Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

Inviting Disaster

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

The Book of the Week is “Inviting Disaster” by James R. Chiles, published in 2002. This is an ebook that describes the causes of fatal mechanical failures in aviation and industry.

Human error is always a factor. There is never just one cause. “A disaster occurs through a combination of poor maintenance, bad communication, and shortcuts.” Taking shortcuts such as omitting the testing of newly manufactured machine parts leads to improper, unsafe modification by end users.

In the stages leading up to a catastrophe, when workers realize they are in trouble, most react with intense concentration, anger at the malfunctioning equipment, fear and even panic.

Hypervigilance is a form of extreme panic with trembling hands, hyperventilation and heart palpitations; the mind blanks on what one was taught in training, and perception narrows. Often this causes people to take a course of action with the best of intentions– that makes conditions worse.

Architectural engineers must make sure buildings are designed to withstand the natural disasters that typically hit the areas where they are located. About every sixteen years, Manhattan gets hit by a hurricane that might cause, say, a particular building to collapse. That was why, shortly after it was built in 1978, the Citicorp Building had to be structurally modified at great expense. However, many deaths were likely prevented.

A common chain of events precipitates disasters in third world countries. A light manufacturing plant might be erected in a lower-class residential area. As time passes, however, the owner might want to begin making hazardous products.

Certain conditions prevail:  There is a dearth of laws governing environmental impact; the local economy would suffer if the plant couldn’t expand; the local residents enjoy living there. Over time, people become sloppy about safety.

Before lots of accidents, internal memos warning of an unsafe situation go unheeded. “The bureaucratic solution is to let the memo sit in the inbox for a while– then send it back for more explanation.” It is easier than making trouble, and in the short term, economically advantageous.

One way companies such as Boeing are checking themselves from making the same mistake twice is by continually adding to a knowledge base– confidential archives of troubleshooting reports that are actually read by designers.

Read the book to learn about other ways deadly mishaps could have been, and can be avoided.

Thank You For Arguing

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

The Book of the Week is “Thank You For Arguing” by Jay Heinrichs, published in 2007. This is a book on debating. The author teases apart the differences between arguing and fighting, and logic and rhetoric.

There are three kinds of persuasive language:  blame, values and choice. Each is of a different tense. Blame is past tense. Values depict the present. Choice talks about the future. The author advises the reader to switch tenses if an argument gets heated. The future, though, is the tense most likely to bring about peace.

People in a courtroom recount past events that involve blame. However, to get their points across, lovers and politicians should try to stick to the present and future. Two useful questions to ask when a problem crops up are, “What should we do about it?” and “How can we keep it from happening again?”

Values, which involve morals, are undebatable. The author says, “Argument’s Rule Number One:  Never debate the undebatable. Instead, focus on your goals… If you want your audience to make a choice, focus on the future.” Also, “When you argue emotionally, speak simply. People in the middle of a strong emotion rarely use elaborate speech.”

One more tip:  When one is deciding on an issue to argue, the most persuasive issue will be the broadest one. For instance, in launching a protest against consolidating two departments in a workplace, one should seize upon the issue of productivity, rather than fairness.

The author sadly concludes that universities used to teach rhetoric, but stopped doing so in the 1800′s when “…academia forgot what the liberal arts were for: to train an elite for leadership.”

Read the book to learn more debating techniques.

Multipliers

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

The Book of the Week is “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter” by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown, published in 2010. This repetitive ebook discusses two kinds of leaders:  “Multipliers” and “Diminishers.”

Multipliers positively influence the people around them so as to draw out almost two times what they previously believed their capabilities to be, as reported by senior professionals interviewed by the authors. “People reported actually getting smarter around Multipliers.”

A study conducted in a non-workplace arena showed that people who were lauded for their efforts rather than for their intelligence “actually increased their ability to reason and solve problems.” The book’s authors relate this to Multipliers, saying that Multipliers create a self-fulfilling prophecy of greatness by recognizing their colleagues’ accomplishments, spurring better thinking from everyone.

The authors cited many examples of this, including one in which a company did not hire additional talent in order to meet its goal of increasing sales quickly, but instead, utilized Multipliers to better leverage the brain power of its existing sales force. Another company used Multipliers effectively in that “They didn’t box people into jobs and limit their contribution… [they]… let people work where they had ideas and energy and where they could best contribute.”

In addition, Multipliers have a great sense of humor– the trait of a great leader– it represents security with oneself, and a lack of self-consciousness. Multipliers search for talent all over, identify and draw out the positive behaviors that come naturally to the people they influence, maximize performance, and remove obstacles.

Read the book to learn the many other ways Multipliers bring out the best in their coworkers, and how Diminishers negatively impact their coworkers.

Confessions of an Event Planner

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

The Book of the Week is “Confessions of an Event Planner” by Judy Allen, published in 2009.

This volume contains various realistic scenarios of business, personal and charity events to show the reader the nature of the event planning industry. The acronym for how to prepare for any problems is ABC: Anticipation, Backup plan, Code of conduct.

There is always at least one troublemaker at every business event, who must be watched. The author describes their personality types, a few of whom include those who make unwanted sexual advances; those who feel entitled to a hotel room better than the one they were assigned; men who show off their masculinity, and women who are provocatively dressed.

The author points out that meticulous planning is required with business celebrations to head off possible untoward occurrences. There are companies that try to cheat on their taxes, and business executives who have their hand in the company cookie jar. Irate guests might do damage to hotel property. There may be a male executive officer whose mistress (and secretary) is booked in a separate room, but stays in his room at night. When children are attending an event, the planner has to consider appropriate food menus, food allergies, legal waivers and contingencies for liabilities. Part of the planner’s job is to prevent lawsuits by thinking through safety issues and complying with the law. Sometimes, event employees will recognize a situation in which guests’ behavior is about to spin out of control, and put the kibosh on it. They need to work as a team.

Sometimes event planners must deal with “too many chiefs, not enough Indians” with clients preparing a personal or nonprofit celebration. The goal of the nonprofits is to raise funds, but if the goal of the nonprofits’ events representative is to acquire social power, publicity for herself, or find her next husband, then the charity event may actually suffer a monetary loss. Even when all parties have the best of intentions, the nonprofit event may also be a failure because inexperienced volunteers are running it.

In short, the author provides advice on what to do before, during and after an event to ensure a safe, enjoyable occasion that a planner can be proud of.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

The Book of the Week is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, published in 1990.  The author tells readers how to improve their social skills to achieve their goals. He illustrates his points with anecdotes on parenting in his own large family. One phrase in the book that stuck in this blogger’s mind is, “Use your resources and initiative.”

Ogilvy on Advertising

Monday, July 4th, 2011

The Book of the Week is “Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy published in 1985.  The author was the co-founder of what has become a world-famous, worldwide advertising agency– a major feat, as he started his advertising career at 38(!) years old.  Perhaps his business has endured because he had the right idea.  He wrote that he did not care whether the viewer of an ad said “What a great ad!”  Ogilvy’s major goal was to get the viewer to say, “I must go out and buy this product!”  This way, he would make money for the client.  This book recounts his experiences in the field and provides tips on how to advertise.

Bang the Keys

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

The Book of the Week is “Bang the Keys” by Jill Dearman, published in 2009.  This book tells writers how to identify the kind of writer they are, set goals and deadlines, find a writing partner, use writing journals, meditate, identify the type of story right for them and improve their writing through advice, exercises and sources of additional readings.

This book’s author is a writing instructor and a published writer herself. It has been her practice to pair up writers in her classes so that one serves as morale booster and advisor to the other.

Computers have changed the way writers write.  She cites Lee Siegel’s book, “Against the Machine:  Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob,” commenting that “Essentially, we are fast becoming a mean-spirited race of superficial idiots who are disconnected from each other and from ourselves, and can no long distinguish between gossip and news!”

Needless to say, finishing a piece of writing requires discipline.  Many modern writers become easily distracted by texting, emailing and surfing.  The author gives tips on marking goals on the calendar, setting aside writing time and imagining the kind of counsel one’s own favorite author would give about how to proceed and commit to a project.

The author provides a mnemonic device (P.L.O.T.W.I.C.H) to remind writers how to develop a strong plot:  Premise, Links, Obstacles, Transformation, Wants, Impediments, Conflict and Heat.  Overall, she discusses a general plan for writers denoted by the acronym B.A.N.G.:  Begin, Arrange, Nurture and Go. This is why she says, “Bang the Keys.”