Unplug To A Healthier Cognitive Lifestyle

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The term “too much of a good thing” is most frequently used to describe the negative effects of over-utilizing something in our lives that we generally find pleasing and comforting. In the past it was most often associated with consuming too many desserts or over-indulgence in our favorite beverages, alcoholic or otherwise. But given the ever-expanding choices of human activity and behavior in today’s technological world, the term is now being applied to a whole new set of behaviors, many of which are proving to be detrimental to a healthy mind and body.

In the past, dementia was not a term that’s often used when referring to the young or middle aged, but rather to those of advanced age. It is a malady that affects the brain’s ability to think for itself or to recall even the simplest memory. But along with the enumerable benefits of technology came a new phenomenon; a new term and perhaps a new example of, “too much of a good thing.”  Research is finding that whipping out our iPhone or tablet or other mobile device every time we need an answer is seriously hampering our brain’s ability to think. Being able to find anything with a click of a button or a swipe of the finger is remarkably convenient, but relying too heavily on digital devices is causing problems with our short-term memories.

The phenomenon called “digital dementia,” has arrived and it has the potential to affect the minds of generations to come. Individuals who rely heavily on technology may suffer deterioration in cerebral performance such as short-term memory dysfunction. While past generations grew up remembering phone numbers and other key information simply by memorizing it, most of us today do not even attempt to memorize things like phone numbers because we have devices that do it for us. But the good news is that, like the negative outcomes of too many calories on the body, the negative effects of too much technology on the brain can be reversed or avoided.

One of the easiest ways to begin to re-program the brain and reverse the threat of becoming “brain dead” is to push away from the table of technological gadgets.  Take a weekend or a day and turn off the devices. Step away from the quick text and venture out into the world of conventional forms of communication. Like the physical body, exercising the brain will keep your brain functioning at optimal levels. Open a book, it might be tempting to find your favorite topic on your computer, but the best way to learn and strengthen your short-term memory is to take a break from the computer or iPad screens and try to recall information without the help of technology. Here are a few other tips that will excite and exercise your neutrons:

  • Exercise physically. It has been shown to increase the ability to learn, handle stressful situations, make clear decisions and recall facts and memories. In general, fit people have better cognitive functioning.
  • Diversify what you watch and read. Whether watching TV or reading a book, a balanced menu of informative and entertaining topics is best.
  • Get up and get involved. Stop sitting on the bench watching the action. Start a new hobby, visit a museum, an art gallery or historic site. Take a class or go back to college, embark on a path to learn by doing.
  • Focus on reducing stress. People with high amounts of stress are more likely to suffer from cognitive problems than those who are free of stress. Reduce stress levels with exercise, taking quick naps, participating in favorite sports activities or taking regular furloughs from the daily grind.

Do anything that can lead to the healthy restructuring or “rewiring” of the brain. Spend less time relying on technology and more time relying on utilizing the power of the brain. We have all become too plugged-in during the technological revolution. It’s time to break-away, even for a day or weekend. It will help ensure we all retain healthy cognitive functions and may even result in a longer healthier lifestyle.

Great Customer Service Is Simply Not Complicated

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Now a wise shopkeeper himself, the gentleman remembers the early days helping around his own parents’ store. From the moment they found him mature enough to handle a position on the sales floor and just tall enough to reach the keys to the cash register, his father instilled and re-inforced in him a few basic principles of business. His father had insisted the guidelines be always in practice and never forgotten. The alternative would be for the lad to be vanquished forever to the storeroom to mop the floor and assemble the latest shipment of wheel barrows. At the time, given the choices, it didn’t seem to be real complicated points to remember:

  1. The customer is always right. While it is quite true in any practical sense that no one, even customers, can always be right, it is an absolute truth in business that the customer is always the customer. In other words, it’s the same difference.
  2. Always extend a friendly greeting to every customer upon arrival. “Your old enough to count to ten in your head,” his father surmised, “be sure you welcome the customer before you get to the count of six.”
  3. Be quiet and listen to the customer. Find out what they want or need and what problem they need your help to solve. Then solve it.
  4. Answer the phone politely by the third ring (back then phones only rang) “without sounding like your mouth is full of mush.”
  5. “Spit out the gum!”
  6. “Never forget to say thank you!  You can never thank a customer enough for their business when you have just taken their money” his father insisted.

It was really basic stuff, and it is often said that those were simpler times, but is performing successful customer service really that simple? With the responses many of customers receive today from businesses they regularly frequent, both large and small, apparently it can be argued that “no,” it’s not that simple. Why else would so many businesses be failing at regularly practicing the theory of consumer sovereignty; the suggestion that consumers, not producers, are the best judge of what products and services benefit them the most and that the consumer is the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to where and on what they spend their money?

Too often managers today are quick to blame their service inadequacies on the lack of interest and poor work ethics of the new generation of workers. But a post-mortem of failed customer service practices indicates that the responsibility for the failure to establish and maintain adequate customer service does not lie solely with the company’s representatives at the customer level. Many leaders of today’s big companies are too intensely focused on the bottom line, hiring the least expensive and least qualified employees and providing them with only the most basic training in the mechanics of running the sales floor, often limiting the decisions employees are permitted to make in order to adequately address the customer’s concerns.

There exists, in these failed institutions, a clear lack of understanding of the positive influence and impact motivated, eager, customer centered employees have at the point where the company sales goals first meet with the consumer.

In a digital age when customer contact is made and terminated with a swift flick on a mouse pad, businesses are improving their odds of success by providing a pleasant, productive and repeat customer experience.

Many successful companies have discovered the importance of delivering an excellent customer experience. In fact most are surviving and prospering among their competitors by providing customers with that which the competition is neither able to provide or willing to provide – a positive customer experience on every visit at every level of contact.

Companies like Bath and Body Works; L.L. Bean; Lowe’s Home Improvement; and the online pet supply site chewy.com come to mind as providing topnotch customer service. Consumers can certainly identify their own a handful of customer-friendly enterprises. These companies have learned to treat each customer as an individual, to make them feel central to the organization’s every effort and to constantly strive to anticipate their wants and needs while working to make each customer contact an emotional experience not just a logical one.

In the end, whether today or yesterday, it’s really not complicated. Failing to successfully deploy an effective customer service strategy in a competitive market environment will result in disappointed customers turning instead to the competition.

No Comment: Freedom On The Web Is Not Always Worldwide

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Just three days before local elections, the Turkish government blocked its citizens from using Twitter and YouTube. The ban lasted 67 days and was only lifted by Turkey’s telecommunication authority (TIB) after the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that the ban violated Turks’ free speech rights and ordered the ban be lifted.

Recently Chinese Internet services blocked searches for the phrase mìsh? b?ng (???). The term relates to the speculation surrounding government probes into public officials linked to the Communist Party which are under investigation for corruption. China currently has 618 million Internet users and 281 million users of popular microblogging sites known collectively as Weibo. The action to block popular Internet sites is believed to have been ordered by the Chinese government, wishing to maintain strict control and secrecy for top governmental leaders. In China and other repressive countries censorship of the Internet is the norm.

As recently reported in the USA Today, here are the top ten Internet-censored countries in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists:

  1. North Korea. All websites are under government control. About 4% of the population has Internet access.
  2. Burma. Authorities filter e-mails and block access to sites of groups that expose human rights violations or disagree with the government.
  3. Cuba. Internet is available only at government controlled “access points.” Activity online is monitored through IP blocking, keyword filtering and browsing history checking. Only pro-government users may upload content.
  4. Saudi Arabia. Around 400,000 sites have been blocked, including any that discuss political, social or religious topics incompatible with the Islamic beliefs of the monarchy.
  5. Iran. Bloggers must register at the Ministry of Art and Culture. Those that express opposition to the mullahs who run the country are harassed and jailed.
  6. China. China has the most rigid censorship program in the world. The government filters searches, blocks sites and erases “inconvenient” content, rerouting search terms on Taiwan independence or the Tiananmen Square massacre to items favorable to the Communist Party.
  7. Syria. Bloggers who “jeopardize national unity” are arrested. Cybercafés must ask all customers for identification, record time of use and report the information to authorities.
  8. Tunisia. Tunisian Internet service providers must report to the government the IP addresses and personal information of all bloggers. All traffic goes through a central network. The government filters all content uploaded and monitors e-mails
  9. Vietnam. The Communist Party requires Yahoo, Google and Microsoft to divulge data on all bloggers who use their platforms. It blocks websites critical of the government, as well as those that advocate for democracy, human rights and religious freedom.
  10. Turkmenistan. The only Internet service provider is the government. It blocks access to many sites and monitors all e-mail accounts in Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail.

For those living in free societies it is difficult to understand the effects unconstrained Internet censorship has on people. The United States and other democratic countries have Internet censorship, but it is usually carried out by individuals and organizations engaging in self-censorship for moral, religious or business reasons in order to conform to social norms or out of fear of legal liability. In countries that guarantee their citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression, censorship has always been a field of intense debate and at times throughout history, outright verbal and physical brawls. The question as to what constitutes conduct and material worthy of outright censorship is a conversation that will never be abated in a free society. The question always comes down to who is making the decision as to what is unacceptable and what is their authority to impose the censorship upon the whole of the community.

While freedom of thought and expression is most often the topic of censorship, marketing and advertising of commerce, whether via the Internet or through non-digital channels, experiences the same restrictive limitations as those imposed on thought and expression. By limiting illegal commerce and products that market to consumers over a certain legal age, like alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, democratic societies are signaling a willingness to accept some enforcements to total freedom of marketing content and product distribution.  Certain restraints to conduct and conversation that is deemed overtly offensive by a society, will be enforced by the norms established by that society even in the most liberated of democracies, but unfettered censorship of either ideas or commerce should be feared and opposed by free democratic people everywhere.

John F. Kennedy once said, “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.  For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

Junction Applauds The Adams County SPCA On Groundbreaking

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Pictured at the groundbreaking at the Adams County SPCA are: from left, Scot Pitzer, representing state Senator Rich Alloway (R-33); Katie Carroll, SPCA board member; Abby Avery, SPCA shelter manager; Ann Birely, board secretary; Nancy Yang, board vice president; Joan Stremmel, board president; Jim Martin, Adams County commissioner; and Andy Feeser of Conewago Contractors. (Junction Creative photo)

The Adams County SPCA in historic Gettysburg, PA, broke ground on Tuesday for the $1 million renovation and expansion of its facility.

The Adams County SPCA, serving its communities since 1976, lauded the efforts of Junction Creative Solutions, a marketing and consulting firm headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., with an office on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, for its role in developing the strategy and assisting in the planning for the “Raise the Woof” capital campaign.

The firm was equally impressed with efforts and progress made by the non-profit.

“Last year, we worked with the Adams County SCPA to develop a capital campaign to support the much needed renovations to the existing shelter. President Joan Stremmel, the Board, staff, and volunteers are dedicated to reaching its goal of $1 million,” Junction Creative CEO Julie Gareleck said. “The groundbreaking represents a huge milestone and is certainly representative of the commitment this team has to raising the roof!”

When the groundbreaking took place, the “Raise the Woof” Campaign was near the halfway mark, with $385,000 raised.

The Adams County SPCA receives just three percent of its annual funding from government resources, relying largely on the generosity of the local community. The Warehime Foundation contributed $100,000; the Berwager Foundation, $60,000; and the Thomas L. Cline Foundation $50,000 toward the campaign.

At the groundbreaking, Stremmel said she was, “overwhelmed by the support from so many people and organizations.” She acknowledged that there is still much work ahead as the facility also manages its $550,000 operating budget. “We know we are going to have to work for this. There may be tough months ahead. But I’m confident we will do it.”

The 55-foot expansion, to get underway in the next two weeks, will allow the SPCA to house more than 2,200 animals each year. Renovations include a surgery room, dog intake expansion, prep and recovery room, three to four cat condos where felines can live together in one room, reception area expansion, “get acquainted” room expansion, supply room, conference/training room, increased office space, and a new heating and cooling system.

“This will improve our care of cats by about 20 percent,” Stremmel said.

The Adams County SPCA offers awareness, advocacy and prevention programs, in addition to providing save shelter and care for lost, abandoned and abused animals. Its staff investigates suspected cruelty and neglect. The facility also reduces the overall animal population through spay/neuter programs.

“The SPCA touches and affects so many,” board vice president Nancy Yang said. “It is at the junction of all economic and social groups. Animals don’t have anybody. They cannot file for welfare. It’s up to us.”

About Junction Creative Solutions

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) combines the intellectual capital of a consulting firm with the creative execution of an advertising agency to create effective and measurable strategies and solutions. The solutions align with specific business goals and objectives, and provide consistency from strategic planning through execution. As a result, our clients are able to maximize opportunities to react, adapt, and thrive — ultimately creating more sustainable and competitive businesses. Junction’s award winning portfolio boasts successful strategies and agency solutions for SMBs and Fortune 500 companies. Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Junction also has an office in Gettysburg, PA.



Curbing The Negative Effects Of Corporate Bullies

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Like the aftermath of the passing by of King Kong or Godzilla, the corporate bully leaves behind in their passing a certain level of wreckage to those who are unfortunate to be caught in the path.

As children, bullies on the playground cause fear, anxiety and resentment to their victims, some for many years and still others well into adulthood. Much like the childish playground fear monger, corporate bullies – those who micromanage, yell, rant, intimidate and abuse their charges in the name of motivation – create an environment so toxic that it often debilitates the whole of the organization.  We’re all aware of the celebrated antics of Steve Jobs and other notable leaders of mega-successful ventures whose abrasive management style was seen as setting a higher bar for organizational excellence, as if to declare their actions as acceptable because the results ultimately validated the methods. But as with many standards of acceptable behavior and methods, the difference between achieving a status of visionary as opposed to one as a bully is separated by a very narrow delineation between unacceptable and acceptable personal conduct.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, approximately one in four U.S. workers say they’ve been bullied on the job and the intended targets of the workplace torment aren’t the only casualties of the phenomenon. A new study by Canadian researchers, suggests that co-workers who witness bullying are also traumatized by the abusive antics and are as likely to be victims themselves and are more likely to look for a new job to escape their abusive environment. In this economy, corporations are exerting considerable time and resources addressing the problem of employee retention, looking for ways to incentivize their best workers and contribute to the goals and objectives of the corporate vision. Accepting and suffering the conduct of the organizational bullies runs counter to the long-term stated performance goals of most companies.

But in many instances, bullies are earning positive performance reviews, at least in the short-term, where such behavior produces short-term results, but in the longer span of time the collective wreckage caused by the abuse mounts to levels that become detrimental to success, for both the bully and the organization. For a time, some bad actors are able to survive and thrive because their employers and managers fail to focus enough attention to the problem and still more bullies are allowed to keep abusing colleagues because their bosses aren’t aware of their behavior, either because it goes unreported or because the bullies are good at covering over their abusive tactics.

Establishing an environment free of such abusive behavior requires instituting a policy where the personal behavior and motivational methods of managers and executives are equally as celebrated as achieving the organization’s vision and performance goals. Failing to effectively address the negative conduct of the organization’s bullies will lead to a corporate culture punctuated by anger, fear and resentment – one that will most likely produce more numerous letters of resignation than greater levels of positive results.