Its the intangibles stupid!

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.


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, 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? 

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.