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January 2016

Daily discounts no deal for restaurants

Like millions of people across the country, my morning routine includes a few moments perusing my laptop to see what “deals” await me in my inbox. With offers on everything from shoes and electronics to event tickets and restaurant discounts, retailers from across the globe are vying for my attention as I sip my morning cup-of-joe.

Jessica Dunker

I’m the first to admit, sometimes I take the bait. Who doesn’t want a great deal?

But as business owners, what are we saying about the value of our offerings if we continually cultivate a culture in which everything is “on sale” all of the time?

This new world of “all-the-time online discounts” has become especially precarious for restaurants.

Online discounters (e.g. Groupon and LivingSocial) sell printable certificates that consumers often equate with “gift certificates.” But gift certificates have true dollar-for-dollar value behind them. Daily deal certificates don’t and that can end badly.

As an example, a consumer might pay $25 for a $50 food and beverage certificate. The $25 paid is split evenly between the daily deal company and the restaurant. So when the consumer redeems the certificate, the restaurant provides $50 worth of food and drink for $12.50.

What’s worse, consumers who misunderstand how these work, or those who don’t read the fine print, might spend only $40 at the restaurant and walk away thinking they are generously leaving the remaining $10 as a tip for the wait staff. Those who spend over have been known to tip only on the additional cash outlay they made.

Think it doesn’t happen? Sadly, it does.

So why do restaurants (and other retailers) continue to put themselves and their staffs in these situations?

They feel like they have to. Consumers are making decisions about where to go using these discount tools.

Those promoting the daily deals approach will claim deal shoppers often spend more than the certificate value or that the deal will introduce new patrons to the establishment. Sometimes this is true, but more often than not the numbers don’t add up.

Even a great experience doesn’t necessarily produce return patronage.

In fact, I am convinced the vast majority of daily deal bargain shoppers are just that— daily deal bargain shoppers. The only place they return over and over is the daily deal website pages in search of a new deal. What’s more, most do everything possible to spend no more than their certificate amount. Their loyalties can easily be bought with a bigger, better discount.

When restaurants reach out to our organization for our thoughts on utilizing a daily deal program, we tell them if they are looking at these offers as pure marketing spends—much like advertising on the radio or placing a print advertisement—then they likely won’t be disappointed, they will get exposure. Our second suggestion is that they try a low dollar entry point (eg $5 for $10 of product) to ensure they don’t lose their shirts in product costs.

Everyone loves to get a great deal, but restaurants leveraging these tools need to take extra care to ensure they’re reaping a little bit of reward as well.

-Jessica Dunker

It’s not you…it’s my confirmation bias

- Joe Benesh is a senior architect with Shive-Hattery and president + CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning, diagramming, framework development, and design thinking consulting firm.

Confirmation bias is one of the most dangerous elements of strategic planning and organizational development. There is an entire science behind how individuals draw conclusions based on their own beliefs: attitude polarization, belief perseverance, illusory correlation, and subjective validation all fit into this category.

No one likes being wrong - and I am not arguing that (in certain instances) that you shouldn't go with your instinct about some things. But when you look at large decisions or setting up basic frameworks for long-term development, direction should be rooted in evidence.

There is a natural human tendency for us to show preference for data that support our arguments. This is coupled with our tendency to reject data that interfere with our ability to arrive at a solid conclusion – especially in situations where we feel we need to show strong leadership or be expeditious. Leaders often like to self-identify as being unbiased with their thinking, but it is tremendously difficult to overcome something that they believe is right (as in the case with belief perseverance) or is a long-held belief, even in the face of data that conflict with their baseline or “original” thinking.

Design thinking is a process that helps alleviate some of the individual burden of confirmation bias. To a certain extent, it does not matter if a bias exists in design thinking, because the process itself avails itself of cognitive bias through rapid prototyping and testing – there are many opportunities to learn from failure and combine personal biases into a single, successful outcome.

Subjective validation is another form of confirmation bias. In this case, the individual will feel that data given to them is accurate if they have a personal experience they feel confirms that data, regardless of proof or lack thereof. This is a very dangerous and uninformed way to make decisions.

Overcoming the above biases are some of the most difficult aspects of strategic planning. There are always individuals who feel they are correct, regardless of the opinions of others or other data that may be present. There are also always individuals who feel that past personal experience is the overriding factor in making decisions about the future. Neither one of these approaches is incorrect in a discrete sense. Success means taking each of those viewpoints and adjusting them to take into account unbiased data - that is, in many instances, the difference between success and failure.

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Chess is an example of how to apply the solution framework to the above. If you approach the game with the attitude that you are going to win, regardless of the experience and or knowledge of the other player, and solely because you have been successful in a certain segment of the sample population of other chess players, you may win, but it will be due to chance and circumstance rather than proper preparation and skill.

Similarly, if you play the same person over and over and consistently beat them, you may continue to do so. However, if you do not adjust your tactics, the opposing person likely will begin to beat you, because your confirmation bias tells you that you always beat that person, so no adjustment to strategy is necessary. However, your competitor will adjust to your tactics. In a more extreme example, you might feel you always win on days you wear a blue shirt. But do you always wear a blue shirt? Correlation is not causation. As you can see, fallacy is deeply woven into the DNA of confirmation bias.

Combining the points above, in chess or with your organization, the use of personal experience and bias must be combined with a healthy dose of data and non-prejudicial evidence that can be used to generate a conclusion that clearly demonstrates an estimate of the best possible path forward. The unintended side effect of this method is increased engagement and participation by a larger population of the organization, as it will represent a far wider range of opinions and inputs. Confirmation bias generates resentment and can underscore the division and disconnectedness between management and the rest of the team.

When making your plan, remember that the best laid plans are those that explore the greatest range of opportunities to succeed.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny

 

Upcycling is new wave of sustainability


- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger.

Sustainable design has moved from “recycling at the curb” to “using recycled products” to “giving life to an unused waste stream” also known as upcycling.

Companies are exploring the planet for a waste stream and then deciding what to make from it.

An unused waste stream like all the plastic in the oceans has been harnessed by Adidas.  Last year Adidas in partnership with Parley For The Oceans announced a running shoe made from a previously unused waste stream.  The shoe’s upper will be made from plastic removed from the ocean.  Adidas is working on how to use the plastic for the soles of running shoes also.

How about Looptworks.  An apparel company that goes out and finds a waste stream of fabric or leather and then upcycles it to a new product. They got wind of Southwest Airlines refurbishing its jets and replacing 80,000 airplane seats.  They walked away with 40 acres of leather to make bags for carry-on luggage.

Those examples got me thinking of other waste streams that could be upcycled:

  • All those metal containers for holiday candies and cookies.
  • Worn out jeans
  • Old computers and printers

Let me know if you have a waste stream you have been thinking about at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

Giving up accountability

Team conceptYou don’t have to look far to find proof of the stunning success of teams within organizations. Teams are one of the most effective responses to today’s business challenges. Challenges posed by customer service, quality, continuous improvement and all of the other hot topics that separate today’s market winners from the companies they leave in the dust. 

In pursuit of this competitive advantage, leaders commonly remind employees that there is no “I” in Team. “We” becomes the mantra. 

Leaders beware! There are risks.

The word “we” means nothing to you. It means nothing to any of us.

For organizations to be successful, each individual must see him/herself as accountable for a final result. Even in the case of team goals, each individual must understand and carry out their specific role and responsibilities. Giving up accountability to “the team” sends a powerful message to our subconscious minds to look for excuses rather than to take actions that will move us closer to the goal.

Most sports teams imprint the goal of “we will win”. The most successful sports teams know that they can’t stop there. They take it one step further. They have each individual member of the team imprint the specific role they are accountable for as part of the team goal.

Consider this familiar example:

Why does one parent sleep through a baby’s cry in the middle of the night while the other parent needs only to hear a change in the breathing of the child to be on red alert? 

When parents bring their newborn baby home, both are on heightened alert for anything that may represent a threat to the infant. After a few days pass, the task typically falls to one parent who most consistently rushes to the child’s side at the slightest peep from the little one.

The other parent remains peaceful in deep sleep. Imagine the surprise of the well-rested parent who discovers in the morning that their cranky, sleep-deprived partner was up five times during the night with the child.

None of us realize that we block sounds from our peaceful sleep every night (furnace or air conditioner coming on, TV set blaring, music from next door, siren down the street). We don’t hear the many sounds that occur in our homes every night. 

Why does one parent block the baby’s cry and the other doesn’t? Isn’t the baby valuable to both parents? 

Of course, the child is important to both parents. It isn’t a question of buying into the value of the new life. It is because one parent has given up accountability. One parent knows the other will get up allowing his or her subconscious to rest soundly in the knowledge that “the parenting team” has it handled.

Teams in the workplace

A similar phenomenon happens in the workplace. Every team has one or two individual(s) who everyone knows “she will” or “he will”.  The comfort of that knowledge allows other members of the team to rest their creativity, their talents and their awareness.

Giving up accountability causes us to miss a lot of opportunities and warning signs that will take us more speedily to the achievement of our goals.

A wake-up call for leaders

The next time you are leading a team that sets a team goal, take the extra step to make sure everyone knows what their specific roles and responsibilities are. There may not be an “I” in Team but teams are made up of individuals and each individual needs to be accountable for their own contributions.  

To be fully accountable means we need to know what is expected of us. In this way, we engage both our conscious and subconscious creative genius.

- Ro Crosbie is president of Tero International, a premier interpersonal skills and corporate training company.

For more professional development content:Rowena_Outside

Website: www.tero.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeroInternational

Twitter: @TeroTrainers

Why your brand should be aspirational

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 1.58.31 PMDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

At MMG we live, breathe and teach branding each and every day. We do that because we genuinely believe in the power of an incredible brand. So any chance I get -- I love to talk brand.

So when I got the chance to talk brand with Nick Westergaard on his really smart (you should be listening to all of them) podcast, On Brand, for an entire show -- I was elated.

We talked about how brands need to come from within the organization and if a company isn't brave enough to live their brand -- inside and out -- then they shouldn't even fake the effort.

We also talked about how to discern your true brand and how to incubate it inside your company until it truly weaves itself into the fabric of your organization's DNA so that every employee knows it should be the foundation of every decision, offering and service delivery.

As you might imagine -- we also chatted about brands that do it well and one brand in particular that has won my heart to the extent that I work for free on their behalf every time I'm there.

I'd love for you to take a listen and then fire away with questions here in the comments section.  And if you haven't already subscribed to Nick's podcast -- you can do so here.

 

~ Drew

Anonymous ownership in an Iowa LLC

PGP_1038Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law.

In today’s business world, the internet is in everyone's pocket and privacy has become a precious commodity. Nearly all states publish “public information” on the Internet, allowing anyone with a smartphone to obtain detailed corporate filings with the flick of a finger, for free, or for a very modest cost.

So, in this highly-connected information age, is it possible for you, as a business owner, to keep your identity as an owner in an LLC anonymous?

The answer: it depends upon in which state you choose to form your legal entity. For example, when filing in Arizona to create an Arizona Limited Liability Company, the business owner should first consider that Arizona law requires disclosing - in a public filing accessible online - each member (i.e. owner) in the LLC under many circumstances.  See Arizona Revised Statute 29-632.

Comparatively, Iowa law does not require business owners in an LLC to reveal their identities. This subtle, yet important distinction for many business owners, may dictate the state in which the company is ultimately organized and underscores the importance of seeking legal counsel who can guide you through such considerations before forming a legal entity.

Where does the time go?

Rita Perea is celebrating her 15th year as president and CEO of ImagesRita Perea Leadership Coaching and Consulting. She specializes in working with senior leaders and managers to successfully establish executive presence, lead high-performing teams, engage employees, manage change and create work/life balance.

Do you ever end the work day and, in a befuddled sort of way, ask yourself where your time went? If your answer is yes, you are not alone. One of the biggest challenges to creating wellbeing in our work and in our lives is our habit of letting time slip away without really knowing where it is being spent. The old saying is true: “The more you do of what you are doing, the more you’ll get of what you are getting”.

Think about this: everything you do, all day long, either will help you move toward your goal or will hinder you from reaching your goal. If you want better results, you’ve got to change the way you are using your time. The way to move closer to balancing work and life is to analyze your choices about what you are using your time for.

A great place to begin analyzing where our time is going is to look at our daily habits. Habits determine what we do every day. Some habits are helpful and others are not. Habitual behavior uses a great deal of our time. Some habits we are aware of. Others we are, unfortunately, clueless about. Drinking a cup of coffee every morning is a habit for me. If I am totally honest about it, one cup of coffee can take up 30 minutes or more of my time, especially if I am ordering it at my favorite coffee shop. When looking at spending more time with important activities, this could be one area to explore.

A second area to examine are time choices. What are the choices that you control about how to use your time? If you are an entrepreneur you may get many time-choice opportunities each day. If you work for someone else your time choices may be limited to evening and weekend activities. You may spend six hours each Saturday playing golf. Is that a good way to spend your time?

An excellent way to take a closer look at time patterns is to keep a time log. A time log is a journal of every daily activity and the amount of time you spent on each. Use your time log to track what you do, when you do it and why you do it for one week and then review it. The results can be quite eye-opening and may lead you to make necessary time changes.

I was involved as a volunteer board member and knew that I was giving this organization too much time. However, once I looked at my time log I was shocked to see just how much time the board position and all of the internal communications were eating. The evidence suggested that I needed to make a change.

A wise person once said, “It is not enough to know; you must act. Knowledge without action is powerless.” Recognize your habits and how you spend your discretionary time. Then create and execute a plan to bring balance into your work and life. Your return on invested time will be well worth it.

Who are the potential buyers for my business? Part 3

- John Mickelson, managing partner Midwest Growth Partners, is IowaBiz's blogger on succession planning. Read more about him here. 

Last column we learned about one specific type of buyer for your business – a strategic buyer. As we discussed, these buyers may pay top dollar for your business, but the sale often comes at the expense of the culture you have worked hard to establish.

This week we learn about another possibility… a “financial buyer.”

A private equity fund or wealthy individual is a financial buyer who may seek to purchase your business with the goal of owning an asset that will provide them an attractive rate of return via cash distributions and an ultimate sale.

The financial buyer usually is involved at the board level and is unlikely to want to get involved in day-to-day management of the business. Therefore a financial buyer is likely to invest only if you (or your trusted designee) have indicated a desire to continue operating the business or they have industry contacts who can.

In addition to board-level oversight, a financial buyer will likely want to make financial investments in the business in order to grow it so it is more attractive when they sell it.

As an example, in one of our portfolio companies, we are currently renovating and expanding the office space to accommodate future growth and to attract and retain employees and customers. In another portfolio company, we are actively seeking complimentary acquisitions in order to expand the company’s geographic footprint. In both companies, we have a number of high-level employment positions to fill which will enable us to scale. While these investments will cost us money in the short run, we are confident that they will reap rewards many times over in the long run.

Financial buyers also will be more flexible in structuring a transaction to accommodate the goals of the seller than most other buyers. For instance, financial buyers may buy less than 100 percent or less than a controlling interest in a business (enabling a “second bite at the apple” discussed in this column a few weeks ago).

One of the drawbacks of a financial buyer, in addition to not paying as much as a strategic buyer, is that financial buyers are not likely to be “forever” owners. In order to achieve a return and liquidity, the financial buyer usually will look to sell the business in three to seven years, which may not always fit the time horizon of the seller.

Another down side is a small number of financial buyers have given the industry a bad rap (think Richard Gere in "Pretty Woman"). That is why it is important to confirm that the financial buyer you are talking to is (1) well capitalized so they can effectuate the transaction; and (2) trustworthy and a culture fit.

A financial buyer is not a fit in every situation but, if you are seeking to sell your business, is an alternative that is worth your time exploring. 

Security event monitoring myths and truths

Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity

Security-monitoring-myths-truths

 

Credit monitor, health monitor, baby monitor, hall monitor. Do you see a pattern here? We utilize monitoring in all areas of life to both proactively detect suspicious behavior and thwart bad actions or to provide reactive assistance in determining the details after unwanted actions take place. Nearly two-thirds of all successful data breaches also have something in common; either substandard, or a complete lack of, security event monitoring.

Devices Generating Logs

You know how people often say only the dumb criminals get caught? That’s only partially true. Even the dumbest ones get away when nobody cares enough to watch. Every technology device creates an event log of some type. Now some are very verbose and have more information than you could possibly want, while others are relatively simple. Every firewall, server, desktop, smartphone, tablet and other computing device has a log file. Even security cameras, door badge systems, electronic time clocks and other “smart” devices have logs. The question is, what happens to all of those event logs?

Well, in most cases they are simply overwritten with new logs when the log file gets full. Nobody ever reviews them to look for suspicious behavior. They are not stored in a safe place or backed up. Lots of useful information that could either help detect and prevent a cyberattack or provide details to post attack investigators is simply lost.

Myths and Truths

Today I want to debunk some myths about security event monitoring to help encourage you to take the next step.


Myth: Turning on event logging will impact system performance.

Truth: Most of the event logging you need turned on is on by default and systems are designed to handle the creation of event logs for security review. Only in extreme cases will event logging create a performance impact to your system.


Myth: Security event monitoring takes too much time.

Truth: There are tools that are designed to collect the event logs and correlate those events to identify suspicious activity and provide alerts based on predefined patterns of behavior. In most cases this can take millions of event logs and turn it into a handful of actual incidents to review.


Myth: Security event monitoring is too expensive for anyone other than a large enterprise

Truth: There are several SIEM tools that are well within the reach of most businesses. There are even services called Managed Security Services Providers (MSSP) who can provide the tools and the expert staff to review the incidents for under $20/day.


Myth: We don’t need to review security logs because we’ll know if we’ve been hacked.

Truth: The average time to detect a breach today is 6 months, and more than two-thirds of data breaches are discovered by someone other than the victim company.


In the information age we live in today, security event monitoring is essential. When used properly it can help alert to suspected cyberattacks.  It also ensures that a bread trail is left for investigators to pursue after an attack happens. Ask your IT team what type of security event monitoring is in place at your organization, and make sure someone is reviewing your logs daily.

Dave Nelson 2015 IowaBiz BlogDave Nelson is president and CEO of Integrity. 

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

Six pillars of sustainable design

- Rob Smith is principal architect at CMBA | Smith Metzger.

         
Many organizations are trying to be the leader of the sustainability movement. You’ve got

  • World Green Building Council
  • USGBC 
  • Green Building Initiative
  • Green Building Alliance
  • and on and on

Each with several rating levels, guidelines, fees, and review process. As architects and owners sift through all the choices everyone has to simply keep a few key concepts in the forefront.

Call them the six pillars of sustainable design. Focus on these and you can’t go wrong!

  1. OPTIMIZE SITE POTENTIAL. Can you find an existing building that will work? Should it be closer to bus routes? Can it take advantage of natural ventilation and daylight?
  2. OPTIMIZE ENERGY USE. Do all you can to use as little fossil fuel as possible. Install the most efficient mechanical systems.  Consider geothermal and solar.
  3. PROTECT AND CONSERVE WATER.  Use as little water in the building as you can and conserve what falls on the site. Harvest rain water. Retain water on site with swales.
  4. OPTIMIZE BUILDING SPACE AND MATERIAL USE. Design spaces to fit the need. Build with long lasting materials. Use recycled materials. Build with naturally replenished materials.
  5. ENHANCE INDOOR AIR QUALITY.   Buildings are for human use so the human condition is paramount.  All the green efforts are in vain if the patient dies or is unhealthy.
  6. OPTIMIZE OPERATIONAL AND MAINTENANCE PRACTICES.  For too long buildings have been designed with sophisticated systems and turned over with no communication as to how to operate the building.  Designers and users must work together to reap the benefits of planning.

Let me know if you have any other pillars to add to the list. Contact me at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

Punching above our weight class

-- Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor. Follow him @brent_willett.

Boxing_gloves

In college for a time, I held a straight-commission job selling water softener systems door-to-door. I knew that while my particular product may have been top-of-the-line, it was also spectacularly overpriced; many systems you could buy off the shelf at a hardware store for a fraction of the price could do the job nearly as well.

This in mind, I initially targeted the wealthiest neighborhoods in town where, presumably, the highest concentration of customers with the financial wherewithal to buy my expensive product lived.  I didn’t sell a single unit. Frustrated, I readjusted my strategy to target middle-income neighborhoods.

It worked. Once I made a handful of sales in those neighborhoods, often by applying steep discount allowances I had been granted to generate initial sales activity, I moved back to the wealthier neighborhoods. With anecdotes in hand of families of more modest means purchasing the very same system, my sales took off. 

I had learned early a critical lesson: to win, sometimes you’ve got make the prize holder uncomfortable. And then muscle your way into the ring and take it.

Competition is fundamental to industry -- from banking to automotive; journalism to engineering; IT to agriculture.  Economic development, of course, is no different. Engaged in what amounts to enterprise sales with a state, region or community and its qualities as their product, economic developers like those in Central Iowa find themselves regularly engaged in fierce, pitched competitive battles with their counterparts in other countries, states and communities for job creation projects. 

The makeup of our region’s competition for projects is increasingly intimidating and fierce, and that’s a good thing.  Visit with any of the scores of men and women who are professionally engaged in attracting new investment and jobs to their communities in Central Iowa and they will tell you that overwhelmingly, we find ourselves competing with regions and metros much larger than the 900,000-person Cultivation Corridor region. The Central Iowa of 2016 is competing with New York, Indianapolis and Hartford for insurance projects; with Northern California for technology projects; with St. Louis for plant science projects; with Kansas City for animal health projects; with Chicago for publishing and food processing projects; the list goes on. 

Indian writer Toba Beta once said “[j]ealousy is love in competition.” A time ago, the Central Iowa region’s economic developers may have found themselves, hands cupped around eyes, gazing into the proverbial storefront window of major job creation projects as much larger metro areas fought ferociously among themselves for them; Central Iowa not invited to the party.

But success begets success, and as major, brand name projects like Facebook and Athene and Workiva have chosen the region and top national rankings have poured in in the last half decade or so, Central Iowa’s profile among the national site location consultant community and broader corporate sector has grown appreciably.

The result has been new opportunities to compete for projects with major American and international cities which our region in years past would never have been invited to compete for. It’s the functional equivalent of being invited to sit at the adult’s table at Thanksgiving after years of meals around a card table in the living room.

The economic development team at the Greater Des Moines Partnership -- the region’s largest economic development operation -- will tell you that in many more cases than not, Greater Des Moines is the smallest metro in the mix for the projects they are working. The team at the Ames Economic Development Commission will tell you the same thing, as will many other agencies in the region. This is a great compliment and fine testament to the progress the region and its practitioners have made in the last decade.

We’re punching above our weight class in Central Iowa, and we’re landing some punches.

 

Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.  Contact him:

Human: 515-360-1732

Digital: bwillett@cultivationcorridor.org / @brent_willett / LinkedIn.com/in/brentwillett

You don't know until you know

You-don’t-know-what-you-knowDanny Beyer is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Kabel Business Services.

2015 was a fun year for me because of a unique resolution I made the first week of January. I decided to reach out to my social network and have one meeting a week with someone I was connected with but didn’t actually know. This included LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends. To say these meetings changed my outlook on life would be an understatement.  One of those coffees took place towards the end of October.

I had run into Josh Dreyer multiple times throughout the past couple of years. We attended a lot of the same networking functions, frequented non-profit events, and had a lot of mutual friends. We were friends on Facebook but had never had a meaningful conversation. I sent him a Facebook message and we agreed to get coffee at Panera the following week. 

Our conversation was pretty standard. Where are you from? How did you get to where you are now in life? What are trying to do in the community? What drives you, and how can we help each other?  We found we had a lot in common, even with him being a die-hard Hawkeye fan. Towards the end of the coffee, our conversation turned to how great and open a community Greater Des Moines is, how easy it is to get connected and to build real relationships. Then he said something that I still think about almost daily. 

“You don’t know until you know.”

We had been talking about networking the right way. We both had similar experiences when we first entered the professional community – attending networking events, handing out as many business cards as possible, and being overly salesy during the entire process. We both hated it and neither had any success “networking” in the traditional sense. So we changed our style.

We started having meaningful conversations. We stopped talking about work and really engaged with people. We went into events to actually meet people instead of to sell them something. Success quickly followed for both of us both professionally and personally. We didn’t know the right way to network until we ran out of options. 

If you’re not seeing the results you want through your network, try something new. Stop talking about work and really get to know the person you’re talking to. The work will follow as relationships build. Remember, “You don’t know until you know.”

B&W Headshot- Danny Beyer is the director of Sales and Marketing for Kabel Business Services and author of The Ties that Bind:  Networking with StyleHe is also a professional speaker on networking.

 

Iowa's open records law - who, what, when, and why?

Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law. 6a00d83452ceb069e201b7c7f097a3970b-320wi

Iowa's Open Records laws permit Iowans and Iowa businesses to obtain numerous types of records and communications from government bodies and officials. Frequently, Iowans and Iowa businesses use these laws to obtain general information about government activities as well as information about how competitors may be communicating with the government. Access to such records is governed by Iowa Code Chapter 22.

Who may request a public record?

Iowa Code Chapter 22 explains how "[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record..." Iowa Code 22.2 (emphasis added).  Put another way, Iowans and Iowa businesses have the right to access qualifying public records.  

What constitutes a public record?

Iowa law defines a public record broadly and includes, among other things, "all records, documents, tape, or other information, stored or preserved in any medium, of or belonging to this state or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision." Iowa Code 22.1(3).  In other words, letters, emails, text messages, and other correspondence are all examples of public records. In describing the breadth of Iowa's Open Record laws, the Iowa Supreme Court acknowledges "[t]he right of persons to view public records is to be interpreted liberally to provide broad public access to public records." Gannon v. Bd. of Regents, 692 N.W.2d 31, 38 (Iowa 2005). It should be noted that at the time of this publication, Iowa law recognizes nearly seventy different categories of "confidential records."  See Iowa Code 22.7.  

When must public records be provided?

Generally, upon making a proper request, records should be provided by the government body to the requesting party in a prompt manner. Notably, however, Iowa law permits the records custodian a "good-faith, reasonable delay" to determine whether the government record in question is a public record, or confidential record. See Iowa Code 22.8(4).

Why does Iowa's open records law exist?

"The purpose of the statute is to open the doors of government to public scrutiny [and] to prevent government from secreting its decision-making activities from the public, on whose behalf it is its duty to act... Accordingly, there is a presumption of openness and disclosure under this chapter." Horsfield Materials, Inc. v. City of Dyersville, 834 N.W.2d 444, 460 (Iowa 2013), reh'g denied (Aug. 6, 2013).

If you are considering making an open records request, you should consider contacting a licensed attorney who practices in this area of law.  

 

Take time for why

- Joe Benesh is a senior architect with Shive-Hattery and president + CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning, diagramming, framework development, and design thinking consulting firm.

Like many people I know, I use the holiday break to think about the things I would like to accomplish in the coming year. Through the years, I’ve done this in many different ways, all with varying degrees of success. As I started my list this year, I wanted to be sure to incorporate some of the lessons learned over the course of the last year and it got me thinking. When it comes to considering what I am going to do in 2016, I have to ask myself – am I spending too little time on why and too much time on what? 1449770716108

Being tactical is important. It’s how we get things done. But many times we jump to this step too early. The by-product of becoming tactical too early can be an endless stream of to-dos and Gantt charts, CPM schedules and planning diagrams with a relational / orbital hierarchy that is impossible to decipher. I concede that making to-do lists can be rewarding – and in “quick win” scenarios they are a simple way to accomplish many things expeditiously. However, when thinking about more long-term goals or considering the sustainability of your efforts, to-do lists just don’t cut it.

In the past, I have been part of (not led) sessions that generate outcome documents that are basically a SWOT analysis (a matrix of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) with some sort of “action plan” or “to do” list attached to it. To me, this does not represent a strategic plan. The SWOT is a form of analysis, to be sure. And, as indicated above, there are “quick win” environments where those type of lists work. However, the following is generally what happens if the above is used as a strategic plan.

The organization using the framework will experience a high level of productivity as they work through the list. They will even be able to tie their efforts back to elements of the SWOT analysis, due to the data collected by that analysis being discrete and parsed out into specific emphasis areas. But, as the list nears completion, or the more complex tasks in the analysis are reached, productivity has a tendency to dramatically fall off. When this happens, morale will suffer, and management will be put in a position where communicating next steps will be difficult, if not impossible.

But why is this? The main reason is that the SWOT/To-Do framework is all tactical. There is no data generated on the purpose of the task – the “why”. The why is the source – it speaks to the mission and vision of your organization. If there is no “why” to tie your efforts back to, sustainability of your organization’s operation momentum will experience a high level of volatility.

I know these conversations are hard. Being strategic seems like “fluff” or “soft” to many. This truly is not the case. Taking the time to build a strategic framework with the “why” considerations built in leads to greater overall fulfillment from all walks of staff, and creates more robust, better developed, and more fulfilling action plans. If your only definition of "why" is growth, your strategy may need further development to be holistic.

When I look at what I want to accomplish in 2016, I always start with why I want to do it. It saves me time in planning how I will allocate my own resources. Actions will be more sustainable if they are aligned with motivations. Quick wins will grow into more complex and larger outcome strategic goals. Making time for why ultimately leads to better starting points, better decisions, and better results.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny

 

Are you giving your users the attention they deserve?

- Alex Karei, marketing director for Webspec Design, blogs about web strategy.

“Focus on the user and all else will follow.”

That’s the opening statement in “Ten things we know to be true,” a collection of belief statements written by Google when it was a few years old. It’s a great list, but that statement really stuck out to me when I first read it.

If you own or market a business, you’re probably spending a lot of time every day doing one thing - trying to figure out one more way you can help influence a decision-maker to purchase your product or service. That’s not a bad thing. Without sales, you can’t sustain a business. However, in much of how we choose to market our products and services on our websites, we don’t always take the time that we should to stop and think about the user.

Some of you might argue that you are thinking about the user. For instance, you might be thinking about their problems and how to best present your product to solve them. Great! But that’s not what I mean. I mean, when you add 2,000 words of copy to explain how that product solves the problem, are you thinking about how annoying it is to read through all of the information you included to get the key facts? You might feel like all of your information is relevant (and it might be) but it’s probably not all required to convince the reader that your product is the one for them. And it could, in fact, be turning some of the users away.

Next time you choose to make a decision about your website, ask yourself these three things.

  • Is what I’m sharing something the user cares to know? We all feel like our company history is the coolest on earth - but at the end of the day, someone who is trying to buy a new pair of shoes might not care that the owner designed them in their garage. That piece of information isn’t helping the immediate sale. That’s not to say that it shouldn’t be used at all, but in its proper place.  
  • If the user doesn’t know this piece of information, will they still buy from me? Most salespeople could talk your ear off about the benefits of a product. But, think about what kind of information is really needed for someone to choose your product over another on your website. A purchase that is, say, $20 doesn’t always need as in-depth information available as one that costs $2,000. And, the more information you include, the longer it will take the reader to sort through and make their decision.
  • What kind of information are my competitors including? This does NOT mean you need to include the same things, but if your competitors have an entire section about their material sources - and that’s a crucial set of information when it comes to your product - you might want to think about including that information. That same concept applies the other direction, too. If you have long bios about each employee of your business, but it’s in no way differentiating you from your competitors, it could be something to consider cutting back on.

At the end of the day, my favorite question is a harsh one: “Who cares?” If you can’t (truthfully) think of a user who does, it’s time to think about cleaning up your content.

Alex Karei_124Alex is the marketing director for Webspec Design, a website design and development and digital marketing agency in Urbandale. Connect with her on:

Email: alex@webspecdesign.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/alextriesitout
Instagram: www.instagram.com/alextriesitout
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alexandriakarei

A guide to planning successful events: Part 3

 

 

 

Applepie recipe

- Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC.

Phase 3:  CREATIVE LOGISTICS:  “What is the recipe I follow to make this Apple Pie? 

At this point, you have set some solid ground work during Phases 1 and 2:  You have your big innovative and creative ideas, you’ve developed your clear event objectives, you’ve assembled your team and assigned them their designated roles, you’ve set deadlines and you now have a working event program.  So now it is time to get into the nitty-gritty. 

Phase 3:  CREATIVE LOGISTICS:  “What is the recipe I follow to make this Apple Pie?”

  1. Nail down your venue & final date: Establishing this deadline will light a fire under you and hopefully fuel your excitement to power through this phase of planning.
  2. Engage Your Out-of-House Team: This will be all of the experts that you don’t currently have in-house (outside of your event planner, who should already be involved at this point).  These members might be:   an A/V production company, marketing & graphic design company, décor company, caterer and any other special groups that will assist you in executing other elements of your event. By engaging these vendors you will begin to understand the overall cost of your event.  Once you have a complete budget, you can always look at each line item and value engineer where you see fit. Treat your vendors like the experts they are and ask them how they can work within your budget but still achieve your objectives. Your vendors will perform best when they are given the freedom to own their own role. Remember you hired them for their expertise so avoid the temptation to micro-manage-it will only stress you out.
  3. Refine Your Event Program: Finalize your schedule. Be mindful to the flow and view the program from the eyes of the attendee. Avoid long expanses of content delivery where attendees are tied to their seats for hours. Incorporate frequent breaks so the blood can continue to flow. Think about how you can deliver messaging in varied ways so to avoid monotony and maintain attendee engagement. Any elements that you can incorporate into the event that are unexpected but add value are encouraged. Delivering your content by using a variety of tactics will increase the chances of your message being received and retained by your attendees. This will also avoid the chances of brain fatigue. Variety is the spice of life-so use it to make your event unique!
  4. Marketing Outreach Strategy & Momentum Building: Spend some time developing a strategy on how you are going to engage your attendees and begin to build momentum prior to the event.  Perhaps it is through a social media campaign or event specific app, but whatever it is, make sure it is purposeful.  The most successful events are the ones that everyone is talking about before it begins, exceeds their expectations once it arrives and holds their attention after it is gone.  This type of reception doesn’t happen by accident, it needs to be strategically planned and diligently executed. 
  5. Determine ROI Measurement Strategy: Your ROI strategy will be intimately tied to the efforts of your marketing strategy.  Leverage the power of social media and engage your attendees early.   For example, associating a hashtag with everything these days is common practice –so come up with something creative and work that hashtag.  Implement an intentional social media plan.  Pose questions, provide visual and interactive “shareable moments” and incentive your attendees to share.  This will increase your social media participation and thereby increase your event reach AKA- FREE marketing!  By vocalizing your hashtag early (prior to event) you can also start to build momentum for the event itself, getting attendees excited for what is to come.  Likewise, you can utilize the hashtag following the event to sustain the excitement and encourage attendee feedback.  Make sure you are encouraging pointed attendee participation throughout the event and asking specific questions about what your attendees are responding to.  Guide conversation but allow organic feedback to surface.  Be the facilitator of participation but don’t overly interfere.  Create a fine balance between encouraging the conversation while avoiding contrived and somewhat superficial dialogue.

    In addition to social media event specific apps can be employed to build a community around your event.  As the event organizer you can post updates and information to attendees prior to, during and following events.  These apps are also equipped with detailed analytics that can demonstrate how active attendees were and gauge overall reception.  If you want to get really detailed on seeing quantitative results on how your event was received, you might consider adding an Advertising Agency to your team of gurus to implement a more detailed strategy.
  6. Details & Logistics: The devil is in the details: Be thoughtful in everything!  Don’t ever let something be “good enough,” when it could be great.

Phase 3 can be a bit overwhelming, so creating a reliable and capable team to delegate tasks to is vital.  Next time we will watch our event come to life as we talk about Event Production and ways to review our event's success. 

As always please let me know your thoughts and if you need more clarification!

 

Contact me by phone: 617-840-5073 or email at anebons@blinkevents.net. Find me on LinkedIn , Facebook or at my website www.blinkevents.net.

 

Getting off the hamster wheel

Meridith Freese is the marketing manager for the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce and the West Des Moines New View Young Professionals coordinator.

I-want-more-goodbye-hamster-wheel-e1367475769167Have you ever been driving a car while thinking about all the activities that you have in the day ahead when you suddenly realize that you don’t remember the last two minutes of driving?

So many of us go through life unaware that we are on autopilot. We get out of bed, do the same morning routine, go to work and get home just in time to start making dinner, hopefully squeezing in a few minutes to relax before getting up and doing it all over again.

Without being consciously aware of it, our life becomes a “hamster wheel” of our daily schedule. I noticed my “hamster wheel” about eight months into my full-time job. I realized that I was doing the same things at home and work because that was just what I was used to doing! I seemed to do it without even noticing.

One day I realized that I didn’t want to be missing out on the here and now, by living on autopilot. Neither should you. Here are some things that help me focus on the present.  These things have helped me become more creative and productive at work, and in my personal life. I enjoy my life more when I’ve made it a priority to become intentional with my focus.

  • Notice when you are starting to let your mind wander, forgive yourself for it, and bring yourself back to the present.
  • There is never just one way to do your job. Have fun by thinking outside the box and doing something differently than you have before.
  • Make a list of all the things you like and don’t like about your current situation.
  • Create goals to help you change things that are holding you back.
  • Meet people you can learn from and also cultivate relationships with others who can learn from you. Giving back is a powerful motivator.
  • Make time for things that you love outside of work. It is extremely important to give yourself time to regroup and enjoy your hobbies and relationships.

There are many ways to keep yourself from becoming complacent at your job or at home. You can choose happiness and control whether you are stuck on a hamster wheel, or whether you take your life back and get intentional with it.

-Meridith Freese 171A6085

Connect with me!

Facebook: meridith.freese
Twitter: @MertFreese

A guide to planning successful events: Part 2

  • KE181Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC.

Last time we began our discussion on the different phases of event planning.  In Phase 1, you developed your list of event objectives, now it is time to set up the infrastructure so we can put them into action.

Phase 1: CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT-- “I want to make an apple pie.”

In Phase 2 we embark on the journey of turning our conceptual ideas into solid action steps:

Phase 2: PROGRAMMING -- “What ingredients do I need to make this apple pie?

Develop a preliminary event program: Begin to wrap your mind around how this event actually looks by creating an event schedule from start to finish. This is a first draft, so allow yourself to be free here. Don’t get too wrapped up in getting it right. The purpose of this exercise is to take everything you have learned from Phase 1 and begin to apply it in a practical way.

This is where logistics are welcomed back into the conversation. Start to apply your out-of-the-box ideas in a realistic way without compromising on the innovation. If you find yourself getting too stiff, this is where you pull out all of your sketches from Phase 1 and bring back to life the creativity and excitement that you previously cultivated.

You should walk away from this exercise with a working event schedule, including different logistical elements (speakers, breakouts, breaks, meals, entertainment…etc) and their associated time frames. You should also have a good idea of potential event dates and venue choices.

Assign roles & responsibilities to your team members: Develop a list of clear expectations for each team member so each knows their allotted tasks. Assign tasks based on the strengths of each member and their ability to achieve the best results. For example, the stickler for the rules might make a good “objective enforcer” to make sure decisions are in alignment with event objectives; whereas the daydreamer might make a good event décor designer.

Create team categories to cover each area of the event. These team categories might differ from event to event (and will most likely have sub-categories within them) but some good starting categories might be:  Venue Logistics, A/V Design & Logistics, Marketing & Messaging, Technology & Innovation, Décor & Graphics…etc.  Essentially you must compile the list of ingredients you will need in order to make this event happen.

Create a meeting schedule, assign tasks & set deadlines: Assigning tasks and developing deadlines will ensure everyone is being held accountable to their roles and will limit the threat of oversights.  Rule of thumb:  for a smaller 2- to 3-hour event, starting the planning process  one to two months prior might be adequate time. For a larger half-day or full-day event with multiple speakers and break-out sessions, it makes sense to start planning at least three to four months prior.  Anything larger it is advised you allocate at least six to eight months of planning time to ensure the event is thoughtfully executed. 

With this infrastructure in place, you are now ready to proceed into Phase 3, the Creative Logistics Phase.  This is where we start to get into the nitty-gritty details.  As always, contact me for more information or clarification on the phases we just covered!

Contact me by phone: 617-840-5073 or email at anebons@blinkevents.net. Find me on LinkedIn , Facebook or at my website www.blinkevents.net.  

2016 cybersecurity predictions

2016-cybersecurity-predictions

- Dave Nelson, CISSP is president and CEO of Integrity

With all of the information security breaches of 2015 in our rear view mirror, let’s take a moment to look ahead to my predictions for cyber threats and trends in 2016. It’s important to remember that these aren’t really random thoughts from some guy spelling doom and gloom for the future. They are based on research data from the likes of the Ponemon Institute, FBI, Secret Service, Verizon, Microsoft, Symantec and other well known organizations.  They also reflect the real world experiences of the incident response and consulting teams at Integrity. 

#1 Continued attacks against health care

Healthcare records are far more valuable on the black market than simple credit-card or bank-account information. There are several reasons for this. Financial information has a short lifespan. Compromised accounts are quickly closed or funds are depleted. Health care records however can be used over and over again. They can also be used for different purposes. Extensive fake identities for criminals or terrorists can be created using physical characteristics. People can be blackmailed into performing actions in order to stave off the release of private medical information. These records can also be used for financial gain in committing billing fraud through organized crime rings.

#2 Increased attacks against manufacturing

Research shows that intellectual property is one of the top targets during a data breach. Companies both domestic and foreign are under increasing pressure to compete in a global marketplace. For companies who spend billions each year on research and development, protecting this intellectual property is essential. Foreign nations are setting up advanced cyber warfare divisions to steal intellectual property for use in military applications. And those countries with nationalized industries are also looking for any commercial idea they can find to capture market share and increase revenue. Even smaller companies that make unique items or have a niche market are at serious risk.

#3 Increased use of social engineering tactics

As we continue to build more secure networks and applications, it gets harder to hack them in some respects. As this occurs, hackers will try to find other avenues to get what they want. Using our humanity against us through social engineering attacks will continue to rise until everyone understands our digital lives at work and at home are becoming indistinguishable. Our eating or exercise habits don’t change from work to home. Nor do our computer habits. We must train society at large to take information security seriously wherever and whenever they use technology.

#4 Attacks will become increasingly targeted and sophisticated

The cyberattacks that companies face today are different. They are shifting to targeted attacks looking to capture specific information or inflict specific damage. Because of this, these attacks are more sophisticated than ever.  The old days of simply patching systems to remove vulnerabilities in order to prevent cyberattacks are long gone. Cybersecurity defenses will need to become more advanced to keep up with the threat.

2016 will be no different than 2015. Successful cyberattacks will continue to occur at an alarming rate. We must adapt and take this global threat seriously at the individual, corporate and government levels.

Dave Nelson 2015 IowaBiz BlogDave Nelson is president and CEO of Integrity. 

Email: dave.nelson@integritysrc.com

Twitter: @integritySRC | @integrityCEO

Website: integritysrc.com

Can nonprofits innovate like startups?

Max Farrell is the co-founder of WorkHound, a driver retention software focused on the trucking industry. Beyond that, Max facilitates innovation experiences with innovation consulting firm Create Reason, which instills a culture of intrapreneurship inside established companies.

BG innovation biz record

In the middle of a weekday afternoon recently, I looked at the outdoor garden at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden as a staff of 20-plus behind me was passionately coming up with more than 100 ideas about how to improve the guest experience at the Garden. 

Many of the staff could have been tending to the gardens, making donor calls, guiding tours, or any of the number of duties it takes to run the organization. Instead, the staff agreed to press pause for a day in order to work cross-functionally and identify future opportunities for the organization. We called the day an “Innovation Jam”.

As someone who cut my teeth working with emerging tech companies like Dwolla, then launched my own company called WorkHound, I have a blast when I can share actionable knowledge with amazing nonprofits in the community.

But I had one big question that needed to be answered: Can a nonprofit innovate like a startup?

The answer was revealed quickly on my day working with the Botanical Garden: absolutely.

In the one-day innovation jam, we broke out the employees cross-functionally, wrote down 100-plus ideas, filtered them down within groups, and then prioritized based on the day’s north star (goal): “improve the guest experience for members and visitors of the Botanical Garden."

The first thing the Botanical Garden did was engage its entire staff in this experience. Employees collaborated with others regardless of role or department. To truly have an innovative organization, bottom-up engagement has to be embraced and the Botanical Garden did just that.

To amplify this, the Botanical Garden invited members to participate in a “customer development” session, where groups of employees interviewed members to better understand their problems, their delights, and the stickiness around what keeps them coming back. This opened staff eyes to quickly validate their ideas and whether additional time was needed to develop an idea into an event, a product, or a service down the road.

Finally, we worked through how to experiment like companies such as Zappos and Google to try small things before spending significant efforts on something that doesn’t work. This was culminated with completing “The Lean Canvas”, which I often refer to as a business model in a box.

We ended the day mentally exhausted, but eager to execute on new opportunities.

With more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S.*, there are many organizations competing for precious grants, donations, and volunteer efforts. Some of the most innovative organizations, like the Botanical Garden, realize they can’t rely exclusively on others contributing money. They run parts of their organization like a business: They know who their customer is, they create a product or service, and they operate where donations are a bonus.

The Botanical Garden added innovation into their strategic vision recently and the ripples continue to roll, as the physical experiences there leave visitors awestruck. But on a day when the Botanical Garden closed its doors for staff development, it added innovative tactics to the many tools used to make the gardens thrive.

*based on data from foundationcenter.org

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Let's keep the conversation going: 

Max startup

Email: max@createreason.com

Twitter: @MaxOnTheTrack

Web: CreateReason.com

5-star thinking

5StarThinking

Dr. Anthony Paustian is the provost for Des Moines Area Community College in West Des Moines and the author of "Imagine" and "Beware the Purple People Eaters."

Imagine getting out of a cab at the entrance of a five-star hotel. You immediately notice the smell of fresh-cut grass, the beautiful landscaping, and flowerbeds. As you enter the lobby, you can feel the elegance of the décor. The staff is dressed quite handsomely. The property is very well maintained. You hear enticing music and laughter from the lounge. The smell of hot chocolate chip cookies at the front desk masks the slight smell of chlorination from the nearby fountain while you listen to the soothing tone of the clerk’s voice.

After a few audible yet pleasant sounds emanating from the insertion of the card key, you enter your room, taking immediate notice of the spectacular view through the window. The high thread count of the sheets is apparent to the touch. A mint was left on the pillow. A little sign guaranteeing freshness sits next to a handwritten thank-you note from the housekeeper. You can’t help but run your hands through the soft, plush towels. And of course, the ends of the toilet paper are nicely folded into a point providing reassurance that the bathroom has been “sanitized for your protection.”

Now consider this.

You get out of a cab at an old, roadside hotel. You hear the sounds of traffic and nearby construction. After paying for your room through the protective glass separating you from the clerk, you grab your key attached to a large plastic identifier. After dragging your bag up two flights of stairs, you make your way down an open corridor exposed to the elements.

You enter the room. It has a musty smell. There’s a large “tube-style” television bolted to the cabinet on which it sits. The carpet looks like it was originally in a now-razed Vegas casino from the '60s, and the bed permanently sags inward from overuse. The wallpaper sports a mixed display of fruit and flowers, and the bathroom smells of bleach. As you lay in the sunken center of the bed, you can hear the steady drips from the bathroom faucet in between the voices of people arguing in the room next door.

In the 1990s, Motel 6 began displaying solid black posters in their lobbies with the following phrase: “All hotel rooms look the same with the lights off.” Although technically true, we do our most productive work in the light, and the surrounding environment is critical to its success. Location matters. Regardless of what we do and where we are, it’s almost impossible not to have a psychological and emotional experience based on the elements within that space.

We all have a tendency to spend much of our time in some very unproductive locations loaded with distractions. Both my home and office are decorated with purposeful, tangible aesthetics intended to improve my mood and make me “feel” more creative and motivated. However, people, the fridge, the television, and sometimes the dog, frequently interrupt my stream of thought and thus, productivity.

To effectively complete tasks with higher levels of both creativity and imagination, I try to do it at one of my “sweet spots,” a secondary place where I can disconnect from the world and feel completely relaxed and energized. For me, these places tend to revolve around local restaurants and vacation spots. Restaurants work well when I’m simply trying to focus on something specific. People generally ignore me, and the surrounding activity serves as white noise to help me stay mentally locked in on the task at hand. I wrote my entire doctoral dissertation at Applebee’s, my first book at Chili’s, and my most recent book - Beware the Purple People Eaters – and this blog at Subway. Most of the creative thinking, outlining and research were done while relaxing poolside in Las Vegas. For whatever reason, these places work for me.

Our emotions directly affect our focus and creativity. A secret to productive thinking is the ability to identify those personal, five-star sweet spots where you can feel your emotional, intuitive best. Go there – whenever you can – when you want to be most focused, energized and creative.

Practice Challenge: Think back to when you felt the most happy or relaxed. What were you doing? Where were you doing it? What was it about that place that allowed you to experience something positive? Try to identify similar places, both nearby and far away. Use the nearby locations as your go-to “sweet spots” when you want to focus and finish a specific task. Plan trips to your distant locations and set aside that time just to think and process in a relaxed environment. You’ll be amazed by the outcome.

©2015  Anthony D. Paustian

PaustianHeadFor more information about Dr. Anthony Paustian, provost for Des Moines Area Community College in West Des Moines, please visit his website at www.adpaustian.com

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