Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CEO's to build a Culture of Creativity and Innovation. The Lifeblood of your Firm

Unleash growth through creativity. Creative people are everywhere in your firm, not just in the marketing department. Sheer genius comes from brilliant, non-linear thinking, the ability to communicate a vision for a great idea and the courage to see big ideas to fruition. How many creative thinkers are working on your business today?

Inventing new ideas is a far greater challenge than replicating and improving on your current ideas and businesses. It is the difference between incrementalism and major business growth. Today’s economy demands that you deploy a creative process to your business to achieve growth. Doing so will reduce the likelihood that BIG ideas are a rare occurrence in your firm. Deploy a creative innovation process today and make growth a sure bet.

“Creativity” is a mental and social process involving the generation of new
ideas or concepts. It is simply the act of making something new. Alternatively, the term “innovation” is the process by which an organization generates creative new ideas and converts them into profitable products and services. “Creative innovation” combines both: generating breakthrough business-building ideas and applying a process to vet them. Does your firm have a creative innovation process?

Richard Florida, author of “The Rise in the Creative Classes” stated that in the early 1900’s, creative jobs only accounted for 10% of the American workforce. In 1980, this rose to 20% and today, we see over 30% of jobs (or more than 40 million) with a “creative lens” in the USA.. However, this increase in “creative lens” jobs does not necessarily mean that companies which have increased focus in this area experience exponential growth. Richard believes there are three drivers of creativity that business leaders should embrace to create a pipeline of strong growth: Technology, Talent and Tolerance.

· Technology drives our ever changing landscape to improve efficiency.

· Talent is a mandate in this economy – the good news for you is that there are a lot of really talented people unemployed today and therefore available to fill key roles in achieving your company’s growth strategy. Hiring the right people can execute your business goals.

· Tolerance is needed most. It takes a long time to get the right creative process, and to foster an environment of innovation patience and open-mindedness. Without tolerance, exponential growth innovation can be undermined and stifled.

Why do some companies “get it” and others do not?
PIXAR is one of the most innovative new studios of our time. Steven Jobs invented PIXAR as a way to bring the most innovative ideas to the screen- where technology and story come together. PIXAR knows its viewers have come to expect something new and fresh each time they see a PIXAR movie. They set the bar and it is higher every time. The leaders of Pixar believe in three key operating principles to inspire creativity:

1. Everyone must have the freedom to communicate with anyone - Managers do not always need to be the first to know what is going on. Have confidence that you chose the right people to deliver your plans. Believe that everyone’s opinion at every level matters.

2. It must be safe for everyone to offer their ideas - Have a non-judgmental environment to share ideas. Give positive feedback about ideas or the germ of the idea so people see how easy and safe it is to express in front of your group.

3. We must stay close to innovations happening in the academic community - The transparency in sharing its ideals helps PIXAR recruit great talents. Some of the best thinkers are in universities and colleges across the globe. Their research and insights can help us see into the future. It reinforces that PIXAR values the power of smart people more than it values big ideas.

Don’t be fooled. You do not need to be in a creative business to drive creativity. Geico invented a better way to sell insurance in a highly regulated, risk averse industry. Home Shopping Network sells more jewelry profitably than mall jewelry retailers paying heavy monthly leases. Enterprise Car Rental is the number one car rental with its door-to door service model. These companies are winning because they had a better way of doing something and were willing to break paradigms and think differently.

Here are five steps to help you get started:
1. Identify a creative thinker who has respect in your organization - This person may be in the field, or in a managerial position. They need to have the skill sets and the confidence to try new ideas with a small team and run a process that is a bit messy. Make this a full time job.

2. Allocate a budget with gating - Just as a venture capital firm does, develop a budget with goals and hurdles for success. The team can earn more funds if goals are achieved. Creative innovation should not be a free-for-all.

3. Listen to new voices through a new lens - Force the Executive Management team to see new things and to be open to TRYING a new idea. This is the hardest thing to do. Most executive teams say, “we cannot take the risk”, “trying this may impact our core business” etc. Show your leadership team you are willing to take the risk – that’s often where the biggest business growth opportunities are.

4. Grow from your strength - Find out what your firm is really good at doing and then build and grow from there. If your firm excels in real estate development, then explore ideas that leverage that skill.

5. Mitigate your risks - Think about big ideas but pilot small tests. Reward the failures but find the nuggets that worked.

The most strategic thing you can do in this economy is start a creative innovation process. Keep an open mind to new ideas from new people so you can achieve your growth goals.

At Airlift, we believe creativity can be applied every day with or without a costly innovation process. A new brand story can help. Call today to find out how to bake creativity into your business model. Shelley Rosen 312.492.7772 or

Source: Harvard Business Review, “How Pixar Fosters Creativity” Sept, 2008. Richard Florida’s “The Rise of the Creative Class.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CEO's: Brand Trust is Job #1 in this economy

An organizational mandate for CEO’s in this economy is building and protecting brand trust. Your logo is a promise to your people, your customers and your investors. Every move you make either builds upon the trust of your brand or detracts from it. Is your trust bank where it needs to be to weather the economic storm? Your corporate reputation depends on it.

Why does it always take a “bad” incident for a company to develop a trusted brand? It took the demise of Enron to give us the Sarbanes-Oxley practices that all corporations are deploying today. Let’s face it. American icons, celebrities, athletes and corporations are letting us down. Americans want to be loyal to brands they trust and that meet their needs.

Here are some things you can do today to build your trust bank:

Be Transparent in all you do
Dan Amos, CEO of Aflac, inherited a company that was founded on ethical principles. “This company was founded with the premise that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the company. One of the aspects that helps the company continue to thrive is Amos’ transparent leadership. “As a public company there is a responsibility to tell people what is happening regardless of whether the news is particularly good or bad,”

Have a meaningful Corporate Responsibility platform your people can be proud of
Giving back must be part of your business model today. The most relevant brands give back with every transaction. They share their story to their people and customers with pride and assurance that the dollars raised are going to the stated cause. Starbucks retail merchandising does a great job communicating their social platforms in every part of the facility. From the take one counter display to their Ethos Water bins, we know they give back and to whom. It makes us feel good and makes them a brand we can trust.

Lead by Example
The best way for your organization to build trust is for you and your leadership team to hold yourself accountable to an ethical leadership style at all times. The law is the law. However, within your organization there are rules that should not be broken. Make your rules and guidelines public and then insure compliance through rewards and when ethics are compromised.

Fad brands need to lead with ethics and trust in order to endure
Facebook inventor and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is one of the youngest billionaires in the USA at 23 years of age. He built a social networking brand called Facebook that is enjoyed by over 150 million users. People join the site to share ideas, stories, build friendships and business. Recently Zuckerberg revealed his philosophy on his data base. “In reality we would not share information in a way you would not want.” Perhaps Mr. Zuckerberg is too young to understand that brand trust is the number one thing he must protect. Building a base of 150 million loyal users is hard to do. Building a trust bank to keep those users coming back, safe and protected is easy to do when you realize your job is to build brand trust.

Regulatory Compliance
This seems like a given. Assign leaders in the firm that not only comply to national regulations but help blaze new trails so your brand can grow. This year Forbes named Noblis as the world’s most ethical company, Noblis is a dynamic nonprofit science, technology and strategy organization dedicated to science and technology to serve the public’s interest. “Our relationships are based on earned trust and our ability to provide scientific, technical, and strategy solutions to complex problems in an objective and conflict free manner. This recognition is a reflection of the teamwork and effort that everyone here put into building our culture, values and processes,” said Amr ElSawy, President and CEO of Noblis.

Select and Ethical Board of Directors
Your board plays a key role to help you achieve your business aspiration with the ethics and integrity you seek. Their advice and counsel helps weather the tough times. Each hand-selected board member should add to the trust bank by who they are and what they bring to the strategy table. Create a rock star board that extends your trust values.

Even in today’s economy, there are brands that have risen to the top in the financial sector because of their ability to understand, communicate and deliver a trusted brand. The Luxury Institute reports that high net-worth consumers rated Fidelity Brokerage Services the most trusted retail broker in the new 2008 Luxury Brand Trust Index (LBTI) survey. Respondents say they trust the firm that provided "excellent service and ideas for making money," "holds the investor's concerns as a priority," and has "your best interests at heart." Charles Schwab and Wachovia Securities rank second and third, respectively. Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute states, "Wealthy consumers agree it is not enough to outperform your competition; you have to out-behave them too.” That is brand trust.

Building your trust bank is done action by action, day-by-day. Over time, when done right it can put a shine on your brand to weather the roughest economy we have seen in forty years.

Contact us; at srosen@airliftideas.com 312.492.7772. Do you think your firm is in need of a brand story. Please contact us at the information below to see if you qualify.

Source: Luxury Institute, Forbes, Ethisphere

One Hour of Free Brand-Story Consulting

Do you think your firm is in need of a brand story? You could be eligible for a free hour of consulting. Please contact us at the information listed below to see if you qualify.

(312) 492-7772

Monday, February 9, 2009

CEO’s who care about their people, out-perform their competition;

Why do some leaders enjoy more growth than others? They believe a “people-first” culture can drive the economic growth they seek. Think about it, your people are your brand ambassadors. Each night when they leave your office, they go home to their families and talk about work. They share stories with their friends about their jobs, their boss and your company. But are they telling positive stories about the brand you lead and the products and services you sell?

Here are the top five things you can do to lead a “people-first” culture:

Have a clear vision of your firm and communicate it to all people at all levels
It starts with articulating a clear vision for your growth. Communication is more critical than ever in these economic times. A clear story about who you are and how your company will grow is the first step to engaging your people.
Assign a People Czar. It may not be the senior officer in your HR department.
Many times Human Resource departments are in the business of protecting labor with guidelines, rules and policy. As the CEO you are in the business of inspiring labor to perform and outperform so you can beat the market. A people Czar can help make the connection to your employees.
Take a baseline employee satisfaction survey
There is no way to know how you stack up as a boss and a company without knowing how your employees feel about working at your firm. Let them take a confidential survey on how they feel about the work-place, their boss and the environment. Take action on their compliments and their complaints to show you care, are listening and making the needed changes.
Offer Relevant Perks for your brand, the philosophies of your firm and geography.
Nike Management offers outdoor tracks and benefits to further promote an active lifestyle. Genentech says “forget the morning drive!!” Come to work by bicycle, on foot, via public transportation, or in a carpool and you get a subsidy of $4 a day. Camden Property Trust offers employees who live in one of the firm's 180 apartment complexes in such cities as San Diego, Denver and Houston a 20% discount on rent. And they can stay in one of Camden's fully furnished apartments in vacation spots like Orlando and L.A. for $20 a night.
Lead an accountable culture.
People want to know how to achieve the rewards for performance. Is it clear how training and leadership can enhance a career path? Acknowledge great performers in front of their peers. Recognition is the highest form of leadership. It is free. So do it!! At Devon Energy, employee growth hasn't diluted the pay. Devon loves to give big bonuses. The average bonus in 2006 was $21,332. The company also awards a holiday bonus of $600 for every employee, regardless of position. Everything counts.

Every year, Fortune Magazine and The Great Places to Work Institute conduct the Best Places to Work Survey. Google led Fortune Magazine’s number one place to work in 2008. The leadership at Google believes and acts upon the philosophy that their people matter.

Some Facts:
Google has 8,100 jobs and last year they received over 761,000 job applicants. (1) How many resumes did you receive last year? Do people want to work at your firm?

With on-site day-care, a gym membership on premise and over 120 hours of training, people want to stay. The most impressive statistic is that Google has 0% of voluntary job turn-over, or people leaving the company. Google’s benefits generate talk value and are key to driving a people first culture.

Some examples of their offering are below:

Google offers a first-class dining facility. Custom-made milkshakes and on-site farmers' market? Googlers are a well-fed bunch: The company even has a rule -- workers can never be more than 100 feet away from food. Hence the elaborate free snack stations and restaurants scattered throughout the Googleplex.

How do you get more than 6,000 Googlers to see a first-run film? You rent an entire theater for the day. That's exactly what Google's done for movies like "Lord of the Rings," "Transformers" and other blockbusters. As an extra benefit, employees get to bring a guest.

After years of getting around their sprawling Mountain View headquarters on two-wheeled Segways (which kept breaking down) and electric scooters (which employees kept falling off), Googlers now use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation at corporate.

Other Great Companies offer simple ideas that help increase moral, ideation and even well-being.

Microsoft : The MS Dance e-mail list counts 400 members; every week a new step - Latin ballroom, two-step - is taught on campus. "You meet people from all over the company," says Melitta Andersen, a project manager and aficionado of the samba who joined the group last summer. "We have some pretty good dancers here."

Herman Miller: Sleek furniture is a given at Herman Miller. The company has long used its offices to showcase its own designs. A 2007 eco-makeover brought skylights with solar panels and C2, a hyper-efficient personal climate-control gadget.

Quicken Loans: This brand is ranked number 2. Amidst the worst mortgage crisis in US history, Quicken Loans led they way with an ethical, transparent lending process for their customers.. "Ethically driven" is what one employee calls the online mortgage lender. It avoided the sub-prime crisis by sticking with plain-vanilla loans.

While outrageous benefits generate great public relations and talk value among employees, the secret to people loyalty and employee satisfaction goes well beyond perks. Genuine caring for your people is your best strategy.

Having a “people first” culture gives leaders a leg up on their competition. Results show that satisfied employees drive higher levels of customer satisfaction which in turn drives economic return to your bottom line.

Contact us with your stories on how you lead your people-first culture.
Shelley Rosen
Airlift Ideas

Source: (1) Fortune Magazine, 2008 Best Places to Work, Great Places to Work Institute

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Guest Blog at "Unconventional Marketing" Blog

There are some kind people in the world and one of them is Josh Whitford, found of "Uncovnetional Marketing" Blog. Josh has created a blog for marketers to contribute ideas on marketing. This week, the content of our blog is linked to his network. Enjoy!!

Please visit his blog at http://www.joshwhitford.com/

Shelley Rosen