Airplane Etiquette – Give Me My Space

by Ron Culberson

As a frequent traveler who will achieve the coveted 1K status this year (coveted for its benefits, not for the time away from home), I know a little bit about travel etiquette. But recently, I have encountered a number of violators. So, in the spirit of making the experience better and more fun for all of us, I offer these Do it Well, Make it Fun Airplane Etiquette Tips.

Boarding

One of the largest numbers on a boarding pass is the boarding number. This is when you can get on the plane. The lower the number the later you get to board. Typically, the number is related to either the cost of the ticket or the frequent flyer status of you, the passenger. Please don’t take this personally even if you’re still trying to resolve that your mother also gave you a lower status in your family of origin. It’s just a system for boarding. So, board when your number is called. And by the way, “six” does not mean “one” or “two.” Wait your turn.

Luggage Stowage

Heavy luggage is even heavier when it falls on my head. Please don’t try to be a hero by lifting your 600-pound carry-on bag by yourself. Just ask for help from those of us around you. Believe me, admitting you are too weak is much better than knocking me out so that I miss my flight.  Also, once you put your bag in the overhead compartment, please don’t spend ten minutes getting ear buds, magazines, blankets, weird neck pillows, and snacks out of the bag. There are a lot of people with 6 or 7 on their boarding passes behind you. Since you knew ahead of time that you’d be boarding the plane, be prepared with all of your accessories.

Armrests

Just like the imaginary line between my siblings and me in the back seat of my car growing up, the armrest on a plane is the boundary line between your space and mine. Please don’t cross this line. Your elbow belongs to you, not to me. I don’t need you to lean against me – even if it’s cold. And when you fall asleep, please position your leg so it doesn’t lean against mine. Well, unless you’re a very attractive woman. Just saying.

Deplaning

When it’s time to deplane, almost everyone on the plane needs to get somewhere else. None of us live on the plane. So, please don’t think your need to be somewhere else overrides my need to get somewhere else. When you shove me out of the way to get your bag out of the overhead compartment and to position yourself closer to the exit door, I feel the need to trip you. I don’t like to feel the need to trip you so please don’t force me to.

Delays and Cancellations

No matter what you think, the airline does not purposely create bad weather and mechanical problems to ruin your day. If they did, they would do it to your car and not on a plane that contains many other passengers. So, please don’t take out your frustrations on the ticket agent or else you cause her to be grumpy with the rest of us. Simply consider your flight options and make a decision on what’s best for you. Also note that the f-word is unnecessary unless your asking about a F-irst Class upgrade.

Since air travel requires that we all get along in a metal tube that defies the laws of physics to be that high in the air, let’s make it as pleasant as possible. Please fly well and make it fun!

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Forbes: 3 Little Technologies You Never Heard Of, But May Have a Big Impact On Your Business

by Gene Marks

(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

A few weeks ago I had a British experience at Pizzeria Uno’s near Boston.  No, they weren’t serving fish and chips.  On each table at the restaurant was a little wireless device.  When I was done eating I paid for my meal by using the device.  No server was involved.  I say this was a British experience because every time I visit my wife’s family in London my kids drag us to the local Pizza Express restaurant.  After receiving our bill of $100 for a pizza dinner (yes, London is expensive) we pay for it like all Londoners do: via a handheld device brought to our table by our server.  I always wondered why this type of mobile payment technology isn’t more widespread here in the U.S.  Well, I can wonder no more. It’s here.  And it’s just one little technology that’s going to change millions of businesses.

The device I used is made by Ziosk.  “Ziosk is currently servicing about 5 million guests per month. Over the next 12 months we will service 100 million guests and in the next 24 months we will be servicing 100 million guests per month.” This is per John Regal, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer.   By using the Ziosk’s 7″ touch screen, guests can check into Facebook or the restaurant’s loyalty program, view the menu, order food and drinks, play games, read the news, view movie trailers and pay their check.  And unlike my family’s beloved Pizza Express in London, a server doesn’t have to bring the device to the table – it’s there to play with for the entire meal.

 

The company, which currently employs 48 people, is in the process of raising $10 million from private investors and is focusing on the casual dining industry.  According to Regal, there are 168,000 of these restaurants in the U.S. and they serve over 20 billion meals per year.

Why not create a smartphone or tablet app for your customers instead?   Ziosk is more secure, costs a lot less than building your own application and…is more fun.  “Future applications will enable guests to interact with the Ziosk via their mobile phone, for example, using it as a game controller,” says Regal. “Or, if the guest has an NFC (near field communications) enabled phone, they can tap the Ziosk to pay for their meal or to receive special offers to be added to their e-wallet.”

Any business with a point of sale system, which pretty much means any small business in the retail or restaurant industry, will be using devices like the ones made by Ziosk within the next few years.

Of course, it would be a lot easier if their data was accurate and stored in one place too.  This is also happening.  Quietly, a little company called Locu has built up a database of over half a million businesses in the restaurant industry.  And now they’re turning to other small businesses like nail salons and beauty shops and spas.  Your business might already be in their database.  Should you care?  According to the company, you should.

“Maybe your menu changes daily or weekly, or maybe you have soup or sandwich of the day, or maybe you find out at the very last minute that there won’t be any tomatoes for your famous marinara—what do you do? Call your Webmaster? Manually update your menu? Then post your changes online site by site? With Locu, you use your online dashboard to make changes simply and quickly. It’s all in one place and it’s super easy to use.”

TechCrunch reported that the company recently debuted programming tools which will allow developers to pull in menu, pricing and hours of operation information from local restaurants into their applications. Already “several hundred companies” are now using these tools, including a “few big-name partners.”

Why am I excited about Locu?  Say you’re running a restaurant and want to change your menu.  Or offer a special happy hour.  Or say you own a pharmacy or a nail salon or a gas station or a pizza shop and you want to add a new item, change a price, announce a contest or start a new delivery service.

Instead of figuring out how to do this on your own, you update Locu’s database.  Instead of your own tangled chaos of data stored in a spreadsheet/website/database created for you by that high school kid last summer you now have a single, uniform, consistent repository of data that will then be familiar to a network of programmers.  With so many small businesses trying to figure out how to use the web and social media to attract new customers and grow, Locu (at least in my opinion), has figured out the answer:  provide a single database of pertinent information that the customer needs and make sure it’s accurate.  Then open it up for smart programmers (like the people at Ziosk maybe?) to access and build custom applications.  We’re just starting to use the cloud.  Except it’s a mess.  Because there’s not just one “cloud.”  There’s millions of little databases and websites stored throughout the cloud. Companies like Locu re beginning to bring all this data together for good, low-cost use.

And what about the countless small businesses that use photography to sell their products and services?  Landscapers proudly take photos of their jobs to display to their customers.  Roofers and contractors often take before-and-after pictures to demonstrate the effectiveness of their work.  Many of us use our cameras to take snap shots of our employees, our offices, ourselves in action and we’re using these photos on our websites, brochures and other marketing materials.

Well, that’s all about to change.  A new camera is hitting the stores shortly.  It’s called Lytro and it uses light field technology.  At $399.00, the Lytro camera is the first consumer camera to capture the entire light field. No other conventional camera does that today. So, why should you care?  According to the company, when you capture all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space, you can do some pretty cool things like focusing a picture after you take it and creating interactive, living pictures. When you share those living pictures online, your friends, family members or customers can refocus them too, right in Facebook, in Twitter or on a blog or website. These living pictures are highly engaging, fun to share and easy to create.  And it’s a whole new way for your customers to engage with your business.

How will businesses benefit?  “Simple,” says the company’s Vice President of Marketing Kira Wampler.  “Businessowners who want to create interactive content to engage customers, prospects and fans online will enjoy using the Lytro camera. We’ve seen bakeries create re-focusable cupcake pictures and aquarium aficionados take amazing fish shots. Beyond small business, there are many industrial, commercial and scientific applications for light field technology.”    Light field technology, in my opinion, will be a game changer for how we show our products and services to our customers and enable them to interact with our companies differently.

Keep an eye on Lytro.  And Locu. And Ziosk.  You’ve probably never heard of them before.  But these are three little technologies that may have a big impact on your business.

Why Are You Here, Anyway?

by Laura Stack

Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.” — Former U.S. Secretary of State and four-star General.

Why am I here? In addition to being one of the great mysteries of human existence, this question is one of the most important ones you can ask yourself, especially when you contemplate your job. It’s an exercise that should be undertaken regularly. Why do you occupy this particular box in your workplace’s org chart? What do your superiors expect you to accomplish? What is your personal return on investment? What value do you bring to the company?

If you have no real reason for working other than your need to occupy yourself or provide for your family, then you’ve lost sight of your workplace mission. These may represent noble goals, but actualworkplace productivity depends on an intimate knowledge of your organization’s strategic goals and your plan for contributing to it.

Most organizations, from Bubba’s Bait Shop to Ford Motor Company, have an underlying mission driving them toward their goals. A mission generally consists of a brief, straightforward statement of the organization’s primary objectives or bottom-line goals. For example, Bubba’s could be, “To sell the best fishing worms in the Greater Tuna area.” Ford’s could be, “To make the safest cars for the best prices in the U.S.A.”

What is you’re your organization’s mission? Do you know, and do you care anymore? If the answer to either question is “no,” then implement my 4-R Reconnection Strategy to align with your workplace mission—while you still have one!

REESTABLISH communication. Evaluate your current position by asking yourself, “What are the 20% of my activities that contribute 80% of my value to my organization?” If you find yourself groping uncertainly in the fog to answer that question, invest some personal time figuring out how you got off course and how to fix it. Get out the radar and start pinging away until you relocate that all-important mission of your organization. Awareness is the first key to progress.

REALIGN yourself. Now make sure the mission and your perception of it still match up. If you’ve become misaligned—even through no fault of your own—you may be wasting time on the wrong goals. If so, it doesn’t matter how hard you work to get the job done if you’re spending time on the wrong things. So recheck with your boss regularly to confirm your critical priorities.

REPAIR your connection. Now that you know where you are and where you should be, make any necessary course corrections. Tweak or even overhaul your personal and/or team workflow process to get it back on track and into sync with the mission. Have your team members make a list of the top five things they think they should be working on, and you do the same for each person. Compare the two lists. Are they the same? Constantly refocus their and your key tasks, which should be reflected in how your calendar plays out.

REDEDICATE yourself to the mission. Reaffirm your commitment to your workplace. Work to fully understand how you and your team contribute to the collective effort to move the organization forward. Whether your contributions prove integral or incremental, make sure thatwhat you’re doing is exactly what you should be doing to achieve the long-term strategic objectives of your organization.

At the professional level, almost isn’t good enough. Even if you work harder and longer than other leaders in your company, if you’ve lost track of the mission, your workplace productivity will inevitably crash and burn. So look up regularly, check your instruments to see how you’re doing—and reorient yourself if you’ve lost your mission lock.

Innovators Aren’t Afraid to Ask Tough Questions

by Jim Carroll

In fact, the realities are that not only are innovative people unafraid to ask questions, they aren’t afraid to:

 

  • ask the tough questions
  • act on the answers to those tough questions!
  • ask questions that make people uncomfortable
  • challenge others to ask tough questions
  • ask why it has become acceptable to not ask questions!
  • ask questions that challenge fundamental assumptions
  • ask questions that show their complete lack of knowledge about something — which is ok
  • ask questions that might make their boss unhappy
  • indicate that while they don’t know the answer to the tough questions, they’re prepared to find out
  • suggest that maybe there have now been too many questions, and now something simply must be done in order to move forward

What’s the key to this line of thinking?

Organizations can become too comfortable with routine, and unless this is challenged on a regular basis, complacency becomes a killer.

By constantly putting a whole bunch of tough questions on the table, innovators can ensure that innovation paralysis does not set in.

NYT: This Week in Small Business: They’re Talking About Us!

by Gene Marks

(This post originally appeared on the New York Times)

The Debate: Small Businesses Front and Center

The first presidential debate favored Governor Romney, and small businesses were front and center. Stocks rallied the next day. Unfortunately, too many people were playing drinking games to pay attention. But these are five good takeaways from the night. And here’s one issue the candidates missed.

The Fiscal Cliff: Fears Grow

Fears begin to build about the looming cliff, and some people are concerned itmay impede job growth. Americans may see smaller paychecks next year as payroll tax breaks expire. Senate leaders work on a plan to avoid mandatory cuts. A group offers a $2 trillion alternative. Rick Newman advises on how to prepare. Dana Blankenhorn says the real fiscal cliff is economic growth: “So let’s assume we’re all about to be made happy, with faster growth, and lower unemployment starting to push up wages. What happens, then, to the government’s costs for borrowing new money? It goes up. And small increases in interest rates make for a big change in costs, when calculated as a percentage. It’s simple math.” Chairman Bernanke answers five questions. ThePostal Service defaults again.

The Economy: Slow Growth, Rising Stress

The unemployment rate falls to 7.8 percent, and ADP says companies added 162,000 jobs to payrolls. Jack Welch says the president cooked the books; Paul Krugman says Republicans can’t handle the truth. Advertised vacanciesrise. But weekly unemployment claims go up again. An Intuit index shows thatsmall-business growth is slowing, and TD Bank says small-business owners’stress levels are rising. Wells Fargo’s chief financial officer offers a sober outlook on the economy. Chief executives sharply reduce their expectations. Harlan Levy says that “other than technology, it’s hard to see any part of the U.S. economy growing more than 1 percent or 2 percent.” Retailers reportslower sales growth. The domestic office market barely gains in the third quarter. Manufacturing new orders are “a disaster.” Curt Schilling may evenhave to sell his bloody sock. But mall vacancies declined and auto sales stayed strong with Ford reporting truck sales at their best pace since 2007. The service sector grew in September and holiday sales are expected to rise 4.1 percent. Home prices went up in August.

 

Your People: More Caffeine

The debate continues over whether an entrepreneurial M.B.A. degree is worth the time and money. This is how one teenage entrepreneur snubbed college to build an apps empire. Leigh Branham says there are seven reasons employeesmove on. Here’s a guide to maternity and paternity leave for small businesses. These 15 professions drink the most coffee.

Marketing: Free Cookies

Neil Patel has some advice on handling sales, including: “Offer a free trial.” Here are four things for small businesses to keep in mind as they consider how they can leverage the media, both online and off. Drew McLellan offers seven tips for creating compelling case studies. Girl Scout cookie packaging gets a redesign. Laura Click says there are seven mistakes that will kill your e-mailmarketing, like not offering a “cookie” to sign up (she’s not talking about Girl Scout cookies). Marcus Sheridan says there are seven reasons blogging is failing to generate leads for so many marketing agencies, starting with this: “The reality is the marketing industry is full of blogs that simply are boring.” Rebekah Henson explains how to market like Google.

Social Media: Mars Has a Mayor?

The first Foursquare check-in is made from Mars. The Bengals celebrateGangnam style. A tweet from KitchenAid shows (yet again) why social media needs mature talent. Facebook tops a billion users. Here are five social lessonssmall businesses can learn from big businesses. This music video was made by 2,601 people. David discusses the pros and cons of creating video or keeping it audio only.

Customer Service: Generating Word of Mouth

U.P.S. is now providing a new online destination that answers small-business owners’ requests for support. Jeremy Epstein explains how Merrell Shoes generates word of mouth. Andy Sernovitz shares a tale about a boring store: “If people aren’t stopping in their tracks in front of your door, you’re missing the point. Close your store and start a direct-mail business.” Tina Imperial says that customer touch points are your chance to show how good you are.

Start-Up: A Floating Touch Screen!

A new study from the Kauffman Foundation shows where entrepreneurs come from. Women are flocking to start-ups but trailing in computer tech. This start-up promises a touch screen that floats in the air. Jim Smith wonders if you should start a business in a red or a blue state. Catherine Clifford goesinside the workings of an accelerator. Seven cancer survivors turn their experiences into small-business ideas. Cezary Pietrzak explains why yourstart-up’s name matters. A company amasses restaurant data so that subscribers can update their own profiles in local search directories.

Management: A Tale of Two Arcades

AshleyMadison.com, a site for cheaters, questions Groupon’s ethics, and Noah Fleming has ideas for how the daily deal site can save itself. Goldman Sach’s chief executive says that operating a small business is as hard as running his firm. An I.B.M. executive gives advice for growing businesses. President Obama’s approach to management depends heavily on routines, such as wearing only gray or blue suits. In a video, Teri Geymi explains how to break free from the limitations of fear. This tale of two pinball arcades shows why one struggles while the other survives. Dean Black wants to know what your daily calendar looks like. These are the 2012 MacArthur grant winners. Tracey Schelmetic wonders if clusters are the future of advanced manufacturing. This is what B movies tell us about entrepreneurship. A team of high school soccer players show how to stick together.

Cash Flow: When to Buy Furniture

Small-business lending rises. Chase claims small-business successes. Here’s how companies manipulate earnings. Here’s some advice on when to buy new office furniture, and this is an irreplaceable guide to buying Halloween candy. A regulation overhaul is on the horizon for New York City small businesses. Valpak is giving $10,000 to North America’s favorite small business.

Around the World: Russia Loses $58 Billion

Eurozone unemployment hits 11.4 percent, and one in 10 European employeesis depressed. Matthew Kalman tells the story of a successful Palestinian start-up. Eric Krell lists the riskiest countries in the world and how to protect yourself. This game proves that you’re much worse at geography than you thought (but not as bad as Apple.) Rob Cox says that Vietnam is a bad examplefor emerging markets. Manufacturing growth in India holds steady. China gears up to make more overseas investments. Mexico’s economy may be givingBrazil and China a run for their money. Russia watches $58 billion in capitalleave the country. A human-flesh meat market opens in London. Start-Up Chile gains traction.

Technology: A Headstone App

The Internal Revenue Service revamps its Web site to make it more small-business friendly. Tim Murphy takes you inside the technology of the Obama campaign. Meanwhile, the White House gets attacked online. Researchers at the University of Surrey have made a great step forward in storing hydrogen or methane to power cars. PayPal introduces free online invoicing for small businesses. QR Codes are appearing on headstones. This infographic shows how small businesses are using mobile apps. Mass production of the mini-iPadis reported, and Intel’s production problems may affect Microsoft’s new tablet. Ultrabook sales forecasts are cut in half. Emily Suess lists fivesmartphone apps for businesses. This is how much energy a smartphone usesin a year (and what it means for your budget). And even though there are too many battery factories and too few electric cars, the battery of the futuremight run on sugar.

Tweets of the Week

@cfibTO – They should have called this the presidential #debate on small business. Two dozen mentions of #smallbiz in the first 20min. Amazing!

‏@armano – Oh snap. I need to wear a suit tomorrow. It’s like Superman eating a bowl of Kryptonite

This Week’s Bests:

Daniel Kehrer explains how rock star customers can help you grow. “Rock star customers won’t help grow your business on their own. Even customers who identify themselves as ‘promoters’ in customer surveys — saying they’d be highly likely to refer you to a colleague or friend — aren’t actually doing so. Studies have shown that only about 10 percent of self-described promoters actually refer profitable new customers. The key is this: You have to take the initiative and make it easy for them to do so.”

Two researchers find there’s a dark side to flattery: “Our theory suggests how high levels of flattery and opinion conformity can increase C.E.O.’s overconfidence in their strategic judgment and leadership capability, which results in biased strategic decision making.”

Michael Schuman reports on the myth of Chinese efficiency. “I can imagine pampered visitors thinking China is something it is not. If you fly into the nifty airports in Beijing or Shanghai, get whisked by a waiting driver to your snazzy hotel, have a few meetings, and then get escorted out again, China might appear to be a sparkling vision of modernity. But spend any time here, or try to really do anything, and the notion that China is an efficient place is rudely exposed as a myth.”

This Week’s Question: Did the debate alter your thinking?

Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him onTwitter.

 

Why Confidence is King (or Queen)

by Libby Gill

I just turned in the manuscript for my new book, Capture the Mindshare and the Market Share Will Follow, which comes out next June.   I found the following research onconfidence so intriguing, I wanted to share this excerpt with you now…

***

 You can fight its unfairness all you like, but people are who are extroverted, confident or even over-confident are at a definite advantage in the workplace.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley  found that people who demonstrate confidence tend to be more successful than their peers, even when those peers have greater talents and abilities.   In a series of experiments conducted with college students, professors and administrative staff at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, individuals who talked and participated more actively in group tasks were considered more competent, even when they handled the assignments less well than others.

In one of the studies, the researchers asked masters’ candidates to examine a list of historical names, events, book and poems, identifying those that they recognized.  While some of the items on the list were real, others (like Bonnie Prince Lorenzo andWindemere Wild) were invented by the researchers.  Subjects who included the made-up names among those they recognized were considered to be more confident because they appeared to be more knowledgeable than they actually were.  Interestingly, researchers found that many of their subjects truly believed that they were more talented, socially adept and skilled at their jobs than the testing actually reflected. In fact, in one study, a statistically improbable 94% of college professors concluded that their work was above average.

This research sheds some light on why overconfident people (who are rarely seen as arrogant or selfish, by the way)  are so often rewarded and even promoted over their more talented peers.  While the  study authors surmised that that their research would encourage people with hiring power to look beyond confidence and evaluate talent instead,  I have a slightly different point of view.

While I’m not advocating that people start tooting their own horns ad nauseam, it’s clear that lack of confidence can be a career killer.  So get your confidence into high gear with these strategies to help you get you the recognition you deserve:

  • Participate at meetings.  If necessary, prepare some data or comments ahead of time so you’ll have something relevant to say. Force yourself to speak more often than you normally do, even if you consider it “too much.” (This is doubly true for introverts.)
  • Check the news.  When you know the latest about world news, company updates, the stock market, or sports scores, you’ll be able to make small talk. Women, if you know sports, jump into the dialogue. Most people will assume you don’t know a hockey puck from a baseball and it’s up to you to prove them wrong.
  • Head for the person standing solo.  At a networking event, after you get your beverage, head for someone who is standing alone. Chances are, they’re as lost as you are.   Ask how long they’ve been involved in the organization, how they spend their time (as opposed to the utterly obnoxious “what do you do?”) or where they’re from. Get the conversational ball rolling – just remember to do your part, that is, talk.
  • Sit in the front. When I taught a course at California State University, I used to joke that students who sat in the front got automatic A’s.  Most people, and not just students, enter a conference, training session or meeting and head straight for the back of the room.  Resist the urge to hide out and instead be a presence at whatever event you’re attending.  Ask questions, chat with your peers, introduce yourself to the presenter. If you act like a person who deserves some attention, you’ll get it.
  • Dress well.  Being carefully groomed can immediately boost your confidence.  If you don’t know what that means in your world, it’s well worth the investment in a personal shopper or stylist.  In general, dress a notch above your customers, clients and colleagues, without looking like you’re headed to a funeral or job interview.
  • Focus on contribution.  Get your attention off yourself by adding value to other people’s projects and priorities.  Whether it’s a brainstorming meeting, company gathering or community event, doing a solid for someone else is always classy.
  • Join Toastmasters.  A great non-profit organization that’s been around since 1924, there are more than 13,500 clubs in 116 countries – all dedicated to helping you speak more confidently.  Check out Toastmasters.org to find a location near you.

Final word of advice?  Get out there and fake it ‘til you make it!

Clarity of Outcomes: Clear the Air Before You Commit

by Laura Stack

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision on what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out and meet it.” — Thucydides, ancient Greek historian

Clear, practical decision-making represents one of the hallmarks of the competent professional…though sadly, the commodity seems in shorter supply than it should be. People often make decisions reflexively, without sufficient data to understand the potential repercussions. Oh, sometimes they hit the bull’s-eye through sheer luck. But since when was business a game of chance?

You have to be able to see your target to hit it consistently, which makes clarity of outcomes your #1 goal in any decision-making process. Never blindly assume you understand what will happen if you do this as opposed to that. Give it some deep thought, leveraging not just your experience and intimate knowledge of your marketplace, but also any other research and information that might impact the outcome.

Obviously you can’t know in advance everything that might divert a decision. An unexpected gust of technological innovation might throw your aim off, or some uncontrollable event could shift the target after you’ve pulled the decision trigger. But by now you’ve surely realized motion beats meditation, as long as you have sufficient facts and resources on hand. Here are a few ways to go about it.

1. Research the variables. If you have experience dealing with a particular issue and know for sure the boundary conditions haven’t changed, then you can proceed with your decision-making confidently. However, if you’ve never dealt with anything like the issue at hand, or if conditions have changed, then invest some time in basic research. If you lack the time to do it yourself, assign it to one of your direct reports.

2. Never make unwarranted assumptions. If a friend asks you how long it will take to climb a mountain, don’t assume he means Pike Peak. He might mean Denali. Know for sure what he wants before proceeding.

3. Set a deadline for action. Once you’ve settled the previous factors, set a drop-dead date for your decision. Announce it to others, so their expectations will force you to work steadily toward it. Otherwise it might sneak up on you, forcing a poor choice.

4. Start Planning. Develop a better understanding of the issue, determining from there how the project contributes to and aligns with your organizational goals. Convene meetings to discuss all the angles, being frugal with your time and limiting attendance to contributing individuals. Conduct outside consultations as necessary. Design and undertake these actions with one goal in mind: to clarify the outcome of every (reasonable) decision and to determine which best benefits your organization.

Once you’ve covered the major factors, make your decision and move forward without letting the devilish details hold you back. As long as you remain flexible, you can handle them as you go. You’ll never foresee everything, and you might make the wrong move even after you’ve done your due diligence. But all business boils down to calculated risk, after all. If pressed, make the best decision you can, even if you’re not quite ready. You can always make course corrections later.

To use a delightful old-fashioned phrase, you “pays your money” and you “takes your chances.” But before you pay, at least make sure you know what you’re looking at.