Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review: Business Storytelling for Dummies

Karen Dietz and Lori Silverman have been steeped in business narrative since long before the current rush to story and bandwagoning that has been taking place. What they share is an essential resource that is informed and practical. Their aim is to help people both craft better business stories, and know how to apply them in business and organizational life. The book’s opening line promise is “We guarantee if you choose to read this book, your work life will change for the better”.


Karen and Lori deliver by adding to their easy-to-read script, many pragmatic annotations in the form of tips, warnings, key points to internalise, real life illustrations and examples and numerous web and other links. Business Storytelling for Dummies is in 6 parts:


·       Getting Started with Business Storytelling graphic

·       Moving People to Action: Creating Compelling Stories

·       Sharing Stories for Maximum Value

·       Tailoring Storytelling to Special Circumstances

·       The Part of Tens (tips, no-no’s, measures)

·       Appendix: Real-Life Stories and a Template


As a Christmas gift to yourself and anyone you know in the business world, this is it!"

A Review of The Treasure Punt by Peter Christie Hands-On books 2013

I wholeheartedly endorse the back cover understatement that the book brings home “important lessons for those on both sides of the job market: recruiters and people looking to be recruited”.

Peter Christie’s latest book goes far beyond simply ‘important lessons’ for recruiters and candidates, in two senses:

·        It is the complete guide to talent management, from recognition through acquisition, engagement, deployment and retention – for both permanent and temporary placements in the modern world of work. Here you’ll find, as savvy hirer or socially intelligent candidate, all that you need to inform your strategies, policy, ethics and values, processes, perceptions, blind spots and behaviours for both print – based or electronic activity

·        The Treasure Punt contains much that is of value to suppliers and internal managers, especially in the areas of effective communicating, relating, engaging, forming emotional connections, harnessing the richness of diversity, and focusing not only on skills, knowledge and experience, but also on more important underlying values and virtues

Peter Christie’s style is authentic, engaging, persuasive and playful – subtly making use of literary devices that enliven the reader’s experience. Consonance, metaphor, hyperbole, alliteration, anthromorphism, onomatopoeia, analogy, allegory, story, oxymoron, satire, character foils slip easily and seamlessly into his writing. Yet it is clear that he is communicating with intent to express rather than impress. He has taken great pains to make this a highly readable, enjoyable book. The text is well-complemented by Binnie Christie’s illustrations, which not only enlarge the narrative but also act as lasting memory-anchors. In the words of Dr Seuss: “Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent".

The content is deeply rooted in scientific findings, yet practical and accessible. Every chapter ends with a tip for the hunted and a tip for the hunter, so that the book becomes a ready reference of principles and best practices for wise recruitment, selection and on-boarding to secure and leverage the right match.

The Treasure Punt is a thought-full book. Get it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The da Vinci Bridge

Terje Johansen, Studio S
In 1501, Leonardo da Vinci designed a bridge to span the Golden Horn inlet between present-day Istanbul and Pera, Turkey.
A pedestrian bridge designed by Leonardo da Vinci was finally realized in Oslo, Norway by acclaimed Norwegian artist Vebjørn Sand.  From a tiny drawing done more than 500 years ago was born the first ever civil engineering project based on a Leonardo da Vinci design.  On October 31, 2001 it was dedicated and unveiled by Norway’s, Queen Sonja. A powerful metaphorical image of crossing barriers, forging connection, peace-making, mediation.
The Leonardo Bridge Project, Inc. ( is a non-profit public art project, with status through the Allied Arts Foundation, that promoted construction of the Oslo bridge.  Vebjørn Sand’s artistic intention for the Project is to build reinterpretations of the eloquent design in local materials in collaboration with local artisans and architects in communities throughout the world, creating a global network of public footbridges symbolizing our shared human destiny.
Their hope is the global project will inspire the best in human creative endeavour across cultural, political and ethnic lines. It is a rare opportunity to bring public art, science, civil engineering and architecture together to create permanent, functional and unique footbridges that will both enhance the beauty of public space for local communities and extend those communities into a shared network of Earth’s human community: Our goal for building the bridge on every continent is what we call ‘ citizen diplomacy through art’.
After five years of concerted effort, design work has now begun on the footbridge to be built in Istanbul, Turkey, across the Golden Horn (Halik) where Da Vinci originally intended the project. 
The Istanbul Leonardo Bridge will span 240 meters as Leonardo intended. The materials will combine Leonardo’s granite with modern, environmentally sustainable building materials expressing the powerful, timeless beauty of the bridge’s ingenious geometry.
The Project has also has had a global educational impact.  Vebjørn Sand has built four bridges – two intended to melt – in ice.  In 2007, the Ice Bridge was a featured part of “ANTARCTICA: On Thin Ice” at United Nations headquarters in New York.  This bridge, a sister bridge to the permanent installation in Antarctica (see photo below), was intended to melt to dramatize the fragile condition of the Earth’s ice cover.  In 2009, Vebjørn Sand built the ice bridge in Greenland and later that year built another ice bridge sculpture which was part of the COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Our new eBook, The Virtuosa Organisation, which plugs into the da Vinci values and virtues, uses his bridge as a metaphor for crossing divides at very levels as organisations strive to become virtuous.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Organisational Values Under Threat


Natural disasters, war, food and water shortages, rank poverty, protesting communities, jittery markets.  Volatile events that can quickly escalate into crisis mode.  We are living on the edge in a fragile (even broken) world of increasing tensions – political, ecological, religious fundamentalism, social , financial and economic – which all feed off each other.
 We’re surrounded by accidents waiting to happen – within businesses and in the outside world we operate in.  Malcolm Gladwell  eloquently showed how positive and negatives are subject to a process which may well lead to a critical mass which then suddenly take off, erupt, ‘go viral’.  What he termed ‘tipping points’.
 Organisations espouse values, but often fail to live them. The profit-motive rules. We see fraud, corruption, tax evasion, excessive executive pay. When things go wrong there is denial, avoidance, cover-up, deception.  Credibility, confidence, trust, values are eroded.  Organisational life for many becomes dysfunctional.
 Ukulungisa is an African concept, essentially meaning a chance to put things right, restore order, aspire to higher things.
The time has never been more right for businesses to become virtues-led. Arguably this is our greatest challenge. Business needs to move beyond responsible capitalism, beyond the triple- bottom- line, and set the tone for society at large. Shift from a vicious to a virtuous cycle.
If values do not become lived virtues, then what’s the point?
Our eBook sets out a detailed, practical process for achieving the dazzling, virtuoso performance that is required. There are stories, illustrations, reflections (looking without and within in with clarity), practical exercises and checklists. Application leads to a reframed story, reputation, cultural dynamics, performance.
 How to arrive at the right values, and the right way of implementing and inculcating them – so that they become habitual virtues, is explained.  Leonardo da Vinci’s life and virtues are used as an illustrative, non-threatening set of virtues that resonate at the individual and organisational levels.
For an outline and to place an advance order go to:  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Being in the Love Zone

Love is from the infinite, and will remain until eternity” - Shahram Shiva

 An ignored force in the corporate world

 One of the ‘flights of the mind’ I’ve had for some time is the notion that the word ‘love’ will at last enter the vocabulary of the hardnosed business world. No longer be taboo.

Sure, we might talk about loving the work that we do, or being fond of some of the people we interact with in the world of work, or perhaps ‘I loved the way you clinched that deal’, but that’s about as far as it goes.

In this context love is being authentic, not wily; being transparent and not Machiavellian;
being the wearing of your heart on your sleeve rather than holding your cards close to your chest; trusting in the success that comes from setting a standard; being an example rather than outwitting an opponent. It is also about being human and realizing that the only currency that makes for sound business relationships is a capacity to discern motives that is borne of LOVE. It is about having a code or language that is based on respect, validation and ‘seeing the other’.

Love and other virtues are rooted in spirituality.  The ‘whole person’ is physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual. Failing to recognise the existence of love in the workplace is failing to address the whole person – employee and customer, supplier, stakeholder.
The good news is that people are awakening to the possibility of virtuous organisations. There are stirrings. 

Should the highest of the virtues be excluded from the conversation? Why can’t it be recognised in the corporate world, that “love is the single most potent force in the universe, a cosmic impulse that creates, maintains, directs, informs … every living thing”.1 (In the words of poet Dylan Thomas “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower”). Without some manager asking ‘What is the business case for this?”!

June Singer, a giant in the world of analytical psychology, has this to say2:

In our concerns with counting and weighing and measuring, with precise descriptions and careful evaluation, we sometimes fail to recognise or give credit to values that do not fit these criteria. Or, when we do recognise that such values exist, we split them off from the consciousness of the marketplace and relegate them to the categories of religion or the arts”.

Too often we do our work in places where the love of power (in many forms) is more important than the power of love.

Being human, we do respond to love

Soon after the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, I wrote: “the event may have signalled major shifts in a number of areas. Psychologists - Freudians analysing compulsions, drives and fears, Jungians pointing out how archetypal stories find their way into people's hearts - sociologists, communicators, legislators, have all analysed and had their say. What seems to emerge from this, the biggest-ever globally shared event, is that ordinary people all over the world:

o   long to relate at the simple, real, basic, human level. They are attracted to perceived generosity, transparency and honesty, love

o   believe that every person has the right to choose what they, do, without interference or domination

o   wish that civility was more greatly valued and practised in society

o   are fed up with 'establishment' bureaucracy and constraints

o   are touched by the value of serving others

o   want to break out of the cycle of victimisation of which they believe they are a part

o   look for aspirational role models.

It seems to me that Diana, Princess of Wales - loving, lovable and real - has recently made visible and re-awakened feelings, beliefs and values that are strongly held all over the world”.3

Similarly, Desmond Tutu, by his humour and humanity points to a higher scale of values and interactions. And makes himself easy to love.

So too of course did the life and death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  And little-known but as significant:

Studdert Kennedy was an army chaplain who bucked the incompetent bureaucracy that resulted in so many unnecessary First World War casualties. He refused to give safe, cosy, sermons behind the lines, and chose instead to spend his time with the common soldiers in horrific conditions in the trenches, not preaching, but just being with them; coming alongside them in their need. He'd often hand out a Woodbine cigarette, and became known as Woodbine Willy. Years later when he died, his simple funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. A single packet of Woodbines was placed on top of the coffin.4
A gesture that would not be quite as acceptable today perhaps, but in. its time, a demonstration of the appeal of relating at the basic human level, being civil, serving others, being a role model through action, ignoring the establishment in order to do the right thing, showing love, staying true to his values. After the war, he continued to give away all his possessions and earnings, while campaigning for the eradication of poverty through a change of values. One of his poems:
Waste of Muscle, waste of Brain,
Waste of Patience, waste of Pain,
Waste of Manhood, waste of Health,
Waste of Beauty, waste of Wealth,
Waste of Blood, and waste of Tears,
Waste of Youth’s most precious years,
Waste of ways the Saints have trod,
Waste of Glory, waste of God, – War!
Love is transformational
The songwriters got it right: ‘Love hurts’ and ‘Love changes everything’.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés tells of a time when as a young woman she taught poetry, cooking and sexuality to hardened, teenage female inmates.5 Prison culture and behaviours made this a tough assignment. Mother fucker was an oft-used phrase in that world. The word ‘fucker’ a favourite tattoo. That was the harsh reality.
Estés focused their attention on, and over time created a picture of and told stories about each letter:

An extension of the f turned it into the staff of the shepherd who watches over his flock as a mother watches over her child
u depicted a broken sun, o a full sun of a precious, shining life
t combined with c became a cross on a hill
h overlaid on k showed two more crosses
e became the all-seeing eye of God
And the inmates decided that r should be a symbol of the Blessed Mother and roses – sweet, free, new life.
This wasn’t an intellectual exercise but love in practice. Through story and metaphor (reaching through at different levels), a new favourite tattoo was born, lives changed.

Love touches us powerfully
13th century poet, Sufi mystic and founder of the Whirling Dervishes, saw love as a fundamental creative force. In his love for the Dervish Shamsoddin Tabriz he discovered a transformational love for the Divine, a communion with the infinite. His was a religion of intoxicated love, spiritual transformation which resulted when one broke free from the bondage of self and one’s heart opened.  Falling in love took me away from academia and reading the Koran so much”.
He believed that our true natures need to be rediscovered. Then we can transcend normal, accepted behaviours – such as those so often evident in today’s stifling workplaces – and reach our true potential. “Not knowing his own self, man has come from a high estate and fallen into lowliness. He has sold himself cheaply; he was satin yet he has sown himself onto a tattered cloak …. If you could only see your own beauty – for you are greater than the sun! Why are you withered and shrivelled in this prison of dust?” 6
As Jean Houston puts it, “To explore the life of Rumi is to explore a path of illumination through love”. 6
Rumi’s experience is echoed by St Teresa of Avila:  ”When he pulled it (the spear) out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share”.
Our own experience may be of lesser intensity of course!  
Love at work
If an employee is suddenly bereaved because a family member suicides or dies, compassionate engagement and respect, and leave arrangements is crucial.  A recognition of pain and loss is all that is needed, and implicit is the permission given for someone to be able to grieve. Grief is not an illness but a natural process that helps create equilibrium again. A client whose daughter had suicided once told me that her manager said, two weeks after the death of her daughter, ‘It is time you were over this now’. Translated this means ‘You are not productive – stop wasting office time’! Another employee was dying and the company insisted she have pay deducted after her sick pay was used up. 
By contrast I know of a law firm whose partner had a son die suddenly. They gave her paid leave for three months because they valued her as a partner. Allowed her time to grieve. Another employee ‘s experience was to get a terminal diagnosis and then to be paid her full salary until she died nine months later. This kind of heart response earns the respect of other employees - as managers act in a way where love does not care about the precedent set in terms of others expecting the same.  
It comes down to behaviours. 
If we believe that love has value, is important, we can show it by: 
o   Listening.  Taking the time to listen attentively to a colleague who is feeling down.  Without filtering, analysing, judging, suggesting solutions. Listening is an act of love”. (Paul Tillich)
o   Leaving a handwritten note on someone’s desk when they’ve done a good job
o   Anonymously commending someone for recognition and reward 
o   Stepping in when another is overburdened or overwhelmed, even at an inconvenient time. Being motivated by the ideal of helping others or serving some higher cause forms part of what Zohar and Marshall term ‘spiritual intelligence’. 8
o   Seeking to understand someone who is different to yourself – which leads to appreciation, respect, rapport, empathy, unconditional acceptance
o   Seeing the person behind the issue (be this absenteeism, grievance …)
o   Recognising in the Japanese ‘wabi sabi’ way, beauty in imperfection  

o   Allowing others time to think for themselves, draw on their own resources without undermining that ability. Nancy Kline argues well for this.9
o   Volunteering for mundane tasks without self-interest.
o   As a leader, relinquishing over-control, letting go and honouring subordinates with the power to make decisions, solve problems. The principle of subsidiarity.10


Subsidiarity was first enunciated by Pope Leo XIII. The principle of subsidiarity holds that ‘it is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order for a large and higher organisation to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies . . . To steal people’s decisions is wrong . . . Subsidiarity means giving away power.’ The Concise Dictionary of Theology (HarperCollins, London, 1991) describes subsidiarity as, ‘From the Latin meaning ‘assistance’, a principle consistently endorsed by the social teaching of the Church according to which decisions and activities that naturally belong to a lower level should not be taken to a higher level’.
Although applied mainly to situations such as the relationship between rich and poor nations, or between state, regional and local powers within a country, the principle is also relevant to organisations and the behaviour of groups and individuals within organisations.
There are a thousand ways of practicing random acts of kindness.

"The now fashionable EQ (Emotional Intelligence) refers to our ability to deal with emotions and feelings in others, and ourselves, which is the basis of all human relationships …... In conventional psychological terms this may well be so, but however accurately it describes our emotional skills, isn’t it just another way of describing what I prefer to call “Dharma at Work” and the benefits of its practical application?” 11

The tendency in business is to undervalue or even ignore the practicing of virtues, and instead adopt a watered-down, token addressing of issues – such as emotional intelligence, corporate social and environmental responsibility programmes, employee motivation.

And caring, loving behaviours can move from inside - out to the wider society: poverty, environment, education …..


Start with Love for Self 

But first, we must break down our defences against love.
Often because we are wounded in love we close off against love. We become prickly, offended, hurt and angry. We become difficult to love. We then stay in downward circles that disconnect us from ourselves and others. 
Searching for and drawing meaning from outside of our selves, from our power, position or possessions, is an invitation to disillusionment. Possessing a deep inner knowledge that we are important, worthy and secure as a result of who we really are – loving ourselves,  allows us to maintain perspective, remain congruent and consistent, and be resilient during times of uncertainty.
Along the journey of life we uncover our ‘true self’, become more authentic, and become more able to love others as we find:
o   Balancing. (A woman may lose balance, become out of touch with her womanly sensuality and seductiveness through being in a boring dull, routine relationship; or becoming too powerful and career driven; overactive and unbalanced feminism, or an all-embracing focus on mothering)
o   Lightening. (A powerful man-king may feed his tyrant dark side to the extent that he loses touch with his serving, wise side (something seen in psychopathic business leaders); or an overprotective mother may fail to liberate her children, or a magician/ trickster may use cunning and deviousness to manipulate instead of to solve problems and respond positively to change challenges. Embracing our shadow side means dealing with the uncomfortable, the uncertain, the ambiguous. 12
As this Sieger Koder painting suggests we find ourselves, and love of self, in the depths.

Love is the highest virtue
Love is the highest virtue. It umbrellas all other virtues. It has a key place in the virtuous organisation.
Being in the love zone is exhilarating. It even trumps being in the flow zone: "I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamed existed" – (Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in less than 4 minutes).

Two poems to reflect on:
Rationality says
it is nonsense
Love says
it is what it is
Reckoning says
it is doom
Fear says
it is nothing but sorrow
Insight says
It is hopeless
Love says
it is what it is
Pride says
it is ridiculous
Caution says
it is reckless
Experience says
it is impossible
Love says
it is what it is
HAFIZ (14th century Persian mystic and poet): I Know the way you can get 

I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love: 
Your face hardens, Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror And nose.
Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.
Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
The innocent And into one's self.
O I know the way you can get
If you have not been drinking Love:
You might rip apart
Every sentence your friends and teachers say,
Looking for hidden clauses.
You might weigh every word on a scale
Like a dead fish.
You might pull out a ruler to measure
From every angle in your darkness
The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once

I know the way you can get
If you have not had a drink from Love's Hands.
That is why all the Great Ones speak of
The vital need
To keep remembering God,
So you will come to know and see Him
As being so Playful
And Wanting,
Just Wanting to help.
That is why Hafiz says: Bring your cup near me.
For I am a Sweet Old Vagabond
With an Infinite Leaking Barrel
Of Light and Laughter and Truth
That the Beloved has tied to my back.
Dear one, Indeed, please bring your heart near me.
For all I care about Is quenching your thirst for freedom!
All a Sane man can ever care about Is giving Love!
1. Encyclopedia of Religion
2. Singer, June  The Power of Love to transform our lives and our world  Nicolas-Hays, Inc. Maine 2000
3. Williams, Graham Centre-ing Customer Satisfaction  Centre-ing Service, Cape Town 2000
4. Target, George Words that have Moved the World  Bishopsgate Press, London  1987
5. Estés, Clarissa Pinkola Untie the Strong Woman Sounds True, Boulder, Colorado 2011
6. Houston, Jean Ph.D The Search for the Beloved  Jeremy P.Tarcher/ Putnam NY 1987
7. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Ecstasy of St. Teresa, 1645-52 (Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome)
8. Zohar, Danah & Marshall, Ian Spiritual Capital: wealth we can live by  Bloomsbury 2004
9. Kline, Nancy Time to Think Ward Lock, Cassell Illustrated London 1999
10. Handy, Charles The Age of Unreason Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 1989
11. Chanchaochai, Danai Dharma Moments  Nicholas Brealey Publishing  2006
12. Johnson, Robert A. Owning Your Shadow  HarperSanfrancisco 1991