Culture, Volunteering and Customers

I am personally quite thankful to work at a company that has a great culture. A culture that acts like it speaks – a team of people who understand that the world is too big and life too short to just keep making money.

We encourage employees to take on small volunteering projects, specifically applying our skills to organizations that are making a difference in our communities.

Thus, I volunteer for a small drop-in homeless shelter for young adults (ages 18-29). And mostly I provide technology or marketing solutions, support thereof and other basic business consulting.

Today my team at Launch was printing 500 new flyers. We had already completed a draft via email, so today I brought a printed draft for them to hold, read and use. After several small tweaks we approved it by the end of the meeting.

During the meeting, they needed to set up some single point of contact for clients and volunteers. We registered a google voice number and performed some basic setup. Then we messed with settings and added notifications.

Getting the decision makers in a room together can be extremely valuable for working sessions.

The outcome of this volunteering? People will be able to find a phone number to a group of people willing and able to help. This gives me hope.

And all it took was one hour and the commitment of my team to support me.

For my productivity it means I have to work from home on Wednesdays, and I eat up about 30 minutes driving to and from the place. My normal commute is 50 minutes, so I’m basically using the time gained by working from home to volunteer.

At a time to be thankful, I’m thankful for our culture, this team and the customers that believe in us.

Customer Service Week

Don’t miss out on this year’s customer service week.

If you work in customer service, use it to make work fun. If you don’t, use it as an opportunity to say thank-you – or even offer more!

Here are some ideas:

Service

  1. Start at csweek.com – it’s the best resource and mostly free!
  2. Make sure you mark it on your calendar
  3. At the very least, bring in donuts
  4. Take the time to thank each member of the team
  5. Do an off-site meeting or lunch
  6. Host a happy hour
  7. Host a potluck
  8. Bring in a customer to say “thanks”

Non-Service

  1. Say thanks to the team
  2. Offer a cross-team training
  3. Bring them treats, donuts, lunch
  4. Print a big “thank you” sign
  5. Hand written notes of thanks
  6. Giant posted with thanks written all over it

Got more ideas? Leave them in the comments below!

Kinetic Data Support Team

Any good relationship starts with introductions, so let’s get started. Here’s DSCF6621a bit of information on the four of us that handle support. Next time you contact support, hopefully you can have a better personal connection with the person helping you.

Name: Derick Larson

Years at Kinetic Data: 13 (worked for Insurance and Retail before KD)

Favorite Part of Support: Seeing the crazy things customers do with our products. A Time Tracking application using Kinetic Request is my favorite. Second place has to be taking inventory using hand scanners and Kinetic “Survey” templates. Continue reading “Kinetic Data Support Team”

Explore: Modular Drone

The first time I flew crashed a drone, I thought “These need to be modular.” And sure, I bought the parts and fixed it, but it cost almost as much a new one.

Here’s a modular drone: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1818505613/airblock-the-modular-and-programmable-starter-dron?ref=b9x1eo

The aspects I like best are that it’s modular, durable and allows people to explore (watch the video for a hydro-drone).

Very cool.

Switching to a Chromebook

Technology is what enables humans to conquer systems and systemic failures. To produce, communicate and thrive – both individually and as part of a team.

A picture of two shoes lifting off the ground. Illustrating exploration.
source: https://unsplash.com/@dan_carl5on

I’m always looking for ways that I can streamline everyday work. I’ve found that trying new technology helps me realize both new ways of working and also new ways others work.

If you’re looking for reviews of technology you need look no further than google and a handful of very popular review sites that have it down to a science. Also, amazon reviews help. I’m not here to give you all the details about this laptop and sell you one (bigger hard drive here). I simply want to document what I learned switching from a macbook to a chromebook.

  • Can I switch to a Chromebook?
  • What features do I need?
  • What do I need to know before I go into it?

I hope this meets your expectations!

Chromebook

What’s so different?

A chromebook is a laptop running open source software “ChromeOS” as the operating system. It is basically Chrome (Google’s web browser), plus what is needed to operate a computer, plus a little bit more.

I found this was hard to explain, so here’s a quick intro video:

Made with OpenTest – a chrome plugin. If I had done this on my mac I would have added music and cut out any “um’s”

ChromeOS and Laptop features

The “computer” use itself is very similar to any other computer, there’s a bar of “applications” on the bottom, a clock, icons for files… etc.

You can browse your computer’s files (stuff you downloaded, photos you added from your phone, etc).

But it’s really lightweight. You cannot install applications that work on Windows or MacOS. There are some pre-installed applications to browse files, connect other fileshareing services like dropbox (and google drive is already installed, of course). And that’s about it.

The rest depends on the Chrome internet browser (which I’ll go into detail on below). So if you’re offline all the time, this isn’t your laptop.

So what can you do offline? Chrome has some amazing offline features. And if you’re a heavy Google Drive and Google Apps user (sheets, docs, slides, etc) you can do all that offline. It will even sync your drive files that are marked for offline use.

The Chromebook I’m using is also capable of running Android applications (something google is testing in Beta on a limited set of Chromebook models so check your model before buying). As an iPhone and Mac user this isn’t terribly exciting, but I’m ready to try a new eco-system and there are a ton of free apps and useful stuff, just like the Apple App store.

There are also tons of offline apps in the android store, so that helps a lot with offline functionality.

All this offers incredible battery life. This one is rated for 12 hours (which we all know is less than 12 if you want wireless, bluetooth and a screen that’s reasonably bright. I get about 8-10 depending on how much music, external display, etc.. Very nice performance.

As for this specific model the rest of the features are nice, like having a microSD slot to add storage, a great webcam, speakers are REALLY loud and sound good. Not to mention the touchscreen (more on that below). The keyboard is a LOT like the mac, so I find it quite nice to type on. The touchpad totally sucks for dragging stuff – thankfully the touchscreen is incredible (more on that below).

Chrome

Using chrome for everything is a change of perspective and probably the biggest learning curve of switching to a chromebook. So of course, there are lots of options for how to fill in the gaps of having all that applications you need installed on your computer.

Chrome has extensions and apps that fill that gap.

There are a ton that are focused on making your chrome experience better. One that I use daily is called One-Tab: it’s a massive help when you have a ton of tabs open or you are having performance issues – or if you’re like me and have anxiety about closing tabs. Protip: go into options after installing to save your past tabs until deleted.

I still never use bookmarks, it seems strange, but now that my whole screen is chrome, it’s nice to have the real estate back!

Some other apps I use are OpenTest for screen recording, Text for text editing, I’m a huge google apps user. Google photos. The works.

I use the same 10 tabs often, so I pin those tabs and make sure that I set them as my opening pages in settings.

Android

Having Android apps run on your laptop is really nice. They play as you would expect them to and having a touchscreen really helps in this regard. It’s a great back up for when one of your apps just doesn’t work well as a webpage. Spotify was my clearest example of this. The web player is terrible, but the android app is really good, so I get to choose which one I want to use.

I also tried an Acer Chromebook 14 – which was meant to be one of the highest performing chromebooks. I found it somewhat lackluster, a bit bulky and kind of cheap.

I found out there were multiple models of chromebooks, so make sure the one you want has the right ports and specs for your needs. Even if the model number is the same, it may not be the same as another.

Since I’ve had the laptop they have turned off Android, then back on, and now off again. So it’s clear there are kinks getting ironed out. I haven’t used them much yet (too much “real work” to do).

Convertible Touchscreen Laptop/Tablet

This changed the way I look and touch so many things.

Web design for touchscreens – is going to revolutionize the way we consume and interact with the web. I can’t wait to see websites and browser start to support touchscreen mode= “1” or “on” or whatever.

I would love to see a wall mount accessory for this.

My macbook has never had so many fingerprints. I put my hand on the screen by default now.

I never thought about how much wasted time is created “moving the mouse across the screen”. There are so many functions of a computer that are infinitely faster with a touchscreen.

I like having a tablet sometimes, it’s great for browsing family photos and reading. Seems really sturdy – I love the look and feel of this laptop.

Charging via USB-C

I’ve purchased an Anker rapid charger and I get a warning about a low charge.  However, my 4a 5v anker battery (2nd Gen Astro E6) charges and runs it perfectly.

Screenshot 2017-01-27 at 2.00.45 PM
When it’s not charging I get this warning dialog box
2017-01-27
It’s super handy to charge when you have USB outlets.

This makes the chromebook convertible a MAJOR temptation for travelers that go long distances or to remote locations (without power). Pack 12 batteries and you have nearly half a month of usage with you.

Chrome Keyboard

Got rid of the caps lock key and replaced it with universal google search. Hotness. I also love the fullscreen button for apps. Websites haven’t ever seemed so functional.

It takes a little getting used to, but it mainly feels a lot like a macbook keyboard (one that I love).

Should you switch?

I can’t tell you for sure. What do you do that isn’t in chrome? If it’s a lot, or it’s make or break it – then just don’t.

Want to have a deeper conversation about your special case? Leave a commend below and let’s chat!

Explore: Drawing Bots

Today I saw a new gadget and thought of a business use case.

As business employees, we love our dashboards. We also love whiteboards.

Combine them.

Here’s the kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1818505613/mdrawbot-4-in-1-drawing-robot?ref=b9x1eo

Now imagine this robot drawing your metrics on a digital whiteboard daily. No need for glaring screens, you can write directly on the dashboard, ask questions, make predictions.

The bot will re-draw it all again tomorrow.

What do you think? Got some other use cases? Let’s hear em!

2017 is the year

We believe that 2017 is going to be a big year for knowledge workers.

We have seen many teams become more flexible and innovative. Many of our larger clients are forming small yet highly effective teams.

Teams that are flexible and innovative require tools that support their unique needs. Get started now, iterate, improve and review later.

This is easier said than done. Teams are holding discussions about work in many different channels. And so often these ideas, work and initiatives don’t get off the ground because they are gone, lost or never got started.

If these teams have cross-team dependencies, they are inhibited quickly. Do we take on this new teams tasks without current tools? Limit the team to the same tools as others? What’s most important?

We believe that 2017 is the year this paralyzing cycle simply stops.

We believe that 2017 is the year we get to work without over-planning, over-thinking and the paralysis that inevitably ensues. Do employees dream of doing better? Often.

How often are your best teams highly productive?

We believe that 2017 is the year your team can plan, do, check and act without the confusion, fear and uncertainty they experience today.

We believe that 2017 is the last year you manage projects and tasks in your email.

Disagree? Don’t believe us? Let us convince you – sign up for our news on this topic. Or subscribe to our blog in the right hand margin –>

Don’t like email (can’t say I blame you) – follow us on twitter or RSS!

On work

Work is complex.

If you consider the complexity of human beings, it’s basically a miracle we can work together. Emotions, psychology, priorities and desires combine to form as many barriers as enablers.

goats-competition-disputeAnd for some people it just doesn’t work.

Not everyone works well in a team. Not everyone works well alone. Each and every person brings different challenges and skills. Some people like tasks to be given to them while others need puzzles to keep them interested.

Some people can lead and others just canNOT lead at all.

And this conversation hasn’t even addressed the complexities involved in cross-team communication.

Media sites and content marketers everywhere love to create content about teams. Here’s one from HBR: https://hbr.org/2010/06/get-your-team-to-stop-fighting.html

And another from higher ed (Berkeley): http://hr.berkeley.edu/hr-network/central-guide-managing-hr/managing-hr/interaction/team-building/steps

If you’ve ever worked on a bad team reading this content can be maddening or triggering. Have you been a part of a huge enterprise with tens of thousands of employees? Most of this reading sounds like a joke. You might feel powerless to change the situation as well.

What gives talented employees the energy to stay?

I have a saying I use for teams that can’t seem to function correctly:

Too big, must fail.

Do you feel like this? Comment below with your story. The best stories get a 30oz tumblr guaranteed to keep ice for 24 hours or hot drinks for 6 hours.

Because if your story is that good you either need more cocktails or more coffee or both.

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