Thursday, September 29, 2011

Storytelling v. Corporate Speak

There is a great infograhic here from The Hoffman Agency.

Please review it very carefully. I suggest all things on the left of the infographic i.e. storytelling, are what we all should be doing.

I would be very interested in your thoughts. Please comment or email me

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It’s not who you know or even who knows you

Below is a very insightful slideshare from my friend and colleague David Ednie.

One slide in particular (in addition to David’s great exercise - slide 14) really got me thinking - “Ideas are spread by Influencers and Advocates.”

Put the names of people in the table below. You will be surprised and shocked I suspect. I was!

Do your work.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

5 ways to make better decisions

One page PDF file looking at 5 ways that we make bad decisions and ways to improve our decision making in each case.

Please feel free to distribute this file to anyone you think might be interested.



5 ways to make better decisions

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Introducing the Changing What's Normal Torchbearer Tribe

The Changing What’s Normal Torchbearer tribe is for you if you are a business rebel, maverick, entrepreneur, social entrepreneur, renegade, revolutionary, artist, larrikin, and you want to:

*Tap into purpose built resources whenever you wish that will help you in your actions to stop the status quo from sucking the life out of us
*Get connected with people of like heart and mind
*Quicken the turning of possibility into reality for people who currently are unable to

Full details of membership are here.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Decision making: Contradictory information

When we are presented with information that fits with our beliefs or tentative decisions we will tend to accept any information that fits and not investigate further. When presented with information that contradicts we will tend to look further and check the validity of the information.

This leads to a skewing of the information that we take in. Most information will have caveats and situations in which it does not apply. When we dig deeper we may find more information that contradicts our position but we are also bound to find information which confirms our distrust of the initial contradictory information. Of course if the initial situation concurs with our initial ideas we don’t look further and so never find any subsequent information that might contradict us.

Psychologists have shown repeatedly that when people taking part in an experiment are presented with a mixed body of information they will pick out that which confirms their beliefs and find reasons why contradictory information does not apply. In a group with opposing beliefs the same information will be interpreted by both sides as supporting their own positions.

For effective decision making we need to firstly be aware of this behaviour and then develop techniques and approaches to ensure that we investigate supporting and contradictory information to the same depth and apply objective criteria to the assessment of both type of information.

Six Steps for Dealing With a Hostile Or Indifferent Audience

As a differencemaker, you might find yourself having to deal with a less-than-ideal audience. They might be frustrated, annoyed, angry, upset or even just indifferent. How do you bring them around - or at least to the point where they're willing to listen to your message?

Here's a six-step process, which I call "Offer 3". Use this before your presentation during your planning.

1. Know your OUTCOME.

It's easy to focus so much on their attitude that you forget your outcome from the presentation. What do you want to achieve as a result of your presentation? Knowing this ensures you remain flexible in everything else you do. It also guides you in dealing with the audience, because everything you do to deal with their attitude should be leading towards your outcome.

2. Understand their FEELINGS.

They'll act on feelings, and justify it later on logic. The better you understand their feelings, the better you'll be able to tailor your message to take these feelings into account. Don't judge or interpret their feelings - simply understand and respect them.

3. Know their FRAME.

Their frame of reference, or point of view, is probably different from yours. This is where you look for their logic, reasoning and thinking; and compare it with yours. For example, you might not have all the facts, or they might not have all the facts.

Also recognise that everything they're doing has some positive intent (for themselves). For example, a dominant person who's always arguing with you might not be doing it to be rude; they might be protecting their status among their friends in the audience. This doesn't excuse their behaviour; but it gives you an opportunity to work with them rather than against them.

4. ENGAGE them.

Of course, your message always has to be engaging, but this is even more important with a hostile or indifferent audience.

In particular, put more time into answering their four "Why" questions:
  • Why This? What are the benefits of listening?
  • Why You? What authority do you have?
  • Why Now? What is the urgency to take action now?
  • Why Me? Why is this a good fit for them?

5. REFRAME their concerns.

Is there a way that your message does address their concerns - even though they might not realise it?

For example, if you're addressing businesspeople who've been taken out of their workplace to attend a compulsory training course, and they're impatient because they think they're losing valuable time, demonstrate how your training gives them more time in their day.

This step isn't always relevant or appropriate, but it's very effective when you can use it.

6. Look for a THIRD option.

Don't make it a "You vs. the audience" confrontation. Look for a creative third - and fourth, fifth and sixth - option that allows both your needs to be met.

For example, if you're addressing busy people for a two-hour program, is it possible to offer a summary version in the first 20 minutes, and then give people the option to leave at that point if they don't need to stay for the rest of it? Even giving them the choice will improve their attitude, and many of them will elect to stay anyway.

Finally, with a hostile or indifferent audience, it becomes even more important than ever to do these things well before your presentation. The worst thing to do is to turn up unprepared for that audience, and be forced to tackle these issues on the spot.

Am I Putting a Dent in the Universe?

It was Steve Jobs, the recently retired founder and CEO of Apple, who said:

“We are here to put a dent in the universe.”

He has certainly done that. Many would feel that no one can do it like him. He has turned Apple into the most successful company in the world at the present time.

Reading this I found myself asking:

  • Why am I here?
  • What is my purpose for being in the universe?
  • Do I want to also put a dent in it?

Yes, I do, and I am driven by three key motivators.

  • A compelling reason for being in the universe.
  • Self-discipline - Doing what I should do when I should do it, whether I feel like it or not.
  • A profound commitment to having meaningful relationships with people – in the end, nothing else matters – that change their lives and mine.

It is hard, dedicated work that takes time and commitment, and maybe a bit (or a lot) of passion.

So, do YOU want to put a dent in the Universe also?

The challenge is working out how we are going to do that,

what will get in the way and take hold of it,


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Re-imagine and then take action

This weeks sparkenation.

One of my favourite books is Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age by Tom Peters. You can find out more about this book and download a chapter here.
For a list of all the books I recommend please go here and put ceo in the password box.

This week think and take action in your own way on the following.

What has become normal in your business? Choose one thing that everyone accepts as normal practice. Get together with stakeholders and Re-imagine it. Think about what you chose in the context of this question: How could this be more valuable to those who have a stake in it?

Then take action. Do it. Leaders don’t wait. Leaders go first. Lead.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Are you providing what people want or are you trying to provide what you think people need?

The Australian Government is currently and desperately trying to make law what they think people need in immigration, dealing with climate change, gambling, and in a host of other areas. They are failing miserably because they do not listen to what stakeholders actually want.

This news release by the Business Council of Australia demonstrates that the Government may be listening yet clearly they are not understanding, which of course really means they are not listening!

I am staggered by the amount of business owners I meet who try and build a business around what they think people need, rather than providing what people want. The best business to be in today is clearly about providing services/products for customers, rather than trying to find customers for our services/products.

What kind of business are you running? Are you providing what people want or are you trying to provide what you think people need?

You will go broke if your answer is the latter.

The great thing about providing people with what they want and building relationships with our customers over time, is that we can end up providing people with what they need as well.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My 5 personal and lasting lessons from 9/11

On the 16th September 2011 my grandson Hamish celebrated his 10th birthday. When he arrived 5 days after 9/11 our joy was in stark contrast to the grief of thousands.

Here is a part of what I wrote in Sparkenation 7 (Living our lessons from 9/11) of my Changing What’s Normal book.


Most people respond to something bad happening to them with revenge and fail to grasp the opportunity to do good.

Changing What’s Normal

On 9/11, the day my daughter was due to give birth, my wife was in Perth with our daughter and I was at home in Adelaide with a flight booked to fly to Perth on the 13th. That night, my wife and I spoke on the telephone about what kind of a world our first grandchild was likely to grow up in?

On the day of my scheduled flight, the airline I had booked on, Ansett, then an iconic Australian company, suddenly closed down. I was not able to get a flight on another airline, or a seat on a train or bus, so I got in my car and drove to Perth, a 36 hour drive.

What occupied my mind for much of that trip was the question, “what is the purpose of my life?”

I couldn’t even begin (still can’t) to imagine the horror for those who died in the World Trade Center and the devastation for their families, yet it inspired me to think deeply about my own life, and how I could do more to make a difference in the world.

The long drive to Perth was full of defining moments for me where I made decisions that still drive my life and my work.

When I held the precious new life of my Grandson in my arms for the first time I realised that what was becoming ‘normal’ in our world, at that time, was not the sort of normal world that I wanted him to grow up in. I made a silent promise to do everything in my power to never accept ‘normal’ when that means that less than what is possible is happening in our world.

This book is part of my action plan. It’s a big task and I am just one person. I am asking for your help. I am asking you to do your work, so that together we might co-create a world where everyone can win and nobody loses.

In 2005 my wife and I were in London partly due to my work and partly for holidays. We traveled on the London Underground the day after the terrorist attack on that rail system. You could feel the fear and yet also the resolve of travelers to not be beaten by people who commit terrorist acts. This experience was another defining moment for me in my life.

My 5 lasting lessons from 9/11.

1) “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.”

I first came across this wonderful line in the film ‘Strictly Ballroom’.

Chances are that if you are not achieving what you really want in your life right now, you are not doing something that you fear. Get over it. Do your work.

The most amazing thing about doing what we fear is that usually we end up wondering why we were so frightened in the first place.

2) “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do about it.”

These are the words of W Mitchell an amazing man who has overcome hardships in his life that would have taken the life of most people.

Stop worrying about your circumstances. Worrying is a useless emotion and along with guilt the most debilitating. Whatever your circumstance, do something about it. Take action now.

3) Don’t get distracted by what other people do or don’t do

We are responsible for our intentions, feelings, thoughts, and actions, never other people’s. Stay your course, be true to yourself, maintain your focus and the right people for you will join you and the wrong people for you won’t.

4) What we believe is just a belief. What we do is what really matters

A client of mine is a devout Christian. Another client is a devout Muslim. Yet another client strictly follows what she sees as the Buddhist way. Still another is Jewish to his bootstraps. I could go on. I know people from most walks of life who strongly believe what they do. I greatly admire each of my clients, yet I share none of their belief systems. What we do share is the fact that behaviour matters more than belief.

Many belief systems are tied up in a faith of some kind. Faith by definition cannot be proved. If it could be proved it wouldn’t be faith! The ‘proof is in the pudding’ the saying goes, meaning what we do counts for far more than what we believe. As one of the Apostles of the Christian Church is reported to have said, “Faith without works is dead.”

A lot of faiths are dead today because the actions of many of the faithful betray their stated beliefs. I meet a lot of people more interested in being right than being compassionate. Compassion for me is at the heart of all the world’s religion’s.
If we are not living and breathing a compassionate life we render whatever we believe as null and void, regardless of what we say.

A new world is being born. Compassion is a key component. There is a place for faith in this new world however belief matters little, what counts is behaviour.

5) However long we live, we leave a legacy

Every life matters. Everyone leaves a legacy. The question we must all answer with our lives: Is the legacy I am leaving the one that I truly want to leave?

Happy birthday Hamish.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Do you still doubt the business case for sustainability or are you leading the way?

I was very interested to read the 31st August 2011 News Release from
Business Council of Australia following a forum held in Sydney ‘The Sustainability Challenge: Business Creativity in Practice’.

Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said “businesses are already leading the sustainability agenda because:
it believes in a leadership role
it makes good business sense
it is economic reality to want to reduce input costs
it’s a magnet for investors and high-quality staff
it’s fundamental to the social licence to operate
business has the capacity, resources and capital to drive innovation.”

You can read the full release here and also download some of the papers.

I also read with great interest David Coethica’s blog here about Integrated reporting and particularly David’s words “It could very well be another next step forward toward validating the apparently elusive (to some) business case for CSR.”

Do you still doubt the business case for sustainability or are you leading the way?

Leaders don't wait, they go first. Are you leading?

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Practical Decision Making: Decision Trees


“If there are two courses of action,
you should take the third.”

Jewish Proverb.

A decision tree is a visual tool for analysing decisions. In using it you generate a tree-like graph of decisions and their consequences. In the simplest form of this technique:

  • Squares: represent decisions

  • Triangles: represent end points

When the graph is completed you can then add probabilities for each of the individual branches and from the the overall probabilities of the end points.

using the technique

As a simple example let's suppose that I decide that I want to travel from my home to a hotel in town A. So let's draw the options in a decision tree:

We can now add some %'s to reflect either our preferences or an estimate of some factor that we would like to consider (e.g. cost, estimated likelihood, etc.). In this case I will use personal preferences:

I am assuming here that the train station is close to my home. For 'walk' I have added 0% because it is a long distance to town A. The bus takes a long time but it is quite cheap so I have given it 10%.

Notice that I have also added end points to 'walk' and 'drive' as they both get me to my destination. 'Train' and 'bus' however do not get me to my final destination so I now extend my decision tree by adding more decision points, options and estimates:

We can now multiply the %'s and see what the final end point %'s are:

So our conclusion should be that we should take the train and a taxi (45%).

extending the %'s

In this example I have used personal preferences only. You could also do this based on cost (or any other factor) simply use another colour for another % on each branch.


This is a very simple example but even here I have simplified the decision tree. I have not considered for instance how I would get from my home to the train station. Decision trees can rapidly become very complex, indeed this is one of their strengths as they allow us to consider options that we might normally ignore. Try using a large wall space covered with flip chart paper (or a large white board) for your decision trees.


Before starting your decision tree decide on the level of detail you wish to consider and the number of %'s you want to take into account. For example it can get very complicated if you use more that two types of %'s. When you have decided on the level of detail that you require try to stick to this, don't be dragged off into too much detail. In fact deciding the detail you should go down to in each decision tree that you do is one of the skills that you will develop by using them. In some cases a very high degree of detail is needed, in others all but the major option branches can be ignored.

adding chance events

You can make your decision trees even more elaborate by adding:

  • Circles: Chance events

For example:

making your decision

The %'s at the end points should be all that you need to make a decision. If you feel that this is the wrong decision you should consider:

  • whether the %'s you have allocated are correct

  • whether the level of detail in the branches is too high or too low

  • whether you are using the correct estimate (e.g. your %'s may be 'increased sales' when they should be 'increased profits')

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You will never know until you have a red-hot go

This weeks sparkenation.

Every master-piece began with an idea and a blank canvas. I am willing to bet that you have an idea and you still have a blank canvas i.e. you haven’t yet done anything about your idea.

What are you waiting for?

Get started today. Take massive action on your idea this week. It may not turn our to be a master-piece. Who cares! It has been said “The journey is the reward.” Yet every now and then, because of our commitment to the journey, something remarkable happens. This week might be such a week. You will never know until you have a red-hot go.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What we all really want

I had a coffee this week with a reader of my changing what’s normal book. It was the first time we had met. I was thrilled to hear his story of how he is changing what’s normal in his own life.

He then surprised me by giving me a gift, a book called Odyssey - Pepsi to Apple ... a journey of adventure, ideas, and the future. The book is John Sculley’s side of his friendship pre and during his role as CEO of Apple,
and then fall out with Steve Jobs.

The following statement in the book stopped me in my tracks and I have been thinking about it ever since:

“A company today owes its employees one of the most rewarding experiences in their lieftimes, a chance to realize their quest to grow, to achieve, and to make a difference in the world. Nothing more, nothing less.”

John Sculley wrote the above in 1987. It was a revolutionary idea then and for most still is.

Act on the idea with your employees, your customers, everyone. Make every transaction and interaction matter. Give people the experience of their lifetime.

Apple has a goal to change the way people work and live.

In our own way we should all have this goal because much of the status quo is sucking the life out of us. For our own sakes, the sake of our children and their children, we must stop the rot.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Personal Branding Is All About You

When actor Steve Martin was asked in an interview to share what he considered the secret to success, he replied:
"Be so good they can't ignore you."
This sums up what it means to be a success on-line, and a true differencemaker. Know what you're good at, become great at it, and share it with the right people.
  • What's your unique expertise?
  • What makes you different?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What would you do for love, not money?
This is what makes up your personal brand. It's not about your logo, your colour scheme, your business name or your catchy slogan. It's about you.

People want you, not just your expertise. Increasingly, they're searching Google for names of experts, not just a topic of interest. So you want people to be searching Google for your name, not just what you do - and they will, if you get clear and stand strong in your personal brand.

Even if you want your business to be known for its own name, not because you are the brains behind it, it's still important to build a personal brand that drives the business.

So what's behind your personal brand?

How would you answer these two questions?
  1. What do you keep doing well over and over again in your life?
  2. What do you keep doing badly over and over again in your life?
These two questions can help start you on the journey to finding your personal brand.

Poet Robert Frost put it like this, in his poem "Two Tramps in Mud Time", which ends like this:

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.

So where do your passion (avocation) and work (vocation) unite? That's the sweet spot for your thought leadership. For some differencemakers, this is easy; for others, it takes a bit more soul-searching.

Both of these things are important. If you're doing work that you don't like - that doesn't ignite you, that doesn't turn you on - it will be difficult to follow through with it, and that will show to your customers and potential customers. And if you can't turn your passion into work, you need to find some other way to make ends meet. Most people don't find a way to "unite their avocation and their vocation". But if you do, it's the perfect combination!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

13 key reasons why most change programs fail

The main focus of my business for 20 years has been partnering with passionate people to stop the status quo from sucking the life out of us and to turn possibility into reality.

I conclude that most change programs fail for 13 key reasons:

1. The people charged with making the change happen don’t really believe in it and therefore their work is half-hearted at best

2. The change program is designed to take too long and the status quo wins

3. The expectations are unrealistic

4. People aren’t genuinely appreciated when they do well

5. People are not held to account when they fail to perform as they agreed they would

6. Measurements of progress are poor or non-existent

7. Desired change is actually problem solving which usually means a return to the status quo rather than real innovation

8. Intentions, emotions, and thinking doesn’t change and therefore any behaviour change that may happen doesn’t last

9. There isn’t a real shared-view about why the change is crucial/essential

10. There isn’t a real shared-view on how the change will happen and who will do what, and when

11. Leaders don’t understand all change is personal first, relationships second, and organisations third

12. Leaders don’t personally change

13. Broken relationships remain broken

The presence of any of the above reasons will most likely mean your change initiative will see you go backwards.

There is great news. Address these 13, and pioneering, breathtaking, truly innovative, measurable change, people can actually believe in and make happen, is at your doorstep.

Please check out my change programs here. Assuming an alignment of our values, and a fit between your needs, expectations, desires, and my expertise, possibility could very quickly become reality in your business.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What talents are you yet to unearth and share with the world?

This weeks sparkenation.

Last Friday it was my honour to be the guest speaker at the launch of Charlie-Helen Robinson’s book Unearthing, the wonderful story of how the Dead Reds Wine Group successfully use social media to attract members to it’s group and the Heart Foundation charity they support.

In preparing for my short talk I started thinking about how many people are yet to unearth their specialness. We are all one-of-a-kinds.

What special talents do you have that so far are private?
When will you unearth them and share them with the world?

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Decision making: risk, utility and probability


For the completely rational human being the concept of the 'utility' of a thing (that is its 'usefulness') should be directly related to the amount of the thing that they receive. For example £10 should be twice as useful as £5. Two cabbages should be worth twice as much as one cabbage.

Actually the relationship between most items and utility is more like the following diagram which depicts the relationship between utility and money for a typical person:

To demonstrate this, how would you answer the following question:

Which would you prefer?

100% chance of winning £1,500

50% chance of winning £3,000

Most people will choose the $1,500 even though logically they both have the same value.

This is because, as you can see from the graph, twice the amount of money corresponds to less than twice the amount of utility.

This utility/money curve of course varies from person to person and how risk averse they are but similar curves exist for the majority of people.

The curve also implies some other things. The further the amount of the resource increases (in this case money) the less the relative difference. For instance your response to the question above will probably be even less logical (and more risk averse) if the amounts were £10 million and £20 million. The other side of the curve implies that £20 probably has more than 10 times the utility of £2. The exception being if you needed the £2 for a bus home, in which case you would be highly risk averse to any gamble.

risk and probability

This behaviour is also similar to our risk versus probability curve:

If we have a very low probability of something happening (the left hand side of the curve) then there is little perceived risk because it is very unlikely that we would make that choice. For instance if we could bet £1 at 1 in ten thousand odds of wining £10 we are highly unlikely to take the bet.

The right hand side of the curve also is perceived as low risk. It there is a very high probability of something happening we perceive it correctly as low risk.

The highest risk is at the 50/50 probability where it is totally uncertain if an event will happen or not.

From a purely logical perspective this curve does not make sense, it really should be a triangle with straight lines. It differs from this because humans do not easily perceive very low probabilities as being as low risk as they are (and vice versa for high probabilities.) For a probability of 99.9% that some event will happen there is a small doubt in our minds and this increases the perceived risk. consider the following scenario: your house insurance is normally £500 per year but your insurance company has a strange offer on, for £100 per year you can insure your house for all days starting with a T or an S (that is 4 out of 7 days), would you take out the insurance?

We do not react linearly to utility and resource, logically we should?

We do not estimate risk against probability well?

If we can incorporate an understanding of these behaviours into our decision making we will be able to improve it.

Gap 5 - The Perceived Service-Quality Gap

The final gap is the perceived service that the customer has of their experience in relation to their original expectation of the product or service. Ideally there is no gap here or, if there is a gap, it is in the context that the perceived service level is higher than original expectations.

What gap, if any are your customers experiencing?
Copyright Gary Ryan 2011
Quote from a research participant
You know they don’t really have to do all that much. If they just met my expectations I’d be happy. But they really don’t seem to care. And as soon as I get a chance to go somewhere else I will. And they won’t even know what happened to me. It’s a shame, really. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Gary Ryan
Organisations That Matter
Providing services and resources to Senior and Developing Leaders who believe that people matter!
Connect with Gary on LinkedIn

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The privilege of our platforms

When Naomi Rhode, RDH, CSP, CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame® was President of the National Speakers Association (USA), her theme was 'The Privilege of the Platform' which I think is very insightful and sadly not understood by many speakers, professional and non-professional, who think it is about them more than the audience.

Speakers or not, just about everyone on earth can have platforms today via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, you name it, and increasingly through leading our own tribes and participating in others. The possibilities are endless.

Seeing our platforms as a privilege I think is paramount.

Before I post in social media, speak in public or for a client, or engage in whatever way I have opportunity to share my feelings, thoughts, insights, and experience, I ask, will my audience find this of great value? My answer often is no!

I write a minimum of 500 words every single day, usually first thing in the morning. I spend about 20% of my time doing online and in person research. Only a small amount appears here or anywhere else because only a small amount passes my great value test.

Now ultimately only you can be the judge of whether or not what I provide is of great value. I find the discipline of asking the will this be of great value question and always keeping in mind that it is a privilege to share with you, keeps me honest.

Please comment or email me if you think what I provide is of great value and equally if you don't think it is.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Let’s not let the status quo sink society

This is the first of two major articles I will provide this month as my changing what's normal newsletter. You can sign-up to receive my newsletter here.
As a reward for signing up I will be able to offer you free premium membership to CEO Online, valued at $198 per annum.

Often when I work long term with a client I have an office at their premises and usually I leave quotes and other visual reminders of what we are working on together on the door or window. Recently I visited with a past client and as soon as I walked past the office I once used, I remembered once leaving the following on the door. (part of what we were working on at the time was personal responsibility)

“I thought someone should do something, and then I realised I was someone.”
John F. Kennedy

The above was replaced by someone unknown with
The definition of stupidity is:
“Expecting a different result by continuing to do the same old thing.” Anon

and then within a short time someone unknown also put the following on the window.

The definition of idiocy is:
“Doing something different and still getting the same result.” Anon

Very soon the focus of everyone became not being stupid or idiotic. It was a lot of fun, much learning took place, and everyone improved their personal responsibility. And so I reflected fondly when I walked past that office.

There is a lot of stupidity going on in the world today (and some idiocy!).
In many ways the status quo is sinking society.
Here just a few examples of what I think is stupidity:

Many politicians think taxing us solves a myriad of problems and so they go on taxing us and as a consequence create bigger problems and we pay the price.
Tax as a solution to all things is so 18th century and in some cases as old as time.

Many politicians think they have to tell us what to do and when to do it and even when we are using legal products such as gambling machines, they think we need help to be responsible for ourselves and try to take over what we should be responsible for.

Minorities get heard more than majorities and this masquarades as democracy.

Very little of what children learn in school actually matters in the real world.

Interruption marketing still invades our privacy every night on televison via advertising that in the main is the same as it was 60 years ago. It is rare that an ad catches my imagination. I wonder if the big companies who run most of the ads know that most of us have become immune to their advertising.

I know of a self-funded retiree couple who qualify for a dollar each per fortnight pension and they each duly receive a $1 cheque in separate envelopes.

I am sure you could add lots to the stupidity list.

Yet a key question is: What are you doing that is normal (status quo) for you that if you really thought about it is stupid or idiotic?

Until I was around 17 I thought I was personally stupid.
Here’s my story which is sparkenation 2 of 58 in my changing what’s normal book.

I’m not normal and neither are you


Most people hold an inaccurate image of themselves that is much to do with what they think other people think about them. Sadly this kind of self-image can last a lifetime.

Changing What’s Normal

The biggest message I heard from my teachers at school, when I was a teenager, was that I was stupid. A common phrase from many of them was: “What are you doing, stupid?”

On Sundays in those years I heard a different message, “You are a sinner in need of redemption.”

On many Saturdays I heard yet another message. After sport on Saturday mornings I would often visit my Grandparents on my way home. My Nana Sherriff, whose shepherds pie I can still smell and taste whenever I think about it, often used to look across her kitchen table and say, “You know you’re special!” I didn’t know who I was, and strangely enough, when I look back, I wonder why I chose stupid as the picture I had of myself most of the time.

When I left school the only job I could get was working as a brickie’s labourer for a construction firm owned by friends of my family, a firm my Grandfather Sherriff worked for until his death at age 76. I also worked for a time as a painter for another friend of my family.

One day I was painting a church, the same place where I’d heard over and over that I was a sinner. My mother’s friend, Mrs. Murray, who lived across the road, came to get me, on this particular day, because another friend of the family wanted to talk to me on the telephone. There were no mobile phones in the 70s!

Noel, who worked for a recruitment organisation, was calling to tell me he had an interview for me with the National Australia Bank, and that I needed to cut off my long hair, shave off my beard, buy a suit (I didn’t own one at the time), and to do so quickly.

The only good thing my school report card said was, “Ian has a sense of humour”, so my interviewer didn’t waste any time cutting to the chase saying, “There is no way I could give you a job son, I’m sorry.” I thought “I’ve got nothing to lose” and replied, “I am not going to get on my hands and knees and beg, however I promise you, if you give me a chance, I won’t let you down.”

My interviewer then shocked me when he reached out, shook my hand, and said, “You’re hired!” A few days later when I started work, my hirer, who became my
first mentor, told me he wasn’t sure what came over him, saying, “I just had the feeling you were someone special!”

So Nana Sherriff was right and for the first time in my life, at age 17, I believed her and I have never looked back.

Deep down I always knew I wasn’t normal. The reason I got into so much trouble at school was because I felt other people were forcing me to be like everyone else and I rebelled. I was fortunate that my first employer in the business world didn’t think I was normal either. His mentoring taught me that my quest in life was to be the best one-of-a-kind that I could be and that authentic leadership is about creating cultures where everyone has opportunity to shine.

My first mentor had a great philosophy which I later discovered was popularised by Goethe, the great German philosopher:

"When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be."

Sadly very few of the so-called educators I experienced in my youth understood the truth of these words. I have been fortunate to work with some remarkable people who get Goethe’s truth, and I have been honoured to meet several more. Are you such a person?

Possible actions:

How normal do you see yourself?
Could you be more of a non-conformist?
If so what would you do differently and when will you begin?
How often do you celebrate that you are special?
Could you do so more often?
How often do you see people as they could be and celebrate the
special nature of every human being with individuals?
Could you do so more often?
Do your work.

Key question again: What are you doing that is normal (status quo) for you that if you really thought about is stupid or idiotic?

Discover your specialness please. Claim it. Step up to your significance and standout. Let’s never allow the status quo to sink society.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder, Differencemakers Community
Leader Changing What's Normal Tribe

Sparkenation: a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal

More sparkenations are here.