Jonathan Colton

Jonathan L. Colton When we are passionate about an idea, have the courage and resolve to bring it to life, great things happen.

15 March 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Are Ball Hogs ruining your meetings?

Sports economist Dave Berri’s recent post Ball Hogs and Long Meetings, makes the connection between basketball players who are incentivized to take as many shots as they can (ball hogs) and people who make meetings a difficult and frustrating experience (dominant, non-stop talkers). You know, the people who do the most talking, sounding authoritative, even though they may not be contributing anything more relevant, correct or insightful then their fellow meeting attendants. Citing a study on the dynamics of meetings, Berri states:

“Dominant individuals behaved in ways that made them appear competent,” the researchers write, “above and beyond their actual competence.” Troublingly, group members seemed only too willing to follow these underqualified bosses.


Think about what this study says about meetings. If I want you to think I am competent, I need to talk.


Relating this back to basketball “Given the dominance of scoring, players who want to be considered “stars” have a clear incentive. To be a star you need to take as many shots as you can get away with.

The above has bad implications for conducting effective meetings doesn’t it?

There are important contributors, including quiet creatives, who are being talked over or sidelined every day in meetings and conference calls. If you are one of these people, you get this. If you facilitate and lead meetings, you know many people like this.

While there is no slam-dunk solution (pun intended), there are ways to create an environment where people can contribute to the insights being developed in a conversation, decide on the best ideas and move forward with clarity.

Many of our clients at Edistorm are collecting insights prior to having a meeting. This is an asynchronous activity where each individual can contribute their ideas into the mix. Additionally, after a meeting, when the details of a discussion have had time to percolate, participants can share their additional insights as they have them.

During meetings where teams are actively discussing ideas, a synchronous activity, people can also post ideas into the storm as the live meeting is going, without having to battle for the ball. This levels the playing field. Participants don’t have to fight for air time, feign authority and can still have their ideas included in the conversation.

Dotmocracy (voting) and filtering in Edistorm allows the most important ideas to be recognized. A victory for the quiet contributor, as their ideas may be highly resonant, competent and compelling, but go unrecognized when they fail to gain airtime in a traditional meeting. Edistorm users can post ideas and make their contribution quietly. Which is how some people like it.

07 February 2012 ~ 0 Comments

The Yin and Yang of Collaboration, is it really Me versus We?



A recent NY Times Opinion piece on collaboration, the “New Group Think”, questions whether collaboration, group work and team based ideation, are less effective than working privately and autonomously? For instance, when should we work alone and when is a team based approach more effective?

After reading it, my question is, is there a need to pit individual work against team co-creation as both are necessary to solving large scale problems? If one person could easily create a solution on their own, then why would they need to collaborate with others? It is the very nature of the problem sets we all are engaged in solving, that collaborative is absolutely necessary.

At Edistorm, we regularly communicate with “stormers” in our customer discovery process. It’s how we dig deeper with our users to better understand the problems they are trying to solve by using Edistorm. Second, it gives them a better understanding of how Edistorm works and how they can better use our platform of tools more effectively.

The one thing which has become obvious over the past six months of an intense customer discover process; Our subscribers are using Edistorm synchronously and asynchronously. Meaning they are working with their teams and also working autonomously, doing their own thinking and problem solving. Ultimately, all of these ideas collide in their “storms” as teams work through their processes and find solutions.

What we found most striking in the opinion piece, is the passage below.

And I’m not suggesting that we abolish teamwork. Indeed, recent studies suggest that influential academic work is increasingly conducted by teams rather than by individuals. (Although teams whose members collaborate remotely, from separate universities, appear to be the most influential of all.) The problems we face in science, economics and many other fields are more complex than ever before, and we’ll need to stand on one another’s shoulders if we can possibly hope to solve them.

While the above passage cites studies based on academic work, our client experience suggests that great work is being done remotely, autonomously and collaboratively in the enterprise space as well.

We regularly communicate with companies globally, who have similar needs for tools that will enable them to collaborate, share ideas and work remotely. We have users in 115+ countries who find Edistorm on their own, as we barely spend any time on finding our customers. A testament that many people world wide are seeking tools which enable them to work both remotely, autonomously and collaboratively.


13 October 2011 ~ 1 Comment

The big compliment: When your client says “Always be changing”.

Recently my client Nick Jekogian, CEO of Signature Community, wrote a blog post titled, Always be Changing.

What was special about this blog post? First, it was seeing how much my client appreciated what I helped them do. Second, it is understanding how much of an impact the process which I designed for them, has on how they do business, treat their customers and each other. Third, my clients have executed on this process reliably for the past two years (in their third year) and are changing their company without outside assistance. My role is now mentor and observer. They get it, they own it and don’t need my help.

This is a dream realized and I’ll explain why. In my last company, after more than a decade of very successful operations in a rapidly changing industry, we failed to change…and that company no longer exists. So, by helping a client succeed where I personally have failed in the past, is awesome! Past failures are the seeds of innovation and growth.

Innovation is about creating the new, evolving and growing. We when adapt, we thrive. When we don’t…you know what comes next. ABC, Always be changing.

See Nick’s Blog Below.

Always Be Changing – Wednesday October 5th, 2011.

Five years ago, anyone could buy a building, hold it for a few months, refinance out all their invested equity or sell the deal for a profit based on the appreciation. Apartment buildings, shopping centers, office buildings and homes were being traded like baseball cards. We were in the middle of a huge bubble and like most bubbles very few even realized it was happening until it was too late.  At the time real estate business models had nothing to do with successful operations and hinged on speed of the transaction and leverage.

That all changed in September 2008 with the financial meltdown. It was then that we realized at Signature Community that our business model needed to change drastically. Knowing that we need to change and knowing how to change are two dramatically different things, compounded by the need to meet the interests of many different parties.

In Fall 2008, Signature Community embarked on a radical new business process which we now call Si3 (Signature Ideas, Innovation and Implementation).  It started several months earlier, when I hired Jonathan Colton, who is a business strategist, to advise our Acquisitions and Management Teams.  After a few months, Jonathan and Dave McLain (COO/GC) convinced me that Signature needed to be a company where change and innovation are a necessary and regular business activity.  Jonathan designed Si3 based on ideas for change and innovation that I had hoped we would accomplish at Signature.  Jonathan worked closely with our management team as we began our journey into unknown territory.

Jonathan’s concept was that we needed to include the entire organization in the Si3 process, break out into teams led by front line managers and set a target role-out date for 90 days later.  I thought it was a radical idea to include the entire organization in the change process. Everyone was asked to work on ideas that would make Signature a better place to live & work, a healthier company. We faced big challenges and needed all of our collective talent on the same team toward progress to make Si3 work. We had to make sure we found a way to make everyone part of the successes and failures. The process is a very simple, yet very powerful tool for change.

The first step was to generate ideas on how to make radical changes in the organization. As the CEO, I asked everyone I could for their feedback on how to change for the better.  I asked our team members, investors, lenders, customers, outside consultants, friends, former employees, new team members and even military generals.  I read magazine articles and toured other companies. You name it, we included it in our research process.

We then filtered through the ideas and divided them into buckets (themes) such as customer service, Team Member experience, cost cutting, green initiatives and more.  We asked each and every team member at Signature to participate on a team focusing on one of these themes.  Leaders were elected for each of the teams with the only restriction being that the leader could not be senior management.  And then we set the groups free to make it happen. We borrowed an idea from Google where we give everyone on each idea team up to 20% of their week to work on these ideas.

What resulted in a few short months was nothing short of amazing. Innovative projects were implemented that saved us money, increased our resident satisfaction, helped our employees (now called Team Members) and led to greener communities at Signature. But the truly amazing part was the intrinsic value of this initiative.

We are an organization that serves thousands of residents in more than a dozen markets nationally. Our team is physically separated by thousands of miles. After our team members started collaborating on ideas that they were collectively interested in, they developed bonds that are even stronger today.

We saw an immediate increase in team member engagement.  Today, many companies are discovering that money does not motivate everyone like they once believed.  Second, money is not readily available to reward everyone like it was in better times.

We need to challenge people in ways that they enjoy and with which they feel connected. This is exactly what happens at Signature during the months where the Si3 participants work on ideas that each team picks on their own. These teams have the freedom to work on ideas that they are passionate about.

SI3 helped us find new leaders in the organization.  We had maintenance team members, managers and even residents step up to lead initiatives and teams, which allowed us to see people in a different light and move them into greater leadership roles in the organization.

While our initial goal was to save money and increase customer service, what we really gained at Signature, was a much more engaged Community of thinkers and doers. We learned to embrace and create change.

Thanks for making change happen at Signature Community!

Nickolas Jekogian
Signature Community
Blog –
“Si3” Signature: Ideas, Innovation, Implementation!
Send ideas to:

05 October 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Goodbye Steve

05 May 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Measure This! Innovation Index for NYC

Mayor Mike Bloomberg delivered a talk at Stanford recently to discuss the NYC Innovation Ecosytem and introduce the Innovation Index.

Another reason to believe that Mayor Bloomberg is the best Mayor in America.

Full speech below, courtesy of:

“It’s an honor to be part of such a distinguished program – and with the parade of stars you’ve heard from today, you may be wondering why I’m the big finish. Well, did Alan Simpson have a role in the new Matt Damon movie – for 8 seconds? (If you see the movie – don’t blink.) Did Hernando de Soto write a book called “Bloomberg by Bloomberg” that is currently 341,125 on the list? And I don’t remember George Schultz meeting Beyonce and Lady Gaga. So here I am.

“It’s great to be at a university founded by a New Yorker. That’s correct – Leland Stanford, for those of you who may not know, was born in Watervliet, New York – right outside of Albany, our state capital. (And if any of you have been following Albany politics in recent years, you understand just how smart he was to leave when he did.)

“Leland Stanford did what many bright, ambitious people of his generation did: they went West. They went in search of opportunity, work, and the next big thing. That’s the history of America over the past two centuries – from the railroads, to the gold rushes, to the oil booms, to the technology revolution. When Americans looked ahead, they looked West, with one, very large exception: New York City.

“New York has always been a frontier town: a place of promise and possibility, a place where people go in search of a better life. The millions who pull up stakes to come to our city usually arrive with little more than the capacity for hope and hard work. That was true of my ancestors – and it is true today.

“Tonight, I’d like to talk a little bit about what it means to be a frontier town in the 21st century, and what we are doing to continue attracting the pioneers who will explore it and redefine it. That includes many of you here in this room.

“Let me begin by putting the dimensions of the new frontier in context. When I graduated from college in 1964 – I know what you’re thinking, ‘He looks so much younger!’ – the World’s Fair was in New York City. And one of the big attractions was a technological breakthrough developed by Sony: The world’s first electronic, desktop calculator. It took until the 1970s for the pocket calculator to arrive, another decade for the home computer to enter the mainstream, and almost two decades for cell phones to become common.

“But today, the pace of innovation is moving so fast that when today’s seniors were freshman, ‘apps’ were still something you ordered before dinner. Now, we can hardly remember how we survived without Shazam and Angry Birds – or how we delivered speeches without iPads.

“A student graduating from Stanford this spring literally has the world at his or her fingertips. And many seniors are looking for jobs that did not even exist when they first arrived on campus. Markets are moving at an unprecedented pace, because the pace of technological innovation is speeding up by the minute. And that will not change.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time, not just to be young, but to be an innovator of any age. The opportunities are endless, and the more today’s pioneers forge ahead, the wider the frontiers become.

“In this new age of innovation, the question for cities and countries is a simple one: How do you attract more pioneers?

“I believe the answer starts with creating a place where people want to live and work. That means safe streets, quality public schools, beautiful parks, and exciting art and cultural opportunities. That has been priority number one for us in New York – and in every category, we’ve made huge gains. Cities with a great quality of life – like New York and San Francisco – give their companies a substantial competitive advantage in the market for global talent, and I’ve always believed that talent attracts capital more effectively than capital attracts talent.

“Creating a great place to live and work is just one part of our strategy to attract more pioneers. We are also taking huge swaths of old industrial land that had been ignored for decades and opening it up to new private investment, especially along our waterfront. New York actually has 520 miles of waterfront, which is more than San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Chicago – combined. (Not that I’m bragging – a New Yorker would never do that.) Some of that underused waterfront is on the Far West Side of Manhattan, which is full of old warehouses and train yards right now. So we’re building a subway expansion to the area – the first new subway track to be funded by the City in more than 50 years. It will open up Manhattan’s last physical frontier to enormous amounts of new commercial and housing development – and help attract the next wave of innovative companies.

“We are also working to make one of our strongest talent magnets even more powerful: our universities. Believe it or not, New York City is America’s largest college town, with more than 600,000 post-secondary students. We have more college students than Boston has people – and we’re still growing. Right now, New York University, Fordham University, the City University of New York, and Columbia University are all in the midst of major expansions, and Columbia’s huge new biomedical research campus is going to make it an even bigger player in a field that keeps growing.

“But we want our universities to grow even more – and we want to be sure that one field, in particular, helps lead the way: engineering and applied sciences. I was an electric engineering major at Johns Hopkins. I actually started out as a physics major, but there was a German language requirement, and I said, ‘Danke, but no Danke.’ Even though I didn’t go on to practice engineering, I never could have built my company without some very talented computer engineers. And of course, most companies today that produce something – even if it only exists in cyberspace – rely heavily on engineers.

“Engineering and the applied sciences will continue to be enormously important drivers of the innovation economy – and as everyone in Silicon Valley knows, where innovation occurs, job growth follows. We want more of those innovations, and more of those jobs, to be in New York City. And so we are offering the world’s great universities a simple proposition: Build a world-class engineering or applied sciences research center – and we’ll work with you to provide the land, as well as some of the funding.

“This may be one of the best deals for higher education since the federal government passed the Morrill Act in 1862, establishing a land grant program for new universities. The Morrill Act was intended to promote innovation and expertise in agriculture and engineering – because Congress recognized those fields were critical to the nation’s economic growth. Today, New York City is taking the same approach on a micro-level – and we are very optimistic about the potential upside.

“If you’re wondering why a university might open a satellite campus in New York City, just ask Cornell. Cornell is about 200 miles northwest of New York City – but years ago they decided to build a world-class medical school on the East Side of Manhattan: the Weill-Cornell Medical Center. And they would tell you it’s one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. As economic success becomes increasingly correlated with talent and intellectual property, universities become more valuable than ever.

“The initial response we’ve gotten from universities has been very encouraging.

“We’re particularly pleased that Stanford – which has a top-flight engineering school – is considering the idea. And why not? It’s a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a world-class university to get a toe-hold in the world’s greatest city.

“The offer we are making to universities is just one part of the work that we’re doing to foster an innovation economy. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, a lot of people predicted a lot of negative things for New York. After all, they said, this is the financial capital of the world and this is the worst financial crisis in more than 80 years. And for as long as anyone could remember, when Wall Street sneezed, New York City got a cold. As you know, losing Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns was a lot more than a sneeze.

“My response – and people were skeptical when I said this on the day Lehman went under – was that no matter what we were about to face, I would rather have New York’s hand to play than any other city’s. And in fact, we weathered the collapse on Wall Street and the national recession better than anyone expected – because our economy has grown more diversified than most people realize.

“Last year, we even led the nation in job growth – and despite what you might guess, none of that job growth came in the finance sector. It’s come from the industries that are driving the innovation economy, like information technology, education, and health care.

“People think of us as a world financial capital – and we are. But we are also a fashion capital – with more than twice as many fashion houses as Paris. We are a health care capital – with some of the finest hospitals in the world. We are also increasingly a capital for bioscience research and development, an industry we have made large investments in. We are a cultural capital – which is the main reason why we have topped Las Vegas and Orlando in tourism for the past two years. And we are a media capital – not just print and television, but electronic media too. Google bought a square-block building. Facebook is expanding in New York. And Microsoft has 2,000 employees there.

“These businesses – and businesses like Bloomberg and Reuters – are all growing. And I believe that it is only a matter of time before New York City becomes the IT capital of the world. We’ll get there because – more and more – we are also a technology start-up capital. We’re now the number two recipient of VC funding for tech startups, having passed Boston last year.

“I know how hard it is to start a company – how many obstacles you have to overcome, not to mention all the doubters you have to ignore. The venture capital community knows how risky it can be – but also how good ideas tend to grow out of face-to-face communication and collaboration among fellow entrepreneurs. To encourage more of that communication – and to help entrepreneurs deal with one of the biggest challenges they face: the cost of real estate – we’ve created incubators in a range of industries. The incubators – which are generally partnerships between the City and the private sector or universities – provide discounted office space as well as some administrative support. That lets innovators do what they do best – focus on commercializing their ideas.

“We’re also supporting start-ups with something else they find pretty helpful – capital. Taking a page from Silicon Valley, last year we created the NYC Entrepreneurial Fund. It combines City money with private venture capital to make investments in some of the most promising early-stage companies in the city. It’s the first public-private fund of its kind outside of Silicon Valley – and it’s an example of how we’re determined to find new ways to promote innovation.

“Anecdotally, we know there has been a big uptick in innovation activity in New York City, but now we’re also seeking to quantify our progress. By partnering with academia and venture capitalists, we’ll become the first major city in the country to create an Innovation Index. The index will track New York City’s performance in a number of key areas, including VC investment, federal research grants received, employment in the fields of science and engineering, new patents and the commercialization of technology emerging from our local universities. This data will help us focus our efforts around innovation, and refine the strategies and policies we use to promote it.

“The work that we’re doing to fuel innovation and entrepreneurship will help bring new companies to life – and one of them may even be the next Google. But the reality is, if we don’t fix our country’s broken immigration system, the next Google won’t be starting anywhere in America. Like so many of the new companies that define the 21st century economy, Google was co-founded by an immigrant. In fact, studies show immigrants are more than twice as likely as native-born Americans to start companies. Immigrants also create the small businesses that are so essential to employing low-skill laborers – both immigrant and native-born.

“Right now, there are more than 13 million unemployed Americans – and millions more who have just stopped looking for work. In New York City, we’re connecting our job-training programs to our economic development programs, so we can connect people to the companies that are hiring now – not five years from now. We’re also tailoring these programs around immigrant communities – so that language barriers are not barriers to employment. As a result, we’ve put record numbers of people in jobs, even in the depths of the national recession.

“One of the arguments against immigration reform is that immigrants take jobs from Americans. It’s exactly the opposite: immigrants create jobs for Americans. And many do jobs that Americans won’t.

“There’s an old story about an Italian immigrant arriving in New York City. He had heard the streets of New York were paved with gold. And he says: ‘When I got here, I learned three things: First, the streets were not paved with gold. Second, the streets were not paved. And third: I was expected to pave them.’

“Now, it’s quite possible that that immigrant started paving, then bought his own equipment with his savings, and then grew the business. That’s the American dream! And there are countless stories like it in cities like New York and San Francisco.

“History shows that every generation of new Americans has fueled the economic engine that made the United States the strongest country in the world. And today, whether it’s doing back-breaking or mind-bending work, we need more immigrants to help our country grow.

“Other countries are desperately seeking more immigrants – even offering incentives to attract them. Chile is offering American entrepreneurs $40,000 and a one-year visa to stay in the country. China has recruited thousands of the entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists they know they need.

“I’ve proposed that we give a green card to anyone who graduates from a U.S. college with an advanced degree in science, engineering, and other important fields – and to give a visa to any entrepreneur who wants to come here and has backing to start a business. Yet instead, the federal government is literally turning them away by the thousands – or making the visa process so torturous that no one wants to endure it.

“The more difficult we make it for foreign workers and students to come and stay here, the more likely companies will be to move jobs to other nations. Just look at what’s happened here in Silicon Valley. Many companies that have not been able to get workers into the country have been forced to move jobs to Vancouver. Just as troubling, more and more foreign students are reporting plans to return home because of visa problems. We educate them here – and then, in effect, tell them to take their knowledge to start jobs in other countries. That just makes no sense whatsoever. Our immigration policy is a form of national suicide – and I know this audience understands all too well just how many jobs the current laws are killing.

“But the problem with the immigration debate in Washington is that there’s very little discussion of economics. It’s all about ideology and buzz words. Politics and platitudes. We need more facts and data – and once we’re actually discussing them, something happens: people on both sides of the aisle actually agree.

“Last year, together with Rupert Murdoch – himself an immigrant from Australia – I launched a group of mayors and business leaders called the Coalition for a New American Economy. Our goal is to put sensible, immigration reform back on Congress’s agenda. More than 150 business leaders have joined us – and I hope many of you will join us.

“Immigration is by no means the only major policy reform where we need strong leadership in Washington. Over the course of the day, you’ve heard a very distinguished group of leaders talk about the need for new approaches in many different areas.

“I mentioned earlier that there are no limits to America’s new frontier – but there is actually one: government paralysis and partisan gridlock. In the 19th century, the federal government was instrumental in creating incentives and conditions that led pioneers to push westward – and forward. Today, we need government to understand the new pioneers – the conditions they need, the incentives they value, the obstacles they face. That’s the great challenge confronting all governments today, and I can tell you there is not a place in the world that will do more to confront that challenge head-on, to embrace the new frontiers wherever they lead, and to create a dynamic new America, than New York City.




22 March 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Want to lead a revolution? — go to “Revolution U”

Today we often read about disruptive technologies and disruptive businesses. What about disruptive movements? What can we learn from savvy freedom seekers that we can apply to transforming companies and organizations?

19 March 2011 ~ 0 Comments

I laughed out loud!

17 February 2011 ~ 2 Comments

“Desire is the fire that sets action aflame”

Egypt on my mind

The idea of movements and transformational change are on my radar lately, partly as a result of events in Egypt and the Middle East. The very successful first stage of a grass roots revolution in Egypt is stunning. After watching these events unfold, I ask, why are we not more effective at creating movements that enable transformational change in businesses?

Who are you inviting to the conversation?

Recently, I was speaking with a C.E.O. who said, “we have lots of ideas, we are in the idea business,and went on saying that the execution of the change process was her key concern. I agreed with her, implementation is a big challenge. But what strikes me as an even greater challenge, is still in the strategic ideation phase. Meaning, when the leaders — who are sponsoring the change — are considering “what to do,” are they inviting their stakeholders into the conversation?

Stakeholders include, the shareholders, board, senior management, all the way down the vertical to front-line management, staff, vendors, customers…the ecosystem of the company — all of the people responsible for executing on the new strategy — those who have a interest in how the change will impact their lives. Do they own the idea or are they subject to it?

I said to the CEO, the bottom line for me is, this is a dialog between the leadership and everyone else who has a stake in “changing“; if your people are not passionate about the change you are proposing — you are seriously handicapping your ability to produce great results.

Enter Conventional Thinking

Conventional thinking leads us to imagine that we can somehow find an implementation solution for business transformation that works better than what we are currently doing, which is largely based on planning. Somehow, there will be a project manager with a better process to drive the implementation phase, and that they will somehow get better results than we currently see. Think again.

McKinsey Quarterly published results from a 2008 global survey indicating that the success rate for large scale business transformations is 30 percent — which is the same result that John Kotter published (1996) in his visionary book, Leading Change. It should be apparent to the reader that if we are expecting to improve our results through “better project management” or a “better how-to processes,” we might want to consult with a mental health care professional. Forget conventional thinking; start doing something different.

Forget Conventional Thinking

We have time tested “how-to processes” for change, very well trained project management people and unlimited resources to create new stuff. But a crucial ingredient that most change efforts lack, is a strategy to access and cultivate a deep emotional commitment from the people involved in business transformations, which social/political/cultural movements clearly have.

Movements are fueled by a passion for something better, a deeply and commonly held emotional commitment to a desired outcome. People who participate in movements have a deep connection to the ideas behind them and the possibility the movement represents. But when you look at how the typical company does change, do you see passion, a deeply held desire for something better and the resolve to see the vision come to life?

If I have learned anything from politics and business, it is when leaders tap into our passions, our desire for something better — people are invited to own an idea — great things happen.  When we have a deep emotional commitment to an idea or an outcome, we have the resolve to not let go of it! Unfortunately, here is how conventional thinking in business often views passion: “passion is soft, how do we measure it, leave that messy stuff at home!”

Getting it and Being Insanely Great

Luckily, some companies totally get this. I will not mention the insanely great company named after a fruit, but they absolutely get it. So do others, like Mahindra (think of Mahindra as the G.E. of India), with their new corporate vision, “Rise.” Mahindra gets it in a big way. Their vision:

Our motivation to give our best every day comes from our core purpose: to challenge conventional thinking and innovatively use all our resources to drive positive change in the lives of our stakeholders and communities across the world—to enable them to Rise.

After reading the Mahindra vision, a voice inside me said, “I want to work there, I would do business with them.” But, these are my emotions talking, not my “rational profit maximizing” mind. But when you factor in choice, then your emotions often trump logic. This is why movements are critical. We have free will to decide what we do. We are human, illogical and emotional beings whose feelings are great deciders in who we choose and what we choose.

Today, firms like Strawberryfrog (who co-developed “Rise” with Mahindra) are focused on creating cultural movements, realizing that purpose and passion are key drivers of how we decide to participate in change, do business with someone or which products to buy. Strawberryfrog and Mahindra are clearly on to something.

The Meta-Movement

One of my favorite examples of a movement that exploited a shared and deeply held desire for something better, which led to a great and enduring transformational change, is the American Revolution. Still going strong, 235 years and counting. I would argue that the American Revolution was a Meta-Movement, a movement that is a platform for producing new movements.

The America Founding Fathers were able to tap into a shared and deeply held desire for autonomy. The result is a timeless and compelling movement for freedom. Even if that meant that they (leaders and participants) had to make great if not the ultimate sacrifice — all based on an idea, freedom. I heard those same emotions and beliefs resonating from the Egyptian Revolution.

Ibrahim Haridy, 33, said he cried the moment Mr. Mubarak’s resignation was broadcast. He was among the hardcore anti-regime protesters who picked up rocks to defend Tahrir Square from pro-Mubarak demonstrators who tried to force their way in more than a week ago.

The battle lasted more than 12 hours. Hundreds were injured. “I felt that if I died, so be it,” said Mr. Haridy, a 33-year-old accountant from Nasr City. “But I was determined to see this system fall, to see this president leave. And now look. We have our moment in history.”

Mr. Haridy said Egypt would not squander this opportunity. “I will do everything I can to make sure that every Egyptian who was living life at half speed will live their lives at full speed,” he said. “It is easy to throw stones at the aggressor but it is not easy to chart a new course. Our hard work begins tomorrow. Tonight, I am just going to live in the moment.” – Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Haridy clearly articulates the passion and resolve that movements possess. Egypt, thank you for reminding us how amazing it can be to watch fellow humans self-organize, work together and do something truly heroic, breathtaking. I sincerely hope that you will be living your Egyptian dream soon.

The American Experiment

America is an insanely great experiment in human self-governance, that to date has enabled increasing freedoms (generation over generation), economic prosperity and some of the greatest innovations humans have seen in their collective history. While far from being perfect, it can be continuously improved and reinvented.

Suffrage, civil rights and civil unions are by-products of this platform for change and freedom. There are endless opportunities for self-actualization (which every human should have) in America. If you want to talk about seizing the white space, indeed the Founding Fathers nailed it. So when thinking about transformational change, we must ask ourselves: What can we learn from them?

15 February 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us

We need to change how we label and practice motivation. Re-aligning our frameworks of and behaviors for motivation will have a profound impact on business, education and society. Highly credible research and great story telling from leading thinkers like Dan Pink, confirms emotional commitment as the fuel behind healthy and robust business environments that produce transformational and game changing innovation. Nothing great can happen unless people are deeply committed to making something come to life as a product, service or in “seizing their whitespace”.  A lot has been written to cajole us and motivate us under the old framework, motivation 2.0, for what seems like an eternity. All of our social systems and organized life is governed by rewards and punishments developed a long time ago, which like an old OS, runs poorly. This is why many companies are finding it difficult to unlock their latent value. For those who realize how valuable (even a small) group of deeply committed people are, in achieving hard to reach goals, know that the soft side, is not so soft after all. In fact, emotional commitment is what fuels big wins. Each win, each innovation require deep focus and passion for something better. What is the fuel?

A desire for … Autonomy, to be self directed, “get out of my way so I can create something”.

A desire for … Mastery, “the urge to be better at stuff”.

A desire for … Purpose = Challenge + Mastery + Making a Contribution.

It will be some time before most organizations discover how to do this well. In the meantime there are some (few) who do this very well. The faster you get how this works and bring it to your company, the sooner you will have a true 21st century competitive advantage.

11 February 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Where Good Ideas Come From

Steve Johnson on environments where insights collide, ideas incubate and innovations emerge.