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The smarten up 5

By: Jeremy Derksen

How many times have you heard the saying, work smarter, not harder?

Easy in theory, but how do you actually put it into practice? How do you work smarter tomorrow than you did today? Enhancing productivity and performance isn’t as simple as just pushing the “smart” button – it’s about doing the right work versus doing “busy” work. To help you deliver on that age-old mantra, we’re taking a look at some of the latest tactics that can help you and your organization work a little bit smarter.

1. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence – or EQ – has risen to the forefront in the last decade. Forbes magazine has even suggested businesses should hire for EQ over IQ.

So what’s the big deal? Studies show that emotional competencies such as self-confidence, empathy, listening, and initiative are better predictors of success than intelligence alone. People with higher EQ are better able to not only recognize their emotions but also understand their subsequent effect on thinking and behavior. Thus, making them more even tempered, better listeners, and ultimately, excellent decision makers.

EQ expert Justin Bariso, founder of Insight, uses the pizza versus praise equation to explain the value of EQ. In one study, subjects were tested to see which was a greater motivator: pizza, praise, or cash. Pizza won in the short term, but praise had more staying power over the long haul. Cash was a distant third.

The take-away is simple, argues EQ organization 6seconds.org: “people drive performance – but, make no mistake – emotions drive people.” Having a better understanding of those emotions can help leaders better analyze and navigate the complexities of policy, personality, and business relations.

2. DIGITAL MANAGEMENT

Online networking platforms, virtual forums, and social publishing tools are transforming business, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to manage today’s workforce.

“As the amount of information rapidly exceeds our ability to absorb it, the challenge is to rise above the chatter,” says Athabasca University MBA grad Derek Sidebottom.

Sidebottom’s company, Farside HR, specializes in developing software, gaming and mobile HR strategies, particularly for engaging the millennial workforce. “We can never replace the fundamentals of face-to-face relations,” he acknowledges, however, “we would be crazy not to take advantage of these emerging social and technological platforms to communicate and collaborate across diverse teams, geography and time zones.”

Even farmers in West Africa can use digital technology to enhance their businesses. While studying tech adoption in New Guinea, Dr. Bangaly Kaba, Associate Professor of Management Information Systems at AU, found that by keeping tabs on current market value, farmers were able to negotiate better prices for their crops. Such solutions may appear obvious in hindsight, but it takes trust and a willingness to experiment. But as the New Guinean farmers demonstrated, putting the right tools in the right hands can often have surprising results.

3. MINDFULNESS

Listen – can you hear the “ohm” echoing from the corporate boardrooms? Mindfulness has become a full blown business fad.

But does it really work? Leaders at Apple, Google and the U.S. Pentagon are convinced it does. Research has shown that meditation reduces stress and improves emotion regulation. It has also been credited with helping boost positive feelings, cultivating a sense of well-being, and enhancing feelings of connection to others.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review argues that it can help with strategic planning as well. Mindfulness allows for “clarity and generative thinking,” which helps produce more robust strategy.

Bottom line: meditation helps the mind focus and harness creative potential.

4. WELLNESS

“Healthy body, healthy mind” is almost as clichéd as “work smarter, not harder,” and yet often, when companies seek to “trim the fat” among the first things to go are health incentives and employee perks. Instead, says Athabasca University MBA grad Debby Carreau, companies might be wise to invest more in wellness programs and creative benefits that engage employees and boost productivity.

As founder of Inspired HR, Carreau and co. currently fill over 400,000 roles in North American organizations through outsourced staffing solutions. She knows how to get the most out of the HR budget. “When employees are more active, you see fewer sick days, lower levels of depression, and staff are more productive,” says Carreau.

Investing in wellness doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour – start a lunch-hour running club, arrange a corporate gym membership, or host healthy lunches in-house, she suggests. Burning off those heavy extra calories can help energize both body and brain, helping you (and your organization) become leaner and more efficient.

5. LIFELONG LEARNING

We wouldn’t be a responsible post-secondary institution if we didn’t champion the benefits of lifelong learning. But you don’t have to take it from us; scientist and author Dr. Norman Doidge argues, in “The Brain That Changes Itself,” that our brains have neuroplasticity – which means we can grow and change them, with the right effort. Lifelong learning, he writes, is one of the ways to effect such change. Lifelong learning stimulates certain areas of the brain that aren’t usually stimulated in later adulthood, explains Doidge. Through middle age, we spend most of our time repeating tasks we are familiar with, thereby hardening neuro pathways. Learning something new challenges our brain to open up and forge new pathways, in order to absorb, retain, and then put new information to use.

Whether for professional development, career growth, long-term cognitive health, or its many other benefits, lifelong learning is a valuable organizational attribute.

Which leaves just one question: what have you challenged yourself to learn recently?

Published:
  • April 3, 2017
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Guest Blog from:
Jeremy Derksen