Friday, June 18, 2010

Happiness Cannot Be Given, It Must Be Earned

The thought of the day, triggered by this Ben Casnocha post that quotes a book review by Eric Falkenstein:

He states that the key factor in one's happiness--not experiential happiness, but 'remembered happiness' that is more correlated with 'life satisfaction', see Kahneman on the difference--is 'perceived earned success'. This is the willingness and ability to create value in your life or the life of others. He states that if you ask someone if they feel like they are creating such value, they are happy, regardless of how much they make. Giving people money, via welfare or inheritance, does not make people happy, because this if anything discourages the effort needed to find and develop such a niche.

This is why lottery winners are unhappy; while they have the trappings of success, they know they didn't earn it.

This is why overnight sensations struggle to stay on top, whereas those who struggled through a longer ascent often remain successful.

This is why our culture of eliminating failure and doling out praise to everyone regardless of performance is so pernicious.

Failure and feeling inadequate may be painful, but pain has a purpose. It tells you to try something else. Eliminating pain eliminates the prod to progress.

As a parent, I hate to see my children fail. When they feel pain, I feel it even worse. But we must not be so selfish as to deprive them of the privilege of failure simply to salve our own feelings. Failure is not only an option, it is the best teacher, and something our children must learn to process, accept, and learn from.

We cannot give our children happiness; all we can do is give them the opportunity to earn it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Is Enterprise 2.0 Just A Toy?

One of the things that bugs me about the current state of E2.0 is that even its advocates don't seem to take it seriously.

I just had a fantastic time at the E2.0 conference in Boston, but I noticed some worrying trends. I offer my thoughts in the spirit of tough love and constructive criticism, but I'm not going to apologize if you find them provocative.

I keep hearing that the benefits of E2.0 initiatives will take a long time to accrue and are difficult to measure, but that it's still worth adopting because the cost of experimentation is so low.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is bullshit.

Let's say your IT department came up with a major initiative, and when you asked about ROI, they replied, "The benefits are hard to measure, and you probably shouldn't expect anything good for at least 6-12 months." How long would it take you to give it the thumbs down?

Why should we treat E2.0 differently than any other part of business?

Furthermore, if you're going to claim that the costs of E2.0 are low, the implication is that it doesn't touch any core business processes.

Because let me tell you, if you're monkeying around with core business processes, it's impossible for the costs to be low. Mistakes will happen, and they will be costly.

A few years back, went down for most of the day on the last day of a quarter. Every one of their customers got on the phone and bitched them out. And this was a great sign for because it meant that its application was truly mission critical. (Note: Do not crash your own systems to perform this experiment. You might not like what you find out.)

Or think of the outrage when your email system goes down. Plain old boring, inefficient, old-school, obsolete email. Yet it's critical to every business in the modern world.

If an application is to be truly important, the potential cost of failure has to be high.

Right now, Enterprise 2.0 is being treated like a toy, even by its advocates. We treat it like the school system treats a struggling student, damning it with faint praise and boosting its self esteem, even as it keeps failing to turn in its homework.

I'm a huge fan of E2.0 and all the people trying to make it work. But that doesn't mean we couldn't do better.

It's time for E2.0 to grow up. E2.0 has to be concrete and measurable, and it has to be expensive, and that means we need to get the people in the organization with real IT spending juice (the VP Sales, CFO, or VP Eng) to buy into the fact that E2.0 is core to what they're bonused on.

Chris Yeh is the VP Marketing for PBworks, which does its darndest to make a product that its customers can count on for mission critical processes like selling and serving customers. He hopes this post doesn't cause people to cancel their E2.0 Player's Deck orders.