Tag Archives: Innovation

Are you ready to Dare Greatly?

Daring greatly leadership poster
I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages, ever since I watched Brené’s TED talk (link). I’ve been experimenting with vulnerability, something I have always found difficult, for a couple of years now (Time to get personal – 2016). This book is the gospel on vulnerability, shame and courage. It is really easy to read and is structured with checklists and summaries throughout.
I thought it would be helpful to summarise some of my big takeaways – though I encourage you to read this book and apply its lessons yourself.
Vulnerability is:
  • asking for help
  • saying no
  • starting a business
  • encouraging my kids to try (even if they might fail)
  • calling someone who lost a loved one
  • publishing your work, sending it out, etc
  • falling in love
  • trying something new
  • admitting I don’t know
  • admitting I’m afraid
  • trying again after failing
  • standing up to peer pressure
She has 10 questions she asks to understand the culture of any group or organisation:
  1. What behaviours are rewarded and punished?
  2. Where and how do people spend time, money and attention?
  3. What rules and expectations are followed, enforced and ignored?
  4. Do people feel safe and supported taking about how they feel and asking for what they need?
  5. What are the sacred cows?
  6. What stories are legend and what values do they convey?
  7. What happens when someone fails, disappoints or makes a mistake?
  8. How is vulnerability perceived?
  9. How prevalent are shame and blame and how do they show up?
  10. What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning,  trying new things, giving and receiving feedback normalised or is there a premium on comfort?
The space between our practiced values and our aspirational values is the values gap. This is where we can lose people.
In an organisational culture where respect and dignity of individuals are held as the highest values, shame and blame don’t work as management styles. We can’t control the behaviour of individuals, we can only create cultures where certain behaviours are not tolerated and people are held accountable for protecting what matters most – human beings. There is no leading by fear, if we are looking for creativity, innovation and engaged learning.
A daring greatly culture is one of honest, constructive and engaged feedback. However, in most teams and organisations effective feedback is rare. There are two main reasons:
  1. we are not comfortable with hard conversations
  2. we don’t know how to give feedback in a way that moves people forward.
There’s a big difference between mean spirited criticism and constructive feedback: When we stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection, but when we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable. If we dismiss criticism we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to hatefulness, our spirits get crushed.
Vulnerability is at the heart of the feedback process. She has a great checklist for preparing to give feedback.
I know I am ready to give feedback when:
  • I’m ready to sit next to you rather than opposite you, and put the problem in front of us rather than between us.
  • I’m ready to listen, ask questions and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.
  • I want to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes.
  • I recognise your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.
  • I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you.
  • I’m willing to own my part.
  • I can genuinely thank you for your efforts rather than criticise you for your failings.
  • I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to your growth and opportunity.
  • I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.

We can tell a lot about how we are engaging with Vulnerability by observing how often we say:

  • I don’t know
  • I need help
  • I’d like to give it a shot
  • I disagree – can we talk about it
  • I did it
  • Here’s how I feel
  • I’d like some feedback
  • Can I get your take on this?
  • What can I do better next time?
  • Can you teach me how to do this?
  • I take responsibility for that
  • I’m here for you
  • I want to help
  • Let’s move on
  • I’m sorry
  • This means a lot to me
  • Thank you
My commitment as a leader:
  1. I want you to show up, to be yourself, to be open to learning.
  2. I want you to take risks, embrace your vulnerabilities and be courageous.
  3. I commit to engaging with you, standing beside you and learning from you.
  4. I commit to be vulnerable, to be courageous and to dare greatly.
“The key to our transformation as leaders is in realising that getting people to engage or take ownership isn’t about the telling but about letting them come to their own idea in a purpose-led way, and our job is to create the space for others to perform. This is a shift from “having the best idea” or “solving all the problems” to “being the best leader of people”.
This is a shift from controlling to engaging with vulnerability – taking risks and cultivating trust.”
– Christine Day, CEO Lululemon
Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and trust. If you want your employees that take responsibility, take risks and have an entrepreneurial spirit, you have to encourage people to try and to make mistakes (and be willing to stand by them when they do).
Go read it and apply her lessons for yourself!
(Brené has a great chapter on “wholehearted parenting” that is builds on these ideas powerfully.)

Be the change: Reflections on 100 days as CEO

Friday marked 100 days since I took on this role as CEO of Redington – “the best job in the industry” – as one of our clients put it.

They say that during his first 100 days in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt “sent 15 messages to Congress, guided 15 major laws to enactment, delivered 10 speeches, held press conferences and cabinet meetings twice a week, conducted talks with foreign heads of state, sponsored an international conference, made all the major decisions in domestic and foreign policy, and never displayed fright or panic and rarely even bad temper.”
– Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Age of Roosevelt

I didn’t have a specific 100 day plan and I’m not sure 100 days is quite as valuable a period for assessment as the hype suggests.

Fortunately, I’m not in Roosevelt’s shoes, though, I did feel these were big shoes to fill. The job description I proposed for the Redington CEO, 10 years after the company was founded by entrepreneurs like Robert Gardner and Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, was to grow the culture, capability and infrastructure to move us closer to our ultimate goal of making 100 million people financially secure.

We currently help just over 1 million people achieve greater financial security primarily through our Defined Benefit pensions business. Against the backdrop of pension fund disasters, our clients continue to perform well. They manage their funds with discipline. Rather than spending lots of time forecasting the future, our clients work hard to ensure they are more resilient, whatever happens.

We regularly ask ourselves: what client problems we can solve better; what unmet or un-articulated needs could we fulfil; what legacy methods or systems should be challenged? The next 10 years could see us enter new geographies, start new business lines and/or adopt new technologies. Above all, we will need to test new ideas, empathise, innovate and take risks. This is Redington’s ‘game’.

Rob and Dawid have been clear about their longer term ambitions ‘game’ too. So far though, I have not talked much about my dream or mission. It’s always a bit scary sharing your dream, it makes you vulnerable and open to criticism. Being more vulnerable was my New Years resolution, so here goes…

Continue reading Be the change: Reflections on 100 days as CEO

We are all in the ‘behaviour change’ business

Mitesh meets Seth Godin

Summary: My Top 10 Takeaways from Seth Godin’s Live Q&A Seminar in London 3rd November 2015:

  1. How to get a billion people saving? Don’t start with a billion people. Focus on the smallest possible number of people you can change…that will allow us to take the next step. We need to change people one by one and then give them the ammunition to become evangelical. We need to figure out the story that our clients will spread.
  1. Behaviour change: We need to accept that – ‘what we do for a living is change people’s behaviour’. So most of the work we do is tell stories, understand behavioural science and engage in a way that changes people. We have to accept that our job is to change people. Now how can we better understand the people we are trying to change?
  1. Trust & attention: Earning people’s trust and attention are going to be the critical success factors for many years to come. We all pay a premium for trust and attention. The person or entity that gets the most trust, will get the most customers. How do we do this better as individuals, as a team, as a firm and industry?
  1. We all tell Stories: People don’t buy what you sell, they buy the story they tell themselves. We need to tell a story that resonates with the person you’re telling it to, and it has to be true. One of the best stories we can tell is that “people like us do things like this”. What will make our clients feel a better sense of belonging with us?
  1. Understand Worldviews: We need to understand the worldview of the people who you are trying to change, or sell to. To find out someone’s worldview – Ignore everything they say, and watch everything they do. People are different and they have different worldviews. Treat different people differently. We need to tell different stories to different people that resonate with them (but they must be true). How can we learn to see better? How can we quickly figure out what people’s worldview is? How do we get masterful at this?
  1. Sell the Benefit: We need to find a way of showing potential clients what is the benefit of using our services before they have to pay? We can’t tell people that I’m not going to tell you my secret until you pay… How do we do this better?
  1. Find your Tribe: As we get bigger we risk getting more mediocre, unless we can say NO. As soon as we can say to a client that you’re not right for me, we start to get the clients you deserve. How can we say no more gracefully?
  1. Client referrals: A lot of us have a loyal audience that never talks about us. The only reason that people will refer you, promote you and talk about you is if it advances their agenda in some way. What would make them want to promote / evangelicalism for you?
  1. Client service: How do you get clients to stay for the long run? They need to feel like they belong. Ask yourself what story do they need to tell themselves to feel like they belong. How will they feel that “People like us, do things like this…”?
  1. Failure is key to good ideas: Human beings are terrible procrastinators. As a result we are less generous, less productive and less happy than we are capable of. We just need to try, it’s an experiment … we’ll only discover afterwards what works and what doesn’t by trying/testing. We have to continuously let our whole organization know what we have tried that doesn’t work, showing that we have failed. That’s how you give people permission to fail, to try and to learn… How can we allow each other to have and express bad ideas, to test, fail and learn?

Our industry be disrupted the way so many others have before. The only question is – When and who can do it?

Our job is to see what others do not see, to imagine what may be. The firms who succeed will be the ones who care more, who gain more trust and pay more attention. We need to get masterful at this!

 

Main points covered by Seth:

I have tried to organise my notes from yesterday Q&A into topics to make it easier for you to scan and pick out what is most useful and relevant to you.

Seth Godin in London 1

The next big thing

The search for the next big thing fuels a lot of people’s work. Well this is the next big thing. Stop looking for the next thing and focus on what’s changing all around you today.

 Change

We are in the midst of a new revolution (that’s even bigger than the industrial revolution). We are 10 years in and it might be another 10 years before others realize it. Revolutions destroy what is perfect and make the impossible a reality.

Anything that you do where there’s a manual, We will be able to hire someone cheaper or automate in the future to get better results than you to do.

The Internet is a platform that gives each of us tremendous leverage. It is not for watching cat videos, it permits each of us to make a meaningful change in the entire known universe.

Disruption

Innovators Dilemma – Clayton Christensen. It’s almost always an outsider that disrupts a system.  Will your industry be disrupted the way so many others have before. Yes it will. The only question is – When and who can do it.

The first person who really observes the industry and really sees what stories people tell themselves and what it will take to change them will succeed.

Trust & Attention

Earning people’s trust and attention are going to be the critical success factors for many years to come. We all pay a premium for trust and attention.

The person or entity that get the most trust, will get the most customers, and the most money. A man came to fix his boiler and covered up his shoes (showed respect). Then gave a list of all his neighbours that have used his services, “you can call any of them”. He built trust quickly, he got business

Failure

Many organizations think their work is so important that they have to get everything perfect. They are not willing to make mistakes and experiment.  It is far more natural to hide, to pretend you don’t make mistakes and to never innovate.

If you’re going to change that, you have to let the whole organization know something you tried that didn’t work, showing that you failed. That’s how you give people permission to fail, to try and to learn… If you made a mistake in previous age it was game-over for you. Today the cost of being wrong is much lower than it has ever been, but we are still acting as if we have a factory.

As a breadwinner how do I make space to fail? Go speak to someone, a new prospect, a lead, a potential customer, user, courageously and generously, set yourself up for interactions that aren’t fatal, but help you see and learn something new. Learning to fail is key.

Ideas

Professional brainstormers allow more stupid ideas than anyone else.  Seth writes his own blogs every day. He writes down up to 10 ideas every day, then types up 3-4, then edits/curates till only one ends up going out on his blog. He says he comes up will a lot of bad ideas, and every once in a while there is a really good one amongst them.

Story is key

All of us buy the story we tell ourselves about the thing we purchase. You get the item for free when you buy the story.

Thousands of people have a Harley Davidson Tatoo but no one has a Suzuki Tatoo. Why do they do it? Is it about the speed or the horsepower? If you ask they will say “this is who I am?” – it says something about them.

In marketing your brand, you should know what it is your customers will say about your product. Great organizations make a change happen.

Harley Davidson turn you from an outsider to an insider, when you buy their stuff, you become one of them, you’re part of a club. Apple doesn’t just produce cool gadgets, hey set out to teach us to have better taste in digital goods, SJ said – “the problem with Microsoft is they have bad taste”. Once you’re hooked on the taste wagon you buy anything that looks better.

Sales

The reason selling B2B is hard is because you are dealing with people who don’t care. The thing someone who doesn’t own the company / doesn’t care is thinking when buying something is “what will I tell my boss?”.

So they buy what has always been bought before, how has it always been done, no one wants to be noticed, take the risk of doing things differently. The only thing we are willing to tell/explain to the boss is “It is cheaper.” “Look how much money I saved?”, “Everybody uses them.” That’s the only story business tell themselves, if you don’t have a story.

It is the purchasing department’s job to say no; to say I want cheaper. You need to believe is that your prices are not high. You will be tempted to lower your price, this is the refuge of the marketer who doesn’t know what to do, it is a last resort.

Tell a story that resonates with the person you’re telling it to, and it has to be true. One of the best story we can tell is that “people like us do things like this. What you want to tell the purchasing department, that “these are 4 of your biggest competitors, they all use me/this… Do you want to tell your boss you missed this opportunity to save a few bucks?”

Worldviews

You need to understand the worldview of the people who you are trying to change, or sell to.

Which kind of person works for the government, or works in a school or in the procurement department. What’s their worldview? A Defensive Buyers worldview: “I don’t want to get into trouble, I won’t get in trouble by rejecting you. So we need to tell them “Do you want to be the last person to sign up, then that’s ok.”

No one goes to work, wanting to be shown they are wrong. Only once you have someone’s attention can you educate them based on what they already believe. We can’t try and change people’s beliefs.

To find out someone’s worldview – Ignore everything they say, and watch everything they do. That’s why focus groups are toxic. Your job is not to make something in a factory, but your job is to see. In a very short time, you need to judge others and figure out what their worldview is.

Where to start?

We hold back, we fit in, we don’t share our dreams. We don’t want to be exposed. We procrastinate. Human beings are terrible procrastinators. As a result we are less generous, less productive and less content than we are capable of.

You just need to start, it’s an experiment, we won’t know till afterwards… we discover what works and what doesn’t by trying/testing.

One of the things hard wired in our culture is the fear of being told “you’re not as good as you think you are”. We have to confront this fear, change the story we tell ourselves in our heads and just put ourselves out there again and again.

Embrace Tension

Change has an ugly twin brother, and he’s called tension. You have to accept tension if you want to change someone or something.

 Are you brave enough?

When people ask “I need to know if it will work before I will try it.” Are asking the wrong question. Once someone else has done it before, if I still ask will it work what people really mean is “I’m afraid.”

It doesn’t matter if it works, what matters is “Are you brave enough to do it?” So you can find out if it does and how you can make it work.

Starting a new business (line)

Anything that is easy to set up or do is harder to market, because it’s harder to stand out. You have to create a community and the need. Almost nobody wakes up and says I have a marketing problem and I can solve it by joining a community.

We need to find a way of showing potential customers what is the benefit of using your service before they have to pay? You can’t tell people that I’m not going to tell you my secret until you pay… Radio gave music producers a free sample… before you buy.

Now imagine you want to create a community that is only open to the top 500 CMOs, but no one has heard of you. Start by getting just 10 CMOs to join. Now the 490 CMOs that are not on it have a problem, because they are worried about what they’re missing out on.

Scaling your business

You scale should be as small as you can possibly live with, then demand will grow and you can grow bigger. If you can start by changing 10 lives, you can get 50, and then you can go online and go to a million … billion.

Figure out what the smallest possible subset for the community is. AirBnB did not start to be the biggest accommodation company in the world, they started small.

The best way to grow (if growth is your goal), is to start with your minimum viable business. You have to keep working till you figure about how to flip one village / one customer / one segment of the market, then you go to the next village and tell them and talk to village 1 / customer 1.

 All things to all people

As you get bigger you get more mediocre, unless you can say: We have a lot of people who want to be new clients, but we’re not going to just take everyone on. As soon as you can say to a client that you’re not right for me, you get the clients you deserve.

“It’s not for you”, is one of the most powerful things we can say when you are making your art. You can be happier and more profitable if you are doing work that people will miss when you are gone. Most people do work that someone else can do. If you could, spend your whole day doing work that only you can do.

Find your tribe

Seth has tried to talk to many different types of people over his career, but all were not right. So many times, the people in the audience were telling themselves a story that didn’t match the change he was trying to make in the world. So he kept trying new groups until he found his tribe – people who were trying to make change – “people like him”.

Product adoption

The product adoption lifecycle is important to know. Everyone has a worldview about where they are on that spectrum, for shoes, for technology, etc. The middle of the curve is most of us.

Early adopters are the geeks and the nerds. The middle/majority waits till the technology is cheaper. The laggards have still not given up their VCR. Something new gives some people stress (majority) vs something new gives others pleasure (early adopter).

In between the early adopters and the masses is a big chasm. The gap between “what’s new” and “what works”. Lots of industries have trained us to try and be early adopters. Movies have created a feeling to make us watch the new film in the first week (otherwise they’re off the screens). That’s why they do the mystery and the trailers, etc.

To achieve scale you have to work your way through the curve. You have to decide which curve you’re going to work through.  Alternatively you don’t go for scale, just keep focusing on the “new”. Seth didn’t follow the permission marketing adoption curve (after the book, he didn’t do the handbook, course, series, the talk, etc). The audience he wanted to have always wanted “what’s new”, so he focused on that.

Getting people to listen

If you are find your words are landing on deaf ears, with no one listening, you need to ask yourself what it will be like when it has changed; when it has reached its tipping point. You start with the early adopters. When people like us are doing things like this, everyone will do it.

What is the story the person is telling himself. He doesn’t want to look stupid. You are an agent of change. Create an environment that makes them look less stupid by choosing you.

Beaurocrats often feel left out and isolated. How do you get better at addressing their narrative; helping them tell a story?

 Marketing is about changing people

When we do our best work, we are not a machine, our best work is changing people that is hugely valuable. We need to own that. “I am going to this meeting to change people”.

If you want to market the importance of customer service to your board, what if you go and interview 10 angry customers on your iPhone, just show that video, and you have now sold the need for customer service. That’s what marketers do. We have to care, we have to own it.

We need to accept that – What we do for a living is change people’s behaviour? So most of the work we do is tell stories, understand behavioural science and engage in a way that changes people. You have to accept that your job is to change people. Now how well do you understand the people you are trying to change?

Referrals

A lot of us have a loyal audience that never talks about it. What is their worldview? What would make them want to promote / evangelicalism for you?

The only reason that people will refer you, promote you and talk about you is if it advances their agenda in some way.

I recommend someone to you that because it will make me look smarter.  “One reason Seth’s blog/books succeed is that he consciously says what people want to tell someone else, so they will forward it to them.”

Client service

How do you let clients to stay for the long run? They need to feel like they belong. Ask yourself what story they need to tell themselves to feel like they belong. How will they feel that “People like us, do things like this…”

Complaints

When you get something wrong, when you have an angry/upset customer if you just sent a robotic professional generic message you will achieve nothing. Instead if a human shows up and makes it personal and apologizes sincerely, you might be surprised.

“I see you” – that simple sentence is at he heart of what we want as humans. Dignity is different than transparency. People don’t want to know everything about you. They want to know that you will treat them with dignity.

Entrepreneur vs Freelancer

As an entrepreneur your only job is to hire someone (better than you) to do what you think your job is, again and again, until you’re only job is to disrupt what you already built.

Freelancers get paid when they work themselves. Seth said that as an entrepreneur he kept wanting to hire myself which left him frazzled. He couldn’t hire others to do his job, he wanted to write his own blogs, run his own classes, etc. Seth is a freelancer.

As an entrepreneur you cannot be the best technical person yourself. You have to be able to leave the building, start a new business line and it should continue to run without you.

Making art

You can do art regardless of what you do. Art is not just painting. We all have a fundamental need to make art. Art is anything we do where we don’t hold back, where we immerse ourselves, do it for the sake of doing it. With art you’re ok to fail, because it’s worth doing regardless of success or failure.

Arthur Miller doesn’t hold anything back. People who make art are all in and don’t hold anything back. We need to do art so we can feel alive. But we may need work for work’s sake to be able to pursue art in an unconstrained way.

Is it possible to make a living making art? Sometimes… But if you have to compromise what your art to get enough money, it’s not worth it. Seth advises people that are starting out – Get a job (any job) to make enough money. That allows you to be able to make your art without compromise. But it can’t be art if it doesn’t resonate with anyone. We need to make something people want, who are “People like us?”.

Be specific

There is a company in NY Mismatched that decided to make socks. It’s cheap to get made. Race to the bottom. ‘Mismatched’ did 40 million dollars in revenue. This company said, our socks are not for everyone, they are for 12 year olds girls who have a fashion problem.

They sell 133 styles of socks that don’t match. It allows people to be noticed, to be able to go and have a conversation. They are targeting a very specific worldview – people who wanted to be noticed, have something to talk about. They gave 12 he old girls something to talk about, gave them meaning, every industry can do this.

People are different and they have different worldviews. Treat different people differently. You need to tell different stories to different people but they must be true.

What is the change you’re trying to make and who are you trying to change? If you can focus on just one group do that. But if you have to market to multiple world views, know that and invest in it.

Building teams

There are 2 ways to build a team – you either look for misfits (they are really difficult to find) or you look for cogs who’ll do as they’re told.

At Apple now you go to the Genius Bar and get someone working from a manual.  That’s the only way they could scale. They don’t care anymore.

 Direct marketing

Direct marketing is about building a connection directly with the person is paying you. The Internet is the biggest direct marketing medium of all time.

A great business, should aim to acquire a customer for less than they are worth. Amazon believes that the average lifetime customer value is $33, so they will spend anything up to that amount to acquire them.

If you’re not going to be doing direct marketing the only other option is to follow the route of Religious institutions/Alcoholics Anonymous, and be the thing people talk about before the went to sleep. There is no other option. Move so far to the edge that people can’t help but talk about it.

Seth has never done a day of SEO, but his blog has been at the top. His blog got big because the first 100 people he started with got a benefit from sharing it. They needed to share it to use the terms he had invented, that they wanted to use. You have to give people a story, a reason that they would want to share with others, design it that way.

(Now Seth’s blog is at a size where He doesn’t want to do what he would have to do to make the number of subscribers go up.)

Elevator pitches

Replace Elevator pitches with elevator questions… No one will buy from you in an elevator.  The key to a great elevator question is “Are you the kind of person that benefits from the kind of thing that I do?” Once you figure this out, need to practice a thousand times, once you get it you’ll have a line outside the door.

What is your purpose/why?

Seth doesn’t agree completely with Simon Sinek on finding the “why” first?  What is the why for a shoe shiner? The why generally has to follow, we need to focus first on how you want to change people / how you want to make people feel. If the shoes shiner figures out that he has 2 jobs/outputs – The shine he puts on the shoe, and how he makes people feel while he is polishing the shoe… Now if he’s going to make people smile, he has a why.

How do you fire a client?

We need to generously tell people they should go somewhere else. Worldview: if someone is going to feel dis-empowered by what you do, that’s not good. Spend the effort in finding alternatives for them.

How about this – “We can’t serve you as well as you need us to. Here are three people that we have looked into on your behalf who can do what you want better and cheaper”.  Now not only have you shown them you care, you’ve given them a good story to tell when they go back to the office.

Dealing with criticism?

Life is not a focus group. You don’t have to listen to everyone. Not everyone is going to get you, but if you spend too much time with them you will lose your footing. The trolls and non-believers need us because they like telling us were not good enough.

Seth has not read an Amazon review of any of my books. “No one becomes a better writer by reading all their 1 star reviews”. Just accept that your books / products / services are not for them. If you are trying to take any tribe from here to there, some people will drop out because they are afraid of change.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore everyone. You need to listen to those people who feel the need for change as much as you do, even if they disagree on how to achieve it.

Work/life balance

By calling it a work/life balance we are creating a problem. Work is personal and work/life overlap. If you let people bring their personality and humanity to work… You may be surprised.

Workaholic – is someone who needs to control the outcome because they are afraid, they need to be online all they time because it may go wrong … that wrecks your life.

To do work that matters – you care enough to try to make things better, and if you fail you learn from it and don’t beat yourself for it. The people in our life are the main reason we are here; so let’s not miss that.

Education

Education was designed to create compliant factory workers. It’s not just the schools fault. It’s too easy to blame the school. We need to blame the parents because they are not speaking up enough. We need to ask “what is school for?” If it is to develop people who can create, take risks, build connections and solve problems then let’s not make them robots.

We cannot take our kids out of school… We can home school our kids from the moment they get home till they sleep. We can get them on Wikipedia, writing blogs, starting their own non-profits, speaking up, volunteering, letting them out failing/testing/learning from the time they are 12 years old.

Tell your kids that an A means nothing if you didn’t learn anything, if you want kids that institutions will fall all over to hire.

You can’t blame schools for wanting to avoid parental involvement, because they don’t get the point and are not consistent.  Mostly annoying. The alternative is for parents to figure out how to earn their voice. I ran nature tours for the school 6 students at a time. Don’t offer revolution, scale, just start small and work your way up. Can we contribute one thing?

Teachers and administrators have a worldview, how do we give them the dignity they are looking for. If you want to make change, understand that you are changing real people, they have real world views and if you want to change them you have to tell them a story that resonates with their worldview.

Emotional labour

Emotional labour is exhausting, but it’s as essential as physical labour. To be a professional means we bring ourselves to the table, even when we don’t feel like it.

We have to be able to say “Follow me, trust me, I have confidence….even when we don’t.” If you don’t feel emotional labour you’re not working hard enough.

Seth’s Closing messages

  •  There is no doubt you have succeeded already, but when you leave today you need to decide what you will do next? Will you choose to matter?
  • Most people do work that someone else can do. You can choose to do work that people will miss if you are gone.
  • We have more leverage to reach more people than ever before on earth.
  • We don’t need someone to pick us, we don’t need a license, we don’t need permission.
  • If you want leverage, if you want to amplify your message, learn to take responsibility and give away credit.
  • Learn to postpone the moment you cash in, as you build trust and attention… That’s the new currency.
  • We may not be able to change the whole world, but what about our corner of the world.

Seth Godin takeaway gift

 

AltMBA: Reinventing the MBA

It all began just 4  weeks ago when I received this email from Seth Godin’s blog (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/05/a-different-way-to-move-forward.html).

Seth has been often quoted saying:

The traditional top-tier MBA takes two years, you usually need to move and it costs more than $125,000. The best business school experience is transformative. It exposes students to a new way of thinking as well as a cohort of fellow travelers, motivated, smart people in a hurry to change things. What’s changed is that access to information is no longer the reason to go to business school. The information is everywhere. Our goal with the altMBA is to assemble leaders (corporate executives, non-profit linchpins, founders, managers and people in a hurry) and to connect them and amplify their work. Without leaving home. In just a month of intense effort. Instead, we’re organized around action, around publishing, around sharing your work and learning from it.

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In his blog on 12th May 2015 he announced that he is finally launching the inaugural class of altMBA. It was going to be a real-time, month-long intensive program. This was going to be a small-group process that works online as well as through hands-on projects. The focus of the program was going to be on group work, leveraging the power of collaboration, both by learning from and teaching others.

As soon as I read it I knew I had to apply. I consulted my wife, my friends, my team and my bosses to check I wasn’t being impulsive; but all were supportive. Redington encouraged me to use my current strategic projects for the assignments (as appropriate) and to do the course at work and around my work.

So I applied. It was a very different type of application form and there was a video bio to record too (my first!). 100 people were chosen for the inaugural group beginning in June. I got in. I felt excited, daunted and terrified all at the same time.

Now that it’s really happening, there is a lot of planning and scheduling to do:

  • I will find out tomorrow (on Sunday) from my coach Paul Jun who my learning group of 4 is for the first week.
  • On Monday at 11am (6am EST) I get a prompt with the first 3 projects for week 1.
  • On Tuesday and Thursday I have online study meetings with my learning team from 6pm – 9pm. Sunday we are booked for the all day.
  • We need to submit each project by midnight on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. These are all online and public.
  • We review other people’s projects and give feedback by 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • Saturday appears to be the only day off.
  • That repeats again next week and the week after … Until the 13th assignment is handed in on 15th July.

Last week I got a box in the post at work, filled with books. I also received a reading list by email with over 70 books/blogs/articles on it … I am in heaven!

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These are the commitments we have all signed up to:

  • I will do the hard part first.
  • I will embrace emotional labor.
  • I will think of myself as the type of person who can and does.
  • And I will act that way.
  • I will have a posture of generosity. Giving without hope of getting.
  • I will care about people and the world around me…
  • And I will act that way.
  • I will dance with fear.
  • I promise I will continue to keep making change (‘ruckus’).
  • And then I’ll teach someone else to do so, too.

This is a course of the future, for the future. We are using a whole bunch of online tools, many of which I have never used before – Disqus, Zoom, Slack, Feedly, Digg, etc. Other than what I’ve described above we have no idea what to expect, what the assignments are, how exactly we will work together, how exactly we will do them …

This is not for everyone. These first 100 appear to be a diverse and interesting group of people. As it gets closer many people on the course are feeling anxious, frustrated and stressed at the sheer uncertainty. I also feel like that at some level though the experience has made me realise that I am ok with uncertainty, I can handle change and I quite like being thrown in the deep end. This process is about feeling your fears, acknowledging them and facing them. It’s early days though, I’ll keep you posted on our adventures.

Here we go: 4 weeks, 5 coaches, 13 projects, 100 people, 175 concepts.

All our work is public and will be available for review and comment here – https://altmba.com/blog/

My work will be shared here – https://altmba.com/student/miteshsheth/

Wish me luck! See you in a month.

The Inaugural Class of AltMBA 2015 runs till 15th July.

Outcomes revolution in investment management & pharmaceuticals

IMG_0744In this month’s issue of IPE Mitesh Sheth outlines what investment managers can learn from the transformation taking place in the pharmaceutical industry.

03 June 2013

I was recently invited by Sanofi, the fourth largest healthcare company in the world by prescription sales, to talk to 500 of their UK and Irish employees about my experiences with innovation in the investment management industry. As I prepared for the presentation, talked to Sanofi’s leadership team and participated in their workshops, I came to realise the massive parallels between the pharmaceutical and fund management industries. Both industries are in the middle of an outcomes revolution.

Investment outcomes in investment management

I was first drawn to investment management, having been a pension fund consultant and manager researcher at Towers Watson in 2005. I joined David Jacob, head of fixed income at Henderson, determined to design better investment products and solutions for institutional clients. I felt strongly that clients shouldn’t care about index benchmarks, narrow asset class definitions, regional boundaries and deceptive strategy labels (like hedge funds) in achieving their overall investment outcomes – be that income, capital preservation, beating inflation, long-term growth, and so on.

We built a risk budgeting and capital-allocating ‘investment strategy group’ at the centre of the investment process. This allowed us to engage with our clients (and their ultimate clients) around their goals, risk appetite and time horizon in designing and delivering investment outcomes. With a focus on outcomes, we brought together high yield and investment grade analysis, developed market and emerging market analysis, as well as cash bonds and derivatives expertise to give clients access to the fixed income universe against their choice of benchmarks and targets.

I still believe clients should begin with the end in mind. Our starting point should be: where am I today; where do I want to get to and by when; how much risk am I willing to take (what return volatility would be uncomfortable and what’s my maximum drawdown); and what cash flow (or liquidity) do I need along the way. This is true for a pension fund, an individual investor, a family office, a sovereign wealth fund – in short, anyone.

Background to the pharmaceutical industry

The pharmaceutical industry has changed a lot over the past few decades but at its core it still develops, produces, markets and distributes drugs licensed as medicines. Drug discovery and development is very expensive as only a fraction of all compounds investigated are ever approved for human use. To cover these costs a company needs to discover a new blockbuster drug (one which generates revenues in the billions) every few years.

The industry has been growing at a rapid rate since the 1970s, as legislation allowing for stronger patents has come into force in most countries, helping pharmaceutical companies to generate significant profits from their patented products. In recent decades, a handful of large companies have dominated manufacturing of medicine around the world, supported by numerous mergers and acquisitions.

Pharmaceutical companies have been great cash generators for shareholders over the past 20 years, and IMS Health values the global pharmaceutical industry at over $800bn (€620bn). But while healthcare ought to be simple at its core, layers of management regulation, processes, policies, business models and acquisitions have complicated pharmaceutical organisations and the healthcare industry over the years – creating a global problem today that itself appears to defy definition.

Drivers of change

The market capitalisation of the largest pharma companies is expected to come under significant pressure in the coming decade. Over the next few years patent protection on historical blockbuster drugs will continue to run off. Regulators are demanding more affordable and cost-effective therapies. In addition, there is an industry-wide research-and-development pipeline gap meaning there are no big blockbusters on the horizon.

Furthermore, there is a growing demand for personalised healthcare challenging the current business model, with new competitors with new business models emerging and gaining in strength.

To add to its woes, the industry’s image has been damaged by accusations of disease mongering, bribing doctors, false claims and illegal marketing, not to mention the high profile court cases. Bestselling books such as Bad Pharma (2012), Side Effects (2008) and Big Pharma (2006) have built on the public’s impression of big businesses putting profits over patient welfare. Even Hollywood portrays pharma as a global, shadowy force (not unlike the way in which the investment industry is portrayed).

The industry has survived a continuous series of regulatory, scientific, social and political challenges in the past. However, the changes it faces today from regulation, competition, commoditisation, technological advances, austerity and public perception are significant on their own and even more disruptive when considered together, demanding a more radical response.

Parallels with fund management

These forces of change are very similar to those facing the fund management industry (global assets under management are estimated by IPE to be around €39.2trn):

• Historical blockbuster products are being commoditised;

• Intense competition is putting pressure on margins;

• Disillusioned clients and customers are frustrated with fund manager self-interest;

• Regulators are ever more intrusive, demanding more transparent charging, better management of conflicts and clearer marketing;

• Technological development is spawning new products, new business models and new avenues for client communication;

• Economic austerity, low growth and on-going cost cutting mean clients and end-customers want more for less.

Pharmaceuticals, like fund management, are B2B businesses in that the customers are essentially not the end-patients but the intermediaries – the healthcare professionals, doctors, consultants and pharmacists. These intermediaries are facing change and disruption of their own with intense regulation, flat budgets, pressure to cut costs and growing patient demands, much like the pressures on IFAs, platforms, banks, insurance companies, pensions consultants and funds.

With this roller coaster of changes and resultant uncertainty about the future, the only constant that pharmaceutical and fund management companies can hold onto is putting the end-customer (patient) at the centre. Both industries need to transform from being product centric to customer (service) centric; from pushing drugs and funds to helping customers improve their health and wealth.

Pharmaceuticals and fund management are in the midst of an ‘outcomes’ revolution. This is a huge undertaking and it cannot be achieved through a series of incremental steps or a long list of initiatives. Such fundamental changes call for a focused and radical response, leveraging one’s strengths.

Pharma’s response

Historically, large pharmaceutical companies have reacted to market pressures by cutting costs, and on the face of it this time is no different. If you look deeper though, there is a realisation among senior leaders that cost cutting is short term and incremental, and it will not address the fundamental shift they are experiencing in the competitive landscape.

They know that their entire business model needs to be looked at differently.

Sanofi (and the other major pharmaceutical companies) have recognised the need to shift from being a product marketing company to becoming a customer relationship business.

They believe that while having great products was enough to drive success in the past, this nowadays creates diminishing returns. They know that their future success will be determined not just by how many drugs are sold, but how well their products, services, tools and education have helped to improve or maintain a patients’ health and wellbeing.

Their revenues will still come from product sales, but the reason why customers will want to buy from pharmaceutical companies is changing. They need to offer their customers more for less and create an ecosystem of products and services around the end-patients’ health outcomes.

For example, in 2012 Sanofi and Agamatrix launched a new type of blood glucose monitor, which also connects to a smart phone. This allows patients to track glucose levels continuously and give them access to a telephone hotline and other support services, which earns Sanofi considerable customer loyalty. This shift to integrate products with innovative monitoring technology and personalised support services was possible because Sanofi listened to the needs of patients with diabetes.

With any change in strategy it is critical to diagnose your problems honestly and to leverage your strengths to differentiate your business. Pharma companies continue to build a stronger product portfolio through deals, partnerships, alliances and virtual R&D to access a broader universe of research companies.

However, they know not to stop here. Their sales people know their customer and they have unparalleled access and information. The best pharma companies are determined to build on this to be the partner of choice for their customers and to go beyond that in building a relationship with the end-patient too.

Pharma companies are breaking down silos (diabetes, oncology, generics, and so on) to use key account management techniques to ensure their customers do not get lots of different sales reps trying to get a share of their limited time. Instead, they are working on a single point of contact which understands the customer’s needs and offers support, education, services and products to help meet patient health outcomes. They are learning to think and care more about the customer and the patient (their needs, their experience and their long-term relationship) rather than just focusing on the disease, the drugs and their profits.

There is a significant effort being made to transform how medicines are presented, marketed and sold with a better understanding of stakeholder needs, demonstrating clear value for healthcare professionals and end patients. Sales reps are increasingly becoming a conduit of best practice among healthcare professionals, making links and introductions between stakeholders. The best are helping their customers – the intermediaries – deal with their challenges, as well as the steps, processes and tools to get to where they need to.

I am most impressed with the acknowledgement that this requires a major shift in attitude, behaviour, people and culture. Significant training of senior leaders, middle managers and other employees is underway. Employee-led customer-centric innovation is a powerful way of achieving this kind of culture change. In the past pharmaceutical innovation was limited to product development much like in fund management. Pharmaceutical companies are starting to use innovation more broadly across their employee base to improve business efficiency and customer service too. This requires giving employees permission to take risks and experiment with new ways of working without the fear of failure.

Taking a blank sheet of paper to fund management

The vast majority of investment management companies are not structured around their clients’ needs and outcomes. They are built around fund, asset class and regional silos that operate independently with limited dialogue, interaction and collaboration. A handful of houses have created successful outcome teams or divisions – with LDI or multi-asset specialists – though even there the challenge remains to apply this way of thinking to the rest of the business.

Senior leadership in investment management houses does not yet accept that the investment management business model needs to be overhauled. There is no overall drive to move the business from being product marketing to client relationship centric, and no corresponding plan to shift attitude, behaviour, people and cultures. Innovation remains a product manufacturing activity.

As an industry we need to look at the end investors and clients, rather than just being focused on the intermediaries and consultants, and start to ask ourselves how we can work together do a better job for them.

Some of the more dynamic, agile and client-centric investment managers are starting to realise this and are taking it seriously. Here are some lessons we can all learn from the disruption facing the pharmaceutical industry and their response:

  1. Our clients’ focus on outcomes will affect our whole business model not just a single multi-asset product area;
  2. A central risk-management, risk-budgeting and allocation team is essential in responding to clients’ needs and designing/delivering investment outcomes;
  3. Break down silos between funds, between equities and fixed income, between manufacturing and distribution, between back/middle office and the front office and between the corporate/board and the business to work together to deliver better outcomes for the end client;
  4. Focus on our strengths, rather than being all things to all people. Build alliances and partnerships with specialist investment boutiques and complementary players;
  5. Rebuild trust by putting the end-customer at the centre of our business. Help the clients and intermediaries deal with change and work together to deliver better solutions for the end customer;
  6. Train sales people to behave more like well-informed, trusted advisers. They must be able to listen and draw out client’s unarticulated needs. They must be able to offer advice and assistance to help our clients reach their overall strategic goals;
  7. Foster a client-centric, employee-led innovation culture beyond product manufacturing;
  8. Give our employees permission to take risk and experiment with new ways of working, without the fear of failure.

Finally, it is all too easy to stick to what we know and who we know. If the investment management industry wants to adapt, innovate, transform and engage, we need to include people with different perspectives, with different experiences and expertise; intentionally draw on customer insights, employee ideas and other industry perspectives.

I think if senior leaders in investment management commit to becoming fit for the future they will be blown away by how many middle managers, employees and clients volunteer their time, ideas and enthusiasm to solve these complex industry challenges.

If we get it right, our clients will be more successful in meeting their investment outcomes and our employees will thank us for investing in them and for helping them to do the best work of their lives.

Here’s a link to the full article here. 

We can all be more creative

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The BBC’s Kate Dart has written and directed an excellent Horizon documentary on creativity, insight, the brain and how we can all be more creative.

If you’re interested in understanding or developing your creativity I would highly recommend it.

It is available on BBC iPlayer till 18th April. http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b01rbynt/

Here’s a summary of the main ideas:

The advancement of humanity depends on creative insight and innovation and always has – from the wheel, to mobile phones, medicine and the internet. Our ability to think in novel ways is a defining characteristic of humanity.

The flash of Insight

Insight is a critical aspect of creativity. We all know the moment when we experience a flash of insight, when we figure out a problem or when the penny drops. However, for years creativity has been considered too elusive for scientists to study. Now with better technology and tools scientists are finally able to study creativity more objectively, as it occurs in the brain. They are concluding that we can all be more creative.

Observing the inner workings of the brain shows that we really are thinking differently when we have an insight. During a flash of insight it is the right side of our brain that erupts with gamma waves. Flashes of insight don’t just subjectively feel different, but they are objectively different in the brain.

The creative side of the brain

There is a structural difference between each side of the brain. The left side of the brain is primarily involved with reason, logic and language. The right hemisphere of the brain is more likely to make the connections that lead to insights. The neurons on the left have shorter dendrites while neurons on the right have broader/longer dendrites pulling together more distant unrelated information, finding connections that might not otherwise be made.

Check out this fantastic video on “Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain” pioneered by Betty Edwards, where she shows that anyone can draw if you can turn the left side of the brain off. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctkRwRDdajo

Developing divergent thinking

Creativity and intelligence are related but are not the same thing. Whilst intelligence is primarily linked to quicker thinking, creativity is not. Creativity is not fast and efficient but slow and meandering. Creativity is fostered when we allow our brain to slow down and to try different neural paths, rather than the shortest and quickest pathway from A to B. Partially formed ideas from different fields of experience need to collide with each other to being them into our consciousness.

Top tips for kick-starting your creativity

Creativity exists in everybody. Each second of our day and life is not scripted. We make most of it up. We improvise. We just need to understand our brain better and exercise our creativity regularly.

New, unusual and unexpected experiences boost your creativity because they open up your mind, help you see things differently and make new associations between concepts.

To think differently we need to disrupt our normal patterns of thought, routine or behavior. Just switching the steps of a well travelled routine, or doing something we don’t normally do boosts our creative abilities. When we break well trodden neural pathways, we open new possibilities.

We have our best ideas when we least expect, because ‘mind-wandering’ has always had a strong connection with creativity. When our mind wanders the front part of the brain (pre-frontal cortex) switches off. This is the part that is responsible for conscious self monitoring. When people improvise the same part of their brain switches off – our inhibitions reduce, we are less self conscious, any mental handcuffs come off and ideas flow more freely.

If you’ve been doing mentally demanding work your creative ability crashes. When you allow your mind to wander you become more creative, but that doesn’t mean doing nothing. In fact, the best thing you can do is to engage in a non mentally demanding task (for example, arranging Lego bricks by colour, watering the garden, washing the dishes, yoga, meditating, etc.), which allows your mind to wander and fosters creativity.

The best thing to do if you’re stuck on a problem, is to take a break, go for a walk or shower and then return to the problem. If you’re still stuck – disrupt your routine or try out a new experience. This allows the creative process to kick in.

So we can all be more creative, if we can slow down, let our minds wander, allow different ideas to collide, experience something new or do something differently. 

 

Further reading and videos:

  • Steve Johnson, Where good ideas come from – RSAnimate Video
  • Dr Mark Beeman (Northwest University, Cognitive Neuroscience) – Website
  • Dr Charles Limb, John Hopkins University – see his TEDxMidatlantic talk 
  • Dan Pink, A whole new mind, 2005
  • Dr Simone Ritter, Creativity: the role of unconscious processes in idea generation and idea selection, 2012
  • Robert Ornstien, The Right Mind: Making Sense of the Hemspheres, 1997

Mercedes Benz have captured the difference between the right and left hand side of the brain beautifully in these pictures:

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Management needs reinventing

In this excellent video (click here) Gary Hamel, founder of Management Innovation Exchange (MIX) and one of the world’s most influential business thinkers, explains why management is out of date and needs reinventing to make it fit for the future and fit for human beings.

Many of management tools we use today were invented before 1920, as we entered the industrial revolution. The problem that management was invented to solve was – how do you organise human beings into semi-programmable robots that deliver consistently, efficiently and on time? How do we get farm hands to turn up on time, to do the same thing every day, over and over again? Our management structures were built to solve this problem and we were successful, but that is not our challenge today!

We face unprecedented challenges today: exponential change; hyper competition and creative destruction. Knowledge itself is becoming a commodity. Our challenges today are: how to create organisations that can change as fast as change itself; where innovation is the work of everybody, all of the time, everyday; where people are willing to bring to work the gifts of their creativity and passion. We are struggling to create organisations that are adaptable, innovative and engaging.

To deal with this Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies (India) created ‘reverse accountability’ where all his employees rate their boss rather than the other way around. This is a culture where people hold their management accountable. It may not be for everyone but Vineet firmly believes that all value is created in the interface between the employee and the customer and so a manager’s job is to encourage the innovation there.

“My employees are more important than their managers; in fact they are more important than our customers. Unless I take care of my employees they are not going to work hard for my customers” – Vineet Nayar, HCL Technologies

In this video Gary Hamel says promotes aspiration, being a contrarian and learning from the fringe:

  1. Aspiration – Innovation starts with aiming high
  2. Be a Contrarian – Next you have to be willing challenge dogma, confront embedded and unexamined beliefs that limit us and our organisations
  3. Learn from the fringe – innovation happens at the edges.
To make our organisations future-proof we need to instil some of the values that underlie the success of the the Internet which is inherently adaptable, innovative and engaging.
We have an amazing opportunity to create organisations that are fit for human beings, because as humans we are already adaptable, innovative and engaging. We already have many of the qualities our organisations don’t, because they were built to serve another purpose.
I want to be a champion for the future and help build more human organisations that fully utilize and honour the gifts of every single person who comes there every day.
What about you?

How to avoid drowning in a sea of rejection

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When you’re starting out, building a new business or searching for a new job you have to deal with rejection all the time. Even when you are launching a new concept or trying to change direction within an existing business you usually have a string of failures before any glimmer of success. In this blog I discuss how do we can avoid drowning in a sea of rejection?

Although I’ve heard a hundred times before that “it takes time to build a business” and “you have to fail your way to success“, I have found it tough to maintain my motivation in these past couple of months.  When dealing with disappointment I try to remind myself of why I am doing this, tell myself that this is just the beginning and I try to keep my goal in mind. I also tend to meet up with other people in a similar situation to get comfort and encouragement from them. Sometimes that works. Other times you start to feel like a bit of a failure. You start to question your own ability, relevance and even existence.

When I’m in a dark self-pitying place, telling me to “stay positive” doesn’t help much.  It’s usually my wife or good friends that succesfully pick me up with a strongly worded pep talk.  Having been in this place a few times and having heard this a few more, I decided to give myself the same talk, repeating some of their most piercing words, wanting to be able to pick myself up.

I say something like – “You have so much to be grateful for. You cannot control what happens to you in life, only how you react to it.  You choose how you respond to what life throws at you. Life is a battle – fight it.  Moreover start to enjoy the battle. Only the test of fire makes the finest steel”.  It’s early days but this seems to be working.

Last week I was fortunate to meet Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human, A whole New Mind and Drive, the timing could not have been more perfect.  What he had to say helped me made sense of how I deal with disappointment.  Here are 3 of his ideas for staying buoyant in the face of failure and rejection.  Some of these are intuitive but others fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

1. Talk to yourself

Before we go into any important encounter or presentation we often give ourselves a mental pep talk.  You say “You can do this!” and get yourself pumped up for the occasion. Recent social psychology research suggests this does not work. Surprisingly we are better off asking ourselves “Can I do this?”.

Questions by their nature illicit an active response, even if you are ask yourself questions. Your mind starts to answer the question subconsciously and prepares you for the situation ahead. Try it!

2, Be more positive and friendly than feels natural

In sales and negotiations we are often taught to be poker faced. In business meetings we are coached to be professional. During any important encounter or act of persuading, influencing and convincing we should be positive. We are far more likely to succeed if we smile and are friendly. Positive emotions open us up and make us explore possibilities, while negative emotions narrow us and make us focus.

“Positive emotions broaden our ideas out to possible actions, opening our awareness to a wider range of thoughts and making us more receptive and creative.”

How positive? How friendly? Research suggests that our positive emotions should outnumber negative emotions by a factor of 3.

One way of making yourself more positive is by making time for ‘awe’ – to stop, observe and appreciate nature, human endeavor and the world around us. Try it. Take a moment  to pause and feel a sense of awe for the magnificence of a building, a garden, a view and achievement.

Another approach is to practice ‘gratitude’. Regular reflection on what you have to be grateful for improves your quality of life and well being. Try it. Write down 3 things you’re grateful for each night for a week.

3. Remember that it’s not the end of the world 

The key to surviving and thriving from failure is in how we explain our failure to ourselves (and others). We need to ask ourselves – “Is it really the end of the world? Am I really a complete failure? Is everything really ruined?”.

Following any failure or rejection ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  • Is this permanent? Have I lost all my skills or could I just be having a bad day? Could the client be having a bad day?
  • Is this pervasive? Will everyone always react in the same way? Could everyone miss the point and be uninterested or is there a chance that its just this person that didn’t get it.
  • Is it personal? It’s rarely personal. Maybe he just wasn’t ready. Maybe he’d agree on another day.

We hate rejection so much. We often over-react and start telling ourselves “this always happens”, “it’s all my fault” and “its going to ruin everything”. We need to be less dramatic and de-catastophise things.

If you’re applying for a job try writing yourself a rejection letter before you apply for the job. By thinking about valid objections and rejections you can mentally start to prepare for and respond to them.

What do you do? How do you avoid drowning in a sea of rejection? How do you keep positive in the face of failure and rejection?

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Rethinking Innovation in Healthcare

I was invited by a leading global Pharmaceutical company to talk to around 500 of their UK & Irish employees about innovation today. I am blown away by the parallels between healthcare and investment management, in particular the shift from pushing products to delivering outcomes/solutions for customers (and ultimately patients). Here’s the Prezi and a summary of my key points. 

Background and context

Since leaving Henderson, I have made it my mission to help organisations in different industries enable their people to do the best work of their lives, whilst adding meaningful value to their customers, companies and society. I am convinced this is the future of work and I want to play my part in rebuilding organisations to fully utilise and honour the gifts of every single person who comes to work every day.

I believe real value is created in the gap between the employee and the customer, between manufacturing and distribution, between head office and the field. That is where innovation happens and is needed. I am talking about employee led, customer centric innovation. That’s what I mean when I say Rethink Innovation.

The need for innovation

There is a desperate need for innovation today as many companies, in many industries are facing accelerated change and disruption:

  • Historical products are being commoditized & we are facing intense competition putting pressure on margins and making it difficult to differentiate.
  • Technology is developing exponentially bringing huge advances in science, genetics, healthcare, communication, etc. dramatically changing the landscape.
  • Information itself is commoditized and customers have much more information at their fingertips making them more demanding.
  • The general public and customers are disillusioned with corporate self interest.
  • In a world of austerity and low growth customers want more for less!

These are major forces of change on their own let alone when considered together. We cannot do things the way they have always been done. We need to adapt, innovate and engage to survive. We need to redesign our companies, industries and economies for a changing world.

When I talk about employee-led or grassroots innovation, I don’t mean it in the sense you might know it. You don’t need to sign off a big budget, it doesn’t need to come from the top, it is not just about product – launching the next big blockbuster, it is not just the concern of specialists/creatives/scientists and definitely does not need to take years in development.

Innovation comes from the latin word ‘innovare’ – meaning to change. Innovation is the development of real value for customers by developing solutions to their unarticulated needs – through different products, processes, services, ideas, technologies or business models.

Employee-led innovation

Counter-intuitively innovation thrives under constraints, some of the most innovative companies are emerging in developing countries – like India. A leader in this fieldVineet NayaCEO of HCL Technologies India, has built his whole company around employee-led innovation with ‘reverse accountability’, where all employees rate their boss and their bossboss and can hold their management accountable because he believes that all value is created between the employee and the customer. It should not be surprising that technology companies lead the way in this given the internet itself is incredible adaptable, innovative and engaging.

I believe anyone can be creative and I believe that innovation is everyone’s business if our companies are going to adapt, innovate and engage. When all employees have permission to innovate with customers at the centre of everything they do – that’s where the magic happens!

Fostering innovation communities

The key to engaging staff in innovation is to bring together different people, with different perspectives in small groups to vent frustrations, share problems, challenge dogma and channel ideas. This must be supported by leaders, must be recognised and be fun/inspiring in order for people to volunteer their time, creativity and energy.

You will need to draw on different perspectives, really listen to customers and others internally and externally. It is by encouraging and empowering lots of people to deliver lots of small ideas with minimal cost/risk that momentum is created. It is critical that the leadership team continually encourage participation, remove barriers and celebrate successes.

To set up an innovation community you need to:

  • set a strategic context around critical business problems
  • educate how this new way of working will fit into/around existing work & how it will differ (with both management and employees)
  • support members with light touch coaching and adequate infrastructure
  • get going with a pilot to experiment, learn, review and deliver some quick wins
  • ensure your leadership team continuously encourage participation, celebrate successes and build legitimacy in the organisation by removing barriers
  • build alignment by integrating innovation into the organisational habits and culture

Making innovation everyone’s business

It is human nature to be myopic and to look at things from our own narrow viewpoints. However, when we look at the bigger picture, when we look beyond our boundaries, and consider different perspectives we start to see things differently. Perspective is a powerful thing. Innovation comes from changing your perspective, drawing on different perspectives and thereby thinking differently.

It is all too easy to stick to what you know and who you know, but if you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got. If you want to adapt, innovate and engage, you need to intentionally include people with different perspectives, with different experiences & expertise; intentionally draw on customer insights and other industry perspectives. Only then can you start to see what others have missed.

Fostering innovation communities gives all employees permission to do things differently, to challenge dogma, to vent frustrations, to get different perspectives, to share best practices, to have a safe space to experiment, to take risks and to fail fast, learn and adapt. Employee-led innovation is energising, refreshing, engaging and you will be blown away by how many people volunteer the gift of their time, ideas and enthusiasm to further corporate goals and complex industry challenges. If you can get it right, your employees will thank you for investing in them and for helping them to do the best work of their lives.

To read more about ‘innovation communities’ – click here.

Business 2.0: A new design to aid business flexibility

Here is the Prezi from our presentation today at the HR Directors Summit 2013 at Birmingham ICC.  Our subject was Implementing Business 2.0: A new design to aid business flexibility.

With the blessings of Henderson CEO Andrew Formica, Mazzy Cameron and I shared our case study of experimenting with communities at Henderson over the past couple of years.

We concluded with an discussion around how other businesses could use communities in the workplace to build engagement with employees, to align them with strategic goals and to foster a culture of innovation.

Transcript and video to follow.

Get in touch if you’d like to hear more:

Mitesh Sheth
[email protected]
@miteshsheth78

Mazzy Cameron
[email protected]
@mazzy_cameron

I would love to hear your stories about innovation in the workplace too.