Archive for the ‘ Differences ’ Category

Overcoming the odds

My dad and I after the surgery

About 5 years ago my father was diagnosed with liver cancer. He was a heavy drinker in his younger days and his cirrhosis compounded his medical issues. Over these 5 years he has gone through chemotherapy, radiation, and a litany of drugs to stabilize his liver. 9 months ago he was finally cancer-free and was then able to be on the transplant list for a new liver. A few weeks ago we received a call that a new liver came in and he needed to be at the hospital as soon as he could. My dad said he felt strange about it and had mixed emotions about the process. “How can I live because someone else has died?” I can’t imagine the competing values he had to deal with. The surgery went better than expected and the transplant was successful.  When the doctor pulled the liver out he said he didn’t know how my dad was still alive. He barely had a few inches left of a functioning liver.

What’s different about dad now than before his surgery is his zeal for life. He has always been a very happy and positive person, but something has changed for him. He told me the other day on the phone that he has “a second chance at life.” It got me thinking. What if I lived like I had a second chance at life? How much happier and productive could I be if I lived like this? So go out and make the best of everything. You never know how much you can accomplish with the right mindset

“The Happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything.”

What are Your Secrets to Being a Revolutionary Leader?

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How quickly things change in 10 years

Think about this: the first iPhone came out in 2007.

Technology changes so rapidly that it is incredibly difficult to keep up with the rate of change. But looking at leadership, have there been as many revolutionary changes in the last seven years as there have been in technology?

Mobile World Congress was this week in Barcelona. For those who don’t know, it’s a huge annual conference where some of the top smartphone manufacturers introduce their latest products. Though Apple was absent, Samsung announced their latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S5. Some advances from the previous version include improved battery life, updated camera, faster processor, a heart-rate monitor, and a new fingerprint scanner (a la iPhone 5s), but despite all of these, its reception has been generally lukewarm because the changes weren’t quite revolutionary.

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The response to the S5

Consumers of technology these days demand constant innovation from products. Why shouldn’t your direct reports, the consumers of your leadership, demand the same? Would you be able to keep up?

Let’s get the ball rolling on change. Are you currently doing something differently from other leaders to improve your leadership skills and/or meet the needs of your direct reports? Perhaps that thing you do is actually the game-changer that will revolutionize leadership as we know it. Share it in the comments.

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Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Leadership: How to Adapt and Survive

Remember the T-1000 in Terminator 2? The bad guy who was made of liquid metal and could take on the appearance of any other person he met? What made him such a formidable enemy was that he could adapt to any situation. Don’t have a weapon? He’ll just turn his entire hand into a sword. Avoiding detection? Melt and become the floor. Crying baby? Morph into the mother and gently mimic her voice to soothe the baby.

Ok, maybe that last part didn’t actually happen, but who knows what could have transpired if the T-1000’s agenda didn’t involve constant destruction. Really, he could have accomplished almost anything. And that’s the point… he was flexible (both literally and figuratively). And great leaders are that as well (in the figurative sense, of course, unless we’re talking about yoga instructors).

adaptability

But most people do not seem built for this flexibility. By the time we’re ready to lead, we have shaped a certain identity that is already filled with characteristics, beliefs, and behaviors that are not easily changed, thus giving psychologists a reason to study personality. But you are more adaptable than you think.

Imagine you are in the crowd at a sporting event with your favorite team squaring off against its greatest rival. All your like-minded friends are there with you, cheering on your team and jeering the enemy. What are your behaviors? Now imagine you are with a potential client on an important business meeting at a coffee shop. Now you’re with your family at your favorite vacation destination. Now a romantic date with your significant other. Did your behaviors change? But you are still just yourself with your singular identity. How is it possible that you can exhibit, in some cases, such jarringly different personalities?

Different Faces

The answer is simple. Think of yourself as having varying quantities of various qualities. And, depending on the situation, you adjust the dials on some of those qualities to construct different personalities. But what’s empowering is that you are manually changing your behaviors. You are in control of who you display, because you can choose to see, for instance, the romantic date as actually the sporting event. This may not go over so well with your significant other, but then again, it may go over wonderfully. You really don’t know unless you try! And all it takes is a quick change in perspective.

So essentially, you have hundreds of different personalities living inside of you and you decide who comes out. Go out and try a personality you don’t normally use in a situation. Why? For the sake of becoming adaptable! Because learning and practicing adaptability can take you from a good leader to a great leader! And being more adaptable can benefit both you and those around you. Unless, of course, you’re the T-1000.

T-1000Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Leadership Failure

Not too long ago I was put in charge of a couple sections of soldiers who were working on some military intelligence products for an upcoming mission. Since the teams were working on separate products, I assigned myself to one team and had a Lieutenant take charge of another team. The LT had been in the army for a few years, so I had no qualms about giving the team to him. I spoke with him privately and told him that he had “full autonomy” over his team and gave him full discourse over what his team did and how they finished their products. The next morning I come into work at 7:30 fully expecting everyone to be there for unit physical training. They weren’t. When I asked the LT where his team was, he said that he told them that they could do physical training on their own and that they didn’t need to show up until 9:30am. “What? Why did you do that? We always show up at 7:30.”Leadership

So, of course, they decided to sleep in and didn’t do any physical training for the day.

And of course my team was upset that they didn’t get to sleep in and come to work at 9:30. The last thing I wanted to create was resentment across the two teams. I thought that maybe a “team building” exercise was in order, but I didn’t carry it out because I felt I would probably screw that up too.  I was upset about the whole situation, but mainly I was irritated at myself.

After looking back on the incident, here’s what I learned:

  • I never really gave him full autonomy

Here’s what I really said: You can have full autonomy unless you do something I don’t want you to do or something that I disagree with you on. What I told him he could do and what I wanted him to do were two separate things.

  • I shouldn’t have given him full autonomy

Giving full autonomy over everything is not really leadership at all. I thought I was doing the right thing by giving him autonomy, but what I should have done in that situation was to give him more direction as to what is expected and necessary. Autonomy has its place and limitations; using it correctly is when it’s the most impactful.

  • My communication was not aligned with my expectations

I was never clear on my expectations. What was standard and status quo for me was not necessarily the same for him. Talking through each other’s expectations would have been helpful for minimizing conflict and building trust.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

The End of Innovation

“Innovation is dangerous!” says Yawn Fearman, Gatekeeper of Ideas at Acme Corporation—an international consulting firm that provides executives and managers the tools and skill sets needed to maintain power and balance within organizations. “Innovation is an unruly attitude that ignites revolutions and unwillingly forces change upon the slow and steady hand of the status quo.”Death of Innovation

Fearman asserts that there several simple mindsets to avoid disruptive an inconvenient ideas within an organization:

Isolate Innovation

When a child acts up or misbehaves at home, the best discipline is to give them a Time Out and send them to their room. You don’t have to kick them out of the organization, but isolation will make them think about the real vision and values of the company in more detail. It will encourage them to align their hopes and dreams with the hierarchy of the organization who own the vision and values.

But if you do want to innovate within your organization, keep it limited to one or two departments that are led by individuals who have a degree from a prestigious school and who are in close collaboration with you as a key leader.

Just Say No

Hey, if it worked for Nancy Reagan in the mid-80s (and look how far we’ve come since then), it can work for leaders when individual contributors come up with creative and new ways to serve clients. When ideas come up from the front line, just say, “no.” You probably don’t have the resources or money to implement the ideas anyway, so no real harm can come from this approach. It’s clean and effective and eventually, people will stop coming up with their own ideas so that you can do your job—implementing your own.

Show Them Who’s Boss

When the first two strategies don’t work, flex your Position Power. You have the degree, the experience, the complex title, and the pay grade—so use them!

If employees discover that they have other avenues of power, such as personal experience, knowledge, relationships outside the organization, or a specialized ability to perform specific tasks that the executives may or may not, this could become very disruptive to an organization. Don’t shy away from the fact that you are getting paid the big bucks to drive the organization into the future—not them. You have the title and the authority to make the first and final decision.

Enjoy the Silence

Don’t allow the loud distractions of individual or collaborative innovation to drown out the brilliance of your leadership ability. You’ve earned the corner office, and you were born to lead. The future of the world depends on you—don’t leave it to chance by putting its fate hang on someone else’s wild ideas.

** The views and opinions expressed in this fictitious article do not necessarily reflect sound advice or the views and opinions of
 the author, or The Ken Blanchard Companies.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, an asynchronous learning experience for Individual Contributors within Organizations.

Effective Leaders Choose to “Humanize” Communication

One of the workplaces largest challenges is communicating effectively to achieve desired results and outcomes. Due to the quick advancements in technology over the past few years, everyone is available at all times. It is fantastic that the people who need to make important decisions are available at a moment’s notice no matter where they are in the world, but do all forms of communication allow managers and leaders the ability to clearly understand the needs of their direct reports without communicating face to face? I do not always believe this is true. We need to remember that business is built on relationships and in order to create a meaningful relationship we need to “humanize” communication. I would like to highlight the four most common ways we have available today to communicate and describe some of the advantages and disadvantages with each.20130523-140123.jpg

  1. Communication via email is time stamped and an effective alternative to “snail mail”. It is a great way to send someone in your company a quick message, a long list of to-dos, or a detailed inquiry on any given task. Email correspondence is not always time sensitive and is a great way for multiple people to read, process, and refer back to tasks or initiatives sent to them by their manager before they respond with questions, concerns, or approval. The pitfalls of emailing revolve around missing the physical and vocal cues people unintentionally respond to face to face. Also, if there is ever an emergency situation a quick response may be difficult to come by. In speaking directly to your manager, you can convey certain concerns through the pitch of your voice and body motions which elicit emotions you are feeling. We read these signals unconsciously and they connect us to others. This is especially important when you have an urgent matter. Many times writing styles are confusing and may not be interpreted in the same manner in which it was intended. I would not suggest trying to email your leader or direct report when you need to make a quick decision.
  2. Communication via telephone is one of the earliest technological advancements and is extremely effective for a number of reasons. You can get straight to the point and make quick real time decisions. It is also possible to convey emotions through the pitch and tone of your voice which does help in connecting with the person on the other end of the phone line. However you lack the ability to gain a complete perspective of what the other person is experiencing in that given moment. Environment plays a key role in connecting people through experience and can affect the productivity of communication. Someone on the other end of the line could be fighting traffic while on the phone, distracted by their surroundings, which would take their mind off of the present moment. Important urgent decisions are influenced by environment and it is important to understand all variables influencing it. It is impossible for people on opposite lines of a telephone to know what the other is going through.
  3. Communication via video conference is a great alternative for people who are working together from multiple locations. Programs like Skype and Face time have brought families, friends, and colleagues from around the globe together in real time. Both parties can see each other face to face and somewhat experience their environments. You can see their facial cues and mannerisms through the video and gain a pretty accurate impression of what the other is experiencing during your conversation. While this is a great way to connect to people in your organization from around the globe it is still not the best. You miss the complete interactive feeling of being in the presence of another human being. It is often difficult to really gain full understanding of the other persons thought process because you only see the top half of their body and/or what the video screen captures behind them. Frustration may set in if the internet bandwidth is not strong enough. Complications can arise delaying the video feed and chopping the audio so I would not recommend holding high level business communications through this medium if at all possible.
  4. Communication in person is of course the original form of relating to others inter-personally and remains the most productive. You just cannot beat a face to face interaction. One of my coaches told me that he would evaluate the effectiveness of his interactions by imagining himself viewing the interaction as a third person in the room looking down from a corner. While this may sound strange, it is very useful to imagine how the two of you are relating and meshing with one another. After all people are not robots and a sense of connection is important to establish the feelings needed so that you can work together. You must look at a situation from another person’s perspective. If the logistics of an in person meeting are difficult to figure out I would revert back to a video conference meeting but if at all possible do it in person. You will gain a much richer experience with the other person and really connect, which increases the likelihood that you will achieve your desired results.

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.
- Anthony Robbins

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies. To learn more about The Ken Blanchard Companies please visit www.kenblanchard.com

Want to be productive? Stay home from work

Absenteeism (not showing up to work) is a well-documented and researched metric. However, the evil twin brother of absenteeism is presenteeism, and it’s now starting to get some more attention. Presenteeism is defined as showing up for work when one is ill, and it is literally a productivity killer. It is estimated that the costs associated with presenteeism due to poor employee health is at least 2 to 3 times greater than direct health care expenses. The total cost of presenteeism to US employers has been increasing, and estimates for current losses range from about $150 to $250 billion annually. Consequences to presenteeism can be loss of productivity, major health costs, inaccuracies on the job, and spreading of illness to name a few. We all have done it, but we should really think twice about coming into work when we are sick. However, it’s just not that simple, and there are many reasons why just can’t say no.

Presenteeism

There are many antecedents to presenteeism but here are some major reasons:

1) Our culture/manager fosters this behavior
I’m probably not the only one has been praised for being a team player and coming in when I was extremely ill. In a recent survey by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), researchers found that employees who indicated that their employer was not supportive in helping them become emotionally healthy were 320% more likely to have high presenteeism. A 2010 study by the Work Foundation found that more than 40% of employees were under pressure from managers and colleagues to come to work when ill.
2) Fear of losing your job
In research done in 2012, nearly a third of employers have reported a rise in the phenomenon of “presenteeism” in the past year. With the economy slowly turning the corner, employees are worried about losing their job or falling behind in the rat race. Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at CIPD, said, “Continuing economic uncertainty and fears over job security appears to be taking its toll on employees. We are seeing employees struggling into work to demonstrate their commitment, suggesting presenteeism can be a sign of anxiety.”
3) Pressure to perform
For some reason we equate our perception of the seriousness of the illness in direct proportion to justifying taking time off. “It’s probably just meningococcal so I should be fine; I doubt it’s contagious anyways.” Let’s leave the diagnoses to the professionals and see if we can’t rest for a little bit. In a recent conversation with an old friend he told me, “I have worked for my company for 20 years and I have never ever taken a sick day.” Well, why not? He said he had maintained the “old school” mentality of work, work, work. This never made sense to me; if you are sick, then why don’t you just stay home? Now I’m being a little hypocritical here because I have often got to work when I really was too sick to go. But the worst part about it was that he worked in a hospital!
4) Little or no sick days
Increasingly, employers have minimized the number of sick days and most of the time; we just can’t afford to miss work. Also, with the increasing amount of households turning into a dual income family, many parents are using their sick days to care for their children when they become ill instead of taking care of themselves.

There doesn’t seem to be any extreme changes on the horizon in the way employers handle presenteeism, however we owe it to ourselves to take care of our bodies and be present when we can afford to. Sometimes urgent can just wait until tomorrow.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

The Look of Ethical Leadership

Call me idealistic, but I want more from Gen X and Gen Y when it comes to leadership. I want to see us go beyond the standard leadership stereotypes to something more global, accepting, and inclusive. To encourage non-typical leadership types to emerge and develop.

Can you imagine what it might look like if high-potentials weren’t chosen based on how well they fit the corporate image, but instead on how well they treat others? Have we gone overboard with making sure leaders present themselves a certain way as seen in the following video?

Sure, they all have the right corporate image, but is that what the leader of the future should be? What if these guys in the following video were the most ethical leaders you would ever met…

What about those people you work with right now who might not say the right corporate buzz-words, wear the right clothes, or graduate from the right schools?

What if instead, true leaders naturally emerge because everyone whom they come into contact with experiences a solid trustworthy person. When faced with the decision between right or wrong without hesitation he or she takes the ethical high-road. They might not have the right hair, but go out of their way to give credit to the entry-level employee with the bright idea that just made the company millions.

Maybe leadership looks more like the quiet co-worker who detests public speaking and back-to-back meetings, but whose character is unmistakable. Maybe it’s the guy who knows nothing about golf and can’t stand wearing polo shirts or it’s the girl who really doesn’t want to hide her tattoo because it’s part of who she is.

The Look of Ethical LeadershipWhat if tomorrow’s leaders are more about the inside than the outside? Less about the look and more about how they make you feel. Can you imagine? What if tomorrow’s leaders make good decisions, treat people well, and have brilliant ideas, but don’t look or sound the part.

I realize that in a global context, defining what it means to be an ethical leader will differ slightly, but the idealist in me once again asks whether we can move to a broader view of what an ethical leader should look like…

…to a leader who treats others with respect at every given opportunity, someone who is inclusive in encouraging dissenting opinions and viewpoints. Someone who really hears the thoughts and ideas of others, who doesn’t hold an employee’s title over his or her head as a mark of competence, and instead encourages all people regardless of background to lead at all times in everything they do.

All regardless image. Can you imagine…something different?

***

Cheryl DePonte is a Human Resources Learning and Performance Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies and has over 15 years experience in the fields of organizational effectiveness and human resources development.

What’s wrong at work? You may need an Alberti

As a kid, I watched the movie Renaissance Man with Danny DeVito. Some of you may remember the film. Danny DeVito is this Advertising Executive with an Ivy League background who is fired from his job. He gets a temporary teaching position and is given six weeks to teach low-achieving soldiers the basics of comprehension and use of English language. He uses Shakespeare, the Renaissance, and other avenues to teach his students. Yet, only one of the historical figures covered in the film has mesmerized me ever since: His name is Leon Battista Alberti.alberti
When I was in Spain a few years ago I had the opportunity to see some of his work at the Prado in Madrid. That’s when I knew, Leon Battista Alberti was the quintessential Renaissance Man. He was the Renaissance Man even before we knew what it was. In fact, Alberti is largely credited with actually defining the term Renaissance man as “men can do all things if they will.” He grew up pre-Renaissance in Bologna because his family was ousted out of Florence by the republican government, run by the Albizzis. His mother died as a result of the Bubonic Plague and he and his brother were raised by his father. He studied architecture and painting, he was a self-taught composer and musician, and he was a heck of an athlete, particularly known in the area for his fine horsemanship. A legend of Alberti states that he could stand flat-footed, look into a man’s eyes and leap right over his head. This legend is exactly why I still remember Leon Battista Alberti today.

“No crime is so great as daring to excel.” Winston Churchill

Often times in our work we become overrun with responding to emails, balancing projects, and stressing over the unknown that we hardly have time to develop certain skills that will set us apart from our peers. Or even leap us beyond our peers. Here are some questions to ask yourself for self-evaluation and reflection to help you find your “Alberti”:

What am I good at? Be honest here. Don’t overvalue your stock on this because others won’t see the same value and you might end up trying to sell a stock that’s overpriced.
What does this organization need/lack that I could champion? Your Alberti needs to be aligned with the organization. In order for it to be value added it must correspond with the vision of your organization.
Do I have the resources? If not, how can I get them? Look at your own career. What is the next step? A degree? A certification? If you can’t access any resources where can you go to get them? Getting stagnate on your skills is one way to have a mediocre career.
Does this matter to me? In a recent interview, former President Clinton was asked if he was selfless for committing so much time to his non-for-profit organizations. He said, “It’s because I’m selfish. I do it because it makes me feel good about myself.” If it doesn’t matter to you, your motivation to prioritize it and work on it won’t be sustained.

So, what’s your Alberti? Are you known in the office for doing something that adds value? If not, then find your Alberti and pursue it.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

The Edge of Leadership

Five Smooth Stones

Five Smooth Stones

Made from old wires and glass bulbs. With almost nothing, Edison made the impossible happen! –Oz, The Great and Powerful

Ever since a little shepherd boy knelt down to pull five smooth stones from a quiet brook to strike down a loud and defiant giant, the small but efficient approach to life has had tremendous value. In fact, now as we move from the Goliath factories of the assembly line Industrial Age, and into the rapid currents of change in the technology-driven Information Age, small is the new big.

Today’s organizations need employees, leaders, and strategies that are lean and agile to maintain a significant competitive advantage in today’s rapidly evolving workplace.

A small software firm in Denver, CO, Providigm LLC, has been employing the agile approach to their daily workflow with great results. Matthew Emge, the Quality Assurance Lead is a central figure in the wildly successful agile collaboration exercised daily at Providigm. The long and lanky tech guru, in his blue jeans and black t-shirt, looks like he just stepped off a college campus rather than serve as double-decade tech vet. “Agile manages stress,” Emge says, and it’s helping him and his colleagues excel through the small but efficient approach to their projects.

Agile Development

“I like agile because it’s a great way of adapting to constant change, minimizing rework, encouraging communication and giving value to every member of the team,” he reflects.

Agile Collaboration

Agile Collaboration

Each morning Emge and his colleagues participate in a scrum. In rugby football, a scrum refers to the manner of restarting the game after a minor infraction. The scrums at Providigm are short meetings with the Development Team to circle up around the project. During the scrum, the team gathers with the Product Owner (who represents the client’s interests) for an open meeting that lasts five to ten minutes. Each member of the team becomes a short storyteller, describing what they did the previous day, what they plan for the current day, and what potential obstacles or roadblocks are in the way of a productive day. After the meeting, the group collaborates on shared tasks, evaluates where they are at in the learning process, clarifies any uncertainty around shared goals, and resolves any outstanding conflicts.

Iterations

The day-to-day work at Providigm is part of a short work cycle called an iteration. Ideally, iterations last two to four weeks.

“We begin with a planning meeting to assign tasks,” Emge describes. “We complete the work, and when it’s finished, we hold a demo to show the product owner what we’ve done.”

In the demo meeting the agile team documents any requested changes, which are included in the planning meeting for the next iteration. Shortly after the planning meeting the development team meets for a retrospective meeting where each member of the team tells what worked or didn’t work. Under the guidance of a manager, the team collectively commits to making the small adjustments needed for improvement and efficacy in the next Iteration.

Collaborative Communication

But agile collaboration is not only about working in small iterations; it’s about collaborative communication every step of the way through the project. Rather than isolating teams in cubicles or offices, only to come together for long and often boring information dump meetings, where people pound their chest like proud Philistines, the agile team at Providigm works in the bullpen—a close quarters setting where anyone can be called upon at any moment.

“We talk to each other and collaborate throughout the day. But we keep documentation to a minimum because we know false assumptions can easily creep in if we overthink things. The manager and product owner are always close by if we need to speak face-to-face in order to make quick decisions for moving forward.”

 The Agile Difference

To appreciate the benefits of agile collaboration you have to understand how software used to be developed. In the past, there would be months of planning, long tiresome meetings, mountains of project documentation, more months of seemingly endless coding. Finally, at the end of the lengthy development cycle, the product would take more months to be tested and approved for release.

“Back in those days,” Emge recalls, “We worked with a great deal of assumptions. While we were scrupulous in addressing those assumptions, inevitably there were too many assumptions to address all at onc. And we would often be wrong. When the product was released, we’d have to revise months of work just to get back on course. It was like trying to turn the Titanic, and if we were too slow for the market, we’d have to scrap the project and start over with something new.”

The Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

To understand the agile approach, imagine you are making a pocketknife for a client. With the old development methods, business analysts would talk to the consumer and draw up lengthy plans for a smart knife with a camera, wi-fi connection, gps, apps, and cheese grater for that special moment. After the documentation and meeting marathons, developers would dig in and code the knife to the analysts’ specifications. Upon release, consumers would try it out and say most of the features were useless and got in the way—but the cheese grater would be nice if they actually made dinner at home. What’s more, the blade was too dull to cut anything.

In agile development, the process would start by releasing a knife with one single blade. The agile team would see how consumers are using it and not using it, make adjustments, and then add another essential feature.

“Before continuing, we listen to our users and make changes to meet their needs. We proceed one step at a time with constant consumer review,” Emge summarizes.

That’s how agile works—sharp as a well-made Swiss blade–with small but efficient steps that lead to an amazingly effective and refreshing approach to producing goods and services. Who knows, perhaps it’s even simple enough for a little shepherd boy facing a giant.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and CoAuthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a virtual leadership program for individual contributors in the workplace.

Register Now for the Blanchard Leadership Livecast “Doing ‘Still’ More With Less” to see Jason’s video on The Lean Approach to innovation. This is a free online event with guest commentary from Ken and Scott Blanchard!

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