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Weekly Learnings

Weekly Learnings Roundup (August 4, 2017)

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Learning Roundup.

This week I was in London, UK, for a friend’s wedding and to visit my sister. London is a beautiful city with so many interesting boroughs that you can easily spend a full day in. I was also blown away by how well they’ve integrated green spaces and parks into the city – something cities (like Toronto) can learn from.

I also had a chance to visit the London branch of The School of Life. I love their focus on developing emotionally intelligence and their store was full of interesting personal development resources.

It’s another motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming week. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

What Do You Want to Create and Why Haven’t You Done It? by Neil Strauss

We’re at our best when we can create something to share with the world. Overcoming the fear and status quo has many benefits; Neil reminds us to forget about the outcome and experience the process of creating something you believe in.

A quote that’s inspiring me —

The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.

— Seneca

“ah-ha!” thought of the week —

Use tools for their intended purpose.

We hear more these days about the negative impacts of tools like our smart phones. They distract us, reduce our ability to focus, and even impact the quality of the relationships with people around us.

Paradoxically, one of the reasons why tools like the smart phone is reducing our ability to focus is because of how versatile it is. On the surface it’s nice to have a device that can do many different things. But when you start adding things like news, music, podcasts, the web, email, messaging, etc. etc. you can easily get lost in this labyrinth of stuff.

This can’t be good for our (easily distracted) brains.

I suggest that we shift our thinking with each device that we own and use it for its intended purpose. A phone is a communication device so it should strictly be used for that purpose – calling, texting, and emailing. For entertainment or informational purposes, use your computer, tv, or some other device. Just don’t mix up the intended purpose; our brains love distraction and the dopamine hit – prevent it from being a click away by keeping your phone clear from these non-essentials.

App that I’m loving —

Moves for iPhone and Android

Moves is an app that shows you all the places you visited during the day along with a step and distance count.

I found it really interesting while I’ve been traveling over the past couple of weeks to see where I’ve been. It’s a nice little recap of my travels and helpful for orienting myself especially in a foreign country.

The bad news is that it uses up quite a bit of battery. My iPhone SE barely made it through the day with Moves running in the background.

Featured image via Gratisography.

As always, thanks for checking out this Weekly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see the full list of articles that I share on a daily basis.

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Miscellaneous

Thoughts from Collision Conference 2016

Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling down to New Orleans, Louisiana for a start-up conference called Collision. It’s one of the premier conferences in North America for startups looking to receive funding, media coverage, mentorship, etc. etc. I was down at the conference as part of the startup I work for – actionable.co – and had a chance to take in the sites and sounds of the 10,000+ person conference.

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Our booth at Collision.

The conference had a pretty solid speaker line-up as well and I had a chance to sit in on a few of them. Below are a mish-mash of observations and thoughts from the conference. Enjoy!

Marketing

  • Marketing can no longer afford to be siloed from other aspects of the business. Marketing, customer care, and branding all live under the same umbrella and they need to be working together to deliver a great customer experience.
  • New age Chief Marketing Officers need to go beyond taking responsibility for marketing activities and into e-commerce, customer service, research, etc. They need to become customer champions.
  • There is a gap between brand promise and customer experience. How do we fill that gap?
  • Marketing will evolve into the caretaker of the customer experience.
  • The Onion and Upworthy have pivoted towards making more proprietary videos for their content. They believe it’s the most engaging type of content to share with their followers (even if it takes longer to produce).

Customer Experience

  • Customers and prospective customers can find us through a variety of doors. In the past we may have had a couple of doors (e.g. literally the front door of the shop and a website) but now thanks to social media they have tens of doors through which they can come in through.
  • We need to keep a close eye on which doors we currently have open and which ones we have locked to make sure we’re not leaving customers stranded.
  • The customer experience language: Indifferent-Impressed-Gratitude-Love. Courtesy of Ragy from Sprinklr.

Analytics

  • Only 5 years ago analytics was too expensive for most companies out there but now with services like Amazon Web Services analytics tools are cheaper (and will likely continue to become cheaper).
  • How do you effectively use data? Make sure you’ve thought through three key components: Infrastracture – Staffing – Culture. Analytics won’t thrive unless you’ve got those key components nailed.
  • The analytics sessions at Collision were sparesely attended comparative to other sessions. Likely an indicator that most startups are just trying to get their business of the ground – analytics just isn’t a priority for them (perhaps to their detriment).
  • Marketing analytics – views and impressions for online ad campaigns are not good stats to look at. It’s way too easy to count an “impression” and is a deceptive number. Conversions and clicks are what you should be focused on if you’re running any kind of pay-per-click campaign online.

Startups

  • Gusto (a payroll and benefits platform) is a pretty cool company. I thought their CEO & Co-founder, Joshua Reeves, was a pretty awesome guy with a lot of business “soul” to him.
  • Interesting to hear the Co-Founder of Infusionsoft, Scott Martineau, mention that their tool is specifically for small businesses under 50 people. Actionable will quickly get to the point of hitting 50 people so it’ll be interesting to see how the system will adapt to a larger team and more complexity.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) is here and it looks like it’ll stay. A few startups and vendors were pitching their various VR products and services. I tried a VR unit myself and was transported to a Armin van Buuren rave/concert. Not my scene but pretty cool. What was interesting was how I explained the VR experience as “I was at a concert” rather than “I saw a concert”. Pretty powerful stuff.
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About to jump into an Armin van Buuren concert courtesy of a VR unit.
  • Keep thinking about ways that you can explain your startup in an interesting way. In a PR-related session, one panelist bluntly stated “most startups are not very interesting.” So if you’re running a startup, think about angles that would pique journalists’ interest into what you’re doing. PR (especially free PR) can be quite powerful if you have the right story to tell.

Random

  • The key to having a successful conference as an attendee is to be fully engaged with the evening events. Lots of great opportunities to network with influencers and investors. If you’re going to be an attendee at Collision, don’t just rely on the conference floor or pitch competitions for connections but also the informal networking opportunities.
  • The way people talked about Facebook at Collision was kind of like the way people talked about Microsoft back in the early 2000s. Lots of awe and respect but also a begrudging acceptance to have to rely on their platform to reach their customers. Some folks were even pretty vocal about finding an alternative to Facebook.
  • New Orleans is a beautiful city. If you’re staying downtown, everything is within a 10-15 minute walk and Ubers are plentiful. Lots of fun bars and places to hit up to keep you busy for weeks! Oh, and don’t forget to indulge in their seafood when you’re down there.
  • The French Quarter is like a more cultured version of the Las Vegas strip. It’s cool – worth checking out – but probably not somewhere I’d spend most of my time when I go back to New Orleans.

To learn more about Collision, you can visit their website here. If your startup is growing and you’re looking for funding to take it to the next level, this is a great conference to be exposed to people who are highly connected in the startup world.

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Weekly Learnings

Peter’s Links of the Week (Jan. 3-9)

This week we’ve got articles around #Millennials and #EmployeeEngagement. As more millennials come into the workplace, the employee expectations from employers is changing. If you’re looking to keep your organization attractive to a new generation and provide them to opportunity to stay long-term, it’s worth checking the articles out below.

#1

The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis (Gallup)

If you thought employee engagement in the US was bad, according to Gallup only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged. I think the biggest reason engagement numbers are so low is because Human Resources in most companies don’t have enough of a say at the executive table. If HR departments are given a bigger voice and a long-term vision for developing engagement (it’s not a flip of the switch), we’ll see better engagement levels.

 

#2

College Grads Face Skills Gap in Workplace (Deloitte)

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Source: Mind the gaps: The 2015 Deloitte Millennial survey by Deloitte Global

Leadership, sales & marketing, general business knowledge, entrepreneurial skills, and financial skills are areas millennials express employers value/pay for but don’t feel like they are prepared for upon graduation. These are areas higher education can provide more support on for students.

#3

Technology to drive Employee Engagement (Business Standard)

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Majority of folks (77%) believe that annual performance reviews will yield to micro/instant feedback programs in the next 5 years. To bridge that gap, companies will need to invest in technology to support their employee engagement effort.

#4

Advantages Millennials Have Over Baby Boomers (Business 2 Community)

Flatter hierarchy, tech savyness, better balance, focus on impact, and outside interests make millennials a different generation compared to the baby boomers. I don’t think it’s “better” but just different. Focusing on “advantages” takes away many of the virtues Boomers bring (e.g. loyalty and face-to-face communication skills) to the workplace.

 

As always, thank you to those that liked, re-tweeted, or commented on the posts. See you on next week’s round up!

Categories
Personal Growth

Five apps I use to stay focused and be more productive

With so much distraction out there, it’s hard to stay focused. Here’s a list of five apps that I love using on my phone and laptop to stay organized, focused, and ultimately more productive. Feel free to leave any tips about apps that you use in the comments section.

1. FollowUp.cc

To me, email is one big to-do list. I have emails to reply to, emails to save for future reference, emails that require a future check-in, emails to archive/delete, etc. Every email requires some sort of processing.

Now add in the complexity of emails that you can’t deal with right now or want to follow-up with later. Slowly your inbox will start growing with tasks you can’t deal with at the moment and you hit inbox overwhelm.

FollowUp.cc helps you manage your email better by returning emails to your inbox at a better time. It makes following-up with people a lot easier and keeps your inbox clean since you know that email is coming back to you at the appropriate time. They’ve also built in a “Snooze” function for their Gmail app which allows you to snooze an email sitting in your inbox so it gets re-sent to you.

FollowUp.cc helps me keep my inbox to less than 5-10 emails at any given time and has been the best app investment I’ve made to date. The only issue I’ve found of late is that the cost of the subscription has gone up quite significantly. If you’re a Gmail user and want to go with a free alternative, you might want to check out Boomerang as well.

Cost: $25 USD/month

2. StayFocusd

StayFocusd is a free plug-in for your Chrome browser which prevents you from spending too much time on unproductive sites like Facebook, Twitter, BuzzFeed, Netflix, etc. You basically set how much time you’re allowed to go onto your favourite websites during the day and it’ll prevent you from accessing them once you go over your limit.

For example, I have my daily allotment for Facebook and Twitter set at 15 minutes. That gives me enough time for a quick peak at what’s going on in that world but not enough time to get lost in the wormhole.

Cost: Free

3. Evernote

You may have heard of this one… a lot.

Evernote is one of the most popular note taking tools on the web. I primarily use it to help me capture information. Any interesting article goes into my “Cabinet” folder in my Evernote and I use its powerful search functionality and their “Context” tool to pull up relevant information on demand.

I also try to keep my Evernote super simple. I only use three folders – Action Pending, Desktop, and Cabinet. Action Pending is for any note that I need to tag/process, Desktop is for anything that I’m actively reading/working on during the week, and Cabinet is for any note that I’ve already processed or I’m keeping for future reference.

If you don’t have Evernote, download it and start saving notes/articles into it to start creating your “external brain”.

Cost: Free for the basic version. $6.99/month for Premium.

4. Pomodoro

I use an app for the iOS but there are a ton of apps out there that have a similar functionality. The concept is based on the “Pomodoro Technique” where you breakup your tasks/projects into 25-minute working periods followed by a 5-minute break. Personally, I prefer 15 minutes followed by a 3-minute break because it feels less daunting when I start the timer. This is great when you find yourself procrastinating and need that kick-in-the-butt to get yourself going with a short time limit or if you have a disciplined morning schedule where you need to keep switching through 15-minute tasks.

For me, it’s little momentum helps me get started on tasks that I’m not super excited about or limits how engrossed I get into non-crucial tasks (e.g. checking email).

Cost: $2.29 USD (for the version I use)

5. 7-Minute Workout

Not specifically a “productivity” app but getting some exercise in during the day is key to keeping your energy levels up. With this app, I’ve basically replaced going to the gym which saves me about 1.5 hours every day. If you take this seriously and make it part of your everyday routine, you can see the impacts pretty quickly. I follow the workout with a 5-minute stretch which helps prepare my body for a focused day at work.

Cost: Free (plus in-app purchases)

[Bonus] Rescue Time

If you’re an avid activity tracker like myself, you’ll like Rescue Time. Rescue Time keeps track of your computer-related activities and categorizes the activities based on how productive they are. At the end of the week (on the free version), you’ll get a overall score for the week and a broad categorization of where your time went. Based on where you’re spending your time, you now have the awareness of where your time is going and how you can modify your computer habits or keep them trending in a productive direction.

Cost: Free (Premium is $9 USD/month)

What apps do you use to help you stay productive throughout the day?

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Weekly Learnings

Links of the Week (Nov. 1-7)

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Links of the Week is a selection of articles and blog posts about #EmployeeEngagement, #Millennials, and #Leadership that were the most popular on my Twitter feed this week. I’ve added some personal thoughts and opinions to the links below as well. Enjoy!

#1

How Does Employee Engagement Impact On Your Brand Reputation? (Business 2 Community)

A recent paper by Baylor University reports that highly engaged employees (i.e. those allowed to go to the toilet when they need to) are 87% less likely to leave their companies than their unengaged counterparts (i.e. those told to hold it in).

You have to read the article to get the joke but the lesson is quite clear: Employee Engagement is important. Having almost 9 out of 10 people on your team thinking about their next job is not a sustainable way to run a business. Not to mention, once an employee leaves your company what would they be saying about your business?

I’ve had friends ask me about organizations that I’ve worked for and I’ve either recommended their services or products wholeheartedly and provided them with my frank experiences (both good and bad). Your employees – past and present – are also your brand ambassadors. Making sure they feel empowered and engaged is key to your business’s long-term success.

#2

When It Comes to True Employee Engagement, No Pain Equals No Gain (Entrepreneur)

In employee surveys, I often ask short, but thought-provoking, questions like: If you owned the company what is the first thing you would change?

The three takeaways:

1. Listen to the good, but listen intently to the bad.

2. Peel back layers with intriguing questions (like the one above)

3. Pan for gold in engagement data.

All helpful takeaways and goes to show that created an engaged culture takes a lot of attention and care.

#3

10 Reasons Your Employee Engagement Program Is Hurting Your Company (Forbes)

Engagement, as measured by employee surveys, does not cause success. Engagement is, at best, a symptom of success. Employees who are succeeding and feeling good about their contributions to your company are naturally more likely to:

Be proud to work for your company

Be happy to come to work each day

Feel valued

Great piece reframing the Employee Engagement dilemma. The author’s argument is that setting up employees to be successful at their jobs and helping them understand WHY their work contributes to the organizational success is the key. It’s not the surveys, the pizza parties, or undeserved promotions. I agree with this. I believe David Zinger’s definition of engagement (I’m paraphrasing here) “good people coming together to do great work” is what we need to focus more on. If you help employees feel like they have the tools they need to make an impact and the company performs at a high level (e.g. more profits, more satisfied customers, or more societal impact) then Employee Engagement will follow.

#4

Most employee engagement initiatives failing (benefitspro)

While more than 90 percent of employers said that method of communication with workers was an important contributor to employee engagement, many said that their company wasn’t communicating in a way that reaches digitally-dependent millennials in the workplace. Only 16 percent said that they’re making regular use of mobile apps.

I think this is the main issue today. Companies just don’t know how to communicate with the younger generation coming in and are woeful at incorporating mobile into their engagement strategy. Yes, more training courses and tuition reimbursement is nice but if you’re not communicating with your employees on a regular basis, you’re going to lose this engagement battle.

 

#5

The 10 best Chrome extensions to install right now (AppSumo)

Ever bought something online, seen a coupon field, and quickly turned to Google to find a coupon that hasn’t expired? Honey does that for you automatically. It instantly adds the best, valid, coupon during checkout saving you tons of moolah.

Aside from Evernote Web Clipper and Momentum (which I use everyday) the one that caught my eye was Honey. As a moderate online shopper, this could really be a useful tool to track down the best deals online.

 

Some great articles this week. Thank you to those that liked, re-tweeted, or commented on the posts. Looking forward to next week’s roundup!

Categories
Weekly Learnings

Links of the Week (Oct. 25-31)

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Links of the Week is a selection of articles and blog posts about #EmployeeEngagement, #Millennials, and #Leadership that were the most popular on my Twitter feed this week. I’ve added some personal thoughts and opinions to the links below as well. Enjoy!

#1

Why Millennials Are the C-Suite’s Secret Weapon for Innovation (The Wall Street Journal)

The future is being invented by a generation that expects free-flowing, self-organized crowds that meet up, network, find each other on digital platforms, form and disband teams, and create their own projects. They belong to tribes that don’t want to wait for orders from a chief.

When a global industry giant convened a top leadership meeting, they brought in 20 high-potential Millennials to discuss how the company can remain competitive in an industry with an accelerating pace of technological change. The answers they came up with? Startup-like spaces in the office, an internal kick-starter program, virtual communities of interest, and crowdsourcing talent from anywhere in the company to work on projects. Those are some great ideas and C-suite executives will be losing out on those ideas if they don’t invite Millennials into the room.

#2

Millennial startup founders are the must-have item this fundraising season (Crain’s New York Business)

Yet enticing these new [Millennial] donors takes a lot of work. They aren’t interested in philanthropy as a way to climb the social ladder; they want to change the world. Young donors expect the charities they support to run like businesses, and they like to see sophisticated, timely reports on how a charity is functioning and where their dollars are going.

A great piece on what makes Millennial patrons different from the previous generation and the challenges non profits face in keeping up with their higher expectations. The higher level of transparency and engagement expected by Millennials from the charities they support is good news.

#3

5 Core Themes from HR Tech World Europe (globoforce)

“HR should stand for Human Relationships,” said David Shing, showing how technology is fully integrating into our lives, but cautioning against seeing it as a panacea. “Technology,” he said, “changes behavior, not needs.”

Simplification, Humanity, Cooperation, Improvement, and Recognition were the 5 core themes from HR Tech World Europe according to globoforce. HR is positioned in a unique position to combine technology with organizational information given its institutional knowledge and how different business units can work together. The role of HR – Human Relationship – managers is only going to increase in the future.

#4

3 Startup Experts Reveal Their Customer Success Secrets (Forbes)

Customers are loyal to their own success, instead of a brand or product. Help them achieve success and your company will grow.

Love the ideas in this article to make customer success a priority. Groove’s CEO runs all the initial onboarding with new clients to get to know their challenges firsthand. HubSpot provides an Inbound Marketing certification program for free even if you’re not a user of Hubspot. Sending a gift like a gift card to a restaurant that you know the client likes or sending a cute onesie for a newborn baby, can be touches that can really help your business stand out. “Great people know great people” so creating a remarkable experience for your customers can help your business grow even faster.

#5

Global Human Capital Trends 2015 (Deloitte)

Only 7% [of companies] have strong programs to build Millennial leaders.

I’m reading through this mammoth, 100+ page report and this was a quote that stood out to me and seems like for you as well. It’s crazy to think that 7% of companies have strong programs for Millennials given that Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. It’s a huge area of concern and opportunity.

Some great articles this week. Thank you to those that liked, re-tweeted, or commented on the posts. Looking forward to next week’s roundup!

Categories
Weekly Learnings

Links of the Week (Oct. 11-17)

startup-photos

Links of the Week is a selection of articles and blog posts about #EmployeeEngagement and #Millennials that were the most popular on my Twitter feed this week. I’ve added some personal thoughts and opinions to the links below as well.

#1

12 Powerful Lessons You Learn at Stanford Business School (Inc.)

A large part of your role is to inspire and motivate your employees, and people will look to you for confidence,” Wyndowe says. “If you were on a plane with engine problems, you don’t want the pilot to say, ‘I am exploring a number of options and hope that… .’ You want him to say, ‘I will do whatever it takes to land this plane.'”

I really like this lesson above – Put on “the cloak” of leadership. Being the kind of guy who likes assessing all the options, I can relate to the quote above. But being a great leader is more about having others know you’ll do whatever it takes to make things a success.

#2

Report shows flexible work options leads to higher employee engagement (Calgary Herald)

Research, presented Wednesday at a Calgary Economic Development event [by Stone-Olafson], indicated an 89 per cent increase in high engagement if the work location is flexible.

I’m really not surprised by these numbers. Earlier this year, I started a job that is completely remote with each team member working from their homes/home offices. The flexibility that I’ve gained in my life to take care of personal tasks has really made it a dream job. Obviously, I make sure to get what I need to get done completed but I feel like I have more control of my life now. And that’s one of the greatest gifts that my organization has given me through a flexible work option.

#3

What Ants Can Show You About Employee Engagement & Customer Centricity (Business 2 Community)

Independent research shows that customer focus plays a role in employee engagement … In customer-centric cultures, two-thirds of employees are engaged, and one-in-four are fully engaged.

The ant analogy is a little misleading in the article but the insight around customer-centric companies having higher engagement scores is no joke. If you’re struggling with low engagement scores, find ways for your employees to interact with your customers and add value to your customers’ experience. Both parties will thank you for it.

#4

You Can Now Learn to Code From Your Couch (and Be Guaranteed a Job) (Inc.)

The Flatiron School, a New York City education startup, is rolling out a new developer course. It takes about 800 hours to complete — at the pace of your choosing — and costs $1,000 per month.

This sounds like a great program. From a student perspective, the fact that 98% go onto find jobs that average a $74,000 salary is comforting. From an employer perspective, finding new hires from a program like this can guarantee better quality.