Posted by: goalpath | March 20, 2010

Can Grass Roots Web Sites Strengthen America’s Future?

In the past, Americans have always provided for future generations, but our political leaders reversed that trend. Will a new movement emerge with the aim of providing our children with a brighter future or will we just leave them with budget deficits and mounting debt?

In a recent Op-ed column in the New York Times, David Brooks wrote about the failure of politicians to provide for future generations. In his column, Mr. Brooks wrote, “One of the keys to healthy aging is what George Vaillant of Harvard calls ‘generativity’ – providing for future generations.”

Mr. Brooks went on to write, “The odd thing is that when you turn to political life, we are living in an age of reverse generativity. Far from serving the young, the old are now taking from them.” He brought up the fact that the federal government now spends $7 on the elderly for every $1 it spends on the children. Add to that the enormous debt load we are leaving to future generations and the future doesn’t look to bright for our kids and their kids.

The federal government and its policy makers have thrown in the towel when it comes to solving America’s financial problems and ceded them to our children and grandchildren. It is like continuing to operate your business at a loss year after year, and then hoping your kids will be able to fix it when they get to take over the business. That is just postponing the inevitable. Not smart.

It should be obvious to most people that our current system of government is self corrupting and has become counter productive. Regardless of how sincere our newly elected representatives are, they can’t seem to make any real progress towards getting America back on the right track. The lobbyists and special interest groups have a stranglehold on our political process and only want to pursue programs that serve their own greed and self interests.

Add to that, opposing political factions that seem to only want to ensure that representatives from the opposing party don’t succeed in addressing the issues at hand, and you have a recipe for no progress. Consequently, our political leaders are getting nothing accomplished. Their best intentions are ridiculed and lambasted by their political opponents and big business interests. America is marching in place, not moving forward.

What’s the solution? I believe there is a solution. Spontaneous social movements have been successful in the past. Anti-war and racial equality movements in the sixties ultimately changed America. Gender equality was another. Where would we be today without those movements? Back then they had only the network broadcast media to help them move their causes into the limelight.

With the internet, the playing field has become wide open to anyone with a voice and a web connection. Recently, web campaigns like the Obama campaign and the Tea Party movement have both been very successful in drumming up support for their agendas. The internet created instant traction for those movements in America.

There are a couple of ways we can get the ball rolling? A great many of you have called for term limits. In reality, your vote is an excellent method of enforcing term limits. All you have to do is register and exercise this privilege. If the incumbents are so totally consumed with raising money from special interest groups to get reelected, whose future will they be voting for in Congress. Not ours.

Recent elections have demonstrated that most folks are fed up with their current representatives or party affiliation. In those elections, most prognosticators have said that those elections were votes against the President and his party. I say the voters were just demonstrating that they wanted a change, regardless of party.

Besides throwing out the old guard, it is up to all of us to weigh in on the issues and voice our opinions. Go to the news and opinion sites and let your collective voices be heard. Isn’t that how spontaneous social movements get started. If enough of you speak out against the current political shenanigans going on in Washington, maybe some of these guys will get the message and begin actually doing the job for which they were elected. If not, just vote them out of office.

Taking our elected officials to task is not the complete answer. They obviously need our advice. Unless you think that being advised solely by lobbyists is okay for your representative, then we need to speak up. Broadcasting your ideas about how we can best address the critical issues facing America is another way you can help. Particularly those of us 45 and older need to bring our collective wisdom to the table.

Since we are already being blamed for the majority of problems facing America, we should be the first to offer our political leaders advice on how to fix them. Don’t you want to help to ensure that our children and grand children have a bright future? Well, if you do nothing, then nothing will change. You can just sit back or you can jump in with both feet and make a difference. It is up to you. 

My web community, www.boomeropinion.com is all about weighing in on the issues and voicing your opinion. The site already provides polls, discussion forums and articles on critical issues facing America. And we are currently redesigning the site so that each and every one of you can suggest your own polls, ask your own questions of the membership and submit your own discussion topics and follow the discussion as it progresses. Why not join today? It only takes a minute to join.

Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the business best seller, Made to Stick, recently released their latest book titled Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. A synopsis of their book was written up in the February 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine and provided some great insights in dealing obstacles that one might encounter in life or business.

The basic premise of the book has to do with taking a different approach to confronting change. The Heath brothers encourage their readers to move away from analysis and towards locating any positive elements within the problem or issue. As we all know, change doesn’t come easy to people or employees.

Chip and Dan point out that when encountering difficult problems, most people try to discover the solution by over analyzing the problem. Rather than analyzing all of the negative components of the issue the authors advocate finding the positive elements or bright spots within the problem. Instead of looking at what isn’t working, why not focus the spotlight on what is working. And clone those elements to resolve the problem.

According to the Heath brothers, psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems – emotional and rational systems that compete for control. The rational mind wants to change something while the emotional mind wants it to stay the same. By using emotional keys to drive the rational changes, change can indeed be accomplished. It is all about discovering those keys and incorporating them into the solution.

Using a narrative style of story telling to get their points across, the authors provide real world examples of how this is being done across the world. According to the editorial review of Switch, Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.

According to Publishers Weekly, “The Heath brothers…address motivating employees, family members, and ourselves in their analysis of why we too often fear change. Change is not inherently frightening, but our ability to alter our habits can be complicated by the disjunction between our rational and irrational minds: the self that wants to be swimsuit-season ready and the self that acquiesces to another slice of cake anyway.

The trick is to find the balance between our powerful drives and our reason. The authors’ lessons are backed up by anecdotes that deal with such things as new methods used to reform abusive parents, the revitalization of a dying South Dakota town, and the rebranding of megastore Target.”

You can find this book on Amazon or at your favorite retailer. Understanding how to best deal with changes in your life or your business is critical if you expect to keep moving forward. Of course, if you are perfectly content to stay where you are, then you won’t need to learn these lessons.

How do you deal with change? Do you embrace it or fight it?

Posted by: goalpath | February 15, 2010

Why Golf Is a Very Useful Business Tool

If you don’t play golf, chances are you think golf is a waste of time, a waste of valuable resources and basically a stupid game. For those of us who play the game, we have a different outlook on this centuries old game. For us golf provides an excellent venue for spending quality time with current and potential business partners. It also provides a great opportunity to evaluate colleagues, potential partners, potential bosses and any other business associates we invite to join us for a round.

To understand the point I am attempting to make here, I would like to talk about the core values of golf as set forth by the First Tee. The First Tee is a program set up to bring more young people into the game. The first tee’s mission is: “To impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf.”

The First Tee Nine Core Values are: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. If you were looking for an employee, a partner, or a boss, wouldn’t these core values be critical to making such a choice? Of course they would.

I suspect a lot of you think golf is mainly about camaraderie, drinking and a boy’s day out. While fellowship and bonding are certainly important aspects of golf, golf is also about pitting oneself against the golf course and the hazards it provides. Golf is about honesty. Golf is unique in that it requires players to call penalties on themselves and keep their own score. You will learn quickly whether your playing partner is honest or not. It is easy to see if they take liberties with their score.

Golf is about integrity. Golf is a game of etiquette and composure. Each golfer is responsible for their own personal conduct and actions even when no one else is watching. Respect is another key component of the game. It is about showing respect for oneself, one’s playing partners, the golf course and the traditions of the game. Aren’t these qualities that you would hope to find in your business associates, partners and bosses?

Confidence and responsibility are core values of golf. Confidence comes from hard work, practice and achievement. All of these things are absolute requirements if one intends to improve their game. Responsibility is important. Golfers are responsible for their actions and behavior on the golf course. It is up to them to keep score, repair divots, ball marks or other damage to the course. They also need to maintain an appropriate pace of play.  Again, aren’t these qualities you want in your business relationships.

Believe me, you can learn a great deal about a person by their demeanor and behavior on the golf course. First, are they honest? Do they cheat or play according to the rules. Second, can they operate well under pressure and duress? A person’s true personality reveals itself when dealing with poor shots, bad breaks or other obstacles they might encounter.

Perseverance and courtesy are important. To succeed in golf, players have to continue to play through bad breaks and their own mistakes. It is all about learning as they go. Just as in business if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you will be bound to repeat them. Courtesy is all about being considerate of your playing partners and other players on the course. Just as in kindergarten and business, you have to play nice.

Finally, good judgment is key to success in golf and in business. Golf is all about strategy and course management. You have to know when to play safe and when to take chances. Good course management can go farther in shooting a good score than skill alone. How’s that different from business? Needless to say, you can learn more about a person’s integrity, honesty, respect, confidence, perseverance, sportsmanship and judgment in one round of golf than you will learn is a four hour business meeting.

Of course, if the person has never played golf before or just a few times, then all bets are off. Frustration will take away your looking glass and you won’t learn much. But if that person has played for a couple of years, then you will learn all you need to know about that person and whether you want to do business with him or her. Despite Tiger’s infidelity, golf really is a game of integrity and a great business tool.

What is you view on golf as a business tool? Do you think it is a big waste of time and just an opportunity for boys to be boys? Is it a game for life or just an excuse to get out of the office and drink? Inquiring minds want to know.

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

Posted by: goalpath | January 29, 2010

Driving with Social Media

At the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas last week, Ford Motor Company unveiled dashboard innovations that included being able to use Twitter and Facebook from behind the wheel. Streaming internet audio from behind the wheel is one thing, but social media? Presented as Ford’s connectivity strategy, it appears that other auto makers will soon follow suit. Can you say distracted driving?

I have had a love affair with cars since the nineteen fifties. I secretly aspired to be a race car driver. Although, over the past thirty plus years, my racing has been confined to some motocross racing, a couple of years of road racing really fast go karts, and about five years of autocross. The pinnacle of my driving experience occurred when I attended to Jim Russell’s race driving school at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma California. We were fitted, literally, into open wheel formula fords and got three days of intensive training on the finer points of open wheel road racing. Too much fun for sure.

I have owned numerous sports cars including an Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce, an MG-A, a Sunbeam Alpine, an Austin Healy 3000, a Porsche 911, two RX 7’s and several turbo charged Mazdas. My first car was a 56 Chevy with a small block V8. I love to drive and I love road trips.

My first road trip with a cell phone took place back in the early nineties. The phone was huge and didn’t work all that well. The one thing I remember about using that phone was a conference call I was able to take part in while sitting in the parking lot at Buffalo Bill’s Grave just outside of Denver. Talk about an office with a view!

Our cars are our second home. According to the National Highway Safety  Administration, on any day of the week, 800,000 people drive and use their cell phones. In a recently released Pew report, one in three teenagers admitted to texting while driving.  In 2008, 6,000 highway deaths were the result of distracted driving – a great many of which involved cell phone usage.

In the near future we will be able to access social media from inside our cars. I’m sorry, but how smart is this strategy? Given the statistics and the growing use of cell phones in automobiles, do we really want to continue down this road? I understand that some people can’t seem to function without talking incessantly, but texting and twittering? Even if you could accomplish interacting with Facebook or Twitter hands free, you still have to look at the screen.

Did you know that sales of in-vehicle gadgets is expected to surpass $9.3 billion for the last year? There are some gadgets that are aimed at reducing cell phone use or at least making it safer. One such product will shut off your cell phone once your exceed 15 mph. There are gadgets that provide traffic alerts and accident reports using cell phone ring tones.

One FCC member, Meredith Attwell Baker, puts her two smart phones in her purse and locks them in the trunk before driving. Transportation Secretary, Raymond Lahood, puts his Blackberry in the glove compartment to ensure he is not distracted. Mr. Lahood has publicly stated that texting while driving has become an epidemic in America.

During one panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show, Peter Appel, the Transportation Department’s head of research and technology stated that his agency is researching ways to use technology to make driving safer. There is an application that will make the drivers seat vibrate or rumble and alert the driver to an accident ahead on the road. A couple of software firms have demonstrated technologies that block text messages and incoming calls while the car is being driven.   

So what’s the answer? Should all cell and internet communication devices be banned while driving? There are states where cell phone usage is illegal. Of course, if the technology is built into the vehicle, how will the troopers and police spot offenders and enforce such laws? Can all such communications be accomplished hands free and if so, does this ensure that the driver is not distracted? Yes, I talk on my cell when I drive sometimes. And I encounter distracted drivers every day who are talking and driving.  

What’s the answer? What do you think? What’s your view on this subject? Should cell use and internet connectivity be outlawed altogether?

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

First, let me qualify this blog by saying that I manage an opinion portal, http://www.boomeropinion.com, which is in reality a social media site. We provide polls, discussions and articles on issues facing America and Baby Boomers. We encourage Boomers to visit our site daily so they can weigh in and discuss the critical issues of the day.

I should also mention that I use twitter, but only for business purposes. I post the latest polls and discussion topics on my company’s Twitter page. I use Facebook to keep up with my friends, relatives and children. After much persuasion, I got my wife to join Facebook and I haven’t seen her since. And I use Linkedin to network with people around the world and to promote my businesses.

That said, I find that a good chunk of my time is taken up by these sites. Could I be more productive if I didn’t fall prey to these sites? Absolutely. Is social media just a new form of crack? Quite possibly. Are large numbers of Americans wasting work hours perusing these sites? I am sure that is true.

It should be obvious to every American the loss of attention caused by twitterers across the country. Remember when the President made his first State of the Union speech last year? As the network cameras panned the audience, you could see numerous Congressmen and Senators sending out tweets on their smart phones. How intently can you listen to a speech if you are otherwise occupied tweeting?

A 2008 Study in Britain concluded that workers in that country typically lose 12 hours of work a week logging onto social media sites. That’s over 25% of their time at work. If your typical American office workers are sitting at their computers tweeting about what they had for lunch or checking out the latest posts on their Facebook wall, how productive can they be during those periods. How much work are they not getting done each week?

Social media has a number of very positive benefits. Documenting protests and clashes between protestors and police or soldiers in parts of the world where network coverage is not available or not allowed. Documenting major weather events and other catastrophes in remote areas around the world is another benefit social media has brought to the table.

Instantaneous movie, restaurant and concert reviews are becoming the norm. Keeping close touch with relatives or friends in far away places, as well as keeping in touch with relatives or friends who live across town. Synching schedules or inviting people to special events is yet another benefit.

Some companies have initiated firewalls and/or filters to keep employees off social media sites and focused on the job at hand. Other companies have written policies against social networking during business hours. Without technical blocks, policing the usage of social media particularly given the new smart phone technologies will be hard to do for most companies.

There is no doubt that social networking and social media is here to stay, so what can be done to ensure that it doesn’t distract the American worker to such an extent that it significantly impacts our national productivity? What do you think? We want to hear your thoughts on this topic. And if you respond from your office computer, just make sure you have completed your work for the day.

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

Since the internet became the go-to place for research, finding information, entertainment and socializing every business large and small has tried to come up with the best approach to branding, product recognition and monetizing their company’s presence on the web. It doesn’t appear that anyone one or any business has really figured out how to do this effectively.

Even the giants like Facebook and Twitter haven’t cracked the code on how to monetize their traffic. While their valuations are in the billions their profits are non-existent. Facebook is valued at $9.5 billion while Twitter’s value is estimated at $1 billion. Facebook has over 300 million regular users, but doesn’t expect to go cash positive before 2010 and that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be profitable. Twitter is not close to being cash positive, let alone profitable.

What does this say about the effectiveness of web advertising? What does this say about advertising your company, your brand or your products on a social media site? What it says to me is that no one, not even the most brilliant advertising executives on Madison Avenue, has figured out how to use this medium to bring brand recognition or brand awareness to their company or products.

The one exception is Google. Of course, they are not a social media site. Google determined this early on with their Adsense and Adwords programs. Being a search engine certainly gives Google a unique advantage and a head start on the other popular web sites. They have certainly done a tremendous job branding themselves over the years. Just “Google it”. Their name has become a verb. Google is typically the first place anyone on the web will go to when they are looking for anything. Ads corresponding to that search make perfect sense.

The most popular social media sites will have to crack the code on effective web advertising soon. In order to survive they will need a better business model. Who will figure out how to help them do this – the web sites themselves, the advertisers or the advertising community? Some smart person, entity, or agency will generate some serious income whenever they do come up with a solution to this problem.

Currently banner ads just annoy most people and instead of reading the ad, they hurriedly try to figure out the quickest method of getting it off their screen. And why put the same ad online that you would put in a newspaper or magazine. Does the term multimedia ring a bell? Then there are the pop up motion ads that try to take over your screen while you are trying to read an article or get some needed information. Again, such ads tend to aggravate their audience instead of drawing them in.

On television or radio, the audience is captive and they don’t have a choice other than changing the channel or the radio station. Of course, if you have Tivo or a DVR, then you can avoid even those advertisements. If you are watching a program using the internet as your medium, you will still be subjected to commercials, but in most cases there are fewer of them during the program particularly on sites like Hulu or a broadcast network site. Still the network ads are usually more compelling and more entertaining. Then again, how many ways can they sell us E.D. drugs? No more twin tubs please!

When it comes to social media, Steven Hodson in a recent column on Mashable.com, suggested that social media sites should ask for donations using Paypal to generate income. If you like Twitter or Facebook and use it regularly, then why wouldn’t you want to contribute $1 or $5 a month. He calculated that if 50% of the Twitter users donated $1 per month, that would result in $500 million of revenue per month for Twitter. Personally, I don’t believe users would fall for that concept, particularly given the fact that the users are the ones generating the content on that site. Without the tweets there would be no Twitter

Personally, I think the best approach would be a compelling well produced viral type video highlighting the advertisers’ product or message. Videos that people would want to watch and not be forced to watch. You can view samples of this type of video at http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=140819. Check out the bottom of that page. These are agency produced videos that appear on YouTube. 30 and 60 second segments of these videos can also be seen in standard television commercials. On YouTube, the videos last 1-3 minutes. My favorites are the roller skating babies and the bulldog playing Tony Hawk’s video game.

The most successful video ads would need a theme and be serialized. It is a proven fact that people recall and respond to ads that draw their attention. Recall is a logical process while recognition is an emotional process. Motion, such as video, evokes emotion, but the printed word normally doesn’t do that. Of course these videos would need a recurring theme or character. There are plenty of well done TV ads that come to mind. The e-Trade baby is one. Remember Joe Izuzu? Okay I might have just dated myself.

These web videos could be original content or they come from a clip of a current box office hit movie that includes a clever use of your company’s product. They could be elaborate productions or well thought out amateur videos. If you think that you can’t produce an inexpensive video that draws millions of viewers, you need to watch the Pink Glove Dance on YouTube. This video was made to promote breast cancer awareness in a hospital using hospital staff as its cast and was done for very little money.

Come on people. It’s time to think outside the box and get creative. A well-made, creatively done video ad should draw you in, not push you away. One option for Social Media sites would be to insert 15-20 second ads every 10-15 minutes. That might not be too intrusive for most people. If the user wanted to avoid these interruptions they could pay a monthly use fee to use that site, say $1 or $2. The web isn’t going away and we need to come up with ways to make it a viable commercial enterprise. Wouldn’t it be cool if the web ads were so good that your friends recommended you view some of these video ads?

With the advent of broadband and streaming video, web ads shouldn’t be rehashed versions of print ads. That is sooo nineties. Video and/or clever animation is where it’s at. Being able to quickly opt out of any web video should be mandatory. If a product ad isn’t compelling enough to make its potential customers want to watch, then the viewer should be able to click it away. On the other hand, if it is good enough to bring you back several times, then the production will be well worth the investment.

What’s you opinion about web advertising? Got a better idea? I would love to hear it. Comment on this blog and tell us what you really think.

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined www.boomeropinion.com, then please consider joining our community. We are looking for Boomers who have opinions and don’t mind ruffling a few feathers by telling America what they really think about the issues facing America.

Time magazine’s November 22, 2009 article, “The ‘00s: Goodbye (at last) to the Decade from Hell” points out that the first decade of the new millennium might be one of the worst decades for America in recent history. How could they have drawn this conclusion?

In the last ten years, we have experienced two financial meltdowns – first in 2000-2001 when the internet Bubble Burst. Then again in 2008-2009 – that one shouldn’t be that hard to remember. America also suffered through 9/11, Anthrax letters, Hurricane Katrina, massive corporate bailouts and major unemployment. And last, but certainly not least we have had to deal with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that continue take American lives and siphon off more and more of our tax dollars and resources.

So have we learned anything from the last decade? We should have learned a lot, but if Washington D.C. is any indication, we may be doomed to repeat the last 10 years. Have you seen any new government policies to address the problems on Wall St. and in the investment banking community? Have we put in place new regulations to prevent Wall St. and investment bankers from overleveraging their capital and gambling on speculative investments and derivatives? No.

Has our government initiated the legislation that would provide funding to rebuild America’s dilapidated infrastructure to prevent future catastrophes such as those that took place in New Orleans and Minneapolis? There has been a lot of talk on capitol hill and some small projects approved, but no real progress in funding major infrastructure projects. Has our government put a priority on job creation or required the banking industry to use some of their TARP money to open up credit lines to small businesses? No.

While we are drawing down our troops in Iraq, it appears that the President plans to build up our troop levels in Afghanistan. I am still waiting to hear what our objective in Afghanistan will be and why we need an additional 35,000 troops at a cost of one million dollars per soldier per year. I thought we were getting out of the nation building business.

Seems to me that Afghanistan will just be another Iraq. We initially went into Afghanistan to get Osama, yet we don’t even know if he is there or in Pakistan. Won’t our occupation in another Middle Eastern country just increase the terrorists resolve.  If we run Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan and Pakistan won’t they just move their operations to another country? Do we really need to spend $35 billion per year to democratize Afghanistan? My son and I are both veterans, so don’t accuse me of being a pacifist. I am just trying to determine how our national security is protected by occupying Afghanistan.

How did we reach this point in history and how can we prevent repeating the same mistakes in the next decade? Most historians would say that we reached this point through neglect, greed, self interest and losing sight of our responsibilities both in America and globally.

So how can we get back on track in moving America forward? The economy should be our number one priority. Job creation should be right at the top. In the next ten years, our top priorities should be green jobs, investment in small business, rebuilding our infrastructure, alternative energy research subsidies, designing and building a smart power grid, and more comprehensive information sharing in key sectors like government agencies and medicine – ie. electronic medical records. Had the FBI shared information on the shooter at Ft. Hood with the military, could that tragedy been averted? Maybe, maybe not.

Financial regulations need to be put back in place to regulate Wall St. and the investment bankers. When it comes to banking regulation, investment banks and commercial banks should not be under the same umbrella. They are very different and they should be regulated and insured differently. Why should the government treat investment banks the same as commercial banks and insure speculation on the part of investment bankers? It doesn’t make sense.

The American people need to become more involved in government, business policy and government regulation of business. As long as the industry lobbyists continue have major influence over legislators in policy making in Washington, the people won’t have a say in how business and industry is regulated and controlled. We need to take back our government from corporate America and the lobbyists. Isn’t it supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people?

One way we can ensure that our voices are heard in Washington would be to leverage the internet and mobilize our voices. By democratizing the web and galvanizing public opinion on each issue, we can use the internet to tell the politicians exactly how we feel about each of these issues as they arise.

The major political parties and their leaders seem to be more interested in working against each other than addressing these issues. Instead of doing the job for which they were elected, they only seem interested in blocking each others progress, rather than working to pass the needed legislation to get America back on track. I’m not suggesting deconstructing our political party system, but giving Washington a non-politically biased barometer of what their constituencies are thinking about a particular issue at any given point in time. If millions of Americans voice their opinions on these issues, don’t you think our fearless leaders will listen and act? 

It is all about the numbers. I started my web community, www.boomeropinion.com, to give Baby Boomers a voice in America. Boomers represent one of every three adults in America and control 70% of the wealth in this country. One would think their opinion counted for something. If even 10% of the 77 million Baby Boomers in America voiced their opinions on these critical issues, I am convinced Washington would begin to listen.

Within the next few months, we will upgrade Boomer Opinion to allow our users to create their own polls, ask topical questions and start discussions on topics of their own choosing. We will follow that with opinion portals for Gen X and Gen Y. Once we get traction, maybe our political leaders will start working to fix America instead of fighting each other over partisan agendas.

What is your take on the last decade and democratizing the web? Is America ready for this? Let us know what you think.

A recent report by the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends project revealed that the recession is having a very different impact by age. The economic downturn is keeping older adults in the workforce longer and younger adults are having a difficult time finding employment and staying employed.

Older Americans, Baby Boomers in particular, have watched as their retirement and investment accounts have decreased significantly in value and their retirement plans have gone out the window. A great many Baby Boomers did not plan adequately for retirement and have come to the realization that Social Security won’t provide them with enough money to live on. These factors are  contributing to a shift in America’s employment demographics.

When employers review their employment practices, they have to look at both sides to this issue. Should they try to maintain an older, more experienced workforce or is it in their best interests to lower the average age of their employees? There are pluses and minuses to both of these strategies.

A great many employers believe that it makes more sense to keep their Baby Boomers working because they have more experience and job knowledge. Would you rather have an employee with 2 or 3 years of experience, or 25 years of experience? In the past, employees over 50 had health issues and declining mental acuity. Today, that is not the case. The Baby Boomer generation is healthier and more energetic than past generations. Score one for the Boomers.

Other employers, particularly those in emerging technologies and creative fields are looking for employees that can provide more “out of the box” thinking and innovative approaches to problem solving. The younger generation workers argue that they are better equipped for these types of positions. Steve Jobs, a Baby Boomer himself, might argue this point, although I am sure if you look at the age breakdown at Apple, their workers probably tend to be younger.

Another issue is cost. Younger employees tend to be less expensive than their older counterparts both in salary and benefits. I know a number of folks who have lost their jobs to younger workers simply because the employer wanted to reduce personnel costs and improve their bottom line.

On the other side of the coin, some employers believe that the older workers are more reliable, dependable and have a stronger work ethic. Then again, some employers believe that younger workers can’t match older workers in math and reading skills.

Younger workers are generally more skilled in using and applying technology to their jobs. Most have grown up with cell phones, social media and computers. So they have no fear when it comes to using or embracing new technologies to solve problems. 

Each group has its pluses and minuses. And my observations are for the most part, demographic generalizations. You will find that some older candidates are more in tune with technology than their younger rivals and some younger candidates are more likely to be more dependable than their older rivals. Some older candidates are willing to work for less and some younger candidates are able to do more with less experience.

Are you totally confused about who will make the best employee for your organization? What is the best approach to hiring? The best approach is to determine which candidate is the best fit for that particular position. But do remember that past history is the best predictor of future performance.

What is your take on this topic? Who would you hire? Does age play an important role in your hiring decisions?

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

Since the recession began, California’s budget deficit issues and double digit unemployment rates have a lot of people wondering if the state can continue leading the nation in technology and innovation. Ask most Californians, and they will tell you they don’t believe their state is quite ready to throw in the towel. In fact, their ability to innovate will not only play a role in their recovery, but in America’s recovery as well.

And even though I am a Texan living on the Silicon prairie in Austin, a city with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, I am convinced that California will do more than their share in helping lead this country out of recession. Why am I convinced California can bounce back and provide leadership in our nation’s recovery? Even when I was a young guy growing up in the fifties, I noticed that most trends began in California and didn’t hit the other states for at least six months to a year. Some trends never made it to Dallas, Des Moines or Minneapolis.

Of course, if that were my only evidence, I am not sure I could convince anyone that California would be able to maintain its position as a leader in technology and innovation. First, let’s talk about green industries. There’s Tesla, Fisker and Better Place. These are three electric car companies that believe they can compete with the big three automakers. California leads the nation in fuel economy standards and registered clean energy vehicles. The state leads the nation in the number of Hybrids, electric cars and natural gas powered vehicles on the road.

40% of the solar roof installations in this country exist in California. Solar prices are falling every day and most of the solar companies reside in California. Companies like SunPower, BrightSource, Solar City, eSolar, Nanosolar, and Solyndra. SunPower has over 5,000 employees and builds solar panels not just for residences, but massive power plants for utilities and roof top installations for big box stores. SunPower’s Richmond, California plant assembles the world’s most efficient solar panels in a plant where Ford built Model A’s before World War II.  

The computer scientists and engineers are moving into renewable energy and combining their computer technology expertise with solar and LED technologies. eSolar is really a software application for controlling solar arrays in order to extract the maximum energy from these arrays regardless of the position of the sun. Biotech has been displacing the defense contractors in the San Diego area.

Biotech covers sectors such as Genomic medicine and photosynthetic algae technology. A number of discoveries and treatments have been developed recently through genomic medicine and they are really just scratching the surface. Photosynthetic algae technology could ultimately produce more fuel than corn, sugarcane or soy in the same space. Exxon Mobil and Synthetic Genomics are working on a $600 Million project together to develop fuel from algae.

Vinod Kosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems has raised $1.1 billion in venture capital to fund clean energy and biotech companies. Mr. Khosla has invested in Calera, a company working on a carbon capturing cement and Soladigm which is using semiconductor technologies to make energy efficient windows. Another of his investments is Amyris, a startup that is working on a process that will turn sugar into diesel fuel.

A major factor that puts the state on the leading edge has to do with the fact that California venture capitalists invested 43% of all the U.S. venture capital that went into high tech, biotech, renewable energy and other leading edge technology companies in 2008. They also have more scientists, engineers, marketers, lawyers, accountants and other knowledge workers than any other state in the union.

Cisco Systems, a California success that provides a significant portion of the infrastructure that powers the internet, spent millions developing their Telepresence system. Telepresence is the ultra high definition video conferencing system that has reduced the carbon footprints of large corporations that in the past found it necessary to meet with their contemporaries in person at locations around the world. One of Steven Speilberg’s cinematographers helped create the feeling of intimacy in the video output. This is another example how one sector of California’s economy teamed with another sector to improve the breed of both.  

Generally, the little guys like to see the movie star stumble and fall into disfavor. So while the rest of America might be writing off the state governed by a former actor and body builder, folks in California are saying that the recession of 2009 is just another speed bump on the road to glory.  And I, for one, would not consider counting them out just yet. If California were a country, it would be in the G-8.

What’s you take on this topic? Do you think California will lead the nation out of recession?

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

What’s you take on this topic? Do you think California will lead the nation out of recession?

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

How could one technology do all of this? Prescription: Networking, an article in the December 2009 issue of Technology Review published by M.I.T., suggests that the implementation of standardized electronic medical records (EMR) would do all of these things.

According to the article, “If you ask how much in total medical spending there is in the country that doesn’t need to happen-providing absolutely no clinical benefit-the answer is probably $700 billion a year. Healthcare IT is a fundamental part of getting rid of that.” There is no doubt among any healthcare provider you ask that the $2.3 trillion cost of healthcare in America includes a lot of waste. This waste is mainly in the area of duplicated or unneeded diagnoses, treatments and tests.

It is estimated that less than 10% of the hospitals in the U.S. have adopted comprehensive electronic medical record systems. 8.3% of physicians that care for Medicaid patients use them and 13.2% of physicians caring for privately insured patients use them. Doctors that do use electronic medical records report a much higher incidence of being alerted to important lab results, avoiding drug allergies, being alerted to potential drug interactions, ordering critical lab tests, etc. The advantages should be quite obvious.

The real advantages will come once electronic medical record keeping is standardized and shared by every hospital, clinic, private practice and public health facility across the country. This is the only way to ensure that tests and procedures are not duplicated. It will provide every attending physician with all the facts before diagnosing and treating patients. It is amazing to me that these systems haven’t been implemented in more medical facilities given the advances in computing and technology over the past 20 years.

The types of jobs that EMR will provide are the best kind-high tech jobs with a future. These jobs will serve the medical community well into this century and the next. The current stimulus package includes $19.5 billion to help fund this program. There will be penalties for those medical facilities that fail to adopt EMR. Medicare will see significant savings from the adoption of EMR over the next ten years.

Hopefully, the stimulus money will provide the catalyst needed to get this program moving quickly. Given all the rhetoric that has been circulating about the cost benefits of the proposed healthcare legislation, electronic medical records should help America jump start the goal of reducing our healthcare costs.

Remaking healthcare through the use of this technology will accomplish a lot of good things for America. Job creation is one of the most important benefits. And by reducing healthcare costs, we can help American business become more competitive around the world. Both of these things will help stimulate our faltering economy. Seems like Win-Win-Win. Let’s hope that this movement takes off quickly and gets implemented as soon as possible. It is good for healthcare and good for America.

What’s you take on this topic? Do you think electronic medical records can accomplish all of these things?

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

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