Recently a video of Nick Clegg, Deputy Primer Minister of UK and a Liberal Democrat Leader, has created some reasonable flutter over internet. It’s very rare that a political leader’s video would do rounds on internet, unless its some sting operation. The content of the video, nevertheless is very interesting. In this video Nick Clegg is apologizing to his voters for having made an electoral promise which later on was turned out to be difficult to keep. “We made a pledge, we did not stick to it, and for that I am sorry.” says the Deputy PM. Prior to elections Nick Clegg’s party had promised that tuition fees won’t be raised post-election. However, the coalition government in the UK lifted the cap after elections. The words he employs are very interesting. He says, “”It was a pledge made with the best of intentions – but we should not have made a promise we were not absolutely sure we could deliver. I shouldn’t have committed to a policy that was so expensive when there was no money around. Not least when the most likely way we would end up in government was in coalition with Labour or the Conservatives who were both committed to put fees up.”
The question however is, “How does it affect the position of a leader who is humble enough to accept his or her mistakes?”.
In another very interesting piece in Forbes, Doug Guthrie and Sudhir Venkatesh highlight humility as a virtue that has a positive impact on creativity. They argue that a humble leader, who is open to accept his/her mistakes is also open to seek and explore new ways for correcting those mistakes. In other words, a humble leader is likely to be a better listener and is likely to be someone who would be open to new ideas. They cite Kathryn Schulz’s book Being Wrong, “when you are open to the idea of being wrong, when you truly believe that another path might be better and are not cowed by it, you will be a more creative and innovative person. You will take more risks; you will explore more paths with unknown outcomes; and you will build a better organization.”
The answer is not very clear. From what I gather, Nick Clegg hasn’t received simply plaudits for his humility act. In fact there are people from among his followers who are rather disillusioned and disappointed. They are disappointed with the fact that his apology is actually for ‘Having made a promise which wasn’t possible to be fulfilled’ and not for simply ‘not fulfilling a promise’. In other words, his apology is more of a philosophical compromise rather than acceptance of failure. In a recent paper in Academy of Management Journal, Owens and Heckman (August, 2012) look at the concept of humility in business as well as religious context. One of their findings show that in the context of business humility and perceived competence are strongly related to each other. If a leader is perceived to be competent, than an act of humility is perceived positively; but if the leader hasn’t yet proved his/her competence, than humility isn’t viewed that favorably.
The two arguments above are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A humble leader who still hasn’t established his credentials for competence may still show humility and be open to new ideas. To anyone interesting in the topic, I strongly recommend the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, “My Experiments with Truth”. Probably the most honest and objective account of a leader’s philosophy and it’s evolution ever written in the human history.
But then, he was Mahatma Gandhi. He could afford to be humble!!!!!!
Bradley P. Owens, & David R. Heckman (2012). Modeling How to Grow: An inductive examination of humble leader behaviours, contingencies and outcomes. Academy of Management Journal, 55 (4), 787-818 DOI: 10.5465/amj.2010.0441
Steve Jobs, one of the most creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century, the man who single-handedly revolutionized many lives, the man who has left a deep impact on the computer industry, software industry, motion pictures (animation movies) and the music industry, is no more.
He was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in the year 2004. A year later while delivering Commencement Address at Stanford University, he shared his experience of being diagnosed with cancer and of being dangerously close to death. Reflecting upon those moments this is what he had to say, “
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. …..Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary……Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked; there is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Good Bye to the man who always followed his heart.
It was in news yesterday that a village in India named Shivnagar, changed it’s name to ‘Snapdeal.com’-Nagar. When I read the headline, my reaction was, ‘What? How much would they have paid to sponsor the entire village? For how long?’
However, I soon realized that my hypotheses were absolutely wrong. As TechCrunch pointed out, it wasn’t a cheap marketing stunt. Truth is that the village itself changed its name as a sign of gratitude towards the company.
Shivnagar is a small impoverished village in the state of Uttarpradesh in northern India. Like many other villages in this region, Shivnagar also suffers from poverty, lack of infrastructure and lack of attention from authorities. Villagers get electricity only for a couple of hours every day and there has been an acute lack of drinking water in the village. Kunal Bahl, Founder of Snapdeal.com – India’s answer to Groupon (And the leader in Indian market) – got to know about this village from one his employees. He decided to help the villagers by installing 15 hand pumps across the village. The act didn’t cost the company more than $5000 but had a profound impact on lives of the villagers. Finally villagers, decided to change the name of the village from Shiv Nagar to ‘Snapdeal.com’ Nagar. (Nagar meaning Town/City in languages of Sanskrit-family).
Research on Strategy for dealing with ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ (Prahlad, 2002) has explored different sources of value creation in low-income or poor markets. (Sanchez & Ricart, 2010). One such source of value creation could actually be the business model itself. Sanchez and Ricart (2010) have shown that in low-income markets, firms may choose an interactive business model, whereby the firm would not just interact but establish strong relations with fringe stakeholders and seek long term positive impact. The philanthropic gesture of Snapdeal, despite being a truly altruistic deed, will definitely bring about positive results for the company in the long run. These positive results may not be visible in the bottomline numbers but would be in terms of positive social capital that the company would build up. Many Indian companies have in recent times, shown a greater inclination towards indulging in community initiatives and bringing in fringe stakeholders within the purview of their business models. Yes Bank, the fastest growing private sector Bank, for example has an initiative called ‘Yes-Community‘ wherein they organize ‘micro-events’ in their branches for people living in the neighborhood and try to help them about prevention of pollution, management of waste and more efficient energy management. Positive signs indeed!!
Prahalad, C. (2002). Strategies for the Bottom of the Economic Pyramid: India as a Source of Innovation Reflections: The SoL Journal, 3 (4), 6-17 DOI: 10.1162/152417302760127192
Sanchez, Pablo and Ricart, Joan Enric (2010). Business model innovation and sources of value creation in low-income markets. European Management Review, 7 (3), 138-154 DOI: 10.1057/emr.2010.16
New research has shown that watching funny video at work may likely make you more creative. So all those bosses who catch their subordinates snooping in some comic videos on Youtube, be happy! The same subordinate might come up with your next star product.
This rather interesting piece of research carried out by Ruby T. Nadler, Rahel Rabi and John Paul Minda (2010), showed that positive mood helps an individual achieve a greater cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility, in other words, being more skilful at performing cognitive tasks which involve greater analysis, imagination and hypothesizing. In order to test impact of mood on cognitive flexibility they carried out an experiment where they used Youtube videos. I personally haven’t heard of Youtube videos being put to academic use. I am sure there are people who do that.
For ‘Positive mood’ they used the Laughing baby video, for ‘Neutral mood’ they used the Antique Roadshow video and for ‘Negative mood’ they used a Chinese earthquake report video. I am embedding here a laughing baby video – I am not sure if it’s the same that was used in the experiment.
So if you are a boss and if you catch your subordinate watching youtube at work, don’t worry. Immediately after the video is over, give him/her a challenging task and you should get good results. After all he/she will have a his/her mind in a much better shape. But do make sure, that videos are positive ones!!
Nadler RT, Rabi R, & Minda JP (2010). Better mood and better performance: learning rule-described categories is enhanced by positive mood. Psychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS, 21 (12), 1770-6 PMID: 20974709
So Google Wave is dead. Google killed it. It wasn’t as unlucky as Larrabee. It did see some light of the day. But it lost life in it’s infancy. When Wave was launched about a year ago, it received mixed reviews. It roused fear, suspicion, awe and a subtle sense of mystery. Google called it, “a new web application for real-time communication and collaboration”. Soon there were mixed reactions from different users. On one hand there were users who hailed it as a tool that would substantially hurt emails, hurt Facebook and wipe Twitter off the face of this planet. Well, nothing of these happened. Several experts and geeks slammed Wave for its apparent complexity and slowness. Martin Seilbert on TechCrunch wrote “Google Wave sucks….” mainly because of its complexity, instability and slow speed. However there were hopes that as people will start using it they will get accustomed to the tool and gradually Google Wave will be accepted. Experts also hoped that at least its collaboration feature will help it survive and win users.
However, Wave optimists, who were an obvious minority, finally accepted defeat with Google itself announcing suspension of Wave. The main reason for its suspension according to Google has been lack of user acceptance. This entire episode leaves us with two questions. One, why Wave didn’t succeed, given the user-base that Google enjoys? Two, Is Google hurrying in pulling the plug? Is it a right strategy to altogether abandon the innovation for lack of acceptance? Karim Lakhani of HBS has hailed Google’s decision saying that, “…….admitting failure and moving on is another key lesson in managing innovation.” He further adds, ” The ability to (quickly) shut down failing projects and reallocate intellectual and financial resources to other more promising endeavors is critical to innovation success as it releases individuals and budgets to take on the next big challenge. “
We don’t know what are the internal investment criteria at Google. But the signal that this decision gives is that Google is both ambitious and ruthless with itself at the same time. On one hand, it doesn’t hesitate in launching highly ambitious tools like Wave and on the other doesn’t hesitate in abandoning it if it doesn’t perform well enough. The only mystery here is, what is that ‘performance criteria’ in a tool as radically innovative as Wave. Or, is it simply the performance of Wave, or is it a change in the product portfolio strategy? Shall we soon see features of Wave being integrated into other Google products? Well, only time will tell. As of now, as Google Wave and the Users’ manual to Google Wave both, are history. But as the author of its Users’ manual, Gina Trapani said, we can also say, “…I respect any product that shoots as high as Wave did, even if it misses in the market.”
For some academic work on a similar question, have a look at Agarwal, Rajshree; Bayus, Berry & Tripsas, Mary. 2005. ‘Abandoning Innovation in an Emerging Industry. ‘ Working Paper and also the paper that I am citing below.
Sanjay Jain, & Kamalini Ramdas (2005). Up or out—or stay put? Product positioning in an evolving technology environment Production and Operations Management, 14 (3), 362-376 : 10.1111/j.1937-5956.2005.tb00030.x
In recently concluded Negotiation course, in one of the sessions we had a lively discussions with participants about ability to generate creative options during a negotiation. The debate was about what helps more in generating creative options. The argument was whether it helps to prepare a lot or whether it helps to prepare less and keep our mind free and hence, flexible to generate free options. Many individuals believe that rules and regulations generally kill individual creativity. To a great extent there is some weight in this argument. However, research has shown that it’s not just full freedom, rather a combination of freedom and a structure that fosters creativity. Creative behavior is a combination of convergent and divergent ways of thinking. Divergent thinking basically consists in defining a problem in a different (novel) way and generating many relevant options to solve the problem. Generating options is where one needs a combination of freedom and an organized system of thinking. Brainstorming, a famous idea generation tool developed by Alex Osbourne, works on the principle, ‘Quantity begets Quality’. More ideas (or alternatives for a solution) you generate better are the chances of getting a more creative idea.
The same is true for individuals. More options one generates, greater the quantity of ideas you keep with yourself, better it is. This helps not just in situations where you have to look for a particular solution for a problem, but it might as well be helpful in situations like, creation of an artwork. This video, which is an excerpt from a documentary, ‘Joan Rivers : A Piece of Work’. In this video Joan, who is a famous stand-up comedienne explains how she organizes her jokes. Research has shown that for individual as well as organizations, it’s important to have more options, stored in the ‘memory’ so that it helps them ‘improvise’ whenever need arises.
Well, so if you are an artist, remember to retain all the spontaneous ideas that you generate, in an organized manner so that you can refer to them whenever need arises.
Osborn, AF (1953). Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem Solving Book
Moorman, C., & Miner, A. (1998). Organizational Improvisation and Organizational Memory The Academy of Management Review, 23 (4) DOI: 10.2307/259058
Khandwalla, Pradip (2003). Lifelong Creativity Book
DDB‘s Funtheory campaign for Volkswagen has bagged Cyber Grand Prix at the 57th International Cannes Lions Advertising Festival. Cyber Grand Prix is probably the most prestigious award in internet advertising. Fun Theory campaign is an example of generating creativity at different levels.
Fun Theory campaign was all about motivating people to come up with creative solutions to mundane issues. However, the idea was, how can a social/behavioral problem be solved by making it fun to deal with? For example, we all know that people should obey speed limits on city streets as well as on highways, but still many don’t obey speed limits. Can we make more people obey speed limits by making it fun to do? We all are advised by doctors, friends and colleagues that we should use stairs instead of escalators or elevators, still we don’t. Can we make more people take stairs by making it fun to do so? Can we make more kids clean up their rooms by making it fun to do so?
Volkswagen’s Fun Theory campaign got many interesting viral video entries in response to this. This entire campaign has touched on two important aspects of creativity. First, the assumption that fun or enjoyment is an integral part of creative behavior. In my Creativity workshops or Negotiation classes, I have observed a ‘circular’ relationship between fun and creativity. In other words, when a participant seeks joy, he starts getting ideas that are out of the box. On the other hand, at times, even though seeking joy might not be the main objective, when participants are able to come up with very creative solutions, they always qualify their experience as ‘fun’.
But why did DDB take up the theme of Fun for a Volkswagen theme? Volkswagen had introduced Bluemotion technology in 2006 and wanted to generate widespread interest around that. Bluemotion technology’s theme was that of reducing environmental impact without compromising the joy of driving. Volkswagen asked DDB to design a campaign around a theme. DDB saw that Volkswagen was actually solving a problem, by making it more fun to do. DDB decided to carry out experiments in different spheres of our lives where a problem was solved by making it fun to deal with. DDB’s decision to deal with actual ‘Fun’ videos and not going for traditional advertising paid off. It generated massive interest and in the end DDB rightfully grabbed the Cyber Grand Prix.
Another insight that can be drawn here is the effective use of media in making use of, what can be termed as, ‘social creativity’. This campaign does show the possibility of using creativity of people in solving a common problem, by being able to create the appropriate platform.
One of the most popular Fun theory experiments is the one, now known as, ‘Piano Stairs’. Here is the video, look at it and enjoy.
Tremendous rivalry between Latin American neighbors, Brazil and Argentina is providing inspiration to some businessmen for coming up with new creative marketing schemes.
Boteco Olé, a bar well recommended to the Cariocas to go and watch world cup soccer games, has an interesting marketing gimic. It offers free beer shots to all those who are present, when Brazil scores. Understood! So what? Well, they also have a special offer for games played by Argentina. They offer free Beer shots (or chopes as they call it), for every Goal scored against Argentina. So far rivals of Argentina have troubled the bartender just once (S.Korea Vs. Argentina) though. The title of this scheme is…’não choro por ti, Argentina‘ (I don’t cry for you, Argentina). An interesting twist on Evita!