What’s Better for Business: Creative Thinking or Integrity?

As the world gets faster, “smaller” – and older – so do the demands of consumers and employees. An interesting note is that consumers ARE employees, and vice versa. We spend a lot of time defining and drawing lines between what consumers want and what we need employees to deliver. Sometimes we forget that it’s all part of the same wonderful mixed up thing we call life.

I know it’s so simple, and yet, it’s not easy to run a business or decipher which product or service is right for you as a consumer. I know for years I woke up and thought “here’s what I need to accomplish for my family today” and “here’s what I need to accomplish for work today,” and I rarely considered any intersections between the two. Now I wake up every day and think, “What can I do to make a difference today no matter what it is that I’m doing?” Often the answer is not brain surgery, but it’s also not something that would occur to me if I was just thinking about what I could squeeze out of something rather than pump air into.

And all of this reflection today came from revisiting IBM’s 2010 “Capitalizing on Complexity” study. If you haven’t read it already, it’s worth moving to the top of your reading list.

The study is based on face-to-face communications with 1,500 CEOs worldwide. And, I believe, if you want to see what’s next for the workforce, check on the traits of CEOs. Whatever is making them get ahead is most likely what’s in demand for their consumers and their employees, who come into work every day and deliver on brand promises.

This morning I flipped to page 24, titled, “Defy complexity with creativity.” CEOs were asked to prioritize the three most important leadership qualities in the new economic environment, and creativity was the quality they selected more than any other choice. It ranked above integrity and global thinking. It ranked above openness, dedication and fairness. Interesting. Very interesting.

Good leaders usually populate their teams with people who exhibit qualities that don’t come naturally to them in order to balance the tables. But I’m thinking that creativity is going to be an over-riding factor moving forward. So you have to display the qualities to fulfill your particular position, and then exhibit creativity on top of that.

What do employees get in return? Well, how about simplifying the complexity of life for them, too. Top-performing CEOs often shield their consumers from all the confusing aspects of what went into a product or service, and they just dish up the best darn solution they can offer to make them come back for more.

What if we simplified life for employees by applying the same idea? Just dish up the best possible environment for them to do their jobs – which may mean different things depending on the resources available to you – and set a goal for wanting them to come back for more every day. More fun. More meaningful work. More respect. More of a chance to make a difference.

Just a thought, but it may be crazy enough to work.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Music Lessons: What Does It Take to Get Everyone to Lead?

Leadership is a hot topic right now. At Tribe, we hear many large clients talking about the need to teach leadership to people at all levels of the company. In small companies, like Tribe, for instance, we need everyone to be a leader in their area of expertise because we don’t have layers of people above them to call the shots.

A talented Atlanta singer-songwriter mentioned leadership to me recently, in terms of the members of his band. (Okay, full disclosure: the talented songwriter of whom I speak is my husband Steve Baskin.) He’s been trying different combinations of musicians lately and has added a few new members to the band.

The thing he’s been looking for is this: People who can play lead. In other words, he wants the guitar player to see himself as the lead. Same for the bass player. And the drummer. And the guy on keyboards. Instead of any of them considering himself a minor player, he wants every single guy on stage to play like he’s playing lead.

He says it’s working. When this new band was rehearsing in the basement the other day, a family friend upstairs said she felt like she had really crummy seats to a really great concert. Tonight’s his first time playing out with this new assortment of characters on stage, and I’ll be listening to see if this particular management metaphor holds.

Could it be a case of too many chiefs and not enough Indians? Maybe, but I think only large organizations have room for Indians. In a band of four or five people, or a company considerably smaller than a Fortune 500, the culture can generally accommodate, and in fact requires, a high proportion of chiefs.

For most larger companies, the culture doesn’t promote that sense of individual responsibility for each person to play lead. To achieve that level of ownership by the rank and file, an organization has to be imbued with the entrepreneurial spirit. Perhaps that’s one more way big companies might want to model themselves after small ones.

What’s New with Your Hairdo?

Tribe is working on a Six Figure Hairdresser app for the iPhone and iPad. Over the past few weeks Tribe has been working with celebrity hairdresser Harry Wood of Van Michael Salon to develop training materials for his Six Figure Hairdresser program.

As a special treat, Harry invited Lindsay, Alexis, Michele and me over to the Van Michael Salon in Sandy Springs for a stylish makeover.  He gave us a tour, taking us through the salon and sitting us down at his station.  Being the expert, he already had a vision for each of us.  Without delay, Harry went into action scrolling through his iPad showing us pictures of celebrity hairstyles that looked similar to what he had planned.

During our hair transformation Harry was in control.  He clipped and snipped with ease keeping most of our length and adding lots of layers to flatter our faces perfectly.  Alexis gladly gave Harry permission to cut all of her length and when he finished it was resting right above her shoulders.  Everyone’s hair had more bounce as we turned our heads.

As Harry clipped the last hair and gave one last shake it was on to color.  Downstairs, we walked to see the color stylist who had spoken with Harry.  He already knew which colors would work best with our new styles.  For some, it was a deeper color that was added to their hair, others were given highlights to brighten it up.  Harry also insisted on tinting Lindsay’s eyelashes, which took a little coaxing.

Harry and his team made short work of us all, and in a few hours our makeovers were complete. The overall experience at Van Michael Salon was quite relaxing and a great way to spend the afternoon.  Even Harry’s assistant aided by stepping in and giving us each a hand massage, which was delightful.

Harry really out did himself by inviting us all into Van Michael to get made over.  As we were leaving we were all very excited to show off our new hairdos. Later that evening, one girlfriend said open-eyed, “ Wow you look like a MILLION BUCKS!”  Now that’s what I call a Seven Figure Hairdresser.

Amanda V. Jones wrote this blog after receiving a makeover by Harry Wood.

Are You Crazy Enough to Be A Genius?

A story jumped out at me on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times Business Section: “Just Manic Enough: Seeking Perfect Entrepreneurs.” It talks about the very thin line that separates genius from mania, and how you have to be just crazy enough sometimes in order to win big.

One excerpt reads: “The attributes that make great entrepreneurs, the experts say, are common in certain manias, though in milder forms and harnessed in ways that are hugely productive. Instead of recklessness, the entrepreneur loves risk. Instead of delusions, the entrepreneur imagines a product that sounds so compelling that it inspires people to bet their careers, or a lot of money, on something that doesn’t exist and may never sell.”

The focus of the Times article was a 21-year-old-man whose goal was to “build a game layer on top of the world.” The article also references Henry Ford, Theodore Roosevelt, General Patton and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, all of whom are transformational leaders able to recruit and galvanize people when their dreams are only tiny seeds of a big idea.

Of course, not everyone will get to meet Steve Jobs. And, Ford and Roosevelt are long gone, even though their legacies are strong. When I think about it, I believe everyone is fortunate enough to know people who fall into this just-crazy-enough category. I have thought plenty of times after hearing a colleague or a friend tell me about their latest venture, “They’re just crazy enough to do it.” And, they often make it happen, seemingly against all odds. These are people who have an endless store of energy and usually optimism, when nobody else can see the forest through the trees. They see opportunities when they’re sort of on the brink of disaster. They’re thinking up brilliant ideas at 11 at night, 4 in the morning, on their drive to work. They’re always “on.” They’re addicted to their iPods, iPads, cell phones and laptops. They’re able to articulate their vision and get you fired up about something you didn’t care or know about a few minutes ago. They’re passionate in spades – about everything. You love them. They exhaust you. They seem, maybe, just a little bit crazy – to the point of the Times article.

So, even if you don’t know anyone who’s a super-famous genius, as one colleague of mine says: “There are diamonds in your back yard.” I know when ever I feel stuck, I reach out for a friend or work cohort who is “on fire,” in a good way, for a burst of energy and fresh juice.

One of those people for me lately is Harry Wood IV, celebrity stylist and salon director for Van Michael Salons. Harry, who makes frequent national TV appearances, has appeared on CBS, Fox, Bravo, The Learning Channel and “The Biggest Loser.” He is also beginning a tour this week around the United States to promote his brand, “Six-figure Hairdresser.” He’s launching training materials, including an iPhone App, which is aimed at stylists who are ready to do what it takes to make $100,000 a year. Harry’s materials offer practical steps for taking their business to the next level. Although his target audience is stylists, his formula works for anyone in the beauty industry. And, if you for some reason think the beauty industry isn’t that big of a deal, or that it’s fluffy, take a look at mega-brand Estee Lauder and the dozens of global brands that fall under that umbrella brand. Aveda and Bumble and Bumble, to name a couple. The beauty industry is a beautiful, profitable machine.

Back to Harry, whose ultimate vision is to help hairdressers make a better salary and be more respected by their peers inside and outside the beauty industry. This is all a personal passion of Harry’s that he’s basically taking global. I want to end this article by saying, “Here’s to you, Harry! Can’t wait to say I knew you when.”

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Do Crop Mobs Mean We’re Hungry for Meaningful Work?

One man’s work is another man’s fun. I remember my father once remarking that if you told a bunch of grown men with reasonably high incomes that they had to spend the afternoon out in the hot sun trying to knock a little ball across a big lawn with metal sticks, golf would be a tough sell.

That makes me wonder about the recent popularity of recreational farming. I don’t mean planting a few tomato plants in the backyard; I’m talking about people spending their weekend leisure time as volunteer labor on working farms.

Crop Mobs, sometimes called Farm Mobs, offer the experience of sustainable community farming to the landless. These groups have sprouted up all across the country and have been featured in articles by Christine Muhlke in the New York Times and David Zucchino the Los Angeles Times. There’s a thriving Crop Mob organization in the Chapel Hill area and another in Atlanta. You’ll find a group in Cleveland, in the Twin Cities,  and in towns scattered from Oregon to Maine.

Participants are generally in their 20s or 30s, college educated, and the majority of them show up at office jobs  during the week. But once a month, the mob descends on a nearby farm and spends the day weeding, seeding, picking or whatever else the farmer needs them to do. If they have their own shovels and hoes or other farm implements, they’re usually encouraged to bring them, but no previous experience is required.

Sometimes they’re also asked to bring their own forks and knives for lunch, which might be catered by a local farm-to-table restaurant. For the Atlanta group, that restaurant is often Miller Union, named one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants in this month’s issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

Lindsay Podrid, creative director at Tribe, recently participated in an Atlanta Crop Mob event. The farm they mobbed was Burge Organic Farm in Mansfield, Georgia. and half the group was assigned to weed the asparagus while the other half picked squash. “Living in a city and working on a computer all day, it was nice to be able to go out and do something in a more physical sense,” Podrid said. “It’s pretty cool to see so many people volunteer their time in order to support local farming. I’m not sure who gets more out of it, the farmers, or us mobbers.”

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Cogswell Hausler Had Engagement Before Engagement Was Cool

What makes an office a good place to work? Nowadays we call it employee engagement, but when I was a kid hanging around my father’s architectural firm, it just looked like people having a good time doing work that would shape their careers. My father, Arthur Cogswell, was recently nominated for the Kamphoefner Award, and I noticed that one of his letters of recommendation mentioned that the way they ran their office decades ago would be a good model for companies today.

At Tribe, we look at five critical elements when we’re helping large companies build their engagement. I thought it might be interesting to interview my father to see how Cogswell Hausler Associates, founded in 1967, delivered on those five elements:

1. VISION (Leadership steering culture): “The vision? We just wanted to do the best design we could,” Cogswell said. “We were part of something bigger, the Modernist movement.” In my experience I’ve seen many small creative businesses, ad agencies particularly, where talented young employees are all about doing award-winning work while the ownership is more concerned with making enough money to grow the company — or at least keep the doors open. My father and his partner, Werner Hausler, were not those kind of business owners. “We were one of a kind.” Cogswell said. “The other firms were big and established and did mediocre work. And made more money.”

2. ACCESS (Sharing information, knowledge and feedback): “It was an open office with no walls. Everybody could see what everyone else was working on. That created a lot of give and take,” Cogswell said. “Lots of peer-to-peer interaction. Someone would say, ‘Hey, look at this. What do you think I should do here?’ Or one person would suggest something and the next person would play on it.” The managing partners shared a big glass office with their desks facing each other so they could talk easily and listen in on each other’s phone conversations with clients. But they both also kept a desk out in the studio and spent a lot of the day out there with everybody else.

3. ACKNOWLEDGMENT (Recognition programs and indirect recruiting): Cogswell Hausler hired mostly fresh graduates of the renowned School of Design in Raleigh (which had a faculty that read like an International Who’s Who of Modernist architecture, thanks primarily to Henry Kamphoefner, the first dean). “People wanted to work for us because we were doing good work,” Cogswell said. “We were recognized for it. Won a lot of awards.”

4. GROWTH (Training and development): “We ran the office like a design school,” Cogswell said. “We’d give them an outline of the problem and the general direction without telling them what to do. People had a lot of freedom in their work. Then they’d come back and we’d critique it. We’d say ‘That’s not good enough. Try it again.'” Although Cogswell points out that there was “no harsh criticism. We tried to follow the old Navy scheme. You never say ‘That’s a stupid idea.’ Instead we’d say, ‘Well, we might make that work if we did so and so.'”

5. IDENTIFICATION (Engaging employees with the culture): Employees at Cogswell Hausler may have identified with the culture even before their first day of work, since they had just stepped out of the Modnernist culture at the Design School. “It was a very free, creative atmosphere,” Cogswell said. “Someone once said that true happiness is doing work you know is really good. And I’ve always said that there’s nothing more exciting than working with talented young people who are just hitting their strides professionally.”

For many years they had a Friday lunch ritual that seems emblematic of their office culture. “We’d send someone out to pick up a chicken and then I’d put it in a big pot on the stove,” Cogswell said. “We’d put in some onion and celery and maybe some tomatoes. It would cook all morning, and once in awhile someone would walk over and give it a stir. Maybe add some rice. Then around lunchtime we’d pass a bunch of bowls around and open a bottle of wine.” That sort of esprit de corps does indeed provide a fantastic model for workplaces large and small.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Dan Pink’s Book “Drive” Explained in Pictures

Daniel H. Pink’s latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, is as smart and thought provoking as any of his others. (Free Agent Nation happens to be my personal favorite, but A Whole New Mind is great too.)

In a pleasing example of innovative book promotion produced by RSA Animate, Pink (or someone else with a particularly hairy arm) draws as he talks. (Think UPS white board commercials but with colors beyond brown.) The resulting 11-minute animated video takes viewers through the major points of “Drive” and some of the economic and behavioral research that led to its conclusions.

My favorite line of the entire piece is when Pink is explaining how some of the results are counter-intuitive. He says that several years ago, before his involvement in this research, he would have said, “You want people to be creative and innovative? Give them a fricken innovation bonus.” I didn’t even know that’s how you spell fricken, so thank you, Daniel Pink, for yet another useful bit of information.

Just in case you don’t have 11 minutes, I’ll fill you in. Turns out money is not the most powerful motivator and that giving people more money can actually produce worse results. Although the carrot and stick approach worked well in the last century, Pink says motivating today’s workers to solve complex issues and develop creative ideas requires different rewards. According to Pink’s research, the magic three motivators are autonomy, mastery and purpose.

But really, watch the video. Maybe even read the book. Once again, Daniel Pink has offered fresh thinking grounded in intelligent research.

About the guys who created the video: RSAnimate is a collection of animated visualizations of talks which were presented at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).