See the exercise below, download it for yourself, and let us know what you think!
Mark Monchek's first book, Culture of Opportunity: How to Grow Your Business in an Age of Disorder, will be hitting newsstands and Amazon in a few short months. Until then, we are sharing an exercise from the toolkit section of the book. This exercise, called The Year of Opportunity, will help you determine goals based on your deepest values and priorities.
See the exercise below, download it for yourself, and let us know what you think!
by Kate Lara
As we’ve discussed on the blog before, The Opportunity Lab team is small and flexible in our working styles. More often than not, at least one of us is working remotely throughout the week. We’re able to continue functioning as a team fairly easily, given the technology available to us. Many of the challenges to working remotely have been solved with the ability to effectively video conference and to collaborate in real time on working documents. However, more pervasive challenges still exist for remote teams and all employees in the world of 24/7 connectivity and access to endless information. The biggest questions left to consider are:
1. How do we remain focused on our goals?
2. How do we prevent burnout in ourselves and our employees?
These questions are particularly challenging in the world of entrepreneurship, an environment familiar to the OppLab team in our innovative co-working space. Entrepreneurs have never been known as people who often prioritize a work-life balance, particularly in the early stages of a new project. The temptation to continuously work harder and investigate different directions can distract from the original intention of the organization and lead to burnout in even in the most enthusiastic start-up worker. In fact, the Harvard Business Review writes that, according to psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, the modern workplace can induce an “attention deficit trait” or, at least, can lead to “continuous partial attention” as we work through piles of emails and websites during each workday.
Much of OppLab’s tools and processes help our clients to uncover and to clarify the goals and objectives of a team or company. This approach can be a powerful antidote to the inundation of information and ideas that can derail projects from ever reaching their intended endpoint. The abilities to filter relevant information, to focus on the chosen goal, and to do so in an intentional way are all critical to the success of a new entrepreneur.
As well as interfering with productivity, this inability to focus can contribute to occupational burnout even for the most committed start-up junkie. Along with our efforts to help employees identify their professional goals and create a plan to achieve them, OppLab’s tools place equal emphasis on the need for introspection, the intentional pursuit of personal fulfillment, and the marriage of these with organizational values and goals. In fact, a mismatch in individual values with organizational values is one of the major contributors to occupational burnout, according to the Mayo Clinic.
With this values-based approach to defining what work-life balance means for each person, we build a solid foundation beyond that of a brilliant business plan and identifying an extensive professional network. Developing a rewarding personal life can be an effective firewall to the threat of professional burnout and help you to focus on the best way to intentionally pursue your organization’s goals.
Get your New Year's resolution started!
We’re excited to announce that OppLab's innovative course Unlock Your Network: Resource Mapping for Social Change will be offered as a NYU's School of Professional Studies. The course, offered on Saturdays in February and March of 2017, is part of NYU's Continuing Education program and is open to the public.
This course is ideal for business leaders, social entrepreneurs, change agents at organizations, professionals who want to be more productive and anyone who wants to make a positive difference in the world. Click here to learn more and sign up now!
by Mark Monchek
It’s been a tough year in the Earth School. The Earth School is what Gary Zukav, author of Seat of the Soul, calls the opportunity we have to use the experiences of our lifetime to learn about ourselves. Rather than feel helpless when life brings us unwanted events, the concept of the Earth School is that these events provide us with the context needed to be the creator of our own experience.
Peering through this lens I want to share with our readers what I have learned this past year in the hope that it will help provide a useful view to begin 2017. And as always, writing is a way for me to make sense of a world that at times doesn’t seem to make sense.
For the people in my life, the 2016 election was an exhausting, often wrenching ordeal. It dominated the headlines and defined the zeitgeist like no other election in my lifetime. Regardless of which side you were on, the personal attacks, confusing untruths and seeming disregard for the pressing issues our country faces was disappointing. There were many moments I wondered how America had turned so ugly and so divided along lines of class, race, sexual orientation and more.
But as always, when lessons from the Earth School have marinated long enough inside my being, the question arises - “So, what’s the opportunity?” That’s the mantra here at The Opportunity Lab, it’s the question we ask ourselves, our clients and our partners. It’s our way of pushing the reset button when we feel we are headed down the wrong road.
As 2016 comes to a close, the team at The Opportunity Lab is looking back at our top blog posts of the year. Which was your favorite? Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what you'd like to see more of in the new year.
by Jaki Bradley
Black Friday and Cyber Monday revenue ballooned this year, but also rising are the numbers attached to charitable giving initiative #GivingTuesday, which experts predict to raise as much as $250 million this year. In the spirit of the season, we’ve put together a few tips about how to make sure your gift does the most good possible.
How to Maximize Your Impact & Give Smartly
The Culture of Opportunity: The Opportunity Lab Guide to Building A Successful, Sustainable Business by Mark Monchek will be hitting stands early 2017! In anticipation of OppLab's first publication, here's an exclusive excerpt, a section we're calling 'The Greater Good'. Stay tuned to learn more about the book.
One of the important principles for conscious leaders building successful and sustainable businesses is what I have come to call “The Greater Good.” As we move from a culture based on scarcity and competition into a culture of abundance and collaboration, our leaders need to develop the language, actions and beliefs that support this shift. This includes the belief that doing well in service of our own interests must also include working toward the Greater Good in our communities.
For me, this change in mindset needs to begin by understanding the concept that life is sacred. For decades, America's version of capitalism did not account for the many lives impacted by business. As Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman stated, "There is one and only one social responsibility [of a business]-to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say it engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud." What Friedman and several generations of business leaders overlooked was the collateral damage of ignoring the needs of other stakeholders in the ecosystem of a business. When employees, customers, communities and the environment are treated as non-entities, it sets society on a dangerous course of competition between key segments of society. Life is not seen as sacred. Corporations are perceived to be succeeding at the expense of society.
However, this philosophy of profit over people has started to change. Michael Porter, Harvard professor, best-selling author and arguably the most important thought leader on business strategy, began to shift his view of the place of business in society over the past decade. In 2011 he published a groundbreaking article in the Harvard Business Review, co-authored with Mark Kramer, called Creating Shared Value: How to reinvent Capitalism and unleash a wave of innovation and growth. In it, they argue that in order for businesses to be successful and sustainable they need to shift its beliefs about how they create value and their responsibility for society at large. There is a need to stop measuring success through the narrow lense of short-term profit and expand it to the broader influences on long-term success.
By Anna Staritsina
Resources, Tools & References from this Article
From Tami Reiss:
From Nell Derick Debevoise:
Quick Guide for Gals: Sound Smarter in Groups
Why Women Don't Apply for Jobs Unless They're 100% Qualified
How Not to be Manterrupted in Meetings
The First Comprehensive Study of Women in Venture Capital
From Ruchika Muchhala:
From Nicole Darsney:
From Dave Gise:
Women's Lab at the Centre for Social Innovation
From Diane Tider:
From Joy Anderson:
Criterion Institute's State of the Field
Criterion Institute's TOOLKIT Workshops
by Kate Lara
As the Director of Operations at the Opportunity Lab, one of my first tasks this year was to figure out ways to improve our end of month financial processes and move away from employing a rather haphazard methodology. Not only did it provide a challenge for someone new to the company, but what we had been doing allowed a lot of room for error and took me away from other tasks for up to 3 days. It was a quick introduction to the bootstrappin’ world of small business and the difficult process of identifying effective and affordable tools for our team.
Many who work in small companies and small teams have to deal with similar problems: planning, budgeting and organizing can be a pain. It can be time consuming to think about planning a budget for the next year, managing timesheets, running end of month financial processes, and choosing and implementing benefits, especially when you’re wearing many hats as part of a small team. It becomes easy to leave things by the wayside that could provide clarity into what’s happening with the business and boost productivity in the future. Luckily, I am a lover of spreadsheets, but I recognize that not everyone is. Beyond that, even those of us with a penchant for Excel do not necessarily enjoy things like prepping for budget meetings and planning sessions.
Conveniently, I am not the first person to recognize this; there are now a wealth of online tools designed to take away some of the pain of the most mundane tasks - from tracking time sheets to pulling end-of-year reports for that pesky budgeting meeting. If you’re looking to take on some new tools for your team, here are a few suggestions based on my own experience:
This first recommendation is a timesheet tracking tool that the OppLab began using about 6 months ago. As a small firm that bases much of our billing on hourly activities, creating invoices can be a difficult end of month process. When I began looking for a solution, I knew I wanted a tools that would be easy to use, easy to understand and that covered the basics of what we need. So far, it has cut the time it takes to produce our invoices in half with its Quickbooks Online integration. Plus, it allows us to see where we stand with our clients at any point during the month, assuming we keep our timesheets updated. I know this tool is a popular one amongst the other small business at our coworking space, and I recommend taking a look if it’s something you might need.
I hope this list has introduced a new tool or two or shed some light on one you had already been considering. There seemed to be endless options available on the web. Unfortunately, our team can only start using so many new tools in a year before being overwhelmed by the effort in changing our work habits. However, there are other offerings that interest me for the future that cover things like managing HR benefits for a small team to in-depth project management. I’d love to hear any feedback on what we’ve suggested here and any tool recommendations for things you think are worth trying. Please let us know by commenting on this post or sending us a message!
by Mark Monchek
As the autumn of 2016 heads, in jolting fits and starts, towards the presidential election, it brings me back to the summer of 2008. Eight years and two elections ago, I recall a summer as disturbing and frightening as this one. Now, just as then, I open the front door to reach for The New York Times, afraid that the front page will offer another terrorist attack, racially-motivated shooting, political scandal or the hacking of private information of millions of people. In 2008, my fear was about another bank failure, another massive round of layoffs, or another precipitous stock market decline or currency devaluation. We seemed perilously close to a global economic collapse as Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John McCain and Sarah Palin crisscrossed the country heading into the debate season.
While the economy is better now, at least on the surface, the sense of chaos feels equally if not more threatening. The pervasive sense of disequilibrium is the core experience of what I have come to call the Age of Disorder. In the period following the 2008 crash there has been a profound restructuring of not only the economy but also of our entire way of life. And now, in our current times, that restructuring is moving to the next level.
One example of this shift is the role social media and the Internet play in our lives. In 2008 social media, with Facebook leading the way, was fast becoming a prominent form of social interaction. The wave of fear that began with news of the financial crisis was spread through the new power of social media, swept into executive suites, down to the ranks of the organization and into the families and communities where employees live now.
Now social media has become a dominant form of social interaction and therefore a driver of this sense of disorder. Every bit of news and every trend spreads faster, so the fear that accompanied the crash dispersed well beyond the people who lost their homes, their jobs and their pensions. If Americans in 2008 still held the belief that their employer or their government would protect them from a poor economy, that belief has been virtually obliterated.
A New Kind of Social Contract
Rather than trying to find a "secure" job with an "established" institution, many Americans now see themselves as free agents. Entrepreneurs, Uber drivers, AirBnB hosts, freelancers who work for TaskRabbit or as sellers on Ebay and Etsy make up the thousands working in the gig economy. In place of a deep sense of loyalty to a company, government or nonprofit institution, many Americans feel dislodged and unhinged, floating in a turbulent sea of each person for themselves. This new form of social contract, while it creates far more insecurity, also comes with a new freedom. Individuals feel a greater opportunity to choose where to work, when to work and with whom to work. The radical disruptions of 9/11 and 2008, combined with the rise of the millennial generation (at 90 million, the largest generation in history, have created a growing emphasis on purpose in work and personal life.
When I was growing up, and through much of my career, the ideal future for a young person was to attend and graduate from college, find a secure job with a growing company or the government and to climb the ladder until retirement. That ideal began to shift through the 1970’s “Me” Generation, when Baby Boomers began expressing their individuality. It evolved further through the “greed and social status” era of the Reagan/Bush 1980’s and further through the emergence of the Internet and globalization during the Clinton years of the 1990’s. However, September 11th, 2001, plunged the United States into the Age of Disorder.