Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Exercise: Coming Soon to Your Workplace?

Like most people who work in an office, I spend most of my workday sitting. Although I periodically use a standing workstation or walk to the printer (right outside my office), my workday is generally a sedentary affair. Exercise is part of my evening and weekend schedule.  

Perhaps that is why a recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Carl Cederstrom and Torkild Thanem titled “The Swedish CEO Who Runs His Company Like a CrossFit Gym” caught my eye. The article profiles Bjorn Borg, a Swedish sports fashion company (yes, named for the tennis star), and in particular, its CEO, Henrik Bunge. Bunge, not like some other CEOs, has implemented mandatory company workouts.  Think your yoga class or boot-camp session at the office. That sounds simultaneously inspiring and terrifying.
Bunge is part of a generation of CEOs who are throwing concepts like “transformational” and “authentic” leadership to the wayside in favor of “fitness leadership.” The theory is that work and fitness go hand-in-hand: Much like at the gym, the harder you work, the better your results. Bunge was brought in as CEO in 2014, when the company was struggling. His view was that the 60 employees had to “train harder, measure our goals better, and become a better team” and that success could be achieved through a marriage of exercise and work. All employees are now required to take fitness tests twice a year and there are mandatory Friday fitness classes, team wall squat and push-up competitions, and the occasional game of ping pong. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Room with a View (or an Air Mattress): Airbnb celebrates its 10th anniversary

Spring is almost here! For many, this means travelling with family or friends to a warm destination for a weeks’ worth of fun in the sun. Interestingly enough, Americans owe this annual rite of spring break to ancient Greece. Originally called “Anthestreria,” it was a festival dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine and “ritual madness.” For three days, local Greeks would come together to dance, sing and drink wine. More than two thousand years later, the ritual of Anthestreria remains, in many respects, unchanged. Recognized, almost universally, by primary through post-secondary educational institutions, spring break provides families and friends time to relax and recharge (and sometimes even get a little crazy). 

Given that many of us will be travelling in the next month, I thought it timely to recognize one of the most disruptive and innovative companies in the history of the modern tourism industry, Airbnb, Inc. The tourism industry is one of the world’s largest industries, with an overall global economic impact of more than 7.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016. According to the U.S. Travel Association, the 2016 economic output in the United States alone was $2.3 trillion. As with any large market, it is ripe for disruption by 
enterprising entrepreneurs. This is exemplified by the wild success of Airbnb.

2018 marks Airbnb’s 10th year of operation. And what a 10 years it has been for the San Francisco-based tech start-up! Founded by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk in 2008, Airbnb (in case you have been living on Mars) operates an international online marketplace for short-term lodging, offering a much-desired alternative to traditional hotel accommodations for guests and a source of income for hosts. Airbnb is merely a broker. It provides a platform for home owners, “hosts,” to rent out their properties to short-term guests. The company generates revenue by charging both its guests and hosts service fees. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Virtual Reality: May the Force Be With You

Growing up, I loved Star Wars. I played the video games, read the Expanded Universe novels, and built my own galaxy through the accumulation of many, many Lego sets. Yet, truly, what I wanted more than anything was to experience Star Wars, to be in that galaxy far, far away. 

Now, as an adult, I may get to do just that. In the midst of Disney’s construction of the Star Wars expansions to its parks, THE VOID’S walk-through virtual reality experience, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, has opened, offering Star Wars fans a depth of immersion that many, including myself, had previously only dreamed of. THE VOID offers a “hyper-reality” experience that enables players to go on a team mission on the planet of Mustafar. Rather than being stationery, the players move, interact, and experience immersive sensory details, even down to smells and temperature.  

Virtual reality (VR) is not new, but it is becoming increasingly more mainstream. While it is still most commonly found in the entertainment sector, VR has the potential to be tapped for a vast number of applications and we may very well see it play a more prominent role in the legal field. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

“Smart Engagement” – Preventing Highly-Motivated Employees from Burning Out

I recently came across an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review written by Emma Seppala and Julia Moeller: 1 in 5 Highly Engaged Employees Is at Risk of Burnout. As its name suggests, the article discusses the “dark side” of employee engagement—highly engaged employees often suffer high levels of stress, which can lead to employee burnout. But the article also provides a few suggestions of how to foster “smart engagement,” which Seppala and Moeller describe as the kind of engagement “that leads to enthusiasm, motivation, and productivity, without the burnout.” 

In short, to prevent highly-motivated and high-performing employees from becoming burned out and leaving the organization altogether, employers should do more than offer wellness programs focused on healthy eating, exercise, or mindfulness. According to Seppala and Moeller, employers should ensure that the workloads of productive employees or those with a particular skill set are not overburdened and increase the resources available to employees, including intangible resources such as the ability to disengage when not working. 

After reading Seppala and Moeller’s article, ask yourself how your organization can support smart engagement.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Fearless Commerce: A Showcase of Local Black Female Entrepreneurs

With an increase of 322% since 1997, the State of Women-Owned Business Report named Black women as the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States. A recent Nielson Company study, African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic, further quantifies Black women’s power to influence the economy, media, and politics. Much like most of the country, the Twin Cities local community is rich with minority female entrepreneurs that represent a diversity of industries. 

But despite the impact this group has on the local and national economy, it has struggled to gain visibility and has largely gone unrepresented in entrepreneurial publications. Fearless Commerce seeks to change this. A nationally recognized company co-founded by two local Black female entrepreneurs, Fearless Commerce showcases local Minneapolis-Saint Paul minority women business owners by featuring their stories and highlighting their successes in industries ranging from medicine to architecture to entertainment and fitness. 

The inaugural issue of the Fearless Commerce publication launched in October 2017, and has since continued to foster innovation within the local entrepreneur community and communities of color. Keep an eye out for the next issue, available this spring. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

On the Radio

For this entry I bring you an entrepreneurial antidote with a feel-good vibe.

I’m a fan of all things old school and among them is good old radio, whether it’s pulling up my MLB radio app to catch my beloved Seattle Mariners fail to win (or sometimes even try, it seems) or tuning in an old transistor to some music while burning dinner on the grill.

One thing I like about radio, beyond my own entertainment, is that you can really learn a lot about a place when you turn it on and tune into a regional frequency. Each radio station has its own audience, whether big or small. Even so, radio often caters to the masses, so it is not always the case that each audience has a radio station.

For the melting pot of listeners in my neighborhood of South Minneapolis, that is less so the case thanks to a brand new Low-Power FM (LPFM) radio station, KRSM Southside Media Project (KRSM), which launched in November 2017 and appears to be a community-based entrepreneurial success story in the making.

Friday, January 19, 2018


You no doubt have read or heard about MELTDOWN and SPECTRE. The bad guys always seem to be plotting and implementing more nefarious ways to disrupt our dependency on technology. This one looks really, really bad!

The microprocessors that are in each and every electronic device—think smartphones, personal computers, laptops, mobile devices, automobiles, home appliances, gaming systems—may be exposed to these newly discovered vulnerabilities. These specific vulnerabilities have likely been around for quite some time but were only recently discovered.