Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Wisdom Manifesto by Umair Haque

In my last post I shared with you some of the wisdom of Umair Haque. Well it is very hard to beat his wisdom manifesto. It proves to me that being comes before doing.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The principles of on-line collaboration

The Internet has made it far easier to collaborate with others - your clients, suppliers, colleagues and even competitors. Here's how to start thinking about creating effective collaborations.

Listen to this episode of the Focal Point podcast, with me and Chris Pudney:

MP3 File

Broadly, there are four groups of people we could collaborate with:
  • Customers and clients: The people you work for.
  • Suppliers: The people who work for you.
  • Colleagues and team members: The people you work with.
  • Competitors: The people you work "against".
This is not just for on-line collaboration, of course; these people are equally valid collaboration partners in "real life". It's just that the Internet has made it easier to work with them.

Guidelines for on-line collaboration:
  • Use the cloud: Work on one shared document rather than multiple copies
  • Show your face: Allow people to be human and show their personality
  • Let go of perfection: Aim for "80% right, 100% complete" - i.e. It's better to release a product that's not perfect than to never release it at all.
  • Work to a plan: Be clear about milestones, deliverables and deadlines.
  • Set the ground rules: Be clear about rules and parameters for executing the plan.
  • Think Global: Take into account the different locales inherent in collaborating with international partners - such as differences in language, time-zones, currency and customs.

Doing what we are capable of - with thanks to Gandhi and Haque

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing said Mahatma Gandhi would suffice to solve most of the world's problems.

We can do a lot worse that following some of the controversial, yet I think common sense approaches of Umair Haque, a Director of the Havas Media Lab, and a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review blogs.

I particuarly like Haque’s great to good,
Obama's 5 collaboration mistakes,
a strategy for the 21st century in four words,
and the builders manifesto.

More of Haque’s blogs are here.

I would be very interested in your comments, could it be that Buildership has replaced leadership?

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Monday, February 22, 2010

When sustainability isn't sustainable and how it can be

Here is a link to an excellent article by Zack Smith and Chad Stewart.

Zach and Chad are principals of Interkannections an organisational development consultancy focusing on leadership development, sustainability, and talent management systems.

I love their article for several reasons. It focuses on why being less bad (which is what a lot of organisations are doing) is not necessarily a strategy for sustainability even though many think it is. The article also shows us a pathway through compliance, conformity, and cooperation, the common path that often doesn't lead to a sustainable business, and the next essential steps of collaboration, coherence, and constellation. This article provides a lot of value about how you can go through each of these stages and end up with a truly sustainable and prosperous business.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Words, Actions, Reactions!

Leaders can easily stifle innovation without meaning to. Pay attention to the words you say, the things you do and the way you react to suggestions, ensuring that you always encourage innovative thinking.

Leaders create culture through the things they say and the way they behave.

You may be a strong supporter of ideas and innovation, but to make people believe that, you must show it. People cannot read your mind; they can only observe you.

A law firm that I worked for merged with another firm. The first few weeks of the merger were difficult for the staff as they tried to adjust to the changes. Soon the resignations began, and I would find unhappy people complaining to each other in the bathroom. I called a lunchtime meeting of the staff solicitors to see if the problems could be sorted out. We made a list of the various problems, and for each problem suggested a solution. I took the list to the Managing Partner, who received the memo without comment. I waited to hear the partners’ response. Weeks went by; we heard nothing, and no changes were made. When I mentioned this to another partner, all he could tell me was that the Managing Partner was unhappy that I had used the Boardroom without first asking his permission. There never was any response.

From this experience, the staff learned that trying to bring about change was a futile exercise. The Managing Partner probably did not mean to stifle innovation, but that was the effect of his inaction and desire for control.

Innovation begins with belief. Your words, actions and reactions send messages to your staff as to your beliefs about innovation. Similarly, your words, actions and reactions can build belief amongst your staff that innovation is important and that their ideas are valued. Make yourself accessible, approachable and responsive.

To build a culture, of innovation, both leaders and employees need to believe that a constant flow of new ideas is essential to future success, that thinking creatively is part of their job, and that there are many possibilities for a better future.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Changing What's Normal Webinar

On behalf of differencemakers community and Leaders Cafe 2020 I will be presenting my webinar Changing What's Normal - inside-out innovation for entrepreneurs and SMEs at 9 pm GMT on 23rd February and 2 am GMT 24th.

I will be exploring why:
a new normal is essential
business as usual is dangerous
change is personal first, and
how personal change leads to all other change

I will also be sharing my insights on what we must change and quickly.

All participants will receive my new ebook Game Changers.

You can register for 23rd here.

You can register for 24th here.

I look forward to "seeing" you online.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Receiving and Giving - how much is enough?

When I hear or see that a child has died somewhere in the world from hunger or a preventable/curable disease (as 27000 will today) I feel an emptiness I cannot describe. I have always felt this way. Sometimes when confronted with this appauling news I stare for a few minutes without a single thought crossing my mind. When I return to normal I am renewed once more to do my bit to make poverty history.

My wife and I support children in need through World Vision and we know that our support combined with many other people’s mean less children live in poverty. We also give a percentage of the fee from Torchbearer membership of our differencemakers community through our membership of Buy1-Give 1 to help the work of Room to Read and World Youth International, two more great organisations who are helping to make poverty history. We often ask ourselves however, can we do more? are we doing all that we can?

Recently I read Peter Singer’s lastest book The life you can save - acting now to end world poverty. Singer, named by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, leaves me with no doubt in my mind that each of us can and should do more.

Singer displays a chart in his book that shows that even if just the top 10% of income earners in the United States gave modestly we would raise more than twice the amount respected economist Jeffrey Sachs suggests we need to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals that would end poverty by 2015.

Singer clearly demonstrates that these goals should be easy to achieve. The reality is none are looking as though they will be!

So we have the means to end poverty, why aren’t we? I commend Singer’s book to you as he gives many reasons why we aren’t including the fact that a lot of aid that we do give is tied up in politics and doesn’t actually help make poverty history. The good news is he also gives many ideas of what we can do and how to do it.

For me there is one main reason why we haven’t yet made poverty history. Very few people know how much is enough when it comes to receiving and giving.

The top 10% of income earners in the world earn just over $100,000 per annum. Even if they all gave 5% of their income, and could be certain their money actually went to the right places, poverty could be history. And consider this. The world’s top 0.01% of income earners earn more than 10 million dollars per annum. Singer points out that these folk could give a lot more than 5% and still be very comfortable!

How much we receive for our labour and the value we provide and how much we give away to those less fortunate is a personal decision. I know how much is enough for me to receive and to give. How about you?

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PS Join me and make a pledge to give more here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Reward the effort

To get a constant flow of new ideas, reward people for their effort, not just for ideas that turn out to be successful.

Many people believe that ideas are only of value if implemented, and that rewards should therefore go only to people whose ideas are successful. This approach is counter-productive, for several reasons.

1. It can be difficult to attribute a successful idea to any one person or even to a group. Many different skills may be required to put the idea into practice. And there is the risk that the wrong person may take the credit for the idea.

2. It is difficult to decide what is an appropriate reward for a successful idea. An idea may make or save the firm a lot of money. How should the value of an idea be quantified? How much should the inventor of the idea receive? A percentage, or a holiday, or a movie ticket? There is a lot of potential for perceived unfairness, resentment and demotivation.

3. It is the habit of contributing ideas that will produce more ideas in the future. Therefore, encourage the habit.

People who have an intrinsic interest in the issues are more likely to offer valuable ideas than those who are just looking for the rewards. If people are interested and challenged by their work and feel involved in the business, they will want to contribute to its success.

Work on getting people more engaged with the issues. Thanking your team for their contributions and reminding them how much you value their help will make them want to help you more. Keeping them informed about what’s happening in the business will keep them interested and build intrinsic motivation.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Do you know anyone not interested in saving money or saving energy?

The following video was recorded pre the monumental failures of Copenhagen Climate Change Summit. Nevertheless it contains great case studies of four UK companies, Kingfisher, Adhams, Continental Clothing Co., and 4energy and how they are proving the business case for sustainability and that doing good through saving money and energy really is great for business.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Treat Transitions Like a Bus Ride!

Everyone likes a comfort zone, even leaders!

Last week, after two years of consideration and thought, I finally decided to opt out of the Army after 20 wonderful years of my life there. Along with it, I would say goodbye to a great culture, a way of life that had made me into what I am today.

The fears and insecurity attached with the decision were troubling my mind for all this while. The more I thought about it, the bigger the fears became, often leading to stress and me crawling back to the comfort zone of the military assignment that I was into.

It then dawned upon me, 'Aren't we in a state of transition all the time'?

On a daily basis, our body cells are getting replaced, many of them even simply dying, and leading to the ageing process. We are always transiting through life. Similarly, our lives are moving forward, accumulating on actions and experiences (karmas), and getting ready for more. That too, is a transition, in a karmic way.

Every now and then, our destiny (both destined and chosen) takes us into different environments and makes us face different people, situations and options to exercise. What is it, if not transition?

Think of yourself sitting in a moving bus. Though you are moving (transiting) at a speed, both in time and space, you are stationary in relation to the co-passengers and the bus. Yet, you have the choice to make this journey better, by interacting with the right people, by choosing what to eat and what not to eat, and by indulging in what makes you happy (like listening to an ipod or reading a book).

Motions like career transitions are meant to be taken as a bus ride - a journey that encompasses body, mind and spirit, all in relative motion. The only medium that can be taken as constant or stationary is this world and all that makes this world.

We are meant to experience whatever comes our way in whichever manner and however big/small quantity. Our choices could be many, but they will all involve some transition or the other. But if we choose wisely, in a mindful manner, after recognising our pattern of life and the direction intended, we will generally end up making the right choice that will remove all the fears and insecurities and make the journey an exciting and fulfilling one, just like a bus ride.

It is the understanding of the bigger picture, the learning that you take away from your life experiences, that will make you embrace these changes (transitions) and make you live this life as you ought to - pursuing your purpose!

Related Post - Life is a Journey, Picture the Road Ahead

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Is CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) a movement?

One of the best summaries of what I think is happening in the business world today is here.

Written by Bill Baue Executive Director of Sea Chane Media the summary contains many great links and is well worth your study if you are interested in making CSR a way of life for you which I think you should be .

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I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.
Leonardo da Vinci

Monday, February 1, 2010

Value Uniqueness

Here's a paradox about innovating at work. Innovation requires lots of different perspectives and world views. But most organizations hire for "cultural fit", meaning that people who are seen as "odd-bods" get weeded out of the recruitment process.

Amongst those who do get hired, there is pressure for people to conform to perceived expectations. Dominant views and assumptions can inhibit the consideration of new ideas.

We are all the product of our own individual upbringing, education and experiences. Each person has something unique to contribute to the innovation process. Understand what each person has to offer; encourage and harness diversity at work.

People with similar backgrounds often think similarly. Make sure your culture does not become too homogenous. Innovation benefits from all kinds of diversity, not just limited to race and gender.

Some people naturally see opportunities and find it easy and enjoyable to think of ideas. Others are more likely to tell you why the ideas won’t work. Both approaches are necessary, but not at the same time. People who seem to take a negative approach could be very valuable when it comes to evaluating ideas and managing risk. But when you are trying to generate a range of new ideas, these people may not be the best ones to have in the room. A profiling test called QO2 can help you identify which of people are more attuned to opportunities and which ones tend to see the obstacles. The Thought Leadership program includes a module called "Uniqueness" which helps people identify their best attributes.

Knowing the strengths of your people means you can use their skills in the most effective way.