All Articles Tagged "innovation"
No matter the size of your company, keeping innovation flowing is an essential part of maintaining success.
Naturally you’ll want to institute brainstorming sessions. To make them more fruitful it’s a good idea to pair employees into small teams. Try mixing people who don’t often work together, enhancing the potential for sparking something completely new. By structuring idea-generation as a contest (complete with a prize) you get people even more invested. Establish guidelines to keep staffers on track, and the rules short and simple to avoid stifling creativity. To keep the culture of feedback strong in your company it’s a good idea to go through all the ideas and explain why each one does and doesn’t work (while emphasizing the positive attributes of each one).
At the end, let the workers vote for their favorite submissions and award the prize. Even after implementing the chosen idea, don’t hesitate to draw attention to the many ways it translated into bottom-line results to allow for a real-life connection to how employee actions positively affected the company.
This week, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first call made from a cell phone. It can be hard to imagine a time when we didn’t all have our phones, computers, music, and more in our pockets at all times. But let’s take a look back at some of the technological innovations we’ve had since 2000.
Welcome to the “Work It!” column, where we take a look at business innovation of every kind.
When we think of the workplace, the cubicle is probably the most common template that comes to mind: high walls that block us off from world, lit by fluorescent lighting, surrounding us in neutral colors. Forward-thinking companies are changing the way they approach the spaces that surround their employees.
Innovation is accepted as the key to an organization’s growth and business minds are paying more attention to the link between environment and creativity. Human creativity, the heart of innovation, just isn’t cultivated in the cubicle. Even the creator of the cubicle, Robert Propst, admitted at the end of his life that his invention was “monolithic insanity.” Research shows that we need to collaborate to mix ideas and come up with new insights and ways of thinking.
Organizations looking to update their offices are creating open floor plans that democratize the seating chart, placing executives in wall-less offices just a few paces away from the new intern. The arrival of millennials in the workplace is also causing a shift toward spaces that encourage socializing. Other trends include:
- Themed Areas - Work zones or neighborhoods that are set aside for tasks like special projects and brainstorming. Having a designated area for innovation helps get employees away from their desks and in a creative mindset.
- Windows and Lighting - The only thing windowless rooms glowing with white fluorescent lights inspire is thoughts of escape. It may be cost-effective, but companies are turning away from this dull design for warmer lighting and floor to ceiling views.
- Communication and Technology - Communication is vital to the sharing and creating ideas. In addition to creating spaces and opportunities for departments to mingle with another, firms are clearing out the cords and integrating wireless technology into desks and workstations.
Of course there are downsides to this take on workplace design, particularly open floor plans. Workers have voiced displeasure with the decrease in privacy and the increase in noise associated with the change. What fosters innovation for one company’s office may not work for another.
Whether you’re redesigning an entire office or just your work area, a successful redesign requires first figuring out how you use the space. Then think about what equipment you use most often, and what business activities take place in that space. From there you can figure out the best arrangement to meet your needs. Here are some tips for creating a space that helps you do your best work:
- Establish Activity Center – Take a cue from the work neighborhoods trend and set up various activity centers for your most common tasks. A reading area that is separate from where you work on your computer can help you focus on the task at hand.
- Bring in Some Color - Bright colors keep us awake while darker colors offer a different, more relaxed stimulant for our creativity. Pick colors that attract your attention and inspire you.
- Cater to You - Do you need a blank canvas with no distractions or something stimulating to motivate you? Design your space with your work style in mind. Don’t forget to surround yourself with work and words that inspire you.
- Embrace Nature - Natural lighting and greenery will ward off any feelings of claustrophobia that creep in after a long project.
- Clear Out Clutter - Use creative storage to make the most of a small space.
- Make Space to Create and Communicate – Chalkboards, white boards, and wall calendars are great tools that allow you to jot down ideas, or let family and coworkers communicate with you without disturbing your flow.
C. Cleveland covers professional development topics and entrepreneurial rebels who blaze their own career paths. She explores these stories and more on The Red Read, Twitter (@CleveInTheCity) and Facebook (/MyReadIsRed).
As Black History Month kicks off, it’s important to not only recognize the African Americans who have impacted history and created the inventions of the past, but also those who are diving in and making changes today. Check out these 10 great black innovators who are developing educational mobile apps, disrupting how the police force works, encouraging other tech entrepreneurs, and more.
I’m so excited to launch the newest business column on Madame Noire: “Work It!” Every month we’ll dive into emerging trends, the future of work, and the innovative ways businesswomen are updating how they do business. The nature of work is changing at a rapid pace. Follow “Work It” to get a head start on what the future holds and shake up business as usual to take on this new era.
To establish the “Work It” circle of trust, I’m giving up one my most guarded, secret business weapons: JWTIntelligence. The think tank of one the world’s best-known marketing communications brands, JWTIntelligence’s gift for predicting trends would make Dionne’s psychic friends gag with envy. JWT has released 100 things to watch in 2013. We’re counting down the top ten trends you should be thinking about.
In technology, it’s out with the old, in with the new.
A new report this week shows that people aren’t investing in new personal computers the way they once were. Instead, shoppers are paying much more attention to tablets and smartphones, with a new Microsoft operating system driving little enthusiasm in the tech marketplace. According to The Wall Street Journal, third quarter PC shipments fell eight percent, the steepest drop since at least 2001. And sales around the back-to-school period weren’t as robust as usual.
This trend is accompanied by the decline of the mouse. And once again, the tablet is partly to blame. With more people purchasing tablets, which have touchscreens, the mouse is becoming obsolete. “Instead of focusing on a single device to access technology, innovators are expanding their horizons to gizmos that respond to body motions, the voice, fingers, eyes and even thoughts,” writes The Washington Post. “Some devices can be accessed by multiple people at the same time.”
With young children increasingly using tablets in their daily lives — for learning and for play — it’s unlikely that these trends will turn around. Aww… kind of sad. Soon you’ll be adding your PC and your mouse to the pile of old gadgets collecting dust in the back of the attic. Anyone out there planning on buying a desktop anytime soon? Anyone?
They always say that the toughest part of starting a new business is surviving the first five years. But what if you had a blueprint on how to avoid mistakes that business owners typically make? Well, Yahoo Small Business Advisor reports on the “10 Mistakes New Business Owners Make (That You Can Avoid).”
Among the biggest mistakes is not using a contract. When someone hires you or your company for work, you can’t trust that you’ll be paid just because of someone’s word or a handshake. A contract will also spell out in detail what is expected of you, so that if there are later complaints you can go back and explain that you have fulfilled the terms. It can be hard when a client insists a contract is unnecessary, particularly when you’re just starting out or working with someone you have a pre-existing relationship with. But in the long run, it is the only way to do business fairly — for you and your client.
Another big one is not understanding payment terms. For a small business, when one client doesn’t pay it can have a snowball effect for paying your own bills. It is important to have a buffer fund to handle your urgent bills each month even when clients don’t come through.
“Owning your own company has its drawbacks and at first, payment schedules are one of them. Be prepared to wait for payment, even if you’re an independent contractor in business by yourself. Know your contract — and know what the terms mean and how soon you can collect. The bottom line is that you can’t pay this month’s light bill with money you won’t see until 30 or 60 days after the job is completed,” notes the article.
Yahoo Small Business Advisor also gives a great list of important small business tools. Some of the standouts include:
- Freshbooks – an affordable online billing service
- Tax Receipts – a resource to maximize your tax deductions with an organized system, and learn what deductions you can take in plain English
- Outright – a simplified, secure online bookkeeping service
- Our Deal - contracts that are easy to understand and can be signed online
When people think of cities that spawn innovation, Silicon Valley, New York and Chicago might spring to mind. But according to a just released study by the not-for-profit Kauffman Foundation, more great entrepreneurs come from else where.
After analyzing 30 years’ worth of Inc 500 lists, the Kauffman Foundation found that the Washington, DC is actually the place most entrepreneurs come from. “The nation’s capital has been home to more Inc 500 companies than any other major metropolitan area. In the decade beginning in 2000, Washington, D.C. was home to 385 Inc 500 firms. By state, California and Texas rank highest in the number of Inc 500 firms they’ve produced,” reports Inc.com. The state of Virginia, which has only the 12th largest population, came in number three, followed by Massachusetts.
In terms of cities, tops for innovation included Indianapolis, Buffalo, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Louisville, KY.
Do you live in one of these entrepreneurial cities? Are you seeing a lot of innovative activity?
There are the Oscars. The BET Awards. The MTV Awards. But did you know there was an awards ceremony for the top African Americans in technology? People who are working to make our lives better through new innovations?
Black Money just released the names of 2012′s “50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology,” who will be honored on January 15, 2013 in Washington, DC at the Innovation & Equity Symposium. The theme for this year is “Keeping America First in Technology: Public Innovation and Supplier Diversity.”
Many ask, “Where are the blacks in technology?” That’s because the numbers still remain low. In fact, the number of minorities in Silicon Valley have actually dropped. “An analysis by the Mercury News of the combined work force of 10 of the Valley’s largest companies — including Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Cisco Systems, eBay and AMD — shows that while the collective work force of those 10 companies grew by 16 percent between 1999 and 2005, an already small population of black workers dropped by 16 percent, while the number of Hispanic workers declined by 11 percent. By 2005, only about 2,200 of the 30,000 Silicon Valley-based workers at those 10 companies were black or Hispanic,” according to the Mercury News.
So the recognition of blacks in the field by “Black Money” is even more significant. Among the honorees are Dr. John and Gerald Commissiong, the co-founders behind Amarantus BioSciences, Inc., a California-based biotechnology company developing new treatments and diagnostics for Parkinson’s disease and traumatic brain injury.
The Hon. Dr. Cardinal Warde, a professor of electrical engineering at MIT, is also being recognized. He is considered one of the world’s leading experts on materials, devices and systems for optical information processing. There is also: Dr. Debra Auguste, the newly appointed associate professor of biomedical engineering at City University of New York; Dr. Jean Orelien, a leader in the mathematical research behind modern medicine who does a lot of work in Haiti; and Linda Cureton, the chief information officer of NASA.
For a full list of the tops in tech, visit the Black Money website.
Are entrepreneurs made or born? A recent article in Inc.com seems to suggests that some people are born business innovators. The article interviews several entrepreneurs about their childhood and highlighted various traits that make for good business leaders.
Among those traits are: an early quest for autonomy, big dreams, always open to opportunities, and constant convergent thinking.
But if you weren’t born with these traits, you can develop them, says entrepreneur Tiffany Fluhme, CEO of cosmetic company Fluhme, who speaks often about the entrepreneurship and leadership spirit. “Maybe they’re frustrated in a less than satisfactory career and instead of staying stagnant they become inspired to reevaluate, make a move, and follow their heart and passions towards something bigger,” she says. “Take a chance, chase your dreams, but keep your head above water too… It’s important to never put yourself in a position where it can be disastrous.”
Mario Almonte, a Huffington Post blogger and spokesperson on social and business issues agrees. “Entrepreneurs can be born or made,” he notes. “The great thing about entrepreneurs is that, by their very nature, they are self-motivated. What many have in common is the fact that they had to overcome some kind of obstacles or challenges to achieve what they achieved, whether it was an educational, financial, cultural or physical barrier.”
If you have a child, can you help hone their early business skills? Yes, Almonte and Fluhme agree.
Here are some tips to develop your child’s innovator instincts:
- “The best thing is to expose them to lots of experiences. And if they express a curiosity about launching an enterprise of some sort, be careful in how you respond to their initial ‘light bulb’moment, when their enthusiasm is at its peak. That’s when they’re also at their most vulnerable, and the wrong word could completely knock the wind out of them,” says Almonte. “You can’t just turn them into entrepreneurs if that gene doesn’t exist in them.”
- “It’s very important to set an example for a child as parents, whether you are an employee, or have your own business,” says Fluhme. “Maybe you’re a stay-at-home or working, single parent, you can still encourage your children to explore their passions, encouraging them to visualize the long-term to evolve their passions into future business opportunities or a future career.”
- “Place a high value on education, especially for children and young adults with entrepreneurial tendencies,” says Fluhme. “It’s important to get a degree, to start as young as possible in harnessing natural gifts, and in any way possible helping them to create and mold opportunities for success.”
- “The child will be best motivated and gain confidence if they are allowed to achieve their own successes or failures on their own terms,” explains Almonte. “Failure is sometimes part of the process, as it helps the child zero in on what will work by eliminating those things that don’t. As a parent, watch carefully what it is the child wants to accomplish and position yourself as a resource to them. But resist the urge to become their boss and tell them how to do things.”
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