The leadership chasm

I’ve been having lots of conversations lately about the language people use and the way they behave, which essentially creates an organisational culture. At Kanbee we’ve been lucky enough to encounter loads of truly inspiring people over the years and we’re proud of the inspiring people we work with every day, but we’ve come to realise brilliant people are normally either powerhouses of independence, or great leaders of tribes – seldom both. The difference lies in what we call the leadership chasm. The leadership chasm is the gaping hole between... Read The Rest →

(Social) Business Theory of Everything

Physicists have long sought a Theory of Everything to explain and link all known physical phenomena, so the outcome of any experiment could be predicted. The problem is, unifying general relativity and quantum mechanics is so difficult that is remains a great unsolved problem in physics; and a Theory of Everything remains elusive. —- Some social business initiatives aren’t working because tools are shoved in first, with no integration into existing workflows, low awareness and engagement among employees, underinvestment in training, insufficient buy-in across the exec board and other common... Read The Rest →

Social business circa 1989

Back in 1989, GE’s CEO Jack Welch decided to embark on a journey of culture transformation he named Work-Out. Originally begun as an initiative to redesign processes and eliminate waste, the change effort soon focused on more fundamental issues: moving away from its long history of fine-tuned financial analysis, longwinded strategic deliberations, centralised controls, multi-level approvals and bureaucracy, to a culture characterised by ‘speed, simplicity and self-confidence’. Welsch described the Work-Out process as ‘a relentless, endless company wide search for a better way to do everything we do… Consider a... Read The Rest →

Simple systems thinking

I’ve noticed a recurring trait amongst successful people and organisations: the way they develop systems to guide their actions. The most innovative, thriving companies are those with clearly defined values that are adhered to religiously. They’re prepared to lose a client, staff member, or product, if they fail to make it past the value system. Day traders use systems, always looking for their ‘edge’, which is essentially the ability to develop a superior system. The system – a set of rules – guides how much you trade, when you trade... Read The Rest →

Social business? It’s just plain business

Buzz around ‘social business’ has gone crazy in recent months, but having spoken to brands about it for some time now, I’m convinced we’re confusing the hell out of them. We whack ‘social’ on terms to connote something cool, new and 21st century, but the reality is it’s just plain old business – i.e. finding ways to do things faster, better and cheaper. The significance of social media in the rush for ‘enterprise 2.0’ prowess is that it’s pushing – you could say forcing – brands to change. Firstly, social... Read The Rest →

Fast is better than slow (loose is better than tight!)

Tight, centralised control mechanisms are super attractive to comfort-seeking humans. The trouble is, they aren’t working. The tougher the times, the stronger the compulsion to issue reams of rules, legislation and policy. Just look at the state of politics, drinking and drug laws; and long-winded employee handbooks nobody ever reads. Arse-covering document production lures us into a false sense of security, skews our priorities and often demolishes common sense. We focus on empty words and numbers, lazily neglecting to change people’s behaviour and instigate true culture change beneath the surface.... Read The Rest →

Gutless Wonders and the Control Illusion

Ian Davis, previously worldwide MD of McKinsey, once said, “Long-gone is the day of the gut-instinct management style. Today’s business leaders are adopting algorithmic decision-making techniques and using highly sophisticated software to run their organisations.” An astounding example of the control illusion. Nothing sits better in a crisis than intense rationality. Trouble is, we’re deluding ourselves. For one thing – as neuroscientist Antonion Damasio proved by studying people with damage to the part of the brain where emotions are generated – decisions are driven by emotions. With our rational brain... Read The Rest →

Death by meetings

Imagine a world where you only ever had to have conversations you were actually interested in. Now think about a recent time when you had to sit through a painful conversation that bored the crap out of you. I bet you were thinking of a meeting situation. Hmmm. Funny that. It’s tricky to remember the old days without mobile and email. The days when face-to-face meetings were vital – rigidly planned, with meticulous agendas and clear purpose. Given this is no longer the case – and the fact we have... Read The Rest →

Resilience & Adaptability

A while back I posted up this deck on Unleasing Innovation & 21st Century Scale. Unleashing innovation & 21st century scale – Palindromic Queries View more presentations from ResonanceBlog Just thought I’d follow up with a new Palindromic Query: The greater the external influence on something, the more resilient and adaptable it becomes. Consider children, immune systems, evolution, nano-architecture and the way a plant grows thicker on the surface that’s most exposed to the elements. Consider societies or social groups with least external influence and the affect on their resilience... Read The Rest →

Formula for writing books & other complex stuff

This won’t work for everyone, but for you right-brained folks with book-writing aspirations, this simple secret formula could be a game-changer. The difficulty with writing books is overcoming the ‘where to begin’ barrier, then finding a way to distill and organise masses of complex information into a sensible order. The vast majority of us never fulfill our authorly destinies for exactly these reasons. Panic not. It isn’t as complex as you think. The core formula for a factual book is: 1. Make a point (what… are you telling your reader)... Read The Rest →

It’s My Ass on the Line

When you’re trying to keep up in a fast-changing world, fast is better than slow. Customers expect nothing less than lightning response. Markets demand it. The best people presume it. Most companies aren’t geared up for this accelerating pace, particularly big ones. The result is lack of innovation and too often, slow death. Sometimes sudden death. There are loads of reasons for this. Here are a few: 1. ‘It’s my ass on the line’ syndrome. The biggest symptom of a deep-rooted blame culture, leading to inability to stick your neck... Read The Rest →

Purposeful experimentation = innovative leaps

Wouldn’t it be marvelous if there was a computer simulation that would enable you to test out new, radical business moves. What if you could set it running and see what happens if you abolish set working hours, make all meetings optional, put a bunch of Rail developers in charge of HMRC, or have everyone in your company spend half their time doing whatever they want? The trouble is, the simulation would never be able to make a true prediction. There are too many variables, too much complexity, too many... Read The Rest →

Readjusting social norms

It’s a fact that people do things they wouldn’t normally do because of their environment. Hence in the 90s, ‘Broken Windows Theory’, proposed by scientists James Wilson and George Kelling (1982), was adopted by government officials like the New York Mayor. The theory suggested that even small signs of disorder, like a broken window in a storefront that goes unfixed, or graffiti on public transport – could encourage more negative behavior in other domains, because seeing these signs normalises such behaviour, making it seem more acceptable. Scientists like Robert Cialdini... Read The Rest →

The quest for autonomy

Autonomy comes from the Greek word autonomos, meaning (auto) ‘self’ (nomos) ‘law’. It refers to ‘the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision’ [Wikipedia]. For some time we’ve known that autonomy is what really makes people happy at work (not money! evidenced here and here). Luckily, enabling people to doing things in a self-guided way is exactly what makes companies most innovative and profitable. Just look at Google engineers, encouraged to take 20% of their time to work on whatever they like; hence Gmail, Google News... Read The Rest →

From machines to ecosystems

When we talk about thriving in the digital age, we tend to revert to discussing how to leverage social media, mobile and other cool channels. There’s nothing wrong with that (and I do it myself!), but it can be useful to consider the bigger picture now and then. The challenges we face in business are not related to technology, they’re related to human beings. The industrial revolution brought us machines; and with it linear, machine-age thinking, articulated in machine-age language that in turn makes us think more like machines. This... Read The Rest →

Innovation killers

There are two types of company out there: companies who encourage their mavericks and companies who constrict them until they’re forced out (after months, often years, of long-drawn-out subpar productivity). There’s a scary tendency in many companies for the best people – those most likely to produce big leaps forward – to do their innovative stuff under the radar, keeping schtum about their latest super-cool project, in case the powers that be stick their ore in and squish it dead before it’s off the ground. Yes, this is ridiculous. Yes,... Read The Rest →

Heaven for mavericks

Ricardo Semler took over his Dad’s Brazilian business, Semco, in the 80s. Semco now employs over 3,000 people in manufacturing, professional services and high-tech. They increased their annual revenues from $35 million to $165 million between 1994 and 2001. At its peak, there was a 17-month waiting list for the bi-weekly tour of Semco, as corporate leaders from all over the world clamored for a peek at their magic dust. Semco has no org chart, no official structure, no business plan, no company strategy, no 3-year or 5-year plan, no... Read The Rest →

Kill false assumptions & evolve

Many of us are making decisions based on false assumptions every single day. In fact we’re underpinning our businesses, organisations, products and personal lives with false assumptions. We keep on doing things that have been proven wrong, that haven been proven not to work, despite mounting evidence that there’s a better way. Our false assumptions are memes, i.e. viral cultural ideas we pass from human to human, brain to brain (you can read a bit more about memes in my previous post on replicators here). Sometimes we keep spreading memes... Read The Rest →

Markets are conversations… so what? Part II

Following my last post a few folk asked me to expand on how to enable two-way comms. To cut a long story short, if you’re a big company with loads of people wanting to talk, the only way to get scale is to empower your staff to talk to customers. Companies who’ve been around for a long time often can’t see a way to make this happen – or it’s already happening in pockets under the radar and they don’t know how to control it. The important point to remember... Read The Rest →

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