Friday, April 30, 2010


Life is busy and we fill it up with all kinds of things. Some things are better time investments than others, but who have you worked with that isn't busy? The bigger question to ask ourselves is whether or not we are being productive. Let's note that productive can take many forms. The most obvious is rooted in the word itself--producing a product. This product may be exemplar lessons for other teachers, great learning experiences for students, or curriculum documents. It might also take less tangible forms through leadership and the positive influence on colleagues. Being productive means contributing to your community and making it better for everyone--students and colleagues. It isn't about you...or me.

When we become so busy that we are just trying to survive, we become inward focused. We stop turning outwards and contributing to the community. We can easily become self-absorbed and focused only on our own little sphere of our work. It's not intentional, but it's a human coping and survival mechanism.

So we need margins. Margins are that lag time so that every minute of every day isn't filled up. It leaves us open to get involved and invest in our community. It's part of a healthy life, healthy organization, and a sustainable pace in the organization. It's not necessarily a new idea. It is one that I've been thinking a lot about lately. Andy Stanley has spoken articulately about this idea and Leo Babauta touches the idea in many of his posts, particularly a recent one on Frictionless Work.

If you don't have any margins, take some time to reflect and see what you can do to create some. We all need them. And the organization, the community, and our families suffer if we don't. How about you? Any suggestions that you wish to share with others on how to successfully create or sustain margins?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gamechanger or Hype?

Yes, I'm sticking my neck out and weighing in. Why not? It seems like everyone else has. I'm not sure how anyone that reads the news could miss the articles on the introduction of the iPad. Many critics and many advocates have voiced their perspectives. So my perspective...

It's a gamechanger. I've read Michael Hyatt's post which he talks about it being a luxury. A colleague commented the same thing this week. This comment is spot on. If one thinks the iPad will replace their laptop, s/he is dead wrong. It's not just an iPhone with a big screen either. Yes, it's a great ebook reader but that's not gamechanging. So what, it's color. That's just an upgrade from some of the others.

As I have read so many of the comments and articles both pro and con, I have drawn the conclusion that many people on both sides of the product reviews have missed it. When asked about it, a professional presenter at a recent conference said people just don't get it. I think he's right. I'm not sure I really get it either, but maybe this falls in the category of knowing what I don't know. When I was debating between an iPhone and a Blackberry, I read a review that said the individual using the iPhone felt like he was using a phone for 2012 or 2014 rather than a phone for 2010 with the Blackberry. I think this offhanded comment may hold a lot of truth. Apple has historically ignored some of the criticism and negative feedback on products they put out initially. Some speculation for this and my personal belief is that these products are designed for what people will want/need in the future--2-3 years down the road. The success of their products in recent years may well prove that they are producing valid products that do meet consumer approval. The current paradigm doesn't always fit this product they put out, regardless of whether it is an iPhone or iPad or whatever. And they are okay with that because they are working into the future and pushing the envelop of what's possible, feasible, and useful. It is an edgy and provocative place to release products and be a successful company. Ultimately, much of Apple's success comes from their ability to get the user interface right in these products.

People commonly translate what they know to a new gadget or tool. I believe the iPad opens the door to transformation. It is a total paradigm shift that goes beyond simple tweaks. It's a new way of thinking. The iPhone was a stepping stone. However, a new generation of apps will open up that the iPhone could never handle. The gamechanging power of the iPad is not in the gadget but rather the platform that opens a new world of opportunity. I remember seeing a TV advertisement for the iPhone that said there was an app for everything. I kind of laughed at the exaggeration. However, an app does appears to exist for nearly everything. You can scan barcodes to find the cheapest prices of products while at the grocery store, wake up at the best time according to your sleep patterns, and even plan your family based on the most likely times of the month to conceive a child. It is absurd how many apps are out there.

The iPad taps into a mobile device market that is just blossoming right now and provides the platform for...well...whatever you want to do. (If you want more info on this subject, read the NMC's Horizon Report.) Don't get me wrong; it's not the end all. However, it is a gamechanging device which embraces transformation, not just a translation. Just a couple embracing media in a new way, I predict will begin seeing ebooks produced for the iPad that go beyond text on a screen. It may be text, images, videos, hyperlinked text, etc. that extends well beyond the current paradigm of book reading. If embraced by publishers, it could hugely impact digital textbooks which in my opinion have struggled to find great success and widespread use. The uses in classrooms are numerous. As a matter of fact, that again reinforces the provides the platform for transformation. Ultimately, we will see uses that we never imagined for it. So, right or wrong...gamechanger.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Doing it better

During the recent Apple training I attended, Rebecca Stockley facilitated several of the meetings. She is an improvisation specialist and helped facilitate the meeting times, encouraging the flow and collaboration. She has worked extensively with Pixar. When asked about her experience at Pixar, she said a key to their success is the philosophy...

If it worked the first time, don't do it again. Do it better.

It is integrated in their organizational culture. If they don't push the envelope to get better, they will not stay on top. It sounds very similar to Thomas Friedman (note this is a loose paraphrase by memory) when he says the question is not whether or not your product will become obsolete. Everything becomes obsolete. At this point, it is more a question of whether you will make it obsolete or someone else will.

So there is something to be said for going beyond the status quo. What is the motivation and what does success look like? I think the "why" is a critical component. Why do you seek to be better? Why do you seek to be the best? As we invest in our organizations and set priorities, the why is a pivotal key to defining success. We need to stay focused on pursuing goals for the right reasons or it is easy to get sidetracked and "busy" without substance to our work.