Archive for the ‘ Media ’ Category

Can You Get the Delicious Cake?

Several years ago, someone posed the following challenge on a popular internet image board:

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The goal was “get the delicious cake” and you had to draw your solution. No other rules were given.

One response showed the figure crawling through the spikes, while others used elements from pop culture to get the cake. For instance, Harry Potter magic spells, Star Wars lightsabers, and Super Mario warp pipes were all presented as solutions to this challenge. The following are a few of the more original and creative ways people attained the cake:

enhanced-27165-1394809165-18 (1)

Use the door!

How_To_Get_Cake_6

When you want to get rid of something in an image, the eraser tool is handy

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Thinking outside of the box

The lesson I took from this was that people can get very creative when presented with a problem and given the freedom to devise a solution.

As a leader, you may have goals you need to accomplish, but it is left up to you to determine how to accomplish those goals. With a little time and ingenuity, you can come up with many different and often surprising ways to achieve those goals, particularly when you have the help of others.

So how would you get to the delicious cake? Type your solution in the comments, or you can use your favorite image editor or an online one and post a visual of your solution.

A “Business Decision” May Not Always be the Right Decision

When I hear someone say “it’s a business decision”, money is usually the first thing that comes to mind.  The choice that was made was based on overall cost to the company or individual.  While it’s wise to consider cost, spending and/or investments, it’s not the end-all, be-all of choices within business.

Money There are other factors you need to consider, such as how the choice-in-question will affect your employees or customers.  Depending on the outcome of those choices, they may even change public perception of you or your business.  It could be that saving on immediate cost can hurt your income in the long run.

Take, for example, a news report out of Melbourne, Florida, regarding a man whose vehicle was wrecked by an employee of an auto repair shop.  This wasn’t an accident that happened during a test drive of the vehicle.  Instead, this happened during a joyride by one of the auto shop’s employees who crashed the vehicle not once, but twice on the very same morning.  In the eyes of the law, the employee didn’t do anything illegal.  After all, repair shops tend to take vehicles for test rides all the time to make sure they did the repairs correctly.

While there is nothing criminal that took place in the eyes of the law, you would think the auto shop would take responsibility for the actions of the employee, right?  According to the news report, the auto shop refuses to state it did anything wrong or reimburse the owner for the loss of their vehicle.

Obviously, paying for the loss of the owner’s vehicle is a direct cost to the auto shop.  They could choose to pay for it directly, or Downward Trendhave their insurance cover the loss, in which case, they will likely face increased insurance premiums.   No one wants to deal with costs that weren’t planned for, but in this case, what is going to be the long-term cost to the auto shop by not paying the immediate expense now?

I know that if I needed to take my vehicle in for repairs, I wouldn’t want to take it to this particular auto shop simply due to this story.  While it’s highly unlikely they will have another situation like this come up, why would I risk it when the vehicle owner in this story allegedly has to go through this hassle?  The choice being made by the auto shop now is sending a message to potential customers that they may not put their customers first when making decisions.

Immediate cost cannot always be the deciding factor.  If it is, it could cost you in the long run.

Leave your comments!

What’s a MOOC?

Haven’t heard of a MOOC before? Well, you’re probably not alone. A MOOC stands for a Massive Open Online Course and its purpose is to give free online education to learners around the world. Although we have had access to free online education for years, the MOOC has forever transformed the quality of courses that are now accessible to anyone with a computer and the desire to learn. MOOC’s really took form in the fall of 2011 after Stanford offered three online courses for free and enrollment reached 260,000 students from over 175 countries. Since, many MOOC’s have popped up from starts-ups to major universities. They all have the same goal in mind and that is to give online education for little to no cost.

Have you ever wanted to take Data Analysis for Genomics at Harvard? Well probably not, but now you can as the class starts in early 2014. If Poetry in America: Whitman is a course that more interests you, sign up now as class begins on January 15th at the edx MOOC.

Mooc

Various MOOC offerings

Corporate America is now jumping at these ideas and are giving incentives for their employees to take these course and have incorporated them into their corporate training programs. In a recent survey by Future Workplace, 70% of HR and Learning professionals said they saw opportunities to integrate MOOCs into their own company’s learning program.

There are many, but here are my favorite.

https://www.coursera.org/

http://www.udacity.com/

https://www.edx.org/

If you enroll in a course, I wouldn’t run out and by a Harvard alumni sweater, but you can still get America’s highest quality education for free. Many questions are still surrounding the MOOC. Will the MOOC transform the way we look at education? Are schools and universities ready to accept these free online courses as transferable credit? What impact will MOOC’s have on the cost of education? Although many of these questions are yet to be fully realized, we know that they are growing and aren’t going away anytime soon.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

Gamification and the Future of Work

of-course-people-are-controlled-by-videogames

Videogames Control

I love videogames. I mean, there’s an addictive quality to them, whether it is character progression, unlocking new content and achievements, or continuing the narrative. And it’s currently a huge trend. The recently released game Grand Theft Auto V broke several Guinness World Records, including “fastest entertainment property to gross $1 billion.” To put that in scope, “entertainment property” even includes feature-length films and music.

So what is gamification? It is taking the concepts of game design and applying them to other things. For instance, I wear a device on my wrist called the Fitbit Flex. It is essentially just a pedometer in a wristband, but the web/mobile app is where the magic happens. It displays my goals for steps and calories and my progress for each in a clean and engaging interface. The wristband even shows a series of lights to indicate how close to my goal I am. Gamifying health and fitness… who would have thought?

Word Cloud "Gamification"

Word Cloud “Gamification”

It’s even popped up in the workplace. I recently spearheaded the construction of a new intranet site for my department using WordPress, and by taking advantage of its customizability and vast number of plugins, we developed an onboarding system that uses a mix of content to take new hires on a 12-month journey, with badges rewarded at each step. I believe that learning should be fun, exciting, and engaging, and gamifying the process is one way of achieving that.

But there is something I haven’t seen discussed within the realm of gamification. There are games, such as World of Warcraft, where players willingly perform mundane tasks. They click on the same things over and over again until a cool item appears or an objective is completed. And they love to do it. They are absolutely engrossed in these activities and will happily lose sleep to continue to perform these seemingly boring tasks. Now imagine taking those clicks and placing real work beneath them so that instead of those clicks only translating into currency and experience points that are limited to the game, the clicks also produce work for the organization. Work that the employees absolutely love doing.

I want this to be the future of gamification, where work is gamified to such an extent that it stops being work and becomes an actual game. Perhaps then, there would be no need for employee engagement initiatives or training to boost productivity, because employees would be naturally driven to continue playing, and become skilled at, the game.

I Don't Have Birthdays, I Level Up

I Don’t Have Birthdays, I Level Up

When I was younger, I dreamed of playing games for a living. Perhaps when gamification reaches its full potential, this dream will come true.

From now on, if someone says I’m gaming too much, I’ll just say, “it’s informal training for future work!”

 

Sources: Guinness World Records | Gamification.org

Images: 1 | 2 | 3

Speakeasy Leadership

Seakeasy Leadership

Seakeasy Leadership

The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a cultural rebellion against classic traditions, inspiring social revolutions around the world. Everything seemed to be possible through the modern technology of automobiles, motion pictures, and radio, which all promoted ‘modernity’ to the world.

One of the most mysterious trends that came out of the Roaring Twenties was the establishment of Speakeasies—hidden sections of an establishment that were used to illegally sell alcoholic beverages and feature new artistic expressions of music, dance, and risqué behavior. To enter a speakeasy, one would need to say a password to the doorman, indicating that the person-seeking entrance was welcome by the owner or other members of the “business within the business.”

In many ways, today’s workplace resembles the spirit of the twenties, with a rapidly evolving workplace, cutting edge technology changing and shaping the culture norms of organizations around the world.

Unfortunately, one of the dangers of today’s workplace is Speakeasy Leadership—the hidden sections of an organization where only a few people in positions of power make decisions that affect the rest of the organization. The practice of exclusive leadership, rather than inclusive leadership practice is alive and well in today’s organizations. But the reality is that the old school leadership hierarchy is an ineffective novelty in a knowledge-based economy.

Outside Looking In

Outside Looking In

Today secret societies and “good ole’ boy networks” only work at your local grocery store or coffee shop as a special promotion tool. In a Knowledge base economy, where individuals are empowered through the Internet, smart phones, and social networking that empowers a variety of information and connections that naturally drive higher levels of collaboration and success.

One new workforce member expressed it this way, “I am used to being so connected to my colleagues and playing off each other in the office, via social media, and creating ideas together with high levels of synergy everyday…” The open organization, without the Speakeasy executive office on the second floor, is a robust place where individuals create new best friends instantly and in days create a strong network with everyone on the team, as well as the friends made at their last organization.

Speakeasy Leadership promotes the opposite atmosphere at work where a few gatekeepers of ideas, formulate a plan from the top of the organizational pyramid, then pass it down to the people on the frontline to try and implement—void of passion and intimacy. 
 “I feel like there is a secret group of people running the organization,” says another frustrated employee. “It’s like were sitting in a meeting, and there are two or three people sitting at the table, speaking their own language, giving each other a wink and a nod to each other when I present our teams creative solutions to our organizational challenges.”

Collaborate for Success

Collaborate for Success

Speakeasy Leadership will kill today’s knowledge based company, because today’s leadership model and workplace formula for success is one based in wide-open communication, effective collaboration, social networking, and truly empowering individuals that are encouraged take ownership in the vision—not just contribute to it. Touch the untouchable by bringing energy and productivity to work, breaking down the interior walls of Speakeasy Leadership, creating a community where people work and play together, stimulating innovation, connection, and wild success.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and New Media Producer at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a non-linear learning program that promotes individual empowerment and collaboration.

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

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

Tips to Contain the Crazy: Increasing Productivity While Reducing Stress

I love to learn new ways to increase my own productivity while also reducing stress. I call it containing the crazy. Like many of you, I cling to my calendar, my to-do list…I shudder to think of the chaos should I ever lose my phone.

Tips to Contain the CrazyRecently, I decided to try some new ways to be more productive and less stressed:

1. Spa water – in a scientific study, those who were fully-hydrated had improved mood and were less sleepy. So, I decided to try drinking spa water (sometimes called “infused water”) and I’m hooked. You get your water in for the day and it’s flavored without all the calories and chemicals. Refill as needed and enjoy. Here is a wikihow on how to make spa water:

How to make spa water

2. Concentration Music – it is said that listening to baroque classical music has been scientifically shown to improve mood, productivity, and concentration. So, I decided to give it a whirl and wouldn’t you know, it works! I get more work done faster and more precisely while being relaxed the entire time. Gotta love classical music! Here is a sample for your listening pleasure:

3. A Timer – scientific studies also show we have a limited attention span for tasks. This time has varied in studies anywhere from 10 minutes to up to 40 minutes. So, I set a timer and only worked on a task for a specified period and then took a break. I also used a timer to go back and forth between tasks. This has worked wonders for getting many more things done in a day than I could have imagined. A link to a fabulous, easy-to-set online timer:

Online Timer

These tips for containing the crazy work well for my own personal work style and help me to be a more calm, productive, and focused leader.

Share with us your tips to contain the crazy, increase productivity, and reduce stress. No matter how unique they may be, please share! What works for you?

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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