Blog  Elektroniker

Davos Debrief: In Resilience We Trust

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“What is interesting and important happens mostly in secret, in places where there is no power,” novelist Michael Ondaatje writes in The Cat’s Table, and it was a strange coincidence that I came across this enigmatic line on the descent down from Davos, the Swiss ski resort that had just convened some of the world’s most powerful men and women for the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum.

The paradox of Davos is that it is both highly public and highly secretive. Relationships and business transactions are on show, as much as they are taking place in back room meetings and private encounters on the peripheries, far away from the glitz and glamour and where the buzzing doesn’t need buzzwords. Davos is the great equalizer and the great divider at the same time. The hierarchies are both formal and explicit (manifest by the color of your badge), as well as situational and subtle, with small smart mobs forming around the most sought-after, both on- and offsite (“one minute you’re in, the next you’re out”), in emotional roller coaster, funicular, and shuttle rides between recognition and rejection, belonging and alienation.

Blog  Elektroniker

What Innovators Can Learn From Artists

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Andy Warhol knew it all along: “Good business is the best art.” And lately, a number of business thinkers and leaders have begun to embrace the arts, not as an escapist notion, a parallel world after office hours, or a creative asset, but as an integral part of the human enterprise that ought to be woven into the fabric of every business—from the management team to operations to customer service.

John Maeda, the president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and author of the book Redesigning Leadership, predicts that artists will emerge as the new business leaders and cites RISD graduates Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, co-founders of Airbnb, as prominent examples. The author William Deresiewicz heralds reading as the most important task of any leader. John Coleman makes a compelling case for the role of poetry in business. Intel named pop musician will.i.am as director of creative innovation. And the World Economic Forum has been inviting arts and cultural leaders to its events for several years and this year added the ‘Role of the Arts’ to its Network of Global Agenda Councils.

Indeed, the “art” of business becomes ever more important as the “science” gets ever more ubiquitous. Against the backdrop of our hyper-connected economies and as Big Data and sophisticated analytical tools allow us to maximize process efficiencies and standardize best innovation practices worldwide, intuition and creativity remain as the only differentiating factors that enable truly game-changing innovations. Like any “soft asset,” they cannot be exploited, only explored. And like artists, innovators must develop a mindset and cultivate creative habits in order to see the world afresh and create something new.

Blog  Elektroniker

The H(app)athon Project

Happiness and well-being have entered the business mainstream as new indicators of economic progress. Bhutan pioneered the Gross National Happiness Index, the UN issued a Happiness Resolution, and the Harvard Business Review recently devoted a special report to the topic. A growing number of companies are looking into creating Big Data-enabled products/services that measure and enhance happiness/well-being, and a growing number of companies are beginning to leverage the potential of Quantified-Self-apps to improve workplace wellness (and productivity).

Blog  Elektroniker

Hackathon Brings Together 150 Creative Change-Makers to “Reinvent Business”

How can technology and a group of creative minds help build a more human and truly social enterprise that is designed for the 21st century world and restores trust between business and society? That was the big question tackled by the interdisciplinary Reinvent Business hackathon – a collaborative, rapid ideation and software programming event – that we hosted in our San Francisco studio this past weekend.

Co-developed by frog and LRN, and in partnership with Blumberg Capital, BSR, Carnegie Mellon University, Cue Ball, Dachis Group, Fast Company, Net Impact, Silicon Valley Bank, and the World Economic Forum, Reinvent Business brought together a diverse group of 150 software developers, designers, gamers, filmmakers, storytellers, and business leaders to design and build innovative products and services that have the capacity to change corporate behavior from within. Based on the belief that social technology and design present a unique opportunity to drive higher levels of transparency, empathy, and self-governance within companies, our goal was to create concepts and prototypes for software applications that translate values and principles into concrete interactions and tangible experiences at the workplace.

Blog  Elektroniker

Five Keys To Building A Business That Doesn’t Bury The Humans At Its Core

As business leaders speak of the “Human Age” and claim that capitalism is being replaced by “talentism” -- defined as access to talent as a key resource and differentiator -- many companies have embarked on initiatives to “unleash their human potential.” Those are big words and noble ambitions, and naturally they seem worth striving for. But as one of the hosts of a hackathon in San Francisco this weekend, which invites developers, designers, and other creative minds to “reinvent business,” I have been wondering: What is a “human” business, anyway?

Blog  Elektroniker

Bridging the Values Gap

The current economic crisis presents an opportunity to realign our collective moral compass. First, by understanding the values that underlie our economies. Second, by reconciling the agendas of business with the true needs of individuals.

Clearly, the bond between society and business is broken, and the legitimacy of companies is at a new low point. Movements such as Occupy Wall Street express a growing indignation over the disconnect between the perks for a few and the rights of many. When Harvard undergraduate students stage a walkout of an Economics 101 class in sympathy with the Occupy movement to protest the ‘corporatization’ of education, it might indeed indicate the beginning of a “New Progressive Movement.” It is not just the redistribution of wealth that’s being scrutinized, however. What citizens, in the U.S. and elsewhere, demand are new, more collaborative and inclusive models of value creation that produce meaning as much as profits.

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The Opposite House

Otherness and other pillars of a new moral economy

“So, what is the reason for your existence?” the German professor at a Chinese business school reception in Shanghai asked me, to start a conversation. I felt like ad man Don Draper in the TV series Mad Men when his false identity is unveiled. Who are you really? Caught off guard, I answered: “I’m a marketer.” The conversation moved on, others had wittier sound bites to contribute, and my unease continued. It had been weighing on me since I had put my foot on Chinese soil a few days earlier, and here in this beautiful mansion, confiscated by the government from the corrupt former mayor of Shanghai, it was a steady companion.

Blog  Elektroniker

(Good) Movies and The Three Dimensions of Meaning

I haven’t seen The Social Network yet. But the recent debate about the movie that, characteristical of a successful product, quickly transcended the original artifact and evolved into a broader cultural discourse (a “third meaning”), made me think about how dramatically my own movie experience has changed over the past 30 years. I’ve been fascinated with movies ever since I was a young boy. At the age of 10, I completely immersed myself into films such as Jungle Book, watched them again and again, learned the dialogues by heart, and accumulated an encyclopedic knowledge of the characters. A couple of years later, I became obsessed with the Bond series (I still know the entire filmography in and out). Films were my reality, and my life took place in a parallel universe for the most part.

Blog  Elektroniker

The Soft Power of Social

Over the course of the past twelve months, I wrote several blog posts and articles about the Chief Meaning Officer, a role which I envision as an innovative leader who employs the new social power of marketing – provisioned by Social as a governing principle of all business interactions – to transform his/her organization (Charlene Li also elaborates on this theme in her new book Open Leadership). I presented this concept at some conferences including next in Hamburg, mostly to fellow marketers or representatives from digital agencies, and you can also hear me riff on it in this podcast produced by Dutch brand agency Energize. I received a ton of feedback: encouragement, endorsements, and consent, but also skepticism suggesting that this model might just be another marketing fad. Invited by BIDC, the Beijing Industrial Design Center, I was extremely grateful to have the opportunity to introduce the idea to a group of Chinese designers at a workshop in Beijing a few weeks ago. It was the first time I shared the Chief Meaning Officer framework in a different cultural and professional context, and it was a welcome reality check.

Blog  Elektroniker

Meaning-Driven Brands

A list of visionaries, sense makers, disruptors, game changers and contrarians.

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As the world slowly emerges from the economic gloom, and the “hyper-social real-time web” requires new organizational designs, it’s clear that business as usual will not be so usual anymore. Yet fundamental concerns remain, both for business leaders, who face the challenge of innovating in a hyper-transparent and always-on environment, and for consumers, who are increasingly searching for non-economic values amidst the shattered trust in business and the information overload. Smart companies recognize the historic opportunity to transform the way they do business and provide customers with more value-rich, sustainable, and meaningful products, services, and business models. From “un-entitlement” to “disruptive realism” to “for-profit activism” – here are some of the new paradigms that shape meaning-driven brands.