Soundview Executive Book Summaries


The Myth of Multitasking

Recently, I was on a conference call with my office and on the other line was a room full of people. As I listened, my email alert popped up and I clicked over to see what it was about. A minute later I realized that I hadn’t heard what was being said on the call. I quickly focused back on the meeting, only to be distracted again by the headline of the Wall St Journal lying open on my desk.

Then the dreaded question could be heard on the other side of the phone, “What do you think about that?” Oh, they’re talking to me and I have no idea what was just said. With a quick “I didn’t quite catch that last part, can you repeat it?”, I caught back up with the conversation while moving the newspaper out of view.

Multitasking is a myth for most of humanity. Our minds are designed to focus on only one thing at a time, and what most of us refer to as multitasking is actually linear-tasking, moving our focus quickly back-and-forth between several tasks. But our mind is focused on only one at a time.

A Utah researcher found that only about 2.5% of the population can actually multitask, a rare group of “super-taskers.” The rest of us can only truly multitask with activities that don’t require our mind to be fully engaged, such as knitting or working out. Such automatic tasks allow us to focus our mind on something else like reading or watching TV.

In The Age of Speed, Vince Poscente says that multitasking can actually slow us down. He points out that brain scans reveal that if we do two tasks at the same time, we have only half of the usual brain power devoted to each. Can we really afford to be only half there for an important activity?

Poscente believes that we should embrace speed. What he is suggesting is that we should use every technology at our disposal to speed up the unimportant tasks of our lives – the minutiae that we just need to get through. Then we can take our time with the important tasks, those things that really matter to us.

What does this look like in daily life? Well, it means that we must always be making evaluations of the tasks we’re performing. Is this a task I just need to get through as quickly as possible, and if so how can I make it more efficient? And on the other hand, if a task is important and valuable, how can I hold back the interruptions so that this time has my full attention?

An example that most of us can identify with is setting a rule of no mobile devices at the dinner table. Interaction with our family is essential and should not be interrupted by anyone’s cell phone. We draw a line here – this is not the time for speed.

In the corporate world, this concept is leading to what is called a “values-based time model.” Poscente uses the example of Best Buy and its Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). This initiative has led to a 35% increase in productivity.

So the bottom line is that multitasking is not the solution to our time pressures. Instead we need to make value-based decisions about what to focus our attention on and what to speed up with the technologies at our disposal. So when I’m on the phone with the main office I need to put aside the distractions!

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Handing Over the Reins to the Consumer

For those who have not been keeping up on the big news in the e-book publishing industry, the DOJ (Department of Justice) recently brought a lawsuit against the 5 big publishers and Apple for price-fixing, based on their agreement to use the “agency” price model. The publishers made this move to gain back control of pricing from Amazon and it worked.

This story has quite a lengthy and complex history, which Charles Stross does a great job of explaining in detail in his blog of April 14th. One of Stross’ points is that publishers got themselves into this mess with Amazon by insisting on DRM (digital rights management) protection for their books.

Publishers were concerned about the pirating of their books, but in the process of protecting the content they made it much harder for customers to consume the books they had purchased on the device they preferred. So Amazon gained a monopoly by developing the Kindle and locking books to one device.

Years ago, when Soundview began publishing business book summaries in digital form, we had this discussion about DRM as well. We researched software, devices and customer preferences and came to the conclusion that what’s best for our customers was to provide them with summaries in as many formats as possible to provide them with flexibility. Could someone take advantage of the lack of DRM protection? Certainly, but we believed that what’s best for the customer would also be best for us in the long run.

This has indeed proven to be the case as this flexibility has allowed us to move quickly to provide our book summaries in formats for the latest devices for individuals, and to provide our content in the ways that work for our corporate clients as well.

Let’s hope that publishers learn this lesson soon before they’re put out of business by competitors who are willing to adapt.



Can Technology and Sanity Co-Exist?

It’s amazing how easily we’re affected by the technology around us. Do you become impatient when a website doesn’t load in less than 2 seconds? Do you become frustrated when someone doesn’t respond to your email within a minute? Does any communication that’s more than a sentence long cause you to begin scanning?

It almost makes me long for the days of rotary phones and letters that go through the mail. But of course I’m showing my age because I expect that most of you have never used a rotary phone or written a letter and sent it through the mail!

But then it struck me that the problem isn’t with technology – it’s with us. We can either allow all of our gadgets to run our lives or we can make them work for us to make our lives better. This isn’t a novel thought by any means but it’s still a reminder that I need, and perhaps you need as well.

I ran across an article in the Wall St Journal titled Employees, Measure Yourselves. The article describes a new line of software and apps that have been created to help us measure how we use our work time, collect our creative ideas, track our heart rate for stress factors, and measure a whole host of other areas of our lives. If tracking activity can reveal trends and help us to improve, then this is a good thing.

As I scanned our Soundview archive, I found a few business book summaries that demonstrate this point very well. In The Age of Speed, Vince Poscente makes the case that rather than slowing down to avoid stress and achieve balance, we should take advantage of technology to help us work more quickly and efficiently. Charlene Li, author of Open Leadership, also makes the case for using technology to our advantage to become better leaders by tapping into the power of social media.

As I think about it, the very purpose of Soundview Executive Book Summaries is to leverage technology to help executives make the best use of their time, while keeping up on the latest business thinking. It started with print book summaries mailed to subscribers, then on to audio summaries that could be listened to in the car or on the treadmill, and now we offer eight digital formats for use on any computer, smartphone, e-reader or tablet.

How are you using technology to improve your life? Give it some thought and send along your ideas for others to read through our comments box.



E-books and the Business Book Market
March 7, 2012, 11:24 AM
Filed under: Books in General, E-Books, Technology | Tags: , ,

On Monday I ran across an interesting article on the Smart Money site titled 10 Things E-Books Won’t Tell You. In the article Kellie Grant looks at the negatives of e-book ownership. As I read through her ten points, I found myself considering which of these points might apply to business e-book customers.

Here are the points that stuck out to me:

  1. We’re not one-reader-fits-all:  the point here is that books can’t be easily transferred from one manufacturer’s device to another. This can be a real problem for business executives, who tend to be early adopters and rough on their devices. How can you get you growing list of books from your Kindle to your iPad, or your Sony Reader to your Nook?
  2. Watch your data bill – a standard book can be up to 1GB in size, which can really affect your data usage if you download a lot of books. Cell phone companies are beginning to charge more for data, and who has time to hunt for WiFi hotspots to save on download costs?
  3. The extras will kill you – as business authors expand their use of multi-media in their books (see my post on the business use of iBook Author), this will raise the price of e-books and add to data usage.
  4. E-books are the new latte – as business book readers, we’re already guilty of buying stacks of books that we’ll never find time to read – that’s why Soundview offers book summaries.  But now it’s even easier to make an impulse buy with e-books purchased on a website, downloaded directly to your latest device. The result – more unread books, more money, more data usage.

And yet, the convenience is still very compelling! Since e-book publishing and device development are still evolving, perhaps we’ll see solutions coming soon for the issues listed above. But in the mean time it’s probably best to think carefully before each device and e-book purchase to make sure you’re investing your money wisely.



How Businesses Are Using Video

I recently ran across a great article written by Jimm Fox of One Market Media on the many business uses of video. I’ve listed his main categories below, and you can check out the full article for more details.

  1. Customer Reference – video helps with collecting and showing customer testimonials, case studies and interviews.
  2. Product & Service Promotion – companies use video for product presentations, demonstrations and reviews.
  3. Corporate – corporations provide their company overview, executive highlights, facility tours and more with video.
  4. Training & Support – video is the latest thing in employee training, sales presentations and maintenance support.
  5. Internal Communication – video is now being used for business plans, company achievements, event coverage, employee orientation and health & safety education.
  6. Marketing – video promotions can take the form of commercials, viral video, content marketing and landing pages.
  7. PR/Community – video press releases are becoming more popular, along with video PR materials and community relation pieces.
  8. Events – at an event, presentations, roundtable discussions and Q&A with experts can all take place in video.
  9. Other – videos are also being used for recruitment, vlogs (video blogs) and research/surveys.

On the internet search side of the equation, research shows that a webpage with video is 30% more likely to end up on the first page of search results in Google then the same page without video. Google is now giving preference to video content in their search algorithm.

At Soundview, we are following this trend carefully, and have expanded our own offerings to include video. Our iPad format of each business book summary includes a video introduction from our Editor-in-Chief Sarah Dayton.  We now produce Executive Insights, a series of videos which interview active executives regarding key business skills. And we’re developing additional video content to be released soon.

Video increases engagement time, deepens emotional connections, and gives your company more trust and credibility with your customers and other stake-holders. And the cost of entry is becoming less every day with new technologies and web tools. If your company or organization is not currently using video, now is the time to jump in.



Apple’s iBooks Author: Will It Work for Business?

Last week I wrote about the (then) upcoming Apple announcement and their foray into education. Well, now everyone has heard the details about Apple’s plans for textbooks and it’s really a mixed-bag.

On the plus side, Apple is offering a free software package for building interactive textbooks. The features that can be used with a book include templates by subject, drag and drop for images, video and slides, integration of widgets in Java or HTML5, and the auto-creation of a glossary of terms.

For users of the books the features are also quite impressive, including highlighting with the swipe of a finger, note taking which can be turned into study cards and communication with instructors for assignments and progress, plus of course the enjoyment of interactive media.

But there are negatives, and these began hitting the blog-waves within minutes after the presentation at the Guggenheim museum. First is the cost factor. These interactive books can only be viewed on an iPad, so every student will need one. And the books must be purchased through the iBook store. The second negative is the resulting control issue. The books are not in a pure ePub format so they can’t be used on other devices or platforms. And the agreement you sign when using their software states that the books can only be sold in the iBooks store, although they can be given away free in other venues.

So what does all of this mean for business authors and publishers? I think it still opens up a great new venue for selling business books.

Regarding the plus side above, these features open up a whole new avenue for education and training in the corporate world. To have books that are interactive, with audio, video, slides and other tools integrated into the e-books, will be great for engaging employees at all levels. And the potential for interaction with trainers or managers around the content is equally beneficial.

As far as the negative issues go, these are less limiting in business than in education. Companies can afford to buy the devices needed to distribute training materials, and can purchase through the iBooks store if necessary, although I expect that some bulk discounting will be available. I would however suggest having a lawyer look at the iBooks Author agreement.

Business authors and publishers should be on the front edge of this new development because there is the potential to sell a lot more books and to get new business concepts into the hands of many more people in a dynamic new format. Let me know if you hear of any business authors taking advantage of the iBooks Author software.



Trends in Customer Service

As social media has taken hold in all areas of business, and as the mobile device has become our primary vehicle of communication and interaction with companies, this phenomenon has brought with it a resurging emphasis on customer service.

The reasons are obvious. Now when I’m not happy with a company’s service, I have more options than calling them or filling out a survey. I can now post my complaint on Facebook to all my friends, Tweet about it to my followers, and even put together a video for Youtube. Viral complaints are the new catastrophe looming over company executives. Just ask United Airlines.

So it’s no surprise that business authors have caught on to this trend and are highlighting those companies that do customer service right. Here are just a few recent titles:

Among the lessons that companies are learning is that they must keep their finger on the pulse of social media. Someone needs to constantly monitor the major social media networks for mentions of their respective company and products. In this way catastrophes can be averted by a quick response to any issue that arises. Ford, PepsiCo and Southwest Airlines are among those companies with staff dedicated to monitoring social sites and handling issues as they come up.

Do you have stories about companies that have handled (or mishandled) customer issues aired through social media? If so, we’d love to post your stories with this blog. Please comment below.