Rejection Proof: The Founders Mission

A few years ago I was responsible for pitching for capital in front of 50 sophisticated Investors. Although I was well prepared with the perfect pitch deck and script my body shook with anxiety and fear that almost cut off circulation to my extremities, I almost passed out. Combine this pressure with a team who depended on me to raise enough capital to keep us afloat for another 2 years and now I was feeling pressure from both ends.

I must say that I had second thoughts if I was the right person for the job despite all my experience with a successful exit a few years earlier. Thoughts like “What If they don’t like me or our solution?”, “What if I fail to convert any investor and my co-founders lose respect for me?” and  “Do I still have what it takes to be CEO of this startup?”

Not all rejections are created equal, it would seem that the higher the stakes the bigger the pain that rejection delivers. Thoughts and fears like these have never supported me in performing at my best so how the hell did I end up in this state and how do I shift it to a more effective state?

As the reader you are probably feeling anxious right now and thats exactly why I doubled down on becoming Rejection Proof. The key negative effects of fear of rejection include:

  • Self defeat leading to abandoning your dreams and inspirations
  • Doubt and anxiety leading to taking less risks even as a contributor in a group
  • Overly defensive and triggered leading to closing you down
    Depression from believing you are not good enough

Founders experience more rejection than most, maybe thats why 92% of them fail. In the pursuit of proving a hypothesis, solving problems for customers and pitching to investors they must constantly face criticism, persecution and even embarrassment before they can win. I have seen founders break down and cry, have panic attacks and storm off with profanities in their wake. But this never ends well for anyone and investors view this type of reaction badly, perceiving founders as un-coachable, without the necessary grit and resilience they will be perceived as never having what it takes to sprint the marathon that is startup.

On the other side of rejection though is opportunity, opportunity to learn, iterate and grow. Overcoming rejection is every founders mandate if they are to be a leader worth following, I mean what message are you sending to your team if you fear rejection. If startup requires a lot of experimentation before you get everything right, you must invest in being equipped for lots of failure and rejection. Think about it, every situation where rejection is a possibility provides immense benefit on the other side, every one, weather for internal or external gain. So developing the capacity to bounce back from rejection has to be a priority for any founder wanting more from both themselves and their startup.

In fact the fastest path to success is not to avoid rejection but to seek it out, if you are not being rejected then you are not disrupting enough and/or not getting outside of the four walls of your business and risking rejection.

So with a week to go before the big pitch day I invested just as much time in Rejection Proofing myself as I did in my pitch practice with the following steps:

  • Take responsibility for your feelings - If criticism hurts then you are deriving self worth from performance versus your innate qualities. Time to reconnect with your inner self and appreciate yourself beyond your performance.
  • Investigate and question false beliefs - Your sense of self worth is inherited but rarely questioned. Ask yourself “Can I be absolutely certain that I am not good enough?” “Who could I be without that thought?”
  • Accept that you will be rejected - This is out of your control so set yourself up for it and imagine the worst case scenario to realise how “we suffer more in imagination than in reality”. Seneca
  • Shift your perspective from losing to learning - With the right frame you can experience rejection as being done FOR you, not TO you. So when you get rejected ask questions like “What would you like to see in our offer before taking us seriously?” and “How would you solve this?”
  • Use the pain to mobilise resources - Just enough pain will enable you to try harder, dig deeper and never give up with the right support.
  • Turn Rejection into Opportunity - A No from a customer or investor is one step closer to a Yes that can be negotiated through more understanding and iteration. Note most founders give up after 2-3 attempts, in my experience if you aim to get rejected 8 time from the same person before you give up you will win 80% of the time.
  • Overcome Rejection with Inspiration - Research how others have overcome countless rejections – like J.K Rowling and AirBnB’s founders.
  • Practice Rejection Therapy - to overcome the sting of rejection practice getting rejected in a safe space with friends and family and progressively take bigger risks like Jia Jiang.

In time you will feel impenetrable, like you are wearing a bullet proof vest, you can still take the shots and they will hurt but it wont be the end of you or your startup. Over time I built more and more self confidence and so did the team, overcoming fear of rejection meant I was more creative, took more risks and in the end nailed the pitch enough to be oversubscribed. Every Investor loves a founder that has the conviction that they are going to build their startup with or without them no matter what. Overcoming fear of rejection is the fastest way to build this conviction that investors and customers love supporting.

Life will teach us many lessons but the lessons we learn from our biggest Rejections are the most valuable.

How are you letting Rejection get in the way of your possibility?

To learn more we recommend Jai Jian book Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible through 100 days of Rejection  or attend our next Bootcamp to become Rejection Proof.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

70% of us feel like impostors at one time or another according to Wikipedia. Most of what I have researched on the interwebs regarding this topic deals with the symptoms and not the cause, for most of our lives we only have time to use band-aids like affirmations and reminders as impending deadlines continuously call upon us to find a quick fix. However, I want to go deeper and address what I believe to be the cause and in so doing add more depth to what I believe causes Imposter Syndrome (IS).

You’re an imposter and that’s OK, you’re an imposter because you don’t know who you truly are, you have managed to cope your way to this moment, you have been wounded countless times and you survived by abandoning yourself. That’s why it feels empty and numb when you achieve the things that society says are meant to give you a sense of self-worth. What if we all took responsibility for our emotions and our self-worth, what if we could be more than our performance?

I have lived with lots of trauma, in the beginning I was not even conscious to it, its impact and effects on my behaviour and more importantly how I treated myself were all based on not being enough. My sob story includes everything from growing up with a lost and violent father to a controlling and anxious mother, everything from being bullied at school to being abused by my grandfather. Somehow though I thought I was OK, in retrospect it seemed I had numbed out and buried the pain deep, in order to cope and function in some manner, I had no time nor the tools to really know who I was without my inherited patterns, programming and trauma.

My favourite band-aid was staying busy and distracted. Getting married young was a way to get out of that environment and be distracted by a new love and a new life. Before I knew it, I was distracted with bringing up my children, building my career and sought some happiness by making sure everyone else was happy first and in most cases to get some approval, what I considered to be love.

I was caretaking at the cost of abandoning myself. Why? Because I was told I was bad, I was beaten to oblivion for being wrong, I was ridiculed and embarrassed for having a voice, I was a newly married husband with children and obligations and parents who were broken  yet had to uphold an image that everything was all right and to have some semblance of control over my life, but this caused co-dependency and a false dynamic.

20 years later all the unconscious trauma finally blew up in my face but in between there were glimpses of who I could be without all this. I had achieved a lot regardless, outward success in my career and new business pursuits were there, I was loved by many and had built a loving family, yet I was still unhappy, lost and empty.

My view on IS is that if you are addicted to seeking approval in some way to feel enough, you will never fully achieve sustained joy and happiness and most importantly peace. My IS was anchored in an inner emptiness, one that either tried to control people to get my attention needs met or abandoned and surrendered myself time and time again to others that I thought were better than me.

I was addicted to seeking approval and thought my performance was the answer, so I tried harder - in order to feel something I acted out with drama or numbed out. Without inquiry into what’s true for me internally, I sought happiness and joy externally, from my results and your approval of them so when I finally became the CEO of an amazing startup that completed a successful exit within 4 years I thought I was done I should be happy now, I’m rich and have achieved the impossible.

After 3 months of checking in, I still felt no joy and no happiness in fact I felt even more empty and lost as I sought to understand how could this be, I had achieved the things society claim would bring me happiness and self-worth but this was not what I felt. I felt like an Imposter, I did not feel like a success and I still operated from fear.

In 2014, I was suicidal, after being so-called successful yet empty it all became too much for me, I had gone deeper in my practices to get underneath all the trauma but things got worse. Later that year I had a prolific shift thanks to my previous co-founder and spiritual brother, Frank Cuiuli that can only be described as the most magical thing that has ever happened to me. I surrendered to the pain, to the fear to the monster with Frank’s guidance. Within minutes I was a new person, I had given in to whatever I had been keeping down and with an immense purge became vulnerable and open to surrender. This collapse needed to happen it seemed before I could truly start my inner work. Although I had a life coach for almost 10 years prior, I needed to give into the things I feared the most before any enlightenment could take up the space.

With this newfound space and an urge to discover a new and better operating system I went on many discoveries, from retreats to global travels that included time with thought leaders in this space, it was there that I discovered a better way and with a deep commitment to disrupting my old patterns I now have a better way of being and in so doing overcome my Imposter Syndrome. I can honestly say that I am not longer an Imposter I am instead the fully realised Me.

This is how I operate now:

  • Take full responsibility for my emotions - if you have emotional needs meet them yourself first before expecting others to meet them, this is the toughest step.
  • Self Inquiry into what’s true about my beliefs and thoughts - Ask yourself “Who would I be without these limiting thoughts and beliefs?”
  • Daily journaling for gratitude - Reward yourself for the lessons you are learning, the things you are gifted with and the achievements already gained.
  • Fitness and Health - Commit to loving your body with nourishing food and movement – dance a little. What you feed yourself impacts your energy and clarity.
  • Nourishing relationships - Discover how to improve your relationships by asking “Can we be open to learning how our relationship can improve?” Hang with friends who keep you honest and call you out on your faults in a nourishing way.
  • Purposely pursuing Flow - Ask yourself “What gets me in flow or the zone?” and pursue it in your career and life.
  • Learning to say a healthy No - A healthy No to others is a Yes to yourself, once you take responsibility for how you feel you let go of the need to please others and are better able to say “I understand, Thank you and No”
  • Exposure to new ideas and people - read various different articles, attend new group meetings, take more risks in meeting new people, you never know what you might find.

Tending to our wounds makes us available to them, to not limit ourselves and to be available to others in a healthy giving way, not an unhealthy taking way. Its been an amazing journey and I would not change anything, this was the path for me, I am not fully healed but my commitment to the above process is helping me overcome my Imposter Syndrome from within.

To learn more keep an eye out for our future blog posts, I will dig deeper into the various toolkits I use. For more reading on this topic I recommend “I need your love, is that true?” by my favourite sage Byron Katie.

Stoicism For Startups

I pulled the chute and went all in on my first Startup in 2008, walking away from the safety and familiarity of a corporate job was not all that hard but it wasn’t long before the underlying anxiety I grew up with possessed every waking minute of my life. I clearly remember waking up every morning to debilitating anxiety that meant my morning routine would include the mandatory dry reaching as the thought ‘What the hell have you gotten yourself into’ settled into my consciousness.

If you are a Startup founder you know exactly what I am talking about. That feeling of dread, insecurity and confusion at the insurmountable obstacles to building your dream Startup. Obstacles like running out of money before you break even, rejection from customers and investors and issues with your co-founders are all seemingly inevitable.

When you also consider that 92% of Startups fail within the first two years and that 3 new startups will be launched by the time you finish this sentence it would seem that the odds are drastically stacked against you.

Failure as a founder is a constant threat. So it’s no surprise that 49% of founders suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Something needs to give or something needs to shift. In most cases something gives before it shifts unfortunately.

Given all of the above there must be a better way in handling obstacles otherwise those statistics and the founder suicides we occasionally hear of will only get worse.

After a panic attack I noticed that I was not functioning at my best so I sought to solve this problem and discovered what legends who faced much larger obstacles in life used to overcome these debilitating situations. I then discovered Stoicism, considered by many as the ultimate operating system for high stress environments. Legends like Marcus Aurelius, Thomas Edison and even Steve Jobs were all reported to embody Stoicism.

Unlike other philosophies, Stoic tenets are pragmatic and based on applying reason to the information provided by your senses in order to develop a true understanding of reality. As it is a broad philosophy with many fathers I will only focus on the parts of Stoicism that relate to this specific challenge here.

Seneca quoted “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality” hence we possess the power to see obstacles differently. Marcus Aurelius famously journaled “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

The truth is we’re not driven by reality, we’re driven by our perception of reality. So how do we turn our perceptions around?

The Stoic’s believed that overcoming obstacles requires three critical steps.

  • how we look at our specific problems – Judgements
  • the energy and creativity with which we actively break them down and turn them into opportunities – Actions
  • the cultivation and maintenance of an inner will that allows us to handle defeat and difficulty – Disciplines

So once I understood these principles I would apply critical self-inquiry onto the obstacles I believed I had in order to get the facts and become aware of how my bias’s and beliefs were getting in the way of solving the biggest problems. I then applied focus on only the things that I had total control over- my actions. By taking a rational approach this enabled me to be more effective without the usual anxiety in tackling a large obstacle.

For example, understanding why and how startups fail from the outset means that you can prepare and mitigate against those failures. A modern Stoic, Tim Ferris’s talk on Fear Setting is a great resource. We adapted his checklist to what you need to do to overcome obstacles and rationally assess the fear of doing something or nothing. By logically setting out the big obstacles that your business needs to overcome and applying Fear Setting to get underneath what might get in the way you will be less afraid of taking action.

At The Founder Lab we believe this practice falls into the realm of capacity building. Specifically, in building your capacity to be adaptable which is critical in early stage startups who are experimenting until they find product market fit. In fact, we believe founders need to build capacity first as this has a multiplier effect to the effectiveness of your startup.

However, as Mike Tyson famously said “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Even the best tool kit will fail without daily rigor and practice. World class founders get punched in the face more often than most, their daily disciplines are what keeps them in the game and keeps them from causing more harm. We have found that daily practices in handling adversity and failure is critical to building your capacity to bounce back quickly when reality lands an upper cut when you least expect it.

Finally, since most avoid obstacles it stands to reason that if you lean into turning obstacles to opportunities that you have a better chance of solving the world’s biggest problems and creating world changing impact. As Elon Musk recently mentioned “Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.” So developing the capacity to do so is more important than anything else as a founder. In the end Stoicism helped me overcome my perceived obstacles to eventually build a business that was acquired 4 years later.

Opportunity lies on the other side of obstacles.

The Obstacle is the Way.

To learn more we recommend attending our next Bootcamps and we recommend Ryan Holiday’s book “The Obstacle is the Way” and “The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius”.

Hacking Innovation Culture

The Australian Government’s recently released National Innovation and Science Agenda confirms that Australia is well and truly in the midst of an #ideasboom.

In an effort to promote eco-systems that support Innovation Culture, the government has proposed initiatives such as access to Crowd Sourced Equity Funding, an Incubator Support Program, tax incentives for investors and even a Global Innovation Strategy.

Typically regarded as laggards when it comes to innovation, this is good news for Australia. However, there is still some catching up to do. While we managed to avoid a recession, the benefits of Australia’s strong economy in recent years has not resulted in a culture of creativity and risk taking. Since 2004, Australia has dropped from 9th place in the UN’s Global Innovation Index to 19th place. Despite being ranked 13th in the world for Innovation Inputs we rank an unbelievable 107th in the world for Innovation outputs.

When compared to the #resourcesboom fail we can understand why Innovation Culture is now a priority for our government and our nation’s future economy. So here’s a question for you; what are you doing about fostering your Innovation Culture?

Innovation culture is the work environment that leaders cultivate in order to nurture unorthodox thinking and its application. Workplaces that foster a culture of innovation generally subscribe to the belief that innovation is not the province of top leadership but can come from anyone in the organization. Innovation cultures are prized by organizations that compete in markets defined by rapid change; maintaining the status quo is insufficient to compete effectively, thus making an innovation culture essential for success.


Having spent most of my background in disruptive innovation and startups and challenged many Australian corporates to shift thinking and practices, I propose the following model:

Innovation Culture model – An integrated systems-based approach to innovation:

Hacking Innovation Culture

Foundation: Safety and Inclusion: This is the most important aspect of any highly functioning Innovative Culture. Google recently reported that safety as a value was the key ingredient to them out innovating. Without this foundation your culture is unstable and risk avers. As with most values they must be witnessed and demonstrated from the top before being adopted by the rest of the organisation. To ensure that its safe to take risks, to speak up and hold everyone including leaders accountable is how you live this value. Going out of your way to be inclusive in strategic and tactical aspects of the business with employees that are not directly responsible for these agenda’s fosters inclusion and ownership. Hence Safety and Inclusion is a leadership mandate and a virtuous value cycle. The more inclusion demonstrated the more safety will be generated and the safer we feel the more we are inclined to be inclusive. From this cohesive base you are now free to make meaningful changes to the next level.

Leadership: We need a new lens for leadership, connect and collaborate leadership models outperform 20th century command and control models every time. This is the only way we can harness collective wisdom and ownership for high performance. Typically fear gets in the way of this change however but the ROI on connect and collaborate based leadership far out ways old models due to qualitatively better information flows, hyper engagement and collaborative approaches to problem solving to say the least. When supported with corporate social networking technology like Yammer and Chatter connect and collaborative leadership styles become even more effective. However, beware, your integrity as a leader will be subject to more auditing than ever before as the organisation heads towards a Holacracy.

Engagement: It’s never been more important to engage your employees effectively. Don’t and you’re organisation is prone to flight risk at all levels. Enabling purpose-driven participation by actively engaging people’s sense of intrinsic value turns work into something more meaningful. Be human with your employees, discover their passions and align them to how they can contribute to your mission. Best to do this on the way into your organisation by getting real on values alignment, mastery pursuits and purpose goals. This too can be enhanced with engagement technology by rewarding and recognising performers who demonstrate values and ownership best.

Execution: Now its all good to have great leadership and engagement but if I don’t have the tools, be it technology, funding and loosened delegated authority to take risks the friction barrier may be too high hence hindering any self governed intrapraneurs and more importantly get in the way of employee’s sense of autonomy. Access to tools, resources and people that enable rapid prototyping and acts of innovation is why Google endorse their 20% time on personal projects that help their enterprise.

The integration of the above dynamics leads to high quality innovations more often in a really scalable model. The virtuous dynamics between an engaged and equipped team supported by a collaborative and connected leadership team that’s underscored by a sense of safety and inclusion enables your organisation to be joined at the hip in pursuit of meaningful goals much easier and consistently.

Sustaining Innovation Culture – Top 5 keys to sustaining your innovation Culture include:

  1. Measures – Organizations with innovation cultures measure success by asking what business value the person has delivered, how sustainable that value has been, what new ideas they’ve brought to the table and how many of them actually were executed. Change what you measure and you change behaviour.
  2. Coherence – Occurs when honesty, authenticity and integrity are easily identified within an organisation. Without this you are subject to hidden agendas, miscommunication and projections from leadership that are destructive. Carving out time for constructive and safe criticism so that you can surface issues within the culture before they become a cancer.
  3. Attitudes to Failure – If your culture deems failure to be negative in the pursuit of improvement you are destined to be left behind. Failure is a necessary part of the innovation process because from failure comes learning, iteration, adaptation, and the building of new conceptual and physical models through an iterative learning process. Almost all innovations are the result of prior learning from failures.
  4. Real Time Performance Reviews – The days where annual performance reviews where best practice are gone and for good reason. With the advent of engagement technology and social corporate networking platforms organisations can now get real time in project feedback on performance, which in turn affects sentiment, retention and engagement.
  5. Team Retreats – Not the old school reward only retreats exclusively for your high performers. Facilitated by organisational transformation agents who know how to get under the tent, enable a cohesive team environment through inquiry into the thoughts and beliefs that get in the way of team performance such as trust and honesty will foster true connectedness and purpose in the team where everyone thinks and acts like owners.

Nothing is more constant than change. Furthermore, the speed of change is accelerating. How will you keep up?

Constantine Georgiou has spent the last 15 years designing, building and scaling Innovation Culture through his own startups Velteo and One Million Acts of Innovation and currently with CapitalPitch, an Investor Readiness Accelerator for startups and scaleaups.

 

Best Practices Underpinning High Performance in World Class Organizations

Edwin Moses is considered a World Class track and field athlete, he holds the longest ever winning streak of 122 wins for the 400 meter hurdles and has collected 8 1st’s across the Olympics, World Championships, IAAF World Cups and the Goodwill games, oh and broke the world record four times in his career. I guess you could say he is a high performer. Business leaders can learn a lot from what makes athletes successful, the biggest thing that stands out is their priorities.

According to McKinsey & Company, a World Class management consultancy, the two key priorities of a World Class organization should be Performance and Health. In their book ‘Beyond Performance’ authors Scott Keller and Colin Price define Organizational Health as the ability of the organization to align, execute and renew itself faster than its competitors for sustained performance. They consider this to be as important as focusing on the traditional priorities of business Performance, that’s because healthy organizations get things done quicker, better and with more impact than unhealthy ones.

I guess Edwin Moses would agree, if his priorities were just Performance he would be only focused on the stopwatch and not on all the aspects of his health that led to world class results. However, most organizations I have dealt with over the past 20 years have focused primarily on Performance with very little understanding let alone focus on Health. There are good reasons for this, shareholder expectations, short term focus, margin pressure, innovative competitors etc etc. But ask yourself these questions: Did Edwin Moses have the same challenges? Did he face threats from competitors and pressure of an international stage? and Did he stop prioritizing his focus on Health?. If he did he would not have even qualified. Business has had the wrong balance of priorities for long enough and McKinsey agrees.

The 12 elements of organizational Health include :

      • Direction
      • Leadership
      • Culture
      • Accountability
      • C0ordination
      • Capabilities
      • Motivation
      • External Orientation
      • Innovation
      • Learning
      • Agility
      • Governance

World Class organizations ensure that all 12 elements are resourced and prioritized. The results speak for themselves, in ‘Beyond Performance’ organizations with high Health are 2.2 times more likely to have an above median EBITDA margin, 2.0 times more likely to have above median growth in enterprise value to book value and 1.5 times more likely to have above median growth in net income to sales. Now who wouldn’t want to have that type of performance?

Hence, it turns out that best practices that underpin high performance have a priority on Health. Another benefit is that unlike many key factors that influence performance, i.e. customer behavior, competitive moves, regulatory changes, your organization’s health is something that you can control. Considering that more than 50% of an organizations success in the long term is driven by its Health this is great news for leaders and managers of business. It means that the efficacy of initiatives on health will lead to more predictable results.

I am certain that Edwin Moses knew this, he prioritized all the elements that would lead to his success mainly his health, fitness, nutrition, mental state, flexibility and energy levels before considering performance. This ensured long-term sustainable success and led to his dominance over a 10 year period and against much younger competitors. Focusing on controlling what you can and learning to let go of the elements that you can’t is easier said than done but is what sets the World Champs apart. Understanding the concepts of Flow for both personal and organizational benefits is also critical.

Flow conditions:

  • Clear and aligned goals
  • Real time feedback
  • Balance between Challenge and Skill
  • Space of Inspiration, Autonomy and Purpose

Finally, High Performance organizations are made up of values aligned individuals in pursuit of a mission, where trust and transparency is inspired by what people do not just by what they say. This leads to a state of Self Governance which is the ultimate state of High Performance, this is where an organization out behaves its competition because of its healthy state.

To understand how to go about this we strongly suggest engaging with Australian Corporate Wellness and Flow Engine. Our Diagnostic tools and Engagement models will help you identify a path to help make your company World Class.

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

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