All posts by bowersm1

4 STEPS TO BECOMING A MORE SELF-AWARE LEADER

All leaders need some way to evaluate their current performance so they can continue to grow as decision-makers, managers, and colleagues. But what is the best way to find a full, honest account of one’s strengths and weaknesses—and then to act on it? It is important to look beyond assessments. But the pair caution that these assessments should be thought of not as the end of the self-evaluation process, but as the beginning—as catalysts to start the kinds of discussions that lead to important insights. Those conversations can be timed to the assessments themselves, because their results make the request for deeper feedback a natural next step. Feedback is most valuable when it leads to important, actionable insights into your behavior, personality quirks, biases, strengths, and weaknesses. Sometimes, reflection on your own emotional reactions to people and situations provides an opportunity to grow in self-awareness. Think of feedback as useful information that helps you expand your response toolbox, rather than someone telling you what to do. After all, there might be cases where a leader chooses to tell it like it is as a matter of strategy, knowing full well it will cause discomfort. Additionally, self-reflection only helps if it is done with a real purpose in mind, and that means thinking strategically about what is most important for the leader and the organization. Self-reflection isn’t just about looking backward; it also allows you to be proactive instead of reactive. Read More >>

GOOD NEWS STORY: NIGERIAN IRISH TEEN GIRLS WIN PRIZE FOR DEMENTIA APP

An award-winning app that can help patients with dementia will launch later this month in app stores. But unlike most apps — made by professional software developers in a male-dominated tech industry — this one was created by three teenage girls. The Nigerian-Irish teens are the champions of Technovation Girls, an international competition that challenges young women to develop an app that can solve a problem in their community. The annual competition is hosted by Technovation, a nonprofit organization that empowers girls to become leaders in tech. The girls were guided by project mentor Evelyn Nomayo, an Afro-Irish developer and the founder of Phase Innovate, an organization that trains and mentors underrepresented minorities and women in tech. Nomayo told them about her mother, who experienced dementia, and that inspired the teens, who live in Drogheda, Ireland, to create an app that could help with the disorder. The 12-week challenge resulted in Memory Haven, which beat out more than 1,500 submissions from 62 countries. Memory Haven can be used by both patients and caregivers. Its six features target three problems faced by those with dementia: memory loss and difficulty with recognition and speech. A reminder feature, for example, alerts both the patient and caregiver that it’s time for medication, while photo albums allow users to flip through tagged photos identifying who is in the image. Read More >>

4 STEPS TO IMPROVE THE ACCURACY OF VIRTUAL INTERVIEWS

There is no shortage of quotes about success in business. The list goes on and each has merit. Yet none of them work without talented people. It is the people you hire who ultimately determine the success of your strategy, culture, marketing, innovation and all else you do. Surprisingly, our ability to identify talent continues to be less than sufficient. A 1998 study found that traditional interviews only have 50% accuracy. Things haven’t gotten better since then. In my book The Empowered Candidate, I share a recent study by Gallup that found when interviewing for management positions, we make the wrong hiring decision 82% of the time. Virtual interviews may not be as effective as in-person interviews, but they don’t need to be markedly worse. A key to successful interviewing—of any type—is removing the interference that exists between you and the candidate. Misread social cues. Miscommunication. Distractions. Unnecessary stress. The virtual environment can heighten all of these. But intentional practices to counter the interference will increase your odds of finding the great people who will drive strategy, culture, marketing, innovation and all else you do. Read More >>

WHY ENTREPRENEURS NEED TO TALK ABOUT THEIR MENTAL HEALTH

72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non entrepreneurs. That’s according to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health. 49% of entrepreneurs deal with mental health issues directly while only 32% of others experienced them. Similarly, 23% of entrepreneurs have family members who face these issues compared to just 16% of others with family members who face these same types of issues. As a category – entrepreneurs are exponentially more likely to suffer from mental health problems, and yet, people don’t talk about that enough – it is fetishized and glamourized, so here’s an attempt to share some data and personal experience to show the other side. While many view entrepreneurship as a dream career full of excitement, it is a real rocky road. According to this study by Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are 50 percent more likely to report having a mental health condition. And yet, we still struggle to talk about it. In his brilliant book, Lost Connections, the author Johann Hari makes the comment that “humans need tribes, like bees need hives”- and I think this point gets to a major crux of what causes so much of what we, as entrepreneurs, experience as mental health problems. There is the famous quote that “it’s lonely at the top” but it can be very lonely on the way there too, and even worse right back down at the bottom. In COVID times with a mix of quarantines, lockdowns, curfews and too many zoom meetings, this already large problem in our sector has just gotten bigger. Most importantly, whatever you are going through right now, know you are not alone, please do reach out to just one friend, and see what kind of difference it can make. Read More >>

HOW TO CREATE A BRAND NAME THAT WORKS

What makes a great brand name so … great? Why are names like “Joy” and “Tide” so successful—and how the heck does a name like “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” break all the rules, but still manage to win us over? Names, of course, matter. The name should tell a story that directly or at least indirectly ties to the product itself, its reason for being, and consumer needs/wants. A great example is Peloton, the new home exercise equipment company best known for its digitally connected stationary bike. In cycling parlance, a “peloton” is a group of cyclists at the front of the pack. This name is obviously relevant to cycling and leadership, but also speaks to the fact that via the online community, home cyclists are connected to each other—a “virtual pack.” “Form follows function, but both report to emotion,” said Willie Davidson, superstar designer and grandson of the founder of a certain motorcycle company. Emotion is the king of the jungle in marketing and innovation, and it certainly wins in naming. A great name is essentially a short ad for the product, evoking feeling and inspiring some kind of action (consciously or unconsciously). Generally speaking, names should be as short as possible and roll off the tongue. Brevity is important not just because short names tend to be more memorable, but also because they make it easier for your design team, which has precious limited real estate to work with when creating packaging labels and other elements. Read More >>

TELEPATH IS A NEW, KINDER SOCIAL NETWORK. BUT IS THE INTERNET READY TO BE NICE?

The rules of the new social network Telepath are simple: Be kind. Don’t be mean. No harassment, and no fake news. The existential question for Telepath will be whether that’s easier said than done. “It’s becoming harder and harder for people to have great conversations on existing platforms,” said Telepath’s co-founder and chairman, Marc Bodnick. “People are mean to each other, and that meanness is kind of rewarded with distribution. There’s tons of disinformation. Women are treated very badly. And so our view was that there’s an opportunity to create a new social network really focused on conversation and connecting people who share the same interest.” Telepath acknowledges that public figures will be treated and handled differently, and it won’t be immune to criticism. “There is somewhat of a difficult line here where we want to encourage kindness and empathy, particularly between people in conversations on Telepath, but also it’s not our intention to silence criticism,” Henry said. “I think in this world that we live in now, it’s not everyone, but I think a lot of people in the business, financial investor world believe in the possibility of quality and the potential of a great social product,” Bodnick said. “And so I don’t think you have to rush out the door to explode your scale or start making money in some sort of cheesy way.” Read More >>

HOW TO SELL IN A VIRTUAL WORLD

In sales, face-to-face interactions have long been the gold standard for building relationships and closing deals. But, as with so much of business today, the pandemic has upended that routine. o how do people looking to sell something—be it their ideas in a meeting or their company’s products and services—survive, even excel in our newly virtual world? Craig Wortmann, a clinical professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Kellogg, shared his advice for making sales meetings lively and productive during a recent webinar from Kellogg Executive Education. “If we treat this as a slog,” he says, “that’s going to show up in our behaviors.” To start, you’ll need to prepare for your virtual meetings differently. And because even minor technology hiccups can eat into a presentation’s allotted time, he encourages people to cut 20 percent out of what they intend to cover. Worst case scenario, you spend that time walking people through their Zoom settings; best case scenario, you have more time left over at the end for questions and conversation. He says that “99.9 percent of the time, people say, ‘no problem,’” and give their home address. If you are worried that you did not shine during a meeting, your follow-up could be a message or voicemail that conveys that. You can say, “I’ve been reflecting on something I said and it wasn’t quite right. Could I have another go at that?” The answer might be “no,” and that’s OK. But you have little to lose, and you stand to gain a stronger and more trusting relationship with that other person. Read More >>

HOW TO RETAIN YOUR FIRST START-UP PRODUCT USERS

At the idea stage, most founders are focused on building a product that customers find interesting enough to try. The truth is, proving that the product can provide consistent value to the customer is as important as attracting the customer. After all, a product that seems useless after the first try clearly lacks validation. This is a common situation where marketing and promise are enticing, but the product doesn’t meet customer expectations. Retention is built around data. You need data to understand where the product falls short and the customer loses interest. If you’re launching a new startup product, you don’t have data. But what you can do is analyze your competitors’ products and speak with their customers to map their journey and understand what keeps them using those products or why they decided to look for another solution. Especially in the early days, personalizing onboarding and product experience, even with as simple as a dedicated account manager or salesperson, can not only boost sales but also, it’s an opportunity to listen to customers’ needs and expectations, which will play a key role in understanding what your solution lacks and how it can be improved. Read More >>

BLUE ORIGIN’S HUMAN LUNAR LANDER ALL-STAR SPACE TEAM COMPLETES FIRST KEY MILESTONE FOR MOON MISSION

Blue Origin, along with its partners Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper, was one of three companies to be awarded contracts by NASA to develop human lunar landers for future moon missions. Blue Origin’s so-called “National Team” is focused on developing a Human Landing System (HLS) for NASA  to support its efforts to return human astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024, and on September 14, 2020 it announced that along with its partners, it has achieved the first crucial step of defining the requirements of the mission, including any space and ground vehicles used.  This is a key first step, which amounts to having established a checklist of thousands of items that will make up the parameters of the National Team’s HLS mission. It means that the company can now move ahead to further NASA reviews and ultimately, the preliminary design phase.  Ultimately, the HLS will be made up of a descent element supplied by Blue Origin, as well as a reusable ascent element provided by Lockheed Martin,  and an orbital transfer element from Northrop that gets the lander in position for its last-leg trip to the lunar surface. Read More >>

COULD A SMALL CITY BECOME THE NEXT SILICON VALLEY? UNLIKELY.

New research suggests that there’s a population tipping point for supporting a booming tech industry.  “Become the next Silicon Valley.” So many cities have adopted this goal that it has become a cliché.  Many policymakers want to emulate the economic success of the San Francisco Bay Area by drawing tech workers to their own cities—even if they are relatively small.  Growing cities tend to follow a universal pathway, moving from work that relies primarily on manual labor to jobs that rely more heavily on cognitive labor, the researchers report. In a study of U.S. urban areas, the team found that the tipping point tended to occur when the population reached about 1.2 million. Small cities under that threshold may not be able to build a strong tech industry because they don’t have enough people in other industries—from public transit to laundry services—to support software engineers.  As employees become accustomed to working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s possible that industries suited to remote work, such as tech, will become less tied to particular cities. This shift might alter the universal patterns of urban development.  Because new ideas, by definition, don’t have a defined vocabulary, they usually require some degree of nonverbal communication, which isn’t easily replicated in a Zoom meeting.  How does this finding square with the idea that cities need to pass a certain population threshold to establish strong tech businesses?  Even though these companies are less beholden to population growth than others, a substantial part of their expansion does depend on the number of people in the city.   Read More >>