How To Lead Innovation

There may be a time when you need to take the lead on innovation in your organization. The distinguishing aspect of leading a special-purpose team is that you’re not in control; you can only influence behavior. You’re tasked with figuring out how to do something new, so what you do in the formative stages will greatly impact the team’s chances of success?

1. Keep team size small, even for big projects. In Silicon Valley, the “pizza rule” has taken hold. If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, your team is too big. Once a group gets beyond five to seven people, productivity and effectiveness begin to decline. Communication becomes cumbersome. Managing becomes a pain. Players begin to disengage, and introverts withdraw. When it comes to team size, less is more.

2. Pay attention to group chemistry and emotions. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon point to three factors that make a team highly functioning. 1) Members contributed equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate; 2) Members were better at reading complex emotional states; and 3) Teams with more women outperform teams with more men. The emotional component—how we feel when we are engaged with a team—truly matters but is all too often never discussed. Pay attention to how the people you’re inviting onto your team relate to others. Always give credit to your team rather than take credit yourself, and practice empathy at all times.

3. Don’t go overboard with diversity. Can too much diversity be a detriment to team chemistry? Researchers at Wharton think so. Too much diversity of “mental models” can be a drag on forward progress, say professors Klein and Lim. If members of a team have a shared, organized understanding and mental representation of knowledge about the nature of the challenge, it can enhance coordination and effectiveness when the task at hand is complex, unpredictable, urgent and novel. The researchers concluded that team members who share common models can save time because they share a common body of knowledge.

4. Establish a group process. A group without a process is like a ship without a rudder. It will have a harder time innovating. Establish team rules at the outset. Address how you’ll treat each other, how you’ll respect each other and articulate how much of time each member is committing to the team. Effective teams establish clear goals and rules at the outset, and hold each other accountable.

5. Pay attention to the 3R’s of innovation: Result, Reputation and Residuals. What motivates people over the long haul is not money, but intrinsic rewards. As the team leader, keep the three R’s in mind: 1) Result: If you hit your target, you’ll have another accomplishment on your track record; 2) Reputation: Your status in the organization rises. Senior management will be delighted. Colleagues will talk you up, praise your contribution, and invite you to join future projects. 3) Residuals: the lasting payout of participating in a successful collaborative team is that you get to see your “product” being used by customers, both internal and external. You know you’ve made a difference, solved a problem or created an opportunity for the organization, your team and most of all yourself.

Source: Robert B. Tucker is a renowned global futurist and innovation keynote speaker with a client list that includes more than 200 of the Fortune 500 companies. President and founder of The Innovation Resource, Tucker is an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of innovation.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

Ready For A Change? Start Now.

The market, your competitors, technology and customers’ tastes, needs and expectations are always changing. If you don’t change, you’ll get left behind. Change is painful, almost unbearably so, but it’s a vital element in bypassing the status quo, keeping a company current and breaking into higher profits.

Here are five tips for driving change and maintaining your competitive edge.

1. Start at the top. If you are leading an organization or department, begin by determining who’s willing to get on board and who will continue to use the obsolete practices that could lead the company into a downward spiral. To motivate the rest of the company to change, you must get rid of those who won’t get on board.

2. Take your message to the masses. Company employees need to hear your vision for change; you cannot rely on others to accomplish this task because you will be very disappointed by the outcome. Many team members may have been itching for change, and are frustrated and disgusted by the absurd actions those in command. Your message will resonate with them and be embraced.

3. Cut out the nonsense. Get rid of time-wasting meetings that exist solely to air grievances. These are just used for political positioning within the company—nothing gets done, and there’s no objective. When you cut out these nonsensical areas and the panderers creating them, the message will be clear that change is happening.

4. Paint a vivid, realistic picture of what will happen if change is not made. A clear depiction is needed for true change to be seen as necessary and for it to be accepted. This must be tirelessly reiterated. Everyone needs constant reminders that companies can and do become extinct every day. Make your team realize that the pain of not changing will be much worse than making the changes necessary to be competitive in today’s market.

5. Provide incentives for those who embrace the changes and provide ample incentives to keep them on board. These don’t always need to be monetary; they can even be congratulatory symbols to show you notice their hard work. By inspiring people with your changes, they’ll have something to believe in, provoking them to champion your cause.

Change is the basic element needed to take a company into double-digit profits. By incorporating these five components, you will decisively lead your company into a profitable future.

Source: Steve Blue is president and CEO of Miller Ingenuity, a global supplier of safety-critical solutions for the transportation industry. He blended multiple technologies to transform the 60-year-old manufacturing company into a highly innovative global powerhouse. An author and speaker, Blue is a nationally recognized expert on leading change and showing companies how to double and even quadruple growth.

Five Ways To Create An Office Oasis

My office is in the prime traffic flow area. It’s located near the break room, across the aisle from the call center and just down the hall from the C-suite. There are definite advantages to this prime location. It’s easy to catch my boss when I have a question that needs to be answered right away. It’s good visibility to other teams, but it’s a revolving door. I have people coming and going all the time. Between the “stop-bys,” emails and plethora of conference calls and meetings, it’s difficult to have a quiet environment where I can reflect and think strategically about my role, my goals and my deliverables.

Here, we pass along these five resources to create a more mindful atmosphere that’s conducive to productive work.

1. Use Noisli to forget your surroundings. Noisli is a website that provides background ambient noise. You can choose sounds such as blowing wind, a busy cafe, a forest with birds singing—just to name a few. The best part is that you can mix multiple sounds to set the perfect mood for concentrated work. You can use Noisli everywhere—it has a website and Chrome extension for desktop use, and apps for both iOS and Android.

2. Try Bose noise-cancelling headphones to eliminate sound altogether. The technology behind noise-canceling headphones involves microphones that analyze outside noise and create counter-signals that isolate you completely from the surrounding sounds. A pair of quality headphones can be pricey, but it’s a long-term investment that has a huge ROI on productivity.

3. Take a few minutes to meditate with Calm. The app offers free relaxing soundtracks and mindfulness meditation exercises without any payment obligations. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, fall back in your chair and let the sound of sea breezes carry you away for 10 minutes. Calm also has a timer that helpfully notifies you when it’s time to get back to work.

4. Use Evernote to manage your colleagues’ requests. Evernote is a tool that allows you to batch all of your colleagues’ requests and questions, and forward these in one bundle at the end of day. Evernote’s Chrome extension is particularly useful for writing down stray ideas that pop into your mind while you’re working on other tasks. When you deal with many prospects every day, it’s challenging to remember everything you need to know. Whenever there’s a need to take and save screenshots, Evernote Web Clipper can help with this.

5. Buy a silent mouse. I have to say I didn’t know this existed until I ran across these tips. There are two types of people in the world: Those who love the sounds of mouse clicks and typing on a keyboard, and those who would like nothing more than to get rid of them for good. You can now buy a silent mouse to eliminate the rat-tat-tat of the keyboard.

A quiet personal haven compared to the noisiness of a busy office boosts our ability to focus, and you’ll be surprised by how much more you can accomplish by the end of the week.

Source: Karola Karlson is a freelance copywriter and the content marketing manager at Scoro.

Dare to Be Different In Networking

A friend who recently accepted a job as a pharmaceutical sales representative. She just came back from a week-long sales training event and was one of the more successful individuals in terms of standing out to management. When I asked her how she did it, she shared a couple of tips.

While many of the reps went out for drinks after the day’s session, she stayed in and got a good night’s sleep. She then hit the gym at 5:30 am only to discover both her sales director and the VP of sales working out in the gym at the same time.

“I began to talk to them during my workout, and they got to know me on a personal level. Plus, they saw my dedication by showing up in the gym every morning. It was definitely worth my time,” explained my friend.

Today we ask, what are your networking priorities? Try these tips for making an impression that will catch other people’s interest and make you memorable.

1. Be different. One thing that makes us remember something is when we experience a pattern interruption; this means anything that goes against a pattern of common occurrence. For instance, say you are in a room with a bunch of people who are all wearing black suits. You’ll be remembered if you wear a white suit. This idea can be applied to networking, too. People will not only remember you if you interrupt the patterns, or norms of your industry, but they’ll also be drawn to you.

2. Ask questions. The easiest way to connect with somebody is to show curiosity about them. This might tie into the first point because, unfortunately, curiosity surprises people. In a world where we like to talk about ourselves, our own businesses and what we bring to the table, it’s refreshing, memorable and completely compelling to talk to somebody who would rather talk about you.

And the best way to demonstrate this desire to know more about who you’re talking to is by asking questions.

Before your next event, sit down and make a list of some questions that are different from the standard questions everybody asks. This will help you go deeper and get more telling answers, which will help you bond with whomever you’re talking to.

For example, instead of asking “how are you?” ask “what is inspiring you these days?” or “what is your biggest business challenge?”

3. Avoid the magnets. At every event, there are magnets—people who others seem drawn to, like a moth to a light. Sometimes, others are drawn to the magnets because they are loud, or command attention, or seem powerful. Sometimes they are the well-known leaders. But instead of following the crowd and spending your time at these events trying to chat with the magnets, look for others who are sticking to the sidelines and strike up a conversation with them. You’ll be able to form deeper relationships with those people than you will with the person everybody is vying for attention from, and chances are they’ll have a lot more to offer, too.

4. Don’t attend with friends. This is a big blunder that many new networkers make. It may feel a bit more comfortable to go to an event with a friend, but you are far more likely to stick by their side and just chat with them which completely negates the whole point of your attendance at the event. Furthermore, people won’t feel as comfortable approaching you (or your friend) because they’ll feel as if they are intruding on a conversation.

Do yourself a favor and leave the friend time for before or after your event, and fly solo during the show or conference.

Source: RelatE is an online destination for service providers to educate themselves on how to start, manage and grow their business. RelatE is sponsored by Schedulicity—a leader in online appointment scheduling, which allows millions of consumers to discover and book local services, while giving service providers the time and resources to care for their customers.

Recruiting: How Tech Can Help

It’s not easy to apply for a new job these days. It’s also not easy to recruit the right candidates. LinkedIn plus talent management tools like Taleo have created an environment where companies must continuously optimize candidate conversions.

What was once a job-board-to-career-site-to-apply process has become much more complex.

We tend to think of the candidate journey as having three distinct phases: discovery, nurturing and applying. There are some parallels between this journey and the buyer’s journey as defined by a digital marketer. Just as buyers now start their journey with research on Google, and social media and rating sites, so do job seekers. CareerBuilder recently released data showing that as many as 73 percent of candidates now begin their job search on Google—far more than any traditional job board.

This is all part of the discovery phase of the new-candidate journey. The variables that go into this phase alone have turned organizations’ top-of-the-funnel recruiting strategies upside down. It’s more vital than ever that companies consider and optimize their employer brand, social recruiting strategy, the content they create, how easy their jobs are to find on Google and much more.

Once job seekers actually make it to the career site through one of these entry points at the top of the funnel, it’s no longer a one-and-done scenario. The best digital marketers understand they’re not going to convert every buyer in their first interaction, and recruiters need to think the same way about candidates. This is where the nurturing phase of the candidate journey comes into play.

Today’s leading companies are deploying tools like job alerts and talent networks on their career sites, enticing job seekers to opt-in and essentially become part of their candidate pipeline. Candidates may not be ready to apply, but they’re interested in the company and its positions. When used correctly, a pool of candidates that chooses to be contacted can deliver major returns to key metrics over time such as cost-per-applicant and time-to-fill.

In some scenarios, large global companies are able to build up such a pipeline that reaches several million people in a short period of time. As one example, a consumer electronics retail chain organically grew its talent pipeline with the use of job alerts, and virtually eliminated its job board spend for the holiday hiring surge simply because it had a massive group of people waiting to hear about new opportunities in each location.

When candidates are ready to apply—which could be on their first visit to the site or after visiting over time via nurture marketing—today’s companies have to be prepared to impress them with an awesome apply experience. This means the ability to apply on any device, with the same level of quality that matches modern consumer brands. This is perhaps one of the greatest areas of opportunity, given that so many companies are behind the curve in their apply experience.

The new candidate journey has been influenced by job seekers’ changing behaviors and preferences for finding information. Use these tips to optimize your candidate conversions and stay ahead of your competition.

Source: Mike Roberts is a writer and researcher. At Jibe, a candidate experience platform solution, his focus is on helping talent acquisition professionals stay up to date on the latest recruiting strategies, technology and trends.

Five Forces That Shape Strategy

You can’t get through business school without hearing the name Michael E. Porter. More than three decades ago, this famed strategist and economist defined five key competitor forces that shape the development of a business strategy. In fact, strategy is, in essence, a workplan for handling competition. Today, we define Porter’s five key forces.

Bargaining Powers of Suppliers: This force assesses how easy it is for suppliers to drive up prices. This is determined by the number of suppliers of each key input, the uniqueness of their product or service, their strength and control over you, the cost of switching from one to another, and so on. The fewer the supplier choices you have and the more you need a supplier’s help, the more powerful your suppliers are.

Buyer Power: This phase determines how easy it is for buyers to drive prices down. Again, this is determined by the number of buyers, the importance of each individual buyer to your business, the cost to them of switching from your products and services to those of someone else, and so on. If you deal with a few, powerful buyers, then they are often able to dictate terms to you.

Competitive Rivalry: What is important here is the number and capability of your competitors. If you have many competitors, and they offer equally attractive products and services, then you’ll most likely have little power in the situation because suppliers and buyers will go elsewhere if they don’t get a good deal from you. On the other hand, if no one else can do what you do, then you can often have tremendous strength.

Threat of Substitution: This is affected by the ability of your customers to find a different way of doing what you do. For example, if you supply a unique software product that automates an important process, people may substitute by doing the process manually or by outsourcing it. If substitution is easy and substitution is viable, then this weakens your power.

Threat of New Entry: Power is also affected by the ability of people to enter your market. If it costs little in time or money to enter your market and compete effectively, if there are few economies of scale in place, or if you have little protection for your key technologies, then new competitors can quickly enter your market and weaken your position. If you have strong and durable barriers to entry, then you can preserve a favorable position and take fair advantage of it.

Source: Michael Porter is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, based at the Harvard Business School. He is a leading authority on competitive strategy and the competitiveness and economic development of nations, states and regions. Porter’s work is recognized in many governments, corporations and academic circles globally. He chairs Harvard Business School’s program dedicated for newly appointed CEOs of large corporations.

The Three C’s To Workplace Fun

Do you have fun at work? Between customer demands and measurable results, there often isn’t time for fun. However, enlightened business leaders constantly take the opportunity to enhance their existing programs for workplace fun. How can a program for workplace fun become more effective and efficient? Read this issue on Promotional Consultant Today to learn more.

A healthy program for fun at work has essentials that ensure you’ll get the culture, leadership and investment to perform optimally. They are called the 3 Cs: Consistency, on Company Time and Culture Compliant.

Consistency: The traditional model for workplace fun generally involves two specific high-profile events. They give employees a chance to connect and share, celebrate and bond. They’re typically pure fun and have been around since the dawn of business. You probably already plan these events. They are … the company picnic and the holiday party.

You might spend months preparing for these celebrations. And they can be valuable for your team, no doubt. But any morale boost they produce is fleeting—maybe just a few days or a week, tops. Before you know it, your employees may fall into a rut of apathy about the workplace, at least until the next special event many months later. Consider that this apathy, lack of motivation and connection costs you money, productivity and loyalty.

As opposed to planning two large events each year, you should focus on consistent delivery of engagement. When it comes to fun in the workplace, consistency is key and should help to make fun feel as natural and typical to the staff as the rush hour commute or weekly meetings. Monthly fun programs are an easy starting point and offer six-times the amount of fun than only the holiday party and company picnic.

On Company Time: Studies conducted on employees and work-family balance show that employees value their time with family and friends much more today than ever before. Time is among the most highly valued commodities. Yet, company leaders hesitate to schedule fun events on company time. Doing so, they believe, impacts productivity and is merely a distraction.

Many companies follow the same agenda for retreats and conferences: meetings from 8:30 am to 4 pm and team building from 4-6 pm. And what happens after 6 pm? That’s the time reserved for the mandatory happy hour and team dinner, of course. That doesn’t sound like fun for anyone. The “fun” is too long and disrupts family time.

Consider instead a 15-minute icebreaker at 8:30 am to set the tone for a productive day, followed by a brief team activity after lunch to reenergize the group for the rest of the day. And then, at 4 pm, send people home for some downtime. Be a superhero and save the company some serious money on the booze and food for the evening.

It’s easier to attract talent and start adopting a culture of fun and the positive results that follow when fun is delivered in short stints.

Culture Compliance: Compliance speaks to more than just the typical view of the concept of legalities. Compliant fun will integrate with your company’s culture and bylaws and encourage everyone to participate in their own way.

First, make sure you have a good sense of the likes, dislikes, tolerances and intolerances of the folks who make up your organization. Second, fun needs to appeal to extroverts and introverts alike. Some employees will gladly do the limbo; others will prefer watching. Everyone should feel comfortable enough to play along in the way that suits their tastes.++

The key to success? Allow team members to define their own fun. Listen. And plan events that allow for a variety of different kinds of participation.

Source: Nat Measley, MPA, is the CEO and managing partner at The Fun Dept, and co-author of the recently released book Playing it Forward: The Definitive ‘How To’ Model for Creating a Winning Workplace Culture.


Four Habits Of Top Sales Performers

What does a top-performing salesperson look like? Look around your office. Do you see this person sitting behind their desk? How does this person dress? Is he or she an eloquent speaker? What does this individual do in his or her free time?

The profile of the top performing salespeople is changing—and fast says Mark Roberge, chief revenue officer of the HubSpot sales division. In today’s Promotional Consultant Today, we share these four habits described by Roberge that are consistent with today’s top performers.

No. 1: They are data jocks. Historically, sales managers have taken extraordinary strides to measure the performance of their salespeople … and salespeople have avoided these tactics like the plague. “What I do cannot be measured. It is an art form.” Today’s top sales performers love data for their own use. To them, data represents the blueprint to excellence. They want to know:

  • What day of the week or time of day do prospects most often open email or pick up the phone?
  • How many calls per day do I need to make to hit my commission check goals? Am I on track?
  • How does my call activity, connect rate, opportunity conversion, forecast accuracy and close rate compare to my peers? Where can I improve?


No. 2: They are technology geeks. How did salespeople get an edge in the old days? They owned front-row season tickets for the hot pro sports team. They were members at the exclusive country club. They had access to vintage wine. But, sorry, customers just do not buy this way anymore. They probably wonder how much of this lavish lifestyle is baked into the ultimate sales price being pitched to them.

Today’s top sales performers look for an edge from technology, not exclusivity. They use technology to create a better buying experience for their customers and to streamline their own sales process. They use technology to monitor the millions of buying signals happening online every day and engage with those companies that are actually entering into a buying process. They use technology to automatically update their CRM records as they interact with prospects on email, the phone and on webinars.

No. 3: They think “Always Be Helping,” not “Always Be Closing.” Legacy salespeople are closers. The pitch starts the minute they open their mouths. Today’s top sales performers put the customer’s needs before their own. Here are the three steps today’s top performers follow:

  • Develop trust with the prospect.
  • Leverage the trust to understand the prospect’s top priorities, goals and problems.
  • If the salesperson’s solutions are aligned with the prospect’s priorities, the salesperson presents the solution within the buyer’s context, using their terminology. If the solution is not aligned, the salesperson thanks the prospects for their time and refers the prospects to someone who may be able to help.


No 4: They are digital thought leaders in their industry. In a post-internet age, the power in the sales process has shifted significantly to the buyer. Buyers can be at home and research the top vendors online. They can find out how each solution is different and how much each solution costs. So why do we need salespeople?

In this new buyer-driven context, they need to be perceived as trusted advisors by their prospects. Top-performing salespeople make the investment to attain this status. Instead of 80 hours a month of cold calling, top salespeople carve out a few hours a week to build up their online authority. They read the blogs their target prospects read and they add smart comments. They follow the Twitter users their prospects follow and they retweet the best messages. They join the same LinkedIn groups in which their prospects are members and they post smart answers. They become digital thought leaders.

Today’s top-performing salespeople yearn for excellence. They love efficiency. Most importantly, their industry knowledge and desire to help make for an enjoyable experience for all buyers.

Source: Mark Roberge is chief revenue officer of the HubSpot sales division where he increased revenue more than 6,000 percent and expanded the worldwide sales team from one to 450 employees. These results placed HubSpot No. 33 on the 2011 Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies list. Roberge was ranked No. 19 in Forbes‘ Top 30 Social Sellers in the World. He was also awarded the 2010 Salesperson of the Year at the MIT Sales Conference. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine, Inc. magazine, Boston Globe, TechCrunch, Harvard Business Review and other major publications for his entrepreneurial ventures.