Every quarter, or change of season, I reflect on things I’ve been noticing and ponder what they may mean. Here are some slow trends and emerging patterns I’ve been noticing, and my thoughts on what they might mean.
2500 people sign up for a “spirituality-based” marketing teleseminar at 8 p.m. on a Wed. night
Here’s more evidence that people are hungry for meaning and purpose in their professions and business. I saw that more than 2,500 people dialed in for a conference call about how to run a spirituality-driven business. Nothing about religion. But doing work that feeds your soul. Holy cow. This trend should send a signal to leaders in business: is it high time to step back and refresh and reframe your organization’s purpose so people see that it matters? And what they do matters to this purpose? I saw a recent study that showed a significant disconnect between executives saying that their company’s purpose was clear and employees saying that they had no idea of the company’s purpose.
John Seely Brown and John Hagel recently published a Change This Manifesto where they declared: “All too often those who are passionate about their work are frustrated with their employers and bosses. They are not satisfied. Far from it. They want to do more, but they feel held back.” Are you inadvertently holding your people back?
I’ve also talked with several corporate executives who think they should leave big companies and do something else. Maybe. But it might be that they just need to reset the context of their organizations and position to get recharged. We need great leaders and successful companies now more than ever.
World of Warcraft: teaching leadership and collaboration skills
Like many parents of teenagers I get crazy seeing how much time my son spends playing World of Warcraft. But over dinner with a bunch of teenagers, I started to see that this game may actually be a powerful way for people to learn collaboration and leadership skills. My son’s guild leader is a leader. In fact, he recently started footing the bill for Oovoo, a video conferencing and chat program, so that the guild members could work more closely together as a team. I listen in some nights and I hear these kids helping one another, with a shared purpose and genuine collaboration.
I believe that multi-player game applications have tremendous potential in the corporate world. Interestingly, the American Society of Training & Development recently wrote an article about the parallels between games and business team building — solving problems together, being presented with harder and harder challenges, getting recognition, etc. Worried about how to engage GenY, think games.
New questions: why does the world need your business now?
The people who are asking new questions — provocative but simple questions — are changing and realizing their goals faster. Every year when I go to the BIF innovation conference, I am stunned at the powerful questions that these innovators in business, science, education and the arts ask themselves and their organizations.
I was having lunch with author and psychologist Maria Sirois recently and we got to talking about a new non-profit being organized by a major university. “Why does the world need this organization now,” she asked. WOW. What a question. Recently I’ve been helping clients reclaim their purpose and passion by asking them the same question. “Why does the world need your business/product now?” “Why does your corporate especially need your organization now?” This question helps you make meaning — why you’re so relevant, why you matter.
Another question I recently heard that opens up thinking: “Are we giving ourselves titles that demand fearlessness and innovation?” If you had to put your senior vice president of marketing or director of sales title aside, what would call yourself? Mine would probably be chief possibility officer. John Seely Brown, former chief scientist at Xerox and visiting scholar at USC, calls himself “chief of confusion,” helping people to ask new questions.
Not for everyone: consultants rejoining corporations and agencies
Every day I see Tweets and blog posts about consultants leaving to join companies and agencies. It’s not really surprising. Running a consulting business, as I have for 15 years, isn’t for everyone. You have to be focused on helping your clients succeed. Period. It’s not about your big ideas or your “personal brand” (oh, puhleeze), but about passionately wanting to improve clients’ conditions. And, of course, it’s all about execution, hard work, discipline, deepening and developing relationships, and relentless follow through. Consulting is not for everyone. But for those of us who consciously or unconsciously practice servant leadership, it can be incredibly rewarding.
Where are the new ideas? What are we missing?
There’s a deep restlessness in business. People want fresh ideas — new ways to market, better ways to shorten sales cycles, ideas that attract and influence prospects. This restlessness is a good thing as it drives people to innovate. The downside I see is that the relationship between companies and their agencies (advertising, PR, digital) is not what it use to be. The trust and loytalty is tenuous, and the relationships are often short lived because companies say that they’re “just not getting new ideas.”
I’ve counseled many a client recently about NOT firing its agency. Especially for this reason. Instead I believe clients and agencies need to spend the time doing offsite ideation and relationship retreats at least once a year, facilitated by an independent party.
I also believe managers need to do this with their employees to recharge, uncover ideas,reset purpose, and address those burning question: What are we missing? What new ideas could make a difference to what we’re trying to achieve?
Pattern watching as business competence
How to build trend spotting and ideas into your organization? Consider having your team hold a “Things I’m Observing” lunch every quarter. This helps everyone on the team become more observant and bring new ideas into the organization. In addition to sharing ideas, ask people to share their interesting sources — off the beaten track bloggers, communities, foreign films, books, niche publications, unusual friends. Developing a competency to bring emerging trends into the organization and discuss what they might mean is becoming more important than ever for anyone in a leadership, sales or marketing position,
(NOTE: I’ll soon be sharing my plans on a new business that helps clients in many of the ideas discussed above. Leadership, marketing and sales run on purpose and passion, but many companies need help to see possibilities among the relentless day-to-day business demands.