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



Sep 232010

Leverage Strengths, Skills & Savvy To Maximize Assets Present In Any Situation.


Change Agents don’t have to look very far or too closely to spot resistance.  Setbacks are commonplace.  Unwanted and unintended circumstances abound and come from many directions…economic issues, internal politics, revenue shortfalls, entrenched legacy systems, etc. Professional and personal disappointments always arise. None of us is exempt.  That’s why Asset-Based Thinking in the face of difficult situations is so important and so useful. With ABT, build your power and influence by uncovering and magnify what’s best in virtually every situation you encounter.

Over 50 years ago, psychologist David McClelland suggested that we measure the value of a given day, month or year in three ways:  results, learnings, and experience.  When you stop to think about it, McClelland’s suggestion is a true ABT practice.  The invitation to examine what is learned and experienced—alongside the results that are achieved—creates three valuable bottom lines for any time frame and situation.

Valuable lessons and life experience are embedded in victories and defeats, in turning points and crossroads.  We may not always get the results we seek, but we are always in line to become a little wiser and a little bit better of a person as a consequence.

Mine The Gold In Any Situation

Expanding What You See – What is happening here?

Remember the children’s magazine picture games? The instructions read: Find 8 items hidden in this (seemingly straightforward) picture. At first, you are stumped…then, suddenly, the more you examine the picture, the more you realize that things are not what they seemed at first glance. You can employ these same skills to spot new opportunities in the way you “picture” a challenging situation.

Take your blinders off and start with a good hard look at the dynamics of the current reality. Analyze what is really going on.  Concentrate on tapping into the nuances.  Identify the real or potentially real gains and benefits associated with the situation.  Dig deeper. What is happening here that I or we can leverage?  Remember that even crises and upheavals have their upsides.  As an Asset-Based Thinker, you see and capitalize on the assets inherent in every situation—especially when they are invisible at first glance.

Maximize the Upside  – What do I want to make happen here?

Given the assets in this situation, how can I use what is happening (whether I like it or not) in order to achieve worthwhile objectives.  Which skills and talents do I or we need to move forward in a positive way? What are the keys to my success? Ask yourself (and others involved) to set specific, worthwhile objectives to be achieved as you engage the challenges and pushback at hand.

The best way to mine the gold in any situation is to find out what is meaningful and worthwhile about the situation, then take action to “milk” the situation for all it’s worth.  Find out how you can use even upsetting moments to inspire great solutions and ensure that everyone involved benefits in the short-term and the long run.

Minimize the Downside – How can I prevent or contain the losses?

In the midst of personal setbacks, business downturns and resistance to change, you may be tempted to look at all the things that are going wrong or could possibly go wrong. That, of course, can be overwhelming. Magnifying what is “worst” can even lead to panic and despair.  Those fear-based thoughts feed a deficit-based downward spiral.  There IS a better way to contain unwanted consequences.

Make desire based outcomes the source of your strength and power. Identify the one or two real or potentially real problems associated with the negative situation, upheaval or resistance.  Then create concrete strategies for minimizing the negative consequences of each problem.  Next, get in action.  Measure your impact.  Revise your strategies if necessary.  Stay the course.


A Helpful ABT Tool: Shifting From Threat to Challenge

In any given situation that you see as a problem, disappointment or setback, use this ABT Tool to shift from threat to challenge.  You are far more effective and proactive when you are motivated by the “promises of victory” than you are by the “fears of defeat”.

Step One.  Ask yourself, “What do I fear most about this situation? What are the real or potentially real losses associated with what’s happening?”

Step Two.  Ask, “What can I or we do to eliminate my fear?  What can I or we do to minimize the fear of change or loss?”

Step Three.  Given this situation, what are the possibilities and opportunities for myself, others, team or organization?  How could I/we grow or benefit?  What could I/we learn?

Step Four.  How can I/we put our drive and enthusiasm for achieving these possibilities and seizing those opportunities to work?

One final thought.

“I have always believed and still believe that whatever good or bad fortune may    come our way, we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

Hermann Hesse

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.

Oct 082009

The sky is falling….maybe

The beginning of the afternoon at the World Business Forum can best be summed up as a sobering barrage of the pitfalls, perils, and problems ahead of us. David Rubenstein, founder of the Carlyle Group, the world’s largest private equity firm, presented a non-stop litany of facts to drive home his admonition that “Just because the recession will be ‘over’ soon doesn’t mean it’s all going to be OK.” His command of the numbers and their implications was simultaneously amazing and numbing


Then Jeffrey Sachs gave us on a macro view of the unprecedented challenges we face as a result of living in a totally interconnected world, a planet bursting at the seams and not able to sustain itself, a US political system and governance gone awry over the past 25 years, and America’s ever dimming presence and influence.

Whew. Do we have anything to look forward to? Hopefully.

Two Asset-Based Thinking takeaways:

  • Vigilance is Virtue – There still are tough times ahead. Consolidate your assets…personal, relational and situational…so you’re ready to face them.
  • Cooperation and Collaboration on a global scale will be core drivers of a better future. No man is an island…positive, inter-dependent relationships are valued assets.

T. Boone Pickens: Building Value and Living Your Values

Substance. Style. Soul.

pickensThe discussion with Mr. Pickens had the feel and tone of a nice living room chat with one of your favorite uncles or mentors. The interviewer started out with a review of Mr. Pickens’ great wealth. Mr. Pickens was quick to point out that it wasn’t until he was 70 that he made his “first billion” and added that his five children and thirteen grandchildren are an equally important measure of his wealth. Now that’s a set of values that all of us should emulate.

Immediately, it became apparent that Mr. Pickens views wealth as a consequence of hard work, risk taking, passion, and resilience. Perhaps more important, he believes that building and leveraging a portfolio of softer assets is also essential: listening, connection, service, purpose, and values. He feels that CEOs must have a sense of caring and connection to their shareholders and, unfortunately, most do not, putting themselves before the good of their shareholders. Ain’t that the truth.

He really came alive when the discussion turned to his most recent venture, The Pickens Plan For Energy Independence. Mr. Pickens said he does not view himself as an environmental activist. He sees himself as being in pursuit of his Noble Cause, Security for America though energy independence…the positive environmental impact is an ancillary benefit.

Some great T. Boone Pickens Asset-Based Thinking advice:

The pursuit of your Mighty Cause and making “profit” go hand in hand. You have to change the way you see profit. It’s multi-leveled. Money. Emotional Rewards. Greater Good.

He is very proud of the fact that his Pickens Plan now has an online following of over 1.6 million people – what politicians call his “army.” He sees those 1.6 million advocates as more powerful leverage that all his billions and corporate holdings. Another example of the value that Mr. Pickens places on softer assets and his sense of values.

I’m signed up for the Pickens Plan and he’s on my Mount Rushmore of people I admire and respect.

Kevin Roberts and Building Brands – Love Me!

Kevin is the Creative Director for Saatchi, a large multi-national ad agency. In his book, Lovemarks, he very smartly discusses why brands today have to create “loyalty beyond reason” by delivering “emotionally priceless value.” Then, a brand can transform itself into a “Lovemark.” The art of creating emotional connections with consumers to build brands is not new in the advertising business. In fact, satisfying emotional needs is a “cost of entry” in today’s communications business. The major “now” dynamic taking the art of emotion to new levels are the power and control of the consumer and social media.

The Asset-Based Thinking insight in Kevin’s presentation was a simple one. To build a Lovemark, businesses have to let go of their brands and turn them over to the consumer. Let the brand speak for itself. In Asset-Based Thinking terms we call that “Losing Control to Get Traction.” This works just as well in your personal life as it does in building Lovemarks. Try it. You’ll like it.

George Lucas and Creative Innovation – Class!

George LucasGeorge Lucas capped off the day with an intimate and personal discussion of his life and his journey through the film business. He is the antithesis of Hollywood. Calm, classy, reasonable, values-based, independent…and one of the most inventive and creative people on the planet. The total package. He learned early on how to work with the assets and opportunities which present themselves.

Here are some wonderful asset-based thinking insights I heard from George Lucas.

  • Art is communicating emotions from one human to another…we need technology to enable that transfer. The value of emotional connections drives much of what he does.
  • As Yoda might say, be careful with what you hate because you might become it. – Commenting on the fact that he really doesn’t like writing scripts. He wanted to be an illustrator and make documentaries.
  • Never make your hobby your business. – Advice from dad on the importance of commitment to professionalism.
  • Practice reasonable civil discourse as the best way to get things done. Don’t yell, demand or intimidate. Enough said.
  • It’s not about writing a script. It’s about telling a story. Great advice on how to approach communication in general.

Finally, he encouraged everyone to put their passions to use for the greater good. What Asset-Based Thinkers call finding their “Mighty Cause.” George Lucas’ Mighty Cause is learning and education. He founded the nonprofit Edutopia and is using his talents and resources to study how teachers teach, find and document best practices, and share them online with the world. His vision is to create “learning machines.”

The afternoon started out with a barrage of the downside, the problems; then it gracefully moved though to a vision of upside possibilities and potential. A perfect setup for cocktails and the bloggers’ dinner.

More to come tomorrow from Day 2

Oct 072009

Bloggers hubSitting in the front row in the Bloggers Hub at The World Business Forum. Wired, ready to go and surrounded by 50 of the best bloggers on the planet. A bit intimidating. These are some of the most savvy social media folks around, smart thinkers, great writers and they type a lot faster than me.

Undaunted, I’ve put on my Asset-Based Thinking lenses and will be viewing the conference with an eye towards how speakers address positive change and momentum. I’ll also be drawing on the energy and support of my fellow bloggers.

Some Asset-Based Thinking take-aways from the morning session.

Setting The Stage
Les Hinton, CEO of the Dow Jones Company summed up the past year with a quote. “If you ride through hell, you don’t stop.” He advised the audience to be vigilant and “keep on riding” since there are still challenges ahead. It’s not over yet. He was simultaneously optimistic about focusing on the future, the importance of small business and sticking to what business does best. Creating value!

Bill George & How Crisis Shapes Leaders
Bill George, from Harvard, delivered a personal and practical talk on “Leading In A Crisis” based on his excellent book, “7 Lessons For Leading In A Crisis”. Overall, he’s concerned that the aftermath of the crisis may be worse than the “storm” itself because of the jobs issues. Bill believes that leaders have been too focused on saving jobs rather than creating jobs and that small business is the job creation engine that drives our future. Amen.

Bill also said this. “Crisis is the true test of a leader and great leaders never let a good crisis go to waste”. Only by taking the crisis head on and looking deep into the eye of the storm can a leader see the opportunities on the other side. And, great leaders actively learn how to “anticipate” crisis and be ready.

His best Asset-Based Thinking advice was this. When facing a crisis one should lead by his or her True North Values. The beliefs and values by which you lead your life should be the way you lead in your business. Another humbling thought. The career you have built over 30 years can be lost in 30 minutes if a crisis is not handled with leadership and integrity.

Bill Conaty & Making The Most of The Human Resource

Bill served as head of HR at GE under the legendary Jack Welch. Together they built a World Class company built on performance based values. He underscored the need to have Human Resources move beyond being viewed ad the “pensions and picnics” to being positioned a real business partner, employee advocate and “trustee” of the company values. (love they concept of a values trustee)

Theses are the ingredients necessary to build a performance based culture

  • Passionate CEO commitment.
  • Well understood values.
  • Real goals and measurements.
  • Trust and candor in evaluations. (Trust Agents in your company)
  • Consequences for failing.
  • Always raising the bar

Bill’s best asset-based thinking advice was this.

“Making the numbers and embracing core values are the metrics of success. Too much time is spent on the number…without the values superior performance is not sustainable”

To borrow a phrase from a past election…It’s about the values, stupid. The best leaders make sure that values are deeply embedded into a company, at all levels, and that there is a clear succession plan to carry them on.

Pat Lencioni – Trust Shall Set You Free.
A real deal Team Building guru. Pat was the energizing finale of the morning. The ultimate “infotainment” speaker, Pat made transformed the simple principles of building effective teams into profound, practical and powerful insights.

He believes that for any business to maximize its potential the business needs to do two things very well….be intellectually SMART (the nuts and bolts of the business) and operational HEALTHY (The emotional & personal engagement of the business) The right balance of these two critical ingredients build a teamwork culture that minimizes politics and confusion maximizes morale, productivity and retention.

Some other pithy tips and advice:

  • Health lets a business tap more deeply into its smart side.
  • A cohesive leadership team requires both Intellectual Clarity and Behavioral Clarity
  • Don’t fear redundancy. Over communicate the clarity.

Pat identified what I believe is the “silver bullet” in enabling functional teamwork to flourish and help make a business great. Trust. Predictive trust (to say what one believes) and vulnerability based trust ( to feel free to admit shortcomings and be vulnerable)

This multi-dimensional trust helps everyone overcome their fear of conflict – not personal conflict – but debate and positive conflict over issues. Without conflict there can’t be true commitment.

Pat’s simple wisdom – Conflict with trust is pursuit of the truth. Without Trust its politics. Foster an environment of “Disagree and Commit”.

Finally, Pat made an emotional appeal to the audience to realize that as leaders they have profound influence on the everyday lives of the people they work with. He summed up leadership as a “profound ministry”. An inspiring Amen for all of us in the audience.

Lunch time. Refuel for an exciting afternoon of Jeffrey Sachs and T.Boone Pickens.

Oct 062009

Positive Social Media Adrenaline Amps Up Business Events

WBF Radio City

Reporting live on Day 1 as a featured blogger at the World Business Forum (#wbf09) at Radio City Music hall in NYC. A beautiful day in the Big Apple for a Big Idea business conference.

Bloggers Hub Buzz
Even before the speeches begin one of the event’s unique features is generating a great deal of positive chatter. The event organizers, HSM get a big Asset-Based Thinking shout out for creating the Bloggers Hub. It is a state of the art resource placed right in the middle of the action that houses about 50 featured bloggers providing us with full access to everything happening at the event. The bloggers hub is new and very smart communication idea for conferences, the benefits of which are apparent even at this early stage.

Bloggers Hub Benefits That I See

  • 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 brilliant new book entitled ( of course) Trust Agents.

So, stay tuned for live blog posts, tweets, twirtpics, twitvids, facebook updates and more from The World Business Forum. Welcome to what Jeff Pulver  (@jeffpulver) has dubbed The State of Now.

Sep 242009

This is my first post kicking off a series called Asset-Based Thinking In Action. Here’s what this series is all about

Celebrating how remarkable people from all walks of life use Asset-Based Thinking  to have an impact and make a difference. ABT lessons learned and how to apply them to your daily life.

We live in a 24/7 non-stop world with instant access to just about any information we want or need. More than we can ever use. And yet, most of what we see, hear and read comes at us from negative perspectives. Sometimes we just feel like saying “enough”.


My partner, Dr. Kathy Cramer and I felt frustrated and motivated enough by the constant din negativity that we created a series of books that brings to life a revolutionary (and re­freshingly simple) concept called Asset-Based Thinking. (ABT, for short) It’s a practical approach to focusing on the positive side of life’s ledger and using it to full advantage in everything you do.

Small Shifts Can Make Seismic Differences

Small shifts in the way we absorb, perceive, filter, and interpret information can lead to dramatic improvements in the way we live. Which direction we take is up to us. Asset-Based Thinking zeros in on what’s working and possible rather than what’s not – Deficit-Based Thinking (DBT). ABT favors inspiration and aspira­tion over desperation…and it is infectious. The choice is ours alone to make.


Asset-Based Thinking In Action – Seeing Is Believing.

istockphoto_10305355-thumbs-up-over-green-backgroundOne of the best ways to see and feel the power and potential of asset-based thinking is to observe and learn from how others put ABT into action in their own lives. Every week, this series will shine a positive and uplifting and light on people who use asset-based thinking to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

From CEO’s to small business owners, teachers and students, volunteers and public servants, teens and grandparents these stories will help you feel better, live better and raise you spirits. Another great bonus derived from reading these ABT in Action stories is personal growth and discovery. Remember this truth:

“The qualities that we admire in others we have in ourselves. You just have to know how and where to look for them”

ABT In Action At The World Business Forum:

WBF Welsch

The World Business Forum is an annual global business summit that will be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on October 6 & &.  The WBF ranks among the world’s top five most influential venues for CEO’s and C-Suite executives. There will be 5000 attendees and Bill Clinton, Jack Welsh, and T-Boone Pickens are just a few of the a-list speakers.

I am fortunate to have been chosen as one of the select group of bloggers to have exclusive access to the event. I’ll be writing some of my next articles form the World Business Forum event. I promise this will be very exciting and informative two days.

Stay Tuned.