Family, Inc.

Make technology work for you – instead of letting technology simply make more work!

Family, Inc…  Family, Inc.  What’s that?

No, Family, Inc. isn’t the latest family focused start-up aimed at toppling Disney or Pixar.  It’s also not the pre-quel or sequel for Monsters, Inc. Family, Inc. is one of the latest trends in parenting.

If you’re like me, it’s actually hard to keep up with all of them.  The trends mash with the descriptors:  helicopter parents, mindful parenting. We’re told only tummy sleeping for safety, then no tummy sleeping for safety…swaddling for comfort…No, just kidding, no swaddling……NO SWADDLING?? WHAT???  How do I keep up?  How do I make sure my house is one of harmony, health, and happy memories for all?  It seems like the age of technology has given us so much information and so many trends that we don’t know where to turn.  So, why should I try to understand one more trend?  What is this Family, Inc.?

In a nutshell, Family, Inc. is the trend towards using work tools to manage your family.  The basic premise is that corporations have spent decades of research improving and perfecting group dynamics for optimal output.  Why shouldn’t we, as parents and families, reap the benefits of the findings, methodologies and tools to improve our family’s daily chaos?  There’s a lot of chatter on this topic. This Wall Street Journal article offers a great summary and describes it in these terms: “A new generation of parents is taking solutions from the workplace and transferring them to the home. From accountability checklists to branding sessions, the result is a bold new blueprint for happy families.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323452204578288192043905634.html

A summary so that you don’t have more to read:

Family Inc. = Using the best of the business world to help manage family life (mission statements, team meetings, accountability checklists, tools, etc.).

I have to admit, as a working mom, I like the idea of utilizing what I know works in managing teams.  After all, my family is a team, right?   And a blueprint for a happy family sounds like a huge win.  This said, the last thing I want to use when I’m at home are cold, corporate tools that are often difficult to decipher and quite frankly, painful to use.

Then I read the entire article (and a few more) and told my inner skeptic to park it.  There were really good ideas there.  After all, I want harmony, health, and happiness, right?

It hit me then.  It was time to make technology work for us instead of letting technology simply make more work.  It was time to utilize the “skills” I’d practiced in the workforce to lay the harmonious foundation I so desired for my family.  The next big question was: Where. To. Start.  Yikes.

Family branding, empowerment, etc. sounded fantastic on paper, but how and where were we going to stay aligned on the basic day to day family functions?  Honestly, I couldn’t even dream of branding my family team before I solved some of the coordination stress.  What we needed before the full incorporation of the family was the startup phase…a simple dabbling in staying on the same page and reconnecting.  Was there something simple I could break off first for my very busy family?

Identifying primary causes of family dysfunction and stress resulted in three main buckets for us:

1)      Internal family coordination (who’s running carpool, what’s for dinner, etc.)

2)      External coordination (all those organizations and people that help us raise our kiddos…boy, do they generate a lot of ‘stuff’ for us to deal with)

3)      Capturing and sharing the joy that is our family (oh the stress of being the family historian and realizing a year has passed without organizing ANY precious mementos or memories…I actually feel the stress rising as I admit that).

Given that these were/are our three main areas of chaos, it seemed like it would be simple enough (yeah, right) to pick one and get moving.

First step:  Internal family coordination = Mom and Dad on the same page.  No more schedule mishaps + clearer check-ins BEFORE 9 PM when the kids were finally down for the night…a pulse throughout the day as needed to maintain the family conversation.  Why wait until we’re past the point of weary to share the anecdotes of the day and the things that made us giggle?  Why not share them as they happen, and allow each other to participate in the conversation and moment when we can?

Yes, a lofty goal.  One that used to be forever out of reach and take multiple applications and devices, one that used to result in lost e-mails, forgotten texts, buried photos in a smartphone, dates scattered between paper calendars and multiple online calendar apps, a goal that used to go unrealized.  To truly move forward, it was critical for us to have a tool that could combine all our needs (sharing, remembering, and coordination) in one place that we could utilize either on our laptops or mobiles.

I’m happy to say that we’ve progressed; we’re not perfect, but it’s much better.  We’re now working on sharing those snippets and thoughts that happen throughout the day in addition to sharing a private calendar that either of us can update wherever we are.  We share fun and important moments and photos as they happen, not only with each other, but with our extended families too.  Even more, we’re sharing and scheduling in the context of each of our children so that we can quickly identify what’s happening in each of their lives.  Our conversations are no longer lost in e-mails or split between different accounts or handled in tired voices when the house is finally winding down.  Conversations happen throughout the day as the memories or thoughts occur and are there when we want to look back at them.  All the information we need to realize our step one goal of Mom and Dad on the same page is right there.  We’re aligned (mostly…we are still human!) on expectations and reactions and able to laugh at more of the funny moments family life inevitably delivers.

This is what technology working for me looks like.  I like it.

Chime in with what’s working for you and stay tuned for what step two in the Family, Inc. journey will bring….

LivingTree Announces Rapid Adoption of Communications Platform by Schools Nationwide

Over 300 Schools Sign Up With LivingTree to Help Deepen Parent Engagement

AUSTIN, TX, July 8, 2013 – LivingTree today announced that in the first six weeks since the launch of the service, it has seen more than 300 schools in 37 states make the decision to improve communications between the administration, teachers and parents by adopting the free LivingTree service.

Five decades of research confirms that involvement of families in education improves schools, academic outcomes, and graduation rates. To help deepen parent engagement, LivingTree has launched a cutting-edge web and mobile-based communication platform that provides schools, teachers and parents with a private and efficient means for sharing important information, rich media, documents,  private direct messaging, shared calendars, and integrated volunteer sign-ups. The LivingTree service is available at www.livingtree.com and supports mobile access to all functions through intuitive iPhone and Android applications.

“We are beyond excited to see such rapid adoption of our LivingTree service by schools across the country,” said Cullen Childress, CEO & Co-Founder of LivingTree. “Over 300 administrators are committing to take collaboration and coordination between the classroom and parents to the next level and increase parent engagement.”

Some of the benefits of LivingTree include:

  • Improves communication:  School administrators, teachers and parents can conduct two-way conversations, post information/media, comment, and share documents.
  • Encourages engagement:  Provides complete transparency into the classroom through ongoing and swift updates, and photos/media enable deeper awareness and partnering in the education process.
  • Enhances coordination:  Parents’ calendars can be updated at the school or class level.  Volunteer needs and sign-up can be easily coordinated – straight from the web, iPhone, or Android applications.

“Using the LivingTree platform, our school was able to build a much tighter community and meaningful engagement with our families. It has truly changed our level of transparency with parents and how we converse, share, and coordinate in the context of educating our children,” said Eden A. Jones, Principal at Briargrove Elementary in Houston, TX.

“LivingTree provides a private, easy to use channel to open up my classroom to the families of the children I teach,” said Shirin Farahani, teacher at Briargrove Elementary. “I can easily share the daily learnings, activities, and sign up needs, allowing the development of the kids to continue well beyond my classroom.”

Schools, teachers and organizations can sign up and find more information on www.livingtree.com/schools.

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