10 “Other” Ways the iPhone Changed Our Lives

Posted by Richard Moran.

Happy Birthday to you, dear iPhone. It’s only been ten years and we don’t remember a time when you didn’t exist. Nearly a billion people own you but it’s more like you own us. You created industries, you eliminated entire industries, you changed us in ways that have researchers scrambling. Unintended consequences of your presence are everywhere. For better or worse, and with an eye toward those changes not usually mentioned, here are a few of those changes wrought by the iPhone after only ten years.

  1. Children have learned independence. Because parents are always on the iPhone children have learned independence in new and creative ways. Note the youngster being pushed through an intersection in a stroller while the adult is looking at the iPhone. The child needs to make decisions about traffic and when it is safe.
  2. The importance and appreciation of electricity has never been greater. Before the advent of the iPhone we never paid attention to the location of electrical outlets. Now we covet and fight over outlets, especially at airports.
  3. Time management is now part of our DNA. We are now both efficient and effective because of the iPhone. We can order a latte before we even arrive at the coffee place. We can find our car in a big parking lot. We can talk to the phone and ask for the correct spelling of paralyzed.
  4. Places that used to be really noisy are now quiet. We all seek solace and peace and quiet and the iPhone has been instrumental in creating those quiet spaces. Instead of talking to each other at restaurants or coffee shops, people are now quietly looking down at their phones.
  5. Discipline and planning skills are now learned at an early age. Young people learn how much battery life is left and to keep keys next to their phone. Life doesn’t exist without the phone so anything important needs to be next to it.
  6. New innovations were developed just to enhance the iPhone world. Selfie-sticks are the best example of the new adjacent world that has been created. And we all know the positive impact that selfie-sticks have had on our lives.
  7. The job of babysitting is now much easier. Instead of battling over who is winning at Chutes and Ladders, now it’s easier to just let the youngster play alone on the smart phone. Television is not even required.
  8. Creativity is now enhanced through the miracle of auto correct. Not only do we get to learn new words, we wonder how the phone came up with the translation. Everyone’s favorite is the conversion from hungry to horny.
  9. Multi-tasking can hit new levels of complexity through the iPhone. In the old days we could be on a conference call and check email at the same time. Now we can do all of that and watch a movie at the same time on the same device.
  10. Research is showing that time on the smart phone can interrupt sleep patterns and that we tend to sleep less when we spend a lot of time looking at the little screen. Think of how effective we can be if we only get four hours of sleep each night.

Thanks iPhone, the world has changed in so many ways since you arrived. I am as guilty as anyone; I can’t live without you. Like the rest of the world, I am addicted to having you in my life. I look forward to more years together. Happy birthday and many happy returns.

Lego, Meet Atari

Posted by Richard Moran.

It was a big headline: Lego Will Cut 1,400 Jobs as Profit Dips, Despite Big-Screen Heroics. What? I thought Lego was one of the hottest companies around?

The most recent earnings report revealed the company is facing an increasingly competitive landscape because more children are using mobile devices for entertainment, even very small children. Lego, take note, there could be a parable in the form of Centipede and Space Invaders.

In the early 1980’s Atari employed thousands of people, including me. The young Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were there too. (Steve and Woz soon left to pursue other opportunities.) It was the dawn of civilization as we now know it.  It was exciting.  We ruled the world. The slogan for the Company was “The Future Is Here”. People who were born long after Atari was at its pinnacle think it’s a cool company and wish they had the opportunity to work there. But where is Atari today?

The history of the Company is well documented. Like an asteroid, it burned brightly and then crashed and burned. What was once dominant is now a footnote in the history of Silicon Valley. Atari products are now retro and the currency of eBay.

What happened? Lessons for other organizations to learn are clear, including: competitors will surround any “disruptive” company; and, basic business principles still matter. Principles like developing a clear plan, building an efficient organization chart and putting controls in place were all missing at Atari. I saw the void at the time although, like pretty much everyone else, I never spoke up.

The lessons for individuals are just as important. Lego people (real ones) should take note. But anyone at any “hot” company should pay attention. Nothing lasts, so think of the lessons in the form of some of those classic games.

  • Brands are sensitive. At one time Atari was one of the top brands in the world rivaling Pepsi and Coke and it disappeared. Like Atari, your personal brand can change quickly through a few missteps. Get drunk at the holiday party?  Watch your brand. Miss the deadline? You hurt your brand. You get the idea.
  • Momentum matters. Atari was the hottest company in the world. It had momentum but after a series of bad results, the momentum switched into the negative. Even if you feel like you are on a roll, your career momentum can go negative too. Know which way you momentum is going and make sure it’s on the positive side. Sometimes the game just goes your way, sometimes it is over before it starts.
  • Past success is in the past. Don’t dwell on what you used to do or be. The video game hits Atari had didn’t matter after a short while and the same is true for you. What you used to be or used to do is not as important as what you can do now. Don’t think you are invincible based on who you used to be.
  • Relationships matter. Even though Atari as a business went into the ditch what survived were the relationships. My Centipede and Donkey Kong games are long gone but many of the people that I met there all those years ago are still friends and colleagues. Regardless of the situation in any organization, relationships matter.

Admit it, your favorite video games are still Space Invaders or Ms. Pac Man.  Admit it, you still have the first castle you created with Legos. Admit it, Atari still matters because there are so many lessons to be learned from that pioneer of technology.

The world today is loaded with hot companies, including Lego. All of them are fragile and all of them offer personal lessons that apply to your career. Keep playing with those Legos but every once in a while break out Missile Command or Yars’ Revenge for reminders.

Mulligans (Do-Overs) Not Allowed

Posted by Richard Moran.

For those who aren’t golfers, a mulligan is a do-over. In golf, if your first shot was botched, just drop another ball and the first one doesn’t count. The hope is that the second shot will be better and the first one, well, will be forgotten. The pros don’t get any mulligans, but for weekend duffers, it is a part of the game as long as it’s not overdone. And when it comes to golf, I appreciate mulligans.

At work though, mulligans are a different story. Many are the times we wish that a do-over was a part of how we work, but it’s rare that you get a mulligan . The first shot always counts.

  • Miss a deadline? No mulligan.
  • Do something crazy like send a rant to the boss/company? No mulligan.
  • Make an inappropriate comment in a meeting? No mulligan.
  • Irritate a customer? No mulligan.
  • Blow a presentation in front of the boss? No mulligan.
  • Get caught on video doing something you don’t want to share? No mulligan

The list of no mulligans at work is infinite. Lots of people expect do-overs at work but that is usually not the case. Even if a do-over is granted, people remember that first try and may or may not forgive it. For leaders especially, a do-over is never allowed. I wish they knew that the workplace is not a golf course and behaviors and decisions, once out there, can’t be taken back. Leaders are not perfect and mistakes will be made and adjustments need to follow but mulligans are a little different than correcting a mistake.

If we screw up and want to correct a mistake, the correction usually involves an admission of the problem and a plan to move forward. Some humility is involved. A mulligan is a belief that the first one didn’t count and others will tacitly grant approval. That doesn’t happen at work.

Staying out of the danger zone that requires a mulligan is not that difficult. A few quick reminders can help:

  • Always double-check your work. Sure, check for typos and spelling but that’s not enough. Is your work something you are proud of? Does it solve a problem? What grade would you give it? If it’s not an A, do it again.
  • Never send emails or texts when angry or upset. Especially don’t hit any send buttons when you are drunk.
  • Develop positive relationships with your colleagues. An occasional mulligan might be granted if people like you. Be thoughtful in dealing with you colleagues.
  • Recognize that little things count and don’t expect daily mulligans as in if you are always late for meetings.
  • Do what you say you will do and do it well. Mulligans may never be needed.

In golf, some players sneak mulligans although other players almost always know – sneaking mulligans is called cheating. That shouldn’t happen at work but when it does, terminations might ensue.

Sometimes we might have an accommodating boss who understands the need for coaching and improving. He or she might suggest the report needs more work or the presentation is not complete or that analysis needs to be redone. That’s not a mulligan, that’s a good boss.

Mulligans are a part of golf; just don’t expect any at work.

Richard is the author of the new book The Thing About Work: Showing Up and Other Important Matters [A Worker’s Manual]. You can follow his writing on TwitterFacebook, or at his website at richardmoran.com.

Richard is a noted San Francisco based business leader, workplace pundit, bestselling author and venture capitalist.