Tag Archives: innovation

KARMA

8 Sep

In late August of 2005 a small band of characters gathered in Austin, Texas to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the founding of their innovation consulting firm. Kalypso had just completed its first year and we were still alive. We were an ambitious bunch with dreams of changing the world and the consulting industry. In reality, we had no idea what we were doing. We weren’t making much money, but we were certainly having fun.

This weekend we are celebrating our eighth year of craziness at Kalypso’s KARMA 2012 in Washington, DC. We have moved from the capital of Texas to the capital of the United States. (Some would say that is a step down.) There are 130 people here from countries all over the world and the energy and enthusiasm is infectious. The Kalypso Difference is on display as our work hard, play hard mantra is put to the test. The two major political party conventions have nothing on this event. I’d vote for us.

What is KARMA? Well, karma is what you make it. For me, Kalypso’s KARMA is a celebration of our shared values, a recommitment to our mission of delivering on the promise of innovation, and an opportunity to spend some quality time with our colleagues and closest friends. I love every minute of it.

The story of Kalypso is the story of its people. The annual human histogram at KARMA highlights the dynamic growth of the firm and is a source of tremendous pride in the accomplishments and development of our team. We celebrate promotions, recognize success, and announce the recipient of the coveted “Kalypsonian of the Year” award. Who will it be this year?

KARMA is still what you make it. This year we are making it bigger and better than ever. We continue our quest to change the world and the industry is taking note. Let your voice be heard. Vote Kalypso!

The Hokey Pokey

18 Apr

Van Gresham claims that he does not do the hokey-pokey during Virginia Tech football games. For a proud Hokie that invests considerable sums of time, energy and money into pre-game tailgating festivities, this is a little hard to believe. They play the hokey-pokey at Virginia Tech because you can dance without having to speak with an actual female. At an engineering school this is a big deal. All that talk of differential y and differential x doesn’t leave much room for actual sex. Given the odds stacked against him in this department, let’s just say that Van “got lucky.” I am sure that his wife, Chesley, will agree.

Born and schooled in Virginia and living in North Carolina, the boy knows how to cook a pig. I have enjoyed the product of this particular skill. He may have gotten a little above his raisin’ in the beverage department as he pairs his grilled pork tenderloin with fine California cabernets. Not what you would expect from a pedigreed hillbilly.

In addition to his culinary and rhythmic abilities, he has dedicated himself to raising money for brain cancer research as a participant in “Angels Among Us” which supports the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at (take a deep breath and look past the ACC rivalry) Duke University. Family is apparently more important than football.

I have enjoyed watching Van grow as a professional and develop into a trusted advisor to his clients at Kalypso. Not only do they count on him to get things done, they seem to like him quite a bit as well. His greatest strength is his character. It shows up day to day in his client service work. You can learn more about him here.

Millennial Myths

16 Apr

Last month, I recommended that organizations seeking growth from innovation should “Overdose on Youth” to give them a performance enhancing boost. The response to the charge to load up on smart, talented, energetic young people was met with skepticism and anecdotes about the needy and narcissistic Millennial Generation that want everything and are not truly committed to the organization.

Then along comes an article in the latest issue of Strategy + Business by Jennifer Deal of the Center for Creative Leadership titled “Five Millennial Myths”. It lends my position some weight using empirical research into the behaviors and beliefs of those in the millennial generation. Ms. Deal found that the stereotypes are “inconsistent at best and destructive at worst.” At 2 ½ pages, you should read the entire article, but here are the five myths she identifies:

#1 Millennials don’t want to be told what to do. This proved to be flat out wrong, the young people of this generation turn out to be much more willing to defer to authority than Boomers or Gen Xers (try telling me what to do). The research says that they want to know what the expectations are at work.

#2 Millennials lack organizational loyalty. The fact is that each generation has historically changed jobs more frequently when they were in their 20s than they do later in life. Young people are looking for jobs that help them learn. When they switch it is not due to a lack of loyalty, but a yearning to grow through challenging experiences.

#3 Millennials aren’t interested in their work. No one of any generation is motivated to do the boring work that gets pushed down to lower levels. Don’t assume that younger people are not able to take on meaningful tasks. Find the superstars that are capable of doing more and whip the fast horses. If some portion of their job doesn’t captivate their imagination, you deserve to lose them.

#4 Millennials are motivated by perks and high pay. The extensive research showed no difference between generations. Yes, when you are younger and making less money, you are likely to be slightly more motivated by extrinsic rewards, but pay and perks are not going to engender loyalty.

#5 Millennials want more work-life balance. This is somewhat accurate, but is likely the result of a societal shift and related to life-stage than generation. Millennials want the flexibility to make their contributions and enjoy life at the same time. Work is more integrated into life than ever before.

This research gives me the opportunity to reiterate my recommendation to pack your organization with talented people under the age of 30. Make sure that they have interesting work to do and the opportunity to learn, develop, and advance. You will reap tremendous rewards from their contributions. Youth is like an innovation performance enhancing drug that will make the pulse of your organization beat a lot faster if taken in large quantities. I am sticking by my advice to overdose.

Overdose on Youth

8 Mar

A couple of decades ago I started my very first consulting assignment at a large manufacturing company. The firm’s innovation-driven glory years in the 70s were distant memory by the time I arrived. The business advantages the company had previously enjoyed were gone, but the people were not. The memorable visual impression of a sea of gray hair (all male) in the employee cafeteria was a symptom of the problem. The company had simply grown old and sclerotic. It was eventually sold off from its parent, declared bankruptcy, reneged on retiree benefits, and is currently being run for cash by a vulture.

As a consultant I have the privilege of working within dozens of client organizations in industries ranging from high tech to telecom to life sciences to consumer products. Each of these companies has a vibe and a personality that creates an atmosphere that runs on a continuum from vibrant and dynamic to dead and dying. While I am certain that a good organizational behaviorist would be able to construct an academically sound comparative analysis of company cultures, there is one correlating factor that is easy to identify and easy to get right. It is the proportion of the workforce that is under the age of 30.

If growth from innovation is your company’s stated strategy then you should be overdosing on youth. If you want ideas to flow and concepts to flourish, you need to hire people with energy, enthusiasm and passion to push them through. I am obviously not suggesting that you institute mandatory retirement at thirty. We need the valuable guidance and wisdom that comes from experienced professionals (like you and me), but we should balance that with people that have a broader sense of the possible and the motivation to achieve what may seem impossible. Load up on smart, talented, energetic youngsters and provide them with some freedom to give your organization an innovation boost.

The popular press is filled with articles on the challenges of multi-generational management. Many of these articles point the finger at younger people as spoiled and unmanageable. This has not been my experience. Youth is like an innovation performance enhancing drug that will make the pulse of your organization beat a lot faster if taken in large quantities. My advice is to overdose.

Partnership

15 Feb

Introducing the guy standing next to me as my “partner” has created a few awkward moments over the years.

Working in the partnership form of business for the past eighteen years means that I have had a number of these uncomfortable encounters. Despite the occasional misunderstanding, there is no better way to describe the relationship I have with my colleagues. We are partners…in business and in life. We have bound ourselves together to achieve a common vision and share the thrills and spills along the way.

Partnership defines how we treat one another. A true partner is one that flies across the country on a day’s notice to help you acquire a new client, steps into a sticky project situation on your behalf, covers for you when you get overcommitted, tells you when you are screwing up, and does all these things without keeping score or expecting anything in return. That’s partnership.

Choosing to admit a new partner in the firm is one of the most consequential decisions we make. The partnership structure is brilliantly conceived to perpetuate itself. Our job is to build an organization that is constantly being regenerated as partners retire and bequeath their roles to a new and even more capable generation of professionals.

A great partnership is organic; always growing, continuously improving, and ever changing. What doesn’t change is the common set of core values that bind us together in friendship. I am very proud of my partners at Kalypso and the team we have built. So proud, that I would gladly introduce any one of them to a stranger as my “partner”.

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