Tag: Society

I’m reading a great book right now titled The Why Axis, which explores the concepts of causality versus correlation, the role of nurture in modern society, and generally how incentives can (and should) be used or revisited to garner the maximum effect.  Anyway, it has started making me look at things like incentives in a different way.  I think the lessons, theories, and conversations they expose are extremely useful for us to consider even in our own lives on the micro level.

Truth be told, I have always been extremely fascinated by incentive structures (both positive and negative incentives).  I think the ability to drive performance, productivity, and throughput through variable means  (financial or otherwise) is something that is extremely fascinating and something that many industries are honestly doing a really poor job with currently.  Take my own contract for instance – I largely do not have any major incentives tied to my performance so there is not a major fire beneath me to go wildly above and beyond the call of duty.  The only “carrot” so to speak is the opportunity to advance my career/position quicker (but, at many companies, the body of work completed or performance against target is far from a guarantee of quicker advancement).  Otherwise, the variable compensation tied to my role is largely in line with most professional services firms and won’t sway my overall income more than 5-10% in a given year.  I have long held, though, that the professional services industry has a tremendous opportunity to model itself more closely to the contracts of professional athletes from an incentives and compensation package structure perspective.  Think about it – how great would that be?

If my contract were more similar to a professional athlete, it would open up so many doors.  Namely, I would be able to:

  • Participate in a “corporate combine” which would allow me to display my skills and work to prospective suitors
  • Attend “draft day” events which would allow for “teams” (i.e. companies) and “prospects” (i.e. college graduates, those who are in-between contracts, etc) to mingle and celebrate leading up to the “draft” where teams fill out roster spots for open needs
  • Negotiate a guaranteed salary figure that I know I would receive independent of performance (except for gross negligence of conducting myself in a manner expected by my company/contract – similar to when athletes can nullify contracts by getting into motorcycle accidents which prevent them from being in the lineup)
  • Have a larger variable component of my salary that is provided as an incentive for hitting certain performance targets or kickers listed in my contract (i.e. spot bonuses or incentives when I exceed a given target, metric, or goal)
  • Select an agent that would help negotiate my contracts and define performance incentives that drive my own productivity (presuming they are proper motivation for me – money or otherwise)
  • Enter contract years (i.e. the years where my contract is set to expire) with a renewed passion because I know my next contract is on the line
  • Propose or take part in trades or package deals in order to align myself and my performance with colleagues/teams/companies I work well with (or to simply navigate myself to a different part of my company or another company altogether)
  • Implement a “No Trade” clause which would allow me to have a right of refusal on my company trading me to another location/company that was not preferable
  • Obtain endorsements or sponsors (third party) that would back myself, my team, or my company (i.e. Lenovo chooses to pick up my team for our next three-year deal and provide us with latest laptops in exchange for our brand ambassadorship)
  • Allow for companies to participate in a waiver process where “dropped” resources could be claimed off the wire and given short term deals
I will let you know if The Why Axis leaves me with any groundbreaking discoveries in the Incentives space.  I thought it appropriate to share one of my own compensation/incentive schemes with you in the short term though as food for thought.  What’s holding us back from modeling salaries and contracts in Corporate America more like athletes’?  I do believe that it is way too risky for most people, but there are always those players that take a substantially less amount of money to ensure that they are guaranteed and locked up for a long time.  I really think it is something that could work and start to create a renewed sense of competition for the modern age.
 
Til Next Time,
Michael

A new non-profit called code.org has recently completed an “Hour of Code” benefit as part of the Computer Science Education Week (CSEW), whereby they attempt to engage as many students as possible to take a 1 hour tutorial on coding.  Endorsed by big names such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Chris Bosh, this is the first year that the CSEW has really hit the mainstream media with such big names thanks to the sponsored coding tutorial.  Big props to everyone involved for taking this step as I continue to believe this should be our single greatest priority for all education platforms of the future: continuing technical education for today’s youth.

So, apparently there are a few other people out there that believe the same way I do from my previous post on Technology in Society!  It  was actually really cool to see around 15 million students learn 1 hour of code.  Let’s hope that this may have captured even a small portion of those kids to pursue studies and careers in coding and technology.

Here’s the full story.

Til Next Time,

Michael

Be warned: this post may sound slightly complacent, mildly pessimistic, and altogether like a bit of a rant on the current state of our society in America.  But – hey – isn’t that why I started my own blog?  To allow myself an avenue to opine on real issues facing ourselves and the next generation of people to roam this great Earth?  I run the show around here; the choice is yours if you want to read it. :)

In short, I am wildly concerned about the state of technology awareness and technical intelligence in our American society.  And, no, I don’t mean the ability to use an iPhone or knowing how to start a group message on Facebook.  Because, last time I checked, there are only extremely narrow windows of opportunity to capitalize on those skills.  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook is already published, sorry.

What I’m talking about is our country’s seeming indifference towards teaching children the value of technical skills.  For instance, I firmly believe that everyone in their lives should be required to take at least one course on coding and engineering in their academic careers.  Not because I think we’re severely lacking coders in America (side note – we most definitely are), but because learning to code teaches someone several valuable skills that ultimately leave oneself better off and more marketable in their career.  Before you say it, it’s true, not everything draws back to your career; but I think we have started to undervalue people’s ability to provide for themselves and earn a decent living (maybe that’s the Midwestern blue collar seeping out of me).  I am not going to use this post or this site to go into any economic lessons or discuss the value of money and whether or not it buys happiness – but rather I do want to speak for a brief moment on the value of technology awareness and skills in 2013.

So why should everyone learn to code or start to brush up a bit on technology and spend more time in the Engineering building at school?  Simple:

  • Coding, at it’s quintessence, teaches people to be problem solvers: Whether it’s the process of debugging some “cranky code”, or following a process to create something as simple as “Hello World”, coding forces you to work through problems and setbacks.  Be it through consulting electronic/external sources (e.g. Google) or friends/experts – you will have to figure out a way to get past roadblocks.  This is a skill that I think we can all agree is highly valuable whatever your walk of life may be.
  • Technology is the wave of the future.  Everything is going mobile.  We are all strapped to our devices as is.  Why shouldn’t we embrace that and start to learn more about it?  It’s our only chance to remain viable in a global marketplace.  And, as Americans, don’t we generally like to win?
  • Engineering is all about how things are built.  It’s about process.  Starting with a rough concept, investigating feasibility based upon organic, material, or dynamic qualities, developing a design, prototyping a design, testing it, and eventually finalizing a buildout…  These skills are not only useful in buildings/bridges/cars/planes, but rather in your traditional life as well.  Think about the ability to build a relationship and take in/analyze information that is given to you to further enhance that relationship.  It’s all an exercise in engineering.
  • Technology and Engineering are what drives innovation and are uniquely responsible for most of the great inventions since the start of time.  Be it the automobile, the airplane, or the telephone – behind most of those great inventions was someone hopelessly dedicated to science and engineering.  And who doesn’t love cool new toys?

I could go on all day, I really could.  But I won’t.  I hope you get the picture.  And even if you don’t agree, I just ask that you consider the risk if we refuse to refocus our energy towards technology, engineering, math, the sciences.  I am incredibly alarmed at American society’s refusal to take these areas more seriously.  I love the arts – I really do!  I think having a portion of our population dedicate their time and energy towards creating wonderful works or art, literature, or performances for the rest of us to enjoy is a fantastic thing.  I would be lying though if I didn’t say I am worried that we have overcorrected in these areas over the past couple of decades.  In my personal opinion, spending six figures on a French Art History degree for most people just may not pay off.  Ever notice that in other developing countries (e.g. majority of Asia), the percentage of graduates with technical/skills training versus other language arts is substantially higher than here in the U.S.?  Wait, where are all of our technology jobs in America being lost or offshored to again?

Listen, I know it’s not all about what “pays off” from a financial perspective.  But at the end of the day, money makes the world go ’round.  You need it to eat, need it to sleep (comfortably), need it to get around.  So give technology a chance.  I think you’ll be amazed at what we are collectively able to create and how quickly we can innovate if we start to drive more of our talented youth (and even aging professionals – you’d be surprised at what great resources are available for out-of-school or on-the-job skills training!) towards technology, engineering, math, and science.

Til Next Time,

Michael

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