Run a More Innovative Company Through Suggestions

Interview

To make a company more efficient and innovative all that’s needed is a suggestion box. It turns out that listening to employees can increase the effectiveness of a company no matter how you do it. So if a suggestion box is too old school you can use a Slack channel or any other form of open communication. I’m sure this technique of listening to people who actually put the effort into a task can be applied elsewhere too.

Micah Johnson of GoFanbase, Inc., shared with Small Business Trends that his company created a Slack channel where employees can submit their ideas. Tomer Bar-Zeev of IronSource said that 24-hour hackathons enable his innovation team to break from their usual projects and work on entirely different, new projects. At my company, JotForm, we hold weekly Demo Days to give employees a forum to explore their ideas, no matter how far-fetched.

Even a system as simple as a suggestion box can be highly effective. Just ask Charlie Ward, the engineer who used Amazon’s digital suggestion box to submit his idea for free shipping, which eventually formed the basis of Amazon Prime. As journalist Brad Stone wrote in his book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, CEO Jeff Bezos was reportedly “immediately enchanted by the idea.”

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Inspiration from the Past: Be Less Productive

conversation

The last century witnessed multiple calls for shorter work days (8 hours!) and more vacation time; this century we’ve been focussed on helping companies make more money. We presently live in a culture that values “productivity” over all else and many take it as a point of pride that they have little leisure time. What if we changed that and set our sites on making our working lives easier? That’s the question being asked over at The Week, and it’s worth considering.

I am struck by this unquestioning assumption that people ought to make their choices based on “business logic.” Is the idea that the government ought to help us carve out the time and space to dip our toes in the ocean or watch birds at the park just for the sake of it so inappropriate or bizarre?

It wasn’t always this way. More than 100 years ago, states began listening to workers’ demands and limiting the hours employers could make people work. Later, in the 1930s and ’40s, the federal government did the same thing on the national level. And governments didn’t just guarantee people the free time to pay attention to things one might deem “unproductive” — they also helped them find unproductive things to do. Indeed, early 20th-century political leaders made playgrounds and public spaces a priority. Teddy Roosevelt, who helped create the national parks system, ensuring Americans’ access to wild and beautiful places, frequently described the power of nature in decidedly non-instrumental terms. “There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm,” he once wrote.

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It’s Time the Gig Economy Paid

Foodora work

Foodora workers are looking for justice for the way they have been ripped off and poorly treated by Foodora. Foodora is like any other gig economy company insofar that it takes an existing business model but places the operating costs onto independent contractors. Due to legal loopholes Foodora workers are easier to exploit and get less protection than workers labelled as employees – and this issue isn’t unique to Foodora. Most gig economy “jobs” are questionable.

In the USA, Trump’s anti-labour government has failed to protect workers so individual states are starting to act. California is looking at legislation to protect people who work in the gig economy.

Last Wednesday, the California assembly passed legislation codifying an important California supreme court decision: in order for companies to treat workers as independent contractors, the workers must be free from company control, doing work that’s not central to the company’s business, and have an independent business in that trade.

Whatever national rule eventually emerges for defining gig workers, they’ll need a different system of social insurance than was the case when steady full-time employment was the norm.

For example, they need income insurance rather than unemployment insurance. One model: If someone’s monthly income dips below their average monthly income from all jobs over the preceding five years, they automatically receive half the difference for up to a year.

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Work Less to Save the Planet

economic chart

You already know you’re working too many hours, so let’s change that and save the planet in the process. Economic growth has physical limits and we’re hitting those already as we run out of finite resources, or those resources are getting harder and harder to reach like oil. So to maintain growth we need to switch to a renewable energy based economy and fast. We can also just work less and focus on decreasing the growth of consumer capitalism.

This is where the idea of degrowth comes in. Degrowing our economy focuses on getting rid of things awe don’t need and are incredibly destructive to the environment (like fast fashion) and focusing our attention to bettering society as a whole (like free daycare). Another way to degrowth the economy is to reduce our working weeks to produce more jobs and give everybody more leisure. Aren’t we all working for the weekend anyway?

To get emissions to zero, it will involve a kind of “degrowth,” but one targeted specifically at fossil-fuel consumption. “That doesn’t mean we have to degrow everything,” Pollin said. “We really need to degrow the fossil fuel industry to zero, but massively expand the clean energy systems, the investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.” This is essentially the Green New Deal: a push to increase renewable energy while eliminating fossil fuels, and including an effort to create a just transition for the people who have jobs in that sector.

To Pollin, even this would be a radical improvement. A plan to get to zero carbon emissions in 30 years would mean shutting down one of the world’s most powerful industries. He thinks that that is ambitious enough without trying to implement other broad societal changes.

“If we take the climate science seriously, we only have a few decades to make huge progress,” Pollin said. “And whether I like it or not, we’re not going to overthrow capitalism in that time.”

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Four Day Work Weeks Increase Productivity, Decrease Stress

subway transit

Working a job that is free of stress is rare, however there’s an easy way to make your current job less stressful: work four days instead of five. This is obvious, but what might not be obvious to some is that a four day work week is just as productive as a five day week. One of the largest companies in New Zealand tested a four day week with their employees and found great success and now other companies are looking to them to learn about it.

Analysis of one of the biggest trials yet of the four-day working week has revealed no fall in output, reduced stress and increased staff engagement, fuelling hopes that a better work-life balance for millions could be in sight.

Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand financial services company, switched its 240 staff from a five-day to a four-day week last November and maintained their pay. Productivity increased in the four days they worked so there was no drop in the total amount of work done, a study of the trial released on Tuesday has revealed.

The trial was monitored by academics at the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology. Among the Perpetual Guardian staff they found scores given by workers about leadership, stimulation, empowerment and commitment all increased compared with a 2017 survey.


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