Friday, 23 September 2011

Beer Time

I have 16 meetings lined up for my business trip to the US.

This is not counting a lunch and a couple of get-togethers which I consider to be social. And of course seeing family and old Vassar and TASIS buddies (wait a second: we're not THAT old!).

Looking forward to the trip! I'm tired just thinking about it!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Tuesday Night Wisdom

At the Drayton Arms

"I ate at a 2-Michelin-star restaurant once. They cheat you, it's tiny plates of food and an 18 euro espresso".

Ah well, now I know.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


That's the second principle for getting people to like you.

"You must have a good time meeting other people if you expect them to have a good time meeting you."

This is based on the theory that your happiness: you mood and your attitude, are entirely up to you. We may not always have control over the things that happen to us, but we and only we decide how we deal with them. (This may sound familiar to those of you who have known me for a while).

Which leads me to something that has always mystified me: have you ever met those people who reserve their worst behaviour for the people closest to them? Be it family or spouses: that's where they direct their bad moods and tiredness. And you're thinking "Why are you talking to your husband/wife like that? You would never talk to a colleague that way. Or a friend, or a stranger in the supermarket. And yet your spouse, you treat like this". That confuses me.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Become genuinely interested in other people.

We are on to Part II in Dale Carnegie's How to Make Friends and Influence People. The part about making the friends.

This is where he explains that you will make friends by being genuinely interested in other people, not trying to make them interested in you.

For some reason this also reminded me of Bill Cosby's commencement speech at Drew University, in 2002, which I had the great honour of hearing - my good friend Veronica was graduating. Best commencement speech I have ever heard by the way.

He told a great story, greatly condensed here, about a philosophy class he attended at university taught by a particularly challenging professor. One day said Prof. tasked the students with answering the question "Is the glass half full or half empty".

After Cosby what at his grandmother's house - a woman with a lot more love than education - and seeing something was weighing on his mind she asked what it was. Feeling sure she couldn't understand he avoided replying at first, and only upon her insistence did he tell her that he was troubled over how to answer the question: Is the glass half full or half empty".

Grandma replied: "Well, it depends if you're drinking or pouring".

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Arouse in the other person an eager want

You guessed it: principle no. 3

You probably wouldn't eat worms. But if you go fishing, you use worms as your bait.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Give honest and sincere appreciation

Principle number II from Dale Carnegie.

He opens this chapter by pointing out that "the greatest urge driving man is the desire to be important" (that may be paraphrased). Without this urge, he says, there would be no human progress, we would be little more than animals. It's a good thinking point.

As I read his examples of people going to extreme lengths to satisfy this urge, to the point of making themselves ill or insane, it reminded me of a Theodore Dalrymple article following the recent Norway massacre. Read the full article here, but some key points are:

A wider cause gives meaning and purpose to your life, and persuades you that your resentment, your anger, is not petty or personal, but something much grander. You do not see that, by the standards of most people, you have suffered little.
...First is resentment; second, self-importance; third, the desire for fame or notoriety; fourth, the search for a transcendent meaning to life, and fifth, a difficulty in forming ordinary human relationships, whether of love or friendship.
It's a bit of a tangent, but one worth making, even briefly.

But going back to Dale Carnegie's book, he tells the story of Charles Schwab, who was paid an unimaginably large salary to run US Steel not - by his own admission - for his understanding of the product of manufacturing process, but for his ability to deal with people. This is the greatest skill you can cultivate, and the one that will drive you further in life than many others.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

What are my work incarnations?

I have several, and have referred to them at various times below. 

To summarise: I work on, along with Ocean. He writes most of the sites articles, although I occasionally give it a stab (see all my posts here: ), and help run the site and the associated media channels. 

I love the DumbAgent site: it is fun and intelligent and keeps my brain working. To summarise our drive with this site:
To we bring our shared belief in free markets, rational economics, and human intelligence to make the right choices (or learn from the wrong ones).

You know this from my twitter handle @rgbrizi, and we also run the @DumbAgent handle. 

My other day job is as a Director with Linex Systems. The product is a hosted platform for a company to manage their current awareness streams (call it news monitoring, business intelligence aggregation, whatever you prefer). And, well, Linex is also a lot of fun. The product is fairly new, it's highly adaptable and brings a lot of value, and my clients are pretty fun people overall. 

Get the full details on my LinkedIn profile

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Workshop: Implementing Knowledge Cafés

From one of my work incarnations:

David Gurteen yesterday hosted a one day workshop to share how and why Knowledge Cafés are of value in a business environment. I, as you will have guessed, was amongst the attendees.
I have attended a couple of Gurteen’s evening Cafés in the past, and you can read about those here on this blog. The calibre of people who organise and participate in these Cafés are a testament to Gurteen’s reach and influence, and yesterday was no exception. I have heard David’s story behind the Cafés before, but for me it all resonates on one point: “people would suffer through the [business] presentations only looking forward to the conversation afterwards at the pub. So what if we cut straight to the part people actually enjoyed?”.
Yesterday’s event was part presentation and part conversation. In fact as the day went on the lines between the two were effectively blurred. There was a lot of very practical advice about the benefits of conversation for knowledge sharing, as well as problem solving, internal networking and more. Even maximising your use of current awareness - a point of particular interest of course for me.
A practical example of this last point: you aggregate information and build alerts for your team. You work hard to ensure they are receiving high quality information, leaving no stone uncovered in what they need to know, and that this is all highly accessible to the end user. And then what? Are they reading your alerts? And if so how are these improving their professional output?
When a big piece of news comes up - a major shift in legislation, unexpected activity by a competitor or client, etc. - why not organise a conversation café on the subject? You will come away with a deeper understanding not only of the implications, but what you can do about it.
A couple of technical points. A Knowledge Café, as I see it, is not a business meeting. The purpose of a business meeting is a specific decision / action point (I am even of a fan of standing-space-only meeting, it keeps them short and focused). The Café comes a step before this. It is the first step in problem-solving, namely: increasing understanding. Unlike a business meeting, you should not enter a Knowledge Café with a specific outcome in mind.
Another quick point to add is that effective conversation in the workplace will bring both direct and indirect improvements in work processes. There are work-specific Cafés, an environment designed to foster in-depth sharing. And then there is simple banter conversation amongst employees. The more non-business-related sharing you can foster amongst employees, the better will those employees interact back within the business environment.
For managers of knowledge, innovation and professional development who are seeing the limitations of current modes of work, an interactive workshop such as this can open flood gates of new possibilities.
I add a link to a DumbAgent article about further benefits of extended yourself beyond the obvious circle of contacts. Conversations bring to knowledge sharing, which can only be a good thing.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Learning the basics

I was feeling wild & crazy yesterday and bought a hairbrush.

Then I had to ask the nice lady at the shop how it works.

Just another day...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Don't criticise, condemn or complain

I just started reading Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Principle no. 1 is: Don't criticise, condemn or complain.

But can I disagree? Not with the principle, I mean in general. Can I set myself apart?
What to do at the repetition if an error? Is there a point at which patience is justifiably lost?

Work scenario: colleague makes a mistake and denies responsibility. How do you know he won't repeat it? Ok I leave him the blame but take responsibility. Change the system. And I guess at some point changing the system means changing the colleague.

In personal life, same, I guess. In these relationships: don't criticise condemn or complain but do converse.

Ok, that's also called "thinking-while-typing".

If you know you have a low self-esteem...

... then you do not have a low self-esteem.

That seems logical to me, does anybody need explaining?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Talking to yourself

We have a new post up at DumbAgent, it's one I really like for reasons beyond the one states on the blog.

Check out How to Find a Job - It's about the advantages of interacting with a wide variety of people: it's about the advantages of diversity. No: I don't mean people who look different from one another, period. I mean people with a diversity of experience and history, cultures and backgrounds, interests and knowledge.

Ocean authored the article and he quotes Malcolm Gladwell who asks, if your friends all "occupy the same world as you do... How much would they know, that you wouldn't know?"

Did you ever get that feeling, when talking to somebody, even a good friend, that you have learnt everything you ever will from him? That's a bad feeling.

I'm also going to take this on a bit of a tangent now.

My Italian friends often tell me that I am so very American. Which would surprise my American friends who are amused by how Italian I am. Let me tell you why this irks me a little: I don't really understand what it even means. Are all Italians/American exactly like you? Not so. So are you only associating with people exactly like you? Perhaps, and if so, they're not all the same by all being Italian/American. Dig deeper. And then break out of that: playing it safe, even in your social life, will exclude a whole lot of fun.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Not only are we Dumb Agents, we’re also related!

That's right: DumbAgent is back!

We put the site on hold for a couple of months as we dealt with a re-design and stripped the site back down the it's principle element: Content.

Not just content: interesting, varied, thought-provoking and over-all top notch content (if I may say so myself).

Mosey on over to the site and definitely sign up to the RSS feed.

The About Us section gives you the background: brother and sister blogging about the wisdom both of crowds and of individuals:
To we bring our shared belief in free markets, rational economics, and human intelligence to make the right choices (or learn from the wrong ones).