A note on initiative

Initiative is not like responsibility.

It cannot be given to or put on anyone.
It cannot be assigned or assumed.
It doesn’t belong to somebody and it cannot be anyone’s area either.

You won’t find it on an organizational chart and it’s rarely asked for, yet almost always needed.

The thing about initiative is that it can only be taken. The other thing about initiative is that anyone can take it! And they can take it anywhere, anytime.

The beauty of initiative is that when people take initiative in their work, relationships or personal life, those areas grow.

Many years ago, I worked in a fast-food franchise and the CEO established a habit of asking his team to find three things in their work that could be improved and we had to do that every day. This meant taking initiative on whatever I thought could help do things better, faster, easier, of higher quality, and mean more to customers. This added a dynamism to the work. It was fun and appreciated. The best part, the work got better and better every week. The outcome: the company grew from 1 to 118 stores in 5 years, went public after 7 years and today is one of the largest hospitality and retail holding companies in the country, despite the heavy competition every step of the way.

So, where can you take initiative today?

I’d love to hear from you, comment and leave your thoughts wherever you’re reading this. Happy Monday!

Reacting vs Responding

If you go to the doctor and she is says, “good news, you’re responding to the medication”. That’s a good thing.
If you go to the doctor and she is says, “you’re reacting to the medication”. That’s not such a good thing.

Reacting is “me me me”. Responding is “we’re a team”.
Reacting is “this doesn’t work”. Responding is “what do you need?”.
Reacting is closed. Responding is open.
Reacting is rushed. Responding is patient.
Reacting is making excuses. Responding is apologising.
Reacting is seeking. Responding is giving.
Reacting is momentary. Responding doesn’t have a time-limit.

Never too late to respond.


Last night I hurt my foot in a silly accident. In an instant, my leg went from something I didn’t have to think about to something infused with so much pain I almost threw up and left me unable to walk.

Charged with adrenalin, I hobbled home. But this morning I needed to be picked up, taken to hospital, X-rayed and treated.

Now my previously perfectly working leg has become a work in progress following a treatment and rehabilitation timeline. Less than ideal.

But what do I do about an imperfectly working leg? Assume it is what it is, and give up on walking? Nope. I see the potential for it to heal. I nurture it. Maybe go easy on myself for little while and invest in getting it back to the happy, reliable, healthy leg it can be.

Maybe it doesn’t need to be perfect. Maybe less than ideal is ok for a time. Maybe good enough for now with more to come is ok too. Rehab starts today, and with time it’ll just get better and better. Not perfect. And that’s perfectly good enough.

What things/people in your life needs a little nurturing? What things/people could do with a compassionate “this is not ideal and could get better”-attitude? One step at a time.

But we're different...

Our organization is too small to do that.
Our organization is too big to do that.

But that’s easy for them, they’re small, they can be agile.
But that’s easy for them, they’re big, they have more resources.

That’s not how things work here.
That’s not how we do things here.
That would never work here.

Our clients don’t need that.
Our customers are different.
We’re different.

Are you sure?
What good things will happen if you’re wrong?
What bad things will happen if you’re right?

Maybe, instead, ask: “that’s interesting — what assumptions should we test?”

Music Lessons For Business (Limited Edition)

In a world where organizations are concerned with fairly new terms such as “ambassadors”, “fans”, “followers”, building communities and being likeable brands, what can we learn from an industry that has been building die-hard fans and followers for decades?

What can we learn from the first industry to be severely disrupted by tech, and constantly been evolving to grow through that disruption?

 As business grapples with disruption in the digital age, it turns out that there is a lot that the music business can teach us.

Lesson 1: Meaning
“Just Give Me A Reason“ — P!nk & Nate Ruess

“Just give me a reason just a little bit's enough”

What is your mission? No, not what’s written on some plaque on the wall or hidden in a standard PowerPoint template. What’s your organization or project’s reason for being? What means so much to you that the status quo must be changed, disrupted and never be allowed to remain the same? Seek first to make meaning. If it doesn’t mean much to you, it won’t to anyone else.

Lesson 2: Your Audience
“Girls and Boys” — Blur

“Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they're girls”

Who is your customer? Who is not your customer? Identifying who the meaning you’re out to make is for will help you not be everything to everyone. As marketer Seth Godin pointed out, the Beatles didn’t invent teenagers, they just showed up to lead them. The better you answer this question, the sharper your message will be to those you communicate with.

Lesson 3: Value
“I Need A Dollar” — Rhythms del Mundo & Aloe Blacc

“It's been a long old trouble long old troublesome road
And I'm looking for somebody come and help me carry this load.”

What does your customer value? What job do they need done? What problem does she wake up every morning needing to solve? What is she hoping you’ll be able to solve for her? Figuring out what value is to her will help you create a product or service that she’ll actually want to use and not want to do without.

Lesson 4: Results
“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars

“If we show up, we gon' show out
Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy”

This is demo time. Time to show your Uptown Funk — your innovation, the special thing only you can do. What is your product’s result? This is where you show that you’ve understood your customers and learnt Lesson 2 and Lesson 3 or not. As the lyrics to this lesson’s song go, “don’t believe me, just watch!”

Lesson 5: Plan of Action
“Ready or Not” — Fugees

“Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide
Gonna find you and make you want me”

What’s your plan of action? How will you get your product to your customer? This is more about execution and less about perfection. Once your MVP (minimum viable product — with emphasis on minimum) is done, how will you get it into the hands of your future fans as fast as possible?

Lesson 6: Feedback
“Get Lucky” — Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers

“So let's raise the bar and our cups to the stars”

Lesson 5 will open you up to receiving feedback form your customers. Be open to it. Some features that you thought were important might end up not being as important as others. Gather data and return to Lesson 2 and 3 as you learn more about your customers and what they value. You will more often than not get lucky and learn something new about your customer, their industry, and what is valuable. As the lyrics of this song go, “So let's raise the bar and our cups to the stars”.

Lesson 7: Continuous Improvement
“Try Again” — Aaliyah

“If at first you don't succeed,
Dust yourself off, and try again
You can dust it off and try again, try again”

Once you’re collecting data about how accurate your mission, cohort and value assumptions are, go back through the steps of Lesson 1-6 and refine. This is called practice. Every performing artist uses the continuous feedback loop they receive from live performances and rehearsals to fine-tune the next performance.

Lesson 8: Always Be Innovating
“We Can’t Stop” — Miley Cyrus

“We run things
Things don't run we”

Always be innovating. Every process issue, bug, complaint is an opportunity to innovate. To innovate your way out of crisis, adopt the perspective of an artist: nothing is off limits. What can you learn from others (products, people, industries)? Tip: to make innovation a habit, ask your co-workers to write a list of 10 opportunities they see in their given area. Then start your weekly/monthly meetings with discussing opportunities before getting bogged down by problem-solving.

Lesson 9: Be Brilliant
“Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” — Ms. Lauryn Hill

“Pardon the way that I stare
There's nothing else to compare
The sight of you leaves me weak
There are no words left to speak”

The internet era has thrown us all into the entertainment industry. As our smartphones and apps compete for our attention, traditional marketing is just not working as it used to. Share of voice just doesn’t make sense anymore, especially if you’re just another copy. What does make sense is being remarkable. Find your sound, your voice. Be worth talking about. Does your product have that x-factor?

Lesson 10: Be Missed
“Wish You Were Here” — Wyclef Jean

“How I wish, how I wish you were here”

Be long awaited. Be missed when you don’t release anything new in a while. Are your customers calling saying they miss hearing from you?

Want more? Listen to the Spotify playlist here.

AI Manifesto

In late 2017, my friend and talented Digital Designer, Christian Crusius and I were having a burger and a beer in the Old Town of Stockholm reflecting on the upcoming Swedish general elections in 2018. We were brainstorming what benefits AI could bring to the government and public sector in general, and before you know it… voilá! Ai Partiet was born.

Although our eagerness led us to straight to the important work of creating a visual identity and a “Spokesbot” Messenger app (of course), we did however manage to draft a decent (in our humble opinions) “AI Manifesto”, should there ever be a need for one.

A conversation earlier today reminded me of this, and so, ladies and gentlemen, I present our early writings here:

Ai Manifesto

Source: https://www.aipartiet.se/ai-manifesto/

“When concerned with the future of Humanity in the context of an evermore digitally transforming world, we believe governments and voters shall take full responsibility for protecting their citizens and their commitment to the upholding of human rights.

In order to further the preservation of the light of Consciousness, we commit to the following:

  1. Artificial Intelligence shall conform to a bias in favor of the upholding of the nation-state’s Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN), and the improved well-being of Humankind.

  2. Artificial Intelligence shall serve as a powerful tool to guide politicians and citizens in decision-making processes.

  3. Implementation, maintenance and improvements in Artificial Intelligence in public service shall be regularly audited to ensure that the afore-mentioned biases are kept in check.

  4. All citizens shall at all times have access to all of the facts of any matter or data processed by any AI that is active in public service

  5. All citizens shall at all times be allowed to have their voices heard and considered in real-time in accordance with point 4 above.”

So what do you think? Under what conditions would you have AI represent you in government? What would you edit/add/remove? Share and comment!

The Minister of the Pen: Blame-gaming

Emperor Haile Selassie was an interesting guy. He ruled as emperor of Ethiopia and as a descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba he had many names: King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lion of Judah.. and many more including his natural name, Ras Tafari (yes, his worshippers would later be known as Rastafarians).

One of the interesting things about Haile Selassie is that he had a “Minister of The Pen”, who headed up the “Ministry of The Pen”. One of the most important duties that the Minister of The Pen carried out was to put the emperor’s words, instructions and decrees in writing, which would then become official law.

Whenever Haile Selassie made a decision that turned out for the good, the people of his country would celebrate the emperor’s divine wisdom. And when a decision did not turn out so good the people would complain that the Minister of The Pen must have misheard and misinterpreted the emperor as he put his words in writing.

Obviously, being Minister of The Pen wasn’t an easy job to have. Kind of like being a sound or lighting engineer at a show: when things go well, no one notices. And when they don’t everyone notices.

That brings me to Accountability vs Blame: the most important thing to remember here is that they’re not the same thing. Whether you’re a CEO, manager, co-worker: accountability is not assigning blame. And blame is not holding accountability.

What do you do when you need to hold someone accountable? What does your co-worker or manager do when you need to be held accountable?

Accountable is the buck stops with me and I need to do what’s necessary to learn, support, co-ordinate, try a different approach. Accountability is building a team that trusts, individuals who learn and companies that get better at what they do.

Blame is the buck never stops with me and I need to let everyone know who’s wrong for the job, that I need different people, better tools, more resources, and to remember to never try that person again. Blame breaks good teams down and ends with people jumping ship from stale, dying organisations.

Who’s your minister of the pen?
Who’s work are you taking credit for and giving back blame in return?

Who do you want your customer to become?

As a creator, marketer, manager, entrepreneur or fundraiser — your work is to make a change.

You see possibility and take advantage of what isn’t yet happening by making it happen.

But instead of focusing on how marvellous your product is or how brilliant, proven, trustworthy or smart your team is, ask instead: “what do I want my customer to become? And how am I making that happen?”

So let’s think of your customers: who are they? Who are they after engaging with your product or service?
Are they happier? More productive? Inspired? Educated? Wiser? Braver? Are they thanking you for your service?

  • A couples therapist wants her customers to live happier, more loving lives with their partners.

  • A nurse wants her customer to be fully recovered.

  • A nutritionist wants her customer to experience a healthy life with more vitality.

  • The charity worker wants her customer to live a full, optimistic life — against all odds.

  • The team leader wants her team to focus on producing the most meaningful results every day

If you’re not changing the way your customer works, eats, feels, learns or lives — you’re just more of the same.
You’re providing more of what already exists.

And more of the same… is boring. More of the same… is replaceable. More of the same… is not missed when you’re closed for the summer. 

So, what do you want your customer to become?
What do you want your project participants to become?
What do you want your donor to become?

If interacting with your product or service is making that happen, you’re making change. If not, you’re forgettable.