CDR Assessment Group's CDR-U platform is taking executive training to help grow and develop talent at every level. Photo courtesy of CDR

What if executive training and professional development didn't just reach the C-suite? A business management company is tapping into tech to bring quality leadership assessments and coaching to all levels with its latest product.

CDR Assessment Group plans to help employees grow at their work, overcome stressors, and increase diversity in management within the workplace with its recently launched CDR-U platform.

"The vision was to extend a deep level of self awareness to all employees," explains Nancy Parsons, president of CDR Assessment Group.

For more than 20 years, the company has developed in-depth assessments and coaching. CDR Assessment Group has now adapted its existing three-pronged CDR 3-D Assessment Suite into CDR-U, a program available to employees throughout an entire company.

According to the company, entry-level employees and mid-level managers make up 85 percent of the workforce. Employers who solely focus on C-suite executives leave behind a majority of their workforce. CDR-U targets these individuals with personalized, AI-style coaching that can be accessed at any time of the day.

"It's really exciting because through this process, now people can really get in touch with their strengths and gifts to a nuanced level. It's not like a Myers Briggs or a DISC, it goes way deeper than that," explains Parsons.

CDR-U features three assessments that ask a series of questions to determine the character, drivers and rewards, as well as the risks of each employee. Rather than a simple report, the program will then offer a personalized debriefing using an AI avatar the employee can choose, which explains the results and coaches the employee through an individualized process.

"The graphics are from your actual results. It's not some generic thing up on the screen," shares Parsons, "We just wanted it to feel like they were being talked to by something that's as close to human as we could get."

After the debrief, employees can access CDR-U's Developmental Action Planning Module to help employees assess their risks "on a deeper level" and "formulate a plan," explains Parsons.

Nancy Parsons is the president of CDR Assessment Group. Photo courtesy of CDR

To Parsons, self awareness is key. "You would be shocked at how often people are not really in touch with some of their best strengths. They certainly don't know the risks and careers go off track quickly," she says, "It's so important that people really know themselves at this level so that they're not under-utilizing strengths."

Understanding themselves also helps employees to "do what they love so they can really enjoy their work," she explains.

At a time when the American workforce has been relegated to a work-from-home model, Parsons feels that the coronavirus pandemic has employees feeling detached. "We're often more stressed or our risks are probably showing more and we feel detachedwe feel cut off from our team," she shares, "It's a way to give people some real reassurance."

If team members are feeling especially down, companies can share CDR-U data and create team debriefs to help them through.

"I think it's more important now because people are stressed, they are kind of depressed and this is a way to pull them back," says Parsons.

Aside from a health pandemic, the United States is also experiencing increased racial tensions around the country. Business Insider reports that as companies are speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, some have poor records of diversity and inclusion in their own workplaces. Corporations like Adidas, Estée Lauder Companies, Facebook, and PepsiCo are just a few of the many organizations making actionable pledges to hire and promote BIPOC within its organization, according to the New York Times.

Women have also been historically marginalized in the workplace, with McKinsey's Women in the Workplace 2019 report showing that "women continue to be underrepresented at every level."

When using data from CDR-U, racial and gender biases are no longer in the picture. "This is the best diversity tool out there because the data is race and gender-neutral. This way we can stop screening out so many women and minorities because their true talent will shine through," explains Parsons. As a scientifically-validated and neutral assessment, businesses have the ability to identify potential leaders who may be overlooked due to human biases.

"It's an objective measure against the rest of the population. It is a self-questionnaire—nobody is rating you. It's a snapshot or a fingerprint of who you are," she shares.

Parsons hopes to help people identify their strengths, stay engaged, and find the path that is best for them.

"When people are able to work in harmony congruently with what's best about them, it's going to change the dynamics of organizations and leadership. . .That's why I'm doing this," she says.

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Innovative Houston urban farm scores national award for green work

to the moon

A Houston urban farm has earned national recognition for its innovative approach to water conservation. Moonflower Farms won the American Heart Association's Foodscape Innovation Excellence Award, which recognizes positive changes in the foodscape, a term for all of the places where food is produced, purchased, or consumed.

The Heart Association selected Moonflower's submission, titled "Sustainable Farming Through Water Conservation," from 26 entries. Dallas' Restorative Farms earns the Foodscape Innovation Consumer Choice Award.

"These two innovations demonstrate a way of producing food that promotes affordability and equitable access, and the American Heart Association is proud to recognize these efforts," AHA chief medical officer for prevention Eduardo Sanchez said in a release.

Located in a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse south of downtown, Moonflower operates what it describes as Houston's first vertical indoor farm. The method both reduces the amount of space needed to grow the farm's microgreens, lettuces, herbs and edible flowers and it eliminates the disruptions caused by adverse weather conditions, which allows the farm to produce year round.

Moonflower uses a closed-loop system for capturing rainwater to feed its crops. The water is treated and oxygenated so that it can be reused. Not having to pay for water from the City of Houston allows the farm to operate more economically and sell its produce at an affordable price to restaurants and individuals.

"Our hydroponic farm uses 90-percent less water than conventional farms," Moonflower founder and CEO Federico Marques said in a statement. "We provide year-round produce to residents in historically underserved communities and donate produce to local charitable food systems."

One of those charities is Houston non-profit Second Servings, which "rescues" food from restaurants and events and distributes it to food pantries and other resources.

"The donations we receive from Moonflower Farms are incredible," Second Servings founder and president Barbara Bronstein said. "Their hydroponically grown greens are so appreciated by the needy Houstonians we serve, who lack affordable, convenient access to fresh produce."

Recently, Moonflower introduced a SupaGreens subscription box that allows customers to purchase greens weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. The box is delivered directly to consumers.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston blockchain startup to collaborate to increase supply chain transparency

impact shopping

More than two-thirds of the country's consumers have been reported saying that a business's social reputation will influence their buying decisions. A Houston blockchain startup has teamed up with another company to increase transparency.

Topl and Denver-based TrackX, a software-as-a-service asset management and supply chain solution provider, have entered into a partnership aimed at combining technology to create a verifiable tracking and tracing solution to equip company supply chains with sustainability, transparency, and efficiency.

According to Topl CEO, Kim Raath, the FDA announced new requirements in September, and the new rule requires full traceability in several agri-food products.

"This new rule will force many agri-food brands to take a deep look across their supply chains and find a way to track and trace their products," says Raath in a press release. "Topl and TrackX's solution will be a great option for these companies having to comply with new regulations and compliance mandates. Further, our joint solution allows users to visualize their supply chain data, monitor suppliers, and easily report the progress of ESG initiatives to all stakeholders."

Kim Raath is the CEO of Topl. Photo courtesy of Topl

Together with Topl's purpose-built blockchain technology and TrackX's core enterprise asset management and supply chain optimization capabilities, companies can securely share verified event data to lower costs and increase transparency.

"Our clients have a unique opportunity to turn supply chain optimization into a competitive advantage," says Tim Harvie, TrackX CEO, in the release. "TrackX already automates supply chain execution and analytics for many leading brands and retailers.

"Tight integration with Topl's blockchain will now provide the 'proof' to all supply chain stakeholders that certain events have occurred," he continues. "In partnership with Topl, our enterprise customers will have the tracing, tracking, visibility and accountability they need to meet their digital supply chain and ESG initiatives."

Houston energy expert on how big data yields more reliable results

Guest column

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of need tells us that at our core, humans crave safety and sustenance. When you turn on the light each morning while getting ready for work, or when you check your bank account and see your paycheck arrived on schedule, we expect every aspect of our daily lives to work.

In today's world, we often take these things for granted, until reliability is threatened. Our dependency is revealed in the frenzy over a potential toilet paper shortage and in the panic buying of gasoline in a hurricane. When things in society are consistent, economies thrive. However, when you introduce fear and uncertainty, things begin to spiral. It is in these times that the decisions we make can have the biggest impact on the world around us.

The link between impactful decisions and reliability has brought our society to a pivotal moment in history. We have created a society so reliable and developed that even during the coronavirus lockdown, the basic needs of Americans could be met with only 25 percent of our workforce actively working. By increasing productivity using machines and systems, we have been able to improve our overall quality of life, but not without a price. As a result of such high improvement, we as a society have come to not only expect, but demand, reliability at all times.

When dependability waivers and anxiety rises, those in key decision-making positions are faced with unprecedented situations. Due to distress and a lack of understanding of certain situations, those in decision making positions are often times forced to make decisions based on rapid response and emotion. Because of this, consistency and reliability suffer.

A prime example of an emotional response is the coronavirus shutdown that occurred earlier this year. As a response to the growing fear and panic over the virus, major portions of our economy were shut down; schools were closed; and citizens were confined to their homes.

What followed was the bankruptcy of thousands of businesses, an unprecedented wave of fear throughout society and a disruption to the consistency of our daily lives. We have yet to know what lasting impacts this decision will have on our future economy or livelihood, but we now understand that rapid decision making is often met with long-term consequences.

While there will continue to be disagreements on all sides regarding the handling of the shutdown, what is undisputable is that we as a society have gained an opportunity to learn. We now have the unique advantage of using data in ways that has never been used before in order to make consistently better decisions, allowing us the opportunity to perform at levels we have never thought possible.

Whether it be data advancements in sports (think Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics), or the progression of technology (continuous iPhone updates), we are able to study the improvements of data on society in order to make more reliable decisions. With more powerful data analytics and innovations in data sciences, we are able to positively impact the most vital components of our society in order to make decisions that will drive evolution and reliability.

As the world continues to progress, the decisions we are forced to make have become more complex. With each complicated decision comes the potential for lasting positive or negative impact on society. In shifting from emotional, rapid reactions towards more data and quantitative focused methods, we have the unique and unprecedented opportunity to make our world a more reliable, stable and creative place.

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Ryan Sitton is the founder of Pinnacle and the author of "Crucial Decisions."