When you straddle the world of business and the world of the arts, it can sometimes be a stretch. Josh Linkner reminds us that the only thing that can’t be commoditized is creativity. He has come up with 5 steps to follow that both discipline and enhance creativity process – for as those of you know who work in a creative space, creativity is also a discipline. When you are fighting to maintain ‘share of mind’ – some solid tools help the process. Simple and yet effective. The five steps are : (1) Ask (2) Prepare (3) Discover (4) Ignite (5) Launch. Linkner believes that this methodology can help anyone and encourages you to let your ideas come out and play. In order to play to win – instead of playing not to lose – to stand out and be truly remarkable – creativity is the only sustainable competitive advantage.
Some questions from the book to whet your appetite:
1. What percentage of your time is spent creating something new, as opposed to working out operational details or protecting the past?
2. List five ways you can beat your competition. How can they beat you?
3. If you were entering your industry as a start-up, how would you break the mold to beat the incumbents?
4. What elements of the past or status quo are you clinging to? What do you need to let go of?
5. List five ways your company is stagnating; for each of these, list at least two ideas addressing how to break through those barriers?
Some great food for thought and would work at the beach.
It has been a really hectic couple of months. Finishing off the school term, a couple of academic papers and a major conference presentation in Doha, Qatar has kept me running. Doha is an amazing city and I loved being there. Keep your eyes on Qatar – economy moving at light speed and dedication to education and health care. An idea that a few other countries (like Canada) should keep in mind!
One last conference keynote was on the agenda before the next adventure of teaching in Copenhagen at the Business School this summer. The Journey 2 Success Women Entrepreneurs Conference in Oakville, ON was a couple of days ago and what a delightful treat it turned out to be! Not only a great conference, but found a treasured gem that now has an honored place on my bookshelf.
The luncheon speaker was Barbara Stegemann of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her book, The 7 Virtues of a Philospher Queen tells her amazing entrepreneurial story. Barb started a perfume company that purchases its perfume oils from war-torn regions of the world and her motto is “Make Perfume Not War”. She believes that we can use our buying power to empower families in those countries that are rebuilding after conflict or any other disaster. The book is dedicated to a close friend who was wounded in Afghanistan – you have to read the book to find out more! Great storytelling, sound enterpreneurial advice and social innovation make a great read for the summer.
I love her story and the 7 Virtues Fragrance selection to my nose, is a winner. I am sorry to report I have left my favored Jo Malone perfumes for another woman. My choice was a harmonious blend called “Middle East Peace” – a combination of grapefruit, lime and basil that is just yummy. Available at the Bay stores in Canada and Lord & Taylor in the US. You can get the books online (link above) or purchase at the Bay or Lord & Taylor’s while you are testing out the perfumes. Just think, buying a bottle of perfume as a way to reduce conflict. Teaching people how to fish instead of giving them ‘aid’. Social innovation at its best! Great book. Great perfume. Great woman!!
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.
Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World
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.
Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire
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.
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.
Culturematic: How Reality TV, John Cheever, a Pie Lab, Julia Child, Fantasy Football . . . Will Help You Create and Execute Breakthrough Ideas
Jonah Sachs has written a great book on the proper use of story and the five deadly sins of marketing (vanity, authority, insincerity, puffery and gimmickry). Tapping into the power of myth, Sachs speaks to empowerment marketing and what that shift would entail. The most important takeaway for me from this new offering was the importance, again, of the value system that guides individual and corporate behaviour. In short, SHOW DON’T TELL. Any brand who has maintained its value over time has relied on clearly expressed and lived values. Brand communication becomes sharing your values with your customers and can be expressed in the following values “bucket”:
1. Values built into the founding story
2. Values expressed by products and services
3. Values held by leadership
4. Values you believe will most deeply resonate with your audience
To Sachs, these are the building blocks of the stories you tell about yourself and your organization. If possible, the values should align over all the categories. Hard to do, yes! Living by values is never an easy choice. But it is the most sustainable and profitable course. So your intent for your organization? If sustainability and profitability matter, then you might want to add this offering to your reference shelf. The book can be purchased now for pre-release – Winning the Story Wars will be available in July. You can also check out the video.
Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future
Tony Wagner has written a thought-provoking book on the state of education – something that concerns any parent and employer. How do we shift from an industrial model to one that produces the creativity and innovation our current economy requires? This is a major shift that is required by all academic institutions in order to compete in today’s global marketplace. The primary focus is on ‘one student at a time accountability’ as opposed to ‘test-score accountability’. Maximizing the potential of each and every student. Wagner emphasizes that learning and citizenship in the twenty-first century demands that each student knows how to think – to reason, analyze, weigh evidence and problem solve and to communicate effectively. “These are no longer skills that only the elites in a society must master; they are essential survival skills for all of us.”
A direct attack on ‘teaching to the tests’, Wagner pushes for a new attitude in education. A welcome breath of fresh air in academe. If you care about teaching or how your children are taught, this book is required reading.
The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need–and What We Can Do About It
Many of the tools of the trade in innovation consulting are passed from one facilitator to another – something like our version of a secret handshake. Seldom written down, they are passed using the ancient/modern oral tradition of storytelling. “We met with X company and did Y activity and boy, did it work!” In Gamestorming – A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers, you get full membership in the secret club. Gray, Brown and Macanufo have compiled a great selection of exercises that will energize the brain of any participant and warm the heart and hards of every facilitator who has been tasked with producing ‘innovation.’ Magic!
Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers
If you are looking for an interesting book to start off 2012, the Digital Innovation Playbook might be for you. Author and Innovator Nicholas Webb has provided his unique perspective on the use of digital and social media to drive customer value. Rules of successful innovation management have changed drastically. Topical questions such as:
o How does the digital universe is driving the most innovative organizations?
o How do you increase breakthrough in incremental innovation?
o How do you digitize open innovation?
o and for all you number crunchers out there, How do you build sales while reducing costs?
will be explored and answered. Do you need a digital culture? Yes, most certainly. Corporate culture is the foundation on which you build your organization and your ability to innovate. Webb speaks to the need for active listening – a novel concept to many organizations who pay lip service to ‘customer feedback’ but do not actually listen to what their customers want. Digital technologies can provide a listening platform that will drive profitability and develop an authentic relationship with your customer. Why pay attention? As Peter Drucker so wisely stated “there will be two kinds of managers – those who think in terms of a world economy and those who are unemployed.” Webb gives insights into reaching and listening to that world economy. You choose which manager you wish to be.
Best wishes for 2012!
The Digital Innovation Playbook: Creating a Transformative Customer Experience