4 Tips for Creating Catchy Blog Titles That Get More Clicks

February 22, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

Creating a blog is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences a person can have. It takes a ton of work, but once you start to notice spikes in your traffic the feeling is pure exhilaration.

Due to a crowded blog market, it's harder than ever before to create a high-quality blog. According to CopyBlogger, 80 percent of the people who see your blog post will never make it past the headline. The study concluded that 8 in 10 readers would read the headline, then skip right past the article.

The suggestion here is that the title to a blog post is far more important than we once thought. So how do we improve our headlines and get more clicks?

1. Clarify the content of the post.

Staying accurate when writing a blog post and title. However, when we pick a title with a little flash, sometimes we have to clarify the content of the post in the title.

As an example, you could say, "How One Website Increased Revenue by 398 Percent." A better option would be: "How One Website Increased Revenue by 398 Percent [Case Study]."

According to a Hubspot case study of 3.3 million paid link headlines, ones that had the clarification in brackets performed 38 percent better than titles without the bracket clarification. There is certainly an argument to be made for clarifying your articles in the headline.

2. Open your options.

Sometimes we come up with a great idea and roll with it. It turns out that might not be the best method for creating catchy blog posts. Instead of instinctively going for the first title that comes to your mind, work around it for a few days or even a few weeks.

One of the best ways to experiment with your title is to come up with at least 25 different titles you could use that would deliver the same message. Don't be shy about taking a survey among peers and co-workers to see which one rolls off their tongue. Sometimes a second opinion and having some options can be the difference between catchy and bland.

3. Research your competition.

Coming up with great, catchy, blog titles means being willing to research your competition. There’s undoubtedly someone else in or close to your niche that you follow. You can check their posts as they upload to see if they are covering breaking news or publishing something that you have more knowledge on, or just to get a gist of the kind of content their readers enjoy.

You should couple that information with a website like BuzzSumo, which allows you to search for topics or keywords and get all of the most popular, shareable, and relevant blog posts in that niche. This will give you a grand scale of the niche and undoubtedly provide you with some ideas that will eventually become clickable titles of your own.

4. Use trending phrases.

A study revealed some of the top phrases used in blog headlines on Facebook with the most engagement. It's obvious that people are drawn to certain key phrases. It's your job to figure out how to implement these words into your blog title.

They found that these are the top five phrases:

  • "Will make you"
  • "This is why"
  • "Can we guess"
  • "Only X in"
  • "The reason is"

As time goes on, trends will sway in different directions. Keep your eye on the content regularly being published all over the internet and see if there is a pattern. Obviously, it’s not worth consuming all your free time, but simply paying attention can give you some much-needed inspiration for your next blog title.

Conclusion

Crafting blog content and titles is no easy feat. There are plenty of ways you can use technology to your advantage when you want to figure out what titles are going to be clickable and which ones are going to be forgettable.

Your title should be a big part of your content marketing strategy. Once you start publishing great content with catchy headlines, you’ll begin to notice patterns within your own business. Some titles will stick, some won't. We hope these tips give you some insight as to what you can do to increase your success and grow your business through a vibrant, eye-catching blog.



* This article was originally published here

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Why Great Innovation Needs Great Marketing

February 22, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

Ideas don’t sell themselves.



* This article was originally published here

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Research: Major sports events hold key to 5G adoption |

February 22, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

5G will transform the sports experience for fans in stadiums and at home, according to research conducted by Ovum for Amdocs, a provider of software and service…

Read the full article

at:
advanced-television.com

Fractional Marketing Officer



* This article was originally published here

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39% of Businesses Use Texting to Talk to Customers — How Can Yours?

February 22, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

More small businesses are using texting to talk to their customers, here is what you can do.

Read the full article

at:
smallbiztrends.com

Fractional Marketing Officer



* This article was originally published here

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How to Break Down Work into Tasks That Can Be Automated

February 22, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

Three distinctions to think about.



* This article was originally published here

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There is more to cyber risk than security

February 21, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

Risk experts hold no doubts: the changes technology is bringing to businesses has far-reaching consequences. But the conversation is still split between two poles…

Read the full article at: www.bizcommunity.com



* This article was originally published here

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This 30-year timeline reveals Microsoft’s biggest competitors —

February 21, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

We analyzed the company’s annual filings and charted how it stayed relevant among rapid tech innovations.

Read the full article

at:
qz.com

Fractional Operations Officer



* This article was originally published here

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Nondisruptive Creation: Rethinking Innovation and Growth

February 21, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

In recent years disruption has become the battle cry of business. Disruption occurs when an innovation creates a new market and business model that cause established players to fall. We love the ease of taking, sharing, and storing digital photographs — a disruption that led to the demise of both Kodak and the once ubiquitous film market. Millions of us benefit from Uber’s driver-on-demand service, even as it displaces existing taxi companies.

Not surprisingly, many have come to view disruption as a synonym for innovation. Scores of articles offer advice on how to succeed as a disruptive innovator and how to defend against a disruptive challenger. Corporate leaders are continually warned that disruption lurks around every corner and that the only way to survive, succeed, and grow is to disrupt their industries or even their own companies.

But is disruption the only way to innovate and grow? Is it even the best way? Our research and analysis over the last three decades suggest that the answer is no. Disruption may be what people talk about, and it’s certainly important and all around us. But we found that a single-minded focus on disruption leads companies to overlook another building block of innovation and growth — one that we would argue is more important.1

That other building block is what we call nondisruptive creation, which offers a new way of thinking about what’s possible. It highlights the immense potential for creating new markets where none existed before. This is creation without disruption or destruction. All the demand generated by this kind of innovation is new.

Most companies remain stuck in the mindset that in order to create you must disrupt or destroy. The time has come to fully embrace the idea that you can create without destroying. Nondisruptive creation breaks the existing frame on innovation and growth and allows for a much broader view of how they are generated. It expands the conversation about where real opportunities reside.

In this article we define nondisruptive creation; outline its distinctive advantages for established companies, startups, and society; and offer a framework to help leaders charged with driving innovation achieve the kind of growth that best suits their companies. We then spotlight which strategies trigger nondisruptive creation and which lead to disruption. Finally, we examine how — and even where — managers can identify problems to solve and opportunities to seize through nondisruptive creation.

Understanding Nondisruptive Creation

Although the term is new, the existence of nondisruptive creation is not. It is a feature of business life — past, present, and future. Think back. Before X-rays, what was there? No market at all, just surgeons with knives who cut into our flesh to find (or not find) something. Before aspirin? Herbal remedies, mostly made at home from recipes passed on from grandmothers. And when it came to reliving a beautiful song heard at a concert? Before phonographs and musical recordings, all we had was memory.

Nondisruptive creation is just as much a modern phenomenon. Microfinance, Viagra, life coaching, Post-it notes, health clubs, and environmental consulting are all prime examples, as are, more recently, online dating, crowdfunding, and smartphone accessories. In each case, the pie was expanded without destroying existing businesses or markets.

Take microfinance, one of the many examples in our research. Today it’s a thriving industry. But 35 years ago it didn’t exist. That market came into being when Grameen Bank solved an unaddressed problem: the lack of access to capital for billions of people living on only a few dollars a day. By offering microloans without requiring collateral, microfinance enabled poor people to start businesses and climb up the income ladder. Did microfinance disrupt an existing market? No. Previously, conventional banks had simply ignored the poor. Grameen created a new model for making financial services available to once noncustomers of banking services.

Or think of a service like life coaching. It’s now also a multibillion-dollar industry and among the fastest growing professions in the U.S. But again, 25 years ago it didn’t exist, until someone had a brand-new idea for helping people improve the quality of their personal and professional lives. Life coaching didn’t disrupt an existing market or industry. It only created a new one.

Viagra is yet another multibillion-dollar business that didn’t arise at the expense of an existing industry or player. It unlocked an even broader opportunity, the market for lifestyle drugs that had not previously existed.

We continue to see the nondisruptive creation of significant new markets. The only thing the online dating industry disrupted was loneliness. Crowdfunding stepped into a space that venture capitalists and banks had ignored, displacing only the frustration of aspiring individuals without the connections or track record to access capital to realize their dreams. The mobile phone accessories market didn’t displace anything, and it now racks up more than $70 billion in annual revenue.

As these examples illustrate, when you put on the lens of nondisruptive creation, you quickly discover that it is all around us. Just look to the historical evolution of the North American Industry Classification Standard published by the U.S. Census Bureau. Since 1997, it has been revised several times to keep up with the pace of industry creation, re-creation, and growth. In these new versions, while disruption is certainly at play, entirely new categories were also created to recognize the emergence of brand-new nondisruptive market spaces and industries.2

Whether in advanced nations or in developing countries, history has shown nondisruptive creation to be key to innovation and growth as disruption has been. Despite all this, our recognition of the significance of nondisruptive creation is little more than nascent.

Going Beyond Disruptive Trade-Offs

In nine short years, some 75 million riders have flocked to Uber. Yet cities have gone to great lengths to rein in the company. Why? Well, congestion is up and public transportation ridership is down. But most significantly, the company’s success has come at the expense of taxi drivers. In New York City, for example, taxi medallions were long seen as a retirement ticket. Thanks to Uber, their value has plunged from more than $1 million to as low as $175,000. Six taxi drivers have committed suicide as taxi earnings have nosedived by over 20% since the appearance of Uber and other ride-hailing services.

The disruption of photographic film by digital photography had a profound impact on Rochester, New York, Kodak’s longtime headquarters. Kodak’s bankruptcy cost the city 55,000 well-paid jobs. That loss significantly hurt vendors, retailers, real estate values, service firms, and nonprofit organizations. This single disruption was arguably large enough to decimate a small community.

Disruption unlocks growth and creates compelling value for end users, but at painful adjustment costs for societies. It imposes a trade-off. Shuttered companies, lost jobs, and hurt communities are inherent by-products, as market creation and market destruction are inextricably linked.

Part of nondisruptive creation’s appeal is that it breaks this trade-off. It increases the economic pie with minimal to no social pain. It’s a positive-sum approach to innovation, as opposed to the zero-sum nature of disruption. The impact of microfinance on people, jobs, and society has been almost uniformly positive. More than 140 million poor people have been able to create self-employment projects, generate income, and move from poverty to hope. Moreover, microfinance loans are reported to have a higher repayment rate than traditional loans.

Consider the societal impact of crowdfunding and Kickstarter. Conventionally, few people were able to finance or market creative projects such as art, photography, or music through traditional means. The lack of funding killed potentially wonderful ideas and careers. Kickstarter changed that with a nondisruptive online platform that lets creatives get funding without bankers or equity investors. Since backers receive no financial incentives, a new category of investors was created — people who care about creative work and helping others realize their dreams. Based on an initial study on Kickstarter’s impact by the University of Pennsylvania, Kickstarter estimates that as of 2016 the projects generated on its platform had created over 300,000 part- and full-time jobs and 8,800 new companies and nonprofits, producing more than $5.3 billion in economic impact for creators and their communities.3 Instead of unleashing damage, Kickstarter helps the artistic community flourish.

The rise of the fourth industrial revolution, when smart machines will replace many existing human jobs, makes it all the more imperative that society moves beyond disruption’s trade-off between market creation and market destruction. A study by the University of Oxford predicts that within 20 years, half of U.S. jobs will be at risk of being eliminated by automation.4 To absorb the human capital that will be released, new jobs will need to be created — and not at the expense of other jobs. Nondisruptive creation can play a key role in this evolution. Unlike disruption, it allows organizations to pursue growth without imposing social costs on our communities.

The Advantages of Nondisruptive Creation

Most companies today focus their efforts on what it would take to disrupt existing markets. This narrows their vision and blinds them to the wealth of nondisruptive, market-creating innovations they could unlock. For established companies and startups alike, a nondisruptive approach creates several distinctive advantages:

Making execution emotionally and politically easier. All companies want to innovate. But established companies face high execution hurdles when disruption is the way, because it means destroying their own existing business. Fear of losing one’s job or current status can prompt managers to undermine disruptive projects, starve them of resources, or burden them with undue overhead. Many people forget that Kodak created the first digital camera. But since the digital camera would disrupt its film business, the company faced insurmountable emotional and political conflicts among its people, hindering the change. While Kodak is often held up as an example of what established companies should not do — resist disruption — this does not make it any easier for organizations to embrace disruption that would kill their existing business.

Nondisruptive creation opens a less threatening path to innovation for established companies. It doesn’t directly challenge the existing order or the people who make their livelihoods based on it. By framing their innovation efforts in a broader context that embraces both disruptive and nondisruptive creation, established companies can better manage their organizational politics and the anxieties of their people.

Offering a good counterresponse to disruption. Nondisruptive creation can be an effective way to respond to market disruptors. When transatlantic ship travel was disrupted by air travel, for example, Cunard Line, which runs transatlantic passenger ocean liners, saw no way to match or beat the speed and convenience of air travel. After two failed attempts to enter the airline industry, Cunard pivoted and made a nondisruptive market-creating move by launching the business of luxury vacationing at sea for the public. By shifting the ocean trip from simple transport to a vacation experience, Cunard opened up the entire cruise tourism industry. While the company today is part of Carnival Corp., its nondisruptive creation of cruise tourism 40 years ago has unlocked a $120 billion industry that employs over 1 million people — a good outcome for business and for society.5

Avoiding Goliath. When companies — especially startups — set out to disrupt an existing market, they often face well-entrenched market leaders with far greater financial and marketing resources. While the popular press makes it seem that David always beats Goliath, the truth is that Goliath wins far more often. Do you really want to go head-to-head with well-entrenched leaders? Maybe. And that’s certainly one way to go about it. But you don’t have to. Opportunities for nondisruptive creation loom just as large, and all companies — startups and established companies alike — would be unwise to overlook them.

Reducing conflicts with social interest groups and government agencies. When the social costs incurred by disruption become too great, social interest groups and government agencies often lobby against, clamp down on, rein in, or tax the disruptor. Consider how city after city has attempted to impose regulations and penalties to stymie Uber’s ability to maneuver and expand. Since nondisruptive creation doesn’t displace existing businesses and livelihoods, it imposes minimal adjustment costs on society and allows companies to largely avoid these negative issues.

An Expanded View of Innovation and Growth

The moment for a broader view of innovation has arrived. We need a model that recognizes and embraces both disruptive and nondisruptive creation, since they are complementary engines of growth. Focusing on only one leads to a biased view of what’s possible and limits a company’s potential to create the markets of tomorrow.

Which innovation strategies drive disruption, and which drive nondisruptive creation? Our research suggests that the answer comes down to the type of issue a company sets out to address as it launches its innovation strategies.6

There are three basic ways to pursue innovation. Companies can:

  • Offer a breakthrough solution to an industry’s existing problem.
  • Identify and solve a brand-new problem or seize a brand-new opportunity.
  • Redefine an existing industry problem and solve the redefined problem.

Let’s look at how each approach strikes a different balance between disruptive and nondisruptive creation.

Offer a breakthrough solution to an industry’s existing problem. When an organization creates a breakthrough solution to an existing industry problem, it strikes at the core of existing companies and markets whether at the outset or over time. Disruptive creation is the result. Think of the music industry. CDs were a breakthrough solution (over cassette tapes) to the problem of how best to store and replay sound recordings. In contrast to its predecessor, the CD offered “perfect sound forever,” by moving effortlessly from one song to another with none of the crackling and gumming up of twisted cassette tapes. The CD was such a good solution that it quickly replaced the cassette as the standard music medium. Then Apple delivered its MP3 player, the iPod, offering yet another breakthrough solution to the problem of storing and playing music. Once again, people rushed to replace the old technology with the new. Now smartphones are having the same effect on MP3 players, including the iPod. In each case, the existing product — and often its ancillary businesses — has been replaced through disruption.

The same process has unrolled in navigation. Not so long ago, almost every car had a road atlas. These huge collections of maps were bulky and often confusing to interpret. Furthermore, drivers would have to pull over to read the maps and then hope they remembered the best route. Then came a breakthrough solution to the problem of how to navigate on the roads: GPS devices in cars. Now drivers could input any destination and the device would do the rest, even offering spoken, step-by-step directions. Atlases became obsolete artifacts. With the rise of smartphones, a further breakthrough solution for navigating roads was offered in the form of mobile apps. Today, navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps are fast replacing the use of GPS devices in cars.

The main effect, therefore, of developing a breakthrough solution to an existing industry problem is the disruption and replacement of the old offerings by the new. In this way, existing markets are re-created from their core, generating new demand and growth.

Identify and solve a brand-new problem or seize a brand-new opportunity. On the other end of the spectrum, we have nondisruptive creation. Here, organizations that identify and solve brand-new problems or seize brand-new opportunities create new markets beyond industry boundaries, rather than eating at the margins or the core of existing industries. Viagra identified and solved a problem that had not been previously addressed, spawning all new demand. Life coaching identified a brand-new opportunity for people. Sesame Street, too, created a brand-new opportunity and unlocked the new market of preschool edutainment without replacing preschools or libraries.

Instead of looking for better answers to known problems, this approach leads you to ask: Are there brand-new problems we can solve? Are there brand-new opportunities we can unlock? As you shift the questions you ask of yourself and your company, you shift the opportunities you see to create new markets and growth.

Consider a recent nondisruptive creation unlocked by two companies founded by graduates of our school, INSEAD. More and more students across the globe study abroad. But in most countries they visit, it’s hard for them to get a loan to pay for those studies without collateral or a local cosigner with a strong credit history. Many students put off their dreams of foreign studies for years or even shelve their aspirations altogether.

Our alumni at U.K.-based Prodigy Finance and U.S.-based MPower Financing set out to solve this long unaddressed problem. After learning firsthand that many INSEAD students faced this challenge, they quickly discovered that the problem confronted most students aspiring to do advanced studies abroad, whatever their school. They set out to create a new model where students wouldn’t need a local cosigner, collateral, or a credit history in their country of study to get a loan.

Prodigy and MPower decided to assess foreign students on their own merit — their academic performance and future earnings potential gleaned from the degree they are pursuing and university acceptance. By solving a problem that had never been addressed, Prodigy and MPower can offer previously “unlendable” foreign students the funds to fulfill their dreams.

Prodigy has already given out loans in excess of $690 million to students from over 130 countries. And since its founding in 2014, MPower has provided financing to students from over 110 countries. Default rates are low (approximately 1% at both institutions), investors are interested (Prodigy recently raised $1 billion in debt financing), and the two companies are earning a tidy profit by creating a new market that will help produce the next generation of global talent. This nondisruptive creation is unleashing yet another new multibillion-dollar industry.

Redefine an existing industry problem and solve the redefined problem. Innovation strategies that redefine an existing industry problem and solve the redefined problem lead to both disruptive and nondisruptive creation. Problem redefinition allows an organization to question long-held assumptions and shift industry boundaries in creative ways.

Take the case of Nintendo’s Wii. It redefined the problem the video console industry had long focused on from how to have the fastest, highest-resolution graphic video console to how to deliver an easy-to-use console that combined the movement of physical sports with family-friendly games everyone could play together at home. The Wii’s family-friendly games were easy to understand and play, and their operation was governed by motion, not button pushing. The Wii drew a slice of demand from the existing video game console industry, creating an element of disruption, but it also expanded the industry in a nondisruptive manner by attracting a mass of people — from young children to senior citizens — who had never played video games.

Cirque du Soleil redefined the existing industry problem of how to maximize the fun and thrill of the circus to how to combine the best of the circus (clowns, tents, and amazing acrobats) with the best of theater and ballet (their artistry, music, dance, and storylines). It created a new market between these existing forms of entertainment and drew a slice of audience from each. But it also enlarged the overall pie by pulling new people into this newly created market. Adults without children and corporate executives who would never have dreamed of taking a client to the circus became customers of Cirque du Soleil.

As shown in the chart, “A Growth Model of Innovation Strategies,” offering a breakthrough solution to an industry’s existing problem spurs disruptive creation. Solving a brand-new problem or seizing a brand-new opportunity drives nondisruptive creation. And redefining an existing industry problem and solving the redefined problem draws on elements of both disruptive and nondisruptive creation.

How to Spot Potential for Nondisruptive Creation

What makes some leaders effective at identifying brand-new problems to solve or brand-new opportunities to seize? Our research indicates that they think about innovation in a distinctive way. Fundamentally, they follow three steps.

First, they tend to think deeply about burning but overlooked issues in the world, in their industry, or in their vocation that they truly care about and that people or organizations are struggling with. Caring deeply is a fairly reliable indicator that an issue is of central importance, and if people or organizations are struggling with it, that suggests a gateway to an unaddressed problem or a brand-new opportunity.

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, passionately hoped to reduce poverty in his country, Bangladesh. He saw that the poorest households aspired to improve the quality of their lives but had hardly a penny to buy bamboo to make simple stools that they could sell. The founders of Kickstarter were passionate about helping creative artists overcome the funding barriers that could hold them back. Similarly, the founders of Prodigy and MPower saw that unnecessary funding friction was preventing students from completing important studies abroad.

Ask yourself this simple but profound question: What burning but overlooked issue with which people or organizations are struggling in the world, in your industry, or in your vocation do you care deeply about?

Step two is to understand which organizations or industries would typically address the problem or opportunity and to figure out why they have overlooked it. Understanding why an issue is overlooked will often provide insight into what your innovation must address to unlock a nondisruptive market.

As he tried to understand why poor rural people failed to start microenterprises, Yunus saw that the central challenge was not laziness or wasteful ways but a lack of access to capital. That seemed like a problem that would belong to the banking industry. Yet the aspiring rural poor were effectively treated as noncustomers by bankers, since they lacked collateral or a steady income. Similarly, the founders of Kickstarter saw that the dreams of artists and creatives didn’t match up to the requirements of the industry that could ostensibly fund those dreams. Bank loans and venture capital are based on earning a return on funds, while artistic ventures are not necessarily pursued for financial gain. That made the vast majority of creatives noncustomers of traditional funding. The founders of Prodigy and MPower came to understand why the banking industry viewed foreign students needing funding for advanced studies as noncustomers: When it comes to crossing borders, credit is fundamentally broken. It has been localized for the last 500 years, leaving the majority of students with no way to bankroll a postgraduate degree in a foreign country.

The third step is to look for new technologies, platforms, and/or methods that allow you to solve the problem or seize the opportunity in a high-value, low-cost way. Prodigy and MPower, for example, found that recent data technologies could lead to a novel form of credit evaluation. The technologies make it easier to assess demand in a student’s future job field, value different academic degrees, and assess the earning power of a school’s alumni. Yunus, too, created a brand-new method for determining creditworthiness, basing Grameen’s tiny loans for the rural poor on the tight social bonds of poor communities, like kinship and group pressure. And Kickstarter’s founders deployed a crowdfunding platform to support artists and deliver new forms of payback, like listing the names of supporters on an artist’s website.

Think, how can you use your creative power and the latest technology developments to solve problems or seize opportunities previously seen as out of reach by conventional means and methods?

Areas Ripe for Nondisruptive Creation

Our research has uncovered numerous areas ripe for nondisruptive creation with the three steps above. Many fall under what we think of as the social and human economy. They include mental and emotional wellness, cybersecurity, privacy, upskilling people most likely to be replaced by smart machines, and meeting the needs of those at the bottom of the financial pyramid.

As the world’s population continues to grow and industrialize, mounting energy needs, carbon dioxide emissions, and the production of waste are creating all new problems. One example: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which endangers marine life, damages our food chain, and destroys the ocean’s beauty. Issues like these present nondisruptive opportunities to create a more sustainable world for ourselves and our children.

Demographic changes, like the world’s aging population and increased urbanization, also bring a host of new challenges and opportunities. How can we create intellectual and social engagement for those beyond their prime? What new kinds of care can help people live a healthy and vibrant longer life? Are there platforms that could teach seniors how to leverage the wisdom accrued in life to better the world and create a newly empowered chapter of their lives? Seizing these new opportunities and solving these brand-new problems will likely be the source of vast nondisruptive creation.

As innovations continue to bring whole new sets of habits, tastes, and knowledge, new needs, problems, and opportunities will continue to emerge. For too long now, businesses, governments, and other organizations have relied too heavily on disruption for the innovation they need to propel society. The time has come for them to gear policies and incentives to the delivery of nondisruptive creation, which benefits all of society’s stakeholders.

As we look at the many dire challenges facing our planet and the people on it, it’s clear that new strategic solutions are needed. A model that places nondisruptive creation on an equal plane with disruption will allow us to unleash a wave of new growth and better align the goals of business and society. That more expansive view gives us a chance to improve the world. Let’s make the most of it.



* This article was originally published here

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How to Use Customer Reviews to Your Advantage

February 20, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

E-commerce sites do better with customer reviews than without. In one study, increasing customer reviews from 0 to 50 increased conversion rates from 2 percent to 4 percent. 

But simply adding the ability to leave reviews is only the first step. To make the most of your reviews, you need to decide how you want your review platform to function in order to offer the most benefit to your business.

Here are three important factors to consider as you choose or develop your customer review strategy.

1. Decide which reviews to display where.

It might seem obvious that maximizing product sales would require you to list the most positive reviews first, or otherwise skew the way the reviews are presented to make the product look better, but this is not necessarily the case.

The research demonstrates that customers need some assurance that the reviews are genuine in order to actually commit to buying the product. This means a stream of perfect 5-star rating ultimately seems too good to be true and may end up hurting sales. This is why Amazon sorts reviews by “most helpful” rather than by star rating.

A surprising study by Reevoo found that the existence of bad reviews caused 68 percent of customers to trust the reviews more, and that 30 percent suspect fraud or censorship when they don’t see any negative reviews. Even more surprising, the study found that shoppers who went out of their way to see the negative reviews were 67 percent more likely to buy the product.

Unfortunately, sorting by “most helpful” isn’t always an option, especially for smaller brands where collecting ratings on reviews isn’t always possible. Sorting by most recent reviews isn’t generally a good idea, since these are rarely the best reviews to display. A manual review selection process is the best alternative, if possible.

When it isn’t, sentiment analysis and grammar check are good alternatives. For example, including a review near the top with the positive sentiment but a relatively low score can alleviate shopper concerns about trustworthiness, while offering a relatively positive take on the product. Grammar check can help surface the most trustworthy reviews based on how well written they are.

2. Weigh the pros and cons of in-depth reviews.

An important consideration is how much depth you want your customer reviews to convey. Do you want customers to simply give a star rating in certain areas (ease of use, functionality, customer support, value and likelihood to recommend), or do you want them to write a certain number of sentences about your product? Neither of these types of reviews is inherently better or worse than the other; it all depends on what you are trying to convey to potential buyers and how you wish to do that.

Remember, the easier it is to leave a review, the more reviews you will receive. More in-depth reviews require more work to leave, and fewer reviews can hurt the chances of additional reviews. Consider these inherent trade-offs when you are developing or choosing your review system.

3. Ask for reviews at the right time.

Most businesses will need to ask their customers to leave a review in order to earn a significant number of them. Customers are unlikely to think of it otherwise, and those who do are usually frustrated with the product or your customer service for one reason or another.

A more representative sample of reviews demands that you automate the process of asking for reviews and incorporate it into the purchasing process. Here are a few different times you can ask for a review:

  • After checkout: If you are selling a digital product that the customer can access instantly, you also have the option of asking them for a review as soon as they buy the product. This may be a little early for most products, but if the usefulness and performance of the product are easily grasped shortly after beginning use, it isn't a bad idea to ask for a review as soon as the product is purchased.

  • After delivery: Including a card with your product that shows your customers where and how to leave a review reminds them to leave a review when the product is still new and exciting to them, before it becomes a part of their daily lives and they forget to think of it. You can also send an email when the product completes the delivery.

  • After a specified use time: Some products take more time to get used to than others, and it doesn’t always make sense to ask for a review as soon as delivery takes place. Even when it does, following up again after the customer has had some time to use the product is still a good idea. The amount of time to wait depends on the product, but you can automate an email to remind customers to leave a review at this specified time.

Allowing customers to leave reviews has proven time and again to boost sales. But making the most of those reviews demands some investment in your customer review strategy. Consider how you want to display your reviews, how much detail you want to extract from them, and when to automatically ask for reviews to get the most benefit out of this strategy.



* This article was originally published here

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The Dalai Lama on Why Leaders Should Be Mindful, Selfless, and Compassionate

February 20, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

Leadership requires genuine concern for others.



* This article was originally published here

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Reframing the Future of Work

February 20, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

When it comes to the future of work, many organizations are missing the point. Executives are creating new future of work initiatives every day, but to what end? Many of these initiatives suffer from being too reactive. For instance, managers may feel pressure to reduce costs by 20%, or the board might ask what the company is doing with machine learning and AI, but there are bigger and better goals leaders can aim for, and it’s a critical time for organizations to focus their efforts. Imagine the benefits of a future of work strategy aimed at generating more value and meaning for the customer, the workforce, and other partners, and greater earnings for the company over time.

Yet, far too many initiatives are focused on incremental gains or efficiency-boosting activities. Robotic process automation, AI, and machine learning are treated as shiny new tools, ones that companies can implement for cutting costs and doing work faster and with less human labor. When organizations subscribe to this narrow perspective, the work of tomorrow will be the same as the work of today.

The real opportunity presented in the future of work goes beyond doing more of the same labor faster and cheaper. The big opportunity for companies is to expand notions of value beyond just cost to the company. Companies have additional levers to explore new sources of value and meaning in order to remain competitive amid rapidly changing market dynamics.

To succeed at this vision of creating greater and varied types of value, organizations must shift in two ways. First, moving beyond cost as a driver to value and meaning expands the kind of impact to aim for. Second, by shifting focus from company to customer, workforce, and company, companies can expand the scope of impact. This framework (see “Future of Work Drivers”) illustrates the drivers that guide decision-making and action (for example: How do we redesign work and workplace? How do we leverage alternative workforce arrangements? How do we implement AI?), and help determine how much time, effort, and attention is directed to particular future of work strategies.

Future of Work Drivers: Balancing Cost, Value, and Meaning

Today, most organizations are focused primarily on costs for the company, which puts them in the bottom left section of the Future of Work Drivers framework. We propose that there is untapped potential in moving both vertically and horizontally, to consider not just costs, but value and meaning, and shift from a company-centered perspective to one that considers customers, the wider workforce, and other stakeholders as well.

This isn’t to say that companies must balance all of these drivers and perspectives all the time — to do so would be unrealistic. But organizations should recognize the broader range of actions that may affect the customer and the workforce in ways that ultimately drive financial results for the company. Customers drive economic markets, while workers drive talent markets, and companies must adapt to each. Future of work strategies and the benefits derived will be a function of costs, value, and meaning creation. Organizations focused on implementing technologies to create newfound growth, value, and meaning will be the front-runners in the future of work.

Let’s examine this new approach from the three future of work drivers.

Cost. From the company perspective, cost means: How do we use the future of work as a way to operate faster and cheaper to the benefit of the organization’s bottom line? The focus on faster and cheaper might support a strategy where the customer is also exclusively focused on cost. By assuming the customer cares only about cost, this becomes a game of diminishing returns, where today’s gains are quickly competed away. Within these types of companies, the cost-focus and scarcity mindset extend into the workforce, where individual workers seek to reduce their own effort and time against a given amount of work, not necessarily to the benefit of the company. Decisions are top-down, and workforce interactions are transactional and unlikely to lead to new opportunities or innovations.

Focusing only on cost for the company, customer, and worker is a zero-sum game. As discovered in previous organizational performance research, you don’t drive profits by cutting cost. Instead, companies should find ways to earn higher prices or higher volume, which requires additional levers to be pulled. As decades of research suggest, solely competing on costs will leave organizations wanting in the future of work.

Value. Value is an additive driver that seeks to expand opportunities. For companies, value often means revenue growth through entering new markets or expanding margins with less price-sensitive customers. However, by considering what might drive value for the customer by answering key questions: What needs aren’t being met? How might those needs evolve or new ones emerge over time? Companies may uncover ways to increase loyalty and strengthen the customer relationship. For many in the workforce, focusing on value to others, rather than the tight prescriptions of faster or cheaper, also opens up space to work differently and be less transactional and more collaborative.

From the perspective of the workforce, people are afforded additional nonmonetary value when they are given opportunities to learn and develop new skills that will help them advance in their jobs, now and in the future. Consider the financial services company that made a deliberate decision not to aim for reductions in head count as it transformed its back-office finance and IT functions. Finance staff were given tools to automate and streamline much of their current work (data collection, metric calculation, report generation), and they were encouraged to use freed-up time to engage with the business partners they supported to identify more useful metrics and valuable insights to support decision-making. At the same time, the customer-facing workers were trained to be better at understanding customers and finding ways to better serve them over time.

These steps led to major shifts: The company changed sales targets, shifted retail staff from pushing products to building customer relationships, and equipped loan officers with tablets so that they could serve customers remotely. By changing how they worked, rather than reducing jobs through automation, this organization created more engaging work for their employees. This approach allowed the organization to solve more interesting problems, which in turn led to better engagement than previous roles focused on routine reporting.

Meaning. This is an aspirational driver that seeks to support others in making a difference that matters and motivates people to continue to do better. How do we define this driver for companies? To start, it’s about more than creating a qualitative mission statement or purpose. Also, it goes beyond corporate social responsibilities, and doesn’t necessarily equate to doing something “good” or socially desirable. It starts by asking: What are the aspirations of our customers, employees, and partners?

As a future of work driver, meaning refers to connecting the work back to a deeper understanding of the participants involved — customers, workers, and other stakeholders — and the bigger impact the work will have on helping them achieve their aspirations. Wharton management professor Adam Grant found call center employees were 171% more productive when they had the opportunity to spend time learning about the impact their services had on end customers. In this instance, the simple act of putting a face to the name helped create meaning in an otherwise routine job. At the same time, meaning also derives from the day-to-day work: Am I using my strengths and capabilities? Am I working with people I respect to deliver something of value?

Understanding and driving meaning is critical for companies because it is a key motivator and helps sustain effort over time. If you can articulate a purpose that matters across stakeholders, you will get an impact, but if you can also tap into the purpose and meaning for the workforce and connect to what matters for the customer, you’ll get an amplifying effect. By seeking a better understanding of the underlying aspirations and sources of meaning for the customer, companies can also more effectively anticipate the evolving needs of the customer. The catch here is that meaning is more nuanced than cost or even value — it cannot easily be pushed; the individual worker or customer will ultimately decide if something is meaningful. The goal for business and talent leaders is to explicitly consider what meaning can be derived by customers and workers based on the design of products, services, and jobs too.

The Imperative to Move Beyond Cost

Organizations are wired for short-term thinking with outsize focus on next-quarter results. Consequently, much of employees’ attention and resources goes to incremental, efficiency-boosting activities. Given how few organizational leaders feel ready for the longer-term impact of the future of work, many continue to pursue reactive digital strategies — either executing a few visible but symbolic initiatives or bolting new technologies onto existing processes. For many organizations, these fragmented efforts leave much on the table — for their customers and workforce, as well as the company itself.

So, what can leaders who feel trapped in short-term approaches do? We recommend they begin by zooming out. Zooming out means focusing on the broader, long-term forces that are reshaping our global economy and providing a context for understanding how work is likely to evolve. Leaders can develop a shared understanding of how these forces are likely to affect their own markets over 10 to 20 years and a vision for how they will succeed in that future. This can help them look beyond the immediate, see the potential opportunity on the horizon, and set better strategies anchored in the long-term. Considering the longer-term can help pull us out of the narrow view that work is essentially static. This in turn allows us to rewire our thinking about near-term initiatives — What will help us develop the capabilities needed for the zoom-out vision? — without falling into a pattern of introducing incremental, reactive strategies. By utilizing the various dimensions outlined in the future of work drivers framework, leaders can help focus, and even accelerate, near-term initiatives to get much greater impact.

As market dynamics and the business environment become less stable and predictable, adopting this broader, more inclusive understanding of how cost, value, and meaning drive performance becomes an imperative. Those stuck in a cost focus will find diminishing returns with little upside, and the technologies defining the future of work will deliver one-off performance improvements. Ongoing cost reduction is an essential part of operational strategy but as our and other’s research shows, sustainable business value is primarily a function of market differentiation and revenue and market share growth.

The dynamic nature of the future requires us to move behind the one-size-fits-all approach to strategy and open our eyes to the possibilities of achieving aspirations that were otherwise impossible. Using the two dimensions of this framework, leaders have the potential to develop a broader perspective of the future of work that can help define near-term initiatives that will have greater impact. Further, they can avoid the risk of spreading resources too thinly across too many initiatives with only marginal impact.

There is no launch date for the future of work. Organizations must be fluid and flexible for adjusting to the current and future impacts of emerging technological and economic forces on the way we work, organize, and compete. However, by zooming out to gain a broader understanding of the opportunities ahead, leaders can better define the series of stages and initiatives that will make up the journey. Companies will glean more from the near-term initiatives they undertake, and leaders can make sense of the many activities and efforts underway. The future of work is human-driven, and it is up to us to set our sights on the future we want to create. So, to what end will you start designing the future of work in your organization?



* This article was originally published here

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How the Economics of Data Science is Creating New Sources of Value

February 20, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

The Economics of Data Science There are several technology and business forces in-play that are going to derive and drive new sources of customer……

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cloudtweaks.com

Fractional Operations Officer



* This article was originally published here

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How to Be an Effective Debt Collector

February 19, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

Business.com
How to Be an Effective Debt Collector
Tue, 19 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0800

If you ask entrepreneurs what one of the worst aspects is about running their business, most will answer, "Collecting overdue invoices."

Managing accounts receivable is an essential part of running a business, second only to getting and keeping clients. Receivables are how you pay employees, produce products and run your business.

When a client doesn't pay, you have to address it. But it's also difficult and can be even more sensitive depending on how customers react. 

Editor's note: Looking for a collections agency for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

  Ways to Improve your debt collection process

There are a few ways to become more effective at debt collection. Follow these tips to make collecting overdue invoices a little easier.

Be prepared

If you think calling a client to request payment is uncomfortable, imagine how much worse it could be if you are wrong. Before picking up the phone, do some digging and make sure that payment was never received, or that the client never talked to someone in your organization to renegotiate payment terms.

It's also worthwhile to understand your client's business and learn about whom you'll be speaking to. Don't start a collections conversation with the wrong person at the company. Politely ask and ensure you're speaking to someone who can talk knowledgeably about the company's bills and make decisions on payments.

Educate yourself

You'll feel like you're on steady ground if you make a collections call with an understanding of what your rights are. Learn your rights and what the regulations are for B2B collections in your area.

Knowing what you can say and do will help you confidently negotiate with a client whose payment is past due. It also prevents you from taking an action that could jeopardize your legal position, should it come to that.

Document, document, document

When talking to a client about an unpaid invoice, take copious, detailed notes. Document who you talked to and the date and time. Take notes on what your client says. Keep copies of emails exchanged and letters sent. Compile your contact notes and keep all your documentation together. You may need it in the event of future legal action.

Don't make assumptions

Don't assume anything about why you haven't been paid. It's shocking how many companies simply forget to pay an invoice and are more than happy to take care of it once they are reminded of it with a simple and friendly letter or phone call.

Also, don't assume your client's excuses are, well, excuses. They may be valid reasons as to why the company is struggling to meet its obligations.

Stay professional

There are a lot of negative emotions tied up with collections. There is worry about making your own payments, concern with how unpaid invoices will impact your business, and anger over your work being disrespected. It's also easy to feel like you're being taken advantage of.

Put all that aside when talking with a customer about unpaid bills. As mentioned, they may have just forgotten or may have a legitimate reason for delaying payment. Expressing anger and lashing out isn't likely to get you paid any faster, and it might also lose a good client who is simply going through a rough patch or is forgetful.

Establish payment terms

Whatever the reason for the late payment, work with the client to get a commitment from them to balance their account. You may consider taking a lesser amount to get the unpaid invoice off your books. Or offer to set up a payment plan if you think the client wants to pay you but doesn't have the means at the moment.

Regardless of what you agree to for remittance, find out when and how they plan to make a payment and document the information. If you offer a payment plan, be sure you are both clear on how that will work, and, again, document the agreement.

Follow up

Until you receive payment, be prepared to follow up. Start with documenting and sharing any payment agreements you came to in your discussions, whether those were for a payment plan or a new date.

If a check doesn't arrive when expected, follow up within a few days of the missed payment. Continue to remind the client that they owe you and that you're not going away until they have lived up to their end of the agreement.

Consider Hiring a Debt Collector

If all else fails, consider hiring a professional to handle your collections. You should expect that any client you send to collections won't be continuing the relationship. Then again, do you really want to provide products and services to someone who doesn't pay?

Benefits of a Unique 404 Error Page
Tue, 19 Feb 2019 06:00:00 -0800

Clicking a link and ending up on a 404 page can be upsetting for website users, but many companies have turned this less-than-ideal experience into a chance to build their brands.

Whether it's Amazon showcasing its employees' dogs or Pixar featuring a character from its popular movie Inside Out, many companies use 404 error pages to amuse readers and direct them to other portions of their website.

One of Amazon's 404 error pages.


Business.com community member Alex Clark recently asked, "Is it really worth having a custom 404 error page on your website?" The short answer to Alex's question is yes.

"It is very easy to create a unique 404 page, so I don't think it is even a decision whether or not to do it," said Jeff Moriarty, digital marketing manager at Tanzanite Jewelry Designs. "You just need to do it. Think about the potential increase in visitors going on to another page on your website instead of hitting the back button because of the default 404 they see everywhere else. I honestly don't see a downside to using one."

We spoke to a handful of marketing professionals and learned of a few key benefits to having a 404 error page on your website's business.

Reduce negative emotions

The initial reaction of clicking a link only to have it lead to a 404 error is likely to be negative. Creating a unique 404 error page can quickly turn frustration into a laugh.

"Finding yourself on a 404 page can be a frustrating experience for a user – you've essentially dead-ended in trying to find the thing you're looking for," said Christine Austin, creative lead at IMPACT. "Because of this, creating a 404 page that eases that frustration – either through playful content, visual elements or suggestions to getting them to the right place – can be a great way to ease that negative emotion." 

Companies like Drift and HBO have turned their 404 error pages into opportunities to make website visitors laugh. Turning a negative experience into a positive one is an important benefit of creating a unique 404 error page.

HBO's 404 error page.

"It also appears that you, the company, took the extra step to make sure you are creating the best experience for your users, even if they end up on a page that no longer exists," Austin said. 

Keep users on your site 

When used properly, a unique 404 error page keeps website visitors navigating through different portions of your site. 

"Funny 404 pages can definitely help to diffuse some of the frustration in visitors who can't find what they're looking for," said David Mercer, head of online strategy and new business at SME Pals. "However, funny is still not as good as useful in this instance. More often than not, users will simply hit the back button on their browser and look elsewhere. Unhelpful 404 pages can drive valuable traffic away by providing a poor user experience."

Arguably the most important reason to create a unique 404 error page is to direct traffic back to your site. You can include hyperlinks to your homepage, your most popular content or even articles that are trending that day. The degree of detail on your 404 error page is up to you, although a link to your business's homepage is a good starting place for nearly every organization.

In our discussion on Alex Clark's question, Business.com community manager Taylor Perras stressed the importance of keeping users on your site. Don't let a simple 404 error be the reason a visitor leaves your site.

"Don't let your 404 page be a dead end," Perras said. "At the bare minimum, add a [call-to-action] back to your homepage for the user to begin their search over. If you have the ability, serve up general content that relates to your industry or talks up your business." 

The Business.com community members also had some advice: "You can also use your 404 page to get other insight into your visitors' behavior. A broken link can come from anywhere -- internal to your website, or external -- so having a custom page with Google Analytics code will enable you to get some insight into where the bad link exists and give you an opportunity to do something about it," said Chris Martin, managing partner at Brass Ring Consulting Group and Business.com member.  

There's no reason to let potential customers walk away from your website. A custom 404 error page doesn't have to be funny, but steering users back to your site to find what they're looking for is a digital marketing best practice.

Showcase your brand

If you run a marketing firm and someone lands on your 404 error page, take the opportunity to show off your creativity with a funny or engaging page. If you run a restaurant, you can crack a joke or include links to your homepage, menu or contact information. Some businesses may opt for all three options. The exact specifications of your 404 page depend on what best aligns with your business.

"The error page should match the look and feel of the rest of the website," Perras said. "An unfamiliar looking page will surprise the user and make them feel like they are somewhere they aren't supposed to be, causing them to leave the site."

The best 404 pages stay true to your brand's image and voice. Don't try to be something you're not. If your business gives off a serious vibe, making a joke might not be the best play for your 404 page. Stick with what's helped make your business successful previously. In the end, many users just like custom 404 pages that help them get to where they wanted to go.

"A uniquely designed and interactive 404 page shows the brand's quality," said Nina Krol, content marketing specialist at Zety. "If the webmaster has put an effort into taking care of the error page, you can probably expect an extraordinary experience from the functioning part of the web page. Interacting with a visitor on the 404-page level is a way to admit that something has failed but not to let the visitor go and to show that you care."

The bottom line

It's a good idea to create a unique 404 error page. Putting in a little extra effort into an error page can show users that you care about their experience on your website. The page also keeps visitors on your website and gives your business a chance to showcase its personality. Making a custom 404 page is a smart business decision.

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Self-Reports Spur Self-Reflection

February 19, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

MIT Sloan Management Review
Tue, 19 Feb 2019 17:01:29 +0000

Editor’s note: This is the third post in a new MIT SMR series about people analytics.

“Know thyself.”
— Socrates

I’ve been studying grit for 15 years, but the notion that some people stick with things much longer than others is not at all new. A century ago, Stanford psychologist Catherine Cox studied the lives of 301 eminent achievers. Cox concluded that the artists, scientists, and leaders who change the world have a striking tendency to hold fast to their goals and to work toward these far-off ambitions with dogged tenacity.

Picking up where Cox left off, I wanted to see whether grit — the combination of passion and perseverance toward long-term goals — would predict achievement in the 21st century. I was curious about how this aspect of our character relates to age, gender, and education. I wanted to unpack grit’s motivational, behavioral, and cognitive underpinnings. In short, my aim was to study grit scientifically. To do so, I needed to measure it.

Why are scientists like me obsessed with measurement? In the immortal words of Lord Kelvin: “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.”

That is, a valid measure illuminates what you’re trying to understand, and understanding is the whole point of scientific inquiry.

Questionnaires are one way to assess personal qualities like grit. Performance tasks, informant ratings, biodata, and interviews are alternatives. But in psychological research, in part because of their low cost and ease of administration, self-report questionnaires are far more common.

The disadvantages of asking people to rate themselves are obvious. You can, if you’re motivated, fake your way to a higher score. You may interpret the questionnaire items differently than other people. You might hold yourself to higher (or lower) standards. The list goes on.

But self-report questionnaires have unique advantages, too. Nobody in the world but you — not your boss, your best friend, or even your spouse — has 24/7 access to your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Nobody has more interest in the subject (you) than yourself. And collecting data using questionnaires can be incredibly efficient: In my experience, it takes about six seconds for the average adult to read, reflect, and respond to a questionnaire item.

For those reasons, I decided to develop a self-report questionnaire for grit. I began by interviewing high achievers. I asked these exceptional women and men, who had all garnered accolades in their respective fields, how they had become successful. And I inquired about their heroes and what they most admire about them.

Next, I distilled these observations into self-report statements that, whittled down to the 12 most reliable and valid, became the Grit Scale. Further streamlining those to eight items, I then created the Short Grit Scale. Perseverance was indexed, for example, by items like “I finish whatever I begin.” Passion indicators were harder to develop, in part because when you ask people whether they have long-term goals, they tend to answer affirmatively. So instead, I wrote reverse-coded statements like “I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.”

With this questionnaire, I discovered that grit predicts professional and academic success, particularly in domains that are both challenging and personally meaningful. I found grit to be essentially unrelated to talent and intelligence. Instead, grit predicts how much you practice in order to improve. Grit scores increase with age and, perhaps relatedly, go hand in hand with the motivation to seek purpose and meaning in life, as opposed to pleasure.
 
As a scientist, I hadn’t thought much about the effect that taking the Grit Scale might have on people. Then I met two visionary educators named Dave Levin and Dominic Randolph. Dave cofounded the KIPP charter school network, and Dominic is the head of school at Riverdale Country School.

Both educators were passionate about character development and wanted to help their students grasp what it means to exemplify character strengths like grit, gratitude, and curiosity. In their experience, talking about character in the abstract was fruitless because, well, exhortations like “Show some grit!” are utterly mysterious to a 13-year-old who can’t read your mind.

Their intuition was that young people would benefit from knowing about qualities like grit in more granular detail. They believed that engaging in conversation — not just once but repeatedly — about specific thoughts, feelings, and behaviors exemplifying character would scaffold self-awareness and, in turn, growth. In sum, they believed that carefully crafted questionnaires might make that conversation easier to have by laying the foundations of a shared language of character development.

Together, Dave, Dominic, and I worked to develop a questionnaire that became known as the Character Growth Card. Unlike the original Grit Scale, items for grit and other character strengths were written with adolescents in mind and in fact were generated in collaboration with middle school students and their teachers.

After establishing that the Character Growth Card was reliable and valid both in its self-report version and as an informant rating form designed for teachers to assess their students, Dave and Dominic invited students and teachers in their schools to complete the questionnaire at the end of each marking period. Next, the item-level data was openly shared with each student, their teachers, and the students’ parents. Unlike academic grades or standardized achievement test scores, there were no stakes: This information was not used to reward or punish “good” or “bad” behavior. Instead, openly discussing these observations was the whole point.

In his famous Last Lecture, Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch said that “educators best serve students by helping them be more self-reflective.” And Dave and Dominic saw the questionnaire as a tool to do exactly that.

So did Anson Dorrance, a soccer coach I met a few years later.

Anson is the most decorated coach in women’s soccer history and among the most celebrated coaches in any sport. His team, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, has won a record 22 national championships. He coached the U.S. women’s national team to their first World Cup title and more recently racked up his record 1,000th career victory.

In our very first conversation, Anson told me he decided to give the Grit Scale to all 31 players on his team. I was surprised. In such a tiny sample, the questionnaire would not be precise enough for scientific research. Two beats later, I realized that Anson wouldn’t be doing scientific research, anyway.

So why go to the trouble?

“I give it so that my players have a deeper appreciation for the critical qualities of successful people,” Anson explained. “In some cases, the scale captures them, and in some cases, it exposes them.”

Year after year, returning players take the Grit Scale again. Anson thinks that reading the Grit Scale questions and then reflecting on how they do or don’t apply helps his players see how gritty they are now, relative to before. The questions don’t automatically make anyone grittier, of course. But self-awareness, he reasons, is one step toward self-actualization.

Frankly, the idea that a questionnaire like the Grit Scale might be useful as a tool for self-reflection hadn’t occurred to me until Dave and Dominic, and then Anson, suggested it. But in retrospect, the notion seems blindingly obvious.

After all, in my former career as a management consultant, I’d taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Despite doubtful psychometric properties and limited predictive validity, human resources specialists recognize, respect, and administer the MBTI more than any other measure. If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’ve taken the MBTI — and taken its four-letter horoscope seriously. (I am, for the record, an ENFP.)

Because the limitations of the MBTI have been so eloquently described elsewhere, I’ll simply point out that millions of people might be wrong about the validity of its insights, but they aren’t wrong about the need — urgent and sincere — for insight itself. We pay good money and invest precious time in the MBTI because we want to know ourselves better.

Do I know for sure whether self-report questionnaires indeed accomplish that purpose? Was it helpful to publish the Grit Scale in my book at the behest of my editor, who said, “Angela, trust me. People will want to take the scale. They want to learn something about themselves”?

There’s indirect evidence that reflecting on the items in self-report personality questionnaires might catalyze self-awareness and personal development. We know, for example, that asking hypothetical questions about a specific behavior can bias us to engage in that behavior in the future.

It is also well-established that self-monitoring, the intentional and consistent observation of your own behavior, supports self-control in domains as diverse as dieting, abstinence from drinking, and schoolwork.

More recently, a handful of positive psychology intervention studies suggests that identifying and then being encouraged to develop your strengths may increase well-being.

Although more research is needed, I am compelled by the possibility that questionnaires might deepen self-awareness of strengths like grit. I am intrigued by the possibility that questionnaires used in this way might contribute to shared language, common understanding, and, ultimately, a culture of character.

For a century, psychologists have been obsessed with measurement for the purpose of scientific research. For much longer, human beings have been concerned with self-awareness and self-development.

How gritty are you? As a scientist, I’d like to know. But perhaps you, too, are just as curious. And perhaps the same measures developed for research might help you know yourself a bit better. If self-awareness illuminates the path to self-development, a questionnaire is a good place to begin.

Business.com
When You Know Your Business Website Needs an Overhaul
Tue, 19 Feb 2019 06:00:00 -0800

How long do you think it takes for people to make a decision about your business judging from your website? The answer is a shocking 0.5 seconds before they decide whether they like what they see or not.

Consumers have so many choices before them. They have no reason to see if their first impression of your business is a poor one as they know they can go elsewhere.

For businesses, this first impression forms a consumer's perception of your entire company. Sleek and modern design, in the minds of visitors, represents a company that is on top of its game, one that offers quality products or services along with a high degree of customer service. However, dated, slow websites make a bad first impression and really affect your bottom line.

How do you turn things around? How do you know when it's time for a website redesign? Below are five signs that all is not well.

1. Your website doesn't work well on mobile devices.

With more than 50 percent of all internet searches now carried out via smartphones, your website has to work well for mobile. Also, Google now punishes websites that don't take mobile users into account. If your website is not mobile friendly, it won't appear very high on the search engine results pages.

Of course, a lower ranking leads to reduced traffic and sales. Having a website that is viewable via a mobile device is now essential. It must be easy to navigate and have everything displayed in a way that's easy to follow.

2. Your website is slow.

People are impatient, so if your website is slow to load, they will go elsewhere. Your website must load within 3 seconds or one out of every two visitors will leave.

People want to see what they came for instantly. There are a number of factors that affect your site's speed. You could have problems with how your site is coded.  Your server could be handling too many requests simultaneously. The file sizes on your website may require so much power that it slows everything else down.

Most of these issues are related to poor design either due to a bad developer or that your website is outdated.

Editor's note: Need a website design service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

 
3. You have a high bounce rate.

Look at your bounce rate. If it's high, it's time to make some changes. The bounce rate represents the percentage of visitors that come to your website and then leave without clicking on anything.

Let's say your bounce rate is 33 percent. This then means one out of every three visitors to your site aren't even exploring what you have to offer. In other words, you are missing out on a huge percentage of your sales.

This is all due to a poor first impression. Changing the design and content to something more suitable will make a difference.

4. Your design is outdated.

Web design moves with the times. An old design leads people to think your company is outdated. People feel confident buying your products or services if they feel like the business is keeping up with the times.

Assess your competition and check out their websites. Do their sites look sleeker than yours? Is the user experience better with smoother navigation? Does it make you feel that your website is nothing but an antique?

Update your site's design on a semi-regular basis, and opinions about your business will improve.

5. You have Flash on your website.

Back in the early days of websites, Adobe Flash was something everyone wanted to have on their site. It made websites look cool and you were able to play media on your pages.

Now, however, few browsers support it as the plugin itself is outdated and full of holes. If you have Flash on your website, then expect slow loading times and that frustration in your visitors will build.

This isn't an extensive list, but they are important. Do yourself a favor and get your website checked by a professional who can tell you where you are going wrong. The future of your business depends on it.

Why Modern Businesses Must Set Sustainability Goals
Tue, 19 Feb 2019 07:00:00 -0800

The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change study is the latest in a long line of research that affirms how urgently and drastically we need to act to halt the progression of climate change. If we are to preserve our planet for future generations, we have to curb emissions by about 60 percent immediately.

These reports are frightening, but they also show that everyone has a part to play in keeping Earth a habitable home. It’s a call to action, not despair.

I felt this call personally when I was confronted with my own seemingly hopeless situation. I was gripped by an intense need to make the most of my time, skills, and opportunities when my son was diagnosed with cancer, and again when I was diagnosed with stage four neck and throat cancer. I didn’t know if our cancer came from genetics or the environment, but I knew the environment — the factor I could control — can play a role.

 

My decision to align my business with a mission to improve our planet was one of the best I’ve made. As we’ve sought to reduce our CO2 emissions, filter pollutants from stormwater or reduce urban heat loads, we have found new purpose in every project. Employees have eagerly embraced this mission, discovering new passion for their work along the way.

Private sector businesses can be just as mission-driven as nonprofits. In my experience, the world of creating and selling products allows for even more creativity and gives me the chance to make a greater impact than I could have otherwise.

If you’re ready to get more creative with your own sustainability efforts, there are a few principles you should follow. Consider these the three “green rules” of any sustainability plan:

1. Embrace a culture of sustainability. 

It should go without saying, considering the dire picture scientists are painting, but sustainability is more than a marketing gimmick. A true commitment to renewable energy must be integrated into the entire company culture.

This means thinking about the big moves like setting a time frame for taking your company paperless and the small ones like celebrating individual efforts by your employees. It means giving sustainability efforts primacy of place in your newsletters and on social media. It means encouraging personal responsibility on the part of everyone in your organization.

It also means communicating the ways in which moves toward renewable energy and less waste are improving your business and community, both locally and globally. Studies have shown the correlation between sustainability efforts, impact on sustainable development, and company bottom line. Make these correlations clear for your employees.

2. Think sustainably about your purchasing. 

If you want to multiply the effect of your initiatives, then apply the same standard to your vendors that you apply to yourself. Instead of buying the same packing materials, shop around with suppliers offering recycled content - it is more affordable than you may think. Seek partnerships with vendors who will help you reduce waste in packaging and product design. Replace existing lighting with LED bulbs.

Some decisions might require more research. Will electric or hybrid vehicles pay for themselves in the long run? A switch like that might require some upfront costs and extensive planning, but spending on sustainability will maximize your budget and boost your bottom line in the long term. Make it clear to your team that this is time and money well-spent.

3. Take real action. 

Once again, sustainability can't be a gimmick. Your customers, not to mention your employees, will see through “greenwashing” — any attempt to paint yourself as being more environmentally friendly than you actually are. A recent study showed that employees who perceive their employers’ sustainability talk as disingenuous will put forth less effort out of mistrust. If your own employees don’t believe in you, then it’s only a matter of time before your customers lose faith as well.

It’s better to start with small efforts that you can complete than to aim for a big publicity splash and have it backfire. Even small changes like replacing incandescent lightbulbs with LED lightbulbs, converting to paperless processes to reduce the amount of paper the company uses, or starting a recycling program will have an impact. Involve your employees in making a plan, brainstorming together about ways to reach your sustainability goals. With each new initiative, communicate with the whole team about how this fits into the long-term plan.

Faced with dire predictions about global climate change, it’s easy to feel hopeless about the future. But we have more resources available than ever to change those forecasts, and it finally makes good business sense to do it. We’ve finally reached a point where environmentally friendly practices make just as much business sense as doing things the old way. It’s an astounding tipping point: Next year, it will cost the same to choose renewable energy as it does to burn fossil fuels. How much can we accomplish with a whole decade of affordable clean energy?

HBR.org
2019-02-19T15:00:38Z

One in four adults struggle with a mental health issue.

2019-02-19T19:01:28Z

Efosa Ojomo, global prosperity lead at the Clayton Christensen Institute, argues that international aid is not the best way to develop poor countries, nor are investments in natural resource extraction, outsourced labor, or incremental improvements to existing offerings for established customer bases. Instead, entrepreneurs, investors, and global companies should focus on market-creating innovations. Just like Henry Ford in the United States a century ago, they should see opportunity in the struggles of frontier markets, target non-consumption, and create not just products and services but whole ecosystems around them, which then promote stability and economic growth. Ojomo is the co-author of the HBR article “Cracking Frontier Markets” and the book The Prosperity Paradox.

McKinsey Insights & Publications
Mon, 18 Feb 2019
Four important trends are changing the terms of success in retail banking. Banks need to act now to develop new skills.

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