Lingo Explained : Plain Vanilla

“Plain vanilla is an adjective describing the simplest version of something, without any optional extras, by analogy with vanilla ice cream, the default flavour. Some Financial instruments like put options or call options are often described as plain vanilla options. The opposite of plain vanilla options are exotic options.”


How to write an advice document?

Too often… I notice that people stumble with writing advice. With some basic guidance, this shouldn’t be that hard!


So what should an advice document look like? Let’s start with the high level skeleton of this document ;

Management Summary
Most (upper) management does not have the time / interested to go into details. Do not get annoyed by this, it’s just how it is… Therefor start off your document with a “management summary”! This in fact an Elevator Pitch or the details of the document below. In regards to timing, this is the last chapter you write. Yet do NOT put it at the end as a “Conclusion”, but in front as a “Management Summary”.

Context matters! Really… CONTEXT MATTERS! 😉 Describe the specifics of the environment you are working in. Describe the culture, the principles at hand, the history of things, … anything that matters into shaping your advice.

Current Situation
Do not jump to conclusions! First describe the starting point… Why do you want to advice things? There is nothing wrong with the way we are working now, or is there? Give an indication towards the circumstances and the effect of those aspects.

Ideal Situation
Now describe your “ideal” (given the context!) situation. Provide a thorough insight into the aspects the ideal situation solves and the motivation why you want to change things.

Path to…
Now we know the starting & the targeted goal, so it is time to set the path. In most cases, an immediate jump towards the end goal is not feasible. In that case, describe the intermediate steps that need to be accomplished to reach the goal.

I hope this was helpful and improves the advice documents you write. Anyhow, here is a quick cheat sheet to in case of emergency… 😉

NLP : Avoid “but”

A word to use with caution is the word “but”! Most people are not aware that this word negates everything in front of it… So when you say ;

Good job, but next time…

The result will be that the good part is not remembered. Doing it the way around will then have the opposite effect.


Luckily enough, there are simple ways to avoid this trap. You can use the words “yet”, “however” or “and” as replacements. These words do not have this negative effect, which will result in your message being passee more effectively.

Understanding ; Data, Knowledge, Information & Wisdom

Ever heard of the DIKW pyramid? It stands for the Data / Information / Knowledge / Wisdom pyramid. Sometimes it is also referenced as “DIKW Hierarchy”, “Wisdom Hierarchy”, “Knowledge Hierarchy”, “Information Hierarchy” or “Knowledge Pyramid”.


Although it is uncertain when and by whom those relationships were first presented, the ubiquity of the notion of a hierarchy is embedded in the use of the acronym DIKW as a shorthand representation for the data-to-information-to-knowledge-to-wisdom transformation.


Data is conceived of as symbols or signs, representing stimuli or signals. Information is defined as data that are endowed with meaning and purpose. Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, expert insight and grounded intuition that provides an environment and framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations it often becomes embedded not only in documents and repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices and norms. Wisdom is the ability to increase effectiveness. Wisdom adds value, which requires the mental function that we call judgment. The ethical and aesthetic values that this implies are inherent to the actor and are unique and personal.

Source :

Imagine the string “WifiPassword”. The string alone is data. Understanding that it is a string is information. Knowing it is your wifi password is knowledge. And using is to access your wireless is wisdom.

Accept every offer!

A while back Garr Reynolds posted an article about the “Tips for creative success from Pixar“.

An interesting quote from this article is the following statement :

Accept every offer. Don’t judge it, you’ll stop it. It becomes a dead end if you judge it, but unlimited possibilities if you go with it.

To be honest, when being a junior engineer, you accept a lot more tasks without judging it. It’s a zen saying that one must approach things with the child’s mind. So approach it without judgement. Creativity & openness is something we have to maintain, as it’s something we loss over the year due to our prejudices & the context we’re accustomed too.

Startup Lessons from Hubspot

Source : Startup Culture Lessons From Mad Men

Interesting post, yet some things don’t work out in environments which require attendance (conform low attendance helpdesk) :

Vacation Policy = No Policy : Nice one, where I would only add one exception “until minimum attendance is reached.

“We don’t care which 80 hours you work” : Agree completely! An happy employee will work more. A time registration system will only do the opposite of which should be the objective of the system.

Extreme Transparency : This gets rid of all the rumour flows and so on which paralyse the performance of any organization.

Seat rotation : Sounds like a cool concept. In (even not so) big coorporations, one may find that (s)he only knows their “cubicle”.

HubSpot Fellows : A coaching concept which is needed in ALL companies. Don’t hire people, push them in the pool and say it’s a good guy/girl if (s)he doesn’t drown.

All other points : … focus on the social side of the human being. Where creativity is needed (and trust me, you need it to let your company grow!), you need a social environment where people feel comfortable, appreciated/respected & nourished.

The teachings of Budo in Business

Source of inspiration : Wisdom from the principles of Budō: Lessons for work & life

The article from Garr states that the teachings of Budo are based upon the following pillars :

  • The Three Prohibitions
    • (1) To give up
    • (2) To misbehave
    • (3) To be clumsy
  • The Three Joys
    • (1) Vicissitude (change)
    • (2) Honesty
    • (3) Skillfulness
  • The Three Evils
    • (1) Fear
    • (2) Doubt
    • (3) Confusion

When going through this list, one can see that these points are also valuable for any business.

Outsourcing IT? Some wisdoms to preserve the long term.

Listening to the sales talk
Sales persons in regards to IT software always say it’s easy to install & use. Yet from experience we know that this is correct if it’s done without straying from the path they had in mind. This being a “default default default” installlation without attempting to do anything “custom”. I use the term “custom” here very lightly, as mostly deviating from using a superuser will turn the application useless. Yet sadly enough, such a default installation is something that never occurs, unless you want to accept the given application as an “island” within your IT environment.

Integration & Maintenance are key!
The biggest downfalls of software is situated within Integration and on maintenance. If the integration part isn’t advertised during the sales round, then you can probably forget about that. To be clear; integration meaning when you want to use the data from a given application into another.

Good maintenance is a bulletproof installation which will last for ages! To be honest, I have yet to see an external party who thinks about the long term and therefor set up a system that’s rock solid and won’t budge even if an earthquake occurred. Most vendors think merely in regards to sales, where an unstable application provides them with billable hours (“consultancy” or support services).

Simply Put
As every management book tells you, think about our TCO. What’s that first character stand for? TOTAL… being the costs you’ll accumulate over the years. Looking short term will give your a big increase on maintenance which should not be treaded lightly. F*cked up installations are dreadfull to manage and will (Note: WILL, not might) give you disruptions in your availability. How much is such a downtime worth to you?

Business modelling in lesser times…

A lot of business models are known:

  • Brokerage
  • Advertising
  • Infomediary
  • Merchant
  • Manufacturer (Direct)
  • Affiliate
  • Community
  • Subscription
  • Utility

Yet you still have to get to the point where you can say… this is it! That’s where Alexander Osterwalder has created a good method to define your business model.

Slideshare Slideset

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