ll be back for the tenth year because this is the networking event where high-level decision makers shaping the industry come together. Fittingly, this year’s theme is Reaching beyond tomorrow.
We will encourage Educa participants to record their happiness on their iPhones several times a day. A large monitor in the Marlene Bar will display aggregate statistics in real time. It might show the happiness of business people vs. academics, German women as opposed to British men, or married people and singles. (All individual data will be anonymized to protect individual privacy.)
We’ll also have a discussion about bringing emotion into business, how individuals can become more emotionally intelligent, pinpointing stress and wellbeing in teams, and the politics of making major changes in organizations.
“Personal business” usually describes what you do when not at work. We’ll need a new term soon, because we’re finding that all business is personal.