Change the Culture, Change the Game

More often than not, corporate culture is appearing on the agenda of organizations. How to capture it, revise it, use it, expand it, change it.  Corporate culture of the past emphasized convenience for the organization – treating people as widgets in a factory.  Harsh words, perhaps. But the truth of the matter is that most organizations treat creative capital badly. But now that the economy is a concern, attention is being paid to maximizing creative capital. And that means paying attention to your people. Not as lip service. Certainly not as a branding exercise – a sound bite promoting ‘our greatest assets are our people.’ There is no faster way to disengage employees than to make marketing claims that have no basis in reality! The problem with corporate culture is that in order to shift it – it is also likely that your business model will also need an overhaul.

Being at the Copenhagen Business School over the summer was a transformational experience for me. The Danes are serious about corporate culture and I will be designing a course in corporate anthropology for next year. I am back in the classroom at Sheridan starting next week and also gearing up for a tedx talk on corporate culture mid-September. Corporate culture is definitely on the top of my “shift list”. I sometimes define creativity as an act of liberation from habit that brings something new into being.  We all are well aware that the old models don’t work – they just don’t provide competitive advantage in tough economic times.  So we agree that the shift is necessary – but how? That is always the question.

I’m a big believer in ROWE – results-oriented work environments. Digging through my library for potential sources of inspiration led me to “Change the Culture, Change the Game.” The authors have devised a model of accountability that can be used as a starting point for implementing organizational change.  Changing an organization’s culture is both a top-down and a bottom-up process. It involves all the leaders in your organization and should never be left up only to a Human Resources Department. Certainly not in a weekend retreat. How long did it take you to build the culture that no longer works? Its an ‘all hands on deck’ type of effort. Whether you are looking at a slight shift or a corporate overhaul, a need for improved performance or a change in business model – there is some solid information here for use.  Too busy to pay attention to corporate culture?  Well … survival is optional.

Change the Culture, Change the Game: The Breakthrough Strategy for Energizing Your Organization and Creating Accountability for Results

Keeping Up With The Quants

I’m sitting in my little apartment here in Copenhagen, Denmark getting prepared for next week’s classes in advanced market research and competitive intelligence.  Teaching at the Copenhagen Business School as a Visiting Professor is a wonderfully enriching experience – meeting faculty and students from around the world.  Lots of  fresh ideas, interesting discussions and lots of danish pastry and coffee at the faculty table. Hanging out in Copenhagen isn’t all that bad either!

Of course, I also had to visit the university bookstore.  Bookstores are one of my favourite places to hang out and the bookstore at CBS didn’t disappoint.  A new book by Thomas Davenport was filling the shelves – and since it directly ties in with the courses I am teaching, I had to grab it.  “Keeping Up with the Quants” is a great followup to his first book – “Competing on Analytics.”  Davenport and Jinho Kim have done a great job building a beginner’s guide to understanding and using analytics.  From formulating a hypothesis, digging for data, interpreting the data into actionable insights and then communicating your results – the authors provide a roadmap that is both comprehensive and easy to follow.

Critical thinking and analytical skills are now a must in any business that wants to remain competitive.  I gladly added this book to my recommended reading for the students and passed it along as well to other faculty.  Adding to my book collection is always a joy – even if it means I need to buy another suitcase for the journey home.

Keeping Up with the Quants: Your Guide to Understanding and Using Analytics

Idea Agent: Leadership that Liberates Creativity

If you are interested in how to manage creative people to maximize your innovation potential, here is a book to read over the holidays.  Or give to you boss as a (hint) gift.  Lina Echeverria is a leadership consultant with over 25 years experience in science and technology. At Corning, Lina went from scientist to Vice-President and tended both people and process that resulted in products ranging from faster optic fibre to flat-panel glass used in smart-phones and LCD TVs.  Her emphasis is on culture that is defined by beliefs, attitudes, energy, interaction styles and rituals.  Her focus is on the values that drive creative engagement. I love her commitment to establishing an oral tradition – the stories told that drive passion and respect individual freedom to create in a space that authentically welcomes innovators. A yummy, yummy book hot off the press!

Idea Agent: Leadership that Liberates Creativity and Accelerates Innovation

The Intention Economy

It’s been a busy Fall!  From classes starting again and working with the Conference Board here in Canada, I’ve been running.  At our last meeting of the Customer Experience Council, we had the pleasure of listening to a presentation on VRM – Vendor Relationship Management – by Doc Searles.

Searles has  done it again.  From the Cluetrain Manifesto and ‘all markets are conversations’ to ‘caveat venditor‘ – let the seller beware.  Customers are beginning to take charge of their own data, maybe not tomorrow but its coming.  The market is shifting to being driven by demand – the customer. Beyond customer-centric, The Intention Economy shows us a world ruled by customer intent – vendors must respond to the intentions of the customer instead of responding to a crowd.

Consider a world where you were able to build your own loyalty programs and dictate terms of service to the vendors that you favor? Control the flow and the usage of your personal data? Once again, the message is ‘The end of business as usual’.

Big data gives you big data.  Insight into the marketplace is what is required. VRM is forerunner of what is to come.

The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge

Virat Swarup

Trinity blast
Los Alamos National Labs

Today is the 67th anniversary of the first successful atomic explosion, in the in section of the southern New Mexico desert known as Jornada del Muerto, “Journey of the Dead Man,” or more precisely, day’s journey through the landscape of death.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Trinity Project and father of the A-Bomb, is supposed to have quoted the Bhagavad Gita as he witnessed the explosion: “I am become death the destroyer of worlds.” More likely, his actual words on the dead man’s ground were “It worked.” (The Trinity Test Director, physicist Kenneth Bainbridge, is supposed to have remarked, “Now we are all sons of bitches.”)

J Robert Oppenheimer
J. Robert Oppenheimer, public domain.

The quotation from the Gita was a retrospective word-shaping during an interview afterwards, perhaps the only way for this erudite man to express the power of the singular experience. That these words were uttered in the Jornada del Muerto is now a modern-era myth — and an apt one. Making myths is an ongoing human psychic activity, and has a name: mythopoiesis, meaning “myth-making.” The more exact etymology to the Greek words from which the term was coined in the 19th century would be: “mouth-making” — the creation of inspired, memorable and therefore powerful words. All of the ancient Vedas are about powerful word-making, the poetry of creation and, even before eyes were present to see, about the powerful primacy of sound, of vibration, of energy waves.

Virat Swarup is the Sanskrit term meaning, “divine appearance of the god, in unimaginable power.” It appears in the Bhagavad Gita, which is a long dialogue between the hero Arjuna and his charioteer and friend, Krishna, who is an avatar of the supreme god Vishnu, who is both world-creator and destroyer. Arjuna is tired of so much death, and is questioning the ethics of his participation in the continued and seemingly endless killing in the long and bloody family war that is the center of the massive epic Mahabharata. At the climax of their extended dialogue, Krishna reveals himself in his exalted god-form, the Virat Swarup. It is Krishna who speaks the words that Oppenheimer remembered, then or later, as the only words that could express his experience.

The message that Krishna conveys to Arjuna in the Gita is that we all have the responsibility to act in accordance with our gifts  — Arjuna was the best killer — within the context of the unimaginably huge tapestry wherein which each of our destinies is but a single yet significant thread.

Consider too, that mythopoeisis  — the creation of new myths  — is divinely inspired as well. Nor is Arjuna’s story quite so simple as his decision, in that moment, to honor the commitment to kill, for now, and to honor the logic of that particular talent. Arjuna’s story was not complete, and ultimately, he chose a different ending.

Nor is any of our stories quite so simple, nor, for now at least, at an end. And, we can choose how we commit to continue, or alter, it. And, how we wish it to end.

Simurgh by Cheryl De Ciantis
“Simurgh” by Cheryl De Ciantis