Thought Leadership

And you are?

By Colin Walls

I have always been forgetful, but, as I get older, I am sure it is getting worse. I read somewhere that our brains’ ability to forget is part of our secret of success. We constantly receive a stream of information through all our senses. If we remembered absolutely everything, we would simply drown in information. Our skill is the knack of only remembering [or, at least, only recalling] the key information that we need.

So, I guess that my forgetfulness is an indication that I have a highly evolved brain. I have also realized that it helps with my overall health by encouraging me to take more exercise. My house is on three levels and my home office is at the top. So, I may go down to the kitchen for coffee. Forget what I went down for and return. Remember and go down again. Take up coffee. Remember to go fetch the mail. Down again … and so on. All those stairs is like having my own gym.

I have noticed that the fact that people forget has had an interesting effect upon our culture …

One of the most irritating things about being absent minded is that, when I get introduced to someone, their name goes in one ear and out the other. I am constantly amazed by people who can remember names – particularly when they address me by name. I once met a teacher who could stand in front of a class, get each pupil to tell her their name and then accurately use their names accurately from then on. When I used to do some teaching, I was a big advocate of place name cards.

I like name badges. At some companies [notably HP], there seems to be a strong badge-wearing culture, which I feel is good for all concerned. At my camera club, everyone has badges and I think that, even in such a social context, they serve a useful purpose. I have two further thoughts about badges. Firstly, I wish someone could invent a hang-around-the-neck conference badge that does not have a tendency to turn around and hide the wearer’s name. Also, beware the person who wears their badge upside down – they cannot remember their own name.

I have observed that the cultures of two particular countries acknowledge the difficulties with remembering names:

In Japan [and, I believe, other countries in the Far East], if you are given a business card, it is considered impolite to just pocket it. You are expected to study it carefully to ensure you understand who the person is and, I assume, have a shot at internalizing their name.

In Sweden [and, again, I think this extends further to other Nordic countries], a person will always repeat their own name when they are introduced. So, an introduction might be: “May I introduce Fred” and Fred will shake hands with you and, as he does so, he will look you in the eye and say simply: “Fred”. Smart eh?


0 thoughts about “And you are?
  • Wanted to ask a question about control software. Google presents me with way too many options. Back in the 70’s I was in high school. Traveling multi-media shows made use of three large projection screens, six slide projectors (two pointed at each screen), a 16mm movie projector and a complex controller to handle the slide advancing, dimming of projectors and stop/starting of the movie. I would like to do the same thing using three PCs, each running their own Powerpoint show. I want a fourth PC to send a control signal to each PC (via USB, COM port, network card, or?) so that I might control the timing for a show. Perhaps launch a media player too for a video clip? I am not sure how to start on this project. I know kiosk programs exist, but they are proprietary and very expensive. I am a tinkerer and would love to cook up something. Have you ever ran across an interface that might do this? Something that I can control, possibly with XML commands? Any direction or advice would be greatly appreciated. Lynn Kim

  • Lynn:

    I am sorry, but this is rather outside of my area of expertise. However, I am sure that the solution you seek is out there. What I have seen are numerous examples of PowerPoint being controlled remotely from handheld devices [or, I think, other PCs]. It would only be a small step for such remote control to be extended to handle multiple instances of PowerPoint and be automated. [IMHO]

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at