Innovation is a Space, how are you creating it?

With the benefit of my old role at Velteo  (Acquired by Bluewolf in Oct 2012) and the types of projects we got engaged on we had the opportunity to witness common themes across diverse industries. One of the most important and most frustrating themes is how most companies recognise the need to change in pockets but those pockets don’t have the power to affect the change. In fact the pockets that can affect the change are often fearful of it and are not willing to make the paradigm shift to drive innovation. As Steve Johnson’s book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ presents, innovation is made possible by creating space for it.

This is a serious problem, which is affecting the Australian Economy daily, the recent announcement by Ford to close its plants is just another example of the impact of lack of innovation despite receiving funding a few years ago to prop the business up. According to the World Economic Forum,  Australia has dropped yet again in its Innovation rankings to number 18 for Innovation Capacity from 9 in 2004. This during a period when the rest of the world has been in recession, something is not right and we need to do something about it. There is a direct link between jobs, wealth and welfare and the Innovation Capacity of a country, Australia can do better.

I am coming at this topic from a few angles, notably Leadership and IT. Since Velteo (Now Bluewolf) is at the cutting edge of Cloud Computing, Customer Engagement and Cultural Enablement we are in a good position to recognise why so many companies are stuck. More often than not it comes from bad past experiences, lack of education, a stage 2 or 3 culture where true collaboration is non existent and genuine fear of change. We have seen and convinced many companies (not all of them though) that change is inevitable and that change is speeding up. It has never been easier to start up a competitor, to crowd source ideas, to collaborate with the collective workforce and to execute ideas using agile and mobile technology like salesforce.com and Apple’s iOS. Innovation is also cultural as the Digital Natives in our world begin to come into power (50% of the worlds population is under 30 and in 10 years 40% of the Fortune 500 will no longer be here) new competitors will rise and move at breakneck speed leaving the Fortune 500 waning i.e. Facebook.

More often than not it has become the IT Departments of most organizations who seem to be the brakes on innovation. It seems Consumerism has taken hold and the business wants the tools to execute on the ground, yet traditional IT Departments hold back and more often than not cannot keep up with the demands. Sighting best practice compliance and security concerns they get in the way of your companies innovation and competitive advantage. With Cloud Computing all of these concerns go away, leaving your IT departments with more time to plan and execute on higher value tasks and projects and drive true innovation, not better Data Centre’s but better engagement models and applications. The new age company understands this and has converged traditional silos into one organisation where IT/Management/HR/Marketing/Sales/Service are one profit centre.

We also see old school management styles struggle with the new paradigm, Digital Natives. This hold’s organisations back due to their inability to harness the collective, retain talent and attract the best. The new age workforce thrives on Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery. Most organisations still treat their staff as a means to an end without concern for synergistic drivers. Its the organisation who can marry up an agile culture with the fuel of empowerment that will out compete and win in this ever increasing hyper-connected world where Service and Care are the new main pillars of success. Although many organisations are beginning to adopt corporate social networking platforms to address these concerns they will fail unless they address the underlaying structural faults of their organisation as referred to by Tribal Leadership. Only Stage 4 companies (where the status quo is “We’re great, they’re are not” versus Stage 3 “Im great, you’re not” can put to great use these social tools where sharing is done without fear and unconditionally. Where social performance management tools like Work.com can be used without an underlaying sense of dread that ‘this is just another stick to be used by my boss to get me to work harder’.

There are many other areas of business that need to be addressed for improved and sustained Innovation but in my  humble opinion the two areas of Leadership and IT are a great place to start. Once an ecology where hunches, ideas and concepts can be shared without ridicule exists and the black hatters understand their role without abusing it, it is then that real breakthroughs materialise. From there its how an organisation can execute the ideas by way of an operational system that will affect results. Bringing down the silos and connecting internal organisations for effective engagement and collaboration has been the primary engine to creativity and innovation in history, so why not harness this for your organisation and create the space to enable it.

It doesn’t stop there however, its not just about creating innovation in business, we need to foster an environment of  innovation in Education, The Arts, Governance and Science. We must enable collaboration amongst all these traditionally isolated worlds, thats how countries like Switzerland and Singapore have managed to achieve 1st and 2nd place in the rankings. They have shown an enhanced capacity for Innovation through strong collaboration between Academic and Business sectors, combined with high company spending on R&D ensures that much of this research is translated into marketable products and processes, reinforced by strong intellectual property protection and government support of innovation through its procurement processes.

Waiting for our Government to take the lead on driving a space for Innovation is fruitless, we need to be asking ourselves how can we empower ourselves to create a space for Innovation daily. When was the last time a teacher fostered this, when was the last time your boss supported this and when was the last time a parent nurtured this approach? I hope together we can discover how we can create a space for Innovation and lead from our current position.

The following brief video on where good ideas come from is invaluable in understanding the Innovation Paradigm:

The ‘HOW’ to creating new Waves in 2013 - A book review

Well it took me 6 months to finish it but you don’t want to be reading this book in one sitting anyway. As the last 6 months have been full of many landmark business and life events it’s been a beneficial to absorb many of the lessons from the lens offered in this book. With 2013 looming the chance to start new Waves at both home and work present themselves so finishing this book now is timely.

Dov Seidman promises a lot and I have to say I found myself saying “This has to be the best book ever written on the future of business” many times. Having just sold Velteo to a US based consultancy called Bluewolf, its been an interesting journey in aligning our How’s. Velteo has always been a values aligned business with a significance pursuit for customer and staff engagement. So this book struck many chords for me.

‘HOW’ covers many dimensions on how business should be done now and the reasons why. This review is not extensive but will highlight what I think to be of great appeal.

Why the need for a shift?

Hyper-transparency and Hyper-connectivity, thanks to the digital and social age that we find ourselves in, no one can hide so the integrity of how we do things is even more important and hence so is our reputation. We cannot manage our reputation any more we now need to earn it with How we perform our Whats.

You find yourself asking questions like “Do I run a business that’s about winning at all costs or about out-behaving our competition?” and “Are we about chasing success or significance?” and “Do I really need hierarchy in my business or should I flatten it?”

Competing on your What’s alone is no longer enough its now about How which is a product of human behavior. Dov does a great job of uncovering what needs to shift and how we got here. From Command and Control environments that contain disengaged staff, lack of trust, and management who wield power over people to cultures who master Connection and Collaboration through engaged staff who act as leaders, where trust is in abundance and where power is wielded through people with inspiration. The essence being strong connections and alignment to enable a culture of self governance – the panacea of any organization.

Dov makes a great case for the power of Trust and the organic effect it has on people and groups to take risks and innovate, which affects both qualitative and quantitative outcomes. Super human performance can only be generated through inspiration, inspiration comes when we act on our beliefs, its intrinsic and is propelled by values. An organization with aligned values will always outperform rivals by the very fact that less management overhead is required, staff behave like owners and the collective wisdom of the organization is focused on the vision, hopefully a significant one. What is a significant vision, one that is bigger than one’s self interest i.e. just profit.

Dov opens and closes the book with a challenge to create Waves in our realms. He recounts Krazy George Henderson who in 1981 started what we know today as the Wave at a New York Yankees game, where people join in on one massive human wave around the stadium. It’s a great example of what Dov wants us to achieve. It took Krazy George a few attempts to first get the crowd immediately in front of him to trust him then understand what he had envisioned, then enlist them to take part. Once he got the wave to beyond half way around the stadium and people booed the crowd who let it die, the crowd was self governing and the Wave was born. Dov claims if a stadium full of people who have no connection with each other and very little shared vision can achieve such a feat then we can too.

He claims we can do this by taking TRIP’s, not the kind you’re thinking but projects where Trust is proactively granted, Risk is allowed and owned and Innovation is enabled to achieve Progress. By giving away power in a relationship or project we empower others, trust accelerates progress in business and in life and hence is the basis of this new lens.

Finally, the Paradox of Success is covered in great detail and is important in that you cannot pursue success directly, its what you get when you pursue significance. If leaders, managers and staff of all ranks pursued not what they Can do but what they Should do in pursuit of Significance there would be no need for rules, policies and governing authorities. A values aligned culture will generate a self governed organization that achieves more than it may aim to and even achieve the bottom line: Sustainable Happiness.

So as the year comes to an end what new Wave will you start in 2013?

BTW: Engaged cultures are inventive, check out this quick video of Dov.


Happy New Year.

Rant: Service IS Sales & Marketing

I dont know about you but I am fed up at being ‘Sold To’ and even ‘Marketed To’ especially by organisations who dont know how to Service their customers.

Wake up business, Service is the new Sales and Marketing.

I have access to more information at my fingertips than ever before. Information about products and services, access to other people’s experiences, both bad and good, and it is easier than ever for me to compare these experiences. There are even online services that will compare these experiences for me.

So, let me decide how I would like to use this information. More often than not, after accessing this information, I know more than your sales reps know. As a retail customer and a business customer I demand service and service starts before you have even sold anything, I dont want to keep repeating my question to every new sales or service person I get flicked to and I certainly dont want to be treated like I dont know what’s going on behind closed doors.

This post has been a long time coming but of late I have had so many bad service experiences from all sorts of businesses that I just have to let it out or risk having a breakdown in some shopping centre or on the phone in front of my colleagues. I know you feel my pain and thats probably why you’ll keep on reading, but Im not going to name names or single out any particular incident other than to say that its unacceptable. Its unacceptable that paying customers need to spend hours on the phone telling and re-telling their stories to disempowered staff who I am sure mean well and are fed up themselves at being unable to help. This is NOT a sustainable business model people and with the explosion of the digital world combined with our Social DNA we can expect that organisations that think they are immune to this new paradigm will perish, this is now a vehicle for contagion.

Consider the following statistics:

  • 91% say consumer content is the #1 aid to a buying decision
  • 87% trust a friends recommendation over a review by  a critic
  • Social network users are 3 times more likely to trust peer opinions over advertising when making purchase decisions
  • 1 word of mouth conversion has the impact of 200 TV ads
  • Social Media sites are still the fastest growing category on the web - doubling their traffic over the past year.
  • IT buyers trust social media more than any other content source
  • Word of Mouth is he cheapest and most effective form of marketing
  • Negative Buzz from social networks can be devastating as they are less contained.

Social Media impact on the Sales Funnel

So, given this dynamic it would seem pretty obvious what businesses need to:

Increase their level of service and quality of product and people will organically love their brand.

I know, easier said than done right? But the way I see it you have no choice. Businesses need to improve their levels of service by addressing what I like to call the holy trinity:

Culture, Process and Technology.

For a great example of how Culture is key to Service look at Zappos and how they have infused the Tribal Leadership framework into how they provide service and do business. They are also a great example for best practice Process by enabling a Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operative (HERO) dynamic which aligns the business and removes the silos. Of course this is all supported by the right Technology to drive automation, workflows, seamless collaboration, customer intimacy, knowledge management and social integration so that businesses can do one thing: Provide the best level of service to their customers because this is a good thing and will lead to more business.

In the interest of full disclosure I am part of a business which addresses this challenge and does so through the integration of best practices and technology such as salesforce.com however I am seeing that without the Culture aspect there is only so much that can be achieved. An aligned business that is structured to benefit from our social DNA and collaborative efforts will far out perform any business that is built on purely a utilitarian model. So by infusing all three aspects of the holy trinity we create alchemy. Or maybe just a Happy Customer and Staff :-)

I can go on about this for hours but I wont, if you want to know more feel free to reach out to us at Velteo. Or reach out to me directly on twitter.com/congo_

How Velteo DNA created Talent Gravity

I keep hearing about how difficult it is to find talent in the current climate. Dont get me wrong there is definitely a skills shortage out there but at Velteo we don’t deem skills alone to be the be all and end all. Talent in my book is the make up of a combination of motivation, awareness, experience and competency otherwise referred to internally as DNA. I would much rather hire a person based on their match for us on motivation and awareness than just experience and competency alone.

At Velteo we have discovered and are harnessing what we call the Velteo DNA:

Velteo DNA

Extracted from our Company blog here…

Velteo gets engaged with salesforce.com

I know, its been a while,

Been a tad busy disrupting the disruptive market place.  ;-)

These last 6 months have certainly been eventful for both Velteo and myself. Hence the time between posts. With the completion of the acquisition of Hallman Enterprises (one of the premier salesforce.com technical consultancies) to compliment our maturing business process improvement consultancy and our first conference appearance at salesforce.com’s Cloudforce in both Sydney and Melbourne, we have learnt a heap, achieved a lot and gained some great customers along the way. To them we say thank you and we look forward to the journey ahead.

In our experience we have found that too many organizations attempt to address improvements in sales, marketing and customer service through either technology, training or some process improvement. However, our approach to improvement integrates the collective power of all three of these dimensions. That’s what makes Velteo different.

As we set out to help organizations leverage the power of salesforce.com for the infusion of best practices our customers and partners have confirmed that this approach is valid.

Improvements in customer engagement are not just about any one of the dimensions, its about the integration of all three to create the collaborative value chain that extends from the customer to staff. The enabling platform is technology but only when deployed with relevancy. Meeting customers and staff where they are on their terms is engagement, understanding what they want and when is intimacy and that is nirvana for any top performing organization who wants to have customers for life.

Our recent projects have seen customers enable self service strategies via online portals and seamless customer service automation, empower the sales force with mobile workforce management applications on iPhone and iPad’s, provide simple to use user experience via Visualforce for intuitive CRM and improved adoption, enhanced visibility to reports, activities and data for real business intelligence and access to lead indicators to help management drive the business. Marketing Automation for improved campaign ROI and influence with tight integration into salesforce.com, the silo’s are starting to dissolve. Our popular Sales Maturity Assessment is proving its worth with customers experiencing 3200% returns on recommended improvements to their sales practices.

So from a Customer Engagement stand point we certainly have a lot to offer, but how about Staff Engagement?

With the release of Chatter, salesforce.com is now empowering the workforce with this phenomenal engagement tool. They call it Facebook for the Enterprise, but I call it Corporate Social Networking. What better way to keep abreast of developments in the organization or even that team proposal your working on than to have Chatter notify you of contextually relevant updates. In this age of data smog and time poverty, Chatter cuts through and enriches your access to valuable information when you need it most. By integrating salesforce.com’s Ideas, Knowledge and Content we are seeing organizations become more agile and effective as they relinquish their old world shackles and embrace the collective power of the organization to stop reinventing the wheel, oh and without the hardware.

Finally, I wanted to say a big thank you to the team at Velteo, together we have crossed the challenge of integrating both companies and have come out stronger. I have the pleasure of working with some of the sharpest consultants in the field which has in turn caused me to raise my own game. We liken Velteo to a pirate ship, everyone is a specialist in something different but together we are a finely tuned machine with a dynamic culture and a passion for fun and happy customers. So if you want to be a Pirate on a journey of disruption then contact us here.

Oh and a BIG thank you to the advisory board, you know who you are, for without you it would have been near impossible.

In the meantime I hope to be able to post here monthly, so stay tuned and if you want to know more about Velteo, feel free to contact us here.

Cheers,

Congo

On Entrepreneurship: Jason Calacanis style

Been thinking about posting my thoughts on Entrepreneurship recently, but with all the great things that’s been  going on at Velteo recently its proven to be difficult to find the time. However, this morning I was chuffed to find a great episode on this topic at TWiST from one of my favorite startup personalities Jason Calacanis.

Jason was asked to speak to a room full of students on being an entrepreneur and we also got his take on his past and why he is so passionate about Entrepreneurship. The core theme: Believe in yourself and don’t listen to naysayers. The core question: Are you a Samurai or a rice picker?

So if you wanna be a Samurai watch the video here, but beware Jason can be direct at the best of times (But I love it):

Keep up the great work Jason and team @TWiST,
Congo

My review of Prezi - Awesome in so many ways

Been very keen to play with Prezi since I discovered it a month ago. Its a cool tool for creating more contextual, fluid and relational presentations in the cloud and locally on your computer. My buddy, Franky, started playing with it and demonstrated its power to me recently as well so I though I would use my Social Golf Club Presentation Night last night to play with the tool myself.

Here’s a cool conceptual video that illustrates the power and the difference of Prezi:

I discovered that the tool is great for ideas creation and brainstorming, its free flow and intuitive user interface allows you to focus on your ideas and get creative. I can easily turn my sketch of ideas into  a presentation because its all happening in the same place. I found myself thinking differently about how I would present the information and how I should make the presentation flow. This enabled me to create the presentation quickly and have fun at the same time, even my 13 year old daughter was impressed and you know how hard it is to get that kind of a response out a of a digital native. With the use of their zoom and flip functionality it made the presentation more appealing , you can find my Prezi presentation  here .

My Prezi presentation

My Prezi presentation

I also discovered that it would come in handy for taking notes in class and meetings. That would be richer, and could easily be presented when needed. This makes for better learning and time use as this Stanford video demonstrates:

The cost? They use a freemium model so the free version allows you to use the web and the desktop app (free 30 day trial) too but when loading in the cloud you post your presentation in the showcase for all to see. So beware of giving away all your secrets. Otherwise, for $59 per year you get more storage and privacy. So what are you waiting for, give Prezi a go and you may even surprise yourself with your creativity let alone your audience.

My rating 10/10 for so many different uses and reasons.

Can’t wait to work on my next Prezi for more than just a prezi.

TWiST #33 Review with Shawn Gold - An Influential Episode

Addiction to TWiST

I have a confession to make, I’m addicted to This Week in Startups (TWiST).  TWiST is a weekly podcast of interviews with New Age Entrepreneurs in a format that only its founder, Jason Calacanis, can pull off and still keep you pumped. Jason is the CEO of Mahalo a human powered search engine and recently a proud father. Most of the time the show runs for more than 2 hours and apart from a few times when the subject either doesn’t resonate or due to technical difficulties, does’nt run well, the show is packed with much thought provocation and insight into the minds and times of a successful startup.

I picked up the show by accident about 8 months ago and started listening from Episode 2, I haven’t looked back. Jason and his team (especially Tyler and Lon) do such a great job of keeping it real and raw that I recommended it to my partners and close friends as a resource to open the mind on business possibilities and execution. They too have now seen the light and we’re about to commence a TWiST meetup locally where we can riff off the topics presented from each show and build relationships with local budding entrepreneurs.

As I’m based in Sydney, I see much relevance for this type of podcast. Australia has the potential for the right ethos but for some reason I don’t feel that there is enough hustle here. Convening a local meetup could be the start of something big here.  If you’re in Sydney let us know if your keen to take part @Congo_ or @TiStartups or via this blog.

I prefer to consume the show during my commute to work (an hour each way) as TWiST is available in Audio and Video format via my iPhone. I have to admit that the show has certainly and continues to influence our own startup, Velteo.  I sometimes notice our team using Jason’s lingo like “No Doubt” and Gary V’s mantra of “Crush It”, we even started our own NOT NOW list recently as well. So for mine its a must for any person interested in business, not just startups, as the insights and challenges presented can help everyone, especially for those people looking to understand how others have monetized their ideas.

Ep 33 Review

Apart from the usual schedule of Ask Jason (Caller questions) and Jason’s Shark Tank (Pitch review), this episode featured Shawn Gold,  CEO of Cocodot (Funky greeting cards online) and founder of Social Approach, a social marketing advisory based on influence mapping technologies. Cool stuff by my books and the way marketing is heading moving forward i.e. identify the influencer’s and market to them.

Here’s the episode and my key takeaways below:

My key takeaways from the show:

  • If your Startup’s numbers aren’t right, delay your board meeting - a Jason insight.
  • Internet has changed the game but relationships (salespeople) still play a big part in business
  • Performance Marketing identifies the right person to market to. i.e.: Women 25-45 are the sweet spot for weight loss, vitamins, makeup, etc. They also hold the household purse strings in most cases.
  • Find the right people, motivate them and but most of all empower them to execute
  • Be passionate about what you sell
  • You need to have empathy and ego to win in sales according to Harvard
  • Remove the Gatekeeper by calling companies early in the morning (6:45AM) or late in the evening (8:45PM)
  • Avoided jargon at all costs, even a 12-year-old should be able to understand  your pitch
  • Social Media is a double edged sword when something goes wrong in your business
  • You’re going to get knocked down, accept it, but the champ never stops getting back up
  • Monitor your company and personal brand by setting up a Google Alert at the very least

Of course Lon’s coverage of the News was great too, the standouts for me were:

  • Facebook may be losing the plot with its privacy policies or lack thereof
  • Google’s efforts to buy Yelp could change the game as they attempt to enter the content game
  • Google and Facebook to release their own URL shorteners

The show ended with Jason announcing a competition for best review of the show wins a $500 Microsoft pack.

This was just what I needed to get me over the line and finally write this post on TWiST, I love the show so expect to see more reviews as time and content permits.

    Now of course TWiST would’nt be what it is today without alot of help from its sponsors.

    So a big THANK YOU to :

    webspy

    PS: I Lurrrve Ustream!

    Cheers and keep fighting the good fight Jason,

    Congo

    Startups using social networking to go giddy up

    Social media sites across the Web don’t seem to be scarce, in fact they continue to evolve and increase in number and functionality. The real question is however “What’s their use?” Many have answered the question, “It depends who you are and what you want”. So in this age of time scarcity how can an Startup Entrepreneur best use his/her time to take advantage of social networking for business and promotion? For entrepreneurs who are on-the-fly, I can recommend four “must join” social networking sites/resources:

    1. LinkedIn.
    This is definitely one of the most valuable professional networking sites around. Their current slogan is “relationship matters”, and this site certainly has what it takes to really last, being one of the original social media enterprises. Whether you’re searching for a new job, trying to stay connected with peers or making an effort to establish your company, there is an array of resources which are readily available. If you’ve got the time, it’s certainly best to interact on a daily basis, and to check out the group feature of LinkedIn as well. You must list your keywords accurately and clearly establish your brand so that you’re exposed to – and aware of, the best match of potential partners, business opportunities and service providers.
    If you can invest the time, and you’re able to really interact, you’ll be able to establish yourself as an expert in your field by leveraging the power of LinkedIn Answers. The more you interact with others, the more your marketing message may be perceived as desirable and trusted, in qualitative terms. The controls in place ensure that experts are just that and that show pony’s get thrown out of discussion quick smart.

    2. Biznik.
    Some entrepreneurs believe that a network that charges for membership will usually be made up of individuals who are quite a bit more serious, and much more likely to be active members too. Biznik is surprisingly serious about its position, and it has gone so far as to brand itself as the network that “actually cares about the entrepreneur.”
    There are three levels of membership available here; two of which are paid, up to $24 a month for the “pro” level. Their approach is – go it alone, but as a part of their team, and their rules are that you have to use real data in a system which uses a human review system to continually make sure that everybody is keeping it real. This site can be a shoulder to cry on, or a source of inspiration, but once again its benefits will come from an active involvement on your part.

    3. StartupNation.
    This option is rather different. It is a site created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, but it is chock full of content and advice. Apart from a great podcast, you’ll find innumerable articles on almost every business idea that you could envisage as well as active forums. In some respects it is also like a giant “super blog” where you can pick up so much information in one place without the feeling that you are being drawn to so many different sites during your research. The instigators of the site, Rich and Jeff Sloan, are nationally acclaimed entrepreneurs, publishers, celebrities and award winners, and the composition of this site reflects this in its details.

    4. TWiST – This Week in Startups
    Run by Jason Calacanis, this weekly Podcast is full of great tips, reviews, insight and humor. Jason does a great job oh hosting the podcasts and interviewing the entrepreneurs. His following online via the #TWiST tag has grown in popularity and they do a great job of keeping the sessions interactive by fielding questions from Twitter followers and seeking reviews on the show in real time. I love listening to TWiST during a long drive or flight, Jason never ceases to crack me up with his sometimes brutal candor.

    So there, any time poor person can reap best value out of intelligent and targeted use of time while embarking on a social networking campaign to build business relationships, brand awareness and credibility in your field. The alternative route for achieving the same result would cost much more time and money, long live social networking for business.