Prairie Trail Software, Inc.

A View from The Prairie, 2022

January 2022

Honesty to Self

Recently, a founder of a Silicon Valley startup was convicted for fraud. She made fantastic claims for her startup, collected a lot of money, but had nothing to deliver. In some places, it is almost common that leaders make fantastic claims and hope to be believed. For many of us, we have tried to live up to the image of the strong business leader: confident and constantly giving assurances that we are all on the right path, but it has cost us a lot. When events happen, often employees, investors, and followers are left disillusioned.

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Do You Still Believe?

One investor said that the one factor that kills a startup the most is when one of the founders stops believing in the venture. The same is true in nearly every other business. When employees stop believing that the business is doing good, they disengage or quit. A disengaged employee is the worst to have as they don't do right by the customer.

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February 2022

Open to listening

No one needs to tell us that the last few years have been challenging. The business environment has changed rapidly. What we knew about the marketplace isn't true anymore. We used to think that we had specific competitive advantages, but those are no longer the most important. Instead, our ability to adapt and learn is now the most important business competitive advantage that one can have. But constant change is also tiring. So, how do we keep ourselves agile and learning? We have to listen to many and to diverse voices. We do best to listen to all the constituents of the business.

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Steady States are Unstable

Many people want to go back to a time when they thought things were simpler. They hope that they can build a steady environment. Unfortunately, that steady environment they long for was unstable. It could never have lasted. We have built quite a civilization on agriculture, mining, oil, and many inventions. The problem is that all of these wear out and fade away.

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March 2022

Surrender to the Changing Market

Ready to go back to "normal"? However, with the economic disruptions caused by a new war, that is not likely to happen. It is most likely that we will continue to see massive changes over the next 10 years. There is no way for any one person to know ahead of time what is going to happen. We need to be resilient, surrendering to the market, listening to the changes, and ready to pivot at any time. History shows that changes never stop.

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Non-Traditional Candidates

Many job postings pull in hundreds if not thousands of applications and many of those applications don't have the needed experience. Quite a number of people are sending in applications in a "shotgun" style - spraying out so many applications that they figure one might hit the target. The basic problem is that there are so many people who respond to a job posting that almost nobody can handle all of them. Many large corporations now use software packages to screen so many resumes that come in from job postings. On the other side, there are places training people on how to get their resume past the screening software. Both the companies and the candidates are getting frustrated with the process.

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April 2022

Connecting to Our Values

The song stated, "When everything's made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am." When every part of the business can be pivoted and changed, what is the meaning of the business? Business is a human activity meant to satisfy a human need and humans are meant to connect with others. We connect by sharing something; some values, some beliefs, some common pains, etc. Selling is a spiritual interaction between the values of the seller and the values of the buyer.

Strong businesses are built on values. These are often driven by the board or top executives. When the world is swirling chaos around us, we do best when we identify and connect with our values.

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Hearing the bad news

In recent years, several notable world leaders didn't want to hear the bad news. One surrounded himself with people who would tell him what he wanted to hear. When he acted on that and found strong resistance, he was shocked. Another tried to change the bad news into what he wanted it to be. Both failed. When we don't hear the bad news, we operate with blind spots.

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May 2022

Culture of Accepting Mistakes

Nobody has experience with the situation we are in. Between the war in Ukraine, China shutting down shipping, and the Federal Reserve trying to tame inflation, the business climate is changing rapidly. When things are changing this rapidly, nobody has experience and everyone has the same chances at being right or wrong. All we can do is make a choice and recognize that we are likely to be wrong. We will make mistakes. One way to survive such turmoil is to build a culture that accepts that we make mistakes and can learn from them.

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Trashing the Internet

My neighborhood has some open spaces. Trash blows into them. A (very) few people dump trash in them. Trash seems to attract more trash. It takes effort and intention to keep them clean. The same is true with the Internet. Without effort and intention, the Internet fills up with "trash". The (very) few people who dump "trash" can overwhelm everyone else if there are not ways to identify and clean up the "trash".

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June 2022

Culture and Character

Do people wave and smile in your neighborhood? These little things and many more are how a neighborhood builds a culture. In the same way, every business has a culture, built through how we handle events and customer issues. The business culture can have strengths which help or flaws that hinder the business.

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Compliance

President Ulysses Grant vowed in his inaugural address to enforce bad laws so that people will force them to be repealed. This idea has also been ascribed to President Lincoln. A number of employees have taken this advice to heart when given bad instructions and decided to follow the rules to the letter. In some cases, the results have been humorous. There are numerous stories of "malicious compliance". Being in one of those stories is not a "win" for the company.

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July 2022

Dare to Dream

We dare to dream, big dreams, and dreams that inspire many. Yet, we often fail to reach those dreams. However, just reaching for those dreams can make a difference in the world. Even falling short of our lofty dreams means that we are reaching for high ideals. So many times, realizing our dreams is beyond our capabilities. We reach out to others, sharing the dream and hoping that

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No Regrets

Not doing can lead to regrets. Rarely do regrets come over what we have done. We may have guilt over past actions and need to take actions to clean up a situation. But not following our own values and squandering opportunities builds regrets far more.

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August 2022

Commitment to the Community

We may have been working hard building the business and walking a lonely path. Eventually, we realize that we cannot stand alone. We have to come up for air and then may realize our own need for community. We need a community. We live in a community. Our business operates in a community of customers, suppliers, and employees. Now, because of our need for community, we start to take responsibility for the well-being of the community.

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Trust the computer?

Have you ever wondered about those AI based recommendations? YouTube keeps suggesting videos you don't want to watch. Instagram offers clips of subjects you don't like. There are so many places suggesting things but the suggestions need to be carefully reviewed. AI systems work best as assistants, not as managers.

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September 2022

Do No Harm

Can business operate on the concept of "do no harm"? At one point, a major corporation had that concept in their motto, but dropped it in the face of a constant drumbeat to make more profit. It is a challenge to commit to making the community better and yet not do harm. Because change may include some destruction, the community decides what is harm and what is not. We want to be doing more building than destruction. At its core, Capitalism has the concept of "creative destruction"

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Constructive Response

As business people, we get inundated with events and requests. It can be overwhelming and many people find themselves responding "reactively". Media and political parties attempt to get all of us to respond reactively in ways that give them more money and power. It can greatly benefit us all to figure out different responses. Some of the worst examples of bad responses occur when we respond reactively

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October 2022

Leave Work at the Office

Are you awake at night worrying about work? Or taking work on vacations? One famous business person has sent out tweets to his staff at 2 AM and expected responses. Answering emails / instant messages / tweets at all hours of the night. Being on call from midnight to 5 AM and yet expected to do a full day's work. Sleeping in the spare office. These are all signs of how work has been invading personal time. Americans work some of the longest hours of any "first world" nation. Yet, the pressure to take on more keeps coming. This pressure is not helping our productivity. At some point, we need to start shedding work. The pressure to work more hours does not help our productivity."

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It Always Takes More Time

Many a young programmer has looked at a problem and confidently asserted that they could write a program in a short time to fix it. Sometimes, months later, that project is gently killed having badly overrun the time estimate and produced only a bug-ridden mess. They ran into the problem that has been described as "Those who plan on winning a short war often lose a long war." Nearly every development project that does not consider all the aspects of delivery has run well over the estimate. We often jump into problems without fully understanding them.

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November 2022

Stop; Look; and Listen

On many a rural road, there is a lonely rail road crossing marked by an X sign with the words, "Stop, Look and Listen" written on them. Most times, there is nothing to see or hear as few trains come by. But when one does, it can crush anything on the tracks.
The message on the sign can be a slogan for our own times. In our busy lives, we can get caught up in events, reacting to situations, and unable to relax enough to learn anything new. Under the crush of work, many of us find ourselves narrowing our focus till we are living in a small bubble of work, eat, and sleep. In many cases, we do better if we stop, look, and listen.

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Trust and Productivity

Recently, the productivity index was released and it showed a sharp drop in productivity. When the pandemic hit and many people started working from home, the productivity index hit some new highs. Recently, managers have been requiring people to come back to the office and productivity dropped instead of rising further. Part of the issue is trust. In general, people are more productive when trusted. .

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