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Archive for March, 2010

10 TIPS FOR IMPROVING SOCIAL INTERCOURSE

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 31, 2010

In past commentaries I have described the problems our younger workers are having with interpersonal relations/communications. Many find it easier to plug into an iPod as opposed to working with others. This is resulting in a socially dysfunctional workplace where people work at odds with each other. To overcome this problem, I offer the following suggestions for improving a person’s social intercourse. There is nothing magical here, just ten commonsense tips to help you develop better relationships with your coworkers, your vendors, and your customers.

1. GREET SOMEONE

Nobody wants to feel unwelcome or unappreciated. If they do, they will feel like outcasts and less likely to help you with something. The objective is to make people feel at home. This can be accomplished with a simple greeting or a firm handshake while looking at the person directly in the eyes.

It is easy to detect when a greeting is sincere or routine. Your goal is to appear genuinely concerned about the person. This can be achieved by:

* Complimenting on some personal attribute of the person (e.g., clothes, hair, car).

* Inquiring about a person’s family (e.g., birthday observed, anniversary, graduation, pets, health, etc.)

* Asking about an event the person recently experienced (e.g., attendance at an event, participation in a volunteer organization/charity, a new job or project assignment, etc.),

* Commenting on something newsworthy – community, sports, weather (“What did you think about…?”)

Such greetings are an expression of your interest in the person. Too often greetings become routine and, as such, less credible. Try to break it up.

A good, basic greeting can work wonders in building cooperation between people.

2. ENGAGE IN A CONVERSATION

People have a natural curiosity as to what you are all about. The best way to communicate this is to engage in simple conversation. Some people are naturally shy and tend to withdraw from such discourse. If one person is not willing to start a conversation, another should take the initiative simply by asking the other, “How are you?” or “What do you think?”

A good icebreaker is to tell a joke. But in this day and age of “political correctness,” exercise good judgment and taste in your humor. Avoid slang and offensive remarks unless the occasion calls for it. Goodhearted kidding and teasing is fine, as long as it doesn’t turn malicious.

Some people do not have the gift of gab for telling jokes. As such, tell a story about some recent event that happened to you. But don’t ramble. Stay focused and be sure your story has a point to it.

A conversation is a two-way street, regardless if it is humorous or serious in tone. Look interested, stay focused, and ask questions. Also be careful not to dominate a conversation unless that is your intention. If you have a tendency to monopolize a conversation, people will be less likely to engage in conversation with you.

For additional information on discourse, see:

No. 60 – “The Art of Persuasion” – Feb 20, 2006

3. VOLUNTEER

Many people prefer to sit back and watch as others perform the work. Volunteering your time or skills may add an additional burden but it tells others you believe in them and are willing to help out. Such an expression also makes it easy for you to solicit support when you are in need of help.

4. ASK FOR ADVICE

Too often people are too proud (or too stubborn) to ask for directions in our journey through life. But asking for advice from a colleague accomplishes two things: first, you might get the answer you seek, and; second, it says to the person you trust and respect their opinion. By confiding in an individual, the advisor becomes concerned with your best interests. This leads to mutual trust and respect between people.

When you are asked to offer advice to another, be as articulate and rational as possible. If you do not know the correct answer, do not fabricate advice or mislead the person. This will only shatter the person’s trust in you. Instead, point him in another direction where he might find the answer he is seeking.

5. NETWORK

It seems participation in trade groups and volunteer organizations today are dwindling. This is surprising since such groups provide a convenient vehicle to meet and exchange ideas with your peers. Such forums are useful:

* To exercise our basic social skills.

* To stay abreast of current developments in our field of interest.

* To establish relationships with people who possess different skills and knowledge that can help us.

Instead of resisting networking with others, the younger generation should embrace it. I heartily recommend joining trade groups and volunteer/charity/fraternal organizations. Regardless of the group dynamics involved, such forums help to improve ourselves personally and professionally.

6. TURN OPPONENTS INTO PROPONENTS

Today we live in a competitive society (some prefer the expression “a dog-eat-dog world”). I guess this is somewhat natural. There is nothing wrong with some friendly competition; it is when it turns vicious, thereby turning competitors into enemies, that you have to be careful. To overcome this problem, be gracious in defeat and magnanimous in victory. This was the secret to Abraham Lincoln’s success. After losing earlier political campaigns, Lincoln would stun his opponents by appearing at their victory celebrations and offering a sincere hand of congratulations and support. Because of this, his early opponents became his proponents later on. After winning the presidential campaign of 1860 he again stunned his opponents by offering them seats in his cabinet. These former opponents became his closest confidants during the dark days of the American Civil War.

It is one thing to go into a contest confidently; it is quite another to go in with a chip on your shoulder, thereby inviting trouble. Take disagreements in stride and pick your fights carefully. Ask yourself if it is really necessary to create an enemy at this point in your career.

7. BE COURTEOUS

Your manners and how you interact with others says a lot about a person’s character. Basic courtesy means you are socially well adjusted. No, I am not suggesting everyone turns into a “Miss Manners,” but attention to basic courtesy can improve your image with others. Small details can have a dramatic effect. For example:

* A simple Thank You note will be remembered for a service rendered. I have been a program chairman for various organizations over the years. After a speaker conducted a presentation for me, I would be sure to send a thank you note to him/her for their presentation (regardless if there was an honorarium or not). This is a nice personal touch that is remembered. Consequently, I never have a problem securing a speaker.

* Invite others to participate in events. Again, a personal note can work wonders and makes people feel wanted. If you stumble over an omission on your invitation list (which inevitably happens), move swiftly to correct the omission. Include people, don’t exclude them, let them know their presence has meaning to you.

Above all else, watch your temper. As the old adage admonishes us, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” A little courtesy can go a long way towards building fruitful relationships.

8. BE POSITIVE

People naturally gravitate to others with a positive or upbeat personality. This doesn’t mean we always have to wear a smiling face, but we should concede that people like optimists as opposed to pessimists. As such, we should always be looking for reasons why something should be done, as opposed to reasons why it shouldn’t.

This leads us into the area of effective criticism. Avoid the temptation to maliciously criticize someone or something. First, it makes the person look like a whining and jealous naysayer; second, it tends to be more destructive as opposed to constructive. It is simply good practice, when identifying problems, to suggest alternatives as opposed to simply criticism. As Winston Churchill astutely observed, “Any idiot can see what is wrong with something. But can you see what is right?”

So, is the glass half empty or half full? Your answer says a lot about how people perceive you.

9. BE OBSERVANT

As I have frequently written in the past, if there is anything constant in life, it is change. Change is always around us, but it takes a perceptive person to be able to spot the smallest of changes, whether it be a new hair style, someone losing weight, a small job well done, or whatever. When a change is observed, ask yourself why it has happened. Be inquisitive and understand the rationale for the change. This will help you adapt to the change as well as improve your interpersonal relations. For example, people are easily flattered when someone compliments them on a change. It means you are perceptive and interested in the person, both of which puts you in good standing with the other person.

Included in this area is the observance of the names of people. It is embarrassing to both parties when a name is forgotten. In particular, it sends a signal to the other person that he/she is irrelevant in your eyes. This certainly does not help build relationships. Asking for business cards is one thing, remembering names is something else. This may require a little effort but it is time well spent.

It is these little observations that go a long way. As an example, perhaps the best secretary I ever saw was a lady named Myrna who worked for an MIS Director in Chicago. The first time I visited the office, Myrna warmly greeted me and asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. Saying Yes, she then asked me what I wanted in it. I said cream and sugar, which she then made for me. Months later when I returned to visit the MIS Director, Myrna greeted me by name and presented me with a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. Frankly, I was startled that she not only remembered my name but how I also liked my coffee. Later I found out that Myrna maintained a simple card file; whenever someone visited the office, Myrna would record their name and the type of coffee they liked. Sharp. Very sharp.

10. BE HONEST

The linchpin to good interpersonal relations is trust. Regardless of our form of discourse, nothing builds trust better than honesty, the basic building block of confidence. Having an honest character conveys an image that you are dependable, that your word is your bond, and you can be trusted to do the right thing. But your reputation can be shattered overnight if you are caught in a lie. Therefore, don’t falsify or mislead. If you do not know an answer, do not fabricate one, but make every attempt to find the answer elsewhere.

We now live in an age where it is more commonplace to cover-up a mistake as opposed to admit to it. Inevitably, all hell will break loose when the cover-up is discovered. Instead, admit a mistake early on, correct it, and earn the respect of your coworkers.

Give credit where credit is due. Remember this, nobody wants to work with someone they fear will wrong, cheat or defraud them.

CONCLUSION

There are other areas I could have gone into with this article, such as “persistence” and “leadership,” but they would fall outside of the scope of improving social intercourse. I could have also covered such things as “gossip” and “finger pointing” but, instead, I was looking for those basic elements for people to improve themselves, not others.

Early in my college career I learned, “We enjoy life through the help and society of others.” True words. Like it or not, we must interact with other people on a daily basis. The tips I have described, while admittedly are simple, can greatly facilitate how we interact with each other, thereby making our companies a better place to work and live.

Look, its really not that complicated; just use your head, loosen up a bit, treat others as you would have them treat you, and try not to stick your foot in your mouth.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Like this article? See Tim’s book, “Morphing into the Real World: The Handbook for entering the Work Force” available from MBA Press.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Management, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOLS

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 29, 2010

What is today commonly referred to as “Social Networking tools” has come a long way over the last twenty years. True, there are some slick services provided over the Internet, but I’m afraid it still has a long way to go. Let me explain…

As we all know, one of the main uses of the Internet is to provide a means to allow people to communicate; to share ideas and discuss subjects of common interest, a sort of “birds of a feather” phenomenon. Allowing multiple people to develop such a dialogue by subject area has been a part of the Internet for a long time starting with the NNTP (Network News Transport Protocol) which provided a simple text messaging service to anyone who subscribed to a particular subject area. This was provided in text format to accommodate the operating systems of the day which were primarily text/command-line based (e.g., DOS, VMS, MPE, etc.). I should also mention that commercial Bulletin Board Services (BBS) were also quite popular during this period as they provided comparable features. However, all of this started to change with the advent of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) to operating systems as found in the MAC, Windows, OS/2, etc., along with the advent of the World Wide Web which made use of easy-to-use web browsers. Shortly after the GUI introduction, on-line services such as Compuserve, Prodigy, and AOL, were introduced which provided for NNTP but also provided a means to share files by subject area. This led to the next generation of discussion groups as we understand them today and perhaps best represented by Yahoo! Groups which became a major player in this area. Today, there are literally thousands of Yahoo! groups available on the Internet to serve a wide range of interests.

Although Yahoo! Groups is simple and easy to use, it only allows one message thread, meaning subjects are thrown together and not subdivided into separate categories. This led to the advent of more robust discussion groups that allows for more message threads. For example, in a discussion group for a nonprofit organization you might have a thread to discuss “History,” another to discuss “Membership,” and others for “Bylaws,” “News,” etc., all in one discussion group. Perhaps the best known of this ilk is PHPBBServer.com which is also a free service.

As popular as Yahoo! Groups and PHPBBServer.com are, newer and more sophisticated facilities have been introduced which make their predecessors pale by comparison (and attracted millions of subscribers), such as: Facebook, Flickr, Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, and Yahoo! 360. These are services primarily aimed at the general public. For business, there are such services as: LinkedIn, Perfect Business, and Plaxo. There is also Ning, a service which allows you to develop your own unique network.

These are all slick and easy to use services to communicate with people of common interests. Most have facilities for blogging, discussion groups, and exchanging files (particularly JPG photos). This all sounds nice, but I contend these Social Networking tools have not yet hit their stride. Up until now, everything has been text based with little consideration for multimedia, other than links to services such as YouTube or Hulu.

The push to audio/video is the natural next step in the evolution of Social Networking tools. This should include such things as podcasting, video conferencing, voice-type dictation, and VoIP (Internet telephony). All of these features are certainly not new and have been well tested by various vendors, but the problem is they are fragmented services spread throughout the Internet, and are not available under one roof. Imagine the potential. Instead of just texting (which a lot of people still do not like to do), you would have the option to interact with others by talking, typing, or viewing them. Academia and the military are already moving in this direction. Now it is time to take care of John Q. Public and the average business person.

In the next few years, look for a lot of partnering or merging to occur between the current wave of social networking tools and multimedia vendors. Some interesting times are in the offing. If you think the networking tools are good now, wait until audiovisual is added. This will have a dramatic impact on not only how we communicate, but on transportation (e.g., less traveling to meetings), and hopefully, some improvements in social interaction.

Now if we can only remain civil in our discourse. Hopefully, this should overcome the ugly sniping taking place over the Internet and maybe we can treat each other like human beings again. I’m sure some knucklehead will figure a way to abuse the services which will inevitably result in some censorship controls for the consumer to maintain. Nonetheless, Social Networking tools are about to get kicked up a notch, a very big notch.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Society, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

POLITICALLY INCORRECT

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 26, 2010

I think the reason we really don’t like political correctness (PC) is because we feel it is being jammed down our throats, that it is unnatural and requires us to change. Basically, it is suggesting we’re insensitive and disrespect others, that we have some kind of character flaw. If you say or do something politically incorrect, you are quickly admonished to mend your ways, or else. Frankly, I think of political correctness as Miss Manners on steroids.

Back in 1970, George C. Scott portrayed General George S. Patton of World War II fame. The opening speech in “Patton” was memorable and set the tone for the General’s character in the movie. At the time, the speech was considered rough and crude. So much so, it wasn’t unusual for some viewers to walk out of the theater after only the opening sequence. It was most definitely not politically correct for the times. Actually, the speech was a compilation of several speeches Patton had delivered, not just one. Nonetheless, he said and meant every word. His “Blood and Guts” no-nonsense style captivated most viewers which was rather unusual during the age of the hippie revolution and the Viet Nam War.

More recently, Clint Eastwood portrayed a retired Detroit autoworker in the movie “Gran Torino.” His character, Walt Kowalski, was also a no-nonsense type who was politically incorrect. Yet, despite his language, the audience understood his intent, which was to cleanup crime in his neighborhood.

Between Patton and Eastwood’s character, we see two individuals who may lack social graces but devised unorthodox tactics to achieve their goals, and didn’t give a damn what other people thought. Political correctness is a nicety which adds a level of complexity that, in some circumstances, can interfere with getting the job done, particularly in high pressure life/death situations where action and tough decisions must be made as opposed to considering the feelings of others. From this perspective, I tend to regard PC as a luxury.

Over the years I have written numerous articles on a wide variety of subjects, everything from management and technology, to religion and politics. On more than one occasion I have been cautioned by people not to write about this or that as it might offend certain people and hurt my reputation. Due to the unique nature of my consulting practice I have always tried to tell the truth and give an honest appraisal of the situation at hand. You may not always agree with me, but at least you know where I stand on an issue. In a way, I often feel like the child in the Hans Christian Andersen tale who exclaims, “The Emperor has no clothes!” Although he naively spoke the truth, his observation made people nervous and squirm, particularly those in power. One of the things I learned early on is that the obvious is not always obvious, or politically correct, but we would make little progress if we didn’t look at ourselves in the mirror once and awhile, warts and all. So, I will continue to write in accordance with my conscious, not others.

Being politically incorrect doesn’t necessarily mean you are rough around the edges. Rather, it means you are probably more focused on your mission at hand and God help the person who gets in your way, definitely a Type “A” personality. The politically incorrect person simply doesn’t accept the status quo and wants to smash it in order to achieve his goals. Political correctness is only for when we have time to accommodate such etiquette.

Politically incorrect people are typically described as “colorful” characters and, in my opinion, are more interesting than their PC counterparts. They are not “deranged” as some people might portray them, and they certainly cannot be accused of being “bland.” (See my other article on PC: “Let us be Bland”) To a lot of people, being politically incorrect is a trait to be envied, not spurned.

As Patton concluded in his speech, “All right now, you sons-of-a-bitches, you know how I feel. Oh, I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere. That’s all.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A NEW AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 24, 2010

Make no mistake, the country is in the midst of powerful class struggle between the “haves” and “have nots,” a struggle between capitalism and socialism, bordering on a bona fide Civil War. Actually, it began with the hotly contested 2000 presidential election and escalated with the election of our current president with a liberal agenda. The seeds were planted during the Clinton impeachment hearings where politicians voted along political lines. Since then, there is a no-holds-barred approach to politics in this country, and the viciousness of the rhetoric has become dangerously reckless.

Since 2000 when the Democrats accused the Republicans of stealing the election, the tactic has been to attack unmercifully, attack to discredit, and attack until you get your way, then, deny any wrongdoing, and blame others. If you pose the slightest threat to the party’s political agenda, you are vilified as was the case recently with Rush Limbaugh. To discredit the outgoing president and assure there would not be a political legacy, they attacked and ridiculed George W. Bush to the point of riding him out of town on a rail (by his own party no less). In other words, liberal politics have taken on a “take no prisoners” approach, the likes of which we have not seen since the Watergate hearings.

There is little, if any, bipartisanship in the drafting of laws and running the government. The administration has basically thrown its weight into its liberal agenda, while trying to paint Republican lawmakers as impediments to change by questioning their patriotism. Now, more than ever, a line has been drawn in the sand between liberal and conservative principles, and there is no true initiative to seek common ground. After all, why should there be if you control both houses of Congress and the White House?

To paraphrase Lincoln, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” The question now has become, is capitalism wrong and should it be replaced by socialism? I contend capitalism is correct and socialism sets a dangerous course of destruction for this country. The differences between the two ideologues are significant and incompatible, yet this is what now faces the country. Yes, we are very much involved with a titanic class struggle in this country. And Yes, aside from armed conflict, it has all of the earmarks of a Civil War.

In the years preceding the first American Civil War, Congress was embroiled in a similar clash of ideologues, this time is was bitterly divided over the spread of slavery into the Western states. The Missouri Compromise and subsequent Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, for example, pitted the North versus the South in who would control the Congress. The discourse between the two camps ultimately caused political parties to collapse and new ones to emerge, such as the Republican Party. The Democratic Party was split along sectional lines as a result of the conflict.

It occurs to me that today’s political differences may also shake the current parties to their very foundations. They will either change or split. Whereas the Republican Party had been moving towards the middle since the departure of Ronald Reagan, it is now moving rapidly back to conservative principles. The Democrats with their liberal agenda has basically forsaken moderates. Both parties have to shore up their differences internally or face a new third party to emerge, a moderate party.

The Republicans have become complacent, and put on the defensive by some clever political maneuvering by the Democrats and, as such, have been politically reactive, not proactive. This needs to change and an organized approach must be devised to draw up battle plans and devise tactics. Some suggestions:

1. Take the Media to task, which is nothing more than the mouthpiece of the Liberal Party; put them on the defensive; this includes television, radio, newspapers, the Internet. I mean really put on a full court press. Condemn their editorials, refuse to support their advertisers, and discredit their integrity by debunking the illusion they are “unbiased.” Do not allow them to vilify conservative leaders like they did to Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh. Their brainwashing techniques must be broken.

2. Challenge the Liberal Party, anywhere and anytime. I do not know an issue where we need to be on the defensive; we must go on the offensive. However, to contrast Conservatives from Liberals, we must do it with dignity, and tact. Unlike our opposition, we believe in honest debate. We should never stoop to their level of name calling, venom and lying. We must be forthright in our arguments and do it with class.

3. Groom replacements to take over. Ronald Reagan was a great president and we now hear his name mentioned as the savior of the party. But let’s be realistic, Reagan is dead and buried, let’s move along, I’m sure he would want us to move forward and not look back. To this end, I suggest establishing a bona fide school to teach conservative doctrine, and hone skills in communications, management, administration, drafting legislation, and political tactics. In other words, instead of a disorganized approach for grooming the future leaders of our country, let’s devise a structured approach which promotes good government based on sound management principles. The nation needs leaders, not reactionaries.

4. Develop a sound political strategy that provides for a strong war chest to fund political campaigns, devise Congressional target areas, and take back the Congress and the White House.

It is sad to think we are at war with our own countrymen, but the fact remains there are people who are bent on changing the basic way of life in this country, such as redistributing the wealth through expanded government. They have already fired the first shot, are well organized, and now in control. It is time for Conservatives to wake up and get its act together before the changes implemented by the Liberals become irreversible.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

INCREASING BRAIN POWER

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 24, 2010

In the world of writing there is something called “Writer’s Block” where the author procrastinates on his work and is easily distracted. Hopefully, he overcomes the problem and tackles his assignment. To do so, he needs to eliminate distractions and engage his brain to the subject at hand. The same is true in any endeavor, be it a carpenter, an engineer, or a programmer. The more we can engage the brain, the more we can produce. The challenge therefore becomes how to maximize the use of our brain. By brain power I am not referring to a measurement of IQ, but rather to simply engage what God has given us.

LEVELS

I may not be a psychologist, but it has been my observation as a management consultant that there is essentially three levels by which our brains operate:

LEVEL 1 – PRIMAL

This represents our basic instincts and reflex actions as we blunder through life (I call this the “auto-pilot” mode). For example, we devise a morning regimen where we awaken and prepare for work. At this level, we are not at our most alert. Instead, we want to simply catch up on the news, brush our teeth, dress, and travel to work. Similarly, at the end of the day, we decelerate our activity as we prepare for sleep. In other words, we develop predictable routines to go through day after day without much thought. The brain is engaged, but far from our maximum output. In fact, we take in more than we put out. This is where we want to be entertained or informed.

LEVEL 2 – MODERATE

This level represents an equal level of input and output. The brain is either accelerating (at the beginning of the work day) or decelerating (at the end of the work day). At this level we have no trouble taking instructions and produce an average amount of work, quite often mundane or routine assignments simply to pass the time of day. We are also easily distracted. In the normal business day, Level 2 typically occurs between 9:00am – 10:00am (as the work day begins), 12:00pm – 1:00pm (following lunch), and 4:00pm to 5:00pm (as we prepare to conclude the work day).

LEVEL 3 – ACCELERATED

This level represents high achievement where we are able to concentrate and put forth our best work effort. Here, the brain is fully engaged and our output surpasses our input as we concentrate on the job at hand. In the normal business day, Level 3 typically occurs between 10:00am – 12:00pm, and 1:00pm – 4:00pm.

AVERAGE WORK DAY

Let us now consider how we use time during the average work day and consider how much is used at the various levels. First, we will divide the day into three equal increments of eight hours: Sleep, Work, and Personal Time.

REST – 8 HOURS

During this time, the brain is not truly engaged other than to maintain bodily functions.

WORK – 8 HOURS

Based on studies we have performed on time management, we have found most people in corporate offices to be approximately 70% effective, meaning in an eight hour work day, they are spending about six hours on direct work assignments, and two hours on indirect activities (time that doesn’t contribute directly to their assignments; e.g., breaks, meetings, taking instruction or direction, etc.)

PERSONAL TIME – 8 HOURS

This represents time where we perform pet projects and hobbies, pay the bills, run errands, attend a function (such as a meeting), relaxation, awake, prepare for sleep, etc. During this time we typically spend two hours of concentrated work, and six hours of indirect activities.

SHIFTING GEARS

This means in a typical work day, we only spend eight hours to really exercise the brain (Levels 2 and 3). But from a manager’s perspective, we are primarily concerned with the six hours devoted to work. During this time, people will spend approximately three hours operating at Level 2 and three hours at Level 3. This ratio between Levels 2 and 3 will fluctuate based on how well the worker is able to engage the brain. Some people are able to engage their brains at Level 3 for several hours, some for only an hour, and some not at all.

At this time we have to recognize that thinking is hard work. Although Level 3 is where we want employees to perform at, we must recognize that nobody can keep it in high gear for an extended period of time. The brain grows weary and moderates itself, shifting from Level 3 down to Level 2 or Level 1.

We must also beware of the “cattle phenomenon” whereby we fall into the tedium of repetitive behavior and, as such, our brains do not progress past Level 2. Consequently, repetition often leads to laziness.

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.”
– Albert Einstein

SOME RECOMMENDATIONS

It is the manager’s objective to keep employees operating at Level 3 for as long as is practical, thereby producing the best and most voluminous work products. To do so, the manager must minimize distractions, relieve tension, and maximize focus on work (concentration). To this end, the manager should consider the following:

* Use of Stimulants

No, I am not suggesting the use of narcotics in the work place, other than a good strong cup of coffee (the rocket fuel of industry). However, you want to create an environment that appeals to the human senses, specifically visual, audio, touch, even smell. For example, a well lit and brightly painted room stimulates human senses as opposed to a dark, dull, lackluster room. A painting or office furnishings can add a touch of class and stress the disposition of the office. A calm and quiet office, perhaps with some suitable background music, can help people focus as opposed to a loud and boisterous environment. Ergonomically designed office equipment can have a positive impact on employee behavior. But be careful not to introduce too much comfort as it might put people to sleep. To illustrate, I do not have a problem with hard chairs that force people to sit up and pay attention.

Encourage mental gymnastics during the day. Perhaps some friendly debate or the solving of a problem. It has long been known that puzzles, crosswords, chess and checkers, and the like help stimulate the human brain. Simple, basic social intercourse can work wonders in terms of stimulating the mind.

Consider room temperature; if too warm or too cold, it will become distracting. But keep the room more cool than warm as it forces you to stay awake. Also consider the amount of available oxygen which stimulates the brain.

Another area to review is nutrition. Make sure workers are eating the right foods in the right amount. Large meals tend to put people to sleep immediately afterwards.

Basic exercises can also enhance both physical and mental acuity. Many companies now offer in-house facilities for such programs.

Understand this, employee breaks are not all bad. It gives the worker an opportunity to get away from his work, clear his head, and return with a better focus. Of course, there will be those employees who will abuse this privilege and, because of this, the manager has to constantly monitor the use of breaks.

Ultimately, the corporate culture has a profound effect on the stimulation of workers. If the right environment is established, you can turn lethargic workers into “movers and shakers.”

* Motivate

It is necessary for the manager to encourage workers to rise to a challenge and work harder. To this end, the manager must play the role of Industrial Psychologist to understand what makes people tick, thereby providing the means to motivate them to excel. This can be done with simple praise, rewards, and recognition. It can also be done through constructive criticism. I have seen instances where both a cheerleader approach and a tough taskmaster approach have worked to positive effect. Some people respond to praise, others respond better when their integrity is challenged. Here, the manager has to intuitively know when and where to press the right buttons of his workers.

The manager needs to be able to create a sense of urgency, regardless of the task at hand. This can be done either by carrot or by stick depending on the situation. The worker must understand their work is important and adds value to their life. If they feel their work is irrelevant, then their self-esteem will suffer and they will put forth little effort to achieve anything. One way of implementing this is to empower the workers and make them more personally responsible for their actions and allow them to participate in the decision making process. By creating a sense of ownership, the worker becomes more responsible (and active) in their work effort.

* Avoid Repetition

As indicated earlier, repetition can cause the brain to relax. Because of this, the manager must consider ways to break up the monotony and cause the workers to refocus. Work breaks can break up the tedium, perhaps with some brief physical exercise thrown in. Scheduled breaks are effective but they too can face the problem of repetition; e.g., workers work around anticipated breaks. In contrast, unscheduled breaks often have a better effect as it disrupts worker expectations. Think of it as a game of “Musical Chairs.”

Sometimes a simple change of scenery can help break up repetition. Instead of meeting at the same place over and over again, try a different physical venue to perk up worker interest.

* Health

Regardless of how logical we believe we are, the brain is a physical organ greatly influenced by human health. If we are sick or in distress (perhaps due to the death of a loved one, a pending divorce, financial problems, etc.), it is difficult to focus on our work. The manager should monitor worker mental/physical health and take corrective action. For example, if someone is sick, get them to a doctor so they can begin to mend and become productive again. Further, the last thing you need is for someone to infect the rest of your workers with a contagious disease (e.g., colds, flu, etc.).

The manager should also look for sleep deprivation in workers and counsel them accordingly. A tired worker will not engage his brain properly. Further, look for signs of drug abuse and depression that might have an adverse effect on their work.

* Minimize Distractions

One of the manager’s responsibilities is to monitor the surroundings of the worker in order to minimize distractions and create a suitable environment to concentrate on their work assignments. To assist in this regards, a Project Management system is useful to record both direct and indirect activities. By doing so, the manager can analyze the causes of worker distractions, plot trends, and take appropriate action to minimize interference. For example, if a manager detects excessive use of the telephone, he may devise a policy to arrest the abuse. He may even go so far as to hold all outgoing calls.

The point is, the manager should constantly monitor and analyze disruptions and distractions so that workers can concentrate on their work effort.

* Avoid Technology

A recent study was performed by Kings College in London for Hewlett Packard, the purpose of which was to study the effect of technology on worker performance. According to Dr. Glenn Wilson, the author of the study:

“Results showed clearly that technological distraction diminished IQ test performance (mean scores dropped from 143.38 achieved under quiet conditions to 132.75 under ‘noisy’ conditions).”

“The impact of distraction was greater for males (145.50 down to 127) than for females (141.25 down to 138.50). Putting that another way, males were superior in quiet conditions, females were superior in the distraction condition. This is consistent with the idea that women are better than men at ‘multi-tasking’.”

“Noisy conditions caused a striking increase in self-reported stress. Ratings on a 0-10 scale of ‘stress experienced during the test’ increased from 2.75 to 5.5 for males and 4.75 to 6.75 for females. Note that in addition to the main effect of conditions of testing, women reported higher stress levels than men overall.”

Basically, Wilson’s study is saying that excessive use of technology can have an adverse effect on a person’s brain power. This is somewhat disturbing as technology now permeates our society. As an example, while traveling through the airports recently I observed the majority of my fellow travelers “tuned out” by technology. The lion’s share of travelers today make active use of iPods, PDA’s, cell phones, DVD & CD players, and laptop computers. It seems fewer and fewer travelers read a book or engage in conversation anymore. In other words, most travelers today are operating at a Level 2.

If Wilson is correct, and I believe he is, the manager should take notice of this adverse effect of technology and discourage the use of such devices, particularly at break time, and encourage more interpersonal contact instead. Technology has its place, but I tend to believe we rely too heavily on it. For example, using an automated calculator allows our brain to relax while the machine performs the math. Too often I have seen people reach for a calculator to perform a simple computation as opposed to working it out with paper and pencil. They simply do not want to engage their brains. Further, I have seen whole engineering departments come to a standstill when power outages brought their computers down. Do they really lack the skills to continue their work? Not really; their minds have simply been turned off by the technology.

CONCLUSION

The human brain distinguishes us from the rest of God’s creatures. It is sad when we do not use it to its full potential. How the brain shifts between Levels 1-2-3 is something we control ourselves. We can elect to engage it and aspire to achieve, or not to engage it and become lazy and complacent. It can also be engaged due to circumstances and affected by others, such as our friends, family, fellow workers and manager.

How a manager manipulates his worker’s brain power is analogous to a mechanic fine-tuning an automobile. He is simply trying to get the most out of it. Hopefully, we can give the mechanic something to work with; if not, we’ll be scrapped.

“The more you use your brain, the more brain you will have to use.”
– George Dorsey

“If the mind really is the finest computer, then there are a lot of people out there who need to be rebooted.”
– Bryce’s Law

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

VONAGE WORLD MOBILE – VoIP TO GO

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 22, 2010

For a long time, one of the dreams of the VoIP industry (Voice over Internet Protocol) is to have a portable device to place telephone calls over the Internet. I started to see some VoIP enabled mobile phones a couple of years ago but it seemed slow to catch on. Recently though, I took a test drive of the new Vonage World Mobile offering which was announced last December. At first, I thought it was going to be a hardware solution as most VoIP enabled services, including Vonage’s home service, requires an adapter between a modem and the telephone. Interestingly, this was not the case with Vonage World Mobile which is an interesting software implementation made available as an “app” for download to either a Blackberry, iPhone, or iPod (I tried it on a Touch 2). These units are Wi-Fi enabled and can connect to local hot spots, such as your home or business, a library, hotel, school, airport, a cafe or restaurant, anywhere Wi-Fi is enabled which seems to be just about everywhere these days (including my auto mechanic’s shop).

Once you are connected to the network, you are then free to call anyone in 60 countries for just under $25 a month, including land lines and mobile phones. At first, I thought Vonage World Mobile was nothing more than competition to Skype’s VoIP mobile offering, but I quickly discovered there was one significant difference between the two; whereas Skype offers free unlimited calling between Skype subscribers (Skype-to-Skype users) coupled with a low cost connection fee to regular telephones, Vonage on the other hand offers unlimited service to all telephones, not just to subscribers. This is a bit mind-boggling to anyone familiar with VoIP and general telephone services.

Actually, there are two plans offered by Vonage, an unlimited plan as mentioned above, and a “Pay Per Use” plan which offers unlimited service in the United States and a low connection fee for international calls. For example, calls to land lines in Japan is just $0.023/minute and $0.160/minute to mobile phones. You simply charge your account with a small amount of money which is deducted as you incur costs. Either plan is more than reasonable and ultimately depends on your personal communications needs.

As mentioned, the Vonage “app” is available as a free download either from the Vonage site or the iTunes App store. After your mobile device is started, you just select the Vonage app icon and the program starts accordingly. The first thing it looks for is an available Wi-Fi network to connect to. If multiple networks are available, you can select from a list. Once connected, you are presented with a familiar looking touch pad to enter numbers and place calls. Frankly, I found it easier to use than my regular cell phone.

I placed a few calls to different locales, some locally, a few around the country, and one to a business acquaintance in Japan. The audio quality was excellent, both sending and receiving. My contacts said they had no trouble hearing me and that it was a clear signal. In addition to the keypad, Vonage provides a menu of items for you to adjust your account as required, review your calling history, and access help if necessary. It was all rather simple and intuitive to use.

Vonage World Mobile is excellent for what it is intended to do, namely call just about anywhere and talk for as long as you want. However, this should not be mistaken as a total replacement for cell phones. There are, of course, certain limitations. For example, with the iPod Touch version, you are restricted to Wi-Fi connectivity which means you won’t be using it to call anybody as you drive around in your car (which, to my way of thinking, isn’t exactly a bad thing). However, the iPhone and Blackberry versions work off cellular networks as well. Also, you can place calls, but you cannot receive them, which explains why there isn’t a Voice Mail box to collect calls when the unit is turned off. I’m sure the people at Vonage are working on something for this.

This brings up an important point, who would want to use Vonage World Mobile? It is more conducive for long distance calling as opposed to casual local calling (although it can, of course, accommodate both). Rather, I see this as an invaluable tool for business people and travelers who need to call home or their businesses. It would also seem like a natural for military personnel stationed overseas. If you are tired of being nickeled and dimed to death on minutes, now you can now talk for as long as you like from just about anywhere you like. It’s perfect for long and engaging chats to friends and family, as well as discussing business at length. The savings in communications costs is simply staggering.

Vonage’s decision to use iPods, iPhones, and Blackberries as their target platforms is rather shrewd as there are millions of units already sold, thereby enabling a ready-made market. Such users tend to be more technology savvy and would be more inclined to try Vonage World Mobile.

For MS Windows and MAC users who travel with their laptops, there is also the Vonage Pro Plan, a separate offering, which enables VoIP communications.

The company’s foray into low cost VoIP service, both at home and now wireless, suggests Vonage is aggressively trying to dominate the resident VoIP market. And at the rate they are going, I don’t see how anyone will be able to stop them.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Communications, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

DOING WHAT IS RIGHT

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 19, 2010

As we grow up, we are taught the difference between right and wrong. Even in the absence of effective parenting, a growing problem in this day and age, children look to schools, their religious institutions, their clubs and peers, and the media for answers. Teachers are typically overburdened, attendance at church has diminished to approximately 40% of the populace, the media is more inclined to promote sex and violence as opposed to morality, and there is a steady resurgence of juvenile gang related problems in recent years. It’s not until we are older, and more mature, when the difference is made clear to us. Even then, it remains fuzzy to some of us.

I’m not here to preach dogma, only to try and articulate how we learn the differences between the two. Perhaps the most influential philosophy in this regards is “The Golden Rule” whereby we are admonished to “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” This is a fundamental part of modern human rights and a philosophy embraced by all religions. Yet, it is something we have moved away from in recent times as people have become more self-centered due to socioeconomic influences; e.g., greed and competition.

In the corporate world, for example, there is more of an inclination to establish “Win-Lose” relationships as opposed to “Win-Win,” as professed by the late quality assurance consultant W. Edwards Deming. Under “Win-Lose,” in order for one party to succeed, another party must fail. Deming challenged this rationale and questioned what is wrong with establishing “Win-Win” relationships whereby both parties succeed. He often cited the story of the project to make NYLON, the well known synthetic polymer, which was developed by two groups working in cooperation, one from New York (NY) and another from London (LON), hence the name. Joining forces, was simply the right thing to do.

Pursuant to Deming’s work, I have learned that the only type of business deal to enter into is a situation where both parties benefit, not just one. If one party prospers at the expense of the other, it is simply not worth it. Consequently, integrity and trust are key elements for “Win-Win,” two important socialization skills that seem to be diminishing. There is nothing wrong with tough negotiations, but when a deal is struck, you must have confidence that the other party if going to uphold their end of the bargain.

Doing the right thing is not always easy; in fact, it can be rather painful which is one reason why some people avoid it and take the most expeditious way out. For example, people would rather find a loophole than pay a creditor what is rightfully due them. Doing what is right isn’t always profitable either, as we discovered when we made the decision to move our business from Cincinnati, Ohio to the Tampa Bay area of Florida. At the time, we had several employees and when we finally made the decision to move the company, we offered them two choices, either we would help them find a new job locally or pay their relocation expenses to Florida. Keep in mind, we were not required to do either, but felt it was the right thing to do. Economically, it would have been cheaper to terminate everyone and recruit new personnel in Florida, but this was not the route we took. From this perspective, doing “right” means accommodating others, not just yourself.

Doing what is right requires moral fiber which comes from learned behavior. In the absence of parenting and formal teachings, it is learned through the social mores of the people we come in contact with, regardless if they are positive or negative role models. In other words, in order to adapt to a social group, be it a vicious gang or a Cub Scout pack, we will gravitate towards and emulate those we perceive as confident leaders or those with particular talents we admire, hence the need for positive role models. This also means the media has a moral responsibility to our culture. If they depict unsavory characters with questionable moral integrity in a favorable light, the actions of these characters will be envied and emulated. Yes, life can definitely imitate art.

So, is doing the right thing “right” for you? That depends on your perceptions and priorities. Understand this though, doing what is right is more than just adhering to the legal laws of the land. It’s also a matter of adhering to the moral values you have personally adopted. Now for the big question, how does your morality compare to what society expects; is it better, worse, or nothing more than the status quo? Hopefully, it is better. Doing “right” requires perseverance and an intolerance for what is “wrong.” Bottom line, can you look yourself in the mirror with any regrets?

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Life, Morality | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE DIGITAL PANDEMIC (Book Review)

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 17, 2010

As someone who has written on the “Adverse Effects of Technology,” my interests were recently piqued by a new book entitled, “The Digital Pandemic” by Mack R. Hicks, Ph.D. (New Horizon Press), a fascinating thesis on the effect of technology on our youth. So much so, I believe it should be considered mandatory reading for everyone involved with PTA and school SAC programs. The premise behind Dr. Hicks’ book is that technology has an addictive quality to it which will have long-term adverse effects on our culture.

The book includes statistics demonstrating the pervasiveness of technology. For example, he points out 97% of twelve to 17 year-olds play video games, a third of which play adult games. This may not be startling to those of us who already guessed it but, as a noted psychologist and educator, he goes on to describe how it physically affects human thinking patterns. There have been plenty of such studies to indicate the adverse affect of technology, such as the King’s College London University study by Dr. Glenn Wilson which found that workers distracted by technology suffer a greater loss of IQ than if they’d smoked marijuana, but Hicks’ work goes further to demonstrate how technology alters the minds of impressionable youth. Further, they begin to exhibit the same robotic mannerisms of the technology they use which is not conducive for grooming socialization skills. Hicks basically argues that technology is a genuine threat to the human spirit. Such a claim should sound warning bells to parents as well as business people who will have to deal with these youngsters in the years ahead. He writes:

“This whole electronic revolution, with its emphasis on generational differences, is reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s, but this time the goal isn’t peace and love as much as unfettered, self-directed pleasure (and learning?). Well, if you’re a kid and you don’t trust adults, it’s likely you’re headed for trouble, big time.”

Hicks stresses the need for effective mentoring and parenting, something which may sound reminiscent of a bygone era. Aside from simply describing the problem, he goes on to offer pragmatic suggestions for parents, kids, and schools to help curb technology addiction. He devotes a whole chapter (17) to “Suggestions for Inoculating the Family,” as well as “Suggestions for Schools” in the Appendix.

The adverse effects of technology is a bona fide problem, and I, for one, applaud Dr. Hicks’ initiative for bringing this to the attention for all of us. As he writes, “If the growing epidemic of machines infests us all, I believe we’ll lose our humanity.”

Hicks’ work basically confirms one of our Bryce’s Laws, whereas: “As the use of technology increases, social skills decrease.”

“Digital Pandemic” by Mack R. Hicks, Ph.D.
List: $14.95
Printed 2010
http://digitalpandemic.info/ISBN-13: 978-0-88282-315-7
ISBN-10: 0-88282-315-9
New Horizon Press Books
Available at:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Borders

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see: http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Books, Computers, Family, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE AMERICAN CHARACTER

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 15, 2010

When an American travels overseas he becomes an ambassador of our country, whether he is aware of it or not. This became apparent to me when I started visiting foreign clients. Just about everyone I have met overseas wants to know about American interests, the mood of the country, and our politics. In general, there is contempt for our government and genuine concern for the spirit and well-being of the American people. However, it strikes me the character of the country overall is undergoing a transformation. Years ago, if you were to ask people abroad to describe our country, you might hear something like, “The land of opportunity” or “The land of the free and home of the brave”; that we possess a pioneering spirit and “can do” mentality; that we are the land of plenty, the world’s breadbasket, an economic engine, the chief exporter, a melting pot, and leaders of the free world. All of these descriptors are generally regarded as complimentary, something we are all rather proud of and yet the cause of envy and scorn to our detractors.

Consider some of our more inspirational icons for a moment. Do the presidential figures carved on Mt. Rushmore truly depict the current sense of our national strength, wisdom and vision? Does the Statue of Liberty embody our current policies of immigration and hope? Do we still enjoy the same freedoms and independence as represented by the Liberty Bell? Are we still as united as the American Flag is supposed to represent? Not by a long shot. Our character has quietly changed over the years.

Character is typically defined by such things as pride, integrity, honor, spirit and resolve. It is shaped by socioeconomic conditions, leadership, and management. Unfortunately, the 21st century is off to a bad start, plus we have elected lawyers to lead us and allowed the media to guide us, and when it comes to management, is anyone truly happy with the state of our government? It is no small wonder the character of the country has changed.

I think we all know deep-down we are an imperfect society and have our own unique set of problems. Regrettably, people, both internally and externally, no longer see America in the same light as before. Now we are characterized as greedy and self-centered. We are also recognized as the world’s policeman, a burden we assumed following World War II, a position previously held by other civilizations, such as ancient Rome and Great Britain. In addition, America is regarded as the land of civil rights and political correctness. Unfortunately, we are perceived as the land of facade as opposed to substance. For example, we are now better known for the glamour and glitz of Hollywood as opposed to being captains of industry. Our credibility has been decimated by such things as the near collapse of our banking and auto industries, an eroding infrastructure, and our transportation systems which seem archaic when compared to their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

More disturbing, America is now seen as a battleground for class warfare between the have’s and have-not’s, thereby being forced to make an ideological choice between socialism and capitalism. Consequently, the government suffers from polarization and gridlock due to political wrangling, and the demeanor of the citizens, in turn, grows impatient.

Finally, America is perceived as a Godless and immoral country being strangled by too many rights and laws. Do we really need to legislate everything? When we have to put labels on packs of hot dogs to warn people they might cause choking, maybe we have gone too far. I, for one, am tired of the dumbing down of America.

Perhaps the best adjective to describe America today is “enigma” –

* On the one hand, when havoc strikes in a foreign land, the first country they call on for help is America. Yet, the USA seems to have trouble accommodating the needs of its own citizens. It seems rather odd America can rebuild roads and bridges in Iraq and Haiti faster than within its own borders.

* When hostilities arise between countries, America is summoned to quell the problem either through diplomacy or military intervention. Regardless of the outcome though, we are criticized by the world community for either doing too little or too much. Our enemies understand with perfect clarity that we are restrained by our rights and laws and plays the game accordingly. Consequently, America has to always fight with one hand tied behind its back.

* Regardless of our politics, America is still the place people want to come to, not run away from. Interestingly, we allow people to abuse the system even if they enter the country illegally.

I am always encouraged when I listen to some of our younger people, particularly those in uniform who have been abroad, and understand how great America once was and could be again, but they are also aware of its frailties. They adamantly do not want to see it fail during their watch, yet are at a loss as to how to prevent it.

Years ago, Laurence M. Gould, the President Emeritus of Carleton College said in a commencement address, “I do not believe the greatest threat to our future is from bombs or guided missiles. I don’t think our civilization will die that way. I think it will die when we no longer care. Arnold Toynbee has pointed out that 19 of 21 civilizations have died from within and not from without. There were no bands playing and flags waving when these civilizations decayed. It happened slowly, in the quiet and the dark when no one was aware.”

America gives the impression of being as confused as a punch-drunk fighter staggering around the ring, bobbing and ducking at shadows, swinging at things that do not exist, tired and confused. It hardly looks like the fresh boxer who entered the ring over 200 years ago. It’s either time for some smelling salts and attitude readjustment, or face the consequences.

I, for one, would like to believe we can do better.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE AS*HOLEMETER

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 12, 2010

As many of you may remember, I wrote a paper a few years ago entitled, “Homo Sapien Asshole,” (HSA) which was a clinical explanation as to why people act in strange ways. As I noted in my thesis, we all become HSA’s at different points in our lives. The study of this phenomenon has been a pet project of mine for a number of years. So much so, I have been keeping track of the number of HSA’s I encounter during the average day, which is seven, regardless if it is a business day or weekend. I suspect the average is higher for people living and working in larger metropolitan areas. You also have to remember I work in a small company located only a few miles from my home, so my exposure to HSA’s is much less than what you might find in Manhattan for example.

For a long time I kept track of these statistics manually and learned to classify the various HSA’s by their nuances, such as their driving habits, behavior in group settings, language, dress, and general deportment in public. As a systems man, it occurred to me I could create a device to detect and statistically track the number of HSA’s I encountered, hence I introduce you to…

“THE ASSHOLEMETER” ™ (pronounced “ass-hall-au-met-er”) – a powerful new tool for detecting HSA’s. It’s modeled after today’s handheld radar devices as used by law enforcement personnel and baseball scouts, except it can be used by anyone. Perhaps the best way to think of it is as a sort of “gaydar” on steroids. However, it doesn’t judge people by race, age, gender, or social standing; only if the person is an asshole.

At the heart of the Assholemeter is a powerful preprogrammed microprocessor linked to special sensors to detect such things as motion, sound, temperature, and surrounding technology. It is programmed to detect erroneous perceptions, sensory deprivation, changes in noise levels, wavering speech patterns and slang, brain wave activity, heart rates and the active use of technological devices such as cell phones, portable media players, and computers. In addition, there is a module included for statistical analysis. A handy USB port is also provided to download data for use in spreadsheets. The unit sits comfortably in a handsome holster making it convenient for use in supermarkets, on the road, airports, or anywhere.

A small statistical display is included in the handset. The unit also makes a pulsating high frequency squeal, audible to ordinary people and canines, thereby alerting everyone to the presence of a HSA.

The Assholemeter impressed me in field tests. For example,

* I discovered sharp increases in HSA behavior during commuter rush hour traffic as opposed to the open road. It also detected increases in people driving while talking on cell phones or having an excessive number of bumper stickers on their car.

* It clearly delineated HSA behavior in large crowd settings, such as at stadiums, arenas and outdoor events. As an aside, it went bananas at flea markets and monster truck rallies. It also distinguished HSA’s at airports, and on virtually any kind of public transportation, including subways, trains and buses.

* In office settings, it detected innocuous meetings, slimy salesmen, time wasters, and overbearing bosses. It includes a “Peter Principle” function to detect people rising above their level of competency. There is also a special detection setting for bankers, lawyers, realtors, and insurance agents.

* The device seems to peak late at night or on weekends after people had a few drinks. I had no problem finding drinking establishments featuring “Ladies Nights” and two-for-one specials.

* Interestingly, its “spin detector” feature works on the news media where I used it to scan newspapers and television programs.

* Last, but certainly not least, it went off the Richter Scale when I pointed it in the direction of Washington, DC or any local government building.

I see this as a useful tool for preventing personal injuries from obnoxious HSA’s. It won’t fight your battles for you, but you will see your nemesis coming from a mile away. Airport and airline personnel will find it invaluable in terms of detecting terrorists and annoying passengers. Imagine the orders from truck drivers alone where they can now easily traverse the highways and make their deliveries on schedule. It should also be considered mandatory at voting precincts, political party rallies, press conferences, and for watching television news. Quite frankly, the potential is limitless.

So, be the first on your block to order the new Assholemeter and impress your friends. We are also working on two new smaller models to either fit in your pocket or clip on to your glasses or hat. It’s a great gift idea for National HSA Day (which seems to be celebrated everyday now). Patent pending.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Society | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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