Getting Ideas into action

Back in ’88 I worked with some great people in a small management consulting firm. It was one of my first really good jobs because the team had the vision and drive to change businesses from the inside out.

We targetted a sector which had high capital costs and skilled labour. Any interventions there would be immediately seen on the bottom line and they were.

We were also incentivised to help our clients make process and other changes that would fix anything that was slowing down the workflow and burning resource.

It was my first experience of working in an MBA culture. I loved the people and the simple idea that we could reduce costs and also improve revenue to get maximum profit lift for the clients.

We were circuit breakers to get ideas into action and we did that with gusto. For a while anyway.

I was bright eyed and busy tailed and having a great time. This “ideas into action” pitch totally suited me and it took our company a long way at the time.

Eventually though ( for reasons I won’t go into here) that company started spinning its wheels and ultimately it went no where. The very short version was that lack of real vision at the top translated into action without direction.

Ironically what I learned best was – what not to do with a bunch of very capable people and how crappy business management in New Zealand really is. I’m reminded week of this gap in our management tiers.

As a nation some of best and brightest are offshore and will stay there unless we make it easier for excellence to thrive here. Too often even large NZ businesses settle for mediocrity and marking time when they could be giant killers on the world stage with high value creation projects.

On the plus side some of those staff went on to be very successful in other businesses. The two top guys though – despite the rhetoric ending up in what I call empty core sales roles.

One of them got his Ferrari and was very successful but only when he left that business which was holding him back. The other one came spectaularly unstuck but achieved some success but compared to the potential they both had in ’88 – not so much.

What they really showed me about leadership was the exact opposite of what they had intended. I would still gladly have a coffee with either guy but what they showed me about getting ideas into action was not quite what they had in mind but because my eyes and ears were open I learned anyway.

So What Makes a Business Really Successful – Asking the Right questions for starters.

I’m told by a friend who was at this talk in 2002 that both Richard & Frank shed a few tears and I don’t really know – but personally this talk moved me to ask the same questions.

It is still one of my TED favourites. If you only ask one question about your business this is that question.

As businesses and as people we need to go past the “Then What” moment and surpass our clients expectations on every project. Not easy to do but every client wants that and I call it “pixie dust” but that essential magic is something we need in business.

“In a wildly entertaining discussion with Richard Saul Wurman, architect Frank Gehry gives TEDsters his take on the power of failure, his recent buildings, and the all-important “Then what?” factor.

A living legend, Frank Gehry has forged his own language of architecture, creating astonishing buildings all over the world, such as the Guggenheim in Bilbao, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, and Manhattan’s new IAC building. Full bio »”

On another matter you may recall a few weeks back I wrote about the One Big Voice – Making Politicians accountable project

I personally backed OneBigVoice because it is a circuit breaking idea and a “Then What” type of business.

“Blessings to each and every one of you who showed up and backed us financially. We’ll never be able to adequately express what it meant to have you in our corner. Although we did not come close to reaching our target you played a very important role in our future.

OneBigVoiceFor the last month we’ve had to contend with the sound of wolves at our door. Your donations held them at bay while we continued coding and searched for additional investment. The generosity you showed literally kept the heart of one BIG voice beating.

In closing I want to share some great news. Last week a very special person made a significant investment in our fledgling startup. Like you they believe a world with one BIG voice in it will be a better place to be. Together with your donations this has made it possible for us to bring our vision to life and help put the power to shape the world back into the hands of the people.

From BG, myself, Luke, Matt, Caleb and Giles, a sincere and heartfelt thank you for your kindness and belief in our idea. Stay tuned for our first public release in early July. Because of you one BIG voice is on its way!”

Come on people let’s get all of those great ideas into action. Ask yourself “Then What”.