By Brendan I. Koerner.
Your random tweets about Android apps and last night’s Glee are stifling the economic recovery. At least, that’s the buzz among efficiency mavens, who seem to spend all their time adding up microblogging’s fiscal toll. Last year, Nucleus Research warned that Facebook shaves 1.5 percent off total office productivity; a Morse survey estimated that on-the-job social networking costs British companies $2.2 billion a year.
But for knowledge workers charged with transforming ideas into products — whether gadgets, code, or even Wired articles — goofing off isn’t the enemy. In fact, regularly stepping back from the project at hand can be essential to success. And social networks are particularly well suited to stoking the creative mind.
Studies that accuse social networks of reducing productivity assume that time spent microblogging is time strictly wasted. But that betrays an ignorance of the creative process. Humans weren’t designed to maintain a constant focus on assigned tasks. We need periodic breaks to relieve our conscious minds of the pressure to perform — pressure that can lock us into a single mode of thinking. Musing about something else for a while can clear away the mental detritus, letting us see an issue through fresh eyes, a process that creativity researchers call incubation. “People are more successful if we force them to move away from a problem or distract them temporarily,” observe the authors of Creativity and the Mind, a landmark text in the psychology and neuroscience of creativity. They found that regular breaks enhance problem-solving skills significantly, in part by making it easier for workers to sift through their memories in search of relevant clues.
That doesn’t mean that employees should feel free to play Minesweeper at will, however. According to Don Ambrose, a Rider University professor who studies creative intelligence, incubation is most effective when it involves exposing the mind to entirely novel information rather than just relieving mental pressure. This encourages creative association, the mashing together of seemingly unrelated concepts — a key step in the creative process.
More about How Twitter and Facebook Make Us More Productive here.
By Patrick Lencioni.
New ads for Domino’s Pizza display unusual corporate vulnerability—and the surprising effectiveness of talking straight.
I recently saw a television commercial that made quite an impression on me, and I have a hunch that it might go down as one of the most effective advertisements of all time, assuming the company behind it is sincere. I’m talking about Domino’s Pizza (DPZ) and the recent ad in which the company concedes the shortcomings of its product and explains what has been done to improve it.
The spot opens with customers describing Domino’s pizza using words like ketchup and cardboard. Then, Domino’s President J. Patrick Doyle matter-of-factly explains the importance of acknowledging how customers see his pizza. Finally he outlines the company’s response: 40% more herbs in its sauce, better cheese, a special glaze on the crust. I have a hard time remembering the names of the U.S. Supreme Court justices and even what I had for breakfast. But I can remember all those details from the Domino’s ad, and that says a lot about its impact.
I’m willing to bet that Domino’s will sell a lot more pizzas in the months ahead. And the reason I believe that has less to do with the new ingredients than with Domino’s willingness to cross a line that most companies—and for that matter, most leaders—won’t even approach. Domino’s chose to make itself vulnerable.
Vulnerability isn’t a word that shows up on lists of ingredients for business success. Here’s why it should: Without the willingness and ability to be vulnerable, we simply can’t build deep and lasting relationships in business and, come to think of it, life.
Vulnerability is often seen as a weakness; it’s actually a sign of strength. People who are genuinely open and transparent prove that they have the confidence and self-esteem to allow others to see them as they really are, warts and all. There’s something undeniably magnetic about people who can do that.
When it comes to the workplace, vulnerability is critical in the building of teams. When teammates feel free to admit their mistakes, ask for help, and acknowledge their own weaknesses, they reduce divisive politics and build a bond of trust more valuable than almost any strategic advantage. Another great venue for vulnerability is the one I work in, the world of service. When consultants and advisers are willing to ask dumb questions, tell the unvarnished truth, or broach the painful, elephant-in-the-room topic, they engender loyalty and trust with clients.
More about The Power of Saying ‘We Blew It’ here.
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