Spritzing – or reading really fast

I have so many things I want to read and not enough hours in the day to read them all.  I read books/magazines on a wide variety of business topics and for fun I just finished Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I’m half way through Insurgent, the second book in the trilogy and I …. just …. can’t …read …. it…. fast ….enough; it is so good!

Spritz screenSo you can imagine my excitement when I saw a new technology that will help to speed up your reading time.  The technology is called spritzing and was created through three years of research and development by Spritz Technology, Inc. (http://www.spritzinc.com/).   The first use of a spritz is on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Gear 2, but if you want to give it a try, go to the company’s website and see how fast you can read and still understand the words flying across the screen.

What exactly is spritzing and how does it work?

  • the slowness of traditional reading comes from the movement of the eyes where the eyes go from word to word and then sentence to sentence.  80% of the time spent reading is the movement of the eyes and the other 20% of the time is spent processing the content.
  • since the human eye can focus on about 13 characters at a time, a redicle (word created for spritzing meaning the special frame designed to show each word) shows a new word at the speed specified by the user in words per minute (WPM).
  • the eye looks for a certain point in each word – called the “Optimal Recognition Point” or ORP.  Each eye movement is called a saccade and with each new word, the eye is looking for the ORP.  Once the ORP is found, processing of the word for meaning and context happens.  When the eye encounters punctuation within a sentence or at the end of a sentence, the brain assembles all the words that have been read and processes it into a coherent thought.
  • testing has shown that retention levels using spritzing is at least as good as traditional reading.

When I tried out spritzing on the Spritz Technology website, I started out at 250 wpm and I did manage to go all the way up to 600 wpm and still understand what was flying across the screen.  I think when I tried 500 wpm, I blinked and missed a few words and had to start it over again.

I’m still old fashioned and love to read a hard cover book.  And I also read on my Kindle Fire.  But if I could finish Insurgent tonight by spritzing…. count me in!  That is my opinion and a survey of one.

Spritzp.s. Spritz Technology has created ways for companies to use their technology.  They have created SDK’s and API’s for iOS, Android and JavaScript.  And they have licensing options for integration with operating systems, applications, wearables and websites.

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I thought I had a great idea to create a #readinglist hashtag on Twitter so that I could track the books I had read and occasionally go back and leaf through the books looking for pearls of wisdom.  The ‘going back and looking part’ did not happen and so I decided to summarize important nuggets of information in my blog for easy reference.

There is no theme or link between these three books, but they happen to be the last books I read that made an impact on me in some way.

The AdvantageThe Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni (2012) – an organization is considered healthy when its management, operations, strategy and culture come together and make sense.  Lencioni states that almost all companies are smart in regards to finance, strategy, marketing and technology.  But not all companies are healthy – with healthy meaning there are minimal politics and confusion, low turn over among good employees and there are high amounts of morale and productivity.  One important aspect of healthy companies is the ability to create a sense of alignment and focus and that can be achieved by having a single top priority, or as Lencioni terms it – ‘the thematic goal’.  The thematic goal can be likened to a rallying cry and can be answered by the question , What is most important, right now?  The thematic goal must be singular or the one most important goal of the company.  The thematic goal must be temporary and be achievable within a clear window of between three and twelve months.  The thematic goal must be agreed upon by top executives and understood that it is their collective responsibility for achieving that goal.  As leaders rally around the chosen thematic goal, they take off their department hats to lead and manage and solve problems for achieving organizational success.

Creative confidenceCreative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom and David Kelley (2013) – IDEO is well known for their innovations and their successful human-centered innovation process which have led to many products that we all use on a daily basis.  The Kelley’s describe four steps to their design-driven innovation: 1) get out into the world to interact with others to put yourself in others’ shoes.  Be empathic and connect with others needs, desires and motivations to help trigger fresh ideas from a human-centered innovation perspective. 2)  Synthesize and make sense of your observations by recognizing patterns, looking for themes and connecting the dots to what you have seen and gathered. This step involves translating what was discovered in research into actionable frameworks and principles.  3) The third step is to generate many ideas with divergent options which results in the most promising ideas going into rounds of quick prototypes.  Users and stakeholders provide feedback for adaptations and iterations that result in workable solutions. 4) Implementation is the final step that will vary by product and varies by roadmap to the marketplace.

thinking fast and slowThinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011) - our mental life is made up of two systems called System 1 and System 2.  System 1 operates automatically, quickly with no effort (thinking fast) and System 2 is the conscious, reasoning side that has beliefs, makes choices and decides what to do (thinking slow).  System 1 will continuously generate suggestions for System 2 in the form of intuitions, intentions and feelings.  Once System 2 endorses information from System 1 then the impressions and intuitions turn into beliefs and impulses turn into voluntary actions.  Most of what your System 2 thinks and does starts from System 1, but System 2 can over ride and have the final say.  The purpose of explaining the mental flow process of the two systems was so I could share Kahneman’s explanation of the priming effect.  The priming effect starts with a System 1 automatic process called associative activation where an idea evokes and triggers many other ideas in a cascading effect.  A word/idea can evoke memories, emotions,  and facial expressions that happen quickly, automatically and effortlessly.  There are different types of associative links: 1) link by properties: banana –> yellow; 2) link by effect: virus –> cold; 3) link by category: football –> sport.  One form of the priming effect is that if you are already thinking about a banana, the first color to come to mind would be yellow.  Words like forgetful, bald, gray and wrinkle that are associated with the elderly have been shown to prime behavior like walking slower – even though the word old was never mentioned.  Common thoughts and gestures can also prime our thoughts and feelings with research showing that a nodding of the head gesture (Yes) results in being more accepting to the topic at hand.  Understanding the prime effect solidifies to me the importance of semantics as we interact with others and the importance of the thoughts that enter our mind throughout the day.

I thought it was going to be easy to leaf through the books I read looking at all my underlinings and asterisks and notations in the margins to quickly find the nuggets of information that I wanted to share.  But the authors had all done a great job of building concepts upon concepts that I hope I have not done an injustice by only presenting single concepts from these books.  Maybe these snippets have peaked your curiosity and have primed you to read the whole book?  That is my opinion and a survey of one.

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Decision Making and Organizational Health

Why have I not been blogging so much in 2013, you ask?  Because I was facilitating decision making workshops – and was pleasantly surprised by what happened at the workshops…….

healthMuch of my free time in 2013 was spent preparing for two-twelve week workshops that were attended by 40 executives in total.  The workshop was based on The Art of Critical Decision Making course by Michael Roberto (reference 1).  The format of the workshop was that two chapters per week were covered and the attendees were required to have already listened to the material and to be prepared to discuss the topics in a one hour collaborative session.

The original intent of the workshops was to create an agreed upon decision making process so that consensus on projects could be attained resulting in a more streamlined project management process.  The pleasant surprise was how much excitement and buzz that came from the participants.  Executives would stop me in the hall and say how much they were enjoying the workshops, how they were learning perspectives from those in other departments, how they liked being heard, how the workshop could positively affect culture, how it could help build consensus and eliminate silos.   This was good stuff!

Then part way through the second set of workshops, I picked up the book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni (reference 2).  And I realized all of the positive feedback coming from the workshops was actually contributing to organizational health.  More good stuff!

As it turns out, there are many parallels between good decision making practices and habits of companies with high organizational health.  Listed below are some of the commonalities:

  • A company with high organizational health has team members that are open to one another and are willing to passionately debate issues so clear decisions and commitment can be achieved.
  • A good decision making process fosters constructive debate where contrarian analysis and counter arguments are encouraged so that all perspectives can be discussed.
  • High organizational health companies do not rely on ‘advocacy’ where people state their case and make their point, but they promote ‘inquiry’ where people are inquisitive and ask questions to seek understanding about someone’s statement of advocacy.
  • Good decision making processes will support people asking disconfirming questions about conclusions, will expect multiple hypotheses, will promote devil advocates to poke holes in suggestions and will look for diversity in the group so that many perspectives can be heard.
  • Organizationally healthy companies have trust among the employees so that it is understood that conflict is nothing more than the pursuit of the truth or an attempt to find the best answer.
  • Strong decision making processes support the idea that conflict enhances the quality of the choices that are made.  Cognitive conflict is task oriented and debate about issues and ideas; affective conflict is emotional and personal and must be avoided.

I wish I could say I knew all along that the decision making workshops would end up positively affecting organizational health – but I didn’t.  I have to believe if you keep doing the right things for the right reasons, things will fall into place.  And that is my opinion and a survey of one.

(1) Lencioni, P. (2012). The advantage: why organizational health trumps everything else in business. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.
(2) Roberto, M.A., Art of critical decision making, course found at www.thegreatcourses.com

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iGoogle to Sunset

iGoogle users were given 16 months to prepare for the retirement of the popular web portal and now the final date of 1 November 2013 is right around the corner (reference 1).  Google has even added a daily notice to remind users that the end is near.iGoogle
For those of you that have not been iGoogle users, the web portal allowed a user to add his/her own favorite gadgets to create a mashup or a homepage that reflected one’s web preferences. Example of available gadgets were weather, horoscope, Google finance with customized stock tickers, Gmail, sport scores, news feeds, Google calendar, daily jokes, daily recipes….and the list goes on and on.iGoogle sample
With a reportedly 15 million iGoogle users, why would Google stop offering such a service?  This was a strategic move announced in 2012 by Google’s Michael Eichner with a goal to narrow their product offerings to allow them to focus and avoid trying to do too much and get spread too thin; Google has combined or closed over 30 products (reference 2).

Typically when a company sunsets a product, the planned obsolescence puts the replacement product right up front for everyone to move towards, but this has not happened with iGoogle. And because of that void, there have been plenty of other companies jumping on the iGoogle replacement with products like igHome, My Yahoo getting a face lift, Symbaloo and Startific as examples.  15 million users may be a drop in a bucket to a company like Google, but that number is attracting a lot of iGoogle wanna-bees.

I still have twenty-four days to find my iGoogle replacement, but I’m not real excited about replacing my already organized and already setup, trusty old iGoogle.  That is my opinion and a survey of one.

(1)   http://igoogledeveloper.blogspot.com/2012/07/update-on-igoogle.html
(2)   http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/spring-cleaning-in-summer.html

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4D Printing

4D printingI have been a huge proponent of the advances of 3D printing and have blogged about it on three separate occasions in 2012.  And now I am equally excited about the initial stages of 4D printing.  The fourth dimension is defined as self assembly over time where the material is able to change shape in response to either movement or by the introduction of an environmental factor like water, air or temperature change (reference 1).

The MIT Self Assembly lab is working with partners Stratasys and Autodesk to lead the smart-assembly revolution.  Autodesk has created software called Project Cyborg that allows for simulation on how and when materials fold on both a nano and macro scale (reference 2).  The smart materials are printed by Stratasys’ Connex multi-material 3D printing with the added capability of transformation from one shape to another; this functionality is available right off the printer (reference 3).

Skylar Tibbits of MIT described in his Ted talk that the goal of 4D printing is to create dynamic systems that can respond with ease and agility to changing conditions (reference 4).  Tibbits gave an example of water pipes that are made of programmable materials that can build and adapt themselves to change diameter as capacity and flow rates increase; 4D printing will provide a radical shift from the static and rigid structures in use today.

4D printing in just in its infancy, and I’m excited to see where creative minds take this new technology.  Imagine unboxing a product from the store and it self assembles – no instructions in five languages needed!  That is my opinion and a survey of one.

1) http://www.sjet.us/MIT_4D%20PRINTING.html
2) http://www.autodeskresearch.com/projects/cyborg
3) http://www.stratasys.com/industries/education/4d-printing-project
4) http://www.ted.com/talks/skylar_tibbits_the_emergence_of_4d_printing.html

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Innovative +POOL

Looking from the Brooklyn Bridge to the East River

Looking from the Brooklyn Bridge to the East River

I was just in NYC in the middle of July and as I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, I looked down onto the East River trying to imagine where the innovative +POOL would be floating.  Being an avid swimmer and interested in innovative solutions, the +POOL project has caught my attention.  The project is raising funds on www.kickstarter.com and has raised enough money for the next phase of creating a Float Lab starting in August 2013.  The Float Lab will be a 35 foot by 35 foot pool that will test the pool filtration system for water quality in 19 different parameters to ensure clean and safe water.

+PoolThe +POOL will be located on the Brooklyn side of the East River.  This will be a sustainable project that is a giant filtration system that can clean up to half a million gallons of river water every day.  As the river water passes the pool walls, it will be passing through a filtration system that will incrementally remove sediments, bacteria, contaminants, grease and oil.  The result will be no chemicals or additives – just clean river water.

+POOL will have 9300 square feet of pool space and consist of four pools – a kids pool, a sports pool, a lap pool and a lounge pool.  The pool will hold 285,000 gallons of water that will be turned over back in to the river every six hours. +POOL is one of the largest crowd funded civic projects and will be complete by 2016.

There is so much I like about the +POOL project.  I like the ambition of the project.  To see how they plan to put a pool in the middle of a river and to clean the river water as it moves through the pool walls to fill the pool – all makes sense at this point in the plan.  But I’m sure the three innovators that started this project were thought to be way out of their minds when they first suggested how this would work.  And that far out there thinking is what I like most about +POOL.  That is my opinion and a survey of one.

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Cracking the Password Dilemma

passwordThe race is on to see who will be the first to crack the password dilemma.  Traditional text based passwords are fraught with weaknesses and there have been many attempts to explain to users what constitutes a “strong” password (reference 1).  The perfect password system should be like turning on a light switch – where the user doesn’t have to think about what he or she is doing. How far away are we from password nirvana?

The purpose of a password is to positively identify that the person trying to get in to a system is indeed said person and to be accurate 100% of the time.  There are three ways to positively identify a unique person: 1) what the person knows – like a username, text password, PIN code or swipe pattern; 2) what the person has – like a token card, fob, smart card or key; 3) what the person owns – which are biometrics like fingerprints, facial recognition, voice recognition, retina scan, etc.   Two factor authentication combines two of the three methods; as an example you would enter a user name and password (what you know) and a text with a code would be sent to your phone (what you have).

Let’s look at some of the ideas on how to improve on the traditional text based password.

  • Google had introduced their Face Unlock app using facial recognition of the smart phone owner to unlock the device, but it was quickly shown that a picture of the person would also unlock the device (reference 2).  So Google added a “liveness check” that required the user to blink and it was immediately demonstrated on how to bypass this method with a digital photo of the person and a Paint program.  So Google recently applied for a patent to extend the facial recognition to include facial gestures like a wink, raising eyebrows, a smile or sticking out your tongue.  The new patent also includes a 3D detector to make sure it is not an image or video being shown to the screen (Reference 3).
  • Lenovo and PayPal have joined forces to support the Fast Identity Online alliance (FIDO) that have a goal of standardizing secure logins (reference 4 and 5).  FIDO’s solutions are not revolutionary and include choices of finger swipes, USB memory stick/password combo, but with the authentication market generating an estimated $2.2 billion of revenue by 2016, the race to fix the password is rampant.
  • There are picture passwords where a picture is stored on the device and to unlock the device the user must draw patterns on the picture which match the patterns input at setup (reference 6).
  • Google is testing passdevices in the form of USB keys called Yubikeys that would replace passwords (reference 7).  I would hate to get to the airport to realize I left my Yubikey at home and would not be able to get into any Google accounts while on the road.
  • Password tattooLet’s get crazy.  How about putting your smart phone next to a tattoo on your skin to unlock your device?  Motorola has already developed such a tattoo with MC10 of Massachusetts (reference 8).  A rubber stamp containing flexible electronic circuits is used to place the tattoo on your skin…..no mention how long the tattoo lasts.
  • Let’s get crazier.  Would you believe a pill as a password replacement?  Motorola has developed a pill that would be taken every day.  The computer chip within the pill is powered by stomach acids and transmits an individual signal to your smartphone to unlock the device (reference 8).

Successfully cracking the password dilemma will result in an authentication method that does not require the user to have to remember anything – whether it is a password or some type of physical fob/key.  And if a backup password is required in case the authentication method does not work, then the authentication method is still not fully developed.  I like the crazy ideas like a tattoo or a pill because it may take a far out idea to create the perfect authentication method.  That is my opinion and a survey of one.

(1) http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2368485,00.asp
(2)  http://tech2.in.com/news/web-apps/google-files-for-patent-for-unique-facial-gestures-to-unlock-phones/875904
(3) https://www.google.com/patents/US20120235790
(4) http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2415375,00.asp
(5) http://fidoalliance.org/
(6) http://www.idownloadblog.com/2013/02/11/patent-of-photo-based-passes/
(7) http://mashable.com/2013/01/18/google-password-alternatives/

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