You’re STILL Not Listening to Podcasts?

For the truly unaware, let me explain that a podcast is so named because it is a form of broadcasting that was designed and packaged to be playable on portable devices like the Apple iPod. You can read for yourself the history of podcasting, but suffice it to say that from humble and technically restrictive origins, the podcast has come a very long way. Today, there are multiple ways to listen to podcasts and you can do so using almost any device (phone, laptop, desktop, tablet) and even synchronize you listening so you can start an episode on one device and finish it on another.

Now, I love me some music, and I’m not likely to give up my Sirius XM subscription soon (or Pandora, or Spotify) but more often these days, I’ll listen to a podcast instead of E Street Radio, especially when I’m driving, and especially when the trip is going to take longer than just a few minutes. Podcasts are also great in other situations where watching a screen is difficult or impossible, like during a workout, or on a sunny day at the beach.

Podcast listening is extremely common – over 42 million Americans listen to a podcast each week – and the audience grows year in and year out at a rate of about 10% per year. (see more statistics, if you’re interested), The number of podcasts available is also growing and may well top 200,000 as of this writing.

Using popular apps (I like Pocket Casts) probably represents the best way to find an access point to large libraries of podcasts, but it’s also possible to stream a podcast direct from the originator’s web site. For example, a lot of NPR radio broadcasts (like Fresh Air) are available as podcasts right from the program site. Finding podcasts you want to listen to may take some trial and error, although Top Podcasts of the Year Lists are prevalent, including this group of 50 from The Atlantic. You can also find podcast listings for specific interests, like History (I’m happy to see they included a favorite, “The Dollop”), Business, or creative folks. We’ll explore some of these areas further in future editions of TNT.

Oh, and when you find a podcast you really enjoy, be sure to look into the options for subscribing, which will give you the opportunity to know when new episodes are made available and often access to archives as well. Happy listening!

Take This Challenge – See Your Future!

recent HBR article provides the backdrop for a challenge I would like to suggest to anyone who feels the pressure to envision the future of their organization – and if you aren’t feeling this pressure, you should be.

John Boudreau, USC Marshall School of Business professor, Research Director for the school’s Center for Effective Organizations, and well-respected management expert, examines the future of work as it evolves along two axes, neither of which are speculative, as we are seeing transitions on both fronts in nearly every field of business and commerce.

The first measurement index is the degree of “Democratization of Work”, influenced and indicated by the extent to which a workplace sees a reconfiguration of social and organization relationships and foundations, the wide expansion of the talent market as it becomes both easier and more acceptable to employ workers without traditional geographical and even cultural constraints, and the nearly ubiquitous connectability that has come about in the past decade, leading to far more communication and collaboration, teamwork and shared leadership. The second measure is the degree of “Technological Empowerment” which builds on the connectability already mentioned and also includes the logarithmic explosion in technology development – think robots, self-driving (autonomous) vehicles, wearable devices, and the ability to connect almost any device to any other (the IoT). Add in the interface of humans and automated devices that characterizes the gains we see in the world of Artificial Intelligence and you begin to get the picture, and an amazing picture it is (for most of us)!

The quadrant graph that emerges is thus one in which the status quo represents the core block, and, as titled by Boudreau, the work that evolves through increased democratization is “Work Reimagined” and that which emerges from greater development and implementation of technology is “Work, Turbo Charged”

So here’s your challenge. Imagine first that nothing changes technologically, but that you can expand the work you do and the people you reach by accessing new, global platforms, increasing project-based work, connecting and utilizing freelancers, contract workers, part-timers and consultants and even using contest or crowd-sourced methods to define some or all of what you do. What would your new “Reimagined” workplace look like? How could you be more successful than you are today? What changes would these novel approaches bring to your compensation systems, your hiring processes, your bottom line? This will give you an idea of what “Work, Reimagined” might look like at your company.

Now, assume that nothing changes in the structure, composition, and deployment of your workforce, but you have access to supportive technology like never before and can employ cloud-based training, effective remote supervision and monitoring, local devices and smart device based apps to support your workers’ efforts and your overall ability to manage those efforts. You are beginning to get a glimpse of what a “Turbocharged Today” might look like for you.

If you really want to get excited, combine the two approaches. Technological advances, coupled with a new democratization of work structures usually go hand in hand, and have a synergistic effect on one another. Boudreau calls this collective, evolving space the “Uber Empowered” workplace in which both the type of work arrangements and the technologies employed are advancing together. Can you imagine how that would play out in your work-space?

Be assured that some of your competitors are engaging in just such efforts as I have been describing and that some of them are using the vision and insights that result from these exercises to strategically plan what the future of their company (and your industry) will look like. I hope you will too!

Crowdfunding…Is It Right For Your Nonprofit?

As if things weren’t already challenging enough for most nonprofit organizations, what with government funds being cut off in midstream in desperate budget-balancing attempts, and increased competition for grant dollars, there are also recent reports that revenues from “big events” like golf tournaments and galas are slipping. Even some of the biggest, most venerable efforts like the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life (- 12%) and the Susan G. Komen Race/Walk for the Cure (-38%) recording distinctive funding drop-offs.

It is becoming clear that a nonprofit interested in sustained progress in mission fulfillment must invest some time and talent in determining ways to diversify their funding sources, and pursuing new pathways to finding the money needed for the future.

With the continuing trend of online Social Media related tools seemingly eating everything alive, it is not unexpected to find that various online tools are moving into the forefront of many organizations’ fundraising methodology. One idea that is being seriously considered and increasingly utilized by nonprofits is crowdfunding. It may be time to consider if this strategy is right for your organization.

In case you have been living in a digital “safe house” for the last few years, here is a short primer on crowdfunding.  In simplest terms, crowdfunding refers to the practice of soliciting, usually via the Internet, smaller donations from large numbers of people, as opposed to looking for “big hitters” who can write fat checks to support or invest in a venture. The principles are generally the same for any effort, and may seem deceptively simple. Have a good idea, determine what type of effort you will mount (examples include reward/premium based campaigns, equity projects, and charity efforts), tell a good story, get people to share the message online, and rake in the cash! Of course, it is far from that easy. Each of the steps just listed has its own challenges and putting them all together may not bring the hoped for results. Kickstarter (see below for more information) notes that about 12% of projects never raise a penny, and most of their successful efforts have brought in under $10,000 – usually by design. The company also notes that nearly 80% of their hosted projects raise more than 20% of their goal amounts.

These concerns aside, crowdfunding has been used successfully by artists, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs of all stripes. A few campaigns have been singularly successful. In 2012, the Pebble Watch attracted more than $10 million in donations, and an online game development company is currently continuing to attract crowdfunded investments which are reportedly in excess of $70 million as of last report.

It does appear that crowdfunding is becoming a well-established means of raising money, and because of this, it is important that nonprofit organizations consider this tool as one which might belong in their toolbox for now and the future. Before you jump in with both feet, here are some considerations.

Evaluate crowdfunding platforms

There are a variety of platforms available for nonprofits to consider using the “host” their fundraising event. The best known of these is probably Kickstarter, which has been the destination for over 80,000 campaigns and has helped raise over $1.6 billion dollars since its establishment in 2009. Other notable platforms include Fundable, Indiegogo, Fundrazr, and SeedInvest, and more platforms are appearing all of the time. Deciding which is right for your nonprofit may require you to do some investigative work, evaluating things like ease of use (for you and your donors), cost, visual appeal, integration with other Social Media platforms and so forth.

Learn the Tricks of Successful Crowdfunding

Telling a good story is crucial to successful crowdfunding, as you may only have one shot at convincing a viewer that your effort is worthy of their contribution. The visitor will want to know what your organization stands for, whether you are viable or not, what you intend to do with the money, and how you will assess and report your successes. Deciding whether, and what you might give out as a premium or reward in exchange for contributions can also be important. Some groups will offer giveaways like t-shirts or ball caps, or written acknowledgment of the contributor, while others rely on the “good feeling” approach that often accompanies charitable donations – the giving of the gift is reward in and of itself.

The biggest contributor to success is attracting eyeballs, since the more visitors to your crowdfunding site, the more likely it is that you will reap rewards. Most organizations will be well advised to insure that they already have an established Social Media plan and presence, including a Twitter account, Facebook page, and LinkedIn presence. Robust email campaigning is also valuable in attracting visitors and ultimately, donors.

If you have access to traditional local media, such as newspapers,  or radio and television outlets, use these as well to announce your fundraising efforts and provide the information consumers need to link to your crowdfunding site. The vast majority of fundraising for most nonprofits is still local despite the ubiquity and universality of the Internet.

Consider Using External Resources

A crowdfunding effort requires a certain level of investment of time, and some funding. One thing many organizations will need to consider is the available resources, particularly human capital, they currently dedicate to fundraising. If you choose to try crowdfunding, who is going to do the work and – more importantly – what will they NOT be doing because of the time commitment to the crowdfunding effort. It might be in a nonprofit’s best interests to outsource the work to a consulting organization rather than divert their in-house experts from other critical tasks.

Of course, nonprofits should stay alert to the seductiveness of fundraising fads. One-off ideas like the “ice bucket challenge” or the Livestrong rubber bracelets are fun and can even make some significant revenue, but these strategies – and crowdfunding may be one of them – do not result in a sustainable funding strategy – and sustainability is a very important part of any nonprofits strategic planning.

If you need to know more, please contact us at Innovaision, and we will be happy to talk to you about the “fitness” of crowdfunding for your nonprofit.

Podcasts for Creative and Innovative Listeners

Are you PodLearning yet? Podcasting is “trending hot” now, with literally thousands of choices available for you. If you aren’t in on this yet, it’s time to get savvy. Podcasts are most often audio, sometimes video files which can be downloaded and listened to or watched at your leisure. The ability to choose what you want to tune in to, to listen on your own schedule, and to pause and come back to later makes the podcast a very desirable alternative to commercial radio or television, and the low cost of producing a podcast allows most developers to offer them for free – sometimes with a brief “word from our sponsor(s) at the beginning. The options on your iTunes and related I”players” (I use and iPod nano myself), as well as the prevalence of a variety of podcatchers as apps or software for your laptop allows you to download multiple streams, listen to episodes in serial, and keep up to date via feed subscriptions.

People are listening to podcasts when they awaken and are getting ready to start their day, at the gym, jogging, and driving in their cars. My iPod plugs into my car radio (USB) and I use it so often I am probably going to discontinue my satellite radio subscription! It’s great for long trips or commutes in particular.

As you might expect, the majority of the most listened to podcasts fit into the general category of entertainment. One hot entry, Serial, about a murder and subsequent investigation, leaped to the top of the popularity list last fall. It was produced by staff from This American Life, the number two most often accessed podcast. Others include Radiolab, Freakonomics, and the humor/quiz show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!

Still, there are many podcasts that are not necessarily chart-toppers, but have solid following, and a lot of these are more educational, instructional, or (dare I say) cerebral. Several of them should be of particular interest to those who are looking to feed their creative side, or energize their innovative spirit. Here, in no particular order, are seven that you should look into. The links below will help you see what is available and decide if you would like to tune in, but to listen you may have to load the podcasts on your ITunes or your Podcatcher. Happy Listening!

Innovation Hub  From Public Radio International (PRI). The “thinkers, researchers, authors and visionaries who are crafting our future.”

The Accidental Creative  Generally featuring interviews with very creative people.

Innovation that Sticks  Particularly geared to those who are interested in how innovation and technology will affect healthcare.

Killer Innovations  Former HP executive Phil McKinney talks about developing prize winning products and technologies.

HBR Ideacast  From the Editors of Harvard Business Review, some of the best information about how business is being reinvented every day.

The Everyday Innovator  “Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators”.

Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series  Produced every week throughout the academic year.

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