Monday, January 05, 2009

I Can't Think of Anything Else I'd Rather Be Doing

“All glory comes from daring to begin.”
- Eugene Ware


If you’re like me, you go to the typical professional conference and you end up listening to commonsense advice and well-worn platitudes till you want to scream, “Tell me something I don’t already know!”

There’s one conference I attend every year where that does not happen, and that’s because the only speakers are people doing something new and interesting. It’s The Compete Through Service Symposium, put on in November of each year by Dr Steve Brown of the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State.

There were a dozen presentations worth telling you about, but I’ve picked three, ones so good that I followed-up and interviewed the presenters. Today, the first of a three-part series, we begin start with Dr. Gary Bridge, Senior VP with Cisco Systems. He offered a glimpse of how Cisco uses technology internally, which I am guessing is also a glimpse of what will be happening around your office.

It’s about to get cloudy. A new technique that had conference attendees buzzing was the “tag cloud.” You put a document into a free program at tagcloud.com and it returns a cloud of words, out of which, by employing various type sizes, the most common words jump out. (My guess is that this is just a fad; if I’m wrong, this may be the death of the complete sentence.)

The weekend CEO. You’ve heard that expression for second-guessing sports decisions “Monday morning quarterbacking.” Well, second-guessing CEOs is catching on – maybe the parallel to “Monday morning QB” should be “the weekend CEO.” Bridge suggested that the easiest way to find out the negative gossip about your company is to put your company name into Google, followed by the word “sucks.” (He suggested you also try “sux,” because younger generations will save a couple letters wherever they can. Perhaps this suggests that the complete word will be buried next to the complete sentence.)

Doogling. There was a pair of ideas that came out of the Bridge’s presentation that struck me as especially useful and readily implementable. First, Cisco has developed what they call Ciscopedia, where they capture the internal knowledge of their employees. Second, they have what they call Directory 3.0, resembling a corporate version of Facebook, where employees list their preferred ways they be contacted, availability and skills, both at work and outside of it. Bridge explained how the social networking aspect was useful to him when first working on a new client in the casino business: he did a search of Directory 3.0 and discovered an employee who loves poker and recruited that employee to coach him. This ability to do an internal directory search resembles a Google search – a Doogle? – and is something that has to catch on, and once it does, I suspect it will spread to searchable directories of suppliers and customers.

ETC… Bridge also described a technology called “telepresence,” with life-size video images of remote attendees at meetings, and later described how an employee, returning to the office with a Blackberry full of new e-mails, can simply make a throwing motion and that activates the Blackberry to update the desktop computer with the latest emails.

I like to think that such technologies, both useful and playful, will make their way through the economy. And I can only hope that they will help more people feel about their jobs the way Bridge does: When I spoke with him, he summed up his worklife with a remark anyone could aspire to, saying, “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. Every day there something that makes me glad for that day.”

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2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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