Lazy Linking, 164th in an Occasional Series

square to circle illusionStuff I liked lately on the Internets:

164.1 Cleaning out retired cells: anti-aging game-changer? theatln.tc/20rorYK @theatlantic

164.2 Best use of AI so far: fool telemarketers into thinking they're talking to a human bit.ly/20C5GhY  @gizmodo

164.3 My friend Matt Bergheiser says BIDs 3.0 = jobs for the poor bit.ly/1SKTxoq @nextcityorg

164.4 Talk about squaring the circle! Sculpture is square from one side, circle from another  bit.ly/1nVgQRa @moillusions

164.5 Why it's good your Twitter feed is better as algorithmic vs. time-ordered bit.ly/1oguFcZ @margrev


The Future of Health Care

http://www.futuristspeaker.com/wp-content/uploads/Future-Doctors-4.jpgI know very little about health care economics but I know that we need to get this right and we need to do it now.  Health is all we have on this side of glory, and yet I am almost daily astounded at how much inefficiency and inequity remains in the systems that deliver services necessary to our wellness.  How is something so fundamentally important and yet so frequently butchered?

I have no solutions.  But, I can present some reasons why solutions are hard to come by.  Here are three, in no particular order:

First, much of good health has to do with having good habits, and as we all know good habits are hard to learn.  Eating right, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol will get you pretty much all the way to a long life, and none of them require doctors, pills, or surgeries.  Ah, but these are behaviors that are hard to do on a regular basis, and even harder to use top-down approaches to get people to do.

Second, much of good health care has to do with coordination across multiple appointments, caregivers, and institutions, and that kind of coordination is hard to come by.  Patients fall through the cracks and incompatible treatments are prescribed all the time.  No one touch-point in the health care system is in charge of our care, and we lack the knowledge to be in charge of our own care.  So structural inefficiencies and systemic failures remain.

Third, much of the future of health care will have to do with personalized forms of medicine.  I'm convinced that I will live to see the day that our diets, pills, and treatments will be uniquely catered to our individual make-ups, such that we will view our current lack of customized interventions in the same way that we currently look back at doctors who practiced blood-letting or who didn't understand how germs work.  When this day arrives, we will have incredible improvements in quality and quantity of life.  The big question, though, is whether we will have a health care system that allows those improvements to be enjoyed by all, because another scenario is that they are only accessible to those who can afford them.  And that would be the crowning inequity of them all, that not only do the have-not's lack what the have's have, but they will also be doomed to be on the outside of revolutionary advances in the way we fundamentally take care of our bodies. 


Lazy Linking, 163rd in An Occasional Series

Stuff I liked lately on the Internets:

163.1 Didn't think I would see this in my lifetime: a computer has mastered Go bit.ly/1VrYamg

163.2 Cards Against Humanity + Urbanism = Cards Against Urbanity bit.ly/1IWR746 @governing

163.3 What's that Sprint logo doing in an impressionist painting?  Oh wait this is Snowstorm Jonas bit.ly/1UqTBbH @thisiscolossal

163.4 The cultural & musical significance of Whitney Houston's '92 Star Spangled Banner bit.ly/23t1O5m @newyorker 

163.5 Study: merit-based pay does what it's ultimately supposed to, which is improve student outcomes bit.ly/20yRPJq @margrev


On Boards

http://www.cgglobal.com/image/nonproductimage/Board_of_Directors_16021538.JPGI have the pleasure of serving on a number of boards here in Philadelphia.  I do this because they are the confluence of a lot of things that are important to me: being civically engaged, building my professional network, getting the scop on what's going on around town, and learning exactly how things work.  So, far from being difficult time commitments to honor, boards are efficient uses of my scarce time. 

That being said, I fall far short of the time and energy I ought to and want to devote to each board.  Every organization deserves board members that are committed, and people who can't serve to a certain level should step down to let others who can have their seat.  And, looking at things from my perspective, it's important not to over-commit, and probably better to sacrifice quantity for quality when it comes to what I do commit to.

But I have made my peace with myself and with the leaders of the organizations whose boards I serve on, that a partial commitment is better than none at all, and that if I can focus on where I can add the most value, I can give quality time even if I can't give quantity of time.  Indeed, even people who have more time to give to a board role have to think about where they want to channel their efforts, since they can't possibly serve everywhere.

To wit, in considering the boards I'm on and where I tend to devote my efforts, here are some places I tend to focus on vs. not focus on:


Checking in with the executive director to let them know I have their back, talk out any issues that are helpful to talk out, and make sure they're feeling good about themselves and the organization.  I've written before about how I choose boards in part to spend more time with leaders I enjoy being with, and that is still true, so this role is a bit self-serving.  Still, I think it's important to take care of our leaders, and if I can play a small part in helping them stay sane, I am happy to do so.

Leveraging my professional networks to bring in funds and friends for the organization.  Fundraising is simultaneously expected of all board members and dreaded by all board members.  Very few of us like hitting up our colleagues for cash, but it's a responsibility I try to take seriously on behalf of the organizations where I serve.  Specifically, I annually download my professional network list and identify people I want to approach for each of my boards.  This process usually yields about 30 to 40 individuals that I can then target when it comes time for each organization's annual fundraiser or campaign appeal.

Participating in a multi-year strategic planning process.  I feel it is a board's responsibility in part to help an organization take a high-altitude look at the landscape in which it operates.  Questions like what are we good at, where is the market heading, and how should we be perceived are hard to tackle when you're in the day-to-day slog of running programs and making payroll.  It's personally enriching for me to deconstruct an organization and its competitive environment in order to get a sense of what we should be about and how we should then process new information and new opportunities.


I do not tend to get involved in supporting existing programs or envisioning new programs.  I am usually not involved in finances, personnel, governance, beyond being aware enough to identify red flags.  I care deeply about new board member recruitment and orientation, so will speak up about their importance, but have not typically been able to follow through and participate in these roles. 


Compartmentalization vs. Integration

I've been musing a lot lately about this notion of compartmentalizing your life versus integrating your life.  What do I mean?  A lot of different things. 

To begin with, you can think about two kinds of people in terms of their work schedules.  One has a bright light between work time/space and the rest of their lives, with the commute to and from being serving as the demarcation between the two, and not a whole lot of bleed from one to another (i.e. not spending any work time on non-work stuff and vice versa).  This largely characterizes me.  Although at times I need to deal with non-work stuff at work and increasingly I do work outside of work hours, it is not my preference.

Another type of work schedule has very little if any distinction between work time/space and non-work time/space.  Their life is one seamless blur of work and non-work elements, with little sense of work having to be done at certain hours or in certain places.  People that work from home, people that work for start-ups, or people in full-time ministry often fall into this category. They have supreme flexibility to handle whatever it is they need to handle, work or non-work, whenever and wherever they need to.  Which can be either really necessary or really headache-inducing (or both). 

I don't think I could hack this for very long stretches of time.  I strive to compartmentalize, so that I can focus on work matters when and where I am able to, and otherwise be free to handle non-work matters outside of that time/space.  Again, it doesn't describe how I actually live my life, but it does describe how I would prefer to.

And yet, in another sense, I am fairly strongly integrated rather than compartmentalized, in that I do not distinguish between work and non-work matters in terms of what I am interested in and how I socialize with others.  The proliferation of Facebook has been such that an increasing number of my Facebook friends are actually work-related colleagues.  And, far from being weirded out by this breaking down of barriers between knowing someone in a work sense and getting to see some facets of their personal lives, I am finding it to be an absolute joy.  For this blurring of work and non-work elements helps me in a work sense by adding texture to my professional relationships, and in some instances it is helping turn work colleagues into personal friends in a really wonderful way.

So non-work considerations have crept into my work relationships.  And the opposite is true, too.  I am completely comfortable with and quite enjoy talking about work with my friends and family.  This may seem obvious, but it is not always true of everyone.  Among my extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins, there is exactly zero talk about our professional livelihoods.  When we gather, we talk about health and vacations and kids and sport, but there is not so much as a quick word of congrats about a recent promotion or a brief anecdote about an office-related snafu.

As a consultant, I am tempted to draw a two-by-two grid, showing these two axes of compartmentalization versus integration, and ask others where they think they fall on this grid.  But I won't nerd you out in that way today.  Still, I find it interesting to be high compartmentalization in one sense, and high integration in another.  And you?


Lazy Linking, 162nd in an Occasional Series

Stuff I liked lately on the Internets:

They struck gold one night when they found a dumpster "the size of a small swimming pool" completely filled with hummus.
street food in asia without getting sick

162.1 Unofficial SEPTA map shows routes AND frequency bit.ly/1WDtW15 @phillymag

162.2 MLK economics: discrimination costs us all dearly, copyright laws make his speeches/writings less accessible bit.ly/1Uik9vU

162.3 Couple trying to live off thrown-away food learns just how much we waste in America read.bi/1SaNHwe @businessinsider

162.4 SEPTA generates back-up power by harnessing electricity from braking trains bit.ly/1PKYLvj @phillymag nyti.ms/1S1RsG6 @nytimes

162.5 Helpful guide for eating street food anywhere in the world without getting sick bit.ly/1OFk7KE @legalnomads


Work and Life in the Balance

As recently as 18 months ago, Jada and Aaron were the only kids between the ages of 0 and 13 represented at my firm; all my co-workers either had no kids or older kids.  Fast-forward to the present, and, in addition to Asher, there are now three other kids under the age of 5.

But kids are obviously not the only non-work responsibility employees face.  Caring for a sick parent, going to school on the side, and buying or fixing up a house also count as major things to juggle along with a demanding job, and the list goes on and on.  Plus there are funner and more restful pursuits, like romance and travel and sports and the arts and civic engagement.

We are a professional services firm, which means we only survive if we are responsive to our clients.  Which means, at times, high stress and long hours and uncompromising devotion to getting something done or being somewhere.

But, because we are a professional services firm, our only real assets are our human assets.  And our employees, as humans, need to have a life outside of work, in order to be happy and tend to things that matter and cultivate the whole of their being.

This may seem obvious, but not all firms provide space for such non-work pursuits.  The business model for some companies is to work people such insane hours that there is practically no time for anything but work.  Or, even if you are not pushed to the brink, the not-so-subtle culture rewards long hours and looks down on people who leave the office at a reasonable hour or that have other allegiances besides the firm.

Such is the balance I seek for myself, both for my own well-being and to set an example for my co-workers.  For there are times when work has to take a backseat to non-work pursuits, and vice versa.  And, if we value our employees and want to keep them healthy and engaged, we need to push them when they're needed but also give them space when that's what they need.

For me, that's meant being home for dinner most nights.  It's also meant taking client calls during my Aaron's karate practice, Jada's choir rehearsals, and even while I was in the hospital during Asher's first days of life.

It's a constant struggle to know you're never doing quite as much as you'd like in either place.  But it's good to know I have flexibility and time to give myself fully to both.  It's important to me for me, and for the good people I have the honor of working with on a day to day basis who are watching me and who are taking in a message about how we are as a firm based on my actions and decisions.  Hopefully we're getting it right.  Our firm's future, and people's well-being, are both at stake.