High Time for Apple to Evolve

With the demise of the old-style Mac Pro, Apple reaches a technological ‘T’ Junction and a potential parting with some of its important fan-base.  To the left (i.e. those of us left behind) may have to turn the hundreds of thousands of professional audio, video, and graphic artistes who have bought into expensive dedicated processing cards.  These won’t work with the new architecture – not without expensive breakout boxes.  Heaven forbid, we may have to go back to basics… to the PC.  At least PCs have slots.

To the right is the Steve Jobs paradigm: I’m right, you’ll catch up someday.  And you know what?  He was right.  His paradigm of the rugged indiviualist, the innovative entrepreneur was right… for the 20th Century.  It’s 180 degrees facing in the wrong direction for the 21st Century.  In the Wiki-Worlds, it is www: wrong, wrong, wrong.

The way of the 21st Century is collaboration.  The dinosaurs that don’t get that deserve to go extinct.  Evolve and involve people!  In a world of connected-customers, the way of the dictator cannot stand… even if the dictator is benevolent (which I’m not sure Jobs was!)

Before I go any further, let me state in unambiguous black print on a white page: I love my Apple kit.  I love it’s beauty.  I love its functionality.  I love its easy of use (most of the time).  It’s Apple, the culture, that has life-threatening problem.  The 21st Century is the time for symbiosis – win-win on equal terms with the partners who are its customers.

Living Organisations or Zombie Companies?

A Living Organisation – one that will survive and thrive in the 21st Century – will be one for whom all the seven aspects of life are true.  Two of these are showing warning signs on the Intensive Care monitors for Apple:

  • Respiration
  • Sensitivity

Respiration

Respiration is the give-and-take that all living organisms have within their environment.  They take what they need to live on, but they also give out.  There is a balance of Nature.  For an organisation, this means way more than doing something noble for charity.  It means a living and breathing relationship with their customers and suppliers.  I don’t experience that with Apple, nor with the other “Usual Suspects” that I will mention below.

Sensitivity

Sensitivity does what it says on the label: it senses.  It keeps track of the internal environment and it makes sense of the external environment that it depends upon for life.  Without it, the organisation becomes a zombie.  It is ‘animated’ as if it is alive, but it is just going through the motions.   The spotlight was turned on Amazon recently in the UK – with a television documentary showing just how ‘sensitive’ the mighty Amazon are to their staff.  Staff are customers too in my book.

Adobe and Mindjet

Two of the companies I depend upon for my creative tools have recently gone down the ‘subscription’ route.  With marketing spin on this, this is positioned as good for the customer.  Yeah, right.  It’s great for rich customers, but not for those of us who have saved hard to get access to this technology.  For those of us whose cashflow is uncertain, this marks another T Junction.  You stop paying your subscription?  Find out what happens next.

I love marketing but I hate some many marketing smart-arses.  Listen up people: Win-Win or no deal.  And now: Win-Win, or WIN-WIN, but not WIN-win.

So what’s the difference between Adobe and Mindjet?  Mindjet are sensitive to their environment.  They changed the model to suit their customers – from all payscales.  They restored the option to buy the upgrade.  Top marks.  Mindjet’s Alive!

Amazon proudly told me they were the World’s most customer-centric organisation.  I was really excited by this.  I wanted to know more.  Couldn’t reach anybody.  Didn’t get any response.  Knocked – nobody answered.  Guess I was the ‘wrong’ type of customer.  I applaud the dream Amazon – now talk to your customers and listen to your staff.

Zombie companies like Adobe, Akai, Amazon, Apple, Avid, and, to break up the ‘A’ list, Yamaha who forget their customers have a past dedicated to their products, deserve to cease to get our support.  There is a value on customer loyalty – it should lead to mutual respect and benefit.  Get a load of the ongoing success of the John Lewis Partnership.  John Lewis has it stayed vibrant, vital, and vivacious – by choosing the symbiotic route of partnership.  It’s worked for a long time and will continue to do so.

I want Apple, Avid, and maybe even Amazon to succeed – but only if they return to their senses.

[Ed – btw, when I typed “zombie” into my tag field, “Eurozone” came up – is there a message there?]

Sunday Sermon: Listen, lest we forget

We-Remember_7634

It’s Remembrance Sunday here in the UK.

This reminds me of the three reasons important matters don’t get done:

  • I ran out of time
  • I misunderstood
  • I forgot.

Well, in many ways we are all running out of time – not in a grim way like that may at first sound, but as a species, we have some decisions to make and some behaviours to change.

We’ve certainly misunderstood a lot of important messages that both our Planet and our history have sent us.

And it’s all too easy to forget the clear lessons of history.

I remember reading in an anthology of poetry this brief yet poignant poem from Steve Turner:

History repeats itself

Has to

No one listens

Well, today is the perfect reminder of history.  So many lives sacrificed because of human nature – and perhaps because of misunderstandings too.

My beliefs still include the power of education and the development of intelligence.  An emotionally intelligent person cannot do harm to another.  A financially intelligent person cannot accept the cost of war (unless they have an interest in the commodities that fuel a war).  A morally intelligent person cannot ask others to do what they wouldn’t do themselves (thinking of the class divides in war).

So what can we ‘learn’ from History on Remembrance Day?

In one sense, to my mind at least, history is the history of bullying.  Those with lower intelligence and who have made less progress along the evolutionary pathway make a wrong turn.  This turn is a fundamental decision: “I am different from you.”  This leads to some beliefs and behaviours: “This means that I may legitimately treat you in a way that I wouldn’t treat someone like myself.”

Sounds like the opposite of Jesus’ Golden Law: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  In the case of the bully, the ‘other’ is not in the same class, therefore the rules don’t apply.  I’m pretty sure this is why hostages in movies are encouraged to get their captives to learn their names and use them – a bridge of equality through mutual recognition.

So there’s a lesson to start us off: we are all connected.  That connection is strengthened by the use of a pleasant name.  Ergo, let’s be careful to use people’s preferred names to demonstrate respect and connection.  This is one reason I appreciate the War Memorials – the names.  Everything that is that person is associated with their name.  Their name is an anchor chain that pulls up the anchor of their memory lest they be forgotten in the depths of time.

Leonardo da Vinci believed that everything was connected to everything else.  I agree.  It’s just ecology… an ecology that now stretches to human interactions, technology, climate change, and all the other aspects of history that are changing our World.  Are we listening?

My identity is central to the way I live in that ecologically closed system we call the Earth.  If I see myself as separate, or superior, or different – it allows me different ‘rules’ than if I see myself connected.  I am connected.

History is also the history of beliefs.  What wonderful good beliefs have done in our history.  The abolition of slavery is a favourite since this echoes the truth of our similarity not our difference.  The falling of the Berlin Wall is another.

berlin20wall20freedom

And what terrible evils have been done in the name of beliefs in our World.  These continue to be perpetrated – and will do so until we recognise our fundamental sameness to one another.  We are one species.  To harm another human is to harm the species – evolutionary suicide at the macro level.

As we Remember today, we would do well to learn that some beliefs are harmful and need to change.

History is a catalyst that can drive us to a better future.  We have stunning capabilities now.  India is receiving some criticism at the moment for funding its space missions but neglecting its poor.  It’s an interesting dilemma but not my point.  (After all, the USA and Europe and China have their own poor to worry about.)  My point is that India can build a spaceship as good as the old Empires of the USA and Russia.  India has new capabilities.

With these new capabilities come new behaviours that transform culture and thus history.  The internet, the greatest connector in history, has levelled so many playing fields.  Combine this with education and a pleasant revolution follows: power to the people.  I love the fact that the bullies of the Banks are being brought to their knees and being forced to change their behaviours.  Their deeds, done in the dark, behind huge bank doors, are being dragged into the light.  There will be more revelations to follow.

I’m not sure how I feel about Wikileaks, but it is another example of our new collective capability to access and share information – and to change our behaviour as a result.

The behaviours that defined the First World War were largely changed by the Second World War.  These acts of violence are now different today in Syria and other troubled places around our pearl of a Planet.  Perhaps we all need to look back – at History, and up – at the stars.

 We Are Stardust

We are part of one pretty small but really rare planet.  There may be other life out there, but at the moment we aren’t helping them and they aren’t helping us (as far as I know!)  So, we need to help each other and our home.  This means looking after the environment in which we live and move and have our being.  We are family – we even breathe the same air and are made of the same stardust.

So, on a day when we are asked to Remember those who’ve sacrificed their lives – the highest love – so that we may continue the mission, let’s remember some great words of John F. Kennedy:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

We went to the Moon, and we looked back, and this is what we saw…

Our Pearl of a Planet seen from our satellite, the Moon

Our Pearl of a Planet seen from our natural Satellite, the Moon

So, I conclude with the lessons that I am learning and that perhaps we can share…

  • I am connected to you – to hurt you is to hurt myself; to help you is to help myself
  • I am fundamentally the same as you – I breathe your air and you breathe mine; we are stardust
  • I believe we all have the right to be free, happy, healthy, and wealthy.  My freedom is not freedom if it restricts your freedom.
  • I am capable of so much more – therefore I dare to dream of a better future for my children and grandchildren and for your descendants too.
  • I choose to change my habits on a daily basis to promote peace and symbiotic harmony on this Planet.
  • I work to leave the environment in which I was born in a better state than when I inherited the Earth.

Economic Ecology

Youth Unemployment across Europe Guardian
Folks, we’ve got over half of the youth in Greece and Spain unemployed.

If you don’t think that matters, you’ll need to realise the Ecology of Economics.   The drain on the Eurozone will affect everything – because, as Leonardo da Vinci observed, everything is connected to everthing else.  This isn’t ‘their’ problem, this is ‘our’ problem,  In the Ecology of Economics, there is no ‘their’ or ‘them’ – it is all ‘us’!

Graph source: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/oct/31/europe-unemployment-rate-by-country-eurozone

The Coach as Therapist

The Leadership Coach as Therapist

As I was maturing in my career the norm was to make a fierce distinction between being a counsellor, a coach, or a therapist.  It seemed a good idea to make such professional distinctions, but it’s not true to life.  In real life there is no separation between the church and state of the worlds of home and work.  To suppose that your personal life has no bearing or impact on your performance at work is quaintly naïve.  And those of us who have had a trouble night worrying about work know that “work” very definitely affects “play”.

A significant number of people have said to me recently (in the context of business development meetings) that I would make a good therapist.  This was unsolicited and initially surprising.  It stems, I believe, from my renewed commitment to listen to others without cluttering my mind with what I want to say in response.  This often means there is a gap between when they stop talking and when I start – but it’s never been an uncomfortable pause.  It seems the act of being attentively listened to is a therapeutic process for many managers, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

The fascinating thing for me has been the shift in content that has begun coming out when I listen more attentively.  Much of the ‘stuff’ is personal (and confidential of course!)  Whilst I have no ambition to be a therapist personally, I really do want to help people move forward in business.  To do this, there is often a need to help them move forward at home too.

With my curiosity growing , I looked up the derivation of “therapy” and “therapeutic” – and was delighted to discover that the words are rooted in the idea of ministering to someone’s needs (often medically).  Since I’m driven by a desire to see people living a life to the full spiritually, psychologically, physically, emotionally, financially, and socially, the definition works for me.

So what would be the role of a Corporate Therapist or a Leadership Therapist?  The definition would suggest our role would be to minister to the needs of the corporation or the leadership.  This would have to embrace all the current strengths of performance coaching, but add the more personal aspects of seeing the corporation and its leaders as being part of a broader social context.

I believe in “Organisational Ecology” – that organisations who don’t understand their role within the context in which they do business are missing untold numbers of opportunities for developing a vital and sustainable business.  The same must be said of leaders.  Leaders operate from a context – their private and social lives may be invisibly connected to their working lives, but the links are there nevertheless.  As a consultant or a coach of the future, I believe it would be wise for us to learn to listen to all the content shared with us – and not to shy away from matters that touch on emotional states, or personal issues.  Of course, we won’t have all the answers, and don’t need to.  The important steps are to listen fully, and understand the wider context.

The level of rapport that this fresh approach is building between me and my “clients” has injected fresh vitality into my business.  Now I am not just a coach but also a confidant – and often a friend.

CMYK Thinking…

…well, almost.  This blog is about how to use four distinct colours to make sure your thinking is fully formed and robust.  This means that, even if you’re just in a meeting with yourself, you can have four, highly-intelligent, thinking counsellors helping you come up with a workable, practical plan to move you forwards towards your goals.

I’ve chosen this title to catch your attention and because anyone with an inkjet printer or an understanding of colour printing will know that we need at least Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (the technical term for Black) to create a full colour process that represents the visual world in all its richness.  If any one colour is missing, the results are bleached out and bland.  They fail to capture the imagination of the observer.  They are unlikely to inspire action.

In a similar way, we need at least four thinking styles to represent in the rich inner world of thought in all its variety.  In practice, using a Yellow ink to represent a style of thinking would be indistinct, which is why I use commonly available Black, Blue, Red and Green inks in my ThINKpen® process.  (Computer users will be familiar with the RGB abbreviation – but this misses true black.)  You’ll be able to buy a four-colour pen with these specific inks in any good stationery store and then you’ll be ready to change the world from the back of a napkin!

The process celebrates four distinct yet complementary thinking styles:

  • The Analytical Thinking Style
  • The Action-focused Thinking Style
  • The Ecological, holistic Thinking Style
  • The Creative and expansive Thinking Style.

To represent these, I use the following colours:

  • The factual “black-and-white” thinking style of the Analyst is represented by the Black think.  Think “Black Box” data-focused thinking.
  • The task-orientated, directive and urgent action-focus is represented by the Red think.  Think of the Red often used on action-focused road signs – and the red urgency of a fire engine.
  • The ecological, consequence and people focus is represented by the Green think.  Just think of the usual link of green to ecology.  This offers us balance and the long-term perspective.
  • The imagination and expansive thinking that lifts our thoughts is represented by the Blue think.  Just think of “Blue Sky” thinking – possibility thinking.

As “wielder of the pen” you become the chairperson in your Board of Thinkers – overseer of your own personal Think-Tank.  This means you can become your own strategic consultancy, or Ad agency, or trouble-shooting executive team.

The order of the inks will differ from task to task, but the need to use all four inks will remain as a guarantee of full-spectrum thinking – the assurance of a full-colour print out of your vision.

The roles are clear.  When you use the Black think, you gather only facts and data.  It’s as plain as seeing the situation in black and white.  There’s no emotion here – you’re the scientist, the analyst, the architect.  Facts not fantasy.

When you use the Red think, you are focused on outcomes, action steps, commitments.  When we write with red we answer questions such as, “What is the purpose of this meeting?” “Why are we doing this?” and later in the meeting, “What steps do we need to take to achieve our outcome?”  “Who is responsible for each step?”  “When will each step be achieved by?”

The Green think takes a step back to get a broader perspective.  When we commit green pen to paper we are answering questions such as, “What will be the consequences of this course of action?”  “What will be the human cost?”  “If we say ‘Yes’ to this plan, what will we necessarily have to say ‘No’ to?”  “How aligned is this proposed plan with our values and beliefs?”  “How does our plan make a contribution to the World or our community?”  “How will this process inspire our people and garner their commitment?”  “Why would people say ‘Yes!’ to our ideas?”

The Blue think generates the ‘Blue Sky’ thinking of ideas, options, alternatives, hypotheses.  Where the Black think may outline risks, costs and ‘realities’, the Blue think sketches out possibilities.

Thus, if you were to simply use this four think process, you could stimulate your own mind to take into account the facts, the opportunities, the consequences, and the realistic actions of any topic you focused on… all with one pen!

I bet you can’t wait to put pen to paper!

Living Organisations® Interview Questions

Eden is a Living Organisation

The Need for Living Organisations

Since the vast majority of us give the best years of our productivity and the most productive hours of the day to our organisations, it is vital, imperative even, that we create organisations that are a joy to work for.  These organisations need to be vibrant, life-affirming, energising, exciting to work for – in other words, they need to be “Living Organisations”.

Our organisations are not separate from the world in which they conduct business.  They are vitally connected in a web of life.  In fact to see themselves as separate is to invite self-destruction.  Instead, they have a part to play in the ecology of commerce and of Civilisation as a whole.  It therefore makes sense to mimic the models that already work in Nature.  The most fundamental of these models embraces the seven characteristics that define every organism that may be said to be alive: Movement, Nutrition, Reproduction, Excretion, Growth, Respiration, and Sensitivity.

The Questions

I am beginning to seek interviews with people who are the “voice” of their particular Living Organisation.  The interviews are straight-forward, and need to use the same questions in each interview.  To help you gather your thoughts, here are the questions.  If you are proud of the vitality of your organisation, and would be happy to be interviewed, I’d love to hear from you.

Movement

•    What are you moving towards as an organisation?
•    What, if anything, are you moving away from?
•    How do you know when you are moving in the right direction?

Nutrition

•    What energises you as an organisation?
•    What does your organisation ‘feed’ on?
•    What does your organisation value most highly?

Reproduction

•    How are you seeking to spread your message?  (or products or services)
•    How do you replicate your best practices?
•    How do you ensure the organisation’s talent is replicated and passed on?

Excretion

•    How do you deal with set-backs as an organisation?
•    How to you learn from your mistakes as an organisation?
•    How do you recycle?
•    How do you reduce waste?

Growth

•    In which ways are the organisation growing, expanding, or going deeper?
•    How do you define ‘growth’ for your organisation?

Respiration

•    How do you enter into an exchange with your community – the environment in which you live and move and have your being?
•    What do you give?
•    What do you receive in return?

Sensitivity

•    How do you sense what is going on in the Market?
•    How do you stay aware of what’s going on inside your organisation?
•    How do you keep track of opportunities or even threats in your environment?
•    How do you use information you gather?

The Ambassador

The Ambassador

And the Embassy that Celebrated Customers

I love to write. I love people. I love ideas… but more on these three strands in a minute.

The Customer Evangelists: St Jan and St Darren

Jan Walsh (BT) and Darren Cornish (E.ON) are two senior executives whom I have found to describe themselves as “Customer Evangelists”.  I think this is a great way to send a message about how important the customer is to an organisation.  Vast sums are invested nowadays on Social Media and PR to promote the ‘goodness’ of the organisation to the customers we want to keep and to the ones we want to ‘convert’.  In fact ‘evangelist’ comes from ‘evangel’ – which means ‘good news’.  St Jan and St Darren have good news for their customers – their organisations care and have good news to share.

From Evangelists to Ambassadors

A more frequent description is of our colleagues as ‘Ambassadors’ for the brand.  This sounds magnificent – even ‘Stately’, and adds great dignity to the rôles of Customer-facing staff.  (N.B. I think we are all ambassadors, regardless of whether or not our rôle is internally or externally facing.  We all represent the brand and we want the internal ‘customer’ to be proud of it too. There must be utter congruence throughout the inside and outside of the company – a congruent continuum!)

The idea of the Ambassador inspired me, early this Sunday morning.  You cannot have an Ambassador without an Embassy!  And what is an ‘Embassy’?  An Embassy is a permanent diplomatic mission, but to whom?  I believe each organisation has an important diplomatic mission to the nations of customers!

Through PR and some Social Media, most of this mission is outgoing, like evangelism, but many organisations are missing an absolute goldmine of opportunity.

The Customers who want to give

When we open our eyes, ears, and hearts, we find that there are a lot of customers who want to give freely back to the organisation.  People are naturally creative.  The output of this natural creativity is ideas.  People also love to share.  It gives a giver great pleasure to share a gift that is well received.  Ideas need to go somewhere!

Thus we come to the flow of ideas that often pour into organisations.  Eventually, most of these ideas are responded to – usually as a secondary part of someone’s role – and usually it takes far too long.  Too often, in my experience, there is no response!  I believe this is a grave mistake.

The Embassy that Celebrated Customers!

This is where the Ambassador’s role comes to the fore.  I would laud and applaud any organisation that set up an Embassy to the United Nations of Customers – an Embassy whose main diplomatic mission was to respond to those customers.  It would be “The Embassy that Celebrated Customers!”

The rôle would be straight-forward and the impact would be enormous.

The Ambassador would have an appropriately senior position, and their mission would be to respond rapidly and personally to each and every customer idea.  (I’m not talking about ‘Customer Services’ dealing with complaints – that’s another valuable opportunity for another blog.  This one is purely about positive ideas and contributions given freely to the organisation.)

Every idea and contribution (e.g. photographs) would be acknowledge and responded to – and understanding of the ideas reflected back accurately – not just with a generic idea or form letter.  If I was the Ambassador, my responses would be sent in a personalised greetings card, and signed.  Why would I take such trouble?  I would make such an effort because the customer has made a pilgrimage.  It takes a lot of energy for a customer to have an idea, articulate that idea, and then send that idea in.  That’s a lot of effort.  It’s a personal effort that deserves, even ‘demands’ a personal response.  Good organisations go the extra mile – so I think anything that shows ‘the personal touch’ is a great way to match and then exceed customers’ expectations.  This builds brand loyalty and personal commitment far more powerfully than Facebook competitions!

I’m sure you can see how this is easily a full-time rôle, even for a small organisation.  How would it pay for itself?  Clearly, not all customers’ ideas are practical or actionable, but their loyalty is worth its weight in gold.  For those ideas that are practical, an opportunity arises for the organisation to improve its performance and its credibility.  By nurturing such customers, an organisation can even create devotion – becoming a ‘Love Brand’.  I promise you that the vast majority of customers do not require any more reward for their contributions than the recognition of acting on their idea or publishing their photograph (and thus publically acknowledging it).  I personally see no loss in also thanking the customer with products or services as a token of appreciation.  This is low cost to the organisation, and high value to the customer.

The alternative is quite sad.  I love to share.  I have shared hundreds of ideas with organisations – free of any strings attached or hidden agendas – over the years.  Many of those organisations haven’t even bothered to respond.  The logical result is that I’ve stopped the flow of ideas to that organisation, and, wherever possible, shopped elsewhere!  These very same organisations continue to send me emails and newsletters and catalogues, saying how wonderful they are, and how focused they are on customer satisfaction.  Yeah, right…  Which customer?  Clearly not me!

The rôle of the ‘Ambassador to the Customers’ is a central rôle for PR.  After all, isn’t PR all about ‘Public Relations’?  The Ambassador’s rôle is to meet and connect.  This is why I said at the start of this blog that I love to write, I love people, I love ideas.  These are the Ambassador’s core skills.  An Ambassador must be articulate in their response to each and every message from customers.  They must love people, otherwise another message will leak through their prose.  Also, the Ambassador must be a Creative – someone who can take an idea and really work it until it is proven valuable or becomes a stepping stone to a better idea.

An Ambassador is a Diplomat – and thus must be diplomatic!

Diplomatic Tennis

An Ambassador must also play diplomatic tennis.  By this I mean that a good game of tennis involves rallies – a back and forth – just as does a great conversation that builds rapport.  I can say, hand on heart, that even the organisations that have responded to me in the past, have cut the rally off with their response.  The door was not left open for partnership in developing the idea.  Again, I can only authoritatively speak for myself, but I would have happily developed most of my ideas for free – just for the satisfaction of being creative and being acknowledged.  (To the cynics who might be thinking, “I bet his ideas are rubbish then!” I would say that some of the organisations I have shared with have used those ideas without acknowledgement – at least proving the worth of the ideas.)

The rôle of the Ambassador would therefore include promoting a rally – a back and forth of exchanges to engage our brilliant customers into partnership with the organisation.  This builds rapport.  Outstanding customers could then be given a visa to join us!

Of course, this is what many organisations are trying to promote with Social Media – and I see Social Media as an important set of diplomatic channels for the Ambassador.  My chief point today, however, is to harness the ideas and contributions that come from customers and are freely volunteered.  The customers that share these ideas, if treated with respect, become ambassadors themselves – absolutely the best (and most economically sustainable) form of PR any organisation could wish for.

The bottom line is that many of your customers know your business better than you do, and they certainly know their own minds better than you do.  We must listen, and respond rapidly, and become the Embassy that Celebrated Customers, if we are to harness this power for good.

Signed

Lex

An Ambassador in search of a new Diplomatic Posting!

Afterthought

If you drive a company vehicle that broadcasts the brand, don’t drive the company van like a devil!