Posts filed under “Disruptive Technology”

Seasons of Work: Summer School – part 1

This is a “show your work”  post about sharing some of my thinking around  my own career development. 

I have often spoken about lifestyle design on this blog (here and here) and it remains one of my most important priorities. I always like to step back and make sure that the way I’m living my life is aligned with my optimal energy levels and habits. For example, during the cold months I am very rarely tempted to venture outside of my apartment. For me, winter is my most productive time because I hole up in my little writing cave and work. Spring and fall are in between times, a mix of execution, travel, and projects. Summer is all about being outside, taking some time to think, moving at a slower pace and enjoying the little things like cold ice tea and a walk in the park with Pixel.

One of the saddest parts of being an adult is not being able to take summer vacations anymore, and something that I always vowed to fix in my own career. Over the past few years, I’ve managed to schedule my time so that during the summer I have a reduced active workload. An active workload is any external deliverable that someone is waiting on. I’m still doing a lot of writing and research but am  not committed to anyone else during this time. Sometimes things come up that are unavoidable but generally, this system has worked pretty well. It does mean that I work longer hours in the winter sometimes but for me, the trade-off is worth it.

Summer is also the time I carve out to learn.

One of the things that I love most about working in the digital space is the sheer speed at which everything moves. It keeps you on your toes and forces you to pay attention to what’s going on because everything is constantly changing. For me that means I need to regularly reassess my skills and make sure that my knowledge base is growing in order to continue to deliver value to my clients and on my own projects. In that vein, every summer I poke around online and find a few courses to audit. It’s the perfect summer activity. I do my course readings on patios, in parks, by the Seine. My reduced workload gives me time to explore new ideas, which is the perfect lead in to my ramp up for fall. Armed with new insights I am always energized when September comes around, eager to apply what I’ve learned. Many of these courses are free, and you can audit them if you don’t want to do the course assignments. I usually pick a mix of doing the course work and auditing. I tend to gravitate to a mix of innovation, strategy and foresight courses though occasionally I’ll take a random one that strikes my fancy. MIT’s Open Course platform is a gold mine!  Here are the courses I’m interested in this year:

  • The Sociology of Strategy:  A course that investigates some of the central questions in strategic management through the lense of sociological research with a focus on (a) relative firm performance; (b) the nature of competition and market interaction; (c) organizational capabilities; (d) the beginnings of industries and firms; (e) the diffusion or transfer of ideas and practices across firms; and (f) strategic change.  
  • Advanced Strategy:  A course that explores  the roots of long term competitive advantage in unusually successful firms. It will focus particularly on the ways in which the actions of senior management build competitive advantage over time, and on the strategic implications of understanding the roots of a firm’s success.

Over on Coursera I’ve narrowed down my choices to these three: Understanding Media by Understanding Google from NorthWestern University, Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: the first step in entrepreneurship from the University of Maryland, and Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations.

Audit vs. Take

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll audit most of the courses, meaning I’ll watch the lectures and read the notes but I will be very choosy about which exercises and assignments I do. I won’t get a “certificate” of completion from Coursera but I don’t really care about that as I’m only interested in expanding my own skills. Last year I took Managing Innovation: Emerging Trends which I really liked and so I’m hoping this year’s picks will be as interesting. I enjoy that it’s self-paced so I just go through the readings and lectures at my own speed. What I’ll usually do is review all the course material to see what’s most interesting and then choose the courses that I think will be the most fun and useful. If something is really boring, I’ll skip it.  The Google course looks fascinating and I’ve already read several of the books on the suggested reading list so this will be a nice complement to critically evaluating some of the ideas I’m already familiar with. The coursera platform has a much nicer interface than MIT’s and you definitely have to be self-motivated. I schedule some time each week to focus on this because it’s an important part of my professional development. Yes, we have to stay on top of trends and startups and current events but I’m finding that it’s also important to slow down and re-examine some of the big ideas that are underlying these shifts.


Here are a few articles I’ve found about other people who are taking an innovative approach to professional development.

  • The (now) famous Personal MBA by Josh Kauffman about how to access the same information for yourself.
  • The Tropical MBA – my current obsession about building a location independent business. Part of my next five year plan. So much good stuff here, I’m all over their content: podcasts, blogposts, newsletters…MOAR!!!

I’ll be blogging about the more interesting tidbits of my courses this summer, and sharing some the best stuff with my lovely newsletter subscribers, stay tuned and happy learning!   If you’re interested in staying updated about my research, upcoming books and general cool things I find online, sign up for my monthly newsletters and get my best stuff first. Subscribe here.  

[Data] Decoded: How Much Time Is Your Company Wasting?

This post is a part of my thinking around the concepts I wrote about in my latest book, “The Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers.”  You can see other thoughts about big data, organizational culture and talent management here

I spotted a recent HBR blog post last month that underscored our need for better data systems inside organizations. Entitled Quantify How Much Time Your Company Wastes, author Ryan Fuller, laments the wasted, untracked time that goes down the drain at the end of each business day. The numbers he quotes are frightening: one Vice President in the technology sector reported spending an average 44 hours a week on meetings, under 22 hours on emails alone.

“There are so many initiatives, goals, peoples, customers, and vendors competing for our time that it’s extraordinarily challenging to just simply focus,” he writes. “This is changing, however – just think about how many companies are utilizing sophisticated social intelligence algorithms to create a deeper understanding of their customers’ patterns and behavior.”

It’s Fuller’s next piece of advice that really caught my eye, and I think you’ll quickly see why:


The next step is turning these analytics inward – harnessing the massive amount of e-mail, calendar, and messaging data a company already has – to diagnose surprising inefficiencies that exist at an organizational level.


What’s that Ryan? Organizations should know their talent as well as they know their customers?  I totally agree! Though I might be a little biased. The Decoded model is built on understanding that attracting the best talent is now a survival imperative for companies facing today’s economic climate. Attracting those people is only half the battle: the real work is in making sure they are happy, empowered and motivated. That’s where data can come in to help create better training practices, introduce flexible policies and engineer the types of behaviours that create the best cultures.

The article lists three tips for organizations including: identifying expensive errors, monitoring partner relationships and personalizing feedback loops (which we focus on in depth in one of the chapters.)

I wanted to offer my own suggestion:

Measure your baseline time expenditure. 

Humans tend to be naturally optimistic when it comes to estimating the time of work it takes to get something done. We are more likely to under-estimate the actual time. We also are prone to losing small chunks of time that can add up. Plus, the human memory is a falliable thing that is often prone to rewriting experiences to fit our own narratives. This means that many of us think we have an idea of how many times we get interrupted in a day or how long it takes us to complete a task, but without data to back that up, we could be totally wrong.

Here are three ways to experiment with this:

  • Try a service like Rescue Time which runs in the background of your computer and tallies the websites you visit and the tasks you work on. You might be surprised (as I was) that you think you’re only “glancing at twitter every now and then” when you’re actually spending four hours a week on the social media platform.
  • For those that want a more analogue experiment here is a very easy one from the book. Take a pad of paper and a pencil. At the beginning of the work day write down your best estimate for the number of times that you’ll be interrupted between 9am and lunchtime. Then, every time you get interrupted from a task, be it a cheery colleague stopping by or an email that requires your attention, make a tally mark. At lunch time compare the number of marks to your theoretical number.
  • Ask your team to rate the usefulness of the meetings they attend on a scale of 1-10 for one month. They can do this in a shared spreadsheet or you can even ask them to anonymously submit scores on post-its at the end of a meeting, whatever works best for you. At the end of this period, take a look at your numbers. Most people we’ve worked with who have conducted this experiment have discovered that there were a few meetings (or more) that no one found useful. By eliminating these meetings they were able to increase morale and productivity!

Consider the following questions:

  • Were you surprised by the results?
  • Were your estimations of time expenditures accurate?
  • What is the major insight about how you spend your time?
  • Is there something that can be changed?


The best tool you have is knowledge, a true understanding where your time is going. It’s only by understanding your baseline that you can start to make constructive changes, and identify underlying issues – like too many meetings or Kevin from accounting who always drops by for chats that last for 20 minutes.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can apply The Decoded Model within your own organization, feel free to email me as I often (time permitting) take on a few clients to help implement our principles. You can contact me here.


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The Decoded Company in the Ivey Business Journal

Ivey Business Journal | Improving the practice of management

I’ve been delighted with the response and excitement from people wanting to know more about The Decoded Company and what it could mean for their organization. After speaking at the Ivey Ideas Series in February, I was invited to contribute a piece that encapsulates our thinking about how organizations can deploy big data to recruit and retain talent.

You can read the piece here.



Canadian Launch Photos

I wanted to share some of the photos taken of The Decoded Company’s Canadian launch event at Indigo. The space was packed!

Standing room only!


Here’s Don Tapscott talking about how excited he was to support the book. Fun fact: Don was the first person who endorsed the book and I am so grateful for his support.

Don Tapscott predicts The Decoded Company will be a best seller.


Signing books always feel so surreal to me, which is why I have a slightly shell shocked and bemused expression on my face the entire time. Exhibit A below:

Jay and Rahaf


Here’s all of the authors with the lovely Amber MacArthur, my good friend and MC of the festivities.

The authors with the evening's host, Amber Mac

The Decoded Company: Book Trailer

Hurray! I’m delighted to announce the new book trailer for The Decoded Company.