Flour, water, yeast, salt. Just a couple of simple ingredients to bake a nice bread in your oven. But the steps involved prior to your first taste may sound easy, but it really isn’t. Exact measurements are required for all ingredients on your kitchen scale. The oven must be right temperature, and the constant kneading of the dough over the course of several hours will presumably make great bread. But things happen, and once it’s ready for the first taste, it might not be what you expect and you may not initially know why this happened.
That’s why you should try to make stew when it comes to modern day product development. The idea is there, the recipe is close, and you start throwing ingredients at your stock pot. We know that simmering it a little longer would make the stew just that much more flavorful. Just like in the product development cycle, a quick taste during the simmering process will give you a sense of where the stew will be going. A little pinch of salt, and a crackle of pepper is no different than taking a look at the product and making a minor tweak to it. With the stew, you have the opportunity to stop it early when it’s ready for consumption, or keep simmering it down to tighten up the flavors. In a product, this could be tightening up the design. Keep checking, keep tasting, keep adjusting and you’ll have great stew.
This a comparison between waterfall (bread), and agile (stew) methodologies.
Back in high school, I remember having an english teacher who always carried a short stool around. Not one you would play a guitar on, but one that is quite low. He would give us an in class assignment to do and sit down at his desk. If we had a question, he would walk over with his stool, sit on it to be at eye level with us. His reasoning was great. He wanted to make sure we were comfortable, and that his 6 foot frame would not be intimidating to us. It puts him more on a personal level with us.
I still think about this today in the workplace. I may not practice this to the full extent by bringing a stool around with me, but when I do need to run over to a colleague’s desk for a quick discussion, I do ensure I grab a chair near by and have a seat. It keeps me in a more comfortable position when speaking with my colleagues. I don’t want to feel like I intimidate others by standing tall while the other(s) are sitting. I do hope that I come across softer, and more professional. I may not be a psychologist, but standing and speaking in a non-formal situation puts you in a more commanding position. Probably not your intention as there is certainly a time and place for that.
Switching roles. If you were the one sitting and the other is standing, most individuals feel a bit more intimidated, and possibly put on the spot. In those cases, I stand up and put myself at their level. Much like meeting someone for the first time with a handshake, it is considered rude to not stand up and perform the shake. It can show a lack of respect.
So the next time you need to speak to someone, grab a chair, stand up, squat. Just put yourself at the same level.
I do a lot of constructive things whether it’s home remodeling, fixing a broken down vehicle, or doing a random fabrication of some sort. What bothers me is the 2 ways to take measurements. The Standard System and the Metric System. One is much simpler to understand than the other. I find it quite annoying when I need to switch my tools back and forth depending on what I am working on.
I don’t want to get into the details about why the US decided on the Standard System of Measurement or why it was ever invented (look it up on Wikipedia), but it simply complicates things. Standard Measurements heavily deals with fractions, and points. For example, 1/8″ = 0.125, 3/16″ = 0.1875. Take a pair of digital calipers, and it’s going to read the measurement for you in points. It’s up to you to be able to convert that back into a fraction if you’re going to switch to a tape measure.
With the Metric System, you’ll only need to deal with points. And because the units of measurement are very systematic, 1 meter = 100 centimeters = 1000 millimeters, it’s much more easier to calculate. Switching over to weights, you’re looking at 2000 pounds in 1 ton, 16 oz in a pound for the Standard System. For the Metric System 1000 grams is 1 kilogram, and 1 gram is 1000 milligram.
See what I’m getting at? The metric system is much easier to work with since every measurement is divisible by 10. Simplifying the units of measurement would make engineering more efficient. The numbers are much easier to handle. If we do switch the entire world over to the metric system, there is a lot less room for error and much less number of tools required for the job since you’ll only need to focus on 1 type. Let’s go metric! < /rant >
I recently started to realized how important networking really is in business. Networks are oh so very important when it comes to doing some form of business whether you are seeking out customers for your startup, looking for a reference for a 3rd party vendor, and even seeking out new jobs or looking for someone to fill a role at your own company. Sometimes you seek these people out for travel recommendations. People have friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, and from various ‘networks’ if you will. They can be categorized up in the following, and possibly more:
Friends and Family – People whom you spend a lot of your free time with. These are those whom are close to you, whether you have done any work-related business with them or not. They are still close to you on a personal level.
Work Friends and Acquaintances – These are those whom you had worked with at your previous employers. You might have spent the majority of your week with them for months and years at a time. They know you very well on a professional level and in many times, on a personal level too. Some of these individuals may cross over into the Friends and Family
Work Acquaintances – These are a bit different from the above. These individuals are those whom you did not work with (at the same company), but rather maybe they were your vendor, or your customer. “Money” may have exchanged between your company and theirs at one point.
Social Media Acquaintances – Who are these people? Well, you may not have met them before, but there was some connection at one point that brought you together with them. They followed you on Twitter, you followed back. They connected with you on LinkedIn or Facebook, you accepted for some reason. You may not have even spoken to them at all!
Similar Interest Acquaintances – Not sure if that’s the right description, but will explain here. These are those whom you have a similar interest with. Perhaps part of the same book club? Maybe you play intramural sports with them.
All of these are great networks to reach out to when needed. I am part of a mailing list made up of Similar Interest Acquaintances and realized how far the reach of experience and connection there is there. We all have one common interest, which brought us together, and even just asking the most out of the ordinary question brings a heap of answers and responses. But isn’t this what social networks are for, you may ask? Quite possibly. I think they are complementary to how you communicate with the different networks. There’s probably a different social channel for each of those categories. Use them how you feel is right.
It should come as no surprise that we are becoming more and more green in the home. Recycle. Turn off the lights. Unplug unused appliances. Keep the thermostat off. There shouldn’t be a reason why this doesn’t apply to an office. Not everyone is as green as they are in the office than if they are at home. I do catch myself being ‘un-green’ at times both in and out of the office. We try our best, right? A few things to consider to try to be more green in the office: (oh no, not another list….)
Bring your own cup. Can’t be that hard right? Need coffee? Bring your own cup. I’ve always made sure to bring my own personal cup/mug to the office, especially when I start a new job. I’m not sure what excuses could come out of those who don’t. If you need separate ones for coffee and one for water, bring 2! Not only does it create excess waste, it can get pretty expensive. The Office Depot brand disposable coffee cups are $6.29 for 50. That’s $0.125 per cup used. Figure some use 2 a day, that’s a quarter a day for cups. At 260 work days a year, you’re looking at $65 per employee savings if it was eliminated. Now I’m not saying that you are completely banned of using disposable coffee cups, but limiting your use could help your company out. Besides, you don’t use disposable cups at home, do you?
Recycle. This is an easy one. But split up the bins so people know where to put items. If you have a compost pick up at your office, have a bin designated for biodegradable items such as food scraps.
Turn the lights off. Also an easy one. Conference rooms not in use, bathrooms unoccupied, lots of natural lighting… These are all reasons why you don’t need the lights on. If you have an office that has lots of natural lighting, use it! It’s probably more pleasant to the eyes than the artificial lights from above. Overhead fluorescent lamps are efficient, but why use energy when you don’t need to?
Unplug when not in use. From what I hear, even if an appliance is not ‘on’, it’s still using some kW when it’s still plugged in. This applies to your phone chargers too. If you’re not charging anything, they are pretty pointless to have plugged in. Now, I do know that it can be quite the hassle and unrealistic to unplug everything including monitors, printers, and desk lamps. I wouldn’t expect people to do this.
Sleep your computer. Lunch time is sleepy time for your computer. Stepping out for lunch? Going to a meeting that doesn’t require your laptop to be present? Put it to sleep. It will save some energy when it’s idling and not sitting there trying to process information. Not being an expert on this, but I would assume a computer that’s sitting there processing information such as when emails are coming in, and Facebook updating on you browser, is using a bit more energy than if it were to be put to sleep.
Climate control —> Off. This one doesn’t apply to every office. If your office has the luxury of windows that actually open, open them. Too cold? Close them. This one is a compromise. Two real life cases come to mind that may affect the decision for this. 1. I worked on the 4th floor of an office building that had their climate control break in the middle of winter (Bay Area winter). Outside temp: 50’s. Inside temp: 85. It was not pleasant. 2. Another company I was at had a climate controlled warehouse. I was told by finance during a random conversation that we would save $10,000/mo by turning off the climate control just in the warehouse. zOMG! Apparently, it runs 24/7. So yes, this doesn’t apply to all offices. Another money saver.
Stop Printing! There are reasons whey we need to print, and in those cases it’s ok. I have seen people print emails. I just don’t get this. the ‘e’ in email means ‘electronic’. It should stay that way. Email already saves paper by design, so why counter that by printing it? This leads to a product idea: Printing credits. Each employee should have printing credits that is allotted to them each month with no roll over. Every time you print, you use X number of credits. Use them up for the month? Sorry, you need to wait until next month. Yet another money saver.
There are many other things you can do to be more green. These were just a few. Just don’t mix it up with being this kind of green. Although, sometimes you may feel that way at times.
According to Wikipedia, the population of Tokyo is over 13 million people. 13 million! One of these most densely populated cities in the world. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Japan, specifically Tokyo most of the time. On the long 10.5 hour plane ride there, I knew what I was going to get myself into. Trains, trains and more trains. I couldn’t help but wonder what it took to move that many people in and out of the city with minimal use of automobiles. Fast forward to recently spending a few days in Tokyo, there really wasn’t that many vehicles on the road other than buses and taxis. It wasn’t Manhattan gridlock, or the 1 hour commute to go 8 miles on 101N through Mountain View and Palo Alto, Ca., but it was hectic.
I took it upon myself to remember to make some observations of how people got around Tokyo on a daily basis. Given that I was there during the weekends and weekdays, traveled around in or around rush hour, I got a pretty good sense of what the Japanese did to ensure that everyone was orderly, and tried my best to document everything with various cameras (Nikon D7000, old Canon SD1000, iPhone 4S).
Starting from when you enter the station, you will need to figure out where to go and which platform to take the train from. There will be several signs, but they are generally easy to read. Just follow the arrows towards the correct platform for your train. To minimize pedestrians from crashing into each other, Japan’s railway system lays down arrows to keep everyone flowing in the right direction on specified sides of the walkways and hallways. This really helped the confusion of which side you should stand on, especially during rush hour where there could be 500 people ascending a staircase, while you and 5 other are trying to go down it. Again, follow the arrows!
Eventually, you’ll need to pass through the ticket gates. The ticket gates are as simple as they appear. Enter your ticket, or slip in your PASMO then walk through. However, during my frequent observation when we had to pass through the same station several times during our stay, I noticed that the reversible ticket gates switch directions for which way you may pass depending on the flow of the commuters. That is, if it’s rush hour, it may go in one direction and flip to the other direction during the other part of rush hour.
An interesting observation I did make is how flexible this system is. Notice the arrows in this photo noting that the gate is open, and the (-) ones noting that it is close for that direction. I noticed that *sometimes* the (-) sign could just be a suggestion. During times of sudden heavy pedestrian traffic in one direction, commuters can just use their passes to pass through these ticket gates. This temporarily switches the direction of the gate to help the flow of pedestrian. So basically they let the crowds decide which way it should go!
Once through the ticket gates, you’re met with more arrows directing traffic. Eventually, you’ll make it to the platform where you should await your train’s arrival. But where to stand? Never fear!
Although this photo does not show it, passengers should be standing and lining up where the yellow and white shoes are. Some stations use this method, some use dotted lines. Nonetheless, you should stand in these locations to ‘line up’. 90% of the time, the subway car stops at the perfect spot denoted by the grey area in the photo above. Some stations have a yellow landing area. The reason for this is to open up space for passengers to disembark the subway car, keeping the boarding passengers to the side. An observation was that there is a lot of courtesy the locals give to others by leaving this space. No one gets on until passengers leave the train first.
But wait, there’s more to this madness. At the Shinagawa Station, there is a train that uses the same track and platform, and heads towards different final stops. The overhead screens provide the clear data of when and which subway goes to which station. Since this is a very busy station, they put landing areas for boarding passengers to wait on. In the photo below, one area is designated for passengers heading towards 1 location (Haneda Airport), and another area is designed for passengers heading to another location (sorry, can’t read Japanese).
What’s even more efficient about this is that the subway stops so that the doors align with the correct landing area. This is a great example of a simple solution for a potentially complex problem. And just for fun, a humorous photo of a warning sign helping prevent collisions.
So there you have it. Several examples of how simple ideas can make daily life just that much easier for everyone. This along with the incredible on-time record of the trains down to the second, makes for an efficiently run city.