Telecommuting issues emerge at Yahoo!

There are may significant advantages for a company letting workers telecommute and work remotely. Productivity often increases as this flexibility makes workers happier. In today’s world, it’s important for a company to offer this option for some jobs.

Yet there are disadvantages when you don’t have workers together on a consistent basis. It’s impossible to replicate the casual environment of workers being together at lunch and around the office. Much gets done when people are together.

Every company needs to strike the right balance, and that’s what Marissa Mayer is trying to do at Yahoo!, but her recent announcement has sparked a backlash.

Here’s a clip:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

Just reading this, it seems like this could have been handled better by bring up the issue and looking at specific jobs. As stated above, balance is best.

But I suspect the problem may have gotten out of control at Yahoo! and that has prompted Mayer to take a hard line. Workers can be very productive at home in terms of how much they work, but it’s harder to keep workers focused on what’s best for the company if they are always at home.

It will be fascinating to see how this story develops.

Big data jobs

As we’ve reported many times, tech and IT jobs are booming, and it’s not just in Silicon Valley. There’s a real need for more workers who have engineering, math and science degrees, and that’s driving our immigration debate as well.

Here’s an article about booming “Big Data” jobs in Cleveland.

With innovative hospitals and strong universities, Cleveland had been seen as a likely player in the quest to make sense of the sea of data, much of it health care-related, generated by digital technology. But local entrepreneurs from different industries are showcasing the potential sooner than expected.

Spun out of the Cleveland Clinic three years ago, Explorys already employs 85 people searching and organizing health care data and the prospects are as bright as its hip new offices in University Circle. Suddenly, economic development specialists are eyeing Big Data, and its potential for Cleveland, with new intensity.

The articles gives plenty of details on this trend and how the new health care policy to push to digitize health records will drive this trend even more. Think about how this will affect how doctors might diagnose and treat diseases as we learn more through data mining. This could also be a great career for doctors and nurses who love analyzing data and statistics.

Asking good questions can help your career

When you consider the types of skills you need to succeed in your career, it’s common to think about skills that relate specifically to the jobs you are seeking. But there are broader, universal skills, like critical thinking, that are just as important.

One skill that’s rarely considered involves the ability to ask good questions. This skill applies in countless settings, from job interviews, dealing with co-workers and customers, and also in negotiations. One of the best ways to disarm a tough negotiator is to ask very specific questions about the consequences of what they are asking for.

This article discusses questions as a conversational tool, and explains the difference between good and bad questions.

“As someone who had little to no experience in business–outside of running my own one-man freelancing operation–all that’s really saved me (so far) from madness are the skills I used as a journalist,” says Evan Ratliff, who wrote for magazines like The New Yorker before founding his startup, The Atavist. One of those skills, he says, is “being able to formulate questions that deliver useful answers, whether from advisors or clients or whomever.”

Good questions can move your business, organization, or career forward. They squeeze incremental value from interactions, the drops of which add up to reservoirs of insight. Of all the skills innovators can learn from journalists, the art of the expert Q&A is the most useful.

The problem is, most of us ask terrible questions. We talk too much and accept bad answers (or worse, no answers). We’re too embarrassed to be direct, or we’re afraid of revealing our ignorance, so we throw softballs, hedge, and miss out on opportunities to grow.

read the entire article to see some of the examples, and it will help you refine your questioning skills.

The emergence of social entrepreneurship


Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the rise of social media and the emergence of tech entrepreneurs giving money to charity, many of the lines between non-profits and regular businesses are starting to be blurred. Here’s a summary of the issue.

Whether there is a profit motive or not, the notion that business has a role to play in addressing societal issues is at the heart of today’s discourse on social entrepreneurship. Defining what social entrepreneurship is as well as the difference between it and traditional non-profit management as well as philanthropy is a flourishing discourse. Coined by Bill Drayton of Ashoka in the early 1980’s, the term social entrepreneurship has become somewhat of a catch-all phrase. Originally it referred to someone with the passion of an entrepreneur tackling a social challenge. Now, it has evolved to a number of meanings including but not limited to social interventions with distinctly business characteristics as well as businesses themselves.

With his remark, Dr. Yunus hit upon one of the main themes of the book: the blurring line between profit and non-profit, business and charity when providing a social good. The term non-profit organization has been used to describe what an organization is not rather than what it is. The equalization of social service work with non-profit balance sheets became sacrosanct. In order to do good, common practice and wisdom told us, we could not also do well. Now, that notion is being turned on its head. Not only do social investors believe that it is possible to do good and do well, other aspects of the old mindset are falling away. Many non-profit organizations are developing profitable income streams to both help their constituencies as well as the sustainability of their organizations by ensuring a stable bottom line. Throughout this book, stories of individuals and organizations are blurring the distinction between profit and non-profit are presented.

Read the entire article. It might spark some great ideas!

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