As I sit here listening to the rain outside my window in Copenhagen, I am staying warm and dry by prepping for next week’s classes. I have a great mix of international students who have given up their summer to explore new frontiers in business. Staying ahead of them is keeping me busy! I am always amazed at the insights to be gained by crossing interdisciplinary boundaries. The business professors also come in from all over the world and our lunch and dinner conversations keep ideas flowing. I think the beer in Denmark has something to do with it!
This week our focus in advanced market research at CBS is on Aristotle and social innovation (phronesis). “Telling the story” is the job of marketing in the world of business. And exploring new markets gives ample opportunity for developing a new story. Hopefully – to change the ending of our current economic tale. As a reference guide, Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters is an invaluable tool that works equally well for strategists. In order to gain competitive advantage, you need to go where other people are not (remember Blue Ocean Strategy)?
Michael Tierno has done a masterful job of walking the reader through the best of Aristotle. Whether or not he realizes it, Tierno has also done a masterful job of walking the reader through the complexities of experiential marketing. The principles are the same: engage your reader – engage your customer. Create a memorable experience. A story worth telling. A story worth remembering. If you need to insert some new life into the ‘story’ of your business, here is a worthwhile primer. And you get a little philosophy lesson as a bonus. Contemplation for the beach perhaps? You can bring the beer.
Terry Pearce followed his heart and went back to school – something dear to my heart. Even better, he was drawn to the same program that I took a few years back – a PhD in comparative mythology and depth psychology. In his studies, he explored what it meant to lead across cultures, deepening his understanding of why people do what they do. I know I am biased, but, I believe no better preparation for the complexities of our current global world of business.
Pearce first published “Leading Out Loud” in 1995 and it quickly become a classic in the field. In this third edition, he expands on the reflective work necessary, no demanded, by authentic leadership in order to inspire commitment and action. He asks the question ‘where do passion and commitment reside’? Answer: in inspiration – and this book will act as both guide and nourishment for the journey to the authentic Self. Pearce has taught leadership communication at UC Berkeley, the Haas School of Business and the London Business School. He draws upon a wealth of experience and adds a deepening of perspective in the authentic leadership model.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.