Tuesday, 27 November 2012

thoughts from Dubai...

We're in Dubai this week.

 I share with you a few thoughts based on a humble parking bay space...

Here is a parking space at Emirates Airlines HQ. It's for the Chairman and Chief of the group; who isn't in.

Now it could be he got helicoptered onto the roof or more likely driven to work in a Lexus for an early meeting, but there is nothing in the environment outside or inside the building to say that such is the case. The environment outside the building however suggests that he isn't about. Given that most people will pass this bay on their way into the main entrance, this has huge implications.

Like many organisations that are large and growing, there is ambition to connect the outside messages and brand to the inside culture and communication.  Folk talk about stitching together and aligning and joining up the parts etc.

For me, programmes like this live or die on the investment given to all employees. If you invest in your employees, they will, unconsciously and often spontaneously arrive at new thinking, creative insight and behaviour that not only benefits all those around them, but also translates to the wider populations of customers and consumers alike. fact.

If culture is 'how we are around here", then that is lead by those at the top. All this is obvious and straightforward; and often forgotten.

Having parking bays, corner offices, separate lifts and so on creates a different set of behaviours within those who make use of them and those who do not. At the hidden level, this undermines any culture change programmes or at the very least creates a set of road blocks in making them happen successfully.
There was once a conscious decision - maybe even a series of long meetings with PowerPoint and flip charts! - to discuss the layout, size and position of the Chairman's car parking space. Eventually, some poor noddy in 40 degree heat had to lay the slabs of stone and cement set a sign that says 'Big Top Dog goes here'. As soon as the concrete set around that sign, so too was the message "you're not as important as this person", along with "in fact, we'll put special attention to this type of person and not you, so you'll have to work out how important you are in the scheme of things".

The trouble with this type of message is that it's hard for a.n.other member of staff to work out his or her place in the fabric of the building. It's clear where the head honcho goes, but what about me? Where is my investment and how will I be recognised for it?
All sitting at an unconscious level, these fears will drive behaviour and action.
Your internal comms can spray and pray as much messaging as they like, but as long as there is a parking space for the boss outside, words land on deaf ears.

Better it would be - I believe, that everyone fought over the same parking spaces. That way I know that amongst all the cars in the staff plot, there might be the boss's. Indeed, it might be the one I've just parked next to.  At the same human level he and I are the same. We went to work along the same road and saw the same world as I did and now we're in the same building facing the same challenges - together as equals.

I get that the leaders need to run a business and they have different pressures, but no pressure is any less or more important that anyone else.

By having an empty space, whether the guy is in the building or not, there will always be those who think they are working alone, without support and in a done to fashion. The trouble with our imagination is what ever is perceived to be true - becomes so in the power of the mind.

A little thing makes a big difference.

Just my opinion. I might be wrong...

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Platitude plus points...

A golden rule of marketing one of my ex-bosses taught me was avoid platitudes and clichés in your advertising.  With a warming smile I saw this add currently hanging at Twickenham station.

"we mean business" is a classic platitude and the visual does nothing for the product benefits either.

But it still got me thinking about the positives.

Clichés and platitudes become so as they are used so often right? and....?

Granted I have grown a little tired of seeing images on proposals and documents featuring light bulbs, handshakes and my favourite; plant shoots growing out of cupped hands of soil. But aren't these images used often as they capture the exact metaphor you want to use?  What's the issue? For some this kind of creative is exactly the safe and steady paid of hands (see what I did there) some business need.
I remember being briefed to create 'something new and different' and on returning the feedback was 'oh, but not that new and different'.  Had I opted for a "we mean business" approach, perhaps the outcome would be different.

That's the magic of a creative brief. No idea is any less imaginative to the client than the next submission from the agency.  We'd go along way if we stopped over giving and tweaked just a little of the edges (bugger, done it again!).

Happy analogies and as I was coached once "think about your pitch as the opportunity to create mediocrity and succeed in style."

Friday, 9 November 2012

Advice for Heads of L+D and those with 'culture change' in their title...

I’m observing a trend in L+D and culture change programmes (and particularly in those who manage and make decisions around them) a staggering assumption that if something is ‘delivered’ then it is ‘learned’.
Let’s just take a few examples – as real as I can make them to suggest that this is wrong. Keep in mind, as was famously said once, that intelligence is to hold in one’s head two opposing sides of one argument simultaneously.
It says on the side of cigarette packets that THEY KILL YOU. People still smoke.
It says 30 on road signs.  We all speed. All of us.
I’m told to be healthy I should eat 5 portions of furit/veg a day  – you haven’t done that either have you...
It’s told in schools and addressed in magazines, t.v., the web and almost everywhere apart from an Ann Summers shop (there’s an idea) to have safe sex – the UK has year on year an ever increasing percentage of underage pregnancy and rising STD’s in young people.
Got the hang of it? You’ve probably thought of a few real examples yourself.

These are examples of broadcasting messages. It’s evidence of ‘delivered = known’ thinking; something that has kept internal comms people busy at the photocopier for years.
BUT what is broadcast isn’t learned.
Learning doesn't follow stimulus response. It's not a linear process.
L+D and culture change is sometimes seen as something that is ‘done to’ people ‘in business’ by ‘managers'. But Adult Learning doesn’t work like that.
If you wish to encourage a particular kind of behaviour over another (the root of culture change) then, it’s necessary to discover and highlight the cues that lead to the behaviour in question. It’s incumbent for L+D and Culture folk to arrange situations in the design of their programmes (and wider context at work) so that the desired behaviour occurs when those cues are present. Even better if the undesired behaviour doesn’t occur along with supporting feedback when those cues are present too.
At school this is all under the skilful use of reward and punishment. Something that ‘teaching’ professionals should do well and consciously. business would do a lot to learn from this.
In summary: In the context of the professional environment, an adult doesn’t learn what he was taught on a workshop, training or from a manual. He learns only what that workshop, lecture or manual got him to do.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Bond. Lotus. Build it and they will come.

The new Bond film came out the other week – I’m yet to see it so don’t spoil the surprise.
Being a Bond fan, I flicked through some of the Bond coffee table books I have lying around the house to get in the mood. I'm also a Lotus fan and I spotted the genius story of Don McLaughlan the head of PR at Lotus who had heard Eon productions were in pre-production of the new Bond Film the Spy Who Loved me.  Don realised that every car company would give its back teeth to have its product become a hero gadget laden car in the world's largest move franchise.
He also knew that such an opportunity came with a real problem in how to get the film maker’s attention.

It’s a well documented tale that don invested £18k in driving a pre production vehicle to Pinewood, taping up the lotus badges and leaving it outside the main office until the Producers and Director all started to take notice of it. Don (apparently) nonchalantly stepped passed and casually unlocked the car and drove away. Whether some of this story is lost in poetic hearsay and pub banter is up for debate, but the car was driven to Pinewood and the gamble paid off.
The rest is history and Bond drove one of the most temperamental sports cars of all time.
The story finds itself here as it’s a great example of how many problems come with inherited rules around they could be solved. When breaking a few of the assumptions, creative opportunities thus appear. In this instance, it wasn’t a case of how to get the Lotus car to the movie people, but asking how could the movie people come to the Lotus car...