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A California woman has wrapped up her two-week, 620 mile bike journey to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation. And its importance is something that Kathleen Stark knows all too well — her daughter Brittany died in 1998 while waiting for a heart transplant.
Stark said that the journey, which she called “Project Mom,” was not only to promote Donate Life California and encourage Californians to sign up to be organ donors, but also to honor the memory of her daughter.
A family in Ottawa, Canada is mourning the loss of their daughter Rowan Stringer, 17, who died earlier this month after being tackled hard during a high school rugby match. Her family decided to donate her organs, mostly because of the young woman’s interest in nursing and medicine. Her lungs, kidneys, pancreas and liver were all donated, giving several other people a new life.
Imagine opening up your monthly telephone bill to find tens of thousands of dollars in mystery charges. And then opening more bills from other companies – ones that you don’t even do business with – to find over $500,000 owing from long distance calls. The kicker? The calls originated from your office, but you didn’t make them.
Long distance fraud is something that happens more often than we realize and businesses around the world are falling victim to the scam. Usually hackers gain access to the telephone system through something we take for granted in the business world: Remote voice mail access. Once they find a vulnerability, which can be as simple as guessing a weak or default voice mail password, they take over the phone system and use it to make international phone calls. This activity racks up hefty bills, which in turn sets you up for the shock of a lifetime when you rip open the mail.
But employee voice mail isn’t the only way to exploit a system. Sometimes phone vendors will set up remote programming capabilities with weak passwords, allowing techs to make off-site changes and hackers to worm their way in as well. Improperly secured IP phone systems can also experience password breaches.
Most businesses don’t realize until it’s too late. Some large telcos have fraud departments that monitor for unusual activity, but a compromised system is not always immediately detected. Many of the criminals commit their nefarious actions during weekends or holiday periods when it will not be noticed as quickly. While you are enjoying a weekend puttering in the garden, crooks are busy calling far-off locales like Somalia or Saudi Arabia on your dime.
What is being done to quash this epidemic? It is a struggle for authorities to track down and prosecute the offenders, thanks to their ability to cover their tracks and spoof the phone numbers from which their illicit activity originates. This makes it impossible to block the offending numbers. Volume is also a factor – the scam is so widespread it would take a significant amount of police time and resources to catch the culprits.
Reviewing your system and taking steps to protect yourself is the best line of defence. Though not fail safe, strong passwords go a long way. We have been taught to use strong passwords for our online accounts – though some still fail to take heed to the advice – and the same applies to our voice mail passwords. If you are using an easy to remember, and an equally easy to hack password such as ‘0000’ or ‘1234’ you are leaving yourself susceptible to an attack.
Choose a complex password and change it frequently. Sometimes hackers will change a voice mail greeting to fool operators into thinking a collect call has been accepted, so check yours often. Disable any features on your phone system that are not used, such as call-forwarding or out-of-office paging.
And if you fall victim to long distance fraud, be prepared to fight. Carriers aren’t always quick to write off the charges so contact your telecommunications consultant to ensure the matter is taken care of quickly and efficiently.
Carriers are stepping up to aid victims of the Oklahoma tornado. AT&T has announced it will waive voice, text and data overages for those in the affected areas, and is in the process of bringing in additional telecommunications resources. It is recommending people rely on text messaging to communicate with friends and family to avoid overloading the system with voice calls.
Sprint is also waiving overages on voice, text, data and roaming, as well as late fees. Discounts are being offered on device chargers for those who need to power up their mobile phones.
T-Mobile reports its network is 97 percent operational in the devastated area, and that it is working to repair a “small cluster” of sites that sustained damage.
FierceTelecom.com has announced its Rising Stars of Wireline 2013 list, featuring executives from CenturyLink, Lumos Networks, Frontier, Sprint, and Google Fiber. Those who landed on the list are successfully leading their respective companies through tough challenges, including increased competition and landline subscriber loss.
“These individuals are helping their companies conduct major network transitions, launch new service initiatives, and develop network buildout strategies to respond to demands from multisite business customers,” writes FierceTelecom.
Named to the list are: Matt Beal, Craig Drinkhall, Lisa Patridge, Mike Fitz, and Kevin Lo.
Canadian wireless giant Telus has entered into an agreement to acquire Mobilicity for $380 million. If the deal is approved, service to the small carrier’s 250,000 customers will continue without disruption.
“A concern for our customers and employees led us to approach Telus, which has a reputation for a strong customer focus, as evidenced by their industry leading client loyalty,” said Mobilicity president Stewart Lyons in a press release. “I am confident Telus will look after our employees and our customers, mitigating any disruption to their service, while offering the best outcome for all stakeholders.”
The acquisition needs approval from several bodies, including the Competition Bureau, Industry Canada and Mobilicity’s debtholders before it can move forward.
Mobilicity announced that the company was on the auction block back in April, shortly after it withdrew from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. Analysts have warned that the sale of the smaller Canadian carriers could negatively impact consumers’ pocketbooks due to decreased competition.
Decision making is never simple. Often, we don’t know when we have dropped the ball until it is too late. Like talent scout Dick Rowe who turned down the Beatles in 1962, telling them he didn’t like their sound and that four-piece groups with guitars were dead. Or movie mogul Harry Warner, who in 1927 didn’t believe anyone would want to hear actors speak in a film.
For many of us, the go-to way to plot a new course is through a pro and con list. But that old-school way of thinking is bound to get us in trouble, warns Chip and Dan Heath in their new book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.
According to the Heaths, there are a handful of traps that we fall into when making a decision. Sometimes we narrow our options and skip better choices, other times we let our emotions get in the way.
Overconfidence about the end result can also be a killer. We gather only favorable information and ignore the stuff we don’t like, without even realizing what we’re doing. All of these errors come down to something innate within us – personal bias.
“Research in psychology over the last 40 years has identified a set of biases in our thinking that doom the pros-and-cons model of decision making,” they write. “If we aspire to make better choices, then we must learn how these biases work and how to fight them.”
So what’s the most effective way to tackle decision making without that traditional two-columned list? The solution, say the Heaths, is a four-pronged approach they’ve dubbed the WRAP Process.
- Widen your options - Reality-test your assumptions - Attain some emotional distance - Prepare to be wrong
As pointed out by psychologist Roy Baumeister, we spend 95 percent of our time driving on a straight course, but when it comes down to it, it’s the turns we take that determine our destination. So let’s take a look at how the Heaths WRAP Process can guide us through our decision-making journey.
Widen Your Options
It is important to intentionally expand the set of choices you are considering. It is frightening how singularly focused many businesses are – an Ohio State University study found less than one-third of corporations considered more than one alternative. Spend time thinking of other options and encourage team members to do the same.
Don’t be afraid to consider several options simultaneously, and follow multiple paths all at once. Finding a mentor who has already solved similar problems can also be of great benefit. The Internet is a valuable tool – chances are someone else has already solved your dilemma. Adopt analogies you can adapt to your situation.
Reality-Test Your Assumptions
Fight your bias by taking a trip to the other side. Assume the opposite is true, consider the facts, and embrace constructive disagreement. Don’t shy away from the uncomfortable questions, and remember the more open-ended the query, the better. Taking the traditional top-down, big-picture approach is a good first step, but only if it is followed up by a bottom-up perspective that examines the fine details.
Before we plunge into a pool we usually dip our toe to test the waters. This also applies to decision making. Finding a way to run a practical small-scale test of your theories before taking a leap of faith can prevent serious mistakes from happening.
One great example is Bill Gross of idealab!, who was hot on the idea of selling cars online. He hired one CEO to sell one car online to see how it went. Within 24-hours, three cars sold and Gross went on to found CarsDirect.com, the largest auto dealer in the United States.
Attain Some Emotional Distance
Ask yourself a few questions. What would your successors do, or what would your best friend do in your situation? How will you feel about this 10 minutes from now? Ten months from now? Ten years from now? This line of questioning will force some emotional distance in your decision. Take a few minutes to reconnect with your values, goals and aspirations, and make sure you are enshrining them in your actions.
Prepare to be Wrong
No one likes to be wrong but the concept can grow on you. Humbly preparing yourself for the times that you make a bad call may prevent you from making one in the first place. By considering what your worst-case scenario would look like, along with the best-case-scenario, you will prepare yourself for both adversity and success. You won’t get carried away by your enthusiasm, therefore increasing the odds of making a good decision.
Setting a tripwire to alert you that change is needed or a better decision could be made is a good move. These can be based on deadlines, resources, or market share, to name just a few. The Heaths use David Lee Roth of Van Halen as an example. For years, he had a peculiar stipulation on his tour rider that many brushed off as a rockstar demand. He requested a bowl of M&Ms, with the brown candies removed, be provided backstage at each venue.
This was actually a test – his tripwire – to see if stagehands were reading the contract thoroughly. If he walked in to find brown M&Ms, he knew there was little attention to detail and there would be errors in more important aspects of the show.
Tripwires alert us to issues, but also give us trust in the process, something that is the final piece of the decision-making puzzle. Trust gives us confidence to take bigger risks and reap bigger rewards.
“Our decisions can never be perfect, but they can be better. Bolder. Wiser,” write the Heaths. “The right processes can steer us toward the right choice. And the right choice, at the right moment, can make all the difference.”
Over the years our jobs have become increasingly sedentary. It’s not unusual to spend the majority of our day sitting at our desk plowing through paperwork or staring at a computer screen. This behavior has a big impact on our health – researchers have discovered frightening links between sitting in a stationary position and diabetes, heart disease and cancer, to name only a few.
Hitting the gym for a few hours each week isn’t a cure-all – studies show that regular exercise does not mitigate the risks posed by long periods of inactivity, such as sitting. So how can we get up from our desk and get moving, all while staying productive? It’s time to stand up for our health. In this TED talk, business innovator Nilofer Merchant shares a simple concept that could result in big health benefits: The Walking Meeting.
Technology is changing at a startling speed, revolutionizing the way we live and how we do business. As much as it has improved our efficiency at the office, it’s also given another group an upper hand: Criminals.
Phishing scams – where crooks attempt to gather sensitive personal information or access computer systems for nefarious purposes – are skyrocketing around the world. Over 50 percent of Internet users get at least one phishing email per day and as many as 1 in 245 emails are phishing attempts.
While many scams are targeted at consumers, there is increasing evidence that businesses of all sizes are at risk. And there is plenty to lose. Businesses that are swindled suffer direct financial losses, along with serious security breaches involving intellectual property, trade secrets and customer data.
It is not just the little guys who have been duped – victims of widespread phishing attacks include major media outlets such as the BBC and the New York Times. One American law firm lost over $335,000 after hackers gained access to its computer system and transferred cash to Russia.
Even the tech sector isn’t immune despite having workers well-versed in the ways of the digital world. Facebook experienced a major security breach after employees visited a website that installed malware on their laptops. One study showed 27 percent of IT organizations have top executives or privileged users who have been fooled by malicious email attacks.
Would you or your employees be able to accurately spot a phishing email? Email is an important and valuable communication tool, so simply sending all messages to a spam or junk mail folder isn’t a viable solution. That’s why knowing what to look for is essential.
In most attacks, users will receive an email that appears to be from a legitimate source such as a bank, courier company or government agency. Often there will be a sense of urgency, with claims that a transaction may have failed or an important delivery is waiting to be made. While some messages contain spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or irregularities that tip off the user to its validity, others are picture perfect.
Almost always the user will be asked to download an attachment or click through a link to a website where requests are made for personal information or nasty software is installed to infiltrate the machine or network. Once hackers gain control they may utilize the compromised account to send malicious links to others within the organization, since we are more likely to trust an email that appears to come from someone we know.
But email is not the only avenue criminals are taking, as phishing attempts through social media are also on the rise. It is common to receive direct messages on social networks from people you know purporting to have seen a compromising photograph of you on the Internet, with a link for you to check it out. If you click, the crooks gain control of your account, a move that could create a public relations nightmare for any corporate entity. Mobile phishing, where users are sent text messages containing bad links, is also steadily increasing.
The problem is so widespread that security training firms have begun offering corporate phishing training. One popular approach is to set up an education campaign where employees are sent fake phishing emails. If they fall for the scam and click through the link, they are taken to a portal with information on how to prevent breaches and identify malicious emails. Experts say this method of hands-on training creates greater awareness than simply dictating information from the front of a boardroom or warning employees to be vigilant. Users trained in avoiding phishing scams fell for the ruse 42 percent less than those who received no training at all.
With targeted attacks on the rise – businesses with fewer than 250 employees are the fastest growing segment – employee vigilance and ongoing education will continue to be of the utmost importance. As technology advances, so will the attacks. To protect ourselves and our businesses, we need to be prepared. Chances are the con artists will always try to stay one step ahead.
At its core, a leader is defined as a person that guides or directs others. However anyone in an executive role knows being an effective leader is much more complex than the dictionary definition. Simply put, it is no easy task.
In his new book, Paid to Think: A Leader’s Toolkit for Redefining Your Future, author David Goldsmith outlines a dozen core activities every successful leader should practice to add value to their enterprise. When combined, his activities form an approach he refers to as “Enterprise Thinking” – a practical framework that can be used to think constructively and productively.
“The better able a leader is to think through an idea before committing to action, the greater the chances an organization has to achieve higher returns, all while mitigating risk and reducing expense,” writes Goldsmith.
The activities fall under four main categories – strategizing, learning, performing and forecasting. Let’s take a look at how we can use Goldsmith’s advice to our advantage.
Most professionals already spend time strategizing, usually trying to find ways to improve their company to gain a competitive edge. There are ways to secure success by creating strategically superior plans – clearly outline what you are trying to do, iron out your strategy, select your best projects and manage your priorities. Remember it is more important to get the right things done than to get everything done.
When it comes to product creation, Goldsmith suggests the process be organized in a systematic way. Use the funnel method to push the good ideas to the forefront while weeding out the bad. Take the broad criteria, eliminate ideas that won’t work based on alignment or market conditions, and then move forward to develop the remaining ideas.
Other important aspects of strategizing are establishing alliances and leveraging technology to meet today’s needs and reach tomorrow’s growth.
Too often we assume reading an article about a new concept translates into knowledge, which Goldsmith says is not the case.
“Substituting awareness for knowledge is one of the reasons that you get frustrated with yourself or your staff when your ideas don’t go anywhere,” he writes. “It’s also the reason why seemingly well-thought-out plans veer off course or don’t deliver the returns you expect.”
In-depth knowledge is required to execute an idea. We develop this through time, effort and making sure the right people are on our team. Information should come from a variety of sources.
It is important to have awareness of international issues, which will assist in more than marketing products globally – it will help you make better overall decisions. Keeping an eye on your competitors and paying close attention to their successes and failures will also help to reach your organization’s objectives.
To guarantee your team members are performing at their highest levels, you need to set the tone. Develop your personal plans and objectives first, and then formulate organizational plans that align. Educate and inform others around you, make sure the proper team is in place, and follow up with sound coaching and leadership.
Empower those around you by delegating tasks, but always keep your eye on their progress to make sure they are on track. Give plenty of positive feedback and offer career development assistance when needed. Bring innovation to the forefront by keeping an open mind and never dismissing an idea without trying it first. It is crucial that you develop your own innovative mindset ... you will be surprised at how quickly others follow suit.
And just as important as innovation is the ability to sell – not only a product, but yourself as well. First clarify the objective, select the strategy, choose and finalize tactics and execute your idea. Then build momentum and get others on board with your plan. Make sure you continue to pitch your ideas to the right people at the right time.
The decisions made today have an indelible impact on your organization’s future, which makes the ability to anticipate future challenges one of paramount importance. Blend together three factors: Current conditions, cycles, trends and patterns, and technology. If you can spot events that show acceleration in a trend, there’s a good chance you will be able to forecast future events with some accuracy. Always prepare what-if scenarios that outline what will happen if your forecasts are accurate, partially realized or don’t happen at all.
“Becoming an Enterprise Thinker allows you to create the type of life now and in the future that you’ve always dreamt,” Goldsmith concludes. “You can’t get past time back, but you do have another chance tomorrow to get it right. In other words: You can’t fix yesterday; you can only create tomorrow.
“You now have the tools you need to create the tomorrow of your dreams. Now is your time to build tomorrow.”
Schooley Mitchell is the largest independent telecom consulting company in North America, with offices from coast to coast. Our Telecom Consultants deliver telecommunications expertise to companies large and small from all industries. We offer a broad range of services that include analysis of existing and future telecommunications needs, assessment of best alternatives and implementation of cost-effective telecommunications solutions.