<![CDATA[i2. Integrated Intelligence - WHAT WE THINK]]>Fri, 19 Jan 2018 05:02:03 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Top Ten List of a Healthy Organization]]>Mon, 03 Mar 2014 21:42:26 GMThttp://i2integratedintelligence.com/1/post/2014/03/top-ten-list-of-a-healthy-organization.htmlBusiness Culture

1. Hire the best talent.
2. Be intentional in talent development.
3. Empower your employees.
4. Re-invest in the culture.
5. Lead with love and discipline.

Business Intelligence

6. Clearly communicate the company's purpose: mission, vision, and guiding principles.
7. Promote and protect the brand.
8. Commit to operational excellence - measure everything.
9. Keep tight control on finances.
10. Thoroughly understand the company's strategy.

<![CDATA[Penta Leaders]]>Mon, 24 Feb 2014 13:47:03 GMThttp://i2integratedintelligence.com/1/post/2014/02/penta-leaders.htmlPicture
There are thousands of books as well as hundreds of speakers talking about leadership. However, few, if any, explains in detail how to improve our own leadership ability. How does one become a level 5 leader, a penta leader? Penta comes from the Greek word for the number five - pente. If the ultimate goal is to become level 5 leaders, described by Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, as "one who has a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will", we first need to understand our behaviors, motivations, leadership style and level of emotional intelligence. 

We are all different; each of us have unique behaviors, different motivators, unique management styles and different levels of emotional intelligence. It is imperative that we understand all of them in order to improve our ability to lead others. The key to improving leadership lies on our ability to improve our emotional intelligence (EI); described as the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.

Unlike behavior which is developed by your early twenty's or your motivation which may gradually change over time, you can start improving your leadership style immediately with an individualized and customized master action plan. This includes daily exercises and skill building activities that will raise your underdeveloped EI competencies to embrace the positive attributes from all of the four leadership styles: dominant, democratic, affiliative and delegative. Penta leadership is about learning and integrating the best characteristics into your management style from each of the four styles.

<![CDATA["Pre-Planning Stage of Strategic Development" - by: Willy E. Stewart]]>Mon, 17 Feb 2014 17:18:22 GMThttp://i2integratedintelligence.com/1/post/2014/02/pre-planning-stage-of-strategic-development-by-willy-e-stewart.html
Wikipedia – “Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.”

Michael Porter - "The emphasis being placed on strategic planning today in firms reflect the proposition that there are significant benefits to gain through an explicit process of formulating strategy, to ensure that everyone is directed at some common set of goals"
I have to believe that, other than leadership, there are more books, articles, blogs and lectures on strategy than any other business subject. Michel Porter's book, "Competitive Strategy”, first released in 1980, may just be the bible of strategic planning and development. The book has over 60 reprints and has been translated in over 20 languages. What makes it so compelling today as when he first wrote it is that the concepts are still very relevant today. The ideas of creating a unique opportunity for your company's product or service while understanding the competitive factors that will affect its success has not changed much over the last 30 years. What has changed is the technology that is needed to drive sales and the analytics available today to identify specific markets and customers.

Before getting behind closed doors with your leadership team to develop your company's strategy for the future, there are three main planning components that need to be thoroughly understood: pre-planning, planning, and execution.

The pre-planning phase involves the development of the company's purpose and truly understanding why the business exists, followed by a thorough understanding of the organization's profile, a strategic industry and market analysis, and a deep and intellectual understanding of the company's systems and brand.

It starts by being able to answer these questions: "Why do we exist and what is our purpose for being in business?"

In researching how companies, large and small, answer these questions, the one thing that became clear is that there is not a standard answer. Companies around the world have created their own versions of purpose statements, mission statements and vision statements. Some are very succinct in their approach, while others roll all three statements into one. What matters is that the company has an identifiable statement that is unique to them and is a declaration of the company's reason for existing.

I use the word 'purpose' to include all the statements - purpose, mission, vision - as well as the guiding principles that embodies the company's core values and support and validates a mission statement.

A Purpose Statement expresses the fundamental reason for your existence, from a business perspective. It answers the question: “Why do we exist?” It is the force that motivates and drives why you are in business. This statement is short and typically projects an emotional action, a rallying cry for all the employees and stakeholders. It is clear that very successful companies have been able to inbred their purpose within the fabric of the organization and deliver it to their clients and consumers.

Examples of Purpose Statements: 

  • 3M: Our purpose is to solve unsolved problems innovatively. 
  • Walt Disney: Our purpose is to make people happy. 
  • Hewlett-Packard: Our purpose is to make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity.
  • Walmart: Our purpose is to give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people.

A Mission Statement is a written declaration that guides the company's path and provides the framework for the formulation of overall strategies. I always suggest that this statement be a single sentence that expresses what you do, for whom and how. Once developed, it should be so clear that you shouldn't have to memorize it - it's what the company is all about.

Examples of Mission Statements:

  • Stewart: “We improve communities by fulfilling our clients’ visions through a creative, thoughtful, and collaborative approach.”
  • Aflac: To combine aggressive strategic marketing with quality products and services at competitive prices to provide the best insurance value for consumers.
  • Applied Materials: To be the leading supplier of semiconductor fabrication solutions worldwide through innovation and enhancement of customer productivity with systems and service solutions.
  • Microsoft: We work to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. This is our mission. Everything we do reflects this mission and the values that make it possible

A Vision Statement is an aspirational statement - also called a picture of your company in the future. Your vision statement is your inspiration and the framework for all your strategic planning. What you are doing when creating a vision statement is articulating your hopes and dreams. A vision statement may apply to an entire company or to a single division of that company. Whether for all or part of an organization, the vision statement answers the question, "As a stretch goal, where do you see the company in ten years?"

Examples of Vision Statements:

  • Stewart: Our vision is to be the Premier multi-discipline engineering and design firm in the Southeast.
  • Alzheimer’s Association: Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. 
  • Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live. 
  • Hilton: To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality.
  • CVS Caremark: To improve the quality of human life.
  • Toys 'R' Us: To put joy in kids' hearts and a smile on parents' faces.

Guiding Principles are short statements that support the mission and vision statements. They express what's important in the organization and include core values and investments such as safety, employee trust and respect, technology, quality, diversity and inclusion, the environment, social responsibility, and reasonable profits.

Examples of Guiding Principles:

  • Chandler: Safety without compromise.
  • J.W. TownsendTo use proven and innovative horticultural practices to deliver beautiful landscapes.
  • Buckner CompaniesCommitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability
  • Sargent MetalBy providing personalized client service and always striving to exceed our customer’s expectations.

Business Intelligence

Organizational Profile - Through a comprehensive assessment, understanding your leadership team, people and the structure they operate in; what kind of culture exists within the organization; who are your top customers; and what are policies and guidelines that affect decision making.

Strategic Analysis - Several analysis are necessary before strategic decisions that drive growth and sustainability are made. A competitive analysis is a must and should include Porter's 5 forces of competition - rivals, barriers to entry, substitutes, and the influence of vendors and consumers on your product or service. Other analyses include your industry's economic trends, customer purchasing trends, and your geographic economic situation. Also, you need to know how much market share each of your products or services own. Lastly, what are the environmental factors beyond your control and how will this have an effect on your business.

Business Systems - It is necessary to understand the company's financial position regarding liquidity, cash flow, revenue and profitability forecast before a growth strategy is planned. The company's value chain process should be clearly articulated as well as an analysis showing how the company's value chain compares with others in the same space. You must also know how the company is positioned regarding its current technology and its  investment in innovation as well as pioneering new products and services.

It seems like a lot of effort but I suspect that much of this information is already available; it is now a matter of bringing it together and reviewing it with your leadership team before moving to the planning stage. This knowledge is paramount prior to the strategic planning meeting - without it, you would be setting goals and strategies in a vacuum. The next step in strategic planning is the actual meeting, perhaps offsite, to review previous goals and set new ones. The next blog will explain the process I have successfully used with many companies.
<![CDATA["Success Virtuous Cycle" - by Willy E. Stewart]]>Mon, 03 Feb 2014 19:02:56 GMThttp://i2integratedintelligence.com/1/post/2014/02/success-virtuous-cycle-by-willy-e-stewart.htmlPicture
It is clear that successful and 'Best Place to Work' companies tend to select the best talent available in their respective markets. What makes this thought so compelling is that these companies do not have to compete for that talent - these people are eager to get through the front door! Great companies are attracting talent instead of recruiting employees and when they get to choose the best available, the company itself gets even greater - creating a success virtuous cycle. This success that integrates employee engagement with business intelligence occurs with intention and a complete understanding that happy and engaged employees lead to enhanced positive outcomes for the organization. 

At the core of this success is companies re-investing back into the culture of the organization; a culture where employees feel cared for, where a life/work balance is embraced and the organization is intentionally providing well-being related programs, among other things. It has been proven through many available surveys that happiness and productivity go hand-in-hand; they are indistinguishable. Arianna Huffington said in a HuffPost, "Happy, engaged employees spend 40% more time focus on tasks and feel energized 65% more of the time.” A Gallop Survey on employee engagement shows that companies with highly engaged employees reduced absenteeism by 27%, lowered turnover by 42%, and reduced safety incidents by 62% while increasing productivity by 18%, increasing customer satisfaction, and profitability by 12%! 

In reviewing Fortune's best companies to work for, it is clear that the key component of these companies' success is employee engagement. The list includes a variety of companies, from Google and SAS, an analytics software company, a global management consulting company, a general contractor to an online lending company. The thread of commonality among the people that work at these companies is that they are proud to work for them because they feel valued and cared for.

It has been said by numerous leaders and is a widely accepted statement that "Culture eats strategy for lunch every time." Then it is clear that people are responsible for an organization's sustainable long term success. Therefore, the success virtuous cycle start with attracting the best talent. Developed and well trained talent leads to self-direction and empowerment which is at the foundation of a motivated workforce. Given the right culture, these talented individuals will emotionally engage with their jobs, their peers and the organization leading to higher productivity and better financial results. Companies with a great culture and a healthy bottom line will re-invest in their employees well-being, making the organization a place talented people want to work for. Attracting the best talent, then develop and empower them, lead to engagement which results in higher positive outcomes; and the cycle goes on. 
<![CDATA[For Senior Leaders, Fit Matters More than Skill - Harvard Business Review]]>Mon, 20 Jan 2014 12:04:27 GMThttp://i2integratedintelligence.com/1/post/2014/01/for-senior-leaders-fit-matters-more-than-skill-harvard-business-review.htmlA recent CEB survey of C-suite executives indicates that organizations will require significantly higher performance—23% improvement, on average, in performance ratings— from their executive-level direct reports in the new year. How well are executives prepared to rise to that challenge?  Less than 20% of C-suite leaders had confidence their executives could stand the test.

A large part of the problem, our research suggests, has to do with the high failure rate of outside hires. Intuitively, people know it takes longer for outside hires to come up to speed than internal candidates. But our research shows just how dramatic the problem really is. Outside hires taketwice as long to ramp up as a leader promoted from within. Astoundingly, C-suite executives report that only one out of five executives hired from outside are viewed as high performers at the end of their first year in house. And ultimately, of the 40% of leaders who are hired from outside each year, nearly half fail within the first 18 months. The direct and indirect costs of the failures are staggering, far exceeding the cost of the search that found the executive.
Why do leaders hired from outside fail so often?  And why do they struggle to reach rising performance expectations?  Do they lack the requisite skills?  Do they struggle to integrate into the organization’s culture?  Studying more than 320 leaders in 36 organizations, we found a surprising answer: External leaders fail because they just don’t work well with the people on their teams.

We’ve seen this problem before – a new executive arrives at the organization, and a mismatch between his work style and priorities and those of his new colleagues, together with his inability to tap into informal and formal sources of organizational power, prevents him from being as effective in his new role as he was in the last. Within months, he is excluded from key networks and loses valuable information and leverage, quickly reducing his chances of succeeding. Isolation starts the downward spiral of underperformance.

Two new tools for recruiting may help solve this problem.  First, leading companies are changing their hiring criteria — focusing not just on skills and cultural fit but also on network fit—how well the potential hire will fit with the way his or her new colleagues work. Hiring for this more colleague-centric type of fit can improve performance at the two-year mark by 30%, our research shows. It has more than twice the impact of assessing only for general culture fit.

One company that successfully developed an objective definition of “executive fit” is Ingersoll Rand. Newly hired leaders at the global manufacturer had all scored high on tests of leadership competencies but had struggled to apply those skills within the specific dynamics of their new teams and peer groups.  So Ingersoll Rand shifted its approach to assessing potential leaders, focusing not just on qualifications but on four new “fit categories” — knowledge, values, career experience, and leader behaviors — which in combination produced a more complete view of the executive’s style and how she is likely to approach work.

Ingersoll Rand recognizes that to fit, an executive does not always have to have the same style as the team. The company has two types of fit: “conformist,” same as the in-house team, and “complementary,” which might be called for when the purpose of bringing in a new executive is to spark some productive disruption in the way the current team is working.

In addition to changing how candidates are assessed, leading companies are also changing the way they think about the recruiters doing the assessing. We’d expect to see in-house recruiters having a clear advantage in selecting for network fit since they live in those networks in their own work lives. Yet, according to our study, less than one-third of in-house recruiting teams did better than outside firms at predicting a successful fit. In the rush to fill open positions, many in-house recruiting departments are not incorporating their knowledge of how existing teams work in making final selection decisions.

Coca Cola has a new strategy for asking in-house recruiters to take responsibility for network fit. It requires them to report to management on not just how fast they are filling positions but also whether the new hire’s performance is up to expectations after they’ve been in role for one year. The recruiting team reports this “quality of hire” performance metric for both external hires and internal placements, ensuring that in all selection decisions, recruiters and managers ask not just “Is the individual right for the job?” but also ‘Can the individual perform on the job?” The lessons learned by reviewing this metric have made Coca Cola’s in-house recruiters more effective than outside search firms in guaranteeing that new executives perform well.

Not surprisingly, these efforts by leading companies to beef up the effectiveness of in-house recruiters is reflected in a general decline last year on spending  on outside search firm services (which was down 40% in 2013, on top of a 25% drop in 2012). Top companies are now using outside firms less for identifying specific candidates and more as consultative experts, to help them define appropriate skill requirements and cultural and network fit factors for consideration in a given industry or market. Like Coca Cola, many companies are now realizing that only internal staff know their working environment well enough to pick the best fit executive to lead the business.

In the new work environment of 2014, success will be driven even more by teamwork and collaboration. If you are not evolving your organization’s approach to recruiting to keep up, you’ll find your new leader hires may do more harm than good.

by Jean Martin

Link to the HBR Article
<![CDATA[Use Language to Shape a Creative Culture - Harvard Business Review]]>Mon, 06 Jan 2014 12:06:09 GMThttp://i2integratedintelligence.com/1/post/2014/01/use-language-to-shape-a-creative-culture-harvard-business-review.htmlLanguage is the crystallization of thought. But the words we choose do more than just reflect our thought patterns—they shape them. What we say—and how we say it—can deeply affect a company’s culture. To change attitudes and behaviors, it helps to first change the vernacular. To spark innovation, it helps to influence the dialogue around new ideas.

Several years ago, IDEO hosted a visit from Jim Wiltens, an outdoorsman, author, adventure traveler, and speaker, who also teaches a program of  his  own design for gifted and talented children in Northern California schools. In his programs, Jim emphasizes the power of a positive vocabulary. And he leads by example. You will literally never hear him say, “I can’t.” He uses more constructive versions of that sentiment that emphasize the possible, such as “I could if I…” He actually promises to pay his young students a $100 if they ever catch him saying, “I can’t.”

Think Jim’s approach sounds a bit simplistic for adults? Don’t be too sure. When Cathie Black took over as president of Hearst Magazines, she noticed that negative speech patterns had cre­ated an environment hostile to new ideas. One person close to the company reported that the naysaying had become a cynical mantra for the executives. So Black told her senior team that every time they said things like, “We’ve tried that already” or “That will never work,” she would fine them $10. (Note the difference be­tween business executives and teachers: they levy the fine on others, not themselves.) Of course, $10 was a trivial amount for the Hearst managers, but no one wants to be embarrassed in front of his or her colleagues.

After enforcing her rule just a few times, Black effectively wiped those expressions from the office vocabulary. Did the shift to more positive words have a broader effect beyond changing the tone of meetings? During Black’s ten­ure, Hearst kept its flagship brands like Cosmopolitan healthy through an extremely tough period for the publishing industry and launched new mega-successes like Oprah’s magazine. Meanwhile, Black rose to become one of the most powerful women in American business.

IDEO’s favorite antidote to negative speech patterns is the phrase “How might we…?”  It was introduced to us by Charles Warren, now salesforce.com’s senior vice president of product design, as an op­timistic way of seeking out new possibilities in the world. In a matter of weeks, it went viral at our firm and it’s stuck ever since. In three disarmingly simple words, it captures much of our perspective on creative groups. The “how” suggests that improvement is always possible. The only question remain­ing is how we will find success. The word “might” temporarily lowers the bar a little. It allows us to consider wild or improbable ideas instead of self-editing from the very beginning, giving us more chance of a breakthrough. And the “we” establishes own­ership of the challenge, making it clear that not only will it be a group effort, but it will be our group. Anyone who has worked with IDEO in the past decade or participated in OpenIDEO’s social innovation challenges has undoubtedly heard the phrase.

We’re also careful about how we critique ideas. As we explained in this HBR article, our feedback typically starts with “I like…” and moves on to “I wish…”. We refrain from passing judgment with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down. When you open with the positives, then use the first person for suggestions, it signals to everyone that you’re offering your opinion in an effort to help, which makes them more receptive to your ideas.

As adults, we sometimes forget the simple power of words. Try fine-tuning your group’s vocabulary, and see the positive effect it has on your culture.

This post is adapted from our book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential within Us(Crown Business, 2013).

by Tom Kelley and David Kelley  

Link to this article (HBR)]]>
<![CDATA[North Carolina Indian Economic Development Initiative (NCIEDI)]]>Mon, 30 Dec 2013 12:03:56 GMThttp://i2integratedintelligence.com/1/post/2013/12/north-carolina-indian-economic-development-initiative-nciedi.html Picture
On November 11th, NCIEDI in partnership with i2.Intergrated Intelligence hosted a 1/2 day workshop at the Cardinal Club.

 Tony Hayes welcomed the attendees and honored veterans since we were meeting on Veteran's Day.

Mr. Stewart started the meeting by defining "Organizational Health - An organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete..." Attendees completed a Five Performance Criteria Survey to determine their organization's health. Mr. Stewart continued by explaining Behavior & Assessments and then Learning Styles. We took the Learning Styles Assessment to determine our individual learning style and why this is so important. Melissa Wood, i2's Business Manager, had a delicious lunch prepared for the attendees. Mr. Stewart wrapped up the workshop by discussing Benchmarking & Metrics and Root Cause Analysis.  The class was so interactive and informative, that all materials could not be covered, so NCIEDI would encourage attendees to contact us or Mr. Stewart for additional consultations.

As an added bonus, Mr. Stewart presented each attendee with a personalized autographed copy of his book, FIRE YOURSELF [as your own higher power].
<![CDATA[If You Want to Change, Don’t Read This - Harvard Business Review]]>Fri, 27 Dec 2013 11:55:24 GMThttp://i2integratedintelligence.com/1/post/2013/12/if-you-want-to-change-dont-read-this-harvard-business-review.htmlThere is a great scene in Godfather 2 where Kay (Diane Keaton) complains to husband Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) about his unfulfilled promise to make his business fully legit and quit being a mafioso. Michael responds that he is still working on it, reassuring Kay emphatically: “I’ll change, I’ll change — I’ve learned that I have the strength to change.”

Although most of us aren’t part of the mafia, we are still a bit like Michael Corleone in that we overestimate our capacity for change. In theory everyone can change, but in practice most people don’t… except for some well-documented changes that affect most of us.

For example, most people display antisocial tendencies during adolescence and slower thinking in late adulthood, but these changes are by no means indicative of a psychological metamorphosis. Rather, they are akin to common lifespan changes in physical traits, such as gains or drops in height during childhood and late adulthood, respectively — they occur to everyone. Likewise, there are typical changes in personality, even within 5-year periods. A seminal review showed that we become more prudent, emotionally stable, and assertive with age, while our energy and intellectual curiosity dwindle after adolescence. In other words, as we grow older we become more calm and mature, but also more passive and narrow-minded.

A more interesting question is whether categorical changes are feasible. Can someone be extremely introverted at certain age, but super outgoing at another? Can someone transition from being a self-centred narcissist to being a caring and giving soul? Or from being exceptionally smart to being incredibly stupid?

On the one hand, there is no shortage of famous case studies to illustrate radical transformations in people’s reputation (their public persona). Sometimes these changes — like Miley Cyrus’s transformation from innocent Disney star to tongue-wielding twerker — seem more like carefully planned PR campaigns than true psychological journeys. But others do make us wonder if there’s something deeper going on inside. Bill Gates started as a stereotypical computer nerd, then turned into a talented entrepreneur, then morphed into a ruthless empire-builder, and then became the most charitable person on earth, giving away most of his — and his friends’ — wealth. The late Nelson Mandela, perhaps the least disputed moral figure of our times, had an arrogant, aggressive, and antisocial youth before inspiring everyone with his path of nonviolent resistance.

And yet scientific studies indicate that categorical changes in character are unusual. When there is change, it usually represents an amplification of our character. In other words, even when our patterns of change are unique, they are predictable: we simply become a more exaggerated version of ourselves. This happens in three different ways. First, we tend to interpret events according to our own personal biases, which only reinforces those biases. For instance, pessimists perceive ambivalent feedback as criticism, which, in turn, enhances their pessimism over time; the opposite happens with optimists. Second, we gravitate towards environments that are congruent with our own default attitudes and values. Hedonists seek pleasure and fun-loving people, which, in turn, makes them even more hedonistic. Aggressive people crave conflict and combat, which only augments their aggression. Altruists hang out with caring people and spend time helping others, which enhances their empathy and reinforces their selflessness. Third, our reputation does truly precede us: others (including strangers and acquaintances) make unconscious inferences about our character in order to explain our behavior and predict what we may do next. These intuitive evaluations may be inaccurate, but they are still self-fulfilling. With time, we morph into the person others think we are; their prejudiced and fantasized representation of us turns real and becomes ingrained in our identity. Reputation really is fate.

As a consequence, deliberate attempts to change are far less effective than we like to think, which is why most New Year’s resolutions are never accomplished — and why our long-term happiness levels are fairly constant and relatively immune to extreme life events (whether it is a painful divorce or the joys of winning the lottery).

Needless to say, some people are more capable of changing than others. Ironically, those individuals tend to be more pessimistic about their very chances of changing. Indeed, neurotic, introverted and insecure people are more likely to change, whereas highly adjusted and resilient individuals are less changeable. Likewise, optimism breeds overconfidence and hinders change by perpetuating false hopes and unrealistic expectations.

So, how can we change? The recipe for self-change is fairly straightforward — it is just hard to implement. In order to change, we need to start by building self-awareness, which is best achieved by obtaining (and believing) honest and critical feedback from others. Next, we must come up with a realistic strategy that focuses on attainable goals, such as changing a few specific behaviors (e.g., more eye contact, less shouting, more smiling, etc.) rather than substantial aspects of our personality (e.g., interpersonal sensitivity, empathy, and sociability). Finally, we will need an enormous amount of effort and dedication in order to both attain and maintain any desired changes — or we will quickly revert to our old habits. In short, change requires self-critical insight, humble goals, and indefatigable persistence. It means going against our nature and demands extraordinary levels of willpower.

So think carefully before you promise to change. And if you have tried to change and failed — well, you’ve got lots of company.

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic]]>
<![CDATA[Branding Your Friendship: The Hidden Power Of Your Personal Network - Forbes]]>Thu, 26 Dec 2013 12:10:19 GMThttp://i2integratedintelligence.com/1/post/2013/12/branding-your-friendship-the-hidden-power-of-your-personal-network-forbes.html
By Rafael Aparicio

In today’s world, where competition is global and products so similar, brands go to great lengths to differentiate themselves from the rest, looking for new ways to attract customers to buy something that is essentially the exact same product as their competitors. Think soap, sneakers, electronics, even advertising agencies, almost everything today, including ideas, has become commoditized and has left people relying solely on one thing to make their decisions: brand. Some go for a nicer identity, smarter packaging, better customer service, the list goes on. Companies are constantly trying to find the slightest edge that can ultimately mean their key differential and set them apart.

Now imagine your group of friends being that differential.

Let me start off first by asking you this question: are you a brand? Yes, you. Do you consider yourself a brand? We accept David Beckham and Michael Jordan as brands, but somehow we tend to think “us mortals” are not, just because we’re not recognizable enough and don’t even have our own line of underwear. Just as the old saying goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?” – well, “if you walk out to the street and no one recognizes you, are you still a brand?” I have to say the answer is yes, of course you are. Regardless of the power of your brand, it will still trigger a perception to those around you, and that’s what branding is all about: perceptions. It is up to you to go ahead and take control of how people perceive you, because if you don’t take control of your own brand, others will.  The way you talk, walk, behave, all adds up to that brand called you. Think of your group of friends, each has a set of traits that makes them – “them.” Are you the cool friend? The nerdy one? The jock?

Many of your friends make up for what you’re lacking. You might be shy, but thanks to that idiotic extroverted friend of yours, you now have a girlfriend. Now hold on to that thought and raise it to a professional level. We’ve all have had situations with clients or bosses where you are lacking some vital knowledge and you remind yourself of a friend that can help. So you call him up and voila! Problem solved. When they ask you how you managed to solve the problem you answer, “I just called up a friend.” Ah, the power of friendship: people sharing valuable knowledge and know-how just for the sake of friendship. That friend might just have helped you close a deal, and not only was he pleased to help you, he doesn’t expect much in return other than a beer or two – after all – ‘that’s what friends are for’.

Now imagine if instead of saying, “I called up a friend” as the reason of your solution, you tell your boss or client “I’m part of a knowledge network.” Not only that, you go ahead and put a name on that knowledge network and even slap on a logo and a slogan to it; You brand it. Suddenly the informality of “calling up a friend” transforms into this tangible, solid institution that can differentiate you.  Your clients don’t only think, “this guy has a friend” but rather, “this guy has access to knowledge.” You might think your personal brand is pretty cool, but your brand as part of a group brand might be even cooler. Both personal brands and group brands can leverage from each other. A personal brand might sell well, but people often overlook the potential group branding has.

Think of Marvel’s carefully thought-out 5 year plan to make box office history. Each “personal brand” was given its own spotlight to then conclude with the climactic ‘The Avengers’ movie, which went on to be the 3rd-highest grossing film of all time. Captain America, Thor, Hulk, and Ironman – all of them built as solid personal brands – had movies launched year after year, knowing that the idea of having them together in one final movie would be irresistible to fans worldwide. That’s basically why the 1992 US Olympic Basketball team, better known as “The Dream Team” packed stadiums.  Michael Jordan was already amazing, but the idea of MJ alongside Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and the likes, was mind-blowing.

During my executive MBA at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, not only did I meet some of the world’s top advertising creatives and executives, I met true friends. Later on, back home in Bogotá, Colombia, working at my recently founded advertising agency, Raf & Mike, I had three occasions where “I called up a friend” needing their help, each for a special reason. Every time I came back to the client telling them “I talked to this person from this city” they were more than impressed. I thought to myself, “what if this calling up friends thing was more than that, what if it was organized and managed? What if it was branded?” They say behind every good brand there’s a good story – we already have the story, we are just missing the brand.

My thesis went on to research, not only branding but also the creation and management of knowledge networks, the academic foundation I needed to establish this new network and have the structural groundwork for a fluid knowledge network, not just a group of friends.

So tomorrow, I can walk into client boardrooms presenting my agency as part of one of the world’s most exclusive advertising and creative Knowledge-sharing Networks, ‘The Berlin Exchange’… 20 of some of the worlds top advertising creatives and executives at their reach. They let me pick their brains and I let them pick mine. It’s one big brain-picking fest, all because we believe in each other’s talent and good faith, something only friendship can build.

So think of your friends on a professional level, what can they bring to the table that you are lacking or that can reinforce and complement your knowledge? More importantly; what can you bring to the table? How could you brand your friendship?

You never know, that brand might be the one who sets you apart.

Rafael Aparicio Gómez is Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Raf & Mike, an advertising agency based in Bogotá, Colombia. Rafael is the first Colombian graduate from The Berlin School of Creative Leadership and has done award-winning work with brands like Coca-Cola, Unilever, SAB-Miller, and the Colombian Football Federation, to name a few. He is an Advertising and Marketing professional from Jorge Tadeo Lozano University and has work experience as General Creative Director for a local BTL agency and as copywriter for ad agency J. Walther Thompson. Oh, and he believes in friendship as well. 

<![CDATA[The Defining Elements of a Winning Culture - Harvard Business Review]]>Tue, 24 Dec 2013 21:46:20 GMThttp://i2integratedintelligence.com/1/post/2013/12/the-defining-elements-of-a-winning-culture-harvard-business-review.htmlA company’s culture can have a powerful impact on its performance. Culture is the glue that binds an organization together and it’s the hardest thing for competitors to copy. As a result, it can be a lasting source of competitive advantage. Take these examples: 

  • Kent Thiry builds a values-focused culture at DaVita and transforms the company from a laggard to the world’s leading provider of kidney dialysis services
  • Alan Mulally creates a “working–together” spirit at Ford Motor Company that focuses and re-energizes the automaker, reversing a decades-long slide in market share
  • Herb Kelleher fosters a culture of employee empowerment and cost containment at Southwest, enabling the airline to become one of the world’s most admired and profitable carriers
  • Steve Jobs builds a challenging culture at Apple — one where ”reality is suspended” and ”anything is possible”’ — and the company becomes the most valuable on the planet 
But culture doesn’t always produce great results. In fact, when my colleagues at Bain & Company surveyed more than 400 senior executives from large, global companies last year, they found that fewer than one in four felt that culture was very effective in supporting business performance at their company. The majority felt that their organization’s culture was largely disconnected from what it took to win.

Why this disconnect? In our experience, too many companies think of culture as a way to make people feel good about where they work and not as a way to help employees — hence the organization — perform better. High-performing companies think about culture differently. They know that winning cultures aren’t just about affiliation; they are also unashamedly about results.

Our research suggests that winning cultures are comprised of two interrelated and reinforcing elements. First, every high-performing company has a unique identity — distinctive characteristics that set it apart from other organizations. These characteristics give employees a sense of meaning just from being part of the company. They also create passion for what the company does.

Southwest Airlines is the classic example. Under Herb Kelleher’s leadership, the company became known for its sense of humor, irreverence, and focus on the employee. This unique identity not only made flying Southwest fun for passengers, it made its labor force more productive. Flight attendants, not cleaning crews, cleaned aircraft between flights, reducing time at the gate and improving on-time performance. Maintenance workers routinely devised better ways to maintain Southwest’s fleet of 737 aircrafts, lowering costs and improving up-time. The company’s unique identity reinforced many of the elements that were critical to Southwest’s strategy, such as keeping costs low. As a result, Southwest is the world’s largest low-cost carrier and is consistently among the most profitable airlines in the world.

Culture is more than just a unique identity, however. The best performing companies typically display a set of performance attributes that align with the company’s strategy and reinforce the right employee behaviors.  Our research revealed seven of these:

  1. Honest. There is high integrity in all interactions, with employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders;
  2. Performance-focused. Rewards, development, and other talent-management practices are in sync with the underlying drivers of performance;
  3. Accountable and owner-like. Roles, responsibilities, and authority all reinforce ownership over work and results;
  4. Collaborative. There’s a recognition that the best ideas come from the exchange and sharing of ideas between individuals and teams;
  5. Agile and adaptive. The organization is able to turn on a dime when necessary and adapt to changes in the external environment;
  6. Innovative. Employees push the envelope in terms of new ways of thinking; and
  7. Oriented toward winning. There is strong ambition focused on objective measures of success, either versus the competition or against some absolute standard of excellence.
Few organizations exhibit all seven of these attributes. But high-performing organizations typically spike on the three or four that are most critical to their success.

Take Ford Motor Company. When Alan Mulally became CEO at Ford in 2006, the company operated in regional silos. As a result, the Ford Focus in Europe was different from the Ford Focus in the Americas. The company had too many brands, too many platforms, too many disparate parts, too many suppliers, and so on. To turn the automaker around, Mulally focused on building One Ford — a leadership model based on collaboration, innovation, and a desire to win (again). With time, leaders at the automaker started working together to simplify and streamline the company globally. They rationalized brands, consolidated automotive platforms, made options and parts more common and designs more innovative. In just three years, Ford went from losing share and money to gaining share and making money.

Culture plays a vital role in performance. Winning cultures treat performance as an explicit output and foster an environment that is conducive to generating the best possible results — not just for employees, but for customers, suppliers, and, yes, even shareholders.

by Michael C. Mankins