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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Exclusive: Houston coworking company to open sports tech-focused hub

go team

It's game time for a Houston-based coworking company that's working on opening a sports innovation hub this summer.

The Cannon is working on opening new hub in 53 West, a Galleria-area office building recently renovated by Braun Enterprises. The project is in partnership with Gow Media, InnovationMap's parent company, and will be co-located with the media business that runs Gow Broadcasting LLC and the SportsMap Radio Network, which includes local sports station 97.5 as well as national syndicated content.

The Cannon's founder Lawson Gow tells InnovationMap that Gow Media — founded by Lawson's father, David Gow — and Braun Enterprises were opportunistic partners for the organization.

"We've always been optimistically looking for strategic partners that we can co-locate with or team up with to create a hyper focused, niche community," Lawson Gow says. "We've spent a lot of time thinking about what that can be."

Expected to open midsummer, the new two-story space will have 23 offices and a 1,500-square-foot open space that can be used for events. All existing Cannon members will have access to the space, and potential tenants can expect a similar pricing model to The Cannon's other three Houston-area locations.

Houston makes sense for sports tech, which Gow defines as encompassing four categories of innovation — fan engagement, activity and performance, fantasy and gambling, and esports. Houston has the money, the big four sports teams, a big fan base, and corporate interest, he explains.

"Sports tech is a thing we can win at. There's no global hub for sports tech — so Houston can do that," Gow says. "We've always had that in our heads as a direction we want the city to head down, so it just makes it so opportunistic to create a space for that kind of innovation at work for the city."

53 West has been undergoing renovations recently. Photo via braunenterprises.com

Houston-based cancer and disease bio-venture launches after multimillion dollar series A

money moves

Sporos Bioventures LLC launched this month after closing a $38.1 million round of series A financing.

The Houston-based biotech company aims to accelerate the development of breakthrough therapies for cancer and immune diseases by sharing resources, capital, access to clinical trial infrastructure, and talent from within its knowledgeable team of biotech executives, entrepreneurs, academic scholars, and investors. The company was launched with four entities: Tvardi Therapeutics, Asylia Therapeutics, Nirogy Therapeutics, and Stellanova Therapeutics.

The most advanced of the four entities, Tvardi, is currently in Phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate it's STAT3 oral inhibitor. It was named a "most promising" life sciences company at the 2020 Texas Life Science Forum, hosted by BioHouston and the Rice Alliance in December. The remaining entities are in the development stages and are focused on cancer, autoimmune disease, fibrosis, and tumor growth, among other conditions.

"Sporos was founded to accelerate the development of new medicines by addressing inefficiencies and risk in the establishment of new biotech companies," Peter Feinberg, Sporos co-founder, said in a statement. "By leveraging our extensive network, including the Texas Medical Center, we first identify transformative scientific opportunities and then deploy our top-tier talent, funding, and operational support to drive these insights into a growing pipeline of first-in-class treatment options."

In conjunction with the launch, Sporos named Michael Wyzga as the company's founding CFO. Wyzga was previously CFO at Genzyme for 12 years and has held various senior-level positions in the industry.

"By strategically deploying valuable resources to young companies that would not typically be supported by top-tier seasoned talent and infrastructure, we believe that we can efficiently bring a diverse set of therapies through clinical development," Wyzga said in a statement. "I am thrilled to join a team with decades of scientific and operational expertise and look forward to guiding our strategic and financial growth."

Wyzga joins a team of seasoned leaders in the biotech and cancer research fields, including Dr. Ronald DePinho, professor of Cancer Biology and past president of MD Anderson, who will serve as the chair of Sporos' Strategic Advisory Council. Jeno Gyuris, a biotech executive in oncology drug discovery and development with more than 25 years of experience, will serve as chief science officer. And Alex Cranberg, an experienced active early-stage biotech investor, serves as director.

To expand or not to expand? Houston researcher weighs in on global growth

houston voices

You built your business from the ground up, patiently finding techniques and products that work, carefully crafting solid bonds with your clients. Then one day a new project, opportunity or simple request poses a question: Is it time to branch out overseas?

Of the welter of questions to consider, the first and most important involves location: not just the physical location of the prospective expansion site, but the cultural differences between a firm's home country and its new destination. Secondly, key company traits need to be considered in choosing the investment locations. Is your firm large or small? Young or old? Finally, of pivotal importance to companies outside the United States: Is your company privately held or state-owned?

In a recent paper, Rice Business professor Yan Anthea Zhang looked closely at these three variables with Yu Li of the University of International Business and Economics Business School in Beijing, China and Wei Shi of the Miami Business School at the University of Miami. What, the researchers wanted to know, was the relation of these three features and firms' location choices for their overseas investments?

To find out, Zhang and her colleagues analyzed 7,491 Chinese firms that had recently ventured into foreign markets with 9,558 overseas subsidiaries. Because China now has become the world's leading source of foreign direct investments, the sample promised to be instructive. Thanks to the large sample size, researchers could test hypotheses relating to firm size, age, ownership and the impact of geographical and cultural distance on their location choices.

After studying the elements of geographic distance and cultural distance, Zhang and her colleagues uncovered a paradox. Companies that had an advantage in tackling one dimension of distance were actually disadvantaged — because of the same characteristic — in another dimension.

How, exactly, did this paradox work? Larger firms, with access to more resources, can "experiment with new strategies, new products, and new markets," the researchers wrote. This large size makes geographic distance less of a concern, but it comes with a ponderous burden of its own. Company culture is directly influenced by the country of origin, Zhang wrote. Transferring that culture into a completely different environment can cause the kind of shock that could lead to failure, even with financial and physical resources to ease the geographical distance. Conversely, smaller firms may be more nimble and able to adapt to needed cultural changes — but lack the resources to make true inroads in a foreign market.

A similar paradox exists for older and younger firms, Zhang wrote. A younger firm is more likely to adapt to a culturally distant country than an older firm might, even if that youth means that geographical distance is a greater logistical challenge.

State-owned firms face a similar paradox, one that comes down to the balance of resources against cultural flexibility. A company with state-generated resources may be better equipped to move a caravan people, machinery and materials to a distant new location. However, state-owned companies often typically lack the internal cultural flexibility to handle expansion to a different environment.

What does this mean for the average manager? Simply that going global demands meticulous weighing of factors. Does your firm have the practical resources to expand overseas? Does your staff have the personal flexibility and willingness to meld company culture with that of a different milieu? It's a truism that major overseas expansions require money and heavy lifting. Less obviously, managers of successful companies must thread a very fine needle: ensuring they have the material resources to get their business overseas physically, while confirming that company culture is light enough on its feet to thrive in day-to-day life in a new place.

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This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom and is based on research from Yan Anthea Zhang, a professor and the Fayez Sarofim Vanguard Chair of Strategy in the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.