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Best content from the best source handpicked by Shyam. The source include The Harvard University, MIT, Mckinsey & Co, Wharton, Stanford,and other top educational institutions. domains include Cybersecurity, Machine learning, Deep Learning, Bigdata, Education, Information Technology, Management, others.

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    You Can Become The Buddha, but ,can you really be yourself.



    A person who grows on the spiritual path cannot ignore Gautama because his presence has become so significant. In his own lifetime, he had forty thousand monks who went out to spread the spiritual process. In his own silent way, he changed the world forever. Buddha Pournami has always been significant in the yogic culture.


    Though people generally associate the word Buddha with Gautama, he is not the only Buddha. There have been thousands of Buddhas on this planet and there still are. ‘Bu’ means buddhi or intellect; ‘dha’ means dhadha or one who is above —above his intellect, and who is no longer a part of his mind.  


    Right now, most people are just a bundle of thoughts, emotions, opinions, and of course, prejudices. Please see, what you consider as “myself” is just a jumble of things that you have gathered from outside. Whichever kind of situations you were exposed to, that is the kind of nonsense you have gathered in your mind. Your mind is society’s garbage bin because you have no choice about what to take and what not to take. Whoever goes that way throws something into your head. You can enshrine this nonsense as divinity if you want but it will not become divinity; it is just simple mind. There is another way to experience life and go beyond the process that you call as mind. To do this, you need to shut the garbage bin and keep it aside.

    The mind is a phenomenal thing, but if you get stuck to it, it will take you for a ride endlessly. If you are in the mind, you are a nonstop suffering human being – you cannot help it. Suffering is inevitable. Maybe when you are watching the sunset, it is so beautiful that you forget everything, but your suffering is sitting right behind you like a tail. The moment you look back, it is right there. What you call as “my happiness,” are those moments when you forgot your suffering. As long as you are in the mind, fears, anxieties and struggles are inevitable; that is the nature of mind.  


    It is because people are unable to bear the torture of the mind that they have devised many ways in society to go below the mind. Excessive eating and self-indulgence in physical pleasures, alcoholism, these are all ways to go below the mind. People use them and for a few moments they forget the torture. You hit the bottle and sleep. For a few hours your mind does not bother you anymore because you have gone below the mind. There is great pleasure and it is so relaxing because suddenly the tortures of your mind are not there. So you get deeply addicted to it.


    But the nature of the evolutionary process is such that this being which was below the mind has right now evolved into the mind. If it wants to become free, it has to go beyond the mind. There is no such thing as going back. If by using a chemical you go below the mind, you will see, life always catches up with you with more intensity after that is over. It is always so. Suffering intensifies. The process of yoga is to see how to go beyond the mind. 

    Only when you are beyond the mind can you really be yourself.



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  • 05/25/13--17:45: Transient Advantage 05-27

  • Transient Advantage




    Photography: Courtesy of Pace Gallery
    Artwork: Tara Donovan, Untitled (Styrofoam Cups), 2008, Styrofoam cups and glue, installation dimensions variable

    Strategy is stuck. For too long the business world has been obsessed with the notion of building a sustainable competitive advantage. That idea is at the core of most strategy textbooks; it forms the basis of Warren Buffett’s investment strategy; it’s central to the success of companies on the “most admired” lists. 
    I’m not arguing that it’s a bad idea—obviously, it’s marvelous to compete in a way that others can’t imitate. And even today there are companies that create a strong position and defend it for extended periods of time—firms such as GE, IKEA, Unilever, Tsingtao Brewery, and Swiss Re. But it’s now rare for a company to maintain a truly lasting advantage. Competitors and customers have become too unpredictable, and industries too amorphous. The forces at work here are familiar: the digital revolution, a “flat” world, fewer barriers to entry, globalization.
    Strategy is still useful in turbulent industries like consumer electronics, fast-moving consumer goods, television, publishing, photography, and...well, you get the idea. Leaders in these businesses can compete effectively—but not by sticking to the same old playbook. In a world where a competitive advantage often evaporates in less than a year, companies can’t afford to spend months at a time crafting a single long-term strategy. To stay ahead, they need to constantly start new strategic initiatives, building and exploiting many transient competitive advantages at once. Though individually temporary, these advantages, as a portfolio, can keep companies in the lead over the long run. Firms that have figured this out—such as Milliken & Company, a U.S.-based textiles and chemicals company; Cognizant, a global IT services company; and Brambles, a logistics company based in Australia—have abandoned the assumption that stability in business is the norm. They don’t even think it should be a goal. Instead, they work to spark continuous change, avoiding dangerous rigidity. They view strategy differently—as more fluid, more customer-centric, less industry-bound. And the ways they formulate it—the lens they use to define the competitive playing field, their methods for evaluating new business opportunities, their approach to innovation—are different as well.
    I’m hardly the first person to write about how fast-moving competition changes strategy; indeed, I’m building on the work of Ian MacMillan (a longtime coauthor), Kathleen Eisenhardt, Yves Doz, George Stalk, Mikko Kosonen, Richard D’Aveni, Paul Nunes, and others. However, the thinking in this area—and the reality on the ground—has reached an inflection point. The field of strategy needs to acknowledge what a multitude of practitioners already know: Sustainable competitive advantage is now the exception, not the rule. Transient advantage is the new normal.
    The Anatomy of a Transient Advantage

    Any competitive advantage—whether it lasts two seasons or two decades—goes through the same life cycle.  But when advantages are fleeting, firms must rotate through the cycle much more quickly and more often, so they need a deeper understanding of the early and late stages than they would if they were able to maintain one strong position for many years.
    A competitive advantage begins with a launch process, in which the organization identifies an opportunity and mobilizes resources to capitalize on it. In this phase a company needs people who are capable of filling in blank sheets of paper with ideas, who are comfortable with experimentation and iteration, and who probably get bored with the kind of structure required to manage a large, complex organization.
    In the next phase, ramp up, the business idea is brought to scale. This period calls for people who can assemble the right resources at the right time with the right quality and deliver on the promise of the idea.
    Then, if a firm is fortunate, it begins a period of exploitation, in which it captures profits and share, and forces competitors to react. At this point a company needs people who are good at M&A, analytical decision making, and efficiency. Traditional established companies have plenty of talent with this skill set.
    Often, the very success of the initiative spawns competition, weakening the advantage. So the firm has to reconfigure what it’s doing to keep the advantage fresh. For reconfigurations, a firm needs people who aren’t afraid to radically rethink business models or resources.
    In some cases the advantage is completely eroded, compelling the company to begin a disengagement process in which resources are extracted and reallocated to the next-generation advantage. To manage this process, you need people who can be candid and tough-minded and can make emotionally difficult decisions.
    For sensible reasons, companies with any degree of maturity tend to be oriented toward the exploitation phase of the life cycle. But as I’ve suggested, they need different skills, metrics, and people to manage the tasks inherent in each stage of an advantage’s development. And if they’re creating a pipeline of competitive advantages, the challenge is even more complex, because they’ll need to orchestrate many activities that are inconsistent with one another.
    Milliken & Company is a fascinating example of an organization that managed to overcome the competitive forces that annihilated its industry (albeit over a longer time period than some companies today will be granted). By 1991 virtually all of Milliken’s traditional competitors had vanished, victims of a surge in global competition that moved the entire business of textile manufacturing to Asia. In Milliken, ones sees very clearly the pattern of entering new, more promising arenas while disengaging from older, exhausted ones. Ultimately, the company exited most of its textile lines, but it did not do so suddenly. It gradually shut down American plants, starting in the 1980s and continuing through 2009. (Every effort was made, as best I can tell, to reallocate workers who might have suffered as a result.) At the same time the company was investing in international expansion, new technologies, and new markets, including forays into new arenas to which its capabilities provided access. As a result, a company that had been largely focused on textiles and chemicals through the 1960s, and advanced materials and flameproof products through the 1990s, had become a leader in specialty materials and high-IP specialty chemicals by the 2000s.
    Facing the Brutal Truth
    In a world that values exploitation, people on the front lines are rarely rewarded for telling powerful senior executives that a competitive advantage is fading away. Better to shore up an existing advantage for as long as possible, until the pain becomes so obvious that there is no choice. That’s what happened at IBM, Sony, Nokia, Kodak, and a host of other firms that got themselves into terrible trouble, despite ample early warnings from those working with customers.
    To compete in a transient-advantage economy, you must be willing to honestly assess whether current advantages are at risk. Ask yourself which of these statements is true of your company:
    • I don’t buy my own company’s products or services.
    • We’re investing at the same or higher levels and not getting better margins or growth in return.
    • Customers are finding cheaper or simpler solutions to be “good enough.”
    • Competition is emerging from places we didn’t expect.
    • Customers are no longer excited about what we have to offer.
    • We’re not considered a top place to work by the people we’d like to hire.
    • Some of our very best people are leaving.
    • Our stock is perpetually undervalued.
    If you nodded in agreement with four or more of these, that’s a clear warning that you may be facing imminent erosion.
    But it isn’t enough to recognize a problem. You also have to abandon many of the traditional notions about competitive strategy that will exacerbate the challenge of strategy reinvention.
    Seven Dangerous Misconceptions
    Most executives working in a high-velocity setting know perfectly well that they need to change their mode of operation. Often, though, deeply embedded assumptions can lead companies into traps. Here are the ones I see most often.
    The first-mover trap. This is the belief that being first to market and owning assets create a sustainable position. In some businesses—like aircraft engines or mining—that’s still true. But in most industries a first-mover advantage doesn’t last.
    The superiority trap. Almost any early-stage technology, process, or product won’t be as effective as something that’s been honed and polished for years. Because of that disparity, many companies don’t see the need to invest in improving their established offerings—until the upstart innovations mature, by which time it’s often too late for the incumbents.
    The quality trap. Many businesses in exploit mode stick with a level of quality higher than customers are prepared to pay for. When a cheaper, simpler offer is good enough, customers will abandon the incumbent.
    The hostage-resources trap. In most companies, executives running big, profitable businesses get to call the shots. These people have no incentive to shift resources to new ventures. I remember holding a Nokia product that was remarkably similar to today’s iPad—in about 2004. It hooked up to the internet, accessed web pages, and even had a rudimentary app constellation. Why did Nokia never capitalize on this groundbreaking innovation? Because the company’s emphasis was on mass-market phones, and resource allocation decisions were made accordingly.
    The white-space trap. 
    When I ask executives about the biggest barriers to innovation, I often hear, “Well, these things fall between the cracks of our organizational structure.” When opportunities don’t fit their structure, firms often simply forgo them instead of making the effort to reorganize. For instance, a product manufacturer might pass up potentially profitable moves into services because they require coordination of activities along a customer’s experience, rather than by product line.
    The empire-building trap. In a lot of companies, the more assets and employees you manage, the better. This system promotes hoarding, bureaucracy building, and fierce defense of the status quo; it inhibits experimentation, iterative learning, and risk taking. And it causes employees who like to do new things to leave.
    The sporadic-innovation trap. Many companies do not have a system for creating a pipeline of new advantages. As a result, innovation is an on-again, off-again process that is driven by individuals, making it extraordinarily vulnerable to swings in the business cycle.
    The assessment “Is Your Company Prepared for the Transient-Advantage Economy?” will give you a sense of whether your organization is vulnerable to these traps.
    Strategy for Transient Advantage: The New Playbook
    Companies that want to create a portfolio of transient advantages need to make eight major shifts in the way that they operate.
    1: Think about arenas, not industries. One of the more cherished ideas in traditional management is that by looking at data about other firms like yours, you can uncover the right strategy for your organization. Indeed, one of the most influential strategy frameworks, Michael Porter’s five forces model, assumes that you are mainly comparing your company to others in a similar industry. In today’s environment, where industry lines are quickly blurring, this can blindside you.
    I’ve seen untraditional competitors take companies by surprise over and over again. In the 1980s, for instance, no money-center bank even saw the threat posed by Merrill Lynch’s new cash-management accounts, because they weren’t offered by any bank. Millions in deposits flew out the door before the banks realized what was going on. But in recent years, the phenomenon has become more common. Google’s moves into phone operating systems and online video have created consternation in traditional phone businesses; retailers like Walmart have begun edging into health care; and the entire activity of making payments is being disrupted by players from a variety of industries, including mobile phone operators, internet credit providers, and swipe-card makers.
    Today strategy involves orchestrating competitive moves in what I call “arenas.” An arena is a combination of a customer segment, an offer, and a place in which that offer is delivered. It isn’t that industries aren’t relevant anymore; it’s just that industry-level analysis doesn’t give you the full picture. Indeed, the very notion of a transient competitive advantage is less about making more money than your industry peers, as conventional definitions would have it, and more about responding to customers’ “jobs to be done” (as Tony Ulwick would call it) in a given space.
    2: Set broad themes, and then let people experiment. The shift to a focus on arenas means that you can’t analyze your way to an advantage with armies of junior staffers or consultants anymore. Today’s gifted strategists examine the data, certainly, but they also use advanced pattern recognition, direct observation, and the interpretation of weak signals in the environment to set broad themes. Within those themes, they free people to try different approaches and business models. Cognizant, for instance, clearly spells out the competitive terrain it would like to claim but permits people on the ground considerable latitude within that framework. “The Future of Work” is Cognizant’s umbrella term for a host of services intended to help clients rethink their business models, reinvent their workforces, and rewire their operations—all with the firm’s assistance, of course.
    3: Adopt metrics that support entrepreneurial growth. When advantages come and go, conventional metrics can effectively kill off innovations by imposing decision rules that make no sense. The net present value rule, for instance, assumes that you will complete every project you start, that advantages will last for quite a while, and that there will even be a “terminal value” left once they are gone. It leads companies to underinvest in new opportunities.
    Instead, firms can use the logic of “real options” to evaluate new moves. A real option is a small investment that conveys the right, but not the obligation, to make a more significant commitment in the future. It allows the organization to learn through trial and error. Consider the way Intuit has made experimentation a core strategic process, amplifying by orders of magnitude its ability to venture into new spaces and try new things. As Kaaren Hanson, the company’s vice president of design innovation, said at a recent conference at Columbia Business School, the important thing is to “fall in love with the problem you are trying to solve” rather than with the solution, and to be comfortable with iteration as you work toward the answer.
    4: Focus on experiences and solutions to problems. As barriers to entry tumble, product features can be copied in an instant. Even service offerings in many industries have become commoditized. Once a company has demonstrated that demand for something exists, competitors quickly move in. What customers crave—and few companies provide—are well-designed experiences and complete solutions to their problems. Unfortunately, many companies are so internally focused that they’re oblivious to the customer’s experience. You call up your friendly local cable company or telephone provider and get connected to a robot. The robot wants to know your customer number, which you dutifully provide. Eventually, the robot decides that your particular problem is too difficult and hands you over to a live person. What’s the first thing the person wants to know? Yup, your customer number. It’s symptomatic of the disjointed and fragmented way most complex organizations handle customers.
    Companies skilled at exploiting transient advantage put themselves in their customers’ place and consider the outcome customers are trying to achieve. Australia’s Brambles has done a really great job of this even though it is in a seemingly dull industry (managing the logistics of pallets and other containers). The company realized that one of grocers’ biggest costs was the labor required to shelve goods delivered to their stores. Brambles designed a solution: plastic bins that can be filled by growers right in the fields and lifted directly from pallets and placed on shelves, from which customers can help themselves. It has cut labor costs significantly. Better yet, fruits and vegetables arrive at the point of purchase in better shape because they aren’t manhandled repeatedly as they go from field to box to truck to warehouse to storage room to shelf. Although seemingly low-tech, this initiative and others like it have generated substantial profits and steady growth for the company—not to mention customers’ appreciation.
    5: Build strong relationships and networks. One of the few barriers to entry that remain powerful in a transient-advantage context has to do with people and their personal networks. Indeed, evidence suggests that the most successful and sought-after employees are those with the most robust networks. Realizing that strong relationships with customers are a profound source of advantage, many companies have begun to invest in communities and networks as a way of deepening ties with customers. Intuit, for example, has created a space on its website where customers can interact, solve one another’s problems, and share ideas. The company goes so far as to recognize exemplary problem solvers with special titles and short profiles of them on the site. Amazon and TripAdvisor both make contributions from their communities a core part of the value they offer customers. And of course, social networks have the power to enhance or destroy a firm’s credibility in nanoseconds as customers enjoy an unprecedented ability to connect with one another.
    Firms that are skilled at managing networks are also notable for the way they preserve important relationships. Infosys, for instance, is choosy about which customers it will serve, but it maintains a 97% customer retention rate. Sagentia, a technical consultancy in the UK, is extremely conscientious about making sure that people who are let go remain on good terms with the firm and land well in new positions. Even at a large industrial company like GE, the senior leaders spend inordinate amounts of time building and preserving relationships with other firms.
    6: Avoid brutal restructuring; learn healthy disengagement. In researching firms that effectively navigate the transient-advantage economy, I was struck by how seldom they engaged in restructuring, downsizing, or mass firings. Instead, many of them seemed to continually adjust and readjust their resources. At Infosys, I was told, people don’t really believe in “chopping things off.” Rather, when an initiative is wound down, they say it “finds its way to insignificance.”
    Sometimes, of course, downsizing or sudden shifts can’t be avoided. The challenge then is disengaging from a business in the least destructive, most beneficial way. Netflix’s efforts to get out of the DVD-shipping business and into streaming movies, which its management passionately believes represents the future, offer an interesting lesson in the wrong way to do this. In 2011 the company’s management made two decisions that infuriated customers. It imposed a massive price increase across the board, and it split the DVD and streaming businesses into two separate organizations, which forced customers to duplicate their efforts to find and purchase movies. Let’s assume that Netflix’s leaders are right that eventually the DVD part of the business will shrivel up. How might the firm have exited more gracefully?
    Preparing customers to transition away from old advantages is a lot like getting them to adopt a new product, but in reverse. Not all customers will be prepared to move at the same rate. There is a sequence to which customers you should transition first, second, and so on.
    If, rather than raising prices for everybody, Netflix had selectively offered price discounts to those who would drop the DVD service, it would have moved that segment over to the new model. Then it could have gone to the “light user” DVD consumers and suggested that instead of getting a new DVD anytime they wanted it, they would get one once a month, say, for the same price. If they wanted the instant service, their prices would go up. That would shift another group to lower DVD usage. Then when those segments started to realize that all-streaming wasn’t so bad, Netflix could have instituted the big price increase for the mainstream buyer. The point is that in trying to force many customers to move faster than they were prepared to, the company enraged them.
    7: Get systematic about early-stage innovation. If advantages eventually disappear, it only makes sense to have a process for filling your pipeline with new ones. This in turn means that, rather than being an on-again, off-again mishmash of projects, your innovation process needs to be carefully orchestrated.
    Companies that innovate proficiently manage the process in similar ways. They have a governance structure suitable for innovation: They set aside a separate budget and staff for innovation and allow senior leaders to make go or no-go decisions about it outside the planning processes for individual businesses. The earmarked innovation budget, which gets allocated across projects, means that new initiatives don’t have to compete with established businesses for resources. Such companies also have a strong sense of how innovations fit into the larger portfolio, and a line of sight to initiatives in all different stages. They hunt systematically for opportunities, usually searching beyond the boundaries of the firm and its R&D department and figuring out what customers are trying to accomplish and how the firm can help them do it.
    8: Experiment, iterate, learn. As I’ve said for many years, a big mistake companies make all the time is planning new ventures with the same approaches they use for more-established businesses. Instead, they need to focus on experimentation and learning, and be prepared to make a shift or change emphasis as new discoveries happen. The discovery phase is followed by business model definition and incubation, in which a project takes the shape of an actual business and may begin pilot tests or serving customers. Only once the initiative is relatively stable and healthy is it ramped up. All too often, in their haste to get commercial traction, companies rush through this phase; as a result whatever product they introduce has critical flaws. They also spend way too much money before testing the critical assumptions that will spell success or failure.
    Leadership as Orchestration
    No leader could cognitively handle the complexity of scores of individual arenas, all at slightly different stages of development. What great leaders do is figure out some key directional guidelines, put in place good processes for core activities such as innovation, and use their influence over a few crucial inflection points to direct the flow of activities in the organization. This requires a new kind of leader—one who initiates conversations that question, rather than reinforce, the status quo. A strong leader seeks contrasting opinions and honest disagreement. Diversity increasingly becomes a tool for picking up signals that things may be changing. Broader constituencies may well become involved in the strategy process.
    Finally, transient-advantage leaders recognize the need for speed. Fast and roughly right decision making will replace deliberations that are precise but slow. In a world where advantages last for five minutes, you can blink and miss the window of opportunity.
    One thing about strategy hasn’t changed: It still requires making tough choices about what to do and, even more important, what not to do. Even though you are orchestrating scores of arenas, you can do only so many things. So defining where you want to compete, how you intend to win, and how you are going to move from advantage to advantage is critical. While we might be tempted to throw up our hands and say that strategy is no longer useful, I think the opposite conclusion is called for. It’s more important than ever. It just isn’t about the status quo any longer.








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    QS World University Rankings by Subject 2013: Overview

    This year’s revamped QS World University Rankings by Subject have been expanded to cover a record 30 disciplines, offering students the most detailed comparison of the world’s top universities at individual discipline level.

    Find out what's new in this year's subject rankings, with an overview of the top-level competition, followed by a closer look at the performance of universities in different parts of the world.

    QS World University Rankings by Subject 2013: Fast facts

    • 30 subjects ranked (one more than last year)
    • 2,858 universities evaluated
    • Responses from 70,000 academic experts and graduate recruiters worldwide
    • More than 68m citation attributions from Scopus (bibliometric database)
    • 8,391 programs manually verified
    • 1,526 institutions ranked, with an average of 9 subjects per institution
    • 678 universities identified among the world’s top 200 for at least one subject

    Creating the rankings

    Taking in responses from some 70,000 academic experts and graduate recruiters worldwide, this year's QS World University Rankings by Subject draw on the largest surveys of their kind. Academics identified the leading universities within their field and area of expertise, while employers named the universities that they regard as producing outstanding graduates in a given discipline.

    This year our research citations indicator has been supplemented with a new ‘H-Index’, measuring research productivity and impact. The two measures in tandem help us to more accurately account for both the quality and quantity of a university’s research output in a given field.

    Competition at the top 

    Across the 30 disciplines, the number one spots are distributed among large US and UK institutions that operate primarily in English: Harvard (10 number one places), MIT (7), UC Berkeley (4),Oxford (4), Cambridge (3), Imperial College London(1) and UC Davis (1).

    The 30 individual tables are not intended to combine to form an overall ranking, and indeed there is more than one way to interpret which university comes out on top if we attempt to do so.

    While Harvard claims more top spots than any other institution, the university that appears in the top ten in most disciplines is the University of Cambridge, with 27, ahead of Oxford and Berkeley on 23, Stanford (22) and Harvard (21).

    Cambridge’s near-blanket presence in the top ten indicates that, perhaps more than any other institution, it can claim to be world-class in nearly every major area of academic research. Yet Harvard and MIT have more departments that are truly world leading.

    The view from employers

    While US institutions remain preeminent for research, the rankings suggest that graduates from the UK’s two most famous institutions are more highly regarded than their Ivy League rivals by the world’s employers.

    Employers regard Cambridge graduates as the world’s best in 13 of the 30 subjects, while Oxford ties with Harvard on seven, ahead of London School of Economics (LSE), University of Tokyo and UC Davis, top in one subject each.

    The US/UK monopoly extends to nearly two-thirds of the elite positions – 397 of the 600 top-20 spots across the 30 disciplines. Yet there is plenty of evidence in these rankings of world-class departments outside of this traditional power cluster.

    Asia excels in engineering 

    The rankings feature several notable performances from Asian universities, particularly in the hotly contested areas of science, engineering and technology.

    Nine of the top 20 institutions in civil engineering are Asian, led by Japan’s University of Tokyo (3rd) andKyoto University (7th), Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (8=) and National University of Singapore (11), alongside three universities from Hong Kong and two from mainland China. The US and UK account for just five of the top 20.

    “The shift in global economic power is transforming the international higher education landscape, with the likes of Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore emerging as genuine challengers to the traditional elite,” says QS head of research Ben Sowter. “Many institutions in Europe are struggling to keep pace in technical disciplines, in which financial resources are particularly crucial.”

    The pace of change is demonstrated by the rapid development of young Asian tech-focused institutions.Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and Nanyang Technological University have been in existence for just over 20 years, yet are now established in the global top 20 in several engineering and technical disciplines.

    France and Germany feel the squeeze

    France and Germany have both introduced ‘excellence initiatives’ to improve the performance of their top universities, and both can point to positive performances in some areas. Germany has five top-50 institutions for mechanical engineering, led by Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, and an impressive five institutions in the top 35 for physics – only the US can claim more.

    France can also point to top-20 performances from three of its universities: Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) ranks 14th for modern languages, Sciences Po Paris is 16th for politics and international studies, andUniversité Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne ranks 18th for law and 19th for history.

    Yet the rankings also reveal areas in which both France and Germany are trailing in the wake of intensified global competition. Germany has no top-50 institutions in important areas such as mathematics and economics, while there are no French institutions in the top 50 in computer science or any of the four areas of engineering: chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical.

    The increased competition that is squeezing some European institutions out of the global elite is coming not only from Asia, but also increasingly Australia. University of Melbourne makes the global top ten in six subjects, ahead of Australian National University on four, University of Queensland on two, and Monash University on one. Australian universities make the global top 20 in 25 of the 30 disciplines.

    Mixed results for the BRIC nations

    While Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan emerge as global players in several disciplines, the world’s major emerging economies see more mixed fortunes.
    The rankings are positive for China, whose ambitious schemes to improve higher education standards in the last 20 years have yet to see its universities break the top 20 in the overall QS World University Rankings. Here however, there are Chinese universities in the top 20 in ten disciplines, with Tsinghua University ranking tenth in materials sciences and eleventh in statistics.

    Brazil’s efforts to improve its research output have been less high profile, yet its universities have been steadily improving their international standing in recent years. Universidade de Sao Paulo in particular performs well here, ranking among the top 50 universities in the world in four disciplines. Brazil’s total of 19 top-200 universities in at least one of the 30 subjects compares to eight from Chile, five from Argentina, four from Mexico and two from Colombia.

    Yet there are less encouraging signs from the remaining two BRIC nations, India and Russia. The Indian Institutes of Technology perform reasonably well in their specialist areas, with the IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi and IIT Madras all making the top 50 in at least one of the engineering disciplines. Yet there are 11 subjects in which not a single Indian institution makes the top 200.

    The situation is worse in Russia, whose institutions feature in just eight of the 30 disciplines. The best performance comes from Lomonosov Moscow State University, which makes the top 50 in mathematics, a subject in which Russia has historically produced numerous world leaders.

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  • 05/25/13--18:31: Rankings by subject 05-27


  • QS World University Rankings by Subject

    Launched in 2011, the annual QS World University Rankings by Subject is a comprehensive guide to a range of popular subject areas. Now in its 3rd year, the rankings series reveals the top 200 universities in the world for 30 individual subjects. Explore our tables below and browse the specialist strengths of universities worldwide.

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    Big Brands Are Missing the 'Social' in Social Media


    A recent report from Forrester Research (FORR) found that a third of U.S. marketers surveyed were dissatisfied with their social marketing results. Meanwhile, only 38 percent of those surveyed targeted their fans on social networks, and just 38 percent targeted friends of fans.

    Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson lifts a Virgin America teammate on the red carpet during the celebration of a new nonstop service from Los Angeles International to Las Vegas McCarran airports
    You would think those results would give marketers pause. Forrester also reports, however, that U.S. marketers are pouring more than $2 billion annually into social media—including ads and promoted content—to try to reach the 1 billion-plus social media users.
    What many big social media advertisers have failed to grasp is the “social” component of social media. To date, many brands have focused on individuals rather than relationships among individuals and the economic power of those relationships. Who is most likely to influence their friends? Who is most likely to share with friends? Who is most likely to buy or take some other action?Those are vital questions to address to truly unlock the social value of an audience.
    That effort starts with a brand redesigning its digital advertising so individuals are encouraged to engage their social networks on the brand’s behalf. If the campaign is paired with the proper analytics, a brand gains visibility into how its offer is playing out among friends and their followers and among brand “likers” vs. “non-likers.” It can understand who is influencing whom to take action.
    Many major brands today, however, are not taking full advantage of their social advertising opportunities. For instance, Target’s (TGT) current “Give with Friends” campaign on Facebook (FB) lets consumers choose an e-gift card design, invite friends to contribute, then give a gift together with them. By simply leveraging paid media in tandem with the social activation, Target would be able to have more of its audience do the selling for them and reach a new audience in the process.
    In March, Virgin America unveiled a promotion to mark the launch of its nonstop flight service from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Newark, N.J. The “Fly Like a Boss” campaign offered an engaging social media contest on Twitter and Facebook with attractive goodies, including the chance to score a ticket to the launch and attend aGoogle+ (GOOG) hangout onboard with Virgin Group Chief Executive Officer Richard Branson and Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore. While the campaign was a winner, it missed an opportunity to encourage people to refer the offer to friends. Were social analytics tied to automated advertising efforts, Virgin could have identified key buyers, sharers, and influencers—and consumers like them—based on their social actions to further improve future promotions.
    If you’re someone like Buzzfeed, with content that is so darn cute, timely, or jarring that it becomes infectiously viral right away, it’s not as critical to deliver a social experience that combines gaming with a shareable reward. Content consumption and sharing will do the heavy lifting of delivering that new audience, and the offer can be a tasteful companion.
    But for most brands, unconnected tactics in social media aren’t going to gain traction with people who are there to hang out and share cool stuff with their friends and family. Instead, brands need to create the architecture that ignites the “social” in social media if they are truly going to thrive.



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    Hook the front line on the performance improvement habit


    By Jeff Melton, Jolyon Dove and John Norton

    altThe operations of energy utilities, retail banks and telecommunications providers are, on the surface, quite different, but what they have in common is the requirement that large numbers of frontline staff “do the right thing” within an operating environment that affords a certain level of autonomy. That poses a major operational challenge, yet we have observed companies in these industries and others that were able to create substantial improvement in performance using a common approach.
    These companies have seen dramatic results in the form of more loyal customers, fulfilled and engaged employees and better economics. The results have been sustained and even improved over time, as the companies developed the capability to continuously enhance their operations.

    At the heart of this approach, which we call the High Velocity Performance System®, is the premise that for any transformational change to succeed, employee behavior must change. In service-intensive industries, it is the discretionary effort of people throughout the organization that improves operational and financial performance. Unleashing discretionary effort is only possible when companies provide people with a compelling purpose for the work they do.
    The high velocity performance system accomplishes this by combining three elements:
    • Lean principles to identify the sources of value and eliminate sources of waste
    • Behavioral science techniques that make it easy and fulfilling for people to do the right things
    • Applied digital technologies to implement process improvements and behavioral change on a large scale
    Together, these elements allow employees to see, in real time, how their actions contribute to the greater good.
    Lean principles for service operations
    Despite the long-term rise of the service sector in most economies, the dominant paradigm for performance improvement still tends to derive from the world of manufacturing, particularly Lean techniques, which originated half a century ago in automotive factories. Lean has proven quite successful in manufacturing settings, and Lean principles do apply to service companies or service-oriented units within manufacturers as well.
    Many service organizations, however, have difficulty creating results that they can sustain and improve over time. They may try to import a version of the Toyota Production System without adequately adjusting for a different service environment. Or they may focus ex-clusively on installing an initial set of processes and tools without creating the mechanisms to scale up for continuous improvement across the entire company.
    Our work with many service organizations has allowed us to develop an approach designed to make Lean stick. Using this approach, we have helped companies achieve remarkable results across three dimensions:
    • Improving financial performance. Companies lower costs, for example, by eliminating waste from operations and getting customer interactions right the first time, reducing rework and shortening decision cycle time.
    • Raising customer loyalty. Customer loyalty pays off in growth and profitability, because loyal customers buy more, stay longer and recommend the company to others. More efficient, first-time-right processes tend to delight customers and make them advocates for the company.
    • Unlocking discretionary effort by employees. People with clarity about their mission, who receive positive reinforcement for doing the right thing, go the extra mile to deliver. Here again, the high velocity performance system provides the means for engaged employees to direct their energy toward the tasks and outcomes that actually matter. It reinforces a sense of purpose and shifts resources and attention to those things that matter most to customers.
    The high velocity performance system allows companies to achieve these three outcomes simultaneously—a “triple play” of performance improvement—as each dimension reinforces the others. Engaged employees are more motivated to devise better ways to do their jobs and thus create better experiences for customers. This, in turn, increases customer loyalty, removes waste and improves business economics. (See below, “How an Asian telecommunications provider turned around its field service performance.”)
    The heart of performance improvement involves changing behavior on the front lines—an imperative that many senior executives intuitively understand. A recent survey of nearly 300 executives by Bain & Company and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) found that roughly 75% of respondents rate behavioral change on the front lines as “very important” or “important” for realizing targeted cost savings, their top priority. At the same time, about 45% of executives cite changing frontline behavior—the leading challenge cited—as “extremely difficult” or “difficult” in achieving and sustaining cost savings.
    The senior manager’s role
    What specifically are senior managers in leading companies doing to change behavior on the front line? Let’s look at the interlocking disciplines of the high velocity performance system in more detail.
    Make clarity of purpose a reality for employees. Performance metrics serve as a magnifying glass on priorities. Yet in many service organizations, metrics are disconnected from, or even at odds with, the fundamental purpose of the job.
    Consider a call-center agent who applied for the job because she enjoys helping people with their problems. Every day she talks to customers who are frustrated about the company’s products, processes or communication. She does her best to help, but feels constrained by the metrics on which she is evaluated. Every hour she receives an email from her team leader with her average call handling time and call transfer rate, metrics that are supposed to gauge productivity, but which, in fact, do not. To the agent, these metrics clash with the purpose of her job—providing excellent service with a smile. No wonder she becomes disillusioned over time and stops applying discretionary effort.
    It is only when performance metrics are simply stated, few in number and linked to the fundamental purpose of the job that employees care about the outcomes of the measurements and apply discretionary effort to improve. These “catalyzing metrics” influence behavior when communicated to employees at high velocity—quickly and frequently. High velocity spurs innovation by stimulating new ideas and encouraging experiments. Ongoing improvements come from seeing what works and doing more of it. High velocity also spurs motivation by making clear what matters, establishing a causal link between actions and outcomes.
    Catalyzing metrics can take several forms, such as those targeting actions that will improve customer loyalty. At a telecommunications provider in Western Europe, the call center had emphasized the metric of average handling time. It added two metrics, one on customer advocacy and another on resolving the issue on the first call. At the same time, it diminished the importance of average handling time. Call-center agents now had a daily view of their performance across a small set of metrics that were aligned with the core purpose of their jobs.
    The new approach helped to reduce the overall volume of calls by 20% and raise the level of customer loyalty. Employee engagement improved, moreover, as agents felt they were being asked to help customers rather than get them off the phone as quickly as possible.
    An energy provider in the UK dealt with different issues that centered on productivity. The performance of its field engineers showed significant variability across and within districts. The company also had a high rate of “bad service calls,” in which engineers’ home-service visits failed to resolve customers’ problems.
    The energy company realigned its field engineers around metrics tied directly to productivity, including number of visits plus visit success rate, which reflected the purpose of the job. These metrics and individual performance indicators were sent by text message weekly to each engineer. A year after the program’s implementation, the company had achieved an 18% increase in same-day service, a 17% decrease in revisits to customers’ homes, a 10-percentage-point rise in customer loyalty scores and significant reductions in customer complaints and defections to competitors.
    Foster a discipline of learning and experimentation. With the catalyzing metrics in place and presented at high velocity, people throughout the organization will start asking questions about how to improve performance in keeping with those metrics. In many instances, we have seen an intense spike in curiosity. A proven means of channeling curiosity into tangible improvements is to cycle it into what we call high-velocity learning loops (see Figure 1).

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    The effective application of learning loops can improve overall financial performance. Among the nearly 380 executives from numerous industries worldwide that Bain and the EIU surveyed, 68% of the high-performing companies said they have an effective process for closed-loop learning, vs. 40% of the average performers and 10% of the low performers.
    Having people all across the organization, from the front line to the executive suite, taking the right action quickly can have a powerful cumulative effect. To sustain that effect over and over again, people need rapid feedback on how they are performing in terms of meaningful metrics and in terms of criteria that differentiate between superior and average performance. This critical information needs to be presented quickly, frequently and unambiguously—much like a fighter pilot’s heads-up display.
    High velocity is essential, because an employee will vividly remember the circumstances that generated information shared the same or the next day. High frequency offers 365 cycles of potential improvement via daily reports, compared with just 12 cycles via monthly reports.
    Simply presenting motivated employees with frequent performance information triggers curiosity about why something happened. A crucial part of a manager’s role, then, is to create an environment that not only supports systematic learning, but also provides appropriate consequences for learning and experimenting with new ideas and initiatives. High-velocity reporting makes it easier to conduct controlled experiments because you can test a process change, a new call script or new software settings and gauge the results almost immediately, and subsequently either abandon the test or tweak it for further improvements.
    Recently, learning loops have become more cost-effective and accessible in service organizations because of recent advances in digital technology, such as tiny sensors, GPS trackers, Web-based applications, real-time data processing, and associated extract, transform and load (ETL) and analytical tools. These technologies make it easier and cheaper for service organizations to expand their learning loops on a large scale.
    One US electric utility used high-velocity learning loops to raise the productivity of its field operations at a crucial turning point in its business. The utility’s local power distribution business forecast a doubling of work volume over the coming decade, but the field workforce was not prepared to handle that projected increase. The company had no consistent measure of productivity for field work because crews were monitored mainly for their ability to meet safety and compliance requirements. Work-order errors were common, but field accountants would not find them for many months after they occurred, long after a foreman had forgotten about the job.
    The utility identified a new set of metrics for catalyzing behavior to raise technician productivity and equipped them with a real-time, weekly “stoplight” scorecard to gauge how each local district was performing. The company then created learning loops in which local process owners undertook root-cause analysis to understand where improvements could be made. It became clear, for example, that work-order time estimates needed to be more accurate and that the field force needed closer coordination with schedulers. The results of these changes were immediately visible in weekly reporting of the new productivity metrics.
    At the same time, field accounting organized around a new metric of successful work orders empowered accountants to send back an incomplete or inaccurate field order to the responsible foreman, which significantly reduced costly rework and late work-order processing. The accounting teams tracked individual and team stoplight scorecards, tailored to the work-order metric, which in turn sparked their own learning loops.
    Using the high velocity performance system, this utility has seen dramatic results since 2010. Throughput (a measure of efficiency in completing a task) rose from 61% to more than 80%. The work-order error rate dropped from 15% to 1%. Field accounting productivity rose 90% among a unionized workforce, and both order backlog and overtime have decreased.
    Behind these positive numbers lies a more motivated and engaged workforce. As one field accountant said, “It’s great knowing what’s expected of me and feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, rather than just a mountain of work orders that I’m constantly trying to plow through.”
    Invest to help employees succeed. Even with learning loops and catalyzing metrics in place, managers will have to help people succeed. By and large, employees want to perform well at their jobs. But improvements will be slow or nonexistent if people constantly battle outdated practices and policies that hinder them from delivering optimal performance.
    At banks, for example, a clunky Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system interface, harsh penalty fees and rigid policies that lock customers into unsuitable products make it nearly impossible for branch tellers to provide great customer service. A teller in that situation will likely receive poor customer comments and lose trust in management for expecting her to do the impossible.
    By contrast, high-performing organizations use applied behavioral science techniques to make it easy and fulfilling for people to do the right thing (see Figure 2). Applied behavioral science has proven remarkably powerful over the past half century in enabling people to gradually and permanently alter all kinds of behavior, from losing weight to staying sober to reducing energy usage. When a person who is prompted to perform a certain behavior is equipped with the necessary tools and capability, and when that behavior is reinforced with positive consequences, that person is more likely to perform and repeat the behavior.

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    Applied behavioral methods can change service operations, where high performance depends on people exhibiting certain behaviors. In our experience, the most effective application of after-the-fact consequences is about 80% positive and 20% negative, because positive consequences reinforce desired behaviors. That means management needs to develop many more reliable, positive consequences, at a high frequency. Using digital technologies, companies can automate high-velocity capture and communication of performance data to employees, creating a “consequence engine” that greatly increases the desired behaviors (see Figure 3).

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    The choice of consequences will depend on the types of employee groups and the specific operational challenges being addressed. In most cases, the knowledge that an employee has done a job well is one of the most powerful positive consequences. As one call-center representative told us about the customer comments reported to him on a daily basis, “Verbatims are the spice of my life!”
    Improvements today, the ability to improve again tomorrow
    The experiences of select telecommunications providers, utilities, banks and other service organizations illustrate how a high velocity performance system can deliver three valuable outcomes simultaneously—improved financial performance, enhanced customer loyalty and increased employee engagement.
    The approach helps embed Lean techniques and tools throughout the entire organization, so that a service organization can achieve rapid, reliable and repeatable performance improvements. It unleashes discretionary effort by giving people high-velocity feedback on the catalyzing metrics, thereby triggering learning, experimentation and demand for action to improve performance.
    Each element of this system depends on and reinforces the others. Doing just part of the work often yields none of the results. It does little good, for instance, to select a vital few metrics without also making them visible at high velocity and installing learning loops that enable experimentation and rapid improvement. Full-bore commitments, on the other hand, engender deeper trust among employees so that they will steadily raise performance levels.
    Ultimately, this approach enhances a company’s ability to improve. This improvement habit is often a decisive factor for service organizations as they strive to outperform competitors.
    Jeff Melton co-leads Bain & Company’s Performance Improvement practice in Asia and is based in Melbourne. Jolyon Dove is a partner in London. John Norton is a partner in Dallas.

    How an Asian telecommunications provider turned around its field service performance
    Telco, an Asian telecommunications company, was under pressure to significantly improve its financial performance and, at the same time, meet customers’ demands for faster and more reliable service. Senior management decided to focus improvement efforts on the field service organization.
    Field service work had become increasingly complex, and the volume was growing steadily each year, while technician performance was erratic and vastly below its potential. Telco’s large-scale Six Sigma program had failed to deliver the desired results. Morale suffered among field technicians, who got little feedback about whether they’d done a good or bad job. They also perceived the lack of the company’s investment in better tools for their trade as a sign that their work was not valued.
    Senior managers corrected the situation by doing two things. First, they sought a better understanding of how to gauge value, by identifying those elements of performance that really matter—a central Lean concept. Second, management invested in specific tools and training that would help technicians successfully perform newer types of jobs.
    With a better understanding of value and a technician workforce now open to change, Telco selected three metrics to catalyze performance: one for productivity, one for service quality and one for service timeliness. The choice of these three metrics clearly signaled to employees what did and did not matter.
    The results were reported the next day directly to the technicians’ mobile phones. Managers received daily performance reports ranking all teams and regions across the three metrics.
    Now that managers and technicians could clearly see, at high velocity, the link between an action and its outcome, their curiosity intensified. They experimented with process improvements to remove unnecessary steps. For example, they delivered work orders electronically to technicians who could go directly to customers without having to report in at the depot. Experimentation with new settings in the scheduling software also led to shorter travel times.
    By focusing on value, identifying a handful of catalyzing metrics and embedding high-velocity learning loops, Telco has realized major performance improvements (see Figure). Over four years, service quality has improved more than 25% and productivity has increased more than 70%. For the past six years, Telco has realized a cumulative 24% savings in its total cost base by eliminating waste. At the same time, employee engagement scores have risen steadily despite a shrinking workforce.

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    The big green talent machine


    By Jenny Davis-Peccoud, James Allen and Melissa Artabane


    In 2011, employees at semiconductor chip-maker Intel devised a new chemistry process that reduced chemical waste by 900,000 gallons, saving $45 million annually. Another team developed a plan to reuse and optimize networking systems in offices, which cut energy costs by $22 million.
    The projects produced solid financial and environmental impact and good publicity for Intel, of course. Just as valuable to the company, though, is the intense engagement of employees in identifying and implementing these projects— engagement that translates into significant positive impact on recruiting, retention and employee productivity.

    At Intel and other leading companies, employees now serve as frontline agents for more sustainable business operations. For companies that haven’t yet given serious consideration to sustainability, the employee connection raises the stakes.
    Historically, the business case for sustainability has been built on a few planks. Being more resource efficient improves a company’s cost position and reduces the risk of disruptions to the supply chain. Acting responsibly improves relationships with regulators and addresses concerns of action groups that can quickly mount protest campaigns. Building brands that consumers associate with sustainability can open new markets or appeal to new segments.
    Less obvious but equally important is how the business case extends to the ongoing challenge of acquiring, retaining and engaging talent. With top talent in short supply throughout much of the world and in most industries, employee attitudes about sustainable business practices are compelling more companies to take this issue seriously, and yielding significant benefits to those firms that take action.
    For one thing, articulating a “nobler mission” for a company can energize and empower frontline employees. If you want people to wake up in the morning thrilled to sell more soap, link the product to a transformational ambition such as improving public health and reducing environmental damage, as Unilever CEO Paul Polman has done.
    Polman launched Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan in late 2010, seeking to double sales while halving the environmental impact of its soaps, tea, sauces and other consumer products by 2020. For Unilever, sustainability is the business model, an accelerator of growth. Polman takes a hard-nosed view of sustainability, but one that is holistic rather than slavish only to shareholder returns. “If we focus our company on improving the lives of the world’s citizens and come up with genuine sustainable solutions,” he says, “we are more in synch with consumers and society and ultimately this will result in good shareholder returns.” Having a deeper purpose to what employees do serves as a tremendous motivator, Polman adds. “To work for an organization where you can … be seen to be making a difference, that is rewarding.”
    Unilever has been outperforming competitors through this business model, in part because employees have pursued it tenaciously in the marketplace. Like Unilever, many companies are finding that actively involving employees in sustainability programs leads to higher levels of engagement on the job. Engaged employees go the extra mile to deliver. They provide better experiences for customers, approach the job with energy—which enhances productivity—and come up with creative product, process and service improvements. They remain with their employer for longer tenures, which reduces turnover and its related costs. In turn, they create passionate customers who buy more and tell their friends, generating further growth.
    As a result, companies with highly engaged workers grow revenues two and a half times as much as those with low engagement levels. And evidence from a recent Bain & Company survey shows that employees increasingly view their company’s sustainability agenda as a critical factor in engagement.
    What employees are saying
    Bain recently surveyed about 750 employees across industries in Brazil, China, India, Germany, the UK and the US. The online survey shows a significant shift in attitudes and career decisions relating to sustainability. For example, roughly two-thirds of respondents said they care more about the topic now than three years ago (see Figure 1), with almost that many saying sustainable business is extremely important to them. Interest peaks among employees in their mid-30s to early 40s.

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    Respondents clearly have high expectations of companies. When asked which group should take the lead on sustainability, more respondents cited employers than they did consumers, employees, governments or all equally, up from three years ago (see Figure 2). In the developed world, a small but growing segment of what we call “sustainability enthusiasts” pay close attention to their firm’s behavior. Enthusiasts, who tend to be younger than the average respondent, are far more likely than other employees to view sustainability as a major factor in job choices and to accept lower compensation to work for an employer that meshes with their beliefs.

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    Enthusiasts point to another trend: Employees are increasingly shaping their company’s sustainability efforts. About two-thirds of employees under age 30, one-third of employees over 55 and three-quarters of enthusiasts expect to play a role in how their firm approaches the topic. In a departure from attitudes five or 10 years ago, most employees, not just enthusiasts, care more about ensuring that the business operations themselves are sustainable than they do about philanthropic activities (see Figure 3). This is consistent with the trend we’ve observed of companies shifting their focus from peripherally related “do good” programs to actions at the heart of core processes such as purchasing, manufacturing and distribution.

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    Several regional differences emerged from the survey. In the developing world, sustainability matters more to respondents, perhaps because evidence of issues such as pollution, lax safety and child labor may be more visible. Employees in these countries take ownership of the issue; 43% of developing-nation respondents said that employees have considerable influence on a company’s sustainability commitments, vs. 25% in developed markets.
    While employees everywhere are voting with their feet, more in the developing world than in developed nations said they have accepted lower pay in the past in order to work for a sustainably minded firm. Some 59% of respondents in developing nations have excluded specific industries for employment in the past because the industries do not match their beliefs on corporate sustainability, while 33% in developed nations have done so.
    For companies across industries and geographies, the Bain survey reinforces how sustainable practices have become an important means of attracting and motivating top talent. Yet many companies are missing the opportunity to engage their employees, especially their enthusiasts, to full potential. Only one-third of survey respondents characterized their own employer as a clear leader that has fully incorporated sustainable practices, with one-fifth saying their companies have made few or no efforts in this area.
    What sustainability leaders are doing
    Employee attitudes have changed in part because of greater awareness of corporate role models—those companies that apply employee skills and knowledge to embed sustainability throughout the organization. In recent years, forward-thinking companies have increasingly involved employees in designing and implementing their programs.
    When managed well, such programs not only improve financial results, they also pay dividends in greater employee loyalty and engagement. At Intel, for instance, involvement in sustainability and corporate responsibility programs is likely one reason that the share of employees who would recommend Intel as a great place to work has risen from 61% in 2007 to 83% in 2011, the latest data available (see Figure 4).

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    While companies often shape a sustainability agenda to suit their individual industry and geographic footprint, the leaders do share several common characteristics in their approach to engaging employees. We would highlight three characteristics of the leaders that have broad relevance for other companies:
    • They challenge employees to embed sustainability in core operations and at every stage of the business.
    • They hold employees accountable for sustainable practices in their jobs, and reinforce that responsibility through compensation.
    • They equip employees with tools and training in order to raise the bar for further improvements.
    Let’s review how each characteristic is playing out at companies with a proven track record on sustainability.
    Challenging employees to embed sustainability in core operations
    Firms that are leading in sustainability initiatives stand out from the pack in the extent to which they push employees to think about how to put sustainability at the heart of the primary business, rather than doing their jobs in traditional fashion and perhaps volunteering for philanthropic activities on the side. This obviously takes executive commitment, a realistic plan and significant time and resources. However, leading companies are seeing the effort pay off.
    In 2007 UK-based Marks & Spencer launched Plan A (so called because there is no Plan B for the planet). Plan A aims to make the company the most sustainable retailer in the world by 2015 and incorporate sustainability attributes, such as sustainable cotton or wood, into every product it sells by 2020 (currently one-third of its products have Plan A attributes). In the $500 million seafood line, for instance, Marks & Spencer aims to have all fish caught from sustainable sources as defined by respected authorities such as the Marine Stewardship Council, and currently meets that standard for 93% of fish sold. So Marks & Spencer buyers now work with the World Wildlife Fund and fishing industry representatives to develop programs for meeting that goal.
    Plan A has been recognized for its high level of transparency and accountability, as the company tracks progress on 180 measurable commitments, reviews progress monthly and reports to the board and the audit committee every six months. An annual, independently ensured report details where progress is ahead of schedule and where it is lagging (see Figure 5). The 2012 report also estimates that net Plan A benefits totaled £105 million to the company itself during the year.

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    Plan A has been carefully designed to engage all employees from the executive office to the front lines, with varied roles depending on level and job duties. Each of the more than 1,000 Marks & Spencer stores globally has a Plan A champion, drawn from the ranks of enthusiasts, who spends about three hours a week guiding co-workers to implement sustainability initiatives and spot opportunities for improvement. To foster competition, each store is ranked regularly on metrics such as electricity consumption, waste recovery and paper usage. To foster collaboration, regional Plan A champions also meet quarterly to share best practices.
    Ideas for improvements or for entirely new initiatives bubble up from all corners of the organization. Consider the origin of one of Marks & Spencer’s most successful new initiatives, called “shwopping.” In 2008 Simon Colbeck, head of technology for clothing, was concerned about the huge volume of garments that end up in landfills every year. He suggested teaming up with the nonprofit Oxfam’s 750 stores across the UK to resell used or unwanted clothing. Colbeck’s idea got approval from the board and has led to four million pieces of clothing being recycled each year, raising £2 million in the past year for Oxfam. As a direct result of shwopping, Marks & Spencer has seen a rise in customer traffic for its clothing and thus further stickiness to its brand while also helping the firm to recycle more of its products.
    Other companies have found competitive monetary grants to be useful in spurring employees to translate their ideas into actionable plans. Intel has overarching corporate goals to minimize the environmental impacts of its operations and to design products that are increasingly energy efficient. Intel singles out employees who have identified ways to reduce the core business’s environmental impact, saving more than $200 million in 2010 and 2011 as a result of the projects designed by award winners. Intel also provides grant funding for innovative sustainability project ideas through its “Sustainability in Action” program. Projects funded range from using rainwater for cooling towers in India to redesigning a microprocessor product line in order to reduce packaging.
    Competitive grants are just one way to embed sustainability throughout the business. At Cisco Systems, the network equipment firm, employees use “design for environment” principles covering product energy efficiency, packaging, shipping and recyclability. Once a product has reached the end of its life, for example, customers can return any Cisco equipment at Cisco’s expense, and employees direct the products into commodity waste streams for processing and recovery. Cisco’s products themselves help to cut greenhouse gas emissions by, for example, reducing electric consumption through smart utility grids. And Cisco relies on its remote collaboration technologies to reduce business travel and office space.
    Holding employees accountable
    Senior executives have more influence over corporate policy than do frontline employees. And certain job types—a product engineer or purchasing agent—will encounter sustainability issues more frequently than others. Yet all employees can look for opportunities to advance the company’s cause, and leading companies try to set an appropriate level of accountability for job types that have an influence on environmental or social factors. Some have even begun to selectively tie compensation to sustainability metrics.
    Marks & Spencer’s management board members— anyone with profit and loss responsibility—each has Plan A targets that directly contribute to his or her performance bonuses. Store managers have an energy target that figures in their bonus. The company doesn’t feel that’s appropriate for shop employees who have limited influence over meeting targets, so sustainability metrics don’t figure in performance standards at that level. Shop employees are, however, encouraged by Plan A champions to contribute in numerous small ways, such as reminding shoppers to bring back their bags or simply turning out the lights in an empty room. Overall, this approach has helped deliver a 28% improvement in energy efficiency.
    Intel, on the other hand, has since 2008 linked a portion of every employee’s variable compensation to attaining environmental sustainability metrics. Before 2008, some employees, such as, environmental engineers already had their performance evaluations linked to environmental performance based on their roles. The decision to include environmental metrics in executive and employee bonus plans extended this connection to all employees. Higher-level employees, who have a broader job scope and greater ability to affect Intel’s performance, receive a higher percentage of their overall compensation at risk through bonus programs. In 2011, the environmental metrics focused on carbon emission reductions in operations and energy efficiency for new products. While this environmental component represents a relatively small portion of the overall bonus calculation, Intel believes that it helps spur employees to collectively focus on achieving Intel’s environmental objectives.
    Other companies have had similar success in tying compensation to metrics. At yogurt maker Stonyfield Farms, senior management challenged its employees to save energy at the company’s facilities. Savings were tied to employee bonuses for all workers, providing additional motivation. The company achieved its annual goal, reducing company energy use per ton of product by more than 22%.
    Equipping employees with the right tools and training
    Like any business initiative, realizing lasting improvements in sustainability requires that employees have the proper tools and ongoing training at hand, so that they can focus their efforts on what the company deems most important. Tools and training serve as the discipline to harness employees’ creativity.
    Intel puts commodity managers and buyers through regular supply chain training to teach them methods for attaining Intel’s goals on environmental sustainability and corporate responsibility. It also provides various tools; a carbon calculator, for instance, helps manufacturing teams quantify the environmental impact of a given project.
    Similarly, Marks & Spencer provides training on how to integrate Plan A into supply chain management, through sessions on how to source commodities such as soya and palm oil or fi nished products from farms and factories. Shop employees learn specific procedures for segregating waste streams. Marks & Spencer is also developing one software program to design packaging for low environmental impact.
    Tools and training apply to the senior ranks as well. Statoil, a Norwegian energy company, launched a climate and energy program in 2011 that nominates 10 senior executives to take part in a year-long program. Upon completion, these participants are expected to identify and respond to future climate uncertainties within their respective areas of responsibility.
    Negotiating the bumps along the road
    The combination of embedded intent, accountability and groundwork preparation has allowed the sustainability leaders to improve their efforts each year. These companies have also learned that the journey inevitably involves bumps, wrong turns and dead ends. Their experiences can help other companies anticipate and perhaps avoid mistakes. Among the lessons to heed:
    Encourage grassroots initiatives, but make sure they’re relevant to the strategic priorities of the business. Achieving this balance can be tough, because you don’t want to squelch the enthusiasm of frontline employees, yet that enthusiasm must be directed in ways consistent with the company’s particular profile. Mobile operator O2’s “Think Big” program in the UK, for example, aims to focus all employees toward six specific sustainability targets.
    Communicate the work in progress. Sustainability rarely comes through a tidy and finished program. It’s typically a messy business, and the leaders are confident enough to share their work publicly, as Marks & Spencer does with Plan A. Retail giant Walmart has also opened its environmental efforts to scrutiny, despite ongoing criticism of the company from some quarters. That willingness to discuss efforts publicly has played a role in the sustainability results that Walmart has achieved to date.
    Make it relevant to individual employees, including the enthusiasts. Overarching goals won’t resonate unless employees understand how their own behavior will contribute. Any program benefits from having a “sponsorship spine,” consisting of executives, midlevel managers and junior managers who can explain the rationale to employees at all levels and illustrate how it plays out in their organizational unit. Enthusiasts can be tapped to lead grassroots efforts among their peers.
    Repeat the message dozens of times. Awareness and adoption of desired behaviors require repeated communications. Intel first linked sustainability to compensation in 2008, yet six months later a survey showed that few employees even knew about the change. That revelation led Intel to open several communications channels, including a dedicated Web portal and an interactive online employee community, called Green Intel, to facilitate discussion between teams and individuals on sustainability topics such as power management.
    Don’t promise without delivering. Well-intentioned efforts that raise employee expectations but don’t deliver meaningful programs or results can easily backfire. Asking employees for ideas without a method for bringing them to life is worse than not asking in the first place. To put employees into action inexpensively, one option is to offer competitive grants. The grants allow companies to launch pilot programs and expand the best offerings while directing those that don’t work to fail fast.
    If a company addresses these problems successfully, the payoff goes to the heart of the talent agenda: greater employee loyalty and engagement. New recruits to Marks & Spencer often cite Plan A as one important reason they sought work there. A number of Plan A champions have moved into the management development track.
    All companies endeavor to release the discretionary energy of their talent. Engaging employees in helping a business operate sustainably is becoming essential as younger generations expand their presence in the workforce and push sustainability to the head of the corporate agenda. When their enthusiasm is directed to strategically consistent initiatives, companies can significantly improve their talent recruiting, retention and productivity—and at the same time change core business operations for the better
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    Taking the measure of your innovation performance


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    Innovation is one of the most popular acts in business, but one of the hardest to pull off. Bain & Company recently surveyed nearly 450 executives around the world at enterprises with more than $100 million in revenue, and two-thirds said their companies made innovation one of their top three priorities. Yet fewer than one-quarter believed that their companies were effective innovators. Even fewer, just one in five, said they were strong at “breakthrough” innovation.
    We did find companies that are great at innovation, and we don’t mean just iconic innovators such as Apple, Amazon.com and Samsung. Virtually all the top quartile of innovators in our survey agree with the following statements:

    • We consistently meet or exceed our innovation goals
    • We have a winning, repeatable model for innovation that we apply consistently in different regions and categories
    • We currently have projects that will meet or exceed our financial targets for innovation
    • We are prepared for major market disruptions through innovation
    Many executive teams still treat innovation as a black box, the serendipitous achievement of a few gifted individuals. But our survey found that innovation leaders consistently outperformed laggards on five manageable capability areas (see below, "The innovator’s edge"). The disparity suggests that innovators rely on a systematic approach, not just on finding people who happen to be innovative.
    Innovation capabilities and the BothBrain® ingredient
    What are the five capabilities? The first is a clear, specific innovation strategy, which includes setting goals and determining investment priorities in a way that captures both hearts and minds. The second is an organization with a culture that nurtures innovation—an organization supported by the right people, processes and organizational structure. Third, this organization should have effective idea generation and development processes to create attractive new offerings, both by generating a broad and diverse set of ideas and, especially, by converting these ideas into profitable business concepts. Fourth, a company has to manage a diverse innovation portfolio that has the right size, shape and speed—a portfolio aligned with its strategy. Fifth, a company has to be effective at scaling new business ideas, supporting them with the appropriate level and type of resources. It also has to create feedback loops to learn how best to reinforce, redirect or (when necessary) kill new ideas.
    These capabilities are necessary for sustained innovation, but nearly all successful innovation relies on one essential ingredient that permeates all five. We refer to it as a “BothBrain” approach, and it underlies many of the systems and procedures that successful innovators adopt to manage innovation.
    BothBrain derives from the recognition that innovation requires both the creation of brilliant new ideas and the ability to successfully commercialize them. Some may interpret these skills as “right brain” thinking (typically imaginative, intuitive, whimsical) and “left brain” thinking (rational, logical, linear). Most of us are more adept at one set of skills or the other. People who are equally adept at both kinds of thinking, like Leonardo da Vinci, are extremely rare, making up less than 3% of the population.
    Many companies tend to separate creative activities from commercial ones. They expect the creatives to come up with new ideas, and then they ask the commercial types to analyze those ideas (and, often, to shoot them down). But it’s far more productive for companies to build integrated teams that bring together people with both orientations and skill sets. These teams can then work together from idea conception all the way to testing and scaling an innovation. We call the approach BothBrain because it engages both kinds of thinking at every stage.
    Consider, for example, how a BothBrain orientation affects each of the five capabilities:
    • Creating an innovation strategy isn’t simply about building appealing products and developing spreadsheets to make a business case. It’s about generating passion and excitement—capturing the hearts as well as the minds of your customers and the people in your organization.
    • An organization’s talent management processes and innovation decisions need to reflect the importance of both kinds of thinking. Otherwise it won’t be able to create the kind of culture that fosters innovation.
    • Idea generation and development almost always involves gathering data about customer needs and preferences. But analytic people can stare at this data all day long without coming up with new ideas. A creative person, by contrast, may draw on the same data to find an imaginative new intersection between customer needs, a company’s distinctive capabilities and the vulnerabilities of competitors.
    • A successful portfolio of innovations always needs to include a balance between incremental and radical innovations. To create that balance, companies have to give their creative people more leeway on radical innovations, and not allow analysts with spreadsheets to shoot the ideas down prematurely. Most successful products evolve substantially from idea conception to commercial success. Creatives and commercials have to work through the twists and turns together, not just give up whenever they hit a bump in the road.
    • When a company thinks about how to scale an idea, it needs art and intuition as well as science to determine whether it should stay the course, pivot or kill an offering.
    Properly applied, BothBrain engages and affects all the elements that make up an innovation system.
    The success factors
    The five capability areas are quite broad. But the survey responses and our analysis help focus on the specific factors behind a company’s success or failure in each area (see Figure 1). A handful of examples will illustrate how these factors contribute to each capability.

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    Strategy: Set compelling, credible objectives and investment priorities
    • Clear, specific innovation goals and models covering both incremental and breakthrough innovations
    • Strategic alignment on objectives, investment priorities and risk management
    Novartis, the healthcare products company, has a well-defined and differentiated innovation strategy that reflects a BothBrain-style “hearts and minds” approach. “It means that every time we choose a new disease focus, we don’t ask ourselves, ‘What is the NPV’ but rather ‘Is there a patient in need? Can we change the practice of medicine?’,” says Mark Fishman, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. To offset the risk of investing in rare diseases, Novartis aims to identify multiple uses for a discovery. For example, Novartis scientists suspected that Afinitor, a drug originally approved for certain types of cancers and rare tumors, could treat other types of cancers as well, and so began parallel testing. The company recently gained approval for the drug as a treatment for the most common form of advanced breast cancer—a major breakthrough for the many women who suffer from the disease.
    Organization: Build an innovative organization and a collaborative culture
    • BothBrain talent: well-managed partnerships among creative people and business executives, both inside and outside the organization
    • Structure, roles and decision processes that foster innovation
    • A culture that values, supports and rewards innovation
    Pixar is one model of an organization that encourages innovation. The company’s development department brings together small “incubation teams” to help directors develop their ideas. Daily reviews of work in progress and post-mortems at the completion of a film foster creative thinking. Structure is important, however: While everyone is encouraged to give feedback, the ultimate decisions about a film rest with the director. Setting the tone for the culture is the BothBrain partnership of John Lasseter and Ed Catmull. Lasseter—animator, film director, storyteller and chief creative officer—is the creative spirit behind Pixar. Catmull—computer scientist and president—provides technical and managerial expertise.
    Idea generation and development: Create profitable new offerings
    • Regular development of new ideas in every aspect of the customer experience
    • Thorough idea screening and development: prioritization and nurturing ideas into business concepts
    • Prototyping and testing
    Kraft Foods is an example of a company that is rewriting its innovation playbook to improve profitability. It brainstorms new uses for iconic products, such as Philadelphia Cooking Creme and Velveeta Cheesy Skillets, and it has invested in new products such as MiO, a zero-calorie beverage. Overall, the company is focusing on bigger bets than in the past. To ensure focus, Kraft Foods has added rigor to its development process, setting consistent hurdles for projects and tying its decisions more tightly than ever to the economics of each product. In 2011, it generated $600 million in sales from a relatively small handful of innovations. 
    Portfolio management: Improve the size, shape and speed of the innovation portfolio
    • Effective management and monitoring of the project portfolio, including establishing hurdles, assessing speed of execution and terminating projects when appropriate
    • Effective management of individual projects, learning from past efforts
    Diageo, the global alcoholic beverages company, has worked hard to improve its portfolio of innovations. “We have built the leading innovation capability in the industry,” declared CEO Paul Walsh in 2011. “Six years ago, we implemented a new approach to innovation, which now accounts for over 50% of our growth in developed markets and is a consistent growth driver for Diageo. We have launched 200 new products in the last two years and have a pipeline of another 200 new products.” For example, the company created an autonomous innovation-oriented team within its niche and specialist brand unit. According to a report by Raymond James analysts, the team “is harnessing the entrepreneurial flair needed to succeed in premium new products” and has already launched a variety of successful premium beverages. 
    Scaling: Strengthen testing, learning and scaling skills
    • Allocation of resources to launches based on the opportunity’s potential
    • Feedback loops and adaptation, including course correction when necessary, and post-launch efforts to support projects
    Unilever has been highly successful in its approach to scaling innovations. By focusing resources on priority brands and bigger initiatives, the company’s projects launched in 2012 represented a tenfold increase over projects launched a few years ago. Unilever’s average value per project has increased 75% over the past few years, whereas time to market has decreased between 25% and 50%. The company is quick to adapt new products when required. For example, an initiative in the company’s Hindustan Unilever unit encourages employees to buy new products at steep discounts and then provide quick feedback, thus acting as in-house beta testers.
    Are some success factors more important than others?
    In seeking to learn more about these factors, we wondered whether some of them might turn out to be the keys to the innovation kingdom—the most essential skills for would-be innovators to acquire. Some did turn out to be more important than others as starting points, as we will see in a moment. In general, however, every element of the five capabilities is necessary. Top-quartile companies outperformed others on every measure. Bottom-quartile companies underperformed others on every measure (see Figure 2).

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    This analysis underscores an important point. Almost every company comes up with a good idea once in a while; otherwise most companies would never get started in the first place. The real question is what it takes to generate good ideas on a sustainable, repeatable basis. The most successful companies make innovation a core management process. Success comes from focusing the organization on goals, adhering to solid practices in moving toward those goals and making decisions quickly and effectively. Using the Bain Innovation Assessment—a tool we applied in this research—a company hoping to improve its innovation capacity can assess where it is strong or weak in each of these areas. It can then launch targeted investments to increase its skills and develop the necessary capabilities.
    Starting points
    What should you attack first? A company’s starting points, of course, will depend on what it learns from the assessment. But when we applied two statistical analyses (logistic regression and Chi-square Automatic Interaction Detection, or CHAID) to our survey data, we found two areas likely to be critical:
    • Innovation goals and strategies. The statistics show that this is the most important factor in determining top performance. A half-point improvement on the four-point scale of responses increases a company’s probability of being a top performer by almost half, from 25% to 37%. Of the companies that score themselves low on this dimension, only 3% are top performers.
    • Portfolio management. This factor is almost as important, but with a twist: Good portfolio management makes a significant difference only among companies that already perform well on innovation goals and strategies. Of those companies that score well on innovation goals and strategies but score poorly on portfolio management, only one-quarter are top performers. Among companies that score well on both measures, almost three-quarters are top performers.
    These factors turn out to be better starting points than idea generation, for instance, or scaling and launch strategies. The fundamentals have to come first. Without specific innovation goals, a company is unlikely to get anything accomplished. Without good portfolio and project management, even the best ideas are likely to languish. Innovation is like a building: It needs all the requisite elements and it has to be built on a solid foundation.
    Why did idea generation not emerge as a major determinant of top innovation performance? It’s probably because ideas are only the seeds of innovation. Put good ideas in a bad company and they die. That’s why so many acquisitions of innovative companies fail: new ideas get buried in the acquirer’s bureaucracy and the creative people who came on board get frustrated and leave. Only when a company nurtures its ideas and builds a system around them do they lead to innovation. However, our analysis does show that good idea generation can help some companies that are otherwise failing with setting innovation goals and strategies.
    Among companies that score low on innovation goals and strategies (less than 2.25), 37% are average performers overall. Some of the companies in this group, however, score high on idea generation (greater than 2.75), and a full 66% of these become average per-formers. Thus, some companies that are managing innovation poorly have been lucky enough to somehow find or acquire good ideas, and those ideas have helped them perform better than they would have otherwise.
    Our survey also examined companies’ relative success with "incremental" innovation vs. "breakthrough" innovation. Companies clearly struggle more with breakthrough innovation: Overall, only 18% of respondents assess their companies as "very effective" vs. 38% for incremental innovation. Top performers are much more likely to be effective with breakthrough innovation (44%), while almost no low performers are very effective with it (1%).
    From a practical point of view, successful innovation appears to come from focusing the organization on goals, adhering to solid management practices in moving toward those goals and making decisions quickly and effectively. Innovation is a complex process that must be managed like any other complex process. It must mobilize key factors essential to achieving success: leadership, management, process alignment and repeatability. This is not a purely linear, logical, left-brain-generated process. Companies that cultivate both aspects of human brain functioning—both left- and right-brain thinking—to inform their innovation initiatives are likely to outstrip their competitors in creating great new products, processes and services.
    Eric Almquist, a partner with Bain & Company in Boston, leads the Global Consumer Insights team. Mitchell Leiman, a Bain partner based in Boston, leads the firm’s Innovation practice in the Americas. Darrell Rigby, also a Bain partner based in Boston, is the head of Bain’s global practices in Innovation and Retail. Alex Roth is a partner based in London and leads the firm’s Innovation practice in EMEA.

    What innovation takes: Ten voices from the survey
    The following are verbatim comments, edited for length, from 10 respondents to Bain’s recent Innovation Assessment Survey of Nearly 450 executives around the world.
    • “Innovation cannot be successful if it does not come from the top to the bottom. In other words, the CEO must be completely convinced that innovation is the best strategy to achieve success. Innovation has to be part of the company’s culture to be part of the company’s achievements.”
    • “Innovation is driven bottom up. If it’s a top-down approach, more often than not it doesn’t succeed. The other important factor is absolute commitment from the top management, that is, the key stakeholders in the company.”
    • “Our organization is improving in our approach to innovation due to the introduction of new senior managers who understand the requirements of using innovation successfully across the organization.”
    • “I would consider innovation from an end-to-end perspective. ‘Creating’ (a product or service) is as important as ‘realization’ of it in the marketplace. Only after realization can the creation be considered successful or not.”
    • “A philosophy of ‘fail fast’ is absolutely critical to innovation and success in general. You have to validate your assumptions with the target audience as quickly as possible and make course corrections as needed. The more iterations you are able to get in a specified time, the better your chances of getting close to the goal.”
    • “Success at innovation means not being afraid to make big mistakes.”
    • “The market does not reward risk taking. Therefore, many companies rely upon outside sources, such as universities and star t-up companies (innovative acquisition vs. organic innovation) for innovation.”
    • “We just have to set targets and be willing to tolerate mistakes (both time and money wasted).”
    • “Innovation requires true long-term commitment and focus to bring disruptions to the industry.”
    • “For innovation to be optimized, the entire value chain must play a role and agree upon a direction.”

    The innovator’s edge
    Successful innovation delivers business results (see figure). According to our sur vey of executives around the globe:
    • Companies in the top quartile grew significantly faster than others—an average annual growth rate of 13%, compared with 5% for other companies. Compounded over five years, the top performers will grow 84%, compared with 28% for lower performers, a threefold difference.
    • Top-quartile companies are also winning the war for talent. We measured this through employee Net Promoter® scores (eNPS), a widely used indicator of employee loyalty and enthusiasm. Top performers’ eNPS is 23, compared with a low of negative 56 for others in our survey. That’s a striking difference by eNPS standards.
    • Top-quartile companies are better at making and executing decisions, as measured by Bain’ s proprietary assessment of corporate decision effectiveness. (The measure includes the quality, speed and yield of decisions, along with the effort involved.) Greater decision-making skills produce better strategy, better selection of projects and better alignment among organizational units
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    Management Tools & Trends 2013


    By Darrell Rigby and Barbara Bilodeau


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    The slow and uneven emergence from the global economic downturn has left many executives in a bind. They need to grow their businesses at a time when forces inside and outside their organizations make that task much more difficult. Having pinned their hopes on a relatively swift recovery, many global business leaders are coming to recognize they may have been overly optimistic. With more realistic expectations, executives are taking a more focused approach to the management tools they use to guide their businesses—using fewer tools to pursue revenue and profit growth, but using them more strategically.
    Overall, a majority of the 1,208 global executives interviewed for Bain & Company’s 14th Management Tools & Trends survey see economic conditions improving in their industries. But their confidence level has slipped dramatically since our last survey in 2010, amid a slower recovery than many anticipated—and with some additional new challenges. As a result, 55% of executives we surveyed are concerned about meeting their earnings targets in 2013 (see Figure 1).
    The same dynamic is forcing business leaders to reassess the investments they must make to grow revenues, in areas ranging from information technology, hiring, healthcare and taxes, to sustainability, price reductions and product differentiation. Having maximized the benefits of such cost-cutting tools as Downsizing and Outsourcing, many are now scouting for new and creative approaches to cost reduction to help them fund investments or meet earnings targets. Survey results show that the need is felt most acutely by leaders of large companies in North America and Europe.


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    Twenty years ago we launched our first global survey of Management Tools & Trends to track executives’ behaviors and attitudes through a full range of economic cycles (see Figure 2 and below, “A history of Bain’s Management Tools & Trends survey”). The results this year, as in the past, provide instructive insights into what is working and what is not, as well as what is on the minds of executives around the globe. Not surprising, growth is the top priority. The survey responses also reveal some of the major challenges that make growth difficult to achieve—from price transparency (which constrains the ability of companies to notch up prices as demand improves) to healthcare costs that executives say will make it more difficult to boost their ranks.

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    The differences between established and emerging markets became even more pronounced in this year’s survey, with respect to both the outlook of executives and the management tools they use and regard as effective. For example, while executives in all regions have lowered expectations for their industries, only half of North American executives are optimistic about improving economic conditions in their industries—a decline of 20 percentage points since 2010. Only 43% of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) executives see their industries improving. By comparison, 80% of Latin American and 67% Asia-Pacific respondents express optimism about the future of their industries—reflecting expectations that the path to revenue growth will be easier in emerging markets than in advanced markets (see Figure 3).

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    A desire for profitable growth and the challenges to it
    The most urgent priority indicated by all the global executives in the survey was the need to increase the pace of revenue growth and to find additional ways to make that growth profitable. When asked “What is your organization’s most important priority over the next three years?” executives cited revenue growth twice as often as the second most cited priority (see Figure 4). In some regions, executives perceived conditions that could significantly improve growth—for instance, 78% of leaders in Brazil and 83% in Mexico said economic conditions in their industries were improving.

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    Businesses need to recapture growth lost in the downturn and in a recovery that proved weaker than many had hoped. A majority of those surveyed were confident in the capabilities they’ve had in place to help them grow: for example, in their ability to adapt to change, to innovate and to use social media to improve customer relationships.
    But leaders said they would need to overcome a range of challenges that vary widely around the globe and have executives of large companies (more than $2 billion in revenues) more worried than their counterparts at midsize or small companies. As the recovery drags on, more executives acknowledge a tough macroeconomic environment, with particularly stiff headwinds in Europe, which will require a disciplined approach for revenue growth. Pricing was a major concern, with some indications that business leaders saw customers becoming less loyal and putting price above other considerations. That concern was greatest in North America.
    Some of the challenges to growth appear to be beyond their control. Roughly half of all executives feared a cyber attack would greatly impact their business (see below, “A growing concern: Cyber attacks”). Other challenges take the form of mounting costs that limit expansion plans. For example, almost 60% said healthcare costs will significantly affect the number of full-time employees they will be able to retain over the next five years. That issue, in combination with the uncertain economy, may hurt US companies more than companies in other countries. When asked if and how their employee numbers would change by 2015, 28% of companies said they will increase the number of employees they have in North America, but 26% said they will decrease. By comparison, in China 33% plan to increase, while only 16% expect to decrease (see Figure 5).

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    Along with these external factors, business leaders indicated a number of internal and organizational challenges to revenue growth. Half of the respondents believed current information technology systems constrain profitable growth. And 6 out of every 10 respondents said that the complexity creeping into their organization raises costs and hinders growth.
    Customers’ ability to easily compare prices online surfaced as a tricky new challenge for executives as they pursue revenue growth—61% said price transparency had a major impact on their pricing strategy. Price transparency affects revenues in two ways: Companies have less flexibility to boost prices and customers are more easily lured to lower-priced competitors. Among executives surveyed, 67% said they believed their customers had become less loyal to their brand.
    That loyalty issue may help explain why larger companies were more worried about the future than smaller companies. Despite their resources and influence, executives at larger companies were more likely than their counterparts at midsize or smaller companies to say customers were less loyal to their brands. Seven out of 10 executives at larger companies perceived customers to be less loyal. Smaller start-ups see an advantage in customers’ wavering loyalty because it allows them to steal share and grow from larger, more established companies.
    Companies of all sizes need to rely on new and future employees to help them grow. The Millennial generation has entered the workforce and is making its presence felt, with new demands that executives must take seriously. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said their youngest employees are pressuring them to change their culture and processes.
    These challenges to growth are being felt more intensely in some industries than in others. When asked about the prospects for improved conditions in their industry, leaders in media and entertainment, consumer products and manufacturing companies were most optimistic; those in healthcare, pharmaceuticals and biotech, and utilities and energy were least optimistic (see Figure 6).

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    The growing need to invest
    One message came through loud and clear: Executives knew the investments they needed to make to boost revenues, but they had delayed making them while companies waited out the downturn.
    Across industries and regions, business leaders indicated that they were narrowing their focus on the most critical areas for investment. In recent years, Customer Relationship Management emerged as an important investment priority. Now it may be more critical than ever, as executives see signs of diminished customer loyalty. Armed with new evidence proving the link between motivated employees and customer loyalty, business leaders are prioritizing investments in employee engagement. They told us they are compensating for long-delayed investments to upgrade information technology and to tackle complexity in their organizations. Companies are responding vigorously to growing demands for sustainability, even at the price of increased costs.
    Customer loyalty has gained recognition as a key factor for success. At a time when record numbers of companies are investing more in ways of tracking and improving customer loyalty, two-thirds of our respondents indicated that customers are becoming less loyal to any one brand. For many, that creates pressure to reduce prices or to invest in greater innovation and differentiation to strengthen their devotion. More than any other industry, consumer products executives reported that they had experienced a reduction in brand loyalty.
    Clearly, companies see the need to continue sharpening their focus on customers, as they had already begun to do before the downturn. Half of the executives—up slightly from 2010—believed that insufficient consumer knowledge hurt their performance. Gaining a deeper understanding allows companies to foster loyalty. Our research also supports this intensified customer focus. Customer Relationship Management tied as the most widely used and most satisfying tool.
    Customer Relationship Management (CRM) started gaining popularity as a tool in the mid to late 1990s and we first added it to our survey in 2000. At that time, it ranked 15th on our list and was used by 35% of our respondents. Relatively few executives found it satisfactory: It ranked 22nd of our 25 tools in satisfaction. At that time, companies had a choice: They could abandon their efforts, making CRM little more than a fad, or focus on making their existing investment pay off.
    Based on our subsequent surveys, they chose the latter. CRM’s ranking steadily rose both in usage and satisfaction. By 2002, CRM tied for 5th in usage and 13th in satisfaction. In 2004 it rose to 2nd in usage and tied for 9th in satisfaction. By 2006, the tool remained 2nd in usage and moved to 4th in satisfaction. Today it is tied for 1st in both usage and satisfaction. One of the lessons companies have learned is that, over time, improvement in both technology and user sophistication have increased performance.
    While companies are investing in improving their relationships with customers, they are discovering an equal need to invest in their employees. As already mentioned, executives are feeling pressure from their youngest employees to change their processes and culture. That concern is highest in Asia, where 79% of surveyed executives reported experiencing such pressure. Disengaged employees result in high employee turnover and in the need to invest in hiring, training, compensation and benefits.
    That may be one explanation for the popularity of Employee Engagement surveys, a tool that was new to our list this year and tied with Strategic Planning and Customer Relationship Management as the most used tool. Employee Engagement surveys help companies build a more engaged workforce. But we also see evidence that the solutions aren’t easy to come by: Employee Engagement surveys ranked 22nd among all 25 management tools in satisfaction.
    Based on Bain & Company research in the area of employee engagement, companies are finding that a loyal workforce does more than reduce the costs of churn; it also delivers more loyal customers. “Employees’ positive behavior and attitude are among the most powerful factors that earn a company the enthusiastic advocacy of its customers,” says Rob Markey, who leads Bain’s Global Customer Strategy and Marketing practice. Our consumer surveys show that the overall experience of dealing with a company often matters much more to customers than price or brand. In industries with a big service component, such as home insurance and retail banking, it may matter even more than product features alone. (For more on the topic of employee engagement, see the Bain Brief “The chemistry of enthusiasm.”)
    Companies are also looking at other areas where they can overcome impediments to growth. As we mentioned, nearly half of the executives surveyed said their IT systems are hampering growth—65% told us their IT spending as a percentage of sales must increase over the next three years. The majority—63%—also saw excessive complexity as a challenge, highlighting the need to invest in improvements designed to streamline complexity in its many forms, including products, organization and processes.
    Meanwhile, more companies see investments in environmental sustainability as supportive of future growth. Six in 10 companies said they will invest in sustainability initiatives even if it raises their costs—an increase of about 16 percentage points since we first asked the question in 2008. Many companies started their sustainability initiatives with win-win efforts that can save money while also demonstrating an environmental awareness to customers who increasingly look for such a commitment. More and more hotels, for example, are asking their guests if they would like their linens cleaned every day. The real test will come when customers push companies to expand sustainability efforts beyond those that save money to those that cost money.
    Finding new ways to cut costs
    Given this daunting list of investment priorities, it is no surprise that so many executives told us they need to trim costs. Among respondents, the number who mentioned cost-cutting as a priority more than doubled in 2012. Cutting costs will allow them to make investments and help reach earnings targets, which 55% of our respondents are concerned they won’t meet this year.
    But business leaders need creative approaches to reducing budgets. In too many cases, cost-cutting initiatives put in place during the downturn either fell short or crept back in. A previous Bain survey looked at the experiences of nearly 300 companies that relied on a variety of cost-cutting initiatives during 2008 and 2009. Fully 40% of the executives surveyed, who sought to reduce costs by at least 10%, acknowledged their failure to achieve their goal. Among those seeking cost reductions of 20% or more, nearly 60% acknowledged failure.
    The evidence of such ill-fated cost-cutting efforts can be seen in companies’ experiences with three tools that were popular during the recent downturn: Downsizing, Outsourcing and Business Process Reengineering. These tools took a heavy toll on corporate cultures and often hurt, rather than improved, stock performance. That is a pattern consistent with previous downturns. For example, Bain research during 2000–2001 revealed that companies with few or no layoffs delivered significantly better stock performance than those with large numbers of layoffs. In our recent survey, Downsizing scored low in user satisfaction in every region.
    What alternate cost-cutting tools will they adopt? Zero- Based Budgeting, the broad-reaching cost transformation effort that takes a starting-from-scratch approach to resource planning, topped the list of tools that business leaders expect to use more of in the future. Another cost-cutting tool that will gain popularity, according to our survey is Complexity Reduction, which helps companies simplify their strategy, organization, products, processes and IT. Both of these tools scored higher in satisfaction than Downsizing and Outsourcing.
    The big picture: Tool use and satisfaction
    Since 2006, the number of tools used has declined (see Figure 7). That’s good news. While it reflects, in part, the mix of tools we include and people we survey, there is also an important underlying message: Given the challenges to growth and the competing demands for investments, companies now take a more thoughtful and strategic approach to tools instead of jumping on the latest tool fad. That is something Bain has long recommended to clients. Among the key lessons we’ve learned over the past 20 years is that executives need to champion an enduring strategy, find the right tools and then adapt the tools to the companies—not vice versa.

    mgmt-tools-2013-fig-07_embedClick to enlarge

    Asia-Pacific and North America used the highest number of the 25 tools we surveyed—8.5 and 8.4, respectively—similar to their use in 2010. Among Latin American and EMEA companies, there was a substantial decline. In fact, Latin American companies used only 5.3 tools, on average; smaller Latin American companies used 4 tools, on average. With so few tools, during a period of unpredictability, it becomes critical to zero in on the ones that will deliver the greatest benefit.
    The five tools used most often were Strategic Planning, Customer Relationship Management, Employee Engagement Surveys, Benchmarking and Balanced Scorecards(see Figure 8). The variations by region reflect differences in business objectives and economic realities. For example, executives in North America and EMEA faced the harshest economic headwinds. But the tools they favored to grow in their sluggish economies reflected distinctly different management priorities. In North America, the most widely used tool was Employee Engagement Surveys, designed to improve employee morale and, by extension, productivity, retention and customer loyalty. In EMEA, Balanced Scorecards—a tool that helps companies measure and improve managers’ performance—topped the list.

    mgmt-tools-2013-fig-08_embedClick to enlarge

    The Asia-Pacific region enjoys stronger economic growth. Executives there relied on Customer Relationship Management more than on any other tool, demonstrating their interest in increasing customer value as a way of capturing more growth opportunity. By contrast, executives in Latin America favored Business Process Reengineering, hoping to make the most of a relatively robust economy by improving productivity, cycle time and quality. The tool was not nearly as popular elsewhere in the world, where it didn’t even make the global top 10 list.
    In general, respondents in emerging markets were more satisfied with almost all of the tools(see Figures 9 and 10). In all regions, we’ve consistently found that when tools are used as part of a major effort, they achieve better satisfaction scores than limited efforts. In some cases, the differences are enormous. Mergers & Acquisitions tied as the fifth-highest-rated tool when used as part of a major effort, but tied for 21st when used on a limited basis. Perhaps some tools should not be used on a limited basis at all.

    mgmt-tools-2013-fig-09_embedClick to enlarge

    mgmt-tools-2013-fig-10_embedClick to enlarge

    It is critical for companies to understand that not every tool is right for every situation. For example, Big Data Analytics was below average in usage but above average in satisfaction. Based on our experience with tracking tool use, when satisfaction is high but usage is low, usage tends to grow. When usage is high and satisfaction is low, usage tends to drop in line, unless the tool improves—as was the case with Customer Relationship Management.
    As the world continues its uneven recovery from the global downturn, executives in different regions are planning for the future with a variety of strategic tools. In North America and EMEA, where companies are having the toughest time growing, Open Innovation and Satisfaction and Loyalty Management rank among the top tools they expect to increase usage of in 2013 (see Figure 11 for a global ranking of expected change in tool usage). In Asia-Pacific and Latin America, Zero- Based Budgeting—a cost cutting tool—showed the greatest expected increase in usage. And more than anywhere else in the world, executives in Latin America told us they will be increasingly turning to Outsourcing and Downsizing in 2013.

    mgmt-tools-2013-fig-11_embedClick to enlarge

    Whether they choose tried-and-true tools like Strategic Planning, or relatively new tools like Open Innovation, executives can improve the odds of maximizing their return on investment by acting prudently. That means using the right tool in the right way at the right time, relying on the research and talking to other tool users. When pursuing revenue growth in an uncertain economy, it never pays to buy into hyperbole and simplistic solutions.
    Darrell Rigby, a partner with Bain & Company and leader of Bain’s Global Retail and Global Innovation practices, has conducted Bain’s Management Tools & Trends survey since 1993. Barbara Bilodeau is director of Bain’s Customer Insights Group.

    A history of Bain’s Management Tools & Trends survey
    Since 1993, Bain & Company has surveyed executives around the world about the management tools they use and how effectively those tools have performed. We focus on 25 tools and refine the list each year. The tools included in our survey must be topical and measurable, and they need to be relevant to senior management. By tracking the tools that companies use, the circumstances under which they use them and the degree of managers’ satisfaction with the results, we’ve been able to help companies make better choices in selecting, implementing and integrating the most effective tools for improving their performance.
    With this Bain & Company 14th Management Tools & Trends survey, we have now compiled a database of more than 12,000 respondents, which enables us to systematically track the effectiveness of management tools over any given time period. As part of our survey, we also ask executives for their opinions on a range of important business issues. As a result, we are able to track and report on changing management priorities.

    mgmt-tools-2013-survbeys-12371-embedClick to enlarge


    A growing concern: Cyber attacks
    Half of all executives surveyed are very concerned about a potentially crippling impact of a cyber attack on their business. The most concerned are executives in Latin America (61%) and Asia (59%); the least concerned are those in North America (43%) and EMEA (47%). “For many organizations, security is evolving into a game that is becoming more difficult to win, with executives finding themselves facing formidable opponents with more sophisticated technology and skills,” says Rudy Puryear, who leads Bain’s Global IT practice. While many executives are confident in their organizations’ security capabilities, he says that most, in fact, don’t meet the leadership criteria for security management.
    What makes a cyber security leader? Bain has found that leadership is determined by having a secure strategy, a chief security offi cer and by constantly reviewing and evaluating the effectiveness of security measures. Among the critical elements: The security strategy should be developed from a business perspective, rather than an IT point of view, and security behaviors need to be embedded in the organizational culture.


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    Class of 2013: You'll Never Again Be so Unburdened; Do Something Bold


    The best advice I could give any graduate is to spend your time working on whatever you are passionate about in life. If your degree was focused upon one particular area, don't let that stop you moving in another direction. If college hasn't worked out for you, don't let that put you off. Virgin's expansion into so many different areas is borne out of my insatiable curiosity to enjoy new experiences and pursue fresh challenges.

    You may decide to take a break and consider your options. I would urge you to travel, take on new experiences and draw upon those when it comes to making the decisions that will shape your future. The amount of business ideas that people pick up from travelling the world is enormous. If you don't want to reinvent the wheel, you may find a business that works in another market that could be adapted for your own. Gap years don't only have to happen before you go to college. Actually, a good option is to travel instead of going to university. You can work and still have a lot of fun along the way: you won't create as much debt, you'll learn an awful lot and may come back with some great ideas. 

    Equally, if you spot an opportunity early on and are really excited by it, throw yourself into it with everything you have got. Be ambitious. There probably won't be another time in your life when you have such freedom of opportunity. Grasp it with both hands. If you can't find an opening that fits what you want to do, why not try to create one yourself? We always enter markets where the leaders are not doing a great job, so we can go in and disrupt them by offering better quality services. Until this week I had never had a boss in my entire life. I lasted about five hours before Tony Fernandes sacked me, after throwing a tray of drinks over him while working as a stewardess on a flight! (It was all for a bet to raise money for charity, so I wasn't too upset.)

    My own transition from education to a working life was pretty straightforward. I started Student Magazine at school and was spending an increasingly large amount of time working on getting it off the ground. The headmaster gave me an ultimatum: he said if I wanted to carry on with Student, I had to stop being a student. So I left to start my adventures in business. Being dyslexic, I never excelled in the classroom and entrepreneurship wasn't encouraged. I didn't even know what I was doing was called entrepreneurship until somebody told me!

    However, education is absolutely crucial to success and to the progress of the world at large. As Nelson Mandela said:
    Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world."
    But education doesn't take place in stuffy classrooms and university buildings, it can happen everywhere, every day to every person. I was on a panel at a University in Australia recently and it turned out the only one of us onstage who had graduated was the Dean himself!
    I have been offered to do graduation speeches over the years and did accept an honorary Doctor of Technology from Loughborough University. It was strange at the time, but now we have Virgin Galactic perhaps it's not so strange! I was chuffed to receive it, having left school at 15. It was a hell of a lot easier than going through university to get it! If you are graduating, congratulations and good luck for your future. Every graduate - scratch that - every person has the chance to reach for the stars in their chosen field.

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    Sir Richard Branson Founder at Virgin Group


    Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief at The Huffington Post Media Group


    Guy Kawasaki, Advisor at Motorola Mobility


    Charlene Li, Founder Partner at Altimeter Group


    Michael Fertik, CEO at Reputation.com and Owner, Reputation.com


    Maria Shriver, Author, Journalist & Activist at Maria Shriver


    Michael Skok, General Partner, North Bridge Venture Partners


    Wendy Kopp, CEO & Co-Founder, Teach For All / Founder & Chair, Teach For America


    Emily Chang, Host of "Bloomberg West"


    T. Boone Pickens, Founder, Chairman and CEO at BP Capital and TBP Investments Management


    Adam Lashinsky, Sr. Editor at Large, Fortune Magazine


    Craig Newmark, Founder at craig connects



    Jon Steinberg, President and Chief Operating Officer at BuzzFeed


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    Funding a U.S. education


    • Students at US education fair organised by United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF (file photo) Photo: G. Krishnaswamy
      THE HINDUStudents at US education fair organised by United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF (file photo) Photo: G. Krishnaswamy

    Hundreds of students and their friends logged onto Facebook on May 15, 2013, to learn more about studying in the United States, on how to fund their education, as well as to clarify their doubts on the U.S. Student visa process. Heera Kamboj (Information Officer and Press Attaché, U.S. Consulate General, Chennai), Dr. Srilakshmi Ramakrishnan (Senior Adviser, EducationUSA Advising Services), and Tom Montgomery (Vice Consul, U.S. Consulate General Chennai) answered questions from students all over India. Readers can find answers to additional questions at www.EducationUSA.info or seek one-on-one counseling directly from an EducationUSA Adviser. Here 's the first part of the chat transcript.
    Can you please tell me how to continue education in dentistry in USA after BDS in India? Also about the details of scholarship, loans without a cosigner.
    In order to pursue a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine), you will need to: 1) Complete Part I of the NBDE (National Board Dental Examination), 2) After completion, you will be eligible to apply for and enter a Dental school in Advanced Standing status for DDS, 3) For a list of dental schools offering Advanced Standing, please visit the American Dental Association’s website:www.ada.org, 4) For financial aid, preference is given to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, 5) Admission to a U.S. dental school is highly competitive. Although anyone is eligible to apply, international students rarely gain admission to a U.S. school of dentistry without having completed at least two years of college or university study at a U.S. institution.
    I have got admission in some good universities without financial aid. Is it a wise decision to go ahead? What are the other sources of financial aid?
    Your question is a popular one! You are ultimately the best judge of whether this would be good for you or not. Most students will not receive financial aid at the time of admission but they might become eligible after the first semester or the first year, depending on their academic performance. Scholarships and funding are very competitive and are dependent on the specific department and university that you apply to. Please visit this page for information about scholarship search engines that allow you to search for funding based on your discipline of study.
    I am a software engineer working for one of the biggies. I wanted to pursue M.S. (In computer science) from USA. How safe is it to spend two years of my life and a big chunk of my savings on doing MS with a recession looming? Which is the best specialisation to pursue (There are already enough software engineers out there) and how do we get a good scholarship?
    The choice of specialisation depends on your individual interests and passion in the field of Computer Science. Since everyone is different and has a unique situation, EducationUSA offers a self-assessment tool to help each student define his/her priorities. For additional information on picking the right school, visit this page. For identifying the schools that offer a Master’s degree specifically in Computer Science, check out: www.petersons.com
    Please list out some good universities for an MIS programme in the U.S. which provide funding/scholarship for scores above 300-310 with two years of industrial experience and decent acadamics of 73 per cent.
    We recommend that you follow the five Steps to US Study as explained in detail on the EducationUSA website: www.educationusa.info. For specific programmes and universities, you can take a look at www.petersons.com or www.gradschools.com where you can use the search box to pull up a list of universities offering degrees in your proposed field of study. Please note that financial aid is specific to each university and individual departments at those universities. Therefore, checking with the Financial Aid or Admissions Office at a given university is key. There are many types of funding that might be available to international students, such as scholarships, tuition waivers (partial or full), assistantships, or fellowships. To understand the differences between each of these types, please visit this page for more information.
    International students are typically not eligible to apply for most U.S. graduate scholarships unless they are offered specifically for international students departments or universities in which they are enrolled. However, there are some other competitive scholarships that Indian students might be eligible for based on different criteria and for different purposes (example: travel grants for study abroad, funding for female international students). Here are a few options for you, although we do not endorse any of these specifically:
    You can also check out a scholarship search engine to find one that might match your needs, here
    What are the chances of getting F1 visa after six attempts (lack of guidance made me commit silly mistakes). Please let me know the changes that have to be made after an F1 visa rejection.
    While we can’t give applicants advice about individual cases, we do appreciate the opportunity to explain the refusal process. Each interview is a new chance to get a visa, however, if you have been refused in the past the Consular Officer will likely want to see that you have made substantive changes in your individual circumstances to show progress. For example, if you didn’t have enough funds last time and that is why the Consular Officer refused you, then we encourage you to obtain a scholarship, a loan, or some other form of funding BEFORE coming for your next interview.
    I have completed B.Tech in Chemical Engineering. I have an admit from University of Florida for M.S. in Chemical Engineering without any aid. My bank gives me a loan of only up to Rs. 20 lakh (beyond which it charges more interest), and my tuition fees plus expenses would turn up to 30 lakh. Will I be offered scholarship of some kind by the university or do I have any chance of getting government-funded grants?
    First things first, get accepted into a school that you want to attend. You have already accomplished the first step. Congratulations! Scholarships at all universities are always very competitive, and may not always be available to foreign students at the time of admission. You might still be eligible to receive some funding from the department where you received admission possibly after the first semester or first year. You will not be eligible to apply for U.S. government-funded grants because those are for U.S. citizens or permanent residents. That being said, the financial aid office or the admissions office at each specific university would be best able to tell you what is available to you. For external funding opportunities, check out this page.
    I am going for this FALL 2013 for M.S. in Computer Engineering in Syracuse University and before booking the VISA date, I’ve a few queries that i would like to get answered here. My I20 amount is 42k $ / year. So how much minimum amount should I be showing and what all are the documents that I can show during my visa interview. I have a loan amount of 20 lakh.
    First of all, congratulations on your acceptance to a U.S. university! Student travellers are required to show proof of funds to cover the first year of studies. In your case, you must show that you have access to $42,000 to fund your first year, and your loan amount almost covers all of that. For your question about funding, check out some of our earlier responses on scholarships, and private funding.
    I came to know that getting a visa to U.S. is not a simple task in these days? Is that right? What about for educational purposes?
    We have some good news for you. The process is relatively straightforward and the majority of students are approved. First, get accepted at a U.S. university. Second, obtain Form I-20 from the university. Third, pay the SEVIS registration fee with the Department of Homeland Security. And fourth, schedule an interview at any of the U.S. consulates in India. There are 1 lakh Indian students in the United States studying right now!
    Please provide resources for US Graduate Scholarships aimed primarily at Indian students.
    International students are typically not eligible to apply for most U.S. Graduate scholarships unless offered specifically by the departments or universities in which they are enrolled. However, there are some other competitive scholarships that Indian students might be eligible for based on different criteria and for different purposes (e.g. travel grants for studies abroad, funding for women international students):


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    THE COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS NOBODY ASKED ME TO GIVE


    by James McQuivey

    Welcome, graduates of the class of 2013, and congratulations. You are some of the finest students our system of education – no, our society – has ever produced. Rather than stand here and occupy your time with random inspirational thoughts, I would prefer to stand back and let you rush out there to disrupt the world into which you were born.
    Unfortunately, you probably won’t. And that’s too bad because those of us who have gone before you really need you to disrupt things. Which is ironic to say because we are actually the reason you won’t live up to your potential.
    Now that I have your attention (and perhaps have primed the urge for an antidepressant), let me tell you why your future is likely so bleak.
    You are among the world’s first fully digital citizens. You were born after the Macintosh IIx, Windows 3.0, and the launch of AOL. We now have the iPad, Windows 8, and Google Fiber. When you entered Kindergarten, already 20 million US households were connected to the Internet, by the time you started high school, that number had quadrupled to approximately 80 million. Oh, and while in that year of high school, YouTube posted its first video and Facebook opened its social network to anyone with an email address; today YouTube shows 4 billion hours of videos each month and Facebook has more than a billion friends.
    You lived through and accelerated all of this. And you are superhuman because of it. You have more potential knowledge than any generation before you. You have access to and are experts at navigating the tools, devices, networks, and systems that will define the economy of the future. And despite some popular perceptions of how you waste some of your time with those tools following drunk celebrities on Twitter or sexting each other, it is my experience that many of you are ready to assume a disruptive place in the world.
    For example, earlier this year I judged a competition between student groups at a Boston-area university. These teams worked for three weeks to generate business plans that employ the sponsoring company’s technology. As a former professor who had students create business plans in the mid 1990s I can categorically say that all three of the business plans I judged were an order of magnitude better than what my students achieved nearly two decades ago. Digital tools gave the students of today a decided edge, in information gathering, idea generation, product testing, and prototyping. In fact, a few of the project plans were as good as a briefing I might get from a venture-backed startup in my role as a technology analyst.
    As I sat through the pitches, there arose in me an irrational optimism for the future, given the capabilities of the students in whose care that future would be placed. Digitally equipped, they were ready to disrupt the world. They saw no boundaries between their ideas and the market. Then I remembered something: These bright, amazing, digital students would soon graduate and within very few months would have entry-level jobs in companies that would immediately begin the process of retraining them to think like analog people.
    Analog people are those who have been subject to the forces of analog business long enough that they have never known or have forgotten how energizing it is to generate an idea, refine it through iterative conversation with bright peers, and then test it in the market as swiftly as you are ready to. And they certainly don’t see digital tools as the dramatic shortcut to all of those processes that you do. Most of us in the business world are analog people. And I collectively apologize to you on our behalf for the number of times you are going to hear the following analog excuses:
    • We tried that once.
    • We don’t have budget for that.
    • You can’t prove the ROI on that.
    • The executive team doesn’t like that idea.
    • Our shareholders won’t tolerate that kind of risk.
    • Sure, consumers love that, but where’s the revenue model?
    • Our tech project list is full.
    • We can’t risk our brand on that.
    • We can’t cannibalize that business, it’s what keeps the lights on around here.
    The list of excuses analog people give goes on and on. I’ve heard them all, including one I heard this week where someone resisted being inspired by disruptive startups Uber and AirBnB because “what they’re doing is illegal.” We’re good at thinking like this and we’re going to do our best to invite you to the dark, analog side of business. It would be easier on us to stand between you and the disruption that you are so capable of rather than encourage you.
    But you should ignore us. Because the digital disruption you are capable of is disruption that we want because we’re consumers, too – we want better stuff, more efficient services, and cool experiences. And it’s also disruption that we need to grow our economy, to stimulate new opportunities for the workforce, to make better use of the billions lying fallow in corporate accounts waiting to be put to use. And we need it to get your entire generation moving so you don’t end up living in our basements for the next two decades, failing to launch, failing to marry, failing to produce the next generation of kids who are going to be even more spectacularly equipped than you are. (Picture a generation of youth born after Google Glass.)
    The more I stand here and give you the bleak overview of the future, the more angry I get about it. Hopefully, the more I say, the more rebellious you get. The more you want to rush out there and prove me wrong. The more motivated you are to insist that your digital acumen coupled with your naïve faith in each other can and should be put to use by whatever company you work for. So that on day one, when your employer tries to tell you how things are “done around here,” you can respond with conviction: “Let me tell you how things are done out there.” Then go do them.



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    Which Behaviors Must Leaders Avoid?

    If you want to empower, engage, or motivate others, don't just focus on increasing your positive behaviors. Pay attention to what you need to stop doing as well. Why? Because people remember the bad more than the good. To quote from a previous HBR article, How to Play to Your Strengths, "Multiple studies have shown that people pay keen attention to negative information. For example, when asked to recall important emotional events; people remember four negative memories to every positive one." So, which behaviors do leaders most need to avoid? Drawing on thousands of 360 qualitative interviews, here are our top three:
    Judgmental, non-verbal body language. No one, especially your successful colleagues, can tolerate perceived condescension. Research studies show that somewhere between 75 to 90 percent of our impact comes from our non-verbal communication, and tone is a key ingredient of this. Do you make comments to others in a way that sounds evaluative, harsh, or condescending? Often, this is not our intention but an in-the- moment reaction. Other non-verbal offenders include scowling, furrowed brows, quizzical looks (as if to say, 'are you stupid?'), rigidity, and sarcasm. While seemingly small, each of these subtle darts creates a considerable amount of relationship damage.
    Interrupting and interrogating. There's been a lot of buzz recently around how to have "conversations that drive innovation" and how to "create safe environments for employees to bring their ideas forward."
     It's almost impossible for people to feel safe if the boss takes up most of the airtime, cuts people off, or interrogates half-baked ideas. Yes, employees have a responsibility to communicate with clarity, but if you expect every idea to be buttoned up, fully thought out, or structured before someone speaks, your colleagues will assume that you're not willing to invest the time to be a thought partner.
    Being inconsistent. Peers and staff often comment on how discouraging it is to see a colleague act in two very different ways — absolutely charming with the executive team and external clients while being disrespectful to those they work with every day. This inconsistency makes these behaviors even more memorable and egregious. Others have shared a different impact — the feeling of walking on eggshells at work, wondering who is going to show up: "smiling, charming, funny person" or "judgmental, intense, snapping person." Over time, this drives passive aggressive responses from others in their attempt to avoid confrontation.
    Ultimately, loyalty and followership are the two things we cannot demand or set as an expectation. What is perceived as fear-based motivation, belittlement, or power play can yield real short-term compliance from others. But negative behaviors ultimately diminish the legacy we leave. Consider what behaviors you might need to stop doing so that you can have a positive, lasting impact.


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    Happiness Tips: 5 Things You Need To Know About Your Pursuit Of Joy

    The Huffington Post  |  By Kate Bratskeir
    According to Rolf Dobelli, the answer is ... nothing.
    "We do not know what makes us happy or successful," the author of "The Art of Thinking Clearly," told The Huffington Post in an interview. "But we do know for sure what destroys success, what destroys happiness." So the key to happiness starts with de-cluttering: The removal of all the things that makes us feel more drained than delighted.
    While many happiness gurus champion so-called positive thinking, Dobelli suggests that negative knowledge -- knowing what not to do -- can be much more powerful. This de-cluttering can be material, but it is often ideological: If we can change our thinking to reflect this mental de-clutter, Dobelli says we're more likely to be productive. Most of the time, the author says, adding gadgets and practices we think will bring more to our life only ends up weighing us down.
    Want to learn more? Below are five of his philosophies for discovering happiness (or rather, ridding distress). Read on and then, tell us in the comments what you think about these principles.
    1. Know That Human Beings Are Extremely Bad At Forecasting Happiness
    When you are bursting to buy that shiny, new car, know that the happy high you're experiencing is a fleeting one. In fact, Dobelli says that jubilant sensation you get from a big, material purchase will only last for up to six months, so buy wisely. "Be very careful," Dobelli warns, "generally, things do not make us happy, experiences, tasks, challenges and projects do." In other words, try to rid the desire for instant gratification -- some things are worth the wait.
    2. Remove The Notion That 'Life Is A Dance'
    "If you live like there's no tomorrow, you'll be in jail five minutes later," Dobelli laughs. The author says it's important to plan -- doing the hard thing now will make life easier in the long run. "Forget that carpe diem thing," he suggests, and realize that life takes effort, planning and forethought to be excellent. Don't let this tip get you down, spontaneity lovers -- the chapter this ideology comes from is titled "Live Each Day as If It Were Your Last -- but Only on Sundays." There's room to let your plans fall by the wayside: Doing so may seem like an oxymoron, but you're best scheduling unplanned days for once a week.
    3. Stop Following The Herd
    We're hard-wired to copy our peers; it's a habit we developed thousands of years ago when, if you saw your fellow caveman running from a sabertooth-tiger, it was wise to play copycat. In modern times, however, Dobelli says we benefit from straying form the pack: The action forces us to be more confident in our own decision-making. "Following the herd is very dangerous," Dobelli says. "The more we observe other people displaying a behavior, the more we think that behavior is right -- and that's absurd." Trusting your gut, and removing the influence of other's from what you decide is right, will get easier over time -- you just have to keep at it.
    4. Limit Your News Consumption
    Dobelli is an advocate of unplugging: He says rather than keep an eye on a steadfast Twitter feed, it's more productive to read books and long-form articles that will educate you on the bigger picture. The specific details that come from breaking news, like how long a storm lasted, are "not relevant to your life," the author says. Instead, invest your time learning about definitive concepts and events. Think you'll be accused of living under a rock? "I've never missed a beat," says the author. You'll hear about the news from your peers, he assures, but will still be in control of curating the way you consume it. Removing yourself from the clutter of the details will leave room for what really matters -- and what's worth spending your brain power on.
    5. Don't Get Overly Caught Up In The 'Present Moment'
    "Be in the moment" has become a pervasive mantra of those who subscribe to healthy and mindful living. But being present encapsulates both what you can and cannot see, Dobelli explains, and the latter is the part most people forget about. "We tend to be overly enthralled by the things that are here, and we don't have a sensor for the stuff that is missing," he says. Don't pigeonhole your day; instead, be cognizant that while things are happening before your eyes, things are also happening beyond them. It's a vague philosophy, but reminding yourself to be less egocentric can help remove the wasteful thoughts that come with being too "now"-minded.


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    Mindfulness as Nutrient

    Psychalive



    By Diane Renz, L.P.C.
    It seems that all we hear about lately relative to health and healing is, ‘Mindfulness this and Mindfulness-based that’

    Along with this wave of ideas on Mindfulness come too many misperceptions. As if mindfulness were a product for purchase, that once we own, will make us better. 

    I fear that the word itself, in its overuse, leads to the rolling of eyes, “oh no, not that again!”, or an over consumption of its superficial application. It takes a lot of courage to be mindful, not easy this seemingly simple awareness of right now, as it is difficult for us to set down our reflexive judgments that push away what we don’t want, or pull toward us what is known and brings confirmation. 

    Mindfulness asks us to show up and fully experience what is occurring in the immediacy of this moment, with a simultaneous ability to observe with open curiosity. That means sensing it all, in mind, in heart, and in body. Ah, now we get to the gritty engagement of actually feeling. Otherwise mindfulness just becomes a great concept in search of a body.

    Mindful eating is a great “practice” and eventual consistent capability, which helps teach us how to return to the present through this very sensory experience of consuming our food. Quite frankly, if we check ourselves, we might find that we are the one ingredient gone missing at the table!

     Have you ever had the experience during a meal of reaching for another bite but finding your plate empty and wondering who ate your food?

     How about feeling so speedy that you find the act of chewing to be irritating? 

    There is no time for all this chewing, there are places to go and people to see!  Then there is the classic American style, “Big Gulp”, more is better, leading to our over consumption and an inability to know when we are satiated, and then on to the incessant over-eating/dieting loop.

    So how can ‘Mindful Eating’ help? 

     Simply, it guides us back to a quality of awareness which reconnects us to our body and its real needs; we can know when we are hungry, what types of food we need, and when we have eaten enough.

     Direct sensory awareness brings us here, not dulled down in our conceptual knowing that says, ‘been there done that, I know this food because I have had it before’. No, you have never had this before, on this particular day, in this particular moment, and moreover, it will never be like this again. 

    Now, this attitude can bring forward a new kind of aliveness, preventing our “sleep-eating”, which leads to unconscious consumption and disconnection creating dis-ease and lack of vitality. 

    This is not the typical awareness of, “I know what I should be eating”, and all the external concepts of what is/is not healthy, or the internal attacks about weight and lack of will. Not the limited awareness of immediate pleasure at the cost of a larger value.

     It is a kind awareness, not harsh and attacking, but a gentle re-membering of what it feels like to be in a body, to sense its continual generative capacity, to create a relationship to it which gives an affectionate attention, appreciating and accepting it as it is and attuning to what it needs.

     Moreover, mindfulness is an awareness which attunes us to our heart, and what it needs, thereby freeing us to learn how to eat to live, rather than live to eat; eating relative to supplying vital nutrients to sustain good physiological functioning, not eating to soothe or disconnect from being here.

    Mindfulness becomes the first necessary nutrient by creating a conducive environment for receiving what is good. Its like tilling the soil to soften and stimulate its richness which then offers the elements for full growth of the seeds planted. Health can’t be found in a particular diet or supplement.

     I have counseled many people caught in fear and rigidity about perfectly eating to create the perfect body or the perfect health. The quality of relationship to Self, to our emotions, to our body, determines our health. 

    This relationship determines the connections made between our mind, brain, nervous system, and all the other interactive loops of our experience between emotion, thought, behavior, and sensation, to create wholeness and health, or stagnation and illness. 

    The nutrients that make up our health begin with our mind’s quality of awareness. When we direct our attention to the sensory awareness of our body we create neural connections which inform our capacity for self-awareness and regulation of emotions, allowing us to respond rather than to react impulsively or mind-less-ly. Further, we help inform our body it can rest and digest now. 

    The real physiological process of ingesting, digesting, metabolizing, can only be done efficiently and effectively with a body that is feeling safe and relaxed to allow these processes.

    How do I practice Mindful Eating?

    Practice is the operant word. We learn how by showing up, over and over, not knowing how, but learning through trying it on. In the case of mindfulness, it’s not ‘practice makes perfect’, but practice reveals already what is perfect, right in the middle of all our mistakes and messiness. 

    First step to implementing a change in our relationship to eating is to prepare ourselves by seeding our motivation.Change occurs through our commitment to consistent focused attention on the very thing we wish to develop. 

    Commitment arises from our intention. What is our good enough reason for practicing mindful eating?

     Our reason has to relate to some larger value or we will never stay motivated. Our intention is the engine of commitment. Commitment soon falls off when things lose a sense of novelty and excitement and only become a momentary trend without knowing what larger value is guiding the commitment. 

    And commitment to practice becomes the fuel to keep our intention alive, they work in tandem, each supporting the other toward a steady consistency. This consistency then might allow a “good idea” to be a known as a direct experience that can become an eventual effortless pattern of our lives. Without intention and commitment, mindfulness becomes a fashionable short term idea rather than a long term lifestyle shift. To simplify, intention is the “why bother”, and commitment is the “no matter what”, two components needed prior practice.

    With this clarity we can now engage with the two parts of being present to our eating: Experiencing and Observing. There is the content of the experience of eating: the food, our senses, images, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, emotions, (who knew so much was happening with a hamburger!). Then there is the context in which all this experience takes place. 

    The context is the essential element which determines if it is mindful or not. The context is the environment, the quality of our relationship, to all those things going in the content.

     If it helps, use the acronym C-NOTE to remember what best environment in which to practice mindful eating. C=curious, N=non-judging (or more aptly stated, judging and then noticing it), O=openness, T=turning toward, E=engaged. This is creating the attitude or the ambience for your meal. This environment allows and includes whatever you might be experiencing, (content of experience simple acronym is SITE, S=sensations, I-images, T=thoughts, E=emotions).

    Mindfulness is an open, inclusive, relational quality of awareness to what we are directly experiencing.

    Now that the table has been set with your intention and commitment and a warm quality of attention creating a conducive ambiance– let’s eat!
    Read through the elements of the long form for formal practice of mindful eating. Here you will notice the break down, step by step, of an experience which normally moves very quickly, almost like a slow motion video so we can begin to see how much is really going on in such a seemingly simple act of eating. You can carve out some time and place where this practice might be possible and just take it step by step.

    You can also utilize the short form to warm up to the idea, or to use in-between long form practice, and eventually, with the consistent practice, let it be on-the-spot awareness that is implemented whether on an airplane, rushing through breakfast on a way to a meeting, or luxuriating over a beautiful meal with those you love. In the end, mindfulness is not so much about slowness, but about the quality of awareness applied no matter our external/internal circumstance.

    Mindful Eating Long form:

    Previous to eating
    • Set your intention (why bother): why are you interested in mindful eating? What is the larger value which guides your effort?
    • Make a commitment (no matter what): for the next 21 days pick one meal per day to practice, (in order to know, you need consistent practice).
    • Remove distractions such as TV, phone, computer, reading material, etc.
    • Sit down to eat, pause to notice from head to toe the state of your body, feel sensation of bottom against your chair.
    • Notice sensation of breathing. Exhale out your mouth, dropping awareness down, like an elevator from head to neck to heart, belly, perineum, bottom, legs, and feet.
    • Notice attention of your mind: What are you “chewing” on right now?  Where are your thoughts, concerns, anticipations, regrets? Just notice and come back to sensation of feet, bottom, back, heart, neck, head, and breath.
    Now attention to food
    • Note color, scent, texture, and even the sound of your food
    • Consider how it got to your plate: from earth to truck to table.
    • Offer some gratitude that you actually have food and for all the work that went into its arrival.
    • Notice anticipatory salivation.
    • Notice your desire to eat—don’t.
    • Now Eat—aware of your hand moving through space and its dexterity to bring food to mouth.
    • Chew, noticing chewing, its quality, how much, how hard, how soft, maybe count the number of chews, put down your fork.
    • Be aware of impetus to grab more before fully done with what is in your mouth.
    • Be aware of the discomfort that might arise in having no distraction. Maybe this full awareness brings feelings of uneasiness, (remember your C-NOTE).
    • This is not about being peaceful, not about liking, or disliking, but being aware.
    • Sense your inside your body: tongue, throat, stomach, and so on, aware of all it does to make eating happen.
    • When you get lost or speedy, just pause, re-member the sensation of your breathing, see your food, feel your feet, and then, gently, begin again.
    • When finished eating—pause.
    • Notice your body, new sensation of fullness/or not full enough in belly.
    • Notice your mind, desire for more, or anticipation of where you are going next.
    • Offer yourself some kindness and appreciation for showing up.
    • Offer thanks, to this moment, to receiving, to your ability to receive, to your health.
    Mindful Eating Short Form:

    1.      Pause to know you are breathing.

    2.      Feel sensation of interior of your body.

    3.      Sense the bottom of your feet.

    4.      See, smell, touch, hear your food.

    5.      Then eat—and taste.

    6.      Chew and know you are chewing.

    7.      Sense chewing, sense breath, sense body, not thinking, but direct sensation of each.

    8.      Notice content of mind and return to sensation of eating, (Apply the C-NOTE).

    9.      Pause when finished

    10.  Offer kindness to yourself, to your body, to all those who made this food possible.




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    The Tao: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavior Therapy

    By Jenny C. Yip, Psy.D.

    All things in the world come from being. And being comes from non-being.
    –Lao Tzu

    Tao, Jenny Yip, Mindfulness, Cognitive-Based Therapy

    This is the essence of what we have come to know today as mindfulness. Learning to let go and be without thought, without judgment, without mind.

    How do you let go? 

    By being in the present moment. For many of us, that is easier said than done. Instead, we waste our time either ruminating over past mistakes or worrying about future catastrophes. 

    We can’t change the past. So why live in it? 

    There are no guarantees for the future. So why jump to conclusions?

     Of course it is intelligent to plan for the future. It is also smart to learn from our past mistakes. 

    However, it is irrational to worry about that over which we have no control – e.g., the past and the future.

    Living in the “now” allows us to be present, mindful, and experience the passing of time. 

    Whatever emotion or thought you are experiencing, whether positive or negative, over time, has to pass. The moment you read these words has just passed. 

    Try to hold onto it… you can’t. The moment you read THESE words has passed again. And so on and so forth. This is what is meant by “This too shall pass.” 

    Every moment is moving toward the next moment. Being present in THIS moment as it occurs leads to mindfulness.

    In Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT), this is coined the “process of habituation.” The passage of time allows our triggered fight-or-flight response to exhaust itself.

    Remember that classic saber tooth example? How long do you think your motors can keep you running or fighting? Until exhaustion or, as we call it in CBT, habituation occurs. Or until you become the saber tooth’s lunch. Whichever comes first.

    So, if you are feeling anxious with fearful thoughts, this will pass.

     Similarly, if you are feeling joy with happy thoughts, this too will pass.

     Whatever it is, it has to pass. No one thing can ever be static. Everything evolves and passes. And time cannot be recycled. How do you attain mindfulness? 

    There is no definitive “achievement” of mindfulness, especially when the essence of it is to empty your mind. Mindfulness is just a state of being.

    Unfortunately, when dealing with anxiety, the worry and fear along with all of the other uncertainties keep you either in the past or the future, and this has a domino effect. One negative thought typically triggers another and another and yet another. And more often than not, these negative thoughts consist of cognitive distortions in various forms. Before you realize it, your mind is spiraling into a tornado of irrational thoughts. 

    Because mindfulness requires you to be in the present, it allows you the opportunity to quickly identify these negative thoughts.

    Imagine having the ability to stop a distorted thought in its track before it spirals out of control. Being aware of these mental connections allows you to interrupt negative thought cycles. The goal is to identify the cognitive distortions and revalue them to represent reality accurately.

     So when you are feeling anxious, instead of getting caught up in those negative thoughts of the past or future, just stay with the present moment. Rather than giving more meaning to the distorted thought than what it’s worth or appraising the unnecessary emotion with more value than it has, focus on the now to let time pass and habituation occur.

    In my practice, there are a number of mindfulness methods I’ve integrated with traditional CBT. In the essence of time, I will review a few of the most concrete ones here:

    Being mindful of the 5 senses: First and foremost, in beginning mindfulness meditations, I instruct clients to imagine viewing themselves from a bird’s eye perspective. The emphasis is to be mindful of each of the 5 senses (visual, auditory, olfactory, taste, tactile) individually, until the client is able to incorporate all 5 senses together.

     Many clients beginning mindfulness practice falsely believe that mindfulness meditation is a relaxing technique where your mind is free to wander off to Never Never Land. Unlike this popular belief, it actually takes concerted effort to empty your mind, and allow your 5 senses to absorb your surroundings thereby keeping you in the present. 

    Try to take 60 seconds for a super quick mindfulness meditation, and you’ll realize just how easily your mind enjoys wandering off to another world. To assist in this training, clients are also instructed to practice mindfulness eating and mindfulness walking. The goal is to engage slowly in only one activity at a time, while being mindful of all 5 senses in the process.

    Narrative writing: Narrative writing is a very powerful mindfulness training that incorporates the process of exposures. This exercise requires clients to write about their most feared situations. Exposures via writing require the highest level of cognitive functioning. 

    Unlike visual or auditory processing which comes and goes, when we write, we make a concerted effort to mindfully process our thoughts before externalizing them onto paper. This is infinitely more effective. 

    Even if a client exposes to a feared situation in vivo, s/he can avoid or escape the anxiety-provoking situation mentally. However, it takes much more effort to avoid when you have to be cognitive and mindful as you are writing.

     To increase mindfulness, the rules of narrative writing include:

    1) staying in the present moment by using present tense;

    2) using active versus passive verbs;

    3) being as descriptive and detailed as possible.

    The client is instructed to continue the narrative writing exposure and stay in the moment with whatever emotions or thoughts arise until habituation occurs.

    The “oh well” approach: Finally, the “oh well” method encourages us to let go of those situations that are outside of our control which, I must say, occur more often than not. Certainty and control give us a false sense of security. 

    Not only do we not have control over people, objects, and situations outside of ourselves, the truth of the matter is that we do not even have direct control over our own emotions or what thoughts enter and exit our minds. We only have control over our behaviors, which include our actions and reactions to those thoughts and emotions.

     If we are mindful of this fact and accept it, then we will not have a need to control those areas outside of our behaviors, and we will be able to let go of situations outside of our control. So, the next time you are stuck in traffic, “oh well” it since there is really nothing you can do in that very moment. 

    Rather than working up a frenzy of one negative thought after another, just breathe and empty your mind. Let’s face it, those negative thoughts aren’t doing your mind or body any good anyways.


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    Best Advice for Recent (and Not-So-Recent) Graduates

    It’s that time of the year when “Pomp and Circumstance” fills the air and the excitement of new things to come makes us all a bit giddy. Whether you’re in the Class of 2013 or not, graduation season lets us reflect on life’s greatest lessons, ambitions and advice. What would you impart on those embarking on this new stage of life? LinkedIn’s Influencers have offered their words of wisdom for recent graduates. There’s no shortage of insight on SlideShare, too. Here are a few of our favorite guides for graduates. Be sure to share yours, as well!
    Writer and designer Sarah Peck provides inspiration to overcome fears, persist in what you love and make that big plunge. Among her words of wisdom: “Abhor complacency, reject mediocre, deny regular.”
    “The Start-up of You” author and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman delves into navigating three critical components of a successful career: competition, networks and risk.
    From pursuing your passions to learning how to listen, Likeable Media CEO Dave Kerpen provides his 15 tips for a successful and fulfilling life.
    What do the experts wish they had known when they were younger? SAP social strategist Todd Wilms shares his top 10 lessons learned. #1: Focus straight ahead.
    Congratulations to the Class of 2013!
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    Innovation is a Mindset: Secrets to Successful Entrepreneurship


    Innovation is a crucial part of business. But can anyone be an innovator?

    Innovation is one of the most overused words in the business world today. Companies that are innovating are laying the foundation for future growth, while getting ahead of the competition. They are winning, which is why everyone is either innovating or desperately trying to.
    But what’s the secret? Why can a company like Apple redefine the music industry, the mobile phone industry and the computer industry (for the second time, with the iPad) over the course of a decade, while other companies struggle to find their next big hit?
    Some people argue either you have it or you don’t. I disagree.
    The genius of people like Steve Jobs notwithstanding, I think that everyone can be an innovator. This is an especially powerful concept for entrepreneurs. By definition, you HAVE to be an innovator if you are going to successfully start your own business. Maybe you aren’t inventing the next iPad, but it can be as simple as designing a quicker way for customers to pay at your store.
    What I’ve come to learn over the years, is that innovation is a mindset.
    The definition of mindset is the following: “a habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations.” The really insightful word in that definition is “habitual.” And habits are developed and determined by regular practices.
    So, if innovation is a mindset, and a mindset is defined by habits, then creating processes that encourage the right practices or habits can provide a powerful foundation for innovation.
    This isn’t just my opinion. I’ve seen it work.
    Using Trulia as an example, we have worked to make innovation one of the core cultural values of the company. Our goal is to constantly innovate across the company. We do this within the framework of our product roadmap on a daily basis, but also devote one week per quarter to build things outside the roadmap.
    Just like your happiness may be tied to setting aside time to go to the gym, to worship or to take vacations, companies need to establish a regime around innovating. It takes discipline and focus.
    To help employees think beyond our product roadmap during the week I referenced, we encourage employees to devote much of their time working on creative projects. The results speak for themselves. Dozens of these small innovation week ideas have become core elements of our product offering and the program continues to expand.
    By dedicating time and resources to creating an innovation mindset at Trulia, we are building better products.
    By establishing a baseline of innovation practices at your company, you will begin to see that innovation isn’t usually a light bulb turning on from thin air, but the result of consistent dedication to solving the problems at hand.
    Innovation is about being honest with yourself and your team about what you are doing. Are you really serving customers as well as you can? What improvements can be made?
    Innovation is about being exposed to the right ingredients for new ideas. Lots of innovation happens at the fringes, or the intersection between disciplines and industries. You can take advantage of this phenomenon by being well read on multiple subjects and maintaining a healthy network of contacts across multiple industries.
    It’s about making and admitting mistakes. Maybe you invested a lot of money to go in the wrong direction. It’s better to come clean and change your strategy accordingly. Knowing the wrong direction provides important insight to innovators. Heck, it might even be a brilliantly insightful mistake over the long term.
    It’s about lifting your gaze out of the weeds and thinking on a larger scale. If people love our apps so much, why are we spending more money building features for the Web?
    It’s about making time to think about the bigger opportunities and challenges you are facing, outside of the daily hustle and bustle.
    The great innovators are well known and some will even be remembered in history, but innovation is a mindset and thus something that each and every one of us can aspire to.



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    Silence Is Unceasing Eloquence



    Solitude is an attitude. A man who adopts an attitude of detachment towards the external environment is always in solitude. It is possible that despite being involved in all sorts of worldly activity, a person may maintain perfect   equanimity.  That’s solitude. Another may stay on a hilltop, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, yet he may not be able to experience serenity of mind.  Therefore, even though this person is much better placed to experience peace of mind, solitude deludes him.   

    Silence is the perennial flow of ‘language’. It is interrupted by speaking; for words obstruct this mute language. It is quite possible that lecturers may keep the audience involved and amused for hours without transforming them. Silence, on the other hand, is permanent and benefits entire humanity in a subtle manner. 

    One may therefore conclude that true silence is unceasing eloquence -- it is a state when words cease and powerful thoughts of the sage begin to penetrate the depths of the seeker, bringing about a change in his thought patterns.

    Thought moves with tremendous velocity. Those who entertain sublime and pious thoughts help others who are in the vicinity and at a distance also. 

    A saint who has overpowered his mind through meditation sends out into the world thoughts of harmony and peace. They travel with lightening speed in all directions and enter the minds of persons and produce in them also similar thoughts of harmony and peace. 

    Whereas a worldly man who harbours thoughts of jealousy, revenge and hatred sends out discordant thoughts which are like wireless messages broadcast in ether, and are received by those whose minds respond to such negative vibrations.

    According to the Maharshi, preaching is simple communication of language; it can really be done in silence only. 

    A man, who after listening to a religious sermon for an hour, might go away without being even marginally influenced; he has wasted his time.  In comparison, a man who sits in a holy presence and goes away after some time with his outlook on life radically changed, is much better off. Which is better, to preach loudly without effect or to sit silently sending out positive vibrations? 

     Again, how does speech arise?  

    From abstract  knowledge  emanates the ego; this, in  turn,  gives rise to thought, and thought gives rise to the spoken word. So it would not be wrong to say that the word is the descendant of the original source.

     If the word can produce effect, consider how much more powerful must be preaching through silence?  

    But most people do not understand this simple truth -- the truth of their everyday experience. Rather, they are eager to know what lies beyond, about heaven, hell and reincarnation. 

    We may conclude with the following words of Ramana Maharshi: “Those who have discovered great truths have done so in the still depths of the Self. But really there are no others to be helped. For the realised being sees only the Self, just as the goldsmith sees only gold while valuing it in various jewels made of gold. When you identify yourself with the body, name and form are there. 

     But when you transcend body-consciousness, the ‘others’ also disappear. The realised one does not see the world as different from himself”. 



     

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