Since we announced our partnership with Moleskine, we’ve been eagerly awaiting the day Evernote Smart Notebooks would begin to ship. Today, Evernote Smart Notebooks are beginning to make their way to those who placed their pre-orders (most of you should receive them within the next week). If you’d like to get one for yourself, buy an Evernote Smart Notebook now.
Using the Evernote Smart Notebook
You can use any mobile version of Evernote with these notebooks. Those that combine the Evernote Smart Notebook with Evernote for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch will get our new Page Camera feature that make the notebooks even more useful.
The Page Camera is designed to work with the notebook’s dotted page pattern to optimize images and save handwritten notes and sketches to Evernote with the best quality, so you can easily find them on any device where you have Evernote installed. Included with each Evernote Smart Notebook are sets of Smart Stickers that digitally tag your handwritten notes; when you use the Evernote iOS app to snap photos of your pages, the new Page Camera will recognize these special stickers, automatically tag your notes, and save them into pre-selected notebooks in your account. For more details on how this works, see our Getting Started Guide.
Even if you’re not an iOS user, you can still take advantage of this unique integration. When you snap a photo of your handwritten notes using Evernote on any of your computers or devices, your text and images will be indexed and made searchable in Evernote, everywhere.
We’re very excited about this partnership because it brings together two things we love: beautiful paper products and advanced technology. For those of us who enjoying jotting down our thoughts on paper but also want to have those memories available forever digitally, the Evernote Smart Notebook is the best of both worlds.
How will you use your Evernote Smart Notebook?
A Definition of Entrepreneurship
The concept of entrepreneurship has a wide range of meanings. On the one extreme an entrepreneur is a person of very high aptitude who pioneers change, possessing characteristics found in only a very small fraction of the population. On the other extreme of definitions, anyone who wants to work for himself or herself is considered to be an entrepreneur.
The word entrepreneur originates from the French word, entreprendre, which means “to undertake.” In a business context, it means to start a business. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary presents the definition of an entrepreneur as one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.
Schumpeter’s View of Entrepreneurship
Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter ‘s definition of entrepreneurship placed an emphasis on innovation, such as:
- new products
- new production methods
- new markets
- new forms of organization
Wealth is created when such innovation results in new demand. From this viewpoint, one can define the function of the entrepreneur as one of combining various input factors in an innovative manner to generate value to the customer with the hope that this value will exceed the cost of the input factors, thus generating superior returns that result in the creation of wealth.
Entrepreneurship vs. Small Business
Many people use the terms “entrepreneur” and “small business owner” synonymously. While they may have much in common, there are significant differences between the entrepreneurial venture and the small business. Entrepreneurial ventures differ from small businesses in these ways:
Amount of wealth creation – rather than simply generating an income stream that replaces traditional employment, a successful entrepreneurial venture creates substantial wealth, typically in excess of several million dollars of profit.
Speed of wealth creation – while a successful small business can generate several million dollars of profit over a lifetime, entrepreneurial wealth creation often is rapid; for example, within 5 years.
Risk – the risk of an entrepreneurial venture must be high; otherwise, with the incentive of sure profits many entrepreneurs would be pursuing the idea and the opportunity no longer would exist.
Innovation – entrepreneurship often involves substantial innovation beyond what a small business might exhibit. This innovation gives the venture the competitive advantage that results in wealth creation. The innovation may be in the product or service itself, or in the business processes used to deliver it.
Peter F. Drucker, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Don’t blame PowerPoint for a boring presentation. The problem with today’s typical business presentation is NOT PowerPoint. The storyteller is the problem, the presenter who creates wordy, text-heavy slides and uses dull, convoluted jargon and buzzwords.
In a previous column titled, Jeff Bezos and the end of PowerPoint as we know it, I made the point that Bezos as well as other well-known business leaders are using a more visually engaging method of delivering presentations and doing so with the aid of traditional presentation software. Some readers blamed PowerPoint for bad presentations. I disagree. If used creatively, PowerPoint is a fabulous tool to present ideas that are clear, memorable, and engaging.
Recently I visited my nephew who attends the University of Oregon. He said he loves one class where the professor uses engaging images, photographs, and multi-media in his PowerPoint slides. He says another professor in a separate class uses a PowerPoint style full of text and bullet points. In the former class he stays until the end of the lecture. In the latter, he leaves early and catches up with notes online. The problem is the second professor uses PowerPoint slides as a repository for notes.
According to Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen, “Slides are slides. Documents are documents. They aren’t the same thing. Attempts to merge them result in what I call the ‘slideument.’ The creation of the slideument stems from a desire to save time. People think they are being efficient—a kind of kill-two-birds-with-one-stone approach. Unfortunately the only think ‘killed’ is effective communications.”
I was honored to endorse the 2nd edition of Presentation Zen because I believe in Reynolds’ philosophy and his approach to creating visually engaging slides. Reynolds believes that despite all the tools available to presenters today, storytelling has a long way to go. “While presentation technology has evolved over the years, the presentations themselves have not necessarily evolved. Today, millions of presentations are given every day with the aid of desktop applications such as PowerPoint and Keynote…Google Docs and Prezi. Yet, most presentations remain mind-numbingly dull.”
I co-presented with Reynolds at an event in Japan and, despite my own experience with delivering presentations, I learned a lot. All of us have room to improve the way we give presentations and that’s why I seek out designers who think visually for a living. Two such people are Yancey Unequivocally and Cory Jim, co-owners of presentation design firm, Empowered Presentations. Recently, Yancey showed me some fabulous examples of before-and-after slides created in PowerPoint. I’ve included the slides below.
The first before-and-after is a typical example of what happens when many presenters hear the advice, “add pictures to your slides.” They will keep all their bullet points and add a picture to the slide. If you still do this, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s exactly what I used to do before I started studying the science and the art of presentation design. But there is a better way as you can see the in the next slide. Empowered Presentations created one slide for each of the four statistics on the “before” slide (I only included one of the slides below). This particular presentation was part of a pitch to land a $1.5 million contract. There were twenty other bidders for the contract, most of whom used bulleted, wordy PowerPoint slides. Guess who won the contract?
Before: Picture added to text
After: Designed for impact
The second example was used for educational purposes. It was delivered by a doctor who wanted his audience to be aware of the staggering hospital costs to treat elderly patients after a fall. The first slide is an example of everything wrong with PowerPoint. It’s all bullets and your minds’ eye wants to read ahead as the speaker is delivering his information. That’s not an effective way to deliver ideas. Again, Empowered Presentations used one slide for each statistic and chose ‘painful’ pictures to demonstrate painful statistics.
After: Better illustrates point three
OK, that’s it. Up with it, I will no longer put. For years, I’ve taken part in debates about education and nodded my head in a serious manner whenever someone used the ‘R’ word. I mean, what else can you do? Say ‘No, I don’t approve of rigour’? I’ve increasingly felt, however, that it was a word which was invoked for all the wrong reasons – liberals use it to show that what they are proposing couldn’t possibly be dismissed as touchy-feely, hippy-dippy, progressivism (God forbid!). And the conservatives only ever use it in deficit mode: teaching lacks rigour, we need to have rigorous systems of accountability.
Neither side ever defines quite what the word actually means, nor how what they are advocating will be more rigorous than what came before. Like its educational bed-fellow, ‘raising standards’, it’s vacuous, but boy does it make you sound tough…..
So, let’s examine today’s announcement from the UK’s Secretary of State for Education. Having widely trailled it weeks ago in the press (and been roasted by the teaching profession for it) he announced that the current GCSE examination was no longer fit for purpose, and that it would be
replaced by the English Baccalaureate Certificate (now known as EBAC Cert). It was, he said, time to bring back rigour into the system. What were the elements of the GCSE that lacked rigour? Modularisation – out; continuous assessment – out; performance/practical based demonstration of skills- out. Instead, we will have single terminal, memory-based 3 hr exam. And, in future, exam results will be norm-referenced, with only the top 10% ever getting the highest grade, no matter how exceptional the cohort.
So, what is it about modularisation (also dismissively described as ‘bite-sized learning’) that lacks rigour? Most university programmes are divided into modules – are they all lacking in rigour? Does the fact that most educational prgrammes offer staging posts – places to evaluate, review progress, revise goals – make them inherently lax?
And what’s the problem with continuous assessment? Is it a sign of weakness that you flag up to a student that they might need to do more work to achieve their goals? Or that you find out where they’ve been getting confused and can put them back on the right path? Imagine your job appraisal interview in Goveland:
Boss: ‘Well, I’m sorry, Mike, but we’re no longer looking at your performance across the year. From now on, we’re going to decide your future on a single afternoon’s tele-sales figures. if you hit the mark, we’ll keep you on. But, if not…… Oh, and by the way, we reserve the right to move the mark to wherever we like, just so we can get rif of a few people in the sales team.’
No, I’m sorry. We, as a learning profession, need to call this out for what it really is: pure politics.
The Secretary of State prefaced his announcement today by saying we had ‘the best teachers and school leaders we’ve ever had’. So, why not listen to their advice? They are against even higher-stakes testing and norm-referencing of exam results. But politicians need to be seen to be acting tough, and too many young people succeeding means it’s harder to separate the sheep from the goats.
There’s NOTHING in what is being proposed for the young people who, because they come from difficult family backgrounds, might not fare well under the stress of single, memory-based exams. Or those who find it easier to show their understanding of a subject through demonstration, or performance assessment, rather than a written exam. Or (like both my sons) those whose handwriting is so poor that they can barely fill a few sides of A4 in 3 hours, but they can type at 140 w.p.m.
If you really want to know what rigour means, consult Websters Dictionary.
“Rigour: harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment; the quality of being unyielding or inflexible; severity of life ; an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty; a tremor caused by a chill; a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable.”
And THAT’S what we’re condemming our young people to – ‘a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable’ – unless we reject this attempt to take us back to a time when a narrow range of intelligences was elevated above all others.
The dangers of bad a PowerPoint presentation are manifold. It might just mean putting your audience to sleep, or running afoul of the High Council of Information Design. But if your presentations have wider reaching concerns, like those given routinely by members of the U.S. Armed Forces, bad slides can have far greater consequences. In the military’s hands, as Brigadier General H. R. McMaster explained to the New York Times in 2010, bad PowerPoint can actually be dangerous–it gives “the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control.” It certainly doesn’t help when you’re making 100-slide presentations entirely in Comic Sans, as one Army aide submitted last year.
While you’re probably not guilty of mucking up complex geopolitical strategy with your bad slides, chances are you’ve made some crappy ones–or, at the very least, been subjected to some–at one point or another. So the appeal of Haiku Deck, a free app for the iPad, should be clear. As founder Adam Tratt explained to me: “We wanted to make it impossible to create ugly [slides].”
The app, as its name suggests, is all about brevity, enabling users to make clean, concise slide shows–or decks–with a heavily streamlined feature set. Using it is fiendishly simple: You enter a few keywords of text onto a slide, and the app searches a database of over 35 million Creative Commons images that suit your subject. If your text says “Fierce Dedication,” you might get an artful shot of a tiger or a football team to use as the slide’s background (though you can always use a photo of your own). Finding that compelling image for you, Tratt says, is one of Haiku Deck’s key achievements. “People spend a ton of time doing this manually … so we thought we could really delight our users if we made the process just happen automagically, and then embed the Creative Commons attribution right in the deck.”
After you pick your image, your text is automatically formatted nice and big to fill the screen. A handful of themes offer quick ways to customize your fonts and apply photo filters throughout; five themes are included with the free app, and 11 more are available with a $2 in-app purchase. When you’re done, you can show decks on mobile devices, project them from PCs, or embed them on webpages. But the most striking thing about Haiku Deck might be what it doesn’t offer. There are no transitions, no bullet points, and no graphs anywhere to be found.
The point, Tratt explains, was to make a slide show app that’s easy to use–and impossible to screw up.
“Our approach was to make a presentation tool that people would love to use and to obliterate the dreaded ‘death by PowerPoint,’ phenomenon that so many experience on a regular basis, whether in the workplace, in the classroom, on a committee, or at a conference,” Tratt said. “To do this, we tried to productize best practices espoused by the presentation design gurus like Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte. They say things like, ‘use one idea per slide,’ ‘have a consistent look and feel,’ and ‘use an impactful image.'”
These are principles that Haiku Deck’s limited feature set essentially forces you to follow. It’s similar to some of the thinking behind Apple’s iOS, just on a much narrower scale: The user doesn’t always know best, and if you give him the option to customize everything, don’t be surprised if you end up with a dreadful result.
Of course, some users will chafe at the app’s limitations, and there are ways in which Haiku Deck is frustratingly restrictive. You can’t, for example, position text elements anywhere you want; in fact, you can’t even create more than two text elements on any given slide. But the developers seem to be aware of the dangers here. “Different fonts and layouts are important too,” Tratt says, “and we still have a ways to go on that.”
But for anyone who has had to squint at a PowerPoint presentation that was essentially just the unedited text from the reader’s speaking notes, Haiku Deck offers a merciful alternative. In an academic lecture or a business meeting, an overly dense slide show is like a Pavlovian signal to zone out. Haiku Deck, at the very least, guarantees legibility. On this note, Tratt sums up the app’s raison d’être succinctly: “Why does PowerPoint even have 8pt font as an option?”
We recently showed you just how badly some of Apple’s retail elite behave when no one’s watching, but surely they were taught better, right? You bet they were: Apple tells its new recruits exactly what what to think and say. How do we know? We read Apple’s secret Genius Training Manual from cover to cover.
It’s a penetrating look inside Apple: psychological mastery, banned words, roleplaying—you’ve never seen anything like it.
The Genius Training Student Workbook we received is the company’s most up to date, we’re told, and runs a bizarre gamut of Apple Dos and Don’ts, down to specific words you’re not allowed to use, and lessons on how to identify and capitalize on human emotions. The manual could easily serve as the Humanity 101 textbook for a robot university, but at Apple, it’s an exhaustive manual to understanding customers and making them happy. Sales, it turns out, take a backseat to good vibes—almost the entire volume is dedicated to empathizing, consoling, cheering up, and correcting various Genius Bar confrontations. The assumption, it’d seem, is that a happy customer is a customer who will buy things. And no matter how much the Apple Store comes off as some kind of smiling likeminded computer commune, it’s still a store above all—just one that puts an enormous amount of effort behind getting inside your head.
Bootcamp for Geniuses
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Before you can don the blue shirt and go to work with the job title of “Genius” every business day of your life, you have to complete a rigorously regimented, intricately scheduled training program. Over 14 days you and will pass through programs like “Using Diagnostic Services,” “Component Isolation,” and “The Power of Empathy.” If one of those things doesn’t sound like the other, you’re right—and welcome to the very core of Apple Genius training: a swirling alloy of technical skills and sentiments straight from a self-help seminar.
The point of this bootcamp is to fill you up with Genius Actions and Characteristics, listed conveniently on a “What” and “How” list on page seven of the manual. What does a Genius do? Educates. How? “Gracefully.” He also “Takes Ownership” “Empathetically,” “Recommends” “Persuasively,” and “Gets to ‘Yes'” “Respectfully.” The basic idea here, despite all the verbiage, is simple: Become strong while appearing compassionate; persuade while seeming passive, and empathize your way to a sale.
No need to mince words: This is psychological training. There’s no doubt the typical trip to the Apple store is on another echelon compared to big box retail torture; Apple’s staff is bar none the most helpful and knowledgable of any large retail operation. A fundamental part of their job—sans sales quotas of any kind—is simply to make you happy. But you’re not at a spa. You’re at a store, where things are bought and sold. Your happiness is just a means to the cash register, and the manual reminds trainees of that: “Everyone in the Apple Store is in the business of selling.” Period.
The Good Fight
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Although the indoctrination is usually skin deep, Apple gives new Geniuses a giant gulp of the Kool-Aid right off the bat. Page 39 gives a rundown of Selling Gadget Joy, by way of the “Genius Skills, Behaviors, and Values Checklist.” Selling is a science, summed up with five cute letters: (A)pproach, (P)robe, (P)resent, (L)isten, (E)nd. In other words: Go up to someone and get them to open up to you about their computing desires, insecurities, and needs; offer them choices (of things to buy); hear them out; then seal the day in a way that makes it feel like the customer has come to this decision on their own. The manual condemns pushiness—that’s a good thing—but it also preaches a form of salesmanship that’s slightly creepy: every Apple customer should feel empowered, when it’s really the Genius pulling strings.
In Apple-ese, this is put forth in a series of maxims: “We guide every interaction,” “We strive to inspire,” “We enrich their lives,” “We take personal initiative to make it right,” which if swallowed, would make any rookie feel like they’d just signed up with a NATO peacekeeping force, not a store in the mall.
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The term “empathy” is repeated ad nauseum in the Genius manual. It is the salesman sine qua non at the Apple Store, encouraging Geniuses to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” assuming that mile ends at a credit card swipe machine. It is not, the book insists in bold type, “Sympathy, which is the ability to feel sorry for someone.” Geniuses are directly told not to apologize in a manner anyone would call direct. If someone walks in sobbing because their hard drive is fried, you’ll receive no immediate consolation. “Do not apologize for the business [or] the technology,” the manual commands. Instead, express regret that the person is expressing emotions. A little mind roundabout: “I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated,” or “too bad about your soda-spill accident,” the book suggests. This is, of course, the equivalent of telling your girlfriend “I’m sorry you feel that way” during a fight instead of just apologizing for what you did.
The alternative to admitting that it simply sucks when an Apple TV is bricked or phone shatters, Geniuses are taught to employ the “Three Fs: Feel, Felt, and Found. This works especially well when the customer is mistaken or has bad information.”
Customer: This Mac is just too expensive.
Genius: I can see how you’d feel this way. I felt the price was a little high, but I found it’s a real value because of all the built-in software and capabilities.
The maneuver is brilliant. The Genius has switched places with the customer. He is she and she is he, and maybe that laptop isn’t too expensive after all. He Found it wasn’t, at least.
The manual then, on the next page, presents 20 roleplaying scenarios for each trainee and a partner to work out using the Three Fs. Fun.
Human Beings 101
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Page 45 of the manual might’ve been good cargo to send with a deep space probe, as it’d help anyone unfamiliar with our species understand “Emotion Portrayed through Nonverbal Gestures.” Neatly broken into a “Positive” and “Negative” column and then again by categories, someone without any social calibration can easily learn that “blank stare” is a sign of “boredom,” and “smiling” indicates “openness.” Using your “chair back as a shield” is apparently a sign of “defensiveness,” as are “locked ankles and clenched fists.” Some make a little less senes: a “cluck sound” is equated with confidence, “unbuttoning coats” too means “openness,” “rubbing nose” is a giveaway for “suspicion or secretiveness.”
Tip: If you’re dealing with a new recruit at the Apple Store, don’t put your “hand on hips” or give a “sideways glance,” as you’ll come off as both “aggressive” and “suspicious.”
Things You’re Not Allowed to Say
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Negativity is the mortal sin of the Genius. Disagreement is prohibited, as are a litany of normal human tendencies outlined on page 80, which contradict the virtue of empathy: consoling, commiserating, sympathizing, and taking blame are all verboten. Correcting a mistaken or confused customer should be accomplished using the phrase “turns out,” which Apple says “takes you out of the middle of an issue,” and also makes the truth seem like something that just arrived serendipitously. For example, on page 82:
Customer: The OS isn’t supported.
Genius: You’d think not, wouldn’t you. Turns out it is supported in this version.
This is really just an advanced, Apple judo version of the customer is always right. But then there’s the list of words that just straight up aren’t allowed, on page 30. The manual explains that “AppleCare’s legal counsel has defined [these] terms that should be avoided when discussing product issues with customers.”
Did your computer crash? No, it “stops responding.” Never say crash.
What if some Apple software has a bug? Wrong: there’s an “issue,” “condition,” or simply “situation.”
You don’t “eliminate” a problem—you “reduce” it.
No Apple products are hot—at most they’re “warm.”
Switching “disaster” out for “error” might make sense to calm down a panicky client, but most of this is a straight up whitewash, the sterilization of language that could very well be accurate for a given problem. Sometimes there are bugs, laptops do run hot, and laptops crash.
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Fearless Feedback is Apple’s term for institutionalized passive aggression. On page 58, it’s described as an “open dialogue every day,” with “positive intent.” It’s most certainly not “telling someone they are wrong.” Except that it is—just prevented in a quintessentially Genius mode of masterful empathy and supercharged positivity aura.
On page 60, the following dialogue is presented as a realistic sample conversation between two Apple employees:
“Hi, fellow Genius. I overheard your conversation with your customer during the last interaction and I have some feedback if you have a moment. Is this a good time?”
“Yes, this is a good time.”
“You did a great job resolving the customer’s iPhone issue. I was concerned with how quickly you spoke to the customer. It seemed like you were rushing through the interaction, and the customer had additional questions.”
A few minutes later:
“Thanks for listening to the feedback. In the future, please make sure to signal me if you need help rather than work too quickly with a customer.
“Thanks for giving it!”
I asked several former Geniuses if this kind of robot-speak was ever used after it was required during training roleplaying.
“Only during core training, never on the floor.”
“Fearless Feedback was really hated around the place. If someone had Fearless Feedback, we’d listen, but then afterwards I’d have this uncontrollable urge to punch them in the face. We all found it much more effective to get Fearless Feedback from the managers, which was more like feared feedback.”
“Sounds perfectly normal, until you watch the videos and think ‘who the fuck talks like that?!'”
No one. And yet on page 61, Apple insists this kind of inhuman speech “is essential to maintain Apple Retail culture,” as well as your personal development.” But this isn’t a realistic way to expect anyone to personally develop. As much as Apple operates like a glistening hermetic mainframe, its underpaid floor workers will never function like the pearly gadgets they sell. It’s hard to expect them to, nor should we, perhaps, be surprised when these expectations of superhuman behavior are replaced instead by misbehavior.
But behaving, misbehaving, or anything between, it doesn’t matter. The Genius system, as detached from reality, astoundingly ambitious, sprawling, and rigorous as it is, works. It works better than anything that’s ever come before it, and every Apple Store has the sales figures to back that up. Maybe it’s because the products sell themselves. Maybe it’s the zealot fan base. Or maybe the blue-clad agents really are inside our heads when we walk away from the Bar.
Are you a current or former Apple Genius? Have anything you want to share? Email me!