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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

The 15-Minute Weekly Habit That Eased My Work Anxiety — and Made My Boss Trust Me More

I once had a boss who would send me a series of two-word emails throughout the day, each one bearing the same message: “Call me.” Each time I received one of these emails, the hairs on the back of my neck would stiffen and my stomach would churn violently. This reaction made no sense—I was reliable and organized, consistently ranked in the top performance tier at work. Still, when I saw those ominous words, I feared the worst.

When I did call my boss, our conversation was always friendly. It might be that he wanted to get an update on a project, or ask me a quick question, or even compliment me on a presentation. It was almost never bad news. But I still experienced unnecessary stress because of the difference in our communication styles. My manager’s approach was very spur-of-the moment, which made sense because he had many reports and a slew of fast-moving responsibilities on his plate. But I found this style of communication anxiety-provoking; it put me on the defensive, even though I was a responsible worker. Eventually, I realized that there was a solution—I needed to learn more about how to manage up...

A To-Do List for Leaders Who Need to Grow Up

The CEO and founder of Uber, Travis Kalanick, recently acknowledged after the latest in a series of misfires at the high-flying firm: “It’s time to grow up,” and that he “Will seek leadership help.”

The misfires include a patent infringement suit by Alphabet (Google), a major sexual harassment investigation and his berating of an Uber driver who took the opportunity with Mr. Kalanick in the car to voice some complaints. His response as captured on the car’s camera was less than leader-like.

The hard-charging genius founder and entrepreneur who cannot lead or manage is not a new story. I’ve worked for, survived, and coached several of these characters.

I admire their brilliance in seeing and seizing an opportunity, and I marvel at the locomotive power of their genius.

They change the world by bringing a vision to life.

They have foresight and far-sight that most of us wish we had, myself included.

But, their world-changing behaviors often come with a price tag and some weaknesses that typically manifest when the firm is attempting to grow up and scale in a hurry.

It has been my experience that very few of these founder geniuses care about the work...

It’s Time to Stop Thinking We Can 'Life Hack' Our Way to Happiness

Although the phrase “life hack” was coined only in 2004, it has quickly become part of our internet lexicon. In a sense, it’s a reflection of our natural tendency to find the better, faster, and easier ways to get things done. But that doesn’t explain the real appeal of the idea.

In our hyper-competitive world, a “life hack” is more narrowly defined as the perfect shortcut—a method to achieve a good outcome with fewer resources. It’s the seductive idea that, if only you could find the trick, you too can accomplish your goals—and be just as happy.

Little wonder that there’s a whole industry ready to offer you a life hack for whatever you seek. The site Lifehacker, which launched in 2005 and offers articles with the headlines like “How to Worry Productively,” attracts more than 20 million readers every month. Tim Ferris’s books, which popularized the idea of life hacks and provide ideas about how to work only four hours a week and have a prosperous life, have sold millions of copies and have been translated into more than 35 languages.

It’s great if life hacks can help you reach Inbox...

How Agencies Are Turning Scientific Breakthroughs Into Jobs

The federal government annually invests more than $130 billion in research and development. Conducted at federal facilities, universities and private companies, this investment has led to significant technology breakthroughs, including the Internet, the Global Positioning System, and decoding the human genome.

But turning those breakthroughs into jobs has long been a challenge. According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, “Despite the critical importance of federal R&D to economic development, agencies historically have lacked the resources and interagency platforms to act together in the commercialization of their technologies.”

In response to this observation, President Obama in 2011 signed a Presidential Memo directing agencies to “establish goals, measure performance, streamline administrative process and facilitate local and regional partnerships” aimed at commercializing R&D. Agencies were given six months to develop action plans. In 2014, the national objective of moving discoveries and inventions from labs to commercial markets was designated as one of 15 cross-agency priority goals. In the intervening years, there have been a number of tangible successes.

The Lab-to-Market CAP Goal reinforces the efforts begun under the 2011 Presidential Memorandum and focuses on five areas:

  • Develop human capital with experience in technology and entrepreneurial skills
  • Empower...

To Get the Best Results From Your Employees, Assemble Them Like a Team of Surgeons

Team work in the workplace has long been valued. Less well understood is why working in teams is so much more effective than tackling tasks as individuals.

The answer lies in human origins, and our evolution as social animals, according to Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach, cognitive scientists and authors of The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. Our brains developed into large and sophisticated organs to keep up with the size and complexity of our social groups, according to one influential theory, they write. Our big brains gave us command over language, which allows large groups to organize around abstract goals and ideas, and they also give us the ability to share our intentions.

When humans interact, they know they’re sharing the same experience, and that means they can share common ground. Once we know what knowledge we share, we can agree to work toward a common purpose. “A basic human talent is to share intentions with others so that we accomplish things collaboratively,” Sloman and Fernbach write.

Since we evolved to think and act together, we fall naturally into teams in which knowledge and skills are pooled. No individual can know as much a group, and...

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