Complex solutions for simple problems

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I went to the restroom at the Ventura mall on Friday. Never mind that I was in a mall. (You will never find a more wretched hive of greed and superficiality). The point of this story is elsewhere. More specifically, in the restroom. Like many commercial restrooms everything there was automatic–the urinal, the faucet, the soap dispenser, and the towel dispenser. Everything.

The problem was, the faucet and the soap dispenser were broken. I waved my hand like a crazy person in front of the sensors for the faucet and the dispenser. Nothing.

Frustrating, yes. Annoying, yes. Unsanitary, most definitely. Technologically questionable, also yes.

When an older faucet or dispenser broke the fix was mechanical, which meant even I could get it up and working again. A trip to the local hardware store and boom! Sir Fix-a-lot (yours truly) conquers another DIY dragon. With the new hardware the issue is digital, which means that pretty much no one can fix it. Yours truly doesn’t even know where to start.

This issue has several dimensions to me: epistemological (are we designing ourselves into an epistemological corner where a tiny percentage of people will be qualified to repair these items?); ecological (is this a good use of very limited resources—such as rare earth minerals?); complexity theory (as things become more complex do they become more inefficient?); and practical (how do we fix these items in a timely manner?). I can envision a time when people won’t be able to do the easiest of tasks, like changing the spark plugs in their…oh, wait, never mind.

Seriously, why are we spending time and energy making simple things more complex? Unfortunately, it seems more like a fascination with gadgetry than a valuable contribution to our future. That’s my half pence, at least.

The anachronistic mindset

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Are you ready for the next “War for Talent in Healthcare?”

Frankly, no.

I have little patience for superficial and inane slogans in general, and no patience for this slogan in particular. (An actual headline for a webinar, in case you’re wondering). In the context of healthcare, there is a jarring dissonance between the term “war” (violence, carnage, and death) and the term “healthcare” (care, compassion, and hope). Such thoughtless and lazy use of concepts marks a thoughtless and lazy mind. Unfortunately, I see it all the time. It just ain’t pretty.

Looking beyond healthcare to Talent Acquisition as a whole, I find this term is increasingly anachronistic and reflective of a tired philosophy, one that pits “us” against “them” in a “battle for supremacy”. Yep, it’s easy to use the terms. Yet false and misleading. And potentially destructive. No one benefits for long from a hostile mindset or a continuous escalation of competition.

A different and more progressive philosophy acknowledges competition but doesn’t attempt to destroy its competitor. In healthcare this philosophy allows for collaboration between talent teams within different companies as everyone seeks solutions for the shortages in nursing, rehab, and other critical skill areas. And this philosophy is not new, just overlooked. Maybe if we give it a new, hip name that will help raise its image. Let’s call it “open networking.”

Now that I’ve coined the term, tell me, what does it mean to you?

It's not about the degree, stupid

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I talked with a very smart, very cool guy on a flight recently. One of the reasons he’s very cool is because he works for Apple Care. The other reason he’s very cool is because he doesn’t have a degree in what he’s currently doing, which involves testing and troubleshooting 3rd-party apps on MacOS.

He also spoke quite animatedly and passionately about programming. I asked him what a good language for someone in my line of work might be, and he waxed poetic on Ruby on Rails. I now have a couple pages of notes to help me get started on my programming career.

In the process of giving me advice, Dan (we’ll call him Dan, though I never got his name) filled me in on how computers were a hobby of his in high school and college, and that he learned some HTML and Java while he got his degree in photography. So, to be clear, Dan works at Apple, which is his second tech job after working fir the City of Austin for four years, with no formal degree. He has a few certifications, but no formal degree.

How did Dan land such a sweet gig without the résumé bling to even get him in the door?

A recommendation.

One of his coworkers at the C of A was a former employee at Apple and wanted to go back. They made a deal that whoever got hired first would help the other guy in the door. Two months after his buddy got hired, Dan was working for Apple, too.

What does this mean? Two things:

1. The best hires are referrals
2. Network your ass off

The end.

An argument for buying expensive stuff

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CamDisclaimer: I bought an iPhone yesterday, so this post may have a bit of special pleading built in to it.

So…the first thing I thought when I bought my new toy was: OMG, it’s SO pretty! Then the next thought was: OMG, I just spent a LOT of money!

How many times have you gone into a cell phone store, gotten a plan (or extended it) and walked out with a free phone? And how many of those free phones have you lost, broken, or dropped in the toilet? Okay, the last one probably not too many of you have done. But suffice it to say, I’m sure you’ve lost or destroyed your fair share of phones. Do you think you would have been as nonchalant about your phone if you had to pay $399 + tax for it? I know I sure as hell won’t be.

So my follow-up question is this: does the fact that I paid the equivalent of a plane ticket for my phone correspond to its quality? In other words, is my phone worth it?

Yep, it sure is. I’m an avowed Machead. And the reason I am is simple: quality. Oh, and ease-of-use, and innovation, and…but let’s just stick to the quality motif.

What I’m getting at is this: You value the things you pay for. And generally, the things you pay for are worth valuing.

That’s not to say that because something costs a lot it’s really high quality. Far from it. I can think of a lot of things that cost $$ but are crap. (Most American and British cars come to mind). But it does mean that you will usually pay more for high-quality things. And that you should expect them to last. And that because you want and expect them to last, you’ll treat them better.

Got it?

  • Lots of money for something = quality is generally FALSE
  • Quality = lots of money is generally TRUE

And, actually, you’ll end up spending less in the long run. Those phones DO cost—you pay for them in your yearly contracts. I won’t buy another iPhone for years.

Here’s a great example of two things: 1) paying for what you think is a quality item that is decidedly NOT; 2) wasting your money on waste. And that thing is buying bottled water as opposed to buying a bottle and filling it with water. If you buy bottled water, about 99% of your purchase price goes to the bottle, the label, and the manufacture and distribution thereof. If you buy a bottle then fill it with the water of your choice (studies have shown that most bottled water is as healthy as tap water), you will see savings very quickly.

Here’s a quick calculation:

  • 1 bottle of water = $1.50
  • 2 bottles a day per week = $21.00
  • …per year = $1092.00

  • 1 27oz GORGEOUS stainless steel water bottle = $16.95
  • 2 refills a day per week = what, $3.80?
  • …per year = $214.55

That adds up to…a week in Mazatlan at least. The point is, waste in most any form is very likely wasting your pocketbook. One phone/bottle per year = good/financially smart.

You might be wondering how, exactly, I’m going to tie this wandering diatribe in to recruiting. Ready? You pay for quality employees, too. And when you pay for them, you appreciate them more and treat them better. And the less you spend, the easier it is to abuse the employees or throw them away. Of course, there’s also a correlation between spending less and getting less.

It is also possible to waste a lot of money on a clunker thinking at first that it’s a good investment. Then you wind up going throw lots of clunkers. So spend the money for the good ones, then keep them happy!