• “Science is reshaping what we know about getting older. (The news is better than you think.)”

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    Illustration by Sarah Cline for Newsweek

    Jim Emerman, Executive Vice President, Civic Ventures, highlighted this fascinating Newsweek article, This Is Your Brain: Aging, on his recent web posting.

    I found these first words – “Science is reshaping what we know about getting older. (The news is better than you think.)” by Sharon Begley, science writer for Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal, very encouraging. The rest of her article, I might add, is just as upbeat. That being said, I was predisposed to like it because I am a visual learner and I love the article’s accompanying art, which pictures six interconnected cog wheels chugging away in a spiffy looking brain.

    Begley points out how researcher, Timothy Salthouse, Director of the Salthouse Cognitive Aging Lab at the University of Virginia, was troubled by a paradox he identified in a graph he had created:

    “The graph shows two roller-coastering lines. One represents the proportion of people of each age who are in the top 25 percent on a standard lab test of reasoning ability—thinking. The other shows the proportion of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies of each age. Reasoning ability peaks at about age 28 and then plummets, tracing that well-known plunge that makes those older than 30 (OK, fine, 40) cringe: only 6 percent of top scorers are in their 50s, and only 4 percent are in their 60s. But the age distribution of CEOs is an almost perfect mirror image: it peaks just before age 60. About half are older than 55. And the number under 40 is about zero.”

    His deductions are: “First, in real life, rather than in psych labs, people rely on mental abilities that stand up very well to age and discover work-arounds for the mental skills that do fade. The second is that some mental abilities actually improve with age, and one of them may be the inchoate thing called wisdom, which is not a bad thing to have when running a company.”

    Begley says such insights: “are producing a dramatic, and hopeful, rethinking of what happens to the mind and brain as we age. Some of the earlier bad-news findings are being questioned as scientists discover that the differences between today’s 20-year-old brains and 80-year-old brains reflect something other than simple age, and instead have to do with how people live their lives. And a deeper understanding of normal cognitive aging is producing interventions that, because they target the cell-level brain changes that accompany aging, promise to be more effective than memory exercises and crossword puzzles.”

    Read the article in its entirety to learn more about recent brain research and about some of the successful “interventions” available to foster healthy aging. Begley includes free ones such as walking which is just as valuable for your brain as it is for your heart, lungs and waist line, and others, which she notes contain little or no value other than the revenues they will generate for those folks rushing in to take advantage of the anti-aging intervention market.

    Estrid Geersten, tandem parachute jumping at age 100. Courtesy, Guinness World Records

    Speaking of paradoxes, the article also contains a subset – a slide show by Tara Lewis of “Super Seniors,” achievers doing everything from skydiving to climbing Mt Everest.

    The paradox for me is that, other than Nola Ochs who graduated from college at age 95, are these “Super Seniors” really optimizing their cognitive reasoning skills in these wild escapades???

    Nola Ochs, Courtesy Charlie Riedel, AP

  • Rabbits, Privet Hedges and a Planters Peanut Bar: How John Updike Brought What Is Peculiar to the Moment to Glory

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    Many times we have tried to describe the importance of details – in your writing, your work and your self-marketing – in this blog.

    This morning, when I read Sam Tanenhaus’ article, John Updike’s Archive: A Great Writer at Work, I was struck by a remark he quoted from Adam Begley, a critic and literary journalist now at work on a biography of Updike. Begley said, “Updike’s archive may be the last great paper trail. Anyone interested in how a great writer works will find here as full an explanation as we’re likely to get.”

    Tanenhaus says, “In addition to literary ore, the archive offers a picture of an all-purpose, do-it-yourself man of letters who typed his own manuscripts, designed his own book jackets, chose type faces and binding cloth and kept careful lists of corrections (down to errant accent marks) for new editions of his work.”

    “Updike was also leaving a trail of clues to his works and days: an enormous archive fashioned as meticulously as one of his lathe-turned sentences. ‘The archive was vitally important to him,’ Mrs. Updike said in a telephone interview, especially in his last days. ‘He saw it not just as a collection of his working materials, but as also a record of the time he lived in.’ Today the material crowds an aisle and a half of metal shelving in the basement of Houghton Library, Harvard University’s rare book and manuscript repository.”

    “There is even a wrapper from a Planters Peanut Bar, as lovingly preserved as a pressed autumn leaf, evidently used by Updike to describe the moment when Rabbit, addicted to high-cholesterol junk food, greedily devours the candy and then, still unsatisfied, ‘dumps the sweet crumbs out of the wrapper into his palm and with his tongue licks them all up like an anteater’ — an early warning that he’s headed for a heart attack.”

    Be sure to listen to Updike’s remarks in the video interview included in this article.  Updike says, “I do not think of myself as writing stylishly but rather precisely.”

    He remembers details such as the time he described the way in which “a man who’s about to leave his wife runs his fingers over the top of a privet hedge.”

    Updike says, “This age needs men like Shakespeare, or Milton, or Pope; men who are filled with the strength of their cultures and do not transcend the limits of their age, but, working within the times, bring what is peculiar to the moment to glory. We need great artists who are willing to accept restrictions, and who love their environments with such vitality that they can produce an epic out of the Protestant ethic… Whatever the many failings of my work,” he concluded, “let it stand as a manifesto of my love for the time in which I was born.”

    We cannot all write like John Updike, but we can try to capture details “Peculiar to [our] moment.”  These are the details that will illuminate our lives, our experience and our passions – be it for the work we hope to continue or the manifesto we wish to leave behind.

  • You Have to Step Out of the Batting Cage to Hit A Home Run!

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    Art courtesy of www.wizardofdraws.com

    You can become competent – even very good – at something if you’re diligent about practicing. Remember Jack Benny’s old joke about the tourist, lost in NYC, asking: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” And the somewhat acerbic New Yorker answers: “Practice!”

    In today’s job market, you can practice resumé writing, branding, self-marketing, networking and interview skills to the cows come home and you’ll never land the job. (Could that be because you’re waiting for the cows to come home in NYC where there are no farms for them to come home to?)

    Seriously, you have to focus on hitting a home run to secure the job you want. Yes, you have to practice. You must be extremely good – if not an expert – at what you do. But once your credentials are solid, you must be prepared to take a risk, to step out of the batting box and take a swing.

    The irony is that, while we’re suggesting you take risks, it’s a luxury today’s employers cannot afford to take themselves (as in a mediocre candidate) in this economy. They have problems that need to be solved now, and too many of the tried and true “expert” tactics and strategies have failed.

    Innovation is the big word today. Employers are looking for candidates with new solutions. The ideal candidate understands their challenge, has innovative strategies to address that challenge, has the know-how to implement the strategies, solve the problem, measure results and communicate lessons learned.

    You need to demonstrate that you are that “Innovator Par Excellence!” Research – or dare we say – ask what that employer’s priorities are. Don’t leave it to him or her to imagine what you might do. Rather, take one of their most urgent priorities and create a mini-plan to tackle the challenge: create a solution-based strategy to accomplish the task, etc, including measuring impact.

    Take risks: not off-the-cuff risks but well reasoned risks that you passionately believe in. Never underestimate the power of passion as your ultimate productivity tool. Don’t let fear of failure circumscribe your creative thinking. The worst thing that could happen is that you don’t get the job – but do you really want to work with someone who does not see the value in your ideas? The best thing that could happen is that you get the job and – even better – with mini-plan in hand, you’ve already begun to do the job.

    Art courtesy of www.buzzle.com

    Moreover, you will learn in the process. Look at Thomas Alva Edison. Beth Kanter in her blog, “How Nonprofit Organizations Can Use Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change,” mentioned Edison and his belief in the importance of experiments and not to frame them as success or failure but as learning. “Edison,” Kanter says, “held 1,093 patents for different inventions.  Many of them, like the lightbulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera, were brilliant creations that have a huge influence on our everyday life. However, not everything he created was a success; he also had many failures.  He also did not find the successful inventions with his first experiment.  In his question to create the storage battery, he conducted 10,000 experiments before arriving at a method that worked.”

    And she quotes Edison, “Results! I have gotten a lot of results. I know what doesn’t work and won’t have to be tried again.”

    So, our advice is to get out of the batting cage and start swinging. You’ll get many strikes and hit more than a few foul balls but, eventually, you will connect with a zinger and knock that ball out of the park. That’s what’s called a home run!

  • Is Watson, the Machine that I.B.M. Hails as Its Latest and Greatest Super Computer, Truly “Smarter Than You Think”?

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    What Is I.B.M.’s Watson? by Clive Thompson is the first in a new NY Times Magazine series called “Smarter Than You Think.” The articles are designed to examine the recent advances in artificial intelligence and robotics and their potential impact on society.

    My first quibble is just who does the NY Times “You” represent? Many of us are aware of the advances – and lack thereof – in AI (Artificial Intelligence), so I do not accept the “you” sui generis but we should not waste valuable blog time on semantics. Of course, we could argue that “Watson” is all about semantics, but we won’ let that impede our discussion here.

    First, we should make clear that Watson is not a super computer. Watson is actually a super program housed in a computer named Watson.  And, lest you think I.B.M. has crossed into the realm of clever fiction to name this computer after Sherlock Holme’s able assistant, Watson, as in, “It’s elementary my dear Watson!” I.B.M. has not. Watson is the last name of father and son Thomas Sr. and Jr., who led I.B.M. for more than 50 years.

    Thompson writes that, “For the last three years, I.B.M. scientists have been developing what they expect will be the world’s most advanced “question answering” machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution — “natural language,” as computer scientists call it — and respond with a precise, factual answer. In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It has to pluck out the correct answer itself. Technologists have long regarded this sort of artificial intelligence as a holy grail, because it would allow machines to converse more naturally with people, letting us ask questions instead of typing keywords. Software firms and university scientists have produced question-answering systems for years, but these have mostly been limited to simply phrased questions. Nobody ever tackled “Jeopardy!” because experts assumed that even for the latest artificial intelligence, the game was simply too hard: the clues are too puzzling and allusive, and the breadth of trivia is too wide.”

    Ahhh, clearly I have missed a beat here. I never realized that “Jeopardy!” was the sine qua non of intelligence.

    Thompson reports, David Ferrucci’s, I.B.M.’s senior manager for its Semantic Analysis and Integration department, and head of the Watson project, main breakthrough [my note: in creating a program aka super computer which could compete on "Jeopardy!"] “was not the design of any single, brilliant new technique for analyzing language. Indeed, many of the statistical techniques Watson employs were already well known by computer scientists. One important thing that makes Watson so different is its enormous speed and memory. Taking advantage of I.B.M.’s supercomputing heft, Ferrucci’s team input millions of documents into Watson to build up its knowledge base — including, he says, “books, reference material, any sort of dictionary, thesauri, folksonomies, taxonomies, encyclopedias, any kind of reference material you can imagine getting your hands on or licensing. Novels, bibles, plays.”

    Watson’s speed allows it to try thousands of ways of simultaneously tackling a “Jeopardy!” clue. Most question-answering systems rely on a handful of algorithms, but Ferrucci decided this was why those systems do not work very well: no single algorithm can simulate the human ability to parse language and facts. Instead, Watson uses more than a hundred algorithms at the same time to analyze a question in different ways, generating hundreds of possible solutions. Another set of algorithms ranks these answers according to plausibility; for example, if dozens of algorithms working in different directions all arrive at the same answer, it’s more likely to be the right one. In essence, Watson thinks in probabilities. It produces not one single “right” answer, but an enormous number of possibilities, then ranks them by assessing how likely each one is to answer the question.”

    Read the article in its entirety for it is fascinating in unexpected ways. And you, too, can pit your mettle against Watson’s in your own personal game of “Jeopardy!”: Watson Trivia Challenge. Above all, do not miss the readers’ rich, intelligent and reasoned comments on this article. I have included a few (anonymously) below:

    Comment # 4.  “…But it’s been a long time since we’ve been toying with this idea of a computer competing with a human for intelligent answers to questions. Take a look at the 1957 movie “Desk Set” with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.”

    Comment # 6. “While I am certainly impressed by it, Watson is not truly artificial intelligence or the holy grail that represents. AI requires abstraction, creativity, situational awareness and so forth. This is a speech recognition to keyword database search to speech synthesis machine on steroids. Impressive gimmick, but no HAL9000.”

    Comment #14. (Speaking of purchasing stocks) “Predicting the illogical or ‘gut’ feelings of a given investor is not possible since the investor has no idea what they will do until they do it. It would be difficult to write an algorithm that can predict the random behavior involved with such choices.”

    Comment # 36. “Watson reminds me of the computer in the old I.B.M. building on 57th and Madison that had a computer and printer/typewriter in the window. You could ask it questions and it would come up with answers. So what’s new? It’s still all about the programming, and still all about how much information can be crammed into Watson’s very limited — compared to a human being’s — memory.”

    One of my particular favorites is # 32. “The real question is whether Watson, not being human, can ever ‘learn’ from its mistakes?”

  • Neuroplasticity: Brain Boosting Lessons from Two Scientists and a London Taxi Driver!

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    Neuroplasticity has fascinated me for a long time, and two posts I found recently at SharpBrains.com provide not just fodder but hope for our and, of course, Hercule’s “little gray cells.”

    The first post, Brain Plasticity: How Learning Changes Your Brain by Dr. Pascale Michelon defines neuroplasticity for the unititiated:

    “Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to CHANGE throughout life. The brain has the amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells (neurons).”

    “Neuroplasticity,” she elaborates, “occurs in the brain: 1. At the beginning of life: when the immature brain organizes itself; 2. In case of brain injury: to compensate for lost functions or maximize remaining functions; and 3. Through adulthood: whenever something new is learned and memorized”

    The good news is that as, Dr Michelon notes,  For a long time it was believed that as we aged, the connections in the brain became fixed. Research has shown that in fact the brain never stops changing through learning. Plasticity IS the capacity of the brain to change with learning. Changes associated with learning occur mostly at the level of the connections between neurons. New connections can form and the internal structure of the existing synapses can change.”

    And, here’s where the London cabbie comes in…

    Dr.Michelon says, “when you become an expert in a specific domain, the areas in your brain that deal with this type of skill grow. For example, London taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus (in the posterior region) than London bus drivers (Maguire, Woollett, & Spiers, 2006)…. Why is that? It is because this region of the hippocampus is specialized in acquiring and using complex spatial information in order to navigate efficiently. Taxi drivers have to navigate around London whereas bus drivers follow a limited set of routes.”

    In the second, SharpBrains.com post, The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains, Alvaro Fernandez gives us 10 specific strategies for boosting brainpower.

    1. Learn what is the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic understanding will serve you well to appreciate your brain’s beauty as a living and constantly-developing dense forest with billions of neurons and synapses.
    2. Take care of your nutrition. Did you know that the brain only weighs 2% of body mass but consumes over 20% of the oxygen and nutrients we intake? As a general rule, you don’t need expensive ultra-sophisticated nutritional supplements, just make sure you don’t stuff yourself with the “bad stuff”.
    3. Remember that the brain is part of the body. Things that exercise your body can also help sharpen your brain: physical exercise enhances neurogenesis.
    4. Practice positive, future-oriented thoughts until they become your default mindset and you look forward to every new day in a constructive way. Stress and anxiety, no matter whether induced by external events or by your own thoughts, actually kills neurons and prevent the creation of new ones. You can think of chronic stress as the opposite of exercise: it prevents the creation of new neurons.
    5. Thrive on Learning and Mental Challenges. The point of having a brain is precisely to learn and to adapt to challenging new environments. Once new neurons appear in your brain, where they stay in your brain and how long they survive depends on how you use them. “Use It or Lose It” does not mean “do crossword puzzle number 1,234,567″. It means, “challenge your brain often with fundamentally new activities”.
    6. We are (as far as we know) the only self-directed organisms in this planet. Aim high. Once you graduate from college, keep learning. The brain keeps developing, no matter your age, and it reflects what you do with it.
    7. Explore, travel. Adapting to new locations forces you to pay more attention to your environment. Make new decisions, use your brain.
    8. Don’t Outsource Your Brain. Not to media personalities, not to politicians, not to your smart neighbour… Make your own decisions, and mistakes. And learn from them. That way, you are training your brain, not your neighbour’s.
    9. Develop and maintain stimulating friendships. We are “social animals”, and need social interaction. Which, by the way, is why ‘Baby Einstein’ has been shown not to be the panacea for children development.
    10. Laugh. Often. Especially to cognitively complex humor, full of twists and surprises.

    Illustration, Courtesy of Medi Belortaja

    You do not have to implement all ten strategies at once. You can begin with just one or two at a time and boost slowly. Speed does not always count; remember – slow and steady wins the race!

  • How Technology – Like This Recently Unearthed 5,500 Year-Old Pampootie – Can Be Tailored To Fit Seniors’ Needs

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    I love this NY Times article by Pam Belluck about the discovery of a 5,500 year-old shoe buried in a cave in Armenia.

    Boris Gasparian/Institute of Archaeology and Enthography

    It reveals that not all Armenians were as hungry as my grandmother thought. As a child, when I failed to eat every morsel on my plate, my grandmother’s most guilt-inducing admonition was, “How could you be so wasteful? Think of all the starving Armenians!” I never did understand the source of her compassion. We were not Armenians, we did not have any long lost relatives or even friends in Armenia and altruism was generally not one of her strengths.

    Then, I saw this ancient Armenian shoe and everything fell into place. My grandmother adored fanciful hats, gorgeous leather handbags and soft suede gloves. But – above all – she loved shoes and, like this Armenian’s, hers were hand made. The Devil might wear Prada, but my grandmother wore everything else.

    Though not much to look at (no doubt being buried in sheep dung for 5,500 years takes away some of the original luster), Belluck notes “the shoe, made of cowhide and tanned with oil from a plant or vegetable, is old, older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids… ”

    “While the shoe more closely resembles an L. L.Bean-type soft-soled walking shoe than anything by Jimmy Choo, ‘these were probably quite expensive shoes, made of leather, very high quality,’ said one of the lead scientists, Gregory Areshian, of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles.”

    Another scientist, Ron Pinhasi, an archaeologist at University College Cork in Ireland, said the shoe “resembled old Irish pampooties, or rawhide slippers.”

    The tremendous importance of this discovery, Belluck adds, “is that the shoe, discovered by scientists excavating in a huge cave in Armenia, is part of a treasure trove of artifacts found that experts say provide unprecedented information about an important and sparsely documented era: the Chalcolithic period or Copper Age, when humans are believed to have invented the wheel, domesticated horses and produced other innovations.”

    Ahh, “innovations!” Finally we get to the technology I mentioned earlier.

    Philip Moeller’s US News article, 5 Ways to Join the Personal Technology Party, reveals the depressing statistic that: “Fewer than 40 percent of people aged 65 and older used the Internet last year. Adoption rates for more sophisticated communications tools are correspondingly smaller.”

    To address this need, “The Center for Technology and Aging, with funding from the SCAN Foundation, recently brought together a panel of technology experts. They discussed ways in which social media and other emerging communications tools might be used by seniors themselves to make sure their voices are heard on key public policy issues affecting them.”

    The challenge, Moeller notes, is to educate seniors about both the value of technology and how to use it.

    Moeller, then, describes “five things that communications providers and senior-service advocates should consider [tailor] to help older consumers take fuller advantage of powerful communications tools and devices.”

    1) KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid! To many younger technology users, there is no such thing as “too complicated” when it comes to the latest hand-held mobile device. Not so with older consumers, especially people who have never used online and wireless gadgets. It is daunting to confront something new when you don’t understand what it can do or why you might benefit from using its capabilities. Oh, and you don’t have a clue how to turn it on and use it. The iPad was cited in the panel’s report as an example of the kind of intuitive, easy-to-use tool that can be a real technology icebreaker for older consumers.

    2) Make It Personal. The “I get it” light bulb that seems embedded in younger technology users needs cultivating in people who like their clocks with hands and not read-outs. Bringing communications technology down to the personal level is essential to engage older consumers. All too often, that step is bypassed or covered up by the cloud of coolness that surrounds new technologies. Also, making it personal also needs to include product features designed with older users, older fingers, and older eyes in mind.

    3) Make It Relevant.
    Creating very practical pathways between a gizmo and a genuine benefit is a key to success. Technology is rarely an end in itself for older users but a means to achieving a desired goal. Explaining these linkages can spur more seniors to adopt new technologies.

    4) Enhance Independence and Control. The field of telemedicine is exploding. This includes health-monitoring devices that can literally be lifesavers. However, they need to be explained and marketed to seniors as tools to extend their independence and control over their surroundings. Too often, it can appear that monitoring devices are digital tethers that track movements and behaviors, and are designed more to help caregivers than the older consumer.

    5) Build a Team of Helpers.
    Caregivers, family members, social-service agencies, and other champions are needed to explain, reassure, and help older consumers.

    Certainly all of these ideas can help to bring more seniors to the “technology party” and my grandmother and her dancing shoes did love parties!

  • The Halo or Stepford Effect: Are Your Valuable Skills and Experience Really Being Trumped By Your Appearance?

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    To begin, let’s put this highly over-used concept, the “Halo Effect,” in context. The phenomenon was first studied in the early 1900s by psychologist E.L.Thorndike, who noticed that when an individual is found to possess one desirable trait, that individual is assumed to have many other desirable traits too.

    The matter achieved further prominence in 2007 with the publication of The Halo Effect, a book by business academic Phil Rosenzweig, in which he criticizes “pseudoscientific tendencies in the explanation of business performance.”

    Excellent though Rosenzweig’s critique is, it does not seem to have tamped down the corruption of the concept – rhetorically or scientifically.

    The “Halo Effect” was alive and thriving in Laura Sinberg’s  Forbes article, “Dress for Interview Success” where she asks us to:

    “Remember that Tide-to-Go commercial, the one where an interview candidate tries to explain why he’s the best choice for the job. But the interviewer is so distracted by a stain on the man’s shirt that he imagines the stain talking to him? The message is obvious: One tiny detail can have a big impact when it comes to getting the job. And what you wear has a lot to do with it.

    Although job-related skills an experience rank high in importance in whether or not you land the position, during the initial hiring process they have less power than most of us think. That’s because the first thing we notice about someone is their appearance, and more specifically, the way they are dressed.

    According to a study by Frank Bernieri, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Oregon State University, within the first 10 seconds of meeting your interviewer – otherwise known as the meet-and-greet – that person has decided whether or not you’re right for the job. Those who come across as polished and pulled together are quite simply more likely to be hired than those who are seen as putting in less effort.”

    Sinberg goes on to delineate just what an individual should and should not wear, adding it’s not just sartorial style but those flashy cuff links or run in your hose that can tarnish your halo.

    The article also notes how one woman, Kim Zoller, created a business, Image Dynamics, to advise companies like Moet Hennessy and Louis Vuitton on image and communication skills. Zoller, who used to work at a staffing agency, started her business because “I saw women coming in to this agency, and they had great résumés, but they weren’t getting jobs because they didn’t know how to dress.”

    “If you’re not dressed well, you can say all the right things … but you won’t get the job when you’re being compared with a lot of other capable people who are dressed better,” explains Zoller.

    Sounds a little like Frank Oz’s “Stepford” to me… and isn’t that sci-fi?

    You must decide, but I tend to side with Rosenzweig and his critique of pseudo-scientific theories. To me, dressing well means dressing appropriately – in a manner that befits the organization where you’d like to work and in a manner that reflects the authenticity of your persona. Would you really want to work in an office that “required” suits and ties and conservative shoes when you’re truly a peacock? Do you think you could perform well under those sartorial restraints?

    Wouldn’t it be better to take one of your splendid feathers, dust off your halo and walk out in your own (unreflected) light?

  • Newsweek Magazine Metaphors and Gladiators in Northern England!

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    This morning, as I read David Carr’s article, “How to Save Newsweek,” in the New York Times, I realized that Carr’s 8 steps to salvation are equally applicable to anyone striving to achieve a unique brand and strategically position themselves in today’s job market – which is in just as much trouble as the legacy, print-on-paper media world.

    I highly recommend you read the entire article, but three of Carr’s steps which I find especially relevant are:

    “1. IT’S A MAGAZINE

    Yes, it’s a brand. But mainly, it’s a magazine.

    Whatever revenue Newsweek attracts comes overwhelmingly from the printed product. So while many savants have suggested it is as easy as dumping the print brand and its associated costs, the Web footprint of something called “Newsweek” is small and represents a tiny fraction of the revenue. The name may become more meaningful on the Web, but to make Newsweek work, someone has to figure out how to put out a magazine.

    4. DO THE SMALL STUFF WELL

    When editorial types rave about Adam Moss’s version of New York magazine, part of what they are reacting to is not the big booming features, but what the magazine does at either end — the provocative small display type, playful infographics, and bits of service journalism smartly and elegantly delivered.

    By comparison, Newsweek’s vocabulary draws on a previous century, reflecting none of the Web’s influence on print design. There is no texture: no big and little on the same page, no funny bits mixed with issues of civic moment, no jewel boxes of unexpected finds, nothing that doesn’t fit on a grid. Weeklies are murder to produce, but ragged and risky is better than rote.

    8. THROW A HAIL MARY

    …In magazines, time is both your enemy and your friend. Yes, the 24/7 cycle will run you over, but the opportunity to take a breath can sometimes provide a much needed respite. A section of look-backs could be called “Wait a Minute,” and could aggressively use the second look to deconstruct events we thought we already knew. (Was the blown call in Detroit a huge pratfall for Major League Baseball, or perhaps one of its crowning moments?)”

    Carr has mixed his metaphors here but we’ll let that slide…

    Meanwhile, the three parallel job-hunting related strategies I mentioned would be:

    RE # 1, “You’re a Magazine” – Focus on what you are and promote those assets. Don’t try to be a Chief Financial Officer or even an accountant, if you cannot balance your checkbook without the aid of three calculators. It’s up to you to identify your authentic strengths and sell them; don’t leave it up to hoping the hiring manager “will see” the strengths you bring to the table. They do not have the time for second guessing, nor do they want to take the risk. Show them what you can do!

    RE # 4, “Do the Small Stuff Well” – Details, details, details. Do the small things well and they will hold the big picture together. All good storytellers know that the heart of a story is in the details: each and every word, image, every character counts. It’s your story, your brand, your career and your life. No one is better equipped to capture the essential details than you.

    RE # 8, “Throw a Hail Mary” – Don’t be afraid to step back and take a well-calculated risk. If you think strategically, have researched the top challenges facing the organization for which you’d like to work, and have identified what you think are a few good solutions – don’t be afraid to speak up. If they are way off the mark, the worse that could happen is that you may not get the job. But is that so bad? Perhaps it is not a good fit and better to find out before you’ve been in the position a month or two. On the other hand, your ideas may be perceived as brilliant and you land the job. Now you have to be sure you can deliver on what you’ve promised. It’s those blasted details again!

    Last but not least I mentioned Gladiators. I had one of those “park in my driveway moments” today as I listed to an NPR story about the possible discovery in northern England, of  “the world’s only well-preserved Roman gladiator cemetery.” A key clue was that the teeth marks found on some of the remains could only have been made by a lion or tiger (in northern England?). Now that’s what I call a telling detail!

  • “Head to Head: iPhone and iPad Square Off”

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    Just a short snippet to share a great example of the value of infographics which we waxed on about in yesterday’s post: “A Picture: How Logos and Information Graphics Tell Your Story or Convey Your Brand in Much Less Than a Thousand Words.”

    This morning’s infographic by Henry D’Andrea aimed at those trying to decide which device – an iPhone or an iPad – is the best all-around deal for them will find this “Head to Head: iPhone and iPad Square Off” post from thetechupdate.com illuminating.

    Courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

    The Bard continues to be in awe…

  • Picture It: How Logos and Information Graphics Tell Your Story or Convey Your Brand in Much Less Than a Thousand Words?

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    Courtesy of: http://www.how-to-draw-funny-cartoons.com

    In our digital world where vital “Tweets” can be no longer than 140 characters – not words but characters – visual information is even more critical than it is in traditional storytelling.

    Budding entrepreneurs will find some great tips and – of course – pictures in today’s “Quack” (aka Post) by Rebecca Hume at Duck Call, that zippy, smart, brandraising blog.

    Bulletin from the Duck Pond is:

    “Good infographics can illustrate ideas that might take pages to explain in writing. They function as a visual shorthand, clarifying relationships with a degree of immediacy and impact text just can’t offer. Effective graphics can be created for many types of information, but they are best suited for showing comparisons, structures, and processes.

    Figuring out what type of infographic is right for a project typically requires three steps:

    1. Know the story you want to tell.
    2. Find the information that best tells the story.
    3. Determine the form that most clearly displays that information.

    Just as with writing, information design must have a thesis statement…”

    Continue reading until you reach the other side of this duck pond because there’s lots of good data here.

    Meanwhile, should you wish to pare those words down further, perhaps even eliminate them altogether and create a successful brand logo, check out this one-page snapshot of all the elements to consider. It was “Tweeted” to you today from the SE Toolbelt, that fabulous and free open-content community resource center, created to help social entrepreneurs plan, start, manage, and grow successful social enterprises.

    Shakespeare would have been proud of your literary gambols…

    Courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

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