Breaking Down Misperception

Maintaining a positive workplace atmosphere is vital to success. It promotes efficiency, reduces employee turnover, and just makes things better. However, assessing the health of corporate culture is so difficult because there is often a massive disconnect between managers’ perception and employees’ point of view.

The Corporate Culture Chasm survey questioned 1,200 participants and concluded managers have a much more positive view of the workplace than their employees. This is incredibly insightful, because although there’s so much literature detailing the significance of a happy workplace, those who need it most don’t know they need it—and if they don’t know they need it, they will never attain it. So much for ‘ignorance is bliss,’ huh?

This all said, fear not. Employers can bridge the gap, and better understand the perspective of employees (even if employees are not always so inclined to voice their honest opinion). Here’s what has worked for me to get everyone on the same page:

Balancing Innovation with the Status Quo

Although most managers will claim they value their workers’ insight, the fact is they don’t. When asked which norms reflect company culture, 54% of employees stated they would choose to avoid conflict in order to maintain a positive relationship.

The same group also expressed that agreeing with others and gaining their approval are significant for being liked. Just as well, they were also 53% more likely than their leaders to say conformity was important in company culture.

This boils down to a simple fact. Employees felt that going to work meant following rules. This is troublesome for a number of reasons, the most important being that adhering to norms does not foster innovation. In today’s competitive marketplace, innovation is more important than ever.

Overcome this by cultivating conversation. Encourage and listen (not hear) to what employees at all levels have to say. Once workers see you are valuing their input, they will be more forthcoming, more open, and ultimately, more beneficial in general. Set an example and the rest will follow suit.

Understand Teamwork and Competition

In the survey, and in most offices, there was (is) a severe disparity between how both employees and managers perceive competition and teamwork. Where most managers see teamwork as an integral aspect of company culture, workers see competition.

This misperception has the capacity to wreak havoc on a workplace’s atmosphere because it means employees will actually be less likely to help each other.

In order to prevent this plague of a misperception, leaders should focus on improving both individual and team performance. If incentives are awarded for team performance instead of just on an individual basis, then workers will see the value of working together and not against each other.

The main takeaway from all this is leaders need to put themselves in their employees’ shoes. They need to establish an open dialogue free from punishing judgments. Only then will both employees and managers play for the same team and work together toward the same goal—profit.

The Key to Professional Performance? Happiness.

In today’s competitive job marketplace, it can be not just difficult, but nearly impossible to finally stumble upon a job we enjoy. Finding passion in the workplace is a feat in and of itself, but occasionally that passion can subside from a roaring fire to charred remains. How do we maintain our love for what we do? How do we retain intrigue and ambition in the office?

In fact, although paradoxical, it can seem commonplace that the more we enjoy a job at first, the less likely we are to enjoy that same job later on. When initially taking on a new and exciting position, we are motivated to work hard so that we may distinguish ourselves from our peers. Yet, this overwork can lead to a sort of workplace exhaustion. Recent statistics suggest the same:

-48% of employed Americans reported increased levels of stress in the last five years.
-31% of employed Americans report difficulty managing work and family responsibilities
-55% of employed Americans claim work makes them “overtired and overwhelmed.”

According to Arianna Huffington, “there is no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and high performance, performance is actually improved when our lives include time for renewal, wisdom, wonder, and giving.” Though there may seem times we should be working over resting, the fact is that resting would actually make us more efficient. We must be sure to rest when we need rest, or not only the quality of our work will suffer, but our very happiness will be diminished.

It is of the utmost significance to diminish stress in our lives, to erase worries and to embrace what makes us happy. Stress’ negative effects merely compound until they develop into an insurmountable perception of difficulty, thus forcing us to leave our job unless we are to fall into an oblivion of depression. The effects of stress are well-known and do not just affect us mentally, but physically as well.

Many times we will find ourselves enduring back pain or heart disease, obesity or even just the common cold, and we will fail to acknowledge the possible role of stress. While it may not seem immediately apparent, stress often facilitates the development of these negative situations. It reduces your immune system and increases your vulnerability. Just as well, this vulnerability is not limited to professional interaction. Indeed, it can and does generally negatively impact social relationships as well.

By reducing the stress associated with work, we are reducing our chance of burnout. We are increasing our chance for prolonged professional satisfaction and happiness. If we acknowledge and properly manage the inevitable stress that undoubtedly plagues us all, we are orienting ourselves for long-term success. While it may seem natural to work as hard as possible at a job we first start, we must remember that happiness, above all else, is what will drive professional performance.

Commercial Spacecrafts Are About to Change Everything

niagara-falls-webPlanet Labs was founded in 2010 by a team of ex-NASA scientists. Their mission: to image the entire Earth every day and provide universal access to the data they collect.

They started as a small team of physicists, aerospace, and mechanical engineers in a garage, using the cubesat form-factor to come up with their first iterations of their “Dove” satellite. Two years after their first satellite entered space, Planet now operates the largest constellation of Earth-imaging satellites, ever.

Their real world applications span across industries and sectors covering everything from measuring agricultural yields and monitoring natural resources to aiding first responders after natural disasters and informing government policy. Businesses and humanitarian organizations alike can utilize the information they capture to make better informed decisions about their business and the planet.

They launch these satellites aboard unmanned SpaceX capsules headed for the International Space Station. Within about a month of launch, those satellites join their existing fleet of Doves orbiting the Earth.

Launching these capsules is no easy feat, and the team has seen many postponements, failures on the launchpad, and even explosions. Rockets have to first reach 10 times the speed of sound without breaking apart. The spacecrafts then have to survive a two-day journey to the International Space Station (ISS), 250 miles above the Earth’s surface. Delays and errors can cost hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Once they reach ISS, astronauts aboard the space station gather the satellites and send them into orbit. Planet Lab’s systems back on the ground establish contact and determine if the floating boxes are working properly.

The goal is to eventually have enough Doves in orbit to capture a wholistic view of the entire Earth every day.

Robbie Schingler, one of three Planet Labs co-founders, speaks of their vision:

It allows for people to have greater insight into where there are problems and mitigate the problems before they become disasters.”

So who’s most interested in Planet Lab’s goals?

Well, Silicon Valley venture capitalists have already invested $1.7 billion into space-related companies this year alone, according to numbers provided by CB Insights. Thats almost twice as much money invested in 2015 as in the past three years combined. Planet Labs closed a very successful $118 million round in April.

Last year, Google poured $500 million into satellite maker Skybox Imaging, a venture-backed start-up whose technology can enhance products like search, maps and Google Earth.

When did this space-revolution start happening? The turning point for the industry came in 2012 when the SpaceX Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to visit ISS. Private space exploration is the infrastructure that allowed for businesses that never before could have existed before now. That, and the rapidly dropping cost of flight.

The last decade has paved the way as far as providing cutting edge cloud computing and big data analytics. Couple that with the ever lowering prices for electronic components and a thriving population of skilled coders, and space becomes something we never thought it could be: affordable.

According to SpaceX’s website, by 2016 a Falcon 9 launch will cost $61.2 million. This year, they plan to launch the Falcon Heavy at an estimated cost of $90 million. That might sound huge at first, but it’s actually less than one-third the price of its closest competitor.

Doves debuted in space in April 2013, and nine of 11 launches have been successful. Planet Labs co-founder and CEO Will Marshall isn’t discouraged when it comes to set backs and the occasional failure. As he eloquently stated in reference to a recent roadblock,

We’ve said it before: Space is hard.”

This article originally appeared on Vincent Chhabra’s Business Disruption blog. To view, click here.