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Alicia Blain

Entries tagged with “Fast Company”.


Can you believe that in 154 years, Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans have only been canceled 13 times! According to the Numerolgy columnof the March edition of Fast Company titled “Mardi Gras Mambo” & written by Margaret Rhodes, some of the reasons for canceling have been Yellow Fever & riots during the Reconstruction.  Not even Hurricane Katrina stopped the festivities.  I had no idea Mardi Gras had been celebrated so far back in the day.

The article has some great facts & figures.  It’s a fun read. Check it out.  Mardi Gras is next Tuesday.  How are you celebrating Fat Tuesday!

Happy Friday & Happy Mardi Gras everybody!

One of the things I enjoy most is highlighting stories of Gen Yers that are making an impact by doing things differently. In my January blog titled “How Gen Yers are Reinventing the Future” I was highlighting a speech given by Rachel Botsman at  TEDx Australia.  She gave a fascinating talk about collaborative consumption and you can read about it in  my January 24th blog.  A few days after I posted the blog, I received a comment from Jonah Halper letting me know about another talk from Nancy Lublin that I would probably find interesting.  As it turns out, I’m a big Nancy Lublin fan so I went to visit the site to see her talk.

When I got there I was more curious about the site itself than Nancy’s talk (it’ll be our secret..).  As it turns out the name of the site is “NextGen:Charity.com” and what a great concept they have.  The description on the site explains what they do better than I can so here is what it says, “NextGen:Charity is a conference on non-profit innovation aimed to help you run your organization more effectively and efficiently, and connect with donors and your community more powerfully”.  The Gen Y founders,  Jonah Halper (my blog commenter), a professional fund raiser and marketer and Ari Telman, an award winning comedian & founder of JCORPS, an international volunteer organization, joined forces & started NextGen:Charity.

Here’s the beauty of their idea.  They saw the power & following that the TED talks generated & wanted to bring that to the non-profit sector, which as I can attest, needs it desperately. Visit their site & see the sponsor lineup supporting them: Fast Company, AMEX, Pace University.  Not too shabby, huh?  Then there are the speakers:  Seth Godin, our friend Nancy Lublin, and many more top name experts in the non-profit world.

The NextGen:Charity conference event  takes place in NYC on November 17&18 but the founders have Meetups scheduled all across the country from now until the summer.   Cool idea and worth attending if you’re in one of the cities: DC,Boston, Miami, LA & Chicago.

For all  my non-profit friends & clients, check out the NextGen:Charity and block those dates.

NextGen:Charity is just another example of Gen Y’s creativity at work.  It also showcases their innate desire for collaboration and helping others/giving back.  So next time you think Gen Yers are lazy & unmotivated, think of Jonah & Ari & think again.

Oh and BTW, I did get to see Nancy Lublin’s video & it was very good — I knew it would be.  :-)

In my blogs I always try to highlight great examples of Millennials doing good & being Millennials.  Last week, I came across a blog on Fast Company written by Simon Mainwaring titled:  “Using Social Media to Mobilize Millennials“.  In the blog, Simon talks about two projects that take a unique & highly Millennial spin on an existing practice.  That practice is social causes & our need as humans to give back and help others less fortunate.

The names of the 2 projects are Pando Projects & Loudsauce.  The first puts the Millennial brainpower to help young people that have an idea for a business but need help putting the business plan together.   Each project gets a website, promotional fundraising & volunteer management tools to kickstart the project.  The project is still a pilot but it shows the power of social media as people support projects based on the personal tie they have with that particular cause.  If you look at the 15 pilot projects, it clearly shows the interest that Gen Y has for causes and making the world a better place.  I particularly loved the projects that also had a multi-cultural component to them as it shows how the future of the US will be more ethnically and racially diverse than ever before.

The second project shows the incredible market savviness that Millennials possess.  Loudsauce lists a series of campaigns for causes & based on your preference you donate money to fund advertising for that cause on TV or billboards & then you spread the word using social media such as Facebook & Twitter.

What struck me in both examples is the creativity they display by leveraging 2 of the 5 unique skills & traits that Millennials bring to any situation.  The 2 skills are their collaboration or crowd sourcing approach to things & their use of technology. I believe Millennials are extremely lucky to be living in a time where technology provides access to so much that was not available in just a few years past.  The way they use technology & harness it is unique to them & extremely powerful.  On top of that, Millennials are natural collaborators.  I’ve shown many examples in my blogs of Millennials coming together to get things done.  They are wired to do it &  because it’s natural to them, they harness that collectivity in ways prior generations can’t begin to fathom.   

I agree with Simon on his take of the future. The unique skills of the  Millennials layered on top of their affinity to get involved in social causes, layered on top of the technology available to help them do that will make them the  ”founders of companies and industry leaders that will transform the products, services and role of brands in near future”.

But where will that leave corporations?  For the first time, we have a generation of smart, collaborative young people who, at an age where other generations were forced to look for corporate jobs to get experience, have an option to start their own companies & use the collective brainpower of their peers to help them succeed.  As corporate leaders continue to rely on outdated principles & techniques that hinder their ability to see the goldmine in their Gen Y staff,  they may decide to opt out of corporate and start their own companies. 

They have the  technology, the social media & the brainpower of their fellow Gen Yers to provide them with the acumen & funding they need to start & grow their own businesses.  That combination has never been available to other generations.  Can corporations compete against that especially as so many Millennials are getting disillusioned by corporate & its leaders on a daily basis?  What kind of talent will be available to corporations?  Will the best Gen Y talent be willing to put up with all the hassles of corporate or decide to try their luck & start their own companies & bring on other bright & motivated Millennials?Will corporate be left with a mediocre talent pool going forward or will they be able to attract, retain & leverage the best of Gen Y?

Interesting questions that will be addressed at time goes on.  If you want to be that corporate leader that can attract & retain top talent, you better start now  First step, let go of the status quo, of your comfort zone & get uncomfortable.  Let go of outdated styles & techniques that blind you to the potential that Millennials bring.  Ignite experimentation in your group & make that connection with your young workforce.    That will give you a good head start.  Remember leading successfully in the 21st Century requires leaders to C.A.R.E. – Connect, Adapt, Reshape & Experiment to keep the best talent engaged & commited. 

Are you doing that today?

By now, anyone who has managed Millennials knows what avid video game players they are.  It is one of the topics I discuss in my C.A.R.E System of Leadership.  One of the 5 traits that makes Millennials so puzzling to leaders & others in the organization is their experiential nature.  They don’t see failure as a bad thing.   In fact, for them it’s a good thing because it will get them ready to get to the next level – in a video game, that is.  They love being hands-on and trying new things.  They aren’t afraid to jump in & test their skills at anything you put in front of them.

I have been keeping track of the video game industry ever since I began hiring Millennials eight years ago and I’m blown away by it’s growth.  In December’s edition of Fast Company, they have an article titled ” Everyone’s a Player” written by Adam L. Penenberg. (Last I checked, the online version was not up yet so check back in a couple of days).  Here are some interesting stats from the article:

  • Average gamer is 34 years old (Technically, a Generation Xer!)
  • 97% of 12 to 17 year-olds play computer games ( These will be your employees in 4 to 9 years)
  • Only 35% of C-Suite executive play video games (Do you sense a bit of a disconnect moving forward…)
  • Price Waterhouse estimates that global sales of video games will reach $68.4 Billion in 2012 (A little over a year away). Why is that important? Because in 2012 global video games sales will be more than the global revenues of film box office & DVDs COMBINED. Yes, you read that correctly.  To put it in perspective, in 2002, worldwide video game sales were around the $20 Billion mark.  Small explosion in sales wouldn’t you say?

Over the years, I’ve paid particular attention to the serious games sector of the video games market and I’ve seen that explode as well.  Companies like Sun Microsystems and Cisco are huge users & inventors of games for training. Others use it to improve internal processes.  In my blog last Wednesday (Nov. 24th) I talked about a first ever management innovation contest given by MIX, the Management Innovation Exchange. One of the winners in the contest was Ross Smith, a Microsoft executive, for the great work he did to instill trust within his Windows Security Test team.  Apparently, after his work there, Ross moved to the Vista group & his innovative spirit went to work there as well.  He helped create Microsoft’s Code Review Game in order to make the boring & mind numbing job of programming code review more interesting.  Basically, the developers received points based on the type of bugs they discovered.  According to the article, the project was such a success that Microsoft used the results in other major releases. 

Even very traditional companies such as McKinsey see the value of gaming & use it to train recruits.  I’ve been so intrigued with games that I attended the Games Developer Conference in San Francisco in 2008.  Although the bigger emphasis was on commercial video games and not as much on serious games, I could see the spillover to serious games happening and it’s happening more and more each year.  In 2007, I attended the ASTD (Association for Training & Development) Conference in San Diego & was amazed at how many breakout sessions were about using video games for corporate training.

Who doesn’t know someone who is hooked on Facebook’s Farmville or Mafia Wars? Although these are social games, the number of people who play them (80 million active players according to the Fast Company article) clearly show the popularity of games. Yet only 35% of C-Suite executives has ever played a video game.  As more & more companies continue to invest in video games and many of them investing significant amounts in them, it behooves executives to become familiar with them & why they are so captivating to younger workers.  They are a great tool for teaching & studies are showing that video games are beneficial in many areas & in many fields.

One of the recommendations I make in my C.A.R.E. System of Leadership is for companies to establish dual coaching where both leaders and young employees are learning & teaching each other techniques & ideas that are unfamiliar to the other.  One of my suggestions is for leaders to learn & immerse themselves in a video game.  I guarantee the executives who do that will not regret it. Millennials will have them playing World of Warcraft in no time.  It is an eye opening & mind opening experience and every executive who has done it has thoroughly enjoyed it & found it to be a rewarding endeavor.

So what about you?  Ready to put your Game Face on?  You better hurry if you haven’t done so yet.  The game-ization of corporate has begun & you don’t want to be left behind…

Did you know that in Britain, this week is called National Thank You Week?  Well it’s true and I had no idea.  That’s why I love Nancy Lublin’s  “Do Something” column in Fast Company.  There’s always some tidbit that I learn. In November her column was titled  “Two Little Words“.  In it she reminds us how we so often forget to say thank you.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US and the British  have National Thank You week,  I wonder how many times this week we will stop to say thank you or be thankful for all we have?

We are often so quick to see the shortcomings in others and to see our life as half empty that it really keeps us from seeing all the abundance we have around us whether it’s in the people we work with or in the life we have.  As leaders we often forget how important those in the trenches are to our success.  Without them, we couldn’t do what we do.  Yet, how many times have you taken  a few minutes to talk to them or ask them how they’re doing.  Many times, we justify not doing it by saying that these folks report into our direct reports and that our direct reports are taking care of that?  My response to that is:  So?  Even though that is the case, there’s no reason why, you as the head of your team, can’t do the same.  Imagine what a treat that would be to those staff members?

Nancy Lublin talks about thanking the “little people” which she defines as the FedEx guy, the people that clean your offices, the mailroom people.  It’s the people that are almost invisible to you on a day to day but whose absence you would feel given the things they do for you.  Everyone we interact with contributes in some small way to our getting through our day everyday and yet we often don’t give them a second thought.

Well, let’s give them a second thought today.  As we get ready to spend tomorrow with our friends & family, let’s not forget that Thanksgiving ISN’T just about turkey & football but in fact, it’s a day to spend quality time with our family.  It’s a day not only to enjoy our friends & family but to be thankful we have them, warts and all.  But that’s tomorrow.  Today, make time to say thank you to your corporate family, especially those in the trenches and the invisible people who do so much & allow us to concentrate on what we do best.

Like Nancy says, it’s just 2 words but they carry such a powerful, positive punch when it’s heartfelt.

So from me to you, I want to thank you all and wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving !

In its November edition, Fast Company is introducing a video-blog series called “Change Generation“.  The series highlights a number of Millennials who have done some pretty spectacular things in their very young lives.  To me, each video or article presents a case study of the potential the Millennials have once they are commited & engaged in something.  In many of the examples, that “something” happens to be very worthwhile causes like a donation program for Haiti or bringing clean water to a developing country.  But other examples just highlight the creativity & tenacity the Millennials have once they are focused on something.

Every generation that has come before the Millennials has had that same tenacity & focus on making change.  Look at the Boomers.  They were the catalysts for social change in the US when they were young not to mention the creators of the Sex, Drug & Rock n’ Roll mindset, right?  That’s the beauty of being young.  You tend to focus on the possibilities more than the constraints.  The Millennials are no different except they are enacting their creativity & tenacity at a time when technology offers them so many opportunities to manifest that need for change that burns inside every young person. No other generation before them has had the advantage of the Internet, social media, globalization & so many other factors coming together to help them bring about change.  That’s a wonderful thing to see.

As I looked through the videos or read their stories, I saw the great talent these Millennials were displaying and a talent that I have seen firsthand.  It didn’t surprise me that for many of them, their initial decision was not to pursue an entrepreneurial life but a corporate one.  After choosing their corporate careers, many of them opted to drop out of corporate.  When you listen to them or read what they say, you will hear many of them say that working in corporate made them feel “lost” or they were “underutilized” and they wanted to do more with their talents.

I think this is a great series for corporate leaders to watch for 2 very important reasons:  the first is that it will give corporate leaders an insight into how the Millennials think, the types of leaders they admire, how hard they work &  the issues they feel are important.  Said in different ways, their messages point to a similar theme.  The second reason why this series is powerful is that leaders will hear what is turning Millennials off from pursuing corporate jobs.  Every Millennial in that series was a driven, hard working, bright & creative individual that corporations failed to retain.  At a time when American corporations are fighting a recession, intense global competition & a serious scarcity of innovation, losing talent like the ones showcased in this series is a real problem if corporations want to stay competitive & leading edge going forward.

Imagine the difference that one leader could have made if he or she had learned how to shift their mindset & leverage the amazing talent these young people have.  The bottom line payoff for the corporation would have been quite impressive.  Instead that payoff went somewhere else.   Lost opportunity?  You bet.  But the irony is that those leaders probably didn’t even know they had a golden nugget because it was sitting right under their very nose while they were probably looking everywhere else for answers.

Sometimes it’s hard to see something that is right under our nose.  This series could help you see it.  Go and check it out at your leisure.  Maybe it will help you see Millennials in a different light.  Maybe it will help you find ways to engage them differently so they are not lost, are not underutilized and are not walking out your door.

According to this great article in Fast Company Magazine, most bosses don’t.  Fast Company reports on a new poll published by Adecco that shows the difference in perspective between how bosses view themselves vs. how their employees view them. The name of the article is “Poll: Why the Boss Sucks, By Employees” and it was written by Austin Carr.

The poll shows that most bosses consider themselves to be coaches and visionaries but their employees disagree. Many employees still consider their bosses too commanding – you know – bossy. But other stats from the poll are just as interesting.  74% of employees think their bosses should be willing to get their hands dirty to help the team get the job done.  I am pretty sure that most bosses are not doing that these days.  In fact, I think many of us have become a bit removed from what is actually taking place in our own teams on a day to day basis.  Oh, yes, I think our direct reports keep us apprised to a certain extent but let’s face it – they know that part of their job is to take care of things & keep you out of it.  That’s why you put them in charge of that team or function. They don’t want to burden you with the day to day and they certainly don’t want you to think they can’t handle it.  So, they gloss over stuff.  Can you blame them? Don’t you do the same with your boss?

The only way to really know what’s going on is to get involved.  I don’t necessarily mean you have to sit down everyday & roll up your sleeves.  But I do mean you should block time on your calendar and interact with people in your team.  Get to hear what they’re thinking, what they’re worrying about, what their ideas are.  If you just do that, I will guarantte that 2 things will happen: you will better understand what is going on in your team & make better decisions because of it and your team will feel that you are interested in them and that you care about the team.  I think that when employees say they want their bosses to roll up their sleeves & help the team, they really mean they just want their bosses to take time out to talk to them & connect with them.

One statistic in the poll concerned me but didn’t surprise me. About 70% of respondents said they did NOT aspire to have their bosses job.  That’s a big number, folks.  Now I understand that management isn’t for everyone and there will always be a percentage of people that are not interested in it.  But when an overwhelmingly large percentage of the corporate population says no thanks it’s as if you’re texting with capital letters.  To me, that says people are disillusioned and even angry with the corporate leadership today.  They see absolutely no value pursuing management because they probably either see it as sucking the energy out of them or not being able to make a positive difference to steer “the machine” in another direction.

Leaders forget that their employees are as observant as they are.   They forget that they are role models whether they want to be or not.  Unfortunately, bad role models are remembered more and seem to be more prevalent in corporations today. As leaders become disillusioned with their jobs, with their bosses and with the work they do,  it filters back to the staff in a myriad of ways. When leaders find themselves unable to make change and become just another cog in the wheel, their employees see it and react to it.  The reaction turns into disillusionment and disinterest to follow in their boss’ footsteps.

With so many respondents not interested in management, you begin to wonder what will happen to management in the future?  Will it cease to exist? Will it continue to be mediocre as it apparently is perceived by today’s employees?  What will have to change to make employees excited about taking on management challenges? 

None of us can take it upon ourselves to change 70% of corporate employees.  But we can start by changing those that feel that way in our teams.  Do you know who those are in your team?  Have you taken the time to find out what your employees are thinking? Have you asked them what’s not working and what is?  Can you honestly say with total conviction that you have a good understanding of what’s going on in your team, with your employees and how they view you?

If you can’t, then  that’s the place to start to take baby steps in reducing the 70%.  Chances are that what you’ll discover when you connect with your employees will be insightful and will help you manage and engage them better.

Are you ready to try?  I hope so.  Our future leaders need you to.

On September 22nd, I blogged about Nancy Lublin’s article in Fast Company Magazine where she gives her insightful perspective on why Millennial Bashing is wrong.  Yesterday, I came across a blog written by a Fast Company blogger called Cali Williams Yost titled  “How Millennials are an Untapped Treasure for Business“.  She gives a wonderful example of how a senior leader in a company tapped the potential that Gen Yers have to increase business during the worst part of the financial crisis.  The senior leader discovered, as I did in my Millennial Lab, that instead of telling Millennials what to do, it’s best to guide them but at the same time, try to unleash their creativity, collaboration and enthusiasm for a project.  The results will amaze you.

Recently I was talking to an executive who had followed some of the points I share in my C.A.R.E. System of Leadership and he was excited about the progress he was making in engaging the Millennials in his team.  Without thinking, I responded that all companies have a goldmine in their Millennial staff that they should be leveraging especially during these difficult times.  He said: ” Wow, that’s what I have and I didn’t even know it. I have a Millennial Goldmine”.

As I read this blog that talked about businesses having a wonderful source of untapped treasure, I remembered the excitement my executive client had leveraging his Millennial Goldmine. 

What about you?  Are you leaving Talent on the Table by not tapping the Millennial treasure you have in your team?  What steps are you taking to disrupt your leadership status quo and leverage your Millennial Goldmine?

When I run across an article that actually celebrates rather than criticizes Millennials, I get excited and I have to share it with everyone.  In October’s Fast Company edition, Nancy Lublin wrote a great article titled “Why Bashing Millennials is Wrong“.  She touches on a lot of the points that I have blogged about over the last few months.  Like me, Nancy works directly with many Millennials and has been able to see firsthand the great qualities they bring to the workplace.  She gives some great examples of  her Millennial staff members and the creativity they bring to the workplace. 

They are optimistic and  have bold dreams. Like Nancy says ,every company should want to hire employees that are hungry to make a difference.  There are 2 things I liked best about the article.  Nancy reminds us that providing feedback to our employees has always been important but  more so now than ever before.  I think leaders miss out on great opportunities to leverage praise as a wonderful management tool to inspire and uplift their staff.  

As a corporate observer, I find that for the most part, leaders can be cheap with praise and generous with criticism. Because we are so busy putting out fires and dealing with our daily challenges, we often forget to showcase a job well done by a team member.  But think about what a morale booster that would be if we went out of our way everyday to compliment someone for the good work they did.  It doesn’t have to be a big win.  Celebrating small victories are often more effective and are remembered more than the big ones.  It’s such a simple, easy thing to do but we let other things get in the way of our ability to praise.  When was the last time you praised an employee for something they did well? 

The second thing I liked best about Nancy’s article is that she ends it by reminding us that the clash of the generations is timeless. We just forget because as time passes we are on the other side of the clash.  As Baby Boomers and Xers,  we often forget that we felt the same frustration when we started our corporate careers as the Millennials do now.  But being on the other side and remembering what it was like when we started our careers gives us a huge advantage.  It allows us the opportunity to not make the same mistakes as leaders in the past.  Instead of criticizing the “new” generation and trying to make them conform to the traditional corporate structures and principles, why not as Nancy says “manage them for greatness, for maximum effect”? 

This article reminds us that we are not as different as we think we are; we APPLY things in ways that seem unfamiliar.  Our role as leaders is to build that bridge to the unfamiliar.  The first step is to see the possibilities in our staff instead of the deficiencies and to celebrate them.

What about you?  Do you celebrate the small vicitories of your team?

I was reading Anya Kamenetz’ article in Fast Company Magazine titled “How TED Became the New Harvard“.  The title caught my attention and I realized how true that statement was.  For the very few that may not know, TED stands forthe  ” Technology, Entertainment Design” Conference.  It was started back in the 80′s by a man called Richard Saul Wurman who just “wanted to throw the world’s best dinner party”.  He breathed life into the conference and came up with the whole structure behind the event, the talks and the topics.  Anya says it best when she says that Wurman “turned TED into a 3-ring circus of ideas”. 

An entrepreneur by the name of Chris Anderson bought TED in 2001.  He took TED from being an exclusive, sort of  elite type of conference and invited the world to see it and attend. All of the TED videos I have seen which are many at this point have provided great content and ideas and it has been done in a manageable time frame – 18 minutes and in a video format.  It’s almost like you are there listening to the speakers but without paying the whopping $6,000 conference fee.  Nice deal, huh? Oh and by the way, none of the speakers charge a fee for speaking at TED.  That is an amazing feat on its own but think of the publicity they get and the possibility that their talk would go viral.  I would speak there for free, too.

The article goes on to talk about why TED has become such a phenomenon and how it has gone a long way to “creating a 21st Century education model that’s open yet high in prestige”.  Again, here’s an example of someone that has challenged the traditional models of teaching and come up with something that appeals to the masses and it is online for FREE.  It has spawned TEDx events in cities all across the world.  In fact, I blogged about one held in San Diego earlier this year where Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cell phone , was in attendance.

But for me the article resounded for another reason. The TED talks provide a fertile ground for leaders to connect with their teams and instill a spirit of innovation and creativity to their day to day work environment.  Since all the TED talks are short, are available online and are free to watch, it provides leaders with a perfect opportunity to pick a handful of topics that are interesting and thought provoking.  Actually, the article has a Greatest Hits list that can help you get started. Next, have a TEDLunch.  If your team is too big, then have a series of TEDLunches.  Everyone can bring their lunch and they can watch the video.  Maybe you can even ask your team members to give suggestions on what videos they’d like to see. 

The purpose of the TEDLunch would be to start people thinking and talking about a particular topic.  TED has many videos on innovation and creativity.  That can be the springboard to start addressing issues or problems in your team or company and having people voice and discuss ideas to solve them. It doesn’t all have to happen in that one lunch hour.  You can actually schedule followup lunches where you continue to flesh out ideas or suggestions.  This would be a wonderful opportunity for all members of your team in every generation to come together and share ideas.   Who knows what it can lead to?  Even if it doesn’t inspire new ideas to flourish, it will certainly give everyone in your team to spend time with you and each other in a less formal setting and make a connection.

So are you part of the TED Club?  Why don’t you join and start your own TEDLunch series at work.  It’s another way to challenge the old way of doing things and possibly find a great 21st Century leadership technique that works.  Try it.  What can you lose? But imagine all you can gain with just this little experiment.