Is your business one of The Walking Dead?

the-walking-dead-episode-601-daryl-reedus-post-1600x600Companies don’t die. They turn into zombies.

Here’s how it happens.

Year 1: managers realise new technology, shifting customer needs and competition is changing the game. But, hey, there’s still life in the old dog yet. So, they do that Monty Python impression: “tis but a flesh wound!”.

Year 2: managers pay lip service to innovation. But actually pour 99% of their energies into lowering the costs of delivering the existing value proposition. Rather than doing different things; they just try to do the same things, better.

Year 3 onwards: managers realise a measured innovation strategy is now no longer enough. The zombie sickness is well established. The business needs full-on electro-shock therapy.

By this time, it’s usually too late. The cautionary tales of Yahoo, MySpace, Xerox, Blackberry, Borders Books, Kodak, Polaroid, Nokia and Blockbusters are all sad examples of The Walking Dead Syndrome.

You see, irrelevance isn’t an event, it’s a process.

Why do highly-intelligent business leaders ignore reality over and over again?

Because the barriers to change inside the business are allowed to overpower the threat outside. These barriers are built on an uncreative, risk-averse culture, fear of failure and an unwillingness to make tough choices.

It’s better to eat your own, than have your own eaten by others. Take Apple.  The iPad Stole sales away from the original Macintosh but ultimately led to an expanded market. Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “Our core philosophy is to never fear cannibalization. If we don’t do it, someone else will.”

Many companies are already bitten. The value proposition which made them rich and famous is in decline and they’re blindly shuffling towards the grave. For some there’s still hope. But it’ll take courage to facilitate a creative culture and to invest time and money in a focused innovation strategy.

The question is: how a long have you got before your business is one of the irretrievable Walking Dead? And what can you do about it?

If you like blog check out my book The Spark: How to Ignite and Lead Business Creativity’ (FT Publishing)  available on Amazon

Copyright © 2016 Greg Orme. All Rights Reserved.

Women! Like men, only cheaper

gender pay gap 3People who are passionate about their work come up with new ideas. Research shows they also stay longer in a business – and work harder. But a passionate, engaged workforce only happens in an organisational culture that’s fair.

For this reason, alarm bells should be ringing in board rooms across the country.

Latest figures show women in the UK earn a whopping 19% less than men. Up to the age of 40, there’s little difference between pay packets. But beyond 40, when more women are likely to have taken time out to raise families and work part-time, there is a very big gap. In skills-based roles men enjoy a pay premium of nearly 25%.

That’s huge. And this embarrassing skeleton may well soon be kicked out of the closet and into the glaring sunlight.

The British government intends to bring in regulations in the first half of this year to force larger employers to publish the amount awarded to men and women in bonuses. They’ll also have to come clean about the difference between average pay.

If successful, this is going to cause a lot of red faces.

What many female executives long suspected will be demonstrated very clearly indeed. I’m guessing, when they find out, whatever passion they had for their business will be severely dampened.

Treating half of your employees worse than the other half just isn’t fair. And, with this new level of transparency, companies will no longer be able to hide it away like a guilty secret.  If any business wants to retain the vital edge an engaged workforce offers, they need to act now.

It’s time to clean out the closet.

If you like this try my bookThe Spark: How to Ignite and Lead Business Creativity’ (FT Publishing)  available on Amazon

Copyright © 2016 Greg Orme. All Rights Reserved.

Why smart business leaders LOVE creativity

7 compelling reasons to invest in innovation right now


A recent global survey of 1,500 leaders showed eight of ten CEOs considered innovation vital to reap the benefits of the economic recovery.[i] Business creativity produces ideas which break the mould and have the potential to turn a profit. Smart leaders love business creativity because it….

Delivers ALL new products and services

Let’s face it, human breakthroughs since the dawn of time have begun with a single spark of creativity. It first happened when a caveman (or woman!) grabbed a stick and thought “hmmm, what can I do with this?”

Improves business processes

Even in an economic downturn incremental steps to lower cost and improve quality keep the flame of business creativity going strong.

Improves returns on R&D investment

Consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton analysed the top thousand R&D spenders. The result surprised everybody. It showed there’s no relationship at all between R&D spending and shareholder returns. American Academic Keith Sawyer argues investment is ineffective because it’s often funnelled into a single R&D team. “Collaborative organisations are creative in all divisions,” he argues.

Wins the War for Talent

Sadly, the majority of people report they are unengaged by work. So, how can you persuade the best talent to love working for you? Be more creative – it attracts staff. It’s especially true for younger workers demanding more transparency, authenticity and freedom at work than ever before.[ii]

Helps companies avoid the ‘Kodak Moment’

Business creativity is the only long-term response to a world of accelerating change. Change means extinction to businesses that find themselves wedded to the “old ways”. Famously, Kodak invented digital technology but then refused to cannibalise its lucrative film-based business model. The company went bankrupt in 2012; suicide by complacency.

Makes more money

Finally, the commercial clincher. A battery of analytical studies show businesses which innovate outperform their rivals. Put simply: companies which produce a stream of new ideas and transform them into new products make more money.

Check out my new book The Spark: How to Ignite and Lead Business Creativity (Financial Times Publishing) available at all good bookshops and on Amazon.

[i] BCG Report Innovation 2010 A Return to Prominence – and the Emergence of a New World Order

[ii] Great expectations: managing Generation Y, Institute of Leadership & Management and  Ashridge Business School, 2011

Have you got The Spark in your business?

This article is a sneak preview of “The Spark – How to Ignite and Lead Business Creativity” (FT Publishing) now available at all good book shops

What is The Spark?book

Have you ever walked into a business and sensed something special in the air?  A glint in the eye of people you meet that speaks volumes about their passion for the job and the company they’re working for. A spark of playfulness, curiosity and potential. An exciting static charge of courageous creativity. Is that kind energy pulsing through your business?

The Spark is about how to lead an organisation, department or team in which creativity and innovation flourish. Accelerating global competition, disruptive technology and radical changes to employee expectations mean a creative culture is no longer a “nice-to-have”. To dodge these commercial bullets your business must be able to keep deliver new ideas. Fast.

Innovation is business critical because creative companies make more money. A burning passion to improve things – to make a difference to the world – is no longer an adornment to the usual success factors: reliable delivery, high productivity and outstanding service. If efficiency and execution are this year’s profits; next year’s profits – and the years after that – are driven by creativity and new ideas.

In over twenty years of working with creative businesses I’ve been privileged to experience an exciting energy in those studios, offices and meeting rooms. I call the crackling electricity in truly creative companies The Spark:

  • The Spark is the potential for creativity in a person, a team – or a whole business.
  • The Spark is a great idea that changes perceptions, drives innovation and makes money.

My mission is to offer you a practical tool kit to develop a charged climate in your team or business. To make sparks common place so your organisation can successfully innovate in a fast-changing commercial world.

The Ten Habits

The Ten Habits are designed to demystify the leadership capabilities needed to turn up the power supply: to create sparks in you, your team and your business.  They are numbered and will have a big impact if you approach them sequentially. But they also work together interdependently. To truly transform your business, practise all ten habits together over time.

10 Habits BIGGER

The Spark between two people is created when a person decides to:

Habit 1: Start an Electric Conversation… how to create The Spark in your business

Passionate People are the rocket fuel of any creative business. The three habits that help inspire passionate people are:

  • Habit 2: Break the Management Rules… how to become an Electric Manager
  • Habit 3: Lead with Creative Choices… how to choose to be an authentic and inspiring leader
  • Habit 4: Become a Talent Impresario…. how to fill your business with creative talent

An Inspiring Philosophy is your belief system. The twin habits that helps develop it are:

  • Habit 5: Know Why You Do, What You Do…how to find an inspiring business purpose
  • Habit 6: Connect through shared values…how to inspire passion in your people

An Energised Cultured is the weather system in which inspired people and teams work. The two habits that help make the weather are:

  • Habit 7: Build a Business Playground…how to electrically charge your creative climate
  • Habit 8: Balance Focus and Freedom…how to manage creative tensions

Collaborative Teams make the most of scale in your business.The habits that promote creative team teamwork are:

  • Habit 9: Break Down Barriers… How to dynamite the walls that block creativity
  • Habit 10: Encourage Collisions… How to spark Electric Conversations to power collaboration    

If you’ve linked this sneak preview taken from the book’s introduction and want to find out more about developing the Ten Habits you can find The Spark on Amazon and at all good book shops.

All Rights Reserved, © Copyright Greg Orme 2014

Video snippets: Capturing Creativity In your Business

The individual answers from a one-to-one interview I gave tackling the key questions of business creativity. We’ve cut it into individual snippets so you can view the videos most relevant for you first!  If you want to watch it all in one sitting – that video is also posted on the blog.

Why is it important for businesses to be creative?

Are there other benefits for a business if it becomes more creative?

How difficult is it to lead creativity in a business?

Why is culture so important to creativity in business?

How do you influence culture?

What are the habits you’ve seen in good creative businesses?

Video Interview: Capturing Creativity In your Business

In just over seven minutes I tackle some of the key questions of business creativity. If your’e in a rush, don’t worry!  The individual answers to each of the six questions can be found in another of my blog posts as handy video snippets – I hope you find it useful.

  1. Why is it important for businesses to be creative?
  2. Are there other benefits for a business if it becomes more creative?
  3. How difficult is it to lead creativity in a business?
  4. Why is culture so important to creativity in business?
  5. How do you influence culture?
  6. What are the habits you’ve seen in good creative businesses?

Be Like Steve Jobs: Offer Focus AND Freedom

Point to the mountain – but don’t tell people how to climb

Steve Jobs

First Focus…

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997 he took his leaders on a retreat. On the final day he stood at the whiteboard and asked: “What are the ten things we’re going to do next?” His lieutenants fought to get their ideas on the board. As the discussion subsided, it displayed the list of ten. At this point Jobs crossed off seven. “We can only do three,” he explained. What he meant: we can only do three things brilliantly well (and better than the competition). Jobs obsession with focus has become the Apple motif. He once declared: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Focus should be a mantra for any business. But it’s particularly important for businesses plying their trade in knowledge and ideas. There’s precious little that’s tangible about a creative business: an office, some laptops and software, weightless intellectual property – and a group of creative, clever people. This imbues the business with an entrepreneurial spirit and a flexibility that’s exciting and full of potential. But agility presents an ever-present challenge: what to focus on – and what to say “no” to.
Creative people can do anything, and they often try. I call it the “Kid in a Sweetshop” Syndrome. Everything looks so appetising and interesting the business ends up doing too much. As a result what they deliver to customers is average. And they end up feeling a bit sick when they look at their profits – and the success of their rivals.

The key to offering focus is to be crystal-clear about:

  1. Purpose – Why you’re in business
  2. Values – What you believe in
  3. Focus – What you want to be famous for
  4. Vision – What your business will look, sound and feel like in the future

…Then Freedom

Paradoxically, once you have established clarity, you can empower your people with confidence. When Jobs found a person he trusted he offered latitude. He called his chief designer Jonathan Ive his “”spiritual partner” and organised Apple to offer him free rein. Creative leaders point to the mountain; but allow enormous freedom on how to climb it. By contrast, non-creative businesses offer the following prescription:

“First, put on your boots… 
“Second, use the handy and detailed map provided by your line manager.”
“Third, lean your body weight forward and swing your right leg. You are now what we call ‘walking’.”
“Fourth, ….”

You get the picture.

In 2013, the advertising business Ogilvy & Mather became the first agency to be awarded over 100 Cannes Lions for creativity, while also winning its first ever Creative Effectiveness Award. The Ogilvy corporate culture is expressed like this: “We don’t like rigid pecking orders. We give our executives an extraordinary degree of independence, in the belief that freedom stimulates initiative. We dislike issuing orders; the best results are produced by men and women who don’t have to be told what to do.”

This blog is an early draft extract from my book “The Spark – How to Ignite and Lead Business Creativity” (FT Publishing, 2014) an inspiring ‘how-to’ manual to boost innovation in your team or business - available in all good book shops and on Amazon

All Rights Reserved, © Copyright Greg Orme 2013

How to clarify your business vision

This blog briefly describes a 3-step process to create and share an inspirational vision for organisational change 

How would you like to change the fortunes of your business this year? To drive change you need to see the future. This isn’t a mystical gift. It’s about believing your business can deliver more for customers and clients – and then persuasively communicating the specific pieces of this picture to others.

Gordon SelfridgeThe ITV/PBS drama “Mr. Selfridge” tells the story of the visionary entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge who shook up the straight-laced British retailing industry in 1909. He pioneered a vision of shopping for pleasure, rather than just necessity – and injected “style, glamour and razzmatazz!” for good measure. Crucially, he was able to back up the high-flown rhetoric (“we are going to show the world how to make shopping thrilling!”) with a highly-specific picture of what this would look, sound and feel like for his staff: everything from how silk scarves should be enticingly displayed (slight messy, so they’re more likely to be picked up by customers!) to the creation of attention-grabbing window displays that portray an aspirational lifestyle.

But having vision doesn’t need to be about transforming an entire industry. It can also be useful in helping to change business culture (“the way we do things around here”) or turning around a specific department or team.

Dream, Create, Share

Here are three simple steps to develop a vision for change:

Step 1 Dream: Sit down in a quiet place with a blank sheet of paper. Throw yourself forward three years (or a time-frame relevant to you). In your mind’s eye walk into your business and describe what’ll be happening. What will you see? What will you hear? What will the place feel like? How will your people be communicating and collaborating? What will your customers be saying about the “new you”? What will you have achieved? What’s changed and improved? Write notes as you imagine what the future might look like. Don’t get hung up at this stage about it being “right” or even “doable”. Allow yourself to dream a little.

Step 2 Create: Flex your fingers and get creative! Write up your notes in the form of a short, first person story describing a perfect day in this ideal future. Keep the details and ideas from your note taking that strike a balance between aspiration and what you think can be achieved with some hard work, tough choices and focus.

Step 3 Share: Share this vision with your colleagues. Use it as a catalyst for inspiration  and as a way to ignite a high-quality, challenging conversation. Do they share your vision? Does it excite them? What could they add to this picture? And, most importantly, what do you need to do together to make it a reality?

This exercise can kick off a strategy development process to highlight the main areas that need attention. Or, it can be a way to creatively consolidate  your thinking in a more down-to-earth and accessible way after you’ve created a strategy and objectives.

A wise man once said: “”We think in generalities, but live in detail”. Writing a vision bridges the gap between the generalities of “strategy development” (dismissed by the disaffected as “corporate bullshit”) and the vital, detailed leadership conversation about how to win the hearts and minds of customers.

Copyright © 2013 Greg Orme All Rights Reserved