Register  |   Contact Us  | 

8 Tips to Help you Get Promoted in 2014

Posted on  19 December 13  by 


Getting Promoted in 2014As you begin to set your performance goals for 2014, what are some ways that you can start to think, act, and communicate like a leader to help you get that promotion you’ve been looking for? In her article titled, “Act Like a Leader Before You Are One,” Amy Gallo, contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, says it’s never too early – even if you are still several levels away from your dream promotion, there are numerous ways that you can start to successfully carve your path to success.


Amy provides eight tips below to help you get where you want:

  1. Knock your responsibilities out of the park – Don’t let your ambitions get in the way of excelling at your current role. Focus on the present as much as, or more than the future so that no one can question your performance.
  2. Help your boss succeed – If you can make your boss look good, then you look good. Find out what challenges he or she is struggling with, and come up with solutions for those problems. When asked to help with something, lean more towards yes than no. Use our Market Insights Action Toolkit to access guides, checklists, examples, and templates on topics ranging from strategic functional management to tactical market research activities.
  3. Seize leadership opportunities no matter what – Find activities, big and small, within your team and with others, inside your organization and outside, to help signal that you have the right kind of leadership potential.
  4. Look for the white space – Look for projects in the ‘white space’ – problems that others either don’t know exist or aren’t willing to take on.
  5. Don’t be a jerk – There’s a fine line between ambition and arrogance – don’t cross the line. What you should aim for is “humble confidence”, says Jen Su, coauthor of Own the Room.
  6. Be cautious when sharing your ambitions – Share your ambitions with a manager you trust and make sure to focus on what’s best for the company. Engage in a two-way conversation and gain feedback on how you can continue to make strategic contributions to the business.
  7. Find role models – Learn from other’s successes and failures – find individuals who have the roles that you want, and learn from them. But don’t forget to look at those who are stuck in their career as a lesson of what not to do.
  8. Build relationships – At all times be prepared to answer the question, “What are you up to?” –not just to your boss, but to any senior executive at your organization. You need to build the right relationships, you need to know who your supporters are across the organization, folks who are aware of the work you’re doing – this will help your manager make an easier decision while evaluating you for a promotion.

Businesses should adapt faster, or perish

Posted on  18 December 13  by 


Once upon a time, consumers talked about ‘Kodak moments’ in describing their perfect vacation. Kodak, the giant in film and imaging dominated the global market in film camera and photography. Then a huge wave of digital photography engulfed them. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and exited with only their commercial digital operations. Similar to Kodak, bookstore chain Borders, and entertainment chain Blockbuster, once considered giants in their industries, do not exist anymore.

A common theme among businesses that are struggling is the inability to adapt to emerging trends and technologies. This requires agility and foresight- the ability to see beyond the obvious and spot those trends. Market Insights also have a role to play in this process. Yearly planning is important, but rapid changes in global economies, consumer demand and technological advancements can render yearly planning moot. In the moment, ad-hoc projects have big roles to play for most companies to retain their competitive advantage. Market Insights teams can play a big role here.

In collaboration with business partners, the Market Insights team of Deere and Co. evaluates ad hoc requests for research to ensure their business keeps ahead of competitors. By eliminating projects that have limited potential and researching projects with broader reach and business impact, Deere ensures business partners have the most current and relevant trends at hand.

Market Insights members can learn more about Deere’s Research Request Evaluation Process and download our full study on Activating Disruptive Insights.

7 Topics You Should Never Talk About

This week’s guest post comes from Jeff Schott, our colleague with the CEB Communications Leadership Council.  We’ve added a Market Insights spin to help with your specific communications challenges.

Every morning, during my commute to work, I listen to a radio podcast from one of my top five favorite programs. The usual rotation includes the TED Radio Hour, Planet Money, Snap Judgment, RadioLab, and the program whose recent episode inspired this post, This American Life.

As someone who spends his days researching Communications, I was highly intrigued when I saw the title of their new episode – Episode 511: The Seven Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About. I was certain I could correctly guess a handful. My guesses? Politics and religion, for sure; all things related to sexuality; probably ethnicity.

Imagine my surprise when none, not a single one, of my guesses appeared on their list. Zero.

I fought my first instinct to write it off as “a terrible list” and decided to keep listening as they described the criteria. The list was taken from 19th century French etiquette guidelines. The topics on their list were off limits not so much because they were controversial, but because they were boring to others. Here’s the list.

  1. Don’t talk about how you slept… because no one cares
  2. Don’t talk about your health… because no one cares
  3. Don’t talk about your diet… (I think you get the picture)
  4. Don’t talk about your “woman” problems
  5. Don’t talk about your dreams
  6. Don’t talk about your commuting challenges
  7. Don’t talk about your money (more so because it is decidedly “vulgar” rather than boring)

Two things struck me about the nature of the things on this list. The first seemed pretty obvious — all seven, perhaps with the exception of “money,” are typically brought up in the form of a complaint. “I drank caffeine late last night and couldn’t get to sleep until 3 AM. I feel horrible today!” or “You’ll never believe how bad traffic was on the way to the office. There was an accident on the highway…”

Takeaway #1 = Listening to others’ complaints is boring, if not annoying.

The second thing that struck me is more obvious when you see the list written out. All seven off-limit topics are about YOU — “your health,” “your bad commute,” “your dream,” etc. I can’t share in the experience (except to offer my own complaints) because it happened to you and only you.

Takeaway #2 = Listening to others talk about things that only they, themselves, can relate to is boring.

I couldn’t help but think that this second point nicely illustrates a challenge we’ve seen in insight communication over the last few years.  If Market Insights aren’t careful about how they present findings and recommendations, stakeholders will tune them out.

We have seen how leading MI departments think smarter about embedding knowledge throughout the organization and ensuring that insights, even those that require a change to existing business practice, are acted upon.  And you do have to do more than just talk about YOUR insights: it’s all about building and applying business acumen.

We recently pulled some tools and tactics together into an Insight Activation Toolkit to help you plan for actionability at 3 stages:

  1. Before insight generation: planning for organizational resistance and finding supporters and detractors.
  2. Publicizing insights: exploiting existing information flows within the organization and engineering learning moments to make the insights stick.
  3. Re-introducing insights: prioritizing existing insights for re-introduction based on business opportunity and available bandwidth for action.

I think a big takeaway from this list that many of us can benefit from is to talk less about “me” and more about “we.” It is through these “we” conversations that we spark two-way dialogue and build connections.

Holiday Gift Guide: Best Business Books of 2013

Posted on  17 December 13  by 


If you’re anything like me, you probably spend this month alternating between excitement for the holidays and extreme anxiety over last minute holiday shopping.

Luckily, strategy+business recently released its list of Best Business Books for 2013. It may not be helpful if you’re stuck on ideas for your kids, but for a colleague or friend (or yourself), this just might do the trick.

Here’s their list of “top shelf” business books of 2013 (in no particular order):

The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business
by Rita Gunther McGrath
(Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

Story of My People
by Edoardo Nesi
(Other Press, 2013)

Rough Diamonds: The Four Traits of Successful Breakout Firms in BRIC Countries
by Seung Ho Park, Nan Zhou, and Gerardo R. Ungson
(Jossey-Bass, 2013)

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think
by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)

Simple: Conquering the Crisis  of Complexity
by Alan Siegel and Irene  Etzkorn
(Twelve, 2013)

Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling
by Edgar H. Schein
(Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013)

Everybody Ought to Be Rich: The Life and Times of John J. Raskob, Capitalist
by David Farber
(Oxford University Press, 2013)

For more ideas, check out the full list of best business books, divided by category. CEB Market Insights members might naturally be interested in the section on Marketing, but this year’s section on Digitization features some intriguing books on big data and new ideas like socialstructing and spreadable media.

Planning to Plan

Posted on  11 December 13  by 


In our time-constrained world, we are always planning our next steps. My favorite comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that we plan to go out, and as soon as we are out, we start planning to go back home. The reality is not much different. In business, we plan daily, weekly, monthly and yearly activities. To prepare for next year, CEB Market Insights has just released benchmark data to help members plan resource allocation for the next year.

Most Market Insights functions also plan a research agenda for the year ahead. There are two things members need to keep in mind as they embark on this research planning process:

  1. Plan your agenda based on needs of the business.
    While Market Insights functions are increasingly attuned with business needs, it helps to involve business partners in the process as well. See how Lilly uses the IWIK (I Wish I Knew) process to frame their annual research agenda and in the process ensures business partners are ready to act on the insight.
  2. Leave room for ad-hoc projects
    Planning ahead is useful, but short term needs necessitate ad-hoc projects. Watch out for my next blog on navigating ad-hoc projects in a few weeks.

Market Insights members can read more about the IWIK process and access the full case study.

Behavioral Economics Lessons for the Holiday Shopping Season

Posted on  10 December 13  by 


Snow ShoppingBehavioral economics can provide some powerful clues as to how and why we shop the way we do. From explaining the power of free trial offers, to why “buy one get one free” offers are so successful, behavioral economics works to explain the why behind the buy. During the holiday shopping frenzy, there is a lot of buying going around, coupled with quite a lot of “why”. Quite a few articles have been written over the past couple of years linking behavioral economics principles to holiday shopping realities. Here’s what the crux of what these articles teach us:

1. Nobody really likes the gifts they’re given (but there are reasons we keep giving)

Studies show that our friends and family don’t like the gifts we are getting them, but we keep buying and wrapping anyways. Long lines at the service desk the week after Christmas remind us that, 10 to 15 percent of all holiday sales head back to the store as returns. In a Bloomberg blog post, the author interviews University of Minnesota economist Joel Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics: Why you shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays. The main reason we fail at gift-giving is what Waldfogel terms the Egocentric Bias—people tend to think others are like them, and will like the same things they will. So, just because you like that purple polka-dotted sweater, does not mean your uncle will too.

But, gift giving is not that irrational when we step back and remember that gift giving is really a social, rather than economic endeavor. Rather than trying to maximize value, we usually give to maximize social connection (described in a Wall Street Journal piece by Dan Ariely here). It really is the thought that counts. Perhaps skip Black Friday, and instead focus on Giving Tuesday, making a donation to a charity your friend/family member cares about.

2. Stay home on Black Friday

(Preface: if you’ve already bought a bargain basement priced flat-screen and managed to avoid serious injury, I applaud you for your efforts).

A quote from a New York Magazine article really sums this one up best: “among the most potent reasons no sane person should participate in Black Friday is this: It is carefully designed to make you behave like an idiot.” CEB Recently published a list of behavioral economics principles as part of our whitepaper Applying Behavioral Economics to Market Insights, here are some that we see in practice on black Friday:

  • Scarcity effect: Consumers are drawn to and value what they perceive as rare and unusual. On Black Friday, this could better be termed the trampling effect.  If there are only 10 sale TV’s in the store, whether they are really that much cheaper than the TV’s were the day before gets thrown out of consideration in a mad dash to have one of the few.
  • Confirmation bias: We expect there to be good deals on Black Friday, therefore there are (or, we think there are). In reality, we have no idea what things should cost, and use biases and heuristics to determine value.  Long lines and giant “50% savings!” signs skew our ability to make good judgment calls.

Holiday shopping season, with all its craziness, is a particularly fun and interesting time to think about behavioral economics. But the findings and suggestions about how and why people behave are important when coming up with new insights about customers and consumers throughout the year. CEB Market Insights Leadership Council members, learn more about how and when to use behavioral economics in our whitepaper Applying Behavioral Economics to Market Insights.

10 Things to Never Say at Work

Posted on  9 December 13  by 


What-not-to-say-at-work-150x150Things can get tough at work. But lots of times, people – myself included, sometimes! – get bogged down to the point of negativity and non-constructiveness. In other words, we complain about challenges instead of doing what we can to meet them. Everyone does it sometimes, but it’s important to avoid consistently giving the impression that you’re not willing to do what it takes to get the job done. In that spirit, here are ten things to avoid saying at work:


1) “That’s not my job.”

The Great Recession, and the reduction in headcount that came with it, has put workers in a tough spot: they’re increasingly asked to do things that were not a part of their original job description and that conflict significantly with their core duties, necessitating longer hours to compensate. We’re “doing more with less!”

The next request you get from your boss very well might not be your job, but a more proactive approach is to treat time and expertise as a constraint, and manage against them. “Well, I have project X and Y due next week, and I’m not sure how to use Database Z; should I push those projects back, and who should I link up with to discuss the database?”

2) “I’m too busy.”

Again, with headcount dropping, it can often feel like we’re completing and managing a dozen tasks at once, all with near-in deadlines. And, inevitably, the time will come when you’re asked to do a task that’s simply a bridge too far – the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

This is a difficult situation to be in, and in difficult times it’s easy to let emotions take over and brusquely respond that you’re simply too busy to take on the task. But the better way is to be proactive, let people know what kind of deadlines you’re looking at, and ask what, if anything, should be sacrificed to take on the new task.  CEB Market Insights members, check out our resources for prioritization and  check out our recommendations for executing fast-turnaround research.

3) “I don’t know.”

As tasks get more complex, there will almost certainly be the occasional gap between what you know and what you need to know.

The key thing to do here is to get specific and figure out a strategy for meeting those gaps. “I’m happy to help, but I’m not sure exactly how to go about doing this, who should I talk with to learn more?”  CEB Market Insights members, check out our resources on making data collaboration easier and tapping personal motivators to encourage collaboration.

4) “This is how we’ve always done it.”

Simply put: for many companies, there is no better time than now to begin re-thinking the “way you’ve always done it.” Many corporate business models are under fundamental attack from startups able to compete at scale through the web, and the gradually-improving economy means there will be lots of chances for growth – and process changes that make growth possible – in the near future.  Our entire study this year featured tactics to get action on disruptive insights: insights that require a change in how our organization does business.

That said, there needs to be a good reason to overturn an established approach. Next time someone wants to throw out the playbook, make sure you use your judgment and experience to determine if the changes make sense.

5) “I don’t have anything to do.”

In our modern, complex corporate environment, there is almost zero chance that this is true. If you’ve run out of paper to push, start thinking about ways you can improve your personal or team processes to make your work more efficient. If you’ve optimized those, ask people if they need any help with anything. If no one else needs help, start thinking about new products or services your group could create that would add value to your firm.

You get the idea. If you think of your job where you do a defined task for a pre-determined length of time, then go home, your chances of getting ahead are small. Take advantage of lax times to add even more value to what you’re already doing, and to use existing information to synthesize new insights.

6) “That’s not fair!”

OK, first things first: it probably isn’t.

By the time most of us reach working age, we have a pretty well-developed intuition about right and wrong, fair and unfair, and if something strikes us as unfair, there’s a good chance that we’re right. But the problem is – that doesn’t matter. Life in general isn’t fair, and life at work is particularly unfair.

That being said – if you’re being seriously taken advantage of, speak up; if something legally-actionable is happening to you (if you’re being sexually harassed, for instance), don’t stand for it. But for more everyday unfairness – for colleagues that get paid more for doing the same job as you, for being passed up for the promotion for the fifth time – don’t just complain, make a plan to end it.

7) “I have another offer, but I want to stay here. Can you match?”

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go get other offers. You should! Aggressively seek positions that’ll pay you what you’re worth (whether it’s in money, work/life balance, job satisfaction, or some combination thereof).

But leveraging outside offers for raises with your current employer rarely works out. It isn’t fair, but bringing another offer to your boss almost certainly will be seen as a sign of disloyalty, and it’ll be assumed that you’ll ship out as soon as a better offer comes available. You might find yourself at the top of the layoff list and paradoxically out of a job not too long after.

8) “Don’t ask me, I just work here.”

“I just work here” is the quintessential expression of powerlessness. “I just work here” says “while I am here, I don’t do things, things are done to me.” It’s usually something someone says when they’re not a part of key decisions that affect their jobs.

The key to making this better isn’t to complain about it – as tempting and as cathartic as it might seem. You have to find ways to make yourself part of those key conversations that will impact the way you do your work and how you’re measured.  CEB Market Insights members, use our business problem solving tools to help broaden your perspective so that you can contribute to conversations across the organization.

9) “It’s all my fault”.

This is a tricky one. Obviously, it’s good to take ownership over mistakes you’ve made and figure out how to improve. Trust me, people who own up to their mistakes ultimately make it farther in life than people who pretend that they do no wrong.

But don’t own up to too much – not because you want to avoid responsibility, but because unless you’ve been actively negligent or destructive, chances are it’s not really all your fault. Our work occurs in a complex organization called “the corporation”, and things that happen in one part of the corporation can very easily affect other parts without there being fault involved. So admit fault when necessary, but think systemically – why did the failure really happen? – to ensure you and your team move on and improve.

10) “I deserve a promotion.”

You probably do! But remember, corporations and life in general aren’t fair, and things go to those who a) ask for them and b) have earned them – however “earned” might be defined.

Chances are, if your organization is a big one, there are somewhat-objective standards for promotion to the level that you want to advance to. Find out what they are, and outline exactly how you compare against those standards. Beyond that, what have you personally done for your boss? What kind of unique, relatively irreplaceable contributions can you point to? How do you make your team work better?

Please Click Here, We Need the Metrics

Posted on  4 December 13  by 


Cursor and handWe have been hearing from members who are looking to improve the readership of their email communications.  As the owner of the CEB Market Insights newsletter, I know where you’re coming from: looking to improve communication is about more than seeing upticks in your open and click-through metrics; it’s about ensuring your insights are shared with the right people at the right time.

But the newsletter/internal email metrics Market Insights tracks can give us an idea of the impact we’re having on decision making—the first step to embedding customer understanding is to ensure our business partners see our insights.  I turned to my colleagues at CEB Communications to understand “typical” internal email readership, and the news seems pretty good: more than one-quarter of respondents achieved 60% readership or more, and only 4% observed less than 20% readership for internal newsletters.  (CEB Communications members can access more internal newsletter benchmarks here)

Do your insights communications fall into a similar level of readership?  And is 60% readership considered a successful rate when we’re communicating essential customer understanding?  I spent some time researching techniques to boost email readership, and here are some of the more actionable recommendations I found:

Subject Lines:

  • Keep them brief:  Under 50 characters seems to be a popular rule, but for those of you who receive the CEB Market Insights newsletter, you know this is a rule that I myself cannot master.
  • Be precise:  Related to the point above, but with the added recommendation that you avoid vague or misleading language.
  • Use your brand:  You can do this in the subject line or the from name/email address.  We have spoken with many Market Insights departments who have created their own internal brand or logo.  Microsoft, for example, provides its “stamp of approval” on data and insights that come from its group to show that they are vetted, high quality results.  You could see how creating a specific “from” name and using consistent subject lines could train business partners to open future emails based on the quality level of past communiqués.

Overall Tone:

  • Make it catchy up-front:  Most email applications preview some portion of the message before it’s opened.  Take advantage of this by putting snappy, counterintuitive findings up-front; what they see in the preview pane may be enough to convince them to open and continue reading.
  • Use humor: Remember that you are people sending messages to people.  Use human, conversational scripting and humor to make things interesting and memorable.
  • Provide a roadmap: When it’s easy for business partners to see where they can use the insights you’re communicating, the right people are more likely to read on.  A number of our members have had success using a customer journey model as a type of “you are here” to show business partners where your insight fits in to business needs.
  • Re-communicate: Don’t be afraid to re-introduce existing insights in your communications.  Monsanto prioritizes older insights for time and strategic relevance, because timing is everything when you’re trying to educate your business partners.

What tips and tricks do you use to cut through your business partners’ email clutter?  I’d love to hear about your strategies in the comments section below!

Related member resources:

Source Articles:

The Question You Must Ask Before Working with Another Supplier

Posted on  2 December 13  by 


Supplier PartnershipLooking back on all of the suppliers you’ve worked with – has every supplier performed perfectly, without sub-optimal work product, communication hiccups, or delays? Probably not.

And this is the frustrating reality about working with suppliers sometimes – aren’t they supposed to, well, supply? Aren’t they supposed to do work that your team cannot complete because of time constraints, staff skill orientation, or budget? How can we make suppliers do a better job for us?

But this is the problem – asking how we can get suppliers to provide higher quality, timelier work is exactly the wrong question.

The question to ask is – How can we get strategic suppliers to work with us in the most optimal way?

Reckitt Benckiser, the multinational consumer goods company, has “Supplier Onboarding Protocols,” in which the Market Insights team works with suppliers as extensions of their internal staff to develop and cement ongoing, productive thought-partnerships. Here are the 3 steps:

1. Help your suppliers help you: provide as much information as you are comfortable with while employing safeguards to mitigate risk, such as targeted sharing and nondisclosure agreements.

2. Enable suppliers to use the new wealth of information: to help your supplier create a high quality work product, walk through these steps:

  • Set expectations: have the area Insights director meet with supplier account directors to agree on project objectives and information compliance standards upfront.
  • Educate supplier staff: the Insights director should go through a “fact-book,” which shows everything the internal staff knows about a given targeted category, so the supplier’s staff can be ready to contribute in a thoughtful manner.
  • Orient supplier staff to your function: tell them everything they need to know about the function’s organizational structure and processes.
  • Provide access: allow supplier staff to view the knowledge portal so they can keep up-to-date on the latest internal news.

3. Take advantage of competitive tendencies: for a given Insights category, assign the majority of the work to one supplier (“preferred”) and the rest to another (“flanker”). Do not disclose the supplier’s names to each other, but notify each if it is the “preferred” or “flanker” supplier. Doing so taps into competitive motivation and increases work product quality.

Related Resources

Related Blogs

4 Problem Solving Techniques for Leaders

Posted on  25 November 13  by 


Problem SolvingHumans have always found innovative ways to solve their problems. The early cave man discovered fire to provide warmth from colder temperatures, and invented the wheel to move around. Today, we have solar heaters and jets. While solving material problems is challenging, problems that arise due to human behaviors are complex and have no unique solutions. For leaders, problem solving is the essence of their daily work. In fact, great leaders constantly work to minimize occurrence of problems, and when there is one, they approach it through a lens of opportunity and analyze the problem from all possible angles. A recent article in Forbes discussed the four most effective ways leaders solve problems.

  1. Transparent communication: Unless everyone’s concerns and views are freely expressed, the root cause of the problem lies hidden. A leader must lead by example and encourage and challenge the team to speak up and express concerns without fear of retribution.
  2. Breaking down silos: Enable a boundaryless organization where teams freely navigate and cross collaborate to connect the dots. This encourages team spirit and dissuades self-promoters.
  3. Cultivating open-mindedness: The biggest challenge to solving a problem is admitting a problem exists. Open minded people keep the process clear and avoid chaos and inefficiencies.
  4. Solid Foundational Strategy: Effective leaders harness the right resources: people and past knowledge to connect the dots and plan out a realistic path. They are strategic and do not shoot from the hips.

Within Market Insights, a new problem has emerged for leaders- how to enable ‘activism’ on part of the team members. While the challenge is unique, the broader framework above may well help Market Insights leaders and teams to address and solve this problem.

Market Insight members can read about the specific challenges on activism and access our entire study on Activating Disruptive Insights.