Category Archives: Community

Forgiveness

Recent events made me reflect on forgiveness; why can’t the word forgiveness have more presence in our world?

Embed from Getty Images

Our society was founded on great movements with visionary leaders that embraced the essence – and benefits – of forgiveness to build relevant communities, businesses and families.

There are many leaders that choose forgiveness over revenge, hate or indifference; the Civil Rights movements in the US, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and Gandhi’s peaceful revolution were all sparked by a shared belief in non-violent protest to change the status quo. Forgiveness can cross geographical, religious, racial, social, political, and economic barriers. It can even transcend time. Leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King became incredibly powerful by choosing to forgive. They forgave to be at peace with the present. Whatever happened to them or to their ancestors, they did not believe that ignoring the problem or encouraging hate was the answer. The answer, for them, was forgiveness; it was an action they could take – and they encouraged others to take – that would have a positive influence on a better future. The profound act of forgiveness made them visionary leaders.

I live in South America and far removed geographically from recent events in Europe and Asia. Nevertheless, I know community and business leaders who are victims of crime, of discrimination and of corruption. Some of them live with the expectation that the same negative things will happen to them again and some believe that their future can be different. It could be described as the difference between the fixed and growth mindsets. Naturally, there are also those people that are on the fence about their future; like most human beings, they experience moments when they are positive about the future and others when they keep thinking about the immitigable risks. I believe the gap between the two groups of people (or different feelings within the same person) is bridged by a simple phrase: “I forgive.”

“I forgive” is about creating peace with the present so that we can be open to new experiences. Forgiveness is personal because it has an impact on our lives even if the event happened long before we were even born or only yesterday. Making peace with ourselves and with people around us means acknowledging these terrible things – directly or indirectly – and making the decision that while events like these define part of our lives, they are not all defining, all-encompassing and all being. Human beings are bigger than the terrible things that happen to us and we can make change happen. Things can be different. Just like the brave leaders mentioned before, we don’t have to accept the status quo.

Maybe, just maybe, it is cool, it is relevant, and it is positive to forgive.

My idea is simple – say “I forgive”, post it, share it, write stories about it, make videos, take photos, make music, create art. Get the word “forgive” out there.

If we restore the word forgive to our vocabulary and to our lives, we can use it as an opportunity to build healthier businesses, communities and families. If we talk about building a better future for our children or future generations, forgiveness must be part of it.

– EMC

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Community is Viable

Now, more than ever, the power of collaboration is manifesting itself across space and time. Digital tools are helping us to create connections between seemingly disparate interests and to solve problems on a global scale. Nevertheless, in regions in development and, in particular, in Latin America, there exists a range of problems in the public and private sectors that could be solved through collaboration, innovation and excellence. Problems such as energy generation, response to natural disasters, and high school desertion to name just a few. Design thinkers say that collaboration is viable when there is a better understanding of users, a relevant place to prototype ideas and the built-in motivation to implement those ideas. If you turn this around, it holds true that if you don’t have these three elements, collaboration – and the viability of using “community” to solve problems – may just be impossible. What is happening in Latin America, then, to make “community” viable? Perhaps a closer look at these three elements can help us see why the region is falling short.

Embed from Getty Images

First, when we better understand users, we can better address needs and design a product or service that fits those needs. Seems simple, but implementation of this element is difficult in high context cultures such as those that exist in the majority of countries in Latin America. In cultures that encourage alignment with social status and formal social rules, understanding users – and users in multiple interest groups – is a challenge. It involves using interviewing techniques and empathy to gain a complete understanding of stakeholders and usage. Understanding what question to ask and being able to bring the answer from various areas into context, helps form an accurate picture of users and their needs. Striving for a better understanding of users – and using multiple research methods in order to overcome cultural characteristics – is key in solving users’ problems.

Embed from Getty Images

Second, designing solutions must be an interactive process. We will always need a place to work with stakeholders, test assumptions and take risks. This is why innovation centers sometimes fail: they need to work with community and not in isolation from them. Nevertheless, innovation centers in Latin America specifically are extremely useful in fostering more cross functional collaboration and mitigating some of the risks associated with large scale innovation investments in developing countries. Multinationals Dupont and BBVA as well as “multilatina” Stefanini have successfully gained insights and new products through their centers; illustrating that while innovation centers may have their drawbacks, they can be a relevant place to prototype ideas.

Finally, motivation must be present at the idea implementation phase. This means that while we may have a prototype or project, there is always more work to be done in implementing the idea. What can help with the successful implementation of the idea is community. As the old saying goes, people are more committed to that which they help build. If communities are collaborating on ideas that benefit them; they will have a higher successful implementation rate. There is also the possibility for the ideas that spread. Like a TED Talk, a good idea can spread and be implemented much faster when members of community that will benefit from the idea get involved and share their passion around a solution.

Is community viable? Yes it is. But seeing collaboration for what it is – working towards understanding users, engaging users and prototyping with users in the Prototype-Pilot-Product triad – makes community collaboration viable. In Latin America in particular, understanding these elements and their unique challenges in our region, is essential in community viability.

– EMC

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Being True to You

I was at a birthday party yesterday where there were children from many different countries. A blend of English, Spanish, French, Portuguese could be overheard from the various conversations taking place.

I was talking to a teacher, scientist and mother and she described how important it is for children to have a language that they feel comfortable expressing themselves in. She mentioned that there are some students that don’t have a native language because they are third culture kids or because they have been schooled in international schools all their lives that they don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves in their mother tongue.

Embed from Getty Images

From a business perspective, I can draw a connection between “being true to you” in business and “being true to you” as a person. Just as it is important for children to have a language where they feel comfortable expressing themselves, it is important for companies to remember who they are and how they best express themselves. Of course, it is important to go after a new market or offer a new product or service that fits a growing need you have identified but it is also just as important to not lose the language that makes the company – the brand, the following, the DNA that your clients fell in love with.

Being true to you is being to true to the others around you who love you – as a person, a company or a product/service.

– EMC

Tagged , , , , ,

Ethical Systems Thinking – Connection and Purpose

Embed from Getty Images

If we look at the world around us, we see systems and processes intertwining in service of humans, organizations and society. But what happens when those systems and processes break down? What happens when they no longer serve organizations, society or humans? What happens when particular interests overtake those systems, twist them, corrupt them or make them serve purposes far removed from the purpose for which they were created?

People reading this blog will know that I love innovation. I love finding connections between things and I think that systems and processes should be dynamic, flexible and transform with society and organizations. One of my favorite courses during my Masters was called “Persona y sociedad” and was an ethics courses for leaders of organizations. It was pure Peter Drucker. We explored the purpose of organizations and their role in society.

My post today is simply a reminder for current and future leaders of organizations to seek out opportunities for innovation through improvement or creation of processes and systems that serve a purpose; mediocrity or self-interests break those systems and end up serving only one person or at most a handful of particular interests. Without connection we are nothing. Even two strangers in an elevator are a temporary society – sharing a common purpose. Connection and purpose is what makes an organization relevant to stakeholders. Breaking this does nothing in the long run than break apart the organization.

EMC

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Making Positive Change through Alignment of Values

I was inspired to write this after reading a recent Seth Godin post where he asks the question:

Are you doing this to get people to do what’s good for them or what’s good for you?

I think we all want to think we act altruistically and with our stakeholders best interests at heart; nevertheless, it’s a valuable practice to re-evaluate what we are doing and why we are doing it – and what stakeholders we might be favoring with our actions. This is what a board does – or should do – when it takes decisions.

Embed from Getty Images
At the management level, if we make a decision to launch a new product or service into a new market like Colombia, we are probably doing it to provide value to new clients in a new market. The client might be grateful to have another option to choose from or a new service that wasn’t available before in Bogotá or easy to access from his/her vacation home in Cali. This is common sense.

But what happens when you change status quo? When you “throw your weight around” as Seth Godin says. That’s when the importance of real alignment with organization mission (and what your customers value) comes into play. As Godin says are you changing pricing, technology or policies because “it’s good for the organization, because it raises quarterly earnings,” or because it’s good for the customer. Are you making decisions to delight the customer and to bring positive change to your community?

There’s no way of pleasing all people all of the time but if you are making changes in line with your core values and what your followers and clients value about you, this mean you are leading your stakeholders to change for their benefit, not forcing them to change for yours.

EMC

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Getting attention for your brand in Latin America

Chiminea
Photo: Chiminea (Blanca Gómez)

I have been helping international brands connect with their markets in Latin America for over 10 years. Here are some ideas that I have picked up over the years and want to share with you. Most of them are relevant and can be applied elsewhere – US, Canada, Europe etc.

So, here are some ways (in no particular order or linear process) for you to connect with Latin America and get the attention your brand deserves!

1) Choose your influencers
2) Make friends with the media and thought leaders
3) Tell your story – unique and compelling content
4) Solve a problem – be creative!
5) A picture is worth 1000 words – be visual

At some point in the future, I would love to delve down into each one of the items on this list but until then, I would urge you to think about your brand (and corp) values and how those apply to what you do. If you can connect with your values and with people who share the same values – especially if they are influencers and thought leaders – then your brand will get the attention you want and deserve. Coherent, simple, organic growth.

EMC

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

World Cup 2014 Advertisements

I have put together a selection of three of my favorite World Cup ads so far. Seeing as the World Cup is in Brazil this year (yeah, Latin America!) and represents the most important marketing and sporting event worldwide, I thought it appropriate to highlight some of the creative ads for the “Mundial” in this blog post. Enjoy!

Nike: Risk Everything Winner Stays
In this spot, Nike shows how kids transform into professional soccer players like: Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Gerard Piqué, Gonzalo Higuaín, Mario Götze, Eden Hazard, Thiago Silva, Andrea Pirlo, David Luiz, Andrés Iniesta, Thibaut Courtois and Tim Howard.

P&G: Fan Trainer
Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez is the “Fan Trainer” in P&G’s series honoring the “fans” of the World Cup.

DirecTV: Nothing Else Matters
And, last but not least, this World Cup ad is directed by none other than Oliver Stone. This DirecTV ad features Stone, David Luiz, Sergio Aguero and Radamel Falcao and promotes DirecTV Latin America’s coverage of Brazil 2014.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Communicate like Hemingway

hemingway

Last year I wrote a piece in Forbes on how to communicate like Hemingway. Here is my English summary of that article.

Ernest Hemingway (USA 1899 – 1961) wrote in simple sentences that carried great impact and significance. His paragraphs were succinct; writing precisely what was required without additional adjectives or flowery language. I think we can learn a great deal from Hemingway. We can learn to be better communicators in our profesional and personal lives.

Being a better writer, to me, means thinking about who is reading or will read our words. Who is your audience? Good writing means presenting something relevant – and perhaps even challenging – to your public: readers, users, clients, investors, followers, family, friends or community.

If we want to write like Hemingway, we need to choose our words. Here are a few things that I have picked up in Hemingway’s writing and how it can apply to us:

1) Hemingway tends to speak in the positive. Avoid double negatives or what we don’t do. Instead, talk about goals, about resources and talent, be frank with our public about how we can add value, how we can work together. Ask for the sale. Be transparent.

2) Hemingway wrote standing up. Supposedly, this was because he had a leg injury from WW1. But Hemingway once said “I like to write standing up because it brings vitality”. Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, and Donald Rumsfeld are other famous people who wrote standing up. The takeaway? Embrace idiosyncrasies in our writing or our style of writing because it makes us authentic.

3) Hemingway was “gritty”. He would often erase and rewrite sentences several times. He had a vision and was determined to see it through. I find it’s that same grit that makes entrepreneurs and leaders stand out. In Latin America, it’s often grit that gets us through the difficult moments or unexpected external factors that make our business or lives challenging.

Hemingway had an amazing talent for writing. If we put into practice some of what defines his writing – precise words, positive phrases, succinct well worked paragraphs that speak to our public and demonstrate our personality – we might be able to improve how our projects are perceived and received in Latin America and the world at large.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Why strategy, implementation and caring is so important

I came across this amazing video of Seth Godin’s over the weekend. It’s a great mix of classic Seth Godin (tribes, being “weird”, the entrepreneur/empresario) with doing business in a connected world. I found the following particularly interesting…

Godin describes the triangle of the connected world. We need Strategy, Implementation of Strategy as well as “Caring Enough to Fail” in order to create value, a following, and a company that matters. Oftentimes, our organizations get too big or too busy to question the status quo or care enough about experimenting and doing something that might fail. If we don’t care enough to fail how might we know what we are capable of and what our customers want and need?

In Latin America, I find organizations have a strategy and people to implement it but are set on what works rather than experimenting with failure ahead of the bell curve. How can we change this? Perhaps by leveraging connections and unexpected connections between things – and what is that? Innovation.

So this is the video that inspired me over the weekend to continue to tell meaningful stories to people who share (or will share) our views/concerns/needs. Let’s care enough to fail, be generous with ideas and…make them work through strategy and implementation.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,