Leverage digital tools to become a digital leader

Lifelong LearningAs a CIO in today’s fast-paced world it has become increasingly difficult to stay on top of all the relevant information, knowledge and ideas that I need to provide the level of digital leadership I aspire to. And, because there are only 24 hours in a day, I need to become more efficient in consuming information. Digital tools can make learning more efficient.

Digital leaders are life-long learners with a thirst for knowledge, insight, and wisdom.

With the accelerating pace of change and the abundance of information in today’s workplace, it is critical to leverage digital tools to keep up. It also requires curiosity and a willingness to venture outside of your own echo chamber of ideas and beliefs to include a wider range of inputs to your information diet. You need to be open to opposing points of view and have a willingness to challenge your beliefs.

EinsteinDigital leaders build a culture of ongoing learning in the organization. Leaders not only learn themselves but also advocate a culture of learning and provide many different ways for employees to gain knowledge and insight. There is no one-size-fits-all tool that will work for everyone. Each employee is different and learns in different ways so digital leaders will provide a vast array of learning opportunities. Here are some that I recommend:

Online learning sites like lynda.com, Coursera or Kahn Academy allow people to learn at their own pace in their own time. You can learn interactively at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home. It’s hard to imagine how much easier it can possibly be. Often these courses can lead to certifications of accomplishment that demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.

Podcasts are a great way to learn while you are in the car or at the gym. The recent popularity of podcasts has created a plethora of excellent content. I highly recommend anyone in management listen to Manager Tools and individual contributors should listen to Career Tools. I regularly listen to the following podcasts: A16Z, Beyond the To-Do List, Cloud Cast, Getting Things Done, Re:code decode,Tech.pinions, Tailgating Security, Tim Ferris Show, What to Think: Innovation Engines.

RSS Feeds and readers like Feedly allow you to cover more news and information in less time. I have found using Feedly is the best way to keep on top of all the news and developments I need to be successful in today’s business and technical world. With Feedly I can scan hundreds or thousands of articles from dozens of different sources quickly and efficiently. Feedly dramatically reduces the friction in information consumption. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Every morning I read the daily newspapers like Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post on my iPad on the Elliptical machine at the gym. Why? Because the WSJ is the definitive source for business news, the NYT because it is the national paper of record, and the WP because it is the source for political and world events. With the digital versions of these newspapers I can scan the entire newspaper in less than 3 minutes and then drill down on any stories that interest me. Now, I have all of the relevant information that matters in less than 10 minutes.

Once a week, I scan the weekly magazines like The Economist, BusinessWeek,Time, Newsweek, The Week, GolfWeek and Sports Illustrated to glean the deeper perspective of the stories and issues of the week. Once again, the digital versions of these magazines lend themselves to quickly scanning the headlines and only drilling down on the relevant articles in a way that would be impossible with the analog versions.

On a monthly basis, I scan the Harvard Business Review, Hollywood Reporter, Inc., Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Wired, PC Magazine, PC World, MacLife, Money, Sound & Vision, Golf Digest, Golf, ESPN, Men’s Fitness, Mens Health. Consumer Reports, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Sunset, I3 and Productive magazines to complete my insights on what is going on in the world.

There is nothing like a good book. Books have always been one of the best ways to gain knowledge and digital tools like Kindle and Audible make consuming them more efficient. I use Kindle on my iPad and Kindle Paperwhite. I like the ability to read them on my Kindle Paperwhite reader when I am lying in bed because it is so light and easy to hold or when I am outside in the sunshine when the glare on my iPad makes it difficult to read.

In addition to Kindle, Amazon owns Audible and Goodreads. Audible is another way to keep up with “reading” books by listening to them. I usually listen to audiobooks in the car and really enjoy it. I can fly thru a book relative to reading it because I have more built-in “listening time” than I do free “reading time” built into my week. Just commuting to work gives me 5 hours a week to listen.

GoodReads is a social network for people who love to read. Over time, Amazon has done a good job of integrating Audible, Kindle and GoodReads such that GoodReads knows about your purchases and can automatically sync them. When I hear about a new book to read I add it to my “To Read” shelf and then when I am ready to read/listen to a new book I just go to GoodReads to see what my next purchase should be. Because it is social, you tend to follow other readers and get recommendations and reviews that enhance the experience.

If you were going to recommend three books to your colleagues as a “must read or listen to” what would they be? I asked this to my direct reports and here they are in alphabetical order:

  • Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Taleb
  • Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
  • First Break All The Rules, By Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham
  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen
  • House by Tracy Kidder
  • It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd
  • Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  • Management by Peter Drucker
  • Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
  • Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  • The Essential Wooden by John Wooden
  • The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt
  • The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
  • The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
  • The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck
  • The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
  • Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday
  • What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack

The one common thread between Online Learning Sites, Feedly, Newsstand, Podcasts, Audible, Kindle and Goodreads is once the content makes the shift from the analog world to the digital world, it becomes much easier to consume content faster and more efficiently. This is critical for keeping up with today’s fast paced world and leveraging digital tools will help make you a better digital leader.

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Additional tools to keep up with information overload

In my last post, I discussed that as a CIO in today’s fast-paced world it has become increasingly difficult to stay on top of all the relevant news and information I need to be successful in my job. I explained how I use Feedly to process hundreds to headlines per day with ease.

Unfortunately, not all content I need to stay on top of my game comes as a RSS feed or the sources do come as RSS feeds but they are to “spamy” to consume that way. So, I use additional digital tools like Apple’s Newsstand & Podcast apps, and Amazon’s Kindle & Audible apps to augment Feedly.

Newsstand

IMG_0011Every morning I read the daily newspapers like Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post on my iPad before I go thru my Feedly feeds. Why? Because the WSJ is the source for business, the NYT is the national paper of record, and the WP is the source for political and world events. With the digital versions I can scan the entire paper in less than 3 minutes and drill down on any stories that interest me. Now, I have all the relevant information from the analog paper world that matters in less than 10 minutes. No way you could do that with the dead trees versions!

Once a week, I scan the weekly magazines like The Economist, BusinessWeek,Time, Newsweek, The Week, GolfWeek and Sports Illustrated to glean the deeper perspective of the stories and issues of the week. Once again, the digital versions of these magazines lend themselves to quickly scanning the headlines and only drilling down on the relevant articles in a way that would be impossible with the analog versions.

On a monthly basis, I scan the Harvard Business Review, Hollywood Reporter, Inc., Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Wired, PC Magazine, PC World, MacLife, Money, Sound & Vision, Golf Digest, Golf, ESPN, Men’s Fitness, Mens Health. Consumer Reports, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Sunset, I3 and Productive magazines to complete my insights on what is going on in the world.

Podcasts

IMG_1267Some content is only available on podcasts so that is how I consume it. Generally, I listed to podcasts in one of two situations. either I am at the gym doing resistance training and stretching, or I am in the car on my daily commute.

There are some wonderful tech podcasts like A16Z, The Cloudcast, Cloud Computing Weekly, Gigaom Structure Show, and McKinsey on High Tech podcasts.

There are also some great business and management podcasts like Manager Tools, Career Tools, On Leadership from the Washington Post and HBR Ideacast.

I like to listen to Freakonomics Radio just to get the weird and humorous side of things.

And finally, I listen to productivity casts like GTD Connect, GTD Virtual Study Group, The Productive Life, Beyond the To-Do List and This is Your Life with Michael Hyatt.

 

Audible

AudibleAudible audiobooks is another way to keep up with “reading” books by listening to them.

I usually listen to audiobooks in the car and really enjoy it. I can fly thru a book relative to reading it because I have  more built-in “listening time” than I do free “reading time” built into my week. Just commuting to work gives me 5 hours a week to listen.

Audible has a great business model where you buy credits and exchange them for books. The net effect of this is you get books that you want to “read” in such a way as to encourage you to get a new book every month. This encourages you to keep listening to new content at a fairly rapid clip in order to use your credits.

Like you would expect from Amazon, Audible does a great job of data analysis from your wish lists and previous purchases from both your Kindle and Audible accounts to recommend titles on sale that you really want.

Kindle

IMG_0012Some books are not available on Audible and are only available on the Kindle. For these types of books and for pleasure reading, I tend to get the Kindle version.

I like the ability to read them on my Kindle Paperwhite reader when I am lying in bed because it is so light or outside in the sunshine when the glare on my iPad makes it difficult to read.

Amazon bought a web site called GoodReads which is a social network for people who love to read. Amazon has done a good job of integrating Audible, Kindle and GoodReads so GoodReads knows about your purchases and can automatically import them.

When I hear about a new book to read I add it to my “To Read” shelf and then when I am ready to read/listen to a new book I just go to GoodReads to see what my next purchase should be. Because it is social, you tend to follow other readers and get recommendations and reviews that enhance the experience. This is one are where the wisdom of the crowd really helps.

The one common thread between Feedly, Newsstand, Podcasts Audible and Kindle is once the content makes the shift from the analog world to the digital world, it becomes much easier to consume content faster and more efficiently. This is critical for keeping up with today’s fast paced world.

Use Feedly to keep up with information overload

Feedly LogoAs a CIO in today’s fast-paced world it has become increasingly difficult to stay on top of all the relevant news and information I need to be successful in my job.

The days of reading a local newspaper, subscribing to a few trade journals, magazines  and watching the news to keep up are long gone. Similarly, surfing the web to try to keep up with everything is not a viable option as it just takes too much time and it is too easy to get trapped in a rabbit hole of non-productivity.

So, what is the modern way to keep up?

I have found using Feedly is the best way to keep on top of all the news and developments I need to be successful in today’s business and technical world. With Feedly I can scan hundreds or thousands of articles from dozens of different sources quickly and efficiently.

Feedly dramatically reduces the friction in information consumption.

With Feedly I can quickly scan RSS (Really Simple Syndication) headlines to determine which ones I want to click on to get more information. Once I click on a particular item of interest, I get a short synopsis of the article and any accompanying pictures. 9 out of 10 times, this snippet/picture combination is enough to convey the relevant information so I do not have to click on the link to actually read the original article. This is the key to the massive time savings I get by using Feedly to process incoming information.

Feedly is free and it is very powerful. A paid version, Feedly Pro has the features you really need to fully experience the full productivity boost. A subscription to Pro costs $5/month or $45/year and it is worth every penny. It is available on the web, Android, Blackberry, Chrome, iOS, Kindle, OS-X, Windows 8 and Windows Phone. That pretty much covers it from a devices perspective.

Choosing feeds is easy. Just search Feedly for your profession/career, your favorite people, your interests, your hobbbies, your passions, your favorite brands, magazines and newspapers, etc. and it will list the feeds available on the subject. When choosing be sure to notice the number of subscribers and the number of posts per week. The more subscribers the better. More posts is not always a good thing. Some feeds are “spamy” and post too many articles relative to the overall value.

My feeds or sources are handled in a very Darwinian way. If a particular feed is not providing relevant information I delete it. If a feed produces too many posts per day that are not relevant, I delete it. Frequently I subscribe to a feed to try it out only to decide it does not make the cut and is delete in a week or so. This results in a very fluid list of sources that is constantly changing.

I currently subscribe to 81 feeds, which result in over 600 posts per day and I am able to process them in less than a half hour.  This allows me to keep up on all the news and events from sources I consider relevant to my career and life.

Here is an example of the list view in Feedly:

Feedly List View
If I want to keep the article for reference or for some kind of follow up, then I just select the “ Evernote” button and it send it directly to Evernote to process later. This is one of the most important aspects of my overall GTD system. feedly-evernote-awardProcessing in Feedly and sending to Evernote is a huge time saver.

As I process, if  the article is something I want to share with others I use the “Buffer” button which will tweet it on Twitter and post it to LinkedIn on a specified schedule. Sometimes, I want to email someone directly and all I have to do is select the email button. Simple. Efficient. Friction-free.

Here is an example of an item that was clicked on to reveal more detail showing the Evernote, Email and Buffer icons:

Feedly Detail

The key to long-term success with Feedly is incorporating it into your daily habits. I usually process my feeds the first thing in the morning when I am at the gym on the elliptical trainer. It works out great because it has a reading stand for the iPad so I can easily use my hands to process my incoming queue of headlines while listening to an up-beat playlist of music. I also use Feedly on my iPhone and Nexus phones regularly.

I consider this a critical part of my overall continual learning experience, so I take it very seriously. So, I treat my incoming RSS Feeds just like my email inbox and try to process all my feeds to zero every day. “Feedly Zero”

I pride myself on knowing information before others and daily processing of RSS feeds is the key to making this a reality. It gives me a competitive advantage in work and life. I am extremely impressed when a colleague tells me something relevant that I do not already know about.  If it happens once in a while then it is just luck or timing but if they consistently know relevant information before I do, then it shows me they have an effective system for processing information and I try to learn how they do it.

With Feedly, I can subscribe to a wide variety of sources and quickly scan what is going on in the world. How do you process information in today’s fast-paced world?