Jun 062011

Article first published as Innovation – It Makes The World Go ‘Round on Blogcritics.

The Social Media Inside Of Innovation

Innovation is all around us and impacts just about every aspect of our lives. In today’s digital, technology empowered world the pace of innovation is ever increasing. Concurrently, the performance bar is also being raised in everything from product development, service delivery, creativity, design, and workplace management. It is very easy to get swept away by the technology of innovation…it can be amazing. So, it is very important to constantly remind ourselves that the essence of innovation still lies with people and their passion for ideas and discovery. And this week I am very lucky to be surrounded by some of the most innovative and passionate people in the world. How good is that!

A Collaborative Innovation Summit

The World Innovation Forum 2011 is being held in New York City this week and I am honored to be one of about 50 people designated as “some the very best business bloggers” embedded right in the middle of all the action. The World Innovation Forum brings together ideas and insights from a unique group of experts and practitioners offering their personal perspectives on how innovation is being implemented across an array of different fields. This is a powerhouse group of innovators including one of my all time favorite big thinkers and innovators Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

Listening “Softer” To See Deeper

As an asset-based thinker I’ll be looking at how speakers tell their stories about unleashing their personal power and innovative spirit, how they persevere by seeing threats as challenges, turn shortcomings into aspirations, and leverage collaboration versus competition. Learning how these asset based approaches have helped motivate and leverage the power and promise of innovation in the past can serve as invaluable guideposts for the future.

Another great opportunity at this event will be listening to the buzz and chatter of the businessmen, academics, and innovators in the audience, observing their body language and feeling their enthusiasm. There will also be a Bloggers Hub complete with high speed internet access, cloud resources, and all the electronic bells and whistles we’ll need to report live from the conference.

Positive Social Media Amps Up Engagement

The event organizers, HSM Global, get a big Asset-Based Thinking shout-out for creating the Bloggers Hub, a unique feature at the event. It is a state-of-the-art resource placed right in the middle of the action that provides the featured bloggers with full access to everything happening at the event—upfront and behind the scenes. The bloggers hub is a very smart communication idea for conferences, with some great “ABT” benefits.

• Facilitates a friendly, open platform for bloggers to provide real time updates, commentary, and coverage of the speeches of some very smart and influential leaders.

• Serves as a micro-community of a diverse group of bloggers to connect around a common interest…live reporting and disseminating information of significance…what I call “Content of Consequence.”

• Creates an environment of mutually supportive and connected energy that feeds on itself. A special “vibe” that brings a new collective dynamic to a usually solitary writing process.

• Provides a “streaming commentary” on topics and discussions as they happen and invites real time response and interaction from each blogger’s audience which we in turn can use as fuel for our reporting.

• Links a network of “Trust Agents” and enables their power to apply leverage to issues and opportunities. Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) describes this as the “Archimedes Effect” in his book entitled (of course) Trust Agents.

Stay Tuned. More To Come



May 102010


No, I’m not Don Draper from Mad Men. But I’m an ad guy. I teach advertising in the grad school at USC and, yes, I am a twitterholic, @hankwasiak.

My career in advertising started in the Mad Men era and I am fortunate to still be doing what I love at The Concept Farm, a very cool creative company located on .85 acres in the heart of Chelsea in New York City. I’ve gone from a Mad Man to a Happy Farmer and along the way have lived through just about every shift and change in the advertising business over the past five decades.

And, coincidentally I’m right in the middle of putting together a syllabus for my class, picking a text book, and selecting case studies. It became obvious pretty quickly that the way business schools teach advertising has not yet caught up with actuality and, in many ways, is a metaphor for the mindset of Madison Avenue today. All of this has mashed up in to a point of view and perspective on where social media is taking the advertising business.

The Times They Are a Changing — Fast

Unlike the conventional doom and gloom wisdom about the death of advertising as we know it, I can honestly say that my enthusiasm for the future of advertising has never been higher. This enthusiasm and optimism is fueled by social media. Social media is the game changer, the killer app that is reshaping Madison Avenue at its very core in three major ways:

  1. The fundamentals of the marketing mix
  2. The nature of how advertising is supposed to work
  3. The measurement metrics of success

This is big time change. It’s powerful, exciting stuff. It’s all happening at once and it’s happening fast. Now is the time for Madison Avenue to re-invent itself by focusing on the endless upside possibilities opened up by social media. And, to do this, today’s Mad Men must change the way they see social media because the term social media has becomes a self-limiting frame of reference. To put what’s next into perspective, it’s helpful to look back.

Back To The Future? No Way

My first job in advertising was in 1965 at an ad agency called Benton & Bowles as one of those account men you see at Sterling Cooper on Mad Men. I often get asked if the show is an accurate reflection of what it was really like. In most respects it is. Sterling Cooper is eerily similar to Benton & Bowles. The client situations, office dynamics, and, of course, the drinking, sex, and smoking are all spot on. Except when I arrived, most of us were smoking something a lot more stimulating than Lucky Strikes.

Mad Men is a great show that beautifully captures a time when Madison Avenue was seen as a trendsetting arbiter of American values and these Mad Men showed us who we wanted to be and told us what to buy. And, for the most part, we loved it. While it’s clear that Madison Avenue as Don Draper knew it is gone forever, the fundamentals of the advertising business have remained essentially the same, until now. Just about the time that advertising was catching up with how to harness the power of an Internet-driven digital media world, along comes social media. Social media has created a “watershed moment” for Madison Avenue because of these fundamental systemic changes.

The Pillars of the Marketing Mix: The 4 Ps

Four fundamental pillars of the marketing mix have been embedded in marketing plans and practices since the 1960s: Product. Price. Place. Promotion. As relevant as ever. So, when social media came along the conventional wisdom was to see it as a new form of advertising — another way to “reach” consumers. While treating social media as a subset of advertising might have been okay initially, it grossly undervalues social media’s real role today. So, if social media is more than media, what has it become? Social media has morphed into the fifth pillar “P” of the marketing mix: People. Today a marketer must have a People Strategy developed in concert with its Product Price, Place, and Promotion strategies.

Time Magazine named YOU as its Person of The Year in 2006. The power and potential of what that cover foretold is just now coming into its own. When People Strategy becomes as fundamentally important as the other four Ps,it changes the way you strategize, organize, monetize, and commercialize a business. This isn’t semantics. It’s fundamental change.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is a person I admire. He is a visionary who saw this potential long before everyone else and he nailed it with this quote: “Embarking on social media strategy to help with marketing is like embarking on a facial muscle strategy to help with smiling.”

The 5 Ps. It is fundamental systemic change.

The Advertising Communication Model Has Expanded And Stretched

For decades, Mad Men have used a simple, four-letter shorthand for what advertising has to accomplish to be effective: AIDA Attention. Interest. Desire. Action. Not bad but then but not good enough today. Social media has added two other dimensions that are critical to success. The first is the letter “E” for Engagement. Consumers welcome getting involved with products and brands on many levels — on their own terms. People want to talk amongst themselves before they interact with a brand or a business.

The other dimension is the letter “S” for Sustainability. Today ideas and messages must be crafted to also encourage shareability so they sustain themselves well beyond their initial delivery and media contexts.

So now the shorthand should look something like this: A+IDEAS. They are connected and interdependent. Unless creative ideas and programs organically lend themselves to this construct they will miss the mark.

A New Success Ethic Has Changed the Metrics of Effectiveness

And again, social media has been the catalyst for much of this change. This really came into dramatic focus for me earlier this month when I had the opportunity to be a real-time blogger embedded at the World Business Forum in New York City. CEO after CEO and some of the best global thought leaders talked about the future of business. Here are the relevant highlights.

The hard assets that are traditionally used to gauge the strength and value of a business are as important as ever. However, they are the “table stakes” of today — the costs of entry. Soft Assets are increasingly seen as the business differentiators of the future. Here’s a sampling of the descriptions and comments that permeated their talks and filled the blogs.

  • Values based business – culture
  • Purpose driven marketing – passion
  • Trust built on transparency – truth
  • Corporate responsibility that fosters collaboration
  • “Healthy” companies that act “human”
  • Motivation that creates aspiration

If these words and expressions sound familiar, they should. This IS the language of social media. And, these differentiators are changing the way socially responsible businesses see “profit.” Now there are three tiers of profit that matter.

  • Dollar profit – The fiscal performance of the business
  • Emotional profit – The rewards for employees and stakeholders
  • Greater good profit – The positive impact on the community

These are major, important, enlightened shifts that are taking place in big, medium, and small businesses everywhere. Mad Men can lead by listening to them.

Mad Men&Women 2.0

This convergence of changes brought about by social media ( the five pillar “Ps”, the new communications model, enlightened metrics of success) has created a perfect storm for a mindset makeover on Madison Avenue. My top five thought starters:

Spend as much time talking with people as creating ads to reach them and shift from shouting and selling to sharing and helping.

Suppress the urge to say “we can do it all” and deliver the best of what you do best. Protect the integrity of your ideas, not your “turf.”

Embrace collabetition. Collaborate with like-minded competitors to create and deliver A+IDEAS for clients. Fair compensation will follow from value added.

Move from a master of the universe mentality to thinking like a maestro conducting a symphony orchestra of communication “instruments.”

The quality of an ad agency’s culture and values should be as visible and award-winning as its work.

Don Draper would not like what he sees on Madison Avenue today. But I sure do. We’re on the cusp of big change. As with most disruptive change, innovation and bold new thinking usually come from the fringe and then go mainstream. I’m very excited and grateful to be part of what’s next. And, I can’t wait to get in front of my class at USC and see what they have to teach me.

Also, we are launching a new regular feature series in the Video section of Blogcritics called Mad Men Confidential featuring real Mad Men commenting on advertising and AMC’s Mad Men TV show. Informative. Entertaining. Provocative. True.

Check it out and stay tuned.

May 012010


In previous posts I covered highlights from the outstanding line-up of thought leaders who spoke at The World Business Forum, 2009. (An Afternoon Of Concern and Contrast at The World Business Forum) One of the big observations that came out of the conference concerned an enlightened view of profit that encompasses both hard and soft assets.

More and more of today’s CEO’s now see a three tiered metric of profit as essential to building a strong and sustainable company. Dollar profit for fiscal sustainability. Emotional Profit of company stakeholders for a sustainable corporate culture and ethos. Greater Good Profit that extends benefits beyond the company for sustainable connected communities.

Now there is a study that seems to confirm that this enlightened profit perspective may do a lot more than just make a company CEO feel good. Valuing and building soft assets can actually be the key to delivering even better financial results and a healthier, stronger company. Recent research shows that CEOs who make it their business to place a higher priority on stakeholders’ interests and well-being rather than a relentless pursuit of  delivering dollar profit come out on top.

The research,entitled Unrequited Profit: How Stakeholder and Economic Values Relate To Subordinates’ Perceptions of Leadership and Firm Performance was conducted by some top people in the their field: Mary Sully de Luque, of Thunderbird School of Global Management; David A. Waldman, of Arizona State University West; and Robert J. House, of the University of Pennsylvania. Their findings are based on survey data gathered from 520 business organizations in 17 countries, including emerging markets. Here’s how the authors summed up their study.

We were testing the hypothesis that if a CEO’s primary focus is on profit maximization, employees develop negative feelings toward the organization. They tend to perceive the CEO as autocratic and focused on the short term, and they report being somewhat less willing to sacrifice for the company. Corporate performance is poorer as a result.

It turns out that this reordering of priorities and balanced perspective generate greater workforce engagement and extra effort that in turn yield significantly better operations and superior financial results. There also appears to be some risk to a CEO’s leadership effectiveness associated with a “profit above all else attitude”… the mantra of many a “hard driving” CEO. The exclusively profit driven CEO is seen as an autocratic leader and is less likely to garner employee commitment.

The values driven CEO is seen as a visionary, a motivator and is more likely to positively influence loyalty and inspire “extra effort”. He or she is viewed as a kinder, more empathetic breed of CEO superhero. This wholistic view being embraced by CEOs is Asset-Based Thinking at its best. It builds upon core asset-based leadership communication skills we call S.O.S. Leading with Substance. Sizzle. Soul. The hard assets of performance and skills are the substance…costs of entry. Sizzle is the personal style and presentation that gets attention. Soul is “why” it is personally important and meaningful….the secret ingredient that makes it all work.

I recently read a New York Times article about new values based organizations and business cultures and this bit of sage Asset-Based Thinking advice from Brandon Busteed, co-founder of Outside the Classroom really resonated with me. “Run like a business, act like a nonprofit, care to be better.”

Simple, smart, savvy advice for any business, non-profit or anyone just involved in the business of life.

Oct 112009

A potpourri of international CEOs, a Nobel prize winner, management visionary and Bill Clinton.

The bloggers hub got off to a slow start the morning of day 2 due in part to a tasty and lively bloggers dinner the night before. Nevertheless, we were treated to another action packed day capped off by an address by Bill Clinton.

Globalization 2.0 – An Interdependent Economic and Ecological Geo-System

The first part of the day lived up to its billing…International Insights. The morning was rich with non-stop presentations, perspectives and insights from a wonderful cross section of top executives from some of the biggest and best global powerhouse companies.

Among them:

  • Roger Agnelli – CEO of Vale, Brazil
  • Morris Chang – CEO of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing
  • Peter Voser – CEO of Shell,
  • Dennis Nally – CEO of Price Waterhouse Coopers

These guys are good! And, one blindingly obvious observation. They were all guys. Irene Rosenfeld, the CEO of Kraft who would present in the afternoon, was the sole female featured corporate executive addressing the Forum. The glass ceiling endures. (More about that in a future article)

These common themes permeated their presentations:

  • Unprecedented Inter-connectedness and Co-dependence
  • Glimmers of Improvement and Movement
  • A Permanently Changed (for the better) Financial Game
  • China Rising, Rising and Rising
  • Emerging Markets As “Lead Markets”
  • The Environment – We’re all in this together.

In the afternoon, Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize Winning Economist, helped put all of this into an overall economic context with his view of what the future holds for the global economy. Even I understood most of what he presented.

Gary Hamel and Management Innovation

Like most people, when I hear the word Management my energy level drops and I brace myself for a pretty flat, buzz word filled, old school lecture about management principles.

Wow! Was I wrong. Gary Hamel delivered a riveting, energetic, forward thinking talk with an inspiring vision of the future of management. One of the best, thought provoking, aspirational wake-up calls I’ve ever experienced.

People Tech. He sees Management as technology that moves people to get things made and done while driving efficiency and efficacy. Mr. Hamel believes that innovations in management have enabled the great leaps forward in business. Unfortunately, the management innovations and advances that have served us so well in the past are just “table stakes” for the future. A quantum leap in management innovation is urgent and essential for future progress.

This is being driven by a shift from a knowledge economy to a creative economy that demands challenges to current dogmas. He laid out an impressive array of possible innovations, visions and scenarios that could serve as future models . It’s impossible to do justice to all the great concepts Mr. Hamel discussed in this short article. These are a few of his big shift concepts for management technology that can “up the ante” on the current table stakes. They are all fundamentally rooted in Asset-Based Thinking.

  1. Unleash the creative content of every job through employee passion. Obedience, diligence, intellect, expertise are now commodities and costs of entry. Move beyond initiative to creativity.
  2. Create a work climate and organization that fosters a sense of purpose and inspires people to bring their individual passions to work every day. These are “gifts” that cannot be commanded or demanded.
  3. A new mental mindset that redefines and re-frames control and authority…manage from the fringe not the center. Management should ask itself “how would I get things done if I had no positional authority and sanctions?”. The answer. Authority comes from adding value…not position.
  4. Stop Testing. Start Experimenting. Experiments liberate people. Building portfolios of radical experiments will help build organizational firepower.

Mr. Hamel closed with question that he asked us to think about. “Isn’t it It’s weird that our organizations are less human, adaptable, resilient and engaging than we are as individuals?” Mr. Hamel believes that’s because we impose an overlay of management 1.0 technology. To be fit for the future companies must be fit for human beings. That’s Management 2.0.

If you can buy only one video lecture from the World Business Forum, this is it.

Irene Rosenfeld and Leading Transformational Change

As the only female CEO delivering a featured address Irene Rosenfeld stood out. More importantly she stepped up and stood out as a CEO on mission of leading change that is transforming one of the World’s largest consumer products companies.
Confident, cool and comfortable in her role as change agent, Ms. Rosenfeld took us on her now almost three year journey of turnaround and change at Kraft that started with listening.

These were her Rules of the Road that guided the changes at Kraft.

First. Get the right people on the bus. Raise the performance bar, identify those that can reach it and build an optimistic team.

Next. Give everyone a clear picture of the destination and the rewards that await them.

Then. Give people a roadmap to help them get there.

The Roadmap encompassed these strategies that are based on classic Asset-Based Thinking principles.

  • Engage peoples’ hearts and minds around aspirations. Shift from cutting cost to growth. Create a sense of higher purpose with shared hopes and dreams. Their new mantra. “Make Life Delicious”
  • Move Quickly. Tell the truth fast, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. In hindsight you wish you would have moved sooner.
  • Communicate frequently, consistently and honestly.
  • Celebrate success publicly and often. More about triumphs than trials

As with most transformations, they seem simple in hindsight but very difficult at the time of execution.

Bill Clinton and Being A Committed Global Private Citizen

clinton bookThere is only one Bill Clinton. He owns the room and connects and lands on everyone in the audience. Mr. Clinton covered a wide range of topics and is in total command of each subject he touches. I could never do justice to Mr. Clinton’s remarks and observations so I thought it best to provide a perspective on some of his more personal commentary and advice that hit home with me.

One is immediately struck by how very comfortable Mr. Clinton is with his place in the world as a private citizen working on things that are both important to him and the world. He takes pride in his work and is thoroughly enjoying it. Mr. Clinton’s simple message…each and every one of us, in our own way, could feel the same sense of fulfillment and pride by doing what we believe in, giving back and taking action. He echoed a similar Asset-Based Thinking message that permeated the Day 1 sessions. Find your “Mighty Cause” and give it your personal brand of attention and action.

He recounted that government and public service primarily focused on answering two questions…what are you going to do and how much are you going to spend on it. But the more important third question is ignored or given short shrift. How will what you do benefit peoples’ lives…one by one, group by group, community by community.

Answering and addressing this “How” question is where he is placing virtually all of his attention, getting the most results and deriving his greatest satisfaction.

At the end of his talk when Mr. Clinton was asked what advice he would give future leaders he said this. “Leaders have to understand people, not just policy. They must be empowered–not paralyzed–by this understanding,”

Now that’s some Presidential advice worth leading by.

Then the lights went down, the hall was emptied and the stage was being set for something even better. The Rockettes.