Fall is always an exciting time for me. Maybe because it is the start of a new school year – so therefore full of possibilities and potential. Maybe because Fall is my favourite season – transformation is literally in the air. I had an excellent summer in Copenhagen at the Business School. It is such a pleasure working with students who are dedicated to their learning and celebrate their own potential. Is that every student? No, but enough to rejuvenate my spirits and feed my soul.
One of the highlights this summer was visiting NOMA – an experience best described as living ‘food art’. Definitely a bucket-lit item for any foodie. The meal was superb as could be expected, but the experience was made transformational for me in hearing a sous-chef state: “I don’t work for a restaurant. I serve NOMA. I serve my country. I serve a movement.” The statement left me in tears, for I have never heard such a powerful statement about corporate culture. I only wish I could hear that level of commitment more. But first, it has to be earned. And that is the role of the leader.
Simon Sinek has written a great book about leading an innovation culture. How you get it and how you keep it. What if you got up every day and could not wait to get to work? How many of us can actually say “I love my job” let alone “I serve” as above? The title comes from a marine general who states that leaders go to the back of the chow line and the most junior soldiers eat first. Why? Because it symbolizes in no uncertain terms that the role of a leader is to sacrifice individual comfort in service to the good of those in their care. Walk the talk. What a novel concept and what a shame it is so rare. Have you had an experience of that type of leader? I have. And would follow them anywhere.
Sinek also covers his topic from a biological/sociological perspective which provides additional insight into how cultures thrive. If you are contemplating any initiatives this Fall, as part of your own organizational transformation, this book is a must. It is one of the best business books I have read in a while. And for this book addict, that is high praise indeed. A Fall Feast for you.
If you want competitive advantage, here is the place to start. Hyatt and De Ciantis take us on a journey of discovery in one of the most interesting areas of our lives – our values. Working with values allows us to keep track of what is really important to us. I use this process and program within academic courses at the undergraduate and graduate level as well as executive education. We also use the software package – you can go online and explore, the details are all in the book. It will be added to my course work for Business Anthropology at the Copenhagen Business School this summer (only 7 more sleeps until my flight!)
It makes for a great discussion around the kitchen table or the office. A conversation that needs to happen on a regular basis – just as a reminder that there is more to life than daily routine. The Values Perspective Survey is one of my favourite tools, I highly recommend it.
Popular, thought-provoking, stimulating and (best of all!) fun – working with values perspectives will give you insight towards making better judgments and decisions – for yourself, your family and your organization.
OK the title got me. I spent years hitting those keys. Needing a little break from summer school, this book called my name. Yes, fun reading – but big message. The new true marketing imperative is telling a great brand narrative. One word? Storytelling. Mitch Joel takes us on a journey that will open your eyes to the future that is already here. He maintains the true opportunity for business going forward to to create and maintain a direct relationship with consumers. To look forward with the eyes of a consumer and not as a business person. Consumers are social – more than they have ever been before. Consumers are more hands on – because they can be. A great example used by Joel is “Kickstarter” – a New York startup founded in April 2009 and has raised more than $275 million for more than sixty-five thousand projects since it started. Can’t get the attention of venture capitalists because you are too small (or too whatever)? Kickstarter may be the vehicle for you. Driven by consumers. Supported by consumers. A great example of crowdsourcing – if your public supports you, who needs VCC’s?
Some simple rules:
1. Deliver value first.
2. Be open.
3. Be clear and consistent.
4. Create a mutally beneficial world.
5. Find your true fans – your evangelists.
Start looking at media as one platform – text, images, audio and video. Once your delivery platform becomes one digital pipeline – you can put it anywhere. The biggest challenge will be to figuring out exactly where that ‘where’ is. Our world now entails the exponential growth of new media. What does that mean? Think fast and agile AND slow build. Responding to market forces or even better, staying ahead of the trends while at the same time, a slow build with your customers – relationships take time. That relationship gives you insight – not just data. And then he turns to rebooting your life. A very interesting read!
Keith Sawyer has a lot to say about creativity and I find myself listening closely. He has a great academic pedigree and is a jazz pianist, does improv and writes games. So … he practices what he preaches. He focuses on some key questions – how can each person be more creative and – how can the organization work together to translate individual creativity into organizational innovation. As that is my primary area of research, I dove into this book.
It seems that most books on creativity have steps or stages attached 🙂 I guess it comes with the territory of attempting to harness the creative impulse into something that we all can both understand and replicate. Psychology has been studying creativity for decades and one thing we know for sure – these stage models work. Creativity is a non-linear process which is why there are so many ways to explore the creative impulse. It usually does not descend like a bolt of lightening – but instead responds to constant tending. This book is like a personal trainer for the creative impulse. Interesting exercises that can be done daily. Practice makes perfect! and it takes a lot of practice (10,000 hours according to Gladwell) to become an expert where you are comfortable in your own skin.
The thing I like most about this book is the emphasis on creativity as a discipline – you do it every day. The more you practice the process, the better the results, the faster the ideas, and the easier the implementation. Just like learning how to drive – learn the process until it becomes automatic.
Steps are: (1) Ask (2) Learn (3) Look (4) Play (5) Think (6) Fuse (7) Choose (8) Make. Similar to many others but again different. Some great exercises, quizzes and lots of stories. An easy fun read.
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.
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.
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.
Curious as to how to win hearts and minds of your clients (internal or external)? Dan Hill has written an fascinating book on the latest contributions from psychology, neuroscience, human interaction design and behavioural economics that shatter old assumptions. I had the pleasure of listening to his presentation at a recent Conference Board retreat and was intrigued by his approach. For anyone interested in Branding – this book is a must. If you are looking for insight – this book pushes the limits of research into a proven method that answers the all important question – ‘what do customers want?’ Hill is an expert in facial coding and uses a combination of the ancient art of storytelling with recent advances in brain science to drive actionable results.
For too long, business has been crunching numbers instead of harnessing emotion. Big data doesn’t give you insight. If you want to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, this is an invaluable resource. If you only read one book on customer insight or branding this year, Emotionomics wins my vote.
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.
Jonathan Gottschall has written a great little book on how stories make us human. Drawing on the latest research in psychology, evolutionary biology and neuroscience, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. The purpose of any story is to carry a value system – a moral message – that is communicated to inform and inspire the listener/reader. We are genetically ‘wired’ to respond to stories – and this book explains how and why. An excellent addition to a summer book bag for the beach!