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Hot Spots Newsletter: taking risks for reward

"We need more entrepreneurs!" is the cry we have heard from business commentators over the last few weeks: taking risks in the pursuit of being innovative and being prepared for failure. We have been looking at some of the tools at our disposal (online networks, colleagues, collaborators) to advise entrepreneurs how to maximise their chances of success.

Have you signed up to the Hot Spots Movement Facebook page? You can also find us at the Future of Work blog and we're also on Linked In. Lynda also has a Twitter feed and you can follow it here.

Dispatch from Davos

Lynda was in Davos last week, in her role as Chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on the New Modes of Leadership. While there, she took stock of the conversations and sessions around her and recognised that there are two emerging themes over the leadership challenges faced by CEOs.

1. Leading in a multi-stakeholder world. Today, the stakeholders are no longer just employees and shareholders – they could include governments, NGOs, citizen activists and even the competition. 2. Leading in society. Leaders will be / are judged on the values of their organisations – as well as of their own. We look to them to reach out to their community, to work on global issues such as poverty, and to inspire their employees to do the same.

You can read the rest of Lynda's thoughts from Davos on leadership by clicking here and read her diary piece exclusively here.

Lynda nominated for thought leader award

Lynda has been nominated for the Global Management Guru Award by leading Indian business school, the Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH). The award, created in 2009, recognises scholars and thought leaders in business and management, whose work is influential worldwide. Lynda is one of 25 nominees and the winner will be announced in March. To read more, click here.

We're Jamming!

What are Jams?

Since we mentioned that we were customising Jams, our online brainstorming tools for some of our member companies, we have seen a really interesting trend come to the fore. Many of our enquiries to design and run Jams have been requested to solve a specific issue.

As expected, many companies see Jams as being useful to gain understanding of how their organisations function. Because they are so interactive, they provide a far more detailed set of responses than a survey.

What is really interesting, though, is how many companies see the potential to use Jams as a way of solving an urgent business issue, using input from employees across the organisation. The benefits are clear: using collective intelligence from the employees, in a limited window of time, to combine to solve a problem. Examples we've looked at recently are: how to retain staff; how to communicate with newer, younger members of the company; how to increase sales in a specific area; and discussions on the future of a business unit.

Tina explains: "The limited duration and online nature of the conversation means there's an intensity that creates real momentum, as people stay on topic, and as a result, create 'deep' solutions. These solutions are drawn from a huge pool of knowledge, ideas, resources that, when brought together in this format, are much bigger than the sum of the individual parts."

The Hot Spots Movement creates, guides and facilitates these Jams, and companies can choose who they invite. For more details, email Tina.

Be prepared to experiment and to fail

As part of our Future of Work research, we have been looking at the importance of building a culture of experimentation - it's important for business, and it's important for us as individuals. We can learn real skills from failing at a task. We find it particularly interesting that this idea has made its way into the debate about how to develop a school curriculum and instruction methods to deliver the skills and capabilities needed for the future of work.

The willingness to embrace experimentation and its consequences coincides with the topic of entrepreneurship being high on everyone's agenda – and these two points are not unrelated. After all, at the Hot Spots Movement we've spoken at length of the need to create sparks of ignition in organisations in order to create real innovation. More often than not, these sparks come from individuals coming together in new constellations – typically teams. Interestingly, this quality also makes for successful entrepreneur firms.

George Buckley, chairman and CEO of 3M, said in a recent interview: "The best way to forecast the future is to create it. Innovation is risky but essential. If you don't innovate you can never win the competitive battle no matter how hard you try. You must innovate to survive. There is no data on the future — innovation is what we need. You cannot innovate without being an optimist."

Of course, risk equals reward – and failure. And this is the challenge on which entrepreneurial spirits thrive.

Looking to the future, the really meaningful debate around entrepreneurship is whether the traditional entrepreneur, on his/her own with little support from the established business community, will prevail. Or will entrepreneurship increasingly be a team effort?

What do you think? Please send us your view on this and help us move the entrepreneur/innovation debate to the next level.

Upcoming masterclass: Complex Collaboration

After the success of our masterclass in Mumbai (pictured) on Complex Collaboration for members of the Future of Work Research Consortium, we are running a masterclass on the same topic in London on February 3. It will be followed by a Jam, February 6 – 8.

Four of the questions we will be examining are:

1. What are the ways to develop fast and virtual trust?
2. How can we build a collaborative organisation?
3. How can we develop and support individual skills and habits of collaboration?
4. Open innovation and virtual communities

The Mumbai masterclass gave us a chance to work face-to-face with more than 40 participants from a number of our FoW members, and the event was supported by TCS and Birla.

Top 100 employers

Fortune has released its annual list of the top 100 companies to work for: top of the pile was Google, with Boston Consulting Group in second and SAS Institute in third. We were struck by the list of unusual perks in the top 100, with Google's nap pods and Southern Ohio Medical Center's vegetable garden appealing to us the most. One thing is clear: employee happiness and fulfillment can be translated into business success, and often the small and inexpensive measures go a long way!

Would you like to work here?

Server hosting company Melbourne has turned conventional office design on its head in its corporate headquarters in Manchester. The £150,000 offices are modeled on different areas of the home, and include a kitchen housed in a potting shed, a grassy picnic area for meetings and even a wardrobe into Narnia.

You can see more pictures here.

Using FoW as part of leadership development

We are now in the third year of the Future of Work Research Consortium, and have worked with more than 350 experts in this exciting experiment in co-creation, bridging the worlds of academia and research and business. What we have found is that companies use their membership of FoW for many different purposes. One that we find particularly interesting is as follows: we are seeing many companies choose to include the Future of Work Research Consortium as part of their leadership development programme. After all, this is a group of more than 30 companies from around the globe, so it's a rare chance to gain insight into many diverse organisations.

The FoW can be used to support – or even set – a company's strategic agenda, and it is a 'character building' task to be in charge of driving this and garnering support from all relevant internal and external stakeholders. The potential of FoW to create an internal and external network that fosters dialogue and get buy-in for important projects is significant. Therefore, it is a great and very relevant challenge for a high-potential individual (or team) to turn this potential into reality.

Latest on FoW4 topics:

We have confirmed the future-critical topics for FOW4 and they are:

1. Technology: social media – knowledge – flexibility
2. Talent: emerging talent pools – future leadership competencies – talent development models
3. Innovation: drivers – processes – models – adoption
4. Redefining the roles of government and business around work: collaboration – education – healthcare – legislation.

For more information, click here. Do you have any other ideas? Please share!

What we're reading

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, gave an interview here, where she states we are moving from the wisdom of crowds to the wisdom of friends.

We have really been pushing the virtue of the wisdom of crowds and spanning boundaries, and are interested to read of Sheryl's idea. Looking closely, it still seems to be mostly crowd-sourcing – whoever the crowd might be – so we look forward to her elaborating on this concept, especially in business scenarios. The Jams (as mentioned above) fall somewhere between these two areas: the wisdom of a crowd that you may know or be familiar with, if it's a Jam within your organisation, and we've seen how powerful they can be.

Pete Cashmore, CEO of digital culture site Mashable, takes up the idea of how businesses have changed the way they connect with their audience. He explains how smart companies have used social media to be more transparent, more communicative and more engaged with their stakeholders. You can see the clip here.

Driving collaboration

We have just finished our public workshop on Driving Collaboration and the group really integrated to come up with some interesting conclusions and take-aways for their organisations. We tweaked the format of our public workshops to incorporate more case studies and real challenges and concerns voiced by participants, and this format worked very well.

Participants were able to practise the very collaboration we were discussing by working with each other, spanning boundaries at the same time, to look at specific challenges faced by their organisations from a fresh perspective. They valued the small, highly engaged working groups, which created a rich, learning environment. We will be following a similar format next time and will announce the next date shortly.

Who's in our network?

We have mentioned Gary before, but he's due another mention this issue because his new book What Matters Know is just about to be published. Lynda has read some excerpts and is recommending it highly!

What Matters Now lays out an agenda for building companies that can thrive in a world of fractured certainties, widespread cynicism and battered hopes. At the core of the book is a simple but powerful premise: to build an organisation that is fit for the future, you have to build an organisation that is fit for human beings.

You can read an excerpt from the book, and watch a video, here.

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