Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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    Welcome to a Silicon Valley State of Mind, thoughts tips and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "Silicon Valley's Top Information Strategist."

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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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Posted by on in Leadership

Do happy employees create successful organizations? Well, according to Glassdoor, the happiest companies in Silicon Valley are:

  1. Facebook
  2. Google
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Apple
  5. Informatica
  6. Shutterfly
  7. NetApp

After scanning this list, I’d say these companies are pretty successful. And although it’s debatable which came first—success or happy employees—most of the extant literature on organizational development confirms the great contribution that happy employees make to successful companies. Personally, I’ve worked with many companies over my illustrious career as a consultant, and I can attest that I’ve made far more valuable contributions to companies when I was having fun.

Happiness works differently for various people; however, I can give you some insights when it comes to analytics: data scientists, analysts, and most IT professionals:

Smart people like working with other smart people.

I had lunch last week with Sridhar, a good friend of mine who currently manages a team of IT professionals at StubHub. We were previously partners in crime at Hitachi Data Systems and together we solved some of its difficult challenges. At one point during the lunch he said, “I just like solving problems with other smart people.” The comment struck a chord with me that stayed for a while.

It was harmonious with a discussion I had earlier with Jennifer Selby Long, a brilliant management consultant who develops leaders. Jennifer and I are looking to pair up on an estimable intervention at a local telecommunications company. At one point while working through the proposal she said, “This one may be tough, but I just love working on difficult problems with other smart people.”

Of course there are other factors that contribute to employee happiness; however, for smart people, this is an important one. Make sure to surround your smartest people with other smart people. Oh—and a huge salary doesn’t hurt either.

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Posted by on in Leadership

If you’re invested in gold, you may be experiencing a bit of anxiety. The precipice gold fell off this month makes the fiscal cliff look like a street curb. At the beginning of the month, an ounce of gold was worth about $1,600, and now it’s struggling to stay above $1,400. That’s a tough reality for someone who was recently worried about the US dollar and turned to gold for a safe place to invest. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people investing in gold based on sophistic reasoning. It’s important to check with trusted advisors before making important decisions.

The dirty truth is that people in the inside think most gold investors are pretty ignorant. They’re saying that dumb money is pushing up the price of gold—and I believe they’re right. Although common lore says that gold is a good investment to hedge against the US dollar, it’s a trading instrument that works like anything else. When gold is popular—for whatever reason—people buy it and the price goes up. When people get scared, they sell their gold, and the price goes down. If a lot of people get scared at the same time, they all sell at the same time, and the price plummets. This is what happened a few days ago.

The key here is that most financial analysts knew this—the joke is on the gold investor who didn’t know better. It’s important to surround yourself with trusted experts and turn to them before you make any big moves. Otherwise, you might end up holding fool’s gold.

Tagged in: experts leadership trust
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Posted by on in Leadership

My trees this morning are filled with little men in fluorescent jackets. Fall is right around the corner, and the huge oak trees on our property will soon start dumping leaves and nuts in our pool creating a huge mess. It’s been a few years since we’ve done anything with the trees, so a tree intervention is required. In times like this, I turn to a specialist—no questions asked. If you forgo the services of a specialist when one is required, you do far more damage than good.

As I see it, I have a number of options, I could:

  • Do nothing,
  • Try to do it myself,
  • Try to find cheap labor,
  • Try to find a new specialist,
  • Use my friend, who is a tree specialist that has done great work for me in the past.

I’m sure you can guess which route I took. If I do nothing, the pool will soon be filled with leaves and acorns, and next year the problem will be worse. I’m not inclined to do it myself because I don’t know anything about trimming trees, and there’s nothing about my life strategy that involves building a competence in tree trimming. There are two problems with cheap labor: they probably don’t have insurance so the risk is too high, and they don’t know enough about tree trimming to ensure my objectives are met. If I didn’t already have a relationship with a tree specialist, I would probably look for one. I’m not about to let the problem continue, kill myself by falling from an oak tree, or fight a personal injury lawsuit.

Leaders face decisions like this all the time—and often make bad choices, typically guided by a short-term purview. They either ignore problems that need to be addressed; try to solve problems in-house when they have no competence, experience, or strategic alignment; or pursue a shortcut at a lower price. In all three cases, the result is an unnecessary, estimable cacophony that wastes both time and money.

If you extend your purview a bit, and focus on value instead of cost, making good decisions in this situation are easier. If you need a specialist—hire a specialist. It’s really that simple. The last thing you need is detritus floating around in your waters.

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