Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


A New Era Is Beginning

You may have noticed that things have been quiet here for quite a while. For a variety of reasons, I haven’t been writing much bu, lately, I’ve been wanting to get back in the swing of things and start writing and sharing again.

As I got back into it, I found that this blog (which has been migrated across a few different platforms over the years) was a bit cluttered and features a lot of topics that are different than what I want to write about in the “new era” of my life.

I’m “closing” the Genuine Curiosity site

I’ve decided to stop blogging here and “close” this version of the blog. I plan to leave the historical content here as a sort of archive, and it will be searchable in case you find anything useful here you want to reference or revisit.

I’m starting the “Never Work Alone” site

I’ve just started the “Never Work Alone” blog to start writing again. I hope you visit it, enjoy it, and provide feedback on what you’d like to see there. The main focus on Never Work Alone (NWA) will be sharing information and lessons learned that I’ve “curated” over the years.

Thank you for all of you who’ve been with me on this part of the journey (almost 15 years!) and I look forward to sharing the next part of the journey with you!

Incidentally, once upon a time, Never Work Alone was a blog that me, Bren Connelly, and Skip Angel experimented with for a while. We all drifted away from it and it eventually disappeared, but I hung on to the domain name. The idea - that we can all share, that we can learn from each other, and that life is better lived as a team sport - has stuck with me all these years. Thanks, Bren and Skip - hopefully you don’t mind that I’m reincarnating NWA in this new way.

Revamp Your Home Office to Improve Productivity [Updated]

[Updated 24 January 2018 to add "Find Top-Rated Gear" section]

Working from home may seem ideal for some, while others consider it an anti-social nightmare. Regardless of how you feel about your new work-from-home situation, there are undoubtedly some pros and cons. Sure, you now have time to throw in a load of laundry while "at work," and you're definitely saving money on gas. But there are also a lot of distractions that come with your new work environment, from barking dogs, to the lure of the television.

A simple room revamp may be the answer.

A New Look

You may already have an old desk that still has all of its legs, and hey, maybe that lamp from college will come back in style someday. However, you're an adult with a home office of your own—why not spruce it up a little? Buy a new desk, office chair, and a lamp. These purchases may seem minor, but they can do a lot to create the energy you're going for in your office.

Decide on a look for your new home office that differs from the look in your home, and one that inspires productivity. From there, browse the standards, like Ikea and West Elm, to find the perfect furniture to inspire your new work space. When selecting your office chair, remember that comfort matters.

A New Sound

It can be tempting while working from home to turn on the TV, keep your cell phone in arm's reach, or even go for a quick run with the dogs. Because distractions will be inevitable, make sure the time you dedicate to working is maximized. Consider accessorizing your office space with an air purifier, which will pull double duty by cleaning the air around your office and producing white noise that cancels out distractions.

While you're at it, consider purchasing a new door for your home office that helps block additional distracting noises. Noise-reducing door systemscome in all shapes and sizes, and can be a great aesthetic element to add to your space.

A New Organization Method

If you worked in an office, your personal space would be fully accessorized with the tools, organization, and inspiration necessary to make you feeling inspired and comfortable. Why would you settle for anything less at home? Make sure your home office has a large desktop, rather than a laptop to give you more screen space to get work done. From there, invest in a file cabinet, a cable turtle to hide unsightly wires, a keyboard organizer, and book shelves.

These all help to create that ambiance of work, not relaxation time, and are sure to keep you focused. Don't forget a large clock on the wall, so you'll know when the workday is done!

A New View

The last step in completing your new home office is to change out those windows. Opt for new windows like those available at Champion Home Exteriors, which offer additional benefits such as energy-efficiency and a modern, sleek look. Installment is guaranteed and better yet, the new windows will make your home office feel completely different than every other room in your house—giving you a new view and plenty of natural light, with which you can align with work, rather than play.

Find Top-Rated Gear

If you're looking to add or upgrade the gadgets in your office, there are a lot of "best of" lists online. I recently discovered one called "Top9Rated" that covers a lot of categories of gadgets and gear. Not only do they provide ratings, they also have some buyers guides which may inspire some great upgrades. For example, here is their informative guide for selecting an ergonomic office chair. Check it out!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Will Smarter Cars Make Us Safer Drivers?

I don't have a self-driving car or anything, but I like to follow what's happening as the technology evolves. Obviously, it's intriguing to think of a future where you sit in a car and do whatever you want to while the car takes you safely to your destination. I often wonder how long it will take to get to that kind of future, and how long it will take to transition from our current road system.


Things are definitely starting to move forward, if not to fully autonomous vehicles, at least on the path to much "smarter" cars. The long-anticipated Tesla Model 3 is finally in full production and its first customers are taking delivery. The Model 3 is the first electric vehicle to combine style and affordability—they start at $35,000—but they seem to offer much more than just an eco-friendly ride.

Autopilot—the same tech we've heard about inside the pricier Model S and Model X—will let the Model 3 cruise down the highway with no hands on the wheel and, soon, even drive itself completely from A to B. That is exciting for the future of cars but there is also a lot of uncertainty. A small fraction of the cars on the road have these self-driving capabilities so there is as much risk from other drivers as anything else. That said, America's youth will grow up with more automated features and less hands-on experience than I did. For example, how many teenagers do you see today driving a manual transmission? One of my daughters does, but most of her friends don't even know how.

I believe there will be growing pains regarding the future of self-driving and driving-assisted cars, but it's coming all the same. Here are some ways it could impact the safety and skills of tomorrow's drivers:

Driver's Education

It's not crazy to think that a baby born today may not have to learn to drive a car in 16 years. In fact, why wait until you're 16 to drive when a car is fully automated? Of course, that's assuming there are no manually-driving cars on the road -- a mixture of autonomous and manual vehicles could be problematic during the transition.

We could see a future where young drivers look up certain rules or know-how on an app or driving how-to guide like it's Wikipedia. Even if they have a driver's license or complete a driver's ed course, the actual driving could be so far and few between that such a guide is always on-hand in the rare event of manually operating a vehicle. I could also imagine a car that would talk to the driver and guide them through procedures, such as getting on a ferry or dealing with unusual situations.

Rural vs Urban Driving

Cities will adopt self-driving cars just fine, but what about the old pickup truck and the dirt roads? We may see a culture/class separation between the automatic and manual cars during this transition period, with younger people sitting back in urban areas and older people driving out in the country. How will the law handle that? Most likely, rural drivers will have a special license to drive outside the city limits, but the urban roads could go self-driving-only sooner than we think.

I can imagine that the future may bring us certain models of cars that are intended for offroad and special uses. I can't see an all-electric car with limited range being the best choice for rural or "off the grid" use, so we may see hybrid vehicles or alternative fuel sources, such as fusion reactors at some point in the future.

Insurance Premiums

Self-driving cars are designed to reduce accidents and make driving safer, so what does that mean for the people who still choose to drive even when self-driving cars are readily available? A world of self-driving cars will surely disrupt the insurance industry, but what will those premiums look like for those who want their hands on the wheel? Likely two things—they'll pay more, but they'll also be overall better drivers since only enthusiasts will want the extra cost for the added freedom. I imagine that manual driving will be prohibited on high-volume roads like the US's interstate highways.

Semi-Auto Driving

Let's step back into the present—many cars on the road may not be self-driving but they do have assisted driving features. This includes lane assist, smart cruise control, early brake detection, and more. They're supposed to keep us safe, but do they make us safer drivers? Some argue they make us lazy behind the wheel while others say it reduces collisions, so what does it matter? One thing that's certain, however, is that this technology isn't going anywhere and it's up to us as drivers to stay alert until true self-driving is here.

What do you think? Future or fantasy?

4 Strategies for Boosting Collaborative Creativity

Businesses, industries and the people who run them are changing quickly and frequently. With so much disruptive technology and ideas, you need to be at the top of your game to keep your doors open, let alone make your way to the top. The new business model requires you to be creative, break the rules and move away from the norms. So how can you make your team think more creatively?


Recruit Good People - And Make Sure They're Compatible

Nothing can replace a great team. Bring in people from different backgrounds and different experiences so they can challenge and complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. No matter what you're brainstorming in your business, whether it's how to make your operations more efficient or an idea for your next blog post, bring in people from different departments to get a variety of perspectives. Make sure your team is open to thinking outside the box and is willing to be vulnerable and open with their ideas. A solid business starts with hiring the best people, so be sure to use them.

Looking to hire "the best" people? That's great, but be careful. I'll take a curious, eager person who's great in a team over a "super star" in most situations, so the "best" candidate isn't always best based on skills alone. Many companies are using personality testing (like Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and others) to get a feel for how people work and compare that to the team members already in place. This can be a great way to help balance out the team and prevent style and "fit" collisions before hiring.

Use Technology

To be able to hire the best people, you can't have restraints on location. With today's technology you can hire people in different cities, states and even countries. Use a tool like a virtual office desktop to have phone calls, video calls and messaging with all of the people in your company, whether they're in a conference room or across the world.

You also may want to use technology to boost creativity in your brainstorm sessions. Let people surf the web, social media and your competitors for ideas. Conduct online research to see if other people have already found a solution to the problem you're trying to solve. The internet gives you the world at your fingertips, so why not use it?

Make It A Game

There's nothing like a little competition to get the creative juices flowing. Think back to when you were a kid and what helped you come up with your craziest ideas. It probably wasn't sitting at a desk, right? Give your employees a sheet of paper or sticky notes and a pen and give them two minutes to come up with all the ideas they can to solve your problem. Don't limit them to good ideas and bad ideas, just whatever comes to mind as fast as they can write it down. Come back together after the two minutes and go through everyone's proposals and expand on them. Whoever comes up with the winning idea should get a gift card or an extra long lunch.

You also can play word association games, make your problem into a puzzle, create a scavenger hunt or any other number of games to get your employees to think creatively.

Let Ideas Sit A Bit

Even though deadlines can help your team make final decisions, sometimes they need the time and space to ponder out the big ideas. You never know when inspiration is going to strike (how many ideas have you had on your commute to work or in the shower?). Tell your team about the problem, and then let them think about it for a couple days. They can do some outside research, talk together or think separately. Then, have everyone come together to discuss their solutions. Encourage others to add onto their co-workers ideas in any way until you have a solution that works for everyone.

You don't have to do anything crazy to inspire creativity in your team. Give people the room and encouragement they need, and you'll be delighted with the results.

4 Reasons Why You Need to Be More Safety-Conscious

Are you safe? Unfortunately, many Americans aren’t as safe as they think. In 2014, 136,000 Americans died accidentally, according to the American Safety Council. Accidental overdoses have overtaken car crashes as the No. 1 killer of Americans, and deaths from falls are up 63 percent over the last decade due to an aging population. Meanwhile, one in 36 U.S. homes will be burglarized this year, according to FBI data. And a record 15.4 million U.S. consumers became victims of identity theft last year, a Javelin Strategy & Research report found.

Safety risks lurk everywhere. Fortunately, taking proactive steps can mitigate the most common safety threats. Here are reasons why you should be more safety-conscious, along with some tips to help you stay safe:

Reasons to Be Safety-Conscious

The first reason to be more safety-conscious is to protect your health. Many American have unsafe dietary habits - let's take a look at some numbers:

One in five adults failing to eat vegetables every day, and four in 10 neglect to eat fruit daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Half of U.S. adults don’t get enough aerobic exercise, says the Department of Health and Human Services.

As a result of these and other poor health habits, one in three Americans has at least one cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.


Second, poor health and safety habits also hit you in the pocketbook, which is another reason to adopt safe behaviors. Obese people pay $1,400 more per year for medical care than healthy people, a study published in Health Affairs found. The average hospital cost of a fall injury is $30,000, reported a study published in the Journal of Safety Research. The average cost of being hit by identity theft is $1,343, according to the Department of Justice.

The third reason to be more safety-conscious is insurance. High-risk lifestyles and behaviors can raise your insurance rates, while being more safety-conscious can lower them. For instance, insurers allow companies that have wellness programs the option of offering up to 30 percent discounts as incentives.

A fourth reason to be more safety-conscious is to gain peace of mind. Not only will you feel less stress, but you will be helping your physical and mental health, as well as your financial health. As much as eight percent of healthcare costs stem from stress, according to Harvard Business School professor Joel Goh.

Tips for Staying Safe

Health: Staying safety-conscious starts with following safer health habits. The American Heart Association recommends a healthy diet and exercise as the best prevention against cardiovascular disease. To maintain weight, use up at least as many calories as you take in; to lose weight, use up more calories than you consume. Eat a balanced diet from all the food groups, including fruits and vegetables, avoiding trans and saturated fat, and sweets. Engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity in each week. If you need to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, aim for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity three to four times a week. Schedule regular preventive screenings to intercept potential problems early.

Money: To keep your finances safe, avoid giving out your Social Security number, health care information, and other personal information when it’s not needed, recommends the U.S. government’s identity theft protection page. Pick up your mail promptly, and ask the post office to hold your mail if you’ll be away for a while. Review monthly credit statements and check your credit report once a year to watch for unauthorized activity. Use firewalls, anti-virus software, and secure connections when going online, and only use HTTPS-protected sites for online financial transactions.

Home: To keep your home safe, Allstate recommends you change your locks when moving into a new home, and make sure all doors have deadbolts. Take steps to make your home look occupied when you’re not home, such as leaving a car in the driveway or leaving a loud radio on. Install motion-activated lights and alarms, and consider timers or home automation to give the impression that someone is home. Set up video surveillance cameras to identify intruders. The best surveillance cameras from providers such as Lorex have high-definition resolution with night vision so that you can capture suspect details such as hair and eye color even in low-light conditions. Install fire and smoke alarms, and check the batteries regularly.

These are just some examples of the risks and countermeasures available to you. Sometimes, it helps to think like an auditor and try to look objectively at your habits, surroundings, and so forth - if you always operate out of habit, you can overlook the risks. What about you - do you have any tips to share on this topic?