Brite Conference 2013: Brands, Innovation, Technology - Pt 1

Luisa Ruppert

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Columbia Business School’s Brite Conference around Brands, Innovation, and Technology with representatives of the school as well as well-known brands such as Intel, Vimeo, PepsiCo, SAP and more.

What follows is an overview of the Day One Agenda:

The Content Imperative

After a warm welcoming from Dean Prof. Glenn Hubbard we enjoyed the first talk of the day: Steve Rubel, SVP of Global Strategy and Insights of public relation’s firm Edelman spread awareness about the importance of content.

Issues of valuable content creation include that there is “too much content and not enough time” to read or share it all. Nodding heads in the audience. Underlined was this statement by the difference between “news we read and news we say we read”. Content does not always have to be self-created and the Associated Press leads the example when they opened up their Twitter feed for promoted tweets.

Companies should not be afraid or ashamed of ‘paid content’, just the contrary. Paid content is all about syndication, integration which leads into product placements leveraging services like Buzzfeed as well as co-creation of content through sponsorships. “Content is no longer optional – it’s imperative and it will become the primary way we advertise” which is why we still need our media agencies to ensure reach and trust of content as we face, from a messaging mindset, a “media advertising shift to an editorial”.

Innovating Media Models for a Mobile Consumer

Next up was Liz Schimel from the Meredith National Media Group was joined by Ava Seave from the Quantum Media Group to discuss ‘Innovating Media Models for a Mobile Consumer’. Liz stated that in her company they don’t see any decrease in print but an increase in digital media popularity which might come as a surprise to some publishers. She pointed out the importance of SEO in content creation and that pictures and videos are extremely important in mobile advertising to attract consumers’ attention.

That was followed by a recommendation for an across-platform approach with both traditional and digital media: “Creativity through collaboration” is what counts. In relation to content creation the statement was clear: “Brands are becoming publishers themselves”. Liz furthermore recommends an integrated approach to content creation for innovation: Mobile, print, and digital.

The Truth about Mobile Advertising: Does it even work?

The third presentation and last before the first networking break was the business school’s own Prof Miklos Sarvary who shed light on the truth about mobile advertising. His very university-like talk was filled with insightful results of his recent research and working paper ‘A Field Study of Mobile Display Advertising Effects on Consumer Attitudes and Intentions’.

Not surprisingly he found that mobile ads have a higher CTA (call-to-action) but a five times lower conversion rate than on desktop as well as that the time spent surfing on mobile phones has increased four times in the past four years. An interview conducted just a few days before the conference can be found here.

Fun fact: North Korea is not spending significantly on mobile advertising; whereas the top spending countries are the UK, Norway, the US, Denmark, and Japan. Prof Sarvary concluded with the outcome that mobile ads work as memory cues, reminding the consumer of prior campaigns or info about products and work best for high-involvement, utilitarian products. But there is hope for hedonistic products using location-based mobile advertising, the professor suggests.

Using Gamification to Engineer a New Payment Economy

Michael Hagen self-appointed ‘Chief Rockstar’ of LevelUp, a mobile payments platform created by Cambridge-based start-up SCVNGR, enlightened the audience about how to use gamification in the new payment economy.

He drew attention to ‘Interchange Zero’ – and the cost of moving money: $50 billion equals 2-20% what it costs for a business when consumers pay with a card, the expense of interchange. ‘Interchange Zero’ is the theory that the cost of moving money (credit card fees) converges to zero over time. Michael’s idea is that companies like DwollaISIS, LevelUp, Google Wallet, and Square are disrupting cost of commerce via mobile tech: Mobile phone > wallet; which means an increased competition and incentivized consumers to use alternative payment forms.

Although some attendees were complaining on Twitter about the missing connection to games I understood that the motivating factors for alternative forms of payment came from games like World of Warcraft. One example for that is the app Scoutmob that proved if a coupon is waiting for a consumer they are more likely to spend four times as much at the restaurant. The three gamification techniques introduced were:

  • Sunken reward + transactions = Scoutmob
  • Progression dynamics + transactions = Punch card
  • Transactions + game mechanics = New money

In conclusion the future of mobile advertising lies in appointment dynamics: Incentivize behavior via smart mobile prompt. An interesting question came up at the end on how to prevent the consumer from ‘gaming’ meaning taking advantage of special offers and no purchase otherwise.

Michael’s answer was that it depends on the design and strategy of those offers as well as segmentation (specialized targeting) of customers: “Know your customers.” Sometimes offers can be non-money but aimed at prestige such as an occasional free upgrade when purchasing the platinum membership.

How Brick and Mortar Can Leverage the Mobile Future

Next was a panel by Rick Ferguson of Aimia and the business school’s Matthew Quint about how brick and mortar can leverage the mobile future. A study confirms 21% of consumers have used their mobile phone while physically shopping at a store. It is mostly used to retrieve information and advice like price comparisons and reviews.

The good news is that 58% purchase in-store even if they find it cheaper online. Most likely due to excellent customer service, my opinion, and well-designed loyalty programs are a reason, too. A conclusive advice was to train employees on mobile assisting not to ask customers to leave if they compare prices in-store.

One of the attendees told about an incident with Pearle Vision in Brooklyn where she was asked to leave the store after taking pictures of the products. This, of course, caused a huge uproar in the conference’s Twittersphere however it was promptly met by an apology by the optometrist on Twitter and the customer was promised that her complaint will be forwarded to the store management and operations team. Well done, Pearle Vision!

Interactive Workshop: Strategic Planning for Social Media Marketing

Just before lunch Ric Dragon from DragonSearch started his interactive workshop about strategic planning for social media marketing. He presented his framework of social media management strategies recommended:

  • Brand Maintenance
  • Community Building
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Thought Leadership
  • Big Splash

Read about those in detail here. He also spoke about a brand persona study, which showed that people project personas onto brands and it’s the marketers’ job to shape that perception. Google was the hip, young Asian guy, Starbucks the soccer Mom and BP a grumpy old man. For live, realtime mindmapping Ric used the tool mindmeister to involve the audience interactively.

Some more advice for a company’s social media strategy plan was to use keywords, pathways to other websites to discover communities to add to extend reach. That is one of the reasons why the job of the community manager is the hottest of the year, says Ric. His four stages of social media activity types are: 1. build digital real estate 2. make connections 3. create content and 4. engagement .

Lastly, but not least, he suggests that we should move from one-way storytelling to dynamic storytelling and referenced Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall and his Coca-Cola Content 2020 Project as a best practice. Coca-Cola says that through dynamic storytelling they will double their revenue by 2020. All the templates that Ric used during his talk can be found here.

Creating a Culture of Rapid Experimentation

Next up after lunch was Kaaren Hanson from Intuit about creating a culture of rapid experimentation. We live in a new age of culture where you are constantly trying to learn new ideas shortening the cycle of discovery. Kaaren’s advice is to “fall in love with the solution not the problem”. Keeping an open mind to multiple ideas is key for innovating.

Bring in your customers early in the process to drive innovation. Listen to the customer! And experimentation keeps your employees engaged and feel valued which ultimately impacts revenue. She showcased an example of how rapid experimentation helped farmers in India to find best prices for their crops. Intuit as doubled down on rapid experiments in last two years from a handful of experiments to 1300+ today.

In order to drive innovation Kaaren uses only small teams: “If you need more than two pizzas to feed a team, it is too large.”  And her last piece of advice: “Risk of not starting to experiment is much greater than risk that might come from experimenting.”

Can Live Music Be Like My iPod?

This was followed by a most welcomed musical interlude by Shuffle Concert. The seven head ensemble plays what the audience chooses, like the shuffle function on music players. “From Baroque, Classical and Romantic to Jazz, Pop and Broadway, SHUFFLE Concert performances offer an exciting fusion of great music, for every musical taste.”

Beat the Back Button: How Obama, Disney, and Crate & Barrel use A/B Testing to Win

Pete Koomen, co-founder and president of Optimizely, was the next on stage shedding light on how the Obama campaign, Disney and Crate & Barrel profited from A/B testing. He started with showing the audience how important it is to choose the right email subject line. Here are his six tips:

  • Define quantifiable success matrix and have your team agree on what success means
  • Explore before you refine. If you start & refine, you may miss best option.
  • Less is more. Reduce choice. Sometimes the most successful experiments involve taking things off of a web page.
  • Words matter. Focus on your CTA (call-to-action). Rule: At some point any change results in improvement.
  • Fail fast, e.g. Crate & Barrel found adding star ratings on their website decreased conversions.
  • Start today, it’s never too late to start testing.

Examples from the Obama campaign followed. The word ‘Hey’ was the most effective in the subject line of the fundraising campaign. A picture of a family and a ‘Learn more’ button drove the most traffic.

The results of testing buttons and media led the Obama campaign to a 40% increase in email sign ups. Surprising to most of the audience was that images had a better result than videos probably due to longer loading times and that audio requires loudspeakers or headset. The example from Disney was that after removing images about a specific show on the ABC Family website engagement increased 600%.

Also an interesting result from the 170,000 tests carried out is that the success of a CTA message depends on the customer’s status; prospects react differently than already loyal customers. That’s why segmentation is essential. Understand your audience and validate that!

The Power of (Big) Data in a Networked World

The succeeding speaker was the executive director of Brite himself, David Rogers, talking to us about the power of (big) data in a networked world. Big data for him consists of social data, mobile date and the Internet of things.

One example of how companies can benefit from analysing big data is Walmart; the supermarket is adapting their product display in accordance to weather analysis provided by the Weather Company. Another mentioned example is the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention that uses Twitter data to track the spread of the flu. David says that there are three ways to use big data: Insight, Innovation, and Strategy.

It’s not only big corporations benefiting from it but the common people as well: Watson, a soon to be released diagnostic tool app for doctors,  has now analysed two million research articles and 1.5 million patient records to make predictive recommendations for cancer patients.

David also assured that big data doesn’t make the human redundant: “To unleash power of big data we must combine data, tools, algorithms, and humans.” The big advantage of the human is still creativity and intuition which cannot (yet) be subsidised by computers. David’s slides can be found here.

The Century of the Asian Consumer

Bernd Schmitt from the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight started with telling us that the Asian consumer is the reference point for commerce and marketplace of the future. He specifically pointed out India, China, and south-east Asia where immense growth is occurring at lightning speed and by mid of this century China’s economy will be 2-3 times the size of the US’s. By 2020 54% of middle class consumers will live in Asia, brands should keep that in mind when thinking about message prioritization.

It is essential for companies to understand the diversity of the region, the similarity and differences of the Asian consumer due to the broad diversity and variety of cultures. Asian consumer behavior instead of the US one will dictate initial product and marketing decisions for major brands in the not so far future, Bernd said. Furthermore brands have to accept that the Asian consumer collective is directly related to family (India), friends, youth culture (South Korea), and nation (North Korea).

One example would be the one-child policy in China that makes it less collectively and as individual as American. Also the Asian landscape is changing for the future, leaning more towards a city mindset. Bernd reminded us that Asians love luxury brands but are also focused on value but at the same time not all Asians are the same, the general stereotype no longer exists due to globalisation.

If brands plan to expand their reach it is notable that a pan-Asian strategy will require a detailed assessment, market by market; with attention to those emerging. One advantage would be that English is official business language in most Asian countries and expanding. His final advice: Think global, act local!

Disrupting the Future: Is Higher Education #Over?

The last talk of Day One was by Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer of Columbia University. He started off with encouraging us to “ABC – Always Be Collecting” and share as appropriate and recommended to use the Dark Sky app which uses state-of-the-art weather forecasting to predict when it will rain or snow to the min.

Furthermore he starts a tweet challenge telling attendees to mention everyone on Twitter he talks about. First one was Salman Kahn as Sree was introducing the topic with the Kahn Academy and its success of online education. It’s only one example of how MOOCs are destined to disrupt poverty with making education available to everyone (with Internet access). At Columbia it is also intended to be used for preparation of students for a more in-depth in-class lecture.

Some of the benefits of MOOCs he mentioned include: It provides experience with new learning platforms to benefit on-campus learning, brand-building for particular programs, and learning and retraining opportunities for alumni. He introduces three options for online learning: CourseraedX and Udacity. He quoted Prof Hitendra Wadhwa on online education: “Inspire, not just inform!” You can find his slides here.

And after some wine and networking a great first day ended. Up next, watch for Day Two at the Brite Conference 2013.

Follow the conference on Twitter @Briteconf and check out their Storify compilation.


About Luisa Ruppert

I am a recent graduate of International Management from Germany and have been working for SAP as an intern since April 2011 in Galway, Ireland and since March 2012 in New York. I am interested in social media, marketing, advertising, current affairs, technology news, politics and photography. In my spare time I love going to Broadway shows or a good movie as well as strolling around this exciting city.



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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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The Future Of Supplier Collaboration: 9 Things CPOs Want Their Managers To Know Now

Sundar Kamak

As a sourcing or procurement manager, you may think there’s nothing new about supplier collaboration. Your chief procurement officer (CPO) most likely disagrees.
Forward-thinking CPOs acknowledge the benefit of supplier partnerships. They not only value collaboration, but require a revolution in how their buying organization conducts its business and operations. “Procurement must start looking to suppliers for inspiration and new capability, stop prescribing specifications and start tapping into the expertise of suppliers,” writes David Rae in Procurement Leaders. The CEO expects it of your CPO, and your CPO expects it of you. For sourcing managers, this can be a lot of pressure.

Here are nine things your CPO wants you to know about how supplier collaboration is changing – and why it matters to your company’s future and your own future.

1. The need for supplier collaboration in procurement is greater than ever

Over half (65%) of procurement practitioners say procurement at their company is becoming more collaborative with suppliers, according to The Future of Procurement, Making Collaboration Pay Off, by Oxford Economics. Why? Because the pace of business has increased exponentially, and businesses must be able to respond to new market demands with agility and innovation. In this climate, buyers are relying on suppliers more than ever before. And buyers aren’t collaborating with suppliers merely as providers of materials and goods, but as strategic partners that can help create products that are competitive differentiators.

Supplier collaboration itself isn’t new. What’s new is that it’s taken on a much greater urgency and importance.

2. You’re probably not realizing the full collective power of your supplier relationships

Supplier collaboration has always been a function of maintaining a delicate balance between demand and supply. For the most part, the primary focus of the supplier relationship is ensuring the right materials are available at the right time and location. However, sourcing managers with a narrow focus on delivery are missing out on one of the greatest advantages of forging collaborative supplier partnerships: an opportunity to drive synergies that are otherwise perceived as impossible within the confines of the business. The game-changer is when you drive those synergies with thousands, not hundreds of suppliers. Look at the Apple Store as a prime example of collaboration en masse. Without the apps, the iPhone is just another ordinary phone!

3. Collaboration comes in more than one flavor

Suppliers don’t just collaborate with you to provide a critical component or service. They also work with your engineers to help ensure costs are optimized from the buyer’s perspective as well as the supplier’s side. They may even take over the provisioning of an entire end-to-end solution. Or co-design with your R&D team through joint research and development. These forms of collaboration aren’t new, but they are becoming more common and more critical. And they are becoming more impactful, because once you start extending any of these collaboration models to more and more suppliers, your capabilities as a business increase by orders of magnitude. If one good supplier can enable your company to build its brand, expand its reach, and establish its position as a market leader – imagine what’s possible when you work collaboratively with hundreds or thousands of suppliers.

4. Keeping product sustainability top of mind pays off

Facing increasing demand for sustainable products and production, companies are relying on suppliers to answer this new market requirement.

As a sourcing manager, you may need to go outside your comfort zone to think about new, innovative ways to collaborate for achieving sustainability. Recently, I heard from an acquaintance who is a CPO of a leading services company. His organization is currently collaborating with one of the largest suppliers in the world to adhere to regulatory mandates and consumer demand for “lean and green” lightbulbs. Although this approach was interesting to me, what really struck me was his observation on how this co-innovation with the supplier is spawning cost and resource optimization and the delivery of competitive products. As reported by Andrew Winston in The Harvard Business Review, Target and Walmart partnered to launch the Personal Care Sustainability Summit last year. So even competitors are collaborating with each other and with their suppliers in the name of sustainability.

5. Co-marketing is a win-win

Look at your list of suppliers. Does anyone have a brand that is bigger than your company’s? Believe it or not, almost all of us do. So why not seize the opportunity to raise your and your supplier’s brand profile in the marketplace?

Take Intel, for example. The laptop you’re working on right now may very well have an “Intel inside” sticker on it. That’s co-marketing at work. Consistently ranked as one of the world’s top 100 most valuable brands by Millward Brown Optimor, this largest supplier of microprocessors is world-renowned for its technology and innovation. For many companies that buy supplies from Intel, the decision to co-market is a strategic approach to convey that the product is reliable and provides real value for their computing needs.

6. Suppliers get to choose their customers, too

Increased competition for high-performing suppliers is changing the way procurement operates, say 58% of procurement executives in the Oxford Economics study. Buyers have a responsibility to the supplier – and to their CEO – to be a customer of choice. When the economy is going well, you might be able to dictate the supplier’s goods and services – and sometimes even the service delivery model. When times get tough (and they can very quickly), suppliers will typically reevaluate your organization’s needs to see whether they can continue service in a fiscally responsible manner. To secure suppliers’ attention in favorable and challenging economic conditions, your organization should establish collaborative and mutually productive partnerships with them.

7. Suppliers can help simplify operations

Cost optimization will always be one of your performance metrics; however, that is only one small part of the entire puzzle. What will help your organization get noticed is leveraging the supplier relationship to innovate new and better ways of managing the product line and operating the business while balancing risk and cost optimization. Ask yourself: Which functions are no longer needed? Can they be outsourced to a supplier that can perform them better? What can be automated?

8. Suppliers have a better grasp of your sourcing categories than you do

Understand your category like never before so that your organization can realize the full potential of its supplier investments while delivering products that are consistent and of high quality. How? By leveraging the wisdom of your suppliers. To be blunt: they know more than you do. Tap into that knowledge to gain a solid understanding of the product, market category, suppliers’ capabilities, and shifting dynamics in the industry, If a buyer does not understand these areas deeply, no amount of collaboration will empower a supplier to help your company innovate as well as optimize costs and resources.

9. Remember that there’s something in it for you as well

All of us want to do strategic, impactful work. Sourcing managers with aspirations of becoming CPOs should move beyond writing contracts and pushing PO requests by building strategic procurement skill sets. For example, a working knowledge in analytics allows you to choose suppliers that can shape the market and help a product succeed – and can catch the eye of the senior leadership team.

Sundar Kamak is global vice president of solutions marketing at Ariba, an SAP company.

For more on supplier collaboration, read Making Collaboration Pay Off, part of a series on the Future of Procurement, by Oxford Economics.


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Create A Culture That Doesn’t Fear Failure

JP George

A fear of failure could be holding back your business.

If the people on your team are worrying about being ridiculed or blamed for independent creativity or the downfall of an entire project, they are likely to hold back their ideas and stick to completing projects in the same way over and over again. In comparison, people who work in an office culture with no fear of failure feel free to bounce ideas around, which helps generate new practices, keep up with the times, push projects along, and can “wow” customers with innovation.

Changing the way your office works won’t happen overnight, but these five tips could begin to implement positive changes to help steer your team toward a working environment that is good for the staff and good for the business.

1. Recognize and reward

Employee recognition is the key to not fearing failure. When an employee or team member goes above and beyond; make sure they know that their hard work is appreciated and that an efficient system for providing employee recognition awards is in place. Even small things like suggesting a new way to carry out a particular process should be celebrated. If an employee, colleague, or team member has a suggestion that isn’t quite on-point, find the positive; for example, you might say, “You’re on the right lines, your idea will help speed the process up, but…” Always make sure to offer positive feedback first, then mention the thing that needs changing, and end with encouragement: “Once that’s ironed out, we can implement this — great work!”

2. Adopt a team mentality

Seems straightforward and fairly obvious for a first step, but so many companies do not know how to really generate a feeling of teamwork and inclusivity, and instead put up a front of “togetherness” while retaining the bad practices that divide a workforce. Start by calling a team meeting and setting some ground rules together. Yes, it’s a basic ice-breaking activity in almost all training sessions, but it also helps each person to display respect and hear the opinions of other members of the group. Suggest from the start that the team use “we” rather than individual pronouns when discussing projects, as it helps to dispel blame culture and reminds each person that they are all responsible for any successes and downfalls of the team.

3. Say “yes” more

When staff members and colleagues approach you with ideas and innovation, are you more likely to think “straying from the status quo is dangerous,” or are you willing to hear the person out and let their creative juices flow? Even if the first suggestion they offer is horrible, try not to say “no” outright or make the person feel bad for sharing. Try to find a way in which their idea can be incorporated, even if it has to be altered to fit the project. Saying “yes” to the inspiration and thoughts generated by staff and colleagues means that they will be likely to offer more ideas in the future, and without that openness, you might miss the next great innovation in your industry.

4. Blame less

Similarly, try to incorporate policies that encourage employee recognition rather than shame for sharing concepts. If failure does occur, do not publicly belittle the person deemed responsible, even in jest. This creates tension within the office or team and can make the person receiving the blame less likely to contribute in the future, and may even affect their personal well-being. Instead of blaming and shaming, discuss what went wrong as a group, and try to enforce the group mentality of “we could have done…” rather than “I/they/she/he did…”

5. Look for the positives

If, for any reason, your team does experience failure—and you should, otherwise you’re just not aiming high enough—try to see the positives, and discuss the issue as a group — not in cliques of us vs. them, but together discuss what the group could have done better. If a majority insist on blaming one or two people, move onto analyzing how communication channels could be opened up and ask members how inclusivity could be improved. After all, if only a few people are responsible for a project failing, the responsibility was obviously not being shared in an equal manner while the project was underway. There are positives to every situation, even if it is just the ability to improve your team dynamic.

The changes won’t happen immediately, but once the systems are in place and your staff, colleagues, and team members start to understand the goals within both the office and working environment as a whole, your employees’ creativity should start flowing and you will start hearing new suggestions regularly. Even if some don’t work well, remember to recognize employees and enjoy the rewards of your newly open and trusting workforce.

Want more employee engagement tips? See Boost Productivity With These 4 Brain Breaks.


About JP George

JP George grew up in a small town in Washington. After receiving a Master's degree in Public Relations, JP has worked in a variety of positions, from agencies to corporations all across the globe. Experience has made JP an expert in topics relating to leadership, talent management, and organizational business.

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