Archives For brand as culture

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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

For four years now I have asked groups of people to give themselves a score out of 10 when I make this statement: I am on fire and my work is remarkable.

And the average is a 7 … ALWAYS a 7. They tell me it won’t be a 7 in New York, but it’s a 7. It’s always a 7. Without exception. That’s because we have created a culture where we constantly remind one another about the dangers of standing up, standing out, being different, and being at odds with the group.

Nobody wants to be a 10 or a 4. Because the cardinal sin in the corporate cubicles and boardrooms is to be at odds with the group. The guy who scores himself a 10 is labelled “an arrogant dickhead”. The girl who scores herself a 4 is labelled a “hopeless loser”. Not literally, or to their face, but everyone is thinking it — and everyone knows everyone else is thinking it.

And so a 7/10 is the default setting. The comfort zone. Everyone in the room has been conditioned to prefer fitting in than standing out. Everyone in the room has been seduced into being invisible. Everyone in the room is there to do someone else’s bidding, not to speak their truth. The comfort zone.

My work, and just about everything I do with every waking moment of my life, is to get people to shift from being a 7 to being a 10. To help people discover and realise their full 10/10 potential.

And the first thing I always tell them is Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, so stop being a fucking 7.

brand as culture


The smell of the place. 

Creating a workplace where people will thrive.

Every time I first walk into a new client’s offices I get an instant feeling for the place. The energy. The vibe. The smell of the place.

Same as when I visit new places and cities. I recently visited a small regional city [population 5 million] in India. Went for an afternoon stroll in the main local shopping and business district. And I gotta say that life for the 1.24 billion who live in India is pretty tough. Noisy. Hectic. Busy. All crammed in. Very stressful. And it showed on the faces of the people I passed. No smiles. Negative body language. A slightly tense look in their eyes. And that pretty much summed up the smell of the place for me in downtown regional India.

Then there are places I love. The smell of Byron Bay. Soak up the sun. Cool off in the ocean. Chill and chat. Be yourself. People who smile, have relaxed and open body language, and look you in the eyes.

It’s exactly the same in companies. Some companies have a constrained culture of compliance, control, and contract. These are the employees who don’t smile, have negative body language and a slightly tense look in their eyes.

And some companies have an exciting culture of promotion, positivity, and possibility. These are the people who do smile, have positive body language and a look of excitement in their eyes.

It all comes down to the smell of the place. The smell you get by taking a 5 minute walk through their offices. It has nothing to do with the actual people who work there. It has everything to do with the context in which they are working. Because it’s the context that shapes the way people feel and behave.

And so the task for companies who want to create a workplace filled with thriving employees is to change the context, not the people who work there. Create Byron Bay in your company. Or New York. Or Shanghai. Whatever your preference, and whatever works for your company’s needs. Just don’t create a context that is contaminated with bad memories, negativity and constraints.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re working at the wrong place, and you want to be working at “New York”, move to “New York”.

epa03814192 People dance in their underwear during an event billed as National Underwear Day which was hoping to gather a record number of people together in underwear, in Times Square in New York, New York, USA, 05 August 2013. EPA/JUSTIN LANE

brand as culture


Employees work at Digital Risk LLC headquarters in Maitland last spring (April 2011). Digital Risk is a fast-growing player in the mortgage risk technology industry, Thursday, April 21, 2011. Sales have jumped more than tenfold in recent years and the company has hired hundreds locally and opened offices in New York, Dallas, Denver and Jacksonville. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel) Newsgate ID: B581217060Z.1 to go with richard burnett CFB story

The things that money can’t buy

You can buy a person’s time.

You can buy a person’s physical presence at a given place.

You can even buy a measured number of skilled muscular motions per hour per day.

But you cannot buy enthusiasm.

You can’t buy initiative.

You cannot buy loyalty.

You cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds and souls.

You have to earn these things. And that’s just what great branding does.

brand as culture


dress-code-male-femaleOld habits die hard

I’ve met many people and companies who are fuelled by habit. And, like a goldfish trapped inside its own little bowl, they are incapable of seeing this for themselves. That is because their habits have disguised themselves so cunningly they are totally oblivious to its presence.

This is a natural human phenomenon (as David Attenborough would say). Our brains are programmed for survival, which means taking less risks and sticking to what we know. And so it’s the reassuring nature of habit that makes it so attractive, and sticky.

It’s power is in its stealth. It flies out of sight, under the radar, and slowly but surely nibbles away at anything and everything that swims against the tide. In this was habit becomes the enemy of difference, originality, creativity and curiosity. And nobody even knows its happening.

Not only do people not recognise habit, they congregate around and hide in it. Habit attracts followers, and the more followers the stronger the habit. There is, after all, great comfort in tracking the footsteps of those in front of you. That way you don’t have to worry where you’re going, or if you’re on the right track or not.

Also, the more followers the better, because habit give people what they crave most: safety in numbers. Like when you have a disagreement with a work colleague, and she (or he) says, “Well I’ve spoken to a few other members of the team, and they all agree with me”. Ah, you must therefore be right, and I must be wrong. Which also makes me the outsider, since I’m out of step with the majority view. Oh what a terrible feeling. Heck, I better get back in line.

I like to call such companies Country Club places. No one disagrees with anyone else in a substantive way. When asked for an opinion, they’ll check with the boss, swiftly agree, or hide through clichés. Questions are discouraged and giving answers is avoided. No-one contradicts a position already taken. People avoid conflict and accountability by not talking to each other. All because old habits rule supreme.

And then, just in case anyone as much as even thinks of stepping out of line, the Corporate Thought Police are always on hand to maintain law and order. They are the high priests of conventional wisdom and habit. They live to articulate what is and what shall be. Even though their knowledge is meant to fuel the activities of today and tomorrow, they got their knowledge in the past—yesterday. And yet, somehow, this ancient wisdom is way more deeply rooted and valid in the world of habit.

Nothing is more futile and depressing than being in a room with people who are fuelled by habit. People who have had their originality, creativity, and instinct beaten out of them. They look at you with the doleful eyes of an obedient dog.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, I dare you to speak up, to speak out, and to throw caution to the wind. Sure, you may be mentally labelled by everyone else in the room as “the outsider”—rather be an outsider than a trapped goldfish I say.