How Music Affects Your Brain (Plus 11 Artists To Listen To At Work)

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Music, your brain and emotions: the general stuff

Studies about how music affects our brains and emotions have been ongoing since the the 1950s, when physicians began to notice the benefits of music therapy in European and U.S. hospital patients. However, humans have been using music to communicate thoughts and feelings to one another for centuries.

Today, research suggests that music can help relieve negative emotions like stress, anxiety and depression. It can even decrease instances of confusion and delirium in elderly medical patients recovering from surgery. Furthermore, research says that listening to happy or sad music can make us perceive others as being happy or sad, respectively. All of these findings make it clear that, for better or worse, music’s impact on our emotions is very real.

Relationship Capital: 4 (and a half) scientific studies to help you be a better networker

Posted on by Brandon Klein

1. Teamwork isn’t just for the cavalry. Dynamics in the boardroom play out across levels of organizational trust and directly affect company profitability, as a study from Case Western Reserve University found. Surveying over 25 C-suite teams, members were asked to rate both their present degree of interactive compatibility and their “ideal” dynamics. Not surprisingly, those already working closest to their ideal levels of team engagement were managing the more profitable companies.

The takeaway: Avoid choosing a team based only on previous executive-level success. Instead, look for relationship skills and team commitment. If all else fails, recruit a third-party for better group facilitation. Your company’s success could depend on it.

2. The power of negativity. Building relationship capital is all about positive connections; destroying it is all about negative connections. That's the conclusion of a recent study from two University of Kentucky researchers, who found that negative interactions with co-workers, however rare, produce faster and stronger effects on workplace relationships than positive interactions. Specifically, almost all negative social experiences on the job undermine both the task at hand and morale in general.

The takeaway: No one gets along with everyone all the time. But don’t let tense relationships fall off your radar. Rather, use them as a springboard for practicing conflict-resolution skills to develop a stronger team.

Diverse Teams Feel Less Comfortable — and That’s Why They Perform Better

Posted on by Brandon Klein

In numerous studies, diversity — both inherent (e.g., race, gender) and acquired (experience, cultural background) — is associated with business success. For example, a 2009 analysis of 506 companies found that firms with more racial or gender diversity had more sales revenue, more customers, and greater profits. A 2016 analysis of more than 20,000 firms in 91 countries found that companies with more female executives were more profitable. In a 2011 study management teams exhibiting a wider range of educational and work backgrounds produced more-innovative products. These are mere correlations, but laboratory experiments have also shown the direct effect of diversity on team performance. In a 2006 study of mock juries, for example, when black people were added to the jury, white jurors processed the case facts more carefully and deliberated more effectively.

Transformation with a capital T

Posted on by Brandon Klein

 Companies must be prepared to tear themselves away from routine thinking and behavior.

Imagine. You lead a large basic-resources business. For the past decade, the global commodities supercycle has fueled volume growth and higher prices, shaping your company’s processes and culture and defining its outlook. Most of the top team cannot remember a time when the business priorities were different. Then one day it dawns on you that the party is over.

Or imagine again. You run a retail bank with a solid strategy, a strong brand, a well-positioned branch network, and a loyal customer base. But a growing and fast-moving ecosystem of fintech players—microloan sites, peer-to-peer lenders, algorithm-based financial advisers—is starting to nibble at your franchise. The board feels anxious about what no longer seems to be a marginal threat. It worries that management has grown complacent.

Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Striving to increase workplace diversity is not an empty slogan — it is a good business decision. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

In a global analysis of 2,400 companies conducted by Credit Suisse, organizations with at least one female board member yielded higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those that did not have any women on the board.

In recent years a body of research has revealed another, more nuanced benefit of workplace diversity: nonhomogenous teams are simply smarter. Working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance. Let’s dig into why diverse teams are smarter.

The Atlassian Team Playbook

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Our no-bullshit guide to unleashing your team's potential

Here's a dirty little secret: working as a team is really hard, and tools alone won't fix that. Books wax poetic about Silicon Valley dream-teams, but they don't tell you how to start improving your team. For Atlassian, the mission to unleash the potential in every team starts at home. We've developed a playbook that changed the way our teams work. Now it's yours to try, too.

This ain't your CEO's ivory-tower management book. It's by teams, for teams. You'll find step-by-step guides for tracking your team's health, and plays that build your Get $#!τ Done™ muscle. Start with a Health Monitor workshop to get a reading on your vital signs, or just dive straight into the plays.


Measuring Your Employees’ Invisible Forms of Influence

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Companies are always looking for the best ways to assess the potential of employees. Managers want to understand how their teams contribute to the organization, and they want to identify high performers and potential leaders along the way. Many know and use the nine-box model, for example, to map past performance against future leadership potential. The people the model identifies as those with the most promise are often the ones a company will invest in through additional training and talent development programs.

But are these measurement methods still valid? Just as our workplaces have changed, the way we measure an employee’s value also needs to change. Our belief is that companies aren’t properly identifying the right people or behaviors in the first place — they fail to accurately assess an employee’s potential value to the organization because of what they can’t see. Specifically, traditional organizational reporting structures limit managers’ visibility into how their employees are influencing and contributing to other teams. New workplace metrics are needed to help leaders get a more complete picture of this.

How Freelancers Are Reinventing Work Through New Collective Enterprises

Posted on by Brandon Klein

An emerging collectivist movement

Like an extended smashing of atoms, the 9-to-5 job market has shattered and splintered over the past 25 years in ways that have both liberated and trapped millions of workers.

Uber drivers, ditch-digging day laborers, adjunct professors, freelance software designers, temp attorneys, domestic workers, and often woefully underpaid “task rabbits” hired online at a moment’s notice, wouldn’t appear to have much in common. Their pay and working conditions vary wildly, and some push paper while others handle steering wheels, mops, diapers, or sledge hammers — but what unites them is a gig economy marked by flexibility, instability, innovation, and legal and financial uncertainty.

As the gig economy proliferates, growing numbers are breaking away and creating their own work communities, based on a mix of autonomy and interdependence. Combating precarious economics and social isolation, freelancers are using new open-source technology and old-fashioned shoe leather organizing to create new ways to work and to work together.

Enspiral, for instance, uses a mix of physical meeting spaces, open-source technology, and digital organizing to help workers build creative and economic independence as well as community. The collective is just one piece of a burgeoning global freelancers’ movement that is helping independent workers to reposition power and ownership in a platform-driven age.     

Making data analytics work for you—instead of the other way around

Posted on by Brandon Klein

The data-analytics revolution now under way has the potential to transform how companies organize, operate, manage talent, and create value. That’s starting to happen in a few companies—typically ones that are reaping major rewards from their data—but it’s far from the norm. There’s a simple reason: CEOs and other top executives, the only people who can drive the broader business changes needed to fully exploit advanced analytics, tend to avoid getting dragged into the esoteric “weeds.” On one level, this is understandable. The complexity of the methodologies, the increasing importance of machine learning, and the sheer scale of the data sets make it tempting for senior leaders to “leave it to the experts.”

How organisations enshrine collective stupidity and employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door

Posted on by Brandon Klein

We found many ways that all kinds of organisations positively encouraged intelligent people not to fully use their intelligence. There were rules and routines that prompted them to focus energies on complying with bureaucracy instead of doing their jobs. There were doctors who spent more time ‘playing the tick-box game’ than actually caring for patients; teachers who spent more time negotiating new bureaucratic procedures than teaching children. We met Hans, a manager in a local government agency: after a visit from a regulator, his office received a list of 25 issues in need of improvement. So Hans’s agency developed 25 new policies and procedures. The result: the regulator was happy, but there was no change in actual practice. Such stories showed us how mindless compliance with rules and regulations can detract people from actually doing their jobs. The doctors, teachers and government officials all knew that the rules and regulations they spent their days complying with were pointless diversions. However, they chose not to think about this too much. Instead, they just got on with ticking the boxes.

Artwork made with crayons from your photos

Posted on by Brandon Klein


Close your eyes. Imagine the familiar shape of a box of crayons in your hand. You slip your thumb under the lid and gently open the box, running your fingers over the freshly sharpened points that gleam in the sunlight. In that moment, it hits you. The unmistakable smell of a brand-new box of crayons.

Here at Color.Works, we believe that inspiration comes from unusual and unexpected places, which may develop and evolve into unusual and unexpected artwork. That’s why we work passionately to combine modern inspirations with a nostalgic source of vivid color by providing you with breathtaking, hand-made artwork using full-length crayons. Artwork that we call colorworks.

For many of us, crayons were our original tool for self-expression as we turned blank pages into vibrant works of art. They fostered our sense of wonder as we began to explore the various hues that make up the world around us.

Through one-of-a-kind pre-made colorworks, or through your own photographs or designs, you can instantly drift back to a time when the most cherished artwork in your home hung on the refrigerator.

Everyone on the Color.Works team is excited to help you continue to foster your sense of wonder by helping you create artwork that not only allows you to express yourself, but transports you to a time when all you had to worry about was your sense of imagination.

We can’t wait to see what you create and to get to know you through your very own unique colorwork.


Icebreakers Are Terrible. They Also, Unfortunately, Work Really Well.

Posted on by Brandon Klein

And the third and most important purpose is encouraging people to talk about themselves. “That’s the foundation of relationships: self-disclosure,” he says. In new relationships, “we engage in self-disclosure over some period of time — typically lots of time — and icebreakers are simply meant to hasten that. They’re this opportunity to take what might happen naturally over several days or several hours and compress it into a few minutes.” Research backs this up: In one 1997 study, researchers were able to spark feelings of closeness between two volunteers by asking them to share things about themselves. At the end of the experiment, the pairs who engaged in self-disclosure described themselves as significantly closer than the pairs that engaged in small talk.

Susan Mohammed, a professor of industrial and organizational psychology at Penn State, says that the key to getting something out of an icebreaker is managing your expectations: At most, it’s just a start. It’s more like an ice-thawer. No one expects you to become best friends based on the two minutes you spend interviewing the person sitting to your left. No one expects you to trust someone with real, important things just because they caught you in a trust fall. “Icebreakers are generally a first step and they can be valuable in … getting people to know each other,” she says. “But in terms of group cohesion or deep levels of trust or psychological safety or an open climate, it’s just not going to be enough.”

Still, something has to get the ball rolling. “One of our theories of group formation, it starts with forming — that members have to get to know one another,” she says. That theory, known as Tuckman’s model, breaks group development into four stages: forming, in which group members begin to build trust, create a team identity, and start setting collective goals; storming, in which individual differences and conflicts emerge; norming, in which the group figures out how to resolve those conflicts and creates a greater sense of cohesion; and performing, in which everyone works together toward a common purpose. (There’s also a fifth, not-quite-rhyming phase, alternately known as mourning or adjourning, for when a group disbands.) Especially in a professional setting, she adds, “forming” can also be a way of building a transactive memory system — getting a sense of who knows what, so you know whom to rely on for different scenarios or parts of a project.

And even when the bonds it creates are superficial and temporary, both Villado and Mohammed say that an icebreaker can help to foster a sense of “psychological safety,” or an atmosphere in which people feel free to speak up — to question, criticize, say something out-there — without fear of being ostracized. “Having people do weird and crazy stuff, or step out and do something wild — having people feel kind of uncomfortable, basically — would begin to help foster that,” Mohammed says. You may hate every second of it, but you’re not the only one undergoing humiliation. If everyone in the room has to tell their life story in a silly voice, or mime their favorite thing to do on weekends, at least you all look stupid together.

Even the lowest, most cringe-inducing depths of silliness can still have a point, in other words. But the primary reason people hate icebreakers, Villado offers, is that most of them lack that sense of purpose. “I think part of it is people perceive that they’re not well thought out,” he says. “And nobody likes to sit through a meeting, a training, whatever it is, where it’s not purposeful, where someone hasn’t put time and effort into it.” At work, that’s time that could be used to cross more pressing things off your to-do list; in class, well, it’s hard to listen to the 15th person drone through name/major/hometown and not think those minutes would be better spent on sleeping in.

Another reason, Villado says, “is that we see what you’re trying to do. If I put you in a room with someone and say, ‘Get to know this person,’ it seems contrived and planned.”

“And of course it is. It is planned,” he adds. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.” He compares it to students’ reviews of their teachers, which have been shown to have little bearing on how much the students actually learned in the class. Similarly, “even if people don’t really enjoy the relationship-building that we’re trying to stimulate, trying to enhance here, it still works,” he says.

And one way to make people a little more engaged, Mohammed says, is to outline right off the bat what they’ll be doing, explain the goal of the icebreaker — are they there to build trust? learn something new about a person? figure out roles for a team? — and to reiterate those same points again once it’s all done.

“People want to know why this isn’t just a waste of time, or some goofy activity with no purpose,” she says. “Sometimes you do these and there’s no feedback [about] what happened here, what was the use of this, why was this worth investing in … to kind of debrief a little bit about where this went, and why it was valuable, can make a big difference.” You still don’t have to like it. But knowing why you’re stuck in this room with these strangers may make the whole thing just a little less painful. And anyway, if you do it right, at least you only have to do it once.


Excess Management Is Costing the U.S. $3 Trillion Per Year

Posted on by Brandon Klein

In total, then, there are 21.4 million employees in the U.S. workforce — 12.5 million managers and the equivalent of 8.9 million individual contributors, who, through no fault of their own, are creating little or no economic value. This means the U.S. could achieve current levels of economic output with 15% fewer people in the labor force. That would, in effect, boost GDP per worker from $120,000 to $141,000.

How a great conversation is like a game of catch

Posted on by Brandon Klein

As a radio host, Celeste Headlee has engaged in her fair share of discussions, and she’s thought a lot about how to bring out the best in a conversational counterpart. One thing she likes to say: A good conversation is like a game of catch. Huh? She explains.

When you play catch, you have to do an equal number of catches and throws, right? It’s not possible to play catch with somebody and throw more than you catch, for the most part. Because then you’d just be throwing baseballs at them, which is not nice. This is the exact same ratio as a healthy conversation — you’re going to catch as much as you throw. Which means, obviously, you’re going to talk 50% percent and listen 50% percent — and we don’t generally have that balance in our conversations.

The Neuroscience of Everybody's Favorite Topic

Posted on by Brandon Klein

 Human beings are social animals. We spend large portions of our waking hours communicating with others, and the possibilities for conversation are seemingly endless—we can make plans and crack jokes; reminisce about the past and dream about the future; share ideas and spread information. This ability to communicate—with almost anyone, about almost anything—has played a central role in our species’ ability to not just survive, but flourish.

How do you choose to use this immensely powerful tool—communication? Do your conversations serve as doorways to new ideas and experiences? Do they serve as tools for solving the problems of disease and famine?

Or do you mostly just like to talk about yourself?

If you’re like most people, your own thoughts and experiences may be your favorite topic of conversation.  On average, people spend 60 percent of conversations talking about themselves—and this figure jumps to 80 percent when communicating via social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook.

Why, in a world full of ideas to discover, develop, and discuss, do people spend the majority of their time talking about themselves? Recent research suggests a simple explanation: because it feels good.

Education Plus Data

Posted on by Brandon Klein

In The Moment Insight

Respond in real-time to student emotional needs and behavioral escalations.
Busy shouldn’t mean alone. Our collaboration tool brings your staff of experts together.

Support Social-Emotional outcomes with the same data-driven approach as your academics.
63% Reduction in Referrals
90% Teacher Engagement
6 Hours Saved Every Week

6 Second Hand Shake and Neuroscience

Posted on by Brandon Klein

You drastically underestimate the power of touch. Actually, I’m wrong…

The research says we’re really big on touching — our phones, that is. People touch their phones 85 times a day.

But how many times a day do you touch someone else? Probably not nearly as often. That’s kinda messed up, don’t ya think?

You need to touch people more. It will improve your life. Sound like Hallmark-Card-bumper-sticker-hippie-nonsense? Wrong.

What happens when babies are deprived of touch? It can screw them up for life. As David Linden, professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University writes, “Touch is not optional for human development.”

From Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind:

    But deprive a newborn of social touch, as occurred in grossly understaffed Romanian orphanages in the 1980s and 1990s, and a disaster unfolds: Growth is slowed, compulsive rocking and other self-soothing behaviors emerge, and, if not rectified, emergent disorders of mood, cognition, and self-control can persist through adulthood. Fortunately, even a relatively minor intervention— an hour per day of touch and limb manipulation from a caregiver— can reverse this terrible course if applied early in life. Touch is not optional for human development.

But you’re not a baby, right? Doesn’t matter. Linden says touch is still vital.

From Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind:

    The answer is that interpersonal touch is a crucial form of social glue. It can bind partners into lasting couples. It reinforces bonds between parents and their children and between siblings. It connects people in the community and in the workplace, fostering emotions of gratitude, sympathy, and trust.

Saying that touch helps with relationships might seem obvious but the research shows touch improves nearly every area of your life. For instance: want to know the secret to success they don’t teach in any MBA program?


Yeah. Smooches. Don’t worry; I’ll explain…

Business Model Templates

Posted on by Brandon Klein

The Business Model Gallery Design Themes
Proven strategies to design successful business models.

The Business Model Gallery design themes are a collection of patterns, themes and strategies used to delineate business model building blocks. Use them as inspiration and blueprints for designing your business models.

The best way to do this, is to look at the design theme and ask yourself, what would this mean for our business?

For each design theme we provide a short explanation, some key questions you can ask yourself and links to models in the Business Model Gallery, illustrating the design theme in practice.
Key Partners

    Affiliation (5)
    Collaborative Production (4)
    Crowdsourcing (1)
    Franchise (2)
    Unbundling / Bundling (5)

Key Activities

    Collaborative Production (3)
    Crowdsourcing (7)
    Efficiency (8)
    Horizontal Expertise (11)
    New / different activities (4)
    New / different links between activities (1)
    Open Source (3)
    Outsourcing / Insourcing (4)
    Unbundling / Bundling (6)
    Vertical Integration (3)

Key Resources

    1 Asset > Multiple Customer Segments (8)
    Unbundling / Bundling (4)

Value Propositions

    Accessibility (17)
    Collaborative Consumption (5)
    Complementary Offerings (15)
    Convenience (13)
    Cost Reduction / Affordability (4)
    Customization (13)
    Design (8)
    Ease of Use (4)
    Efficiency (11)
    Emotions (Image) (8)
    Extras (1)
    Features (15)
    Getting Things Done (5)
    No Frills (11)
    Ownership vs. Access (1)
    Performance (5)
    Price (5)
    Product as service (11)
    Rent instead of buy (9)
    Risk Reduction (1)
    Service as Product (1)
    Solution Provider (14)

Customer Relationships

    Community (28)
    Customer Intimacy (5)
    Do-it-yourself (1)
    Gamification (1)
    Lock-in (3)
    Long tail (5)
    Mass Customization (5)
    Multisided Platform (23)
    Peer-to-Peer (14)
    Self-service (13)
    Shop-in-shop (4)
    Supermarket (3)
    User designed (4)


    Digitalization (19)
    Direct Selling (3)
    Distribution (17)
    E-Commerce (7)
    Franchise (1)
    Indirect Selling (1)
    Licensing (4)
    Multi-Channel (2)

Customer Segments

    Desegmented (1)
    Least satisfied (1)
    Leverage existing customers (2)
    Mass Market (21)
    Most profitable (2)
    Most satisfied (4)
    Niche Market (5)
    Non-customers (1)
    Segmented (4)

Cost Structure

    Crowdfunding (4)
    From fixed to variable costs (3)
    Marginal cost (3)

Revenue Streams

    Advertising (19)
    Asset Sale (11)
    Commission (14)
    Donation (1)
    Dynamic Pricing (1)
    Fixed Prices (1)
    Flat Rate (4)

Participatory Organizations, Patterns, Processes & Tools — An Overview & Taxonomy

Posted on by Brandon Klein

By Christopher Allen — — Licensed CC-BY-SA 4.0

I have been both a practitioner in, and an observer of, participatory organizations for some time. This is my very opinionated guide as to some the best practices of participatory organizations based on my experience, and some to offer some possible shared language about those practices so that we can talk about them further.

First, why do I use the word "organization" rather than a broader word like "group" or a more specific word like "corporation"?

The definition of "organization" is "an organized body of people with a particular purpose, especially a business, society, association, etc.". As the word doesn't define how groups of people work together, only that they have a purpose--I find it suitably generic. I also think it is important to differentiate between groups of people that have a purpose as opposed to groups that do not. A mob does not have a purpose, nor do many affiliations who share something in common such as being red-headed or living in the same neighborhood. A community, an open source project, a non-profit, a corporation, are groups that all have a purpose. I want to focus on groups with a purpose.

Next, what do I mean when I qualify a subset of organizations by using the word "participatory"?

The definition of participate is "to take or have a portion" and the root of the word comes from the latin ‘participare’ meaning "to share in". Participation, more specifically in our western culture, also implies fairness in such sharing.

Thus a "participatory organization" is a group of people who share a purpose and share, in a fair fashion, the effort and the results of achieving that purpose. Organizations can come in many forms and sizes, can have a wide variety of purposes, work together in wide variety of ways, and can achieve many different results, but participatory organizations share.

There are a wide variety of terms for related practices: self-managing organization, flat organizations, cooperatives, collaboratives, etc. however, I've often found these terms too narrow — often focusing on a specific kind of group, a specific process or method, or share the work without fairly sharing the results of that work. However, there are many valuable things to learn from these related practices.

The advantages of involvement in participatory organizations are numerous, but there is a cost. In order to fairly share the work and the achievements from the work, there are a wide variety of practices (skills, knowledge, communications, methods, processes, and tools) that must be learned and used by the members of organization. These require both investment of time & energy to learn, as well as time & energy on an ongoing basis to function.

There is one particular personal bias that I have about participatory organization practices — I favor patterns over specific processes or tools. I feel too often practitioners get lost — a process that worked in one specific case causes problems in another, a great tool is too much effort or becomes a distraction, or either a process or a tool is manipulated by someone to cause unfair results. Focusing on patterns allows for flexibility to make sure that fair results are achieved.

Discovering common patterns in processes and tools is difficult — it requires learning differing shared languages and approaches, energy for real-world practice to experience them, time to deepen understanding & analysis, and sufficiently different examples of different disciplines to see what patterns they have in common.

This document shares my explorations so far into discovering patterns in a participatory organization practices, starting mostly with a taxonomy and inventory of existing practices. It is an opinionated guide--however, most of these practices I've not had sufficent time and experience with them to say that my early opinions are correct. Thus I welcome your own experience and am quite willing to change my mind.