Friday, 31 July 2009

Newsletter Issue 169, July 2009

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 169, July 2009

Hi guys,

Those of you who have heard of de Bono will be pleased that he is still hard at work. Read Edward De Bono - Still Thinking below.

To reclaim some hard disc space we have a tip on Compacting Outlook

Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Edward De Bono - Still Thinking

Two things happened recently to bring the lively and lateral thinking of Dr Edward de Bono to mind. I was browsing for books and came across the newly re-released Penguin Classics, of which a shining copy of de Bono's Six Thinking Hats leapt off the shelf and into my hand, and Kenn Butler wrote an article on de Bono in his Leadership series as he was coming to New Zealand as a guest of the local Human Resources Institute in June.

Dr de Bono struck a chord with my thinking when I was studying for my degree, along with Tony Buzan (he of mind-mapping fame). These gentlemen are both incredibly perceptive and creative thinkers. Six Thinking Hats has proved incredibly useful since I learned about it; using the six hats as lenses to really think through the ramifications of actions, decisions or strategies before putting that thought into practice. It is also very useful to put together groups and task them with using de Bono's hats to take a stance. You can really change the viewpoint of someone who has a preference for using a red hat (feelings) to being tasked with using a white hat (facts) to evaluate a project; or a black hat (critical) to a yellow hat (positivity). His thinking concepts relate to projects, to career practice, to business planning; basically to any kind of problem solving we humans need to do.

Having a new copy of the Six Thinking Hats is great - an opportunity to refresh the learning that took place all those years ago, and to renew the theoretical base that de Bono used in constructing this very, very useful cognitive model.

This year the European Union has appointed de Bono as an ambassador for the EU’s Year of Creativity and Innovation. In an interview with the National Business Review ( while he was here in New Zealand, de Bono said that "uncreative thinking, rather than the likes of environmental degradation or the state of the global banking system, remained the gravest threat to mankind". Thought that is merely adequate, what he calls “excellent but not enough” he feels will lead to our downfall. He doubts whether sufficient people will heed his warnings. “I’m not really optimistic about this, you know, because very few people see the problem. We’re very complacent, very self-satisfied. Having been at some of the leading universities — Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard — I would say the attention given to what I’m saying about possibilities is minimal if not totally absent.

“I know the situation is improving in some countries — I know there are schools in New Zealand now where my work is starting to be taught in some classrooms — but people don’t see this lack of thinking as a problem. We’re content to leave the design aspect of thinking to just a few individuals, most of whom we don’t listen to anyway. ...I work with lots of big corporations, where people think computers are so wonderful — feed the information in, they say, let the computer analyse it, and we’ll just make decisions and set our strategy. But that’s extremely dangerous. Unless you develop the habit of looking at the information in different ways, you’re trapped in the very old concepts.”

Many of our Kiwi schools use the Six Thinking Hats model, the games, and the videos that de Bono has developed over his career. Those of you who have not yet heard of Dr de Bono, slide off to your local bookshop and pick up a wonderfully cheap Penguin issue of the Six Thinking Hats, then take a look at his website, for the range of other materials he has to share.

Thanks Kenn, for your pointer to this NBR article. If any of you would like to be added to Kenn's weekly circulation list, email him at

Compacting Outlook

When you delete an email in Outlook, it goes to your rubbish bin - your Deleted Items folder. When you empty the Deleted Items folder, all the deleted messages disappear — but they are actually still in your PST file.

While Outlook periodically reclaims that wasted space in the background, you can manually initiate the process, too. This makes good sense to compact manually after you have emptied the Deleted Items folder for the first time after a lot of spam, or after having a major folder clear-out.

To manually start reclaiming wasted space in your Outlook PST file:

  1. from the File menu in Outlook, select 'Data File Management'
  2. Highlight the desired PST file you want to compact (usually outlook.pst).
  3. Click the Settings button
  4. Click the 'Compact Now' button.

Cunning Excel Function

Did you know that there is a clever little Excel function called "LEN()" that will allow you to measure the length of a character string in another cell?

For example, if - in the cell A2 - you have "Katherine of Aragon", and enter - in cell B2 - the formula "=LEN(A2)"; B2 will return the value 19. There are 19 characters, including spaces, in "Katherine of Aragon".

You can also count all the characters except spaces by using =LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2,” ”,”")). which in this case would return 17.

You could equally enter a number in A2. For example, "1058666" will return 7. If cell A2 it is formatted for NZ currency with two decimal places, even though it reads "$1,058,666.00", it will still return the value of 7. The underlying number is still the same.

Why would you want to use this function? A couple of quick examples; you might want to sort older stock numbers from new - eg 11 vs 13 digit barcodes; you might want to know the greatest number of characters you have in a field for specifying data length for a database; or you might be changing systems and preparing information to be imported from Excel into a database, so need to identify fields that will be over the set length for the database before you import the data.

Easy when you know how, isn't it!

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) for you:

  • XLR connectors, Canon's "X" series, Latch and Rubber. An audio connector used by professionals or "prosumers" musicians or others using PA systems: they're generally three pin PA connectors, about half an inch in diameter, which allow "balanced audio" splitting signal from, say, a mic, inverting one of the signals, then reinverting it and recombining the two signals at the other end, almost eliminating electrical hum on long cables.

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys

Over the next few newsletters, we are looking at all the things you can do with Alt, Shift, Ctrl in Windows Media Player. This is our second section in this series:

  • Windows Media Player "Show the anchor window menu" Alt & F6, Alt
  • Windows Media Player "Show the Help menu" Alt & H
  • Windows Media Player "Show album information in the Copy from CD feature" Alt & I
  • Windows Media Player "Cancel copying in the Copy to CD or Device feature" Alt & L
  • Windows Media Player "Search Media Library" Alt & N
  • Windows Media Player "Show the Play menu" Alt & P
  • Windows Media Player "Stop copying in the Copy from CD feature" Alt & S

Hot Linx

While largely focused on families, the Simple Savings site is worth a trawl through for a range of ways to cut costs for business on their tip sheet page. Go to

In September there will be an Australia/New Zealand Small Business Conference held in Palmerston North by the Small Enterprise Association. For details, check out

If you need to create graphics for Powerpoint or for your faceplate on your phone or PDA, check out Debbie Mayo-Smith's You Tube video at about what RedKid can do for you - they are at 

Find out if you are leading your organisation effectively through these challenging economic times by taking the survey at and receive a free overview leadership report (or you can pay for an in-depth analysis).

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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