New Old Toys

Take a closer look next time at the toys your kids are playing with and you may notice just how out of date some toys are.  And yes, there are some classics that will never go out of style, or at least have a nostalgic appeal to the parents, but those aside, there are some that haven’t aged well and could use a facelift.  Here are just a couple of examples:

  • Chatter Phone – a rotary phone with wheels that kids could pull around, but let’s be serious, it has a rotary dial, something your kids will never ever experience in real life and will not miss out on either
  • Abacus – once a revolutionary device, today a relic that I’ve never witnessed being used in real life; fun colors and some motor skill value aside, I’m not convinced that it’s essential as a teaching tool or timeless as a toy
  • Tea Set – who hasn’t oohed and aahed at the father/daughter tea set costume party. But honestly, when was the last time any of us observed this social ritual that was once, long ago, intended to be shared with friends and family over conversation? Nothing against tea.  This could be said of coffee as well.  Let’s just recognize that no one has time to engage in daily, quality conversation over tea or coffee in a way that our parents and grand parents commonly enjoyed.  The best we can hope for is a quiet cup while scanning our Inbox.

My Dad grew up playing with nothing more than sticks, my daughter enjoys a good cardboard box just as many other kids do too.  These stretch the imagination and curb the seemingly insatiable appetite for new toys that are then just as quickly discarded. The question I ask myself is how do you recognize a toy that has a timeless appeal and value?  What are the new toys on the market today that will become old classics shared across generations of parents and kids?


Let’s face it.  We’ve all done it – depicted processes, functions, entire systems, organizational departments and other such complex concepts as nothing more than self-contained, orderly boxes on a diagram.  Connected with lines implying relationships, dependencies and potential impacts, these models are widely used to understand the Big Picture and/or solve a problem.  I admit to using this modeling approach with such regularity that I started to forget the initial motive – to temporarily obscure, but never hide the inherent complexity.  The trouble is, all too often, the individual nodes are not re-examined or scrutinized.  And the more visibility and adoption they gain, the more decisions hinge on them, paradoxically the less likely they are to be changed.  It is only when the observed behavior in some major way deviates from what these simplified models ever intended to demonstrate that we start paying attention.

I recently read an article, “Deconstructing the concept of strategic alignment” [Ciborra, 1997], which offers a cautionary note, in my view off course, about trying to abstract too far away from the underlying complexity and fit the chaos of the real world into neat nodes.  Here’s the specific paragraph that I feel articulates this quite well:

“Those researchers made multiple abstractions out of the muddling-through and drifting; idealized tinkering and called IT strategy; idealized technology as a controllable set of means and called IT; granted to these concepts existence and essence, transformed them into boxes and traced a line be-tween them. Then, they started the difficult journey back to the real world, and found difficulties in measuring “the strength of the line” or formulating prescriptions that would be followed by managers when tracing the line on the field of practice. They ingeniously provided more and more sophisticated representations of alignment, as more analytical and detailed maps for the actors to operate in the real world. To no avail: the higher conceptual detail remained confined to the world of idealized abstractions, but had little impact on the life worlds of business and organizations. The research wheel was turning on empty.”

To Link Or Not To Link

…that is the question. I recently came across an article offering advice to those looking to improve their LinkedIn profile visibility. One of the recommended tactics, the article offered, was to accept and indeed seek as many connections as possible, in search of the illustrious 500+ connection milestone, and in the process, partially loosing or at least diluting, what I perceive to be the intended goal of business networking – relationship building.

Personally, I admit the allure of having a large business network is a power aphrodisiac. And LinkedIn is quite similar in this way to other forms of online social networking (Tweeter et. al). We all crave popularity and the number of connections is hard to ignore. After all, there are no other ways to measure the quality of one’s LinkedIn network – engagement level, number of updates, what our connections do outside of LinkedIn, etc.

Let me then try to answer my own question, “Should one indiscriminately accept/seek LinkedIn connections, or be very selective?”. The answer is: Maybe. If you use LinkedIn as a kind of sounding board for what you’re doing, then by all means, reach as broad of an audience as possible. Some positions, perhaps recruiters, need not be concerned with the quality as much as the quantity. On the other hand, if you’re using LinkedIn to manage a close knit community of former colleagues and friends, then don’t allow “strangers” who haven’t yet graduated to your inner circle. Until there’s an easy way, without alienating anyone, to create an inner and outer circle/group of friends and manage them separately, this question will continue to yield a “Yes or No” kind of answer for many of us.


The traditional concept of retirement is showing its age. Perhaps we need to retire it.

Retirement seems like an abrupt and in many ways unwelcome career death – one day you’re a business professional, the next, you’re at home, watching soap operas and obsessing about your lawn. Having a smoother, longer transition could allow the aging workforce to maintain the often demanding pace of work while not feeling overwhelmed or pushed out. This new structure, call it a phase out, may be in the obvious form of reduced hours, flexible work schedules and lessened responsibilities. Whatever the blend may be, fewer hours or smaller workloads, it could be individually tailored.

I’ve come across several individuals who actively or reactively stumbled into their own phase out plan. It worked out for them. But, the plan is often not perceived that way by the employers. It often felt taboo to openly discuss it as such. The expectations is that we’re all working toward the same goal of one day going home with a box full of pictures and personal affects following a big retirement party.

I would still like to have the party, but would much rather phase out my retirement and avoid the emotional, financial and social shock of the abrupt change.