True Innovation

Innovate with People

Innovate with people. Phillip Kane's Andwin blog
An original meme by Phillip Kane

May 27, 2021

This week, I was reminded of a story of a young man who was allegedly terminated, for innovating, by a company that touts industry leading innovation as a key differentiator and, indeed, one of their core values. This young man was innovating his heart out, seeking new ways to make the company’s core business (which is hardly exciting) relatable to young consumers then isolating on novel communication channels to reach them, engage them and convert them to customers. Much of his innovative activities were done on his own time, adding to the investment and personal commitment he was making in and to his employer and their future success.  For his trouble, he was let go. See, as is too often the case, old-school organizations love to talk about innovation, they even name the streets they live on after it, but if the creative energy doesn’t fit within the prescribed development plans of the establishment, the old guard will trample it to the ground. It happens every day. It’s precisely what happened to the young man I’m referring to.  But what these innovation killers forget is that innovation isn’t found in state-of-the-art laboratories or better, faster technology. Innovation flows from the one thing that can never be duplicated – people.

And that’s the point for the week.

Change the shape of your packaging. Change the chemistry of your product to enable some consumer benefit. Offer 10 new varieties that your competitors don’t yet have. None of these things are truly innovative. Because they are all easily copied. In the “anything you can do, I can do better” age of corporate competition, things are quickly duplicated.  Have you ever wondered why every mid-size cross-over vehicle looks almost exactly like every other mid-size cross-over vehicle? It’s because feature-based “innovation” is fleeting. Industry firsts are industry standards in mere months. But what can never be duplicated are people who love what they do and who constantly look for new ways to share that love with their customers.

But expect the unorthodoxed. Because that’s the point. These people march to the beat of an entirely different drummer. The beat that those who don’t buy from you yet also march to. These people are true innovators for they represent not what things are plus a couple extra cupholders, but what things can be when the status quo is smashed under foot for want of something new and truly innovative, something that causes the marketplace to say, “they did what?!” and “I want to be part of THAT!”

No consumer anywhere ever woke up and said, “Wow, I’m really glad my supplier found a way to fit more of what they sell me on a truck!! Now that’s some kind of innovative.” It just doesn’t happen. But they do wake up with a desire to participate in a category that was even less interesting to them than tires – because someone made it interesting, because someone engaged them, because someone innovated around what is the single most important aspect of the commercial relationship – the relationship itself.

And when those bonds are formed, they become sticky as heck. They require near acts of God to break apart. They are rooted in trust and mutual commitment. And no amount of antimicrobial additives or quick drying agents in the world can get in the way of that.

Like all else in life, it’s a choice: to talk about innovation while killing it when they see it or to quietly embrace those who represent what it means to truly innovate – those who show up every day intent on creating something different, something bigger than themselves, something consumers actually want to be a part of and couldn’t imagine ever doing without.

So, remember, the only sustainable source of innovation is your people.

And win.

To learn more about Phillip, these click, HERE.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

Belief Perseverance

It Won’t Be Like This For Long

Rutherford, New Jersey / USA - April 07 2020: Sign on the lawn of the Rutherford United Methodist Church during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It won't be like this for long. Phillip Kane

May 21, 2021

This week, I heard again, for the first time in a long time, a song, by Darius Rucker, that helped form a personal philosophy I hold to this day – one that has impacted how I live my life, raise my kids and lead other human beings.

The song tells the story of a father and his little girl as she grows from an infant to a preschooler to a teenager then eventually is married away. At each stage of life, she presents some difficulty like sleepless nights or a refusal to go to school or those hateful teen years. But we are reassured by the refrain that, “It won’t be like this for long.” And it never is. In the scope of life, phases pass quickly. Difficulties, whatever their form – crying all night, separation anxiety on the first days of school, or far worse – don’t ever last for long.

And that’s the point for the week.

True, caring leaders barely react to bad news or crisis. Because they know, like the song says, that it won’t be like this for long. Time never stands still. And the capability of the human spirit to endure almost anything is nearly immeasurable. As a result, we move beyond things, sometimes a bit tattered, but always better for having gone through it.

Even the events of today, in the grand scheme of things, will be but a dot in time not long from now.  In just a few years, this pandemic, as awful as it seems today, with all of its death and all of the division it has wrought, will be but a faint distant memory. Winners lead accordingly.  Those who recognize that all things – ups and downs – are temporary, will prosper. Those who chase highs or who retrench in lows lose, because just as they finish overreacting, life goes back to normal. See, it won’t be like this for long.

One need look no further than the glut of hand sanitizer at every step of the supply chain today. Overreaction leads to pain, waste and loss. All of that hand sanitizer represents nothing more than a lack of leadership.

When we live our lives and lead others to respect the simple truth that nothing lasts for long, we create a calmness in our homes, in our businesses and in our communities that leads to greater trust, less wasted energy, and more winning.

People rely on those they follow to provide assurance in times of trial that life will soon improve. They want leaders who trade in hope, faith and a firmly held belief that this too shall pass. They want to follow people who believe in the infinite possibilities that result when a group of human beings love each other, believe in each other, fight for each other, and who refuse to quit until what they’ve agreed together to accomplish is done. These people know that difficulties soon pass, because they’ve seen it with their own two eyes; because they followed a leader with the calm courage to carry on through times of crisis armed with the firm conviction that what goes down always comes up and that no matter how hard things get, there is always a way through and something better on the other side.

So, remember, it won’t be like this for long.

And win.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE.

Reinforce the Right Behaviors

Catch People Doing the Right Thing

True, caring leaders catch people doing the right thing. Twitter @RobLowe

This week, actor, Rob Lowe, tweeted that Monday marked 31 years since he made the decision to walk away from alcohol and drug addiction. That’s more than 11,300 days of choosing to say no to the wrong things in his life, or rather choosing to say yes to making the right choices – to doing the right thing. In the responses to Lowe’s tweet and other’s retweets of same, in between the many affirmations and congratulatory well-wishes, some chose to strike a more cynical tone; asking why they should celebrate the achievements of a (insert expletive here) addict rather than those of say first responders or teachers. That struck me as sad. True that Rob Lowe and all who have beaten alcohol and drugs never stop being addicts – it’s part of the disease. But to consider an 11,000 day streak of doing the right thing as anything less than astounding is a missed opportunity. Every time another human being does something right should be celebrated, not denigrated.

And that’s the point for the week.

Great, caring leaders catch people doing things right and they make a big deal about it. They take care to do so as closely as possible to the event occurring and in as specific terms as possible, adding emotion and outcome-based language whenever they can. Simply saying, “Hey, great job” doesn’t cut it. It’s barely better than saying nothing at all. But when, as a leader, you take the time to say something like, “Hey Gina, I saw the way you took the time to ensure everything you put away had barcodes facing out; it may seem like a little thing, but it makes it so much easier and faster for our pickers to scan and pull things later. I really appreciate that you chose to do that the right way.” the message becomes especially meaningful and memorable, because the leader chose to make it specific and impactful.  Reinforcing correct behavior in this way also reinforces the desired behavior and increases the likelihood that the target of the leader’s praise will tell others, further broadcasting the message about not only the correct way to do things but that good things happen to those who do good things.

What does any of this have to do with a 50-something movie star who beat addiction? More than you think. See, habits aren’t formed or broken overnight. Nor are they generally formed or broken without encouragement from others. No doubt, Rob Lowe, at some point in his 31-year journey had the help of someone catching him doing something right or holding him accountable for making good decisions. Great, caring leaders do the same thing. One of the worst behaviors a leader can exhibit is to become upset with someone for failing to do something they don’t know they are supposed to be doing. Or worse, publicly humiliating others for failing to perform a task they are just learning to do. By focusing on catching people doing the right thing and recognizing them when they do, people more often will. It’s that simple.

And when more of them do, the organizations they comprise will move forward with great energy, speed and force. They will become self-sustaining juggernauts as the behavior of the leader is copied by others eager to repeat and pass on the same good feelings they received. People learn to trust each other more. They learn to rely on each other more. And, in time, they more often fight for one another and the goals they share. 

Most importantly, these organizations win more often, for no other reason than the people within them do the right things more often.  Maybe not every single day for 11,000 straight days often, but they get it right more than they get it wrong – all because they have leaders that care enough to say something when they see people doing it right.

So, catch people doing the right thing.

And win.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE.


Commit to Community

True, caring leaders commit to building community. Phillip Kane's blog.

May 7, 2021

During the winter months, mostly due to COVID-19 and partly because I am not at all a fan of cold weather, I did not leave the house much. As more Spring-like days have arrived, I am venturing out more – usually to nurseries and garden centers which become my homes away from home during warm weather months. When I’ve gotten away, I’ve noticed a certain something about other people. They go well out of their way to avoid any contact at all with other human beings, exaggerating any social-distancing requirements, looking the other way, and behaving generally wary toward one another. At first, I wondered if this was just isolated behavior. But once I started paying attention, I began seeing it everywhere. People don’t acknowledge one another anymore. They’ve become isolated and almost suspicious of those outside of their own pods.  In the span of one year, this pandemic has torn at the very fabric of what it means to have and be in community. Community is central to what makes us human; without it, life accelerates backwards.

And that’s the point for the week.

Businesses, families or society writ large are not moved forward by collections of disconnected individuals. This country was not formed as a result of one disaffected soul engaging in some individual action. No great change or accomplishment is the history of mankind was ever undertaken and achieved by one, solitary human being alone – ever. Progress comes about when one becomes some become many becomes a majority of interconnected souls all believing in and fighting for the same outcome.

That’s missing now. America can’t even agree to look at one another in a plant store, let alone come together to fight a pandemic.

Accomplishing anything requires groups of people who trust one another, who believe in one another, and who will fight for one another. It requires community.

When community exists, it becomes self-evident. There are no factions in community. All hands pull on the rope in one common direction in community. Not a tinkers damn is given about skin color, religion, gender, party or any other difference in community; because these things matter a lot less than the goals of the team. In community, outcomes matter, because there are consequences to losing and for true, winning teams these are unthinkable.

It starts with building trust and rapport. It starts with making eye contact with others. It starts with speaking when you pass someone in the hall, in a plant store or see them on a Zoom call.

Life is a choice. We can allow events like a business downturn, a family tragedy or this pandemic to continue to rob us of community and to enable the formation of ridiculous factions on all sides fed by wild conspiracies, mistrust and manufactured outrage. Or, as leaders, we can prove that we are somehow better than that – by demonstrating to others that there is another way, rooted in trust, in belief in a common outcome and in an unwavering commitment to those in your community.

Commit to the ideals of community. Start saying hi to people again.

And win.

To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK.

To learn more about the author, please click HERE.