Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Eight Pillars of Innovation | Think Quarterly by Google

The greatest innovations are the ones we take for granted, like light bulbs, refrigeration and penicillin. But in a world where the miraculous very quickly becomes common-place, how can a company, especially one as big as Google, maintain a spirit of innovation year after year?

Nurturing a culture that allows for innovation is the key. As we’ve grown to over 26,000 employees in more than 60 offices, we’ve worked hard to maintain the unique spirit that characterized Google way back when I joined as employee #16.

Read the full article:

The Eight Pillars of Innovation | Think Quarterly by Google

Friday, July 29, 2011

How to Build Influence as a Project Manager

Successful project managers require support from their teams. However, this support cannot be delegated or simply wished into existence. Acquiring the authority to effectively lead a team demands a specific approach.

A project leader must be humble at times and assertive in others, and know when to take charge of a situation and when to delegate roles to members of his or her team.

A big part of succeeding at that is in effectively building influence, often with team members who are not direct employees of the project manager.

Many fail to understand this aspect and walk into project management assuming the role of infallible leader, often inspiring heavy resistance and strained accomplishments.

The guidelines below represent how to properly build influence and establish the authority of a project manager. These are ongoing practices that should organize how instructions and interactions with team members should take place at all times.

Know Where to Partition Labour

Understanding when to delegate authority is an important aspect of leadership. By knowing a team's strengths and weaknesses, a project manager will be able to pass along tasks and decisions for the team members and improve overall efficiency. By doling out responsibility, not only is time saved but everyone on the team becomes more productive.

When delegating, it's important to understand exactly when and to whom power can be entrusted. Not everyone is cut out for a management role, and some are much happier with strict oversight rather than free reign.

Just because a person is excellent at sales, for instance, doesn't mean he or she can manage. And, if a project manager doesn’t keep a careful eye on the individual, the project can lose significant ground. The delayed processes of the sales cycle may not display issues for up to a year or more, resulting in an expanse of lost time, resources and opportunity.

In order to avoid mistaken delegation, try assigning small tasks at first. Have the individual develop a plan, send him or her to do the work, and then evaluate the performance along the way. As the individual improves, increase the task load and/or the complexity of each assignment.

Delegating work will ease the overall burden, but it will also encourage those within the team to work toward a valued end goal and put their trust in the project manager.

Manage by Example

The moment a project manager acts in contrast to his or her own advice is the moment that they lose all credibility. Project managers who truly want the team to respect them and subscribe to their suggestions, must wholeheartedly support their own decisions and back them up with actions.

The most effective way to earn authority is to be a project leader that others want to follow. Be on time. Be kind and considerate. Be efficient with tasks. Be organized. Be fair with others. Set an example for others to follow.

Organise Communication

Communication will always be one of the most vital qualities for effective project management. Developing relationships with team members is critical, and project managers should work to exhibit their true personalities and gain the trust of all coworkers. Effective communication can never be achieved through short emails, incessant demands, or brief interactions; relationships are slowly developed through consistent interaction and honest behavior.

Poor communication has the ability to devastate a project. When NASA lost its Mars orbiter, it was due to the fact that two teams had failed to communicate on the project. One team built the device to metric specifications and the other used inches. This might be an extreme example, but effective communication could have easily solved this $327 million blunder.

When communicating, a project manager should not just assume the role of talker. It is absolutely critical to listen to all team members. Listen, learn and earn the team's respect by valuing members’ input and giving credit where it's due. This will help alleviate any resentment and facilitate collaboration among the group.

Practice Self-Maintenance

Self-maintenance encompasses everything from furthering project management education to working on health. For a project manager to gain respect and enhance authority, he or she must have the knowledge and the capacity to be a true leader. If a team sees its leader as ill-informed, it will be less likely to trust the leader’s judgment. If a project manager cannot perform, the team will be uninspired.

There are incredible resources that can be accessed by enrolling in Web seminars, attending classes or joining a local Project Management Institute chapter. These resources will not only make a project manager’s job easier, but will help the PM to demonstrate their competence to those on the team.

The matter of health may seem a bit trivial but it can be surprisingly important. In 2007, an article in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine titled “Health and Productivity as a Business Strategy” reported that health-related productivity costs were more than four times the costs of treating those health problems. In other words, taking the time to ensure good health can have enormous benefits for the workplace.

Establish Morals

In the end, all anyone has is their honor; project managers should never let themselves be corrupted by feelings of entitlement. To be a great leader, it is important to acknowledge principles and stick to them. Project managers with strong convictions will be respected by others and can feel pleased with what they have accomplished. Good project managers need to believe in themselves, believe in others and believe in their actions. Even if mistakes are made, the project manager can be satisfied with the fact that he or she made those mistakes with the right intentions.
As a project manager, it can be difficult to organize a team. However, accepting these practices can greatly improve any team’s effectiveness. Always remember that a project manager is not in charge of everyone on the team, but rather is a team leader who can either direct a project to success or confront difficulties at every stage. The simple process of being respectful and fair in all decisions can easily keep every member of the team on the same page.

These practices should make it easier for project managers to complete their projects on time and up to quality. If nothing else, they can leave work content, knowing that they have done the job as well as it could have been done.

Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2011

Gartner, Inc. has revealed its top predictions for IT organizations and users for 2011 and beyond. Analysts said that the predictions highlight the significant changes in the roles played by technology and IT organizations in business, the global economy and the lives of individual users.

More than 100 of the strongest Gartner predictions across all research areas were submitted for consideration this year. This year's selection process included evaluating several criteria that define a top prediction. The issues examined included relevance, impact and audience appeal.

"With costs still under pressure, growth opportunities limited and the tolerance to bear risk low, IT faces increased levels of scrutiny from stakeholders both internal and external," said Darryl Plummer, managing vice president and Gartner fellow. "As organizations plan for the years ahead, our predictions focus on the impact this scrutiny will have on outcomes, operations, users and reporting.

All parties expect greater transparency, and meeting this demand will require that IT become more tightly coupled to the levers of business control."

"Gartner's top predictions showcase the trends and disruptive events that will reshape the nature of business for the next year and beyond," said Brian Gammage, vice president and Gartner fellow. "Selected from across our research areas as the most compelling and critical predictions, the developments and topics they address this year focus on changes in the roles that technologies and IT organizations play: in the lives of workers, the performance of businesses and the wider world."

Last year's theme of rebalancing supply, consumer demand and regulation is still present across most of the predictions, but the view has shifted further toward external effects. This year's top predictions highlight an increasingly visible linkage between technology decisions and outcomes, both economic and societal.

Read the Gartner Predictions here: Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2011 and Beyond

DIY Guide to InfoGraphics

Created By Voltier Creative

Monday, July 25, 2011

Impress your boss with green thinking

Bringing fresh ideas to a new job will not only impress your new boss, but also make sure that you're watching the carbon footprint of the business.

There are plenty of ways you can introduce energy efficiency into a workplace, it just depends on what kind of business it is.

There are many similar steps between a domestic property and a workplace, including looking at renewable energy possibilities.

When you've got a location that's open predominantly during the day, it's almost a perfect match between use of solar energy and on tap electricity. Picking up from midday, when everyone's working away, then letting it dying away in the evening.

It is also suggested new schemes like voltage optimisation, heat recovery and heat pump technologies, which means the building uses less power.

Bringing new and fresh ideas to a business could cement your role as a valuable employee and someone managers could turn to for similar advice in the future.

If nothing else you could become a more interesting and 'greener' person.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

How to unlock your O2 iPhone

So what’s a poor iPhone user to do once their initial 18 or 24 months with O2 are up? For once the answer is very simple indeed: rather than waste time and effort trying to hack your phone with hardware or software, which can all-too-easily end by “bricking” the device, just ask O2 to unlock it for you!

That’s right, O2 will be happy to remove the lock from any iPhone it originally supplied. O2 even provides an unlocking web page to help you do this (although it isn’t publicised particularly well).

What you might find surprising is that this unlocking service is free, and O2 will even unlock iPhones that are still under contract, although it goes without saying that you’ll have to honour what remains of that contract. They’ll also unlock PAYG phones, although there’s a £15 charge for that.

I used this facility to unlock an iPhone 3G that Apple’s PR team gave me some time ago – I simply shoved an O2 SIM into it, loaded it up with £20 credit and then filled in the unlock form. Within a few days a message popped up on my phone saying that it was unlocked.

Actually, it wasn’t really unlocked – if you shove another network’s SIM in it you’ll get the dreaded “invalid SIM” message. What you need to do is, with this other SIM in the iPhone, connect to your PC or Mac and fire up iTunes. It will reboot itself and then it will recognise the SIM.

If that SIM comes from one of Apple’s official mobile network partners (O2, Vodafone and Orange in the UK), you should even find the APN correctly configured for network access. It’s a shame that more
iPhone owners don’t realise that O2 offers this service, but perhaps this column will go some way towards remedying that.

Don't bank on your phone: Too easily hacked

Alex Fidgen of MWR InfoSecurity, one of the biggest cybercrime-busting outfits in Britain came out with a very scary statement this week.

It's normal line of business is to legally hack into computers to test and improve their company's security. More recently MWR has turned its attention to smartphones and found that it can crack open every new handset it sees.

"The mobile phone industry is not fit for purpose, especially for financial transactions," says Fidgen. "The evidence is irrefutable. You cannot be assured of security with modern smartphones. As soon as the handset is compromised, then any data is up for grabs."

Fidgen says the fault lies with the handset manufacturers rather than the network providers or banks. In the race to bring new phones and new features to the market, many have left security low on the agenda.

Yet modern smartphones are in effect PCs with phones attached and, particularly when they are used in public Wi-Fi hotspots, they can become fatally compromised.

Trojans can enter a smartphone in many devious ways. All you have to do is click on a link or attachment that contains the virus, and within seconds it can secretly seize control of the phone. That link might be a tinyurl in Twitter. The attachment could be a vCard, the standard format for sending a business card to a phone.

Or it could be that you are accessing a website in a cafe. At Wi-Fi hotspots, fraudsters create bogus gateways, known as "evil twins", to which the latest mobile phones will automatically connect.

As the Guardian revealed in April, once a connection is established, all the information passing through the gateway can be read directly or decrypted, allowing fraudsters to harvest user names, passwords and messages.

Until now, these attacks have been rare but now experts say that's just because smartphones are still taking off. "We're walking into a minefield," says Fidgen, who has been warning about the risks of mobile banking for several months, "but nobody's bloody listening."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Human Brain has difficulty calculating RISK!

The human brain struggles with comprehending risk. We find it difficult to translate the mathematical fact of probability into an accurate assessment of danger. This can be especially true in medicine, where emotion frequently clouds rational thinking.

In one study, Gigerenzer and his colleagues asked doctors in Germany and the United States to estimate the probability that a woman with a positive mammogram actually has breast cancer, even though she’s in a low-risk group: 40 to 50 years old, with no symptoms or family history of breast cancer. To make the question specific, the doctors were told to assume the following statistics couched in terms of percentages and probabilities about the prevalence of breast cancer among women in this cohort, and also about the mammogram’s sensitivity and rate of false positives:

The probability that one of these women has breast cancer is 0.8 percent. If a woman has breast cancer, the probability is 90 percent that she will have a positive mammogram. If a woman does not have breast cancer, the probability is 7 percent that she will still have a positive mammogram. Imagine a woman who has a positive mammogram. What is the probability that she actually has breast cancer?

The trick is to think in terms of “natural frequencies” — simple counts of events — rather than the more abstract notions of percentages, odds, or probabilities. As soon as you make this mental shift, the fog lifts.

This is the central lesson of “Calculated Risks,” a fascinating book by Gerd Gigerenzer, a cognitive psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

In a series of studies about medical and legal issues ranging from AIDS counseling to the interpretation of DNA fingerprinting, Gigerenzer explores how people miscalculate risk and uncertainty. But rather than scold or bemoan human frailty, he tells us how to do better — how to avoid “clouded thinking” by recasting conditional probability problems in terms of natural frequencies.

The correct answer is roughly 9 percent.

How can it be so low? Gigerenzer’s point is that the analysis becomes almost transparent if we translate the original information from percentages and probabilities into natural frequencies:

Eight out of every 1,000 women have breast cancer. Of these 8 women with breast cancer, 7 will have a positive mammogram. Of the remaining 992 women who don’t have breast cancer, some 70 will still have a positive mammogram.

Imagine a sample of women who have positive mammograms in screening. How many of these women actually have breast cancer?

Since a total of 7 + 70 = 77 women have positive mammograms, and only 7 of them truly have breast cancer, the probability of having breast cancer given a positive mammogram is 7 out of 77, which is 1 in 11, or about 9 percent.

Notice two simplifications in the calculation above. First, we rounded off decimals to whole numbers.

That happened in a few places, like when we said, “Of these 8 women with breast cancer, 7 will have a positive mammogram.”

Really we should have said 90 percent of 8 women, or 7.2 women, will have a positive mammogram. So we sacrificed a little precision for a lot of clarity.

Second, we assumed that everything happens exactly as frequently as its probability suggests. For instance, since the probability of breast cancer is 0.8 percent, exactly 8 women out of 1,000 in our hypothetical sample were assumed to have it. In reality, this wouldn’t necessarily be true.

Things don’t have to follow their probabilities; a coin flipped 1,000 times doesn’t always come up heads 500 times. But pretending that it does gives the right answer in problems like this.

Although reformulating the data in terms of natural frequencies is a huge help, conditional probability problems can still be perplexing for other reasons. It’s easy to ask the wrong question, or to calculate a probability that’s correct but misleading.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Researchers discover 'indestructible' botnet

Security researchers at Kapersky Labs have discovered botnet software that uses a range of techniques to remain undetected, making it "practically indestructible".

Computers infected by the software, called TDL-4, fall under control of the botnet's criminal owners and can be used to pump out spam or commit other online attacks. Communication with the botnet's command and control servers takes place over a public peer-to-peer file-sharing network and is protected by a custom encryption algorithm, making it very hard to track down the botmasters in charge and shut them down.

More than 4.5 million computers running Windows have been infected by TDL-4, but they're unlikely to know it. The malware installs itself in the computer's master boot record, a part of the system that loads before the operating system starts up, hiding it from most anti-virus programs and bypassing Window's security altogether.

What's worse, the malware runs its own anti-virus software to ensure that it doesn't have to share the infected computer with any other malicious programs. TDL-4 scans for around 20 common competitors and prevents them from contacting their command and controls servers. This also serves to stop users noticing anything is wrong - you might notice a slowdown if your computer is running a menagerie of malware, but a single botnet can remain undetected.