Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tense Combinations


In the dictionary the word hybrid means “a thing made by combining two different elements.” And a powerful thing it is – you only need to look at the modern age of transport to see this. From those early days when the boundary-breaking Toyota Prius rolled out into the world, hybrid-powered transport has gathered considerable momentum.

I’ve long been attracted to hybrid business models, a state of And / And. Emotion and reason, love and respect, present and future…. you get the idea.

It gets interesting when you refuse to compromise one for the other. You move towards paradox. Work with two competing ideas at the same time. Instead of the best of neither, try to get something better than both. Toyota was always great at this seeking, for example, continuous innovation and cost reduction.

Today the hybrid model is operating across a range of contexts. Three examples from around the traps:

Hybrid Stores – in the retail space a current trend is for e-commerce companies to move into the bricks-and-mortar space to be more engaging with customers. Amazon went in big with its Wholefoods acquisition. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has launched a chain of Hema hybrid grocery stores. You can eat on-site, take it out or have it delivered. The concept includes tanks of live seafood coming from other countries.

Hybrid Pianos – my generation will remember when Dylan went electric in the 60s; a reframe that caused quite a stir. Progress means mixing it up. In the musical space, on a different instrument, the piano market is getting some juice from hybrid models where acoustic meets digital. In a similar vein to Toyota with its Prius, Yamaha has got hybrid pianos going.

Hybrid Creators – in the generative space, creativity and innovation, the idea of opposing tensions to create the future is front and centre. A recent New York Times article “Kids, Would You Please Start Fighting?” points to the value of ‘healthy disagreements’ in ‘wobbly’ families that are ‘tense but secure.’

At the evaluative stage of creativity, a Stanford professor found that you don’t want a lone creator or a panel of judges on the job of evaluating ideas, you want a group of creators, you want hybrids. Reports the Atlantic on this: “the best evaluators are like player-coaches—they create, then manage, and then return to creating.” Sounds spot on to me, put the brakes on the over-obsessive ‘yes!’ man and push back on the abominable ‘no’ men.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Supreme Win for My Food Bag


















It was a big night in Auckland when My Food Bag took out the Supreme Award for Westpac Business Excellence Awards (Central region). Well done team!!! 

Here is the top line from the NZ Herald article...

Customer love earns love of customers – and a perfect satisfaction rating from staff.

Employees rating their company 5 out of 5 for satisfaction.

Customers who name them as the country's exemplar for excellent service.

Bosses who freely share company performance stats, provide a playground for everyone's kids as well as one of the country's most generous parental and sick leave policies.

My Food Bag is way, way more than just clever answers to the daily 'what shall we have for dinner' question. In this year's Westpac Business Excellence Awards they were recognised for their excellence in customer service and scooped the supreme award for the central region. The awards are delivered annually by Auckland Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) across the Auckland region.

Cecelia Robinson, co-founder with her husband James of the vibrant company, says this year she stepped back from the awards entry to pass over to her team. It's indicative of the culture the pair, with co-owners Nadia Lim, her husband Cameron Bagrie and Theresa Gattung, have created.

"It is quite humbling to read how the team sees the culture," she says. "It's a transition for me, a reflection of the maturity of the team. It was delightful to read my team's reasons for entering and how proud they were of their divisions. We made it a basis of our board meeting to share about the team and culture."

In less than five years, the company has grown from just five to over 150 employees; passing on the core DNA of the founders has been critical to its success. Robinson says it is simple: customers (whom they call foodies) are at the heart of every decision.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Magic in the Room

Here’s a piece from The Atlantic that iterates on ideas in my post on the value of face time. The issue: how much face time is needed for productivity? Is proximity needed, and why?

The answer pointed to here is that it depends on the type of productivity. If it’s personal in that you are dealing with clients or writing a column for a magazine then go for your life in being remote.

But if collaboration is in order don’t bet on technology to get your group creativity on: “the communication technology offering the fastest, cheapest, and highest bandwidth connection is – for the moment anyway – still the office.”

The example of collaborative efficiency given is the forced proximity of an aeroplane cockpit where pilots hardly need to talk to be in synchronicity and on top of a problem. Flying an aeroplane by email communication from remote points, by contrast, is not a good idea.

It does seem there is something magical, or magic-producing, about people being closer together. That something lies in proximity of complex interactions, intuitions, in familiarity, and in being able to make instant adjustments. Seems to be on the right track. To be inspired, to create magical things, mostly we need to be together.

I've just spent two days with 16 of Fremantle Media's leaders. This great entertainment company's dream is "to be the place Creatives call home." Their focus is on "creating irresistible entertainment" (The Young Pope, American Gods, Deutschland 83, The XX Factor, American Idol etc etc). They were unanimous...connecting creativity needs people to be in the room together.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Diving Into Dylanology





He’s America’s greatest shape shifter; his lyrics are both timeless and endlessly poetic. And he has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. Bob Dylan. One of my heroes.

Harvard Classics Professor Richard F. Thomas shares my admiration for the singer-songwriter. The professor, who teaches a seminar centered on Bob Dylan, has spent half a century decoding Dylan’s imagery and has shared his findings in his book Why Bob Dylan Matters. His reason for writing the book was “to show people why Dylan is important.” The Guardian describes it as “poignant blend of memoir, literary analysis through a classical lens, musicology and, above all, love.”

Thomas segments Dylan’s career into “acoustic, electric, his Christian period, the unpopular mid-80s, his rebirth in 1997” as well as his most recent work. What he admires most is Dylan’s poetry. His music demonstrates the beauty the human mind can produce through art. And it ties in with the classics.

Thomas finds traces of classical greats in Dylan’s music. In Love and Theft for instance, he heard Virgil’s words singing back to him in Dylan’s voice. And there are many other references. His thesis that “Dylan has become Odysseus” is interesting, seeing that Dylan himself named The Odyssey as one of the books most important to him in his 2016 Nobel lecture (alongside Moby Dick and All Quiet on the Western Front).

In a Guardian interview last week, Thomas was asked if he wanted to meet Dylan. His response? “First of all he wouldn’t say anything. But also, Virgil is the poet I’ve most worked on. We know where he was born, we know when he was born, we know when he died. There are a few other anecdotes about him but most in a life that was written 100 years after he died. And that doesn’t bother me. I don’t need to know the poet. All I need is the poetry. Besides, what would I say?”

There’s a nice New Zealand twist to this story, a tangential connection. Richard Thomas was born in London, England and brought up in New Zealand. He received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Auckland, in 1972 and 1973 respectively. In 2015 Bob Dylan accepted the role of Patron of the Creative Thinking Project at the University of Auckland.

Why Dylan Matters – definitely one for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

It's Thanksgiving: How to Live a Happy Life





Happiness has been written about extensively. Scientists have studied the elusive feeling to find out what makes us happy and what doesn’t. The New York Times has just released their latest happiness guide, which is divided into five sections: Mind, Home, Relationships, Work & Money and Happy Life. There’s some interesting points in there.

Focusing on the mind – as happiness comes from within – The New York Times suggests we should learn to tame negative thoughts and approach every day with optimism. I agree. I’m a radical optimist. It’s all about perspective. Change it and shift focus from the negative to the positive. And surround yourself with other optimists. It’s infectious! Another basic but effective one: breathe deep. Try it.

According to the happiness guide, where you live – the country, the town, the neighbourhood and also your home – all have an effect on your happiness. There are new happiness rankings for countries every year – traditionally it’s those with strong economies and high quality of life. It makes sense. But what makes a community happy? A study conducted by the Knight Foundation and Gallup has found that happiness in communities comes from openness (a welcoming community), beauty (a scenic or charming community with green space) and social opportunities (community designed to foster connection). What’s interesting about this is that your neighborhood has the potential to increase or decrease your happiness drastically. (Which is why I live on the Edge on Auckland, in England's most beautiful village Grasmere, on a farm in rural New Jersey, and in Carefree (the name says it all) Arizona (pictured).

The third area of our lives that impacts on happiness greatly is relationships. A study around happiness and social connections has found that people’s happiness depends on the happiness of others around them. Simply said someone’s happiness has the potential to influence and be influenced. Every happy friend increased your chance of happiness by about 9%! The importance of relationships in the pursuit of happiness doesn’t surprise me. Humans are social creatures. We crave community and connection. Interestingly pets can influence your happiness just as much as friends or family. Some survey respondents even said they received just as much support from pets as they did from family. (My daughter Nikki and her family of five chihuahuas subscribe to this view).

We all know the adage that money doesn’t buy happiness. While it’s true that money doesn’t necessarily make you happier, meaningful work and a little extra time will. It’s not only about finding work that is meaningful to you, but also about finding meaning in your day-to-day work. The happiness guide references a column by Georgetown associate professor Christine Porath and Tony Schwartz, chief executive of consulting firm The Energy Project, in which they state the characteristics of jobs that make us happiest: renewal, value, focus and purpose. It’s pretty straight-forward. Taking breaks at work is important. I’ve long said that. It helps to focus. Value is another no-brainer. Employees who say they have supportive supervisors are 67% more engaged than others. Purpose comes down to deriving meaning and significance from work. Simply put finding meaning in your work will make you happier. And there are three buckets to fill every day...if you give and receive Responsibility, Learning, and Recognition every day, in equal parts, you will find Joy.

Lastly the wellbeing guide references the influence of a ‘Happy Life’ on our happiness. It’s all about kindness. Being kind to others and also being kind to yourself. To me it’s also about making happy choices. In personal life and in business.  And by being generous, in outlook and action.

Read the full NYT guide to happiness here.

KR

Friday, November 17, 2017

Freakin' Friday: It’s A VUCA World Alright!

FIRST PUBLISHED TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2012

In my sole but seminal encounter with the Pentagon when they asked me to provide counsel on the semiotics of the war on terror, I was told by them that my framework of radical optimism did not fit their VUCA worldview. “The world, Kevin, is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.” Way to go General! The self-immolation of top brass over the past two weeks has been VUCA-spectacular. Generals Petraeus, Ham, Allen, Sinclair, Admiral Gaouette and Commander Darlak have bought varying degrees of VUCA-disgrace onto themselves and their country.

The windows their actions open into the soul and operations of are startling. I mean what leader of any organization, say for example the supreme commander of the US presence in Afghanistan, has time to write 20,000-30,000 pages of emails to a Tampa socialite. General Allen either has spectacular time management skills, an unusual sense of priorities – or we are more vulnerable than the $711 billion US military budget would lead us to believe.

Much has been made of General Petraeus as the ultimate soldier-scholar, and I am thankful to The Daily Beast for bringing the General’s “lessons on leadership” to my attention. The author is, naturally enough, Paula Broadwell. Context is everything, and in normal situations this reads as a very worthy list.

Lessons on leadership from General David Petraeus:

Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.

A leader must provide a vision: clear and achievable “big ideas” combined in a strategic concept - and communicate those ideas throughout the entire organization and to all other stakeholders.

A leader needs to give energy
; don’t be an oxygen thief.

There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and policy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to explain why they made them.

We all will make mistakes.
The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rearview mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.

Be humble. The people you’ll be leading already have on-the-ground conflict experience. “Listen and learn.”

Be a team player. “Your team’s triumphs and failures will, obviously, be yours.” Take ownership of both.

Don’t rely on rank. If you rely on rank, rather than on the persuasiveness of your logic, the problem could be you and either your thinking or your communication skills. Likewise, sometimes the best ideas come from bottom-up information sharing (i.e., “Need to share” not “Need to know”). Use “directed telescopes” to improve situational awareness.

Leaders should be thoughtful but decisive.
Listen to subordinates’ input, evaluate courses of action and second- and third-order effects, but be OK with an “80 percent solution”. “There will be many moments when all eyes turn to you for a decision. Be prepared for them. Don’t shrink from them. Embrace them.” Sometimes the best move is the bold move.

Stay fit to fight. Your body is your ultimate weapons system. Physical fitness for your body is essential for mental fitness.

The only thing better than a little competition is a lot of competition.
Set challenges for your subordinates to encourage them to excel.

Everyone on the team is mission critical. Instill in your team members a sense of great self-worth—that each, at any given time, can be the most important on the battlefield.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Off to Work, with a Smile

Continuing the recent theme of feel good, work better, here is a great Cumbrian reframe concept around property investment and urban regeneration. The concept: take an unloved building or site, make it iconic and inspiring, turn it into co-working community where people are inspired, and even let start-ups become their own landlords.

The notion at the heart of Michelle Rothwell’s disruptive approach is that the environment we work in should inspire us - and a desk in a dim corner is just not going to do it.

Michelle, who is from Windermere just down the road from my digs in Grasmere, and who is a double world-record holder for endurance swimming, got disenchanted as a commercial property advisor leasing inflexible and uninspiring spaces.

Her insight was that being part of an inspirational community in a flexible collaborative environment is a rich recipe for business growth. “The idea is that businesses don’t lease the space because there’ a desk, but because they want their business to grow.”

Michelle’s first start-up opened an office at 31-33 Princess Street in Manchester city centre in August which it billed ‘the UK’s first property co-working space’. She based her own company there. “I’ve kept hold of the top floor as a co-working space to create and inspire a community. We’re running events there, we’ve got yoga classes, bike facilities, free beer. The next project is to transform a Cumbria pub into a creative business hub.

And get this from a recent HBR article “The Case for Investing More in People” by Bain & co partner Eric Garton, when an employee goes from satisfied to inspired, productivity doubles – and only one in eight employees are inspired!

Work should happen in amazing spaces and places. Bring on the disruptors.

Monday, November 13, 2017

It’s Only Taken 782 Years

Many years ago I was booted out of Lancaster Royal Grammar School, a top all boys school in the North West of the UK, by an unenlightened headmaster because I was to become a dad. In one of life’s glorious ironies, I returned to the school years later when I became a Governor of the school.

It’s only taken 782 years, but an idea I have wholeheartedly promoted as a Governor is coming to fruition. The school is to have a coeducational sixth form, admitting girls as day pupils, from September 2019.

Mixing it up with sixth form girls is a good thing for all kinds of reasons, as current headmaster Dr Chris Pyle points out. Girls and boys bring different approaches which benefits everyone, students are better prepared for life beyond school, leadership and role models are generated which benefits the wider school, and growth in numbers brings benefits of scale. In the case of LRGS, girls get to study at an exceptional school.

To me it’s an equation of positives, and as Chris says, it’s about the school being the best it can be. Here are two early responses to the news:

“Of course boys and girls should be educated together, schools should reflect society.”

“Went to all boys’ school which admitted girls in sixth form. It was a civilising influence on us; only positive results.”

Plato argued boys and girls should be taught together. He was right...as usual.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Flashback Friday: Meeting Francis Ford Coppola

Published 10 years ago on KR Connect..

I spent last week in Latin America. I was in Sao Paulo and Mexico City and both cities were throbbing with vitality, increased confidence and self belief. The highlight of my visit to Mexico City was meeting Francis Ford Coppola. He gave a very interesting session to 600 Mexican executives where he focused on the crossover between art and business. Coppola outlined the need for artists, rather than what he calls “the engineers”, to have a greater say in business, and to bring to it persistence, belief and a refusal to give in to “the struggle”. He told many great anecdotes around Marlon Brando and The Godfather, as well as about his interesting times in the Philippine jungles shooting Apocalypse Now.

What struck me about the guy, in the one-on-one we had after his presentation and before mine, was his sheer love and passion for the cinema and food. These are the two passions of his life and he’s lived both of them to the hilt. His movie making is legendary; his wine making and food business are now a $150m enterprise. And the kicker? Coppola told me he personally approved all the products against the single criteria - “Will people love it or not?” It doesn’t get much better than that.

Later, when I asked him who his mentors were, I was expecting a list of the great directors. His simple response was his mother, father and siblings. One of the good guys.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Is it City?



I’ve been a Manchester City fan for over 50 years, starting in the great days of the 60’s under Malcolm Allison and Joe Mercer with the Holy Trinity of Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee, and continuing under one of my all time favourite Managers, Joe Royle. During this time the Cityzens have been my greatest Lovemark, and youngest son Dan and I are now season ticket holders at The Etihad.

A lot has changed; Sheikh Mansour, Abu Dhabi, a wonderful ground, a marvellous Academy, the world’s best coach, the most beautiful attacking game in the world and Premier League trophies. All good. But one thing hasn’t changed. Manchester City is still at heart a local club. For local Manchester people. When we play at home Virgin Rail, the M6, and the Airport are not full of traffic – we are not a global phenomenon like our noisy neighbours.

So it is with some trepidation that I have been watching the latest Etihad initiative – The Tunnel Club. The only one in the UK. For between £7,500 and £15,000 you can buy a season ticket in a heated seat, complete with five course meal, a full time sommelier, a pre-match tactical briefing from the coaching staff using the same videos shared with the players, roped off pitch-side access and a view of the players in the tunnel coming out pre-match through one-way glass.

The future is here. Marketed to corporates as “A premium networking space for you and your clients.” Wow.

But is it City?

Tunnel Club seats have been half empty so far – in a season where we’re top of the Premier League, unbeaten, top of our Champions League group, unbeaten. The Tunnel Club feels like a breakthrough initiative, it’s progress, and I’m sure others will follow.

But is it City?

KR

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Visiting the American University in Dubai

My affection for the people of the Middle East goes back to the mid 1970s when I spent over a decade with both P&G and PepsiCo. I return regularly - just spent two weeks in Morocco and then a quick trip to the UAE where I spoke to faculty and students at the American University in Dubai at the invitation of Raj Kapoor, Associate Professor of Business Administration, and lecturer Sedef Sapanli. AUD have integrated Lovemarks into their teaching of advertising and marketing communications. Raj sent a write-up for KRConnect...

Kevin Roberts’ master class at the American University in Dubai on leadership avoided the clichés that so often plague sessions on this topic. There were more than 100 people there to listen, some as young as 18 – others as old as 60. No one was left indifferent.

Kevin was real, personal and compelling. This wasn’t a theoretician speaking. This was advice from a leader who reached the top of the communications business and who served as a point of reference to thousands of professionals globally. Narratives from when he was in the trenches, as well as when he occupied executive suites, sprinkled the session. His passion and humor were contagious.

The subject of change was covered. Here the message was that the world is not just VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), but super-VUCA (vibrant, unreal, crazy and astounding). This makes the role of proactivity greater than ever before.

Leaders in the super-VUCA world must be inspiring, and part of that is creating the desire in their followers to commit to a company’s “higher-order” purpose; that is, what the company does that has a positive impact on life. Leaders must make things happen – fast. Hesitation, just to avoid making mistakes, can be lethal. Finally, leaders who don’t mentor younger people to become leaders aren’t leaders themselves. Becoming a leader consists of failing fast, learning fast and fixing fast.

The students sat up in their chairs when they were told that the Middle East is ripe for super- VUCA leadership because so many new things are happening here and set to happen in the future. That isn’t true for many other geographies.

Finally, as we might expect from an ad man, Kevin let it be known that he was big on brand positioning. But the surprise came when he urged the audience to think of themselves as brands and market themselves as brands. Great brands have an equity which can generally be expressed in a single word. And so it is with people: the Rock for Dwayne Johnson, the Boss for Bruce Springsteen and the Terminator for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As students left the room to get on with their day, one could sense that for many, the search for that one word they wanted to claim for themselves had already begun.

The School of Business Administration at the American University in Dubai is widely recognized by students and employers for its tradition of combining academic rigor with practical applications in teaching and research. It aims to provide "job ready" graduates with a range of skills and professional knowledge that is desired by employers.

The School has four Departments: Business and Economics, Finance and Accounting, Management, and Marketing and Marketing Communications. These Departments offer a range of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The School of Business Administration offers three programs, a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) and a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program, as well as the IAA Certificate in Marketing Communications. The curricula in both programs are rich in conceptual content; however, the primary emphasis of our educational experience is on equipping students with the applied skills and the professional and ethical perspectives necessary for success in the global marketplace.

Faculty members within the School of Business Administration are highly qualified professionals. They are in regular contact with the business community through research, consultancy, and professional associations. Their knowledge and experiences translate into a rigorous and intellectually rewarding environment for students.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Feel Good, Work Better

What do cinemas, nail bars, giant bunnies, gyms, Segways, castles, wellness centres, fireman poles, yoga studios, pizza bars, swings, pool tables, secret doors and running tracks all have in common? Somewhere in Britain, and probably somewhere elsewhere, they are part of someone’s office.

Is this a good thing? Should work have physical boosters? Clearly, there is a cost / benefit factor in buying a big ticket item versus say a ping-pong table to pump work feel-good factor.

Making the physical space fun, personal and connecting is worth every penny. The winning organisations ahead will set up in every way possible to support collaboration, engagement and inspiration. Not just because flexible, musical, healthy and happy spaces are table stakes for talent, but because it’s pretty-well proven that these are critical to increase creativity, innovation, and the future will be built on this. Design guru John Maeda: “Without inspiration, open plan runs counter to creativity.”

Go back to a legend of innovation, Building 20 at M.I.T, which forced solitary scientists to mix and mingle. Building 20 was referred to, among M.I.T. people, as “the magical incubator.” It was an unwanted and under-designed structure where scientists felt free to remake their rooms, customizing the structure to fit their needs.

No need to spend a fortune for work spaces to become more inspiring, more personal and more reflective of a particular culture. Provide some boundaries, bundle some imagination and ideas, and hand office design over to the crew. 

Pic is from a legendary farewell for Net-a-Porter's 2014 London farewell to their CEO Mark Sebba. See HuffPo article.