Friday, February 19, 2010

Facebook - the Borg in our time

Star Trek fans are familiar with the Borg - a civilization that traveled through space in the form of a big metal cube assimilating the collective knowledge of every civilization they encountered before they destroyed it. The knowledge absorbed by The Collective was instantly part of the brain of every member of the Borg civilization.

The 'people' of the Borg were humans fused with metal.  Think Blue Tooth gone wild. When Borg individuals left The Collective, they separated from the knowledge base. When they returned to the cube, they reconnected with The Collective to 'rest' - assuming an even partially human being needs to rest - and  to absorb the latest collective thinking.

Facebook may be an early iteration of the Borg civilization. When I connect, I am engaged in the stream-of-consciousness thinking of the world. I know about topics, issues, big and small that I likely would never have even known about otherwise. Since I work in my home instead of an office, the social network serves as my water cooler. My connection to the big brain of the world. When I disconnect, I feel vaguely uneasy. I'm missing out - or think I am. Facebook is a community and I need community.

Whenever anyone asks me about joining Facebook. I share the advantages.  I also tell them what a huge time waster it can be.  Each person makes an individual decision about whether to sign on or stay on, how much time to devote, what their 'presence' will be, how much they'll share. Just like any human engagement. 

But it's worth remembering one thing about the Borg. The Borg's first comment to anyone they met was 'Resistance is futlile.'

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"I can help you" - Delivering on a promise

A clear, concise, well delivered message is a thing of beauty. Seldom do I think I'll hear such a message amidst the chaos of an airline terminal. So I was fascinated to hear those words - I can help you - as I approached the intersection of two concourses at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport yesterday.

I can help you.  A simple statement delivered in a calm, direct manner by a man wearing an airport vest, a man positioned to see travelers with questions in their eyes and concern on their faces as they tried to discern which corridor was the route to their next flight.

The man - a host - did not waste time with extraneous pleasantries such as, "Good morning" or "How are you today?" He didn't even phrase his words as a question - "Can I help you?" Instead he delivered a solution with calm assurance in the four words anyone with a question wants most to hear - I can help you.

Each transaction was completed in seconds. Each traveler sent on his or her way more relaxed. Efficient. Effective.

Soon my traveling companion and I realized these hosts were posted throughout the airport. We'd seen them when we walked in from the curb though we didn't realize what they were doing at the time. We saw them at the top of escalators. Hosts were positioned at each point where a traveler could wonder where to go next. Always the statement was the same - I can help you.

The Phoenix airport bills itself "America's Friendliest Airport."  Quite a claim for a facility that serves 40 million passengers a year. No doubt research identified the problem and the exact words. But how gutsy of airport management to be willing to invest the money to put such a program involving so many employees in place.

Gutsy and smart, because I expect the result for other travelers is the same as it was for me.  I heard the words and I felt more welcome; I felt relaxed; I felt more confident all was well. How nice to find an organization that delivers on its promise.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chasing dust bunnies

'She files in piles,' my staff used to explain when they noticed visitors trying not to be aghast at the seeming chaos in my office. It's true. No matter how many times I pledge to follow the advice of time managers and organizational experts to 'touch each paper only once.' Papers pile up on the top of file cabinets, under the desk, on end tables. I diligently label files and then don't put things in them. I'm working on that, I think.  I'll need it this week. Or next.

I start out with one pile per client or project or volunteer board. Then two or three piles because a client has several projects. Then the piles begin to melt into each other. Once a year - maybe twice - I sort through the piles, vowing to tidy up.  Some of the papers actually make it into the neatly labeled files in the file cabinets. Some wind up in the wastebasket. Most wind up right back in piles. I'm working on that. I'll need it this week. Or next.

My mother raised me to be neat, so this is certainly not her fault. I know all the right things to do. I just can't seem to make myself do them. This lackadaisical attitude toward cleaning spills over into housecleaning. I believe things are clean, just messy. I tell myself that anyway.

Luckily friends and family call before they show up.  With even 15 minutes notice I can run a dust cloth, push papers into neat piles, shove everything else in a drawer.

I try not to think about what's accumulating on the carpets in between the truly infrequent times I pull out the vacuum. My real salvation, though, is that most of our floors are hardwood or tile. Thank heaven for Swiffer!

The other day, I was brushing my teeth and glanced toward the bed.  Dust bunnies were creeping out from under and making a dash for the door.  I grabbed the Swiffer. Even I know it's time to clean when ...