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Tips For Smooth Business Travel

Katia Arias No Comments

Recently I had to organize a business trip and believe me when I tell you, it is not something you should take lightly. To ensure a smooth trip, I advise you to plan ahead and try to travel as light as possible.

Based on personal experience, I’ve put together a short list of tips to help you on your next trip.

1. Before going anywhere, check if you need a visa!

There’s nothing more frustrating than buying a ticket and then realizing you can’t enter the country. That’s why, before you do anything I advise you to check your destination country’s embassy website and review their entry requirements. Many countries have convenient exceptions but many others don’t and paying for a “rushed visa service” could end up raising your trip costs.

2. Book with a reliable airline

Everyone loves cheap, but cheap can sometimes turn to be more expensive. Booking cheap airlines can result in delayed or cancelled flights, lost luggage or inconvenient malfunctions, which only adds to your stress and puts you in a bad mood.
To prevent any surprises and ensure a pleasant (and on schedule) trip, it’s better to book a reliable airline for a bit more.

3. Pack Light

Increase your peace of mind by avoiding checked luggage. Unless you absolutely need to check liquids or sharp objects, try to fit your clothes in a carry-on you can take with you at all times. Especially if you’re taking trains, subways or any other public form of transport, carrying a small bag will make your life easier.

4. Keep all your information in one place

If you’re visiting more than one country or city during your trip try to keep a binder or folder with all your reservations, flight tickets and important numbers/addresses. Make sure to book your hotels and locate the best mode of transport (if you’re not being picked up) before you go.

5. Keep local currency

From public transportation to hotels and cafés, there are many establishments (especially in small towns) that only accept cash. To ensure you can pay for any emergency it is always advisable to keep a good amount of money in local currency (depending on your lifestyle and needs).

6. Advise your international partners when you arrive and where you’ll stay

Letting your partners know about the technicalities of your trip could play to your advantage. They can offer to pick you up at the airport, advise you on the best hotels and tour you around. Keeping good personal relations with your partners can also increase your chances of closing that deal!

7. If it’s your first time visiting the country: do your research!

To avoid huge culture clash, make sure you look at pictures and maps of the places/areas you’re visiting. Learn some phrases in the foreign language and (if you’re going to Asia or Eastern Europe) you can even study some important symbols. That way you will avoid getting “too lost” or overwhelmed.

8. Take the new culture into account

Knowing how to properly address people of different cultures and bringing business cards in both your and their language shows a great deal of professionalism, commitment and respect. And proves to your partners that you appreciate not only their business but also them as people and as a culture.

9. Make room for sightseeing and fun

Lastly, it is not worth it to travel places if all you’re going to see is a meeting room. If you’re on a “very tight” schedule plan at least to have a meal outside or stroll down the street for a break.

If you have a bit more room for activities, plan to visit at least some of the most famous landmarks of the place!

If you find this post useful, please let us know in the comments!

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6 Business Bestsellers You Must Read!

Katia Arias No Comments

Reading does not only increase your knowledge in a certain topic. If you get into the habit, reading can also stimulate your mind, expand your vocabulary and equip you with skills to write, analyze and strategize at a higher level.

Imagine then if you got into the habit of reading about business? You wouldn’t only learn from the best guys out there but also you will start to develop unique skills to generate better ideas, try and test new strategies, innovate, increase your personal effectiveness and of course stay updated on important issues.

To get you started on this amazing habit, we’ve shortlisted some of the best business books out there! All you got to do now is choose your favorite.

  1. Unshakeable – Tony Robbins (#1 NYT Bestseller)

BB UnshakeableIf you find yourself trapped in your financial situation, then this book is for you. Robbins has effectively created a step-by-step playbook that promises to take you towards financial freedom in no time. Starting by helping you understand your current financial position, Robbins then guides you to become a smarter investor and a wiser administrator by pointing out how to get the best out of today’s financial systems.

You can get it on Amazon for only $15.32!

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Tools of Titans – Will Farriss

BB Tools of TitansFrom the thousands of interviews Will Farriss has done for his podcast, he created the ultimate “toolbooK” Gathering the most meaningful parts of each interview, Farriss shares with you the “tactics, routines and habits” that business titans (amongst other professionals and icons) followed to be and stay where they are. This amazing book covers topics from AcroYoga to Gut Investing and Hacking, allowing the reader to use it as an encyclopedia of advice given by no other than the very best in each category.

You can get it on Amazon for only $16.80!

 

 

 

  1. Option B – Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

BB Option BA great read not only for business but also for life. In this incredible book, Sheryl Sandberg along with psychologist Adam Grant analyze the ability of the human spirit to deal with loss, conquer adversity and build resilience. This emotional yet practical guide is a must-read if you want to build stronger and more resilient workplaces that know how to handle adversity, accept change and thrive even when things don’t go as planned.

 You can get on Amazon it for only $9.19!

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Joy, Inc. – Richard Sheridan

BB Joy IncWritten by Menlo Innovations co-founder and CEO Richard Sheridan, Joy, Inc. is an insightful and fun guide to increase employee engagement, ensure a happy and motivated workplace and increase profit all at the same time.

Basing the culture exclusively on the value of “Joy”, Menlo has been able to grow like no other tech business in a short period of time. Sheridan, in turn, attributes all of this to happier employees and in this book he gives you all the tips so you can achieve the same!   You can get on Amazon it for only $11.06!

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Emotional Agility – Susan David

BB Emotinal AgilityAn incredible research and experience-based piece, Emotional Agility displays a series of steps and exercises to help you identify, manage and get the most out of your emotions. After reading this book you will be able to handle difficult situations (in life and at work), by facing them intelligently with courage and serenity. Also, you will learn valuable skills to lead the behavioral change that will unleash your full personal and professional potential.

You can get on Amazon for only $9.26!

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Leadership Challenge – James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner

BB Leadership ChallengeDisplaying the scientific, artistic and social sides of leadership, The Leadership Challenge holds valuable expert advise to help leaders understand the importance of their role, guide their workforce towards team work, learn the power of motivation and take advantage of today’s electronic environment to do so. This book, without question, is an amazing guide to build the leadership and social skills necessary to boost your organization.

You can get it on Amazon for only $23.79!

More resources: 

  1. https://800ceoread.com/bestseller_lists
  2. https://hbr.org/2012/08/for-those-who-want-to-lead-rea
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/business-books/?_r=0

If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments!

Keep Your Personal Finance In Check

Katia Arias No Comments

Let’s face it…when it comes to managing our money and creating budgets, things can get a bit overwhelming.

Every time (somehow) we have more and more responsibilities that require a lot of organization. So, to prevent you from going crazy or bankrupt, we’ve put together 5 short tips that will help you keep your finances in check!

  1. Revise Your Budget Constantly

 We live in a changing world. And, even if you usually spend a certain amount on something (let’s say gas), anything can happen that can increase or decrease the amount.

That’s ok as long as you update your budget as soon as possible and make the necessary adjustments. This will prevent you from eating up your savings and stressing at the end of the month with extra expenses.

Source: raweva.com

Source: raweva.com

  1. Always Keep Your Bills in Mind

 To do this properly, Investopedia advises the following…First, pay your bills as soon as you get them. Second, keep a “bill checklist” to keep track of your payments, and, third, create a folder (in your computer or in print) with monthly sections where you can organize all your bills.

  1. Set the “Bill Money” Aside

 As soon as you get you paycheck, transfer the amount you considered for expenses to another account. That way you will avoid spending the “untouchable” money.

  1. Keep Personal and Business Separate

It can get very messy when you mix business and personal money. You may end up spending your savings to save the business or using your investment money to buy you dinner. To avoid this, keep personal and business bills in separate folders, boxes, etc. Run a separate budget & checklist for each area and, above all, have 2 separate accounts!

The ideal would be to have personal, business and savings accounts, interconnected with one another.

  1. Chose Debit over Credit

 Having a credit card is great for emergencies or long-term investments. The problem with credit cards, though, is that they can lead you to debt and overspending very easily.

When you use your debit card you are using the money you already have, and even if there’s a chance you run out…at least you didn’t use the bank’s money and accumulated debt WITH interests.

“Financial peace isn’t the acquisition of stuff. It’s learning to live on less than you make, so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can’t win until you do this.”
― Dave Ramsey

  1. Some Extra Advice

 And just as a bonus, if you find making a budget or keeping track of your expenses too daunting…there’s always personal finance software and apps that can do the numerical job for you! All you got to do is keep it fresh and update it constantly.

 So here you go, put these six tips in practice and you will see how paying your bills stops being your worst nightmare!

 

If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments!

 Sources:

  1. http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/10/8-tips-organize-finances.asp
  2. https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/10-tricks-to-keeping-personal-and-business-finances-separate-1/
  3. http://www.businessinsider.com/7-best-personal-finance-apps-2015-3#mint-1

 

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10 Tips To Improve Customer Loyalty

Katia Arias No Comments

In an time where customer is “king” company’s must pay a more attention to the way  they treat, learn and engage with their customers.

To help you, we’ve put together a list of 10 tips that will guide your organization towards ultimate customer care, hoping you never loose a customer again!

  1. Make it Personal

Almost anyone who is in customer care will advise you to “get to know your clients.”

Showing authentic interest in their needs and developing client-centered solutions will make your clients feel they have a mutually benefiting relationship with your brand, which in turn will keep them always committed to you.

  1. Praise their loyalty

 When someone engages in a relationship with your brand, they trust you will value their choice.

If you haven’t done yet, build a loyalty program. Devote time and resources to thank your clients for trusting you and keep reminding them how important they are for your company.

Feeling appreciated is one of the greatest factors that make people come back to your company.

  1. Be Transparent

Loyalty is built on trust. That said, it is crucial that you always communicate to your clients the information that directly affects them.

If you are raising money, for example, tell them where the money is really going. If you are a distributor, be honest about who your providers are, etc.

Transparency is about being honest and delivering on your promises. And about being consistent on what you offer and what you actually do or give.

To communicate your decisions or results with clients, you can choose reports, social media, webpage or focus groups.

  1. Respond Kindly to Bad Reviews

 People can be rude when they are angry. The key is not to focus on the “bad language” but the actual problem that triggered it. try to leave your feelings out of the response.

Experts from the Entrepreneur.com, recommend that you answer promptly and politely and offer your assistance without “over promising”. Sometimes a nice “I’m here to assist you” will ease their anger and make them happy again.

  1. Take The Necessary Time to Help

If your client has a problem don’t rush it. Try to listen to what he/she needs and then do everything in your power to fix it (even when it doesn’t’ make sense or sounds very dumb).

People tend to feel more appreciated when you show true interest in fixing their problem than when you do something really fast but wrong.

So remember…. doing it right is better than doing it quick.

  1. Say Hello, Goodbye and Thank You

 Common courtesy shouldn’t be a thing of the past. When you greet someone kindly you instantly set the right tone and give way to the conversation that can lead to a relationship.

Thanking your customers for their business and wishing them well is also a great way to make them feel welcome and appreciated, making them more likely to come back.

  1. Follow-Up Constantly

 Clients like to know they’re on your mind and agenda. Try to follow up with them after a purchase or deal to see if they are pleased with their product/service, or if they need anything else to maximize their experience.

  1. Keep Learning From Your Clients

Although customer surveys can be a bit daunting, they are a great way to keep learning. Ask them how they feel with your current products/services, what they would like to see or get from you and even how their shipping experience was.

When clients are consulted they feel like an important part of your decision-making process and in turn more connected to your brand.

  1. Offer Solutions You Know They Need

 When talking to your clients don’t be afraid to offer solutions they didn’t ask for. Sometimes they are looking for something and they don’t know how to ask.

Offering solutions lets clients know you brand cares about their needs and is genuinely interested in serving them.

  1. Enjoy The Process

 Learning with and about your customers is a never-ending process that’s why you should find a way to make if fun.

If your resources allow plan fun focus groups or customer events. Innovate the way you conduct surveys, add creativity to how you approach or thank your clients!

It’s a job you must do, so why not enjoy it?

 

If you found this post helpful, please let us know in the comments!

10tips

10 Steps To An Organized Day

Katia Arias No Comments

Sometimes it can be really hard to stay focused and organized throughout the day. But it’s not impossible!

We’ve put together ten steps successful people use to get their days started, hoping they can help you deal with your day in a more relaxed, healthy and organized manner

  1. Plan your day the evening before

 To avoid stress in the morning, try to plan your next day before you go to bed. Check your calendar or email for any commitments and sketch your next day’s schedule.

This allows you to move things around, prepare yourself in advance and make the necessary arrangements so everything runs smoothly.

        2. Start your morning with a healthy ritual

Bembu, shares some really great morning rituals that can get you started on the right foot every day. Some of these include:

  1. Drinking a glass of warm water as soon as you wake up to restart the body and rehydrate all your internal systems.
  2. Start your day earlier to give body and brain time to fully wake up.
  3. Give yourself time to do some exercise (stretching, yoga, etc.) and some meditation/prayer before you start the day.
  4. Avoid heavy foods and stimulants (energy drinks) in the morning.

gmorn

  1. Eat a healthy and balanced breakfast

Whether you’re relaxed or extremely busy in the mornings…never skip breakfast!

Your glucose levels drop significantly during the night and if you don’t replenish them early in the morning you run the risk of running out of energy, feel light-headed, increase stress levels and decrease concentration.

Health.com has great insight on the topic and have great breakfast food suggestions for fast and slower lifestyles. They recommend oats, Greek yogurt, Fruit, eggs, almonds, cereals and whole-wheat products.

  1. Arrive to work a bit early

 Getting there early gives you time to settle, organize your tasks, read a little before it gets crowded and catch up on emails.

Leaving home early can also help you avoid traffic, which can decrease your stress levels.

Extremely busy for breakfast?? Try these smoothies from Domestic Geek

  1. Call for 5 minute “focus meetings”

 Good companies often have their employees working towards the same goal. Good communication is key not only to share strategies and timelines but also to connect with fellow workers and get everyone on the same page and mood.

The 5-minute catch-up can help you organize your entire department in a short and sweet manner.

  1. Use technology to your advantage

 Today there are many, many tools to help you organize your days. From Google Calendars to reminder apps to personalized agendas, the options are endless.

The key is to know yourself and adopt tools that meet your personal needs and those you’re in charge of.

Source: play.google.com

Source: play.google.com

  1. Take recreational breaks

 To stay focused it is good to give your brain a 15min break every 45 min. use this time to recharge, rest and refocus.

Amongst the many things you can do during break there’s reading, musical meditation, stretching, mind exercises, talking a walk or catch up with friends.

  1. Review your accomplishments before you leave work

 Before you leave, make sure you review your “task list” and see how far you got. Then reprioritize tasks and note down any meeting, deliverable or presentation you have for the next day.

Reviewing your accomplishments can also help you visualize your progress and reassess how you are managing your time and resources.

Read More: Make Work-Life Balance a Reality!
  1. Leave work at work

 After you leave work, make sure you don’t bring it with you. Check all your emails before you leave finish everything before you walk out and then forget about everything (unless you really have to work at home).

  1. Dedicate time to other activities that make you happy

 Waking up early and taking on the day with great determination depends a lot on how you feel inside, and how satisfied you feel with your life.

To feel good you need balance, you need things that make you feel alive and filled with purpose. So think about what you love to do and set sometime to do it! Even if its for 10 minutes every day. You can even mix your hobbies with your everyday duties to make them happen!

If you found this post helpful, let us know in the comments!

 

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The Skills To Have In This Era

Katia Arias No Comments

As the world enter the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, humans must adapt their skill sets to meet future demands. With robots threatening to take over our jobs, we’ve found ourselves in a position to “prove” our potential and to develop valuable competencies no robot could replicate.

Considering research from the World Economic Forum and LinkedIn, let’s take a look at 6 skills you must have to thrive in this era…

 

  1. Complex Problem Solving
problem-solving

Source: tonex.com

This skill comes hand in hand with human-centered R&D. According to LinkedIn, to solve complex problems you must learn to ask tough questions. Be quick and accurate when framing a problem and learn to evaluate multiple alternatives at the same time.

To solve these types of problems, however, solutions can’t stay on paper. You must prototype as you go and think ahead to be able to scale the solution.

  1. Critical Thinking
critical-thinking

Source: Global Digital Citizen Foundation

 We’ve heard so much of critical thinking. Yet, every day you see employees who can crunch the numbers but lack the ability to analyze them. Or people who can read an article but cannot associate the information to draw conclusions.

To think “critically”, individuals must be able to properly conceptualize, apply and evaluate information, to later build well-thought judgments that will guide their actions or beliefs.

To thrive, now we must learn to ask questions about what we do and why we do it. It won’t be enough to crunch the numbers, now we must to draw conclusions from our work and propose courses of action.

  1. Creativity
Source: University of Cambridge

Source: University of Cambridge

 This skill has been incredibly underrated in previous years. Often attributed only to artists and artisans, we lost the real meaning creativity and banished it from the workplace unconsciously.

To be creative in this era means to think outside the box and requires being able to craft many solutions to one problem and to gather information in the least conventional ways.

Creativity, in turn, comes hand in hand with education and eagerness to learn new concepts and not be afraid of failure. Creative individuals often see many possible courses of action for one issue; they are quick thinkers and can achieve a lot using very little.

With new technologies coming out and globalization knocking at our doors, companies need creative thinkers more than ever. And as the World Economic Forum puts it, “robots may help us get to where we want to be faster, but they can’t be as creative as humans (yet).

  1. People Management
Source: PRP Solutions

Source: PRP Solutions

 People management is all about empowering individuals to be the best version of themselves both professionally and personally.

To “manage” your people is to give them access to development opportunities that will unleash their potential and show them the best way to thrive. It is creating an atmosphere or culture that supports employees and challenges them to perform at their best.

Robots can’t yet listen to others and form critical judgment on how to help them thrive. They are not yet fully empathetic or have the ability to coach humans on how to unleash their top potential.

Companies, in turn, are looking for individuals that can transform their teammates into more productive people by effectively attending their human needs.

  1. Emotional Intelligence
Source: Sessioncam.com

Source: Sessioncam.com

 Many believe intellectual intelligence means everything and throw emotional intelligence under the bus.

Truth is, when things get complicated, no matter how smart someone is if that person can’t deal with his emotions, the entire project, task or negotiation can go down.

Emotional intelligence, however, goes beyond controlling your anger or depression. To have a high EQ means your able to detect, control and express your emotions freely. You are not a slave of “how you feel” and you can separate subjective from objective.

On top of this, emotionally intelligent people are able to build better interpersonal relations since they can detect, guide and influence other’s emotions as well as their own.

That said it is no surprise companies are going crazy for people with higher EQs. They want people who can build more objective judgments but won’t lose empathy for others.

       6. Service Orientation

Source: Hotelogix

Source: Hotelogix

 And finally, service. Companies are looking for people that can recognize and meet client’s needs even before clients express them.

These people must be always ready to help and able to draw quick conclusions based on observation and research.

Machines can help us deal with data more accurately but people still hold their place when it comes to “customer service”.

Sources:

  1. http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766
  2. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-10-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/
  3. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/skills-world-need-future-infographics-enrique-rubio

 

 

 

 

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Seal That Deal!

Katia Arias No Comments

Some say it takes a lifetime to become a master negotiator. But, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

To help you get started or just to refresh some concepts, we’ve put together a short list of 5 things experts consider vital to conduct a successful negotiation and close that deal!

  1. Do not confuse people with interests

 Negotiation experts Roger Fisher and William Ury, emphasized in their bestseller “Getting to Yes”, the need to treat people softly but tackle problems the hard way.

Usually when people negotiate they take one of two positions: they’re either the “hard” negotiator (all or nothing) or the “nice” guy (let’s just agree on something we both want). The problem with the first one is that you may shatter relationships, but the second one may not lead towards the optimal outcome.

Fisher and Ury then propose a third position: the “principled” negotiator. In this scenario, participants are not friends or adversaries; they are problem-solvers that have come together to reach an optimal outcome that is both efficient and amiable. Negotiators take emotions into consideration but act unbiased, they propose several scenarios and reach a result based on objective standards not mutual “agreement”, being influenced by reason and not pressure.

An interview with 700 Club and to Chris Voss helps explain this negotiation strategy:

 

  1. Develop a solid negotiation strategy months before the meeting

Sanders, Lewicki & Barry outline the ideal strategy in their book “Essentials of Negotiations.” And although I can’t cover it all in this post, here are some highlights:

  • Define your issues & interests: Issues define what you will be negotiating. To outline them you can make a list of all the things you want to cover during the negotiations. If you’re selling or buying stocks, for example, make sure to cover price, transfer costs, legal implications, etc. Then proceed to evaluate all your interests. Why are you negotiating? list your interests and make sure you can differentiate between objective and subjective interests to plan a better strategy.
  • Build your bargaining scenarios – based on your issues and interests proceed to build your scenarios, combining all desired outcomes from best to worst. Build different packages and offers you can give your adversary, always taking your adversary’s interests and possible bargaining mixes into consideration.
  • Pick objectives and opening offers –. Experts suggest you set your starting offer higher than expected to give enough room to negotiate all the way down to your desired outcome.
Source:

Source: Stattys.com

  • Define your best alternatives to the desired outcome (BATNA) – define what would be the last offer you can take before you leave the negotiation. Be ready to walk away if what’s being offered doesn’t appeal to you.
  • Analyze your adversary – this involves understanding your adversary’s agenda, their bargaining scenarios, their interests and needs and of course to understand their walk-away points and best alternatives. (Pretty much, seek to learn your adversary’s strategy before the negotiation).
  • Write down your meeting’s protocol – make sure both you and your adversaries know who is attending the meeting, where will it take place, at what time and what will be negotiated. Set common rules and share the meeting’s agenda.

It is vital that the negotiating team takes time to conduct research, review the proposals, go over the different scenarios and know their walk-away points by heart. The best negotiations are reached after long months of studying and hard work.

For more strategy techniques visit the following link.

  1. Beware of the cultural and social context

When handling a negotiation is very important to understand the culture and context in which you’re negotiating. People in Asia value different things from those in Latin America or Europe. Many cultures seek to start meetings by addressing each adversary’s personal life. Others consider it inappropriate.

Beware of social structures, the value of hierarchies, the value of honor and reputation and different negotiation styles. Pay attention to those at the negotiating table. What and why are they negotiating? Is it for them or their boss? What does winning mean to them? Are you dealing with prestige interests? Or simple financial interests?

Knowing where your adversaries come from and what they value as people and citizens, will give you a better standing point in any negotiation.

Source: Stanford.edu

Source: Stanford.edu

  1. Do not fear emotions, take advantage of them

For years it’s been said emotions are detrimental to negotiations. To contemporary negotiation experts, however, this couldn’t be more false.

Nowadays, the best negotiators do not only have a high IQ but also a high EQ (emotional intelligence). Great negotiators know how to regulate and manage not only their emotions but also those of the other party and steer conversations towards a desired outcome.

Emotionally intelligent individuals can adjust a message and share information like others would like to hear it. Hence convincing the other party to feel the way they want about an offer, issue or interest.

Good body language and gesture reading is key to the topic. Usually it is your adversaries’ physical behavior that gives away their emotional state towards any given informaiton.

And finally, although this seems like a “manipulating” game, make sure you don’t stray from protocol to ensure an ethical interaction.

Source: Sessioncam.com

Source: Sessioncam.com

  1. Rest & Relax

And the last piece of advise: give your team time to rest and relax before and during the meeting. To ensure that your team is sharp at all times, make sure they get a good night sleep thenight before, plan for small breaks every 20-30 minutes and, If protocol allows, have drinks and snacks available for the teams.

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For more information on the topic I recommend the following books and articles. And remember you can learn all the theory in the world, but to become a great negotiator you need a lot of practice!

 Resources:

  1. Essentials of Negotiations by Roy Lewicki, David Saunders and Bruce Barry
  2. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury
  3. Top negotiations Books, Videos, Exercises and Simulations
  4. How to Talk Anyone into Doing Anything with Chris Voss
  5. Harvard Business Review:  Negotiations

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Focus Groups

Katia Arias No Comments

On previous posts I discussed “Human-Centered” design and talked about how it all starts with empathy and relationships.

Although there are many tools to conduct primary research on customer needs, one of the most effective tools is focus groups: meetings where you interact with and gather first-hand information from a solid batch of potential users.

To help you build and conduct a successful focus group, we’ve assembled 10 steps, that according to field experts, you must take into consideration!

Source: metacconects.org

Source: metacconects.org

  1. Establish a clear purpose for the meeting

 Experts from Duke University stress that a focus group is NOT a marketing opportunity, a lecture, a partnership meeting or a problem-solving session.

Instead, these meetings focus solely on gathering feedback and customer perspective on a specific product or service that will be offered. That’s why it is important to set conversation boundaries and work with predetermined questions.

  1. Decide how many focus groups you’ll need

Marketing professionals suggest you conduct between 3-4 meetings to gather all pertinent information.

You may schedule following meetings a week apart and ask the exact same questions to different groups. When no one has anything new to say, you know you’ve reached your goal.

Read More: Human-Centered Design
  1. Choose your participants…very closely

 Although diversity is a very important concept, when you conduct a focus group, Duke University suggests you keep the group fairly homogeneous.

The ideal is to have people who’ve never met but can feel comfortable around each other. That’s why you must take into strong consideration the social and cultural contexts of the group you’ll be interviewing.

Beware of recruiting mixed groups if there’s a strong sense of “machismo” in the country. Be also mindful of economic and social power gaps. You wouldn’t want people to feel intimidated or inferior to other participants, so much that responses may be biased or anchored.

Try to set a specific age range for your group and make sure you don’t bring in extremely dominant personalities that may steer all the conversation in one direction.

And finally, remember to keep the group small! If you don’t know how many are too many, follow the “two pizza rule”: if the team can’t be fed with only two pizzas then it is too big.

Source: hubspot.net

Source: hubspot.net

  1. Structure your questions

 Try to stay within the 8-12 question range. Remember focus groups are based on open-ended questions and it may take a long time to gather every perspective.

 Make sure the questions are short but not written in a way that inspire “yes” and “no” answers.

 Start with simple questions to get the group acclimated, then proceed to the most insightful ones and finish by asking the group if there’s anything else they would like to add.

If you’re making a comparison, experts suggest you interview groups A & B in separately.

  1. Find a stellar moderator

Moderators are the key to incredible results. To avoid bias, Ruth Peebles, President of The INS Group, advises that moderators be third-party facilitators that are not affiliated with your organization.

Moderators must have an engaging personality to make participants feel free and welcomed at all times. They must keep the conversation within scope and prevent the meeting from steering in a wrong or biased direction.

Also, it is suggested you also find a separate note taker!

image_the-moderator

  1. Set you meeting “specifics” and agenda

 Set a date, place and time that works for your chosen demographics. It is advised you seek a place outside your offices to make the conversation feel neutral.

Times are better after working hours so it doesn’t interfere with people’s schedules.

Write down your agenda and share it with your moderator and note taker before the meeting. Make sure you clearly communicate your goals and expectations and go over the questions at least once.

  1. Build your recruitment strategy

 All right, so how are you going to approach your participants?

If you belong to a large multinational social media and public ads could help your case. You can offer monetary incentives to participants and have them register on your website.

If you’re a smaller business you may like to email or call the people you consider would give you a good perspective. And, if you can’t offer money for participation, you can always offer coupons, certificates or prizes (company care packages are usually great!).

Duke University also recommends using local newspaper ads and flyers. If your participants are youngsters posting your call on university bulletin boards might work pretty well.

Think about your demographic and then take advantage of the means of communication they use most. And then make sure they feel the meeting would be a win-win situation.

Once people register or show interest make sure to call or email them to confirm participation. Share once again the place and date of the event.

 

 

LibGuides focus group recruitment flyer. Recovered from,slanypublications.org

LibGuides focus group recruitment flyer. Recovered from,slanypublications.org

 

  1. When conducting the meeting…

 Ruth Peebles recommends you start with icebreakers to make participants feel comfortable.

Continue to communicate the purpose of the meeting, procedures, expectations and desired outcomes. An important thing you must never forget is to promise confidentiality! Make them sign agreements if needed.

Make sure the meeting goes accordingly to the agenda and record responses in more than one way. You can write them down on posters, post-its, use video, voice recorders or any other material you can think of.

9. Be precise to analyze

 After the focus group it is important that your team sits down to discuss major findings, segment these appropriately and identify specific thoughts, stories and suggestions.

You can log your result using spreadsheets, graphs and tables. And then present them on a slide show to help the team visualize where your new product stands amongst your target market’s needs and expectations.

For more guidance on analyzing data, you can check out Duke University’s “Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group”

Source: datapine.com

Source: datapine.com

  1. Share

Finally, share the results of your findings with your participants and keep scheduling meetings to gather more and more information!!

For more empathy-building tools check the LUMA Institute’s “Innovating for People: Handbook of Human-Centered Design”.

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Human-Centered Design

Katia Arias one comments

Whether you run a large multinational or a successful foundation, if you don’t know what your target market wants you’re most likely going to stumble.

Over the years we’ve seen organizations waste time and money launching products that don’t work. Either they didn’t understand their markets or didn’t pay attention to important details early in the process.

To avoid this from happening, various organizations from universities to design firms have adopted the “Human-Centered Design” approach, where client feedback becomes the essential component in every product and service’s development.

 

So, What is Human-Centered Design?

 As +Acumen beautifully states it, Human-Centered Design is “innovation inspired by people”. It is a framework used by designers and managers to find solutions for pressing problems considering their beneficiaries’ perspective in every step of the problem-solving process.

hcd-circles

Source: SD23 Makes

 

How do you differentiate HCD from a traditional design process?

 As said by IDEO.org, you know your design is Human-Centered when “you’ve kept the very people you’re looking to serve at the heart of the process”

It all starts with empathy. To build a successful product, “solutioners” must clearly understand the deepest needs and incentives of their target market. To do so, it is crucial to observe, ask and spend quality time with your clients. Unless you know and live the hassles of their everyday life, you won’t understand the depth and gravity of a problem.

Going further, because HCD it is based on empathy, it must be collective. When you look for human-centered solutions you won’t find them behind a desk by yourself. The more you get involved in your client’s life and the more feedback you get from them, the easier it will be to understand the solution that they’re craving. Plus, having more people in your research and development team brings more perspective and creativity into the process.

And finally, HCD is different from traditional design because it relies on constant experimentation. Human-Centered solutioners think big but start small. They learn by doing and build the solution based on feedback. This takes more time but saves a lot of resources, mitigates risks and secures success. After all the solution was pretty much given to you by those who will use it.

Source: Grameen Foundation

 

 That said, what are the necessary steps to develop a Human-Centered Design Process?

 First, you need to get out there and understand your target market’s problem and ideas for solutions. +Acumen calls this the Discovery phase.

Later on, after you’ve gathered all your key information and have a clear understanding of your market’s needs, you move to what IDEO.org calls the Ideation phase. Here your team and you start brainstorming for creative solutions to solve your market’s most pressing problem.

Once you’ve landed a couple great ideas you start the Prototyping phase, where you bring to life an initial “sketch” of your solution and present it to the public for feedback.

Based on this feedback you continue your development process until you reach the final version of the solution and the Implementation phase.

Source: IDEO.org

 

What tools can be used to successfully complete every step of the process?

 Throughout your discovery phase, you will be observing and contextualizing most of the time. Some great tools to do this are: surveys, interviews, photo journals and guided tours (to help you live your beneficiaries’ daily life).

After you gather your information you need to map both people and needs to start ideating. You could use stakeholder maps, people profiles, problem tree analyses and some affinity clusters.

Then, for your prototyping phase, the LUMA Institute suggests you storyboard and sketch your ideas before building them. Sketching the idea helps the team visualize the concept and storyboarding helps them understand how they expect users to adopt it. Then you can continue by creating rough prototypes out of simple materials to bring the concept to life.

If you want a complete guide of tools to research, understand and ideate for your target market, check “Innovating for People”: the LUMA Institute’s handbook for Human-Centered Design.

 

Source: Luma Institute

Source: Luma Institute

 What can you use Human-Centered Design For?

 According to +Acumen, you can use HCD, to create innovative products, services, spaces and systems.

Because HCD is based on human behavior and empathy, this approach can be used not only to build useful products but also to create better experiences for people, nurture more impactful relations and build more efficient facilities.

Who employs Human-Centered Design Today? 

Just to mention a few organizations:

IDEO – World leading design and consulting firm
+Acumen – Global learning platform for change makers
Stanford University – Ranking #3 in the world!
Grameen Foundation -Global nonprofit dedicated to sustainable development.
Frog – Global design and strategy firm.
Luma Institute – Global innovation learning platform for businesses and nonprofits.

Why should you employ Human-Centered Design? 

HCD will help you save time and money. By focusing on your beneficiaries from the start you are investing in products and services that are guaranteed to work. HCD mitigates risk and increases customer loyalty. Internally, HCD can also improve your design team’s creativity, open up their minds to more perspectives and put your company at the top when it comes to understanding your target market and delivering useful and innovative designs!

So don’t wait anymore to start involving your beneficiaries! I assure you it will pay off.

 

If you found this post useful, please let us know with a comment!

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7 Tools To Create And Nourish Effective Teams

Katia Arias No Comments

“If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb.

As the African proverb suggests, the key to go far in life is teamwork, and the key to effective teamwork is having the best team.

Gathering lessons from great businesses like Zappos and Whole Foods, we’ve put together a short but insightful list of tools to help you build (and nurture) the “A-Team” that will take your company further!

  1. Identify a positive team leader

As teams go through the four stages of building: forming, storming, norming and performing, leaders are the ones who normally keep the group together. Their balancing influence is key to solve conflict, open dialogue and communicate goals as members get to know each other and their project.

If you want to assess your team leader’s effectiveness check out Lindsay Sherwin’s “Team Leader Effectiveness Checklist”!

 

 View From Product Marketing - Team Leadership [Digital Image]. (2016, January 12). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-12-view-from-product-marketing-team-leadership-mark-lewis

L,M. View From Product Marketing – Team Leadership [Digital Image]. (2016, January 12). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-12-view-from-product-marketing-team-leadership-mark-lewis

2. Define and agree on common mission and values

Before you get the team into project specifics, all members must be on the same page regarding team mission and values.

Knowing the mission gives team members direction, and while each member will be performing a different task, they will all gear their efforts towards the same goal.

Common values, on the other hand, create coexistence rules. They synchronize individuals at a personal level, encouraging a smoother and happier work environment. They also align people to cherish and respect each other, increasing team member loyalty.

To better understand the importance of team values, I invite you to watch Zappos & Whole Food’s core value videos. Here you will see how coming together as individuals is crucial to excel together as professionals.

 

 

3. Create a collective team Charter

 If the mission tells members where to go, the charter tells them how to get there.

Both a roadmap and a treaty, the charter acts as a common agreement between members to set the team’s work plan, commitments, responsibilities and desired results. It can also be used to set boundaries and outline other information the team considers important.

The charter must be completed collectively to ensure every member is aware of the working strategy and happy about it.

So, if you’re ready to start planning, try out Plays-In-Business.com “Team Charter Canvas” and get the team going!

4. Give thought to team bonding activities

 When people like and trust each other, teamwork becomes more efficient and effective.

Bonding activities build trust, improve communication and encourage collaboration amongst members. And, you don’t have to invest a fortune to yield incredible results.

From ropes courses to icebreakers and pizza days, bonding is all about getting your team together to talk and laugh in pressure-free settings.

Not sure what to do? Go ahead and visit Wrike’s “Ultimate Guide To Team Building Activities That Don’t Suck”. And if you’re still not convinced, here’s the “Team Building Directory” with free ideas for every type of team!

hult-team-building

Photo Credit: Katia Arias

5. Employ psychological instruments to understand your talent

To ensure the best task-talent fit, experts suggest you run team psychology tests. These allow you to understand your members’ strengths and weaknesses in both personal and professional realms.

The tests instruct you on your members’ communication styles, their view on work standards (quality, work pace, etc.) and their view on teamwork. And provide you with clear information on the tasks that each member would excel or struggle with.

Following, are some of the most used psychological instruments for teams in business:

a. DiSC Profile: tells you how each team member responds to conflict, what stresses them, their communication styles and their motivations.
b. Shadowmatch:  shows you each team member’s behavior patterns and habits.
c. The Enneagram Type: categorizes team members in one of nine personality types to help understand their behavior and motivations.
d. The Color Code: focuses on personality types and highlights the participant’s strengths and limitations.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-6-18-15-pm

Here are my results on the Color Code Test!

 

6. Encourage constant feedback sessions

Every certain time teams need to be steered back onto the right direction. Whether it relates to work goals or personal attitudes, feedback allows your members to see where they’re at and where they should be.

To promote fruitful feedback sessions, team-building experts suggest you carry them in pressure-free environments and appoint a moderator to ease the conversation.

If you want to improve at giving feedback or simply are new to the task, I encourage you to visit Officevibe’s “Employee Feedback: The Complete Guide” for more tools and advise.

 

7. Empower the team

And finally, keep your people updated!

If you want better results then you must keep your team engaged in the learning loop. Take your people on field trips, give them access to online courses, offer reading material. There is an endless world of possibility when it comes to continual education!  And not only your teammates will thank you but your company will too.

 

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-6-28-52-pm

If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments!

And don’t forget to stay tuned for our next post on Women Leadership…

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