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Lessons from an EA: 3 Reasons Your Professional Network Is Invaluable

Posted September 18, 2014 by Editor
Categories: Hybrid Thinking
network

This post was written by Rachel Gonzalez, Executive Assistant to Udaya Patnaik at Jump Associates. Follow her on Twitter at @gonzalezrachelr, or connect with her directly by commenting on this post.

As an Executive Assistant, every day I am tasked with managing schedules, coordinating agendas, and finding a solution for nearly any problem. As a sort of gatekeeper, it’s my job to say “I’ll handle that” and then find a way to do it—often there are no easy solutions. Although I’m quite resourceful on my own, the amazing pool of other EAs that I’ve met throughout my journey has been invaluable to my success. The confidential part of our job keeps us from sharing specific details, but the basic situations we’re in are similar enough that we can all help each other out.

This isn’t unique to EAs, however. Having a community of other people that you can bounce ideas off of, ask “what would you do?” questions to, and reference for overall support only helps you become better at what you do, and that’s true whether you’re an EA, a CEO, an associate, or anyone in between. As I’ve learned, collaboration doesn’t only need to happen within your office’s walls.

Here are a few reasons why creating strong professional relationships and fostering a sense of community are good ideas, no matter what your position is at your company:

  1. Co-professionals provide a great emotional support network: Looking for comic relief? What about someone who understands what you’re going through? Although you shouldn’t expect your broader network of peers to share company secrets, that network can be immensely useful for helping you get quick answers or bounce a few ideas around. Especially when you’re feeling stuck, professionals outside of your workplace can offer valuable insights you may not get from within your company.

  2. Seeing things from a different perspective is immensely useful: When dealing with a problem or person very different than you’re used to, you often need to think outside the box. How do I get on a level where we can work well together? What type of solution would work best for this problem? Having a group of people to talk to outside of your workplace can give you a better perspective on overcoming these problems and approaching them from a different angle than you might normally use.

  3. When you’re good to others, they’re often good to you in return: There’s a lot of truth in the fact that building up a reputation as someone who goes the extra mile can increase the chances of others doing the same for you. That meeting you need to squeeze in can be easier to schedule if you have a great relationship with that person’s admin. Having that good rapport with others is a great professional resource. Although you shouldn’t count on these sorts of favors every single day, professional relationships provide benefits to both parties when nurtured correctly.


As long as you’re not sharing company secrets, you can benefit from having a strong network—even if the people in it work at rival companies. Focusing on creating and strengthening your interpersonal relationships can have immense benefits, from improving employee efficiency through collaboration, to providing mutual benefits through competition (like when Microsoft and Apple partnered to share licenses and develop applications for each others’ products).

Ultimately, the decisions surrounding how you manage your professional relationships are up to you. But as someone who communicates with people for a living, I can say first hand that making the effort to create a network of people with similar aspirations to you at other companies is usually well worth the effort.

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photo credit: wagaboodlemum via photopin cc

3 Lessons from NASA on Overcoming Uncertainty in Times of Change

Posted September 16, 2014 by Editor
Categories: Leadership
NASA

This post was written by Lauren Magrisso, Growth Strategist at Jump Associates. Follow her on Twitter @CultureVagabond, or connect with her directly by commenting on this post.

According to a new Harvard Business Review report, today, there are six times more patent applications than there were fifty years ago, and ten times more startups launched every year, creating an unprecedented explosion of new technology and competition in the marketplace. It’s no wonder why committed business leaders are finding it harder and harder to predict and plan for, let alone try to grow in, this state of constant flux.

In these times of uncertainty, it’s difficult to know what to do or how to act. It’s almost like when NASA first began exploring space. Space, much like the future, is a hostile unknown territory. Unlike planet Earth, or today’s current business environment, it can’t be defined or easily understood. Today, as NASA gears up to talk about the return of human spaceflight launches to the United States, let's look back at the early days of NASA to learn how they were successful in launching a man to the moon. By doing this, we will know steps we can take to ensure growth into the future.

 

1. Set a bold vision.


Business leaders need to dare to paint an audacious picture of what can be for the future of their organization. On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy boldly announced that the United States needed to “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon." It was a staggering, overwhelming, and somewhat terrifying goal for the scientists and engineers at NASA. Kennedy sought to convince the team at NASA and the American population that it was worthwhile to do—not because it was easy, but for the very reason that it was so hard.


This would serve as the impetus for long-range exploration of space, inspiring the world to see the limitless potential of man. As an audacious leader, Kennedy knew that the only way to make a dent in the universe was by setting out a bold vision. On July 20, 1969, the United States achieved its goal when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. You may not be landing on the moon, but you’ll never reach your goals if you don’t first start with a vision that aligns you for bold evolution and growth.


 2. Identify your Soviet Union.


In order to be able to take bold steps into the future, the consequences of inaction must outweigh the risks of acting. NASA’s solution for having enough power to send man into Space was converting intercontinental ballistic missiles by replacing nuclear warheads with pressurized capsules for astronauts as payload. After countless tests to discover whether the rockets could serve as a reliable vehicle for man’s journey into space, the scientists and engineers of NASA asked themselves, “Are we really ready to light this candle?” They lived and socialized with the astronauts, and the risk of getting it wrong was literally the difference between life and death for their friends.


 Beyond the perimeter of Cape Canaveral, Florida, however, the Cold War was in full swing. The anti-Communist Americans’ bitter fear of losing the Space Race to the Soviets, particularly after Soviet Yuri Gagarin became the first man in Space, was a strong enough motivator for NASA to pull the trigger for launch. As business leaders, it is crucial to clearly define the consequences that will embolden members of your company to take courageous action and dare greatly. The decisions with the biggest impact are never easy to make, but the fear of failure must be overcome by a greater motivation.


 3. Learn your way into the future.


Employ a growth mindset. With a clear vision and consequences laid out, NASA knew they couldn’t think their way into a new way of acting; they could, however, act their way into a new way of thinking. The scientists and engineers of NASA knew nothing about rockets, flight paths and orbits when they first began. Without formal qualifications that taught them to do the work confronting them, they had to learn their way into expertise. That was what was necessary to build something that the world had never seen before.


The key to their success was that, instead of looking at what they didn’t have, they focused on what they could offer and applied a growth mindset to learn what they needed to succeed. None of us have degrees certifying us with the necessary skills and knowledge that will be required to deal with the future, but we can learn our way into success by harnessing our individual strengths and adopting a learning attitude.


NASA serves as a great inspiration for committed business leaders in times of change. It is imperative that you bravely face the uncertainty of the future by envisioning and building the future that doesn’t exist today. If NASA had simply looked up at the stars to get a picture of space instead of venturing into it, they would have been studying light that is 3 years old. That’s like when innovation teams try to reapply best practices from other companies to their business—the intent and strategy is already years old.

Rather than looking at successful case studies to lift and reapply, we need to take a page out of NASA’s book and explore our way into the future. Be the space explorers and pioneers of your industry. Set your sights big, dare courageously, and employ a growth mindset. The universe is waiting.

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photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via photopin cc

Want to Win Millennials Over? Play the Festival Card.

Posted September 13, 2014 by Editor
Categories: Hybrid Thinking
disclosure

This post was written by Elena McCallister, Associate at Jump Associates. Follow here on Twitter @ElenaMcC, or connect with her directly by commenting on this post.

“Millennials! It’s all about millennials, I tell you!”

That’s a low-hanging epiphany that companies around the world are coming around to. Even corporations grounded in decades of tradition know they have to switch it up and innovate to win this fresh generation of buyers over. However, many companies are stumped when it comes to pivoting to attract them. Millennials are younger and more diverse, social, collaborative, and free-spirited than the baby-boomers that first seeded their success years before. Companies are wondering, “Who are millennials? What the heck do they want? How do they behave?”

As a millennial myself, I see my generation as one that values experiences, not just products alone. But, that’s nothing new. What’s more interesting is millennials’ new influence in changing how people engage with experiences. They have shifted the role of buyers from bystander consumers to selective autobiographers who shape their individual experience of a thing.

The business world can learn from millennials by tapping into this point of view to understand what they value and why. The perfect way of looking at this is through the lens of millennials’ roles at festivals: music festivals, art festivals, tech festivals, and everything in between.

Millennials are wired with high expectations for choice, customization, and individuality. We want to get our way, and we bounce off the walls when the plan is up to us to decide. The world of festivals embodies this trend held near and dear to the millennial’s heart–make it mine. Gone are the days of abiding by a single agenda. Festivals from Coachella to SXSW Interactive to Burning Man allow festivalgoers to write their own script down to the second. So much that you and I could attend the same festival without sharing a single moment in common.

Take Coachella. Not only is the three-day music and arts festival a flower-girl-chic and offbeat fashion show of sorts, but also a Mecca of “make-it-mine”. The festival kicks off when the music lineup is released and a personal wristband (your ticket through the gates) arrives in the mail. Attendees curate their day by picking which band to see out of the six artists playing across the venue at any given time (see here for an example).

Based on what a person wants out of the festival, they’ll choose to see Ellie Goulding over Broken Bells, skip Chromeo to check out the light and art installations, or funk with Flume instead of Girl Talk (at least, that’s what I did). At Coachella, you won’t last long in a group. Everyone separates to do his or her own thing.

At Burning Man, attendees are mostly millennials. As Mark Morfod wrote in a post in SF Gate
 

I’ll tell you one thing: it has never, not even once, been the same experience twice. Name your metric: size, logistics, attitude, cost, art, adventure, music, friendships, hangovers, attendees, dust, food money sex drugs techno dubstep orgy art car oh just shut up and dance. It’s a hilarious, infuriating kaleidoscope of wayward, first-world creative energy and excess.


From helping strangers build art installations to letting go at electronica dance raves to experiencing intimacy in its purest form (“The Embrace,” a seven-story wooden sculpture of two people embracing), Burning Man attendees release themselves into a palpable alter-experience they can only call their own.

This individualization extends across festivals of all kinds, from music to tech alike. Businesses send employees to SXSW Interactive to see five specific booths they could learn from. Individuals attend UX Week in San Francisco to build a set of skills specific to them. Even here at Jump, we run client tours at CES catered specifically to our clients’ needs and what they could take away from other industries.

To millennials, life is about participating, creating, individualizing, and tailoring experiences. With their role at festivals as an example, millennials are looking for experiences across functions that answer this question with a thumbs-up: “Can I shape it to be perfect for me?” Going forward, companies should tap into this trend to reinvent their businesses if they really want to start attracting the up-and-comers of the consumer market.

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