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.


AMPLIFY 09 Convergence and emergence: NODULAR LEADERSHIP

Stream videos at Ustream

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… 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 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!

Chaos theory practiced – a Twitter case study



My grand schema to chronicle the planning of the 2009 AMP Innovation & Thought Leadership Festival in this blog has been sitting in this draft box for months as I beaver away in the wee hours of the night working on the Festival – my dysfunctional “perfectionism ideal” the obstacle between this blog living an imperfect life “out there” and slumbering in the collective unconscious.


Because my whole weekend was consumed with delicious immersion in an exciting new world I never knew existed, thanks to a tiny tweet by one Chris Brogan, blogger extra-ordinaire,  

I am herewith catapulting over that self-hindrance and boldly publishing – its too good to keep till I’m organised! 

Unstructured play

The twitterings of the Brogan birdie in Boston, like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil, instantly relayed to one maverickwoman on a sunny Saturday in Sydney, led me to Annarchy, who introduced me to

the genius of poet Taylor Mali ( imagine a 30 something cross between Patrick Swayze, Mr Chips and William Shakespeare)

which meant hours of exhiliarating inspiration on YouTube, which brought me to the Bowery Theatre in New York,  and the discovery of an artistic genre  Slam Poetry  that I had never heard of, which led to Mayhem Poets and their brilliant new venture pitch for a business called “Slam Chops”, which won the Microsoft IdeasWin Competition.

You still with me? This created various other connections with my corporate “open innovation” work, but also “must-have” purchases on Amazon, which led to Facebook and 

an invitation to Taylor Mali to co-create magic with an unlikely partner, a Financial Services corporation, at the AMP Innovation & Thought Leadership Festival in Australia in June 2009.

Who knows where all this may end? I don’t, but what I DO know is that it WILL be powerful, and people will be inspired, our company could be transformed, and in turn, generations of customers and their children may be changed as a result of it!  Maybe the whole future of Australia!

It was Taylor’s poem, “What teachers make”, that kept my inner matchmaker awash with ideas all weekend.
I hauled Scott Schwertly, Zen guru of pictorial storytelling, out of bed on a Saturday night in Nashville Tennesee.  Through Twitter, I knew that Scott’s company, Ethos3 Communication, is working on entries for the Slideshare 2008 presentation contest (They came second in the 2007 Slideshare contest with “Meet Henry“).  Knowing the history and impact of “Did you know/Shift happens 2.0”  –  winner of the 2007 Slideshare presentation contest, I thought a creative partnership between these two creative geniuses could help realise Taylor’s vision. I am happy to report that magic happened, and a union is being forged as we speak!

But, I couldnt help myself- had to go one step further.  

Through Facebook, I connected Taylor with Dan Pink, visionary wordsmith who speaks fluent “Corporatese” and compellingly explains in plain talk to business leaders why creativity and the arts is fundamental to future of their businesses.  I first met Dan at the Creativity World Forum in Flanders in 2006, where he shared the stage with Sir Ken Robinson (voted one of TED’s best presenters for his passionate plea for nurturing creativity in schools- that education connection!). 

Dan was chief speechwriter for Al Gore while he was in the White House, and we all know how Al Gore’s artful storytelling has convinced the world, one presentation at a time, that the time for action on climate change is NOW!  And Dan and Scott are vectors for spreading stories!


Power of one idea
All the people I mention in this post, Mr Gore included, have had a catalytic influence on me and my work as a practical radical and corporate change agent, and I see it as nothing but a pleasure to help along the dreams and aspirations of others.  I am a child of Africa who worked in the crucible of peaceful transformation to democracy in South Africa. I know the power of one butterfly’s wings!