Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stay on top of innovation

In order to constantly compete in business you need to constantly innovate, change and adapt to a variety of societal changes and trends. It’s not an easy thing to do. But I’ve found a site that will help you solve those problems - it’s called Springwise. Springwise is essentially crowdsourcing innovation, by compiling an entire database of the newest, latest coolest innovations from many different sectors around the world.

If you’re in marketing, and want to see the latest innovations from gaming – it’s here. Or maybe your in health-care and looking to see what kind of green, sustainable initiatives are happening around the world and how you can incorporate them – you’ll find it here. My point is that this website is a valuable resource to any entrepreneur, business owner, or anyone that is looking for new ways to integrate innovation from other sectors.

If any part of you want’s to cross-innovate or borrow ideas from a successful business but your not sure where to start, think Springwise.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pay employees to quit.

As long as your job doesn’t naturally come with a high turnover, take one from the notebook of Tony Hsieh of Zappos - pay employees to quit.

Zappos goes through am interview process similar to that of any other companies, it’s tedious, it’s expensive and it’s challenging to figure out what employee is right for the company. To weed out people who are there just for the money, Zappos pays potential employees $3000 to quit one week into their training.Tony says employees who decide to stay (which is on average 97% of trainees) come back to the training session with a greater understanding of why they want to work with Zappos.

This approach to hiring is unique and ground-breaking but only a company with clear values and a enjoyable culture can pull it off. Maybe it’s time to rethink how you do business.

If you’d like to hear about how this big idea got started from Tony – check out this short interview.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Happiness Culture

It’s exactly how it sounds – happy. I had heard about this concept last week when I had the opportunity to listen to Bruce Poon Tip founder and CEO of Gap Adventurers. Bruce was enthusiastic and vibrant about the happiness culture, convincing my entire 2011 BCom class that this is the future of business. The concept of a happiness culture is to empower employees, owners and customers to actively change the world while making some money along the way. 

It stems from this idea of the why culture, why we believe what we do. Bruce was able to articulate Gap Adventurers why through a quintuple bottom line approach: People, Planet, Profit, Passion, and Purpose. In order to have a culture of happiness all of these fundamental values need to be first met before anything else can happen. The result is one very happy company whose employees and customers both feel four things:

1) Perceived Progress – Whether it comes in the form of work or making an active difference in the communities tourists travel to.

2)Connectedness – A special bond those involved will share forever.

3) Perceived Control – Whether it’s the freedom employees have or the choices tourists get to make on the trips.

4) Being part of something larger than yourself – Real difference is being made and it’s powerful knowing what role one plays as a customer or employee in the bigger picture.

A happy workplace is more effective. Happy customers are more loyal. It speaks for itself. But if you need more convincing listen to a similar speech Bruce gave at SB’11.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The turkey problem.

The Turkey problem is a very old problem – one that turkeys and humans have faced forever. It was first introduced to me by pseudo philosopher Nassim Taleb in his book “The Black Swan”. Let me give you an idea of what the problem is with a little chart I put together.


Turkey Problem

The problem the turkey faces is one of complacency. A turkey will live 1000 days eating hand fed grain and think that is how life will always be, then on the 1001 day the turkey gets killed by that same farmer that hand fed it. The turkey was putting so much faith in what it has always known, and has continued to think it knows until the time it dies.

This is a similar problem businesses face – even when things start to go wrong and look peculiar, we generally put so much faith in the past and what we think we know. When what we should be doing is re-evaluating the entire situation the company is currently in. In life things can change in an instant, and if you become complacent or succumb to “I know what I need to know” syndrome the future will create problems for you and not opportunities.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Candle Problem

Karl Drucker a psychologist from the early 20th century is best known for his experiment The Candle problem. It’s an experiment where people are given some tacks, a candle and a book of matches. The goal: You need to stick the candle to the wall and light it without the wax dripping on the table. How long does it take you to figure out the solution? 


The solution is achieved by dumping the tacks out, tacking the box to the wall,  putting the candle in the box and lighting the candle. It took most people who weren’t incentivized  5 – 10 minutes before they discover the solution. When incentives were offered for the fastest times – it took people on average three and a half minutes longer!

In Drive Daniel Pink says “Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus. That’s helpful when there’s a clear path to a solution. They help us stare ahead and race faster. But “if-then” motivators are terrible for challenges like the candle problem.”

When challenging others to do creative work – do not incentivize them. You cannot pay people more to think laterally or creatively, you just need to be able to facilitate that growth.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What monkeys have taught us.

In 1949 one day Harry F. Harlow and two colleagues chose to execute an experiment on monkeys. What they needed: Eight Rhesus Monkeys, two-weeks, and a simple mechanic puzzle. The puzzle they chose requires very little cognitive ability – so it’s easy for me and you. For the thirteen pound lab monkey, it’s a different story.

Here’s the interesting part: Harlow wrote,  “Unbidden by any outside urging and unprompted by the experimenters, the monkeys began playing with the puzzles with focus, determination, and what looked like enjoyment.” Now a group of puzzle solving monkeys might not initially trigger any response other than cool, so what? Harlow’s research made a big splash in the world of motivation. When you have monkeys solving a solution that did not lead to any immediate rewards like food, water or sex there is something else driving these monkeys. There’s something else that drives humans too – and Harlow offered up a theory he called the third drive. The third drive is something that provides intrinsic reward to the individual working on the task – and we know from common knowledge that Harlow was on to something spectacular.

Fast-forward to present day – the knowledge era. Our workers are becoming increasingly capable and creative, and employers need to accommodate them. It’s imperative that employers understand that in order to recruit and keep good people – that third drive needs to be satisfied. Motivating people to do work not because they are being externally rewarded for it (which many times is the wrong thing to do) but because as a leader you recognize and frame the situation to each individual that is best suited to their style of working/understanding. 

How are you motivating your employees?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What’s important?

As I start school in three days, I've been asking the question “In these next two years, what skill do I most want to walk away from school with”

I thought about which things I’m most looking forward to. And I came up with a list. As all good business students do.

1. Work-terms

2. Business competitions

3. Networking

4. Study abroad

5. Getting to learn

I asked myself what do all these have in common. I landed upon teams. Work-terms and business competitions are directly involved in team efforts. Teams enable me to accelerate my learning by tapping into people who are knowledgeable about things I’m not. Studying abroad falls into that networking category – and networking is more indirectly involved in teams – it is more of a long-term commitment to building working-relationships with people, similar to the type great teams facilitate among each other.

The benefit of working in a business is getting to work with others. Others who are there to help pick you up, motivate you and push you to succeed. Teams can achieve the impossible when individuals cannot. Great teams create a tapestry of ideas that encourages free growth among individuals. Individuals can only know what they know.

I want to walk away from business school with the ability to excel in teams if nothing else.

Question of the day: What one skill do you cherish the most?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Business is a stage

I have been at the Kayaking/Canoeing Nationals in Welland Ontario with my brother this past week. The racers here – like in any sport train year round. When they’re not paddling they’re in the gym. The ones who have the fastest times – train the most, and the ones who train the most win. An entire year of practicing comes down to a few big events that take place every summer – where everything you’ve practiced needs to be executed flawlessly – your legs need to work in unison with your arms, your strokes need to be fluid and unwavering.

Business is exactly like this – except you’re on stage every single day. In order to achieve a truly exceptional brand every part of your business needs to understand one another. There needs to be a certain level of transparency between the different departments so each side can help to improve inefficiencies where there might be some. Every employee needs to understand the purpose and why behind their business and how they’re helping to bring the bigger picture together.

Whether your kayaking or opening a business – know when your on stage and know what’s expected of you when you are.