Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Social media is about the medium, not the message

I recently read a blog post "Word of Mouth is Still Sexier Than Social Media" on Jay Ehret's excellent blog The Marketing Spot. In it, he urges business owners not to get seduced by social media - which is currently very popular. He makes the point that Word of Mouth marketing is still more powerful than social media.

I agree with Jay, and I take his point a step further.

Too many people forget the "media" in "social media". A medium is the tool for carrying the message; it's not the message itself (Marshall McLuhan notwithstanding).

So here's my angle: Social media enables Word of Mouth. Social media is the telephone line, and Word of Mouth is the conversation.

Get good at both!

If you have a product, service or great idea that people want to talk about but they don't have any way of connecting with others, you're wasting the power of Word of Mouth. Conversely, if you create the infrastructure but can't inspire people to say anything about your thing, you've wasted the time you invested.

So yes, by all means, build your Facebook profile, connect to lots of people on LinkedIn, and collect lots of followers on Twitter. You're laying the foundation for people in your tribe to talk about you. But don't forget to give them something to talk about as well!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The placebo effect, the nocebo effect

I've been enjoying the book The Biology of Belief: Unleashing The Power Of Consciousness, Matter And Miracles by Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. I've written about it before, but I'm continuing to digest some of the concepts, so I'm bouncing back to it today. The book discusses the biological power of the mind - how thoughts can help us do things like walk across hot coals without sustaining burns, and how sugar pills have performed as well as antidepressant medications when patients believed they were, in fact, being dosed with prescriptions for chronic depression.

The placebo effect (like the sugar pill) creates a belief system that supports health and healing. What this means for our health is that we can think our way into feeling energized, strong and vigorous. Remember the father in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? He believed that a little Windex spray window cleaner was good for almost anything that ails you. Funny, yes. Absurd, yes. But how much more absurd than choosing to walk over hot coals to prove the power of the mind? Yet hundreds, perhaps thousands of people do that successfully every year.

Dr. Lipton's extensive biological and quantum physics explanations made a great case to prove the mechanics of why positive thinking works, why prayer works in healing.

On the flip side of things the nocebo effect (believing something is wrong will make something wrong) is equally powerful. Lipton cites a story of a man who was diagnosed with esophogeal cancer, which at the time was considered to be a disease close to 100% fatal. He died shortly after receiving the diagnosis. When they did an autopsy of the man they found that he had died WITH cancer but he had not died OF cancer. In fact there was almost no esophogeal cancer in him.

Henry Ford was known to say, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right. " If you think you're sick or shy or uncoordinated you'll do the things that reinforce the belief. You'll notice little twinges and creaks and wheezes. You'll focus on the one little stupid thing you said yesterday, or choose to avoid challenging social situations. You'll say no when someone asks you to dance. But it's deeper than that. Lipton says the cells in your body will back up your thoughts by collaborating to prove what you say to yourself is true.

I'm not going into the technical medical explanations here, because I know only enough to be dangerous. But if you believe in the power of mind over matter and want some evidence to support your belief, check out this book. Fascinating stuff.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Please put 10.10.10 in your diary - The World Day of Interconnectedness

One of the great events I was involved in last year was the inaugural World Day of Interconnectedness on 090909.

This year the day will be celebrated on 101010.

I am letting you know well in advance that members of differencemakers community and Leaders Cafe 2020 are already busy working on an ebook on leadership, interconnectedness, and collaboration that will be published to coincide with the event (more than 20 authors involved) and we will again be presenting a 24 hour webinar that was a huge success worldwide with people from many countries participating last year.

Recently Marianne Schnall (MS) interviewed three of the Elders on The Huffington Post and asked a question:

MS: What commonalities do you see between people of different cultures, religions, and nationalities?

Desmond Tutu: We are all connected. What unites us is our common humanity. I don't want to oversimplify things - but the suffering of a mother who has lost her child is not dependent on her nationality, ethnicity or religion.

White, black, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim or Jew - pain is pain - joy is joy. In Southern Africa we have a concept called Ubuntu - which is that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. You can't be human all by yourself.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas what you do, what I do, affects the whole world. Taking that a step further, when you do good, it spreads that goodness; it is for the whole of humanity. When you suffer or cause suffering, humanity is diminished as a result.

You can read the full interview with Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, and Jimmy Carter (3 of my heroes)

I am in no doubt that understanding and appreciating our interconnectedness is a key to peace and harmony in our world.

To find our more about the wonderful world day of interconnectedness please visit here.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

What cause makes you jump out of bed every morning?

The Harvard Business Review blog of 12th March 2010 makes very interesting reading and reporting that Indian companies are doing well because they do good.

Of course this is no secret to readers of this blog! I have been writing about how doing good is great for business for nearly two decades!

What I find particularly interesting about this HBR blog by Peter Cappelli is the findings My colleagues and I recently completed a study of Indian businesses based around interviews with the leaders of 100 of the biggest companies in India (the basis of our book The India Way.) Every executive interviewed described the main objective of their company in terms of a social mission.

Nobel Prize winner, author of Creating a world without poverty, founder of perhaps the most successful social enterprise on our planet, The Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus believes that the successful future for all organisations will have a lot to do with travelling the social enterprise path.

What is your social mission? What is your cause?

A great question to ask to find out what our social mission is comes from The Chief Community Officer of Meetup and author of The Culting of Brands Douglas Atkin:

What do you want to have happen? If you’re not out to cause anything then you might as well go back to bed.

What cause or social mission makes you jump out of bed every morning?

You can read Peter Cappelli’s full HBR article here.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Population growth or unsustainable economic system?

This should have been a comment on an earlier article, but for reasons I don't understand I couldn't post it as a comment. Since I've allocated the time to write it, I thought I'd rather post it as a new article. So here it is, on one specific point: population growth vs. unsustainable economic system.

Unfortunately, the idea that population growth is a major cause (of the current environmental and un-sustainability problem) is not sound. I used to consider it as a valid theory until I've started to study more on this topic.

Yes, world's population has grown and is growing - especially in underdeveloped countries. But most of those communities are poor and barely survive. The infant mortality rate, life expectancy, and pretty much all other indicators show that their survival is at risk - for this reason they have many children, of which only some make it into adulthood. They live shorter lives, and "consume" next to nothing compared with those in Western countries. In other words, it is a process of natural selection/adaptation. They are many because they are poor and can't survive and sustain their livelihoods otherwise. Once such communities escape poverty, they tend to have fewer children.

Moreover, it's not those many (poor) people that consume the world's resources and endanger the global environment. It's actually the consumption culture, wasteful lifestyles, and the pollution in the industrialised and rich nations, that create the problems. Unfortunately, there's little healthy debate about this in the mainstream media. What many 'analysts' do is to wrongly blame the poor for the depletion of resources and environmental problems of our times. In doing so, they make us believe that overpopulation brought us close to disaster, when in fact it's the unsustainable Western-style over-consumption, and increasing inequality, both generated by a civilisation with an unhealthy economic system/thinking, that depletes resources and contributes to major environmental threats.

I'm adding a link to a very good article which gives more data/'food for thought' on this:

“THE POPULATION MYTH”, link below.

With sincere best wishes,


Be The Centre of Your Tribe

One of the hot topics in business and organisational culture - both on and off the Internet - is the idea of "tribes", or community. The world is changing to be about community, not authority; villages, not islands; collaboration, not hierarchy.

As an expert, you can no longer rely on your positional authority alone to deliver that message. You are no longer an expert because you say you're an expert; rather, you're an expert because we say you're an expert. It's all about authority with community. This is a radical shift in the way we now view expertise.

The Internet has made this happen, but its effects spread far wider. Even if you're successful already, with unique knowledge, a captive audience and a loyal following, you must change.

Google has destroyed the power of your knowledge.
YouTube has stolen your audience.
And Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have taken your loyal following.

So what's a differencemaker to do?

"Corporate anthropologist" Michael Henderson makes the point that in corporations the leader - or CEO - is generally at the top of a hierarchy; but in tribes the leader is at the centre.

So: What would you do if you were at the centre of a community?

Here are some things you can do:

  • Find people in your network who need each other's services, but who don't know each other, and introduce them to each other.
  • Introduce people with common interests to each other.
  • Introduce people who work in the same market, but with non-competing areas of expertise, to each other.
  • Position other members of your community as experts, rather than you being "the" expert.
  • Empower other members of the community to take on leadership roles.
  • Find somebody to mentor in the community.
  • Create a succession plan for yourself, drawing from your community members.

Are some of these basic networking skills? Probably. But that doesn't make them any less valuable. If anything, they are even more relevant now.

Live Purposefully to Find your Purpose in Life

Almost every self-help book on leadership emphasizes on the need to finding our purpose in life. There is even an article that promises you to help you discover your purpose in just 20 minutes! It seems such an obvious piece of puzzle – ‘if we are born, there must be some meaning’, you would want to believe.

There definitely is. And there are so many people, who, in search of this meaning, meander through life disenchanted, yet never reaching there. Surely, you were born to live your life in the fullest manner and not waste it in the quest for purpose!

In a recently initiated 'Linkedin' discussion on ‘How and when do we find our purpose’, there were a number of different answers:

“Whatever we do, becomes our purpose”

“There is not one purpose – continue doing what you enjoy and you will begin to see life more as a journey than a purpose”

“It is about following your passions and using them to enrich others’ lives”

“When you are ready, your purpose will find you”.

Great thoughts, but none of them explained the answer completely. The gnawing thought still remained – Is there any way to finding our purpose? What followed were introspection, contemplation, reasoning and analysis, which resulted in a 3 Step approach to living purposefully. The end message was very clear - only if you live purposefully, one day at a time, will you be of any significance ever.

According to me, by living your lives meaningfully, you are constantly stirring purpose in your own lives as well as the lives of those you touch. When the purpose becomes really big, it becomes an achievement. And through a series of achievements, you become an inspiration for many others to ‘achieve their purpose’. For a life’s purpose to be achieved, the following conditions have to be met:
• It has to serve common good.
• It produces some everlasting effect, however big or small.
• It has to be directed outwards.
• It has to flow as a natural outcome of your values, beliefs, and actions.
• The focus must be on actions and not towards the results.

The 3 Step Approach

1. Discover your true self. Though you undergo life’s journey as ordinary mortals, guided by templates, beliefs and opinions, your true self emerges when you use your learning to grow spiritually as well. The secret lies in being aware of your own self, physically, mentally and spiritually. ‘Be with yourself’, and you will feel the three entities resonating with the same vibration. You will then automatically begin to feel your natural compass, i.e., your natural alignment towards certain thoughts and actions that will make your life meaningful. Also see my post on 'Mindfulness and Leadership' for more insight.

2. Be inclusive in your relationships. You must understand that you are in the company (physically, mentally or spiritually) of selected human beings by design, and not be default. The manner in which you acknowledge, communicate, understand and engage with the people around you will create the intended meaning for you to be in their lives and vice versa. This willingness to positively influence these people will also create within you a feeling of fulfillment that will draw you closer to your purpose.

3. Discover your passion and devote yourself to it. The first two steps deal with yourself and the people around you. Surely, there would be something more, that adds extra meaning to your life. Most people go wrong here, and attempt to find the elusive purpose by chasing material needs, higher positions, shifting places etc. What you must seek is the type of activity that you really enjoy doing, and never tires you. Just look back at your pattern of activities since childhood and identify those that completely engrossed you. Undertaking those activities repeatedly, every time with a renewed understanding, will help you discover your passion. Having discovered your passion, you must thereafter focus on the same with single-mindedness and devote yourself to it. Think of any famous person and you will find that he/she did exactly this.

Personal Advice

I would like to add a few words of advice here.
• Do not get so enamored so as to follow Step 3 in isolation, thereby only concentrating on your passion and avoiding yourself or the people around you.
• Only focusing on one step would make you lose your balance at some juncture, as you would not have followed the principle of purposeful living. Finding your purpose would then become a futile exercise.
• The good news is that even after following steps 1 and 2, you will be left with ample opportunity to pursue your passion.

Once you adopt this 3 Step method diligently and mindfully, you will never have to worry about finding your purpose. Every day of your life will be so purposeful, that one day, the ultimate purpose of your life will be fulfilled, with or without your knowledge. Even Thomas Edison, when he invented a bulb, never knew what it would lead to!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sometimes it takes a shift in perspective

Our family spent the first day of Spring this year in the mountains - a glorious day with sun and balmy temperatures. My teenaged daughter and I were doing our usual puttering around with our cameras, enjoying the particular kind of light of late afternoon on the Appalachian Trail.

We don't usually hike at that time of the day, and the so angle of the sun was different that we were used to seeing. The result was that our familiar, ritual trail hike looked quite different from the one we usually take. We messed around with different camera angles, framing objects, and with close up and landscape shots. We tried to capture the glass-like transparency of the water, and the texture of the lichens and moss on the trees that in different light just becomes part of the backdrop.

Sometimes the beautiful things, the meaningful things, the important things are just like that. We need to see them in a different light and from a different perspective to notice them and appreciate them. Our problems, too, can take on new meaning when we step back, or we step closer to them. Look at them from around a corner. Frame them with the other pieces of our lives and suddenly - aha! We discover what we've been missing.

If you think you are missing some of the meaning in your day, stop. Take a mental close-up shot. What does this moment tell you? What is beautiful and fulfilling in it? What is unique? Now step back and look at the landscape of your life. What is this moment in the context of your life's flow?

The first step in creating is to notice. This might mean that you'll need to slow down or stop from time to time. Because in a few minutes or hours the light will shift, and your view will not be quite the same.

Sustainability is about actually doing good. It is not about being less bad.

One of my heroes is Jeffrey Hollender, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Seventh Generation. His 2004 published book (written with Stephen Fenichell) What Matters Most - Business, Social Responsibility and the End of the Era of Greed really inspired me to quicken the pace and settle on the direction of my own work.

I subscribe to Hollender's blog The Inspired Protagonist. The March 23rd post contains reflections on a recent corporate citizenship conference and this quote by Hollender - Most sustainability and corporate responsibility programs are about being less bad vs. good. They are about selective and compartmentalized "programs" rather than holistic and systemic change. I believe this statement really gets to the heart of sustainability becoming mainstream. It is not about being less bad; it is about fundamental changes to how we live and work, changes that must address the main enemies to sustainability, namely population growth, profit for profit's sake, partisan politics, and unenlightened self-interest.

Hollender's March 23rd post also contains some great insights into the inspired thinking of role model company Procter & Gamble.

Please read Jeffrey Hollender's full March 23rd post here.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Gaining commitment from senior leaders

Right off the bat I've got to say - if you are expecting change in your company and you don't have commitment from your senior leadership team, it is not going to happen. Each of the individuals around the board room table has influence over a large proportion of your company's people resources, and everyone who reports to them will gauge from their behavior whether the change you propose is real or not.

There are completely understandable reasons why senior executives might be resistant to change, even when it's intended to improve business results:

They have learned (and have been rewarded for) a particular way of leading. They have developed habits. The longer a habit has been in place, generally the longer it will take to overcome.

Doing something differently might equate to admitting they were wr---. For some executives it's hard even to say, and the feeling of having been wrong is to be avoided at almost all cost.

Their feelings of risk are higher because many of them are hooked to the company with golden handcuffs. Yes, they are senior leaders, but it's hard to face risking a six-figure salary for the sake of an unknown outcome.

Their status under the old system was clear, but their status in the new system has yet to be established. The period of change can increase the political jockeying that takes place while senior leaders set out to prove their value all over again.

There are means by which senior leaders can be brought around to the change, although no change in habits is instant:

Provide them with information that validates the rationale behind the change. A conceptual buy-in has to accompany a buy-in to the specifics if you want the change to be sustainable. In addition, your leaders can apply their experience and brainpower to find some of their own unique ways to apply the concepts you're promoting - ideas you have not yet considered. When you help that happen you're creating the opportunity for wins both individual and company-wide.

Establish structure and process. You won't achieve a one-eighty simply by describing your new direction. Your executive team members need a chance to take the concept and figure out what it means on a day-to-day basis. It's also dangerous to assume that all of the players already have all of the tools they need to succeed. Give them the opportunity to develop themselves, and the vehicle by which to do so. This may mean hiring someone from outside your company to help get it done.

Work on building the team. It is often advantageous to train them in a group so they develop shared norms for the "new" way of doing business. In other cases indlvidually tailored coaching may be preferable, but ultimately they will have to come together. Shared goals are a fundamental component in building your team, and your senior leaders will be more committed to them when they've helped to develop them.

Put a stake in the ground. If you know this change needs to happen, communicate what needs to be done and stick to it. Not everyone else has the same information that you have, and despite the intitial resistance you need to persist - even (especially) when the resistance comes from those who are closest to you on the org chart.

Accept that someone might leave. We've seen it over and over. A leader says, in effect, "If this is what you're expecting me to do I don't want to have any parts of it." And they resign. Better to have them leave than to stay and throw grit into the gears as you're trying to get the company moving ahead.

This isn't an easy task. If you're making a big change it can take 1-3 years to accomplish, even when you're devoting a lot of energy and focus to it. In addition, structure, rewards, and processes may also need to change as you're bringing people in better alignment with your strategy. But keep your eye on the prize - the improved results you expect will come when you create the catalyst for activity in that new, better direction.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

All Change - Everything's the Same

It was 1971 that my life changed. And then, of course, it changed again in 1980, and then 1983. Oh, of course there was 1993 etc. etc. So - what's all the fuss about change and the need for leadership? It's a never ending process. Things change, and yet so much much seems the same.

1971 was when I met my wife to be, Maggie. we were at college and the old corny stuff about eyes across crowded room came to pass and we've been together ever since. We're both older, maybe not so much wiser, but with a whole lot more experience behind us. So much has changed. On the other hand, not a lot is different. We've had good times and some which have been more stressful; luckily, no really bad times have troubled us. Friends have come and some gone. We have moved location a couple of times, and had to forge new relationships, and some old relationships have faded more than I would have liked.

I am beginning to think that it's pretty much the same in business. The long established companies wax and wane, and the new pretenders come into the market and either thrive or fail. The more successful from either generation tend to absorb or overtake those that do not keep pace. The customers choose on a myriad different reasons just where to spend their money, and that ultimately defines who the survivors will be. Business relationships come and go. People progress, move and some even die.

Through that time so much has changed. Technology has transformed our sphere of influence. I can skype my friends in Australia at virtually no cost. I can see their faces while we talk. I can share information with clients and get their feedback in just a few minutes. I can send, and then amend a proposal, in a matter of minutes. I can create slides, timetables for a new programme and send them for approval to the client in the same time it takes me to type this blog.

We are going to see that capability change even more rapidly in the next couple of years as Apple launch their i-pad and google do their thing with with the next generation of hand held device (it's going to be so much more than a phone, I am told). I can do my shopping in Hong Kong or Singapore,just as easily as I can at home in the UK, arguably easier than going to London.

My circle of frequent contacts now spans the globe, and I have friends literally as far away as they could possibly be on this planet. When I look at my Linked-In network I often find the suggestion that the US President might be someone that I know. Technology has made so many things possible. What a wonderful, technologically advanced world we live in.

Yet, through all this time, however, some things have remained constant. Those people that I value, care about, and would invest my time in, have always had certain things in common. They inspire a degree of trust, confidence and respect. These may be rather old fashioned values, but they matter to me. It's not always a matter of liking people, since I have met people who are likeable, but whom I would trust as far as I could throw them. That, I promise you, is not as far I could have when I was a practising Karate black belt!

Forgive me if any of you out there that are in this category, but I have always had a degree of cynicism around most of those who choose to go into politics. There is a idea nestling in the back of my brain somewhere, that would exclude from office anyone who wanted to become a politician.
There is something about politics that seems to make people compromise on their principles when they need the votes. They seem to feel that being voted into office somehow invests them with a higher intelligence, a greater insight into 'what should be' than us 'mere' mortals. I write this on a day when a few of the worst behaved of our politicians in the UK are in court being tried for fraud over their misuse of the expenses system. This at a time when the country is struggling out of recession. This at a time when they are paid roughly three times the national average wage, and over a period when they have overseen the differential between the rich and the poor increase at a greater rate than ever.

I may not always agree with those I interact with. Nevertheless I choose to be with, work with, co-operate with those who seem to share certain values I hold dear. It may be old fashioned, it may be symptomatic of my age. I still think that old fashioned ideas like credibilty, integrity and loyalty are the things that make us choose the people to invest our own spirit and efforts in. I wonder how long it will be before the celebrity obsessed media will tire of their vacuous focus on those who owe their talents to silicon implants and a willingness to eat insects in a sweaty piece of jungle, and start showing us, and setting us better examples of, what it means to be truly a contibuting part of humanity. I wonder when our politicians will stop thinking of what will get them elected next time, but instead focus on what will be best for the country and the people. I wonder when the ideas behind what we are trying to do within the Differencemakers network will get the same level of attention as the latest celebrity breakup. I suspect that it will never happen, but I can hope.

If we are to succeed in our aspirations we will have to get to understand the power of the coming technology. The technical wizards will develop it and the applications that will run on it. We have have to keep up to the game to ensure we can capitalise on those developments . We will have to master the new methods of communications so that people out there will have to take notice of what we are doing. We will have to find new ways of getting attention and making a difference.

But through all of that, we will have to hang on, with all of our might, to those things that make humanity all it could be. It may not be fashionable to espouse such things as trust, crediblity, integrity, tolerance, charity and even a little consistency, but someone has to do it! Someone has to do it while keeping up with the new technologies and fashions. Technology may change at but deep inside we have to work on that most difficult of challenges - looking after humanity and helping it to develop to be the best it can be! And do you know what? Some of the greatest and most inspiring ideals that humanity has espoused over our time on this planet have been around almost since recorded history. There have been those visionaries who recognised what we might become. It might not come in our time, but someone has to carry the torch and pass it on! Technology may change. The current state of the world may change. Climate may change. Might it be possible that the potential for doing good might not change? Might there be something in humanity that is a yet to be released potential for improving things.

Often we see the best of what might be brought out out by catastrophe. We see glimpses of it when natural disaters strike, and so many people do fantastic things. It seems a logical thing to do what's right when it's a matter of life or death. Maybe the stretch is to make it the logical thing to do when it's just about life. The human condition is still the same. It's just the particular people it's happening to that changes. They come, they go, they move and they die. Everything Changes - Everthing's the same.

The economy is part of our society not the other way round!

The following is just one paragraph from a very insightful and powerful article by John Ikerd of the University of Missouri. I highly recommend you read the full article here. It is called Rethinking the Economics of Self-Interests. A big thank you to my friend Liviu who alerted me to this article.

It’s economics that is out of date – not small family businesses, caring communities, loving families, nations with integrity, and cultures with values. We have no ethical or moral obligation to accept economics as the final arbitrator of who gets a job and who doesn’t, who stays in business and who doesn’t, what we do in communities and what we don’t, where food is produced and where it is not, whether or not we trade, or of anything else. We don’t have to abandon "good" things from the past just because something "more economically efficient" comes along. We don’t have to accept "bad" things in the future just because they are "more economically efficient" than some "good" alternative. We can choose what we want to keep from the past and what we want to accept in the future. The market is not God – no matter what the economic priests would lead us to believe. Economics is a creation of people. We simply cannot turn loose the thing we created for our benefit and allow it to exploit the very people it was designed to serve. It just doesn’t make any sense.

And rethinking self-interests is indeed what we must do in order to making sustainability simple and attainable.

And more food for thought a great article by Ben Coe called What Truly "Wealthy" People Know about Money.

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Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
Albert Einstein

Monday, March 15, 2010

Requiem For Detroit: is the demise of urban Detroit leading to the birth of a new Detroit? ... and the renaissance of leadership?

I watched another fascinate documentary called “Requiem for Detroit”. I want to post the highlights from the programme followed by my reflections. I would be interested in your thoughts around leadership, personal leadership, motivation, engagement and any other thoughts you wish to share. This is a cautionary tale of the industrial world – not a cautionary tale of America. I believe there are many examples of Detroit around the world – albeit they attract less attention. It is a tale that ends with a wonderful sense of hope – in that – any man-made disaster is as nothing compared to nature’s immense power and ability to do a ‘make over’ on our man-made disasters. I hope my précis and my reflections here do justice to the brilliant 90 minutes documentary.

Urban Detroit: Then and Now

100 years ago – the city of Detroit bursts onto the world economic scene when Henry Ford produced the first motorcar for the masses. Here, I am only referring to the inner city of Detroit – Urban Detroit. The suburbs surrounding Detroit are thriving with it’s population of about 3.5 million. Urban Detroit: then
  1. The frontier city of America’s dream
  2. A city of transformation
  3. The Paris, and jewel, of the Mid-West
  4. 4th largest city in USA
  5. Had a population of 2 million people
  6. Packard Plant: largest automative plant of it’s time at 3 million square feet and nearly a mile long
Urban Detroit: now
  1. Thousands of homes destroyed
  2. Many businesses destroyed
  3. 20,000 murders in the last 30 years (highest murder in the US)
  4. Has a population of 800,000 people (no traffic jams on the freeways any more)
  5. 28.9% unemployment
  6. 47% illiteracy
  7. 33.8% of the urban dwellers lives below the poverty line
  8. 29 schools closed in 2009 alone
  9. 70 fires a night
  10. Packard Plant: largest abandonment in North America continent
The automotive industry kick-started the American Dream in the early 1900s. Detroit attracted people to its City - equivalent to the Gold Rush. I have no wish to catalogue the complexity of the different events, which caused the demise of urban Detroit. What was really poignant to me was the words from one ex-inmate, “abnormal behaviour in abnormal environment is a normal response!” Suffice to say that I was shaken to the core as I saw so many abandoned office buildings and houses – the scenes more resembled news footage I’ve seen of Beirut (certainly not something I expect to see from a city like Detroit)

Whilst the documentary spent much of it’s time tracing the events that led the downfall of urban Detroit – it is the last 10 minutes that really got me reflecting the kind of 21st Century leadership needed. Because against the harrowing statistics of ‘urban Detroit now’ – there are rays of hope;

  • Goodwill De-Construction Project: helping people to salvage the good parts from abandoned houses and transform other abandoned houses into decent homes to live in. As one of the project workers said (having been in and out of jail), “It’s good to get paid but I want to be somebody. We lift each other up.”
  • Community gardens are springing up from abandoned land. Many of the older African American’s remembered the old ways of growing food for yourself, so they went back in time and started to grow things to survive. As one commentator said, “It’s more than about growing food, it’s about caring for yourself and thinking for yourself”.
  • Detroit is now at the forefront of America’s Urban Agriculture Movement. As they sat around a fire warming up their hot-dog, one urban farmer said he wanted to test the theory that you can survive by growing your own food on one acre of land, “I’m making about $500 a week.” – to which another guy said, “That is as much, if not more, than I made when I was on the GM assembly line!” This ex-GM assembly line worker then paused, reflected on his own urban farming exploits and said, “How can I live like this? How can I NOT live like this?”

  • Detroit is probably the worst place on earth to take risks – and yet the urban city is attracting risk-takers wanting to make a difference and implementing things that they passionately believe in. Many of these risk-takers are young

What I am reminded off as I watched the documentary is the enormous power of nature and natural systems. One hundred years may be a long time to human beings … but it’s nothing compared to the universe, our planet and nature. The concrete jungle put up by man in urban Detroit has been gradually reclaimed by nature and the natural systems. By natural systems, I include the economic system – in that – there are people who earn a living from illegally recycling material from the abandon buildings (technically, they are stealing – but do you blame them?) … and those legally recycling (Goodwill De-Construction Project).

As we witness the demise of urban Detroit – Satellite images show urban Detroit looking greener than it has done for years. Funny how mother nature will always wipe away few decades of properity and man-made disasters no matter how big they are. So, is the demise also giving birth to a new kind Detroit, the Detroit of the future? A future where leadership is about:

  • Co-buildership: of learning to build more sustainable communities rather than relying on large conglomerates to provide for our every need?

  • Living in harmony with natural systems: where the greatest leadership learning is knowing how to ‘tune into’ natural systems and understand the limits to which you can ‘play’ the system.

Interestingly, once Henry Ford realized the tremendous part he and his Model T automobile had played in bringing about the permanent economic and social change of the United States, he wanted nothing more than to reverse it, or at least to recapture the rural values of his boyhood.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hey Leader! Show me your wares!

The Law of Supply & Demand Reigns Supreme - Even in Leadership

It shows up everywhere. In the marketplace. In romance. In sports. And almost everywhere in between.

Supply is how much of something is available. Demand is how much of something people want. In many ways, leadership follows the basic ‘Supply and Demand‘ framework.

Easy Math

Here is some quick economics for you. The economic model of supply and demand says that price will function to equalize the quantity demanded by consumers, and the quantity supplied by producers, resulting in an economic equilibrium of price and quantity. But what needs understanding is that the product/service has to be presented even before the price can be fixed.

Similarly, in matters affecting common good, the supply (leadership) and the demand (followership) both require a mechanism (common purpose) that can result in an equilibrium. But, like in the paragraph above, the underlying motive/desire has to be explained to arrive at the common purpose, which will satisfy both the leaders and the followers.

Just like higher prices threaten to reduce the demand and make it incumbent on the supplier to improve the quality to keep up his sales, a higher common purpose creates great followers only if the leaders take their roles earnestly. Likewise, lower prices increase the demand and tempt the supplier to decrease his quality to make profits, similar to what a selfish common purpose does in providing crass leadership to unsuspecting, gullible followers.

Leadership Equilibrium

For example, if there is a demand for increased feelings of safety, then there is a supply for that element until the common purpose is arrived at. To reach this equilibrium, many leaders will enter the arena to solve the problem. Similarly, there remains a constant demand for developing the human resource, due to which there is a constant supply of leaders to meet the demand, which never ceases. Hence, there is always a search for better leaders.

Your Leadership Level

It is here where you have to decide where you wish to position yourselves, or, where they you think you can make the difference.

•People who try to address the basic needs of life – like food, clothing, repair and maintainance – in the most basic ways, find solace in serving the small groups of people with the best of their abilities and settle down as shopkeepers/small service providers.

•People who take on challenges within their communities and call upon themselves to serve the higher needs of the people. They become teachers, doctors, and lawyers.

•Those who, while addressing basic needs, see the opportunity to take bigger challenges and risks and end up becoming contractors, suppliers, businessmen and traders.

•Yet another segment of people take on the higher responsibility of managing the above leaders under them and take on the roles of industrialists, political leaders and the ministers.

•Then there are specialists who serve in an indirect way, like the people in the IT, entertainment industry, the military, and the bureaucracy.

•And lastly, the support group of scientists, thinkers, economists etc. whose valued contributions make a difference at the highest levels by steering the others in the right direction.

Now, it is the way in which people in different roles carry out their jobs that makes them leaders. Position is but a platform for them to make things happen. The intent and the action carried out will decide whether they have truly inspired the followers and as a result, fuelled more demand. So, while all the people in the above segments have the potential to become leaders, not all of them translate their actions to help others. Greed, selfishness, inability, ineptitude, or sheer helplessness can keep even a performer from becoming a leader.

Leadership Supply Chain

All the above segments of people fit into the supply chain which works towards making this world a better place to live in. The issue is for them to understand the meaning of this supply chain, where exactly they fit in (their Raison d’être), and what is their value proposition.

In other words, the message for the leader within each one of us is, “Hey Leader, Show me your wares! Show me what you have to sell?" And answer the following: -

1. Are you wanting to sell a product/service/concept?

2. Is what you are selling, something that there is a demand for?

3. Are you selling with the right intention?

4. Are you equipped to sell what you intend to?

5. Is what you are selling a mere win (only I win), a win-win(I win, you win), or a win-win-win (I win, you win, purpose wins) formula? Remember, more the winners, stronger the legacy that you would probably leave behind.

So, while potentially all of us can become leaders, essentially many of us don’t, as we fail to recognise what it takes to lead. Simply, showing our wares in a mindful manner to arrive at Common Purpose for everyone’s benefit.

This blog post was originally posted at

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting Specific About Your Intentions

"Some day I'm going to get organized!"
"I simply MUST get in shape!"
"I have to get more harmony in my life!"

These are all intentions - and if I may be so bold - good intentions. Unfortunately, they are also the words that individuals have said over and over again without making any real changes. They hang out there, morphing from aspirations into whipping posts as time goes by and they aren't any closer to becoming realities.

So how does one help intentions manifest themselves into behavior? First, it's important to recognize the link between intentions and attitudes - both are lenses that help you interpret the world around you. They are your assumptions, your frame of reference.

As you can see in the diagram, your intentions (attitudes) drive your behaviors, leading to results. You take the feedback from the results, which reinforce or debunk your attitudes (intentions.)

Sometimes, though, intentions aren't strong enough to overcome habits of behavior. In these cases, you need to define the specific behaviors in which you want to engage that are representative of the intentions you have. Here's an example:

I will work out at the gym for at least 1 hour at least three times per week during the month of March, 2010.

Notice that you've set a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable (best we can tell right now) yet realistically high (a stretch,) and you've set a specific timetable for it. By the end of March you'll know whether you did it or not, and you can use the same process to carry you forward into April and beyond.

When you make a commitment to yourself and then keep it you are building your belief in the person you want to become. That's critically important to fuel your drive for continuous personal improvement.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Linchpins, Trusted Agents, Family, Friends, Colleagues, Who do you rely on? Who is relying on you?

I feel despair when so called world leaders fail to collaborate and therefore what needs to happen with climate change, economics, you name it, doesn’t happen.

On the other hand I feel excitement, inspiration, and exhilaration when I see or hear of so called ordinary people making a difference. I am convinced more than ever that positive and productive change is personal first, local second, the world third.

Aside from law and order, maintaining some infrastructures and safety nets, politics is irrelevant in the modern world in my view.

We must be the change we want to see in the world as Gandhi suggested long ago. The change journey then continues in our homes and in our neighbourhoods and local communities, then the rest of the world.

Having people we can rely on and who can rely on us by our sides on this change journey is crucial to success.

My personal reading in the past month has focused on this and I have been inspired by three people’s work in particular.

Geoff McDonald’s book summaries on steroids as he calls them! If your reading time is short check out Geoff’s summaries here. This month I gained much from Geoff’s Web Line summary about trust agents, Design Advantage about how design may be the new competitive advantage in business, and Brand Worship why people are loyal. These all helped me to get really clear on who is helping me and who (albeit unknowingly) is hindering me.

Who is helping you? Who are you allowing to hinder you?

Seth Godin’s latest book Linchpin about how to be indispensable. I get Seth’s blog every day however I think this is his best work yet. It helped me to get really clear on who is indispensable in my life and why, and how I can be better in being indispensable in the lives of others.

Who is indispensable in your life? Have you shown appreciation to them this week? Who are you indispensable to?

Peter Sheahan’s Making $#IT Happen is a great read. We all have great ideas. The issue for most of us is turning our ideas into great results. I have never read a better book on this subject than Peter’s. It helped me get really clear on who and what I need to focus on to really make the difference I was born to make in my world.

What is happening with your ideas? Are they in your head? Are they in your heart? Or are they out in the world making a difference?

Be remarkable
Founder Differencemakers Community
Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.

PS Alexander Blass plus a special guest speaker in each city, and myself, will be calling the world to action in a very special one day master-class.

Dubai 21st June 2010
Toronto 13th July
Southbend 15th July
Manchester 27th July
Oxford 29th July
Singapore 17th August
Perth 19th August
Melbourne 24th August
Sydney 26th August
Brisbane 31st August
Auckland 2nd September
Adelaide 7th September
If you live in or nearby or can get to one of these cities I hope you will register today.
Find out all about the tour and register from here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tools for On-Line Collaboration

My friend Chris Pudney and I record a regular audio podcast about all things Internet. The two most recent episodes were about on-line collaboration. In particular, the most recent episode was about some powerful tools for making on-line collaboration easier (The previous episode was about the principles).

Listen to this episode here:

MP3 File

Web sites we mentioned in this episode:

Setting up the project:

Scheduling meetings:

  • Send around meeting invites using Outlook, Lotus Notes, etc.
  • allows you to nominate up to 5 possible times for a meeting
  • (and many others) allows you to show the team when you're available for meetings

Conducting on-line meetings:

Informal discussions:

  • Discussion forums are useful for asynchronous discussions (Ning provides this facility)
  • Chat rooms are good for synchronous discussions (Ning provides this facility)
  • for collaborative mind mapping
  • to create your own bulletin board - example:

Document sharing

  • Google Docs: A web-based office productivity suite, i.e. a word-processor, presentation tool, spreadsheet etc.
  • Wikis: Web sites for collaboratively editing a collection of interlinked web-pages (e.g. Wikipedia)
  • Use a Wiki farm for hosted wikis
  • Use Rapidshare or Dropbox for sharing big files

Document management:

  • Help desks and issue trackers: Bugzilla, Trac
  • Google Docs provides revision control

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fulfilling our promise

Achieving what we want requires much more of us than simply doing what we love.

If we are to believe some of the self development guru’s, if we do what we love the money follows. I think this is way off the mark.

Steven Farber, Author of The Radical Leap and Greater Than Yourself says “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” Now this is on the money.

Doing what we love is just the first step to achieving what we want. Doing what we love in the service of people who love what we do is the key.

Here’s 16 questions for you to ponder about doing what you love and doing this with people who love what you do.

Be remarkable
Founder Differencemakers Community
Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Power of Sleep

It's amazing what a good night's sleep can do.

Sleep makes everything seem simpler. It puts things into perspective. We have stupid dreams as our mind does a big "defrag" and sorts through all the various inputs from the day.

I once worked with a guy whose method of operating was to thrash at problems. He would work right through the night and expect the rest of us to do the same. It made me feel conscientious and fed my work ethic, but it also made me feel really tired and flat! I'm sure I was less productive as a result of pushing myself so hard. How much better it is to wake feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day.

I'm learning to trust that my brain will find a way, even when the problem seems insoluble. Invariably when I "sleep on it", when morning comes, I find a way forward. And often that is all that is needed - a next step that you can take towards a solution.

Expecting to solve a problem in a single session of discussion or brainstorming is unrealistic. The brain needs time to reflect, to allow everything to "bubble". Present questions for people to consider, and return to the the issue on another day, when sleep has done its work.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Differencemakers Master-Class Tour - 12 cities, 7 countries

I am very excited to let you know that this year the master-class has been extended to a one day program and that I will be sharing the platform with Torchbearer member of differencemakers community and Innovator of the Year Alexander Blass, as well as a special guest speaker who is based in each of the 12 cities and 7 countries the master-class will be held in.

Our schedule is:

Dubai 21st June 2010
Toronto 13th July
Chicago 15th July
Manchester 27th July
Oxford 29th July
Singapore 17th August
Perth 19th August
Melbourne 24th August
Sydney 26th August
Brisbane 31st August
Auckland 2nd September
Adelaide 7th September

Alexander and I are fully energized by our research into and design of this master-class and are raring to go. Our master-class will bring together three powerful forces of responsibility, sustainability, and innovation into one awesome force for good. Our aim is to mobilise the world to take the next essential steps in the evolution of the systems and structures that govern the world so that we no longer offer yesterdays solutions to todays challenges rather create tomorrow today.

Find out more about the tour here.

Be remarkable
Founder Differencemakers Community
Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.