Innovative cultures and the Brand Me working style



Is this a test for productivity?

Is this a test for productive working cultures?

 I worked from home today, which gave me some perspective about the way that I like to work as well as the ideals of the Brand Me theory that I have spoken about on this blog before. I awoke this morning feeling a little crook, and so (full disclosure here), took myself down to the doctors where I had a urine sample taken. I’ve felt quite sore in my kidneys these past few weeks, so thought it wise to get it tested.

After the test, I felt quite jubilant as I had the whole day in front of me, and was pumped to get on with some work which has been sitting in the in tray for far too long. At World Vision HQ, we are slowly but surely breeding an innovative culture, and the open office plan helps with that. However, I feel that sometimes it also gets in the way of achieveing some real work. Sometimes. I find it hard, often, to be mindfull in the office and to really get into the ‘flow’ of things, as Daniel Golman speaks about in his book, Working With Emotional Intelligence. He describes it as:

“Flow blossoms when our skills are fully engaged and then some – say, by a work project that stretches us in new and challenging ways. The challenge absorbs us so much we lose ourselves in our work, becoming so totally concentrated we may feel ‘out of time.’ In this state we seem to mandle everything effortlessly, nimbly adopting to shifting demands. Flow itself is a pleasure.’

I love this description, and think it apt for my situation today. Having arrived home, I logged on and responded to an email from work about a present opportunity that came up today. I thought I answered it well, and efficiently. I read widely through my RSS reader (I am loving the Outlook RSS that is included through feedburner. It’s a winner!), checked out some of those emails which have been sitting dormant for far too long, and generally maintained ‘The Squiggly Line’ business…mine.

I felt alive, and very mindfull and looking forward to having a crack at the Digital Content Strategy I have been working on at WVA for the past month. It’s a piece of work I have had trouble getting into at the office, as it has required a fair space for thought. I jumped in at about 5:30pm (yes, not in work hours!) and completed the thing in about 3 hours. I feel chuffed with the results and look forward to showing it off tomorrow (yes, my ego loves it!). Yeah, I worked (on work stuff, how ‘boring’) till 8:30 and yeah, I probably didn’t do my full ‘8 Hours work’ but I think the quality of work I produced and the way I produced it has lead to much better results. That work is something I feel proud of, which is not to say that I don’t feel proud of stuff I do at the office. But often, especially lately, I have felt that I have been putting out fires and being reactive rather than proactive when things just needed to be done.

I love working where I do, and being part of the conversations and discussions about our new strategy and innovation is the highlight of my week. I’m a big fan of the open office plan, where innovation and communication are allowed to flourish. But, I think we need to be more aware of our cultures and the environments that flourish from them and, especially as players in this new talent revolution, how we react being in one culture for too long.

Response to Ergo Blog: Long weekends and Living Assets

Very interesting topic of discussion @ the ergo blog. Read Col’s post before reading my response below.

I remember hearing Marcus Blackmore (chairman and founder of Blackmores) speak at a CSR conference I attended last year about his attitude towards ‘soft’ assets and their associated upkeep. His point of view was that each staff member of Blackmores was to be ‘valued’ at 50k…on top of their salary. His figuring here was:
– that to fully and properly replace a member of staff might cost about 1-2k in recruitment costs (more if you use a talent agency, which can charge upto 20% commission on the first year of salary of new hires)
– That when the new person hit deck, they would take time to get fully up to speed with the operation and flow of the business. This time, he conservatively reckoned, could be anywhere up-to 4 months.
– That when an ‘old hand’ leaves, often they have been filling many different roles and functions, which need to be covered at a cost to the organisation. At World Vision recently we have had one of our team, Bev, leave to further grow her own spiritual well-being business (which is booming, by the way). To replace Bev, we have had to distribute her role to no less than 4 different functions around the business.

All up, I actually think his 50K figure sounds quite conservative!!!

Then, in what I now take to be a great example of LAS, he used that assumption to justify the building of a new office and manufacturing space, with a total bill of 50k x the number of staff at Blackmores. (Blackmores, I think, has about 300-500 staff. I’m not sure exactly.)

His feelings were that if Blackmores could create an environment where his staff would want to be, and where they would feel happy and energised working, he could bring down the cost of losing his great people, and the cost associated with capturing the most talented in his industry. For memory, under his assumptions, the great outlay involved in building such an environment was completely rational under the old ideas of the traditional business paradigm – even profitable. And that’s not mention the associated productivity gains generated from such an environment and the savings from being more vertically integrated (office and manufacturing in one place.)

A great topic of discussion, that’s for sure. What are your thoughts?

Break my happy egg and call me cooked…

The whole Generation Y issue is getting to me. As you may or may not know, I work in the World Vision Australia youth marketing department. Part of what we do, better than anyone else in that organisation (and, we like to hope someday, better than anybody in any market) is ‘get’ and understand young people. We recently had some ‘consultant type’ people in, from a small trend-company called Uber. They provided some fantastic insights into what makes the youth of today tick, and how we as an organisation can attempt to tap into those trends to take our message to them. (Yes, how we can market to them). It made for some interesting conversation about how the youth of today (which includes me!) are going currently and what they face in the future. A few random facts, which I think I recorded correctly.

1) The average score on anxiety tests by youth today is the same as those recorded by people submitted to mental health clinics in the 50’s.

2) Generation Y has grown up almost entirely during a period of amazing economic prosperity. Most have never experienced a recession, and even if they we’re alive during one, they do not remember it.

3) The Generation Y is one of the more ‘wanted’ generation of children. I’m gonna take some license here, as this wasn’t fully discussed. But essentially, contraception techniques, as well as social values, we’re so advanced by the time this generation of people we’re born that, for the most part, parents made the conscious choice to have a child when they wanted. As such, they have been far more lauded and cared for by their parents. This may go some way to explaining why Gen Y’s feel much more ‘special’ than their older brothers and sisters. I heard today on the radio that adoption rates have dropped to about 600 per year in Australia, down from 10,000 in the 1970’s. That in itself, is a hugely scary stat that points to a hell of a lot more lovin’ and caring going on – and a lot more ‘special’ children being raised.

This has created an environment where today’s youth do not have a significant world view, beyond their own world. They primarily feel only responsible and loyal to their family and friends. As such, they can be (and are) delusional about the world that they live in, as well as incredibly vacant when it comes to some events. Mass deaths in the middle-east don’t seem to stir any response anymore, largely because this news doesn’t concern anyone in their family or friendship circle.

So why is it getting me down? Because I can see a lot of that in myself. Because I think it’s a very hard and tough journey for most young people to make to become more mindful about their own actions and the larger story that we all play a part of. It can be quite disturbing when this ‘Happy Egg’ that they live in (their own protected environments, where the only thing that matters is their friends and family) is shattered. Mine has been crumbling for a while now. I’m going to keep on breaking it down and see what happens.

The Pmarca Guide to career planning…get on it!

Okay – if you have been reading this blog you’ll know that I am trying to live the Brand Me life. I started this blog mainly to try to capture my portfolio of projects going on, how I was juggling the opportunities presenting themselves in each one, and to start conversations with other who were also trying to live this way.

Get ready for the next installment. If you have not already, get on to Marc Andreessen’s blog and read his guide to career planning. It’s gold…a great conversation is now set to open up about Project Life and career development not focused on HR Functions, Line Promotions and boring 9-5ers.

A few pearls from the article…

Pearl #1: Career Planning = Career Limiting.

I can’t agree with this more. I once met a guy called Bill Horman. Bill had progressed through life leading many different cool govenment projects (oxymoron?). He started as a cop, simply did a great job, always took on more than he could handle, and as a result has never been for a job interview. Every 3-4 years, he would get a call from someone he had worked with, offering him another position. Bill is now the General Manager of Crown Casino’s Community Affairs, loving trying to make great things happen with, quite honestly, a s**t load of money.

He lived (lives) his career in the moment, and is ‘on fire’ in the Melbourne Community. I have, since meeting Bill, tried to live a my life a similar way. This blog title, The Squiggly Line, denotes a life and career that are one and the same. One that doesn’t travel in a linear fashion but…well, squiggly.

But, as I posted previously, sometimes Part Time People = Part Time Results, which leads to the next pearl…

Pearl #2 – Living the portfolio life

Marc points out the importance of not planning every step of your career, but instead having an attitude more befitting of a stockbroker. I love this point – and try to pay attention to it often. I think a career is more like a portfolio, and myself being a younger person, my portfolio currently includes a start-up and undefined junior position at WVA, doing some really cool innovative thinking and projects around how the largest non-profit company in Australia can do stuff better.
Pearl #3 – Get some ‘great skills’

Finally, Marc also points to skill development vs career development. I, again, agree with this completely…but would like to take it a touch further. I think skill development is crucial. I would like to consider that I am developing a skill set primed for innovation and making things happen. This is where I take things further. Skills are good, but, observing Napoleon Dynamite, sometimes your ‘great nunchuk skills’ do not get you as much payoff as you would like. I think it’s important to have a larger, unquantifiable but guiding goal to help drive your skill progression. Case in point, mine is to Make Stuff Happen. It has a real meaning for me, and when faced with different opportunities I ask myself the one simple question – does it help me build skills to Make Stuff Happen?


Napoleon…had “great nunchuck skills”, but didn’t get him far with the ladies

If not, then I leave it. If I can see the skills I would improve by being part of that project as a key ingredient to ‘making stuff happen’ then I take the opportunity, add it my portfolio, and start the learning.

Any other thoughts? Please, do comment or share! How do you manage your portfolio?