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Posts Tagged ‘books’

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

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I recently read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Instead of your standard business book, it bills itself as a ‘leadership fable’, which isentirely true and contributes to is readability and impact. I want to share some thoughts with you, because we are in a massively team-focused business, and this book struck chords with me.

The book describes a management team that is operating inefficiently.  Lencioni describes how the five dysfunctions have caused this particular work environment to become toxic. In a nut, the five dysfunctions are:

Dysfunction 1 – Absence of Trust

Dysfunction 2 – Fear of Conflict

Dysfunction 3 – Lack of Commitment

Dysfunction 4 – Avoidance of Accountability

Dysfunction 5 – Inattention to Results

I interpreted this book on a more granular level.  The book discusses its mythical management team needing to pull together and work out the kinks within their roles in the company so they can effectively manage their individual departments and maintain a strong work environment as a whole without the dysfunctions sending them to ruin.

That’s a great premise for a book (and Lencioni absolutely nails these particular problems), but in my experience, I think the playing field is much larger than that.

Why not go a step further?

Why not achieve the “ultimate” elite team, not just one that doesn’t suffer from critical dysfunctions?

Every person — whether a contractor or employee — has potentially valuable input. By breaking that invisible yet distinctive line between departments, roles, employees and contractors and coming together collectively as a whole team to discuss key operations in the workplace, your team could suddenly become a top competitor in every aspect. We’ve done this here at MIPRO since 2005, and while new employees have told us they’ve never seen a collaborative environment like the one we try to foster, they pretty quickly see how effective it is.

Lencioni highlights individual team members being put in the “hot seat” while others point out their strengths and weaknesses; a variation of a 360-degree methodology. We’ve done this here; it’s a very compelling and daring experience, depending on how it’s executed and how solid the team relationships are prior to beginning the exercise. While I fear sitting in that room and having my weaknesses pointed out to me by my team members, I think it would be beneficial to hear them so I can improve and push forward. You don’t learn without pain, ever. Why would team dynamics be any different?

While a dysfunction-free team is a great idea on paper, it is very difficult to not only achieve this in a work environment, but also to maintain it every day. But once you flip the switch and get your team moving in the right direction, it’s forever transformed.

Don’t be afraid to investigate this further. It’s worth your time.

11 Books Every Leader Should Read

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Got some downtime this week? Bob Sutton wants to help you fill it. Here’s his list of the 11 books every leader should read, and it’s a good one. I have Made to Stick already downloaded as a sample on my Kindle, and I’m going to download Thinking, Fast and Slow too (I’m a bit of a brain science nerd). If I had to pick a third, it would probably be The Progress Principle, based on other reviews I have read.

More to read here than you can possibly handle. At the very least, give the list a look and flag a few that might help you in the coming year.

Remember, personal and professional development is all about investment and effort.

Have other books you consider a must-read? What are they?

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Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 12/2/11

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It’s strange what open-ended, odd memories your brain holds on to.

We were 11. Our friend Shawn had this thing about putting tinfoil boots on his cat. He’d talk about it more often than one would expect, to the point where you realized, He’s not kidding. He really wants to put tinfoil boots on his cat.

Chuck was the cat in question, and he was a beast all the way around: grossly overweight with a bulbous head and squinty eyes, he defied what Siamese cats are supposed to be. He was old and slow and clumsy, which made him hapless, which is why I think Shawn wanted to put tinfoil boots on him: because the chances of him being able to do so were very high while simultaneously having almost no chance of getting injured himself.

Everyone thought Shawn was weird duck, even weirder when he started talking about cutting short whatever we were doing so ‘we’ could go home and put tinfoil boots on Chuck. It was all uncomfortable small talk until the day he invited us over for some casual Commodore 64 video games, and, as it turned out, to watch him ensnare Chuck and finally put aluminum booties on him.

When we walked in the house, Sean was in the living room — his mother off at work — and Chuck was on the couch. Chuck, having the metabolism of a potato and the IQ to match, was lying on the couch while Shawn cut small swaths of tinfoil from a roll of Reynolds Wrap. Shawn barely looked up at us. Chuck stared at a throw pillow, completely unaware.

“Hey guys.”

“Hi Shawn,” I said. “Um, what are you doing?”

“Finally gonna put booties on Chuckles here.”

The three of us — me, Chris and Tom — stared at him. Tom finally spoke, “Dude, we’re here to play Bruce Lee. We don’t want to put tinfoil on Chuck.”

Shawn looked up from his tinfoil and pile of rubber bands. “Oh come on. Consider it science.”

“Or consider it mean,” I said. It seemed to me that putting tinfoil boots on a cat with likely cardiac problems was not a good idea.

“Nah,” Shawn said, expertly sidestepping the issue.

Then Chris asked what none of us probably would have thought to: “Once you get the tinfoil on Chuck, what are you gonna do?”

Sean had the answer in his mental chamber and didn’t miss a beat. “Gonna put him on the kitchen floor, turn on the vacuum and see if he freaks. If he does, he won’t be able to run, and that will be hilarious.”

None of us were vets or cat whisperers, but we were pretty sure if you put an overweight 14 year old Siamese cat on a linoleum floor and hit the vacuum while said cat was wearing tinfoil booties rubberbanded around his legs, yeah, we were thinking, he’ll probably freak. If you’re a 14 year old overweight cat, freaking probably leads to not being alive anymore.

The exact mechanics of the debate that ensued are unimportant, but in the end sanity prevailed: the tinfoil was thrown away, the vacuum stayed in the closet, Chuck didn’t Code Blue in front of sink, and Shawn didn’t go to juvy. Shawn did seem slightly defeated, but later came around to admit that it wasn’t a good idea after all. “Cats are pretty uptight,” Sean concluded, authoritatively.

We let the issue rest after Captain Humane closed the topic with this. We all thought it best not to upset whatever balance his hormones found that made him temporarily stable. We’re pretty sure Chuck appreciated it too.

We didn’t do much with Shawn after that.

Some links:

What if books were free?

Here’s a gallery of babies swimming underwater. The photo geek inside me wants you to know this is more impressive than it sounds.

The worst Christmas tree in Britain. Yeah, pretty much.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

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Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 8/26/11

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I used to be able to read a big book easily, in a matter of days. I tore through The Shining in 48 hours, The Stand in a week and I would read long memoirs like Oh The Glory of It All in three nights.  I used to write longhand — in pencil, no less, because that’s how Bruce Lee and Neal Stephenson did it — on college-rule paper for so long my hand would cramp and I would have to stop to let it unclench itself.  My cursive even used to be pretty awesome, legible and even stylized. Cursive! Today, it looks like I write holding the pen between my lips while being dragged behind a boat. My BLOCK CAP glyphs are the only thing that proves that I did, in fact, have a formal grade school education.

I used to be able to focus a lot better on things. Long things, things that mattered, things that I couldn’t do in a few moments no matter how much I wanted to or how good I was at doing them.  It was during this time I thought I would write books.

Then, one day while skating down my Career Path (TM), I decided to totally Geek Out.  This was a confluence of talent and opportunity, and it was the most natural direction for me to go.  Once that happened, I had no idea that committing myself to the frantic, fragmented, attention-destroying work habits (and environments) would put an end to the things I used to be able to do with ease.  Economists call things like this an externality.

But it was an easy transition. Being a web worker means you reward your panting little brain with little bursts of dopamine every 30 seconds, because you continually serve all the various apps you have running to stay connected and get your job done.  Did that person like my tweet! Did my link on Google+ get shared by an A-lister? What are the blog stats? What’s happening with my image ad on Google AdWords? Hey, Skype! Let’s check out some new Chrome browser extensions! Oh man I’m so gonna share my stupid vacation picture on Twitter. Just need to update Tweetdeck first! Herpty derp!

Most of my type sit in front of multiple monitors every day, with upwards of 15 apps running at any given time, and we get at once flustered and excited every time Skype, Growl, Twitter, Google+, WordPress, Gmail, Basecamp or Mailchimp announce they want our attention.  We think we’re cool — we secretly love people looking at our setup and going, ‘Man, I don’t know how you manage all that stuff.  I’d go crazy!’ — but the truth is we are going crazy. Just not in ways that are obvious.

So while I live behind three 24″ screens connected to a monster laptop that could probably run half of NASA, I can’t read a long book anymore without looking up every 22 seconds and noticing what some guy is ordering at the coffee bar.  I’m currently reading Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars, and I’m having a hard time sticking to a short story, let alone the giant reading list I have tapped into Simplenote. Infinite Jest, The Pale King, A Prayer for Owen Meany, House of Leaves — seriously?  These require real devotion, and I have that like I have missiles I can shoot from my fingertips.

(Bonus points to anyone who gets the Giant Robot reference.)

I’m writing this in OmmWriter, which is a distraction-free writing environment. It runs full screen, so no other applications can be seen, and it blocks all notifications from the system, so nothing can  interrupt. It works. I write better stuff here. What grinds me about this, though, is that the market for distraction-free writing environments is completely manufactured. Back in my day, we used to call a thing like this a typewriter. Today, with ADHD and nerds’ tendencies to stop what they’re doing to look at things like spoons, attention issues are on the rise because of all the technology we use. We literally have to use yet another application to shut down the other applications we use to get our jobs done.

It’s like  putting cinder blocks on your new Pella windows because you want some peace and quiet. Brute force, baby, but that’s what it’s come to.

I don’t know when all this happened exactly, but it did, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that it’s a real problem. I supposed I noticed when I was trying to read a book on vacation and I seriously struggled through a thriller that I would ordinarily devour in a few hours.

So what to do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do: finish this column so I can get back to Twitter. Can you imagine what I’m missing right now! People! Talking! About stuff!

Where are the links, you ask? Up there, in my meandering story. I’m going to spare you independent links that will launch new browser tabs that will take you away from (a) reading this, or (b) doing what you need to do so you can bounce from the office an hour or so early. Thank me later.

Oh, but first: check out all my links. You can’t resist, can you?

Welcome to my world. Take a seat — they’re going fast.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 8/12/11

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Buckle up, because the adults are out of the office right now and I have lots of finger energy. I am not kidding.

So. I learned something today.

The actual, serious, legally-binding, no-BS term for removing a heir from one’s will is called: cutting heirs.  Can you believe that?

Well, you shouldn’t. This is an outright lie and frankly a flimsy way to set up an awful pun.  The author (meaning: me), has been sacked by his self-sacking machine, a device designed for the rueful day when the author (meaning: me) and designer (also me) knew he would fail to be creative and resort to blatantly bush-league humor tactics.  I would go on, mainly along some vague and variable lines of apology to the reader (meaning: you), but the sacking machine his here, and, well, night falls.  See you.

So what else? Today’s a Chef Surprise of topics, mainly because I’ve been sitting in a corner with a sharp axe muttering to myself all week because I’ve been having a hard time thinking of Friday topics.  The stress these posts inflict on me is maddening.  Write one post about a single topic this week?  Pretty much impossible.  So to you, our readers, I either apologize or offer my hand in high-fiveitude, because you may just dig the randomness of today’s post.  Maybe you’re all, “I’m don’t always read nonsensical blog posts, but when I do, I choose MIPRO’s Friday Linkology posts.  Stay random, my friends.”

No? Okay. It was worth a shot.

Oh, yeah: this picture makes me laugh like I’ve been huffing nitrous.

In a complete non-sequitur, I also imagine driving a 650 HP  missile over standing water, slush and mud isn’t the easiest thing to do.

I just got done reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Great read. It’s a book about living in modern times. I think there were nouns involved.  I suggest you pick it up and let the reading ponies trample your mind into the great eternal schwa.  Any summer book less than 550 pages is babytown frolics.

Speaking of beautiful things, here’s an essay on 25ers. Don’t know what a 25er is?  You’re lucky if you have one, amazingly lucky if you have more.

Behold the indisputable funniest video in the world.

One sorta last thing: let me know if you like these erratic, I-can’t-think-of-a-topic posts or the more coherent ones in which I am required to think about a topic, but have been unable to do lately.  I hope I didn’t lead the witness too much with my phrasing.

Oh, what’s that you say?  Where are the links I normally put at the end of every Friday Linkology?  Go re-read today’s post.  See what I did there? Clever, huh?

Finally, in an effort to make this trainwreck of a post more redeeming to you, the patient reader, here is a picture of a stapler:

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 5/27/11

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So.

It’s a Friday before a holiday weekend and I’m not sure who’s reading, but the fact is I have embarrassingly little time to tell you about the time a bunch of us, when we were 10, went out into the woods and made spears out of dead saplings and began to wage a sort of medieval war with one another, and my buddy Shawn, wearing football pads for armor, had the unfair advantage of a wooden shield fashioned out of plywood, onto which he had used a soldering iron to inscribe his initials in thick black charcoal jags, and quite instantly this slapdash war turned into one of the Great Moments in my life, pure Lord of the Flies style, right up until a bunch of older teenagers (dirts) showed up at the top of our most tactically-important hill, at which point we spooked – even Shawn with the shield – and went back to another friend’s house to play Intellivision football until our thumbs became afflicted with blisters.

Yes, we were sissies.  And yes, the preceding paragraph was one sentence.  I get all Wallace/Pynchon before weekends during which I know huge, bacon-fetishist BBQs are imminent.

But before the sausage hits the grill, some links (get it?):

Here is a baby eating a cat’s tail.  Cuter than it sounds.

Amazon is now selling more Kindle books than print books.  This notion, once thought impossible, took less than 4 years.

Fool your eyes: the best optical illusions of 2011.

Finally, since probably nobody’s reading, here’s Maru the cat.

Have a good weekend everyone! Happy Memorial Day to all of our U.S. readers!

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 4/8/11

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It’s Spring, and you know what that means: sometimes-incoherent preambles here on this blog, especially on Friday when most aren’t looking and I get to use the computer by myself.  So here are some random thoughts, in no order whatsoever, hastily blurted forth before I get in trouble:

  • I still can’t find an iPad 2.  Maybe I will when tablets are busted for being a giant fad and nothing else.
  • In a tiny, insignificant act of defiance against our endless winter we’ve got going here in MI, I started up my snowblower a few nights ago and let it run out of gas.  I am such a counterculture leader.
  • If map applications where the only thing a person could evaluate to choose between iOS and Android, very few iPhones would be sold.  In some ways, iOS is looking very dated relative to Android.
  • I had a Founders KBS imperial stout the other night, and I found out that it’s one of the rarest and highly-rated beers in the U.S.  And yes, it was that good.

And now, the links:

Know This

The libations of James Bond, painstakingly researched: “From Casino Royale (1953) to Quantum of Solace (2008), find every alcoholic beverage consumed by the world’s most famous secret agent.”

GOOD Asks the Experts: Is the Paleolithic diet really better?  As someone who has has tremendous success on the paleo/primal approach, I can say it works tremendously well – but it’s not magic.  It’s just some basic science (not necessarily anthropology) and discipline effectively interwoven.

Firefox users?  Experience slowdowns after messing with a bunch of add-ons?  Mozilla says add-ons can be to blame for browser slowness/instability.  See the culprits here.

Read This

I am a 91-year-old bodybuilder.  Inspiring.

Expansive waistlines could significantly increase your chances of late-life blindness, research says.

The Morning News declares a winner in its 2011 Tournament of Books.  The final was between Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon SquadHere’s the final shootout.

NYC’s newfound ‘loosie’ market.

Watch This

Pi is (still) wrong. Hilarious and way, way clever.  Math nerds, buckle up.

Tell me: which cat do you think is guilty?

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

Set the Kindle Free!

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Some interesting rumors floating about regarding Amazon’s wildly popular Kindle, most notably that given its price reduction history, it will be free in November of 2011.  This is what Kevin Kelly is predicting: that Amazon will be soon handing out free Kindles, perhaps to Amazon Prime members.

In October 2009 John Walkenbach noticed that the price of the Kindle was falling at a consistent rate, lowering almost on a schedule. By June 2010, the rate was so unwavering that he could easily forecast the date at which the Kindle would be free: November 2011.

Since then I’ve mentioned this forecast to all kinds of folks. In August, 2010 I had the chance to point it out to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. He merely smiled and said, “Oh, you noticed that!” And then smiled again.

Jason Kottke comments on this:

The Kindle has never been knock-it-out-of-the-park great…it looks like Amazon’s strategy is not to build a great e-reader but to build a pretty good free e-reader.

I don’t think that’s Amazon’s angle.

If Amazon is to eventually make the Kindle free, it’s not about how good it’s e-reader is.  It’s about having the market flooded with devices that drive book (and media) business through Amazon itself.  In that regard, the Kindle will become a virtual storefront for Amazon, just like iPods and iPhones and iPads are storefronts for iTunes.

Other e-readers are trying to direct traffic through the e-commerce pipes of their respective masters, so right now it’s all about dominating the market and marginalizing the competition.  Guess who’s got the UX chops and budget to do that?

You got it.

It’s all about the books and making it easy for customers to browse, research and buy books from Amazon.  Amazon already has the most simple and delightful e-commerce user experience in the world, so to tie that to a massively popular device like the Kindle?  Touchdown.

On a side note – and if you’re not doing this already – shelling out $79/year for Amazon Prime is the smartest thing you’ll do all year.  Every Christmas, my Prime membership pays for itself a few times over.

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MIPRO Consulting is a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in PeopleSoft Enterprise (particularly Enterprise Asset Management) and Business Intelligence. You’re reading MIPRO Unfiltered, its blog. If you’d like to contact MIPRO, email is a great place to start, or you can easily jump over to its main website. If you’d like to see what MIPRO offers via Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you.

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Technology: The Taketh and the Giveth

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Taketh

Recently, my daughter and I were sitting on the floor in her bedroom going through a huge bag of notes she saved from high school. There were notes from her girlfriends, boys who were ‘just friends’ and yes, the dreaded boyfriend too. They had been stuffed in her closet for the past 14 years! (Yes, I’m a saver, and she learned it from the best.) She is now married and has blessed me with two beautiful grandchildren.

These notes chronicled so much of her high school joys, fears, boyfriends, and even some things that I was probably better off not knowing! Yet, it was a very special couple of hours to sit and go through them together and watch her reaction to those special memories. We laughed and cried.

She startled me when she suddenly stopped, and with a bit of sadness said, ‘Wow Mom, I won’t ever be able to do this with my daughter,’ and I said, “Of course you will honey. She will do just as you have done and want to share what was once private to her with you.”

It was then that I realized what she was hitting on.

Kids don’t write notes to each other on paper anymore. They don’t pass them in the hall, or put them in each other’s lockers, or stuff them into a shoe box at home in hopes no one will find them – they text and delete. Sort of a sad reality that while texting may be more efficient and quicker, there is nothing left behind to recall later like she and I did sitting in her room 14 years later.

Giveth

About 10 years ago we bought a condo at a ski/golf resort in upper Michigan. It’s a cozy little getaway. We bought it furnished so we literally just had to take some personal belongings up and we were in! Along with the furniture, kitchen items and assorted knickknacks you invariably find in a furnished place, there are two book cases filled with books. I never really paid much attention to them as they looked a bit dated.

Recently I was dusting the books and several caught my eye. There is an entire collection of Consolidated Readers Digest, a World History book published in 1924, a guide to proper dating published in 1950 — to name a few. I came across an American History book which was published in 1935. I took it off the shelf and began to flip through the pages. It spoke of dangers of government becoming too large and spending too much money. How the people were beginning to lose their voice and were not listened to.

While these may speak of interesting parallels to our times in 2011, what gave me pause was the idea that with today’s technology in Nooks, Kindles, iPads (which I now own), I may never have found this book unless I was actively looking for it on the internet. Technology gives yet it takes away. A leather-bound book, sitting on a shelf, waiting to be rediscovered may soon be a thing of the past.  At the same time, because of technology, an entire world of literature and material is wide open for us to discover with a simple search – a fair measure easier than accidentally discovering something sitting on a bookshelf somewhere.

Have a technology story or realization of your own?  Care to share your tales of the benefits and downfalls of our tech-enabled culture?  I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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MIPRO Consulting is a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in PeopleSoft Enterprise (particularly Enterprise Asset Management) and Business Intelligence. You’re reading MIPRO Unfiltered, its blog. If you’d like to contact MIPRO, email is a great place to start, or you can easily jump over to its main website. If you’d like to see what MIPRO offers via Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you.

More opinion posts.

Linkology: The Best of the Internet for 1/14/11

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Going to an awkward NFL playoff party this weekend?  Going to be stuck in a room with a guy who’s hard to talk to?  Not to worry – with everything we have for you today, you’ll be more than capable of talking to anyone for any length of time about a ridiculously incoherent sequence of subjects.  You know, for all the talking you’ll have to do between the actual football and the commercials and cleaning up spilled beer and all of that.

Like books?  Like a lot of books?  Then don’t miss The Penguin Classics Complete Library, yours from Amazon for the low, low price of $13,413.30.  You get 25 boxes on a pallet that weighs over 750 lbs. and takes up 77 linear feet.

Speaking of Amazon, you can now get your very own gastric bypass kit for only $263.95.  Absolutely, positively do not miss the user reviews, either.

If you read any of the links I’m throwing at you today, make it this one about Bill Murray’s hilarious and poignant speech introducing Sofia Coppola at the National Board of Review.  His stuff about success, careers, going off the rails and creativity are spot-on too.

The Shepard tone is a sound that when played creates the auditory illusion that it’s constantly ascending or descending in tone (I always hear descending).  Wild.  It’s like M. C. Escher for your ears.

Through February 5, you can access the Oxford English Dictionary online for free using trynewoed/trynewoed as the username/password.  David Foster Wallace pushed me into the OED’s pages a long time ago, and I haven’t really come back since.

Oh, the iPhone is on Verizon as of February 10.  That’s great news, but there are limitations to the Verizon model.  Most notably: (1) it can’t do simultaneous voice + data (a CDMA limitation), and (2) it’s not a world phone.  On the upside, however, it makes and holds phone calls.  Win!

Chrissie Wellington is an unexpected athlete.  Here’s a woman who never played any sports growing up but then in her 20s discovered she liked running.  Immediately after this discovery, she started winning every Ironman triathlon she entered, even against world-class competitors.  Turns out her body was bizarrely suited to endurance events.

Finally, a closing thought about football this weekend.  Am I the only one who thinks sports are way better when teams have open contempt for one another?  Both games this weekend are going to be intense.  I pick Steelers and Pats.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

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MIPRO Consulting is a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in PeopleSoft Enterprise (particularly Enterprise Asset Management) and Business Intelligence. You’re reading MIPRO Unfiltered, its blog. If you’d like to contact MIPRO, email is a great place to start, or you can easily jump over to its main website. If you’d like to see what MIPRO offers via Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you.

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