Alena Eager

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

No one wants to work. Or at least that’s what appears to be the case. On the heels of The Great Resignation, we have an uptick in interest in concepts introduced in the 2009 Jim Ferris book The 4-Hour Workweek. A workplace survey conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting found that 83% of employees favor a shortened workweek. In July 2021, a state representative from California proposed legislation that would reduce the standard workweek from 40 to 32 hours. The assumption is that people can work fewer hours and get the same amount done, but is that really true?

How long does it really take to innovate?

Malcolm Gladwell proposed a widely adopted standard for subject mastery, which sits at 10,000 hours. Most people believe it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. For the average professional working 40 hours a week for 48 weeks a year, this means that mastery is achieved after about five years. It stands to reason that the more complex a field is, the longer it could take to get to an “expert” level.

Based on these estimates, if people work in a field 30 hours a week, it takes closer to seven years to become a master. Shrink that further, and the timeline expands. 

Myth: Technology means I can work less

The big addendum most people are using to justify doing less with the same results is technology. But any artificial intelligence (AI) or automation expert will be clear: Tech is meant to replace manual tasks, so that people can do complex tasks, not so that they can do nothing at all.

How long does it take to ideate and implement?

Humanity has progressed rapidly in the last 100 years, largely due to innovations in infrastructure (buildings, highways), technology (the internet, computers, now machine learning and AI), and manufacturing (machines, automations and new inventions). Novel medicines like vaccines have eradicated illnesses that reduced lifespans, making it possible to live longer and work harder. The cost of developing these catalyzing factors for humanity is greater than 30 hours a week, and there is proof to back that claim. 

What are the work habits of high performers?

We’re all familiar with the work ethic of modern high performers: Elon Musk works 80-100 hours a week; Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45 a.m.; Bill Gates worked 14-16 hours a day; the best athletes in the world train for several hours a day; and the most esteemed artists and creatives work for weeks on end to complete projects. Lest this list only address current trends, Albert Einstein worked 10 hours a day, six days a week; Winston Churchill’s dictum was “action this day,” and he was famous for working morning until night; and Robert Moses, the “master builder” of the 20th century, was an idealist with an indefatigable work ethic. 

The culture conundrum

We, as a culture, want to think that we are too busy and don’t rest enough. The general impression persists that “balanced” cultures take more time off than U.S.-based professionals. But what’s at stake with this steady decline in work hours? 

Great achievements simply take time. Time is the untradeable commodity of innovation. An argument could be made that the one thing that could take a culture of our size and development into a dark age is if people simply … stop working.

If, as was posited earlier, mastery takes 10,000 hours, and people are willing to work less and less, the length of time it takes to reach mastery in an individual career is lengthened. If the average duration of a career is around 35 years, and it takes someone 10 (rather than five) years to reach a state of mastery, what can be accomplished in the course of that career (especially during peak performance years) is decreased. The net loss of progress among millions of individuals would be substantial, even devastating, to the state of humanity.

The biggest problem

The pendulum swing of culture has taken people from reveling in personal accomplishments to reveling in personhood, full stop. In other words, “I am more than what I achieve.” This is a fundamentally sound principle, but it is not the full picture, especially operating in a world of cause and effect. Our collective contributions are what push forward great ideas and revolutionary inventions. If a large number of individuals “opt out” of performing to their highest capacity, humanity will pay the price. We should care that this is the case because, unpopular though the idea may be, the world doesn’t revolve around any single person. It takes all of us, laboring toward excellence, to build a brighter future. 

Work is not a four-letter word

As humans regularly take stock of what makes us happy, “work” has been villainized. Work is the reason we have no balance in life; work is the reason we don’t get to do what we enjoy; work is the reason we are tired and stressed. There is an inaccuracy here. It is not, in fact, work itself that we detest: It is the workplace. The workplace demands too much and gives too little. 

Work itself is actually deeply fulfilling, and something that humans do every day, voluntarily, and with great joy. Rather than working less, people need to consider what work they are doing, and whether it is fulfilling. Competition drives innovation. Dedication and a strong work ethic are valuable traits that shouldn’t be underestimated, especially when it comes to achievements that  ensure the long-term wellbeing of every other individual on the planet. Some people will “opt out.” Some people will live for the weekend and early retirement. But others, the ones with a real vision for creating something meaningful and leaving a legacy, will work hard … and not resent the labor that leads to greatness.

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The world’s most successful businesses and innovative products all began with a great idea that required their founders or inventors to stretch their creative muscles and think outside of the box. Coming up with that billion-dollar idea is an essential first step, but it can be one of the most difficult parts of the entrepreneurial journey. 

Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

And the need for creativity doesn’t disappear once you land on that next great idea. If you want to have an advantage over competitors and remain relevant to customers, you have to continue to innovate wherever possible. Again, it’s easier said than done. So how can you make it happen?

As part of a Best Advice series running throughout November, our staff selected the best advice on creativity we’ve heard in interviews and from our Entrepreneur contributors over the past 10-plus months. Read on for these founders’ valuable insights on the creative process. 

Make a vision board

“I have a vision board in a bookcase just outside this room that I put together years ago. It has all kinds of things on it, including Kevin Hart, which is funny because I didn’t know him and never thought I’d work in comedy when I made it. And I even had Entrepreneur magazine on there! So to me, being on Entrepreneur‘s list of 100 Women of Impact is like a full-circle moment.” — Thai Randolph, president and COO of Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Network and Hartbeat Productions, from “These Women Leaders Are Changing Lives and Influencing Tomorrow’s Industries—Right Now”

Don’t stay a minute longer in a place you don’t belong

“I just hope that we all take a minute to really evaluate what it is that we’re here on planet Earth to accomplish. If you’re accomplishing that in your 9-to-5 job, great. Then you’re in your perfect place. You’re doing the perfect thing for you and your family and your life. But if you’re there because somebody told you that was the thing to do, and you never questioned that source of information, and now you’re like, ‘Oh crap, what have I done with myself?’, then don’t stay there a minute longer than you have to. There’s a whole world out there that is unencumbered by all those strings and all those requirements.” — Chip Gaines, co-owner and co-founder of Magnolia, from “How ‘Fixer Upper’s’ Chip Gaines Built a Powerhouse Personal Network”

Sometimes it’s good to start from scratch

“By re-examining your decision-making process, you can let go of the knowledge that limits you and discover new opportunities you hadn’t seen before.” — Aytekin Tank, founder and CEO, JotForm, from How to Break Your Old Thought Patterns and Be Truly Innovative”

Try new, scary things 

“Research can only get you so far. Making mistakes, as well as trial and error, is where real knowledge comes from. I have failed hundreds of times, and every single failure has taught me something of value.” — Joey Ruben, co-owner of Happiness Project, from “How This 18-Year-Old High School Student Built a 6-Figure Social Media Consulting Business”

Embrace the messy desk 

“Your work environment doesn’t have to be perfect; it simply has to work for you and free your mind. Let yourself get messy, cultivate creativity, and your next wild idea might be the one that helps you go the distance.” — Nick Wolny, founder of Camp Wordsmith, from “Albert Einstein’s Messy Desk Highlights the Surprising Link Between Clutter and Intelligence”

Stop the multitasking

“Focus is not something you have. Focus is something you do.” — Jim Kwik, world-renowned brain coach, from “Struggling to Focus? Here’s Advice From World-Renowned Brain Coach Jim Kiwk”

Kwik suggests thinking about concepts like focus and distraction as if they’re separate muscles: If you work out either of them, they become strong. “Most people are flexing their distraction muscles,” he says — by trying to do 10 things at once, say, or constantly checking their email. So how do you build focus? Stop multitasking, he says, and “start doing focused activities.”

Before writing a whole book, write a hundred blog posts instead

“Writing a whole book can be pretty daunting. And nothing is worse than making it through 30,000 words (about half of a business book), only to then give up. Writing a book is an endurance sport. Like any endurance sport, you have to start small and train yourself up. Blog posts are that training. Short, 500-word blog posts let you start and finish a job of writing quickly. You’re then free to move onto something else. This is unlike writing a book, which holds you ransom for as long as it takes you to either finish it or burn the manuscript in hydrochloric acid. Once you’ve mastered 500 words, do 1,000. Force yourself to write a blog post every week and you’ll soon develop the discipline necessary to work on larger projects.” — R. Paulo Delgado, book coach and professional ghostwriter, from “3 Tips to Help You Finish That Book You’ve Had in You for Years”

Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid

“Never drink the Kool-Aid. I stay away from immersive moments so I never lose the perspective of what the brand is to the world as well as what the brand is to itself. With [my clothing line] GSTQ, I worked to stay philosophically very, very high. Then I could have experienced veterans on my team come in and execute off a principle. For example, our Stadium jacket. It’s based upon the large jackets football players wear on the sideline when it’s freezing. I’ve always been like, ‘God, I love that jacket. How could I make that for myself?’ So we created it, and we put straps in there so that when you take it off, it stays on your body. Your hands are free. You don’t have to carry it. We had so much fun. So I’ll come in deeply and play with that — and then I’ll use data analytics to check myself, because at the end of the day, I’m not making art just for my room. I’m making something that needs to be worthy enough of the transaction. I identify through the success of the companies, and that success is a relationship with the audience. That’s where my success meters lie. So it helps me be more neutral.” —Dany Garcia, founder of GSTQ and CEO and chairwoman of The Garcia Companies, from “Dany Garcia Wanted Clothing That’s ‘Between Athleisure and Power Dressing,’ So She Launched a New Brand Called GSTQ”

Be willing to fail 

“This may be a challenge since typically we do our best every day to succeed. So try some new things with your company or team and fail together on the way to innovation. Consider challenging each team member to come up with four new ideas, at least three of which will fail. Give the event a set number of weeks and book a conference call at the end of each week to compare efforts and results. Give fun awards for the most spectacular fails and the most creative efforts.” — Dr. Britt Andreatta, keynote speaker and executive coach, from “Time to Reinvent: 5 Tips for Boosting Creativity and Innovation”

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This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

History Channel Latin America launched the call to participate in the seventh edition of ‘An idea to change history’ . The initiative rewards the talent of those Mexicans who seek solutions to improve people’s lives based on technology and innovation.

Great innovators do not come out of nowhere, they are the result of experiences that later transform into ideas capable of changing the world, such as the printing press, the telegraph or WiFi. Those disruptive people are out there, waiting for an opportunity to generate positive changes with their creations.

For this occasion, the television station joins forces with the automaker Nissan , in order to find those who want to make history through their creativity. Those who participate will have the possibility of winning up to 250 thousand pesos .

“In this special edition we recognize Mexican talent, bringing to light those ideas that seek to improve the reality of man, in any of its aspects through technology and innovation,” reads the official site of the call.

The initiative consists of six categories:

  1. Renewable energy. Projects focused on the use of energy from natural resources, which are not exhausted and which can be used permanently (solar, wind, geothermal, hydraulic and electrical energy).
  2. Feeding. Projects aimed at optimizing the food process, new forms of production, healthier food, marketing, access or distribution.
  3. Health. Projects related to the development and discovery of new treatments to treat ailments, diseases and / or disabilities. Also the improvement of infrastructure or awareness on health issues.
  4. Transport. Projects related to the development of intelligent systems as a solution to mobility problems, road safety, accessibility to public or private transport systems, use of renewable energy and automated vehicles.
  5. Applications. Programming of mobile applications to be executed as facilitators of daily tasks or that provide some kind of quick and easy solution in the lives of people or companies.
  6. Telecommunications Innovation applied in the transmission and reception of signals of any nature, any type of information that you want to communicate at a certain distance in systems such as radio, television, telephone, data communications and computer networks.

How to take part?

Those interested have until November 30, 2021 to register their projects on the official site of the initiative ‘An idea to change history’ . There they must fill out a form and upload at least 3 images of the project, as well as a video with a duration of 3 to 5 minutes where the idea is described. Candidates will also need to explain the social impact of their idea, both in the short and long term.

Subsequently, a jury of professionals and experts will select the ’60 New Nissan Innovators’ – the 60 most creative and inspiring ideas. These will be broadcast on the History Channel and all its platforms and then choose the five that “have the most decisive technological and innovative impact.”

The five semifinalists will proceed to the next stage, where the public can vote online for their favorite. The three that get the most votes from Internet users will occupy the first three places and will be awarded a prize of up to 250 thousand Mexican pesos. The announcement of the winners and the awards will take place from March 15 to 17, 2022.

Do you have any idea? Share it and be part of the story of those who have changed the world.

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This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Starting this semester, Tec de Monterrey will strengthen its impact faculty through the Faculty of Excellence initiative, integrating professors who are recognized as leaders in their respective disciplines worldwide.

Cortesía del Tec de Monterrey

Faculty of Excellence , is a project aligned with the 2025 Strategic Plan of the institution, whose pillars are innovation, research and internationalization. The aspiration of this plan is to continue with the processes of attraction, development and strengthening of the faculty, for which it is proposed to attract 100 professors with international leadership in strategic areas from each of the six schools of Tecnológico de Monterrey. They will be integrated to collaborate with Tec professors who, with their daily work, have contributed to making the Institution synonymous with the highest standards in academic excellence.

This initiative   It will contribute to interdisciplinary collaboration, in addition to promoting the generation of knowledge and links with international academic organizations.

Currently, the Institution has achieved the incorporation of three key leaders for this project: Raj Sisodia, co-founder and leader of the “Conscious Capitalism” movement as Distinguished University Professor in Conscious Enterprise; Per-Olof Berggren, who throughout his career has specialized in topics related to the treatment of diabetes and metabolism as Distinguished Visiting Professor in Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases; and Marc Madou, specialist in electronic miniaturization sciences as Distinguished Professor in Nanoengineering.

Faculty of Excellence seeks to strengthen the legacy that the institution has forged in the last 78 years, in addition to enriching the experience of the students, as well as the current faculty.

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One of the greatest entrepreneurs of my generation was Steve Jobs. I remember when computers started coming in vivid colors. It was revolutionary and all thanks to him.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Steve Jobs revolutionized personal computing and created premium systems that sell at prices well above other competitors. He also created the ability to easily buy and sell digital music and revolutionized the world with innovative smartphones.

But it took a lot of hard work, dedication, and getting through some serious setbacks to get there. Steve Jobs wasn’t an overnight success.

Through it all Jobs had vision, drive, and the ability to make each product that his company created really special.

It’s been ten years since we lost this great visionary. Here are the lessons I’ve learned from studying him, his products, and his way of doing business.

Keep high standards

Steve Jobs is known for his obsessive attention to quality. Even at the beginning of his company, he insisted that the Macintosh computer not just be good or above average, but be “insanely great.”

Related: 3 Reasons Why You Should Raise Your Standards

When you focus on being the best in your class it’s easy to stand out and rise above the competition. In my experience many people are perfectly OK with producing average everything, so if you are above average and consistently excellent you give yourself a competitive advantage.

Takeaway: You can build an outstanding business by being best in class.

Make a splash

In 1984 Jobs pretty much invented what is now known as “event” marketing when he created a huge publicity campaign for the Macintosh computer.

Steve Jobs was a master at creating hype and then delivering on that promise. If you have a revolutionary product or service, or if you do it better than everyone else, you should make sure that you build anticipation around what you do.

If you can deliver on that anticipation you can use it to grow your company.

Takeaway: Building anticipation is great for business, but only if you can deliver on that anticipation.

Keep going despite big obstacles

In 1985 Steve was kicked out of the company that he founded by the board of directors. For many people, this would have sent them into a tailspin.

But Jobs used it as an opportunity to quickly found a new company, gather funding based on his ideas and reputation, and acquire a controlling interest in Pixar.

Related: 4 Ways to Find Opportunity Within Adversity

Life will often throw you unexpected and difficult curveballs. But you have to remain confident in your ability to rise to any challenge. If you can do that, then you are very likely to succeed.

Takeaway: When life throws you a curveball, use your past experiences to build new success.

Sometimes obstacles become your best opportunities

If Jobs had sulked and just stopped moving, then he would most likely not have gotten the opportunity to lead Apple again.

It was a full 12 years after the board dismissed him that they asked him to come back on to lead the company out of financial peril. Steve Jobs then went to turn Apple around and help build it into the industry leader it is today.

If you keep pushing after a setback you will often be presented with some of the biggest opportunities of your life.

Takeaway: Results don’t always happen at the pace you are looking for them, but if you keep your eyes open for the right opportunities and work hard then they will often come to you.

Claim your bragging rights

One of my favorite stories about Apple is that when they released the G4 in 1999, Steve bragged that it could not be exported under certain circumstances because it qualified as a supercomputer.

When you have bragging rights, you should claim them. Having a personal computer this powerful was a huge deal and Apple was right to say so.

Takeaway: Promote the thing that makes your company stand out from the crowd and do it with abandon.

Believe in what you’re selling

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple it might have been easy for him to use the Microsoft Operating System, but he believed strongly that having a proprietary operating system was one of the things that made Apple special, and history has proven him right.

In your business, when you have something that sets you apart, lean into that thing and don’t compromise. Make it bigger and more dominant.

Takeaway: When you are in business there will be a lot of people telling you what to do. Understand and execute your vision for your company and know what your unique selling proposition is.

Make a better mousetrap

The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player on the market, but it was the sleekest and easiest to use.

Related: Innovation is an Incremental Process. Here are 3 Ways to Reach Your Big Idea.

Steve Jobs was brilliant at taking existing tech and engineering it to create amazing customer experiences. Sometimes you really can build a better mousetrap and use it to succeed.

Takeaway: Be aware of what’s happening in the market and don’t be afraid to create better solutions from existing product lines.

I’ve created a successful business in part because of what I’ve learned from Steve Jobs. He will always inspire me to do my very best, innovate, and have a passion for what I do.

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“I don’t see how we can replace the serendipitous innovation advantage of hallway conversations. If we don’t return to the office full-time, we’re going to lose out to rivals who do so and gain the benefits of serendipity.” That’s what Saul, the Chief Product Officer of a 1,500-employee enterprise-software company, told me at its planning meeting on the post-vaccine return to office.

This is a common issue among organizations and one that can only be addressed by adopting best practices for innovation in the return to the office and the future of work, as I told Saul. The problem was that while leaders tried to pursue innovation during the lockdowns, they also tried to impose their pre-existing office-based methods on virtual work. When that didn’t work, they pushed for a full-time in-office schedule after vaccines grew widespread, despite the obvious dangers to retention and recruitment of doing so.

That’s because employee survey results show that 25% to 35% wanted remote work only and 50-65% wanted to return to the office with a hybrid schedule of a day or two onsite. Forty-to-55% felt ready to quit if they didn’t get their preferred schedules, and indeed many have already resigned when employers tried to force them to return. To put it mildly, it’s hard to do innovation with such a large part of your workforce quitting and the rest demoralized due to such high rates of turnover.

Related: Why Are So Many Leaders Botching the Return to the Office?

Numerous leaders fail to adopt innovation best practices due to dangerous judgment errors called cognitive biases. These mental blindspots result in poor strategic and financial decisions when evaluating options. They render leaders unable to resist following their gut.

Many have a desire to turn back the clock to January 2020 and go back to the world before the pandemic. They fall for thestatus quo bias, a desire to maintain or get back what they see as the appropriate situation and way of doing things. Thus, they try to go back to their previous innovation practices, despite the major disruption of the pandemic.

While leaders would like to think that they are making data-driven decisions, they have obviously ignored the data and denied reality. This denial is due to another cognitive bias, called the ostrich effect. It is based on the mythical notion of ostriches burying their heads in the sand when facing danger. The leaders deny the serious dangers of retention and morale difficulties undermining innovation if they force employees back to the office.

Defeating cognitive biases to return to office successfully and thrive in the future of work requires the use of research-based best practices. It means a mainly hybrid setup of one to two days in-office for most, while a minority work full-time remotely. 

Many leaders deployed traditional methods to facilitate serendipitous conversations during the lockdowns. These included encouraging team members to have such conversations, organizing team meetings hoping that members would have such discussions on the sidelines and even scheduling regular videoconference happy hours with small breakout groups.

However, these methods, as the leaders discovered, just transposed in-office practices on the virtual environment. They don’t work for something as spontaneous as serendipitous innovation.

Leaders need to use a native virtual format and tap into the underlying motivations that facilitate the creativity, spontaneity, and collaboration behind serendipitous innovation. This means creating a specific venue for it and incentive collaboration without forcing it.  For example, organizations using Microsoft Teams would have each team set up a team-specific channel for members to share innovative ideas relevant for the team’s work. When anyone has an idea, they would share that idea in the pertinent channel. Everyone would be encouraged to pay attention to notifications in that channel. Seeing a new post, they would check it out. If they found it relevant, they would respond with additional thoughts building on the initial idea. Responses would snowball, and sufficiently good ideas would then lead to more formal idea cultivation and evaluation.

This approach combines a native virtual format with people’s natural motivations to contribute, collaborate and claim credit. The initial poster is motivated by the possibility of sharing an idea that might be recognized as sufficiently innovative, practical and useful to implement, with some revisions. The contributors, in turn, are motivated by the natural desire to give advice, especially advice that’s visible to and useful for others in their team, business unit or even the whole organization.

This dynamic also fits well the different personalities of optimists and pessimists. You’ll find that the former will generally be the ones to post initial ideas. Their strength is innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, but their flaw is being risk-blind to the potential problems in the idea. In turn, pessimists will overwhelmingly serve to build on and improve the idea, pointing out its potential flaws and helping address them.

Related: Telework Burnout and Zoom Fatigue: Much More Complicated Than They Appear

If you want to gain an innovation advantage in the future of work, you need to avoid the tendency to stick to pre-pandemic innovation methodology. Best practices for innovation in the return to the office, such as serendipitous idea generation, will enable your remote and hybrid teams to gain a competitive advantage.

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In the U.S., coffee is the widely accepted default for a quick pick-me-up, and the proof is everywhere — take a quick stroll in any major city, and you’ll be hard-pressed to go a block without encountering one of the country’s 15,000-plus Starbucks locations or an independent coffee shop. Tea, on the other hand, has yet to fully integrate itself into American culture. 

Courtesy of JBC Communications

According to Firebelly Tea co-founder David Segal, that’s because the drink still struggles against outdated perceptions. When people think of tea, they frequently think of artificial flavors and unpleasant sweetness, not to mention stuffy afternoons spent over “Great Aunt Carol’s bridge tea.” As a tea connoisseur, however, Segal is on a mission to give tea’s public image a much-needed makeover. 

“It’s fitting that my first interview on this brand is with Entrepreneur,” Segal says. “Tea really is for entrepreneurs. Coffee is corporate America’s drink, and tea is for the movers and shakers, the creators, people that are able to see past the stereotypes to understand the real qualities of something.

“Here you have this beverage that energizes, relaxes, rejuvenates, has so many benefits, so many different flavors that you can create with it,” Segal continues. “And yet it’s under-consumed in North America. It’s under-utilized. I think in many ways coffee represents a centralized culture, whereas tea has more of a decentralized culture to it.” 

Related: Science Says When to Stop Drinking Coffee to Ensure a Good Night’s Sleep. And It Is Earlier Than You Think.

Segal was formerly the “David” of DavidsTea

It’s not Segal’s first foray into the business of tea; he was previously the “David” of DavidsTea. Back in 2008, he co-founded the company in Toronto, growing it from a boutique business selling loose-leaf teas to a publicly traded company with nearly 200 stores across North America. But when infighting made it hard to concentrate on what Segal loves most — tea and the customer experience — he decided to move on in 2016. 

Segal then launched Mad Radish, the quick-service restaurant concept offering healthy, gourmet fast foods, in Canada, noting that the healthy fast-food industry there is about 10 to 15 years behind the one in the U.S. Segal thought he was done with the business of tea, but that changed when he befriended Shopify president Harley Finkelstein. 

When Finkelstein mentioned that his afternoon coffee was keeping him up at night, Segal decided to curate a tea collection for him. He contacted some of the best green tea producers he knew, confident that Finkelstein would become a tea convert once he tried it and experienced its “sustained energy” effect — so different from the “peak and crash” associated with coffee. 

Related: David Segal on DAVIDsTEA: North America’s Next Starbucks?

Image Credit: Kate Ince

Firebelly strives to end America’s exclusive relationship with coffee

Just as Segal predicted, Finkelstein fell in love with tea and wondered why more people weren’t drinking it. Segal was excited, ready to get back in the game and exercise his tea-design skills — with a modern twist appealing enough to quash America’s coffee obsession. 

Segal and Finkelstein decided to co-found Firebelly, a line of natural, pure tea and tea blends curated for the 21st century, with an emphasis on sustainability. Firebelly sources its tea from farm producers across the globe and uses compostable packaging. 

In addition to designing well-balanced blends like “The Crowd Pleaser,” which brings together black tea, vanilla, almond and sweet blackberry leaves, and “Warm & Toasty,” which boasts genmaicha matcha, cinnamon, liquorice root, roasted green tea and star anise, Firebelly offers a line of accessories that merges modern design with great functionality. 

And the boxes of tea themselves, designed in partnership with Joe Doucet, are meant to be displayed — they resemble the spines of books on a shelf, and the colors correspond to the shade the tea within should be once brewed.

Image Credit: Kate Ince

Related: Is Matcha Better for You Than Coffee?

A modern approach to the business of tea

Although DavidsTea offers over 150 varieties of tea, Firebelly’s smaller offering (20 flavors at launch) helps people avoid analysis paralysis and gives them a chance to fall in love with the flavors.

“These are teas that get better every time you drink them,” Segal says. “They’re good the first time you have a cup, they’re better the second time, and they’re even better the third. We want to make sure that we keep a really great line of our basic SKUs, so that when you fall in love with them, you can still find them with us.” 

The number of varieties isn’t the only thing that will be different from a business standpoint: DavidsTea was distributed in physical stores, but Firebelly will be an entirely direct-to-consumer product, though Segal hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a retail setting that could provide a “tea experience.” “I don’t think that physical stores are needed for distribution in the way that they once were,” Segal says, “but they certainly add a lot of value when it comes to creating experiences.” 

For now, Segal hopes that more people start to enjoy the delicious taste and benefits tea has to offer, adding it to their regular beverage rotation. 

“We’re not saying, ‘Drop your morning coffee or your Friday night beer or wine,’” Segal says. “I like a good drink on a Friday as much as the next person, but on a Tuesday night, when you’re hanging with your friends, if you’re an ambitious person, you don’t necessarily want to have drinks. It’s nice to have a tea.”

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Startups have played a substantial role in driving competition, enabling economic disruption, and introducing new trends into the market. 

With cutting-edge technologies, market-friendly ideas, and strategic innovation, several startups have beat well-entrenched brands in the market, creating massive value and impact in their target markets.

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We are on the brink of the decentralized education (DeEd) revolution. There are more than a billion new students coming online in the next few years, students who have never used an online-learning system, who will become the future workforce with access to banking, products, delivery infrastructure and information that will create the next tidal wave in the global economy. 

Most of these students are in Africa, India, China and the developing world, and their aggregated buying power represents tens of trillions of new dollars flowing into the global economy. 

The platforms available now directly connect students with members of the educational industry, allowing boundless cross-border engagement with top academics and the liberty to modify students’ education programs online.

The timing fits in perfectly with UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 (SDG4), which calls for all girls and boys to have accessible, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes to be achieved by 2030. It shines a spotlight on the massive opportunity DeEd will create.

Related: This 1 Particular Area of EdTech Is Ripe for Disruption. 3 Things You Need to Know.

Taking the learning revolution to the next level

But what’s wrong with current education programs? Let’s take a step back and reorganize. The real revolution is about people taking learning into their own hands. Learning-technology startups are making learning easier for everybody and bringing it to the next level: decentralized education (DeEd) via the blockchain.

Fundamental changes and disruptions usually come “from below” through individual decisions rather than sweeping government decrees.

There are four questions that can help us unlock this potential market:

  1. How can we solve this challenge of reaching these students?
  2. Are the current tools available to educational organizations able to eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including those with disabilities, indigenous people and children in disadvantaged situations? 
  3. Is the current system designed to take advantage of the predicted doubling of the EdTech sector in the next five years?
  4. Is our current education toolset able to equip the next generation of educational platforms for Web 3.0 integration?

The EdTech community needs to assist in achieving UNESCO’s SDG4 by setting the stage for decentralized education; this means new tools, processes and consensus models designed to work across the sector and encourage participation and adoption.

The solution for decentralized education

There is a need to focus on adoption across the sector, creating a B2B blockchain toolset to eliminate entry barriers (high cost and long development timelines) to participants with easy-to-deploy technology.

This requires a set of decentralized tools, and maintaining independence from any third-party influence can be guaranteed by the use of smart contracts, community-driven governance and an open ecosystem.

Using a blockchain protocol that serves as a trusted, transparent and valid intermediary between two parties in the learning space enables the validation of knowledge transfer in one or both directions.

Related: This Decentralised System Transforms Educational Institutions Payments

Open source and modular with no technical knowledge required

Educational entities focus on what they do best: educating, and most are not inherently familiar with blockchain technology. Technological know-how, research, time to develop and deploy and the financial considerations severely limit access for EdTech entities into the blockchain space, creating a high barrier to entry. An open-source platform eliminates this barrier. 

Smaller education platforms  tutors, blogs, teachers, etc.  are having a larger and larger impact on the online learning space. They adapt faster and make quicker decisions than their prominent counterparts. To compete head-to-head, these smaller education platforms need customizable, easy-to-deploy blockchain tools to make their products more trustworthy, enabling them to reach a larger audience.

To encourage the growth of a decentralized-education system, we need to create ready-to-use B2B open-source products that make an entry in the blockchain space for educational companies easy and the adoption of blockchain in education practical. A similar model is found in WordPress websites: easy deployment, drag and drop. The more entrants and participants, the faster education will be democratized. The process needs to be scalable and straightforward.

Related: With Open-Source Software, You Don’t Have to Start From Scratch

The implications of DeEd

The implications of a billion more connected, educated minds are staggering, and this deserves our attention. Unlocking the EdTech sector with Web 3.0 DeEd tools will cause hundreds of billions of dollars to flow into the global economy. 

We also know that the global workplace is changing, and the future of work will need a workforce that learns different skills to adapt and grow in this new world. 

Innovation in education matches the scale of the solution to the scale of the challenge. DeEd and the future of learning will unlock the human capital and collective brainpower of a billion people to solve some of the greatest challenges we have on Earth. 

The future of learning is bright with DeEd. Let’s move forward. 

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As the U.S. and other parts of the world begin reemerging from lockdowns and other restrictions, much of the business world has been engaged in a single conversation — when and how should companies bring their people back into the office, or should they bring them back at all? While gallons of ink (or billions of pixels) have been spent discussing the subject, at the company I lead, BetterUp, it hasn’t been much of an issue at all. 

We get asked all the time about our thoughts on hybrid workplaces, given we’ve had a hybrid model since we started, but also because we partner with many of the world’s leading companies. Everyone is wrangling with these questions. They reflect a broader trend, and long-overdue conversation, about flexibility. 

Even before the pandemic struck, 40% of the BetterUp workforce was remote, a larger block of our team than was housed in any of our physical offices. A hybrid approach has been part of our DNA from the very beginning, which has given us a unique perspective on the current debate. Here are five of the lessons we’ve learned about the challenges and rewards of hybrid work. 

Design from research, data and first principles  

As an evidence-based human transformation company, we are firm believers in following the science, where possible, and employing research-validated best practices to get the best results. When weighing whether an in-person or hybrid model will work better for your business, there is an entire field of occupational psychology that offers empirical answers to questions about whether employees perform better in the office or at a distance, or whether they are more creative or happier in their jobs. 

Does that mean the published research holds all the answers? No. But it is a jumping-off point to think about what you’re trying to accomplish, how you design to get the results you want, and what indicators you need to stay on top of to make sure it’s working. For BetterUp, having a strong culture was important. We recognized that we needed to be explicit about our values and how they translate into behaviors, given people aren’t together every day. We became very intentional about employee onboarding so that each part of it reflects our culture and reinforces our values from the start. 

The data is suggestive that distributed teams, flexible schedules, remote work, and asynchronous collaboration can all work, but the supporting work practices, tools, and processes, and the skill of managers all make a difference. Our own research found that workers report feeling more effective, now, in a remote environment, and report experiencing 56% greater creativity and innovative thinking. At the same time, a large-scale study just released by Microsoft finds that, while productivity is up, conversations are down, bringing implications for the creativity and innovation of teams. The mixed results aren’t surprising: neither going remote nor being in-person, alone, drives creativity and innovation. 

Making a hybrid model work requires being deliberate and evolving everything about your business, not just once but over and over. You have to be more explicit about what matters. Because your priorities and considerations are unique to your company, you should use data to help you create the best route to your particular goals. 

Related: Why Employee Uncertainty Should Be a Main Focus for Leaders

Own your decision 

Different structures will be right for different organizations and can reflect the personal beliefs and preferences of leadership. If you believe in your bones that remote employees are not as dedicated to their jobs or cannot effectively collaborate with their in-office colleagues, it is unlikely that you will be able to successfully lead a hybrid team. At BetterUp, we decided from the beginning that we didn’t want people to have to weigh career progression or interesting collaborative work against enjoying geographic flexibility. Make realistic assessments based on your particular situation, but whatever you decide, own that decision fully. 

A lot of banks, for instance, have been blunt in saying to employees: “If you don’t show up, you’re not going to work here, or you won’t be successful here.” I respect the integrity of being open about that reality. Harsh as it may seem, honesty is preferable to mealy-mouth commitments to “flexibility” that management does not intend to back up with equal treatment and opportunities for remote employees. 

On the other hand, a lot of tech companies have made a point of saying, “You can stay remote forever. We don’t care where you do your work.” Some tech talent has been quick to respond, relocating to locales that better fit their needs, lifestyle, and aspirations. Others have merely breathed a sigh of relief at no longer having to structure their lives around a long, expensive commute.

Either way, clarity is key. The murky middle is what confuses and frustrates. That doesn’t mean you have to say “forever,” but carve out a model that you are willing to commit to and be clear about the principles and parameters.  

Whether you decide to take your organization fully remote, fully in person, or something in between, you will not succeed unless you believe in the model, commit to iterating your practices to make it work, and communicate clearly (and often) with your team (not just to them).  

Follow the ‘Little Mermaid principle’ 

One of the principal motivations for BetterUp’s original decision to go with a hybrid model was our desire to create a truly inclusive culture. That meant finding (or creating) ways to bring more diverse talent into our organization with opportunities that didn’t preclude anyone who didn’t fit a certain profile. With our headquarters in San Francisco, we found it was incredibly competitive, and difficult, to hire diverse talent — especially technical talent — in the Bay Area. 

As Ariel sang in The Little Mermaid, you’ve got to go where the people are. One of the most powerful advantages of a hybrid model is that it allows you to both follow the strategic imperative and live up to your company values by seeking out diverse talent wherever they may be located geographically. 

Related: 1 out of 4 employees feel they don’t fit in: Here’s why that matters and what to do about it

Create ‘adaptive space’ 

While a hybrid model has been a strength for BetterUp, it also presents real challenges. If you design around the assumption that people are in the same office, remote employees can end up feeling like second-class citizens. Finding effective ways to generate ideas together can also be difficult. 

At BetterUp we lean heavily on frequent, intentionally-designed offsites to overcome these challenges. When you have more remote people, you save on real estate costs. We roll a portion of that savings into team and company retreats. Around once a quarter (when travel and gatherings are possible), we get our people together face to face.

Not only does that build personal connections and a sense that we are all one, equally valued team, but it also allows the creation of what author and Amazon exec Michael Arena calls “Adaptive Space.” These “free trade zones” for ideas provide opportunities for conversation and serendipity to spark innovative ideas. With the stronger connections that form and continue to develop after the event is over, those sparks of ideas can be funneled into the corporate structures that can turn them into concrete action. 

Remote work is great for focused concentration. It’s not always great for connection and creativity, so companies must be intentional about engineering ‘adaptive space’ and team cohesion. 

Related: Whether you’re a professional athlete, or a professional, you need a coach

Middle managers are all important

When I hear leaders arguing about remote vs. in-person, I often want to tell them the whole conversation doesn’t matter. Success is less about which option you choose than it is about ensuring managers are skilled at whatever paradigm your company goes with. Being at home or not being not at home is going to be equally subpar if your manager doesn’t know how to manage you there. 

Whichever format your company goes with, middle managers are going to face the same set of questions: How can they drive top performance? How can they effectively develop and include everyone? Create psychological safety? Catalyze energy in the workforce? Choosing a hybrid or in-office model will change how managers answer those questions, but the end goals they’re shooting for are the same. Whichever path they take will require training, coaching, and reflection. Worry less about the question of how remote to go, and more about equipping your managers to succeed, with whatever design you land on. 

Eight years in and now with more than 500 employees, BetterUp is living proof that a hybrid model can work for a fast-growing, innovative company. Managing both in-person and remote team members does take care, thought, and commitment, but done right, hybrid work can be a serious competitive advantage for your company.

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