Month: November 2008

Imagine if all managers were catalysts?

I attended the BIF-4 Collaborative Innovation Summit last month and was inspired by the innovators that told their stories. All had sparked ideas for me that could inform emerging innovators, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders.

Imagine if all of their insights were embodied into one innovative entrepreneurial venture?. Envision the power of a company or organization that incorporates the following wisdom:

Turn managers into catalysts who are there to inspire and get out of the way. Saul Kaplan, BIF Chief Catalyst 

When you don’t have an answer, reach out to those who have the answer – regardless of how remote they may be. ” `John Abele, founder of Boston Scientific, Leader of the Grunion Expedition 

Let your childhood passions drive your insights into customer behavior and entrepreneurial success. “~Marc Ecko, founder Mark Ecko Enterprises 

Surround people with teams who are responsible for the success of others in the group. This will provide people with the confidence to accomplish more than they or others can imagine. And, it is the stories told to us as children that can inspire greatness in us as adults.” Lewis Gordon Pugh, Environmentalist and Explorer 

Innovation is more about people and intentions than inventions. Trust front line employees and provide them with the tools to innovate and create new business initiatives – the revenue will flow and you will keep the best people you have.” John Wolpert, Innovation Consultant and Entrepreneur 

Realize that the spaces – both virtual and physical – you create for employees and customers do make a difference in the way they think and behave.”David Rockwell, Architect 

When you want to understand your customer, immerse yourself in their world and allow them to help create the products of the future.” Matt Cottam, Storyteller for Nursing Home of the Future 

There could be significant money to be made in aspects of your business that are outside of your core but interesting to others. Jason Fried, founder 37Signals

Trust and give upfront permission to your employees to uniquely exceed customer expectations and their stories will be told to everyone the customer knows.” Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos.com

Those who understand how millennials and boomers will dynamically work together in the near future to change the nature of business will benefit from this phenomena.”James Ludwig, VP of Global Design at Steelcase 

Failure is the precursor and in many ways essential for success”. Richard Satava, Surgeon

Involve employees in policy decisions; your transparency could welcome their insights effectively discounting much of the foundation of your initial decision making logic.” Steve Bendt and Gary Koelling, Best Buy’s Blue Shirt Nation creators 

Learning in school or in one’s job is about having authentic experiences that inspire, challenge and engage.” Dennis Littky, Education Reformer 

These and the other innovators who told their stories have more to say than presented here. It was the depth of their insights that inspired me. (To see for yourself, just click on the links. It will take you to their full video stories.) And the next time you meet any innovator in your day-to-day life, sit them down, buy them a cup of coffee and ask them to tell you their stories. You will be inspired forever.

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YES WE CAN: Evolution, the creative urge and hope

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 

    

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Hope, II, 1907-08, Gustav KlimtOil, gold, and platinum on canvas

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? 

YES WE CAN: Evolution, the creative urge and hope

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 

    

Hope
Hope, II, 1907-08, Gustav Klimt
Oil, gold, and platinum on canvas

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? 

The business case for festivals at work

I ran my first workplace festival in 1991 in BHP Billiton’s Bayside Aluminium Smelter in Zululand, South Africa. It was to showcase the ideas and projects created by the Quality Circles Programme, for which I was the programme director.  That sounds awfully grand.  

To be truthful, I knew nothing about change management and culture transformation at that stage of my life, but I was hellbent on achieving success with Japanese management techniques in rural Zululand with people who couldn’t read or write and had on average only 4 years of schooling!

So, I did what any good leadership book teaches today.  I followed my gut instinct. I created a celebration. A festival. A gathering of hearts, minds and creative energy, and we transformed the Bayside outdoor carpark into a colourful vibrant marketplace of ideas, demonstrations of inventions of workplace gadgets, safety and system improvements with the proud employees decorating their stalls with all sorts of materials that no traditional exhibition builder would even dream of, and surpassing the creativity and interest of any trade show. ANY TRADESHOW!

Festivals are growing. Why? Here is some further thoughts on the subject, but I’d like to hear your views.

http://www.theglobalintelligencer.com/nov2007/business

http://positivesharing.com/2007/11/festival-in-the-workplace-2/ 

And of course, my current festival: the AMPLIFY INNOVATION & THOUGHT LEADERSHIP FESTIVAL.  

 

Obama way ahead of business leaders

I know I am not the only technology innovation strategist who fights daily for allowing employees to use social media technologies as part of their work.  (And here is the proof that its becoming accepted as mainstream) And I am certain I am not the only social media champion who has been agitating for YEARS (at least 3 in fact) to convince our business leaders to embrace social media, blogs, twitter and channels like YouTube to talk directly to our employees, customer base, targeted talent and broader audiences.  And I am also sure I am NOT the only one whose messages fall on ears that won’t hear.  I have even used Obama as early as 2 years ago as a case study…but back then, folks were saying…”Obama who?”. And here we are today. Not only did this perceptive and technology-savvy guy (first who will be appointing a CTO to his staff) defy all odds to become president-elect of the USA, but while he is still in the wings waiting for the chair to be vacated, he has already launched his first of weekly addresses to the nation (and the WHOLE WORLD!) through his own direct voice and medium on Youtube….unfiltered by any journalist, controlling his message 100%.

If anyone still doubts the genius of this leader….you are a fool. Business leaders of Australia and the world, you ignore this trend at your peril and you WILL be disrupted forever. 

AMPLIFY – researching in Europe and the US 2008 (Part 1)

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 VisionRational 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.

From springtide to a tsunami: How to create impact and a tipping point for change

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.