Come Drive with Me

Come Drive with Me

Today I walked out of the office and into the fresh air. I stopped, looked across the parking lot, looked to the sky and began to walk. I took my time. I took long, deep breaths and felt the clear, unfiltered air filling my body. My head cleared and I scanned the horizon. What was in front of me? Opportunity as far as I can see. Sometimes I drive alone, and sometimes I travel with colleagues. I am always interested to observe the way that people change once they step outside of the office. Do they loosen their ties? Run their fingers through their hair? Do they take a moment to pause and take in the world around them? I particularly like it when there is more than two of us. Three or four is great. We get to my car and I wait and watch, Who will take the passenger seat? Who offers to sit in back? Is this a transaction or an experience? It is a small thing, but it is important. It reveals plenty. This episode reminded me of Seth Godin’s recent article on the “front row culture”. It is a style of culture that I very much strive to foster: The group files into the theater, buzzing. People hustle to get to the front row, sitting side by side, no empty seats. The event starts on time, the excitement is palpable. The other group wanders in. The front row is empty and stays that way. There are two or even three empty seats between each individual. The room is sort of dead. In both cases,...
Three Degrees of Separation and the Compassionate Leader

Three Degrees of Separation and the Compassionate Leader

In leadership as in life, it’s the people that matter. We build careers and companies on the relationships that we have with the most important people in our lives – family, friends, colleagues and partners. Sure there are other pressures and dynamics, but the human-to-human dynamic continues to create value for us all – and dominates our thinking and ways of doing business. And it is this that makes me speculate – that perhaps the power to change our organizations, societies and cultures is less to do with the structures of power that we have come to accept, and more to do with an authentic willingness to focus on people. Recently, Facebook announced that the world had become smaller – that the six degrees of separation that has been popularized through books, movies and hundreds of articles, had been halved. A team of data scientists working for Facebook crunched through the 1.6 billion strong membership of the social networking platform to reveal: Each person in the world (at least among the 1.59 billion people active on Facebook) is connected to every other person by an average of three and a half other people. So that means, according to network theory, that we are no more than four people away from anyone else. That includes Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg (who unsurprisingly both outperform the general population). It also includes the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, the amazing artist, Marina Abramovic and entrepreneur without peer, Richard Branson. It means from my mom through me, there is someone that is connected to Mark Zuckerberg. Or Richard Branson. Or...
Culture Beyond Equality

Culture Beyond Equality

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act marked a significant milestone in advancing equal pay for all workers. Seven years later, the median wage of a woman working full-time year-round in the United States remains only 79 percent of a man’s median earnings. And while this marks an improvement (back in 2008, the ratio was approximately 75 percent), it’s also a clear indicator that there is more work to be done. President Obama’s announcement of additional measures to close the gap will bring much-needed focus and attention on work that needs to be done. In particular, I am excited to learn that the White House is to host a summit on “The United State of Women” on May 23rd. For many years, I have championed a focus on women leaders, gender diversity and the way that leveraging female talent can drive innovation and profitability. I firmly believe that while equality is important, it is just one element in a broader mix of initiatives that needs to be addressed in parallel. Equality is not just the right thing for people, it’s the right thing for business, innovation, and profitability. Recent research by Silvia Anne Hewlett reveals a remarkable correlation between inclusive leadership, innovative output, and market growth – what she calls a “speak up culture”. We find that at publicly traded companies with two-dimensional diversity—where the senior leadership team has both inherent diversity in terms of gender, age, and race,and an acquired appreciation for difference based on experience and learning—employees are 70% more likely than those at non-diverse publicly traded companies to report having captured a new market in the last...
2016 – The Year of Conscious Innovation

2016 – The Year of Conscious Innovation

Often when we think of innovation, we call to mind those projects that fly below the radar within the enterprise, only to surface at some point to loud applause, fully formed and functioning. These are the make or break innovations that change companies or industries. In the 20th Century, these innovations were kept well away from the core business as they could not be easily accommodated within the functions, structures and business models of the enterprise – and would only be brought into full view of the world when the conditions were right. The pioneer of this model was aircraft manufacturer, Lockheed. Under the leadership of chief engineer, Kelly Johnson, the Lockheed Skunk Works produced many of the industry’s advanced projects including the first US fighter plane – the XP-80. But the Skunk Works had very humble beginnings – in a rented circus tent alongside one of Lockheed’s manufacturing plants. Its first project commenced four months before an official contract was in place and there was no official submittal process. Even the name of this mysterious innovation division was secret until: One day, [team engineer] Culver’s phone rang and he answered it by saying “Skonk Works, inside man Culver speaking.” Fellow employees quickly adopted the name for their mysterious division of Lockheed. “Skonk Works” became “Skunk Works.” The once informal nickname is now the registered trademark of the company: Skunk Works®. The Skunk Works model has been so successful that it is routinely followed by the most innovative of 21st Century companies. Google has Google X where self-driving cars, wearable computers and indoor mapping technologies have been hatched. Amazon...
The Five Principles of Lean Leadership

The Five Principles of Lean Leadership

When it comes to innovation, there is much that we can learn from the lean approaches taken by startups. There is the rapid iteration, hypothesis testing and measurement, that builds a dynamic, responsive organization. There is the focus on releasing products and services as part of an iteration cycle. And there is the relentless focus on customers that I have long been an advocate for – what I refer to customer oriented thinking. But in a world where change is accelerating, and where the needs of our customers, the competing demands of our stakeholders, shareholders and competitors cry out for decisions, action and differentiation, we need to find ways to react faster. To produce faster. And to create strategy on the fly. It’s no longer about customer oriented thinking but customer oriented doing. We need to find ways to apply the “thinking and doing” approach of startups to leadership. McKinsey have long argued that we need to find ways to integrate short, medium and long term strategy into our leadership capabilities. But I believe this shift in leadership is less about process and more to do with the qualities of leadership, approaches to teams and the strategic use of data to help inform decisions. For it is the rapid making of decisions – and the ability to respond to changing conditions – that’s when lean leadership comes into its own. Where the lean startup approach focuses on ideas, coding and data, lean leadership sets the conditions for maximum acceleration. This means that the leader looks to the organization, the teams and the capabilities required to deliver and execute strategy....