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The explosion in publishing has been noted to be the one of the most significant breakthroughs in recent years. Nearly practically anyone can self-publish his work and sell it online to his communities. The marketplace is very saturated with new books and materials entering every year, bumping the previous ones in terms of competition for the consumers.
To get an edge over this saturation, service-providers and purpose-aligned organization must provide more than their annual reports and publications, it's the experience with you that counts. Experiencing your capabilities, wealth of experience, and analysis is the way forward to break out from the commodification in the sector.
Purpose-driven organizations that are struggling to get the attention of your constituencies and stakeholders, here are the top four strategies to publish successfully and earn their donations, loyalty, and support.
1. Publish in areas where your target stakeholders learn, mingle, and network. That will keep your brand front-and-centre.
2. Repurpose your analysis and studies in variety of creative ways. The latest stats on digital consumption reveals an uptake on audio and video content. Make it accessible anytime, anywhere.
3. Design an experience that they will never forget. Unforgettable, relevant, and peer-to-peer exclusive atmosphere will increase your credibility in the field. You become the go-to for anything authoritative in your domain.
4. Build your defenders for the long game. In my book Provocateurs, I discussed the evolution of community, from fans to acolytes to defenders. Defenders will not only support your work, but will sponsor, evangelize, and take action for your benefit that aligns with their interests and values as well. Adapt your events, publications, and communications to build up your community.
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Not my business.
A colleague once sent me a question regarding another coalition in Ottawa, not my business to comment on what is that coalition actually trying to do.
Another said that I should be sending my books to key people that helped me get to where I am now, not my business to remind them that I exist and I existed before within their peripheral vision.
Another friend said that I should try to be involved in a service club because they meet regularly. They meet regularly to do nothing. Every club I have spoken to wanted me badly. Not my thing.
A family member said that I should be aware of what's going on in North Korea and the nuclear stand-off with the US, not my business. I knew what's going on in North Korea, including its history, Korean War. I have a Masters Degree in International Relations. I care enough to know but I don't get too emotional about it.
We need to safeguard our focus and attention.
We need to protect ourselves from intrusions and incursions of others into our territorial waters.
We create our own waves.
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I was binge-watching The Offer this week and I can't imagine that when they're making The Godfather film in the 70s, the executives have a way different vision for it. It was proposed that it will be set in the 70s not a period film, shot in Kansas or St. Louis, or with a young and cheap director (which they did), actors that can work for cheap or for free, and more. The Godfather as we now know is one of the best American films ever produced and highest grossing film of all time.
There was the Mafia disturbance and interference, sabotage inside the production units, difficult actors and crew members, logistical issues, budget pressures, and other millions of minutiae problems but the logical business mindset clash against the creatives is a major highlight for me. It wouldn't be the Godfather that we know or at least the shadow of that success if it not for the creatives standing up for the authenticity and integrity of the film. It will not be a success if the executives had their way about the logo, the budget, their preferred actors, the locations, and even how it will be marketed and distributed. The dalliance with the Mafia is a film of its own and the way it was handled was, unfortunately the best possible course of action, albeit Machiavellian. The business context set the stage for how these films were supposed to make money that will save Paramount from being sold off to a bargain and leave more for the future viability of its corporate owner.
There are many management lessons here for which this page won't be enough. How ironic it is that film businesses are creative businesses; they are meant to marry the business logic of efficiency and financial performance using the creative breakthrough ideas of their time as a distinct competitive advantage. While these sounds easy to do, the Offer allows to understand that it boils down to how they see themselves as partners of the venture that either had to sink or swim together or get out of the way for the other's success. While in the film the business guys weren't one-dimensional and turned the other leaf, in reality, so many of the films of the past and the present are produced on ruthless business criteria as a hedge for failure. As the audience, we just don't know the costs of these wars inside these organizations. But we know that we have yet to see another Godfather or another film with both smashing commercial success and unparalleled artistry in decades.
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2022 is a year of high risks and low expectations. I benefited a great deal from both. Despite the legendary dismal economic situation post-COVID19, the on-purpose organizations are looking for new ideas to outsmart the new realities of their business environments. We see new models, new visions, new creative perspectives being experimented and/or embraced with a modicum of success. At the end of the day, survival is a necessity but innovating is a competitive advantage. If you want to be relevant, choose the latter.
1. Organization and structure trump the intricate planning precision. If you aim to be better tomorrow, then in totality, it will sweep you up in the momentum of direction of change. Things get done even in the worst combination of events against you succeeding. Talk about beyondresilience.
2. When everybody says the planet is doomed if we are not going to act in a certain way, there are thousands of people that are benefiting from the dystopian, emergency, crisis-festered environment and milking their way to the bank, amidst the the lack of supports, funding, and bridging efforts for the most affected and vulnerable. We like to believe that we are all on the same page with climate future but no, we are not even agreeing what kind of future to choose.
3. If you can't have your own ideas and copyright it as your own, then nobody gets to know what you are designed to do, mastered enough to do, and excellent enough to provide value to others. The insecurity of others should not dictate how you should play your game and even enjoy it. There is no joy in playing small and hiding behind your true potential just because others can't do what you can.
4. Your accomplishments and failures are two-sides of the same coin. There is no point beating yourself for all the wrong things that happened as against the wonderful ways luck, smart work, and planning coalesce in spite of yourself or your organization's constraints. Organizations by now understood the point that you can provide value with less than what you would expect. Fit-for-purpose designs invariably take supreme in volatile times.
5. People can say all they want but how they act on the information provided to them is the real ignition switch to delivering an outcome versus merely focusing on intentions. Fantasizing and wishful thinking are not strategies.
6. Privileges are privileges. The lack of privileges and advantages shouldn't embolden anyone to be full of contempt and scorn for those that have it. Neither do those in positions of privilege act high and mighty for the rest of society to worship them. That's why we have the rule of law, democracy (despite its many flaws), and meritocracy. Unfortunately, these three things are eroding before our very eyes.
7. In my leadership training and coaching this year, I saw two things: high-level performers do not get the time to have real connection with another peer or colleague even in the same network or industry. There is so much focus on keeping up productivity in remote work when the best outcome is lowering quantity for quality. Employees who are energized and supported will feel better with their participation and this leads to better performance in and out of work.
8. Another issue is that connecting is like breathing air. Executives must find time to rebuild and replenish their oxygen-tank, connect with purpose-filled individuals they can be inspired with to pursue their own passions. Get off the screen and take the time to schedule coffee/tea, bowling or meal time with a colleague, friend, a clubmate, or anyone you would like to know more.
9. Growth experiences are such a great advantage these days. Few people can say that they have a true mentor, an advisor, a guide in the specific stages of their lives or careers. These benefits accrue to those that not only seek these experiences but take hold of them when presented with the opportunity. If you are given one on a silver platter, customize the tools and residual gains for your specific challenges.
10. Wabi-sabi. Embrace the imperfections of your organizations, your life, and your world. Instead of improving a piece of furniture, taking a modern style, why don't we just relish the age, maturity, decline, and the imperfections of that object? Translate this to your own organizations and environments. Imperfections are not problems to be solved. They have their merits too. If you can live with it, let go and just be at peace.
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WELCOME AND BYE
A few years ago, I met the Executive Director of a non-profit organization and upon sitting down after being ushered into the room, he told me that he has to leave after 15 minutes. I waited for the meeting for 5 minutes before I can meet him. Apparently, there was a family issue that he needed to attend to.
I asked, "Why did you even book this meeting in the first place?" He answered that he just wanted to meet and maybe ask a few questions.
It turned out that he just wanted to know what I specialize on and how much do I charge which were issues for advanced stage of the conversation. I found out this organization was heavily reliant on a pro bono consultancy that will probably continue in this way as long as possible. Why pay when you can get it for free.
I was out of there in 15 minutes which saved me time and energy to devote to better prospects.
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DEFINE SUCCESS, ETC.
I have always tried to champion taking a closer look at many definitions we find our ourselves and our organizations in constant encounter. As a rule, as a leader, define this very well internally, because the danger lies in the unexamined, ill-suited paradigms like oversized coats that do not fit well with perceived reality.
Disruption- what does disruption mean to your social business, on-purpose organization, or cause-based advocacy?
Innovation- what does innovation look like, feel like at your level of operation?
Effectiveness- what drives effectiveness? is this a long-term purposive aim or an operational value?
Impact- whose impact are we talking about here? do they know that you're contributing to that pie? is this measured across the organization?
Sustainability- what sustainability lens do you subscribe to? are your actions guided by global, local, and community goals?
Success- what success brings about? is this a desirable path or a mini-breakthroughs would be enough?
Seek out clarity and intentional discussion on these issues on a regular basis. Meanings change as people change and institutions grow. Your past reviews may not hold more weight now than 5 years ago. It could look very different as you move forward with your short-term plans.
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Every year, we enjoy the agricultural show in our community. A small club of mighty volunteer assemble this event annually with little or no external support but with much passion and dedication. Next year, we heard that there will be no more shows forthcoming.
In-fighting within the club members had stalled any meaningful action. The conflict teared the organization apart.
I heard that politics is the main cause of the conflict. If politics is the culprit, then what can we do? Separate the politics from the real issues. In this case, inclusion issues- how new entrants can join without the barriers imposed by the incumbents? Explore a win-win solution to those who are saying no and those who want to expand the criteria for membership. Negotiation is key. Active listening is a must. Get parties to talk on real issues and stop the personality fights.
Politics can never be avoided because there's people. If there's people, there's always politics. But politics should not be negative and detrimental. By justifying that politics is it, it sounded like it's unmanageable and completely out of resolution. This is further from the truth and practice.
As a Rotary Peace Fellows, we study how politics and entrenched perspectives dilute real efforts to genuine peace and reconciliation. Sovereignty, equity, autonomy, justice from past wrongs, claims to resources, among others are the larger concerns for which violence and conflicts are just mere conduits for action, unfortunately.
If we only set aside politics and let valid issues become the center of the discussion, we can begin to break down the seemingly intractable positions and let people begin to embrace a more rationale direction.
Politics is that ugly justification for anything that breaks down in organization. Although, sometimes it is really politics for which an executive must separate the chaff from the wheat, most of the time, the real issues are the heart of the matter.
Discern wisely and then you can decide the best course of action to take.
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THE CHANGE VELOCITY
Implementing much needed change in your organization is not a sprint, it's a marathon. It should not be a slow crawl or should be trapped in an office politics unable to move an inch.
Usually, what happens is that you have a desired outcome for that change. But what you get is the realistic outcome, the difference lies in your execution, obviously.
You cannot wait for the right tools, apps, research, evaluations, assessments, and agency-wide consultations and town halls. There will be naysayers that will tell you to postpone at a better time, when staff have acclimatized, when the new Board sets a new direction, or when the donors/funders are on-board and their perspectives well-integrated.
You can begin now. It's not going to be a matter of months, maybe years. Each month and each year needs a recalibration. You will know the difference of a calculated change sooner than later.
Your velocity depends on your mindset, confidence, and the application of the right strategy for the kind of change you're trying to institute. No matter what happens, you will not be where you where 12 months ago. You can always have a break, a pause, a time to recharge and boost-up. But when you stall, you will never get back that momentum.
It starts with you. So start now, and start smart.
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WINNER AND LOSERS
You must have heard this from somewhere, that in any change initiatives, there will always be losers and winners. But this is not as clear-cut as we think this to be. With varying degrees of complexity, everyone can be in the same page on issues but with different positions approaching solutions.
Problem-centric people try to diagnose the problem and beat it until it's blue in the face.
Solutions-centric people deny the magnitude of the problem and want to jump straight to solutions.
Radical change leaders want to overthrow the whole organization from bottom to top.
While the incrementalists are taking their sweet time to effect changes.
These are stereotypes and the binary of losers and winners, if you still have that perspective in your organization is very 60s. Champion a win-win approach to any substantial changes in the organization. Yes, there will be groups that will be mostly affected and mitigation should be front-and-centre and not an afterthought.
I just recently observed a massive transformation in a large organization. When asked, middle managers don't know what's actually going on. The top executives will gladly do a rodeo on each unit/department, taking the most expensive, yet direct route to engagement. What about these middle managers who can act as natural bridge between those at the top and those at the bottom? What about these natural spokespersons and representatives of specific groups, are they engaged in a way that ensures change outcomes are retained in the best way?
People will believe in the change based on what they see, not on what your Townhall proclaims.
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BEFORE YOU WORK HARDER
In an imperfect world with stifling budget and ever-expanding mandate, you might be tempted to roll your sleeve more and work harder. Before you do that, check all the value and motivation-destroying activities you engage, see instituted, or passed off as necessary.
1. Bureaucracy. Too much paper-shifting, oversight, approvals. I saw this in my former life as a municipal staff and very draining.
2. Failure work. Countless rewriting and re-editing, and asking for countless validation. Let's define what's needed and stop repeating the process.
3. Overreach. It's good to say you're inclusive and highly participatory, but overdoing it, doesn't add to another inch of impact.
4. Not communicating well. Setting clear expectations and being mindful of interpretations from different stakeholders matter. It's a preventative measure you can start with.
Ask these questions now in your organization. Reframe the assumptions and received thinking around them. Provoke new ways of doing things. It's your work, it's your life.