Innotribe@Sibos 2011 – Corporate Culture summary

7 Nov

For the first time we tried some topics that where not technical, but rather phylosophical at Innotribe, or holistic as some would say. But that doesn’t mean that the issues discussed aren’t at the heart of the way we do business, on the contrary!
‘Corporate Culture’ was the first topic in that series, the others being ‘Banks for a Better World’, and ‘New Economies’. More on those in a later post…

There were 3 chapters in this session: Structure, Leadership, and Personal Behavior.

Mark Dowds (CEO, Brainpark) introduced us to two ‘disruptors of the peace’: Stowe Boyd and Harold Jarche, who explored the history of hierarchical structures in companies and how technology and media at large influence those Corporate Structures.
Mark started of with a quote from Winston Churchill saying “First we shape our buildings, then they shape us”, which got picked up by Stowe Boyd (Web Anthropologist and Edgling) who altered it into “Media shape us. We make our tools, and they shape us”.

Harold Jarche (Principal, Life in Perpetual Beta) then quickly described our society as ‘layered’, he sees four layers: Tribal – Institutional – Markets – Networks, which currently exist at the same time. He then asked the question if there is tension between those four layers, and whether that tension is positive or not?

Then Sean Park (Managing Director & Founder, Anthemis Group) talked us through a new, plausible model for a Corporate Organisation, referring to a TED talk from Geoffrey West on the scalability of cities. Sean’s business model aims to resemble more a city than an army, called “Anthemis” structure. In this model, the company is no longer at the centre of the world, but rather a part of a larger, inter-connected, resiliant structure, and the first rule for doing business is “do no harm”.

This led perfectly into ‘streetwiZe‘. In a short movie clip we were confronted with the  harsh reality of people that have to survive on the streets every day. They have developed something called ‘streetskills’, a set of skills that can be beneficial in our corporate world as well. There are lessons to be learned from those people, or as Jerry Michalski tweeted “we so underestimate the poor” (@jerrymichalski)

Laura Merling,(SVP Application Enablement Business Unit at Alcatel-Lucent) showed us a video to illustrate the fact that failure is essential for success.
The recipe consists of several ingredients, the first one being a clear and daunting mission like “Save the whales” sort of, or “Innovate the financial business”.
Another ingredient is the team: a bunch of different people, with different skills, chosen and selected with care.
Adding to the flavor is ‘Motivation’! Keep your people inspired and motivated in spite of the hurdles to work towards that daunting goal.
And finally: celebrate your successes!

Dan Marovitz (Managing Director, Buzzumi) stated that “the past tends to persist”, what he meant by that is that the way we do things today, is probably the way things will be done tomorrow, in spite of new technologies or insights that would enable us to do things differently!
He used the USA electoral college to illustrate his point. He explained that the electoral college was a great solution to a problem back in the 19th century. However, society and technology have evolved significantly since then, still the president of the USA will be elected by this historical mechanism: the electoral commission.
His final point was that it takes “a decisive action and a choice”, or persistence and courage, to make change happen.

Then all of a sudden strange things happened: the lights dimmed, music started, and people started to dance..
It was in fact a little experiment to see what it would take for people to join, or follow a new or unusual behavior.
Tom LaForge and TA Mitchell asked us some questions to reflect on what had just happened, or not. From there, Tom (Global Director of Human and Cultural Insights, The Coca-Cola Company) explained that the innovative mindset requires us to do things, to behave in a way that initially was not requested from us. And that corporate structures should adapt to these new behaviors in order to benefit from the emerging activities.
“Be really good at what computers can’t do” was his last piece of advise.

TA Mitchell (Founding Partner and Director, Co Company Ltd.) investigated the kind of behavior that makes us successful in our careers, and how it used to be around four domains: Credibility – Energy – Reach – Impact and Influence. But now, with the internet at our fingertips, people can rapidly expand their reach, build their credibility and raise their impact.
This constantly and rapidly changing environment requires us to adopt a ‘learner mentality’, as opposed to a ‘learned mentality’.

Finally, to wrap it all up, Mark Dowds, made us close our eyes. Then he asked us to envision ourselves being 20 years older, looking back at our younger selfs. And, as we where this older, wiser person, what piece of advise would we give to our younger selfs?
After some thoughtful minutes, he wanted us to change seats, and close our eyes again. Returning to our present selfs, we were asked to thank the future person for his/her advise, and to take it at heart. In order to make this commitment even more tangible, Mark then asked us to pair with a stranger in the room, and to share our commitment to change, with that person.
To conclude the introspection, we were asked to write down and share these commitments on a piece of paper, and post it on a whiteboard in the room.
No doubt this was a powerful session!

Watch the full wrap-up video here (20 minutes):

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