A visit from Buzz

Buzz came through
Chicago last week on his trek
across America
. I was on my way back from a day of interviewing and
recruiting at the University of Illinois in Champaign and found Buzz in a
Starbucks in Glenview. From there, Buzz followed me home in his new Saab. In
typical Buzz fashion, he charmed Charlotte once again and proceeded to demo ActiveWords and a series of other
software tools and tips to her. We also showed off Skype by calling Jeremy
Wagstaff in Jakarta using Buzz's laptop as an impromptu speakerphone. Of course,
I will now be installing ActiveWords on Charlotte's computer when I get back
tonight (I'm in Boston today). Charlotte was suitably impressed and happy to
discover someone who knew things about his computer and its applications that
was news to me as well. Her reaction was the typical one I have come to expect
when a non-technical knowledge worker sees ActiveWords for the first time – “why
hasn't Microsoft bought this and made it part of Windows?”

The next day Buzz and I went on into Chicago where he pitched ActiveWords to
my CIO. We also spent some time with some of my colleagues as we started to
think through how to do a pilot evaluation that would let us demonstrate the
potential value of ActiveWords within our day-to-day knowledge work efforts.

I've been an ActiveWords user now for four years and I still learn something
new about how to make use of this tool whenever I watch Buzz show it off. It is
the kind of tool that can be hard to fully appreciate until you see it in the
hands of an expert. I came away with a number of ideas for new things I would
like to do. I think we have the basis for an initial pilot and should find a
number of user groups for whom ActiveWords will become part of their knowledge
work toolkit.

PC marketing has played the productivity card from day zero. Early on,
however, the marketing message skipped over the part about the behavioral change
needed to realize the potential of technology. Few of us have the time or
inclination to observe and think about how we work, much less think through how
we might go about making our work easier. We still don't have the tools we need
to really address the challenge of improving the
productivity/effectiveness of knowledge work
. One way to think about
ActiveWords is that it is the smallest first step you can take to begin making
your PC a tool to extend your effectiveness that gives you the quickest payback.
With luck, it may also help sensitize you to the notion that you can get more
value out of your tools if you learn how to use them and take the time to
observe your work and look for ways to make it more effective.

We finished the day with a blogger dinner at Reza's hosted by Shannon Clark
of MeshForum. We had a nice turnout and
lots of good conversation and food. I'll post more about the dinner later.