Why? Cos its easier! See you at http://catalystformagic.posterous.com/
I just woke to the news that Amazon had acquired Zappos.
I met Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO and cultural leader and uber twitterer @Zappos at the Business Innovation Factory in Providence, Rhode Island last year. Two things about him that were just utterly remarkable were his humility and his passion about the culture of his company. So, I was puzzled about why they decided to team with Amazon althouh seeing I live in Australia and cannot order Zappos here, it makes a lot of sense to team up with Amazon for growth of sclae.
But the even more interesting part is why did Amazon want Zappos and pay so much for it, when Amazon already has the smarts of online shopping and a dominant brand?
Because of the INTANGIBLES- just what I blogged about two days ago. The stuff that do not factor into a standard ROI calculation.
Its unique leadership- which will be retained intact
Its undisputed unique culture (Zappos also runs an internal event similar to our AMPLIFY, and about 10 days ago I reached out to Zappos to see if we could do something together around this)
Its brand. Zappos does not even sell Downunder, but its brand is known as cool and my kids are already browsing their online catalogue to stock up on shoes when we are in the US later this year.
Congratulations Tony and Zappos…this is an acquisition where you were in the driving seat to negotiate and it makes good sense. And here’s hoping we can still do a hook-up between your Zappos People event and our AMPLIFY in Sydney- across continents.
Watching live stream from LeWeb08 in Paris.
Really enjoyed the David Weinberger talk about the decline of old style top-of-the-pyramid lone hero figure of organisational leadership (think conductor of orchestra, think Jack Welch) that co-incides with the end of the information age, and the emergence of abundant leadership through the nodes of multiple connected networks, giving rise to reputational democracy in the sphere of government, and in the corporation? I have coined a new phrase….I call this NODULAR LEADERSHIP. If anyone else uses this henceforth…..you read it here first. Loll! attributions please! ))
But how will the reward and hierarchical systems cope with highly networked, highly influential thought leaders distributed at the edges of the organisation- a subject my work team and I ponder frequently?
I have a personal curiosity in this subject and for some time now, have been seeking out thinkers to address this topic of convergence between technology and leadership, and the emergence of new leadership models and insights, at AMPLIFY 09. I have been searching for examples from guild organisers in World of Warcraft, like http://sophtopia.blogspot.com/2008/07/warcraft-reputation-and-democracy.html to seriously heavy-duty uber-connected dudes like Joi Ito.
In many ways, networked collaboration has been my natural style of operating since I was in kindergarten, but I always attributed it to being more ambitious than my resources/ time/ budget could ever cope with- and to date, I have built a career on the back of creating successes that way.
Its the very structure of how AMPLIFY is organised, through a network of distributed leaders throughout our business and extended networks- and the consequence is a much richer event, delivered at a fraction of the cost of a traditional execution through a professional event manager.
Wonder though which nodes will emerge to voluntarily clean the toilets in a self-organising environment? maybe those will become the really expensive highly paid tasks in the future or maybe people should simply clean for themselves as they go….
On that note….have a kitchen full of groceries to pack away, where my distributed leadership of relying on teenagers missed the deadline!
Tom Waits 2002 song, ever so true in current financial undoing of our world….there’s a leak in the boat….it played at the end of the movie, ” ENRON: The Smartest guys in the room” which I watched tonight for the first time, and just can’t help having this crazy de ja vous experience!
If you haven’t watched it, get it and read Nassim Taleb‘s The Black Swan also….although he doesn’t call this financial crisis a Black Swan, simply a ship full of drunken sailors knowingly sailing into treacherous waters…with crowds of bankers lining up to buy tickets!
In 2006 at the Creativity World Forum held in the gorgeous medieval trading town of Ghent in Belgium, I met Maarten Leyts, CEO and founder of the amazing “Trendwolves” company that specializes in researching European youth needs, desires and trends, and publishes an annual report called on the key insights and statistics. Maarten will be speaking at Youthwatching 09, and on this sit you can see a 60 second clip of the current key insights.
One of the biggest trends supported by this research is how young people are formally “befriending” brands and adding them like their regular friends to their social networks in Twitter , Facebook and MySpace. Zappos would have to be an outstanding example of this as represented by the very socially-active CEO, Tony Hsieh who tweets under the profile of @zappos on Twitter. ( I also met Tony at Business Innovation Factory 4 in Providence earlier this year and he works very hard at building a friend brand, and is deserving of these accolades)
Having grown up in another era where I’d rather be dead than be seen in a branded anything ( and to this day, I am a lone salmon who hates the trends of the masses, enjoying being counter-culture instead), I find this phenomenon very interesting and can see huge business value in it. For one, having people befriend you vs your main competitor would be enormously useful for consumer insights and behaviours, loyalty and so on.
I am really interested to learn more about this subject, particularly to see how financial services companies are benefitting from it. Many financial services institutions dont actively target the youth market because its supposedly not highly profitable, but I have a hunch its a long-term play and a “capture the hearts and minds” strategy, and when these people accumulate wealth, you will retain them – or will they?
Would love to hear any perspectives you might have based on real world results as opposed to hunches? Who in Australia does this well…or does it at all? Who is our equivalent of Youthwatching…or are we simply too small a market?
Further to my own creative urge to share and blog post of 14 November about employee morale and the creative urge, I have just read the latest edition of EnlightenNext, where editor in chief Andrew Cohen zeroes in on the creative imperative and the evolution of consciousness.
The creative impulse expresses itself at all levels of the human experience. Any human being can locate it at the lowest level of their being—at the gross physical level—as the sexual impulse, which is really the presence or movement of the big bang as a biological imperative. But at higher levels of being, humans are the only life forms we know of that are compelled to innovate and to create. We can see this especially in individuals who are pioneers in their fields, whether they are great philosophers, musicians, artists, politicians, or poets. Most individuals who are deeply talented are driven by a sense of urgency, an ecstatically urgent sense that “I must bring into life this potential that I see and experience in the depths of my own being.”
In reading this, I was reminded of a meeting to learn from Sonia Stojanovic, Head of Breakout and Cultural Transformation with ANZ Bank in Australia, some 5 years ago when I was just at the start of our own Innovation culture journey.
Sonja explained how some 300 of the bank’s top leaders underwent an intensive programme called “Breakout” that literally resulted in the breaking out of self-awareness, a personal vision and the creative urge to self-express and make a more meaningful contribution to the world through channelling their full creative potential. See linked article from ‘The New Visionaries – Evolutionary Leadership for an Evolving World’ by Soliera Green.
I also learnt over the weekend that on 15 October, the European Union agreed to make 2009 the Year of Innovation and Creativity, and through the World Creativity and Innovation Day Facebook group (the founder is Marci Segal in Toronto whom I met with her 3 weeks ago), I learnt that Gary Spinks is launching a Business Creativity association for the UK. (There is already a very well-organised American Creativity Association. )
So, where am I going with this?
Andrew Cohen continue in his Enlightenment article…
….whenever an individual or group of individuals awakens to this impulse, in a miraculous way the inner light of consciousness becomes infused with a passion and an optimism about what’s possible that is nothing less than life changing.
My recent world travels confirmed for me that the notion of creativity and innovation are no longer fringe trends, but becoming mainstream. All around the world, from Sao Paulo to Hong Kong, London to Boston, Charlotte to San Francisco, Johannesburg to Auckland, individual leaders and groups, in large corporations like my own, are awakening to the infinite possibility of the human imagination, and are becoming transformed through being participants and creators in the “global brain”.
I believe that thanks to the global connectedness, trans-border collaboration and open innovation enabled through the internet, this is not just a fad but a long-term transformational values shift of a global scale.
When business leaders, especially at the Millennial end of the spectrum, start practicing and leading environments where creativity, self-expression and enlightened spiritually can emerge, be nurtured and thrive, it gives me HOPE that collectively, we can truly live more ethically, sustain-ably and solve the world’s crises and challenges.
Three weeks ago in New York, at the Museum of Modern Art, I had the pleasure of appreciating the story behind Gustav Klimt’s painting called HOPE
Enlightened leaders are aware of the umbilical chord that connects us all to our womb, Planet Earth, conscious that everything is connected and that the decisions of one can change the outcomes for so many.
And when you believe that through a single decision, such as a vote, you can change the world and make it better, that’s when “YES I CAN” turns into “YES WE CAN”- and we can all have the audacity of hope!
We need to grow more leaders like this. What gives you hope?
I have just returned from 10 days in Europe and 3 weeks in the USA as part of my research for the 2009 AMP Innovation and Thought Leadership Festival, which will operate under the brand “AMPLIFY” in future.
Many people asked me to blog my trip, but I decided not to take a laptop- I didnt want to suffer continuous partial attention deficit disorder- a Blackberry already creates enough of that with its constant stream of work emails!
I wanted to fully immerse myself in learning and soak it up like a sponge. But, for those of you who are interested in what I did, where I went and who I met, this post is part 1 of a 2 part series providing a quick rundown.
In London I met with or visited Barcamp 5, The London Business School, Shaping Tomorrow founder Michael Jackson, Dr James Gardner, fellow Aussie and Head of Innovation and Technology at LLoyds TSB and author of the popular blog Banker Vision, Rational Madness founder Paul Levy, Prof Bruce Lloyd, Professor of Strategic Management at London Southbank University, Dr Tim Jones, principal of Innovaro, and had lunch with Intranet Managers of France Telecom/ Orange, BBC and RBS as guest of Paul Miller, CEO of the Intranet Benchmarking Forum, of which I am the founding Board Member for Asia Pacific.
This was followed by an exhiliarating and stimulating 3 days at Picnic 2008 in Amsterdam.
I also had an amazing conversation over dinner with Hennie von Egmund, Senior Executive of Culture and Transformation of Rabo Bank and visited Dr Paul Iske, Chief Dialogues Officer of ABN Amro at Dialogues House in Amsterdam, where I learnt about his innovative brainchild, the Institute of Brilliant Failures. This is all about giving entrepreneurs who have failed once in business a second chance- and the logic is just BRILLIANT- they are a 50% safer bet than first-time entrepreneurs!
What I found MOST fascinating about the trip was the contrast between the European and the Anglo-saxon business cultures and the approach to science, innovation, arts, creativity and business. In Europe, they are indistinguishable and naturally part of the ecosystem. In the UK, business was definitely in one box, art and creativity in another and science in a third, with innovation desperately trying to straddle them.
I rushed back home for a blurry week of bad jetlag, steering another Ideas Playground business growth campaign I was running at the office, picked up a fresh change if clothes and took off again for the USA.
But more about that in part 2.
One thing I’m great at is scope creep!
In 2005 I convinced the boss to let me organise a one-day Innovation Expo with employee ideas exhibited alongside a number of guest speakers (David Vaskevitch, CTO of Microsoft was our keynote, Rod Vawdrey, CEO of Fujitsu who launched the Fujitsu Innovation Benchmark, Futurist Richard Watkins, and several others.)
In 2007, I decided we needed a tsunami to create change…not simply a springtide!
So…the one day provocation swelled to a one week Festival of Innovation and Thought Leaders from 25-29 June 07.
But even before that, on 21 April, World Creativity Day which coincides with Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday, we kicked off a 12 week Creativity Bootcamp inspired by Dan Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind” after I saw him speak at the World Creativity Forum in Flanders, and followed by a 6 week Ideas Farm campaign in partnership with the Allan Ryan, Managed Innovation, and Pierre D’Huy, a French Innovation consultant.
The 2007 speaker line-up included Dr Jane McGonigal, thought leader extraordinaire in Alternate Reality Games, Michael Schrage, of MIT e-Media labs and author of Serious Play, Chris Shipley, Executive Producer of Demo, Daniel Erasmus, scenario thinker and founder of Digital Thinking Network, Roger Dennis, tech lead at European innovation insight firm Innovaro, Craig Rispin, a Technology Futurist, Gary Hayes, Director of the Laboratory for Advanced Media Production and like a digital cat with 9 lives, Des Walsh, one of Australia’s leading Social Media thought leaders and all-round nice guy, Frank Arrigo, Aussie Blogger and change agent at Microsoft, Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, a facilitator and innovator in the field of Appreciative Inquiry, the late Derek Binney, Chief Knowledge and Technology Officer of CSC Australia on the Greening of Technology, and many more.
So, from one-day expo to 15 weeks of organisational focus on doing things differently. Some 2500 employees and leaders (about 2/3 of our Sydney-based workforce) attended at least 3 events during the festival week, a further 780 downloaded speaker videos and podcasts from our intranet.
360 created art works – all of which were exhibited in the lobby of our corporate HQ by a professional curator, and 196 business growth ideas were harvested in the post-festival ideas campaign, with 8 of them being pitched to a panel for investment. The winning idea was deployed and commercialised 6 months later.
And THAT, dear friends, is how you quickly create an organisational impact and tipping point.
I loved this example of the video of how employees choose to respond to tough challenges, and through creative expression, engage with the difficult subjects of economic downturn, rally the collective energy and focus on targets that have meaning for them.
Make da numba: 39
Got no time for sleep,
Got no time for slumba,
We all got to be a part
And make the numba.
Make the numba,
Do what you can do
A part of it, too
Help us make the numba.
39, six more zeroes
That’s our numba
39, six more zeroes
That’s our numba.
In our own company, my team is running our end-of-year review as an employee film festival. We have had some critique about this from the penny-pinchers seeing its tough times and we should not be spending any money on employee morale or “frivolous” activities while some people are losing their jobs due to the global economic crisis.
I wonder how the nay-sayers measure the cost of employees who feel powerless, depressed and fearful? Our employees face all those same issues, and to boot, they are working harder than ever with teams dramatically reduced in numbers to deliver critically important IT releases for the business. AND STILL- they MADE the time to get together, write scripts, hire costumes and film a movie for the end-of-year film festival. Before work and after work and in lunch hours, the Sydney Harbour foreshore was teeming with geeks dressed in Village People outfits and amateur camera crews. Its proven to be a great stress-buster and the lesson we need to learn from all this, the creative and expressive urge is as strong as the urge for food. It’s what keeps us sane and functioning and whole.
Leaders and managers who don’t value or nurture this miss the whole point of employing human beings as opposed to machines, and will always have trouble motivating people.
Today, I spoke to a large team at work about Innovation. I had only 10 minutes. They are smart, long-term IT folks (developers and programmers) with many years of service and have seen their fair share of corporate programmes come and go. While they don’t work at the sexiest end of the technology spectrum, their passion to continuously improve code as they maintain and enhance the core applications they maintain, is unquestionable.
In the tougher economic climate we have been experiencing since the sub-prime mortgage crisis started contaminating the world, I have seen the number of innovation ideas diminish in direct proportion to the availability of fat in the system to absorb and fund a bit of experimentation,
and more importantly, the PERCEPTION that there is no point to try and innovate because we are in cost-focus mode. How fragile and shallow our innovation culture still is….after 5 years, and how frighteningly powerful perception and leadership signals are if cost focus is not balanced with what else remains important while we keep an eye on the bottom line.
I was quite conscious as I entered that meeting that a rah-rah-rah pep talk about how hunky-dory and jolly great innovation was and please can we see more of it, would be simply stupid.
So, instead, I set about to create and provoke a conversation.
It was a dicey strategy because I don’t know this team well and in the past I have found them quite passive and uncommunicative. And, in addition to their team leaders and direct managers, their IT Director was also present and I wasn’t sure how comfortable they’d be to speak out in a large group.
But, the gamble paid off. A few courageously started speaking out about how they feel when their innovation efforts and ideas go unheeded, what they saw as obstacles (much were perceptions, but as they say in advertising, PERCEPTION IS REALITY), and a few of the usual examples ( like Google gives people 20% of their time to work on innovation and where is ours), and so on. (We are not an advertising company like Google, we operate in a conservative and highly-regulated industry where we look after other people’s money )
But here is the celebration!
These questions were openly asked, passionately yet constructively, and leaders were challenged, work practices questioned, policies picked on and with equal openness and courage, the leaders engaged in the conversation, clarified positions without defensiveness but with fact and reality, took on board feedback, and helped explore a third way where all both leaders and employees can collaborate more effectively to find answers.
It was a beautiful thing to behold. A few years ago, I don’t believe we could have had those confrontational debates and robust conversations and ended with everyone feeling really good about it and staying well after business hours on a Friday night to carry on talking!
So often, people just want to be acknowledged for how they are feeling, they dont expect leaders to be able to solve all of the world’s issues and problems. Listening and paying attention and not ignoring suggestions and ideas is really not hard and it makes all the difference between how engaged and disengaged employees regard their leaders.
Thats all I wanted to share today. Along with this great Slideshare presentation above full of practical advice!
The most interesting part was Matt’s discovery when he interviewed 100 CEO’s to learn what “tools” they used to be productive and effective, he found no commonality. But then, he had a new insight when he discovered there were common principles in the way they operate. Below I have summarised the salient points out of the interview. ( I note that Matt has started vlogging in instalments on each of these over at his blog too- so go there for more detail)
Modus operandi highly effective CEO’s – 10 observed principles:
1. Passion – you have to “want”.
2. Surround yourself with excellent people and don’t be afraid they will outshine you. That’s the point!
3. Create an environment where great people can succeed. Its not easy to hire the best, and then you need to keep them and charged with a continual re-casting of the vision. The context matters. A story from the Roman Empire was shared about how 2 workers differed in productivity- the most productive was the one who was not building a temple, but working on building the most powerful empire!
4. Simplicity – low tech can be faster. Choose your tools carefully. http://www.jot.com was very popular.
5. Know your “why” from your “want” – your inner motivation.
6. Recognise what your “secret sauce” is. What differentiates you from the next person/ leader? One guy thanked his “genetics”- he has a lot of fun and finds that attracts people because people want to be where there is fun!
7. Make your decisions be GREAT (which is not the same as make great decisions). A bad decision is better than indecision or a state of analysis paralysis. Move forward all the time.
8. Balance – not much elaborated there but its kind of obvious that too much obsession will kill the fun!
9. EXECUTE! – start every day with one clarity about one thing to achieve for that day and then do it. Just one – don’t be a slave of a to-do list. (If you can do that, that will be 365 achievements in a year- how many people can claim that?)
10. Build your own system. We are all different and not everyone’s systems for efficiency works for all styles.
1. Now small biz owners are looking towards internet to solve their business problems
2. CEOs of very large corporations beginning to realise if they are not using the internet smartly, they are just going to be irrelevant.
At 6 am this morning, snow falling outside and tucked under the warm doonah, I picked up the dreaded Blackberry (yes, I know, its not meant to go on holidays with you!), and then I leapt right out of bed!
I got my computer out of the suitcase and logged on to the hyperlink I got from Scott Schwertly at Ethos3 to see the result of two fabulous artists…mashed up!
In my previous post, I wrote about my excitement at discovering the amazing moving poetry of Taylor Mali, and connecting him to presentation genius Scott Schwertly and his company Ethos3 Communication.
Well my friends, my intuition was right. Here is the result of their combined magical talents!
Please vote for it if you love it as much as I do. Then send it to your friends and share the magic!
The title of this post was the doing of my geeky daughter aged 13 who helped me quickly knock together a banner!
Now, they say the first thing a group of geeks do when they get together is deny that they are geeks! So, let me not keep you waiting. I am NOT a geek!
Catalyst for Magic has been my business title since I joined AMP on 2 April 2000. I chose it because my real title is this long, boring, corporate-sounding sentence that puts people, myself included, to sleep.
Catalyst for Magic is much more fun, a fabulous conversation starter and the perfect summary of what I do…which is to help unleash the magic we find from employing human beings, as opposed to machines, to transform our organisation and our business.
The important bit is that my work is not that of magician…the creativity, passion and “magic” is in everyone already, but with the help of a bit of pixie dust and a few wands, like listening and acting on ideas, using collaboration and creative thinking tools, providing access to information and resources, rewarding and recognising both success and learning from failures, and most of all believing in people and giving them opportunities to shine, we move mountains, like the one in my photo!
This is my 3rd blog…I used to write a personal one called MsMaverick but then I launched the whole Enterprise 2.0 thing for my company in July last year and to get the momentum going, I focussed every available blogging hour of the day on that! So, now that that “baby” is crawling and nearly walking, I have a bit of space to return to the world-wide blogosphere.
This is going to be a blog about leading a culture of innovation in a large, established financial services institution (159 years old), and what I learn along the way, how I stumble, and how I can draw insights and support from those of you who share a similar interest and passion.
I look forward to the conversation.