Written on the M4 motorway in England as I was driven from Taunton to Ipswich. Dispatched via a commercial wi-fi service from a roadside café
We all do it every year - resolve to do things better to improve our lot and that of our friends and family.
Typically I hear people listing: eating and drinking less, stopping smoking, taking more exercise and so on. But one of the most common resolutions is spending more time we those we love and enjoy being with. And on a professional level we all seem to resolve to be more effective and efficient.
For decades I have observed that we actually spend most of our time with people we perhaps shouldn't be with. This occurs out of acts of charity, compassion, duty and management responsibility with the capable mostly helping the less so.
Yet somehow we have to get that balance right - the more capable need time and help too.
My approach has been to make sure that I get to spend as much time as possible with people who know more or who are smarter than me. But I also dedicate a lot of my time to helping others. The big question in my mind at the start of 2008 is whether I could do it all better. The answer of course has to be a resounding yes - it always is.
Without doubt helping others is both a pleasure and in some way seductive. It plays both to our ego and sense of duty at the same time.
Personally, I exploit all the technology I can to the nth degree. For example, this year over 95 per cent of Christmas presents were bought online but the time and money saved were then squandered on the need to scan in an awful lot of analogue pictures for the digital solution encapsulated in the presents.
So, putting aside all the trivial, and annually repeated New Year resolutions, I have come down to a very short list of new ones:
- Not to continue being excessive in helping people. I must show them the solution and the path to success and then let them get on with it. They will learn more if I occasionally nudge them rather than hold their hand all the way.
- To get other people to do more of the work. Just like the banks and other companies I work for, it is possible to get the customers to become functionaries. All I have to do is make it beneficial - and give them a sense of achievement and responsibility in what they do.
- To abandon all people who refuse to exert sufficient energy to try and understand, and fight their way to a solution, or who refuse to pick up a new technology and see it as a friend and opportunity instead of an enemy representing even more pain. These folks are effectively stealing time and resources from the growing army of the willing.
- To search out even more technologies and applications to push the envelope of creativity and efficiency. I always feel I'm on the limit but always manage to go just a bit further.
- To spend more time with ultra-productive and creative people so I learn faster and keep ahead of the game.
- Finally - and most importantly - I must create more time for people and even some time just for me.
Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.