Aloof as a rare butterfly but with the venom of a poisonous snake, culture is the one thing that can make or break any organisation or project. Understanding and developing culture is one of the most complex tasks you’ll ever face as a manager. And as for changing culture, well that is without a doubt the holy grail of management. In fact, over 70% of change initiatives fail and lack of cultural alignment is the no. 1 reason why mergers and acquisitions don’t deliver their intended value.
I was recently asked by Huffington Post to reflect on Unleash’s 2nd year and what it really means to be an entrepreneur…
Approximately 6 in 10 new ventures fail before the first year, and only 1 in 10 become truly successful. If we look at product innovation, the number is even worse: 80% of launched new products fail. The biggest reasons for entrepreneurial failure isn’t a poor business idea, but our inability to adapt and evolve, and have the drive to follow through. Some entrepreneurs are too ‘in love’ with their idea or technology, and contrary to popular belief, ideas are not opportunities.
I was recently asked to explain what a corporate entrepreneur, otherwise known as an intrapreneur, is. As a 4 x entrepreneur, there are few things that annoy me more than employee mentality – the opposite of thinking and acting like an entrepreneur – so I was more than happy to assist.
Management is in need of a revolution. And not just one on glossy academic paper, but one that actually changes how organisations think and act. Despite the inspirational stories we read about companies like Zappos, Innocent Drinks and Google, the truth is that most of us are using out-dated management practices and failing to get the most out of our people. Not convinced? Consider this: 65% of people are unhappy at work, only 14% understand their company’s strategy, and 75% are seeking jobs as we speak.
At best, leadership development is a fun day out, at worst it is a gut wrenching, annoying exercise that leaves you cringing as someone teaches you to suck eggs. In neither case does it make you into a leader. Harsh? Perhaps, but that’s how most managers and executives I work with see it…. and in the majority of cases, I agree.
I’ve never been much of a feminist. In fact, I’ve often shunned women’s events with the attitude of “Want to be a success? Then stop moaning and do something about it!” However with the recent re-emergence of women’s issues in the media and the flurry of discussions that have ensued, I too have found myself thinking about it.
First, let’s look at some facts. The proportion of women in the workplace increased from 29% in 1950 to 47% in 2011. Women are receiving more education and entering the workforce at a faster pace than ever before. In fact, women out-perform men at most universities. 63.9% of women graduates obtain a first or upper second degree compared with 59.9% of men.
But when we look at top management and boards, the picture looks very different. In the UK, women account for only 17% of FTSE board positions. In the US the number is 16%. In politics the picture is not much better. The UK Parliament has 22% women and the US Congress only 17% women.
When I came across Paul Hawken’s ‘The Ecology of Commerce’ 10 years ago, it inspired the socialist and capitalist in me to commence a long overdue dialogue. Since then I have been on a quest to better understand how to build sustainable businesses. To me, sustainability is both about making a positive contribution to society and creating a business that is viable and growing for years to come. In short, doing well by doing good.
One of the problems is that many of us are still using out-dated management practices that were conceived decades ago. Opportunities and challenges now cross geographical, cultural and functional boundaries, and changes occur in our industry, marketplace and society faster than ever before. Yet here we are writing strategic planning documents, meeting minutes and SOPs that no one will ever read … and wasting away in meetings that drag on for hours and are less innovative than what I had for supper last night.
It’s time to rethink management. Today’s leaders face increased complexity and ambiguity, and employees and customers alike are demanding engagement, transparency and responsibility. 1 billion people are now on Facebook, and 500 million Tweets get sent everyday. Customers don’t want to be sold to. They want to connect with your brand and play a role in the development, sales and marketing of your products. If we ever thought we had ‘control’, it’s definitely gone now.
Being shortlisted for The Women of the Future Awards this year means so much to me and Unleash. A big thank you to Shell and Real Business for recognising our attempt at making a dent in the universe.
When my co-founders Corrina Kane, Robert Thong and I set out to create Unleash, we wanted to do more than just start ‘a company’, or even worse ‘a consulting firm’. Our objectives were simple: 1. Do well by doing good and 2. Create a business and brand that will live and grow long after we’re gone. We were passionate about it to say the least. A lot of consultants preach about employee engagement, innovation and strategy to their clients, but are pretty useless at doing it in their own companies. With the launch of Unleash, we were determined to practice what we preach and develop the poster child for the sort of living strategy organisation we help our clients create.
So, what have I learned so far? It’s hard; takes constant focus and effort in everything you do, and you need to make some compromises. But when it works, it’s nothing short of magic.
There’s a lot of talk these days about collective intelligence and co-creation, but how many of us really do this well?
As defined by Trudy and Peter Johnson-Lenz in 1980, “Collective Intelligence can be additive (each part together forms the whole) or it can be synergetic, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Fast forward to 2010, and two studies at MIT revealed some interesting results. The social sensitivity of the group was a driving factor in how well the group performed. In other words, the ability of the group to perceive each others’ emotions and take turns and apply their skills to a given challenge resulted in 30-40% better results.
Examples of the power of collective intelligence and co-creation abound. Linux, Wikipedia and Jigsaw are all based on the concept that together we can create better insight, solutions, products and services than we can alone. In crowdsourcing, collective intelligence merges with outsourcing, and a task or problem is outsourced to an undefined public. But in many of these examples and in our own organisations, most of us are practicing additive co-creation, not synergetic. Or worse … no co-creation at all.
The Summer Olympic Games: London 2012 is upon us. Every day for two weeks, 55,000 athletes, officials, organisers and 800,000 live spectators will bring the pain, glory and triumph of the world’s largest sporting event to 4 billion people worldwide.
The Games got us thinking about the role of coaches in helping athletes succeed and what we can learn from them. In organisational settings, managers play a similar role in encouraging their corporate athletes to “go for gold.” Hiring natural talent is a good start, but, as Margaret Butteris noted in ‘Coaching Corporate MVP’s’ (2008), “to truly shine, even the most gifted person needs an equally talented coach”, and as John Buchan once said “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there”.