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From the Tropics to the Tundra: 3 Benefits of Engaging Your Stakeholders

Do you ever find yourself wanting to know what’s really going on with your stakeholders? You’ve sent them e-mails and surveys, even made phone calls, and you still don’t feel you have your finger on the pulse of what your stakeholders really want and struggle with.  Sometimes information is best sought the old-fashioned way: through an actual face-to-face, honest-to-goodness visit so you can see for yourself. Below are three observations on engaging your stakeholders:

1. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a visit is worth a thousand phone calls.

Don’t view the visit as a burden but as an opportunity to get to know your stakeholders on a more personal level and make your program that much more effective. While you may talk to your stakeholders regularly—once a week, once a month, or quarterly—you aren’t getting the full picture until you meet them where they are, on their own terms.

This could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s just human nature to feel more comfortable on one’s home turf. Or maybe seeing your stakeholders in the context of their environment—political, geographic, or personal—helps you ...

Pump Up the Jams and Feel Powerful

It is hard to go too long without hearing music. Music can wake us in the morning and brighten our commute. Music greets us at coffee shops, department stores, bars and gyms. Music teaches us the alphabet and implores us to fall in and out of love. Yet, despite the central role it plays in the lives of so many people around the world, we are still learning about music’s transformative effects on the psyche.

In a recent article, a team of researchers investigated one potential effect of music: psychological empowerment. Their research question was simple yet intriguing: Could listening to the right kind of music—even in the background—make us feel more powerful and in control?

Certainly many athletes believe in the power of music. “Rituals exist in all sports,” says Derek Rucker, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management. “One ritual we have noted is that athletes often arrive at the stadium wearing earphones. And these athletes often emerge from the locker room to the sound of music pounding. It is as if the music is offering a psychological coat of armor for the competition about to occur.” Dennis Hsu, a faculty member ...

Slouching Towards Not Slouching

"A straight back may be said to be an element of beauty," wrote D. F. Lincoln, a physician in Philadelphia, in 1896. "Round shoulders and a twisted spine are an element of the opposite quality, beyond a doubt."

Lincoln was writing to sound the alarm that the posture of America's youth was becoming increasingly "deformed" thanks to a trend that had recently swept the nation: universal public school.

If only he could see us now, literally leaning in within our cubicles by day and slumping over our Netflix-streaming laptops by night. Many of today's workers could use a Knickerbocker shoulder brace more than the Victorian dandies it was designed for.

I myself am the picture of the modern, white-collar slouch. It started in high school and got worse when I became a journalist and had a laptop grafted to my wrists. The many emotional benefits my profession confers come at a physical cost: carpal tunnel, eye strain, and sort of a permanent, dull ache in my trapezius. In grad school I nearly solidified into a gargoyle by sitting at the little tables at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and editing audio files for hours.

It got so bad ...

The Case For Being Average

People often read what I have to say and then write asking for my advice.

But even though I write about lots of things I am expert in only one thing: programming in a computer language called APL. I owe all my financial success and a good deal of personal joy to that funny little language, and if you want to learn how I did it and how you can toothen go here.

So how have I been able to succeed in writing on these other subjects?

The answer came to me a few weeks ago as I was reading a book called How to be Averagely Successful at Comedy by my friend Dave Cohen. The promotional text bills it as a “practical and funny book explaining how to make a living at comedy” and it certainly is that. But it is also a very entertaining look at what has happened to comedy from Monty Python onward. But its broadest appeal comes from the fact that it is an insightful “how to” book on having an awesome life even if you are just average—whether at comedy or anything else.

At the bottom of page eight it hit me ...

What Do We Really Know About Building Cross-Agency Networks?

As millennials join the workforce, they are bringing their propensity for social networking with them. As a result, network-centered approaches to doing work will likely become more prevalent.

Government and nonprofits have already been pioneering the use of collaborative networks during the past two decades to solve complex societal challenges, such as cleaning up waterways, preventing child abuse, serving the mentally ill and reducing smoking. Much of this groundbreaking work has been done without a roadmap that shows what works and under what circumstances using networks is more effective than relying on traditional hierarchies or the marketplace to achieve public goals. The literature to guide practitioners is growing rapidly, but there are no guideposts on what to read and what to pay attention to.

Now there is a place both experienced network leaders and neophytes can go to learn more.

The IBM Center for The Business of Government digests the key academic literature of the past decade in a special report, “Interorganizational Networks: A Review of the Literature to Inform Practice by Janice Popp, Brinton Milward, Gail MacKean, Ann Casebeer and Ronald Lindstrom. This report has been under development for several years, largely as a labor of love, to synthesize ...