Monday, June 6, 2016

Refuse to Accept the Status Quo

Sorry to have been away for so long.  This thing called "Life" kept getting in the way, and I needed to stop and re-assess what was going on.  By writing this post, I am refusing to accept the status quo from the past year.

I read a fascinating article today about something truly strange that has been observed and then studied in depth.  Believe it or not, but your choice of browsers can say a lot about your personality, your work habits, your performance, and overall ability to cope with the stresses of your job.  I was skeptical at first, but as I read the article and watched the TED talk that was behind the article, I became a believer.  The more I read, the more I realized there was a definite tie-in with providing Winning Support.

First, the attributions and links.  The TED speaker is Wharton psychology professor, Adam Grant, who has written a book entitled, "Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World".  The article that helped to break through the inertia of the past year is, "Adam Grant: What Your Web Browser Says About You".  The TED talk in which Grant expounds on his findings is "The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers".  I encourage you to read the article and even watch the TED talk.  The article will take you about 5 minutes to read, and the TED talk is about 15 minutes.

In a series of studies, an economist named Michael Housman was involved with a project to determine why some customer service representatives stayed in their jobs longer than others.  His team studied the data from more than 30,000 employees who handled calls for banks, airlines, and cell-phone companies.  His team's initial dive into the data sought to reveal a correlation between a history of job-hopping and commitment, but the data didn't support the original hypothesis.

Looking for other clues, he saw that the data his team had available included the internet browser that employees had used when applying for their jobs.  He assumed that the browser one uses was just an individual preference, and didn't expect to see any correlation.  What he found astounded him.  Those who had used Firefox or Chrome to browse the web remained in their jobs 15 per cent longer than those who used Internet Explorer or Safari.

He then ran the same analysis for absences from work and found that Firefox and Chrome users were 19 per cent less likely to miss work than those who used Internet Explorer and Safari.  (I know, I know ... I would be prone to miss work, too, if I had to use IE on a daily basis, but that wasn't the root cause.)

His team then looked at performance, and was able to analyze nearly three million data points on sales, customer satisfaction, and average call length.  You guessed it: the Firefox and Chrome users outperformed those who used IE and Safari.  Their call times were shorter, they had higher sales, and their customers were more satisfied with the service received.

The more the team studied, the more convinced they were that there was definitely a positive correlation between the browser a person uses and his or her job performance and job satisfaction, and it wasn't due to certain users having more technical skills than others.  What they discovered was that the deciding factor was how the user had acquired the browser.  Internet Explorer and Safari are the default browsers for Windows and Mac OS.  Therefore, in general, the Firefox and Chrome users had had to make a conscious decision to load those browsers and to use them.

You don't have to be especially tech-savvy to download a different browser.  However, you have to want to.  Instead of accepting the default — in this case, a browser — you have to refuse to accept the status quo.  You have to be willing to take the initiative.

And this is where it ties in to providing Winning Support.

When you take the initiative in your work, your customers (both internal and external) will benefit.  When you say, "There just has to be a better way ...", you will start to explore new options, new ideas.  When you refuse to accept "That's the way we've always done it" as a valid reason, you'll begin to look for ways to improve your life, your work environment, and even your browser.

When I look back over my career and review the programs I have written and the web sites I have helped design and support, I can see that the bright spots all have something in common: I didn't like what was happening or the way the software worked, so I did what I could to improve it.  In some cases, that was in redesigning a subsystem to be simpler, more elegant.  In some cases, it involved writing a program or utility, and then making it available for others to use.  I've done it in the past, before I was involved in day-to-day support, and I've done it in my current position, trying to make a complex content management system implementation easier to use by non-technical users, most for whom English is a second or third language.

When I get brutally honest with myself, I think I have remained in software development and support precisely because I often find myself looking for better ways to do things.  I cannot build things like models and bookshelves with my hands.  (Well, I can, but they don't last long.)  However, I can build useful software applications and simplify complex tasks through the proper application of a keyboard and a compiler.

Now, please don't misinterpret the concept that Adam Grant and Michael Housman discovered.  Don't think that just by downloading Firefox and Chrome you are going to magically become the Greatest Support Superhero That Has Ever Lived!  It isn't the downloading in itself ... it's the willingness to search for better/faster/easier ways to do things and then want to improve the lives of others by sharing the fruits of your explorations with them.

So, in what ways have you been accepting the status quo in your job, in your relationships, in your life?  In what ways have you been "happy" with the default settings?

If you want to start improving your game, if you want to boost the amount of Winning Support you provide, start by looking at the defaults you have accepted and change what you can.  Look for ways to make incremental improvements.  Don't just accept the status quo; instead, take charge of your life, your environment, your job.

I know you can do it.

For many of you, all that is needed is the decision to start and the impetus to make that change.  I applaud you and encourage you to do just that.  Small changes, baby steps, tiny improvements.  The big stuff can come later.

For others, though, you need to know where to start.  Let me suggest you start with one of these links:

It is a small change in your life, but one that may open many doors for you in the future.

Let's do this.  Let's start Winning Support.