Nothing else can do what sleep does

Two of my recent entries (A Working Renaissance and There are two Americas: one is dying and one is ignored) concentrate on the value of of Intellectual Capital. I don’t overtly say it in these entries, but I feel the US economy is very diverse and yet dependent on novel and unique ideas. The US has manufacturing, construction, and farming but so does China. So does Russia. So does Mexico. The US is the best at Intellectual Capital.

So if the US is so dependent on this asset then why do Americans get so little sleep? The answer is mainly culture. But another reason is the positives of sleep are not directly observable. Earlier this year I wrote a three series set on the subject of sleep and work. Those entries are:

And yesterday Leslie Berlin wrote a piece for the NY Times called We’ll Fill This Space, but First a Nap. Here are some of her segments with my opinions:

“WASTE not life,” wrote Benjamin Franklin, patron saint of American entrepreneurs. “In the grave will be sleeping enough.”

Or the new school way of saying it “sleep when you’re dead.” This is very reinforcing in the culture.

Most people, Dr. Ellenbogen says, think of the sleeping brain as similar to a computer that has “gone to sleep” — it does nothing productive. Wrong. Sleep enhances performance, learning and memory. Most unappreciated of all, sleep improves creative ability to generate aha! moments and to uncover novel connections among seemingly unrelated ideas.

Steven P. Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, once defined creativity as “just connecting things.” Sleep assists the brain in flagging unrelated ideas and memories, forging connections among them that increase the odds that a creative idea or insight will surface.

I felt I needed to throw this in since I applaud Apple in other posts for being very good at the Intellectual Capital. Steve Jobs might just be hitting on something regarding sleep, even if it is unintentional.

“Sleep makes a unique contribution,” explains Mark Jung-Beeman, a psychologist at Northwestern University who studies the neural bases of insight and creative cognition.

I like this quote because it reflects something most of us are aware of but never think about. Sleep is so valuable that we will risk one third of our lives to doing it.

In general, people are unaware of sleep’s effects on their performance.

The indirect or unobservable benefits of sleep undercut the importance of it. The success many people attribute to working 20 hour work days actually is in the paradigm of manufacturing and not Intellectual Capital.

In other words, people are more creative after sleep, but they don’t know it.

This lack of awareness makes it hard to identify specific aha! insights that have been prompted by sleep.

Business attitudes toward sleep may be starting to shift. Claire Stapleton, a spokeswoman for Google, says “grassroots” interest in sleep led to an on-campus talk by Sara C. Mednick a napping expert. Google also installed EnergyPods, leather recliners with egglike hoods that block noise and light, for employees to take naps at work.

I enjoy a good nap, but I’m not sure it is something I need to do at work. Getting eight hours a night is a good place to start.

Other Work Related Blogs (2008 edition)

I thought I would bump this up because I added a few blogs I’ve been checking out.

I like to look for other
people that are writing this space. I’m primarily looking for bloggers.
I found several that I will link to on an ongoing basis.

1 = The Economix

Summary (in their words) – Economics doesn’t have to be complicated. It is the study of our lives
— our jobs, our homes, our families and the little decisions we face
every day. Here at Economix, David Leonhardt, Catherine Rampell
and other contributors will analyze the news and use economics as a
framework for thinking about the world. We welcome feedback, at economix@nytimes.com.
Opinion – This blog is very much like what I write about. Probably a little too close. I guess that means I need to concentrate a little more on the work side and less on the economics side. Either way this is a good blog to check out.
Recent Posts

2 = Economist’s View

Summary – Captures an awful lot of economist posts and comments on them. This blog is well circulated and connected.
Opinion – I like this blog as a hub for economics information and opinions. It is nondescript and thorough. The slant tends to be a little more educational in its delivery which is just fine with me.
Recent Posts

3 = Evolving Thoughts blog

Summary (in their words) – This blog is designed evolved to host any random thoughts that
happen to be passing through my forebrain at a given moment. So there
will be errors…
Opinion – I like it as a change of pace blog for me. Gets me thinking about change and adaptation. The posts tend to short and quick with a fair amount of pictures and video mixes in with the text.
Recent Posts

Others that I posted previously (10/27/07) need updating…

A = The Gig

Summary This blog is for Generation Y as they experience the work world.
Opinion
Nadira Hira is covering a group that is mostly ignored in the other
blogs I read regarding work – Generation Y. Which is somewhat ironic
because blogs are a tool of Generation Y. What I really like about her
is that she encapsulates Generation Y. She is young and going after it.
Her writing is unintimidated, relevant, and opinionated. It is a blog I will read frequently.
Recent Posts –


B = The Bing Blog

Summary
Stanley Bing is a Fortune
columnist and best-selling author of business books noted for their
wisdom as well as their sharp, slightly acrid sense of humor. He is
also the only writer on business and the workplace who still puts on a
suit and tie and goes to do battle with the dragons that breathe fire
at corporate America every day. This blog captures what remains of his
brain after it has exploded in all other directions.
Opinion
– The writing style is straight to the point, pull no punches good. It
seems geared toward a male reader, but maybe that is just me. The
website is set up with a lot of information available but not in a
boring way. The tags are great too. There aren’t many adverts either. I
highly recommend this site.
Recent Posts –


A Tale of Two Hotels
What’s your killer quotient? (A vicious little quiz)
It’s Ask Bing time again!
Are you good at giving presentations? A little quiz.
New scientific BS about IQ
The best computer games to play at the office
Doing things we should’t in the office
My six-month eBay chip
Hail to the Chief!
The Pretender

C =  Work in Progress

Summary Lisa Takeuchi Cullen is a New York-based staff writer at Time. She
writes about workplace, business and society trends for the magazine
and Time.com. Of late these trends included snooping bosses, teen interns and cubicles of the future.
Opinion
– Her writing style is similar to mine. We both want to comment on
books, recent news, and our analysis of both. She uses stats to
reinforce one way or another. She provides some advice, but doesn’t
come off as the know it all. I recommend her site (after reading mine)
for general macro level HR issues. The website does have probably one
or two too many adverts and probably should subscribe to the less is
more theory. I do like all the other blogs though.
Recent Posts –

Unbelievable NYT correction
End of Food Week: a Rice-Off!
Eww! Your desk is grosser than the loo
My job is endangered. Is yours?
Trees could do the work of dead-tree journos

D = Train Wreck

Summary Steve Tobak is a marketing consultant and former chip industry
executive. Over more than two decades of management and
behind-the-scenes interaction with high-tech’s elite and their
legendary egos, he has seen a pattern of dysfunctional behavior emerge.
Train Wreck provides irreverent insight into the real inner-workings of
technology companies and their management. When he’s not airing the
industry’s dirty laundry, Steve likes to hang around the house, make
believe he’s working, and drive his wife crazy.
Opinion
– His writing is more like Stanley Bings, but not as in your face. It
appears to be a little generic in topics (qualities of potential
executives and ethics), but it does a good job of going over the topic.
Its a little on the technology side, but not much.
Recent Posts –


Rants
Scandals
Strategy

A Working Renaissance

Sometimes I hate to admit it but I’m like most people. I like to read writings that reinforce my opinion. I don’t do it all the time and I hope because I’m aware of it I do it less. But I can’t fight coincidence. The NY Times ran a piece in their Shifting Careers blog about Patricia Martin. She wrote a book last year called Rengen: The Rise of the Cultural Consumer – and What it Means to your Business.

Ms. Martin shares many of the same opinions as I do about the group that some call Generation Y. She only fuels my optimism in a workplace renaissance. Here is an excerpt from the interview in Shifting Careers:

Q. So what does this Renden person look like?

A. The
RenGen is a psychographic more than a demographic, but when you look at
census figures alone you have this large group of boomers who in their
youth idealistically wanted to change the world, got frustrated and
cashed out. You also have this even larger, rising segment of young
people every bit as idealistic as boomers once were. If you look at a
census table, it looks like a book-ended generation with these two
groups on either end.

As for their characteristics — they are
eco-conscious; they take their cues from nature so they are willing to
accept products that are flawed but authentic rather than slickly
produced and inauthentic. Dove figured this out with the real-women
campaign. They want to make a difference. They want to live many lives.
They don’t want to be told, “You can’t be an architect and a poet.”
They are sensualists. Because they are both idealistic and cynical at
the same time, they have learned to trust what they experience rather
than what experts tell them. That is why design and aesthetics are so
elevated right now.

Q. How will the rise of what you call RenGen affect the way we build our careers?

A.
First of all, I predict that what we will see out of the younger RenGen
is the largest class of entrepreneurs the United States has seen in a
long time. Not only are they driven to do original work, but they are
going to want to live that out in originally designed careers.

In
order to do that, they’ll work hard to create their own enterprises
because that is where they can realize their dreams. Boomers are noted
workaholics and appreciate the pluck of the young RenGen. But Gen X,
often characterized as Dilbert-style middle managers, will struggle to
lead these spirited young workers.

To find more Patricia Martin check out these resources:

http://blog.patricia-martin.com/ – Her blog

http://patricia-martin.com/about_patricia_martin.htm – Her Overview page

http://www.amazon.com/Rengen-Cultural-Consumer-Means-Business/dp/1598691341/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1222398060&sr=1-1 – Her Amazon book page

There are two Americas: One is dying and one is ignored

There are two Americas. One needs drastic measures to stay alive a little longer and the other is ignored.

Last Friday the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve teamed up like doctors to save a terminal patient – the US market system. The prescription is heavy doses of… sugar. You see, they have no idea how to make someone live forever, so while they can’t stop death they can make it sweeter.

Meanwhile, there are millions of freshmen boys and girls in the US right now that could care less. This financial meltdown means nothing to them. Is it on Facebook, Twitter, or their iPod? Nope.

Here are some facts:

  • The price of oil is above $100 for varied reasons like a weak US dollar and demand from developing countries.
  • The price of gold, copper, iron, and other commodities are near all time highs.
  • In August of last year Russia planted a titanium flag in an area of the arctic that effectively redraws their border in the area. The area is said to have natural gas and oil – lots of it.
  • Apple now is selling an iPod for $149 with a 8 gigabyte hard drive. It comes in 9 different colors.
  • Google will release the first version of its phone platform on a phone called the G1 for T-Mobile. It will cost $179.

The theme? Something that just came out of the ground is increasing in value while items that use those resources and applies science, creativity, and innovation to them are decreasing in cost. A good article by Geoff Colvin called Brains vs. Brawn helps explain why that is the current situation. But at the conclusion of the article Colvin states:

A smart investor can make money by playing once-a-generation trends in commodities. But a smart businessperson can always innovate, create a new brand, build a better product. The game never stands still, but neither does it lead to an inevitable conclusion. That’s why I’m still betting on brainpower.

I couldn’t agree more. So let’s look at Apple. The iPod is dropping in price even though it is adding more features, functions, and styles. But these are iPods seven years removed from the original or about 150 million units later. The genius behind Apple isn’t the hardware. They weren’t the first to offer this functionality. They were the first to do it eloquently. Apple sells a user interface – the relationship between the user and the device. That is why Apple is very profitable. Similarly, Nintendo is reportedly one of the most profitable companies in the world. They make games. It is the same reason Google often tinkers with their search algorithm. There is an art to this behavioral science.

So why are commodities doing so well? Buyers and sellers are focused on the dying part of America. The bailout guys. The ones protecting their bank accounts by scratching each other’s backs. This is the bad side of creativity and innovation. It doesn’t always work out*. So although I’m gravely concerned about a domino effect making matters worse, I also don’t agree with delaying the inevitable – the US market system is not functioning with sound methodologies. Concepts like hard work, productivity gains, branding, and experience have been devalued for risk structures that imply can’t miss opportunities. Or like the President said “Wall Street got drunk.”

But there is another whole generation ready to replace this dying generation. I wish I could describe what they do or are capable of, but I can’t. What I do know is that the rules for them are different. Facebook, Twitter, iPods, the internet, globalization, and green energy are built in. And so are diabetes, autism, hurricanes, droughts, Alzheimer’s, and on and on.

And you know what, as impressive as this current situation is in terms of sheer magnitude and potential financial destruction, it is nothing compared to the change, for the good of the US, which is ahead. Just ask a freshman.

*Strangely, I don’t see bailouts happening for the small business owner
that is dependent on a major road to open but the state cuts funding
for the road pushing back its opening by over a year? But that rant is
for another day.

Too Many CEOs Think They are One of the Very Few

During times of economic prosperity the chatter around CEO compensation is a simple whisper. But during downturns the chatter turns to a roar. Just last week I wrote about how many companies are not complying with SEC requirements to disclose the thresholds required for CEO pay. My post is called What is promised to Wall St and what is promised to the CEO are not the same and what I say in that post is

What bothers me the most about what is happening is this behavior feeds
into the idea of “The Man” and “The Company” that is now being
fictionally illustrated on several successful TV shows (24 and Prison Break
for example). And why wouldn’t it? Productivity has increased at very
healthy levels over the past 6 years but the income from those
improvements has been sucked up by the executives that are fortunate to
be in control of the company at the time of the success. I wrote about
it in one of my first posts called Productivy Pays – The CEO. This entry highlights an article from CNNMoney.com from almost a year ago called GDP growth not reaching paychecks and CEO pay: 364 times more than workers.
When stats like this come to light and the noncompliance by companies
to the SEC when it is trying to create more transparency, it really
shows that the average working man is a sucker.

Today in the NY Times is a similar Op-ed piece by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF called Need a Job? $17,000 an Hour. No Success Required. The main theme is how executives that do a poor job with their company still rake in very handsome compensation packages while the working man gets nothing. I read many of the comments attached to the piece but I can’t completely agree with their tone as several latched onto the stat that many CEOs earn more than 30 times the lowest employee. But I didn’t take the piece as an attack on overall CEO compensation but rather bad CEOs that still get paid even when the sand castle gets washed away. If you concentrate on the multiple you don’t give credit to the job many CEOs do accomplish whether it is accepting the risk of a start up that eventually reaches mega success (Google) or the reclaimation project that turned a doomed company into a shining star (Apple). My point is there are times the CEO deserves the reward because they did something very few others could. But too many executives think they are part of that very few. And that leads to my favorite parts of the piece:

But one of our broad national problems is rising inequality, and it is exacerbated by corporate executives helping themselves to shareholders’ cash.

“Compare the massive destruction of wealth for shareholders to what he gets at the end of the day,” said Lucian Bebchuk, the director of the corporate governance program at Harvard Law School. A central flaw of governance is that boards of directors frequently are ornamental and provide negligible oversight.

As Warren Buffett has said, “in judging whether corporate America is serious about reforming itself, C.E.O. pay remains the acid test.” It’s a test that corporate America is failing.

John Kenneth Galbraith, the great economist, once explained: “The salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.”

The comment that “our broad national problem is rising inequality” is right on. And the CEO pay is making it worse and it is at the expense of the people working to provide the products and services and those that consume them. Eventually they are tapped out. It is like a farmer overcultivating his fields, eventually they stop producing quality crops.

Laid Off? Think Small

Here is some good information I pulled from the following two articles:

Don’t sabotage your job hunt: 6 tips by Anne Fisher
Small businesses hire as big companies cut by Emily Maltby

For those that are laid off or could possibly be:

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More
than one-third (34%) of 1,029 employees and managers in a recent survey by
Philadelphia-based consultants Right Management (www.right.com) said they’d
start job hunting immediately if they lost their current positions.

Understandable,
but that course of action runs the risk of “sabotaging the very goal they
set out to achieve, by being unprepared and reactive,” says Right’s
president and chief operating officer Douglas J. Matthews. A better approach is
to “avoid rushing into the job market,” he says. “Take time to
think about what you want to do next in your career.”

1.       If you don’t get along with a
potential boss during an interview, you never will

2.       If you don’t have a good rapport
with prospective co-workers, you never will

3.       Stop worrying about being
selected

4.       Decide what you want first

5.       Don’t sell out

6.       Be yourself

If you take time to think about what you want to do next in your career, one aspect to think about is working for a small business. Sure the security isn’t like that of a big company but then again look where that got you.

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Companies
with fewer than 50 employees increased their payrolls by 20,000 positions in
August

That
contrasts sharply with the 53,000 jobs shed at larger companies by ADP (ADP,
Fortune
500
)’s count, which is based on data from a subset of clients using ADP’s
payroll services.

Of the
812 small businesses owners surveyed, 11% increased employment recently by an
average of 5.7 employees, while 15% cut staff by an average of 3.7 employees.

Berens’
view is that small businesses are more affected by their own industry and local
geographic trends than they are by broader economic downturns. “We’re in a
market that’s growing, but also, relative to mid-size or large-size businesses,
we’re not as impacted by the macroeconomics of the country,” he said.

 
Remember, Micro Caps and Small Caps lead the economy out of sour times. Small companies equal big opportunity.

Freelancer Site Follow Up

Just a quick follow up on Thursdays post. I mentioned that I am trying out Lime Exchange. It is a conduit for people seeking IT like services and those that provide them. I didn’t really know what to expect about how many bids I would get on my project, or from where, or the talent the bids would come with. Well so far I have 9 bids in three days. I guessed that several would come from India and that is somewhat correct. Here is the list of cities posting a bid:

  • Karanchi, Pakistan
  • Gomel, Belarus
  • Hyderabad, Pakistan
  • Chennai, India
  • Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, India
  • Hyderabad, India
  • Kyev, Ukraine
  • Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Faridabad, India

The expertise ranged from 2 years to 8 years and the varied skill sets is pretty impressive, although about 3 didn’t offer any skill details. There are a few one man shops but a few more organized as well (2 plus workers). So far none of the bids has come in under my offer but all of them as pretty reasonable. Since I didn’t know what to expect I put the bid period to be three weeks, but that is probably too much time. I could end the bid early and get started but I’ll play that by ear.