How often do you ask for help ?

This is about Gibbs’s Rule # 28: "When you need help, ask."

If you don’t know Gibbs you probably never watched the TV show “Navy CIS” ? This rule caught my attention when watching episode “Blood Brothers” recently.

How often do I ask for help when I need it ? Probably too seldom. Isn’t asking for help a sign of weakness ? Of course, not. Helping each other is what makes teams strong. But sometimes you hesitate to ask for help about something others would except you not to need any help for, right ? 

Saying “sorry” is a sign of weakness, according to Gibbs’s rules ( rule # 6 ). Is it ?


Artificial language

It is election time in Germany and thus time for many people to read political manifestos. The German University in Hohenheim has analyzed the language used in those manifestos and came to the conclusion: they are impossible to understand for an average human being and need to be translated into some meaningful language so that people can understand it. ( Source here in German ).

An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.

Amazing. Why do people chose some sort of artificial and unnecessarily complicated language when communicating ? How many presentations have you seen where you just would say: “Häh ?”

Is it the attempt to create some sort of “professional appearance” when choosing such  a language with over-complicated words and monster sentences, spaghetti charts and tons of details nobody really want to look at ?

Laws are another good example. Essential for our culture they should be easy to understand by everyone. But because of the language chosen to write those a new profession has been created to translate those laws into another over-complicated language: lawyer.

It is always amazing to me how something as simple as communication between people can be made so in-efficient.

This is part of the challenge in the Cognitive Era: translating data into meaning. Thus I like how this Watson-driven robot talks to a person in this video “IBM Watson Engagement Advisor ”.

Some people always talk

Every morning when my wife and I are having breakfast we see two woman from the neighborhood walking their dogs. When they pass by our house it is always the same woman talking while the other one is listening. Every single day !
Many years ago I had a boss who was talking forever. When he called me into his office I always knew it would take 2 hours and during these 2 hours he would be talking and I would be listening. In rare situations when I made it to talk I saw him yawning after a short while. His eyes seemed to turn to his inner part, it looked like his brain was shutting off.
Shouldn’t communication between people consist of a somewhat balanced amount of talking and listening ? Why do some people always talk ?

My favorites for week 19, 2011

Big GrinSomething to laugh: my favorite comic strip of the weekabout communication in modern times

NerdSomething to watch: my favorite video clip of the weekabout a real bad joke with Windows XP

You have a fellow worker next to you who always leaves his PC unlocked when leaving his desk ? Here is your opportunity to play a real bad trick on him. Can be done in one minute or so, may be you first try on your own PC.

I recommend to let your victim not suffer for too long, he might get crazy about this soon. Get him some help after a few minutes latest, may be a good way to earn a free coffee Wink. And whatever you do, never ever mention that you found this in my blog !

  Something to enjoy: my favorite photo  on flickr under a Common Creative licenseabout Acadia NP

Frenchman Bay in Acadia NP
"Frenchman Bay in Acadia NP" by axel_magard.

Let me feature one of my own photos here this week from Acadia NP, where my wife and I have been in 1997. Just this week I scanned in more of my slides with my CanoScan 5600F, and here is one: “Frenchman Bay in Acadia NP”.

Surprise Something to surprise: my favorite "I really didn’t know this" of the weekabout infected computers in Germany

Did you know that

  • 5.3 of 1000 computers in Germany have been infected with malware in 4th quarter 2010.
  • These are twice as many as one year before.
  • However Germany is still below world-wide average of 8.7 of 1000 infected computers

Source: heise online article “Microsoft: Zahl der infizierten Rechner in Deutschland verdoppelt

My favorites for week 8, 2011

Big GrinSomething to laugh: my favorite comic strip of the weekabout cubicle landscapes

  One of the many reasons why I love Dilbert comics is that they very often are about the pleasure to work in these modern cubicle landscapes our employers have crafted for us. Well, I only go there if I have to, otherwise I stay at home. Why should I go through this morning commute madness ( actually not so bad in my case; just a 20 minute car ride into Mainz, a medium size town in Germany ) just to get to a place where I actually can not work efficiently ?

Anyway, here is another nice one about this topic:

NerdSomething to watch: my favorite video clip of the weekabout an amazing Guitarist

Thinking outside the box might mean to use a tool in a very different way than people do usually. Watch Erik Mongrain playing his guitar in a very different way …
Amazing Guitarist

  Something to enjoy: my favorite photo  on flickr under a Common Creative licenseabout a crater in Death Valley.

Little Hebe Crater
"Little Hebe Crater" by stevelyon.

Apparently the Little Hebe Crater must be somewhere in the Death Valley Area, as I assumed when looking at this photo by Steve Lyon, and as I confirmed through Wikipedia. I must have missed it when I was there in 1995. May be next time. You can’t see everythng when travelling…

Surprise Something to surprise: my favorite "I really didn’t know this" of the weekabout facebook

  Did you know that

  • Facebook has 642 726 020 users world wide,
  • most Facebook users come from the US, where 49 % of the population have joined this social network,
  • Germany is on rank 11 with 16 million users, that is 19 % of all Germans
  • in the US the majority of Facebook users are female.

Source: These statistics are available here on socialbakers.

Something to talk about: my favorite quote of the weekabout language

Language is the source of misunderstandings.

Especially human language ! Watson did a great job last week to deal with this and win the Jeopardy! Challenge. In case you missed it you may want to head to my stream of IBM related videos on youtube and find there 6 10-minute video clips showing how the 20-minutes show episodes went last week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, or you may just want to watch this nice 10-minute summary. A collection of articles about Watson I have collected here as a Goodle Bookmarks List.

My favorites for week 3, 2011

Big GrinSomething to laugh: my favorite comic strip of the weekabout feedback

It’s probably a good advice to give feedback only to people who ask for it. They will be the ones who appreciate your effort. Don’t come up with feedback if people who are supposed to digest it are not in the mood to do so, like Charlie Brown here in this Peanutrs comic strip.  And keep in mind – as I mentioned here in “Handling Feedback”: Participation in feedback should be voluntary, for the feedback receiver, and for the one giving feedback !

NerdSomething to watch: my favorite video clip of the weekabout domino

Domino Day at someones home: watch this "Amazing domino video for Restless Legs".

  Something to enjoy: my favorite photo  on flickr under a Common Creative licenseabout the moon and winter in Denmark

I believe the moon looks the same anywhere, nevertheless here is a great shot of the moon from Flemming from Denmark. And if you want to get an impression how winters look like in Denmark check out the other photo: “Winter in Denmark”.

"DSC_1708" by flemming. d5000.
DSC_1240_Winter in Denmark
"DSC_1240_Winter in Denmark" by flemming. d5000.
Cool Something to discover: my favorite bookmark of the weekabout comparing countries

IfItWereMyHome is a nice web site allowing you to compare countries in terms of how it would be to live there instead of your own country. For example if you currently live in USA moving over to Germany would

  • make you consume 50 % less oil,
  • give you 25 % more free time,
  • makes you staying alive for 1.17 extra years.

Those and more interesting facts about countries compared to other countries plus a nice map on the right comparing countries by its size are available on this web site.

Something to talk about: my favorite quote of the weekabout patents @ IBM

It took 50 years for IBM to have 5000 patents. In 2010, IBM received more than 5000 patents!

Since 18 years IBM is the company with the most patents. IBM’s worldwide patent portfolio exceeds 40,000 active patents ! Amazing what 400.000 smart people can achieve, isn’t it ?
From my presentation I use every year for Engineers Weeks here is a chart showing some of the most famous IBM patents:

Handling feedback

Giving feedback is one part of handling feedback, receiving feedback another part. For a successful feedback rules should be followed by both parties.
I remember a feedback method called "Hot Chair" where someone has to sit in the middle of the room while others are giving feedback to him or her – usually personal feedback. This sounds like a tough situation but works great if those rules are followed and in most of the cases people feel well afterwards: both parties, those who got feedback and those who gave feedback.
I am not sure whether I recall all the rules, so list below might not be complete:

  • Feedback Sender
    • Participate in the feedback voluntarily
    • Always talk from your point of view, talk about what you experienced or felt. Typically a sentence whould start with "I felt …. after …" or "I like/dislike …", important is the "I" here. Talk about your perception, not the feedback receiver himself.
    • Do not give advices. Do not start a sentence with "You…". ( Leave it up to the feedback receiver to draw conclusions )
    • All other communication rules: as short as possible, clear language, don’t repeat youself, …
  • Feedback Receiver
    • Participate in the feedback voluntarily
    • Listen, don’t respond.
    • At the end thank for the feedback and tell the feedback sender that you will think about his feedback but not necessarily change anything since you are the person YOU like to be and not the one HE/SHE likes to be.
    • It is up the the feedback receiver to ask special people for their feedback or to just wait if anyone volunteers to give feedback

Some of the rules might not apply in reality. For instance often you receive feedback without haven asked for it. While feedback is given you should not respond – this can be done in case of written feedback easily. First read it, then understand in, then think about it, ( then sleep about it; a good rule I remember from my military duty time; may be just having a cup of coffee or tea is good enough sometimes ), then respond if you want to explain something and do not forget to thank the feedback sender for his time he/she invested to improve you.
Some rules should apply in real life, like the first two listed for feedback sender and #2 and #3 listed for the feedback receiver. I think it is OK to respond some time later but not while the feedback is given.

Filling out a form at the end of a class is probably not a perfect method to obtain feedback. It is the quick way and allows to do some statistics afterwards but the better way would be to invest one hour for a feedback discussion.