How to Create an Extraordinary Workplace

Magnet attracting chrome ball bearing concept for marketing, bus

The Best Place to Work

How do you create an extraordinary workplace?

How do you turn a group of strangers into a community of friends?

Why should a company pay people to play?

 

Usually, when I read advance copies of book manuscripts, I wait to talk about the book until it is released.  In this case, I couldn’t help but talk about this book for the last few months at conferences. Now that it is finally available, I am excited to introduce Ron Friedman’s new book The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace.

 

BOOK GIVEAWAY

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If you want to build a winning culture and encourage collaboration, this book provides a blueprint.  If you are designing a new office space or updating an old one, this book is a must read.  But what surprised me most about this book is the many insights it provides for leaders at all levels.  If you want to be promoted at work, you will want to read this book and follow its guidelines.  And, as a CEO who is privileged enough to lead an organization that regularly hits the Best Places to Work in IT list, I can tell you this book gave me numerous ideas.

The book’s author, Ron Friedman, PhD, recently answered my questions about his research and work. He is a psychologist and the founder of Ignite80, a management consultancy to help leaders build extraordinary workplaces.

 

Research: You can predict employee satisfaction by the amount of sunlight entering their floor.

 

3 Ways to Improve Space

From a workplace design perspective, what are the top 3 ways to improve space for a positive impact?

BPTW Cover 1The most important principle is design with the end in mind. Think carefully about the tasks your employees are going to be doing and provide a space that empowers them to do their work more effectively. At many companies, people are placed in the identical work environments regardless of their job function, and this is a missed opportunity. It’s why so many people feel that they need to come in early or stay late to get any work done.

A second consideration is encouraging people to personalize their workspace. In The Best Place to Work I talk about organizations like Etsy and DreamWorks that provide their employees with a budget for customizing their workspace when they first join.  It’s a wise strategy.  When we have the freedom to shape our environment, we experience a sense of personal control.  One study found that people are over 30% more effective when they’re encouraged to personalize their workspace.

 

Research: People are over 30% more productive when they personalize their workspace.

 

A third recommendation is to invest in informal social spaces, like outdoor picnic tables or a café-like break room. The idea is to encourage colleagues to get together, even when they’re not talking about work. Workplace friendships are vital to our performance, and lasting friendships aren’t established when we’re in formal meetings.

 

Paid to Play?

One of your chapters says that we should be paid to play. You say that the childlike manner of play can improve our creativity. How can we use play and exercise to improve our workplace?

There’s a business case for giving employees the flexibility they need to exercise. Over the last decade, scientists have uncovered a range of benefits from regular workouts that extend far beyond being healthy or looking good. Exercise, research tells us, can also make us more effective at work.

Consider: Harness the Power of Reflective Thinking

Young Businessman Thinking and Wondering While Writing a Paper

Breathe. Reflect. Consider.

Not a day goes by when I don’t hear, “I’m so busy!” or, “I don’t have any time.” It seems that in our overconnected, overscheduled, overcommitted world we have lost all sense of margin. Time to breathe?  Maybe, if it’s a scheduled yoga class or meditation session. Otherwise, on to the next task!

What happens when we don’t have time to reflect? Why is it so critical to spend time on reflective thinking?

 

“$650 billion is lost each year because we don’t give ourselves time for reflection.” -DP Forrester

 

Daniel Patrick Forrester is the founder and CEO of THRUUE. He’s a management consultant who has worked with some of the biggest organizations ranging from Verizon to Xerox.  His work on reflection and its power had me doing some reflecting of my own.  I recently had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his book Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization.

 

3 Benefits of Reflection 

What are the top 3 benefits of reflection and reflective thinking?

 

1. Getting the big ideas right

CEOs, COOs, business leaders, and leadership boards have no shortage of ideas that must get done. They drive high-performing teams and cultures to implement their best ideas. Now, more than ever, organizations are in the midst of a tumultuous business market, facing questions of relevancy and sustainability. Only through reflective thinking can leaders know if their big ideas will work and if the organizational culture can support idea implementation. Reflective leaders embrace the questions: What would make this idea fail, what could we do differently, and how can we solve this problem?

 

2. Finding meaning

We live in a world where data and meaning fight for our attention all day. Emails, text messages, social media updates, and other information are constantly bombarding us. We can’t process one piece of data before we are confronted with another. There’s simply no way to comprehend the meaning of all of this data unless we make time to think.

This Basex study breaks down how the typical leader spends his or her time each day:

  • 28% — Interruptions by things that aren’t urgent or important, like unnecessary email messages and the time it takes to get back on track
  • 25% — Productive content creation, including writing email messages
  • 20% — Meetings (in person, by phone, by video, and online)
  • 15% — Searching through content, like the Web, digital communications, and paperwork
  • ONLY 5% — Reflecting on all of the information

Nearly a third of the time is spent in interruptions, while a mere 5% is left for think time. How can leaders make effective decisions with such a balance?  The answer is simple: they can’t.

Leaders must understand the meaning behind information and the implications of their decisions before they act.  Meaning is what leaders bring to their organizations. When meaning is found, intention is found.

 

“When meaning is found, intention is found.” -Daniel Patrick Forrester

 

3. Reconnecting with control and intention

When we take time to think and reflect, we find ourselves in control rather than subservient to the Pavlovian urges that so often drive us to choose technology and connectedness rather than reflection.  This past September, I spoke at a conference called BoardSource in Washington, D.C. BoardSource is the nation’s largest annual convening of nonprofit leaders, board members, and chief executives.  In my speech to the 850 executive leaders in attendance, I explained why boards and leadership teams should act with intention and focus on becoming greater than the sum of their individual parts, which can only be achieved through continuous reflection.

 

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” –Mark Twain

 

Today’s Frenzied Pace

Often it seems we think that the frenzied pace is simply required in today’s society.  Is it? 

How to Jumpstart Innovation

Bowl of Minestrone Soup with Pasta, Beans and Vegetables

 

Is your team stuck and in need of an innovation injection?

Are there ways to structure brainstorming to enhance the creative process?

Is it possible to learn how to innovate and create?

 

Make Stone Soup

If you study innovation, creativity and success, you will likely know my friend Jeff DeGraff.  I first met him when I was running a business in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Someone on my team introduced me to the “Dean of Innovation” when we were struggling with a problem.  Dr. DeGraff is a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  He has worked with some of the biggest global corporations including Apple, Visa, GE, Coca-Cola, and Johnson & Johnson.

His most recent book is Making Stone Soup: How to Jumpstart Innovation Teams.  If you want the recipe for collaborative innovation, this colorful book will deliver while inspiring you with new ideas for your team.

 

“Innovation is created as a result of constructive conflict.” -Jeff DeGraff

 

Misconceptions About Innovation

Most of us think of innovation and think of a brilliant inventor, solitarily working when Eureka!  Bam!  Innovation strikes!  You say most innovation doesn’t happen in that manner but, instead, happens in teams.  Tell us more about that.

Any other common misconceptions about innovation?

Most people have a very limited concept of innovation.  They think it’s a gMaking Stone Soup Book Coveradget or an electric powered vehicle.  But these technological inventions are the very end of the innovation chain. What makes your smart phone light and compact has more do with breakthroughs in material science than it does creative design thinking.  More so, innovations are often services or integrated solutions such as Google’s business model. Innovation is by definition a type of deviance from the norm, and therefore what makes an innovation is constantly morphing and progressing.

 

“Innovation is a type of deviance from the norm.” -Jeff DeGraff

 

Conversely, the biggest truth that people miss is that innovation is the only value proposition that happens in the future for which we have no data now.  You must feel your way through the ambiguity and accelerate the unavoidable failure cycle.  That’s how successful inventors, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists do it.  Excessive planning is the number one form of resistance when trying to make innovation happen. You have to take multiple shots on goal.

Most importantly, innovation is not produced through alignment.  It is created as a result of constructive conflict.  Enroll some deep and diverse domain experts and encourage some polite pushing and shoving, and you will be astounded by the hybrid solutions they create.

 

CREATE, COMPETE, CONTROL, COLLABORATE

7 Tenets of Taxi Terry

It Started With A Question

 

“Are you ready for the best cab ride of your life?”

When the door slammed shut, Scott McKain wasn’t only taking a cab ride to his hotel.  He was embarking on one of the greatest customer experiences he could imagine.  Not only would Scott enjoy a memorable cab ride, he would exit that taxi with lessons that can make a difference in every business.

 

“Passion without effort equals failure.” –Scott McKain

 

The taxi driver, Taxi Terry, didn’t know that he had just picked up my friend, bestselling author, extraordinary professional speaker, and customer service expert Scott McKain.  Of all the people in the world to pick up at the airport, Taxi Terry picked up a global expert in standing out, in the art of distinction. In fact, he is the Chairman of the Distinction Institute.

 

7 Tenets of Taxi Terry

  1. Set high expectations and then exceed them.
  2. Delivering what helps the customer helps you.
  3. Customers are people, so personalize their experience.
  4. Think logically and then act creatively and consistently.
  5. Make the customer the star of your show.
  6. Help your customers come back for more.
  7. Creating joy for your customer will make your work–and life–more joyful.

 

That simple, enthusiastic question, directed to an exhausted traveler one night was the beginning of a customer experience that tens of thousands of people have learned from. Scott has presented the lessons he learned to audiences around the world.  And the lessons are now available in a new book, one that will inspire you.  7 Tenets of Taxi Terry is sure to be one of the enduring business books that will come up in conversations everywhere (yes, even in a cab!).

 

“If you want your business to get better, the first step is for you to get better.” –Scott McKain

 

Do You Want to Create Memorable Customer Experiences?

5 Surprising Hacks That Will Boost Creativity In Minutes

Business person having an bright idea light bulb concept
This is a guest post by Greg Fisher; he is the Founder of Berkeley Sourcing Group. He started BSG eight years ago after realizing the need for coordination between manufacturing firms located in the U.S. and factories in China.

Creativity is a fantastic trait to develop that can help us to perform better in a huge range of situations – not least in business, where it can help us to come up with new products, new marketing angles, new business models and unique solutions to enduring problems.

 

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” –Henry David Thoreau

 

But creativity is also an elusive abstraction that is difficult to define and even more difficult to acquire if you aren’t naturally gifted in that way.  With that in mind, how does one go about helping themselves to be more creative and to think outside the box?  Especially in a world that more and more often seems to encourage conformity and output?

With these powerful hacks, that’s how!  Follow these tips and in minutes you’ll be having better ideas and using your brain in ways you didn’t know you could.

 

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” –Julia Cameron

 

Hack #1: Lie Down

 

Lying down or at least leaning back into a more supine position has been shown by many studies to boost creativity.  Why’s that?  Because it encourages us to feel relaxed and at ease. When you’re stressed or busy working, your body produces chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline which gives you a kind of ‘tunnel vision’ and focus.  That’s useful for completing a dull task, or for outrunning a lion, but it’s not useful when you need to ‘see the bigger picture’ and try to connect abstract concepts.

 

Hack #2: Look at a Plant

 

Thus anything that helps you to relax to a degree will help you to access more of your natural creativity.  Another example is simply looking at plants and greenery, which help us relax thanks to our evolutionary imperative of finding fertile land and luscious green nutritious plants.

 

Hack #3: Use a Green Wallpaper on Your Desktop