Monday, November 19, 2012

Retain Employees Forever and Other Innovative Management Tips

Every week, we publish an exciting summary of the best articles, videos, events, and posts that relate to innovative management. This week, check out these summaries of 18 GREAT articles that inspire better management. Enjoy!

‘Star Wars’ action figures, dominoes are 2012 inductees at NY’s National Toy Hall of Fame

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia outmuscled little green army men for a spot in the National Toy Hall of Fame. “Star Wars” action figures join centuries-old dominoes in the class of 2012, which was announced by the Rochester hall Thursday.  The toys beat out plastic green army men, the board game Clue, the Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Lite-Brite, the Magic 8 Ball, the pogo stick, sidewalk chalk, the electronic game Simon, the tea set and Twister.

Longevity is a key criterion for getting into the 14-year-old hall. Each toy must be widely recognized, foster learning, creativity or discovery through play, and endure in popularity over generations.

“Play is an essential activity, critical to learning and to human development,” said Christopher Bensch, The Strong’s vice president of collections. “Play is also a window into understanding American culture.”

Tokyo Getting World's First 3D-Printing Photo Booth

On November 24th, Eye of Gyre, an art exhibition space in Tokyo's Harajuku neighborhood, is pulling the sheets off of their 3D Shashin-kan. Literally translated as "3D Picture Space," it's what they're calling the world's first 3D-printing photo booth. Visitors can have their "portraits" taken in the form of whole-body scanning, and end up with a detailed figurine of them in 10-, 15- or 20-centimeter heights, depending on how much they'd like to pay. 
Instant gratification this ain't, as the figurines will take a month or more for fulfillment and delivery. (We're guessing that they need to clean up the scan, and that an artisan paints the colors on after printing.) There's also a capturing restriction similar to when daguerrotypes were first developed: The subject must remain completely still during the scanning process, which is six minutes in this case, meaning Fido-san and small children are not ideal capture subjects. Beyond that, reflective clothes, wire-rim eyeglasses, hoop earings, fine patterns, and fur are all no-nos, because these either muck with the scanning process or are impossible to faithfully reproduce under their system.

Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold

Although laughter forms an important part of human non-verbal communication, it has received rather less attention than it deserves in both the experimental and the observational literatures. Relaxed social (Duchenne) laughter is associated with feelings of wellbeing and heightened affect, a proximate explanation for which might be the release of endorphins. We tested this hypothesis in a series of six experimental studies in both the laboratory (watching videos) and naturalistic contexts (watching stage performances), using change in pain threshold as an assay for endorphin release. The results show that pain thresholds are significantly higher after laughter than in the control condition. This pain-tolerance effect is due to laughter itself and not simply due to a change in positive affect. We suggest that laughter, through an endorphin-mediated opiate effect, may play a crucial role in social bonding.

Predicting Presidents, Storms, and Life by Computer

Better and more accessible data and rapidly growing computer power have helped make computer models more precise, as reflected by the incredibly accurate predictions of the development of Hurricane Sandy and the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Computer model predictions founded on historical evidence are "one of the more positive trends we're going to see this century," says Tom Mitchell with Carnegie Mellon University's Machine Learning Department. The predictive power of computer models resides in three elements--computer power, mathematical formulas designed to mirror real world cause-and-effects, and present conditions rendered as numbers that can be used in formulas. Current condition data is entered by experts into formulas that anticipate a specific outcome if specific factors are combined, and then the systems repeatedly run those what-if simulations, with slight variations changing the final outcomes. An entire range of results is produced by running these scenarios tens of thousands of times. The end product is a breakdown of future events into probabilities. Statistician Nate Silver says his correct prediction of how all 50 states would vote for president is a triumph for computer modeling's use in the field of politics.

Data Science and the 2012 Election

Stories on data scientists and the election 

Building an Adaptability Advantage: Takeaways from the Gartner Hackathon

MiX and full report here

In March at the Phoenix CIO Leadership Forum, Polly LaBarre kicked off The Adaptability Advantage Hackathon, a joint initiative between Gartner EXP and the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX).  Working together, Gartner and the MIX invited a select group of IT leaders to crack a key issue:
How can IT help organizations become more adaptable?
Gary Hamel set up the hackathon this way:  “All too often, by the time an issue gets big enough to attract the CEO’s attention, whether an opportunity or a threat, it’s too late to do anything but react. Thus the vast majority of corporate ‘change’ programs are ‘catch-up’ programs. Change needs to happen a whole lot faster and a whole lot cheaper than it does now.  To put it simply, strategic adaptability is an attempt to maximize the following ratio. As the pace of change accelerates, so must the pace of strategic renewal. Indeed, one of the most important questions for any enterprise today is this:

Are we changing as fast as the world around us?

All too often the answer is "no."

The 'Silent Crisis' in Science and Technology Recruiting

The American Council for Technology and the Industry Advisory Council’s Institute for Innovation released a report focusing on the challenges federal agencies and industry face in the quality of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) candidates. The report says that although scientific innovation produces roughly half of all U.S. economic growth, the educational pipeline necessary to fill STEM jobs and make that economic growth possible is inadequate. The report also notes that jobs in STEM fields are increasing three times faster than jobs in the rest of the economy, but U.S. students are not entering these fields in sufficient numbers. The report says federal agencies should focus on STEM education activities by establishing a national challenge for STEM that includes increased public awareness campaigns, improved coordination efforts, innovative grant and tax incentive programs, and calls for more urgency to the STEM problem.

Crowdsourcing Feature Lets iPhone Users Determine Best Time to Cross U.S. Border

University of California, San Diego researchers have developed the Best Time to Cross the Border mobile app, which offers a real time, eyewitness account of how long commuters have to wait at border crossings. The crowdsourced data is combined with data on wait times at the border from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to improve the accuracy of the wait times. Crowdsourcing information from a wide range of people crossing the border adds an extra dimension to the survey. "Crowdsourcing should eliminate the problems that the border patrol has been having with regards to the accuracy of the wait times," says California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) researcher Ganz Chockalingam. The app builds on other services that Calit2 provides, such as the California Wireless Traffic Report, which facilitates access to information on commuting times in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego County. "With a little help from our app, you can make an informed decision about when and where you want to cross the border if time is a factor," Chockalingam says. The app also uses historical graphs to show users the best times to cross.

Female Developers and Athletes Take the Leading Role at espnW Hack Day

ESPN's espnW hack day at Stanford University concentrated on women producing sports-related computer applications for women. "We've come a long way, but there's still a long way to go in terms of getting the numbers of women engaged in technology," says Facebook software engineer and espnW hackathon judge Sophia Chung. One participant, visual designer Terry Rodriguez-Hong, aimed to put together a team to develop a social-networking app for helping former athletes connect and encourage each other to reach their fitness objectives. Meanwhile, a five-woman team outlined a concept for a calendaring app to help sports teams keep track of their games and events and interact with fans through social media. The winning app was iSports, developed by Carnegie Mellon University engineering students and designed to pull athlete videos from YouTube and pertinent facts from ESPN. Mightybell founder Gina Bianchini says the goal of the hackathon is not just attracting more women into the technology field, but building a broader overall community. "Events serve as the heartbeat of any community and any movement," she notes. "I think about it less as we should have events for women developers and more as if you want to build a community of creative thinkers building new and interesting things."

Harry Potter spell book makes augmented reality magic

What’s so fun about playing with an AR book? At first glance, the Sony PlayStationWonderbook, which comes out this week, isn’t terribly enchanting: a chunky, blue volume featuring a few pages of AR codes.
But once you get started, it is clear this game goes well beyond gimmickry. Of course, it helps that Wonderbook launches with The Book of Spells, inspired by Harry Potter and featuring original content from J. K. Rowling. And that boring-looking blue book? On screen it comes to life, with blooms of ink spreading across its pages in a way reminiscent of the Marauder’s Map in the Potter books and movies.
To get started, you position the camera so that it points at the ground, taking in both you and the book and putting your living room at the heart of a new, magical world. As part of the game set-up, you choose a wand, and can watch on screen as the motion controller in your hand transforms into the particular one you’ve selected. The game plays with perspective and counter-intuitive mirror images, but soon you’re so enthralled by the stories and interactions that you fail to notice.

How I Learned a Language in Three Months – Joshua Foer
One of the great challenges of our age, in which the tools of our productivity are also the tools of our leisure, is to figure out how to make more useful those moments of procrastination when we're idling in front of our computer screens. What if instead of tabbing over to the web browser in search of some nugget of gossip or news, or opening up a mindless game such as Angry Birds, we could instead scratch the itch by engaging in a meaningful activity, such as learning a foreign language?

If five million people can be convinced to log into Zynga's Facebook game Farmville each day to water a virtual garden and literally watch the grass grow on their computer screens, surely, Ed believes, there must be a way to co-opt those same neural circuits that reward mindless gaming to make learning more addictive and enjoyable. That's the great ambition of Memrise, and it points towards a future where we're constantly learning in tiny chunks of our downtime.

7 Ways to Outsmart Your Brain to Be More Innovative

American Express Open Forum  ß Recommended
Your brain makes the assumption that because you were alive yesterday, what you did previously is safe. Therefore repeating the past is good for survival.  Innovation is about change. It is about doing something different than you did previously.  It is about trying something that you have not done before, and therefore may feel is a danger to your survival. How does the brain’s survival instinct prevent innovation–and what can you do about it?  Here are seven ways to outsmart your brain.
  1. The brain wants pains solved first. Recognize that people want their pains solved more than anything else. Be the aspirin
  2. Expertise is the enemy of innovation. Keep pushing until you are out of ideas and then still push forward.
  3. The brain wants solutions, not problems. Ask better questions. Einstein reputedly said, “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions.”
  4. The brain craves commonality. Work with people who are not like you.
  5. The brain sees what it believes. Seek out people who you suspect would reject the idea.
  6. Your brain only sees a fraction of reality. Attend conferences unrelated to your work. Read magazines from different industries
  7. The brain thinks too much: Aristotle found his greatest breakthroughs while napping.

 Perpetuating the past is the surest way to survive. But for organizations, doing what you did in the past is the fastest path to extinction. By knowing how your brain is wired, you can choose to both survive and thrive.

We Are All Artists Now

They told you to get your résumé in order, to punch your ticket, to fit in, and to follow instructions. They told you to swallow your pride, not to follow your dream. They promised trinkets and prizes and possibly riches if you would just suck it up and be part of the system, if you would merely do what you were told and conform. They sold you debt and self-storage and reality TV shows. They sold your daughters and sons, too.
All in exchange for what would happen later, when it was your turn. It’s your turn.”

Five Ways to Retain Employees Forever*

In a recent blog post, we cited some alarming numbers: 40% of workers are planning to look for a new job within the next six months, and 69% say they're already passively looking.
As employers, those figures are frightening. We're careful to hire only the best workers, and once we have them, we want to keep them. We've previously argued why employees benefit by staying with the same company for at least 10 years. Now we want to supplement that advice with tips for companies on how to make workers want to stick around for decades.
What can an employer do? We'd like to suggest the following "5 R's" of employee relationships:
  1. Responsibility.
  2. Respect.
  3. Revenue-sharing.
  4. Reward.
  5. Relaxation Time.

It is important to remember that a long-term commitment requires effort in both directions. While it's fully understandable that most organizations look askance at perpetual "hoppers," remember that if you expect and hope that employees will make and keep long-term commitment to your company, it will be equally vital that you give them good reasons to stay.

The Eight Pillars of Trust

Author David Horsager, explains that trust is tangible, learnable, and measureable. Trust is a confident belief in someone or something to do what is right, deliver what is promised, and to be the same every time in spite of circumstances.

Horsager identifies twelve barriers to trust: conflict of interest, threat of litigation, lack of loyalty, increasing examples of others untrustworthiness, threat of exposure, lack of control over technology, fear of the unknown, negative experiences, individualism, differences between people, desire for instant gratification, and a focus on the negative.

The eight pillars of trust form the framework for learning to build trust and overcoming the twelve barriers. These all take time and are not quick fixes for any trust issue. Trust is built over time.
  • Clarity.
  • Compassion.
  • Character.
  • Competency.
  • Commitment.
  • Connection.
  • Contribution.
  • Consistency.

Horsager notes that in this flat world, because we can connect with so many, we have a hard time cultivating depth. Trust at its best is deep, making it difficult to gain the trust edge. In response we need to be even more intentional about developing the pillars of trust on a global level finding common ground and showing ourselves to be trustworthy.

Three principles for making innovation a reality in your company

MiX – Julian Birkinshaw
Management thinking is inherently faddish, but there are some perennial favourites that never fall out of favour.  Innovation is one those evergreen themes: it is a rare CEO who doesn’t list innovation as one her top four or five priorities.  So what are these principles, and who is experimenting with them?  Here are three that I think are really important, with a couple of company examples for each one.
  • Time Out. 
  • Loosely defined roles.
  • Tolerance of Failure.

How to Retain the Heroes Within Your Workforce

Clark Kent is leaving the Daily Planet.
Stop. This is important. Read that again. Think about this as a leader in an organization. This is huge.
Clark Kent, the mild-mannered alter ego — the brains if you will, to the brawn that is Superman — quit his day job out of frustration with the organization and his ability to make a difference in his role.  In his interview with USA Today, new Superman writer Scott Lobdell says, “Superman is arguably the most powerful person on the planet, but how long can he sit at his desk with someone breathing down his neck and treating him like the least important person in the world?”

It is our responsibility to provide the heroes, innovators and entrepreneurs with true urgencywho are sprinkled throughout our organizations the opportunity to step up and make a real difference — in their jobs, in their organizations, to your customers, in the marketplace, in the community and our world.
This is about how leaders at the top of organizations connect the individual efforts of the leaders at every level of the organization to the overall strategy and mission the organization is trying to fulfill. When all leaders can connect those individual puzzle pieces and show how they fit together, then the organization can accelerate to achieve success at all levels – individual, team, organizational, short-term, long-term, financial and global.
When people see themselves as Clark Kent — people capable of doing good work, making a difference, having an impact, and helping their colleagues, teams, organizations do well and do good — that’s when we as leaders are worthy of the heroes who work for us.

The Paradox of Skill

“Okay, you have gotten the memo on improving skill: 10,000 hours, hard work, deliberate practice, grit, and attentive teacher. We’ve all heard it. You also recognize that in many of life’s activities, the results you achieve combine skill and luck. No debate there. Now, what if I told you that in many cases improving skill leads to results that rely more on luck? That’s right. Greater skill doesn’t decrease the dependence on luck, it increases it. If you have an interest in sports, business, or investing, this lesson is for you.”