Thursday, September 23, 2010


I was privileged to listen to a superb talk on innovation by Mark Wynne, Managing Director of Kimberly-Clark Australia. Some of the key points he made are very useful to organisations looking to develop a strong culture of innovation.
Some of the ideas that Mark put forward:

1. It is not innovation unless something changes that creates value. Innovation is not the same as a good idea that goes nowhere.
2. Innovation can be risky and expensive but without it, our businesses go nowhere. The more fun we have innovating, the more people enjoy working in that environment.
We cannot stay ahead without innovation.
3. Innovation is hard and the problem starts at the top! We can't always predict the future very well but companies love predictability and streamlining. Innovation is often risky and established firms have more to lose than 'cheeky start-ups'.
We often don't like to try things we have not tried before and we go back to assumed paradigms. This is often what happens in companies and silos begin to grow and everyone begins to accept the status quo.
4. So, how do we go about breaking down these barriers to look outward?
Firstly look at your staff. How do you ensure that they look for incremental improvements and also breakthroughs? Mark suggests that we need innovation champions who are prepared to overcome the obstacles faced by those seeking to innovate. The champions' role is to connect the right people and to ensure that there are the opportunities for marketing and technology to collide.
5. Train staff in creative thinking techniques so that everyone opens their mind to different ways of doing things. Have innovation as a standard agenda item at meetings. You don't need consultants to achieve this. Your 'in-sultants' need to have an environment where it is safe to speak out and say what you see as going wrong, with no consequences.
So, are you constantly energising the innovation process? Are you ensuring that all knowledge and information is being socialised so that it is not retained in silos that are hoping to hold power? Are you allowing for failure? Do you have an ideas bank where each suggestion receives an answer? Do you 'steal' ideas from everywhere and do you have a rewards program that recognises innovation?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Andrew Forrest, CEO Fortescue Metals

I listened to a very powerful interview over lunch today with Andrew Forrest, CEO of Fortescue Metals.
Some of the highlights of what he said:
1. As a CEO, the most important things for him are to firstly have fun and secondly to be useful. He feels very fortunate that he can achieve this in his work and in his promotion of Aboriginal employment schemes.
2. His kids will not be inheriting his wealth. He will obviously give them a house and car as we would normally do - but he is not going to give them great wealth. He wants them to grow up normally and be treated by others normally.
3. He has great passion when he talks about the importance of having a vision and an end in mind. Once you have that, you bring in the right people at the beginning and suddenly something that looks so remote has a strategy. And then that strategy has the possibility of being realised.
4. One of Australia's great advantages is that deals can be done on a handshake.
5. If we want the broadband to work, we need a proper costing analysis to be done. In any event, he believes that wireless is the way to go.
6. He is prepared to pay a resources tax but not in a way that disadvantages the sector. We need to go back to good old-fashioned transparency...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The master of motivation - Anthony Robbins

Anthony Robbins, the king of motivation, deserves every cent he earns - and he sure earns a lot of cents! He ran his session for 4 and a half hours without taking a break and had an energy level going in the 7000 participant audience as though they were at a rock concert or sports event. He just knows how to package it all together and how to send out some key messages.
This is some of what he had to say:
He says that we should start off by taking a good hard look at ourselves. We must see things as they are. Not worse or better than they are.
We need to learn how to anticipate. We cannot remain in reactive mode as this is disempowering. We cannot look to make excuses or to blame others and we also have to accept that we cannot change the past. We can't blame lack of money, lack of resources, or lack of time.
It is our mindset that holds the key to success.
We also need a vision for ourselves. If we don't have a roadmap we live passively.
Our physiology dictates our psychology. When Anthony was coaching Agassi he asked him to watch a video of how differently he walked on to the court when he won games as compared with when he lost games. There was a huge difference in his whole way of walking and his body language.
Decide what you need to focus on. Focus on what is in your sphere of control.
Don't take anyone or anything for granted. Go against the law of familiarity.
Life does not just show up. Control the way in which you make decisions. Only make decisions when you are in 'the state'. Be totally conscious and aware of your state - are you feeling mentally alert and positive when you make these decisions? Where is your level of energy? Learn how to maximise your energy. Think about how you walk and how you move. Think of the way in which you breathe and of the way in which you use your face and your voice. Emotion is created through motion. You need to be in a peak state and not a weak state.
Only then can you give of your best and move to the next level.
Train yourself to say 'YES'. Keep practising this skill.
The key to happiness is ensuring that the blueprint that you have for yourself does in fact match your key expectations. Having the right blueprint will ensure that you remain in control and you take away the feelings of helplessness and despair. Don't be frozen in time with an out of date blueprint.
Think of Apple where the blueprint changed and where computer sales are now only 14% of the total business. Things can be re-wired.
Don't focus on what you don't want. Where focus goes, energy flows. Don't look at yourself and say I want to lose 30 kilos. Say instead, I want to be strong and walk past a mirror and be proud of myself.
The secret to living is giving and when we think we have done enough, we need to do more!!
Go Tony Robbins....

Ethics for leaders

I listened to a great presentation this month by Dr Simon Longstaff from St James Ethics Centre. His key question to the group was - how many times have we encountered people who look one way and then go another way.
He said that whenever we see hypocrisy it has a terrible impact. As children we remember that deep-seated disappointment when we realised that someone was being hypocritical. And if we see this behaviour in business, we adopt the attitude of, 'well if they don't do it and believe it, why should I? So I might as well look after myself.'
This is where so much cynicism arises irrespective of culture and there are therefore huge benefits for leaders to act in an ethical way. The link between strong ethics and good business has been proven through research to be a very strong link indeed.
Books such as Jim Collins's 'Built to Last' show through extensive research that organisations that endure have high levels of trust. And where you have high levels of trust, you also have low levels of cost.
In organisations where every ounce of energy is used to maintain systems and processes to keep people constrained, the central concern of the organisation becomes regulation. On the other hand, smart organisations evolve and are bound together through values and principles.
Consistent leaders are also essential to the mix because if you lose moral authority, you lose the war. Instead of investing in the control systems, money is far better spent on investment in leadership development.
Simon gave the example that even in the military, leaders are looking to make ethical decisions. Leadership by its very nature is an ethical practice.
It is the leaders role to articulate the vision and the values and principles of the organisation. We need to be aware of what we are rewarding and recognising in our teams because the message that this sends out is so vitally important. We can do things unthinkingly that are just done because that is how they have always been done. But it is the leaders' role to subvert existing practice and to have the moral courage to change what needs to be changed!