Do You Want To Be Smarter?

I was heading to the mountains this past weekend and I didn’t want to listen to music the entire time so I was going to download some podcasts.  But where do you look for interesting podcasts?  Doing a Google  search, the seventh or eighth down the list caught my eye, none other than Seth Godin recommended a site. If he likes it I’ll probably love it.

When I first went to Radio Lab I didn’t know what to think, but if Seth liked it then I’m sure there’s something here worth listening to.  I downloaded a few FREE podcasts, put them on my iPod and never thought of it until we put it on in the car.  Wow, this was different, not your regular podcast.  They asked weird questions, provided entertaining commentary, and you learned in the short time it took to listen to them.

Listening to educational podcasts can seem quite geeky but I assure you it’s not (I keep telling myself it isn’t).  Try an audio book in the car or for you lovers of education, iTunes offers a free podcast downloading centre called iTunes U.  Here’s a list of the top 100 podcasts from the most prestigious schools in the World.

If you hate reading then listening to books and podcasts is a great option.  In the car makes sense because you were just going to listen to music anyway.  And the last one is at the gym, why not give your mind a workout while giving your body one? Boom.

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How Do You Save a Neighborhood?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, he talks about how New York reduced it’s crime rate by a substantial amount in the 1990’s by implementing some simple yet very powerful tactics.  One of those was to keep the Subways clean.  Based on the concept developed by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in a 1982 article titled Broken Windows, by eliminating the small offenses (such as a broken window) it is much more difficult to commit the larger more serious ones.

In January of 2007 Maclean’s magazine wrote an article titled Canada’s Worst Neighborhood which described the North Central Regina neighborhood.  Since then many changes have come about for the better but there is still much work to be done.  Here’s my thought experiment for the day, it’s now your job to let me know if it’s feasible or not.

  1. High school kids are looking for jobs
  2. Neighborhoods need work to be done but the majority of home owners can not afford to pay professionals
  3. Considering the broken window theory, if we made neighborhoods look good they would be less prone to serious crime

If someone started a non-profit organization supported by the city or donations, these low skilled laborers could learn to paint, fix fencing, basic landscaping, simple carpentry, and gardening.  Having these teams of workers going from yard to yard throughout the central area for the two summer months could help immensely in the long run.  Ensuring the work was of a certain standard these mobile work camps would provide jobs, teach teens new skills, and help our communities where they need it most.  The only thing missing is someone to start and run this program.  Thoughts?

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No Billboards, only Snowboards: A Lesson in Marketing

My roommate went out the other day and came back with an expensive pair of snowboard boots. When I asked the price, it took me back a bit so I inquired if he had shopped around at all, he said, “No I just went to Offaxis, why would I shop around?”

He could have purchased snowboard boots online for a quarter of the price. He still could have shopped around Regina and found a better deal. He could have saved up to $200 somewhere else on a different pair but didn’t. I believe I would call this a loyal customer.

At first it surprised me, but when you think of Offaxis and their business model it makes perfect sense. Build a store that sells merchandise for snow, wake and skateboarding then host events that celebrate those sports in an extreme fashion (Summer Invasion, JibFest).

It’s not a regular business model and that’s why it works.  They don’t tell us to like them, they give us a reason to like them and be a part of the sports we already love.  They started a “tribe” of their own.  Offaxis puts the time and effort into events that showcase their business, in return they get the trust of anyone who’s directly involved with them and that creates a loyal customer.

Sometimes the best marketing plan is a great business strategy.

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University of the Future

In University I took Business, when I began six years ago there were mandatory courses and there are still mandatory courses.  My problem isn’t with having classes mandatory but the fact that the courses I had to take six years ago are still the same courses new students have to take today.  Recently I discovered that the Business faculty does a curriculum review every five years, in a World where information changes daily you’d think the institution that is responsible for our “brilliant” business minds would adapt.  They don’t.

Instead of complaining about how I think the University should be ran, lets start small and brain storm the first five classes any student should have to take.  As of now, in your first year of almost any degree you must take psychology, a math, english, a social science and computer science (give or take a class or two this is what first years are forced to take).  What if those were changed to a different five?  A better, more relevant five?

We go to University to get jobs in the real World, shouldn’t the real World have a say in what we learn?  How about we vote on it, alumni that are prominent leaders in the real world should have a good idea what you need to learn.  How about all the alumni from the past ten years vote, what would they pick?

Obviously this would never happen but what if the University gave up control of just five classes and let a vote take place?  I think it would make the students happy and the future employers as well.  But wait!  The administration and professors are now unhappy.  At the end of the day who is University trying to please?  The administration or the students?

Here’s my list of Classes:

Critical thinking – put into situations where students must find a solution.

Teamwork – “People” skills are valued very highly among employers but we never really focus on it.

Attitude – The most important attribute of any potential employee.

Technology – From the internet to the iphone everything they need to know about the tech world.

Giving back – At the end of most motivational books about how to get the most out of life it almost always comes back to giving back and helping the less fortunate.  If this will end up being one of the most important aspects of our lives why aren’t our “prestigious” Universities teaching more about it?

What do you think?  I know this isn’t the perfect solution but our University system is flawed and I’d like to see a change.

Please leave you comments below.

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A Cinderella Story

A good friend of mine’s Father taught at the University of Regina, Al Derges was one of the best professors, ever.  You can even see for yourself here, an almost perfect rating on RateMyProffesors.com.  My time spent at University had very few memorable classes to say the least, but Al had more than one exceptional class and this one had some significance for me recently.

Pygmalian in Management was a Harvard Business Review article we were to read and write a response to.  It’s a great story and I encourage you to read it but the moral is “a manager’s expectations are the key to a subordinate’s performance and development.”

What we expect out of people is usually what we get.

I coach volleyball, high school senior boys.  When I go into a season I expect the best from them, nothing less.  This year we began the season with only one returning player, so we were a very young team, if not the youngest in the league.  Rebuilding year everyone thought, I’m sure even some of the players had thought that as well, but not the coaches.  The head coach and I decided that we were going to set goals as a team this year and expect nothing less but 105% of effort to get there.

Our season was far from perfect, finishing fourth place over all, we went into quarter finals as slightly favored to win, we did.  Semi finals we were under dogs, we won.  Finally we made it to the city final, fourth place up against the first place team.  The team knew what us coaches expected out of them even though we were a long shot to win.

On the back of our team room, sticky tact to the door resides a piece of paper stating our goals, one of which was to win city finals.  We did.  Even losing the first set and coming back from a deficit of six to one in the final set, our expectation of the team to do better than anyone else would expect won us a championship.  I don’t take credit for the win and it probably was a host of other reason WHY we won but I am positive that we never would have got anywhere if we didn’t have such high expectations of the team.

The next time your staff underperforms or you’re looking at how to motivate someone, maybe try inspiring them to outperform with an unbelievably high expectation.

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How To: Get Me to Hate Your Organization

Last Saturday morning I was woken at 9:45 by my doorbell.  No one comes to our house that early, it could be an emergency I thought to myself, so I staggered out of my room.  My room mate, in the same state (squinting eyes, wearing the pants from last night) was a step a head of me and opened the door.  To our dismay we found no one, just a little, old man leaving the yard going to the neighbors house.  We thought nothing of it except for how mad we were at this little, old man that got us with the ol’ ring and run trick.  Back to sleep.

Two and a half hours later I finally woke from my sleep and decided to check the temperature before I left the house.  Standing on the front porch something in the mailbox caught my eye, it was a “Heaven, how do I get there?” pamphlet.  The little, old man didn’t ring and run our house for nothing, he woke us up to ensure we got this pamphlet in time.  I think you understand the title for this post now.

Heaven’s a touchy subject, but I think Church is great, I try to go as much as I can and this has nothing to do with Church in general.  This has to do with the specific Church that lets this little, old man walk around neighborhoods ringing doorbells to try and get their message across.  Let’s think about this for a minute, how many people will answer the door, find that there’s no one there but grab the pamphlet that was left behind and say “You know I have been wondering for a while, how DO I get to Heaven?”  I’d be willing to bet no one.

So why ring the door bell?  The pamphlet isn’t time sensitive, I don’t need to read it immediately do I?  What ever happened to mail delivery etiquette and just leaving it in the box that it was intended for?  If your message is a difficult one to get across you may not want to piss people off before you tell them.

So do you want to know how to make me hate your organization no matter who you are?  Wake me up on a weekend to tell me your message, I guarantee I will hate you.

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