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Three ways to deal with failure, by Seth Godin

April 10, 2014 Graeme Codrington Change, Innovation, Leadership, Personal Development No Comments
Three ways to deal with failure, by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is one of my favourite authors and business thinkers. I find his daily blog inspirational and insightful.

Here’s one from a while ago that has really stuck with me. I think Seth is spot on with this insight, and it could really help you to deal with failure and think about your corporate culture.

Accuracy, resilience and denial

… three ways to deal with the future.

Accuracy is the most rewarding way to deal with what will happen tomorrow–if you predict correctly. Accuracy rewards those that put all their bets on one possible outcome. The thing is, accuracy requires either a significant investment of time and money, or inside information (or luck, but that’s a different game entirely). Without a reason to believe that you’ve got better information than everyone else, it’s hard to see how you can be confident that this is a smart bet.

Resilience is the best strategy for those realistic enough to admit that they can’t predict the future with more accuracy than others. Resilience isn’t a bet on one outcome, instead, it’s an investment across a range of possible outcomes, a way to ensure that regardless of what actually occurs (within the range), you’ll do fine.

And denial, of course, is the strategy of assuming that the future will be just like today.

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What the UK storms can teach leaders about gaining advantage from disruptive forces

What the UK storms can teach leaders about gaining advantage from disruptive forces

We are living in unprecedented times. The storms lashing the UK coast are the worst in living memory and the costs to the economy are in the region of £14b and growing as the weatherman reports two additional storms approaching. The calamitous disruption to business, homes and lives is  painful to see. Out of the chaos however, there are several lessons business leaders can benefit from. The tides of change are lashing the shorelines of businesses around the world (excuse the pun). Disruptive forces can now cripple a business overnight and have devastating and lasting effect. The storms hitting the UK this year whilst not predictable in magnitude, were identifiable as a growing trend. A warming planet has resulted in a wetter, warmer climate in the UK for the past decade. I wonder how many businesses that have been disrupted by the flooding of rail and road networks had plans in place before hand of how to not only deal with these disruptions, but to gain advantage over their competitors. We don’t have the figures to this question, but we can’t imagine many.  

But the signs have been there for the past few years. If you were a business observing and reading the weak signals you would’ve known to plan for a disruption of this nature. We work with business leaders around the world helping them to identify, understand and build competitive advantage out of disruptive forces. Using our TIDES of Change model we get companies and leaders to think about the questions they should be asking on disruptive forces  but are not. T-I-D-E-S stands for Technology, Institutional change, Demographics, Environment & Ethics and Shifting social values. There are other disruptive forces but our research from our Strategic Insights and Futures Lab shows that they are the five biggest forces of disruption.

Environment and Ethics are the most powerful of the five disruptive forces we track and their impact has the potential to disrupt businesses immediately. Yet we often find environment and ethics is the area of least focus by leaders. Take the storm, caused by changes in the global environment. The potency is massive and damage is immediate are you prepared and how can you turn the disruption into an advantage? During the devastating Cumbrian floods of 2009 the bridge in Workington over the river Derwent was swept away. The community in the Seaton and Northside areas of Workington faced a detour of up to 40 miles to just buy basic commodities. Tesco,  a leading food retailer, sprung into action. They had an emergency solution at hand. Advanced planning with Yorkon, a manufacturing company, allowed Tesco to spring into action and within  a week of the bridge being washed away a tempory store had been erectet to help ease some of the problems facing the flood-hit community. You can watch a video of this story on Youtube.

Because of advanced planning and quick action Tesco was able to turn the disruption into an advantage and build massive goodwill with the community. Out of every disruption there are opportunities to do good for society, build goodwill and competitive advantage. Are you having the right conversations about disruptive forces in your business?

Are you asking the right questions and developing the strategies to counter and leverage disruption? If you are not take the opportunity to talk to us we’d love to show you what we know and share our insights.

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The four horsemen of mediocrity, by Seth Godin

January 30, 2014 Graeme Codrington Change, Leadership, Organisational Development, The workplace No Comments
The four horsemen of mediocrity, by Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s blog today is superb. He is identified four key reasons that employees are disengaged, that productivity is declining or stagnant, and that companies struggle to innovate and develop.

The four horsemen of mediocrity

by Seth Godin

Deniability–”They decided, created, commanded or blocked. Not my fault.”

Helplessness–”My boss won’t let me.”

Contempt–”They don’t pay me enough to put up with the likes of these customers.”

Fear–”It’s good enough, it’s not worth the risk, people will talk, this might not work…”

The industrial age brought compliance and compliance brought fear and fear brought us mediocrity.

The good news about fear is that once you see it, feel it and dance with it, you have a huge opportunity, the chance to make it better.

Source: Seth Godin

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How did things ever get so far?… It was so unfortunate, so unnecessary

November 28, 2013 Dil Sidhu Change, Connection Economy, Leadership No Comments
How did things ever get so far?… It was so unfortunate, so unnecessary

This post is submitted by TomorrowToday associate Dil Sidhu, Chief External Officer at Manchester Business School

These were the words spoken by the fictional crime family patriarch Don Corleone in the movie ‘The Godfather’ in reference to actions and counteractions between  crime families.  The same comments are also just as applicable to the revelations that continue to surface from corporate organisations in reference to their board governance and the damaging decisions taken by individuals.

In the UK the financial news is currently focused on the difficulties faced by the Co-Operative Bank,  and Co-Operative Group, about allegations around behaviours of senior board leadership. As a self-styled ‘Ethical Bank’ the Co-Operative was considered the bastion of doing things differently and better than the financial institutions that were part of the cause of the 2008 melt-down or one of the many victims of the ensuing domino effect that followed.

Since that time there have been numerous in investigations, parliamentary committees, congressional hearings and financial re-regulation.  However, while the rules and regulations have been tightened there has been scant attention paid to the leadership styles of those that were in the driver’s seat when the financial institutions hit the wall.

New regulations with the same leadership issues will not necessarily be enough to avoid future similar scenarios unfolding. The leadership styles, personal values and appreciation of leading in times of ambiguity should also form part of the outcomes from the multitude of new governance and financial regulatory guidelines.

I recently spent two-days learning about what it means to be an ‘Effective Non-Executive Director’ operating with a corporate board.  The programme was great at reviewing the history of corporate governance, the multiple regulations and operating guidelines that have been established and also the dynamics that are present in a board room team.  However, all the rules and regulations in the world will not make much difference, as the on-going press stories about individual lapses in judgement and leadership suggest, if the area of personal leadership style and values are not included in the dialogue.

One way to determine how senior leaders make decisions is to gauge their ability to operate in an environment of ambiguity and uncertainty.  This is where I would argue our values-based thinking comes to the forefront instead of what any corporate rules and regulations list.  Organisations are made up of people first and operating principles and guidelines second. The people need to be ‘road-tested’ on their ability to make clear decisions based on the available facts.  The quality of discussions is a clear indicator of making better decisions as is the ability to create a team that is diverse.  Diversity in thought and perspective rather than diversity defined as gender, ethnicity or other measures exlusively.

If the same people with the same leadership behaviours are operating at senior levels – no amount of regulatory framework or good governing practice guidelines will be enough to avert further corporate headlines and business crashes.

The unfolding of the situation at the Co-Operative Bank is testament to the need to change leadership operating guidelines in tandem with surfacing and enhancing personal behaviours and values.


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Seven steps to creating a Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy and Awesome world

Seven steps to creating a Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy and Awesome world

The acronym VUCA comes from military vocabulary and stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous situation. Originating in the late 1990′s the term has infiltrated corporate and government organisations used primarily to generate emerging ideas and solutions in strategic planning.

However, whilst this sounds great for consultants selling fear-mongering it does not encapsulate the golden era of change that we live in. Of course there is volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. That’s life! But we actually live in an exciting, vibrant and incredible time of change. Leaders have never been more privileged than what they are today and they have a clean sheet of paper to re-imagine every aspect of business. With privilege comes responsibility too. Failure to change means loss of shareholder confidence, loss of position, loss of customers, loss of jobs etc.

The  VUCA interpretation misses the point, it generates a concentration of developing strategies aimed at reducing the volatility and getting back to normality. When rather  the waves of change need to be ridden and seen as an adventure in the quest to create a vibrant, unreal, crazy and awesome world.  This different take on the word VUCA is one I heard Global CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi Kevin Roberts talk about. It’s a brilliant spin on the acronym and changes the strategic mindset to one that seeks new opportunities and challenges established paradigms.

The next time you are in a strategy session examining the opportunities and threats, explore how your organisation can contribute to and benefit from a VIBRANT, UNREAL, CRAZY and AWESOME world. This is the VUCA world leaders should focus on creating.

Below is a speech Kevin Roberts gave on the term VUCA and how the word can be used to think about how we create a better world for everyone

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Five reasons why addressing the “perversions of capitalism” will give you a competitive advantage

Five reasons why addressing the “perversions of capitalism” will give you a competitive advantage

“The present state of affairs is really a perversion of the proper working of capitalism. It is all wrong to have millionaires before you have ceased to have slums…If we do not find some way of correcting that perversion of capitalism, our society will break down”  said Spedan Lewis, the founder of the John Lewis Partnership, the UK’s largest department store group, during a talk on the BBC in the late 1950’s. These words still echo loudly today. There is much that is positive about capitalism and as Spedan Lewis also noted “Capitalism has done enormous good and suits human nature far too well to be given up as long as human nature remains the same. But the perversion has given us too unstable a society.” The industrial revolution changed everything and has brought millions of people out of poverty, delivered education on a mass level and liberated the role of women in society. But there are also perversions that distort the proper workings of capitalism: Perversions like pollution; perversions like the boss who doesn’t respect or treat customers and co-workers well; perversions like soul destroying jobs and working environments; perversions like directors getting paid huge salaries and bonuses while we still have people living in poverty; and, perversions like relentlessly driving suppliers costs down then turning a blind-eye and not caring about the ingredients in your burgers until you get caught out in “the horsemeat scandal”.

Spedan Lewis recognised these perversions and addressed them by creating the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) which he described as a experiment in democratic capitalism. It’s an experiment that has proven hugely successful. Today the John Lewis Partnership is the UK’s most successful retail group.  The Partnership’s model is simple. Workers at JLP  join as Partners from the get go (JLP does not have employees) and success is shared amongst Partners , suppliers and even customers.

The Partnership model represents the roots of a new form of capitalism that Harvard Business School and strategy guru Prof Michael Porter calls Creating Shared Value  (video). The idea of doing business in a manner that benefits society as well as making profits is taking hold and as Spedan Lewis said it’s an idea that “makes work something to live for as well as something to live by. Here may be the new source of working energy of which our country is in such grave need.”

Five reasons why addressing the “perversions of capitalism” will give you a competitive advantage

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Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?

pensionersThe famous lyric from the Beatles song of 1967 has moved from an individual plea to a loved one, to a more general appeal to society.  A lot has happened between 1967 and now: man has landed on the moon, the Communist Soviet Union has disintegrated, almost everyone has amazing technology at their finger tips and we are now living longer than ever before.

If you were an 18 year old in 1967 you would be one of the Baby Boomers joining the UK workforce for the first time.   You are now 64 and possibly looking forward to your pension and retirement.  The state pension age has been stuck at 65 for men and 60 for woman for that person’s whole life.  Whilst the rest of the world has changed at an alarming rate, the “Old Age Pension” age has remained the same.

The opportunity to be a retired pensioner is a relatively recent occurrence.  Prior to the Old Age Pension Act of 1908 there was no state help and it was looked at as being semi villainous to be old with no money or means to support yourself.  You either begged, starved, or if you were lucky (or maybe unlucky) you ended up in the Workhouse.  However, this act only came into force if you were over 70 and without means of over £31.50…….per year!  It wasn’t until the National Insurance Act of 1946 that we saw the introduction of a comprehensive social security system that covered unemployment, sickness and retirement, as we know today.

We all know that there is an ageing population problem, but what is it and what does it mean?  Let’s have a look at some of the data that is freely available at the UK Office of National Statistics.

In 1967 the life expectancy for a man was 69.1.  This meant that a man, on average, only lived for four years after reaching the state retirement age of 65.  In 2010 the life expectancy for a man in England had grown to 78.9, almost an eight-year increase in only 43 years.  If, however, you reached your 65th birthday in 2010 you were expected to live until a whopping 83.4.  This means that over the last 43 years a man has been living on average one extra year for every 3-5 years lived – really astonishing.

The trend looks to carry on, with the expectation that 33% of children born in 2012 will live to 100.  In 2012 there were 14,500 centenarians – by only 2035 it is forecast that there will be 110,000.

The actuaries have got their figures hopelessly wrong in the past.  Private and public pension promises that were made to workers cannot be fulfilled.  Bear in mind that in developed countries, 60% of the cost of an average pension is paid by the state.

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Experiments for a new world of work

Experiments for a new world of work

If you follow anything at all about our work at TomorrowToday, you’ll know we’re passionate about understanding the changing world of work. We are also always on the lookout for people and organisations who are attempting to make adjustments today for the world they see coming tomorrow. Right now, we’re in such a time of disruptive change that some of what needs to happen to make our organisations more “future proof”, by necessity, will be experimental. So we’re thrilled when we discover companies and organisations prepared to experiment.

There are two dangers with workplace experiments. The first is more obvious: some of them will fail. We’ve spoken at length about this being a new reality of the 21st century workplace and of the need for bosses and leaders to accept some level of failure in order to find the gems. The second danger, though, is that you think you can appropriate other peoples’ experiments and make them your own. In some cases, it is acceptable to a be a good follower, and to wait for others – braver, bolder, with more resources than you – to try and fail and try again until they come across a clever formula. However, especially when it comes to management techniques, it’s not always appreciated that the culture which allows mistakes is often a prerequisite to the success of any experiments within that culture. Put more simply: you cannot simply copy the outputs or models another company comes up and expect them to work in your company.

Having said that, it’s still worthwhile keeping an eye out for the workplace experiments other companies are trying, and at very least getting some inspiration for experiments of your own.

Here are a few of my favourites:

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Dear CEO, You have to be in it to win it (I’m talking social media, you dinosaur)

Dear CEO, You have to be in it to win it (I’m talking social media, you dinosaur)

You’ll lose 100% of the shots you don’t take.

You’ll find this pithy advice in almost every motivational book. But being a cliche doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You have to be in it to win it.

In the business world, this maxim is applied when companies look seriously at new opportunities and take risks in new markets. This is the essence of business development, and most business leaders pride themselves in their ability to spot key growth opportunities and push their companies towards these.

It seems strange then, how few CEOs are taking social media seriously. An American report released last week by Domo and CEO.com surveyed 500 top CEOs and discovered that less than 4% of them were active on Twitter. Fully two thirds of them (68%) have no social media presence at all. The only network CEOs have a reasonable presence is LinkedIn, but these are mainly just static profiles with no interaction or activity.

So, possibly the greatest revolution in communication is a mystery to the world’s business leaders. This is a space they have no personal understanding of. So how can they make decisions that are meaningful in this space? And how can they lead their companies into the digital age?

My colleague, Mike Saunders, based out of South Africa, is one of the world’s leading thinkers in what is being called ‘social business’: the ways in which social media is reshaping every aspect of business. He has recently written about the importance of social media for businesses in what we call ‘the connection economy’ – his post is well worth reading. The key point is that CEOs and business leaders need to get their heads into this game. It’s not something they should simply delegate to others – it’s something they should be personally invested in. Social media is more than technology: it’s a mindset.

Another social business expert (and also ex-colleague of ours at TomorrowToday), Mike Stopforth, also wrote recently about why leaders should take social media seriously. He quotes a McKinsey research report: “by fully implementing social technologies, companies can potentially raise the output of employees by 20 to 25 per cent. McKinsey’s research also reveals that seventy two per cent of companies use social technologies in some way, but very few actually realise the full benefits.” Could it be because the implementations do not reach the very top? I am pretty certain this is key!

Business leaders who do not embrace social media are becoming dinosaurs in their industries and within their own companies. Luckily, this is fairly easy to fix. But it will require them to step out into unknown areas where they have limited skills and no experience, where they risk making mistakes and possibly looking a bit foolish (none of this has to happen, of course, if they’d be prepared to get training and assistance – something most CEOs are not keen on). So, this boils down to a control issue really. And possibly a pride issue too. But the alternative is extinction.

Come on, CEOs, do the right thing! Get some skin in the game. And get into social media.

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Mirrors, cameras, social media and cultural evolution – Seth Godin

Mirrors, cameras, social media and cultural evolution – Seth Godin

Earlier today, Seth Godin posted an interesting piece on his blog about mirrors, cameras and cultural evolution. Read it at his blog or below.

He points out that a few centuries ago nobody would have known what their “true” reflection looked like as their were no mirrors available. Today, nobody is scared of mirrors. But some people are scared of cameras. They might not feel scared, but the way they act when a camera is pointed at them indicates otherwise.

And he then pushes his point to the issue of social media, and how some people still fear it. This is a fascinating insight in the same week that Domo and CEO.com released a report saying that only 19 out of 500 of America’s top CEOs are active on social media (only 28 of them have Twitter accounts at all). I am writing a separate blog entry on that statistic (it will be released later this week, here). But for now, I’ll leave you with Seth’s thoughts about cultural evolution. And the fact that it’s inevitable.

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Bitcoin has the power to disrupt the most powerful institutions

Bitcoin has the power to disrupt the most powerful institutions

“It is clear that policymakers and those who advise them do not have a satisfactory conceptual framework for dealing with [this] disruptive impact” says Alec Ross the former senior adviser on innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and; Jonathan Luff a former international affairs adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron.

They make an important point – Governments, which are amongst the most powerful institutions in the world, are struggling to come to terms with the disruptive force of technology.  This claim is not necessarily surprising, Governments are often behind the curve of change. However, in this instance it has massive implications as the disruption being referred to by Ross and Luff is Bitcoin; a controversial crypto-currency designed to disrupt the power that governments and financial institutions wield over society.

Created by a developer using a psuedonym of Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, Bitcoin was developed as a result of the near global financial collapse of 2008. The appeal of an alternative digital based currency, is growing substantially and was recently spurred on by the Cyprus Government’s announcement in March 2013 that they would be stripping at least 10% off local bank savings accounts as part of their bailout deal with the IMF and ECB. This action resulted in the barring of individuals from their own personal banking accounts and for several days Cyprian’s where unable to withdraw money even to buy daily essentials. However, those with bitcoins would not have been impacted by this draconian action and financial manipulation. Bitcoin essentially aims to place the power of money in the hands of people not third party institutions. This is because Bitcoin is a decentralised digital currency, meaning that unlike conventional currencies like Sterling, it isn’t issued by a central bank and there is no central authority which oversees or controls it. (Leaner more about how Bitcoin works read here)

Bitcoin  offers a means of payment that bypasses banks payment systems and as Satoshi says is a “purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash and allows online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution”. No wonder Governments and financial institutions are scrambling to understand the impact of this disruptive force. The currency and its influence is growing rapidly. The market valuation of the total stock of Bitcoins already exceeds $1 billion and more than 7,500 legitimate businesses are using a single BitCoin payment processor (BitPay). In the suburb of Kreuzberg, Berlin, Bitcoin is now the favoured medium of exchange in real shops and bars, taking the currency out of the virtual and into the real world as a legitimate form of payment (watch the excellent video). In UK, drinkers in an east London can now buy drinks with the digital currency in Britain’s first Bitcoin pub.

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All that’s wrong with the media today: A ridiculous example

All that’s wrong with the media today: A ridiculous example

It sounds like something out of one of those cringeworthy, self-written high school plays. But in reality it is a genuine news report from a Fox affiliate TV station in the United States. And although it is a single anecdote, it does shine a spotlight on the mess that the media is in right now.

In an attempt to be the first in their reporting, news agency trip over themselves (and ordinary people) to pile camera upon camera outside every media friendly location in the world; and then get their anchors to spout meaningless drivel and speculation, and fill their studios with vacuous (and often professional) commentators who are more interested in soundbites than truth. And increasingly they get the actual news wrong!

But this takes the cake. And it’s hilarious.

Last Friday, A KTVU anchor read the “names” of the four pilots who were on board the 777 when it crash-landed in San Francisco. They were: “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow.” Read those out loud just once (although not too loudly if you’re with other people). How is it possible that this made it all the way to a live TV news reader without any flags being raised? Here’s a home video of the report:

It’s mildly racist. Very funny. Very sad. And, of course, they blamed it all on an intern.

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Primary Blog contributors

The main contributors to this blog are:

Dr Graeme Codrington, co-founder of TomorrowToday, author, speaker and expert on the changing world of work
Dean van Leeuwen, co-founder and CEO of TomorrowToday UK & Europe, speaker, consultant and Chief Intellectual Adventurer
Catherine Garland, head of the TomorrowToday Strategic Insights team and previous MD of GFK Research in the United Kingdom
Keith Coats, co-founder of TomorrowToday South Africa, leadership development guru, speaker and author
Professor Nick Barker, director of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center in Hawaii, leadership development expert
Markus Kramer, marketing director for Aston Martin and brand building expert
Keith Holdt, Visionary Enabler of business growth and change, currently works for LDC as an investment executive.
Dil Sidhu, Chief External Officer, Manchester Business School; Executive education specialist.
Dawna MacLean, expert on fostering meaningful change and creating authentic experiences through transparent and trusted partnerships.

Click here for a full list of contributors

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