More Gadgets, Less Fun

As I have posted before, gadgets make great conversation pieces. However, therein lies the problem.

More often then not I catch people being deeply into their Blackberries (mostly), Sidekicks or other smarter-then-average phones. People reading something. People zealously typing away. People so drawn into their gadgets that they hardly notice anything around them.

On the express bus I am taking to work sometimes it takes two or three “Excuse me” to make a person move their feet away from the very narrow passage between rows of seats. And last night I missed my stop because I was reading something off my PDA.

By being drowned into small PDA screens (around 2 – 3 inches on the average), we develop a tunnel vision, ignoring anything that happens not directly in front of us. Usually this leads to a lot of non-efficient decisions, inability to think outside of that tube of attention. TV has similar effects on people’s attention span.

What I essentially want is a larger screen on my smart phone. Heck, I’d go for a screen of a flexible size.

Blackberry vs. iPhone

RIM’s BlackBerry is the leader in the smartphone market today, but now that the iPhone 3G has become more attractive to both consumers and the enterprise, RIM needs to stop the iPhone onslaught as soon as possible.

There’s no argument about it – devices designed as business tools will work out better for business tasks then devices designed as status symbol. From my personal standpoint – the iPhone isn’t good or bad or evil – it’s just useless.

When you are indeed a business professional your tasks include sending and receiving e-mails, checking and updating schedules, going to meetings, taking notes and, possibly, sharing your thoughts with peers. While passive parts can easily be done with any device, including iPhone, the active parts, that include typing or some other kind of active interacting the Blackberry is ahead by leaps and bounds.

Instead of thoroughly analyzing let’s do the funny thing – let’s look at the way both devices are being positioned in minds of customers. In other words – what do we know about these devices from advertisings, promotions and other PR stunts.

Anything you know about the iPhone is related to entertainment – you can watch YouTube, listen to music, browse the web, run cool Apps. Any poster you can find projects iPhone as a fun cool gadget that will bring envy to your peers eventually making them go through same artificially-induced demand curve that ends with 10 days wait for shiny new thing.

Whatever you see or hear about Blackberry has nothing fancy, cool or entertaining about it. The device is much bulkier, calling it pretty would be an overstatement and it has that vibe about it that you’re connected to your job 24×7. Everything you know about Blackberry is about getting more productive on the go.

Surprised? Did’t think so. The distinct difference between the entertainment center posing as occasional work desk and work power horse occasionally serving as a music player cannot be missed.

So what’s in it for small business? Whether you need to project your status image among collegues and peers – go with the iPhone, you won’t miss. If you need to get the job done – the Blackberry should be your answer.

P.S. Neccessary disclosure: I own and alternate between Samsung Blackjack (creature very similar to Blackberry) and AT&T Tilt.

Workplace Tribe Gone Wrong

CASE STUDY: WORKPLACE TRIBE GONE WRONG (originally for Triiibes).

The place I work for right now is all about team building. At least that’s what I was told during the hiring process. Even more so, after a whole-day round of the interviews I got another call from HR and one more “team participation” interview. Given that I am coming from independent consulting background I sensed nothing wrong, until I arrived.

Among first impressions that I’ve been put through was the all-employee meeting. Most of the meeting, though, concentrated on Sales Team. They occupied first forty or so rows of the expensive conference hall while pretty much everyone was happily dozing in the back. The whole talk was about the sales team and the finance team. They made good tribes, I guess.

Then, after much talk-around, the Q&A session ensued. One of the hottest topics was the cancellation of “casual Friday”. Turned out – many employees considered this a valuable perk (I used to wear pretty much anything as long as I got the job done the previous 10 years of my career, so I didn’t really took note until now). The CEO proclaimed that “yes, you don’t wear jeans on Friday anymore and let me tell you – you look great today”. Ask me – that sentence alone alienated exactly half of the company’s employees. Those, who don’t belong to sales and finance, made faces and whispered comments. Obviously, we all were sitting too far away for CEO to take note. As to the sales team – they have to wear their uniforms every day (even on Saturdays), so it’s not like the “casual Friday” policy was affecting them in any way before or after.

Being a newbie in the company I did a lot of asking after the meeting – talked to my peers, colleagues from other departments, even managers. What I was inquiring about can be essentially put as this: “Is the behavior this whole tribe exhibited during the meeting something regular or is it something new that no one really had a chance to get used to”. As I figured out – this was the first attempt to divide the large tribe into smaller ones and conquer only those who’s performance really mattered.

As I retreated into my smaller department tribe I realized that the reason why the divide and conquer paradigm worked pretty well for CEO is that because interdepartmental ties are quite similar to medieval relationships between city-kingdoms: “we’re not invading them because we can’t really keep that part of the land occupied”. Such truce-because-we-can’t-wage-war relationships are the reasons why any tribe can be divided and conquered into any number of smaller parts. And those are so much easier to take over…