Saturday, May 11, 2013

Focus On the One Thing

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results– Gary Keller & Jay Papasan (Bard Press)

A few years back California passed Proposition 227 which mandated an English immersion approach to teaching kids whose primary language wasn’t English. Teachers union-types and so-called education “experts” decried the policy as unfair and harmful to the students. After a year of focusing on teaching the students in one language rather than using the prior method of bilingual education, the results demonstrated that the students were actually performing at a higher level.

This shocked and dismayed the “experts” but, was actually a very predictable result. By focusing the efforts, 100% of the time on one thing, students learned English faster and improved the results across the board. If you did anything with a 100% focus rather than splitting your focus in half or quarters or eights, what do you think the results would be?

While multi-tasking has been the rallying cry for business for years, yet study after study as shown that outcomes aren’t great for those who practice it. Gary Keller and Jay Papasan are offering up a contrarian view to multi-tasking in the new book The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results which makes the case not only for singular focus, but also for a process of determining what your priority should be.

They make the case that with laser focus being brought to your “one thing” it can start a series of dominos tumbling that lead to extraordinary results. The process that leads to those results starts with the work of trying to identify your one thing. Keller and Papasan detail the plan for “time blocking” a daily, four-hour, appointment with yourself used to focus on your one thing. They also spell out the three commitments you must make to make that block as productive as possible.
They cite the effectiveness of the practice of the One Thing; the challenge for rank and file workers is the inherent expectations of the work place. Like many business planning programs, The One Thing may be easier for those entrepreneurs and solo practitioners who can guide their own fates.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Look Back…to the Future?

Flashback to September 26, 1960, 70 million Americans witnessed a first in U.S. political history when the Presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon aired on broadcast television. Prior to that point, the candidates for President had debated only on radio and political observers of that era spoke about JFK appearing calm, cool and collected and Nixon profusely sweating and looking generally uncomfortable. JFK was proclaimed the clear winner, yet those who chose to listen, rather than watch the debate said on content alone, Nixon was the clear victor.

Television had changed the face of politics seemingly forever. Flash forward to today and we see the face of not only politics, but of many layers of our society being forever altered by the internet and the way public perceptions are shaped and changed.

Enter self-described futurist Nicco Melle and his new book, The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath (St. Martin’s Press.) Mele posits that this new found “radical connectivity” has impacted business, politics, the media, education and many other facets of our life. For a futurist, Mele seems to spend an awful lot of time and ink looking in the rear view mirror.

Mele’s credits as webmaster for the ill-fated Howard Dean presidential campaign, working with the Clinton Global Initiative, and being on faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government coupled with a blurb from Howard “The Screamer” Dean had my antennae up looking for political bias. Mele tries to draw some interesting political parallels; including one between the so-called Arab Spring and the Tea Party movement. Mele praises the radical connectivity of the Arab spring movement, yet for the Tea Party…not so much. Certainly the Arab Spring has radically altered the landscape of the Middle East; whether or not it’s for the better, the jury is still out. Radical connectivity likely hasn’t quite figured out how to deal with radical extremists.

Malcolm Gladwell has created a wildly successful cottage industry out of using anecdotal evidence to make his case about what he think causes movements and business to reach the proverbial tipping point. I’m not quite sure that Mele’s anecdotal examples of the radical connectivity concept as a game changer is quite ready to leave the starting gate.