An article this summer in The New York Times quoted extensively from a research study conducted by Silicon Valley psychologist Stephanie Brown which refers to our collective fear of slowing down. Brown found that people who are alone with their own thoughts for more than a few minutes become agitated and seek any kind of stimulation they can find in order to avoid thinking.

“There’s this widespread belief that thinking and feeling will only slow you down and get in your way, but it’s the opposite,” she said.

Case in point: A study by Benjamin Baird and colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shows that daydreaming and fantasizing unleash fantastic amounts of creativity and allow people to problem-solve because they feel free to look at problems and challenges without deadlines and outside pressures.

Have you had a creative daydream lately? Would you like to? Here’s how to get started. (read more…)

a world gone social book coverIndustrial Age leadership was good, or at least efficient. It enabled us to get the most out of every worker; expectations were set; consequences for not meeting minimums were clear. People did what they were told, and went home.

But the Industrial Age is over. And it’s not coming back.

Welcome to the Social Age.

We humans are social down to our very core; social is not just what we do, it’s what we are. Connecting and communicating; sharing ideas, news, tips and sometimes warnings; making introductions; growing our influence. That’s all we’ve ever done.

At first, of course, connections were limited to the confines of our village. Posted letters then tied us together over distances. Phone lines and then e-mail and mobile allowed us to connect globally. Yet, even with all these advances in technology, communication was limited in scope: one person connecting with one other and sometimes for the most powerful, numerous others. (read more…)

At times, corporate communication can seem like learning how to shoot a bow and arrow.

That’s not because you’re trying to take your competitors out “Hunger Games” style (though you may be). Think of the last time you learned about a new hobby, like archery. Not only did you have to learn how to hold the bow, position the arrow, and release, but you also had to learn the terminology. To be able to engage effectively, you had to learn a new language. The language of archery isn’t the same as the language of woodworking; if you attempt to speak like a woodworker, you’ll fall wide of the mark.

While this is just a game, it’s a good example of what happens when everyone fails to be on the same page in an enterprise. For effective communication — and, therefore, innovation — everyone must be aligned. As a business owner, it’s up to you to set a common language for innovation among employees. (read more…)

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When I e-mailed my great idea to the CEO, I was pleasantly surprised by the fast response. He loved it and wanted me to discuss it further with one of his deputies.

While he might have preferred that I submit the idea using our corporate crowdsourcing platform, he was pleased with my initiative and my interest in improving our firm. I was tickled pink. Never had I felt so connected to my employer.

This was textbook employee engagement — a buzzword that has recently moved up the chain of priorities with executive management in large corporations. Why? Because large firms are seeing not only the dire need for innovation in order to stay relevant in a startup-fueled economy, but also because new social media channels have made it incredibly easy to collaborate both inside and outside corporate walls. In a day and age where anyone can reach out to the world to share ideas, corporate officers are greedily trying to tap this font of inspiration and funnel the goodwill and ideas into the company coffers. (read more…)

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Workplace Morale 1 badgeThis post is part of the series “Workplace Morale,” a weeklong effort co-hosted by SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership and the folks at Switch & ShiftKeep track of the series here and check out our daily e-mail newsletter, SmartBrief on Leadership. Don’t subscribe? Sign up.

McDonald’s was not a can’t-miss proposition.

The company started as a drive-in burger joint with a loosely affiliated network of franchisees before Ray Kroc obtained national franchising rights in the 1950s. The company faced entrenched and upstart competitors, families who were not used to regularly eating meals outside the home, and was going against the grain in how it granted franchise rights and managed them.

Kroc’s McDonald’s succeeded because of shrewd decision-making and hard work, but also because of luck, favorable timing and the short-sightedness of incumbents and would-be competitors. All of that success stemmed from the culture Kroc put into place: a decentralized, risk-taking, personality-driven hub of constant innovation and improvement on top of a foundation of clear, inviolable values. (read more…)