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Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Origin of Brainstorming: Or Why It’s Not Something to Squeeze into that Meeting Agenda

osborn_foundationBrainstorming happens to be one of my least favorite words. In the corporate world, the term usually means a bunch of people in a conference room shouting out things that someone else scribbles on a whiteboard or flip chart. In my experience, it’s not the best way to generate truly creative ideas. It’s too loud, for one thing, to hear that quiet voice of inspiration. That voice is more apt to raise its hand when just a couple of people are kicking around ideas, or later when one of those people is in the shower, or driving a car, or cooking dinner. But there’s something else that bothers me about this brainstorming thing.

At least I now know who to blame for coining this word. It was Alex Osborn, one of the founding partners of BDO, later to become the advertising giant BBDO. (Oldies quiz for those who’ve been in Atlanta for decades: Remember the ad shop known as BDA/BBDO? When the receptionist answered the phone, it sounded like someone falling down a flight of stairs.) Osborn’s ideas on brainstorming were later expanded upon by academic Sidney Parnes, with whom he partnered to develop what they called the Creative Problem Solving Process, or CPS.

I have a vague memory of my father explaining the phases of CPS to me as a child, saying that it mirrored the general process of the way his firm practiced architecture. The rules Osborn came up with for brainstorming were rules I remember my father using with young architects, particularly the first of those rules. They’re also second nature for most art director-copywriter teams in ad agencies, at least those in which I’ve been involved.

  1. No criticism of ideas
  2. Go for large quantities of ideas
  3. Build on each others ideas
  4. Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas

There’s a tradition in ad agencies that says creative ideas come out of the creative department only. Any account executive who didn’t know better than to pipe up with a headline was quickly schooled by his elders. The way we work now is far too fluid for rigid boundaries of responsibility, and I think most of us in the business of selling creative ideas will take a good one where we find it.

What’s useful about that ad agency tradition, to my mind, is a respect for the hard work of generating ideas. Before the brilliant idea that comes in a flash, there are generally many, many bad ideas. Before any of those bad ideas, comes a period of immersion in the subject matter. Even before those particular bad ideas, there are often years and years of experience trying to think up ideas for a living. There’s a certain way of thinking, of using the brain, that can be honed over a career in a creative business.

Which leads us back to the original meaning of the word brainstorming. According to CPS, it’s a process of 1. fact finding, 2. problem finding, 3. Idea finding, 4. solution finding and 5. acceptance finding. So maybe I’m fine with the word brainstorming. I’m just not a fan of thinking that the entire process is easy.

Want a more creative approach to your internal communications? Tribe can help.

Stephen Burns

How do Millenials define leadership?

It seems the Millenial generation of workers are redefining the term. In Tribe’s research with Fortune 100-company employees under age 35, we found that these younger workers consider building a strong team and good relationships to be high indicators of leadership.

To Gen X and Gen Y employees, being a leader means:

• Inspiring others to do their best (76%)
• Helping to develop other members of the team (63%)
• Building strong relationships above and below in the company (59%)

What does that mean for your company? According to Forbes, “[The] ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break your company in the coming years.” Moving forward, think about where the strengths of Millenials lie: in technology, network building and diversity. Creating an environment centered on these ideals is key to investing in the next generation of the workforce.

How can you use this changing mindset to your advantage? The type of leadership Millenials crave is one that is rooted in transparency, open-door policies and, perhaps most importantly, building an office that thrives on teamwork. In Tribe’s research, we’ve found that these are things that most employee, regardless of generation, can identify with.

The days of “climbing the corporate ladder” are coming to an end. Corporate vernacular is moving away from the image of a “ladder”, in terms of success, instead using the lattice as a representation of the ideal. We’re no longer clambering to get to the top as individuals, we’re supporting each other and finding success together.

Need help reaching Millenials or bridging the generational gaps in your office? Give Tribe a call. We’d love to help.

Steve Baskin

Culture Is Not The Product

new product grunge retro blue isolated ribbon stamp

It’s good to keep in mind that culture is not the end goal. It’s the means to all sorts of desirable ends. But the culture is not the thing that your company is selling.

Remember when they came out with this thing called the World Wide Web? The Boomers and some Gen X-ers among us might remember the initial confusion in the business world about what the Internet really meant for business. Companies wasted millions as they chased ideas that didn’t make sense for them. Of course, over the past few decades, the Internet has changed the way we do just about everything in business.

But for 99.9 percent of businesses, the Internet is not the product. It’s simply a channel that makes conducting business more efficient. The Internet is an enabler.

Dealing with culture has some parallels. Culture, like the Internet, is a tool that we can use to make businesses operate more efficiently.

A culture that’s aligned with the vision is the best kind of enabler. It allows the ideas to flow through the organization more freely. It allows the products to get through the production process quicker and more efficiently. It allows the kind of communications that are necessary to insure that the products we’re making or the services we deliver align with our customer and client needs.

When a culture is toxic, unstable or unpleasant, it’s very difficult for company to work efficiently. We may have dreams of Google Fiber, but when the organizational culture is broken, things can move about as fast as dial-up speeds of the 1990s. But even in companies with happy and engaged employees, culture can be used as an excuse for not evolving to more effective tools or policies.

The culture determines whether the brand promise is fulfilled. When an organization goes about building its brand, it’s making a promise about what potential consumers should expect when they purchase the product or service. Inside the company, the employees are responsible for making sure that the promise is delivered. A strong and aligned culture helps make that happen.

Interested in communications that help align your culture? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

TRIBE TRIVIA: Silos and Company Vision

iStock_000083496539_Large (1)True or False: When employees are isolated in functional silos, they have trouble connecting to the goals of the company overall.

True: Understanding how their work connects to the company vision is one of four negative impacts of silos, according to Tribe’s national research on functional silos. The other three downsides to solos cited by employees are poor communication, limited collaboration and duplicated work.

For more information on this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or shoot me an email.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Millennials: Is It a Generation Thing or Just a Life Stage?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAfCAAAAJGMyOWIwNDNlLTQ0ZjgtNGU0Mi1iZTAxLTJkZDMyOTgzN2E2MQ“Kids these days.” It’s not a new complaint. Millennials just happen to be the group we’re currently calling kids.

Even Socrates piled on. As quoted by Brian O’Malley in a great Forbes post, the father of Western philosophy said: “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect their elders, and love talking instead of exercise.”

Sounds familiar, right? O’Malley goes on to ask some interesting questions, among them: “Are millennials really that different from previous generations, or are we just describing young adults? As Patrick Wright, business professor at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina said, ‘From my standpoint, it’s not a generational thing. It’s actually a stage of life issue.'”

Some like to say Millennials are the worst workers in the history of the world  O’Malley confronts this common sentiment with data and insights that are welcome confirmation for those of us who are fans of this generation’s contributions in the workplace.

“Rather than typecasting millennials as unmotivated, lazy, or disloyal, it’s crucial to look at the larger macro trends in play. Companies used to invest significant amounts of time training new employees. It made sense, because the expectation was that these employees would stick around for decades. Investing in new blood was a long-term bet that paid off over time.”

Millennial job hopping is not necessarily a symptom of short attention spans. The pay off for loyalty to one company “began to change in the 1980s, when ‘you started to see healthy firms laying off workers, mainly for shareholder value,’ as well as “cuts in employee benefits—401(k)s instead of defined benefit pensions, and health care costs being pushed on to employees.”

Data frames this theory in a larger context:

  • “Jobs switching is a broader trend. In a recent study, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Baby Boomers changed jobs just as frequently, holding on average of 11.7 different jobs between the ages of 18-48. Most of the bouncing around happened when they were young—from the ages 18 to 24.
  • Millennials are more competitive than we give them credit. 59% said competition is “what gets them up in the morning,” compared with 50% of baby-boomers. Hardly the generation of slackers they’re cut out to be,69% of millennials see themselves in managerial roles in 10 years.
  • Millennials are more likely to comply with authority than their parents’ generation. 41% of millennials agreewith the statement, “Employees should do what their manager tells them, even when they can’t see the reason for it,” while only 30% of Boomers and Gen Xers agree.
  • Millennials are well prepared. Almost 70 percent of managers say that their young employees are equipped with skills that prior generations are not, around 82 percent are impressed with their tech savvy. Around 60 percent of managers say that the generation is full of quick learners.
  • Millennials are the best-educated generation. The White House Council of Economic Advisorsstates that in 2013, 47% of 25 to 34 year-olds had attained some kind of degree after high school, while graduate school enrollment saw a 35% jump between 1995 and 2010.

Beyond compensation and opportunity, millennials are looking for a sense of purpose in the workplace. When they can’t find it, the new generation is taking matters into its own hands. A further study by Elance-oDesk—now Upwork—claims that79% of millennials would consider the opportunity to work for themselves. Meanwhile, Babson College’s 2014 Global Entrepreneurship report claims that in 2014, 18% of Americans between 25 and 34 were either running or starting new businesses.”

Interested in improving your retention of Millennials? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

Four tips to launch a successful ambassador program

You’ve got a great new communications channel, now what? In most cases the next step is to start producing news and information to keep employees informed. Establishing a successful internal communications platform like a well-rounded intranet, newsletter or digital signage is great, but the content shared through these channels is what keeps employees coming back for more.

Tribe recommends an ambassador program. Gathering, sorting and editing content from all segments of a company is a seemingly impossible feat, but we’ve got a solution. Here are four of our suggested tips for a successful ambassador program launch:

  1. Recruit the right team. A program of ambassadors positioned throughout the company can be a natural source of news across functional silos, business units or geographically scattered locations. However, the right employee is key. A successful ambassador is often a more junior employee eager to make a name for themselves. Energy level is more important than experience.
  1. Spread the word. Tribe usually recommends an announcement from management to reveal their team’s new ambassador(s). Communicating the news of the new ambassadors will have two purposes: letting employees know who they should go to with their news, and giving the ambassador the recognition they deserve.
  1. Provide the tools they need to be successful. Before ambassadors can become content managers they will need some guidance. Introducing training tools such as ways to find news, how to connect with newsmakers and what makes information newsworthy will go a long way in the successful launch of your program.
  1. Emphasize the WIIFM factor. The role of ambassador adds to the workload, so clearly outlining what’s in it for them is important. Good news for you, becoming an ambassador is a great opportunity for employees. Not only will they have the chance to stretch beyond their current job descriptions, they will be able to connect and learn from some of the people doing the most important work in the company.

Need help getting your ambassador program off the ground? Tribe would love to help.

 

Jeff Smith

TRIBE TRIVIA: Technology and Collaboration

Concept of consulting services, project management, time management, marketing research, strategic planning.

Q: True or False: Technology completely replaces the need for face-to-face contact in collaboration.

A: False, for 92 percent of the employees in Tribe’s national research on collaboration and silos. The remaining 8 percent believe interacting in person is “not neccesary at all.” Interview results indicated that most employees feel meeting in person at least once eases collaboration via technology afterwards.

For more information about this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or contact Steve Baskin, President and Chief of Strategy at Tribe. 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Change Management: Avoid employee rumors by letting them know what’s really going on

 

Change Management: Avoid employee rumors by letting them know what’s really going on

Rumors are created to fill information voids. That’s number 17 of 21 “Internal Quotations for Internal Communications” included in a slideshare I stumbled across by Paul Barton of Phoenix, AZ. I don’t know Paul, but I like the way he thinks.

In fact most of the lines he quotes are things we say frequently at Tribe. Another of his slides, number 19, relates to the one above: “Employees should learn of important information affecting them and their organization from an internal source rather than an external source.” Number 18 as well: “In a crisis, internal communications is often the very thin thread that holds everyone and everything together.”

All three of these thoughts relate to the importance of being open and honest with employees during any major change. If you withhold information because you don’t want employees to know how bad it is, you can be fairly certain that what they’re imagining and telling each other is worse than the reality.

One of the best ways to destroy trust in your organization’s leadership is to share something big with the media, customers or shareholders before you tell employees. It’s easy to do unintentionally, especially when there’s time pressure to get out an announcement or press release to correlate with some major happening.

In fact, in Tribe’s research, that news needs to come from the top. In our national research with employees of large companies, major change was one of the few topics respondents said they strongly preferred hearing from company leadership rather than their direct managers.

This speaks to a measure of respect. In any major change or company crisis, beginning any internal communications from a place of respect for employees is the right place to start.

Does your company have a major change on the horizon? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

Nick Miller

Engaging Employees: 4 ways to get the most out of your interns

Group of happy business people

For companies across the country, May marks the onboarding of summer interns as campuses empty and students prepare for their first taste of the corporate world. Here is some advice on how to engage your interns in order for both parties to get the most out of the summer months.

  1. Include them in your corporate culture. Interns are temporary employees, but they are still employees. Treat them like you would any other employee and engage them in the company’s culture. Illustrate to them how their role is important in attaining the company vision like any other associate. Introduce them at town halls, feature them in the company newsletter, and invite them to after-hour events. You will get more productivity out of interns who feel like they are part of the company rather than fringe employees, not to mention benefits like future applications and positive word-of-mouth recommendations to friends.
  2. Allow them the opportunity to collaborate across silos. Internships are a good time for students to prove to themselves they are in the right field. Allow them to work with multiple departments in order to get a feel for what they want to do. There is often a large discrepancy between what a student will learn in class and how to apply that knowledge in a corporate setting. They may find that what they want to do is, in reality, very different. Communicate to them how that’s okay and help them hone in on what they are passionate about doing by giving them the chance to dip their toes into other departments and job functions. You may find that having a cross-departmental intern will improve general communication and collaboration between silos, even after they have returned to school.
  3. Send them away with tangible skills. An intern is always looking to bolster their resume. While general workplace skills are a valuable acquisition over the course of an internship, they won’t be able to put “fluent in corporate email lingo” on their resume. Depending on the field of work, give interns a chance to become an expert in a relevant software or trade such as Salesforce, Adobe Suite, or coding HTML. Even something as fundamental as basic Excel competency can make or break a future job application and take up a little more white space on their resume.
  4. Pay them. While it is perfectly acceptable to host unpaid interns, cover your bases to make sure that your internship program is legal. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, it is against the law to employ interns in a manner that their work is a substitute for regular workers without paying them at least minimum wage and overtime compensation. Unless the employer is a non-profit organization, a company can only employ unpaid interns if their employment program is akin to an educational or training course. They can shadow employees and be taught workplace skills, but any production by the intern that leads to a direct profit without properly rewarding their efforts can land your company in hot water and is unfair to the intern.

Looking for more advice on how to engage and communicate to interns? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

TRIBE TRIVIA: Provide a Positive Experience

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Question: Are denied applicants likely to recommend others to apply to the same company if their overall experiences are positive, despite not getting the job?

 

Answer: Yes, very likely. According to Tribe’s national research on thoughts and preferences in regards to hiring practices, 87% of respondents would be likely to encourage others to apply to a company from which they have been denied, as long as their experience was positive. In an age when word of mouth acts as a major factor when deciding where to apply, Tribe has found that it is of the upmost importance to interact with applicants in a courteous manner in order to not deter the best talent.

 

For more information on this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or shoot me an email.