At SXSW this week, one speaker nailed a talk about managing creatives--and how you can promote creativity in your own company.
It's the fourth day of SXSW Interactive, and though the throngs of geeks and enthusiasts are getting tired, it didn't stop a handful of them from lining up to see Patricia Korth-McDonnell, partner and managing director of design firm Huge, talk about chaos and creativity.
About 150 people crammed into a small conference room at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Austin to hear what the veteran Huge employee had to say about building a company culture that fosters creativity.
While most of her talk was directed at companies in creative industries, the principles she outlined are certainly worthy of consideration by any startup looking to increase innovation. The fast-talking Korth-McDonnell gave it to the audience straight: here's what's worked for Huge, and what's failed.Creating Creative Freedom
Korth-McDonnell joined Huge, headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, when the company was just 15 employees (it now boasts over 800).
She told the audience that as the company's headcount grew and it took on more clients, the creativity of the company dwindled.
"We just had this epiphany," she said. "We asked ourselves: what were we doing at 50 employees that worked and what are we doing differently now?"
One answer was to stop trying to quantify and over-process creativity. All they needed to do was build a process that gave employees truly enough space to be creative.
"Once you have your mission, something to create, you have to let your people just go with it," she said. "You have to give them five days to get weird--to just go to outer space and back with their ideas. Then you regroup and move on the best ideas."
Part of this is training employees--and yourself--to stop being "precious" about ideas.
"Ideas die. You might have a brilliant solution for a problem, but if it isn't the right problem, the problem the client is asking you to solve, it doesn't matter. You can't make it a personal mission," she said.Creative Accountability
The most interesting part for me was hearing how Kroth-McDonnell handles accountability--often a hairy problem for those managers not used to more outside-the-box thinkers.
One solution: at Huge, she said, current projects are constantly circulating through the office.
"We often call in someone to defend their work, and the person usually has no idea it's coming," she said. "When you have a culture where, at any moment, someone else can pick at you, call your bullshit, and ask why--it makes the work better."Competition and Bonding Among Employees
Here's one that's perennially controversial in companies: Korth-McDonnell says competition among employees will bring out their creative side.
"The way to love your brother at Huge is to be tough on him," she said, adding sugar coating some professional flaw or lack of commitment will only make the coming wrath of top executives worse. "Sugar coating doesn't help someone grow into a better anything."
But within this tough-love approach has to be, well, the love part.
"You also have to have true friendship there. You have to build human relationships," she said. Otherwise, she said, you'll just have people being nasty to each other.Beware the Burnout
While those of you who aren't in the creative industries may feel that creative-types have this infinite wealth of energy to innovate, Kroth-McDonnell said just the opposite.
"At Huge, we rarely have the same people on the same project for more than 9 months. It just doesn't work," she said. "There's a wall you hit as a creative human and you have to move on. No magic pep talk can cure it, just move on."
She encouraged owners and leaders to be mindful of this wall, and build in breaks for employees.
These are the few entrepreneurs that rival Google executives in wealth.
Google has catapulted three Internet entrepreneurs high into the rankings of the richest individuals on the planet. In fact the company's two cofounders topped the list, which was compiled by statistics company, Statista. Both Larry Page's and Sergey Brin's personal wealth is estimated to be at least $31 billion. Looking at the graphic below you'll also see that many of the others on the list hail from China, representing companies like NetEase, Tencent Holdings and Baidu.
Here's the the full list.
Even in the national spying maelstrom, small businesses can find an opportunity for better security, Edward Snowden says.
Small app developers and startup computer services businesses listen up: You've got to build better security into your products right away.
That was the word from whistleblower Edward Snowden who spoke to an audience at the South by Southwest festival via Google Hangouts from Russia, where his exact location was protected by 8 different proxy servers on Monday. The audio and video quality were atrocious, but the message was compelling.
In reference to the National Security Agency's spying program, Snowden said: "The result has been an adversarial Internet, which is not what we asked for and not what we wanted."
Snowden has been living as fugitive in Russia since 2013, following his exposure of troves of data collected by the National Security Agency. The revelation presented a far bigger picture than had been known of the government's eavesdropping on U.S. citizens and their ordinary interactions, in which many communications and consumer Internet companies have been complicit.
Essentially, the services consumer rely on for email, text, and other communications created by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other consumer Internet companies are not secure because they depend on advertising, noted Snowden.
In other words, these larger companies have a business incentive to poke through your emails so they can sell you stuff, Snowden said. That's in addition to the allegation that these firms are collaborating with the NSA.
Small companies and startups, however, don’t have to follow that lead. They can develop products and services that are secure out-of-the-box, Snowden and co-panelist Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union, said on stage.Building in Security
One obvious way to secure consumer product would be to offer end-to-end encryption, or other privacy protecting-enhancements for a minimal fee, Soghoian said.
"Developers will have to think about security early on, not later down the road," Soghoian added.
Part of the reason large companies have not secured their products for consumers is that it might make them harder for consumers to use, the panelists said. A natural place for small companies to innovate would be to create products that are easy to use and highly secure.
One example given to illustrate that point was Gmail's introduction of secure socket layer email in 2011, which dramatically cut down on hack attacks and snooping on consumers. Apparently that technology had been available for years before Gmail felt the pressure to use it. Now it operates in the background without consumers even knowing it.
Another security improvement, Snowden noted, would be if Internet and computing companies that held customer data did so for abbreviated periods of time.
"Companies should only hold the data for as long as necessary for the operation at hand," Snowden said.
A recent study from Cornell and Tel Aviv University researchers suggests transparent salaries have a surprising effect on productivity.
Do you hide your employees' salaries as closely guarded secrets? You might be hurting worker productivity, suggests research from Cornell University and Tel Aviv University.
Cornell assistant professor Elena Belogolovsky and Tel Aviv University Professor Peter Bamberger looked at the effect that a lack of transparency has on a wage-earner's performance. They found that when employees can't clearly see the link between performance and compensation, they aren't as willing to apply themselves.The Experiment
Belogolovsky and Bamberger studied 144 Israeli undergraduate students. They started each of them off with a base salary that they received in return for playing a computer matching game. Half of the students were told that they'd get a bonus for good performance, and they were also shown fellow participants' bonus pay.
The other half saw only their own bonus pay, and they were asked not to discuss pay with others--a request that some companies today still explicitly make. The participants were allowed to email each other, and the researchers assessed how tolerant or intolerant the students were of pay inequity.
"When people are in an environment where they have to guess what others make, those individuals who are less inequity tolerant not only think that they deserve to make more money, but they are less motivated to work hard," Belogolovsky and Bamberger concluded. They found that this group of participants significantly underperformed in comparison to the rest.Why Transparency Is En Vogue
It's easy to understand why most businesses don't embrace the idea of revealing employees' pay. It's hard enough to make everyone happy, so why introduce another possible cause for resentment or dissatisfaction? Plus, many executives climbed the ranks in a work culture where it's simply rude to discuss salaries.
But that standard is slowly changing due to the new culture that millennials are introducing into the workforce, the authors suggested. "Many up-and-coming Generation Y employees have grown up in the public world of social media and have no issues sharing information with one another that used to be seen as private--such as pay," Belogolovsky and Bamberger wrote.
So how should you handle such a touchy subject when it seems that both sides stand to lose something? The authors suggest that you strike a balance between complete transparency and a fair system. For example, publish pay ranges and explain how they are calculated. Buffer App, creator of a social media managing tool, recently revealed its salary structure online--but went a step further and published individual salaries next to employees' Twitter handles.
Belogolovsky and Bamberger said that above all, it's important to make sure that employees believe the system is fair. "It doesn't matter what you think," they wrote. "If your employees don't perceive it as fair, you're in trouble."
Your company's new special project shouldn't be a mystery to the rest of your team. How to drum up interest and excitement in your teams-within-teams.
Perhaps a small team is hunkering down in the conference room to launch a special intrapreneurial project. Or maybe you just acquired a standalone group that will keep running its service under your umbrella.
Either way, or in any situation that creates teams-within-teams at your company, thorough integration is absolutely essential. If your everyday employees gawk at a smaller team as if it has seven heads, those working on it feel isolated and unsupported. Not only is such a situation uncomfortable culturally, but these sorts of organizational silos also serve to stifle the very innovation that new projects often represent in the first place.
Cyna Alderman, the managing director of The New York Daily News's Innovation Lab, has encountered this problem before. The Innovation Lab essentially sponsors small startups whose products or services can help further the newspaper's reporting mission.
The Innovation Lab has struggled in the past to make those startups feel like a part of the Daily News team, Alderman writes on her personal blog. She cites the experience of Visual Revenue, a startup that spent one six-month stint in the Lab:
Specifically, not enough people in the Daily News organization knew about Visual Revenue. Although Visual Revenue worked in the Daily News offices, Visual Revenue was never formally introduced to the Daily News staff. And while some individuals were very involved in working with the Visual Revenue team, there were many who had no idea who the entrepreneurs were, or what they were doing in the office.
This time around, Alderman made sure the entire Daily News team knew Datavisual was coming aboard for a stay in the Lab. To honor the startup's first day, the Innovation Lab hung welcome signs in the newsroom and encouraged employees to meet the Datavisual team.
On the very first day that Datavisual was in the newsroom, we had them demo their product to the staff, and invited anyone who was interested to attend. In this way, even people who would never get to use the technology as a part of their job could interact with the startup and participate in the development and growth of the product. Following that event, we allowed everyone to request access to the product, and conducted subsequent open trainings.
If you're launching a new product or have just brought a new team inside, you're buckling down for a much longer-term commitment than the Innovation Lab, with its six-month startup programs. As such, your job is to not just knock down those walls but to make sure they're not rebuilt. Keep the organization aware of the project's progress, and show how that progress serves the rest of the company. (Or better yet, let the smaller team be the ones to explain.)
Help us find America's most innovative, beautiful, surprising, and useful products.
Inc.'s first annual Best in Class Design Awards will recognize the most innovative, creative, unexpected, incredibly useful, magnificently designed products being sold in America.
The winners will be selected by a panel composed of renowned design, retail, and manufacturing experts and Inc. editors. Winning products will be featured in a special feature section in the June 2014 issue of Inc. Magazine and an expanded section on Inc.com. Winners will be notified in early April.
To nominate a product made by your company, or to nominate a product you like, designed, use, or represent, please fill out all fields in the nomination form below.NOMINATION CRITERIA:
In order to be eligible for the Inc. Best in Class Design Award:
- Product must be designed in the United States and sold by a business (the maker company) that is headquartered in the United States and privately owned.
- Product must be currently available for purchase in the United States.
- Product must have been launched in the United States between 1/1/2013 and 3/1/2014.
- A maker company may nominate as many products as it wants, but a nominated product cannot have been previously featured in Inc. Magazine.
- All nominations must be received by no later than midnight (ET) on Wednesday, March 26th, 2014.
- By nominating a product, maker company acknowledges that if its product is chosen as a Design Award Winner, it will make relevant employees available for interviews. It also agrees to make a sample of the winning product available to Inc. for use in photographs for the June 2014 feature in Inc. Magazine and on Inc.com.
Fill out the online form.//
Do you know what to do as a leader when you're suddenly under fire? Here's a guide from someone who led in a real firefight.
Great leadership seems easy when things are good and everybody's happy. When times grow tough, however, a leader's true colors are revealed.
Ten years ago, a group of U.S. soldiers tasted combat for the first time in Sadr City, Iraq. I got to know one of the junior U.S. leaders in that battle when I wrote a book about West Point and wartime. (You can read more details on my personal blog, but the short version is that it was a fierce fight, and the start of months of tough, daily fighting.)
Dave Swanson was a 26-year-old lieutenant then. He's out of the military now, and we talked recently about what he learned by leading 40 soldiers in 82 straight days of combat. Most of us probably won't be taking a platoon into a hail of gunfire anytime soon, but applying these principles can greatly improve your effectiveness as a leader, no matter what challenges you face.1. Control your fear.
As bullets whizzed by him for the first time, Swanson says he was very much afraid. However, he realized he had to subdue his fear because his soldiers were looking to him for clues as to how they should react.
Courage doesn't mean the absence of fear, and of course being a leader certainly doesn't mean charging ahead blindly in the face of adversity. It does mean you can't allow your fear to become contagious. Your team needs to believe you're in control of yourself, if they're to have confidence that you can make smart decisions in tough times.2. Remember that the mission comes first.
You owe a lot to your team for giving you the privilege of placing their trust in you. First on the list, you owe them a goal worth dedicating their efforts to, and you need to demonstrate that you're willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it.
"I say complete the mission at minimal expense to the people," Swanson says. "Every military leader will publicly say that the mission comes first, but we always accomplished the mission with the soldiers in mind."3. Remember that the mission comes before you, too.
The only way that "mission-first" mantra can work is if your people truly believe that you will put the mission before yourself, too. In a life-imitates-art moment, Swanson says that in the heat of combat, he thought of a line from the 2001 HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers: "The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier."
In combat, this means being willing to risk your own safety for others in the unit and the mission. In other contexts, it means demonstrating that you'll sacrifice your personal short-term interests for the team's goal. Otherwise, how can you ask them to do so?4. Rely on your preparation.
Swanson spent years preparing for battle. He had been an enlisted solider, he spent four years at West Point, and he trained for nearly two years after graduation. While training alone will never quite prepare you to lead in real life, he says, it's as close as you can get to the real thing.
The same principle applies in any leadership context. Think ahead of time about how you'll react to tough situations, so you can free your mind in crucial moments to react and adapt quickly.5. Be tough, but human.
"To those who have been in combat," Swanson explains, "you live by hardness, intuition, and compassion."
As an example, he stayed awake and on duty for 60 straight hours at the start of the battle, pushing himself until he physically collapsed, but he also found moments of humanity and even humor in the heat of combat. Your team needs to know that you're tough, but also that you're reacting to the world around you like an engaged leader, not a machine.6. Encourage your people.
Business is rarely a matter of life and death, but war certainly is. One of Swanson's soldiers, Specialist Jacob Martir, was killed in action during the months of fighting, and several others were wounded and sent home to hospitals in the U.S.
"It absolutely ate me alive to lose anyone in the platoon," Swanson says. However, he realized that it fell to him to encourage his soldiers and inspire them to keep going. "They were all special. The next day after any [casualty], I would remind them that each of them had already sacrificed themselves for each other on a daily basis--and how, if required, I would sacrifice myself for any of them."7. Communicate effectively.
In the heat of battle, it's easy--almost natural--to shut down everything else and focus exclusively on the job at hand. That's a dangerous inclination, however. It's important to make communicating what's going on a priority as well. Your team and all of your stakeholders need to know what's going on, or they can't contribute.
"Early on in combat, radio communications weren't always the greatest, but that was no excuse," Swanson says. "When technology fails--and it always does at the worst possible moment--you need to have backup ways of getting and giving information."8. Use your resources wisely. But use them.
Especially in the first days of combat, Swanson's unit dealt with destroyed and unarmored vehicles, and insufficient supplies of almost every sort. More important, confusion, combat, and casualties left them critically short of soldiers.
At the same time, they made full use of everything they had. At the end of the first week of fighting, for example, Swanson reflected that he had personally gone through ten 30-round magazines, meaning he had fired 300 bullets at the enemy. Just about everyone else in his platoon had, as well.9. Imitate the leaders who inspire you.
When Swanson had to act in the heat of battle, especially when his soldiers' eyes were on him, he thought back to the lessons he had learned at West Point, and some of the other leaders he had known and respected. He also found himself asking a question that has circulated for years among military leaders as a sort of joke: "What would John Wayne do?"
"Regardless of where you work, always continue to learn what makes leaders successful and what makes them fail," he says.
- 9 Things Great Leaders Say Every Day
- 7 Ways Top Performers Train Themselves to Win
- 7 Leadership Lessons From the Navy SEAL Commander Who Got Bin Laden
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Want to know what it takes to succeed? Forget conjecture and opinion. Here's the answer, backed up by scientific research.
There are thousands of books about business success, but most are based upon the author's personal observations and consulting experience. That raises a question: Is there any science to business success?
Surprisingly, you can find a great deal of science in the five basic principles:1. Successful companies tell stories.
We may live in the information age, but human beings are genetically identical to human beings who lived in the Stone Age. Back then, what separated humans from apes was the part of the brain called the neocortex, which in humans is huge compared with other mammals.
An important element of the huge neocortex are what neuroscientists call "mirror neurons"--brain cells that fire both when we do something ourselves or when we observe somebody else doing the same thing. When a storyteller tells a story with emotion, those emotions are echoed in the listener's mirror neurons.
According to psychologist Brian Sturm at the University of North Carolina, swapping relatable stories brings people closer together and builds trust, making them part of the same tribe and therefore appropriate as business partners.
Though stories connect people emotionally, people quickly forget facts provided outside the context of story. In fact, most people forget 90 percent of the information presented to them within "a relatively short period of time."
Therefore, though you will need facts and information to verify and buttress your stories, your success depends upon the stories you tell, because the stories you tell are how your customers and investors decide what it means to do business with you.
Many companies encourage working long hours under the belief that paying fewer people to do more work increases profit. That belief, however, is unfounded.
According to studies conducted by Ford Motor Company early in the last century, the sweet spot for worker productivity is around 40 hours a week. Adding additional hours creates only a minor increase in productivity that turns negative in three to four weeks.
The problem is that overworked people start making avoidable errors, which then take additional time to correct. The solution, of course, is to "work smarter." But what does that mean?
It certainly doesn't mean adding more technology; there's an obvious correlation between the amount of technology in business and the extension of the workday. Technology makes it easier to work ever longer hours.
The only real way to work smarter is to spend your time doing the things that matter rather than the things that don't. This is a practical application of the Pareto Principle, the economic law that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your actions.
In the business world, the Pareto Principle is best known as the rule of thumb that "80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your clients" or sometimes "80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your salespeople."
However, Pareto patterns apply to almost all human activity, which means that in most companies only 20 percent of the effort expended generates 80 percent of the results. As a corollary, 80 percent of the effort generates only 20 percent of the results.
You can therefore make yourself and your company more successful by doing more of the 20 percent that really matters and less of the 80 percent that doesn't. BTW, this is the scientific basis for the intuitive notion of core competency.
Conventional business wisdom says your organization will succeed more easily and quickly if you hire as many top performers as possible. In other words, the more superstars on your team, the better your team.
This philosophy lies behind concepts such as stack ranking, in which "a work force is graded in accordance with the individual productivity of its members," and best practice, in which you attempt to recruit candidates who resemble your current top performers.
Though that all sounds reasonable, it doesn't work in practice. Stack ranking results in all sorts of weird and dysfunctional behavior, because employees are goaled on looking good while making others look bad.
Indeed, superstars tend to become successful at the expense of others, according to statistical analyses of a database of more than 400,000 salespeople and 700 sales forces conducted by Chally Worldwide.
"In practice, top performers often depend heavily on internal resources and connections that if made available to everyone on the sales staff, might damage other parts of the business," explains Chally CEO Howard Stevens.
Business success, however, is always a team effort, which means that successful companies must hire people who can put their egos aside and help everyone to become more effective and efficient.
According to a study recently conducted at MIT and published in the Harvard Business Review, the most effective teams "talk and listen in equal measure, equally among members while lower performing teams have dominant members, teams within teams, and members who talk or listen but don't do both."
It need hardly be said that the latter behaviors are characteristic of superstars rather than team players.
In other words, your company will be more successful if you hire above-average performers who work together as a team than superstars who succeed at the expense of everyone else.4. Successful companies treat honesty as the best policy.
For the past few decades, many companies have tended to look upon corporate ethics as an expense. The assumption is that it's more profitable to cheat than to play fair, as long you don't get caught.
However, groundbreaking research by emeritus business professor and author Robert B. Cialdini indicates that cheating generates huge hidden costs, even when leaders think they're getting away with it.
According to Cialdini, employees who know that their company is cheating fall into two categories: those who feel a conflict of values and want to leave, and those who feel perfectly fine with it.
Many of the best employees fall into the first category, which creates expensive churn and turnover. Because turnover costs can easily be two to three times the yearly cost of an employee, the result of cheating is a lower profit margin.
What's worse, the employees who are OK with corporate-level cheating are OK with personal cheating, which explains (among other things) why rogue trading has become so common in the financial industry.
In other words, rather than an unnecessary expense, creating an ethical corporate culture avoids unnecessary expenses that will be incurred even when that company gets away with cheating.
There's no simpler way to put it: Science says that stress is the No. 1 enemy of success. According to the American Psychological Association, stress results in a host of health problems, including headache, muscle tension, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue, upset stomach, insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, lack of focus, irritability, depression, eating problems, addiction, and social withdrawal.
Health problems of this sort don't just result in productivity-killing absenteeism but also (when combined with the work-longer-hours ethos) presenteeism, in which staff members go to work even when ill with a communicable disease.
In business, the main sources of stress are the sense that there's too much work to be done and a climate of fear based on the (often accurate) belief that management will punish failure.
There are, of course, many outwardly successful companies that have this type of hard-driving, fear-based culture. However, such companies do eliminate stress on a regular basis--by discarding and then replacing employees who become too burnt out to function.
However, because turnover costs money, a more effective approach is to create an environment that is inherently less stressful by implementing Principles 1 through 4.
Having a strong, meaningful story creates a sense of community. Only doing what's important reduces both busywork and overwork. Building teams rather than spotlighting prima donnas reduces conflict, as does encouraging honesty and trust.
Not every successful business embodies all five principles, but if you read some of those thousands of books about business success, I'd wager you'll find that all successful businesses implement at least four of them.
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There's one hidden cost that often goes unaccounted for when filing with Uncle Sam.
In the throes of tax season, here's yet another line item businesses must consider: hidden wireless costs.
What seems like a simple consideration is actually quite complex. Wireless taxes in Washington State, for example, run the highest in the country at 24.2 percent. Just next door in Oregon, wireless services are taxed at a 7.3 percent rate--the nation's lowest.
Why such drastic variation? Around 10,000 tax jurisdictions--at federal, state, and local levels--impose wireless taxes and surcharges that are tacked on to monthly phone bills. The average tax rate across the country is 17.2 percent for wireless services, according to MyWireless.org.
For companies footing employees' wireless bills, the tax equation is especially cumbersome--imagine budgeting for drastically different tax rates for workers scattered across the country. With so many factors contributing to confusion, there's little relief in sight.A Headache for Business
Most companies have a ballpark idea of what they're paying in wireless taxes, but they feel like there's nothing they can do about it, says Jim Breitzman, president of ECB Wireless, a Wisconsin-based company that helps organizations optimize taxes based on pooling and the geography of employees.
Companies should also know that if they go over their text plan by $150, they're being taxed on those overage charges. So not only are they wasting money, they're getting taxed on that wasted money.
The "Balance Due" portion of the bill isn't the only challenge in managing wireless fees. After all, businesses ultimately can deduct the cost of many wireless surcharges and taxes. But there's a huge hidden cost in tracking the taxes owed under different contracts--and staying on top of employee contracts that need to be amended.
Federal, state, and local governments have also gotten very crafty about using wireless contracts as a source of new revenue. In New York, for example, a customer's wireless bill includes up to 11 different fees for line items like 911 services and local school districts. Carriers collect the fees, not Uncle Sam, which makes the process politically palatable.Is Your Company Breaking the Law?
The Federal Mobile Telecommunications Sourcing Act requires a wireless customer to pay taxes based on the "place of primary use," or PPU. If an employee signs up for service in New York City but later relocates to San Francisco, she's required to pay taxes and fees based on where she resides. Ditto for an employee who lives in, say, Sacramento, California, but works mostly in Oakland.
Most companies don't pay attention to--or even know about--these rules, Breitzman says. When an employee transfers offices, the company should reassign the PPU, but that rarely happens. Those businesses could be subject to back taxes, penalties, and false information lawsuits from the government.
Breitzman says the first step in addressing taxes and noncompliance issues is awareness. Companies need a better understanding of their wireless tax rates and mobility options.Adapt Now for Future Change
Cell-phone taxes are trending upward, according to a report by economist Scott Mackey. From 2010 to 2012, overall tax burdens on wireless consumers grew about four times faster than general sales taxes on other goods and services. As these costs pile up, companies need to be familiar with what they should be doing now in order to be ready for further increases or policy changes in the future. Check out what your state collects in wireless taxes and fees to get started on the path to understanding the bottom line.
States with the most expensive wireless tax rateRankStateCombined federal, state, and local rate1Washington24.20%2Nebraska24.08%3New York23.34%4Florida22.16%5Illinois21.42%
States with lowest wireless tax rateRankStateCombined federal, state, and local rate1Oregon7.39%2Nevada7.65%3Idaho8.23%4Montana11.61%5West Virginia11.76%
In an interview with Inc. at South by Southwest, TripAdvisor founder Steve Kaufer explains how he keeps the travel giant moving fast.
Steve Kaufer, the founder of TripAdvisor, sat down with Inc. for an exclusive interview at South by Southwest. Kaufer launched the company in 2000 because he was planning a trip and realized he couldn't find a comprehensive resource for travel planning. After being acquired by Expedia in 2004 and spending seven years as a unit of the larger company, TripAdvisor was spun out as its own public company in 2011.
The site now has more than 150 million reviews, 2,000 employees, and annual revenue approaching $1 billion. In short, the company is anything but a startup, and yet it's constantly developing innovative products, releasing them quickly, and rapidly iterating. Below, Kaufer explains how he keeps the startup mentality strong in every employee.Speed Wins
There are two signs on my door, handwritten messages for anyone who wants to see me. The first says, "Speed Wins." It's an informal motto of the company. Get shit done and get it done faster. There's no point in going slow. The second says, "If It's Worth Doing, It's Worth Measuring." Don't tell me about an initiative without telling me what success looks like in numbers. Not necessarily revenue numbers but something quantifiable and meaningful to the business.
When TripAdvisor reached 60 or 70 people, I realized I didn't know everyone's name any more. The company was getting bigger, and I wasn't sure I wanted to work at a big company, because big companies tend to be bureaucratic. The process of making a decision takes longer because there are more layers. A friend of mine said to me, "You're still the CEO, Steve, you don't have to let it become like that. If it does, it's because you let it."
So now when I do company orientation every six weeks for new employees, one of the slides reads: "We are a small company that just happens to have a lot of people. How would you behave if the company had 50 people, even though we have a couple thousand?" I do my damndest to drive it home in every communication that I want this company to run as fast as when we were 50 people. I'm a little relentless...how can we go faster?
For example, somebody will say, "Well, it's going to take us a couple months to update that program." I say, Really? I would have thought a couple of days. Help me understand why it's more than a couple of days.
"Well I need to write up the spec." I can help you write the spec and we can be done in a couple hours.
"Well, I need approval and signoff from 12 people." Here's what you do: Send an email to all 12 of them and tell them you would appreciate their comments by tomorrow morning, otherwise you will move ahead. Now we have 12 hours gone by on the clock.
"Well, engineering will take a while." OK, I understand there's probably not much we can do about that. That might take a week. So now we're looking at program done in eight or nine days, not a couple of months.
Email is one of the biggest culprits for decisions being made slowly. You send out an email, wait for response, you don't get a response, you send another email, wait for another response. It's just silly that you're emailing someone on the other side of the building. If it's an FYI message, email is great. If you want an answer, get up and walk over. Get on the telephone. Send a text, send an IM. There are lots of different ways to get an answer quickly, and email isn't one of them.If It's Worth Doing, It's Worth Measuring
I have a computer-science degree, and I think of myself as using it every day, even though I'm more hands off in engineering than in most other departments. I use it by examining data. I love knowing what the data tells me.
A sales rep can tell me, "Hey, accounts A, B, and C are doing really well." I ask, What's the average CPC [cost-per-click] they are paying every day for each market?
In one sense, it's way in the weeds, but the way I look at it is, I want to keep a finger on the pulse of our clients' behavior, because that’s how we make our money. I want to have a finger on the pulse of our travelers' behavior, because that's how we grow our site. I want to give all departments informed advice on where to focus next, based on looking at the raw data.
But you have to ask the right questions of the data. Someone will tell me, "We thought people would click on that new button we added, but they didn't. But when we changed its color, clicks went up 100 percent." I'm like, that's nice--unless 100 percent means we went from four per day to eight per day, in which case it's a failure. So give me the context to know what success looks like.
Somebody will say, "We are going to send out a CRM [customer-relationship management] email to get people to come back to the site and look at the top 10 hotels in the country. We expect a 22 percent CTR [click-through rate] and 15 percent email open rate." I say, OK, but what about when they land on the site? If they land and leave immediately, it means that the more people we got to click, the more we pissed off. The success metric should be that we want 100,000 people to be browsing at least five page views, meaning they had a good experience when they came to the site.
I don't care about CTR--I care about engaging 100,000 people. Pushing down that perspective to all the levels in the organization is helpful, whether there are 50 people in the company or 2,000.
When was the last time you rapped about a product launch or incorporated a sense of fun into your content? Maybe you should let it go and see what can happen.
If I told you an Ohio traffic reporter had over a million views of his video on YouTube, you would probably be surprised.
When was the last time your content or videos got that many views (and that's in one week)?
Bob Herzog is a traffic reporter for WKRC--Channel 12 in Cleveland, Ohio. He brings a rare musical flair to his job by giving popular songs a weather-related twist. As part of Dance Party Fridays at the station (obviously not your typical news station), he has done everything from Elton John's "Rocket Man" (changed to "Traffic Man"), Tom Petty's "Free Falling" (changed to "Tree Falling"), and Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" (changed to "Drive Indiana").
His latest parody is "Let It Go" from the Disney movie Frozen. Herzog sings "Just Don't Go" while trudging through snow and attempting to climb a set of icy stairs, reinforcing how dreadful the weather has been and why it's a good idea not to venture out on the roads.
Pretty darn catchy for a news station in Cleveland. What I found interesting is that instead of leveraging these videos to generate traffic to a YouTube channel for the station, the videos are posted under Herzog's name. The station could be generating a lot of additional traffic this way (most of the videos have over 50,000 views).
Another recent example of using pop culture and humor occurred when Durham Academy announced school would be closed due to inclement weather by rapping the announcement to the Vanilla Ice tune, "Ice Ice Baby". Lyrics included:
All right stop, collaborate and listen
Ice is back and the roads will glisten
Polar vortex has a hold of us tightly
Wind like a harpoon daily and nightly
This video had over 4 million views and was tweeted or posted by CNN, Time.com, BuzzFeed, Gawker, and Deadspin. Not your usual coverage for a school closing due to weather. Plus, I bet a lot of kids now think their school administrators are a lot cooler than they suspected.
Think of some creative ways you can incorporate this approach into your own efforts (we did this a number of years ago when we launched on the Salesforce AppExchange, and the video still gets views today).
Imagine announcing a new product this way, or an event you're having. The possibilities are endless, so rev up your sense of fun and let it go.
How? When you give, you also receive.
Phone calls are great. But when you want to say something important, writing a note, especially a handwritten note, can be even more powerful.
Why? Notes are unexpected. (Who writes letters anymore?) Notes can be savored. Notes can be saved. Notes can be pulled out and reread dozens of times.
The memories of phone calls can be fleeting. Notes--meaningful, sincere, genuine expressions of thanks, of praise, of feelings--can last forever.
Here are five notes you should write today:
1. Write a thank-you to someone who believed in you. Belief is a powerful thing. Some people have incredible stores of self-belief, but most of us are given confidence and self-assurance by others. Slowly but surely, through their encouragement and support, we develop a stronger sense of self.
At some point, someone saw you struggling and gave you hope. At some point, someone saw something in you that you didn't yet see in yourself. Who you are today is a direct result of that person's faith in you.
Belief, founded or unfounded, is incredibly powerful--and when someone else believes in us, it's unforgettable.
Tell someone what a huge difference he or she made in your life. Reading your note will make a huge difference in that person's life--and in your relationship.
2. Write an apology to a person you let down. We've all made mistakes. We've all done things we regret. Or we haven't done things--and we regret not acting. We've all failed to step up, or step in, or show support, or lend an ear or shoulder...
Maybe you feel you've moved past it. Maybe you feel the other person has moved past it, too. Maybe you're dreaming.
An apology not made is the elephant in a room. No matter how much time has passed, it still colors every subsequent interaction. Kill the elephant. Say you're sorry.
Just don't follow your apology with a disclaimer. Don't say, "I'm sorry, but I was really mad because you…" or "I'm sorry I blew up at you, but I do think you were out of line, too."
Don't say anything that in any way places even the smallest amount of blame on the other person. Say you're sorry, say why you're sorry, and take all the blame. No less. No more. The elephant may never totally disappear, but once you apologize, sincerely and genuinely, the elephant will no longer matter--to either of you.
3. Write a note of congratulations. You don't even have to know the person. If you liked a book, contact the author and say, "I loved your book." If a local entrepreneur landed a major customer, send a note and say, "I realize you don't know me, but I was so impressed I just had to congratulate you!"
Just make sure you don't follow your congratulations with some sort of request. (Unfortunately, that's the oldest trick in the networking book.)
Bonus points if you explain the impact the person's accomplishment had on you. Maybe it motivated you. Maybe it inspired you. Maybe it changed your life in some small way. If so, say so. Then you're not only congratulating people for a job well done--you're letting them know they made an impact in someone else's life.
You're letting them know they matter. They'll feel a little better about themselves--and you'll feel better about yourself, too.
4. Write an offer to help. Many people hesitate to ask for help. They see admitting they need help as the same as admitting a weakness. In a hard-charging, Type-A world, who willingly shows vulnerability?
But everyone--everyone--needs help. So offer to help. But don't just say, "Is there anything I can help you with?" That won't work: We're trained to say, "No, I'm fine."
Be specific. Find something you can help with. Say, "I know you're working on that. Can I help you finish?" Or say, "I've always wanted to know more about this. Can I help you work on it?"
Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous. If you want, make it a "redeemable coupon" that entitles the recipient to take you up on a specific offer. Offer in the right spirit and people--especially people who might be struggling--will jump at a chance to draw on your energy, enthusiasm, and talent.
And in the process, you'll strengthen a bond and make a better friend.
5. Write an unexpected compliment. Every day, people around you do good things. Most of those people don't work with or for you; in fact, most of them have no relationship with you, professional or personal. Compliment one of them for something for which it's least expected.
Write a note to a doctor who helped you through a rough time. Write a note to a college professor who made you see the world in a different way. Write a note to your town praising the snowplow crews. Write a note to someone who did something thoughtful not because it was expected but simply because they could.
Expected feels good. Unexpected makes a huge, and lasting, impact.
And the note you write may be displayed for a long time, serving as a reminder that every job, no matter how seemingly thankless or invisible, is appreciated by at least one person.
And that's an awesome way to be remembered.
With help from the 'Two and a Half Men' actor and music mogul Guy Oseary, the enterprise storage startup is eyeing Hollywood before its initial public offering.
Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary are placing their bets on Box, the enterprise storage startup helmed by Inc. entrepreneur of the year Aaron Levie.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Kutcher and Oseary, the manager for U2 and Madonna, are backing Box through their A-Grade investment fund. The investment, the Times reports, was part of a $100 million funding round in December that valued the company around $2 billion.
A-Grade, which has invested in Spotify, Airbnb, and Uber, is known for its Hollywood connections, which could help Box expand its business. "Guy and I have been working in the entertainment industry for decades," Kutcher tells the Times. "We've worked in music, film, television, and advertising. We have relationships across a spectrum of businesses that are Box clients and/or could be."
The hope, Levie says, is that Box will become "the software layer for Hollywood," which is among the largest industries it serves. Among Box's entertainment clients are Netflix, NBC Sports, and Sony Music.
Although Levie remains mum about an initial public offering, he confidentially filed paperwork earlier this year. The company faces stiff competition in the cloud storage space from well-financed startups such as Dropbox, valued at $10 billion, and Microsoft, whose new chief executive Satya Nadella believes the cloud will be the most disruptive force in technology.
When team meetings are consistently unproductive, it's likely a symptom of a larger issue within your senior leadership team.
I've made the point before that attaining the ability to scale--reaching what I call Predictable Success--depends on the organization's leaders developing one skill above all others: the capacity to make, consistently and repeatedly, high-quality team-based decisions.
The inability to make this happen can drive many leaders crazy. After all, here we are, a mature, competent bunch of people, all of us capable of running our own business, division, department, project, group or team effectively and efficiently. And yet, when we get together, nothing seems to gel. Discussion is plentiful, but effective decisions--particularly those that get efficiently implemented after being agreed upon--are few and far between.
If this sounds like you, then the natural first place to look for improvement is in how the meetings themselves are conducted. After all, if everyone is performing on four cylinders back in their own functional area but tripping over each other when they come together, the problem must lie in the way you meet and make decisions, right?
Possibly, but probably not.
In my experience, the problem lies further upstream, with how the senior team is constructed--at its most basic, with how the org chart works: who does what, who gets what information, who sends it to whom. Most often, ineffective meetings are merely a symptom--it's the inefficiencies, duplications, misunderstandings, redundancies, ambiguities, and downright frustrations that occur before the senior team gets together that are the real cause of underperformance, and which need to be fixed first.
Here's a quick self-assessment you can perform in 30 minutes or less. Copy and paste these 10 questions into a Word document, add any measurement scale you like (say, 1=Definitely not; 2=To a degree; 3=Most always) and circulate it to your senior team. Collate the results and see where the real problem lies:
1. We each have a clear understanding of our individual roles and responsibilities.
2. We each have a clear understanding of each other's roles and responsibilities.
3. There is little overlap or redundancy between our roles and responsibilities.
4. Taken together, our roles and responsibilities ensure oversight over all material areas of operation.
5. Information flows smoothly and efficiently between individual members of the senior leadership team.
6. Decisions are made at an appropriate level.
7. We meet as a team appropriately and as necessary.
8. We meet in sub-groups appropriately and as necessary.
9. Our meetings are effective and efficient.
10. Our meetings produce high-quality decisions.
Chances are, if you have an issue with 9 or 10, there's a root cause further up the list.
Ensure that your leadership team is operating at peak efficiency. Download a free chapter from the author's book, The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success which provides a comprehensive model for developing yourself and others into exceptional, world-class leaders.
There never seems to be enough time. Here are six tips for making the most of what little you have.
Once again Spring came around and messed with my time clock. Even though I know I still have the same number of hours in the day, I can't help but feel that Daylight Savings Time has stolen an hour from me. My body clock still thinks it's 7 a.m. when I wake up, and yet here it is 8 a.m. Sure, I have more daylight, but for the most part, the only light I need for my productivity is the glow of my computer.
Every year, I want to find a way to gain back that hour. I figure somehow maybe I can cheat the system and get back that 60 minutes to write, read, or just relax with my wife and dog. So I put thought into my current processes and how to manage them more efficiently.
It's no fool's errand. In the worst case, I'm stuck with the same patterns but can at least recognize where I'm slow and inefficient. In the best case, I get super-efficient and rack up more time to kayak over the summer. Then, I feel rich in time when the clock changes back in the fall.
Here are the six time-management tips I'm using this year. Who knows, maybe you'll gain an extra hour now as well.
1. Keep a time log. Intention is the key to being more productive. I have to focus my time on the highest manner of productivity. That means not leaving things to chance. In order to remove inefficiencies, I first have to know where they are. I'm keeping a log of time spent on my calendar in order to identify inefficient tasks I can delegate or improve. This past year, I logged my writing time with my column and improved my writing efficiency from 3.5 hours per column to less than 2 hours.
2. Add music to solo tasks. One of the ways I reduced my column-writing time was with a specific music playlist. I grouped songs into 30-minute increments. Now when I write, I set my pace to that specific play list.
The music acts as a metronome keeping me in a rhythm. It also lets me know by which song is playing how far ahead or behind I am on the pace without having to clock watch. Lastly, the earphones keep me tethered to the computer, so I'm less inclined to get up for distractions. I'm now adding this to other reading, writing, and thinking tasks.
3. Schedule related tasks together. Lately, I have been in a high volume work mode. Between producing a weekly live radio show, writing three columns a week, and managing a large marketing project, I'm moving fast and furiously to make sure everything and everybody gets deserved attention.
Instead of moving back and forth between different projects in small increments, I'm setting large blocks of time or even a full day for related tasks. This reduces physical and mental prep time, as well as the effort and distraction of having to remind myself of all the detail surrounding the projects.
4. Add pre and post times to meetings. So often I stack several meetings on the phone or in person. Then, later, I have to go back and decipher my notes to set everything in motion. My new approach is to schedule two minutes before each meeting to prep an action list. I modify the list during the meeting and then I take three minutes afterward to put those items into action. When possible, I apply the recent tip from my Inc. colleague Dave Kerpen of setting those action steps in motion during the meeting itself.
5. Improve punctuality. I used to pride myself on being a very punctual person. I hate being late for anything and am annoyed at others who keep me waiting. So I was shocked when recently a good friend and client told me that she always assumes I will be 15 to 30 minutes late, due to my past behavior.
I thought about how much time is lost in being late, from rushing, rescheduling, apologies, etc. Upon reflection, I identified the culprit. I constantly try to squeeze in one more task, call, or email before I leave for a meeting. No more. I'm now scheduling a set time to leave, with a five-minute buffer to each meeting. I can always add in a simple task while waiting if I'm early.
6. Add a planned work break. Flipping back and forth from project to project can create distraction and tire my brain. So I have added a 15-minute head-clearing exercise in the middle of the day. Then I do a quick two-minute download of my thoughts so I can assess the remaining day. This combined activity sort of defrags my brain, allowing me to operate at peak efficiency.
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Monaco tops the list, but the cost of residential property in business hubs such as New York and London isn't far behind.
If you're looking to get a bargain while looking for a luxury apartment, don't head to the French Riviera.
According to a recent report by London-based real estate consultancy Knight Frank and researcher WealthInsight, Monaco is home to the most expensive real estate market per square foot in the world. With $1 million, you will only get 160 square feet of space in the tiny principality.
Several business hubs were home to the 10 most expensive markets for residential real estate, including London, which ranked third, and New York, which ranked sixth, USA Today reports.
The top 10 most expensive real estate markets, in order, are: Monaco, Hong Kong, London, Singapore, Geneva, New York, Sydney, Paris, Moscow, and Shanghai.
The report also found that Jakarta, Indonesia, recorded the largest rise in real estate prices, with a 38 percent increase between 2012 and 2013. Auckland, New Zealand, ranked second, and Bali, Indonesia, ranked third.
If you're looking for investors, try London. The report found that London is the "most attractive" city for the world's most wealthy, based on four criteria: economic activity, quality of life, knowledge/influence, and political power. New York ranks second, but is on track to displace London, according to the report.
Losing sleep over how you're going to close the next deal? Be like Trump and build this habit instead.
Businesspeople probably spend more time trying to learn about how to improve their sales performance than they do on any other subject. The reason is clear--if you can’t sell effectively, you won’t stay in business, no matter how well you’re doing in every other area.
Most sales advice out there focuses on how to close deals--what to say, ways to follow up, when to pull back, and so on. But if you look at the best salespeople of the 21st century, you’ll find they have one commonality in their behavior that has nothing to with the techniques they use to get prospects to open their checkbooks.Stop Being a Pitchman
Until recently, when someone was considering buying something, there weren’t many ways of getting information. Unless we wanted to spend the bulk of our waking hours doing research, most of us were dependent on overt sales approaches to find out what was available.
As a result, we were somewhat tolerant of commercials that broke into our favorite shows, cold calls that distracted us at work, and knocks on the door that interrupted our family dinners. In this environment, the salesperson that mastered the right turn of phrase to close the most deals was the one who made the most money.
As with so much else, the Internet changed everything. Today, when most people start thinking about buying something, the first thing they do is search online. In a matter of minutes, we can find out everything we want to know about every potential solution to any problem or unfulfilled desire we might have. It’s no surprise traditional sales techniques annoy us more than ever before--and that they’re never been less effective.
So what can a salesperson do? Instead of worrying how to walk, talk, and dress to close deals, you should make it a habit to consistently share what you know for free.Give Yourself Away
Consider the most powerful people of our day and age--Richard Branson, Suze Orman, Oprah, Tony Robbins, even Donald Trump. These people are promiscuous about giving away their knowledge. Whenever they have the opportunity to teach, they do so, whether or not they’re being paid for it. None of these master salespeople are concerned that those listening will steal their ideas; they’re always confident they’ve got plenty more. What they realize is that by regularly helping people improve their lives and businesses, they won’t even have to ask for the big sale once the time is right.
Follow their lead. Make it a practice to always be looking for ways to give away the fruits of your hard-earned expertise. This habit can take many forms--blogging, speaking, contributing articles to trade publications, participating on panels. But whatever you do, don’t ask to get paid for it. Because when you get in the habit of sharing what you know, business will just start falling into your lap.
Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman told a crowd at SXSW that he's not so sure the Next Big Thing will be a software-only startup.
On the third day of the 21st annual South by Southwest Interactive festival, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman had a plea for entrepreneurs: Stop building software-only companies. Think bigger.
His thesis, which he presented to a crowd of about 100 people at Austin's Hilton Downtown, is simple. The future's most audacious--and financially successful--startups will be end-to-end startups. These companies control the entire experience, from the software to the real-world element. Think Amazon, Uber, Airbnb… Kelman came armed with a list of examples.
"Look at Facebook, Google, and Amazon," he said. "Amazon may have a 10th of the traffic of Facebook and Google, but it has twice the revenue. Just because you can grow traffic doesn't mean you're doing something meaningful for people."
Unfortunately, Kelman added, Silicon Valley investors aren't always so keen on companies that can't scale fast. E2E startups typically require tons of cash, and the software-obsessed VCs don't always have the nerve to invest every audacious real-world idea. Why? Because for both the VC and the entrepreneur, being audacious is hard.Who Is Getting It Right?
For Kelman, there are a few examples of software entrepreneurs or companies that have successfully expanded their business into the real world. Take Netflix.
"Netflix used all this data from their streaming service to know that House of Cards would be a huge hit," he said. "They found that lots of people liked Kevin Spacey and this British show called House of Cards, and they put two and two together and made it in the real world." He's right about that: It's no secret that the show has been a boon to the company, even sparking more original programming.
And then there's the Nest thermostat, created by former iPod designer Tony Fadell.
"I mean, who would have guessed that a software guy would launch a company that builds thermostats?" Kelman said. "How unsexy, but what a cool problem to solve. Look at their success."
The company was recently acquired by Google for a reported $3.2 billion.The Longer, Harder Road
Apparently, though, for entrepreneurs wanting to tackle audacious E2E startups, Silicon Valley doesn't always put its money where its mouth is, said Kelman.
It happened to Kelman himself when he was trying to raise money to hire real estate agents at Redfin, which is a real estate search and brokage service.
"The minute we said, 'We've got this great software; now we just need money to hire real estate agents,' the answer was no," he said. Of course, there are some E2E startups that have been able to raise cash--Uber and Airbnb are two of the most valuable. Even Redfin was able to raise just under $100 million in its 10-year history.
The funny thing is, he said, the not-scaling-fast sword cuts both ways.
"Look, at first, I was so frustrated with how slowly Redfin scaled," he said, adding that every CEO wants to be the founder of a sexy, fast-growth software startup that raises jaw-dropping cash. "But I eventually got over that fantasy and realized I could build something that meant something to real people."
In the real world, he added, there are also higher stakes. E2E companies are often saddled with the same issues that strictly brick-and-mortar companies face all the time.
"As [Tesla founder] Martin Eberhard said, 'A car crash is fundamentally different than a software crash,'" he said. Obviously.The Call to Duty
But it seems all this outlining and example-throwing was Kelman's way to call for action.
"What if E2E companies tackled schools? Hospitals?" he asked. "We have some of the most brilliant entrepreneurs in the world building software for teachers---but no teachers are actually using it in any large-scale way."
He even said that as soon as he is done at Redfin, he would be starting a hospital.
"That's how we solve health care," he said. "It's up to us."
Why? You'll get more done.
Should you write that blog post or tackle your budget mess? Go for a run or take that spin class? Make that sales call or work on your presentation?
The daily life of a business owner is filled with questions like these. But what if you could make it more likely that you would stick with whichever option you chose simply by reframing the question slightly?
A recent study from a pair of marketing professors out of Wharton and Georgia State University that will soon be published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that such a thing is actually possible. Rather than simply give yourself the option of A or B, the researchers suggest, you should give yourself the option of A, B, or do nothing.
"Though it may sound like a small change," Knowledge@Wharton reports, the research "proved that...having the choice of not doing something can actually transform people’s likelihood of accomplishing their goals."Better Buy In
How is that possible? The key to the effect seems to be our sense of buy in and commitment. When we give ourselves only a few active options, we, in effect, bully our brains into a choice and then later feel less committed to the course of action we selected. Having the freedom to do nothing means we’re making a truly free choice. Down the road, when the going gets tough, there can be no doubt that you’re doing what you really wanted to do, so you’re more likely to keep at it.
"It sounds counterintuitive, because we assume that the option of doing nothing reduces persistence," researcher Rom Y. Schrift says, but "if I choose something, I learn about my preferences. Just knowing that fact helps us persist longer when there’s adversity or hardship."
"What people decide for themselves is, 'I didn’t have to do it and I decided to do it, so I’ll stick with it for a longer period of time,'" adds his co-author Jeffrey R. Parker.More Tenacity
A series of experiments offering volunteers choices framed with either several active alternatives or those options plus the ability to opt out entirely convinced the researchers that contemplating the possibility of doing nothing does indeed increase tenacity and our chances of sticking with our chosen course of action. So where can you put this insight to use?
Doctors, managers, and parents can all utilize this technique, the professors suggest. So whether you’re trying to get your teenager to spend more time on her homework, your employee to take on that difficult project, or yourself to keep going to the gym, consider simply adding a "none of the above" choice to the decision-making process. That way, when the inevitable difficulties come up, you can say with a straight face "Hey, you wanted to do this in the first place when you could have done nothing at all."
Does this research jive with your personal experience? Let us know in the comments.
Five reasons why rising stars don't always reach their potential.
You know who they are: the young talents everyone eyes as executive material. But these high-potential stars don’t always pan out.
- Ego: 53%
- Developed too quickly: 36%
- Self-serving: 30%
- Repeated failure: 29%
- “One-trick pony”: 23%
Bolt gathered this data when EDA surveyed 20 leaders at 16 different companies. In Bolt’s view, two of the most interesting interviewee comments were:
“If they have strong results, but they sacrifice team members or the bigger picture, or are too self-serving, they would no longer be considered high potential.”
“They might have expectations of the rate they're going to move up. They think that they should be moving up very quickly and when they don’t, they lose patience. They can become disillusioned.”
But these are not the only reasons high-potential employees derail. Some of them need to work on the art of getting results from others, according to a Kellye Whitney article in Talent Management. Whitney explores the topic with David Peterson, who at the time was senior vice president at Personnel Decisions International (PDI).
”Someone who is hard charging, smart, and aggressive is much more likely to get great results, but if they don’t learn to temper that to include other people, to get buy-in, to build alignment with other folks, they may alienate people or cause additional friction down the road,” observes Peterson. (Peterson is now director of learning and development, at Google. PDI is now PDI Ninth House.)
Whitney continues: “Peterson said he often sees people promoted early in their career for getting good results because they’re smart. Yet, any individual at a certain level who’s smart can do a great job. It’s when leaders begin to ascend the higher rungs of the career ladder that the potential for derailment appears. Then it’s not so much the ability to get results that’s most important; it’s working well with others--being able to incite performance in direct reports and teams--that becomes most important.”
Of course, identifying derailment factors is one thing. But how can executives get their future leaders back on the right trajectory? Bolt posed this question to his group of 20 leaders. Here are some of their answers:
Confront them with the facts of the issue
Involve a coach or mentor to correct the behavior
According to Bolt, this was a typical response: “I take a very directive but guiding leadership style that quickly addresses the issue as soon as it develops. One should identify and mitigate the undesirable behavior by leveraging fact-based, first-hand, specific examples, and suggesting behavior that would be more appropriate.”
This article was originally published at The Build Network.