Friday, November 22, 2013

Digital Sabbatical (don't worry, just a week!)

It's time for my annual Digital Sabbatical week. 

Time to log off, shut down, and try to break myself of the 6am-checking-email habit! 

I take a Digital Sabbatical every year (I'm capitalizing it in the hopes it becomes an official week someday ;) to recharge. To be clear, I'm NOT taking a Digital Sabbatical because I'm "sick of the internet" or "am far too connected all the time." In fact, I love social media, I love being connected all the time, and thank the universe pretty much daily that I'm living in this time of history where we're on the digital frontier. 

So, why log off for a week? Why now?

1) It's a vacation week or partial week for those of us in the United States due to the Thanksgiving Day holiday. My husband's from the birthplace of Thanksgiving (Plymouth, MA) so you're right if you're thinking that Thanksgiving is a BIG DEAL in our family.

2) December is a busy busy social month, and I can't wait to be connecting with friends and family across town and across the globe to celebrate, and social media makes that even more fun, so December is definitely a time I want to be online.

3) A week is about how long I need to recharge my social batteries and prep for some great social media and blogging stuff I'm planning for the new year! 

What does a Digital Sabbatical mean to me?  

  • No blogging
  • No Facebook
  • No Twitter
  • No email

What will I be doing instead?
  • Catching up on my reading! I love to read (and am a wicked fast reader) and I've got a backlog to catch up on. From some advanced readers copies via LibraryThing Early Reviewers to Without Their Permission by Alexis Ohanian...and lots and lots of novels.
  • Enjoying the outside more! Time to head out and see more of the sights before the snow really starts flying
  • Yes, I will be Christmas shopping
  • Spending time with family
  • Thinking up my "big ideas" and goals for what I want to accomplish in 2014
See you back online the week after next! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Maine Ideas Worth Spreading - A Recap of TEDxDirigo 2013

"TED talks"

Just hearing that conjures up big names (think Sheryl Sandberg extolling women to lean in or Bill Gates releasing mosquitoes into the crowd), and big ideas (robots, exoskeletons, big data, vulnerability). 

Many of us have heard of TED talks, and it's likely that we're some of the millions that have watched TED talks - especially those that have gone viral on social media. The statistics are staggering. As of 11/13/13, TED talks have been watched one billion times worldwide

I've been a superfan of TED ever since the conference talks started to be released online back in 2006, and harbor a not-so-secret desire to attend the annual Long Beach conference. 

Here's a little background: TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an annual conference in Long Beach, California, curated by Chris Anderson. Just like TED's mission of "ideas worth spreading" the TED brand has spread as well to encompass additional conferences including TEDGlobal,, TEDWomen, TEDMED, the TED Prize, TED Fellows, and the independently organized TEDx events. 

The TEDx events are "designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level" and follow the same structure of talks up to 18 minutes on a variety of topics, presented in engaging and innovative ways. 

We're incredibly lucky in Maine that we have a TEDx event in our own backyard! TEDxDirigo started up in 2010 to "celebrate innovation and creativity in Maine and to be a catalyst for positive change." 

I was thrilled this year to be invited to attend the fourth iteration of TEDxDirigo on November 3rd in Brunswick.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm no longer a "TED virgin" (yes, that phrase actually does exist). 

This year's TED event was held at the Cabot Mill in Brunswick in a space that was part art gallery, part restaurant (Frontier - yum!). The program went from approximately 9 to 5 and was staggered in three groups of around 6 speakers.  Yes, that's a lot of speakers and a lot of topics...and it was a lot to take in on a Sunday! If you attend a TED conference, be prepared to say "my brain is completely full" by the end of it. 

The theme was "Generate" and everything from the speakers' themes to the application process was along the lines of: "What do you generate and bring into the world/to life?"

Reminders of the Generate theme were abundant

Some of my favorite talks included: 

  • Alicia Eggert who creates amazing kinetic art that makes you ponder the existence of time, your place in the world, and makes you ponder how she engineers her artwork.
  • Yona Belfort, a product designer and founder of Vital Innovation, who asked us to think hard about the value of everyday items and shed interesting light on the differences between hoarders and minimalists.
  • John Coleman, the founder of The VIA Agency, who shared his vision for a more positive world...and steps as to how we can all get there.
  • Voot Yin, a geneticist at Mount Desert Island Biological Lab, whose talk on organ regeneration had attendees exclaiming aloud "how cool" and "imagine the implications." The video that accompanied his talk needs to be seen to be believed! (see below for Livestream link)
  • Rafael Grossmann, a medical doctor whose specific interests lie at the intersection of technology and healthcare.  He's was among the first Google Glass Explorers, and the first doctor to ever use Google Glass during live surgery.  Yes, Dr. Grossmann was wearing Glass during his talk, and yes, his talk was amazingly cool and had us all buzzing about the future of medicine. 
There were many more fantastic speakers, artists, and even aerial dancers!

But I want to focus on my very favorite talk of the day came from Mohammed Nur, a high school student (!), a Seeds of Peace ambassador (officially called Seeds) and a NAACP King Fellow. Mohammed's talk about being made to feel "different" and "foreign" in the state where he was born, how to generating change, and how to generate peace had everyone on their feet. Someone give this kid a national stage...and soon.

In between the talks were networking breaks and a delicious (vegetarian!) lunch, and with an attendee roster of community leaders, influencers and change-makers, the networking opportunities were fantastic! 

My contribution to the "I generate..." chalk wall

I left the event energized, exhausted, and inspired...and yes, with a new custom TEDxDirigo SeaBag in tow. 

My badge, and the very cool custom SeaBag created for TEDxDirigo 

I definitely hope to get an invite next year, and yes, my aspirations include speaking at TED as well as attending some of the other TED conferences around the country. Good stuff, brain expanding stuff, inspiring stuff!

Interested? All talks from TEDxDirigo: Generate were live streamed and the archived stream can be found here

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Day in the Life...

I would venture a guess that most of you are at least peripherally familiar with “Day in the Life of a Customer” (DITLOC) studies.  If your customers are looking for a deep-dive into their customers' lives, looking for new product opportunities, better knowledge about how their products or services are being used, or simply wanting to learn more about their customer base, a DITLOC study could be the way to go. 

However, what I've found interesting lately is when I mention “day in the life” studies in my conversations with other researchers, what comes up more often than DITLOC studies with customers is the desire to hear more about the day in the life (and/or the productivity and workflow tips) of a researcher

Why? If you’re a corporate researcher like I am, it’s always fascinating to get out of your bubble and hear how other corporate researchers are faring within their companies. Are there better ways to do things? Ways to gain efficiencies? Inspiration to be had? 

One of benefits of attending TMRE is to meet your peers. In my case that's client-side researchers in small-to-medium size organizations. It's a chance to commiserate and accomplish the above - to do some brain picking as to each other's processes in the hopes we can find some efficiencies to bring back to our offices and teams. 

Sessions at #TMRE13 that focused on the stories, processes, and triumphs of corporate researchers such as Marisa Paruch of Wolverine Worldwide and Susan Topel of Centene were fantastic for corporate researchers like me - to give us a "day in the life" per se.  

Outside of attending TMRE there are some but not many resources that cover this for researchers.  There are a few videos out there that cover this such as this overview of Steve Murphy's day as Managing Director at Ipsos, and this oldie but goodie about the day in the life of a Research Analyst. Are there some great researcher day-in-the-life resources that I’m missing? 

Outside of research, there are great ongoing profile series such as Inc.'s The Way I Work and Lifehacker's This Is How I Work.  

Is this a topic that resonates with you? Are you interested in how different researchers work? What questions would you want to know, and who would you like to hear from?  

If so, let me know in the comments below if this is a feature you'd be interested in reading, I’m happy to do some interviewing.