Robert Kiyosaki drops in to visit @ValerieKhoo & shares some insights

It always delights me when friends get to meet interesting people. Thus I was pleased to see that Valerie Khoo, founder of the Sydney Writers’ Centre, recently had a visit from Robert Kiyosaki.

It is worth watching the entire video as Kiyosaki shares his thoughts on business, the economy, and some possible responses (and he does talk about his new book, Midas Touch: Why Some Entrepreneurs Get Rich – And Why Most Don’t).

Leadership: Doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching

I have worked with a number of great leaders and managers over the years, some of them are famous for this but others are quiet achievers. Watching ABC’s Four Corners program about St Ann’s Secret on television tonight made me think about what makes a great leader.

The story of abuse of disabled children by paedophiles in Adelaide was heart-rending, and the failures of leaders in various roles and in various situations often seemed to compound the damage.

It takes leadership to stand up and do what is right. As an one of my managers used to say it’s about “doing the right thing even if nobody is watching”. And he often noted that it is also about being seen to do the right thing at the right time.

Over the years I have also worked with leaders who flirted on the edge of illegality (some of them even went to gaol a few years after we parted company). The organisations that were led by those people all foundered over the years. The story in each case was similar: procedural irregularities, illegality, bankruptcy, civil and criminal charges, many ordinary  workers and investors betrayed.

The common thread was that these leaders encouraged their staff to skirt probity and fiduciary duty. The road to hell is not just paved with good intentions, it is also a long slow and slippery slope. Attention to small things and attitudes to them are paving stones on the road to hell.

And the consequences of those little things do not just fall on a business, or on its investors. The consequences also fall on society at large, upon families, and upon young people.

We see the consequences of this bad behaviour of organisations in the scandals that rock our churches so regularly, in the business failures that damage lives and our economy, and in the world our young people will inherit.

How organisations function comes down to all of the individuals, but it is the leaders who set the tone. And it is the leaders who bear the responsibility for the kinds of behaviour that are seen as acceptable and appropriate.

Leaders need to think about what messages they send about which behaviours and practices are appropriate. It is not merely the explicit messages that signal to people how they should behave. In many cases it is also the behaviour, comportment, and gestures of the leaders that set the tone.

Organisations are organic and their culture is viral. And the strongest form of the virus comes from the leaders. If you’re a leader it’s time to think about the example you set.

Building community #sibsyd #sydstart

On Thursday I spoke about Social Innovation Sydney at SydStart along with Selena Griffith, Michelle Williams, and Kim Chen.  Apart from the Social Innovation Sydney team there was an illustrious line-up for SydStart – you can see the list here.

My brief talk was focused on the approach taken to build community around social innovation, and I will expand on it a little here. As I said:

“Our approach is simple. Community is about real people making real connections in real life. We use technology to enable those connections.”

I firmly believe that the power of online connections and networks is given a new depth when we meet in real life. Social networks are wonderful, and I find them to be amazingly useful. But it is when we finally meet the real human being and look into their eyes that the real magic happens. It is when the heart-to-heart connection between genuine people takes places that we see the alchemy.

Looking to the meaning of the word community gives an insight into what I’m talking about:

late 14c., from O.Fr. comunité “community, commonness, everybody” (Mod.Fr. communauté), from L. communitatem (nom. communitas) “community, fellowship,” from communis “common, public, general, shared by all or many,” (see common). Latin communitatem “was merely a noun of quality … meaning ‘fellowship, community of relations or feelings,’ but in med.L. it was, like universitas, used concretely in the sense of ‘a body of fellows or fellow-townsmen’ ” [OED]. An O.E. word for “community” was gemænscipe “community, fellowship, union, common ownership,” probably composed from the same PIE roots as communis. Community service as a criminal sentence is recorded from 1972, Amer.Eng. Community college is recorded from 1959.
Source: Online Etymology Dictionary

Thus community is about building “fellowship” and is something that is “shared by all or many”. To achieve it we must bring people together. And one way to bring people together is to have them all focus on an object or objective, in much the same way as we have with Social Innovation Sydney.

Our use of social media and social networking is merely part of the mechanic. But these tools are not the focus, instead they are a mechanism for reinforcing the community that is formed through action, and by conversation and exchange of ideas.

The business of social business

Social business is the new trend following on from Enterprise 2.0 – but underlying it is an essential conflict between two different styles of doing business.  The conflict is between businesses optimized for efficiency and those optimized for the creation of value.

Greg Satell encapsulates this conflict neatly in his 2010 post Creating Efficiency vs. Creating Value. He raises the notion of Kuhnian paradigm shifts and open innovation as a key part of creating value.

However, I suspect that Geoff Livingston is right when he argues that we are actually facing the post social media revolution era.

These two ideas – that we have entered the post social media revolution era and; that we need to create value as opposed to efficiency – frame the challenge of the next few years for business.

With the decline of the verities of the economic system that we’ve taken for granted over the past 30 years we are now faced with a new economic landscape within which to create and grow businesses.

In an environment of reduced consumer power, restricted credit and the prospect of sovereign crises, businesses need to find ways to harness creativity to generate revenue. This means we must diversify our efforts from a focus on efficiency and cost optimization. It means that we need to create mechanisms for creation and sharing of value.

We need to find new ways of doing business that do not merely follow the ideological constraints of what has gone before. Instead it is time to bring all of our commitment and determination to find new ways of doing things.

It will be insufficient to merely put the word ‘social’in front of our business activities. It will be necessary to find out how to embed social processes and technology within our businesses to meet the demands of these challenging times.

Are we living in the age of rage?

There are so many angry people these days. It’s something I don’t really remember from my youth and childhood. Only in recent years does it seem that everyone is angry.

I’ve been trying to understand why there should be more anger now than in the past. It might be something to do with our standards now. Standards for everything are so much higher now than in the past. We expect everything to be ‘awesome’ and ‘amazing’ all the time.

Are we putting too much pressure on ourselves and the people around us with our attitudes?

The daisy chain of pressure in our lives is remarkable. If we want an awesome house/car/boat then we need an awesome job to go with it. Those jobs often mean that both parents work. Which, in turn, means that there is constant time pressure on the family. Then there is the pressure of being accountable to your boss and the company as well as to your family and friends.

And on top of all of this we commute. Our commutes are often long and add to the pressure we feel. To get from home to work, or from work to childcare when the traffic is heavy or the train is late just adds more pressure.

For many of us there are very fine margins of time between activities. And this lack of gaps and lack of downtime adds pressure too.

I’m becoming aware of how much pressure we put ourselves under. Racing the clock. Trying to achieve all the things we want. And how, we can get angry when the pressure builds. How a little thing like a missed train or a traffic jam can cause rage to build.

So here we are: overworked, tense, and tired, while some suffer from lack of money and struggle financially – the tension builds up with nothing to dissipate it.

Very few things in our lives work to dissipate this tension, there appears to be few outlets. Instead it builds and bursts out when kinks hit our extremely tight schedules. And when it does burst out it does so in reaction to delays and interference in our plans or tight schedules.

But what can we do to change this? A few things I’m trying include saying ‘no’ to adding more things or activities to my life and doing yoga classes a few times each week.

It does make me ponder the notion of existential estrangement.

Labour, forced labour, and capital – is the ground shifting?

Free people offering their labour in exchange for monetary reward has been fundamental concept for western society. Since the mid-nineteenth century we have not really used forced labour for production.  But two examples in recent times make me wonder if that assumption still holds true:

  1. Prisoners painted room for former UK Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith
  2. Wisconsin Union Workers Replaced With Prison Labor Under Scott Walker’s Collective Bargaining Law [HT: @umairh and @johnrobb for this link]

We’ve blithely assumed that we will always be able to sell our labour on the free market and that there will be some (more or less depending upon the economic situation) buyers of our labour – hence much xenophobia on the part of many.

We’ve also assumed that our only competitors for selling our labour on the free market are other free people – either native to our lands or foreigners.

Forced labour used to be an important component of the labour market in Australia, after all we were founded as a penal colony for the UK. However, for the most part, in the west we have not had indentured labour since the nineteenth century.

There also appears to be a growing idea that we should also apply ‘user pays’ principles to people who receive support from society. This means that there is a growing notion that prisoners (and the unemployed) owe society something in return for the support that they receive from society.

I wonder how long until western industry works out how they can use the nexus of this ‘user pays’ ideology, the the need to reduce costs, and the adoption of forced labour? It’s interesting to consider this idea given the continued drive to reduce costs and while the prison population is not in a good position to protest their treatment.

UPDATE: And now I see that the redoubtable Douglas Rushkoff is asking Are jobs obsolete? it seems that I’m not the only one with questions about the shifting relationship between labour and capital. Also it appears that in the US the Unemployed face tough competition: underemployed.