Bridegroom Technologies, Inc.

The Web/Blog Site for Bridegroom Technologies, Offering Collaborative Computing and Training Solutions

"Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid.

Humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant.

Together they are powerful beyond imagination."

- Albert Einstein


You've found the web home (and blog) for Bridegroom Technologies - a place for me to publish code snippets, provide useful links to other resources (because there are a lot of smart people out there), voice technical opinions (as misguided as they may be) and just generally pass along useful stuff.

If you're interested in reading more about my code solutions, utility applications or "improved" templates, be sure to check the Posts By Category to the right.

My five most recent blog entries are shown below - if you're looking for something else, you can always search the database, view the archives, view posts by category or use the tag list to find postings based on a keyword.

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Book Review: Brain Rules

Sam Bridegroom   |  Saturday, March 1st, 2014 10:31:36 PM

Image:Book Review: Brain Rules Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina

Format I Used:
 Physical Book and Audible (strongly recommend Audible on this one)

This is a great follow-up book to Quiet, in that it goes into a lot of the science (from a very scientific angle) behind many of the studies cited by Susan Cain in Quiet. The author is a molecular biologist, who's spent a great deal of his career studying brain science. Reading the book was difficult - made me a little sleepy, because it's steeped in a lot of scientific terminology. Listening to the book, however, was quite entertaining and engaging. It's read by the author (which I almost always prefer), and his enthusiasm can be heard as he reads.

John Medina's approach to laying out 12 basic rules on how brains function is really interesting. To me, the fact he can boil it down to just 12 rules is pretty amazing, but his approach to these rules (with a lot of science behind each of them) is quite fascinating. The rules themselves are things most of us already know:
1.        Exercise boosts brain power.
2.        The human brain evolved, too.
3.        Every brain is wired differently.
4.        We don't pay attention to boring things.
5.        Repeat to Remember
6.        Remember to repeat.
7.        Sleep well, think well.
8.        Stressed brains don't learn the same way.
9.        Stimulate more of the senses.
10.        Vision trumps all other senses.
11.        Male and female brains are different.
12.        We are powerful and natural explorers.

Pretty straightforward, right? It's ok to read them and say "yeah, I can see that." It's the "why" these are listed as rules that's so interesting. Many of us already know that exercise keeps the brain working right, by releasing endorphins and other chemical "goodness" that keeps the mind working right. The same can be said for managing stress and getting sleep.

The other rules however offer subtle but great impact in to how we think, how we learn and how we teach. As I was listening rule #4, there's a lot of application to those of us who have to teach or present information. Rules 11 and 12 challenge long held ideas on how the classroom of today should be structured. The Stress Rule (#8) talks about the impact of stress as we working folk know it - but stress in the home or one's personal life can have crippling consequences on a person's performance. Rules 5 and 6 have some distinct benefits to fighting off things like Alzheimer's and dementia - not to mention just keeping us generally more mentally sharp.

The rules are a great reminder that our brain is another part of the body that needs proper care and feeding. Getting on the treadmill has a lot of redeeming cardio qualities, but it also has some redeeming neurologic qualities as well. And if we don't do the things we need to do to keep our minds right and develop younger minds the right way, the outcomes are negatively impacted.

If you're a teacher, a presenter, a manager or just wanting to understand a little better the science behind how human brains might work, it's well worth the read.

There's a second edition of this book coming in April - I'm looking forward to seeing what the differences are, because I'd listen to it again.

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Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Sam Bridegroom   |  Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 11:34:27 AM

Image:Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Format I Used:
Short Version Review:
 There are an amazing number of parallels in this book to many of the places I've either worked or contracted. It's a quick read and listen (only 3:45), but it points out ways to remove what makes teams not function properly.

Building teams is an art and not a science, but there are some hallmark components of successful teams. We've all seen those buzzwords: collaboration, communication, yada, yada, yada. What this book does is point out five key elements that break down the team dynamic:
  • Lack of Trust
  • Fear of Conflict
  • Lack of Commitment
  • Avoidance of Accountability
  • Inattention to Results

Even though this book was released in 2002, it's really interesting how the concepts it addresses exist in so many organizations. It's also interesting to note (through the telling of the tale in the book) just how important effective team composition and operation is to the success of organizations. The presentation of these elements is done by telling a story - a very realistic portrayal of a fictional company. The CEO and had been removed, and the Chairman had someone in mind to run to fill the job. This incoming CEO didn't have much in the way of industry experience, but she had a track record of building effective teams. It's clear to the new CEO that there are some serious teamwork issues - and by addressing them, the company would stand a better shot at success over the long haul.

The "long haul" is an important concept - because sometimes what's right for the long haul may mean some discomfort and periodic rough patches along the way:
  • Sometimes we have to say "no" to things, because they distract from the team's ability to function effectively.
  • Conflict is not always bad, if managed appropriately. We can agree to disagree - but the exchange of conflicting ideas is critical to overall team growth and meeting collective objectives.
  • Everyone has an opportunity to choose to be part of and contribute to a team. For those that do choose to be a team person, there's a certain amount of "drinking the Kool-Aid" that needs to happen in the way of upholding common goals and direction. That's where the strength of great teams really shines.
  • If someone feels very strongly that they are no longer a fit (given a clear direction by the team leader), we shouldn't stand in their way should they choose to explore other opportunities.
  • Sometimes it's necessary to exercise "addition by subtraction" - a disruptive team member who fights at every opportunity and refuses to consider the greater good is not a team member, but rather a constant barrier to success. I have been on both sides of this situation, both voluntarily and involuntarily, and can tell you this is an important concept.

I know, this seems like a dark tale, when in fact it really isn't. What this story/book does do is show very clearly the destructive forces that inhibit team building. Once the team is built and running on all cylinders, there's a lot more effort spent on how to keep it running that way, emphasizing the positive aspects of the team and what makes it tick.

I've had the good fortune in my career of working on the kind of team of which dream situations are made. I was doubly fortunate that it was the first team to which I was ever assigned. When I look back at it, none of the five dysfunctions listed above were ever a part of the environment. It was wonderful. Now, was it hard to get used to the idea of conflict so early in my career? Absolutely - but I learned how critical it was to participate, to listen and to be heard, because only then could the best decisions me made to meet team objectives.

This should be on the shelf of any manager-type person. I can just about guarantee there will be something that feels and sounds awfully familiar to a situation an individual might be navigating.

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The New Gig - Six Weeks In

Sam Bridegroom   |  Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 09:45:00 PM

It's been six weeks since I made my re-entry into the world of having a "real job", and what an interesting six weeks it has been. A lot of people have asked me how it's going, and it's gone pretty well. But it's certainly been a little different than I'd expected, for a variety of reasons. So here's my six-week eval.

Working for "The Man" (as it were):

It's been 15 years since my last New Employee Orientation program, and it's amazing how little it's changed in those 15 years. A day of tours, filling out papers, computer training (ha), and more papers. A second day of it the following week, providing more meaningful information about the hospital (which was interesting and useful). Even though I've been there as a contractor for nearly 10 years, there's a lot about the place that I don't know. I had also completely forgotten how many meetings can be called in a day/week - too many. That too has not changed much since my last corporate gig, but I'm going to do my best to try to improve that, at least for myself.

The Commute:

This has been one of the tougher adjustments I've had to make. I now start my day about 5AM, to be on the road shortly after 6 to beat the lunacy that is the normal AM commute. The plan is that it gets me out in front of the evening commute as well, but it hasn't worked out that way so far (but I am working on it). I've had plenty to do, so it's kept me at my desk/computer a little later into the afternoon. Throw on top of it the crappy weather we've had here in Central Indiana this year, and the commute has been a real treat. So far, the record is 3 1/2 hours to get home one evening, since apparently the City of Indianapolis is allergic to plowing snow. I realize that this has not been a typical winter for these parts (it's been a lot more like the winters I grew with in NW Indiana), so I keep reminding myself of that.

The topic of remote work comes up often. I think that's very possible at some point in the future, but not right now. There's a lot I need to get my arms around right now, and the best way for me to do that is in person. Once I can get a few routines established (and get on the right agendas/meeting schedules), it will probably be more feasible. It's not like I don't know how to work remotely, I've done it for them for almost 10 years and it worked out pretty well. In the mean time, I'll keep working on better sleep habits as my body adjusts to the earlier starts. The upside to it is that sleeping in on the weekend means 7AM - leaving plenty of time to get things done before the rest of the world is moving.

My New Role:

As I mentioned in my announcement post, my role has changed from being primarily an application development resource to being a management an project resource. I thought at the time that it's a transition I can make, and it still is; I do think it's going to be a little tougher and take a little more work on my part than I'd anticipated. I'm dusting off many of the management skills I developed in previous lives, and it's taking some time and effort to sharpen them again.

While I don't have any direct staff responsibilities, I kind of do when it comes to managing projects and the people working on them. I've had a few opportunities to inject myself into efforts that needed some nudging, and so far I've been able move the needle in a positive way. Unfortunately getting involved in these efforts is taking more time than I'd anticipated, cutting into other deadlines. My view now is much broader, looking at the overall impacts to the organization versus just how my projects are affected. I think I'm working on the right things, and nobody (so far) has told me anything to the contrary. But what I am doing is making new personal efforts (beginning this week) to do a much better job of managing my time. Again, dusting off things I've done pretty well in the past, I just need to exercise those muscles again.

On doing development work (or not):

This will be a hard change for me. Right now, I think I'll still have some development responsibilities, which is fine with me. Going forward, though, I see that diminishing. In a lot of ways, that saddens me because I like to think I'm relatively good at it, but I also know that not doing it regularly will make it that much harder to keep up with the changes needed to be really good in the field. I think I'm at that crossroads in my career where I need to decide what it is I'm going to do: write code & build application solutions, or help architect the solutions and build people. I think the latter offers more benefit value to the larger picture, so it's probably something I'm going to have to cede. I'll look for those opportunities where I can still "play" and maybe even contribute, but my guess is that my colleagues (looking at you, Abby and Laura) will at some point be telling me to step away from the keyboard for the safety of myself and others.

So, Was It The Right Move?

It's only six weeks in, but yes, I still think making the change was the right decision for everyone involved. Sure, there are some thing about it that aren't exactly ideal; show me a job that doesn't have that. The good news is that the less than ideal parts of it show potential for change in a positive way, so I'm willing to work toward that. I also feel like my contributions are making a difference, and I genuinely enjoy the people with whom I work. Those two things can trump what's not so great right now, as we work toward doing a few things a little differently to make things better for everyone there. It's fun and challenging to have a hand in that, something that would have been pretty difficult to do without making the change.

So here's to six more weeks of moving in a positive direction - certainly a more encouraging forecast than that rodent in Punxatawney PA gave us. If I have another 3 1/2 hour ride home, I might just drive straight to PA and declare it Groundhog Season.

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