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Changing the innovation culture

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Innovation is one of those buzz words that executives and companies are touting. Of course we all want to create new products and enhance value of existing products. How do you do that though? The first step in being successful in this arena is creating a culture that is geared towards innovation and new products.

Changing culture unfortunately is one of the most difficult things to do as a business though. It starts from talking-the-talk and walking-the-walk by empowering leaders and managers with the processes and resources to help drive your culture and encouraging them when they do. Innovative corporate cultures first ensure that a solid new product development process is in place. Then these companies will encourage employees to take balanced risks. Put in place tools to help identify and measure markets and new products. There are many other steps to reflecting the cultural shift but the key is making that cultural shift.

Some things leaders can do to help change culture include:

  • Senior leadership recognition: Each time senior leaders speak to employees they ensure consistent messages towards innovation and new product development culture. Include celebrations of balanced risks taken whether successful or not. Reward and highlight risk taking that ends in failure.
  • Cross-department and cross-functional teams: Establish cross-department and cross-functional innovation committees towards new product development. Periodically move people in and out of these committees to ensure that ideas remain fresh.
  • Ideation platforms: Implement idea catching and voting platforms like Brightidea or Spigit and establish framework to ensure utilization. Reward employees and customers for participating in bringing ideas forward to these platforms whether it is intrinsic or extrinsic rewards. Highlight people’s contributions here and emphasize the importance of participation.
  • Innovation centers: Have an innovation center that focuses on driving innovation and an innovative culture. Ensure that your top talent is involved in these innovation centers. Cycle people in through these innovation centers to ensure ideas don’t get stagnant.
  • In-house disruptive innovation businesses: For larger organizations, establishing self-contained business units geared towards disruptive innovation where metrics and rewards are measured differently. Read The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen to learn more about disruptive innovation. Establishing these disruptive innovation business units is a true measure of innovative companies.

Changing culture in organizations is something that needs to occur from top down but important visible and tangible things need to occur to change the culture. These changes do not occur overnight and the items above are just a few of the ideas that can help towards the cultural shift. Good luck in your cultural shift – it will be the hardest part but rewards are priceless.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Do you fear public speaking more than death?

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Public speaking comes natural to a few but for the rest of us it is something we reluctantly do or simply avoid. I am writing this since it is very timely in my life as I recently finished two public speaking engagements.

Over the years I have done many of these in different settings and while I still get nervous prior to starting I feel good every time when I am finished. Further, getting up and putting yourself in front of others and speaking about something you are knowledgeable about will help build your brand and at the same time add value for others.

Here are a few tips to make your next public speaking engagement more successful:

  • Prepare: Few people can just wing it when speaking in front of people. Unless you are very confident this is you or want to experience what the worst-case scenario is like then I strongly advise you to prepare. This does not mean memorizing every line – in fact, memorizing lines comes off poorly and is robotic. Come up with an outline at first and then prepare slides or props or whatever you will use and then practice. For every public speaking engagement I recommend that you go through it at least three times. Further, these three times should be spread out over at least two days.
  • Engage your audience: Really good public speakers engage their audience. This means good eye contact and being conversational with the audience. Speaking in an engaging voice and using emotion in your voice while speaking at a comfortable pace. Further, avoid using big words and acronyms or you will likely lose your audience.
  • Less is more: Often times when doing public speaking you will have slides or some type of props. Stress that less is more. Each content slide should take at least three minutes of time and can be much more. Generally I like to keep presentations to 10 slides or less of content slides and just like a story you need a beginning, a middle and an end. Don’t cram everything into a slide – standard text should be at least 24-point font and use short statements, not full sentences. Most importantly — speak to your slides, don’t read them!
  • Nervous good, petrified bad: Being nervous is healthy and will motivate you to do a good job and to prepare. Being petrified likely will result in you freezing up. Start with smaller audiences or take an improv class to get you more comfortable. Some people find it best to start with an audience of people they know (like a team meeting) while some people find it best to start with an audience of strangers (like an improv class). In short, start small and work towards bigger and more challenging audiences and longer speaking engagements to ensure you stay nervous but not petrified.
  • Practice, practice, practice: There are very few “naturals” in the public speaking game. There are tons of people that look like naturals because they practiced and developed their skills. This practice could be through things like Toastmasters or even taking improv classes. Just find a forum to start practicing public speaking and seek feedback on how to get better.

Now it is time to act – find a way to engage in public speaking. Yeah you might only want to be a database administrator or a market research analyst but if you want to truly be “the” database administrator or market research analyst then you will need to be polished speaking in public – even if just in front of team or department meetings.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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It is alright to kill your product

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Your idea. Your process. Your product. All of these are your babies. You and your team create these each year. Just like an artist paints her landscape or a chef cooks his special entrée – information workers create ideas, processes, and products.

Once an idea, process or product has been created people have a hard time killing them. Don’t worry — it is natural. Just like you look out for your kid you look out for the product you created. Successful professionals realize that just like people – ideas, products and processes have a birth, a life, and a death. Trying to hold off the inevitable death of your idea product and process will hold you back.

Determining if your creation still has legs or is ready for the graveyard is a tough thing to do and here are some tips to help you in this process:

  1. Be Honest to Yourself: Realize that you are naturally biased to anything you have created and make an extra effort to be objective. Understand this bias and consciously compensating for it will help mitigate it.
  2. Consult a Trusted Advisor: Even the best of us know that no matter how hard we try we will sometimes not be as objective as a third party. Consulting a trusted advisor ensures that our decision and perspective is sound.
  3. Determine Metrics: Ideally you will have already have metrics established to identify when a product, process or idea’s lifecycle ends. If you already have these metrics then compare them to the current state. If you do not, then take this opportunity to come up with those metrics.

Instead of letting someone else determine the lifespan of your product, process or idea – empower yourself by being the determiner of it. By being honest to yourself, consulting a trusted advisor, and determining clear metrics will help you in this process.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Three magic words…”I don’t know”

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The three words most of us are afraid to say is “I don’t know.” We all know that nobody knows everything yet we are afraid to admit we don’t know something. This is in part because on a daily basis we hear from so called experts that seem to know everything. No matter if it is where the stock market is going, where societal trends are going, and where political landscape is going. However, we quickly see that these so called experts contradict each other. The popular Freakonomics-series authors Stephen Dubner and and Steven Levitt talk about the power of “I don’t know” and how uttering these words can lead to positive things.

Acting like you know something you don’t empowers ignorance. While they say ignorance is bliss they also say knowledge is power and I choose knowledge. Ask yourself the following questions before spouting off that you know something:

  1. Do I know something? Seems obvious but first question is do you know something. Do you have any specific background knowledge whether it is experience, research, or reading on the topic at hand or is it simply a gut instinct or pride indicating that you know something.
  2. Why do I know something? We know things for a variety of reasons – it could be someone that we trust told us it is the case, it could be because we read it in a book or journal from a reputable author, it could we did research and we determined it was the case. Being able to identify why you know something and the veracity of that knowledge is an important step.
  3. Is it supported by data? Having data to support our position is very valuable. Often times we read about the study and the headline is very convincing but when you actually read about the study it appears to be correlation driven and not causation driven.
  4. How do I get to know something? If you don’t know something and it is worth knowing it then identifying how you would go about it is the next step. This may be reading a couple books on the subject or talking with an expert in the field that you know.

Admitting that you don’t know something leads to the next step – getting to know something. Sometimes this can be done with a little research on the Internet or sometimes it means you need to do a multi-year, longitudinal research study. Of course it may not be worth getting to know something. If so, you can always make a conscious choice and be empowered by not knowing.

If you do know something be proud of it and speak up but if you are in a meeting with your manager, in an interview, or coming up with a new idea. The words “I don’t know” should not be feared but cherished. “I don’t know” leads to what you do know or what you will eventually know.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Is the grass really greener?

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Often times the grass just looks greener but our vision is obscured by current situations and recent memories. Green grass is beautiful so it is easy to go towards it blindly whether it is a new job opportunity or a relationship. Instead of making an emotional or rash decision make a strategic decision by applying these steps to really determine if the grass is greener:

  1. Do Your Homework: The better decision you will make the more information you know. So do your homework and get information. If looking at another job gets you inside information then use your network to find someone that has either worked in the same or similar position and has worked for this manager. If the job is with a different company then make sure to get perspective on company culture and whether it fits with what motivates you.
  2. Do Not Act in Haste: Often times decisions are made in reaction to emotions so take a step back when making these important decisions and slow things down. The more you can slow things down within reason the better your decisions will be. Any job where you must decide quickly is probably not the right job. Remember there are a lot of opportunities out there and waiting for the right one is difficult but being patient will pay off in the long run.
  3. Make Pro and Con List: This sounds simple but making a pro/con list really helps you think about things strategically. Ways to be even more effective in a pro/con list is to weight the categories of the different items comparing before answering each item. Then when answering each item do not have weighting in front of you. Further, showing your pro/con list to a trusted person is a must to get perspective. You very well may be lying to yourself in your assessment and having a trusted person that can call you out is important.
  4. Think Long Term: Understanding your objectives and how to get to these and aligning your current situation to those goals is always important. I will consciously do this at least once a year and often times more. This does not mean that I do not enjoy where I am at but it is a way to make sure that I am staying strategic and keeping an eye on long term objectives. Sometimes you may decide to take a new opportunity that is less pay so you can get extra skills or move into a new field. Making such a choice is wise, strategic and long term focused.

In short, doing your homework, not acting in haste, making a pro/con list, and thinking long term will help you make better decisions and avoid the grass is greener trap.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

 

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How to do more with less

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Life is busy. This is especially true with work and has only gotten worse with the invention of the smartphone. There are a lot of books, courses, websites, and podcasts out there on how to be more productive. One recent book that came out that speaks on this subject is Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden. This really comes down to four things when looking at a task no matter if you are a stay-at-home dad, corporate overachiever, or entrepreneur: 1) eliminate, 2) automate, 3) delegate, and 4) procrastinate.

  1. Eliminate: Things are done often times for a variety of reasons. However, when you take a step back and ask yourself what will happen if I stop doing this task? If the answer is not much then the likely answer is this task should be eliminated. For example, you have weekly metrics that a former executive asked to receive years ago and three executives later you are still providing this status update. However, when you ask about it nobody seems to be reading it and it takes you four hours a week to prepare. Maybe it is better to eliminate this update and spend time on something that is going to bring more value.
  1. Automate: People are very good at putting processes together and getting people to execute on the process. We are not as good at taking a step back and looking at the process occasionally to determine if it can be made more efficient. Technology and needs change and often times people can automate things fairly simply that once required a team of people to perform. Sometimes this does not occur because people are concerned about what they will do if this is automated. Rewarding employees for bringing ideas to the table that can automate processes is essential to reward efforts here. I have always believed and stress to my employees that being the person that identifies the opportunity to automate something will lead to another opportunity and waiting for someone else to do so may not.
  1. Delegate: Understanding your strengths and weaknesses and others strengths and weaknesses is important to delegating well. However, new managers or high performing individuals often have trouble delegating because they believe they can do an item better than person they are delegating. Maybe that is the case, although often it is not, you are only one person and delegating tasks is a key skill of managerial or individual leadership. A team is not one person’s efforts but rather the efforts of all. Have the confidence in others and delegate — they will often amaze you.
  1. Procrastinate: Not everything needs to be done now. Some things better fit down the road and understanding that and letting it go for a later date is important. This determination may be based on revenue generation, risk mitigation, or a variety of other metrics depending on your situation. Key here is having a methodology to understand what should be delayed for another date and having a method to capture this so it is not lost.

Accordingly, your goal should be first to eliminate a task if not needed, automate a task if feasible, delegate a task if sensible, and procrastinate a task if warranted. Follow these four steps and you will do more with less and will be able to focus on the right things now.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Working in today’s global workplace

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Today’s workplace is a global environment where many of us will be working with people around the world. Often popular for information workers that means someone from India, China, Philippines, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and many others. Personally I have worked with all these countries along with many more.

Being able to work with offshore workers is a great opportunity and will be a challenging but rewarding and educational experience for you. But, it is important to start things off right and remember that people are people wherever they are. We each come with our own unique talents, challenges, and personalities. A few tips to supercharge your success while working in today’s global workplace include:

  • Get Culturally Literate: People are people but each culture has its own uniqueness and getting to understand societal and cultural norms of the people you will be working with is essential. Learn about the culture’s holidays, native sports and history — this will further your education but will also help you relate and endear yourself with your foreign country colleagues.
  • Meet Half Way: Just because you may be the person hiring someone or supervising them you need to know it is important to meet people half way. This can mean being flexible with meeting times understanding the drastic time difference. Or, it can mean slowing down your speech so they can better hear you.
  • Over Communicate: Communicate, communicate, and then communicate again. We all think that we said this or inferred that but often times our communication is not as effective as we think. This becomes especially more difficult when working with people with a different native language.
  • Treat as Equals: This should go without saying but treating colleagues no matter where they are as equals is essential. People are people and we all have lives, dreams, families and friends. At work we try to do a good job and bring value to our job and our lives. Being respectful of each other whether you are cube neighbors or international team mates is a must.

In a global environment successful information workers will not only competently work with colleagues across the world but they will thrive on doing so. Diverse workforces bring forth many opportunities and help ensure teams are able to satisfy a global customer base. Be part of the global workforce and buckle up it is going to be a fun ride. Enjoy learning about new people and cultures and start and keep a positive attitude when working with offshore workers.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Do’s and don’ts when working with auditors

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Auditors and regulators often make people cringe. Most people think of a person from the IRS showing up at your door asking for the last 20 years of tax returns and bringing out the fire hoses and German Shepherds. That seems like child’s play compared to auditors, regulators, and compliance for many organizations nowadays. Companies are being more closely scrutinized and rightfully so with often bad and sometimes criminal behavior. At the same time companies do a lot of good and are a fundamental part of society and part of what makes America great.

What do you do when you get that knock on the door by audit or the emailed information request or you are asked to speak with auditors regarding data, processes, etc.? The answer is simple and can be stated in three sentences:

  • Review and comprehend the information request: Make sure to understand what is being requested, when it is due, and what it is really seeking. Now some of these items you can clarify with the regulator or auditor what is really being asked but don’t be a person that needs positive affirmation or engagement with the regulators.
  • Research and process the information request: Regulatory requests sometimes take detective work with the rest being straightforward requests. Taking the time to quickly assess what type of request and the bandwidth needed to complete and currently available resources is essential to make sure things are completed timely.
  • Respond to the request concisely, timely, and accurately: Being concise helps you provide the information that is requested and respectful of her time. At same time being concise alleviates the potential misunderstanding that may occur with superfluous information. Understand when the request is due and do not wait until the last day to respond — if you have the response ready send it. Most of all you should be providing accurate information. Don’t mess up your reputation with taking shortcuts here.

While this post is meant for audit, regulators, and compliance in mind, these words of advice apply to many other instances such as requests from your boss, the CEO, or even your spouse. Thinking about these three easy steps and following them will help you be more successful in responses to audit, regulators, and compliance.

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Do not let perfection get in the way of progress

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There is always the quality versus quantity mantra we all hear. Almost every leader says they stress quality. But, quality does not mean perfection and most people get caught in this trap. Most highly successful people ensure that progress is being made and do not let perfection get in the way.

I know at this point you are going to say wait how about people like the late Steve Jobs and his relentless pursuit of perfect design at Apple. Certainly there is an argument that Steve Jobs would not tolerate anything but perfection but he also realized that progress mattered also. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple he quickly reduced the number of products to devote resources to ensure desired progress could be made.

Insisting on perfection for everything generally results in a bad return on your investment. In the past big brands would have expensive, perfection-focused marketing campaigns that were completely planned out prior to beginning. Nowadays there is a push on agile marketing for a better return on investment since it is an iterative approach that allows for progress and does not require perfection. Another example is people in the past would ensure that they have perfect emails or letters to communicate with their colleagues and this formality had a cost. Nowadays there is a push to use instant messaging or texting to communicate messages with a push towards making progress. Highly successful people are leaders in identifying what “level of perfection” each situation warrants with the eye towards progress.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you avoid the trap of letting perfection get in the way of progress trap:

  • Value: Understand the value of whatever you are doing. This is true whether it is customer facing or not. Not all emails are the same. Not all memos are the same. Not all processes are the same. Knowing what your objective is and what value it is going to provide. Of course when you are talking about releasing a end facing customer product this value is a lot different than putting together an internal memo on some run of the mill internal process change.
  • Perfect vs. good enough: Compare the cost and benefit of the perfect versus good enough. Progress is often ruled by the good enough. There is often a lot of value by implementing something and learning from it and then adjusting it. This is at the core of agile product development and concepts like the minimum viable product mentioned by people like Eric Ries in the Lean Startup.
  • Urgency: Many times there is urgency in getting something completed and by the very nature of spending more time to get perfect will result in the urgency of the item to be missed. Just think of a customer that has a critical problem with your product and they need a solution now. They do not need a perfect solution 4 weeks from now but instead want something now to get things moving again.

Most people want to do a good job and highly successful people want to ensure their brand is strong and they deliver a quality product. However, those same successful people understand that having everything perfect means you just don’t get what you need done. Understand where to put your resources and be alright with saying something is good enough.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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What is your brand?

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Everyone knows about Coca-Cola, Apple, and McDonald’s brand but if people described your brand what would they say? Will people unanimously answer vigorously that you are awesome to work with and deliver or will there be a lukewarm or maybe negative response. Today a person’s brand is more complicated and important than ever — we have a global marketplace where people have small attention spans.

Building a brand is not easy and takes work and is not done in isolation. You build your brand by your actions, words, company kept, organizations you are part of, and many more things. In today’s information age workers should consciously start building their brand by:

  • Be a person that delivers: I will always continue to hire a person that has a reputation of and is focused on delivering results. As a manager this is what you want because it reduces uncertainty. The key to being a person that delivers is understanding your capabilities and bandwidth. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver and always slightly over deliver. Help guide managers into developing expectations where you can consistently over deliver.
  • Be a problem solver: Good information workers must be good self-driven problem solvers. Often times you will get bogged down with projects and deadlines but investing some time in problem solving will help you, your team, your department, and your company. Invest the extra time here because it will pay off but make sure you take credit for it in a tactful way.
  • Be a person with integrity: A person driven on doing what is right and doing it with integrity will always have a solid brand. People will trust you, ask your opinion, and share information with you. It is important that you uphold this trust and be driven by what is right. Do not put yourself in a situation that would compromise this brand and if you realize you are in a situation then getting out of that situation is essential.
  • Be a thought leader: Thought leadership takes less than you think. Everyone can demonstrate this as an information worker. Pick an area that interests you and is relevant to your career whether it is denial of service attacks if you work in information security or Google search engine optimization for online retailers. There are many ways to do this especially in the virtual world like blogging on a subject, tweeting actively on a subject, or participating in online groups. There are also many good professional associations or physical journals where you can participate. Remember that becoming a thought leader requires investment in time and should be something that is a long horizon but rewards can happen pretty quickly. But more importantly, you should enjoy learning and educating others about your thought leadership if you are going to be successful.

These are key attributes that if you are lucky will define your brand but there are many things other things, positive and negative, that make up your brand. Understanding yourself and your brand and continually building that brand will make your career and life more successful. This self-brand understanding requires the input of trusted and honest friends and colleagues. Ask the hard questions and make sure your brand is increasing and course correct as needed based on feedback.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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