Sunday, March 25, 2018

Freed enterprise: Psychology beats business training when it comes to entrepreneurship
Sep 21st 2017
Among small-business owners in Togo, at least

MANAGEMENT gurus have chewed over the topic endlessly: is a flair for entrepreneurship something that you are born with, or something that can be taught? In a break with those gurus’ traditions, a group of economists and researchers from the World Bank, the National University of Singapore and Leuphana University in Germany decided that rather than simply cook up a pet theory of their own, they would conduct a controlled experiment.

Moreover, instead of choosing subjects from the boardrooms of powerful corporations or among the latest crop of young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, Francisco Campos and his fellow researchers chose to monitor 1,500 people running small businesses in Togo in West Africa. These are not the sorts of business owners who give TED talks or negotiate billion-dollar mergers. The typical firm had three employees and profits of 94,512 CFA francs ($173) a month. Only about a third kept books, and less than one in 20 had a written budget.

Studying lots of small businesses instead of a few big ones allowed the academics to conduct a randomised controlled trial. Usually associated with medical research, these are considered one of the most convincing types of evidence. Participants (in this case firms) are assigned, at random, either to receive “treatment” (in this case, two different sorts of training) or to the control arm, which receives nothing. Recruit enough participants for good and bad luck to even out across the sample, and you can tell, with high confidence, which method—if any—is superior.

As they report in Science, the researchers split the businesses into three groups of 500. One group served as the control. Another received a conventional business training in subjects such as accounting and financial management, marketing and human resources. They were also given tips on how to formalise a business. The syllabus came from a course called Business Edge, developed by the International Finance Corporation.

The final group was given a course inspired by psychological research, designed to teach personal initiative—things like setting goals, dealing with feedback and persistence in the face of setbacks, all of which are thought to be useful traits in a business owner. The researchers then followed their subjects’ fortunes for the next two-and-a-half years (the experiment began in 2014).

An earlier, smaller trial in Uganda had suggested that the psychological training was likely to work well. It did: monthly sales rose by 17% compared with the control group, while profits were up by 30%. It also boosted innovation: recipients came up with more new products than the control group. That suggests that entrepreneurship, or at least some mental habits useful for it, can indeed be taught. More surprising was how poorly the conventional training performed: as far as the researchers could tell, it had no effect at all. Budding entrepreneurs might want to avoid the business shelves and make for the psychology section.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline "Mind over matter"

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions
Shana LebowitzSamantha LeeBusiness Insider US

You make thousands of rational decisions every day – or so you think. From what you’ll eat throughout the day to whether you should make a big career move, research suggests that there are a number of cognitive stumbling blocks that affect your behavior – and they can prevent you from acting in your own best interests.
Here we’ve rounded up the most common biases that screw up our decision-making:
Samantha Lee/Business Insider
Gus Lubin and Drake Baer contributed to this article.

What is a social entrepreneur ?


Social entrepreneurs drive social innovation and transformation in various fields including education, health, environment and enterprise development. They pursue poverty alleviation goals with entrepreneurial zeal, business methods and the courage to innovate and overcome traditional practices. A social entrepreneur, similar to a business entrepreneur, builds strong and sustainable organizations, which are either set up as not-for-profits or companies.
A social entrepreneur is a leader or pragmatic visionary who:
  • Achieves large scale, systemic and sustainable social change through a new invention, a different approach, a more rigorous application of known technologies or strategies, or a combination of these.
  • Focuses first and foremost on the social and/or ecological value creation and tries to optimize the financial value creation.
  • Innovates by finding a new product, a new service, or a new approach to a social problem. 
  • Continuously refines and adapts approach in response to feedback. 
  • Combines the characteristics represented by Richard Branson and Mother Teresa.
The Schwab Foundation employs the following criteria when looking for leading social entrepreneurs: Innovation, Sustainability, Reach and social impact.  
Social entrepreneurs share some come common traits including:
  • An unwavering belief in the innate capacity of all people to contribute meaningfully to economic and social development 
  • A driving passion to make that happen. 
  • A practical but innovative stance to a social problem, often using market principles and forces, coupled with dogged determination, that allows them to break away from constraints imposed by ideology or field of discipline, and pushes them to take risks that others wouldn't dare. 
  • A zeal to measure and monitor their impact. Entrepreneurs have high standards, particularly in relation to their own organization’s efforts and in response to the communities with which they engage. Data, both quantitative and qualitative, are their key tools, guiding continuous feedback and improvement. 
  • A healthy impatience. Social Entrepreneurs cannot sit back and wait for change to happen – they are the change drivers.
What is Social Entrepreneurship?
Social entrepreneurship is 
  • About applying practical, innovative and sustainable approaches to benefit society in general, with an emphasis on those who are marginalized and poor.
  • A term that captures a unique approach to economic and social problems, an approach that cuts across sectors and disciplines grounded in certain values and processes that are common to each social entrepreneur, independent of whether his/ her area of focus has been education, health, welfare reform, human rights, workers' rights, environment, economic development, agriculture, etc., or whether the organizations they set up are non-profit or for-profit entities.
  • It is this approach that sets the social entrepreneur apart from the rest of the crowd of well-meaning people and organizations who dedicate their lives to social improvement.

About organizational models
Leveraged non-profit ventures 
The entrepreneur sets up a non-profit organization to drive the adoption of an innovation that addresses a market or government failure. In doing so, the entrepreneur engages a cross section of society, including private and public organizations, to drive forward the innovation through a multiplier effect. Leveraged non-profit ventures continuously depend on outside philanthropic funding, but their longer term sustainability is often enhanced given that the partners have a vested interest in the continuation of the venture.
Hybrid non-profit ventures 
The entrepreneur sets up a non-profit organization but the model includes some degree of cost-recovery through the sale of goods and services to a cross section of institutions, public and private, as well as to target population groups. Often, the entrepreneur sets up several legal entities to accommodate the earning of an income and the charitable expenditures in an optimal structure. To be able to sustain the transformation activities in full and address the needs of clients, who are often poor or marginalized from society, the entrepreneur must mobilize other sources of funding from the public and/or philanthropic sectors. Such funds can be in the form of grants or loans, and even quasi-equity.
Social business ventures 
The entrepreneur sets up a for-profit entity or business to provide a social or ecological product or service. While profits are ideally generated, the main aim is not to maximize financial returns for shareholders but to grow the social venture and reach more people in need. Wealth accumulation is not a priority and profits are reinvested in the enterprise to fund expansion. The entrepreneur of a social business venture seeks investors who are interested in combining financial and social returns on their investments.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

5 Surprising Ways to Get People Excited About Their Jobs
Brains, like hearts go where they are appreciated

President and CEO, Lead From Within

CREDIT: Getty Images
A recent Gallup poll shows something many of us already suspected: people are not terribly enthusiastic about their work.
In a measure of employee engagement--that is, involvement, enthusiasm, and commitment--51 percent were described as "not engaged" while another 17 percent were "actively disengaged."
If those numbers seem to reflect your team, you probably don't need me to tell you that you've got a big problem.
So what can you do to get your people more engaged at work? A lot of the usual methods--extravagant raises, bonuses, incentive trips--involve huge levels of spending. And even if you had that kind of money, those things still don't get people excited and engaged in their work.
Why not try one of these novel approaches instead?
1. Empower people through collaboration. Whether you're talking about work, leadership, or life, the most rewarding experiences are rarely a solo act. Life at its core about collaboration, and part of building a successful team is giving people the opportunity to come together and learn to care about and support each other. When they know that they--and you--are all in together, the scene is set for a culture of active collaboration boosts productivity and engagement.
2. Entrust people with more freedom. People feel secure when they know they can trust and be trusted. Trust gives us freedom, and freedom fosters creativity and innovation. When people don't have to look over their shoulder or wonder if they're good enough, they discover the freedom to do what they do and do it well. If you more engagement, establish policies and an atmosphere based on trust.
3. Focus on core values. Our values are our blueprint. They tell us how to be, how to act, how to think. At the bottom line, they tell us what drives us. If you want people who are driven, connect with the values that resonate with them. That doesn't mean pandering but subordinating people's feelings to their more enduring principles. A values-based workplace turns employees into advocates.
4. Create a compelling vision together. Success is not a destination but a road that we need to take. Chances are you didn't go into the work you do with an ultimate goal of increasing third-quarter profits. What helps people excel is creating a compelling vision and working together to make it happen.
5. Find meaning in the work you do. As the old saying goes, the only inheritance we will leave that has eternal value is our influence. There are three fundamental concepts to remember when you're trying to achieve meaning--hard work, persistence, and common sense. People who have those raw materials and a tie to a greater meaning can truly accomplish great things. And if you and your team can be engaged in what you do, the work will renew your passions, and your passions will fuel your work. It's the best kind of loop to be stuck in. And it's all grounded in shared meaning, the most powerful weapon we have.
The bottom line is this; to get people excited about their job-- you have to learn what matters to them most, and share with them what matters to you most. Find common ground and establish an atmosphere of mutual respect and caring. Make the connections with and among your team members the most important thing every day in everything you do.

Monday, January 1, 2018

10 Small Things You Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter

Motto: Words to Live By. From the Editors of TIME.
By Jessica Stillman / Inc

Intelligence is a work in progress. Maximize yours with these simple habits


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business ownersThe article below was originally published at

You might be under the impression that intelligence is a fixed quantity set when you are young and unchanging thereafter. But research shows that you’re wrong. How we approach situations and the things we do to feed our brains can significantly improve our mental horsepower.
That could mean going back to school or filling your bookshelves (or e-reader) with thick tomes on deep subjects, but getting smarter doesn’t necessarily mean a huge commitment of time and energy, according to a recent thread on question-and-answer site Quora.
When a questioner keen on self-improvement asked the community, “What would you do to be a little smarter every single day?” lots of readers–including dedicated meditators, techies, and entrepreneurs–weighed in with useful suggestions. Which of these 10 ideas can you fit into your daily routine?
1. Be smarter about your online time. 
Every online break doesn’t have to be about checking social networks and fulfilling your daily ration of cute animal pics. The Web is also full of great learning resources, such as online courses, intriguing TED talks, and vocabulary-building tools. Replace a few minutes of skateboarding dogs with something more mentally nourishing, suggest several responders.
2. Write down what you learn.
It doesn’t have to be pretty or long, but taking a few minutes each day to reflect in writingabout what you learned is sure to boost your brainpower. “Write 400 words a day on things that you learned,” suggests yoga teacher Claudia Azula Altucher. Mike Xie, a research associate at Bayside Biosciences, agrees: “Write about what you’ve learned.”
3. Make a ‘did’ list.
A big part of intelligence is confidence and happiness, so boost both by pausing to list not the things you have yet to do, but rather all the things you’ve already accomplished. The idea of a “done list” is recommended by famed VC Marc Andreessen as well as Azula Altucher. “Make an I DID list to show all the things you, in fact, accomplished,” she suggests.
4. Get out the Scrabble board.
Board games and puzzles aren’t just fun but also a great way to work out your brain. “Play games (Scrabble, bridge, chess, Go, Battleship, Connect 4, doesn’t matter),” suggests Xie (for a ninja-level brain boost, exercise your working memory by trying to play without looking at the board). “Play Scrabble with no help from hints or books,” concurs Azula Altucher.
5. Have smart friends.
It can be rough on your self-esteem, but hanging out with folks who are more clever than you is one of the fastest ways to learn. “Keep a smart company. Remember your IQ is the average of five closest people you hang out with,” Saurabh Shah, an account manager at Symphony Teleca, writes.
“Surround yourself with smarter people,” agrees developer Manas J. Saloi. “I try to spend as much time as I can with my tech leads. I have never had a problem accepting that I am an average coder at best and there are many things I am yet to learn…Always be humble and be willing to learn.”
6. Read a lot.
OK, this is not a shocker, but it was the most common response: Reading definitely seems essential. Opinions vary on what’s the best brain-boosting reading material, with suggestions ranging from developing a daily newspaper habit to picking up a variety of fiction and nonfiction, but everyone seems to agree that quantity is important. Read a lot.
7. Explain it to others. 
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” Albert Einstein said. The Quora posters agree. Make sure you’ve really learned what you think you have learned and that the information is truly stuck in your memory by trying to teach it to others. “Make sure you can explain it to someone else,” Xie says simply.
Student Jon Packles elaborates on this idea: “For everything you learn–big or small–stick with it for at least as long as it takes you to be able to explain it to a friend. It’s fairly easy to learn new information. Being able to retain that information and teach others is far more valuable.”
8. Do random new things. 
Shane Parrish, keeper of the consistently fascinating Farnam Street blog, tells the story of Steve Jobs’ youthful calligraphy class in his response on Quora. After dropping out of school, the future Applefounder had a lot of time on his hands and wandered into a calligraphy course. It seemed irrelevant at the time, but the design skills he learned were later baked into the first Macs. The takeaway: You never know what will be useful ahead of time. You just need to try new things and wait to see how they connect with the rest of your experiences later on.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” Parrish quotes Jobs as saying. In order to have dots to connect, you need to be willing to try new things–even if they don’t seem immediately useful or productive.
9. Learn a new language. 
No, you don’t need to become quickly fluent or trot off to a foreign country to master the language of your choosing. You can work away steadily from the comfort of your desk and still reap the mental rewards. “Learn a new language. There are a lot of free sites for that. Use Livemocha or Busuu,” says Saloi (personally, I’m a big fan of Memrise once you have the basic mechanics of a new language down).
10. Take some downtime.
It’s no surprise that dedicated meditator Azula Altucher recommends giving yourself space for your brain to process what it’s learned—“sit in silence daily,” she writes–but she’s not the only responder who stresses the need to take some downtime from mental stimulation. Spend some time just thinking, suggests retired cop Rick Bruno. He pauses the interior chatter while exercising. “I think about things while I run (almost every day),” he reports.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Microsoft veteran Julie Larson-Green is known for building successful teams — here’s how she does it
Julie BortBusiness Insider US
December 25, 2017

Julie Larson-Green
Julie Larson-Green 
Brad Barket/Getty Images for WIRED

  • Julie Larson-Green spent 25 years at Microsoft, rising to executive vice president and chief experience officer. She lead teams for products used by billions of people every day including Office, Windows, Internet Explorer, Xbox and Surface.
  • Although Microsoft has a reputation for a rough competitive culture, Larson-Green earned a manager who built collaborative and efficient teams.
  • She shares her tips for building great teams with Business Insider, such as how to help people focus on their strengths.

Julie Larson-Green had a storied 25-year career at Microsoft where she worked on everything from Windows to Microsoft Office to Surface devices.
She left Microsoft in November and landed at Qualtrics, the Provo-Utah based startup valued at $2 billion that offers survey software. She’s taking on the role of Chief Experience Officer there.
One of the things that drew Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith to woo Larson-Green was her reputation for building great teams within Microsoft.
“If you talked to anyone who worked with her, and every single back channel I talked to, everyone told me about the culture she built on teams,” Smith told Business Insider.
So we asked Larson-Green to tell us some of her tricks for building and managing great teams. She gave us these four bits of advice.
1. Stay curious about what other people think. Instead of working toward “culture fit,” which can be a lead to hiring like-minded people, build teams to “bring together different viewpoints,” she said.
2. Help people focus on what they uniquely bring to table. Don’t spin your wheels looking for golden people that do everything well. Do look for people who excel in specific areas.
One may be an engineering genius but not a great designer. Another may be excellent at communications but not an engineering genius. Another may be a great designer but not a good communicator.
“Don’t try to make an apple into an orange or a pear. Do hire an apple, an orange, and a pear, and then the team as a unit operates at a much higher level together,” Larson-Green said.
3. Don’t force people to work too hard on their weaknesses. If you are going to jigsaw-puzzle a team together based on everyone’s strengths, that also means that you have to support your people using those strengths and not constantly telling them to improve their weaknesses.
Make sure your employees are giving their “exponential effort on the things they like to do,” she said. “If they are working super hard on the things they are not super good at, it takes a lot of more effort.”
4. Give everyone room to shine. The final piece is to build a collaborative environment. That not only involves having everyone “focus on their gift,” it also means “leaving people a path” on how to accomplish their tasks as a unit.
Managers, Larson-Green said, often “get focused on how to do something and not on the goal.”
But if you give your team a goal and leave it up to them how to get it done, each one can take ownership of the parts of the task they do well. Everyone’s contributions will be appreciated.
“This creates less competition on the team and a more collaborative style,” she said.

You are naturally biased to be negative. Here's how to change
James HewittHead of Science & Innovation, Hintsa Performance
A white lion named Brutus is seen at the Drakenstein Lion Park near Cape Town December 29, 2015. Brutus, who fathered three "miracle" cubs despite having had a vasectomy in his youth, is going back to the vet to have the operation a second time. Brutus and his partner Nala, who live at the Drakenstein Lion Park, stunned staff at the sanctuary when she gave birth to the cubs just before Christmas. REUTERS/Mark Wessels   TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX20F58Our skew to the negative is an effective way to avoid predatorsImage: REUTERS/Mark Wessels

Imagine you are living thousands of years ago among our ancestors. Unlike many of your peers, you’re an outrageously optimistic prehistoric person, roaming the savannah feeling grateful to be alive.

One day, in the middle of a hunter-gatherer mission, you pause and take a moment to look around and scan the scene. Over to your left, lurking behind a bush, you see an animal. You’ve never seen this animal before. It’s a lion. “Wow, what a fascinating creature.” you think. “I’ll head over there and take a closer look”.

Perhaps the lion is friendly, in which case you may enjoy an interesting encounter. More likely, you’re mauled to death.

A negativity bias

For most of human history, cost-benefit decisions have favoured those with a pessimistic view. We may have missed out on some opportunities but in a threat-filled world, expecting the worst significantly increased the probability that our DNA would remain in the gene pool. A negativity bias in our thinking was adaptive.

Fast forward a few millennia and our bodies and brains continue to be built according to much the same genetic load that influenced our ancestor’s predispositions.

Our brains continue to operate in accordance with this negativity bias. Many forms of evidence suggest that ‘bad’ is stronger than ‘good’ as a general principle, across a wide range of psychological phenomena.

Does the threat of illness motivate us to change behaviour?

Unfortunately, while an effective way to avoid predators, our innate skew toward the negative does not seem to be very effective at motivating us to make good decisions in the modern world. We’re much less likely to be eaten by a predator, but chronic diseases, associated with poor lifestyle decisions, are an increasingly aggressive global killer.

If you were diagnosed with a serious health condition such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease or diabetes, you might imagine that this would be sufficient motivation to change your behaviour. In 2012, researchers posed this question based on longitudinal data from 17,276 individuals. The primary focus was to investigate how patients behaved, before and after a serious diagnosis.
After analysing the 12 years of data covered by the study, the researchers concluded that people rarely made positive changes in lifestyle behaviours, even after they had been diagnosed with a chronic condition.

This is despite strong evidence to suggest that adopting a healthier lifestyle can extend longevity, reduce the likelihood of the condition recurring and enhance quality of life. Bad news does not appear to be an effective motivator for change, but still we persist in using a negativity bias to try to influence behaviour. Are there any other options?

A solution to negativity bias?

Dr Richard Boyatzis is an expert in the field of emotional intelligence and behaviour change. In 2013, Boyatzis and his fellow researcher, Dr Anthony Jack, collaborated on a study to assess contrasting coaching and mentoring approaches.

The researchers divided a cohort of volunteers into two groups. Each volunteer was interviewed for 30 minutes on themes relating to ‘life coaching’ and performance, but the coaches who conducted the interviews used two contrasting techniques.

Group one:

Coaches asked questions that focussed on the problems and challenges the volunteers were facing. The coaches emphasised problem-solving techniques to try to identify solutions. This approach tended to bring up issues associated with other people’s expectations, weaknesses, obligations, and fears.

Group two:

Coaches asked questions designed to encourage the volunteers to imagine a positive future, such as how they would like their lives to look in 10 years’ time. The questions drew out the volunteer’s vision in more detail.

Dr Boyatzis describes the coaching approach in group two, which emphasised vision, hopes and dreams, as “coaching and mentoring to the Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA).” This contrasts with coaching in group one where the approach is characterised as coaching to the “Negative Emotional Attractor (NEA).”After a period of five to seven days, both groups of volunteers were asked to return and answer a series of follow-up questions by the same coach, using the same approach as in the first interview.

During this second round of questioning, the students' brains were scanned using fMRI, a brain imaging technique which detects changes associated with blood flow, to measure brain activity. The results demonstrated that the two contrasting interview approaches activated different and distinct regions in the brain.

The Negative Emotional Attractor approach, which emphasised the problems over the vision, activated the sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ nervous system and regions of the brain associated with blaming ourselves and experiencing negative moods. When we experience NEA, our sympathetic nervous system becomes more dominant. Physiologically, heart rate and blood pressure increase, but we are also more likely to make decisions based on fast, instinctive, but sometimes faulty, shortcuts in our thinking. We are more likely to be fixed, rather than flexible.

A plausible mechanism for PEA

The difference in brain blood flow between the two conditions points to an underlying mechanism that may help to describe why the Positive Emotional Attractor approach is more effective. In the study, it appeared that coaching and mentoring to the PEA resulted in activation of regions in the brain associated with developing a plan or vision for the future.

When we focus our attention on positive themes, reward circuits and areas of our brain associated with experiencing positive moods activate. In addition, our parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system becomes more dominant.
When we reduce our perception of threat, our mind may consider that it’s safe to take more time over decisions and think more deeply. We become more cognitively flexible, able to simulate multiple future possibilities and consider new ideas, as well as taking into account how other people think and feel.

These patterns of activity are vital for motivation, sustaining positive feelings and keeping going when we experience challenges – characteristics that are crucial if we are trying to change our behaviour and work towards a goal.

A positive focus to thrive

Psychologist and journalist Dan Goleman quotes Dr Boyatzis as saying: “You need the negative focus to survive, but a positive one to thrive.”

Coaching and mentoring that encourages us to imagine a positive vision of the future, focussing our attention on possibilities and dreams has been shown to enhance behavioural change and increase the likelihood that we will achieve what we are hoping for.

That’s not to say that we should ignore problems entirely. Rather, consider the starting point when you next begin to think about a new challenge or opportunity. Will you begin by listing the problems and threats, or take a step back, make a conscious challenge to your negativity bias and make your starting point a vision for a more positive future, characterised by growth, learning, development and possibility. Evidence suggests this may be the most effective approach; unless, of course, you are staring down a lion.