4 Ways to Create a Learning Culture on Your Team

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Technology is disrupting every industry and area of life, and work is no exception. One of the main career implications of the digital revolution is a shift in demand for human expertise. For instance, LinkedIn’s talent research shows that half of today’s most in-demand skills weren’t even on the list three years ago.

As a result, there is now a premium on intellectual curiosity and learnability, the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable. What you know is less relevant than what you may learn, and knowing the answer to questions is less critical than having the ability to ask the right questions in the first place. Unsurprisingly, employers such as Google, American Express, and Bridgewater Associates make learning an integral part of their talent management systems. As a Bersin report pointed out: “The single biggest driver of business

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To Overcome Your Insecurity, Recognize Where It Really Comes From

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Raymond closed down. Sandra snapped. They both had solid records and promising career prospects, and yet they felt that something was not working. Their bosses, colleagues, friends could tell too, but they were equally puzzled. How could someone so talented get so lost, or lose it, in seemingly trivial discussions, for no obvious reason?

The answer is deceptively simple and widespread: insecurity at work. The nagging worry that we are not quite as smart, informed, or competent as we ought to be, or as others might think. The fear that we are not good enough, or simply not enough. The second thoughts about our ideas, observations, and even about our feelings. The constant concern about being judged.

Feelings of insecurity leave us overdependent on external factors — admiration, praise, promotions. But even then, the feeling of achievement is generally temporary. Soon after, we turn inward, digging inside

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Getting Doctors to Make Better Decisions Will Take More than Money and Nudges

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Research has repeatedly shown that U.S. patients receive recommended care only half of the time. It is also known that patients receive non-recommended or “low-value” care as much as 20% of the time. Despite the proliferation of evidence-based guidelines to improve clinicians’ practice patterns, clinicians often don’t respond to them. So healthcare leaders have long wondered: what’s the best way to change clinicians’ behavior and improve their quality and efficiency of care?

In recent years, there has been a lot of enthusiasm about approaches like financial incentives and behavioral “nudges” to help clinicians offer more evidence-based care. But clinical decision-making is far too complex to be consistently improved by applying these frameworks. When it comes to changing clinician behavior, leaders have to think more broadly about the local organizational culture clinicians work in.

What the Research Says

Let’s first look at financial incentives. Pay-for-performance (P4P),

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Research: How Sexual Harassment Affects a Company’s Public Image

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Krzysztof Dydynski/Getty Images

The wave of sexual harassment reports in recent months has resulted in the dethroning of high-profile men in media and entertainment, sports, business, and politics. At the same time, social media, such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, have made public conversation about the issue hyper visible and easier to organize — as was the case for the #MeToo movement.

Unsurprisingly, companies are now frantically reevaluating their anti-harassment policies and introducing mandatory trainings — in part to prevent sexual harassment and subsequent public backlash, at any cost.  But what can research tell us about the general public’s responses to sexual harassment claims? How do sexual harassment claims shape perceptions of organizational gender equity broadly? How do sexual harassment claims differ from claims about other forms of misconduct, such as financial fraud? We sought to answer these questions in a series of experiments, with approximately 1,500 participants in the

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How to Make Sure Good Ideas Don’t Get Lost in the Shuffle

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In 2007 Joseph Golan, a division leader at Elop, an Israeli electro-optics company, faced a challenge.

As an experienced manager, he knew that his manufacturing and operation division’s success depended on getting creative ideas from his employees. But he also realized that the existing system was not working as needed. Only a relatively small group of employees submitted ideas through the system, which required them to prove the economic advantage of their ideas through a lengthy and complicated process. Over time, employees learned that developing and submitting new ideas was not worth the effort.

Over the past three decades, we have researched how leaders motivate their employees to come up with creative solutions to organizational problems. We’ve studied stereotypically “creative” firms, like design, R&D, and information technology companies, but we’ve also researched stereotypically “uncreative” environments, like Golan’s manufacturing plant at Elop (which is part of Elbit ISTAR). As you

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5 Practical Ways to Engage a Geographically Distributed Workforce – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM DATASTAX

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Like many technology companies, DataStax competes with some of the world’s largest enterprises for top talent. We’ve come to realize that much of that talent is located outside of Silicon Valley, and even outside of the typical urban areas where a company might naturally look for new talent.

Over the past seven years as CEO of DataStax, I’ve worked hard to understand the best ways to foster collaboration and leverage the talent of a distributed workforce. Below are the five steps that we believe companies must take to ensure that their teams can thrive and have a sense of belonging despite being geographically distributed.

1. Name It

If you want a distributed culture, it’s not going to happen by accident. The first step in being successful is to be intentional, and that means boldly declaring that you are a “distributed company.” Sounds trivial, right?

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Why Great Employees Leave “Great Cultures”

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“We have a great culture.” We have all heard it. We have all said it. But what does that mean?

Ping-Pong tables, free meals, and beer on tap? No.

Yoga, CrossFit classes, and massage chairs? I so need that, but no.

The promise of being part of a hip, equity-incentivized, fast growing team? Closer, but still no.

Culture is often referred to as “the way things are done around here.” But to be useful, we need to get more specific than that. I’ve been working in HR for over twenty years, and the best companies I’ve worked with have recognized that there are three elements to a culture: behaviors, systems, and practices, all guided by an overarching set of values. A great culture is what you get when all three of these are aligned, and line up with the organization’s espoused values. When gaps start

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Toxic Workplaces

If your workplace is toxic, can you change it? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Nicholas Pearce, an associate professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. They talk through how to transform a toxic culture, whether you’re a junior employee, a manager, or in charge.

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Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Send in your questions about workplace dilemmas by emailing Dan and Alison at dearhbr@hbr.org.

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:

HBR: Recognizing Employees Is the Simplest Way to Improve Morale by David Novak — “One question I loved to ask is, ‘What would you do if you had my job?’ Maybe the response will be a useful suggestion, in which case you should

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How One Hospital Improved Patient Handoffs for the Long Term

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Janis Christie/Getty Images

Roughly 80% of serious medical errors (now the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer) can be traced to poor communication between care providers during patient handoffs, according to a 2012 Joint Commission report. This makes patient handoffs the most frequent and riskiest procedure in the hospital.

Despite the development of numerous techniques and tools to structure patient handoffs and improve the transfer of communication, we haven’t seen much improvement in reducing medical errors. The problem is two-fold: first, hospital administrators and managers struggle to effectively implement these tools. Second, they struggle to sustain change that’s made.

The perioperative unit at Midland Memorial Hospital (MMH) in Texas was in precisely that situation. Leaders noticed that the majority of patient handoffs had some level of missing information. While missing information was often not critically important or time-sensitive (e.g., patient

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Leaders, Stop Avoiding Hard Decisions

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HBR Staff

Too many leaders avoid making tough calls. In an effort not to upset others or lose status in the eyes of their followers, they concoct sophisticated justifications for putting off difficult decisions, and the delay often does far more damage than whatever fallout they were trying to avoid. In fact, hard decisions often get more complicated when they’re deferred. And as a leader gets more senior, the need to make hard calls only intensifies. In our ten-year longitudinal study of more than 2,700 leaders, 57% percent of newly appointed executives said that decisions were more complicated and difficult than they expected.

In my 30 years working with executives, I’ve heard leaders commonly use three rationalizations for putting off difficult decisions. By understanding the consequences of these excuses, you can work to avoid them.

“I’m being considerate of others.” For some leaders, the thought of estranging those they lead

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How to Establish Values on a Small Team

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When Tony Hsieh, founder of  Zappos, was asked what he’d do differently if he could restart his company from scratch, he responded with this: “If I could go back and do Zappos all over again I would actually come up with our values from day one.”

Developing your corporate values early in your company’s history can have a lasting and positive effect on your organization and its culture, and it’s easier to do when your team is small. After all, it’s much easier to steer a four-person speedboat than a 2,000-person cruise ship. Once your team grows larger, it may be challenging to reach consensus around what your values should be.

I’ve worked with a handful of small organizations as they’ve established the cultural tenets of their business — most recently, I went through the process of developing corporate values at my own tech startup. When

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You Don’t Have to Choose Between Fast, Cheap or Good. Instead, Change the Paradigm. – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM PWC

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How many times have you heard an executive assign familiar aphorisms to business challenges–and you just know it’s a means to justify bad behavior? They might say “business isn’t personal” as an excuse for sub-par treatment of others. Executives demand that employees “do more with less,” but then don’t allow people to focus on less. But the worst of them is one so many leaders seem to cling to: “Make a choice between fast, cheap or good.”

Old-school rhetoric like this produces the wrong answers and leads to more problems. Worse, for digital companies, it’s a practice that will keep the business and its people from truly transforming and competing.

The focus of an organization’s leaders can no longer center around compromising two out of three values. Instead, companies should focus on optimizing all of them. You can achieve all three when you’re working in the right ways

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Emergency Responders and the Dangers of “Masculinity Contests”

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Petr Svarc/Getty Images

During the horrific school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, one of the sheriff’s deputies on the scene did not enter the building to confront the attacker. The internet, Parkland officials, and politicians reacted swiftly. The deputy was criticized by his boss for his supposed inaction and was called a “coward” by the president of the United States.

The use of this specific word was not accidental. More than just failing to act as a first responder, “coward” implies a much greater transgression: failing to act as a man. As Alex Kingsbury writes in the Boston Globe, it plays into a timeless American narrative: “the idea that real men dispatch bad men with a pull of the trigger.” Because the bonafide requirements of first responders’ jobs closely align with traditional ideals of heroic manhood (“strong,” “brave,” “risk-taking”)—ideals deeply rooted in culture and psychology—men in

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Emergency Responders and the Dangers of “Masculinity Contests”

mar18-23-200335413-001-Petr-Svarc
Petr Svarc/Getty Images

During the horrific school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, one of the sheriff’s deputies on the scene did not enter the building to confront the attacker. The internet, Parkland officials, and politicians reacted swiftly. The deputy was criticized by his boss for his supposed inaction and was called a “coward” by the president of the United States.

The use of this specific word was not accidental. More than just failing to act as a first responder, “coward” implies a much greater transgression: failing to act as a man. As Alex Kingsbury writes in the Boston Globe, it plays into a timeless American narrative: “the idea that real men dispatch bad men with a pull of the trigger.” Because the bonafide requirements of first responders’ jobs closely align with traditional ideals of heroic manhood (“strong,” “brave,” “risk-taking”) — ideals deeply rooted in culture and psychology

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The Economics of Why Companies Don’t Fix Their Toxic Cultures

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Over the last decade, industries, academics, and the public sector have turned their focus toward culture and ethics in response to the financial crisis as well as misconduct at a broad range of corporations. But what role does culture play in corporate misconduct, and why do these problematic cultures persist?

My perspective and approach to misconduct risk are influenced by my work as a bank supervisor, and by my background and training as an economist. In my view, bank supervision must include attention to the culture at financial firms, not just to their financial safety and soundness. The justification for this attention comes from relatively simple economics. By thinking of a company’s culture as a form of investment subject to market failures, we can better understand why companies sometimes tolerate misconduct, and why they can’t always fix it on their own. Though my experience is in the financial

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The Economics of Why Companies Don’t Fix Their Toxic Cultures

mar18-22-908871120-naqiewei
naqiewei/Getty Images

Over the last decade, industries, academics, and the public sector have turned their focus toward culture and ethics in response to the financial crisis as well as misconduct at a broad range of corporations. But what role does culture play in corporate misconduct, and why do these problematic cultures persist?

My perspective and approach to misconduct risk are influenced by my work as a bank supervisor, and by my background and training as an economist. In my view, bank supervision must include attention to the culture at financial firms, not just to their financial safety and soundness. The justification for this attention comes from relatively simple economics. By thinking of a company’s culture as a form of investment subject to market failures, we can better understand why companies sometimes tolerate misconduct, and why they can’t always fix it on their own. Though my experience is in the financial

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Why We Don’t Let Coworkers Help Us, Even When We Need It

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Chris Madden/Getty Images

When colleagues display helpful and cooperative “citizenship behaviors,” research has shown, they tend to develop high-quality social connections, which can improve individual and team performance through enhanced coordination, communication, and shared understanding within organizations. But there’s an obstacle to reaping those benefits — social psychologists have also found that people often react negatively to being helped. So we recently conducted a series of studies (forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Psychology) to gain insight into how that dynamic plays out at work.

In a qualitative study, we asked 238 employees in a variety of industries to explain why they would or wouldn’t accept help from a coworker. From their responses, we identified five key reasons people avoid being helped: preferring to be self-reliant and complete their work on their own, wanting to protect their image, not wanting to feel obligated to return the favor, not

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The Swedish CEO Who Runs His Company Like a CrossFit Gym

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Work hard and you’ll see results. For many in today’s knowledge economy, this feeling is elusive. They struggle to see how their labor contributes directly to the performance of the corporation, or how it helps the progress of their career. While there’s often increased pressure to be more productive in the office, it’s sometimes hard not to wonder, “What’s the point?” Whether in marketing or sales, it often feels like jobs are contingent on external circumstances, the whims of executives, strategic pivots, and shareholder demands. What happened to being rewarded for consistent, quality work over the long-term?

There is perhaps one place where this paradigm still exists: the gym. Here, all are equal before the law of the squat rack. There is a straightforward relationship between input and output: Those who put in the hours are handsomely rewarded, and progress can be neatly tracked through the kind

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Create a Growth Culture, Not a Performance-Obsessed One

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Here’s the dilemma: In a competitive, complex, and volatile business environment, companies need more from their employees than ever. But the same forces rocking businesses are also overwhelming employees, driving up their fear, and compromising their capacity.

It’s no wonder that so many C-Suite leaders are focused on how to build higher performance cultures.  The irony, we’ve found, is that building a culture focused on performance may not be the best, healthiest, or most sustainable way to fuel results. Instead, it may be more effective to focus on creating a culture of growth.

A culture is simply the collection of beliefs on which people build their behavior. Learning organizations – Peter Senge’s term — classically focus on intellectually oriented issues such as knowledge and expertise.  That’s plainly critical, but a true growth culture also focuses on deeper issues connected to how people feel, and how they

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Work After #MeToo

From the Women at Work podcast:

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The hand on the thigh. The creepy come-on. The lingering leer. These are some of the milder forms of sexual harassment that women have been reporting in the wake of the #MeToo outpouring. Other women have made allegations of sexual assault and even rape at the office.

While once such accusations would be met with — at most — a monetary settlement and a non-disclosure agreement, today they are more likely to be publicized and investigated. Some have welcomed this change but are worried it won’t last. Others are worried #MeToo has gone too far already, and that perpetrators of harassment aren’t getting a fair chance to defend themselves — or that the movement will spark a backlash that’s ultimately worse for women.

We talk with Joan

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