Why boring jobs are popular

You might think that the only reasons people choose boring jobs is because it’s a bad economy, they need money, and they have no choice. New research shows those aren’t the only reasons, though.

Money, it turns out, does play a role in selecting boring jobs, but not always for a reason you’d think. Some people pick boring because they feel they should get paid more for the additional effort of an interesting job. Even if the monetary difference between a boring job and an interesting job isn’t enough to sway the decision, people will pick a boring job over an interesting job if the boring job involves less effort.

This study – conducted by Peter Ubel and David Comeford at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business – could have a big impact on peoples’ willingness to open businesses. Starting a small business is inherently a labor-intensive proposition. Although the monetary rewards can be pretty significant, the endeavor can also be a complete financial flop.

If you want to be happy in your career choice, though, Ubel and Comeford suggest ignoring the inclination that you should get paid more for working more hours. Comeford said, “I can see lots of good reasons why your gut would tell you not to work unless you get paid more than you’d get for doing nothing, but the lesson I take from these studies is that that reaction risks leaving you bored and unhappy.”

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5 things I have learned from Steve Ballmer

Following in the footsteps of giants, you’re made their king. Though you’re small and unsure, you’ve watched them long enough to know what they need. The giants trust you and accept your decisions. You know you’ll never match the success of the previous king, and few will love you the way they loved him, but you do your best. Within a few years, the giant kingdom has grown in geography, population, and wealth. You make mistakes and money is lost, but under your kingship, the giants continue to improve. They still talk about your predecessor constantly, but more and more come to respect you and acknowledge all you’ve done for them.

Following Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer was the Microsoft CEO from 2000 through 2013, and at the end of his tenure, he left behind advice for those stepping into this kind of life. Microsoft tripled revenue and doubled profits under his leadership, and though he made some mistakes he was proud of the work he did. Steve Ballmer isn’t Bill Gates and he certainly isn’t Steve Jobs, but he was very successful in a role that most people would flounder under. It may sound easy to take the reigns of an international tech giant like Microsoft and keep it successful, but he did more than sustain it. He caused it to grow and develop. Here are a few of the best pieces of advice he left behind.

1. See the big picture.

Being CEO means always looking at the wider spectrum. Your employees need to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, but they only need to see the space they exist in. A CEO needs to see all the spaces, even the ones beyond the playing field. If you can’t see the different paths and spaces, then you can’t make the right decisions. If you become too focused on one aspect, you’ll find your entire company stuck on that element. Running a business is about seeing the entire competitive space and understanding how to use it.

2. Talent is only one part of success.

When we think of men like Steve Jobs, we must accept that we’ll never be like him. He was a creative genius, and there’s not taking that away from him. But it’s not the only way to succeed. If you’re in charge of a company, you need to have more than talent, and you need more than talent from your employees. You need to understand how people work and how they’re going to work together. Use people’s talents to complement one another and use your own talents to complement them.

3. Constantly re-evaluate.

Industries change. What works today may not work tomorrow. What works this decade may not work next decade. You need to constantly be re-assessing how your company and industry work. Don’t settle for one good idea and hope it carries you forever. Be on the lookout for the next era, because it’ll either surprise you or come from you.

4. Invest in the short and long term.

Companies have cycles, and they have a short cycle and long one. Understand the difference between the long term and short term with help you understand how to create success. Your products may be the short term, and their short term success can translate into long term success, but you need to look past that one product or service and look at where your company is heading in the long term. If this short term fails, can you sustain yourself into the long term? Seeing both business cycles and understanding their rhythms will ensure success.

5. Know yourself.

Understand who you are as a person, and know what your limitations are. Don’t just accept your limitations, though. Use them to your advantage. More than that, know yourself well enough to know that you need help at times.

Steve Ballmer is one of the most important CEOs of the last fifteen years and his lessons are well worth examining and studying. Sometimes advice is free, and when you can get it from a real expert, it’s worth your time to pay attention.

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4 things that make you waste time at work

When you’re at work, you want to be productive. You don’t want to get in trouble with your boss, you want to look good for that promotion, and you want as much of your work done by 5 as possible so you don’t have to take it home. So what are the things that are killing your productivity? Here’s a quick look.

1. IMing. Whether you’re using facebook, gchat, Skype, or another IM client, IMing is a huge time waster. Sure, it’s super-convenient because you don’t have to get up to ask your co-workers questions, but it’s far too easy for the chatter to get off topic, or at least off topics relevant to the work that you are currently trying to complete. Save time by not signing in to IM programs at work in the first place or by setting your status to away.

2. Too much email. Sometimes, it’s actually quicker to just get up and go ask a question. You don’t have to wait for each response and, of course, you can communicate more quickly – and more precisely – in person. Sometimes the answers you get in person are more valuable, too, because you can read the other person’s body language and see how their non-verbal cues reflect on what they are saying.

3. Tiny scheduling gaps. When you have 15 or 20 minutes between meetings or appointments, there’s not much productive you’re liable to accomplish in that time. You’ll maybe respond to some emails – which may have been answered more quickly in person – and then kill some time at the water cooler. There’s pretty much nothing worthwhile you get done, though. Scheduling your appointment back-to-back can prevent those little 15-minute breaks. Of course, that only really works for meetings and conference calls within the office; if you’re attending an outside appointment you’ll need to allow time for commuting.

4. Multi-tasking. You might be good at multi-tasking, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Multi-tasking is one of the ways that it’s really easy to get sucked into IM chats and lengthy email exchanges. If you don’t see yourself as wasting time IMing, but rather as being doubly productive by IMing while you write up that report … well, you’re still IMing. Sometimes multi-tasking can just distract you from the task at hand. Set specific times for doing things like answering your voice mails and responding to emails. Don’t just answer every call, IM, and email and chalk it up to multi-tasking. You might still flip back and forth between a couple tasks at once, but make sure that those tasks don’t include any of the major time wasters. Those should just be dealt with at designated times.

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5 way to get your boss like you

Here are another five excellent ways to get your boss to like you:

Communicate the same way your boss does.

That is, if your boss likes to use email, take the hint and email instead of calling. Go along with it if your boss prefers phone calls, or face-to-face conversations, or telepathy – okay, probably not telepathy. Even if your boss doesn’t state a preference for a specific mode of communication, usually they will tend to use the method they find most comfortable, so you should take note of their habits and follow suit. Similarly, if you talk in the same style as your boss does – be it rather casual or highly technical – your boss will be more drawn to communicating with someone who they see as communicating and thinking similarly.

Be meticulous about following through.

Following through on things that your boss thinks you may – or that someone else normally would – forget about can help you make a great name for yourself. Do not, however, promise to do things in an effort to have more things to follow through on and then forget to do so. Don’t promise to do things that you may not actually do; it’s better not to promise at all than to promise and fail to deliver. However, following through on little things – like returning phone calls or updating old charts or contact info – can make a good impression and help promote the idea that you’re very organized and detail-oriented.

Be early.

Be early to work, be early on deadlines. Just be early. It’s kind of obvious advice, and probably advice that you’ve heard before – but that’s because it works. Being late never creates a good impression, but being early does just that. Sometimes, things happen and life gets in the way and you end up being late – but if you consistently allow yourself enough time to be there early, then that won’t happen as much.

Have data.

Being able to drop relevant data into a conversation can help you look well-prepared and well-informed. Obviously, exactly what data you should have on hand depends on your field of work, but in general having data is useful – not just proving points but for scoring points.

Make a note of anything that you have in common.

If your boss happens to reference shared interests or preferences, mentally store them away. Sometime when it fits into conversation, you can reference your similar interests or preferences and it’ll be a great way for your boss to connect with you.

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6 Books that shaped the business world in 2013

There doesn’t seem to be any doubts that, in terms of business books, 2013 was a very generous and relevant year. Indeed, lots of great releases that do an amazing job at informing and educating but also at being very inspirational for our future endeavors. Below we offer you our top 6 picks – true ‘gold mines’ with reference to extremely compelling and even entertaining insight into current business issues.

1.Title: The Art of Selling Yourself: The Simple Step-by-Step Process for Success in Business and Life

Author: Adam Riccoboni and Daniel Callaghan

About the book: The book lays out the mechanisms and elements of a business philosophy proposed as the crucial key to understanding and achieving success; at the core of this philosophy we find that getting to know how to ‘sell yourself’ is probably the fundamental objective that best shapes your working life.

2. Title: The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up to Win Sailing’s Greatest Race, the America’s Cup

Author: Julian Guthrie

About the book: Yes, the title is long as in a tale but yes, this tale is so enjoyable. We are tenaciously pulled into the story of how billionaire Larry Ellison engaged the pursuit of the America’s Cup and how he surprisingly partnered up in his quest with a Croatian immigrant radiator-shop owner. Ellison’s struggle to win the race is described in analogy with his determination in conducting his software business.

3. Title: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Author: Brad Stone

About the book: Jeff Bezos’s success is definitely one of the most inspiring business stories of the decade. He managed to build a giant from selling mail-order books and, along the way, also conquered the cloud computing market. Brad Stone gives abundant information about Bezos: his first steps into the business world, and how he kept himself driven while climbing the path to entrepreneurial leadership.

4. Title: The Alchemists: Inside the Secret World of Central Bankers

Author: Neil Irwin

About the book: A unique and most enlightening inquiry behind the curtains of today’s economy, casting light on the strings that linked capitalism to the state throughout history. The book is undeniably revelatory pointing to the source and origin of the mighty money but also suggesting its future route. Neil Irwin offers one of the most discerning and thorough investigations involving the central bank and its role in this game of power.

5. Title: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Author: Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell

About the book: A book examining the validity behind ways women can follow to help themselves; presenting those small changes that once implemented can have a huge life-shaping impact. Sandberg and Scovell throw in and mix in a vey entertaining way a considerable volume of humor, data and personal experience to convince us to reconsider our ‘methods’ and choices both at work and in life.

6.Title: The Business of Belief

Author: Tom Asacker

About the book: ‘The Business of Belief’ shoots straight at some core issues in the business and also self-managing landscape. Asacker agilely introduces us to what belief is and how it functions with regard to our commitment to reach a goal. His work reveals what leaders apply in terms of belief to influence, improve and succeed.

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Three questions for startups

For all the startup successes you hear about, the business world is also plagued by start-up failures. After all, 8 out of 10 businesses fail in the first 18 months. For many people, the idea of not having a boss or set work hours is incredibly appealing. Of course, being your own boss means that work never ends, but often, when you’ve started something that you’re passionate about, you don’t want it to. If you are passionate about your career as an entrepreneur, you definitely don’t want it to end. If you’re the owner of a startup, here are some questions that you should probably ask yourself in order to help gauge the health of your new business venture.

1) Are you unique? As more and more people turn to entrepreneurship for an income, it becomes more and more important that you know how to stand out. You need to have a unique value proposition – a value that you bring to the marketplace that others simply do not. Without a unique value proposition, you might not fail immediately – but you certainly won’t succeed, either. If you’re not sure whether your value proposition is unique, pick up some books on the topic and go back to doing the market research and analysis of the competition that you did when you started your business. If you aren’t unique enough, you might need to refine your business concept until you are.

2) Do you have the right location? Even if your startup is primarily an online venture, it’s still important to have the right physical location. After all, you will still want to do some in-person networking and you will probably have a physical office location. For those things, location is important. Traditionally, Silicon Valley and major cities are good locations for start-ups because of the hiring and networking opportunities that they provide. However, depending on the nature of your start-up, you may want to look into other locales. After all, if you’re marketing snowshoes it probably doesn’t make sense to set up shop in Florida.

3) Is your social networking up to par? According to eMarketer, 1 in 4 people in the world use social media. It’s ubiquitous. While television advertising can be pretty expensive, social media advertising doesn’t have to cost a dime. Also, unlike with television advertising, people don’t have DVR to skip the commercials. If you use social media correctly, people don’t want to skip your “commercial” because it seems like something fun and social, not like advertising.

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The startup boom

For one thing, the cost of startups in the technology sector is dwindling. This means an explosion of new and lucrative and potential risky entrepreneurial activity. To compete in this landscape understanding the value of creativity and innovation in your employees is essential. All businesses should be working on strategies to promote innovation across all levels of their organizations.

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The one thing I have learned from Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh invested in the idea for Zappos in 2000, and then quickly became the company’s CEO. He didn’t want to make the same mistakes as he had in his first business, so he instituted the lessons he had learned and made sure that the company culture was well founded and understood by every single member of the team. He had no interest in sitting in his office and reaping profits; he wanted to build something important and impacting, a unique destination for customers and employees alike. (more…)

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How to mobilize the creative potential of your team

Once you have people in place that are capable of handling this new fast-paced style of business, you need to find a way to harness their creative potential, without suffocating them in the routine of traditional business administration. As an example, alternative offices in some of the most cutting-edge companies barely resemble the cubicle and water cooler blueprint of many office buildings in the past. They are spaces designed specifically for interaction, social engagement, and the sharing of ideas. Creative and innovative people do not function well in rigid, regimented settings. They need to be able to work within their comfort zone, before they can begin to think outside the box, and that will require more than instituting “Casual Fridays”.

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Creativity in business: the spark of creativity is essential to light the fires of change

The significance of creativity is not up for debate; it is quite simply the most powerful force of change and progress for the human race. It would therefore seem obvious that creativity should be nurtured, cultivated, embraced, and celebrated. We talk about changing the world, or making it a better place, yet they only remain words to some people. If you are serious about making an impact on the world around you or your respective industry or field of expertise, then thinking outside the box and seeking creativity in all its forms is essential. In my years of experience as a business consultant, I witnessed a number of strange behaviors from companies. Many would be desperate for growth, to increase their efficiency, or to stand out from their competitors, but they failed to see the value of creativity and the exploration of new ideas. The risk was too great, perhaps, so I had to explain the fundamental nature of being creative, and convince many people that there is no such thing as progress without the invigorating risk of a creative venture.

Some businesses listened to my advice; others did not. Looking back, those companies that chose a creative, innovative path found themselves heading towards success and industrial prominence, while those who refused to take a leap of creative faith have faded into the background of obsolescence. Now, to be clear, many companies can survive for years, even decades, without implementing creative policies to stimulate change and evolution. Some eras of a specific industry or discipline can last for a decade or two without any major shifts, so this lack of daring goes unnoticed, or at least unpunished by the dynamic market. However, the reason I chose to write this book now is that the world is speeding up every year. Change is happening faster, society is shifting at breakneck speeds, and there is no longer a grace period where people, cultures, industries, or fields of expertise can simply lounge about without keeping an eye on the future. There is no denying that we are in the midst of one of the most dynamic and revolutionary periods of human history. We see it all over the world and in every aspect of life from music, film, and architecture to politics, business, and the environment. This is the time to grab onto the reins of creativity and ride towards the future, whether you are a scientist, philosopher, poet, or marketing genius.

All of my years spent advising others on how to improve their personal lives or companies have led me to this book. Instead of doling out my advice one person at a time, I wanted to compile not only the insights of my experience, but also the undeniable evidence of modern creativity in the world around us. My efforts as a business educator has also put me in contact with normal, non-business people who are eager to find update their perspectives or become more in tune with the modern world. Those experiences, combined with my observations of creativity in every aspect of life, motivated me to put this guidebook for creativity together. I have already released a number of books that specifically catered to business professionals, MBA 2.0, Cool Boss, Happy Company, but I know that creativity is a subject that is relevant to far more people. My goals have shifted from expanding business knowledge to widening the breadth and accessibility of knowledge for everyone. In my opinion, the wider the audience, the greater the chance of stimulating change and inspiring new perspectives. Creativity is one of the most important and unifying aspects of the human condition, but it can also be an intimidating and risky road to embark on. My hope is that the fascinating and enlightening examples within Go Nuts: The Art of Creativity and Innovation will inspire a new mindset of creativity for everyone who reads it, and de-bunk some of the most common misconceptions about the creative process. There are no rules or boundaries for creativity; we have all seen that first-hand in society’s monumental leaps forward that have occurred even in our lifetime. There is no telling how far we can go, but one thing is for certain – the spark of creativity is essential to light the fires of change.

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