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Thursday, April 30, 2015

PERSONAL SPECIAL ......... 3 Steps to Mindfully Shift Negative Thoughts and Feelings

3 Steps to Mindfully Shift Negative Thoughts and Feelings
The belief "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is false, at least as far as brain science is concerned. It has proven that the brain is far more malleable than we ever thought. We can develop new relationship, communication, and money-management skills at any age, especially with mindfulness training.
Mindfulness allows you to set aside the instantaneous, unwholesome thoughts that limit one's ability to think of creative solutions and embrace more positive, wholesome ones, laying new neural pathways and building what I call, mindstrength. This is the ability to very quickly and easily shift out of a reactive mode and become fully present in the moment. It gives you mastery over your thoughts and feelings, opening your eyes to whether the products of your mind are useful tools for self-discovery or merely distractions.
Often, unwholesome, painful thoughts are about the past and the future, or cause and effect: You might think, "If I wasn't able to do that in the past, I won't be able to do that in the future" and "Because of what I did in the past, I can't create the future situation I'd like." Again, by applying mindfulness training, you open a doorway to a mindful-inquiry process in which you can examine these beliefs and let go of a sense of being stuck or trapped. Painful and fearful thoughts about the past and future will prevent you from focusing on the present, and accepting where you are at this moment in time.
Here are three mindful techniques from my book, Wise Mind, Open Mind to help you shift painful afflictive thoughts and feelings.

Step One: Examine Unwholesome Thoughts
When distorted and unwholesome thoughts arise, stop, observe what you're thinking, and ask yourself, "Is this true?" You can consider the evidence that it is and weigh that against the evidence that it isn't, keeping in mind that extreme statements such as "I'll never..." or "It always happens that..." are almost certainly distortions. Using logic and reason, you can analyze a situation and determine whether you were assuming a worst-case scenario, and consider what the best-case scenario and even the most likely scenario are. If you don't know whether a particular negative thought is likely to be true, you can explore the possibilities instead of being pessimistic and assuming the worst.

Step Two: Replace Unwholesome Thoughts with Wholesome Ones
Ideally it is best to work with a mindfulness trainer or a therapist to help figure out specific wholesome, remedying thoughts. It this isn't possible, then write out the replacement thoughts. When you first begin using this remedy of a positive thought, feeling, or sensation, you're likely to feel resistance, as the old neural pathways in the brain protest, "But this isn't true!" One way to get around this obstacle is to design remedying thoughts that feel true in the moment. Instead of trying to replace an unwholesome feeling of longing and emptiness with the belief, "I'm going to meet the love of my life very soon," you can remedy that afflictive feeling with a thought such as "I'm doing all the right things to attract and create a healthy, loving partnership," which is less likely to arouse feelings of dishonesty, discomfort, or embarrassment. In mindfulness training, you actually teach the mind to create wholesome thoughts, and in so doing, you reprogram your brain, replacing old neural networks with new ones that foster creativity and optimism.

Step Three: Reinforce New Wholesome Thoughts
Once you've generated a new positive and healing thought, make a point of saying the words silently or aloud every time you witness yourself thinking negatively. Let's say you're experiencing the recurring negative thought, "I'm no good with numbers." First look back to the source of that belief, examining your past. You may simply need to notice that your mind is creating a negative loop of self-talk, comprised of self-defeating thoughts. By adopting the new, wholesome thought, "I'm fully capable of learning anything I wish to learn," your mind flow will begin to shift and travel on a more wholesome course.
Creative individuals have learned the habit of rejecting limiting, constrictive thinking. They allow the witnessing mind to arise, look at an obstacle, and say, "Perhaps that's true, but let's sit with that idea for a while." In Buddhism, we say that a constrictive quality of mind keeps mind flow within a narrow range of awareness, while mindfulness allows us to drop our limitations and ultimately enter the creative space of open mind.
Ronald Alexander

ECO SPECIAL .......... The Top 10 Greenest Cities In America

The Top 10 Greenest Cities In America
Big city life doesn't have to mean overwhelming smog and environmental anguish.
In fact, according to a new study by, those seeking a greener lifestyle have several great options to choose from.
NerdWallet gathered statistics from the 150 largest cities in America to determine which are the most environmentally friendly. The analysis was based on environmental quality, methods of transportation, sources of energy and housing density.
Honolulu, Hawaii, with its excellent air quality and extensive adoption of solar technology, topped the list. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 12 percent of the households on the island of Oahu have rooftop solar panels. The national average, 0.5 percent of households according to the Solar Electric Power Association, pales in comparison.
New York City's high public transportation usage earned it the No. 6 spot on the list, with 56 percent of commuters using its vast public transit network. Population and residential density worked in many cities' favor, reducing energy costs for transportation.
Below, America's 10 greenest cities:
1. Honolulu, Hawaii

2. Washington, D.C.

3. Arlington, Virginia

4. San Francisco, California

5. Miami, Florida

6. New York City, New York

7. Boston, Massachusetts

8. Orlando, Florida

9. Seattle, Washington

10. Jersey City, New Jersey

The Huffington Post  |  By Landess Kearns

HEALTH FOOD SPECIAL ....................10 Foods That Fight Inflammation

10 Foods That Fight Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a common thread among a wide spread of conditions like stroke, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer's, heart disease, arthritis and depression, according to Men's Journal.

Not all sources of inflammation are entirely preventable: As we age, for example, our immune system weakens and chronic inflammation is more likely.
While you can't control the number of candles on your birthday cake, there are measures you can take to reduce the intensity at which chronic inflammation strikes. Your diet is a good place to start. Replacing unhealthy eats like processed foods and alcohol with super foods could help. “[Bad foods] cause overactivity in the immune system, which can lead to joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels,” Scott Zashin, MD, a clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas told
Alexis Joseph M.S, R.D., author of Hummusapien spoke with The Huffington Post about the mightiest anti-inflammatory eats. Check them out below.

Fatty fish like salmon provides "a hefty dose of both EPA and DHA," Joseph said, which are two powerful omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation and lower risk for cancer, heart disease, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.

Related foods: Other fatty fish, like mackerel, sardines and tuna. You can also consider taking fish-oil supplements.

Including beets in your diet has a number of benefits, including lowering blood pressure, boosting your stamina and -- yep! -- combatting inflammation. Beets contain a nutrient called betaine, which has been shown to decrease risk for inflammation.

Related foods: Beetroot juice, beet juice.

Stacy Spensley/Flickr
Vitamin K, an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, can be found in most dark leafy greens, like kale. Joseph said that just a single cup of kale provides 10 percent of the recommended daily amount of anti-inflammatory omega-3's (the kind that can be found in fish) as well.

Related foods: 
Any dark, leafy green, like spinach and chard.

Soy-based foods like tofu boast isolflavones and omega 3s, which may help lower levels of inflammation in the body.

Related foods: "Whole food sources like organic tofu, tempeh, edamame and miso are best," said Joseph.

Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, an antioxidant that is an inflammation-fighter. Joseph said cooking these red fruits will actually amplify their anti-inflammation properties, since heat brings out more lycopene.

Related foods: 
Tomato juice and colorful veggies with low levels of starch, like peppers, squash and greens.

Blueberries get their bright blue pigment from a class of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which fight inflammation. "Studies suggest that increased blueberry consumption not only reduces oxidative stress, but also increases anti-inflammatory cytokines and natural killer cell counts," Joseph said.

Related foods: Raspberries and strawberries. Frozen berries do not loose their antioxidant capacity -- so feel fry to buy them in the freezer aisle.

Like fish, almonds are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3's. Joseph said the nuts are also packed with vitamin E, which helps "lubricate the joints and protect the body from pro-inflammatory cytokines."

Related foods: Nuts!

Tart Cherries
Tart cherries, which are supremely high in antioxidants, have been studied to find that they greatly combat inflammation. In one study, long-distance runners who drank tart cherry juice on race day had less inflammation and recovered faster than those who didn't have the juice.

Related foods: Tart cherry juice.

Garlic is often touted for its medicinal properties. The vegetable can add anti-inflammatory to its long resume, as research has found that it prevents inflammatory substances called cytokines from developing. Better yet, heating garlic increases its anti-inflammatory effects (which is great, because eating raw garlic doesn't sound too appealing).

Related foods: Onions.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
"Olive oil is rich in polyphenols and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that help kick inflammation to the curb," said Joseph. According to Arthritis Today, the oil has similar anti-inflammatory effects as ibuprofen and aspirin.

Related foods: Avocado oil has similar benefits and a higher smoke point than olive oil, which makes it idea for cooking with high temperatures, Jos
eph said.
By Kate Bratskeir The Huffington Post  | 

TRAVEL SPECIAL ..................Summer of Loaves

Summer of Loaves

San Francisco offers much more than the touristy delights of clam chowder.
Haight-Ashbury, the hippie enclave for one, is now a gourmet-chic destination

Strangely, it is not the Golden Gate, not even Boudin's sour dough bread or clam chowder on the pier that's on my mind as the plane touches down on the tarmac in San Francisco. In stead, all I am thinking of is, well, weirdly enough, scones! At Heathrow's Galleries lounge, where I have stayed firmly put -skipping London's summer rush, for almost half a day's worth of doing nothing but gorge on champagne, WiFi, food and the British press -the highlight has been a high tea of sorts in true Brit style. The scones have stolen the show warm, buttery, with real clotted cream; not the flaky glazed kind that have been fashionable the world over for a while now. The treat has been repeated at 30,000 feet on the BA flight, and despite a dry mouth and a palate unable to taste very much besides Tattinger, I have found the carb comfort so, literally, heady that I can't get the memory out of my mind.
As it turns out, scones are not so inappropriate even on the other side of the Atlantic. Frisco, the epicentre of so many gourmet fads -right from those food trucks to Edison-bulb-lit, stripped-down bars and organic lattes -is high on British style high teas just now. And scones form part of virtually every fashionable menu.
Tea rooms abound -from Lovejoy's Tea Room on Church Street, done up like an intimate European parlour, to Dartealing that serves up robust fish and chips alongside scones and wafer thin sandwiches even as you watch a Giant's game. Also, there are places like at the Palace Hotel, with its high ceilings, crystal chandeliers and heritage art works, that offer you charm ing 3 o'clock ceremonies of dainty porcelain cups alongside silver trays piled up with all that nosh you associate with British aristocracy. But then Frisco is perhaps the most European town on this continent, and this is just one of its laidback charms that you discover when you go beyond the touristy.
Culture Counter
Back to basics and tradition may be a current trend. But San Francisco's soul has always been entrenched in its counterculture. This after all has been home to the world's first gaybourhood in Castro, to the Beat gen bohemia in North Beach and to, of course, the hippie movement.
Haight-Ashbury, one of the world's most famous neighbourhoods after that Summer of Love, is now a tourist magnet.The erstwhile hippies have long sold their Victorian houses and while it may be possible to buy some of their psychedelic trance -as also rock, punk, indie -at Amoeba Music, a store that has the biggest music record collections you are ever likely to encounter, there are fewer chances of you finding the “stuff“ unsolicited on the streets or even in cafes and bars in this neighbourhood, once dubbed “Hashbury“.
What Ashbury seems to have turned into, instead, is a gourmet-chic destination. The liberalism that it celebrates today has more to do with pushing culinary boundaries than personal ones. It is a good idea to walk through the district, delving into the unexpected pleasures of its many trendy, boutique-y but cutting-edge dining spaces.
Bacon Bacon lies at the very edge of Ashbury, almost in Mission District. It's a food truck now turned into a café. The décor is basic: bar-style tables and stools, menu on the board over the counter, a big rocking pig on which you can get cheeky pictures clicked! The idea behind the café is simple too, as its name suggests. You can come here for breakfast, lunch and dinner and eat, well, bacon -in different forms.
The idea of single-ingredient restaurants and cafes is emerging as a hot new trend globally.And the popularity of bacon refuses to fade away. It is one of the hottest ingredients that chefs love to play with. At Bacon Bacon, you see evidence of all the quirky possibilities. From triple pork tacos to, well, homemade bacon scones (yes, we told you, they are hot property), the café cooks everything on its menu with 2,000 pounds of its salty preferred meat every month! Bacon Bacon's neighbours tried to shut it down because of the smell of pork that hung in the air -though one can't understand what that fuss may have been about! At the Citrus Club, the ingredients in focus are again simple and to-the-point: Noodles and citrus juice. Post a night of hectic partying, this seems the go-to place for your bowl of comfort ramen, except that the noodles -scores of different kinds -are all cooked in citrus juice instead of oil! Well, health is always a trend in this part of the world.
Back to Classics
In the 1980s, cafes at Ashbury became centres for San Francisco's comedy scene. Several well-known careers were launched, including that of Whoopi Goldberg and the late Robin Williams. The Other Café, where both started out, does not exist today. But there are other cafes and bars that replicate that casual, chatty, arty vibe.
Alembic is the trendiest of the lot. A pioneer of the craft cocktail movement, this one has a deliberately uncultivated garden, where fresh herbs (not what you think; lemon-basil, pineapple-sage, and many such `double flavours') are grown. The herbs find their way into near perfect drinks using only fresh ingredients. Half the menu is devoted to the 1920s style Classics (they do their Old Fashioned with a local Bourbon, obtained by the barrel). The other half comprises of “new school“ tipples such as the Bait and Switch (a fruity and smoky mix of mescal, Chareau Aloe Liqueur, strawberries, lemon juice, peppercorn syrup and green strawberry bitters). Bar snacks could be the likes of pickled quail eggs, and duck heart (a special here). It's a great hangout for all kinds of people -ageing hippies, cocktail fanatics, locals and luckily very few tourists.
But the hottest trend in Haight-Ashbury has to be food halls. Trucks are almost passé -what with the inconvenience of having to keep up with their impermanence. Food halls that incubate small, often quirky businesses are the latest buzzword.
The famous Red Vic Movie House, the only one in the city to be owned and oper ated by workers till it closed down some years ago, is now a food hall offering tastings of everything from Russian peroshki (baked dumplings) to organic ice-creams, buckwheat crepes and raw, cold-pressed juice personally mixed by an “alchemist“ who has a near magical, herbal cure for anything from hangovers to old age! All these are independent businesses, testing the waters as it were before striking out in bigger formats. The food hall has a theatre, where some of these -and other -experi ences can be savoured in close groups, much unlike the mayhem and hustle bustle of what you may find at the Ferry building, Frisco icon and the biggest possible food marts around with all manner of bespoke, artisnal stuff available.
Two Sides...
One way to see San Francisco is to do all the things most people descend here to do -take a boat tour to the Alcatraz, see the sea lions, stay put on pier 39, drive down the “world's most crooked street“ and eat at all the fancy Michelin rated restaurants that have made vegan, raw, local gastronomy and the like very very fashionable.
The other way to do it is to just wander around, may be take a lazy ride on the cable car, layer up and breathe in the spirit of this 7x7 city, alternating in the warmth of the sun and the chill of the cold wind from the Bay. If you choose to do the latter, the results are far more rewarding. What becomes evident almost at once is the laissez faire attitude of the city -where the very names of establish ments, of stores and restaurants, proclaim that sense of quirky, individualistic fun that once made Frisco famous.
In Castro, where the rainbow flag flutters in the wind proudly and where the names of LGBT activists are inscribed on stars on the street walkways, the wittiest nameboard I encounter is: “Does your mother know?“ It's the name of a shop selling, well, adult stuff. Naturally. There are scores of gay bars that you could walk into at dusk, including The Twin Peaks, a Frisco institution, the first gay bar in the world to have full-length glass windows. Before that these were dingy, dark holes, where men would go surreptitiously for a drink and company, fearful that their genteel landlady may spot them in that den of vice and render them without a roof on their heads.
In North Beach, the other liberal enclave steeped in colourful history, sandwich places like The Naked Lunch summon up memories of the Beat poets, the post World War II generation of bohemians and writers who rejected boundaries both in fact and fiction. City Lights, the iconic bookstore (and publisher; Ferlinghetti's press produced works such as Howl and The Naked Lunch) still stands sentinel at one corner. Restaurants like the Stinking Rose, a garlic-only restaurant -everything from starters to desser t has copious amounts of the ingredient -push boundaries, proclaiming on free takeaway postcards that it is “chic to stink“. But really where I find myself heading back every day is to Ashbury. There's a laidback-ness to the district that defies all American stereotypes. The last of legit neighbourhood cafes still exist, in the face of Starbucks-isation. And their names say it all. Coffee To The People and Central Café are both congregation points for the local community. You can have a veg lasagne, strong coffee, read a radical book, and possibly pass around a petition or two for your pet cause. For a taste of the yesteryears, this is the only place to be.
Anoothi Vishal




Shaking up the status quo.
What trends and technologies threaten to upend established business models and wipe out slow-to-adapt companies, leading to the next generation of S&P 500 companies and IPO hopefuls?
You'll find no shortage of analysts and other experts ready to answer this question—and it's not just a tech utopian vision of the successful company of the future.
Here are six seismic shifts, from cutting-edge technology and workplace trends to consumer preferences, that today's company leaders need to be thinking about before it's too late.

1. 3-D printing's inflection point.
3-D printed guns. 3-D printed vital organs. "We get caught up in the end of the journey with 3-D printing," says Mike Walker, an analyst at market research firm Gartner. "The real opportunity isn't the widget. It's the intellectual property you're creating."
Plans for all manner of products, parts, and supplies will become available for download, similar to music files (even suits based on 3-D body scans, as in the image here). Walker says the real business winners could be the designers who stand to earn royalties for each download, in the same way the IP owners of songs and movies do.
The question is: What designs will be commonly downloaded and printed, not only by consumers but also by businesses? That's where things get interesting. There are sure to be plenty of everyday items, but you can't rule out a future in which automakers download and print out cars and surgeons print plastic medical models on which they can practice complex procedures.

2. Advertising inside the headphone. 
So you might be wondering why Microsoft spent $2.5 billion to buy the maker of video game Minecraft.
Here one reason: They may be envisioning an entirely new and highly effective advertising opportunity in games like Minecraft, says Forrester Research's James McQuivey, an analyst who tracks the digital disruption of traditional businesses. An automaker, for example, could create a Minecraft setting in which consumers design their own cars (complete with fun added elements, such as cats or celebrities) or virtually experience cars built by other users.
In a game setting like this, McQuivey says, advertisers could potentially construct a brand experience and present it to prospective customers whose game-playing preferences make them likely sales targets. "Right now, companies go into these [gaming] environments and put up a billboard," he says. "But that's not nearly as interesting as getting people to interact."
By interesting, he means not only effective but transformative: An audience will no longer be a passive spectator to an advertisement, but an active participant in it.

3. A work perk that'll never be the same.
Researchers at S&P Capital IQ made waves when they predicted in a recent report that the common practice of getting health insurance through employers was inevitably going away.
Why is it inevitable? Mainly because employers stand to save a whopping $700 billion between 2016 and 2025 by shifting from employer-paid insurance to simply providing stipends through which employees can buy their own policies on independent exchanges made possible by the Affordable Care Act.
There's a big "if" looming in the Supreme Court decision on the ACA, over which the high court just heard arguments, but if the justices uphold the law for a second time, this trend will be analogous to the shift from employer pensions to 401(k) plans, says Michael G. Thompson, managing director at S&P Capital IQ.
"The government will change the rules, and the IRS will back down and allow stipends," Thompson says. The winners, in his opinion, will be the companies that figure out how to get a piece of the revenues that these soon-to-be-emerging health care exchanges are bound to generate

4. The end of recruiting from campuses.
Like health care, education is an area rife with "bloated, rising costs, incredibly unchecked by anyone," Forrester's McQuivey says. In response, more current and future members of the work force are "ridding themselves of the need to use the current systems," he says. In other words: You don't have to go to college to prove yourself as a programmer. Instead, you can save time and money by taking online courses.
And that's just one industry. Although Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been around for more than a decade, they continue to gain momentum as an alternative to the pricier and more time-consuming coursework of traditional education. While it's an exaggeration (at least at this point) to say that the MOOC trend will render obsolete the prestige and connections that come from, say, earning an MBA the old-fashioned way, there's no question online courses are already saving time and money for both students and businesses.
Goldman Sachs, for example, has partnered with MOOC provider Udemy to train and bring on board new hires. "From the firm's perspective, we can customize content based on what they already know and measure their progress, as well as the program's impact," Jason Wingard, Goldman Sachs's chief learning officer, wrote on "And when they finally do arrive on campus for orientation, participants are better prepared and thus start on a more level playing field."

5. When Walmart's cart is left empty.
In their new book, Retail Revolution: Will Your Brick-and-Mortar Store Survive?, Harvard Business School faculty members Rajiv Lal and José Alvarez and former HBS research associate Dan Greenberg forecast hard times for one-size-fits-all brick-and-mortar retailers, including Walmart Stores. "Walmart is now buffeted by three sources of competition," says Lal. Those three are e-commerce companies, from Amazon down to one-product specialists; increasingly efficient and profitable supermarkets; and the growth of dollar stores. "Their business model used to work, but now it's under stress," Lal says of Walmart.
That means the model for smaller brick-and-mortar retailers is in trouble as well. While analysts have predicted a brick-and-mortar apocalypse before, Lal and his co-authors say that today's online threat is different and more lethal than anything traditional retailers have faced in the past. 

6. A consumer with a new idea of comfort.
There are two habits in particular that smart companies are baking into their business models. First, there's the idea that Millennials conduct online research before buying. This highlights the importance of credible customer testimonials, especially those shareable on social media. As an example, David Bell, a professor of marketing at Wharton, cites the marketing efforts of Casper, a New York City-based manufacturer and online mattress retailer. Casper's product reviews are sortable by categories, such as whether you're a side sleeper and whether you sleep with a pet. "You can go onto their site, find a review by someone who's essentially a clone of your own sleeping type, and that can give you some confidence as a buyer," Bell says.
Second, and maybe because Millennials trust so much in online information, they tend not to care as much about trying the physical product before buying it. Increasingly, consumers can buy a product first and easily return it if they dislike it. Casper and its competitors in the direct-to-consumer mattress space offer generous return policies with long trial periods.
Harvard Business School's Lal says he has seen this trend play out both in his research and with his own children, who are in their 20s. "When they think about shopping, they think about the internet," he says. "It's the first place they go to. It doesn't matter if it's shoes or a coat. These are categories I would've told them, 'Try it out, see how it looks, how it feels.' Their response is, 'We'll buy three and return two of them.'"

MANAGEMENT/ R&D SPECIAL......... Brightening the black box of R&D

Brightening the black box of R&D

An all-in-one, one-for-all formula to determine R&D’s productivity can help companies see how well the function is performing.

The question of R&D’s productivity has long resembled a Gordian knot. Look nearly anyplace else in today’s corporations, and there’s far less difficulty measuring productivity and performance. In manufacturing and logistics, you can get a sense of things just by looking around the production floor, the inventory room, or the loading dock. Even the performance of the advertising budget—once famously opaque—is now, thanks to digital technology, much easier to see.
But the R&D department provides fewer clues. There’s no flow of tangible goods through the process, for one thing, but rather a stream of ideas and concepts that resist the efforts of efficiency experts and innovation gurus alike. In the face of this difficulty, most companies fall back on a few well-worn approaches: R&D as a percentage of revenue, the ratio of new products to sales, or the time it takes for new products to reach the market. None of these really gives a good idea of how well the R&D function is performing, either overall or by team—nor is it clear why (or when) any given project might suddenly prove a failure though it had earlier shown every promise of success.
We have endeavored to address this long-standing puzzle. We may not have answered it definitively, but we have developed a formula we believe will be useful to any company that wants to establish and maintain a comprehensive and transparent overview of the R&D organization’s many platforms, hundreds of projects, and thousands of engineers, technicians, program managers, and lab workers. Just as Alexander the Great is said to have undone the Gordian knot by the simple expedient of slicing through it with his sword—rather than trying to unravel it by hand, as others had attempted to do—our formula makes relatively quick, simple work of a knotty problem.
This formula takes a novel approach to measuring R&D outcomes: multiplying a project’s total gross contribution by its rate of maturation and then dividing the result by the project’s R&D cost. Since proposing this idea, we have worked with several companies to test it and introduced it to a diverse group of approximately 20 chief technology officers (CTOs) and other senior executives in a roundtable setting. So far, the formula demonstrates several virtues. First, it’s a single metric rather than a collection of them. Second, it aims to measure what R&D contributes within the sphere of what R&D can actually influence. Finally, by measuring productivity both at the project level and across the entire R&D organization (the latter through simple aggregation), it endeavors to speak to the whole company, from the boardroom all the way to the cubicle. Refinements to the approach may be necessary, but for now at least, the formula seems to represent an advance in measuring R&D’s productivity and performance.
The case for a new approach
Before describing the formula in greater detail, let’s examine what doesn’twork in today’s approaches to measuring R&D’s productivity, and why that matters.
Today’s flaws . . .
The most common approach takes the ratio of R&D’s costs to revenue. This method divides revenue from products developed in the past by what’s currently being spent on products for the future. That might be useful in a stable or stagnant company whose prospective revenues are expected to grow very steadily or to remain flat. But for any other company, this assumption is artificially pessimistic for investing in future growth and falsely optimistic when the product pipeline is weakening. Indeed, repeated studies have shown no definite correlation between this R&D ratio and any measure of a company’s success.1
Not that anything better has been proposed in the past—and not for lack of trying. One academic paper2 found no single, top-level metric and therefore recommended that companies instead use a suite of metrics at different levels of the organization.
. . . and why they matter
Maybe at one time, R&D’s productivity mattered less. But today, myriad competitive forces drive down R&D budgets, and nearly every company we know—even those investing heavily in growth—continues to ask the R&D organization to achieve more with the same or fewer resources. (One CTO admits that his method is “to keep turning the budget dial down until the screaming gets too loud”; that’s when he knows he’s hit the right level.)
Meanwhile, as product variations, functional requirements, and customization needs (to say nothing of regulatory demands) proliferate, the complexity and cost of R&D continue to rise. Small wonder friction arises between R&D managers, struggling to articulate the scope of the challenges they face, and other executives, who are frustrated with the rising cost of product development. In some industries, such as semiconductors, where Moore’s law is pushing the limits of physics, this friction is acutely apparent.
At the source of the frustration is the difficulty of generating lasting R&D-productivity improvements at many companies. One reason is the lack of repetitive tasks, at least compared with other parts of the organization. Another is the more frequent reshuffling of R&D project teams.
Moreover, R&D managers usually can’t identify troubled projects until they’re well into an escalating spate of costly late changes and firefighting. Many of the technical shortfalls of products become clear only just before they are introduced into the market. As a result, it’s often hard to determine, in the fire drill that accompanies the last weeks and months of a troubled project, exactly what all the engineering hours were spent on and who spent them.
A new formula
When you dig more deeply into the R&D conundrum, you quickly encounter the problem of measuring what the R&D organization actually accomplishes—the outputs, so to speak. Any formula for productivity by definition divides outputs by inputs. The input variable, in this case, is straightforward: the cost of an R&D project. That’s the one used by most existing measures of R&D’s productivity and the one we too decided to use.
To capture the outputs—a stickier task—we settled on using, first, the gross contribution of a project and, second, a complementary measure: the rate of maturity, or a project’s progress toward meeting its full technical and commercial requirements. We chose these measures for their overall explanatory power and the visibility they provide into certain aspects of the R&D process. They come together in the formula shown in the exhibit.
A simple formula provides companies with a single measure to assess the productivity of the R&D function.
Total gross contribution
We chose total gross contribution as one part of the formula’s numerator because it represents, over time, a product’s economic value to customers, while keeping fixed costs out of the equation. That allows us to home in on what R&D can directly influence. Also, by looking at the total gross contribution of projects over time, companies can highlight information that helps to evaluate the projects they have in process and to continue or cancel them. That nicely ties the metric to one kind of behavior it’s meant to influence.
How do we know what the gross contribution is? Looking back in time, it’s easy enough to determine. Thus, when a company calculates a project’s rate of maturation (a step we’ll describe in a moment), it can determine a completed R&D project’s productivity retrospectively.
However, when executives consider a project that’s in process or has yet to be started, they don’t know whether it will capture its potential gross contribution and must instead rely on a credible and reasonably accurate estimate. The more accurate the forecast, the better the formula will work as a leading indicator. You could even say, from a skeptical point of view, that the formula is only as good as the estimates that go into it—which is true, as far as it goes. But even for companies that tend to be overly optimistic or pessimistic in their business cases, faulty estimates will provide at least a basis for “go/no-go” decisions about different projects. In addition, even a flawed estimate can be used to see, earlier in the evaluation process, whether a project’s productivity is dropping relative to the forecast. This is often a reliable indicator that a project won’t return its predicted gross contribution.
That said, the formula we propose will work best for companies with incremental R&D processes and less well in start-ups with more uncertain R&D spending.
Achieved product maturity
While a project’s gross contribution may be necessary to measure R&D’s output, it’s not sufficient, because it isn’t earned all at once but rather over time. The likelihood that a project will attain the projected gross contribution depends, in part, on the maturity of the product at the time of its market introduction—how close it is to verifying and validating its technical and commercial requirements. (Of course, other factors also influence whether a given product or service captures its full potential, including how well it was marketed and how well the company timed its introduction.) Our experience shows that the closer to full maturity a product is when introduced, the better the chance that it will fulfill its expected gross contribution.
That’s not only because the product-maturity rate largely determines time to market but also because late changes to a developing product typically cost more to fix than earlier ones. Such late changes might, for example, require a company to rework expensive tooling or to redesign interface components or features. Higher costs mean a lower gross contribution.
The implication is that companies must be able to assess, in real time, how close their R&D projects are to full maturity. Few companies may in fact have this capability, but a rough-and-ready version of such a system can be built fairly quickly, often in two to three weeks. To do so, a company simply looks at critical dimensions (such as cost, functionality, and quality) during each of the quality gates a project passes through in its development. These provide a fair proxy in a rudimentary system if they are reported in consistent fashion throughout a company.
But if we are going to find the precise productivity formula we’re seeking, we need a more sophisticated and systematic method—for example, one that checks on a project’s progress toward meeting its performance requirements within a narrowing allowable deviation corridor over its lifespan. This method uses technical and commercial metrics specific to each product instead of the more generic metrics used in the rough-and-ready version. It lets companies drill down to the maturity of single components within a project and to zoom out and gauge the maturity of an entire product and service pipeline.
Of course, there’s a broader reason, beyond time to market, why the rate of maturity is an important measure of the R&D function’s output: designing and maturing the products that the strategy and marketing functions conceive is the primary reason R&D exists.
Integrating the elements
These three elements—total gross contribution, rate of maturity, and cost of R&D—come together in a formula that attempts to quantify R&D’s overall performance and to shed light on separate aspects of productivity. This, in turn, facilitates more confident managerial interventions to improve them.
By weighting projects according to their expected gross contribution, for instance, we keep our focus on efforts critical to a company’s success, while also articulating the value R&D generates over a defined time period. By tracking the race to a mature product, we make sure R&D gets credit for its value contribution only if it delivers such a product. Projects that reach maturity in timely fashion are acknowledged for having justified the full business case for them. Project teams that launch immature products, which are less likely to capture their full expected gross contribution, get penalized.
The formula’s usefulness, then, lies in the way it drives the right behavior. By more heavily weighting projects forecast to make a higher gross contribution, our approach helps focus management’s attention on the ongoing projects most critical to a company’s future success. Furthermore, the formula encourages a faster time to market, since products that reach maturity more quickly will show a higher level of productivity. Finally, the formula encourages the efficient execution of projects because those that consume less investment will also have a higher productivity value.
The formula in action
Measuring productivity, valuable though that may be, is just a starting point—it won’t change R&D’s efficiency on its own. The formula must be integrated into existing management processes or lead to the creation of new ones. One company used the approach to perform a one-time analysis looking at all of its R&D projects for the previous five years. The idea was to establish a baseline R&D-productivity measure that would serve as a yardstick for future efforts. To see how productivity is changing, the company now runs each of its current projects and each of its project teams through the formula two and four times a year, respectively. It will take a few years before the company can trace the results all the way to specific products and their marketplace performance. But already, we can see its benefits when confronting some perennial challenges: setting the direction of R&D, improving the performance of teams, making decisions, and driving change.
Setting direction
A key benefit of this productivity formula is its ability to address, through a single metric, all levels of the organization—from individual engineering teams to the full R&D pipeline. As such, it provides a backbone for an integrated performance-management system that unifies an entire company’s R&D efforts. This unity comes with significant flexibility: companies can select separate parts of the formula to gain insights into the different elements of the R&D function and thus to influence both the particulars and the whole.
CTOs can convincingly quantify for their boards any increase, over the preceding year, in the productivity of the entire R&D organization by annually measuring its productivity. By looking only at the numerator, executives can report R&D’s overall value contribution. By multiplying the product portfolio’s expected gross contribution by the respective increase in maturity achieved over the measured time period, they can determine the total value R&D generates.
And that’s not all. By taking the formula’s left-hand elements—the total gross contribution and R&D costs of individual projects—executives can develop a metric to help prioritize the overall product-development pipeline and thereby make better portfolio and resource-allocation decisions. (Are critical and valuable projects being deprived? Has organizational momentum allowed bloated projects to consume too many resources?) And by looking at the formula’s right-hand elements—the rate of maturation divided by the cost of R&D—executives can better assess the efficiency of working teams. Such transparency is a powerful tool for improving their performance.
Improving teams
In any R&D organization, some teams perform at an extremely high level and others struggle. This range of performance can be difficult to identify, at least objectively. Naturally, individual managers often have an instinct for high-performing teams but lack a means to quantify that performance or to make comparisons.
Publishing a ranking of productivity by using the right-hand elements of the formula—the rate of maturation over the corresponding R&D cost—makes a team’s performance immediately apparent. Obviously, that insight does not, in and of itself, drive improvement. But by enabling investigations into what specific kinds of behavior truly make teams excel, the formula provides an important first step.
Companies can therefore avoid the broad, one-size-fits-all improvement approaches that rightly make executives leery. Particularly in large organizations, it’s almost impossible to improve all the engineering teams at once. The starting points and improvement needs of different projects and teams are simply too diverse. Companies are better off focusing their limited resources on teams with the most potential for improvement. By applying the methodology described here, a company should avoid employees’ “not invented here” hostility toward the practices of external organizations. The practices identified through the formula, after all, are internal to the company that carries out the analysis, and lower-ranking teams can simply walk across the hall, so to speak, to see and learn from their higher-performing peers.
We have seen R&D teams that apply internal practices commit themselves voluntarily to improving their performance (in the most important indicators) by more than 20 percent, on average. One company, for example, significantly increased its ability to hit its technical objectives by implementing a systematic process for the engineering release of a highly complex industrial component.
Making objective decisions
This productivity-based method improves the management of R&D in a third way, as well: by providing an objective and numerical basis for making decisions and setting targets. It bypasses gut-feeling decisions and the sort of arbitrary budget and performance-improvement targets so often divorced from the reality of R&D challenges. The formula allows executives to better understand the demands they’re placing on the function in the context of its historical productivity performance, creating a more reliable budget for the product-development portfolio. When executives know the productivity of individual R&D teams, they can calculate the likely cost of a project, even down to the contribution of individual functional areas.
Driving change
The transparency this system of performance measurement provides is an invaluable companion to any large-scale R&D-productivity initiative. Compared with initiatives in other parts of a company—for example, programs to reduce the cost of materials, where any gain is very tangibly demonstrable in the piece price—improvements in R&D are often ephemeral. In our experience, many large-scale transformations identify millions of dollars in R&D-efficiency benefits only to leave the function’s budget unchanged.
Our method allows managers to measure a change program’s impact objectively. And even if the R&D budget does stay the same, faster or better development should be reflected in overall productivity. By quantifying the impact of any change program, moreover, executives will be better able to communicate its success in a credible and convincing way.
R&D is one of the few areas that often remain opaque to executives in today’s corporations. Quantifying what it actually accomplishes has resisted the efforts of executives and academics alike. By clarifying the outputs, the simple formula proposed here endeavors to generate a single measure companies can use to determine and agree on the R&D function’s productivity—the better to assist decision making and to improve performance.
byEric Hannon, Sander Smits, and Florian Weig