What got left incomplete on your list this year?

Many of us create lists at the beginning of the year for the things that we are hoping to accomplish over the course of the year. Quite a few organizations have even formalized the process with objectives and tied it to performance reviews. Naturally, we all know what we are going to be doing come December.

The best intentions drive this desire to lay out strategic objectives. If we plan the year with the goal of accomplishing strategic things, we may be more likely to pull it off. Surely things written on paper have a greater probability of happening.

Sadly, this isn’t how things work. Come December, it is inevitable that some of these “important” activities got dropped and were replaced by something else entirely. I can’t remember the last time I had a year go to plan (it’s never happened). Adding these to next years list isn’t going to fix the problem.

The key to completing strategic activities is not to have them on some start of the year list, but to have them on your every week list. Most of us can’t come up with our personal two-year plan, why do we think we can come up with a one-year plan? We can change our behavior though.

If we decide to treat strategic activities the way we do everything else we work on, then we have a chance at completing them.

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Why the death of Net Neutrality is important within the CRE space.

As you may have heard, the FCC recently announced a vote in December to gut their net neutrality regulations and essentially let telecoms do whatever they want with the internet. For those not aware, these rules were put in place in the ancient days of 2015 because it was becoming clear that the lack of competition in the space was driving improper behaviors.

At its core, net neutrality ensures that telecom providers (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum, etc) must treat all data on their network the same way. It doesn’t say they have to price access to their networks at a certain rate or force them to make upgrades. It simply makes the principle clear that data is data.

It seems obvious on the surface, why would anyone treat some data differently than other data? A great example is that AT&T now owns DirecTV. Without net neutrality rules in place, AT&T could put in place pricing that streaming DirecTV over their network is free (as long as you pay for the package) but streaming any other television related data costs an additional $100 per month. Essentially they are using their market position to arbitrarily limit competition from other TV providers.

Net neutrality ensures a level playing field for large and small companies. Under the current rules, Google and Facebook cannot go to Comcast and pay for faster connections to their services. Without net neutrality, Google could pay Comcast (or others) for the privilege of making YouTube a preferred service that streams for free at 4k while all other video services only get low-quality streams. Suddenly start-ups in the video space are forced out of business because their customer base is disincentivized from using anyone but Youtube.

Removing net neutrality rules simply gives big telecom providers new, artificial ways of making money off the backs of their customers without adding any value back.

So why is this important to CRE? Because our technology sectors are just beginning to take off with none of them really big yet. CRE Tech is truly a start-up environment and without net neutrality, all start-ups will immediately be at a disadvantage. Groundbreaking CRE Tech is not going to be low bandwidth, it’s going to involve AR, VR and high-quality video. It’s going to require large amounts of data. It’s going to grow like crazy over the next decade.

With net neutrality in place, there are no barriers to this growth and all companies will get to compete on their merits. Take net neutrality off the table and suddenly it’s not necessarily about who has the best product, it’s about who has the best relationship with Comcast and Verizon.

Personally, I want the market to decide winners and losers. Comcast can’t be trusted to do right by customers of their own services, why let them decide the future of CRE Technology?

What can you do? Contact your representatives to tell them to protect the current rules either through direct legislation or through applying pressure to the FCC. The current rules are not perfect and could use some improvement but getting rid of them is not the answer.

Back to Android after my iPhone experimentation.

For most of this year, I became an iPhone user for the first time ever. I even posted some of my experiences. I’m not willing to call it a failure but I am glad to now be back on Android (hello Pixel 2 XL!).

There are three primary reasons that I’m glad to be back on Android. They may sound trivial but they are huge (in order of importance to me):

  1. Keyboard. iPhone’s keyboard is crap. There are no two ways about it. Their keyboard was designed to operate on a 4″ phone and it has never been updated to provide more functionality on a larger screen (numbers on the top row for the win).
  2. Notifications. Android has built notifications into an art. iPhone treats notifications as a river of information with no filters or controls whatsoever. Give me smart notifications all day long.
  3. Widgets. Yes, iPhone has widgets on their notifications screen, technically. But these widgets aren’t the flexible, adaptable, placeable ones available on Android. There’s nothing better than a well-placed widget on the home screen.

There are plenty of other reasons that I prefer Android over iPhone. But after just a single week I’m already much happier with my phone. Sometimes comfort is the key.

Sometimes success is shining a light on what’s going on.

Last week I talked about sometimes success is not failing. Other times success is actively looking to break things – or at least shine a light into the dark places. Just because there isn’t noise today doesn’t mean that everything is working as it is supposed to.

Shining a light on what isn’t going right can feel wrong. You are essentially pointing out where things aren’t working as they are supposed to. The reality of it is that someone would catch on eventually in all likelihood. Usually, that happens when something really bad goes wrong.

Waiting for that really bad thing to happen is bad policy. The worst case scenario is invariably worse than uncovering and fixing the issues yourself. In the latter method, you control the noise and approach. You can control the message.

It’s easy to group the world into two groups (us and them) but it is almost always counterproductive.

The worst thing about US politics these days is Republicans and Democrats. Keep in mind that these are private organizations that talk about their members doing public service while their primary purpose is to further entrench their own interests while making money. Too many individuals believe they have to pick one of these two teams even though there’s very little room for nuance once you pick a side.

While this isn’t a post about politics, that example is perfect for what happens when you start dividing things into two teams. Almost all sports are about two teams facing off and having a winner and loser. Wars are usually positioned as two sides fighting between good and evil with winners and losers.

There is power in the story of us versus them. It instantly gives individuals a framing for their behavior and an understanding of who they are competing against. Even without additional direction, this framing gives momentum to future actions in the direction of us versus them and striving for “victory.”

Most things in life are not zero-sum, us-versus-them. It is almost never advantageous to divide up into two teams and go head-to-head. Staging pseudo-gladiator style matches between people may feel like something gets accomplished but more is lost. Battles don’t build a long-term culture, they focus on the short-term. Battles destroy the bonds between large numbers.

Two teams take away our ability to focus on nuance. Nuance is important.

For a long time I thought data analytics was a common skillset.

The first 10 years of my career were both blessing and curse. A blessing because I had the opportunity to work with truly talented people around me in just about every position. Even those that were complete PIAs had skills that are top 2%. A curse because for a long time I thought that I was in a common organization. When all of your experiences involve talented people, it’s easy to believe talented people are everywhere.

Slowly I came to realize that talent is a rare and difficult thing to find. The group that had been gathered slowly began to disband and change. New people came in that couldn’t live up to the history. I had more experiences with other companies that didn’t have the same talent. I came to reposition the talent that I had seen around me as a truly special occurrence.

Data analytics is a particular skill that was all around me. I was surrounded by many that could look at numbers and instinctively see patterns and know if there were issues. Excel ability was table stakes, most could go several tools deeper as needed. I remember one fun week several of us spent debating the validity of introducing simulations into our standard analytics packages.

Over the past years, I have come to understand how hard data analytics is to most people. Looking at numbers and seeing anything but a wall of numbers is a skill that few have. Even those that can look at numbers and see an opportunity for analysis struggle to come up with the right framework for presenting those results. Knowing how to craft numbers into a story is real trouble.

This all may seem obvious and intuitive to you but my point is that this was a blindspot to me because my experience was skewed in a certain direction. What are your blindspots because of your background? We all have them.

Yesterday I had a holiday in the middle of the week: a day with no conference calls.

At 9a I found myself checking my Outlook calendar again because surely there was a mistake. Somehow I found myself without a single scheduled conference call or meeting or reminder on my calendar. When I had gone to sleep that hadn’t been the case.¬†I’m certain I didn’t deserve it, I didn’t even try for it.

Going back to my calendar, this is the fourth time this year that I have had a surprise day with no meetings. Keep in mind that I’ve only been with this group for a year now so I didn’t have much in the way of standing meetings for most of the first half of the year.

Days that are wide open are gifts for you to cherish because they give you the single greatest opportunity you can ever have: a day to accomplish those tasks that require you to really think.

Many people try to book days like this intentionally. I have in the past as well. I’ve found it more frustrating to try for days with no calls to only end up failing than to cherish the times when they occur organically. Although, as the number of days like this continues toward zero I may have to try for them on purpose again but that’s for another day. For now, it’s just a pleasant memory.