Category Archives: Uncategorized

Help Find Lauren Spierer

Lauren Spierer, a junior at Indiana University, was last seen on June 3rd at approximately 4:30 am and has been missing for 18 days.  Her family and friends have asked that anyone who has an online presence, whether large or small, help in the search for her.  Today, the Ascentive team is joining the cause.  For updates on the search efforts you can follow @NewsOnLaurenS or visit http://twitter.com/#!/NewsOnLaurenS.  Lauren in 4’11” and 95 lbs.  She has blond hair and blue eyes (as seen below).

LaurenS

LaurenS

Volunteers are desperately needed to continue the day in and day out search for Lauren.  For info on developments over  the past 18 days, please visit: http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=81967

If you are a local resident of Bloomington, Indiana or within a reasonable distance and would like to give your time,  you can find more information about helping in the search for Lauren here:  http://newsonlaurens.blogspot.com/2011/06/will-you-become-find-lauren-search.html

If you are unable to volunteer your time, donations are greatly appreciated as well.  You can help fund the search for Lauren here: http://www.iuhillel.org/lauren_donate.php

Anyone can hold the key to find her.  If you have ANY information regarding Lauren please call 1-800-CRIME TV and you can leave your tip anonymously.  The current reward is $100,000.

The key is to spread the word and keep her story alive.  We encourage everyone to help in anyway possible.


5 Brainstorming Techniques for Project Managers

Project ManagementAs we all know, sometimes the solution to a project management problem isn’t obvious. There may be many moving parts: clashes of personalities, supply problems, technology limitations, personnel shortages, or any number of other challenges. That’s why it’s often useful to sit down in a room with key staff members, throw things at the proverbial wall, and see what sticks.

Here are five brainstorming techniques that are specifically useful in a project management environment. They can be used in a meeting of any number of people, and in a variety of industries. The key is structuring the meeting properly, including introducing each technique effectively, and leaving criticism at the door (that is, at least until you actually get down to evaluating the ideas everyone has generated).

Examining Parallels – How have others in your field tackled the same problem you are tackling? What successes did other organizations have, and where did they fall down? The “others” you are examining could be direct competitors, but it also might be a related but distinct industry. This technique is all about emulating success while at the same time learning from others’ mistakes and making corrections. A brainstorm session using this technique might lead to some competitor research, which can then spur new ideas.

The Mind Map – The mind map is analogous to a tree, with a central trunk (the end project goal) branching off into broad and then more specific sub-categories. For example, if your goal is a “successful acquisition,” you might list “information technology,” “personnel,” and “facilities” as sub-topics and then riff into more sub-topics.

Survival of the Fittest – Do some brainstorming in a freeform, “anything goes” style. After an initial round, knock out the least viable ideas and concentrate on the ones most people feel are promising. Then, do a second round of brainstorming, but with ideation triggered by the “survivor” ideas of the first round. With a third and even fourth round, you’ll likely arrive at brainstorming gold.

Devil’s Advocate – Yes, in this method you get to tear down ideas. But it’s actually much more productive than a first glance would tell you. In Devil’s Advocate, you challenge some basic premises of the goal itself. If the project schedule is three weeks, why? Can it be four? If the goal involves the entire company, could it involve just a few departments? These are broad questions, but Devil’s Advocate can get quite specific as to your individual goal. By challenging assumptions, you’ll arrive at new ideas.

Wall Siege – In this technique, you switch from the project goal to the impediments in the way of that goal. Which of the “moving parts” I talked about in the introduction are in the way of a successful project? And how can these obstacles be reduced or eliminated?

Are there any brainstorming techniques we missed that you’ve found particularly helpful in the boardroom? I’m always up for trying new techniques so please share them in the comments!

Photo Attribution


9 Immutable Rules of Working from Home

home officeThe notion of “being your own boss” is attractive, but it comes with its share of pitfalls. Cash flow, particularly with new businesses, is always a concern. You’re destined to work yourself silly—which you’re more than willing to do because, hey, it’s your business—but still there’s the danger of burnout and spinning your wheels. And the always-fresh challenge of working with many different clients/customers is invigorating, but at the same time it can be stressful, and there are always certain clients out there ready to waste your time.

Here are the nine immutable, definitive, absolute, and indispensable rules for avoiding the pitfalls of working from home.

  1. Schedule Me Time – Working from home leaves you in a job “gray zone” that you have to separate into black and white. You need to separate business from pleasure, and home from work. Schedule times when you order yourself not to think about work.
  2. Exercise – Most work-from-home jobs are sedentary. You’re often just sitting at your computer. Not only will mandatory exercise (such as a middle-of-the-day walk) make you healthier, it will give you a refreshing break from the monotony so you can recharge your batteries.
  3. Create a Home Office – Sometimes you can’t create a separate home office because of budget or space considerations. But, similar to Rule #1, it’s beneficial to separate your home and work lives. Creating a separate home office gives you a quiet and dedicated space to think and work.
  4. Work on a Schedule – Discipline is often elusive in the work-from-home environment. Why not roll out of bed at noon, play around until 5pm, and then do some work around 6ish (if the game’s not on). Resist such impulses. Create a reasonable hourly schedule, and stick to it.
  5. Dress the Part – Just because you can come to work in your underwear doesn’t mean you have to. Get professional and dress for success. The benefit is purely psychological, but it’s definitely a benefit.
  6. Work Means Work – There are so many great YouTube clips. “Did you see the one with the cat made from a PopTart flying on a rainbow through outer space?” NO! Stop the madness! When you’re working, you should be working, not lazily surfing through the web, watching TV, sprinkling in some housework, or anything else.
  7. Put a Chokehold on the Finances – Working from home can be dangerous to your financial health, whether it’s letting tax debt accumulate, fighting clients about invoices, or balancing growing your business with everyday expenses. Keep spreadsheets so you know where you’re at, pay your estimated taxes, keep a nest egg on hand, and don’t let money issues consume your business!
  8. Invoice Aggressively – There’s nothing quite like slow-paying clients to put a fly in the ointment. Get out in front of invoicing. Let clients know ahead of time when to expect invoices. Keep a list of receivables, and maintain a schedule of reminders for slow-payers.
  9. Keep Lists – Stay on target by creating a list each night of what to accomplish the next morning. Don’t make it ambitious, just doable. This will keep your work focused.

Any other can’t-do-without rules to share? List them below!


Keeping Children with Food Allergies Safe

Summer Safety tips from the Ascentive team

Food allergies are no laughing matter. People with food allergies can have serious or even life-threatening reactions after eating or coming into contact with certain foods. So how do you keep your children with food allergies safe when they’re away from home? Dropping your kid off at school, daycare, or camp means that you are giving up control over what food your child comes in contact with. Here are five important ways to keep children with food allergies safe.

1) Teach Proper Safety
Keeping children with food allergies safe starts with your child. In addition to teaching your kids to avoid foods that they are allergic to, show them how to wash their hands thoroughly before and after eating, and how to use an Epipen, an auto-Injector used for the emergency treatment of a severe allergic reaction. And remind your child to never share utensils or drinking straws with other kids, eat their friends’ snacks on the bus, or sample unusual foods brought into school.

2) Institutional Food Allergy Management Plan
Every institution that supports children in some way should have a Food Allergy Management Plan. This plan includes policies regarding the use of food throughout the day and in various activities, where medications will be kept, and protocols for contacting emergency services and parents in the event of a child having an allergic reaction. These institutions should also ensure that there is phone access in case of a severe allergic reaction that requires a call to 911.

3) Staff Training
In addition to the institution’s management plan, education about food allergies and their treatment should be provided to every staff member of the institution that supervises children. This training should also include drills for food-allergic reactions so the staff may practice implementing emergency plans and using the Epipen.

4) No Cross Contact
Avoiding cross contact requires thoroughly cleaning utensils, cookware, glassware, storage containers, and other food preparation materials used with a food allergen before the item is used to prepare or non-allergenic meals. Washing food storage containers and dishes in a dishwasher or hand washing them with hot water and liquid dish soap is generally adequate to remove these allergens.

5) Food Allergy Action Plan
Every child who has a food allergy should have a personalized Food Allergy Action Plan. This plan should include a recent photo of the child, a list of their allergies, signs and symptoms the child might experience during a reaction, appropriate treatment instructions from the child’s doctor, and emergency contact information for the child’s parents/caregivers and doctor. The plan should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to reflect changes in the child’s allergies as well as the age-appropriateness of medication doses.


Ascentive Around the City- Fonthill Castle

Erica from Ascentive shares pictures of one of her favorite places, Fonthill Castle and Museum

Fonthill was built between 1908-1912 as the home of Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930).  Mercer was an archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramist, scholar and antiquarian.  He built Fonthill both as his home and as a showplace for his collection of tiles and prints.  Fonthill is located in Doylestown, PA and is about 20 minutes from the city.

This is the view as you drive onto the castle grounds.  It’s been raining all week in the Philadelphia area so these pictures were taken in March of this year.  As you can imagine, the greenery this time of year makes this view even more spectacular.

This is the view looking at the front of Fonthill.  The castle was designed completely by Mercer himself, he hand picked all of the materials used and architectural style.  The building is an eclectic mix of Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles.

Fonthill does not allow pictures to be taken from inside the castle (unfortunate, I know).  As you step out onto one of the balconies, you can clearly see that the entire castle is built using poured reinforced concrete.  Inside, many pieces of furniture such as bookcases and desks were also built using concrete.  Mercer was big on using recycled materials, he may have even been one of our earliest “green” living advocates.

The balcony above the second story is the same balcony that the previous picture was taken from.  The view of this castle from almost any angle is just amazing.

Fonthill offers tours of the castle and it’s grounds 7 days a week.  For more information about Fonthill or visiting the castle, click here.