You Took a RISK….Fantastic!!

TAKE RISKS

In one of my previous blog posts you will recall my recent attempt at roller skating (https://thinkingfuturethoughts.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/office-roller-skating-instructors/)

As I look back on that memory, I can vividly recall the difference in skating standard between myself (a hesitant, stumbling, novice) and that of my instructor (graceful, impressive, stunning…and yes…that rather magnificent short flappy skirt, not that I really noticed, well, maybe just a little….)

Both of us had the same type of roller skates, we were on the same skating rink, the same skating ambition not to fall over, but our skating performance skills were noticeably different! Why…well, it’s called experience. My skating experience was one lesson, her experience was extensive and it showed. But, her skating prowess didn’t happen quickly, it took many years of practice, learning, taking risks, and being prepared to occasionally fail and have that embarrassing moment of falling over and landing on her bottom.

In the corporate office, the prospect of failure isn’t really encouraged. The environment is very risk adverse, in fact, most of us are too scared to explore new ideas, particularly our managers, just in case they don’t work. It’s no wonder that innovation and creativity is stifled, or on the verge of becoming non-existent!

However, to build a corporate risk-taking environment that is effective, it needs to start at the top. A culture must develop that says…”it’s ok to fail..in fact, it’s ok to fail quite a few times…just keep working your innovative idea and eventually you will succeed and more importantly…learn”. Of course there are many caveats and T&Cs associated with this comment, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to work in an organization that encouraged you to take risks and stuff up occasionally along the way!?

Why doesn’t the CEO of your organization share with you some of their personal failures, and their learnings from those experiences? If they haven’t had any failures, does that mean they were too scared to take any risks, or did the organization not let them do so? If that’s the case, I suspect you might be working in rather a boring and conservative company so it might be time to get out before you also becoming branded with the concept that innovation lethargy is the norm and acceptable behavior!

Most companies have a corporate newsletter that is circulated internally to all employees highlighting various business successes that have occurred over the last few weeks or months. Why not include a section that highlights people in the business that had the courage to try something new, something innovative, and if it failed, get them to explain their learnings from the process. These people need to be encouraged and to be given public recognition. By doing this, others will also see that it’s ok to try something new and bold.

Why not add an innovation component into your employee’s performance goals for the year? Now this would create a vastly different mindset in the management structure as I suspect that most managers wouldn’t know where to start in this process? One option could be to provide all managers and employees with an “Innovation 101” type course that provides the basics in brainstorming and creativity techniques to make people think that little bit differently (PS: If you need a hand in doing this, let me know!)

The corporate office should be fun, exciting and have a culture that promotes innovation. Afterall, we spend most of our lives at work…so make it a place that you want to be at and more importantly….enjoy!

That Aurafication Advantage

Businesswoman consulting a partner

I’m sure that many of you have walked into a room full of people that you don’t know and can immediately sense the atmosphere that is prevalent, whether that be positive or negative. Sometimes it can be seen in their body language, or their tone of voice, or just the way they stare at you when you interrupt the mood with that look of bewilderment, or relief that someone new and interesting has joined the group. Either way, it doesn’t take you long to know whether you should continue to walk in, or just back out graciously and say with that sincere and genuine voice, “sorry for the interruption, I think I may have the wrong room” as you lie most professionally through your teeth!

Let’s call this room atmosphere the ‘meeting aura’ or just ‘aura’ for short.
You can also experience this aura when you visit a city for the first time. I’m based in Melbourne and many visitors state that there is a unique ‘Mel-aura’ that is quickly identifiable as you traverse the city streets, similarly Sydney has its own ‘Syd-aura’, as do many other cities around the world.

Many corporate organisations have their own brand that is quite distinctive and readily noticeable when you enter their head office, or meet an employee that is a true believer of their business culture. So, what is it that creates this aura, or ‘corporate aurafication’ that is so illusive to many organisations!

To me, the key to successful ‘aurafication’ is being prepared to be different, but different in a positive and constructive way that encourages employees to want to be linked to the organisation. If their participation in the business is beneficial to them personally, then the process of ‘aurafication’ is well and truly on the way. If there is no prospect for personal growth, then the chance of a successful ‘aurafication’ will be quickly nullified and the business will become yet another one of those boring, and unimpressive companies of which there are far too many!

So in order for your company to have that well sought after aura that many employees strive to obtain, focus on creating your own unique corporate culture and thereby obtain that optimum ‘aurafication’! It might just be the start of that competitive advantage that your business is looking for at the moment?

Vanilla Flavoured Diversity

My Primary Workhorse

Signed……Steven Cramer. The black ink that had just permeated from my treasured fountain pen was almost dry on my new employment contract. I gleefully looked once again at the document, and then with an eager and expectant smile on my face, I carefully folded the paper, placed it in the reply-paid envelope and put it aside ready to be posted to my new employer.

All of us have at some stage in our working careers have experienced the excitement associated with starting a job with a new corporate organization, or a new role within your existing company. Prior to us starting this new role, we have many ideas and thoughts on how and what we are going to achieve, we do not impose any limitations, nor do we expect the organization or our fellow colleagues to hamper any progress on the attainment of these objectives.

Unfortunately, many of us after a few years working for the same organization lose this positive and creative persona and slowly morph into a common and accepted form of corporate behaviour where any diversity of thought is progressively extinguished. The result is a “vanilla flavoured” corporate culture that is prevalent in many corporate company’s today.

But does this need to be the case?

A thought.
Why do we not ask all new employees to write down their career aspirations on what they would like to achieve prior to the first day of their employment? This untainted document could then be stored for a period of time (say 3-5 years) following which it is then opened and reread by the employee and discussed with a senior member of the management team. It would be interesting for the employee to see how their enthusiasm has been maintained or even increased over the time period, or has it been severely hindered? If the latter, then what has caused this negativity and how could the corporate culture be improved to encourage and foster a greater diversity of thought?

Many companies talk about the concept of diversity, but are quite content to operate in the “vanilla flavoured” business environment. When a new employee starts, they may be flavoured “strawberry, blueberry, or even have lumps of chocolate” diffusing through their personality. But after a period of time, this creative flavour may have been slowly purged and replaced with the approved corporate taste. If an organization truly values diversity, why focus on the attainment of the “vanilla”?

There are many great benefits to a company if their employees do think that little bit differently, particularly with respect to innovation which could be utilised in a variety of different areas such as new product development, improvements in service offering or potential business expansions outside the traditional norm? If all employees think the same way (“vanilla”), then opportunities for innovation and creativity will be severely restricted.

So next time you are about to start a new role, may I suggest that you capture your thoughts and aspirations and revisit them later in your working career. The rereading might be quite enlightening, particularly for you, and your organization?

The Script of Change

Theatre..

The life of an Actor is one of continual change. When the Actor is handed the script that defines their character in a theatrical play, they immediately immerse themselves into exploring their new role in a professional manner, as does all the acting cast. Initially, they may have some reservations or hesitancy on their newly assigned task, but they accept the challenge knowing that with time and practice they will eventually master what is required from them.

The Actor will also typically make extensive research into the profile of their designated role to ensure their performance in credible and consistent with the other performers in the play.

With time, the actors start to discard their own individual personality and begin to morph into the required behaviour that is required in order to ensure the required artistic success.

The parallels with that of an actor and an employee experiencing a corporate change management program are quite similar and many a business organization can learn a lot from the process.

The Script – In a corporate change management program the employees are typically provided with high-level objectives that they are then expected to deliver with a sense of urgency. (This is like handing the actor the script and then asking them to make a public performance with minimal time to prepare for their role. The result will undoubtedly not be optimum).

Role Practice – Employees are asked to modify their behaviour to be consistent with the required change management program. To many employees, this new behaviour may be quite challenging and inconsistent with their experience and skill set. (The actor needs time to practice and research their new role to make sure they get it right. They will make many mistakes prior to the actual performance, but these mistakes are opportunities to learn, modify and master their new role). Business management needs to provide employees with the skills required to deliver the change management program and to tolerate any learning mistakes made along the way.

The Props – Most corporate organizations use posters, videoconferences and other e-messaging techniques to try and support the change program. However, most are deemed to be superficial by employees and do not achieve the targeted result (In a theatrical play the stage is continually changed to support the actors and to create an atmosphere that embellishes the actors on the stage, and those observing off-stage in the audience). The corporate office provides a vast array of potential prop opportunities, some examples: why not move the CEO from their office to a desk out with the employees (a bit like having a military General out in the battlefield with their troops, rather than sending commands from the isolated HQ), move the employees to another external office which may have less of the corporate trimmings to signal the change in work environment and thought, or reposition work teams from their well established office position to other parts of the building (or into fragmented teams), etc, etc.

Have Auditions – many employees have been type cast into their existing roles based on their previous experience in those roles (An Actor auditions for a variety of different roles and is willing to explore new opportunities and characters). In a corporate change management program, employees need to be given a script that allows then to think differently and to utilise many of the skills that may have been hidden as they were only allowed to use some of their personality attributes that were consistent with their current role and job appraisal criteria. For a change management program to be successful, HR needs to allow employees to exhibit other creative and innovative flairs of skill that the organization may have actively suppressed (which may be one of the reasons why the business needs to now change!)

The theatrical play, together with the corporate change management program, will enjoy raptured applause and success when all the participants have been provided with the required time to practice, perfect their script, and have the appropriate props. The outcome will be a shout of “BRAVO” from the audience (and the business community)!

The Power of a Small Drop

Water Drop

 

When a towel is placed under a tap where the water is flowing quite quickly, most of the water runs off the towel with minimal absorption. However, if the water velocity from the tap is reduced to a slow and steady drip, the towel now becomes very effective with the water collection as each drop has time to fully permeate into the fabric.

Let’s take this thought and consider its application to the implementation of a new idea or innovative, change application in business, or in our social activities.

If the mindset shift associated with the proposed change is too large, those individuals feeling the full force of the change action may not absorb it so it could be lost and have minimal or no impact. The key for success is to slowly drip feed the idea to allow the desired effect to slowly permeate into the organization (or individuals) to which it has been aimed.

However, in some circumstances where efforts to implement change continually encounter strong resistance, sometimes there is the need to use a water canon to blast the change through with maximum force! But this course of action tends to obliterate the “towel” and may not achieve the required result. There are also usually a lot of puddles to clean up afterwards which may require a larger number of fresh towels!

So for your next “change introduction” may I suggest you adopt the steady and slow drip and you will obtain a nice wet and saturated towel!

 

The Thought of Antiquities

Antique shop window - Lillie Road

I must admit, I am not a fan of the whole shopping experience. When I need to purchase an item, I go straight to the target shop, buy the required product, and then quickly make a planned and strategically executed escape out the nearest exit!

However, there is one particular shop where this focussed stealth methodology seems to not work for me, that of an Antique Dealer. Here I can happily spend hours fossicking through the vast array of totally unexpected items. In these premises I have no preconceived idea of what to expect, I just meander through the pre-owned range of second-hand inventory gleefully absorbing the visual feast of gadgets, furniture, paintings, knick-knacks and other ornaments. In some instances, I don’t actually purchase anything, but I always leave the shop with numerous ideas of optimistic purchase possibilities that might just be useful for some project when I get home.

On examining my thought further, I willingly enter the Antique Dealer with an open mind, I have no preconceived objectives, except in the exploration of new and potentially exciting objects. On seeing these items, my mind is subconsciously linking these antique items with my existing home objects.

There is an interesting corollary here with the process of generating solutions to specific problems in our private lives or in the corporate world. In many instances we tend to quickly focus on a solution without exploring other options, some of which may take time and patience to develop. Most of us follow the “get-in/get-out” shopping approach that I typically follow, but the better solution is to let your thoughts wander contentedly along with an open mind (ie the “Antique Dealer” approach).

In the corporate world, time pressures and business imperatives tend to cloud our ability to take the “Antique Dealer” approach, but I would suggest this strategy as the outcome will be more beneficial and satisfying to all those involved.

Just a thought that might just be useful in the future?

 

That “Gaelic Place”

Big Mac

“Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun”.

On reading this sentence, many of you would immediately think of that global hamburger chain identified with the golden arches that I call that “Gaelic Place”.

To many children and adults from all around the world, this is their common perception of a hamburger. But what if we replaced the following ingredients…

Beef patties WITH lamb rissoles?
Special sauce WITH leaves of mint?
Lettuce WITH spinach?
Cheese WITH fetta?
Pickles WITH chutney?
Onions WITH beetroot?
Sesame seed bun WITH Toasted wholemeal bread?

I’m sure that those frequent and loyal eaters at the “Gaelic Place” would not recognise these replacement ingredients when constructed together as a hamburger!?

Let’s just ponder this thought for a moment and expand the discussion a little bit further. Many foods, fashions, music, plus many other items used daily, have become stereotyped by a consistent and standardised formula or delivery methodology. This can also be observed in the corporate workplace where everyone seems to dress in the same work attire, similarly, the offices have that regular format of appearance, funnily enough, very much like the business model used by that “Gaelic Place”?

The same can also be said about the process of innovation where most businesses utilise the same old standard approach of “brainstorming” to try and develop some new ideas.  I have even heard of some brainstorming sessions feasting on a selection of “Gaelic Place” food assortments to assist with the participant’s creative receptivity!

To foster some creativity in the workplace, why not try some new “ingredients”, just like the replacement “WITH” examples provided in the hamburger example above.  Some of these alternative “ingredients” could be:

Standard Work Attire WITH a bow-tie, cravat, kilt, swimming costume?
Corporate Office WITH an external location (the zoo, a picnic ground, railway train, gymnasium)?
Business Co-workers WITH kindergarten children, a choir, actors, artists, the French Foreign Legion?

In summary, there is more than one type of hamburger, the key is to expand your taste-buds with a variety of new ingredients so you continue to think that little bit differently!

Digging for Ideas

Camped

In the 1850s here in rural Victoria (Australia) it was a common sight to see many men and women of different nationalities lining the rivers panning for gold. This form of mining was quite slow and tedious, but for the minimal cost of a metal pan, you could dream of landing that allusive large gold nugget and then live that long awaited life of luxury!

Putting aside the emotion of the Victorian Gold rush, let’s focus on the simple process used for the panning for gold:

Environmental Experience:
Not all rivers contain gold. With the right knowledge, experience and an understanding of the surrounding environment, some river locations were deemed to have a greater potential for gold deposits than other less favourable riverbank positions.

Filtering Iterations:
The panning process involved a large number of filtering iterations in which the larger sediments were initially removed, then the medium sized ones, until the miner was eventually left with a fine particle distribution in the bottom of the pan. A small percentage of these iterations yielded some gold, however many resulted in worthless sand deposits that were ultimately discarded.

Practice:
As time prevailed, the miner’s panning technique improved and the filtering process became streamlined and more efficient.

Persistence:
The miner’s tirelessly repeated the process over and over again slowly accumulating small gold dust particles that with time eventually grew into a sizable and valuable sum of riches.

These gold pan learning’s from the 1850s are still valid today in the 2010s, particularly in the generation of innovative and creative ideas in the corporate office. Rather than unearthing that large gold nugget, here the business objective is to uncover that financially attractive new product or service.

Environmental Experience: In order to have the best chance of success, the organisation should utilise the skills, resources and knowledge contained in a broad cross-section of the business, don’t just rely on a select few employees as you will limit your options for discovery.

Filtering Iterations: The process of brainstorming new ideas will take a number of idea filtering iterations, many of which will be discarded along the way until that “golden thought nugget” is obtained.

Practice: The process of generating new ideas takes practice and repetition, but with time, it will become streamlined and very effective.

Persistence: Don’t worry if you are not successful the first time, keep going and you will eventually discover that prized gem of an idea!

So, may I suggest that you consider your corporate organisation as the river within which many yet undiscovered golden ideas lay buried just below the surface waiting to be unearthed. Your goal is to efficiently mine these ideas and bring them forth utilising the skills and talents that currently exist within your business. Happy digging!

The Gravity of Change

Apple on the ground

Gravity is one of those laws of physics that you know will work in all circumstances, what goes up, must eventually come down. The only variable is the rate of descent.

This creates an interesting opportunity in the establishment of a culture of “change” in the corporate environment. If the change is to work effectively, it must start at the top of the organization. Once in motion, the law of gravity comes into play and the change gradually permeates down through the whole organizational structure. The higher the starting point of the change, the greater the momentum and the better the chance of success in the change reaching the lower levels.

However, if there are any resistors to the downward movement, these blockers should be quickly identified and removed to allow the continued progression of change.

Gravity also ensures that change proceeds only in the required direction. Should a change start progressing in an undesired path, gravity will naturally implement the appropriate course correction.

One problem with gravity is that change has minimal impact on the corporate organization if it starts at the bottom. Here the change will have a limited life and will quickly run out influence and will eventually stop.

So next time you observe the influence of gravity in your surrounding environment consider how it can be used to implement an effective program of change in your corporate organization. Don’t fight the laws of physics, but rather, use this proven law to your advantage and let gravity do the work. But make sure you start the change at a high level to achieve the maximum impact.

 

The Sensory Corporate Name

Typewriter Letters

With the increasing number of new companies being created in the corporate world, it is becoming common practice to see a variety of innovative and unusual business names being derived to capture the uniqueness of that organisation.

Each company wants to have a distinctive name that individually characterises and differentiates their business from that of their competition. To do this, a collage of different colours, fonts, tag lines and styles are used to develop and maintain a value proposition in an attempt to establish the essence of that business.

But what about doing something a little bit different……..?

So far, companies have only utilised one of the five physical human senses in building this new company identity, that being the sense of sight. But, what about using the other four senses?

Smell
The manufacturers of perfumes, coffee, tea and other sensory delights truly understand the power of smell to capture and stimulate certain desires. Why not incorporate smell into the new company name? For example, at the entrance to the corporate office, there could be a fine perfumery mist spray of the “essence” of that organisation? Employees could be provided with a perfume, aftershave, or body spray that reinforces the organisation aroma!

Taste
The organisation could develop their own corporate food dish that is served in their corporate cafeterias, or is proudly offered to visitors on arrival, just like an appetiser at the commencement of an evening meal? There could also be corporate flavoured cookies, together with a complementary corporate flavoured beverage?

Touch
Why does a company name need to be printed on flat paper, or a smooth surface? Why not make it undulating with bumps and troughs? Business cards could be textured with a unique feel that would make it readily stand out amongst all other business cards!

Hearing
All new organisations could develop their own corporate song to inspire all employees to have that sense of unity and belonging. This music could be surreptitiously piped into the entrance foyer and throughout the building as a motivational influence on employees. Corporate guests could also be provided with an audio CD of the song to savour and fully appreciate after their visit.

Just a thought….but this may lead to a sensory revolution in the world of corporate naming convention! You just never know??