The Power of Purpose

Greetings. In the last few years, I have become enamored with Lush Cosmetics—a British company that sells intriguingly fragrant soap that looks like cheese. Not only have I become a reliable customer for their “fresh and handmade” personal care products, but I also bring groups of business leaders to visit their stores here in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and even Kuala Lumpur. Visits intended to give leaders from a wide range of industries a sense of what it takes to create a business that is loved and respected by almost all of its employees and customers. Granted, many of its customers are relying on their parents to buy their soaps, lotions, perfumes, shampoos, bath bombs, and other products but that’s a different story. What interests me most is the “power of purpose” in this global company that is widely regarded as being innovative, caring, collaborative, customer-centric, socially and environmentally responsible, and successful.

Let’s face it, having a clear and compelling sense of purpose is vital to business success—especially today. Yet too many companies fail or neglect to make clear why they really matter, the core purpose they are trying to achieve, and the role that the folks who work there and the folks who buy from them play in making important things happen. At Lush, they wear their purpose on the walls of their stores and even in the ink that adorns some of their employees. It is a purpose that is all about products that are natural, good for you, not tested on animals, and good for the planet. All made by real people whose pictures and names appear on every package, unless a product comes without a package as a way to reduce the use of unnecessary material that is likely to end up in landfills. And purchased by customers who care about the products they buy and use. It is also a purpose that inspires the company  to invest a significant amount of its proceeds to support nonprofit organizations around the world that are working to improve the lives of children and low-income communities, and the welfare of animals—organizations recommended by employees.

All of which begs the questions:

“What is your purpose as a company, organization, or individual?”

“Is your purpose something that inspires all of your employees, customers, and stakeholders to be passionate and knowledgeable advocates for your brand?” and

“What value do you really provide?”

If your purpose is not as clear or compelling as it could be, you might want to take a field trip to your nearest Lush shop where the colors are intense, the fragrances are strong, everything can be sampled, customers are loyal, employees are engaged, turnover is low, the sense of purpose is everywhere, and the soap looks good enough to taste.

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Cheers!

The Power of Distraction

Greetings. For most of the past twelve months I have allowed myself to be distracted. Wandering around looking for new ideas and possibilities to share with our customers, imagining new ways to unlock the genius in all of the people we work with, exploring new topics for my next book, learning about the work of innovative nonprofit organizations as I try to find the right new opportunities to volunteer, and spending a lot of time thinking about creative approaches to some important challenges that our family (and most families) seem to face. Doing my best to be distracted as I acknowledge the importance of innovation in every aspect of life. Because its hard to make progress if we are not moving forward, stretching our thinking in new ways, and being different in ways that matter. And the best way to do this is by being distracted and wandering around in a world filled with ideas, insights, energy, and sparks of inspiration.

Unfortunately, most companies and organizations think that innovation is all about looking inward rather than looking out. When faced with the need to solve a pressing challenge or to seize a great opportunity, they quickly decide to hold a “retreat”…a well-intentioned but slightly absurd activity that brings together a bunch of their smartest people to brainstorm in relative isolation. Hunkering down at a remote conference center or in a very private conference room they do everything possible to avoid being distracted, as though distraction is the real obstacle to innovation and progress.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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In “The Necessity of Strangers” I shared a simple notion that I call the 99 Percent Rule. It states that 99 percent of all new ideas are based on an idea or practice that someone or something else has already had. And it suggests that instead of hiding, we are more likely to create breakthroughs by engaging the world head on. Instead of retreating, we should be regularly exploring. Getting out and looking for the brilliant ideas of others, around the corner and around the globe. Instead of relying on our internal knowledge and expertise we should be casting a much wider net.  Then using the most brilliant ideas of others as a starting point for reimagining our businesses and industries in fresh and more compelling ways.

In today’s and tomorrow’s economy, the folks who are easily and purposefully distracted are likely to be the ones who win.

Cheers!

New Insights on Innovation and Creativity

Greetings. Looking for new ideas and insights on innovation and creativity? If so, the “Innovation & Creativity Summit 2017” might be a valuable (and free) resource. Organized by UK consultant Nick Skillicorn, the Summit is a collection of 45 thoughtful conversations with global innovation leaders…each with their own unique perspective on how to unlock brilliant ideas and bring them to market successfully.

Let’s face it, innovation is essential if our companies and organizations are to remain vibrant and relevant. But it is also hard to do, especially in established companies and organizations. In fact, more than 90% of all new ideas fail. Not only that, recent studies have shown that most people do not consider themselves to be creative and that people are becoming less creative than they were only a couple of decades ago. Kind of a scary thought given all of the tools, resources, and technology at our disposal. But you and your colleagues can improve the odds of innovation success dramatically…or at least do a better job of picking opportunities…by understanding how the best ideas actually happen, how to rediscover your own innate creativity, and by learning from others who have cracked the code.

Here is a short introductory video that will give you a better sense of what the Summit is all about in case it might be of interest…

And in the interest of full disclosure, I am glad to say that I am part of this online event, and that I will be sharing some of my latest ideas on the necessity of strangers, the “99% rule,” and the power of exploring the world around us in order to discover new connections that can spark our best thinking.

In terms of logistics, the Summit will run from April 2nd to April 11th, and each of the 45 sessions will be available at no cost for three of those days. My session will be up and running (for free) from April 3rd through April 5th. And once you sign up, you will get a schedule with all of the sessions and topics. You will also have the option of purchasing unlimited access to all of the sessions until the end of time, or at least some date in the distant future, at what appears to be a pretty darn reasonable price. And if you decide to watch my session, I would welcome your feedback and your latest thinking about innovation as I am continually trying to get way smarter.

Cheers!

Curiosity – Vital to Businesses of All Sizes

Greetings. Last Thursday I had the pleasure of giving a relatively short presentation on innovation, curiosity, and the importance of strangers for the Small Business Network here in Maryland. The audience was an interesting and quite diverse group of business owners and potential entrepreneurs who were engaged, enthusiastic, and eager to gain some new ideas about how to deliver greater value and jumpstart their own success.

Needless to say, I was excited to share and exchange ideas about why the most successful companies are the ones that inspire all of their people to consistently take a fresh look at the world around them. I was also excited to challenge everyone to think about how their companies and organizations could be different in ways that really matter, and how they could consistently bring the best new ideas, products, services, solutions, and business practices to their customers. Ideas, products, services, solutions, and practices that would make customers smarter, more capable, more effective, more efficient, more complete, more inspired, and more innovative themselves. Ideas, products, services, solutions, and practices that would make their customer’s world more “awesome” to quote my favorite song from the original Lego movie. Ideas, products, services, solutions, and practice that were most likely to be sparked by looking at the world around us with fresh eyes and by being curious about the wisdom and best practices of folks in other industries, other walks of life, other places, and even other cultures.

And as many of you have asked to see one of my talks, I thought you might find this one interesting and quick. It is just a bit more than 20 minutes…which is all the time they gave me. A constrain that forced me to be focused and probably talk a bit faster than I might normally.

In any event, I hope that you find it useful and (if you do) please feel free to share it with friends, colleagues, neighbors, and even strangers as I am continuing to spread the word, especially in these confusing times, about the essential value of outsiders in driving innovation and enhancing our ongoing success as individuals, organizations and nations…

Cheers!

To a New Year Filled With Success

Greetings. While it is hard to believe that 2017 is already here, the start of the New Year provides a great opportunity to reconnect and thank you for being part of the life of our company in 2016.

It also seems, in these less than certain times, like the perfect moment to start a new conversation about the importance, or rather the “necessity,” of being curious and open-minded in the year ahead—a year that will be filled with remarkable possibilities for innovation and growth if we are able to see the best in everyone around us.

In a world in which new ideas and business models are quickly changing our industries and organizations, we will all need to step outside our comfort zones in order to re-imagine how we can deliver greater value to the customers, employees, and shareholders we have the privilege to serve. And the best way to do this is by being more open to the world around us and more willing to connect with, and learn from, people with different ideas, insights, backgrounds, and points of view.

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So here’s hoping that you and your colleagues will take the time to explore and connect with new people and new ways of thinking in the year ahead. And if you could use a little help in sparking a new conversation in your company or organization, please do not hesitate to ask.

But most importantly, giant thanks again for everything you have taught me during the past twelve months and best wishes for your most open and successful year yet!

Cheers,

Alan