Wiser Blog: Ideas and Tips to Be Smarter at Work

Company blog from Wiser, the New York-based startup on a mission to help you and your team get more insight out of less information at work. Ideas, tips & more.

Announcing Wiser Curator: The Simplest Way to Build a News Digest

Today we’re announcing an exciting new tool in the Wiser suite: Curator.

We built Curator to help busy information workers — strategists, marketers, analysts, engagement managers, lawyers, communications professionals, investors and scores of others — easily create a curated email digest of news articles. Curator is an idea our clients helped create. We know many of you love our automated digests and notifications and are using Wiser to discover, share and use relevant content for your jobs. But we also heard that many of you simply need to keep your clients, stakeholders, or senior management up to speed on newsworthy projects, trends or priorities. A tool that would help you create and email a curated collection of articles in a few clicks would do just that.

Curator is a simple tool enabled by our full Wiser platform and Intelligence Engine. Beyond the seamless ability to find and “clip” articles to include in your digest, Curator has a number of other time-saving features:

  • Preview mode to ensure your digest is pixel-perfect before sending

  • Easily organize your digest into sections with intuitive drag-and-drop UI

  • Pull relevant article excerpts into your digest using the excerpt feature on our popular browser extension

  • Tools to preface and annotate your digest with your own context and analysis

  • Save and archive your digests for easy retrieval at any point

  • Custom white-labeling to brand your digests with your company colors and logo

It’s just another way that Wiser helps you not only find the crucial information you need to succeed, but act on it. To learn more about Curator and see a video of it in action, check out our product page here or send us a note at sales@getwiser.com.


Self-Serve News Digests on Trends and Companies

Email News Digests on Different Topics

We’re pleased to announce a new project at Wiser: free morning news digests that are single-mindedly focused on a few of the biggest trends and high-profile companies out there. Starting today, anyone can sign up for these new digests at the links below. And for folks interested in our thinking behind this, please read on. 

First, the digests. We’ve designed them to pull from the best news coverage from around the web and to land in your inbox first thing every morning. We built them with technologists, investors, product developers, consultants, analysts, and casual enthusiasts in mind. Our initial news digests are on:

Apple, Inc.


Digital Music



Health IT

Product Development


Tesla Motors


Feel free to check them out and sign up for whichever interest you.

Now, a bit about why we’re testing this. As a news startup, our greatest asset is the Wiser Intelligence Engine, a massive database of leading publishers and blogs from around the world. Our 14,000 sources are being pulled from in real-time and parsed algorithmically to feed each user a stream of curated, relevant content. But also as a startup, we face the need to generate leads and build brand awareness. The idea behind these “self-serve” digests was to connect the thousands of people searching the web for reliable, quality content on the above topics with a daily source of the best news coverage. By creating a small amount of value for people with really focused content needs, we think we’ll be able to grow our pipeline and connect with teams and companies that’ll join us as paying clients.

We did a lot of research leading up to this. After all, creating a series of similar pages felt risky, even though each is totally distinct in focus and rich in quality content. To help us validate the strategy, we delved into the Matt Cutts archive; reviewed blog post after blog post; and reviewed all the SEO requirements with the help of the team at Amplio Digital. While it’s still very early, our research helped confirm that with time and a high standard of content, we should be able to rank for relevant search terms.

We hope you find them useful. If enough people do, we’ll think about creating more digests on other topics. Is there a topic you’d like to see a free digest on? Let us know.

Wiser Productivity Hacks: Cara Matteson

Wiser Productivity Hacks: Cara Matteson

At Wiser, we value constant growth and improvement not just of our product, but also our team. In our last post, we shared how OKRs help focus and guide our team’s workflow. Our next series of posts is focused on day-to-day execution. We’ve asked the Wiser team to share the productivity hacks that help them do their jobs on a daily (and sometimes hourly!) basis. For the next few weeks, each post will profile a different team member’s favorite workflow tool and productivity trick. To kick things off: Cara Matteson.

Since joining Wiser in 2012, Cara Matteson’s role has grown into heading up customer success. All of her work managing clients, coordinating with sales, and relaying feedback to the product team is motivated by a core question: “How can we make the Wiser user experience better?” Here is Cara’s favorite productivity tool and trick that help her keep this question in focus.

Tool: With so much on her plate, Cara needed to streamline the many different tools she uses to run customer success, which include a CRM, a support desk platform, cloud storage and separate email accounts. To do this, she turned to Acompli, a mobile app that syncs all the software she uses on a daily basis, thereby making client engagement on the go seamless. “Acompli allows you to share available times and schedule meetings from within your inbox, view and attach files from DropBox, Google Drive and more, and quickly find who or what you’re looking for with its predictive search feature,” Cara says.

Trick: Very simply, Cara’s productivity trick is to strive to “be present.” She accomplishes this with a few different tactics:

  • Music: “The perfect playlist and pair of headphones can do wonders to channel your attention. I enjoy minimalist, instrumental-heavy playlists, since rhythmic and repetitive tracks keep me motivated and focused on the task at hand.” Take a look at one of Cara’s favorite playlist here.

  • A Moment of Zen: To help regain focus in the midst of a busy workday, Cara recommends calm.com, which provides guided meditations designed for sitting at your desk. “Each ranges from 2 to 25 minutes, depending on the time you have available,” Cara says. She’s particularly fond of her weekly bug-report meetings with Zach Donovan, Wiser software engineer, which kicks off with 10 minutes of Zen before they get down to business.

Supriya Jain is currently an intern at Wiser, the social newsreader for teams and companies, while completing her BASc in Engineering Management Systems at Columbia University in New York.

How to Align Your Team or Company for Incredible Results

How to Align Your Team or Company for Incredible Results

At Wiser, we’re constantly trying to improve. As we continuously build our product, attract new users, and win clients, it’s important that we measure where we are against where we want to go.

We’ve tried a few different frameworks for doing this in the past, but the system we like best is setting Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs. When used properly, we think OKRs can be used by any person, team or company that wants to get better and achieve great results.

The Basic Concept

OKRs were invented at Intel under Andy Grove and popularized by the venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins. Companies like Google, LinkedIn and Zynga are now well-known for using OKRs to set and achieve goals.

The idea behind OKRs is to determine where the organization wants to go (the objective) and then set clear metrics that will help confirm when that destination has been reached (the key results).

The objective should typically be a single, inspirational, qualitative goal that will require everyone to align around a common purpose. It could be anything from “set the industry standard for value with our new line of toaster ovens” to “become the trusted, go-to resource for our clients on all of their legal needs.”

The key results should generally be empirical metrics to help ground the mission in reality with numbers that can be measured. When choosing your metrics, ask if they will help confirm if your objective has been achieved, or are merely tangential. If you’re just getting started, pick three to five key results for each company, team and individual objective to keep things focused and to minimize the burden of tracking.

How to Use OKRs

Company-wide OKRs should be set first to provide the overall direction, which then allows teams to set their own specific OKRs that will help achieve the broader mission. Finally, individual OKRs help each person on the team tie their work to the success of the team and the overall objective. Think of a cascading effect, where all team-wide and individual OKRs flow from the same source. As Swipely CEO Angus Davis explained in First Round Review,

When personal objectives are directly and clearly connected to the broader goals of the company, they’re suddenly more inspiring, less myopic. Make them public so everyone can see what’s on their co-workers’ plates and employees no longer feel like they’re toiling in a vacuum, or for their manager’s approval. That way, OKRs become a built-in way for people to ask for resources, or easily spot where they can come to their colleagues’ aid.

Making OKRs Work

While this all sounds straightforward, making OKRs actually work in practice is more complex. Here are some things to keep in mind to make them stick.

  • Keep Them Front and Center. It’s one thing to set OKRs at the beginning of a quarter only to dust them off three months later to assess. In order to be effective, OKRs need to be top of mind on a daily basis, and referred to at every relevant meeting or decision point. To help us stay focused on them, we print out our team- and company-wide OKRs and post them around the office. Having regular check-in meetings at the team and company levels that address status on OKRs is a best practice, though piggy-backing on existing meetings should help streamline adoption. For individual OKRs, team leaders should check in with private one-on-one meetings.

  • Pick Stretch Goals. When setting both objectives and key results, it’s important not to undershoot. While easy achievements may feel good in the short run, OKRs should help your company grow in ways that won’t always be comfortable. Achieving truly great results and building a culture of success relies on having each person and team push themselves to do work at the margin of what was considered possible. Christian Brucculeri, Vice President at K2 Media Labs, suggests setting key results that are only 60-70% achievable on a consistent basis.

  • Don’t Pick Too Many. As noted by Christina Wodtke, consultant and advisor on the subject of OKRs, choosing too many OKRs can dilute their purpose of unifying your organization around a clear objective. While a large organization like Google may need to set different OKRs for separate business lines or divisions, a smaller company will benefit from choosing one OKR to focus and rally effort.


For more tips and discussion on OKRs, we highly recommend Wodtke’s blog and these articles at First Round Review:

For more useful concepts on improving your team or company’s workflow, check out our blog post on 4 Easy Concepts to Make Your Team Smarter.

Nathaniel Emodi heads up business development at Wiser, the social newsreader for business teams, companies and organizations.

Using Google Alerts and Other Tools to Get a Better View of Your Job, Industry and Ecosystem

© Austin Ban, austinban.com

In our last post, we discussed a number of tools for receiving email alerts about different keywords.

The most well-known of these is probably Google Alerts, which recently underwent a nice new redesign. Whether you’re using Google Alerts or an another tool, this post describes some smart ways that alerts tools can be helpful in getting you important news and information at work.

(For more on this topic, check out our post on getting the best industry news digests.)

Monitoring Your Name

This one may seem obvious, but using alerts to track mentions of your name online can help you in several ways.

First, if you’re a public figure who can be cited or quoted in the media, this helps you stay on top of mentions.

Second, if your name is being used somewhere without your knowledge, it’s a safety measure to make sure this is being done appropriately.

Third, setting a web alert (instead of a news alert) can help you track if any apps or tools you’ve registered for have created a public profile page without your knowledge.

Since many employers and potential employers track these things, staying aware of your online persona is an important professional task.

Monitoring Your Brand/Company Name

Nowadays, the ease of accessing relevant information makes it mandatory to have a solid sense of the major stories and events impacting your brand or company.

If you’re in public relations, business development or marketing, having a clear sense of how your company is being talked about online is crucial to your day-to-day. But even if your role isn’t primarily focused on such things, having some solid awareness of what’s happening with your company publicly can position you as a savvier professional in your role or team.

Monitoring Your Team

For those working at more senior levels, it’s very important to have your finger on the pulse of your company, especially within your department.

Not knowing when and what is being said by or about those you work with can be a professional liability. I’ve held roles in which multiple people on my team were being quoted in the press on any given day. 

Creating alerts with the names of your public-facing team-mates is an easy way to make sure you’re aware of any key media mentions.

Monitoring Key Executives

As with your team, it’s important to be aware of what leaders at your employer are saying and doing publicly, especially if you work for a large, fast-moving company.

Stories abound of people learning about new product launches, business plans, hires, departures, and other important company news in the press before they hear about it internally. While this isn’t a best practice in internal communication, having news alerts set up can help you know what’s happening. And as you seek to grow professionally and advance your career, knowing what’s important to key executives can help you by having the right frame on your own priorities, or just to make relevant conversation when the opportunity arises.

Monitoring Competitors

It’s not enough to simply know your own company’s product or service these days. Knowing what’s happening with your key competitors, and their own products or services, is important for understanding the broader market and how your company exists within it.

Having insights about what’s being said about your competitors can help inform discussions about business strategy, product development, marketing, customer support, or sales. In fact, virtually any role can benefit by having competitive intelligence alerts set up.

You may even want to include key executives at competitors among your alerts, since they are most often the public voices of their companies and will hint at new products or initiatives to be aware of.

Monitoring Key Vocabulary, Ideas, and Trends

If you work in a fast-moving industry like technology, private equity/venture capital, or consulting, it’s often important to keep tabs on popular nomenclature or new ideas and trends that are shaping your field.

For example, companies in your ecosystem might be known by broader names, like the “Big 4” accounting firms or “Sand Hill Road” venture capital firms. Technology trends like the shift to cloud computing, “enterprise social” or “last mile delivery” can help pinpoint the specific things you’re working on in a more relevant context.

Thinking broadly about the buzzwords and trends impacting your role or company and setting up alerts around them can help you easily create a steady stream of helpful coverage.

Monitoring Your Industry

At an even broader level, it’s often important to think of your industry as a whole and the key people, events, trade groups, institutions and laws that help shape it.

Do you work in a heavily regulated industry like financial services? Keeping alerts for the names of the commissioners or chairs of your relevant regulators can help you stay better informed about new developments.

Do you work in a technology driven sector, like e-commerce? Think about the key things that happen periodically that are good to know about in advance, like the impending release of Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report.

Perhaps there are a few major conferences that are must-attend events, trade associations that your company is active with, or professional organizations that you belong to. Whatever the case, creating alerts about these terms can help you keep better tabs on them.

Monitoring Your Mentors and Role Models

As our careers progress, we sometimes lose touch with key bosses or mentors that helped coach or guide us to the next level.

Keeping in contact with these people can be a great way to foster your professional network, keep abreast of new opportunities, or just continue learning from someone with more experience.

If they are people who periodically appear in the press, creating a news alert for their names is a great way to remind yourself to keep in touch.

Similarly, many of us follow industry leaders on social media, subscribe to their blogs, or have read their books. As we forge our careers, we often look to them as sources of inspiration. Creating alerts with the names of these professional role models can help surface new content about them or even opportunities to connect.

Either way, keeping a regular stream of professional inspiration in your inbox can be a helpful motivator.

Do you have any other suggestions for using alerts to get useful information for your job? I’d love to hear from you: nat@getwiser.com.

Nathaniel Emodi heads up business development at Wiser, the social newsreader for business teams, companies and organizations.

The Best News Alerts Tools for Your Business

The Best News Alerts Tools for Your Business

Most companies need to track their market, clients or competitors to grow revenue and expand or improve on their offerings. Having the right industry data or market insight at the right time can often make or break your chances of winning new business. If you’re in a competitive market, it’s also crucial to understand trends that are happening so you have time to adapt.

We’ve written before about some of our favorite places to find email news digests, but in this post we’ll discuss a different aspect of getting relevant content at work: email alerts. While news digests push information to you based on your industry, preferences, or recommendations from colleagues, news alerts won’t trigger until something relevant appears on the web. They can be dormant for weeks or months until a relevant term pops up. That said, poorly designed alerts can inundate you with irrelevant information based on overly broad keywords or phrases. This makes it important to test your alerts using Boolean operators, which any reliable alerts tool should have available.

This post outlines some of the best tools for creating news, blog and web alerts to help you stay on top of relevant developments at work. Note: since this list is focused on your professional life, just a few of the services are free. 

Free Tools

Google Alerts. This is probably the most widely known alerts tool. It’s free to use as long as you have a Google account. Google has updated the service over the years to the frustration of many users, and others have raised questions about its comprehensiveness and reliability. Still, Google Alerts remain a mainstay for many professionals who want to keep abreast of developments involving their company, key executives, trends in their field, and other news. One of the nice features of Google Alerts is the ability to create an RSS feed for your alerts, which allow you to track your alerts in an RSS feedreader or newsreader.

Mention. Another near real-time media monitoring app, Mention is a Paris-based service directed mainly at providing brands with “filtered, organized and prioritized information from the web and social networks.” Mention supports dozens of languages and allows you to customize your alerts and reports to a high degree. For example, if you’re interested only in specific social networks in certain languages, you can quickly adjust those settings. This makes Mention particularly useful for larger companies looking to track news and social discussion across regions, languages and preferred networks. Free accounts are available, though only a certain number of mentions can be tracked per month without upgrading.

SocialMention. If you’re looking for instances of specific keywords being used on social media, Social Mention might be the right tool for you. It’s a social media search and analysis platform that combines social content from different sites into a single newsfeed. According to its website, the service monitors more than 100 social media services directly. Social Mention is well known for their daily social media alerts, though this appears temporarily disabled as of this writing.

Talkwalker. Billing itself as “the best free and easy alternative to Google Alerts,” Talkwaker monitors the web for relevant news and other content in a similar way. Creating alerts are very familiar to the Google process, with the ability to customize result type, language, frequency, and relevance. Unlike Google Alerts, however, Talkwalker’s free service doesn’t include real-time, as-it-happens alerts — only once-a-day or once-a-week monitoring. Talkwalker appears geared toward social media monitoring as its primary use-case and claims many notable brands as its clients.

Financial Professionals

Bloomberg Professional. A juggernaut in the world of financial information, Bloomberg Professional is well known for their robust alerts functionality. The platform allows email alerts to be created for virtually any financial event, including changes in the trading of individual instruments in the commodities, derivatives, equities, fixed income and FX markets. Other events, like corporate announcements, earnings releases, capital raises and the like are also easily tracked with custom alerts.  

StreetAccount. Designed to track market-moving information in real-time, StreetAccount is targeted at institutional investors, equity analysts and other financial services professionals. For that reason, the service is focused mainly on tracking different types of company news. In addition to serving as a corporate newsreader, StreetAccount pulls from sources as diverse as court rulings, FTC antitrust decisions, analyst presentations, earnings transcripts and the like. StreetAccount also helps manage its flow of email alerts by allowing users to create filters for specific items like stocks, indices, keywords and keyphrases.

Public Relations, Media Relations & Marketing Professionals

Cision. This alerts tool is offered by a giant of the PR monitoring landscape, Sweden-based Cision, as part of their full software suite. Primarily focused on tracking the media landscape, distributing press releases and managing publicity campaigns, Cision also offers robust media monitoring tools. Alerts can be set to track the social web, print media sources, broadcast outlets, and blogs in either near real-time or daily reports.

Meltwater. One of the established players in the PR media monitoring field, Meltwater alerts are designed for PR professionals to easily monitor breaking news and updates about key client accounts, competitors and industries of focus. The service tracks thousands of news publications along with the major social media networks. Meltwater puts a focus on Boolean logic to allow for more quality in their search results, along with translation and archive features. As part of their broader PR-oriented offering, Meltwater’s alerts are integrated to allow easy social sharing of the content it uncovers.

Vocus. Another stalwart of the PR- and marketing-focused monitoring space, Vocus’s software tracks and scans thousands of news sources, including television and radio stations in both the U.S. and internationally. Not surprisingly, Vocus also tracks blog mentions and the social web. If you’re a public relations professional or work in marketing for a major brand, chances are you’ve encountered Vocus at some point. The company offers a range of other PR and marketing-automation services. 

Sales & Marketing Professionals

Colabo. Founded in 2010, Colabo is designed for sales and marketing professionals. It gathers data from any web source and sends alerts when changes occur in the pages you track. According to its website, Colabo is used primarily for sales prospecting, lead qualification, lead generation, and named account tracking. Other interesting use-cases include simplifying market and industry research by gathering many different sources into a single dashboard, and enabling alerts.

ContentGems. Closer to marketing than sales, ContentGems provides a platform to help marketers discover, organize and share relevant content to help build their brand leadership and inbound web traffic. To help track relevant ideas, trends, products and industries, ContentGems provides advanced Boolean syntax, a common feature for most alerts services but something particularly useful for analyzing text for content marketing. The service boasts the ability to track thousands of news sources, blogs and social media accounts, as well as any website with an RSS feed. You can also configure ContentGems to send a single daily email digest with your results.

GageIn. This list wouldn’t be complete without GageIn, a company that calls itself “Google Alerts on steroids.” Aimed primarily at sales and marketing professionals looking for events, trends and triggers to facilitate introductions to potential leads, GageIn offers a SalesForce integration to begin recommending news about your specific companies and people of interest. The service also lets you zero in on different types of sales triggers, from executive moves, product launches, capital raises and other events. GageIn also uses machine-learning algorithms to help suggest alerts based on the ones you previously found most relevant.

Did we miss any? Let us know: nat [AT] getwiser.com.

Nathaniel Emodi heads up business development at Wiser, the private social newsreader for business teams, companies and organizations.

4 Easy Concepts to Make Your Team Smarter

4 Easy Concepts to Make Your Team Smarter

At Wiser, we face all the challenges of any group or company. We have multiple teams that need to coordinate, cooperate, and communicate effectively to help our clients and build our product. We have a mission to fulfill, but our roles compel each of us to prioritize things differently. As the company has grown, we’ve tried to consistently incorporate new ideas to improve our workflow and ease friction. Many of these are simple concepts that have become part of the team’s daily lexicon, things we can quickly reference in the midst of a chat or meeting to help move things forward. In short, they help us communicate faster and more effectively.

Here are a few concepts we’ve been using recently to help make our team smarter.

1. 30% vs. 90% Feedback

We’ve long admired the folks at 42Floors for offering simple but powerful ideas for improving how to get work done. Jason Freedman recently outlined the concept of thirty percent feedback in a blog post that quickly trended on our Wiser feed. The full post is certainly worth a read, but in brief:

When we’re working on a project, it’s crucial to get constructive feedback. Often, however, we aren’t about the kind of feedback we’re seeking. Is our project thirty percent done, and we’re interested in a broad conversation about the direction we’re taking? Or do we consider it ninety percent finished, and need detailed feedback on the little details that will provide a final layer of polish? Clarifying exactly what kind of feedback will be most effective for your stage in the process lets the person reviewing target their comments.

On our team, we find this practice gets the person asking for it the most useful feedback, and allows the person giving their input a clearer sense of how they can help.

2. Checklists

Atul Gawande, a surgeon and journalist, wrote the 2009 bestseller The Checklist Manifesto about how simple checklists can dramatically improve flight safety, medical care, business processes, and other complex team endeavors.

Not surprisingly, we think creating and delivering best-in-class software to high-performing teams and companies is itself a pretty complex endeavor. From testing new product features to preparing for sales calls, we rely heavily on checklists to make sure we’re performing to the best standard as often as we can.

If adhered to, checklists can create added accountability for completing tasks accurately, though Gawande thinks they need an extra element to really be effective. He suggests creating a policy in which any member of a team, even the most junior, can challenge any other member of the team for not adhering to the checklist. Empowering your team to point out when proper processes aren’t being followed helps ensure everyone is held to the same standard and fewer steps are inadvertently skipped. The result is more consistent  execution for your business, flight plan or surgical procedure.

3. Calibrating Feedback

A few weeks ago, Jeff Weiner, CEO at LinkedIn, wrote about how senior people often inadvertently create problems without realizing it by giving casual feedback. He explained:

“[O]ftentimes what I thought was a take-it-or-leave-it remark would create a massively disruptive fire drill. Up until that moment, I had no idea my opinion was being weighted so heavily.”

While Wiser is a much smaller company than LinkedIn, we still notice this dynamic and think Weiner’s prescription for avoiding it is useful, even in the context of cross-functional teams where collaboration rules and traditional hierarchy holds little sway. When reviewing a project, points of feedback that could have outsize impact are qualified in three categories: One person’s opinion, strong suggestion, or mandate.

If someone on the team disagrees with something but doesn’t feel strongly, and their point is being considered by the team, they can qualify it as one person’s opinion. This helps relieve the team of weighing it too carefully. If the disagreement is felt more strongly, the person can qualify that they see their input as a strong suggestion. This most often occurs when they are a stakeholder in the decision, and will feel its impact more directly. Finally, when a manager views an outcome as having a potentially seriously negative effect, they will mandate that their view be followed. This is the so-called “nuclear option” that should be rarely used. In Weiner’s words:

“Issuing mandates when it makes sense can pay huge dividends by enabling the company to avoid prohibitively costly mistakes. However, issue them too often or without the right justification and there is no faster way to signal your lack of trust and demotivate the team. Try to use this category sparingly (if at all).”

4. 5-Why Analysis

The 5-why analysis (or simply, 5-whys) is a concept developed at Toyota to help avoid mistakes and improve processes by uncovering the root cause of a problem. Identifying the root cause of a problem is important because it saves you and your company from wasting time with an ineffective solution by rooting out the false assumptions and other logic traps that very often cause problems. In short, the 5-whys helps increase the odds that the solution you apply will effectively prevent a problem from happening again.

There are many diagrams to help put the 5-whys into practice, but the basic concept is as follows:

  1. Identify the problem.
    e.g. A special database integration we undertook for a Wiser enterprise client took several days longer to complete than we expected, i.e. we missed our deadline.

  2. Review the problem and ask: why did this happen?
    e.g. Because our initial estimate wasn’t accurate.

  3. Review your answer and apply the same question: why?
    e.g. Because we didn’t take into account how long it would take to integrate with their database.

  4. Repeat again: why?
    e.g. Because we thought their database would follow certain standards.

  5. And again: why?
    e.g. Because we didn’t ask the client if their database conformed to our expected standards before we provided the estimate.

In the example above, the root cause we’ve identified is an assumption about the project we undertook that turned out to be false. In this instance, developing a simple set of questions to ask in advance of future integrations will help us provide a much more realistic estimate and thereby hit our deadline.

The 5 steps in the process is an average number of steps typically required to arrive at the root cause of the problem, but more steps can be necessary. For more on the 5-whys, Karn Bulsuk, an Australian-based management consultant, has some great resources on his blog.

Nathaniel Emodi heads up business development at Wiser, the private social newsreader for teams, companies and organizations.

Two Simple Habits to Become a More Productive Reader

Two Simple Habits to Become a More Productive Reader

Modern professionals spend an inordinate amount of time looking for, reading, and processing information. Just in the last day, you’ve likely read news, reports, research, commentary, and/or blog posts related to your job.

According to a 2012 McKinsey study, the average knowledge worker spends 19% of his week searching for, and gathering, information.1 In a 50-hour work-week, that’s almost 10 hours.

What if you could reduce that time?

There are many different techniques for teaching yourself to read more efficiently. Some of our favorite efficiency experts, like Tim Ferriss and Clay Johnson, have explored such techniques in detail.

We think cultivating two simple and intuitive habits can measurably reduce how much time you spend reading at work.

1. Ask Yourself Why

Let’s face it: we’re adrift in a sea of information. This requires that you first decide what information you consider to be important.

Our first suggestion is an obvious and often overlooked idea: take a moment to consider why you’re reading what you’re reading. Answering the question, “why am I reading this?” before digging in should help clarify your goal(s).

Are you reading something to learn about a topic you’re researching? To keep up with developments in your field? To get background on a potential client or partner you’re scheduled to meet with?

Or are you simply killing time, unsure of what you’re looking for?

Clarifying a goal has been proven to boost performance because it forces you to proceed with purpose. Unless you’re looking for serendipity, or just want to take a break, try stopping yourself before you begin any unnecessary reading. When you realize you don’t, you’ll save your own time.

2. Look for the Information You Need

With your purpose firmly in mind, it’s important to stop reading every word out of a misplaced sense of obedience. Here’s what we mean.

As cited elsewhere, Dr. William G. Perry, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, once ran a test. He asked 1,500 first-year college students to read a 30-page history book chapter in 20 minutes.3 Before they started, Dr. Perry told the group they’d be asked to write a short essay about the chapter when they were finished. 

After the reading, only 1% of the students (15 of the 1,500) were able to write a cogent essay that summarized the chapter’s main theme. Perry learned that the successful students had focused on the chapter’s “Summary” section and the summary blurbs in the margin. He contrasted this goal-driven approach with the majority of students who ploddingly read every word at the expense of their overall purpose.

Dr. Perry called this behavior “obedient purposelessness.” Others may recall the old idiom about missing the forest for the trees.

Sound familiar? I think it’s safe to say we all sometimes succumb to obedient purposelessness. Dr. Perry’s solution was to teach students to “ask themselves what it is they want to get out of a reading assignment, then look around for those points.” This sounds simple, but it works.

Were you tasked with summarizing an important legal document for your team? By all means, please read every word. But are you looking for the gist of a news story, or a few key facts ahead of a client meeting? By following Dr. Perry’s recommendation, you’ll gather what you need, move on, and save time.

Developing these two basic habits should help you trim unproductive reading, focus on what’s important, and read more efficiently.


[1]  I’ve resorted to a common term here, though the McKinsey report uses “interaction worker”. In a separate HBR blog post, the McKinsey authors defined such workers as “managers, professionals, sales people, and others whose work requires frequent interpersonal interactions, independent judgment, and access to knowledge.”

Nathaniel Emodi heads up business development at Wiser, a web app that helps people find and share more insightful information at work.

5 Places to Get the Best News by Email for Your Industry, Company and Job

Morning News by Francis Luis Mora, San Diego Museum of Art

At Wiser, we’ll be among the first to admit that too much communication happens over email. That’s one of the reasons we’ve built a platform to make information sharing and discovery at work easier with fewer emails. But, as we’ve argued elsewhere, email still has many advantages. A key finding in a recent survey from Quartz confirmed what we’ve long believed at Wiser, namely that an email digest is still the preferred way for professionals to catch up on headlines. Quartz reported that 60% of executives turn to email newsletters most often to find their news, beating out dedicated news websites and apps, social media and print.

We’ve compiled a list of our five favorite ways to get the best news for your industry, company and job delivered directly to your inbox.

1. HappyInbox

We’re big fans of HappyInbox, a new site built to help you discover the best email newsletters. The layout and design of the newsletters are beautiful, and the summary of each helps you quickly figure out if you’ll want to subscribe. While the current listings veer mainly toward tech, design and startups, HappyInbox allows anyone to submit a newsletter for inclusion, which should help address other areas over time.

2. SmartBrief

SmartBrief’s digests are among the very best. The company works with dozens of industry associations, professional societies and companies to produce curated daily newsletters on a wide range of business topics. Each digest summarizes the day’s most important stories, and is free to subscribe to. You can browse different SmartBrief topics by industry, like healthcare, media or tech, a nice way to find what’s most relevant.

3. Newsle

We love Newsle for sending us daily updates when someone in our network makes the news. A free account syncs with your LinkedIn, Facebook or email contacts, so when someone you know appears in an article, you’ll know about it. We also like the separate notifications when a journalist we know writes a story, and the ability to follow public figures as an extra way to keep up with movers and shakers that matter to us.

4. Owler

Are you in a field like investing or professional services that requires you to track companies or competitors? The daily email digests from Owler are a great way to get the latest news on a list of companies you follow. We also like how Owler lists the day’s trending companies, based on funding news, M&A and other events, and even recommends companies we may be interested in following based on those already on our list.

5. Wiser Email Digests

This list would be incomplete without mentioning our own free Wiser email digests. We’ve designed the Wiser digests to give you the best recommendations for your industry, topics and issues of choice, along with a recap of suggested reads from your team. Our recommendations are pulled from thousands of sources and take into account popularity among industry experts, news aggregators and other signals. Get Wiser with a free account for you and your close colleagues, or start a free trial for your whole team or company. 

Posted by Nathaniel Emodi, director of business development.

Goodbye, Delve; Hello, Wiser!

We’d like to share some big news with you: the product you’ve come to know as Delve goes live today as Wiser

At some point over these past two years, you or a teammate of yours turned to us. Your goal was simple: you needed some help finding and sharing new information at work. You knew that doing so gave you an edge — that in order to reach your goal you needed your team to see your landscape the way you do. You knew that being informed by yourself is great, but being smarter together is what drives success for your organization.

We realized over these last few months that we have a new word for that ethic - one that we thought was even better than Delve. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Wiser. Over the last two years, we’ve made great progress in finding and sharing relevant information at the workplace. Over the first year, we honed our recommendations, and over the past one, we’ve been working to make sharing information seamless, intuitive, and more directly actionable for your teammates. Wiser represents the best of what we’ve learned, and here’s how it’ll make you better at your job.

Wiser’s built to help you and your team find and make useful the best of what you read each day: news, perspectives, research of any and all kinds. In rebuilding what was Delve, we’ve chosen a clearer, simpler three-step narrative through the product that aligns neatly with your process of discovering and sharing important news with your team:

  • Follow: You and your colleagues can now Follow topics, sources, and saved keywords that will be found on your new home page. We’ll continue to suggest the best reads we can find based on what you’re following in your We Recommend feed.
  • Share: Click the Share button on a relevant story, and it will appear in a separate stream to the left of the We Recommend feed. Any of your colleagues can Upvote your Share, and the more Upvotes a Share receives, the more it stays at the top of the Trending feed. Like before, you can also Share via email or using our updated browser extension.
  • Engage: Once a story has been Shared, we’ve made it dead simple to make it valuable: excerpt the key part of the story you want your teammates to read, and add a comment saying why. Tag it so that you can easily find it later, or notify a specific person or group.

We’ve also realized that the part of Delve that reached the most people was our digest. Wiser brings the best of our functionality to email, making it as easy as could be to share links via email, and engage with your teammates Shares the next day. And because we believe in easy information sharing for everyone, we’ve made our social digest completely free for any team starting today on Wiser.

We all grow, we mature, we evolve. Over time we learn new ways to do things and we find ourselves surrounded by people with new and diverse perspectives. Each of us is at once an accumulation of all that we’ve experienced and learned over our careers, and at the same time we’re all so much less than we’ll know and have done days, weeks, months from now.

The same goes for our humble operation. As you continue growing smarter, count on us to help your team get Wiser.


CEO, Wiser