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Archive for February, 2017

After a Hard Day’s Work – Go Home Feeling Rejuvenated

The other day, I was chatting with a business associate, and he started talking about his daughter’s internship and how much she was enjoying her job. The company she works for (Happy Melly) helps businesses find happiness in the workplace. I later went to their website, read some of their blogs and listened to a few podcasts. What an interesting concept!

Employers and employees are so caught up in getting the job done, that they lose focus on what is important – enjoying life. Happy Melly shares stories of how people are becoming happier, more engaged and more productive at work.

Here are some thoughts I had that can be shared with all employees in the workplace:

  • Start of the workday quote
  • Mid-day daily joke
  • Half time intermission – e.g. Play some interactive music or play games such as ping pong, air hockey etc.
  • The 7th inning stretch – e.g. Step away from your office for a late afternoon back stretch

Some phrases from Happy Melly’s podcast:

  • Philosophy and leadership are deeply rooted
  • New ways of approaching business are emerging
  • Working together, we can grow both our collective business objective and our individual ones
  • Work at play and play at work
  • The human project is about making businesses more human
  • We are getting serious about happiness
  • Loving your job becomes the new standard and not the exception

Most mission statements are used to communicate the purpose of an organization. I think every organization should have a mission statement with an ending sentence that also includes achieving happiness for all staff.

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Leadership Training

Many of you must have gone through some leadership training during your career. The experience and effectiveness vary wildly. Sometimes lengthy and expensive training does not generate the desired results. If there is no follow up on the initial training, effectiveness is often low. Experience has proven that taking managers through exercises with some theory before and after generates the best results. The exercises are often remembered and contain good learning elements. The outcome varies based on the instruction, the type of training and the motivation of the group.

I recently attended a leadership training session that involved an outdoor snow exercise. The group was divided into teams of five, and each team had an hour to build a quinzhee. A quinzhee is a shelter carved out of a large pile of snow. Each group received an instruction sheet with the requirements. The team that met the most requirements won the challenge. The space inside the quinzhee had to be large enough to house the group of 5 comfortably for the night. The instructor prepared equal sized piles of snow along with shovels, spades, little rakes and buckets.

As the groups went to work, it was interesting to see the different approaches. One team immediately added more snow to the pile and dug an entrance. Another team took their time reading the instructions and discussed the division of tasks and ideas. One group had to deal with conflicts between members and divisions within the team.

As time progressed, team members started glancing at the competition, and some decided to change their approach. After an hour, the results from each group were very different. Some quinzhees were small, not finished, or collapsed. The instructor evaluated each team on 12 requirements.

The lessons learned from the winning teams were:

  • Take the time to read the instructions (but not too long) carefully
  • Ask questions early on to make sure you understand the requirements
  • Accept a clear leadership structure
  • Discuss capabilities and divide tasks accordingly
  • Evaluate progress regularly and compare with competition
  • Tweak approach where and when it makes sense
  • Check on team members and give support when required
  • Boost the morale with motivational cheers
  • Have a determined approach, not aggressive

The exercise was a good learning experience. It provided new insights but more so confirmed what we already knew. The combination of a physical challenge, a visual result, and a discussion afterward, made for a lasting memory. Furthermore, it proved that good leadership, clear strategy, teamwork, sense of urgency, regular reviews and the right culture make a winning team.

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Self-Driving Cars

Last week my son and I sat down to watch the first Transformers movie. He thought it was so cool to see real cars driving themselves, which made me think of how that might become a reality shortly, minus them turning into robots. Currently, only California, Florida, Nevada, Washington D.C. and Michigan allow the testing of self-driving cars. There are many debates on the pros and cons of such vehicles, and both sides have valid points.

A huge benefit of having self-driving cars would be the reduction of vehicle accidents. This technology could also help millions of people who, for various reasons, are unable to drive. In the United States alone there are roughly 5.5 million car crashes per year, which equals out to about one death every 15 minutes or 88 deaths per day. Out of those accidents, 81% were caused by human error. As many of these accidents are preventable, and an alarming number of them are a result of distracted driving, speeding, failing to follow road laws, or driving while tired, drunk, or under the influence of drugs. If these human errors could be removed from the equation, then we could see fewer accidents and vehicle-related deaths. It is estimated that if 10% of cars on the road were self-driving, then there would be 211,000 fewer crashes and 1,100 lives saved. If that number increased to 20%, then there would be 4,220,000 fewer crashes and 21,700 lives saved. Other benefits of self-driving cars include the reduction of time spent commuting, road congestion, and a substantial decrease in insurance premiums.

To get an idea of how self-driving cars could soon be a reality, Google already has high functioning prototypes driving around the Silicon Valley. These vehicles have successfully driven over 3,200,500 km with only 11 minor accidents. Seven involved another vehicle rear-ending the Google car, two were sideswipes, and one involved another vehicle travelling through a red light. This is very impressive after you factor in that the average motorist drives about 25,000 km a year.

There are some downfalls to self-driving cars, one of which is the most dangerous, the security of the vehicle’s software. The possibility of a car being hacked and taken control of is a very serious and concerning issue, especially when there is so much cyber insecurity. This also spirals into the safety of the user’s privacy, as self-driving cars would rely on collecting and sharing location whereabouts and other data. Another problematic issue involves different weather conditions. Heavy rain can interfere with the car’s roof-mounted laser sensor, and snow-covered roads can affect the vehicle’s cameras. Other concerns include the loss of jobs, such as taxi and freight transport drivers.

 

No one knows if there will be more pros than cons if self-driving cars become a reality but for now, we will all just have to wait and see where the road to self-driving cars leads us.

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