My Short and Sweet #SHRM12 Review

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, June 29, 2012

This was the 12th straight SHRM Annual Conference I've attended.

At this point, I've come to expect the enormous exhibit hall with the massive lines of HR ladies waiting for an item that cost $.49 to produce (I spent a total of 20 minutes in the expo hall), the big name talent as keynotes (with repeats of Gladwell and Collins) and big name Tuesday night entertainment (a significant step up with Jerry Seinfeld).    Kris Dunn at the HR Capitalist hit most of the main points before the conference was even over. 

I'm in it now for the novelty.  Two things stood out:

1.  The Hive

Sponsored by Dice, The Hive featured a smart bar area that provided an opportunity for individuals starting off, or wanting to take the next step, in social media to get individual consultation in these matters.  With a significant number of volunteers (including myself for 6 hours), it was impressive to see the energy and advice being given, as well the significant support provided from SHRM to make it possible.  A special shout out must be given to Curtis Midkiff, Director of Social Engagement for SHRM, who grew a small social media initiative in 2010 with a 5-member "Blog Squad" into this huge and exciting endeavor.  Dawn Hrdlica-Burke provides an excellent summary of the events in the Hive here.

2.  The Future of College Relations

As a student chapter advisor of 16 years, I have a significant investment in seeing student HR leaders becoming the HR leaders of tomorrow.  I was able to sit down for two hours with Nancy Woolever, Director of Academic Initiatives, and Tara Fournier,  Manager of Member Engagement, to discuss the state of the College Relations Program.  While details need to be hashed out, for the first time in several years, I am excited about the changes that SHRM Student Programs is working on and confident in the new leadership taking the program where it needs to go.

Why Tom Izzo and Mark Hollis Get It

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Right around this time, the Top 50 Best Small & Medium Companies to Work for in America are announced.  I'm beginning to think that playing basketball for Michigan State University should belong to this list.

It was announced that the Spartans will open up the 2012-2013 Men's NCAA College Basketball Season for the second straight year on Nov. 9 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany against UConn— an event to be played in front of troops and televised by ESPN.

According to Mark Hollis, Athletic Director for Michigan State:

“Once again, we are excited about participating in an event that pays tribute and respect to the men and women that serve in our nation’s armed forces.  With that focus in mind, all other challenges and obstacles in participating in an event of this significance are secondary.  Pending final approval by the Department of Defense and with the collaboration of ESPN, we look forward to participating in an NCAA men’s basketball regular-season game against Connecticut at Ramstein AirBase in Germany on November 9, 2012.
“Coach Izzo has a talent for recognizing and bringing to Michigan State University student-athletes that want to be the best on the court while developing themselves as young men.  All of us at Michigan State believe in providing our student-athletes with championship opportunities and amazing cultural experiences.  The student-athletes on our men’s basketball team have had an opportunity to play the game they love in NCAA Final Fours, for Big Ten titles and aboard a USN Aircraft Carrier in front of the President of the United States of America.
Coach Tom Izzo added:
“This is another amazing opportunity for Spartan basketball and Michigan State University. I’m thankful that ESPN reached out to us to be a part of this great event. Being a part in the first college basketball game to be played on a military base overseas is truly an honor.”
“Playing in the Carrier Classic on the USS Carl Vinson last season provided memories that will last a lifetime, as the historic event was so much more than just a basketball game. The opportunity to honor the great men and women of the US Armed Forces was a humbling experience, as we felt that we got so much more in return than we gave. To now have the opportunity to take our game overseas to the servicemen and women serving to protect us is an awesome experience. I’m reminded of my trips to the US bases in Kuwait, and what a life-changing experience that was for me. Everyone associated with the Michigan State basketball program is excited for this unique opportunity.”
 So, your Senior Keith Appling.  In the past three years, you've:
  • Played three straight years in the NCAA tournament
  • Won two Big Ten Titles
  • Played in the Final Four
  • Be featured regularly in nationally televised games
  • Played on an aircraft carrier.
Now, you get to experience something no other college basketball player has done - play on a military base overseas.

Add to the fact that every four-year MSU basketball player has made the Final Four under Tom Izzo's leadership, you have a truly compelling value proposition to sell to recruits.  This is why Tom Izzo and Mark Hollis get it.  They're offering something unmatched at other organizations.  A potential recruit may soon find themselves playing at the site of the first Olympic Games, or, who knows....the International Space Station.

What compelling value proposition to recruits are you making for your organization?

Komen, Virginia, "Disruptive Innovation," and #shrm12

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, June 25, 2012

Several months ago, like many, I was transfixed by the decision at the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure to no longer provide funding to Planned Parenthood for health screenings, given it was “under investigation.”  The repercussions of that decision echo today as Komen continues to see a decline in participation and donations have diminished.  How could leadership fail so strongly under the umbrella of ideology?
Its hard not to see parallels to Komen in the recent decision by the Board of Rectors at the University of Virginia to force the resignation of President Teresa Sullivan, because of her incremental approach to change, particularly in regards to online education.  This push for “strategic dynamism” has caused revolt on the Virginia campus, as students and faculty unite in pushback for a President who has only been on campus for two years.  Donors have threatened not to contribute and faculty have been looking for jobs elsewhere. Again, how could leadership misread the situation? 
In “Its All About Me: Narcissistic CEOS and Their Effects on Company Strategy and Performance,” Arijit Chatterjee found that narcissistic leaders seek dramatic action, but performance is often no better than incremental leaders. 
In his opening remarks, SHRM President and CEO Hank Jackson focused on a rapidly changing workplace, with HR professionals needing to be responsible for leading the way.  He mentioned “disruptive innovation” as something to be embraced in this environment.  Let’s hope the lessons of Virginia and Susan B. Komen are not lost on him.

Vanishing Point (revisited) - Rollerbags:Scourage of the #shrm12 Expo Hall

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, June 15, 2012

With the SHRM Annual Conference mere days away, we revisit this post from June 22, 2010

Let me channel my inner Andy Rooney (or Harlan Ellison if you will) for a moment. I will be attending the SHRM Annual Conference for the tenth time in a few days. I always leave with a positive feeling both about the experience and the profession. There is, however, an item that makes vuvuzelas sound like Mozart (or Hall and Oates if that is your musical predilection) - roller bags in the exhibit hall.

Why roller bags? On Sunday afternoon, June 24, thousands of HR professionals will descend into the exhibit hall for some food, to speak to a vendor, to try to win a prize, or to pick up some free swag that an exhibitor will giveaway. Presumably given out by vendors to not only promote their product, but to help the attendee carry away the pens, t-shirts, squeezeballs and other geegaws he or she has picked up along the way, the roller bag seems like a great prize. So, where is the fail?
  • The roller bag is always underfoot - I can't tell you how many times I have, or have seen others, nearly tripped over these menaces while navigating the conference.
  • People are oblivious to their own space - Many cities and states are passing laws banning texting and driving. At the SHRM conference, they should ban texting while pulling a roller bag. Don't be surprised to see a person trying to talk or text, while carrying a cup of coffee, and trying to pull a roller bag. Its a bad combo.
  • Space is limited - Filling a conference with thousands of people leads to congestion. This congestion is only exacerbated with a roller bag. As people walk through the passages of the convention center and exhibit hall with a roller bag, they operate as if the bag was not there. They don't realize that the bag acts as a 2nd person behind them, taking up valuable space.
So, if you are an exhibitor at SHRM this year, I implore you to not give a roller bag away as a prize. Similarly, if you are attending the SHRM Annual Conference, have a great time. But, don't be that person with the roller bag.

The unanswered question regarding pay equity

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Its no secret that HR is a female-dominated occupation.  Attend any SHRM chapter meeting, and it is more than likely that there will be twice as many women in the audience than men.

The Equal Pay Act was passed nearly 50 years ago.  Yet, concerns about pay equity abound.  Statistics, such as women make $.76 for every dollar a male earns, continue to be quoted.  Recent legislative efforts such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the failed Paycheck Fairness Act continue to try to chip away at inequity.  At the same time, efforts at the State level make this more difficult - in Wisconsin, for example, Governor Scott Walker repealed the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, arguing that lawyers were clogging up the legal system.

And then I read this: Sigh!

Female physician researchers make less money than their male counterparts, researchers found.
Among recipients of National Institutes of Health (NIH) career development awards, the average reported annual salary was $167,669 for women and $200,433 for men, according to Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues.
Even after adjustment for differences in specialty, academic rank, leadership positions, publications, and research time, there remained an absolute difference of $13,399 per year between the sexes (P=0.001), the researchers reported in the June 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study, which is consistent with a previous study of life sciences researchers, "provides evidence that gender differences in compensation continue to exist in academic medicine, even among a select cohort of physician researchers whose job content is far more similar than in cohorts previously studied, and even after controlling extensively for specialization and productivity," they wrote.
Even when taking into account marriage and parenthood, the difference was statistically significant, which means that women were shortchanged over a lifetime of nearly $350,000.

The following question thus remains unanswered:

Given the prevalence of women in HR, the pervasive knowledge about pay differentials, and tools such as the Equal Pay Act and Lilly Ledbetter, why hasn't pay inequity been eradicated?

You have a multitude of women in the primary position to address the concern, yet it persists.   Why?

1963 (Revisited): Vendors and #SHRM12

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, June 11, 2012

With the SHRM Annual Conference less than 2 weeks away, and sparked by this tweet from Ben Eubanks, I thought the timing was perfect to revisit this post from last year about the requests of vendors to meet.  There are only slight modifications to reflect that its 2012.


In 11 days, I will be flying out to Las Vegas for the 2012 SHRM Annual Conference.  One of the rites of passage associated with registering and attending the conference is the bevy of mail you receive from vendors hoping to lure you to their booth to discuss the latest in HR technology, drug testing, relocation, etc.   Occasionally, they entice you with the promise of a certain geegaw that you can't find at any other booth.  It would not be uncommon to receive 13+ pieces of mail a day in the 3 weeks prior to the start of the conference.

However, the pitch has changed.......

In 2010, at the SHRM Annual Conference I had the opportunity to be part of the 1st "SHRM Blog Squad," where I had the opportunity to highlight many of the conference events.  You can read more details about it here.  Thanks to Curtis Midkiff (@shrmsocmedguy) and Jennifer Hughes (@SHRMPress), I will once again be able to share my feeble thoughts on the conference yet again.  However, because of my registration as a blogger for the conference, I have yet to receive a single piece of vendor mail.

However, I have been inundated with e-mails from vendors asking me to set up appointments to meet with their CEO or hear about their latest product, presumably as a pitch to feature him or her or the product in my blog. 

As a courtesy to these vendors, let me tell you about my credentials:
1.  I am an Associate Professor of Business Administration.
2.  In that role, I make approximately .1% of any decision affecting the human resources of our organization.
 3.  In the words of Lloyd Dobler, in "Say Anything:" "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that"

So, I may be the wrong audience to target.

The one thing missing is a little WIIFM: What's In It For Me.  What do I get out of taking time out of my busy SHRM Conference schedule to hear your pitch and feature your product/service/CEO in my blog?  (One company who shall remain nameless did offer a "blogger gift bag;" if it anything like actors receive at the Oscars or college football players get when they attend a bowl game, count me in).

Which gives me an idea......

In 2010, Morgan Spurlock released the movie "POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold:"

In the film, he sets out to finance the movie by getting advertisers to sponsor the film, which is essentially a movie about how advertising is polluting our lives and minds.

Given how many pitches I have received in the past couple weeks, I have decided to become a sell-out myself:

1. Sponsor my blog

If it worked for Morgan Spurlock, it can work for me.  I am more than willing to rename my blog, "(Your company name) presents: True Faith HR."  I'd be glad to include your company logo in every SHRM11 blog post I write.  I'd include your company name in every tweet I issue.  I'd even include pictures of myself in your company clothing line.  As my blog and tweets will likely reach thousands of eyes, what better way to get your name out there.

Just make me an offer.

2.  Draw my name at your booth for your "Grand Prize."

This will be my 12th SHRM Annual Conference in a row.  In my previous 11 years of attending the conference, I have yet to have my name drawn as the winner of a booth's grand prize.  You lure me in with the promise of an iPod, laptop, Coach purse, or GPS, yet each year I leave empty handed.  I remain firmly convinced it is due to the credentials listed above; if I am not likely to buy your product, why give me the prize. I have this blog.  Why give the prize to Donna in benefits from Boise, Idaho.  Draw my name instead.  You can be sure as all get out that I will be talking about my new iPad 3 on this blog and I'll be giving your company all sorts of props here.   C'mon, what better way to make your company look magnanimous that giving this here blogger your prize?!?!?

So, vendors, what say you?   I'm not expensive....I'll take an iPad 3, Amazon gift card, Tom Toms, pound notes, loose change, bad checks, anything.   Do I have to come right flat out and tell you everything?

Serious inquiries only!

Coalitions, Alliance, Social Media, and HR

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, June 8, 2012

Today we have a special guest post from my beloved father, Gary Stollak. Dr. Stollak, a Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University from 1967 until 2009, has written many journal articles and is the author of several books on marriage and child rearing, including "What Happened Today; Stories for Parents and Children," and "Until We Are Six: Toward the Actualization of Our Children's Human Potential." He is fond of Stanley Kubrick movies, corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, and ice cream...sometimes even at the same time.

The words coalition and alliance have both been used, mainly, to label groups of nations in war efforts, constituencies of individual politicians, political parties, and collections of business and community organizations and the groups that support and lobby for them. These words have also been used to label those in smaller and larger groups including three or more person families, and of peer groups in childhood and adolescence.  There are also coaches in sports or other activities (think of the cheerleader and choir coaches in the television show Glee), educators, and counselors who attempt to create coalitions or alliances to facilitate learning and behavior change in these groups. These terms are often used interchangeably and most of us may consider them synonyms.

To achieve one or more of our goals in life, we may be members of more than several coalitions and alliances.  We might also encourage and even pay for our children to become members of different kinds of groups (for example, a soccer or debate team, a school band or Girl Scouts) assuming that their participation would advance our goals for them as well as help them achieve their own goals.

The purposes and goals of coalitions
I assume that there are those who are the leaders and followers of many existing—even virtual—groups who experience those in another identifiable group, at the very least, as “opponents.”  I recommend using the word coalition to include those collections of persons who are active or passive members of groups (for example, financial contributors to political parties) whose goal is to defeat another group in some contest or competition. 

In some instances those in another group are despised enemies.  The word coalition also refers to those who contribute to and/or work together to defeat those in other groups who must be defeated in life-threatening battles and wars.  Throughout human history, large groups of armed combatants have come together and have invaded the homeland of others and attempt to destroy and control their population and resources.  And, of course, throughout human history, large groups of armed combatants have also come together to repel those who have invaded their homeland and who wish to control or eliminate their population and possess their natural resources.  Adolph Hitler and those who supported him were part of a very large coalition of those whose “common purpose” and goal was the elimination of persons throughout Europe (and, indeed, the world) that did not possess the characteristics of those he and others decided were “Aryan.”  Some nations have also preemptively attacked an enemy who is perceived as “clearly” planning to invade the “homeland” or the land of an “ally.” 

Sport, political, and business coalitions
The label coalition can also be applied to those involved, directly or indirectly, in significantly less (one hopes) life-threatening and, hopefully, law and rule-following sport, political, and business competitions.  At the heart of capitalism are the various coalitions and teams of executives, managers and blue/gray/white collar workers in very small and very large businesses that seek victory (for example, financial profit or elimination of the competition) in their enterprises.  There are coalitions of “fans” (those on “our” team to which they may feel a deep commitment, an intense passion, and intimacy with the lives of the individuals in the group) against members of the other team (and their fans) who are perceived as opponents who must be defeated in an athletic contest to maintain or obtain school, city, or state “pride,” or to serve “nationalistic” impulses, for example, the “Democracies” (especially the United States) against the “Communist” states in the Olympics and other athletic events during most of the last five decades of the 20th century. 

We may not just have enemies threatening death to ourselves and the destruction of our nation but many of us do have sport, political, and business opponents who “challenge” us, make us “angry,” who are “feared,” who must be dehumanized in more or less ways, described as not worthy of respect, and deserving of a literal or figurative “crushing,” “thrashing” “whipping,” and “humiliation.”  As in sports, there are also political, business and financial “contests” and conflicts and even “reality” TV programs (from “Survivor” to “The Apprentice” to “Top Chef”) that create coalitions between and then within groups with only one member of a group achieving the final “victory.”

The purposes and goals of alliances
I recommend the use of the label alliance to refer to temporary or long-lasting groups whose purposes, common interests and actions do not include responses to any real or hypothetical “enemy” or “opponent.”  For example, an alliance is the appropriate label for groups of persons who come together wanting nothing more than to “be” together, to be intimate as the only goal, to celebrate, to grieve, to arouse and maintain joy and good spirits (for example, via dancing, family and communal meals, and community festivals and parades), to engage in an activity for itself rather than to engage in a competition to determine a “winner.”  For many of us, our relationships with those in our immediate and extended families and nearby neighbors are often long-term even lifetime alliances. 

I would also apply the label of alliance to those groups that respond to accidents, illnesses, and disasters as well as to environmental threats to the lives of others including the lives and habitats of the world’s non-human species.  Sometimes the threat and enemy is “nature” or threats to the health and survival of one or more persons because of illnesses or injuries caused by accidents, physical attacks, or self-inflicted.  There are voluntary and paid groups of persons who work together to provide food and medical supplies and services to those who are needy or disabled, to protect life and property, and to help others survive confrontations with an existing or predicted threat of famine and starvation (sometimes just hunger), extreme heat and cold weather, tornados, hurricanes, droughts, storms, floods, earthquakes or fires.  These include members of rescue services and human and animal shelters, the Red Cross, Red Crescent, World Health Organization, UNICEF, Salvation Army, America’s Second Harvest, and Doctors without Borders.  Others come together to build and rebuild structures after disasters and accidents (for example, Engineers without Borders).  “Victory” is sometimes nothing more than helping others to survive for at least another day.

Cooperation and uniting of individual skills are often critical for a group, even in many coalitions, whether they are members of a basketball team, armed force, business enterprise or political campaign, to achieve and experience the thrill of victory.  However, in alliances, such as those noted above, the cooperation is directed toward the achievement of different kinds of outcomes, different kinds of victories.  As noted above, one kind of goal is solely existential, the experience of consummate Brotherly Love described by Fromm.  The sense of family and community may be achieved by nothing more than participation in bantering, gossiping, verbal play, and the pleasure of humorous and more serious discourse especially, for me, around a table of delicious food. At their best, religious and civic celebrations as well as those celebrating marriages, birthdays, and anniversaries, or traditions engaged in after the death of someone, create a temporary community, a time of reflection on the meaning of the events and people in one’s life, reminiscing about the good times, and expressing joy, thankfulness, or grief.  There is only the present to be celebrated in song and sometimes in dance, verbal and other gifts to be given, or tributes and memories shared.  At their best, there is no focus on enemies and opponents defeated and no recriminations about past slights and rebukes.  These are alliances.  Compare the memories you have of your experiences, words, and actions on such occasions to the motive, goal, and outcome of Mark Antony’s oration to the citizens of Rome over the body of the murdered Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play.

If there is a motto that best describes an alliance, it is “We are family” but only when it is making note that other families and other groups are not competitors, not opponents, not inferior in any way, not an enemy.  Similarly, the motto, “We are all in the same boat” refers to an alliance only when the word “We” means everyone in a family, group, community, city, state, nation or the world and that no one is to be excluded from the safety of the boat.  Some may believe that “A rising tide lifts all boats” but are not necessarily concerned about those in more less seaworthy crafts.  Many may wish for the recognition that all of us are—literally—brothers and sisters.  Many of us believe that all of us are children of an attentive and caring God. 

I hope that each of us is part of a large number of alliances as we go through the days of our lives.  How many of the smaller and larger groups we freely join are ones in which we feel intimate and safe, authentic and vulnerable, in communion and secure with, and in which the activities result in the creation of joy and beauty?  How many alliances do our children belong to?  What specific school or after-school activities that they are involved in are directed to creating and maintaining alliances?  My guess is that many of us, and our children, may not belong to more than a few.   It is also possible that in comparisons with some of the coalitions we belong to and support, for many of us, our involvement in alliances may last even longer.

Coalitions, Alliances and the Internet
            The internet has become increasingly relevant and even necessary in business, political, and in our personal and social lives.  There are “virtual” coalitions and alliances existing there too.  Visiting various website chat rooms and blogging, involvement in text- and video-messaging, including tweets, are examples of social networking and is a daily part of the lives of larger and larger numbers of older children, adolescents and adults.  Some websites and text messaging services now serve as locations that permit and encourage on-line, person-to-person interchanges, with or without photos or video.  These include Facebook, Twitter, and dating sites that may result in two or more person group meetings (even “flash mobs”) where all parties are physically present.

            All political parties, possibly every elected person in city, county, state and federal governments, and every candidate for office, has a website and uses it to be in constant communication with those interested in his or her candidacy and positions about issues…and to raise money.  It is much cheaper than phone calls, television advertisements, and direct mailing and allows immediate response to attacks from others including politicians and commentators.   Further, a very great number of dead or living public figures including actors, and musical and other artists (even fictional characters such as Sherlock Holmes) and college/university or professional sports team have websites created by public relation firms, devoted admirers, or for those still living, themselves, where they, too, can communicate with their fans and, more importantly for the present purposes, with each other. 

            Material and messages on some websites can also support and encourage hate and provide information that could be used for individual or group actions that can lead to violence, destruction, and death of others. 

            There is no doubt that using the internet and photo- and text-messaging services will be an increasingly important means to create and maintain both virtual and face-to-face personal, national, and international coalitions and alliances that will be affecting our own and our children’s lives in the coming decades.

Impact on HR
The question I have for you concerns how do HR policies, responsibilities, programs, and activities go about creating coalitions and/or alliances for any organization and how do social media contribute to helping an HR service achieve one or more specific goals?

Carpe diem!!

Requiem for Wisconsin

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, June 7, 2012

After 16 months of strife, and seemingly endless recall elections, the final vote was cast in Wisconsin.  Governor Scott Walker retained his position and can serve out the remainder of his term.  Meanwhile, a total of three Republican State Senators were recalled, changing power in the Senate from a 19-14 edge for the GOP to a 17-16 advantage for the Democratic party.

But, some questions linger....
1.  Who will be teaching Wisconsin children 5-10 years from now?
  • The hubbub started with Gov. Walker asking public employees (primarily teachers; firefighters and police were exempted) to increase their contributions to health care and pensions without an increase in pay.  The unions negotiated a tradeoff of a wage freeze for better pensions and health care.
  • Not only is pay stagnant, there is some concern that given how pay is defined in the Act that eliminated collective bargaining rights, teachers may face as much as a 30% pay cut to accompany those increased benefit contributions.
  • Many of the most experienced teachers retired before Walker's rules went into effect for the 2011-2012 academic year. Class sizes have increased in many districts.  Many adjunct/substitute teachers had to be hired.  Quality is impacted.
  • Morale has already been negatively impacted; do you think many teachers were emboldened by Tuesday's election results?  Will the stress be significant enough for many to simply throw in the towel and look elsewhere?
  • If I'm 18 years or younger, I've just spent 16 months watching my teachers being vilified; referred to as "thugs" and "parasites."  Am I going to be rushing into college and declaring my major as elementary or secondary education?  
  • If I am completing my education degree, will a Wisconsin school be my first or even second job choice?
2.  If I am a parent and on the job market, is Wisconsin now going to be a destination where I might considered working, given the turmoil that has gone on?  As 800 million was cut from the education budget, am I going to get the same quality education for my children that existed 2 years ago? 

3. If I am a business looking to relocate, or currently operating in Wisconsin, will there be long-term concerns about the educational preparedness of the workforce 10 years down the road?  Will whatever tax incentives provided to locate here be enough to counteract the likely increased training costs that will be borne by the organization?

Super Speedway and #indyfest

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Last week, even in my perch some 2 hours away,  I was named by Milwaukee IndyFest as "One of the 26 Most Influential Social Media Users in Milwaukee."  I am part of the IndyFest 26 who will be assisting in the marketing and promotion of these three day event June 14-16 in Milwaukee, with the goal to make the event the most connected race event on the IZOD IndyCar Series tour.

To capture the flavor of the event, the group of 26 were invited to the Marcus Majestic Theater for a screening of "Super Speedway," an IMAX film starring Mario and Michael Andretti.  The film documents the trials and tribulations as the Newman-Haas team prepares for the upcoming racing season.  A few notes on the 50 minute film from 1997:
  1. It was touching to see the relationship between father (Mario) and son (Michael), as skills and knowledge was passed from father to son (and to grandson Marco, who races as well).  It was also interesting to see the reaction to the film by Michael Andretti, who attended the film, sat next to me, and answered questions after the film.
  2. There is never a "finished" product.  Modifications are continually going on...before, during, and after the race.  Chaos rules.
  3. Communication between the driver and his team is absolutely crucial.  Andretti has to convey the problems he is experiencing on the track in clear, concise language to his team, so they can respond quickly.
  4. Luck is huge.  The most telling moment in the film was when Mario Andretti said (paraphrasing) that you could pair the most sophisticated car with the most talented driver, and you still could lose.  What doesn't work in one race brings great success in another.  Think about that when teambuilding at work.
The real action begins on Thursday, June 14 with the Milwaukee IndyFest Street Party, featuring live music from The Toys, a Kids Zone featuring face painting, giant slide, hot slots racing and a bounce house, IndyCar Driver appearances from Mario and Michael Andretti, among others, and a judged car show with a range of categories of competition

On Friday, June 15, attendees can watch IndyCar practice and qualifying, the 100-lap Firestone Indy Lights race

Saturday,  June 16 is the day of the big race.  The IndyFest 225 will be televised live by ABC-TV, and shown around the world by ESPN International.  After the race will be a free Smash Mouth concert inside turn one.

Once again, full details about the event can be found here.

You can follow the IndyFest 26 and the IndyFest IndyCar Stars on Twitter!

4 Innovations That Could Change Work?

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, June 4, 2012

The New York Times had a piece this past Sunday on "32 innovations that will change your tomorrow," several of which impact the world of work.  Here are a select few:

By Jason Fagone
If you slump down when you’re typing on an ErgoSensor monitor by Philips, it’ll suggest that you sit up straighter. To help office workers avoid achy backs and tired eyes, the device’s built-in camera follows the position of your pupils to determine how you are sitting. Are you too close? Is your neck tilted too much? Algorithms crunch the raw data from the sensor and tell you how to adjust your body to achieve ergonomic correctness. The monitor can also inform you that it’s time to stand up and take a break, and it will automatically power down when it senses that you’ve left. 
Years away: 0-2

Given the huge expense of workers' compensation, and the increasing time we spend at our desks staring at a computer screen, this will be a must in any workplace.

By Catherine Rampell
When you aim the SpeechJammer at someone, it records that person’s voice and plays it back to him with a delay of a few hundred milliseconds. This seems to gum up the brain’s cognitive processes — a phenomenon known as delayed auditory feedback — and can painlessly render the person unable to speak. Kazutaka Kurihara, one of the SpeechJammer’s creators, sees it as a tool to prevent loudmouths from overtaking meetings and public forums, and he’d like to miniaturize his invention so that it can be built into cellphones. “It’s different from conventional weapons such as samurai swords,” Kurihara says. “We hope it will build a more peaceful world.” 
Years away: 2-4

This one will be fun, but controversial.  Who would love to have this at a movie theater or a noisy restaurant?  Who wouldn't like to shut up the individual who is droning on and on, or the loudmouth who is dominating a meeting?  But, who makes the decision to use the SpeechJammer?  Is this something that could be anonymously applied?  Will we see SpeechJammer duels at sunrise?

By Catherine Rampell
Researchers at Wharton, Yale and Harvard have figured out how to make employees feel less pressed for time: force them to help others. According to a recent study, giving workers menial tasks or, surprisingly, longer breaks actually leads them to believe that they have less time, while having them write to a sick child, for instance, makes them feel more in control and “willing to commit to future engagements despite their busy schedules.” The idea is that completing an altruistic task increases your sense of productivity, which in turn boosts your confidence about finishing everything else you need to do. 
Years away: 0-2
Are people building the time for altruistic tasks into their daily planners or PDAs? How many managers are adding this tool into their daily toolbox?

By Gretchen Reynolds
What’s the new psychological trick for improving performance? Strategic lying. When amateur golfers were told, falsely, that a club belonged to the professional golfer Ben Curtis, they putted better than other golfers using the same club. For a study published in March, human cyclists were pitted against a computer-generated opponent moving at, supposedly, the exact speed the cyclist had achieved in an earlier time trial. In fact, the avatars were moving 2 percent faster, and the human cyclists matched them, reaching new levels of speed. Lying is obviously not a long-term strategy — once you realize what’s going on, the effects may evaporate. It works as long as your trainer can keep the secret.
Years away: 0-2

Is this a viable managerial strategy, even in the short-run?  Would managers be willing to trade the minor gains for a deterioration of trust in the long run?

Check out the full list of ideas here