Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last three years, you know that the term “app” is shorthand for software application, made famous by the technology geniuses at Apple. It came into vogue with the iPhone and now with the iPad. Following Apple’s remarkable success, just about every other manufacturer has figured out how to put microchips in a cheap plastic case and call it a personal digital system or PDA, which does all kinds of incredible stuff.
Innovation spawns accelerated innovation, and today, there are more than 30,000 apps from how to find romance in all the wrong places to creating a voodoo doll with a photo of your least favorite person imposed on a deformed body, all for the purpose of poking it with pins with one click when circumstances dictate. These know-all, do-all digital marvels can be downloaded to miniature handheld devices that only a few years ago were a mere glimmer in a few computer geeks’ eyes. Even more astounding is that there are more than 100 new applications being created every day. Based on these numbers, it’s only logical to wonder what’s next. Will there come a time when at the flick of a finger we will know the answers before we even know the questions?
At least to date, however, I have not found an app for common sense. It would be great to click on an icon to avoid stupid mistakes that can lose a customer, really get you in hot water with a boss, bank or investor, or result in hurling unintentional epithets.
Even with all of these new electronic tools we have at our fingertips today, management must still train employees not to rely solely on pseudo- or quasi-artificial intelligence to make the right decision but instead use their noggins. There are dozens of very effective and simple rules to ensure that your people think before they act. Most of them were taught to us by our parents, third-grade teachers and, for advanced learners, a few mentors that we have all met along our career paths.
Here are five common-sense rules that have saved many careers, a transaction or improved business. You’ve heard them all before but they bear repeating. I suggest at the risk of insulting everyone on your team, you pass this column on to them and make me the bad guy for insulting their tech-savvy intelligence by stating what should be obvious.
1. Always, count to 10 before hitting the send key and firing off an incendiary e-mail. Unlike many relationships, jobs and even wealth, e-mail is really forever and can come back to haunt you.
2. Ask yourself before finalizing a deal, “Are you doing it so you can say you won or because it really will provide benefit to the business?” Too many deals get down to proving who’s the better deal-maker or salesperson, rather than who’s the more effective businessperson.
3. As Abraham Lincoln said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” All too frequently people talk themselves out of a transaction because they provide, as the kids say today, “TMI,” or too much information. Translation, when you have made your point, zip it.
4. If it’s too good to be true, it’s almost a guarantee that it will prove to be too good to be true. Just ask any of the clients of convicted conman extraordinaire Bernie Madoff, many of whom are now probably holding second jobs flipping burgers to make ends meet.
5. Although it’s nice to give the other guy the benefit of the doubt, trust, but always verify, too. Just count how many times in every U.S. president’s term an appointment is suddenly withdrawn when Congress starts digging into a candidate’s background.
Unquestionably, we’re all becoming more efficient and effective because of technology. However, at least for now, there isn’t an app for common sense and clear thinking. Nevertheless, the good news is that there are many apps to help you find at least 10 excuses for any bonehead mistake that caused irreparable damage, in at least as many languages.
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. “The Benevolent Dictator,” a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, will be published by John Wiley & Sons in early 2011. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.