I have to admit I’m getting a little nervous. In a couple of weeks (or as my niece calls it – 15 more sleeps), I am getting on a plane for Doha, Qatar to speak at the Global Innovators Conference in Education. Certainly one of my passions and pet peeves at the same time. Education needs reform the same as our economy – and if you work in any large organization – you know how difficult it is to change bureaucracy. One of my favourite authors to read when feeling discouraged is Tony Wagner. His previous book, The Global Achievement Gap, outlines some of the changes currently taking place in education (reviewed last year). It might be slow but it is steady and we need all the support we can get. In Creating Innovators, he speaks to both educators and parents as to how to keep that wonderful creative spark alive in all of us. He provides countless examples of school programs that encourage both art and science – both sides of the brain – that spur creative and critical thinking. He also has included video content right in the book – technology working at its best. Download the Microsoft Tag Reader into your phone and you can watch various interviews with both Tony Wagner and many other innovators he has interviewed for the book. Available in both the Kindle edition and hardcover, this is a great read to add to your library of how to make the world a better place. I’ll let you know what happens in Qatar – some incredible work being done in education world-wide. So, patience for a little while longer. We are working as fast as we can to bring about educational reform.
Starting the New Year off right, to me means honouring my roots. The Power of Story. Paul Smith has written an excellent guide to why the art of story is the most probably the most important leadership skill. As Director of Consumer & Communications Research at Proctor and Gamble, Paul got a lot of practice. Storytelling and the power of story has finally come of age in the business world. Most successful companies now use storytelling as a leadership tool. Some examples:
At Nike, all senior executives are designated “corporate storytellers.” 3M banned bullet points years ago and replaced them with a process of writing “strategic narratives.” Procter & Gamble hired Hollywood directors to teach its executives storytelling techniques. Scenario planning (or storytelling in multiple forms) is now a highly effective form of strategy. And if you are in my faovurite transmedia space, well … I don’t have to tell you about the power and profitability of narrative. The rest of North America is slowly catching on to what successful global organizations have been using for years.
Business schools are beginning to add storytelling to coursework. I use story and build storytelling into every course I teach – strategy, competitive intelligence, consumer behaviour, marketing – all benefit from the use of the best communication tool ever invented. Start your New Year off by joining a movement that is both instructive and fun. If you want your organization to prosper in 2013, why not increase your competitive advantage? Sometimes, the old ways are the best.
All art is a reaction to the first line drawn. Unless the artist sits in front of the canvas and paints, there can be no art. Unless the writer sits down and starts to type, there can be no book. Unless the musician plays their instrument, there can be no music. Unless the sculptor begins to chip away at the marble, there can be no sculpture.
George Friedman is a NY Times Best Seller author for a reason. As CEO and founder of Stratfor, the world’s leading private intelligence think tank, he is called upon frequently to speak to upcoming trends. In “The Next Decade”, Friedman speaks to the political shifts taking place, decisions, their consequences, and how North America will handle the conflicts and opportunities that lie ahead. Well worth curling up by the fire and exploring how the next decade will impact your life and the lives of those you love. What better holiday present?
Calling all Canadians (and even if you are not, the message is worthwhile reading). Todd Hirsch and Robert Roach have produced what should be the Canadian primer on innovation. They call for a structural change in Canadian DNA. “Canada needs to change at a fundamental level that ripples out into every nook and cranny of the economy. The goal is not only an economic revolution but a social one as well. Canadians need to break old habits, think differently and see the world in new ways.” YUMMY! For me, this message is like preaching to the choir and maybe for you as well. But, if you are looking for a way to push innovation into our C-suites, buy your boss a copy of this book (after you read it of course). The message is clear. We have everything we need to be a world-class economy, but have to stop underachieving. Business as usual means no business at all. A great little read with a powerful message. And one that bears repeating …. over and over and over and … you get the idea! Get it online at chapters as an ebook or purchase from Todd and Robert directly.
In your wildest dreams, you probably have not envisioned Socrates running a brand workshop. It is a little mind bending! But in The Philosophy of Branding, Thom Braun has explored the history of great philosophers and linked their work to branding practice. Its not as much of a stretch as you would think. If you consider that a brand is the essence of something, rather than a concrete representation, you are getting close how branding should be done and seldom is. Some call a living brand corporate religion. Brands stand for something – more than a product or service. Something deeper that resonates at an emotional (or in my language archetypal) level. In a world where branding is driven by prosumers, this is a great little surprise text to deepen your understanding of how a brand operates. For example:
“Nietzsche’s Top Tip: Values are at the heart of branding – but in a much more potent sense than we normally assume. Brand values should not just be ‘attachments’ to a product or service, but rather the driving force for what the brand can dare to become. Competitive edge lies in creating new values – perhaps risky values – rather than repacking existing market values. The way to ‘superbrands’ is through owning the territory that goes with those values.”
Think insight – not information, not data. An interesting read and great reference tool. Methinks it might become one of my branding textbooks.
Finally! Some brilliant soul – in this case, Susan Cain – has written the book for which every introvert has been looking. For those of us who, when silent in a meeting, are asked if something is ‘wrong’ – this book will make an excellent gift for those who asked the question. From the front cover:
“At least one third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying, who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favour working on their own over brainstorming in teams.”
Listen to Susan Cain on ted.com for an inspiring talk on the power of introversion. She speaks to the need to respect diversity in how we work – instead of forcing introverts to become something that reduces their creativity and ability to innovate. If you know or more importantly, are introverted, this book will confirm what you already know and few believe. Introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes as they allow the employees they manage to run with their ideas. So, if you want more innovative and sustainable leadership – perhaps you should look to the introverts in your organization. You might be overlooking an amazing source of creative capital.
I have been following the work of Grant McCracken for a while and have yet to be disappointed. McCracken is an anthropologist that studies culture in organizations and has taught at MIT, Harvard and is a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge. Following his previous work Chief Culture Officer in 2011, his latest book on Culture is just as informative and more importantly, for summer reading, entertaining. Culturematic is about making an ingenuity engine that drives performance – something sorely needed in this economy. For emerging producers of culture, this book serves as a digital guide to the territory. For traditional producers of culture – hopefully the book will act as a source of inspiration. How to manage innovation from the C-suite? This book provides some welcome guidelines for creating a culture of innovation. If you want to get ahead of your competition, the most secret sauce of competitive advantage is your culture. McCracken shows you both why and how. He blogs extensively at culture by.com on the intersection points between anthropology and economics. Worth checking out.