Thursday, 25 March 2010

Zappos does it again

We just love the new advertising campaign from Zappos - it has taken real customer phone calls and "acted them out" with puppets. Hard to explain, but worth a look.

and if you want to see how they got all the staff excited about the new campaign, check out the employee launch party

and if you haven't yet checked out this amazing company, "powered by service", have a look at

Monday, 15 March 2010

Management Wonderland

Tonight I went to see Alice In Wonderland, the new Tim Burton film. Just wonderful and I recommend you all go out and see it - especially if you can catch it in 3D.

Being the Leadership Development geek I am, I was struck tonight by a few parallels between "underland" and Leadership. So if you would like to follow me down the rabbit hole...

1)You must keep believing you can do what others think is impossible. Alice regularly thinks of "six impossible things before breakfast". And, how about a Dodo anyone?
2) Be persistent - if your first go doesn't work, try something else. Alice follows the "Drink Me" bottle's label and then has to try the "Eat Me" cake. Only then does she get the key to the tiny door. Second time lucky, whilst learning from the first attempt.
3) Stay true to what you believe in. The White Queen could probably do away with her sister, but to do so would break her vows - something she is not prepared to do.
4)Change happens all the time. Don't be afraid of it - the caterpillar welcomes his cocoon and in doing so eventually becomes a beautiful butterfly
5) Don't expect to be the Champion on Day 1. Alice has to go through a number of experiences until she is able to defeat the Jabberwocky. The Mad Hatter knew she was always going to be the White Queen's Champion (despite the Dormouse's protestations) but she had to grow into the role.
6) Sometimes you need to get in bed with your enemies - the Bandersnatch originally tries to kill Alice, but eventually is one of her defenders.
7) Always have a few crazies on the team - not that surprising a piece of advice coming from The Innovation Beehive, but would Alice really have defeated The Red Queen if she had not been creatively inspired by the mad creative world of The Hatter and the March Hare?
8)The Red Queen may seem to have all the power in the world but she rules by fear and discovers it is not "better to be feared than loved". We don't want to get into a whole debate again about employee engagement (see the post In Response to The Sunday Times Best Place to Work) but you all know that this management style can only work in the short term (someone please call Downing Street).
9) Have a clear Vision of where you want to get to and communicate it clearly - my favourite part of the orginal Lewis Carol story (sadly left out of the Tim Burton film) is when Alice meets the Cheshire Cat and asks him which way she should go:

'that depends a good deal on where you want to get to' said the Cat
'I don't much care where' said Alice
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go' said the Cat

Oh and, by the way, the film is excellent!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Top Ten hints on how to be more creative at work

A lovely piece in Director Magazine from Kursty Groves

Design consultant Kursty Groves offers 10 tips to help you get creative at work

1. Limit your budget
Great creative spaces don't have to cost a fortune. Many exciting workplaces are modelled using reclaimed furniture and objects. People on a budget become more resourceful and inventive.

2. Give people freedom
Allow employees to create their own "home" at work. When workers are permitted to express themselves by displaying items that interest them, closer connections with colleagues are forged.

3. Collaborate
Generating a buzz is easier when colleagues have ample opportunities to bounce thoughts and ideas around.

4. Engineer collisions
Create more opportunities for staff to bump into each other throughout the day. An effective way to do this is to provide a free kitchen and use food as a lure.

5. Friendly competition
Set teams the challenge of decorating shared spaces. Pick a theme and choose areas where customers don't enter to lower any fear factor about getting it wrong.

6. Breathe life into dead spaces
Hallways are often overlooked as tools for communicating and generating excitement. Hang stimulating artwork, soon-to-be-released products, business updates or information about staff. And keep updating the exhibits to grab people's attention.

7. Writing on the wall
Shared thinking allows ideas to be developed and honed as they happen. So create plenty of opportunities for staff to scribble ideas on the walls for others to see. Transform entire surfaces into a canvas, and make sure there's an abundant supply of colourful marker pens or chalk.

8. Change the pace
The creative brain works best when it is fed a problem and then allowed to reflect. Create deliberate barriers in well-used paths or provide places to play games. Such techniques slow people down and gives them the space they need to think.

9. Design places to escape
Sometimes we need to get messy to create. But often, especially with "clean desk" policies, people don't feel free to test ideas. Provide hidden spaces where teams can experiment without fear of judgement.

10. Get away
Even the most inspired staff in innovative companies need to go offsite. Getting away from the hyper-connectivity of the wireless world is essential for ensuring a team achieves focus. But make sure that the venue is set up to challenge thinking.

I Wish I Worked There! A Look Inside the Most Creative Spaces in Business by Kursty Groves and Will Knight is published by Wiley, priced £39.99

Career Dreams can come true!

I remember when I was a student at Goldsmith's College. My mate Lines and I were sitting at Disco Delirium, the name for the Wednesday night bash at the Student Union Bar and we were contemplating running a pub together when we left college - "that way we would see each other all the time". Well, she now works in the City and I run an Innovation and Creativity consultancy, but if the new scheme from Punch Taverns had existed back then things might have been different.

Punch is offering new graduates the keys to failing pubs for a very low entry price of £5k. In total there will be 236 up for grabs. Thinking is that young keen and bright young things will be able to turn around the fortune of failing boozers. With massive graduate unemployment, huge student loans, and the Government's target of 50% of young people going to University, Britain's most indebted pub group may just be onto something.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

How to get ahead - take a nap?

Margaret Thatcher famously got by on four hours of it. Winston Churchill used to do it though out the day and sleep was called "the new sex" a few weeks ago by The Sunday Times. Well, if you ever feel the need for a little re-charge at the office, help is at hand with the MetroNap pod, where you are immersed into a world of darkness (controlled by a timer) and lulled to sleep by ambient music whilst being gently re-fuelled.

Check out

This is the kind of innovation we like...

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Talent Culture on Employee Engagement

We love this piece from Talent Culture on Employee Engagement.

If you want to check out Talent Culture's great blog you can find it on:\

Employee Engagement: What’s a Leader to Do?
By Charee Klimek

For quite some time now the employer/employee relationships have been deteriorating. But there are bright spots that have emerged from this dark recession. Employee engagement is starting to look different and leaders are beginning to understand that it’s no longer a warm and fuzzy, it’s an absolute necessity to catapult their business and drive results.

The reasons are obvious. Progressive leaders recognize that an engaged workforce leads to an engaged customer and that leads to increased profits and better business results.

The question is where to start and how to identify the drivers of employee engagement.

A new approach to employee engagement

Rather than devising employee engagement surveys that measure attitudes and opinions about the company, how about developing questions that reveal what sort of people thrive in your organization and what motivates them?

Experts like Octavius Black, founder and managing director of the Mind Gym, say viewing employee engagement from a customer-centric focus helps employers understand what drives and motivates employees and therefore, changes the way companies communicate with workers.

As companies begin to grasp the drivers and motivators of the employee base, internal communications strategies begin to look more like external marketing strategies. In many cases this will require increased collaboration between human resources, marketing and communications to develop in-depth qualitative and quantitative methods that tap into the hearts and minds of the employees. –LISTEN.

What can leaders do to help employees contribute to business success?

Close the trust gap.

If employees cannot or do not trust that company leaders will do what they say they will do, it’s difficult to get employees to engage in the business goals. And this is a two way street because employees have to believe that leadership trusts them to do their jobs.

How well managers communicate to employees determines the level of trust and integrity, which can pay huge dividends. Without trust, companies get what The Speed of Trust author, Stephen M. R. Covey, calls “The Trust Tax.” Companies pay when leaders don’t ‘walk the talk.’ –LEAD BY EXAMPLE.

To Brand is Not to advertise

Brand and culture play a big role in employee engagement. When it comes to the brand, many companies have long perceived it as a marketing or advertising campaign. Perhaps some of that misperception lies at the feet of advertising agencies that perpetuated that myth.

In reality, the brand culture of a company embodies the very essence of the organization. It speaks directly to the fundamental fabric of a company and must start on the inside with the employees before it comes to life externally. –KEEP IT REAL.

How does this tie to employee engagement?

When employees understand the brand behaviors, employees are more likely to make a commitment to living the brand behaviors and actually doing what is expected of them in their roles. –SHOW THEM HOW.

What are leaders doing to drive engagement in their companies?

Recognition and rewards have long been a short-term method implemented by companies to drive employee engagement. But for the most part, these have not proven to be effective because they failed to integrate the fundamental measures of performance and examples of ‘how’ to drive business success. Furthermore, they did not align employee behaviors to company strategies. –IT’S TIME TO GET RESULTS.

What are you doing within your organization to drive engagement and on brand behaviors?

A response to The Sunday Times Best Small Company to Work for 2010

Do you remember that Christmas Eve feeling when you were a kid? The anticipation and excitement of knowing what was going to come tomorrow? I can’t say it was quite as exhilarating as listening out for sleigh bells in the snow, but I did have a definite sense of anticipation last Saturday, knowing that The Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work for 2010 was to hit news stands the next day.

Up with the lark, off to the newsagents and, with coffee and croissant (and dog), the supplement was taken out and poured over (usually it’s Business, Property, Style and Review in that order).

What a let down.

Yes there are 55 new names here and a few interesting movements in ranking, but I am distinctly underwhelmed. Maybe it is a sign of 2009’s economic troubles but I didn’t really find much Innovation happening on the list. I did find some fun perks (hypnosis to lose weight anyone?) and some great investment in training and development - particularly of note is the peer coaching model at Fairbarin Private Bank and the financial investment made by Savile Group of £3000 per employee. Elsewhere, however, whilst sushi making may be a laugh, it does seem a bit gimmicky and over engineered.

I was also struck by how many consultancies there are in the top 100. Over 50 of the winners work in communications, HR or PR. Now I would not ever accuse them of using The Sunday Times for their own purposes, but there does seem to be an overcrowding of companies that don’t make anything and spend their time telling others how to make stuff or finding people who will do it for them (I know this is pot and kettle black stuff).

Employee Engagement is vital for Innovation – who is going to bother improving your offering if they don’t really want to be behind that till or answering that phone? And that is why this list is so important. It is a snap shot of engagement levels, and therefore potential to innovate, in the lifeblood of the UK economy – the SME.

At a CIPD conference last year I heard one HRD remark:

“I’ve spent a fortune on employee engagement programmes over the last few years. That’s all going to stop now. They are lucky to have a job”

This is exactly the kind of attitude that encourages presenteeism and celebrates an historic rate of low staff turnover. I would like to see her share price in 12 months time.

All that said, there are some great examples of Innovation in HR on this year’s list.

We love Peter Kelly, the founder of Best Place Winner, Softcat with his utopian dream of “just caring that people are happy”. The company is run like a democracy and people decide what team they want to work in.

Qedis has taken an Innovative approach to employee engagement and set up employee action groups. The use of language is interesting here – they call these groups “Families”. Lexicon also plays a part at Practicus Recruitment Consultancy where employee of the month is call a “player” and overall employee of the year is called “the player’s player”. Language can have such an influence on an organisation’s culture, I was glad to see this level of attention played to it.

Little mention was made of technology, but worthy of merit is Red Gate Software’s joint CEO Neil Davidson who is likened to Stephen Fry for his Twitter updates to staff. Also interesting is Bite Communications who encourages staff blogging and has live Twitter feeds on their website. Apart from that, the IT revolution seems to have passed most HR Departments by.

Perhaps it is telling that Savile Group, who specialise in providing support to those who have recently been made redundant, are the least stressed employees in this year’s survey. I am sure they saw profits rise in 2009.

With signs that the UK economy is in recovery I look forward to some real Innovations on next year’s list. Let’s hope, like my dreams of Santa Claus, I don’t end up disappointed.

Monday, 1 March 2010

MOK talking about Innovation

We are really pleased to confirm that MOK will be talking at the Exclusive Consult Breakfast in Manchester on 29th March. His subject? How to make an innovation culture live and breath.