Thursday, 28 October 2010

HR Innovation on Jon Ingham's Blog

A nice piece on Jon Ingham's excellent blog on the Roffey Park HR and Innovation Conference. Thanks Jon!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Are you sitting comfortably? How Leaders Use Storytelling to Drive Business Success

The book - a - let, as I am calling it, is ready. Who wants a copy?

Email me at

Social Media Training

As if I am not Twitter enough I have signed up for a day of Social Media Training - I really want to help companies make more of Social Media. c4sevendays re-tweeting me madly!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Zappos All Hands Meeting

I am a huge fan of Zappos and hope to visit them shortly to find out all about their culture and customer service ethic for myself, first hand.

In the meantime, I have signed up for the Zappos All Hands Meeting Live Webcast

If you want to know how to drive a service business thought culture, why not sign up now?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Golden Tweets

I am trying to win a Golden Tweet Award - please click the link and vote for The Innovation Beehive!

Buzz Buzz Buzz

Only two days to go

Final preparations are under way for our Innovation and HR event with Roffey Park on Friday. Last minute slides, speaker briefings and delegate handouts. Can't wait

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Learning Social Media and Learning from Bees

I had a great training session last night at The Museum of Brands ( all about how to use Social Media. It was run by Educated Change ( Check out their website for a nice piece on how Bees are coping with change and a little video from Davos on the process of idea generation

Monday, 4 October 2010

Chapter Six - The Future of Storytelling

Chapter Six

The Future of Storytelling

“The history book on the shelf, is always repeating itself”

Waterloo, ABBA

Who would have imagined, five years ago, that we would all become Storytellers? For I believe that is what we now all are.

The worldwide success of Facebook has turned us all into Storytellers – relating the tales of our lives is cyberspace for all who care to read.

And the phenomenal growth of Twitter means we can relate a tale to our followers instantly in 140 characters or less.

One thing is for sure, throughout the centuries, stories on cave walls have taught us to fish and hunt, in the Bible they have given us the promise of eternal life and from our parents they have taught us how to grow up to be productive members of society. Brands have got in on the act, with everyone from Maxwell House in the 80’s to British Telecom and the on-going soap opera that is Adam and Jane.

IDEO recently suggested that, as we progress further into the digital age, the publication of books will be very different. They will appear increasingly on line, giving the user the ability to add comments and build the story.

Channel Four’s show ‘Seven Days’ has broken new ground in Reality TV. It charts the lives of twelve of Notting Hill’s most interesting characters over their last week and the choices they make – the story they tell – is influenced by the viewer via Twitter and the specially develop ChatNav programme. Comments are relayed on-line in real time and the show’s characters get to interact and respond with the viewer. And change their individual storyline in response to viewer feedback.

The age of collaboration is upon us.

I believe that the role of the Storyteller will change. Their role will be one of a Catalyst and Provocateur – to start the debate rather than deliver a complete narrative. Through the use of technology, the receiver will no longer be passive, but will become actively involved in shaping the story, in making it relevant in their personal setting and ensuring that the story continues to be told in many different formats to many different people many miles removed from the original source.

Innovation and HR Conference

Just to remind you that the fantastic HR and Innovation event Masterclass takes place on Oct 15th in Roffey Park.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Chapter Five - a business book in seven Days

Chapter Five

Telling Stories to create a Culture

“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game
Lou Gerstner

When we dream alone it’s just a dream, but when we dream together it’s the beginning of a new reality”
Brazilian proverb

Ever since our ancestors sat around fires in caves, human beings have felt the need to be part of something. Remember your group of mates at school? Remember the sense of security you had, mixing with kids who had the same interests as you?

Well, organisations are a bit like groups of mates or tribes of Neanderthal man around a campfire – only with suits and laptops. The same fundamental thread runs thought all these groups – a need to form itself in a collective group, with a shared sense of identity; and that identity is consolidated and developed through its C ulture.

Much as been written about what culture is and I am not going to try and re-define it here . The best definition of culture I have read is from Honey and Mumford who describe is quite simply as “the way things get done around here”. It is the living incarnation of all the organisation’s policies and procedures, the way its people interact with each other and their customers, and how it demonstrates it Values.

And successful organisations use Storytelling to give their culture rocket fuel.

The Disney Corporation is the master of Storytelling. When I went to study at The Disney Institute in Florida, my trainer, Gwen Burch, told me a story:

“ I have an eight year old niece called Olivia and she thinks I am really cool because I work with Cinderella. Can you imagine how much kudos she gets in the schoolyard by telling her friends that I hang out with her?

I decided that I was going to give Olivia a special gift for her birthday. I would take her to Walt Disney World and introduce her to her idol, and my co-worker, Cinderella.

So she came down tot the property and we had a wonderful day playing on all the attractions. But the best was yet to come.

I had found out where Cinderella was going to be at 4.30 and at 4.25 we were to be found casually strolling up Main Street on our way to the rendezvous.

Suddenly, Olivia’s little hand had slipped out of mine and she was racing up Main Street. She had spotted the fairytale Princess!

And off in the distance, with her back to us, I could see a figure in a beautiful blue ball gown, with long flowing hair.

Olivia rushed up to Cinderella and tugged on her gown shouting ‘Cinderella, Cinderella, it’s me – Olivia’

Cinderella turned around.

In one hand she held a cigarette. In the other a cup of Starbucks coffee.

‘OK kid. I see you. I’m on a break. Give me five minutes and I’ll be back’

Olivia crumpled and began to cry”

I can imagine what you are thinking now. When I heard this story I was truly shocked and remembered the heroes and heroines of my childhood. How awful would it have been to be disillusioned like that? And shame on Disney for allowing it.

Well, we can all calm down.

It isn’t true.

Gwen was using a story to illustrate a very important Disney policy – “Always stay in character’.

When you go to induction at a new job, you hear hundreds of rule and regulations. You many even be given a handbook of do’s and don’ts. Disney recognises this and brings their policies to life through Storytelling.

With the potential to mentally scar 8 year old visitors from all over the world, through Storytelling, Disney has created a magical culture where ‘cast members” go “on stage”. They know they are playing a part and they know what is expected of them. It is a culture of “magic” and each employee has a crucial part to play in it.

Another attribute of the Disney culture is great Teamwork- they call it “All in this Together”.

Another story illustrates how, if all employees come together, they can achieve great things. And all employees means, in times of need, whatever your status is in the organisation, you are expected to pull together.

To keep delighting their customers and keep one step ahead of the competition, Disney is constantly opening new attractions and new guest accommodation. These openings are well-oiled machines, but sometimes things can go wrong.

Gwen told us that a new guest accomodation was about to open, but due to supplier complications, the day before arrived and things just weren’t ready.

Every spare person was drafted on site; to make up beds, hang pictures and wash floors. But there was one big job left to do – to lay the lawn at the front of the hotel.

A whole team of Disney employees, many of whom should have left for home hours ago, were taking pre-grown tuft off delivery trucks and laying it out at the front of the hotel.

And then there came a visit from Management.

One particular Senior Manager worked in the Marketing function and began questioning the busy cast members about time plans and asking how they got in this awful mess.

He went up to one employee and began his conversation, but the employee was busy laying turf and knew he only had about two hours left to get it all done.

After politely trying to answer the Marketing Manager’s questions, he continued to lay turf. And the Marketing Manager continued to ask questions.

‘You know” said the temporary turf layer “you could help us out here and work with me to lay the lawn”

To which the Senior Manager replied, “I’m sorry I can’t help you. I work in Marketing and have no experience of turf laying”

That was enough for the junior member of staff. He took a piece of turf off a lorry, threw it to the floor and stamped it into place with his foot

“Green side up. Now get on with it”

I don’t know if this story it true, or if Gwen was again using a tale for illustrative purposes, but they more the tale is told the more it confirms the Disney culture of Teamwork. That they are all in it together and, only by coming together in times of need, regardless of status or job role, will they continue to create magic for the children of the world.

I have also been fortunate enough to spend time studying the Ritz Carlton Hotel Group. Their Vision is “Ladies and Gentlemen, Serving Ladies and Gentlemen”. This makes it stand out in the world of hospitality as it puts respect for the individual at the core of its business. It also places the customer at the heart of what they do.

Every day, before every shift, The Ritz Carlton has “The Daily Line Up”. This happens in all departments, all over the world, regardless if you work in housekeeping or human resources. A different member of the team runs it each day and hierarchy has no place to play in who chairs the meeting. And Storytelling is at the heart of the Line Up.

Each day, team members tell real stories of customer service experience and there then follows a group discussion on how it relates to one of their service principles. Each day, a service principle is re-enforced and brought to life by the telling of tales.

And the service experience at The Ritz Carlton is outstanding. This is in part due to the fact that the Ladies and Gentlemen are empowered to spend up to $2000, without management permission, to put something right for a guest.

Sometimes the stories are big and emotional – how the quick thinking of a staff member saved someone’s wedding day; and sometimes they are small gestures, but equally as impactful.

On one visit, I heard a story that has stuck with me for years.

We’ve all seen the little pieces of chocolate, left on the guest’s pillow at night. One housekeeper noticed that the guest in the room she was servicing, was throwing the chocolates in the waste paper basket. Also contained in the waste paper basket were Snickers wrappers. It wasn’t that the guest didn’t eat chocolate – she just didn’t like the ones being placed on her pillow.

So, knowing that delighting guests was at the heart of The Ritz Carlton’s culture, and armed with her $2000, the housekeeper went out to Seven Eleven and bought a bag on mini Snickers. Each night, she would place a mini Snicker on the guest’s pillow, and every morning there would be a wrapper in the bin.

Yes, it’s a small thing and probably only cost a few dollars, but can you imagine the impact on the guest? No manual or policy book is going to tell you substitute one chocolate for another, but through Storytelling at The Daily Line Up and the empowerment of the $2000, the housekeeper created a tailor made experience for the guest, that encouraged huge loyalty to Ritz Carlton. And I bet they got a load of free advertising as the guest probably told everyone she knew about the Snicker bar on the pillow.

If Culture is the way an organisation works, then it can be encouraged, enforced and enabled by Storytelling. By bringing polices and work practices to life, you can create an engaged community of employees, who are able to think for themselves and delight their customers.

So my advice to you is when you have your next meeting, instead of talking about policy, ask yourself – what story will I tell?