Filmmaker, Video Editor, Motion Graphics Designer, and Photographer in Cairo, Egypt.
Keeping notes to remember.. You may consider it some sort of Documentation.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Using Art To Bring Scientific Concepts To Life

Sometimes the grand ideas behind science's most important and intriguing concepts are so abstract they can be difficult to understand. One of the main goals of the International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, sponsored by the journal Science and the National Science Foundation, is to help bring these scientific concepts to life through stunning visualizations.

The photographs, illustrations, video, and interactive graphics submitted by the contest's participants are meant to help us understand both the beauty and the science behind life's many secrets. This gallery shows just a few of the winners, which were announced Friday.

During their experiments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Briana Whitaker and Briana Carstens captured this flower-like image of polymers just 10 micrometers tall. While researching the state of cells that bind together skin wounds, the polymers, which are usually stacked in a pillar, fell over, creating this colorful pattern. The resulting image won honorable mention in the photography category.

This image, called "Save our earth. Let's go green," was this year's winning entry, created by Sung Hoon Kang, Joanna Aizenberg, and Boaz Pokroy from Harvard University. The photo was taken through an electron microscope and shows self-assembling polymers designed by the team. They hope to use the hair-like fibers to create more energy-efficient materials.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Growing Great New Managers (2)

Not Too Deep and Not Too Shallow
When a gardener has chosen his or her plants, the next step is to make sure they’re planted well—not too deep and not too shallow. In the same way, it’s important to start new employees off on the right foot by making sure they’re “planted” at the right depth.

An employee who’s not given key information is “planted too shallow,” and will have a hard time getting what he or she needs from the organization in order to grow. An employee who’s overloaded with information and unrealistic expectations is “planted too deep,” and is likely to suffocate—paralyzed by too much, too soon.

One way to help yourself do this well: remember that almost everyone in a new situation wants to know three things: who’s important to their success, what’s expected of them, and how things get done in this particular culture. If you focus on conveying just these things—being careful to stop when the person looks glazed or starts to drift—you (and they) will probably be OK.

The Gardener’s Mind
Successful gardeners have a certain mindset: they trust in their own skills and they trust in the power of nature; they know that rain falls, the sun shines, and seeds grow. They know that nature and their plants will do a lot of the work, and that they’ll need to help nature along and take best advantage of it.

The mindset of a successful manager is very similar: he or she believes in people’s potential and wants to help them succeed. I feel very strongly that if you’re a manager, and you have an employee about whom you cannot say “I believe in your potential and I want to help you succeed,” then that person shouldn’t be working for you.

Staking and Weeding
There are day-to-day tasks a gardener does to keep a garden thriving—staking, weeding, spraying, pruning, etc. They may not be the most fun or creative aspects of gardening but they nip problems in the bud and give plants a chance to bloom. Two managerial equivalents of these not-fun-but necessary maintenance tasks are the skills of making agreements and giving feedback.

Research has shown that one of the things employees most need, in order to feel positive and be productive, is to know what’s expected of them. That’s what making clear agreements is about. Too often, managers give employees only the most general and ill-defined sense of what they’re supposed to be doing, and—more important—of the results they’re being held accountable for achieving. It’s kind of like sending someone in to run a race without telling them where the finish line is, who they’ll be competing against, or what the rules are!

If you want people to feel good about their jobs and get great results, it’s completely worth the investment of time to get clear with them about “what success looks like”—that is, what you expect them to do, why and by when; to give them the chance to weigh in with any questions, concerns or ideas; to make sure you both have the same understanding of the agreement; and, finally, to support a successful outcome by doing whatever you said you’d do —provide resources, give feedback, etc.

Letting It Spread
The most lush and exuberant gardens are those allowed to spread—to indulge in their natural tendency to expand into new seedlings and new shoots. One of the most powerful ways to grow great employees is to delegate authority and responsibility to them—to “let them spread.”

Most managers have had bad experiences with delegation: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard managers say same version of, “Well, I try to delegate—but it’s so much easier just to do it myself.” The problem is, it may be easier in the short run, but in the long run it limits your effectiveness (if you’re still doing all the work your employees should be doing, that doesn’t leave you much time to do the bigger stuff) and it limits your employees’ growth and opportunity… and if that happens too much, over a long enough period of time, they’re likely to leave.

One important tip for delegating well is: give autonomy according to experience. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you want an employee to take over the management of a yearly event. You know that he has a lot of experience in some parts of this kind of project: let’s say, for instance, he’s great at organizing and executing a detailed plan. On the other hand, you know he’s hasn’t had much experience at dealing with clients, and that’s also an important part of this event.

So, when you’re delegating this project to him, you might say something like: “Gary, I know you’re really well organized and excellent at making sure that all the details are in place. So let’s just check in weekly on that, and you can come to me if there are any problems. I also know that the client contact part of this project will be new to you, so I really want to stay closely involved there: let’s do the first couple of client meetings together, and debrief after wards. Then, when you feel ready to try one on your own, we’ll talk through it first to make sure you’ve thought of everything that’s important. “

In other words, you give autonomy according to experience. Delegation done in this way is far more likely to produce the results you’re hoping for: things coming off your plate, yet still done well; employees taking on and succeeding at new challenges.

Plants Into Gardeners
In being a leader, there’s a possibility that doesn’t exist in gardening; some of your plants have
the potential to become gardeners! You have the opportunity to help your employees develop new skills and abilities, including management and leadership. One thing that’s important to remember: most people want to grow and develop, but they need some help to do so. As the manager, you’re in a unique position to offer that help: you probably see their professional strengths and weaknesses more clearly than anyone else in their life—and you can support them to find the resources and knowledge to achieve their potential.

If you wonder whether you have time to be a coach—given your day job—just remind yourself that the investment of time and energy you make in this realm will have a big return: skillful,independent employees who respect, trust and like you, and who most likely want to support your success as you’ve supported theirs!


Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People Into Extraordinary Performers
By: Erika Andersen

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Growing Great New Managers

Imagine, for a moment, that you’ve been put on an island and handed a sack of rice, some vegetable plants, and a chicken. “Good luck,” says the person who brought you there. “You’ll be responsible for growing your own food now; I know you’ve never done that before, but I have every faith in your ability.” Then he gets in the boat and leaves, merrily waving goodbye.

Crazy, right?

Why wouldn’t he at least stay to get you started that first growing season, helping you develop the skills you need to plant and nurture your veggies and rice, and keep your chicken alive and laying.

Thousands of brand new managers are handed a couple of employees and told, in effect, “You’ll be responsible for managing these people now; I know you’ve never done that before, but I have every faith in your ability. Good luck!”

How odd this is. If you’re going to be a lawyer, you go to law school. If you’re going to be a doctor, you go to medical school. If you’re going to be a manager, you get promoted one day, and you’re magically supposed to know how to manage.

Now, I could kind of understand this if it didn’t make any difference: if people didn’t care how they were managed, and if their performance didn’t depend at all on how they were managed. But they do and it does. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, in my experience, it’s really difficult for a business to get consistently good results if its employees are badly managed.

Preparing the Soil
Every gardener knows that preparing the soil is the first and best secret of successful gardening. I believe that listening is the management analog of soil preparation, the foundation for all future success. This flies in the face of common wisdom: most of us assume that once we become managers, we’re supposed to stop listening. I suggest that the single most useful thing you can learn to do as a manager is stop talking and start listening.

Here’s one quick, practical step you can take to get you headed in the right direction: Ask before answering. When an employee comes to you wanting a solution to a problem, pause for a moment before responding, and instead of just leaping into answer-person-problem-solver mode, ask a question. Not a fake I’m-supposedto-ask-a-question-here question, but a real one.

A bunch of great things will happen as a result of your doing this. First, your employees’ own problem-solving abilities will be strengthened. For them, asking you for the solution is the easy way out; having to think through it themselves is harder, but ultimately better for them (they grow professionally); you (they become less dependent on you); and the company (it’s always better for a company to have more people who are capable of solving problems).

Second, it lets your employees know that you think they have good brains; that they’re capable of solving problems; that you expect and require that they will contribute to the success of the department or the business. Doing this communicates trust and respect more powerfully than a hundred wall posters about trust and respect!

Plan Before You Plant
Good gardeners think through the kind of garden they want to create before they start buying plants. And having decided what they’re trying to create, they buy plants that will suit their purpose. In the same way, good managers get clear about the kind of team, department, or business they’re trying to create, and then choose the right employees to help them create it.

Picking Your Plants
So, once a gardener has decided what kinds of plants she needs, there’s an easy next step. She just goes to the nursery or garden center, and reads the tags on the plants. They give her all the information she requires about the conditions that plant needs, so she can fairly quickly tell whether it’s likely to do well in the kind of garden she’s creating.

Unfortunately, job candidates don’t come with plant tags (resumes are kind of like plant tags, but they fairly limited… basically they just say “I performed really well in another garden, which may or may not be anything like your garden, but you have no real way of knowing”). So, what’s a good manager to do? Interviewing is your best way to find out how an employee will do in your “garden.”

Unfortunately, most managers are (self-admitted) poor interviewers. Here are two things you can do to immediately make yourself better at this important skill:
Shut up: Most interviewing managers talk way, way too much (I think it’s part of that answer-person thing I mentioned earlier). They lapse into trying to sell the person on the job and the company, or maybe they’re just uncomfortable with the candidate’s discomfort. Whatever the motivation, just stop it. You’re supposed to be finding out about them.

Don’t ask questions to which there are obvious right answers: Interviewers tend to ask questions like, “We really expect everyone we hire to be pretty self-directed, and not require a lot of hand holding. Would you be OK with that?” Unless you’re brain-dead, or really don’t want the job, the only possible answer is some version of “Yes.” Instead, the interviewer might ask something like, “What style of management works best for you—how do you like to be managed?” There isn’t a right answer here—the person has no choice but to tell you what’s true for them (or what they think you want to hear, if that’s the sort of person they are), but—in any case, you’ll get a lot more data on which to base your hiring decision.
To Be Continued...