Creativity in the Workplace: How a Skunk Works Program Could Work for You

What kind of workplace focuses on play instead of work? One concerned with innovation, creativity, and expansion.

Like NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which founded skunk works, a hands on technology laboratory where IT, engineering, and others play openly and freely with hot new consumer technologies.

The concept is simple; anything that looks like it could be innovative in the public sector is purchased for use in the skunk works lab for employees to play with. This has allowed NASA to get ahead of the technology curve, and create innovative and new technology combinations.

But what their finding is surprising. Companies who focus on play and innovation rather than just production, have a higher rate of employee retention, and have a better company culture, than their boring counterparts.

Other companies following suite find the same thing, that when employees are given time to play and explore, innovation occurs, which has fantastic results for the company.

Should you let your employees play more? Yes and here’s why.

Creative Employees

When you let your employees play, you are allowing them to engage and actively develop their creative problem solving capabilities. This results in better solutions and crisis management when real world problems occur.

Creative employees also deliver creative solutions to common concerns and problems, making for a better product or service, and in turn helping your customers in the long run.

Knowledgeable Employees

Particularly in tech related fields, when employees play with new technology, they really learn the product and how it works, which allows them to provide better solutions. Instead of just guessing based on information they think they know, they truly learn how the product works, learning that returns with them to their jobs,

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empowering them to help others better.

Staff Retention

Companies that employ skunk works type programs find that their employee turnover is low, because of the job satisfaction that results because of a sense of accomplishment. Often, this is enough to keep even the best and brightest of stars, even when offers of higher pay or a better title, because they are in a fun, rewarding, enriching environment.

If you’ve ever wanted your company to be more innovative, and ahead of the curve, consider launching a skunk works type program at your company. Your employees and customers will thank you for it.

Have you ever rolled out a skunk works style program? What were your findings?

To read more about skunk works, and the benefits of employees playing, click here.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who is interested in helping your business succeed through innovation. Email: Website:

Multitasking is a Myth


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If you think you can multitask, think again. Studies are quickly proving that our beliefs about multitasking are all wrong.

What we call multitasking is usually a case of

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well managed serial tasking; that is, switching from one task to another in rapid succession.

You may go back and forth between the same tasks several times over the duration, but you are always focusing on one task at a time, not multiple.

Serial tasking is what most of us do when we think we’re multitasking. We do it because we think we’re being effective, but the problem is, we’re not.

The American Psychological Association has found that because of the way our brains have to shift to recover in serial tasking situations, it can take up to 40% longer than when we single task, particularly for complicated tasks.

It is actually less efficient to try to do multiple things at once. What’s more, they are finding that people who multitask

can remember less than their single tasking counterparts.

Let’s think about it another way. If we could multitask, magic would not work. That’s because a magician relies on sleight of hand and distraction to keep you focused on

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something other than the trick he is performing.

If you could truly multitask, you could focus on both the distraction and the trick, and not miss a beat. Instead you are amazed when the magician does something you didn’t see coming; amazed, because your single-tasking brain can’t connect the dots. (But don’t feel bad, none of ours can.)

If we really can’t multitask, then why do we believe that we can? Because we’re great at fooling ourselves, that’s why.

So today I challenge you to change your belief, and shatter the multitasking myth. Instead, try to be present and in the moment with everything you do. You’ll find that not only are you more productive, but less stressed. And stress is definitely something we could all use a little less of.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who is interested in helping you rethink your assumptions. Email: Website:

How to Make a Difficult Decision Easier


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Right now there is something that your business desperately needs that is out of your price range. Maybe it’s new computers, or a server, or a new database. Maybe it is the need to hire more employees, or the need to implement a company-wide change.

Regardless, you are probably hemming and hawing right now, dragging your feet and trying to decide if you should finally take the plunge. But while you’re agonizing over this decision, it could be your business that is paying the price of your indecisiveness.

So, how do you quit worrying? How do you make a decision once and for all, and put all of this behind you?

Resolve to stop worrying now and finally make a decision one way or the other, and then get on with it. Of course, if it were that easy you would have made the decision by now.

But maybe you’ve been thinking about the problem the wrong way. Here are a few questions, designed to help you think about your decision differently.

Will it solve a major problem?

If this purchase will solve a major problem, then you should consider spending the money. When you solve a major problem, you lift a burden from your business. You free yourself, and your staff, up to produce much bigger and better things which allows your business to evolve.

Will it increase overall efficiency?

Will this purchase help you, or your staff, be more efficient with day to day tasks? Think about all the tasks that must be accomplished to keep your business going, and then think about how your purchase could free up time. Even the smallest amount of time saved can add up quickly, depending on the frequency, and that time saved could lead you to work on more exciting projects.

Will it help you, or your staff, provide better service?

If something frustrates you, that frustration shows. It shows on you and everything you do which in turn trickles down to your employees and affects them, and the work your company produces. But most importantly, your clients can see your frustration, which is never a good thing.

Likewise, when you turn a frustrating situation into a positive one, it will also show in everything that you do. Don’t you want your clients to see the best of your business?

Will it be cheaper in the long run?

Sure, it’s tough to spend money, particularly in this economy, but think of all the ways that your purchase can help make your operating costs cheaper. For example, if your staff is more efficient, they can produce more, generating more revenue. Or maybe your purchase will help you create better reports easier, in turn helping your sales presentation. This is the time to get creative. In what ways will your purchase help you save money (and maybe even generate new revenue) in the long run?

If, after thinking about these questions you are still undecided, try to think of all the ways that your purchase will help your business. Dream big and be inspired, because what you’re doing now probably isn’t working.

While there are no guarantees in life, one thing is for certain – things will never get any better if you don’t decide to take that leap and make a change.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who is interested in helping you achieve peace and calm.  Email: Website: