SDM Hosts Spring Business Trip for SDM ’02s
By Monica Nakamine
April 22, 2002
The SDM ’02 class reconvened on campus for the SDM Spring Business Trip, which was held from March 18-22, 2002. The week was filled with lectures, presentations, and workshops, not to mention individual communication coaching sessions, and one night of socializing at a comedy club.
To reflect the breadth of the SDM program, a variety of individuals from diverse backgrounds were invited to speak to the students and share with them their expertise. These included:
- Sam Liggero, Consultant, Polaroid
- Louise Cash, Professor and Chair of the Department of Performing Arts at Emmanuel College
- Catherine Seo, President/Founder, Synergistic Solutions
- Janice Marconi, President, Marconi Works International
Sam Liggero: "The Leadership Challenge: Getting Things Done in White Water"
One of the week’s first speakers was Sam Liggero, currently a research-and-development consultant in Polaroid’s Instant Digital Printing department and an employee there for the past 30 years. Due to the turbulent times that the economy and his company are facing, Liggero’s presentation was on a timely topic: "The Leadership Challenge: Getting Things Done in White Water."
"In your raft, you’ll go along nice tranquil water, then all of a sudden, you get to the rapids," said Liggero. "The water becomes turbulent, frothy, white-capped, and difficult to navigate through. And you have to be very careful what you do in this space of change. So, by analogy, when the workplace is turbulent, what can we do as leaders to help navigate our groups through that change?"
Liggero used his experience at Poloroid to demonstrate how he was able to lead his group (which was then the Media Research & Development team) through a time of company restructuring, distrust between employees and managers, high turnover, and low morale and productivity.
His solution was simple and personal. In 1999, he started the "Improve the Workplace" initiative, the crux of which included sub-committees dedicated to identifying why people were leaving the company and what it could do to prevent this. Although he came up with this idea and managed its progress, he got his hands dirty with the rest of his staff.
"When you undertake an initiative like this, it’s very important to get personally involved if you’re leading the activity," said Liggero. "Every month, I would meet with the subcommittees to listen to them and provide coaching and critique. My door was open any time if a sub-committee member or the group wanted to bounce around some ideas. I wanted to take away the fear of self-expression. And, by example, the best way to do that is to be personally involved."
The initiative lasted for six months. During that time, Liggero saw several benefits of this sub-committee approach, including:
- Development of new leaders in the organization.
- Creation of a critical mass of positive influencers.
- Numerous innovative ideas.
- Rapid penetration of new thinking throughout the organization.
- Retention of key employees.
- Empowerment of employees.
- Subtle but critical shift to a new culture.
Liggero also provided the audience with additional tips on personal behavior in order to, again, "lead by example."
"It’s important as leaders to lead by example so people will know that anything that you’re asking them to do, you would do or have already done."
As Professor and Chair of the Department of Performance Arts at Emmanuel College in Boston, Louise Cash provides her students with the essentials that any actor needs to successfully take to the stage. Though not everyone is meant to be an actor, Cash realized that theatrical techniques can be applied to people in business – when they give presentations, while engaged in a conversation, or even as they sit down for a power lunch. Cash provided tips that would allow business men and women to look and sound their very best while communicating to as few as two people, or as many as 200 (or more).
"The Cash Communication System is based on thinking of oneself as a performer and everyone with whom one interfaces as the audience," said Cash. "It means that you become the best version of who you are."
While verbal communication is necessary when giving presentations, non-verbal communication is critical in making the information effective and interesting. Cash said that, on average, only 7 percent of a presentation’s effectiveness is based on the actual content (what is actually being said.) However, 38 percent is how you say what you say – voice, rate of speed, and accent, while visuals and body language account for 55 percent.
"If I had walked into this room carrying this black bag and never put it down and made mention of it, in another 10 seconds, you wouldn’t hear anything I had to say – nobody would be listening to me," said Cash. "You have to think: What is your black bag? And then get rid of it."
Other tips that Cash provided included:
The boardroom walk – Using your peripheral vision, walk around objects without looking or bumping into them.
- Dealing with nervousness – Tension cannot show on your face and cannot reside in your jaw. Physically put tension in another part of your body.
- High-low technique – Start at the top of your best vocal range, and then vary your tone by continually going up and down within your range.
- Transitional words – Emphasize transitional words, like "so," "but," or "therefore," especially in technical and scientific presentations. They serve as a wake-up call to the audience and lets them know that a significant piece of information is about to be revealed.
After Cash gave her own presentation, she met with each student for 30 minutes to give them pointers on how they can improve their own speaking and presenting skills.
"One of the most important things to remember when giving a presentation is to match the expression on your face to what you are saying," said Cash. "I call this ‘face match.’ In theater, it’s simply called acting!"
President and founder of Synergistic Solutions, Catherine Seo provided insight on how to manage productivity amidst the many personal and professional challenges that SDM students have. Work, family, and school obligations often conflict, and, though all are priorities, people find them difficult to juggle. When life is out of control, Seo said, emotions tend to run rampant, resulting in unproductive behavior and actions at work, home, and school.
Seo showed students that emotions play a very distinct role in how an individual, or even company, operates. Feeling in control, relaxed, focused, and inspired are directly related to actual productivity. To achieve this, Seo provided the students with a system to:
- Manage change
- Increase productivity
- Reverse workplace chaos
- Transform reactivity into creativity
- Move beyond trauma to innovation, and
- Address disruptive technologies and economic uncertainties.
Janice Marconi, an innovation specialist and president of Marconi Works, International, introduced TRIZ, an invention and methodology for solving technical problems to the SDM students. Developed by a Russian researcher, and brought to the United States, in the late ’80s, TRIZ is a Russian acronym that, when translated, stands for the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving and is behind many of the world’s most creative innovations. Two examples of TRIZ-backed inventions include:
- Folgers Instant Coffee
- Red-eye reduction (Kodak spring-flash camera)
- Dryel (a dry-clean fabric product by Procter & Gamble)
Many other companies have used this system (e.g. BMW, Intel, GM, Ford, UTC, Texas Instruments, ABB, Motorola, etc.), said Marconi, and have found value in the process the system outlines. Marconi said that TRIZ is a popular method because:
- Product development time is shortened.
- Concept design is relatively uncomplicated.
- Cost of product development is lower.
- Reliability of the design is higher.
- Entire generations of designs can be generated for market "lock-in" and competitive advantage.
- Introduction of the design into the market can occur up to a decade sooner.
"TRIZ goes beyond the reliance of dealing with technical problems using trade-offs," said Marconi. "With TRIZ, system conflicts are fully resolved using resources in the system for more elegant solutions at less cost."