Lead the change 4


The importance of women on top

By Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan | Oct 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Our political and economic thought leaders are constantly lecturing us on the need to engage with the incredibly important emerging economies. Yet there is an global economy that exceeds them all in terms of scale, financial opportunity and diversity, but for some reason, it receives scant attention from the industry that is supposed to give business its voice.

It is not Brazil or China or India. It is, of course, the female economy.

For years we’ve thrown around statistics such as women make 81% of purchase decisions (or is it now up to 87%?). And it’s not all shoes, sanitary products and handbags. Women play a greater role in areas that we’ve traditionally seen as secret men’s business. Women routinely make the decision when it comes to buying things like homes, cars and (this’ll hurt fellas) big-screen TVs. Women are even dominating hardware purchases – mostly because they’re tired of waiting for a generation of white collar men with no practical skills to put up the shelves we asked them about over a month ago.

Women too are particularly social shoppers, and we’re not referring to the Saturday afternoon retail therapy you might be assuming. Women are increasingly using social media and product forums to flex their consumer muscles and engage and exchange in a dialogue.

All of which are compelling reasons to actively place more women in senior roles in the Comms Industry. Yet these numbers are not reflected in the make-up of the executive teams or boards who are charged with creating communications that speak to these power purchasers – women.

It’s actually pretty rare to see certain women in the communications we create, particularly women of a certain age. If you think about how rarely you see a woman over 50 advertising anything other than incontinence pads, arthritis relief and political party policy, you could be excused for thinking all older women are leaky, gnarly rednecks.

Still not convinced that we all need more senior women? Well, let’s talk about an even more staggering event transpiring before our eyes, women not only shop more but in the not to distant future will have a greater share of money to spend too.

According to some predictive modeling by the nice folks at the Boston Consulting Group, women will control the wealth of the planet in coming years. Partly because, they’re doing quite all right in their careers thank you very much, but also because they’re experiencing a double windfall – their husbands and parents are dying. (We’re not suggesting it’s a plot, it’s just what’s happening!)

It is estimated that this will be the greatest transference of wealth in history. Some analysts estimate that by 2022 women will control two thirds of wealth on the entire planet.

So if ever there was a motivation to address the gender imbalance in the corporate world, surely this is it. Perhaps it starts by paying a little attention. It is, after all, what women have been asking for, for millennia.

Warren Buffet recently said that women were the great economic hope for the US; he asked Americans to imagine what the economy might be capable of with 100% of its talent truly harnessed. We think he is on to something.

Industries that are reinventing themselves and trying to reinforce their relevance might go a long way towards achieving these goals by having women on top.


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Influence: How to argue

By Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan | Oct 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

One of the principle problems we face in an argument is that we get caught up in a “win at all costs” mindset. In other words, our survival brain takes over and we become driven by protecting territory and less concerned with achieving a successful outcome.

However, if we want to be more effective, persuasive and influential in heated conversations and negotiations, we need to learn to think Selfish, Scared and Stupid™.

Now this may sound counter intuitive, but in fact, these are the core drivers that run us at a mostly subconscious level, and in fact have contributed to our capacity to survive and thrive as a species. Humanity’s success has largely been due to the fact that we all approach the world through a lens of looking out for #1, mitigating risk and trying to keep things as simple and easy as possible.

The problem is, we don’t like to admit it. It just doesn’t sound good does it? So we try to cover these biases up and tend not to be too aware of our “weak-points” and likewise assume everyone else is as selfless, brave and brilliant as they’re pretending to be too.

By accepting that we are all Selfish, Scared and Stupid™, not only do we become more self-aware, we also tend to be more others-aware – and that is the point.

So what does thinking Selfish, Scared & Stupid™ look like in an argument?

1. Think Selfish

Just as you’re wondering “What’s in it for you”, so are they. However, by accepting that you are both driven by selfishness, you’re free to ask an alternative question, “What’s in it for them?” In other words, by framing your argument in terms of what they get out of agreeing with you and even accepting your position, they start to see that they have something to gain from by being a little more flexible on their side. If it’s all about you, then why would someone who is essentially selfish ever want to see your side (or you theirs for that matter).

2. Think Scared

The problem with many arguments is that the argument you’re having is not the argument you’re really having. So we all need to be aware of what they have to lose beyond just an argument. Is their social status or reputation at risk? Is there money involved or a friendship or professional loyalty? The fear of these loses can keep someone completely entrenched in their position so we need to understand that just as we fear losing, so do they. So consider how can you reduce this loss and risk?

3. Think Stupid

Make your self easy to agree with. Most of us do the opposite in an argument. In the heat of a disagreement or negotiation, many of us tend to become so obnoxious, enraged or smug that those arguing with us may choose to stay in the argument simply out of spite. So it’s critical that we become less difficult to agree with if we want to persuade others to our side of the fence.

Whilst thinking Selfish, Scared and Stupid™ sounds counter intuitive and more like the kind of thing that starts arguments, it’s worth remembering that accepting human nature and working with it, actually offers us a greater chance of success than fighting against it. Of course, you may choose to disagree…

Buy Selfish Scared & Stupid™ here.


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Why we need more lazy employees

By Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan | Oct 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

Diligent employees are great, they tend to be at the top of our employee wish list. Oh how we long for self sufficient employees… finding them is like winning corporate lotto. They are the backbones of our businesses and on paper what’s not to like? They are autonomous, take responsibility, get what they are supposed to do done and adhere to our systems.

Yet today our systems are outdated, often before we even finish testing them, let alone roll them out through our entire companies.

The digital age has changed everything, we are living through a revolution. History books tell us of the enormous changes the industrial revolution caused and will tell of the same when looking back on this our digital revolution.

This revolution means that we need new systems better suited to our new reality. We require more flexible thinking, faster responses and ever evolving approaches. Which is where the problem starts with too many diligent employees in our ranks. The problem is that they tend not to question, agitate or innovate. They do exactly as they should, they follow systems and protocols. But therein lies the problem… they follow them… not challenge them.

What we need is people who will constantly re-evaluate. rethink and adapt our systems to the modern world of business. People who will look for a different way. This is where the lazy employee becomes valuable. It is the lazy employee who will look for an easier way, who will actively seek out the shortcut. They have a minimum effort, maximum result mindset. Smart and lazy is a powerful combination. Our systems improve when clever people are lazy because superfluous steps are deleted. Technology itself is driven by smart and lazy people. People who thought what if I did not have to get a stamp, write out an address, walk to the post box wondered ‘can I make a letter electronic?’…. hello email. Lazy employees reinvent systems and change our world.

This is the genius of the ‘lazy’ employee.


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The matrix is everywhere

By Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan | Aug 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Of course, it’s not exactly the Matrix Morpheus prophesied about in the movie of the same name, but it is just as insidious and just as invisible.

Human beings just love a bit of self delusion.

It’s reported that 80% of people rate themselves as better than average drivers (although clearly less than average mathematicians).

In truth, in every industry or government or community sector, 50% of its members are below average competence. But we don’t like to think about that and we certainly don’t want to contemplate which half we’re in.

But rather than seeing this as a failing, we should instead see it as a reality – something that truly is all around us. Because if we face reality, we in fact increase our chances of success by actually factoring failure into our process. Something that we are far better at doing when engineering safety systems on aircraft than we are when designing organizational processes.

Traditional approaches to driving change, whether it be commercial or social, have enlisted rational arguments, then emotional persuasion, followed up by some behavioral strategy. Often augmented with a sense of baseless optimism and hope.

However, rather than looking at our staff or the people around us with unrealistic expectations, the question should be, “What do we need to build around our people to make success, not just more likely, but automatic?”


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Be the change

By Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan | May 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

We don’t like change. We say we do. We say things like “a change is as good as a holiday”, but we don’t mean it. Just try puting “change” in a staff member’s remuneration package in place of their annual leave and see how far that gets you.

In fact we resist change pretty much whenever we encounter it – Billy Joel even wrote a song about it. We lose our tempers when our morning routine gets interrupted by something as mundane as being out of milk, we don’t like it when our friends suddenly out-earn us in the job market or even when a loved one changes the way they do their hair. And we most certainly don’t like it when Facebook changes their layout… judging by some of the comments we’ve seen posted on Facebook, that’s the big one, we REALLY hate that.

Of course, there are some very important evolutionary reasons for our not entirely trusting change. It has, throughout history, rarely heralded good news. Whether it be sudden shifts in climatic conditions, a population reduction due to some new, exotic malady or simply foreign intelopers arriving on our shores bringing a whole raft of changes… delivered at gun point!

However, whilst our suspicion of change has served us well over the past 65 million years, it has perhaps come time to leave some of these prejudices behind in our modern age.

Change, quite ironically, is a constant whether we like it or not.

Our world is now faster moving, more complicated and interconnected and our ability to adapt and embrace new technology and change is now very much linked to our survival. Which means, where once we viewed change as threat, we now need to collaborate, innovate and perturbate as never before.

So how do we achieve meaningful change when ever fiber of our beings wants to run from it? Let’s start with a few observations of human nature.

1. Abandon all hope – If human beings have a favourite drug, it’s hope with a dash of denial. We love to close our eyes and hope things will improve without effort. However, to make change work, we must first deal with what’s real.

2. Link change to personal gain – Rather than appealing to our higher angels, appeal to our inner demons. Assume everyone is thinking “What’s in it for me?” because they most likely are.

3. Link the change to the known – Change is scary (see ‘our evolutionary history’ note above) so try to make the change seem like less of a change.

4. Make change easy – If I have to work hard to change a pretty good status quo for a slightly better possibility, then chances are, I’ll settle for pretty good. So make the process easy. Make change such a no brainer in terms of process that I have to work hard NOT to change.

5. Sell the change  – Having done a lot of work with the scientific and academic communities, any suggestion of selling one’s ideas often draws the ire of the afforementioned. “We don’t like the word ‘sell’, it’s unscientific and besides, we’re right, we shouldn’t have to sell it.” To which we often respond, “Do you want to be right… or rich?” Because though the so-called ‘hard skills’ have served them well, the ‘soft skills’ are what brings success. Research by Oded Shenkar at the Ohio State University observes that 97.8% of the value of an innovation goes to the immitator… or, as we would argue, to those who choose to engage people with their proposed change, not simply expect it to catch on because it’s right.

So, screw Billy Joel and go changin’!


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