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Driving Innovation Moonshots the Google Way

On Tuesday, June 14th I attended a talk given by Chris Morgan and Samir Janjeva of Google at the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce in New York City during its Marketing Week series of events entitled: “The Evolution of the Customer Journey.”

Chris and Samir shared their insights into how Google constantly and with singular focus strives to find innovative solutions that deliver transformational solutions to the challenges facing its users.
The moonshot approach Google employs is frankly one that EVERY organization should undertake, if they truly care about creating a world-class culture AND being servant masters that seek out brave new worlds.
Here’s how this innovation-driven company-wide initiative works:
Google strongly encourages each of its employees to take ONE day EVERY week (that’s 20% of ALL their time at Google) in the pursuit of innovative solutions that challenge/resolve the issues we face in today’s chaotic times.
Google founded its Project X initiative in order to  formally allocate resources and business vision, mission and strategy towards that lofty goal.

Check out this amazing TED talk by Astro Teller, the Head of “X” (formerly theGoogle X Project).  Moonshots address consumer huge problems and apply breakthrough technologies to deliver radical solutions such as: Google Glasses, self driving cars, Project Loon, etc.  For additional insights on how such an employee-driven innovation program actually works, go to

The driving principle or ideology behind this approach is to always focus first on the user, and then secondarily profit as an outcome (desired solution), NOT your primary/singular goal.  Can YOUR organization make such a claim?  The true challenge from an organizational perspective is to attempt in everything you do to find a solution that has a 10 TIMES multiplier positive impact on humanity, not some relatively insignificant 10% incremental and temporary rise in (sales) performance.
So, how is YOUR organization going to change the world?  Do you REALLY want to build a “world-class” culture?  Are you REALLY focused with a singular mission on unleashing your people’s untapped potential to solve the world’s problems? To start, begin with a passion for leading innovation by applying creative solutions to the challenges we face.
Here’s to your continued success in 2016!

– Ethan
The Chazin Group, LLC

Building an Amazing Global Team Demands Amazing Cultures

In today’s global economy, organizations are looking to expand their business by seeking out new markets.  This places pressure on Senior Management to build Teams that are located all over the world, which in turn demands the ability to lead a virtual dispersed workforce.
In my work consulting with organizations to build global workplaces, I have developed a list of best practices that you can apply.
1. Apply standard recruiting guidelines: You should be able to apply  “best practices” globally by creating a profile of your desired employee to best deliver your organization’s vision and mission statements and that shares your organization’s corporate culture ethics and values.
2. Apply team building to embrace cultural and ethnic differences and similarities.
3. Create a world-class culture first by leveraging WHY and WHAT IF as your organizational DNA.   Identify the core values you want your organization to exhibit, then build a team of individuals that embrace those values.
4. Hire the best talent and find a place for them, instead of hiring to fill specific jobs.  When you approach talent acquisition is filling vacancies, you are seeking employees with a finite skills set to deliver on the responsibilities of the job.
This myopic short-term approach leads your organization to end up missing when you approach talent management as merely filling vacancies  are all the other collective skills, background, experience, training, interests, that could be leveraged for competitive advantage but are not being recruited.
5. Earn your (Human Resources) seat at the management table by delivering value on behalf of HR.  Human Resources has a rare and fading opportunity to deliver value to organizations they serve by seeing global organizational recruitment as a opportunity to infuse the organization with a new DIVERSE & GLOBALLY INCLUSIVE workforce.
6. Hire people who exhibit/possess a predefined set of highly desirable employee attributes, namely:

  • Thrive in times of chaos;
  • Are proactive;
  • Can spot trends from seeming disparate events and connect seemingly unrelated data, events, data;
  • Build and maintain strong relationships;
  • Think unconventionally;
  • Work well in teams AND independently; and
  • Hire based on meaningful experience and NOT credentials (CV, grades,) or nepotism.

7. Implement job rotations as part of on-boarding and skills development to build stronger teams and maximize each employee’s exposure to the entire organization.
8. Empower employees using idea generation programs.  Workers closest to the customers and work processes and stakeholders should be able to make decisions independently for quicker responses to threats and to seize on opportunities.
9. STOP preferential hiring, promotions, and treatment (nepotism) once and for all.  When you hire candidates based on pre-existing relationships or favoritism you significantly REDUCE the talent pool by screening out potential TOP candidates.
10. Hire, but…NEVER FIRE.  I LOVE being challenged by organizations and supposed leaders who cannot imagine a workplace in which you hire people for lifetime.  Given that lifetime employment no longer exhibits, simply having this discussion opens up a dialog to what your values are, how valuable you see think your employees are, and how well you treat your people.
11. Treat employees like customers and customers like employees.  Practice trust and transparency.  Embrace ongoing organization-wide training and professional development programs that are tied directly to performance management plans that are meaningful to employees and map to your organization’s short and long-term goals.  Any/all programs must be measurable (think ROI) by directly and quantifiably impacting employee performance.
12. Make ALL goals ‘stretch’ goals.
13. Institute job sharing, hoteling, and other employee empowerment best practices. Flexible work-life balance arrangements have nearly universal appeal to all FIVE segments of the American workforce but esp. so Boomers and GenXers with parents, children, grandchildren and loved ones to care for.
14. Training should embrace critical thinking and creative problem solving. Across cultures and country markets, having employees that can think independently, make sound decisions, and understand the stakes of their decision-making is invaluable.
15. Encourage risk-taking as part of your employee empowerment programs.  Employees fearful of being punished for making wrong decisions will never take the calculated risks your organization needs, to maintain lasting competitive advantage.  Seizing opportunities comes with inherent risk that can and should be effectively managed.
16. Build distance-based virtual training programs by leveraging technologies, tools, and resources.  Technology enhancements continue to offer new professional development and skills enhancement to a globally dispersed workforce.
Here are some great resources, to help you get started:

    1. Seven best collaboration tools
    1. Ultimate list of virtual team technology tools
    1. Working in a virtual team
    1. Avoid cross-cultural faux-pas
    1. The secret of successful remote working
    1. Top six (6) best practices for managing virtual teams

Good luck building a powerfully diverse global team. Let me know if you have any questions or would like to discuss in greater detail.
Here’s to your continued success in 2016.
– Ethan
The Chazin Group, LLC

Millennials Are Coming…LinkedIn Beware on Social Networking

I have noticed an extremely alarming trend developing here on LinkedIn.   There seems to have been a tremendous increase in the amount of postings of unsuitable materials, comments, and/or personal status updates that have NO “business” being placed on LinkedIn and that are threatening people’s online branding and social networking.
These are the kinds of comments that belong exclusively in Facebook, where the sharing of personal information, life updates, social, lifestyle, and political preference editorializing exist and are accepted.  NOT IN LINKEDIN.
As a public service, I want to remind the entire LinkedIn community that LinkedIn is a “business” community.  The company seems to be taking the stance that members should be allowed to “self-police.”
Well, I have been holding my tongue for the past few months but I am really starting to see a pervasive pattern.  It might do some good to recall that more and more Millenials are gravitating to LinkedIn to assist in their online branding.
That’s great. I mean, 90 million Americans and 3 out of every 4 workers are Millenials.  But I suggest before you begin posting, join a few relevant Groups of professionals in your industry or who do what you do (want to do for a living) and monitor how these people engage, interact, and what they post.
For starters, check out this article: 9 Things You Should Never Do on LinkedIn.  Yes, we can all submit alerts to LinkedIn that we believe specific posts are not appropriate (report this update), but doing so does not seem to have any impact on reducing the growing number of personal promotion posts that are finding their way into this community.
So please…think twice before posting opinions, self-promotions, or social, political causes here.  Some of us have worked very hard over the years to build LinkedIn as an invaluable online source for valuable insights, relationships, and knowledge-sharing.
Here’s to your continued success in 2016.
– Ethan

Innovate Your Way to Future Success

The need for transforming workplaces into innovation centers is well-documented, yet not yet widely adopted.
To wit…

“The success of corporate R&D is on every C-suite agenda.  Yet wide disparities persist in how well innovation investments actually pay off. As a consequence, R&D is often seen as a black box, where large sums of money go in and innovative products and services only sometimes come out.”

– The Global Innovation 1000

According to Marshall McLuhen, innovation can be applied to achieve advances in any of the following four (4) ways:


  • Enhance Something: A prime example was how Google was a late entrant into search, but lapped the field with its simple approach.
  • Eliminate Something: Charles Schwab eliminated the need for stock brokers entirely, by connecting the back office of the trading house directly to the customer.
  • Return Us to Something in Our Past: Think about how the desire to have home cooked family meals has led to the proliferation of underground dining and slow food restaurants.
  • Over Time, Reverse into Its Opposite: Think about how e-mail was going to set us all free but instead enslaved us with its ubiquitous and overwhelming demands.

Well then, if that’s INNOVATION, what does “Creativity” entail?

Creativity means looking at the same information as everyone else, and seeing something different.
Why is INNOVATION so critical to your organization’s success and future viability?  Innovation is the one essential business survival skill that has no limits and your organization can leverage to overcome challenges everywhere, from global competition, rapid change in pace of technology, changing demographics/population composition, an aging population, etc.
Following is a list of the challenges that can be overcome by applying an innovative workforce:

  • The PERVASIVENESS of software, mobile apps, and cloud computing.
  • A Dun & Bradstreet study revealed that for each successful new product introduced, a company needs 50-60 other new product ideas in the pipeline.
  • The rise of China as an innovation powerhouse.
  • Too big to fail is no longer a valid protection.
  • In 1958, the average life span of an S&P 500 company was 58 years. Today, it is less than 18 years.

How to create a culture of Innovation in your organization.
Following are actionable strategies that you can begin implementing immediately to build a innovation-driven firm by applying creativity at all levels, from front-line staff to management.

  • Have a MISSION that truly matters, inspires others by making emotional connections with them.


  • You need to plan…and PLAN TO FAIL.


  • See innovation as an ongoing pursuit.


  • Get symbolic!  Symbols represent the underlying values of the organization, and they come in many forms: value statements, awards, success stories, posters in hallways, catch phrases, etc.


  • Use symbols as effective cues to represent what your organization stands for and build a story that resonates with the world.


  • Colgate Palmolive’s Global R&D Group initiated a “recognition economy” by giving out symbolic wooden nickels to colleagues that made noteworthy contributions to their projects. Symbols also depicted as organizational stories and folklore that live on.


  • Create an IDEAS program for your organization and include everyone.


  • You MUST have passion!


Follow the lead of today’s most innovative firms.
Fortunately, many organizations have built stellar cultures driven by innovation that you can learn from.  Some of the best examples include:

–Embrace BLUE SKY thinking. Provide opportunities for your people to think freely without constraints of having to “produce” outcomes.
–Employees dedicate 20% of their time to innovation.  Give your people the the INNOVATION TIME OFF they need, in order to cultivate an innovation ‘mindset.’

  • Adobe KICKBOX campaign: Gives its employees a box filled with creativity tools including $1000 prepaid credit card to spend on new innovative pursuits.


  • Amazon key principle is “Invent and simplify.”


  • Intuit: Gives out a Leadership award to its executives that help to create start-ups inside the company.  Affords its best innovators three months of “unstructured” time that they can use in one big chunk or spread out over six months for part-time exploration of new opportunities.


  • Samsung Open Innovation Center:

Samsung Accelerator
Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center
So, how can you begin implementing a world-class innovative culture in your organization?  Here’s how:

  • Know that there truly are no silver bullets/magic lists.  Only environments where innovation is MORE likely to occur.
  • Always talk to and observe your customers, focusing on solving their problems.  (Ex. Dan Buchner, P&G product development had his team spend time in customer’s homes watching them. Led to the launch of theSwiffer product line.)
  • Record all of your ideas and thoughts about problems.
  • Don’t think REPRODUCTIVELY: Most people settle on the most promising approach based on our past experiences.
  • We tend to exclude other options as we work within a clearly defined direction towards the solution.  BREAK THIS PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR!
  • Cultivate your creativity by implementing the following 2 approaches:

– Constantly try to improve your idea, product, service: Early ideas are usually not your best ideas, as they are only partially formed; and
– Challenge your assumptions: To test an assumption, reverse it and try to make the reverse work.

The test of an invention is the power of [the] inventor to push it through in the face of staunch – not opposition, but indifference – in society”.


Edwin Land, Polaroid co-founder

  • Sketch your ideas.
  • Use “lateral thinking skills” (Paul Sloane) entails looking at things in an entirely NEW way.
  • Employ “wrong thinking”:

– Great inventors engage in divergent (“wrong”) thinking, which allows them to explore a full realm of possibilities for a solution – no matter how silly or far-fetched.
– They’re not necessarily concerned with the most logical solution, and certainly not with one that draws on “conventional wisdom.”

We’re taught to do things the right wayBut if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way…  When I was doing my vacuum cleaner, I started out trying a conventionally shaped cyclone, the kind you see in textbooks.  But we couldn’t separate the carpet fluff and dog hairs and strands of cotton in those cyclones. It formed a ball inside the cleaner or shot out the exit and got into the motorI tried all sorts of shapes. Nothing worked. So then I thought I’d try the wrong shape, the opposite of conical.  Andit worked.”

Sir James Dyson

This is just a starting point.  There are many more strategies that you can employ, once you have begun to build a foundation driven by innovation and creativity. Good luck!
Here’s to your continued success in 2016.
– Ethan

Things Clients Never Want to hear From You

I’ve been working a LOT lately with organizations who are unhappy with their client “engagement” efforts.  I specifically train their front line client account acquisition, retention and management Teams to deliver constant moments of “WOW!” that earns trust, loyalty…and…REPEAT business.
Working on projects like this has led me to become more attenuated (locked in) and observant of times when people in SERVICE roles perform really poorly. We live in the SWITCHING ECONOMY where people bounce from vendor to vendor, and exhibit little loyalty to brands and organizations.
You have to constantly strive to  deliver your Unique Value Proposition that is driven always by stellar customer care.  That demands getting back to people when and where they are most receptive to hearing what you have to offer/deliver them.
So then, following are some best practice TRIED and TRUE ways to avoid having your customers and potential customers become so dissatisfied with you that they simply walk away.  As you read through this list, you may likely find yourself saying “But, of course!”  And yet…how many of these common client turn-off’s does your organization commit on a frequent basis.
1. Don’t EVER tell someone you will get back to them…and FORGET.  We all face tremendous challenges in our work lives and our work-life balance. Trust me when I say that NO ONE wants to feel like after thoughts who you get to AFTER you service other (more valuable???) clients.
2. Don’t EVER tell someone you failed to respond because you were busy. If I am your client and you are implying that you are “TOO BUSY” to get back to me in a timely fashion, I’ll find someone else who DOES value my business. When you tell someone you didn’t respond because you were extremely busy you are telling them point blank: “I didn’t value YOU enough to respond before those other commitments I had.” This is business SUICIDE.
3. Fail to deliver what was requested.  We all want WHAT we want WHEN we want it.  We don’t want to settle and don’t think very highly of vendors/service providers/partners who give us what they think is simply “GOOD ENOUGH.” We want to be wowed.
4. Don’t make it up or “wing it” as you go along.  When you are asked something you simply don’t have an answer to/solution for, tell the customer you have a few thoughts or need to investigate, you will get back to them on such a date/time…then HONOR THAT COMMITMENT.  It’s always okay to say you don’t know.  It’s NEVER okay to fail to honor your commitments.
5. Don’t offer the client your “Cookie Cutter” product/service.  They do not want/expect the same solution you provide every one else. They have unique needs, face specific challenges, and thus expect solutions customized to their specific situation.
6. Don’t sound bored/annoyed to hear from them.  Want to get a harsh, cold dose of reality. Have someone “mystery shop” your business.  What do they experience when they come into your store or speak to your Service Representatives.

Are your people motivated, trained, and focused on serving/providing solutions.  Or are they disinterested, and emotionally “checked out.”  This is the fastest way to earn loyalty and repeat business, or lose customers forever.
7. Do you have too many levels of decision-making to respond in a timely fashion.  As we flatten out hierarchical organizations into leaner matrix firms, the levels of decision-making need to be reduced to enable our people to make quicker decisions with more authority always with the customer in mind.  Organizations that excel in serving have delivered complete autonomy to their front line staff, by implementing holacracy.  You want your customers to receive fast responses. some organizations like Zappos and W.L. Gore have taken this to the extreme, going so far as to remove much of their management structure in their workplace.
I hope this helps. Here’s to your continued business success in 2016.

Achieve True Lasting Workplace Diversity

As a follow up to my previous post on Diversity, in these times of global competition it is critical that you build a diverse and inclusive culture, to ensure lasting competitive advantage.
Following is a list of 23 immediately actionable strategies that you can follow, in order to  create a diversity-driven and inclusive organizational culture:

  1. Review your existing talent acquisition plan with a renewed focus on where you have sourced talent from in the past (geographic focus) to find new talent sources/pools.

2. Help minority/underrepresented employees on-board and facilitate their integration into your organization’s pre-existing culture is an  absolute imperative.  You want (NEED) your new hires to feel included, welcome and part of the organization from their very first day of employment.
3. Expand your reach into a more diverse talent pool by leveraging local community organizations, such as the Urban League, National Council La Raza, etc.Utilize diversity driven websites such as
4. Emulate the best practices of organizations that have already achieved success in their diversity efforts such as: Ernst & Young, Deloitte, VISA, MasterCard, Duke Energy, Merck, Avon, Nissan, etc.  For a complete list of top firms for diversity, see the Diversity Inc. Top 50 2015.
5. Develop an employee “Refer-a-Friend” program.  As you find employees that fit your culture and expand your diversity base, take a “MORE OF THE SAME” hiring approach.  After all, what worked before surely will work again.
6. Create a well thought out Equal Opportunity Employment policy by following the guidelines/standards put forth by the federal EEOC (  Your GOAL in a DIVERSITY-driven hiring approach should be:
7. Create a “meritorious hiring practice that is…age, race, gender, and minority NEUTRAL.” To wit…

8. Develop and conduct DIVERSITY training.  Begin by teaching your management team all about diversity.
9. Learn from your past mistakes by conducting EXIT interviews for all of your employees. Perhaps the reason an employee left was that they did not feel included or that your organiztion cared about expanded its employee representation to reflect these changing times.

10. Understand the truism that diversity is driven from the top-down, yet it is felt from the bottom-up.  Plant the seeds for your organization’s future diversity growth by bringing in a diverse group of college/high School interns NOW.  Provide scholarships, fellowships, and co-op work experiences to help minorities in college.
11. Establish a diversity policy that is documented in your organization’s annual strategic plan on a recuring year in-year out basis.
12. Include diversity-based questions in your employee surveys, to learn how your peopel are feeling about your efforts towards building a workforce that mirrors the changing denographics of society at large.
13. Set up business resource ‘affinity’ groups in your organization (ex. African-americans, young professionals, Hispanic/Latinos, Gay/lesbian networks, etc.) and track your people retention across each group and by recruiting source.
14. Take a proactive stance to diversity-related public policy issues (ex. Microsoft supported a Washington state gay-rights bill.)
15. You have to serve as a change agent to change the behaviors of your hiring and promotion managers. Ask people in positions of power within your organization: “What/how do you think about ‘difference?’ “
16. Use assessment tools to gauge your people’s “intracultural sensitivity.”
17. Hold your managers accountable to diversity goals by making diversity part of their annual performance objectives. Organizations that set responsibility for diversity achieve better resukts from diversity training, evaluations, and mentoring.
18. Support flexible work arrangements, on-site child daycare, job sharing, and other options.
19. Set quotas in your hiring. Esp. women in engineering like Nissan in Japan.
20. Provide opportunities for rising stars/top performers to receive education and professional development.
21. Offer a formal coaching/mentoring program.
22. Assign a role for a full-time Diversity officer position and create a cross-functional diversity team tasked with achieving your organization’s diversity/inclusion goals.
And saving the most important requirement for last..
23. Your CEO must LEAD BY EXAMPLE. They need to set the tone and walk the walk.
What do you think? Have I missed anything? What do you do in YOUR organization to create a diversity-driven organizationalculture by leveraging inclusive hiring practices?
Here’s to your continued success in 2016 building a powerfully diverse workforce!
– Ethan