Category Archives: business

What Is Greenwashing?

What Is Greenwashing?
By Carlyann Edwards,

You’ve probably heard of whitewashing, defined as the glossing over or covering up of scandalous information through a biased presentation of facts. But greenwashing isn’t as well known. It occurs when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. Environmentalist Jay Westerveld coined the term in 1986 in a critical essay inspired by the irony of the “save the towel” movement in hotels.
Origins of greenwashing

The idea of greenwashing emerged in a period when most consumers received their news from television, radio and print media, and didn’t have the luxury of fact-checking in the way we do today. In the mid-1980s, oil company Chevron commissioned a series of expensive television and print ads to broadcast its environmental dedication. But while the infamous The People Do campaign ran, Chevron was violating the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and spilling oil into wildlife refuges.

Chevron was far from the only corporation making outrageous claims. In 1991, chemical company DuPont announced its double-hulled oil tankers with ads featuring marine animals prancing in chorus to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. It turned out the company was the largest corporate polluter in the U.S. that year.

Greenwashing has changed over the last 20 years, but it’s certainly still around. As the world increasingly embraces the pursuit of greener practices, corporate actors face an influx of litigation surrounding misleading environmental claims.

In February of 2017, Walmart paid $1 million to settle greenwashing claims that alleged the nation’s largest retailer sold plastics that were misleadingly touted as environmentally responsible. California state law bans the sale of plastics labeled as “compostable” or “biodegradable,” as environmental officials have determined such claims are misleading without disclaimers about how quickly the product will biodegrade in landfill.

Even the water industry tries to overrepresent its greenness. How many plastic bottles have you seen with colorful images of rugged mountains, pristine lakes and flourishing wildlife printed on their labels? Arrowhead promotes its Eco-Slim cap and Eco-Shape bottle while claiming, “Mother Nature is our muse.”

“The core theme has stayed the same,” said Philip Beere, founder of sustainability content marketing company g Communications. “The No. 1 violation is embellishing the benefit of the product or service.”

Beere said he believes greenwashing is rarely caused by malicious plots to deceive, but is more frequently the result of overenthusiasm, and it’s easy to see why marketers are enthusiastic. Sixty-six percent of consumers would spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand, according to Nielsen’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report, a figure that jumps to 72 percent among millennials.
Brainwash or Greenwash?

With the belief that consumer demand for sustainability is the frontier of our transition to a greener, fairer and smarter global economy, Futerra’s 2015 Selling Sustainability Report offers 10 basic rules for avoiding greenwashing.

Fluffy language: Words or terms with no clear meaning (e.g., “eco-friendly”)
Green products vs. dirty company: Efficient light bulbs made in a factory that pollutes rivers
Suggestive pictures: Images that indicate an (unjustified) green impression (e.g., flowers blooming from exhaust pipes)
Irrelevant claims: Emphasizing one tiny green attribute when everything else is un-green
Best in class: Declaring you are slightly greener than the rest, even if the rest are pretty terrible
Just not credible: “Eco-friendly” cigarettes, anyone? “Greening” a dangerous product doesn’t make it safe.
Gobbledygook: Jargon and information that only a scientist could check or understand
Imaginary friends: A label that looks like a third-party endorsement … except it’s made up
No proof: It could be right, but where’s the evidence?
Outright lying: Totally fabricated claims or data

There are plenty of wonderful companies telling their environmental stories to the world, and even some who aren’t that should be. The incidence of “pure greenwash,” purposeful untruths or impacts of products, is not that prominent. However, there’s a lot out there that gets close. Beere describes the buzzwords commonly used to greenwash as a “slippery slope” and advises any company ready to go down it to invest in educating their marketers.

“Eco-friendly,” “organic,” “natural” and “green” are just some examples of the widely used labels that can be confusing and misleading to consumers. If you’re ready to slap some grass on your logo, be transparent with customers about your company’s practices and have information readily available to back it up.

One example of transparency is activist outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia. Unlike most companies, Patagonia doesn’t sugarcoat its use of chemicals or the fact that it leaves a footprint. The company’s sustainability mission is described as a “struggle to become a responsible company.”

“We can’t pose Patagonia as the model of a responsible company,” the website reads. “We don’t do everything a responsible company can do, nor does anyone else we know. But we can tell you how we came to realize our environmental and social responsibilities, and then began to act on them.”

Do your best to tell your sustainability story and avoid greenwashing. After all, we all know how costly a trip to the cleaners can be.

7 Creative Ways to Engage With Your Customers Online

7 Creative Ways to Engage With Your Customers Online
by: Shay Wright

Technology today affords us the opportunity to initiate contact with a lot of potential customers online, but many businesses fall short of actually converting these customers because they fail to truly engage them. The days when large companies could just blanket the airwaves with their sales pitches and actually expect a return from such advertising are gone. People are tired of being sold to. They want companies to listen to them and slowly gain their trust over time before they’ll open their wallet to them.

Once initial contact is made with a potential customer online, someone has to engage that customer by providing relevant and useful information in a personable manner to build trust. Outlined below are some creative and effective ideas for individuals and companies to interact and engage with their customers online.

1. Build a Community or Group
There are several great ways to build an online community to more effectively interact and engage with your customers. Forums have been around for years and are still a widely used method of engaging with customers and allowing customers to engage with each other. Forums will likely still be around for the foreseeable future, but many companies are now finding it more advantageous to connect with customers on various social networks. Customers are already on these social networks every day, so instead of relying on customers to regularly visit your forum to interact and engage with you, why not bring the conversation to them on their social networks of choice?

Google+ Communities, Facebook Groups, and LinkedIn Groups are just a few of the many social networking sites that allow individuals and companies the ability to set up topic or brand communities.

community

2. Host a Webinar or Google Hangout
A webinar or Google Hangout is another innovative and effective way of engaging with your customers. They allow you to reach a large target audience on a platform that is very user-friendly and interactive. People love the visual aspects of a webinar with live video of the presenter, slides, graphics, and other interactive options. Webinars and hangouts also allow you to make a very personal connection with your current or potential customers. You as the presenter of the webinar or hangout can also be more passionate, entertaining, and engaging than you could otherwise be by just writing a blog post and short e-book.

webinar

Pro Tip: Allowing users to tweet or email their questions or comments to you during or after the webinar is a great way to encourage more interaction with your audience.

3. Co-Create
Planning to release an e-book, redesign your website, or launch a new product? Consider reaching out to your customers to help you co-create something or at least provide their input and suggestions. While this would not be advisable in all situations, getting your customers’ input and assistance can really help you develop a much stronger bond. They will feel proud that they were part of the effort and process that made your product better.

When you encourage customer participation on a project, just be sure to reward the people whose ideas and input you implemented. Try to turn it into some sort of contest and recognize the people who helped. You can reward the key contributors with a prize, but sometimes recognition alone is a good enough reward for certain people.

4. Celebrate Together
Did you just reach 5,000 registered users on your site? Did you attract 25,000 new visitors to your site last month? When your company reaches milestones like these, celebrate your success with your customers and make them feel like they contributed to your success.

The reason some people are so passionate about sports is because they feel as if they are literally part of their favorite sports team. When the team wins, they win. Instead of saying, “The Cowboys played a great game last night,” a real Cowboys fan will say “We played a great game last night.” That’s the mentality you need to develop with your customers—make them feel part of your winning team, and thank them for helping your site to be a success.

5. Offer Exclusive Content
Create content that is not available to the general public—content that is so special and exclusive, that only members can view it. Require users to login to this area. You don’t necessarily have to charge for access to this content, but require users to at least go through a registration process to gain access to it. It will make them feel special and part of your exclusive group.

You may also want to offer special discounts and pricing to this group as well. A members-only forum where registered users can discuss industry-related topics is also a great way to build unity and engage your customers.

6. Solve a Problem Together
Is there a particular problem in your industry that needs to be solved? Suppose you own a resource site for web developers, and you discover a group of your users are all having the same problem with a particular software program or programming language. Ask for user interaction and input, and solve the problem together as a group. This will create a stronger bond, and everyone will feel more like a team.

7. Offer Ways to Interact
If you have a blog, allow visitors to leave comments on your blog. There is nothing more discouraging than reading a great blog post that a reader can’t leave a comment or question on. Sure, you’ll get some spam comments by allowing people to comment, but there are a lot of great plugins and programs to help filter spam out, and it’s well worth the time and effort to publish good comments.

When people do leave good insightful comments, be sure to respond to them and thank them for participating in the conversation. If someone leaves a question for you in a comment, be sure to respond to their question. It looks bad to other visitors to see questions go unanswered.

Your site should also include links to your social profiles on sites such a Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. This will allow your visitors to interact with you in more ways than one.

Technology today offers so many great ways to interact and engage with customers online. Take advantage of all the free tools and resources available today and devise a plan to better engage and interact with your customers online. If you don’t, your competition will.

What other ways have you found to be effective in engaging with your customers online?

5 Creative Ways to Save Your Business Money

5 Creative Ways to Save Your Business Money
by: Lisa Furgison

As a business owner, you’re always looking for ways to cut costs and raise your profit margin. There are some obvious ways to save money. You’ve heard them all before—suggestions like shopping around for the best prices on everything from office furniture to cell phone contracts, barter for services with clients, and keep hiring to a minimum.

They are all valid tips, but we wanted to generate a list of creative ways to save money, ways that even experienced business owners could learn from. So, we reached out to several entrepreneurs and came up with these money-saving tips:
1. Reach out to former college professors

Shaun Tuck, the owner of Professor Egghead, a company that promotes STEM education for kids, suggests reaching out to former college professors. By using these contacts, you might be able to connect with a business professor to get some advice, or find a student that’s looking for an internship opportunity.

Tuck spoke to his former professors and was put in touch with the law department at USC. The team helped Tuck’s company form an LLC, which was overseen by the head of the department and didn’t cost the company a dime.
2. Use online sites for printing

If you’re headed to big box stores to print any materials, you’re probably dealing with steep markups. Rather than pay high prices, James Robert Webb, who owns his own indie record label, uses the website GotPrint for all of his printing needs.

“My first batch of business cards at a large chain office supply store cost $300,” he says. “Now, I find cheaper alternatives online and get businesses cards printed for a fraction of that cost.”
3. Outsource front desk tasks

Rather than bringing on a full time employee to answer phones or handle emails, you can outsource these administrative tasks to virtual businesses. For example, you can hire a virtual assistant on a part-time basis to handle your emails. You can create an ad for a virtual assistant on a site like Elance, which is a freelance site where experienced workers can apply for your job.

You can also outsource your receptionist position. Businesses like Ruby Receptionists can handle your incoming calls, set a voicemail for you, and send you email alerts as specified. There are several pricing options to chose from, but compared to hiring someone full time, you’ll save money.
4. Try shared workspaces

If you’re just starting out, you could check out the possibility of renting shared workspace, suggests business coach, Jennifer Martin. A lot of cities are now renting out space within a building for this purpose, since nowadays so many businesses are run primarily by a laptop and smartphone. You typically have access to conference rooms so you can meet with clients and have a workspace where you can get online, make calls, and be productive.

It’s certainly cheaper than renting your own space, and it’s a good way to network with other business professionals who use the office too.
5. Use cheaper phone options

Cell phone bills can be expensive, especially if you’re paying for several lines. While many businesses can’t survive without cell phones, there are ways to keep costs down. For instance, use long distance apps like Viber, which takes away from your data rather than your minutes. If texting costs are adding up, try WhatsApp, an app that enables you to text for free for the first year, after which it costs $1 a year.

You can also use Skype, which offers video conferencing, or GoToMeeting for conference calls. Both offer free options.

Do you have an out-of-the-box way to save your business money? Share it with other like-minded entrepreneurs in the comment section below.

6 Tips to Create the Best Possible Work Environment

6 Tips to Create the Best Possible Work Environment
by: Bert Doerhoff

If you are the manager of a small business, then you know how difficult it can be sometimes to properly manage human resources. Organizing interviews, talking salary and mediating employee conflict are some of the less-glamorous aspects of the job. However, it’s also one of the most important facets of maintaining a happy and stable workplace. Developing a positive company culture may be one of the best investments you will make as a small-business manager. According to a Gallup Organization’s study of employees across the country, of the three million employees studied, a shocking amount cited themselves as being “checked out” from their work. Here are the statistics:

29% are engaged. These employees are excited about their work and have a close bond with their company. They look forward to their workday and are the movers and shakers of their organization.

54% are not engaged. These employees are “checked out.” They feel little connection with their career and simply go through the motions of their day.

17% are actively disengaged. This category is made up of employees who openly dislike their work. They complain about other employees and are too busy contributing to negative office energy to add real value to their company.

To many small-business owners, these numbers may be a bit shocking. Hopefully, the vast majority of your employees fall into the first category, but given the statistics, that is probably not the case. It is important to target those in the second and third categories and find the root of their problems. Here are a few tips to help you maintain a positive work environment and make your employees eager to begin their workday and move into the first category.

Find out what makes them tick. Some employees respond well to the setting and achievement of team goals, while others appreciate verbal praise every so often. Finding out what makes your employees work hard can in turn help you and the bottom line.
Give promotions where they are deserved. Everyone deserves recognition for a strong and consistent work ethic. Giving a promotion is not simply a matter of paying more because you feel generous; it’s a way to keep your most talented and efficient employees at your company. If they’re great employees, it’s likely that other organizations are seeking them out as well. You must remain competitive.
Terminate when necessary. It’s important to recognize the difference between an uninspired employee and someone who is volatile to your company culture. As long as you have strong, well-documented and consistent reasons that an employee is acting inappropriately and not meeting expectations, you have potential reason to terminate. It’s not the best part of the job, but it could be essential to your overall company health.
Be available. Being available allows your employees to come to you with any issues they may be having. If you are bogged down with bookkeeping, answering emails and scurrying from one client meeting to another, you may appear distant and unreachable. Of course you’re busy, but try taking an hour or two out of your week to meet with employees and ask them about how their work is going. If you feel too strapped for time to do this, consider outsourced accounting or hiring an intern to help you manage some of your duties.
Set the example. Employees tend to mimic what they see other people in the office doing. If they see you merely surviving your workday, then that’s what they think is the norm. If they see you as inspired, driven and creative, then their best will come out.
Ask for feedback. If you notice an employee that appears to be bored or uninspired, ask them what can be done to boost their motivation and make them a standout team member. Likewise, if you recognize a particular employee being exceptionally driven, ask them what inspires them each day. Asking these questions can give you insight that would otherwise go under the radar.

These few tips can hopefully help you manage a successful and motivated team of employees and maintain a positive energy within your company. Putting these ideas into practice can help you move your employees from the second and third categories into the most-desired first category. Good luck.

what’s your most productive work time? how to find out

By Nicole Fallon,

If you work standard office hours, you probably also know that, despite your best efforts (and caffeine intake), you’re not always at your peak when you’re trudging through the daily stream of work. Everyone goes through productivity slumps during the workday, and yet they still try to power through and keep working, even if it means substandard output.

This often leads people to work evenings and weekends to make up for their less-than-productive workday hours. This is especially true of business owners – a recent survey by The Alternative Board (TAB) found that 84 percent of business owners put in well above 40 hours of work per week, and 1 in 10 feel continuously overwhelmed by their workload.

But Kelly Allder, vice president of people programs at Ceridian, noted that logging more hours doesn’t necessarily add up to productivity.

“This shift in office culture should not be the standard daily activity [for] maximum productivity to be restored into the workplace,” Allder told Business News Daily. ”

Finding your productivity peaks

There’s a scientific reason that working too much kills productivity: According to an infographic by project management software Podio, your brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes, at which point it needs a short break before you can launch into your next 90- to 120-minute period of focus. This cycle is known as your ultradian rhythm, and, therefore, it’s important for you to learn your own rhythm to maximize productivity.

You can find your most productive work times and patterns just by paying closer attention to your daily habits, as well as your energy and focus levels. For example, you likely know whether you’re an early bird or a night owl based on when you’re feeling most alert and attentive.

Next, determine what holds you back from getting all your work done. Productive people will often say that their secret is excellent time management, but not everyone is naturally good at it. In fact, the TAB survey found that 35 percent of respondents cited poor time management as their top productivity killer.

A 2015 user survey by time-tracking software Toggl found people face numerous obstacles in proper time management:

Not setting priorities
Poor planning
Distractions
Underestimating the effort a task will take
Procrastinating
Multitasking
Doing things last minute

Virginia Fraser, senior communications editor at Insights Learning & Development, said that keeping an informal diary about what you accomplish throughout your work day can help you identify your productivity peaks.

“You can begin to see patterns that could help you restructure your work day to align with your most productive work patterns,” Fraser said. “It can also help to ask colleagues when they observe you to be at your top form and when you appear lackluster.”
Work patterns and habits

Once you understand the periods of the day in which you feel most productive, you can begin planning your tasks accordingly.

“Planning is the best way to reduce hours spent on necessary, yet time-consuming tasks such as email and meetings,” Jodie Shaw, TAB CMO, said in a statement. “Set aside a defined block of time each day for responding to your email and create a thorough agenda/timeline for meetings. These tactics will help cut out the extra minutes that add up to extra hours each day.”

Fraser advised paying particular attention to what she called “driving” and “restraining” forces, meaning those tasks that increase and decrease motivation, respectively. For example, she said, don’t set an important deadline after a meeting you know will be particularly draining for you, as your energy levels will be lower.

“In the same way, if you know you’re always energized when you work on a particular topic, maybe schedule a task that is usually difficult for you to start right after that topic when you feel most energized and motivated,” Fraser added.

You’ll want to experiment with different work patterns to see what’s most effective for you. Here are a few popular ones that Podio’s infographic suggested:

15-minute breaks: Plan two 15-minute breaks during your eight-hour workday (one midmorning, one midafternoon) to break up long stretches of work.
The Pomodoro Technique: Named for the tomato-shaped “pomodoro” kitchen timer, this technique involved breaking your day into half-hour segments called pomodoros that include 25 minutes of focus followed by 5 minutes of rest. Complete four pomodoros, then take a 15-20 minute break.
90-minute windows: Split your day into 90-minute windows and assign a single task to focus all your energy and attention on for that period. Then, take a 20-minute break from work before your next 90-minute window.

Julia Judge, customer journey ambassador for Planday and a former Podio representative, advised being honest with yourself about how much you’re getting done, how you feel about the quality of your work and how happy you are doing it. You also need to figure out how these different schedules play with the rest of your team.

“If you find something that suits you but causes a big inconvenience for others, then that’s not going to fly in the long run,” Judge said.
Tips for making your schedule work

Employers are becoming increasingly accommodating of employees’ ideal personal work schedules, and many now allow for occasional or full-time telecommuting, flexible scheduling and other similar options. However, this is not always the standard, and you might need to persuade your boss to let you adjust your work time.

“Ask your manager or HR department if flextime or ‘staggered hours’ options are available within the organization, and if they are, schedule your work day accordingly,” Allder said. “For example, your employer might say that instead of starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m., you could start at 7 a.m. and end at 3 p.m., right before the [afternoon] slump typically hits.”

“It could be a good topic of discussion … to explain [to your boss] how you want to take more ownership of your schedule and that you want to be judged on results … versus clocking in and out at the same time each day,” Judge added.

Regardless of whether your manager allows you to shift your hours, Allder reminded workers to schedule breaks into their days, and take their minds completely off work. You can do this by stretching, taking a walk, stepping outside for some fresh air, doodling, meditating, etc.

If you’re the one managing, you need to lead by example and show your staff that their time – however they choose to manage it – is important to you. Beyond giving your team the freedom and trust necessary to work in ways that are most effective for them, you should be finding ways to discuss, recognize and reward their productivity peaks.

“Employers should encourage employees to find what schedule best suits them and then provide the structural support needed to enable their workforce’s ideal schedules,” Fraser said.

Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Finding Inspiration: 4 Ways to Break Through a Creative Slump

Finding Inspiration: 4 Ways to Break Through a Creative Slump
By Nicole Fallon,

Finding Inspiration: 4 Ways to Break Through a Creative Slump

Authors call it “writer’s block,” but regardless of your profession, the problem is the same. You’re trying to get inspired, but you just feel as if you’re hitting a mental brick wall.

When your job requires constant creativity and innovation, a lull in creative thinking can mean lower productivity, work quality and output — a dangerous combination for professionals faced with tight deadlines from their bosses and clients. This external pressure may only worsen the situation, and lead to a vicious cycle of creative roadblocks.

You might not be able to avoid these slumps entirely, but there are things you can do to recharge your brain more quickly. Business leaders shared their tips for breaking through inspirational walls and jumpstarting your creativity. Change your environment

The verdict may still be out on the health effects of sitting at a desk all day, but one thing is certain: Remaining in the same exact spot for 8 or more hours per day can really stifle your creativity. If you’re feeling stuck, try a change of scenery.

“Creatives often need to physically move around, change spaces and divert their minds from the immediate task to help stimulate creative thought,” said Bert Stouffer, vice president of production at Trepoint digital marketing firm. “We have six distinct spaces within our office that creatives can move in and out of depending on their moods. In addition to their work stations and traditional conference rooms, we’ve created a bar area, a lounge area with soft furniture, a recreation area, and an outdoor roof space that includes a covered picnic table.”

If your office doesn’t have alternative work stations, try to get away to a coffee shop or other outside workspace. Even a quick walk around the block or parking lot of your office can have a similar effect.
Ask yourself questions

Jeffrey Bowman, CEO and founder of business acceleration platform REFRAME, said his creative slumps happen when he doesn’t fully understand the problem a client wants him and his team to solve. This likely sounds familiar to many creative professionals, as it’s difficult to come up with a solution for something you don’t fully comprehend.

“I think sometimes it’s the energy present in the room while we are discussing the problem,” Bowman said. “I usually work through the creative block by asking a series of questions. I’m always looking for that ‘aha’ moment.”
Take a step back

When you’re looking too closely at project or problem, you can’t see the bigger picture necessary to help you accomplish or solve it. Gerry David, CEO of healthy lifestyle company Celsius Holdings, calls this “working in a bubble” syndrome—if you’re too consumed in your own (or your company’s) ideas, your creativeability is constrained.

“Sometimes it’s helpful [for creative professionals] to take a step back and immerse themselves in the consumer’s world,” David told Business News Daily. “It helps to reconnect with who they are communicating to, whether that be visual or in written forms of communication. They can even do a self-assessment on their most recent projects and determine how they may have been able to communicate their message better. It’s all a matter of taking a few steps back to see things clearer.”
Seek out a new experience

Repetition of the same tasks day in, day out often leads to drudgery. Attending a conference, signing up for a skill-building workshop or tackling a new type of project can give you the fresh perspective needed to replenish creativity.

“It’s hard to deliver high-quality creative if [you] are burnt out,” Stouffer said. “Look for opportunities to … do some professional development at conferences, or work on a different type of project to get new experiences.”

But don’t pursue an opportunity just for the sake of it — make sure you’re really excited about the event or project you’re getting involved with.

“The best creative thinking just does not come from your thoughts, but from your heart, too,” David said. “You must be truly passionate about your role if you want to provide the most meaningful creative work.”

The Secret to Creating a Culture of Intrapreneurship

The Secret to Creating a Culture of Intrapreneurship
By Marci Martin,

The Secret to Creating a Culture of Intrapreneurship

Leadership gurus always encourage managers to empower their employees to take ownership of their responsibilities, and give them the freedom and support to succeed. There’s a word for that: intrapreneurship.

“Intrapreneurship is when employees have an entrepreneurial spirit internally,” said Phil Shawe, co-founder and co-CEO of business language services firm TransPerfect. “It’s as if [each member of your] staff is running his or her own business. They can do it on their own or within [their department]. It’s all about having a good system in place.”

Intrapreneurs have the same spirit and drive that entrepreneurs have, but instead put it to use for their employer by looking for problems to solve and new markets to enter, and using their own initiative to create the solution and run with it. The major difference between the two is that the organization is the one who wins or loses, depending on the individual’s success, while the individual gets the experience of entrepreneurship without personal risk.

“Intrapreneurs are key drivers of growth in companies large and small,” Chirag Kulkarni, CEO of C&M Group, said in an interview with Inc. “If you are looking for individuals with corporate experience for your startup, intrapreneurs are the ones to hire because they understand corporate upheavals, but will still be driven and motivated to work towards growing your company.”

A company culture that promotes internal entrepreneurial thinking starts with a leader who exemplifies it. Shawe offered four tips for fostering intrapreneurship in your workplace.

Be transparent. Trusting your employees with important company information and including them in companywide decisions can make them feel like they’re more involved in day-to-day business processes, regardless of their individual roles. Shawe suggested getting your staff’s feedback on the information you distribute as well.

Reward proactive behavior. Leaders and managers shouldn’t be controlling every detail of what their employees do. Instead, they should be more “hands-off” and reward individuals who take charge and find ways to improve sales, efficiency, etc., on their own.

Fix problems as they arise. When an issue occurs in a startup setting, entrepreneurs must take responsibility and address it right away. If they don’t, the problem could escalate and cause the business to fail. Instill this sense of urgency in your employees, and teach them to fix all problems, large or small, as they arise.

Encourage healthy competition. Like entrepreneurs, intrapreneurial employees should have a healthy sense of competition with one another to do the best job they can and get results. But as a leader, it’s your job to make sure they remember that their success is intertwined.

“At the end of the day, you’re all one team,” Shawe told Business News Daily. “Make people understand and feel that they’re part of something larger.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon Taylor. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Want a Creative Workforce? It Starts with Leadership

Want a Creative Workforce? It Starts with Leadership
By Chad Brooks,

Want a Creative Workforce? It Starts with Leadership

The type of leaders you hire can change the creativity of your organization as a whole, new research finds.

The key to gaining a workforce filled with creative employees is having confident leaders, found a study recently published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal.

When leaders feel confident that they can produce creative outcomes, their employees also become more creative, said Dina Krasikova, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor of management at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said.

“It’s that simple,” Krasikova said in a statement.

Typically, creative leaders have the proper experience to fuel their ideas. As a result, they’re more confident, the researchers said. However, the researchers said they were surprised at how contagious a leader’s creativity and confidence can be.

“Leaders can imbue their subordinates with confidence and creativity just by setting an example themselves,” Krasikova said.

The opposite was also found to be true. The researchers discovered that when managers aren’t confident or creative, their employees also feel less confident in their own abilities to be creative.

To instill the most creativity in their direct employees, bosses also need to have positive relationships with their employees, focusing on trust, loyalty and mutual professional respect. When a confident, creative leader also has good relationships with her or his employees, it has even a stronger impact on creativity, Krasikova said.

“Creativity flourishes in supportive environments where leaders and subordinates have good interpersonal relationships,” she said.

The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing 106 supervisors and 544 of their subordinates at a large information technology company in the United States.

The study’s authors said they hope their research will encourage more organizations to hire leaders who offer more than just the proper experience. They should also be confident and have the ability to develop positive working relationships with their staff members, the researchers said.

“Leadership is a very complex phenomenon,” Krasikova said. “It’s not about whether leaders are born or made — it’s about how they use their skills once they get into that position.”

The study was co-authored by Lei Huang, an assistant professor at Auburn University in Alabama, and Dong Liu, an assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Innovation in the Workplace: How to Harness It

Innovation in the Workplace: How to Harness It
By Nicole Fallon,

Innovation in the Workplace: How to Harness It
Every workplace can be an innovative one with the right leadership.

It’s difficult to find an organization today that would openly reject innovation. This buzzword has become the mantra of every company seeking to provide the latest and greatest solutions to its industry’s problems. But if a company hopes to produce a steady flow of new and creative ideas, it must first realize that innovation is more complex than forging ahead with the first decent suggestion that comes along.

“Innovation requires continual evolution,” said Scott Jewett, CEO and founder of research and development solutions provider Element-Y. “An innovative company can have an advantage in the marketplace, but it must also balance the investment and cost with the potential outcome. The problem is that most companies focus on building an innovative infrastructure rather than on teaching their team a structured way of thinking that delivers great results.”

An innovative workplace requires a leader who can provide the right combination of people, processes and focus. Leadership experts offered their tips for finding and harnessing innovation in any company or industry.
Hire the right people

All leaders strive to bring the best talent into their organizations, but hiring employees for their innovative abilities can be a particularly challenging task. The key is to recognize personality traits in candidates that correlate with innovation, said Rod Pyle, author of “Innovation the NASA Way” (McGraw-Hill, 2014).

“Finding individuals who embody the characteristics needed for true innovation — imagination, inspiration, knowledge, boldness, persistence and, occasionally, a contrarian mind-set — has become essential,” Pyle told Business News Daily. “Innovation is rarely easy, and these traits provide the tenacity to excel.”

Seeking diverse candidates who are aligned with a common mission is also extremely important in fostering an innovative environment.

“An organization’s mission, clearly defined and articulated, supports the inspiration that precedes innovation and invention,” Pyle said. “As NASA and other organizations have learned, diversity in hiring provides different viewpoints that, when combined with other cultural backgrounds, can provide a rich basis for this innovative thinking.”
Have a structured thought process for innovation

A common misconception is that structure is the enemy of creative thinking. Jewett disagreed, noting that only through a structured thought process can you measure tangible results. He outlined four concrete steps to the innovative process: Define the essence of the problem; embrace constraints; generate, quick-test and select ideas; and execute.

“You must do steps 1 and 2 before you start having idea fun in step 3,” Jewett said. “Step 3 is iterative, and only when you emerge victorious from step 3 do you move on to execution. Most companies merely set an innovation intention and fund the process. Teaching their natural innovators this simple, structured process can help yield great innovation returns, and often transform the competitive landscape.”

Following these four steps can help companies break away from the incorrect notion that there are “no bad ideas.”

“It’s cliché for a manager to kick off ideation sessions with this statement,” Jewett said. “A $5 million solution to a $2 million problem? Bad idea. [A structured] innovation process allows for ideas to come from a context of the essence of the problem or need while still embracing the constraints. This way, resources aren’t wasted on ideas that don’t make sense. Quick-test ideas early to select and invest only in good ones.”
Remain focused on the big picture

With any long-term business goal, it’s easy to get bogged down by day-to-day tasks and lose sight of the bigger picture. In the case of innovation, it’s even more important that leaders learn to stay focused on this continuing goal and encourage their team to do the same.

“Leaders need to break the routine,” said Jim Welch, chief product officer of workforce management solutions provider Kronos. “At Kronos, we hold quarterly innovation days, where employees get together and think about new ideas and solutions for our customers. These days serve as a reminder that innovation should be happening every day, and it gives employees a refreshed perspective of their work.”

Welch reminded leaders that when they achieve a goal, it’s not the time to slow down or slack off. Continue to focus on customer-driven needs and solutions to ensure that the innovative process doesn’t wane, he said.

“Companies may become complacent once they meet strategic and financial goals,” Welch said. “Never underestimate your competitors, big or small, and always be thinking about how to leverage the latest technologies for your solutions.”

Above all, leaders need to be sure that their workplace is one in which innovation can flourish and thrive.

“Your organization needs to provide an environment in which innovation can prosper,” Pyle said. “Give [employees] a stake in the process of realizing the innovation — a sense of ownership. Give them the ability to take an idea or inspiration through to the finish, or as close to that as the individual can reach.”

Creativity Is Not Innovation (But You Need Both)

Creativity Is Not Innovation (But You Need Both)
By Nicole Fallon,

Creativity Is Not Innovation (But You Need Both)

“Creativity” and “innovation” are two words that constantly get thrown around in brainstorming sessions, corporate meetings and company mission statements. There’s no question that these values are highly prized in the fast-paced modern workplace, but do leaders who use the terms truly know the difference between them?

Shawn Hunter, author of “Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes,” (Wiley, 2013) defines creativity as the capability or act of conceiving something original or unusual, while innovation is the implementation or creation of something new that has realized value to others. Business leaders frequently interchange creativity and innovation, without understanding what separates the two.

“Creativity isn’t necessarily innovation,” Hunter told Business News Daily. “If you have a brainstorm meeting and dream up dozens of new ideas then you have displayed creativity, but there is no innovation until something gets implemented.”

Hunter noted that many leaders focus more emphasis on generating creativity on demand, instead of simply building innovative products, processes and interactions.

“Innovation isn’t a mysterious black box,” he said. “It can be simple small tweaks to existing processes, products or interactions. And by focusing on the process [of innovation], and not the heroically creative individual, we can build innovation at scale.”

In other words, process is replicable and scalable; a creative individual is not. Once leaders understand the difference between creativity and innovation, they can work on inspiring both among their team members — and building a culture that supports these values.

“While leaders can foster innovation, the organization as a whole must also support innovation through the makeup of its culture and the way it designs its processes,” Hunter said. “Sometimes the best way to spark innovation is by allowing activity within the organization that deviates from the norm but that may lead to positive outcomes.”

Hunter cited the birth of Starbucks’ now-popular Frappuccino drink as an example of how leaders giving their employees some room for deviation allows creativity to blossom into innovation. In the early 1990s, the staff at a Santa Monica, California, Starbucks invented a new drink and asked an executive to propose the product to headquarters, where it was ultimately rejected. Later, the same store invented another drink (the Frappuccino), and the executive asked the staff to quietly make and sell the drink to local customers. It quickly became a hit, and the management group implemented the successful idea companywide once its value was proved.

“The Frappuccino turned out to be one of Starbucks’ most popular and profitable drinks,” Hunter said. “And, according to [Starbucks’ then-vice president of sales and operations] Howard Behar, it happened because someone was allowed, and even encouraged, to experiment with a new product that deviated from the company’s core product line.”