Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.

 

4 Strategies for Boosting Collaborative Creativity

Businesses, industries and the people who run them are changing quickly and frequently. With so much disruptive technology and ideas, you need to be at the top of your game to keep your doors open, let alone make your way to the top. The new business model requires you to be creative, break the rules and move away from the norms. So how can you make your team think more creatively?

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Recruit Good People - And Make Sure They're Compatible

Nothing can replace a great team. Bring in people from different backgrounds and different experiences so they can challenge and complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. No matter what you're brainstorming in your business, whether it's how to make your operations more efficient or an idea for your next blog post, bring in people from different departments to get a variety of perspectives. Make sure your team is open to thinking outside the box and is willing to be vulnerable and open with their ideas. A solid business starts with hiring the best people, so be sure to use them.

Looking to hire "the best" people? That's great, but be careful. I'll take a curious, eager person who's great in a team over a "super star" in most situations, so the "best" candidate isn't always best based on skills alone. Many companies are using personality testing (like Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and others) to get a feel for how people work and compare that to the team members already in place. This can be a great way to help balance out the team and prevent style and "fit" collisions before hiring.

Use Technology

To be able to hire the best people, you can't have restraints on location. With today's technology you can hire people in different cities, states and even countries. Use a tool like a virtual office desktop to have phone calls, video calls and messaging with all of the people in your company, whether they're in a conference room or across the world.

You also may want to use technology to boost creativity in your brainstorm sessions. Let people surf the web, social media and your competitors for ideas. Conduct online research to see if other people have already found a solution to the problem you're trying to solve. The internet gives you the world at your fingertips, so why not use it?

Make It A Game

There's nothing like a little competition to get the creative juices flowing. Think back to when you were a kid and what helped you come up with your craziest ideas. It probably wasn't sitting at a desk, right? Give your employees a sheet of paper or sticky notes and a pen and give them two minutes to come up with all the ideas they can to solve your problem. Don't limit them to good ideas and bad ideas, just whatever comes to mind as fast as they can write it down. Come back together after the two minutes and go through everyone's proposals and expand on them. Whoever comes up with the winning idea should get a gift card or an extra long lunch.

You also can play word association games, make your problem into a puzzle, create a scavenger hunt or any other number of games to get your employees to think creatively.

Let Ideas Sit A Bit

Even though deadlines can help your team make final decisions, sometimes they need the time and space to ponder out the big ideas. You never know when inspiration is going to strike (how many ideas have you had on your commute to work or in the shower?). Tell your team about the problem, and then let them think about it for a couple days. They can do some outside research, talk together or think separately. Then, have everyone come together to discuss their solutions. Encourage others to add onto their co-workers ideas in any way until you have a solution that works for everyone.

You don't have to do anything crazy to inspire creativity in your team. Give people the room and encouragement they need, and you'll be delighted with the results.

The Grad's Ultimate Guide for Writing a CV / Résumé

Donna Moores

Donna Moores

I recently met Donna Moores, who is a professional recruiter and writer. She spends her time trying to help people find their dream job, and has spent more than 5 years learning outstanding HR principles in large industries and businesses.

Donna has a cool infographic designed to help graduates as they seek to market themselves in the world, and has been kind enough to share that with us, along with an introduction (below). To find out more about Donna, you can follow her on FaceBook and check out her Professional Blog.

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Job-seeking was never an easy business, especially for graduates. Lack of experience and knowledge plays a huge role when it comes to applying for a first job. The question is - how can someone prepare oneself to meet the criteria set by employers?

To answer this, we need to look back at the common misconceptions that College and University graduates have about their first job-seeking experience.

First off, there is a discord between the perception of one's skillset and the requirements set by companies and institutions. While college graduates tend to think that their Academy prepared them well for their first job experience, the truth is far from that.

Just the fact of having a diploma does not set your bar higher automatically. As suggested by the latest interviews with HR experts, grads do struggle with identifying their own skillset properly. Academic experience helps you boost your critical thinking, research and communication skills; but that's never enough to outmatch the competition and get the job of your dreams.

When it comes to building up your own job-seeker profile, there is a lot of advice to consider. Lateral thinking and creativity are needed to get your resume to "sell".

If you are a graduate you might find yourself in a similar situation. The convocation is over and now it's time to get some real-world practice. How to keep it up?

HandMadeWritings prepared a stunningly practical "how to" material on this topic. The Grad's Guide to Writing a CV includes best practices, common mistakes and helpful advice from HR professionals, backed up with statistical data. It might serve as a roadmap for any graduate, seeking for their first successful employment.

Getting A Tax Refund? Think Before You Spend It...

Here in the US, April means "Tax Day" (April 18 this year). Filing your taxes can be a hassle, and it's particularly harsh if you have to pay additional taxes.

However, some people look forward to getting a tax refund. If you're one of those people, you might want to just go out and blow it on something fun, or a night on the town. Hold your horses! That may not be the best way to use that money.

Consider The Options For How To Spend Your Tax Refund

What are your options? The good folks at Earnest have put together a great infographic that take you through some of the stats, options, and the pros and cons of each - check it out:

Considerations for using your tax refund wisely - courtesy of Earnest.

Considerations for using your tax refund wisely - courtesy of Earnest.

When I look at the options in this graphic, my bias would be to pay down outstanding debt first starting with the highest interest rate. You should also consider “refinancing” high interest rate debt by transferring it to a lower-interest loan or line of credit. For example, you could refinance your student loans for a lower interest rate. This will give you more leverage from the money you earn, and your future self will thank you.

A Big Refund Is Probably Not A Good Goal

If you got a big, hefty refund, I'd talk with a tax advisor about how to adjust my withholding allowances to reduce the size of next year's refund. While it may feel good to get a big check for a refund, a big refund means you overpaid taxes and effectively gave the US Federal Government a free loan for most of the year. Changing your withholding so that you get a small refund at the end of the year means you have more money in your pocket each pay period.

Of course, if your tax refund is the only savings plan you have, that is another story. A financial advisor can help you develop a more strategic savings plan.

If you want to build a better plan on your own, I know people who swear by "The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness" by Dave Ramsey. It is a no-nonsense approach based on sound advice and no gimmicks.

4 Tips To Make Your Meetings More Productive and Less Time Consuming

Meetings cost us time and money. Having numerous people in a conference/meeting hall is costly by any measurement. Moreover, what is even worse is the cost of an interrupted work flow. In the business world it is tough to do away with meetings. After all, they help an organization, big or small, realign their efforts according to their goals after a healthy discussion with other employees.

As more and more organizations begin to embrace a culture of empowerment and inclusion, managers tend to express themselves more frequently and for longer durations, often causing meetings to become more comprehensive but exhausting as well. Add to this the fact that most of them do not come down to a decisive conclusion, and there is room for improvement.

But there are ways you could keep a tab on the productiveness of a meeting. Here are 4 tips to kick start this process.

1) Have an agenda and communicate your objectives

Needless to say but according to Forbes more than 60 percent of meetings in US don’t have prepared agendas. It is important to realize that, setting an agenda before the meeting begins can cut unproductive meeting time by great extent. The meeting agenda has got to be specific, rather than be vague. For instance, “Amsterdam Project” isn’t as effective as something like “Determine priorities and workforce for Amsterdam Project.” At this point it is also important to keep in mind that the agenda is communicated with your team well ahead of time.

Everyone who enters the meeting room should know, in advance, the objective for keeping the meeting, apart from why they were invited and how are they expected to contribute.

2) Start to time to end it on time

Don’t make exceptions is the first thing that should strike you when beginning the meeting. If one of your colleagues arrives late, instead of starting late or starting all over again, explain to him or her on which pointer the team is currently at. Resist the temptation to delay the meeting summarize the progress for late arrival(s). Unless and until the person’s role in the missed out pointers is critical, ask them you’ll update them once the meeting is done. Remember time is money, and in meeting the time of your team is at stake.

3) Avoid multitasking and stay focused

As the meeting progresses, determine time limits for each pointer and make sure to stick to each of them. In other words, avoid too much dynamism when the meeting is under progress. Reschedule anything that not on the agenda, for a discussion sometime later. One hack that does wonders in keeping to the time allocated to the meetings is placing priority items that are bound to have minimal discussion right at the beginning of the agenda and consequently that is where your meeting should begin. Needless to say the contentious items are bound to go down the agenda.

Another factor that hampers the productivity of your meeting is multitasking. It is technically impossible to check your mailbox and listen at the same time. So make sure to make a formal announcement asking your team to switch off the phones and pagers before you begin the discussion. Only then will your team participate wholeheartedly in the meeting.

4) Inculcate a process of for anonymous feedback

What’s the point of conducting a meeting when other’s opinion is not taken into consideration? This opinion is different from the one you look forward to while discussing a problem in a meeting. Most of the times it is important to take note of what your seniors and juniors thought about the meeting as a whole and what else could be done to make it better and productive. Based on the recaps and responses to the meetings, assess your and your teammates’ performance. Maybe someone needs to listen more, someone needs to express more. Anonymous feedback from fellow employees will help you run more meetings that are more effective, and will help you and your staff get. Anonymous feedback from your employees will not just assist you in running more effective meetings, but will help you and your staff reap more results out of the shared time.

Meetings are powerful, irrespective of the fact that they have small teams or large ones. They help in disseminating important information and help shape the direction of the work your company is into. Productive meetings not just help in setting up efficient, effective organizational processes but your staff ventures back into the office way more informed and empowered. If you are struggling with low productivity in meetings give a shot to the above steps to set a culture of clear direction and plan of attack.

Guest Author Bio: Chris Jordan is the Marketing Manager at Weekplan, a weekly planner web application, used by over 300K users. Read more about Weekplan here.

4 Ways to Stay Productive and Healthy While Working from Home

We've come a long way with technology through the years, so much so that it has given many people the flexibility to work from home. The ability to challenge the status quo of traditional office jobs lures many of us to regularly take advantage of this “perk.” At the same time, this work-from-home capability can negatively impact both productivity levels and our overall health. For example, the desire to wander off and mindlessly snack throughout the day, or the tendency to stay holed up in the house far into the evening hours can become a regular occurrence.

How do we make sure our home serves as both an escape from work and one that encourages increased productivity and an overall positive state of well-being? It’s all about finding the right balance between work and play. By incorporating the simple tips below, you’ll be on the right track for staying healthy and productive the next time you’re working from home. 

1. Get plenty of sleep 

We’ve all heard  a lot about the overall health benefits of good sleep. But did you know that according to the RAND research group, the U.S. loses $411 billion each year because of poor productivity due to lack of sleep? In fact, not only is our production impacted, but frequent sleep deprivation can affect our brains in more negative ways than you would think. 

For one, there is a strong connection between lack of sleep and depression. Studies have shown that people who have insomnia are more likely to be both depressed and anxious. Additionally, a good night’s sleep can help prevent the buildup of toxins attributed to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease - ostensibly, these toxins are flushed by the body when we get a decent amount of shut-eye. 

Set yourself up for success from both a work-from-home and a general well-being standpoint by getting between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Better yet, incorporate the tech aids I've discussed in the past into your routine for an even better slumber. 

2. Invest in the right equipment

If you're anything like me, your computer may be your single most-used piece of equipment during the work day, so make sure it helps you achieve maximum productivity. Do your research and invest in a quality laptop that will allow you to get the job done, especially if you’re working as an entrepreneur or freelancer. Take into consideration key factors like cybersecurity and storage space, both of which you’ll find on laptops like HP's business laptops. It just so happens that 2016 was a record-breaking year for the number of data breaches, so it’s now more important than ever to ensure that your work is always protected. 

If you like to store your information and business files on your laptop, you'd better have backups. Purchase an external hard drive and rent cloud storage to ensure that you’ll have access to your files even if you do experience a tech emergency. Online storage options like Dropbox and Google Drive can provide the necessary backups for one-person businesses or small-business solutions. 

3. Wake up earlier

Some may find it difficult to fully wake up without hitting the snooze button a few times, but this new study may have you rolling out of bed as early as you can. According to Science Daily,  "morning people" tend to make smarter, healthier decisions when it comes to food. 

Not only do our biological clocks influence when we wake up, they also impact our metabolism. By rising early, participants in a recent research study ate a healthier breakfast and continued to make smarter food choices throughout the day unlike their night owl opposites. 

If the thought of waking up earlier is still a little daunting to you, actively attempt to go to bed earlier in the night to make the sound of your alarm just a bit less jarring. If you're an iPhone user, take advantage of iOS 10's "bedtime" feature that reminds you when it's time to go to bed so you get enough sleep before your target bedtime.

4. Make your workspace gadget-free

Our mobile devices and other tech gadgets have grown to become an extension of ourselves in the past decade, amplifying their potential to become never-ending distractions. Whether it’s a phone call from mom, a notification that someone liked your Instagram photo, or even the cheerful ring indicating you’ve just received a text, cell phones and other always-on tech can negatively impact our productivity. 

To solve the problem of being sidetracked by notifications, consider making your workspace a gadget-free area. The average person checks their phone around 110 times per day, so imagine how much time you’d have to get your work done if you didn’t waste it doing just that.

Many phones have "Do not disturb" features that can help by silencing alert and incoming messages. This is very useful, especially if you're about to dig into a project that requires deep concentration.

What about you - do you have any techniques of your own that help you stay healthy and productive while working from home? Share in the comments below!