• What do you mean, "without DRM"?

    Is it just me or has the ground temperature just dropped by 30 degrees?

  • Lessons learned

    There are no technical solutions for mental problems.

  • Vitalist upgrades its features

    After using Vitalist for some weeks now, I think I really found my task planning solution. It's the complete concept of David Allen's Getting Things Done book (by the way, there's finally also a german translation) implemented as an easy to use Web 2.0 application.

    Over the weekend, the folks at Vitalist Solutions have released new features they had announced on their blog over the recent weeks:

    • Contexts as Tags: the contexts a task can be handled in are displayed more prominently.
    • Sub-Projects: you can now build a project tree by splitting a big project into several small ones.
    • Quick Add/Edit: entering new tasks is now even easier.
    • Priorities: you can give every task one of four priorities, symbolized by a coloured star.

    Michael Ramm has a detailed review of Vitalist over at the Black Belt Productivity blog. Like Michael, I see no need to get the paid version with features like encryption, attachments and collaboration. The free version has everything I need to get the calming feeling that everything gets taken care of in time.

    So, if you're looking for a GTD solution that you can access from everywhere you have net connectivity, give Vitalist a test drive. (Robert, it's time to offer an affiliate program!)

  • Happiness boosts productivity

    Last week, I added another card to the board that displays my team's tasks for the coming weeks, saying "Having Fun". It stands out because it's green, in contrast to the white task cards.

    And tomorrow, I'm going to ask them what things there are that rain on their parade. We will talk about sources of unhappiness at their job and how we can get rid of them.

    Yes, I've been on a kind of happiness trip over the last weeks. But it's not because I've joined some joyful cult but because I get paid to maximize my team's productivity. And there is a direct relation between happiness and productivity, as Alexander Kjerulf points out in his blog entry Top 10 reasons why happiness at work is the ultimate productivity booster

    The 10 reasons he explicates on his blog are:

    Happy people work better with others

    Happy people are more creative

    Happy people fix problems instead of complaining about them

    Happy people have more energy

    Happy people are more optimistic

    Happy people are way more motivated

    Happy people get sick less often

    Happy people learn faster

    Happy people worry less about making mistakes - and consequently make fewer mistakes

    Happy people make better decisions

    That's a buttload of advantages happy people have over their unhappy colleagues, isn't it? Therefore, I find it one of my foremost duties to take care of my team's happiness. Let's see how well they do on the "I feel good" scale.

  • It's the employees that keep innovation alive

    There's a theory named The Peter Principle that says that, provided that you get promoted because you deliver above-average performance, everyone will finally end up occupying a position they are not fully qualified for any more. Therefore, the real work is done by those who still haven't passed their performance peak.

    Nitin Borwankar from the blog The Walrus and the Carpenter" now applied this principle to a company's innovation. "The Peter Principle of Innovation goes as follows:

    Every company innovates until it finds a cash cow. At that point only innovation that supports the cash cow is promoted. Further, any innovation that threatens or does not support the cash cow languishes or is actively killed. Eventually, most of the true innovation ceases as the innovators leave and start new companies and the cycle repeats.

    Most of the time, a company puts a lot of work into competing for a place in the market and into developing a success product. You can't blame management if it then focuses on said product and tries to protect it from detrimental influences, be it from inside the company or external. But every product has its lifespan and at some point the time to let go will come. The market moves on and companies have to keep up. If management misses that time to define and aim at new goals, it will eventually lose its competitive advantage as well as its innovative minds. The Peter Principle of Innovation will set in with full force.

    But is it inevitable that this kind of focusing on the cash cow will bring innovation to a halt? I don't think so. Just like it's not a law of nature that we have to get grumpy and closed-minded as we get older, a company doesn't have to lose its innovative drive. It just has to keep the necessary flexibility to adapt successfully to changes.

    The key to that kind of flexibility is the workforce, as Kathy Sierra points out in her article Knocking the exuberance out of employees If management prefers lifeless robots, there's not much innovation to expect. If, on the other hand, a company gives its employees enough room to be creative, they will in turn generate the energy to drive innovation. Take Google, for example: People there get the opportunity to spend 20% of their paid time for playing with new ideas. And look how the company has long ago left the confines of the search engine market to reinvent the application service business.

    If a company sees far enough to embrace new opportunities, it's because management is standing on the shoulders of giants. Leaders that are aware of this won't have to fear the Peter Principle of Innovation.