The Car is the new Cubicle

Posted by Richard Moran.

The next time you look out the windshield and look at a sea of cars stuck in traffic, don’t get frustrated. Think of it more as a world of productive people in their workplaces. Yes, we have moved way past the car as the bathroom, a place for brushing teeth, putting on makeup and unmentionable nasal hygiene. The car is the new cubicle. The car is the new workplace.
Don’t believe me? Look out your window and see how many are talking on their cell phone, thumb dancing on their blackberry or making notes on some gizmo attached to the dashboard.
We are spending a lot more time in our cars commuting and just plain driving and we know we need to use that time in ways other than listening to AM radio shock jocks screaming at their callers. As a venture capitalist I visit with entrepreneurs and spend too much time in my car. I am part of the mobility and productivity crowd. We live further from work than ever, the traffic is horrendous and there are only so many times you can listen to those Credence Clearwater old hits so we have the choice –work longer when we get there or use the time productively. We are using the time. This is a good trend. We may not be helping the environment while we sit in the car but it is a step toward cracking that work/life balance conundrum.
Working from home is a great idea on paper; but to many it is a place full of distractions like spouses, children, dogs and soap operas to mention a few. The effective home worker requires discipline, focus and a fast internet connection; factors that don’t always work in conjunction.
A lot of organizations don’t even want you to come in to the office anymore. Big consulting firms like Accenture only have places to sit for a small percentage of their people. In an office of 5000 people, they may only have 300 workspaces. If they all showed up on any given day, it would be chaos. We’ve moved on from cube land as far as the eye can see. We are literally and virtually virtual.
If you work in sales, consulting or in a start-up, like many entrepreneurs I meet, you may not even have any formal office or space. That vehicular vocation box is it, your international headquarters. You have to learn to use the car for calls, meetings, and conference centers.
The automakers all know what is happening. There are 19 million new cars sold in
North America annually and the car makers are filling them with the electronics and connections that can transform our cars into our mobile cubicles, our traveling workplaces, our remote productivity center, our dream or nightmare. You are probably already in the process of making the conversion from auto to mobile work module (MWM) and don’t know it.
Here are a few symptoms:
Are your car windows covered with yellow stickies full of notes and phone numbers?
Is your car console more equipped than your desk and do you make sure it is all set for calls and notes before you turn the ignition?
Is the cup holder and the cigarette lighter the two most prized features of your car?
Is the area behind the passenger seat full of empty Starbucks cups, Mapquest printouts and old PowerPoint presentations?
Do you schedule conference calls for when you know you will be in the car?
Is your radio tuned in to classical or jazz so that you have background music for work instead of classic rock?
Is your car buying or rental decisions based not on the features of the car but on what will be a quiet place to work?
Do you check your blackberry at every red light?
If you answered yes to any of these questions you are one of us, those who look at time spent in the car on the way to work as, well, WORK. Of course this raises a whole set of cosmic questions too complex to imagine like,
“If I am in the service industry like a lawyer or a consultant, should I bill for my time in the car?”
“Do I get overtime pay for working in my car?”
“Can I show up later or leave earlier, since I am working in my car?”
“Can I have meetings in my car?” or,
“Should we hold the annual holiday party in my SUV?”
While we wait for the workplace experts to render opinions about these difficult questions, here are a few tips to make that time in your mobile work unit (MWU) most productive and enjoyable.
Working in the car is not a license to drive without paying attention. Anyone who works in the car has had some brush with bad situations while talking about net income or headcount. You know who you are. Never, under any circumstance let mobile productivity get in the way of good driving.
Stay out of the fast lane while working in your car. You may make bad decisions on several fronts.
Eating in your car while working in your car is a really bad combination – a broken burrito in your lap, poor work decisions and danger.
The GPS is your friend. It allows you to work without paying attention to directions. The chances of getting you to your designated location are 50/50 but at least some work was done.
Everyone seems to be talking to themselves in cars because of the hands-free laws, you can too. In fact, sing your heart out with no embarrassment, no one will know.
Know where cell phone dead areas are and use them to your advantage.
The mute button is the most important feature on your cell phone while in the car.
Just like your cubicle, the car can become your workplace closet with a change of shirts, ties for when you drip lunch on them while eating and driving.
Buy into Fastrack or any other transponder that will allow you to cruise through the tolls. It is impossible to fish for quarters while on a conference call.
Automatic transmissions. Repeat, automatic transmissions.
We know that over 40% of all SUV’s have media centers built in. As a venture capital firm we are seeing deals that include some exciting ideas for cars, including: Built-in WiFi and networking systems; car2carcommunications; streaming video in cars and every bell and whistle you can imagine. Pretty soon we won’t need an office or a house, everything will be in the car.
There are 210 million vehicles on the road in the US. I bet that 80% of those cars are mobile work centers. Let’s be productive and Safe please.

I Deserve It; More on Travel

Posted by Richard Moran.

My Business Traveler’s Bill of Rights caught some attention and the interview on NPR really caused a stir. I am waiting for the call from the airline coalition or the U.S. Congress to bring my perspectives there. I will remain on stand by for that call.

When it comes to my descriptions of lines at the airplane lavatories or sitting next to someone who snores, everyone can identify and many had comments to add. A sampling is listed below:

What about installing circuitry to allow electrostatic shock treatment to the kids that kick the back of my seat?

The airlines should:1) Separate lines at security for people with loafers. 2) Separate section for people with kids under 10. Now that I’m on that side of the ledger, I know how upsetting we are to everybody. But our section should be in the middle of the plane, not the back, because all the business people are wearing Bose headphones and we don’t have that luxury, so they should be where it’s noisiest.

How about a red light and a siren that go on above the seat of the guy who passes silent but deadly gas for five hours? Thanks for passing this on (as I get ready to board a flight to NY).

And these were the gentle ones. There was much said about airline personnel that is unprintable. The airline business is tough and I know how hard those hospitality jobs are so I don’t fault them.

There is a danger in business travel that needs to be pointed out and it has to do with carry-on liquids. On a flight not long ago, I watched (from economy) as a guy wearing a tie struggled down the aisle carrying a coat, a computer bag, a carry-on bag, and a large steaming hot cup of coffee. He made it to his row and tried to figure out what to do with his gear since his was the window seat and the aisle and middle seat was already occupied with two other business travelers. Since his hot coffee needed to find a home before any thing else, he propped it on the edge of the overhead compartment while he hunted for a spot for his large carry on. No help from any flight attendants.

Sure enough, the very hot, very full, very large cup of coffee fell out of the overhead and spilled onto the head of the unsuspecting guy in the aisle seat. The commotion that ensued was like a Bruce Willis movie. There was yelling and screaming and thrashing and threats. The guy in the aisle would have killed the guy with the coffee if he could get to him. The captain came back to try to calm things down. This was not a time when a few napkins and club soda would help.

The guy with the burnt head and bruised ego was moved to first class and, I hope, plied with alcohol to soothe the monster in him.

Now I understand why TSA worries about liquids on planes.

Many of the comments about the Bill of Rights focused on “I deserve it…” That is, “I work like a dog; I leave my family for my company; I pay top rate and travel thousands of miles every year; I deserve something better than an un-fun, unproductive experience. And, my expectations are so low already, it wouldn’t take much to make me an adoring customer. I am not asking for much but it is an impossible situation.”

Airlines and hotels take heed. It wouldn’t take much to make the business traveler happy.

On the other side of “I deserve it” is the mentality that the travel is so miserable, “I deserve this big rare steak and the extra drink.” I agree, you deserve it.

Business Innovations

Posted by Richard Moran.

GREATEST BUSINESS INNOVATIONS OF THE LAST FIFTY YEARS:

Yellow stickies: To the office what duct tape is to the home.
Wheelies: A back-saving device that turned almost all baggage rectangular.
Tetris/Solitaire: A justification to carry around a $10,000 PC.
Etch-a-Sketch: The training tool for reading any PDA.
Scan button on the car radio: Allows you to multi-listen while speaking on the phone.
Virtuality: Allows you to be anywhere and work—or not.
Self-adhesive postage stamps: Why did it take so long?
Cigarette lighter in cars: Created the hole to plug in car phones.
Felt-tip pens: The ultimate doodle machine.
Conference calls: What other tool allows us to attend meetings without being there?
WORST BUSINESS INNOVATIONS OF THE LAST FIFTY YEARS:

Powdered cream: A cup of coffee ruined.
The cubicle: Is it a space or not? Is it yours or not?
Resume-scanning software: How does it test for “fun to work with”?
Passwords: Some require four characters, some six, some eight, some a capital letter—all of which make them hard to remember.
Break-out groups: The outcome of the group effort is almost always large sheets of paper never to be used.
Shuttle buses: Adds a degree of difficulty to everything.
The seat pocket in front of you: A euphemism for a lost-items container or garbage collector.