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From Forbes: Latest trait of successful start-ups: Speed & iteration of learning…and yes un-learning!

In past decades we have seen our world become evermore specialized. Look into today’s companies and you’ll see that at any core function – be it sales, marketing, engineering, HR, communications – you have very specialized people that are great at given things. You need talent with this given specialization, and find people who are the best at those specific tools and functions. I would challenge that this has drastically changed.

While specialization works in some industries, like manufacturing, it is becoming near impossible to maintain as an entrepreneur in a fast paced business — and it’s becoming more so all the time. The approach toward expertise, how companies succeed and what people need to do to be successful has drastically changed. We live in a ‘survival of the fittest’ marketplace that is moving at the speed of light. If we continue to follow this ‘specialized’ thinking we’ll end up with an influx of people limited to specific skill sets that can become outdated just as quickly as their certifications in an area are earned.  In the end, organizations will lose out on innovation opportunities and become less competitive.

More valuable than mastering a ‘specialization’ is having a company full of people thinking beyond specializing — constantly learning and adapting to the latest tools, techniques & processes that are “just in time” best suited for the success of the business.

The speed of information availability today drives rapid change and innovations, which in turn impacts all kinds of jobs and roles — and not just people in technology and product development, but across the company: sales and marketing techniques, how HR finds and retains great employees, how marketing gets great stories to the masses. My experience has been that successful start-ups hire employees who are wired for constant learning and adaptability, and establish a company culture that supports that. Why? Because people that have amazing expertise at a given discipline or, worse, a very specific tool have a shorter shelf life than one might think.   

The Accelerating Pace of Innovation
How did we get here?  The best way to relate to this point is to think about Moore’s Law.  Moore was one of the pioneers at Intel and projected that every couple of years a new set of computing processors would render its predecessor obsolete and that this pace of innovation would be the new constant for decades to come. This has been true for hardware and over time has made its way to other technical tools and processes, and even to the pace of disruption that drastically changes how just about every business function gets done.

Consider the approach to building software (not just the products but the companies themselves).  Software cycles used to be done, at best, on annual intervals — Microsoft even named a number of their products by year. The remaining business around how to market and sell it was typically planned around this pace of innovation.  Today’s Agile development movement and SaaS delivery model empowers innovation on a near real time basis.  Companies from around the world are now able to achieve “continuous deployment” — enabling constant innovation. The business needs to be ‘wired’ to leverage this continuous process — the speed of understanding customer needs and market disruption opportunities must be equally agile to take advantage of this pace.  You can argue that a huge enabler of this pace is the “just in time” availability that exists now with most products and services.

Think about sales and the information we get to interact with prospects. What used to take months of golf outings and lunches is now pulled together by a solution like and its vast ecosystem of partner solutions which provide volumes of research data on any given prospect. A sales person not leveraging this kind of toolset  today is going to get left in the dust.

Five years ago the typical database requirement was met by an expert in a well-known relational database technology like Oracle or SQL, and if you talked to people about massively scaled non-structured data they would have thought you were crazy – and yet, here we are.  Not only are there new exciting names such as Cloudera Hadoop, or 10Gen MongoDB but even larger than the names and types of technology I am listing is the pace of innovation. It requires us to constantly learn something new and unlearn something that can hold us back.

What we know in any given moment has a shelf life that is getting shorter and shorter. The pace of how things are changing across disciplines are at least the speed of Moore’s law – with massive leaps and turning over of new technologies every couple of years making things obsolete. Whether you’re in sales, HR, marketing or technology development, you should be constantly challenging yourself to learn, expand and refine, or risk of making your skills obsolete and sapping the strength of your company.

“..what we know in any given moment has a shelf life that is getting shorter and shorter.”

Adjusting, Adding, Sharpening – Agile
Don’t get me wrong – you don’t need to throw out everything you’ve done every quarter and start over.   The key is establishing a blended leveraging of past knowledge, testing the on-going validity of what you’ve known and iteratively learning about new tools & techniques that are the latest innovations available.

Your marketing team is no longer just pitching writers and editors – they must also build relationships with impactful bloggers and be social media savvy. Human Resources is using online services and software packages that are pushing out information and pulling in resumes consta

ntly.  A new mantra of inbound marketing — that didn’t even exist a few years ago — is showing b-to-b organizations how to use the successful marketing mechanisms that made business-to-consumer companies successful.

Learning to ‘Unlearn’
It used to be you’d set up a Web site and launch your product and be good for six months or more. A conversation with a VC a few summers ago made me realize that I needed to unlearn this marketing model.  He asked if we had a dedicated graphic designer on-staff in order to adapt to daily, dynamic changes and adjustments to our marketing content, messaging and imagery.  His point was the old drive to a big product launch — pointing people to a web site that will barely change for six months or more is over.

So part of learning — keeping up with what’s available to stay competitive and make a big impact on your company  – is unlearning. We need to stay mindful of adapting and then unlearning what no longer applies.

‘Back in the day’ (I’m talking late 70’s and early 80’s) many industries built their core systems in Cobol on huge mainframe computers, and the systems handled everything from management to sales to financial activity. Back then, the IT department took great pride in how many millions of lines of code it took to make this masterpiece of a system work.

Then along came the client/server era and object-oriented programming which introduced the elegant concept of ‘less is more.’ All of the productivity and business value, at less than a third of the lines of code – improved productivity and financial efficiencies. This not only required an unlearning of the old way of programming (more lines of code equals bigger, better system), but also to adapt the ego to a different measure success.

These were major shifts back then, and today we’re at least at that same level of change but at a much faster pace.  This makes the opportunities and the risks exponentially larger. Unlearning’ is vital because the speed of access to information drives the speed of entry of new businesses and the innovation market is more ripe than ever. These may be challenging financial times, but VCs are busy and the number of seed companies is amazingly high.

Are you open to unlearning and de-specializing? Because what you think you know needs to be constantly challenged by the latest and greatest way to potentially think about things. If you aren’t thinking this way, believe me, your competition is.

Going Rogue
Is this kind of thinking more critical to and more easily adaptable at a start-up company? Yes, I’ve seen larger companies lose their competitive edge because fiefdoms are fighting to retain legacy instead of fighting to stay innovative in the market. Bigger companies tend to have more politics with increased resistance to unlearning because people want to protect their clout.  In fact a current article in a very mainstream publication points the finger at Microsoft for this exact phenomenon.  Though this article challenges Microsoft on not innovating at the pace of Google and other competitors, in recent announcements it appears Microsoft is “unlearning” some past practices to become more competitive.  For example, in years past all you would hear from Microsoft is Windows, Windows, Windows, yet they announced this month supporting a competing operating system, Linux, with their latest MS Azure cloud hosting services.

Patty McCord, Chief Talent Officer for Netflix discussed this topic as a speaker discussing ‘Unleashed Culture.’ She said that when employees are not performing technically it’s almost always because of scale, a change in technology, or a shift in business. “Common sense and judgment trumps everything,” she says. In the early days of Netflix’s explosive growth, instead of adding more processes and rules, it focused on hiring people with good judgment and adaptability enabling the company to establish fewer rules.

Really innovative things do happen at big companies, and typically when a small product group has a chip on its shoulder and goes rogue. For example, Java was hardly the center of IBM’s universe, but a rogue group in California really thought this Java thing might take off and adopted a mentality to unlearn previously programmed thinking and replace it with a passion for pushing the envelope and bleeding edge learning.

On the flip side, there’s Digital Equipment Company – famous and successful once upon a time for its mini computers. They committed the fatal error of being so in love with what they were that they didn’t invest in out-of-the-box thinking and they plateau – right into the abyss.

In today’s world, ‘unlearning’ is critical to success and making an impact in the organization. Every time something significant and important is learned, you need to remember to step back and check it frequently.

Embrace Change
Think about the best ways to challenge your teams to think in a way that promotes learning and unlearning?  How do we encourage people to side-step the specializations and remain agile? We want the people at our companies to learn, to change, and to take risks. We need to find the balance between not fixing something that isn’t broken and taking advantage of new and better ways of doing things.

“Learning is not compulsory … neither is survival”
– W. Edwards Deming


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From Forbes: Mapping the Billion Dollar Food Tech & Media Industry

Anyone who regularly reads Food+Tech Connect or subscribes to our Food Startup & Marketing Newsletter is likely aware of the explosion in food and agriculture-related startups over the past two years. Consumer food-related tech and media companies – technologies that help consumers discover, cook, buy and learn about their food – have experienced significant growth in terms of the number companies created, venture and angel investment, and consolidation.

New research released yesterday by Rosenheim Advisors, a strategic and financial consulting firm, and León, Mayer & Co., an investment banking and private equity firm, indicates an approximate $1.5 billion  has been invested in such companies within the past 18 months. Over 50 investments have been made in 2012 alone. It is important to note that this estimate only focuses on a particular segment of the food tech industry. These numbers also incorporate startups with food related or relevant verticals, including Instagram ($50 million), Pinterest ($100 million), ($105 million), Living Social ($176 million), Whaleshark Media ($150 million) and Gilt Group ($138 million), says Brita Rosenheim, principal of Rosenheim Advisors.

Major technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Groupon, Meredith, Condé Nast, Constant Contact and have all acquired startups in this space to help them increase engagement and capitalize on new revenue streams from a targeted audience. Google, for example, spent $151 million to acquire Zagat and is now using their reviews and rating system to power Google+ Local’s search offerings. Conde Nast’s acqusition of Ziplist for $14 million and Constant Contact’s acquisition of SinglePlatform for  $70 million, plus a $30 million earnout, are two more examples of the kinds of acquisitions taking place. Rosenheim Advisors and León, Mayer & Co see this as an indicator that consolidation is likely to continue and will be key for the growth strategies of large technology and media companies.

“Whether through ‘Likes,’ ‘Pins,’ ‘Check-ins,’ Sponsored Tweets, group coupons, local ad spend, mobile payments, digital commerce or curated content – every major consumer Internet company is already focused on food as a vertical, and many have been actively acquiring start-ups with significant exposure to the space,” says Rosenheim. “As competition for consumer mindshare intensifies, maintaining a leading edge in this space will be integral to the growth strategies of tech and media giants.”

Rosenheim Advisors and León, Mayer & Co see major opportunities for consumer Internet companies to grow and strengthen their platforms through investments in food-related technology companies focused on social media, mobile technologies, local discovery and commerce.

In an attempt to elucidate and categorize the  startups in this space, the firms created the Food Tech & Media Industry Map featured below. The map features over 300 startup in key sector segments, including Recipes and Cooking Communities, Recipe Box and Search, Publishers, Digital Content, Vertical Ad Networks, Product Guides and Discovery, Grocery/CPG Coupon Distributors and Aggregators, Grocery/CPG Mobile Coupons, Grocery/CPG Loyalty Rewards, Mobile/Online Ordering, Commerce, Product Deals/Offers, Restaurant Reviews and Search, Personalized Restaurant Discovery, Online/Offline Communities, Restaurant Coupons/Deals/Loyalty Rewards, Reservations, Next Generation Restaurant Ordering/Payments, and Restaurant Marketing/Analytics. It is important to note that this map only focuses on a particular segment of the food tech industry.

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From Forbes: Renewing Your Business: 4 Ideas from Ernest Hemingway

How can you keep your work fresh and relevant in today’s information-bombarded world? Take a tip from the estate of Ernest Hemingway, who authorized the release of a new edition of the author’s masterpiece, A Farewell to Arms. Originally published by Scribner’s in 1929, the edition out this month includes the novel’s alternate endings, all 47 of them, and early drafts of other passages. This new edition will sell more volumes, but also keep a celebrated writer’s body of work current, relevant, and fresh. The process of renewal is essential for success in any business.

Here’s how A Farewell to Arms benefits from a new edition, and how a re-boot could be helpful for your business:

Advantage 1: Timing

The republication of Farewell will capitalize on the attention Hemingway has been paid recently in numerous productions, such as Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and HBO’s “Hemingway and Gellhorn”. The 1920’s era in general is also in the middle of a revival (pre-prohibition cocktails, anyone?)

Your Approach:

This will require you to have your finger on the pulse of popular culture. Is there something trending on Twitter that you can comment or advise on? Can you market yourself as an expert in your field during a conference or on another public platform? These opportunities may be difficult to come by, but could hugely benefit your business. Better yet– can you predict the next trend and capitalize on it before anyone does?

Advantage 2: New Features

The alternate endings alone are a draw: There were really 47??? Was Hemingway optimistic or dismayed by the world around him? Readers will look forward to answering these probing questions. The new edition will also attract aspiring writers, who will seek insight into the novelist’s process by combing through his re-writes. New features plus a new target audience? Jackpot.

Your Approach:

The music and film industries benefit from this time and time again, and Apple keeps releasing new $500 iPhones, knowing we will buy again for the purpose of trying out new functions. Find a way to make your product or services new or unique by adding something they didn’t have before. We are constantly trying to do this in the rare book business—we’ve sold multiple copies of A Farewell to Arms, but in today’s tight economy, we’re trying to find editions of the book that are truly rare (we’ve found a first edition signed by Hemingway to Captain Harrington, who drove the boat between Florida and Cuba.) Offering one-of-a-kind items has helped us attract new customers looking for something unique; selling these items has allowed us to thrive.

Advantage 3: New Packaging

The new Farewell boasts the original artwork of the 1929 edition, thereby capitalizing on a new look and a revival of 1920’s Art Deco design (see Advantage 1 above). Although customers respond well to things that are recognizable, something shiny and new can also get their attention (or in this case, something vintage– notice I didn’t say “old”).

Your Approach:

Does your website need an update? Could your employees benefit from a polished new look? Get inspired by what is currently popular, but don’t merely emulate someone else’s work. Invent something striking and memorable. Then consult outside opinion through a focus group or a design or marketing team. Don’t be sentimental: the best (and crowd favorite) should always win.

Advantage 4: New Advertising

The established names of Hemingway and Scribner’s (now Simon and Schuster) procured a plug from The New York Times and The Huffington Post. Enough said.

Your Approach:

You’ll probably need to work a lot harder on this one, or just more creatively. It could be time to re-evaluate, or re-invest in, your advertising campaign. Are you dumping hundreds or thousands per month into CPC advertising but not getting any sales? Consider new forms of ads, but keep in mind what type of media reaches your customer. Can you run a campaign on your own (saving money and having more ‘reach’ with your customers), or should you trust a professional to revamp your campaigns?

As you read this, another business is trying to attract your customers. By keeping your focus on renewal, improvement, or uniqueness, you can better compete with the constant data that customers are presented with on a daily basis. Have you made recent changes but your customers are not responding yet? Keep trying– 47 times if you have to.

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From Forbes: Don’t Let These 5 Startup Myths Slow You Down

Every day, hundreds of entrepreneurs launch crowdfunding campaigns on Indiegogo to raise money and awareness for their businesses. As CEO of Indiegogo, I have been in touch with potential entrepreneurs from all over the world with a wide variety of business ideas. Across this wide spectrum, I have realized that many entrepreneurs are misguided by the same myths, time and time again.

Here are the five most common myths about starting a business — and how we’ve seen them get blown out of the water at Indiegogo:

Myth #1: There’s a “right” time to start.

We started Indiegogo months before the financial crisis of 2008, and when the economy took a hit, most people advised us to shut down. However, my co-founders and I were each so passionate about our efforts to democratize fundraising that we pressed forward at all costs. It wasn’t easy, but every time we spoke with someone who was denied a loan from a bank, or couldn’t find a way to raise money for his or her cause, it reinforced our commitment to the mission of Indiegogo — empowering anyone, anywhere in the world, to raise money for anything.

We learned that there is no “right” time to start a business when basing that timing on external market factors. The only “right” time is when you’re passionate about an idea, product or service.

Myth #2: You NEED venture capital.

Believe it or not, you don’t usually need venture capital to start a business, especially now that crowdfunding platforms allow you to raise money and attract a global audience that includes potential customers.

We saw a group of product designers from California present the Satari Star Swivl, a camera-mounting device for smartphones that automatically follows you as you move from side to side, eliminating the need for an old-fashioned tripod. The designers pitched their product to multiple investors and VCs, and were rejected every time. On the other hand, their Indiegogo campaign raised over $20,000, validating the demand for their product and enabling them to gather feedback and make their product even better. In 2012, the Swivl was the highest-rated device in the Last Gadget Standing competition at CES and is now available for sale in the Apple Store.

There are many ways to raise money. Even if conventional means fail, find the one that’s best for you — and get your product or service out there.

Myth #3. You need a detailed business plan.

Too many entrepreneurs spend months locked away, creating the “perfect” business plan with scenario planning and detailed financial projections. These days, markets change so quickly that you never really know how customers will react to your product or service, or what new technologies will emerge that may significantly change the business environment.

For example, the two Columbia students who developed the LuminAID inflatable solar light had no idea how fast their product would take off. With the simple but ambitious goal of making portable light affordable, sustainable, and available for everyone, they developed their product, launched an Indiegogo campaign, raised five times their goal, received valuable customer feedback and got their lights produced. LuminAID lights are now being distributed to in-need communities all around the world.

Don’t get caught up in the minutia of a plan. Focus on getting your product or service in the hands of potential customers, get feedback and iterate quickly.

Myth #4: It’s all about the idea.

Actually, it’s less about the idea and more about listening to your customers and evaluating the data. Your idea may be great, but if you aren’t able to recognize and adapt to new trends and meet the demands of your customers, you may not be in business for very long.

When we initially launched Indiegogo, we decided to handpick our favorite campaigns to be featured on the home page. Although this seemed to be the best practice at first, we learned that our customers wanted an equal opportunity for their campaign to be discovered and featured. This led us to develop the proprietary “gogofactor” — our algorithm that constantly evaluates key characteristics and activity on each campaign — that alone determines which campaigns make it to our home page. Our users love that Indiegogo provides this merit-based promotion, and it also has enabled us to grow the business more rapidly.

Don’t get too stuck with your idea or method being the right one — listen, monitor, and adapt as needed.

Myth #5: If you build it, they will come.

The concept of growth for any business is similar to what happens with a crowdfunding campaign — you will need to reach out to your networks and get them enthusiastic about your goal. Once you reach approximately 30 percent of your goal, it provides the social proof for “strangers” to get excited start contributing — and nearly 40 percent of our active campaigns receive money from multiple countries!

We learned this one ourselves as well. In the early days of Indiegogo, we reached out to our personal and professional networks to encourage them try out the platform. After a while, word started to spread through friends of friends and customer referrals. I remember how exciting it was when we saw the first international campaign launch. Today, Indiegogo distributes millions of dollars each month to people in nearly every country in the world.

Once your product or service is out there, you must continually work to get the word out. Keep marketing your product, and always make sure your customers, friends and communities are updated on your progress.

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From Forbes: How Amazon Keeps Us Coming Back – Again And Again

I just read that the e-commerce market in the US is expected to reach $226 billion this year.  Amazon’s US sales are expected to be about $30 billion.  My quick math tells me that means about 13¢ of every dollar spent online in the US is going to Amazon.  Clearly, Jeff Bezos and company are doing some things very right. And it behooves all of us who are trying to make our businesses better to pay attention.

Since at least that many pennies of every dollar I spend online goes to Amazon, I’ve had a good deal of experience with Amazon as a customer. Here’s what I’ve observed Amazon doing very well – and these are things any business can (and should) emulate:

Help me clarify what I want.  A couple of weeks ago I went on Amazon to buy a tent. That’s pretty much all I knew.  Once I got to ‘tents’, a few minutes of looking at the options available and reading reviews made it clear to me that I wanted a 2-person, easy to set up, sturdy, lightweight tent.  And I had also gotten a fairly good idea of what a reasonable price point would be.  I settled on one that had gotten excellent reviews and that, in addition to all the other criteria I’d just established, looked nice. The Amazon site is beautifully designed to support this kind of quick pinpointing.

Any business can benefit from this approach.  How many times have you gone into a retail store and asked someone a simple question about the stock (Do you know if this comes in blueI’d love something just like this but smaller – do you have that?) and gotten nothing more than a blank look?  Or asked an insurance agent what kind of coverage you might need and gotten a flurry of impenetrable insurance-speak in response?  Training customer-focused employees to listen well, ask great questions, and be able to speak simply and knowledgeably about the products or services they offer can help ensure your customers have an Amazon-like experience.

Offer to expand my horizons. When I go on Amazon, I actually enjoy the ‘recommendations,’ especially for books.  First, their algorithms are good, so the suggestions are generally pretty spot-on.  Second – and more important – there’s no hard sell.  It’s just, “If you liked/bought this, you might like this.”  I appreciate this kind of heads-up when it’s simply a suggested possibility. Most businesses make some effort to ‘upsell’  – but most do it badly in one of these two ways: either the recommendations aren’t based on the customer’s expressed preferences, or there’s real pressure to buy. Instituting the no-pressure approach, and basing your recommendations on what the customer has actually bought or shown an interest in – I can only think that would make anybody’s customers more satisfied and loyal.

Keep making it easier and easier to deal with them. I’ve always been impressed with how glitch-free Amazon’s interface is.  I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered a technical problem when dealing with their site. And then I loved it even more, a few years ago, when they came up with the ‘one-click’ option: even easier. Far too many companies make it difficult to do business with them.  Anyone who’s ever gotten caught in an endless loop of phone extensions can attest to that (airlines and phone companies seem particularly bad in this regard).  Company executives need to look at all their customer-facing processes from the point of view of the customer, and design or re-design them for ease and clarity…and they need to do this not just once, but ongoing.  And often, front-line customer service people can offer great insight into what’s working and not working, if executives would only ask.  When all interactions with a company are fast, simple, and correct – again: a satisfied and loyal customer.

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From Forbes: The Only Thing You Need To Remember About The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen Covey died last week. He pioneered the business self-help genre with the 1989 publication of his mega-hit book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

When I saw he died, I got a little panic-stricken because I couldn’t remember a single one of the seven habits.

That scared me because I used to love that little book.  I must have read it 4 or 5 times and tried to habitualize all of the skills.

I went to Wikipedia to look up the 7 habits which are here.

Then, I got a little disappointed.  Some of them weren’t as great as I remember….

Habit 6: Synergize – combie the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone. Get the best perormance out of agroup of people through encouraging meaningful contribution and modeling inspirational and supportive leadership.


If I had to boil all these habits down to two, they’d be:

(1) Do something.  Just stop sitting around and take action.  Every minute you’re sitting around checking Facebook, you’re not taking action getting you closer to you dreams


(2) Plan what you’re taking action about.  Don’t just take action willy-nilly.  Actually have a plan. Think things through.  Do one thing in the right order before you need to do the next thing in order to get where you want to go.

That’s it.

Covey built a billion dollar empire based on those two kernels of knowledge.

But I guarantee you, two months from now, if you meet me on the street and ask, I’ll probably have to confess that I’ve forgotten those two keys to success.

So, I sat back and realized that there was one thing I remembered from reading that book 23 years ago, which really has stayed with me through my career and has been of immeasurable help to me.  It’s not even a habit.  It’s a two-by-two matrix used to help remind you to plan things out before you take action.

Here it is:

Time management matrix as described in Merrill...

Time management matrix as described in Merrill and Covey 1994 book “First Things First,” showing “quadrant two” items that are important but not urgent and so require greater attention for effective time management (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you remember one thing, and one thing only, about the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People book, here it is:

At the start of every week, write a two-by-two matrix on a blank sheet of paper where one side of the matrix says “urgent” and “not urgent” and the other side of the matrix says “important” and “not important.” Then, write all the things you want to do that week.

Let’s think of each quadrant:

Quadrant 1: Urgent-Important.  These are the most pressing of tasks we’ll likely get to this week.  These are the crises that erupt.  The most pressing meetings or deadlines fall into this category.  When we do fire-fighting, it’s all relating to stuff in this quadrant.

Quadrant 2: Not Urgent – Important. These are the things that matter in the long-term but will yield no tangible benefits this week or even this year.  They are things we know we need to get to but probably will push off.  It’s having a lunch with an important contact or client.  Relationship-building.  Some long-term planning.  It could be attending a conference to learn about some new area that you’ve heard a little bit about and which sounds promising but might not pan out into anything.

Quadrant 3: Urgent – Not Important.  These tasks are the biggest reason we’re not more successful in the long-term.  They clog up our time today but, when we look back at these things at the end of the week, we’ll have to admit they were a waste of time.  These are interruptions that happen, such as phone calls.  These are poorly thought-out meetings that soak up our time, but which we have to attend because we already accepted the invite.  These are other activities which we tell ourselves in the moment that we must do but — if we stopped ourselves to really think about — we’d realize they aren’t that important.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent – Not Important.  These things we do because we feel like we’re tired and need a break.  It’s watching a mindless TV show at the end of the day.  It’s checking and rechecking Facebook and Twitter during the day, because we think we might miss something.  It mind be mindlessly eating potato chips, even though we’re not hungry.  We prioritize these things in the moment and obviously derive some pleasure from them, but they are really not urgent or important.  Yet, we’d be amazed how much time we waste in a given week on these tasks.

If you simply spend 30 minutes at the beginning of each week thinking about these 4 quadrants and what you want to spend your time on in the coming week, you will be 10x more productive than you usually are.

What you’ll quickly realize is that you’ve only been spending time on urgent tasks each week.  It’s a constant fire-drill.  You’re simply trying to get one thing off your plate, so you can breathe for half a second and get to the next emergency to get off your plate.

If someone stopped you and asked you whether the way you’re spending your time on these urgent tasks is helping you to get to your long-term goal (whatever that is) of, for example, starting your own company, getting into a new industry, or reaching your next big job promotion, you’d probably say: “No, but I just need to get this stuff done to clear up time on my schedule so that I can do those things.”

Only, guess what? You’re like a hamster on the wheel.  You’ll never clear up time on your schedule. You’ll always be drinking from the firehose on these urgent tasks.

In fact, things in business since the 7 Habits book was published in 1989 have only made us more focused on Urgent stuff.  Think about it.  Email, the Internet, Cell Phones, Twitter.  Back in 1989, people used to pack up at 5pm on Friday and be gone until Monday morning at 9am.  Now, we’re always connected and ready to respond to the latest issue.

You never have to worry about the tasks in Quadrant 1 (the urgent and important tasks).  You’ll always have to take care of them.

You have to – as much as you can – eliminate the Quadrant 4 tasks (not urgent and not important).  Just say no to Facebook.  Shut them off..  They’re a time suck.  Mark Zuckerberg has built a $100 billion empire off our inability to stop doing Quadrant 4 stuff!

You also need to severely restrict the Quadrant 3 stuff (urgent and not important).  Most of us don’t realize how much of this stuff we do every day and we think it’s important when it’s really not.  With better awareness and better planning, you can really cut this stuff down.

The most important thing you can do in your career relating to this simple two-by-two matrix is to do some Quadrant 2 stuff (not urgent but important) every day.  At least 10% of your day needs to be devoted to this important but not urgent stuff.  Ideally, you’re spending 30% of every day on this.

I guarantee that you will not see flowers from planting these seeds for several months if not a year.  However, if you keep with it, making it part of your regular routine, you will absolutely be blown away with the results in a year or so from now.

Opportunities will pop up.  Connections will be made.  A powerful relationship will blossom.  All because you took the time 8 months ago to call up an old friend or contact — or maybe because you went to conference that you were really interested in.

Maybe it’s because it’s a matrix and not a bunch of words, but I guarantee if you’ve made it this far in this article you will always remember this two-by-two matrix and start making it part of your weekly time management routine.

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From Forbes: 5 Ways to Keep Your Employees Motivated Without Breaking the Bank

Employee wages have decreased by about 2% since October 2010, and have been flat since the beginning of the year. If your company simply doesn’t have the funds for pay increases, you need to be creative in order to minimize turnover, as holding onto current staff is much more cost-effective than finding new help. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep your workers motivated, all while continuing to reduce labor costs in your business.

1. Communicate With Them
When it comes to motivating staff, most employers think an incentive program of some sort is the only way to go. But how about this for an idea: Communicate with your employees. As a small business owner myself, I instituted a “Monday Morning Cup of Coffee” program with my staff. Each week, I choose one staff member with whom I spend 30 minutes to an hour just talking. Often, the conversation isn’t even business-related. When an employee knows they’re truly valued and that their boss has a genuine interest in them, they’re much more likely to perform well.

2. Institute a Casual Dress Day
There are two ways you can approach this. First, you can simply offer it across the board to your staff as an added benefit. Friday is typically the most popular day. Or, you can make it a competition by offering it to the top-performing employee or department on a weekly or monthly basis. That way, you can motivate your employees and increase productivity as well.

3. Have a “Boss Does Your Work” Promotion
Here’s a creative way to motivate your staff: If employees meet specified goals, then you must perform certain tasks for them. For instance, if you work in an office with a break room and bathrooms, it’s likely that your staff is in charge of keeping them clean. Consider holding a contest with the reward of the managers performing these chores instead.

4. Offer Telecommuting Options
If you have staff members who can be productive from home, consider offering a telecommuting option. Your employees are sure to love it, as it will save them plenty of time and money.

5. Take Part in Team-Building Activities
This method may seem cliché, but it actually works. Staff members who develop close personal relationships with their coworkers are much more likely to stay with a company. Even if your team building activity is nothing more than after-work bowling, your employees are sure to enjoy it.

Final Thoughts
Prior to instituting any sort of employee incentive program, elicit feedback from your staff. For example, you may think that offering free movie tickets is a great idea, but if most of your staff isn’t into visiting theaters, then your efforts may be in vain. Put a program in place that pleases everyone – if you can reward your employees without breaking the bank, you’ll solidify your workforce and potentially improve company profits.

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