Category Archives: Business

How Brainstorming Clouds the Creative Process

BrainstormingHave a problem that you need to solve? Gather your team and brainstorm a solution!

Conventional wisdom tells us that two heads are better than one when coming up with ideas to solve a problem, but it might be a good idea to stop and rethink that strategy. Brainstorming, while so often used in offices across the world, may actually be less productive and produce lower quality ideas. When looking for a solution, the focus should really be on quality, not quantity of ideas.

Jonathan Becher, the Chief Marketing Officer of SAP, probes this issue and asks the question in a recent blog post titled, “Is Brainstorming Dead?:

Group brainstorming sessions might produce a higher volume of ideas than a single person would but groups don’t produce higher quality ideas. A small number of people often dominate the conversation and group think almost always happens as a result of peer pressure.  In my experience, the most creative ideas have come from individuals working alone.

And as it turns out, science backs him up in this case. “More than a dozen research studies show that individuals perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and the performance of brainstorming groups gets worse as size increases.”

Quality Over Quantity

So what can one do to generate quality ideas? There are a number of different ways to get your brain juice pumping to come up with new solutions.

Break thought patterns. It’s all about seeing things from a different point of view than you usually do. Challenge the assumptions you keep on a regular basis. Try rewording the problem at hand to give yourself a fresh perspective. Express yourself through different media. If you’re on a computer all day, try writing your ideas out on paper to see if the different medium helps.

Map it out. Mind maps are an excellent tool to visualize solutions and see how different areas relate to one another. They can help you see connections that you might not have known even existed.

Ask for someone else’s opinion. While brainstorming in groups might not be the most efficient way of generating ideas, it never hurts to get valuable feedback from a trusted colleague in order to improve the idea you’re working on.

Keep away from distractions. Peace and quiet is essential for the deep state of thought that it takes to generate new solutions. Move to a quiet place and avoid places where you’ll likely run into a friend who can take your focus off the task at hand.

Even though group brainstorming might not be the silver bullet we once thought it might be, individuals have the power to come up with killer ideas that will outpace what groupthink can produce.

6 Companies Crowdsourcing Our Education

Whether we realize it or not, most of us help contribute to crowdsourced companies every day. It’s as simple as creating a profile on Twitter and sending a tweet, picture, or link; whatever the content, you have just successfully contributed to Twitter’s business. Youtube did nothing except provide the framework for other users to submit original videos and now it’s among the top 5 most popular websites in the world.

Now, companies like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Threadless, and 99Designs are allowing the crowd to provide the product and the money (99designs, a web company that hosts virtual competitions for designers to compete for contracts released this awesome infographic showing the impact of crowdsourcing).

Crowdsourced companies all have something in common: they have given control of the product and the result to you, the users. They’ve given us a chance to do something like this guy: Starting a Movement.

It’s not a new phenomenon, but crowdsourcing education has been making moves recently. New Education 2.0 sites are popping up all over the place and it seems like the education industry is finally starting to accept the migration to the web. Here are six examples of awesome online education sites that encourage you to be the teacher.

  • Course Hero

Google is a life-saver for a lot of things, but often times it’s not quite so helpful when searching for high quality learning content. That’s where Course Hero comes in. Course Hero lets students easily search through a vast database of academic documents, flashcards, and even fully online courses to help make education and studying easier – all created or uploaded by other students.

  • Sophia

Supported by Capella University, Sophia provides a service that reminds us of Udemy. Sophia lets users create lessons using all kinds of media to help other users learn. “Pathways” organize these lessons into units that resemble a college course. Other users, including Sophia staff, review and rate each lesson to ensure its educational value.

  • Duolingo

How did Wikipedia translate so many articles into different languages? The Wikipedia team asked you to do it for them. Same with Facebook. Now, Duolingo is giving you the chance to translate the web and learn a new language for free. Duolingo matches users with sentences from the web in the language they want to learn, but at their level of fluency, to be translated. While you translate, Duolingo’s system can help if you get stuck on a word — teaching you the language at the same time.

  • MentorMob

MentorMob takes a new approach to online learning in a way that is actually very simple. In this case, users don’t actually create the educational content. Instead, users help other users find the content by making “playlists” of websites, articles, videos, and other resources that are already on the web.

 

  • Lynda

Ok, so Lynda has been around for a while, but it’s more popular now than ever. Lynda has a vast selection of professionally made tutorial videos. The tutorials are created by experts in their fields, so you know that you’re learning the best stuff. Many universities throughout the country have also adopted Lynda’s academic platform that gives students free access to the videos. If you are an expert and you want to teach a course, all you have to do is reach out to the Lynda team.

  • Knowmia

You’ve heard of Khan Academy and other video-based educational services, and Knowmia adds an exciting new name to the bunch.  This brand-new startup boasts more than 7,000 video lessons with more showing up daily.  The videos come from real teachers all around the country, and are easily searchable from a large search bar at the top of the page.  Plus, Knowmia isn’t just about videos — they’ve already got a free iPad app for teachers and are working on web tools that will allow teachers to implement a flipped classroom and even share video lessons with other instructors.

It’s now easier than ever to start learning what you’ve always been interested in and never had the chance to explore. Take advantage of these tools and the others that we’ve talked about and dive right in. There’s no end to education!  You don’t have to be a student to learn, and you don’t have to be a teacher to teach.

Dress the Part: Summer Business Attire

Summer is in full swing, and with the warm weather come questions of what is appropriate to wear to a job interview or even to work. In April we blogged about dressing the part What to Wear to a Job Interview. Most of the same rules apply for a summer job interview (you want to look professional, even if it’s 90 degrees outside), but how about the work dress code?

Dr. Gretchen Gunn, principal of corporate staffing company MGD Services, Inc., says summer brings out the “sins of the skin” as she calls them. Generally speaking if you would wear it to the beach, dance club or the gym, you should not wear it to work. Dr. Gunn goes on to say that for women the “‘no-go zones’ are bra straps, belly buttons, flip flops, and any revealing tops… For men, flip flops are also ‘no-go zones’, as are bare shoulders, shorts, ripped denim, and button down shirts with too many buttons down.”

A number of sources including, the Society for Human Resource Management, provide sample lists of what is acceptable work attire. Such lists can be a helpful resource if you’re new to a company and aren’t sure of what’s acceptable to wear in the summer. The SHRM outlines, what clothes are “safe.” Once you have an idea of what your co-workers wear when the weather’s warm, then you can adjust your attire. It’s always best to be safe, than sorry! Remember, flip-flops are rarely, if ever, acceptable in the workplace!

Ladies, if you’re feeling particularly sunny when you wake up in the morning, why not try pairing a knee-length summer dress with a bright blazer like this one pictured on the left? If you’re not sure about whether open toe shoes are permitted, try peep-toe heels.

Guys, want to get away from the traditional black, gray and navy color schemes? Try a bright button down shirt and a pair of tan oxfords, like the ones pictured on the bottom right.

So even on those really hot days when you just want to wear shorts and flip-flops, remember that if you’re working for a private company “you can be fired because the company doesn’t like your shoes… once you walk into a private employers workplace, your rights are limited,” explains Robert D. Lipman, manager of the New York employment firm Lipman & Plesur, LLP. As always, looking put-together is important and you want to make a good first impression every time you start your day, not just when you go in for the interview! Finding a balance between comfort, self expression and professional attire is key, after all, you don’t want to jeopardize your job for the sake of wearing a pair of sandals. If you’re unsure of what to wear on those hot days, you can also ask your boss or someone from your HR department for a copy of the company business attire policy.

What do you wear to work in the summer? Please share your pictures with us!

8 Tips to Show Yourself Off with LinkedIn

Last week, we talked a little bit about Twitter and your personal brand. Twitter can certainly be a helpful tool, but why limit yourself to 140 characters? Now you want to take the next step to really enhance your personal brand by bringing in the professional element. But on Twitter, there isn’t much room to share your resume and your followers aren’t even expecting to see it. Your personal brand needs something else.

If you’re thinking about Facebook as a solution, pause for a minute and ask yourself, “Who’s going to see this?”. You don’t want to be boasting on your profile about your professional and academic achievements when what your friends really want to see is your new photo album from your latest vacation. Simply put, Facebook is just not exactly the right place for you to put the spotlight on the professional side of your personal brand.

Enter LinkedIn, the social networking tool specifically designed for this purpose. People are on LinkedIn with the intention of looking at your resume. You won’t find a better place to freely share 100% (quite literally) of your career achievements and goals. Lindsey Pollak gives a fantastic list of 8 ways to utilize LinkedIn for your personal brand.

Her points cover three main topics:

So you’ve spent time on Twitter, giving your followers a pretty good sense of your personality and what your interests are, but your personal brand needs to show your professional side. LinkedIn is the perfect social network to bring your brand full circle.
Read Lindsey Pollak’s full article here:

How to Showcase Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn: 8 Tips | Lindsey LinkedInPollak

If you’re already an expert, show what you know with the LinkedIn test!