Kick Bad Habits In Four Simple Steps Monday, Feb 24 2014 

by Charles Duhigg as appeared in Bottom Line Health, Bottom Line Health

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Want to kick a bad habit—just about anybad habit? There’s a proven system that has helped millions of people give up damaging habits and establish new, healthful ones in their place. You can simplify that system to help yourself do the same. The secret: Drawing upon four key components of 12-step programs.

The first and most famous 12-step program is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and there are dozens of similar programs based on the same basic principles. These principles can help you, too, whether your goal is to cut back on junk food, quit being a couch potato, give up cigarettes, spend less, stop biting your nails or whatever.

The reason: What makes AA and other 12-step programs so effective for so many people is that they provide a powerful methodology for changing bad habits, according to Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer prize–winning journalist and author of the best-selling The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

Members of AA often attest to the necessity of doing all 12 steps to deal with the life-threatening problem of alcoholism and achieve lasting sobriety. However, for the purposes of overcoming less grave bad habits and replacing them with good habits, you can think in terms of the following four key ideas…

Identify your primary commitment. People who come to AA typically have many problems—with family, friends, money, job, health, etc. All of those problems matter, and abstinence will help address them, but none of them are the main focus. Instead, people come to AA for one primary purpose—to get and stay sober.
Try this: In considering what habit of yours you’d like to change, commit to one specific goal (or one at a time, at least). For instance, instead of vowing to “get healthier” by overhauling your lifestyle (how complicated is that?!), focus on the single most important goal—say, no longer being a couch potato. Once you’ve established a routine of regular physical activity—for instance, taking a daily 20-minute walk—and have this new habit firmly embedded into your life, then you can start addressing other bad habits.

Take a self-inventory. AA encourages members to do an inventory, examining their feelings and behaviors and the “rewards” they get from drinking. This helps members to understand why they are drawn to drink and to recognize the specific triggers that spark cravings for alcohol. For example, a person may come to see that she drinks to numb feelings of fear or resentment or to feel more at ease in social situations…and that she is triggered by certain people or places, such as a longtime drinking buddy or a favorite bar.
Try this: Examine your own rewards and triggers. For instance, if you continually break your own promise to stop snacking on chips or sweets, what’s the reason? It’s probably not real hunger—instead, you may habitually reach for junk food when stressed or bored. To break his own afternoon cookie habit, Duhigg had to realize that it wasn’t the actual cookies he was so attached to, but rather the enjoyable routine of taking a break—getting up from his desk, walking to the cafeteria, chatting with coworkers. Once he understood this, he was able to come up with alternatives that provided the same rewards, such as walking around the block with a colleague or buying an apple instead of a cookie from the cafeteria.

Replace a bad habit with a good one—and practice the new habit every day. In AA, new members often are advised to “pick up the phone instead of a drink”…in other words, to take some positive new action (phoning a fellow alcoholic) whenever the urge strikes to indulge in the old habitual action (drinking). New members also are urged to attend 90 meetings in 90 days so that not a single day goes by without reinforcing the new habit of staying sober. Even if you are battling something far less serious than alcoholism, it takes at least several weeks for a healthful new habit to replace the old one—and consistency is key, Duhigg noted.
Try this: Suppose your goal is to get more sleep, so you’ve committed to going to bed by 11 pm every evening instead of habitually staying up past midnight. Do not undermine yourself by staying up late “only on Tuesdays” to watch a favorite TV show or by abandoning your new sleep routine on the weekends—at least for now. Once your new sleep habits are well formed, you may be able to make occasional exceptions without reverting to old bad habits (except in cases where complete abstinence is key to success, such as with an addiction).

Make use of a support network. In AA, selection of a “sponsor” (an AA mentor) plus contacts made at meetings provide a ready-made support system for each participant.
Try this: No matter what behavior you want to change, ask your friends and family members to support your efforts to establish your healthier new habit. It’s well proven, Duhigg said, that change is easier when you have someone who holds you accountable and applauds your progress. If you can find a buddy who has the same goal and the two of you can work together—or if you can find a mentor who has already achieved what you’re striving for (such as giving up smoking)—so much the better. Having the encouragement, advice and support of someone who truly understands what you’re going through will make it far easier to break old bad habits and create a healthier lifestyle for yourself.
These four steps could add up to one huge step for you!

Source: Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer prize–winning staff writer at The New York Times, and author of the best-seller The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. (Random House).

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Leadership training: 8 steps to coaching for better performance Sunday, Feb 2 2014 

by Sharlyn Lauby

Smart business people know it’s more profitable to keep existing customers than constantly having to find new ones. That’s because the costs of acquiring new customers are so high.

The same principle applies to employees. Employers invest thousands of dollars to acquire a new worker. They pour time and resources into recruiting, interviewing, hiring, onboarding and training a new employee.
So if a new employee—or a long-tenured one, for that matter—makes a mistake, it’s often best to consider coaching, mentoring and additional training instead of immediately thinking about discipline and possible termination.
Don’t delay coaching
It comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. What are the relative costs of replacing a staff member compared with salvaging an already-established relationship?
Say a manager is dealing with an employee who isn’t contributing his or her fair share. Everyone understands that the situation needs to be addressed. Other team members can tell this employee is a poor performer. It’s time for the boss and the employee to have a performance conversation. The purpose isn’t to punish the employee. It’s to change the employee’s behavior.
The sooner the conversation occurs, the better. The longer the wait, the harder it becomes.

8 steps to better performance
Here’s an outline a manager can use to prepare for a performance conversation with an employee.
1. Let the employee know your concern. Cut out the small talk and get straight to the topic of performance improvement. This conversation is important and should be treated as such.
2. Share observable behavior. Offer specifics about actual behaviors that have been witnessed. If someone else saw the behaviors, try to have that person there. Employees will not respond well to statements such as, “Someone told me you did this ….”
Because the goal is to change behavior, it’s important to specifically address behavior.
3. Explain how the problem affects the team. Employees might not realize how their behavior negatively affects others. Managers should be prepared to draw a connection between the employee’s performance and the company’s success. If negative impact can’t be explained, then an employee will question the need to change.
4. Tell them the expected behavior. Even if it has been explained before, managers should clarify what the company’s acceptable performance standard is and how employees can achieve the standard.

5. Solicit solutions from the employee. This is so important! Let the employee outline the action steps he or she plans to take in order to correct the situation. If a manager has to tell an employee what to do, the employee hasn’t bought into the solution.
6. Convey the consequences. Communicate to the employee what will happen if the situation is not resolved. Consequences can vary greatly, from a transfer request being denied to disciplinary action.
7. Agree upon a follow-up date. “No news is good news” is not a management philosophy. After the employee agrees to work toward improving performance, set a follow-up date to discuss progress.
8. Express confidence. Managers should affirm their belief that the employee has the ability to correct the situation.
Negative performance conversations are never fun—for the person giving them or the person receiving the feedback. Think of the different responses that could arise and how to best answer. Preparation will make the conversation easier.

5 Surefire Ways to Tank a Pitch | http:/ Thursday, Aug 8 2013 

5 Surefire Ways to Tank a Pitch | http://ow.ly/nJ9Z0 http://ow.ly/nJ9Z1

6 Ways Your Startup’s Location Can Boos Monday, Jun 3 2013 

6 Ways Your Startup’s Location Can Boost Your Bottom Line | Entrepreneur.com http://ow.ly/lFweI Note you have a community focused crowd funding option http://ow.ly/lFwqF

Why you keep hiring the wrong people…a Tuesday, Mar 12 2013 

Why you keep hiring the wrong people…and what to do about it. http://ow.ly/iOQYZ

6 ways — beyond ‘fixing’ the employees — to improve productivity Friday, Feb 22 2013 

by Mark Royal

When productivity dips, it seems logical to blame the employees for not engaging in the job. But that might not be what’s going on.
Even capable employees who say they’ve never worked for a better company and feel optimistic about what they can achieve won’t perform at their peak if there’s something standing between them and their success.
The problem: Identifying what that “something” is that’s sapping productivity—and getting rid of it.
The solution: Stop blaming the employee and start correcting conditions in the workplace that are preventing even your brightest stars from shining.

Here are six productivity factors to examine:
1. Performance management. We’re all pretty good at handing out work, but we’re not so great at helping employees prioritize tasks or at pulling away nonessential work.
Tip: Tell pressured employees which tasks are the most critical, have the greatest impact on the organization, should be done first or absolutely must be done. Don’t make them struggle to determine that on their own.
2. Authority and empowerment. If you think you’re empowering your employees by stepping completely out of their way, you could be wrong. The absence of boundaries is not empowering; it’s limiting. Employees who don’t understand how far their authority reaches will be fearful of overstepping it.
Tip: Specifically designate the level of influence each employee may have. That way, employees can make decisions without the fear of going too far.
3. Work structure/processes. They’re meant to help employees accomplish their routine work as efficiently as possible. But as business conditions change, those work processes might not work anymore.
Tip: As conditions, products and goals change, update your organization’s work processes—and constantly train em¬-ployees so they know how to put those changes into practice.

4. Resources. Managers might believe there’s nothing they can do to increase the resources available to their em¬-ployees. And while their hands might be tied on the size of the budget or the staff, there’s plenty of leeway elsewhere.

Tips: Fill staff vacancies as soon as possible so you make use of all of your allocated positions. Cross-train employees so they can cover for each other.
Evaluate whether you have the right people on your team. Employees who don’t have the skills, attitude or work ethic to move the company forward can drain the productivity of their highly motivated co-workers.
5. Training. Organizations tend to emphasize training for new hires and those who are changing roles. Too often, they overlook the value of ongoing training for all em¬¬ployees. Your organization is changing and evolving—fast. Without training, employees will not learn the new skills they need to keep up with changing work demands.
Tip: Consider the idea that the skills and knowledge that made an employee successful in the past might not be what makes him or her successful today.
6. Collaboration. It might seem like it’s all a manager can do to meet his or her own department’s goals. It’s hard to focus on bigger, companywide needs or helping another team.
But hunkering down and focusing only on the goals of your own team robs the organization of the effort it needs to reach its broader objectives.
Tip: Encourage your organization’s leaders and managers to wear their “enterprise” hats and to keep a collaborative perspective.
We’re all demanding that our employees do more with less. So they hear: “We need you to work harder, and we’re also giving you fewer resources.”

Wouldn’t that sap your productivity? Back away from the message of doing more with less.

Try a more proactive positive approach: To sustain the new level of performance over time, optimize your work environment. Take advantage of the motivation levels you already have by creating a work environment that enables those motivated employees to work.

Mark Royal is senior principal for Hay Group and co-author of The Enemy of Engagement: Put an End to Workplace Frustration—and Get the Most from Your Employees. Contact him at mark.royal@haygroup.com.

Block inadvertent bias from creeping into reviews Monday, Feb 18 2013 

by  on APRIL 16, 2012 12:00PM
in HR MANAGEMENT,HUMAN RESOURCES,LEADERS & MANAGERS,PERFORMANCE REVIEW

When drafting performance reviews, every manager aims to be fair and consistent. But research shows that, too often, a concept known as “rater bias” can subtly—and inadvertently—influence a manager’s ratings.

This can result in either artificially low or artificially high ratings of employees. Both can discourage employees, hurt morale … and trigger legal liability.

Employees often use performance reviews as ammunition in lawsuits claiming job discrimination based on some “protected” characteristic (race, sex, age, religion or disability status). Courts will pounce on any inconsistent or unrealistic ratings they see in reviews.

When drafting performance reviews, every manager aims to be fair and consistent. But research shows that, too often, a concept known as “rater bias” can subtly—and inadvertently—influence a manager’s ratings.

This can result in either artificially low or artificially high ratings of employees. Both can discourage employees, hurt morale … and trigger legal liability.

Employees often use performance reviews as ammunition in lawsuits claiming job discrimination based on some “protected” characteristic (race, sex, age, religion or disability status). Courts will pounce on any inconsistent or unrealistic ratings they see in reviews.

Here are the six most common types of bias to be aware of when drafting reviews or other types of feedback:

1. Recency bias

Research shows that managers’ reviews typically put more weight on performance and behavior that occurred most recently. If you rely solely on your memory to evaluate performance, you’re making the appraisal more difficult than necessary—and less effective.

To avoid this type of bias, institute a simple recording system to document employees’ performance and behaviors—both good and bad. This doesn’t need to be sophisticated. Simple notes in a folder or regular e-mails into an Outlook folder will do. Include concrete examples of positive and negative actions.

Focus on recent actions only if they represent a significant decline or improvement. But consider everything employees have done during the entire evaluation period.

2. Leniency and strictness bias

For reasons they may not recognize, some managers offer exceptionally high ratings across the board, even for marginal employees. Maybe they want to avoid confrontations with employees.

On the flip side, some managers are excessively strict, refusing to hand out great reviews, even to great employees.

In both cases, overly strict and overly lenient ratings do a disservice to the employee and open the organization to legal trouble.

Periodically review evaluation guidelines. Ask yourself if you have any preconceived notions about handing out the highest and lowest scores. Ask HR or a fellow manager to review your ratings.

3. The ‘halo effect’

The halo effect occurs when a manager rates an employee’s performance in several areas based on his or her performance in one area.

For example, someone who contributes excellent ideas but performs poorly or average in other duties may receive a good overall evaluation. Or a cocky high performer may receive lower than deserved ratings in several areas because of his attitude. Don’t generalize based on performance in one area.

4. Central tendency bias

This involves managers who tend to rate employees in the middle of evaluation scales—never on either end of the “great” to “poor” scale.

Evaluations work best when managers use all ratings levels, when warranted, to portray strengths and weaknesses.

Remember that most employees perform better in some areas than others. And most departments have poor, average and excellent performers.

5. Compare/contrast bias

Don’t base evaluations on comparisons with co-workers.

When you’ve got a star performer on a team, it’s common to want to compare every other player to that person. But it’s not fair. Instead, rate each person’s performance individually according to the organization’s predetermined performance criteria.

6. Length of employment bias

Studies have also demonstrated that some managers dish out reviews due, in part, to the employees’ length of employment. The longer the tenure, the better the review. Don’t assume that experience automatically equals good performance. Evaluate senior employees as objectively as new hires.

The bottom line: Remember that it’s natural for managers to have different personal feelings about each employee—and have preconceived notions about their performance. But your goal is to separate those personal views about employees from their actual performance, and to offer the most objective and consistent feedback possible.

Phrases never to use during performance reviews

“You’re wrong.” If an employee tries to explain why her job rating should have been higher, don’t slap back with a Trump-like, “You’re wrong.” That will only trigger anger and more confrontation. Instead, turn back to your documented facts of the employee’s performance and say, “I know you disagree, but I believe this evaluation accurately reflects your performance.”

“You did a great job but … ” Whatever comes after the “but” negates the preceding compliment. Don’t directly connect praise with constructive criticism. Instead say, “On the other hand, you can do even better by making these improvements.” Then, cite them specifically.

“I understand.” This phrase can excuse unacceptable performance or behavior by conveying empathy. Avoid it.

“Your position here is solid as long as you keep up the good work.” You may intend such statements to encourage good performance, but they’re legally dangerous because they imply an employment contract that a court could find binding. That limits the organization’s ability to terminate the person if his or her performance declines.

10 most common legal mistakes HR makes Wednesday, Feb 6 2013 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

The Human Resources department has a host of responsibilities. Juggling them is often overwhelming, to say the least. One small misstep could cost the company hundreds, thousands, and even millions of dollars. Knowing in which areas of HR’s numerous responsibilities the most common pitfalls lurk goes a long way to ensuring that you don’t fall into these traps.

#1: Advertisements, Interviews, and Offer Letters

Mistake: improper language in job advertisements. Too many employers still use inappropriate terms — such as “girl,” “boy,” or “young” — in their job advertisements. This is particularly true when managers, rather than HR, write the ads.

Mistake: unlawful interview inquiries. Too many hiring managers ask about personal and/or protected characteristics during job interviews, which sets the employer up for a discrimination lawsuit if the applicant is not hired.

Mistake: inaccurate description of the job. Some hiring managers work so hard to get top-notch recruits in the door that they fail to be realistic with their description of the job. The unhappy employee will leave, and it will have been a shameful waste of the employer’s time and money.

Mistake: inadvertent creation of contractual promises. Too many employers include language in their job offer letters that inadvertently creates an employment contract. For instance, mentioning a yearly salary implies a yearly contract.

#2: Wage and Hour Issues

Mistake: misclassification of workers. Exempt vs. non-exempt status: Finding and correcting these mistakes are an Obama administration priority. While there are many factors to consider, you’re basically basing your determination on the employee’s level of responsibility and/or training, and a salary test.

Mistake: mandating confidentiality of wage information. Prohibiting employees from discussing their wages is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

#3: Privacy Assumptions and Violations

Mistake: permitting an expectation of electronic privacy. Too many employers fail to advise employees to expect no privacy on their computers. If you asked employees, “Do you think the stuff you put into that computer is private?” you might get some interesting answers.

Mistake: improper electronic monitoring. Some states have statutes that require employers to give employees notice if they are being monitored electronically.

Mistake: inadvertently revealing private employee information. HR possesses a great deal of sensitive information about individual employees. It is your duty to keep that information confidential.

#4: Training and Performance

Mistake: failure to train supervisors. When supervisors are not trained, they’re the ones who get you into trouble. They may say rude, racist, or sexist things, or be unintentionally discriminatory, and because they are in a supervisory position, the entire company is on the hook.

Mistake: misleading performance evaluations. If you try to discipline an employee for a performance/behavior problem that was never noted on their evaluation, your hands may be tied.

#5: Rough Beginnings and Sharp Endings

Mistake: sloppy start. Among HR’s common errors in this area are: failing to submit the state notice of a new hire; failing to tell the employee the key terms and conditions of employment; and providing the employee with a misleading description of working conditions.

Mistake: sloppy finish. Regardless of whether a termination is voluntary or involuntary, always allow the employee to leave with dignity.

#6: Investigations

Mistake: failure to oversee supervisory investigations. As an HR professional, you know that timeliness and thoroughness are important in an investigation. But what about when a supervisor is the one investigating, not HR? It’s still HR’s responsibility to provide oversight.

#7: Record-Keeping/I-9 Issues

Mistake: failure to document past practices. Courts love to know not only whether the treatment of an employee was against the law or company policy, but whether it was in line with past practices.

Mistake: failure to comply with Form I-9 requirements. Failure to complete the I-9 form properly and failure to keep the form in a separate file are common mistakes employers make.

#8: Breakdowns In Communication

Mistake: failure to keep employees in the loop. Forgetting to notify employees about policy/procedure changes, outcomes of investigations/discipline issues, or unsatisfactory behavior or work quality can be a costly slip-up.

#9: Accommodations

Mistake: failure to explore accommodations. “Accommodation” can be defined as “a determination in favor of the employee.” Employers should explore accommodation options when an employee: has a disability, is pregnant, is called to active military duty or has a family member called to active military duty, or wants to engage in a religious observance/practice.

#10: Non-Compete Agreements

Mistake: unreasonable scope. Obviously, an agreement prohibiting an employee from working at any position in the same general industry forever and ever isn’t going to hold water.

Mistake: lack of consideration. Legally, contracts are valid only if both sides give something. If the employee gives up their right to compete, the employer must also give something. Too often, the employer gives nothing, making the non-compete agreement invalid in a court of law.

HR spring cleaning: Employment document retention guidelines Monday, Feb 4 2013 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

In the name of organization, HR professionals and managers alike have been known to accidentally discard a document, whether paper or electronic, that they shouldn’t have. So, in your quest to clean out overflowing file cabinets or email inboxes for the new year, take your time and follow these guidelines.

Double-check any document related to the following topics, which have specific retention periods mandated by law (examples included):

  • Hiring. Under Title VII, job applications and résumés must be kept for one year from the date of submission, and pre-employment tests must be kept for one year from the date of the test. The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires Form I-9 to be retained for three years from the date of hire or one year after termination, whichever is later.
  • Termination. Documents related to layoff, recall, and reduction-in-force must be kept for one year from the date of the action as per Title VII.
  • Promotion and demotion. Title VII also stipulates that records of promotions and demotions must be kept for one year from the date of the action.
  • Work hours. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, time sheets or time cards must be kept for two years after the record is made.
  • Leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, records of the dates of leave taken under the Act must be kept for three years.
  • Accommodation. Requests for reasonable religious accommodation must be kept for one year after the record is made as per Title VII. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, requests for disability-related reasonable accommodation must also be kept for one year after the record is made.
  • Training. Under Title VII, documents related to the selection of employees for training opportunities must be kept for one year.

To ensure that emailed documents don’t fall through the retention cracks, avoid using your inbox as a catch-all folder. This is crucial if your company has a system of deleting all messages contained in employees’ inboxes after a certain number of days.

What you should do is create folders based on business needs. Turn off any automatic deletion features for these folders; consult with IT if necessary. Read a message, act on it as necessary (e.g., answer a question, follow a directive), and then delete or move to a specific folder. Remember, sort emails according to subject matter, and not subject line.

Make Your Next Innovation Jam Work Tuesday, Jan 22 2013 

by Alessandro Di Fiore

Jamming has become a popular way to unearth innovations — bringing together people of many different backgrounds to creatively brainstorm around a company’s competitive challenges, expressed as “problem statements.” Yet although the process is widely hyped, many companies struggle to make them work.

If your company is one, you may be interested in our experience at the European Center for Strategic Innovation. We’ve been comparing how innovative companies structure and conduct jamming sessions and we’ve identified a set of practices that successful jammers all seem to share:

1. They work in self-defined, small sub-teams

In a classic experiment, researchers ran a lottery. Half the participants were randomly assigned a number. The others were asked to write down a number. Just before drawing a winning number, the researchers offered to buy back the tickets. Intriguingly they found that they had to pay five times more to people who had chosen their own numbers. It’s dramatic proof that when we choose for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome.

How does this apply to jamming?

Well, it turns out that in many companies jamming participants are simply assigned a challenge or a problem to work on. If that’s what you’re doing now, then stop. Let participants choose what they want to work on instead. You’ll see much more creative energy.

And keep the jamming teams small. A big mistake is to think that you need to let everyone get involved, but academic research consistently shows that people tend to prefer working in small teams. In any team, members need to get to know each other and define their norms of working together. If time is tight — as it is with jamming — you want to accelerate this part of the teaming process and you can’t do that with a big team. In general we find that teams of four offer enough diversity and engage quickly with the challenges they select.

2. They define the problem statement clearly

In many of the cases we found that the reason for failure in jamming lay in a weak definition of the problem or challenge a team was addressing. Often, in a desire to get the ball rolling or maybe because of the leadership’s own imperfect understanding of their company’s problems, jamming teams are often given broad, ill-defined problem statements. These are usually jargon-heavy and can be interpreted in different ways, which is sometimes thought useful because it initially helps achieve buy-in.

But for jamming to pay dividends, problems need sharp definition, even if this requires more effort up-front. The business, technological, and other challenges that are encapsulated in a jamming team’s problem statement all need to be clearly understood in the same way by everyone otherwise each team member will end up trying to solve a different problem. Pretty quickly the whole jamming process will break down.

I saw just this dynamic in a jamming session we tracked at a European sportswear company. Here the problem statement was simply “look for growth opportunities.” The result was an existential discussion around the meaning of growth and an identification of all the potential drivers. People never got near to framing a concrete plan for actually growing. Since expectations going into the process had been very high, the sense of disappointment was doubled. Jamming sessions are over for now at this company.

3. They train, train, train

Just like competitive swimmers train both in the pool (to be good at the actual swimming) and in the gym (to improve stamina and muscle tone), jammers need to practice not only problem definition and brainstorming but also spend time engaging with creative thinking tools that they can apply in their ideation processes.

For example, SIGG, a Swiss producer of aluminum bottles, used a “random words” exercise in a jamming session. This involves selecting two or three words or pictures out of a hat and then looking for analogies, associations, and other links to the problem statement. At first, jammers are usually skeptical. How does the word “flower” or its image relate to the brand positioning of an aluminum bottle. But then an association to colors and colorful life come out, which led to the idea of a new product line of colored bottles..

In addition to the pure creativity tools, we also found that the training in the use of strategic innovation frameworks — Blue Ocean Strategy, for example — dramatically improves the business relevance of team outputs.

4. They are ready to play

Many scholars have argued persuasively that more fun makes a better, more creative workplace. Fun and creativity go together. If your office is not a fun place, therefore, you need to think about protecting your jamming from the company’s culture. Take it off-site to someplace that feels different enough for participants to be ready to risk a bit of playfulness. And when you’re there, factor in some time for pure play (play needs practice too): bring in a conjuror or a clown to make people laugh and break down their reserve.

A global German chemicals company, for example, once brought a divisional team off-site for a Jamming session. Problem statements were focused on the theme of sustainability, so they picked a hotel with one of the best carbon footprints in the country. The meeting room was decorated with colorful drawings and objects. At one point the facilitator made the group take a 15-minute break to practice juggling with three balls. The mood carried over into the rest of the sessions as participants “juggled” their business ideas.

Note the role of the facilitator here as a master of ceremonies. He or she needs to be smart about how to play that role. One that pokes fun rather at others makes people afraid to play. And of course, you can have too much of a good thing; at the end of the day the team is there to work. A wise facilitator knows when to move from play back to the business in hand.

Companies that struggle with jamming tend to give up on it after just one or two attempts. That’s a pity, because when you get the process right jamming can be a great source of new ideas and its effectiveness grows exponentially the more you use it. So before you give it up, try it one more time — but try it our way instead.

Source: Harvard Business Review Blog

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