The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

An Anti-creativity List for 2015

From the Harvard Business Review

Five years ago I published a version of this tongue-in-cheek checklist on that highlighted how organizations kill creativity. It really touched a nerve​—​people flooded the post with No.examples from their own organizations of how their managers and colleagues stifled innovation. Even clichés like “We’ve always done it this way” seemed to be alive and well back then. Given all the talk in recent years about unleashing creativity in organizations, I wondered whether the same creativity killers are still at work today.  So, I’m posting a slightly edited version of the original video to ask viewers around the world  what’s changed. What happens in your organization today that shuts down creative thinking? Please post your examples of anti-creativity in the comments section. Thanks, and enjoy.

Filed under: 3►STYLE, 8►BUSINESS, ■ About Organisational Cultures, ■ Creativity, ■ Dream Jobs, ■ Harvard Business Review, ■ Podcasts

Let’s Talk Generations!


Any questions that define who someone is and what group he or she may belong to are essential questions.

It was only recently that one of my Physics students asked me about the difference between a physician (a doctor of medicine; word origin: 1175-1225) and a physicist (a scientist who specialises in physics; word origin: 1710-20).

Looking back at the history of physicians we discover that in the 18th century, for example, apothecaries (what we now call pharmacists; word origin: 1325-75) were recognised as GPs (general practitioners, today’s family doctors). The apothecaries were affiliated to a Society of Apothecaries and could ascend to higher positions such as, for example, Masters of the Society of Apothecaries, which granted them a respectable position at the royal court in 18th-century England.

Further back in history, the Anglo-Saxon guilds had a strong religious component; they were burial societies that paid for masses for the souls of deceased members as well as paying fines in cases of justified crime. The continental custom of guilds of merchants arrived after the Conquest, with incorporated societies of merchants in each town or city holding exclusive rights of doing business there. In many cases they became the governing body of a town (cf. Guildhall, which came to be the London city hall). Trade guilds arose  in the 14th century, as craftsmen united to protect their common interest.

The tradition of guilds, based on special knowledge and connections such as the disciple-apprentice relationship has grown less popular in today’s world, where anyone willing to learn may jump at the opportunity of getting a degree in a certain field of knowledge that was restricted to special circles and elites centuries ago.


You are probably familiar with abbreviations like   BC or AD. What about a newcomer like BG?

It stands for Before Google (1996).

As Tonya Trappe suggested in a workshop she held in Krakow a few days ago, people over 35 now are considerably younger, BG age considered (your BG age= your real age – 14 years). Leaving the joke aside, what do you see as the characteristics of your generation?

Before considering any answers to this question, let’s look at the definition of a generation, as given by Tammy Erickson in her article “Generational Differences between India and the U.S.

By definition, a generation is a group a people who, based on their age, share not only a chronological location in history but also the experiences that accompany it. These common experiences, in turn, prompt the formation of shared beliefs and behaviors. Of course, the commonalities are far from the whole story. Even those of you who grew up in the same country also had unique teen experiences, based on your family’s socioeconomic background, your parents’ philosophies, and a host of other factors. But the prominent events you share – particularly during formative teen years – are what give your generation its defining characteristics.

After defining the concept of generation, Tammy Erickson proceeds with a comparison between Indian and American generations. I would like you to consider her observations and add your own thoughts and comments on the generation we (myself and most of you currently contributing to the ELB) belong to, called Generation Y (also known as Generation Next or the Millenials).

Generation Y – Born from 1980 to 1995

Globally, Generation Ys‘ immersion in personal technology enabled this generation to experience many of the same events and, as a result, develop as the most globally similar generation yet. Acts of terrorism and school violence were among this generation’s most significant shared formative events. The random nature of terrorism – in which inexplicable things happen unexpectedly to anyone at any time – left many Y‘s with the view that it is logical to live life fully now. Around the world, this generation has a sense of immediacy that is often misinterpreted by older co-workers as impatience.

In the U.S., Y‘s teen years were marked by an unprecedented bull market and a strong pro-child culture. As a result, they are optimistic, goal-oriented, and very family-centric.

In India, the late 1990’s and 2000’s saw the development of a large middle-class and increased demand for and production of many consumer goods – in many ways, a situation reminiscent of the U.S. Traditionalists‘ experience with a rapidly expanding pie. The Indian economy grew under liberalization and reform policies, the country was stable and prosperous, and political power changed hands without incident. India became a prestigious educational powerhouse and respected source of IT talent. By 2008, 34 Indian companies were listed in Forbes Global 2000 ranking.

Y’s in India share the generation’s global sense of immediacy, coupled with the excitement of being part of the country’s first wave of broad economic opportunity. As a result, young employees in India tend to share the rapid tempo of U.S. Y’s ambitions, but with a greater emphasis on financial reward as a desired outcome. They have come of age in an exciting, dynamic country with significant economic opportunity. Most are entrepreneurial and business savvy, as well as technologically capable and connected. Their mental model is heavily influenced by India’s rich, complex democracy – they easily accept diversity of opinion – as well as by the Western heritage of laws and customs left from the old days of British rule, making them strongly suited for global interaction.

If you like to learn more about Tammy Erickson’s take on various generations, have a look at her two videos you can down-load from the “Leading Across the Ages” site. More articles by the author on career advice for Generation X (the people  in their 30s or 40s), on Gen Xers’ dissatisfaction at work and other topics now available online.

Wikipedia lists as the next generation the one referred to as Generation Z, Generation I, Digital Natives, Gen. Tech, or the internet generation.

People from this generation  were born between the mid-1990s and the late 2000s. The oldest members of this generation were born during the late-1990s, usually with the start year of 1997, and the youngest of the generation were born during a baby boomlet around the time of the 2008 Global financial crisis.

What is your opinion about Generation Y in Poland, today? What were its greatest influences and how will it influence the generation(s) to come? You may think about the influence of communism on the current Polish mentality in forms you remember from early childhood, your parents or other people, as well as in other forms you may experience today.

Do you believe you are part of a certain generation? Why? Why not? In either case, what do you think makes you (and others like you) different (if at all) from older generations?

Whatever your point of view is in the present, do you believe it might change as you grow “younger and wiser”?

Filed under: ■ Generations, ■ Harvard Business Review

Networking – A Useful Tool

Here’s an extract


the Harvard Business Review blog


How to Make Your Network

Work for You

by Ariana Green

Many people turn to networking when they’re looking for a job, but the best time to build your network is before you need something; and the best time to keep that network strong is always. But what is the best way to do that? Simply collecting business cards and attending events may expand your number of contacts, but does not increase the likelihood that those contacts will benefit you in the future. To reap the benefits of networking when you need them, you must know how to make your network work for you, and how you can work for your network.

What the Experts Say

The most universally agreed upon networking tip is this: Offer to help others first, and they will return the favor. “You should always ask new contacts to tell you about a business challenge they are confronting,” says Dr. Ivan Misner, PhD, lead author of Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts into Connections, and chairman of global networking organization BNI International. “That way, you might know someone who can help, and that’s the start of a relationship.”

Misner teaches his clients to focus on gaining credibility, which grows, he says, when they keep appointments, act on promises, verify facts, and render services. “Failure to live up to expectations — to keep both explicit and implicit promises — can kill a budding relationship before it breaks through the ground,” he warns.

Networking well makes for a brighter future, so Misner advises people to think beyond a current need. “People tend to forget about the importance of long-term credibility because they’re so focused on making an immediate sale,” Misner says. “But with that approach, you only eat what you kill that day.” Focus on becoming known and trusted instead; a long-lasting relationship is more beneficial to both parties.

Lillian Bjorseth, author of Breakthrough Networking: Building Relationships That Last, reminds her clients to share information. “One of my favorite follow-up methods is to send someone a relevant article, photo, anecdote, marketing tip, or other resource via email,” she says. Follow-through on seemingly unimportant promises or casual conversations can be just as integral to business success as delivering a reliable product.

Make People Know You

It’s not enough to be an expert on something if nobody knows you well enough to think about calling you. Creating an inviting image for yourself can generate business and opportunities. “Our research shows that people are much more likely to call if someone is not just an expert but also has initiated some sort of social exchange to make others comfortable,” says Noshir Contractor, professor of behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, who has done research on social and knowledge networks.

While Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online networking sites can become time drains, online networking is useful for strengthening connections. By posting Facebook or Twitter links to relevant articles, you can provide value to your virtual friends and show your engagement with pertinent business issues. Writing original articles or posting commentary keeps you on other people’s minds and enables them to see how involved you are in your industry. It is an efficient way to continue a relationship with those you know.

But online communication is not enough, especially for newer contacts. The true benefit is that it often leads to in-person contact because people feel more comfortable initiating a meeting with someone they “know” electronically. It’s especially important to seek and accept face-to-face meetings with newer contacts because technology can never match a human connection. In-person check-ins are useful for contacts you already know too, but given people’s busy schedules, it is most pressing to push for personal meetings with contacts you haven’t spent much time with outside of a group gathering.

Think About How People Feel

Understanding psychology — your own and other people’s — should factor into your strategy. “Some people are really busy and harried, or they’re not quite as affable,” says psychologist James Waldroop, an author and CEO of Career Leader, an internet-based career assessment used by corporations and business programs worldwide. “The point is to read your audience and know to make contact with some people less frequently.”

But, Waldroop points out, even the most curmudgeonly contact appreciates genuine offers of help. It’s important to make emails and phone calls feel personal. For example, you could send an email saying, “I know your kids are getting out of college soon, so please let me know if I can be of help to them, even remotely.” Or else something like, “I was thinking about you and remembering the time that we did such and such, and it made me laugh.” Or perhaps, “I’ve heard through the grapevine that your business is having trouble, and as you know, I’ve dealt with this before, so please do call me if you want to vent or strategize or anything else.” In addition, he suggests that an appropriate level of humor is a great way to emphasize that you are being genuine or to make people feel comfortable.

Waldroop also offers that in certain cases it may be best to call after hours when you know the person won’t be in the office to pick up the phone. That way you can leave a message, which is less intrusive, and you won’t get interrupted before saying what you need to say.

Grow and Maintain the Network

In building your network, Professor Contractor believes that it’s vital to reach out to a diverse pool of people. Those who come from different fields, different socio-economic backgrounds, and different countries can offer creative solutions and contacts that a colleague in the neighboring cubicle cannot.

Contractor has his students engage in the following exercise to assess how well a person maintains her network: Students come up with a list they call their Board of Directors, a roster of people they know whom they can call up on important professional matters. Contractor then prompts his students to write out who introduced the people on the roster to the student. “They will discover that, often, there are just a handful of people who introduced them to the most important people in their lives,” he says. “These are people who ought to be cultivated because they are helping to broaden a network. One must make sure to continue to connect with those people.”

Some of Contractor’s students go through this exercise and find that they have been introducing themselves to their most valuable contacts. “That’s not a good sign,” Contractor says. “That means you’re not using your network well and you’re not tapping into the virtuous cycle.”

Principles to Remember


  • Be genuine to gain credibility and keep long-term relations
  • Feed the network (via Twitter, Facebook, emails, etc.) to pass on useful information and show you are engaged
  • Offer to help using humor and tact

  • Don’t:

  • Focus on getting something from a new contact immediately
  • Hide behind technology and avoid face-to-face networking
  • Forget to read your audience and provide a personal approach

You can read the two case studies posted on the Harvard Business Review blog at the given address above (click on the article title).

Filed under: 8►BUSINESS, ■ Harvard Business Review

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