3 Ways to Boost Your Innovation

I had the most fun time doing a webshow on Connectional Intelligence with the wondrous Shama.tv! In this episode, we talk about what it means to have Connectional Intelligence in business, key ways to boost innovation and what Bollywood dancing has to do with it all. Be sure to watch until the end for a little surprise–some dancing! yes, I'm serious.

Here are 3 ways you can increase your Connectional Intelligence -

1) Spend 15 minutes every day connecting to new sources of perspective outside your normal perspective  (different news source, forum, conference etc).

2) Schedule 2 conversations with millennials or people you think differently from you on a regular basis.

3) Take the Connectional Intelligence Test at ericadhawan.com/cxq

 

5 Best Companies for Employee Engagement

Business leaders in America have been programmed to view Capitalism as an "anything goes" system, where competition is king. For example, as long as business leaders are playing by the rules, it's apparently okay for wages to be distributed unevenly throughout the organization. For example, the top executives are being paid more than 100x that of the average worker. After all, only the CEO works really hard right?

Wrong. A new era of leadership is beginning to catch fire and the days of profits, profits, profits are slowly coming to an end. Stakeholders want more from their companies. Companies that are getting on board with stakeholder demand for doing what is good and just for their employees are the ones who are winning.

Billy Joel, it’s time to rethink your tune.  It is not enough to simply conduct business to make money in today’s environment.  Companies must go the extra mile to do what is right for their people and invest in them what they want to get out of them. 

Take a look at how Five Companies are thriving in today’s environment of increased employee engagement:

1.     GOOGLE:  Google offers its employees a workplace that combines work and play. Complete with scooter parking stalls, free late afternoon espresso shots, healthy snack bowls, and a full service gym, Google is working to provide a workspace that people appreciate and ultimately work harder for. Sure it is an investment for Google to offer these perks to over 50,000 employees all year. However, the investment is clearly worth it with Google stock selling at $889 per share and consistent reports of year over year increases in growth rate. 

2.     SAS:  SAS employees, and their families, have free access to a massive gym featuring a weight room and a heated pool. They also have an on-site health care clinic, staffed by physicians, nutritionists, physical therapists, and psychologists–all for free! Deeply discounted child care is available and additional no-cost work-life counseling is offered to employees. They’ve had 37 consecutive years of record earnings coming in at $2.8 billion in 2012.

3.     WEGMAN’S FOOD MARKETS:  Employees of this grocery food chain are encouraged to reward one another with store paid gift cards for good service. Many workers like it there so much that one in five employees are related to each other, as so many referrals take place.  Wegmans has also been known to offer chartered jets to fly all new full-timers to Rochester to be welcomed by CEO Danny Wegman.  With turnover rates far below that of other retailers, Wegman’s future is promising.

4.     DREAMWORKS ANIMATION:  At this movie studio, fresh-juice trucks visit the headquarters location to distribute free smoothies, and employees are given stipends to personalize workstations.  Parties are frequently held after large projects are completed where company artists are encouraged to share their personal work.  Revenues for this company were over $706 million in 2011.

5.     ZAPPOS.COM:  Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is relocating headquarters to Las Vegas where he is spending $350 million to develop the entire neighborhood, dubbed the Downtown Project, so employees will have access to great places to live and socialize too.  The company employees a full time life coach, and last year Zappos.com reported 0% voluntary turnover.

Guest Post by April Anderson. April is a researcher at Erica Dhawan Group and currently a MBA candidate at Baruch College in Organizational Psychology with a passion for women & leadership, social enterprise, and management development theory.  Find April here.

 

Top 5 Reasons Real Leaders Say No

Image courtesy of Marcus / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Marcus / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It takes one cancellation, one schedule change, one forgotten reply, and only one disappointment to change others' perceptions of you as a leader. This is a bold statement, but it's true!

The world that we live in is fast-paced and crazy competitive. People do not have the time to spend thinking through why somebody disappointed them. Rather, all they can afford to process is how that disappointment felt. The reasons behind the experienced disappointment is irrelevant.

Take a look at the top 5 reasons why real leaders say NO:

1. The only way to avoid letting others down is to say no proactively.  At first, this can seem unnatural as leaders typically enjoy their position of power. However, always saying "Yes, I can do that for you," is not sustainable.  Often times, a definite no can lend itself to increased focus and clearer understanding for the larger group. This choice may not be understood at the time but will make sense to them later.

2. True leaders understand the weight of their words. If they commit to doing something, then they know it is important to do it. Whatever they said they were going to do is unimportant because the disappointment that people feel when something doesn’t get done can be irrationally understood.  If you commit to doing something as menial as picking up the donuts, then you better be ready to make a Dunkin’ run, or somebody at work will feel disappointed.

3. Rationalization can be so strong that you reason your way out of doing something. You might feel certain that you absolutely cannot be disappointing anybody by not doing what you said you were going to do. This is a danger zone.  You will never be able to fully know whether or not you've disappointed somebody. Most of the time you will never be alerted to the facts. The only way to avoid disappointing people is to do what you say you are going to do and leaders have a firm grasp on this reality.

4. By saying no in an open and honest manner, you can avoid the common pitfall of over-committing and under-delivering.  Sure you’ve heard this saying before and know there is a level of truth to it. How often have you over-committed and as a result, have felt that you were forced to under-deliver?  Remind yourself of this common advice and be transparent with others about your other commitments, so they understand why you cannot say yes.  Temporary disappointment up front will subside quickly.

5. Planning one’s time wisely is essential to being successful as a leader in any forum.  Once you have learned the art of saying no, it gets a whole lot easier to manage your day to day activities.  A job doing is worth doing well. No better way to remember that than to take a look at where your time is being spent and make a contentious decision to scrap what you can.  Your calendar will thank you later.

Sure, doing what you say you are going to do seems easy enough, except that it's not. The most difficult task real leaders face is knowing when and how to say no as it takes strength, thoughtfulness, and experience to do it.  As you are working through the growing pains of saying no more often, remind yourself of the reasons why you are doing so, and you’ll be much more inclined to continue.

Guest Post by April Anderson. April is a researcher at Erica Dhawan Group and currently a MBA candidate at Baruch College in Organizational Psychology with a passion for women & leadership, social enterprise, and management development theory.  Find April here.

5 Greatest Missed Opportunities of Leadership

Aktav | Dreamstime Stock Photos | Stock Free Images

Aktav | Dreamstime Stock Photos | Stock Free Images

How do you create the mindset and space to not miss out on the most important opportunities of your life? Here are 5 missed opportunities (if you don't watch for them): 

1) Not understanding what "expertise" really means": One of the greatest chellenges is that people think they need to be considered an 'expert' before they speak or write about a topic. The reality is: having a engagement with a "question" is itself an expertise. Being able to show why something matters to you is its own sense of developing an expertise. Start now.

2) Getting stuck in groupthink: Too much "agreement" can stifle an group by destroying its responsiveness and capacity for change. Be willing to be controversial and take a stand.

3) Expecting the oldest, most senior person to have the best ideas: Oftentimes, the "oldest" person in the room is the "most stuck" in the past. What can the wisdom and generativity of fresh eyes bring to a problem?  Don't miss any opportunities to use this to your benefit!

4) Rechecking your assumptions: Why is it that our assumptions are actually the core tools holding us back? Sometimes simply reversing our assumptions could lead us to better solutions [ex. encyclopedia can’t be open source, instead meet: Wikipedia]

5) Never scheduling time for play and exploration: One of the best creative leaders once told me to schedule 1 hour a month by myself for "white space" to play and explore on new ideas. I've found this to be one of the most important times to explore and generate new ideas.

What are other missed opportunities of leadership in your life? Share with us (so we don't miss them too!) and how you are overcoming them in the comments below.

5 Life Changing Decisions You Can Take Now

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Decisions are commitments. They are commitments to live one way versus another. They often require tradeoffs, pain, joy, and challenge. Making tough decisions is the core of leadership. Here are 5 life changing decisions you can take now.

1) Choose a life of impact over a social life. It's harder but you won't regret it.  It’s a choice. They aren’t mutually exclusive of course, but sometimes we need to make a choice between the "important, long-term" mission and the "short, fun" event or initiative.

2) Take responsibility, not authority. There is a big difference between authority and responsibility. Authority is a form of control, responsibility is a form of influence.

3) Don't stop engaging in the arts. What brings us laughter, song, dance and joy are what brings us vitality, happiness and innovation. What is the next artistic challenge you will take on? Mine is Haitian Dance!

4) Create the optimal filters. Sometimes advice is the exact opposite of what you need to transform. Questions from a select few may do the trick.

5) Practice self-love. Be your own best friend. When we stop being hard on ourselves and trust our intentions, we create space for more love and gratitude around us. 

Top 5 articles you must read on Innovation

writing pen  1. Bryan Mahoney's article, Innovation Strategy goes on to identify top five strategies to address innovation, one of which entails the creation of culture of innovation by promoting and rewarding entrepreneurship and risk-taking.

  2. This article in Innovation Excellence by Paul Hobcraft expresses that organizations should not rely on a single innovation function, it must integrate with the entire organization.

  3. How does a company like Google continue to grow exponentially while still staying innovative? Susam Wojcicki, Google's Senior Vice President of Advertising, discusses some of the processes and principles in place to make sure that the company doesn't get bogged down in the past as it keeps moving forward. 8 Pillars of Innovation

4. Today, we’re on the brink of a new digital paradigm, where the capabilities of our technology are beginning to outstrip our own.  Computers are deciding which products to stock on shelves, doing legal research and even winning game shows. They will soon be driving our cars and making medical diagnoses.  Here are five trends that are driving it all

5. 7 Tips to Speed Time to Innovation: This article delves into the goals every organization should work toward to boost product development performance, looks at how these goals further a product organizations ability to bring innovative products to market, and outlines the ways that a Product Portfolio Management (PPM) Solution helps comapnies reach these goals. 

3 Hard Mistakes I Made

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Having been an entrepreneur (in many different forms) for a while now, I've gotten asked this question a lot: How did you build your business? The truth is I've worked on over 5 businesses this decade, some failed miserably, some a success. Today, I want to share the three hard leadership mistakes I made in my business career, thus far [ps–I know that I will have many more over time.]

1) Starting a business too quickly: In the past, I started a business way too quickly. I had business partners and didn't realize what it takes to build strong trust with people around me and make sure they were the right people. Also, I took on many projects at the same time thus getting nothing done. Be careful to say no to an offer even if you can't believe you got it–you'll get better ones if you keep striving and doing good work. What are you doing "too quickly"? What could you say "no" to this week so you can say "yes" to something else?

2) Letting emails overwhelm me: Email overload can be the worst. In the past, I've found myself dictated by a schedule by others rather than setting myself free to plan my work. Now I use applications and set core days and times for email responses–and I'm 10x more productive. Here are a few key ones I use: Self Control, Other Inbox, Boomerang, YouCanBookMe. What could you try to improve your email productivity?

3) Surround yourself by only the best for you: Why do Tony Robbins and Richard Branson hang out? Because as you grow and reinvent yourself, you need to continue to 'seed your garden' of relationships with people that inspire you. Over time, relationships must change–be around people that push you to be better, challenge you, and help you grow and accept sometimes you may need to let some relationships go. Who are the new people that inspire you that you'd like to connect with?

What are hard mistakes you've made? What have you learned from them? Tell us in the comments below.

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Three Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Actions

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since action is ultimately what leadership is all about –  it’s remarkable how often we turn the work of action into a test of how much "we do" rather than an opportunity to enhance motivation, deepen commitment, and create opportunities for leadership development of others. When pursuing any important work, it is critical to "check in" to understand WHY you are doing work tasks, WHO you are developing, and HOW you are solving problems.

Here are three questions you must ask yourself to reflect on any work actions you do:

  • First, does it solve the problem at hand? Did you get done what you set out to do? Are there more books in the school, for example? Did more money get allocated to the business?
  • Second, does it strengthen the organization? Did it deepen understanding, build relational commitment, and generate new resources, people, and ideas?
  • Third, does it facilitate the learning of individuals who take part in the action? Did people learn, did they gain confidence, were they energized – or were they completely burned out?

​What are you learning from your responses to these questions?

If you enjoyed this article, get exclusive access to a FREE private collection of leadership and career tools by email here.

My 2013 Commencement Address

Sewickley Academy 2013 graduation ceremony. Photo by Jason CohnThis Sunday I had the distinguished honor of being the keynote commencement speaker at my high school, Sewickley Academy in Pittsburgh, PA. The theme of the address was to "Choose Excellence", to urge graduates to choose excellence, to pick a path and master it and to be the most inspiring version of themselves they can be.

Addressing my high school in a commencement speech was an amazing opening for growth for me. The truth is: I spent most of my high school experience treating myself as 'not good enough' and always felt it was awful to be 'the nerd' in high school. Then when I wrote my speech, I realized that so many of the "inspirational messages" I was writing were the things I had felt I needed myself. So, in essence, it was really a speech to myself, a speech to call myself to excellence and create space for the young graduates to do the same. It also made me realize that how easy it is to get stuck in an 'old story' about my high school experience, so many years later–which was finally transformed during the ceremony in a beautiful way.

What negative self talk from your school days still keeps you in your 'old ways'? If you were to write a speech to your 18 year old self what would it say?

Here's mine. 

2013 Sewickley Academy Commencement Speech

How to Manage Generation Y

Want to learn who millennials are, why your company need them, and how to keep them at your company? This infographic below does an awesome job showcasing the answers.

Some highlights are: 

  • By 2014, 36% of the US workforce will be millennials
  • Millennials are the most diverse generation ever
  • 65% of millennials said the opportunity for personal development was the most influential factor in their current job
  • 43% of millennials have liked over 20 brands on Facebook
  • 71% of millennials would like to work abroad

Here it is!

If you enjoyed this article, get exclusive access to a FREE private collection of leadership and career tools by email here.